You’ve probably heard that you need a Google My Business (GMB) listing as part of your overall local SEO strategy.  And you probably know that you need to optimise it in order to rank well in local searches on search engines such as Google.   But maybe you don’t know what a GMB listing is, never mind optimise it.  A Google My Business listing is really important for just about any business, but it is especially important if you have a local business.   Before we get into the 9 ways to optimise your Google My Business listing, let’s look at what it is and why it’s important.

What is a Google My Business Listing?

Google My Business (formerly known as Google Local and Google Places) is a free local marketing tool for your business.  It’s how your business gets displayed in Google Search and Google Maps.   It contains your most important business information such as your address, telephone number and opening hours, as well as updates, photos and descriptions of your key services.  It’s also a place where others can read reviews about your business.

After doing a search in Google Maps for “dentist London”, the page resulted in three paid ads at the top (the third one is visible here) and then three businesses are listed under the map.  This is called the map pack or 3 pack.   Ideally, you want your business to appear in the map pack area.

9 ways to optimise your google my business listing

Go to google.com/maps and do a search for your business.   If you do have a listing, then you are one step ahead because a lot of businesses haven’t even claimed theirs.   But, if you don’t have a listing, then go to google.com/mybusiness and follow the instructions.

Read More: 10 Local SEO Tips For Small Businesses 

Why A GMB Listing Is Crucial

Having a fully optimised GMB listing is a vital part of a local SEO strategy. One of the first places that customers looking for your products and services online will go is Google. Did you know that 46% of all searches have local intent and that a company’s location is the main piece of information searchers are looking for? This just shows you how much your business listing can benefit by appearing on Google search.

While there are many reasons why a GMB listing is so important, here are the top five:

1.      A GMB listing increases your visibility online.

2.      You can share information with your potential customers.

3.      Replying to customers in real-time is really easy.

4.      Customers can leave you a review.

5.      It’s free.

So now you know why you need a business listing, but how do you go about making sure it’s as good as it possibly can so that Google will place you in the map-pack?

Here are the 9 ways to optimise your Google My Business listing.

1.  Avoid Keyword Spamming the Business Name Field

One of the easiest ways to optimise your Google My Business listing is to pay attention to the business name field. According to Google “including unnecessary information in your business name is not permitted, and could result in your listing being suspended.”  However, a lot of businesses are filling their business name field with extra keywords.

Take the example below.  A search for “architects London” returned these results.  GOA Studio and Urbanist Architecture appeared in the top two organic positions.  Urbanist Architecture has added in the keywords “RIBA Chartered Accountants London” after their business name in the hopes of improving their ranking.   This is a definite “no-no”.  If you do this, you can get your listing suspended.

Google My Business listing for architects London

2. Choose a relevant, specific category

Make sure that the primary category you’re using for your business is the best possible choice based on your business’ products and services. It can make a big difference as you try to improve visibility for terms related to that category.

Google updates its list of categories, so it’s good to check that your business is listed under the correct one. Have a look at the categories your competitors are using because if you have something different to all of your direct competitors, then it’s possible you’ve picked the wrong one.

3. Make sure your information is correct

This might be stating the obvious, but you should ensure that all the information you provide is 100% correct.  Check that the name of your business, the address and phone number are correct. It happens all too often that a phone number is incorrect.  That means you are losing business due to a simple mistake.

Sometimes it’s the simple stuff that can make all the difference.

4. Publish posts, photos and videos regularly

Do you know you can add photos to your listing? When you claimed your business you might have uploaded your logo and thought that’s all you needed to do.  Get into the habit of uploading pictures on a weekly basis.  It can be of your product, your team at work, or the interior and exterior of your office.  If you are a service-based business, you can also upload screenshots of the tools you use making sure that no personalised information is visible.

If in doubt, spy on your competitors. Go to Google Maps and type in your category. What kinds of pictures are your competitors uploading? Don’t forget, you can even ask your clients to upload pictures of them using your products.

5. Ask for Google My Business reviews

Business listings that include customer reviews present greater credibility and receive more clicks. You want more clicks, right?   The quality and quantity of reviews on Google is one of the most important ranking factors for local SEO.  Which listing is someone going to click on? The one with no reviews or the one with lots of reviews, even if some of them are not so flattering? The latter of course.   People want to know what other people are saying about your business.

Get into the habit of sending out review requests on a regular basis.  It might feel uncomfortable at first, but most people are more than happy to write a review.  You might have to send reminders a couple of times, but it’s definitely worth being persistent.

Read more: GMB Reviews – 7 Ways To Build Your Credibility

6. Add UTM Code

Google My Business “insights” aren’t very accurate or reliable and you most certainly want to know how many visitors to your website you are getting via your GMB listing.  Adding a UTM tracking code helps you track your impressions in search console and in Google Analytics.

If the local map pack was driving the majority of traffic to your website, then you will want to spend more time ensuring that you’ve optimised your GMB profile in order to improve your local map pack rankings.

If on the other hand, the majority of your traffic does not come from your GMB listing, then it might be an early indicator that the site doesn’t rank well in those map packs, or it may be a sign that the map packs don’t play that big a role in a given industry.

Only by determining where traffic is coming from can you determine where you need to focus your efforts the most.

Put this code after your website.  Here’s what I mean:

https://yourcompanyname.co.uk/?utm_source=GMB&utm_medium=Website

Then, go to your GMB listing and log in.  In the WEBSITE field, remove the website link if you have one there already and replace it with the one with the link you’ve created with the UTM code.  The changes will remain in “pending” while Google reviews it.  Once approved, you’ll be able to view the data in Google Analytics and Google Search Console.

7. Attributes

Attributes in a Google My Business profile are designed to grab searchers’ attention by highlighting important service offerings.    From the menu, click Info.   Find “Add Attributes” and click Edit. You can search for the attribute you want to add or scroll through all the available options for your business.

Note that all businesses do not have access to all attributes. Available attributes vary according to the category of business.

For example, a dentist is unlikely to be able to add attributes such as “online care” and “online classes” to their GMB listing.   Look through the options and choose those that are most relevant to your business.

8. Fill Out All The Information As Completely As Possible

This might sound like a very obvious tip but you’d be surprised at just how many sections businesses leave out.  Pay particular attention to the Services tab.  Ensure your name and describe each one of your services.  Also, spend some time writing the Info section using keywords you want to be found for.  Again, make sure that all the information is accurate.

 9. Geotagging

Geotagging is essential for Google My Business because each listing is based on an exact location and Google Maps. Adding a geotag to a photo gives Google more information to index, helping your business rank higher on Google.   Check out the free geotagging tool from  Geolmgr    There’s also a great YouTube video on how to geotag your GMB photos for free which is definitely worth watching.

So there you have it.  These 9 ways to optimise your Google My Business listing will set you apart from your competition.