Start Putting Your Business in Front of Potential Customers
Google is devoting more and more real estate in their search engines to local businesses. This increased exposure has helped thousands of small businesses get the word out about their products and services and grow with minimal effort. No matter what your business does, if you have a physical location, you need a Google My Business listing.
Importance of Claiming Your Listing
The bottom line is that claiming your Google My Business listing is going to have an enormous impact on your company’s local search result visibility. Google has been localizing their search engine for some time now. The addition of the Local 3 Pack, numerous carousels, paid ads, and map locations have pushed the organic search results below the fold. On mobile, they’re basically non-existent.
Users are in a hurry (and on their phone) so they don’t have time to scroll through the entire page. They’ll find what they’re looking for in those top spots and move on with their day.
These listings pull your business out of the abyss and put it front and center when customers look for you. If you’re a local or a small business that relies on foot traffic, you can’t afford to not have a My Business listing.
You have to play the game to win
If you haven’t made the jump to digital yet, you need to. Google wants to translate the popularity of your brick and mortar shop online. You just have to let them.
Setting up your My Business Listing, or any citation listing for that matter, takes very little time and requires virtually zero upkeep. The resulting boost in visibility, and subsequent business, can change everything. Stop leaving it up to chance and take control of your business’s future.
Claiming Your My Business Listing
This will cover setting up a Google My Business listing for a single location. We’ll cover handling multiple locations at a later date as that is an entirely different process.
1. Add Your Business Information
The first step is super straight forward. All you have to do is enter your basic NAP data (name, address, phone, etc.) into the first form and click continue.
Important Note: If you do deliver goods / services at your customers’ locations, be sure to set your service area. This will help your business listing show up in the search results when searched for in those geographics. While this isn’t mandatory, you’re shooting yourself in the foot if you don’t do it.
2. Verify Your Information & Wait
Google will prompt you to verify the information you entered in the previous step. Provided that you didn’t fat finger anything, click on the verify button. Google will send a postcard to the address you submitted, which should be your physical location, and this takes ~1 – 2 weeks to arrive.
2a. Verify Your Listing
At this point, your listing is unverified which isn’t a big deal. You can keep filling it out, but you need to verify it as soon as the postcard arrives. If you don’t, you’ll have to go through the re-verification process again and wait another 1 – 2 weeks for a new postcard.
Once you’re verified, you gain access to profile insights and review management sections of the dashboard which makes managing your listing super easy. This lets you sift through data on how visitors found your listing, traffic & action trends, phone calls, and gives you quick access to your reviews.
3. Fill Out Hours of Operation
To fill in your hours of operation, click on the “edit” button in the top right corner of the dashboard and click on “Hours of Operation” in the left column.
Simply select which days you’re open as well as the associated hours, click apply, and you’re good to go.
You can also add “Special Hours” when your location has an irregular schedule. This could be on holidays, vacations, or just when you want to knock off to the pub for the rest of the afternoon. No judgment here. Live your life.
4. Add Photos
The two most important photos you can add quickly are your cover and profile photo while you wait for a professional to take shots of your location / products. (Seriously, get a pro to do it.) While it adds a touch of authenticity to have photos that aren’t picture perfect (get it?), make the best impression possible here.
Click on manage photos and then add your profile photo and whatever you want for your cover photo. This can be a shot of the outside of your business (the inside works too) or it could just be a larger version of your logo.
- Profile Picture: 250 x 250 (minimum), 500 x 500 (recommended)
- Cover Photo: 480 x 270 (minimum), 1080 x 608 (recommended)
- Post Photos / Video Thumbnails: 497 width (minimum), 900 (recommended)
- Supported File Types: .jpeg / .gif / .png (recommended)
5. Setting up Google Analytics
Provided that you already have an Analytics account set up, this will be the easiest part. Scroll to the bottom of the main dashboard page and click on “Get Started” in the Analytics section which is on the bottom right. This will kick you over to Google Analytics in case you don’t have an account set up. However, if you do, that’s it. That’s all you have to do.
Once you pop back into your My Business dashboard, you’ll have a new row that looks like the one below. This will give you some quick, high level metrics for a holistic view on your site’s performance.
Pro Tip: While these metrics great, they should not be the only performance data you look at on a regular basis. It’s a good snapshot, but you need more information to really push the needle.
5a. If it isn’t set up…
You’re going to have a slightly larger project on your hands. Rather than blast you with all the steps, click on the links below (in order), follow the steps in each process, and you’ll be good to go. Depending on your site’s setup and your proficiency with code, you may need a developer. (You may not though.)
Optimizing Your My Business Listing
Make Sure Your Phone Number is Local
You may have a toll free 800 number for whatever reason, long distance calls really aren’t a thing anymore, but your My Business Listing needs to have your local number. Naturally, this shows that you’re actually a local business and not some spam listing jagoff that’s trying to look local. (Local spam still exists unfortunately.)
Use Your Actual Business Name
It may be tempting to add target keywords and your city to the Business Name in your listing to improve it’s positioning, but that’s a spam tactic and you will get punished for it. Google wants their local results to look like the ones in the image below with actual business names in the title line. Shocking, right?
