If it’s not yet clear, A LOT of current local SEO work revolves around Google. It’s the largest search engine there is, by a long shot, but it doesn’t stop there.
Because of this, it’s immensely important to properly set up and optimize your Google My Business listing (sounds circular, we know, but Google will do that to you).
Your GMB listing is critical to creating and maintaining consistency across your online business listings, and making sure that Google knows who – and where – you are. An improperly set up GMB page can lead to loads of missed traffic, meaning lost leads, meaning lost clients.
That’s why, on top of sections about verifying and optimizing your GMB listing, we also include a section on how to remedy one of the biggest issues that pops up, which is duplicate listings.
Also, we’ve added an intro to an online listing tool called Yext, which will help you manage all of your numerous business listings online to ensure consistency and accuracy across the board.
Ready to get your law firm on the map with some killer Google Maps SEO strategies?
What is a GMB page?
GMB (Google My Business) is an easy-to-use marketing tool that anyone can use for free. It’s designed to make life easier for businesses, brands, artists, and organizations to manage their online presence across Google.
What’s the difference between Google My Business, Google Places for Business, and Google+ Pages Dashboard?
Google My Business (GMB) has been integrated with Google+ Local, the business listing that used to appear for local businesses in Google+. If you previously used Google Places for Business or Google+ Pages dashboard to manage your business information, your account has been automatically upgraded to Google My Business.
What is the importance of GMB?
Google My Business helps streamline your business information, such as business name, addresses, phone numbers and business hours across all Google products. AdWords, Insights, Google+, Maps and Search are all closely tied into Google My Business. It simplifies the process of harnessing the power of the Google tools to get more traffic to your business.
“You simply don’t exist if you don’t create a Google My Business page…”
- It’s one of Google’s primary sources of data
Google collects the information on your Google My Business and put it into a massive server cluster. Together with the information collected from other primary sources (Aggregators, Mapmaker, etc.), these will be reviewed and used to match information of your business listings across the web. It is essential for business owners to set up the information on your GMB correctly before verification.
- It improves search visibility
Once you create and verify your GMB listing, your most important info will be on display right away, with the rest of your content only a click away from those searching for you. You’ll still be listed in the regular search engine results, but now you’ll also take over the right-hand column, giving you even more exposure.
- It puts your business on the maps
Google Maps is still accessed on over half of all smartphones in the US as of July 2015. Apple is making great strides with its own mapping app, but there’s no doubt about the current popularity of Google Maps. Therefore, it’s vital that your business – or those of your clients – is listed on the Google Maps platform.
- It manages business information
GMB dashboard lets you easily manage your business information that Google users see when they search for your business. Being able to update it in one place and have it reflect those changes across the board is an advantage for you. When people find your business on Google Maps and Search, make sure that they have access to information like your phone number, street address, operating hours, website details, photos and other relevant information that might make searches more focused and successful.
- It connects you with clients
GMB offers a place for customers to leave ratings and reviews about your business. It makes it easier for you to monitor and respond to positive and negative reviews. This allows potential customers to see what others have to say about your services.
After setting up your business listing under your account, you will need to verify the listing to prove that you’re authorized to manage the business listing. This usually takes place by mail or postal verification. Google sends a postcard with a pin number that you will need to enter on the verification page of your listing to prove that you are indeed the business owner.
The Value of a Verified Google My Business Page
- Builds Trust
A verified Google My Business establishes trust in the eyes of the general population. It can both help customers find you and tell them the story of your business. It’s twice as likely to be considered reputable by everyone.
- Allows optimization and update of business data
After your business is verified, you’re free to make corrections. Business owners should ensure that their business page stands out and attract new customers. Details should be rechecked from time to time. If possible, owners should try refreshing images or uploading higher res versions.
- It prevents misinformation
If your business is in a brand-new location, it simply doesn’t exist, but odds are you’re taking over a business space that was previously occupied. Without claiming your business, people will still be seeing the old advertisements for the previous business.
- Sets proper category
Verified listings get to specify categories that they would like to associate with their business. There can be a difference between an Law Firm and a Personal Injury Attorney, so it’s best not to let Google make the choice for you. Categories should describe the overall core business and should not pertain to other businesses that are nearby or related.
