Like the familiar SEO strategies of metadata and internal links, Google My Business SEO starts backwards from how search engines like Google pick their results for a given search. The goal of SEO, no matter the platform, is to work your way to the top of the results by identifying what Google is looking for. On a Google My Business platform, or rather a Google Business Profile, the game is different but the rules are the same.
On GMB and on your website, Google is looking for three things: relevance, credibility and usability.
- Relevance: Is your business nearby, and does it offer what the customer is looking for?
- Credibility: Does the information match the website and other resources on the business? Are there genuine reviews praising the business?
- Usability: Are the hours accurate? Are there lots of quality photos to browse? Is there a menu or a way to order online? Are customer questions answered in a timely manner?
With these indicators in mind, it’s time to talk strategy.
How to improve your Google business profile’s relevance
The idea of gaining relevance will be very familiar to people using SEO: Keyword optimization. There are a number of places to keep keyword-rich:
- Business Category
Google Business Profiles allows for one main business category and several subcategories. For example, a pressure washing service can also be a gutter cleaning service and chimney sweep. Unfortunately, you can’t provide your own categories and can only pick from a set list, so do some exploring and try different terms to find all the relevant categories.
Your categories also determine whether you can list services, products or both on your business profile. Services provide a bounty of opportunities to rank and adding products can lead to new sales opportunities.
- The 750 character “From the Business” section
Be sure to incorporate keywords referring to your business type plus all of your services and/or product types. This will help to back up the relevance of keywords elsewhere, and cause Google to recommend new Services to add to your profile.
There is no exact limit to the number of services you can list on your GMB profile, and yes, you can list quite a number of services, within reason. (See Things not to do.) Currently (in 2022), Google is suggesting a dozen or more services at a time to be added to your GMB, including a mess of nouns, verbs and adjectives. This is extrapolation, but Google may be using the list to identify relevant search terms, so the more the merrier, ish.
Product descriptions are a great place to include keywords for your specific products, one by one. Depending on the size of your store and how much products vary week by week, this can be a great time investment.
Here’s a neat feature: You can ask and answer your own Q&As! This means you have two options: Requesting that friends post questions to your business profile then answering as the business, or posting and answering the questions all at once as the business itself. The main perk to answering, yourself, is in usability, showing Google the profile is being maintained.
Keyword-wise, Q&As are an opportunity to ask your business’s frequently asked questions in a keyword-rich manner, and providing helpful yet keyword-rich answers back.
- Review Responses (and Reviews)
When you respond to reviews, which you absolutely should for usability purposes, you can mention services by name to draw in keyword relevance. While you absolutely do not want fake reviews for credibility reasons, you can ask happy customers to be specific about what meals they liked, what products they were shopping for, etc.
- Outside of Google My Business
Google does not just take your word for it; It looks for keywords used on any website or online resource referring to your business, as well as your own website. In fact, it generally takes this information more seriously than the info you provide, as these resources are generally less biased in your favor.
Pro tip: Check out “How people discovered you” in Google My Business Insights to see the search terms causing people to see your business profile.
How to improve your Google business profile’s credibility
The most important factor for your business profile’s credibility is consistency. Does the information on GMB match the one on your website? Does it match Yelp, Facebook, and all the other major citation resources? Important info to pay attention to includes:
- Consistent NAP (Name, Address, Phone number)
- Business type
- Hours of operation
Generally, an inconsistent NAP, especially a physical address that Google can’t verify, is the downfall of a Google Business Profile.
The other main way to improve your business profile’s credibility is to build a wealth of positive reviews, both on your Google Business Profile and on other well-known resources like Yelp and Tripadvisor. It’s nearly impossible to have a bad review taken off of GMB, but you can drown it out with positive reviews. Check out ways to collect more emails such as “How did we do?” emails connected to your website, and simple redirects like example.com/review to take customers directly to your business profile.
How to improve your Google business profile’s usability
Boosting your GMB profile’s usability isn’t just a great indicator to Google, it will greatly improve your conversion rate as customers actually use this information.
One of the things we know for a fact is that a large collection of photos benefits your Google My Business performance. A BrightLocal study featured on Search Engine Land found that GMB profiles with more images not only had more views on Google Search and Maps but received more website visits, direction requests and phone calls as well.
When you add photos, be sure to click through your gallery and tag photos under different categories such as Interior, Exterior, Team, and Food and Drink. These tags vary by business and can be used as a guide to what types of photos to upload next.
- Hours of Operation
Keeping your hours updated is a great indicator of profile usability, not to mention many customers actually rely on your Google My Business hours. Always confirm whether you’re open on holidays, otherwise Google will say “(Holiday) might affect these hours.” If you change your hours or close early on a specific day, mark it on your business profile, and you’ll notice a more consistent stream of customers.
Not every potential customer will reach out if they have a question. Having a ready-made Q&A addressing your FAQs will draw in the customers that may otherwise look to a competitor for the answer.
- Business Info
If you click into the Info menu, there is a long and ever-changing list of info you can fill out. This includes types of payments accepted, types of seating available, wheelchair accessibility, and other details. This info is displayed prominently on your business profile and can help customers to choose your business over another.
If you have a menu, there are two important places to display it on Google My Business. One is in your photos. You will need to click into your GMB photos and tag the photo as a menu. The second is a full menu section of GMB where you can list each item, its price and description as well as an optional photo. If you don’t see an option for a menu, check your business category.
There are two ways to add products to your Google My Business profile. One is to add each item manually, allowing for a keyword-rich description and photo of your choice. The other is to connect your POS system to your Google My Business. This can be done directly, through Google Merchant Center or through a third party app.
Things not to do: aka How to get your Google My Business suspended
The most common way Google My Business profiles get suspended is through name address phone number (NAP) issues. Either the business has a physical address that Google can’t verify, the profile is marked as a duplicate of a different profile, or key info was recently changed such as the name, address, phone number or email address.
It’s also possible to get your business account suspended by “spamming,” such as posting large quantities of reviews, services, or other items that look suspicious to Google’s automated system.
If your account is suspended, you can fill out a Google Business Profile local business reinstatement request. A Google rep will work with you to provide the necessary information to reinstate, such as proof that you own the business or that it does indeed operate at the listed address. This can be a lengthy process, sometimes taking up to a month, but then the business profile may be reinstated to its former glory. In the meantime, the profile may be taken down entirely, or it may stay up but without the ability to edit the listing.