This guide to Google My Business (GMB) explains what local business listings are, how to use GMB, and the features available to local businesses for Google My Business optimization. Read on to learn how Google My Business can help your business gain more visibility online!
As years go by and our reliance on the internet only seems to increase, Google has become even more present in our day-to-day lives, whether that’s in the form of its video search engine, YouTube, its voice assistant, Google Assistant, or just a simple Chrome search on your phone.
But for local SEOs and local business owners, no Google product is more important than Google My Business.
In each chapter, we’ll cover a different topic, and by the end of the guide, you should have a foundational understanding of what Google My Business is and how to use it to gain more visibility in local search for your, or your client’s, business.
Throughout the guide, keep your eyes peeled for top tips, expert advice, and recommended resources.
Bookmark this page and come back to it to put your learnings into practice as you go!
Let’s get started!
First question first: what is Google My Business?
Google My Business (GMB) is a free, multi-featured business listing that local businesses can use to manage their presence on Google Search and Google Maps. Google My Business is not unlike listings on online business directories such as Yelp, but it’s found directly in Google and Google Maps search results, and therefore doesn’t require a visit to a third-party site.
As we’ll discuss later, Google My Business has gone far beyond a simple business listing, and thanks to a wealth of features and functions, is now considered a core part of local SEO.
Here’s how Google describes Google My Business:
“Google My Business is a free and easy-to-use tool for businesses and organizations to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. To help customers find your business, and to tell them your story, you can verify your business and edit your business information.”
Google My Business listings can show up in various places when a local search is performed. In the next section of the guide, we’ll look at what GMB listings look like and where they appear.
Need to know more about local SEO and what local searches are before you continue? Head over to our Complete Guide to Local SEO now.
Where does a Google My Business listing show up online?
Google Knowledge Panel
Information from your Google My Business listing will appear in Google’s Knowledge Panel when a brand search is performed.
Google presents your information in a concise, snippet-form in SERPs in order to provide searchers with a quick and easy means to get the information they need. It also provides your business with more visibility.
What is the Google Knowledge Panel?
The Google Knowledge Panel is the box that appears in the top-right hand corner of Google search results on desktop (and near the top on mobile) when someone performs a branded search for your business (i.e. when they search your business name).
The Knowledge Panel is the container that holds important information about your business.
The information displayed might include your business’s name, address, and phone number (NAP). If the business in question is local and has a Google My Business listing, then this information (plus things like Opening Hours) will be pulled from Google My Business.
Google’s Knowledge Panel can surface for queries that aren’t just local. For example, if you search for a global brand like Starbucks (without “near me” or a location specified), a Knowledge Panel will appear with information being pulled from sites like Wikipiedia.
Knowledge Panels can also appear for generic searches such as, “rabbit”:
Here’s where you can find the Google My Business profile in the Knowledge Panel for a branded search:
In this example, I’ve searched for ‘Little Italy Pizza’. A search for the restaurant’s name, rather than a generic ‘pizza near me’ search, generates the business’s Knowledge Panel, with all visible information being pulled from its Google My Business listing.
Google Local Pack/Local Finder
Google My Business can also show up in the Google Local Pack, or Google Local Finder.
The Local Pack is the block of business listings that appear below the map in search results. This is shown after a user performs a Google search with local intent. Initially, three profiles are shown, but you can expand to see more.
For example, if I search for ‘pizza, New York,’ something like this will show up:
Each business listed here shows up only because it has a Google My Business listing, and, like the Knowledge Graph, all the information you can see here is pulled from the business’s GMB listing.
Did You Know? You don’t even need a website to rank in the Local Pack — it’s possible to show up here with only a Google My Business listing! In fact, local SEO expert Mike Blumenthal did a study on this very subject.
This only highlights the difference between local results and organic search, as you can only appear in organic search results if you have a traditional website.
Google Maps is an app- and browser-based service on desktop or mobile used for getting directions and discovering businesses and locations.
Most consumers will be familiar with Google Maps, likely having used it to locate a residence or local landmark at least once. However, it’s also a key place for local businesses to gain visibility.
Here’s what Google My Business listings look like when searching on Google Maps on desktop (also known as the Map Pack):
And here’s how the Google My Business listing looks once selected (i.e. if I click on the top result in the screenshot above):
How consumers use Google My Business
Consumers use Google My Business for a whole host of reasons, such as:
- To find out a business’s opening times
- To get directions to a local business, or find its address
- To call a local business without needing to visit their website
- To write and read reviews about a local business
- To see photos of a local business and its products/services
- To visit the business website
- To make online bookings
- To view the available products and services
- To ask and answer questions about a local business
You’ll notice we’ve mentioned a couple of features, like reviews and photos, that we’re yet to touch on. Don’t worry, we’ve got a full breakdown of all the Google My Business features later on in the guide.
Who qualifies for a Google My Business listing?
To qualify for a Google business listing, a member of staff must be available to interact with your customers during the business hours you include in your listing.
