How To Optimize Your Google My Business Listing In 2021
Google My Business (GMB) has become the standard in local SEO for businesses in any industry and of any size. For any new business or start-up that I work with, my first recommendation is almost always to claim a business listing on Google My Business and fully optimize it for local search.
A properly optimized GMB listing can benefit your business by improving visibility in local search results, including the infamous, "3 Pack" at the top of organic search results. According to Bright Local's 2020 study on Local SEO ranking factors in Google, GMB Signals (user proximity to your business, keywords in business title, categories, reviews) account for 33% of local pack rankings!
When you consider just how many factors are considered to determine local rank, this is significant! Properly optimized business profiles also help with visibility in other Google products like Maps, Images, and Shopping.
The GMB Dashboard
A common question clients ask is, "how can I improve local SEO ranking for my GMB listing"? Google itself has stated that local ranking is determined by three factors - Relevance, Distance, and Prominence. So while you are completing your online listing, always keep your local audience in mind. Try to avoid technical terms or industry jargon that your ideal customer would never search for.
With that in mind, lets walkthrough the dashboard (shown below) and discuss best practices for each section.
Posts are a great way to keep your audience up to date on your business. At the top of the posts tab there are a number of options, including: COVID-19 Update, Add Offer, Add Update, Add Event, or Add Product. These different options allow your business to provide timely and relevant information to users that may be searching for products or services related to your business.
Be Precise. What do your customers need to know right now?
Be Personal. Provide some insight as to what your business values are.
A Value Proposition. What makes your product or service unique?
Provide Instructions For Customers. What is the offer and how do they claim it? Are there any restrictions or offer codes?
Be Timely. Ensure that any offer or update you post is current and relevant. Holiday promotions or seasonal offers would be a good example.
As you will see later in this post, the info section of your GMB profile is incredibly important. 3 important ranking factors are found in this section, so be sure to optimize all available fields in this section, and keep them consistent across all directories. Fields that you will be able to change/update include:
Service Area - If Applicable.
TIP: Google loves consistency. Even simple formatting errors can effect local search results. Review all directory listings and your website to ensure that NAP (name, address, phone number) is identical across the web.
Insights provide a basic look at some key metrics for your GMB profile. Information found here includes where users found your business (Google Search vs. Google Maps), actions users are taking related to your business (phone calls, messages, website visits), search queries used to find your business, and the percentage of those searches that were direct, discovery, or branded terms.
Use this information to identify your audience's communication and search preferences, and then provide the best experience possible. Whether that means investing in an automated messaging app, a faster/better website, or an answering service for phone calls.
TIP: Review and select relevant search queries found in your insights, and build valuable content around those keywords. For example, my GMB profile appeared for the search query "Digital Marketing Course". With this information in mind, maybe it would be beneficial for me to develop a digital marketing course, or build out a "marketing resources" page for my website.
I will go into reviews in more depth below, but reviews are very important for the local ranking of your business. Be sure to collect as many reviews as possible, and respond to those reviews as soon as they are submitted.
If you're looking for ways to gather more reviews from customers, consider:
Requesting a review by phone or email
Including a review link in your email signature
Adding a QR code (to your review link) on your business card or countertop signage
If you have a brick and mortar business, window decals or posters asking for reviews are also helpful.
Please note: it is against Google guidelines to compensate or incentivize your customers to leave reviews. Google reviews are social proof that your business has relevance and prominence in your local market, and integrity needs to be maintained.
Google has created a messaging app to allow businesses to stay in regular contact with customers. You will need to turn on the messaging app and download it from either the Google Play or Apple App Store. Not much to optimize here beyond following Google's messaging guidelines, which can be found here.
Media is important for your listing as it builds trust with potential customers, as well as showcasing your physical space and/or products. For your GMB profile, there are three photo types that you will need to upload right away - logo, cover photo, and additional photos. Ideally, any additional photos (or video) you add will include the interior and exterior of your business, and must adhere to the GMB content criteria and policies.
Here are the GMB Photo guidelines:
JPEG or PNG format
Size between 10 kb and 5 MB
Recommended resolution 720px by 720px
Photos must be properly exposed or well-lit, and in focus
Here are the GMB video guidelines:
Video duration can be up to 30 seconds long
File size must be no larger than 75 MB
Minimum resolution for video is 720P
Assuming you've turned on messaging for your GMB profile, potential customers can request an appointment by messaging your GMB listing. Upon receiving a message, it's important that you respond within 24 hours, or Google will turn off the messaging app. Obviously user experience is vital to Google, and if you're not going to use a select tool, they have no problem taking it away.
Products and Services
It may take some time to upload your products or services, but otherwise there is virtually no downside completing this part of your GMB profile. As you can see in the example below, Best Buy shows up for the search, "Buy iPhone Saskatoon". This is a very specific query with purchase intent - I am looking to purchase an iPhone. The benefit for the business (Best Buy) is that they are showing up for the "bottom of funnel" keyword, and the user is then able to view the product inventory.
As a local business it would be in your best interest to upload your products or services; but then also take the time to optimize each item. Be sure to include the product or service name, price, category, description, and a link to your website.
Google My Business Fields That Influence Local SEO Rankings
Maybe not a total surprise, but your business name was actually found to carry the most weight in terms of local ranking factors. This makes sense when we consider how much value Google places on your profile "Relevance". If you are considering a change to your business name, or adding relevant keywords to your business name, please note that this is against Google guidelines. If you are starting a new business though (and haven't named it yet), keep this in mind as it may provide an advantage over your competition.
The next most influential field to consider is categories. This one seems fairly straight-forward; however, Google has thousands of business categories to choose from, and they are constantly changing. Take some time to go through the category options and find the ones that you feel are most relevant to your client base.
You can select a maximum of ten categories for your listing, but only your primary category will be displayed on the GMB profile or on Google Maps.
TIP: If you want to see which categories your competitors are using, check out the video below. In less than a minute, you can see what your top competitors have chosen as the most relevant categories available.
The third field that impacts local ranking is your website. Going back to Google's local ranking factors, The website field appears to be a good indication of the local prominence (how well-known you are) of your business. In the real world, certain locations are more well-known than others, and Google wants to reflect that in local searches.
TIP: Google will evaluate your website's search position(s), backlinks, directory listings, content, number of reviews, and overall review score when determining where to place your business in local rankings. Be sure to invest some time optimizing your website to meet even basic SEO standards.
As I had just mentioned, the number of reviews and overall review score play a significant role in determining the placement of your GMB profile. In the same Bright Local report I mentioned earlier, reviews were cited as accounting for 16% of local search pack rankings. It is also worth noting that Google has publicly stated (see page 19 of the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines) that E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness) is an important ranking consideration.
Google (like most of us) values customer reviews, and strongly suggests responding to each review that your business receives. As you can see in the screenshot below, Google will even highlight keywords from a review that are relevant to a user's query!
To optimize your GMB profile, it's important to gather as many customer reviews as reasonably possible. Don't be afraid to send your customers an email or text with your review link. Add it to your email signature or website; and always respond to those reviews in a timely manner.
Thanks for checking out the DNB Digital Marketing Blog. Checkback regularly for new blog posts and content. If you're interested in a particular topic, please feel free to send me an email (Devon@DNBDigital.ca) with your subject and/or question.