How To Completely Optimize Google My Business
One of the elements of a successful inbound marketing and SEO strategy is the proper utilization of the right tools. For local businesses, there are few better inbound marketing tools than Google My Business.
What is Google My Business?
Google My Business, or GMB for short, is an internet-based platform for business owners looking to drum up interest in their respective localities. GMB has been instrumental in putting local businesses on the map by allowing business owners to take complete control of their web presence.
If you've recently searched for a business, you may have noticed that alongside the traditional search results, a GMB "knowledge panel" popped up. This knowledge panel represents an online business card. At a glance, prospective customers can gather a lot of information about a business, including where the company is, their working hours, and how satisfied their customers are.
For customers, GMB is integral in selecting the right business to engage because it shows them all they need to know about a company before they make their decision. For local businesses, the platform is the online face of their company, the first place potential customers land when they type in the keywords associated with the service or products they market.
Google My Business can be your business' most effective inbound marketing tool. It can also be your business' downfall. It all depends on how and when you take control of your GMB listing, and the quality of the information you present to your potential clients.
Why Do You Need to Optimize Your Google My Business Listing?
You stand to benefit in four main ways when your GMB listing is completely optimized:
- Your business gets more eyes and clicks from organic searches.
- It facilitates a more satisfying shopping experience for customers, which means you get plenty of return business.
- It directly increases the amount of traffic to your business, both on the online and brick-and-mortar fronts.
- It gives Google a clearer picture of your business, and the more information Google gets about your company, the more searches your GMB listing appears in.
However, there is one more reason why business owners are encouraged to act quickly to optimize their GMB listing, and it is mildly terrifying: anyone can claim, edit, and upload information about your company's GMB listing.
If you care about your local reputation, inaction simply isn't a choice here. Managing your GMB listing needs to be an ongoing process. As the owner of the business, you are the moderator of your online reputation. You need to ensure that all the information on your GMB listing is accurate, useful, and capable of directing more customers to your doorstep.
How can you completely optimize your Google My Business Listing?
Here are eight tips to get you started.
1. Provide all your business information.
At the minimum, a local business should have the following information on their GMB listing:
- The business name
- Working hours
- Contact information (phone number, email address, website, etc.)
- Physical address (if you have one)
- Business category
If you're the customer, and you come across two businesses, one with moderate ratings but with all the business information available, and the other with high ratings but no information about the company, which would you choose?
Most people would go with the first one, simply because they feel more prepared to engage that company. They know when they're open, how to get to where they are, how to reach them remotely, and the kind of business they conduct.
The priority of a buyer is to make an informed decision, so no matter how stellar your ratings look, you will keep losing customers to your competition if your listing does not help your customers learn more about your business.
2. Choose the right business category.
Google allows you to adequately advertise your business' capabilities by selecting up to 10 categories that your services fit into. It's handy for drawing in customers from a more extensive array of search terms.
However, you can only choose one main category. Google regards this primary category as the core of your business, so you need to choose wisely.
Let's say you run a local hardware store that sells plumbing, electrical, construction, and industrial materials and equipment. As the main category, the "hardware store" captures what you do succinctly. For your secondary categories, "electrical hardware," "plumbing supplies," and "industrial equipment" further elaborate the main category, and they allow your company to pop up in many more searches that relate to your area of expertise.
3. Include a useful description
Although business categories showcase what your business is about, this may not always be enough information to give Google and web searchers a clear picture of what your company does. Niche businesses, especially, may need a little more room to explain their services, which is why Google allocates up to 750 characters for your business description.
As frustrating as it is to be unable to fully communicate to your buyers about who you are and what you do, your business takes the brunt of the lack of information more severely.
Make use of every character. Ensure you have a description that's about 700 to 750 characters. Note that only the first 250 characters will appear on your GMB listing before the "read more" separator. Make sure these first characters are enough to make searchers want to see more about your business.
Descriptions not only guide Google and searchers to your business; they can also improve your search rankings dramatically. Remember, the more information you give Google about your business, the better they can rank you for search queries. It's a win-win for everyone involved.
4. Upload high-quality images relevant to your business
How important is it to have images on your GMB listing? Can you get by with none?
According to Google, you can't. Businesses that have clear, relevant images on their listing enjoy about 35 percent more clicks to their website, and up to 42 percent more location requests from Google users! In other words, people are more comfortable engaging a company they can actually see even if it is only through a screen.
Imagine coming across two listings, one that only has pictures of the company logo and storefront, and the other with detailed images of their offices, staff, products, and premises. How likely are you to pick the first company over the second one?
Most people would immediately choose the second business because they feel more informed. They know how your buildings look, how your staff dresses, and the quality of professionalism you offer, just by looking at pictures on your listing.
If you sell products, this is the place to show them off. What's the point of having a powerful tool like Google My Business if you don't use it to showcase your products?
If you provide services such as makeup and beauty, or landscaping, you can upload pictures of your recently finished projects at your customers' approval. People want to know precisely what they're getting when they choose your company, so don't leave any room for guesswork.
For businesses in the service industry, you can use the mildly terrifying fact we looked at earlier to your advantage. How? By encouraging your customers to upload pictures to your GMB listing.
