How to Optimize Google My Business (Checklist Included)

Optimize Google My Business, a totally free way to get more customers through your doors, by following these easy steps.

For businesses looking to expand their local reach, an optimized Google My Business (or GMB) profile isn’t just neat to have. It’s a necessity.

Google hosts an astounding 3.5 billion searches every day, and in 2017, the number of “near me today/tonight” searches on this engine grew more than 900 percent compared to 2015. 

That’s a lot of huge numbers all to say that Google My Business is making a difference to the bottom line of local businesses. The better you optimize, the better the results will be.

Here are the steps you need to take to optimize Google My Business, checklist-style:

1) Understand the value of a Google My Business profile
2) Create or claim your Google My Business listing
3) Add all of your business’ information and a description
4) Upload quality images – a lot of them
5) Keep hours updated
6) Turn on the messaging feature
7) Get more Google reviews (and respond to them)
8) Include appointment, booking or menu URLs, if applicable
9) Add products, services, or your menu
10) Use Google My Business posts to promote your business

1) Understand the value of a Google My Business profile

You should take the time to optimize your Google My Business profile because the benefits of it are staggering, and no, we’re not being dramatic. 

Here are the advantages of an optimized Google My Business listing:

Heightened visibility in Google searches

If you’ve heard anything about Google My Business, it was likely related to increased local SEO rankings. Lo and behold, it’s true. 

A properly optimized Google My Business profile can help you get to the front page of Google search rankings. 

Here’s how it works: “optimizing” is a fancy way of saying you’re providing Google with as much information about your business as possible. When Google has that, they’re able to match relevant searches with your business’ information. 

Your information is then displayed after relevant searches either in the knowledge panel, the local 3-pack, or both, giving your business better visibility.

Improved experience for your customers

You have a chance to earn your customers’ trust before they even walk through your doors with an optimized Google My Business profile.

Say you own a local salon. When customers search for “hair salon near me,” your information pops up in an easy-to-skim format known as the local 3-pack:

Right away, you see the business’ rating, the number of reviews they have, their address, phone number, hours, and you can access their website or directions. That’s a lot of information in a very prominent location.

Consumers can look at your reviews or website to learn more about you, and what they learn helps them have a better idea of what to expect from your business.

Increased traffic to your business

According to a study by Google, 50 percent of consumers who searched for a business online visited that business the same day.

The value is in the nature of local searches. When a consumer searches for a “hair salon near me,” it’s not just because they’re curious. It’s because they need a service only a hair salon can provide. An optimized Google My Business profile often gives consumers most of what they need to make a decision about whether to visit your place of business.

Because Google My Business also provides space for you to include your website, phone number, and information about your social profiles, you also see an increase in digital traffic.

2) Create or claim your Google My Business listing

If you haven’t already, you’ll need to create or claim your Google business listing before you can begin optimizing it. Thankfully, this is a simple process:

  1. Begin by searching for your business on Google Maps.
  2. If it doesn’t appear, you’ll need to create a Google My Business listing for it, so scroll down to the next set of directions to learn how.
  3. If it does appear in the right-hand sidebar, scroll down and click “Claim this business” (If you don’t see an option to claim the business, learn what to do if someone else claimed your Google business listing):

4. Enter your business’ basic information: name, address, phone number and website. Remember that this needs to be exactly the same as any other online directory information you put out on the web, right down to the punctuation. For example, if you created a Yelp profile and abbreviated “Boulevard” to “Blvd.,” do the same thing here.
5. You’ll be asked to add a category and subcategories for your business, so choose the ones that best fit yours. 
6. Next, you’ll need to verify your business’ listing.

If your business did not appear when you entered its name in Google Maps, here’s how to create a Google My Business listing:

  1. Go to Google Maps and enter your business’ address.
  2. Select “Add your business:”

3. Enter your business’ information, like name, address, phone number and website.
4. Wait for a confirmation email from Google to begin optimizing your page.

3) Add all of your business’ information and a description

Google allows businesses to add up to 750 characters in the “business description” section of GMB. When writing your business description, avoid salesy language or information about promotions. Instead, keep it about your business’ history, who you are, what you offer and why. 

Do not include any links in your business’ description, either. You can find all of the business description guidelines here. Follow them all, as your description has to be approved by Google before it goes live.

Remember, this is a fantastic opportunity to include keywords about your business. Think about the kinds of searches your ideal customer might be conducting when composing your business description.

4) Upload quality images – a lot of them

According to Google, GMB profiles with photos get 42 percent more requests for driving directions than those that don’t.

So, if you didn’t think much about adding pictures related to your business before, you will now. Photos give potential customers a better idea of what to expect from your business and therefore increases your overall credibility. 

Google allows you to add four image types:

  • A profile photo. This will be the most clicked on photo, so it should be something that truly represents your business well. Perhaps an image of your exterior, your staff, or something else you want customers to know about you.
  • A logo image. Google recommends you add your logo so customers will be able to recognize your business quickly.
  • A cover photo. Similarly to Facebook, a Google My Business cover photo should show off your business’ character and personality.
  • Additional images. These will vary depending on the type of business you have, but common photos include interior and exterior shots of your business, images of staff working or assisting customers, and products or services you offer.

When uploading images to Google My Business, follow these best practices:

  • Format: Images should be uploaded in JPG or PNG.
  • Size: Between 5KB and 10MB.
  • Resolution: The minimum required is 720px tall by 720px wide.
  • Quality: In-focus, properly-lit images without filters or overediting. They should represent reality in the closest possible way.

