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If you’ve ever gone on Google and searched for a product or service, you’ve likely seen the special cards and search results they provide. This information comes from Google My Business listings provided to the search engine.
When you start to optimize your Google My Business listing, you'll notice that your ranking on Google, particularly with local search results, begins to rise. Potential customers will begin to see your listing in relevant searches, and they'll have an easier time finding you using Google Maps on their mobile device!
About Google My Business
At its core, Google My Business (or GMB) is a yellow pages style listing that provides searchers with basic information immediately. Some of the most obvious information the service allows you to give are lists of services, hours, contact information, and reviews. The free service is constantly being updated to add new features such as messaging and posting.
According to the most recent Moz’ Local Search Ranking Factors Survey, GMB continues to be the biggest driver of local SEO success. Given that over 90% of people worldwide prefer Google to any other search engine, using their services is a no-brainer.
Basic GMB Set Up
In most cases, your business will have a basic listing even if you’re not updating it. Most of this information is pulled from sites like Yelp and Yellow Pages, as well as your own website (if you have one). Google users can also submit edits to your listing and answer questions that help provide more information to future interested users.
Claim your listing, and make sure all of the information is accurate. Fill in all of the empty fields that are applicable to you. Some of the most important information includes accurate business location, name, and phone number.
Make sure you tell Google whether your business provides physical goods or services! The listing will offer you different options based on that, as well as other business details like whether you keep an office staff.
Optimizing GMB for Local SEO
Optimizing for generic SEO won’t help a local business attempt to grow. Attempting to dominate national search is hard enough for a huge corporate entity with a matching budget. A small business who needs to conserve what they have will struggle.
So we optimize instead for Local SEO, which uses SEO data based on your location to improve your search results. Google changes search results based on your location. If you search for a restaurant in one location, you’ll get different results than if you do the exact same search across town.
Google My Business is uniquely placed to help improve your Local SEO as well as overall SEO and rankings. But only if you take the time to optimize it correctly.
Make Sure Your Listing is Complete and Up to Date
This is the most important part of making the most of your listing. Make sure that the data and information in your listing is complete. Make sure nothing is assumed, you want to give your potential clients as much information as possible.
Images are important too. Regularly adding pictures to your listing tells Google that you’re active on it, and actively updating it. Use pictures of your business, but also of your products or services.
If you’re updating your information on your GMB listing, make sure you’re updating it on your website too. Having your information match in both areas boosts your Local SEO rankings for your listing and your website both.
Include Keywords and Location
One of the best ways to improve Local SEO is to harness the descriptions and posts that GMB offers. Organically incorporate the location name in the descriptions and in your posting.
For example: “828 provides full service digital marketing services across Lynchburg and Central Virginia” would be a great sentence to include in our description.
If you have access to something like SEMRush, or another keyword research software, use it. Find what keywords do well in the areas that you want your listing to appear and use them in your description, your services, and your posts.
Make Sure Operating Hours are Accurate
This seems obvious initially, but there's more to it under the surface. Google My Business doesn’t just allow you to set your regular hours. You can also set special holiday hours in advance so your customers will know if you’ll be open on a particular holiday.
Since the COVID-19 situation began, Google has added even more features to specifically help customers figure out important information such as whether a restaurant dining room is open. There are special posts that don’t expire for you to share urgent information with your customers.
Manage and Respond to Reviews
Surprisingly, reviews left by customers can be used to improve your Local SEO. Asking customers for good reviews is a good step. Responding to reviews carefully is another opportunity to increase trust from your customers and the Google Algorithm.
First off, if you’re responding to your reviews, Google improves your rankings. Responding shows that you’re keeping up to date with your listings. Over 80% of people trust reviews as much as they do personal recommendations, and a responded to review indicates the business cares what their customers think.
If you can, it’s a good idea to fit search terms and location names in the response to their review. However, it's more important for them to sound like natural speech. Keyword stuffing is considered a black hat SEO tactic, and is penalized by search engines.
One important thing to note, Google has a link you can send your customers to ask them for positive reviews! The more reviews you have, the more reputable you look to the search engine.
Negative Google reviews are surprisingly helpful as well. Negative reviews that are handled well are an opportunity to show your customers how you respond to bad feedback. The algorithm actually prefers businesses that have one or two negative reviews, as they're seen as more trustworthy.
Post in Google My Business Weekly
A part of GMB that many people aren’t taking advantage of is the posting feature. You can post simple image/link/caption posts, but you can also post events, products, offers, and more! Essentially, treat it like another social media outlet.
Even just using the posting feature at all is an improvement over most of your competition. Google improves your rankings if you’re posting regularly. The posts expire after a week, so it's not necessary to post more often than that.
However, you can optimize it even further by using location and keyword data in your posts, events, offers, or products! Google does take the actual text used for these items into account when evaluating search results.
Google My Business is a great tool that Google provides us to improve our SEO, particularly Local SEO! Optimizing Google My Business can improve your rankings, as well as give you a position in the coveted Google Maps 3-pack of search results.