Tips To Optimize Your Google My Business Listing
by Mike Khorev
More and more people are relying on Google Maps result when they want to decide on a local business or a purchase. This can be through “near me” search queries from their mobile phones or even through the help of a voice assistant. So, if we can rank on the top spots of Google Map results according to our location, we can significantly boost our revenue.
Google Maps results are based on Google My Business listings, and on this guide, we will learn all the ins and outs of optimizing our Google My Business listing to rank higher. Without further ado, let us begin with the first one.
1. Make Sure to Include Complete, Up-To-Date, and Comprehensive Information
The pieces of information you put on Google My Business will be used by Google to determine your business’s relevance and credibility. Make sure to input accurate and up-to-date information at least for these:
- Your business’s Name, Address, Phone Number (NAP), the most vital pieces of information not only for Google My Business, but for all business directories and listings.
- Your website address, Google will “crawl” your site to determine your Google Maps listing’s relevance, so this is also very important
- Description: remember that this should be a description about what your business do, and not what you sell (i.e. “a bookstore” not “books”). Your description serves two main purposes: you can include your focus keywords here to optimize your ranking, and you can also optimize it to attract human audience. Provide clear, engaging information about your business.
- Category: similar principle to the above, your categories should be about what your business does. You can use more than one categories, and this can be a good opportunity to tap into all the possible markets.
- Attributes, here you can inform your customers about your business’s special attributes, for example, if you have “outdoor seating”, you can check the available attribute. This can be useful to highlight unique values of your business.
You will especially need to pay extra attention to your NAP information. Google will index your NAP across the web. If someone mentions your NAP on their site, it will be regarded as a local citation, which has the same value as backlinks in regular SEO. So, make sure your NAP information is consistent with what is currently listed on your site, as well as what’s listed on other listings and directories.
Information inconsistency can significantly impact your local ranking negatively. If you have any changes to your NAP, make sure to update it not only on Google My Business, but also on all your listings and citations.
Also, here are some tips and tricks you can use when optimizing these pieces of information:
- Make sure your listed address matches the correct coordinates on Google Maps. Also, check your zip codes and make sure they are consistent across all your listings. For example, if you use 5-digit zip code on one of your listing, use it on all. The same will apply if you use 9-digit code. However, most listings will only allow the 5-digit zip code, so it’s a safer bet overall.
- For phone number, it is actually better to have a local number listed instead of your national or regional number.
- Description, category, and attributes are good opportunities to optimize for keywords. However, make sure they are not over-optimized and make sure all these keywords occur naturally for human readers.
- For business categories, this is a great guide listing all the different categories available, and you can use it to determine the proper category(s) for your business.
- For both categories and attributes, the aim is to be as specific as possible. If you are a pizzeria, specify that you are a pizzeria instead of just “restaurant”. If you offer outdoor eating areas, specify it in attributes.
In short, take some time to optimize the basic information on your Google My Business listing. Now, let’s move on to the next aspect.
2. Optimizing Reviews: Encouraging Positive Ones and Handling Negative Ones
Reviews are a really important aspect for local SEO, as well as for your business’s growth in general. Not only good reviews are an important ranking signal for Google Maps, positive reviews will attract customers to your business while negative ones can significantly hurt your revenue.
Nowadays, 86% consumers read reviews before making any purchases, especially when considering local businesses. So, if your business doesn’t have a lot of positive reviews, you can miss out on a lot of opportunities.
So, the big question is: how can we get more reviews? It is actually fairly simple. Ask your existing, happy customers. Google Maps and Google My Business actually encourage you to get positive reviews, as you can send your customers a link with just a few steps.
To encourage your customers, you might want to offer incentives, which actually is a common practice for many local businesses. For example, you can offer a special discount or even a freebie for customers who left a review for you, or posted something positive about your business in their social media.
However, we shouldn’t only focus on reviews on Google Maps. Although it is never confirmed by Google, many have agreed that reviews on third-party sites—especially major ones like Yelp or TripAdvisor— are also accounted by Google as ranking signals. In fact, quite recently Google encourages placing reviews from Yelp and other sites on your site.
In short: encourage as many positive reviews as you can on as many platforms as you can.
Now, how about handling negative reviews? The basic principle here is to respond to ALL reviews, both positive and negative ones. A lot of consumers prefer businesses that respond to negative reviews, but obviously we will need to respond properly. Here are the key considerations when responding to negative reviews:
- Understand that there are at least two different kinds of negative reviews. First are the valid ones coming from real customers with real issues. Second are the ones coming from fake customers, often with malicious intents. Recognizing these two will be very important here, so you won’t make any false accusations.
- Don’t ever deliver false promises when responding to negative reviews. If you don’t have the solution for a specific problem, simply tell them “we are working on it, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible”. If you say you’ll be back with them within 24 hours, do so.
- If you have sufficient proofs that a negative review is fake, you can ask Google Maps (or other review sites) to take it out. Depending on the case, you might also want to pursue legal actions to discourage similar cases.
