A Step-By-Step Guide To Optimising Your Google My Business Listing

How often do you click through to the second page of Google’s search results?

If you’re like most, probably never.

In fact, the click-through-rate on the second page of Google search results are so low that less than one per cent of Google search users ever click to something they’ve found on page two.

If you want your business to be shown on Google Maps and on top of Google’s organic search results, THE fastest (and easiest) way to get there is with Google My Business.

In the infographic below, I share with you the top 10 strategies you need to implement today to not only master the GMB platform but also optimise it for local search visibility.

NOTE: If you haven’t claimed your Google My Business profile yet, follow our guide on claiming and verifying your GMB listing.

Let’s get started.

Now that we’ve highlighted the 10 strategies to get your business to appear in local search results, let’s look at each one in more depth.

Here’s exactly how to do it:

1. Make Your GMB Listing Stand Out With A Killer Business Description

An important first step to Google My Business optimisation is to add a business description.

On a desktop computer, the business description appears in your business’s Knowledge Panel, directly below your reviews.

On mobile devices, the business description can be found in the “About” tab.

Now, you’re probably asking yourself, why does my listing need a description?

Two words, user engagement.

With 83% of local businesses appearing in discovery searches, your business description can be an important tool to attract and engage users.

The additional content you provide through your business description will be a deciding factor in generating user interest — which as David Mihm points out is a more accurate signal of the quality of your business than traditional factors like links or directory citations.

What’s more, you can optimise your description to not only help you rank better but highlight your business’s unique selling points (USPs).

In other words, convert more visitors to sales.

So, how do you properly use GMB’s business description to set yourself apart from the competitors?

First, start by reading the Google Business Description Guidelines.

Google will review your business description before it’ll appear on your Google My Business profile. If your description doesn’t adhere to the guidelines above, you’ll have to start again.

Now that you have a clear idea of what Google expects from your business description, it’s time to write your business description.

My top tip?

Make it compelling.

While Google gives you up to 750 characters for your business description, only the first 250 characters are visible in the Knowledge Panel.

Think of the first 250 characters as your elevator pitch. You only have so much space to stand out from the competition.

Take some time to consider what important aspects of your business you want to highlight in this space.

When writing out your perfect description, focus on the key selling points of your business.

You’ll also want to make sure that your high-value keyword(s) are also mentioned at the top of the description.

Once you’ve written out your (compelling) business description, navigate your way to the “Info” tab in your Google My Business account. Scroll down and you’ll find the option to add a business description.

Insert your link, then click “Apply.”

Once Google has reviewed and approved your description, it will appear in the Knowledge Panel the next time your profile is served.

2. Boost Your Rankings With Secondary Google My Business Categories

When you created your Google My Business profile, Google asked you to select a primary category that accurately describes your business.

If you operate a Golf Course, you probably selected “Golf Course” as your primary Google My Business category.

And this primary category will influence what local search results you’ll rank for.

But, did you know that on top of your primary category, Google also allows you to add up to 9 additional categories to your listing?

Which means:

Adding the most applicable secondary categories to your listing can significantly impact your rankings.

And not only that.

Most local businesses won’t even bother adding a secondary category to their listing.

Meaning:

You’ll immediately have a leg up on the competition.

How To Include Secondary Categories To Your Listing

To add secondary Google My Business categories to your listing, click on the “Info” tab.

Your primary category will be listed directly underneath your business name.

To add additional categories (or edit your primary category), click the pencil icon on the right side of your primary category. Once the dialogue box pops up, click “Add another category.”

Then, add the relevant secondary categories that pertain to your business.

To help you select the appropriate secondary categories, complete the following statement: “This business is a ______.”

And if that’s not enough, you can use the PlePer Category Helper Tool to find additional categories to add to your listing.

By now you should have a clear idea of how to add secondary categories to your listing.

So let’s put this into practice:

Using our Golf Course example, if you selected “Golf Course” as your primary category, for the secondary categories, you may include:

  • Golf Club
  • Public Golf Course
  • Golf Driving Range
  • Golf Instructor
  • Event Venue
  • Wedding Venue
  • Country Club
  • Restaurant

As PlePer Google My Business categories tool identifies, these are the highest occurring categories for this query.

