Have you ever flipped through the yellow pages of your local phone book? If so, you might remember the ads. Usually printed in black and perhaps accompanied by a grainy photo, their goal was to communicate essential business information to nearby potential customers.
Google My Business listings are the more modern (and free) versions of those ads. When users use Google to search for a certain business or type of business, they’re presented with a Google My Business listing highlighting all the most important aspects of relevant nearby options. If you know how to optimize Google My Business, you can get your listing in front of users’ eyes, no five-pound phone book required.
Why Learn How to Optimize Google My Business?
Want to generate higher site traffic? Earn customers’ trust? Drive more purchases? If you answered “yes, yes and yes” (we sure hope you did), then a Google My Business account can help you achieve all three.
The purpose of Google My Business, also known as GMB, is to make it easier for users to find the businesses they’re seeking. When people search for a specific business or category of businesses, Google displays a handful of business listings at the top of its search engine results page (SERP):
From there, users can click on one of those listings to see the business’s full details, including its website, hours, phone number and more:
For users, this functionality makes finding the information they need a breeze. For you, GMB presents a prime opportunity to improve business performance across the board. In a 2019 study, marketing platform provider BrightLocal found:
- 84 percent of GMB listings are found through discovery searches (i.e., searches for a related category, product or service), while 16 percent are found through direct searches (searches for the business’s name);
- 49 percent of businesses receive more than 1,000 views on Google per month; and
- a typical business gets 59 actions from their GMB listing every month, more than half of which are website visits.
These statistics make it clear: When you learn how to optimize Google My Business, you directly enhance a business’s exposure, sales and customer engagement.
Complete and Verify Your Listing
If you leave your GMB listing incomplete, you’re missing the chance to attract a great number of customers. In 2019, Hootsuite confirmed Google’s statement that “customers are 70 percent more likely to visit businesses with a complete Google My Business listing.”
So make the most of your listing by ensuring it’s completely filled out, including the business’s:
- phone number;
- website URL; and
- service area, if applicable.
For certain types of businesses, Google makes it possible to provide even more niche information. For example: restaurants can add popular dishes and menu data; hotels can add a list of amenities; and businesses selling consumer products can create product listings.
Also be sure to verify the listing. Google reports verified businesses are twice as likely to be viewed as reputable by users.
Upload Plenty of Photos
Learning how to optimize Google My Business isn’t just about filling out the required information—it’s also about creating a stellar first impression with users.
One of the best ways to do so takes just a few minutes. Upload photos showcasing the business’s logo, products, services or area of expertise to help draw customers right off the bat.
Businesses with photos receive 42 percent more requests for directions, and 35 percent more click-throughs to their website than those without.
Listings like the one from Milk Bar make it easy to see why:
If you instantly started craving cookies upon seeing those photos, you’re not alone—and you also now have firsthand knowledge of the enormous impact some enticing images can make.
While GMB isn’t a social media platform, one core principle of social media marketing does apply: Responsiveness is key.
This is especially important for reviews, as BrightLocal found in another 2019 study:
- 82 percent of consumers read online reviews for local businesses at least occasionally, and 36 percent always do;
- among consumers who read reviews, an astounding 97 percent read businesses’s responses; and
- 71 percent of consumers say they’re more likely to use a business that’s responded to its reviews.
By responding to their reviews, you can show customers you hear and care about their experiences and earn their trust, as well as the trust of any potential customers who may be reading too:
Whether you’re responding to positive or negative reviews, specifically address each customer’s unique comments. Don’t copy and paste a generic response—the goal is to make customers feel valued, not expendable.
The only reviews not worth responding to are those that are clearly fake or otherwise inappropriate. Luckily, you can get such reviews removed entirely. First check Google’s policy on prohibited and restricted content to ensure the reviews in question meet its criteria, then flag them for removal.
Provide Regular Updates
Ever gone out to buy a cup of coffee you’re really looking forward to, only to arrive and find your java joint of choice is unexpectedly closed? Once you got done crying into your steering wheel, you had to drive around and find another coffee place before the lack of caffeine made you do something desperate, like settle for a muddy cup of instant coffee at home.
To ensure customers never have to suffer through that same type of denial, update the business’s GMB listing when the:
- contact information changes;
- hours are temporarily altered for holidays or events;
- hours are permanently altered;
- category shifts, e.g. from coffee shop to brunch spot;
- website is created or moved to a new URL; or
- physical location changes.
You’ll be showing existing and potential customers you value their time, are up to date on current events and stay on top of business operations.
Remove Incorrect Information
Since anyone can suggest edits to your GMB listing, it’s possible for people (or bots) outside your organization to add or alter information with the click of a single button:
While this feature can be helpful, such as when users correctly report a business as being permanently closed, it can also result in false information being posted. Whether in the form of a nonexistent website or incorrect hours, misinformation can negatively affect business.
Although Google will typically send a notification email if any edits have been made, regularly review your listing’s information to ensure it’s 100 percent accurate.
Add Owners and Managers
If your day-to-day tasks involve anything other than Google My Business optimization, you may find it difficult to stay on top of adding new photos, responding to reviews and updating information, and understandably so.
If that’s the case, you may find it helpful to take some of the burden off yourself by adding owners and managers. You can give other people role-appropriate control of the listing by appointing them as either owners, managers or site managers.
- Owners have access to all GMB functionalities. While each listing can only have one primary owner, additional owners can be added as needed.
- Managers have access to most of the same GMB functionalities as owners, save for adding or removing users, and removing business profiles.
- Site managers have the most limited privileges, and are unable to edit all aspects of the business’s information.
Familiarize yourself with each role’s capabilities, as well as detailed instructions for adding and removing owners and managers.
Once you’ve appointed other owners and managers, you can delegate tasks to ensure the listing is always maintained and accurate, even if you’re on a long vacation (lucky you!) or out sick (not-so-lucky you).
More Than Just a Listing—It’s Free Advertising
By mastering Google My Business optimization, you’re doing more than creating a listing in a directory. You’re effectively creating a dynamic ad. When users make the right query, they’ll be presented with a summary of everything a business has to offer.
From fantastic photos to useful business information, GMB offers a wealth of opportunities to capture the attention of prospective customers and cement the trust of existing ones—all for a grand total of zero dollars. Phone books never stood a chance.
Screenshots by author / July 2020