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Your First and Most Likely Only Impression in a Local Search

  • GMB’s are the most visible result in local searches on Google
  • 3.5 billion Google searches are made every day, across devices
  • Google search usage grows by about 10% yearly, with 52% on mobile
  • The main result (map pack) in local search on Google Voice
  • 46% of consumers use voice search to find local businesses
  • The average Google search session is under a minute
photo of using Google My Business through the app on a phone screen

As technology, search behavior, and the entire marketing landscape change- local businesses are finding it more important than ever to be on top of local searches. The main gateway to this search visibility is Google My Business (GMB).

In this guide, I will go over every detail of the platform, how to use it, and then how to best optimize it with a long-term and permanent strategy.

Huge 30 Part Guide to Google My Business

& How To Crush It!

Table of Contents:

Section 1: Basics

1.1 Google My Business (GMB)

What is Google My Business (GMB)?

Google My Business, or GMB as it is also referenced, is Google’s free business listing tool. It allows for local business listing placement in both Google Search and Google Maps. It contains business details, website links, and communication tools. GMB also allows customers to leave reviews and ask questions about your business.

Google My Business also provides the business with a dashboard where those that manage the listing can:

  • Update Info
  • Update Hours
  • Create Public Posts
  • Create Offers
  • List Products
  • Add Images
  • Add Video

Google My Business will also aggregate and list additional information such as social media profiles, other web results for the business, and reviews from other sources.

1.2 The Benefits

What are the benefits of using Google My Business (GMB)?

Google My Business (GMB) allows local business owners and managers a clear and concise way to share business details and activities right inside of the search results pages in Google.

Google is the number one search engine and provides the most organic search traffic. This makes your GMB listing one of the primary ways for people to find your business in search.

Google My Business listings are also the primary results provided in local voice searches. This occurs through platforms like Google Voice. This is currently a growing trend.

Google My Business also allows for instant communication with potential customers and clients from inside of search results. This is a great way to gain new customers during zero-click searches. These communication channels include calls, messaging, and a Question and Answers section.

Google My Business also provides “insights”. The GMB insights are an overview of all the activities occurring within your listing.

a screenshot of a google search showing Google My Business listings for the search query restaurants near me

1.3 Platforms

What platforms can I use to manage my Google My Business (GMB) listing?

Google My Business can be managed by both desktop and mobile devices. On mobile devices, there are apps for both Android and Apple. These apps also allow you to turn on the messaging feature.

Get the app for Android: Google Play Store

Get the app for Apple: App Store

Section 2: Setup

2.1 Claim or Create a Listing

How do I claim or create a Google My Business (GMB) listing?

To create or claim a business listing on Google, you would start the same.

  • Go to Business.Google.com
  • Sign in with your Google account (How to create a Google Account)
  • Now click “Add Location”
  • Search for the location in the provided search bar
  • If you find a match, go to it and click “claim this business”, and then follow the verification steps
  • If you do not find a match, continue with the provided steps to create your listing

You can find complete details, including instructions by device and platform here.

2.2 Choosing Your Location Type

How do I choose a location type for my Google My Business (GMB) listing?

Google offers 3 different types of location choices when creating your local business listing. These include:

  • Physical Location
  • Service Area
  • Physical Location with Service Area

Physical Location is where customers come directly to the location to conduct business with you.

Service Area is where you either perform services or deliver goods to customers, but they do not visit your business address.

Physical Location with Service Area is for businesses that have both a storefront or office and deliver goods and services within their area.

Notes:

Google My Business no longer lets you set your service area as a radius around your business location. You select the cities and/or zip codes that you serve.

If you are Service Area only, do not enter an address under the “Info” tab in your Google My Business listing. The “business location” field should be left blank.

2.3 Service Areas

What are Service Areas in Google My Business (GMB)?

Service Areas are for businesses that do not have a physical location where customers come to them. Instead, these businesses deliver goods, provide services, or a mixture of both within certain areas.

Most home-based local businesses operate as a Service Area. This is what I have done since I left the agency life and went freelance. I entered a service area around Tallahassee that basically shows how far I am willing to drive to meet clients.

My Map looks like this:

this is a screenshot of a Google My Business Service Area map example.

Creating your service area will depend on what locations you are physically willing to go to. Once you have defined that, begin to enter them under Service Are in your GMB dashboard. It will take a few days for Google to approve them, but they should go live without issue.

