The 2022 Guide to Google My Business

In 2022, Google My Business is still among the most significant (and FREE!) tools local business owners can use to help drive business. Google has added, removed, and modified the features over the years, and we're here, in 2021, to help you understand it all.

The Basics

Your Google My Business listing appears in Google Maps and also in the local results of Google Search. As you can see, there is quite a bit of competition to land in the coveted Local Pack, which just shows the top three results. There are several factors that go into which businesses are shown in this spot including, but not limited to, amount of reviews, citation accuracy, other internet profiles, and the searchers intent and keywords used. Keep following along and we will provide you some great resources to boost the ranking of your Google My Business listing and hopefully get you among the top three spots!

1. What is Google My Business?

Google My Business is a free tool for local business owners which allows you to be more reachable in Google Maps and on Google Search. With a Google My Business listing, you not only can get your business in front of more potential customers, but you will also have the ability to know how those customers interact with your business with your Insights, what kind of information they are searching for, and also provide them with answers to your most searched for questions before they visit your website.

2. What Businesses Qualify for a Google My Business Listing?

Any business with a physical location OR any business which visits a physical location, like a customer's residence or business place, can qualify for a Google My Business listing. From Google, "In order to qualify for a Business Profile on Google, a business must make in-person contact with customers during its stated hours."

3. My Business doesn't have an address, can I still use Google My Business?

Definitely! If your business doesn't have a storefront or office people go to, you can create your business as a service area business. A service area business listing will allow you to establish a radius of the area you offer services to without needing to have a physical address.

4. What Businesses Don't Qualify for a Google My Business Listing?

Businesses that do not have a physical location or do not service their customers at their locations, do not qualify for a listing. Some examples include, purely e-commerce businesses, rental properties, and any type of digital businesses with a 100% online presence. Business Profiles on Google My Business can only be made for businesses that either have a physical location customers can go to, or travel to visit customers where they are.

5. Is Google My Business Free?

OF COURSE! Currently Google My Business and all of its features are free. There is some speculation Google will someday include a "pay-to-play" option, but right now it is completely free.

6. Does my Business need a Google My Business page?

If your business qualifies, then yes, your business needs a GMB listing. Not only will the listing allow you to leverage Google Maps and search results, but by claiming and verifying your listing, you will also have control over the information provided on your page. Anybody can add a business listing on GMB, and if you have control over your listing, you will also have control over the description, hours, address, contact information, and more.

GETTING STARTED: How to Claim and Verify Your GMB Account

If you are new to Google My Business, you may not have a listing yet, or not even know if one exists. Here are the steps to take to find out. Search for your business on Google Maps to find your business. If it is not claimed, claim it and verify it with a phone call or postcard. It can be claimed if you see the text "Claim this business".

If you don't find your business, add it by inputting your information, then verify with a phone call or postcard.

What happens if you found your business listing, it's been verified, but you do not have access?

Possibly someone else claimed it years ago with an email account you no longer have access to. It happens and it can be a pain to reclaim your account. However, it is worth the slight headache to get access back to the original account.

DO NOT create a new account without attempting to get access first!

When your location seems owned by a different account, you should have the option to "Request Ownership". When you do this, Google will send an email to the current owner's email on the account. Be patient, this might take a few days.

What if you found duplicate listings of your business?

Occasionally Google listings can be made due to a slightly different address or business name. You need to be sure there is no confusion about which listing is the correct one. Data confusion is something you want to avoid as it can impact your rankings.

Cleaning up duplicate listings can be time-consuming and a real headache, which is why we never suggest making a new listing without attempting to reclaim it first (see above). But, if you do find yourself in this situation, follow these steps to try to remove your listings.

  1. If you can claim the duplicate, do so. Google will alert you to the duplicate when you have more than one listing in your account.

Then follow these next steps:

  1. Sign in to Google My Business.
  2. In your "Account summary," click Duplicate locations.
  3. Click on the location you wish to remove.
  4. Click "Delete this listing."

What happens if you can not claim the duplicate listing?

You can request ownership using the steps above, once claimed, delete it, or if that's not possible, report the listing as a duplicate. The report feature takes some time, and might also require several attempts to have the listing removed.

To report a duplicate location on Google Maps:

  1. Open Google Maps.
  2. Find the location you want to report.
  3. Click Suggest an edit.
  4. Mark the location as "Place is permanently closed or has never existed."
  5. Select "Duplicate" as the reason.
  6. Click Submit.

