You may think that Google My Business (GMB) is just an online business listing. It is essentially an online listing of your business, but if you use it properly, it can be a much more powerful tool. It’s one of the simplest tools brick and motor stores can use to grow organic traffic, increase revenue, and gain insightful information about their customers.
Your business listing includes practical information such as hours of operation, customer or client reviews, and posts. But it’s not only a place to find this basic information. Did you know you can also optimize it for search?
The Basics of Google My Business
Claiming your business listing and keeping your GMB profile up to date ensures that your potential customers have immediate access to important information about your business. Before they ever even reach your website, they can see your phone number, address, hours, accessibility, and services.
And even though it's found on your website, having it listed on GMB allows Google to make it consistent across all its products — such as search and maps. Having an up-to-date GMB profile is also one of many things you can do to show up on page one of a Google search result.
You can use Google My Business to interact with people talking about your business. You can also use it to manage your online review reputation, compile user-generated content, and learn how your customers discover you.
If you haven’t claimed your business listing already, it’s super easy! This series of photos will walk you through that. Head over to google.com/business to get started. Once your business is verified, you’ll have full access to GMB features, and your business will show up on Google products.
If you have claimed your listing, scroll down a bit to learn how to start optimizing GMB for search.
Checking Your GMB Regularly
You’ll want to regularly look over your information to verify that it is both correct and complete. Users who visit your business can suggest changes, which you must approve or correct.
You’ll also want to make sure you haven’t left information out, and that information included is consistent. Did you link your website and add a description? Does your business name match the name on your website? Make sure that it does!
Next up! Your business category and attributes...
Your GMB Business Category
Choosing the correct category for your business is vital! There are nearly 4,000 categories to choose from, but you cannot create categories.
You might feel like going buck wild and selecting as many category options as possible. Slow your roll. Google allows you to select up to 10 categories but add the least number of categories as possible to describe your core business. The more categories you add to your profile, the weaker each category gets in a potential search for your business.
Your business category needs to be very specific. For instance, you’ll want to select a nail salon instead of a salon or cosmetology. The more specific you are, the fewer businesses you’ll compete against for customers in your niche.
If the category you’re hoping for isn’t available, go ahead and choose a more general category that still describes your business accurately. You’ll be able to beef up specifics elsewhere.
Categories are used to describe your business but not your services or amenities. If you are opening a restaurant that has a bar, you would not add “bar” to your categories.
However, if your business includes public-facing departments that operate as distinct entities, they should each have their own profile. Do not add each entity as a category to the main profile.
Your GMB Business Attributes
This is where you have a chance to beef things up a bit, optimize for your local search presence, and stand out against your competitors.
Attributes allow you to expand on your offerings, services, and amenities. What does your business offer outside of your core providing? This is your opportunity to give customers a better idea of what they can expect from you. It's the section where you will add “bar” or “patio” to your restaurant and answer questions that customers will likely have about your establishment.
There are over 100 attributes to choose from, but not all of them are available to you, depending on your business type: for instance, if your business is a salon, you wouldn’t find attributes like “hot tub” and “outdoor seating”, but you would find an attribute for “experience with thick curly hair”.
Selecting your attributes will help you show up as a solution to more local searches in your area. Such as “restaurants with wheelchair-accessible restrooms near me”. You could have an accessible restroom. However, if it’s not listed, you won’t trigger this result in a search.
All your attributes will show up to customers who view your full description on GMB. Be sure not to select attributes that don’t pertain to your business. It could result in a bad review.
Google groups GMB profile attributes into different types so that you can easily select the ones that are most relevant to you. Here’s a quick rundown of each type of business attribute.
Accessibility: describes accommodations for those with disabilities, especially for wheelchair-bound people.
Amenities: facilities available, particularly for hotels, bed and breakfasts, and other types of accommodations. Examples would include an in-room safe, tennis court, fitness center, A/C, faxing, room service, high chair, crib rentals, and more.
Activities: Are there recreational things to do? This could include but would not be limited to bicycle rentals, a game room, or horseback riding.
Dining Options: What type of setups are available—Takeaway, curbside pickup, delivery? What do you serve—breakfast, dinner, brunch, dessert?
Health and Safety: These attributes provide details on what you do to keep others safe.
Crowd: What types of people are welcome in your establishment? Are you an adults-only establishment, or are you family-friendly.
Highlights and Popular For: These are key features or facilities that you want to be known for or are popular for such as an onsite casino or doctor, private events and seating, rooftop seating, or serving a local specialty.
Languages Spoken: I think this one is pretty self-explanatory.
Payments: What types of payments do you accept. Are you cash-only? Do you accept mobile payments? Credit cards only?
Lodging options: These are the types of rooms that are available, like family rooms. This attribute could also include other features that are not amenities like “extended stay”.
Offerings: Offerings are additional details about your business that vary from category to category. This is an extensive attribute type that, depending on your business type, could include attributes like, “braille menu”, “blowouts”, “happy hour”, “free air”, “craft beer”, “dancing”, and many more.
Planning: This attribute gives you the chance to help customers plan their visit to your location. Is there a membership required? Do you have an online events calendar or accept online appointments? Do you accept reservations? Are you accepting new patients?
Service Options: These are additional services that your business may have to support your customers.
