Your Google My Business listing is critically important for ranking high in local search. Without a strong and well-optimised Google My Business page, your site will never be featured in the Google 3–pack.

What Is Google My Business?

Google My Business (GMB) is a powerful unified interface for local business owners looking to increase their visibility within Google+, Google local search, Google Maps, and Google web search. Creating a Google My Business page makes it easier for you to get noticed quickly, especially when people search for you on Google. GMB is essential for Google Maps optimisation.

You can have up to 50 business pages linked to your Google+ personal profile. Even though you may already have a personal Gmail account, it’s recommended to create a separate account that you use for business.

An official Google My Business page will allow you to communicate and engage in conversations with your target audience as your brand name. This means you’ll be able to follow your fans’ updates, comment on your fans’ status messages, and +1 their updates as your brand. This is great for your branding objectives.

One cool thing about the Google My Business interface is that you can also link your GMB page to all of your other social media profiles including Facebook and Twitter.

GMB pages can currently support one owner and 49 managers, and ownership is transferable. GMB pages also provide an effective feedback mechanism. You can use them to connect with your existing customers and learn more about their wants, needs and challenges.

Building Citations

When building your citations across the web, it is very important to build those citations to match what you have created in your GMB listing. This is critically important for ranking in Google search and Google Maps.

The GMB dashboard allows business owners and marketers to manage their Google-related online presence in one place. This includes:

  • Managing business listing info for search, maps and Google+.
  • Uploading photos and/or a virtual tour of your business.
  • Sharing content and interacting with followers on Google+.
  • Seeing reviews from across the web and responding to Google+ reviews.
  • Integrating with AdWords Express to create and track campaigns.
  • Accessing Insights reports, the new social analytics tool for Google+.
  • Seeing information about your integrated YouTube and Analytics accounts.

From that single interface, you are now able to access the following all from one screen:

  • Google+: You can share new text, photos, links, videos, and events.
    Insights: Once you verify your business you are able to gain insights into your visibility, engagement, and audience.
  • Reviews: Each business is given a Google rating and you are able to manage your reviews on Google and view other reviews around the web.
  • Google Analytics: Quick access directly to your Google Analytics dashboard.
  • Start a Hangout: With the click of a button you can start or join a Hangout.

The new Insights feature gives GMB page managers more information about who is interacting with brand content. You can get meaningful insights into how your content is being shared. You can also learn how much traffic you’re getting, how many people have looked for driving directions to your business, etc.

For those who need to manage their pages on the go, there’s also a Google My Business Android app with an iOS version in the pipeline.

Getting into the Google Local 3-Pack

With a well-optimised GMB page, you can position yourself to have your local business featured prominently in Google’s local search results pages for local searches. You can use your GMB listing and reviews to make your listing stand out from the rest of the crowd. This will make it easy for potential customers to contact your business over and above the other listings.

For example, let’s say you’re a Northampton based plumber, and a searcher within your vicinity performs a search on Google for “plumber”. In addition to Google ads and organic listings, the searcher will see a local pack of business listings at the top of the SERP.

For each listing, the searcher can click a link and be taken to their website, or to that business’ GMB page, if they have one where they can find reviews, photos, and any personal recommendations provided by people in the searcher’s network.

In August 2015, Google made a major change to the local pack search results by choosing to display three results instead of the usual seven.

Verifying Your Business

If you are creating a new listing from scratch, you won’t get the option to phone verify. By clicking the button Verify Now, you can ask Google to send a postcard through to your business address containing a PIN number. Note that this could take up to ten working days to arrive. Once you get this postcard, simply head back to your GMB page and type it in to verify your listing.

In other cases, you may get a popup that tells you that someone else has already verified the listing. In this case, you’ll have to request admin rights from the owner to be able to be given access to the page.

After the verification stage, you get a new page that helps unify various metrics and options about how your business is listed with Google. It starts with a little intro and an offer of a guided tour, helpful for local businesses that need a helping hand:

Your Google My Business Name

Getting your Google My Business name right is absolutely essential. Your business name does not necessarily have to be what you call your business. Avoid the temptation to add keywords to your company name in a bid to get a higher ranking. Doing so would be against Google’s terms of service, and will only get your listing suspended.

