Developing a diverse Local SEO strategy for companies with brick and mortar addresses includes establishing and optimizing a Google Business Listing. This free marketing platform provides businesses with a variety of opportunities to connect potential customers to their products and services.
As customers search for local businesses such as hairstylists, restaurants, auto repair, plumbers and other local companies, Google My Business is quickly becoming an ideal way for business owners to expand their digital reach with Local SEO in new and creative ways.
Do I Need a Google Business Listing?
It’s important to know that for now, it is free to set up a Google Business Listing. However, that can change; we don’t know what Google will do in the future. Google has linked Google Maps to Google Business Listings, otherwise known as Google My Business Pages. For local businesses, this means if you want to show up on Google Maps, you will need to set up a page.
As we stated earlier, Google continues to add features to their Google My Business page platform to make this free internet real estate very valuable for business owners. It’s to your benefit to go further than simply setting up a page to show up on Google Maps.
If you interact with people in-person, if you have one or more brick and mortar locations, or your company wants to provide important information about the context of your company, creating a Google My Business page is an excellent way to expand your digital presence online.
There are a few limitations. Ineligible businesses include the following:
- Rental or for-sale properties such as vacation homes, model homes, or vacant apartments. Sales or leasing offices, however, are eligible for verification.
- An ongoing service, class, or meeting at a location that you don’t own or have the authority to represent.
The following actions will take you step by step through how to set up and optimize your Google My Business page (GMB). Bookmark this page and check back here often. Google adds new details regularly to enhance how the listing page works. We’ll work to keep you up to date on new features as they become available and how we’re using each feature for our clients.
Claim / Create a Google My Business Listing
There are two ways to set up your Google My Business Listing. You can use your mobile device and set up your listing through an app, or you can log in to your Gmail account on your desktop and set up the listing on your computer.
The steps are slightly different. On mobile you will work through an app. On your desktop you will begin by logging into your Gmail account. In the top right corner search your Google icons and select the Business icon.
Follow the steps and enter your information in each section.
The more information you include the better. Currently, there are sections to include your Business:
- Phone Number
- Hours of Operation
- A Short Name
- A List of Services you offer
- The year you opened
There are also sections where you can include business categories such as Marketing Agency or HVAC Contractor to help Google pull your information accurately for search results.
It’s vital that you enter accurate information in your Google Business Listing since you will show up on Google Maps. If your address is incorrect your location on Google Maps, as well as other directory listings, may confuse customers.
Google offers a few ways to verify your Google Business Listing; however, the majority of businesses will need to verify by mail. When you verify by mail you will receive a postcard to the address you enter on your listing with a code. Follow the directions on the postcard. This is another opportunity to confirm whether Google has your company details correct.
Google states that your postcard should arrive within 14 days. They also warn that making changes to your GMB in the meantime may delay the validation process.
Optimizing for Search
Optimize Your Google My Business Listing
Once you have a validated GMB listing, you can begin to optimize your page. There are a variety of ways to feature your company’s profile by selecting a primary category and additional categories.
You can further optimize your page by selecting service areas. This is a helpful feature for businesses looking to target Local SEO. When people search Real Estate Melbourne, FL, Google will take Google My Business page service areas into consideration and may rank those that service Melbourne, FL higher than those that service Tampa, FL. If people limit their search by miles or to a specific city, the service area becomes very important for Local search results.
You can list customized services and add attributes such as Veteran-Led or Woman-Led. There are sections to include your hours of operation, and you can even highlight holiday hours.
This is especially helpful if your brick and mortar location will observe holidays other locations around you doesn’t or if you have different hours of operation.
You can enable Google Assistant to allow people to schedule appointments and you can seamlessly connect your GMB to Google Ads.
All of these small choices help make it easier for local customers to find your GMB page. The more you optimize your page, the more it will stand out in the search results.
Your Google My Business Listing (GMB) also has sections to add images. Google suggests adding images that will help customers identify your business.
Google places photos in several categories of your business listing:
- Logo: This should match the logo on your website or social media pages. Google notes “for businesses that have their basic information (phone number, hours, etc.), the Business Profile will highlight the logo.”
- Cover photo: This image may match one that is the cover photo for your email header, YouTube header, or something unique that helps your business stand out. Note: “In some instances, this action doesn’t guarantee the cover photo populates as the first image for your business.”