What if you own a service-area business?

If you are a service area business and serve your customers at locations that are not your office, you can specify as such on your Google My Business profile. When you establish your account, you will be able to answer the question, "Do you want to add a location that customers can visit, like a store or an office?" If you are a service area business, answer "No". You will then be prompted to add the locations your business serves. You can include multiple cities and zip codes, or skip this step entirely. Note: this will affect how you are shown in local results.

OK, now that you have your one and only Google My Business listing claimed and verified, let's move on!

OPTIMIZE YOUR LISTING: Filling out the details

When your listing is verified, you can go in and fill out all of your business information. Do not skip on this and be as thorough as possible. Google will provide a lot of options to fill out details regarding your business and physical location.

A quick note regarding your business name-- Your business name should be the name you operate under. It can be tempting to add things like your location and keywords into the name, however it goes against Google's guidelines and your account may be suspended.

Let's take a deeper look at all of those choices, many of which are being updated frequently.

CATEGORIES

Entering your business category will not only help searchers find you, but it will also change the options you have in your Google My Business listing. For instance, If you are a restaurant, an option to add a link to a menu will appear. If you own a hotel, you may have access to the booking feature.

As of 2021, there are over 3000 Google My Business categories! While Google allows you to pick up to ten categories for your business, just one can be your main category which will be given preference over all others in Google's search algorithm.

Tips for picking your businesses categories

For your main category, choose the one that closest represents your business. If people search for that category, you would want your business to be found.

For the secondary categories, do not feel like you need to use up all ten. You should only choose the categories which best define your business. Make sure you are not including features in your categories. You may own a restaurant with a bar, however bar as a category doesn't really describe your business. It's a feature within your business. (We'll get into amenities soon!)

HOURS

Regular hours: Enter your normal hours first.

More hours: You will also now have an option to add hours for certain services or specials. For example, happy hours, brunch hours, delivery availability hours, and so on.

Special hours: This is where you can include any reduced or close dates and times for holidays, special events, or anything else with a date where you know your opening times will be impacted. This section is particularly helpful during holidays where searchers will want to know your business's availability.

PHONE NUMBER

This needs to be your primary business number. If you utilize tracking phone numbers at all, do not include them here. Google uses this information to verify your NAP (Name, Address, and Phone number) details, so you always want this number to match all other listings of your business. Also, make sure it's a local number. If you have an 800 number you like people to use, think about getting a local number that gets routed to the 800 number. Even if you are a local business, 800 numbers tend to scare consumers off. If you have more than one main phone number, up to two can be added. (no fax lines should be entered here)

SHORT NAME

A short name will help make it easier for customers who are looking for you to locate you. From Google, "When you share your short name, customers can enter the name's URL in the browser's address bar to go directly to your Business Profile. For example, customers can search for "g.page/ [yourcustomname] in the address bar to find your business."

Example: g.page/odddogmedia

WEBSITE

This is where you want to include your businesses' website URL. If you have more than one location, add the specific location page from your website to this URL space here versus sending everybody to your home page.

We prefer to use a website tracking URL on Google My Business listings. It makes tracking traffic coming from your GMB listing more precise and easier to find under "campaigns" in your Google Analytics. We always want to see how many times our website link is clicked on in our GMB listing, vs clicked in the organic results. Yes, it's nitpicky, but it's what we do!

Example:

/? utm_source= google & utm_medium= local & utm_campaign= gmb

You can create one here with Google Campaign URL Builder.

While you will still be able to see Local results in your Google Analytics Dashboard, with a tracking URL you will be able to compare specific clicks to your home page from your knowledge panel.

APPOINTMENT URL

If you utilize a booking website to take appointments or reservations, you can add a URL that links to your system here. Depending on the booking software you utilize, you may even have the ability to incorporate your booking directly into your GMB page.

PRODUCTS

Depending on your business, you might be able to include products to your GMB listing.

Not all business categories qualify for product listings, however several do, so it's worth filling in if you have this section available to you. Even if you don't sell online, it's a good way to present some of your best physical and digital products.

How to add a product to your Google My Business listing: (via desktop)

  1. In your web dashboard, go to the "Products" tab and click Add and then Add product.
  2. Upload a photo.
  3. Name the product.
  4. Select Product category.
  5. If needed, click the Down arrow and select "Create a new category.".
  6. (Optional) Set a price range or a fixed price.
  7. (Optional) Create a description.
  8. (Optional) Add a button like "Buy" or "Learn more.".
  9. Click Save.

