Web Marketing

Small Business Guide To Setting Up An Optimized GMB Profile

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Google My Business is perhaps one of the best small business products launched by Google. My Business listings not only appear for every single location based search, these results are usually placed on top of organic search results. 

Seasoned SEOs and even reseller SEO pros are using Google My Business to deliver location based SEO benefits to their clients.

For local businesses, GMB listings have given them a chance to become as visible as the big players in their industry.

Be that as it may, taking advantage of this free product by Google is only possible when your GMB profile is completely optimized, which is what we will be discussing in this article.

Optimizing your GMB profile is a task that can be divided into two parts. Let’s see what they are and what tasks they entail:

While Creating Profile

The first half of this article is dedicated to creating your GMB profiles. Thanks to Google’s love for intuitive user interface and simplicity, the process is quite straightforward.

All you have to do is go to the Google My Business website, click on the “Manage Now” button, enter your business’ name, and follow the steps. 

If your business has been operating for a while, chances are that it already has a listing. In this case, you will be offered to claim the listing. Simply click on claim the listing and follow the outlined steps.

If, however, you do not find an option to claim the listing dedicated to your business, chances are that it has already been claimed by someone. If this is the case, you can refer to this guide to requesting ownership of a business profile by Google.

If your business profile doesn’t exist, Google will prompt you to create one with clearly outlined steps. 

Whether you are creating a new profile or optimizing an existing one, make sure that you implement the following tips:

Fill Out All Business Information

One of the most basic and surprisingly common mistakes that business owners make with their GMB profile is to leave out certain aspects of it. 

Completing your GMB profile with all the information requested by Google is the most basic step of GMB optimization. Think about it, only when Google knows everything it needs to know about your business, will it be incentivised to rank your GMB listing higher. 

Besides improving the visibility of your GMB profile itself, completing your profile information also helps your website rank higher for local SEO keywords.

Add photos

There are a number of places within your GMB profile where you can post photos, and you should take advantage of these spaces because your customers probably love photos and videos. According to Google, businesses that add photos to their profile get 42% more requests for directions to their location, when compared with those businesses that don’t add photos. 

There are many advantages to adding photos to your GMB listing. For starters, they tell Google’s algorithms that yours is a legitimate business, while also humanising your brand for your customers.

With that said, simply adding photos to your GMB profile is not enough. Just like in the case of the images on your website, Google uses image-related information like alt text, caption, location tag to understand your GMB profile and your business better.

Use Keywords

If you follow my first advice and complete all the information in your profile, you will find yourself writing a “from the business” section. This is where you are supposed to tell everyone what you do and why you are the absolute best at it. This is where you outline the unique selling points of your business and tell everyone why you are awesome. 

While a lot of businesses get this section right, most forget one important detail- keywords.

That’s right, just like keywords are an integral part of SEO Services, it is an important aspect of optimizing your GMB listing for maximum visibility.

Verify

Verifying your business listing is perhaps the most hassle-filled task involved in optimizing it. This is because the process is done via a postcard sent to your business address and can take up to five business days.

With that said, the performance benefits are well worth the hassle involved.

In fact, this is sort of compulsory if you want Google to display your GMB listing to its users. 

Moreover, Google does not allow unverified businesses to access the insights and analytics of their GMB profile. 

Without that information, ongoing optimization of your GMB profile will not be possible.

Ensure Consistency In NAP And Other Business Information

One obvious piece of advice- make sure that the information you enter into your GMB profile is correct.

It is almost unbelievable how many businesses get their own operating hours and contact information wrong. 

Inaccurate information in your GMB listing can result in bad user experience and Google hates it when that happens. To avoid a surprise penalty, be as meticulous as possible when entering your business operating hours and contact information

It is also important to ensure NAP consistency for the entire online presence of your business. NAP stands for name, address, and phone number of your business. Make sure your NAP information is consistent across your website, your GMB listing, and your listings on other business platforms.

Choose The Correct Category

Another surprisingly common mistake made by businesses making a GMB profile is to select the wrong category for their business. Choosing the correct category for your GMB listing gives you two advantages:

  • Unlock Additional Features: When you select a category, Google unlocks category-specific features for your profile. These features are designed to make your GMB profile more authentic, credible, and attractive. A great example of such a category-specific feature can be seen in the case of restaurant listings where Google enables the addition of a menu, allowing customers to ensure the restaurant they are planning to visit serves what they like.

 

  • Visibility In Discovery Searches: Discovery searches is the name given to instances where a customer searches for a product or service and ‘discovers’ a business. 84% of GMB profile views are the result of a discovery search. In order to enjoy a chunk of that visibility, you must ensure your business is listed in the correct category.

When choosing the category for your business, it is recommended that you be as specific as possible. For instance, choose ‘Chinese restaurant’ instead of ‘restaurant’.

Google also allows you to choose secondary categories. This feature is mainly aimed at businesses that don’t fall into a single specific category or the businesses that offer multiple services or products. Choosing secondary categories is important but at the same time, it isn’t compulsory. If you cannot think of a secondary category for your business, it is best to move on. 

I strongly advise against choosing ‘related’ categories that don’t necessarily represent what your business does. For instance, if you do automobile repairs, choose that category. It may seem like a good idea to also list yourself under ‘automobile spare parts’ but it isn’t. Doing this will only lead to a bad experience for the users of Google.

Choose The Correct Attributes

After you have chosen a set of categories for your business, Google will then let you choose category specific attributes for your business profile. Now, you may have chosen attributes while listing your business on other business directories such as Yelp.

