Google My Business Guide: A Crucial Aspect of Local Search Marketing

Local Search Marketing with GMB

If you’re a small business owner using local search marketing to connect with customers, this article includes essential tips that can help you succeed.   As you know, most consumers use Google to search for local places to go and things to do.  For this reason, we will focus most of our attention on Local SEO and helping you gain visibility in Google.

One increasingly important aspect of local search marketing is Google My Business, a tool that gives your business extra visibility and can increase the traffic to your website.  The goal of Google My Business is to serve as a hub for basic information about your company, from your hours and location to your products and promotions.  But before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s start by explaining exactly what Google My Business is.

What is Google My Business and why should I use it for local search marketing?

Google My Business is a free local search marketing tool that showcases businesses to make them easier to access.   As an integral part of Google Maps, Google My Business is part of how people get directions and find places to go when they are out and about.   One of Google’s main uses for Google My Business is to continue to increase its dominance of local search marketing.  Google My Business is highly recommended for all business owners today, as it is one of the most popular ways to find information and services.  If you fill out your Google My Business profile to the best of your abilities, as well as optimize it, it will serve as a fantastic Local SEO resource.  For local rankings, whether a company has a Google My Business profile is one of the most critical factors.

How do I get control over my Google My Business profile?

Unless you are a new company, chances are your company already has a profile in Google My Business.  Either an employee added your profile or Google got it from a public list.

Regardless, if you don’t have access, you will need to claim or create your Google My Business listing. Before you do, you will want to read these Guidelines for representing your business on Google.  Once you have done that click here to search for your company and begin the process.

I claimed my Google My Business profile- why do I need to verify it too?

When you claim your business on Google My Business, Google will ask you to verify your profile for a couple of reasons.  They primarily want to make sure that people are not falsely claiming businesses.  For years, Google has let thousands of businesses use fake listings, and verifying is one way they can work to limit fake ones.

Google Webmasters are also available to explain more about why verification of businesses is such a crucial part of Google My Business’s success.

How does Google Rank Google My Business Listings in Local Search Marketing Results?

According to Google, local search results in Maps are based primarily on relevance, distance, prominence, as well as a consumer’s interests.  All these factors are used to determine the search results, and business ranking customers will see. As a result, Google algorithms might decide that a business that’s farther away is more likely to have what a customer is looking for than one that’s closer. Therefore, your competitor might still rank higher than you in local results even though they are in the next town over.  It is for this reason that you will want to focus on Local Search Marketing and SEO.

How do I optimize my Google My Business profile for local search marketing?

Once you have verified your Google My Business profile, you will want to make sure you don’t forget about it!  Having an account is not enough. You need to make sure your company’s profile is filled out and optimized to reach as much of your local target as possible.  Below, we’ve ranked the aspects of your Google My Business profile that we believe to be most crucial to the successful ranking of your company’s profile.  After all, local results usually only produce three results on the main page.  Few people click on the MORE PLACES link at the bottom of the results. Thus, we want to make sure your business shows on the first page.

GMB Local 3 Listings

  1. Company Name and Keywords

You’ll need to include the name of your business as it is in the real world.  Be consistent and clear across the web.  You will want to use the name of your business that you are most well-known.  Even if you have a more formal or professional company name, you will want to use the one that will be easiest for potential customers to find.

Don’t add keywords after the name of your company if it is not part of the real name of your business.   Including keywords in your profile’s description and content can improve your rank and relevance.  However listing them in the company name for SEO violates Google’s Guidelines, and may get your listing suspended.  For example, if you are the owner of an Italian restaurant, don’t enter “Name of Restaurant – Fine Italian Dining.”  You don’t want to break Google’s Code of Conduct over something small like this.  While you may rank a bit higher for the query “fine Italian dining,” it is not worth losing your profile over that small boost.

Something New – Google My Business Short Names

Local SEO Tip – “The Google Short Name makes it easier for businesses and customers to engage and communicate on Google My Business.”

Recently, Google has rolled out a “Short Name” system making it easier for your business to be found by searching @shortname.  Before this feature, business owners used the Google Places API and determined their Place ID as described in this article from archive.org.   This process was too complicated for most business owners and made it difficult to get reviews.

Claim your Short Name Today

Short names are a unique identifier for your business. Similar to domain names, short names will get handed out on a first-come, first-served basis.  You will want to claim your company’s name just as it is. Claiming your short name now is especially important if there are other businesses with the same name.

