Google Maps Optimization Guide
How to optimize your Google My Business listing to generate leads
How To Optimize Your Google My Business Listing
21 Steps to Better Rankings & More Leads
A. Google My Business is a directory of all the businesses that are shown in Google Maps. Your business should care because Google Maps shows up near the top of all local searches. And Google gets nearly 80% of all searches in the U.S.
Google Maps is prime real estate and your business can generate leads from it if you take it seriously and invest time and money into it.
Here’s our DIY Guide to Optimizing your own Google My Business, Yelp, and Bing listings to improve user experience, rankings, visibility, reputation, and lead generation.
You can also download a nice looking PDF version of our FREE Google Maps Optimization Guide to take with you and read when you want to.
Step 1. Gain “owner” status of your Google My Business listing.
Go to google.com/maps and search for your exact business name and city, state. The name should start to show up in the search bar as you type it in.
It should take you right to a big map with an information panel on the left (desktop) with information about your company. Google calls this your business “knowledge panel.”
Or it may take you to a list of companies and you’ll have to scroll around and find yours. If you don’t find it at all, then go to google.com/business and create your new listing today.
If you find your business listing, click on it, and check the details. Are the name, address, phone, and business hours correct? Is there a working link to your website?
Do you have control over this account? You need to get “owner” control of this listing if you don’t have it already. You can then assign others as owners, managers, or communications managers.
Do you see the words “Claim this business?” below the phone and website URL (see image sample below)?
If you DO see the words “Claim this business” listed for your business then click on that shield or sentence link and claim your listing. It will ask you to log into your Google account and take you through the process to claim your business listing. They will need to verify you are the owner.
Google may simply call the phone number in the listing for verification or you may need provide a copy of a recent utility bill in the name of the company and with the same address as the Google My Business listing.
If you don’t have control of the account, don’t know who does, and you don’t see the “Claim this business” listed then you’ll beed to contact GMB to get it straightened out.
Many other situations and complications can apply, you can contact Google My Business directly for additional help.
GMB Direct: https://www.google.com/business/
GMB on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GoogleMyBusiness/
GMB on Twitter: https://twitter.com/googlemybiz?lang=en
Step 2. If you have multiple locations be sure to add a new GMB location for each physical location and optimize each listing separately with it’s own photos, descriptions, etc.
Step 3. Make sure the business name, address, phone (NAP), website URL in GMB match exactly to the information on your website.
If your company name is “Your business, Inc.” on your website that’s exactly what it has to say in GMB (including the comma and period). Change one or the other but they both MUST match exactly.
Do NOT add spammy keywords or city names to your business name for better rankings. It will catch up to you and your listing and possibly your account will be suspended.
Professional SEO’s and Google’s volunteer army of Local Guides are constantly looking for and reporting such spam.
Should you show your address or not? If you invite and accept public traffic into your location then yes, add your physical address. If you service customers at their location and want your location hidden, you can choose that option.
Step 3a: Add the days you’re open and business hours. Add if you’re closed or open and hours for upcoming holidays.
Step 3b: Add the typical holidays you’re closed now so you don’t have to worry about it the last minute during holiday chaos.
National holidays in the U.S.A. include:
- New Years Day (Jan 1)
- Martin Luther King Jr. Day (3rd Monday in Jan)
- George Washington’s Birthday (3rd Monday in Feb)
- Memorial Day (last Monday in May)
- Independence Day (July 4)
- Labor Day (1st Monday in Sep)
- Columbus Day (2nd Monday in Oct)
- Veterans Day (Nov 11)
- Thanksgiving Day (4th Thursday in Nov)
- Christmas Day (Dec 25).
Step 4. Makes sure the exact same name, address, phone (NAP) information is listed in the footer of your website. It should be listed on every page of your website and blog post (phone should be at top and complete info in the footer of every page), as well as links to your social media pages.
Step 5. You can and should use call tracking phone number to track GMB calls. We do not, but you can. Make the call-tracking number your primary number and be certain to include your true phone number as a secondary line.
Note: GMB also tracks phone calls within you GMB Insights data but it is widely debated as to its reporting accuracy.
Step 6. Do NOT use call-tracking numbers for any other online directory. It will cause Name, address, phone (NAP) conflicts and negatively impact your business listings and website’s ranking ability.
Step 7. To track true website link traffic from your GMB listing use Google Analytics (GA). Build a Tracking URL in Google Analytics for your website link in GMB and then use it to replace your existing website URL in GMB. Name the campaign”GMB” so you’ll be able to see the traffic in GA.
