- 82% of the local marketing experts say that Google My Business optimization is “very effective” in improving local pack rankings
- 68% of local marketing experts believe Google My Business is more important than it was a year ago
- Experts' most valued Google My Business tasks: 1) Growing Google reviews 2) Spam fighting 3) Keeping information up-to-date 4) Responding to Google reviews 5) Writing Google posts
- 100% of local marketing experts use Google posts, photos, and business descriptions for their local business clients
- According to experts, Google My Business needs to focus on improving spam, GMB Insights, and support for users
In 2020, Google My Business optimization is one of the key skills a local marketer needs. But, while we know how important an optimized Google business listing is, we were curious – what do industry leaders really think of GMB?
We set out to discover how some of local SEO’s leading voices are using Google My Business for local business success – and whether it’s as much of a blessing as it seems. We reached out to 22 local SEO professionals to find out how they use GMB, and to hear their expert opinions on what could be done to make this even more useful.
As with our previous Expert reports on link building for local businesses and citations, we’ve collated quantitative data on the importance and usage of Google My Business, and collected quotes from our esteemed experts. We hope this information helps the wider community understand how GMB is used and valued by those who know it best.
Thank you to the expert panel for sparing their time and sharing their expertise with our readers. A further thank you to Claire Carlile for lending her brain to ensure the questions were as accurate and illuminating as possible.
- How effective is Google My Business optimization to improving local SEO rankings?
- Is Google My Business optimization and management a task you prioritize for clients?
- Why is Google My Business an important tool for local businesses?
- Which Google My Business listing features do you use for clients?
- Which Google My Business tasks have the most value to local marketing success?
- Which tasks do you handle, and which are handled by the client?
- Compared to 12 months ago, how important is Google My Business to local marketing success?
- Over the last year, which Google My Business change has had the biggest impact on yours and your clients’ businesses?
- Which parts of Google My Business are in most need of improvement?
- What could Google do to make Google My Business even more useful for local businesses (and, to make marketers jobs easier!)?
How effective is Google My Business optimization to improving local SEO rankings?
It's been said for years but Google My Business is your new homepage. Local organic is still important and should definitely be included in a local SEO strategy but if you neglect your GMB listing you'll miss out on a lot of potential business.
Google My Business is such an important tool for local businesses as it's often the first thing searchers come across when looking for a business. With so many searchers staying in the SERP and not visiting websites, it's even more important.
A lot of the features rolled out by Google My Business in the last couple of years are conversion elements, not ranking elements. The ranking of a listing is still based on traditional SEO factors (like links) and the business website.
There is too much randomness in 3-pack results, where rankings should be based on ongoing growth in authenticated reviews, user-submitted content, and positive responses from Google posts and FAQ. There are still results with zero reviews, fake business names and no website outranking results that are closer, more helpful and with real reviews. Google could use better quality control.
GMB is such an important tool since it feeds the 3-pack which is displayed near the top of Google's search results. With such high visibility GMB should be any local businesses' top priority.
Is Google My Business optimization and management a task you prioritize for clients?
Since more than 80% of all searches happen on Google, businesses without a GMB listing are missing out on the opportunity to acquire more traffic and business as well as differentiate yourself to users. With a GMB listing, you can manage your company’s appearance on Google search results. GMB can help you in getting into the 3-pack, reach your audience for free, establish authority, earn trust, answer user questions before they ask and learn more about your business.
Google is the dominant search engine in most markets I work in. For local businesses, being visible when a customers searches for [that thing you sell] in [that city you sell it in] is vital to their success. And in a lot of cases, visible = Google. Especially when map packs dominate the SERPs on mobile.
Google My Business drives phone calls and website traffic. For many businesses, it drives far greater activity compared to localized organic.
User behaviour has shifted so much in the last few years. Consumers can now access information anywhere and on anything. It's important to ensure your business is ready to show up when a user searches. This includes the huge increase in mobile activity, something essential for local intent based searches.
Why is Google My Business an important tool for local businesses?
Because people trust Google and therefore they trust what's on GMB. The better your GMB listing looks, including correct hours, updates, responding to Q&A and reviews - basically, by looking "alive" - you send a message that you're a good, trustworthy business.
Google My Business is "the new home page" - the first impression with potential customers. It's the best way to stand out, and is vital for showing up in the map pack and Maps searches.
Information populated in GMB is often the first thing a potential customer will see when they make a search. Having the correct business info including address, correct opening times, great reviews, fab photos, relevant Q&A, posts and products will influence a searcher's likelihood of taking that critical next step - whether that be a click through to the business website, a click to call, driving direction request, or messaging a business.
Google My Business listings are imperative for local businesses as most users search on mobile, and because their format is consistent and easy to navigate, and (relatively) reliable as an information source.