Remember, your secondary categories should further describe what the business is, not what its products or services are.

NOTE: Google will only display the primary category you’ve selected, not the secondary categories you’ve included.

But, rest assured, your secondary categories are working in the background to help you appear for more and more searches.

With that, let’s move on to my third Google My Business optimisation tip.

3. Reserve Your Google My Business Short Name And Share Your Listing With Ease

Giving your business listing a short or custom name makes it easier for your customers to find your business.

Here’s why:

A neat and punchy short name like @SEO-Sherpa-Dubai is easier to remember (and spell!) than a long-winded URL.

Customers can then use your GMB short name and custom URL to quickly find your business listing.

But here’s the deal.

Just like domain names, GMB short names are unique identifiers.

This makes it important to immediately claim your short name once Google verifies your business listing.

If you wait too long, another business might just get to it first.

Here’s how you can claim the short name for your business:

Step 1: Sign in to your GMB account.

Step 2: Click on the “Info” tab

Step 3: Scroll down to find the @ symbol and click the pencil icon

Step 4: Enter a short name

When creating your short name, you should include your business name and another descriptor like your location or a keyword that describes your business.

The short name you select must be between 5–32 characters in length.

Once you’ve customized your short name, you can share that short name to your customers as a custom URL.

Local search users can access your GMB profile by using the following URL: “g.page/[shortname]”.

You can also share this custom URL to solicit reviews from your customers.

Simply append “/review/” at the end of your customer URL, like so: “g.page/[shortname]/review/”.

This makes it exceptionally easy for customers to remember your listing’s URL and leave a review. I’ll share more review generating tips later.

You can also use this short URL across your marketing pieces to promote your GMB profile.

NOTE: You can edit your business’s short name up to three times per year in the same dialogue box.

So, go ahead and claim your short name (before someone else steals it).

Then move on to tip number 4.

4. Track Your Google My Business Traffic With Google Analytics UTM Codes

Let’s face it:

Today’s shopper’s journey involves a lot more than simply walking into a store to make a purchase.

Now you’re probably wondering:

What does this have to do with optimising my Google My Business listing?

Well, as the saying goes, knowledge is power.

Being able to distinguish how traffic flows to your site can empower big picture decisions and help inform what channels (email, social media, landing pages, etc.) you need to prioritise.

But here’s the kicker:

When it comes to identifying and categorising organic traffic sources, Google Analytics, Google’s free web analytics service, doesn’t distinguish what traffic is coming from maps or locations or from the main organic search results.

Traffic from these sources is simply displayed as Google organic.
To better distinguish traffic coming from Google My Business against other organic traffic sources, you need to use UTM tracking codes.

Understanding Google Analytics UTM codes

UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) codes are snippets of text attached to the end of a URL.

These pre-defined tracking codes allow you to track important data such as traffic sources, and performance of marketing activities inside Google Analytics.

Here’s an example of a URL with UTM codes attached:

https://seosherpa.com/?utm_source=gmb&utm_medium=organic

The UTM codes are the pre-defined text codes after the question mark.

Why does this matter?

Adding UTM tracking codes to your GMB listing allows you to distinguish between the traffic that’s coming from your Google My Business listing and the traffic that’s coming from Google’s organic search results.

UTM codes are broken down across five parameters:

For the purposes of your GMB listing, there two UTM parameters you need to focus on are Source (where the traffic is coming from) and Medium (the type of traffic coming to your site).

For the Source UTM parameter, you can simply put GMB. For the Medium UTM parameter, you can use “organic.”

Looking at our example again, we can break down the URL according to its UTM parameters.

Here’s how you can actually use this:

First, visit Google’s Campaign URL Builder.

From here, you can enter the web address you want to track.

Next, fill in the required UTM parameter fields. For our purposes, you just need to fill out Campaign Source (gmb)and Campaign Medium (organic).

And that’s it

Once you’ve filled in the required fields, the URL Builder tool will automatically generate a URL for you.

Now that you have links with UTM codes, go to your Google My Business listing.

From your GMB dashboard, select the “Info” tab.

Then, copy and paste your UTM-filled URL into the website section.

