Have you ever considered how many of your Google searches involve looking for local information? If the words, ‘near me’ fit into your search question then you can be sure that the Google algorithms will need your location information in order to select for you the pages with the best answers.
From high-end restaurant dining, to unavoidable drain clearing, and just about anywhere in between, properly optimised local search has become as vital as any other element of your online presence. It’s a simple situation, if your business has been correctly added to Google Maps via a Google My Business listing, it will up its chances of being picked up by local search queries, if it hasn’t, it will be bypassed for your rival down the road.
So we’ve pulled together key industry information and future predictions to create this ultimate guide to your Google My Business page.
Why is ensuring a Google My Business listing so important?
The statistics for Google search queries are mind boggling, with a rising tally of around 3.5 billion searches a day, it is small wonder that the verb, ‘to google’ has become part of our daily parlance and even been added to prominent English dictionaries.
As a successful business owner, you undoubtedly have a good grasp of Google’s search capability and some ideas about SEO requirements but you could still be missing an important trick if you haven’t yet understood the importance of local search.
Not only are 75% of business searches looking for something in their local area but also a staggering 82% of local searches lead to a follow up via personal visits or phone calls.
The most important way to gain ground in local searches is to ensure that your business has a solid and effective Google My Business listing and the great news is, that with an optimised Google My Business listing, you can bring yourself into line in the search engine rankings with some of the big international players.
So, if you are asking questions like, ‘How do I add my business to Google?’ or ‘How do I add my business to Google Maps?’ You are definitely thinking along the right lines, but it is actions not thoughts that bring in the big business bonuses. Now is the time to organise and optimise your Google My Business listing and experience the sales benefits of slick and responsive local search.
Follow our step-by-step guide and find the answers to the following questions:
- What will listing my business with Google My Business do for me?
- How do I get my business onto Google Maps?
- How can I optimise my Google My Business listing?
- How do I use Google My Business Insights?
- What else do I need to do to improve my local SEO?
What will listing my business with Google My Business do for me?
Potential customers will use two main types of Google search to find local businesses and Google My Business offers advantages to both of these.
With a direct search, i.e. one in which your business name is used, you are likely to appear high in the listings even without a GMB listing. However, if you have set up and completed your GMB listing, your potential customers will have all the information they require immediately to their fingertips, because it will appear at the right hand side of the search results page.
This will have one of two super-beneficial results, the customer will either visit or contact your business immediately or click through to your website to gather more detail.
With a discovery search, i.e. one in which a potential customer is searching for ways in which to find a product or service but not a specific business, you will boost your chances of appearing in the rankings if you have an optimised Google My Business listing.
Search engines use a wide range of geolocation methods to gather search location information and it stands to reason that, the more information you can give about your business location, the more likely the Google algorithms will be to match you up with local searches.
How do I get my business onto Google Maps?
By adding your business to Google Maps, you add a number of key, and increasingly expected, levels of value to your prospective customers’ experiences. These include, satellite images, real-time traffic reports and information about public transport.
In the online world, information equates to customer service and the more of it that you can provide, the more likely you are to see search results come to fruition. You must be the owner of your business to add it to Google Maps and your business must be open and have a physical location.
In order to add your business to Google Maps you need to set up your business profile on Google. GMB allows you to manage the information that is presented in your search engine results and gives you access to Google Maps, Google Reviews and Google Local Search listings. In order to set this up, you will initially be asked:
- Your business address (plus other areas you serve)
- Your business category (from a broad, provided list)
- Your contact details (including website)
Once you have added this basic information, a verification postcard can be sent to your business address. It is important, at this stage, to enhance your Google My Business listing by completing your profile.
Neither the search engine algorithms nor potential customers will look favourably on an incomplete profile. Required profile information will include:
- Opening or office hours (with an option to add special hours)
- A brief business description
- Attributes (offered according to the type of business you have selected)
- Relevant images and videos (including your logo)
How can I optimise my Google My Business listing?
Congratulations, by setting up your Google My Business profile and adding your business to Google Maps, you have already increased your chances of search engine local success. However, the chances are that you are not the only web designer, café owner or dentist in your area, so there is still work to be done to make sure that your Google My Business listing appears above those of your rivals.
We have five tips on how to optimise your Google My Business listing.
