Article Written by Casey Lindsey Account Rep & Paid Ad Expert at Lubbock Web Guy
In the most recent statistics that are available, 56% of all businesses still have an unclaimed Google My Business listing (herein referred to as GMB). With more than 2.6 million existing small businesses in Texas (2015 statistics), and ~60,000 new businesses starting up each year.
This means there are around 1.45 million unclaimed GMB listings in the state of Texas alone. Of course, this provides a tremendous opportunity for many small businesses to easily increase their reach by claiming and optimizing the listings for their small business.
There are many reasons to claim and optimize this listing, not the least of which is that it can be a factor in ranking in maps and local search. This is especially important, if your business is in competitive niches like roofing, plumbing or auto repair.
A full one-third of all searches in Google show local intent and of those 88% who search, visit a business they found within 24 hours. And because Google absolutely dominates mobile search, it’s more important than ever to have an optimized GMB listing so your business can be found.
Other Reasons It’s Important to Have a Claimed GMB Listing
- Data Analytics- Google provides your business with a bevy of information you can use to optimize your website and listing to reach and drive more potential customers to your business. It also provides your potential customers with information to help them in frequenting your business.
- Reviews- Customers can leave a review, which is increasingly important to local searchers trying to find businesses that offer your products and services. With a claimed listing, you can answer and thank both positive and negative reviews to stay on top of your reputation in local search.
- Brand Building- When you have a claimed listing, it appears at the top of every search for your business name. This is important when customers are searching for your business via a Google voice search (~20 of all current mobile searches are conducted via voice search).
In our local Lubbock market, there are ~7000 businesses. Recent statistics show that in our region 72% of these businesses have a website, with more than 90% of those remaining saying they’ll have a website by the end of 2018. In this kind of competitive marketplace, you need every advantage to organically stay in front of customers.
In this article, we will highlight:
- How to claim your GMB listing
- Changes to GMB listings in 2017
- How those changes affect your business
- How to optimize your listing
How to Claim Your GMB Listing
If you are one of the more than half of all businesses that have an unclaimed Google My Business listing, I have great news! The process of claiming your business’s listing is very easy.
Important note: Claiming your business isn’t just for your ability to be found in local search or to help your ability to be found in the map pack. Google can create a listing for your business based on customer reviews, or location data. If your business listing is unclaimed, it can be auto populated with photos and data that may or may not be accurate, or reflect your business as you would like. Claiming the listing allows you to make changes to the listing and answer negative reviews that may occur in the course of business.
Lubbock Web Guy can help you create, claim and optimize your listing as part of our basic SEO package, if you would prefer to have it done for you. Call us at 806-831-5033 or 806-786-9907 to get started. If, however, you prefer to do it yourself, just follow the steps below to claim and optimize your own listing.
The first step is to head on over to https://www.google.com/business/ and do a search for your business name in Google. In the event that you don’t have a listing at all (you just started your business, for example) you will need to follow a slightly different process. The focus of this post, is to help you claim and optimize an existing listing.
In the right hand side of desktop, or at the top of the search results on mobile, you will see a listing for your business.
This will provide you with a map listing, the name, address and phone number of the business and other pertinent information. As shown in the image, an unclaimed listing simply requires that you click on the “Own this business?” text to begin the process of claiming your listing.
Once you click on the text you will be directed to a large map listing with your name, address, and phone number. You need to verify that the information is correct, then click on the box that you are duly authorized to manage the business listing and click “Continue.”
Once you have done this, you’ll be able to make necessary edits to the listing including, the business name, address, phone number, hours of operation, types of payment accepted, among other things.
It is important that you keep track of the email used to initiate this process. Your listing will be tied to that email, so make sure you keep it secured. We suggest keeping a file in Evernote or something similar with all your other important website and online business information for easy retrieval.
Changes to GMB Listings in 2017 and 2018
Now that you have claimed your business listing, you can begin the process of optimizing the listing. But before you do the work of optimization, it’s important to mention the top few changes that have occurred in GMB listings over the last year. And how these changes affect your business.
These changes affect all businesses in some way, but some niches are affected more than others. For example, service related businesses that schedule appointments, are affected more significantly than plumbing contractors.
Google’s Website Builder
One of the biggest changes that Google implemented with GMB listings during 2017 is to offer a free single page website to most businesses. If your small business is just getting started, or really doesn’t need more than a single page website, this could be perfect for you.
And what’s great about this option is that it requires very little time to set up and manage. It can be customized with pictures and some basic business information.
According to recent research a verified businesses is twice as likely to be seen as trustworthy as unverified businesses- see 1 above.
Now that you have a verified listing, you are ready to begin filling in the details for your one page website by clicking on “Website”- see 2 above.
Direct Messaging With Customers
In the new marketing paradigm, even major brands cannot simply put their name out there and expect customers to come to them. In the segmented market of today, you must go to where your customers are and engage with them.
This cool new feature from Google allows your customers to direct message you when they have serious questions or concerns. You can set it up to come to your number of choice, set up auto-reply features and turn them off when you’re not available.
This feature simply provides for another channel of communication between you and your customers. It’s easier for some customers who might not want to talk to someone on the phone. Giving your customers choices to communicate with you in their preferred method of contact is always a good thing.
To get started, all you need to do is click the “Turn on Messaging” button, enter the phone number you’d like to use to handle your messaging and you’re off.
Now just enter your phone number, and you’ll get a verification code sent to your phone that you will need to enter into the verification spot on the page and you’re done. Now you have another channel for your customers to connect with you.
