Local SEO: How to Optimize Your Google Profile

Your business probably has a social media presence on major platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. But did you know that you might be ignoring the most powerful, free online platform for your business?

Your Google business profile (alternatively Google My Business) is one of the first things potential customers will see when searching for a product or service. Appearing on the left-hand side of Google’s SERP (search engine results page), this profile is a compact square listing containing a succinct summary of nearby businesses and their pertinent information.

GoogleMyBusiness optimization is vital for ranking highly in local SEO. The following article will explain what GoogleMyBusiness optimization is, why it matters, and how you can enhance your profile to boost revenue through local SEO.

What is Local SEO, and Why Does it Matter?

You’re probably familiar with the acronym SEO (search engine optimization). But, the phrase local SEO may leave you scratching your head – is anything local online? The answer is yes! Google focuses heavily on location-specific results, which you can use to your advantage.

Local SEO describes search engine results that are optimized for a geographically constrained area. Mastering local SEO is vital for most businesses. For instance, if you own a café, you will want to appear in the search results for your neighborhood, city, and region.

While some businesses, such as Amazon, are geographically unconstrained (at least within the U.S.), most companies, including virtually all brick-and-mortar businesses, still rely heavily on connecting with members of their local community.

Using device location trackers, Google can connect consumers to nearby businesses. Increasing your ranking and visibility to close-by consumers is optimizing for local SEO. This is a core pillar of their organic online reach strategy for many businesses.

What is a Google Business Profile?

A Google Business Profile is a concise synopsis of a business that is made available to Google users when their search indicates that they are interested in purchasing a product or service. For example, if you were to type in “Flower shops near me,” a list of nearby flower shops will spring up at the top of your Google search results.

These results will show how close these businesses are to you and display pertinent information such as the business’s name, hours, address, schedule, reviews, and contact information. Equally important, these listings contain customer reviews, questions and answers, and a star rating.

All this information is available to the searcher without having to click through to a website. This is appealing to potential customers as it means less time waiting for new tabs to load and having to do more research – it’s one of the best discovery tools available for small businesses. It’s a powerful method for increasing your business’s local SEO reach.

Taken together, your Google business profile will provide potential customers with all of the information that they need to make an informed decision about your business. Best of all, because your profile ranks on local SEO, it will only appear in the search results of nearby searchers.

Why do you Need a Google Business Profile?

When we talk about “search engine optimization,” we’re really talking about Google optimization. Let’s face it – Google won the search wars. Currently controlling 92% of all search queries worldwide, it is simply too big to ignore. While the average business owner needn’t concern themselves with Bing, DuckDuckGo, or Yahoo, not paying attention to your Google profile will put you at a sizeable disadvantage versus your competitors.

Google My Business is a program that connects searchers to businesses in their areas. Google’s search algorithm has become incredibly good at matching search queries to companies best suited to their needs. This provides a clear benefit both to the consumer and to local businesses. Best of all, the program is not only free, but it’s customizable as well.

This provides a clear opportunity for business owners. GoogleMyBusiness optimization is a relatively simple and straightforward process. However, it does require ongoing maintenance and engagement. Here’s how you can drive additional traffic to your business through GoogleMyBusiness optimization.

How to Optimize Your Profile

Your Google business profile is relatively lean, containing only the most important information necessary for interested consumers to make an informed decision. Below, you’ll explore the different components that make up your profile. Remember that certain aspects of your profile will be beyond your control.

For example, Google will come up with a short, sentence-long description of your business. The business owner cannot change this. Fortunately, Google does a good job of capturing the essence of most businesses while casting them in a flattering light. Keep reading to learn how to master GoogleMyBusiness optimization.

Hours and Location

GoogleMyBusiness optimization is ultimately a marathon, not a sprint. Regularly updating your profile with new information is vital to customer satisfaction. Keeping your location and hours accurate will help you gain new customers and retain your existing client base.

By updating your company’s schedule regularly, you’ll help customers navigate through business closures and irregular hours. This is especially important around the holidays. Some customers might not be willing to drive out to a local business around Christmas, for example, if the business’s profile doesn’t have a list of updated holiday hours.

Questions and Answers

Enhance your GoogleMyBusiness optimization by taking advantage of your profile’s questions and answers feature. As the business owner, Google actually encourages you to seed the discussion forum with your own questions, which you can then answer.

This powerful tool allows the Q&A portion to perform like a commonly asked question tab on your company’s website. Of course, the searcher doesn’t have to click through to your website to access these questions. By eliminating this critical piece of friction, you will broaden your reach to a sizeable audience of consumers who wouldn’t otherwise bother to visit your company’s website directly.

