46% of Google searches are local (think: ‘dentist near me’ or ‘best electrician in New York’)

What’s more, surveys show that 72% of people who did a local search, visited the store within five miles. Local results appear in several places on Google, such as in Google’s Knowledge Graph, Local Pack, Local Finder, organic rankings, and Google Maps. In fact, not only are local results displayed at the very top in search results but in mobile phones, these results cover the entire first page!

Here’s an example of Local Pack:

What does that tell you? That you’ll likely lose sales opportunities if you don’t optimize for local searches.

So, if you have a brick-and-mortar store and you want to drive traffic to it, both virtually and physically, the solution is plain and simple: you need a local SEO strategy — and the best place to start is by creating a Google My Business listing!

What Is Google My Business?

It’s a free tool from Google that helps businesses manage their online presence, show up on Maps, and showcase their portfolio of utilities. It’s especially advantageous for brands that seek local exposure.

Once Google authenticates your business as legitimate through your Google My Business profile, it rewards it by displaying it in the sidebar of a Google Search, helping you improve your chances of ranking in local search results.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss a step-by-step tutorial of setting up a GMB listing and the basics of fully understanding Google My business and the value it offers.

Make Sure Your Business Doesn’t Already Have A GMB Listing

If your business has been around for a few years, it may already have a GMB listing, and you need to claim it. Conduct a Google search with your business name to check if you have a listing. If you do, you’ll notice a link that says, “Own this business?”

You can also head over to the Google My Business page and enter your business information. You’ll then be notified if a listing already exists for your business.

Once you claim it, you’ll be able to manage your business’s public identity and further optimize it.

To create an account, go to the Google My Business and sign in with your business Gmail/Google account as opposed to your personal email address.

Fill Out Primary Business Information

Providing accurate and updated business information in Google My Business is one of the most important steps of optimizing your Google My Business.

Customers search for your business online to know more about who you are, what you do, and when and where they can visit you.  A complete GMB profile matches with right searches and enhances your presence in Maps and Search.

Be Meticulous With Name, Address, And Phone Number (NAP)

NAP is your basic thumbprint online. Studies show that 80% of visitors lose trust in a business when they see inconsistent or incorrect business details, so make sure your NAP is consistent across all your listings, including your business website.

  • Make sure the business name you provide is the same as the one as your store signage. Additionally, if your business is popular by a shorter nickname, enter that in the “Profile Short Name” section.
  • Don’t stuff keywords when providing your business name. This may be considered as spamming, and you could be penalized.
  • Submit the same address as the one on your website.
  • Double-check your store’s pin on the map.
  • Make sure to update business information as your business changes.

Specify Service Areas

Businesses that don’t operate a brick-and-mortar store, but service customers in particular geographic areas are called “service area businesses,” such as carpet cleaners, plumbers, electricians, or courier services. These businesses, along with those that offer services in multiple locations, are eligible for a GMB listing.

Since service area businesses don’t have physical addresses, you’ll need to enter service area information, including the ZIP codes, regions, or cities you serve. You can do this by clicking on the “Manage location” page and checking the box that says, “I deliver goods and services to my customers at their locations” under the “Address Section.”

Business Category     

This is one of the most important attributes in your GMB listing since it significantly impacts the kind of search terms you’re matched with on Google.

Explicitly mention as many categories as you can which describe the products/services you offer. This also gives you the chance to add industry-relevant keywords to improve your local ranking. We recommend going through your competitor’s list of categories to get a better idea of valuable keywords.

So for instance, if you operate a small restaurant during the day, select “Brunch Restaurant,” “Coffee Shop,” “Lunch Restaurant,” “Cafe,” or other relevant categories.

Google My Business features are updating and becoming more category-specific as we speak. For instance, hotel listings allow you to list the amenities offered and also show class ratings.

Similarly, food and drink businesses can add menu items directly into their GMB profiles along with URLs to their online order listings. Furthermore, beauty and healthcare businesses can add a booking button.


The Website attribute allows you to provide the URL of your homepage. In some cases, if a location page makes more sense and gives the best initial sense of your business, submit that instead.

Verify Your Google My Business Listing

In order to ensure only legitimate businesses are listed in GMB, Google requires anyone who attempts to claim a listing to verify that the business is theirs.

So, once you’ve entered the primary information for your business and service area (if applicable), Google will verify it either through the mail, a phone call, or by mailing a postcard with instructions on how to PIN verify.

Note: your business details won’t be displayed on GMB until your business is verified.

Secondary Business Information

While providing primary information will help you get started with your GMB listing, our goal is to fully optimize it and ensure it displays an accurate picture of your business. To do that, you need to submit some more information.

Add Photos

Despite being one of the most neglected attributes in local SEO, experts believe that adding photos in your GMB listing isn’t important but essential to your GMB success.

Adding photos to your GMB listing provides a great opportunity for user engagement. Plus, it shows potential customers that your business is real and puts forward a great first impression. Be sure to review Google My Business image format requirements.

Go one step further and optimize your photos with relevant keywords and search terms. Check out our blog on Image SEO to find out how you can rack up additional ranking opportunities by optimizing images!

Keep Business Operating Hours Accurate

Selecting your business’s operating hours is pretty straightforward, but what’s important here is that you update them when needed. So make sure to specifically mention your operating hours on holidays and special events.

Since the operating hours are front-and-center whenever a visitor looks for your business, make sure they’re accurate.

What’s interesting is Google now displays information about the peak hours of your business, wait times, typical visit durations, and live visit information. This is based on anonymized and aggregate location-tracking from Android and iOS users who have their location enabled.

Manage Customer Reviews

While many businesses encourage loyal and trusted customers to leave reviews, make sure you don’t incentivize them or solicit them in bulk because this can lead to violation of Google’s policies.

While positive reviews and high ratings impact user interaction and, ultimately, your search rankings, just know that you can’t control what people say. That said, a few negative reviews may not hurt your business too much, and might actually make it look more authentic. You can encourage customers to leave feedback by linking to review forms in your business cards or email newsletters.

Monitor Using Google My Business Insights

Over the last years, Google has made outstanding strides with the analytical data available on Google My Business listings.

Google My Business Insights gives you a basic sense of how (potential) customers interact with your listing.

It shows a simple breakdown of:

How customers find your GMB listing

This section shows insights on direct searches vs. discovery searches. Includes the number of people that exclusively searched for your business or address versus the number of people who searched for your category or the products or services you offer.

Where did customers find you on Google

This section shows the number of customers that found you via Google Maps and Google Search. You’ll also be able to see “Views” and “impressions” of your listing in a particular timeframe.

Customer Actions

The Customer Actions section shows the number of clicks made to your site, phone call actions, and requests for driving directions.

Direction Requests

This section pinpoints areas on the map to show the location of people requesting directions to your store.

Phone calls

The graph shows how often people called your business via your Google listing and the trend of these phone calls in a selected timeframe.

Photo Views

This section includes insights on how often your GMB photos were viewed with the “Photo quantity” and “Photo views” graph.

Final Thoughts

You won’t rank in Google’s Local Pack overnight, especially if you operate in a competitive market. However, optimizing your GMB listing is the first step in improving your presence in local searches.

Moreover, Google has released sub-products, GMB Messaging, and GMB Posts to further help small business owners engage with their customers.

We suggest you combine your Local SEO and Google My Business strategy with an all-in-one website SEO audit tool like Rank Genie. In addition to evaluating your on-page SEO elements for improvement, it incorporates a keyword rank tracker, a backlink tracker to help you dominate SERPs and keep you on track for SEO success. Start your 30-day free trial for Rank Genie today!