How to gain more visibility with Google
My Business + tips
This Google My Business listing guide will explain you exactly what local business listings are, how you can use Google My Business for search engine optimization, and what features are available for your local business in order to optimize your Google My Business listing.
For more information on how a Google My Business listing can help your business gain more visibility online, keep reading.
Over the years as we rely more and more on the internet, Google has become more and more present in our daily lives, be it in the form of YouTube’s video search engine, the Google Assistant voice assistant or a simple Google search on your smartphone or laptop.
However, there is perhaps nothing more important to local business owners than Google My Business.
Kindly consider: Since November 2021, Google has phased out the name “Google My Business” and is now using “Google Business Profile” for the profile that the viewers will see. The term “Google Business Profile Manager” will now be used for the dashboard used to manage the listing.
Chapter 1: What is Google My Business?
Google My Business is a free, feature rich business listing tool that local companies use to manage their presence in the Google search engine and Google Maps. A Google My Business listing works the same way as listings in online business directories such as YellowBook or Yelp, but it appears directly in Google and Google Maps search results and therefore does not require visiting a third party website.
Google My Business, as we will explain later, has moved far beyond simple business listings and has become a key component for local search engine optimization, due to a variety of features and functions.
This is how Google is describing Google My Business (Google Business Profile):
Google Business Profile (previously known as Google My Business) is an easy-to-use tool for businesses and organisations to manage their online presence on Google, including search and maps. To help customers find your business and tell them your story, you can verify your business and edit your business information.
A Google My Business listing can appear in a few different places in a local Google search. The next section of this guide will look at what Google My Business listings can look like and where they will be displayed.
So where does the Google My Business listing be displayed online?
Information such as your photos, business address, reviews, opening hours, and phone number from your Google My Business listing are displayed in the so called Google Knowledge Panel when performing a brand search.
Google displays your information in a clearly arranged format on the search engine results pages (SERPs) so that users can find the information they are looking for quickly and easily. It also makes your business more visible, as you will see later.
THE GOOGLE KNOWLEDGE PANEL
The Google Knowledge Panel is the box/container which appears in the top right corner in the Google search results on desktop (and near the top on a mobile device) whenever someone does a brand-related search for your company (i.e. when they search for your company name).
The knowledge panel is the container that contains key information about your company.
The information you see may include your company name, address and phone number. Furthermore, if it is a local business with a Google My Business listing, the previously mentioned information as well as additional information such as opening hours will be retrieved from Google My Business.
The Google Knowledge Panel may also show up for queries that are not just local. For instance, when you search for a global brand like Ebay, a knowledge panel will be displayed with information sourced from sites like Wikipiedia as you can see here:
As you see here, Google Knowledge Panels can also be displayed for general search requests such as “espresso”:
Below is the Google My Business profile in the Knowledge Panel for a brand-specific search.
So in this example, I searched for “Restaurant Baur’s”. A search for the name of the restaurant, instead of a general search for “restaurant near me”, will trigger the company’s Knowledge Panel, where all visible information is pulled from the Google My Business profile. ( Remember: Google also tracks your location to give you the most accurate search result possible )
Google Local Finder
( Each business listed here is only showing up because it has a Google My Business listing, and like the Knowledge Panel, all the information you can see here is pulled from the business’s Google My Business listing profile. )
Your Google My Business listing will also appear in the Google Local Pack and the Google Local Finder.
The Local Pack is the business listings section that appears below or next to the map in search results. It shows up after you do a Google search with local intent. Most of the time, three to five profiles are shown, however you can expand the list to see more listings. The list that you can expand is also called Local Finder.
For instance, if you search for “Restaurant Zurich Switzerland”, you will get approximately the following result:
And yes, it’s all free!
Google Maps is an application and browser based online service for desktop and smartphones that can be used to get directions and find businesses and places.
The majority of people are already familiar with Google Maps, as they have probably used it at least once in order to find a restaurant or the nearest Starbucks. That said, it is also a key place for local businesses to gain visibility for free.
And this is an example of what Google My Business listings look like when you search for a thai restaurant in Google Maps on a PC ( Aka. the Map Pack):
And this is what the Google My Business listing looks like when it is selected (i.e. when I click on the result I highlighted in yellow on the screenshot from earlier):
What information can viewers get from your Google listing?
Once you have a Google My Business profile listing, your visitors will be able to:
- To get information about your opening hours
- To get directions to your business or find your address
- To call your business without having to visit the business’s website
- To write and read reviews about your local business
- To see photos of your local business and its products/services
- To visit your company’s website
- To make online reservations
- To see the products and services available
- To ask and answer questions about your local business
At this point, you will have noticed that we have mentioned some features such as reviews and photos that we haven’t gone into yet. No worries, we provide a complete breakdown of all Google My Business features later in this guide.
