Google Business Profile Refresher

2023 Update – A lot has changed since we made this course in 2020, but the fundamentals have remained the same. One meta change it has been renamed from Google My Business to Google Business Profile. Google is also trying to ween people off of the “backend” of GBP and forcing business owners and agencies to manage their business on Google right on Google.com.

We wanted to make a refresher course for people that might be new to Google My Business, Google Business Profile or old school SEO’s that might need to brush up on their Google Business Profile skills. The one thing we won’t cover in this course is signing up / verifying your GBP listing. This post assumes you already have your GBP setup and verified.

If you are looking for any type of black hat secrets for GBP I’m sorry to say this is not the place for it. I’ve learned quickly in my SEO career that while some of these tactics may work, they aren’t viable for businesses that are in it for the long haul. Almost always, they end up backfiring. I will however offer some tricks and insights I’ve learned optimizing Google Business Profile listings for the past decade or more.

So let’s go!

Table of Contents

  • Google Business Profile Basics

  • Your Knowledge Panel

  • Adding Photos to Google Business Profile

  • Google Business Profile Videos

  • Google Business Profile Services

  • Highlights / Attributes

  • Google Business Profile Welcome Offers

  • Google Business Profile Service Area

  • Google Business Profile Shortnames

  • The GBP Mobile App

  • Call / Phone Number Tracking With Google Business Profile

  • Google Business Profile Followers

  • Reviews

  • Don’t do shady things in GBP

  • Do I need an address to be on Google Business Profile?

  • Get Help with Google Business Profile

Printable Resource: If you are working on a Google Business Profile listing and want to make sure you’ve checked all the boxes, download and print this.

What is Google Business Profile

If you’ve gotten this far I’m sure you already know this, but Google Business Profile, or “GBP” for short amongst us SEO’s is a free tool provided by Google that lets you manage how your business looks on Google Search and on Google Maps. Google Business Profile can be used by business owners to manage their own listing, or shared by business owners and their agencies by sharing management access to the accounts.

The evolution of Google Business Profile has been almost constantly changing since its inception in the early days of Google Places, and later Google+. It seems as though Google has finally found there footing with their naming convention.

Do I really need Google Business Profile?

If you have a location where customers come to visit, yes. If your customers do not visit your location then then you still may want to have a Google Business Profile listing. I personally like to peek at what local competitors are doing and follow suit. If you are a brand new business and aren’t sure, you can always wait a bit and open a Google Business Profile listing later.

Google Business Profile Basics

The name of the game with Google Business Profile basics for optimization is filling in all of the blanks with attention to detail, this includes at the very least:

  • phone number
  • address
  • hours of operation
  • website
  • description
  • category

Here is a birds eye view of the GBP dashboard on desktop:

2023 Update: Google is slowly moving away from the “dashboard” and forcing all users to edit Google Business Profile details on the front-end of Google. Businesses with many locations and agencies may still see the dashboard but it really depends. For the purpose of this post we will show the “new” dashboard. 

Phone Number & Address

Pretty self explanatory. You definitely want to use your main company phone number, you can also add a 2nd phone number such as an 800 number, customer support number etc. Same with address, make sure that the address is filled out in its entirety. If you’d like, you can add a call tracking number which we will talk about later in this course.

Hours of Operation

Fill in your hours of operation. If you are a 24/7 business indicate it there as well. If you’d like, you can add special holiday hours as well. Google will generally send you a reminder a few days or maybe a week before major holidays to let you know to inform your customers about holiday hours.

Website

Obviously a key ingredient in your GBP listing. Ideally your customers won’t dwell on Google for too long, and will click your website to learn more about your company. Most of the time you should just use your base URL, some companies make a special Google Maps style landing page.

Description / Information

Another very key ingredient. You only get 750 characters (about 8-12 sentences) so make it count. Be sure to add location specific keywords, but resist the urge to stuff keywords into this section, try to be natural. Take a step back from your marketing role and put your customer hat on for a second. What do your customers want to see when they look at your GBP listing? Personally I like to write a custom GBP elevator pitch for each one of my listings. Remember that after a few sentences your description gets cut off, so make the first few sentences count.