During your initial GMB setup you may be asked to enter your address, but if you do not want customers coming to that address, just select “No” when the question arises “Do you want to add a location customers can visit, like a shop or office?”

If you want to add a brick and mortar address for customers and provide a service area (like a pizza shop that delivers), you can select “Yes” to the above question, and then “Yes” again when asked, “Do you also serve customers outside of this location?”

This is a screenshot showing what the information update area looks like in Google My Business

2.4 Contact Info

What Contact Info do I provide for my Google My Business (GMB) listing?

You will provide the following contact info (as relevant to your business):

  • Phone Number
  • Address (for Brick and Mortar)
  • Accurate Business Hours
  • Website URL
  • Appointment Link
  • Messaging

While all of those items are not specifically “Contact Info”, every one of them are ways for customers to accurately and easily communicate with or visit you, i.e., make contact.

2.5 Listing Verification

How do I verify my Google My Business (GMB) listing?

The possible verification methods are:

  • Mail
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Instant
  • Bulk

Google will decide the verification methods offered to you on a case by case basis.

For instance, my service area business, without an office, still received the postal verification card as the only option.

To get started, you will navigate to your Google My Business dashboard and click “Verify Now”. Then your specific options will appear. You can see details of how each works below.

Mail:

After you click “Verify Now”, on the Postcard request screen, make sure your address is correct. Then click “Send Postcard”.

It will arrive by mail to the address within 14 days.

Once you receive it, log back into your Google My Business dashboard and click “Verify Now”. Here you will enter the 5 digit code provided on the postcard.

Click “Submit”.

*If your card doesn’t arrive by day 14, you can log back in and request to have another sent.

Email:

After clicking “Verify Now”, select the Email option from the list.

You will receive an email with both a “verify” link and a code.

You can simply click the “verify” link or you can go back to your dashboard and physically type in the provided code.

Click “Submit”.

Phone:

After clicking “Verify Now”, select the Verify by Phone option from the list.

Receive the automated call at your business number and write down the code.

Log back into your Google My Business dashboard and enter the 5 digit code provided on the call.

Click “Submit”.

Instant:

This works only if you have verified the business through Google Search Console first. This option may still not be available to you even if you have.

You simply just need to use the same email that you used for Search Console as you do for managing your Google My Business. Google will connect it automatically from here.

Bulk:

Bulk verification is only available to businesses that have 10 or more locations.

This process is more complex and your best bet is to follow the guidelines outlined by Google here.

2.6 Map Pin

How can I correct my map pin for Google My Business (GMB)?

If you know your address is correct, but Google Maps dropped the pin in the wrong location, you can fix this.

Log into your dashboard and click the “info” tab.

Here, click your address, and this box will pop up:

screenshot showing where the pin location can be edited in the GMB management area.

Simply grab the pin and move it to where it should be.

Click “Apply”

This edit will be reviewed by Google before going live.

2.7 Description

What do I put as the description in my Google My Business (GMB) listing?

The business description in Google My Business (GMB) should relay a message of what your business is about and what makes it unique.

It should not include special offers, offensive language, or a myriad of other non-relevant information.

To best optimize your description, you should:

  • Provide a clear picture of what your business does
  • Highlight any unique traits your business has
  • Provide some background
  • Include an important keyword

You have 750 characters, including spaces, to make this message count. They should all be utilized, but also reflect natural language. This is not an opportunity to keyword stuff.

This short, well crafted, message is going to be clearly shown in front of search users. This is your time to make a connection with them and create that click through.

Shown here, I have used all available 750 characters:

this is a screenshot showing a full and complete description for my business in Google My Business. It uses all 750 available characters.

The final display in Google search will not have the paragraphs. It will be one chunk of text, like this:

 

this is a screenshot of what the description for your business looks like on desktop search when fully expanded.

Also bear in mind, when you do use all available characters, the entire snippet will not be seen at first. The user will have to click the “more” link.

this is a screenshot that shows how the business description is cut short on the initial search landing.

You can use this opportunity to make a hook in that first part to draw them in.

This can take some testing, but worth it in the end.

For me, I am truly more concerned with brand messaging. I work nationally and locally. In this, Tallahassee & Marketing were used as keywords but was also included in my wording to show how that part of my services differs for clients near me.

However, depending on what you do and how you want the listing to work for you, you can definitely better optimize this text for specific SEO related targets.

2.8 Categories

What categories do I pick for my Google My Business (GMB) listing?

Google My Business (GMB) offers a wide array of top-level categories that includes every kind of business. You simply choose the best one that reflects your business category.

