Take Advantage of the Tools Available in the Google Business Profile to Expand Your Business
Focusing some of your marketing resources on search engine optimization (SEO) is something any (good) marketing consultant will advise you to do.
With some simple tweaks to your website wording, formatting, and content, you can drastically increase your website traffic organically, making it easier for potential clients and customers to find you online.
I’ve written extensively about how to approach boosting your website SEO in this blog, by optimizing user experience, improving website speed and loading times, embedding appropriate keywords within the site, prioritizing accessibility, and introducing a backlink strategy.
In addition to the changes I suggest making within your website though, I also recommend setting up and regularly updating your Google Business Profile (formerly known as your Google My Business listing).
This is just one of the free tools Google offers to support small businesses in building their online presence and boosting local SEO.
What is Local SEO?
SEO, or search engine optimization, involves focusing your marketing efforts on improving your website to increase its visibility in search engines.
Since consumers rarely scroll beyond the first page in Google, trying to improve your ranking in the search results (especially trying to get into the top 3 results) helps increase the likelihood that users will find and click on your website.
With increased visibility comes increased brand awareness, which is likely to lead to more customers and clients.
Local SEO describes one branch of SEO strategy, which involves trying to improve search result visibility for companies who have a physical location, or who serve a specific geographic area.
One of the best ways to boost local traffic and brand awareness is by setting up your Google Business Profile.
What is your Google Business Profile?
Your Google Business Profile is the sidebar that appears on Google for a specific business when you type their name (or other key details about them) in Google – as long as they have their account set-up and verified.
The sidebar tells you who the company is and what they offer, as well as providing their location, reviews from previous customers or clients, photos of the business, their operating hours, and links to their website and social media, where applicable.
Setting up your own Google Business Profile (and keeping it updated) is one of the most important things you can do for your business, especially to improve local traffic.
Google is the preferred search engine for many consumers, with studies showing that Google has over 80% market share of desktop searches.
That means every day, hundreds of millions of people turn to Google to discover and shop for what they care about.
Think about your own Google search engine habits. How often have you resorted to Google to find what you’re looking for?
Especially in recent years, the number of people utilizing the Internet to influence and dictate their shopping habits has expanded exponentially.
Consumers tend to use Google’s local SEO features in a few ways:
- Typing in the service or product they’re looking for and the location. For example, “Italian restaurant near me” or “Italian restaurant + LOCATION.” (Google Maps searches for “shopping near me” have grown globally by over 100% year over year.)
- Scrolling Google Maps to view businesses around them, check if places are open, browse business photos and read reviews.
- Asking questions like, “where to buy _____ near me,” or “what ____ stores open near me,” or “where can I get the best ______?”
In these instances, consumers are looking for convenience and accessibility more than anything. They don’t want to scroll through endless websites. They want recommendations and information as quickly as possible so they can make informed purchase decisions.
Google understands this and has started showing real local businesses at the top of their search results.
If you want to show up in those results, you need to create and optimize your business listing now and keep it up to date.
Claiming and verifying your Google Business Profile will allow you to reach customers with the Google Maps and listing tools. It will also ensure customers have correct information about your business.
Once set up, you can add contact information including location and business hours, photos and video, and a description of what you offer and who you serve.
You can also engage with potential customers by responding to reviews and questions, which is a great way to build and manage your online reputation.
How to create your Google Business Profile
Here’s a quick overview of key steps to take when setting up your Business Profile on Google:
- On your computer, log into the Google Account you want to be associated with your business (or create a Google Account if you don’t already have one).
- Go to https://business.google.com/create and either type your business name in (if you think you might already have an account set up) or click “add your business to Google.”
- Enter the name of your business. You may also be able to select your business from the list of suggested businesses as you type. Note: If you get a message that someone else has already verified the business, you’ll need to request ownership of the Business Profile.
- Search for your business category.
- Choose whether you have a location customers can visit.
- Enter the service area of your business. You can set your service area based on the cities, postal codes, or other areas that you serve, and you can add up to 20 service areas.
- Enter a phone number and website URL.
- Click Finish.
- Select a verification option and complete the process to claim your profile.
Why Do You Need to Verify and Claim Your Google Business Profile?
The Google verification process might seem finicky but it’s actually in your best interest to complete it.
The verification helps to prove that you are the rightful owner of your business and that it operates at the address you provided.
This helps to protect your account from unwanted changes. When you verify your account it ensures only you and other approved managers have permission to update your Business Profile.
