In the age of thriving e-commerce empires, is there a chance for local brick-and-mortar businesses to compete and survive?
Well, we definitely think so and so does Google!
Google introduced Google My Business in June 2014, and this allowed owners to input customizable information about their business online. As a business owner, you can optimize your Google My Business profile to boost online brand visibility and in-store sales. These are the benefits of Local SEO.
For Google My Business, you’re going to be available to customers through Google Maps and Google Search.
This article helps prepare you for all the fundamental aspects of your Google My Business knowledge panel, which will appear in google search.
Your business listing on Google will feature many things, and each aspect offers something valuable to traffic users. We want you to take advantage of every profile aspect as much as possible and convert as many traffic users as possible into happy customers!
It’s all right if you have never touched Google My Business before because we’re going to start from the very beginning!
GOOGLE MY BUSINESS OPTIMIZATION
Google my business may seem to be something entirely different and weird, but it shouldn’t be! It is an essential part of Local SEO, and we believe every business can benefit from Google My Business in one way or another.
For you to be successful with Google My Business, we have this one major rule.
OPTIMIZE FOR ABSOLUTE COMPLETENESS
Google My Business has been around for several years now, and there are tons of components to boost online engagement and generate leads.
Here is a checklist of things you should look out for.
As you can see, we are leaving no stone unturned. Every aspect that can be optimized we want you to tackle!
This may seem like a lot to handle however we’ve broken the checklists into 17 steps.
GOOGLE MY BUSINESS CHECKLIST
- Claim/Request Ownership
- Business Name
- Primary Business Category
- Business Location
- Phone Numbers and Tracking
- Business Hours
- Format URLs
- Define Business Attributes
- Business Description
- Basic Photos
- Local Competitor Audit
- Business Reviews
- Landing Page Title
- Upload Videos
- Messaging Options
- GMB Insights
We want you to slowly progress and get to understand every corner of Google My Business possible! Now let’s get started!
1. CLAIM/REQUEST OWNERSHIP + VERIFY GMB LISTING
Sometimes your business may already have a Google My Business profile and is being managed by someone. This requires you to request ownership of your business.
Go to google to find your business.
Depending on what kind of business you have, requesting access might require a different series of steps.
The point of this first initial step is to claim your business and get verified. After this is done, we can actually start optimizing and reap some benefits.
2. BUSINESS NAME
Now, why is this important? Such a simple step of the process but it deserves some proper instruction!
When you enter your business name on Google My Business, choose the name that appears on your brick-and-mortar office or actual business cards.
Do not add any extra city names, locations, or business-related keywords.
There will be people out there who claim to have gained short-term benefits from keyword stuffing their business name. However, we don’t want you to do that. Keyword stuffing your business name can be considered a black-hat strategy. We don’t want Google to penalize you for this!
In case there are any doubts on your end, here are Google’s guidelines on inputting your business name.
In a nutshell, keep your business name simple and recognizable for your customers! Find more info on business names here.
3. PRIMARY BUSINESS CATEGORY
Next up is choosing the right business category! You probably know everything about your business, so this should be easy. However, we want to give you some pointers along the way as well!
For your primary category choose the one that applies to your business most accurately.
We want you to choose a category that is specific to your niche. The more specific a category you choose, the less search competition you will have.
Make sure your category also describes your business, and NOT your services or amenities.
E.g., You have a daycare center for kids. In this center, you have a playground for kids to play in. You should not choose a playground as your category. Playground describes your amenities, NOT your business.
4. BUSINESS LOCATION
Another small detail that takes a short time but requires proper execution is your business location. When you fill in your physical address, be sure that it’s a place that customers can visit.
If your business has more than one location, enter the address of your flagship store or main office. After that, you’ll be prompted with this question. Based on how your business operates, choose accordingly!
If you serve customers in more than one location, start inputting them here!
Enter the cities or regions where your other physical locations are at. Keep in mind that these must be actual locations that are part of your business!
5. PHONE NUMBERS AND TRACKING
When it comes to Google My Business, you want to gain as much insight as you can! Even with phone numbers! Lucky for you, you can input call tracking numbers into your Google My Business listing! This will give you way more insights about consumers calling you than Google My Business currently can.
How do you add your call tracking number? This is simple. Add it in the primary phone number field!
Afterward add your actual, local phone number in the additional phone field. We won’t go into which call tracking number services you should get. But you can find out more here!
6. ENTER BUSINESS HOURS INFO
Business Hours is the next piece of valuable information after you put in your phone number. Think about it, do you want potential consumers to contact you when your store is closed?
What’s worse than that? A scathing review complaining that you input incorrect business hours! Nothing’s worse than losing a customer who wanted to reach you but couldn’t!
In the info section of your GMB account, go to the business hours section and fill in the appropriate times. Afterward, we want you to add in special hours as well.
Ask your company’s HR manager what the holiday hours will be. They might not have your entire year’s operations all planned out but fill this section up as best as you can.
7. FORMAT URLS
If customers don’t want to call your store just yet. We give them more options. And that’s your website URL! Before you move onto this step, we suggest you consider fixing your on-site SEO to tip-top shape!
