Google Business Profile, or GBP, is one of the most important local search engine optimization (SEO) elements to optimize to improve your visibility. Because of the visibility that GBP provides, you want to do everything in your control to get your GBP listing ranking in the Map Pack.
But you also want to be careful not to do anything that could be considered spammy that could potentially get your listing suspended. So what are the items that need to be optimized in GBP in order to start ranking?
In this guide, we’ll go over what you should add to your GBP listing, along with which items will move the needle to rank. By fully completing your GBP listing and providing Google with accurate information about your business, you’ll be on your way to ranking your business locally.
What is Google Business Profile
Your Google Business Profile is a free listing that you can control to provide potential customers with information about your business. You may know this listing by its old name, Google My Business or GMB.
GBP listings are arguably the most valuable local SEO resource outside of your website because these listings can show up in a variety of places in the Google Search landscape. Customers can find GBP listings in Google Maps to get driving directions, hours of operation, and more. If they’re researching products or services in Search, customers can find these listings in the Map Pack, as shown below.
And if they’re searching for a specific business on desktop devices, customers can also see a large version of the GBP listing on the right side of the screen in the Knowledge Graph, as shown below.
Every business location qualifies for a listing. Whether you’re a small business owner with one location or a multi-location national brand, you can leverage GBP to show up on Google Search and Maps. But how can you make the most of GBP so you’ll show up when someone is searching for your products or services?
GBP Optimizations and Best Practices
The best way to optimize your GBP profile is to have a complete profile by providing accurate business information along with as much contextual information as possible. A complete GBP listing will give your customers a variety of ways to contact your business, provide accurate and unique information about your location, and improve engagement with your listing. According to Google, a complete GBP listing will show customers you are reputable and can drive real foot traffic and purchases.
It’s important to note that making major edits in GBP can get your listing suspended or removed from Maps. The edits most prone to suspensions are business names and addresses because they are major updates that Google will want to confirm. Even if you’re making a simple, legitimate update (like moving the office to a new location), you can still get suspended because Google will need to verify the change to ensure that it’s not maliciously generated.
If you’re going to be changing the business name or address, have the right documentation to provide to Google Support in the event you do get suspended. They will ask for a utility bill or a business license to prove you’re the legitimate owner of that business and the information is accurate.
With that being said, here are some things to consider when optimizing your GBP listing, as well as some do’s and don’t’s when providing your business information.
Your business name should actually be your business name. It may seem like a no-brainer tip, but it’s actually a part of Google’s guidelines.
The most common mistake companies make is keyword stuffing with words that are not part of their brand name. You’ll typically see this when businesses add their industry, products, services, and multiple cities.
Some companies do have these types of keywords in their legitimate brand name, and this is okay. But when it becomes a tactic to manipulate Google’s algorithm, it could get flagged as spammy and potentially removed from Google.
If you have multiple locations, the listings should all have the same name. Google will know which location is closest to a searcher and give that to them when they search. And if the searcher is searching by business type, Google will show the business that’s closest to them (more on this later).
Address and Service Areas
Your business address is one of the main factors that determine which searches your business will rank for. Due to the Vicinity Update in 2021, someone searching will get results based on their proximity to the business address. This means if someone searches for a business, they will get businesses closer to them.
If you’re a service area business that uses a residential address as your main address (like plumbers or electricians), hide your address from customers and list your service areas only. You can include up to 20 cities, zip codes, or counties that cover about a 2-hour driving radius.
There are also businesses that can be classified as hybrid businesses, where they have a commercial office for staff but complete services outside of the office. In this scenario, list your office address and add the service areas your business covers.
Whether you’re a storefront, hybrid, or service area business, the address linked to the GBP listing is still the main factor in proximity. Adding a bunch of service areas will not guarantee rankings in every single location you list. Having the service areas listed provides valuable context for customers and will help them determine if your business can help them.
Phone Number and Website
Your phone number and website are vital to ensuring that customers can contact you so that you can service them and capture their contact information.
