There are an estimated seven billion unique local searches conducted on Google every month. But you likely don’t need a statistic to know that search, especially local SEO, is integral to retail success — whether you sell online, offline, or both.
Local SEO is widely practiced and prioritized. In fact, many small business owners and marketers find SEO and online local directories to be two of the top four most-effective marketing channels. Almost half find Google My Business (GMB) easy to use, and 20 percent know it’s important even though they don’t completely understand it.
Understanding the importance of local SEO and GMB is one thing, but it’s another challenge to figure out how to optimize your listing and taking full advantage of the benefits. We’ll take you through a checklist to optimizing your GMB so that you’re driving sales to your brick-and-mortar or online store.
Sign Up and Claim Your Listing
Online stores and GMB don’t go hand in hand — in fact, online-only retailers are among those ineligible to create a GMB. However, if you have a permanent physical location, you can claim your Google My Business listing for free. If you’re not open year round, Google requires your location have year round signage.
Use your actual business name, sans any marketing jargon. For example, opt for “Topo Designs” instead of “Topo Designs – #1 Backpack Provider.” If you have more than one store location, they’ll all be listed up the same business name.
Fill out your listing completely and accurately. This is the most important component to making sure your GMB is working for you and not against you. To make it easy for users to find your store, include your entire address (with suite or unit number if applicable), phone number (use a local number, not a 1-800 service), business hours, and category. Complete and accurate are the two keywords here:
- If your listing isn’t complete, users may try to fill in the gaps for you — and that information may not always be correct
- If your listing isn’t accurate, you risk misleading users — for example, they may visit your store outside of business hours, even though your GMB says you’re open
When it comes to choosing your category, Google recommends getting specific:
“Focus primarily on adding the most specific categories for your business; we’ll do the rest behind the scenes. For instance, when you select a specific category like “Golf Resort”, Google implicitly includes more general categories like “Resort Hotel”, “Hotel”, and “Golf Course.” Feel free to skip adding any category that seems redundant with a more specific category you selected. If you can’t find a category for your business, choose one that is more general.”
Google has provided a list of common categories from which you can choose.
Pro tip: Think you’re done writing your GMB? This tool will help you make sure you’re upholding Google’s guidelines.
Keep Your Listing Updated
Remember back when we talked about the importance of being thorough, because users can edit your information? Even when you do fill out your GMB in its entirety, users can still go in and change what you’ve entered. Being the admin for the listing, you can override those edits, which is why it’s important to update and check your listing frequently.
Include the Right Visuals
Google and SEO experts generally agree that retailers should have the following images associated with your GMB listing:
- Your brand logo
- Photo(s) of your store
- Product images
- Cover photo that showcases your brand identity
Google has guidelines for these images, including optimal size, file format, and other best practices. These images will surface not only with your GMB listing, but in Google searches for images and maps too.
Pro tip: Consider hiring a professional photographer to create a digital visual tour of your store, turning searchers into customers.
Let Users Know What’s in Stock
When I conduct a search for my local REI store, along with the address, phone number, website and other basic information, I also see product photos, accompanied by price, star rating and whether it’s available in a store near me.
This is hugely effective at driving online researchers to visiting your store. Users will learn whether certain products are in stock, have limited availability, or out of stock — and this will help you avoid disappointed customers. Plus, consumers are actually willing to pay more for products that are scarce.
Solicit Customer Reviews
97 percent of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, and positive reviews make nearly three-quarters trust a local business more. It’s tough to overstate the importance of customer reviews both for your products and your store — and they’re also important for local SEO and your GMB.
Unlike Yelp, Google actually advocates brands solicit reviews from their customers. They offer advice on how to remind customers to do so, plus you can make it easy for your customers and create a link for them to go directly to leave a review.
It’s also a good idea to respond to customer reviews, whether they’re good or bad. Thank customers for their business and for sharing their thoughts, promise to remedy any issues in bad reviews, and avoid getting defensive or argumentative. Your responses are indicative of how you treat your customers, and you want to present your brand in a good light. Remember to answer any questions posed on your GMB, too.
Bolster Your Brand’s Digital Presence
Here’s one way Google relates SEO to local SEO: “Prominence is also based on information that Google has about a business from across the web (like links, articles, and directories). Your position in web results is also a factor, so SEO best practices also apply to local search optimization.”
But Google doesn’t just look at what’s on your site — it also looks at what the rest of the web is saying about you. Getting your business on other local listing sites (such as Yelp, Bing and Yahoo) will aid with your local SEO.