Despite only having been around since 2014, Google My Business (GMB) has become an indispensable tool for small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs). GMB listings are slightly different to organic Google listings – they’re influenced by the user’s location, unlike organic results. This means prioritising local rankings, because these are what affect Google Search for people searching for businesses that are local to them. As of 2018, GMB makes up 25% of the top local ranking factors on Google.
Google says (opens in new tab) it determines its local results by relevance, distance and prominence. Relevance and prominence are factors that using GMB can improve. With nearly one third of all mobile searches being location-based queries, it’s time to start taking advantage of Google My Business if you haven’t already.
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What does Google My Business offer?
GMB is a free tool that allows you to create a Business Profile that appears on Google Search and Maps. Your Business Profile offers vital information like your location, contact details, photos and reviews, and generates a knowledge panel on the right side of the results page; similar to a featured snippet. This knowledge panel (opens in new tab) offers information ‘unique to your business’ in a digestible format. Without a Business Profile, it’s highly unlikely that your business will appear in the local panel on Google search and Google Maps.
GMB also offers analytic capabilities. The Insights tab lets the owner of the listing see how they’re performing on Google Maps and results pages. It has three available views: visibility, engagement and audience. These can show you how many people view your page, who they are and how they engage with you.
As mentioned before, Google determines local rankings with relevance, distance and prominence. These factors are all based on information that Google can find about your business online. Creating a Business Profile lets business owners input that information directly to Google, meaning GMB is an excellent way of updating all of the information available about your business in one fell swoop.
Your company’s online information needs to be regularly updated to maintain its accuracy. Your local rankings will be damaged if your opening hours aren’t clear, or you have an old address listed on some pages of your website. More than half of negative factors that negatively influence local rankings are caused by incorrect or unreliable GMB information.
Many third-party services rely on Google for information, so if your Business Profile is up to date, your business will have consistent contact information available online. There are a lot of fields to fill out on your Business Profile but it’s worth it. If you leave empty fields, Google will let anyone suggest an edit, which could lead to incorrect information being listed.
You can use Posts (opens in new tab) to share updates, events and product offers directly to the local panel. This is a great way to market to potential customers without them needing to find your social media page or website. Posts allow you to offer a one-click CTA which can be whatever you choose. You can have up to ten of these live at any time, which is an excellent opportunity to promote exclusive sales or signups.
If you regularly post text, your GMB page will continue to increase in prominence and relevance, as it allows you to include more keywords with new content. The platform also allows you to share photos and videos. Visual content is more engaging than text – Google tracks engagement with your Business Profile as part of its local ranking criteria. So, using a variety of GMB Posts can work in the same way as blogging or posting on social media.
Reviews are important for trust and credibility - and they have a definite effect on local rankings. Good reviews increase positive sentiment and bad reviews offer an opportunity to reach out to the customer, retroactively improving bad experiences. When customers post reviews featuring your keyword, this will also count towards your SEO ranking. Encouraging feedback in customer surveys and on your website will help you understand areas where your business performs well and identify areas for improvement.
When it comes to Google Search and Maps, reviews allow your business to show up on the Map Pack; the list of businesses on the Google Maps results page near your location. This will bring up your contact information, total amount of reviews and average rating. A good rating can help you stand out amongst competitors, so reviews are an invaluable tool.
Google My Business and the future of local rankings
So, is it worth making a Business Profile?
As far as tools go, GMB is immensely useful - It offers the opportunity to feature prominently on Google Search and Maps and it’s free. Given the many updates to GMB in the last few years and how much it impacts local rankings, it’s not going anywhere. Optimising your business’s local ranking results is a continual process that will keep changing as Google updates its criteria but making a Business Profile is definitely a good way to climb the rankings. For SMBs, Google My Business is a must.
Kate Menzies, Content Writer at Fifty Five and Five (opens in new tab)
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