- Ensure your Google My Business profile is complete
Your information is important both to Google and to your customers. The easier you can make it for your customers to find you, the more likely they are to choose you. However, there is another, really important reason you need to make sure your GMB profile is complete; anyone can suggest an edit to your own business listing and they might not be acting in the best interests of your company.
- Suggested edits include your address, opening hours and contact number and, whilst Google do review some edits for quality before publishing them, you won’t necessarily get notice that a change has been made. In their quest to gather information, Google actively encourages information giving via their ‘Know this place?’ type questions. This can work in your favour but it is also open to malicious use.
We recommend regular checks of your Google My Business listing to ensure that it continues to give prospective customers up to date and accurate information.
- Encourage Google Reviews
Not only do reviews add value for the customer and give you the opportunity to show off your great service, they also demonstrate high levels of customer engagement to the search engine algorithms and good average scores can push your page up the rankings.
We recommend great customer service, as this is the best way to increase your positive review count but there are additional ways to ensure a regular flow of good reviews, these include:
- Guiding customers to your Google Reviews by adding a shortened version of your Google Review URL to emails, social media posts and blog posts
- Asking for reviews with phrases like, ‘Share the good news’, ‘Let us know what you thought’ and ‘What did you think of our service?’
- Highlighting good review results on social media and on your website
- Considering using third party review sites to consolidate and automate reviews to a number of platforms
- Add Google My Business Posts
GMB Posts stay live for seven days, appear prominently in mobile searches and act like social media posts, allowing you to display relevant or attention grabbing information in your Google My Business listing.
They are a great way of updating your GMB profile, which will make you popular in search results, but they also allow you to push information about sales, publicise events, feature new products and send friendly messages, as well as adding calls to action.
Google My Business Posts stand out when they are linked to images and, if you want to get down with the kids, including emojis can help you to access emoji based searches. Try searching with a hotdog emoji and the words, ‘near me’ and you will see that it works.
We recommend a regular posting schedule, keeping vital information to the top of a post and some gentle experimentation with emojis.
- Make use of Google questions and answers
We all value genuine, local information and, once you have set up your Google My Business listing, you can provide this by encouraging customers to ask questions, and providing prompt answers. As well as starting a customer dialogue, questions are a great way of getting a precise idea of what it is your customers are looking for.
We recommend creating an FAQ list to ensure brand consistency and timetabling regular question and answer checks.
- Tap in to the thirst for visual information
With the rise of image search and the growing popularity of video, it is important to understand how to optimise for this in your Google My Business listing. The good news is that GMB offers several visual features from which you can select, including:
- A logo image
- A profile image
- A cover image
- Interior and exterior photos
- Team photos
- Product photos (especially for restaurants and cafes)
- Video uploads
- 360 º photo uploads
- Virtual tours
It is important to remember however, that your customers can also upload their own visual media. This can obviously be an asset if you have happy customers but you will have to request removal if anything inappropriate is added.
We recommend presenting an authentic picture of your business, making sure that your Google My Business cover photo size has a resolution of around 1024 x 1024 pixels, regularly updating images, naming images with keywords and keeping a careful eye on images uploaded by customers.
How do I use Google My Business Insights?
Once your Google My Business listing has been verified by Google, you will be able to use GMB Insights to investigate how customers found your business (i.e. via direct or discovery searches) and what actions they took after finding it. This is an obviously powerful set of tools that can be accessed via desktop or mobile and there are two ways to use them.
If you only have a single or very few GMB listings, you can check individual insights or, if you have multiple listings, you can export insights data to a spreadsheet and compare results. There are several types of action measured by Google Insights:
- Website visits
- Phone calls
- Messaging or chatting
- Directions requests (Google Maps)
We recommend using direction request insights to develop your regional targeting, using phone and messaging actions insights to time adverts and social posts, and using keyword data to inform your advert and post creation.
What else do I need to do improve my local SEO?
Search engine optimisation is a complicated and ever-changing process that takes in mobile optimisation, content curation, targeted keyword technology, page speed and expertise. For the winners in the SEO race, the prizes are clear, top-level search engine rankings mean top level and convertible customer contacts.
Search engines work hard to ensure high quality user experiences and understand what makes users happy. By establishing solid SEO practices at all levels you will hit the double whammy of happy customers and high page rankings.
At Flycast Media our SEO professionals offer a free local SEO audit to help you make sure that, when it comes to locality, your business is going to be up there with the best of them.