Category

Choose a category of your business. You can start typing and it will make suggestions, or you can choose from this massive list that I found floating around on the web. You can add several categories if you want. For instance if you are a pet store, but you also do dog grooming you can add “pet store” and “pet groomer.” Choose wisely, and as GBP says inside the dashboard: “Categories describe what your business is, not what it does or sells.” Kind of cryptic, but it makes sense if you think about it.

Once you are sure that all of these fields are filled out and showing up on Google, you can start working on the more advanced fields such as services, highlights, and photos.

If you’ve only taken one thing away from this course so far, fill out all of your information in Google Business Profile with as much detail and accuracy as possible.

Knowledge Panel

When searching for a business on Google.com, the area to the right of the search results is known as the “knowledge panel.” Knowledge panels are a collection of information taken from both Google Business Profile and other sources from around the web.

Take this example below, the address, hours, phone number and website are all taken directly from Google Business Profile information. “Reviews from around the web” are taken from, as you may have guessed, reviews from other sites on the internet.

Like most aspects of Google search engine, different businesses have different types of knowledge panels. Some knowledge panels are tiny bits of basic information, other knowledge panels contain droves of information about a company.

Did you know Google will send you free “review us on Google” stickers for your business? Just navigate to this link, enter your business information, and they will send you a pack of stickers.

As of 2023 Google will no longer mail your window stickers, but you can still download them and print them out yourself, or send them to a sticker printing company and print them that way.

Adding Photos to Google Business Profile

Google has pretty much stated outright that adding photos to your GBP listing will increase visibility. Like most aspects of Google Business Profile, quality > quantity. Your photos should all be photos of your business, your team, and your office. Do not use stock photos or screenshots, while they might get approved and added to your business they may get removed or flagged in the future.

Try to upload a mix of interior, exterior, and team shots so customers can see a variety of different photos of your business.

Types of GBP Photos

  • interior photos – photos of the inside of your business
  • exterior photos – photos of the outside of your business
  • product photos – photos of your company products, these can be professional lightbox photos or amateur photos
  • at-work photos – photos of your staff in action
  • food & drink photos – special designation normally reserved for restaurants and coffee shops
  • common area photos – special designation normally reserved for hotels and similar establishments
  • rooms – special designation normally reserved for hotels and similar establishments
  • team photos – photos of your staff members at work, this can be a few of them in a small group or a whole company shot

2023 Update: GBP will now display an almost infinite type of categories of photo. This may AI generated or not. Compare this listing of a restaurant to a normal GBP listing and you will see they have dozens of categories.

Google Business Profile Cover and Logo

When Google Business Profile added the “logo” feature a little while back, I was a bit puzzled. None of my listings seemed to “work.” Meaning, I would add logos, Google would “accept” it but they would never appear on the Google knowledge panel. Shortly after I discovered that the logo really only shows up on mobile.  So if you are looking for your logo on desktop, you probably won’t find it. I checked 5-10 other businesses with very optimized listings and confirmed this.

The logo is a tiny icon that appears right justified to the official name of the business on a GBP listing. The cover is quite simply, a header image that sits at the top of your listing.

Note: just because you designate a logo or a cover image, doesn’t mean Google will use that image in the knowledge panel / search results.

In fact, I would say that most of the GBP profiles I come across have a different cover image than the one they choose. You can increase your chances of getting your cover image chosen by using a high quality image.

What do I do if an ugly photo is showing up as my cover image?

We’ve had this happen recently. A customer uploaded a random photo to a clients GBP profile, and for some reason Google started using it as the cover image. In our case we first were able to get the photo removed. We then re-uploaded a new high quality photo and re-designated it as the cover image. Usually the best case scenario is that Google will use the photo you chose, the worst case is it will use another random photo.

Good practice: Always act as if every photo you upload to Google Business Profile may be used as your cover photo.