Other sections you can include UTM codes in GMB listing are:

Once you’ve filled out all the sections you want to track, you’re set!

You can now differentiate GMB traffic from other organic sources in your Google Analytics account.

With that, let’s look at Google My Business’s visual features.

4. Get More Eyeballs On Your Listing With Engaging Visuals

I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say:

First impressions matter.

And one of the best ways to make sure your business is ready for its close up is by adding visual media to your business listing.

Why does this matter?

People love great visuals.

As statistics show, businesses with photos receive over 40% more “requests for driving directions to their location.” They also get 35% more clicks to their website.

Pretty cool, right?

What’s more, BrightLocal found that 60% of consumers say local search results with good images capture their attention and push them towards a decision.

Without great visuals, you’re wasting a big opportunity.

Making use of Google’s many visual features can enhance your visibility in SERPs.

The right library of images and videos can help you personalise your GMB listing, increase branding opportunities, and spur potential customers into action.

How can you actually use this?

Aside from your logo and cover photo, there are various images you should add to your GMB listing to engage your audience and tell your brand story.

For instance:

You can add 360-degree images that showcase the interior of your store or office. If you sell products, you can showcase the products in your retail location or showroom. You can even take pictures of your staff so customers can put a face to the business.

If you have videos, you can upload 30-second clips.

When SEO Sherpa got awarded Best Large SEO Agency at the 2018 MENA Search Awards, we uploaded this video tour Google My Business listing.

Because the video draws eyeballs, anyone checking out our listing on Google at that time would have seen it (and know we won the award).

Videos are highly engaging, so make full use of this attention-grabbing visual

What’s more, this will provide additional ranking signals to Google that will improve your businesses visibility in local search results.

To ensure your images and videos attract the right type of attention, follow Google’s best practices.

PRO TIP:

You should also optimise for image SEO to get more mileage out of your listing.

This is a simple 2-step process:

  • Name your images with the keywords you want to target
  • Tag your images with the specific location of your business
  • Head over to GeoImgr
  • Upload the images you want to add to your listing in JPEG format
  • Drag and drop the pin to set the location or enter GPS coordinates manually (Using the search field requires a Pro account)
  • Hit “Write EXIF Tags” to geotag the image
  • Download your geotagged image

Optimised your profile with images and video?

Great, let’s move on to Google My Business optimisation tip number 5.

5. Optimise Your Service, Menu, or Product Catalogue

Google My Business has several industry-specific features that your business can take advantage of.

Businesses such as plumbers, florists, lawyers, dentists, marketing agencies, and more can add a menu of services to their business listing.

If you operate a restaurant or service-based business, such as a marketing agency or dentist office, you can start making use of this feature.

Best of all, the process of adding a menu of services or products to your listing is simple and straightforward.

Let’s get started.

Google My Business Services Section

Found in the “Services” tab, the Services section allows you to display a “menu” of your services.

Through the Services feature, you can create custom service categories.

These categories can be further segmented into different sections.

Here’s how:

To start itemizing your services, navigate to the “Services” tab.

From here, you can add or edit categories and add services to these categories.

Be sure to enter an appropriate name and price for each service.

You can also add a description (up to 1,000 characters) to describe the service you’re offering.

I recommend taking advantage of this by highlighting what makes your service unique or different from the competition.

You can also use the description box to include your target keywords but avoid keyword stuffing.

How To Add A Menu To Google My Business

If you’re a restaurant-type business, you can make use of Google’s menu editor to display your menu items within your listing.

To add a menu to your listing, navigate to the “Info” tab.

Scroll down to find the “Menu” option (it should have a fork and spoon icon). From here, you can add your menu.

Your menu can be categorised by section (Appetizers, Mains, Desserts, etc.).

To avoid any potential confusion, be sure to use the same names, prices, and descriptions that you have listed on your restaurant menu.

The menu editor shouldn’t be confused with the “Menu URL” option as that feature directs diners to your website’s menu.

Add Products To Google My Business

Finally, if you are a retail-oriented business, you can showcase your products similar to service-based businesses and restaurants.

Recently released by Google, the “Products” feature allows retail businesses like yourself to display a list of inventory directly through Google My Business.

But, here’s a catch:

Accessing this new feature is dependent on your listing’s Primary Category.

