Think back to the last time you used the internet to search for a restaurant, lawn care business, carpet cleaning service, or pet care store. If you’re like most people, your search likely involved Google.
When you search something like “pest control near me,” Google has a special way of presenting businesses local to your area: business names appear in Google Search and Google Maps alongside their hours, ratings, contact information, and other important information.
To increase the chances of your business showing up following a quick Google search, you have to understand Google My Business, the Google service behind these listings. Google My Business is an incredibly useful local online marketing tool, and best of all, it’s free! Optimizing your Google My Business listing is one of the quickest, easiest, and most effective things you can do to improve your local marketing.
Step #1: Create your Google My Business listing
Since GMB listings are linked to Google Maps locations, these listings are available to brick and mortar businesses as well as businesses that lack a physical location but that cover a particular service area. Online-only businesses are not eligible to be managed through the service.
Start the process to manage your business with Google and follow the prompted steps. If your business has been around for several years, it probably already has an online listing—you just need to claim it. If your business is new, you’ll need to create the listing yourself.
As you create or edit your listing, there are a few particularly important details to pay attention to. First, make sure that you select the right business category and subcategories. For example, do you want to list your yoga and wellness center under “yoga studio” or “wellness center?” The primary category you choose will show up under your business name and help guide consumers’ searches. If you’re having trouble deciding on a category, look into the categories your competitors use. You always have the possibility to change your category later.
After specifying your location and/or service area, you’ll need to verify your business. To verify, Google usually sends a postcard with a verification code to the address listed. Once your business is verified, you’re all set! The GMB account for your business is all yours to modify and manage.
Step #2 Add important details to your Google My Businesslisting
Google My Business allows you to add all sorts of important information to your listing, and you should take advantage of this to make your listing as detailed as possible. Ensure that your most basic information—your business name, hours, address, and phone number—are all up to date and the logo for your business is appearing correctly. Then, follow the guidelines on the platform to write the description of your business that appears in search results. In your description, include a few key search terms your customers might use, such as “low cost” and “fast quotes” for your pest control service.
Improve your listing further by adding:
- Photos of your products and/or services
- Your website and social media pages
- An appointment booking tool
- Relevant special attributes such as “LGBTQ-friendly” or “women-led”
Step #3 Understand your appearance on Google Maps
After your GMB listing is created, your business will automatically appear on Google Maps at the address on the listing. When consumers engage in a local search, they will first see ads, then what is called the “local 3-pack” (the first three businesses that appear organically in search), and then the rest of the local businesses.
Of course, there are many benefits to being in the top three businesses that show up when people search your business keywords. Having a complete GWB listing helps your business rank higher. Other ways to increase the chances that your business will break into the coveted local 3-pack are explored below.
Step #4 Ask for (and respond to) Google reviews
Online reviews are one of the most important factors in your search ranking and in driving customers to your business. After all, would you rather employ the bin cleaning business with 7 positive reviews or the one with 100? When working to increase your positive reviews, recognize that most reviews don’t appear out of thin air—you actually have to ask for them.
The best time to ask for a review is immediately after delivering a great service. You can also send an email or text reminder following an appointment. GMB allows you to create a review link to send to customers to make the process even easier for them. A great way to prompt detailed reviews is to include a specific question in the review request, such as “Tell us what stood out to you about our service.”
Responding to customer reviews—both positive and negative ones—through your GMB listing is just as important. Actively replying keeps your business closer to the top of search results, and your attentiveness is a great sign to potential customers, too.
Step #5: Create posts and offers
A final excellent way to improve your local marketing with GMB is by creating posts and offers. Posts through GMB are similar to social media updates on a profile page. When someone googles the name of your business, your most recent posts will appear on the right side in the Google knowledge panel.
Posts can include updates like changes in hours or procedures due to COVID-19 or information about special promotions. You can also use posts to sell products directly—just include a photo of the product and the price. Each post should contain a specific call to action. For example, when you post about your café’s new gluten-free banana bread, include how a customer can “order now.” A post about an introductory offer for your lawn care business should prompt the customer to “claim your 15% off.”
The information in your Google My Business listing is the most important factor that determines where your business shows up in Google search results. For that reason, Google My Business is a service that every small business owner should be using to improve their local online marketing.
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Google My Business FAQs
Include keywords in your 750-character business description and in every post that you make through Google My Business.
Use Google My Business to improve your business’s visibility on Google. GMB allows you to manage how your business shows up in Google Search and Maps, communicate important information to customers, and receive and respond to reviews.
Optimize your Google My Business listing by making sure that your listing is complete, up to date, full of positive reviews, and optimized for keywords.