SERVICES

Services will allow you to break down the individual services you provide. While Google will make some suggestions based on your business, you will also be able to include your own and also include a price. Adding specific services will not help you rank for those keywords in search, however, they will help your potential customers find more information about what you offer.

ATTRIBUTES

Google My Business attributes are perhaps the section that changes the most often. 2020 brought us timely attributes like health and safety which includes things like "mask required" and "staff wears masks", "curb-side pick up available", and "online classes". Attributes can be added by the business, but can also be suggested by users. Make sure you are checking in on your listing often to ensure your business is being listed correctly.

Some attributes you have available within your profile will depend on the type of business you are. Including as many as are relevant will help your consumers find answers to any inquiries and also give them a better idea of what to expect from your business.

Some examples of good attributes to use, "wheelchair accessibility" if you have a physical location, "cash only" if you do not accept credit cards, as well as "LGBTQ-Friendly" if your business is a safe and open space for the LGBTQ community and allies.

Ownership and leadership is another type of attribute Google has added within the last few years. "Woman-led" and "Veteran-led" were both added in 2018. And, "Black-Owned Business" is a new attribute Google added in 2020. If you are a black-owned business, adding this attribute will help make your listing more noticeable to those who are looking to support your business.

BUSINESS DESCRIPTION

Use this space to share a little bit about your business. When did you open? Who do you serve? What sets your business apart from all the others?

Have some fun here and encourage people to find out more about you. Don't keyword stuff here! Make your business description read like normal, human language. Stuffing in keywords here will not help your rankings.

OPENING DATE

Add the month and year you opened your business here.

MESSAGES

Ok, now we can move on from the "Info" tab and over to the "Messages" tab on the left-hand side menu.

Messaging will allow consumers to contact you directly through your Google My Business profile. This feature used to be only available via SMS and third-party apps, but now it is included similar to Facebook Messenger as a messaging feature from right within your GMB page. When you enable Google My Businesses' Messaging feature, a "Message" box will show up on your page when viewed in Google Maps. At this time, it does not seem to show up on desktop searches.

If you do activate this feature, please review the guidelines closely! The guidelines include a 24 hour recommended response time. So if you do plan on using GMB Messaging, make sure you are prepared to respond promptly to all messages or else you might be prohibited from using this feature entirely.

PHOTOS

There are three types of images you can upload to your Google My Business account.

Logo:

Your logo should be square in dimension, high-resolution, and file size between 10KB and 5MB. Adding a logo will make sure your branding is represented and identifiable for those searching for your business.

Format: JPG or PNG

Size: Between 10 KB and 5 MB.

Google My Business Profile Photo Size: 250 x 250 pixels (min 120 x 120; max 5200 x 5300).

Minimum resolution: 250 px tall, 250 px wide.

Cover Photo:

Including a cover photo signals to Google that this is the picture you would like people to see first in your listing. A good cover photo is high-quality and is a good way to introduce people to your business.

Format: JPG or PNG.

Size: Between 10 KB and 5 MB.

Google My Business Cover Photo Size: 1080 x 608 pixels (min 480 x 270; max 2120 x 1192).

Minimum resolution: 250 px tall, 250 px wide.

NOTE: Even when you've included a logo and cover image, Google will still mix around your images and you can not control the order in which they are presented.

Other Photos:

When including pictures to your Google My Business Listing, try to include images searches are looking for about your business. What does the outside of your building look like? Are you difficult to locate? Images of the outside can help consumers find your business. Google's Street View isn't updated regularly and will not show the exterior of your business as accurately as you could. What does the interior look like? Is there enough seating? A waiting area?

What about your products or services? If you sell physical products, how are they displayed on-site? Sell food and or drinks? Take photos of popular items on your menu.

Within your GMB listing, you can specify what images are from the inside or outside along with images of your staff, pictures of your work, and also specific photos of food and drink for restaurants. Include several for every category you can.

Customers will also be allowed to add pictures of your business and will show under the "by customer" tab on your listing. It's a good idea to monitor these to ensure they are all relevant and not random pictures that are not related to your business. It's also a great idea to encourage customers to include pictures during their visit.

VIDEO

Video is still a very underutilized feature! If you are able to include one or two brief fun videos to your page, I promise you will have a leg up on a lot of if not all of your competitors! Do videos help with your rankings? Not necessarily. But Google likes it when you use their stuff. And the more interaction your GMB profile receives, the more credit Google will give your business listing.

