I would say that Google My Business is the least utilized asset for any local business. It was created several years ago as a solution to help users find local businesses in Google search.
Google had a problem. They always ranked websites based on content and external links. That’s fine and dandy for big websites, but what they realized is that large corporation with huge budgets could produce new blog posts and pay for thousands of dollars in links each month. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Yelp and every other local business site would dominate rankings for local search terms such as “find a painter” or “hire an accountant” or “auto mechanics in Chicago.”
There is nothing a local business or franchise location could do to compete with national websites with massive funding. So local businesses where just out of luck.
But Google figured it out. They realized that their users didn’t want to go to the big chains or local business websites. They realized, users were just skipping Google and going right to Yelp when they were looking for a local businesses. That’s when they decided to change the game. This was really important because Google Ads relies on people searching for businesses so if people were skipping Google, then no ad revenue!
Their solution was Google My Business
GMB is a feature of Google where a business can sign up, validate their business, confirm their location and provide descriptions about their company.
Google then uses its own secondary validation to ensure its legitimate company. For users, it provides a separate area where you can see business information. Users can also read or write business reviews.
This information is also used to help them generate local rankings. This includes organic search results and the local pack map results.
Needless to say, its worth taking the time to optimize Google My Business and do everything you can do treat it as a lead generating asset.
There are several things you have to do and a few things that you really need to do if you want to get the best results. The good news is that there is a lot that you can do to generate leads. Here’s a guideline for making improvements.
Step 1 – Understand Keywords
Take your time and try to learn how people find you. A lot of people skip this step and just start writing, but if you don’t understand how people find your business, you will miss out on potential leads.
You may realize you aren’t using the keywords that most people use to find your business. Or you are using less frequently used keywords.
There are always multiple ways for customers to find businesses. For example take an auto mechanic. You can also find one by searching for auto repair, car mechanic, vehicle repair, fix my car, repair my vehicle, replace my engine, mechanic near me, repair my tranny, need new exhaust and many more.
A good place to start is Google’s own Keyword Planner Tool — IF you already have a Google Ads account then this is excellent. If you don’t then Google will usually make you sign up for one and it will take awhile before you get to the access to the tool even though it’s free.
Wordtracker has a free version of its tool that is decent. Ahrefs has a blog on free keyword tools you may want to check out. I haven’t really been through it because I do this for a living so I pay for premium keyword research tools.
The goal is understand which quantity of searches and relevancy to your business. For our business, people can find us searching for “marketing help” but thats a very broad term. Even though it has lots of searches, a search for”local business marketing service” is very high intent. Make sure the high intent keywords are included in your list. Write them down and also write down how often they are searched.
Step 2. – Write out Descriptions
The the left side of your GMB dashboard you will see a section called “Info.” Pack a lunch and spend some time here.
Fill out as much information as possible. Every single section should be filled out. All of this information has an impact on how you get found in Google.
The main Google My Business description is 750 words. This needs to be keyword rich, but make it sound natural. Don’t just spam keywords. People read this area so you want to describe your products and services. But also write it in a manner that is helping you sell your service. Talk about the benefits of coming to YOUR business.
They also have a section for services. This gives you a lot more room to provide details. Separate out the services with different headings. Each service heading and service title give you a place to add main keywords. Add as many as you can and be descriptive.
Be informative, but promote benefits. Answer these two questions.
- What does my business do? You should give an ELI5 (That is short for explain to me like I’m 5 years old). – Explain your business like someone has never heard of your business type. Google is smart, but it may not know that a florist sells roses. So if someone types “find a florist” you probably show up. If they type “buy roses in Chicago” and you don’t mention roses in your descriptions, then you won’t show up.
- What makes my business better than my competition? What are the major benefits. Faster, cheaper, better quality, better parts, more expertise, certified, etc.
Step 3 – Add Photos and Videos
This is the visual representation of your business. Try to add as many photos as you can. Give potential customers a feel for your business.
