You’ve worked hard to get where you are. You’ve got a business you are proud of. You’re out there with an online presence second to none. (If you don’t have that second-to-none presence, let us help you get there.) But, have you forgotten a vital step in your online marketing? Have you claimed your business online by setting up your Google My Business listing, better known as your GMB? You’d be surprised how many small businesses leave off this critical step when establishing themselves.
Google is, by far, the most popular search engine, with an estimated 75% of users choosing this option. Your GMB is basically your billboard on the internet, and this billboard is on a well-traveled route. In addition to the loss of marketing, leaving your business unclaimed on Google leaves you exposed to someone else claiming your business as their own! Being a strategic SEO company, our number one goal is to get you appearing in results when someone searches online for your services or products. You want to be in Google’s Local Map Pack, you want your business to be a red dot in their search results maps and you want to be up at the top of organic search results. Having an accurate, attractive GMB is going to increase your chances of getting into these search engine returns. Let’s talk through what’s involved in setting up your free GMB to best enable your customers to find you, understand what you have to offer and ultimately reach out to do business with you.
Staking Your Claim
First things first, claim your business! Not sure if yours is actually claimed? This happens. Try Googling your business name and see if it pops up in the map 3-pack.
Did you know that anyone can suggest edits to your business or mark it as closed? If someone decided to actually claim your business, you are able to request ownership back. This will likely go to the current owner. If needed, in some circumstances, Google may review the situation and may request additional information from you in order to reverse what has been done. If you operate a business that has service areas and your area appears taken, you are able to request access through the “owner conflict” option and, again, Google will research and perhaps request verification to ultimately grant you ownership.
But, are you doubting the real value of even claiming your business online? You have a website after all. Here’s why you want to make the claim. First off, Google doesn’t trust unclaimed businesses. It has a reputation to uphold itself. It can’t be returning defunct or half-baked business results if it wants to maintain the massive market share it enjoys today. Within their proprietary and ever-evolving algorithms, Google discounts unverified businesses. Second, this GMB is free, excellent marketing. It is a great way to interact with your potential customer base, letting them know more about what you offer and where to find you. Claim the business. Verify you are you.
It should be noted that Google does have some GMB guidelines for business owners. Eligibility to participate in the GMB requires that you do, in fact, do business with your customers in-store or off-site in person, with stated business hours. You can review their full guidelines on eligibility here.
You’re verified, now it is time to make your Google space your own. You want to capitalize on all that the GMB has to offer.
Set Up A New GMB Profile:
We do get questions about the address, particularly from businesses without a brick-and-mortar storefront. You may choose the option of no storefront and, though your address will be hidden from the public, Google will know your address and will return you in relevant results based on your inputted location. You want to make certain you have provided an accurate street address. You don’t want to send your customers on a wild goose chase.
You might consider adding a Google Analytics tracking code to your website when you enter it into your GMB. This could enable you to measure the effectiveness of your GMB; you’ll be able to see who’s finding you this way. Businesses and restaurants that operate via appointments or reservations might find it makes sense to use an appointment URL.
Next, providing Google with a list of cities you conduct business in is important. This is because Google will bounce a search user’s location against your listed geographical area(s) of business. When you’re a fit, you’re more likely to show up in the user’s results. As a general rule, it is not productive to extend your service area beyond 20 miles, given the way Google uses the GMB.
You’ll next be prompted to provide a few more details about your business, including your business category. Your choice should reflect your primary service or product offering. This is how Google knows what line of work you are in. Don’t worry too much about the one category being limiting. You’ll have a chance to share much more about your business once you get further into the GMB dashboard.
The final step here is to have Google verify your legitimacy. This is actually a protection afforded to the business owner. Google takes the time to confirm you are who you are to provide accurate information to users, and to more likely catch fraud or individuals attempting improper GMB acquisitions. You won’t have control as to how Google chooses to verifies you. It may be that they have you provide a physical address and they mail you a postcard. But, it could be that you are sent a code via a mobile device. Or, there could be another verification process provided for you. Just follow the steps as instructed, and you’ll be on your way. While you wait, you can go ahead and jump into the GMB dashboard.
