In this post, we’ll be providing an all-encompassing guide to creating, claiming, and optimizing your Google Business Profile.  Google Business Profile is a free tool that enables users to publish personalized, authorized information about their business online, and has essentially become the most critical ranking factor for Local SEO.   A Business Profile is one of the first things that users come across when searching for a company or service on Google Search or Google Maps, making it essential to have your business listed, verified, and managed appropriately.

If you’re looking for the ultimate guide to all things Google Business Profiles, look no further–you’re not alone.  Many local businesses are realizing the importance of maintaining a well-optimized profile,  and for good reason.  According to statistics compiled by The Media Captain, “Over half of Google Business Profile interactions produce website visits.”  Google interactions include calls, driving directions, messages, bookings, and website clicks.

Google Interactions
Google Business Profile Interactions

Have you recently used online search?  83% of shoppers in the U.S. say they’ve used online search before visiting a store.  “Near me” searches are increasing across almost every category according to thinkwithgoogle.com.  With the growing number of consumer searches, it is more important than ever to focus your marketing efforts on your Google Business Profile.

If you own a local business or are a local service-based business, you can benefit from our Ultimate Guide to Google Business Profiles.  There are nearly 4,000 Google Business Profile categories ranging from automotive, grocery, restaurant, banks, lawyers, plumbers, swimming schools, and, well–many, many more.

The History Of Google Business Profile

Google Business Profile, formerly known as Google My Business, launched as Google Local in March of 2004.  It first operated as a digital replacement for the Yellow Pages but has since evolved into Google Business Profile.  Today, the platform allows business owners to create their business profiles and list their business on Google, which is then displayed in Google Search and Google Maps.  Its interface was designed to make it easier for local businesses as well as brands to be found in Google search results.  A user must have a Google account to create or access their Google Business Profile.  Review the complete timeline of Google Business profiles from 2004 to 2022.

How To Add Or Claim A Google Business Profile

You must have a Gmail account to create or claim your Google Profile.  On your computer, sign into your Google Maps account.

  1. Enter the address of your business in the search bar within Google Maps, and from there, click Add your business.
  2. You can also click the menu on the top left, and from there, click Add your business.
  3. Google will take you through on-screen instructions to complete your Business Profile.

 

If your business is already on Google Maps and you want to claim the listing, follow these steps:

  1. Sign into Google Maps.
  2. Search for your business name.
  3. Click the business name and verify it is the correct one.
  4. Locate the  Claim this business link by your verified business name.
  5. The next step requires a verification option.  The two most common options are postcard by mail or by phone.

If you cannot find a Claim this business or Own this business link on the Business Profile, then it’s possible that you already manage the business.  If you do not have ownership but still do not see the links, go to business.google.com/add.  Follow the steps there to find the business.  If one exists that matches your name and address, the option to request access will be present.

Request Access

If you verify your website URL with Google Search Console, you may get instant verification.  In addition, if your business manages 10 or more profiles for locations of the same business, that business may request to activate a bulk verification capability from Google.

What Do I Do If My Google Business Postcard Never Arrives?

I have found that it’s not uncommon for your requested postcard not to arrive from Google on the first attempt.  If you do not receive your postcard within fourteen days, you should take the following steps:

  1. Make sure you notify the post office of your address change.
  2. Make sure your new address is registered with the post office.
  3. Request a postcard again.

Do not be surprised if you need to request the card more than once.  However, Google states that if you edit your business name, address, or category, or request a new postcard, the old verification code that may be in the mail will no longer be valid.  For more information on verifying your business by postcard, click here. 

Not all accounts have the option to verify by phone.  If you don’t see the option for phone verification, then it is not available and you must verify your business by postcard.

How To Optimize A Google Business Profile

Optimizing your Google Business Profile is a critical step after claiming or creating your Google Business Profile.  Providing details such as services, products, and company descriptions will help you to get maximum results with Google.  Google tells its users that in order to improve your local ranking on Google, you need to claim and update your business information regularly.

  1. Enter complete data. This includes: address, phone number, category, attributes, and your business description.
  2. Check your verification status with Google.
  3. Keep your hours accurate.  This includes making sure that all your social and website hours match your Google listing.
  4. Manage and respond to all reviews.
  5. Add photos regularly.
  6. Add products.
  7. Add an offer.
  8. Add a post.

Need help managing several locations? Reputation Arm’s review dashboard is perfect for managing and soliciting reviews.  Book a demo

Updating these pieces of information will maximize how often users find and engage with your business in local search results.  At minimum, a business owner should post once a week and should add photos regularly.  Google encourages its users to share photos: “businesses with photos are more likely to receive requests for driving directions to their location, as well as clicks through their websites, than businesses that don’t have photos.”

How Google Determines Local Ranking

Every business owner will ask themselves at one point, How is Google determining my local ranking?  The first thing Google primarily looks for in local search results is relevance.  “Relevance refers to how well a local Business Profile matches what someone is searching for.”  If a search term is “Mediterranean restaurant near me” and your Google Business Profile features the primary category, “Mediterranean restaurant”, your business listing is more likely to appear in the search results.

Of course, the next thing Google looks for is distance.  “Distance considers how far each potential search result is from the location term used in a search.”  Google picks up our location from real-time signals, like an IP address or a device’s geolocation.  They also track your past activity to better customize your search experiences.

The third factor is prominence.  Prominence refers to how well your brand or business is known.  That’s why some businesses adapt to creating local listings, otherwise known as citations.  Citations help tell Google how prominent you are.

If you are looking for help in becoming more relevant and prominent with Google, Reputation Arm is ready to help.  Contact us now or Book a demo at no charge.

How Do I Choose The Best Category For My Google Business Profile?

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, your category is relevant to Google.  It’s the best way for Google to match your business with a user’s search intent.  Always select the most specific category that best matches your business.  For example, if you’re a personal injury lawyer, you shouldn’t choose “Lawyer” as your primary category.  Instead, you should choose “Personal Injury Lawyer”,  with “Lawyer” optionally as a secondary category.  Instead of “Salon” choose “Nail Salon”; instead of “Restaurant”, choose “Pizza Restaurant”.  If the specific category you desire isn’t available, then you must choose a more general category.  This doesn’t mean that that category doesn’t accurately describe your business–it’s just that Google doesn’t allow users to create their own categories.

What if your business can fall into many categories? Google provides some scenario guidelines to help users determine how to select the best category for their business.  Google advises its users to focus on the concept of “this business IS a” rather than “this business HAS a.”  The idea is not to choose categories based on all the products you sell or feature.  Although a grocery store sells many products, it shouldn’t be categorized as an “Ice Cream Shop”, “Spice Shop”, “Cookie Shop” or “Bake Shop”.  You get the point!

Simply click Edit Profile while logged into your Google account.  From there, you should see the option to edit your category and business name, description, phone, website, menu link, service area, hours, and more.

Your Business On Google
Your business on Google

 

Add or edit categories on Search

Add or edit categories on Maps

If possible, you should add up to 3 categories.  It has been said that anything more than the top three categories are irrelevant.  In this scenario, more is not better.  You do not want to risk confusing Google and initiating a negative effect on your local search results.

Guidelines To Maintaining A Service-Area Business With Google Business Profile

A service-area business is a business that serves its customers at the customer’s residence or business.  Examples of service-area businesses are plumbers, landscapers, pest control companies, locksmiths, painters, roofers, contractors, etc.  Typically, customers aren’t visiting these types of businesses at a fixed business location, so Google requires that these businesses hide the address they work out of and enter the service area that they are willing to travel to, or work within.  If a business serves customers at its business address and wants to set a service area, Google requires that the business location be staffed and able to receive visiting customers during the stated hours.

The number one reason why a service-area business gets suspended is for not following the guidelines highlighted below:

  • If you do serve customers at your business address and also have a service area, then you can enter your address and service area.
  • If you don’t serve customers at your business address, you must clear the address field and only enter your service area.

Service-area businesses that run out of their homes should not list their address.

If a service-area business has several locations with staff at each location, they are eligible for one profile per each location.  However, Google sets service area boundaries for your profile.  The overall service area should not extend more than 2 hours of driving time from the business address.  Specify your service area by city, postal code, or another type of area.

Google looks at the information you provide and the information provided by other sources to determine how best to display your business address.  For this reason, many companies may find that they have been operating their Google Business Profile for years with no issues but then suddenly, their profile has been suspended.

If a business doesn’t properly set up their profile according to Google’s guidelines, they risk getting suspended.

Rental properties, vacation homes, vacant apartments, lead generation companies, and any business that does not own or lease is ineligible from creating a Google Business Profile.

Why Is My Google Business Profile Suspended?

We hear it all the time: “My Google Business Profile was suspended and I have no idea why!”  Google becomes more and more sophisticated year over year, and that means that your Business Profile needs to be accurate and consistent with other sources.  There are many reasons why a Google Business Profile gets suspended:

  • You changed your address on your Google Business Profile.
  • You updated your category, name, website or phone number.
  • You are a service-area business with a visible address, which Google has now picked up on.

Google does not inform a user as to why their profile was suspended.  It is up to the business to accurately represent information in their Business Profile and to make sure they adhere to the Google guidelines.

To learn more about how to get your Google Business Profile reinstated, read our blog which includes 6 critical steps you need to review before you file for reinstatement.

My Google Business Profile Was Hijacked by a Third Party

Google allows many third party apps and agencies to manage business information on a Google Business Profile.  By adding managers to your profile, you are allowing the agency or third party to manage your profile on your behalf.  However, be aware of scams where unethical individuals hit the “claim this business” link on your profile.  This generates an email request to gain control over the listing.  Unwittingly ranting access to those you don’t know or trust can be very dangerous and can pose some serious problems.  If your Google Business Profile has been hijacked, you can report it here.

If you are a pizza delivery business and your order online links have been crowded out by other third parties like GrubHub, Seamless, Postmates, Slice, etc., you are not alone.  In order to take back control of your ordering process, use this form to completely opt out of Food Ordering with Google.

Order Online with Google

 

Understanding Google Business Profile Posts

Google Posts were first introduced by Google in 2017.  Since then, there have been many updates as to how they are populated, who sees them, and for how long they are visible to the end users.  Whether you are a multi-location business or have a single location, you can benefit from posting on your Google Business Profile.  Google allows three post types:

  1. Update Posts
  2. Offer Posts
  3. Event Posts

To create a post, simply make sure you are logged in to your Google account and click your Business Profile.  You can also search for “my business” and it should appear in the search results.  Select “Add update” and choose the type of post you wish to share.

Google business profile posts

Your post can have one of three post statuses: Live, Pending, and Not Approved.  Be sure to follow Google’s posts content policy, for many users are finding that their posts are getting rejected. For more information on why your post has been removed from Google, visit our blog.  We share some helpful points to help you avoid post rejection.

Why Reviews Matter On Your Google Business Profile

Did you know that the quality and quantity of reviews within your Google Business Profile impact one of the most important ranking factors for local SEO?  There are many factors involved when determining your business search ranking, but one thing we do know is that reviews can be a strong signal to search engines.  Besides the information provided on your Google Business Profile, reviews are the second strongest factor within the local ranking algorithm.

ocal Search Ranking Factors
Local Search Ranking Factors

There are many factors to consider when focusing on your reviews.  According to moz, the following impact search rankings.

  1. Recency – Are your reviews recent, or old and outdated?
  2. Velocity – How often are you collecting new reviews?
  3. Diversity – Do you feature reviews on your social platforms and other relevant sources?
  4. Authority – Is the reviewer a local guide? Some speculate that reviewers that are considered “professional reviewers” carry more weight than other users.
  5. Format – The content in the review matters and is typically more relevant than non-text reviews.  Reviews carry keywords that Google recognizes as justifications.

Take a look at the image below that demonstrates how Google uses review justifications to highlight a business.

review justification
Review Justifications

Your reviews reflect your brand.  The better your review rating and review velocity, the more significant your brand will become.  Not to mention that in 2021, 81% of consumers read Google reviews.  Our blog Brand Management through Google Reviews discusses 5 reasons to ramp up your Google reviews as well as your reputation management.  In summary, our top 5 reasons are:

  1. Google uses your reviews in your local SEO ranking.
  2. Consumers rely on Google reviews.
  3. Google reviews correlate with higher sales.
  4. Reviews build consumer trust.
  5. Your competitors are paying attention to reviews.

How Do I Generate More Reviews For My Google Business Profile?

Now that we understand how reviews can significantly impact our local search results, let’s discuss how we can work on generating new reviews.  There are a number of recommended practices to adopt to help your business generate new reviews.

