15-point-checklist-google-business

Google Business Profile Optimization

Updated May 2024 to include impact of AI on Local SEO

The below article has been updated to include information about the new Search Generative Experience (SGE) that is rolling out in Google. Here is what you need to know:

  • Local AI results (recently labelled as AI Answers) appear before Google Maps listings and take up a lot of space. They’re colorful, comprehensive and don’t necessarily encourage you to scroll down for further information.
  • SGE may enrich traditional local pack listings by including additional relevant businesses, based on the query
  • SGE allows for more specific comparisons of businesses, making reviews more important than ever. 
  • SGE shows business descriptions, images, and reviews in results, so make sure these are up-to-date and relevant
  • With SGE leading to potential declines in organic website traffic, the importance of a well-maintained Google Business Profile has never been greater. Updated information, robust reviews, and relevant content are now pivotal.
  • It is unknown if Google is using descriptive text from Services or Menu, but just in case, it would be a good idea to populate these areas.

 

Google Business Profiles are essential to helping local businesses thrive in an online world. In this post, we’ll be taking you through the best practices to ensure that your profile is optimized, giving your business its best shot at reaching new customers.

What Is Google Business Profile and What Are its Benefits?

Having an optimized Google Business Profile increases your visibility and search relevance, which then increases your traffic. Google Business Profiles give customers the opportunity to engage online through customer reviews, thus increasing customer trust and future online visibility.

Google considers a number of factors to determine local rankings. The three leading parameters that Google says it measures are as follows:

  • Relevance: How relevant is your business for the query being searched? Providing complete and detailed business information on GBP helps Google understand your business better and match it with the relevant searches.
  • Distance: How far is your business from the searchers location or search term? The search results for “Montreal coffee shop” are likely to be different from the results for “Old Port coffee shop”.
  • Prominence: How well-known is your business in the locality? Google considers both your offline and online reputation. Google determines the offline popularity of your business by the number of branded searches with your business’s name. Additionally, it also collects information about your business from your reviews on GBP and other local listings as well as your citations and mentions across the web. That’s why it is extremely important to build a strong citation profile, but that will come later.

Setting Up Your Google Business Profile (GBP)

Setting up a Google Business Profile is fairly straightforward. You can follow the steps from Google here.

Google won’t force you to fill out every single section of the GBP listing, but do try to fill everything out with as much detail as possible as these field may be used in the new Search Generative Experience. Your essentials are your business name, address, and phone number.

Always Use Your Local Working Phone Number

Add your local phone number to your listing – never use a toll-free 800 or call tracking number on your local listings. Google will not be able to match it with your address and that will affect your local status. Only use your current and working phone number with your local area code. Have someone answer the phone every time it rings. Prepare a strategy to convert the leads into sales.

Provide the Correct Business Name

Your business name should simply be the name you have on your storefront, website, and stationery. Do not use marketing taglines, location keywords, special characters, website address, and other unnecessary information with the name of your business.

Make Sure Your Address is Correct - Maps Listing Optimization

Your business address must be identical across your Google My Business listing, website, other directory listings, social media pages, and elsewhere. Use your official street address without any further directions or details. If you’ve entered the address correctly but Google can’t find it on the map, you can pinpoint your location using the ‘Set marker location’ button.

Get Rid of Duplicate Listings

Make sure no duplicate listings exist. It is possible that your employees or agency had created multiple Google+ pages for your business. Delete them and note down your official Google Business Profile URL, as you may need it for further work. We recently had a client who purchased a laundry mat but did not have access to the old Google Business Profile or URL. With our help, the new business owner was able to claim the old laundry business GBP and domain (for $13!!!) and update the contact info from the old profile to the new profile.

Provide Your Service Area (if you serve customers at their locations)

If you are a local business that delivers goods and services to customers at their doorsteps (such as food delivery, moving company, home repair, etc), you should list your business as a ‘service area business‘. You can then define the service areas based on the zip codes or cities that you serve. Note we are seeing businesses that display their address seem to receive more traffic from Google Maps than businesses that use “service area business”.

Link Each Page to the Correct URL - Optimizing for Multi-Location Service Businesses

This should be obvious if you have only one street address, one website, and a single Google My Business location. But if you have multiple store locations, you should have a separate page for each and link it to the relevant landing page. Businesses with more than 10 store locations can use Google’s bulk verification feature to upload and verify all addresses.

Verifying Your Google Business Profile

After you have provided the above info, Google will ask you to verify it. Your contact details, description, photos, and other business details will display on Google Maps and other Google properties only after your business is verified. You can do it by a phone call on the number you’ve provided or a postcard to your address. A “Verified” badge will appear beside your business name on your Google My Business dashboard when Google has verified your business. You can also skip the verification for later and move straight to your my Business profile.

Optimizing Your Profile for Maximum Impact

Keep your business description short and sweet and focused on the most aspects of your business. Highlight the unique selling points (e.g. ‘artisan coffee,’ ‘gourmet coffee,’ ‘coffee & cake,’ etc). Google will pick up a snippet from your description to display under your business name in the local SERPs.

Select the Correct Business Category

The first category that you select will be treated as your main category and should remain the same for all of your store locations (if you have more than one). Make sure that the main categories represent your business correctly. Google has a list of more than 300 popular categories; choose the most obvious one as your primary category and select as many additional categories as are relevant. The main category should stay the same for all of your locations, if you have more than one.