Google Business Profile Photo Guidelines

Google has kindly given out some photo standards, which are fairly easy to live by. Your photos will look best on Google if they meet the following standards, taken directly from Google:

Image / Photo format: JPG or PNG (sadly Google doesn’t say anything about their own image format WebP, but I haven’t tried either. )

File Size: Between 10 KB and 5 MB.

Minimum resolution: 720 px tall, 720 px wide. (I’ve found that square aspect images work best, but both horizontal and vertical rectangles work great also)

Quality: The photo should be in focus and well lit, and have no significant alterations or excessive use of filters. In other words, the image should represent reality.

Customers love to look at photos before they come to your place of business, especially places like hair salons, restaurants, and coffee shops.

Myth: Does exif data in GBP help my rankings?

Probably not, maybe…I don’t know.  Someone on reddit claimed to debunk this at one point. Maybe it helped at one point in the past, maybe it will help in the future. Bottom line: if you have the time and want to do it, it really can’t hurt you to add exif data to your photos in Google Business Profile but I would really lower your expectations. The whole theory behind this is that by adding exif location data to your photos, GBP’s algorithm would “give mad props” to photos that belong to the location that you are trying to rank for. While in theory this makes sense, it was probably just another SEO myth.

Removing Photos from Google Business Profile

Removing photos from Google Maps can be a bit tricky. If you uploaded the photos yourself, it is as simple as going to Google Business Profile Photos, locating the photo, and deleting it. If you don’t own the photo, flag it and chances are it will get removed. Just be sure to note “other” and say that it is either low quality, or duplicate. You don’t want to get someone in trouble.

In the example above, you can see the photo is of poor quality, and it could be reported for removal (I didn’t really report it).

Google Business Profile Videos

Adding videos to your GBP listing can definitely give your company an edge over your competition. There is one caveat for GBP videos: your videos must be “shot” at your place of business. Just like photos, you can’t use random videos from around the web, stock videos, or videos shot in a park or a mall. While your video may pass the initial upload test, it could get taken down or flagged.

taken from another website – However, for you marketers out there—there’s a catch. You need to make sure your videos are taken at the place of business, are of people that work at your business or directly pertain to your business. (Google Business Profile videos is no place for cheesy stock photos, stock videos or marketing bling videos.)

  • Duration: 30 seconds
  • Max video file size: 100 MB
  • Minimum Resolution: 720p

Some examples of videos you might want to upload:

  • show how your product is made e.g. pizza place showing how to make pizza
  • employee interview with staff member working on a project
  • a walkthrough of your office
  • a company party or lunch
  • sitting in on a company meeting

Google Business Profile Services

GBP Services are a new way to showcase your company services to your potential customers. It gives them a way to scroll through your services without having to call you or go to your website. Some people say this is more of a con than a pro, because you want customers to visit your website or call you so it is really a matter of opinion. Adding services is very easy using the GBP dashboard on desktop.

GBP services are useful for lots of different companies:

  • local contractors, handymen
  • hair salons and nail salons
  • website designers and IT companies
  • pest control companies
  • many more

Once you are in the dashboard, you can see that services are separated by sections. For example, this hair salon has their services separated by eye brows, lashes, hair care, and more. Each section gives you the ability to add services underneath. Fill in as much information as possible, you don’t have to fill in the price or description but it is a good idea to do so.

Check out our good friends over at The Salon Project, their services are on point and allows their customers to easily browse their menu before making a call.

Once you are finished, Google Business Profile should make your changes live relatively quick. It is easy to see your services live on mobile search:

Again, adding services is optional and more of a matter of opinion if it is helpful or not.

Google Business Profile Posts

Google Business Profile Posts are a hot commodity right now. They give you a way to extend your SERP real estate in a very visible way. It is like adding a 1/2 acre yard to your apartment.