So if your retail business does not see this feature, it may be due to your category selection.

To start adding products to your GMB listing, navigate your way to the “Products” tab.

From this tab, you can create separate collections/product categories.

You can also add, edit, or delete your products.

To fully optimise this new feature, be sure to upload an engaging photo (see Tip #5) and name the products listed.

You can also set a price and add a description (both are optional).

If you have a large inventory of products, it may not be practical to include every product you have to offer.

Be sure to prioritise the most important products such as seasonal offers.NOTE: The Products feature replaces the previous Product Posts feature on GMB.

6. Increase Your Customer Count With Google My Business Posts

Let me guess:

You’re still looking for tips that further your visibility in local search.

I know the feeling.

Fortunately, there’s another feature you can leverage to your advantage; Google My Business Posts.

Here’s how:

Google Posts allow you to directly share content from your profile.

Think of these posts as mini social media announcements. You can use them in a variety of ways, from business updates to product launches and even share holiday messages.

There are three distinct types of Google Posts that businesses can create:

Let’s break each down below.

What’s new

These post types are ideal for sharing announcements and other business-related updates.

What’s new posts can cover a variety of information.

Examples of typical What’s new posts include quick summaries of your latest blog post, holiday messages, and highlights of what’s new with the company.

The What’s new post description can be up to 1,500 characters, though focus on the first 100 characters. These are what show up in the Knowledge Panel, so make each character count.

Your post can also have a call-to-action (CTA) button, though this is optional.

CTA options include:

  • Book
  • Order online
  • Buy
  • Learn more
  • Sign up
  • Call now (the primary number associated with your listing)

Events

These are ideal for promoting your events.

This can include things like company-hosted events (like this inbound marketing event we organise at SEO Sherpa) to community-led activities like trade shows that your business is involved with.

Events posts can even be used to inform your customers of any store disruptions such as holiday closures or construction happening around the neighbourhood.

Your Event post will require an Event title (58 character limit) and Event description (1,500 character limit).

Similar to What’s new posts, certain CTAs are available:

  • Book
  • Order online
  • Buy
  • Learn more
  • Sign up
  • Call now (the primary number associated with your listing)

With these types of posts, you can select a start date and end date.

Event posts will remain active until the event’s end date.

Offer

If your business is running any type of sale or you’ve just released a new product, you can use “Offer” posts to push your promotional offers.

You can even use “Offer” posts to create exclusive Google My Business promotions.

What’s more:

Offer posts are displayed with a bright yellow tag next to the Offer title, enhancing the look of your promotion.

Like Events, you have a 58 character limit with the Offer title and the standard 1,500 character limit in the description box.

Offer posts also come with additional features such as a Coupon Code feature, Link to Redeem Offer, and Terms and Conditions.

While these three features are optional, I strongly recommend including a Terms and Conditions with your Offer post.

Even something as simple as “See website or contact us for full rules and regulations” will avoid any confusion and provide clear details to your customer on how they can claim their promotional offer.

NOTE: Google integrated Product posts with their new Products menu feature.

To top it off:

Each post type can be published with an image, GIF, or 30-second video.

Adding visual media to your posts to make them highly engaging to your local search user.

Likewise, consider including UTM codes to every CTA used in your posts.

This will help your business properly track traffic and their respective sources.

Refer to our full GMB Optimisation Guide below to get started with UTM codes.

Pro Tip: Use your target keywords sparingly within your Google Posts.

When you do, Google may pull a snippet from the post and display it within the local pack:

Pretty neat huh?

7. Engage With Customers Through Google My Business Messaging

As part of Google’s efforts to make GMB a seamless communication platform, businesses like yours can use Google My Business app to respond directly to any customer queries.

To turn this feature on, you’ll need to install the Google My Business app onto your mobile device or tablet.

After it’s been installed, open the app and tap the “Customers” tab. Select “Messages.” Activate the Messaging feature by tapping “Turn on” when the pop-up appears.

And you’re good to go!

After you’ve turned on this feature, customers will be able to message your business through the “Message” button on your GMB profile.

Once a customer has initiated a chat, you’ll be able to respond.

