In a previous blog, I shared non-techie SEO tips for small business and one of these tips was to set up a free Google My Business account. In this post, I’ll go into more detail about local SEO and Google My Business so you can set up your account for success.
A huge part of local area marketing in the digital age is appearing right at the top of search engine results pages (called ‘SERPs’ in the SEO world) when somebody within your area runs a search.
As a small business, appearing at the top of the SERPs for relevant searches means potential customers are more likely to find you.
If more potential customers find you, it’s expected that you will receive more enquiries, store visits, or online sales as a result.
I say ‘expected’ because there are lots of other factors at play that could affect whether more people finding your business website means more leads and customers.
For example, if your website doesn’t work well at capturing a visitor’s interest, then it doesn’t matter whether you are found more often because you won’t be able to convert these visitors.
But that’s a topic for a different blog.
Today, let’s look at how Google My Business can help your Google search presence.
What is Google My Business?
Google My Business is a free profile that you can claim for your business.
Have you ever searched for a specific business and been served a card-like result that might include the company’s name, reviews, location, link to the website, directions, or a telephone number?
These are all served using the business’ Google My Business listing.
It looks like the below but the information shown varies depending on the business.
On a computer or tablet, the profile is shown at the top right of Google but on mobile, it will be one of the first results on the page.
So a Google My Business profile for your small business will show when somebody searches for you, specifically.
Also, your Google My Business listing is used to include you in what’s known as Local Pack results.
Say you run a search on Google for a generic product or service in your local area i.e. ‘window cleaners perth’. In the top section of the search results, you will see the Google Map with businesses listed organically underneath and pinned on the map.
This is the Local Pack result.
You can click to expand the result and see all listed local businesses pinned and with information about each in a menu to the left-side or below.
It means you can easily see the local businesses that fit your search and directly compare these in terms of their locality, review score, opening hours and general information, without even needing to click to each of the websites.
It’s worth noting the ‘Ad’ listing at the top there too.
This is a local search ad which is a paid feature offered by Google and not something I’ll delve into right now but if you’re interested in paid advertising on Google, get in touch!
READ NEXT: Why Small Business SEO Should Start With An Audit
How does a Google My Business page improve local SEO?
A Google My Business page can help to improve your local SEO by:
1. Making sure that when somebody searches for your business on Google you own as much real estate in the search results as possible.
This means searchers can easily find and visit you or your website, versus the risk of clicking to another business within the search results, which is especially important if you don’t own the entire first page.
2. Allowing you to appear in Google Maps accurately and in the Local Pack results.
When your business is shown on Google Maps, or in the top three Local Packs results, it increases the likelihood of a potential customer continuing on to visit your website or store, especially if you are also shown in the top organic search results.
Information shared by Google found that local searches lead 50% of mobile users to visit stores within one day. (Google, 2018, source: HubSpot).
3. Enabling you to collect Google reviews, which can be used as a ranking signal by Google as well.
Business reviews are important for lots of reasons but in the case of SEO and Google My Business reviews, these are actually used as one of the ranking signals (FYI, there are over 200 ranking signals) that help Google decide how to rank your business in results.
4. It pleases potential customers by giving them the right information quickly, which also pleases Google.
When you are able to connect with potential customers on-the-go and without much effort at all on their part, it’s a positive experience.
Positive experiences please Google because it’s how they ensure people continue to use Google as their search engine. It also pleases potential customers and makes the purchase process frictionless.
Less friction means a higher likelihood of becoming a customer.
How to set up a Google My Business profile
As I said, creating a Google My Business profile is completely free.
It’s also very simple to set up the basics, although there are many ways to improve and optimise your profile for better local SEO.
1. First, head to Google My Business and click ‘Start Now’
2. Sign in using your Google account email and password. If you don’t own a Google account (i.e. a Gmail account) you’ll need to set one up if you want to use Google services like these.
Follow the prompts to enter your business name and address.
TIP: You must have a physical location in order to claim your business on Google but if you do not want a publicly shown address because you do not invite customers to visit you, you can choose to hide this by selecting the box ‘Hide my address (it’s not a store).
3. Choose whether or not you deliver to customers and if you do, enter the radius or locations you deliver to.
4. Follow the rest of the prompts for your basic info, including choosing a relevant category and adding business contact details and your website address.
5. Choose how you would like to verify your business from the options provided. These will vary depending on the business but can include by postcard (to the address you have provided for the business), telephone, or email.
6. Once you receive your verification code (postcards take approximately 5 days to arrive) you can log in and enter this to verify your business.
That’s it – you now own a Google My Business profile!
BUT… that’s not the end of the task.
