As a vegan, my food choices are very limited.
I recently visited Berlin for the first time and finding a vegan restaurant was one of my main daily activities.
You guessed it! I hung out a lot with the Google Maps search bar.
I would open Google Maps and just type ‘vegan restaurants’.
A list of restaurants that are nearby will popup and thanks to Google’s rating system, my attention will focus on the top ones with the best reviews.
And simply by reading other online reviews who already been there, my decision is made.
That’s how powerful and important social proof is today!
I am sure that you are doing the same when searching locally and of course, the same search pattern is done by millions of people.
These restaurant business owners use their Google accounts to improve their local SEO. These accounts are called Google My Business.
Here is what you will learn in this detailed guide about Google My Business
- What is Google My Business?
- Why is Google My Business important?
- How to get a Google My Business account?
- How to verify your Google My Business account?
- How to optimize your Google My Business listing?
- Making the most out of Google My Business Photos
- Use Google Posts to increase organic traffic
- How to use Google My Business during the Covid-19 crisis
- How to Get Google My Business Reviews?
- How to respond to Google reviews??
What is Google My Business?
Google My Business is basically a listing of information that any big or small business can provide for Google to use in Maps or search results.
GMB was previously known as Google Places and now all Google Place accounts are automatically upgraded to Google My Business accounts.
Here is the official definition:
“Google My Business is a free and easy-to-use tool for businesses and organizations to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. By verifying and editing your business information, you can both help customers find you and tell them the story of your business.”
And here are the main features provided by Google My Business:
- Receive and respond to Reviews
- Post and get photos from customers
- Post news
- Create a free website
Why is Google My Business important?
Without it, your location will not appear in the Google Maps listings, especially for the main local queries when people search on Google from their mobile phones.
- You have full control of what people see when they search for your business
- Increase SEO performance and organic search
- Updates reflect Search and Maps automatically, such as business hours or photos
- Share photos to boost your offer and increase conversions
- Post news or offers that people will in search SERPs Knowledge Panel
- Get analytics on how customers searched for your business, and where those customers are coming from.
To sum up, if you invest enough resources to handle online reviews, manage photos, post updates regularly, your Google My Business can turn into a new acquisition channel for your business. And this will have an effect on both, Google Search and Maps too.
When it comes to local, Google My Business is a remarkable free tool for digital marketing.
Just think about it.
Google is very different compared to social media networks and enables unique metrics and insights for marketers.
Search is intent-driven, which actually means that the user has the will and interest to do an action. And in some cases, such as the local search, they want to do that action NOW.
So that is why the intent-driven concept allows a business that can match the consumer discovery right at that moment, can win big in increasing conversions.
And if you already have accounts and manage Yelp, Linkedin, Facebook Business Page, Instagram profiles, or any other review sites, then you must do the same and start managing your Google My Business.
How to get a Google My Business account?
Setting up Google My Business account is FREE. The GMB listing is not a substitute for your website, so yes you should continue maintaining and promoting your website.
To get started, first go ahead make a search and try to find your business in the Google local search results by using Google Maps or simply by typing your business name in the Google search desktop version and check if there is detailed information about your company on the right side as a snippet.
If you already have the listing but is not claimed or verified just follow the steps below listed in this text.
If you still do not own one, you can create your Google My Business listing for free right now.
The account creation process is simple and it is aimed at any business, not just a local one.
Make sure you type the correct business address in the form or use the pin marker to find it on the Google Maps provided in the onboarding process.
To get your information listed, Google requires verification of your business. So after you create your account you will need to verify it.
How to verify your Google My Business listing?
To do this follow the steps below:
- Enter the name of the person the verification postcard should be mailed to
- Specify the correct address where the card should be mailed to
- Click Send postcard.
- After a few weeks, you will receive the postcard with a verification number
- Log in to your Google My Business Account and click ‘Verify Now’ in the top red bar
Next, follow the instructions where you will need to enter the verification code from your postcard.
According to their guidelines, it may take a few weeks for your information to appear on Google.
Click here for all details about the verification flow.
How to optimize your Google My Business listing for better ranking and visibility?
