By synchronising Google Search and Google Maps, your business has a higher chance of showing up for local searches.
After seeing a GMB listing, 54% of viewers go on to visit the business website.
A fully optimised Google My Business listing is the first step towards attracting more people to your business, at the exact time they’re looking for your services.
Getting started with Google My Business
First, you need to create or claim your Google My Business profile.
Many businesses already have a GMB listing without realising it.
Use the Google My Business search feature to check whether you need to claim an existing business listing before creating a new one.
If there isn’t a listing yet, click “create a business with this name” and start filling out your information.
Once your details are complete and up to date, submit your listing for verification.
It can take up to a week (five business days) for Google to verify your business listing before it officially goes live.
Why you should optimise Google My Business
Creating a GMB listing is a good start, but make sure you fill it out properly.
Local search results favour the most relevant and accurate listings.
The more details your listing offers about your business, and the more consistent it is with your website and any other directories, the higher the chances of your business being found through discovery searches.
There are so many benefits of having a Google My Business listing:
- Increasing visibility
- Boosting local rankings
- Establishing brand authority
- Improving consumer engagement
- Earning trust and converting more customers
- Directing more traffic to your website and social media channels
Best of all, it’s free to create.
How to optimise Google My Business in 14 steps
Complete contact information (NAP)
Name, address, phone number.
If nothing else, it’s vital to at least add these three things to your profile.
Up to 64% of people rely on GMB listings to find business contact details, so don’t let them down.
Your business name must appear exactly as is, with no keywords or extra locations added to the brand name.
The name and address must match other listings across the internet.
If you have your address on your website or in business directories, write it out in exactly the same way.
Inconsistent address details (even just writing “St” instead of “Street” once) negatively impacts search rankings.
It’s the same for your phone number.
Keep it consistent, and use a number starting with a local area code so Google knows you’re definitely a local business.
If you don’t have a brick-and-mortar location, you can still have a Google My Business listing.
Just select the service areas you operate in and your business will show up in searches for these areas.
For businesses with multiple locations, it’s best to set up individual GMB listings for each office or store.
Standardise your NAP formatting from the beginning to make sure your content information is always accurate and consistent.
Make opening hours accurate
There’s nothing worse for a customer than showing up to a location only to find it closed, especially when Google told them it was open.
The disappointment is pretty much guaranteed to drive them elsewhere.
Avoid these problems by making sure your GMB listing shows up-to-date business hours – including holiday opening hours if they’re different to your regular hours.
Write a business description
Google provides a brief business summary that appears in your listing under your name.
You can’t edit this, but you can write your own description in the “from the business” section on your profile.
This is your chance to communicate the unique selling points of your brand.
You get 750 characters, but only the first 250 are shown automatically, so put the most important information first.
Use relevant keywords and search terms in your description to give your rankings a boost.
Don’t overstuff it, though. It needs to sound natural. Don’t repeat details already listed on your GMB profile.
And don’t advertise promotions, add links, or use fancy HTML in this part.
Google doesn’t like it if you try to add prohibited information or use gimmicks like all-caps and emojis.
Shortnames are short custom names that make it easy to find your business in local searches.
They have a maximum of 32 characters and can only be changed up to three times a year.
Go to the “Info” section of your profile to claim a shortname for your business.
Your shortname then creates a short URL in the format g.page/[shortname].
It’s recommended to keep your brand shortname consistent with social media handles if possible.
For example, the [brand name + location] format might offer a shortname like “CafeXManchester”.
This works best for businesses with multiple branches.
If your business operates internationally from one base, it’s better to add your home country at the end (e.g. BrandnameUK).
Either way, a short URL makes it easier to request customer reviews or send people directly to your GMB listing.
Once you claim a shortname, it’ll appear below your phone number and above your website link in your listing.
Unfortunately, shortnames aren’t available for all business types.
If there’s no option to claim a shortname in your info section, then you won’t be able to utilise this feature and will sadly have to skip this step.
Choose relevant categories
Categorising your business helps Google to decide which search terms your listing should show up in.
You can’t create your own categories, but there’s about 4,000 to choose from.
It’s possible to choose up to 10 categories for your business – one primary category and up to nine secondary ones.
The primary category holds the most weight, so choose it wisely.
Primary business categories
Be as specific as possible when selecting a primary category if you want a competitive listing.
If there are several possibilities, choose the one that’s closest to what your business is.
It should showcase the most important thing about your business.
