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What is Google My Business?
Google My Business is one of the most powerful tools a business has at their disposal. It is absolutely critical that you not only claim your Google My Business (GMB) account but that you also optimize it.
I currently manage over 40 Google My Business accounts. I have personally seen the dramatic impact a fully optimized GMB has for a business compared to one that has not been.
There are many benefits for having a great GMB. You will improve your local search results. Not only will you have better organic search, but you probably will land in the influential 3-Pack which features the three best accounts and is above the first business in organic search!
In addition, you will be prominently featured in the Knowledge Panel. This is a snapshot of the relevant information of your account, plus features many clickable links to your phone, directions, website, appointment/reservations, hours, etc.
Between ads and the 3-Pack, the first position in organic search is often below the fold (the listings visible before you have to scroll). So being in the 3-Pack and Knowledge Panel are critical.
You will also be included in Google Maps which is a direct pipeline to customers that are looking for your business specifically. If not you, they are at least working for your product or service.
Google has very detailed guidelines for setting up and managing your Google My Business account which are confusing. Or you can read this post which clearly and easily shows you all you need to know.
Ok, let’s get started.
Create Your Google My Business Account In Under 5 Minutes
Creating your Google My Business account it is easy and quick. And the best thing, it is also FREE!
The first thing is to go to business.google.com/create.
Enter your business’ name. If there is an existing GMB, you will see it listed and you will need to claim it, Otherwise you will be directed to creating a new account.
Let me show you how. In a few easy steps, you will be up and running with your Google My Business account.
OK, so you have your Google My Business account, now what?
I am going to take you through the steps to optimize your account. And an optimized account will improve your local SEO and drive new customers to your business.
Optimizing Your GMB Profile
As the name implies, this is the section where you will input the bulk of the information about your business. The info you entered when you created your account will self-populate. There are a few things to keep in mind as you begin filling it out. First, remember your business name, address, and phone number are consistent with your website.
Your primary category will already be populated from when you created your account. You can, however, add additional categories that will help improve your search results for the secondary aspects of your business.
There are currently 3,942 different categories to choose from. Your business can have a total of 10 services. So use them all!
The next section to optimize is your Service Area. Figure out all the cities that you draw customers from and make sure they are included. As you start typing a dropdown appears. After you fill in the obvious cities of your service area, start trying zip codes, neighborhoods, school districts, military bases, etc. Many of these are available in addition to cities.
Let’s input your Hours. This is important, especially if you are a retail business since your Knowledge Panel and Google Maps indicate if you are open or closed.
In addition to your regular business hours, you can input Additional Hours for various services you offer. For example, if you are a restaurant you can share your weekend brunch hours. Or maybe you have extended delivery hours or senior hours? With the Additional Hours you can highlight them.
Lastly, you should also enter Special Hours for holidays when you are either closed or have limited (or expanded) hours. Once again, this is important so your customers aren’t frustrated showing up at your business only to discover you are closed.
Industry Specific Options
For example, if you are healthcare company such as a doctor or dentist office there are several additional fields that are available. Make sure you utilize these. This includes Appointment Link, Accepted Health Insurance (though the available list is limited), Menu, and Virtual Care Link.
Or if you are a restaurant you can enter your Menu, Health and Safety policies as well as Service Options like Dine-in, Takeout etc.
Skip Products and Services for now.
From the Business
This is the section where you share attributes about your company that customers may find important.
Google offers a limited list of ownership attributes to choose from: woman, veteran, or minority owned.
The next step is choosing the various wheelchair accessibility options your business provides. You can let them know the wheelchair accessibility for your entrance, parking lot, elevator, bathroom and seating.
Google has added an inclusivity section to let customers know if you are LGTBQ friendly and a transgender safe place.
Depending on your business’ category, there are also additional attributes to select from such as COVID 19 protocols, WIFI availability, and languages your business serves.
From the Business Pro Tip
There can be an inclination to exaggerate in this section. DON’T. You are setting up an expectation for a customer and if you don’t deliver, you will end up with an angry customer. Maybe even an angry customer that leaves a bad Google review.