As a part of your marketing strategy, optimizing your listing for search engines and searchers is always a great opportunity.
To start with this right away, it is highly important to add as much relevant info and media as you can in the first days you are setting up your listing.
Here are some tips on how to set and optimize your Google My Business listing:
- Choose an appealing profile photo and cover photo, that will outstand in the list
- Be as detailed as possible when entering contact information, such as business category, business location, phone number, website URL, hours of operation, etc.
- Choose the relevant business type: storefront (restaurants, bars, hotels, etc.), service area (delivery, taxi service, transportation service etc.), or brand (products, brands, causes, etc.)
- Post lots of photos, especially if you are in the food business
- Get reviews, so you will eventually rank at the top
To do this, go to your Google My Business dashboard, select ‘Info’ and then choose a section to fill out or update.
Here, you should edit and update all the required sections. The more information you add the better.
However, at any point in time, you can always edit your business listing to do further optimization or update your information.
Now, let’s dive into how to edit and get the most out of the other sections in your Google My Business dashboard.
Making the most out of your Google My Business photos
Depending on your business case, Google photos are one of the touching points for your new customers to discover your offer. In case you are a restaurant or a hotel, then the photos you will manage on your Google My Business account will be a strong selling point to get new guests on board.
The goal with photos is to make your Google My Business profile appeal live and make people feel that you are right there, ready to serve them.
Here are the Google My Business photos you should most pay attention to.
Your profile photo appears when you post Google posts, updates, upload new photos, videos, or review responses. The most common example here is to upload your logo as a profile photo in a format you feel appropriate.
The cover photo is one of the most important parts of the look of your Google My Business listing. It usually shows at the center of your listing when someone searches your business name in Google Search but often Google makes their own customization of the search results and may show other photos they assume are relevant.
Here are the required dimensions for your Google My Business cover photo:
- Dimensions: 1080 x 608 pixels (minimum 480 x 270; maximum 2120 x 1192) Format: JPG or PNG.
- Size: Between 10 KB and 5 MB.
- Minimum Resolution: 720 px tall, 720 px wide.
Along with your profile and cover photos, you should upload other images to make your listing more informative and appealing. Today, it is also a great idea to upload even your company’s videos.
To make the most out of these photos and stand out from the competition, here is a list of few ideas that you can do:
- Hire a professional to capture the best moments in your local business
- Make sure photos are authentic and updated
- Post photos in a specific category such as Exterior, Interior or Team photos
- Regularly post photos with your latest offers or menus
By sharing relevant photos, you will avoid reviews and comments by customers that will confirm that the dish was not like in the photos or that the room sizes are smaller than the photos you’ve shared.
Note that the users can actually post their own photos and give actual ‘picture’ of what they’ve actually experienced.
Use Google Posts to increase organic traffic
Recently Google announced and added to the Google My Business suite, called Google Posts.
This feature allows businesses to publish short posts with links to news, events, or offers about their products and services, directly in the Google search panel, that displays on the right side in the Google search results.
By making this small feature, Google actually wants to bring the social media component in the search results, by allowing small businesses to push their latest news.
Here is how the Google Posts appear in search results:
And here are the benefits of creating Google Posts:
- Increase organic traffic
- Disrupt the intent drive search and push instant value to the user
- Increase conversions by providing a direct ‘call to action’ link
In the ‘Posts’ section of the Google My Business dashboard, there are 5 types of post templates available:
- COVID-19 Update
- Add Offer
- Add Update
- Add Event
- Add Product
However, you don’t always need to choose the right post template to share information. To write your first Google Post, log in to your Google My Business dashboard and from the left menu choose Posts and then go to ‘Add Update’.
There, you will need to fill in the following:
- Add Google post photo with rectangle size such as 800px x 600px or 4:3 ratio
- Write a post that can be from 100 to 300 characters
- Choose a call to action button: Book, Order online, Buy, Learn more, Sign up, Get offer
- You can preview it and if it looks good just click Publish
Now, you might ask …
How people will see my Google Posts
After you publish your Google Posts it will immediately appear on the right-side panel (Knowledge Panel) in the Google search results when people search for your business.
