Google My Business is one of many tools we use at WSI Connect to increase traffic and generate leads for our clients.
It’s a powerful tool for local businesses. Verifying your business with Google is the only way to show up in the local pack, which we estimate receives 40%-50% of the clicks for each search (far more than the ads above them).
By using the features outlined in this guide, we increased engagement in just one month for our client in the example below.
Inside this post
- What is Google My Business (GMB) and Why is it Important?
- Getting Started with Google My Business
- Completing Basic Information in GMB
- Optimizing GMB
- Analyzing GMB
What is Google My Business and Why is it important?
A Google My Business (GMB) account lets you claim and manage how your business is viewed in Google Search, Google Maps, and Local Finder.
Your listing appears as a knowledge panel on Google Search (see example below). It displays key business information before a user clicks through to your website, provides a simple method for contact, and increases traffic to your website, social channels, and business.
Getting Started with Google My Business (GMB)
1. Claim your business
The first step is to claim your business. While signed into the Google account you use for your business, do a search to see if your business already has a listing. If so, then click the “Own this business” button as seen below. (If you’re on a mobile device, the button might say “Claim this business” instead.)
If your business doesn’t already have a listing, visit https://www.google.com/business and follow the steps to register your business.
Important Note: GMB listings can only be created for businesses that either have a physical location or travel to customers for service. Online-only businesses and rental properties are ineligible.
2. Verify your business
Once you’ve claimed your business, you must verify it. Go to your listing on GMB and click the “Verify Now” button. Select from the available verification options, which might range from entering a verification code sent through a postcard, phone call, or email.
Sometimes Google will request a video chat to verify you have a physical store or a service vehicle. Once verified, you can edit your GMB listing.
Complete basic information in GMB
Enter as much information possible in your GMB listing, especially in the following areas:
Choose a relevant category for your business. You can choose up to nine categories, with the first choice being the primary one. The primary choice is the most important category, as it’s the only one that shows on your listing, but each category must be directly related to your business. This will improve your search rankings and help reach the appropriate audience.
An optimized category will increase visits through discovery searches, when visitors discover a business through searches for products, services, or business categories. Additionally, a well-fitting category will make other informational fields available. For example, restaurants can include menus and hotels can include buttons for checking room availability.
ii. Name, Address, Phone (NAP)
Having a consistent NAP throughout online directories and your social media presence is vital to the Google local algorithm. Verify this information is accurate and matches the information on your website and in local directories.
If you use a call-tracking phone number, list it under “Primary Phone,” and put your local and/or toll-free number under “Additional Phone.” Otherwise, list your local phone number under “Primary Phone” and your toll-free number under “Additional Phone.”
iii. Service Area
The service area feature is available for businesses who visit or deliver to local customers. For example, if you’re a residential laundry delivery service provider for local customers, you can list your service area by city, postal code, or area. You can also create separate descriptions for each service category you offer, including their name and price.
iv. Hours of operation
Input your normal operating hours. Many businesses change their hours throughout the year so update this as needed. Be sure to adjust your hours for holidays or special occasions. Google My Business even has a specific section where you can add “special hours.”
Attributes are specific features of your business that can differentiate you from competitors. Your business category determines the attributes available for your business. You can select as many attributes as you want, but don’t flood your listing with too many. Select your top five attributes.
Sample attributes include No-Contact Delivery, Checks Accepted, Accepting New Patients, Outdoor Seating, and Private Events. It’s beneficial to compare your attributes to local competitors and select what could pull customers from them to you.
vi. Business Description
Ensure your business description is rich with relevant keywords about your product and services, but don’t go overboard. You have a character limit of 750, but only the first 250 characters are visible in the knowledge panel before it’s truncated.
Make sure to include the most important keywords within the first 250 characters. On a desktop computer, the business description appears in the knowledge panel towards the bottom, below your reviews. On a mobile device, you can see the business description if you click on the “About” tab. This makes it extra important to have keywords visible as soon as possible, as these are the terms customers search for when they’re looking for your services.
Photos are the first impression of your business and should be professional looking. They should be in a JPG/PNG format and at least 720×720 pixels. Try to have the highest resolution possible.
Your image options include:
- Profile Image (your logo)
- Cover Photo (the photo that best represents your business)
- Additional Images (photos relevant to your business)
You can’t control which photo appears first, but you can influence Google’s algorithm with a compelling Cover Photo. If it gets high visitor engagement (i.e. visitors click on it far more than other photos), the algorithm will promote it more often.
Here are some GMB photo suggestions:
- Exterior photos (minimum of 3)
- Interior photos (minimum of 3)
- Product or service photos (one photo per product or service)
- Team photos (minimum 3 showing management team and your employees)
- Office rooms
- Event photos
GMB is not the place for stock photos, as those can be flagged and removed. Focus on images related to your business location, products, and services.
Pro Tip: Name your images with keywords related to your business to positively impact your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts.
Videos are a great way to highlight key information visually. They appear in the “Videos” section when visitors click to view your photos on a desktop. Once you’ve uploaded two or more videos, a video tab will appear on your mobile device listing.
These are the specific requirements to keep in mind when posting videos:
- Duration: Up to 30 seconds long
- File size: Up to 100 MB
- Resolution: 720p or higher
Here are some GMB video ideas:
- Product demo
- Highlight an employee
- Interview employees
- Tour your office
- Showcase how one of your products is made
Pro Tip: Most searchers have a short attention span, so keep videos short. You can also add videos to Google Posts.
Input your main website URL. You may also have the ability to input your specific URL for your menu, reservations, or appointments. These options are available depending on the primary category chosen for your GMB listing.
