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If you want your business to appear more prominently in Google search results, then Google My Business (GMB) is a great tool to help you do this. If your business is struggling for visibility online, a GMB profile can help boost awareness and drive new potential customers to your website and your businessWhat’s the catch? I hear you ask, well, the only price is time. Whilst the tool is free, in order to get the most out of it, you will need to spend time perfecting your profile, and encouraging those much-needed reviews. 

What is GMB?

Google My Business is a free tool from Google that allows businesses to manage and edit how they appear in search results and on Google Maps. Through GMB, businesses have the opportunity to list essential contact information including address, phone numbers and opening times, businesses can also choose to feature a business description, images and posts (including blogs and special offers). All of this data is condensed into a Google profile, and shows up in searches of your business both in general search results and on Google Maps.

It’s possible for multiple Google My Business profiles to be owned by one company, however there needs to be a legitimate reason for this. If you have physical offices or storefronts in multiple locations, you can verify these locations through Google My Business by using your business addresses. Any other reason will have a more comprehensive process to go through, to make sure it’s a necessary request.

Why is GMB important?

There are several reasons why optimising Google My Business is important. Firstly, and more generally, it helps Google understand your business, products/services, and location better. This is particularly the case if you’ve filled in each section of our business’s info on GMB thoroughly, which can also result in your business being an opportunity to have your business appearing ahead of competitors’. Secondly, it offers your business greater online visibility. As well as being an opportunity to have your business featured more significantly on Map results, it also helps search engines to create a knowledge panel for your brand.

As well as Google My Business being important for businesses in general, it also has a substantial importance for individual industries. In terms of cafes and restaurants, GMB offers a feature that allows them to show whether they’re open for collection, delivery, or for people to eat-in. As a moments glance, potential customers can see the options they have if they were to choose to purchase from that establishment. Don’t forget to re-evaluate these settings regularly to keep in line wit COVID restrictions.

The ability to engage with customers is key to the success of a business, and Google My Business generates another opportunity for customer engagement. With options to post blogs, special offers, and other valuable content, having a GMB profile creates extra touchpoints between potential customers and your brand.

As well as providing your business with a listings profile, Google My Business also features an ‘insights’ tab that allows you to view a number of metrics including:

  • How customers searched for your business (direct, discovery, or through a related brand)
  • The most popular queries searched to find your business
  • Where customers view your business on Google (searches or Maps)
  • Customer actions (call, visit website, or request directions)
  • Photo views (of images featured on your GMB profile)

Each insight reveals extra data that’s important for optimising your Google My Business profile. It gives a simple view of the areas on your GMB profile that are performing well and those that aren’t, giving understanding of where improvements can be made. As an example, let’s say you owned a boutique bakery business, you see there are several people looking at the images you’ve featured of key products on your GMB profile, but no-one seems to be clicking through to your website. This would suggest the images used may not be of great quality, and a professional photographer should be considered.

What information needs to be included on your Google My Business profile?

Name, address, phone details

Optimising a Google My Business profile is simple, but it does take time. each section on GMB that needs to be completed has a purpose, and the most important of those sections are the business name, address, and phone details (NAP details). These are key for Google to verify your business and have your MB profile shown prominently in searches related to your business, in both search results and on Google Maps.

As well as your address, Google My Business also offers the option to select a service area. This can be a town or city, county, region, or even country. This means that even though your business may be headquartered in a specific city but operates nationwide, you can adapt your GMB profile to reflect this.

Opening times

It’s hugely important to include opening times on your Google My Business profile. Any potential customer viewing your profile and thinking about purchasing from your business will need to know its opening and closing times. It’s possible to add extra opening and closing times on specific days if needed, in case your business is closed at lunchtimes or other specific times throughout the day.

Appointment links

Appointment links are a feature on Google My Business that allows customers to book appointments through Google. This is simply done by adding a link to an appointment page, and this will be published on your GMB profile when it shows up in searches. An advantage of adding appointment links to your GMB profile is the ease it offers your customers to engage with your business and book appointments.

Products

Under the ‘products’ tab, businesses can feature the products they have for sale. Included in this are images of each product, along with a short description and price. Each product is shown as a tile on your profile, and potential customers can scroll through them, and click on the products that interest them most.  

Services

For business that offer services as well as, or instead of products, the ‘services’ section is where you input this information. Google My Business has a dropdown list of services to choose from, but you shouldn’t worry if your offerings don’t show up in the dropdown list, as there’s a ‘custom services’ option that allows you to create your own based on what your business offers. Adding services, similar to adding products, allows customers to find out what your business does at a glance, giving them an idea if your business is exactly what they’re looking for.