That said, there is a myriad of sub-sets in any business category. Some users will find that the top-level one available is not exactly what they are. This is ok. Choose the best one that you can.

To use me as an example, I am a Freelance Marketer. This category does not exist. I had to use “Marketing Agency” as the best possible matching category.

If you find yourself in this situation, don’t fret. You can utilize the Additional Services function to streamline what you do.

Notes:

If you need to edit this, you can click the pencil icon next to your primary category that you have in your GMB management area.

From here you can edit your primary category, or click Add Another Category if your business fits into multiple areas.

Keep in mind while editing this, Google states:

“If you add or edit one of your existing categories, you may be asked to verify your business again. This helps Google confirm that your business information is accurate. “

2.9 Highlights / Attributes

What are Highlights and Attributes in Google My Business (GMB)?

Attributes, found under Highlights in Google My Business, are small highlights that can be seen by searchers when they find your GMB listing.

These attributes are automatically populated by Google depending on your business category.

You can see what options are approved for you by going to info>highlights. You will see this box appear:

a screenshot of what the attributes screen looks like within the GMB dashboard.

You will need to choose what best fits your business from here.

In my example, Online Appointments was the only fitting option I could choose.

2.91 Short Name

What do I use for a short name in Google My Business (GMB)?

When considering a short name for your Google My Business (GMB) page the ideal solution would be something easy to remember.

The idea behind the short name is to allow users/customers to easily find your business page and utilize a shorter URL.

The format looks like:

“g.page/(yourshortname)”

Your business must be verified first, and then the option is available in the profile section of your GMB management area.

Once set, you can easily guide your (happy) customers to leave a review at your new shortened and easy to remember page URL.

Here is mine:

g.page/ericintally

*This can only be updated 3 times a year.

2.92 Products

How do I use the products function in Google My Business?

Setup is easy.

  • You would navigate to the Products tab and click “Add Product”.
  • Give the product an image and title.
  • Select the Product category. If this is your first time, you can select “create a new category” to begin building that structure.
  • If decided, select a fixed price or a price range.
  • Write a description.
  • Select a call to action button, Learn More, Buy Now.
  • Select Preview to see how it will look.
  • Click Save when satisfied.

The listing will be live within a few minutes.

About the Products Area

The products area in Google My Business allows for businesses to showcase mobile and desktop-friendly product links directly in search from your GMB page.

You can create categories, choose to display pricing and create direct links to your product pages on your website.

Some businesses will not be able to use this function and for others, it can look slightly different. These verticles include restaurants and large chains.

Large chains must utilize Google Local Inventory Ads.

Restaurants would utilize the Popular Dishes and Menu functions available to them as their product display.

Most other types of businesses will be able to use this function in its standard form.

Users will see your Products on both desktop and mobile. It will be under a Products tab or carousel, depending on the device.

2.93 Additional Services

What should I put for additional services in google My Business (GMB)?

You should apply any additional services that are relevant to your main Google My Business category structure.

Google will autofill some popular options in regards to your main category, but you can also add your own custom options.

You can find this under the Info>Services area in your GMB dashboard.

This is especially useful when trying to better define what you do inside of your main category. You can also add text descriptions under each.  These descriptions have a 300 character limit.

See example:

a screenshot of teh edit services screen inside of Google My Business

Section 3: Advanced Setup

3.1 Multiple Locations

How do I set up multiple locations in Google My Business (GMB)?

To set up multiple locations for your business in Google My Business you should:

  1. Log in to your Google My Business account
  2. Go to manage Locations
  3. Click the appropriate location
  4. Click Create location group
  5. Give the group a name
  6. Click Create
  7. Start adding locations

By adding all of your locations through a location group you will be able to edit or optimize them individually or in bulk from the same location.

For more details please visit the page on Google Support here.

3.2 Store Code

What are Store Codes in Google My Business (GMB)?

Store codes are unique identifiers used for differentiating each store in a multiple location business.

This allows for bulk updating via spreadsheet upload. This Store Code or identifier will be the single piece of info that makes sure the proper edits go to the right stores’ Google My Business page.

These can be assigned from the main info page in your GMB dashboard for each location.

3.3 Call Tracking Numbers

How can I track phone calls from Google My Business (GMB)?

There are two ways.

Google My Business has a native system that will show you “click to call” data from mobile devices. This info is in the insights panel.

Option two is to insert a call tracking number from a 3rd party service as your primary number in GMB.

