You’re on vacation, walking around and exploring the sites, and suddenly get the urge for a coffee. What do you do?
You take out your phone. Google “coffee shop near me” and are met with a list of locations for the closest coffee shops in the area. You choose one and order your salted caramel cafe latte on and think to yourself, “Thank you Google.”
Ok, maybe you don’t do the last part… but you should!
Being able to quickly find the location of any business near you is a huge convenience that is easy to take for granted. And it’s all thanks to those businesses signing up for a Google My Business page.
Google My Business is a valuable tool for getting your business in front of local customers who are searching for your products and services. (In fact, if you owned a coffee shop but have not claimed your Google My Business profile, you wouldn’t have even showed up in the search in the example above.)
The following steps are key for making sure your Google My Business profile ranks above the rest…
1. Create & Verify Your Google My Business Profile
When you think about using search engine optimization (SEO) to benefit your business, you likely focus on getting your website to rank in Google’s results using various content and keyword strategies. With local SEO and Google My Business, there’s a bit of a twist.
When you search “coffee shop near me,” you’ll see a big map at the top of your screen in addition to information on shops listed in the main search results such as the name, address, website, phone number, and reviews for each business.
What many people don’t realize is that the information does not come from the business’s website… it comes from its Google My Business profile page. If you don’t have a Google My Business profile set up and verified, you are missing out on a valuable opportunity to get in front of local customers.
Google My Business pages are free and they take about 20 minutes to create. Click here to learn more and get set up today.
But don’t forget to verify your profile…
Verification is critical to ensure you’re the owner of your page so that you can make edits to your page in the future. Google will send you a postcard with a verification code and you’ll need to enter this code in order to verify your profile.
2. Check For & Remove Any Duplicate Google Profiles
You may not remember setting up a Google My Business page in the past, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t realize they, or another person from their company, started creating a Google My Business page once before.
The problem with this is Google hates duplicate content in their search results. Google wants to provide the most accurate search experience for its users, and if a user sees the same information twice, it is a waste of Google’s resources. Creating duplicate listings is against Google’s terms and can affect your ability to rank in results.
To see if you have more than one page, you can search in Google’s map results for your business name. You can also use the Moz Local tool. Type in your business name and address in this tool and it will tell you if there are duplicate listings online. If you find duplicate listings, then contact Google to get them removed as soon as possible, so they don’t hurt your rankings.
3. Add Categories, Description, Hours, Products/Services, Photos
Once you have verified your Google profile and cleaned up any duplicate listings, it’s time to flesh out your profile…
Setting your profile up with relevant categories is a critical step to improving your rankings. Categories are like sections of the Yellow Pages. The more sections you are in, the more likely your business information is to get in front of prospects.
The more relevant categories you choose, the better. But, make sure that the categories you choose are actually relevant to your business, it’s against Google terms to include irrelevant categories.
You can search this big list to find all the relevant categories for your business. Another tip is to review the categories other top-ranking local businesses have selected in their profiles and use the same ones.
You can add up to 750 characters of text in your Google profile, and we recommend taking full advantage of this by adding a detailed description of your business, products/services, and geographic focus.
Products & Services
Google also allows you to add detailed blurbs about specific products and services. We recommend filling out these sections as well.
Be sure to list your hours, and make sure they match the hours on your website and other online business profiles.
We also recommend adding photos to your profile. According to BrightLocal, 60% of consumers say local search results with good images capture their attention and push them towards a decision.
4. Ask For Google Reviews
Reviews are one of the ways that your business can stand out from the competition. Specifically, you should aim to have more reviews, higher average ratings, and more frequent reviews. To achieve this, you’ll need to ask for reviews on an ongoing basis.
Most businesses struggle to get customer reviews online. This is because it takes effort on your customers’ end to write a review. At the same time, reviews are extremely important for building your online credibility and therefore improving your local Google rankings.
Make It a Part of Your Business Process
The important thing is to continually ask your customers for reviews (using email, phone calls, and in-person) and make the process as easy as possible for every customer to write a review for you. Of those 3 methods (email, phone, in-person), we’ve found that asking via email — along with a link to review your business — is the most effective method, because your customer doesn’t have to find your profile, you’re leading them right to it.
Getting positive reviews will likely be a slow process, but over time it adds up and will give you a real competitive advantage that is difficult to replicate. The key is to incorporate asking for reviews as a part of your regular business processes. If you ask for reviews, you’re much more likely to get reviews!
Ask Customers to Be Specific
If possible, ask your customers to include references to specific services/products in your reviews. Google is more likely to highlight your listing for a particular service if a reviewer has referenced that service in their review. Google will then often show little snippets of a relevant review citing that particular service.
