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When it comes to local SEO (search engine optimization), the main objective for most businesses is to be found at the top of Google Maps, as it’s where the majority of attention (and clicks) gravitate toward. The map display is impossible to miss, and it visually dominates the top of the search results when Google determines the search performed contained local intent.
To be found in Google Maps, your business must have a Google My Business (GMB) profile, but simply claiming it and verifying ownership isn’t enough. You need to optimize it and continue to be active in order to reap its full benefits.
If you are a new business or just haven’t claimed your listing yet, you can do so here. A rule of thumb: Take full advantage of every character space available and information field. If Google gives you an opportunity to include a piece of information about your business, include it.
This is the source of local business data that Google uses for its local search algorithm. In addition to claiming and completing your profile, here are some tips that will help you leverage its full potential.
Optimize your description for your specific location
You are allowed up to 750 characters for your description, which isn’t a lot. It’s important to take full advantage of this space and optimize it for your location.
When someone searches for a business—let’s use “interior designer near me” as an example—Google uses the address of your business in relation to the IP address of the individual performing the search if they are on a home PC or their phone’s location service if they are on a mobile device.
If your business serves cities and towns beyond your location’s address, you will want to cleverly work those variations into your description. If you cannot do it without appearing spammy, consider adding something at the end like, “Also serving the following areas: (list of cities and towns).”
Geo-tag photos for increased local discovery.
When uploading images to your GMB profile, take advantage of the geotagging option. If you pay attention to the local search results, you will notice Google has been showing more images, even for local results, and including the business information alongside them.
Why? Because visual content has become so popular, thanks in part to social media apps like Instagram, and Google has been experimenting with this feature.
With many businesses not adapting quickly, it presents you with an opportunity to be first in your market to take advantage of this strategy. Make it a habit of posting images often, as it gives your feed a constant source of new content.
Utilize “Posts” for special offers and to attract customers.
Years ago, Google My Business was simply a directory listing. It featured the address and contact information for the business, nothing else. Now, it has transformed into a social media feed, and GMB is constantly rolling out new features for its users.
One of the newest features is “Posts,” which display directly on your GMB profile as well as on Maps. This gives you an opportunity to share special offers and business news or announce new products or services. It’s a great way to communicate with current customers as well as put information out there that will appear to prospects, helping to convince them to check out your offerings.
With so much competition for the same customers, this is just another way to promote offers, keep your customers updated on what is happening and engage with those interested in what your business offers. You can also include a call-to-action (CTA) in your Post, like “learn more,” “buy,” “visit” or “call.”
Enable GMB’s SMS contact option.
This is a feature that many don’t take advantage of. If you don’t enable an SMS contact option for your business, you will miss out on potential inbound inquiries. Consumers today use text messaging as a primary communication method, as it’s more convenient than making a phone call.
Enabling this on your GMB profile allows you to connect and verify a mobile device to both field texts and reply to them. The messages are routed to and from your phone through Google, so your personal mobile number is never shown.
Listings that have this option enabled will often draw more attention, even if there are other listings above, simply due to the convenience factor. Many people would prefer to send a text rather than have to speak over the phone. You can find detailed instructions on how to enable this feature here.
Focus on Google reviews to improve CTR and ranking.
Lastly, your Google My Business profile is home to your online reviews. These help your business significantly in two ways. First, they make your business more appealing, as consumers are naturally attracted to businesses with more or higher reviews. Second, Google’s local SEO algorithm takes reviews into account.
Make a valiant effort to secure reviews from past customers and put a system in place to encourage reviews from all of your customers moving forward. Automated email sequences, a CTA at the bottom of final invoice emails or shipping confirmation emails are a simple way to always have your “ask” out there.
When you focus on delivering the highest quality product or service, you will find that your customers will be more than happy to honor your request. You just have to ask them.
A business that is ranking in the fifth position in the Maps results can outperform other listings by having a significantly higher number of reviews—this is just how consumer behavior works.
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