There are 5 main types of GBP posts:

  • what’s new – pretty self explanatory, a teaser post outlining a new offering at your company
  • events – promote an event within your company such as a seminar or band playing at your coffee shop
  • offers – buy 1 coffee get a free biscotti every Tuesday, mention “freeBiscottiTuesday” to redeem
  • products – promote a product on your GBP listing
  • welcome offer – (see below)

Creating a post is easy using the GBP app or desktop dashboard. Find the “posts” section within the dashboard, and click on either add update, event, offer, or product. Once you are there, it is pretty self explanatory:

GBP posts show up prominently on both desktop and mobile. Here you can see a local PR firm promoting a recent blog post on their panel.

The last time I was logged into GBP, Google gave me a few examples of “posts I might like” so I thought I would share them here. The first post is from a web designer, that chose to list their services in a vertical list. The second one showcases their blog posts with a “learn more” button. The 3rd company (a life coaching company) uses a nice call to action with a learn more button.

2023 Update: Google is no longer showing insights for Posts, or is slowly removing this metric. Not sure why, but they are.

Highlights / Attributes

Adding some GBP “flair” to your post can attract some attention. Just be warned there are all types of people out there. To some people a veteran owned / woman owned / LGBTQ friendly company is a great thing, for some people it is not. It is of my personal opinion that you should be proud of who you are, and never to compromise or hide that.

Adding amenities such as restroom, free WiFi and parking can also be very helpful to your customers.

Note: not all amenities and attributes are available to all businesses. At times there seems like there is no rhyme or reason to the attributes that you can add, and a lot of them are industry specific.

Adding attributes / amenities / highlights is as simple as going to the GBP dashboard and checking a few boxes. Be honest, if you don’t have an elevator or unisex restroom don’t say that you do.

GBP Welcome Offers

GBP Welcome offers are a relatively new feature having just launched in late June 2019. GBP Welcome offers are essentially what I call an “expanded post.” It is a GBP post but it incentivizes people to follow you on GBP in exchange for an offer that you define.

I have noticed that the desktop version of GBP is slightly different from the app, and varies from account to account. On one account for instance, I could not see welcome offers at all. In most cases, Welcome Offers are more prevalently available on the mobile app than desktop, so in this example we will use the mobile app.

Adding a Welcome Offer is simple, it is just like adding a post except you need to add a promo code.

In most cases, your post will be live right away. In some cases you may need to wait for anywhere from a few hours to a few days. In the example I created for this post, it was live immediately. This is how it looks on Chrome mobile:

In my case, I could not see the welcome offer on Chrome desktop but perhaps the post overrides it.

Google Business Profile Service Area

Google recently did a full revamp on the way their service area works. In the past, you could set a “radius” in miles around your business. While some accounts still have this feature grandfathered in, new accounts no longer see this feature. For those looking to learn more about this, Google’s help page on service area explains a lot.

In my opinion, service area is really only vital for companies that have a strict service area. For example, a pizza delivery company that *only* delivers to a specific location will find this feature useful. A restaurant on the other hand might have customers from all over the city, county or state. It is ok to leave this section blank for the time being and go back and change it later.

Google Business Profile Shortnames

As of a year or two ago, Google Business Profile no longer allows you to choose a shortname for your business. They will, however still grandfather in old links.

For instance for our company we chose https://g.page/elitestrategiesllc which redirects to our company GBP page.

For more information check out Google’s own documentation on this.

GMB / GBP Mobile App

We’ve removed this section from our guide since Google removed the app from the Play and iOS store.

Call / Phone Number Tracking With Google Business Profile

Getting call tracking setup with Google Business Profile is super simple. For the purpose of this example, I’m going to use my personal favorite, CallRail.

Start by opening 2 tabs on your computer:

  • 1 tab with CallRail.com Dashboard
  • 1 tab with Google My Buisness Dashboard

Start by going to callrail.com and heading to the “tracking” section. Create a new number:

You are using this number online

Choose a name, and (very important) enter your current business phone number you want to ring.

Next, choose a number that you want to use as your tracking number. I find with Google Business Profile and local internet marketing it helps if the area code matches up with the location you are working on.

Add a whisper number if you like, and call recording if you want.

