Managing and optimising your Google My Business profile

To provide a strong user experience for visitors, ensure your profile is correctly populated, optimised and make use of some of the additional features.



Guide

10 min read

1. Introduction

Once you have claimed and populated your Google My Business (GMB) profile, you need to ensure you’re getting the most out of it by using the relevant additional features available and optimising your profile.

2. The importance of optimising your profile

In many instances, Google My Business is almost replacing the need for users to go to your website homepage. Your customers can increasingly find all of the information they need about your business – and even convert - from the search results without clicking onto your site. Furthermore, during COVID-19, many businesses turned to Google My Business to keep customers up to date.

This means that it is more important than ever to ensure your profile is correctly populated to accurately reflect your business, as this could be the key online interaction users have with your business. It is also important that you optimise and use some of the additional features available, to provide a strong user experience for visitors and give as much opportunity as possible for them to become new customers.

Another reason to optimise your profile is that maintaining an active listing and making use of additional GMB features can not only help engage your users but is also an important factor in helping improve your rankings in local search results.

Key ranking factors include:

  • Distance from user’s location or searched location.
  • Prominence and ‘fame’ of a location, venue or brand.
  • A listing’s relevance to the search term.
  • How comprehensive your listing is, in terms of information entered, engagement and features used.

This means that actively managing your profile and using relevant features, such as categories, photos, descriptions, posts, services and buttons, can help your chances of ranking for local searches. Another key element is reviews. Having highly rated and high quality reviews that you respond to is often considered a key factor in how Google ranks local listings.

3. Use additional features

Alongside the opportunity to manage your free business listing, Google My Business offers a suite of additional features to help you represent your business within their local search results and engage with your customers. Using these additional features can be a factor in improving your user experience and engagement and also in assisting search rankings.

Before launching any new features make sure that they are relevant to you, that you understand how to use them, and that you have considered the time involved in maintaining them. Also, just be aware that COVID-19 is impacting Google’s admin time in updating listings and in their help centre, so they flag that some support options may be unavailable or delayed.

Posts

GMB allows businesses to share additional information with their customers by adding ‘posts’ to their business profile. Posts can be a good way to showcase key conversion messaging to your audience.

According to Google, the types of post currently available are:

  • What’s new: Use these posts to share news or updates about your business.
  • Events: These posts can be used to promote a business event.
  • Offers: Here you can promote any sales, promotions or offers your business is running.
  • Products: Technically not ‘posts’, these allow you to add products that will appear in your ‘products’ tab.
  • Hours update: When you update your business hours, customers will see a message on your profile confirming that you updated the hours and Google will also create a post confirming your update - which you can edit. (These can also be deleted).

Plus, a COVID-19 update post type which you can add to notify customers of any changes due to coronavirus.

See Google My Business support for more information on post types and COVID-19 updates.

You add posts via your GMB dashboard. In most post types you can include a photo/video, description, and - importantly - a call to action button.

Posts can be an excellent way to engage with your customers and add real value, providing additional information and calls to action in a space where customers are actively looking for it. Creating regular posts also keeps your profile active, which is beneficial for users and could potentially help your rankings.

Aim to post weekly and make use of all of the post types relevant to you. Ensure post descriptions are engaging and to the point (include the main point at the start of the post) and include a call to action in each one.

However, as with any regular marketing messaging (such as email and social media), time and effort are required to keep it up. It is also important to have something to say to your users to ensure your posts are engaging. Plan your posts in advance so you have a bank of well-considered content which adds genuine value to your users that you can use for the upcoming month.

Google My Business messaging

GMB messaging gives you the option of adding a ‘message’ button to your business profile.

According to Google, “Once you turn on messaging, customers will find a "Message" button on your Business Profile, and be able to message you at any time”.

GMB messaging gives an additional way for users to contact you - which can be particularly useful when customers are not clicking through to your site, or if potential customers typically get in touch before buying/visiting. You can also share photos of any size via messaging.

However, do be aware that these messages appear in your Google My Business app, so you need to regularly check and respond via the app. You will also need to respond to each message within 24 hours to keep your messaging button active (Google can remove the message button from your profile if you take longer than a day to respond).

For more information on messaging see Google My Business support.

Booking button

With coronavirus, more businesses are moving to online systems to manage customer bookings. Whether you are just starting to take appointments and bookings online, or you already do, the GMB booking button could be beneficial for you as it can allow customers to make a booking straight from your business profile.

This can be hugely valuable for winning new business as it provides a fast and simple user experience for your customers and removes barriers to conversion. However, the catch is that to use this feature you have to be managing your online bookings through one of Google’s supported scheduling partners.

Showcasing your products

Businesses can now showcase their products and services directly within their GMB profile, using the ‘Products’ editor within the GMB dashboard.

This allows businesses to add specific products or services to their profile, along with a photo, description, price, and an all-important call to action. These calls to action can either link directly to your online shop or contain a link for more information.

Showcasing products can be hugely beneficial for many businesses, allowing you to show potential customers exactly what you offer within your profile itself, prompting decision making and even conversion directly from the search results.

Adding products is also an excellent way to increase the amount of information within your profile to help users and Google understand what you do.

To find out more about adding products, see Google’s support section.

Sector specific features

Google My Business also offers some category-specific features for business in specific sectors, such as hotels and restaurants. These are geared towards that sector and can be of real value to businesses and users in providing additional relevant information.

For example, for hotels, GMB allows you to add or edit your hotel’s amenities, class ratings, showcase hotel highlights, link to bookings and add your specific COVID-19 responder policy. (See the GMB help center for more information)

‘Create an ad’ functionality

Within your Google My Business dashboard, you will also see links to ‘create an ad’. This functionality from Google can help you to set up ads within minutes, that appear within Google search and Google maps, showing your business address, phone number and website link if you have one. You then pay whenever a user clicks on the ad to come to your website or calls your business.

