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Google My Business: Setup & Optimization

Last updated on August 26, 2020
25 minute read
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Intermediate
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Whether you’ve just read our introductory guide to Google My Business and are setting up your account for the first time or you’ve already claimed your account and are looking for tips to get the most out of your page, this guide walks you through the elements of a stellar GMB profile. 

Google My Business is a business listing that displays your company’s information, such as location, contact information, and user reviews, across various Google features and platforms. Free and easy to use, your GMB account allows you to ensure that customers are getting the most detailed, accurate information about your business when they encounter you in online searches. 

Here is what a Google My Business profile looks like in the search engine results pages: 

Your GMB listing is an important part of your local SEO strategy, and it allows you to interact with customers right in the SERP. As a business owner, you can benefit greatly from taking ownership of your GMB profile and optimizing it to ensure the best organic search traffic possible. By the end of this guide, you’ll understand all the elements of your GMB profile and how to make the best of them. 

Verify that your GMB account hasn’t already been claimed

The first step is to create your GMB listing or claim if it already exists. The best way to find out if you already have a listing is to Google the name of your business. 

If you see a Knowledge Graph listing on the right-hand side of the results page, that means the business listing already exists, and you need to claim it (basically tell Google that this is your business). To do this, click on the question “Own this business?” and follow the instructions to proceed. 

Google My Business "own this business?" example

Start the GMB setup 

Whether you’re claiming an existing listing or starting from scratch, follow the steps below to get your account set up correctly.

  1. In order to set up a GMB listing, you must have a Google or Gmail account. Make sure you’re logged into the Google account you want to be associated with your business, whether it’s your personal email address or a general one you’ve created for your company.
    1. If your listing has already been claimed, log in to the account it was originally claimed with to view and edit your GMB account. 
  2. Once you’re logged in, head to google.com/business and click on the blue “Manage Now” in the top right-hand corner. 

  •  Enter the name of your business 
    • If you’re creating a new account, enter your business name and address. Make sure everything is correct! If you’re updating an existing account, check this info to make sure it’s up to date. 

 

  •  Add the location of your business 
    • At this step, you will be asked, “Do you want to add a location customers can visit, like a store or office?”

      • If you select yes, you will be prompted to add the address of your location. Please enter your physical business address EXACTLY as it appears on your website. 

You will then be asked if you deliver outside of your business address. If you operate a tour outside of your business location, please add the service areas.

      • If you don’t have a brick-and-mortar location (for example, if you operate from a dock, pier, or somewhere other than a business location) and don’t want your business address to be visible, check no when asked if you want to add a location. You will then be prompted to select your delivery area. *Note: If you want to use Reserve with Google, you will need to add a physical location. We recommend adding a physical business location if possible. 
    • If you click no, you will be asked to enter the geographic area(s) where you operate your tour. Do not select an area that is outside of where you do business to try to capture a larger audience; this could cause Google to suspend your profile. Be honest. 

 

  • Choose the category that fits your business best: 
    • Next, choose your business category. Select the category that is most closely related to your business. This tells Google which type of searchers to show your listing to. If you’re unsure of how to categorize your business, try to choose one that is broader than your current classification, yet still relevant to your business. With over 3,000 options available, you should be able to find one that is right for your business.

 

  • What contact details do you want to show to customers? 
    • Add your business phone number and website. If you’re claiming an existing listing, double and triple-check that this information is correct. You don’t want to turn clients away by sending them to the wrong site or a phone number that is no longer associated with your business. 
    • A local area code helps to legitimize your listing. 

Verify your business

This is the most important step in setting up your GMB account! You might have to wait a few days if you’re verifying by mail, which is the most common method for local businesses, but it’s one of the most effective ways to verify with Google that you are the owner of the business listed at this address. 

There are a few different ways to verify your business: by mail, phone, email, or instant verification. 

Mail 

This is the most common way for small businesses to verify their GMB account. Depending on your type of business, this might be the only method available to you. 