The second option gives you much more detailed information in regards to all calls from across all platforms, call duration, and some can even scrape user data for list building.

The biggest concern with a call tracking number is maintaining NAP consistency.

However, there is a simple fix for this.

Google My Business allows you to have a primary and secondary number listed.

You would input the call tracking number as your primary, and your regular business number as the secondary. Research has shown this will not negatively affect your NAP consistency or rankings.

3.4 URL Tracking UTM

How can I track clicks to my site from Google My Business (GMB)?

The easiest way to define clicks in from Google My Business to your website is to add a UTM tracking link.

This can be done by using the Campaign URL Builder in Google Adwords, but you can also just copy the below code and add it to your website URL:

?utm_source=GMB&utm_medium=SiteClick

This will show up in your Google analytics as

Source: GMB

Medium: SiteClick

I create a new one for every button click within GMB.

My appointment link looks like:

(mydomain.com/schedule/)?utm_source=GMB&utm_medium=Appointment

With posts, I customize this as well. Such as:

(mydomain.com/my-offer)?utm_source=GMB&utm_medium=OfferMay20

You would just want to word these two positions as you like:

?utm_source=(Position 1 = Source)&utm_medium=(Position 2 = Medium)

3.5 Change Address

How do I change my Google My Business address?

To change your address in Google My Business, navigate to your info page and click the pencil edit icon next to your location.

a screenshot of where you input or change your business address in Google My Business.

Input the new address, verify the pin location, and save.

Google may decide to re-verify your listing, but in either case, the change will be reviewed before going live.

Note:

Do not create a new listing if your business has only changed location. This will cause greater harm than good. Just utilize the change address procedure outlined above.

3.6 Labels

What are labels for in Google My Business (GMB)?

The Labels function located in your Google My Business (GMB) dashboard is for the organization and tagging of multi-location business structures.

This system allows for multi-location business managers to tag locations by different attributes, regions, or any form of separation/combination deemed necessary to better organize the locations.

Some examples include:

  • Labels defining region
  • Labels signifying service changes by location
  • Labels signifying service hours

Any single business location can have up to ten labels.

The Labels themselves have a 50 character limit.

These labels can be used for sorting within GMB or be imported into Google Adwords.

You can find the labels function on the Info page in the Advanced Information section as shown below:

a screenshot showing where a user can find, edit, and add labels in Google My Business.

Section 4: Basic Functions

4.1 Posts

How do I create posts in Google My Business?

In the Google My Business dashboard, click the Posts option in the menu. On this page, you can pick a post type and then craft your business post. The current post types include:

  • COVID-19 Update
  • Add Offer
  • Add Update
  • Add Event
  • Add Product

To craft a good post you should have a high-quality image to feature at the top of the post. Adding video is also a possibility here.

A well-crafted title that is comprised of a few words, but within a 58 character limit.

Fill out the details area with information about the post. While you have a character limit of 1500, Google states “ideal length is between 150-300 characters.”

Choose a call-to-action button and input the link in which users should be directed to.

The call-to-action button options include:

  • Buy
  • Book online
  • Learn more
  • Call
  • Visit

Note:

Video formats include AVI, MP4, MOV, FLV, WMV, MPG, M4V, MKV, M2TS, and MTS. With a maximum file size of 100 MB.

4.2 Reviews

How do I get reviews in Google My Business (GMB)?

To get reviews on your Google My Business listing you have to start with a verified and active listing. You need to perform services in your area. And then you can reach out to customers to ask for a review.

This is best done by sharing your Short Link.

From here, make sure to reply to all reviews in a professional manner. This will encourage more user engagement in the future.

4.3 Questions and Answers

How does the Questions and Answers function work in Google My Business?

When a searcher sends a question through your Google My Business listing you will have an opportunity to respond in your listing directly in search. Just navigate to the “See all Questions” link and respond.

Important Notes:

Anyone can answer the question. In this, it is important you are the first to do so. Someone can leave incorrect information behind and you will have no control over that.

You can edit your answer, but it will show “edited” under your answer on the public-facing side.

Make sure you are logged in to your correct Google account when replying. The one that manages that business.

No links, email addresses, or phone numbers are allowed in these replies.

4.4 Messaging

How does messaging work in Google My Business (GMB)?

Messaging works solely through the Google My Business app. You must have the app installed on your mobile device and activated to use this feature. Google states you must reply within 24 hours. If you fail to respond in a timely manner, the feature will be turned off by Google.