I highly recommend that you reply within 24 hours of receiving the message.

Let me explain:

Instant messaging, social media and mobile devices have empowered today’s consumers.

The new expectation is real-time availability.

And just how important is it to effectively communicate with your customers in real-time?

When it comes to customer support, Hubspot has found that over 80% of consumers expect a response within 10 minutes or less

Prompt replies tell your customers that you’re readily available and you want to build a rapport with them.

In order words:

Timely responses encourage engagement.

But, they also promote trust between you and your customers.

And it doesn’t stop there…

If you do not respond in an appropriate time frame, Google may decide to deactivate the Messaging feature for your account.

And if this doesn’t incentivize you to be more responsive with the Messaging app, then I’m not sure what will.

So how do you actually stay on top of customer messages?

Turn on notifications.

This will allow you to see messages pop up in real-time through your GMB app. And if you’re not available for messaging such as during after hours, you can also turn off the Messaging feature.

You can also include a customised welcome greeting (up to 120 characters) so that customers are automatically greeted when they send a message.

This will give you a bit more time to respond to messages when you get them.

NOTE: The Messaging feature only works on a mobile device or tablet. Messaging is inaccessible through a desktop device.

8. How To Improve Your NAP Consistency For Better Local SEO

A crucial factor in local SEO is NAP consistency.

NAP is an SEO acronym that stands for Name, Address and Phone Number.

NOTE: These days, there’s also UNAP or NAPW with the U and W referring to URL and website, respectively.

Matching these elements across local citation sources like social media sites, online business directories, wikis, and so on can heavily influence your visibility in the local pack.

The more (consistent) citations you have, the higher your position will be in local search results.

As if that’s not enough:

NAP consistency ALSO has a direct impact on your local rankings.

But Google isn’t the only one who uses this information.

NAP information is also used by local search users, particularly mobile users, to progress through their user journey.

Think about this for a moment:

Google’s research shows that consumers begin their brand experience across one of several touchpoints.

These online portals make an impression on the user, influencing their user journey to lead to a purchasing decision or a moment of affirmative action.

This is where it’s vital to have consistent NAP information.

Google uses local citations to cross-reference your NAP information.

The more consistent your NAP is, the more confidently Google can display your business to in local search results. This can lead to more local organic traffic to your site which ultimately, can result in more leads (and sales!).

But, the opposite is also true.

Think of the last time you tried to search for a local business online only to be met by inaccurate information. How frustrating was that experience?

Incorrect information can be a significant barrier to customer discovery. If users are unable to trust your listing’s information, Google can’t either.

Any inconsistencies found with your NAP information can negatively affect the legitimacy of your business and the validity of its data.

This lessens the ranking opportunities your business will have in the SERPs. And can lead to a loss of reputation and potentially mean losing out on valuable sales opportunities.

To ensure that your GMB listing impresses any potential customers, double check your business information across all online directories, business listings, websites, and social platforms.

Also, confirm that there are no duplicate GMB listings for the same website.

NOTE: If there are duplicate listings out there, you can remove them by claiming them through Google’s request ownership process.

9. Build Your Brand On Google With Crowd-Sourced Q&As

If you’re looking to improve your customer engagement through Google My Business, one great feature to fully optimise is Google’s Q&A section.

What are Google Q&As I hear you ask?

As Mike Blumenthal points out, Google Q&A’s help consumers “find meaningful, timely answers to questions.”

In short, they are questions (and answers) that get shown in the Google My Business Knowledge Panel and Google Maps.

Just like this:

In theory, the visibility of these Q&As in both local SERPs and Google Maps can influence how customers interact with your business.

If they find the right answers to their questions, customers might call or visit your business directly from your listing.

The questions you get asked are dependent on your industry.

In research conducted by Mike Blumenthal on the dental industry, Mike found that a lot of people were asking questions relating to:

  • Policy coverage (Example: types of insurance accepted)
  • Business info (hours of operation, email, phone number, etc.)
  • Services provided (Example: cost of procedures)
  • Reputation comments (People giving reviews rather than asking questions)
  • Appointment enquiries
  • Irrelevant questions (i.e. comments that were complete gibberish)

Here’s a breakdown by type:

Darren Shaw performed research on other industries and found that (for the most part), search users are looking to find more information on:

  • Costs
  • Services availability,
  • Product offerings
  • Business amenities (parking availability, holiday hours, etc.)

