Illustration showing Google My Business service
Internet Marketing
The Definitive Guide to Google My Business
08. 05. 2019

This guide is intended to be a valuable resource for the online digital marketing community as well as for small to medium sized business owners to create, set-up, verify and optimize their Google My Business (GMB) account, from initial account set-up to a fully optimized listing.

The reality of GMB is that it is far more than just a listing service, it is an integral part of your Local SEO efforts.

GMB offers its own unique set of features that sets it apart from other listing services. Beyond its features that help attract audiences, having a GMB account is also a local ranking factor.

GMB offers an adaptable listing service to help business owners stand out with a “Knowledge Panel”, which is a snippet of the entire profile. It will display business information along with valuable features such as:

  • Call;
  • Directions;
  • Reviews;
  • Website.

The GMB platform will also offer different features based on the different primary categories chosen. Some categories, such as restaurants will offer features including: a “Menu”, “Place An Order” and “Reserve A Table”. Another category, such as a hotel will offer a feature such as: “Book A Room”. Each category is designed to provide the best chance of conversion for the business, and it is up to the business to take advantage of this free service.

screenshot of a knowledge panel

1. Owning Your Google My Business Account

1.1 Claiming Your Google My Business Account

Before you can start optimizing your GMB account, you will need to claim the listing and verify the ownership of the location.

  1. Sign-in to the Google account for which you want to have access/ownership, then access Google My Business from the top right corner;
  2. Enter the name of your business and select the correct business from the drop-down menu provided:screenshot of business name input
    1. Business Location (Street Address, City, Province/State);
    2. Select whether or not you serve customers at your business address. (If you don’t, click the bottom option “I deliver goods and services to my customers”);
    3. Select a Business Category. (Assess what your competitors have selected and choose the one best suited for you.) Note: the business category is a ranking factor for local search and should not be changed often;
    4. Enter all other information that you can and leave as little blank as possible:
      1. Phone Number;
      2. Web Address (franchise owners should put the local page URL in the website field).
  3. To ensure your listing is verified with all the correct information, select: More Options > Later, so that you can continue updating all the sections of the account before having the account verified by Google.

1.2 Verifying Your Google My Business Account

Once the account has been claimed and updated you will need to verify the account for all the changes and optimizations you have made to take effect.

Multiple Accounts:

When you sign-in to your GMB account, you will see a “Verify Now” notice on the listings that still require verification. screenshot showing verification required

Single Account

If you only have one account, you can select the “Home” option to the left of the account and select the “Verify Now” button in the “Verification Needed” panel. screenshot showing verification options

Verification Options

Verification options that are only available for selected businesses will display only if Google determines that your account meets their policy requirements. Usually these options are made available for larger accounts that manage multiple locations. Verification options include: screenshot showing the different verification options available

  • Verify By Mail:
    1. To verify by Mail you will need to select the “By Mail” option;
    2. Ensure the Business address is correct if you wish to send the postcard to that address. Note that the postcard can only be sent to the business address;
    3. You can also add an “Optional Contact Name”;
    4. Once all the information is correct you can click “Send Postcard”;
    5. Once the Postcard arrives and you have your verification code ready, go back to the verification screen and enter the code;
    6. Proceed to optimize your GMB account.
  • Verify By Phone - Select Businesses Only:
    1. To verify by Phone you will need to select the “Verify by Phone” option;
    2. Ensure that the business phone number is correct and that your business phone is in working order to receive direct calls. If there is a call answering system in place, the call will be unable to go through;
    3. You can also add an “Optional Contact Name”;
    4. Once you have received the verification code, enter it into the “Verification Field”;
    5. Proceed to optimize your GMB account.
  • Verify By Email - Select Businesses Only
    1. To verify by Email you will need to select the “Verify by Email” option;
    2. Once you have the code emailed to you, enter it into the “Verification Field”;
    3. Proceed to optimize your GMB account.
  • Instant Verification - Select Businesses Only:
    1. If you have a verified Google Search Console account, you can then create an automatically verified GMB account.
  • Bulk Verification - Select Businesses Only
    1. If you manage 10+ locations for the same business (i.e. a franchise owner with multiple locations), your account may be eligible for “Bulk Verification.”

2. Updating & Optimizing

2.1 Sections of Google My Business

Now that your GMB account and business location are verified, it’s time to update and optimize the account. The best practice for optimizing your Google My Business account is to go section by section, and field by field adding in as much information as you can. Sections currently offered in GMB include:

Optimization Cards:

  • Home;
  • Posts;
  • Info;
  • Insights;
  • Reviews;
  • Messaging;
  • Photos;
  • Products (Beta);
  • Website.