While Google says business descriptions do not affect your rankings, testing has shown it does have an influence. More importantly, it gives you the opportunity to craft what your customers will know about your business. Be authentic and don’t lay on the sales talk. There are 750 characters available (250 are shown) to write about what makes you great and better than your competition. Include ketwords naturally but DO NOT keyword stuff. Google won’t approve it if you do. Remember this is why we are optimizing all of your profile.
Overall Optimization Pro Tip
Make sure these are consistent across your entire digital footprint. Your website and all your various listings, directories, citations, and social profiles should have exactly the same Name, Address and Phone. If you abbreviate street one place, do it every place. Same with your phone number.
Products are located in the Info section as well as sidebar menu tab. Products are a great way to drive sales if you have physical products. Creating a product post is easy. Just include a high quality photo, product name, description, price, assign it to a category, and include one of the available action buttons: Buy, Learn More, Order Online and Get Info.
Google My Business essentially offers your business the ability to expand your eCommerce capabilities for free. When your GMB profile is displayed in a search, viewers will see your products image. So like the rest of GMB, take advantage of this section and feature as many products as you can.
If you created multiple categories for your business, you should group the services together with each category to help your services be more organized.
In addition you can create your own custom Services based on your individual business offerings. As you create your Services keep in mind your keywords and try to make sure they are included. These will help your SEO efforts as they will signal the search crawlers to rank you. When customers search your services they may be highlighted by Google. Bonus!
Photos may seem silly and unnecessary, but trust me they are not. Research has proven that GMB’s with photos generate 42% more requests for directions and 35% more clicks to the business’ website than those without photos. And isn’t that why we are optimizing your Google My Business account?
Start with a company logo. You will probably want to use this as your profile image. If you have a very recognizable image that defines your business you can use that, but a logo is typically best.
Next select an image you will use for your cover photo. This will be the primary image people will see in the Knowledge Panel. Make sure it is a great picture. Great color, in focus, and high quality. Remember this is your first impression for many of your prospects. Make it a good one.
Then start loading up with more high quality pictures. If you can afford it, hire a professional photographer to take pics of your office exterior and interior. Get different angles, different rooms etc. Also, get pictures of your staff. Not head shots, but photos of them working.
If you can’t afford a professional photographer, fortunately today’s smart phones take excellent high resolutions pictures. Take way more than you need. This will allow you to post only the best ones.
Get pictures of customers engaging with your team. Or using your product. Basically customers being customers.
As you take pictures, think to yourself, what a customer would want to see of your business or product.
In addition to pictures you can also upload videos. Videos are an excellent way to connect with your customers and potential customers.
Format: jpg or png
File Size: 10kb to 5mb
Format: jpg or png
File Size: 10kb to 5mb
Format: jpg png, or bmp
File Size: 10kb to 5mb
Maximum Duration: 30 seconds
Maximum File Size: 75mb
Minumum Resolution: 720p
Photos Pro Tip
Make sure you get a photo release from any one that you get pictures of. You can build a release into an employee’s onboarding packet. You definitely want to get customers signing a release to avoid any potential future litigation.
Posts are one of the most underutilized features on Google My Business. They allow you to share information to your customers that can directly drive sales. It also typically improves the SEO by driving additional traffic to your website.
You can share an update, promote an event or showcase a product (this will populate your products automatically). During the current pandemic, there is also a COVID update category available.
Unlike blog posts that you may create on your website that are typically at least 750 words, a GMB post maxes out at 1500 characters (about 350 words). The best part is you don’t even need to write that much. Writing 150 word posts frequently will give you great results.
The picture you use for your post will be added to your picture portfolio, so make sure you are using a good high-quality photo.
Your post gives you the option of a clickable Call to Action button including: Learn More, Book Now and Buy and even Call. Make sure you are sending the visitor to the right landing page. Either create a unique landing page for your offer or send them to a specific page on your website. Rarely do you want to send to your home page if you are looking to drive conversions.
Google Reviews are so powerful that a Google My Business account would be worth it if this was all there was to it. But as we have already learned there is so much more and Reviews are the icing on the cake.
Reviews are critical to a company’s success these days. One of of the most powerful principle of persuasion as outlined by Dr. Robert Cialdini is Social Proof. People are influenced by the opinions of other people when making their own decisions. So when they see a business that has a bunch of good reviews, they feel better about making the decision to visit your business or buy your service.