Win-win!

Make sure your videos meet the following requirements:.

Duration: Up to 30 seconds long.

File size: Up to 75 MB.

Resolution: 720p or higher.

GMB WEBSITE

What is a Google My Business site? Google has provided business owners with a simple way for businesses to make a free mobile-optimized website. There are a limited number of themes and design choices to pick from, and you will not get a customized domain. Google My Business Websites are a quick and easy way to establish an online presence for your business IF you do not already have a site, HOWEVER, we strongly suggest you to get a website you completely own and have more customization at your disposal.

USERS

Under the Users section is where you can include other managers to your GMB page. This way you can make sure you retain ownership while giving editing access to your staff.


OTHER FEATURES

GMB Store Code

When you were filling in your profile, you might have been prompted to include a store code. Store codes are unique identifiers and not viewable to the public. Store codes are needed for bulk uploads of multiple locations, and helpful to have if you are managing many GMB listings from one account. Even if you are just managing one location, a store code is recommended.

From Google:

"Any unique identifier can be a store code. A store code can be anything from the name of a place to a random number, as long as it stays the same to refer to that location. Include your brand name in your store code to avoid confusion between spreadsheets (for separate business or personal accounts). For example, if Google had 100 locations, they might be named "GOOG1", "GOOG2", "GOOG3 ″"

Questions and Answers

The questions and answers section in GMB operates much like an online forum. Anyone can ask a question here and anyone can answer it.

Answers can be "upvoted" and if an answer gets enough upvotes will be placed as the primary answer. Questions can also be upvoted, and if they receive more than three upvotes, can show right in your profile without being clicked on for the questions and answer section.

This feature is actually part of Google Maps so you will not see it in your Google My Business dashboard. All interactions have to happen via Google Maps on your desktop or Android App. This feature doesn't appear to be offered on Apple yet.

So, how do you monitor and reply to questions? In your Google My Business dashboard, be sure you check the box that says "Questions and Answers" to be notified when somebody asks a new question.

To answer questions, you will either go to your public-facing profile on your desktop or the Google Maps app on your Android device. You can easily get to your public profile from your dashboard by going to "Info" and then selecting "view on search" on the right-hand side of the screen.

NOTE: Answers are cut off after 440 characters so you will want to make your response short and to the point.

PRO TIP: You can also ask your own questions! It is permitted by Google and even encouraged. It's a good idea to add a few frequently asked questions and then answer them.

Keep an eye on the answers as someone can answer the questions you've asked as well and you will want to make sure yours remains as the primary answer.

Google My Business Posts

Google My Business Posts are a way to add updates, events, sales, and added in 2020 COVID-19 updated, to your GMB listing.

Think about them much like a social media post. Posts appear in your profile and enable individuals to see anything special you have to share right from the search results page. You can include a call to action like, "Book", "Order Online", "Buy", "Learn More", "Sign-Up", "Get Offer". Posts can be a good way to get additional eyes on a blog post, a sale or promo you have going on, or to encourage phone calls.

Some ideas to get the most use out of posts:

  • Pictures appear in a 4:3 ratio-- so keep this in mind when adding a photo here. You can crop your picture once you upload it, just make sure to preview your post before you publish it to see how it will appear.
  • Just the first 100 characters of text will appear in the knowledge panel, so make them count.
  • Posts only last for 7 days, so post regularly if you can. There are a few exceptions to the 7-day expiration rule. Events and offers will not expire until the event or the offer is completed.
  • You can have up to 10 posts at the same time, but only the most recent two will be shown without the searcher clicking a see more action.

Managing your GMB Reviews

Your GMB reviews are essential! In addition to asking your customers to leave reviews, you will also want to be sure you are replying to them in a timely manner. To reply to new reviews, select the "Reviews" tab in your dashboard and then go to the tab "Haven't replied". Here you can thank customers for leaving those five-star reviews, and also respond to any issues left by those that may have left a not favorable review. In the case of bad reviews, it's always a good idea to respond publicly then try to remedy the issue or concern privately with your customer.

If you need help requesting reviews, we have a gold mine of posts and also a FREE app for you to utilize.

NOTE: From Google My Business support page, businesses should "interact with customers by responding to reviews that they leave about your business. Responding to reviews shows that you value your customers and the feedback that they leave about your business." And "high-quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business's visibility and increase the likelihood that a potential customer will visit your location."

