Many local businesses compete online everyday for an opportunity to provide their products and services to people in their community. Google My Business is an easy to use and free tool that helps promote positive local search engine optimization (SEO) practices so you can get noticed on Google.
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO is a type of search engine optimization that helps small, brick-and-mortar businesses get found in local search results. For instance, by taking a more localized approach to their SEO strategy, businesses can leverage people searching for “barbershops near me” or “barbershops in Denver”.
Is it really important to show up for local searches?
Yes. Here’s why.
- 78% of local-based searches on a mobile device end in purchases being made offline. (Neustar)
- 76% of people end up visiting a business within one day of searching for something nearby. (Google)
- 71% of people search for a business in order to confirm its location before going there for a first-time visit. (Search Engine Land)
What is Google My Business?
Google My Business is a free tool that helps businesses manage their online presence and determines how they show up in organic search results, including Maps. A listing on Google My Business consists of important business information consumers use to make purchase decisions, including:
- Business name
- Street address
- Business hours
Businesses with accurate GMB listings are much more likely to be considered reputable by customers searching locally because Google uses this information to populate the Local 3-Pack for Maps in search results pages. Never heard of the Local 3-Pack? You’ve likely seen it before when searching, it shows up at the top of the page and looks like this:
According to Google, businesses that add photos to their listing receive 42% more requests for directions on Maps, and 35% more clicks through to their websites than those that don’t.
How does Google determine local ranking?
Google uses several factors to determine where a business should show up in local search results, though it should be mentioned that the exact way in which Google determines local search results is not public knowledge.
Three of the most important factors are distance, relevance, and prominence. These give searchers the best match for their local search and therefore impact rankings.
- Distance - How close are the potential search results to the location defined in the search? If the search uses “near me” or doesn’t define a position, Google will do its best to provide the most relevant results based on where it thinks the searcher is located.
- Relevance - How well do the potential search results match what the user is intending to find? Having thoughtful and accurate information on your GMB business listing is critical if you want to show up for those who are actively searching for what your business offers.
- Prominence - How well-known is the business - on and offline? The more well-known a brand or business location is, the higher a the business will be ranked in search results. How many reviews does the business have, and are they positive or negative? What content do you have on your website that provides value to the local community? Are there several photos in your GMB profile?
For example, Google might determine that Business A is farther away from the searcher than Business B, but rank it more highly because it’s more well-known with quality services that are relevant to the search intent.
How do I get started using Google My Business?
GMB is a very easy tool to use and the first step is to simply make an account and/or claim your business. Sometimes a business listing already exists and you simply have to let Google know that you are the owner.
When you start the verification process, Google will mail out a postcard to the designated business address. This card is addressed to the owner and provides the next step to get verified by Google. It’s also possible for some businesses to get verified via a phone call or text. After you’ve verified your listing, it's time to fill out your business profile.
How do I optimize my Google My Business listing for local SEO?
Here are some tips for making sure you are leveraging your GMB listing to its maximum potential.
- It’s important to keep information consistent across places online where your business information is presented. When you set up your account and claim your GMB listing, make sure the business name, address and phone number are exactly right. If you spell out the entire street name on your website, don’t abbreviate it on your listing. If you abbreviate Street on your website, make sure you have St. on your listing as well.
- Choose a business category that matches yours as closely as possible.
- Use attractive photos of your business, employees, products. Select images that give potential customers a feel for the business.
- Read and respond to reviews from your customers. Reviews are a very important part of how Google determines ranking for organic SEO. Respond to both negative and positive reviews!
- There are special options to manage your GMB listing during the COVID-19 crisis, use them.
- Most importantly, as your business changes, keep your information up to date within your listing.
Google My Business is a great tool to help you get started on the path to improving your business’s search engine optimization efforts. Having an accurate business listing will go a long way to supporting local search ranking, however this should just be one small part of a larger on- and off-site SEO strategy. We recommend you work with a professional team who can audit your online presence and help you address every component of a solid SEO strategy.