Local SEO tips for small businesses – How to optimise Google Business Profile

If you want to get noticed in today’s digital world, you need to understand and optimise your local SEO. Local SEO has seen a significant rise in recent years. Around one-third of customers will search online for business locally daily. What’s more, 61% of customers prefer shopping in stores that have both a physical and digital presence. If you haven’t started to optimise your local SEO, now is the time to consider changing that. Not only does it help grow your business’s online presence by standing out more in the search results, but you’ll also attract more customers. One way you can optimise your local SEO is through a Google Business Profile. Let’s take a look at how…

See how you can optimise your mobile website for local SEO

What is local SEO?

Before we take a look at Google Business Profile, let’s briefly look at what local SEO is. Local SEO is very similar to ordinary search engine optimisation (SEO). The idea is that you optimise your online web presence for greater visibility online. The difference between SEO and local SEO is that local SEO focuses on increasing the visibility of your business in local and localised search results.

Brick and mortar businesses with a physical store can benefit greatly from a local SEO plan. Unlike ‘traditional SEO’, which requires many on-page and off-page optimisation techniques, local SEO focuses on different factors. In particular, local SEO focuses on 3 factors in the algorithms. These are:

  • Proximity to the search
  • Prominence online
  • Relevance to the search query

Local SEO results can appear in search engines in many different ways. Most commonly, the 3-pack results show the top 3 results that are relevant to the keywords executed in the search query The map-pack and organic queries are other ways localised results can appear in the search results.

The 3-pack and map-ack local search results

A local search result showing the 3-pack and map-pack

Customers are looking for businesses close to them and optimising your local SEO strategy will help you to stand out in localised and local search results, such as the one above. Search terms, such as ‘near me’ or entering the location are local search terms. One way to optimise your local SEO strategy is by optimising your Google Business Profile.

What’s the Google Business Profile?

Google Business Profile homepage

The Google Business Profile homepage

Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) is a platform that allows you to claim, manage and optimise your business profile on Google. Setting up a business profile and claiming your business through Google’s My Business allows you to better optimise your business’s online presence in local and localised search results.

To create a listing for your business, you need to provide your business name, location, and category. If the business listing does not already exist, Google will create a new listing. You can then claim your business listing by verifying. This usually requires sending a verification code by post to your business address.

Once you have verified your business in your Google Business Profile, you can access, customise, manage, and enhance your business profile on Google. Google Business Profile is a free tool that helps enhance and grow your online presence.

You can get started by setting up or claiming your business profile quickly and for free.

However, setting up and claiming your business profile is simply not enough to help grow and improve your online presence and attract customers. You need to optimise your business profile. Let’s take a look at how you can optimise your Google Business Profile. Before signing up for Google My Business, check if a listing already exists. If a listing already exists, claim it by clicking on ‘own this business?’, usually displayed after the main details.

How to claim your business listing on Google

Claiming your business listing on Google

Other search engines, such as Bing, have their separate business profile platforms that will also need optimising the same as Google’s. Optimising your Google Business Profile only works for Google’s search engines.

Tips for optimising your Google Business Profile

Provide essential details

When setting up a new listing with Google Business Profile, you will be asked to provide information about your business, including business name, address, business phone, and category. Make sure you provide all the necessary information to allow customers to find and discover your business.

You will also be asked to provide categories and whether your business delivers goods and services to customers at their location. Select the categories relevant to your business.

The information you provide should be consistent across all your online locations, e.g., using ‘street’ and ‘st’ or ‘company’ and ‘co’. Make a note of the exact details you provide to Google’s business profile to ensure all other information across the web is consistent.

Essential information displayed on a Google Business Profile

Essential information displayed on a Google Business Listing

If you already have set up business profiles elsewhere, such as Yelp or Yell, make sure the details you provide to Google are exactly the same. It helps to optimise your business listing and build credibility with Google’s algorithms and shows you are a legitimate business.

Verify your business listing

Once you’ve provided your business profile with essential and additional information, you’ll need to verify your listing. To verify your business listing, a verification code is sent to the address you provided. Verifying your business proves to Google you represent the business you claim.

Verifying is crucial for your business’s visibility and the performance of your listing. It can usually take up to 5 working days to receive your verification code by mail. Without verifying you will not be able to access insights and analytics. The changes you make to your business listing will also not be displayed until you verify.

Once you verify your business listing, you can start to provide lots more additional information and details.

Provide additional information

To continue to optimise your Google Business Profile, you should continue to add additional information about your business. Information such as:

  • Business hours, including holidays (keep regular, up-to-date business hours)
  • Contact and messaging options (how customers can contact you)
  • Business description (a brief description of what your business does and sells)
  • Photos (include photos that showcase your business, the people who work for your business, and the products/services you offer)

The more information you provide, the better. Again, make sure the information you provide on your Google Business Profile is consistent across other online platforms. You should also add a photo (preferably your logo) and a cover image. The photos you choose to include in your business listing can make a big difference in whether customers will visit your store.

Tips for photos you upload to Google Business Profile:

  • Is in a common image format, such as JPG or PNG
  • Does not exceed a file size of 5 MB
  • Has a minimum resolution of 720px x 720px
  • Photos are clear and well lit. Avoid using filters
  • Use relevant file names that incorporate a keyword relevant to your business or location

Also, consider tagging your photos with a geo-location to help the images show up in local search results. Photos are extremely important as they give customers an inside view of your business and help build trust.

