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How to Completely Optimize Your GMB Listing

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How To Completely Optimize Your Google Business Profile

Google Business Profile is a free feature from Google that helps business owners manage their online presence across the search engine and its growing portfolio of utilities, including Google Maps.

Seasoned SEO professionals use Google Business Profiles to leverage a location-based strategy.

Creating a Google Business Profile is the first step to local search success.

And for good reason.

GBP offers the greatest impact for brands seeking local exposure.

A feature like Google’s Local Search emphasizes the need for a GBP for both new and established businesses.

Google Business Profiles: The Basics

It gives a list of businesses nearby and a lot of information needed to find a specific business like:

  • Business address.
  • Business hours.
  • Category.
  • Reviews.
Screenshot from search for [pizza near me], Google, September 2020

Google’s Knowledge Graph also utilizes verified Google Business Profile information.

It helps generate details for its database about businesses and related entities that are relevant to specific searches.

Once a new profile is created, a Google Maps location is then generated.

That synchronizes with traditional Google Search for ease of access and searchability.

It certainly helps that the clear majority of organic searches come from Google – around 90% for worldwide search engine market share.

It also shows the value of a GBP and effective local SEO.

Use this guide to ensure you’ve completed your Google Business Profile correctly and optimized all possible facets of the tool.

Doing this will also give the most leverage for your business on Google and third-party platforms that use the Google Maps API to generate location information for users.

If digital marketing is a somewhat new endeavor for you and your business, there are some basics to know.

And it’s good to understand Google Business Profiles and the value they offer.

First off: Yes, using Google Business Profile is free.

And, no, a GBP doesn’t replace your business’s website.

Google Business Profiles complement a brand’s already-existing website(s) by giving it a public identity and presence with a profile on Google.

The information provided about a business through Google Business Profiles can appear in Google Search and Google Maps.

Any third-party platform utilizing the Google Maps API will also show Google Business Profiles regardless of what device type is being used to search.

If you’ve previously used certain Google tools to complement your business (Google+, for example), or your business has been operating for a while, chances are your business is already listed on Google Business Profiles.

Google My Business, Google Places for Business, and the Google+ Pages Dashboard were the best ways to manage your business information previously.

These have automatically been upgraded to Google’s universal platform, Google Business Profiles.

Starting Your Google Business Profile

The first step to getting your Google Business Profile up and running is to actually conduct a Google search to ensure your business doesn’t already have one.

You can also use Google’s in-platform search feature to locate your business on GBP.

Starting Your Google Business ProfileScreenshot from Google Business Profile Manager, September 2020

If your business has been around for a while (several years or more), it’s likely it already has a GBP, and you just need to claim it.

Once successfully claimed, you can manage the information as if you started the GBP yourself.

If there is already a profile for your business, it will notify you.

It may also notify you that someone else has already claimed your business.

If that happens, follow these steps.

If your business profile is not already created, you can set it up pretty quickly.

Verification takes a bit longer to complete, but it can usually get done within a week.

Start with the official business name before inputting more important info. Then input your main business category.

 

Building your GBPScreenshot from Google Business Profile Manager, September 2020

You can change and add to this later, but this is a critical part of completing (and optimizing) your brand page.

Be sure to find the best relevant category for your business.

There are a lot of variations to choose from, but there should be at least one that summarizes your business best and most accurately.

You will then be asked if you want to “add a location customers can visit, like a store or office?”

This is valuable information since many businesses operate as service-area businesses and do not need/allow customers at the brick-and-mortar location.

For these instances, the specific location of the business will not show up on Google Maps.

However, the business will still show up for relevant searches in its service area.

Adding location in your GBPScreenshot from Google Business Profile Manager, September 2020

For those businesses that operate in a specific service area and don’t want the actual brick-and-mortar location to show up in Maps, select the service area(s) that pertain to the business.

Adding area to your GBPScreenshot from Google Business Profile Manager, September 2020

You can then add contact information for the business, including the contact phone number and the current website URL.

For businesses with that brick-and-mortar location that people can go to during business hours, you should add the business address next.

Adding an address to your GBPScreenshot from Google Business Profile Manager, September 2020

Once the address is set, Google Business Profile will ask if you “also service customers outside this location?”

It lets you set where/how far the business is willing to physically go to deliver goods or services.

If yes, you will be able to walk through the same service-area business details.

You can add or change service area details at any time.

If you don’t service customers outside of the brick-and-mortar, select No, then input contact details on the next prompt.