Questions and Answers for Local Business
Similar to the new messaging feature above, the “Questions and Answers” is another way your customers can ask questions and get answers. What’s nice about this feature is that when you answer a question here, it stays on your listing.
This means you can post answers to frequently asked questions one time, rather than answering those questions repeatedly on an individual basis.
There is nothing required of you to activate this feature. It’s an inherent part of your GMB listing.
These are three of the best new features Google has included in 2017 for your business listing. However, this is certainly not all of the changes they have made in the last 12 months.
And, because Google is about UX (user experience) they are constantly upgrading their resources. So I would expect even more great changes in the year to come.
How These Changes Affect Your Business
Probably the most significant way your business might be impacted by the changes made to GMB listings in 2017 is increased customization and feedback opportunities. These new channels of communication between you and your customers allow you to stand out, so embrace the new opportunities your customers have to interact with your business.
In the new era of the internet, customers demand interaction with the businesses they buy from. They want answers to their questions at the speed of light.
These changes allow direct access to you and your business at a personal level that has become the new norm with the advent and proliferation of social media. It’s not clear if or how much these types of factors might affect organic rankings.
However, we can know one thing with a high degree of certainty. All things being equal, if you have two businesses competing for organic rankings; one is fully utilizing Google’s resources and the other is not. The one fully utilizing Google’s own resources will rank higher in organic search and have greater exposure from Google’s map listings.
These changes also allow new businesses just getting started to have their own web presence, without the chains that are associated with site builders like Wix and Weebly. Site builders like this are great in the beginning, but if you want to branch out later to a site you own, they can make it difficult to make the transfer.
How To Optimize Your Listing
Optimizing your listing is not overly complicated, or involved. We’re just talking about a few things that help Google get a little more information from the data you provide to them. Primarily, these are related to image optimization, but there are a few other things to do to optimize your listing. These methods can help give you the slightest edge in a competitive market. Indeed, these are subtle, but they can and do have an impact.
First and foremost, as simple as this sounds, make sure that your business information is accurate and complete. I have seen unclaimed listings that had old business addresses. It is imperative that your NAP, also known as Name, Address and Phone number, are consistent everywhere on the web. If they are not, this can have an adverse effect on your ranking ability in local search, especially when it comes to your GMB listing.
This is something that an SEO agency will usually handle, but in the interest of providing complete information for you to handle this yourself, I am providing this short section on citations. In its simplest terms, a citation is a verified place on the web that has your business details listed.
There are paid resources for making short work of this, but you can do it manually as well. I am providing a list of citation (and aggregator) sites you should check. It is highly recommended that you use a spreadsheet to keep track of logins you create for each site.
The first 3 are aggregators and as of today are free.
- Acxion (aggregator)
- Factual (aggregator)
- Infogroup-ExpressUpdateUSA (aggregator)
- Bing Business
- Angies List
- YP (Yellow Pages)
- Merchant Circle
- MapQuest (Yext)
- Biz Journals
- Best of the Web
- City Squares
- Magic Yellow
- Show Me Local
You simply go to each one, sign up, and enter your business information (or verify that your business information is correct with this citation source).
Our next step is to either use a camera that has geo targeting features, or to run all images you intend to use on your GMB listing through a geo tagging tool that will add the data to your pictures.
What this means is simply that when the images are read by search engines or other crawlers, they read the embedded geographical data. You input your address into the tool and it adds the data to the picture. You can’t see it, but the spider that crawls the listing does. Personally, I use the free tool at https://geotag.online
It’s free to sign up and simple to use. You will be required to enter an email address and a name in order to gain access to the tool. Once you have done this, you’ll be taken to a screen where you enter the address information that will be tagged into the picture.
You can tag up to 20 pictures at a time, but there are certain file size restrictions for totals. Because of this, t’s not a bad idea to tag about 10 pictures at a time. Just click the “Choose Files” button under the address information. Then click “Proceed.”
Once your files have been tagged, you’ll be able to download the zip file, and have them ready to use in your listing. It’s generally a good idea to use 20 images at a minimum. If you run a service related business, try to use several images of your staff as well as your location, buildings or office.
Picture quality is important, so make sure you use high quality images to present a professional image for your business.
Our final step is to make sure that all images have “alt text” information filled in with keywords consistent with business services you offer. To do this, you will need to sit down and look at the types of terms people might enter into a search engine to get your business listing to come up.
For example, if you were a plumber, you might make a list that had these types of keywords on it:
- Water heater repair
- Slab leak
- Plumbing problems
- Water leak
- Dishwasher leaks
You will then take the images that you have run through the geotagging tool and right click on each one. Scroll down to the bottom of the options and choose “Properties”.
Next, you will see a tab at the top of the window titled “Details”. Click on this and you will see the following:
Enter your keywords (one per photo) into the subject line of this window. Next provide your business name in the title of each photo.
Once you have completed these two steps to optimize all of your images, go to your GMB listing and upload all of the pictures to your listing.
Finally, go through and fill in as much information as possible into the rest of the sections for your listing. The more complete the profile, the better. GMB is a Google property and they want to maximize the user experience for those using their search tool.
When a prospective customer searches for “water heater repair lubbock” a listing that has all of the information, along with reviews and pictures provides more complete information, so that a customer can make more educated decisions.
Not Interested in Trying to Do This Yourself?
When we take in new clients, we work with them to make sure their presence on the web is complete, serves them and helps get them noticed in local search. As a part of that process, we help claim, and or, optimize their GMB listings.
We would love the opportunity to speak with you about making sure your local presence gets the attention it deserves.
Just give us a shout, a call, or fill in the intake form we provide. We’ll get you noticed on the web!