How To Optimize Google My Business

Does your local business appear on page one of Google’s search engine result pages (SERP)? If not, consider making that one of your website’s goals for 2021. Websites appearing on that first page receive the most traffic, which means you might miss out on lots of potential customers if your business isn’t there. 

If you’ve ever wondered, “How do I optimize my business for Google 2021?” then look no further. Learning how to properly optimize your Google My Business (GMB) listing is one of the best things you can do to ensure potential customers can find your business.


Why Is Google My Business Optimization Important?

By optimizing your GMB listing, you can improve your search engine optimization (SEO) and your chances of attracting new customers. When you set out to optimize your GMB listing, ensure your company details, photos, and posts are not only accurate, but also portray a consistent brand image.

Google will use your business’s GMB listing to populate Google Maps™, its SERP, and the Google Map Pack. All three of these areas can drive traffic to your website and improve your search presence within your local community.

When you optimize your business for Google, you effectively give Google the exact information it needs to properly list, categorize, and rank your business in search results. If Google doesn’t know your business’s name, where it’s located, or what it does, it’ll get lost among millions of other websites.

Google My Business Ranking Factors

When Google ranks local businesses in its search results, on its Google Map Pack, and on Google Maps, it primarily looks at three factors to determine its rankings. Those factors include how close a business is to a specific user, how relevant its services are to the user’s search terms, and how prominent the business is within the local community.

Distance From the User

Google understands that most users seek the businesses closest to them. When Google begins its ranking process, it first looks to see how close your business is to the end-user.

Relevance To the User’s Search

After quickly ranking businesses based on their proximity to the user, Google next looks at relevance. Google wants to deliver the most relevant search results to a user’s query. Businesses with categories and descriptions more relevant to a user’s search terms will rank higher.

Prominence Within the Community

The final factor Google considers is prominence, and it’s the hardest one to influence. Google will examine how well your business is known within the local community and the quality of its offerings. With an optimized GMB listing, you can improve your business’s brand awareness and showcase its quality through customer reviews.

How To Optimize Your Google My Business Listing: A Step-by-Step Guide

After you create your GMB listing, it’s time to focus on optimization. Follow these 15 steps to ensure your business listing is — and remains — optimized for Google. Note: It can take up to 60 days for new information to become active.

The Truic Flame Logo

Still need to create a GMB listing for your business? Read this thorough guide to learn how to set up your GMB account.

Step 1: Complete Your Business Details

The first thing every business must do is ensure its name, address, and phone number (NAP) appear correctly and consistently throughout the web. As a business owner, you should come up with a standard way of writing your NAP and then use it consistently across your business’s GMB listing, website, social media profiles, and other relevant online directories. 

When search engines rank businesses for their results pages, they use NAP information to determine your business’s relevancy and proximity. That makes it essential for this information to appear correctly and consistently wherever people find details about your business.

Screenshot of Google My Business search result with name, address, and phone number highlighted.

How To Edit Your GMB Business Information:

  1. Sign in to your GMB account
  2. From the menu on the left, select “Info.”
  3. Select the section you wish to update.
  4. Update the appropriate information.
  5. Click “Done Editing” when finished.

Step 2: Use a Local Phone Number

Google, as well as other search engines, also will look to see if you list a local phone number for your business. A local phone number tells Google your business actually is local so use it on your GMB listing, your website, etc. If your business has both a local phone number and a toll-free number, it’s okay to include both on your GMB listing and your website. Just make sure to use both phone numbers anywhere you list your business online.

How To Edit Your GMB Phone Number:

  1. Sign in to your GMB account.
  2. From the menu on the left, select “Info.”
  3. Update your business’s phone number.
  4. Click “Done Editing” when finished.

Step 3: Select an Appropriate Business Category

After ensuring your NAP is local, accurate, and used consistently throughout the web, make sure your selected business category properly reflects your business. The category you choose plays a huge role in determining if your business is relevant to specific users. 

The key is to choose the most specific category that applies to your business. You can then use secondary categories to provide information about the additional services your business offers.

Per Google, if your primary business category is "pizza restaurant," Google may show your business in someone’s local search results when they search for "restaurants," "Italian restaurants," or "pizza."

Screenshot of Google My Business search result with business category highlighted

How To Edit Your GMB Business Category:

  1. Sign in to your GMB account
  2. From the menu on the left, select “Info.”
  3. Click “Edit” next to your business’s category.
  4. Select the appropriate primary or secondary category.
  5. Click “Apply.”

Depending on the type of business category you choose, you may gain access to some additional options. If your business is a hotel, for example, GMB will allow you to select the amenities your hotel offers and showcase its rating. Some businesses, such as hair and nail salons, can offer online booking and include a menu of their services. Restaurants have the ability to add a menu, accept online reservations, and take online orders. 

To fully optimize your GMB listing, make sure you include thorough, accurate information for your business’s category.

