Hello, everyone! It’s been a while, eh?
I’ve been at Merged Media for almost four months now and with extra time comes extra responsibilities. It’s been an all-hands-on-deck kind of summer, but I’m finally back to deliver that rundown on Google My Business optimization promised so long ago.
However, this is a pretty big topic, and one I don’t think I can cover in just one post. Instead, this will be part one of two (or maybe three) if we get real spicy. This time, I’ll go over Google My Business basics and some of the core rules related to optimization.
Anyway, I’ve taken enough time already, so let’s not waste more and get right into it!
What The Heck Is A “Google My Business?”
If you aren’t an SEO or business owner, it’s likely that you’ve never heard the name Google My Business (GMB for short) before. But there’s a good chance you’ve seen hundreds of GMB Profiles without even realizing it. This is what I’m talking about:
Looking good, Wayne.
The sidebar on the right containing juicy info like reviews, appointment links, and directions is all thanks to Google My Business. Google has generated all that good stuff on the SERP based on information we’ve provided through the Google My Business app. Potential clients are instantly given a window into our identity through photos and reviews, and receive all the information they need to get into contact.
If they still want to, for some reason.
This sidebar, however, is most often generated when people search keywords that are directly related to the business – like typing in “Merged Media”. And if someone is looking up your business online, there’s a good chance they already intend to take action. SEO is all about attracting new potential clients, so how does Google My Business factor into it?
How Google My Business Factors Into SEO: A Quick Rundown
Let’s pretend for one second that I’m a homeowner with a lawn. It’s a total mess after winter and I’m just too darn lazy to do anything about it. But I’ve got all this money lying around on my chaise lounges and armoires, and other French things I assume homeowners have.
“I didn’t pose them, they were just doing that when I showed up.”
I want to use all that money to hire a landscaping company, but it’s my first time doing so and I have no idea where to start. So I look up something like “Landscaping Guelph,” and the results give me this:
As you can see, right at the top of the SERP is a map of Guelph showing the locations of local landscaping companies. Google has also provided us with some basic information and links to three specific companies on the left. Like the sidebar before, this information is directly related to their Google My Business profiles. We call this feature of the SERP a “Map Pack,” and it’s incredibly useful for the purposes of SEO.
Since the map pack is the first thing a potential client sees, you’ll end up with tons of extra traffic if you can manage to get your business listed in that tiny, three-company window. So how do you go about doing that? Well, it all comes down to optimizing your GMB Profile and loading it up with as much accurate information as possible. The better your profile is, the higher the odds you’ll end up at the top of the map pack.
Pictured: Trying to find the nearest Wendy’s on Bing
One last important thing to note is that not all businesses can effectively use a GMB Profile. Google My Business is designed to provide information to clients at the local level: location, business hours, driving directions, etc. Therefore, it’s only particularly effective for local SEO. If you run an e-commerce site with no physical location or are trying to expand your company to reach a national audience, optimizing a GMB Profile won’t do much for you.
Optimizing Your GMB Profile – The Basics
Setting up a GMB Profile is free and easy. All you have to do is go to the Google My Business website, enter in the information it asks from you, and submit the profile for verification. Any information you enter can be altered later, so don’t worry – once you receive your verification code by your chosen method, you’re good to go!
And boom! Business McCorp is born:
Welcome home, my son
Today, we’re covering the absolute basics of GMB optimization, so we’ll start with the info tab on the left menu. Unsurprisingly, this is where you can submit or change most of your company’s information. There are plenty of opportunities for optimization here and I’ll give a quick rundown of each, but first I want to call attention to two rules of thumb:
- The more accurate information you give, the more Google trusts your business. Sure, it might seem obvious to say your business is closed on Christmas. There are so many fields for entering information that it’s tempting to skip a few. However, there’s a direct correlation between providing more info and ending up in the map pack. Detailed, accurate information shows Google that your business is trustworthy, especially if it matches the information provided on your website.
- Don’t game the system: it’s not worth the risk. It may be tempting to stuff some keywords into the name of your business or add irrelevant business categories to try and expand your profile’s viewer base. However, with a few exceptions, it’s not worth risking a suspension by providing inaccurate information for the sake of ranking. Google will not hesitate to suspend a GMB Profile at the slightest hint of suspicion. These suspensions are basically impossible to reverse, so take it from me – stick to the truth.
