Optimize your GMB listing – with live example from a photographer

So, you want to know how to claim your Google My Business listing for your photography business? Awesome! In this guide, I’ll take you through the basics of what GMB is and why you should use it. I’ll also take you through step-by-step how to claim your business on GMB using a real world example from a fellow photographer.

As business owners with real-world businesses to run and customers to serve, optimizing our web presence often gets pushed to the bottom of the pile. But the truth is, your future clients are right there on Google and if you’re not in front of their eyeballs, someone else will be.

Though our online listings seem like a tiny part of what we do, we need to remember this is the first impression of your business to hundreds or even thousands of potential new customers. So, you want to not only claim your GMB listing, but optimize it so that it converts. It’s how your business will be judged by local searchers!

The good news is it’s really simple and easy to get set up. So, let’s learn a little more and then we’ll dive in.

Prefer to watch video than read a blog post? Check out my tutorial in video format, below:

What is Google My Business?

Google My Business (or GMB as it’s known) is a listing you create that allows Google to know that your business exists! From Google:

Your free Business Profile lets you easily connect with customers across Google Search and Maps.

According to Google, when you get a GMB listing, you’ll be eligible to appear on Google Search and Maps. Though that’s not a guarantee, it means that when someone nearby types in a search term that matches your business description, you may appear in the results.

With your Google My Business account, you can see and connect with your customers, post updates to your Business Profile, and see how customers are interacting with your business on Google.

Here’s an example of what a Google My Business listing looks like:

Example showing a well-optimized Google My Business listing
A restaurant’s well-optimized Google My Business (GMB) listing

By now, we all know how important it is to keep up-to-date with these features so we don’t get left behind. Today’s consumers are used to making quick decisions using the information at their fingertips. They can easily tell a listing that looks appealing and has some thought put into it, from one that’s forgotten about and a little sketchy-looking.

Who is eligible for Google My Business?

Google My Business is only for local businesses that do face to face business with their customers. Examples include:

  • Restaurants
  • Plant nurseries
  • Bakeries
  • Plumbers
  • Grocery stores
  • Auto repair shops
  • Colleges
  • Haulage companies
  • Pet groomers
  • Wedding planners
  • Bars
  • HVAC repair companies

… The list goes on. Though this tutorial will be useful for any kind of eligible business, my expertise is in photography businesses, so it’s most targeted towards the unique factors that go into these types of businesses.

You’ll notice that service-based business are eligible for GMB, even if they work out of their home and have no storefront. In our example, we’ll be using a portrait photographer who goes to locations of her clients’ choosing within a certain radius.

 Brands, organizations, artists, and other online-only businesses are NOT eligible for Google My Business listings. 

You can opt to hide your address (which will in 95% of cases be your home address). As we go through this real example, I’ll show you the option to show your service area rather than a specific address.

Official guidelines from GMB state that if you are a service area business (which photographers mostly are, because who can actually afford a dedicated studio these days? Most of us go out to visit our clients where they’re at), you should NOT display your address. A service area business in one that visits or delivers to clients directly and does not service clients at that address.

If you do not serve customers at the address you used to verify your GMB listing, make sure you choose service areas.

Can you use a PO Box for Google My Business?

No, it is against the GMB terms of service to use any kind of mailbox, PO box or virtual space. Coworking spaces are also not a good way around GMB’s restrictions as there are rules against them specifically.

One good workaround is to change the address to your home address and then set your GMB to a service area business so your home address is not made public. You can then enter up to 20 service areas, within about 2 hours’ driving of the address.

If you opt to show your address, it must be an actual address that customers can visit, not a home address, virtual space, PO box or anything that isn’t a storefront with appropriate signage.

There’s always someone out there who claims they can use some weird technique to bypass what’s allowed in the official GMB rules regarding service area businesses, but ultimately it’s likely this would be discovered and hurt your listing in the long run.

Listings have gotten taken down for less!

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Claiming your business on GMB – step-by-step

Thanks to fellow photographer Cara Jacobson Photography for letting me use her as my test! As we go through, you’ll see exactly what you need to do to set up your own Google My Business listing. This may you if you’re unsure whether a GMB listing is for you, or want to get the scoop on what’s involved before signing up!