Get Into the Details
Once you’ve requested the verification, you can enter the GMB dashboard and begin to populate your business specifics while you wait on the final verification. Taking a look under the Info tab, you’ll see where you can add categories of products or services offered. Clicking on the pencil icon will bring in a window for inputting. Note that not all categories will be listed and you’ll likely need to do some playing around to find what is available and what works best for what you do. In this case, more is not always better. The key is to find the categories that make sense for your business. For example, you might be a “restaurant” that is also legitimate in the “bakery” category if you sell fresh bread. You may want to play around with your categories and track their effectiveness.
Take time in choosing you categories to ensure you’ll reach your widest possible audience. What you input will tie back to keywords searched by Google users. For example, getting personal, if someone were searching for SEO service providers in Allen, TX, Local Leap Marketing should come up as an option for Allen-area searchers. If someone were to search for website designers, we’d be likely to show up there as well because that is one of our category listings. Again, Google algorithms are constantly evolving, but well-thought-out categories are going to get you closer to your potential customers.
Next, be sure to accurately input your hours of operation. This is what users will see when they pull you up; it needs to be right. If you operate around the clock, you have the option of inputting open 24 hours. In their quest to be the best, Google has even provided GMB users with the option of including special holiday hours, which is particularly helpful for those holidays not always recognized by retailers and those retailers that flex for holidays.
Within the dashboard, you’ll also find a section for listing your services. Another great tool, this enables a retailer to list specific service or product offerings and include the price, if desired. Restaurants often put their menus here. This is where customers may make their decision as to whether or not to contact you, so, again, you want to include accurate, appealing information. As you input, Google may ask you more questions, depending on your chosen service area(s). These questions are designed from extensive research on search users and intended to help your potential customers find you and understand what it is you do.
The arguably most important feature of the GMB dashboard is the description section. Sadly, this is a section many business owners skip over. Don’t. You have up to 750 characters to provide the potential customer with information on what you do; the first 240 will show and then the user will need to click “more.” In this description, you’ll want to include keywords likely to appear in a user’s search. For example, a company like ours, specializing in SEO and web design will make certain to use “SEO,” “search engine optimization” (don’t assume everyone understands your industry lingo) and “website design.” In fact, our description is currently:
“Our goal at Local Leap Marketing is to help customers find your site and provide the measured data you need to continue growing. No matter what type of business you’re in, SEO is a crucial element in keeping your brand healthy and competitive. We specialize in Web Design, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Social Media Marketing (SMM).”
Finally, in providing the details of your business, use pictures and videos – consider a virtual tour. We have chosen to use our primary marketing video in this part of our GMB. Again, another opportunity to get in front of a potential customer. Images of your storefront , inside your establishment and photos of the products you offer are all good options. You may find it makes sense to include a photo of your employee(s) engaged in their work. If you are using your logo, be sure to have it in a square format. Stock photos should be avoided as they may be flagged and removed by Google. Keep in mind Google has a 10MB limit on each image size, and they also have some video restrictions. Google statistics show that pictures correlate to an increased number of website clicks, and upwards of a 40% increase in users choosing to get driving directions to come see you!
Naturally, you’ll want to spend some time choosing your cover photo because this is the first thing someone will see on your Google listing. You’ll also want to take time on your profile photo because this will be your “identity” when you respond to a review or make a post. If you’re one to get overwhelmed easily, or if you’re crunched for time, know that you do not have to complete the entire setup in one go. Also, keep in mind that any photos you upload will not show up online until you are officially verified.
You’re Up and Running
In addition to the valuable marketing space, with a verified GMB account you will have access to some useful analytics. For example, when logged in, under the home tab, performance section, you’ll be able to see the number of views, searches and actions for your specific GMB. You also get the opportunity to respond to posted customer inquiries and reviews. We encourage our customers to download the Google My Business App, available on the android and IOS platforms. You’ll find the mobile app provides some different features from the GMB webpage, and the app will likely be the easiest way for you to respond to customers when you are out and about.
Taking the time to set up a GMB that is accurate, informative and attractive pays off. No, it cannot guarantee you a top three spot in the search results, but it is a step towards that end and it will be what your searchers find when they enter your exact name trying to find you.
Having a strong SEO campaign can further help move and keep you up in relevant search results. Are you seeking additional SEO support? Local Leap has been helping businesses connect with their customers and grow their brands for more than a decade. Our goal is to help customers find your site and provide the measured data you need to continue growing. Give us a call today to discuss your business or request a free SEO audit of your website.