Ever since online search made the Yellow Pages obsolete, Google has been on a mission to provide the most accurate information for users that search for local businesses.
For this to happen, they need your help. They need you to supply the information that's shown to customers searching for things related to your business. Which is why they launched Google My Business.
A Google My Business listing is the ‘knowledge panel’ you see when you enter the name of a business and location into the search bar.
They’re also tied to the pack results that are displayed when you make broader searches that don’t include the name of the business.
A Google My Business listing is the most influential factor in local search results. But it isn’t simply there to make Google more useful — it’s beneficial to your business.
Check out these stats:
A Google My Business listing puts your business in front of a LOT of people, resulting in:
It’s a win-win relationship. Google gets the information it wants and you get to manage how your business appears in search.
And the best thing of all? It’s totally FREE!
In this post, we’ll show you:
Let’s dig in
Google has a knack for making things as straightforward as possible for its users and that’s the case here. Setting up your Google My Business listing is a hassle-free process.
Step 1: Log in to the Google Account you want to link to your business. If you don’t have a Google Account or you’d prefer not to use a personal account, you can easily create a new account for free at www.google.com/gmail.
Step 2: Go to www.google.com/business and hit ‘Start Now’.
Step 3: Enter your business name.
Step 4: Enter your business address and check the boxes to indicate if you deliver goods and services to customers and whether or not you’re a store that customers can visit. If you’re working from home or an office that you’d prefer not to be shown publicly, make sure the ‘Hide my address’ box is checked.
You’ll need to give a street address and zip/postal code to get past this step but these can be edited later in your dashboard.
Step 5: Choose your service area by selecting the distance around your location or by adding specific areas by name or zip code. If you’re local to your specific area only, select your service area by entering the radius (miles or kilometers) or zip code. If you serve particular areas, add those by name. If your service is nationwide, type in your country.
Step 6: Choose a business category by typing in your industry. As you type, Google will display available categories. Pick the most accurate one from the list.
Step 7: Enter your contact information. These details will be displayed on your Google local business listing so double check that they’re accurate.
Step 8: For your listing to go live, you need to confirm to Google that this is your business. You can do this by phone, text, email, or postcard. Or you can choose to verify later.
If the Google account you’re using is linked to a Google Search Console account, your listing can be verified instantly. However, we’ve found that options differ with every account.
Check through the options for the quickest and most suitable method. If you choose ‘Postcard by mail’ and you never receive it, you can request another code from within your Google My Business Dashboard by clicking on “Request another code.”
Once you’re verified, you can get to the fun stuff — optimizing your profile to get noticed.
A lot of businesses that verify their Google My Business listing leave it at that. But by not optimizing they’re missing out on all of the features that Google provides to make it easier for customers to find a business.
In the “Info” section of your dashboard, you’ll be able to complete your profile to add relevant details about your business.
It’s important to complete all of the information Google asks for and maintain it regularly so customers can find out what they need to know.
Because if you don’t, someone else might.
Google wants to provide the most accurate details for its users and asks that the community provides them. This means anyone can suggest (and make) edits to your page. And yes, that includes your competitors.
By clicking on the ‘Suggest an edit’ link, it’s possible to make changes to the company name, category, location, business hours, and website address — the bulk of the information a customer relies on when deciding whether or not to get in touch.
Make sure your profile is fleshed out and up to date, including as much information as possible on:
And make a habit of checking information weekly — just in case anyone decides what you’ve said isn’t accurate.
Being thorough with your listing info will give you a solid profile, but not an entirely optimized one. To maximize its potential, you need to make the most of the vast array of features on offer.
Here are 8 ways to do exactly that.
1. Add photos
People love photos in Google local business listings.
According to Google:
“Businesses with photos receive 42% more requests for driving directions to their location from users on Google, and 35% more clicks through to their websites than businesses that don't have photos.”
Photos on your listing say to customers, “choose me, not them.”
The more high quality photos you upload, the easier it will be for customers to build an accurate picture of your business.
In the “Photos” section of your dashboard, you’ll be able to upload images for Profile, Cover, and Product. You’ll also be able to add a video that tells the story of your brand, but we'll get to that in a bit.
Profile photo: This photo is used to show your identity when you upload media or posts or reply to a review, so it’s best to use your company logo here.
