One of the best marketing tools you have as a local business looking to grow online is Google My Business (GMB) listing. A lot of potential customers search for products and services in their local area and it’s these GMB listings that they usually end up with as the results.
So if you want to get business from local customers in your area, it’s important that you create a GMB listing. However, you also need to work on ranking it, as that’s how you’re going to appear above your competitors and get the leads looking for your products and services.
Let us walk you through some highly actionable and effective steps to optimize your GMB listing and rank it higher on Google.
Creating a Listing
If you don’t already have Google Maps Business (GMB) listing, you will have to create one. Creating a GMP listing is actually simple and straightforward, but you will need to add all the relevant information while optimizing it properly.
However, if you have an existing GMB listing for your business, then it’s important to claim it instead of creating a new one. If you create a new listing despite there being an existing one for your business, it might lead to duplication issues.
Sometimes, Google can create a listing for your business even if you or anyone else on your behalf didn’t create one using the publicly available information. If that is the truth in your case, you should claim that listing.
We will explain how to proceed in either of these cases below.
- 1. Head to the Google My Business login page here and click on the Manage Now button
- 2. Enter your account credentials to log into your Google account
- 3. Put in your business name in the search bar, and see if your business comes up in the drop-down menu with the location next to it
- 4. If it does, you can claim it there
- 5. If there’s no existing listing for your business, you will then get an option to create one by clicking on “add a missing place”
- 6. It will take you to the next page where you need to put in your name, category and location
Something you may want to note here is that anyone can create a listing for a business. Similarly, Google itself can also create a listing for your business as explained above.
However, you don’t need to worry if there’s an existing listing for your business. You can easily claim it by verifying the location of your business. More on that below.
Verifying the Existence of Your Business
It’s important to verify your business listing so that Google can learn that you’re the rightful owner of your business, verify its existence, and let you access some other sections of your listing that will be helpful for optimizing it.
The most common and usually the only way of verifying your GMB listing is via postcard. Once you create or claim your business listing, you will see a notification at the top when you log in to your GMB account where they ask you to verify your business.
Click on it, make sure the address is correct, and request the postcard to be sent to you. Once you receive it, you will need to enter the code mentioned on it to verify your business.
The other options to verify are through phone and email, but only a rare number of businesses get those options. In that case, you would get the verification code either on your phone or email.
Adding Details to Your Listing
Your GMB listing must be as detailed as possible. So try to include as much information as you can.
But make sure it’s relevant to your business and not spammy. To add the details, head over to the “info” tab in your GMB account.
You can add the following details there.
- Category: Make sure you choose the right category, and also the secondary categories that are applicable
- Business address
- Service area (if applicable): If you have different service areas and your customers do not need to visit you, then you should label your business as a “service business” and avoid putting up an address for your business
- Phone number
- Your business hours: It’s important to regularly update this, as if your customers visit at a time when you’re closed then they may get disappointed and Google may put a “hours might differ” label on your listing
- Attributes: Things like COVID19 restrictions, wheelchair accessible and so on
Make sure there’s consistency in the most important details of your listing, which is basically your NAP (name, address and phone number). And by consistency, we mean using the exact same details.
So if your address includes “street,” then do not use “St” in other places on the internet. Use the exact same name, address and phone number.
Also, try to use a local phone number against a toll-free number. Google doesn’t seem to prefer a toll-free number only listing and wants you to use your real local phone number as well.
Finally, make sure your description includes your important keywords as well. Keywords are basically the terms that your potential customers would use to search for your products or services on Google.
So if you’re a plumber based in Sibenik, you would want to include a term like “plumber in Sibenik” in your description. But only include it where you can do it naturally, don’t stuff it into your description or make it look spammy.
Getting and Managing Reviews
If there’s one thing Google clearly says it considers an important ranking factor for GMB listings, it’s reviews. So you would want to get as many positive reviews as possible.
A good way to try and get reviews is to encourage your customers to leave one after the sale or contract is completed. You can create a short link in your GMB account that would allow your customers to leave a review easily.
The importance of reviews is also one of the reasons you must clearly mention your business hours, holidays and other special hours so that a customer doesn’t visit when you’re closed and ends up leaving a negative review.
