How Google My Business Impacts Local Business Success
Google’s mission is delivering highly relevant and useful results to its search audiences. Google continues to refine its search products and algorithms to improve the quality and relevance of search engine results for its users. This led to the initial development of Google Local, a business listing directory introduced in 2004, and Google Maps, (launched in 2005), an interactive map that enabled location-specific searches. Over time, Google merged Google Local and Google Maps, gradually introducing product enhancements, such as allowing businesses to update their listing information for accuracy. In 2014, Google rolled out Google My Business to replace its existing products and allow businesses to develop a free Business Profile that could be found by potential and existing customers across Google Search and Google Maps.
Google continued to improve the features and capabilities of Google My Business (GMB) until it evolved into the product we know today – location-based listings for local and national brands that includes essential information such as address, website, phone number, hours of operation, service categories, customer reviews and much more. Now, a GMB profile is essential to gain visibility online, influencing where your business ranks on Google search engine results pages for your industry keywords.
A Google My Business listing is the number one ranking factor for Google local search, and serves as the number four ranking factor for determining Google local organic rankings. If you want to improve your ranking for your products or services and get discovered by more prospects and customers, you need to create and optimize this free digital real estate.
Tips to Optimize Your GMB Profile
It’s important to comprehensively approach optimizing your profile, but also keep in mind that your GMB listing is a dynamic entity that needs maintenance and updates over time.
✅ Ensure Your Listing Contains Accurate Business Information – Update as Required
Maintain a consistent “NAP” – Name, Address, Phone Number – which matches the information provided on your website and local directory listings. Be sure to use a local phone number instead of a toll-free phone number.
✅ Completely Fill Out Your Profile Information, Include Industry Keywords and Add Business Photos
Your profile information should include common search terms involving your products or services that can help your profile rank higher. Once discovered, an informative and photo-rich profile encourages customers to interact with your listing.
✅ Develop and Maintain a Review Generation and Reputation Management Program
Review quantity, quality score and diversity (from a variety of sources) all factor into your local search ranking, including your engagement with those who leave reviews. Implementing automated review requests is a popular, proven method to increase reviews, and you should develop an appropriate response to both positive and negative ones.
✅ Employ Special Attributes to Help Your Business Stand Out From the Competition
New features can help your business differentiate itself due to company ownership, service options, and more recently, health and safety precautions. Pay attention to emails from Google My Business that alert you when new attributes and features become available.
✅ Create A Custom Short Name
Creating a custom GMB short name allows your business to use a shortened customized link to allow customers to:
1.) directly visit your GMB profile and,
2.) directly leave a review on your GMB profile.
Click on the link above to learn more about the benefits of custom GMB short name as well as the steps to creating one for your profile.
✅ Publish Posts and Offers Regularly
Encourage customers to interact with your listing and visit your website by creating engaging, on-brand GMB posts and seasonal offers with images and links to your website. You can customize each link by adding a UTM code that enables you to track clicks to your website and measure the traffic generated by your GMB posts.
✅ Add Appointment Links and/or Products to Your Profile
Make it easier for customers to browse and choose your services and/or products by adding either or both of these applicable options to your GMB listing. While you can add products natively to your GMB profile, adding appointment capabilities requires a third-party scheduling service. Once you sign up with a supported scheduling provider, you can add a link to your GMB appointments page.
Now that you have your GMB optimization checklist, remember that some of these steps are ongoing, such as reputation management, review generation and publishing regular posts and offers. Another important consideration is that Google periodically rolls out product improvements, and may introduce additional features and updates to GMB in the future. Take advantage of these opportunities to improve your listing and stand out from your competition.
The Benefits of Fighting Google Maps Spam
Speaking of competition, your local GMB competitors may not always play by the rules, with some seeking to “game” the algorithm that ranks local results. Here are a few examples of Google Maps spam, and how to fight such fraudulent listings.
