Google My Business: Ultimate SEO Guide

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Google My Business is the ultimate business directory. A few years ago, if you googled a place to eat you’d probably end up on tripadvisor or a similar aggregator. Today, your search stops with Google — it’s got every single business recommendation right there in the SERP, no need to click through to any other websites. And it’s great news for business owners as now there is just one directory to take care of, not overloading an SEO strategy with extra work.

And once you do, you’ll reap the benefits of appearing here (SERP):

Google My Business listing card

And here (local pack):

Google My Business local pack

And here (Google Maps):

Google My Business listings on a map

Intriguing? So let’s move to the details.

What are GMB ranking factors?

Google My Business is a free tool for business owners to create business listings in a format that Google will then display for a relevant search query. There's a myriad of features in GMB that can boost your SEO strategy greatly, but most businesses use it only to communicate to their clients the contact details, work hours, for adding photos/videos showing the business and, of course, for receiving and responding to reviews.

According to recent surveys, only 44% of local businesses have implemented Google Business listings. This means you have this nice chance to make GMB a part of your SEO and take the best seats because half of your competition is still not there.

So what about ranking factors? When you search for a nearby business, Google will rank GMB listings based on relevance, distance, and prominence:

  • Relevance is whether the business matches the query. This is usually signaled by the use of matching keywords (say hi to good old keyword SEO) and the choice of business category for the listing.

  • Distance is how close the business is located to the searcher. Proximity is relative to the density of the businesses. If you are looking for a cafe, then everything within a block is close. But if you need an antique shop, then the entire city is a game, as antique shops are not located as densely as cafes.

  • Prominence is about how well-known your business is. This is determined by the number of user’s reviews, fresh photos, filled-out Google My Business listing info, GMB posts, and many other things.

Now let’s move to the actual implementation process of your SEO success with Google My Business.

1. Create a Google Business listing

To create a listing in Google My Business, go to the GMB create page and follow the instructions. Google My Business provides quite straightforward instructions, however, there are some peculiarities you’d need to pay attention to.

Add keywords to your business name

For your business name, consider including your main keyword, as it may influence your rankings drastically. Just as it works with titles and H1s for content SEO.

Add keywords to your business name

Say your business is a cafe. If your legal business name doesn’t include words like cafe or coffee, you should add them to your name in GMB to get something like Snow White and Three Dwarves Coffee House.

Note: Don’t overdo it here, as Google may give you a penalty for guidelines violation. Besides, keyword stuffing may result in verification problems later, and you’ll have to remove those extra keywords anyway. Here is an example of what not to do if you don’t want to bury your SEO strategy with GMB:

Source: https://twitter.com/JoyanneHawkins/status/1028986398051684352

Optimize your description

Now it’s time to create a good description for your Google My Business listing. Google once stated that you should think about the words customers would type to find your business, and make sure that your listing actually includes those keywords. Still, it’s best not to get carried away — your GMB listing description can get flagged for keyword stuffing, too. 

Are there any SEO practices of writing descriptions for listings? Well, if you look at the GMB listings descriptions that already exist, you’ll probably see a common pattern repeated again and again:

  • Laid-back canteen offering traditional pizzas, whole & by the slice, with classic toppings.

  • Easy, family-friendly pizzeria offering coal-oven pies in a casual two-level space.

  • Basic pizza shop on a busy corner that offers cheap slices & pies late into the night.

  • This tiny coffee shop serving specialty drinks along with baked goods, sandwiches & housemade soup.

  • Long-running shop offering many bike styles, plus accessories, footwear & repair service.

  • Neighborhood store with a variety of bikes, equipment & apparel, plus fittings & repairs.

This pattern is quite universal and can be applied to creating a description for any business, including yours:

[USP] + [main keyword] offering [product/service] + [product/service] + [product/service]


[Cozy] + [pizza place] offering [cheap slices] + [pies] + [sandwiches]


[Neighborhood] + [bike shop] offering [variety of bikes] + [equipment] + [apparel]

This pattern clearly states who you are and what you offer, thus your users and Google get all the necessary information at a glance. This pattern is also keyword-rich without being too obvious — perfect for successful SEO.