Listings on Google My Business can only be created for businesses that either have a physical location that customers can visit or that travel to visit customers where they are.
There is one case where a physical location isn’t required. This is in the case of service-area businesses (SABs) such as plumbers, pest control companies, cleaners, or any other service provider that visits and works at its customers’ locations. Service-area businesses are able to specify the area in which they serve customers. For example, a plumber might offer its services within a 5-mile radius.
Online-only businesses and eCommerce ventures without a physical location that greets customers are not eligible for Google My Business listings as they do not meet Google’s guidelines.
How to set up a Google My Business listing
Setting up a Google My Business listing is free and, in theory, straightforward. It consists of just a few steps, which can be completed quickly by visiting www.google.com/business/.
Looking for a full guide on how to set up your Google My Business listing? We’ve got you covered.
When setting up your listing, just remember that some steps may vary based on your industry. For example, restaurants will be asked to include photos of their menu, whereas hotels will be asked to share photos of their guest rooms and/or facilities.
If you’re a service-area business, you’ll need to pay particular attention to Step 4 in the guide I linked to above, where you’ll need to specify your area of business.
Google My Business has many benefits, both to the merchant and the searcher.
In this chapter, we’ll look at the benefits of Google My Business in the context of the consumer, its impact on local search rankings, and zero-click searches.
7 Ways Google My Business benefits consumers
Up-to-date, accurate Google My Business listings help consumers in a multitude of ways.
1. Making it easier for searchers to source important information
Having a GMB profile makes it far easier for consumers to locate information such as a business’s phone number, address, or health and safety policies.
How many times have you found yourself wanting to call up and ask a question, or check a business’s hygiene measures before visiting?
With all this information easily locatable on a business’s GMB listing, searchers can get on with the important stuff, like working out if a business is really suitable for their needs.
2. Quick and easy local business comparison in one place
Finding and switching between multiple businesses’ websites can be a real headache for searchers. With Google My Business, it’s easy to compare and contrast businesses’ offerings by flicking between their listings.
Looking at the example above, it’s clear how much information a searcher can quickly and easily glean just from flicking through a handful of listings on Google Maps.
This makes the searcher’s journey far easier, and means they’re able to make a decision much more quickly.
So, if you have high local rankings, offer relevant services, and give the searcher enough information, you could quickly win a new customer.
3. Searchers can easily check out photos, reviews, and offers from nearby businesses
Through photos and Posts, businesses are able to showcase their offerings, their brand, and even their personality.
With so much information available these are the features that searchers will likely be paying attention to.
Knowing what a cocktail bar looks like (Does it have heaters in its outdoor seating area? How spacious is the bar area? Is there room to dance?) can help to inform searchers quickly. Having the option to read relevant reviews will help the searcher understand if your business offers what they need.
Features like this can be make or break in saturated markets where consumers often feel inundated and overwhelmed by choice. Your potential customers are sure to be grateful that you’ve saved them precious time and energy by providing them with all the information they need to make a decision.
It could save your business time, too. After all, searchers no longer need to call up and ask these questions because the answers are immediately visible right there on your GMB profile.
Likewise, review content can provide answers to these types of questions.
This all means that when the searcher does contact your business or visit you in-store, they’re even more prepared to invest in your product or service. Think of it this way: you’ve turned a lead from warm to hot, all without lifting a finger.
4. It’s easy to make bookings and appointments in Google My Business
With its Book an Appointment feature, Google My Business makes it accessible for consumers to get what they need from your listing. In the case of beauty salons, spas, dentists, or other appointment-taking industries, this can be an extremely useful function that saves both the searcher and the business time.
Simplifying the customer journey through tools like this is only going to lead to happier customers, which in turn should mean happier businesses.
5. Google Maps users can follow and make lists of their favorite local businesses
You thought Google+ was dead? Well, Google isn’t done playing in the social and community space. Even Google Maps has a social function!
Users are able to follow businesses they like and create a list of their favorites. This makes it easier for searchers to keep up with their favorite local stores, and support them, too.
When a Maps user opts to follow a business, they’ll be notified of Offers, Events, Posts, and changes to opening hours. Again, this saves time and makes the user journey much easier.
Beyond that, this element of Google My Business allows customers to feel even more connected with businesses, which is vital in the age of eCommerce giants like Amazon.
6. ‘Justifications’ make it easy for searchers to see how relevant a business is to their search
Google My Business has simplified the search for relevant, nearby businesses. Thanks to the ever-evolving local algorithm, Google (generally) does a great job of surfacing the right businesses for users’ search queries.
As a result, finding the right business is easy.
Look what happens when I search for something niche, like a specific product:
Google Maps returns relevant businesses and highlights content I might find useful to assist in my search.
Under the heading ‘Related to your search,’ Google has returned Q&A content it thinks will be relevant, highlighting keywords in response to queries about the ps5.
This is something that Google does frequently, in order to provide more relevant results.
If I search for a restaurant that’s family-friendly, Google will return results where that phrase has been mentioned in reviews, or even on the business’s website (in the case of Bubby’s, below). This function is sometimes called ‘Justifications’.