Highlights, health & safety, service options

Within the ‘highlights’ section of the Google My Business profile, you can add anything that you want to promote about your business, such as whether it’s women-led or whether it’s a B Corp organisation. ‘Health & safety’ is a relatively new section of the GMB profile, and came in during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to offer businesses the ability to show potential customers whether they need to wear masks in-store or in-office, or if temperature checks are required. The ‘service options’ section lets businesses show on their profile whether they offer onsite services or online appointments.

Business description

A good business description will flow easily and sound natural. It will represent your business, and so your tone-of-voice should reflect the personality of our brand. Whether fun, friendly, professional or formal, the words you use will give potential customers an idea whether your business is right for them. There’s a maximum limit of 750 characters, which should be enough to give an overall view of what you want to convey to the readers.

Optimising your GMB images and videos

Images can play an important role on your Google My Business profile. They should represent your business, its products/services and employees, and work to encourage increased engagement with your business. There are a number of guidelines to follow, in terms of image sizing and formats for Google My Business, which include:

  • JPEG or PNG format
  • Image size should be between 10KB and 5MB
  • 720px x 720px minimum resolution

It’s still easily possible to feature high quality images that fit within these parameters. The use of in-focus, un-filtered, and well-lit images that reflect the reality of your business will help promote brand recognition and loyalty.

Photos uploaded to your GMB profile should work well in both square and rectangle formats. The main focus of your images should roughly be in the centre of the photos your upload. This helps ensure your images are optimised for desktop and mobile devices, as photos on desktops will be featured as a square tile, and photos on mobile will be featured as rectangle tiles.

Types of images to add for optimising your GMB

The images Google My Business supports on business profiles include:

  • Profile image
  • Cover image
  • Other images

Your GMB profile should always have a quality profile image, as potential customers are more likely to view your GMB information if it has a profile image, compared to if it had no image. The ideal size of your profile image is 720px x 720px (250px x 250px minimum and 5200px x 5200px maximum).

Adding a profile cover photo is a relatively new feature of Google My Business, which came into effect in June 2019. It goes without saying that the cover image you choose should accurately represent your business and have a uniqueness that will appeal to your ideal audience. It’s important your cover image is high-quality, as it’s one of the first areas that’s shown in search results when your business appears. The ideal size of a cover photo is 1080px x 608px (480px x 270px minimum, 2120px x 1192px maximum).

Whilst you can upload images that best represent your business, customers can also upload their own images to your Google My Business listing (user generated content). There are positives and negatives to having other people upload their images of your business/product to your GMB profile, but either way, it’s best to closely monitor these additions. Any uploads that you want removed from your listing will have to be flagged to Google, and even then, there’s no guarantee it will be deleted. You can view Google’s content guidelines to help you judge if any image is against their regulations.

Image subjects for GMB

The subjects of the images you choose for your GMB profile are really up to you, and what you feel will be a good representation of your business. Highlighting specific products will give potential customers an indication of whether these products are what they’re interested in and would like to purchase. It also offers insights as to the variety of products you sell.

Sharing images of the business in terms of the staff that work there and company events that are organised, should also be considered. This allows viewers of your profile to get an idea of the company culture, which can play a huge part in encouraging them to purchase from your business. As an example, if you offer the same, or very similar products as your competitors, yet your Google My Business images show your business to be friendly and charitable, with your competitors’ profile having no images of employees or events, chances are they’ll go for you because of the company culture you convey.

Image naming conventions

Before uploading images, make sure you name them appropriately for SEO purposes. The most accurate description of the image, and using keywords that relate the image back to your business, will help optimise the so that they rank in image searches of your business. As an example, rather than having an image file named ‘IMG2020-11-10’, it would be better for SEO purposes to name it including the business name, subject of the image, and the year (e.g. localiq_charity_funday_2019).

Videos

Videos are becoming increasingly important for generating engagement and attracting new customers. Google My Business supports the use of videos, which makes it important to ensure all videos featured on your GMB listing are of high-quality and represents your business accurately. Shaky videos that are shot in portrait mode won’t leave a positive impression, so it’s best to either high a professional, or ensure someone in your team is already trained or can be trained to produce high-value productions.

