With Google search results evermore gravitating towards ‘Zero Click’ trends, it should come as no surprise that having an optimised Google Business Profile (formerly ‘Google My Business’) is an absolute must for all businesses seeking local exposure.
As you’re already likely aware, Google Business is a free resource that can help deliver a local presence across Google Search and Google Maps, but did you know that it’s hands-down one of, if not the most, important ranking signals for local organic search rankings?
As with all digital real estate, Google’s search results pages are constantly evolving and with the heightened competition of more businesses moving online, a trend we’ve seen accelerate in the COVID-era, getting local businesses to rank prominently and grab the attention of potential customers over competitors in search results has become even more challenging.
If you’re in the position that many local business owners find themselves in (i.e. that ranking locally is absolutely vital to your business survival), then local search engine optimisation is a critical component of your overall marketing optimisation strategy you can’t afford to overlook.
Critical Local SEO Ranking Signals
Not that you should ever consider your Google Business Profile complete, but there are certain optimisation aspects that you should prioritise when optimising your profile as part of your local search strategy. The most crucial Google Business profile optimisations are:
- Complete Google Business profile data
The more detailed and accurate your profile information is, the greater the likelihood that it will be served in search results. Complete profile data is important for both Google and local users, so make sure all fields are complete and that your profile effectively communicates what your business does, where you’re located and how potential customers can acquire the products and/or services that your business offers. Never assume that users can fill in any ‘information gaps’ in your profile.
- Accurate operating hours
With a significant percentage of all local searches resulting in phone calls or requests for directions to the business, the importance of accurate operating hours should be obvious. After all, if you want to receive phone calls from users about the products and services your business offers or would like potential customers to tap ‘Directions’ and have Google guide them to your place of business, it suffices to say you want those interactions to occur within your actual business operating hours.
- High-quality business photos
First impressions matter and optimising your profile with high-quality photos is an excellent way to convey a positive impression of your business and its product and service offerings to potential customers. Research by Google highlights the impact that regularly uploading high-quality photos has on building trust with potential customers via Google Business, in that business profiles with photos receive 35% more clicks through to the business website and 42% more requests for directions.
- Positive customer reviews
Effectively managing customer reviews, both positive and negative, is one of the best ways to increase search visibility while also conveying a positive impression of your business to potential customers. Don’t forget that not only do customer reviews send indexable signals to Google but also that owner responses show Google the page is actively managed (which conveys and builds trust) and that a lack of owner responses to negative reviews can also negatively impact search result visibility.
Additional Local SEO ranking Signals
In addition to a well-optimised profile, the following are important local search engine ranking signals that you don’t want to overlook if you’re to establish a strong local search presence and outcompete other businesses for the attention of potential customers.
- Online directories and citations websites (e.g. Foursquare, Yellow Pages and HotFrog)
- Review website listings such as Yelp (i.e. for customers) and Glassdoor (i.e. for employees)
- Facebook Business Page with consistent website and description details
- Diverse and high-quality inbound links from trusted and relevant local websites
Has your Google Business Profile been suspended?
If your Google Business Profile has been suspended, don’t expect Google to give you an explanation as to why it’s happened. There are specific guidelines that businesses using Google Business must follow, and as a business owner leveraging this free and important tool, it’s definitely in your best interest to know what these guidelines are and to follow them at all times. As the terms of service are updated regularly, be sure to check the ‘Guidelines for Representing Your Business On Google’ document to stay up to date with any changes that could impact your profile.
This is especially important if your business is in what Google sees as spammy or high-risk categories, like real estate, pest control and law, as it scrutinises businesses in these industries more so than others and that puts your business at real risk of having its profile suspended for the slightest misdemeanour. The most common reasons for a suspended account profile include:
- Keyword stuffing in business names
If you already have a business name that includes a location name (e.g. “Windsor Plumbing Company”), and this is the name that you used when setting up your profile, then this is fine. However, if your business name is “ABC Plumbing” and you update your profile name after it’s been verified to something like “ABC Plumbing – Plumbers in Windsor”, that’s considered keyword stuffing and there’s a very good chance that your profile would be suspended due to this.
According to Google’s guidelines:
“To help customers find your business online, accurately represent your business name. Your name should reflect your business’s real-world name, as used consistently on your storefront, website, stationery, and as known to customers.
Including unnecessary information in your business name is not permitted and could result in the suspension of your Business Profile.”
- Virtual office or coworking space
Generally, Google doesn’t allow businesses working out of co-working addresses to have a profile, unless they rent a dedicated office space, have permanent business signage outside and have staff working there during business hours — and they will usually check via a video verification call when setting up and verifying the profile. So, although you may at first succeed in setting up a listing, there’s always the possibility that your account could be suspended at a later date.
- Sharing a business address
Sometimes Google Business profiles are suspended because two businesses share the same address or because a home-based professional or tradesperson operates two or more businesses from the same location. While it may not be feasible to create one business and one profile and set up different categories, setting up multiple profiles violates Google’s guidelines and will likely trigger a profile suspension.
The key takeaways from the above are that by optimising your profile and following the guidelines you’ll maximise your local search exposure and you won’t have to worry about your account being suspended, so you can continue to leverage the benefits that a well-optimised — and even more importantly, active — Google Business Profile delivers for your business.
Need a hand getting your business in front of more local customers looking for businesses like yours? NOUS can help. Give the team a call on (07) 3003 0722 or email [email protected] to chat about your local search engine optimisation and digital marketing goals today.