Cover photo: This is the photo that’s most prominent on your listing, so make it count. Take an interior picture that shows your business in its best light.
Build up a collection of photos that show off your business, focusing on the interior and exterior of your building, your team, employees in action, and products. Google recommends at least three photos of your building and team and at least one for every product.
Look at how Jamie’s Italian displays its tables and service area.
Or how Watkins Books gets you up-close-and-personal with the inside of its store.
Such images make customers confident of what they can expect to find when they visit your business.
Asking customers to tag you in photos on Google My Business is the same as asking them to share on social media. And it gives you social proof.
The images here were all uploaded by customers of Jamie’s Italian.
Those meals look appetizing, right? Appetizing enough to make you want to go and check out the restaurant.
Of course, there are no guarantees that an image a customer uploads is going to be favorable to your business, so it’s important that you monitor photos to remove any that aren’t relevant.
Recommended photo specifications
According to Google’s best practices, images should be in the following size and format:
2. Ask for reviews (and respond to them)
When was the last time you bought something without having first sought an opinion as to whether it was worth it? It’s something we all do because we don’t want to be left regretting our decision, not when there are so many other businesses to choose from.
When it comes to purchase decisions, nothing is more powerful than a customer review. Take a look at these findings from BrightLocal’s Consumer Review Survey:
Ask customers to review your business.
If that makes you feel a bit fake or pushy, it really shouldn’t. Google actively encourages business owners to ask for online reviews, so long as they’re earned and not bought.
If you can get reviews, it’s going to help your listing stand out. Google says that high-quality, positive reviews will improve your business’s visibility and studies have shown that reviews help to improve search rankings.
How you deal with the bad reviews will have as much influence as five-star feedback.
Rather than ignoring them and hoping no one sees, respond with a polite, apologetic, fact-based reply, or an offer to investigate the issue further. Don’t get into a battle over who did or said what. Let the customer know you’re sorry that they had a poor experience and how you’ve worked to address the issue.
If the review is clearly a troll or someone looking to slight your business, respond in the same way, but don’t worry about it. People see right through those kinds of reviews.
3. Make your business description count
Your business description is your way to tell customers about your business and what makes it unique. Think of it like the About page on your website.
You need to be careful about how you write your business description and what’s included because Google reviews the content.
It’s worth following Google’s guidelines on this.
Your description can be a maximum of 750 characters, but users will only see the first 250 characters before the “More” cut off.
In this example, Vini Italiani fits location and keywords related to products and services into the first sentence (“wines,” “Italian cold cuts,” “hot snacks”). Your description should follow suit, with city/town and keywords at the top.
4. Upload videos
Videos are a relatively new addition to Google My Business listings, but it's no surprise to see the feature added given how great videos are for engagement.
Here are a few statistics to show how important video is:
You can use video in the same way as your description — to tell the story of your business and get customers invested.
Videos need to be:
Again, Google guidelines come into play here. You’ll need to make sure your video is taken at your place of work and relates to your business, otherwise, it will be removed.
You can also upload videos to posts, which brings us nicely onto the next tip.
5. Upload posts
Google Posts brings social media to Google My Business listings in a way that’s better than Google+ ever was. Posts are attached directly to your listing and give you the chance to shout about special offers, promotions, upcoming events, company news, or lead magnets.
“Seventy percent of people look at multiple businesses before making a final choice. With Posts, you can share timely, relevant updates right on Google Search and Maps to help your business stand out to potential customers. And by including custom calls-to-action directly on your business listing, you can choose how to connect with your customers.”
While they’re not immediately visible on desktop listings, Posts feature prominently on mobile, which is what 82 of smartphone shoppers use when searching for local businesses.
Make a regular habit of posting in the same way that you share content on Twitter or Facebook.
6. Add a button
A feature that has been rolled out in the US and UK and is being introduced in other countries is the Bookings button. This allows customers to book appointments and services, and make table reservations right from the Google My Business listing.
Turner’s Barber Shop & Shaving Parlor uses this feature to let customers see and book services. Clicking on the “See Schedule” button reveals a list of treatments that can be booked from within the listing.
To use the feature, you need to be signed up with one of Google’s authorized booking providers. You can do this from within your Google My Business dashboard. Once you’re signed up, you can add a booking button to your listing and track all bookings coming through Google.