There are several requirements if you do wish to upload videos to your Google My Business listing, and include:

  • Videos must be 30 seconds or shorter
  • Videos must have a maximum file size of 100MB
  • The minimum resolution for uploaded videos is 720p

The importance of Google My Business reviews

Reviews featured on your Google My Business profile are an essential part of how your business ranks online, and can hugely influence the decisions of potential customers. Generally speaking, the more reviews you have, the better (as long as the majority are positive!), so encouraging customers to give feedback about your business, not just through Google, but other platforms too, is an important factor that will help generate greater awareness and trust for your business.

Replying to reviews

Your GMB listing should never be left dormant, and replying to reviews will help show Google that your business is still active. Whether you’re replying to positive or negative reviews, it’s still important to say something.

In terms of replying to good reviews, a simple ‘thanks!’ should suffice if you’re struggling for time. Otherwise, feel free to add more about how much their feedback means to your business, and how glad you are that they enjoyed your products/services. Try not to reply with a generic word/phrase every time, as that could come across as false and uncaring. Personalising each response will help the customer feel valued.

Replying to negative reviews may be a bit more awkward, but still needs to be done. Firstly, replying to negative reviews can help go towards making amends or repairing relationships with customers that have left negative reviews. Secondly, if potential customers notice your polite replies to negative reviews, it could potentially sway their minds into becoming a customer.

In terms of the replies themselves, politeness goes a long way. Even if you feel a negative review is unjustified, you shouldn’t speak your mind, as this could be portrayed as arrogant. If there’s a way for you to rectify a situation, and that may be by offering a discount or freebie, there’s no harm in trying. If the customer that has left the negative isn’t happy with your response and shows this by replying back, it may be best practice to leave it be. There’s no pleasing some people, and there are unfortunately those that will try to harm a business any way they can.

How to encourage reviews

Some people naturally leave reviews about businesses without encouragement, which is usually the case if they have a particularly good or bad experience. For most though, customers need to be persuaded or reminded to give feedback. Simply asking customers to leave a review can sometimes be enough, all they need is a reminder. Offering discounts or an incentive can be another option if you have the budget.

Removing reviews from Google My Business

Removing reviews from GMB can be a tricky business. This is because you can only request to remove comments that give false information, and even then, there are a few hoops to jump through. It’s a simple process, and involves you flagging a review as ‘inappropriate’, but justification may be required, so it’s important to ensure there’s a solid reason for the removal of a review.

Google’s aim is to provide the best and most relevant information to customers, and reviews play a huge part in that. A business isn’t allowed to hide what customers think of them (and rightly so), because that won’t only look bad for the business itself, but also for Google, because they suggested that business in the first place.

GMB business categories

In terms of categorising your business, you’ll be able to decide on primary and secondary categories. It’s important to take your time with this to make sure you choose the best options that most relate to your business offerings, as it’s a key part in ensuring your business shows up in the best related search results.

As well as acting as a ranking factor, these categories also inform what you can add to your Google My Business profile. For example, if you have a hotel business, you won’t be able to use Google posts, and if you’re categorised as an educational establishment, you won’t be able to receive reviews. Similarly, the category chosen will affect the attributes shown on your GMB profile, such as whether you can have booking buttons, a menu feature, or primary and secondary hours.

Google does allow you to chop and change your business categories if needed, but only do this if it’s necessary as it can hugely alter your rankings depending on which categories you choose. The primary category you choose is said to have the biggest influence on your business’ local ranking, and therefore should be chosen with more of a thought process. In terms of secondary categories, you can choose up to nine more (you’re allowed ten categories in total), although only pick categories that makes sense for your business, and if that means only adding four secondary categories, then that’s perfect. There’s no point adding extra categories just to make up all ten for the sake of it.

Choosing your Google My Business category 

The first step when choosing your business categories is to understand the search phrases most used by customers when trying to find your business. Listing the keywords that relate wit your industry along with a list of products you offer will go a long way to understanding which categories will best suit your business.

It’s also useful to understand which categories your competitors are using. It’s important you choose businesses that are closest to yours in terms of product/services offered, business model used, target customers, and locations served. GMBspy is a free tool Google offers businesses to look at which Google My Business categories their competitors are using. You will need the Google Chrome browser to utilise the GMBspy tool.

What to do if Google doesn’t have a category you need

Whilst there are thousands of category options to choose from, you may find that Google doesn’t offer the one that represents your business the most accurately. If this happens to be the case, you can take your argument to Google and convince them as to why your category should be included in the options list. Providing evidence along with your argument will help present a more compelling case. The GMB Help Community is a useful page that can offer help and advice if you’re thinking about asking Google to add an extra category.

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