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As we’ve covered in previous articles, Google My Business (GMB) is arguably one of the most important online profiles for you to have as a home service professional. While a GMB profile may seem like something to quickly set up and forget about, spending an extra 10-15 minutes to set up your GMB profile, and an additional 10-15 minutes of maintenance each week, accurately and in depth will ensure your business receives the raving reviews you deserve.
How to Get Started With Google My Business Listing Rankings
When you use Google Maps to search for something, chances are you are looking for a business that is within walking or driving distance, is related to a category of good or service you are looking for (e.g., car wash, restaurant, etc.), and something reputable. This is why GMB prioritizes showing businesses across 3 categories: distance, relevance, and prominence.
- Distance. Distance is exactly what it sounds like: how far a user is away from a business. When you use Google Maps to search for anything, chances are that in addition to the quality and type of business you are trying to find, it will show you results that are in your area instead of businesses across state lines.
- Relevance. Relevance refers to how closely a business listing matches what a potential customer is searching for. Add complete and detailed business information to help Google better understand your business and match your profile to relevant searches. This is an easy way to differentiate your business and ensure customers have an easily accessible way of getting in touch with you or your business.
- Prominence. Prominence refers to how well known a business is (think national chains and multinational corporations). In terms of ranking on Google, this is similar to authority. While your home service business may not be a multinational corporation, one way to build prominence is by promoting your business links on other platforms, such as social media and your website.
Prominence is also based on information that Google has about a business, from across the web, like links, articles, and directories. Google review count and review score factor into local search ranking. More reviews and positive ratings can improve your business' local ranking. Your position in web results is also a factor, so search engine optimization (SEO) best practices apply.
What Photos Should I Use?
Photos can be tricky, especially when it’s just another data point that customers sift through when looking for high quality business services in their area. That’s why taking good pictures of your business, adding alt text to photos for your business, and tagging them are essential to ranking well in search results to field more inbound sales.
Top 5 considerations for your Google business listing photos
- High-quality. Anyone can add photos to your Business Profile, which means you’ll get a range of quality. Good quality images help with click through rates, or the percentage of people who click or tap on your business profile from the total number of people who see your business listing. While it may seem pointless to compete with the dozens of photos your customers may add to your business’s listing on Google Maps, Google Maps lists photos from the owner separate from customer photos, so that taking high quality pictures will be rewarded in visibility to potential customers.
- Get images in results. When you search for things on Google, you’ll likely see a row dedicated to related images. This is common when searching for products or services. Including “alt tags” (which is a fancy way of referring to the description of an image that Google reads when it scans your website) to the photos you upload for your business will help your business rank in Google search results just by uploading your own images. Google will pull specific photos from a business profile and display it directly in local results if it matches the keyword searched.
- Geo-tag photos & videos. Geo-tagging refers to adding (or ‘tagging’) a location to a photo or video. Nowadays, most smartphones have these features built in. For example, if you have location services turned on, you can swipe up on a photo you have taken to see when and where it was taken. Adding a location to the photos and videos you upload to your GMB profile is critical because it adds credibility to manage locations associated with your GMB account, which is one of the deciding factors in how well your business is ranked on Google Maps.
- Increase engagement with more photos. A BrightLocal study showed that businesses with more than 100 photos get 5x more calls and more than 10x more website clicks than the average business. In 2021 (and soon to be 2022), a picture is worth more than a thousand words, especially if your business involves cleaning or other aesthetic work. Including simple photos of before and after pictures and images of a job well done will make it easier to sell your work so you don’t have to.
- Keep photos realistic. As great as photos and videos are, it’s important to not go overboard. Yes, include many photos of your business and add alt-tags and geo-tags. But it is important to remember to not use stock photos or photos with special effects or branding as they may look unprofessional or give the impression that you care more about selling your business than focusing on your customers’ needs.
Google My Business photo dimensions and specifications
Profile Photo: 250 x 250px (recommended)
Cover Photo: 1080 x 608px (recommended)
Post Images: 1200 x 900px (recommended W:H, keep 4:3 aspect ratio)
- Max size is 2120 x 1192
- Min size is 480 x 270
Format: JPEG / PNG
Size: 10 kB to 5 MB
- Duration: Up to 30 seconds long
- File size: Up to 75 MB
- Resolution: 720p or higher
GMB Account Contact Information and Details
While entering contact details and other information is one of the things you spend the least amount of time on, doing so incorrectly on GMB can lead to a suspension or negative reviews. When setting up your Google My Business account, ensure that you do so carefully, and make sure to update your profile periodically to catch updates to hours of operation and other categories.