Other attributes are hidden from business setup but available to local guides, users who review your business, or those who visit your business often. They’re user-generated, and you don’t have control over them.
Personalizing Your GMB Listing
After you’ve completed all your personal information, you will want to personalize the visual aspect of your listing. Show the world your personality! Businesses that add photos to their Business Profiles receive 42% more requests for directions on Google Maps, and 35% more clicks to their websites than businesses that don’t. GMB recommends adding a profile photo, cover photo, and video to show off your business.
The first thing that your customers are going to notice on your listing is your profile picture. You want to be sure that you give them a good first impression. Your profile photo is used to show your identity when you post a photo or reply to a review. You can upload your profile photo or you can feature a user-generated photo.
Asking your customers to add photos of their experiences with your business is a great way to build an online library of user-generated content. But be sure to ask them for a review as well.
Reviews are the heartbeat of local search and your GMB listing. They help build a loyal customer base, improve your online visibility, and help build trust with your audience. That is if they are used intentionally.
According to a 2021 year-end survey, 99% of consumers used the internet to find local businesses. 98% of people read the online reviews for those businesses. Google holds the largest market share on search. It’s more important than ever to make sure your listing is up to date and that you’re taking advantage of the online review system.
Always ask customers who had a good experience for a Google review. There are many creative ways to do this. You could include the request in the footer of an email or place a printed sign near the register of your establishment. You could even share your GMB listing directly with your customers to ask for a review.
You may have to play around with a few different request types to see what works best for your audience.
While good reviews have the potential to turn into more sales, bad reviews can also present you with an opportunity to establish the voice of your business. 89% of consumers said they would be fairly or highly likely to use a business that responds to all reviews on their listing, both positive and negative. Research also shows that when businesses respond to negative reviews, approximately 1/3 of consumers turn around to post a good review or will delete the original review.
Responding to Negative Reviews on Your GMB Profile
You should respond to all GMB reviews, good and bad, as quickly as possible. Responding quickly shows the reviewer that you care about their experience but responding to negative reviews also reduces the likelihood that more negative comments will pile up on that review.
Respond in a manner that shows you are thankful and respectful of your customer’s opinions — even if you think they are wrong. Getting defensive can turn a potential opportunity into a rather sticky situation.
Listen to what they have to say, take a deep breath, and respond in a way that shows you value their opinion and take their complaint seriously. Then, tell them how you will address their complaints. What are the next steps?
If the review provides inaccurate information about your business, feel free to correct them. But remember to stay respectful and courteous.
Lastly, give your customers a way to stay in touch with you, and invite further feedback. Many other customers will be watching the interactions on negative reviews. If you handle the entire situation with grace and offer a positive solution, it reflects well on your business.
Using The Google My Business Messaging Feature
Another great way to optimize your listing is to speak directly to your customers through Google My Business messages. This can lead to increased engagement and a closer connection between your and your customers. It can also help you close more sales.
If a consumer can't find something on your listing or website, you want them to be able to ask a quick question. And let’s face it, in this day and age, most people would prefer to text or instant message versus calling an actual phone number.
You can activate this feature by clicking the “turn on messaging” button in your GMB dashboard. You’ll then select a phone number you’d like to use for chatting. Don’t worry! This number will not be public-facing it simply allows for the messages to route to your mobile device.
Make sure that you also set up a welcome message. This message is what the user will receive when they start a conversation with you.
Keep in mind that Google will calculate an average response time that is visible on your profile and that this service is only effective by sharing information with customers who physically inquire.
Adding posts and sharing business updates to GMB
Here’s another great opportunity to showcase your business’s personality! This feature allows you to share content about your business in a variety of ways, much like you would on a social platform. You can use posts to promote new products, announce upcoming events, or show company culture and advancement, to name a few.
It’s important to post consistently to give your business a steady pulse.
These posts can be formatted to add photos, gifs, and call-to-action buttons, but there are a few things to consider while posting:
- Posts can have a maximum of 300 words. Only around 60 of those will show in the display if you’re using a call-to-action button. All text will be visible without the call-to-action.
- Any images you use should be a great representation of your business and be high-quality. The minimum dimensions are 400 X 300.
- Speak to your audience in plain language that encourages them to engage. Don’t use industry jargon or fancy words.
- You’ll be able to return later to check the insights about each post that you’ve made, but each post has a lifespan of 7 days. This is another reason why it’s important to post consistently.
Track progress on Google My Business with insights
No matter what marketing tactic you choose, it’s important to track results and measure the impact on your business. Google My Business has built-in tools that can help you with that.
The GMB insights panel can tell you how customers are finding you, where they are finding your listing, the actions they take on your profile, where they live, and when they call you.
It’s important to analyze what they are doing after finding your listing. Are they visiting your physical location, do they prefer to call or message, or do they visit your website?
Let’s Wrap This Up
There are many ways that customers can find you. Google My Business puts your important information in front of those already looking for what you have to offer. GMB allows you to improve your local, organic search performance, engage with your customers, and gather insights about how they respond to your content.
Most of all, it’s free! Not claiming your business listing or taking advantage of this free and powerful tool is saying no to searchers who need to connect to your business.
If you’re having trouble getting your GMB profile set up or keeping up with it, let’s talk.