Your reviews don’t just provide social proof, but they are also a snap shot into your customer’s psyche. You can identify problems that need to be addressed, opportunities to grow a service, and employees that are doing a great job.
Getting Google Reviews should be a core part of your marketing and operation’s efforts. You should be creating multiple opportunities for your team to request your customers to leave a review.
Here are a few examples of how to do it:
- Actually ask after the customer completes a purchase.
- After a customer has a positive interaction with your team.
- A text or email (or both!) after they use your service or buy your product.
- A countertop sign or door graphic asking for reviews.
- A card with a QR code to leave a review placed in their bag. (A shareable link is available on your GMB account home page)
The main takeaway is to understand your customer’s journey and identify the key opportunities to request reviews.
Responding to Reviews
Just getting reviews is not enough. You need to engage with your customers that leave reviews. When a customer leaves a review make sure you respond every time. Often a business makes the mistake and only responds to negative reviews. But it is just as important to thank happy customers that leave glowing reviews.
When you do get a negative review (and you will), don’t despair. Having a few negative reviews actually helps your credibility. Everyone knows that no one can be perfect all the time, so when someone sees only 5 star reviews they are suspicious. Studies have shown the sweet spot for a business’ reviews is between 4.3 and 4.7. Any higher and the credibility is questioned. Lower? Well, you know.
So how to reply to a negative review?
The first thing to remember is you do not want to get into an online argument. Even if you are right, you will be wrong. When you engage angrily with a customer you will just come across looking bad. Remember, the people reading the reviews do not have the full story, and will view your response as a reflection of your customer service.
The second thing is to be empathetic. Often a frustrated customer just wants to be heard. Acknowledge their frustration in your reply and invite them to contact you offline to discuss their experience. You may be surprised at how often after you talk they will remove their negative review.
Google reviews can be a very effective tool in your marketing communications. Remember reviews are excellent Social Proof so make sure you are showing them off.
Add them to your website. You can do this one of two ways. The first is to select some positive reviews that fit your messaging. You can make a graphic and share as an image. The second is to add a widget to your website that actual adds your Google Review thread to a page on your website. The later is more authentic because it will show all of your reviews, good and bad.
Good reviews are also great content for social media posts. Select a great review that highlights a particular service, product, or even employee. Then create a graphic and post copy around that. A customer review will give your post much more creditability than just you making the claim.
If you can identify the customer (which can often be difficult), reach out and ask if they would be willing to make a testimonial video. Videos of customers being brand advocates are very powerful. Create a testimonial page on your website and add the video. Google loves videos for SEO!
BrightLocal found that 79% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Therefore, your reviews need to be real and authentic. Some businesses resort to posting fake reviews or buying reviews. Don’t. Google is very sophisticated at sniffing these out and will remove them.
Google provides easy to understand analytics to gauge how your GMB account is performing. It also provides understanding into your customers’ behaviors and geography. Consider it Google Analytics lite!
How Customers Search For Your Business
This is a great section to help evaluate your efforts. You also get some insight into your SEO and other marketing efforts.
Google provides both the total number of searches where your profile showed up as well as the type of searches. Keep in mind, this chart only shows impressions and does not mean they engaged with your GMB or not.
Searches are broken up into three categories: Direct, Discovery and Branded. Let’s hypothetically say “Sharyn” is looking for an orthodontist to illustrate the differences between the three segments.
- Direct: These are the searches where your profile appears when a customer specifically enters your business’ name or address. Usually these searches are done by current/previous customers, someone that has been exposed to your marketing efforts or heard of you through word of mouth. Basically they know you exist. In our example, Sharyn’s friend told her that Bright Smiles did a great job with her son’s braces so Sharyn Googled “bright smiles“.
- Discovery: These are general searches for categories, services, or products. They know what they are looking for, but don’t have a particular company in mind to deliver it. In a Discovery search, Sharyn Googles “best orthodontist in Salt Lake City” or “cheap braces near me”.
- Branded: These are similar searches to Discovery, but they are more specific. A customer has an idea of a specific brand of a product or service, but don’t have a specific company to buy it from. Back to Sharyn. In a Branded search she would Google “where can I get Invisalign“.
