A shop owner works at his laptop in front of a wall of sewing and shoe care products.
Google My Business can be a boon to local businesses if utilized correctly. — Getty Images/yongyuan

Google My Business is a free tool that can help you improve your local SEO efforts and land more customers. These six steps will help you optimize your Google My Business listing.

[Read more: Improve Your SEO: 10 Expert Resources to Check Out]

Claim and verify your business listing

To claim your business listing, log into the Google account that you want to be associated with your business. Then, go to google.com/business and click “Start now.”

From there, you’ll enter the name of your business and the address. If you work from home and don’t want your address to show up publicly, you can hide it and show the region instead.

Next, choose how you’d like to verify your business: by phone, by email or through instant verification.

Make sure your information is up to date

Any information in your business listing will be indexed by Google and serve as the foundation for your local SEO, so you want to make sure everything is up to date.

It’s also important to double-check that the information in your business listing matches what’s currently on your website. If the information you share on your website differs from your Google My Business listing, it can hurt your search ranking.

You’ll also want to update your business categories. You have to choose one primary category and you can add up to 10 additional categories to highlight services your business offers.

Finally, your description is a great way to explain to customers what your business does. A thorough description can help improve your search rankings.

[Read more: How to Improve Your Google Search Ranking]

Upload images to your listing

According to Google, businesses that add photos to their listing are more likely to have people click over to their website. They’re also more likely to receive requests for driving directions to their location.

At the very least, you should add your company’s logo and a cover photo to your business listing. But it can also be helpful to add some additional photos to highlight different aspects of your business.

Your photos should be at least 720 pixels wide by 720 pixels tall, and either a JPG or PNG file. Google gives detailed instructions for how to add photos from either your mobile device or a desktop computer.

Reviews are the most important aspect of your Google My Business listing because 82% of consumers will read reviews before deciding on a local business.

Share updates about your business

All businesses have access to the Google Posts feature, so you should take advantage of it. Google Posts allows you to share relevant updates about your business.

You can share things like blog posts, upcoming events, promotions and videos. Anything you want your customers to know about your business, you can share in Google Posts.

You can even add call-to-action buttons to your posts. Google Posts is one of the best ways to engage your audience and capture your customers’ attention from the start.

Ask your customers for reviews

Reviews are the most important aspect of your Google My Business listing because 82% of consumers will read reviews before deciding on a local business.

Fortunately, it’s easy to start asking your current customers for reviews. Google even encourages you to request reviews and makes it easy for you to quickly send a link to your customers.

However, the real work begins after your business begins receiving reviews. That’s because you need to respond to all of them—especially the negative reviews.

When customers take the time to leave a positive review, they expect a response. And if a review is negative, you have an opportunity to make things right.

Of course, even if you respond to a negative review, you may not be able to change that customer’s mind. But the way you respond to negative reviews could influence someone else’s decision about whether or not to do business with you.

Track your insights

You can see how well your listing is performing with Google My Business Insights. Insights will give you a complete breakdown of the following information:

  • How customers find your business listing.
  • What action they take after finding it.
  • Common search terms that lead to your business.
  • How many people find you via Google Search and Google Maps.
  • How many customers ask for directions.

The information you receive from Insights will help you understand the customer journey better while also identifying possible areas of improvement.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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