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How to Optimize Google My Business and Improve Local SEO

With more than 70,000 searches conducted every second, visibility on Google is a no-brainer for any business today. As such, a well-thought-out digital marketing strategy likely includes a mix of optimizing your website and Google Ads for keywords. However, an often-forgotten element to getting more visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) and driving traffic to your site is optimizing your Google business listing.

Simply put, Google My Business (GMB) allows business owners to gain better control of how their company looks and performs within Google’s search engine. However, there’s a lot that goes into the process and those tasks are easier said than done. Users need to set up and verify the listing, choose the correct business category, craft the perfect business description, and determine what attributes to add – all while abiding by Google’s guidelines.

In this post, we’ll give you an overview of Google My Business and discuss the importance of an optimized listing, cover several important GMB features, showcase how to best utilize them to improve your business listing, and provide additional Google Support resources to ensure that you comply with their guidelines. We’ll also discuss the relationship between local SEO and Google My Business and answer one of our most frequently asked questions: "does Google My Business affect SEO?"

What is Google My Business?

Google My Business, also referred to as a Google Business Profile, is a tool for organizations to manage their online presence across Google Search and Maps. It provides a quick snapshot of your business’ operating information, services, reviews, posts, and other important details. Customers can quickly find, learn about, and engage with your company without ever having to leave the search engine.

The best part? It’s completely free! All you have to do is create (or claim) your GMB listing and start filling out your Business Profile to get started.

Why is Google My Business Important?

Do you want more people to notice your business online? If so, Google My Business can help. There are several ways that an optimized GMB profile can benefit your business, including the following.

Engage with users and keep customers informed

Your company’s Google My Business listing is often the first thing that users see when they search for a business. It serves as a representation of your brand, which can impact how people view your company based on the information and assets featured on the listing.

Having up-to-date information and taking advantage of all available features (uploading photos, products, services, Google posts, etc.) provides a good user experience and helps businesses keep their customers informed. Many users utilized GMB daily to check for business updates, look up the hours of operation, and message companies directly during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s expected that most will continue to do so moving forward.

Boost your local ranking

For years, many experts have speculated on whether Google My Business has an impact on SEO, and if so, to what degree? Well, we’ll start off by answering that first question: your Google Business Profile does factor into your overall SEO performance, as was confirmed by Google. They explained how GMB helps SEO, stating that “to improve your business’s local ranking, use Google Business Profile to claim and update your business information.”

But to what extent can Google My Business improve local rankings on search? Well, it all starts with these three key factors that Google primarily uses to determine local search results:

  • Relevance – Refers to how well the information of a local Business Profile matches a user’s search query.
  • Distance – Considers how far each search result is from the location term used in a search query. If a location isn’t specified, Google will calculate the distance based on what it knows about the user’s location.
  • Prominence – Defines how well-known the business is. This factor is also based on the information that Google has about a business (backlinks, reviews, articles, etc.).

Making optimizations to improve Google My Business should be a vital component of your local SEO strategy. Even though factors such as proximity and location are out of your control, there is a lot you can do to increase the relevance and prominence of your listing, which will help influence search results.

The rise of zero-click search

There’s been a drastic change in user behavior within search engines over the last few years, which has impacted SEO and digital marketing as a whole. The majority of searches on Google now result in a zero-click search, meaning that actions and conversions are taking place within the search results page instead of users clicking through to a website. 2019 marked the first time that over 50% of Google searches resulted in zero-click searches, which rose to nearly 65% the following year!

Zero-Click Search Data 2020

Source: SparkToro

SERP enhancements such as featured snippets and knowledge graph cards, as well as Google My Business, have played a big role in this increase. The ability to quickly provide information to users is critical, which is why GMB can be so beneficial for your business. Taking advantage of features like the product editor or the custom services can be the reason why someone decides to call your business or look up directions to your storefront.

12 Best Practices for Optimizing Google My Business

As the digital landscape continues to change, it’s more important than ever to have an optimized, up-to-date Google My Business listing. Whether you operate locally or on a much bigger scale, your business profile is essential for meeting the needs of your existing customers and expanding your online presence to attract new ones. Simply creating a Business Profile or claiming an existing listing isn’t enough if you want to improve your organic presence and drive quality leads. Here are a few optimizations and GMB best practices that will help improve engagement and boost your local ranking.

Enter complete, accurate data on your business profile

First and foremost, you’ll want to provide all basic business information such as company name, address, phone number, website, and business hours. Having a completed business profile not only helps Google improve your ranking in local search results, but also increases the number of actions customers can take when they come across your profile. As you complete each section, make sure that the information is consistent with what is on your website, social media profiles, and any other listings. That may sound like common sense, but even small discrepancies like using “Street” on your website address and “St” on your listing address can raise a red flag to Google. Having consistent NAP (Name, Address, Phone) information is one of the most significant ranking factors in local SEO.

Common mistake: people will sometimes try to "keyword stuff" their business name on GMB by adding in localized terms (Example Company Inc. Cleveland) or additional keywords (Example Company Inc. Burgers & Beer) thinking this will help influence rankings. Remember that your business name should appear exactly as it does in the real world (Example Company Inc.), otherwise you may be penalized by Google.

Create an informative business description

The business description is one of the most important parts of your listing as it gives context to users about the nature of your business and provides additional SEO value for your company. An effective GMB business description includes key search terms and relevant information about the business (products and services offered, company history, what sets the business apart, or anything else that’s helpful for customers to know) and abides by Google’s guidelines.

Upload relevant and appealing photos of your business

Google highly encourages the use of photos on business listings. Having a wide range of photos that showcase different aspects of the company will help differentiate the business on Google and increase the likelihood of a conversion taking place. Regularly uploading images to your Business Profile indicates to Google that you are active with your account and that the listing is up to date, which can further improve your ranking. It also serves as another way for your audience to find you in search, as Google continues to include more photos in local results.