Step 4: Write an Engaging Description

Every business should write a keyword-optimized, engaging description that informs and motivates people to access its services. Descriptions on GMB listings can have up to 750 characters and shouldn’t include any kind of promotional links or content. Use this space to tell people what products and/or services your business offers as well as its mission and core values.

This description provides a great place to include a couple of targeted keywords that’ll improve your chances of ranking highly. 

Google's example: We're an independent ice cream shop located steps from the center of town, and are proud to be the favorite for locals to meet friends for a cone or call for a fresh pizza, delivered straight to their home. We serve 35 flavors of homemade, hand-churned ice creams and sorbets year-round, and the pizza oven turns out New York-style pies every day from midday until close. Come see us today!

How To Edit Your GMB Business Description:

  1. Sign in to your GMB account
  2. From the menu on the left, select “Info.”
  3. Click “Edit” next to your business’s description.
  4. Enter a description.
  5. Click “Apply.”

Step 5: Select Appropriate Attributes

Businesses also can choose a number of different attributes to let potential customers know even more about their products and/or services. For example, a restaurant can indicate if it has outdoor seating, a kid-friendly environment, or free Wi-Fi. Businesses also can provide key information about their accessibility by listing specific attributes like a wheelchair-accessible facility, wheelchair-accessible seating, mobility scooter rental, or beach wheelchairs.

Your selected attributes will appear on your GMB listing and on Google Maps. In addition, your business could show up in the search results seen by someone searching for a wheelchair-accessible salon if your GMB listing includes those keywords and attributes.

Screenshot of example of search results on Google My Business

How To Edit Your GMB Business Attributes:

  1. Sign in to your GMB account
  2. From the menu on the left, select “Info.”
  3. Under the Highlights section, find attributes and click “Edit.”
  4. Add the appropriate attributes.
  5. Click “Apply.”

Step 6: Use High-Resolution Images

Uploading high-resolution images represent another key component of optimizing your GMB listing. Businesses that include photos with their GMB listings receive 42 percent more requests for driving directions than businesses that don’t. Google suggests businesses upload images at least 720 pixels wide and 720 pixels tall in either the joint photographic experts group (JPG) or portable network graphic (PNG) file format.

In addition, Google recommends businesses include the following types (and number) of images:

  • Exterior Photos: A minimum of three exterior photos that show your business at different times of the day and from different directions.
  • Interior Photos: A minimum of three interior photos to give customers a good idea of what the inside of your business looks and feels like.
  • Product Photos: If your business sells tangible products, include at least three high-quality product shots that represent your product line.
  • Employees at Work Photos: If your business operates in the service industry, include at least three photos of your employees at work.
  • Food and Drink Photos: If you sell food or beverages, include at least three photos of your menu items.
  • Common Area Photos: If your business has common areas — like pools, waiting rooms, and gyms — include at least one photo of each.
  • Room Photos: If you run a hotel, bed-and-breakfast, or other form of accommodation, it’s essential that you include at least three photos of your most popular rooms.
  • Team Photos: To help potential customers better understand your company, try to include at least three photos of your team that feature managers and employees. This will help humanize your company and give potential customers a feel for what it’s like to work with you.

Screenshot of photo results on Google My Business

How To Add Photos To Your GMB Listing From Your Computer:

  1. Sign in to your GMB account.
  2. If you have more than one location, select the appropriate location.
  3. From the menu on the left, select “Photos.”
  4. Click “Post.”
  5. Choose the type of photo you’d like to upload:
    1. Logo (This will allow you to upload your business logo.)
    2. Cover Photo (Typically the first image associated with your business, a cover photo should best represent your brand.)
    3. Additional Photos (These can include anything you wouldn’t classify as a logo or cover photo.)
  6. Select the desired photo from your computer and click "Upload”.

How To Add Photos To Your GMB Listing From Phone or Tablet:

  1. Open the GMB app.
  2. In the bottom-right corner of the screen, click “Post.”
  3. Select “Add Photo or Video.”
  4. Choose the photo you’d like to upload or take a photo directly from the app.
  5. Click “Upload.”

Step 7: Post Relevant Content

GMB listings also include a “Posts” section, which enables businesses to post updates, discounts, and other content that’ll appear on their listings for a maximum of seven days. You also may include a button within your GMB post that features a relevant call-to-action (CTA), such as “Buy,” “Reserve,” “Get Offer,” “Learn More,” or “Sign Up.”

Some popular uses of GMB posts include:

  • Highlighting a limited-time offer/discount
  • Showcasing a new product with accompanying photos or videos
  • Sharing an update about your business and its achievements
  • Advertising a special event that includes a relevant CTA

Screenshot of business posts on Google My Business

When you create your GMB post, remember to use high-quality images. Select landscape-oriented images with a resolution of at least 400 pixels by 300 pixels. You can use a maximum of 300 words in your post, but, if you opt to include a CTA button, only 60 to 70 characters will appear before that button. Finally, all GMB posts should use simple language that its target audience can easily read and understand. 

