Google My Business results have become a big part of the online presence of brick and mortar businesses.

If someone searches for “electrician near me” or “electrician + LOCATION,” they don’t want to explore websites. They want to find an electrician.

Google understands this and has started showing real businesses at the top of their search results.

If you want to keep up, you need to create and optimize your listing ASAP.

Our complete guide to Google My Business will show you how to master the platform and get the best results for your business in 2020 and beyond.

We’ll show you how to create your Google My Business account, list your business, optimize your listing, and more.

This guide covers:

Let’s get started!

What Is Google My Business?

Google My Business(GMB) is a platform where you can control your business listing in Google Maps and local Google search engine results.

You can add contact information, business hours, showcase pictures, and interact directly with potential customers.

You can also respond to customer reviews and manage your online reputation.

Why Do You Need Google My Business?

Having a website is no longer enough to have an effective online presence for your business.

It’s no longer how mobile users prefer to find information when doing local searches. Consumers took 30.4% more actions on transactional local pages in 2018 than in 2017.

Mobile users want to finish their business without having to move to a website or hop on a call. If they can make their booking, or find the information they need, directly on the business page, perfect.

In response to this trend, Google has started putting its own Google My Business or Google Maps results at the top of local searches.

It’s merely how the end-users prefer to interact with local businesses online.

Google My Business Listings Top Local Search Results

A local search phrase includes keywords like “near me,” or a specific location like a city, district, or address.

For local searches, Google no longer gives websites the prime real estate.

Right beneath the ads, at the top, you don’t see the top SERPs. You see the top local business listings.

And that’s a big deal.

Local searches have become a qualified step in the buyer’s journey. Most of the time, consumers that look for more product information on their phone end with a local Google search.

A whopping 82% of smartphone shoppers make a “near me” or local search before deciding on a business.

You don’t want to miss out on more than 8 out of 10 potential customers. Together with Google Ads for local businesses, this helps you cash in on local searches.

And that’s not the only benefit.

Knowledge Panel for Branded Searches

With a Google My Business listing, a “knowledge panel” for your business will show up on the right side of the search results for branded or relevant searches.

You can see the same summary of your business available on Google Maps. Your address, average rating, business hours, directions, and some general business information.

If competitors are running ads against your business name, the knowledge panel can be a great way to grab the attention of potential customers instantly.

The panel helps draw their attention away from Google ads directly below the search bar, to your business.

 How To Create a Google My Business Listing

If you haven’t already created a business listing on Google My Business, it’s past time for you get started and create one.

Below, we quickly outline all the necessary steps to creating your first listing.

Step #1: Log In to Your Google Account

The first thing you need to do is visit google.com/business, and click the manage now button.

Next, the website will prompt you to log in to an existing Google account.

The email and username you use for Gmail, Google Docs, Google Analytics, or any other Google product will work.

If you are a member of the minority that doesn’t already have a Google account, you need to create one.

Once logged in, Google will automatically start the process of creating your first listing.

Step #2: Find Your Google Maps Listing if It Exists

Even if you, the business owner or manager, haven’t created an official business listing for Google, your customers may have created a profile for you.

It is particularly common in typical consumer-facing brick-and-mortar businesses like restaurants, hair salons, shoe stores, etc.

Type in your exact business name and location to check if your business already exists on Google Maps.

If you find an existing listing, select it and move on.

If there is no existing listing, click the “Add your business to Google” link at the bottom of the page.

Note: Don’t Search on Google Maps

If you’re trying to claim ownership of your listing, don’t do the searching from within Google Maps and click the “Suggest an edit” option.

This function taps into Google Maps’ system for user-generated content for new information about businesses.

You can suggest edits, and Google may implement the changes, but you won’t have any ownership over your profile.

You won’t be able to answer questions or messages or set specific cover images.

Step #3: Set Your Business Name

The next step is exceedingly simple. All you have to do is type in the name of your business and click the “Next” button.

If you have a common business name, or if you’re managing a chain store/restaurant, make sure you include the location in the name.

Depending on the size of your city, a city, district, or street name will be appropriate.

Step #4: Choose Your Business Category

Once you’ve set the name for your business, Google wants to know how to categorize it.

Focus on getting it right from the get-go, as it will help searchers find your business.

Typing something into the “Business category” field will prompt a drop-down menu of related options.

Make sure you select a specific option that is relevant to your ideal customers.

For example, if you’re managing a restaurant, unless you’re in a small town, you probably don’t want to settle for “Restaurant” as your business category.

Choose a suitable option that reflects your cuisine or theme of your restaurant, for example, “Japanese restaurant” or “Art cafe.”

Once you’ve settled on the right option, click the “Next” button to proceed.

Step #5: Add Your Business Location

If you have a physical location for your business, other than a home office, you need to add the address of your business.

First, select “Yes” and click the “Next” button when prompted if you want to register a location.

Then, type in your registered street address, including street numbers, building names, and floor/room number.

Proceed with the “Next” button.