- Make sure your business name is identical to the one you use on your store signage. In other words, make sure your name has the exact same letters, spacing, capitalization, and punctuation as on your business cards and other branded materials. While this not only alleviates confusion, it makes it easier for customers to see each part of your business as a part of one cohesive brand, which promotes a perception of consistency and reliability. This will also make it easier for customers to search for your business online through direct searches, i.e., searches specific to your business's name.
- Make sure that all of your online profiles have the exact same spelling, capitalization, and punctuation for both your business name and address. Google’s algorithm takes these inconsistencies into account when assessing your credibility.
- Indicate both your regular and holiday hours. This encourages customers to visit you, and also avoids the potential of a negative review left by someone who took the trip out to your store only to find it was closed. This also prevents customers from assuming you are closed during the holidays when you are actually open.
- Do not include your location or keywords in your profile’s business name. Including it unnecessarily can lead to suspensions on GMB as it may seem like an artificial attempt to rank higher. Google’s main search algorithm update in 2011 (Panda) was created to specifically filter out web content that appeared to stuff keywords. Google sees this as a way of ‘gaming the system’ so to speak, and Google Maps follows the same logic.
- Make sure your profile is filled out completely. This means ensuring you record your phone number, business name, hours, website, address, and other important information accurately so that customers can access everything they need to confidently book your business.
- You can add schema markups for your NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) information to provide search engines with what they need to display information about your business correctly. Schema allows search engines to gain a better idea of the important information you are marking up, such as location and specific business-related snippets. This will make it easier for your business to rank in direct searches, rather than relying on Google Ads campaigns such as discovery searches or other paid search features.
What Should I Include in my GMB Description?
Writing a description may seem like a daunting task considering all of the work that goes into maintaining web content that performs well in Google searches. However, your GMB business listing description is much easier to maintain.
- Use all 750 characters in the GMB description and include the most important information in the first 250 characters. When looking through different profiles, users will only see the first 250 characters - they will have to click to see the rest. Since it is only guaranteed that they will see the first 250 characters, make sure your your description is top-heavy to use this space efficiently.
- Focus on the quality of your content instead of keyword stuffing. Although Google claims keywords can help ranking, the consensus from the SEO community is that keywords in the descriptions don't really improve rankings (read more). There are better ways of ranking well in Google Maps, such as geo-tagging photos and encouraging reviews. Google Maps has slightly different priorities than Google’s search feature, so it’s worth repeating that you should always strive for concise and accurate language in your GMB profile and marketing-friendly language on your website.
- Do not repeat details mentioned already in other sections. Adding repeat content may make Google suspicious of keyword stuffing, and may also decrease the amount of information you can provide for customers. Given that GMB gives you less real estate than a full-fledged website (which you should always link to in your GMB profile), it’s more valuable to not repeat yourself.
- The description is a way to describe your business and the services you provide. GMB provides a number of ways for customers to get in touch with businesses they are interested in. Trust their platform and do not include any links or HTML in the description. Similar to including your logo in your photos, it might look suspicious or unprofessional.
- Be honest and upfront about the services that your business describes. When it comes to having a high quality listing on GMB, it’s best to leave upselling to the customers who give you a call or check out your website. Providing accurate, objective descriptions in GMB allows customers to quickly get an idea of what your business offers before heading to your website or checking out reviews from past customers to learn more.
- Add context on how your services standout or differ vs competitors. This entails being descriptive yet concise so customers know exactly what to expect.
- Do not focus on promotions and sales in this section. This is better suited for Google My Business posts, where you have more flexibility in how you promote the products and services your business offers.
- Avoid misspellings and typos. Hours of work to build credibility can be undone by a single typo, so make sure you spell check periodically and proofread your work before saving or publishing. Web extensions such as Grammarly have live spell-check features that you can use as you work through your GMB profile, which can be handy for catching small errors.
Choosing a Business Category and Attributes in Google My Business
Google provides a fixed set of categories, but try to choose the closest, most accurate one to your business. Be as specific as you can. Choose only those that match your business’ offering. Luckily, Google provides more than 3,000 to choose from, so finding a category that closely aligns with your business shouldn’t be too difficult. You can view the full list here.
If you can't find the perfect match, the rule of thumb is to choose the broader category that encompasses your current classification (e.g., Use shipping and mailing service vs. parcel forwarding company). That way, even if it isn’t as specific as possible, it is entirely accurate. You can also add a secondary category if it makes sense, but try to not overdo it - again, accuracy is more important than quantity here.