Remember, people searching for local services are usually searching for specific services.
For example, “Indian restaurant” is more specific than just “restaurant” and makes it more likely for the business to show up in local searches for places selling Indian food.
You get to list products and services in another section, so don’t worry about choosing a main category representing a single service you provide.
If you’re not certain which primary category is the best fit, do some competitor research to see which categories they’re using.
Remember, the primary category is the only one visible on your GMB listing and the one that impacts your rankings.
Secondary business categories
Secondary categories aren’t essential, but they’re a valuable opportunity to provide more information about your business.
If the Indian restaurant also has a deli counter and does food deliveries, they could add these as secondary categories.
Don’t go overboard adding more sub-categories; you probably won’t need all nine slots.
Only choose relevant categories that directly apply to your business to avoid misleading anyone.
Google reviews categories and can disapprove them if they don’t match known information about your business.
Don’t bother with secondary categories that are too similar to your primary category, either.
You won’t need to add “restaurant” if your main category is already “Indian restaurant”.
Just add a few extra categories that’ll accurately enhance Google’s understanding of your business.
Add special attributes
Once you’ve chosen a category, you can add special features that are specific to that category.
Attributes help to expand the scope of your business beyond its primary category by letting Google and potential customers know more about your capabilities.
The Indian restaurant from our previous example could add attributes like patio seating, child-friendly, vegan options, takeaway, or card payments.
Popular attributes people might search for include things like:
- Free wifi
- Public restroom
- Wheelchair access
- Online booking
- Outdoor seating
Attributes like these give a fuller picture of the experience people can expect to have with a business and could be the final persuading factor.
Bear in mind that some attributes may not be available to you, depending on the category’s industry.
Never add attributes just to make your business more appealing if your business doesn’t actually have them.
Google crowd-sources “subjective attributes” by asking questions about your business on your GMB listing, so people can point out any inconsistencies.
You can’t control people’s answers or the attributes Google then decides to apply to your business based on their responses.
Be as honest as possible with your attributes and you shouldn’t run into any issues.
Advertise products and services
Adding products to your GMB listing is helpful if your business name doesn’t make your services immediately clear.
Providing photos and prices not only shows people what you have to offer, it keeps them looking at your profile for longer.
This makes Google think your listing must be especially relevant and raises your search ranking.
The type of products or services you can add depends on your business category.
Retail businesses can create a product catalogue, while restaurant businesses are able to create menu options.
Only service-oriented businesses such as hotels, healthcare, solicitors, and marketing agencies can list services.
You’ll get 1,000 characters per product or service description, so use them well.
It’s another chance to repurpose content from your website and make use of keywords.
If you offer brand-name products, add these to promote your business to people searching for those brands near you.
Include visual media
Once your business details are complete, it’s time to work on the visual aspect.
Photos personalise your business and help potential customers to envision what you do.
According to Google, business listings with photos get 35% more clicks through to their website than listings without photos.
Check out the many ways you can add visual media to your business listing below.
Your business logo is the image with the most impact, so set this as your thumbnail.
Make sure it matches the logo on your website and any social media pages.
It should be cropped into a square, preferably with a white background if there is space around the logo within the image.
The cover photo is the primary image that represents your brand in the search results and on your profile.
It’s a larger photo with a 16:19 aspect ratio and should be professional quality.
Cover photos need to show your brand’s personality and appeal to your target customers.
If you already have an image like this as a header for email or social media accounts, you might be able to reuse it.
The kind of photos you should post to your GMB listing depend on what your business does.
Generally speaking, you should upload photos of:
- Interior of the business (e.g. offices or showrooms)
- Exterior view (e.g. parking or building architecture)
- Products you sell (or results of services e.g. landscaping)
- Staff working with happy customers
- Full team all together
- Displays of awards you’ve won
- Specialised equipment your staff uses
- Unique aspects of your work or location
If you take interior and exterior photographs, do this at different angles and various times of day to provide a fuller perspective.
Candid shots of employees and managers at work help people to know who to look for when they visit and understand the experience they’re likely to have.
If you have a cool location that customers would find visually appealing, make the most of GMB’s capacity for 360-degree photos.
It could be worth hiring a Google-approved photographer to create an immersive virtual tour of your business using Google Street View technology.
Letting everyone view your space from every angle can generate customer trust via the behind-the-scenes atmosphere of a 360-degree image.
If this technique is out of your budget, there’s always video.
Video is a popular marketing tool because it’s such an effective way to tell stories or explain things.
