Google My Business is a free tool that allows business owners to create, manage and optimize their Google business profile. It exists to help businesses attract new customers from surveys and maps.
Here are just a few tangible benefits to claiming and optimizing your Google business profile:
- Improved ratings. Google shows business profiles in local search results, and well-optimized profiles are more likely to appear at the top of the list.
- Improved visibility . Providing useful and accurate information helps Google show your business profile in search results for more relevant local searches.
1. Create or claim your Business Profile
It’s important to note that Google Business Profiles and Google My Business are two separate things:
- Google Business Profile : A local listing with information about a business. Business Profiles appear in Google search on desktop and mobile devices and on Google Maps.
- Google My Business : A free tool to manage your Google business profile.
Before optimizing anything, you first need to create or claim your Google Business Profile through Google My Business. To do this, click here, click on “Manage Now” and sign in to your Google account.
If you’ve already claimed your Google Business Profile, you’ll see a management dashboard.
Otherwise, you’ll see an option to find and manage your listing. Enter your company name in the search box. If it appears in the dropdown menu, click on the business name and claim the profile. Otherwise, click on the option to create a new business with that name.
Just know that your company name in your business profile should actually be your company name, not an “optimized” version with a bunch of keywords.
Google states in its guidelines that if you do this, your profile may be suspended:
Your name should reflect your company’s real-world name as used consistently across your store, website, stationery, and known to customers. […] Including unnecessary information in your business name is not permitted and may result in your listing being suspended.
2. Define your business category
Categories describe what your business is about, not what it makes or sells. Always choose a main category that best describes your business as a whole, not your products or services.
For most companies, this is pretty easy. If you are a plumber, choose “plumber”. If you own a pizzeria, choose “pizzeria”. But there are times when the best choice is not so clear.
For example, let’s say you’re a chartered accountant who runs an accounting firm. You may wonder which of these categories to choose:
- Accounting firm
- statutory auditor
The answer is that there is no definitive answer. All three are valid options. However, Google’s advice is to be as specific as possible, so ‘certified accountant’ is probably the best option here.
This might seem counterintuitive, but it gives you the best chance of appearing in the most searches. A chartered accountant is a relevant result, whether people are specifically searching for a chartered accountant or, more broadly, an accountant. An accountant is a relevant result only for those looking for an accountant.
You can see this play out on the SERPs.
As for additional categories, only add them if you need to inform potential customers about products or services that don’t fall into your main category. For example, if your main category is ‘certified accountant’, there is no need to add ‘accountant’ as an additional category because it is very similar. But if you offer accounting or payroll services, it might be worth adding them.
3. Choose your business type
Google basically divides companies into three types.
- Physical stores serve customers and customers only at their business address. Examples: hairdressers, cafes, bars, shops, etc.
- Service area businesses visit or deliver to customers and clients, but do not serve from their business address. Examples: plumber, cleaning service, mobile hairdresser, etc.
- Hybrid companies serve clients and customers from their business address and also visit or deliver to them. Examples: a photographer who shoots both on location and in the studio or a restaurant that also offers delivery.
If you are a location business , define your address and leave the service area field blank. Do this on the Info tab.
If you are a service area business , click on the option to define your service area. You can add up to twenty of them, but it’s important to be accurate. Don’t list every place that comes to your mind in hopes of showing up for further searches. Google says that “the boundaries of your general area should not extend beyond about a 2-hour drive from where your business is located,” so usually one or two nearby cities will suffice. Use zip codes/postal codes if you need to be more granular.
Lastly, clear your address from the listing.
Note that this only hides your business location from searchers. Customers who search your service area will still be able to find you.
If you’re a service area business serving an entire state or country, it’s worth noting that the map packs, which contain Google Business Profiles, only show up for local searches. There is no logic in trying to optimize your Business Profile listing to appear everywhere. That’s not what they’re for. National or international ranking is more of a job for your real website.
If you are a hybrid company , follow the same steps as for the service area companies, but do not clear your address. Customers who want to visit your store or office still need it.
4. Add business hours
People need to know when you’re open and closed, so everyone should add their hours of operation. This probably sounds obvious, but there are many business profiles missing this essential information.
A restaurant with no opening hours listed.
To add your hours, go to Dashboard > Info > Add Hours
Mark the days it is open and add the times it opens and closes. If you close and reopen at the end of the day, as is often the case in restaurants with lunch and dinner services, click on the “add hours” option to add another line. You can do this as many times as you need.
5. Set vacation time
No one wants to waste time traveling for their business only to realize you’ve closed early for a holiday upon arrival. It’s frustrating and a surefire way to get bad reviews that can negatively affect your local rankings.
