What is Google My Business?
Google My Business is a free internet based software for business owners who are looking to increase organic traffic through SEO. Launching in June of 2014, Google challenged and forever changed the way Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) showcase local businesses.
Google allows you to show a preview of a business’s relevant information such as address, telephone number, opening hours, photos, reviews, business description and the list goes on. With all of these features fully optimised, your business has a better chance of performing on the SERPs local pack.
Your Google My Business (GMB) listing may appear on the SERPs in a range of different ways depending on the search query.
For example, you can search for the business using their name, here is an example using Tillison Consulting:
The listing can also appear by searching for the type/category of business.
Here is an example of searching for the type of business, supermarkets, in a location, Waterlooville:
This type of search query consumes the whole top segment of the page with the local pack. The local pack is the top three businesses that Google believes matches your query. In order to get into the local pack, you have to optimise your GMB listing!
When using a mobile device, the GMB listing will appear at the very top above organic search results. On desktop, the GMB appears on the right hand side of the search results.
Why do I Need Google My Business?
The importance of Google My Business is more clear than not for some businesses. Local cafes for example, will find it harder to get onto the local pack as competitors such as Starbucks and Costa dominate the search results. Nonetheless, GMB listings are vital for all businesses who want to increase their local awareness.
In 2017, Moz conducted a study that presented Google My Business signals as the top dog when looking at local pack ranking factors.
Google tends to favour businesses who provide clear signals to the search engine on what it does and what it is selling. Through optimising your listing, you are able to showcase your business and provide data for Google to crawl. The better understood your business is by Google, the more trust it will have in you, therefore helping you to be more visible in search results.
Instead of just appearing in search results for your business name, you can show up in results that have a wider range of queries as well. For example, Tillison Consulting shows up on Google when you search for:
- Tillison Consulting
- Digital Marketing
- SEO Services
- Marketing Services
- Marketing Training
- PPC Marketing
This is because our website and our GMB listing are optimised to help Google understand the services we provide.
Creating + Claiming Your Listing
Google takes it upon themselves to create business listings using the data crawled from sites. This results in many businesses having a Google My Business listing that is not being utilised. If this is the case, you can claim the listing. If a business does not have a listing, you can create one.
If your business listing is appearing in the search results and you didn’t set it up, this is called an unverified listing and you can claim it. You do this through Google Maps. Search for your business name in Maps, and within the business knowledge panel you can choose to ‘claim this business’. Click ‘I own this business’ link. Google will then give you a choice of steps you can take to verify your listing. The most common verification process is via postcard where a code is sent to the business location.
If you don’t have a business listing already, you can create one with a Google account. To do this you will have to visit the Google My Business site and sign into your Google account. Choose to add a business and follow the steps to create a listing.
Claiming an Already Verified Listing
This process may not be as straightforward as it seems. With employees potentially leaving and listings being incorrectly claimed, as an authorised manager or owner of a business, you may not have access to the listing. When this occurs, you can request to claim ownership of the business from the current owner. To do this, choose request access and then fill out the form and submit it so that the owner receives an email to alert them of the request. If they accept, you will be given access to manage or own the listing.
What if they don’t accept your request or you can no longer reach the owner? Google gives you the option to repeal the denied request. If you do not receive a response within seven days from the owner, Google may give you the chance to claim the listing.
Optimising Your Google My Business Listing
When it comes to optimising your Google My Business listing, there are a multitude of features that can be taken advantage of.
First things first, when creating a listing, you have to get the basics down. These are the business name, category, address, phone numbers. It is important that the NAP (name, address, postcode) is correct as Google will use this listing to trust the relevance of other listings that it finds in SERPs.
You are allowed 750 characters to write a business description, however only 250 characters will be shown if space is limited, for example on a mobile device. You should avoid using promotional speech in your text and cannot place any links in the description. This is your chance to show potential customers your key and unique selling points. In order to stand out, take a look at what your competitors have written.
Search Engine Land conducted a study that found listings with photos receive more clicks, phone calls and direction requests.
From experience, having multiple good quality photos on a GMB listing will increase the visibility of the listing significantly. This has been proven by Bright Local who found a direct correlation between the number of photos and the amount of actions and views on search and maps. See below.
