You know that optimizing your site for local searches is essential. However, you might be missing that the fact that the most essential aspect of your local SEO strategy has little to do with your actual website.
Your site is important, and you can see about optimizing it but, before you get to engrossed in perfecting your site, you need to claim your Google My Business (GMB) Listing.
Why is it important? Because as of April of 2018, Google had an 86.28% share of the global search engine market. Part of getting Google to love your business is to claim your GMB listing.
What Is The GMB Listing?
It is basically like a directory entry on Google for your business. But it goes beyond your typical online directory. You list all the pertinent contact details for your company, but you also get access to a whole range of functionality that can help you actively promote it.
Essentially, if you enter the information carefully, you can tell people all they need to know about your business. Everything from what hours you are open, to the payment methods you accept.
You aren’t forced to claim this listing, but it is a mistake not to. The listing can help improve your SERP in local search results and can help you get into the Google Three-Pack (the top three businesses relating to the search).
Say, for example, that you wanted to find “Indian restaurants in Alberta, Canada.” This is what would come up:
How many clicks do you think those three businesses get? How many clicks would results that appeared lower on the page get in comparison?
Not claiming your GMB listing can also be detrimental to your business. These listings can be claimed by anyone – what happens if someone else wants to cash in on the name you have built? What if your competitors want to harm your reputation? Claim your listing now to be on the safe side.
To get started, head over to Google My Business.
Fill In Everything That You Can
Set aside an hour or two to complete each field. It’s tiresome, but the more information you provide, the more legit your business will appear. And, Google doesn’t just come up with random fields to waste your time.
You’ll be asked things like the name of your business, what your address is, opening hours, description, etc. Look at this as a marketing opportunity. The more complete the information, the higher your chances of ranking in the three-pack are.
Make Sure The Information Is Accurate
One way that Google checks that your business is legitimate is to compare the information you provide with other sources on the web. Make sure that the details you provide match what is on your site and in the various web directories.
It is a good idea to take this opportunity to do a “Details Audit.” To do this, Google your business and find all the listings for it that you can. Check that all these listings have the correct information.
Why You Must Complete The Information
Another reason to complete the information is that if you don’t, people viewing your page can. This is one aspect of the GMB page that makes businesses nervous. And rightly so, anyone can go in and “Suggest an Edit” to make changes to your listing.
It’s simple enough – they just call up a page and click on “Suggest an Edit.” You can see what this looks like below.
Why would they change your listing? It could be someone who has a grudge, a competitor, or even spammers wanting to hijack legitimate traffic to your site.
Checking For Updates To Your Listing
The problem with this feature is that the changes are done live on the system. Contrary to what “Suggest” implies, the information is changed immediately. And you may or may not receive an email notification about this. Which is why it is important to check the listing on a regular basis.
It’s easy enough to do. Look at the following.
Open your dashboard and click on “Manage Locations.” Then click on “Back to GMB Classic.” Check the “To Do” section of the page and see if there is a heading for “Google Updates.” If it’s not there, no edits have been made. If it is, click on it and see what changes have been made.
It’s important to realize that Google may also make changes on your page to fill in missing information if it can find it from a different source. (Just one more reason to complete all the fields yourself.)
Next, click on “Review Updates” and submit the corrections.
Can I Change Everything?
Not so fast. The reason that Google allows users to make changes is that it wants the most accurate listings. This wouldn’t be possible if business owners could simply remove negative reviews. Which means that if someone puts a malicious, false review on your page, you are going to battle to get it taken down.
If you see that a change has been made, and you cannot correct it yourself, you need to log into the GMB Forum and ask a “Top Contributor” for help. You will have to explain what happened in as much detail as possible.
People Might Answer Questions About Your Business
Another potential problem area here is when people answer questions about your business. Google has a “Know this place?” section.
Users who click on this tab will be asked a series of questions related to the business. The aim is to give people more of an idea of what the business offers.
If they know the answers, they answer them. If not, they can move on. Unfortunately, if they get the answers wrong, this info will still show on your listing. If they do, you will need to go to the forum and see about getting the information changed.
Google’s philosophy is that things will balance out in the end. Protect yourself and your business by claiming your listing, completing as much information as possible, and checking it regularly for updates.
Isn’t This All Just Extra Work?
It’s a bit of extra work, but considering the added features that the GMB dashboard offers you, you should be accessing it regularly anyway. Let’s look at what you should be considering.
In a way, this is a lot like posting to Facebook. Use this in much the same way that you would any other social media post. It’s easy. Open the dashboard and look at the left-hand side of the page. Click on “Posts.”