Adding contact information to your GBPScreenshot from Google Business Profile Manager, September 2020

After that, you can then click Next to verify the profile.

Verifying Your Google Business Profile

You need to verify your Google Business Profile.

This is done via postcard by mail, which takes up to five business days.

It proves to Google you can manage and do, in fact, represent the business you claim.

Verifying your business is crucial for the visibility and performance of the profile.

It’s important to know that Google won’t display your business or its edits until the business is verified.

Without verification, you cannot access page insights/analytical information or business reviews from the back end.

Verification typically takes less than a week.

Google will send you a verification code postcard that you will use to verify your profile, and your business will officially be live.

After you confirm the verification method, you can add additional details about your business, including business hours, business messaging options, a business description, and photos.

Publishing Your Google Business Profile

Once you complete this process, you will be taken to Google Business Profile Manager, where you can manage your business profile and modify your details.

Here are some basic but crucial tips for optimizing your profile:

1. Enter Complete Data For Your Profile

Local search results favor the most relevant results for searches.

Businesses offering the most detailed and accurate information will be easier to serve in search.

Don’t leave anything to be guessed or assumed.

Make sure your profile communicates what your business does, where it is, and how they can acquire the goods and/or services your business is offering.

2. Include Keywords

Just like traditional website SEO, Google uses a variety of signals to serve search results.

Including important keywords and search phrases to your business profile will be incredibly helpful, especially since your business website is listed directly within your GBP.

Use these in the business description and each time you post a Local Post to your audience.

3. Keep Business Operating Hours Accurate

It’s important to put your business hours, but it’s equally important to update them whenever they change.

Google offers the ability to customize hours for holidays and other special events.

It should always be updated to keep your site accurate and users happy.

And, in the age of COVID-19, GBP offers even more flexibility around hours and messaging for potential customers.

Note: Additional hours won’t show for your business until regular hours are set.

4. Add Photos

Photos help business profiles’ performance more than most business owners and marketers probably expect.

Businesses with photos on their profiles receive 42% more requests for driving directions on Google Maps and 35% more click-throughs to their websites than businesses without photos, according to Google.

Keep reading for more GBP photo tips below.

5. Manage & Respond To Customer Reviews

Interacting with customers by responding to their reviews illustrates that your business values its customers and the feedback that they leave regarding it.

Positive reviews are going to have a positive effect on potential customers when researching your business.

They also increase your business’s visibility in search results.

Encourage customers to leave feedback by creating a link they can click to write reviews for your business.

6. Let Customers Message You

It can be somewhat inconvenient at times, but messages to and from customers are only available through the Google Business Profile app.

To do so, tap Customers, then Messages, then Turn on through the app.

Once enabled, customers will be able to message businesses through their Business Profiles with the Message button that appears.

Messages can have customized automated responses to welcome customers for incoming messages.

This helps with the responsiveness and visibility of the business since response times won’t suffer as badly.

For maximum performance and visibility through the GBP, it’s critical to keep message response time under 24 hours.

But obviously faster is better.

Customers don’t want to wait for answers, and oftentimes a fast answer is the difference between a customer and a non-customer.

7. Use Local Posts

You can publish offers, events, products, and services directly to Google Search and Maps through posts on Google Business Profiles.

Posts let you engage with your audience and keep your presence fresh on Google.

And they can be sent on the go from either a phone, tablet, or computer.

Businesses can also influence their Knowledge Panel breakouts with direct feedback about their businesses and the people that represent them.

Some Google-provided tips for making the most out of Local Posts are: Make sure each post is high-quality – free of spelling errors, broken characters, gibberish, or useless information.

And they should be respectful and non-offensive.

The best posts include visuals and links, but the links should always be to sites that are trusted.

Links that lead to malware, viruses, phishing, or pornographic material aren’t allowed.

Posts from businesses that operate on regulated goods and services are allowed to use posts but can’t post content related to the products themselves.

These industries typically include:

  • Adult services.
  • Alcohol and tobacco.
  • Pharmaceutical products and recreational drugs.
  • Health and medical devices.
  • Gambling-related services.
  • Fireworks.
  • Weapons.
  • Financial services.

These posts can and will show up in Google, so they need to be kept PG.

8. Stay Connected During COVID-19

This year has provided us with plenty of surprises. The biggest has been COVID-19 and the craziness it left (and continues to leave) in its wake.

If stores operate differently than normal due to COVID-19 restrictions, mandates, or safety guidelines, businesses can update their profiles on GBP to provide the most accurate information to customers.

