In 2021, Google My Business is still one of the most important (and FREE!) tools local business owners can use to help drive business. Google has added, removed, and adjusted the features over the years, and we’re here, in 2021, to help you make sense of it all.
Your Google My Business listing appears in Google Maps and in the local results of Google Search. As you can see, there is quiet a bit of competition to land in the coveted Local Pack, which only shows the top three results. There are many factors that go into which businesses are shown in this spot including, but not limited to, number of reviews, citation accuracy, other internet profiles, and the searchers intent and keywords used. Keep following along and we will give you some great resources to improve the ranking of your Google My Business listing and hopefully get you one of the top three spots!
1. What is Google My Business?
Google My Business is a free tool for local business owners which allows you to be more accessible in Google Maps and on Google Search. With a Google My Business listing, you not only can get your business in front of more potential customers, but you will also be able to learn how those customers interact with your business with your Insights, what kind of information they are searching for, and provide them with answers to your most searched for questions before they visit your website.
2. What Businesses Qualify for a Google My Business Listing?
Any business with a physical location OR any business which visits a physical location, like a customer’s home or business place, can qualify for a Google My Business listing. From Google, “In order to qualify for a Business Profile on Google, a business must make in-person contact with customers during its stated hours.”
3. My Business doesn’t have an address, can I still use Google My Business?
Absolutely! If your business doesn’t have a storefront or office people visit, you can create your business as a service area business. A service area business listing will allow you to set a radius of the area you provide services to without having to have a physical address.
4. What Businesses Don’t Qualify for a Google My Business Listing?
Businesses that don’t have a physical location or don’t service their customers at their locations, do not qualify for a listing. Some examples include, strictly e-commerce businesses, rental properties, and any digital businesses with a 100% online presence. Business Profiles on Google My Business can only be created for businesses that either have a physical location customers can visit, or travel to visit customers where they are.
5. Is Google My Business Free?
YES! At this time Google My Business and all of its features are free. There is some speculation Google will one day add a “pay-to-play” option, but at this time it is completely free.
6. Does my Business need a Google My Business page?
If your business qualifies, then yes, your business needs a GMB listing. Not only will the listing allow you to leverage Google Maps and search results, but by claiming and verifying your listing, you will also have control over the information listed on your page. Anyone can add a business listing on GMB, and if you have control over your listing, you will also have control over the description, hours, address, contact info, and more.
GETTING STARTED: How to Claim and Verify Your GMB Account
If you are brand new to Google My Business, you may not have a listing yet, or not even know if one exists. Here are the steps to take to find out. Search for your business on Google Maps to find your business. If it is not claimed, claim it and verify it with a phone call or postcard. It can be claimed if you see the text “Claim this business”.
If you don’t find your business, add it by inputting your information, then verify with a phone call or postcard.
What if you found your business listing, it’s been verified, but you don’t have access?
Maybe someone else claimed it years ago with an email account you no longer have access to. It happens and it can be a pain to reclaim your account. However, it is worth the slight headache to get access back to the original account.
DO NOT create a new account without trying to get access first!
When your location appears to be owned by another account, you should have the option to “Request Ownership”. When you do this, Google will send an email to the current owner’s email on the account. Be patient, this may take a few days.
What if you found duplicate listings of your business?
Sometimes Google listings can be created because of a slightly different address or business name. You want to make sure there is no confusion about which listing is the correct one. Data confusion is something you want to avoid as it can impact your rankings.
Cleaning up duplicate listings can be time-consuming and a real headache, which is why we never recommend creating a new listing without trying to reclaim it first (see above). But, if you do find yourself in this predicament, follow these steps to try to clean up your listings.
If you can claim the duplicate, do so. Google will alert you to the duplicate once you have more than one listing in your account.
Then follow these next steps:
Sign in to Google My Business.
In your “Account summary,” click Duplicate locations.
You can request ownership using the steps above, once claimed, delete it, or if that’s not possible, report the listing as a duplicate. The report feature takes some time, and may even require several attempts to get the listing removed.
To report a duplicate location on Google Maps:
Open Google Maps.
Find the location you want to report.
Click Suggest an edit.
Mark the location as “Place is permanently closed or has never existed.”