What are benefits of the Google My Business Short Name?

The short name system is a new way for people to find your business by searching for your @shortname more easily. For example, our company’s short name is @bostonwebdesigners.  Along with our short name, we also have a URL, g.page/bostonwebdesigners, that will directly link to our Google My Business page. This feature means that we can share this URL with existing and new customers. They can then easily view details regarding our business, as well as ask questions and leave reviews.

The short name system has only been rolled out over the last few months. It seems to be a more natural way for businesses to share their business profile with customers and prospects.

  1. Categories

In terms of Local SEO, this is probably one of the most critical sections of your profile to fill in to optimize for local search marketing. You will have a choice of categories from which to choose, from “Italian Grocery Store” to “Car Alarm Supplier.”  When selecting categories, you should include the categories that best suit your business.  You should only include the categories that best define your business goals and exemplify what services you are looking to provide.  Therefore, you want to add as few categories as possible, while still expressing the core ideals of your business.

For example, a wedding planner should not include categories such as “Wedding Venue” and “Wedding Cake Baker” if they do not provide those services.  A hotel with a pool should label themselves solely as “Hotel” or “Motel,” and not as a “Swimming Pool.”  Just because a category may fit some characteristic of your business does not mean you should include it as a category.  You do not want to falsely identify your company, as potential customers will be frustrated with you if you do so.

Correctly identifying a few categories best suited for your business is the best way for your company to rank well and help your business grow.  If you are still unsure which categories to include, Google’s Google My Business Guidelines are helpful in further explaining your options.   Here is a complete list of all the Google My Business categories from which to choose.  You should go through them all and make sure you select all that best characterizes your business.  You don’t want to miss any!

If your business is very niche, there may not be categories that fit your company, which can be frustrating. At this time, there is no real way to create a category. You will have to choose the best from those already available. Google will use your company description and website to match your profile with relevant searches that people make.

Something New – Google My Business “Local Favorites”

One of Google My Business’s newest features is Local Favorites. This feature is for businesses that rank within the top 5% of local searches for a specific category. If your business fits this criterion, your profile will show up as a “Local Favorite.”  This feature could bring in a lot more traffic to not only your website but also your business.

How can my business become a Local Favorite in Google Maps or Google My Business?

Google has not yet released information about what criteria are most important in determining “Local Favorite” designation.  Google stated a “Local Favorite” was for businesses that are responsive to customers asking questions or leaving reviews. Business profiles that are frequently updated may also get more credit towards becoming Local Favorite.

We recently did a test by searching Google for the term “local favorites,” and the first results are for businesses which have reviews that mention the word “favorite.” Having customers suggest your business as a favorite in a review may end up making a difference in which Google most highly favors companies.

Will Google Local Guides help determine Favorites?

Finally, Google recently started encouraging Local Guides, who are local experts on services in their area, to make lists of their favorite businesses within certain categories.  It is very possible Google would like to use those lists for determining Local Favorites.

For now, we do not know where the “Local Favorites” badge will show up on a company’s Google My Business profile, so we have yet to find out how much that addition will increase a company’s marketability,  overall rank and traffic.

  1. Locations and Service Areas

Before November 2018, Google required companies to list a physical address on your Google My Business profile.  The process was straight forward for establishments that had customers coming to them, but service-based businesses had a few complications.

Service area businesses would list the address of their business and define a service area as a certain mile radius from their location. While this feature worked for some, it did not work for all. Many small home-based businesses chose not to have a Google My Business Profile because they didn’t want to publish their home address. Why list your address when you provide services to customers at their businesses or home address?

As of 2018, Google recognized this and removed the address listing requirement for service area businesses. You now choose the geographical areas you would like to target.  This process makes it simpler for service-area companies to target specific areas, given that they do not have an address listed on their profiles.  How you specify your location will differ depending on the type of business you run.

One business with a physical location

Operating one company with a physical location is the simplest type to complete. You add your address in the “Locations” tab of Google My Business.

The main difference in how you set up a location on your profile is determined by where you meet with customers to transact business.

Customers Visit Your Location

If your customers visit your business address at your physical location, all you need to do is enter the address and Google will do the rest. Google will show your profile in search results partially based on the distance your company is from the person doing the local search.

You Visit Your Customers

When a company spends most of its time visiting customers away from its physical location, it is considered a service area business.  For service area businesses, you would also need to input the services areas you would like to target. If you live in a small town, you’ll want to make sure your service area includes your town, as well as all surrounding areas you would like to target.  You don’t want to expand your reach too far, as that will not lead to growth in clientele.