- Creates opportunities
A verified Google My Business allows you to open yourself up for customer comments, tips, suggestions, and critiques. It would not only help potential customers decide to hire you for your services, but It would also help you see the areas of your business that needs improvement.
- The business owner made NAP changes in the dashboard while waiting the PIN was already on the process. If this happens, the PIN will be invalid and you will have to redo the process.
- A secondary request for a PIN is made. The first one to show up will not work and is invalidated once the second one is requested.
GMB Optimization Strategy
Importance of optimization
- Google My Business is one of the best marketing resources for local businesses. If well-executed, they can give you a major business boost to your marketing efforts.
- Google My Business gives local businesses the opportunity to show their customers what their business is all about. It’s more important than ever to make sure that their business stands out among others in search results.
How should you optimize your GMB page?
- Make sure that your page follows GOOGLE’S BASIC GUIDELINES
- BUSINESS NAME should reflect your business’ real-world name, as used consistently on website, stationery, and as known to customers. Adding unnecessary information to your name is not permitted. Format consistency is critical!
- ADDRESS should be precise, accurate address to describe your business location. Suite numbers should be on address line two. Format consistency is critical!
- PHONE NUMBER should connect to the individual business location directly. Should be specific to a business location.
- WEBSITE should represent your individual business location. One URL per location.
- Business hours should be set as the regular customer-facing hours of operation.
- PROPER CATEGORY SELECTION IS A MUST!
Boost your Google Maps SEO by choosing the most accurate categories for your business as possible. By doing so, you are clearly communicating to customers (and Google) what kinds of services your business provides. Instead of picking a broad, loosely focused category that describes your business, go for the narrow, specific category. The more specific, the better. This will greatly enhance user experience.
Example Categories (Don’t just select “law firm” unless you have many practice areas:
- Personal Injury Attorney
- Bankruptcy Attorney
- Criminal Justice Attorney
- Family Law Attorney
- Estate Planning Attorney
For Businesses with MULTIPLE LOCATIONS
- There should only be one listing per business location.
- Each location must have a unique phone number.
- Locations need to be staffed during business hours. There is a possibility of random Google verification. Staff should provide Google with data that matches with their GMB page.
- All business listings must have the same name and the same category if they provide the same service. Avoid adding the city on the business name.
- Manage and add high quality photos
Business owners need to upload photos to clearly indicate their brand to consumers. Not only will customers use those photos as a reference when trying to locate a business for the first time, but it also provides Google with more definitive proof that they are in fact a legitimate business. The Manage Photos section of Google My Business includes Identity Photos, Interior Photos, Exterior Photos, Photos at work, Team photos and Additional photos
- IDENTITY PHOTOS
The most important section. Business owner should upload a Profile Photo, a Logo Photo, and a Cover Photo. Once you have all 3 different photos uploaded, you can then select your preferred photo that will show up in similar search results above by doing clicking the 3 vertical dots next to the words.
The selected photo will be shown in search results and on maps.
- INTERIOR PHOTOS
For owners that would like their customers to understand what it’s like inside their business, make sure to put quality interior photos.
- EXTERIOR PHOTOS
For owners that would like their customers to know what their place of business looks like from the outside, this would be the place to put recognizable photos so they can find it.
- PHOTOS AT WORK
Let your audience know what you do. Photos capturing the work atmosphere of your business is a good idea.
- TEAM PHOTOS
The need to be able to put a face to a name is equally important for anybody in the business. This section would help you put pictures of your employees and team members and letting your audience know who they are!
- ADDITIONAL PHOTOS
Feel free to add any other photos that you think would communicate well with your customers. Photos can help increase your SEO rankings and online authority.
- If possible, owners should try refreshing images or uploading higher res versions.
- At least 5 photos should be uploaded to each business page
- Photos should show well in the limited 64 x 64 pixel display that Google provides on the front page.
- Geotagging images can also be done
- Name the image with long string of custom keywords.
- Latitude and Longitude should be added. You can use Windows Photo Gallery to Geo-tag and rename images
- Work on your reviews
- There should be at least 5 reviews per business page.
