Any business today needs targeted visibility on Google. Most businesses know that this requires optimizing their website and Google Ads, but what most don’t know is that there is a third entity that also needs optimizing: their Google business listing. Officially known as your Business Profile, this powerful listing is a dynamic snapshot of your business that highlights your best features and enables potential customers to quickly find, learn about, and engage with you—all from the SERP. The best part? It’s completely free.
And yet, despite the 167 billion searches performed on Google each month, a BrightLocal study showed that the typical Business Profile only averages 1,260 views during that same period (that’s 0.00000075%!). Even worse, only 59 actions are taken from those 1,260 views. That’s less than 5%.
The problem is not the Google Business platform; it’s that not nearly enough businesses take full advantage of its impressive features. And that’s why we’ve written this guide. Here are 13 ways to optimize your Google Business Profile:
With these optimizations, you can turn your Business Profile into the best free customer acquisition tool you didn’t know you had. Let’s get into it.
Note: The more familiar term “Google business listing” is officially known by Google as your Business Profile, so we’ll be using “Business Profile” throughout this post.
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Before we get into the strategies, let’s make sure we’re on the same page about what an optimized Business Profile looks like and why you need one. To help you visualize what you’re striving for and why, let’s take a look at a mockup of an incomplete Google Business Profile versus a complete and optimized one.
Here, Carl’s Google Business Profile is a short box, but Ernie’s Business Profile would show even more when you scroll. This diagram doesn’t encompass all of the features of an optimized Google Business Profile, but it does give you an idea of how much more attractive and engaging an optimized profile is.
The comparison above makes it clear that an optimized Business Profile on Google helps consumers to choose your business over competitors, but there are other benefits to optimizing your Business Profile for effective local marketing.
More and more, consumers are entering and exiting Google without going to any other website. Why? Because the information in search results pages themselves is fully answering their questions, resulting in “zero-click searches.” With potentially more consumers interacting with your businesses through your Google Business Profile than your website, you’ll want that profile to be optimized for quality engagement and conversions.
Google’s algorithm for ranking Business Profiles does not just consider proximity and relevance but also activity and quality of information. Optimizing your Google Business Profile sends these signals to Google to rank you higher in local results. And higher rank, as you know, means more visibility and engagement with your business.
A regular Google Business Profile alone doesn’t offer much in the way of acquiring customers. They can find out where you are located and read your reviews—if they know to search your business name in the first place (creative business name ideas here!). But with an optimized Business Profile through your Google My Business account, consumers can discover you in keyword searches, call you, visit your website, research your products and services, view/contribute FAQs, request a quote, book an appointment, make a reservation, and more. Plus, you can track clicks to your website, appointment, or menu link using UTMs and Google Analytics.
Now that you see that optimizing your Google Business Profile is the key to getting found in local search, standing out above competitors, and winning customers online, it’s time to get to work on doing just that. Here are 13 ways you can turn your Google Business Profile into a 24/7 marketing and lead generation tool for your local business.
First and foremost, it’s important to note here that a Google Business Profile is a separate entity from a Google My Business account. The latter is used to gain access to and optimize the former. Which means that in order to make the optimizations laid out in this guide, you need to have a Google My Business account and then tell Google to connect it with your Google Business Profile. To create an account, head to Google.com/business and sign in with the regular Google/Gmail account you use for your business (as opposed to your personal Gmail, if you have one).
The completeness of your Google Business Profile not only helps Google to rank you higher in local search results, but it also increases the number of actions customers take when they find your profile. There’s a lot of information to provide, so here are some guidelines for prioritizing.
These aspects of your profile should be completed right away:
These sections take a bit more time and thought:
These sections are ongoing:
Here are the steps for optimizing the contact information in your Google Business Profile:
The first thing to note is that the brief description that appears just below your business name in your Business Profile is not actually in your control. This is the editorial summary that Google writes to ensure consistency across the platform.
This description is not in your control.
Bummer, I know. But the good news is that Google does a pretty good job at coming up with descriptions.
The description you do have control over is the “from the business” section in your Google My Business account dashboard. This section appears lower in your profile, often under the reviews section.
To optimize the “from the business” section of your Google Business Profile:
Choosing a category is a must for optimizing your Google Business Profile. Here’s why:
Your category appears in the top portion of your Google Business Profile.
Google offers a set number of categories, so it’s important to choose the correct ones. Here’s how to optimize your Google Business Profile using categories:
Also, keep in mind that Google might ask you to verify your business if you edit your category list or add multiple. This is just to ensure accuracy across their platform.