Fill out the appropriate list of attributes, which will vary depending on the category selected. Google will provide you with a list of attributes that you can use to describe your company, once you select a category. Attributes are exclusive features that potential buyers search for, like ‘free wifi’ or ‘antique decor stores.’
GMB Products and Services
When adding products and services, include the name, description, and price (if applicable). Google Maps provides price ranges for customers to evaluate, so it can only help them more quickly find what they are looking for. Similar to your general GMB page, make sure that the photos you use for your products and services are high quality and match the service provided. It is also recommended that you add alt tags for the sake of increasing your business listing’s visibility.
How to Consistently Improve Your GMB Ranking
Reviews are a big component of ranking in Google's algorithm, as well as a deciding factor for potential customers looking for business listings in their area.
Respond to reviews as soon as customers leave them. It’s recommended to thank customers who leave positive feedback and provide assistance to customers that leave negative rating. While it seems like a tedious task, a great way to manage all your reviews is to create a few template responses that you can copy, paste, and edit for each customer to save you time. For example, for negative reviews, you can have a template that reads something along the lines of “Thank you for your business, and I am sorry to hear that you had a negative experience. Please consider reaching out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can resolve this issue. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope you consider BUSINESS NAME the next time you are looking for SERVICE.”
If you feel like your listing doesn’t have enough reviews, feel free to ask customers to leave a review immediately after serving them or advertising reviews on your website and in other promotional materials. However, please keep in mind that you should never offer discounts or gifts to incentivize customers to leave more or better reviews.
Posting through your Google My Business profile is great for a number of reasons. First, it shows Google that your profile is active, and will likely show your profile to more users because Google’s algorithm values quality content and interaction with users. Posts are also great because GMB generally forces you to be objective in the information you provide about your business, such as your business’s name, location, and description of the products or services you provide to customers. Through posts, you can freely talk about business updates or showcase your best work in a way that Google won’t screen or flag, because it’s an open space where you can be subjective and connect directly with your current and potential customers.
Our team recently did a survey of businesses listed on Google My Business. From a random sample of businesses, the top 5 listed in search results all had created posts in the past. The number 1 listing was extremely active, posting at least once each week. So, there are a few way you can be sure to improve your rankings through Google Search and Google Maps.
- Stick to 80-100 words, even though the maximum word count is 300. Only the first 100 characters of text will show in the knowledge panel, which is what customers will pay attention to the most.
- Avoid using a lot of text in images for posts. Google Posts are a way for you to grab attention and focus on one or two tidbits of information. Including too much text will likely decrease the quality of experience for users checking out your posts.
- Capitalize the first few lines of each post title to catch peoples’ attention. Capitalizing headers makes each post stand out and look official, which is what you want to go for. Keep in mind that Google Posts is less of a social media platform than a mini-publication for your business to your customers using Google Search or Google Maps.
- While creating a post, include links and a CTA, or ‘call to action.’ Including links and CTAs increase the chance of users engaging with your content and finding your business’s website and other online profiles. It’s a free opportunity for people viewing your business to learn more about you instead of checking out competitors. If you plan to incorporate blog posts or other long-form content into your posts, consider using keyword research tools such as SEMRush or Google Search Console to get an idea of what words to incorporate into your content.
- Try to post at least once a week. Since a great practice is to upload a new photo to your profile once each week, you can use the same photos you upload in the Photos section for your Posts. It also allows you to craft a narrative about the work you do and provides an easy way to improve your business’s GMB listing.
Some ideas to help you get started posting on your GMB profile:
- Events you are hosting or joining.
- Announcing a sale that you are currently running.
- Links from your content on other platforms.
- A seasonal message to your customers.
Adding photos regularly (one photo every 7 days) signals to Google that you are active with your profile and it is up-to-date. When you first set up your GMB profile, it’s good to upload a few photos to get established, but having a steady stream of uploads as you manage your listing will improve your rankings, which means more business and (potentially) more reviews.
What NOT to Do for your Google My Business Profile
Make sure that when you set up your GMB profile, there are no other listings under the same name or with the same information. This could be from a past version of your business listing you set up on a different email address, or one that a loyal customer filled in on your behalf on Google Maps. Having multiple listings from same address or business may appear suspicious to Google’s algorithm, so doing your research before you get started will save you the trouble. The same thinking applies to virtual or ‘ghost’ addresses (i.e., addresses that either do not exist or are not affiliated with your business).
Another thing to avoid is claiming to be open 24/7, or inaccurately displaying your business’s hours of operation. This can lead to Google potentially flagging your business (if you say you are open 24/7) or customers leaving negative reviews (if your hours of operation are incorrect).
