These are all Google searches that will bring up local search results. Google will display a map, sometimes an ad, 3 recommended local businesses, and a “View all” button.
SEO specialists call Google’s 3 recommended local businesses the Google “3-pack.” Most serious customers will click on at least one of the businesses in the 3-pack. For this reason, getting into the 3-pack should be a high-priority goal for any business that sells products and services locally.
Many businesses search Google their product/service category, see their business in the 3-pack, and assume that their business is in the 3-pack throughout their city. This is a critical mistake. Keep in mind, Google will determine what businesses belong in the 3-pack based on where someone runs the search. So, if you’re Googling from your office or nearby, you’re very likely to appear in the 3-pack. Drive 15 miles away, and you may discover you’re not recommended outside of this geographic area.
Still, there’s a lot you can do to improve your Google rankings throughout your city! This article will take you through 6 essential steps. While these steps may seem obvious, I can promise you that many of your competitors are not acting on this advice. Prioritizing your Google Business Profile rankings is an excellent way for you to gain a competitive advantage in your local market.
1. Create a Google Business Profile
If you haven’t already, you can create an account at business.googele.com.
Google will walk you through all the steps to set up your account. If you prefer to watch video instructions, follow along with website strategist Wes McDowell’s excellent 15-minute tutorial.
2. Complete all of the fields in the Info section
A lot of business owners rush through this section figuring they’ll come back to it later. Somehow, it never rises to the top of their agenda.
If you already filled out this section in a hurry, go back and check if there’s any additional information you can add. Here’s a checklist to guide you.
Pick secondary business categories along with your primary category
If your primary category is business coach, your secondary categories might include: executive consultant, management training, public speaker, author, etc.
You are allowed to choose up to 10 categories. Your primary category has the most influence on your search rankings, so make sure to write the name of the category you most want to rank for as your primary category.
To inspect what categories your competitors are using, download the free Google Chrome extension GMBspy.
Choose whether you’re a hybrid business or service-area business
Hybrid businesses serve customers at their business address. (They can also visit or deliver to customers.)
Hybrid businesses should create Google Business Profiles for each location.
Service-area businesses don’t serve customers at their business address. Instead, they visit or deliver to customers.
If this describes your business, create one Google Business Profile to cover all the areas you serve. Leave the “business location” field blank and avoid entering an address under the Google Business Profile “Info” tab.
You can choose up to 20 service areas. (These can be separate cities or postal codes.) Google only stipulates that your service areas can’t go beyond a 2-hour driving time. This means that, so long as you’re able to drive or deliver, you can add a lot more service areas than just the city you call home.
If you don’t have a website, don’t worry
A good temporary website solution is to create a Facebook business page. When Google prompts you to enter your website, enter the URL of your Facebook page.
Add products and services you offer
If you haven’t already, productize your services. A simple menu helps customers quickly get a sense of your products, services, and pricing.
Add an appointment link
This is especially important for service professionals. When someone searches Google for the service you offer, they generally want to get on the phone with someone.
You can easily create a free appointment link at Calendly.com.
If you cannot personally handle unscreened calls, train someone on your staff to talk to new leads. Teach the person who takes these calls how to:
- ask questions about the prospect’s needs
- repeat back what they hear and document key information
- give a 3-sentence abbreviated elevator pitch on what you do and what makes your company unique
- share your products, services, programs, or online resources that might be relevant to the caller
Write a thoughtful business description
At the bottom of the Info page, Google allows you to enter a long business description. In your description, state what your business does and what makes you unique. Keep your description inviting and informational. Avoid using this area to promote sales.
Use close to the maximum 750 characters so you can include sales details and relevant keywords. However, keep in mind that most customers will only read the first 240 characters that appear in the preview area.
Adjectives are key to vivid descriptions, so we made a word list you can borrow from:
- full range
- local favorite
- locally made
- locally sourced
- one-stop shop
- top pick
Fill out everything else
List your hours, add highlights, link to your active social media accounts, note health and safety information, input the date you opened, and add anything else you see on the Info page that could apply to your business.
There are two key reasons to do this:
- Filling out all this information demonstrates to Google that you’re an active business. This will help you outrank the majority of business profiles, which are often left incomplete.
- Providing business details helps customers learn more about you. This increases their chances of calling you, scheduling an appointment, or visiting your website.