Google’s attributes work quite similar to Yelp but they are considerably more granular. For instance, for a coffee shop, Yelp will show whether or not they have “free wifi”. On the other hand, if they have wifi, Google will allow the business to communicate in-depth attributes like “great for working remotely” or “great for working on a laptop”.

As you can guess, potential customers will seek out these attributes to make a decision about showing up at your store or purchasing from you. So make sure you get this right and highlight all the best attributes of your business. Here’s a complete list of attributes you can choose for your business listing on Google My Business.

Bonus Tip: Google has recently introduced special attributes for certain businesses. It is definitely worth checking if your business qualifies for such attributes. For instance, Google allows GMB users to highlight if their business is black-owned or owned by a woman entrepreneur. Similarly, if your business falls into the healthcare category, you may get access to even more additional attributes such as highlighting the ability to deliver online care.

After Creating A Business Profile

Now we are starting the second part of this article, the ongoing optimization. Once you have created an optimized profile, you must do two things. One, keep your profile updated and optimized with correct information. Two, you must take advantage of the features of your GMB profile to entice and engage prospects. Here are the tasks involved in getting this done:

Take Advantage Of GMB Posts

Local posts, in many ways, are like social media updates from your business profile. They are used to keep your GMB presence ‘fresh’ and can be a great tool to engage your users. At the same time, GMB posts can also be used to update prospects about upcoming product launches, events, and other exciting news related to your business. The best part is, you can upload a GMB post from almost any device.

With that said, just like social media platforms, there are certain suggestions and rules that you are expected to observe when creating GMB posts. These are:

  • Ensure your posts are free of errors (grammar and spelling) or irrelevant information.
  • Ensure your posts are not offensive or disrespectful.
  • Be careful while adding links. When you share a link in a GMB post, make sure it is either to your own website or to a trusted website. Posts containing links to websites that host malwares, viruses, or even pornographic content will be banned by Google and may also influence the visibility of your GMB profile.
  • If your business is selling a regulated substance (such as alcohol or tobacco products), Google may not allow you to directly post about your products. This usually depends on the laws of areas where your business operates.
  • Finally, since your posts will be visible publicly, it is important to ensure they are safe to view for all kinds of audiences.

Besides following the rules, it is also a good idea to use images in your GMB posts as they are more visually appealing than a small block of text.

Keep Adding New Business Photos

Regularly adding photos of your business to your GMB profile is a great idea. Doing this let’s Google know that your business is active on GMB, prompting it to place your business higher in the GMB results. 

At the same time, recent photos also help your potential customers make informed decisions about visiting your business. Recent photos of your business will also ensure that the potential customers that do visit your physical store come in with realistic expectations about the offers, facilities, and features of your business. 

The numbers support this notion. According to a study by Brightlocal businesses that have more than 100 photos on their GMB profile get 520% more calls, 2717% more requests for store directions, and 1065% more website clicks than the average business listed on GMB.

Collect Reviews

For local businesses, online reviews can be worth their weight in gold. Reviews offer much needed social proof that makes any business’ online presence more authentic and credible.

Reviews are perhaps the most important aspect of your GMB profile. For customers, reviews matter more than anything else. Studies have shown that a whopping 93% of online customers say that online reviews have impacted their purchase decisions. In another separate survey 91% of 18-34 year olds said that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family.

If we know this, it is safe to assume Google also understands how online reviews influence customers’ decisions and that it probably uses ratings and reviews to rank GMB profiles.

Google has made it incredibly easy for businesses to collect reviews and for customers to drop reviews. You can even create a link to the review and share it with your customers.

With that said, collecting positive reviews is not the only task related to reviews. Managing negative reviews is equally important. So make sure when and if you get a negative review, you reply to the same and try to get to the bottom of the problem.

If you are able to solve the customer’s problem, make sure you are requesting them to drop another follow-up review. Most such customers will not listen to you but even if a couple agree to adding a follow-up review, these reviews will definitely make a positive and memorable impact on potential customers browsing through your reviews.

Enable Customers To Reach Out

Google also offers the ability for businesses to enable incoming customer messages on their GMB profile. The feature can be turned on through the app. Unfortunately, sending and receiving messages is only possible through the Google My Business mobile device application.

Once you have downloaded and logged in to the application, follow these steps to enable messaging:

Tap ‘Customers’>’Messages’>’Turn On’

Google will also allow you to set an automated response message for each customer that reaches out. This will help you be prompt and keep your response time short.

Keep in mind that Google records and displays your average response time to your customers. For this reason, I recommend only turning on this option when you can ensure instant replies to your prospects and customers.

Deliver COVID-19 Updates Through Your GMB Profile

To say that the pandemic has disrupted our lives and businesses would be a gross understatement. Even as things are starting to look better in some parts of the world, the aftereffects of global lockdowns and restrictions will be seen for many years to come. 

Foreseeing that, Google has introduced COVID-19 related attributes that business owners can utilise to provide updated information to their prospects. 

With these attributes, you can mark your physical store temporarily closed, tell users about the health and safety precautions your business has in place, and even manage safe delivery options.

Besides using these attributes, it is also important to ensure your current operating timings are updated on your GMB listing.

Conclusion

By now, it should be clear that optimizing your GMB profile boils down to one thing- providing users with accurate and updated information about your business. The better you do this, the more you will find your GMB profile becoming visible to potential customers. As that happens, all you need to do is provide them with a delightful experience and collect positive reviews.

Supporting your GMB profile with an optimized website can further offer you dual benefits. Not only would it lend more credibility and visibility to your GMB profile, having a website will also enable you to take up more real estate in the SERPs. Of course, you will need additional help in the form of tools like a website checker or a dedicated SEO resource.

I hope that this guide will enable you to improve the performance of your GMB profile. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comment section below. I promise to be prompt with my response.

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