If you are a service area business and serve your customers at locations that are not your office, you can specify as such on your Google My Business profile. When you set up your account, you will be able to answer the question, “Do you want to add a location that customers can visit, like a store or an office?” If you are a service area business, answer “No”. You will then be prompted to add the areas your business serves. You can add several cities and zip codes, or skip this step entirely. Note: this will impact how you are shown in local results.
OK, now that you have your one and only Google My Business listing claimed and verified, let’s move on!
OPTIMIZE YOUR LISTING: Filling out the details
Once your listing is verified, you can go in and fill out all of your business information. Don’t skip on this and be as complete as possible. Google will offer a lot of options to fill in details about your business and physical location.
A quick note about your business name – Your business name should be the name you operate under. It can be tempting to add things like your location and keywords into the name, but it is against Google’s guidelines and your account may be suspended.
Let’s take a deeper look at all of those options, many of which are being updated often.
Entering your business category will not only help searchers find you, but it will also change the options you have in your Google My Business listing. For example, If you are a restaurant, an option to add a link to a menu will become available. If you own a hotel, you may have access to the booking feature.
As of 2021, there are over 3000 Google My Business categories! While Google allows you to select up to ten categories for your business, only one can be your primary category which will be given preference over all others in Google’s search algorithm.
Tips for choosing your businesses categories
For your primary category, choose the one that closest represents your business. If people search for that category, you would want your business to be found.
For the secondary categories, don’t feel like you have to use up all ten. You should only select the categories which best describe your business. Make sure you are not including amenities in your categories. You may own a restaurant with a bar, but bar as a category doesn’t really describe your business. It’s an amenity within your business. (We’ll get into amenities soon!)
Regular hours: Enter your regular hours first. More hours: You will also now have an option to add hours for specific services or specials. For example, happy hours, brunch hours, delivery availability hours, etc. Special hours: This is where you can add any shortened or close dates and times for holidays, special events, or anything else with a date where you know your opening times will be impacted. This section is especially helpful during holidays where searchers will want to know your business’s availability.
This needs to be your primary business number. If you use tracking phone numbers at all, do not include them here. Google uses this information to confirm your NAP (Name, Address, and Phone number) details, so you always want this number to match all other listings of your business. Also, make sure it’s a local number. If you have an 800 number you prefer people to use, consider getting a local number that gets routed to the 800 number. Even if you are a local company, 800 numbers tend to scare people off. If you have more than one main phone number, up to two can be added. (no fax lines should be entered here)
A short name will help make it easier for customers who are searching for you to find you. From Google, “When you share your short name, customers can enter the name’s URL in the browser’s address bar to go directly to your Business Profile. For example, customers can search for “g.page/[yourcustomname]” in the address bar to find your business.” Example: g.page/odddogmedia
This is where you want to add your businesses’ website URL. If you have more than one location, add the specific location page from your website to this URL space here versus sending everyone to your home page.
We prefer to use a website tracking URL on Google My Business listings. It makes tracking traffic coming from your GMB listing more accurate and easier to find under “campaigns” in your Google Analytics. We always want to see how many times our website link is clicked on in our GMB listing, vs clicked in the organic results. Yes, it’s nitpicky, but it’s what we do!
While you will still be able to see Local results in your Google Analytics Dashboard, with a tracking URL you will be able to compare specific clicks to your home page from your knowledge panel.
If you use a booking website to take appointments or reservations, you can add a URL that links to your system here. Depending on the booking software you use, you may even be able to integrate your booking directly into your GMB page.
Depending on your business, you may be able to add products to your GMB listing. Not all business categories qualify for product listings, however many do, so it’s worth filling out if you have this section available to you. Even if you don’t sell online, it’s a great way to showcase some of your best physical and digital products.
How to add a product to your Google My Business listing: (via desktop)
In your web dashboard, go to the “Products” tab and click Add and then Add product.
Upload a photo.
Name the product.
Select Product category.
If necessary, click the Down arrow and select “Create a new category.”
(Optional) Set a price range or a fixed price.
(Optional) Create a description.
(Optional) Add a button like “Buy” or “Learn more.”
Services will allow you to break down the individual services you offer. While Google will make some suggestions based on your business, you will also be able to add your own and even include a price. Adding specific services will not help you rank for those keywords in search, however, they will help your potential customers find more information about what you offer.