7. It gives consumers ways to provide feedback and improve local businesses
Google My Business allows Google Maps users to provide their own feedback on businesses through the app and validate the opinions of others, ensuring a more accurate, picture of the business.
Through user-focused features like ‘Suggest an Edit’ or ‘Provide Feedback’, Google ensures any information found on GMB profiles is as up-to-date as possible.
Crowdsourced features like Q&A, reviews, and even photos also help to provide a fair picture of businesses on GMB.
All this contributes to simplifying the process of searching for and pinpointing the relevant local business for a user’s search.
Google My Business is the number one local ranking factor
Now that we’ve established why Google My Business is useful to searchers, let’s move on to look at the benefits of Google My Business to local businesses.
According to a well-respected industry survey from Whitespark, Google My Business is the number one local ranking factor. What does that mean? It means that Google My Business has the most impact on where your business appears in results for local business searches.
Not only is Google My Business a known ranking factor, but GMB optimisations are lauded by local SEO experts as some of the most effective ways to boost visibility in the Local Pack.
Making the most of Google My Business can be a competitive difference-maker, and cause businesses to rank higher for relevant local search terms.
Therefore, businesses that don’t have Google My Business listings will stand little to no chance of getting found or chosen online: you have to be in it to win it.
Google My Business is necessary in a world of zero-click searches
As zero-click searches become more and more prevalent, having a means to represent your business in search engine results pages (SERPs) is essential. Without a Google My Business listing, you could miss out on converting customers at the earliest stage.
What is a zero-click search?
The zero-click search experience means that more actions, such as conversions to sale, are taking place within search results than ever before. Instead of needing to visit a business’s website, searchers can find what they need directly within the search engine results page, for example on a Google My Business listing.
Google My Business profiles feature a multitude of functions, including links that make it easy to call the business, get directions, and even book appointments. In this way, GMB makes it even easier for searchers to award their custom to your business without needing to visit your website.
Simply having a Google My Business listing isn’t enough to succeed in local search, especially as they’re so common nowadays. But that’s a good thing: the more levers you can pull in Google My Business to get ahead of your competitors, who may not be using GMB to the fullest, the better!
In order for Google My Business to have a real impact on your rankings and conversions, you’ll need to make the most of its variety of features and ensure your GMB is fully optimized to provide the best possible information, impression, and experience to your potential customers.
In this chapter, I’ll talk you through the most important Google My Business features, and explain how you can use these features to succeed in search.
1. Make sure your NAP is accurate
Let’s begin with the basics. For your Google My Business to do well with search engines and searchers, you’ll need your NAP (name, address, and phone number) to be accurate. By accurate, I mean that it should reflect what your business is actually called. What name is printed on your signage, business cards, or website? That’s what you should be using!
If your NAP isn’t accurate across GMB, in-store, and on-site, you could confuse consumers. According to the Local Citations Trust Report, more than 9 in 10 consumers say they are frustrated by incorrect information online.
2. Write the perfect business description
In your Google My Business listing, you’ll have the option to add a 750-character description. This is your opportunity to tell searchers about your business.
When writing this, it’s important to ensure you’re sticking to Google’s guidelines:
Enter a brief description of your business: What you offer, what sets you apart, your history, or anything else that’s helpful for customers to know. Focus primarily on details about your business instead of details about promotions, prices, or sales. Do not include URLs or HTML code, or exceed 750 characters in the description field.
The description is one of the first things that’s influenced by you that potential customers will see when they visit your Google My Business listing, so it’s important to get it right.
Try to include any USPs that your business offers. For example, if you run a pizza place in New York, do you offer plant-based toppings or gluten-free crusts?
Although it’s important not to stuff your description so full of keywords it becomes nonsensical, you should be considerate of any key search terms your potential customers might use. For example, you might say you’re a ‘family-friendly pizzeria serving plant-based toppings in a relaxed setting’. If you’re worried about keyword stuffing, just ask yourself if the description reads naturally and would be useful for a searcher.
There has been some back and forth as to whether or not keywords in the GMB description impact rankings. Currently, it’s not believed that they have any effect. Regardless, you should focus on sharing information that would be of use to your potential customers.
The business description is a great place to showcase your brand’s personality, so you should consider the tone of voice you’re using here. While staying true to your existing brand identity, it’s a good idea to consider how you could stand out from competitors, too.
Extra Business Description Resources
3. Choose the right business category and subcategory
One of the most important aspects of Google My Business is picking the right primary category.
Did You Know? According to local SEO experts, the primary GMB category is the number one local pack ranking factor.
Only your primary category will be visible on your business listing, but subcategories will inform whether or not your listing is surfaced for local queries, so they’re very important, too. Here’s where your primary category appears in a GMB Knowledge Panel:
Picking a category might sound simple, but with so many to choose from, it can be hard to pick the right one. We suggest checking out what categories your competitors use. This can be done one of two ways: with a tool like BrightLocal’s Local Search Grid, or manually.