GMB provides a significant representation of your business to consumers because they will likely see it when searching specifically for your business so that alone is a reason it can't be ignored. And if a consumer is searching for services or products you offer, having a strong presence in the local results can strongly impact the number of contacts you receive from potential customers in your area.
Which Google My Business listing features do you use for clients?
Local Businesses come to us and the first thing they ask is "How do we get on the Google?" Google My Business provides us with the features our potential clients and current clients don't ever consider optimizing. When we optimize GMB we are able to increase ranking quickly and effectively, and start the process of producing the local results they are looking for: more phone calls, more reviews, and more customers.
I've long wished that the GMB team would consult more with business owners and agencies on what's needed on the platform. For example, Google posts are nice but what we really needed was a way to say that a business was temporarily closed (for renovations). It shouldn't have taken a global pandemic to get that feature.
I think we're learning a lot about Google right now - the speed at which they can roll out features and the bugs to be expected when things change quickly. I think this highlights the need for communication and transparency and increased support for businesses and marketers to better navigate and utilize these features.
I would like to see more effective spam removal and prevention on Google's part. This goes for both fake listings and fake reviews. While this will vary by industry, I think a typical user would be shocked by the amount of abuse that is happening in numerous business categories. The messaging feature needs improvement since the communication is currently through the Google My Business app on the business side and Google Maps on the user side, which is less than ideal.
Which Google My Business tasks have the most value to local marketing success?
The Place Topics that have been added to the Google reviews have helped enhance our Review Culture Training because it works perfectly with our "2W" Training. 1. What benefits have you received? 2. Why would you recommend us?
It is nice to see some of the new features and changes Google has rolled out with Covid-19 - temporarily closed and takeout and delivery attributes. I'd love to see more features added to GMB with an emphasis on business owners like pick up, drop off, parking and shopping center entrances.
Currently allowing a business to mark themselves as temporarily closed has been a huge help during this time. Previously, the addition of short names has been amazing at gathering new reviews.
Which tasks do you handle, and which are handled by the client?
Businesses and agencies shouldn't have to be fighting spam on behalf of their clients - it just shouldn't be appearing. ONE CAN DREAM!
It's a shame that clients have to pay their local SEO vendor to find and remove spam. This can give great wins to a small business but it's a service that should not have to be so heavily relied upon.
Google needs to find a way to effectively communicate with business owners on what Google My Business is and how it can benefit them. To this day, there are a lot of businesses that don't understand what GMB is.
Google could allow for users to change the order that photos show up in the listing. Having control over the order of the photos would be really helpful for local businesses or marketers to organize photos into categories or to have the newest photos first.
Compared to 12 months ago, how important is Google My Business to local marketing success?
Google My Business has come a long way and continues to invest time and resources into the product. This will continue through 2020 and beyond. In 2020, be prepared for even more changes to the product. I'm anticipating more features and more changes to the guidelines.
Google are clearly working on GMB. There were a lot of changes, trials and improvements in 2019... some better than others! It's still a big deal for lots of local businesses, so I hope they increase their efforts to improve it.
Google My Business has come on in leaps and bounds, however it's still a disjointed product.
I think there are some pretty great people on the GEO (Google My Business) team at Google, but I think the way Google fundamentally operates that product and integrates it with search is broken. It is what it is!
As Covid-19 has shown us, Google is constantly making changes and updates to GMB. Google marked a lot of businesses as closed and business owners didn't know and didn't know how to correct it. GMB can't be on "set it and forget it" as your entire business can be destroyed by Google in a blink of an eye.
Over the last year, which Google My Business change has had the biggest impact on yours and your clients’ businesses?
Changes that allow businesses to ask for reviews more easily, and showcase reviews better. In April 2019 Google started rolling out short names, August 2019 you can now reply to reviews on Google Maps on Android, October 2019 Google started showing auto-suggested replies, Dec 2019 carousels of reviews started showing on some profiles. These little tweaks to GMB reviews - both collecting and displaying - point to the continued importance of reviews in GMB.
The Q&A section has been huge - great for answering questions, attracting new business, and figuring out new content ideas for the site.
Probably the limit of the number of service areas you can list for a business. Previously we used to use zip codes or postal codes to indicate areas so we had to make some changes in how we set up service areas for businesses.
The service area change in Q3 last year negatively impacted many clients in the HVAC and plumbing industries. We're coming back from it, but it was a tough hit.
Google's change to how they handle practitioner listings in July 2019. You can read more about this in on the Sterling Sky blog.
