The first time we covered Google My Business on the Parkway blog was in mid-2014. Back then, Google My Business was a web portal that pulled together a bunch of existing Google Tools (Analytics, Merchant Center, Hangouts, Maps, etc.) into a single, very handy, website.
Even then, we predicted that Google My Business would become a “must have” tool in the digital marketing toolbox.
Today’s Google My Business Listings
These days, Google My Business is an updated version of what used to be called Google Places. It’s where businesses can claim and manage some of the information Google displays in Search and Maps, including in Knowledge Cards and Local Packs. You can also communicate directly with clients and potential customers by responding to reviews and posting updates to your Google My Business listing.
Claiming Your Business on Google
Google My Business is designed to help business owners provide up-to-date information about their company to consumers, whether they’re a law firm or a restaurant. In fact, any business with a physical location or that travels to customers qualifies for a Google My Business account. If you don’t claim your business on Google, they’ll still display the information they find online about your business, whether it’s from your website or social media profiles.
Claiming your company’s online profile through Google My Business is a good idea anyway because you’ll be able to make sure your information online is correct. Claiming your business on Google also allows you to upload photos, respond to reviews, post updates, answer questions and see how your business listing is performing in Google Search and Maps.
Claiming your business’ listing is incredibly simple.
- Visit https://www.google.com/business/ and either sign in or click “Start Now.” You’ll be able to either select your business (if Google already knows it exists) or add a new business.
- Update your company’s contact information, making sure the name, phone number and physical address are correct and match your other listings online (your website, Facebook, etc.).
- Verify your Google My Business listing. Google usually does this via a postcard sent to your business’ location or a phone call. There will be a verification code you have to enter into your account to make sure you are, in fact, the business owner.
Responding to Users
Google My Business can be a great tool for business owners thanks to how well Knowledge Cards and Local Packs cut through the clutter on search engine results pages. However, you can’t forget about your profile after claiming your Google My Business listing.
There are three sections within Knowledge Cards that mean you’ll want to keep an eye on your listing. Unfortunately, Google doesn’t always tell you when you have something that warrants a reply.
Suggest an Edit
Any Google user can suggest updates to your company’s information. If these suggestions are accepted by Google (that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re correct), they’ll be published to your listing in Google Search and Maps results. Google isn’t super clear about why they accept some changes and not others, but they do say that they “use automated systems to detect for spam and fraud, but [they] tend not to share details behind our processes so as not to tip off spammers or others with bad intent.”
You’ll want to log in regularly to make sure your hours, address, phone number, category, etc. are all correct.
Questions and Answers
Google lets users ask questions, which both Google My Business listing owners/managers and other Google users can answers.
If one potential customer has a question, they’re probably not the only one. It’s smart to provide factual, helpful answers before someone else gives an answer that’s not quite right or is from a disgruntled customer. Once a question is asked and answered, it lives within the Knowledge Card.
Write a Review
The customers who write a review are those who either had a really good or a really bad experience. You should be responding to both positive and negative reviews with honesty and compassion, and without getting defensive.
Thirty percent of consumers say that a company’s response to reviews is one of the things they take into consideration when judging a local business. A sincere, apologetic response to a negative review can also encourage an upset customer to give your business a second chance.
While this blog post’s focus is Google My Business, your knowledge card will also show reviews from other online sources, including Facebook and specialty platforms like BeerAdvocate, Untappd and HappyCow. It makes sense to keep an eye on these reviews as well, so you can address any problems before they become a bigger issue.
Google My Business SEO
Results within the Local Pack and Google Maps are determined primarily based on how relevant your business is to a searcher’s query, the distance between your company and the searcher, and how prominent, or well-known your business is.
Optimizing your Google My Business listing doesn’t need to be complicated. Just like traditional organic listings, engagement with your content signals to Google that you’re keeping things interesting. To keep searchers clicking, implement as many of Google My Business’ features as apply to your company.
Accurate Business Information
When you verified your business, you probably input basic information, including your company’s name, address, phone number and category. Once your listing is verified, you want to make sure every possible detail about your business is accurate and up-to-date.
A business description helps you explain the products or services you provide. This is a great place to mention your location and city, as well as what you’re known for. These will act as keywords for both Google and searchers.
Put the most important information within the first 250 characters of your description, which is what shows in search results. The entire description can be up to 750 characters.
Photos and Videos
Start filling out your listing with a profile photo, cover photo and any additional photos you’d like to share on your profile. If you’re a restaurant, hotel, or other business that people often takes pictures of, you won’t need to upload as many images. Soon, your customers will be doing this for you. Other types of businesses very rarely have a customer upload a photo with their review, so you’ll need to provide more images of your own to fill out your profile.
Photos should be saved as JPG or PNG files at least 720×720 pixels. Videos should be at least 720p resolution and can be up to 30 seconds long. Google suggests including imagery of your business’ exterior, interior, products, food and drinks, team photos and rooms (for hotels).
Restaurants and service-based businesses (spas, agencies, etc.) that don’t currently link to a menu on their own website or an aggregate like SinglePlatform can create a menu within their Google My Business listing. Click on the “Info” tab and add items under the “Services” section to create menus of your products and services. It’s important to keep this up to date, especially if you include pricing information on your menu.
Reserve with Google
Spas, salons and gyms can integrate their booking with Google My Business, so customers can make an appointment right from your company’s Knowledge Card. If your business already has an account with one of Google’s “supported scheduling providers,” a booking button will show up automatically. There are dozens of integrated scheduling systems already, with more coming soon.
Similar features can be added (or appear automatically) for placing an order or reserving a table.
Google My Business allows you to add features that make it easy for on-the-go customers to contact your company. Mobile searchers will see a “Call” button within results, and you can also turn on “Messaging” options. Many Google My Business features are automatically included in search results for your business, whether you want them to or not, including Call.
However, to allow searchers to message your business, you need to turn on the option through Google. Once you turn on Messaging, you can choose whether the text will be sent via SMS to a phone number or through the Google Allo app. Using the app gives you more flexibility when it comes to who can answer messages and what devices you can use to do so.
One of Google My Business’ latest features is the ability to add posts with features similar to Facebook. Businesses can add images, links and calls to action, which is perfect for sharing blog posts, publicizing events and featuring products. Some businesses also have the ability to share video, a feature that will be rolling out to all accounts shortly.
To take full advantage of Google My Business posts, share at least once a week. Posts disappear from the Knowledge Card after 7 days. At that time, they show within the posts tab on mobile devices.
Google My Business Insights
Once you claim and optimize your Google My Business account, you can begin to monitor its performance using Insights. This is where you’ll see metrics on how well your business is performing in Search and Maps results.
You can see how many people used your Knowledge Card or Maps listing to visit your website, request directions, call your company, etc. Google is currently adding the ability to see what terms searchers used to find your results as well, making Insights a local, simplified combination of Analytics and Search Console.