The more reviews you have and the more positive they are, the more people will feel comfortable doing business with you.
- Respond to both negative and positive reviews.
It shows that the owner remains abreast of his/her reviews and listing, and also forms the basis of keeping the profile fresh and updated. Replying to reviews can help you establish trust to your customers.
Getting Geeky: Advanced Tip
- Double check Mapmaker – Check map marker location on Mapmaker. If you have a listing already, zoom way in and note where the marker is. Now copy your address without suite into Classic maps and see if it’s correct.
- In working with your reviews, you can use this tool: https://whitespark.ca/review-handout-generator/
- You can use Windows Photo Gallery tool to Geotag your images.
- Name the image with long string of custom keywords.
- GMB Optimization Pro Tip: Latitude and Longitude should be added.
GMB Duplicate Removal
How do we consider a listing a duplicate?
When a local business has more than one listing for a single physical location or a business phone number in an online directory, these other listings are considered duplicates. Remember, there should only be:
- One listing per business location.
- A unique phone number and website for each location.
Below is an example of business having two listings in a single location:
Why removing duplicates is important?
- Duplicate Google My Business listings can be one of the greatest threats to any local Maps SEO campaign. A variety of negative outcomes can arise from the presence of duplicate listings, detracting from your local business’s ability to rank well and win customers.
- If you have duplicates, one of the listings might outrank the others. You may end up ranking the one with an outdated address, a wrong phone number or other issues showing up for your searches instead of your approved, authoritative listing. This may mislead your new customers, causing you to lose business.
- Reviews will be split amongst several listings including duplicates. Instead of having a single profile with 30 positive reviews, you may end up having some of those under the duplicates. If the duplicate listing with only few reviews shows up under the search results, the great reputation you are building will be invisible to your potential customers.
- One duplicate listing with bad data can be replicated across multiple platforms. Old listings with incorrect information can end up creating new listings with duplicated errors.
- Duplicates will confuse Google as to which of your listings to trust. It is essential for business owners to send a single, clear signal about their business to the search engines from each place it is listed.
- In updating information, you may end up editing the duplicate listings. Your changes may never appear live because you are not updating the correct one that the search engine has decided to be the most authoritative for your business.
How to remove duplicates?
- Check Google Thoroughly
- See if an existing GMB page is already set up. It’s best to claim an existing one. Pick the strongest one to optimize based on ranking factors & NAP integrity and remove the rest. Make sure it’s claimed, managed and verified. The best place to check for duplicates is now in Google Maps. Google Map Maker was the best place to do duplicate search, but unfortunately, the editing service was officially closed on March 31, 2017. Many of its features are being slowly integrated into Google Maps.
- How to check for duplicates:
- Open your Google Maps
- Start by searching for your Phone Number + Business Name.
- Search also for tightest version of Business Name + City.
- Check main category and tightest version of address with no suite.
- Then zoom out 3 cities wide and search just for shortest version of the name. (Especially important with attorneys who often set up multiple satellite offices that are in violation.)
Note: Before performing the Google Maps optimization strategies below, always make sure you check all the listings to see if there are reviews that need to be moved to the one that you should be keeping.
What are the types duplicates?
1. Listings for Businesses at Physical Locations:
a) Two listings for the same business at the same address
What to do:
- If they are both verified, you will first need to make sure that you have the management for both listings. Follow the steps in this support page, if you need to request for management. As soon as you have the access to both listings, contact Google My Business support and ask them to merge both listings for you.
- If only one is verified, go into Google Maps and get the short URL of both listings and write them down (save this somewhere).
- Make sure that you have management of the verified listing. The verified listing should be the one that you should keep. To remove the unverified listing, you can either report them to Google support or use the Suggest Edit option on the listing page.
- Reaching out to Google support is much faster. Make sure that you point out the URL of the listing that you would like to keep and the unverified listing that you would like to be removed.