Local Search Grid gives you a side-by-side comparison of your nearby competitors’ categories, so you can see how you fit into the big picture.
To locate your competitors’ categories manually, without using a tool:
- Perform a local search using your keyword on Google Maps
- Bring up one of your competitors’ listings
- Right-click (or double-tap) next to your competitor’s primary listing and click ‘View Source’
- Ctrl + F (or Command + F on Mac), and search for the primary category
- Once located, the subcategories will be next to it
- Make a note of what categories your competitors are using, and test them out yourself, to see if they have an impact.
Categories can be changed, so feel free to experiment with what works best for you.
A Word of Caution
We love trying new things, and always recommend you test things out for yourself, but be warned: changing your GMB category too frequently can sometimes wrongfully trigger suspension. So, by all means, test what category works best for you, just not multiple times a day!
Extra GMB Categories Resources
4. Upload amazing photos
To help searchers get to know your business better, Google encourages you to upload photos to your listing.
Uploading photos to your Google My Business will not only help your listing look more active and alive, but it’s also likely to convert searchers.
A business’s photos can make or break a potential user action. Monitoring and managing photos that appear in search results should be a weekly, possibly even daily, task.
Steve Wiideman – President, Wiideman Consulting (How Do You Make a Google My Business Listing More ‘Clickable’?)
To get the most out of this Google My Business feature, and increase your chances of converting searchers, Google recommends businesses upload the following:
- At least three strong exterior photos, taken at different times of the day and showing the approach to the business from common angles
- A minimum of three interior photos
- Product photos for the most popular products and services you offer
- One image of any common areas your business may have, such as the reception
- A minimum of three management and team photos
- For bars, restaurants, and cafes, images of the most popular food and drinks
- For hotels, images of guest rooms should be uploaded
As well as bulking out your listing with your own photos, you can (and should) encourage customers to take and share photos of your business.
The best way to get customers to take and share photos of your business is to encourage them to do so during their visit. For example, include prompts on printed materials around the store (a clothes store might have stickers on the mirrors in fitting rooms). You can also incentivize staff members to take photos for happy customers, which the visitor might be inclined to share after their visit.
Did You Know? Businesses with more than 100 images get 520% more calls than the average business?
If you’re a service-area business without a premise, you can still get in on the action! Reach out to happy customers and ask if they’d be willing to share photos of your finished handiwork on Google.
Extra Google Photos Resources
5. Generate, monitor, and respond to Google reviews
Another top local ranking factor, the online review is one of the most important features for businesses to pay attention to within Google My Business.
Did You Know? While GMB may be the number one local ranking factor, reviews take the second spot. Experts agree that a well-maintained Google review profile can have a tremendous impact on your GMB profile’s online visibility.
If you’ve got a Google My Business listing, customers will be able to review you there, and the review will be publicly visible for all to see, so it’s important to take control of the narrative and actively generate, monitor, and respond to reviews.
According to BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey, 87% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses. Furthermore, only 48% of consumers would use a business with a rating of less than 4 stars. So this aspect of GMB really needs to be paid attention to.
But your star rating isn’t all that matters: recency, legitimacy, quantity, length, detail, and sentiment of reviews are all factors that matter to consumers.
Thinking about how you can do well in each of those areas might be daunting, but there are some simple actions you can take to ensure your review quality and quantity is up to scratch.
Sentiment and rating
Of course, searchers are looking for businesses that have good star ratings and positive sentiment in the review content.
The best way to ensure you’ve got a good star rating? Provide great customer service!
Before you begin asking for reviews, make sure you’re happy with your product or service, your team’s customer care, and any other important aspects of your business that might affect the customer experience.
Even the best business in the world will receive at least a handful of bad reviews —you can’t please everyone — but it’s important to be prepared to have your business honestly reviewed, and so you’ll want to be providing 10/10 service at every touchpoint.
Recency and quantity
To ensure you’re getting a regular stream of reviews, you’re going to need to consistently ask for them — you can’t just expect them to come rolling in on their own (even the most successful brands can attest to this, believe us!)
Asking for Google reviews can be done in a few ways, depending on what suits your audience:
- In-store, at the point of sale or service
- By email, after a store visit or appointment
- By SMS, after a store visit or appointment
- In-print, with short links on business cards and other materials
Regularly requesting reviews means you’ll be able to show positive, recent reviews on your profiles, proving to consumers that your business is alive and kicking.
In order to keep on top of this process, some businesses will enlist the help of reputation management tools.
Legitimacy, length, and detail
Unfortunately, fake reviews are pretty common, and so consumers’ trust in online reviews has been a little diminished over the years. Naturally, we’re all a little bit skeptical when we’re considering whether or not to part with our hard-earned cash.
Of course, the first step to ensure your reviews look legitimate is to make sure they are. That means never, under any circumstances, buying reviews. Reviews should be given freely by genuine customers – not friends or family!
One way to ensure reviews look legit is to provide your reviewers with prompt questions when asking for them. This is especially helpful if you’re reaching out some time after the customer’s store visit and they might have forgotten the details.
