Google My Business (GMB) is one of the fastest and easiest ways to take some control of the way information about your company appears on the internet. It’s a win for both you and Google when relevant information appears in the search rankings, and that’s particularly true when people are trying to find basic business information.
Here’s what you can do to optimize Google My Business listing information for your company.
Step 1: Set Up A Google Business Listing
The first step towards optimizing a Google My Business listing is setting up your account information. Start by going to the Google My Business page, making an account if necessary, and follow the prompts to fill in as much information about your company as possible.
You don’t need a physical business location to set up your listing for a Google My Business profile, although that does help. If you’re entirely digital, choose the “Service Area Business” option to define which areas you serve.
Step 2: Choose A Relevant Category
Once you have your basic information set up, it’s time to choose a category for your business. In general, the more specific you can get here, the better off you’re going to be. There may be plenty of food markets in an area, but chances are there aren’t as many ethnic stores.
Unfortunately, there’s only so much you can do to optimize yourself by selecting a business category. How competitive you’ll be with this depends in part on how many actual competitors you have in the area, so don’t worry too much about the details.
If the prompts don’t quite match the style of your business, try a few other search terms to narrow it down and select the phrase that best matches your company and its operations.
If your company sells multiple types of products, focus on whichever category brings in most of your revenue.
Step 3: Upload High-Resolution Images
Images are an essential part of a high-quality Google My Business listing. Search engines strongly prefer business listings that have good images, and customers are more likely to pay attention to you if you have them, so they’re a great way to help optimize your Google results.
If possible, you can try hiring a Google-approved photographer for the images. This is part of Google’s quality control process, and such photographers usually have the experience and tools to do things like creating complete virtual tours of your business.
If you aren’t the owner, be sure to talk to the business owners beforehand so you can remove any sensitive or private material before the photographer visits. Companies do occasionally expose information this way, and it’s better to avoid that when possible.
What Types Of Photos Should I Have?
The best Google My Business pages have several types of photos. These include:
- Logo Image: Logos should be square images, usually with a white background, to help customers quickly identify your company.
- Cover Photo: Cover photos are large images in a 16:9 ratio. These should show both your business and your brand’s personality.
- Other Photos: Other types of photos depend on your company. They may include pictures of the front or inside of your business, images of services or goods that you provide, menus, and anything else that can help people decide whether or not to visit.
All images should use either JPG or PNG formats, be less than 5MB in size, and be at least 720 x 720 pixels. Photos should be professional, not something taken from a simple smartphone camera, so don’t be afraid to hire an expert photographer for this if you need to.
Do not edit the pictures (besides cropping) or apply filters to them. All images should represent the reality of your business, not your ideal for it. People can tell when pictures look fake, and that’s more likely to drive them away from your business than draw them in.
Step 4: Cross-Reference Your Data
Once you’re done uploading pictures, take a few moments to verify that all of your data matches in other locations, including on your actual website.
Ideally, your information will be as exact as possible. Even small differences, such as using an abbreviation in one area but not another, can be seen as problems. Once you’ve determined the best way to list your data, start putting it up in as many relevant directories as possible.
This is part of how Google will analyze your company to determine its trustworthiness. A company that’s only listed in one place isn’t as trustworthy as a company that’s in two or three dozen directories.
Step 5: Use A Local Phone Number
With the ease of changing phone numbers these days, area codes don’t mean as much as they used to. However, search engines like Google still prefer companies that have a phone number local to the area they operate in. It’s not the end of your search engine optimization efforts if you don’t have this, but it certainly helps.
Even if you’re a wholly digital location, try to have a phone number that matches any physical address you give to Google. This phone number should be listed on your website with the same formatting.
Local phone numbers are particularly helpful for local SEO, where people are looking for stores close to their geographic location. You could have the best pizza in your entire state, but that doesn’t matter to someone who’s on the other side of the country and wants to eat as soon as possible.
Step 6: Make Sure To Avoid Penalties
Google can and does disable information on the knowledge graph for companies that violate its guidelines. Nothing sinks a profile faster than getting a penalty, although the good news is that you can usually reinstate yourself once you fix the problem.
Here are some of the most common penalties people get:
- Using A Redirect For Your Website: It’s nice to have a short URL that people can remember, but this is a major problem for a GMB listing. Always use your full, proper URL to ensure you can appear in local search results.
