For Small Businesses: How to Set Up and Use Google My Business

Ally, founder of Akari Digital, walks you through setting up Google My Business

Google My Business is one of the simplest (and not to mention— free) tools that small businesses can use to improve their marketing and SEO. It doesn’t take long to set up, no coding or techy know-how is needed, and it’s relatively easy to maintain.

It’s is a free tool where you can input your business information (like hours of operation, phone number, address, etc.), collect reviews, answer frequently asked questions, post about new products or services, etc.

Related: If you already have your profile, and you’re ready to take things beyond the basics, download our Guide to Google My Business which walks you through the steps to important features to optimize, how to solicit & respond to reviews, has some template posts you can steal & customize, and much more!

Table of Contents

  1. Why is Google My Business important for small businesses?
  2. How to set up Google My Business
  3. How small business owners can get the most out of Google My Business

Why is Google My Business important for small businesses?

Google My Business is important because it lists your business in Google Maps, and it’s one of the primary ranking factors for local SEO which means it will help you rank for searches like “physiotherapist near me” or “massage therapist in [neighbourhood]”.

Did you know that 50% of “near me” Google searches done on mobile devices result in an in-store visit? That means that people who are searching these keywords are not just looking for information, they’re looking to visit (and buy!). You absolutely want to rank for these keywords. And an optimized Google My Business listing is where to start!

Is your business eligible to use Google My Business?

It’s important to note that not every business can take advantage of Google My Business. According to Google’s guidelines, you need to “make in-person contact” with customers in order to be eligible. That means you have a brick & mortar location, you occasionally take meetings in-person (whether they’re in your office space, your client’s office space, or elsewhere), or your business travels to your customers (like a cleaning company or plumber).

If your business is strictly online and you never make in-person contact with your customers, then Google My Business isn’t for you.

There are some other restrictions for businesses that can not use Google My Business that include things like vacation homes and rental properties— and Google could add more at any time. I strongly recommend reading the Basic Guidelines on Google’s GMB Guidelines page for the most up-to-date information prior to creating your profile.

How to set up Google My Business

Step 1: Claim Your Profile

Even if you (or someone on your team) didn’t create one, if one of your customers wanted to write you a Google Review, you could have a profile active! So the first thing I always recommend is to visit maps.google.com and search for your business name.

You will have one of three things for your business:
  1. You have a listing that is already claimed
  2. You have a listing but it’s not claimed
  3. Your business does not yet have an active listing

If you have an active listing that is already claimed

If there is an active listing for your business, and it has a “suggest an edit” button (like you see on the screenshot below) and you are absolutely certain that you do not have access to the account— that means that someone else has already claimed this listing.

You need to follow a different set of steps and here’s a forum that has some excellent steps outlined. Once you’ve completed those steps and have claimed your profile, come back here and follow the steps to optimize your profile!

If you have an active listing that is not claimed

If there is an active listing for your business, and it has a “claim this business” link (like you see on the screenshot below) — that means that you can click this and follow through the prompts to claim your profile!

If you searched, and no profile exists for your business

If there’s no profile that yet exists, then create one! Visit business.google.com/create and follow the prompts to create & claim your profile.

Step 2: Verify Your Profile

Google wants to verify that your business is exactly where you said it was. The most frequently used method of verification for small businesses is postcard verification.

Essentially, they’ll send a postcard to the address you entered earlier (takes about 5 days), and it’ll contain a code that you can enter into your profile to verify your business. Be sure to keep an eye out for it!

It won’t let you optimize your listing until it’s verified, but you can still get everything ready to go! Download our free Guide to Google My Business and get the hardest parts done today. It includes an optimized profile template & Google Docs worksheet so you write an optimized bio, prep your needed info, and have it all ready to copy & paste over when your profile is verified!

Step 3: Optimize Your Profile

Every single Google My Business profile should include the following features:

On-Brand Photos and Videos

Google wants to showcase what type of experience people can expect at your business. You do not need polished professional images here (in some cases, they can actually work against you by seeming inauthentic). Show photos that highlight an authentic feel for what it’s like to visit your office or work with you.

Aim to post 3-10 photos of a variety of things relating to your business.

With the exception of your cover photo, all your photos will show as squares (1:1 ratio). Upload JPEG or PNG photos that are at least 750px tall by 750 px wide so they are viewable on all devices, and of high quality.