Step 1 – Check to see if your GMB listing already exists

This step is not so obvious, but it is important! Anyone can set up a GMB listing. Maybe it was set up already by a previous owner or employee of your business. It could even have been set up by a customer or local resident. So, let’s Google the business name and see.

how to check and see if you already have a Google My Business set up. It may have been set up by a previous owner, employee or even by a customer or local resident.
Checking to see whether the business already has a Google My Business listing

Nope, Cara Jacobson Photography doesn’t have a GMB listing. But with this guide, I’ll show you how to go from this ☝️ to this 👇 when searching your business name.

before and after - now we have verified this small business, it appears on google instantly when searching the name of that company.

Step 2 – Sign in to https://www.google.com/business/ and log in

You’ll want to use the same Gmail address that you use for your website’s Google Analytics and Google Search Console. Once you log in, this is what you’ll see:

screenshot from Google My Business - when setting up you'll see 'Find and Manage your Business' - you'll need to select 'Add your Business To Google', highlighted in red.
Choose ‘Add your business to Google’

Step 3 – Add your business to Google

As we know already that the business name isn’t already known by Google, I’ll choose ‘Add your business to Google’ at the bottom of the screen.

The next screen will ask you ‘What is the name of your business?’ Make sure you enter this correctly, and hit ‘Next’.

Set up screen from Google My Business - the prompt asks you 'what's the name of your business'. Enter the Business Name and click 'Next'.
Enter your business name and hit ‘Next’.

Step 4 – Choose your business category

Then, the next screen will ask you for your business category. You’ll want this to be accurate and match what people are searching. Google will give you a predetermined list that you choose from. Don’t worry if it’s not an exact match, you’ll be able to add more categories, or even change it, later.

Setting up your GMB listing - choosing the correct category for your business. In this example, the category is Photographer
Start typing and Google will suggest categories for you to choose from

As you can see above, there is a list of relevant categories that come up as I start to type in ‘Photographer’. Please, don’t ask me why ‘Hot dog restaurant’ shows up, must be a Google glitch 😉

Step 5 – Select whether to add a physical location

OK, next up you’ll be asked ‘Do you want to add a location customers can visit, like a store or office’?

'Do you want to add a location customers can visit, like a store or office'? question screenshot from Google My Business listing setting up a photographers' profile
You’ll be asked whether you want to add a location customers can visit

In Cara’s case, we’ll want to say ‘No’. This is because customers do not come to her – she goes to wherever they would like their photo-shoot to take place. If you have a store, repair shop, studio, office space and you’d like to have this visible on the profile, then of course hit ‘Yes’.

Step 6 – Add where you serve your customers

Next up, the question appears, ‘Where do you serve your customers? (optional)’. As you’re running a local business, I would advise definitely taking advantage of this feature! You can add several if you’d like.

Adding the relevant service areas under ''Where do you serve your customers? (optional)'' of your Google My business listing. This listing deals with a local service provider in the Dallas TX area
Adding in a few cities within a reasonable range of the business owner’s location

Step 7 – Enter your phone number and website

OK, nearly done! You’ll add in your phone number (if you would like that to appear). This will be public. Some businesses such as photographers would rather not have their cell phone number appearing. They prefer to use calendar scheduling when it comes time to arrange a conversation. We’ll be adding that in later.

Adding in info to set up Google My Business listing - 'What details do you want to show to customers?' You then enter your phone number and website
Choose the contact details you’d like to appear – phone number and website

For the vast majority of businesses, you will NOT want the ‘free website’. You likely already have one! If you don’t, take the time to find out what suits your business’ needs before signing up.

Step 8 – Hit ‘Finish’

Finish and manage this listing - the final screen from a small business' Google My Business set up process - find out how to claim, set up and optimize your GMB listing to attract local customers
Finish and manage the listing

On the final screen, right before you hit ‘Finish’, you’ll get a preview of what you can how do! You can:

  • Promote your business with photos and posts
  • Track business analytics to understand your customers
  • Respond to customer reviews

Step 9 – Enter your mailing address and await postcard

You may have hit ‘Finish’ but there is one last step! Google will send you a postcard for verification purposes. You’ll need to enter your mailing address where you’ll receive this postcard.

final screen of the set-up process for Google My Business - you'll need to enter your mailing address to verify your business and finish the GMB listing
Enter your mailing address – this is where the verification postcard will be sent!

