Google looks at your Google My Business (GMB) profile to determine your place in their search rankings and it’s the most important ranking factor for local search. Google My Business is an essential part of local SEO that can’t be overlooked but is often forgotten or misunderstood by small businesses.
Why is Google My Business important? Optimizing your listing on GMB can increase your chances of showing up on Google Maps, Local Pack, and other rankings to help you become more visible and solve some of the most common local SEO problems. The more information you include on your Google listing, the more easily customers will be able to find you and find out more information about your business.
Without an optimized GMB listing, your business will have a hard time getting to the top of local search results.
If you’re wondering how to optimize your Google My Business listings, how to improve your business listing on Google, or how to improve Google Places rankings, this Google Maps SEO guide covers local listing optimization and how to improve your Google My Business listing to help you get to the top of local search.
1. Claim & Verify Your Google My Business
While it’s not impossible, your business generally won’t turn up in Google Maps results without a claimed Google My business listing unless searchers are looking for your business by name. If you want your small business to show up in local search results for searches related to how you serve customers, claiming and completing your listing is essential.
The first step in local listing SEO and GMB optimization is to claim and verify your business’ Google listing. Google offers a free listing for businesses to claim to take advantage of and control valuable information about your business, including your business’ name, phone number, address, website, business description and more.
Claiming and verifying your listing allows you to gain access to all the settings and features of Google My Business. You can follow our guide on claiming and verifying a Google My Business listing for the first time, if you don’t already have access to your business’ listing.
2. Correct Google Business Listing Contact Information
It may come as no surprise, but all of the information about your business on your listing should be correct and accurate. It should also reflect what customers will encounter about your business in real life, not just on the online world.
When you first start optimizing your Google Maps listing, you might see outdated information, especially if your phone number changed, moved addresses, or changed your website address. Not only do you want to update outdated contact information about your business, you want to complete any missing information.
To update your business contact information, go to Google My Business and then to the Info tab to access your Google listing information. You can click the pencil icon next to the information you’d like to update on your listing.
Part of your overall small business local SEO marketing plan should be to make sure that your business information is correct across all citations, not just Google. For example, if you include a suite number in one listing but exclude it in another, there’s less consistency between your citations that may negatively impact your listing’s SEO.
Google looks to verify the legitimacy of your listing, so having incorrect information may flag your listing and prevent it from being able to rank as well. Additionally, your information should be consistent between directory listings and your Google Maps listing.
If you’re struggling to create consistency across listings, local SEO and Google My Business optimization services can help you more easily create consistent listings that help your SEO.
3. Choose the Right Primary and Secondary Categories for Your Business
As a part of Google’s local listing optimization, Google asks that you place your business in a specific category in order to better identify it. Google uses categories to determine what searches your business best fits.
There are over 4,000 categories to choose from so it can be hard to pick. Google gives you a primary category and 4 secondary categories to choose.
It’s best to pick one that is very specific to your business. The more specific you are, the more your business will turn up for the most relevant searches to your business. For example, “HVAC contractor” is very generic and may not fit a company that specializes in cleaning duct work. However, “Air Duct Cleaning Service” is much more specific and would bring the right kinds of clients to the business.
Start by choosing one primary category that most accurately describes your business. From there, you may choose one or two more secondary categories that also describe what your business does and how it operates. We recommend looking at your competitors to find which categories they’re using and doing keyword research to find out which categories are most searched in your area to narrow down your choices.
4. Claim a Short Name for Your Business
Another one of Google My Business tricks and tips to help you rank higher in search results is to claim a short name for your business on your listing. A GMB short name is a concise version of your business’ that creates a custom URL link that is used to locate your business on Google.
You can include short names across social media, your location page, directories or anywhere that your business is listed to make it easier for your customers to interact with and review your business on Google.
Do GMB short names improve local SEO? We haven’t yet studied this nor have found any studies on the impact on updating to a keyword-right shortname have done for rankings. That being said, since Google treats these as a 301 redirect, it’s unlikely that they have much of an impact on local SEO. Instead, you’ll want to use something memorable and easy to access for your customers to leave reviews, which we know does have an impact on rankings.
5. Add an Optimized Google Business Description
Part of Google Business Search optimization includes adding localized keywords to your GMB description. Google local optimization uses highly searched, local keywords in your business description so your business can rank higher in Google search.
This can help Google better understand what your business does and how it is relevant to highly searched terms in their search engine, helping your business rank higher in local search results. But it’s important to not stuff too many keywords into a description!
We recommend doing the following to write an optimized Google My Business description:
- Choose 1-2 high traffic keywords
- Make it clear what your business does
- Highlight what’s unique about your business
You only have 750 characters for this description so be sure to keep it short and very clear how your business helps customers.
6. Add Photos to Optimize Your Google Listing
Photos add more to your listing and help you stand out to your customers. Customers doing research about you will want to know what it’s like to work with you, and images give them a good idea of just that. Google My Business is a great place to showcase your location, team, and offerings to help searchers better understand how your business can help them.
