Google Business SEO: Complete Guide to Optimizing Your Business for Local Searches

google business seo complete guide to optimizing your business for local searches (1)

In the digital age, where immediate information is necessary, local businesses are discovering the immense power of Google Business Profiles (formerly Google My Business) in connecting with customers ready to walk through their doors.

Picture this: a potential customer is searching for a service you offer. They turn to Google, type in their query, and there you are—right at the top of the search results, complete with your business hours, location, and glowing reviews. This isn’t just convenient for the customer; it’s a game-changer for local businesses striving to attract foot traffic and drive conversions.

Local SEO, or search engine optimization for local searches, is the magic behind this phenomenon. It ensures that your business appears prominently when potential customers in your area search for the products or services you offer. This is not just about being visible; it’s about being visible to the right people at the right time.

The statistics speak volumes about the effectiveness of a well-optimized Google Business Profile. Did you know 77% of consumers rely on Google Maps to find nearby businesses?

Furthermore, 91% of search inquiries in 2020 concluded with a Google Business listing.

Most compellingly, 88% of consumers who search for a local business on a mobile device take action (either by calling or visiting) within 24 hours.

These numbers underscore the critical role that a Google Business Profile Listing plays in the local search ecosystem. It acts as a bridge between your business and customers poised to purchase.

Maintaining an active and regularly updated Google Business profile account is the key to dominating local search rankings. From selecting the right business category to encouraging satisfied customers to leave positive reviews, each element of your profile can significantly impact your visibility and attractiveness to potential customers.

In this guide, I’ll navigate you through the essential steps to optimize your business for local search results effectively. Let’s dive into the world of Google My Business and transform how you connect with your local community. 

google business seo

What is a Google Business Profile?

Online Business automator Google My Business Listing

A Google Business Profile is your business’s digital storefront on the world’s most popular search engine. It’s a free tool provided by Google that allows local business owners to manage how their business appears on Google Search and Google Maps. This includes adding your business name, location, hours, and even photos to help customers find and choose your business when searching for your products or services.

Why is this important? Imagine a potential customer searching for a café in your city. If your coffee shop has a well-optimized Google Business Profile, it could appear at the top of their search results, complete with enticing photos of your pastries and lattes, the address pinpointed on a map, and the hours they can drop by for their caffeine fix.

This visibility is not just limited to Google Search; it extends to Google Maps, where people explore local areas for services and goods. Your business listing on Google connects your local business with potential customers precisely when they’re most interested.

One of the standout features of Google’s search capabilities is the local map pack, also known as the “3-pack,” which displays the top three most relevant local businesses to a search query. Being featured in this coveted spot dramatically increases your visibility and can drive more foot traffic to your door. It’s a game-changer for local search exposure and why your business’s presence on Google Maps and local search results can significantly influence customer decisions.

So, who can leverage a Google Business Profile? The short answer: nearly any local business with a physical location or a specific service area can benefit from it. Whether you’re a brick-and-mortar retail store, a boutique, a service provider like a plumber or an electrician, or a restaurant, having a detailed and up-to-date profile is crucial.

It’s not just about being found; it’s about being chosen. With detailed business information, including business hours, service offerings, and positive reviews, you’re improving your visibility and building trust with customers.

How Does Google Business Improve Local SEO?

Google Business Profile is pivotal in enhancing local SEO, primarily by boosting a business’s visibility in local search results. This, in turn, drives organic visits to its website and encourages organic conversions. This is achieved through several mechanisms, each designed to signal to Google the relevance and authority of your business in local searches.

When you optimize your Google My Business, you’re directly feeding accurate information into Google’s local search algorithm. Google uses this information to assess the relevance of your business to local search queries. By accurately and comprehensively filling out your business details, you increase the chances of Google matching your business with relevant local searches.

A Google Business Profile also influences local search ranking through reviews and ratings. Google rewards businesses with positive reviews and high ratings by improving their visibility in local search results. This user-generated content helps build trust with customers. It signals to Google that your local business is a valuable resource for people searching for your services or products.