By adding this option to your listing, you’ll be gaining an advantage over your competitors that don’t.
There is one caveat to this tip, however: users will book without leaving Google search results. This will mean missing out on traffic to your website. Test the feature to see if bookings increase overall. If the difference is minimal and traffic to your site is affected, it might be best to leave this feature off.
8. Questions & answers
Questions & answers is an often overlooked feature in Google My Business listings, but it’s one that will help you stand out. If used correctly, that is.
As with the “Suggest an edit” feature, Q&As are crowdsourced. Real people ask real questions about your business for you to answer. However, anyone can answer questions. Most of the time, this is fine — local guides will provide accurate answers. But it can lead to some rather embarrassing and unhelpful results.
Studies show that 25% of locations on Google Maps have questions. You taking the time to answer them could be the deciding factor in a customer choosing your business.
Google will send you an email whenever a question is asked so you can easily reply. It also lets you create your own questions, which means you can create your very own FAQs section.
And you should. Because most of your competitors won’t be.
Find the questions that your customers are likely to ask by looking through customer service data and listening to what customers talk about on social and marketing channels, then answer them.
A good Google My Business listing is one with complete business information and good optimization in terms of photos, videos, reviews, posts, questions, and possibly buttons.
Let’s look at a few local businesses that have embraced these features to stand out in search results.
Cut & Grind Soho
Cut & Grind Soho has done a great job of fleshing out its profile to feature prominently in local search results and provides customers with everything they need to know.
From the top, there are good images of the interior and exterior of the building, all of the necessary information is there, and there is a high number of positive reviews.
They’re also keeping on top of the optimization, with a timely post that includes a call to action.
Check out what the owners told Google about their use of posts.
“Posts definitely helped our business because a lot of people look us up through Google. When they do, they want to see the vibe of the place. Being able to post directly to Google allows them to see the reviews and get a feel for the shop all in one spot.”
Finally, they’re proactive on feedback. Take a look at how they responded to one disappointed customer.
No name calling or disputing the customer’s story. Just a well-worded apology, an explanation, and a promise to do better. This is the perfect example of how to deal with negative reviews.
Another branch of Cut & Grind up the road in Covent Garden is making use of the booking feature.
Just Mind is a therapist and marriage counseling service in Austin, Texas providing potential customers with all the information they need.
Just Mind have answered questions themselves to provide additional information to customers.
The business description is short and sweet, giving you an overview of services and experience. And they’re making the most of posts, with a call-to-action that directs you to a counseling landing page.
They also speak highly of posts for engagement:
“As a small business, we don’t have a ton of resources. We post with the intention of engaging new and existing customers, informing them of new therapists and services we offer as we expand our business. The posts help us stand out in a unique way and allow us to differentiate ourselves from our competition.”
The thing that stands out most about this listing though is the use of video alongside quality imagery. The company has produced a 30 second, professionally shot video that explains more about services offered and why you should choose them.
All things combined, there’s enough here for the customer to make an informed decision.
Junzi Kitchen is a casual Chinese fast food spot on Broadway. Competition for food in this area of Manhattan is ridiculously competitive, so it makes sense for the owners to prioritize their Google My Business listing.
As with the other businesses we’ve picked out, all of the essential info is in place.
Scroll further down the listing and you’ll see how they’re using posts to encourage customers to order online.
What’s best about this listing is the images. High-quality photos offer a great view of the inside of the restaurant and the food on offer. And the company’s own images are supplemented with uploads from customers, giving you an accurate representation of what your food will look like. We’re certainly tempted!
Take inspiration from these businesses when creating your own listing.
Creating and optimizing your Google My Business listing is a simple process that will have a positive effect on your SEO. Yet, it’s something that many local businesses overlook.
By investing a little bit of time in setting up and fleshing out your profile, adding quality media, answering questions and utilizing posts, you’ll position yourself as the business customers come to first.
Feature Image: Unsplash / Artem Gavrysh
All screenshots taken by author, December 2018 via Google SERPs.
Image 1-2, 11-19, 21, 23-37: via Google SERPs
Image 3-10: via Google My Business
Image 20: via Google Support
Image 22: via Google