Google My Business: Affordable SEO For Local Businesses

By Arielle Mullen, Senior Digital Strategist

Everyone is talking about it, right?  The truth is, Google My Business is one of the most efficient business growth tools around. And if you have a business and you aren’t using it then there’s one simple question. What are you waiting for? Here you’ll find a short overview and enough basic information to get you up and running on Google My Business, along with a few Pro Tips and extra bits along the way.

The Basics

What is Google My Business? 

Google Business is a free tool that businesses & organizations can use to manage their presence on Google properties, (Search, Maps, Ads, etc). In addition, GMB allows business owners to connect and interact with their customers, expand and showcase their profiles to get more customers and gain insights on search behaviors and its customers.

What can I do with it?

  • With a GMB business profile, you can control the information that appears when people search for your business. 
  • You can interact directly with customers by responding to reviews, answering questions, posting photos, and more. 
  • Get more control over your brand, so you can better connect with your customers where they are.

A few questions to consider:

  1. What does someone see when they search for my business online?
  2. How easy is it to find information about my products and services?
  3. Is information about my business readily available online?

Remember you can have an amazing brand and an amazing product, but if no one knows about it you won’t reach your business goals.

This is exactly why claiming, verifying, and optimizing your GMB listing is extremely important. 

Pro-Tip: Verify your GMB listing to help boost the level of earned trust with potential searchers. 

Why Google My Business?

  • GMB is a powerful tool that can drive revenue and offer important insights about your customers.
  • GMB Gives you valuable access and exposure to  Google Search and Google Maps. 
  •  Optimizing your GMB listing is one of the easiest ways to gain additional traffic & new customers.
  • 70-80% of all searches are taking place here on the First Page of Search results.
  • Signals sent from GMB, account for a large % of the ranking factors on first-page SEO results.
  • Many retailers haven’t claimed their GMB listing, so you can take advantage.  

Pro-Tip: Businesses in retail, hospitality, and tourism will generally see the biggest impact from their GMB listing. 

What’s Your GMB Business Type?

Selecting your business type for GMB is an important step. There are two ways to list your business on GBM using this type of listing. You must be one of the following business types: 

  • Service area business: Business that visits or delivers to customers directly, but doesn’t serve customers at their business address. (Ex: plumbers, cleaning services, etc.) Service area businesses can only create one profile for the metropolitan area that they serve. 
  • Hybrid businesses: A business that serves customers at their business address, but also directly visits or delivers to customers. If your business doesn’t have permanent onsite signage, it’s not eligible as a storefront & should be listed as a service-area business. (Ex: Dine-in restaurant that also delivers). Hybrid businesses can show their storefront address, set their hours for when they’re staffed at that address, and also designate a service area. 

Learn more about Service Area & Hybrid Businesses here. 

Ready to claim a listing? Let’s Go.

Claiming a Listing: Through Google My Business

  1. Sign into GMB here If you don’t have a Google account, you can create one instead. Use your business email with a dedicated domain. 
  2. Enter your business’s name
  3. Enter your business address (if you don’t have a physical location, you can list the area instead)
  4. Choose how your business will display on Google Maps. If you serve customers at your business address, enter that address. If you don’t, enter your business address, and at the bottom click “I deliver goods and services to my customers” then hit “Next.” On this next page, you’ll be able to select your service area. 
  5. Search for your business category. Remember less is more! 
  6. Enter your business phone number & URL, then click “Finish”
  7. Next, you’ll choose a method to verify your business. (We recommend reviewing your info carefully before requesting verification). If you’re ready to verify, from this screen you can find the red banner and click “Verify Now.” To complete this later, you can click “Verify Later.”

If someone else has previously claimed your GMB listing, you can request ownership of the Business Profile. Learn how to do that here. 

Claiming a Listing Through Google Maps

  1. Sign in to Google Maps (here)
  2. Search for your business name in the search bar
  3. Click your business name and choose the correct one
  4. Click “Claim this business” and then “Manage Now” 
  5. To choose a different business, click “I own or manage another business” 
  6. Select your verification method, and follow the instructions

Filling Out Your Listing

Business Description

Use this field to offer useful info about your products & services, as well as the mission and history of your business. 

Content in this field should NOT: 

  • Be misleading to users 
  • Display low-quality, irrelevant, or distracting content (Ex: misspelled words, gimmicky character use, gibberish, etc.)
  • Focus on special promotions, prices, and offer sales. Examples of content not allowed include “50% off” or “best bagels in town for $5!”
  • Display links – no links of any kind are allowed in this field
  • Display offensive or inappropriate content 
    • Harassing, bullying, or hateful content 
    • Content containing obscene, profane, or offensive language
    • Terrorist content
    • Sexually suggestive or explicit content 
  • Display unpermitted content (Ex: content related to the sale of dangerous/illegal products or services, etc.)

Name

Your name should reflect your business’ real-world name, as used on your storefront, website, etc. 

Address

Use precise addresses and/or service areas. PO boxes or mailboxes at remote locations are not acceptable. 