Let’s cover the different types of businesses and how you might set up your profile.

One business with multiple physical locations

If you have one business with multiple locations, you will want to create different profiles for each of the businesses, differentiating them as much as possible.  You will want to provide the physical addresses on each of the profiles. Differentiating each business’s profile is especially important if there is only one phone number. You do not want Google to think that you are making duplicate profiles for your business to try and increase your traffic. Likewise, for service area business, make sure that you are specific in your service areas for each location, as well, to optimize traffic across many regions.

One service-based business

Listing an address on your Google My Business profile might be a bad idea if you run a service-based business. It is true for plumbers or similar service area businesses like a locksmith business where you go to people’s homes.  If you end up listing your home address, people could show up there and think they can get service. When they arrive at your door, and no one is home, or the person who answers the door is not set up to help them. This situation is terrible for you and Google, resulting in unsatisfied customers. Therefore, only list an address if you have someone at that location, during your hours of operation, that can meet with visitors and provide a service.

Therefore, service area businesses should list a physical address to verify the business. They should also hide that address from public view and proceed with selecting the areas (cities and towns) where they provide services.

Will changing from a physical business to a service area business impact my local search marketing traffic?

Keep in mind that with no address listed, your business will not pin on Google Maps. This situation could decrease your ranking for searches like “X business near me,” as people cannot then go to that business. Additionally, Google Maps shows individual businesses for specific results based on criteria, such as relevance, distance, prominence, and personal interests. Therefore, you should know that your Google My Business profile may not always show up first just based on location alone.

Finally, if you are a service-based business that can travel large distances, be sure to include every region you can serve. You have the option to choose towns and cities, but you can also choose to serve entire counties and states, as well. Theoretically, making your service area broader, like a whole state, would increase your reach and overall traffic to your profile. It is unclear if it would instead be more useful to add each city within that state individually.

Small Towns Versus Big City Search Traffic

One other thing to be aware of is that businesses located in small towns will get less business, as there are less possible customers overall.  Even if you list your service area as the entire State, you will likely not receive priority across the whole State, especially in big cities.  Google aims to prioritize physical businesses in cities over service-based businesses that can come to that area.  Therefore, you cannot expect a massive jump in business only due to a larger service area.

One service-based business with multiple “locations.”

Google’s Guidelines state that you are not permitted to have multiple locations or profiles for a singular service-based business.  The only way you would be allowed multiple listings is due to geographic diversity. For example, a web design firm had designers in four other states. The company can help businesses design websites in those states. They would be allowed one listing for each of the States we serve. Therefore, if you are a service-based business that serves many areas in the same State, you should include all the possible services areas. This way, your reach will grow in those areas.

Your location is an important resource in making sure people can find you and contact you, so you should make sure that you fill out the “Location” and “Service Area” sections in the manner that best fits your specific business.

  1. Reviews

The reviews section of your page is one that is crucial, as long as you are receiving a balanced quantity of legitimate reviews.  You want your business to look good. One way to do this is to ask your customers for a review Google. Your reviews will show on your Google My Business profile and people consider them before they contact and do business with you.  This situation is where the above mentioned Short Name link comes in handy. Make it as convenient as possible for customers to leave you reviews by sending them a link directly to your profile.  Here is ours: g.page/bostonwebdesigners  if you like this article please give us a review.

Respond to all your reviews, positive and negative

Reviews, even if they are not all fantastic, will help your business, as it shows people that you are real and operating fairly. When you receive reviews on Google My Business, you’ll want to make sure you take the time to respond to them in a meaningful way. This fact is right, regardless of whether they are positive or negative reviews. This activity will tell Google, as well, that your business is active and clients are responding to your services, which will inevitably increase your local rankings.

Google reviews from Local Guides can help

You will want to be aware, as well, of who is writing a review on your Google My Business profile.  If a Local Guide writes a positive review on your page, it will enhance your business’s overall reputation and help you become a Local Favorite.

Local SEO Tip – “Connect with and get to know your Google My Business Local Guides.”

  1. Posts

Google My Business Posts is one of the best ways to optimize your profile. The “Posts” section of Google My Business offers a couple of different post types. Each type of post can help increase traffic on your profile and your website. If you are actively using Google My Business Posts, then Google will know that your business is active and trying to grow. This activity will encourage them to rank your profile higher, which may result in more business.  Let’s go over the different types of Google My Business Posts available.

