If you’re serious about targeting local consumers and boosting your local search visibility, you’ll need to take some time to optimize your Google My Business (GMB) listing.
In recent years, Google has rolled out a whole host of new Google My Business features, so much so that you may well find you’ve missed one or two, and as such are no longer using your Google My Business profile as effectively as you might think.
Short of performing a full Google My Business audit, there are many ways you can improve your listing – we’re sharing 10 here to get you started.
But before we show you how to optimize Google My Business profiles, let’s quickly touch on why you need to.
Why Google My Business optimization is crucial for every business
Simply put, every business needs a Google My Business listing. It offers a wealth of business information to Google and local consumers and offers a rich local search presence. The details you provide in your Google My Business profile are used in a number of different ways by the search engine, from populating the highly visible knowledge panel which appears to the right of the search results and filling out the local pack to populating Google Maps, providing voice search results and assisting with Google app search results.
Setting up your Google My Business listing is free, quick and easy, and once it’s done, you can begin the Google My Business optimization process to improve your local search presence.
Optimizing your GMB profile is both about updating and using GMB to tell Google everything it needs to know to accurately list your business in the right places at the right times (in local pack and Google Maps) and impress upon any potential customer coming across your GMB profile that yours is the business that best meets the needs defined in their local search term.
Google My Business signals are vitally important to local search and their influence is growing year-on-year. GMB is now the defining factor in local search success so knowing how to optimize Google My Business could be the difference your local business needs to thrive.
The below chart shows how the influence of Google My Business signals on local ranking factors is in rude health (extracted from data originally published in Moz and Whitespark’s series of local ranking factors surveys.
How to Optimize Google My Business in 10 Steps
Step 1: Make sure your NAP is accurate
The very first stage of knowing how to optimize Google My Business for local search success is ensuring the basics are done well. For GMB, this means a quick check that your business name, address, and phone number (NAP) is correct, totally up-to-date and entirely consistent with your other local business citations.
Citations help with business discovery, they can help consumers to find your business, and they feed Google the information it needs to help rank your business. If your NAP is wrong on your Google My Business profile, you’re potentially derailing your entire local search accuracy and making it harder for people to find you.
The Moz Local Search Ranking Factors Study places Google My Business signals as number one on its list, with on-page signals including NAP in position five. Dan Taylor, from Search Engine Journal, puts this all into context, explaining,
NAP consistency is an important part of Google’s local and Local Pack algorithms, and building citations with a consistent NAP to your Google My Business listing and listed online addresses can influence your local rankings. However, having a consistent NAP is also important to the user journey as online directories and social bookmarking sites aren’t just used by Google, they’re used by humans too.
To check your NAP, simply log in to your Google My Business dashboard, click on the ‘Info’ icon on the left-hand side and then verify all information is correct.
Step 2: Claim your Google My Business short name
Once you verify your Google My Business account, the next job on your Google My Business optimization list is to claim your short name. This is a short or custom name, designed to make it easier for local search users to find your business. Google requires your short name to be something either associated with your business name or the name that customers commonly use to refer to your business.
The search engine explains,
When you share your short name, customers can enter the short name URL in the browser’s address bar, like “g.page/[yourcustomname]”, to go directly to your Business Profile… We recommend including your location to make the short name more distinct. For example, you can use your business name with your location, like your city or neighbourhood. Keep your short name simple so that you can easily promote it, and customers can remember it. If you have a short name, you’ll get a short URL to request reviews from your customers.”
If your business has multiple locations and you’re wondering how to optimize Google My Business for each one, you can still claim a short URL for each but will simply need to add your location, too, as suggested by Google.
You should follow [companyname][branchlocation] as your short name format and keep it consistent across locations. Starbucks, for example, may claim ‘starbucksbeachstreetsanfrancisco’ as its GMB short URL for its Beach Street, SF store and ‘starbuckscanalandcentralny’ for its Canal & Central store in Manhattan, NY.
Claiming your short name is easy. Just log in to Google My Business, click ‘Info’ on the left-hand side then scroll down to ‘claim short name’. Your short name can be up to 32 characters long. You can change it a maximum of three times per year by navigating back to the same menu option and selecting edit.