The largest change I have seen to date is the addition of the 'Related To Carousel' on May 14th weekend. Although this is technically Organic Search we have seen big impacts for when there is a direct link to the businesses directory page rather than to a category page from the directory. This is as if the business has Position 1 and then the GMB listing filters the business out because it has already appeared to users. We have requested removal of the business from several directories and as these are 404'd by Googlebot, positions are returning into local pack. This is very tedious and painful because it takes ages for Googlebot to find the 404'd directory listing and then remove it from the Related To Carousel.
Support has changed, to the detriment of the platform. Responses are slow (up to a week on Twitter), and often offer little actual assistance or guidance. I would say this is the number one change that I've noticed over the past year.
Over the past year I've seen an increase in suspensions - often for no reason. These businesses were following GMB guidelines but were still suspended. Even though I was able to get the clients' listings reinstated, it caused quite a bit of stress for all involved. Since Google doesn't tell you WHY your profile is suspended, it can turn into a guessing game for a business.
The recent changes due to Covid-19 have made the biggest impact over the past year. Reviews have stopped flowing in for almost a month. New features have been added to help a business indicate if it is temporarily closed. And new attributes are being added to listings to try to help businesses communicate what they are able to offer during this time.
It's still spam!
Which parts of Google My Business are in most need of improvement?
Google My Business is a free product and we have to remember this..."you get what you pay for." So for free it's a great product with problems, over the years you just work around these problems and educate clients to expect delays. Treat the GMB support team with respect, you have to remember the situation they must be in and the constant battle with users and the product/dev teams. I have a big concern that after the pandemic passes that GMB support will be overloaded which will slow down response to months not just days or weeks. Support from local SEOs will become more valuable for local businesses.
Stop the spam! There's so much, so often on #stopcraponthemap. The spammers are, too often, winning. I appreciate it's like whack-a-mole for Google sometimes but some of the spam is laughable. Fake pictures, joke reviews, keyword-stuffed business names – the list goes on (and on). It's hard to believe with all the AI at Google's fingertips that the system cannot be improved.
On the Google My Business Help Forum, we've seen an increase in the number of people who have their edits in "pending" status for long periods of time. Google needs to fix this issue so that business's information gets updated more quickly and customers can stay informed instead of getting misinformation.
Fix how SABs are presented. Right now if you're a SAB you might as well forget showing up in the local pack which encourages other SABs to cheat and pretend their house is a business. Also, GMB can be very US and California-centric. For example, multi-lingual business listings are still not an option and I'm not entirely sure when that'll happen, even though more than one language should be supported, particularly in countries with multiple official languages. Seasonal businesses have a tough time of it as well.
Bulk accounts should have greater control over their accounts, there should be dedicated account management for large accounts, there should be better communication between the organic and GEO teams.
I've always thought that the Insights functionality could be improved. With the increase in use of GMB and the importance of local, business owners should be able to see more granular data similar to the of Google Search Console and Google Analytics.
What could Google do to make Google My Business even more useful for local businesses (and, to make marketers jobs easier!)?
1) Remove keywords in the business name having so much weight in local pack rankings. If Google did this, it would mitigate A LOT of spam. 2) Better checks and balances for listing verification. If it's healthcare, utilize verification of credentials or state certification. For legal, it could be utilizing the state's bar association for verification.
Google My Business should use professional licensing websites to update its information.
Rank service-area businesses based on their service-area instead of the address used for verification.
Developing better spam filters so there's not as many fake listings, and creating better support for reporting those listings. It often takes a week to get a response; 24 - 48 hours would make for a much better customer experience.
Where do I start? Faster response times and more consistency from support, adding a community leader like Search has with John Mueller, and much more.
It would be great if Google could make some information in your listing "locked" so that the public can't make suggested edits. For instance, a business's website and phone number shouldn't be editable. No one should be allowed to change those things except the business owner. As an example, one of our local high schools had their GMB profile's website changed to a porn site's URL. The high school kid that changed the URL had a good laugh, but the school didn't think it was funny!
Just make it a more stable environment, don't add more features until they get the core elements sorted out. Quicker support, knowledgeable support that give correct feedback. Fix what they have and then move forward. Fix Insights so that the data is valid and perhaps link it with Google Analytics or Data Studio
They need to enable services and features to accommodate brands. Brands or franchises can't use bulk posts, messaging, or get new review alerts.
An addition of appointment-only hours would really help many merchants. Also, tackling the problem of service-area businesses having the ability to rank in multiple markets would cut down on confusion and the number of fake GMB listings. I expect the former and not the latter to come true.
Thank you again to the 22 Google My Business experts for sharing their insights and opinions with us. We hope the information provided in this report acts as a useful guide for local marketers to compare their own Google My Business usage and understanding with some of the biggest names in our industry.
If you have any questions or thoughts on how Google My Business should be used or improved, please let us know in the comments below!