Expert Google My Business Survey

Expert Google My Business Survey
Key Findings
  • 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.


Questions

  1. How effective is Google My Business optimization to improving local SEO rankings?
  2. Is Google My Business optimization and management a task you prioritize for clients?
  3. Why is Google My Business an important tool for local businesses?
  4. Which Google My Business listing features do you use for clients?
  5. Which Google My Business tasks have the most value to local marketing success?
  6. Which tasks do you handle, and which are handled by the client?
  7. Compared to 12 months ago, how important is Google My Business to local marketing success?
  8. Over the last year, which Google My Business change has had the biggest impact on yours and your clients’ businesses?
  9. Which parts of Google My Business are in most need of improvement?
  10. 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?

How effective is Google My Business to improving local SEO rankings

82% of the local marketing experts surveyed say that Google My Business optimization is “very effective” in improving local pack rankings, with a further 18% stating that it’s “fairly effective”.

However, Google My Business is far less valued as a ranking factor for localized organic results. 18% of our panel see GMB as ineffective for organic search, while 45% see it as not very effective.

This correlates from the finding of Moz’s 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors Survey – which estimated that 25% of local pack ranking factors are made up of Google My Business signals, while 8% of localized organic factors come from GMB.

The primary focus of Google My Business optimization should be achieving local pack results – so it’s important that local business clients understand that GMB isn’t the sole solution for ranking their websites.

Expert Insights

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.

Blake Denman, RicketyRoo Inc
Blake Denman

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.

Niki Mosier, Two Octobers
Niki Mosier

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.

Joy Hawkins, Sterling Sky Inc
Joy Hawkins

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.

Steve Wiideman, Wiideman Consulting Group
Steve Wiideman

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.

Dan Foland, Postali

Is Google My Business optimization and management a task you prioritize for clients?

Is Google My Business a task you prioritize for clients

Nearly all of the experts view Google My Business optimization and management as an important task for their clients and businesses.

Google My Business has many benefits beyond search visibility, with many useful features for businesses and consumers to use, so it’s clear to see why it’s a priority for so many of our experts. And it’s not just a tool for researching businesses – it acts as a direct point of action for many consumers, with 64% of consumers using Google My Business to find contact details for local businesses.

Expert Insights

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.

Ben Fisher, Steady Demand
Ben Fisher

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.

Andrew Cock-Starkey, Optimisey
Andrew Cock-Starkey Optimsey

Google My Business drives phone calls and website traffic. For many businesses, it drives far greater activity compared to localized organic.

Colan Nielsen, Sterling Sky Inc
colan nielsen

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.

Kyle Goodchild, Walmart Canada

Why is Google My Business an important tool for local businesses?

Experts were asked to share their thoughts.

Expert Insights

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.

Dana DiTomaso, Kick Point
Dana DiTomaso

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.

Greg Gifford, SearchLab Digital
Greg-Gifford

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.

Claire Carlile, Claire Carlile Marketing
Claire Carlile

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.

Amy Toman, Digital Law Marketing
Amy Toman

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.

Tom Waddington, Wachae
Tom Waddington

Which Google My Business listing features do you use for clients?

Which Google My Business features do you use

When looking at the most commonly-used features of Google My Business, every expert surveyed uses business descriptions, photos, and Google posts for their clients’ listings.

It’s interesting to see such a high uptake for posts among the experts. In our latest Local Search Industry Survey  just 69% of local marketers were using posts – suggesting usage is higher among experts than the wider local marketing community right now. There’s plenty to be gained from regular informational and promotional posts, but it feels like this feature hasn’t hit its potential quite yet.

While not technically a feature within the Google My Business dashboard, Q&A is a useful part of Google business listings – and widely used among our expert panel. When Q&A launched, Mike Blumenthal wrote a great post for us explaining how to use Q&A for local businesses – well worth a read!

As well, three-quarters of experts utilize Google My Business Insights. While there is plenty of data to be gleaned from GMB Insights, it’s by no means perfect, with some in the industry questioning its accuracy.