Moreover, using relevant keywords in your business description and posts can further improve your local search rankings. Using queries that potential customers will likely type in when searching for similar local businesses.

Google Business also enhances local SEO through its integration with Google Maps. Customers can find your business location more easily when your business appears on Google Maps. This helps attract foot traffic and drive organic conversions from customers who are searching for products or services in your area.

You can also use Google Business Profile Insights to analyze how many customers find your business through direct searches or discovery searches. This helps you make a more informed, data-driven SEO marketing strategy for your website.

Lastly, Google Business complements other local SEO efforts by providing a platform for publishing posts, updates, and offers directly to your business profile. This content keeps your profile active and engaging for customers and signals to Google that your business is actively managed and relevant, further supporting your local SEO.

Google Business Ranking Factors

Google’s ranking algorithm for these profiles is built around three core factors: relevance, proximity, and prominence.

  • Relevance concerns how well your business profile matches a potential customer’s search query.
  • Proximity refers to the physical distance between your business and the physical location used in the search query.
  • Prominence is about how well-known or established your business is online and offline.

Here’s a breakdown of the critical elements to focus on for optimizing your profile:


  1. Business Name: Your business name is a crucial local ranking factor. While it’s beneficial to include relevant keywords, beware of keyword stuffing, as it can lead to your profile being penalized. Recent updates, such as Google’s Vicinity update, have reduced the impact of keyword-stuffed business names, but they remain a significant factor.
  2. Categories: The selection of both primary and secondary categories significantly affects your rankings. The primary business category is particularly influential, so choosing the most accurate category for your business is vital. While less impactful, secondary categories can still broaden your visibility for various searches.
  3. Landing Page: The landing page linked to your profile affects rankings by contributing to Google’s understanding of your business’s relevance and authority. Often, your homepage will be the most effective choice due to its link authority, even if it doesn’t contain the most detailed content about specific services or products.
  4. Address: Your business’s physical address impacts its ability to rank in local searches. Google uses the address to determine your proximity to searchers, affecting your visibility in localized searches. Additionally, having a business address in the city you wish to rank for is crucial.
  5. Photos: While there’s some debate on the direct impact of business photos on rankings, Google suggests that adding photos can improve local search ranking. The quality and relevance of images are more likely to increase user engagement than directly influence rankings.
  6. Reviews: Reviews are a significant local ranking factor affecting visibility and consumer trust. The number of reviews, the overall star rating, and the presence of keywords in reviews can influence rankings. Responding to reviews also signals to Google that you value customer feedback, potentially affecting your rankings positively.
  7. Hours of Operation: Being open more hours can slightly benefit your visibility, particularly during searches performed during business hours. Listings may be less visible or filtered out entirely if they’re marked as closed or if users filter results by businesses that are “open now.”
  8. Services: The services you list can impact your rankings, particularly as Google uses this information to match your business with relevant searches. Monitoring and accurately representing your services is crucial for matching with appropriate searches.
  9. Identity Attributes: Attributes like being veteran-owned or eco-friendly can improve visibility for searches directly related to these attributes. While they may not boost your rankings for more general searches, they can make your business stand out for specific queries.

Optimizing these factors can enhance your profile’s effectiveness in local search rankings. Approaching each element thoughtfully ensures your business information is accurate, comprehensive, and up-to-date.

So, How Do You set up a Google Business Account?

This section will cover the steps to set up a business account.


Creating Your Google Business Profile

google my business
  • Start by Signing In: Go to the Google Business Profile website and sign in with your Google account. If you don’t have one, you must create a Google account first.
  • Enter Your Business Name: Type your business name in the search box. If your business doesn’t appear in the dropdown menu, click Next.
  • Choose the Right Business Category: Select the category that best fits your business. This is crucial as it helps Google match your business with relevant searches.
google my business name
  • Add Your Location: If you have a physical location customers can visit, add your address. If you’re a service-area business that visits or delivers to customers, you can specify your service area instead.
google my business location
adding your address on google my business

When setting up your Google Business Profile in a shared building or compound, Google’s verification process is designed to ensure each business is accurately represented without duplications.