Who can create a Google My Business profile?
The Google business profile guidelines state: “If your business either has a physical location that customers can visit or travels to where customers are, you can create a business profile on Google.”
There are cases where a physical location is not necessary. This is the case for territorial businesses such as plumbers, pest controllers, cleaners or other service providers who visit and work on-site for their customers. Businesses that provide services in a particular area can specify the area in which they serve clients. For example, a cleaning company might provide services within a 5-mile radius.
Online businesses and e-commerce businesses without a physical location to serve customers are not eligible for Google My Business listings as they do not comply with Google’s guidelines.
How to set up GMB Profile
Setting up Google My Business is completely free and basically quite simple. The process consists of just a few steps that can be completed by visiting www.google.com/business.
If you want to setup your account right now read this article here where we explained in detail how to setup Google My Business.
Remember when setting up your listing that some steps may depend on the industry. For example, restaurants are asked to submit photos or files of their menu, while hotels are asked to post photos of their guest rooms and/or facilities.
If you are a service company, you need to pay special attention to step 6 of the guide I have linked above, where you need to indicate your business area.
Chapter 2: 9 tips for a successful Google My Business Profile
To be successful in local search, it is not enough to have a business profile, especially because it is so widely used nowadays.
To ensure that Google My Business has a real impact on your ranking and conversions, it is important to make the most of its various features. You also need to make sure your profile is fully optimised to give your potential customers the best possible information, impressions and experiences.
In this chapter, I will introduce you to the most important features of Google My Business Profile and explain how you can use these features to be successful in the search results.
1. Make sure your information is correct
Let’s start with the basics first. For your Google My Business to be well received by search engines and searchers, your contact information (name, address and phone number) must be accurate. When I say accurate, I simply mean that it should reflect the actual name of your business. What name is on your signs, business cards or website? This is the name you should use.
“Just imagine your self browsing on the web looking for a new pair of fitness shoes.
You found an online shop in your area but you are not sure whether it really is the shop in your area because the name and address is different.”
2. Select your business category + subcategory
Choosing the appropriate main category is one of the most important aspects of Google My Business Profile.
The only category visible in your business listing is your main category, but the subcategories affect whether or not your listing will show up in local searches and are therefore also very important. Here you can see where your main category appears in the Google My Business Profile Knowledge Panel:
It may sound easy to choose a category, but with so much choice, it can be difficult to pick the right one. It is recommended to check which categories your competitors are using. You can change the categories, so feel free to experiment with what works best for you.
3. Write a perfect business description
Within your Google My Business listing, you have the option to write a 750-character description. The description is your opportunity to tell searchers about your business.
When writing this description, make sure you follow Google’s guidelines:
Things to include:
- What you offer
- What sets you apart
- Your history
- Anything else that’s helpful for customers to know
Things to avoid:
- Do not include URLs or HTML code.
- Do not exceed 750 characters in the description field.
So try to include all the unique selling propositions (USP’s) of your business. For example, if you run a restaurant in London, do you offer plant-based or gluten-free dishes?
Here’s an example from Google: “We are an independent ice cream parlour located just a few steps from the city centre. We pride ourselves on being the favourite for locals meeting friends for an ice cream or ordering a fresh pizza delivered straight to your door. We offer 35 different homemade, handmade ice creams and sorbets throughout the year. We bake New York-style pizzas in the pizza oven every day from noon until closing time. Visit us today!”
Although it is important not to fill your description with too many keywords that the description becomes non-sense, you should consider all the important search terms that your potential customers might use. For example, you could say that you are a “family-friendly restaurant serving plant-based dishes in a relaxed environment and a playground for children”. If you are worried about using too many keywords, simply ask yourself if the description reads naturally and if it is useful to your searcher.
There has been some discussion on whether or not keywords in the Google My Business description have an impact on the ranking. At the moment, it is assumed that they have no impact. Regardless, be sure to focus on sharing information that is useful to your potential customers.
The business description is a fantastic place to express your brand’s personality, so be mindful of the tone of voice you use here. Stay true to your existing brand identity, but also consider how you can stand out from the competition.
4. Take care of your Google reviews
Online reviews are one of the most important features that businesses should look out for on Google My Business.
If you have a Google My Business Profile listing, customers will be able to rate your business there, and the rating will be visible to the public for all to see. Therefore, it is important to take control of the review and actively monitor and respond to reviews.