- You can also use the Suggest Edit option on the listing page. Click Suggest an Edit and switch the bar for “Place is permanently closed or has never existed” to Yes. Choose “Duplicate” as the reason and click Submit. This will submit a report to Google which will be under review.
b) Two listings for the same business at different addresses
What to do:
- If the incorrect address is an old address of the business (they were there at some point in time), contact Google My Business support or reach out to them via Twitter Support (@googlemybiz). Ask them to mark the old listing as moved.
- If the incorrect address is one that the business has never existed at, use the Suggest Edit option on the listing page and switch the bar for “Place is permanently closed or has never existed” to Yes. Choose “Never Existed” as the reason and click Submit.
2. Listings for Service Area Businesses (SAB) without storefronts / Virtual offices
a) Two listings for the same business at the same address or different addresses
What to do:
- If they are both verified, you will first need to make sure that you have the management for both listings. Follow the steps in this support page, if you need to request for management. As soon as you have the access to both listings, contact Google and ask them to merge both listings for you.
- If only one is verified, go into Google Maps and get the short URL of the unverified listing. Contact Google support to remove the listing. Inform them that the listing is a service area business and is not permitted to be listed on the map.
Note: Unverified listings for SABs should never be marked as closed. They should always be deleted.
3. Professional/Practitioner Duplicates
As much as possible, we need to avoid creating practitioner listings. Overall, it won’t really help with the rankings. There’s even a high chance that it would compete with the main practice listing that you’re trying to rank if it gets more authority through split reviews.
What To Do:
- For unverified practitioner listings who no longer works at your location, but did at some point, contact Google My Business support and ask them to mark the listing as moved. In order to accomplish this, the practitioner listing *must* be unverified. If it’s currently verified you need to get access to it first and delete it from your Google My Business dashboard to make it unverified.
- If a listing exists for an employee who never worked at that address, use the Suggest Edit option on the listing page and switch the bar for “Place is permanently closed or has never existed” to Yes. Choose “Never Existed” as the reason and click Submit.
- In optimizing attorney listings, refrain from claiming the page and do suggest edits instead. Explain the situation in your edit notes without talking about the ranking issue. So explain there is already a practice listing and since this is just an individual attorney listing, the most relevant page is the practice page.
- For already claimed practitioner listings, avoid using accurate categories of your practice. If possible use a more generalize category. This is necessary to reduce potential chance of hurting the rankings for the main practice listing.
- Make sure that the page links to the practitioner bio page and not the business home page. Add an image and description to highlight the practitioner, not the practice or main keywords.
What is it?
Yext is essentially a centralized platform that allows you to create, monitor and manage your local presence online from a single dashboard. Different levels of the subscription service allow for additional benefits such as duplicate listing suppressions, as well as claiming of listings that may otherwise be somewhat difficult to claim. The latter is due to the fact that there are listing sites that are fully automated and there is no other way to claim and manage listing but via the Yext platform.
Please note that Yext is not a MUST HAVE marketing tool, but it does offer a solution to address a lot of issues that when conducted manually may take an excessive amount of time and resources in managing, and more so on an ongoing basis.
Why it’s important:
- The amount of incorrect data, as well as the low level of data quality, on the internet has a direct impact on your local presence. Incorrect listings that do not coincide with your actual data are literally worthless from two different perspectives:
- The search engines cannot tie up two sets of different data (here you lose the value of the listings in terms of providing signals to your existing / correct listing).
- If a prospective client or customer should rely on data that is incorrect you may lose a lead. People searching and shopping online do not go out of their way to try and overcome inaccurate or incorrect data or listings!
Incorrect or incomplete information online causes small businesses to lose potential customers at a cost of $10 billion per year. — Based upon a study commission by YEXT in 2013
How To Setup Your Yext Account
Yext offers a number of different tiers for setting up an account. These range from $199 to $999 per annum. These options are displayed below, in the screenshot:
Assuming you have a Yext account and you are signed into the Yext dashboard. You will need to have the following materials available:
- NAP details (name, address and phone number) – it is vital that these are consistent with your existing Google listing.
- A set of suitable images for your listings. Including brand and account images which will be detailed below.
- Content for your listings.
- Be signed in to services that you intend to authorize (eg Google, Facebook and so on).