Searchers are often visual people. Many of them rely on photos and videos to have a better understanding of what they’re getting when they work with your business. Adding photos and videos to your business profile humanizes your business and may make your business more trustworthy and authentic.
In general, you’ll want to add the following images to your GMB listing:
- Cover Photo - This is the main photo that will show in search listings so be sure to use a quality image that clearly displays your business.
- Logo - This appears in logo placements and should be the same as the logo on your physical location and across online platforms.
- Exterior & interior photos - Show potential customers your location with exterior photos that help them find your business and interior photos that showcase your location.
- Employee photos - Creating trust with photos of your team helps potential customers make stronger emotional connections and humanize your local business.
- Product, Service, and Food & Drink photos - Depending on what you offer your customers, you should also include photos that highlight how you serve customers. That can be shots of dishes or drinks at your restaurant, products you sell, or your employees in action doing services with customers.
You can go the extra mile and use advanced local SEO techniques to optimize the metadata of your photos to increase your rankings by using Google’s visual AI tools for even more optimization if you’re in a highly competitive market.
6. Add Relevant Attributes and Highlights
It is important that your business stand out above the competition as best as possible. Attributes and highlights can help you do that by allowing you to share special information about your business. Attributes fall into two categories: factual and subjective.
Business owners can only edit factual attributes and highlights, like accepted payments, accessibility options, and special categories like Black-owned, veteran-lead, and woman-lead.
Subjective highlights are instead customer-focused and Google asks customers questions about your business to create highlights. These are most commonly shown on restaurant listings that describe more about the atmosphere, like “cozy” or “late night bites.” While you don’t have control over subjective highlights, you can ask customers to include information in their reviews or remind them of specific things you’d like to promote during their visit to your location, like putting up signage in your location about being family friendly.
7. Add a Service Area if You Service or Deliver to Customers’ Locations
What if you don’t have a store location and instead serve customers on location? You can optimize your Google Maps listing to be a service area business instead that allows your business to show up to people in the region you serve.
One way you can add to your Google Maps search engine optimization is by letting your customers know that you service specific areas or deliver for certain areas. This way your business will still show up in local search results when customers within close proximities are searching for the products or services you offer.
When you’re creating your listing for the first time, you’ll want to make sure you select that you serve customers at their location.
If you didn’t when you created your listing, you can add it by clicking on the Info tab on your Google My Business dashboard and then adding your service area for approval. It can take some time for your listing to update but after adding this information, Google will better understand your business.
8. Add Hours to Your Google Listing
Part of the reason we encourage businesses to include as much information about their business as possible is not only to improve local maps SEO but also to give their customers as much information as possible. Many of your searchers are looking for you online at all times of day and are using mobile devices more than ever.
Potential customers may be actively looking for your business hours on your Google listing and it is crucial that your information is accurate, as it boosts your credibility with your customers and benefits your local SEO.
Also make sure that you change hours accordingly if you update your hours seasonally or for specific holiday closures. In our experience, nothing creates a negative review faster than having incorrect hours listed.
9. List Your Products and Services or Add a Menu to GMB
One of the greatest features about Google My Business is that you have the ability to list all of the products, services, and menus that you offer to customers. Not only is it helpful to have as much information on your GMB listing as possible but they can also act as keywords that appear in search results for customers.
Your Google My Business SEO optimization can greatly improve if you add in those products and services specific to your business. To add products and services, in your GMB dashboard, click the appropriate menu item on the left pane.
For products, you’ll want to add information about the product as much as possible, including photos, a keyword-rich description, and a product category.
For services, each category you select in your Google My Business listing creates a category for services. For example, a local law firm we work with has the option of listing services under the two categories listed on their Google My Business profile. However, this can prove to be tricky if the category of your business isn’t available on Google.
To complete the services list, if once you click “add services” you’ll be given a list of recommendations for services but also have the ability to add your own custom services.
Once you’ve added the service, you’ll want to add a description with appropriate keywords to give more context to how you help customers and answer common questions about your services. You can put in a price, if you’d like, but it’s not necessary.
10. Add Your Location Opening Date
You can help establish trust with your Google My Business listing by adding an opening date to tell customers how long you’ve been in business. It’s a great way to show potential customers you’ve been part of their community for a long time and are trusted by other customers in your area.
You can also add information about locations before they open. If you are a new business looking to use Google Maps optimization to improve your business, but find that you haven’t opened yet, you can still add an opening date to your listing. Google will show your business on search results up to 90 days before your opening date to help your business build momentum when curious searchers start looking for information about your new business location.
11. Ask Your Business Questions and Answer Them
A trick to optimizing your Google My Business profile is to use Google’s Q&A feature to your advantage. Part of knowing what your clients are looking for is understanding the questions potential customers ask about your business, products, and services.
This handy Google Maps optimization trick can help you better control your Google My Business listing to educate and engage potential customers. To have a better idea of what you should include on your GMB listing, you should consider asking yourself questions and figuring out how you would answer them. If you are able to answer these questions for your customers, you will build trust and also be able to add them to your website and GMB listing to help them with the questions they may have.
Using keywords in your questions and answers can also help your business turn up higher in search results by giving Google more contextual information about your business and show your business is active in serving customers’ needs.
