No matter the size of your business, whether a small local retailer or a national brand, Google Business Profiles (formerly Google My Business) have become immensely important to your online visibility.
But figuring out how to optimize your Google Business Profile isn’t always completely clear. This guide is designed to walk you through the various benefits of having an optimized and completed Google Business Profile and how to optimize each component of your profile to realize those benefits.
What is a Google Business Profile?
Google’s Business Profiles are a set of tools that allow businesses and organizations to manage and maintain their presence across various Google properties, such as Google Search, Google Maps, and Google Shopping.
Each profile is now directly managed from Google Search, i.e. if you search for your company and you are a verified administrator of the profile, you will see an interface like this:
You can think of Google Business Profiles as an online directory of all your pertinent business information.
How to Claim Your Google Business Profile
If you haven’t yet claimed your Google Business Profile, now is the time to do so. Claiming or starting a new business profile is fairly straightforward. Here’s a good explainer video from Google on how to do it:
How to Verify Your Google Business Profile
One of the most potent and spam-suppressing features of Google Business Profiles is that Google doesn’t just let anyone create a business profile. In most cases, the company will ask you to verify that you are indeed a real business with an actual mailing address and phone number.
While multiple verification methods are still available to business owners, Google has been leaning heavily on video recordings of your physical place of business. So be prepared to make a video that shows your 1) current location, 2) physical place of business, and 3) proof of management.
Editing Your Profile
Editing your Google Business profile is relatively simple. I won’t list out all the fields as some are reasonably self-explanatory, but here are some tips for some of the fields that you will need to fill out:
- Business name – in most cases, simply fill out your full business name, but in most cases, I would recommend leaving out the trailing “inc.” or “ltd.” or other entity type designators. Most people don’t search this way, so leaving those out of your Google Business name makes sense.
- Business category – While the input fields here may mislead you into thinking that you can write anything for your business category, the reality is that your chosen categories must be from a Google-approved list. If you can find more than one category that suits your business offerings, make sure you list all the applicable ones. The first category you enter will also be your primary category.
- Description – The description field is limited to 750 characters, roughly three paragraphs long. Use this field to its maximum allowable size, and include a succinct and complete description of what your business does and what products or services it sells. Ensure to include important keywords you want to rank for and geographic indicators for your location.
- Opening date – The date you enter here should be when your business opened. However, this is one of the fields that has been controversial in marketing circles. If you haven’t filled out a date here, Google will often use other sources to fill it in for you. Additionally, since Google often lists how many years you’ve been in business in map pack results (see screenshot below), businesses have begun to game this to make it appear that they have been in business longer than they actually have. This is a topic of some debate in the SEO world as to whether a higher number of years in business impacts search rankings in map packs and search results. My opinion is that the # of years in business is most likely NOT a ranking factor, as you will often see businesses that have been in business for less time listed higher in map pack results than those with longer tenures. Taking the risk of lying to Google about how long you’ve been doing business most likely only has a secondary benefit of increasing click-throughs on your business profile, as potential customers tend to gravitate towards businesses that have been around for longer. There are a few notable exceptions to this perception, most notably for restaurants that are often perceived as superior or at least more novel and “chic” if they have just recently opened.
- Service Areas – My suggestion is to simply list the areas your business serves. If your location is confined to a small area such as a neighbourhood, you can add the neighbourhood, but in most cases, I would suggest also adding the broader town or city.
- Business Hours – Google affords you great flexibility with how you show your business hours. It’s particularly useful for telling customers whether you’re open on special days or holidays. For restaurants, there are additional options to list when you serve breakfast, brunch, delivery, dinner, drive-through, or delivery.
- More – There are additional fields that can potentially help your business stand out. Make sure to go through each of them, and if any of them apply to your business, check them off.
Google Business Profile Reviews
While this is a broader topic that I will be covering in a future blog post, here are some key points:
- Google is ok with you soliciting your customers for reviews. They even provide you with a handy form you can use to send to customers. After searching for your business on Google, click on the “Read Reviews” button under “Your Business on Google.” You’ll then be presented with a pop-up window with a “Get more reviews” button on the top right-hand side.
- Always reply to your reviews, whether positive or negative.
- Google has a handy guide on best practices for dealing with reviews.
Google Business Profile Messages
This is a relatively new feature that Google introduced to allow businesses to communicate with their customers directly through a chat-like interface. It’s entirely optional, but I would suggest that most businesses should turn it on.
This feature also allows you to create a custom welcome message and provide a FAQ to give customers instant answers to common questions through the chat interface.
