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:
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.
Here’s an example of what a Google My Business listing looks like:
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:
- Plant nurseries
- Grocery stores
- Auto repair shops
- Haulage companies
- Pet groomers
- Wedding planners
- 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!
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.
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.
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:
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’.
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.
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’?
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.
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.
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’
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.
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).
Step 10 – Fill out your business information while you wait
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!
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.
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! 👋
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:
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):
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)
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!)
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.
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!
Want to use even more Google features to be found for free by your target market? Check out Google Discover!
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