- Additional photos: Depending on the type of business you have, this will vary. You may feature products you sell, the inside of your store, employees, specialized equipment, or an award you recently won. You can continue to add new images as they apply to your business. Learn more about business photos.
Google Photos must meet the following standards:
- Format: JPG or PNG.
- Size: Between 10 KB and 5 MB.
- Recommended resolution: 720 px tall, 720 px wide.
- Minimum resolution: 250 px tall, 250 px wide.
- Quality: The photo should be in focus and well lit and have no significant alterations or excessive use of filters. In other words, the image should represent reality.
Videos and Virtual Tours
The ability to add video to your GMB provides opportunities for you to feature short snippets similar to those you may create for Instagram or Facebook, or you can do something unique using a program like Animoto.
- Are you a new business who is about to have your grand opening? Why not do a sneak peek virtual tour?
- Do you have a new menu rolling out for the season? Have your chef explain the dishes as people taste them for the first time. Their reactions will encourage people to make reservations.
- Have you noticed people asking the same questions when they call your store? Do a quick, frequent questions and answers video.
The key is to title the video accurately, so customers know what to expect when they click the video. And, speak quickly since you only have 30 seconds.
Google Videos must meet the following requirements:
- Duration: Up to 30 seconds long
- File size: Up to 100 MB
- Resolution: 720p or higher
For brick and mortar businesses with 10 or more locations, Google has created a process to help streamline photo uploads. The bulk upload process allows you to use the same images in some locations, such as logos, and images that are unique for each location, such as those that feature the area.
You will submit bulk uploads via an excel spreadsheet. Here are the fields to fill – some are optional while others are required:
Store code – A store code is required for each location you want to include in your spreadsheet.
Business name – A business name is required for each location.
Address – Use the exact same address as you have on your GMB page
Primary phone – A primary phone number or website is required for each location.
Website – A website or primary phone number is required for each location.
Primary category – A primary category is required for each location.
Latitude and longitude – Not required.
Additional categories Hours – These are “strongly encouraged.”
From the business
Google Ads location extensions phone
Monitor and Maintain Your Google My Business Listing
Google has already included so many different features in the GMB that you may think once you add your information you can leave your page alone. However, Google continues to add new features all the time and enhances the original sections to give searchers the best experience possible.
The attributes section featured earlier is a perfect example of an area where Google continues to add new details. While some pages are limited to only selecting two attributes, others also have the option to highlight online scheduling of appointments. It’s likely more attributes be added in the future.
One of the most important features of your GMB is the customer review section. Google encourages you to interact with customers whether they leave positive or negative reviews on your page. If Google nudges you to do something on their platform, it’s a good idea to pay attention to that nudge.
One way to interact and practice good customer service is to thank someone who takes the time to endorse your company positively. Word of mouth referrals are vital for businesses and that includes online reviews. Beyond friends and family, 88% of people trust online reviews written by other consumers as much as they trust recommendations from personal contacts. (source)
Building trust is also why you should make every effort to address negative reviews as quickly as possible. In our experience, when you conduct your business with integrity the people who leave a negative review aren’t able to accurately represent the situation. When you respond to the review or customer comment, you have the opportunity to professionally tell the whole story and directly address the person who left the review.
After you respond, you can also request that Google remove the false statements. We’ve written a post walking you through those steps here. For more ideas on how to respond to negative reviews on your Google My Business page as well as other review sites check out our blog article How and Why You Should Respond to Negative Customer Reviews.
One of the challenges of the customer review space is that anyone can leave a review. This means that a competitor can misrepresent who they are online and say they are a dissatisfied customer. This situation is one of several areas Google lists as prohibited and restricted content. When you have a review on your Google My Business page that fits one of the categories listed below you can start by flagging the content as inappropriate.
- Spam and fake content
- Restricted content
- Illegal content
- Terrorist content
- Sexually explicit content
- Offensive content
- Dangerous & Derogatory content
- Conflict of Interest
While many of the categories seem self-explanatory, you will want to read the definitions before flagging the comment. After flagging the inappropriate comments on your GMB page, you will have to wait for Google to review your notification and take action. It will take time for Google to review and respond so you may want to comment on the content and state your case for any potential customers who find your GMB in the meantime.