Are you limited to this pattern only? Of course, not. You can write any description you like, but keep in mind that you are limited to 750 characters. Use them wisely, and don’t get too poetic — neither users nor Google algorithms will appreciate this. Be simple, and describe your services so that users would easily figure out what they will get.

If you are stuck with what keywords to use in your GMB description, you can turn to a keyword suggestion tool such as Rank Tracker. The tool can help you analyze your competitors to borrow some keyword ideas from them, or generate you thousands of new keywords based on your own ones to refine your SEO strategy.

Consider creating a free website

Google My Business will also ask you to add a website and/or a phone number of your business to help your customers keep in touch with you. Ideally, you should add both options to get the most of your SEO strategy, as GMB prefers 100% filled-out listings over those that lack information. If you don’t have a website, you can get one for free right in Google My Business. Just check Get a free website based on your info.

Get a free website with Google My Business

You can later edit your website in your GMB account (Home section).

Edit your website from GMB dashboard

The website will be housed at business.site. You don't need to verify your business to build the website, nor do you need to have any coding knowledge at all. The website builder of Google My Business is easy, fast, and looks like this:

Website builder from Google My Business

While GMB website builder is not as customizable and robust as building a website from scratch, it's sufficient for small business owners, as well as companies handling a smaller catalog of products/services.

You can add your logo, write and edit the necessary information about your business, add keyword-rich copy, set up the necessary buttons for your customers to place their orders and contact you. In other words, you can perform all the SEO procedures as you’d do with an ordinary website. As for keywords you're planning to use for your website, you can pick up the most SEO-powerful ones with the help of a keyword rank checker tool such as Rank Tracker. 

Once you're done with the basic settings of your newly-built website, you can upload some photos to the Gallery section for your potential clients to browse your catalog.

While it's free to create a website with the business.site domain through the My Business dashboard, you can also go ahead and buy a custom domain through GMB as well.

2. Verify your Google My Business listing

To fully enjoy the functionality and SEO-use of Google My Business, you’ll have to verify your business listing, i.e. to prove that the business belongs to you.

Types of GMB verification

There are several ways to verify a listing on Google My Business:

  • By mail (postcard)

  • By phone

  • By email

  • Instant verification

  • Bulk verification

The first one, verification by mail, is available for any kind of business in any country. What’s more, for some businesses mail verification is the only way available at all. How to verify your business by mail? You can do it right at the stage of listing creation, or you can do it later in the Home section of the left-side menu. Anyway, GMB will ask you for a contact name and send the postcard (an ordinary physical one) to the business address you provided before.

Verification screen in Google My Business

Google says that postcards usually arrive within 14 - 15 days, but you can experience delays due to COVID-19 issues (up to 3 months in some cases). The postcard will contain the verification code you will have to provide to Google My Business.

Service-area and hybrid businesses can get verified via email or a call. To choose one of those options, or at least to see if you can, click More options under the Mail button on the verification screen.

Additional verification methods for Google My Business

The general idea is the same: you give Google a way to send you the code — by entering an email or a phone number — and wait for the verification code to be sent to you.

If you have already verified your website in Google Search Console, you can just log in to Google My Business with the same account, and that’s it. This is called instant verification. Still, keep in mind that some businesses may not be eligible to do that.

If you have more than 10 eligible locations, you can proceed with bulk verification. To verify your businesses in bulk, choose Chain when verifying one of your locations, and fill out the verification form.

You cannot do bulk verification if you:

  • have fewer than ten locations for your one business;

  • are servicing a specific area (delivery, etc.);

  • have multiple businesses with a single common account running them;

  • are running an agency managing locations for other businesses.

Verification issues

When creating your GMB business listing, you may find that your business has been claimed by someone else. It may be an agency you hired, an ex-employee of yours, you yourself but you lost the email, or whoever else. In this case, Google My Business will show you a notification stating that the business has already been claimed, and a part of the email address used to claim the account.

GMB listing is already claimed by someone else

If you recognize the email, you can just recover your Google account. If the email doesn’t seem familiar, click Request access > fill out the form > click Submit. The current GMB profile owner will get the email with an access request, and grant the ownership to you within seven days. At the same time, you will get an email regarding this request. Save that email — it’s important!