This feature is only available for food and drink, beauty, and other service businesses. It allows you to categorize and list out all your services, food items, or products including prices and descriptions. Potential customers can easily see what you have to offer before navigating to your website.
Double check your location on the map and ensure the marker is in the right place. If not, log into your Google My Business Account and navigate to the “Info” menu. Click the address field and drag the red marker to the correct location. Changing the location does not update your address information.
4. Optimize your Google My Business Listing
Once you have the basic information for your business input into Google My Business, you can optimize your listing for better search results.
i. Booking Button Feature
If your business depends on appointments, you should incorporate the Booking Button feature, which allows customers to book an appointment directly from your GMB listing. Google automatically places a booking button within one week on your GMB listing if your scheduling provider is a Google integration.
Within one week, your scheduling account is automatically linked to your Google My Business account.
ii. Google Posts
Posts don’t impact your search ranking, but they’re a great way to keep your listing relevant and encourage searchers to visit your website or take other actions. Posts appear more prominently on mobile than desktop devices, and will become increasingly important in your local search strategy.
Each post can have a Call-to-Action (CTA) button that encourages users to take action. Available CTA buttons include Book, Order Online, Buy, Learn More, Sign-Up, Get Offer, and Call Now.
Keep this in mind with Google Posts:
- Images appear in 4:3 ratios. Focus on having your most important information centered in the image.
- Minimum image/video width is 400 x 300px
- The first 100 characters of your description will display in the knowledge panel, but you have 1,500 characters available for your post.
- You can have up to 10 posts at once, but only the most recent two will be shown, and the following will be available in a carousel format. At the end of the 10 posts is a link to view the older posts.
- Be careful of the words you use. Certain phases, like “weather stripping” or “unclogging toilet” will get your post denied because of the words “stripping” and “toilet.”
- Avoid using the COVID update post, as it’s text only and will hide your other active posts.
- Event post about a special sale
- Seminar with link to registration
- Holiday message, latest blog post
- Feature a new product
- Make a reservation
- Sign up for a newsletter
- Learn more about the latest offers
Pro Tip: Google Posts are an underrated yet valuable feature for your GMB listing. Integrate them into your content calendar and implement these tactics to optimize your posts.
iii. Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section of your knowledge panel allows anyone to ask specific questions about your business. It’s a great opportunity for owners to interact directly with customers and provide valuable information to potential customers. Be sure to answer questions promptly and concisely.
Pro Tip: Treat the Q&A section as an FAQ section by asking and answering your own questions. Post common questions people ask, and answer them from your business account. Be sure to upvote any important or relevant questions, as upvoted questions will become more visible.
Unfortunately you can’t see ‘Ask a question’ thru the Google My Business app and notifications are unreliable at this point as mentioned in this thread so definitely check this section periodically in your knowledge panel.
iv. Know this place?
Your Google listing has a link encouraging people to answer questions about your location. This helps Google learn more about your business and provide relevant information about your offerings.
This feature allows customers who find your business listing on Google to message you directly thru SMS. Add your phone number and turn messaging on to start this feature.
Google also integrates messaging thru the GMB app. This lets you view your messages thru the app and receive a notification once a message is received.
“86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses (including 95% of people aged 18-34) – BrightLocal
Reviews are one of the greatest influencers of your business’s reputation and visibility. Online reviews appear next to your listing in Google Maps, and are featured toward the bottom of your knowledge panel in search results. They can also be accessed by clicking on the review count directly beneath your business name.
Reviews also have a solid impact on search result rankings. It’s important to respond to positive and negative reviews to showcase engagement and let your customers know you’re actively responding to their concerns.
“89% of consumers read businesses’ responses to reviews” – BrightLocal
5. Insights – Analyze your progress
Google Insights is a snapshot of several important statistics on visitor engagement with your listing.
Key metrics include:
- How customers find your business (direct, discovery, and branded searches). Discovery searches are people searching generic categories (e.g. “residential plumbing services,” “tax audit,” “auto glass repair near me”). These impressions are most likely connected to your SEO efforts.
- Where on Google your customers are finding or viewing your listing (Google search vs. Google Maps). Views are similar to impressions. They aren’t clicks and aren’t unique. To better understand these numbers you can toggle on and off each box to see the graphs separately.
Pro Tip: High traffic from Google Maps could mean customers are looking for your business on their mobile device. Consider having a Voice Engine Optimization (VEO) strategy if you have a high number of map impressions.
“Mobile voice-related searches are 3x more likely to be local-based than text-related searches” – Marketing Profs
- The actions your customers take on your listing (e.g. visiting your site, clicking on directions, calling you).
Pro Tip: Your prospects can contact you directly via phone or messaging from your GMB listing. They might not visit your website, so tracking these metrics is essential for understanding your overall marketing ROI.
- Areas that your customers are living (based on direction queries). The requests are divided by zip code, city, and state. This information can be helpful in determining where to target your ads.
- Total phone calls and the time when customers call. The graph below identifies when customers view your listing the most. It’s a great opportunity to target customers with ads or Google Posts.
- The number of times your photos have been viewed (impressions) compared to other businesses.
The data does not go past 90 days and some insights are limited to just one month, but Google has a Google My Business API available for developers to obtain 18 months worth of data.
Download the Google My Business app for an easy way to monitor your listing’s progress. It’s a quick and easy way to update your contact information, upload images and videos, create Google Posts, and review your insights. And frequently check your dashboard for notifications.
The more interaction and engagement you GMB listing has, the better your chances of ranking higher in local search and organic rankings.