  1. Sign in to your GMB account, select the business you want to verify (if you have more than one), and proceed until you reach the verification step. 
  2. Double-check your business address to make sure it’s correct. You have the option to add a contact name if you want the verification postcard to be addressed to you. When you’re sure the contact information is correct, click the button that says “Mail.” 
  3. Google will then send a postcard with an important verification code to the address you provided. It could take up to five business days to arrive, and it looks to many people like a piece of junk mail. Once you’ve requested your postcard, keep a close eye out in the mail for it to arrive. Now, we wait… 
  4. DO NOT edit any of your contact or business information while you’re waiting for the postcard to arrive. It could confuse the process.
  5. Your postcard has arrived! The five-digit code is only valid for a short period of time, so make sure you verify your page as soon as the postcard arrives. To do so, log into your GMB account and select “Verify now.” 
  6. Enter the five-digit code on your postcard in the appropriate field, and submit. Now you’re verified!

If for some reason your postcard doesn’t arrive or is damaged and you can’t read the code, you can always request another one. 

Phone

Verifying by phone is similar to the mail process but more instant. If you have this option available to you, then it should only take a few minutes. Please note you need to use a phone that can receive text messages.

  1. Logged into your account, select the business you want to verify and select “Verify by phone.” 
  2. You’ll receive a text message with a five-digit code. Enter it in the appropriate box, and you’re all set!

Email 

Some businesses are eligible to verify by email. If you have this option available to you:

  1. Double-check that your email address is correct, then select “Verify by email.” 
  2. You’ll receive an email with a verification button. Just click the button, and you’re good to go. 

Instant verify

This option will only be available if you’ve previously verified your business on Google Search Console. If you have, you’ll sign in to GMB with the same account you’ve already verified on Google Search Console and select “Instant Verify” if it pops up. 

Optimize your GMB listing

Now that you’ve set up and verified your GMB account,  it’s time to optimize it to make sure you’re getting the most out of this tool. Logged into your GMB account, click on the listing you’d like to update (if you have more than one). You should see a dashboard similar to this: 

Once here, select the “Info” tab to start editing. To edit a field, just click on the pencil icon next to it. You want to add as much information as you can here, including: 

  • A high-quality business photo
    • You don’t want this to look pixelated or blurry, so make sure you’re using a large enough file (you’ll find more photo guidelines later in this guide). 
  • If you haven’t done so already, add your location, whether that’s a physical address or the area where you provide services.
      • If you’re adding a physical address, make sure it matches your website address EXACTLY. 
      • For example, if your address is 123 Main Street STE 114, make sure you’re writing it like that across the board, and not using variations like Suite 114. 
    • Service area — Add all the areas you provide a service in. You can enter cities, postal codes, or regions.
      • Add a service area description, like:
        • Providing tours along the North Coast of Hawaii
        • Snorkeling tours on the eastern coast of Oahu
  • Hours of operation — Make sure to update these if they change seasonally.
  • Website 
  • Phone number
  • Highlights and attributes, any other pertinent information that showcases the unique characteristics of your business. These might include being wheelchair accessible, offering free WiFi, catering to vegan guests, and more. These fall under four categories: Accessibility, Amenities, Highlights, and Planning. GMB recently added a Black-Owned attribute in response to the surge in searches for Black-owned businesses. Similar attributes included Women-Led and Veteran-Owned. Attributes like these are a great way to stand out and help people easily extend support.
  • Advanced information (if applicable): 
    • Store code — This is used for multi-location businesses to keep the listings organized.
    • Labels — If you have multiple locations, you can use labels to designate regions or other details that differentiate each location. 
    • Adwords location — If you use Google Ads for call tracking, you’ll want to designate the location extension here. 

Pro tip: Remember that anyone can suggest edits to your information, and Google could approve these edits without your knowledge (only the primary owner receives an email notification when edits are approved), so it’s important to not only get all your information right the first time but also to check on your listing regularly to make sure it doesn’t have any incorrect edits. 

GMB Photo Tips 

Photos are an important part of your GMB profile, giving searchers a visual idea of what they can expect from your business. According to Google, businesses with photos get 35% more clicks to their website and 42% percent more requests for driving directions in Google Maps. Being able to see what a business looks like instills trust and leads more customers to you, so don’t skip this step. 

Your photos should be at least 720 pixels wide by 720 pixels high to ensure good quality and should be either JPG or PNG files. Go through this checklist to make sure you have all your visuals covered! 

