Today, business owners are looking for ways to harness the power of local search. If you haven’t already done so, the first thing you might want to do is to claim and verify your Google My Business (GMB) listing. There are many ways to improve your website visibility in the local search results, but none of them is nearly as important as taking control and optimising your GMB page. According to a 2017 study by Moz, Google My Business continues to be the biggest contributor to the performance of local SEO, more so than quality backlinks.
What is Google My Business?
Google My Business is a dashboard to manage your own business listing on Google. Over there, you can take charge and adjust how your business will show up in Google’s organic search results. A well-optimised GMB listing can significantly increase your odds to turn up in Google’s Local 3 Pack, Google Maps, Knowledge Graph, or even in the Google Local Finder. It is absolutely free to claim your GMB listing, you just have to make an account and claim your business by filling in your details. Google will send you a postcard with a unique verification code to the address that you’ve specified. Once verified, you can amend your basic company information such as your business address, contact number, operation hours and types of payments accepted. The top mistake that most people make is that they simply claim their GMB listing, fill in just the bare minimum information and move on. Read on to unlock the full potential of your GMB page.
What are the ranking factors for Google My Business?
As usual, Google never reveals the exact GMB ranking mechanism to the public to prevent people from gaming the system. However, based on experience, the top three factors are Relevance, Distance and Prominence.
1. Relevance – How well your products or services can match the search intent of the users. Does your business provide the best solution to satisfy the customer need? Be clear about your business offerings and use keywords that focus only on your niche.
2. Distance – Google approximates the given location of a user and returns the most relevant local businesses. A business premise that is physically closer to the user’s current location will be prioritised compared to a competitor that is further away. Local-oriented website content helps.
3. Prominence – How well is your website ranking on organic search results? What are the authority websites linking to your website? Are your GMB and website updated regularly and provide consistent, accurate information? Do you publish local content or events regularly? Do you get a stream of positive reviews on GMB? Do you manage your reviews? Do you post new business photos from time to time?
What Can You Do To Optimise Your Google My Business listing?
1. Provide complete and accurate business info
Claim your GMB listing with your actual business name. Choose your business category to best reflect your products and services. Complete your GMB profile with all the information that Google asks for. While doing so, make sure they are accurate and correspond with the business information listed on your website. Double check your phone number and street address. Clearly state your business hours and also take public holidays into consideration. Always keep your business information up to date.
2. Upload beautiful high-res photos
Review all your current photos and remove those that do not represent your business. Upload high-quality photos to showcase your products or services to the public. Arrange for a professional photo shoot session if needed. Update it regularly with photos of the latest business events and promotions. From time to time, moderate public submitted photos, and flag irrelevant ones for removal by Google.
3. Create Google My Business Posts
A lot of people do not know that they can create GMB posts that will show up in the Knowledge Panel and on Google Maps. These are literally “mini-ads” that you can create for free! Using GMB posts, you can add images, CTA button and even links to your webpage. This is perfect for promoting your upcoming events, sales, blog posts, new product launches, or wishing seasonal greetings to your customers. The only limitation is that these posts can only stay “live” for seven days, or up to the event date, whichever comes earlier. Studies show that making regular posts in GMB can improve your ranking.
4. Use Booking Button Feature For Appointments
If you are in a business where customers need to make appointments to see you, this booking button will make your life easier. The trick is, you will have to integrate your scheduling software with GMB listing. Potential customers can book an appointment with your business straight from the GMB listing. When you make booking easy for your customers, acquiring new customers is a breeze, which converts into more sales!
5. Messaging Feature
You can allow potential customers to send you text messages directly via GMB. If you want to direct the text messages to somewhere else instead of your private phone number, you can do so with Google’s Allo app. When a prospect messages you, Allo will send you a notification on the app. Right now, this feature is only available to mobile web users who search for your business on Chrome but not to the mobile app or desktop users.
6. Questions & Answers
This feature in the GMB allows people to ask questions about your business. You can answer those questions by logging in to the GMB dashboard. The drawback is you can’t see the Q&A feature on the mobile GMB app. You can instead, use the Google Maps App on Android devices to monitor the Q&A on your GMB page. Every time someone asks a question on your GMB, anyone can answer it, so be sure to get to it as quickly and accurately as possible at the push notification. Correct any misinformation answered by the public, and be helpful!
7. Keep a close eye on customer reviews
Manage your GMB listing reviews to show that you care about your customers. Proactively reach out to your customers to review your GMB page. Thank your customers for every single positive feedback. For negative reviews, acknowledge, respond quickly and follow up with them. Propose solutions to make up for previous shortcomings. In the hands of a skilful business owner, you can turn every poor review into an opportunity to win over a loyal customer.
8. Check out the insights
Within GMB, you can see how many impressions, clicks and subscribers to your listing over a certain period. Based on this valuable information, you can gauge the performance of your listing, and implement adjustments as necessary. Ideally, you’ll want it to paint your business in the best light to any future prospects and also with the existing customers.
9. Synergy With On-page and Off-page SEO
Google My Business is not a magic bullet that automatically ranks your website. Besides GMB, you need to carry on with top-tier On-page and Off-page SEO efforts because these go hand-in-hand. Cross check your profile information to ensure that the info is listed on the GMB is consistent with the info listed on your website. Any mismatch between the two will send a mixed signal to Google, and likely to cause confusion to the users. Your website should already be well-optimized for localised content so that Google perceives you as a relevant local business with authority. If you have the time and resources, it is often worth creating online citations on high authority business directories and review sites.
10. Use structured data markup for your business website
Google increasingly uses schema markup data to understand what your site is about, and this supplementary information is often used to help with ranking your GMB listing in local search results. While previously Google knows the “what” of your website, with structured data, Google can now see the meaning and context behind each markup elements. To take advantage of this, you can implement structured data to your website and make your business information more friendly to search engines. Make sure the name, address, phone number, opening hours, reviews, product info are all accurate and up to date.
As you can see, there are many ways to stay on top of things and make Google My Business listing work in your favour. Getting verified is just the start because it takes hard work and dedication to keep your GMB listing optimised so that it will get good rankings in local search. Keep your GMB listing updated and polished to attract customers. Last but not the least, ensure you have a solid local SEO plan for your website. Your actual business website has to work in unison with your GMB page for the best results.
While you’re here, why not check out the other article about the impact of online reviews on local search optimisation.