How to Create and Optimise your Google My Business Listing

Google My Business: The Guide

Big or small, you need to be using Google My Business. 

There’s no excuse not to.

This complete guide will show you how to claim your free business listing, and optimise it effectively so that local customers can find you.

We’ll walk through all the features of a profile, the local ranking factors that will make it show up, the importance of your NAPs and more to help you get the most out of your digital storefront before customers have even landed on your website.

Time to dive in.

Why you need Google My Business

Google My Business (acronym GMB) is a free tool created by Google to help manage a panel that appears on Google Search Results and info that appears on Google Maps. Google sometimes generates this automatically, but you can create and claim one too. 

Here’s our local Apple store as an example:

Apple Westfield Stratford Google My Business Listing

This is different from being in the knowledge graph, which is a similar panel based on Google’s own “knowledge” of your business from properties such as Wikipedia and Crunchbase.

Here is Apple in the Knowledge Graph:

Apple Knowledge Graph Panel

Your Google My Business profile should show up whenever someone searches for your brand name in search and on Google Maps. 

You’ll also show up in local searches where customers are looking for businesses “near me”. Between 2016-2018 there was a 900% increase in “near me” searches according to Chatmeter, up from 500% between 2015-2017

We could continue to throw out the stats but if you need more convincing on the importance of local SEO, check out these roundups from HubSpotAhrefs and Chatmeter

It’s a free way of taking up more space on page 1 of Google as well as giving your customers more information about your business before they need to click a link.

How to Setup

If you’ve already got access to your Google My Business profile, click here to skip this step.  

You’ll first want to create a Google account so you can manage your GMB profile (you can delegate access later) and then head on over to business.google.com

Here are some quick steps to get started.

Step 1: Provide the name of your business

Don’t stuff keywords in here such as “best” or “near me” if that’s not in your business name. It looks spammy (see example) and is against Google’s Guidelines.

Step 2: Pick a Pre-Listed Category 

Google My Business Slide with dropdown asking to Select Business Category and category selected as Marketing Agency.

Step 3: Add your services 

You can select a custom box to enter your own. You’ll be able to provide more details for these later.

Add Business Services Selection with Custom Text Entered Search Engine Optimisation

Step 4: Provide an address or choose your service areas.

Providing an address here will make it public and attach you on the map to that location. If you don’t want this you can select your service areas instead. 

If you have a virtual (online-only) business, you’re ineligible for Google My Business unless you visit customers at their locations (even if you’ve moved that online due to COVID19). If you don’t have a physical office, you need to hide your address by using a service area.

Add Service Areas Slide with Service Area Selected at London, UK.

Step 5: Provide your website and contact number

Providing an address here will make it public and attach you on the map to that location. If you don’t want this you can select your service areas instead. 

If you have a virtual (online-only) business, you’re ineligible for Google My Business unless you visit customers at their locations (even if you’ve moved that online due to COVID19). If you don’t have a physical office, you need to hide your address by using a service area.

Note: At this step, Google gives you the option to create a good website. We think this is a good starting point if you have no online presence, but we always recommend self-hosted WordPress for websites so you can customise & optimise as much as you like. 

It can be a learning curve so you can use WordPress.com or HubSpot to create an affordable website without experience as well as using Google’s tool. 

Step 6: Verify your Address

Then you’ll need to enter a postal address so Google can send you a postcard to your address to verify it. Please note that PO Boxes are not eligible.

Postal Address request with fields left unpopulated.

Note: While Bing Places for business doesn’t require you to have a physical store, your city and postcode will still show(final bullet point). If you import your GMB profile into Bing, the address you provide at this step will be saved and sent to Bing. 

Google has alternative forms of verification such as via Search Console, Email and Phone, but their availability depends on your business category.

If you have more than ten physical locations, you can also verify them in bulk to speed up the process.  

Info Tab

Now you’ve got the bare bones of your profile set up it’s time to start optimising it. 

This section will run through the different features of your listing, and how to optimise for them.

The first place you’ll want to go to is the “info” tab and fill out all the fields that apply to you. The more information you have, the more you’re profile will stand out. 

Most of these are self explanatory so we’ve pulled out some that could use some more detail below.
Waterdown Media Info Tab Showing our category as a marketing agency, our service areas as London and the rest of the UK, and our Monday-Friday 9-5 Opening Hours.

Special Hours

If you have special hours for specific events or services (like happy hour), then you can add those here. You can also add hours over the holidays. 

Special Opening Hours Showing Waterdown Media Closed 24-26th December and New Years Day.

Appointments

You can then add an appointment link (if you accept online bookings). If you use WordPress, here are some plugins that can help you create a page. Alternatively, you can use SquareUp or Calendly to create a page for free.  

Products

You can add a showcase of your top products and services with their details such as price, image and description and a CTA to buy. 

This can be a great place to show any products you have online or your best sellers. 

You may also be able to get your products onto Google using Merchant Center, and here are some instructions if you use WooCommerce or Shopify

You can also publish products from the “Posts” tab. 