Website & Phone Number

Setting up your website and phone information is super important. New and returning customers have to be able to reach you in order for your business to grow. Use a local number when possible. Don’t provide numbers or URLs that redirect users anywhere  other than those of the actual business. The number must be under the direct control of the business. 

GMB Dashboard

Let’s take a tour…

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Posts: Your posts are the personality of your brand. Keep it relevant, share offers, updates, event info, etc. with your customers. 

Types of posts: 

  • COVID-19 Update: Let customers know about changes to your business due to the pandemic. 
  • Offer: Special offer, limited time discount, promotions,  etc. 
  • Update/What’s New: Company updates, general business info, etc. 
  • Event: Include upcoming event info here
  • Product: List your products within the listing (more on that below)

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Info: The Info tab is where you can add the details about your business. This includes your name, category, location (or service area), hours of operation, phone number, and more. 

Insights: Everyone knows the numbers are the real details. The insights is where you can see analytics that capture the performance of your GMB listing. Metrics here include: 

  • How customers are searching for your business
  • Queries that people entered to bring up your listing 
  • Phone calls: how many people are calling you directly from your listing
  • Customer actions: how many people are taking actions like clicking on your website, calling you, etc. 
  • Photo views: the number of times your business photos have been viewed, and how this number stacks up against other similarly-sized businesses

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Reviews: 

A Few Tips: Reviews are one of the most valuable sections and features of GMB that you should definitely monitor regularly.  Here’s why reviews are so important. 

  • Reviews are your one source of direct feedback with your customer and their idea of the service.
  •  Customer insights can identify potential areas of improvement, and highlight what’s working well. 
  • When people leave feedback here, be sure to comment beneath their reviews.
  •  Whether their review was positive or negative, it’s a good idea to thank them for taking the time to give their input. 
  • Keep in mind, the way you respond to reviews will be seen by countless other people, customers, and potential customers alike. 
  • Create a documented policy to help your team know how to respond to reviews, both good and bad. 

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Messages: In your GMB listing, you also have the ability to turn this functionality off or on. Be careful here though – unless you know for sure that you’ll be able to monitor the messages, it’s probably best to keep it shut off. (If you turn messaging on, you can choose to receive messages and respond either from your GMB listing, or using the Google Maps app on your mobile device). More info on Messaging can be found here

Photos: Upload your photos (and videos!) to help flesh out your GMB listing. You can include photos of your team, logo, the outside and/or inside of your business, and more. 

Products: Another valuable tab in GMB is the Products (and Services) section(s). Listing your products/services here is a great (free!) way to get additional visibility for your business offerings. 

We recommend syncing your product catalog automatically, which you can do through Merchant Center. To do this, you’ll first sync your product catalog to your Merchant Center, then link Merchant Center to your GMB listing. To link Merchant Center to a third-party platform to pull in your products automatically, follow the instructions here.

Once you’ve completed that step, you’ll need to link Merchant Center to GMB. Here’s how: 

  • Sign into your Merchant Center account 
  • Go to Settings > Linked Accounts
  • Click Link under the Your Google My Business Account section 
  • Merchant Center will automatically request & approve linking to the logged-in user’s GMB accounts 

You can manually link your GMB account with Merchant Center. To do this, you’ll need admin access to Merchant Center & GMB. Then follow these instructions: 

  • Sign into Merchant Center
  • Click the tools icon, then select Account Linking under Settings
  • Click the Google My Business tab 
  • Click Link a Google My Business Account
  • Enter your GMB account manager’s email 
  • Click Send Request (The manager will need to sign in & accept the request for the connection to be approved).

Website: With your GMB listing, you have the option to create a free mobile-optimized website to represent your business. Google will automatically use the info & photos from your listing to create a site that you can customize with themes, photos, and text. Your free site will automatically update whenever you change your business info or post new photos and will be optimized for display across any device. (This is a ‘nice to have’ not a ‘need to have’). 

Users: This is where you can add or remove people that need to work on your listing.

Best Practices for Maximizing Your Business with GMB

  1. Represent your business as it’s consistently represented & recognized in the real world across all branding.
  2. Make sure your information is accurate, comprehensive, and up to date, and consistent with what’s listed on your website, social channels, etc. This information will be indexed by Google Search and Maps, which creates a foundation for your local SEO (Having inconsistent info will flag your account and you could be negatively impacted on search)
  3. This information will be indexed by Google Search and Maps, which creates a foundation for your local SEO
  4. Check out the full list of business categories (3,000+) to find the best fit. Choose the fewest number of categories it takes to describe your overall core business. Choose up to 10 categories, but only 1 primary category, the most important to Google’s algorithm. (See all categories[here])
  5. There should only be one profile per business, as this can cause problems with how your info displays on Google Maps & Search

Depending on your category, you might have special features available. Examples: (Hotels can include class ratings and a list of amenities) Food & Bev businesses can add URLs for online orders, reservations, and their menu. Businesses with specific services like spas can add a booking button & update their menu of services