If you own a local business – especially one that’s trying to increase influence and exposure in your local market – you’re always looking for effective marketing strategies to put yourself in front of prospective customers who are most likely to use your products and services.
Unfortunately, many companies overlook one of the most potent tools to achieve this and other core business objectives: a Google My Business profile.
What is a Google My Business Profile?
A Google My Business profile is a Google tool that lets you directly influence the way local consumers connect with your business online and substantially improve your local SEO.
That’s important because about half of all consumers who conduct local searches (things like “restaurants near me”) visit a store that same day.
As HubSpot notes, a Google My Business profile will help you manage the way local consumers see you in Google Search and Maps, including things like your business name, location, and hours. It also helps you monitor and respond to customer reviews.
Simply stated, if you’re new to local SEO, your GMB listing is probably the best place to start.
Why Is GMB So Important For Your Local Business?
In the first place, if your business is primarily or exclusively local, you need to find effective strategies to advance your local SEO.
Why? Because most people find local businesses through local searches.
Second, Google My Business can substantially increase the power of your local SEO.
Consider, for example, these metrics from HubSpot:
- Almost half of all Google searches are seeking local business information
- Approximately 72% of consumers who do a local search will visit a local business within 5 miles of their homes
- More than 97% of consumers learn more about local businesses online than through any other source
- 88% of consumers who do online searches for local businesses on smartphones either call or visit that business with 24 hours of the search
- Google My Business accounts for about 25% of your local SEO search ranking—more than links or reviews on on-page SEO strategies
8 Best Practice Strategies To Optimize Your Google My Business Profile
Optimizing your Google My Business profile is one of the best ways to increase your influence and success in your local market. As Bright Local notes:
Simply put, every business needs a Google My Business listing. It offers a wealth of business information to Google and local consumers and offers a rich local search presence.
The details you provide in your Google My Business profile are used in a number of different ways by the search engine, from populating the highly visible knowledge panel which appears to the right of the search results and filling out the local pack to populating Google Maps, providing voice search results and assisting with Google app search results.
Equally important, optimizing your profile isn’t rocket science. There are several smart strategies you can leverage to make your Google My Business profile stronger and more influential, including the following 8:
1. Get the NAP on your Google My Business profile right:
NAP is short for the Name, Address, and Phone Number for your business, and getting it right is crucial to optimizing your profile.
That sounds simple, but remember that your business changes over time and has possibly had different addresses or numbers in the past.
You need to make sure that all your online business citations are consistent with the one you include as part of your GMB.
2. Claim your business short name:
If the name of your business is “John’s Auto Parts,” local customers might refer to it as simply “John’s.” Google calls that your “short name,” and you need to claim it for it to be exclusively yours.
One of the best ways is to include your location as part of your short name (as in “John’s Springfield”).
Including your name is also useful if your local business has multiple locations (you could use “John’s Springfield” for one location and “John’s Worcester” for another, for example).
Another great feature of the short name is that Google adds ‘/review’ to the end – creating a direct link to your GMB review profile.
This simplifies the process when asking customers for reviews.
No more frustrated customers searching for how and where to leave you the reviews!
3. Write a compelling business description:
Google gives you 750 characters to describe your business, so you need to make them count. Don’t include promotional talk in your description (Google doesn’t allow that) but do tell people about your products and services and what’s unique about what you do.
It’s also a good idea to include something about your company’s mission and history.
4. Pick the right Google My Business category and subcategory:
This is an important component of local SEO, so you need to get it right.
For example, if you sell pizza, you might choose “pizza restaurant” as your category so that people looking for “pizza” or “pizza restaurants” can find your business in local searches.
The subcategory is also important, especially if your business does more than one thing. For example, you might have a supermarket that includes a pharmacy, in which case “supermarket” would be your category and “pharmacy” would be your subcategory.
Selecting the correct category and subcategories can often be the deciding factor in you outranking the competition.
5. Use photos to your advantage:
Google gives you lots of options for the photos included in your profile.
You can use both interior and exterior shots of your business, as well as 360-degree views. The photos you choose are important because 60% of local shoppers say local search results with strong images capture their attention.
According to Google, businesses with photos receive 42% more requests for driving directions to their location from users on Google, and 35% more clicks through to their websites than businesses that don’t have photos.
Best practice is at least 3 images each of your exterior, your interior, your team, and the products you sell.
In fact, new research shows a very strong link between Google My Business photo quantity and search performance. To wit: The research found that businesses with more than 100 images on GMB get 520% more calls, 2717% more direction requests, and 1,065% more website clicks than the average business!
6. Monitor and respond to reviews:
The reviews that prospective customers see are important.
On average, consumers read at least 10 reviews before they trust a business – and they trust these reviews more than word of mouth from friends and family!
So, it’s not enough to wait for customers to write reviews. You need to be proactive with a consistent process to request them.
You also need to monitor and respond to those reviews – for example, a policy of simply thanking customers who leave positive reviews.
7. Publish posts regularly:
Posts within your Google My Business profile are essentially mini-blogs which give consumers important information and updates about your business.
More importantly, by posting to your profile it does two things for your local SEO.
- It feeds the important keywords and phrases vital to your business directly to the AI of Google’s algorithm. Building the crucial association of your goods and services with your business.
- Regular posting drives up engagement. Google measures how much you as a business owner engage with your profile. The more you as a business engages with your profile, the more serious Google takes your business.
Good posts will increase your visibility and rankings in local searches—and they can be highly influential in a customer choosing your business over one of your competitors.
8. Optimize your Google My Business profile Q&A:
The Q&A feature of your profile can be enormously helpful to your business, but you need to make it work for you.
Google gives you the ability to create a storehouse of both questions and answers within your profile.
This is to ensure that the answers consumers get are the ones you want them to.
However, like many elements of your Google My Business Profile, regular people off the street can contribute and influence how your business is perceived online.
Use the customer data you have to make sure you include the right questions—and the best answers.
By seeding the important questions and responding to them yourself, you can actually have more control over the narrative and the perception of your business.
Previously, we’ve discussed and put together a 10-point Local SEO Checklist to get your business ranking at the top of local search results pages.
Optimizing your GMB profile is right at the top of that list.
These are just some of the ways you can optimize your Google My Business profile, and in the process, increase your exposure and influence in your local market.
Although the optimization process (as noted above) isn’t rocket science, it can be complicated and confusing, especially if this is your first go at it. Fortunately, there are experienced agencies who specialize in local search strategies and can help.
To learn more about the ways our local SEO and Listings Optimization services can help your business rise to the top of local searches to help your business grow, contact us today.