3. Aim to upload 30+ photos
You should upload:
- a logo
- a cover photo
- 3+ exterior photos
- 3+ interior photos
- product photos for your most popular products
- photos of your most popular food and drinks
- photos of your staff interacting with customers
- photos of guest rooms, special events, and other features that might interest people in your business
If you don’t yet have professional photos, search Google for a local photographer. Depending on your area, you might find a photographer who specializes in business photos. If you’re in Boise, check out our Photography Session service.
If you run a personal brand, and your office or home isn’t aligned with your ideal branding, consider using a staged location. Browse Airbnb for a location that matches your branding, or ask your photographer for recommendations. Once you’ve settled on a photography plan, book the rental and the photographer. One solid photoshoot with several wardrobe changes can provide you with years worth of photos for your Google Business Profile, website, and social media.
Google recommends the following specifications for photos:
- JPG or PNG
- 10 kb – 5 mb
- 720 x 720 px
- avoid excessive filters; keep the photo in focus and well lit
For videos, Google recommends:
- up to 30 seconds
- up to 75 mb
- 720p or higher
For more information, visit the Google Business Profile Help Center.
4. Write 12 posts, one for each month
Google Business Profile posts are like status updates for your business. You can use posts to highlight events, sales, new products or services, news, and announcements. You can also use posts to give away free stuff like promo code coupons, explainer videos, how-to videos, and links to reports or guides.
Think of posts as free ad space. Potential customers are likely to see them, and your Google Business Profile listing will tend to rank higher if you share posts regularly.
The key to a great post is an eye-catching photo. Text is optional. If you use text, write a concise title (58 characters maximum), keep the description concise, and end with a call-to-action.
For descriptions, Google allows up to 1,500 characters, but recommends you use only 150-300 characters. A post should address the fundamentals your customer needs to know: What’s going on? Where is it? When is it? And how much is it?
Examples of effective calls to action include:
- Book online
- Learn more
You have the option to end your post with a button. If you include a link, make sure the landing page is aligned with your call to action, and that it’s easy for people to complete the action you’re inviting them to take.
You can see more example posts in the Google Help Center and Hootsuite’s guide, How to Create the Best Google Business Profile Posts.
5. Write a standard review request and send it consistently
By far the best way to rank higher and get more conversions (clicks, calls, or appointments) is to collect reviews.
To get started, you’ll need to copy the review link for your business. Go to business.google.com, click the Home tab, scroll down to “Get more reviews”, click the button “Share review form”, then copy the link for use later.
If you’re in a product business, when you send a customer a package, include a small card with a request for a review. You can also follow-up with the customer by email a week after they receive their devilry to check that the product is working for them, ask if they have any questions, and invite them to leave a review.
If you’re in a service business, you need to write a review request and make it a standard practice to always deliver it to new clients after they complete a specific positive experience. For example, you could send a review request after a client completes…
- a meal they enjoyed
- their first 3 therapy or coaching sessions
- a key milestone on their action plan
- a live or virtual event
If a customer compliments your restaurant, a server can tell them that one of the best things they can do is spread the word by writing a review on the restaurant’s Google listing.
Another strategy for a service business is to send a text message reminder with a direct link to review your business. Try something like this:
“Hi John, I’m so thrilled to see you taking the steps we talked about and making progress on your range of motion! If you have a moment, it would be super helpful to us if you could leave a quick rating to let others in [your city] know about your experience so far. [your review link here]”
For a high-impact personal touch, you could send a postcard or package. Handwrite the name and address on the envelope to virtually ensure the recipient will open it. Inside, write a handwritten message on a card. Thank the client for trusting you with their business, tell them that you’re sharing a gift (perhaps a book or a $20 Amazon gift card). Then tell them that it would mean a great deal to you if they could take a moment to search for your business name and leave a review on your Google profile. (You can potentially print a message and then have your staff sign it.)
For immediate feedback at an event, you could ask attendees to leave a review during the final break before your event wraps up. Ask your attendees what they learned (or recap yourself), then mention…
“We’re going to take a final break, if you have a moment, I would really appreciate if you could search Google for [your business name] and write a short review about your experience.”
Of course, you can send a follow-up text message or email a few days after the event to invite people to leave a review in case they missed the earlier opportunity.
For more review request templates and best practices, visit ReviewTrackers’s How to Ask Customers for Reviews.