Attributes

You can add some attributes about your business, such as if you have free Wi-Fi or your health and safety policies.

You can also highlight other features such as if it’s women-led or black-owned. The availability of these varies by country and business type

Messages

You can let customers directly text you from your GMB profile. Google may deactivate your account if you don’t respond within 24 hours, so make sure your customer service team add this as a channel to monitor. 

If you have a lot of messages, you may be able to add them to your existing customer service software (API access is in closed beta Dec 2020) if they’re Google Partners.

Posts

Google My Business Posts let you add offers, updates and events to your profile to keep your customers in the know. Here’s a breakdown of the post types from Google:

What’s new: Update about your business with a photo/video text and a CTA.

Events: A post with the option to add start/end dates with times

Offer: Opportunity to list any sales/offers you have active. 

Products: Doesn’t create a post but shares a product from you 

Hours Update: If you change your hours (such as reopening your business after lockdown) 

As posts are only visible for 7-14 days (unless it’s an event which lasts until it’s over), you should be creating them every couple of weeks so there is always one live on your page. 

Check out this case study published on Moz to see the benefits of using Posts.

How to Create a Post

What's New Post requesting image, description, button text and link all fields left unpopulated.

Creating Google Posts is a quick task that may increase your local SEO, and they’re also free to make.  

Only about 80-100 characters of your post will show in the search results, to view more the user has to click inside. 

So make your first sentences really sell the post, and say why it’s worth someone’s time. Avoid using commercial slang, exclamation marks and make sure each post is for one thing only (one blog, one offer, etc.). 

If you’re making offers don’t include too many exclusions, and ensure you link to the T&Cs. 

Remember, these are users on the search results, not your website yet so keep things short and sweet to entice them inside. 

Use appealing photos or videos to showcase the best of your business. Photos should have a high resolution and be 720*720px. Google tends to crop these images, so make sure you’ve got no text, faces or anything important near the edges as they may get cut off.  

Videos should be less than 30 seconds, up to 75MB in file size and at a minimum resolution of 720p. 

When uploading videos, make sure you have the necessary permissions, especially when it comes to children, for use in your marketing materials. 

It’s recommended that you use minimal text on your video. Make sure you don’t include any stock photos in your video either. 

Videos offer an opportunity to bring your business to life. You could share a “How It’s Made” style video of your production line, or maybe your fleet driving out your warehouse, or your team shaking hands and being hard at work. 

You could also do video explainer videos breaking down how your product or service benefits your customers. 

Google will display your two most recent posts on your listing but can open a carousel of your last 10. 

They also have some post guidelines which you’d expect saying that spam, inappropriate content, and that which isn’t related to your business is banned. You don’t need use to any hashtags either. 

Here are some more tips from Google to create great posts. Note at time of publishing this still lists the previous video size (100MB) which is now 75MB. 

Do you have an award you’ve won, some business news, your last blog post and more. When you’re sharing new content to social media, think if it will work in a Post format too. 

Tracking Post Results 

We’ll dive into the insights Google gives you on your business in a later section, but now let’s round-off posts by talking about how to measure their results.  

Google provides an individual breakdown of the views and clicks that each of your posts has, but being marketers, we can find more useful ways of collecting that data. 

Google Posts Insights Showing a Covid19 update with 20 views and 0 clicks.

Using UTM parameters in your URLs lets you track the traffic that’s coming from your posts in your analytics. You can generate them here.

These are UTM parameters show up in Google Analytics and make it clear what traffic comes from our Google My Business profile. You could also use different UTM parameters for posts and products. 

You can also use these in your website URL too, here’s our one for an example.  

https://waterdownmedia.co.uk/?utm_source=gmb&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=profile

Different articles offer different ways of naming these, but two important things are to make sure medium=organic and that you stick to the same naming convention. 

If you’re interested in learning more Claire Carlie has a fantastic guide detailing this with a free Google Sheet to boot.

Photos

You and your customers can leave photos of your business on Google My Business. These create a browseable gallery for someone to see inside your business, your team, your facilities, the list goes on.  

Google found that businesses with photos had 35% more clicks on their website and 42% more requests for driving directions. Images are a huge asset your profile so you should include them. 

Google My Business has three main types of photo:

Logo: Self-explanatory (250*250px) 

Cover Photo: The main image that people see when they search for your business. (1080*608)

Additional Photos

These give you a chance to show off your business and show your potential customers what you’re all about. 

Google has guidelines on what your photos should be such as 720*720px and between 10kb and 5MB.  

You can follow the usual photo optimisation tips such as descriptive file names and EXIF data when you upload these photos though it’s unknown if Google uses this.   

Make sure they’re visually appealing advertisement-level quality as these are searchers that haven’t landed on your site yet, and your photos may be the reason they do so.

Google prohibits the use of stock photos – so make sure any images you add are unique of your business. Don’t use stock in your videos either. 

Make sure all your photos are high quality and use a photographer if you have access to one. 

Photo Ideas 

Your photos should be warm, inviting and show the value you can offer. Maybe you present your excellent food, well-organised isles or lavishly decorated stands. For service-based businesses, perhaps it’s your team talking around a table, or with a happy client. 