What does this mean? Replying to reviews WILL help boost your ranking in Google!

Reading Your Insights

The metrics you see under your Insights Tab on your GMB profile are both somewhat helpful, and somewhat limited. You can only go back so far as the last quarter, so it's a good idea to check in on your insights at least once a quarter if you can.

The first chart you see here is IMPRESSIONS, not clicks through to your profile.

Direct = Consumers that are searching for your business by name or location. For instance, "Odd Dog Media" or "Odd Dog Seattle"

Discovery = Consumers that are searching by categories and see your listing. Examples: "Seattle SEO company" or "Best Marketing in company Seattle." (see what we did there?).

These impressions are because of a combination of relevant site content, backlinks, GMB reviews, and Google's overall trust in your company.

Branded = These are impressions from searchers that are looking for a brand your business sells, but not necessarily your business. There is a bit of a difficult distinction between "Branded" and "Direct". Essentially, branded searches are searches for brands you sell (even if it's a part of your business name) that return a list of results.

Direct searches are searches for your specific location that return a Knowledge Panel.

Some examples:

"State Farm" returns a 3-pack for multiple locations for State Farm. This is a branded search. "Toyota" will return a 3-pack for several locations including dealerships and repair shops, depending on what you are in proximity to. This is also a branded search. "Karrie Dubose-- State Farm" or "Toyota of lake city" will both only return one GMB result as a knowledge panel on the right-hand side of the search results page.

The next set of data Google offers is where your customers are browsing from most often. Are they finding you by searching on a search engine? Or right within maps?

This can be helpful information to know, particularly if you have a physical location. When people search from maps, they are more likely to be preparing a visit soon. Once again, this data below is impressions and not clicks to your profile.

And the following section is customer actions. When consumers do see your GMB profile, what actions are they taking? Requesting directions? Are they visiting your site? Picking up the phone?

There are other insights Google offers as well as it can be overwhelming. We advise simply being mindful of the trends. Paying attention to the most common actions consumers are taking on your profile, and including a tracking URL (discussed above) so you can track what takes place when consumers land on your website from your GMB listing.

KEEP IN MIND, Google My Business is a powerful asset to any local business owner, but you do not own it. Your website is the only piece of digital property you own!


MANAGING MULTIPLE LOCATIONS

If you manage more than one business location, this next section is for you!

If you have under ten locations, the process will look similar to the above for each location. You will need to claim or create and then verify each location. Do this from the same primary Google Account, so your one account will maintain ownership of all locations.

From the primary page of your GMB account business.google.com, go to the "Add Business" drop-down and choose, "Add Single Business."

You can always include managers to these locations if another person will need to be updating information for every listing.

If you have OVER ten locations, you will want to apply the bulk upload process. NOTE: This only works if all locations are the same business and not if you have several different companies.

From the "Add Business" drop-down select, "Import Businesses."

From here you will want to download the template. The sample spreadsheet can be useful to use as a reference. You will want to make sure you fill in all required fields for each location.

Here is where the store codes will come in really handy as well.

To learn more regarding each of the columns on the bulk spreadsheet, see the Google resource guide here. If any required fields are missing or filled out incorrectly, it will return errors, so be sure you are taking your time and filling out all information as completely as you can. Yes, this process can be a bit tedious, BUT once uploaded, the verification process should be much faster and not need postcards sent to every location. If you are managing quite a few locations, Location Groups may be something you want to implement.

Location Groups allow you to group locations by area, manager, or whatever makes sense to you. By grouping your locations you can customize management accessibility and make it easier for managers to edit their listings within their group vs having access to all locations.

WHAT ELSE TO KNOW AND CONCLUSION

Google My Business is a tool that is always evolving. The features that are available for your business will change and update frequently. We discovered how agile Google needed to be in 2020 when it started adding COVID-19 updates. Features like Call Logging are currently being tested and may be carried out soon. And even more new features are currently being rolled out at the time of this post in 2021 including competitor quotes in messaging, and review removal management tool.

Finally, it is important you are logging in and checking your Google My Business account frequently. Not only can consumers suggest changes to your information, Google has now started pulling data from sites like Yelp and other third-party apps and automatically updating business information. Be sure you are checking your information regularly and ensure it is correct!

Whew! We hope you have found this Ultimate Guide a valuable resource. Google My Business is one of the most important devices you can use for your company.

If you have any questions regarding your listing or need help making the best use of your GMB account, drop us a line!



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