If the current profile owner doesn’t answer in seven days, you will then be able to claim the GMB listing on your own. If the previous listing owner denies the request, you will have an option to verify your affiliation with the business you claim.

If you need to reclaim a service area business, the process will be a bit different. You will have to enter your business information, and re-verify your business by mail. Then, go to your GMB dashboard, and click Request Access. This will send a notification letter to the previous owner, and you will proceed with the request process described above.

It may also happen that you have received a verification code, but when you enter it, Google My Business states that your business profile has errors. These errors usually happen due to incorrectly specified categories, hidden address or address mistakes, keyword stuffing in business names, etc. To avoid that, make sure you follow the GMB guidelines when filling out your profile.

3. Optimize your GMB listing

Google My Business has hundreds of features that can make your listing attractive to users and Google algorithms, thus making your SEO strategy even more successful. Some GMB features are universal, while others are niche-specific. These are, for example, menu items for cafes and restaurants, types of service in gyms and hospitals, hotel amenities, product catalogs in supermarkets, etc. All these features let you enrich your GMB profile, polish your SEO, and surpass your competitors.

Let’s have a closer look at some of GMB features.

Photos & videos

Visual content is a must for any business. Enrich your Google Business listing with high-quality photos of your goods and amenities, add video tours of your facilities, show some behind-the-scenes processes — all of that shows Google that your listing is alive.

What’s more, uploading your own visual content will give you more control of what your listing looks like and of your SEO. If you don’t add any photos, your GMB listing will feature the photos uploaded by your users and those are rarely any good. If you add high-quality photos yourself, Google will prioritize them and your listing is guaranteed to look more appealing.

As for the guidelines that Google My Business has for photos and videos, they are as follows.

Photos:

  • Format: JPG or PNG

  • Size: Between 10 KB and 5 MB

  • Recommended resolution: 720 px tall, 720 px wide

  • Minimum resolution: 250 px tall, 250 px wide

  • Quality: The photo should be in focus and well lit, and have no significant alterations or excessive use of filters. In other words, the image should represent reality.

Videos:

  • Duration: Up to 30 seconds long

  • File size: Up to 75 MB

  • Resolution: 720p or higher

  • Instant verification

  • Bulk verification

Info section

The Info section of Google My Business is really huge, and its features depend on the type of your business. Anyway, you should specify as much as possible — as you remember, the completeness of a listing weighs a lot in GMB SEO.

As for some general things you can specify in your GMB listing, there are safety measures (COVID-19), availability for the disabled, if an organization is headed by a woman, if there’s wi-fi in your facility, WC and parking availability, if your business is LGBTQ+ friendly, what services are free and what are paid, what types of payments you accept, and many other things.

Extra features in GMB

As for business-specific options of GMB, there are also hundreds of features to add to make your business listing more competitive.

Say you’re a cafe or a restaurant. You can add your menu items with photos, ingredients, and price per unit. You can also highlight popular dishes, the types of food you serve, if there are vegan options, and many other peculiarities.

If your business is a supermarket, you can state if you have a salad bar, ready-made food, organic food, a recycling facility, and so on.

Own a hotel? Indicate what type of rooms you offer, what these rooms are equipped with, is there a lobby bar, etc.

As you can see, the Info section is really huge, and it’s impossible to describe all of its features within this GMB SEO guide (it would be as big as this whole article). See what Google My Business offers for your business, and fill out as many fields as possible — this would be appreciated by both Google AI and your potential clients.

Google reviews

Google reviews and their management do matter for SEO. Reviews work like comments and likes on social media — the more positive reviews you get, the higher your listing ranks. It’s important to give feedback on all reviews — thank your users for good reviews, and express sincere concern if the review is negative. For more guidance on how to respond to positive and negative reviews, check out this article with plenty of examples and best practices.

In March 2021, Google introduced a review management tool for business owners to flag and report negative and inappropriate reviews that may harm your reputation. So the review management process is now easier than ever.