During the setup, Google might notify you of existing businesses listed at your address. If, after reviewing the list, you find that your business is not mentioned or the listed businesses are different from yours, select “None of these.”

google my business setup

If you do deliveries or site visits, click yes. If not, then select no.

google my business service area
  • Fill in Contact Details: Provide your phone number and business website URL. This information will be displayed on your profile, allowing customers to contact you.
add your contact details on your google my business
  • Finish and Manage Your Business Listing: After entering all the required business information, you’ll be taken to your dashboard, where you can manage your business listing, post updates, add photos, and more.

Verifying and Publishing Your Google Business Listing

how to verify google my business account
  1. Choose a Verification Method: Google must verify that your business is legitimate and that you’re authorized to manage the profile. Verification can typically be done through a phone call, text message, email, or postcard to your business address.
  2. Wait for Your Verification Code: If you’re verifying by mail, Google will send a postcard with a verification code to the address you provided. This can take up to two weeks. For other verification methods, you should receive the code immediately.
  3. Enter the Verification Code: Once you have your code, return to your profile and enter the code to verify your business account.
  4. Publish Your Profile: After verification, your business listing is live. You can optimize it with additional business information like business hours, photos, and services offered to attract more customers.

Optimizing Your Business Profile for Local SEO

Here are some expert tips to help your listing rank higher in the Google search.

Keep Your Business Profile Information Up to Date

google my business information and business description

Think of your Google Business Profile as your business’s online ID card. Just as your look might change over time, so too might various aspects of your business. Regularly reviewing and updating your business information makes your brand trustworthy.

Consider a local café that recently changed its contact number but failed to update this detail on its Google Business Profile. A prospective customer, eager to book a birthday brunch, finds the outdated number and ends up calling a dead line. Frustrated, they turn to another café, and just like that, the business loses out on a lucrative opportunity.

Or picture a boutique that extends its hours ahead of a local festival to attract more visitors. By updating this information on its Google Business Profile, along with posting about special festival offers, the boutique attracts more foot traffic. It enhances its reputation as a customer-centric business.

Keeping your profile updated is a continuous process, not a one-time task. It’s about making sure that every time a prospective customer looks you up, they find exactly what they need to know, without discrepancies. This attention to detail can make all the difference in converting searches into sales.

Select Relevant Categories for Your Business Profile

google my business categories

The categories you select for your listing wield considerable power. They are crucial determinants that guide Google in understanding your business, affecting how and where you appear in search results.

The primary category you choose is your business’s headline. It’s the first thing Google uses to categorize your service or product. For instance, if you run a bakery specializing in custom wedding cakes, selecting “Bakery” as your primary category is accurate.

Secondary categories, on the other hand, offer a chance to broaden your appeal. These should complement your primary category, covering different aspects of your business without stretching too far from your core offerings. For a photography studio that also offers photography classes, including “Photography Class” as a secondary category captures a different customer segment while staying relevant to your business.

Tips on Selecting the Right Business Category

  • Conduct keyword Research: Utilize tools like Semrush or Ahrefs to understand the search volume and traffic potential of different categories. High search volume categories might offer more visibility but also have higher competition.

  • Analyze Competitors: Look up similar businesses in your area to see which categories they use. This can provide insights into how local competitors position themselves and which categories you might have overlooked.

  • Use Tools for Insight: Chrome extensions like GMB Everywhere can reveal the secondary categories businesses use in your search results, offering a deeper understanding of how competitors categorize themselves.

  • Be Selective: While adding multiple secondary categories to capture a wide audience is tempting, relevance should be your guiding principle. Irrelevant categories can dilute your profile’s effectiveness and potentially lead to guideline violations.

Add Your Products and Services to Your Business Listings

adding products and services on your google my business account

One effective way to differentiate your business in a competitive market is to add your products and services directly to your business profile. This is a direct communication channel to inform customers about your offerings and capture their interest from the search results.

