For a local business owner, having a properly optimized Google My Business profile is crucial to driving more customers through the doors and ultimately make more sales. Creating a Google My Business profile starts by submitting your business name, address, phone number, website and hours of operation. But there’s way more to it than that. The back end of a GMB account allows users to add several different elements to their profile, and the thing is, regularly updating each of these gives you a better chance of ranking your business. Here’s a quick list of all the things you can do to update a GMB. We’ll go over it in more detail throughout this post:
Again, the four bullet points above involve a lot more than you think. You have to think about how to upload quality content, how to label it, and how to solicit lots of positive reviews while also addressing negative ones (which means going the extra mile for the customer and trying to change their negative impression into a positive one. It’s not always possible, but you do have to try.)
So with that, let’s jump into how to everything you need to know regarding optimizing your Google My Business profile.
Your GMB page isn’t a proper website itself, meaning it’s not your website. You don’t own it, and it’s all under Google’s domain name. BUT, that doesn’t mean you should ignore the basic principles of search engine optimization.
Everything that Google does relates to keywords. Keywords are the words people use to search for things they want to learn about. It doesn’t matter whether they’re looking for a news article, an image, a Youtube video or your business. If you’re not targeting the right keywords and labelling your digital assets properly, your GMB profile won’t rank above the competition. That means your direct competitors will be getting more clicks than you, which ultimately means they’ll get more business.
Let’s go a little deeper.
Your business is citation is basically the name address and telephone number of your business. Listing this information accurately on your GMB profile is an absolute must. In order to help boost your ranking in the Google Map Pack however, doing this just on Google’s platform isn’t enough. Your business listing citation should be on every other major directory relevant to your local area.
So if you’re in Toronto, that means listing and other directories like Yelp.ca, GoldBook.ca, Apple Maps, Bing, the Yellow Pages and more. Even in smaller cities, you would still want to pursue the above names but you also may look into smaller local directories that will give your GMB profile more authority. Anytime your citation information is spelled wrong, even if just the brackets around your area code are present on your GMB profile, but absent on your Bing profile, all your local listings may not be generating the traffic and ranking status that they could be if they were all optimized properly using the exact same characters and layout.
It can be a tedious task to optimize for this if you start listing yourself on hundreds of directories. Normally listing on some of the main directories listed above is enough for a small business in a small community, but in a competitive niche like dental care in the city of Toronto, listing on just a few websites might not be enough. It’s also why businesses often hire a Toronto-based digital marketing agency to do the work for them. It takes a lot of time and using the software to do the work can cost a lot of money. Might as well have an expert do it.
Remember how we talked about keywords? Even if all you know is your local business, you probably understand how to Google something, so it’s not totally rocket science to you. What you might be surprised to know however, is that listing your business citation properly and your business name properly isn’t enough. You need to carry that through to all of the assets and content that you upload to your GMB profile.
This means that if you own a flower shop in Toronto for example and you post a picture of the front of the store, you’ll need to label that image something like flower-shop-storefront-toronto.jpg. Believe it or not, labelling a photo without hyphens and using a bunch of spaces instead is not good for search engine optimization. It also wouldn’t be a good idea to use flower-shop-toronto for every single photo that you upload.
Instead, a better idea would be to come up with a list of keywords associated with your business, and as you get into the habit of consistently uploading new photos and videos, using new keywords for each asset. That way you have lots of bases covered. Keywords can also be many words long, it doesn’t always have to be a two or three word phrase. Keep that in mind. Google offers a free keyword planner that anyone can use to get ideas that go far beyond “Toronto Flower Shop” or whatever your most basic keyword ideas are.
Here’s a ninja secret about adding photos to your GMB profile and why you should do it right away. It boosts the traffic that you get to your GMB profile. Why? Because it’s amazing how many business owners verify their business on GMB by waiting to receive a letter from Google and typing in a pin number online, fill out the basic details of their citation and never do anything else.
Just by uploading the photo to your GMB listing, you’ll likely get more traffic than your competitors. Google will show you that you’re getting the traffic on the insights panel of your GMB profile. You’ll be able to see by what percentage the exposure you’re getting is increasing and that will motivate you to optimize your profile even further. Videos do the same thing. Either or works.
Yes! GMB profiles offer you the opportunity to blog about your business. Now of course, you don’t want to be caught constantly selling your business to prospects because as they say, “everybody likes to buy but nobody likes to be sold to”.