While having positive reviews is great, you must also try to control the damage caused by negative reviews. While it’s not within your control to prevent your customers from leaving negative reviews, if you’re offering a good service and care for your customer experience your positive reviews are going to far outweigh the negative ones.
But even on the few negative reviews you do get, you must reply to them, explain any genuine reason for their negative experience, and promise to take it as feedback and work on it.
This will show that you truly care about your customers and help reduce the impact of those negative reviews on your listing. It will not only leave a good impression of your business in the eyes of your potential customers, but also Google as it will see your effort as a sign of better customer service and a more active approach to managing your GMB listing.
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Images – More Important Than You Think
Everybody loves images. Potential customers. Users. Google. And everyone else.
So make sure you use images generously on your listing. Putting up as many high-quality and attractive images on your listing is going to do your rankings a lot of good as well.
First, it would improve the CTR (Click-Through Rate) on your profile, which Google is believed to consider as a ranking factor too. Second, it would send a signal to Google that your listing is quite active and you’re worthy of higher rankings and more leads or customers.
Third, a listing with no images gets a generic Google Maps image which looks very unappealing, especially if some of your competitors have a good image on their listing.
You can also encourage your customers to post images, which may further boost the visibility of your profile.
Products and Services
As Google allows you to describe your products and services on your listing, it makes sense to do so. It would help customers gain more information about them right on your listing itself, helping improve conversion rate, spend less time talking to customers, and allow you to put CTAs (Call to Action) that your customers can use to purchase your products or services online.
It’s also a good idea to include some relevant keywords in your products and services section as well. It would improve the SEO optimization of your listing and make it more likely to rank higher.
However, do not take it as an allowance to spam them with keywords or try to put up as many products and services as you can even if they are not there. Google takes these violations very seriously and doing something like this may cause more harm than good.
Citations – Quality Over Quantity
Once you have fully optimized your GMB listing, it’s time to use external ranking factors. While you may not really need it if you’re in a low competition niche, citations are going to be important for any niches that have some level of competition.
However, focus on quality over quantity here. Some of the must-have citations include:
- Bing Maps
Depending on your niche though, there are going to be specific citations that you should get as well. But as mentioned above, make sure you keep the important information (NAP) exactly the same as in your GMB listing.
The best citations would be those that are also likely to send you referral traffic. If your listing on those citation sites is getting visibility, potential customers may also search for your brand name on Google, which is again a ranking factor not only for your GMB listing but for your website as well.
Directory links are another good option, but you will have to be selective here as many of them are spammed to death. Remember, the rule of thumb here is that the more niche-specific the better.
Website – Functional, Responsive and Fast
Simply putting a website URL in the website section of your GMB listing can set you apart from your competitors who have no website. In this age, Google considers a website as a must-have element of your online business.
So if you have a website to show on your listing while your competitors don’t, it may help you rank higher.
However, your website also needs to be well-optimized for both Google (and other search engines) and users as well. Factors like speed and functionality matter a lot, as if the users clicking through to your website from the listing are returning back to the listing in just a few seconds due to your website not loading fast enough or having a confusing design, Google may take it as a negative factor when deciding the rankings of your listing.
Moreover, most of the Google Maps searches and even 60% of all the general Google searches happen on mobile devices. So it’s crucial to optimize your website for mobile devices as well.
Backlinks – Powerful Ranking Factor
While backlinks are a major ranking factor for your website to rank higher for your targeted keywords on Google, they also influence the rankings of your GMB listing. In fact, a higher-ranking website automatically helps achieve a higher ranking for your GMB listing as well.
But again, remember that what we said about focusing on quality over quantity stands true for backlinks as well. The quality from one backlink to another can differ greatly.
You must first implement all the optimization practices we explained above, and only consider building backlinks if you have to. This is because building the right backlinks is not easy, and you will likely need to seek the help of a professional digital or SEO agency to do it the right way for you.
However, once a good number of relevant, high-quality backlinks are built to your website, then it’s not only your GMB listing that will rank higher but your website as well. And you will get a lot more leads and customers than what you would from just your GMB listing.