- Have Multiple Listings For One Business Location: If a location has multiple listings, Google will get suspicious about what you’re doing. You might need to contact the GMB support team if you took over the physical location of another company.
- Keyword Stuffing: Do not try to push keywords into the name of your business. Only use the actual, official name of your business.
- Using Bad Addresses: A bad address is anything that isn’t an office or a physical storefront where customers can visit.
Some people try to sneak around this system by adding extra listings, but this tends to backfire sooner instead of later.
Step 7: Get Reviews
Online reviews are one of the best ways to help verify information about your business. Positive reviews are particularly helpful when people do them in a way Google recognizes. The more you encourage them, the better off you’re going to be, and the more likely potential customers are to visit you.
You can also optimize your listing by responding to reviews, helping answer questions, and otherwise engaging with people. Social media isn’t as important as other sources, but reviews from there may filter into Google’s system, so try to get reviews on other sites as well.
Remember, do not falsify reviews in an attempt to optimize Google My Business listing information. Google’s algorithms are advanced enough to determine whether or not content was written by a particular person, and if it sees a lot of suspiciously similar-sounding reviews, it may disable the listing.
Instead, try contacting customers with instructions on how to make and post reviews that will help your business. Most people won’t bother, but even one or two percent actually responding and doing it can give you a lot of reviews over time.
This is a long-term optimization plan, so incorporate it into your overall business strategy instead of trying to do it all in one day.
Step 8: Optimize Your Website
Google likes websites that follow its principles and are easy for its bots to understand. Optimizing your website is too big of a subject to go into here, but usually includes:
- Adding relevant keywords to the metadata and content on each page, when it’s natural and appropriate
- Using schema markup
- Having a clear focus on local aspects for your business
- Getting links from other local companies
Websites that are designed for both customers and search engines are the ones that tend to rise to the top of local rankings. Fully optimizing a site takes time, so it’s a good way to be productive during quieter hours at your business.
Why Do I Need To Do Things Off Of My GMB Listing?
It would be nice if you could optimize the listing entirely from your control page for GMB, but that’s not the way the system works.
Google’s algorithms consider a wide variety of factors when determining how to prioritize search results. This includes everything from the number of clicks a website gets to how well it can verify the information you give it. If there are two equally-good GMB profiles, but one leads to a website that it rates much better, it’s easy to figure out who’s going to win.
This is one of the things that holds many companies back from the success they could be getting through Google. If you only visit your listing once, set it up, and then never do anything with it again, you’re not going to do as well as a company that continually optimizes itself for great performance in local searches.
Should I Hire A Manager For My Listing?
That’s optional. A professional, experienced manager can ensure your listing is as good as possible, and regularly check it to ensure all of the information is still correct. Experts also stay up-to-date with Google posts describing changes to the system.
This isn’t necessary for everyone, especially because setting up your profile is as easy as following the steps given above. However, if you own multiple businesses with special situations, such as all of them operating out of the same facility, you may want to hire an expert who can help you avoid penalties.
In short: This is useful, but more of a nice extra than something you have to do.
Does A GMB Listing Cost Anything?
No. You can set up an account and optimize Google My Business listing information entirely for free, or at least at no cost other than your time and whatever you have to pay in electricity while you do it.
Google’s primary goal with GMB is to offer people better, more accurate, and immediately-useful information. It’s ultimately more efficient to provide this service for free since users who are already on Google are more likely to use AdWords and other revenue-driving platforms.
Can I Use GMB Instead of a Website?
No. While it might seem tempting to create a GMB profile and show that to users, it’s not a replacement for a proper website. Instead, a GMB listing is a supplement for your existing website, acting as a type of sneak-peek for people to help them decide whether or not they want to visit your website.
Note that any information you provide for your GMB listing can appear in Google’s search results, including on the knowledge graph. It helps if this information matches what’s on your site.
What’s This Bit About Verification?
Google wants to be as certain as possible that all of its information is correct, which is why they will use one of several methods to verify your listing before it goes live.
The best way to do this is to verify by mail, which is when Google will send you a postcard with a verification code that you can enter. This is fundamentally more trustworthy than other methods because it shows that someone at a physical location is trying to update information about the same place.
Avoid the other verification options unless you have no choice. Google may consider the type of verification when deciding which businesses to prioritize listings for, so don’t go for the fast and easy route.
Verification usually takes a week or so to complete. While you’re waiting for the postcard to arrive, keep working to optimize your website, get listed in directories, and otherwise optimize your content.