You can choose to create an offer post, as we see in the image above, or just close that screen and do a quick status update instead. Make it fun and interesting. You can include links, offers, images, emojis, etc. Just a quick thing – do experiment with different picture sizes as larger pics may be cut off.
Getting Started With Posts
- Use them to advertise a live video, YouTube video, or webinar that you want to highlight. Post the details and then add the link.
- Why not promote your blog? Post a short teaser and then link to your blog.
- Use it to communicate with clients. You can use the opportunity to simply thank your clients for their support or wish them “Happy Holidays.”
- Promote a killer sale by creating an offer post.
- Show off a video of your new product line in action.
- Do a little behind-the-scenes look at your business.
- Do use a relevant emoji to get the message across. Some phones allow people to search using an emoji so this might give you a little bit of an edge.
These are all displayed in the Knowledge Panel on your listing and so can be a highly effective tool for ranking better in mobile searches. They will stay “active” for a week or until pushed out the way by newer posts. You can even get Google to remind you to create a new post.
Get Direct Messages
To access this function, you have to access the dashboard on a mobile device. It will not appear otherwise.
If you enable the messaging function, clients will be able to send you texts through your GMB page. Now, while Google has not confirmed that having more engagement in this area will boost your SERP, it makes sense that it would.
Enable messaging to allow clients to reach out to you. Just go through to your dashboard and go through to the messaging button. You can set it up so that people get an immediate welcome message when they text you.
Want To Be Able To Take Bookings?
With the booking button feature, you can. You will need to use a CRM program with a scheduling function that Google supports. You integrate it with the GMB and clients can book straight from the page.
Questions & Answers
You will see this towards the bottom of your listing. Users can click on the “Ask a Question” button to request information from you.
All questions and answers appear on your GMB listing. If you don’t answer the questions, it will create a bad impression of your business. Not only is the person who asked the question going to think you don’t care, but so will others who view this section of your page.
Google is supposed to notify you if a new question is asked, but you cannot rely on this notification. Unfortunately, you have to actually check your listing itself to see if questions have been asked. It is also important to note that others can answer the questions for you. So, do keep an eye out for new questions.
Another way of dealing with this is to come up with FAQ and post these there. If you have started to optimize your site for voice search, you should have already started to do this. Just create a copy to post here as well.
Reviews – it’s a controversial issue. Do you ask clients to review your business or do you let them decide to do it naturally on their own? Let’s be honest here, if you wait for them to do it themselves, it could take a while.
Fortunately, Google has no rules that disallow you to ask for reviews, as long as you do it the right way. Which means that you cannot pay for reviews or exchange reviews for any kind of reward. You are also not allowed to script the reviews or use software that blocks negative reviews.
But are reviews really that important? In this <a href=”https://seotribunal.com/blog/digital-marketing-statistics/”>blog post</a>, only 36% of people said that reviews played no role in their buying decision. By contrast, almost three-quarters of those reviewed said that positive reviews made them trust the business more.
Before you rush off to ask all your clients for reviews, check out the guidelines here. If you are found guilty of ignoring the guidelines, the reviews will be taken down. Cheating is not worth it and can end up getting your listing penalized.
How To Maximize Reviews
Obviously, the more positive reviews you get, the better your business appears in the eyes of search engines and potential clients. So, yes, do ask clients to leave reviews for you. However, be smart about it.
- First of all, think about how it will look if you suddenly go from two or three reviews to 30 or 40 overnight. That’s bound to raise flags with search engines because it is not natural. So, rather than calling up old clients and asking them to review your business, do it naturally as they come in.
- Second of all, leave what they say completely up to them. We have all seen those fake reviews on sites like Amazon. They are easy to spot because they always use glowing terms and there is never anything wrong.
- Make it easy for your client to do the review. Consider sending an email with a link to the review page so that it is as effortless as possible for her.
- Do offer the best service possible. It is old advice, and you won’t be able to please everyone. But the more great service you offer, the higher the chances are that you will get great reviews naturally.
- Do respond to every single review you receive. For positive reviews, be sure to thank the person. This solidifies the relationship even more. For negative reviews, think of a carefully considered response.
- What about those nasty people who just get a kick out of leaving a bad review? Again, just give a clear, considered response. Malicious reviews are also normally fairly simple to spot, especially if you have a lot of other positive ones.
Should I Add Images And Video?