How to Showcase Your Offerings

  1. Start by logging into your Google Business account. You can easily find your profile by searching for “my business” on Google or directly typing your business name into the search bar.
  2. Click “View Profile,” followed by the “Edit Profile” button. This will lead you to the section where you can add either products or services, depending on the nature of your business.
  3. Choose “Products” or “Services” based on what you want to add. You’ll be prompted to fill in various details, including the name, category, price, description, and an image for your product or service.

Be mindful of Google’s policies regarding regulated products and services. Items like tobacco, alcohol, and certain financial services cannot be added to your listing.

Elevate Your Profile with Striking Images and Videos

Visual content is a game-changer in enhancing your Google Business Profile. It’s not just about filling a gallery; it’s about creating a visual narrative that engages prospective customers, offering them a window into what your business stands for, its ambiance, and what it has to offer. Here’s how you can use various images and videos to captivate and connect with your audience.


Make a Lasting First Impression with Your Logo

google my business add logo

Your logo is the cornerstone of your brand identity on Google. It’s the visual cue that customers will associate with your business across Google search results and maps. Google recommends using a square-sized image for your logo to ensure it’s easily recognizable. This image garners significant exposure and is pivotal in making your business memorable.


Showcase Your Brand’s Personality with a Cover Photo

adding a cover photo on your google my business

Your cover photo is your chance to make a statement. Positioned prominently at the top of your business profile, this large photo is cropped to a 16:9 aspect ratio and sets the tone for your profile. Choose an image that reflects the essence of your brand and invites customers to explore what you have to offer.


Invite Customers Inside with Interior Photos

google my business add photos

Interior photos allow you to present your business’s atmosphere and experience. From the layout to the décor, these images help potential customers visualize themselves in your space. Your business’s interior is an opportunity to impress and entice with its visual appeal, so select photos that are both inviting and representative.

Tell Your Story with a Video

Videos have the unparalleled ability to convey your business’s story, showcase your products or services in action, and provide insight into what makes your business unique. A well-crafted video can simplify complex ideas and leave a lasting impression.

Highlight What Matters with Additional Photos

Beyond the basics, additional photos allow you to spotlight the unique aspects of your business that influence customer decisions. Whether it’s the products you sell, the services you offer, your team in action, or even the exterior of your premises and parking availability, these images provide a comprehensive view of what customers can expect.

Adhering to Google’s Best Practices

To ensure your visuals have the desired impact, it’s important to follow Google’s guidelines for photo and video quality:

  • Format: JPG or PNG
  • Size: Between 10 KB and 5 MB
  • Resolution: At least 720 px tall and 720 px wide
  • Quality: Ensure images are in focus, well-lit, and represent your business accurately without excessive editing or filters.

Enhancing Engagement with a Virtual Tour

For businesses looking to go the extra mile, Google offers the option of adding a Virtual Tour to your profile. This immersive 360-degree experience can significantly boost your profile’s visibility and draw more traffic to your business by offering a unique and interactive space exploration.

Incorporating these visual elements into your profile increase engagement and improve local SEO, making your business more visible and attractive to prospective customers. By carefully selecting and optimizing your images and videos, you can create a compelling visual narrative that captures the essence of your brand.

Regularly Publish Posts and Photos

google my business posting updates

Regularly refreshing your profile with vivid photos and lively posts is more than a task on your to-do list. It’s an opportunity to showcase your business’s vibrancy and show that it is active and responsive to customers’ needs and interests.

Think of posts as your direct line of communication with your audience, akin to updates you’d share on social media. Whether celebrating a new product launch, announcing an upcoming event, or sharing a special promotion, each post is a chance to engage directly with potential customers and keep them in the loop.

Crafting these posts is like writing a short, captivating story. You want to draw readers in with enticing details about what’s new and exciting at your business. Incorporating keywords naturally within your posts helps people find you when they’re searching for what you offer. But remember, the key is to keep it natural and engaging; you’re talking to people, not search engines.

Adding images or links to your posts turns them from simple text updates into rich, interactive experiences. Imagine a post about a new product paired with an eye-catching photo or an announcement about an upcoming workshop with a link to sign up.