With website URLs we want people clicking on them. But besides that, we also want insights. How can we get that from our website URL?
Let’s set up the website URL with some tracking parameters!
We currently have a basic URL here. What we want is to set it up for Google Analytics Tracking. Sounds too technical? No worries because google has made it easy for us to do this.
What we want is to set up a custom URL. To do that, we’re going to Google’s campaign URL builder.
For Kadima, we’re going to input kadimadigital.com. Besides the website URL, follow our lead with how we input each field!
As you see here, we’ve named our campaign source Google. We want to recognize this link as to where we’re collecting our data.
For the campaign medium, we’ve chosen a custom value of “local”, so we know that its people finding our GMB through local search.
The campaign name will be titled GMB. This is so we can identify the campaign later when using google analytics.
Pretty simple right? Now go generate that custom URL and plug it in as your GMB website URL.
After this is done, you’ll have to wait a couple of days before this tracking url is approved!
But what happens once this tracking URL is approved? Where can you find the data from this URL?
Well, first of all, you need to have access to a Google Analytics account. Make sure your website is connected with a google analytics account. Log into that account and navigate to Acquisitions >Campaigns >All Campaigns.
At the bottom of this page, you can see that Google Analytics is registering our campaign name, source, and medium.
Remember that medium and campaigns names are custom values. You can name them whatever you want!
Congrats you’re now a pro at adding UTM tracking URLs to your GMB listing! Before you move on though, do the same thing for your appointment URL field.
Give your appointment URL a different campaign name than your website URL. This way you can separate the traffic data in your Google Analytics campaign report!
8. DEFINE BUSINESS ATTRIBUTES
When people find your business through local search, you want them to understand what you do as best as you can!
One of the ways you can make this happen is with objective attributes.
Objective attributes can be added by owners and are existing characteristics of the business.
Some examples include:
- Beach Wheelchairs
- Mobility Scooter Rental
- Passenger Loading Area
- Wheelchair Accessible
- Bicycles for Rent
- Boats for Rent
- Game Room
- Gift Wrapping
- Golf Course
- Good for Kids/Welcomes Children
- Hot Tub
Depending on your business category, there will be different attribute options available. Choose the attributes that describe every aspect of your business as accurately as possible. Do not spam!
9. BUSINESS DESCRIPTION
If online traffic users are still curious about your business, they might move on to read your business description. This is the section where you can add more details!
A couple of things to keep in mind first though.
- Business Descriptions do not appear in google maps results
- There is a 750 Character limit
- Only the first 244 characters will be shown
For your business description, we recommend:
- Writing short and concise paragraphs
- Describing the main services of your business and why its unique compared to your competitors
- No keyword stuffing
- Imagining potential customers reading about you for the first time for context
- Keeping sales, promotions, and discounts out of the description
- No linking or URLs in this section
After putting in your description, it should appear something like the above screenshot!
10. BASIC PHOTOS
Every great profile needs a great photo. Whether or not you’re promoting your social media, LinkedIn resume, or another online profile, the same goes for GMB!
Your profile deserves a great photo and one that captures the attention of online users.
If you already have great photos of your office interior, we recommend adding those immediately!
But hang on before you do that, what makes a great photo on GMB? Here are some great guidelines for you to follow.
- Keep images in JPG/PNG format
- Files should be 720 x 720 pixels at least.
- Photos must not be larger than 10Mb
- Try not to use stock photos
- No promotional or text-based photos
- Invest time and money for high-resolution photos if you can
Every great successful online platform requires some proper foundation before reaching its full potential. The same goes for your GMB profile!
Now that you have many of the basic fields all filled out, you can explore more beneficial aspects of GMB!
11. LOCAL COMPETITOR AUDIT
One of the great things you should explore is what your competitors are doing. Just like handling off-page SEO, to fully optimize your website, you need to learn what your competitors are doing.
Your GMB profile will also have competitors, and this means you need to compare your profile to theirs. How do you find local competitors? Well, there are two areas in which you’ll be competing, and these are:
- Google Maps
- Google Search
Here we have typical examples of a google search and google maps results, respectively. To build your initial list of local competitors, we recommend a basic Google search of researched keywords.
Let’s say you own a French-style bakery in New York city, and you want to find out who are your competitors. Here is your list of researched keywords.
- Bakery in Manhattan
- French Bakery in New York City
- French Bakery in Manhattan
- French Bakery in Upper West Side
- Bakery in Upper West Side
Here are the results for the first keyword. We recommend compiling all your results and findings on a spreadsheet. In order to keep track of as many relevant details as possible for local search. Here are certain factors you can take note of.
- GMB Profile Title
- Website Landing Page URL
- Primary and Secondary Business Categories
- GMB Profile Star Rating
- GMB Review Count
- Opening Hours
- Total Photo Uploads
By keeping track of these details, you will know what your competitors are doing on their profiles, and get a sense of why the top competitors are doing so well.
12. BUSINESS REVIEWS
After you’ve done your initial competitor audit, you’ll realize that many of your top competitors might have more reviews than lower-ranking competitors.