Google will now show you a list of potential businesses that might be your listing.

Answer the “Is this your listing?” prompt, and click “Next” to move on.

Finally, Google will want to confirm your location by dropping a pin on the map.

If the original pin Google suggests is correct, click “Next” to confirm the location of your business and move on.

Step #6 (Optional): Set Your Delivery/Service Area

If you offer delivery or have a set service area for your business, you can choose to register this as well.

First, select the “Yes, I also serve them outside my location” option, and click the “Next” button.

From here, you can search and select larger areas in your city that your business serves.

Once you’ve selected the main areas, click the “Next” button to save and move on.

You can also edit or add more areas after you’ve already created your listing.

Step #7: Set Your Contact Details

The next step is to register your contact details.

Set your business phone number and website URL, and click the “next button” to move on to the next step.

Step #8: Toggle Email Notifications

The last step before you can take your listing live is to toggle whether or not you want to receive tips, recommendations, and notifications about your business profile by email.

If you are a consumer business with a lot of clients that leave reviews or ask questions, having email notifications turned on can help you be prompt with responses.

If all you want is to create and optimize your business profile, and you’re an inbox zero follower, select “No” and continue.

Step #9: Finalize Your Listing

You’ve reached the final step.

Clicking “Finish” will save your business profile and data, but you’re not officially in control of the listing yet.

But before you get full control over your Google listing, and can interact with your customers through answering reviews, questions, and messages, you need to verify that you are the owner of the business that you created the profile for.

How to Verify Your Google My Business Listing

After you’ve created your listing, you need to convince Google that you are the actual business owner.

The standard option is to validate your business by receiving a confirmation code in a snail mail letter to your business address.

  • Verify Via Postcard

Log in to your Google My Business dashboard.

Make sure you select the right Google User when logging in.

If you’ve just created your listing, you should still see a prompt like this at the top of the page:

For the majority of businesses worldwide, a postcard is the only way to verify your business.

Type in the contact name, your name or the business owner’s, and click “Mail” to proceed.

After requesting the letter with the verification information, your listing status will still look the same, and it will say “Verification needed” until you have received the postcard and entered the code.

Once you’ve received the postcard, follow the instructions and enter the code on the card to verify your account.

  • Verify by Email or Phone

Select businesses may be able to verify their business by phone or email instead. If your business is eligible, you may select either option from the “more options” section.

Confirm that your email or phone number is correct, and then select the verify option.

Enter the verification code you receive to verify your Google My Business listing.

How Do I Optimize My Business Listing on Google?

To optimize your Google My Business listing, you should focus on three main things:

  • Showcase pictures that appeal to your ideal customers.
  • Highlight information that is relevant to your ideal customers.
  • Actively respond to and manage your reviews.

If you want to get to the next level, use business posts to keep customers up-to-date on menus and offers, get a booking button, add a product catalog, and handle messages directly through your profile.

Let’s first take a look at an example of an excellent listing.

Google My Business Listing: a Top Example to Copy

The Grill is a popular upscale grill restaurant located at The Dorchester in London.

Unlike most Google Maps profiles for restaurants, the team at The Grill at The Dorchester have filled out extensive information through their Google My Business listing.

You can access the menu or their reservations page with a single click, instead of having to navigate their website.

They don’t settle for bare-bones details Google automatically pulls from reviews. They’ve clearly listed accessibility, offerings, amenities, and dining options.

They have also handpicked professional cover and interior photos to showcase their restaurant from its best side.

The managers of The Grill know precisely what customers look to experience when dining at high-end restaurants. Diners want to enjoy the atmosphere and the history of the location, not just the food.

If you run a restaurant where your highlight is your double-decker burger, that’s what you should feature in your images.

When optimizing your Google My Business listing, you should strive to reach this level of perfection. But don’t try to fancify your business if your target customers don’t have the same priorities.

Optimization Rule #1) Carefully Pick Your Cover Photo

Perhaps the most critical asset of your Google My Business profile is your cover image. Once selected, Google Maps and Search will display it at the top of your listing for most search results.

It sets the tone for what customers will expect from your business and helps them understand who your target audience is.

Misrepresenting your restaurant, salon, or hotel through images is a quick way to get a healthy amount of negative reviews.

Choose professional cover and interior photos that will appeal to your ideal customers, that accurately represent your business.

You can easily access and edit your photos by clicking the “Photos” option in the left-hand menu.

Once there, you can set your logo, cover, and interior photos by clicking the “Change photo” or “Add photos” buttons.

Image Dimensions & Requirements

  • Google My Business Logo Recomended Size: Square, 250 x 250 px (min 120 x 120; max 5200 x 5200 px)
  • Google My Business Cover Photo Recomended Size: Landscape, 1080 x 608 pixels (min 480 x 270; max 2120 x 1192 px)
  • Acceptable Image Formats: JPG or PNG.
  • Sizes: Between 10 KB and 5 MB.
  • Quality: Google requires unedited, high-quality photos for all of its properties. The image should be well lit and in-focus, and have no significant edits or excessive use of filters.