72% of people prefer to learn about products or services via video, and watching video helps viewers to remember 80% more of a message than reading text (according to statistics gathered by Biteable).
Adding videos to your GMB profile can give it a bonus boost, as long as they fit in Google’s guidelines.
Videos should be:
- 30 seconds long maximum
- No more than 100MB in size
- At least 720p resolution
You can either upload videos to your “Photos” section or upload them as “Posts”.
Make sure any videos are high-quality with accurate titles and that they cover useful and relevant topics.
Don’t just post random clips, especially not shaky portrait mode videos.
When you upload photos to your GMB profile, make sure to stick to Google’s guidelines.
Photos should be:
- JPEG or PNG format
- 10KB to 5MB in size
- 720px by 720px resolution
The minimum resolution is actually 250 x 250 pixels, but 720 by 720 is recommended as standard.
Avoid stock photography, excessive filters, or adding promotional text to your images.
Take high-quality photos in good lighting that show what your business does.
Photos should be properly cropped and appropriately named (no generic file names like IMG123456).
It’s a good idea to use photos with a central focal point, which look good whether they’re viewed in square or rectangular format on desktops or mobile devices.
Google decides the order of your photos and which ones appear in particular searches, but you shouldn’t worry too much about these algorithms if all your images are compelling.
Don’t just do a photo dump when you verify your listing then leave it alone.
Google rankings value profile engagement, and regularly adding images lets Google know yours is active.
Don’t go adding hundreds of new images at a time, though.
It’s enough to add at least one new photo a week to keep your profile fresh with up-to-date views of brand activities.
Your GMB account shows you image views, so you can analyse the most popular kinds of images and give people more of the photos they like to see.
Other people can add their own photos to your Google My Business page.
These might be photos of your business location or products accompanying a customer review.
The images that people see when they view your listing will be a mix of your own uploads and customer uploads.
You can see which images other people have posted if you filter “by customer”.
If a customer provides a really great image, you could even use it as a profile image.
On the rare occasion you want Google to remove an image from a customer, you can flag it for content violation.
Of course, you can only do this if the image actually violates Google’s policies, not just because you don’t like the picture.
Of course, you have to add the URL for your business website.
Link directly to the homepage of your website, or to a landing page for a specific location if you have business listings for multiple locations.
You might be able to add other kinds of links depending on your business type, such as ordering, appointment booking, or menus.
Some businesses can even add support links for purchasing gift cards or making donations.
All links should be live and properly formatted, including the http:// or https:// at the beginning.
Some links may automatically appear through Google’s third-party partnerships.
If there’s an issue with these, contact the third party to fix or remove them.
As for social media links, Google automatically includes them in eligible GMB listings.
Use consistent names and verify your social media accounts for this to happen.
Make posts on your profile
Your GMB listing is the ideal place to make posts announcing new products or promotions.
Google My Business posts can promote your offers and events through Google Search and Maps, keeping your presence clear and up to date.
These are the types of posts available on your Google My Business profile:
- What’s New – share company updates
- Offers – post limited promotions
- Events – advertise upcoming events
- Products – showcase new items and prices
Your recent posts appear in a carousel at the bottom of your listing. Different posts might appear if they’re more relevant to the person’s search query.
Posts must be current and specific, because most types disappear after 7 days. The exception is event posts, which stay up until the event has passed.
Here are some tips for optimising Google My Business posts:
- Create headlines that command action (in up to 58 characters)
- Get straight to the point (stick to 300 characters)
- Write high-quality posts with useful information
- Include relevant keywords
- Only post links to trusted sites
- Make new posts regularly (at least once a week)
- No promoting regulated goods or adult content
- Include a call to action button (e.g. “buy now” or “book online”)
- Add quality images (400 x 300 pixels and 10KB minimum)
Send posts at any time from your computer or mobile device to keep your listing fresh and increase customer engagement.
Answer customer questions
Google My Business has a Q&A feature that lets anyone ask or answer questions about a business on its listing.
The answers to questions about your services could be the deciding factor for potential customers.
It’s not possible to turn this feature off, so you have to stay on top of your Q&A section to prevent people from misleading each other with contradictory answers.
Avoid inaccurate answers damaging your brand by answering customer questions yourself and pinning FAQs.
If you already have FAQs on your website, you could repurpose some of the content for your GMB listing’s Q&A section.
Don’t ask or answer too many questions, though. Try to keep answers prompt and brief, while providing accurate helpful information for the consumer.
