5 Ways to Optimize Your Google My Business Listing

Claiming and perfecting your listing is the most important thing you can do to make sure customers can find you online.
SEO optimization can seem intimidating, but using these tips for an SEO audit can boost local search ratings and help your business. (Photo: Jane0606/Shutterstock)

Too often, for small businesses, search engine optimization is an afterthought. It’s daunting and confusing, and hiring an expert is out of the question when marketing budgets are slim (though businesses can do an SEO audit on their own for free). But there is a simple way to improve local search rankings that’s almost sure to boost sales: claim and optimize your Google My Business listing.

A Google My Business listing appears on the right side of the search engine results page (SERP) when you look up a business. Think of it like a more detailed Yellow Pages listing, with a map, photos, address, phone number, hours, reviews and social media profiles.

“Many people search specific businesses to find their location, hours and reviews,” said Ben Bordofsky, a digital producer at Coalition Technologies, a Los Angeles-based digital marketing company that specializes in SEO and is a Premier-level Google Partner. “It’s critical to get that information to [customers] as easily as possible. Google My Business is far and away the best avenue to do this.”

Use these tips to optimize your Google My Business listing.

Claim and verify


“Many people search specific businesses to find their location, hours and reviews.” -Ben Bordofsky (Photo: Ben Bordofsky)

Every day that you don’t claim your Google My Business listing, you’re missing out on potential customers.

If your business is well established, there is probably already a listing available according to Adam O’Leary, president of Encite International, a small business marketing agency in Denver. “Claiming it gives legitimacy and lets a business update their details,” he said.

If a listing doesn’t exist, add one. If you don’t have a Google account, you’ll need to create one.

Take the extra step of verifying your business with Google. “If you don’t do this, your listing is less trustworthy in the eyes of Google,” Bordofsky said. Google will mail you a postcard that contains a code to enter on the Google My Business Site. It may call you to confirm that you are located where you say you are and can be reached by the phone number you list.

Make It accurate

At the very minimum, your Google My Business listing should include your business’ name, address and local phone number (NAP, in SEO vernacular).

Make doubly sure it’s all accurate, and not just because incorrect information makes it hard for customers to find and contact you. According to Matt Hoff, owner of Matt Hoff Digital Marketing, an SEO and marketing company in Pittsburgh, your NAP will also be used in other citations and directories across the web, and inconsistency could hurt your search rankings.

Hoff also advised using exactly the same business name you use in the real world. “Never try to stuff additional keywords into your business name in hopes of bolstering your position in the search results.”

If you’re just starting out and you haven’t named your business yet, keep search in mind if when choosing a name.

Update your listing often, and especially if your hours change or you have new offerings, O’Leary advised. “This shows Google that the business is still active and open. Although Google doesn’t release its search algorithm, it stands to reason that a listing that is more active than another would be a listing that is still operational.”

Select your industry

Google allows you to select your industry or a few industries that best fit your business. Do this to help tell Google what search queries to include your website or listing alongside.

But consider carefully before selecting multiple industries, cautioned Stephen Nuttall, an SEO manager at Trinity Insight, a digital optimization agency in Philadelphia. “Selecting one industry that is spot-on for your business is better than selecting three that may or may not exactly match your business,” he said. You’ll rank higher the more specific your category is.

Make your listing look great

According to Bordofsky, one of the biggest mistakes small businesses make when it comes to their Google listing, other than posting incorrect information, is creating a poor aesthetic. “It’s important to include a high quality picture and a succinct description,” he said.

Add photos of your business’ interior and exterior, logos, biographies of the owners or chef and any other information that shows there are real people behind your name. “If you don’t supply these images to Google, its algorithms will choose the images it thinks best represent your business,” Hoff said. “From experience, it rarely chooses a good or even accurate photo.”

Google also has verified photographers that can be hired to provide 360° Virtual Tours that will appear on your Google My Business listing and Maps’ and Earth’s Street View function.

Seek reviews

Google allows customers to leave reviews via Google Maps. Do everything you can to solicit positive reviews.

The more good the reviews, the more trust you’ll build in your company, according to James Sacci, president and web developer at ProWeb Innovations, a Peekskill, New York web design and optimization company and a member of Google’s Official City Partners program.

“As small businesses receive more reviews they will notice their website and local listing move up in search results,” said Sacci.

Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal, a lawn care startup with seven offices in Nashville, said responding to reviews is also important for search. “This is your opportunity to instill all kinds of rich content onto your Google My Business page.” Clayton said his business responds to every review with a 100- or 200-word paragraph that includes a few keywords and services his company provides.

“I update my responses in line at Starbucks or while I’m at the airport on the app,” he said. “You can optimize your listing and not have to take away time from other important tasks during your day.”

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