Messaging feature for your clients

Make sure to provide your phone number and turn on the Messaging feature through your GMB app. Once you do that, your users will be able to contact you right from the Google results page with the help of this button:

Message button in a GMB listing

Why is this useful? First, people don’t like making phone calls and prefer messengers. Second, it puts your contact details directly in SERP, which is a major convenience for your users who now don’t have to visit your website and look for a contact page.

Be sure to follow messaging guidelines.

Google Posts (Events, Offers, Announcements)

Google Posts help you inform your clients about special offers and news. The posts expire seven days after they are first published so they are meant to highlight the most current developments in your business.

As for technical features, Google posts can include a title, dates and times of the event, up to 300 words, CTA buttons, and an image (4:3 aspect ratio, up to 5 MB). Also, make sure to check if your post fits Google guidelines and Google Posts content policy. Spoiler: relevant links are allowed.

Google Posts in GMB

Create new posts in Google My Business whenever you have anything to announce, add eye-candy photos, and write attractive, selling headlines and descriptions.

Since December 2020, the Google Posts section also features Gift card/donation campaigns, which used to be a separate feature when the COVID-19 pandemic burst out. If your business is still unable to operate the way it did before COVID-19, you can ask your customers to support you via a donation or by purchasing a gift card. As for the direct support links that emerged because of the pandemic, you cannot create them anymore after December 2020.

If you can’t come up with any new post ideas, check out the Businesses like you are posting section. The section shows the posts from other similar businesses in your area.

Posts from similar businesses in GMB

What you need is to monitor this section, catch up with your competitors, and create better posts to surpass them.

Questions and Answers

The O&A section of Google My Business is a space where your users can ask any question about your business, and you or other users can answer them.

Q&A section in GMB

The best way is, of course, for you to handle all the questions on your own. Make sure your answers are to the point and use the opportunity to add more keywords to your Google Business listing. Once again, don’t overdo it with keywords not to sound spammy or bot-like. 

Again, you can take charge of this section by adding your own questions and answering them yourself. This way you are adding content to your listing while also providing information to your users.

Business-specific features

Have you seen Book a Room or Check Availability buttons on hotel listings? This is what we are talking about. The buttons like this let you get extra clicks right from the GMB listing on SERP.

Business-specific features in GMB

These features differ from business to business. Cafes and restaurants have an option to feature Order Online and Reserve a Table buttons:

Business-specific features in GMB

Gas stations can go ahead and display their gas prices on Google My Business so that the drivers can decide where they'll stop on their trip without wasting any time arguing with a cash register person.

And, for instance, if you're providing a service running on a regular schedule, say, a yoga studio, you can add your schedule to the GMB, and a potential client will be able to see available times right in your Google Maps listing.

Pointy from Google

Pointy from Google is a service that owners of supermarkets can use to connect their point of sale system and automatically add their in-store inventory to GMB and to a store’s Pointy Page. This feature is now available in the USA, Canada, the UK, Ireland, and Australia.

Google Pointy is actually a scanning system. Once you've connected the Pointy box to your barcode scanner, all you'll have to do is scan any product as you would during a purchase, and the product's description and the price are instantly and automatically uploaded to the product carousel of your Google My Business listing.

You can edit and touch up the info on any product at any time, of course, so it's a huge help for stores trying to digitize.

Insights

Google My Business Insights is much like Google Analytics, but a little bit less functional. Yet it’s not entirely useless. GMB Insights let you get the insights you need to increase your customer base. With simple analytics, see how you compare to other businesses, how many customers find you, and how they engage with your business.

Insights in GMB

And if you're managing a couple of locations, you can just download the insights GMB has for you in bulk. Once you get it, it's a real one-stop-shop for the way people interact with your Google Business listing in particular and business in general.

Final thoughts

The thing is that Google My Business can often bring you more use than your actual website. GMB listings are placed higher on SERP, thus attracting more attention and providing users and Google with all the necessary information at once (this helps indexing, too). Make GMB an essential part of your SEO strategy, and keep your listings updated and be active — the reward will be soon to come.

Do you use Google My Business for your business? If you faced any issues we didn’t manage to cover in this article, write them in the comments.