Ad Card:

  • Create an ad.

Management Cards:

  • Users;
  • Add New Location;
  • Manage Locations;
  • Linked Accounts;
  • Settings;
  • Support.

3. Optimization Cards

Home

screenshot showing the GMB home sectionThe Home Section is where you’ll see your “Overview” and “Suggestion” sections. It gives a quick overview of: top used and active panels, and suggestions for optimizing your GMB account.

At the top of the Home Section, there are three quick section links to: Create Post, Add Photo and Create Ad. These sections are the top engagement options that you can work with through your GMB account.

Along with reviews, photos and suggestions, the Home Section will also provide competitor insights (based off of your primary category), which can help provide ideas of the type of posts that will best suit your audience.

Posts

The Posts option is one of the newer panel options added to GMB. It has quickly become one of their best performing features, offering both engagement and conversion enhancements.

Posts are so valuable for local search that “Posting Frequency” has become a local ranking factor.

The “Posts” option is very simple but very effective for promoting and announcing: new products, sales, events and promotions.

While the process can be quick and simple to complete, the effort put into creating a high-quality post should not be overlooked.

Keep in mind that if you require the post to be content heavy, you can create images containing text without sacrificing lines of content (i.e. Post title, Product Price, Promotion/Event Name).

screenshot showing how to create a product post
Products should be showcased in high quality, original photos. Do not use stock photography.

Keep in mind that if you require the post to be content heavy, you can create images containing text without sacrificing lines of content (i.e. Post title, Product Price, Promotion/Event Name).

Key Points for Post Set-Up

  • Post Type: Decide what category your post falls into: Products, What’s New, Events or Offers;
  • Media Options:
    • Photos - (400-pxW)x(300-pxT) | JPG or PNG;
    • Videos - Max File Size 100MB (30-second Video) | AVI, MPG, WMV, FLV, MOV, MP4, M2TS, M4V, MKV.
  • Title: Create a well-crafted, eye-catching headline for your post;
  • Full Details: Be sure to provide full details for your post.While you have a 1,500 character limit, currently the best length for a post is approximately 100 - 300 characters;
  • Call-To-Action: One of the most crucial points of a post is a Call-To Action. Without one, your audience will likely not feel compelled to click on your post.

Note: “Google Posts” only have a seven-day shelf life. However, if you create an event post with an end date the post will last until the specified date (up to one year).

Info

The Info Section of GMB is the main hub where you will manage and update the information for your GMB account. This section will include:

screenshot showing the info section of GMB

  • Category: Primary & Secondary
  • NAP Info:
    • Name of Business;
    • Business Address;
    • Business Phone Number (Primary & Secondary).
  • Primary Category Note: Different Primary Categories offer different features to allow your customers easier access to your business. Not every category is the same, so be sure to choose the best one for your business:
    • Restaurant - Reserving A Table, Placing a Delivery Order, View the Menu;
    • Hotel - Book a Room, Amenities (more options for Hotels).
  • The Website: Add a link to your website;
  • Attributes: This showcases features such as: Accessibility, Amenities, Highlights, Offerings and Payments;
  • Business Description: The description should be content taken directly from the website, preferably from the “About Us” section. If your “About Us” page does not have a business description with a few of your targeted keywords, then it should be updated to include them;
    Note: A business description should be written with purpose and direction. A good business description makes note of:
    • The difference between you and your competitors;
    • Your top performing keywords;
    • Don’t keyword stuff
  • Add Opening Date: Helps to grab the customer’s attention;
  • Add Photos: See the Photos Section below;
  • Updates From Google: You may not always see this on your account if you don’t have any suggested updates. If you do, however, it is very important to check and confirm that the updates are correct before accepting. If they are not correct and you want to remove them, simply re-enter the information shown to be struck out in the information field and the suggestion should be removed;
  • Your Business is Live on Google: This section provides you with quick links to view your account in either a search or maps view;
  • Close or Remove This Listing: As long as you are the owner you will be given two options: “Mark As Permanently Closed” or “Remove Listing”. This will allow you to either mark the business as closed or remove it from your account so it can be managed by someone else;
    Note: You can NOT delete a GMB account once it has been created.
  • Advanced Information:
    • Store code - A Unique ID for each listing in the GMB account;
    • Labels - Similar to a store code, these are for organizational purposes;
    • Google Ads Location Extensions Phone - This is important if you are running PPC ads through Google Ads, and have a location extension for tracking in place.