12. Post Regularly to Google My Business
Much like social media platforms, Google My Business allows your business to share updates, offers, events, and other information about your business with Google posts. Posts can help you reach more potential customers, include more keywords in your GMB profile, and show customers new offers and products.
Posting as regularly as once a week can greatly improve your Google maps ranking. Google prefers web pages and listings that are updated regularly so it’s a good idea to add this into your Google Maps marketing plan.
13. Turn On Messaging
Some customers may not want to pick up the phone to call you and find that messaging someone directly through the business may be a better way to contact you, especially if they have questions. Messaging allows your business to communicate through text messaging with potential customers through the Google My Business app for Android and iPhone.
Enabling your messaging on your GMB listing gives your business a personal touch and offers your customers the convenience of being able to contact you personally. It may also give you the opportunity to better guess what your customers want to know.
14. Share Your Review Form to Get More Reviews
Getting reviews can significantly boost your visibility on Google and improve your search engine optimization on Google Maps and should be part of your local SEO strategy. By sharing your review form with customers, you are more likely to get great feedback and reviews on your Google My Business listing.
15. Respond to Reviews & Have Negative Review Policies
Part of best practices for local SEO is to have a plan for getting more reviews and dealing with negative reviews when they happen. The quantity and quality of reviews impacts your Google listing ranking as well as the perception of your business by potential customers. Having practices in place to cultivate reviews is essential to Google local ranking success.
You can share your review link with customers from your Google My Business dashboard where you’ll see a “Share review form” button that allows you to copy the link to your review form, send it via email, or share it on social media.
Negative reviews aren’t always the greatest but it’s normal to have a few negative reviews if you’ve been in business a long time. Consumers understand that there will always be some negative feedback from dissatisfied customers, even at the best businesses. If used well, negative reviews can actually be helpful to show what your customer experience is like. How? You can respond to negative reviews on your Google My Business listing in a productive, positive way that shows potential customers that you’re working to address issues and complaints.
16. Add Reserve with Google or an Appointment Link
Google offers two tools to help your customers book with you: Reserve with Google and an preferred Appointment Link.
Reserve with Google is a newer service that allows customers to book an appointment, table, class spot, or other reservation directly in Google through an integrated appointment provider. To set up appointment, class spot, or table bookings in your Googly My Business listing, you’ll need to set up your profile with an approved Reserve with Google partner. There are often costs associated with using Reserve with Google but it can allow your business the flexibility of online appointment reservations, alleviating staff from booking appointments over the phone.
If your business offers appointments or meetings with clients through a service that isn’t an approved Reserve with Google partner, you can make your scheduler easily accessible to your customers by adding an appointment link to your GMB profile. Adding appointment links to your GMB profile can help drive conversions and traffic to your website and get customers to contact you, even if you don’t participate in the Reserve with Google program.
17. Allow Google Assistant Calls
Another great add on to consider when optimizing your GMB profile is allowing Google Assistant Calls. Customers can use Google Assistant calls to find more information about your business and book appointments. They can ask the Google Assistant to make phone calls on their behalf or check for your business hours.
Some of the calls are automated and some are a manual operator. By default, your GMB settings don’t accept Google Assistant Calls so you’ll want to turn this feature on to fully optimize your listing.
18. Add Labels for Internal Management of Multiple Locations
Labels don’t impact your overall local SEO but it is a great tool to use to internally organize your listing. If you have multiple locations or multiple services, adding labels for your internal management can help you measure your performance amongst a group of listings.
Labels also allow you to more easily create Google Ads campaigns with location extensions, controlling which locations are added to specific ads in your Google Ads campaigns.
19. Add Special Holiday Hours
GMB now allows you to set special holiday hours to your listing for customers. Store hours frequently change around holidays throughout the year. You don’t want a customer showing up to your store during the holidays because your GMB listing said that you were open.
You now have the opportunity to set your holiday hours in advance so you don’t have to worry about it not being updated in time. Google will ask you to confirm common holidays about a month in advance but you can also add dates to your closures or special hours list much further in advance.
20. Monitor Your Google My Business Insights for Performance & Set Benchmarks
Staying on top of your GMB performance is a great way to see what needs improvement and make effective changes to your local SEO to increase rankings.
Google provides tools to monitor your performance and set new goals to reach for your business through your GMB and local map pack in Insights in the GMB dashboard. You can see how your posts are performing, how customers are finding your listing, search queries, where customers find you on Google, what they do when they find your listing and more.
We love using the search query report to identify new terms for other local SEO strategies and improve our clients’ overall search presence. Doing a full local SEO audit can also help you identify what other opportunities for improvement could help you get to the top of search results faster.
Need Help Optimizing Your Google My Business?
Working with an experienced local SEO agency can help fast track your local SEO success. We’ve helped businesses like yours get to the top of search results with local SEO services and GMB listing optimization.
We can help your business learn how to get the most out of Google My Business to get to the top of search results, gain more clients, and grow your business. Get your free initial consultation to learn more about what your business needs to do to get to the top of Google local search results and how to optimize your listing on Google.