What Is Google My Business?
What’s now been bundled under the Google My Business Account was once separately known as Google Places for Business, Google Listings and Google+ Business Pages.
It’s a free tool by Google that allows small to medium businesses to set up, manage and optimise a Business Profile for their business website on Google. With a listing, Google will display your business details in relevant searches and on Google Maps.
As soon as a customer searches for businesses, services or products similar to yours on Search or Maps, your Business Profile will show up. Your listing shows potential customers where, when, and how they can contact you, whether you have a physical or web address, and more.
A free Google business website (which is really easy to set up) is created by automatically pulling information from your Business Profile. Should you make changes to your Profile, it will auto-update. Choose from different site themes and either use a domain name that you already own, or buy a custom domain from Google.
A GMB account lets you connect with customers via reviews, Q&As or comments. You can also post updates such as photos, news or special offers and promotions.
Via Google Insights, you can see who navigated to your GMB page and how or from where they found your business. These metrics show you where you should focus your efforts in improving your local SEO.
Always keep your Google My Business account updated with your current contact details, website, business hours, Covid-19 information, etc. to ensure customers can easily contact you. An outdated or stale account will only harm your reputation.
Why is a Google My Business Profile Important?
A Google My Business account is embedded in the world’s largest search engine. The question would be - why would you not have a Google My Business account?
GMB is free advertising for your business, whether you’re online-only or a brick and mortar store. It gives you visibility that you’d have to pay and fight a lot harder for if you were not part of the Google ecosystem.
The more mentions your website has online, the more important Google thinks it is and therefore will rank it higher. GMB is a quick and easy way to do that.
A great feature of Google My Business is that customers can leave reviews. Positive feedback builds trust and confidence in your brand while honest evaluations can help you improve and grow.
A study of 45,000 GMB listings across 36 industries found the following:
- 9% of businesses receive over 1,000 views on Google Search per month
- 5% of GMB listing views result in a click, direction request or call
- The average business is found in 1,009 searches per month. 84% of these come from discovery searches (a user searched for a category, product, or service that you offer, and your listing came up)
- Car dealerships receive the most number of calls and website clicks from GMB, while hotels get the most views on Search and Maps
Optimising your Google My Business Listing
You’ve created your GMB Profile and now you want to sit back and wait for the orders and calls to stream in. Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy. You need to constantly optimise Google My Business if you want quality engagement and to reach new customers.
Google considers a number of factors when ranking your Business Profile. They include prominence, distance to destination, and relevance to what the person is searching for. (See below for more on these factors). It also looks at the quality of information and activity on your Profile.
An easy way to optimise your GMB so that prospective customers can find you via discovery searches is by choosing the right category when creating your Profile. Go a step further and add category-specific features. For example, menus for restaurants, reservation buttons, star ratings for hotels, etc. This will give you an edge over your competitors.
Use Google Trends to find keywords, related topics and terms people search for and that are relevant to your business. Use these in your GMB Profile description and other content you post so that customers can find you in keyword searches.
Add good quality, preferably professional, photos to your listing. Google says listings with photos receive more click-throughs to their websites and more requests for directions.
Google likes GMB profiles that are active and fresh. Regularly post info on new products, services, events and offers and include photos, gifs and videos if you can. These all help to attract customers to your business and drive sales.
Positive reviews are the biggest influence on consumer buying and Google uses this as a key ranking factor. Ask customers to leave you a review and always respond to queries or comments.
Make Sure Your Customers Can Find You Locally
A GMB listing works hardest for business owners on a local and regional level. To up your chances of being found both via Google search and Google Maps during a local search, you must ensure all your information is accurate and complete.
Take care that your GMB information matches the traditional and local SEO efforts on your main business website. Both need to be well-optimised and contain local, updated content.
To ensure customers can find you, and for local SEO purposes, your business has to have a physical address or serve a particular area. Your business may well be in multiple locations, but it is important that you match the main NAP (name, address, phone number) on your website with the Google My Business NAP. This way, Google makes the right connection between the two and improves your ranking.
If you Google ‘restaurants near me’, for example, Google will list three locations. This is what’s known as the ‘3-pack’ - a list of locations Google thinks are geographically relevant to you. The more accurate and complete your information is, the bigger the chance Google will match it to the right searches and you will be one of the top three results.
How Google Ranks Local Businesses
We’ve mentioned the many factors Google My Business uses to rank businesses. But, for local visibility and discovery, we’ll highlight the three most important ones.
Prominence is determined by how well your business is known. Unfortunately for small businesses this often means Google will serve a listing from a well-known business or brand first.
Google also regards a business as more prominent if they already have a presence on the Internet. For instance, if they have websites, links, articles and listings in directories.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) best practices can determine your website’s position (prominence) in web results. So, make sure you employ the latest technology, and that includes a GMB Profile!
You can improve your prominence by keeping your profile active. Encourage activity around reviews as review count and score are important factors in local search ranking - especially positive ratings.
If you can get related or quality links to your site, so much the better. Start by getting listed in local businesses directories as well as sites like Yelp that have a built-in community. Other ways are to match your business profile on Social Media and build links with business partners.
Being relevant means your GMB matches the search intent of the customer. In other words, you offer the products or service the searcher is looking for.
The surest way to match intent is through a keyword search surrounding what you do or sell. This is not the time to be overly creative, cryptic or vague. Be exact in using synonyms and phrases that people typically use when discussing topics relevant to your business.
The distance to or proximity of your business to the location of the person who launches a search is also an important ranking factor. How it works is that Google first takes into account how far each potential search result is from the location the searcher used in their search.
If the searcher doesn’t use a specific location, such as a street, town or neighbourhood, Google will calculate the distance based on what they know about the searcher’s location. That’s assuming Location Services is turned on.
Being found in local search is a vital part of any company’s digital marketing strategy, and for that GMB is key. Improving local SEO with GMB can increase traffic both to your website and to your physical store.
Businesses can no longer afford to ignore the value of a Google My Business Listing. As long as you keep it up to date, it will become a powerful driver in reaching new customers.