Here are some ideas of what you could ask:
- What was your favorite part of the store visit/appointment/product/service today?
- Did any members of staff provide outstanding customer service to you?
- Which of our stores did you visit today? (if your business has multiple locations)
The more relevant information your reviews include, the more likely they are to look legitimate and show potential customers that you can be trusted.
Not only will these prompts help you receive more authentic-looking reviews, but they’ll also encourage customers to write more lengthy, detailed reviews — all of which contribute to building trust.
Extra Google Reviews Resources
6. Use Google Posts to boost conversions and showcase brand personality
Think of Google Posts as social media updates within your Google My Business profile. There are several types of Google Posts types, which we’ll discuss in this section.
Generally speaking though, a Google Post is simply an update your business shares. There’s no time limit on when the Post expires, and the most recent Posts will appear in your Google Knowledge Panel.
Here’s an example of what Posts look like in situ:
Google Posts is another Google My Business feature that local SEO experts recommend using to make your listing more ‘clickable’ and help to convert searchers.
We use GMB posts on all top-level services provided by the client. We post because we know these posts appear in the 3-pack, plus we’re just fueling the beast (Google). Is it a ranking factor? Probably not. But do our clients’ GMB profiles look better than our competitors’ profiles? Yes.
Ben Fisher – Founder and VP of Marketing, Steady Demand (How Do You Make a Google My Business Listing More ‘Clickable’?)
As with all GMB features, it’s important to make sure you’re following the guidelines set out by Google. There are some surprising rules that are important to adhere to. For example, make sure not to include phone numbers in Google Posts, or you could be at risk of suspension.
The types of Google Posts available to local businesses are:
The ‘what’s new’ Google Post option allows businesses to share general information about their store, products, or services.
Take a look at this New York pizza place, which uses the ‘what’s new’ Post type to share news of its presence on a food ordering app:
If you’re the kind of business that offers in-store events, then you’ll want to take note of this Post type.
Events Posts allow businesses to share updates about events they’re involved with. When adding this Post type in GMB, you’ll have the option to include a photo, event title, start time/date, and end time/date.
Here, an NYC cocktail bar uses an Events Post to promote its Happy Hour:
Another great way to boost conversions through Google My Business, Offers Posts allow businesses to showcase any promotions they’re running, like new customer discounts.
Similarly to the Events Post, you’re able to set a promotion start and end date, so potential customers can see if the offer is still available. As is the case with most Post types, you can also add a photo or image to capture searchers’ attention.
This is a great option for most business types, especially if you’re planning on running an introductory offer.
This example sees a pizza place promoting free delivery when you order through its app:
For businesses that sell products (rather than services), this post type is a great way to promote offerings and encourage in-store footfall.
The Product Post type allows you to share a product name, photo, category, price, and description (although price and description are optional fields).
This furniture store uses Product Posts to showcase its latest products, with a direct CTA and link to purchase:
It’s important to note that although Product Posts are added as Posts through the GMB dashboard as normal, the update will appear under the ‘Products’ section of your listing:
Interestingly, and unlike the other Post types, this isn’t a Post you can add manually through your Google My Business dashboard. If you update your opening hours in GMB, Google will automatically share this as a Post, which then appears under the ‘Updates’ section of your profile, along with other Posts.
The Covid-19 update Post option is designed to allow businesses to update their customers about new opening restrictions, health and safety measures, and in-store policies.
Google also suggests that businesses can use this Post type to provide information on how customers can support businesses while stores may be closed, such as through gift cards.
Due to it being a relatively new option at the time of writing, many businesses continue to opt to use the generic ‘what’s new’ Post type to update their customers instead, like so:
Extra Google Posts Resources
7. Use Q&A to answer customer queries and FAQs
Google’s Q&A allows searchers to ask and answer each other’s questions about a business, right there on the public-facing Google My Business profile.
But — drumroll, please — there’s nothing stopping you from using the feature to your advantage. In fact, we highly recommend filling it out with your own questions and answers, to preempt any queries searchers might have. This also helps to keep your listing looking active.
When used in this way, Google’s Q&A feature is very much like an in-SERP FAQ, similar to what you might have on your website.
For example, are you a hotel that often gets asked if it’s pet-friendly? Put that in your Q&A section! This is a great way to provide searchers with the info they may be looking for upfront, and potentially score more customers in the process.
I’m a big fan of utilizing the Q&A feature to help make the listing more helpful and hopefully encourage going to the website for more information.
Niki Mosier – Head of SEO and Content, AgentSync (How Do You Make a Google My Business Listing More ‘Clickable’?)
As well as providing searchers with FAQ-type content, it’s important to monitor your Q&A, much like you would your incoming reviews. Monitoring your Q&A will allow you to quickly respond to potential customers, and provide damage control should a disgruntled customer use the feature to air their feedback.
8. Set up a booking system
Google’s appointment-booking function is one of the contributing factors in the rise of zero-click searches.