Here an example of how our Google Post looks like in the Google search homepage results:
Here are a few more facts you need to know about Google Posts:
- You can publish up to 10 Google posts
- If you have multiple posts they will be displayed as a carousel in the Knowledge Panel
- Get analytics: Views (times your post was seen) and Engagement (times a customer clicked your button)
- Google Posts are removed after 7 days except for event posts that will be removed after the event date
How to use Google My Business in Covid-19 Crisis
During the pandemic of Covid-19, most businesses were or still remain closed until further notice. These are businesses that heavily depend on actual foot traffic and people physically visiting their premises.
In order to reflect this new normal, business owners can use Google My Business to share updated and accurate information for their customers in these formats:
- post about the updated working hours
- post about options for delivery or pick-up
- post special COVID-19 Google posts that will show in the Updates tab
- enable direct messaging via Google My Business apps
These are some of the things you can do to get closer to your customers and hopefully get through the coronavirus crisis.
How to get Google My Business reviews?
I mentioned Google reviews a few times.
And here is why.
Reviews are one of the biggest indicators for Google to rank your location in their local listings.
With positive reviews posted by your customers, you can easily differentiate from your competitors in the Google local search and also potential customers can get a real insight into the quality of your offerings.
So basically when people search for keywords in your industry especially when searching in Google Maps, Google most definitely highly considers the rank based on your average rating and the number of reviews.
Similar like on other review sites, one of the best practices to get started receiving Google reviews is to let your customers know that they can do this. And just ask!
This is proven by the 2017 Local Consumer Review Survey by BrightLocal, who published these result:
“68% of consumers left a review after a local business asked them to”Local Consumer Review Survey by BrightLocal
Sharing a simple link to your Google reviews form can initially get you the first reviews on Google.
Follow this detailed tutorial on how to create a link to submit Google reviews.
To start collecting Google reviews you can do these simple actions:
- Send emails with the review submission form to your customers
- Share this link to other social media profiles
- Create a “Leave a review” button on your website
- Print a QR code with the link in your menus or fliers
- Create a campaign to incentivize customers to leave reviews
How to respond to Google reviews?
As your Google My Business profile starts collecting new reviews, you will need to consider a strategy for handling these customer reviews or answer questions posted in the Q&A section.
This means, that you need to be proactive, prompt and responsive.
So basically your online reputation and rank will strongly depend on how you as a company will handle and respond to the Google reviews posted by your customers.
To start, make sure the email that you used to create My Business Account is always on. Or assign a person to your team and add him as a manager.
By doing this, you will make sure that you will never miss a review. Every time somebody posts a review about your business, Google will send you an email notification.
Once you log in to view the review, you can respond to it by following the official user content rules.
So, to respond to a received Google review, just click the ‘Reply’ button below the review and type your message.
You can do the same by download the official Google My Business app on your mobile devices, where you will get direct notifications for all new reviews people post on your profile.
Please note to pay special attention to the negative reviews.
Unsatisfied customers can literally break or make your business.
You will need to have your customer team or a person dedicated to understand, analyze and respond with details to every single negative review.
These negative reviews will definitely happen, so make sure to respond in order to handle negative reviews with greater success.
Believe me, you will wake up one day, go to work with a big smile and boom! You might get something like this:
If the review is not according to the Google content rules and are simply fake, you can flag it as inappropriate and Google will remove it.
Here is how to flag a Google review:
- Log in to your Google My Business account
- Navigate to Reviews
- Find the review and click the 3 dots in the top right corner
- Click ‘Flag as inappropriate’
For more details read the full guide to flag inappropriate reviews.
Once you have your Google My business up and running you should focus on continuously updating the information by posting photos or just posting news with links to your website.
By doing this, you are increasing the possibility to be easily discovered in the local search that will lead to increased conversions due to the intent-driven nature of the search.
Additionally, you can display the Google photos posted by your customers on your website and provide social proof about your service.
Similarly, you can embed Google reviews on any web page and literally use the user-generated content on your Google My Business account to make your website more trustworthy.
Manage Google Reviews
Generate and embed your Google reviews on your website in seconds.