For example, let's say you have a restaurant. If you're a tech-savvy individual, you may have already been promoting your business through social media, and asking customers to tag your business in the pictures they post on their personal accounts. You can do the same with GMB too.
When a customer enjoys your service, they will want to promote you. Use that to your advantage. Encourage them to take pictures at your restaurant, and upload them to your GMB listing.
This free exposure can drum up a lot of business, whether directly through your GMB listing, positive reviews, or social media posts. But-yes, there is a BUT-remember, you are still the moderator of your business' reputation.
It is vital that you routinely sort through the images posted by your customers to ensure that they are in line with your business' values and that they reflect your level of professionalism. Images that are irrelevant, low quality, and offensive will reflect poorly on the company, not the customers.
5. Read and respond to all customer reviews on your GMB listing.
Thirty percent of consumers decide whether or not to engage a company based on how it responds to reviews. Another 85 percent consider online reviews to be as good as personal recommendations. What's more, 73 percent will trust a business more when they see positive reviews. All these are facts derived from Local Consumer Reviews, which also estimates that 97 percent of consumers were searching for local businesses online by the year 2017.
What does all this mean for your business, particularly in relation to your GMB listing?
Buyers often seek other people's opinions before deciding to purchase. We can all relate to this. When you need a new plumber, you ask your neighbors if they know any reliable ones. If you're looking for a place to eat, you pull up your phone and check the reviews.
You do this because you want to gauge the kind of experience the eating establishment provides. So, if you stumble upon an eatery with no reviews, how likely are you to eat there anyway?
Reviews are crucial for online reputation, but more importantly, it is how the business responds to both negative and positive feedback that makes or breaks their brand reputation.
Everyone loves a positive review. It is a pat on the back for a job well done. Responding to these is easy, fun, and very satisfying. The same can't be said about responding to a negative review.
At one point, your business will get a derisive one-star review from a customer. In the past, companies have gone to great extents to hide, ignore, or otherwise cover up such reviews. Even worse, some have sunk to the point of engaging in a war of words with the customer, which is utterly unacceptable business behavior.
You have to respond to all the reviews you get on your GMB listing, no matter how scathing they are. Approach negative reviews with calmness, rationality, and conciseness. Apologize to the customer for the bad experience first, then clearly explain why they had that experience, and offer to compensate or do better next time.
A customer reading this negative review will perceive you as a credible company simply because you're not afraid to take responsibility. That's all there is to it-creating an environment of trust and respect between you and your customers.
Ultimately, reviews are the only feedback you will get about how your business performs. Take them as constructive criticism that shows you where your business needs to improve.
6. Make use of audiovisual content like videos.
As the Internet evolves, the information in the form of text takes a back seat to pave the way for the considerably more engaging visual media. Pictures and videos are what keep people glued to their screens these days. Even sound is not as important as a visual feedback, according to this study, which revealed that 85 percent of videos on Facebook are viewed without sound.
Most business owners understand how useful video marketing is but are yet to incorporate it into their inbound marketing strategies. The reason? They feel like a professional production company is the only way to get high-quality content.
That is a huge and widespread misperception.
Some of the best videos on the Internet are short using a smartphone and without even a script! Believe it or not, people want something that feels organic, personal, and relatable, and they will choose that over a big-budget advertisement on TV any day.
There are two ways to upload videos on your GMB listing:
- By uploading straight to your photos
- By uploading videos as independent posts
With the first method, the video is mixed in with the pictures in your listing. Although this makes them a little harder to spot, the videos play automatically to grab attention. You can upload up to 90 seconds of footage, although the real limit to how long your videos can be is the file size, which shouldn't exceed 100MB.
If you prefer not to have your video buried in your photos, you can upload it as a post. Using Google Post (a feature in Google My Business), you can upload a video directly on your GMB knowledge card so that it is the first thing your customers see.
It only takes a few minutes to upload a video, but the payoff is immense. Visual media can be the reason a buyer picks you over a competitor.
7. Promote your content, products, and events using GMB Posts
Google Posts was rolled out in June 2017 to allow businesses to post content that will show up on Google Search pages and your business' knowledge panel. Previously, the only way to share content was through your website and social media pages. That's not the case anymore.
With Google Posts, you can share events, offers, downloads, newsletters, and blogs as well as promote products on your GMB listing. It is an incredibly versatile tool for communicating with your buyers.
You can customize your posts to contain CTAs too. For example, an event post may have an RSVP button or a link to a landing page with more information. A product post can have a "Buy Now" button that takes the customer straight to the checkout page. Similarly, if you want to offer information in the form of a newsletter or eBook, you can throw in a "Download Now" button at the end of the post.
And if you doubt the efficacy of Google Posts, Google itself affirms that the ability to include custom CTAs on your GMB listing drastically improves your chances of connecting with customers.
8. Give your business a "shortname."
In June 2019, along with a host of branding tools, Google introduced searchable short names, a feature that allows people to "follow" your business, and find your posts in both Google Search and Google Maps.
Anyone who follows your business via the "For You" tab in Google Maps automatically receives Google Posts and your GMB information, which boosts local engagement. To find and edit your shortname, go to the info tab. The shortname is between your business contacts and your company website link.