Recently added features make communicating with current and potential customers easier in the time of the pandemic.

In addition to customizable business hours and Local Posts, a business can:

  • Mark store temporarily closed.
  • Manage delivery options.
  • Add healthy and safety attributes.

9. Use The Special Attributes

Newer features to GBP allow Black-owned and women-led businesses to be highlighted on their profile.

These also allow for other features like outdoor seating and the like.

If the business is healthcare-related, additional attributes may be available including:

  • Inform customers whether your business offers online care.
  • Provide customers with a direct method to schedule and receive online care.
  • Edit your gender information.

The attributes available to your listing depend on its primary category. Learn more about attributes here.

10. Use The Product Catalog

For merchants with products to showcase, GBP’s Product Editor allows them to do just that.

Most business types are eligible to showcase products, so long as they are small- and medium-sized businesses; and a few business verticals.

Larger businesses need to use Local Inventory Ads to showcase their products.

Offering information about products, including pricing, details, and photos, allows customers to get a better idea of products offered and interact more with businesses.

These product details also allow Google to better understand a business.

Photos & Videos For Your Google Business Profiles

The most important piece of imagery for a GBP is obviously the logo.

There likely won’t be an image that gets more exposure or has more of an impact.

Google recommends businesses use their logo to help customers identify your business with a square-sized image.

Other types of digital assets that should be added to your GBP are:

Cover Photo

Your cover photo should showcase your brand page’s personality.

The cover photo is the large photo featured at the top of the brand’s business profile, it will always be cropped to fit a 16:9 aspect ratio.

Interior Photos

This helps customers better understand the in-store experience at a business.

It lets business operators share the look and feel of the business interior, so make a good impression!

It also lets potential customers get a visual idea of the store, its layout, and any potential limitations it may have.

Video

Videos are one of the most popular media forms on the web.

It’s because they are extremely effective at telling a story and/or explaining something that could otherwise potentially be tough to explain.

Additional Photos

Other kinds of photos are used to spotlight features of your business that customers consider when making purchasing decisions.

These photos will differ from the above-mentioned rich media and are dependent on the kind of business you manage.

These photos may include other general photos that summarize the business and what it can do for its customers.

They can be:

  • Goods and/or services your business offers.
  • Business staff working and/or assisting customers.
  • The exterior of the business and available parking.

All photos should follow Google’s best practices:

  • Format: JPG or PNG
  • Size: Between 10 KB and 5 MB
  • Minimum resolution: 720 px tall, 720 px wide
  • Quality: The photo should be in focus and well-lit, and have no alterations or excessive use of filters. The image should represent reality.

Google also offers the opportunity for a Virtual Tour, which will further enhance the brand profile’s visibility.

It can also draw traffic to the business with a 360-degree interactive experience.

Monitoring Your Google Business Profile Insights

Over the last several years, Google has made tremendous strides with available analytical data for Google Business Profiles.

Now called Insights, Google offers businesses a different way to understand how customers interact with business profiles, including:

  • How customers find your profile.
  • Where customers find you on Google.
  • Customer actions.
  • Direction requests.
  • Phone calls.

How Customers Find Your Profile

This section of Insights shows how customers found you in a “Direct” search (they searched for your business name or address) versus a “Discovery” search (they searched for a category, product, or service that you offer, and your profile appeared).

These sections have the following labels in bulk insights reports:

  • Total searches.
  • Direct searches.
  • Discovery searches.

Where Customers Find You On Google

This section shows how many customers found you via Google Search or Google Maps.

Besides Listing on Search and Listing on Maps, you’ll see the number of views your profile received from each product in the timeframe you’ve selected.

According to Google, “views” are like “impressions” on other analytics platforms.

To see how many people found you on a particular product on a particular day, place your cursor over the appropriate segment of the graph on the day you’re interested in.

These sections have the following labels in bulk insights reports:

  • Total views.
  • Search views.
  • Maps views.

Customer Actions

This section shows what customers did once they found your profile on Google.

Total actions give the total of the following types of actions that customers took on your profile:

  • Visit your website.
  • Request directions.
  • Call you.
  • View photos.

The following labels are available as reports in this reporting section:

  • Total actions.
  • Website actions.
  • Directions actions.
  • Phone call actions.
  • Direction requests.

This part of Insights uses a map to show where people are that are requesting directions to your business.

Your business location is identified on the map and some of the most common spots that people request directions to your business from are shown.

