One of the most persistent SEO trends is local SEO. Like mobile-first indexing, it’s been pushed forward by the growing number of people who Google on the go.
Google is often first to support new search trends, often by offering new SERP features. One of those is the Google 3-pack, which highlights local businesses for search users. To get in on the 3-pack, you have to complete your Google My Business profile.
If you want to improve SEO, there’s a right way and a wrong way to complete your My Business profile. Learn how to optimize Google My Business and capitalize on the growing local SEO trend.
What is Google Business Profile (formally GMB)?
Before diving into how to optimize this Google feature, it’s helpful to go over what it is. Google Business Profile (GBP), formally known as Google My Business (GMB), is a feature Google added to improve local search results. The search engine giant encourages business owners to fill out a profile to improve visibility.
You can think of it like filling out a social media profile for your business, or an entry in a telephone directory. By using GBP, you give information like your business hours and contact details to people searching for you.
It’s a win-win-win proposition for business owners, search users, and Google alike. Search users find the information they want, and Google delivers great search results. At the same time, local business owners like you increase their SEO visibility.
The Basics of GBP
If you haven’t done so yet, you should start by setting up a profile. It’ simple and free, and it has real impacts for your business.
My Business drives engagement with people searching for your business or businesses like yours. You’ll start by providing basic information about the business, including:
- Your business name, address, and phone number (NAP)
- Your website
- Business operating hours
You’ll be able to add a 750-character description that tells people what your business is all about. You can also add buttons that let people contact you instantly. Finally, Google recommends adding photos of your business:
- Three interior shots
- Three exterior shots
- Images of your product or service, such as food and drink or hotel rooms
- Pictures of your staff serving customers
Once you’ve completed the basic profile, it’s time to move on to Google My Business SEO.
How SEO Works with GBP
Given the basics of the Business profile, you might wonder how it can improve your SEO efforts.
Google prioritizes My Business profiles, and it will add them to its local business 3-pack. When someone searches for “coffee shops near me,” Google uses My Business profiles to create the 3-pack. The more complete your GBP, the higher Google will rank you when determining who gets a spot in the 3-pack.
If your business profile connects to your website, Google’s also more likely to rate the website as trustworthy and relevant. Keep in mind that one of the big trends in SEO is centered around the hypothetical E-A-T score, which ranks trustworthiness.
GMB profiles give you more control over the information that people see when they search for your business. They also give you a chance to highlight social proof, which is another major component of modern SEO.
How to Optimize Your Google Business Profile
As you can see, there are plenty of SEO opportunities within the My Business platform. The question is, how do you take advantage of them?
Much like you use certain tactics to improve on-page SEO, there are also Google Business Profile optimization techniques.
Improve Trust with up-to-Date Contact Details
Outdated information hurts your SEO ranking. It makes it harder for people searching to find the information they need.
Suppose you run an ice cream shop. Your winter hours are likely quite different from the hours you have in the summertime. If you leave your summer schedule up, some ice cream fans might arrive long after closing time in October.
GBP gives you an easy way to make sure Google always has the most up-to-date information. If you change your hours, simply update your GBP profile to reflect them.
What about if you move locations or change your business phone number? Again, you can update the information on your profile so anyone searching gets the most recent and accurate details.
This improves trust. In an age where information becomes outdated quickly, users may not trust a post from 2016. Google Business Profile lets you update quickly and easily, so even adding your holiday hours can be a breeze.
Manage Social Proof
Once you’ve filled out a GBP, your customers can leave you Google reviews. In fact, you should encourage them to do so. Either ask customers in-store for a review or ask for one in your customer newsletters.
Google reviews are the starred ratings that appear with your GBP. Google averages the ratings, and this average rating crops up when someone searches for your business. They can then scroll through reviews and see what customers have had to say.
Getting reviews increases your social proof. It helps search users and would-be customers decide if they want to contact you. Since people find social proof helpful, Google prioritizes it as part of its algorithm.
Not every customer is going to give you a glowing, 5-star review, though. What can you do about bad reviews?
You can use your GMB profile as a space to engage with customers. If someone posts a 1-star review, you can respond to them and help resolve their concerns. This not only helps your SEO, but also gives you a chance to engage with your customers and provide them with excellent service.
Engaging an Audience with GBP
Another step in optimizing your My Business profile is using it as a platform to engage with your customers. Adding your contact details is one step toward engaging people. Responding to customer reviews, both good and bad, is another.
Google will also connect your social media profiles to your GBP profile. When someone searches your business, they can also find your Twitter feed or Facebook page. This can help them look for more information or stay in the loop.
Google will only add social media profiles to GBP profiles if the following criteria are met:
- The business name is consistent between GBP and social media
- Your social media accounts are verified on platforms that provide verification
- You use structured social profile markup on your business website
Structured data is one of the biggest trends in SEO right now. This rule showcases Google’s preference for it. If you’re not using structured data yet, it’s something you should consider adding to your SEO strategy.
Don’t forget about Google’s Q&A feature either. With this feature, potential customers can ask you questions. By answering questions on a regular basis, you can build up a database of information for search users and would-be customers.
As a business owner, you can actually ask and answer common questions to add to your Q&A database. Google can then display the answers for search users, who get the information they need. They don’t even need to visit your website to find what they’re looking for.
Build Your Brand with Google Posts
Content is still king in the SEO world, and Google Posts give you a chance to add some to your Google Business Profile. Using this feature, you can add quick news updates and offers to your profile.
Google seems to be testing some features that will make Posts an even bigger opportunity for business owners looking to increase their SEO. Recently, Posts have been appearing as “related search” suggestions. Google also includes up to three Posts in their knowledge panel results.
The search engine giant also seems to be prioritizing offer-style Posts. These posts highlight a sale or deal from your business. Offer-style posts can encourage engagement from your audience.
Posts also offer a chance to show your audience some personality. Consider them another way to build a consistent brand personality across your online presence.
Other Quick Tips
Building a brand and generating reviews can take time. There are a few other steps you can take to help optimize your GMB right now:
- Cross-check your NAP with other online citations and update any that are old or outdated
- Claim your Google Business Profile short name and direct people straight to your profile
- Choose an appropriate category and subcategory for the business
Keep in mind that Google is constantly refining its tools. That means you should continue to audit your GMB profile. Updating it and refining the information you provide to customers is always a good idea.
Stay on Top of GBP Trends
Now you know how to optimize Google My Business for the best results. As Google continues to tinker, the best practices for GBP SEO will also change.
Stay ahead of the curve by checking back with us for more tips, tricks, and trends.