When it comes to brand engagement with consumers, more than 85% is local. Local search engine optimization (SEO) is a crucial component of a brand’s digital marketing strategy. If you don’t want to throw away most of your brand engagement, then you need the information in this guide.

There are many ways to boost local SEO, but there’s one way that stands out above all others because it’s fast, easy, and can offer a big positive impact.

We’ll show you why claiming a business on Google is the easiest way to boost your local SEO–and your SEO in general. Keep reading to learn why your Google My Business listing is a powerful tool and how you can leverage it to engage with and convert more consumers.

What Is Google My Business?

Google My Business, or GMB, is a dashboard that allows you to manage your brand’s listings and online reputation. Businesses can claim their Google My Business local listing to unlock a number of capabilities.

A GMB account allows brands to make changes to how they appear in Google Maps listings. It provides a way to alter how consumers interact with your brand through Knowledge Graph and Google+, Google’s social media network. GMB can even impact how your brand appears in organic search results.

GMB is great for local SEO because it puts your brand in front of local searchers, enabling them to find your brick-and-mortar as well as online presences. Because Google is the most prominent search engine, gaining the power to control how it views your brand is a powerful advantage.

We’ll get into more of the benefits in more depth soon, but first, you need to know how to claim your Google directory listing.

Claiming a Business on Google

Claiming a business is a simple process. You’ll start by making an account and then make your claim by registering your business name and other data, such as your address and phone number.

By the way, that other data is known in the digital marketing world as NAP, short for a name, address, phone number. This data forms a citation, which is how your brand is listed in a directory.

Once you’ve claimed your business, you’ll be asked to verify. This is so no one else can claim your business. There are a few ways you can choose to verify with Google:

  • Google can send you a physical postcard through snail mail
  • Google can verify with you over the phone
  • Google can send you an email
  • You can undergo instant verification
  • If you have 10+ locations, you can bulk verify

All verification methods are equally valid–it just depends on your preference. Originally, GMB verified only via postcard because this gives you physical proof that you claimed your brand with Google.

Only 44% of retailers have claimed their GMB listing, which means if you claim yours, you’ll be ahead of more than half of the retail brands. What are you waiting for?

Using Your Google My Business Profile

Once you’ve claimed your business and verified, what’s next? GMB isn’t a leave-it-alone kind of service. The good news is even though it requires a time investment, it’s not hard to use and it can be fun to manage your profile.

The first step is to make sure all of your brand’s basic information is correct. You should check:

  • NAP details
  • Hours of operation
  • Photos

You definitely want to add some photos. Add them to your storefront, your team, or your most popular items. Social media is a visual platform, so photos–and even videos–can make your Google My Business page more engaging.

Once you have the basics covered, you can start viewing data about how your listing performs in Google. With GMB, you can view insights on:

  • Impressions: the number of times your site listing appears on search engine results pages (SERPs)
  • Clicks: the number of consumers who visit your website or view your GMB profile from the SERP
  • Subscribers: the number of people who want to follow and continue to engage with your brand

You’ll also be able to view and manage reviews you receive. This allows you to keep up with your online reputation. All of this data together enables you to understand how Google users perceive your brand.

Optimizing Your GMB Listing

In addition to everything we’ve already mentioned, there are actions you can take in order to make the most of your GMB listing. Nothing bad will happen to your GMB listing or your brand if you don’t do these things, but they can only help. If you can, make the time to optimize your listing.

Make sure you choose the most accurate category for your brand’s listing. If you’re selling cupcakes, you don’t want to select restaurants when bakeries would be more accurate.

Aim for 100% profile completion. The more information you provide about your brand, the more complete and specific your listing will be. This allows Google to show your brand to those consumers who benefit the most from engaging with you.

Post citations on other sites in addition to GMB. Make sure they’re of good quality. Some suggestions for where you might add your citation include:

  • Business listings
  • Review sites
  • Directories

Consistency is important, too. Make sure your GMB listing is aligned with your website and any branding guidelines you already use. This covers everything from the tone of your updates to the latest NAP details about your business.

Make use of Schema.org data. In layman’s terms, this type of data organization basically makes it easier for Google to pull information about your brand and show it to users.

Benefits of GMB

As promised, we’ll now shift our discussion into diving into the many benefits of using GMB. We’ve already touched on some of them. Now that you know how to use GMB, we can examine them more closely.

When you list your business with Google My Business, you get the trust of Google on your side. Google is well-known and the most popular search engine. On a search engine where 46% of all searches are local, your site can be included among local businesses without you having to pay for ad space.

GMB can also help you entice users to engage with your brand on social media–whether you’re on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, or another social network. Not only that, but you can increase your ranking on Google’s SERPs. Increased rankings mean increased trusted backlinks, which is good for local SEO and SEO alike.

Google’s Ranking Factors

Understanding GMB and its local SEO benefits require an understanding of how Google ranks sites. We’re not going to crack open Google’s algorithm (it changes frequently anyway). Instead, we’ll give you an idea of what Google looks for when ranking websites and brands:

  • How relevant is your brand?
  • How close are you to the user?
  • How prominent is your brand?

Let’s look at these questions in more depth.

The relevance of your brand is determined by how well your business matches up with the user’s intent. The best way for Google to know if you’re a good match for a consumer is if you’re specific and clear about your brand.

With search now accommodating “near me” qualifiers, being close to a consumer can help you rank. But it’s not enough anymore to just say you’re located in a particular area. You should also create content about your business in your local area.

Prominence is perhaps the most difficult ranking factor to pin down. In part, this is due to Google not releasing their algorithm. The algorithm is kept secret in order to make ranking as fair as possible.

However, there are some aspects that can impact your brand’s prominence: online reviews, local events and content, quality backlinks, and frequent multimedia updates.

Now that you understand how Google ranks brands, you might begin to see that GMB, while an important part of local SEO, isn’t the be-all, end-all of digital marketing. You still need to have a well-optimized and responsive site and you need localized content.

Wrap-Up

But even though Google My Business can’t dictate all of your brand’s SEO, you can see from this guide how the brief task of claiming your business can launch a myriad of possibilities.

You can boost your local SEO and broad SEO. You can engage with consumers eager to engage with your brand. You can boost your social media audiences.

For mobile GMB users, there’s even an app that will allow you to manage many aspects of your GMB listing. You can post updates and photos. You can correct business hours, your location, your brand’s description and contact information on the go.

Most importantly, you can view search insights via the GMB app. The app enables you to take the best features of Google My Business with you.

If you still have questions about how claiming a business on google can benefit your local SEO, or if you have questions about local SEO itself, we’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line to learn more about how GMB and local SEO can boost your business.