The following is a recap of the presentation by Greg Gifford doing the 5 Hours of SEO Webinar. You can watch Greg's presentation here.
Google My Business has become one of the most critical avenues a business has to promote themselves via the Google search results, even more so than a traditional search engine. Local search expert Greg Gifford has an epic number of tips for any business looking to take advantage of the many insider Google My Business optimization tips and tricks for companies can use to put their best foot forward.
Google My Business: Your Homepage in the Search Results
Gifford refers to your Google My Business (GMB) page as being your homepage in the search results. It is the first impression that companies get for your business and brand search. Because of this, it is vital that your GMB is optimized. Especially since it is what people see in a zero-click search, a search where someone doesn’t click through to your website but goes based on what Google says instead.
Pro Tip: If you have problems with competitors showing up with fake listings, you can use the Business Redressal Form to get them removed. Bit.ly/report-map.crap
You need to ensure your address is correct, and the pin on the map is in the right spot. You need to include suite numbers for your customers to find your office, but Google generally ignores those numbers when determining business uniqueness to prevent spam.
However, Google also ignores any known virtual or co-working offices, also for spam reasons, so if you use one of these types of spaces for offices, it will be necessary to prove you are a legitimate business.
For a service-based business, Google has now added a rule that limits businesses to 20 service areas. You can be creative with mixing types of cities and zip codes to maximize your local coverage area.
Gifford recommends using a tracking number within your GMB listing so you can track when phone calls come in via Google. You are required to have a local number listed as your alternate number, however, in part as a spam check that you are indeed a local business.
Google My Business Category Strategies
It is crucial to optimize categories for your listing. But many businesses fail to optimize them correctly when looking at what competitors they have within their local area.
Gifford uses the example of a Ford dealership. If many Ford dealerships surround you, you would want Ford as your primary category. But if your dealership is 50+ miles from the next Ford dealership, you would show up for that search regardless so that used cars would be a better primary category in that case.
Gifford has a useful trick for how to check the categories your competitor has chosen. Search for your competitor’s name on Google Maps. Make a note of the primary category, which is listed directly under the review stars under the business name.
Right-click their listing and choose “View Page Source” from the browser pop up menu options. Then you want to search the source code (Control-F) and look for the primary category from the listing. The third time that is listed, it will be followed by all the categories that business has selected. Learn more about categories from Google.
Ensure you add UTM tracking to your GMB URL string, as Google Analytics does not always attribute the clicks directly. Gifford recommends simply adding “?utm_source=GMBlisting&url_medium=organic” to the end of your business website URL for tracking.
Professional Photos and Image Sizes
Ensure you are adding high-quality professional photos to your profile. You need to ensure they will be cropped and displayed correctly. Unfortunately, Google My Business uses two different image sizes on desktop versus mobile, so it is essential to consider how each image, particularly the primary image, is displayed on each. For desktop, it shows a square image while on mobile, it changes that photo to a rectangular one. Videos can also be uploaded.
Google My Business Reviews: What You Need to Know
Your GMB reviews are important, but getting all 5 stars is not necessarily the best. Gifford says that studies have shown the ideal range for reviews is actually in the 4.3 to 4.5 range, not the assumed 5 stars ratings, as all perfect reviews tend to look more suspicious.
It is important to ask everyone to submit reviews for your business. Gifford recommends setting up a page on your website for reviews that have links to the various review sites you would like customers to leave reviews on, with a note of “Thanks for doing business with us, tell us how we did today.”
If you want to suggest they leave reviews on your Google My Business page, be sure you aren’t just linking to your GMB page, but instead link to your actual GMB reviews page. For businesses with a short URL, the URL will be g.page/YourShortName/review
Keywords in your reviews are equally relevant, as it can help you rank for those keywords. Unfortunately, you cannot tell people what to write in their reviews – and doing so could be illegal where your company is based – but you can offer hints for what they write, and you can also include that on your reviews page.
This trick will help you get relevant keywords within those reviews, especially by suggesting they include the product they bought. Also, be sure to respond to every single review, as Google alerts the reviewer when you do so.
For businesses where you cannot solicit reviews, Carrie Hill suggests that you ask your customers or clients to look at your reviews, which might encourage them to leave a review of their own. But you cannot solicit reviews for any kind of reward.
Gifford also warns there are some cases for medical-related businesses, such as a psychologist, where answering reviews could break HIPPO law. So you need to be aware of any rules that might apply to you or your business for these types of special cases.
Google Posts is something relatively new, and Gifford suggests you use it, as it is essentially a free advertising tool for your business that shows up at the bottom of your GMB listing. Include a great image with an optimized thumbnail, which can sometimes be tricky since once again; Google uses a different thumbnail size on desktop versus mobile. And the text should always be promotional in nature.
GMB Questions and Answers: How They Work
GMB Questions and Answers is another newer feature for businesses to take advantage of. While it allows anyone to ask a question, Google also allows anyone to answer the question for you, even if they are not a part of your company. If a question gets three upvotes, Google will show it within your GMB panel. But you can ask your own questions and can also upvote your own answers, so those answers appear first.
Niki Mosier adds that there are some businesses where the Q&A simply won’t show up, such as education-related sites and schools, with the exception of daycares. Hill says that some advertising and marketing categories will not show Q&A as well. Both Hill and Mosier recommend looking at competitor’s categories if they are showing Q&A. And be aware that even secondary categories, not just the primary ones, can suppress Q&A.
Local Businesses Should Take Advantage of GMB Features
When it comes to local businesses, with so many searchers relying on Google for information, taking full advantage of Google My Business optimization is crucial. And seemingly minor things, such as the correct categories or images that are optimized for both desktop and mobile, can make a huge difference in how well a local business performs. This is especially true for generic local searches where a potential customer isn’t searching for your business name directly.
Google My Business Resources:
- Guidelines for representing your business on Google
- Are You Making These 9 Common Google My Business Mistakes?
- A Local SEO Citation You Never Knew You Had
- The ABC‘s of Online Reviews: Myths, Facts, and Review Removal
- Improve your local ranking on Google
- Five Ways to Improve Your Local SEO with SEMrush