One of the easiest ways for local businesses to get leads for free is to have an optimized Google My Business (GMB) listing. A GMB listing is also the only way to be #1 on Google for many local services. That’s because only businesses with GMB listings are shown in the Local Pack, at the top of Google search results, for local service queries, for instance, searches for painters, cleaners, or other service contractors.
Figure 1: Google My Business Listings are displayed in Local Pack at top of Google search results.
What is Google My Business?
Google My Business is a free service that allows business owners to easily list their company with Google and manage information that is presented to the public. GMB listings contain basic business information such as company name, address, phone numbers, website, services, and hours of operation.
Google My Business also provides features to encourage businesses and the public to communicate with one another including:
- Posting specials and events
- Asking questions
- Submitting and displaying reviews
- Publishing photos and videos
- Private messaging
Figure 2: Information card resulting from Google My Business listing.
How to Create or Claim Your Google My Business Listing
To start you’ll need a Gmail or Google account. If you have one, log in.
If you do not have Gmail or a Google account, you can sign up here:
Once you have a Google account, you can create or claim your GMB listing. Google My Business is constantly changing. For this reason, it is best to follow the current instructions from Google. Click the link below to view Google’s instructions to “Add or claim your business listing”.
When creating or editing your GMB listing, you’ll want to follow Google’s guidelines to avoid complications, such as having your listing suspended. You can find the guidelines here:
Common problems local businesses encounter when entering or updating company data:
- Use your full official company name. Do not add “keywords” to your company name. For example, do not change “Johnson’s Painting LLC” to “Johnson’s Painting – Interior & Exterior”. Two reasons:
- 1) It’s against Google guidelines and if they detect it, your listing will be flagged and removed from search results.
- 2) Google attempts to match your business to various online and offline data sources to determine its “prominence”. Variation in business name may result in Google assigning less “prominence” to your business and lower rankings.
- Use an actual physical mailing address. Google does not accept PO boxes as an address. Google also does not accept addresses that are commercial mailing facilities such as UPS Stores or Mail Boxes Etc.
- Use your local phone number as the primary phone. If you have a toll-free number list it as a secondary number. Reality is people expect local businesses to have local phone numbers. Toll-free numbers are for non-local companies.
Verify Your Google My Business Listing
You must complete verification of your GMB listing. Failure to verify your listing will generally result in your business being removed from Google’s Local Pack. Seriously, why would Google show an unverified business when there are so many verified businesses?
To verify your business Google will usually send a letter, mailer, or postcard to your business address via USPS. The mailer will contain a verification code. When you receive it, simply follow the instructions. Complete the verification process as soon as the letter arrives. The sooner verification is completed, the sooner you’ll start getting valuable leads. Fail to complete the verification process and your business will not be shown to motivated potential customers in the Local Pack.
Figure 3: Contents of Google My Business verification mailer.
Important: If the verification mailer does not arrive within 2 weeks, login into your GMB listing, verify your business address is correct, and request Google to send another mailer by clicking the “I don’t have a code” link circled in red below.
Figure 4: Google My Business administration page for unverified business.
Learn more about the verification process here:
or watch the fun video below:
What if my GMB listing is already claimed?
This is a common problem. Many GMB listings have been claimed in the past, generally by former employees or former marketing companies.
In this case, you’ll want to request ownership of the listing. Requesting ownership is easy, though it can take a couple weeks.
Instructions for requesting GMB ownership can be found here:
Important: Avoid creating more than one GMB listing for any given address and local phone number. Google tries to prevent multiple listings, but if duplicates slip through, Google periodically scans all local listings and flags duplicate listings. Flagged listings are generally marked as inappropriate and removed from search results.
Once you have created, claimed, or re-claimed ownership of your GMB listing, you are ready to put it to use.
In Part 2 of this series, we’ll discuss how to optimize your Google My Business listing and maximize its free lead generation capability.
The author, Fred Lovine, is president of 99 Calls which specializes in highly cost-effective lead generation for contractors and local service area businesses such as roofers, painters, plumbers, cleaners, electricians, damage restoration, handymen, landscapers, pest control, paving, photographers, and more.