In Search Podcast: Optimize Google Business Profile

Is your Google business profile fully optimized?

Today’s guest will help make sure that you’re taking advantage of all the key optimization opportunities that Google Business Profile offers. He’s a man who graduated from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, with a BA in Cinema and Communications and can provide an obscure movie quote for just about any situation. He is one of the most in-demand speakers at digital marketing and automated conferences all over the world and is currently the Vice President of Search Marketing at Search Lab, a boutique marketing agency specializing in local SEO and PPC. A warm welcome to the In Search SEO podcast, Greg Gifford.

In this episode, Greg reveals five tips to optimize your Google Business Profile, including:

  • Optimize your business name
  • Add UTMs to your URLs
  • Optimize your categories
  • Questions and answers
  • Google posts

Five Tips to Optimize Your Google Business Profile

Greg: Hey, what’s going on?

D: Hey, Greg, great to have you here. You can find Greg over at So Greg, what’s the best movie quote that represents a Google business profile?

G: I came here to kick ass and chew bubble gum, and I’m all out of bubble gum.

D: I love it. Where’s that from Greg?

G: I got that one tattooed on me right there, a lot of bubblegum. It’s from the movie They Live which came out in 1988. Written, directed, and scored by John Carpenter starring the amazing Rowdy Roddy Piper, RIP. A really kick-ass 80s movie about consumerism. A cool sci-fi movie with the best fistfight ever committed to film.

D: Wow, well, if you’ve never seen Greg speak live, you’ve got to take the advantage of the opportunity when you get it because he’ll give you probably about 120 slides in about 20 minutes with different movie quotes. I’m sure your style hasn’t changed in the last couple of years, Greg.

G: I slowed down a little bit. But yeah, it’s usually about 90 to 100 slides for 20 minutes. But yeah, still fast pace. Lots of jokes, and lots of bad puns.

1. Optimize Your Business Name

D: Well, today, you’re sharing five tips to optimize your Google Business Profile. Starting off with number one, business name.

G: This is one of the most important bits, you got to get your name right. It’s ridiculously overpowered still to add additional keywords to your business name. I’m not saying that it’s overpowered so go do it. You don’t want to do it because that’s the quickest way to get suspended. So you want to make sure you’re using your actual business name. Don’t add additional keywords, because you don’t want to risk suspension, because it’s kind of a pain in the butt to get out of the suspension.

D: But if you’re starting a new business, then incorporate keywords in there?

G: For sure, if you’re starting a new business, definitely think of an important phrase that would matter. But please don’t do the boneheaded thing that we’re seeing. We saw an urgent care center named Urgent Care Near Me or a dentist named Dentist Near Me. Don’t be boneheaded like that, that’s obviously not going to work. But if you’re going to do something, don’t use near me, but you can use the city and major phrase you want to be showing up for it. That’s going to be helpful.

2. Add UTMs to Your URLs

D: Super. And number two is UTMs on URLs.

G: Yeah, so big surprise, Google Analytics attribution is kind of broken. Whenever referral information doesn’t get passed to analytics, that traffic gets classified as direct. Now, most people think that direct means somebody typed in the URL or used a bookmark, but it’s really Google Analytics going, “Yeah, I don’t really know where it came from so it’s going to go here.” So if you add a UTM to it, and force it to be correctly attributed, then you get better data on what’s going on with your organic visibility. And you want to take credit for all of the SEO work that you’re doing, which would result in better visibility. So you want to make sure you’ve got that UTM on the URL that it’s correctly attributed in analytics. So you want to have source equals GBP or Business Profile, or medium equals organic. Now, a lot of people will say that you should put Google as the source, organic as the medium, and then use the campaign variable to specify that it’s your business profile. But I don’t think that’s the best way to do it. Because then you’re going to have to drop down a secondary dimension to delineate which traffic came from. Where if you use something other than Google as the source, then at the very top level, when you’re going in to look at the source of the traffic, you can tell the difference between organic clicks and clicks that happen on your business profile or in Google Maps.

D: And has GA4 changed the way that any of this data is displayed in science, Google Analytics?

G: Who cares? We shouldn’t be using GA for you, because it’s a piece of crap.

D: Okay, hopefully, that will be a wonderful clip for Twitter. Wow, how can I possibly respond to that one? We’re recording this in late 2022 and by summer 2023, we’ll be at the stage where GA4 has to be used. I guess there’s no option then? Or are you a fan of perhaps even moving off and using another analytics software?