How To Create a GMB Post:

  1. Sign in to your GMB account
  2. From the menu on the left, select “Posts.”
  3. Select “Update,” “Event,” “Product,” or “Offer.”
  4. Upload an image or video to accompany your post.
  5. Write your post.
  6. Select a button type to include with your post then add a link.
  7. Click “Preview” to see a preview of your post.
  8. When ready, click “Publish.”

Step 8: Use the GMB Q&A Section

GMB listings also include a question-and-answer section where a business can answer common questions about the products and/or services it offers. Both members of the public and GMB account owners can ask questions. This gives business owners the opportunity to proactively answer questions and highlight specific aspects of their business. When responding to a question, always use a friendly tone and provide accurate information.

Note: This feature is currently deactivated for most GMB accounts but is expected to be reactivated in 2021

How To Respond To a GMB Listing Question:

  1. Sign in to your GMB account.
  2. Open a new tab and then search for your business on Google Maps.
  3. Scroll down to the Q&A section.
  4. Select “See all questions.”
  5. Click the “Answer” icon below the question you want to answer.
  6. Enter your response.
  7. Click “Post.”

Step 9: Generate Positive Reviews

All business owners recognize the importance of reviews — especially Google reviews. Reviews provide a good indicator of what your business does right and/or wrong. They’re also important for SEO and improving your relationship with customers.

As a business owner, you should encourage customers to leave your business a Google review. Whether you ask them in person, send them a follow-up email, or include a reminder card with their purchase, you have several ways to generate Google reviews.

In addition, responding to reviews is just as important as generating them. If your business receives a poor review, you have the opportunity to acknowledge the complaint and try to make it right. If your business receives a positive review, you can thank the customer for their comments and let them know you appreciate their business.

Engaging with Google reviews provides an excellent way to build a rapport with your customers and manage your company’s reputation.

Screenshot of review on Google My Business

Step 10: Enable Social Media Links

Another key way to optimize your GMB listing involves ensuring Google can associate your social media profiles with your business. Google will automatically add your social media profiles to your GMB listing if it views them as both authentic and consistent with the information in your GMB listing. That means the business name on your social media profiles must match what’s listed in your GMB listing.

It’s also important to remain active on social media platforms and maintain accurate data about your business on them.

Step 11: Avoid Penalties

As you work to optimize your GMB listing, remember that Google has strict guidelines and will impose hefty penalties — including suspension — on businesses that don’t adhere to them. Some of the most common offenses include:

  • Having more than one GMB listing for the same location
  • Using an address that’s not your business’s storefront or office
  • Adding links to your business’s description

Check out these Guidelines for Representing Your Business on Google for complete details.

Step 12: Optimize Your Website

Optimizing your GMB listing shouldn’t occur at the expense of optimizing your website. A strong, optimized website will strengthen the authority of your GMB listing and vice versa. When you apply SEO techniques to your website, consider incorporating these elements to strengthen your position as an authority figure in your local community:

  • Include relevant local keywords in a natural way.
  • Include an appropriate meta title and meta description.
  • Create content relevant to your local community.
  • Source incoming external links from other local businesses.

Want to learn how to optimize your website for search engines?

We've created a complete guide to understanding and using SEO for your business's website.

SEO 101

Step 13: Leverage GMB Messaging

GMB listings also include a messaging feature that allows visitors to send the business a text message instead of calling. This can prove attractive to customers who prefer texting vendors vs. talking with them via phone. Using GMB’s messaging feature can help your business stay in touch — and build a rapport — with current and potential customers.

Screenshot of contact options for a business on Google My Business

How To Turn on GMB Messaging Through the GMB App:

  1. Open the GMB app.
  2. Select “Customers” then “Messages” and then “Turn On.”

Keep in mind that Google pays close attention to the time it takes you to respond to a message. In fact, Google requires you to reply to messages within 24 hours. Including an automated welcome message for all incoming messages provides a great way to manage your response times and build a rapport with visitors. You can then respond to individual messages, through the GMB app, as soon as it’s convenient.

Step 14: Keep Your Information Current

As a business owner, you should ensure the information in your GMB listing remains current and accurate. If you plan to close for the holidays, for example, note that on your listing. If your phone number changes, update that information on your listing immediately. Why? Businesses with incorrect information in their GMB listings rarely appear at the top of Google search results.

Another best practice involves posting new photos and creating new posts with some frequency. This will not only keep your potential customers aware of what’s going on with your business, but also send a signal to Google that your business is active.

Step 15: Monitor Your Performance

As with any marketing effort, it’s important to track your performance and make necessary adjustments to improve. All businesses with a GMB listing will have access to GMB Insights. Through the insights section of your GMB dashboard, you can find the following information:

  • How many visitors your listing receives
  • Any actions visitors take on your listing (e.g., clicks, etc.)
  • How visitors found your listing (e.g., direct search, keyword search, maps, etc.)
  • How many visitors accessed directions to your business’s location

How To Access GMB Insights:

  1. Sign in to your GMB account.
  2. From the menu on the left, select “Insights.”
  3. Select “Update,” “Event,” “Product,” or “Offer.”

Google My Business Optimization Checklist