This means, you add images of the inside and outside of your building. Add images of the people that work for you. They wear uniforms? Look clean cut? Then show them.
Do you have an incredible office? Then show it. You have amazing new machinery? State of the art computer system? Put up photos of your equipment.
Photos of your employees can tell a story. Show them smiling, having fun, laughing. Put up photos of people in good moods.
In some cases, you can use photos to demonstrate the types of customers you have. A client of ours was a martial arts studio. They had no images on GMB. We wanted to make sure people knew the type of classes. So we put up images of kids class, adults class and images of competition kickboxers.
Guess what? The next week, they got a new sign up. A mom that came in. She told the owner she saw a picture of a cute little girl in a karate uniform. She wasn’t sure if the studio accepted young girls, but that image made an impression. It told a story about the classes they hold for different age groups.
Step 4 – Pay Attention to Reviews
Reviews are important. Reviews are the currency of business in the age of the Internet and social media.
“Your brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s what Google says it is” – Chris Anderson
Try to ask your customers for reviews. It’s sometimes hard to do, but it makes a big difference if you can get customers to review your business.
Secondly, respond to reviews. The faster the better. A fast response looks better to the reader and gives you some bonus points with Google. While we don’t know the exact impact, it is suspected that response to reviews is indeed a ranking factor. Even if it isn’t, it looks much better when customers see you respond. It shows you care.
A response to a review is another opportunity to add content. Just saying thank you is fine, but use this as a chance to write something meaningful.
“This auto mechanic was great and fixed my transmissions”
Your response could be something like:
“Thanks for coming to our transmission shop. It’s not uncommon for the drivetrain to need service for late model Ford trucks. We were glad to find that your transmission was still under warranty and we could get it back to you within 3 business day! We appreciate your business!”
As you can see, we mention keywords related to the business and explain HOW the business helped the customer. You might find that someone else with a bad transmission in their Ford truck will read that review response. They will now identify with the customers.
Step 5 – Fill in Listings from Other Business Sites
Yes, if you want to rank better, you need to have good listings on all the other major listings sites, often called citations. In the least, take the time to fill out these local listings.
- Better Business Bureau
- Merchant Circle
- Angie’s List
Of course, we recommend all the major ones. There are at about 40 that you should fill out with your business information. Google uses the accuracy of this data to help ensure you are legitimate company at the correct address. And external links pointing to your website help search rankings. The keywords you use on these pages will also have an impact on how your show up in search. And even though these listings sites, won’t produce huge website traffic, they do occasionally lead to a website click or phone call.
We like to keep these listings fresh and updated. Along with Google My Business, its good at add new photos occasionally.
Our software makes sure to sync all these listings. The problem is that these listing sites use aggregators to update their listings. The aggregators will just write over whatever you sign up if the listings aren’t locked. Plis, people can edit your listings. While its not common, we’ve heard of people marking businesses as closed. Otherwise, we’ve seen where someone marked hours as 9pm to 11pm so it would display closed on Google Maps.
Even though you will often get an email about someone editing your listing. They are easy emails to miss. This is why we take the time and effort to keep all of this current 24-7. Listings are essentially the yellow pages of this generation.
OK, So Does This Really Help?
No one can guarantee results in Google, but we know for a fact that Google My Business is important.
The leading search engine researcher, Moz, did a study on local search ranking factors. In the image below the left 15 are for the Google Local Pack (the map with the 3-4 businesses). The right is for organic search results. The yellow shaded areas are impacted by Google My Business and Local Listings. Most of those are directly related to GMB.
In some instances the results of a strong Google My Business profile can have incredible results. Making it WELL worth the investment, especially as advertising is getting more expensive and cost per click more competitive. Here are a few results for one of our clients.
This business gets 4000 views of photos per month compared to 228 by their industry average – photos do matter. Optimizing Google My Business makes a difference.
If you need help, get in touch. We help businesses get leads from organic and paid search and social media.