Local SEO Tip – ” Ask us about integrating your website with Google My Business – it can be a real time-saver.”

Updates

The updates section is where you can post general information and updates about your business. This feature can be used to provide information about a new product.  There is also the ability to link to your website for more detail. This way updates can increase your website traffic and potential sales.  The more regularly you are posting updates, the more Google will recognize your company’s involvement, which could help its rankings.

Events

Creating an event in Google My Business can be very beneficial. Furthermore, if your event fits Google’s criteria, it can show up on Google Events, boosting your business’s exposure. Depending on how well your business is known, it may or may not show up immediately. As long as you continue to be active on your Google My Business profile, your events listings and overall rank should grow.   Events are generally helpful for overall exposure and will allow people to engage with your company on a more personal one-to-one level.

Offers

The “Offers” section is a great place to reward people who use Google My Business to find your company.  You can and should utilize this section to showcase promotional deals and special offers that may entice potential customers to reach out and use your services. Make sure your offers are available not only on your website and social media accounts but also on Google My Business. Doing this can increase the number of customers you bring in, as many people are going to Google a service they want before turning to other platforms.

Google My Business Welcome Offer

One new aspect of the “Offers” section of Google My Business is the ability to create a “Welcome Offer.”  The “Welcome Offer” means that when a member of the general public chooses to follow your business, they could receive a small promotional benefit for doing so.  This new tool will draw people in to follow your business and stay updated when you continue to post new updates, events, and offers.

Local SEO Tip – “Increasing the number of followers a business has may improve your search ranking and your chances to become a local favorite.”

Products

Using Posts, you now have a way to advertise your newest products. You can now post an image of a product with a price and a description to draw customers. Then link them to your website, where they can look at that product, as well as others similar to it. Products Posts are a way for your products to be visible to the public and to promote those products easily and for free.

  1. Q&A

At any time, the general public can post a question on your Google My Business profile.  The best thing you can do is to check your profile frequently and respond to any questions that the public may ask.  If you do not, you risk someone else answering the question inaccurately, which may end up damaging the quantity and quality of business that comes in.

  1. Photos

You’ll want to head to the “Photos” section of the website and pick out a cover photo, logo, and any other photos that you believe would be valuable to the customer. Photos are a way for the public to see that your business is legitimate, and adding pictures will add credibility to your company. The cover photo and logo components are new to Google My Business. It means that there will now be a uniform image that shows up for each person who searches for your business. Google has stated that “uploading new photos increases customer connections and online traffic.” Thus, you should upload as many high-quality photos as possible to enhance your overall profile.

Anyone can add photos of your business to your Google My Business profile. If you feel some images do not accurately represent your business, you can report them. Google will review whether or not they are appropriate. If there are no photos of your business on your profile, people are not likely to trust your company or see it as reputable.

  1. Correlation Between GMB Local Search Marketing and Your Website

Make sure that the content listed on your Google My Business profile matches the information on your company’s website. Otherwise, Google will not consider either source as correct and relevant, and your rankings will suffer, not improve.

After that, your Google My Business profile will be all set up!  The best thing you can do for your company’s Google My Business profile is to complete each section to the best of your ability. In doing so, Google will recognize your effort and want for growth, which will help your company’s overall rankings.

I’m new to Google My Business.  What other parts of the profile do I need to fill in to optimize for local search marketing?

As stated above, the best thing you can do for your Google My Business profile is to make it 100% complete.   While the components above are most crucial to helping your profile rank well, your entire profile is essential.

Below are some aspects of Google My Business about which you won’t want to forget.

Hours of Operation

Your hours of operation is a simple detail to add, but an important one. If you don’t let the public know when you are open and available, they likely won’t take a chance by contacting you. Making sure your hours are accurate is one of the simplest ways to help increase your local rank.

Local SEO Tip – “Don’t forget to add your holiday schedule. Google will remind you to keep it up to date, but it does not know if you closed on holidays.”

Company Phone Number

Make sure that you’ve listed the best phone number for potential customers to contact you. If you don’t leave a way for your customers to contact you, then you’ll end up losing business.  The phone number on your Google My Business profile should match with the phone number on social media platforms and your website.  You don’t want Google to think your profile is fake because the phone numbers listed are not consistent across the web.

Website Link

If your company has a website, make sure you link it! For much of the internet world, sites are still the best way to gain information!  If you don’t have a website, you should put even more care into developing your Google My Business profile.  You want people to understand that you are a reputable business.