Next, you’ll want to add more detail to your profile and really optimise it.
How to optimise your Google My Business profile
1. Complete as much detail as possible on the ‘Info’ tab
When you log in to your Google My Business profile after verifying and start looking around, you’ll notice there is a lot more information you can share.
When you click the tab ‘Info’ you can add fields such as opening hours, your main services, highlights (positive attributes of your company that are pre-populated by Google), an overview description, and the date you opened.
2. Make your profile visually appealing by adding photos
You have the option of including a cover photo, a logo, and any additional photos that represent your business so that people can browse these when they find your listing on Google.
These might include photos of your products, photos of your customers, photos of your employees or the exterior and interior of your store/office/warehouse.
Give potential customers a feel for your brand, what you stand for, or the positive service/products you supply.
If you have a physical location that customers need to find, make sure the front of your building is recognisable.
You can even include videos in your listing to really wow your audience but this isn’t a requirement.
Not only will adding visual elements ensure your Google My Business profile stands out in the SERPs, but it will also build awareness of and interest in your business so that potential customers are impressed and know what to expect before they’ve even visited your site.
Plus, customers are able to add their own photos of your business to your listing so making sure you have plenty of photos that demonstrate a great business is a good move for brand protection, just in case customer photos aren’t entirely positive.
3. Add all of your locations using the ‘Manage Locations’ tab
If you have more than one physical location, you will need to add each of these by heading to the ‘Manage Locations’ tab.
Google displays different results depending on the location of the person doing a search. Local search results are always intended to be as local and relevant as possible, so if you haven’t listed each of your locations you risk not showing up for some searches.
4. Include your Services and Products in your profile
The ability to add ‘Products’ to your GMB profile is a new feature still in Beta release, so you may not have access to this yet but if you do, it’s worth considering how you can display these best.
If you are going to list products as part of your profile you’ll want to make sure the details are always up to date and accurate so that you don’t mislead potential customers by including a product you no longer stock.
Services, on the other hand, is a little simpler to manage as these don’t tend to change so often.
5. Request and manage Google reviews
As I mentioned earlier, Google reviews are hugely valuable for brand reputation but they are also something Google takes into account when ranking your business.
The best approach for Google reviews is to be proactive.
Follow up with customers and request they leave a Google review by providing a link to do this quickly and easily.
When you receive a review, respond to it!
Whether positive or negative, it’s always worth acknowledging the time somebody has taken to leave a review for your business. In the case of negative reviews, it’s important to address any issues raised so you are managing your reputation and the first-impressions of future searchers.
6. Use Google My Business to list offers and publish posts
Consider the ‘Posts’ tab of your Google My Business profile as an opportunity to share any new offers, news, products, services, events… the lot!
All of this additional information makes your listing a richer result and users are more likely to click it.
Higher click-through rates, plus good engagement on your website, as a result, are also ranking signals Google takes into account.
It all comes down to attracting and capturing your potential customer’s attention.
If you can use Google My business to help achieve this, it will benefit you when it comes to local marketing.
Frequently asked questions about Google My Business
Having worked with many clients to improve their local SEO, I’m used to receiving a few commonly asked questions, such as:
I’ve completed my Google My Business profile but my listing doesn’t always show when I search for my service or product, why is this?
Just because you have completed and optimised your GMB profile doesn’t mean you will appear in rich results one hundred per cent of the time.
Google tailors search results to the person performing the search in terms of the browser history, location at the time of the search, and other factors.
This means that Google may deem other businesses more relevant to the searcher than yours if they are located closer or have been visited previously by the person doing the search, for example.
There’s nothing you can do to show up for one hundred per cent of local searches but what you can do is optimise and keep your GMB profile up to date so you have the best chance of ranking.
My business doesn’t show up as a pin on Google Maps unless I zoom in closer, how can I make the pin always there?
In short, you can’t.
The businesses that show up immediately as pins on Google Maps are at Google’s discretion and are usually high-volume locations with a lot of foot traffic.
If Google were to show every single business right away, the map would barely be visible! So it has to find a way of displaying the most helpful results first and usually, this means those businesses that are local attractions or landmarks, as well as businesses that are very frequently visited.
If you’re interested in improving your local SEO and want to understand where you can make improvements on and off your website, you should start with an SEO audit and here’s why.
About the author
Aimee Binstead is an online marketing freelancer based in Perth, Western Australia. She truly believes that time is our biggest asset and something we don't get to claim at the end of the tax year.
She spends her working hours supporting small business owners and the rest of her time exploring Australia in a campervan, watching sunsets, or jetting overseas for adventures.
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