Chapter 3: 14 Ways to Succeed with Google My Business
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 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.
3. Choose the right business category and subcategory
One of the most important aspects of Google My Business is picking the right primary category.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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/check out 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:
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.