That’s a question that you probably don’t even need to ask. Let’s go back to the first Indian restaurant that came up in the search results and have a look at its website. Let’s look at its tagline for a minute. It is: “The Only East Indian Restaurant in the Rockies.”
It’s a highly descriptive and appealing tagline and it says a lot, but as a simple line of text, it is not as effective as:
You look at that photo and you see fresh food that looks very appetizing. Images convey a lot more information than any amount of words can. They also make information a lot easier to digest. You could write a couple of paragraphs describing the dish in the picture above but how many people are going to take the time to read it?
Start by making sure that you have an amazing profile picture. This should be a highly professional shot that will get people interested in reading more about your business. Then bring it home with an album of photos so that people can see exactly what you offer.
Be creative, post pictures that show your business premises, your main product lines, etc. As far as possible, have shots that include people actually using your product or service. If need be, get models in or simply ask your good clients if you can use pictures of them.
Say, for example, you were selling clothes. Which would be more appealing – pictures of the clothes on hangers or on an attractive model? Sure, you should have the basic pictures, but you also have to include some “action” shots as well.
Also, keep in mind that clients are able to post their photos on your listing, so make sure to get your photos in there.
It is useful because it gives a face to the brand. Show pictures of the staff behind the scenes so that people can see what it is that you actually do.
Then ramp things up a bit. Use video posts to make the listing even more interesting. Say, for example, that you were selling a drone. What would be better, a static photo of the drone or a video footage taken by it flying over your business?
People love to watch videos. And you don’t even have to spend a fortune having them produced. If you have a halfway decent smartphone, you can quickly and easily record a video to post.
Worried about the sound quality?
Mute it. How many people actually listen to the sound on short videos nowadays anyway? Make the content visually appealing, interesting, and short, and you have pretty much guaranteed a winner.
Want Some Ideas For Videos?
- Show your staff going about their business.
- Create a tutorial for using your product.
- Think about what people would want to know about. Take the Indian restaurant again; it could show videos of its food being prepared or served. It could also make a video about the right etiquette when eating East Indian food. There are tons of interesting ways to spin content.
The Rules Regarding Videos
There is one basic rule to follow here – the video must relate to your business location in some way. So, a video of people celebrating a traditional East Indian festival at the restaurant, for example, would be fine. A video of people celebrating the same festival in eastern India, on the other hand, might be taken down by Google.
Other rules by Google are:
- The video must be 30 seconds or less.
- The file cannot be bigger than 100 MB.
- The resolution must be at least 720P.
To add a video, click on the “Photos” tab on your dashboard and then click on the “Add Videos” button.
Your Business Description
This is your chance to convince people who are on the fence about your business to give it a try. You do need to read the guidelines first because Google is especially strict in this area and will check.
The description can be up to 750 characters (including spaces) long. Only the first 250 will actually show up in the Knowledge Panel, so make sure to hook the client there. They can then click to read more if they want to.
Do include your main target keyword or phrase and the city the business is in within the first 250 characters.
The general rules are as follows:
- The description should be factual and not attempting to mislead users.
- It should not be used as a promotional tool in terms of a sale you are having or specials you are offering. Don’t mention prices here at all.
- You cannot include links.
- Content should be of good quality. So, read and re-read to catch typos or grammatical errors.
- No illegal services can be offered.
- No hate speech or abusive content.
Are You Ever Done With The Page?
No, you should always be looking at ways to tweak to the page and increase customer engagement. SEO is always dynamic. Should you make it to the top spot of the three-pack, you are not guaranteed that top spot forever.
That means that you can never really rest on your laurels. You need to create a schedule to:
- Regularly check your page. We have gone through what can happen if you do not.
- Create posts to increase potential user engagement on a regular basis. The more active your page and the more time people spend on it, the better it looks to Google.
- Continue to work on building reviews. Remember that even if you are not doing this, your competition probably will be. The older the reviews, the less weight they carry. Make it a point to ask new clients to review your business.
Your Google My Business Page is not the only SEO tool that you should be using. It is, however, one of the most useful when it comes to ranking locally. It is free, it is simple to use, and it makes sense to take advantage of this tool.
It is a lot like social media in that it is not a “set and forget” option. You are going to have to devote some time and resources to manage the page. But the potential rewards are well worth the effort.
Getting listed in the top spot of the search engine results means netting about 48% of the organic traffic. In the second spot, this is reduced to 12%. For third place, this reduces to 8%. That means that the top three spots get 68% of the organic traffic.
Do you want to settle for table scraps, or do you want the lion’s share of the traffic? If your answer is the former, get your GMB listing sorted out today.