Bear in mind that the overall purpose of having a Yext account is that you can ensure all data is accurate across as many places as possible online. Although Yext does not offer the entire ‘spectrum’ of sites in terms of citation and listings websites out there, they have access to certain websites that are exclusive to this platform and often the only means of effectively controlling these is via the Yext dashboard and service.
Yext Account Setup
Once you have selected which Yext account you will be subscribing to, the basic setup is the same. Bear in mind that each of these external properties, populated by Yext, will act as an online asset in terms of your digital presence. Hence profiles, details, services and so forth need to be as complete and comprehensive as possible to maximize your firm’s digital presence.
The following screenshot has been obtained from Yext’s marketing materials and serves to illustrate the importance of key information that you should be including in your profile setup.
Below each of the steps in completing a “solid” profile is covered.
- Required Business InfoThis is pretty self explanatory. The address details should be 100% identical to your Google My Business listing. This accuracy is crucial to ensure that no duplicate or inaccurate listings are created which may result in issues being experienced in terms of overall digital presence, as well as your local marketing efforts.
Start with your broadest category (eg. Personal Injury Attorneys) and then add 4 or 5 additional categories that are more specific below that (eg Personal Injury Attorneys > Auto Accident etc)
- Featured Message
Add a strong call to action with a link to a desired landing page. This will allow for prospective client click throughs as well as a link building effect.
- Optional Business InformationThis area allows you to customize (and basically improve upon) your business listing. The business description is a key area that will help populate the various listings online with information about your firm and what sets you apart from your competitors. A solid business description will also appear more professional for both a website user as well as the search engines and you will benefit directly from taking the time to fill this part out.Business hours are shown on a lot of the websites where this data will be fed to, including Google My Business, and accurate business hours are essential for the end user.
- Email and WebsiteSelf-explanatory – here you can add different anchor text for links to your website – branded is recommended (eg John Smith Attorneys, PLC). A functioning email address is recommended.
- Photos and Videos
This serves as another opportunity to showcase your law firm, products, services and offerings. Additional embeds of any videos you may have will contribute to your firms Youtube channel and videos. Select images that are applicable to your practice areas, as well as images of your team, offices and related imagery. Ensure that these are named correctly, and if at all possible that the meta data within the images (usually customized within photo editing software) is aligned with your services and practice areas as well as being geo tagged.
- Social Media
Linking your social media profiles to your business, and your listings allows you to post directly to some of the listings, via the Yext dashboard. Additionally these are signals to the search engines to link your online ‘assets’ and attribute them accordingly.
- Google My Business
This is where you can manage your Google listing attributes and imagery. Self-explanatory
- Enhanced Content Lists
The enhanced content lists offer you the unique opportunity to further build out your online profiles and digital presence. These essentially allow for additional pages and excerpts of your products and services as well as enhanced bios of attorneys (mini about us pages). Many folks do not take advantage of these.
This is a new feature from Yext, and allows for Yext advertisers to utilize Uber in terms of advertising on directories and other sites for prospective clients to utilize Uber to get to the business in question. This is arguably geared more towards the restaurant and hospitality sectors, however there is nothing stopping you from using this within your own marketing efforts. There will of course be additional costs related to this sort of advertising where establishments offer the client a ‘free’ ride with an Uber driver.
- Additional Attributes
Again another area that you can use to differentiate your business, services and offerings. Additional information can be added to set your listings apart from your competitors.
Moving Forward with Your Google Maps SEO & GMB Optimization Efforts
Once you have completed your listing it is important to continually manage it and provided updates and tweaks moving forward. Additionally if you are subscribed to the premium listing, the system will identify duplications and data inaccuracies. These should be investigated and rectified wherever possible, and duplicates should be suppressed.
Yext also offers review management and these can be located within your dashboard, and should also be closely monitored to leverage the positive reviews as much as possible, and address any potential negative reviews that may arise.
Yext is not the be all and end all of listing management software or platforms, however the platform does offer a wide range benefits, as well as a fairly easy to use and manage system that can be used to your advantage in an ever increasing competitive landscape online.
Tag: Ultimate Guide to Google Maps SEO & 3-Pack Optimization – Black Fin