  • Cover photo: This is the most important photo because it’s the main image that shows up in search results. Select a high-quality image that represents your business well. This image is used in thumbnails on Google Maps, so make sure it’s discernible and will stand out. 
  • Profile photo: This photo appears when you upload new photos, videos, or reviews. You can either use a high-quality image of your logo or, to add a human touch, a photo of yourself. 
  • Other photos: Because of the way the images are displayed, it’s always best to add additional photos in groups of threes. Some photos you can add include: 
    • Exterior of your business: If you have a physical location, add at least three photos of the exterior of your business. If you don’t operate out of a single location, you can show off the area where you provide tours, like the North Shore of Oahu, with some stunning shots! For some variety, include pictures taken in the morning, afternoon, and night. 
    • Interior of your business: If you have a physical location, add three shots of your business to give customers an idea of what to expect from it. 
    • Employees at work: It’s really important to show photos of your tour or activity operators at work. You want at least three of these, but if you have more, add them! We recommend action shots of you or your employees delivering your service, whether that’s providing a tour, guiding patrons around a city, or rafting down the river. Customers will be much more excited about your tours or activities if they can see others having a blast with your company!
  • Customer photos: If you notice photos on your account that you didn’t upload yourself, don’t worry! Other people can add photos of your business when they’re giving you a review. This helps build your photo library and showcases customers’ experiences with your business. 

GMB Video Tips

Videos are not a requirement on your GMB listing, but if you have them, they’re a great way to make your profile stand out among the rest. If you have videos of your tours or activities, it’s a good idea to add them, but you’ll likely have to do some editing before you can add them. Videos should be: 

  • 30 seconds or shorter
  • 100 MB or less
  • 720p resolution or higher 

Think of these as little snippets that show off what your company has to offer!

Maintain your GMB listing

It doesn’t take long to set up your GMB profile once you have all the information and files at the ready, but this doesn’t mean that you can forget about it once it’s done. It’s vital to stay on top of your listing to ensure your customers are always getting the most accurate and up-to-date information. Follow these quick tips to keep your GMB performing the best it can. 

  • Contact information: Make sure this is always up to date and matches the information on your website. You want to ensure your NAP information (name, address, phone number) is identical everywhere on your website (footer, location page, etc.) and GMB account. It’s all about the details here! Like we mentioned earlier, if you use STE 114 in one place, don’t change it to Suite 114 somewhere else. Consistency is key. 
  • Review sites: You also want to make sure your contact information and business address is correct and up to date on all review sites such as TripAdvisor, Viator, Yelp, etc. This helps Google integrate these reviews with your GMB listing. 
  • Designate categories: One of the ways in which Google knows to serve up your business in a search result is through categories. To make sure your listing is effective, you need to designate the appropriate service categories for your business. Select the category that best represents your business for your primary category. This is the only one that searchers will see on your listing. You can use additional categories if they apply to your business, but do not select any that don’t apply directly to what you do. 
  • GMB Reviews: Now that you have a GMB listing, users can review your business through Google Reviews, and these will show up on your listing. A few things to keep in mind: 
    • Try to respond kindly and sincerely to both positive and especially negative reviews. Check out our guide to responding to reviews. 
    • Do your best to get legitimate reviews for your business to help you rank in searches in your service area. According to BrightLocal, businesses appearing in the top three of the Local Map Pack have an average of 47 Google Reviews, so it’s important to start getting in as many reviews as you can. Some ways to do this include sending an email to customers after they take a tour asking them to review you on a third-party review site, having tour guides mention it at the end of a tour, or sending out a call on your social media channels. 
    • Our partners at Podium can help you get reviews on your site! 

That little square of information about your business in the results page might seem simple, but now that you’ve learned everything that goes into it, you probably have a better idea of how important this tool is to your business. Now that you’ve set up and optimized your Google My Business account, you’re better positioned to appear in local searches and attract more customers to your business. 

You can sit back and take a break now, but make sure you stay on top of your account and continue to make sure your information is accurate and up to date, especially because others can suggest edits. Set a reminder on your calendar to check up on your listing once a month or so. It will only take a couple of minutes! 

If you have any questions or run into any issues while setting up your account, get in touch with your FareHarbor account manager for help. 

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