Now, searchers don’t need to go to your website (or a third-party booking site) to get information and take action.
Does your business offer appointments and bookings? For example, are you a hairdresser? A beauty salon? Or a service-area business? Great. You’ll likely want to set up a ‘Book an Appointment’ button to appear on your Google My Business profile.
If you’re a business that takes appointments and bookings, then having this feature could make things a lot easier for your customers, and you. Just make sure you keep on top of any bookings that come through third-party systems.
Did You Know? Letting searchers convert directly from your GMB listing will mean it’s more important than ever that your profile is comprehensive and gives users all the information they need. After all, there’s more at stake now. If you turn on this feature, make sure you’ve filled out the Photos, Posts, Products/Services, Q&A, and Reviews sections of your profile, following the tips in this guide.
To set up a ‘book an appointment’ button, visit your Google My Business profile, go to ‘Info’, and click ‘Add appointment links’.
Google partners with many reservation platforms to give businesses the opportunity to use this feature. It’s worth keeping an eye on this list to check whether your chosen booking partner is available, or if it will be coming soon.
That’s not all, though. Google also enables restaurants to allow customers to order food via the Local Pack or Knowledge Panel with an ‘Order Online’ call-to-action button. You don’t even need to have a partnership or integration with a third party or Order Food. You can simply define the URL you’d like this to go to in the GMB back end, which is perfect if you have a web page detailing a multitude of ordering options.
9. Claim your Google My Business short name
A Google My Business short name is a name between 5 and 32 characters that is added to a g.page URL to make it easier for searchers and business owners to link directly to Google My Business profiles. For example, ours is just ‘BrightLocal’, making the URL we send customers when asking for reviews, g.page/BrightLocal.
Short names are really useful, as they make it much easier for you to share your business’s profile with customers. Rather than linking to a long, number-filled, and largely meaningless URL, you’ll be able to share something short and memorable.
Just see for yourself. Here’s our original GMB URL:
Now, compare that to the short name:
Fortunately, claiming your short name is easy. Simply log in to your Google My Business account, click ‘Info’, and add your short name where the @ sign is.
Extra Short Name Resources
10. Use Google My Business as a customer service channel
If customer actions are taking place on your Google My Business, it makes sense to ensure customer service and support are available there, too.
It can be daunting to keep up with public-facing user-generated content aspects of GMB, such as reviews and Q&A. Messaging can provide a way for you to manage the conversation behind closed doors, as well as to anticipate and provide damage control on any potential negative reviews.
Messaging can also provide an extension of the Q&A function, as some searchers might feel more comfortable asking questions privately. If you work in an industry that might entail sensitive information, such as an attorney or in healthcare, the Messaging feature can provide a means for searchers to communicate and get the information they need more discreetly.
If you choose to turn on the messaging feature, customers will be able to contact you directly through your listing, and a button will appear next to other functions like ‘call’ and ‘website’.
To enable the GMB messaging feature, you’ll need to log into your Google My Business profile and click ‘Messages’. You can then manage incoming messages either through the app or on the desktop site, as seen below.
Source: Search Engine Land
Once you begin using Messaging, you’ll start to receive notifications should a searcher contact you. If there are multiple owners/managers on the GMB profile, each will have the ability to reply to messages.
If a searcher reaches out to you, they’ll receive an automated welcome message, which you can customize to suit your needs.
When it comes to using the Messaging feature to speak with customers, you’ll want to treat it the same you would any other customer service channel:
- Make sure someone is available to answer customer queries
- Keep the tone and content professional
If you’re not going to be available to answer messages for any reason — say you’re a small business and all staff are going to be on annual leave over the holiday season — it’s worth switching the feature off entirely.
Did You Know? Google guidelines state messages should be replied to within 24 hours, so if you can’t do that — even just for a few days — you should switch the feature off. Businesses who don’t follow this guideline may have the feature disabled.
11. Detail your Products and Services
Products and Services offer merchants the opportunity to show off their business offerings directly in local SERPs, whether that be something physical like furniture, treatments like facial massage, or even the option to adopt an animal.
While including information in the Products and Services section doesn’t impact rankings, they can be key to converting a potential customer viewing your profile and looking for the sorts of things you’re offering.
Plus, for certain search queries, information from your Products and Services may be highlighted, making your business stand out to the searcher even more.
For example, if I look for a store selling a photo frame, Google Maps returns relevant results based on product offerings.
In a time where online shopping is favored by many consumers, being able to show off products before customers have to commit to visiting your store can be a real game-changer.
This feature will be more useful to some businesses than others. For example, a spa might find it useful to list its treatments as services, whereas a restaurant likely won’t list every menu item as a product.
If your business has a product that you know is going to be particularly sought after or in demand, then it’s definitely worth listing that to increase your chances of showing up for relevant searches.
Products and Services can be added in the GMB dashboard by clicking the respective headings in the left-hand menu.
Here, you’ll also. be able to set the price of each Product and Service offering. This is an opportunity to communicate even more information to searchers and, potentially, show off your competitive pricing.