However, do think carefully before launching an ad. These still cost money and if you don’t understand the system or what you want to get out of it you could overspend or get little in return. Before embarking on any advertising campaign, do your reading and make sure that you fully understand the platform, you have a set budget, you have made a plan and you know what you want to achieve.

For more information on Pay Per Click advertising, see the DigitalBoost guide on Paid Advertising.

Find out more about Google’s ads here.

Link with your Google Ads account

If you have a Google My Business profile and you are running, or go on to run, Google Ads pay per click (PPC) ads, you can link your account to unlock ‘location extensions’ within your PPC ads.

These allow you to show your location information within your ads, such as your address and phone number, and they can also have a clickable call button on mobile devices. This can help potential customers find you and contact you earlier.

For more information on this see Google Ads support.

As mentioned previously. Before embarking on any advertising campaign, it is essential that you set a budget, make a plan and understand the platform. For more information on Pay Per Click advertising, see the DigitalBoost guide on Paid Advertising.

4. Continually improve your profile

Review customer insights

Google My Business provides a free ‘Insights’ tool which can be accessed via your dashboard and through the Google My Business app. These insights give you information about how people interacted with and found your profile, including:

  • The number of times your profile has been viewed
  • How users found your profile and the search terms they used (i.e. did they search directly for your business or using a category keyword such as “pizza restaurant”)
  • What actions they took on your profile (did they click to your site, call, etc.).

These insights can be really useful in helping you assess the effectiveness of your listing. For example, if many users found you by searching for your business type, but no one took action, this could flag that your profile does not stand out against competitors and needs to be updated or improved (e.g. with a better description, new photos, posts etc.). However, on the other hand, if you have many users taking action from your profile, you can take the learning from what is working well here (potentially a strong promotion or good reviews) and work this into other aspects of your marketing.

The information in Insights can also help you understand your customers better.

  • What do they want and need?
  • What are they searching for?
  • How are they interacting with your profile?
  • Are they calling or messaging or heading to your site?

All of these insights are valuable and should be reviewed regularly.

For more information on Insights see Google’s support article.

Focus on reviews

Reviews are an integral part of your GMB profile. They are key to persuading customers to do business with you over a competitor, and they also impact your local search rankings. Having positive reviews can make all the difference to the success of your GMB profile.

If you are keen to get more reviews, one of the best ways to prompt more is to respond to any reviews that you get. This shows customers you engage with them and makes customers more likely to engage with you.

Alternatively, you can try asking your customers for reviews. (You are permitted to ask for reviews if you do so in an honest way, without spamming and by adhering to Google’s guidelines. If you don’t stick to the guidelines your reviews could be removed.)

You could approach existing customers individually (either in person or via a channel such as email or messenger) and ask if they would like to leave you a review. Note that you can create a shortcut link directly to your reviews section to make this process easier for them - Google explains how here.

Do keep in mind that Google is a public channel, and any reviews will be visible to everyone who views your profile. If you don’t normally ask for feedback or are not confident in what the reviews will flag, consider a more private channel like a quick Survey Monkey to gain feedback before you begin.

Remember, you must never pay for or incentivise reviews - this is forbidden by Google and is a violation of their guidelines.

Create a questions and Answers ‘FAQ’

In the previous guide we mentioned how important it is to actively monitor and answer any questions that users ask within your profile.

Taking this a step further, you could also use the Q&A functionality to add some ‘frequently asked questions’ to your profile. If your customers often ask the same questions before converting, consider adding these questions to your GMB profile, providing succinct and useful answers. Remember that anyone can answer these questions so keep an eye on your profile and check any user generated answers for accuracy.

Deal with fake reviews

If you receive a review that you know to be fake, this can be very frustrating and can at times be difficult to deal with.

The first step is to flag the review as inappropriate from within your dashboard. Google will then check whether the review adheres to their policy guidelines. Be patient as it can take time for Google to investigate. However, be aware that Google cannot check whether every review is genuine or fake, and they may not remove the review if it does not violate any of their guidelines. In this case you will need to respond accordingly to the review - being courteous and non-confrontational.

If you need additional help you can also contact Google Business Support, post on the Google My Business Forum or check out their Twitter account.

Remember that whether you have set up a Google My Business profile or not, people can leave reviews on your business on Google, so it’s best to be actively maintaining your profile to manage this.

Removing listings for closed businesses

If your business or a premises has moved or has closed for good, you can remove the listing or mark it as ‘permanently closed’ from within your Google My Business dashboard.

However please note - just as your profile may have been created by Google without your input - once you close or you cease to own the listing, that doesn’t mean the listing will disappear.

For permanently closed businesses, the listing will still appear online when searched for, but ‘permanently closed’ will be flagged in red. Likewise, if you select to ‘remove’ your listing this removes the listing from your dashboard and removes ownership rights, but it will not delete the listing from Google search results.

However, if your business has permanently closed or you no longer want ownership rights of the listing, you can carry out both of these actions from within the ‘info’ tab of your Google My Business dashboard.

(Note, once you select to ‘remove’ a location or listing this can’t be undone - you would need to verify the location again if you want to manage it).

Keep information up to date

Alongside monitoring your GMB profile for any user activity (such as questions, review and messages) it is important that you update any information that is out of date. Keep your address, phone number, business description, service list, photos, opening hours, etc. accurate and reflective of current business practice.

Also, as your GMB profile matures and you gain more insight, look to improve any elements of your profile (such as your description, photos, post messaging, product shots) by adding more compelling or engaging information.

Make sure that the information you enter and the features you use are centred around your users, to ensure the experience they have with your profile is the best it can be.

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