For your phone number, provide customers with the best way to call your business. The most important thing to remember is that it needs to match whatever you have on your website. Ideally, you should have a local phone number.
For your website, provide a landing page where you want customers to go if they want to see your website. The type of business you have could dictate which page you want to list. If you just have one location, the homepage is probably best since it has the most authority and lists your contact information. If you have multiple locations, you might want to create location pages and assign each location page to its specific GBP listing.
No matter which strategy you choose, stick to SEO best practices on your website. The on-page optimizations on your website will impact the ranking of the GBP listing. Your website is where you should optimize for keywords you want to rank for as well as link to the services you offer.
Category selection is one of the most important elements that you can control besides location. If you choose the wrong category, your listing won’t come up in searches for your industry or business type.
For example, the listing below details a cannabis store. Previously it was listed as a pharmacy and didn’t rank well in maps for either pharmacy or cannabis dispensary searches.
Bottom line: Choose the most accurate primary category possible. There are nearly 4,000 categories to choose from currently, from abbeys to zoos, so you’re sure to find something applicable to your business. If your business applies to multiple categories, select the most relevant category as your primary category and select up to nine other categories as secondary categories. If you have multiple locations, pick the same main category for every location.
Fully Complete Your GBP Listing
Once you’ve got the main information down, you can work on completing your GBP listing by providing valuable contextual information that will improve your listing’s engagement and drive conversions.
Having photos helps because customers will explore your listing. Having specific photos won’t help your listing rank better, however. In fact, geo-tagging photos to improve rankings is a well-known local SEO myth that has been debunked as a waste of time.
But photos that show the inside and outside of your business can give customers an idea of what to expect from your business, and group pictures of the team give your brand some personality. Showing off the beauty of your products or services can make a difference for people exploring their options and improve people’s engagement with your listing.
Adding products to create a product carousel will definitely help your listing stand out from other businesses that do not include them. You can also provide an image, link, and description to help take customers directly to your products, as shown below.
Hours of Operation
While this mainly applies to regular store hours, it can include holidays or special hours when your business may be closed. Google will also use these hours to show someone who may be traveling to your location that it might be closed when you arrive.
You can also list yourself as being open 24 hours a day, but proceed with caution. The hours of operation are intended to be used for when you can access the physical location, not when you can reach the location. Just because you’re available 24 hours a day (by phone, for example) doesn’t mean you’re open 24 hours a day.
Description of Business
This can be used to include details of the business and provide an opportunity to write a description of the products/services that are important to you. If you put keywords in the description, be sure not to practice keyword stuffing.
Attributes are relatively new to GBP, but can provide context and will make your listing look complete and professional.
Some of these attributes include who owns the business, how long you’ve been in business, service options (in-store shopping vs. delivery), and even how you can pay, as shown below. Take full advantage of these attributes to stand out from the crowd.
What About Reviews?
Reviews are an important ranking factor for your listing. You want a high overall star rating along with lots of reviews to show customers and Google that you are a reputable business. However, you don’t have a way to control the content of your review. So how do you optimize your reviews?
To increase the number of reviews (and hopefully the quality), ask customers who have had positive experiences to leave a review. There are services that will help you drive Google reviews for your business by sending customers a link to leave a review. If you’re on a tighter budget, start by simply making it easy for customers to leave a review. Even a couple of new, recent reviews can provide extra visibility and trustworthiness.
Once your customers leave a review, respond or thank them for leaving a review to show that you are engaging with your customers. It will show potential customers who are mining reviews that you would be attentive to their needs.
Bottom Line: Provide Accurate Business Information
The main takeaway is to do everything that’s in your control. If your listing’s information isn’t complete or accurate, it is going to hurt your business in the long run because your customers won’t be able to contact you.
While certain GBP listing information can make a bigger impact, filling out as much information as you can adds up to listings that provide value to customers and creates engagement for people researching companies. With an accurate and optimized GBP listing, you’ll be well on your way to ranking your business locally.