Google My Business attributes are probably the section that changes the most frequently. 2020 brought us timely attributes like health and safety which includes items like “mask required” and “staff wears masks”, “curb-side pick up available”, and “online classes”. Attributes can be added by the business, but can also be suggested by users. Make sure you are checking in on your listing often to ensure your business is being listed correctly.
Some attributes you have available within your profile will depend on the type of business you are. Including as many as are relevant will help your customers find answers to any questions and also give them a better idea of what to expect from your business.
Some examples of good attributes to use, “wheelchair accessibility” if you have a physical location, “cash only” if you don’t accept credit cards, and “LGBTQ-Friendly” if your business is a safe and open space for the LGBTQ community and allies.
Ownership and leadership is another type of attribute Google has added within the last few years. “Woman-led” and “Veteran-led” were both added in 2018. And, “Black-Owned Business” is a new attribute Google added in 2020. If you are a black-owned business, adding this attribute will help make your listing more visible to those who are seeking out to support your business.
Use this space to share a bit about your business. When did you open? Who do you serve? What sets your business apart from all the others?
Have some fun here and encourage people to find out more about you. Don’t keyword stuff here! Make your business description read like normal, human language. Jamming in keywords here won’t help your rankings.
Add the month and year you opened your business here.
Ok, now we can move on from the “Info” tab and over to the “Messages” tab on the left-hand side menu.
Messaging will allow customers to contact you directly through your Google My Business profile. This feature used to be only available via SMS and third-party apps, but now it is incorporated much like Facebook Messenger as a messaging feature from right within your GMB page. When you enable Google My Businesses’ Messaging feature, a “Message” box will appear on your page when viewed in Google Maps. At this time, it does not seem to appear on desktop searches. If you do activate this feature, please read the guidelinesclosely! The guidelines include a 24 hour recommended response time. So if you do plan on using GMB Messaging, make sure you are prepared to respond promptly to all messages otherwise you may be banned from using this feature entirely.
There are three types of photos you can upload to your Google My Business account.
Logo: Your logo should be square in dimension, high-resolution, and file size between 10KB and 5MB. Adding a logo will ensure your branding is represented and recognizable for those searching for your business.
Format: JPG or PNG Size: Between 10 KB and 5 MB. Google My Business Profile Photo Size: 250 x 250 pixels (min 120 x 120; max 5200 x 5300) Minimum resolution: 250 px tall, 250 px wide.
Cover Photo: Adding a cover photo signals to Google that this is the image you would like people to see first in your listing. A good cover photo is high-quality and is a great way to introduce people to your business.
Format: JPG or PNG Size: Between 10 KB and 5 MB. Google My Business Cover Photo Size: 1080 x 608 pixels (min 480 x 270; max 2120 x 1192) Minimum resolution: 250 px tall, 250 px wide.
NOTE: Even when you’ve added a logo and cover image, Google will still mix around your photos and you cannot control the order in which they are displayed.
Other Images: When adding photos to your Google My Business Listing, try to add images searches are looking for about your business. What does the outside of your building look like? Are you difficult to find? Photos of the outside can help people find your business. Google’s Street View isn’t updated frequently and won’t depict the outside of your business as accurately as you could. What does the inside look like? Is there ample seating? A waiting area?
What about your products or services? If you sell physical products, how are they displayed on-site? Sell food and or drinks? Take images of popular items on your menu.
Within your GMB listing, you can specify what images are from the inside or outside as well as photos of your team, photos of your work, and even specific photos of food and drink for restaurants. Include several for each category you can.
Customers will also be allowed to add images of your business and will appear under the “by customer” tab on your listing. It’s a good idea to keep track of these to ensure they are all relevant and not random images that are not related to your business. It’s also a great idea to encourage customers to add images during their visit.
Video is still an incredibly underutilized feature! If you are able to add one or two short fun videos to your page, I guarantee you will have a leg up on most if not all of your competitors! Do videos help with your rankings? Not necessarily. But Google likes it when you use their stuff. And the more interaction your GMB profile receives, the more credit Google will give your business listing.