Top 4 Insights to Optimize Your Google My Business Profile
There is a lot of information to keep track of when it comes to Google My Business, which is a goliath of a platform. However, these points are what are the most important to managing the success of your GMB profile.
- Keep NAPs (Name, Address, Phone Number) identical across all platforms, including websites, social platforms, and other online profiles. Making sure that GMB is always up to date with the latest info is critical to how well your business is evaluated both by Google and reviewers. It’s also best practice to include a footer on your website that includes your NAP. While a lot of this information can be updated on the go from your mobile device, make sure to set up your account on a desktop to avoid making errors.
- Citations and link volume plays a big part in ranking. Make sure that your business has a profile not just on Google My Business, but on other popular directories and social platforms such as Yelp and Facebook to boost your business’s credibility. While there are countless profiles to choose from, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide on how to pick which online profiles you should set up for your home service business in a previous article.
- Google cares most about review volume, frequency, quality (ideally reviews that mention keywords and services), and the owner’s response rate to reviewers. While setting up your GMB profile successfully requires diligence, your profile’s full potential will not be realized unless you maintain it by spending 10-15 minutes each week responding to reviews and creating posts and uploading new photos.
- It's really important that profiles are targeted, have high-quality photos, and compel users to click them over a competitor. This improves Click Through Rates (review quantity helps a lot with this) and, by extension, the amount of passive users who convert into paying customers.
On a slightly more technical note, make sure you secure your account by setting up multi-factor authentication. This is a simple way to make sure your GMB account isn't compromised in the future and that you have full control over the information you include. Setting up MFA is simple and requires an authenticator app (such as Google Authenticator, which will require you to enter a verification code when you sign into your account.
What is GMB Messaging for Business Owners?
Google My Business messaging allows you to get in touch directly with your customers to answer their questions and earn their trust. It’s a 24/7 service that is a nice complimentary feature that comes with a GMB profile. Luckily, it’s an optional feature, so customers will only be able to message you once you opt-in. This feature is available only to potential customers using Google Maps.
To get set up on iOS:
- Open Google Maps
- Go to Updates > Chat > Business
- Tap on More (three dots) > Settings
- Turn on Chat (and the opposite to disable the feature)
To get set up on Android:
- Open Google Maps
- Go to Updates > Chat > Business
- Tap on Settings, then turn on Chat (and the opposite to disable the feature)
What’s nice about this feature is that you don’t need to worry about displaying your personal phone number, as you’ll use a different number via Google’s Allo app. However, be sure to set up alerts for messages in your Google My Business dashboard, because Google places an emphasis on timely responses (according to their site, the expectation is an average response rate within 24 hours). To turn on notifications, head to settings and check off “Customer messages.”
Google My Business (GMB) is an incredible tool that allows you to take control of your business and promote it to customers in your area to get more business. However, making sure you create and maintain your profile properly is critical to your success, both on and off the platform. Ensuring your profile’s information is accurate, showcases high-quality photos of your work, and is up to date are surefire ways to make the most of your efforts.
- Take the time to be detailed and accurate. Making typos or other errors may appear unprofessional and can make it less likely that Google recommends your business to potential customers. Additionally, adding excess information (such as including your website in your GMB profile name) can lead to Google suspending your profile. It’s best to stick to the basics for each field, but to take the time to fill out each field to cover as much ground as possible. The more useful, the better. Where appropriate, being descriptive and concise makes it more likely that customers will click on your business’s profile, increasing your chances of being viewed in the future as Google’s algorithm will favor showing your business in the future.
- Upload quality photos that show off the work your business has produced for customers in the past, and continue to upload photos about once every week, if possible. When doing so, remember to include alt tags and geo tags for Google’s algorithm to read and distribute to the appropriate users.
- Actively monitor your business’s GMB profile. A few ways we recommend staying active is through Google Posts, interacting with customer reviews, and updating information whenever relevant. Google Posts are the best way to market and promote your business, as the purpose of your profile is to be objective and clear to understand. Interacting with customer reviews provides a way to build your brand’s image in how you treat your customers and build a small community around your business online. Remember that while taking the time to respond to each customer review sends a strong message about customer service, and that you can always create a template for responding to reviews to save time. Updating information is a necessity as there is always a chance you can be negatively impacted for failing to do so. If anything changes for your business, you should always reflect the changes on your website and GMB profiles first, as they tend to be the most reliable points of reference for your customers.
Google maintains a thorough list of dos and don’ts, which you can view on their website here.