Do you own or run a business with a physical shop or office location?
If yes, then optimising your website and business for local SEO needs to be a crucial part of your marketing strategy in 2020.
Think about this:
90% of purchasing decisions in Australia begin online, and almost all of these start with Google.
This means that if you’re not showing up in the local search results, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity for your business to get infront of more ready-to-buy potential clients or customers who are actively searching for your product or service.
Condiser this example:
If I’m looking for an accounting firm in the Brisbane CBD, I’ll probably search for something like “best accountants in Brisbane”.
Let’s take a look at the results in Google:
image: the local map pack
See the top three results displayed in the image above? This is often referred to as the ‘local map pack‘ or the ‘local 3-pack’ – and getting your business to show up in this prime real estate for relevant searches is a big deal!
In fact, according to Neil Patel, about 44% of the total clicks from the search result go to the local 3-pack!
And the first step to getting your website appearing in the local 3-pack? You guessed it – setup and optimise your Google My Business Listing.
Google My Business is a free tool that gives you as a business owner the chance to manage your online presence on Google, and to increase exposure to people searching locally for the products or services that your business provides.
As more and more consumers use Google to find services near them, carrying out a location-based strategy like this one can be a very effective way to capture new leads and customers.
In 2019, 46% of all Google searches had local intent – that means that almost half the people searching online are looking for a product or service near them!
Screenshot: An example of a Google My Business Profile. If you’ve correctly setup your Google My Business account, when someone searches for your business this will appear on the right-hand side of the search results.
Once you have a Google My Business listing setup properly, this will also increase the likelihood of your company appearing in Google’s Local Search results, as shown in the below screenshot.
Screenshot: Google’s Local Search
By optimising your Google My Business listing, you will be able to improve your local SEO further and ensure that your company pops up more often in suitable searches. Don’t worry if you are completely new to online marketing and don’t know how to do that; we will take you through every step of the way in this complete guide to optimising your Google My Business listing.
Step 1: Getting started
Create and verify your Google My Business page
One of the first things youneed to do before you start to set up your profile is to carry out a Google search for your business. There’s a chance that it might already have a listing without you realising. This is often the case for companies that have been established for a while.
If you do find a profile for your business, it’s simple enough to claim it. You just need to follow these steps.
If you don’t find an existing page, then start to create a new one. Go to the Google My Business page and enter in your company’s name.
Screenshot: Enter in your business’s name
You will then be taken to the next few pages where you can add more details about your business. Make sure that all of the information is correct and that your business name, address, phone number (NAP-W) match those on your website, and anywhere else your business is listed on the internet. This is very important!
For example, does your phone number have your area code listed or not? And what about your website URL – do you normally include the www at the beginning or not? Whichever way you go, make sure all of these details are kept consistent.
Verify your Google My Business listing
Once you’ve listed your business with the correct info and details, you’ll then need to verify your business. This is so that Google can make sure that the business is real and you really do own it. This will also help your Google My Business listing perform better in the local search engine results pages too.
It’s easy to verify the listing by mail. Since you’ll have already provided the address to Google when setting up your listing, they will send out a verification postcard to it.
In a couple of days or so, you should receive this postcard. You will see a code on it; simply log back into your Google My Business account and enter in this code. Once that’s done, you are all verified!
Now that your Google My Business listing is up and running, it’s time to optimise it!
Step 2: Optimising Your Google My Business Listing
There are various tips and tricks that you can use to make sure your Google My Business page is as optimised as possible. By doing this, you’re greatly increasing your chances of appearing in more Google searches – specifically the local map pack – which should send a lot more potential customers your way.
Here are some of the best tips that we use for our clients on a regular basis:
Complete your GMB profile 100%
This sounds like a no-brainer, but we see businesses neglect to complete their profile all the time. They sign up, fill out the main details (name, address, phone number and website) and then either get bored or too busy to fill out the rest.
And this is where 80% of businesses fail when it comes to Google My Business, so it’s a golden opportunity for you to gain some high quality real estate in the Google map pack.
Double check your business name
As previously mentioned, your business name needs to be exactly as it appears on your website, and anywhere else it’s listed online (such as social media pages, business directories, Yellow Pages etc.).
Even though you might be tempted to add a keyword or your location to it, there really is no reason to. Some users believe that this will help to optimise it so that their profile shows up in more local searches but, in actual fact, the opposite is true.