As we just mentioned, once you choose a category, Google will give you a list of attributes you can check off to further describe your business. Attributes are special features that potential customers seek out, like “gift shop on-site” or “free wi-fi.”
Attributes are not specific to the Google My Business platform (review sites like Yelp have them, too). But Google’s attributes get really granular, like “good for working on laptop” or “popular for travelers”. Check out this attribute list to see what I mean.
Uploading photos to your Business Profile through your Google My Business account dashboard is important for three reasons:
This doesn’t mean you should go crazy and add a hundred images to your profile at once. Follow these tips to use photos to optimize your Google Business Profile:
Google will pull a specific photo from a Business Profile and display it directly in local results if it matches the keyword searched.
If you were to get a list of businesses in search results like the one below, which one would you be most likely to choose? The one with four attractive yellow stars or one of the two below with no reviews at all?
Google knows that reviews are the #1 influence on consumer buying, so this is a key ranking factor in their algorithm. You can also see for yourself the impact of reviews on ranking. For most searches performed on Google, the first three local results that appear (in what is known as the “Local 3-Pack”) are the ones with multiple reviews and solid star ratings:
In addition, Google may also display a Business Profile in search results if it has reviews that contain those keywords.
Google will embolden keywords in your reviews to further validate relevancy.
To optimize your Google Business Profile with reviews, follow these tips to stand out from competitors:
For a deeper dive into this optimization strategy, check out this post on how to get more Google reviews.
Be careful not to incentivize reviews with discounts, gifts, or cash, though—that’s not allowed.
Just like with social media platforms, you can post to your Google Business Profile about announcements, offers, events, and products. Posts are created in your Google My Business dashboard and show up on the “Updates” section toward the bottom of your Business Profile. However, they might become more prominent based on the search query.
Here’s how posts help you to optimize your Google Business Profile:
Your Google My Business posts will even appear on Maps—it’s free advertising for your local business!
Here are your tips for optimizing your Google Business Profile with posts:
Have you noticed on Amazon that in addition to the product description and customer reviews, there is a section for questions and answers? Google offers the same feature in Google Business Profiles.
Image courtesy of searchengineland.com
Answers to these questions may be the impetus for a customer deciding to choose your business. However, this section is particularly important to optimize because not only can anyone ask a question on a business’s Google profile but also anyone can answer. This can lead to inaccurate information on your profile, or even worse, something like the Q&A on this pizza restaurant’s profile:
You can’t turn off the Q&A feature of your Business Profile, but there are ways to optimize it:
By monitoring and seeding your Q&A section, you can ensure accurate information, highlight your best features, and reduce common barriers to entry.
Note: Google has temporarily suppressed the Q&A section of most Business Profiles right now in response to COVID-19, so you may not see this option for yours for a while. For more help with Google My Business in relation to COVID-19, dbaPlatform offers some great tips.
Adding products and services is especially helpful if your offerings are not made clear in your business name. Populating this section also adds content to your profile that can help it to rank for even more relevant searches.
When adding products and services, include the name, description, and price (if applicable). The full description will show up once a searcher clicks on the product. Also, Google may link to your products from your category section.
This feature gives searchers the option to send a text message to your phone directly from your Google Business Profile. With 82% of smartphone shoppers (92% for millennials) using their device for local search, this is a great opportunity for customers to get in touch with you.
To enable messaging, select the “Messaging” tab in your Google My Business dashboard, and you have the option to install this via Google Play or the Apple App Store.
Two notes on Google My Business messaging:
As you can see, a Google Business Profile is not a one-and-done marketing task. It’s a local marketing tool that requires ongoing action in order to increase your online presence and maximize your benefits. This includes:
Just like any Google SEO strategy, your Google Business strategy should center around providing as much quality information about your business as possible, not just in your Business Profile but in the sources that Google uses to populate it—your website, review site profiles, and even your social media accounts. We can’t ever know every specific ranking factor, but we do know their ultimate goal: to connect searchers to the best business for their needs through detailed, trusted information. So focus on using your Google My Business dashboard to get your Business Profile to represent your business as accurately and thoroughly as possible, and then make sure to maintain this, and you will reap its benefits.
Kristen is the Senior Managing Editor at WordStream, where she helps businesses to make sense of their online marketing and advertising. She specializes in SEO and copywriting and finds life to be exponentially more delightful on a bicycle.
See other posts by Kristen McCormick
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