Posting answers is also another opportunity to use keywords (as long as you do it organically).
Set up notifications to keep on top of your Q&As with alerts so you can answer any questions quickly.
Engage with reviews
Another way to make a good impression and engage with an audience before they’ve even visited your website is to manage your Google reviews.
Reviews are massively influential in building trust and brand loyalty, and a key factor in Google rankings.
According to a BrightLocal consumer survey, 82% of people would be more likely to use a business with positive reviews, while 76% would be put off by negative reviews.
You should be encouraging customers to leave reviews and responding to reviews in a timely manner.
Generate positive reviews
Authentic reviews give your business credibility, especially if they’re qualitative comments and not just five-star ratings with no description.
Google will know if you create a fake profile to give yourself good reviews, or ask friends to write fake reviews for you, so don’t bother.
It’s not worth getting flagged for illegitimate reviews. Focus your efforts on getting real reviews from your real customers.
The best way to do this is simply by asking, as 72% of people who are asked to write reviews go on to do so.
Share printed cards with easy review directions after in-person exchanges or include review shortlinks in follow-up emails or text messages.
Just remember that it’s against Google’s policies to offer incentives like discounts or free gifts in exchange for reviews, so don’t try to bribe customers into giving you five stars.
Respond to your reviews
Respond to all reviews, whether they’re singing your praises or slinging harsh criticism. Show you’re a pro by turning bad reviews into positive interactions.
When reading online reviews, 96% of people read business responses. This is an opportunity to control your brand image.
If you ignore negative reviews, people see this as a red flag. It gives the impression that the poor reviews are true and that you don’t value customer feedback.
Take every review seriously by offering gratitude for the good ones and corrective actions for the bad ones.
Responding shows customers that you listen to them and value their opinions – as long as you’re creating custom responses, not copy-and-pasting the same answers for everyone.
Avoid comment wars with bad-tempered reviewers. Your aim is to make things right, not make them worse for everyone involved.
If someone leaves a completely false review, you can always flag it and ask Google to remove it.
Turn on the messaging feature in the “Customers” section to give people the option to get information from you via text.
Even if you have a fully fleshed out Q&A section or thriving reviews, there may be some unanswered questions that customers want answers to immediately.
Some people may not want to post publicly on your Google listing to get an answer.
Though your business phone number is in your listing, they might not want to have to call you either.
Current marketing statistics show that 90% of consumers prefer to receive business communications via text messages, with more than 50% preferring texts over phone calls for customer support.
Activating the messaging feature means that people browsing on mobile devices will see the option to send a message as well as the option to call your business.
All you have to do is install the messaging app via Google Play or the App Store and set up notifications for customer messages.
Google won’t share the phone number you use for this feature publicly, so you don’t have to worry about using personal numbers.
You’ll receive a text whenever someone sends a message through your GMB listing, and can then respond to it directly with another text.
There’s even an option to set up an automated welcome message for the customer to receive right away while they wait for your actual reply.
Aim to answer messages within 24 hours. Google shows your average response time on your listing, so answer as promptly as possible for an acceptable response time.
You can turn this feature off whenever you need to.
As we’ve reminded you several times, Google My Business is not just a one-and-done deal.
You need to be adding new posts and photos every week, and keeping your contact details and availability accurate.
To regularly revise your strategies, you should keep checking your GMB dashboard.
Google My Business Insights provides valuable analytical data about interactions with your listing, answering questions like:
- How are people finding your business?
- When are people visiting your listing?
- Where are customers coming from?
- What actions are they taking?
- How many people are requesting directions to your business?
- Are customers visiting your site from your listing?
- How many customers call you through your listing?
- How are people reacting to your photos?
Insights will show you the type of search customers found you through (direct or discovery) and whether they found you on Google through Search or Maps.
Monitor the performance of your listing frequently to check your traffic and work out which areas need adjustments.
Extra optimisation tips for Google My Business
A couple of quick bonus tips to keep in mind:
- Stay on Google’s good side
- Optimise your website
It’ll be bad for business if Google suspends your listing, so stick to the guidelines and avoid Google penalties.
Secondly, a perfectly optimised business listing does no good if it gets people to click through to a website that they immediately leave.
Your website should be completely optimised, too.
Follow the advice in our comprehensive Google My Business optimisation guide above and your listing should be lively in no time.
If you need some help with optimising your Google My Business listing and your business website, contact a professional SEO agency to do it right.