Messaging allows customers to text message you directly from your Google My Business listing inside of search results. This is a huge help with recovering zero-click searches.

To turn on messaging through the app you:

  • Open the app
  • Tap Customers
  • Tap Messages
  • Turn on

You can edit the automated welcome message, as well as send pics through the messaging service. All managers of your Google My Business listing, who have the app, can message with these customers.

How do you respond to Google My Business messages?

On your mobile device, you will be notified with your system notification alarm. Open the app, go to Customers, then to Messages. Here you will see the message and be able to reply as you would any text message.

But, here’s another way. Though this feature is only available through the app to turn on, it also becomes desktop-friendly at this point.

You will receive an email with the text and it will have a reply button. Click the button and you are on a response screen right on your main computer.

a screenshot of what the google my business desktop message response screen looks like.

4.5 Calling

How does the calling function work in Google My Business (GMB)?

The click-to-call function on both desktop and mobile devices operates the same. Whatever technology is used to initiate the call rings the primary business number.

You can set up a call tracking number to better track these calls.

Section 5: Marketing

5.1 What Google States

Google has a pretty simplified approach to optimization, but that last one is a doozy.

In a nutshell, here are the topics Google suggests for how to improve your local ranking on Google:

  • Enter complete data
  • Verify your location(s)
  • Keep your hours accurate
  • Manage and respond to reviews
  • Add photos
  • Relevance to the search query
  • Distance from the searcher
  • Prominence

That last one, “Prominence” is where a lot of new businesses will struggle. Heck, I am paying the piper right now due to my rebrand and new start.

Google defines prominence as how well known the business is, they claim both online and offline.

Online is similar to the same things you consider for SEO in general. Links, articles, directories, and so forth. Google also correlates this with how well your site ranks in a general search for keywords and applies that same strength (or weakness) to your local listing.

Now, all of the sudden, unless you’re locally famous, you are on the path to creating great all-around SEO for your site in order to get your listings locally to rise alongside.

This is why all of these efforts must be part of a unified effort.

5.2 Maintain NAP Consistency

NAP is an acronym for Name, Address, and Phone Number.

Maintaining NAP consistency is verifying that across all platforms your business NAP info is the same.

These include:

  • Local Directory Listings
  • Your Website
  • Your Social Media Profiles
  • Any Business Listing Site (Usually Review Sites)

Most Local SEO services start here. They run a deep scan to see everywhere your business is listed and make sure the information is uniform across all platforms.

The reason for this is that Google wants to provide the most useful and accurate information to its users. In this, they cannot verify accuracy for your business if these listings have all sorts of different information. This will directly affect your Google My Business rankings in search.

5.3 Optimizing Google My Business

Google My Business can be optimized in about 10 basic steps:

  1. Maintain NAP consistency
  2. Develop your short name
  3. Choose the proper categories
  4. Fully develop your business description
  5. Respond to reviews
  6. Respond to questions
  7. Upload photo’s
  8. Post regularly
  9. Stay on top of changes to basic info. (Like hours, location, and phone numbers)
  10. Make sure you are fully utilizing all of the tools available to you in GMB

5.4 The Eric in Tally Guide to Crushing It!

Ok, this all starts with everything mentioned up to this point in the guide.

If any step is missed, short-changed, or ignored – do not move forward until that has been rectified.

The next step is the mindset.

We really need to look at approaching this as Google My Business “Marketing. It needs to become part of your regular branding and business-building efforts.

No online presence is ever set it and forget it. Your GMB is no different.

In this, plan to use and visit it often.

Every morning, over coffee, fire up the old desk/laptop and go directly in. Check for any changes you may need to apply, check your insights, and create a post. Yes, create a post – daily. I like to think of it as the social media profile I must maintain.

With this in mind, make sure you have the app.

Turn on messaging.

The app will notify you of any reviews having been written or any text messages sent to you from the listing.

Check for Questions and answer them on the public-facing side of your listing (currently the only way to do this).

Be Johnny on the Spot and answer or address these promptly.

And with that app installed, you can add photos on the go. See something unique, interesting, share-worthy, even just a handshake with a client – any of these make for a great addition. There is no limit and no such thing as too much. Only too little.

Alongside staying engaged with social media, other review site activity, and a regularly updated website – your Google My Business listing will start to rise in no time.

I have more articles planned to really nail down some good tactics in the micro, but this macro view will definitely send you down the right path.

As those articles are written they will be linked below.

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