Photo: Jessica Thames, via Pexels
Your Google My Business listing is arguably the most important piece of your business’ local SEO footprint. Is the information it contains accurate? Have you claimed the listing? More importantly, do you have access to the listing?
If you can’t immediately answer “yes” to those three questions, jump on board, ’cause we’ve got some work to do! In this week’s blog post, I’ll give you a quick overview of how to claim your Google listing and also explain what you can do with it—which is quite a lot, actually.
Let’s get started!
First things first: Navigate to business.google.com, where you’ll find a login screen. If you have an existing professional Gmail address to use, go ahead and log in. If your primary address is with a service other than Google or if it’s a personal address, you’ll want to create a new one during this process.
Click on “Start Now,” and you’ll move ahead to search for your business, but don’t do that quite yet. First, I had to make sure not to claim anything using my work email address, which you can see from the icon in the top right is how I’m currently logged in. If you click there, then on “Add account,” then on “Use another account” (I have a lot of email accounts, I know—it’s a hazard of the trade), then “Create account,” you should get to where you need to be.
To set up a new account, click the blue link that says “I would like a new Gmail address,” and start filling out those form fields. You’ll notice it asks for an additional email address and your mobile number for verification purposes. It will send you a text with a verification number to enter before you’ll be able to use the account.
Once that’s done, or if you already had an address to use—back to business.google.com we go. If you just created an address, you should already be logged into now, and if you’re not currently logged into a Google account, it will prompt you to do so when you click “Sign In” or “Start Now,” so take your pick.
The page you see next will differ depending on whether you have any existing GMB accounts tied to the email address you used to log in. Presumably, there isn’t already a business associated with your account, so it should display the bottom left page. If you do have other businesses tied to this email account, it will for some reason bring up the map screen, bottom right, instead. Either way, you can use the provided form to search for your business.
Nine times out of 10, the correct result will come up in autocomplete. Click “Next” to move on and verify the basic contact info—make sure to check the box indicating that you deliver, if applicable— then “Next” again to choose your primary business category. Be as specific as possible.
Click “Next” to reach the phone number and website area, then “Next” again, and finally “Continue.” The quickest option is to have Google place an automated call to your business number; you’ll receive a code to type in on your computer screen, they’ll match, and there will be much rejoicing. You can also choose to verify by postcard if you wish, or choose “Verify Later” to move ahead—just keep in mind you won’t be able to publish any changes until you go through the verification process.
You should now be looking at something similar to this, depending on whether you finished verifying ownership of the listing or not. We have a number of different sections to go through, so we’ll start at the top—the Home area, which gives you an overview of how your info is currently set up and shows you a few of the different features which are now available to you.
The “Info” tab is the third item in the left-hand menu, and this is where all your business’ basic data lives. Take a look at what’s entered here, correct anything that’s wrong, and add whatever additional info you can, like operating hours. Including your hours here will ensure that when someone finds you in Google Search, that information will be displayed along with your address, phone, website, etc.
We’ve discussed in previous posts the importance of keeping your business information consistent across directories, and your GMB listing pretty much sets the baseline. What you enter here should be what you enter everywhere else, so make sure the business name, address, and phone number appear exactly how you want them.
Take this opportunity, as well, to add a second category if you have another that’s relevant, or experiment with finding the best primary category for you. Google is always tweaking and improving, so check back regularly to make sure they haven’t added a new category that fits you better. Putting yourself in the right subcategory could be the difference between showing up in a local search and, well, not.
For instance, if you’re a restaurant, choose the type of restaurant you are as your primary category, rather than just using the generic “restaurant” category. If you have, say, a Mediterranean restaurant in Montgomery, you’ll find it easier to rank in that category than you will in just “restaurant.” Google has some helpful guidelines on choosing the best categories.
You can see below that there isn’t a category for digital marketing, so we have Canopy listed under the broader “Marketing Agency.” There is, however, a category for Internet Marketing Service, which seems like it might be a better fit for us. See? Always good to check!
