Your Google My Business listing is critically important for local search optimization, and without a strong and well-optimized business page, your website will never rank in Google maps. This means you will never be featured in the Google 3–pack.
With a well-optimized Google My Business page, you can position yourself to have your local business featured prominently in Google’s local search results pages when people type relevant queries with a local intent. You can use your GMB listing and reviews to make your listing stand out from the rest of the crowd, making 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. 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. 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.
When you create a Google My Business account, you’ll have the opportunity to provide information about your business, photos, videos and more. Users will be able to leave reviews about your business, and you can view statistics to find out how people found your business page. It also allows business owners to update and manage the physical location of the business. The information will also appear in Google Maps, and will be associated to Google properties.
Just like on-page optimisation in regular SEO, there are a number of strategies you can use to help your Google My Business listing rank higher in the local search results. It is important to adhere very strictly to Google’s guidelines. Violating any of Google’s guidelines for representing your business on Google+ could get your Google My Business page suspended.
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 Google My Business 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, which 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”.
Although the maximum number of characters you’re allowed to use in the “business name” of your Google My Business 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 Google My Business 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.
A big factor in your Google My Business ranking is whether or not your basic business info – name, address, phone number, appears uniformly on every business-directory site your business is listed on. For the sake of local search optimization, you need to be really precise here. This means that everywhere on the internet you are listed with your business name, address and phone number needs to be identical. Sometimes you may come across directories where this is not entirely possible and slight variations (such as suite vs ste, limited vs ltd, etc.) aren’t significant. However for the most part, your NAP information should be identical.
This means if Google My Business has you listed as “Orchard Web Design”, you’d better not be listed on other directories such as CitySearch, AngiesList, etc. as “Orchard Logo Design,” or “Orchard Design Ltd.” You must be listed as Orchard Web Design on all business listings across the web.
Therefore, you have to make sure your business name complies with all of these sites’ rules, or else there will be inconsistent info about your business, which can really hurt your Google My Business ranking.
Different directories have different character limits. For example, directories like AngiesList.com has a 50-character limit for your business name, and Kudzu.com lets you use only 40 characters. Even if you are not listed on these sites, what can happen is they’ll receive data on your business from other websites, and will truncate your business name if it exceeds 40 or 50 characters. This is why you should keep your business name 40 characters or less. Your Google My Business name still needs to reflect your DBA as closely as possible. However, make sure it’s also short enough that it won’t cause problems on other directory listings.
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, because Google will not allow you to create a specific category for your business.
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 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.
Adding a valid landline to your Google My Business 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 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 should 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.
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.
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 penalize 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 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 will be viewed as different companies:
- Hamilton & Sons Ltd
- Hamilton & Son Ltd
- Hamilton & Sons
- Hamilton & Sons Limited
Since consistency in your company name, address and phone number 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, and store it where the information can be easily accessed by whoever is responsible for updating citations. This would minimize 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.
It is recommended that you upload the largest image possible to ensure that your cover image will be viewed at its best, whatever device it is being viewed on. Your Cover image will say a lot about you and your business. The great thing about the Cover image is that they can be animated GIFs, so you can design something special to get people’s attention when they visit your page. This image should be carefully crafted and thought out, and precisely and simply tell the story of your brand rather than just including names and logos. It should serve to emphasize the personality of your brand through the photo.
Your Cover Image is practically the biggest statement on your GMB page because it is the first thing that catches the eye when a visitor lands on your page. For this reason, you’ll want to make sure that you use a beautifully crafted image that clearly represents what you do, makes a positive impression and creates a strong connection with your audience. In addition, your cover image should be relevant to your business or brand, but should also stand out from the crowd and be unique. Again, a logo or a business image will work best. You can also take a screenshot of a webpage, a product, or graphics from any element of your site. Both these images can be changed at any time just by clicking on them.
It is recommend that you create a caption for your cover image, because that will help the searchability of the image and give it more clarity.
It is significant to note that following an update to the site’s layout in May 2013, when a user lands on your Google + page, by default they will only be shown the very bottom section of your cover photo – 160 pixels high and overlaid with a dark grey gradient to make your profile photo, page name, and website visible in a white font. Visitors to your page will have to scroll up to see the cover image.
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 organization’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.
Keep it short and concise because your visitors will be looking at this information in determining whether they want to add you to their circle. Avoid keyword stuffing so you don’t come across as a spammer. Try to come up with something that will appeal to your target audience. In addition, choose your most important, top traffic keywords. For example if you offer SEO and Internet marketing services, your tagline could be:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Social Media Optimization, and Content Marketing.