The type of photos that need to be posted to gain this advantage is set out below:
- Business Logo
- Cover Photo
- Team Photo
- Interiors where the business operates
- Exteriors of the business so customers can easily find you
- Photos of the business/team at work
- 360 degrees photos
Videos can help the performance of a listing. No longer than 30 seconds and 100MB in size, a video showcasing the best qualities of your business will increase the number of people looking at your listing. This feature is under used and so it is a perfect way to stand out.
In order to be successful, images and videos of high quality are favoured.
Photos can be added by anyone. As an owner you can report the photos if they are not suitable for your listing. Google has a bias towards photos posted by owners, in order to override the users photos, add your own!
These are available to smaller business, Google Posts enable you to talk about your upcoming events, news, products and special offers. They are easy to create and show Google and customers that you are active online.
Products and Services
Google allows you to present the products and services you provide. Businesses can add products to their listing either through creating a product post or through the product beta tab.
The product feature is one that can allow for higher placement within the listing compared to the posts feature. The products will be positioned right below the core business information.
The difference between beta products and product posts is that the beta products are not time sensitive and appear on desktop search results. The product posts only show up for seven days on the desktop but are always there on the mobile searches.
Questions and Answers
Google attempts to create a list of commonly asked questions and answers about the business using the information already provided in the listing.
The public is allowed to ask and answer questions on a listing if they have a Google account. The question and answer feature cannot be turned off for listings.
Answers can be edited once written, however it will appear as ‘edited’ for the rest of the time the question is up. In order to remove a question, it has to be flagged as one of the following: inappropriate, no longer relevant or spam.
As an owner of a business listing, you are able to ask your frequently asked questions and also answer them yourself. Google will acknowledge that you are the owner and state it for everyone to see as well as give you a bias towards whether the answer is shown or not. This helps Google understand what your business offers in terms of parking and services and differs depending on each business.
Special Opening Hours
As well as including your general operating hours for each day of the week, it is also important that you include special holidays opening hours if you can. Customers appreciate knowing when something is going to be open or not during the holidays so that they don’t waste their time turning up to a location to find out that it is closed.
A study in 2018 found that over 60% of consumers said they are more likely to visit a business after they have read the reviews on Google. The review feature is potentially the most influential feature when it comes to whether or not a consumer decides to visit a business. In Google, you can reply to reviews and use a specific link to ask your customers to leave a review.
What if you get a bad review?
When dealing with a negative review, it is important that you always respond. If others can see that you deal with criticism and conflict in a professional manner, they will be more likely to trust you.
Bookings + Reservations
This feature is more so for businesses like restaurants, salons and service based providers. It allows you to place a booking directly from the Google My Business listing, making the customers experience quicker and simple.
Available when downloading the feature, you are allowed to receive messages from visitors in real-time in which you can respond to. This element on Google My Business will help you to connect with your consumers at a much faster pace whilst also creating a more human relationship.
Google continues to roll out updates to the Google My Business listing features. Here are the newest elements that are available to optimise and further improve your local ranking.
Google allows businesses to create a unique short name so that customers can easily and quickly search for them. Soon to be available on Maps. Watch out, if your short name has already been claimed, it may be a case of your competitors trying to beat you to it.
Rewards for the Top Listings
Those listings that are already performing well on Google My Business will be rewarded by Google with a badge of honour and will be featured in Google’s ‘local favourite’ category.
Google is now giving business owners more leeway when it comes to choosing which photos appear on their listing first. The feature allows for more control when implementing cover photos and primary profile photos.
Although Google has always allowed for a business logo to be shown, it is now going to feature the logo on the top right hand side of a listing. This is available to listings that already have operating hours and phone numbers.
Using the ‘follow’ feature, Google allows customers to receive special offers through their offers folder. This is a great incentive to get people following the business and make their posts and visibility stronger. This is a great incentive to get people to follow a business and it will also help you to make your posts and overall visibility stronger.
Google is constantly rolling out new updates on Google My Business and so it is important that you keep up to date and test out what features work best for your business. There’s no question about it, if you want to be visible on search results, optimise your Google My Business listing and make the most of this free SEO tool right in front of you. Go beyond the basics and stand out from the crowd if you want to appear in the local packs.
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