5. Publish Regular “Posts” to Your Google My Business Profile
We also recommend publishing regular updates to your Google My Business profile using the “Posts” function. We’ve found that posting regularly to Google My Business can have a positive effect on local rankings.
Google’s posting function is sort of similar to social media posts on sites like Facebook and others. You write a short blurb and you can add a picture and an image.
Some ideas for posting updates include:
- Promotions and sales
- New blog posts
- Quick tips
- Announcements about new services, new hires, etc.
6. Make Sure Your “NAP” Information Is Consistent
A critical factor in local rankings is the consistency of your business contact information — specifically, your business’ Name, Address, and Phone number (NAP). The more consistent this information is, the more trust Google will have in displaying your Google My Business profile.
Between Your Website and GMB
First, you want to make sure that your business contact information is consistent between your website and Google My Business profile.
Go to your website and make sure that your contact page and your footer both list your business NAP, and that this information matches the information listed on your Google My Business profile.
We also recommend adding your business NAP on the footer of every page of your website.
Other Business Directory Listings
Google also compares the contact information on your website to information listed on other websites across the Internet. Mainly we’re talking about business directories since those are the types of websites most likely to display your contact information publicly online.
To check for inconsistent NAP, again go use the Moz Local search tool. Simply type in your business information and the tool will quickly tell you if you have any problems.
It’s OK if there are some slight differences such as some listings showing Suite 101 but other listings saying Ste 101 or #101. The main things to look out for are inconsistencies with business name format, phone number, and street address.
For example, if you have previous addresses and phone numbers that are still listed on online profiles, you should try and clean those up so that all online business profiles are consistent with the current information published on your website and Google profile.
7. Build More Citations
We just talked about how your need to have consistent mentions of your business Name, Address, and Phone number. A mention of your NAP on another website is called a “citation.”
In addition to making sure your citations are consistent, it’s also important to build up a healthy number of citations, and here are some tips on how to achieve that:
Submit Your Business to Directories to Build More Citations
It’s possible your website isn’t being listed on important directories that could give you more citations and could help raise your rankings in Google.
To check if you’re missing major listings, you can start by using the Moz Local search tool. If you find there are opportunities, then simply add all of your business information to the websites.
In addition, you can submit your website to dozens of additional directories to build more citations. For example, BrightLocal published a list of the Top 50 Local Citation Sites, and here’s another list of Local Citation Sites for Top 100 USA Cities.
Publish Online Press Releases to Build Citations
Another way to build citations is to publish online press releases.
If you have a major news announcement, we recommend distributing an online press release via a quality press release service like PRWeb (we recommend their Advanced option). Then, include the Name, Address, and Phone number of your business in the final “About” section of your press releases as a way to build citations.
8. Get High-Quality, Relevant Links
Links from other high-quality, relevant websites are hugely important to SEO, and links are a factor in Google’s local ranking algorithm too.
Here are some tips for building more links to your website:
Directories: Getting your business listed in online directories is a good first step for building a foundation of links.
Competitor research: We also recommend analyzing which websites are linking to your top competitors’ websites and seeing how you can gain similar links.
Leveraging your offline relationships: Do you have any “real world” relationships that you could leverage in order to gain links back to your website? For example, do you have partnerships or referral relationships with other businesses who might be willing to link to your website? Or, are you a sponsor or member of an organization that might link to your website?
Continually publishing high-quality content: Finally, we recommend continually publishing and promoting high-quality blog content. We’ve found that a sustained investment in content often allows websites to naturally attract more links over time. And those are the types of high-quality, natural links that Google values the most.
9. Get Active On Social Media
There’s been a lot of debate about whether social media activity is one of the signals Google uses to rank businesses.
Regardless of whether you agree or not, there’s no denying the fact that social media is a great opportunity to create more exposure and buzz about your business. Social media is also a great way to promote the content you’ve created, and this in turn can also help you attract more links over time.
In addition to being active on social media sites, it’s important to double-check that your social media profiles contain consistent NAP information and have detailed keyword-rich descriptions.
10. Optimize Your Website For Mobile
These days, the majority of online searches are carried out on mobile devices. And HubSpot found that 61% of mobile searchers are more likely to contact a local business if they have a mobile-friendly website.
Way back in April 2015, Google updated its algorithm to include mobile-friendliness signals. And then, in July 2019, Google made mobile-first indexing the standard for all newly indexed sites. But many businesses still haven’t adapted. It is imperative to create a mobile-optimized website in order to compete in the local search results.
Need Help with Local SEO?
If you need help claiming and / or setting up your Google My Business profile or building more citations or generally being found more often when people search “your business vertical” near me…connect with us today…we’re here to help you Shine Online!