Insights

The Insights Section provides small snippets of your audience’s local search habits, as well as insights into how they are searching for and how they are finding your business account. (Note: All sections will offer a time frame option in the top-left of the panel, ranging from one week, one month and one quarter).

screenshot showing the GMB insights section

The sub-categories you will find within the Insights Section include:

  • How Customers Search for Your Business: In this panel you will find that Google has broken down your traffic into three distinct sub-categories:
    Direct
    Users found your business by searching your name or address (problems with your NAP information will directly affect these results and your website’s traffic);
    Discovery
    These are the users who found your listing based on your category, product or service (this is why it is important to choose the most accurate primary category for your listing and stick with it. Changing the primary category can affect your rankings);
    Branded
    These are the users who were looking for brands that you offer (partnering with different brands can help connect you with their search audience).
  • Queries Used to Find Your Business: This panel will provide a list of queries that users searched to find you locally. Often this will display your brands, company name, location or some combination of the three. It is a great resource for creating local keywords that align with other keyword ideas you may not have thought of that your users are directly using to find your business. screenshot showing the queries used to find your business
  • Where Customers View Your Business on Google: This is a break down of how users are searching for your business, specifically if it is through a “Search” or “Map” listing, and the number of users for each method of search. This can be useful to determine search intent, as users typically look up a location on a map if they are interested in going there.
  • Customers’ Actions: Currently this panel gives an overview of what people are using when they are on your local listing panel. screenshot showing the different customers' actions
    • Just like the previous panel, this information gives insight into both where people are in their purchasing decisions, as well as how they view you as the solution to their query;
    • For instance, you may have a high number of users visiting your website, but low numbers when it comes to actionable behaviour, such as calling or looking for directions;
    • This may suggest that people see you as an authoritative source of information but are not inclined to move forward with a purchasing decision. This is where conversion optimization will need to be implemented on the site to better drive converting traffic.
  • Direction Requests: Is a quick and simple tool to see where the majority of traffic is coming from geographically, allowing you to better target any online advertising efforts to either better target high activity areas, or to focus on lower performing areas.screenshot showing direction requests origination
  • Phone Calls: This panel can help determine the highest traffic times for your location. This panel has an extra filter allowing you to toggle between the phone calls that come in during different times of day and different days of the week, allowing you to determine exactly when your peak hours will be.screenshot showing when and number of calls that are received
  • Photo Views: This is a great indication of both account owner and user interactions with the business. From an overview perspective of this panel you can get an idea of how often users view your photos compared to your direct competitors. This panel also has an extra filtering option allowing you to switch between Owner photos and Customer photos.screenshot of chart showing number of photo views compared to other businesses
    The reason this is important is because you can directly see whether or not people are interacting with the photos of your business, and more importantly whether they are looking at your photos (professional and staged) or photos from other users (often low quality).
  • Photo Quantity: This is a simple counting tool that compares the number of pictures your account displays versus that of your competitors accounts.
    Note: If you notice that your competition has a much higher number of owner photos than your own business, this is a good indication that you need to upload more photos to your account (if you have the opportunity to do so).

Reviews

splash showing the customer reviews section

The Review Section can be the most important panel in your GMB dashboard. It’s important to bear in mind that a disgruntled user is nine times more likely to leave a negative review than a happy customer is to leave a positive review. In addition to disgruntled customers, you should also be wary of: disgruntled ex-employees, competitors who are seeking to steal customers and internet trolls who will often post outlandishly fake negative reviews or even off-putting pictures.

While handling negative reviews is certainly a priority, responding to positive or neutral reviews is often overlooked. These reviews are often left abandoned and are rarely responded to. These are opportunities to showcase how you interact with your customers showing potential clientele the type of business and personnel they will be dealing with.

It is simple psychology, when a user sees that other customers have had positive experiences both in purchasing and in their communication with you, they are more likely to trust that you will go above and beyond for them when it matters.

