When it comes to your small business showing up in local searches, you may already know the importance of your business website and directory listings like Yelp. Something you may not know: A Google My Business listing directly affects where you appear in Google Maps and Google Search results.
Unfamiliar with Google My Business? It’s time to change that. Google My Business is a free listing that every small business owner should take advantage of. Both the completeness and quality of your listing impact how high you rank in Google’s search results, as well as whether potential customers choose your business over your competitors.
The benefits of a Google My Business Listing are many: Businesses with complete and accurate Google listings average 7x more clicks, are 70% more likely to attract location visits, and are 50% more likely to lead to a purchase than those with unoptimized listings.
Read on to better understand the importance of Google My Business as well as how to list your business on Google, optimize your listing, and stand out online.
The Benefits of Google My Business
How exactly can a Google My Business listing affect your business? Let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits.
Google Maps Results
Any person can add a place or business to Google Maps. If you want to outrank your competitors and show up higher in searches related to exactly what you provide, however, you need to optimize each field of your Google Maps listing. You can only do this by creating and claiming a Google My Business listing.
Location-Based Search Results
Google Maps isn’t the only place your Google My Business listing appears. A regular Google search will pull your GMB profile as well. This is because even if a user doesn’t perform a location-based search (i.e. they type “jewelry repair” rather than “jewelry repair Boston” or “jewelry repair near me”) Google will still identify their IP address and yield location-based results—if any exist.
For example, a regular search for “event catering” with no geographical modifiers yields the following results for a search performed in the Boston area:
If you want to make it onto the first page of these results, you’ll need to fill out a Google My Business profile.
If you have a Google My Business profile, Google will then be able to display a Knowledge Panel result for users who search for your business. For example, because Fundera has a Google My Business profile, this pane shows up on the right when you type “Fundera” into a Google search:
The Knowledge Panel is like a mini-homepage for your business. It provides potential customers with all of the essential information they need in order to engage with you, including hours of operation, reviews, star ratings, popular times, appointment links, and more.
These days, users are able to get most of what they need directly from Google results pages, even before clicking through to any website.
When you fill out all of the fields of your Google My Business profile, you make it easier for customers to learn about your business, compare you to competitors, get in touch with you, book a table, or pay you a visit before even having to visit your website. Google My Business is creating a path of least resistance to your business, making engagement easier, and therefore, more likely.
Both the attributes section and the Q&A section of your Google My Business listing allow you to make known specific features about your business, such as a restaurant with outdoor seating, a gym with a sauna, or a salon that accepts credit cards. These details are crucial to potential customers when deciding whether to choose your business over another.
Consumers rely on what Google tells them about your business. While Google does its best to pull the most recent and relevant information, it sometimes has hiccups. Consumers aren’t always aware of this. They are more likely to attribute inaccurate or missing information to incompetency of the business itself. By creating and maintaining a Google My Business listing, you ensure that Google is displaying your business information accurately and creating a sense of trust among your customers.
How to Optimize Your Google My Business Listing
With a higher ranking in search results and a more attractive listing overall, your business will start to see more engagement and customers after you’ve completed your Google My Business profile. So how do you go about reaping the benefits of a Google My Business listing? Here’s how you can get your Google business listing to stand out so that potential customers find and visit your business.
1. Fill out Every Field of Your Profile
The completeness of your Google My Business listing correlates to how helpful it is to potential customers. The less complete the listing, the less helpful and the lower Google will rank it in results. Don’t just fill out the bare minimum, like name, address, and phone number. Fill out every section. This includes:
- Phone number
- Attributes (which will vary depending on your category)
- Hours of operation
- Questions and answers
- Reviews (you can’t fill out this section, but you can be proactive in collecting reviews)
Some fields are really instrumental, as you’ll see in the subsequent tips.
All of that being said, your first step in making the most of Google My Business is to identify missing information and fill it in.
2. Include Keywords in Your Description
Your business description should be short and simple, while also following a strong SEO strategy, which includes being keyword-dense. This enables users to get a quick but accurate snapshot of your business. More importantly, it will help your listing show up in your potential customers’ searches.
3. Choose Your Category
Categories are important for two reasons. First, they allow users to find your business without having to know your business name (i.e., “Happy Tails Dog Training” can show up for a “dog trainer” search). Second, selecting a category will unlock specific attributes for you to display. For example, businesses in the restaurant category can upload a menu, while businesses in the beauty salon category can include a booking button.
4. Select Attributes
Attributes are the small details of your business that potential customers tend to seek out specifically. They often serve as deciding factors when choosing between you or a competitor. Do you accept credit card payments? Have patio seating? Offer same-day service? Do you accept drop-ins or delivery options? These are all attributes that you’ll want made clear to your potential customers.
5. Seed Your Q&A Section
Uncertainty creates barriers to entry for customers. The more specific information a customer can gather about your business, the more quickly and confidently they can choose your business. This is where the Google My Business Q&A section—an underutilized feature—comes in handy.
Did you know that anyone can ask, and anyone can answer, any question about any business? This can lead to false information circulating about your business. So rather than waiting for customers to ask questions, be proactive. Post and answer questions that give potential customers more confidence in choosing your business and also that highlight your best attributes.
6. Publish Social Posts to Your Profile
One of the features that makes Google My Business different from other online listing directories is the social media-like posting capability. Posts appear in the Knowledge Panel of your business, so use them to make your promotions, news, and events known. Posts expire in seven days, so keep your content fresh.
7. Get Google Reviews
Online reviews are perhaps the most influential aspect of a business’s online reputation. Potential customers rely on the opinions of existing customers, and will seek them out when deciding whether to give a company their business. In addition, reviews and your star rating will show up in your Knowledge Panel, should a user type in your business name and location. Most importantly, businesses with a higher volume of higher-quality reviews will rank higher in search results.
8. Add Photos
The goal with Google My Business is to bring the physical world online, so upload photos of the interior and exterior (with customers present) of your business as well as your products and services. Images with promotional overlays, logos, and other markups will not be accepted, so stick with high-quality photos that give potential customers a clear idea of what it’s like to visit your business.
9. Make Use of Engagement Features
Depending on your category, Google offers additional features such as the ability to book appointments, view menus, make reservations, and more. Be sure to take advantage of these direct engagement opportunities—and, of course, to choose the proper category to begin with.
10. Update Your Listing
Perhaps worse than an incomplete business listing is an inaccurate one. The last thing you want is for customers to arrive at your business only to find that you’ve moved, to call you and be met with a dial tone, or to be late to an appointment because they had the wrong suite number. It is crucial to make sure you update your Google My Business listing anytime something changes about your business so your customers always have accurate information. This ensures customers can engage with you easily and can build trust with your brand.
Claim Your Google My Business Listing
As mentioned above, anyone can add a business to Google Maps. This means that your business could be showing up on Google and collecting reviews, without you even realizing it. If you want to be able to perform the optimizations listed above, to respond to reviews, monitor your reputation, and make necessary updates, you need to claim your listing.
Google My Business is always adding new features and fields, changing the appearance of the Knowledge Panel, and adjusting factors that add weight to your ranking. So long as you keep all of your fields optimized and current, these changes won’t be a problem for you. Stay on top of the information Google provides to its users, and you’ll stay on top of your competition.