Use Google’s campaign URL builder to create a trackable URL and then insert that into your GMB listing as your website address. Google Analytics will then detail what traffic comes from your GMB listing.
Step 8. Do category research and include all necessary sub-categories.
- Search within Google Maps and in “Incognito mode” for each one of your products and services. Include the name of your city. For example, “plumber riverside ca” or “water heater repair orlando fl.”
- Look closely and record the category of the top three listings, as well as all other categories. Which one did the top three use? Which one dominated?
- Make note to use that category for that search.
- Repeat the process for every product/service and record them all.
- Now which of these is your primary business? That’s your primary category.
- Now which one brings in the second most amount of sales? That’s your next category. Etc.
- When you’ve completed all your products and services. Go into your GMB listing management and select your primary category and include the sub-categories from your new research list.
Note: you may benefit from seasonal changes to your primary category. For example we have a solar contractor who is also a long-standing electrical contracting company in their area and so in the winter we may switch the primary GMB category to electrician and in the spring and summer it’s solar equipment supplier. This can help in seasonal searches.
Step 8b: Do keyword research while doing your category research. Make note of the headlines being used in the ads and the titles of the organic listings below the map. Maybe click on the top three non-directory listings and see how that pages is designed and written. What sub-headings are being used. What images, videos, maps, etc.?
Step 9. Write 750 character keyword and location optimized business description. Combine both your keywords and the key cities or counties you serve. Write it for the consumer.
Step 10. Write keyword optimized products and services descriptions. Be sure to group them logically and include all major services using top keywords.
Step 11. Highlights – here you can add if you’re a veteran-owned or woman-owned business. If you have a brick and mortar location that welcomes the public then you may also have options to show if your location offers public wifi, handicap access, payment options, and more.
Step 12. Include the date your business opened. It’s important to fill out all data requested completely. Research shows completed listings outrank those that are lacking.
Step 13. Upload photos of your business, products and services, staff, and customers.
GMB images should be a minimum of 720 pixels x 720 pixels with a maximum file size of 5 MB.
Google My Business does not want stock photos in your listing. They will reject them if they recognize them as stock images.
Your prospects and customers want to see real photos also.
Hint: turn on “location services” on all technicians phones and take photos at each job. The location data will be embedded in image and may help show Google your service area.
Hint 2: set your phone to take “square” photos, which are ideal for GMB.
Types of images to upload to GMB:
- technicians at work
- office staff at work
- staff & truck fleet
- team photos
- exterior of your building / office
- interior of your building / office / warehouse
- product images
- happy customers holding 5-star signs
- employee of the week or month
- event photos
- speaking engagements
- custom graphics about services
Google Indoor Street View Tour 360 degree photographs are popular and Google is certifying qualified photographers.
At least one 360 photo inside your location and another outside is recommended.
Ask the photographer to geo-tag the photos with city and state (latitude and longitude really). More Google Indoor Street View info here.
Bonus Photo Tips
Tip 1: You need two images that you’ll select as your logo and your GMB cover art in your GMB photo dashboard.
Tip 2: For Cover Art, a graphics art piece with your company logo, phone, list of services, reviews stars, and maybe a text-to-join VIP club work pretty well as cover art.
Tip 3: Google wants at least five photos each of your “team” and your team “at work.”
Step 14. Add VIDEOS to your GMB photo album. GMB allows you to upload videos of up to 30 seconds in length. Consumers want to see the people behind your business, its products ands services, and some customer testimonials.
Here are a few video Ideas for your GMB listing:
- show your products: how they’re built, how they work, insider tricks, how to repair common issues, etc.
- highlight common installations
- highlight common service calls
- give a tour of the office
- customer testimonials – (filmed on a phone, wide screen)
- highlight one employee per week
- interview employees – what do they like best about working there?
- announce specials
- document a major job
- create an infomercial
- highlight all company functions – big meetings, community events, company picnics, etc. Bring a camera and edit various parts into 30 second clips to upload. Let your customers be a part of the inside operations.
Step 15. Turn ON Messaging in GMB listing – if there is a reliable phone line that will instantly see SMS text messages and be able to respond to them. Have a pre-written instant replay ready such as “Thanks for the message, we’ll reply in person as soon as we can.”
Step 16. Create the free GMB website that is available with each listing. Write a 300-500 word unique business description specifically for this GMB website.
Step 17. Post at least weekly to GMB listing because it helps boost your GMB listing in search. Your last post and its featured photo will also show in your GMB profile in Maps. Optimize the images you use also for added rankings power boost. Offer specials, run contests, provide value.
Google Reviews Are Important!
Step 18. Google Reviews – your customer ratings on Google are more important than ever!