Overall, many of the features of GMB are widely used among the experts – but by no means are all of its capabilities necessary for every local business. Test which features work best for your clients, and don’t feel tempted to use features that don’t fit into your local marketing strategy just because they’re there!

Expert Insights

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.

Crystal Horton, Accelerate Marketing
Crystal Horton

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.

Dana DiTomaso, Kick Point
Dana DiTomaso

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.

Krystal Taing, Rio SEO

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.

Tom Waddington, Wachae
Tom Waddington

Which Google My Business tasks have the most value to local marketing success?

Which GMB tasks are most valuable for local marketing success

The experts were able to select up to five choices.

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

While there are plenty of tasks to be done when optimizing a Google My Business listing, experts shared their most valued tasks for local marketing success.

Managing your Google reviews presence is a clear priority among the panel. Whether this task is managed by the experts’ agencies, or if responsibility is held by the business itself, Google review management is one of the most important tasks to help move the needle.

Again, spam fighting and Google posts are highly valued by the experts. If you haven’t currently worked these into your local marketing repertoire, perhaps now is the time to start!

Expert Insights

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?

Crystal Horton, Accelerate Marketing

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.

Jason Brown, Sterling Sky Inc

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.

Ben Fisher, Steady Demand
Ben Fisher

Which tasks do you handle, and which are handled by the client?

Which Google My Business tasks do you handle and which do clients handle

Compared to some local SEO efforts, Google My Business is pretty user-friendly for local businesses, so we wanted to know how involved our experts’ clients are in GMB management. We asked experts which of the main tasks they handle for a typical client, where responsibility sits with the client, and when this workload is shared.

Some of the most common tasks that are solely handled by our experts include tracking local rankings, managing business information and edits, and spam fighting. Of course, spam is a key issue in the industry right now, but tackling it takes time, dedication, and know-how, so it’s no surprise the responsibility sits largely with the experts rather than local marketers. However, it can be useful to sit down with clients to run through the competitors that outrank their businesses – they may well spot inaccuracies that aren’t obvious to someone outside the business.

Clients are more likely to hold responsibility for setting up and responding to messages, as well as many assisting in growing and responding to Google reviews.

The best local marketing needs the involvement of the local business. For a start, they know their customers and niche better than an external party ever can. But also, many of the initiatives need buy-in from the whole company. Employees should be coached and encouraged to ask customers for reviews, while responding to reviews and messages is likely to need the context provided by the business itself.

Expert Insights

Businesses and agencies shouldn't have to be fighting spam on behalf of their clients - it just shouldn't be appearing. ONE CAN DREAM!

Claire Carlile, Claire Carlile Marketing
Claire Carlile

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.

Blake Denman, RicketyRoo Inc
Blake Denman

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.

Colan Nielsen, Sterling Sky Inc
colan nielsen

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.

Niki Mosier, Two Octobers
Niki Mosier

Compared to 12 months ago, how important is Google My Business to local marketing success?

How important is Google My Business to local marketing success

Two-thirds of the experts feel like Google My Business is now more important to local marketing success than it was a year ago.

None of the experts see GMB as losing value – which is no real surprise to us! Google launched many new initiatives for local businesses over the last year, not to mention the quick changes we’re currently seeing as a reaction to Covid-19. While it isn’t seen as perfect by the experts, it’s undoubtedly a useful tool that will continue to grow in importance over the next few years.

Expert Insights

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.

Colan Nielsen, Sterling Sky Inc
colan nielsen

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.

Andrew Cock-Starkey, Optimisey
Andrew Cock-Starkey Optimsey

Google My Business has come on in leaps and bounds, however it's still a disjointed product.

Tim Capper, Online Ownership
Tim Capper

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!

Dan Leibson, Local SEO Guide
Dan Leibson

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.

Jason Brown, Sterling Sky Inc
Jason Brown

Over the last year, which Google My Business change has had the biggest impact on yours and your clients’ businesses?

Experts were asked to share their thoughts.

Expert Insights

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.

Claire Carlile, Claire Carlile Marketing
Claire Carlile

The Q&A section has been huge - great for answering questions, attracting new business, and figuring out new content ideas for the site.