Add Photos of Your Products and Premises

Showcase your products, premises, and personnel by adding photos to your Google Business Profile page. Photos are good for your ranking and increase your CTR. You can add different types of photos:

  • Cover photo, which is the large photo featured at the top of your GBP listing
  • Profile photo, which will show up on your GBP page beside your business name
  • Upload your logo to help you customers identify your business online
  • Select a ‘preferred photo,’ which you want to show as the ‘hero image’ alongside your business name on Google Search and Maps
  • Add more photos to highlight different aspects of your business

Pro Tip 1: Be very careful to include only high-quality photos, because they’ll be displayed right on top of your Google My Business page, and are critical for converting your online visitors into buyers.

Pro Tip 2: Make sure your shop is looking great during business hours because customers can also add photos to your Google My Business.

Pro Tip 3: External photos that show your place of business in relation to other nearby businesses can help customers easily identify it from a distance.

Get more best practices regarding photos.

Consider Adding a Virtual Tour

You can leapfrog competitors by hiring a Google recommended photographer to shoot an indoor Street View of your business. Recommended for hotels, restaurants, and other businesses that rely on their décor and ambience to attract customers, the Street View will be added to your search results on Google Search, Maps, and Hotel Searches. Google says people are twice as likely to be interested in booking a reservation in your hotel if you have a virtual tour with your listing.

List Business Hours & Keep Your Profile Updated

Your local search results will feature the hours of work, so make sure you display the correct hours of operation on your Google My Business page. Remember to change the hours if you have daylight saving time in your area or if your business has different timings in different seasons.

If anything regarding your services, hours or location changes, be sure to change that information in your GBP right away. You will most definitely lose a customer who shows up to a closed storefront due to old listed hours, or who calls a discontinued phone number listed on a profile.

Leveraging Reviews and Customer Interaction

Collect Genuine Customer Google Reviews

Now that your Google Business Profile is complete, you should actively pursue your customers to add positive reviews of your business. You can remind them to review your business when they come to your store. You can also approach them by email, providing a link to your Google Business Profile listing and requesting a review. The more reviews you have, the better your chances of ranking higher.

Customers usually want to support small businesses – telling them how much a quick review can help you can go a long way in convincing them to leave a Google Review. Ask and you shall receive!

Once you receive reviews, be sure to respond! This shows others who are looking at your profile that you are active and that you care about your customers’ thoughts. For positive reviews, leave a quick thank you message that is unique to each user. For negative reviews, be careful not to be defensive – everyone’s watching. Acknowledge their frustrations kindly, offer to make up for the reason they’re unhappy, or kindly explain why you cannot. Those viewing your profile can appreciate a business being kind in a negative review situation but also standing firmly in their policies.

Advanced Features and Tips

Google Business Posts

Google Business posts are a great way to engage with customers on a regular basis! Think of them as updates, or even as a Facebook post – except you use these to share updates on your Google Business Profile.

Posts are especially valuable in letting your customers know that you’re open when you might not have frequent reviews coming in, or if you don’t have new photos to add to your profile. You can use photos, videos, or just text in a post to promote upcoming offers, events, or other news relevant to your business. For example, if you’ve recently updated your business hours, post about it! Let customers know that they can now come in earlier in case they don’t notice the update hours on your profile.

Tracking Google Business Profile Performance

You can track the performance of your Google Business Profile by going to your profile and selecting Performance (full instructions to access this here). Here, you can view insights into search queries, unique profile visits, directions requests, calls, clicks, and tons of other metrics within a given time frame. These insights can give you clues on what is or isn’t working on your profile. Website clicks are down? Maybe your business description isn’t descriptive enough, so people aren’t interested in learning more.

Take full advantage of all the features Google offers for Business Profiles! Link your profile with Google Ads (if you have ads).

Domain Authority

While domain authority isn’t directly part of your Google Business Profile, your domain authority is highly correlated with the probability that your website will rank highly in the search engine results page (SERPs).

 

To increase your domain authority, you want to increase the number of links going back to your site. This takes time – commit to improving your domain authority over time. You can do so by regularly posting blog posts with valuable content, keeping main website pages up-to-date, and encouraging people to share your content. You can do this yourself through a newsletter or through social media pages.

 

Domain authority is a long game, but if you stay committed to keeping the content on your website valuable to your audience, eventually it will increase as your links are shared.

Common Pitfalls to Avoid

If you follow all of the optimization recommendations above, you will have already avoided most common mistakes that people make when managing a Google Business Profile. Mainly, they forget to update business information over time. Check in on your profile every month to ensure the following:

  • Hours are accurate
  • No missing information
  • Reviews have been responded to
  • Up-to-date photos have been posted

Leave no section blank! Be sure to fill in every section with detail – this includes hours, services, products, and description. 

The description should be lengthy and complete. Don’t use bullet points, write out a detailed description about what your business does. If you have a business address, show it! Businesses that have their address visible on their Google Business Profile perform better.

In addition to keeping all of your business information up-to-date, ensure that you are in compliance with Google’s profile guidelines. A full list of guidelines can be found here, but in summary:

  • Reflect your business accurately. Don’t lie or exaggerate your offerings.
  • Make sure your business address is accurate.
  • Only create one profile per business.

Congratulations! You’ve taken the first steps to optimize your Google My Business for local and mobile searches. The next thing to do is to start building citations across as many directories as possible. These can include Yellow Pages, Yelp, Facebook, Canpages, Weblocal, Cylex, Manta, Hotfrog, and so many other websites. A strong citation profile tells Google your business is trusted and well-known, so it is likely to reward you with higher rankings.

Need Help With Your Google Business Profile?

Book a Call to See How We Can Help
Browse by Category
Related posts

Pssst…we've got so many tips to share with you!

Join our mail list to start receiving interesting Digital Marketing Updates…infrequently, we promise!