Your Google My Business listing plays an integral part in your local SEO search results to allow you to be found by those in your area. Local results appear in organic results pages and on Google maps when you search for businesses near your location in an effort to show you nearby businesses. You can improve your ranking in local results through optimising your Google My Business profile.
Local results are determined by relevancy, distance and prominence. Google pays attention to how well your business matches the searcher’s query, how far your business is from the searcher’s location, and how authoritative your business is.
Google shows the top three local listings that are nearby and these businesses are shown above organic search results. Customers will see local businesses before everything else, meaning these businesses have a greater chance of being visited before competitors in organic search – so you need to optimise for them.
Follow each of the steps below to learn how to edit, and optimise your local Google Business page to help your business’s local ranking and enhance your presence in search results.
A fully optimised Google My Business listing looks something like this in search results when searching the business name:
And something like this in local search results in the local pack:
Firstly, you need to get a Google My Business Profile. Simply go to google.com/business to sign up, claim your page, and verify your account to confirm your business is legitimate and you are the business owner. Once you’ve signed up, you can optimise your profile in the following ways to boost your chances of appearing in local search.
Step 1: Google Places
Start off by heading over to Google Places.
Here, you will need to search for your business to see if there is already a listing set up. If there is an existing listing for your business, you will need to ‘claim your listing‘ and then check over the information to see if there are any errors. If the information on the existing listing isn’t correct, you can either report it and make the changes or wait till Google gives you ownership over the listing.
Step 2: Profile Info
Local results favour the most relevant results to the search, hence, companies with completed, updated, and accurate information on their profile are easier to match with searches. This will ensure customers get a better understanding of what your business does, whether you are what they are searching for, where you are based, how they can get in touch, and when they can visit.
It is important that you complete all necessary fields to enter all your business information and that it is kept up to date. Also, make sure the info you provide here matches the information on your website and is consistent with all other online presences such as directories and social, and this goes as specific as saying ‘Road’ or ‘Rd’ across all platforms. The information you need to include is:
Your Business Name
Enter your business name as it appears in the offline world so searchers know who you are.
Choose a category that best matches your business to make it clear what your business does. In the example above, we are an ‘internet marketing service’. Be as specific as possible as this helps narrow down relevancy in searches so the searcher can find exactly what they’re looking for.
For example, if you’re Chinese restaurant, choose this as your category – just choosing ‘restaurant’ isn’t specific enough to match the user’s intent if they’re looking for a Chinese restaurant and you’ll be less likely to be chosen against all other restaurants in the area.
This is your physical business address. You need to verify your location to appear in the most accurate location in Google maps and be visible to users in that area. There is also the option for those who do not want to show their physical address, those who do not have a physical address, and those who have multiple addresses but want to target local customers in that area.
Update your opening hours for every day of the week including any special opening hours for holidays. This lets prospects know when you’re available and what times they can get in touch with you. For some business that are visited frequently, Google also shows popular visiting times, how busy it is at the time of the search, and how long people generally spend there.
Update your phone number so that potential customers can get in touch with you easily. You should use a local area code to prove you are a local business.
Enter the website URL for your business so users can visit your site to find out more about you. You can also include links to specific actions like online orders, reservations, and menus.
Attributes give you the opportunity to tell customers more about your business and could include offerings such as WiFi, disabled access, or outdoor seating.
Step 3: Photos & Virtual Tour
According to Google, listings that have a virtual tour and photos generate twice as much interest as those without, because people engage with visuals better than text. Upload a few photos to make your business look good and stand out and show that your business matches user’s search needs. Use images of your logo, products and services, photos of your friendly and hard-working team members, and use them to tell your brand story.
It is recommended to upload a minimum of three photos and make sure they are all high quality and high resolution. Photos you own or have taken yourself that are unique to your business and portray your brand values work more effectively than generic stock images that are not personal to your business. Your customers and previous visitors can also add their images to portray their personal experiences with your business and give prospective customers multiple perspectives of your business.
If you need professional-looking photos, a Google certified photographer can take images of the interior and exterior of your business as well as a 360-degree virtual tour. This is great for portraying the inside and outside of your business to give prospects a behind-the-scenes peek and insight into your business’s atmosphere.
