Oh, Hello Branding Group
Did you know 4 in 5 consumers use search engines to find local information? And that 50% of "near me" searches result in a store visit that day?
Having a strong local SEO strategy is important for getting more business to your company. If you're just getting started in local SEO, Google My Business is the place to start. The best part is it's completely free!
What is Google My Business?
Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool provided by Google for businesses and organizations to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps.
If you are searching for "tacos near me", for example, a map will pop up and below it will be listings of restaurants with information like hours of operation, their address, phone number, website, reviews, etc. Similarly, if you are searching for tacos on your phone's map, those same listings appear.
Those listings are essentially what Google My Business is. It's a way to manage what information is displayed and a way to attract local customers.
What does an optimized listing look like?
Before we get into the steps to achieve optimization, first let's look at what an optimized listing looks like. This is a mockup of a listing we made to show you the difference between a listing that is optimized with valuable and accurate information compared to one that is not.
This example doesn't even include all of the features that Google My Business has to offer. There is so much more you can do, but it can give you an idea of how much more inviting the optimized listing is.
Why optimization is important
As you saw in the example above, the optimized listing was definitely better. Besides the listing just looking more professional and having more information, there are even more benefits to having an optimized GMB.
Improve your local rating
When someone is googling "tacos near me", you want your business to pop up first. By optimizing your listing, you can rank higher without having to pay for anything. The algorithm that ranks businesses does not just consider proximity to the location and relevance but also the quality of the information and how often the listing is updating. It is important to optimize because a higher ranking means more visibility.
Google listings are a great way for customers to get involved. They can write reviews, ask a question, request a quote, call you, visit your website, order food directly from the listing, etc. GMB provides many opportunities for interactions and makes it easy to nurture relationships with your customers when the listing is optimized.
Make a good first impression
It is more and more common for customers to be doing "zero click searches". What this means is that they are searching and not clicking on any websites because everything they need is already provided in the search results page. It is crucial for your business listing to have all of the information that a customer might want to know which is why optimization matters.
Convert more customers
The goal is ultimately to get more customers. With all of the information compiled in one convenient space, it is easy to convert customers. If the information isn't readily available and the customer still has questions, they will likely choose another business. Customers don't want to have to do further research so if they don't find what they are looking for on the listing, they will move on.
Additionally, GMB gives more exposure because people don't have to search your company's name to find you. Customers can find you through a keyword search so there are more opportunities to gain new customers who had never heard of you before.
Communicate to your customers
Your Google listing is a good way to communicate with your customers since if they do have a question, they will likely Google it. There is a place for company updates that can be useful to communicate. Especially with the recent pandemic, it's important to communicate if your business is open or what changes have been made. Again, if you search for tacos, you can see if the restaurant has a dine in option, take out, or no contact delivery right at the top of the listing.
How to optimize your listing
Now that you know the basics, it's finally time to optimize your listing!
1. Claim your listing
Before you can claim your listing, you have to create a Google My Business account. Then, you can connect it to your Google listing. It's very simple, head to google.com/business and sign in with the Google/Gmail account that is used for your business.
2. Complete each section
By completing every section, customers will have all of the information they commonly search for, they will have more ways to interact with your business, and your business will rank higher in the local search results.
There is a lot to fill out, but completing the name, address, phone number, website, and hours is something you should do immediately.
The sections that might take a little bit of time are the category and attributes, products and services, from the business, and questions and answers sections.
Posts, reviews, and questions and answers should be ongoing sections and not a one-time thing.
3. Make sure your contact information is accurate
To optimize your contact information, you need to make sure your business name is the exact same as the signage on your store. If you even add a location name to your listing title, it could be considered spam and hurt your ranking.
Also, make sure your business name and address match everything else on the internet or social media. Even small things like "street" vs. "st" or "company vs. "co" matter, so make sure it is uniform across all platforms.
It is also important to provide your regular hours and holiday hours. You don't want to make your customers mad if you are closed and didn't clearly indicate it on your listing. It is also important to continually update these hours in case they differ depending on the holiday.
4. Write your "from the business" description
Although there is a short description below the business name and above the contact information, that is not something you can change. This is something that Google writes for you, but they actually do a pretty good job of it.
The "from the business" section is under the reviews, which is place where you can write your own, longer description.
To optimize this section, use the full character limit which is 750 characters. Additionally, use keywords that people might use to Google your business. If you aren't sure what to say, you can rewrite your "about us" page on your website or your mission statement. Use this section to explain what sets you apart from your competitors and why people should do business with you.
Don't repeat anything that can be found in another section of the listing and don't include any links.
5. Choose a category
Choosing a category is an important step in the process because it is at the top of your listing and you do have some control over this section. Although you can't put whatever you want, there are over 3000 categories to choose from.