In our optimization checklist earlier we recommended adding industry keywords to your profile, such as in your company description or service/ product categories. Some companies have used keyword stuffing by adding such keywords to their business profile name (which does not match their official company name) to improve their rankings. Google guidelines state that you must use your business’ real-world name – including inaccurate or unnecessary information could result in Google suspending your listing altogether.
Others have wished to expand their service area and increase their local search reach by adding spam listings with fake business addresses across the region, therefore popping up in more than one location on Google Maps even with only one true business address. Google policies state that you must use your actual, real-world location and that you cannot create more than one page per business location, otherwise you risk your listing being suspended. Note that until you fix a location error, your listing will not appear on Google Maps.
Tactics such as these are incredibly detrimental to local businesses, who may not know why their rankings have suddenly slipped or why other competitors are suddenly beating them out. Spam such as this is pervasive across many industries, hurting local businesses who cannot compete with this blow to their flow of customers or do not know how to report these fraudulent listings.
How to Fight Google Maps Spam
Search for your industry keywords and examine the GMB results that populate in your area. Ensure that the listing information matches the company’s information on their website. Compare the profile name to the official company name listed on the website, as well as their address (often listed in the footer). To confirm a discrepancy exists, check the business’ registration listing at the agency that regulates businesses in your state – in Virginia, it is the State Corporation Commission. Then, use the “Suggest an edit” option on the spammy GMB profile to correct their name or location, or identify them as a non-existent or duplicate business. After submitting the edit, Google will review the change to determine if it is accurate or not. Once the change is verified, the listing will be updated with the correct name, location or shut down if it doesn’t exist.
Fighting Google Maps spam is important work to ensure fraudulent listings are not filling the local rankings and hurting legitimate businesses, though it is time-consuming work that must be conducted on an ongoing basis.
How a Great Website Helps Your GMB to Rank Better
It may surprise you to learn that your website affects your Google My Business ranking. Your website’s organic search rankings are measured for relevance and prominence, which are key factors in how Google delivers local rankings. Provide the best opportunity for your business listing to rank high in search by using best practices for search engine optimization. You will most likely improve both your Google local and Google organic rankings. Your website should be informative and content-rich, optimized with industry keywords that are relevant to your target audience’s search queries. Usability is also important – your website should be mobile-responsive, fast and well-organized so users can easily navigate and find what they’re looking for.
How visitors behave once they click through to your website factors into your rankings. This includes whether or not site visitors spend time on your site, visit more than one page, engage with interactive chat or form elements or “bounce” and leave quickly. These behavioral signals help Google determine whether or not your website is a useful, relevant search result that delivers what users are looking for, and shifts your rankings accordingly.
The bottom line is this: your website and Google My Business profile rankings go hand-in-hand, and to improve your local search rankings, your business needs to have a search engine optimized, content-rich, well-performing website.
Maximize the Free Digital Real Estate
Beyond optimizing and regularly posting on your Google My Business profile, you should also check back for additional features and updates. Take advantage of these new opportunities to improve interactivity or differentiate your business.
Another useful feature on Google My Business is GMB Insights, which offers advantageous visibility into how customers discover and interact with your listing. Learn how, when and through which top queries users discover your GMB profile, as well as what actions they take upon viewing your information, images, posts and offers. This information can help you determine if your visibility in Google Search and Google Maps is growing, and can help you pinpoint when and why engagement grows.
Your Google My Business profile is one major piece of the ongoing campaign to improve your local search ranking. Learn more about other factors that contribute to your position in search results in our Digital Marketing Learning Center. Contact us today to engage with local SEO experts at Bleevit Interactive to boost your rankings and lead flow!
Rick Hogan, CEO & Co-Founder – Bleevit Interactive
Rick possesses over 20 years of digital marketing experience and started Bleevit Interactive with the primary mission of helping local businesses succeed online. When he is not working he can often be found hiking Great Falls, Virginia with his Labradoodle Lily, or sailing the Chesapeake Bay.
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