Here are the top ways to avoid negative reviews, and respond accordingly if you receive them:

  • Offer Outstanding Customer Service: This is the most important piece of advice to try and avoid negative reviews.
  • Respond ASAP: Responding in a timely manner is key to repairing damaged customer relationships.
  • Respond In The Tone You Want Your Business to Convey: There are many ways to respond to a negative review, but the ones that do the best are the ones that are direct honest and not defensive. This is an excellent example of a response (albeit much longer than necessary) that is direct, not defensive and gives readers cause to side with the business owner, which is exactly the point of these reviews:
    • Apologize/sympathize with the reviewer:
      • “We’re so sorry you had to deal with this issue…”;
      • “We apologize for this inconvenience…”
    • Don’t defend, but remind the user why they came to you:
      • “This does not represent the high level of service we try and maintain for our guests/clients/customers…”;
      • “We try and maintain a very high standard of service…”;
      • “We are normally known for our outstanding service…”
    • Shift the conversation to a more private mode of communication:
      • “We want you to feel like you’re getting the most from our services. Please email us at info@(Yourcompany).com or call us at (555)555-5555…”
    • Keep It Simple: Do not go into too much detail or offer information you do not need to give.
  • What Is The Weight Of The Review: Does it come from a local guide, someone who posts and reviews consistently, or is the review a one-off from someone with no other online participation? If it’s the latter, it is a lot easier to have their negative review removed. If their Google account shows that they review often or are a local guide it will be much harder to remove their negative review, as they are seen as more valuable users by Google.
  • How To Remove A Negative Review: The answer is very simple, if the review violates Google’s policy it can be flagged and possibly removed. The Google policy violations that can get a review removed include:Screenshot showing how to report a policy violation

Below is the full “Comment Policy” for posting a review:

  • Don’t spam or post fake reviews intended to boost or lower ratings;
  • Don’t post or link to content that is sexually explicit or contains profanity;
  • Don’t post or link to content that is abusive, hateful, threatens or harasses others;
  • Don’t post or link to any file that contains viruses, corrupted files, “Trojan Horses,” or any other contaminating or destructive features that may damage someone else’s computer;
  • Don’t post any material that violates the copyrights or other intellectual property rights of others;
  • Don’t impersonate any person, or falsely state or otherwise misrepresent your affiliation with a person or entity;
  • Don’t violate any other applicable law or regulation;
  • Don’t use comments as a forum for advertisement.

You might also like to follow these guidelines and tips:

  • Make your comments useful and informative;
  • Post clear, valuable and honest information specific to the content that you are reviewing;
  • Try to include both positive aspects and drawbacks;
  • Be nice and don’t act maliciously towards others;
  • Keep it readable and don’t use excessive capitalization and punctuation;
  • Use good grammar and check your spelling.

Note: Google reserves the right to review and remove commentary that violates their policies. This policy is not law and Google can remove any reviews or comments at their own discretion, as well as leave those that they feel are valuable even if there is an apparent violation of policy.

One way to increase your chances of removing a negative review is to have multiple people flag the review from different devices on different networks. This will substantially increase the chances of the review being removed.

Messaging

This is a slightly newer tool that was introduced a couple years ago, and much like other sections in GMB, is only suitable for certain business categories and clients.

Often this feature is used as a way for users to ask quick questions that they feel cannot be answered quickly and easily through other means of searching. One of the main reasons this tool is so successful is because an increasing number of people seek instantaneous answers through text rather than chat.

Setting up the messaging function is easy and straightforward:

  1. Sign-in to your GMB account;
  2. Click the Messaging card;
  3. You may need to install the GMB app if you are on a smartphone or other mobile device;
  4. Click “Register Phone #”;
  5. Click Submit.

screenshot showing information about getting messages from customers Note: It is important to respond to messages quickly. Even if you set-up a robot response as the initial message, responding in a timely manner will enable GMB to display your response time, increasing the likelihood of future interactions through the messaging tool.

Photos

Photos are one of the most tried and true interactive components of your GMB profile. People are visual beings, so dynamic high-quality content will always catch a person’s attention over text or other non-visual material.

The Photos Card is divided into sections to represent the different types of photos that you and your customers can upload to your GMB account. These are photo types and other visual mediums that have been proven to help CTR and increase engagement.