Take into consideration that 91% of 18-34 year olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and 93% of consumers say that online reviews have influenced their purchasing decisions.
Kaemingk, D., 2020. Online reviews statistics to know in 2021. [online] Qualtrics. Available at: <https://www.qualtrics.com/blog/online-review-stats/> [Accessed 30 October 2020].
Asking for reviews
If you want to get a regular flow of reviews, you need to consistently ask for them – you can’t expect them to come on their own (even the most successful brands can attest to this!).
Asking for Google reviews can be accomplished in several different ways, whichever works best for you and your target audience:
- In-store, at the point of sale or service.
- By email, after a purchased on in a newsletter
- In print, with short links or QR codes on business cards, menus or flyers
You could just ask them something like the following:
- What did you like best about our business/service?
- Did a member of staff provide excellent customer service to you?
- How would you describe our business/service?
By asking for reviews on a regular basis, you can display positive, up-to-date reviews on your profiles, providing evidence to consumers that your business is alive and thriving.
5. Upload your photos
If you want searchers to get to know your business better, Google recommends uploading photos to your Business Profile.
When you upload photos to your Google My Business listing, it not only looks more active and vibrant, but can also convince searchers to click on your listing.
To get the most out of this Google My Business photo feature and increase your chances to convert searchers, Google is recommending businesses upload the following:
- At least 3 powerful outdoor photos which have been taken at different times of the day and show the entry to the business from common angles.
- At least 3 photos of interior images
- Product photos of the most popular products and services you offer
- A picture of the public areas of your business, e.g. the reception desk
- At least 3 photos of the management & team
- For bars, restaurants and coffeeshops, pictures of the most popular dishes and drinks
- For hotels, upload pictures of the hotel’s rooms.
In addition to enhancing your listing with your own photos, you can and should encourage your customers to take and share photos of your business.
A good approach to getting customers to take and share photos of your shop is to encourage them to do so during their visit. For example, you can put messages on printed materials in the shop (in a fashion shop you could put stickers on the mirrors in the changing rooms). You can also ask your staff to take photos of satisfied customers to share after their visit. Or you can simply ask your customers to write a review to get 5% off their purchase.
You can still join in if you are a service company without a business premises! Approach satisfied customers and ask them if they would be willing to post photos of your finished work on Google.
6. Provide Q&A to answer customer queries and frequently asked questions (FAQs).
Google Q&A allows people to ask and answer each other’s questions about a business, directly on the publicly accessible Google My Business profile listing.
That said, there is nothing preventing you from using this feature for your own benefit. We actually recommend that you add your own questions and answers to the profile to anticipate any queries from people who may be searching for your business and have questions. This also helps to make your entry look active.
In this way, Google’s Q&A feature is something like a SERP-internal FAQ, like the one you might have on your website.
Hotels that are often asked if they are pet-friendly can include such questions and answers in the FAQ section. This is a good way to give searchers the information they are looking for and possibly attract more customers.
In addition to providing FAQ content to searchers, it is very important to constantly monitor your Q&A, similar to how you would monitor your inbound reviews. Monitoring your Q&A allows you to respond quickly to potential customers and do damage control if a customer who is disgruntled uses the feature to post their review.
7. Use Google Posts to increase conversion rates and showcase brand personality
Consider Google Posts as social media updates within your Google My Business profile. There are different types of Google Posts, which we will explain in this section.
However, in general, a Google Post is simply an update that your business shares. There is no time limit on when the post expires, and the most recent posts will show up in your Google Knowledge Panel.
Here you can see an example of what posts look like in practice:
Google Posts is another Google My Business feature recommended by local SEO experts to make your listing more “clickable” and drive conversion from searchers.
As with all Google My Business features, it is important that you follow the guidelines established by Google. There are some surprising rules that are essential to follow. For example, make sure you don’t include phone numbers in Google Posts or you risk being banned.
The types of Google Posts available to local businesses are:
- What’s new
The Google post option “What’s new” allows businesses to publish general information about their business, products or services.
Check out this pizzeria in Zurich that uses the “What’s new” post type to share news about their new pizza creation Campagnola:
If you are one of the businesses that host events, you should pay close attention to this type of post.
Event posts allow businesses to share updates about events they are hosting. When you add this post type in Google Business Profile, you have the option to include a photo, an event title, starting time/date and ending time/date.
Here is the Amari Watergate Bangkok Hotel, which used the event post to promote their New Year’s Day Brunch on 1 Jan from 11:00 – 15:00:
One more great way to increase your conversion rate via Google My Business is the “Offers” post type, where businesses can showcase their ongoing promotions, such as new customer discounts or so.