It even breaks the total number of direction requests down by city or neighborhood.

Phone Calls

This section shows when and how often customers called your business via your profile on Google.

At the top of the section, Total calls give the total number of phone calls for the selected time frame.

The graph offers the ability to view trends by phone calls by either day of the week or time of day.

This lets marketers and business operators know when customers are most likely to call after seeing your GBP.

Photos

Lastly, GBP allows you to examine how often your business’s photos are being viewed with the Photo views graph and Photo quantity graph.

There are also lines on the graphs that compare your business’s photo data with photo data for other businesses similar to yours.

Section of this reporting component includes bulk insights for:

  • Total owner photos.
  • Owner photo views.
  • Total customer photos.
  • Customer photo views.

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal




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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

Google removed the Covid-era structured data associated with the Home Activities rich results that allowed online events to be surfaced in search since August 2020, publishing a mention of the removal in the search documentation changelog.

Home Activities Rich Results

The structured data for the Home Activities rich results allowed providers of online livestreams, pre-recorded events and online events to be findable in Google Search.

The original documentation has been completely removed from the Google Search Central webpages and now redirects to a changelog notation that explains that the Home Activity rich results is no longer available for display.

The original purpose was to allow people to discover things to do from home while in quarantine, particularly online classes and events. Google’s rich results surfaced details of how to watch, description of the activities and registration information.

Providers of online events were required to use Event or Video structured data. Publishers and businesses who have this kind of structured data should be aware that this kind of rich result is no longer surfaced but it’s not necessary to remove the structured data if it’s a burden, it’s not going to hurt anything to publish structured data that isn’t used for rich results.

The changelog for Google’s official documentation explains:

“Removing home activity documentation
What: Removed documentation on home activity structured data.

Why: The home activity feature no longer appears in Google Search results.”

Read more about Google’s Home Activities rich results:

Google Announces Home Activities Rich Results

Read the Wayback Machine’s archive of Google’s original announcement from 2020:

Home activities

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Olga Strel

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Google’s Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

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Google's Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

In a recent LinkedIn discussion, Gary Illyes, Analyst at Google, revealed that the search engine takes a binary approach when assessing a website’s lastmod signal from sitemaps.

The revelation came as Illyes encouraged website owners to upgrade to WordPress 6.5, which now natively supports the lastmod element in sitemaps.

When Mark Williams-Cook asked if Google has a “reputation system” to gauge how much to trust a site’s reported lastmod dates, Illyes stated, “It’s binary: we either trust it or we don’t.”

No Shades Of Gray For Lastmod

The lastmod tag indicates the date of the most recent significant update to a webpage, helping search engines prioritize crawling and indexing.

Illyes’ response suggests Google doesn’t factor in a website’s history or gradually build trust in the lastmod values being reported.

Google either accepts the lastmod dates provided in a site’s sitemap as accurate, or it disregards them.

This binary approach reinforces the need to implement the lastmod tag correctly and only specify dates when making meaningful changes.

Illyes commends the WordPress developer community for their work on version 6.5, which automatically populates the lastmod field without extra configuration.

Accurate Lastmod Essential For Crawl Prioritization

While convenient for WordPress users, the native lastmod support is only beneficial if Google trusts you’re using it correctly.

Inaccurate lastmod tags could lead to Google ignoring the signal when scheduling crawls.

With Illyes confirming Google’s stance, it shows there’s no room for error when using this tag.

Why SEJ Cares

Understanding how Google acts on lastmod can help ensure Google displays new publish dates in search results when you update your content.

It’s an all-or-nothing situation – if the dates are deemed untrustworthy, the signal could be disregarded sitewide.

With the information revealed by Illyes, you can ensure your implementation follows best practices to the letter.


Featured Image: Danishch/Shutterstock

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

There’s one thing standing between you and several days of SEO, socializing, and Singaporean sunshine: your boss (and their Q4 budget 😅).

But don’t worry—we’ve got your back. Here are 5 arguments (and an example message) you can use to persuade your boss to send you to Ahrefs Evolve.

About Ahrefs Evolve

  • 2 days in sunny Singapore (Oct 24–25)
  • 500 digital marketing enthusiasts
  • 18 top speakers from around the world

Learn more and buy tickets.

SEO is changing at a breakneck pace. Between AI Overviews, Google’s rolling update schedule, their huge API leak, and all the documents released during their antitrust trial, it’s hard to keep up. What works in SEO today?