Make sure your videos meet the following requirements:
Duration: Up to 30 seconds long File size: Up to 75 MB Resolution: 720p or higher
What is a Google My Business website? Google has provided business owners with an easy way for businesses to create a free mobile-optimized website. There are a limited number of themes and design options to choose from, and you will not get a custom domain. Google My Business Websites are a quick and easy way to create an online presence for your business IF you don’t already have a website, HOWEVER, we strongly encourage you to get a website you fully own and have more customization at your disposal.
Under the Users section is where you can add other managers to your GMB page. This way you can ensure you retain ownership while giving editing access to your team.
GMB Store Code
When you were filling out your profile, you may have been prompted to add a store code. Store codes are unique identifiers and not viewable to the public. Store codes are required for bulk uploads of multiple locations, and handy to have if you are managing many GMB listings from one account. Even if you are only managing one location, a store code is recommended.
“Any unique identifier can be a store code. A store code can be anything from the name of a place to a random number, as long as it stays the same to refer to that location. Include your brand name in your store code to avoid confusion between spreadsheets (for separate business or personal accounts). For example, if Google had 100 locations, they might be named “GOOG1”, “GOOG2”, “GOOG3″”
Questions and Answers
The questions and answers section in GMB operates much like a forum. Anyone can ask a question here and anyone can answer it.
Answers can be “upvoted” and if an answer gets enough upvotes will be placed as the primary answer. Questions can also be upvoted, and if they receive more than three upvotes, can show right in your profile without being clicked on for the questions and answer section.
This feature is actually part of Google Maps so you will not find it in your Google My Business dashboard. All interactions have to happen through Google Maps on your desktop or Android App. This feature doesn’t seem to be available on Apple yet.
So, how do you monitor and respond to questions? In your Google My Business dashboard, make sure you check the box that says “Questions and Answers” to be alerted when someone asks a new question.
To answer questions, you will either go to your public-facing profile on your desktop or the Google Maps app on your Android device. You can easily get to your public profile from your dashboard by going to “Info” then selecting “view on search” on the right-hand side of the screen. NOTE: Answers are cut off after 440 characters so you will want to make your answer short and to the point.
PRO TIP: You can also ask your own questions!
It is allowed by Google and even encouraged. It’s a good idea to add a few frequently asked questions and then answer them.
Keep an eye on the answers as someone can answer the questions you’ve asked as well and you will want to make sure yours stays as the primary answer.
Google My Business Posts
Google My Business Posts are a way to add updates, events, sales, and added in 2020 COVID-19 updated, to your GMB listing.
Think of them much like a social media post. Posts appear in your profile and allow users to see anything special you have to share right from the search results page. You can include a call to action like, “Book”, “Order Online”, “Buy”, “Learn More”, “Sign-Up”, “Get Offer”. Posts can be a great way to get additional eyes on a blog post, a sale or promotion you have going on, or to encourage phone calls.
Some tips to get the most use out of posts:
Images appear in a 4:3 ratio – so keep this in mind when adding an image here. You can crop your image once you upload it, just make sure to preview your post before you publish it to see how it will appear.
Only the first 100 characters of text will show in the knowledge panel, so make them count.
Posts only last for 7 days, so post often if you can. There are a few exceptions to the 7-day expiration rule. Events and offers will not expire until the event or the offer is completed.
You can have up to 10 posts at once, however only the most recent two will be shown without the searcher clicking on a see more action.
Managing your GMB Reviews
Your GMB reviews are important! In addition to asking your customers to leave reviews, you will also want to make sure you are responding to them in a timely manner. To respond to new reviews, select the “Reviews” tab in your dashboard and then go to the tab “Haven’t replied”. Here you can thank customers for leaving those five-star reviews, and respond to any concerns left by those who may have left a not favorable review. In the case of bad reviews, it’s always a good idea to respond publicly then try to remedy the issue or concern privately with your customer. “How to respond to negative GMB reviews”
NOTE: From Google My Business support page, businesses should “interact with customers by responding to reviews that they leave about your business. Responding to reviews shows that you value your customers and the feedback that they leave about your business.” And “high-quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business’s visibility and increase the likelihood that a potential customer will visit your location.”
What does this mean? Responding to reviews WILL help improve your ranking in Google!