5) Keep hours updated

Do you close for certain holidays? Do your business’ hours change in the summer, or are they extended over the holiday season? 

If so, you can let the world know through your Google My Business profile. There’s nothing worse for a customer who checks your hours and drives to your business, only to realize you’re closed – even though your profile said you were open.

Here’s how you can add special holiday hours to your Google My Business listing:

  1. Login to your Google My Business account.
  2. Select the business or location you want to add holiday hours to.
  3. Choose “Info” from the left-hand sidebar:

4. Select “Add special hours,” and choose the dates you want special hours for:

6) Turn on the messaging feature

One of the top ways you can optimize your Google My Business profile is by enabling the messaging feature Google offers.

It allows customers to message rather than call your business, right through Google. This is a big deal, especially since 56 percent of consumers would rather contact businesses over a messaging format than call over the phone.

Here’s how to optimize Google My Business by enabling the messaging feature:

  1. Download the Google My Business app for iPhone or through the Google Play Store, which will notify you of new messages.
  2. Open your business’ location in the app.
  3. Select “Customers.”
  4. Select “Messages.”
  5. Click “Turn on.”

You’ll be able to view all messages in chronological order by going back to Customers > Messages. If you aren’t the one who will be responding, designate someone on your team to reply to all messages so your customers aren’t left hanging.

7) Get more Google reviews (and respond to them)

Reviews impact your Google My Business profile like nothing else.

91 percent of people regularly or occasionally read online reviews, and 84 percent trust online reviews as much as they would a personal recommendation. 

The higher quantity of positive reviews you have, the more trust potential customers will have in your business before they even show up. And that means something.

Here’s how to get more Google reviews for your local business’ profile:

  • Pre-screen your customers. Ask your customers how satisfied they were with your service before you ask them to leave a review. That way, positive feedback is posted online, while negative feedback is privately sent to you for internal use.
  • Send them to a direct link. You can send customers a direct Google review link to leave a review which increases the chance that they will actually do so. 
  • Follow-up with customers. Most people get dozens  – if not hundreds – of emails every day. If a customer does not respond to your first review request, send a reminder follow-up. You can double the number of reviews you get by doing this.
  • Send those review requests frequently. Depending on how many customers you have, you’ll want to send out review requests either daily or weekly. This ensures your review request comes to customers when their experience is still fresh in their minds.
  • Automate the process. This all may sound like a lot of work, but it’s not if the process is easy and automatic. You can inexpensively automate this process and save yourself time without compromising Google reviews.
  • Check out our FREE trial, which follows all of the above best practices to help you optimize your Google My Business profile with lots of positive reviews.

Once the reviews start coming in, it’s time for you to respond to them. Why? Well, we can give you three good reasons:

  1. 89 percent of consumers read business’ review responses.
  2. Google has confirmed that responding to reviews boosts your local SEO ranking.
  3. A study by Harvard Business Review shows that businesses who respond to reviews receive better overall ratings.

To break it down a little further: your responses to reviews, especially the negative ones, tell potential customers a lot about your business’ character. They can be a huge trust-builder and establish excellent credibility. 

Furthermore, it’s proven that when you respond to reviews, you get an extra boost to your local SEO, and you encourage more customers to leave better reviews. It’s a win-win-win, if you ask us.

8) Include appointment, booking or reservation URLs, if applicable

For businesses that require bookings, appointments or reservations, you can directly link your online booking provider to your Google My Business Profile. 

Note: For bookings, you must have one of Google’s eligible booking partners to use this feature.

Here’s how to add your online booking provider to your GMB profile:

  1. Check with your booking provider to see if additional fees apply to link it with Google.
  2. Login to your Google My Business.
  3. Select your business from the dashboard.
  4. Select “Bookings.” (If you do not see this option, then it is not available for your business type.)
  5. Sign up for bookings with your provider.
  6. Bookings will be automatically added to your profile within seven days of signing up.

9) Add products, services, or your menu

Depending on the type of business you have, you’ll have the opportunity to add products, services, or your menu items directly to your Google My Business profile.

This makes a huge difference in optimizing your Google My Business because it allows you to add several different keywords to it. Google has disclosed a growing trend in more detailed searches, so rather than searching for “hair salons near me,” consumers are looking for “blowouts near me,” or “colorist near me.” 

By adding specific services, products, or your menu, you optimize your profile to meet the needs of these consumers.

Here’s how you can optimize Google My Business by adding service, products, or menu items:

  1. Login to Google My Business.
  2. Select your business from the dashboard.
  3. Select “Info” from the left-hand sidebar:

4. Scroll down and select “Services – add or edit.”
5. Add your service/product/menu items. Include important keywords in the “Item name” and “Item description” fields.
6. Select “Apply.”

10) Use Google My Business posts to promote your business

Optimize Google My Business by posting regularly to let customers know about sales, specials and events. Doing so also lets Google know that you are actively present on their platform, similarly to when you respond to reviews or messages.

With every post, you can include a caption, a photo or a GIF, and a call-to-action button. Here’s how to create a Google My Business post:

  1. Login to Google My Business.
  2. Select “Create Post” from the top of the home page:

3. Select a post type from the top bar (What’s New, Event, Offer, etc.):

4. Insert your image (the optimal size for GMB post photos is 590px by 445px).
5. Add text and select a call-to-action button.
6. Click “Preview” to see how it will look, and “Publish” to post:

Best practices recommend you post to Google My Business at least once a week.