Don’t try to game the system by stuffing your listing with keywords. Whatever temporary gains you get will be wiped away when Google knocks you down.
Google Search for “personal injury lawyers”
Add High Resolution Images of Your Location / Product
Just like your parents told you, first impressions are important. Your My Business Listing gives you the opportunity to make the best one possible, if you take advantage of it. Hire a professional photographer to come in during off hours. If you’re a restaurant, have your chefs prepare your most visually striking dishes for the photographer. If you’re a retailer, have the photographer take plenty of shots of the location so you can put the best ones on your listing.
Pro Tip: Make sure to have a shot of the outside / entrance to your location, especially if it’s hard to find or sandwiched between two other businesses. Make things easier on your customers by giving them a frame of reference.
Be as Specific as Possible With Your Category
Remember that bit about not stuffing your listing with keywords? This is where you can go wild, within reason of course. Being as descriptive and specific about your product / service will only benefit you and improve customer engagement with your listing.
You’re more likely to rank for keyword terms like “personal injury lawyer” or “corporate tax lawyer” than you would for “lawyer” or “attorney”. Are you a lawyer? Yes. Will you rank for “lawyer”? Probably not. The shorter a keyword, the harder it is to rank for it so you want to avoid category names with 1 – 2 words.
On top of that, potential customers that search for those longer keyword phrases are more likely to convert because they know what they want. If someone searches for “lawyer”, they probably 1) don’t know what they need or 2) are doing research. If someone searches for “personal injury lawyer”, they probably had an accident and need representation. The second type of searcher is who you want to reach regardless of your business.
Fill Out as Much Info as Possible
Make sure that you completely fill out your listing and that all of the information is up to date. This will help with your listing’s click through rate, but also show searchers that you’re a professional company that’s worth their time. Besides, if you leave off the info they’re looking for, that’s a negative touch point that can cost you their business.
If you leave off your hours of operation, they may take that as you don’t accept walk-ins. If you leave off your phone number, they’d be justified in thinking that you aren’t a legitimate company.
Extra Local Marketing Tips
Optimizing your Google Business Listing will put you on a solid growth path, but that’s just the first step. There are still a ton of things you can do to actively fuel that growth. These quick tips will be the icing on the cake that sweetens your listing’s effectiveness.
Run Social / AdWords Ads During Popular Hours
This is one of those low hanging fruit tips that most people just don’t think about. One of the sections in your Google My Business listing shows information about said location’s popular hours and average visit duration. This is great information for customers who are in a hurry, but it’s also great for you because you now know exactly when to run ads for your business.
Spin up a Facebook or Google AdWords ad campaign that runs just before those hours
Get an Indoor Street View Made
Now, admittedly, this isn’t for everyone, but if you have a high end restaurant or any type of business where ambiance is a major selling point, you need a virtual tour. My Business Listings that have hi-res photos or a virtual tour are twice as likely to generate interest than those without.
Encourage Reviews & Social Check-ins
Business reviews are one of the first things potential customers look at when deciding whether or not to try something new. Having no reviews (or a negative rating) is a sure bet that they’ll gloss right past your business and go with one of your competitors instead.
The best way to get reviews is to just ask for them. No tricks, no “hacks”, no clever marketing tactics. Just ask for them. It’s really that simple and the best time to ask is right after they’ve bought your product or had a good experience. If you own a brick and mortar shop with a checkout counter, have your clerks ask customers to review your business and give feedback on their experience.
Most people won’t have a problem doing it (provided they had a positive experience). However, customers typically don’t leave one otherwise because good shopping experiences are supposed to happen. Customers have high expectations which is why most reviews that are left are negative and why it’s so important to ask.
On top of this, having a large number of positive reviews is a huge vote of confidence for potential customers, but it will also improve your visibility in search.
Build Citations & Make Sure Their Info is Identical
Your Google My Business listing is a citation. The more citations you have, the more genuine and authoritative your business looks to Google, and the easier it is for potential customers to find you too. There are dozens upon dozens of citation sites out there and you can do them all if you want, but the smart money is on hitting the big ones. Google My Business, Yelp, Yellow Pages, Super Pages, Facebook, and Bing Local are a great place to start.
Now, you can do this manually or you can use something like Yext to automate it. If you’re short on time and you have multiple locations, go with Yext.
Regardless of which path you choose, you want to make sure that your information is as identical across every site. This is doubly true if you have multiple locations. Having incorrect information just makes you look unprofessional and cause you to lose business.
Pro Tip: Make sure that all of your citations are being managed by the same email account and not one that is managed by a non-permanent employee. Nearly every client and business I’ve worked for had some random person handle their citations that no longer works there and they don’t have access to their email account anymore. It is an absolute pain in the ass (and sometimes impossible) to recover listings in this situation.
Respond to Reviews About Your Business (Both Good AND Bad)
Most businesses only respond to negative reviews, if any. While this is a good practice, you should be responding to all of them either to thank them for posting a positive review or trying to fix the bad ones. Not only does this give you the opportunity to turn a negative into a positive, it shows that you care about your customers.
No business is perfect. Mistakes are going to happen and someone’s going to have a bad time. It’s inevitable, but it’s not the end of the relationship with that customer. It can still be salvaged. Just take the time to reach out and make it right.