Step 3: Write the perfect business description
You can add a 750-character description to your GMB profile as part of your Google My Business optimization work. This text should describe your business in an engaging, authentic manner but it shouldn’t reference things like sales or promotions.
This text field is a place to tell local search users about your USPs and brand story, your mission, and history. It’s worth noting that Google guidelines prohibit promotional content and links in this space. You can include a phone number and email address.
It may take a couple of tries to write an optimized GMB business description, but you should follow the basic rules of optimized content with each draft. That is to say, pick one or two keywords to build your description around and ensure that the search phrase appears early in the text. As we’re focusing on how to optimize Google My Business for local search, you should also include a location keyword as part of this process.
Once you’re satisfied with your description, go back to the ‘Info’ tab and scroll almost to the bottom. Then copy and paste the text into the ‘add business description’ section. You can go back and edit this as many times as you want until you hit on the perfect optimized text.
Step 4: Choose an appropriate category and sub-category
As you might expect, the category you choose when optimizing your Google My Business listing plays quite an important role in local search ranking as it tells Google which searches your business could be relevant for.
The search engine says,
Categories are used to describe your business and connect you to customers searching for the services you offer. For example, if your primary category is “Pizza restaurant”, Google may show your business in local search results to people who search for “Restaurants”, “Italian restaurants” or “Pizza” in their area.
The most recent Moz Search Ranking Factors survey also suggests that category and sub-category comprise an important component of strong local rankings, with ‘Proper GMB category associations’ ranked fourth in the top 50 local ranking pack factors and ‘GMB primary category matches a broader category of the search category’ placed 8th on the list.
Now, in Google’s example, choosing the right GMB category as a pizza restaurant owner was straightforward, but that’s not always the case for local businesses.
In many instances, there isn’t a single standout choice; a law firm, for example, can practise many areas of law, from corporate to environmental to family matters. As a general rule of thumb, when there is uncertainty or a number of possible options, the primary category selection should be for the category that is most important to your business.
This category should also be specific. Google has a good example here, advising on its support page that if you have a nail salon, your primary category should be ‘nail salon’ rather than just salon – this is more specific, so it’s better from an optimization perspective and much more useful to local consumers.
The secondary category is also important when considering how to optimize your Google My Business listing as it provides additional valuable information to Google and local consumers.
The secondary categories can outline the additional services that you offer. Again, Google has a good example of how to optimize Google My Business secondary categories, saying that if you run a supermarket with a pharmacy and a deli on premises, ‘supermarket’ should be your primary category and ‘pharmacy’ and ‘deli’ then added as secondary categories.
To select your category and sub-category in Google My Business, head to Info then click the pencil icon under your business name.
Step 5: Upload amazing photos
A picture may be worth a thousand words but it could also be worth a few additional brownie points when optimizing your GMB listing. We were already researching the importance of images in search results back in 2011, when 60% of consumers said that local search results with good images captured their attention.
Other research has also found that images give posts 3x more chance of being shared. Ultimately, looking good online comes down to careful selection of exactly the right images – we’ve got more on this specifically for Google My Business in our guide here.
GMB gives you a lot of options to play with when it comes to images so it’s vital that you really maximize this opportunity to grab local search attention. You can add interior and exterior shots, 360-degree images (perfect if you have a really cool bricks-and-mortar space or are a hotel, wedding venue, restaurant or similar) and even video to this space. Find out how many images the average business in your industry has in our Google My Business Insights Study.
Google advises that you upload;
- If applicable, three exterior shots of your business as a minimum, with photos taken from different directions and at different times of the day.
- At least three images of the interior of your business, showing ambiance, atmosphere, and décor (only if you have a physical location, of course)
- At least three photos of your team providing your services to customers to give a genuine representation of your business.
- A minimum of three images of products that you sell, food and drink you serve if you’re in the hospitality business or images of rooms if you’re a hotel.
- Three images of your colleagues and team members.
Google has said you’ll soon be able to add captions to your images. While this feature isn’t yet live, do make a note to return to your image uploads when captioning is rolled out to give meaningful context to the photos you have uploaded to your GMB profile.
Your customers can also upload images of your business, its staff and services to Google. Reviews with images are a local search ranking factor so as well as planning how to optimize your Google My Business listing for search success, you should also consider how to encourage your customers to leave reviews with images in their feedback.