This is a vital last step and your listing will not be live without it. So, wait a few days and keep an eye on your mail! You can also choose to ‘verify later’, in case you can’t get to the address on time. Currently you can see it says ‘may take up to 5 days to arrive’. So hit that ‘Mail’ button, kick back and relax for 5 days (yeah, right).

The final step of verifying your business with google for your GMB listing is the postcard which will be sent out to the mailing address. It takes 5 days to arrive.
Toot, toot! The postcard is now on its way, it looks like it’ll take 5 days to reach the business owner

Step 10 – Fill out your business information while you wait

While waiting for your GMB listing verification postcard to arrive, you can spend some time working on your profile, adding relevant information and keyword-rich text that will help you get found in local search
Get started with your Google My Business listing while you want for the postcard for verification

Just kidding about the putting-your-feet-up part. Now what you’ll want to do is fill out your profile! This part is pretty self-explanatory. Have a click around and see what you can add! I have a few pointers below related to specific sections within the customization process.

Tips and tricks for optimizing your GMB profile

You should add:

  • Opening hours (or you can also add 24 hours, if customers do not visit the location e.g. a home-run business which has no set hours that your customers need to know)
  • Scheduling link if you don’t want your cell phone number appearing, use a free or paid scheduling service. (examples exclude Calendly, Acuity, Doodle, 10to8, Picktime…)
  • Your logo: This should be in square format. If your logo file is rectangular, you’ll need to use some simple software to add your logo to a square canvas, otherwise it may be partially cropped out, or have a background.
  • Photos (including a horizontal cover photo): Whatever your type of business, add relevant photos! The categories are: Overview, video, at work, team and identity. The idea is to personalize your brand here. Your photos don’t have to be professional, but make sure they are well-lit and composed. Avoid stock photography, as this looks fake rather than evoking trust.

Here’s a great tip for adding photos to your GMB listing. You’ll want to geo-tag them (embedding location data in the files exif). This is just one small way of making everything in your listing scream ‘LOCAL’. To do this, go to GeoImgr and follow the simple instructions there.

  • Services or products: details of what you sell. Note: if you don’t see the correct categories appearing under ‘services’, you can simply add your own! In the screenshot below, you’ll see the categories related to Cara’s field are limited, so I added ones that are in line with what she offers, bearing in mind also what her target market is searching!
You can create new categories for your service offerings if those auto-suggested by Google aren’t quite right.

Note: product photos should be added to the ‘products’ section, not the ‘photos’ section. Also: Customers cannot make purchase within GMB. You can provide a link to the product on your website (for example as a post) and they can buy it from there.

  • Business description: Keep it short and sweet (limit is only 750 characters). Describe what your business is all about! Inject the brand’s personality, as this is what will resonate with your target market. However, keep it professional and not overly familiar. Include keywords in a natural way.
Screenshot from Google My Business - how to set up and optimize your GMB listing for success featuring tips and tricks to get the most out of your listing so you get found in local search! | beastlocal.com
Write a description that explains what you do and why your audience should care!

At this point, we’re just trying to get our profile looking as complete as possible. Of course, it doesn’t have to be perfect. You can tweak pretty much everything, any time you want.

That’s about all I can do while I wait for the postcard to arrive in the mail. Catch you on the flipside! 👋

beastlocal.com showing you how to set up and get the most out of your GMB listing for success in your local area - Zoe waiting for the verification postcard to arrive
Take a walk – it’s going to be a long wait 😣

Verifying your business on Google My Business (when you’re received your postcard!)