Fix this problem before it becomes a problem by adding “special hours”.
Just go to Dashboard > Information > Add Special Hours
As with regular hours, you can add multiple opening and closing times for the same day with the “add time” button. For example, maybe you open for a few hours in the morning on Christmas Eve and reopen in the evening. In this case, your special schedule would look like this:
Even if your vacation schedule is the same as usual, you still have to confirm it. Otherwise, potential customers searching on holidays may see a warning on your listing.
6. Add your contact details
Most companies will want to add their website and phone number, which you can do under the “Info” tab.
You should only leave them blank if you don’t have a website or don’t want to be contacted by phone. At a minimum, you need to add at least one of them to your business profile. Otherwise, there is no way for customers to contact you.
7. Add photos
Google says that businesses with photos receive 42% more requests for driving directions and 35% more website clicks than businesses without photos.
Anyone can add photos to a Google Business listing, including customers. But adding photos yourself helps ensure that your listing looks its best and stands out for the right reasons in search results.
Google has many guidelines for business photos, but here are the basics:
- Add your logo: the clearer the better.
- Add a Cover Photo : Choose something that showcases your business personality.
- Add 3+ outside photos. View them from multiple angles throughout the day to help customers find your business – anytime.
- Add 3+ interior photos. Capture your business decor and ambience to attract customers.
- Add more than 3 product photos. Display your most popular items.
- Add 3+ “at work” photos. Show your team providing services to customers.
- Add 3+ team photos. Humanize your business by showcasing the personalities of your team members and employees.
When it comes to photos, more is apparently better. A study by BrightLocal found that businesses with 100+ photos receive 520% more calls, 2717% more directions requests, and 1065% more website clicks than the average business.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to add hundreds of photos right off the bat. Start with the guidelines above and add more photos over time.
Just make sure you name them all appropriately, for example bridesmaid dress.jpg, not IMG_574921.png.
Recommended Reading: How Reviews Affect Local SEO
8. Add products and services
If Google gives you the option to add products and services to your business listing, it’s usually worth doing so, as it can help your business listing appear for even more relevant searches.
For example, this bridal wear business has listed all the bridal gowns they offer as products:
Apparently, as a result, their listing pops up for local queries related to dresses and specific brands like “lillian west wedding dress sheffield”:
Just be sure to add all the details relevant to your products and services, including name, price, category, description and a link to the related product or service page on your website. Feel free to copy and paste your website descriptions and details to speed up this process. There is no harm in doing this and it will not cause duplicate content issues.
9. Get more reviews
According to Bright Local’s 2020 study, reviews are becoming more important for local map pack ratings. And Google itself claims that “high-quality, positive reviews from your customers can improve your business’s visibility and increase the likelihood that a buyer will visit your location.”
Interestingly, Google also highlights comments containing relevant keywords from the searcher’s query in the results.
But how do you actually get reviews?
Here are some ways:
- Ask the customers. If you interact face-to-face with customers and feel they had a positive experience, ask them to leave a review.
- Motivate your employees. Just train and educate your employees to ask customers for reviews.
- Create and share a review link . Many customers don’t know how to leave reviews on Google. Google knows this, which is why it gives every business the option to create a shareable review link. Find it on Google My Business > Home > Get More Reviews .
- Create “leave a comment” cards. Print physical cards that thank customers for their business and ask them to leave a review. Include your abbreviated review link or a QR code to make things easier.
- Include your review link in your email signature. If you communicate with customers via email, this is a great passive way to get more reviews.
Just know that it’s against Google’s terms to offer customers incentives in exchange for reviews, so stay away from tactics like offering discounts or free stuff in return.
10. Answer the questions
People may have questions about your business that your listing doesn’t answer. That’s why Google allows users to ask questions about businesses and get answers from business owners and the community at large.
Many companies do not address these questions, leaving it to other people to provide the answers. This is rarely ideal and often causes customers to see misleading or inaccurate information about your business.
For example, here’s someone asking if they need to book in advance at a local bar, only to get mixed responses from the local community:
Only negatives can come from this. Mixed answers will likely stop that person and others from visiting or make them angry that they were turned away because they didn’t book in advance. These are the people who will leave negative reviews and destroy your local SEO.
For this reason, we recommend a proactive Q&A approach, and there are two ways to do this:
- Turn on question and answer notifications . Receive alerts whenever someone asks a question about your business and respond immediately. Don’t worry about getting too many annoying notifications. Unless your company is super popular, questions are pretty rare. Note that these alerts are enabled by default, but it’s worth double-checking in settings.