Google My Business Services/Menu

The Services section can be essential to your company’s success and overall growth, especially if you don’t have a website. Say you own an auto-body shop but don’t want to create a website.  The best thing you can do is enter each service offered, along with a description and price, in the “Services” section.  That way, people who may be interested in your business can see what you offer and at what price point. Make this update for any services you may provide- from auto repair services to facials; you should list all that your business has to offer.

Restaurant Menus

If your business is a restaurant, you now can add your complete menu to your Google My Business profile. Previously restaurants could only do this if they had a third party service or application.  This feature means you can separate your menu into categories, such as appetizers, entrees, and desserts and list each item, complete with a description and price. Offering a menu tool allows Google to differentiate they types of foods and services that you offer.  So, it knows the difference between many types of foods and can categorize businesses properly.

Google My Business Attributes

This section is a section that may or may not be necessary to complete. If your company has unique qualities, such as being led by women or veterans, you should include that, as many customers value those things.  However, if you do not have any special attributes, it is okay to leave this section blank.

Company Description

This part of your profile is essential. After all, you want people who come across your business to know what you’re all about!  Make sure you give a concise yet complete description of your business that will entice people to utilize your services. You only have 750 characters for your description. The first 250 will immediately appear, so you’ll want to make sure each word adequately describes your company. Your company description is especially important if your company does not fit neatly into one of the categories given by Google.  Your description is the place where you can characterize your brand outside the limits of Google’s boundaries.

Local SEO Tip – “Create a great business summary in the first sentence of your description. Similar to web page SEO, Google gives priority to the first sentence over the rest of the content on your page.”

How does Google My Business affect Local Search Marketing and SEO?

Google My Business can be an excellent way to increase your local search marketing and SEO. You will want your listing to show in the top three listings on the first page of Google. It is even more critical when people are searching for the products or services you offer in your service area. For this to happen, you will need to optimize your listings.

Therefore, as much as you can do to keep your business’s profile up-to-date, the better.  By adding Posts frequently, you will bring in more traffic overall, as your profile will be more optimized.  Your SEO on your website can also increase if Google knows that your Google My Business profile is reputable.

Local SEO Tip- “If you don’t have time to do it yourself, you will want to hire an excellent Local SEO company to do it for you. Then you have a great shot at having your business more highly considered by those potential customers.”

Other things to know about Google My Business?

Your Google My Business Listing impacts your company’s brand and reputation.

Google My Business is a free platform, which means that some tools may not benefit every business all the time.  Firstly, anyone can add or edit the content on a Google My Business page. Anyone can add photos to your profile, regardless of how flattering they are. They can also post untrue and defamatory comments on the Q&A portion of your Google My Business profile.  These inappropriate actions could be destructive to your business’s reputation and could harm your ability to grow your company.  If you take care to keep your business’s profile up-to-date, you should not have issues with this.

Who owns your Google My Business Profile?

Another thing to be aware of is that once you insert your information into Google My Business, Google owns that information. Google can do with it as they please.  As the business owner, you will still have access to change and edit the material on your Google My Business profile, but Google will own it.  This will not affect your business, necessarily, but it is worth knowing about.

What Does Google My Business Look Like in the Future?

With the creation of Google My Business, many small businesses have seen a drop in traffic to their websites. Most people look at their Google My Business profile for information. Your Google profile is used for your menu, calling the business, or making an appointment. People won’t leave Google if they have all the information that they need.  For larger companies selling products such as cars, boats, or pools, sites are still necessary for shopping and looking at pricing on large purchases.

However, for restaurants or small businesses, the role of websites may begin to diminish as a large factor in local search marketing.  Restaurants can have their menus, a link to reservations, reviews, and contact information all on one page, with Google My Business.  Therefore, small businesses, such as restaurants, may no longer feel the need for a website, which can be a substantial cost to create and maintain.  So far, there has not been a significant decline in businesses creating sites, no matter the services they offer.  For now, websites are not going anywhere, especially for larger companies.

Conclusion: Google My Business is Critical to the Future of Local Search Marketing

As Google My Business grows in popularity, it will become an even more crucial tool to the success of your company, especially in regards to local search marketing.  A complete Google My Business profile will show Google that you are serious about seeing your company grow.  Google will then rank your profile higher, which can also increase traffic to your website overall.

Do you need help you create and/or optimize your Google My Business profile? Contact us for free a consultation at 978-851-9077.