Greg Gifford says:If you do face-to-face business with customers, optimising the heck out of your Google Business Profile (GBP) listing is probably the most important thing you can do to get found in search. Yet so many people ignore it, or put minimal effort into it
What does an SEO need to do to optimise the heck out of Google Business Profile in 2022?
Get into the GBP dashboard and fill out everything you possibly can. You'd be surprised how many people will choose a single category - and it's probably not even the best category to choose. They'll drop their phone number and their website in, and they're done. They move on, and they never come back and touch it again. There are so many fields there, and you need to fill out all the appropriate categories. There's a really cool, interactive category list at PlePer.com that shows you all of the similar categories you should also choose. When you put in your website address, make sure that you've got UTM tracking on that website link, because mobile traffic doesn't get attributed correctly in Analytics. It gets sent over as direct traffic, but you want to make sure you're getting credit for all the organic visibility you're getting as a boost. You need to put in awesome photos of your business and change them regularly. You've got to preload questions into the Q&A section. This part is not in the GBP dashboard - it's actually a community discussion feature of Google Maps. A lot of people don't realise that the Q&A is there. You've got to go in and interact with it on your profile, preload your questions, monitor it, and answer new questions that come in. Also, you've got to have Google posts going because they are basically free advertising. There's so much to GBP that so many people don't do. It makes a massive difference into how well you show up in searches, and how well you convert people that see you when you do show up.
I've seen that you can be a service area business, which means you don't actually need to have a physical address anymore. What does this mean for businesses?
It's actually been around for a while for anybody that does face-to-face business with customers. If that's at a brick-and-mortar location, you will show your address, and everything is standard. However, if you're a service business, like a plumber, or electrician, where you still do face-to-face business but at the customer's location - that's a service area business. Typically, you need to tick the little box that says 'hide your address', which you need to get verified, but it's just not going to appear in search results. I'm sure you probably don't want random people showing up at your house in the middle of the day when you're not there. When you're a service area business, you hide your address, and then you can enter in service areas. Now, a lot of people think that's going to affect how you show up in search results, but where you rank is based on the address, not your service area. What it does, is draw that little line around your service area - so people up North won't call you if you only serve London. It's important to understand the distinction that filling out as much as you can doesn't necessarily mean you will rank in lots of places. It's more about conversion, and letting people know where you actually serve customers.
What do SEOs do if they are independent SEO consultants with a virtual business address?
You can't actually use a virtual office - it's against the rules. Google doesn't allow co-working spaces and PO boxes. This is because a lot of attorneys in the United States got a bunch of Regis offices to try to rank in places where they didn't actually have an office - so they ruined it for everybody else. It's like all SEOs ruin things for everybody else when you find something, exploit it, and use it too much. However, you can solve this problem by using your home address and ticking the button to tell Google that you don't want your home address to be displayed.
How long should posts be, and what do they need to incorporate?
Posts can be 1,500 characters and a big giant image, but the key to success with posts is not what's in your post - it's what shows up in the thumbnail. This is because Google will crop your big image down to a thumbnail image and truncate your text to just show the first few words. You really have to approach it like an ad in AdWords. If you don't do AdWords, just watch a couple of videos to learn how to do it. If the thumbnail isn't compelling, nobody's going to click on it and see the full post. This is why a lot of people do posts, and they don't work. Also, it's because they share the same content they share on Facebook. It's not a social post - it's literally an advertisement. You need something that's enticing, compelling, and will make people want to click through. However, the image cropping is really wonky. You have to pay attention to what shows when it's cropped down into that thumbnail with just a few lines of text. Make sure it's optimised, so it's going to make people want to click.
How often should you be posting?
We still typically recommend going once a week so that you've got something fresh there every week. You've got several different post types to use. The main one is the 'What's New' post, that used to only show up for seven days and then disappear. That's now changed, and it's live for six months. The other post types are the 'offering' and the 'event'. They have a date range and will only be visible for the length of that range. You don't want to post five or six a week. I've seen some businesses do three or four a day because they're approaching it like social media. That doesn't work, because it gives you a carousel that you have to swipe through to see all of them. Typically, people aren't going to swipe through and look at all your posts. Be strategic in what you're putting there. Don't put too much information there but post often enough. Also, only post something compelling - otherwise, you are wasting your time.
What questions should you be asking and answering in your Q&A section?
A lot of people don't realise you can load your own questions in - and that's the key thing here. Take all the questions off your FAQ page on your site and throw them in there. In addition to including all the common questions on your site, talk to the people answering the phones and put their common questions in. Also, look at the questions that people ask your competitors. The really cool thing is that Google autocompletes the answer. As you type your question, the answer will pop up if it's already been asked, or if an answer exists in a customer review. It's all about conversion here, and it doesn't matter for ranking but if someone's got a question, you want to have those answers already packed in - to demonstrate authority. You can have 30 or 40 questions in there - there's no limit. I've seen places with hundreds of questions, and you're making it more likely that someone's going to click through and contact you if you've got the answer for them already.
If I'm based in the middle of the UK, and I offer SEO services, is it better to be highly targeted to local customers or offer services to anyone in the British Isles?
That's a lot more about your content strategy and your standard SEO stuff than what you're selecting in GBP. The area you enter as a service area doesn't really have any effect on your visibility in a wider and narrower radius. It's more about how dense the competition is, and what your content is. If you're trying to say that you serve the entirety of the UK, then you've got to optimise correctly to show up for that and understand that you'll have a lot more competition. You're probably not as likely to show up unless you SEO the heck out of it.
What insights are available, and how can you optimise further by checking out this data?
One of the great things to pay attention to in insights is phone calls and website clicks, because it's not always going to match up with what shows in Google Analytics. Clearly, phone calls from GBP are not going to show in Google Analytics. To get them to show on your call tracking, Google allows you to enter a call tracking number on GBP. It's best practice to put a call tracking number as the primary number and your actual number as an alternate number - but as the primary number that is displayed to the public. Make sure you're taking advantage of all the data you can to show that you're getting more visibility, as you do your SEO and optimization, which results in more impressions, website traffic, leads, and calls. The two important things to pay attention to in the insights are your branded impressions and your discovery impressions. The brand impressions are the ones where people are looking specifically for your business. Whereas the discovery impressions are when you show up when people are not explicitly looking for your business. That's important because as you go for the various keyword phrases, and get more visibility, you should see your discovery impressions ramp up. Discovery impressions are registered every time you show up in the map pack - the map of the three results underneath - or when you show up in a result in Google Maps. It's really helpful to show this over time, especially if you're an agency-side or a solo contractor. You can prove to your clients that they're getting more visibility, phone calls, and impressions.
What is something that an SEO should stop doing to spend more time focusing on Google Business Profile?
In reality, Google cares more about the quality of your content, not the quantity. There are so many SEOs out there churning out blog posts and content. Dial that back a little bit, and worry more about putting up a couple of great pieces instead of a lot of 'just okay' pieces. This will give you more time to do GBP, and it's not something you have to spend a lot of regular time on. You just need one chunk of time to optimise everything. After this, you only need to monitor the Q&A section and do a weekly post on an ongoing basis. There's no excuse not to stay on top of it.
You can find Greg Gifford over at SearchLabDigital.com.
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