G: By the time we all have to switch over, we’ll use it, it’s fine. Right now, it’s in a limited beta, so while it doesn’t have all the functionality that we’d all like to see in there, they keep reiterating and adding new stuff and I’m sure by next summer… Let’s be honest, Google’s going to push off the date and make it later. But either way, whenever we switch over, it’ll be fine. We’ll all get there and get used to it. It’s kind of like everything else, whenever Google makes a major change, everybody hems and haws, and makes a big deal. But then we all settle in and do it anyway because that’s what we’re all going to do. But yeah, the UTMs are really important, just so that you really have much cleaner data about what’s going on. I would assume it’s going to work the same way with GA4.

D: And the number three thing that you need to get right for Google Business Profile is categories.

3. Optimize Your Categories

G: Yes, category choice is hugely influential on which searches you’re going to show up for. There are 10 slots, but that doesn’t mean you need to fill up all 10. There are some verticals out there where there are more than 10 categories that apply. But in other verticals, there’s maybe only one or two. And if that’s the case, just pick the one or two. You don’t want to choose categories that aren’t really related to what you do because you’re just trying to fill up those spots. You also want to be really strategic with whichever category you pick first. That primary category has a little bit more weight in that local algorithm. It is going to be a little bit more influential for visibility and for searches related to that category.

It’s not always the thing that you would think. The example that I love to give is Ford dealers. If you’re a Ford dealer in Dallas, Texas, which is the densest Ford market in the world, there are 24 dealers all in one market, you’d want to have Ford dealer as your primary category because that’s what you fight the most for. But if you’re a Ford dealer in Wyoming, and there’s not another Ford store for 200 miles in any direction, you shouldn’t have Ford dealer as your primary category, because you’re inherently going to rank number one for Ford dealer because there are no other options. Instead, in that case, they would want used car dealer as their primary category, because that’s the thing that they’re fighting the most for. You want to be strategic and think about what’s the best thing to choose as your “primary” category.

D: Great advice there. And if you see a Ford dealer that perhaps hasn’t optimized their Google Business Profile at all, in terms of the biggest mistake that people make with categories is the fact that they’re only selecting one category.

G: Yeah, that’s one of the biggest mistakes that we see across the board for any vertical. Typically there are at least one or two categories. And unless you’re something really obscure, like an underwater basket weaving studio, you’re probably going to have at least three or four categories that you can choose. A lot of businesses only choose one. And then even worse, the ones that only choose one typically aren’t choosing the right one. That’s a really big mistake a lot of people make.

D: Leading us up to number four, questions and answers.

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4. Questions and Answers

G: So the questions and answers widget got added I think in late 2017. It’s been around for a long time. But a lot of business owners and marketers still don’t really know that it’s there. People are starting to pick up on a little bit more now that we have the in-search editing experience. But before the questions and answers, it was actually a community discussion widget from Google Maps that was just displayed in the business profile. So if you are only editing your business profile in the backend GMB dashboard, you never saw the questions and answers. And it allows anybody to ask your business a question. And any random person can answer that question for you. But the big problem is that people that are asking questions, think it’s chat or some sort of instant messaging system and that somebody at the business is on the other end waiting to answer that question. And so a lot of times they’re asking questions that would lead to a sale. And if you’re not paying attention, you’re going to lose that business. It’s like what we say about social media if a conversation is happening about your business, you want to be there to participate and guide that conversation in the right direction.

You want to make sure you’re paying attention to the questions and answer section. You want to preload a lot of questions there. People aren’t going to go to your FAQ page on your site and browse through the 50 questions to see if maybe the question that they have is on your list. But they would go to the questions and answers section in your business profile and start typing something in. And the cool thing about the way that it works, if a similar question has been asked and answered in the past, as someone is typing that question in, it will autocomplete the question and automatically supply an answer. So it’s a much better pre-site experience for that potential customer. It’s hugely important.

D: You say you want to preload a lot of questions in there. I remember you saying to me in the past that you should be asking your own questions and actually answering your own questions as well. Is that something you still recommend?

G: For sure. Upload all of those common questions, and then answer those questions. And then you need to pay attention and keep your answers upvoted. There’s a thumbs up and a thumbs down on these questions. And because it’s a community discussion widget, you can have multiple answers to any question. And the answer that’s displayed as the primary answer is the question that has the most upvotes. I’ve seen questions that have a couple of 100 answers. It doesn’t show all 213 answers, it shows one answer and says there are 213 total answers, you can click and read the other answers if you want. So it’s really important for the business owner or the marketer working at the business to keep your answers upvoted so that your answers marked as coming from the business owner are always displayed as the primary answers to the questions.