Google wants to see your business name as it appears in public, such as on your website, business cards, and store signs. If it appears even just slightly differently, then Google might start to doubt the verification of your business which could negatively impact your local rankings.
So keep your business name pure and don’t add anything irrelevant to it!
Select Your Categories Wisely
When you first set up your profile, you will need to choose a category for your business. This has an impact on how your page will rank locally, so it’s really important that you choose a category that closely matches your business. There are lots of different categories, from plumbing and hair salon, to doctor’s surgery and accounting firm, so you should be able to find one that covers what you do.
There’s also the chance to add some additional categories. It’s highly recommended that you do this as this can help your listing appear in even more search results.
For instance, if you selected “law firm” as your main category, you might want to add family law, corporate law and any other types of law that you specialise in to your profile.
It’s also worth regularly coming back to check these sub categories. Google is always adding new ones for you to add, so there might be extra ones that you are able to use.
Something to note:
it’s not a wise idea to add categories that are not related or relevant to your core business, as this will be obvious not only to Google but to people browsing your listing. Displaying misleading or incorrect information will never end well in the long-run, so it’s always important to add only relevant, correct information to your listing.
For example, if you’re an accounting firm and you add ‘bookkeeping’ as a category because it’s related to your business, but you don’t actually provide bookkeeping as a service, then this is a misleading piece of information to add to your listing. It’s mis-representing the services that your business provides and will create a poor user experience when someone who is actually looking for bookkeeping services becomes disappointed when they visit your site only to find out that you can’t help them.
So resist the urge to try and game the system – Google will always catch up to you!
Add your services and pricing
Recently Google My Business added the option to list your specific products/services and pricing.
This is an excellent way for users to see exactly what services you can provide them and at what pricing, to determine
To keep your services list organised, group your services into sections.
Here’s how to add your products/services and pricing to Google My Business:
- Go to your main dashboard
- On the left-hand navigation panel click on Services
- Add all your relevant products/services as separate items – as per the below
Screenshot: Add all of the products and services you sell to your Google My Business profile so that both Google and customers can see if you offer the right product or service for them
Add your service areas
You can add your service areas to your GMB listing to make it easier for both Google and customers to understand exactly where you’re operating geographically. According to Tom Pritchard from Google:
“We recently made a few updates to Google My Business, so you can now share your service areas and information about your business via Google Maps and Search—so you can get found and tap into the many people searching for businesses like yours everyday.”
This is another important aspect of your Google My Business listing, no matter what indistry you opeate in.
Tom further adds:
To help present the most accurate information to customers, you can configure your service area by adding the specific postal codes or cities you cover. Taking into account the changes every business goes through, these settings can be adjusted as needed—so there’s no need to worry about being locked into any specific area.
It makes sense, and it takes minimal effort to keep it updated.
Here’s how to add your service areas to Google My Business:
- Go to your main dashboard
- On the left-hand navigation panel click on Info
- Add all your relevant service areas to the highlighted area below
Screenshot: Add your service areas to your Google My Business profile so Google and customers can better understand the areas where your business operates
Give Customers The Chance To Reach Out With Google My Business Messages
Even though your website and Google My Business listing should be full with all the information that a customer might need, there is still a chance that someone might want to contact you with a question.
Sure, your phone number will be online and easy enough for them to find. But were you aware that most consumers would rather not call a business? In fact, they’d be much happier sending them an instant message or a text message. Because of this, Google has now implemented a new messaging feature as part of its Google My Business feature.
On the mobile view of a Google My Business listing, customers will see that there is an option to message the business. This will redirect them to their app so that they can send the business a quick message without any hassle. Of course, the business has to allow this feature first. Mobile messaging is hugely popular in online marketing now, so it’s really recommended that you do give your customers the chance to get in touch with you this way. You should find that it greatly boosts your conversion rate!
Here’s how to add messaging to your Google My Business profile:
- Go to your main dashboard
- On the left-hand navigation panel click on Messaging
- Follow the prompts to correctly setup in-app messaging
Screenshot: add messaging to your Google My Business profile so customers can easily contact you
Add Plenty Of Photos
Google My Business reports that businesses with photos will get 40% more requests for more information from potential customers. It’s really cheap to do, so adding your own photos is really worth it as they can show off your business in a good light. Equipping your page with plenty of photos should increase the number of conversions, although it’s worth bearing in mind that this won’t have much of an affect on your listing’s ranking.
It’s important to add a range of photos rather than just the one. Go for images like the front of your store, interiors, your team and even your logo.