12. Use UTM links and call tracking to better monitor performance
Once you’re confident you’re making the most of all the Google My Business features and that your profile is optimized properly, you’ll need a way of tracking its performance.
Using UTM links (which stands for Urchin Tracking Module links) in the links you set in your GMB profile, such as ‘Website’, is a great way to monitor and attribute where visitors are finding your business and what actions they’re taking.
If you want to track the performance of a page in Google Analytics, then you’ll need to ensure it is UTM tagged.
Here’s an example of what a UTM tag might look like:
The information after the question mark shows the source, medium, and campaign, so you can easily tell where the user came from when you’re going through your Google Analytics reports.
If we look at the example of our link above, you can see that “campaign=gmblisting”, meaning that the user found BrightLocal by clicking the ‘Website’ button on our Google My Business profile.
Now, in Google Analytics we can see exactly how many people are finding us via that link, and are therefore able to measure the success of that channel.
There are a few different areas of a GMB that can be tagged with these parameters: primary links such as your website button, Google Posts, Appointment links, and Products.
Tagging these areas will make it easier to understand your customers’ journeys using Google Analytics. For example, did a searcher visit one of your Google Posts with an offer attached and then go through to your site to purchase? Great! You’ll probably want to keep going with those promotions.
In need of a quick masterclass in UTM tagging?
Local SEO pro Claire Carlile’s got you covered with her ultimate guide.
Call tracking is another fantastic way to gain a better understanding of your customers and follow up with hot leads, too. While Google does have its own ‘Preview Call History’ function, you can also invest in a purpose-built tool to do this, such as CallRail.
Similarly to UTM tracking, call tracking will allow you to judge the success of certain channels and follow up with hot leads, too.
13. Investigate Google My Business features specific to your industry… and use them!
While I’m confident we’ve covered the most important Google My Business features, what’s available to you can vary from industry to industry. For example, features available to hotels are very different to those for restaurants, with their version of the Local Pack even being nicknamed the ‘Hotel Pack’.
Features on Google My Business available to hotels include:
- Check-in/checkout times
- Price insights
- Hotel highlights
Another way to know what GMB features are available to your industry is to perform competitor research, either manually through Google Search or with BrightLocal’s Google My Business Audit tool.
14. Always keep on top of new features and tests
If you’ve followed the steps and advice set out so far, you’re going to be well on your way to having an engaging, optimized profile, but the work doesn’t stop there.
Google My Business is constantly evolving, with new and updated features and layouts rolling out regularly. Plus, Google is always testing things, sometimes choosing to make them permanent features and sometimes not pursuing them at all.
To keep on top of the latest changes and take advantage of them before your competitors do, we’d recommend you subscribe to, or bookmark, the following resources:
- BrightLocal newsletter
- Adventures in Local Marketing podcast
- Local SEO Experts Twitter list
- Local SEO Networking Twitter list
- Local Search Forum
- Google My Business Community Help Forum
Above all, though, the best way to learn is to test and explore things yourself. Set yourself a reminder each week (or month, if you’re under-resourced and time-poor) to check out GMB listings in your industry. What features are they using? Does anything look different? If so, test that feature out for yourself and see if it makes a difference to rankings or conversions.
Not only is Google My Business a great tool for finding and converting new customers, but it can also teach you a lot about your audience’s searching habits.
In this chapter, we’ll discuss what, and how, you can learn from Google My Business.
What is Google My Business Insights?
Google My Business Insights is a free tool from Google that shows how searchers found your listing and what actions they took on it. It contains information relating to your local search performance such as the number of views your listing has received, how search users find you, and the types of interactions they have with your listing, such as clicking through to your website, calling you, or requesting directions.
Here’s what Google My Business Insights looks like when you first land on the page:
Why is Google My Business Insights useful?
Google My Business Insights is useful for two core reasons:
- It helps you understand how searchers find your business
- It helps you understand what actions searchers take on your business
Beyond this, GMB Insights can help you to identify broader trends in how people are finding your business. For example, your cake delivery business might be surprisingly busy at the beginning of May, leading you to look into providing special Offer Posts for customers purchasing services around Mother’s Day.
The more information you have available to you, the more you’ll be able to improve your listing and encourage more actions to take place.
Extra Google My Business Insights Resources
How to use Google My Business Insights
Now we’ve established why Google My Business Insights is useful, we can get into how to use the data provided.
Here’s how to find and use Google My Business Insights:
- Sign in to your Google My Business profile as usual.
- The Home tab should load, and to the right of the screen, you’ll see the ‘Performance’ box, which shows data from the last 28 days on Search and Maps.
- Alternatively, you can click on Insights from the left-hand side menu.
The Insights data is split across a number of different features, each of which will help you to build a better understanding of your listing. Let’s explore these.
How customers search for your business
Knowing how users search for your business isn’t just a point of interest, it can also help you to make better marketing decisions. At the top of the Performance box, you’ll see three sets of numbers: Views, Searches, and Activity.