We’re not asking you to spam reviews here, but we do believe in building a good review profile!
Reviews not only tell Google what customers feel about your business, they also inform people engaging with your Google My Business profile.
As you can see from the above list of reviews, customer input can be extremely positive and informative about your business experience.
Whenever a customer or client has had a good experience, ask them to leave a review describing your service and why it was a positive experience for them!
However, what happens if a customer leaves a bad review?
As your business gets more customers engaging with your GMB profile, there will no doubt be some unhappy customers!
Here’s what we recommend.
- Reply to their review and thank them for leaving one.
- Address their concern or issue.
- Offer them a service promotion or discount for their next purchase or visit.
We believe this approach is much more client-friendly, and it shows other online visitors that you do care about your customers!
13. LANDING PAGE TITLE
Handling customers and managing expectations can seem like a time-consuming task and it totally is! Lucky for you, this next task is simpler.
We want you to optimize your GMB landing page title. You might be asking, what is this GMB landing page?
This landing page is the link you entered as your website URL!
For this landing page title, we want you to include a service-based and location-based keyword.
Since your French bakery is located on the upper west side, we recommend having the keyword French Bakery and Upper West Side included in your title.
In order to provide a good customer experience, this landing page’s content should also feature and describe your upper west side French bakery.
We want your optimized title to accurately reflect the content of the page!
14. UPLOAD VIDEOS
By now you would have included a collection of high-quality photos for your GMB profile. However, what about having videos for your GMB profile?
Videos are an option offered by GMB, and give your online visitors an experience of what your business is like in real life!
Here are the guidelines for a great video.
- Duration: Up to 30 seconds long
- File size: Up to 100 MB
- Resolution: 720p or higher
Click here for more information on videos and photos. As for video ideas you’re probably wondering what works best, right?
No worries, we’ve prepared some great ideas to get you started.
Here are some video ideas of how you can highlight your business!
1. Tour your brick-and-mortar location
2. Employees serving customers or introducing themselves
3. Owner explaining the business vision and background story
Now your customers have watched your videos and read your reviews and they have decided they love your business! What else could they want next? We got just the right thing for you to do!
Two words to get used to. GMB Posts.
Google My Business Posts allows you to feature direct information to an online visitor with the option of a CTA button.
In short, this is a great opportunity to direct them to learn more about you, or even make a purchase!
GMB allows you to make different types of posts:
- What’s New
Each of these types of posts allows you to add an image or video, and an appropriate CTA button.
Always remember that photos that you upload might need to be cropped. To make things easy, keep photo dimensions small.
For videos, keep them under 30 seconds and maximum file size of 100Mb. Also, in order to keep the video high quality, go for a 720p resolution!
16. FAQ (ON HOLD DUE TO COVID-19)
New potential customers always hesitate when researching a new business. Besides showing them the features and benefits of your business, how else can you address their thoughts?
FAQs of course!
FAQs have existed for a long time and for a good purpose. They directly address key questions and concerns about your service and operations.
This is the Q&A section in your Google My Business knowledge panel. As you can see, there is an ask a question button for public use. What does this mean?
Anybody can post/edit questions and answers.
Because of this, you may get weird and irrelevant questions or answers! But no worries, there is a way for you to tackle this.
In the settings of your Google My Business menu dashboard, you can find an option to be alerted of changes made to your Q&A section.
Through this setting, you can stay updated on any changes made to your questions and answers.
In the case that someone posts inappropriate answers or questions, what should you do?
Well, luckily for you, Google has policies that remove irrelevant or spammy Q&As.
Any posted content that doesn’t give an honest look at what your business does will most likely be taken down.
However, if there is still content in the Q&A that you don’t like, you can also directly report content to google.
Don’t think the question is relevant to your business? Report it!
As good as it is to remove bad questions, we also have to talk about responding to them!
There are many questions that when answered could lead to you creating a returning customer.
Instead of just letting local guides do the answering for you, provide the best answer you can give to the customer. Local guides are unreliable!
Once you get the hang of this, it should be pretty easy. Providing answers should be part of how you provide better customer service.
But what about asking your own questions? Is it possible to input your own questions and answers?
Here are our guidelines for constructing your own questions.
- Make sure the question inquires something informative about your service/products.
- Do not post short non-informative answers.
- Use simple and understandable language.
FAQs may seem like a lot to manage at first, but once you understand that it’s about providing a clearer picture of what your business does, you’ll learn to enjoy it!
17. MESSAGING OPTION
Once you’ve mastered handling Q&A. What about responding to your customers in real-time?
Google wants business owners to be in touch with customers directly, and that’s why they created a messaging option!
Download the Google My Business app on an iPad/iPhone or Android device.
You’ll find that this app is pretty easy to use! Just log into the app with the right Gmail account, and you’ll have access to all the same features you find on the web application.
You can head to the messaging section’s settings, and turn on messaging
Now customers can directly reach out to you through their mobile or desktop browsers. Give them a tailored welcome message to encourage them to ask more!