Google Business is a free platform that displays business information on Google search and Google maps. This platform allows business owners and marketers to control information that’s displayed about their business and feeds this into Google’s knowledge database to increase understanding about your brand online.
Claiming or creating your Google Business Page
So, now we know what we’re up against, how do we begin claiming some local visibility?
The first step is creating Google Business pages for any of the physical locations you own. It’s worth noting here that if you are using a virtual office, you can’t claim this as your own - you must have employees located at the physical address.
Setting up a new listing is simple.
- Create or login to your Google account
- Navigate to google.com/business and click start now on the top right-hand corner
- Follow the steps and enter the relevant details about your business starting with your name and address. Your name must be the same as how your business is presented elsewhere - e.g. you cannot include “Pet Paradise Best Pet Shop in Broadstairs” if your business is called “Pet Paradise”.
- Select an accurate category for your business. Sometimes it can be hard to find an exact match, so it can be useful to look at what competitors are using. If you search for a competitor’s location, you should be able to see their chosen category underneath the name. Getting this right is important, as it can affect how you’ll show for generic local searches. For example, you could appear for “pet shops in Broadstairs” if you select pet shop or pet care store as a category, alongside branded searches for one of your stores, e.g. “pets at home Broadstairs”. This also works for related terms, such as dog food stores, or cat toys.
- Add your business website and phone number. Now is a good time to utilise a campaign URL to help track how many users are clicking through to your website. Ensure you are consistent with your campaign URLs for all your locations.
- Finally, choose how you’d like to verify your listing – there are a few options to choose from, but they’re all self-explanatory.
If you find someone has already claimed your listing, you can follow these steps to request ownership.
Optimising your Google Business page for local visibility
Once you have a verified listing or multiple listings you can begin to look at optimising your business pages to give you the best chance of appearing within local searches.
- Ensure you enter as much data as possible: It sounds simple, but ensuring you complete as many of the fields as possible will help naturally build up relevant keywords and content within your Google Business page. It also helps users get accurate information about your business and give them a smooth customer journey. Remember that you can include details such as the services you offer, a 750-character description about your brand, special hours, your service areas, when the business was opened and more.
- Keep data accurate and in line with other online entities: Key to local organic growth is ensuring that the data you show – names, phone numbers and addresses - is consistent across the internet. This includes your website, social media profiles, local directories and more. Keep a spreadsheet or utilise a citation tool to help keep everything up to date and improve your strength as an online entity. Google will automatically link your social media profiles to your business page if you are consistent with your business name and data accuracy across your social media profiles. This is another reason why you should be actively managing your off-site digital presence.
- Add photos: Your Google business page is a great way to attract attention on search results as it offers you an opportunity to add visually attractive photos to the search results. Make sure you use something eye catching and that also sums up your brand. You want to at least show images of your team, offices/shop space, the exterior of your building and images of the service or products you offer. This will help to encourage click throughs and improve your chances of appearing within that competitive local pack and will soon let you add captions to images.
- Encourage positive reviews and respond to them: Nothing is a bigger turn off to a potential customer than not seeing any reviews, or equally, seeing bad reviews on a Google Business listing. We know that the number, location, and diversity of reviews on your Google Business Page all count as a ranking factor within those local pack results mentioned above.
To help bring in reviews, you can generate a business short name, which gives you access to a shortened URL to provide to users. This helps take away the pain of explaining to a customer how to leave a Google review.
To get a profile short name, simply click on the short name, section within the “info” page of your Google Business page account.
Once the short name is verified, you can utilise the shortened link to connect users directly to the reviews section of your page. To take them directly to add a review, use your shortened name within the following URL format:
So, for example, if you wanted to leave a positive review on Avenue Digital’s business page, you could visit this address:
This shortened URL is a fantastic way to add a review call to action to emails or other client communications.
Once you start getting more reviews, you should also consider responding to said reviews Business pages that regularly respond to reviews tend to have better visibility.
We recommend downloading the Google Business app to respond to reviews, update business data on the fly and also enable a live messaging system if you think it will help out your customers.
Use Google Business Posts:
Google My Business allows you to add posts to your business page. These are a great way to share offers and events, brand personality and event relevant content to users who see your brand page in map and search results.
Offer style posts are very prominent on search results, so we would suggest that you make the most of this feature. You can add up to 1,500 worth of characters and upload a relevant image or video on each post. Scheduling in post-uploads alongside your general marketing or content plan is an easy way to keep local search in mind when planning your marketing strategy.
Use the GMB Q&A feature:
Business pages also offer the opportunity for users to ask questions and receive answers from both the owner of the business page and the general public.
The good news is, that as a business owner you can ask and answer questions on your own page, meaning you can address questions that regularly come up without the user needing to leave their search results page.
Consider Bing (yes, it exists!):
Bing places now lets you automatically import your Google business data to their platform. This means it is very easy to increase your brands reach across another search engine as well as build up another layer of juicy off-site brand signals by having a Bing Places page in place.
Hopefully after this in-depth guide you should have a better idea of how much opportunity there is within local search and the value of getting your Google Business page established and thriving. Understanding how to optimise your Google Business page is just the beginning of how to reap rewards within this growing sector of organic marketing.
Jenny Sims, senior SEO strategist at Avenue Digital.