Here are some ideas Google suggests.

Exterior Photos: Help your customers recognise your business from different angles, useful if you’re not visibly signposted. 

Interior Photos: Show customers your entrance, waiting room, checkout, isles, guest rooms in the case of hotels and anywhere else they may need to enter. You could even use 360-degree cameras to give yourself “Street View” inside. 

Product Photos: As mentioned, sharing products on your profile is a great way of sharing your best sellers or any you have on offer at the moment.

Photos at Work: Showing your team doing what they do best, the type of photos you’d share on your website service pages. 

Food & drink photos:  Quality images of your succulent dishes to encourage customers to come in and give them a try. 

Common Areas: Facilities your customers could enjoy, such as a breakfast room or a gym so they can see what you have to offer.

Rooms: Take images of your different types of guest rooms that show what they can expect to find if they check-in. 

Team Photos:  Group photos of your team having fun and enjoying the work that they do. 

User-Generated Photos

When your customers leave your reviews, they can also upload photos as well as sharing them separately. 

You may also be able to add user-generated content by sourcing images uploaded on other platforms by your customers. Maybe you’ve been tagged in a post on Instagram, and you ask in a comment underneath if you can use it for your marketing materials. 

Always seek permission for this, don’t assume because someone’s uploaded a picture it can become part of your next marketing campaign. 

Here are some more ideas from Hootsuite to collect more UGC. 

Keep your photos regularly updated especially if you have changes like your external sign redesigned or new stands in-store.

If UGC photos break Google Map’s photo policies, you can ask them to be removed by reporting them. It’s worth reviewing what’s uploaded to make sure they accurately reflect your business, but they can only delete them if they break the rules. 

Analytics

We’ve mentioned UTM parameters to pull GMB data into Google Analytics in our Posts section, but here we’ll focus on the insights provided in your dashboard. 

Google My Business gives you access to internal analytics where you’ll be able to see customers who came to you directly, by typing in your business name or address, and those that found you by searching a category, product or service.

Google My Business Insights Tab

You’ll also see if those searches come from Maps or Search, the queries that were used and any interactions such as phone calls and website visits from them.

Customer Actions Showing 35 Views on Search and 4 on Maps. Second Graph showing customer actions with 1 message.

You’ll also get information about your photo views, and a comparison between similar businesses.

As mentioned, you’ll also get post level data to see the views and clicks that each of your posts gets.

Assess your performance with data from Google Analytics and Search Console to get in and see how your business is performing online.

Reviews

Now you’ve got your Google My Business profile set up you’ll want to get some reviews on the board. With 87% of customers reading local 

business reviews online, you’ll want to get in on the action. 

If you need more convincing here’s BrightLocal’s Consumer Reviews Survey with more stats like that one. 

If you’re based in the US, you’ll get access to Google’s Marketing Kit which provides free resources to help you encourage and show off reviews. 

Once customers have received your product, make sure to ask them for a review. This could be with a follow-up email or even a card within the package.

You can generate a direct link to leave a review, providing your customers to have a Google Account. Here’s how to find it.

You can shorten that one stage further with bit.ly. This is the one we use: https://bit.ly/wdmreview.

Put the effort in to make this personal if you can. At a minimum pull the name and order into it. If your customer had previous contact with your customer care, mention that too.

If you can’t get the resources to do that for every customer, we recommend creating an automated email sequence that sends out your review request template a few days after a customer has received their product (and they haven’t got in touch with concerns).

Once you’ve got some reviews, thank your customers for taking the time to leave a positive review, as well as addressing negative feedback, even if they’re fake. You can flag inappropriate reviews to Google support, but you can’t delete them directly.

If you have a lot of reviews, you may be able to add them to third party software such as Zendesk

Time to get ranking 

So you’ve put all this effort into making your profile filled out as much as you can. You’ve you gone on to collect some reviews? What now. 

Right now we’d tell you to keep it up. Ask every customer for a review, keep updating your posts and don’t think your profile is done and dusted. 

But what’s all this for? Well, it creates an impressive first impression if you have your filled-out profile come up, with stellar reviews when someone searches for you. 

But it can also help you rank for those other searches, get in front of people that don’t know about you yet. 

And that’s in the three business results that show up for a local search – the local pack.

Google determines your ranking here based on relevance (filled out profile that matches what user is searching for), distance (how far away you are) and prominence(how well known you are, takes into account your web ranking.

Having a strong local SEO strategy is essential here to make sure that hard work that’s gone into creating your profile pays off. Ranking will take time, but with consistent improvement, you should see local gains. 

NAP Consistency

To end a word on the importance of NAP consistency. Giving consistent information to Google is critical here, so it’s essential to ensure your Names, Address and Phone Numbers of all directory listings (including those on your site) match exactly, even variations like St instead of Street.

And there you have your complete guide about how to create and optimise your Google My Business profile to make the most out of it. Following these steps will ensure your profile stands out as much as it can, and when combined with local SEO, will get you into that local pack too.