Local SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is dominating the internet for businesses when it comes to ranking on Google. It may seem impossible to get your business to appear at the top of search engine results pages (SERP), but in reality, it just requires putting time and effort into your Google My Business listing.
Google My Business (GMB) is a free online tool that allows business owners to manage their online presence through a business management system on Google. While keeping this tool updated can be time-consuming, it lets Google know that your business is still relevant to what people are searching for, when they are searching for it. Follow these best GMB practices to improve your business’ local search rankings.
Claim and Verify Your Listing
To get started with GMB, you must claim and verify your business listing. Before doing this, however, it is important to check for any existing listings for your business. After typing in the name of your business into Google Maps, check to see if there is an “Own this business?” button under the given information. If there is not, you will have to get ownership of this listing or get it unverified. If that button is available, you are in a good spot to claim the business listing.
In this stage of the game, it is critical to make sure all of the business information that is listed on the GMB listing is accurate. This includes your name, address, phone number, website (NAPW), and business hours. It is also important to optimize your listing with accurate categories that relate to your business. Google wants people to use them as their main search tool, so if your business is coming up for search queries that have nothing to do with what you sell or offer in terms of services, then Google will punish your listing, sending it to the bottom of SERPs.
In addition to claiming and verifying your listing, there are features to use consistently when managing your business. Four of the top features to use include Google posts, photos, reviews, and the most recent addition, Q&A.
The Google Posts feature can be a powerful tool for connecting with more customers — but it requires some effort upfront. Google Posts allow you to broadcast custom updates, events, and promotions directly from your GMB listings. Simply log into your account, select a location (if your business operates out of multiple locations), draft your post, preview, and publish. An image, video, or call-to-action button can be added to generate interest and enhance the impact.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind when creating a new Google Post.
- Only the first 100 characters show up in the Knowledge Panel, so it is imperative you make your pitch or deliver the crux of your message swiftly.
- If your Post includes media, there is a minimum upload size of 400 pixels by 300 pixels (10 kilobytes) and a maximum of 10,000 x 10,000 (25 megabytes). The ideal display size for media is 750 x 750.
- Google Posts are not archived and expire after seven days (unless your Post is tied to an event, in which case it will disappear after the event’s conclusion).
The Google Reviews feature not only allows customers a way to leave feedback about your products or services, but it also proves to Google that you actually exist (real-life customers = real-life business). If your business is receiving a lot of feedback on Google Reviews, it goes to follow that you are relevant in your locality. Additionally, those customers are generating more content and keywords for Google to “read” from, helping it get more acquainted with who you are and what you do — which may, in turn, boost your SEO rankings.
Obviously, receiving a high percentage of 4- or 5-star reviews is going to build more trust and induce more clicks than mediocre or poor reviews. In any case, it is important to acknowledge and respond to customer reviews — both your customers and Google will appreciate the investment.
The Google Q&A feature is the newest element of the GMB feedback loop — and another that requires your attention upfront. This functionality allows both consumers and business owners to ask questions and answer them from the Knowledge Panel. The most frequently asked and/or helpful questions and answers will be displayed first (determined by the number of “thumbs up” they garner). Like Google Reviews, Google Q&A can be a boost to SEO rankings if handled correctly.
As a business owner, it is contingent upon you to reply to inquiries in a timely and constructive fashion, as future searchers will reference this when making purchasing decisions. Be as proactive as possible, and try to anticipate the most frequently asked questions and how to answer them in a friendly, clear, and concise manner. Remember, your GMB listing could be the first thing a potential customer sees after completing a search query. Make sure that it reflects your brand both accurately and positively, and both your local SEO rankings and your profits stand to benefit.