Similar to the Events post, you can set a start and end date for the promotion so potential customers can see if the offer is still available. As with most post types, you can also add a photo to grab the attention of the searchers.
In fact, this is a good option for most businesses, particularly if you are planning an introductory offer.
In this example, a Indian Restaurant in Zürich Switzerland is advertising “Student Takeaway Lunch Boxes for only 10CHF” (10$):
If you are a business that sells products (and not services), this post type is a great way to promote your product offers and increase traffic to your shop.
The Product post type lets you post a product name, photo, category, price, and description (but price and description are optional fields).
The furniture shop BoConcept Tottenham Court Road based in London uses product posts to showcase its latest products, with a direct link to purchase:
Please note that while product posts are added as posts via the Google Business Profile dashboard as usual, the update will be displayed under the “Products” section of your entry:
8. How to use Google My Business for Customer Service
If your customer is taking actions on your Google My Business Profile, then it makes sense to ensure that customer service and support are also available there.
Having to keep up with all the Google reviews and questions and answers can be daunting. Messaging has the ability to give you a way to keep the conversation going behind closed doors, as well as anticipate potential negative reviews and do damage control.
Messaging also can be an enhancement to Q&A, as some Google searchers may feel more comfortable asking their questions privately. If you are in an industry where sensitive information is involved, such as a lawyer or healthcare professional, the messaging feature can give searchers a way to communicate and get the information they need in a more discreet way.
When you activate the messaging feature, clients can contact you directly through your listing and a button will appear alongside other features such as ‘Call’ and ‘Website’.
To enable the Google My Business Profile messaging feature, you need to sign in to your Google My Business profile and click on “Messages”. You can then manage incoming messages either through the app or the desktop website, as shown below:
Once you use messaging, you will receive notifications when a searcher contacts you. If there are multiple owners/managers on the Google My Business profile, then each one will have the option to reply to messages.
When a searcher contacts you, they will receive an automated welcome message that you can customize to suit your needs.
If you use the messaging feature to talk to your customers, you should treat it the same as any other customer service channel:
- Ensure that someone is available to answer customer questions and requests.
- Keep the tone of the message and content professional
If for some reason you are not available to answer messages – for example, if you are a small business and all staff are on holiday over the holidays – it is worth turning the feature off altogether.
What Google says: Google guidelines state that messages should be answered within 24 hours. If you can’t do that – even if it’s only for a few days – you should disable the feature. Businesses that do not follow this guideline have the possibility to deactivate the function.
9. Set up a booking system on Google
Google’s appointment booking function is one of the elements that is contributing to the growth of zero-click search.
Now searchers do not have to go to your website (or a third-party booking site) to get information and take action like a reservation
Does your business offer appointments and bookings? Are you a beauty salon? A hairdresser? Or a business in the service sector? If so, you should set up a “Book appointment” button in your Google My Business profile.
If you are a business that accepts appointments and bookings, this function could make things a lot easier for your clients and for you. So just make sure you keep track of any bookings that come through third party systems.
To set up a “Book an appointment” button, simply visit your Google My Business profile, then go to “Info” and click on “Add appointment links”.
Google works with many booking platforms to enable businesses to use this feature. Well worth keeping an eye on this list to check if your chosen booking partner is available or if it will be available soon.
But that’s not all. Google also allows restaurants to give customers the option to order food through the Local Pack or Knowledge Panel with a call-to-action “Order Online” button. You don’t even have to have a partnership or integration with a third party to order food. You can simply specify the URL you want the button to go to in the GMB backend. This is ideal if you have a website with a variety of ordering options.
Chapter 3: Analyse the Insights on your Goole My Business profile
Google My Business is not only a great tool to find and convert new customers, but it can also tell you a lot about the search habits of your audience.
In this chapter we discuss what and how you can learn from Google My Business Profile Insights.
What is Google My Business Profile Insights?
Google My Business Insights is a free tool offered by Google that shows how searchers found your listing and what actions they took as a result. It includes information about your local search performance, including how many views your listing received, how searchers found you, and the types of interactions they had with your listing, such as clicking through to your website, calling you or requesting directions with Google Maps.
This is what Google My Business Profile Insights looks like when you first land on the page:
Why is Google My Business Insights helpful?
Google My Business Profile Insights is useful for two main reasons:
- It does show you how searchers found your business.
- It helps you understand what actions people are taking to find your business.
In addition, Google My Business Profile Insights can help you identify broader trends in how people are finding your business. As an example, your restaurant or bar might be surprisingly busy in early March, prompting you to create special offer posts for new and regular customers. You could create special Easter weekends at the restaurant.
The more information you have, the more you can improve your listing and trigger more actions.