These elements make your posts informative and irresistible, prompting potential customers to learn more, visit your website, or even step through your doors.

sample of a google my business update

Always Respond to Customer Reviews

google my business customer reviews for local seo

Engaging with customer reviews on your Google Business profile is not just about being courteous. It’s a crucial strategy for managing your online reputation and fostering a positive customer relationship. Whether glowing with praise or expressing dissatisfaction, each review offers a unique opportunity to showcase your business’s commitment to customer satisfaction and improve your service based on real feedback.

Positive Reviews: A Chance to Shine

Responding to positive reviews is your chance to reinforce the positive aspects of your business. Thank customers for taking the time to leave feedback, and don’t shy away from highlighting any specific details they loved.

For example, if a customer raves about your homemade pastries, reply with gratitude and mention how much love and care you put into baking them daily. This acknowledges the customer’s experience and entices others with a glimpse into what makes your business special.

Negative Reviews: Turning Lemons into Lemonade

Negative reviews might sting, but they offer a golden opportunity to demonstrate your business’s commitment to excellence. Approach each negative review with a calm, constructive mindset. Acknowledge the customer’s concerns, apologize for any shortcomings, and offer a solution or compensation when appropriate.

For instance, if a customer complains about a delayed order, apologize for the inconvenience and assure them that steps are being taken to improve efficiency. Offering a discount on their next purchase can also help mend the relationship and potentially convert a dissatisfied customer into a loyal one.

Best Practices for Replying to Reviews

  • Be Personal and Specific: Avoid generic responses. Personalize each reply by referencing specific details from the review. This shows that you genuinely value each customer’s feedback.
  • Keep It Professional: No matter the tone of the review, maintain a professional and friendly demeanor in your responses. This reflects well on your business and helps de-escalate any negative situations.
  • Act Promptly: Timely responses show that your business is attentive and responsive. Aim to reply to reviews as soon as possible, ideally within 24 to 48 hours.
  • Invite Further Conversation: For more complex issues, invite customers to continue the conversation offline. Provide a contact email or phone number where they can reach you to discuss their concerns in more detail.

Troubleshooting Google Business Account Issues

Navigating issues with your business listing on Google can be a hassle, but addressing them promptly ensures your business remains visible and accessible to potential customers. Let’s break down how to tackle common problems like account suspension, handling negative reviews, and sign-in difficulties.

Fixing a Suspended Google Business Profile Account

Google My Business Profiles can be suspended for several reasons, all boiling down to violations of Google’s guidelines. Common causes include:

  • An inaccurate or misleading business name.
  • Multiple listings for the same business entity.
  • Business listings that use a non-physical address, like a P.O. Box, as the business location.
  • Posting inappropriate or forbidden content.
  • Displaying a physical address for a service business that operates without a storefront.
  • Making numerous edits to your business listing in a short period.

Step-by-Step Guide to Reinstatement of Your Business Account

  • Review Google’s Guidelines: Before attempting to reinstate your account, thoroughly review Google’s guidelines to understand what might have caused the suspension.
  • Correct Your Business Listing: Make necessary adjustments to your profile to comply with Google’s standards.
  • Fill Out the Reinstatement Form: Provide your email, business name, and address on the form. Explain why your business account should be reinstated, ensuring you have rectified the issues.
  • Submit Proof if Required: You might need to attach documents like legal documentation, utility bills, or photos of your storefront as evidence of compliance.

Flagging a Negative Review

Negative reviews that violate Google’s guidelines, such as those from disgruntled employees or competitors, can be flagged and potentially removed. Businesses must monitor Google reviews closely, as unjust negative feedback can harm your reputation.

How to Flag Online Reviews on Google My Business

  • Log Into Your Account: Access your Google Business Profile.
  • Locate the Review: Find the review in question.
  • Flag as Inappropriate: Click the three dots next to the review and select the option to flag it as inappropriate.
  • Wait for Google’s Response: Google usually processes the report in up to three days. If the review remains, consider contacting Google Profile support for further assistance.