There are a variety of standard verification methods Google uses, depending on your account and business.
The verification might be as simple as a code texted or emailed to you, it might involve you uploading a video recording or hopping on a video call to prove your business location and equipment, or Google might mail a verification code to the store address that you listed (so make sure it is a mailing address too, and not just a business location).
How Does Google Rank Businesses for Local SEO?
For local searches, Google doesn’t give websites prime real estate. Instead, the first results that appear when people search for businesses near them are the top business listings.
These local results are based primarily on a combination of 3 factors: relevance, distance, and prominence.
Relevance: refers to how well a local Business Profile matches what someone is searching for. To help Google better understand your business so that you can be matched to relevant searches, ensure you add complete and detailed business information.
Distance: considers how far each potential search result is from the location term used in a search, or from what Google knows about the user’s current location. To ensure you appear in relevant searches, ensure you have your address and service areas entered correctly!
Prominence: refers to how well known a business is. For example, popular brands or famous landmarks may appear higher up in search results. You can also improve your local ranking with more positive reviews, and by improving your general position in web results (through SEO best practices on your website).
Google Business works hand in hand with your website to increase your local online presence.
Google wants to provide its users with the most relevant search inquiries.
Users want to find information quickly online, without having to look through a million websites to find what they need.
And you want more visitors on your site.
If someone can find the information they need on your business page, it’s better for all three parties, and you’ll be rewarded for it.
Checklist for Google Business Profile
The more data you provide Google, the more you’ll see improvements in your local SEO rankings.
So, you want to ensure you fill out your Google Business Profile with as much information as possible.
Here’s a checklist you can utilize to optimize your local SEO:
- Have you set-up your Google Business Profile listing?
- Is your business name, address and phone number correct?
- Are your business hours correct?
- Are you listed under the correct business categories?
- Have you added at least 5 – 7 quality photographs? This includes your logo (so customers recognize your business), cover photo (this will likely appear at the top of your profile. Choose an image that represents your business!), and different business photos (to highlight features of your business).
- Google has lots of great tips for showcasing your business in the best way possible. Review those here to ensure you’re complying with their guidelines, and to help optimize your business as best you can.
- Businesses with photos are more likely to receive requests for driving directions to their location, as well as clicks through to their websites, than businesses that don’t have photos.
- Have you added a video? (maybe a 360 tour?)
- Have you written a great business description?
- Have you included that you accept credit cards and other types of payments?
- Have you added your social media links?
- Have you encouraged your customers to add reviews?
- Have you responded to both positive and negative reviews?
- Do you regularly add posts to provide additional information on offers?
- Have you added a menu or list of products and services? Have you added products to your profile? Here’s how.
- Do you regularly review your insights to see what’s performing well and where you might want to make tweaks?
- Have you considered expanding your online presence with online ads and campaigns?
Additional Tips and Suggestions for Optimizing Your Local SEO
There are numerous factors that go into appearing in Google’s local search results. In addition to optimizing your Google Business Profile, here are a few ways to increase your visibility locally:
Optimize your website for mobile
A large portion of local searches occur on mobile devices. If people find your business through Google Maps or search, but then find your website hard to navigate, they’re likely to click away.
This quick drop-off of users (or bounce rate) may alert Google that something is wrong with your business or website, and may hinder your ability to show up in search results in the future.
Engage with your local community
Attend or sponsor local events, and/or create partnerships with other companies or influencers in your area.
This will help boost potential referrals (which means more people searching you online) and reviews (which is good social proof), both of which will support your credibility.
Utilize location-based keywords
Include location-focused keywords and phrases on your website so that you’re more likely to show up in Google local search.
Sign-up for other business directories
When you sign-up for other business directories (for example Yelp), your company will appear in more places online.
This is an indication to Google that your business is legitimate. They can also cross-reference the information you provided both companies, to confirm that it’s accurate.
Encourage your clients or customers to leave reviews whenever possible
And, when you get a new review, respond to it – whether it’s positive or negative, to show that you are actively updating your profile and that you’re an active business.
A focus on local SEO is definitely something that should be implemented into your overarching marketing strategy if it’s not already.
So, consider this your sign to set up your Google Profile, verify your account, and regularly monitor your results so you can further optimize your rankings down the road.
If you have any questions, need help with your profile, or are interested in setting up ads, send me an email! I’d love to support you in growing your business.