Some people will frown when you mention Google My Business (GMB), some have heard about is and some did the basics to claim their business listing. Hopefully most business owners see the value in this great Google tool and make most of all its features. Most internet browsers use Google as their search engine and using Google tools to maximise your business for local SEO, just makes sense.
In this blog, we want to point out the basic optimisation settings you as business owner, should address with your GMB listing.
Use your business name – not a keyword-optimised name
Use the same name that visitors will see when they visit your website, Facebook account etc. Do not use keywords in your GMB name as Google sees this as spam and might penalise your business. If you did this by accident, simply log into your GMB account and go to the “info” tab and correct it by clicking on the pencil.
The business category you choose when you first created your listing, is key to how well you will rank in google maps for the products or services you offer. Since your primary category tells Google what your business is about, it is important you choose it very carefully. Google offer various categories, and some are closely related. Make sure your primary category is correct. You can also add additional categories. Make sure to visit your category options regularly, as Google updates their lists regularly.
Here you have 3 options. The first is having a brick-and mortar business where you have to enter your address correctly. The address on your website should also be consistent with your GMB address, for example: don’t write your address as Smith Street on your website and Smith Road on GMB.
The second option is if you have a service business where you mostly go to your customer, e.g., a plumbing business. For this it would be best to list a service area. For this, simply click the pencil icon next to service area and select the areas you cover. You can choose between country, city, region, and metropolitan areas and up to twenty areas, which should be more than enough.
Option three is where you have both…a brick-and mortar and service people at their home. In this case, combine the two options above.
List your business hours as is. Google will not rank your business higher when you indicate that you are opened 24/7. Wrong business hours will frustrate your customers when Google says you’re open, only to find your business closed when they arrive at your location. Also make use of the special hours option to address your office hours during national holidays etc. Do this in the beginning of the year and you won’t have to worry about it for the whole year.
This is a straightforward one. Simply add your primary telephone number and two additional numbers if applicable. If you use a call tracking number, make sure to make this number your primary number and your main number your secondary contact number, otherwise you will not be able to track calls coming in from Google.
Create a shortname
This is a fairly new feature which gives you a shortlink for when people click on it, takes them directly to your Google listing. The format is simple and looks like this: https://g.page/[yourcustomname]. You can share this link easily with potential customers so they can easily find you via Google maps, read your reviews etc. Use it on your business cards, email signature and everywhere you think it might be relevant. Simply click on the pencil icon next to “add short name”. Your business name should be the obvious choice and can be between 5 and 32 characters long and can only be changed 3 times per year.
Add your website
Simply add your website URL for visitors to have a quick link to your website. If you have Google Analytics connected to your GMB, all website clicks will be viewed as organic views to measure the effectiveness of your listing.
Book an appointment link
Add a link where people can request or schedule a booking with you. This can either be a link to your website’s contact page. You can take it a step further and add a Book Online button, which can be done by a scheduling provider that has to be approved by Google. You can find a list of these approved scheduling providers here: https://www.google.com/maps/reserve/partners
Add your services
If you are a service-based business, you can add these services as part of the GMB listing. It will give your visitors a good idea of what you do, and you can describe your services in detail with up to 300 words per service and you can add a price.
Add your products
If you can see a Products tab, your business can add products and you should seize this opportunity. Simply create a product, choose/create a relevant category, add a price, add a description of up to 1000 words. Then choose a button with a link of where visitors can get this product. Finally, you can add an image of your product, with an ideal size of 720 x 720 pixels. When you’re satisfied that everything is correct, simply save and create more products.
This feature allows your customers to view what else you have to offer, like free wi-fi, wheelchair accessibility, pet friendly, child friendly etc. The options will depend on your business type.
Add a description
Adding a description to your listing, will help visitors to see what your business is all about. This is similar to an About Us webpage. This will not help with the ranking of your business, but more with customer experience. You can describe your business in 750 words, you cannot use any links in this description. Adding keywords in this section will not help with your ranking.
Add an opening date
Add a date your business opened or if it is a new business, you can add a date up to 12 months in advance. Just make sure to click on the “verify later” option
More than 60% of consumers indicated that images grab their attention and are likely to influence their decision to do business with you or not. Photos will give your visitors a visual indication of what they can expect if they do decide to deal with you. Depending on the type of business, you can expect different options. For a brick-and mortar business, you will have options like 360-degree videos, interior, exterior, food and drinks, menu etc. A service-based business will have less options, like video, at work, team, identity etc. Make sure your photo’s looks professional and is inspiring and authentic. Please don’t use stock imagery as it will not look genuine, and Google can delete it. Don’t just stop with photos. You have the ability to upload videos, which can be easily taken with any smart phone. No expensive equipment and skills needed. Update your imagery regularly as Google now give browsers the ability to search for business by photo’s.
This tool is especially useful for businesses with multiple locations. “Store codes” enable you to specify an ID for each location separately. Each ID has to be unique, excluding spaces, special characters and can be up to 64 characters long. “Labels” are useful if you run AdWords and can synchronise your GMB with your AdWords campaigns. The “Google ads location extensions phone” option is helpful if you’re running Google Ads and will enable you to use a different phone number than the primary phone number you use in your GMB listing.
Now that we have addressed the basic GMB settings, there are other powerful features that will make your listing stand out.
This should form part of your digital strategy and is extremely important in 2021, because  86% of consumers read reviews of local businesses before they decide whether they will support you or not. Reviews are also the  third most powerful factor that will influence the ranking of your listing in Google maps. How to get them? Simply ask! Once your business with a client is conducted, simply write them an email with your review link that they can click on to leave the review. Remember to respond to all reviews whether they are positive or negative and never try to settle a dispute via the review’s platform. Also never pay for reviews or get someone to write fake reviews. Remember, you will never satisfy everyone…no matter how hard you try.
Answers and Questions
This is a feature very little business owners gives attention to or monitor regularly. Anybody can ask a question about your business on your listing, and anybody can answer those questions, which can damage your reputation. Therefore, make sure that you get notified whenever anyone asks a question. For this, go to the Settings tab and make sure the alert about Answers & Questions is turned on. The good new is that you can write your own questions and answers in your GMB panel. As someone types in a question, Google will try to match the question with an already generated answer. Another tip is to “like” the most relevant question, which will send the question to the top for people to view first.
Share your latest news, events or offers on your listing. Google posts appear towards the bottom of your listing and makes your listing stand out from your competition’s. It might be a little bit hidden on desktop but is much more prominent on mobile. Make your images and videos exciting in your posts, which will make it more likely that people will click through. The maximum words that can be used in posts are 1500 of which only about 20 words will show in the GMB panel for visitors to view. So, make sure the first few words will attract attention. Posts only last 7 days, except for event posts which will disappear when the event is over. Every post must have an image of 1200px by 900px.
Allow visitors to message you directly from your GMB listing. Use this feature with caution, as Google reserves the right to remove the button from your listing if you do not reply to these messages within 24 hours. It can also end up with a bad review. So, if you are slow on chat platforms, rather skip this option. The easiest way to use and manage this feature, is to download the GMB App to receive notifications on your phone.
As you can see, GMB is yet another internet platform that should be updated and managed just like your Facebook business page and LinkedIn. However, with all the new features and tools Google is now giving business owners, I would reckon that managing GMB properly, will be worth it when it comes to Google rankings.
 Study done by BrightLocal – Local Consumer Review Survey  Moz – 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors