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1. Let’s have a look at how Google My Business appears on the customer side.
Here are some examples of search results from Google Search.
So let’s start using terms that Google Business uses: travelers create searches using categories and locations. In this case, it’s golf courses in Fredericton.
What you are seeing is called the Local 3-pack – everyone wants to make it into that 3-pack for their category for their area. Achieving that depends on many factors, including how crowded the category is in that location. But we know that claiming and verifying your listing is a good start. Also, having lots of reviews and an average score of at least 4 increases your chances of showing up.
Why is it so coveted? These search results appear at very top, ahead of all search results, and often the user does not look any further.
On Google Maps the use of Google Business listings will look familiar to you. Searching for a business in Maps or selecting an area and zooming in you will see the icons and their place labels overlaid on the map. Clicking on a label will display more details about a business that is pulled mostly from GMB.
2. Claiming your business
Beware of fraudulent calls.
Why do I need to claim my business?
If you found your Google Business listing and think that it already looks good, what’s the point of this Claiming and Verifying bit?
I’ll answer that with another question that gets asked: Can random people really make changes to my Google My Business Listing?
The answer is: Yes.
Even though it doesn’t seem fair to most business owners, anyone can suggest a change or an edit to your business listing, including your competition; this is the crowdsourcing model, which is also used when visitors upload their photos to your business listing. Suggested edits can include changing your physical business location, modifying the hours or marking the business as closed. [source]
If you have claimed and verified your Google Business listing you have control over these edits. That in itself should give the motivation to claim and verify your listing.
Find your Google Business listing using GMB homepage or Maps
Google My Business site
Go to the Google My Business home page and log in with a google account
If you have a Gmail account associated with your business then sign in with that, or create a new Google account. A word of caution here: some of you may be already logged into your browser with a personal account, so make sure you don’t continue the process with your personal account.
When you click on Sign In you have the option to create a Google account. You do not have to create a Gmail account; you can create an account with your current business e-mail.
Note: We have recently witnessed this interesting shortcut: if your e-mail address is the same domain as your website you may get fast-tracked directly to the Google My Business dashboard, totally bypassing the verification process. For example if your business’ web address is businessname.ca and your e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org, you may see this in action.
I mention it because later in this guide we will talk about the verification screen and the options, something that you will not see at all if the fast-track feature affects you.
Once you are logged in, the next screen asks you to search using your business name. Chances are that it will show up in an autocomplete drop-down box. If so select it. Remember that the results are for businesses worldwide so make sure you select the correct one!
On the next screen the standard information (name, address, phone, e-mail, etc.) will likely have all those fields already populated with your information. Simply proceed until you get to the Verification screen.
Alternatively you can use Maps to find your business. Either search for your business name and location, or zoom in on your location on the maps, click on the pin or label for your business. You should see a “Claim this business” option, clicking on it will take you to the Google My Business site. Proceed as we mentioned earlier until you get to the Verification screen.
There are three possibilities when attempting to claim your business
1. Found and unclaimed: this what this guide explains in detail
2. Found and already claimed: in Maps, the “Claim this business” option does not appear. In case you need to Request Access to the Google My Business Listing – follow instructions from Google (watch video)
3. Business not found: more rare but relevant to new businesses, those that have changed names, or businesses that did not have a website with their business location or contact information. In this case, head over to the GMB home page, log in with a Google account related to your business (or create one), enter the name of your business, and select “Create a business with this name”. In this case, the next screen will not have the fields pre-populated with your business information. Enter the details it requires until you get to the Verification screen.
3. Getting verified
Claiming is the first step, but then Google needs to confirm that you are the rightful owner of the business. You will get to a screen that offers you a choice of verification methods. The options offered to you are dependent on what Google has collected about your business on the internet or by user suggestions. The postcard option is the default method which always appears.
If you are fortunate to have the e-mail, call, or text options, they are by far the fastest way to get verified, typically with 5 minutes of clicking the button. If you select Phone be ready for a call right away. If you miss it you have the option to send again. The most popular method is the postcard which takes up to 12 days to arrive at the stated business address.
Getting the code/card
Once you receive the card (example below) or you get the verification code (typically a six digit number) you enter it at the website mentioned or return to the Google My Business page and log in with the same business Google account.
You will then have access to the Google My Business Dashboard for your business. Bravo! You now control your business’ information on Google!
4. The GMB Dashboard
Once you have claimed your business and gotten verified you then have access to the Google Business Dashboard. It is from here that you control the information about your business.
Note: Depending on your browser, the left menu may be hidden. You have to click on the hamburger icon to make it appear and have access to the different tabs.
The content in the Dashboard Home page that we see here is very good at guiding you in the steps you need to take for Google to “like” your GMB listing. That can directly affect ranking in Google Search results . Look over the content of the Home page then explore all the tabs to see what’s there.
You should start with the Info tab first since it contains all the basic information about your business.
– Name: make sure that the name you are using is the same as your website and your storefront
– Category: we saw how important the category is because that is how the traveler searches for travel information. Google Category information. You choose a main category (likely already selected for you) and have the option to choose additional secondary categories. Not sure which Category to select? Go see what your peers or competitors are using by looking them up on Search or Maps to see what they have selected.
– Address/Map: you have the option of moving the marker on the map if needed. To give you an example: some campgrounds have their pins in the middle of a field; it would be more efficient to place the pin at the entrance from the road to help out those who will seek driving directions from your Google Business listing.
– Hours (including holidays!): They include the regular weekly hours and ‘special hours’ such as Holidays. Very important! Countless studies and surveys have shown that checking opening hours is one of the most used features of GMB.
– Phone: enter the number that customers can call directly from their mobile device
– Website: where people can go to get more details about your business
– Attributes: the attributes available to you will depend on your category. They can be the tipping point to a visitor selecting your business as they appear near the very top of your profile. [more about Attributes from Google]
– Business Description : The Business Description actually does not appear in Maps or in the local pack. It appears in the Knowledge Panel (Google’s term) that appears when people search for your business by name. It appears further down in a “From the business” entry, just after the Reviews.
It should not be confused with these bits of info that are managed by Google; they are called Editorial summaries and you cannot edit those.
[more details about the fields in the Info tab from Google – scroll down to the “Types of edits” section]
I hope it comes as no surprise to you that photos/imagery is important to your Google ranking and to user conversion.
Here is what the Photos tab looks like. You’ll notice that there are several categories of images, the most important of which is the cover photo. It is the photo that is shown at the top of your listing in Search and Maps quick view. Google has their own algorithm for selecting the cover photo, even though you may select one, Google can possibly select a different one although the algorithm does gives more weight to the photo you selected.
In our example here we have already selected a cover image. Clicking on the Plus symbol will give you the upload screen.
Before you upload your images, do yourself a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) favour and rename your images if you are comfortable doing so. A descriptive name that includes your business name and what the photo represents will help Google find your image for users searching for your business.
Removing Photos: removing photos that you have uploaded is as simple as viewing the image and clicking on the Trash icon in the upper right hand side of the screen. Getting photos removed that were uploaded by the public isn’t something over which you have full control – you have to flag it for Google to remove.
To flag user photos: In the Photos tab click on an image to see in full screen. There you have the option to report it by clicking on the flag icon in the top right.
Then this form appears which gives you several options. “Poor quality” and “Not a photo of this place” will cover most of your needs.
Google My Business has no fields to enter opening and closing dates, it assumes that all businesses are open year round.
If you are a seasonal business, Google recommends using the “Temporarily closed” option that you can find in the Info tab. You can also add a line at the beginning of your Description saying something like “Closed for the season, looking forward to seeing you May 3, 20XX”.
– Reviews : Ask for them and reply to them! Average ratings above 4 increase your chances dramatically of appearing in the local 3-pack in Google Search.
Reply to negative reviews: respond quickly, be brief, own up to the complaint issue, apologize even if it’s not your fault, offer to fix the problem, and follow-up on promises.
Create a link for customers to write reviews: from the Home page, in the “Get more reviews” card, you can copy your short URL to share with customers.
– Mobile app
5. Staying verified
If Google determines an account is inactive, they could un-verify any Google listings under that account. Specifically, Google will attempt to contact Google My Business users via e-mail to confirm that they are still actively managing a business page. If users don’t respond to Google’s e-mail and haven’t logged in to their Google My Business for a “significant length of time,” Google may un-verify the Google listings under the account.
You should be logging into your dashboard with some regularity to see if any edits have been made or to update any details of your business, and even to refresh the imagery. You can put a reminder in your calendar, or use the GMB mobile app to get notifications and messages.
But you’ll certainly be logging in to update your hours…whether they are your normal hours or your special hours (holidays).
6. Getting help and support
Google My Business website
Google offers its users a very helpful and complete Help Center for Google My Business.
If you are not logged in you can find it here at the bottom of the page:
When you are logged in and have claimed your business, the Google Business website goes to your Dashboard. The Help Center can be found in the footer of every page:
GMB Facebook page
We are learning that perhaps the best method to get support specific to your page is the GMB Facebook support page.
If you are asking a generic question about GMB, you can add a post on the public page. If you are asking something specific to your listing, I would send them a Facebook Message.
7. Direct link to your GMB profile
If you require support or if you want to send a link to someone you may need a simple direct link to your GMB listing. The easiest way we have found is to find the business on Google Maps and click on the Share link. In the new window that pops up, click on Copy Link. Now you can paste that link wherever you like, it will take the user directly to the map with that business’ GMB information on the left panel.