How to use Google My Business Profile Insights
So now we know why Google My Business Insights is useful, we can move on to how to use the data it provides.
Below you will learn how to find and use Google My Business Insights:
- Log in to your Google My Business profile as usual.
- The Home tab should load, and on the right-hand side of the screen you will see the Performance box, which displays the last 28 days of data for Search and Maps.
- As an alternative, you can also click on Insights in the menu on the left-hand side.
The Insights data is broken down into different features to help you better understand your listing. Let’s take a look at these.
Know how customers search and find your business
Being able to know how users search for your business is not just interesting, it can also help you make smarter marketing decisions. At the top of the performance box you will see three sets of numbers: Views, Searches and Activity.
If you click on “Searches”, a box will appear where you can see data on direct and discovery searches.
What is a Direct Search?
A direct search is when someone enters either the name of your business or your business address on Google. This figure allows you to draw a clear conclusion – that these are people who already know your business and have entered their search with the specific intention of finding your listing or finding information about your business, e.g. customer reviews. Regardless of the intention, these people have become aware of you.
What is a Discovery Search?
A discovery search is when people have entered something general, such as “restaurant near me” or “hair salon now open”, and your business listing has appeared in the local search results.
What is a Branded Search?
A brand search is when a person searches for a brand that is associated with your business. Google uses the example of someone searching for “McDonald’s” and a similar fast food company is displayed. The category “Branded Search” is only present in Google my Business Profile Insights if your company has appeared at least once for this type of search query.
People who have found you through Discovery may already know your business, but they have not searched for you specifically. These searches are general in nature and usually relate to a specific need and a desire to find a product or service that meets that need.
So what information can we get from these numbers?
If the number of discoveries is smaller than the number of direct searches, it is a sign that you should rethink your approach to local search engine optimization. A higher discovery number means you are visible to new customers and not just relying on people who already know you to drive web traffic and sales.
Click on Insights in the left menu to access this data in chart form.
Where customers view your business on Google
This graph shows you where your Google impressions come from: from regular Google search or from Google Maps (desktop website or mobile app).
What are Impressions in My Business Profile Insights?
The metric “Google My Business Impressions” indicates how many people have seen your business listing. You can consider the number of impressions as the number of people that your listing has reached.
Here you can see two numbers: “Listing on search” and “Listing on Maps”, with the option to show them for the week, month or quarter.
While this may not seem helpful at first glance, it shows the critical importance to optimize your website or onlineshop for mobile devices, especially if you run a busy business such as a restaurant, hotel, fashion shop or hair salon.
Next is the Customer Actions section. This data will help you figure out how to manage your entry and what to do next if you are unsure.
This section of Google My Business Profile Insights shows you what kind of action a user typically takes on your listing, including things like visiting your website, requesting directions and calling your business.
A large number of direction requests shows that there is an intention to visit your site. This could prompt you to create a post informing people about nearby parking or bus stops, for example. You can also edit the contact page on your website with directions, parking and public transport links to help those planning to visit. In the Google My Business Profile entry itself, you can upload additional images of your location showing how to get there from different directions.
Depending on the action, additional information may also be available. For example, if users have requested directions, a map will be displayed showing where these requests came from.
If a user has clicked on the “Directions” link in your listing, you will see a heat map in Google My Business Profile Insights with directions showing the location of those searches.
This heat map is a great resource for local businesses as it gives a very good indication of where your potential customers are travelling from. This can help you better understand which neighbourhoods you should focus your marketing efforts on.
Use the postcode and location data shown in the heat map for driving directions to refine your advertising and marketing efforts. For example, you could use the postcodes to focus your Google Ads campaigns or use this data to geographically target social media campaigns.
When a search user has clicked on your Google My Business listing to call your business, you can monitor this data in this section of the Insights tab.
This data can be used to determine which day of the week and time of day receives the most calls from your Google My Business listing – this information might be used to fine-tune ad performance as well as help you decide when to schedule a new post.
As mentioned earlier, photos are essential to the performance on Google My Business profiles and can play a role in how much traffic your onlineshop or website gets.
Under this part of the Insights tab, you can see how your images compare to those of your competitors. Not only can you see how many times your own photos have been viewed, but you can also get a benchmark for your competitors by comparing your views with those of similar businesses.
If your images get more views, you can confidently continue to post in the same way. Fewer views mean you need to rethink your approach to images and perhaps do a little competitor research yourself to find out where you might be going wrong.
In the section “Photo quantity” you can see how many pictures appear in your Google My Business entry compared to your competitors. If you have fewer images, you should consider this as a hint to upload more images.