Finally, don’t miss out on other ways you can encourage customers to leave reviews. Google offers a free marketing kit with social media posts and print-ready posters, signs, and stickers. These assets allow you to feature your 5-star Google reviews and encourage others to support your business with reviews and photos.
It’s important to be aware of Google’s rules around reviews. Specifically, you’re not allowed to:
- Discourage or prohibit negative reviews
- Selectively solicit positive reviews
- Give money in exchange for reviews
- Solicit reviews from customers in bulk
Google is constantly purging reviews that it determines to be in violation of this policy.
6. Respond to reviews (even short ones)
Responding to reviews shows your appreciation for your customers and their reviews. This increases customers’ willingness to leave reviews and shows prospective customers that you care about feedback. As a final bonus, respoding to reviews creates an opportunity to use service keywords so you can reinforce to Google what you’d like to rank for.
To respond to a review, visit business.google.com, click the menu button in the upper left corner, then select “Reviews.” Next, select the “Haven’t Replied” tab and click the “Reply” button next to the first review you haven’t replied to. Now you’re ready to go!
Reply to each positive review with a sentence or two. Repeat customers’ words or ideas back to acknowledge specific feedback. Be sure to also sprinkle in one keyword in each review. For example:
“We’re so glad you enjoyed the management training seminar! Your insights and questions helped make this an amazing event for everyone!”
If a customer leaves a rating without a review, you should still respond. Say something like,
“Thank you for rating us, Bill. We look forward to seeing you again as you continue to reach for your fitness goals.”
A natural tone is important, so be sure to vary your responses the same way you would if you were speaking to a group in person.
If you receive a legitimate negative review, investigate the reasons for the review and acknowledge any mistakes made. Rather than accepting responsibility for events beyond your control (like an event canceled due to rain), explain what you can and can’t do (for example, you could say that you monitor the weather and make alternative arrangements when possible). Google also recommends apologizing to show empathy and signing off with your name or initials to show authenticity.
Many businesses mix in positive marketing (“We’re normally attentive to customer orders and we’re sorry we missed the mark”). Another common practice is to take the conversation offline (“I’m the owner. If you’d like to discuss this further, please contact me at [phone number] or [email address]”). Most businesses also avoid using their business name or keywords in their replies to negative reviews in order to depress the negative review’s ranking in Google’s algorithm.
If you receive a spam review, off-topic review, a review with a conflict of interest, or an otherwise inappropriate review, report it by clicking on the flag icon next to the review. If Google doesn’t remove the review within 2 weeks, call Google Business Support at 1-844-491-9665.
For more information, including free review responses templates, visit Hubspot’s Ultimate Guide to Responding to Positive and Negative Google Reviews.
7. Sign up for Google Guaranteed
Google Guaranteed is a badge certification that Google awards to some local service businesses categories. Google instills confidence in customers by promising that if customers aren’t satisfied with your work, Google may reimburse their purchases.
To get Google Guaranteed, Google will inspect:
- your licenses and insurance relevant to your industry
- the completeness of your Google Business Profile
- how you have addressed negative reviews
The easiest way to get Google Guaranteed is to sign up for Local Service Ads. With this program, you’ll pay Google a $50/month base fee, plus the a fee for every business lead you receive – usually about $25/lead. Unlike with Google Ads, you don’t pay to bid on keywords in the hopes of securing a click. Instead, you only pay for calls or form completions by real customers. This can potentially save you a lot of time managing ad campaigns.
Because Google only displays 3 Google Guaranteed results, it’s important to follow best practices to increase your visibility. Answer your phone when customers call, collect reviews, respond to reviews. Businesses that are close to customers will generally outrank businesses that are farther away. If you’re still having difficulty getting enough leads, you can bid to increase your rankings.
Google is still adding industries and locations to this service. You can check if your business is eligible or visit Neil Patel’s article Is Getting “Google Guaranteed” Worth It? for more information.
8. Turn on Call History
When a customer clicks the Call button on your Google Business Profile, the call will appear in your profile’s Calls tab.
If you link your Google Ads account to your Google Business Profile, turn on your call history. Once this is done calls will appear in your Google Ads account as “Calls from Ads” conversions. To be counted as a conversion, a customer must click on an add, call you, and speak for a specified amount of time.
Since Call History is currently an experimental feature (as of 2022), it is only available to some businesses in the US and Canada.