There are different recommended dimensions and requirements for the categories of photos. A rule of thumb is that the images should be high-quality and have no significant edits.

Optimization Rule #2) Always Respond to Reviews

As a business owner, the last thing you want is to leave the public perception of your business entirely in the hands of random customers and clients.

But that’s how it works in the age of online reviews.

One way to gain a little bit of control back, and build some relationships along the way, is to respond to your reviewers.

You can easily read and respond to reviews of your business by selecting the “Reviews” section in the navigation bar.

You can sort reviews by ones you haven’t replied to, or just view all.

Click the “Reply” button below the review to write and submit your answer.

Please note that you must be logged in to a verified Google My Business account to be able to reply to your reviews.

Optimization Rule #3) Get a Booking Button

For restaurants and there’s nothing more powerful than letting your customers book directly from within Google Maps.

This integration eliminates the need for them to jump through extra hoops to make reservations, reducing the resistance to making a purchase.

You can integrate your bookings with Google My Business if you use one of their supported booking/reservation partners.

Your business must also be located in an eligible country to use this option.

Optimization Rule #4) Keep Your Customers Up to Date on Your Upcoming Events

Instead of just blog post-style updates, you can now add events, updates, offers, and even products to Google My Business.

For restaurants and venues, maintaining an active event calendar can help prospective customers decide when to visit your establishment.

When you add an event, it shows up below the customer reviews in an “Upcoming Events” section.

Organizing events is not just a great offline marketing tactic; it can help you stand out on Google Maps as well.

You get additional organic reach for events without having to set up a Facebook ad campaign.

Optimization Rule #5) Accept Messages Directly From Your Listing

With the newly launched Google My Business app for iPhone and Android, you can not only upload pictures, create posts and events, manage bookings, and respond to reviews.

You can receive and respond to messages directly from customers. All you have to do is download the app on your phone and log in with your account.

Once you’re logged in, tap the “Customers” button, then “Messages,” and finally the “Turn On” button.

Potential customers viewing your Google Maps profile on mobile will now see a “Message” option.

It allows you to answer any questions they might have quickly. Like whether or not you can handle larger reservations that evening.

Read more about how to use the messaging options in the GMB app from Google’s official guidelines.

Optimization Rule #6) Create a Product Catalog

Another new aspect of Google My Business and Google Maps is that you can showcase product categories and individual products on your profile.

You can add new categories and products from the “Posts” section within your Google My Business account.

This feature is the most useful for brick-and-mortar retailers and can help you promote product lines you want to highlight to mobile shoppers.

How To Get More Positive Reviews without Breaking the Rules

When it comes to your Google Maps profile, there are few things that potential customers focus more on than your average rating and reviews.

In a 2019 study, 91% of consumers said that positive reviews made them more likely to choose a business. 82% also said that negative reviews made them less likely to choose a company.

In other words, reviews are essential when it comes to maintaining a healthy Google My Business profile that converts prospects to customers.

But with incentives off the table, what can you do to get more reviews?

Appeal to Your Most Loyal Customers

Your regulars and most loyal customers choose your business again and again for a reason.

If you’ve developed a personal relationship with them, you can ask them to leave a review in passing.

There’s no need to over-complicate things here since you’ve already done the hard work of building customer loyalty with good experiences upfront.

Contact Customers Already Engaging with You on Social Media

Use a social listening tool like Hootsuite or other social media tools to monitor who is talking about you on social media.

Start a friendly conversation with customers who posted a positive tweet or Instagram post about your restaurant.

After thanking them for sharing your business on social media, you can ask them to leave a review on Google Maps.

Maintain an Active Social Media Presence and Share Customer Reviews

Even if you have extraordinarily happy customers that “meant to” post a review, it’s easy to forget such minor things with your day-to-day responsibilities.

A great way to remind happy customers to leave reviews is to openly share good reviews on social media and thank people for them.

It also serves as social proof that your business is worth it. Make it a part of your social media strategy.

Provide Review-Worthy Customer Experience

Other than food bloggers and aspiring food critics, it takes a lot for a regular customer to leave a review.

What motivates a customer to leave a positive review, is not an average, run-of-the-mill experience. It’s either a negative experience or a fantastic one.

You need to wow your customers into leaving a review.

Some examples:

  • Go big with serving sizes, selling burgers huge enough to shock every customer.
  • Recognize repeat customers and give them deals/make them feel special.
  • Be extremely prompt and professional in industries where contractors are usually hard to deal with.

What it takes depends on your industry and your customers, but remember that just okay isn’t good enough.

Conclusion

Maintaining your online reputation is a cornerstone of digital marketing.

While creating and optimizing a Google My Business listing might seem like a challenge to busy business owners, the payoff is worth it.

A professional cover photo, essential business information, and positive customer reviews will help promote your business to a new local audience.

Follow our step-by-step Google My Business guide, and you can take your business to new heights in 2020.