Google Business Profile Photos
When it comes to photos for your business profile, you have three types of photos that are available to you, each of which are designed for specific purposes.
Logo – this is the logo that will appear on your Google Business Profile when people search for your business and often in Google Maps. The required image size is 720 x 720 pixels.
Cover Photo – Your cover photo will most likely (though not always) be the first photo that is displayed in your Google Business Profile.
The ideal image size for your cover photo is 1024 x 575 pixels.
Here are some tips for what kind of photo to use for your cover:
- Your cover photo is an opportunity to stand out. Depending on your business, often it can be an excellent opportunity to feature the exterior of your business or perhaps a photo of your team. Regardless of what you choose, it should be something that has the potential to catch someone’s eye.
- Pick an image that is sharp, clear, and gives people an immediate idea of what your business offers.
- Consider hiring a professional photographer to help you with your cover image. We’ve done this for many of our LRO Solutions clients.
Other Photos – Use these to profile various aspects of your physical location, products, or services your business sells. Make sure that the photos are uniform in quality, as mixing and matching professional photos vs quick snapshots with your phone often looks sloppy and unprofessional.
Google Business Profile Products & Services
Google allows businesses to show their product inventory directly on your profile so that customers can easily see what products you carry before they visit your store. Using a third-party tool, you can set automatic product inventory updates to keep your Google business profile product inventory accurate and up-to-date.
For any business that carries physical inventory, I strongly recommend that you take the time to add your products to your Google Business profile.
While this feature has become somewhat ripe for abuse by shady businesses trying to increase visibility for their business while not actually offering the services they claim, it’s still important to do a thorough accounting of the services that your business does offer and list them here.
Think of all the ways that your customers seek out your services through keyword searches, and make sure to include the textual variations of services you offer.
Google Business Profile Q&A
Google now allows searchers to ask and answer questions about a business via its Google Business Profile. This feature also allows you, as the business owner or manager of the profile, the opportunity to respond to questions and answers. An “upvote” feature also allows searchers to flag questions and answers that are particularly useful, driving them to the top of the Questions & Answers section of your Google Business Profile.
Here’s what it looks like:
At a minimum, as the business owner or profile manager, you should monitor these questions and answers closely to avoid potential customer service issues that may arise due to erroneous information being posted.
Google Business Profile Updates
Previously called “posts,” – Google Business Profile updates allow business owners to add updates about their business, such as events, special offers, news, or content sharing.
Here’s what it looks like:
I strongly recommend that your business actively posts into Google Business updates. In most cases, you can repurpose the posts you’re already doing in other social media channels like Facebook or Instagram.
Here are some best practices for Google Business Profile updates:
- Use good CTAs (calls-to-action)
- Post frequently
- Show off your company culture
- Show off your products or services
- Post any new content like blog posts
- Show off customers and positive customer reviews
Google Business Profile Performance Analytics
Knowing how your customers are finding you and interacting with your Google Business Profile is critical to understanding what improvements you can make.
That’s why Google provides a solid set of analytical tools that will allow you to view:
- How often searchers interact with your business profile
- How many calls were made from your profile
- How many messages were sent to you from your profile
- How many bookings were made from your profile
- How many address direction requests were made from your business profile
- How many clicks to your website were made from your business profile
How to Stand Out From Your Competitors Using Google Business Profile
Have a Complete Profile
Too many business profiles are simply incomplete or outdated with old information. An easy way to differentiate yourself from competitors is to ensure your profile is completely filled out and updated regularly.
Include Keywords Strategically
There is an art to this so as not to appear spammy. But strategically placing a healthy dose of your product and service keyword in your profile will help with your visibility.
Encourage Reviews and Answer Them
The average person still uses Google as their number one method for discovering a business or product. If your profile has a significant number of positive reviews, you will project an aura of trust and credibility.
Interestingly, multiple studies have shown that a perfect 5-star review rating average is not ideal, as customers tend not to trust a perfect score. So don’t be afraid of 4 or 3-star reviews that bring down your average slightly.
The Benefits of Using Google Business Profile
Let’s quickly recap the myriad of benefits that using a well-optimized Google Business Profile can have for your company:
- Increased visibility on Google search results
- Can increase bookings and appointments
- Allows customers to suggest edits with useful information
- Increased visibility on Google maps
- An easy and effective way to interact with customers
- A great platform for sharing business updates and information
- Can go a long way to humanizing your business
- Gain insights into local SEO and what your customers are looking for