Examples of keyword stuffed business names:

  • “Lucy’s Wedding Dresses – Wedding Dresses & Gowns. Cheap Bridal Shop”
  • “Joe’s Plumbing – Central Heating, Leaking Taps, Boiler Installation.”
  • “Bob’s Travel Agency: London, Paris, New York – Hotels, Flights & more.”

While it’s not advisable to stuff extra keywords to a business name, in some cases you can rename your business name to contain your target keywords. This would be a more optimised name for your business.

For example, if you are an electrician based in Hendon, London, you could choose to call yourself Hendon Plumbing & Heating. This is going to more closely match what people search for because people in Hendon are more likely to search for “Hendon Plumber”, rather than something like “London Plumber”.

Name Length

Although the maximum number of characters you’re allowed to use in the “business name” of your GMB page is 80 characters, this does that mean it’s OK to use up to 80 characters in your business name.

The ideal character length of your business name is 40 characters including spaces. This means that if your official business name is 80 characters or more, you will have to abbreviate it to 40 characters or less before you use it as the name of your GMB page. If your official business name for some reason happens to be more than 40 characters long, you’ll run into difficulty on other sites.

Categories

You can add up to 5 categories as long as they are applicable to what you do as a business. If you find that your niche business doesn’t fit into any of the provided categories, look for a broader category that is as close as possible to your business. This is because Google will not allow you to create a specific category for your business.

Your Website

One common mistake that local businesses make when adding their website to their Google My Business listing is adding their home page. You need to point your GMB page to the page on your site that contains your NAP details, which is almost always your contact page. As already mentioned, the information on your contact page must exactly match what is on your Google My Business page.

If your NAP information is also on your home page, then you could add your home page instead of your contact page, otherwise you should add the specific page with your NAP details. Note that when you setup your directory listings, they should always point to the page with your NAP details.

Hour of Business

This is very important. Unless you are open 24-hours, you will need to specify your opening hours. Google prefers that you have your working business hours listed, so take the few minutes it will take to fill this out correctly.

As with your NAP details, it is important that the hours you list here matches the hours you have listed on your website and other directories.

Phone

Adding a valid landline to your GMB listing adds to your credibility as a genuine business because Google can use this to tie your business to the local area. If you have multiple offices or want to serve multiple locations, it is recommended that you setup different regional phone numbers through a VOIP routing service.

This will allow you to setup a local phone number with an area code of your choice. You can then redirect that number to your mobile phone. Avoid using a 1-800 number or national (0345 or 0870) phone number. It needs to be a local phone number.

If you have a number of regional offices each with their own separate address and phone number, then you could setup a different Google My Business page for each location, using a local number for each region. This will make each location better optimised and more visible, and give you a stronger search ranking.

Email

When signing up for Google My Business, the account you use should be tied to your company domain, not your personal account. For example, Peter@LondonPlumbing.com, rather than LondonPlumbing@Gmail.com. In other words, use an email matching domain to register your account. Using a company email address lends to your overall credibility.

Profile completion

Completing your Google My Business profile is absolutely essential. Google wants to collect as much info as possible about your business so they’re going to penalise any business that hasn’t completed their profile. This is why it is essential that you fill in all your business information thoroughly including clear, long, excellent descriptions (basic and enhanced information) wherever applicable.

Establish NAP format

As already mentioned, it is absolutely essential that citations for your business are in exactly the same format wherever those listings appear anywhere else on the internet. Establish the same format you’re using on your website, and stick to it. You can see how your business is listed on Google, Bing and other major local search engines by visiting getlisted.org.

Essentially, locking down the NAP and other business details should be the very first phase in any successful local SEO campaign. NAP consistency is one of the most critical elements of ranking in local search results.

For example, for the purposes of Google My Business, the following business names on different directories could be viewed as different companies:

  • Hamilton & Sons Group
  • Hamilton & Son Ltd
  • Hamilton & Sons
  • Hamilton & Sons Limited

Since consistency in your NAP is extremely critical to local search rankings, it can be a good idea to write out the business name, address and phone number just once in a text file. Store it where the information can be easily accessed by whoever is responsible for updating citations. This would minimise the chances of the information being copied incorrectly.