D: That takes us to number five, Google posts.

5. Google Posts

G: Google posts are awesome. They’re basically free ads that appear in search results in your Google Business profile. And a lot of people dropped off of them several years back when they moved the position of the posts from the top of your profile to the bottom, but they still show up well, and they show up really well on mobile. The big problem is most people treat them like social media, and they’re sharing social fluff. People are seeing the same kind of junk that they share on organic social posts like Twitter, and Facebook, and that’s not effective.

You got to realize this is someone’s first impression of your business. You need to treat it like an ad, it needs to be something promotional, and it needs to be compelling. And you got to pay attention to what shows in the thumbnail because you’ve got a whole lot of text that you can write and a big image or even a carousel of images. But Google’s going to crop that image down to a smaller version of the image, and then just show a few lines of text. So you’ve got to make sure that that thumbnail is compelling. Because if the thumbnail is not compelling, nobody’s going to click on it, and then nobody will see the post. And it’s a wasted effort. But if you do it well, it can be really effective.

D: A couple of quick follow-up questions in relation to Google posts. First of all, how often should you be posting? And secondly, where will that post content surface? For instance, will that only surface for people who are actively searching for your brand or your business? Or will it perhaps surface to people who have previously engaged with your Google Business Profile and in some way they will be alerted to the fact that you have published a post?

G: Yeah, it just shows on your profile. And how often depends on how often you have something important to say that’s compelling and promotionally focused. A lot of people have the cadence of posting once a week because posts used to only be visible for a week before they would disappear. But now they’re visible for six months. So if you have something really compelling and awesome, you don’t have to post every week, you could post twice a year. And that one post is going to show because if you have more than one post live at a time, it turns into a little carousel, and only two will show on the profile. And then people will have to scroll through and that doesn’t usually happen.

You want to be careful and not bury your important stuff by having a cadence of posting every week, but you’ve only got one thing that’s compelling, and the rest sucks. You’ll bury your compelling post and it doesn’t do anything. So think about that and consider if you really need to put something up every week. Maybe once a month, every two months, or twice a year, who knows?

D: Great advice there. Essentially, if you’ve got something important coming up in terms of a sale, perhaps, then it’s a good time to submit a Google post and make sure you’re submitting a Google post at least once every six months. Otherwise, the poorest posts will disappear.

Pareto Pickle – Have a Solid Audit Process

Let’s move on to the Pareto Pickle. Pareto says you can get 80% of your results from 20% of your efforts. What’s one SEO activity that you would recommend that provides incredible results for modest levels of effort?

G: This is going to be a little bit of a letdown because people are expecting something super amazing, but for me, having a solid audit process is the key. Because so many people nowadays don’t put in the work to examine things and do that analysis on the front end. And then they just jump in and start doing SEO. And if you just jump in and start doing SEO, and you didn’t figure out first what’s broken and what the weak points are, how are you supposed to prioritize your efforts? It doesn’t have to be a crazy in-depth audit. We’ve got a really awesome little audit that we use, that looks at the homepage, the About Us page, and the product or service pages. Then it looks at inbound links, it looks at your Google Business Profile, and it looks at reputation management. That would be reviewed on Google, reviews on Yelp, and how you respond to those reviews. I can do that entire audit in about seven and a half minutes and it uncovers so many problems.

Now sure, you’d probably figure those things out if you looked at it. But now we do this with every client right off the bat and it’s a quick gameplan of here are the things that with this quick audit process we see are the big problems. Now obviously, with a new client, we’re going to do a much more in-depth audit. But doing the quick audit first gives you some direction on what you really need to dig into. But it also lets you come back and say, “After a month or two, let’s run the quick audit again and see if we’ve improved things and fixed all of that.”

Having a really solid audit process at the beginning really informs everything else that you’re going to be doing for a very long time. And does the actual audit produce results? No. But the work that you do after that audit is so much more effective if you concentrate your efforts on the weak points at the beginning.

D: Great advice. Auditing is the key, listener. I’ve been your host, David Bain. You can find Greg Gifford over at Greg, thanks so much for being on the In Search SEO podcast.

G: Thanks for having me.

D: And thank you for listening.

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