As a business owner, you likely recognize the importance of having an online presence. Your website and social media have the potential to drive traffic to your business, so they’re a priority.
But you might be missing out on a subset of customers because you’re not taking advantage of every advertising avenue possible.
After all, when someone searches for your business, what comes up?
If you’re not in the first few listings on Google—or any other search engine—you could be missing leads. Since Google is the top dog when it comes to online searches, focusing your energy there is a good use of digital marketing efforts.
One of the easiest local SEO strategies is to set up a Google My Business (GMB) listing. This guide will cover what you need to know. We’ll also cover how to set up a Google My Business listing for the best results possible.
What is a Google My Business Listing?
Say you want to find out what your local grocery store’s hours are. Gone are the days when you had to open a phone book or even dial a number to get an answer.
Thanks to Google My Business, you can search the grocery store’s name and see their hours, contact information, and even how busy it is right at this moment—all from the first results page on Google.
In short, local searches lead to business listings that are relevant to the user’s current location.
The Google My Business app showcases local businesses’ profiles, including online reviews. It also allows searchers to find your business location on Google Maps with just a click or two.
As the business owner, you can customize the information shown there and make updates later, too. But the best part?
If a GMB listing is not part of your toolkit already, it totally needs to be part of your small business SEO strategy.
Why Do I Need a Google My Business Listing?
If you have any experience with SEO, you know that ranking in the top few search results is essential. And a Google My Business listing lets you get more eyes on your business (and website) with far less effort than any other SEO strategy.
This local listing option helps customers find you—both in terms of brick and mortar business locations and online-only sites. Gaining traction in general search results can take an in-depth SEO strategy that involves a checklist of to-do items both on your website and in every blog post you create.
But with online business directories like Google My Business, you get free and convenient promotion from Google themselves.
And while there are other search engines out there, you get the most bang for your buck (or free account, whichever) with Google.
GMB listings are especially relevant for mobile searches, as people tend to search online for nearby restaurants, stores, and services while they’re away from home. You can potentially increase your customer base tenfold, just by setting up your GMB listing.
How Do I Create a Successful Google My Business Listing?
Creating a Google My Business Listing starts with entering your relevant business information.
But there’s more to achieving success than hitting “publish.” You want a listing that connects with a range of consumers and widens the audience for your service or product. Here’s how to do that.
Sign Up and Create a Factual, Detailed Profile
The first step is creating your business profile. To do that, you have to sign up with Google—including inputting your business address.
One quirk is that you have to wait to receive a physical postcard from Google. It’s how they verify that you’re a real business and that your location is authentic.
So, in about two weeks max, you’ll get a postcard with a pin number. This allows you to confirm your location and get your profile online.
Google will walk you through the process, but you’ll input information such as your:
- Business address
- Business phone number
- Regular hours
- Location photos
- Service category (there are tons to pick from, so choose wisely)
You’ll also add some other elements that allow for customization and some local SEO strategies.
Use Keywords and Local SEO Elements Where Possible
Once you get past the basic information on your listing, it’s time to get creative.
Google will ask you for information about your target audience and local area. You can also input details like your service offerings, menu, and the area you serve.
Use keywords that are relevant to your small business and potential customers. Make sure it reads naturally, though—overstuffing keywords is a surefire way to come across as spammy.
With your GMB listing keywords, you won’t be getting terribly creative. You also won’t have to continue reworking and researching keywords, like you would with blog posts.
At the same time, you do want to invest a bit of effort in determining how people are searching for the service you offer.
For example, a person might use different terms when running a voice search versus typing in a quick query. And it’s worth considering this aspect—Google says that 20 percent of all mobile Google searches are by voice these days.
Use Photos (and Keep Adding Them)
Google allows you to upload both photos and videos to your business listing. Add a few images now—and remember to come back and post more later.
Why should you add pics?
Because 60 percent of consumers were more likely to do business with companies that included images in their listings.
Plus, photos allow you to imprint your branding on potential customers. Add a profile photo plus a cover image that shows your company name or storefront for the best odds of being recognized.
Include keyword-rich captions, too, for better odds that Googlebot will get the right searchers to your listing. Optimizing your local listing may also help you rank in the Map Pack—those desirable top spots on the first page of results.
Monitor and Update Your Listing
Unfortunately, there’s no set-it-and-forget-it for local SEO. The same way you maintain your website and update your content, so you’ll need to do with your GMB listing.
GMB listings are actually a lot like social media.
They’re a way for consumers to interact with your brand—and for you to respond. Therefore, a crucial aspect of listing maintenance is to read the reviews (yes, even the negative ones) and respond to them proactively.
Keep in mind that even if you receive a nasty review from a customer, how you respond reflects more about your business than the content of the bad review.
In fact, attempts to resolve the negative review can boost your online reputation and even help your sales. So, stay calm and collected and offer a solution to the complaint—no matter how unjustified it might seem.
Overall, 67 percent of consumers rely on reviews to help them decide whether to do business with you. Make sure they find the information they need to make a decision—and not a reason to run for the hills.
Interacting with reviews also shows customers that your business is active and up-to-date—so check in frequently.
Don’t Forget NAP
NAP is a cute acronym for a very basic element of your GMB listing:
- Phone Number
This might seem simple, but when you’re working with local citations, all your information needs to be consistent and clear. That means ensuring that every time your brand pops up online, it’s got the right business name, physical location, and phone number attached to it.
The more NAP citations that are out there, the better your odds are at ranking on Google My Business.
Keep these current by updating any info that changes ASAP. Also, if your address has oddities in it, make sure they’re consistent on all platforms. That goes for things like spelling out “Drive” versus using the abbreviation “Dr” instead.
Another smart technique that helps with both search engine optimization and helping customers reach your door is by embedding a Google Map on your website. You can search for your business on Google Maps, click on “Share or embed map,” and plop that link onto your About Me or any other website page.
Ready to Get on Google My Business?
From posting all over social media to taking steps to optimize your website, you do a lot to help customers find you.
But without a Google My Business listing, you’re missing out on even more business.
By incorporating local keywords and up to date information in your GMB listing, you’re making it easier for folks (and search engines) to track you down. And as they begin knocking on your door, you can start ranking as one of the top local businesses in your niche.
Of course, it’s easier said than done—from optimizing your website to churning out new and engaging content, there’s a lot to do to master small business SEO.
Need a little help? Learn more about how Search Hermit can help you rock your online presence.