With that out of the way, let’s start working through the information tab, and how each data field relates to SEO. Using the picture below as a reference, we’ll start at the top and work our way down. The template we’re using is for a pretty standard professional service, but options may vary depending on what kind of business you run.
- Business Name: We’re starting with something pretty straightforward: the full name of your business. You’ll want to make sure it’s an exact match for the name on your website; don’t add keywords or frequent changes.
- Businesses with a keyword in their name have a huge advantage when it comes to ranking in the map pack for that keyword; if you’re starting a new business, it’s worth it to keep your potential GMB Profile in mind when giving it a name; ranking in the map pack is worth the effort.
- Category: Encompasses the type of business you run and the services you provide. There are two main fields here: Primary Category and Additional Categories.
- Your primary category describes the main industry you operate in: Dentist, Restaurant, Law Firm, etc. The category you choose will help Google match your business to the right keywords. Always try to pick the most relevant keywords from the list of options presented; don’t create a custom category unless absolutely necessary.
- Additional categories narrow down your primary category into specific services you provide: Emergency Dentist, Chinese Restaurant, Personal Injury Law Firm, etc. These help potential clients get a better idea of the services that you specifically offer. It’s best not to go too crazy when choosing these – one or two of the most important additional categories is enough.
- Business Location: The most important information on the whole profile; Google won’t let you create one without an address. Allows Google to include your business in localized search results. For example, if you submit a Guelph address for your pizza place, someone in Guelph searching for “Pizza” may now see you pop up.
- If your business has multiple locations, make sure you create a GMB Profile for each separate one.
- Service Areas: Areas outside of and including your business location where you provide services, such as on-site repair or delivery. Lets Google know where else to include your business in local search results. Be accurate and thorough. The more locations you enter, the wider your potential audience.
- Hours & Special Hours: Obviously important for customer experience, your hours should match those on your website and other media platforms. If possible, provide special hours for holidays or other events where your business’ hours vary. Remember, the more information you provide, the better!
- Website: The URL of your website’s homepage. Google will compare the information on your profile to the information on your website, so make sure the two match up as much as possible.
- Services: Most profiles have a section where you can provide a detailed description of the products, services, or menu your business offers based on your business category. A good practice to follow is to transcribe the services you offer on your website, word-for-word (the name of the service; you can write a different description). Google will recommend certain service options to you, but ignore these unless they’re an exact match for a service you offer on your website. Instead, make the most of the custom service option.
- Attributes & Amenities: This is where you can add some extra details about how your business identifies, and any accessibility features or amenities you provide. Google will suggest a few options based on your business’ location and industry, so choose whichever ones apply to you. This information is very valuable for potential customers with specific needs and values, and remember, more information is always good!
- From The Business: Here, you have 750 characters to write a brief description of your business. There’s enough room to go into your company’s backstory, services you provide, and more. You can use this opportunity to incorporate valuable keywords, based on keyword research tools dedicated specifically to Google My Business. More on that next week!
- Opening Date: And last but also kinda least, we’ve got the opening date of your business. This is the one area where you can fudge the details a little if you don’t remember your exact opening date. If you opened your doors sometime in 2011 and wrote down August on a whim, Google won’t send out a search party to confirm it. More info is always good, so if you can put something down, go for it!
Coming Up Next Week:
And that’s it for the basics! Next week, I’ll go more in-depth into Google My Business optimization, and resources you can use to track your profile’s performance. When it comes to SEO, GMB Profiles are rapidly catching up to organic results in potential, so it’s never been more important to learn how you can use them to your advantage.
In my lofty four-month experience, Google My Business optimization has proven to be one of the most efficient, straightforward, and enjoyable tasks. There’s something so moving about watching a business you’ve worked on soar to the top of the map pack; it’s like seeing your child all grown up, probably.
“They grow up so fast!”
“Congratulations! You must be so proud of her.”
“Oh, mine’s the one on the left.”
In any case, working on GMB Profiles is sort of my “thing” now, and something I look forward to completing whenever it falls on my plate. Hopefully, by the end of this series, you’ll feel the same way, too.
See you next time!