Over 80% of consumers use Google to search for everything and over 80% of them use online reviews as a factor in deciding whether or not to do business with your company.
Consumers can and do sort Google Maps listings by customer star ratings.
If a user filters their Google search to include only those with ratings of 4.0 and up does your business show up?
If your business doesn’t show with a 4.0 or higher search, and at or near the top, then you’re likely missing out on more than half of your potential prospects right from the start, probably a lot higher actually. That’s a very serious handicap from the starting line. You’re swimming upstream.
Assuming you’re great at what you do and take good care of your customers, you now need to wake up to the fact that we live in a digital smartphone world forever more and every business owner needs to start taking action to own and manage their online reputation and brand, or slowly fade away.
Your online brand, content, and reputation is all people have to know you by in the digital world.
Every business must take control of your reputation online and the best solution is an automated reputation management software system.
Such software allows you to actively grow online reviews, create first-party reviews that are written directly onto your website and can produce review stars in local searches, and to display, monitor, and encourage third-party reviews on platforms you choose such as Google, Facebook, HomeAdvisor, Angie’s List, etc.
Plus you get to actively reply to all of them from one central system.
A good reputation management system can be used both in the field and in the office and can encourage customer reviews on most any platform you need them on (except Yelp, which forbids asking for reviews).
We include reputation management in our managed SEO and marketing plans for contractors, which provides turnkey marketing management services to high quality contractors. Open enrollment is available only 3 or 4 times per year. Follow the link above to learn more.
How to handle negative reviews – if a review is negative, hopefully you’ve caught it before it got posted online because you’re using a good reputation software system. But if you haven’t and it’s up there on Google, Yelp, HomeAdvisor, or wherever. here are some recommend guidelines:
- never get emotional over a bad review
- never reply if you failed point one
- cool down BEFORE you reply (your very business success depends on it even if you’re 100 percent right)
- if you argue or fight online you will lose in everyone else’s eyes
- never talk job details or specifics to a negative review
- take it offline
- reply with something like, “Sorry you didn’t have a five-star experience with us (their correct name). Please contact me personally offline to try and resolve any issues. My number is (your phone).” Or use a link to a message form on our website here, etc.
Bonus Reviews Tip #1: to get more Google reviews encourage your customers to upload to Google a couple of photos of your field team and what they fixed or installed for the customer.
This “photo-ask” process will create natural and organic reviews, and lots of them, if you train your staff to always ask.
Important: Do NOT ask for Yelp reviews. While Google recommends that you ask customers for reviews, Yelp’s Terms of Service strictly forbids asking for reviews.
Only ask customers to post reviews on Google and Facebook.
If you have an office open to the public and get decent foot traffic then you can create and print signs showing that you’re listed in Google, Facebook, Yelp and place them on your countertop.
Have staff point out that you’re in these directories and openly encourage the posting of people, product, and business photos.
Ask them to “check-in” at your location online. Facebook even offers a Wifi code which lets them use your guest Wifi if they agree to automatically “check-in” to Facebook.
Bonus Reviews Tip #2: create a reviews page on your website with direct links to the URLs to write a review for your business on Google+, Yelp, Home Advisor, Angie’s List, etc.
Make it easy for customers to write reviews.
Website SEO Improvements to Check
Step 19. Check & correct your website for site structure and on-page SEO – permalink structure, topical silos, menu, titles, URLs, category names, H-tags, meta descriptions, alt-tags, internal links, footer, NAP, etc.
For more information on these and other tactics to improve your search rankings, see our FREE Local SEO Guide.
Step 20. Get links from other relevant directories to your website, this helps provide ranking power to your GMB listing and website.
You can also point links to your other directory listings, which may get you another organic listing in local searches from Yelp, Bing, Superpages, Yellowpages, etc.
Step 21. Do you have a locations page on your website that is titled and optimized to [your services] in [your city and state] for each area you service? (i.e. best plumber in Riverside CA)
If you want to get online leads from local searches in cities you’re not actually physically located in, then your site needs a unique and customized city page for each of those areas. No duplicates!
If you have multiple physical locations then create a city page for each location and point each GMB website link to its respective city page. Also point most or all GMB posts to its related location page.
Embed your GMB map listing at the bottom of the location page.
Bonus #1. Create and install Structured Data Code [schema markup] on your website to better identify your content, business category, name, address, phone, and URL to search engine spiders.
You should add local business schema to the home and contact us pages, and service schema to all services pages.
Note: There is specific schema markup for “plumber” and “electrician” but not for solar contractors, who should default to either electrician or “local business” schema.