Greg Gifford, SearchLab Digital
Greg-Gifford

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.

Dana DiTomaso, Kick Point
Dana DiTomaso

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.

Steve Wiideman, Wiideman Consulting Group
Steve Wiideman

Google's change to how they handle practitioner listings in July 2019. You can read more about this in on the Sterling Sky blog.

Joy Hawkins, Sterling Sky Inc
Joy Hawkins

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.

Tim Capper, Online Ownership
Tim Capper

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.

Amy Toman, Digital Law Marketing
Amy Toman

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.

Sherry Bonelli, early bird digital marketing

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.

Tom Waddington, Wachae

It's still spam!

Gyi Tsakalakis, AttorneySync
Gyi Tsakalakis

Which parts of Google My Business are in most need of improvement?

Which part of Google My Business need most improvement

The experts were able to select up to five choices. The least chosen options have not been included in this chart. 

The Google My Business Areas That Need The Most Improvement

  1. Spam
  2. GMB Insights
  3. Support
  4. Managing edits
  5. Multi-location management

Spam fighting is a common task among our experts, but there is plenty Google could do to limit the effect of this key issue. The panel also believe GMB Insights requires some attention from Google to be truly useful to local businesses and marketers.

Despite the introduction of the redressal form, support for the platform could still do with some improvements. Many of the experts in this panel work closely with Google My Business as Product Experts – volunteering their time to help users on the Google My Business forum, and guiding improvements where possible to make GMB better for everyone. Product Experts’ work really is instrumental to the understanding of Google My Business, and we’re in awe of their amazing contributions to making Google My Business even more useful for local businesses and consumers.

Expert Insights

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.

Andy Simpson, Digital Law Marketing
Andy Simpson

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.

Andrew Cock-Starkey, Optimisey
Andrew Cock-Starkey Optimsey

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.

Sherry Bonelli, early bird digital marketing

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.

Dana DiTomaso, Kick Point
Dana DiTomaso

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.

Dan Leibson, Local SEO Guide

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.

Kyle Goodchild, Walmart Canada

What could Google do to make Google My Business even more useful for local businesses (and, to make marketers jobs easier!)?

Experts were asked to share their thoughts.

Expert Insights

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.

Blake Denman, RicketyRoo Inc
Blake Denman

Google My Business should use professional licensing websites to update its information.

Gyi Tsakalakis, AttorneySync
Gyi Tsakalakis

Rank service-area businesses based on their service-area instead of the address used for verification.

Joy Hawkins, Sterling Sky Inc
Joy Hawkins

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.

Amy Toman, Digital Law Marketing
Amy Toman

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.

Dan Foland, Postali
Dan Foland

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!

Sherry Bonelli, early bird digital marketing

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

Andy Simpson, Digital Law Marketing
Andy Simpson

They need to enable services and features to accommodate brands. Brands or franchises can't use bulk posts, messaging, or get new review alerts.

Jason Brown, Sterling Sky Inc
Jason Brown

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.

Ben Fisher, Steady Demand
Ben Fisher

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! 

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About the author
Rosie Murphy
Rosie manages BrightLocal's delivery of research and survey pieces. She heads up data-driven content such as regular polls, webinars and whitepapers, including the Local Consumer Review Survey.

Contributors

Andrew Cock-Starkey Optimisey
Andy Simpson Digital Law Marketing
Ben Fisher Steady Demand
Blake Denman RicketyRoo Inc
Claire Carlile Claire Carlile Marketing
Colan Nielsen Sterling Sky Inc
Crystal Horton Accelerate Marketing
Dan Foland Postali
Dan Leibson Local SEO Guide
Dana DiTomaso Kick Point
Greg Gifford SearchLab Digital
Gyi Tsakalakis AttorneySync
Jason Brown Sterling Sky Inc
Joy Hawkins Sterling Sky Inc
Krystal Taing Rio SEO
Kyle Goodchild Walmart Canada
Niki Mosier Two Octobers
Steve Wiideman Wiideman Consulting Group
Tim Capper Online Ownership
Tom Waddington Wachae

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