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, specialties and products and services, use the same keywords you use for your website.
Start out by talking about your company’s mission, and provide a concise explanation about what type of content you will be sharing on the Page. This will give people in your target audience an idea of what to expect from you. When they can clearly see that what you will be sharing on your Page is clearly beneficial to them, this will inspire them to connect with you. Remember that Google+ is first and foremost a social network, so it is important that you use a friendly and conversational tone in your introduction
Make sure the description provides a clear value proposition and conveys your brand identity. Make sure the tone is conversational, and human sounding. Include your target keywords and phrases, but avoid keyword stuffing. Use thematically related LSI keywords. Be sure to add your value proposition to the headline. Don’t repeat your categories or what is already in your map listing, as Google is very strict about what goes in here. It’s worth mentioning any variations of your key phrases that describe your product or service. In addition, make sure that your description is consistent across your other social media properties. You are also free to link to your social media profiles in your introduction. In fact, this is highly recommended.
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 geotagged images in your profile.
Note that Google now has the technology to analyze 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 plagiarized. 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.
Your business should also 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.
An online review is a short write-up or a rating provided by a customer based on their experience with a particular business. Reviews are powerful social proof, and can be found on search engines, blogs and local review websites like Yelp or Epinions, or even blogs. Consumers don’t care about what businesses say about themselves. However, they do care about what other people say about businesses they’ve done business with.
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. Reading about the real-life experiences of past customers is compelling social proof and can be a powerful influence to the purchasing decision that a prospective customer is thinking about. However, you won’t’ get many reviews if you don’t ask your customers for them. Encourage your happy customers to write reviews about their experiences with your business on major business listing websites such as Google+ Local, Yahoo Local, Yelp, CitySearch, and more.
Regardless of how you get them and share them with your prospective customers and target audience, reviews are great opportunities to build content and references to your pages that will help people find you with the search engines, and then help them along the path to conversion when they get there.
Getting Reviews From Customers
The easiest way to get reviews from customers on your Google Your Business page is to send a link to your customers. When people click on the button, they can leave reviews on the page. You’ll have no control over the reviews, and that is exactly how it should be. This way you get authentic reviews and a good understanding of the service you are delivering to your customers. Linking to a review site where your customers can go and leave independent reviews will not go unnoticed by the search engines.
Adding Page Managers
You can appoint one or more of your employees as page managers to help with the day-to-day administration of your Page. Note that there’s a limit of 50 managers per page, and only 20 people per day can be invited to manage a page. Creating page managers will allow them to respond to questions and comments, or post content on behalf of the business. Only a page owner can add or remove managers to a page, however, a manager may remove himself or herself from a page.
To create managers for your Google+ Page, access your page management options by selecting Pages from the Google+ main navigation and clicking managers associated with the Page you’d like to change. You can also get to this Page by going to the top right-hand corner, clicking on your utilities, and where it says your Page name, you can hit either Page settings or Manager.
To add a manager to your Google+ page click Add manager, enter their email address or invite by profile, and click Invite. This page displays all the active managers, as well as people who have been invited to become managers. When a manager invitation is accepted, the owner of the page will be notified via email. The owner and all managers can view the names and email addresses listed on this page.When you are inviting people, Google matches their email address and their Google+ personal profile pictures. It verifies the people that you’re inviting to ensure that they are indeed the people that you are actually intended on inviting to help you administer the Page.
Those people who you have invited will receive an email about the invitation, and they actually have to check a link, and go ahead and accept the invitation. Once the users accept your invitation, they automatically become managers of the Page. To remove a manager, or remove yourself as a manager of a page, click the X associated with the person you’d like to remove. When a manager is removed, both the former manager and the page owner will be notified and told who removed them.
Note that you are able to transfer ownership of the Page by relinquishing ownership to someone else. However, the managers have to be managing the page for at least two weeks to do that.
At this point your Google+ business page is complete. Now you can begin to add status updates that are relevant to your niche market to your page. Just enter your updates in the “Share what’s new …” box. You can use the icons on the right to add in video, images, events, or links.
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.
Google My Business Guidelines Checker:
- Business Name verification.
- Business Address Verification.
- Phone Number Verification.
- Website Redirect verification.
- Google Plus Profile Match.
- Google Profile Image.
- Images on Google listing.
- Business hours are listed.
- Business is verified on Google Plus.
Click here for a Google My Business small business guide.