Your Profile Photo

Once you have the basics of your Google+ page ready, you’ll want to add a profile photo. The profile photo is your brand’s key visual identity as it appears in a prominent position on your GMB page designated for you to showcase your brand. The image you choose for your profile photo is another critical piece of your overall branding package.

The Google + profile image switched from a square to a circle in March 2013. Its minimum size is 250×250 pixels, and this will be scaled down to 104×104 pixels when re-sized. If you’re using a square logo, make sure to keep it centred and away from the corners of the square (where it would be cut off by the edges of the circle.)

Since this will be your business page, it’s highly recommended that you use your logo here. For branding purposes, it’s best to use the same logo or image that you have on any other platforms (such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or for your website).

Your Cover Photo

As the most prominent visual element on your GMB page, the cover image represents a critical aspect of your brand that can help boost brand positioning, personality, identity and associations.

It is therefore recommended that you change the cover photo to the same image you are using across your other social media profiles. Google+ has a gallery that you can select a photo from or you can upload your own photo. The maximum (and recommended size) is 2120 pixels x 1192 pixels, and the smallest photo size you are allowed to upload is 480 pixels x 270 pixels.

Your Tagline

The first piece of information you’ll want to provide is “your story”. Google invites you tell your story in ten words. Note that this does not apply to local businesses. Your tagline should just be a succinct and accurate summary of what your Google+ page or your business is about. It should serve to give people a taste of your brand and personality.

Bear in mind that your tagline also helps your search visibility on G+, so use your target keywords that effectively describes what you do. Your tagline should have some descriptive and specific product language, so not only should your organisation’s name be covered in the title of the business page, but the actual detail of what you do and what you stand for should be covered as well.

Your Introduction

When people in your target market do a search and see your page listed in a “people and pages” query in Google+, they will see your page name along with a snippet of text (pulled from your “About” section).

Google pulls the first 56 characters from your introduction, so the words you add to the beginning of the introduction are very important. Potential followers of your Page are going to check out what you have included here, and this is going to help them decide whether or not they choose to follow you.

Enter a compelling description of your company in a way that clearly and succinctly describes what you do, the benefits you bring to customers and employees and prospects, and what you offer as a company. Your use of search engine keywords and phrases is important. When filling out your description, specialities and products and services, use the same keywords you use for your website.

Photos

Photos are extremely important for your Google My Business listing because it helps to establish credibility with your business, and Google puts a lot of weight on original business photographs. If you don’t have the budget for a professional photograph, you can use photos taken on your smartphone. You need to have a minimum of 5 high quality geo-tagged images in your profile.

Note that Google now has the technology to analyse a photo to determine whether it is a logo, people, whether it is using inside or outside lighting, whether it is in focus or out of focus, etc. It can also determine whether a particular photo is of high or low quality or plagiarised.

Essentially, poor quality photos will have an impact on your ranking on the local search results. You want high quality photos of the business inside (offices, employees, etc.) and outside (pictures of office vehicles, etc.), pictures of employees at work, etc.

Videos

For excellent results, your business should have at least 5 videos (e.g. walk-throughs, virtual tours, customer testimonials, CEO talk, etc). You can also put together a commercial style video that’s discussing a service, an overview of the business itself, etc. Note that Google requires you to upload your videos to the page, rather than linking to them from video sharing sites such as YouTube.

Reviews

Customer online reviews are powerful social proof, and can be found on search engines, blogs and local review websites like Yelp or Epinions, or even blogs.

The best place to have reviews is actually on your Google My Business page. You need at least 5 reviews before those reviews start to show on your GMB page. However, you need at least 10 reviews to start ranking based on your reviews. This will however depend on how many reviews your competitors have. All things equal, a business with more reviews will rank higher than its competitors in local search.

Things to Avoid

  • Violating Google’s Suggestions & TOS
  • Using 800 Numbers
  • Using Phone Number Tracking
  • P.O. / UPS Boxes
  • Multiple Place Pages / location
  • Duplicate Phone # on Multiple Place Pages
  • Not 100% complete
  • Lack of Pictures / Social / Reviews

If you have any issues with your Google My Business page, click here for the official Google My Business Support Community.

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