Step 4: Reviews
Reviews are a major factor for ranking in local results. Quality, positive reviews improve your business’s visibility and increase the chances of a customer visiting your business. You should hence aim to get as many authentic and positive 5-star reviews as possible to make your profile stand out and increase your rank.
Reviews highlight your credibility as a business and demonstrate the positive experiences others have had with your brand. This makes prospects more likely to choose your business over competitors – if you are up against a similar business with negative or no reviews, you will stand out against the competition.
In a recent survey, it was found that 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, 74% say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more, and 90% read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business. Reviews play a vital part not only in local search results but in purchasing decisions as they build trust in prospects through displaying a first-hand experience with the products and services that they are interested in buying and help form a positive opinion of your brand.
It can be difficult to get more reviews, so if you’re struggling to encourage your customers to leave a review, check out some tips in our post How to Get More Google Reviews. Make it easy for customers to leave a review by generating a Google review link, and 7 out of 10 customers will leave a review if asked, so send them a simple email asking for a Google review.
You should also respond to customer’s reviews to show that you appreciate your customers and their feedback to improve your business.
Step 5: Google Posts
Google Posts are a recent feature in Google My Business and appear in Google search and maps. They give you extra space to promote your events, promotions, offers, newsletters, products, services, blog posts, news, announcements, and anything else you want to endorse.
The aim of your posts is to inspire action, so make them brief, useful and persuasive. When creating a post in the dashboard, you will be able to add a clear image illustrating your post (720px wide by 540px tall), an eye-catching title (for an event) up to 58 characters, a short and punchy description to inspire action (up to 1,500 characters but it’s best to keep it 150-300 characters to fit the frame), and a clear call to action button such as ‘learn more’, ‘reserve’, ‘buy’, ‘sign up’, and ‘get offer’ with a link to your promotion.
Every post you publish will expire in a week so that offers, news, events etc stay current and don’t expire, so remember to update your posts weekly to keep your profile optimised and up to date at all times.
Updates Coming Soon
Google is also testing and beginning to roll out new features for Google My Business, so keep an eye out for these extra features to optimise your listing in the near future.
Google has added a Q&A feature to Google My Business so that businesses can answer any questions future customers may have. This is only compatible with Android devices for the time being before it is rolled out to all platforms.
Users ask questions and you respond quickly with the most helpful answer you can provide. From what payment methods are accepted to the best places to park, this feature gives you the opportunity to interact with prospects, be useful, create a good impression, and provide good customer service. These are all things that will encourage customers to choose you. Plus, if they are asking questions this is a positive sign that they are considering using your business and want to know more about you. This enables you to give that little extra helpful push to persuade them to use you.
Another element of the question and answer feature is that users can give a thumbs up to the most helpful answers and push them further up the listing, making popular listings more visible and you being more useful to searchers.
This is another feature that allows you to be super helpful to prospects, provide great customer service and again, shows that users are interested in what you have to offer. This feature is only currently being rolled out in the US and allows customers to chat with businesses in real time from the search engine results page.
From asking stock availability to making an enquiry, chat will help you create a good brand impression and get customers to like you before they even visit. You could also use this platform to gather leads so that you can keep prospects updated with stock or get in touch about an enquiry. It will also help you convert searchers in the decision-making stage into decisive customers and loyal visitors.
You will be able to access the chat feature through the Google My Business dashboard. Simply click ‘message with customers’ and you can answer questions via SMS message.
Just One Piece of the Puzzle
Remember that to get into a high-ranking position in local search you cannot rely on an optimised Google My Business profile alone – you need great SEO everywhere before you rank highly in local results. From SEO basics to SEO and content marketing to building links and authority, you need a well-rounded strategy that covers all SEO bases in order for your business to appear at the top of search results, and an optimised Google My Business profile is only part of the full puzzle that you can do to improve your business’s SEO.
Get in touch today for your free SEO audit or for any questions you have about optimising your Google My Business profile, local SEO, and how we can help you get more from your business’s overall SEO efforts.