Additionally, depending on what category you choose, there are extra features. Restaurants will include a menu feature and an order button and hotels will include their star rating.
To optimize the category section, be specific. The more specific you are, the customer has a better idea of what your business offers. For example, if you are a restaurant, don't just put "restaurant" but put "Mexican restaurant".
You can also choose secondary categories if your business has more than one offering. It's important that your main offering is your primary category though and any additional offerings are your secondary.
6. Add attributes
Once you choose a category, you can add attributes. Just like with categories, Google comes up with these, but you can choose which ones apply for your business from their list. Even though you are only limited to their list, there are a surprising amount of choices. To check out what you have to choose from click here.
Some common attributes you can add are if you deliver, have WiFi, and are wheelchair accessible. You can get pretty specific though, like adding that you offer a trivia night, that it's okay to just order dessert, or that your salon has experience with thin curly hair.
7. Upload amazing photos
Adding photos is essential for having a good listing. Although anyone can add photos to your listing, by adding your own high quality photos you can ensure that your listing is looking its best. Additionally, customers are much more likely to purchase something from you if there are pictures to review first.
To optimize the photo section, add at least one new photo every week and make sure they are quality pictures. For the thumbnail picture, add a picture of your logo. Make sure to not just have photos of your products but also inside your building and exterior shots. You can also add videos too!
8. Encourage reviews
Reviews are important because it plays a big part in the ranking algorithm. The top results will always have a high star rating and Google even uses the keywords written in reviews. Reviews are also important to the customers and are an influential part of their decision making.
So how do you get reviews? Ask! 62% of customers will write a review if asked, so send them an email, text, or message on social media to get them to write a review. Start with your loyal, long time customers. You can also add a review page on your website with a CTA to leave a review on your Google listing. Responding to reviews is also a good act of customer service and shows you are active. It also improves your local SEO.
Do not offer discounts, coupons, or free gifts to incentivize customers to leave reviews. That is not allowed.
9. Add posts to your listing
You have to treat your listing like another social media app. You can create posts in your GMB dashboard, and they show up in the updates section of your listing. Not only will it help your ranking, but customers are more likely to interact with these posts compared to other social media posts like Facebook or Instagram. Customers can even follow your listing and receive notifications whenever you post an update.
To optimize your posts, post regularly. You can also post about sales and events happening and add a timeline, so they are only live while the sale is going on. Be sure to include links and CTA's to your posts. Recently, there is a COVID-19 specific post offered so be sure to take advantage of this to communicate to your customers about any updates.
10. Ask questions (and answer them)
There is a question and answer section above the reviews. Anyone can ask questions, even you! The downside is that anyone can answer the questions. This means that strangers could be giving out wrong information.
Some tips for optimization of this section would be to set up alerts. This ensures that you can answer all questions before someone else does.
Next, ask yourself some questions. Ask your most frequently asked questions but also questions that show off any features your company provides. Then, answer the questions of course. Google actually encourages business owners to ask questions to their own listing.
As always, keywords are important. When asking and answering questions, keep this in mind. By adding in some keywords, it will help your rating.
11. Add products and services
If your business name doesn't make it clear what you offer, adding your products and services to this section is crucial. Either way, it's important to fill out this section just so your listing looks more complete and displays more information.
When adding products/services, be sure to include the name, description, photo, and price. If you own a salon, you can show that you offer hair services, nail services, massages, waxing, etc.
12. Enable messaging
You can have customers send you a text directly from the Google listing. With Google's Allo app, it will provide you a different number, so you won't have to display your own personal phone number.
To turn on messaging, select the messaging tab on the GMB dashboard. You can either install it with Google Play or the Apple App Store depending on your smartphone. Turn on your alerts for messaging in the settings tab of the dashboard before you start.
Since over 80% of customers searching for local businesses are using their smartphones, this is an important feature to take advantage of.
13. Add your social media profiles
You can't actually add your social media profiles to your listing, Google does. So, if you notice that yours aren't being displayed while other companies have theirs or maybe you are only seeing Facebook and not Instagram, there is something you can do. You can make it easier for Google to add your profiles.
Make sure that your social media handles are the same as your business name and Google listing. Link your social media profiles on your website so Google can find them easily. Also, make sure you are posting regularly on your social media, so Google knows it is active.
14. Come up with a GMB strategy
GMB requires ongoing action and updating to see the full benefits, so it's important to come up with a plan.
Be sure to:
- Update your information regularly
- Add posts and photos weekly
- Encourage reviews
- Monitor and respond to reviews
- Keep up with the new features
It's not only important to update your listing, but also update your website and social media platforms because Google uses these sites to populate your listing.
Google My Business is an incredible tool that is completely free, so there is no excuse not to take advantage of it.
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