It is helpful knowing this information. By knowing how people are finding your profile, you can understand your marketing efforts. If you have low Direct traffic, you know you need to work on your company’s branding efforts. If you feel your Discovery or Branded searches are low, you should evaluate the keyword strategy for your website, You can also address them through Products, Services and Posts on your GMB account.
Where Customers View Your Business On Google
This chart shows if people found you from a traditional Google search or through Google Maps. A high number of Maps searches is a good reflection of mobile activity. Studies have shown that up to 75% of mobile searches are voice. While Google Assistant and Google Home voice searches are not currently included in your GMB data, so you can assume there is a fair amount of additional users.
Once again, this data is a measurement of impressions not actual engagement.
While the previous charts showed impressions, now we get to see actual engagement with your Google My Business account.
And that is what it is really about, isn’t it?
In this view, Google breaks out actions into 4 categories:
- Visited Website
- Requested Directions
- Called Your Business
- Messaged (if you enabled Messaging)
Additional breakouts of these data views are available to provide greater insights into each.
Google not only tells you how many people have requested directions to your business, but they also tell you where the requests come from with a heat map!
This can be incredibly helpful in many ways.
You can see if there are areas your have been neglecting with your marketing efforts. Or conversely areas you have be targeting that are not driving directions requests. It may be time to shift your efforts to more lucrative parts of town.
You can also use this information to see if there are any Service Areas you should be adding to your profile.
Now let’s check out the next data breakout: Phone Calls.
Google generously shares two separate views of your call activity. You can see both what days people are calling as well as what time customers call.
This is incredibly valuable data to have to potentially improve your operations.
Many small and medium business don’t utilize a call center which means they don’t have access to call data. By understanding what days and times your customers are calling, you can insure that your staff is ready to answer.
Popular Times, Wait Times, and Visit Duration
Google tracks you. That should be no surprise. Scary maybe, but no surprise.
Location tracking in people’s mobile phones provide Google information on foot traffic to your business as well as their duration of stay. To determine Popular Times, Wait Times, and Visit Duration, Google uses aggregated and anonymized data from users who have opted into Google Location History.
Wait Time estimation differs for different business types. For instance, a sit-down restaurant’s Wait Time reflects how long customers wait before they are seated.
Popular Times, Wait Times and Visit Duration are shown for your business if you get enough visits from these users. The Popular Times and Wait Times will even show up in your Knowledge Panel
Google measures the photos associated with your GMB in a few ways. And it may be easy to dismiss photos as not important. But they are.
Don’t believe me? How about these stats?
- Businesses with photos receive 42% more requests for directions from consumers, and 35% more click-throughs to their website than GMB listings without photos.
- Businesses with more than 100 images get 520% more calls than the average business, while those with just one image get 71% fewer.
- Businesses with more than 100 images get 713% more discovery searches than the average business, while those with just one get 65% fewer.
- Businesses with more than 100 images get 1038% more direct searches than the average business, while those with just one get 71% fewer.
The first graph shows the number of times your photos appear in the Knowledge Panel and search. These measure the number impressions and clicks your pictures generate. You will also see how your business compares to other similar business.
The graph labeled Photo Quality is simply a measure of the number of pictures that are uploaded to your account. This includes both the pictures you uploaded as well as the consumer uploads. If you have any doubts this is valuable information for your business, just scroll up a tad and look at those stats again.
Have a goal to hit that magic 100 photos. Also, try to have at least twice as many as the similar businesses. Odds are the 100 will accomplish this.
There you have it. Everything you need to create a Google My Business account that will attract customers and crush your competition.
Just because your account is up and running, don’t think you are done. This is just the beginning. But the good news is all you need to do is spend about 15 minutes a week to have a great account.
Make sure you are responding to your customer’s reviews in a timely manner. Try to respond within a couple of hours and certainly within 24 hours.
Create posts regularly and upload pictures often.
Lastly, check out your Insights once a month to see how your efforts are going and make adjustments as necessary.
Now that you have an optimized GMB and are making updates weekly, you should notice improvements in your local search fairly quickly. The time you spend on your account will pay off, so stick with it. I promise you will be glad you did.