The metrics you find under your Insights Tab on your GMB profile are both somewhat helpful, and somewhat limited. You can only go back so far as the last quarter, so it’s a good idea to check in on your insights at least once a quarter if you can.
The first chart you see here is IMPRESSIONS and not clicks through to your profile.
Direct = People who are searching for your business by name or location. For example, “Odd Dog Media” or “Odd Dog Seattle”
Discovery = People who are searching by categories and see your listing. Examples: “Seattle SEO company” or “Best Marketing in company Seattle.” (see what we did there?)
These impressions are due to a combination of relevant website content, backlinks, GMB reviews, and Google’s overall trust in your business. Branded = These are impressions from searchers who are looking for a brand your business sells, but not necessarily your business. There is a bit of a difficult distinction between “Branded” and “Direct”. Basically, branded searches are searches for brands you sell (even if it’s a part of your business name) that return a list of results.
Direct searches are searches for your specific location that return a Knowledge Panel.
“State Farm” returns a 3-pack for several locations for State Farm. This is a branded search. “Toyota” will return a 3-pack for several locations including dealerships and repair shops, depending on what you are in proximity to. This is also a branded search. “Karrie Dubose – State Farm” or “Toyota of lake city” will both only return one GMB result as a knowledge panel on the right-hand side of the search results page.
The next set of data Google provides is where your customers are searching from most often. Are they finding you by searching on a search engine? Or right within maps?
This can be good information to understand, especially if you have a physical location. When people search from maps, they are more likely to be planning a visit soon. Again, this data below is impressions and not clicks to your profile.
And the next section is customer actions. When people do visit your GMB profile, what actions are they taking? Requesting directions? Are they visiting your website? Picking up the phone?
There are other insights Google provides and it can be overwhelming. We recommend just being mindful of the trends. Paying attention to the most common actions people are taking on your profile, and adding a tracking URL (mentioned above) so you can track what happens when people land on your website from your GMB listing. REMEMBER, Google My Business is a powerful asset to any local business owner, but you do not own it. Your website is the only piece of digital real estate you own!
MANAGING MULTIPLE LOCATIONS
Do you manage more than one business location, this next section is for you!
If you have under ten locations, the process will look much like the above for each location. You will need to claim or create and then verify each location. Do this from the same primary Google Account, so your one account will retain ownership of all locations.
From the main page of your GMB account business.google.com, go to the “Add Business” drop-down and select, “Add Single Business.” You can always add managers to these locations if someone else will need to be updating information for each listing.
If you have OVER ten locations, you will want to apply the bulk upload process. NOTE: This only works if all locations are the same business and not if you own several different businesses.
From the “Add Business” drop-down select, “Import Businesses.”
From here you will want to download the template. The sample spreadsheet can be helpful to use as a reference. You will want to make sure you fill in all required fields for each location.
Here is where the store codes will come in really handy as well.
For more information about each of the columns on the bulk spreadsheet, see the Google resource guide here. If any required fields are missing or filled out incorrectly, it will return errors, so make sure you are taking your time and filling all information as completely as you can. Yes, this process can be a bit tedious, BUT once uploaded, the verification process should be much faster and not require postcards sent to each location. If you are managing quite a few locations, Location Groups may be something you want to implement.
Location Groups allow you to group locations by area, manager, or whatever makes sense to you. By grouping your locations you can customize management permissions and make it easier for managers to edit their listings within their group vs having access to all locations.
WHAT ELSE TO KNOW AND CONCLUSION
Google My Business is a product that is constantly evolving. The features that are available for your business will change and update regularly. We learned how agile Google had to be in 2020 when it started adding COVID-19 updates. Features like Call Logging are currently being tested and may be implemented soon. And even more new features are currently being rolled out the the time of this post in 2021 including competitor quotes in messaging, and review removal management tool.
Lastly, it is important you are logging in and checking your Google My Business account regularly. Not only can users suggest changes to your information, Google has now started pulling data from sites like Yelp and other third-party apps and automatically updating business information. Make sure you are checking your information often and ensure it is correct!
Whew! We hope you have found this Ultimate Guide a valuable resource. Google My Business is one of the most important tools you can use for your business.
If you have any questions about your listing or need help making the best use of your GMB account, drop us a line!