Your business description should also be carefully considered. Don’t just rehash the same info that’s already available in other sections of your business listing. You have 750 characters to sell your business to a potential customer. Instead, consider:

  • Repurposing content from your ‘about’ webpage
  • Include all the key and most important information in the first 250 characters.
  • Include keywords that your customers are searching for
  • Don’t include any links

A well optimised Google Business Profile

An optimised Google Business Listing provides a wealth of information and contact options

Duplicate listings

Once you have set up the information in your Google Business Profile, you should look for duplicate listings of your business. Duplicate listings can stand in the way of your listings and may be displayed to customers. As the Google bots don’t know which of the business listings is the one you want serving, it may choose a duplicate listing with less or false information.

While duplicate listings do not negatively affect your ranking, it is a factor that can cause confusion or impact your visibility. Having duplicate listings for one business also violates the Google Business Profile guidelines. Either merge listings or report fake/spam listings to avoid any penalising.

If you want to merge listings, you’ll need to claim ownership of the other listing before you can merge it. If you want to remove a listing, you can report it or suggest edits.

Post to your profile

In the same way that you would regularly post on your social media platforms, you should also regularly post to your Google Business Profile. Posting to your My Business profile helps to keep customers interested and engaged with your business. It also helps keep everyone up to date with your business.

Any events, special offers or announcements about your business are good ideas to regularly post on your My Business profile. Don’t forget to include a photo and a call to action by telling searchers what you want them to do.

Posting updates on the Google Business Profie

Posts or updates published on a Business Listing with a call to action

Questions and answers

Questions and answers is another section of your Google Business Profile that you should add to optimise for local SEO.

The only thing with questions on Google is that anyone is open to asking questions and answering them. So, you’ll want to make sure you regularly keep an eye open for any questions that get asked on your listing profile and be sure to answer them as quickly as possible.

Ensuring you answer your questions can help to provide accurate and complete information. While it may be handy that local advocates answer your questions, they may not have accurate, relevant, or up-to-date information. Above all, they may not reflect the tone and voice you want to your business be known for.

To stand a better chance of accurately answering questions, you should turn on notifications so that when someone asks a question, you’ll be notified. If you download the mobile app, you will be able to answer questions as quickly as possible and receive a notification straight away.

Secondly, consider setting out your own questions and answers, such as frequently asked questions. Once you publish the questions and answers, upvote them so they appear at the top. Google encourages you to do this. Consider adding a keyword into your answers too to better optimise. But don’t keyword stuff!

Setting your own questions and answers on a Google Business Profile

Setting your own questions and answers on a Business Listing

Customers can also message you directly through Google Business Platform, so make you install the app to get set up with messaging.

Reviews

Reviews are extremely important online. 79% of consumers trust reviews they read online as much as personal recommendations. And the most popular platform for people to look for reviews (drumroll)… you guessed it. Google! 59% of online shoppers use Google for reading reviews, with customers, on average, reading up to 10 reviews before making a purchase.

Getting high-quality, positive reviews from your customers can greatly improve your businesses’ visibility. The more positive reviews you manage to get on your business listing will greatly improve the likelihood that customers will visit your store.

Once you achieve a positive review on your business listing, you should respond quickly and graciously. A good response to a review includes:

  • Thanking the customer/reviewer
  • Be specific and relate to the customer where possible
  • Invite them to visit you again soon

Responding to reviews on a Google Business Profile

Responding to reviews on a Business Listing

Unfortunately, sometimes not every customer is satisfied and will leave a negative review. How you respond to these bad reviews is extremely important. Receiving negative feedback gives you an insight into how you can do things better. Ignoring them reflects badly on your business. Respond to bad reviews by:

  • Apologising and thanking the customer/reviewer
  • Be courteous and polite (being defensive never works)
  • Let the customer know you’ll directly contact them
  • Keep the response as short as possible

Following good steps to respond to negative reviews can turn around and work in your favour.

Start by getting some of your loyal customers to begin adding reviews that will help to encourage other customers to do the same. Also, 74% of customers will leave a review if you ask them.

Include your products and services

If you have different products or service offerings, consider adding the major ones to your business listing. As well as providing helpful and informative information to potential customers, it helps build your listing profile that boosts your ranking.

Make sure to include the name of the product or service, a brief description of the product or service attributes, and the price. A snippet is shown on your business listing that when clicked on, displays the full details.

You can add a wealth of information about the products and services you sell, attributes, and special features. Make the most of the option to add as many products and service offerings as possible.

Services displayed on a Google listing

Services displayed in a Business Listing

A menu displayed on a business listing
A menu displayed in a Business Listing

Monitor

How do you know something’s working if you don’t monitor the results? As with any other marketing and business effort, you monitor the results to evaluate the performance. The same goes for your Google Business Profile.

Regularly evaluate your results to determine the success of your business listing and see areas you could continue to improve. Continuing to monitor and improve your business listing helps you to stay visible in search results.

Google Business Profile provides lots of nice metrics you can track, including:

  • The number of people who visited your website from your business listing
  • The number of people that asked for directions to your store
  • What keywords were used in the search result that displayed your business listing
  • The number of people who called your business from your business listing
  • The number of clicks on your call to action.

Following these tips to optimise your Google Business Profile will help you to increase your visibility online and allow customers to easily find you. And remember that setting up your Google Business Profile is not a one-off thing. It requires regular maintenance and managing by regularly updating your details and posting regularly too. There’s plenty more you can get stuck in with too for boosting your visibility in local search results.

Check our no-nonsense guide to local SEO for more optimisation tips