Google My Business is a powerful tool that can transform how you drive customers to your local brick and mortar business and further develop trust with new and existing customers. Although Google My Business has been around for a long time, it has grown in its importance as more users use search engines to find information about a local business, even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you have not claimed your business and/or optimized your profile recently on Google, there is no better time than the present. Let’s discuss why your Google My Business listings are important for your local SEO strategy, as well as the process of creating and optimizing your listing.
The Importance of Local Searches
Achieving visibility on a search engine has never been more important for local businesses. It has been reported that 46% of all Google searches are looking for local information. Many of those searches result in, “Zero-Click Searches”. This type of search refers to the elements within a search engine result page that answer the search query without the user having to click to a website. Your website is still the heart of your digital presence, more and more search engines are beginning to prioritize these types of queries.
Searches for local businesses that could result in a zero-click search could be, “What time is Example Bank open until?” or “Where is the nearest Italian restaurant?” The answers would lie within the hours, temporary hours or special hours section of an individual Google My Business listing. With an optimized Google My Business profile, Google has given users the ability to connect with local businesses and find answers without having to go to a website. With more knowledge boxes and panels appearing on the search engine results pages than ever before, it is evident that Google is adapting to the notion that users want answers as soon as possible and with the least clicks possible.
Knowing that many search queries result in zero-click searches, especially for local businesses, enforces the notion that it is important to keep business listings as up to date as possible and optimized for multiple types of searches. Let’s talk about how to get started with Google My Business.
Guide for Setting Up Google My Business
Setting up your Google My Business listing or claiming an existing Google My Business listing is the first step in increasing your local visibility online. Google makes it easy to get started since their tool is free and there is only one place to edit and add information.
Sign up and verify your business
To get started you can sign in to Google My Business using an existing Google Account, or sign up with your business email domain that is already associated with Google. Once completed, Google will verify your business to ensure that the business information is accurate and that only you and selected parties have access to the listing. There are several verification options including mail, phone, email or instant verification through an active Google Search Console account. The verification method will depend on the type of business listing being managed.
Information to include in your listing
Once your listing is setup it is time to fill out as much information as possible. It’s important to keep in mind that everything within your listing should be in line with the information you provide on your website. Information that conflicts with what is on your website can cause user frustration and also have a negative effect on your rankings. Here are some tips to optimize your Google My Business listings:
Claim your listing with your full business name
Choose relevant and specific categories and subcategories for your business
If you have multiple locations include all of those locations using bulk location management so you can add, verify and manage location all at once
Add your normal business hours as well as holidays using the “Special Hours” tool
Upload quality, high resolution and relevant images including your logo and location images if applicable
Use a local phone number for each of your locations
Include your website URL
Allow and encourage reviews
Actively respond to customer reviews in a very timely manner
Link your paid search ads to your Google My Business so that your ads are eligible to appear in local results
Third Party Management of Local SEO
Some businesses with a large volume of local business listings prefer to rely on third-party tools such as Yext and more Google featured partners. These tools allow you to manage the information in your Google My Business account and other aspects of your local SEO, including monitoring content on your location pages, tracking backlinks from local search directories and top keywords, displayed, directly in one dashboard by syncing with the Google API. This can be beneficial for a busy business who wants to see and manage their data in one place. When integrating with a third party it is always important to understand the risks as there could be discrepancies with the listings, updates and data pulls. It is always recommended to check back on the Google Tools themselves whenever a change is made using a third party, especially for GMB. For a business with a large amount of locations to manage and release updates, a third party management tool could be very useful.
Managing Your Listing During COVID-19
From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a large demand for changes to existing Google My Business listings. These changes included edits to open and closed statuses, special hours, temporary closures, and business descriptions. The combination of increased demand and the impact on Google’s own employees caused Google to release the following statement:
During the unprecedented COVID-19 situation, we are taking steps to protect the health of our team members and reduce the need for people to come into our offices. As a result, there may be some temporary limitations and delays in support as we prioritize critical services.
Temporarily, Google My Business is not publishing any new reviews, review replies or new Q&A. The existing reviews, review replies, and Q&A will still be visible. For those businesses that will be updating their hours, business descriptions and more, as businesses begin to re-open, a delay in verification and publishing is assumed to stand until official notice otherwise.
One way that you can reach out to your customers regarding new hours and planned openings that is not limited affected by the recent pandemic, is through Google Posts. Google Posts enables owners of GMB profiles to post content into the search engine results page within your individual GMB listing. Each Post expires after a week, making this a good tool for timely updates. To start posting simply access your Google My Business account and click on “Posts” on the left-hand side menu.
Local SEO Support
While optimizing your business listing will do a great deal for your local SEO it is also important that your website is optimized for SEO. For a local business website, having local keywords throughout your meta tags and within the content throughout your site will help to match what you have just optimized in your Google My Business listing.
Adding LocalBusiness Schema, also known as structured data, to specific pages on your website highlights snippets and builds trust with the search engine. This is another SEO tactic that compliments the information in a Google My Business listing, although the two do not influence each other.
Since Schema Code is being crawled through your website and Google My Business uses its own API and third- party extensions, you cannot use schema code to publish content to your Google My Business listing. Having said that with specific information highlighted through both ends makes for a well-rounded search engine marketing strategy. If you are interested in learning more about structured data you can review why it is so important for SEO, here.
Google is a command center for many online marketing tools and resources, and with 87% of the search engine market, it’s essential that you optimize your digital presence for it. If you are a business whose hours and daily operations have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic then it is crucial that you are active in updating your profile and using Google Posts to ensure that timely messages are reaching your customers. Even if you do not do all your business online, with health and safety limits placed on storefronts, customers will be turning to search engines more and more to get the answers they seek. And, post-pandemic it’s expected that online usage will be more than ever, so best to get your business on track now to anticipate the future.
For help with your Google My Business account, contact the SEO specialists at ZAG Interactive.