If you’re a small business owner or startup, it’s very likely that the majority of your business comes from members of your local community. Your loyal customers are already telling all their friends about you, but what’s the best way to expand your customer base after you’ve maxed out all your referrals? Improving your local search ranking. You’re likely doing a great job of performing keyword research and optimizing your website content for organic traffic, but you may have missed one incredibly simple strategy: ensuring that your Google My Business listing is complete, up-to-date, and optimized for local search.

What is Google My Business?

Google My Business is a free and user-friendly tool for businesses and other organizations to more easily manage their online presences, including on Google Search and Maps. Your Google My Business (GMB) listing is what comes up in a Search Engine Results Page (SERP) when a potential customer searches Google for your business’ name. Listing your business is free and should be one of your first marketing tasks when you open your doors for business. Your default listing includes things like your address, website, phone number, hours, and the number of stars you currently have on Google Reviews.

Chip Cookies’ Google My Business listing.

Having a GMB listing is critical for your customers because it allows them to easily see when you are open, find contact information for you, read about other’s great experiences, and get directions to your brick-and-mortar store. This basic information is extremely helpful for your users and makes it easy for you to boost your SEO and local search rankings just by filling out the Google form, but GMB’s functionality make it possible for you to leverage the tool even further. In addition, according to Google data, businesses that verify their information with Google are twice as likely to be considered reputable my consumers than those that do not.

How Google My Business Attributes set you apart

Google My Business attributes are unique characteristics about your business that bring customers through your doors. These are the things your customers rave about in reviews – the things that make your customer experience stand out. Previously, GMB culled your Google reviews for keywords about your business to add to your listing, but a great feature of the new GMB is that it now allows you the ability to add these searchable keywords to your listings yourself. This allows business owners to have control over what characteristics they highlight to potential customers at each location, whether that’s free WiFi, kid-friendliness, takeout options, a great drink selection, or nearly anything else.

Cafe Zupas’ Google attributes list

The attributes you can select for your business are based on your industry. For example, a floral shop might have the option to select “same-day delivery” while a restaurant might have the option to select “wine menu.” Some business verticals have more attribute options than others at the moment, but if your industry doesn’t have as many as you would like, don’t worry. Google is always updating Maps to be more user-friendly all the time, meaning you’ll likely have more attribute options soon.

Attributes are organized into sections that make it easier for users to scan your listing to pinpoint whether your location will meet their needs. These sections may include things like:

  • Highlights (fast service, friendly employees, great views)
  • Popular For (good for groups, brunch, large drink menu)
  • Accessibility (wheelchair accessible restrooms, elevators)
  • Offerings (gluten free options, vegetarian menu, kids’ menu, balcony seating)
  • Crowd (family friendly, solo dining, bar crowd)
  • Atmosphere (casual, upscale, noisy)

After you select what attributes you want highlighted on your listing, Google aggregates your attributes and creates a short description about your business. This is the one-sentence blurb at the top of your business listing that customers see first when they search Google Maps for your business.

The blurb Google generated for Slapfish based on its attributes is “Chill haunt preparing a seafood-heavy menu of comfort bites like fish tacos & shrimp burritos.”

Why you should care about optimizing your Google My Business attributes

Adding custom attributes to your Google My Business listing is a great way to optimize your online presence for local search. In fact, Google has said that having a complete business listing is the best place to start when it comes to improving local search rankings and visibility because you’re able to highlight keywords that your customers are already looking for when they search for businesses like yours.

Google My Business Help gives the following advice on the importance of your listing to attracting local traffic:

“Local results favor the most relevant results for each search, and businesses with complete and accurate information are easier to match with the right searches. Make sure that you’ve entered all of your business information in Google My Business, so customers know more about what you do, where you are, and when they can visit you. Provide information like (but not limited to) your physical address, phone number, category, and attributes. Make sure to keep this information updated as your business changes. … Providing and updating business information in Google My Business can help your business’s local ranking on Google and enhance your presence in Search and Maps.”

As mentioned in the quote above, GMB attributes also enhance your presence on Search and Maps. By highlighting specific features of each of your store locations, Google Maps becomes even more user-friendly for your customers and allows them to more easily compare your business to the competition to decide which best fits their needs. Google’s algorithms always favor practices that benefit the end user, so if your GMB listing makes it easier for customers to find exactly what they’re looking for, Google will continue to improve GMB’s functionality. This is great news for you, as it enables you to reach new customers that fit your precise buyer persona. Have 10 or more locations? Google now allows you to create a bulk upload spreadsheet so you can optimize your GMB listings for multiple storefronts at once!

How to use Google My Business to manage your reputation

Another lesser-talked-about reason you should care about optimizing your Google My Business listing is that it helps you effectively manage your online reputation. As mentioned, Google previously built your GMB profile by pulling keywords from your Google reviews. This could sometimes be a negative thing for business owners because one or two bad reviews could leave your business listing a mess. Now that Google allows business owners more control over their listing attributes, however, you have the opportunity to only choose to highlight the qualities that make your store amazing, making the job of managing your public persona much easier.

Another key to making your Google My Business listing work in your favor is to stay on top of your online reviews. Engage with your customers who take the time to share their experiences and photos. You can enhance these positive reviews by uploading your own high-quality photos to your listing that help review-readers understand what your business does. Businesses who do this receive 42 percent more requests for driving directions and 35 percent more website click-throughs than those that do not, according to Google My Business Help.

Show your customers you care about their feedback by responding civilly and humbly to reviews, both positive and negative. It can be tempting to respond defensively to a customer who writes about a negative experience, but if you make it a rule to always thank customers for their constructive criticism and aim to fix any problems that arise, you’ll find you have more loyal customers who want to tell their friends about your business. And since it costs five times as much to acquire a new customer than it does to keep an existing one, it’s in your best interest to address each customer concern with care.

In addition, you should make it a habit to encourage every customer who visits your store to leave a review. Descriptive, positive reviews increase your business’ search visibility, incentivize other users to visit your store, and increase the likelihood of your customers choosing your products and services over your competition. Be careful of the temptation to incentivize your customers to leave reviews, however. Paying people to say nice things about your business does more harm to your reputation than good, and may be a breach of the FTC’s endorsement guidelines if your reviewers don’t disclose they’re being paid or given free product.

Optimize your local search rankings even further

If you’re aiming to gain new customers, manage your online reputation, and beat out the competition, optimizing your Google My Business attributes list is an effective and incredibly easy step you can take to improve your local SEO. Ready to do even more to ensure that your customers can easily find you in Google Searches and Maps? Schedule your free call with a Big Leap SEO expert to learn how to streamline your digital marketing efforts and more easily reach your target customers.