I recently covered some of the components involved in creating a local seo strategy, part of which mentioned improving your Google My Business page. While I said we would come back and revisit that as a blog post of its own, I just couldn’t wait. Indeed, there is no time like the present. And one thing I have noticed is that it’s not entirely uncommon for some local businesses to jump into optimizing for search while skipping this very important step.

Google basically owns search — the search engine pulls in nearly 90 percent of all searches in the United States according to StatCounter. And according to industry experts, GMB signals are now carrying even more weight than ever in local search. So if you haven’t yet, really consider pumping up your GMB profile to improve your local search rankings.

What is a Google My Business Page?

Don’t worry, there is no such thing as a dumb question. So before we go too far about why you should improve your GMB profile and how to do it, let’s start with the fundamentals. What exactly are we talking about, here?

Google describes Google My Business as a “free business profile [that] lets you easily connect with customers across Google Search and Maps.” Third-party marketing service Hubspot similarly describes it as a “free tool that lets you manage how your business appears on Google Search and Maps.”

Stop! Don’t Overlook Your Google My Business Page
First and foremost, ensure your name, address and phone number are consistent on your GMB page.

It’s the business profiles that show up often when people search for local items such as “pizza in arlington” or “barbers near me” or similar queries.

In short: Your GMB page can be the face of your company when people search for it.

Why Optimize Google My Business

As noted earlier, if your company is competing in the local space, how you decide to optimize Google My Business is becoming a bigger factor in how customers will — or won’t — find you. Moz found in late 2018 that for searches in the “Google snack pack” — the first three businesses that often show up on a map when you perform local searches — GMB signals were far and away the most important ones. Signals coming from GMB pages, including how far the searcher is from your business’ address on the profile, which keywords you input into your profile, and properly categorizing your services make up over 25 percent. Next in line was link signals which include how backlinks are sent to your site, which totaled 16 percent.

So essentially, you can do all the on-site and off-site SEO work you want, but if you fail to overlook this crucial step, Google will favor competitors who are doing at least similar work and have their GMB profiles optimized. In fact, it could even place some competitors ahead of you despite the other work you are doing.

In short: GMB optimization is the most important factor in showing up in the Google’s local pack. Sign up or claim your business here.

How to Optimize Google My Business

Because it’s nice and neat when things go in threes, I would put optimizing your GMB page into three buckets. Now, it is highly encouraged that you get as close to filling all three buckets as you can. But I understand you actually do have other things to do, so maybe you can knock off one of these buckets each week or something.

  • The Essentials: This is the “bare bones I just need to claim my listing and make sure my business looks open” step. Which is not the preferred final step, but it’s better than nothing. Here is what you should have at the very least in your GMB profile:
    • NAP: What this is referring to is ensuring that everywhere online, references to your business have the name, address, and phone number of your business should show exactly the same. If not, search engines get confused.
    • At least one photo
    • A description of your business
    • Store hours
  • Should-haves: This is the preferred minimum, though surprisingly so many businesses have yet to even reach this level. Running on just the essentials will be fine as a temporary measure until you can find time to get more photos, think about what you do and put it into words, etc. Just know if you stick with “the essentials,” your returns will reflect that. At some point you are going to want to include some of these on your Google My Business Page:
      • Better photos: Work in the staff, a couple more pictures of the interior/exterior of your business, some products, and customers if they will let you.
      • Review responses/management: Not the most fun part of the job, though it is a great opportunity to let potential customers know how you respond to the good, the bad and the ugly. Respond gracefully to poor reviews, using the opportunity to seek feedback. And don’t forget to thank the positive reviewers!
      • Google Messages: With the popularity of text messaging, this is a great tool that allows customers to reach out via SMS. You can set an automated message that customers receive once they reach out and get back when is most convenient for you.
      • Rest of profile: A link to your website, social media profiles, and a few other fairly straightforward boxes you can check.
  • You’re a pro: At this point, you’ve fully embraced the awe-inspiring power Google has over search and are willing to go the extra mile to ensure your company page is fully optimized in your Google My Business page. A few things note:
    • Posts: Here, you can make special announcements such as new product launches or sales, post information including blog posts, or just share a positive customer review. These disappear every seven days, so the point is to stay current with them.
    • Video: This doesn’t have to be long. In fact, it’s recommended to keep it short. Make a quick, 30-second elevator pitch and ask people to visit your site for more information.
    • GMB App: Launched in November 2018, this allows you to change items in your profile remotely (such as add pictures), and respond to reviews and messages sent to your business when you’re on the go.
    • Q&A: Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and ask your business a question. Then answer it. Future customer satisfied!

In short: If need be, take baby steps as you update your GMB page, but at least start by activating it! From there, fill it out as you become more comfortable with the platform, and then really use it as an engagement tool to eventually help you move up in local SEO rankings.

While I’d like to say, “That’s it,” it’s really not (note the “posts” section). However if you can make yourself a pro Google My Business page, you give yourself the chance to stretch ahead of or catch up to local competitors. This is one very important tool in the very large toolkit that is the digital marketing toolbox. And marketing your business appropriately and effectively is a continual process, especially in today’s rapidly changing marketing landscape. Who knows what Google will drum up next.