Screenshot: Photos on Google My Business
Add Some Videos
It may still only be a relative feature and not too many businesses are using it just yet, but it would be a good idea to think about adding some videos to your listing. Businesses and users are able to upload videos, so it’s best to review the ones that your customers are uploading. If a user uploads something that is not suitable, you can report it to Google for removal. Similarly, users can also report any videos that you upload as well. There are a few other things to bear in mind as well:
- The videos need to have been filmed at your business. Don’t use any stock videos as they do not add any value to your listing.
- If there is only one video uploaded, then it will be added to the photos section. When two or more are uploaded, a new tab for videos will be added to the listing.
Answer Any Questions That Are Left On The Listing
Web users now also have the ability to leave any questions that they might have actually on your Google My Building listing. These will be public and anyone else who searches for your company will be able to see them.
Screenshot: The Questions & Answers section on a Google My Business listing
It’s not just you who can answer these questions, though – other web users who know the answer will be able to reply. Even if you don’t answer people’s questions yourself, it’s still a good idea to monitor this section so that no misinformation is spread about you. Even though you won’t be able to change people’s answers, you can submit a response from the business owner. It’s also worth pointing out that Google does also monitor these questions and answers so any inappropriate ones will be removed.
Questions can be liked and voted up by users. Those with the most up-votes will appear at the top of the section. It’s always worth going through all of the questions and voting for the ones that you want to see at the top. If a question gets three votes, then it will automatically appear in the main Google My Business profile panel.
As a business owner, you will also be able to add your own FAQs from your website onto your profile. If you do this, then it reduces the chance of web users leaving their own questions which can help to limit spam and abusive posts on your profile.
Step 3: Encourage Reviews
If you don’t already, you should be encouraging your customers and clients to leave reviews for you online. When utilised correctly, these can really enhance your local SEO. That’s especially the case when they appear on your Google My Business page, as seen below.
Screenshot: Reviews on Google My Business
Whenever anyone leaves a Google review for your business, it will automatically appear on your Google My Business listing.
According to BrightLocal, review ratings are the biggest driver of clicks in local SERPs.
Google always aims to promote reliable and reputable businesses, so getting as many good reviews as you can shows the search engine that you are worth promoting. The more you get, then the higher up you will be bumped up the search rankings.
That doesn’t mean that you should fear any poor reviews, though. These actually give you a great opportunity to optimise your listing even more. It’s essential that you respond to all your reviews, especially the bad ones as they keep engagement of your page high. Plus, replying to poor reviews gives you the chance to show that you care about all your customers’ thoughts and are willing to respond to them in a professional way rather than simply ignore them.
Step 4: Build reputable business citations
Business citations are basically any mention of your website or business on the web – it can be any combintation of your business/company name, phone number, address, post code and website URL.
According to Darren Shaw from Whitespark:
A complete local citation should include the company name, address, and phone number, which is referred to as your “NAP”. A citation that does not include all three of these is sometimes referred to as a partial citation.
Complete citations are very important to give Google the whole snapshot of your business – the more complete and consistent information you can get about your business across the web, then the stronger signal that sends to Google that you are a legitimate trustworthy business, and the more confident Google can then be because they have more data.
How to build local business citations
There are loads of Australian business directories where you can list your business. A lot of them are rubbish, or charge annual fees. But the good news is that there are a good number of quality business directories you can take advantage of:
SEO Copilot have a great list of the best 25 Australian business dirctories:
I’ll be honest – filling out all of these profiles is super monotonous and can be a bit of a chore – but in the end it’s definitely worth it.
The key to building a quality list of business citations is to be as consistent as possible with your NAP details, and to try and fill out each profile as uniquely as possible (which can be very tricky!).
Step 5:Track Web Users Paths Using Available Insights
How do you know whether your optimisation efforts are working? Thankfully, Google My Business offers companies a lot of insights that they can use to see exactly how things are going and how web users are reacting to your profile. Your Google My Business insights will tell you the following:
- Whether web users are coming to your business directly or from searches
- Where people find you on searches – in search listings or on Google Maps
- Where your customers live
- The actions people do when viewing your listing
- How many phone calls you receive from a listing and how long the callers are on the phone for
When you see which parts of your Google My Business profile are working and which aren’t, then you will get a good idea of what you could improve on.
As you can see, there are many easy and simple ways you can optimise your Google My Business listing to improve your local SEO. Once you do, your overall SEO efforts should improve and there should be a significant increase in the amount of web traffic directed to your site!