Not all of the top questions will be posed by you, however. This is why checking in with your profile regularly is critical. You can also turn on Google alerts. This service will let you know when a new question has been asked. Engaging with curious customers will enhance your business’s reputation and GoogleMyBusiness optimization by demonstrating that you’re helpful and present online.

Finally, Google takes note of keywords in the question and answer portion. GoogleMyBusiness optimization isn’t complete without a few carefully placed keywords in your questions and answers. This will help boost your profile and make it stand out.

However, be careful that you’re not engaging in keyword stuffing or awkwardly including keywords where they don’t make any sense. After all, this is an organic reach strategy. The last thing a potential customer wants is to feel like they’re being manipulated or exposed to an artificial exchange. Moreover, Google will spot this – it’s got pretty good at identifying keyword manipulation down the years.

Customer Reviews

Maintaining a high quantity and quality of customer reviews is key to making your Google business profile attractive to new clients. Achieving the former can be challenging, especially for new businesses. However, there are some simple techniques that you can incorporate into your customer interactions that will help you accumulate a large number of reviews in a short period.

At the end of each customer interaction, ask them if they’ll leave a review. A majority of consumers will leave a review if asked. Start with long-time clients who you can be reasonably sure will leave a positive review. From there, you can expand out to newer customers.

A quick note: do not attempt to seed your profile with fake reviews. While it may be a tempting shortcut, engaging in duplicitous action will ultimately undercut your business by damaging public perception of your brand’s integrity.

By a similar token, don’t offer financial incentives to customers in exchange for an online review. Google takes a dim view of this practice, and engaging in it could put your entire profile at risk. Your customer reviews should offer an authentic view of your business.

Negative Reviews

Unfortunately, not all of your business’s reviews will be positive. Every business has to cope with negative reviews. Fortunately, these reviews aren’t necessarily a bad thing.

Consumers are suspicious of businesses with only good reviews. Experience has trained the average consumer to understand that some portion of customers will be unhappy with any given business, regardless of the actual quality it provides. So long as these negative reviews make up a relatively small portion of your total review base, your profile will actually benefit from a handful of negative reviews, counter-intuitive though that may seem.

Engaging constructively with customers who have had a negative experience with your business is an excellent way to put your business in a positive light. Be calm, apologetic, and keep your answers short. A long-winded reply filled with excuses and attacks may make you feel better in the moment, but over the long run, these types of replies will harm your business. Remain polite and professional. Potential customers will pick up on your poise.

Photos

Seeding your business page with numerous, well-taken photographs will help expand your business’s reach. Studies have confirmed that businesses with more photos spur customer engagement. Consumers are more likely to visit a business’s website and request directions to its physical location when its Google business profile contains many high-quality photos.

Finally, don’t let up or content yourself with a handful of photographs. Take photographs of each part of your business that customers might want to know about – from your storefront to different sections of your shop interior. Let them know what they’ll be getting.

Of course, not every photo will do. Photos should be taken in well-lit, clean, and inviting places. Don’t try to photograph every square surface of your business. Instead, focus on areas most likely to elicit interest from potential customers. You don’t need to hire a professional photographer, but you do need to do your due diligence.

Other Assorted Tips and Tidbits

Posting regular text and photographic updates to your Google business profile will boost your local SEO ranking. Carve out a spot on your calendar and ensure you’re uploading new material weekly. A single additional photo and text update every week will have a snowball effect over the long run.

Remember that your responses to questions and reviews won’t just be viewed by the original poster but also by hundreds if not thousands of potential customers. Always keep your posts concise, helpful, and professional, because you are writing not just to a single individual but to an unseen audience. Businesses have been sunk because of a few careless remarks made by the owner on a public forum.

On a more positive note, searchers can follow your business’s profile. Followers will be informed of updates, announcements, and sales. You can think of your Google business profile as another avenue for educating your customer base on what’s going on with your business. In this sense, it performs not unlike a social media platform.

You can incorporate your profile into your overall marketing plan by using it to reach consumers with limited-time sales offers. Also, be warned that certain posts will expire after a week-long period. This feature incentivizes weekly updates.

Your Google business profile is the public face of your business. With internet searchers increasingly more likely to rely on no-click options to gather information, it’s no longer possible to ignore GoogleMyBusiness optimization while retaining a competitive online presence.

Final Thoughts

GoogleMyBusiness optimization represents a fantastic opportunity for any business owner. Not only is it free, but it’s tailored towards local SEO. With an easy-to-navigate interface, your Google business profile provides potential customers with everything they need to make an informed decision about whether or not they’ll patronize your business.

With a little bit of work on your end and half an hour or less of maintenance a week, you can have a transformative impact on your business. Enhance your local SEO by embracing GoogleMyBusiness optimization today, and watch your business grow exponentially.

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