  1. Ask customers directly for a Google review.
  2. Send out an email campaign with a link to review your business.
  3. Send out a text campaign with a link to review your business.
  4. Add a review link to your website.
  5. Add a review link to your email signature.
  6. Don’t be afraid to send out multiple requests.

Make generating Google reviews a priority.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you have enough reviews–you can never get enough reviews for your business.  The more reviews you accrue, the more significant you appear to Google and other search engines.  Reputation Arm offers a robust Reputation Management dashboard that helps businesses manage reviews on multiple review sites.  Our dashboard not only imports all reviews for your business, but allows you to reply, store response templates, review analytics, solicit reviews by text and email, and provide automated reports.  To learn more, book a free demo now.

Why Do I Need To Respond To My Google Reviews?

While generating reviews is important for your business, responding to them is just as significant.  Not only does responding to a review help build loyalty between the business and the reviewer, it also shows other customers who are reading your review responses that you care.  Google encourages all businesses to respond to reviews. If you follow suit, this will show Google that you are an active business owner.  Not sure how to respond to a negative review? Check out our blog, 10 Effective Review Templates to Help You Respond to Negative Reviews.

Stand out against your competitors by responding to positive and negative reviews.  Google states: “According to consumers, businesses that respond to reviews are seen as 1.7x more trustworthy than businesses who don’t (76% vs. 46%)”.

How to reply to both positive and negative reviews
Why Responding to reviews is important

 

It is important to keep in mind that all responses are public, so exercise professionalism and review some of these helpful tips.

Some Thoughtful And Easy Tips For Review Replies:

Build Relationships With Customers

  • Be polite and avoid getting too personal.
  • Keep it short and sweet.
  • Always thank the reviewer.
  • Avoid being a salesperson, but do share new products or events.
  • Respond in a timely manner.

Best Practices For Negative Review Responses

  • Do not attack your reviewer personally or share data about them.
  • Move the conversation offline by offering to talk it over.
  • Don’t rush to respond–investigate the reason behind the negative review.
  • Be honest and courteous.
  • Show compassion and empathy.  If appropriate, apologize.
  • Respond in a timely manner.

Why Are My Reviews Not Showing Up On My Google Business Profile?

As a Product Google Expert for Google My Business, our team has seen many active business owners express concerns over authentic reviews not displaying on their Google Business Profile.  We know how discouraging this can be, especially for newer businesses hoping to gain visibility within local search through their Google reviews.  Unfortunately, since March of 2022 there has been a significant increase in reviews not appearing on Google Business Profiles.

Typically what happens is that the customer can see their review on their end, but the review never gets published publicly.  This means that the reviews triggered Google’s review spam algorithm.  Google believes the review to be spam and therefore filters it out. For more information on the topic, read our blog on 7 Reasons Why You are Missing Google Reviews.  There is also a section that reveals what to do if your authentic reviews were flagged by Google’s algorithm. 

How Do I Remove A Fake Review From My Google Business Profile?

If you feel that you are a victim of a fake review, Google has an appeal process for you to follow.  You can submit an appeal by using the following link.  Through this workflow process, you’ll be able to select the location and then review eligible reviews you can flag.  Once you find the review, you can select the “Report” button which then takes you to the following page.

report a fake review

Be sure to pick the appropriate option.  Once submitted, Google will send you an email stating that your removal request is being assessed.  It could take up to 3 business days and you should receive a follow up email.  If you do not receive a follow up email, use the same link to check the status of a review you recently reported.  I have found that the status can display “decision pending” for days and weeks.  Once a decision is made, you’ll have one opportunity to appeal the decision.  Make sure to include relevant data or photos to help back up your claim.

Fake review or not, it’s always best practice to respond to all reviews.  This way, if Google doesn’t remove the review, other customers can see from your response that the review may be fake or is not relevant to your business.  Always remember to be courteous and avoid being defensive.  The response is meant to address other customers and not so much the reviewer itself.

We hope you enjoyed our Ultimate Guide to Google Business Profile.  Check back with us often as we will regularly update this page with all things Google Business Profile.  Remember that Google rewards active business owners, so consistently visit your Google Business Profile page and review your NAPs, categories, services, and other data often.  Post often and upload new photos as well as reply to all your reviews–consistency is key to winning the local SEO battle.

If you don’t have the time to manage your Google Business Profile, or would like to discuss our amazing review management dashboard, reach out to us.  Our team of experts would love to hear from you.