OK! The postcard has now arrived and we’re ready to verify the business with Google. This is what you should expect to receive in the mail within 5 business days:

A scan of the actual envelope Google My Business (GMB) verification team will send you. Keep an eye out for this in the mail - it is received within 5 days.
Scan of the postcard you’ll receive from GMB

Now log into your GMB listing. On the first screen when you visit Google Business, you’ll see where you need to enter the verification code (below):

Where to enter your verification code for your Google My Business (GMB) listing when you have received the postcard sent by Google
Click where it says ‘enter verification code’ when you log into https://www.google.com/business/

Once you’ve entered the number, we can start adding more to the listing. Here are a few things I did or that you can do

  • Add a ‘profile short name’
  • Add special hours
  • Input your phone number
  • Add your opening date
  • Share your profile on social media
  • Share by email to customers asking for a review using ‘share review form’.
  • Turn on messaging
  • Add a video (as well as photos showcasing overview, at work, team and identity)
  • Add the ability to book through Google
  • Showcase your products
  • Create price sheets for your services
  • Get familiar with your ‘Insights’ which is your dedicated GMB analytics
  • Create an ad
  • Create a post (examples below)
Example posts from Google My Business posts for small business owners - photography business

Now you’re all set up on Google My Business! You’ll receive an email every month that’ll show you how many people viewed your business and how many clicks went to your website. You’ll also find the top search queries people used to find you! This is what it looks like (screenshot from my own GMB listing!)

email from Google every month showing how many views and search terms and Google My Business listing receives
Screenshot showing monthly email from Google with views, search terms and click data

A word of warning about a GMB scam that you should be aware of

The day before I published this article, I began receiving scam emails attempting to gain ownership of my Google My Business account. I am not entirely sure how the scam works, but I have written a detailed article about what I know.

Make sure you protect yourself by checking out the article, which I will add to as time goes by.

READ MORE  What to do when scammers keep requesting access to your Google My Business account

Unfortunately, even GMB is not immune to being targeted by scammers. Unscrupulous people will always try to find a way to profit from YOUR hard work and the business you’ve built.

Be very sure you know who you are giving access to. Never give access of your Google My Business account to anyone you do not know or trust – even if they send a legitimate-looking email, promise you free services to help you, or claim to be from Google.

A quick bit of GMB news

It’s currently unofficial news (reported here in Search Engine Journal) but it looks like a paid option for GMB will soon be available. Known as Google Guarantee, it seems that for $50/month, business owners will be able to pay for a visibility boost along with a green badge. This is all in a bid to increase user trust and fight spam, which has long been a thorn in GMB’s side.

It’s not available to all local businesses at the minute (maybe only those already in Local Services), but worth keeping an eye on if you are eager to test out all that Google My Business has to offer.

My next installment in my Google My Business series will delve a little deeper into the more advanced stuff, now you’re all set up, including how to get those sweet reviews, posting tips, analytics and more. ‘Til then – happy GMB adventures!

READ MORE  30 do-it-yourself SEO tips for service professionals

Want to use even more Google features to be found for free by your target market? Check out Google Discover!

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How to claim and set up your Google My Business! So, you want to know how to claim your Google My Business listing for your small, local business? Awesome! In this guide, I’ll take you through the basics of what GMB is and why you should use it. I’ll show you step-by-step how to claim your business on GMB using a real world example setting up a photography business owner's GMB. The advantages are obvious, once you know the power of Google My Business! #seo #localseo | zoelarkin.com
How to claim and set up your Google My Business – step-by-step guide | zoelarkin.com

Claiming your local business in Google My Business - It's simple with my easy-to-understand guide! I will explain the benefits of GMB such as appearing on Maps and Search, and will also guide you through set-up in detail, with a REAL service business I set up + optimize from scratch. With 92% of searchers never leaving the first page of Google, it pays to use ALL Google's local-friendly features and get the best of out your free Google My Business (GMB) listing. #seo #localseo | zoelarkin.com
Claiming your small business on Google My Business – step-by-step GMB guide | zoelarkin.com

Zoe Larkin

I’m Zoe, a wedding photographer based in San Francisco! My style is candid, capturing authentic moments for my couples all over the Bay Area and Northern California. Creating content is my passion! Follow along the blog and Insta!

Photography businesses that operate within a local community need to set up a Google My Business profile so they can be found locally. I show you HOW to claim or add your business to Google My Business listing (GMB)

How to set up your Google My Business for photographers

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