During the initial listing setup, you may notice it asks if you deliver goods or services to your customers. If you do, you’ll want to check that box, which will reveal a second checkbox that says, “Hide my address,” which you should only select if your business operates without a physical storefront—say, if you’re an independent contractor like a plumber or electrician.
A retailer (or restaurant) who offers delivery will have the chance to specify as much on the next screen—whether you ship inventory or deliver in person within a certain radius. You want to be as accurate as possible here—don’t say you’ll personally deliver up to 100 miles away if you’re not willing to do that, or it will most likely come back to bite you.
Another issue to take note of, especially here in the River Region area, is that when you list your address, you should absolutely list it accurately. If your store is in Wetumpka, give your proper street address, city, and ZIP. Yes, you might be just this close to Montgomery, and you may think listing your address there will help you gain more visibility, but always err on the side of accuracy. You’ll rank better in your area, and you’ll avoid any risks of being penalized if Google finds out you’ve been fudging details.
You more than likely will never need to worry about this, but it’s worth mentioning just in case. Google Maps converts an address into what’s called a geocode, which is basically Latitude and Longitude coordinates. They determine where the map pin is displayed when you look up an address.
Occasionally, you’ll find a place in Maps where the pin looks like it’s been dropped kind of in the middle of nowhere, which can be due to any number of reasons—incomplete mapping data, a simple input mistake in the address, etc. When this happens, all you need to do is follow a few simple steps to correct the issue.
Just to illustrate, I happened to see on the map while writing this post that the Huntingdon College library was for some reason placed in the middle of the Green, somewhere near that red arrow, instead of having its marker on top of its actual, physical building, so I suggested a change. That was... less than 12 hours ago, and they’ve already fixed it. Not too shabby!
This sort of thing really only becomes a problem when it affects visitors. We helped out a client once who was certain their address was listed correctly, but the map marker kept showing up miles away, causing no end of confusion to the people trying to find them. It turned out that while the street they were were on didn’t have a North or South designation, Google thought it did—and was placing the marker where it had determined Main St. N was. Once we moved the pin to its correct location, the problem was solved.
If your map marker is already placed correctly, the odds are pretty much nil that you’ll ever have to worry about it.
Losing access to your GMB account can be kind of a nightmare. Once the original claiming is done and you’ve verified your ownership, you don’t want to forget the associated email address and password.
You can use the Users tab to invite more people to have access to the listing, which I personally think you should, but remember you don’t want to just hand it out to everybody. If I set up a new account using a brand new address that isn’t being used for anything else, one of the first things I do is add my primary email address as a user to ensure I don’t get locked out.
It can also be a good idea to give one or two trusted employees access--through their own email addresses. Definitely do not go giving out the official address and password to anyone you want to grant access to.
You can choose a user role for each person which limits what they can and cannot do to the listing: there’s you, the Primary Owner, and then you can assign roles as Owner, Manager, and Communications Manager.
An Owner will have the same permissions that you do, so that’s a good choice for giving yourself secondary access or granting access to a spouse or business partner. Managers have almost all the capabilities of an Owner, but they can’t close the listing or grant access to new users. And Communications Managers can respond to reviews and perform most other actions, but they don’t have the ability to edit business information.
A relatively new feature, Google Posts allow you to temporarily call out any information you want to highlight in your listing. A post is active for seven days before being automatically archived, and it will show up in your local search listing on Google as you see on the right:
Posts are a great way to advertise sales, new content, events, featured products—the possibilities are endless, and they’re a great way to drive traffic. I’ve started sharing a Google post as part of my standard content distribution schedule, so new blog posts will always show up in our search listing.
Google recently added the ability to upload video to your profile, which is a great way to give potential customers a glimpse of what your business is really like. Take visitors on a short tour, highlight a special you’re running, even introduce a few of your employees.
But if nothing else, simply adding images to your listing has been shown to increase traffic. Post a few exterior photos to help visitors recognize the business when they arrive, your logo or sign, what the inside of the store looks like, and yes, maybe even a couple of your salespeople.