Incorporating Industry Keywords
One final way that you can monitor and maintain your GMB is by continuing to optimize your descriptions by incorporating trending keywords. Just as you take the time to optimize your meta descriptions and title tags on your website to help increase your rankings, the same opportunities apply with your GMB.
Review your company’s description a few times a year to ensure that it still accurately reflects the products and services you offer.
Remove Duplicate Listings
One way to protect anyone from setting up a Google My Business listing is to verify your page immediately. Google protects verified listings from having duplicates created. However, if you discover that you need to remove a duplicate listing, the process for deleting a duplicate is simple. Log into you GMB and go to your Account Summary. Choose “Delete this Listing.”
This will remove the listing. As long as you haven’t removed the verified version, you should be set to move forward.
Reserve with Google
As Google strives to be people’s preferred resource for help, they are finding new ways to make using their platform convenient for business owners and customers. With Reserve with Google, you can hold your spot at restaurants, classes, activities, purchase movie tickets or event tickets.
This feature helps you make reservations through Search, Maps, or Google Assistant and allows you to view all your bookings in one place.
You can use Reserve with Google to plan your week and send reservations with notifications to your Calendar and Gmail. You will receive an alert you on your devices as well.
If you are a business that sells tickets or offers reservations, you will want to make sure to set up the sections and allow people to engage with your company online from their phone or desktop.
Link Google My Business Account to Google Ads or Google Merchant Center
There are two benefits to linking your GMB and your Google Ads accounts. The process to link your Google Ads account is simple; you will need to request a link.
Once you have linked your GMB and Ads accounts you can:
- Advertise your locations with location extensions.
- Link to your Merchant Center account and advertise your products with local inventory ads.
Linking and unlinking your accounts are seamless procedures. You just need to select to link or unlink.
If you want to allow more than one person to have access to your GMB, you can easily select users in the far-left column and send permission to administrators who will access the GMB through their email.
Now that your Google My Business page is set up, you will want to continue to optimize it frequently. This includes more than monitoring and responding to customer reviews.
When you open your GMB page, you will see a list of options on the left side of your monitor. The section highlighted in blue is the tab you are viewing.
This next section will highlight each tab in detail.
Optimizing Each Section of your GMB
The Home tab allows you to see an overview of your GMB, to update many features quickly, as well as jump to different sections such as customer reviews or analytics. The main feature of the Home tab is the ability to create posts and add photos to your page.
The posts are opportunities for you to share content about your company. They will stay live for customers to view on Desktop versions of the GMB for 7 days and will stay live on the Mobile version forever.
There are three choices on the different posts you can place. Creating posts are free. Adding photos is also free. When you create an ad, this is connected to your Google Ads account as we previously explained.
Here is an example of what your platform looks like:
After you select Create a Post from the choices to add free information to your Google My Business Listing, you will have four different types of posts to feature.
What’s New – This is a great option to feature blog posts, something new such as a change in store hours, an announcement about a new employee or anything else you can imagine. This is the most versatile of the spaces.
Event – This space is for highlighting an event. You will need to include dates and the information will stay on your GMB until the event.
Offer – This section is different because it has space for you to include a Coupon Code, a Link to Redeem an offer, and Terms and Conditions. You can have the offer run for a limited time by including dates. Take time to Preview your post before you hit publish and make sure everything looks just like you expect.
Product – In the Product section, you will include a price. You can include a fixed price or range of pricing. Google is currently building out the Product tab. We will talk about more ways to use this feature later.
The benefits of adding content to your page include featuring photos, blog articles, and events unique to your company. Incorporating keywords into each post such as company location, services, and the most searched terms will give Google additional opportunities to understand the context of your business. This will help you connect with searchers looking for your products and services.
You have the option to end each post with a call to action. Your choices include the option to have a customer call you directly, schedule an appointment, or learn more about the information you’ve highlighted in a blog post. Here is a full list of your call to action options:
When you select Call Now your phone number from your Google My Business Page will auto-fill into the box.
The Info tab allows you to update your business details. If you add a business service area you can include it in the Service Areas. This is where your address is listed as well as where you choose your Business categories. You can also edit your hours of operation or add holiday hours.
