If you’ve ever Googled a business in your neighborhood to look up hours, searched for a restaurant near you, or checked out a company’s reviews before buying their product, you’ve most likely used their Google My Business listing to find that information. It has all the important information about your business right at the searcher’s fingertips. But it doesn’t automatically appear as soon as you open for business.
Claiming and verifying your business’s Google My Business listing is an important first step in improving your local SEO strategy. Since local searches make up 46 percent of all Google searches, you want to make sure you’re making it as easy as possible for local searchers to find your business.
Why Do I Need a Google My Business Account?
Using Google My Business (GMB) accurately and effectively increases your business’s chance of being included in Google’s Local Pack, Local Finder, Google Maps, and increases your organic rankings as well. By simply claiming and verifying your listing, you’ll start to see SEO results. And the best part of GMB? You don’t have to pay anything. As long as you put some regular time and effort into keeping your account up to date and working effectively, you can get some serious SEO power and dramatically improve local traffic to your business.
Google will be improving and expanding its Google My Businesses services throughout 2021. You’ll want to make sure that you’re regularly reviewing your account to make sure all of your information is still accurate and that you’re using all of its new features to your advantage.
Marketing agencies usually keep tabs on your GMB and fix any of those problems that pop up, but if your business can’t afford to hire an SEO agency just yet, you need to keep an eye on it yourself. Here are TK ways to optimize your GMB profile this year and capitalize on all of those local searches.
COVID-19 Related Updates
If you are still operating on different hours than normal due to COVID-19 or have any changes or requirements you think people should know about your business like masks and social distancing rules, you have the ability to make announcements that will live on your GMB listing.
Previously, you had to sign in and update your listing through the GMB dashboard, which was a difficult and time-intensive process. Now, you can update your GMB directly through Google Search or Maps right from your phone. You can add photos, respond to reviews, and create posts for your GMB (which we’ll cover later on) from anywhere.
Set Up GMB Appointments
One long-awaited GMB feature is finally available. You can allow customers to set appointments and book your services straight from your GMB profile instead of having to navigate your website. This is a great opportunity for websites that don’t have a booking app on their site or still need to get their website up and running. You can easily set this up from the Bookings tab in your GMB profile menu. Within a week, your scheduling account should be linked to your GMB account, and you can start to receive bookings that way. If you already have a scheduling provider, that will be connected automatically.
Cultivate Customer Reviews
Google takes customer reviews seriously when deciding how to rank local searches. If the reviews are good, they help you stand out from the competition and make it easier for customers to trust your business. One or two negative reviews won’t tank your business, but having a list of positive reviews to outweigh those no-so-great ones will ensure customers continue to view your company positively.
While Yelp discourages businesses from asking customers for reviews, Google wants you to ask previous customers for reviews. They’ve published some guidelines on how to do so ethically and naturally, as well as how to respond to reviews on your GMB profile.Make sure you respond quickly to reviews (both positive and negative) whenever possible since 30 percent of people take those responses into consideration when judging a local business. Cultivating a wide customer review list can dramatically help your business stand out to Google and to local customers.
Take Advantage of Google Posts
Google Posts aren’t available for all industries yet (sorry hotels and B&Bs), but this new feature is a great way to engage people who are looking at your GMB profile. These posts work essentially like the ones on social media; you can use them to talk about a sale, share a recent blog article on your site, post a photo of a new product—basically anything you want!
You can also think of Google Posts as mini-ads where you can talk about an upcoming deal or current special you’re running. Make sure to use photos and videos in your posts since those usually get more engagement. Posts will stay live for seven days, and then “go dark”—so make sure you’re regularly creating content for this feature since they are prominently displayed on your GMB profile.
Post Deals and Promotions
Google loves it when you create posts around any deals and promotions you’re running and display them on your GMB profile. This shows customers your business is active and open (which isn’t a given during this difficult time for small businesses) and gives Google more reason to include your business in the top search results.
Try Out Emojis
Did you know that Google is starting to index emoji search results? If you have a business related to an emoji, say a pizzeria, you could potentially get some local SEO from people searching for pizza restaurants with “? near me”. It’s still in its early stages of development, but could be a fun and low competition opportunity to snag some local searches.