Activate your tracking number, then head on over to Google Business Profile and change your phone number to the call tracking number to the one you picked in callrail.com

Click “apply” and you are done! Once you start getting calls you can check them out on the dashboard, or do a test call to make sure that it works. In fact always do a test to make sure it is working. Note that in some cases changing your GBP number can cause you to have to re-verify your listing.

Reviews

GBP reviews are a huge source of commentary amongst many small businesses. Some businesses such as restaurants seem as though reviews (both good and bad) just naturally and organically pour in once the ball gets rolling. Other businesses such as b2b really struggle to get reviews. There are also a lot of rules in place depending on where you live. In most cases, it is ok to ask for a review as long as you don’t incentivize your customer (e.g. 10% off in exchange for a review) or offer them anything.

Can I leave a review for myself?

No.

Can I leave a review for my friend / client / family member?

Yes, and no. In my opinion if you genuinely received a product or service from your client, friend or family member then you can leave a review. I would just state in the beginning of the review “full disclosure, I am a friend.” You don’t want to get your profile flagged, and you definitely don’t want to get the business in trouble.  Recently I got a lot of dental work done from my father-in-law who I also help with this GBP listings. He isn’t a full fledged client, but I still noted that I am a family member in the review. When in doubt, don’t leave the review.

Responding to reviews

There are many schools of thought on this, but my main piece of advice is do not respond to a review when you are emotional. At minimum wait 24 hours before responding to a negative review. For positive reviews, it is nice to say a few words of thanks especially if it is a customer that you didn’t meet in person (such as at a restaurant.) People really appreciate being acknowledged. I’ve also seen this backfire, I’ve seen business owners apologize and take ownership for bad things that happened, only for the matter to get worse. In some situations, you just need to “let it be” and use it as a learning experience.

Flagging illegimitate reviews

At times you will have random angry people, competitors, or ex-employees that leave reviews under fake names. When this happens it is just a good idea to ignore them. People see those reviews for what they are, fake. When this happens, you can flag the review for removal using the GBP app. Resist the urge to have other people flag it, that will only come across as shady. Google will either remove the review, or they won’t. If they don’t remove it and it really bothers you, wait 30 days and try again.

No matter what business you are in and no matter how good of a job you do, you will eventually get negative reviews, probably many of them.

Using Shortnames for Reviews

Quick tip: don’t give agencies logins to your Google Business Profile account, instead make them a manager via the “users” section of the dashboard.

Don’t do shady things in GBP

Google has spent the past 10+ years battling 10’s of thousands of SEO’s and their shady tactics. They have a whole team of staff, volunteers and watchdog groups dedicated to shutting down any sort of spam or shady tactics. I’ve seen SEO’s paste all 750 characters in the GBP “info” box of straight keywords, that is just a bad look. I’ve seen other SEO’s do massive link building to their GBP URL…not a good idea, mainly because it is just a waste of time.

If you are on SEO forums you might hear about some of these tactics that “work” but I urge you not to partake in them. A tactic that might work today, could get your entire listing and all of your reviews removed tomorrow.

Do I need an address to be on Google Business Profile?

No, you do not! One common misconception within the SEO industry is that you need an address to have a Google Business Profile listing. This used to be the case, but a little while back Google made a few tweaks to allow businesses without an address to claim a listing on Google Business Profile. While you don’t need to display an address on GBP, you still need to have an address to verify.

Get Help with Google Business Profile

There are a lot of different ways to get help with Google Business Profile.

For quick questions, my personal favorite way to get help is to tweet them at @GoogleMyBiz. They are generally very responsive and will get back to you with a reply or DM within a day or so. You can do the same thing on Facebook, but I’ve heard the response time is a bit slower.

For urgent matters, you can call them at 1-844-491-9665 to speak with a live person.

You can also open up a ticket or chat with them live by visiting the GBP help site.

If you would like to speak to one of us, our staff is very proficient with all matters relating to Google Business Profile you can call us at 561-526-8457. Note that we are not Google certified nor do we have any affiliation with Google.