- Remember that for valid negative reviews, there are always the underlying issues. For example, if you received a lot of negative feedback about the long queue on your premise, there might be actual issues with your queuing system. Unless you address this problem first, you’ll keep getting similar reviews.
3. Optimizing Images and Photos
The first thing that should be addressed is that images and photos are not direct ranking factors for Google Maps. However, according to Google My Business itself, businesses with photos get 40% more direction requests. In short, you’ll get more conversions, which can indirectly affect your ranking (when a lot of people request for directions to your business or call your number directly from Google Maps result, Google will see your listing as relevant, which can boost your ranking.
Your profile photo is the first thing a prospect will notice when they are searching on Google Maps, and in Google My Business, you can upload four kinds of images:
- Regular photos: you can upload any kinds of photos here, but Google may review your photos for quality. Your customers can also tag your listing with a photo, which will be under “Photos tagged of your business”.
- Profile photo: self-explanatory, you can choose one photo to represent your identity. You can also choose photos tagged by other people as your profile photo.
- Cover photo: a landscape photo on the very top of you page. You can use it to set the mood of your listing, or to show interesting qualities of your business (i.e., your restaurant’s ambiance)
- Videos: everyone is streaming videos nowadays, and this is a great opportunity to attract customers by investing in engaging videos.
To optimize your images, here are some quick tips to follow:
- The image’s format should be in JPG or PNG, with a size of between 10KB and 5MB
- 720px tall and 720px wide minimum resolution
- Make sure your photos are in-focus, well-lit, and don’t use excessive filters. Google prefers images that represent reality, and as mentioned, Google might review your images for quality
- Optimize the metadata of your images by optimizing the EXIF data, and you might want to check out this tool to help you.
4. Use Google Posts To Engage Your Customers
Google Posts is a fairly new feature of Google Maps and Google My business, and was just introduced in late 2017.
As the name suggest, with Posts you can post content related to your business such as:
- Informing your audience for new products or services, complete with interesting photos
- Inviting people to join an upcoming event
- Announcing various news, for example, if your business just received an award or even a good review from reputable reviewer
- You can use interesting gifs to attract your audience.
- You can also include CTA buttons like “Buy”, “Learn More”, “Sign Up”, and so on.
Again, Posts is not a direct ranking signal, but the more engagement you get, the more Google will perceive your business as relevant and credible.
Creating a Post is fairly simple, the “Posts” option should appear on the left-hand side of your Google My Business sidebar. If not, probably you haven’t verified your Google my business account, and you can check here to learn how.
You can then add texts and images to your post, and here are the important things to consider:
- When adding images, keep in mind that Google uses a 4:3 ratio (so your minimum size should be 400×300 pixels). Google will crop your image to fit the aspect ratio, but make sure it’s high-quality, a proper representation of your business.
- The maximum words allowed in a post is 300. However, if you use a CTA button, only around 70 characters will show on mobile devices. The entire texts will be shown if you don’t use any CTAs.
- Content is everything. Don’t always aim to sell, but you can engage your audience with various creative ways. Your goal here is engagement.
- Google offers a very useful insights feature, so track your posts’ performance and adjust your tactics accordingly
- A post will stay for seven days, but you can set a shorter time period. A week is not a long time, so it is very important to be very specific and time-sensitive with your posts.
Posts can be a very effective way to engage your audience on Google Maps, so you might want to plan ahead and create a content marketing plan specific for Google Posts.
5. Building Local Citations
Local citations are the equivalent of backlinks in regular SEO. A citation, by definition, is when an online entity (website, blog, social media profile) mentions your NAP. The more citations you have, the more relevant your business will be perceived. According to a report by MOZ, citations account for 13% of ranking signals.
The most important thing to consider when building local citations is consistency. Your NAP information must be consistent at all times. Not only inconsistent NAP won’t bring value to your business, Google might downgrade your ranking if there are too many variations of you NAP.
So, how can we build local citations? We can start by listing our business on major business directories like Yelp, Facebook Places, TripAdvisor, and so on. Then, we can continue building citations on specific online directories according to your industry/niche and location. A simple Google search can help you with this, for example, if you are a restaurant in Texas, do a quick Google search for “Texas business directory”, “Texas restaurant directory”, and other similar search phrases. You can also check these lists to help you further:
So, the keys to success here are quantity and consistency, and there will be a lot of hard work involved. Not only you will need to build as many citations and possible, you will need to check whether all citations are consistent. Then, in cases when your business change address or phone number, you will need to update all listings manually.
This can be a massive work, so it might be a good idea to hire a local SEO service especially to help you with building your business’s local citations.
The keys in optimizing your Google My Business listing are accurate information, quantity of local citations, and consistency. It is technically not difficult to execute, but will require a significant time investment as well as hard work.
This is where an SEO expert/consultant can help you, especially to maintain consistency in building your local citations.
January 15, 2022