You could watch a YouTube video or two, maybe even attend an hour-long webinar. Or, much more effective: you could spend two full days learning from a panel of 18 international SEO experts, discussing your takeaways live with other attendees.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve speakers from around the world.

Our world-class speakers are tackling the hardest problems and best opportunities in SEO today. The talk agenda covers topics like:

  • Responding to AI Overviews: Amanda King will teach you how to respond to AI Overviews, Google Gemini, and other AI search functions.
  • Surviving (and thriving) Google’s algo updates: Lily Ray will talk through Google’s recent updates, and share data-driven recommendations for what’s working in search today.
  • Planning for the future of SEO: Bernard Huang will talk through the failures of AI content and the path to better results.

(And attendees will get video recordings of each session, so you can share the knowledge with your teammates too.)

View the full talk agenda here.

There’s no substitute for meeting with influencers, peers, and partners in real life. 

Conferences create serendipity: chance encounters and conversations that can have a huge positive impact on you and your business. By way of example, these are some of the real benefits that have come my way from attending conferences:

  • Conversations that lead to new customers for our business,
  • Invitations to speak at events,
  • New business partnerships and co-marketing opportunities, and
  • Meeting people that we went on to hire.

There’s a “halo” effect that lingers long after the event is over: the people you meet will remember you for longer, think more highly of you, and be more likely to help you out, should you ask.

(And let’s not forget: there’s a lot of information, particularly in SEO, that only gets shared in person.)

The “international” part of Evolve matters too. Evolve is a different crowd to your local run-of-the-mill conference. It’s a chance to meet with people from markets you wouldn’t normally meet—from Australia to Indonesia and beyond.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve attendees by home country.

If you’re an Ahrefs customer (thank you!), you’ll learn tons of tips, tricks and workflow improvements from attending Evolve. You’ll have opportunities to:

  • Attend talks from the Ahrefs team, showcasing advanced features and strategies that you can use in your own business.
  • Pick our brains at the Ahrefs booth, where we’ll offer informal 1:1 coaching sessions and previews of up-coming releases (like our new content optimization tool 🤫).
  • Join dedicated Ahrefs training workshops, hosted by the Ahrefs team and Ahrefs power users (tickets for these workshops will sold separately).

As a manager myself, there are two questions I need answered when approving expenses:

  • Is this a reasonable cost?
  • Will we see a return on this investment?

To answer those questions: early bird tickets for Evolve start at $570. For context, “super early bird” tickets for MozCon (another popular SEO conference) this year were almost twice as much: $999.

There’s a lot included in the ticket price too:

  • World-class international speakers,
  • 5-star hotel venue,
  • 5-star hotel food (two tea breaks with snacks & lunch),
  • Networking afterparty, and
  • Full talk recordings to later share with your team.

SEO is a crucial growth channel for most businesses. If you can improve your company’s SEO performance after attending Evolve (and we think you will), you’ll very easily see a positive return on the investment.

Traveling to tropical Singapore (and eating tons of satay) is great for you, but it’s also great for your team. Attending Evolve is a chance to break with routine, reignite your passion for marketing, and come back to your job reinvigorated.

This would be true for any international conference, but it goes double for Singapore. It’s a truly unique place: an ultra-safe, high-tech city that brings together dozens of different cultures.

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Little India in Singapore

You’ll discover different beliefs, working practices, and ways of business—and if you’re anything like me, come back a richer, wiser person for the experience.

If you’re nervous about pitching your boss on attending Evolve, remember: the worst that can happen is a polite “not this time”, and you’ll find yourself in the same position you are now.

So here goes: take this message template, tweak it to your liking, and send it to your boss over email or Slack… and I’ll see you in Singapore 😉

Email template

Hi [your boss’ name],

Our SEO tool provider, Ahrefs, is holding an SEO and digital marketing conference in Singapore in October. I’d like to attend, and I think it’s in the company’s interest:

  • The talks will help us respond to all the changes happening in SEO today. I’m particularly interested in the talks about AI and recent Google updates. 
  • I can network with my peers. I can discover what’s working at other companies, and explore opportunities for partnerships and co-marketing.
  • I can learn how we can use Ahrefs better across the organization.
  • I’ll come back reinvigorated with new ideas and motivation, and I can share my top takeaways and talk recordings with my team after the event.

Early bird tickets are $570. Given how important SEO is to the growth of our business, I think we’ll easily see a return from the spend.

Can we set up time to chat in more detail? Thanks!

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