There are sections to include your main business line and a Google phone number, your website, and a link for appointments. Some of the sections will show up as buttons at the top of your GMB Listing on Desktop or Mobile.
Here is the Desktop version:
Here is the view on Mobile:
Going down the list of additional info to add, this tab is where you add attributes, services, a few paragraphs of details about your company such as your mission statement, and when you opened or founded your company.
The next tab is Insights. This is an overview of your Google My Business analytics. You can look at 1 week, 1 month, or 1 quarter of search results and see if customers are finding you Direct or through Discovery when they search online.
Here are Google’s definitions:
Direct: Customers who find your listing by searching for your business name or address.
Discovery: Customers who find your listing by searching for a category, product, or service.
The next thing in Insights is a list of queries that were searched by users and about how many users include each word in Search. For example, in one month 11 users found SMA Marketing when including the word “marketing” in Google search.
Google explains “Insights give you an inside look at how people find your business listing on the web. Because many customers find businesses on Google Search and Maps, Insights focuses on how customers use Search and Maps to find your listing, and what they do once they find it. You can get Insights for individual listings or in bulk. Note: Your data for the last few days may be slightly adjusted as we evaluate and refine its accuracy.”
It’s a good idea when reviewing this section to review the quarter and month sections for keywords. When looking at the volume of keywords for month, SEO consultants didn’t make the top 20. However, when reviewing searches for the quarter, it was the third most searched result just after SMA Marketing.
Next on Insights there is a breakdown of Listings in Search and Listings on Google Maps.
This is followed by Customer Actions. Customer Actions tracks if customers call you, ask for directions, or visit your website after viewing your GMB.
It’s important to realize that just because they don’t take direct action through the GMB doesn’t mean that they don’t connect with you. That’s why it’s important to track your total analytics as well as direct actions on your GMB and make sure to compare your numbers. If you find that your GMB is not pulling up in Search or you aren’t showing up on Google Maps these are good indications you need to spend time optimizing your GMB.
Your Reviews tab allows you to directly respond to each comment left by a customer on your GMB. You can also flag the comment as inappropriate in this tab. There is now an option to delete your comment and rewrite it as well.
The Messaging tab is also an app. This space allows for customers to send you private messages directly similar to texts. Having the option to answer from your desktop rather than your phone will help ensure you spell things correctly and answer quickly when working in your office.
The flexibility of multiple platforms also allows for several users to utilize the service ensuring a quick customer response time.
If there is one thing that Google makes clear repeatedly it’s that they want you to add photos to your GMB continually. On the Photo tab, they include all the different types of images you should include.
When you upload images under each category, Google will identify the images under each category. This could be helpful for customers who are looking at your GMB. If a customer takes a photo and it’s dark or shows an older version of decorations it will be easier for those browsing images to identify why those photos don’t match the ones that are placed by the business owner.
Depending on the category your business falls under, Google will give you the option to feature custom services or products.
In the Services section, you can add custom services under each of the Category titles that are pre-set by Google. You will need to try to make them as similar to the top title as possible in order for the custom features to make sense to potential customers.
If you look at the SMA Marketing page, the custom services mirror the website page dropdown menus. One challenge with this feature is that you are limited to 80 characters, so keep your summaries short and to the point.
If your business is one that Google gives a Products page, you have a lot more flexibility to highlight the different aspects of your business, whether they are services or products.
When you set up the Products page, you will start by creating a Collection. In this example, the Collection is the Ultimate Smile Design (the name of the company) Dental Procedures. Then within each Collection you can add Products which are the sub-categories featured here with a title, image, and explanation. The first sub-category is Cosmetic Dentistry. You have up to 1,000 characters to describe the product, and you can include a link for a customer back to your website to read a web page or to complete a purchase.
Companies who have Products pages will have Services tabs as well because the Products Tab is in a beta phase.
If you are looking for a quick way to build an inexpensive website, Google is happy to oblige. One caution you may want to consider before going this route is that you will be putting all your digital advertising in one basket other than social media.
A Google website is a bare minimum web page. It will give you a web presence, but it will also limit your opportunities to dive into marketing strategies such as blogging, backlinking, and developing your email marketing lists with special offers.
Google continually adds new features and improvements to help businesses reach their target customers through the power of Search. At SMA we stay on top of these changes for our customers and subscribers and we will continue to update this information as new features available.