When you are looking for businesses in your local area (be it sign writers to accounting firms), where do you turn? Sure, you may find local businesses through personal recommendations. But the majority of the time you’ll turn to search engines, particularly Google, to do a little online research.
According to Google, a third of mobile searches are local. That’s more than 500 million searches looking for local businesses – per day – on mobile devices alone.
When you also consider local searches are growing 50% faster than searches overall – it’s clear a presence in search results is becoming increasingly important to local businesses in general.
How To Get Shown in Local Search Results
Google My Business (GMB) is the perfect low-cost local SEO tool businesses can use to increase their presence in Google search and maps results.
If you pay close attention to the Google search engine results page when you do a local search you’ll notice a local ‘snack pack’ is displayed in the results. This set of features along with Google Maps is controlled by Google My Business.
Whilst listing on Google My Business is free and relatively straight-forward, for those who aren’t technically-inclined, executing GMB can be a scary prospect.
To help you through some of the most important strategies to maximize your Google My Business presence (and facilitate improvements in your local search engine results), here are my answers to some of the GMB questions I get asked the most:
1. How do I get started with Google My Business?
Similar to the other tools in Google’s library, GMB is entirely free. This makes GMB the perfect marketing tool for local businesses with limited resources.
To start, simply sign up for Google My Business. You’ll be directed to your GMB dashboard where you can enter your business information such as phone number, business category, website, etc. I recommend you complete all the required information as Google makes business suggestions to users according to the information you provide.
Images are a must on your listing for two reasons:
- Google wants to see both external and internal images of your business for verification purposes (include high quality-images of the building, signage and staff)
- Users have become incredibly visually driven so the better your images, the more likely they are to get in contact.
A verification process is required to ensure you’re eligible to own the listing. Verification will usually be done through a postcard in the mail if your listing is new, and by phone call if your listing is being transferred from a previous owner (For example, if you’re taking over a retail space that was previously verified). Once your business is verified, you will be able to make instant edits to the page should you need to do so.
2. How to manage the company listing?
Another issue that may crop up is that your business might be verified, but you’ve no idea who verified the listing on your company’s behalf. To get around this create a brand-new GMB listing using your domain name email as the primary owner. Google will then ask if you want to request management of the existing listing for the same location and will send an email to the current “owner.” The current owner has seven days to respond. If the owner doesn’t respond, Google will go ahead and release the listing to you.
During this process, you can see a hint of the “owner’s” email address including the first few letters and then **.com. Make sure you take a note of the email – because it will give you a hint as to who the owner may be.Quite often, the listing was claimed by a former employee, and you can simply log in to their email account and instantly reassign ownership to yourself.
3. How do I fix incorrect or outdated information?
With local results favoring up-to-date information, and the consistency of your business name, address and phone number (NAP) being an integral part of the local search algorithm, it’s essential you keep your listing up to date.
Via your GMB account, you can edit your opening hours, photos, address, contact info, and images. One of the biggest local SEO mistakes businesses make is forgetting to update their GMB listing and business information elsewhere on the web.
If your business has recently moved or changed its phone number, ensure you update your GMB listing and all other instances of your business details whether that be on your own website and social media profiles or third-party business directories. When your name, address and phone number are consistent across all citations, Google’s confidence in your business information increases and in turn your local search presence improves.
4. I don’t have time for this – can I get an agency to take care of my listing?
As part of a complete local SEO strategy, Google My Business provides the means to reach consumers when they are searching keywords related to what your business does.
But, for a lawyer to begin appearing for keywords like “lawyer Dubai” as opposed to “Jim’s law firm” requires more than just completing the Google My Business listing in full.
Ranking in local search results for category keywords is influenced by many other factors like backlinks to your website, reviews containing your target keywords, click-through-rate and more. This makes Google My Business most effective when it’s integrated into an entire search engine marketing strategy.
With local search continuing its rapid growth coupled with the increased usage of mobile devices used by consumers on the go, GMB is essential for local businesses looking to enhance their online visibility. It’s a comprehensive platform that when coupled with a complete local SEO strategy will assist in increasing your company’s chances of appearing as a top search result.
James Reynolds (@FollowJames) is the founder of Veravo which consists of two search engine marketing agencies; SEO Sherpa and Click Jam. James is fanatical about all things search, social and content on the web. He regularly shares content via his SEO blog, Twitter and LinkedIn and is a contributor to several leading publications including Entrepreneur and Forbes. James mentors startup companies in his free time.