Imagine walking into a place for the first time, not really knowing what you’re looking for, and recognizing someone you saw on the business listing! You know right away that they’ll be able to help you. Always do your best to make your business more approachable.
Online reviews go a long way toward reassuring potential customers of your legitimacy. BrightLocal’s 2017 Local Consumer Review Survey reported these figures, clearly illustrating the increasing value of reviews:
Don’t get too discouraged by the occasional negative review—each review is an opportunity for you to show who you are as a business. An unhappy customer may be telling only part of the story, and while YOU may know that, the general public doesn’t.
So be polite, offer to communicate via a more personal medium, and show that you’re willing to work with them to solve the problem. Even if the reviewer has no intention of taking you up on it, your response will go a long way toward reassuring others.
Another awesome feature recently added is a built-in booking capability that’s perfect for a salon or fitness studio. Choose a booking provider from Google’s list, set up your account, and you’re good to go. You’ll now have a “Book Online” button that shows up directly in your Google listing!
Everybody has their own preferred method of communication. Mine, it will probably not shock you to learn, is generally text-based—email, text messaging, online chat, etc. Just my luck, text-based communication continues to grow in popularity!
Customer Relationship Magazine reports that 64% of consumers with texting capabilities prefer using texting to voice as a customer service channel.
You can now turn on a text message function in your Google My Business profile that allows potential customers to ask questions directly, which is great for them because they often receive an answer much quicker—but it’s also great for you because it opens up a whole new line of easy communication. I have it enabled for my personal number, and this is what it looks like in use:
If you’d rather not have texts sent to your personal phone number, you can use Google’s Allo app. Just use the same phone number when you set up your Allo account as the one you used when to set up your GMB account, and when someone messages you, Allo will send you a notification.
This feature is still in somewhat of a beta stage and is only available to mobile web users; i.e., performing a mobile web search in the Chrome browser. It will doubtless roll out to more people as Google finishes its testing.
Depending on how much you use Google, you may have noticed it often asks you if you’d like to answer questions about a place you’ve been recently. This is part of their larger effort to utilize user-generated content—basically, they’re crowdsourcing their information because they can’t possibly keep track of every business in the world.
The Questions & Answers feature is another facet of this UGC-reliant strategy and allows anyone to ask a question about your business and receive an answer. It’s basically the same concept as the text messaging feature mentioned above, but it’s open-source instead of limited to the business itself to answer a question.
I’ll occasionally receive a notification on my phone that says something like, “Someone has a question about [this place you’ve visited]. Can you help?” Then I can choose to view the question and answer it, or I can ignore it.
Q&A functionality hasn’t yet been added to the GMB mobile app, so you’ll have to log in on your computer to see if there are new questions waiting. Or if you have an Android phone and are logged into Maps with the email address you use for your GMB account, you’ll receive a push notification for a new question.
Keep in mind that anyone can answer a question, so it’s best to check regularly and make sure the information provided is accurate.
The Insights tab is somewhat limited in the information it can provide you, and you should most definitely have Google analytics and Google Search Console set up for your website. But if you don’t have a website, Insights can offer some useful info about how your GMB listing is performing compared to other, similar businesses.
The reporting options only allow you to choose to see information from the last week, the last month, or the last quarter, but within those time frames you can see how many searches were performed for your business and what actions those searchers took once they found you—number of phone calls, number of clicks for directions, etc.
Insights can help you determine how your listing is performing and if, perhaps, you need to update it a little more frequently to stay competitive with others in your field.
As you can see, there are numerous features to play with here, and more are being added all the time. If you haven’t yet claimed your Google My Business listing, get on it! It’s a pretty amazing tool, all the more so because it’s completely free for you to use.
Just to review, here are some of the things you could be taking advantage of:
Catherine has a degree in English literature and a passion for all things marketing. As Digital Specialist, her focus is on web design, search engine optimization, social media, online presence management, and project coordination.