A n important first step in any local SEO strategy is to claim and verify your local business’ Google My Business (GMB) listing. Getting on Google My Business can increase your chances of showing up in Google’s Local Pack, Local Finder, Google Maps, and organic rankings in general. Qualifying local businesses can claim this free listing on Google and include information about their company, like their address, phone number, business hours, and types of payments accepted.

Additionally, over the past several months, Google has added some great features to Google My Business that companies should take advantage of that enhances your Google My Business listing and helps to grab viewers’ attention — and can increase how you rank in local search results.

If you haven’t claimed and verified your Google My Business Listing yet, that’s the first step. To get started, visit https://www.google.com/business.

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

Many local businesses just claim their GMB listing and forget about it. What most businesses don’trealize is that there are a variety of other features Google gives you that you can use to optimize your Google My Business listing and several reasons why you should frequently check your business listing to ensure that its accuracy stays intact. Want to know more?

Complete all the information Google asks for

There are a variety of questions Google wants you to fill out to complete your Google My Business profile. When done, your listing will have valuable basic data that will make it easier for potential customers to find more information about your company. And if you don’t fill out that information, someone else could. Many business owners don’t realize that anyone can suggest a change (or “edit”) to your business listing — and that includes your competitors.

When a searcher clicks on your GMB listing they see a “Suggest an edit” option:

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

When someone clicks on that option they can literally edit your Google My Business listing (and make some pretty dramatic changes, too):

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

And these aren’t just “suggested” edits — these user-generated changes can actually be made live on your listing without you even being notified. This is just one reason why it’s very important that you log in to your Google My Business dashboard regularly to ensure that no one has made any unwanted changes to your listing.

Here’s how:

If you log in to Google My Business, you can switch back to the “Classic” dashboard here:

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

In the classic dashboard, you might see “Google Updates” notifications.

If you see updates, these are changes that Google made to your business listing because either their algorithm found new information about your business (perhaps from another directory/citation site or a change they found on your Google Map) or a Google user submitted an edit that was published. (Yes, when people make “suggested edits,” they are not really “suggestions” -– the changes are often made live without you ever getting a notification or the opportunity to dispute the change!)

When you click on “Google Updates,” you’ll see a box that allows you to “Review Updates.” It’s here where you’re given the opportunity to remove incorrect information that may have been made by a troublesome Google user.

Now, Google supposedly sends out emails to the owner and others managing your Google My Business account when changes are made, but oftentimes those people never receive notifications about changes to their listing. So beware: you may (or may not) be notified by Google if changes are made to your listing. (For example, your business category could be changed from “criminal attorney” to the generic “lawyer” category, which could negatively impact your search rankings.) That’s why it’s extra important for you to log in and check your listing frequently (especially when, quite literally, some businesses have had their address and website URLs changed in their GMB listing by nefarious users.)

If you see a change that is incorrect and you have difficulty changing it (like a bogus review, for instance), create a new post explaining the situation in detail in the Google My Business forum and reach out to one of the Google Top Contributor volunteers for help.

Also, it’s important to realize that Google encourages people who are familiar with your business to answer questions, so that Google can learn more information about your company. To do this they simply click on the “Know this place? Answer quick questions” link.

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

They’ll then be prompted to answer some questions about your business:

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

If the person knows the answer to the question, they can answer and then they’ll typically be asked another question. If not, they can decline.

Now, some business owners have cried foul, saying that competitors or others with malicious intent can wreak havoc on their Google My Business listings with these features. However,Google’s philosophy is that this type of user-generated content helps to build a community, more fully completes a business’ profile, and allows Google to experiment with different search strategies.

Just remember, after you get your Google My Business listing verified, continue to check your listing regularly to be on the safe side.

Once you have your GMB listing verified, now is the time to optimize your listing. (This is where you have a greater chance to outdo your competition!)

Successful SEO is not about tricking Google. It’s about PARTNERING with Google to provide the best search results for Google’s users.

Phil FrostStreet ROI
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