A version of this post was originally written as a guest post for WebFirm.
Google remains the force in search engine market share, and local search is critical to businesses. Often, local search results display before organic pages, in a way making it the ‘new frontier’ of ranking competition.
Optimizing your Google My Business profile isn’t very different from optimizing your website. You always want an attractive presence, accurate information, and an engaged audience. However, many business owners overlook the importance of these strategies.
Claim or Create Your Google My Business Listing
To start, you need to have control of a Google My Business listing. For some local businesses, Google may have already created a listing for you. Unfortunately, this automated system has limited info at best, and incorrect information at worst.
To see if a listing has been created for you, search for your business using Google Maps. If you find your business, open that listing and click “Own this business?” Google will then guide you through the process of claiming that listing.
If no listing is found, you can go through the step-by-step process by starting at the Google My Business home page.
Once you have full control of your Google My Business listing, it is important to make sure everything is up to date and accurate. If the information on your website is different from your Google My Business listing, it can confuse Google’s algorithm and may negatively impact your visibility.
These items include your phone number, website URL, when you are open and closed, etc.
Google has custom fields for certain businesses. Restaurants can put in a direct link to their menu. Doctors can list if they are accepting new patients or not. Making sure your profile is 100% for your type of business will increase your likelihood of ranking higher.
Special note on Holidays: Always update or confirm your business hours on holidays. If you don’t, Google will put a warning next to your listing that day that your opening hours may be affected. It’s best to keep Google and your customers from wondering if you’re open or not.
Use Keywords in Business Name
Keyword stuffing could get your listing flagged or blacklisted by Google, but using appropriate keywords in your business name can be beneficial. For instance, if a medical practice has five regional offices around a metro area, their listings should also include the name of the town or neighborhood. By using additional keywords, visibility will be improved for other search terms. E.g. “Female Urologist in San Antonio.”
Use Professional Images
Google recommends uploading various types of imagery for your business. Interior, exterior, the team, branding, etc. Using professional images will increase user engagement and ranking potential, especially when used for your cover and profile picture. These show up first on Google My Business listings.
A recent development is the addition of video upload for a business page, and given Google’s ownership of YouTube and propensity to give favor to websites using video, it’s safe to say including a business video would be a best practice.
Be Proactive about Reputation Management
Part of ensuring your business looks appealing is making sure you have reviews for your business. It’s human nature to seek out the opinions of others before making a decision, and Google makes those opinions obvious.
If you aren’t taking an active role in harvesting positive reviews for your business, your competitors may begin to dominate local search.
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Occasionally, Google will ask for clarification on your listing based on other information it’s collected. It may be from other users or web content that is contradictory to information in your listing. It’s best to resolve these updates as quickly as possible, so Google knows it has proper information.
Making sure your Google My Business profile is optimized will allow more people to find you and your business. For a single business location, the initial process may take a couple hours. Reviewing once a month for updates or new fields should only take a few minutes. From a return on investment standpoint, there is little else that can increase your business as much as optimizing your Google My Business listing.
About the Author
Brian Dooley is a healthcare marketing expert and the founder of Independence Digital, a marketing agency that connects patients to medical providers. He was previously the Director of Marketing and Customer Care for one of the largest urology practices in the nation. Specialties include increasing patient volume, profitability, and positioning medical providers as best-in-class.