When you click on Searches, a panel will drop down and show you data related to Direct and Discovery searches.
What is a Direct Search?
A Direct Search is when someone heads to Google and types in either your business name or your business address. You can draw a clear conclusion from this figure – these are people who already know about your business and have inputted their search with the specific intention of finding your listing or finding information related to your business, such as consumer reviews. Regardless of intention, these are people aware of you.
What is a Discovery Search?
A Discovery Search is when search users have typed in something generic such as ‘plumber near me’ or ‘convenience store open now’ and your business listing has appeared in the local search results.
What is a Branded Search?
A Branded Search is when a user searches for a brand related to your business. Google uses the example of someone searching for ‘McDonald’s’ and being presented with a similar fast food business. The Branded Search category is only present in GMB Insights if your company has appeared at least once for this type of query.
Search users who found you through Discovery may or may not already be familiar with your business, but they haven’t set out to find you specifically. These searches are general in nature and typically relate to a specific need and the desire to find a product or service that fulfills that need.
So, what insights can we glean from these figures?
If the Discovery figure is smaller than your Direct figure, it’s a sign that you need to revisit your approach to local SEO. Having a higher Discovery search number means that you’re visible to new customers rather than relying solely on people who already know about you for web traffic and sales.
Click on Insights in the left-hand menu to access this data in graph form.
Queries used to find your business
The information found in this section, ‘Queries used to find your business’, can become a very useful content optimization resource.
Available from the Insights menu, this lists the top search queries, which you can then use to confirm you’re using the right keywords across your blogs, web page, and Google My Business Posts.
Where customers view your business on Google
This section shows you where your impressions on Google have originated: in standard Google Search or from within Google Maps (desktop site or app).
What are Impressions in GMB Insights?
The Google My Business Impressions metric refers to how many people have viewed or seen your business listing. You can think of the number of Impressions as being how many people your listing has reached.
You’ll see two numbers here, Listing on Search and Listing on Maps, with options to view for the week, month, or quarter.
While this may not seem helpful at first glance, in reality it will show you how well mobile optimization is going, particularly if you’re working with a high-footfall business such as a restaurant or hotel.
Next up is the Customer actions section. This data is great for helping you to determine how to manage your listing, and what to do next if you’re feeling unsure.
This part of Google My Business Insights shows you what type of action a search user commonly takes on your listing, including things like visiting your website, requesting directions, and making phone calls to your business.
You can use this insight to inform additional work on your GMB profile. A slew of direction requests shows that there is an intent to visit your location. This could lead you to create a Post sharing nearby parking facilities or bus stops, for example. You may also want to edit the contact page on your website with directions, parking, and public transport access to help those planning a visit. On the GMB listing itself, you could upload additional images of your location showing the approach from different directions.
Depending on the action, additional information may also be available. If search users have requested directions, for example, you’ll see a map showing where those direction requests came from.
When a GMB user has clicked on the ‘Directions’ link on your profile, you’ll see a directions heatmap in GMB Insights, which outlines the location of those search users.
This heatmap is a great resource for local businesses, as it gives a very good indication of where your potential customers are traveling from. This can help you better understand in which neighborhoods to focus your marketing efforts.
Use the zip code and location data presented in the directions heatmap to finely hone your advertising and marketing targeting. You could, for example, use the zip codes to focus your Google Ads targeting, or use this data to geo-target social media campaigns.
If a search user has clicked on your Google My Business listing to call your business, you’ll be able to monitor that data from this section of the Insights tab.
You can use this data to see which day of the week and time of the day generates the most calls from GMB – this information could again be used to fine-tune ad performance or help you decide when to schedule a new Post.
As we discussed earlier, photos are crucial to GMB performance and can play a role in how much traffic filters through to your website from your Google My Business profile.
This part of the Insights tab will help you see how your images stack up against your competitors’. Not only can you see how many times your own photos have been viewed, but you’ll also get a competitor benchmark, comparing your views to businesses similar to you.
If your images receive more views, you can confidently continue to post in the same vein. Fewer views mean you’ll need to rethink your approach to images and may need to do a little competitor research of your own to see where you may be going wrong.
The photo quantity Insight enables you to see how many images appear on your business listing compared to your competitors. If you have fewer images, take this as an indication that you need to upload more pictures.
Google My Business Post Insights
When you write a blog post or update your social media, you’ll probably be in the habit of checking post views and likes.
In a similar vein, Google My Business Insights will give you some data relating to your Posts on GMB – just click on Posts in the navigation and you’ll be able to see how many new views your Posts have received in the week prior.
Phew, you did it! You made it to the end of this comprehensive Google My Business guide.
From learning why Google My Business is pivotal to local search right up to the features it offers and how to use them, now you know (almost) all there is to know about the wondrous tool that is Google My Business.
As we said, the journey doesn’t stop here, but with all this information now at your fingertips, you’re well on your way to becoming a Google My Business superstar.
Did you learn something new today? What was your favorite piece of advice? Or, do you have something you want to share with fellow local SEOs? Drop us a line in the comments below.