The Best Way To Answer Google Questions

First up, monitoring your listing is not necessary.

Fortunately, if you have the GMB app or email notifications active, Google will update you when questions are submitted to your profile.

As a business owner, managing all user-generated content is necessary to maximize engagement while mitigating any potential reputation loss.

Promptly answering questions and monitoring irrelevant comments for removal can positively impact any user looking to make a purchasing decision.

As the owner of the listing, you can also publish and answer some of the frequently asked questions your business gets.

This is a great way to encourage conversation and preemptively answer some of your customers’ burning questions.

10. Stand Out From The Competition (And Attract More Customers) With Emojis

If you’re like most “texters,” you’ve probably started using emojis as part of your lexicon.

And as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

When it comes to your GMB listing, emojis can be a fun and playful way to help support your local SEO efforts.

Check this out:

In 2016, Google rolled out its #KnowNearby Twitter campaign. This campaign allowed Twitter users to tweet an emoji to Google and Google would respond with a link to relevant local search results.

When you say “pizza,” we say https://t.co/4Yhj7yYH53 #KnowNearby pic.twitter.com/V4rW6bptYt

- Google (@Google) December 8, 2016

As Twitter users tested it using different emojis like the pizza emoji, Google’s responses showed that the search engine is capable of understanding hundreds of different emojis.

On the face of it, this may not seem relevant to your GMB optimisation efforts.

But this Twitter campaign showed that Google is already indexing and placing more value into emojis.

And with 92 percent of online consumers using emojis, chances are, several of your users have performed an emoji-based query to find relevant local search results.

But, what does this all have to do with your Google My Business listing I hear you say?

You can now use emojis in your GMB profile.

Way #1: Create a Google Post with a Relevant Emoji

(If you don’t remember the type of Google Posts available, refer to Tip #8)

So, if you run a local pizzeria, you can create an exclusive GMB “Offer” pizza post using a pizza emoji in the Offer title or the description box.

This not only gives your post a visual boost but might give your business an SEO advantage over competitor pizza restaurants.

And the next time a local search user in your service area searches for pizza using 🍕 + near me, your special offer post might just have the positive impact you’re looking for!

Way #2: Use emojis is by adding them to your business name.

Not only is this super simple to do, but very few businesses on GMB are doing this.

Apart from helping you stand out, adding an emoji to your GMB name can also create a branding opportunity for your business.

Be sure to select a relevant emoji for your business. So, if you’re a pizza restaurant, you’re better off using a pizza emoji rather than a star emoji.

Note from James:

There’s some debate as to whether or not using emojis is against Google’s best practices. As they say in the guidelines:

Your name must not include:

Special characters (e.g. %&$@/”) or irrelevant legal terms unless they are part of your business’s real-world representation

This is where the relevancy factors in. As a pizza emoji is relevant to a pizza restaurant, it is part of your business’s real-world representation

What’s more, Google confirms this when they announced that emojis will appear in search result snippets for relevant emoji queries.

According to Google, emojis will be featured where “relevant, useful and fun.”

Now It’s Your Turn

Knowing how to optimise your Google My Business listing will allow you to wield one of the most useful, yet overlooked SEO tools.

What’s more:

When you put these actionable strategies into practice, you can increase your visibility on Google search and maps and get your business in front of new leads (and buyers).

Want more advanced tips and strategies? Our definitive GMB guide goes in-depth, covering topics like reviews, UTM codes, and more, to help you dominate Google Maps and the top results of Google’s page one.

Read our full guide here: https://seosherpa.com/get-on-google/

Want more? Connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn. I share my thoughts on all things SEO, entrepreneurship, and digital marketing.

Originally published at https://seosherpa.com on March 21, 2020.

Founder of SEO Sherpa; MENA’s Best Large SEO Agency. Contributor to Forbes and Entrepreneur. Learn more at https://seosherpa.com

Founder of SEO Sherpa; MENA’s Best Large SEO Agency. Contributor to Forbes and Entrepreneur. Learn more at https://seosherpa.com