If you own a local business, one of the most important things you can do for your SEO is to make sure that your Google Business listing is well-optimized.
These days, many searches, especially for local businesses and services, are done with geo-modifiers such as “Raleigh exterior painter” or “power washing near me”, and Google gives searches such as these something we call the three-pack. The three-pack is the three locations given with a map at the top of a Google search.
As you can see, not only is this three-pack located prominently at the top of the page, but it also contains very pertinent information for consumers, such as address, hours of operation, services, images, and Google reviews. In order to have a well-optimized Google Business listing, the four most important categories are accurate business information, good images demonstrating your services and office, links to reputable sites such as Yelp, and good-quality Google reviews.
Before we move on, however, we must quickly address one step without which nothing else can move forward. If you haven’t already done so, you will need to claim your business address. If you already have a registered Google account this is easy. Go to business.google.com and sign in. You will see a screen that looks like this:
Use the “Claim Listing” option and put in your business information. From there, you will be able to choose which business is yours and have a postcard sent to that location. When you receive the postcard, you can put in your code, and move on to your optimization!
The first thing you will want to do when you get access to your Google Business listing is make sure that your information is accurate. Upon logging in, you will be confronted with a screen that looks like this:
Here you will see all the options you have to add information to your listing. Things such as your address, hours of operation, and primary services can all be changed from here.
It is crucially important, however, that this match up with what your website and any other listings such as Facebook or Angies’ List you might have. Google likes to look for continuity over all your NAP (Name, Address, Phone) listings, and if your Google Business listing says one thing but your Facebook says another, there is a good chance you will be penalized for this oversight.
As such, whenever you change locations, hours, services, or phone numbers, always remember to change them on every listing you own. If you don’t, you might see your listing pushed down in the rankings.
Once you have completed adding all the basic information about your business, the next thing with which you should concern yourself is images of your business. There are a few categories that Google likes to see, including the exterior and interior of your office, your crew at work, and branding images. The importance of these images will depend on the nature of your business.
For businesses that provide very visual services such as painters, power washers, or construction crews these images will be of utmost importance. People want to see before and after images of what your services can bring to them. For others, such as dentists and lawyers, it is better to display your professionalism and modern office technology.
In order to add images, you go here:
From here, you can upload images and categorize them so Google knows what is what. Make sure to have a balance of different categories of images, although images of your work and images of your branding should take the highest priority.
While some might argue that links are not technically part of optimizing a Google Business listing, they are undoubtedly part of an important web presence, so I will mention them here. Having accounts on all the main avenues from which your industry gets business is crucially important not only to maximize your reach but also to strengthen the NAP information I mentioned earlier.
If you are a pressure washing company, make sure that you have listings on Houzz, Yelp, Angie’s’ List, and Facebook. These listings will not only provide you with the ability to reach additional customers but will also reinforce to Google that your listing is accurate and deserves the eyeballs of people searching for your service.
I will not go into too much more detail here about link building, but one of my brilliant coworkers has written about it in the past, and you can read about the other advantages of having a strong backlink profile here
I have left one of the most important aspects for last. While it is critically important that you make sure your information matches across all platforms, just as important is the quality and quantity of your Google reviews.
Long gone are the days in which reviews were seen as spammy outlets for the more unscrupulous businesses to try and game the system. These days, 88% of online customers say they look at reviews when deciding whether or not to use the services of a business. What this means for you is that you constantly want to be getting more good reviews.
There is one very important caveat, however: you may not offer anything in return for these reviews. You may ask for them, you may email clients and remind them later, but you may not offer discounts, free service, or anything of monetary value in exchange for them.
If Google finds out you have been doing so, your reviews will be stripped from your account, and your listing might even get suspended. This is catastrophic for a business reliant on local searches and local customers, and it is therefore in your interests to not even attempt to flirt with rule-breaking. There are certain services that you can sign up for, such as BirdEye, that can offer you a semi-automated way to acquire reviews, and I will go into this more in a future blog post.
Make Your Google Business Listing Work for You
If you follow all these steps, your Google Business listing will be a well-optimized beast, capable of giving searchers almost all the pertinent information they need at a glance, and even giving them the ability to call you or visit your website at the touch of a button.
Google has increasingly focused on proximity in search as they have shifted to delivering a mobile-first experience. What this means in practical terms is that you will be displayed increasingly more often if your office is physically close to the searcher. While this is not often a problem, it does make it very difficult for companies to show up for location-based searches if they are not in that location. For example, a painting company located outside of the actual city of Raleigh would struggle to make it onto the three-pack for a Raleigh search. This, however, cannot be changed without a change in address.
Barring the inflexibility of your business’ address, however, if you followed the four steps above, your listing will be strong and well on its way to creating business for you. If you make sure to update it and optimize it following these steps, it is a free tool that can significantly strengthen your online presence. Optimize on!