The Photos Card is divided into 10 sections: screenshot showing the 10 different sections of a photo card

screenshot showing the images affected from the identity section
screenshot showing another example of the GMB knowledge panel
  • Identity: Cover & Logo photos (the most important section in photos). Only upload one high quality photo for each of the options.
  • Overview: This section displays all of your current photos and will prompt you to designate photos for the top sections, including: Cover, Video & Product (Cover & Logo are very important as these will be the main display pictures on your GMB “Knowledge Panel”).
    The photos shown in the display area of your GMB “Knowledge Panel” are directly related to the sections in which they are uploaded. Placing the right type of pictures in the right sections will allow GMB to offer users better visuals that are more relevant to their query.
  • By Owner: These are the pictures that have been uploaded directly by the business owner. This will only count if you upload from your GMB account. If you upload from Google directly it will be classified as a “By Customer” picture (this will affect your insights numbers).
  • By Customer: These are the pictures that have been uploaded directly by customers who have been to your business location or saw products they were interested in. This is the section to watch for inappropriate pictures. Low quality pictures, as seen to the right, should be avoided as they are a poor representation of your company.
    As you only get two images and the map to display in your GMB card, you want to ensure they’re high-quality and eye-catching.
  • 360: This section allows you to upload a full 360 degree walk-through or tour of your business space. This type of medium does a great job of bringing your customers into your business without them ever having to leave their home. This allows them to familiarize themselves with your office or property making it easier for new customers to gain a sense of trust and understanding of your business.
  • Video: Videos are perhaps the most engaging and attention-grabbing visual medium. You can take advantage of this section to upload any videos your company has made to increase the number of clicks on your profile.
  • Interior: This section is dedicated to visuals that specifically relate to the interior of your business. Businesses that have showrooms or in-store displays should take full advantage of this section.
  • Exterior: This section is dedicated to the visuals that specifically relate to the exterior of your business, as well as exterior work your company does. Businesses that do work outside, or create outdoor visual displays should take full advantage of this section.
  • Product: A simple area where you can display visuals of all your merchandise if your company offers any. (Note: this should not be confused with the new Products (Beta) option, which we will discuss in the next section.)
  • Team: This is a great section if you and your team work directly with customers. Businesses that should take advantage of this area can include: dentists, vets, hands-on retail stores and law offices amongst others.

Products (Beta)

screenshot showing the products beta screen

The newest addition to GMB is the Products card, which is designed to allow users to display products that their company offers in the search results, directly linking users to products they want without having to search through the site.

This section should not be confused with “Posts”, which are designed to promote products, sales and other notable events happening at or around your business location. The Products card is for companies that have inventories and products they want to help move better.

Website

The Website card in GMB is for those who do not have any web presence, or in the case where the website provided by GMB is superior and better developed than their old and outdated one.

screenshot of splash showing the website card screenshot showing the available editing options in the website section One of the best features of the GMB website is that it will update automatically when you change or update the information in your GMB account. The main editing options you will have in the website section are:

  • Themes: No different than picking a theme in Powerpoint or Slides;
  • Edit: This highlights all of the fields you are able to update and change;
  • Photos: Allows you to upload photos for use on the website;
  • More: This gives access to publishing and site-settings.

These websites do not have the same functionality or abilities that a custom website would have. For the best online results, consider using a professional website developer.

4. Ad Card

Create An Ad

This is a direct link to your Google Ads account, and is not part of GMB. screenshot of steps to begin advertising

5. Management Cards

screenshot of available options in the management cards

Users

The Users Section allows you to view and manage permissions in the account. This is the section that would be used if you require another user to help monitor or manage the account.

Depending on your business status, you will have different options in the User card. Typically, the Primary account owner is the only one who can add or remove managers to the account.

Add New Location

If you have multiple local businesses and want to manage more than one, you can add multiple locations to your account. You will need to claim and verify the businesses just as you did for your primary location, but once you have verified the account you will be able to manage all the locations through your main GMB account. screenshot showing location options available

Manage Locations

Once you have multiple local businesses in your GMB account, you will be able to use this card as a direct link back into your main GMB account so that you can view and manage all the locations in your account.

Linked Accounts

Google offers one of the largest online marketing networks in the world and, as such, many of their products work together. The “Linked Accounts” card will allow you to connect your GMB account with other Google marketing software, such as Google Ads and Merchant Centre. screenshot showing the Linked Accounts card

Once connected, you will be able to see and advertise the various business locations you manage.

Settings

The Settings card gives quick access to email and mobile notifications. This is also where you can add or remove email address associated with the GMB account.

Note: Always add the new email before you remove any old emails.

Support

Clicking the Support option brings up a “Help” window. This is essentially an FAQ section with the top inquiries. screenshot showing the location of support contact info

If you are in need of more direct support beyond what the Help section offers, there is a direct line you can call to receive one-on-one support for your account.

The GMB Phone Number is 1-844-491-9665, which will direct you to the GMB Support line.

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