Take our word for it, if you engage in this part of your GMB profile on a regular basis, you will definitely increase the amount of exposure you get to your target customer. The average business owner doesn’t have any time to handle blogging on their own website, let alone creating fresh content on a third-party page like GMB. Content marketing takes a lot of work and that’s why many serious business owners choose to outsource content marketing services to a digital agency. What do you do that or not is up to you, but most of your competitors aren’t doing that in the not handling it themselves either. So take action.
You can create Google Ads right inside the GMB backend platform. Google guides you through their advertising platform by helping you outline your purpose. The purpose or outcomes you can select include:
We’re not going to go through each of these here individually, but the point is that you can access them all from your business listing. At the end of the day, each advertising goal is still going to revolve around planning a keyword strategy. Meaning that you’re deciding which keywords are going to go after and how much you’re willing to spend for people to click on your advertising when they search for those keywords. This is known as pay-per-click advertising. Hiring a digital marketing agency to take care of this for you is probably the best thing to do. Businesses make an average of three dollars for every $1.60 they spend on Google ads, but you can only achieve those results if you really know what you’re doing. A basic pay per click ads management service will usually cost you a management fee plus your ad spend.
As it relates specifically to the GMB profile, ads can be used to make sure that your business shows up above other businesses in your niche when somebody searches for your keywords. This means that even somebody with hundreds of five-star positive reviews and a properly optimized profile with every piece of content and space filled in will still show up underneath you and you be more likely to get people calling your business. But of course that cost a lot of money, and it’s probably not something you want to do long-term and less your business is growing rapidly and your marketing budget is expanding accordingly.
Which brings us to the biggest part of the whole GMB process. Acquiring customer reviews and making sure you get as many genuine five-star comments as possible.
The easiest way to get customer reviews for your brick-and-mortar businesses to ask for them. So many business owners missed the step. If your business has a receptionist, that means your office has a front desk. You can put up a simple sign that asks people to review your business on Google. These days most savvy people have a smartphone with access to Google and they might even know what you’re talking about right away. Even if they don’t, you can invest in a small tablet iPad and encourage people to sign up for a Google account and leave a review. Giving people a small discount on your services goes a long way in getting people to take action and make this happen.
The more five-star reviews you can get, the better. That said, if your business is been around for a long time and you’re collecting hundreds of reviews in a short amount of time, Google may perceive it as spammy. A business that has been around for a long time and has thousands of reviews probably isn’t going to have a perfect rating. It’s not something you need to worry about in the early going, but just keep it in mind for the long run.
Another way to reach out to your existing customer base for reviews is to contact them via email. If you already have a newsletter that you send out to your customers every month, send them a message asking them for feedback and offer them a chance to win a free session, a free product or a gift card from your business in exchange for a review. If you put people into a draw for a bigger prize, you can end up with lots of reviews for a relatively small cost. This cost will pay dividends in the long run.
Above anything else you can do to optimize your GMB profile, getting positive customer reviews is by far the most powerful. Especially in niches where trust is of greater importance, such as with any service related to the law or healthcare. People really do trust service providers and make decisions based on the reviews they look at.
If you’re thinking about buying fake reviews to try to boost your ranking, don’t do it. Google, Amazon and other big time tech companies are cracking down on this all the time. If you’ve worked really hard to build a good reputation for your business while you’re serving people in person, do the same thing online. It will pay off in the long run.
Overall, Google always rewards third-party credibility. That’s why getting honest customer reviews is so powerful. Make it a point to do that all the time. Train your staff to ask for it. You can assume that people will log on to Google and give you their feedback automatically. Most people that do that are usually angry, but there are many people that are probably happy with your product or service that won’t do it unless you ask for it.
Once you know that your GMB profile is properly optimized with proper keywords and titles, lots of photos and videos, proper citation information and lots of positive reviews, you need to connect the dots by also investing in professional website development services. Putting time into things like GMB, citations and social media is off-site optimization. Developing a proper website means investing in on-site optimization. Again, very few small business owners take the time to do both really well. So if you read articles like this and also invest in proper digital marketing services, you’ll be at the top of the class in most niches. In some niches like legal or dental, if you don’t invest in these things nobody will find you. So no matter who you are you need to take pleasing Google seriously.
Here’s another tip. Post a wide variety of content. If you’re taking pictures, see if you can take them with a customer and include a picture of yourself if you work with customers directly. Take pictures of the inside and outside of your building. Make them fun and engaging.
Finally, support everything you’re doing with GMB with a full-circle marketing strategy. If you don’t have a budget because your business is new, work toward that over time. Set long-term goals, and remember that for now, optimizing your GMB profile is probably the most effective way to make the phone ring off the hook and make customers walk through the door.
Best of luck in helping people find you!
Jack has been in the internet marketing space for 10 years. He enjoys writing and watching the Toronto Raptors.