Sign In Problems to Your Google Business Account

Forgotten passwords, email addresses, or two-step verification can cause problems signing into your Google Business Profile.

How to Fix Sign-In Issues

  • Use the Google Accounts Troubleshooter: This tool helps address various sign-in problems by guiding you through the recovery process.
  • Visit the Community Forum: Google Business Profile’s community forum is a valuable resource where you can find discussions on common issues and their resolutions.

Monitoring Google Business Profile Insights

google my business insights

Diving into Google Business Insights can feel like unlocking a treasure trove of data that helps you understand how customers interact with your business online. This built-in analytical tool offers a wealth of information to help refine your local SEO strategy and sharpen your marketing efforts.

Let’s break down how you can make the most of these insights.

Learn How Customers Find You

Insights divides this into two categories: Direct and Discovery searches. If someone directly searches for your business name or address, that’s a Direct search. More generic searches based on what you offer, like “coffee shop near me,” fall under Discovery searches. This distinction helps you gauge brand awareness versus the appeal of your offerings.


Determining Where Customers Find You

google my business insights dashboard

Insights show you where these discoveries are happening—Google Search or Google Maps, with data presented as Search Views and Maps Views, respectively. This split helps businesses identify where they’re being seen more and adjust their focus. For instance, if you’re a restaurant, a strong presence on Google Maps could drive more foot traffic to your place.

How Customers Engage with Your Profile

What do customers do after finding your profile? These actions are tracked whether they visit your website, request driving directions, or make phone calls. This information is gold for understanding customers’ interests and optimizing your profile accordingly. High website visits might mean it’s time to spruce up your website, while numerous direction requests could suggest adding more detailed access information.

google my business calls data
google my business messages data
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Google My Business Direction Requests Data
google my business website clicks data

Elevating Your Local Business with Google Business

Navigating the waters of local SEO through Google Business can seem daunting, but it’s an undeniably powerful tool for any local business aiming to boost its visibility online. Remember, optimizing your Google Business Profile is not a one-time task but a continuous journey that involves refining your strategy based on insights and customer interactions.

As we wrap up this comprehensive guide, consider this an invitation to dive deeper into local SEO. For those looking to enhance their skills and strategies further, I invite you to explore my SEO workshop, where we delve into the nuances of optimizing your business for local searches with practical, actionable advice. Together, let’s unlock the full potential of your local business in the digital domain.

FAQs About Google Business

Update your profile whenever there’s a change in your business, such as new hours, services, or contact information. Regularly adding new photos or posts—ideally every week—can also keep your profile fresh and engaging for potential customers. Consistent updates help maintain accuracy and improve your visibility in search results.

Yes, you can manage your profile directly from your phone using the Google My Business app. This app allows you to update your business information, post updates, respond to reviews, and view insights on the go, making it convenient to keep your profile up-to-date anytime, anywhere.

When responding to negative reviews, remain professional and empathetic. Acknowledge the customer’s concern, apologize for any disappointment experienced, and offer a solution or compensation if appropriate. Demonstrating that you value customer feedback and are committed to improvement can turn a negative review into a positive opportunity.

Photos visually showcase your business and its offers, making your profile more attractive and engaging to potential customers. High-quality, updated photos can help tell your business’s story, highlight key products or services, and give customers a glimpse of what to expect, thereby enhancing your profile’s performance and attractiveness.

Google Business Insights provides valuable data on how customers find and interact with your profile, including search queries used, actions taken (e.g., website visits, direction requests), and peak times for customer engagement. Analyzing this data allows you to tailor your profile and broader local SEO strategy to target relevant keywords, improve your offerings, and optimize customer engagement times.

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I'm Sophie Kessner

First generation Mexican American mama that’s gone from hood to strategic hustle. I’ve spent the last 10+ years inside the personal development space supporting 100’s of coaches in scaling 6 figure businesses online & supported 4 different companies in surpassing the 7 figure mark. Today, I focus on making scaling more sustainable by integrating the lenses of business, systems, automation and CEO Development through an Equity centered and Trauma informed lens.

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