- Provide answers to frequently asked questions in advance . Most sites have a FAQ page with answers to common questions. You can ask and provide answers to these questions yourself in your Google listing. Just make sure you’re signed in to the same Google account you use for Google My Business so that responses are marked as coming from the business owner.
11. Post updates
Posts allow you to share updates, offers, and events related to your business. Think of them as status updates. They appear in a carousel near the bottom of the Google Business dashboard.
Google also occasionally shows relevant posts in the ‘map pack’ results.
For example, if we search for “woodburn oregon sympathy flowers”, Valley Pacific Floral will be sorted in the map pack. And Google pulls up one of your posts that mentions the term “sympathy flowers” from our search.
It’s unclear if this business is ranked here because of this post or if it would be ranked independently. Either way, it helps the listing stand out on the SERPs and attract more attention from potential customers.
To create a post, go to the Posts tab and click the button to create your first post.
Here are some tips for your posts:
- Use good photos . Make sure they are bright, well lit, and well framed.
- Inspire action with your headline . Make an effort to create compelling offers. Don’t just say “Sell now” when you could say “50% off all weekend”.
- Be accurate . Avoid being vague as the plague. Don’t say “It’s Happy Hour!” when you could say “Happy Hour! 50% off all drinks from 5pm to 6pm every Saturday!”
- Be punctual . Don’t wait until Valentine’s Day to post about your special candlelit dinner. People have already made plans by then.
- Don’t post just for posting. Many guides say that posts “send positive signals to Google” and “post as often as possible”. We disagree. Don’t post unless you have something meaningful to say.
Learn more about creating great business posts in this short Google guide .
12. Configure messages
Enabling messaging adds a button to your Google Business listing so searchers can message you directly.
Google also shows the “Message” button on Google Maps.
To activate this feature, download the Google My Business app for iOS or Android. From there, log into your Google account, go to the Customers tab, then the Messages tab and click on the option to enable messages.
Google doesn’t use your phone number for this. Messages appear in the app, so it is safe to install it on a non-commercial phone with no privacy issues.
13. Fill in everything else
Most of the important Google My Business options are now complete, but it’s worth taking a minute to fill in what’s left. This varies slightly depending on the category you’ve chosen for your business.
For example, restaurants can list their menu items, beauty salons can use a third-party provider to allow users to book appointments directly from their Business Profile, and so on.
Don’t worry too much about “optimizing” the remaining fields. Just fill them in as accurately as possible and you’re good to go.
14. Optimize your website
Have you ever noticed that Google sometimes shows business profiles in search results when their website mentions what you’re looking for?
Nowhere in this company’s profile is there any mention of dermal fillers. It looks like the phrase is on your real website, which Google picks up.
So it’s worth mentioning the products and services you sell on your website.
Of course, most sites already do this to some extent. If you sell bridesmaid dresses, your website probably mentions it. However, it’s easy to miss out on important products and services that local people might be looking for. To find them, enter the products and services that your site already mentions into a keyword research tool like Keyword Explorer, then check the Also ranking for the report. This shows you other keywords that the top ranking sites for your keywords also rank for.
Let’s paste them into the Keyword Explorer and check the ranking for the report as well.
Here, we see products and services that the site doesn’t mention, such as cheek fillers, under-eye fillers, lip injections, and jaw fillers. It’s always possible that the site doesn’t mention these services because they don’t offer them, but given their other services, it’s quite likely that they provide at least some. And if that’s the case, they should probably add them to their website.
For example, let’s say this company offers lip injections but forgot to mention it on their website.
If we search for that keyword, we’ll see a map pack in the search results.
This tells us that the query has local intent. In other words, people who type this into Google are looking for local businesses that provide this service. Because of this, it might be worthwhile for the company to mention this service somewhere on the website.
Now, it’s important to note that this is not about lazily “keyword scattering” in your website copy. It will not work. This will simply make your website look unprofessional. So make sure you add products and services to your website in a way that makes sense, such as:
- Reworking your homepage copy to mention more products and services (don’t go crazy here, keep it natural and readable above all).
- Add new pages for individual products or services.
- Mention the additional products and services you offer in an FAQ page.
Implementing most of the above optimizations should take no more than half an hour. After that, you’ll have a well-optimized business profile that won’t fall victim to the common optimization mistakes many business owners make.
However, you should still review everything periodically to keep your profile accurate. (Once every few months should settle).
It’s also important to realize that the purpose of your Google business profile is to appear for queries with local intent. In other words, queries where users look for businesses, products, and services in their local area. This is something that many business owners don’t understand. If you want people to find your business across the state, country, or internationally, you’ll need to invest in SEO beyond Google My Business.
Learn how to do this in our complete guide to local SEO.