Here are some ideas of photos you could upload to your profile:

  • Photos of your business entrance from the street
  • Photos of the inside of your business
  • Photo of your team smiling
  • Photos of you working with customers (ensure you have their consent!)
  • Photos of some of your most popular products on display in your store
  • Photos of you & your team at work
Optimized Business Description

Your business description is one of the most important parts of your profile! And there are two major things to keep in mind when you’re writing it: 1) include your most important keywords, and 2) adhere to Google’s rules & guidelines (they do review them!).

Your business description can be up to 750 characters, and you want to think of it as your business elevator pitch. If it was the only thing people read about your business, what would you want them to know.

Some other important things to consider about your business description:

  • Only the first 350 characters approximately, will show without them having to click to ‘read more’ so pay extra special attention to those first characters
  • Include your most important keywords (like the ones you target with your homepage or that describe your primary services) in your bio, but don’t stuff them in there just for the sake of it
  • Talk about what sets you apart from other businesses and competitors
  • Do NOT add any links or URL’s
  • Do NOT talk about any special offers or sales
  • Do NOT use spammy words, punctuation, or ALL CAPS
Update Business Information

In your profile, you can set your address, phone number, website link, link to a scheduler or booking app, hours of operation, and more!

If there’s a field for it, set it! The more complete your profile is the better for Google, and the more likely your customers will find the information they need!

Pay special attention to your hours of operation. There is nothing worse than checking the hours of a business, making the trek there, only to find out that they’re actually not open. Keep your regular hours up to date, and add “special hours” for any holidays, events, or other closures outside of your regular schedule.

Request & Respond to Reviews

Google encourages you to ask your customers to review your products and services. However, you can run into issues (and potentially get black-listed!) if you do this in an inauthentic way, like asking your employees to review the business, or providing some sort of reward to your customers for reviewing your business.

That means you can NOT provide incentives like discounts, giveaways, or promotions to solicit reviews. I know many people do it, and maybe they don’t get caught— but if they do, their profiles can be suspended or permanently deleted which would not be a good thing.

Instead, just as your customers to provide a review! 68% of people you ask (so essentially 2 out of 3) generally leave reviews when you genuinely ask them.

HOW TO ASK FOR GOOGLE MY BUSINESS REVIEWS

Is your business mostly operating online? Consider the length of time a person needs to determine whether they loved or used your product or service, and then set up an automated email to them that asks them to review or set a reminder for yourself to email them.

Do you see your clients in person? Ask them for one when they’re in for an appointment. You can also put a sign with a QR code at your front desk or in the waiting room (anywhere they’ll be waiting with their phones for a short period of time).

What to do when you get a review

When someone does write you a review you want to respond to every. single. one. When you respond, you’re showing other potential customers that you value theirfeedback and business.

Did someone leave a positive review? Respond with something like “Thank you for taking the time to leave us this review– this made our day! We are thrilled that you loved your experience: [Insert a note about specifically what they highlighted]. We’ll pass your compliments along to [Staff/Department mentioned]. Thanks for your kind words and we look forward to seeing you again!”

Did someone leave a negative review? Use this template; “Hi [NAME OF REVIEWER] thank you for bringing this to our attention. Your feedback helps us get better. We set a high standard for ourselves, and we’re so sorry to hear that we did not meet your expectations. We will use the feedback to ensure this doesn’t happen again. Please feel free to reach out to [CONTACT INFORMATION] with any further comments, suggestions, or concerns that you would like to share.“

Essential setup complete! What now?

If you are someone who is just setting it up so that it’s done and you need to get back to the millions of other things you’re managing as a business owner, you’re done 🥂 ! You can confidently say that when people are searching for your business in Google, you’re there for them to find.

If you’re ready to take things to the next level and get more people finding you in Google with your Google My Business listing, keep on reading!

How small business owners can get the most out of Google My Business

Some additional things you can do to get your listing to the top of search results in your area are:

  • List your products & services
  • Post regular updates & content consistently to your feed
  • Use the Q&As strategically to answer frequently asked questions
  • Set up messaging so you can answer questions quicker & easier

We walk through all these additional steps in our free Guide to Google My Business. It includes a profile optimization template & worksheet with additional tips & tricks for your settings, a walkthrough of these additional settings & features, and a summary of how to know if what you did is actually working for you!

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