A Google My Business profile is essential for local SEO. It’s free to set up and will enable you to appear in local search results for queries specific to your products or services. Even broad queries with large volumes are now showing local results and this is something small business owners can capitalize upon. We’ve been asking SEO experts for their advice on setting up and optimizing GMB listings..
These experts are:
- Greg Gifford, Director of Search and Social at DealerOn.
- Max Holloway, Senior Search Manager at Pi Datametrics.
- Kevin Gibbons, MD at Digital Marketing agency Bluegrass, and a contributor to SEW.
- Raj Nijjer, VP of Community at Yext.
How important is Google My Business for local SEO?
GMB is incredibly important, but it’s going to lose prominence now that they’re removing all location information from the GMB listings. There’ll now simply be a social interface (on a social network that no one is using). But – the GMB dashboard still feeds the info to Maps and the Knowledge Box for a business, so it’s still of vital importance to claim your location and fill out your info.
The increased visibility that Google has placed around Google Local listing results on mobile has meant that Google My Business is essential for local SEO. If you are searching on a mobile device you will see that organic results are now shown below the fold (you have to scroll down to see them) and there are now only the top three Google local results being shown – so due to the on-page real estate Google local can take up, there’s huge traffic opportunities for being listed for competitive searches.
GMB is incredibly important for local SEO. Without it you won’t be appearing on any local map listings in the SERPs which Google displays for the vast majority of local queries.
Critical. It’s the centerpiece and fundamental to any local campaign! You simply don’t exist if you don’t create a Google my business page for your local business.
What are the most important things businesses can do to optimize their Google local listings?
It’s absolutely important that the number listed is a local number, and that it matches the number displayed on the landing page it links to. It’s super important to use the actual business name and choose the correct categories as well. Beyond that, my suspicion is that nothing else will matter after the change.
I wrote a guide on this last year which should be a good starting point, but to pick out some of the key points – I would strongly suggest:
- Firstly claim your listing, as often many people don’t.
- Ensure your details are up-to-date (previously you might not have accepted Credit Cards).
- Double check your opening hours and phone number as these often change over time or the business has new owners or management
- Check the business images you are using and consider refreshing them or uploading higher res versions.
- Check no-one has made an edit to your listing and changed the businesses’s website to their affiliate link, have seen this too!
When it comes to choosing your categories be specific. You have a much better chance to rank for “Fresh grocery store” or “Organic butchers” than for generic terms like “Shop” or “Groceries”. You should also add photos of the business, or its customers and the people who work there. As well as opening hours and any other useful information such as parking locations.
It starts with getting NAP (name, address, phone) right and then creating citations (listings) on every other site like Yelp, Bing, Yahoo etc. Category is also important so the consumer can find you. Most recently Google announced their ranking methods at a surface level. Adding more information about your business always helps with click through rate. My advice has always been to get the website right and then copy all the information into GMB like description, hours, menu, photos etc. Having the same NAP information on your website is absolutely critical, especially marked up with schema.org so your website speaks the same language as Googlebot.
What advanced tactics can businesses use to improve local visibility?
Advanced tactics? Stick to the basics… have awesome content, a kickass link profile, and consistent citations…ƒ
- Pick a picture or logo that will make your listing stand out and get clicked
- Check the popular times of the day and use paid social or AdWords to drive more visitors during times your business is open but you are not as busy.
- Encourage local reviews and social checkins from your customers.
- Encourage visitors to upload photos of your venue/business.
- Use services like Yext to build relevant citations to build up the profile of your business and its physical location.
- Consider employing a Google certified photographer for a Indoor Street View tour of your business, this is something we did this for our own office recently which helps to show a more personal side to the business.
To really improve your local rankings you will want to build citations for your local listings, these can be on local business listing website (LBLs), other websites or even your own website i.e. in a store finder section. Another big ranking factor is to encourage customers to leave positive reviews on your GMB listing. Your star rating is also displayed on the map to searches so a high rating can also improve your click through rate from the SERPs. When this feature was first introduced it was very easily scammed; adding a large number of positive or negative reviews would have a huge impact on your ranking, and you could see small business on the outskirts of London ranking for terms for “Hairdresser London”. Fortunately this has now been fixed. To further improve your local visibility you will want to build pages about the services you offer in certain locations and theme those pages appropriately generally along the lines of [service] in [location]. If you notice some of these pages are having a hard time getting good rankings you’ll need to start building links into them. Often links from other local sites can have a bigger impact on the ranking than more generic or high authority sites, as Google will weight their locality higher than most other factors (when it comes to local rankings).
First, Prominence – reviews and exposure. Google wants to translate offline popularity online. Getting positive reviews is critical these days so it’s a must that business owners work with their best clients to get positive reviews that mention their products and service. Second, Duplicates – since there is no master record, publishers are constantly compiling and recompiling data which creates duplicates. Many of these duplicates have the wrong Name, Address or Phone. This can really harm your ranking! Suppressing these duplicates is a MUST because Googlebot is a machine and it can’t infer which listing is right. Finally, I call this approach the CAN principle.
- Consistency – having the same NAP data on directory sites and search engines. It’s something I evangelize at Yext.
- Accuracy – correcting your Nap data across the local ecosystem to make sure it’s consistent. Also, getting rid of duplicate listings which can harm your ranking because it confuses Google.
- Number – having authoritative citations (listings) across as many cites as possible. There are over 50 sites where you can create a citation for your local business and many more vertical-specific sites.