Google Support recommends adding at least three great photos to showcase your business. Below are the different types of business-specific images that Google recommends including on your GMB listing:

  • Exterior photos
  • Interior photos
  • Product photos
  • Photos at work
  • Food and drink photos
  • Common areas
  • Rooms
  • Team photos

Add your business logo

Uploading your business logo and adding it to your listing provides additional brand awareness that helps customers recognize your business on Google. For businesses that have their basic information, such as phone number and hours, the Business Profile highlights the logo.

Add a cover photo

Business Profiles can include a cover photo that is displayed at the top of the listing in search results and Google Maps. The cover photo should be an image that best represents the business as it is one of the most visible aspects of the listing. You can use an exterior shot of the property (most common), an interior shot of the business (good way to showcase atmosphere for restaurants and bars), your signature product, or anything else that will catch the eye of potential customers.

Reference this support article from Google for additional information on GMB images.

Example of a cover photo on a Google my Business listing.

The Google office in Chicago uses a picture of their main entrance as their GMB cover photo.

Choose business categories that best reflect your business

Google offers more than 3,000 categories that businesses can use to describe themselves, ranging from “accounting firm” to “website designer.” These categories help customers find accurate, specific results for the services they seek. A business profile can be assigned one primary category (which is displayed on the listing) and multiple subcategories (which aren’t displayed but help provide context to Google about the nature of the business). The primary GMB category is considered by many local SEO experts to be the number one local pack ranking factor, so selecting a category that describes the business holistically is very important.

Make sure that you’re as specific as possible when choosing your main category (for example, choose “Nail Salon” instead of “Salon”) and that you utilize subcategories so that all your different departments and services are represented. For example, a grocery store might choose “Grocery Store” as their primary category and include “Pharmacy” and “Deli” as additional categories.

Reference this support article from Google for additional information on GMB categories.

Add additional attributes to your business profile

Based on the categories you assign to your Business Profile, additional features and attributes can become available. For example, a medical center can include a link to schedule an appointment right from their listing. You can also select certain attributes to further describe your company and business offerings and help your Business Profile rank. For example, a restaurant might include “takeout” or “wheelchair accessible seating” as attributes to increase the chance that your business will show up for more specific searches.

Local business links on a Google My Business listing.

The local business links on this Business Profile for a medical center allows users to book an appointment, receive online care, and get more information on COVID-19.

Add business services

Having services on your Business Profile is another way you can help your profile rank for even more relevant searches. Google will provide suggested services based on the business categories you selected (for example, plumbers may get “Install faucet” or “Repair toilet” as services that can be added). If a service your business offers isn’t listed by Google, you can add in custom services that include a description and a price.

Reference this support article from Google for additional information on GMB services.

Add business products

The product editor feature of GMB is a great tool for furthering the online presence of your business by showcasing your products and driving customer interactions. Products featured on a business profile are broken out into categories and can include a lot of pertinent information for potential customers, including the product name, photo, description, and price. You can also include a CTA button that takes users directly to the product page.

Reference this support article from Google for additional information on GMB products.

Publish Google posts on your business profile

The posts feature of Google My Business is a great tool for businesses to showcase their brand personality and connect with existing and potential customers. Google Posts are similar to social media updates and can be used to share business announcements and upcoming event details, promote content and special offers, spotlight new or popular items in stock, and complete other useful tasks. While you can’t necessarily optimize for keywords by posting to your Business Profile, regularly posting updates can send those same positive ranking signals to Google in the same way uploading photos does.

In addition, Google Posts can also serve as another touchpoint for users who are actively searching for your services or would like to know more about your company. This is a key benefit because, unlike social media where your audience is more likely to be scrolling leisurely, there is a higher intent to engage and convert on search engines. Highly engaged customers can even follow your Business Profile and get notified of new posts and updates.

Google Posts on Aztek's Business Profile.

Google Posts on Aztek's Business Profile being used to promote digital marketing services and new blog content.

Respond to Google reviews

There has been a relative decline in crowd-sourced review apps as more and more customers are turning to Google My Business for ratings and feedback. This is a good news for local businesses, as Google has confirmed that more reviews and positive ratings on GMB listings can improve local SEO rankings. In fact, local search experts consider review signals (review quantity, review velocity, review diversity, etc.) to be one of the top local pack ranking factors.

It is very important to respond to Google reviews as it can help build trust – both with your customers and with Google – which can also improve your rankings. Google wants to recommend credible, trustworthy sites to users, which is why the search engine encourages businesses to “interact with customers by responding to reviews that they leave about your business. Responding to reviews shows that you value your customers and the feedback that they leave about your business.

Reference this blog post from Aztek for tips on managing customer reviews and how to respond to a bad review on Google.

Ask and answer questions

Similar to an FAQ page on your website, Google makes it easy for businesses to answer common questions that potential customers may have. As you complete your profile, ask and answer questions that contain keywords to help improve your Business Profile’s ranking for that keyword. Keep in mind, though, that anyone—not just your business—can ask and answer questions here. It’s important to stay on top of incoming queries to make sure that you can provide accurate and optimized answers for your audience.

Building Your Local SEO Strategy

Optimizing your Google Business Profile is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to local SEO. There are a lot of additional opportunities to boost your local rankings, drive qualified traffic, and gain an edge on your competition. The experts at Aztek can identify these opportunities and work with you to put together a comprehensive digital marketing strategy to improve your visibility in search. If you’re interested in learning more about our SEO services and how we can help your business, fill out the form below or give us a call today!