1. Not Verifying Your Business Listing
What’s Wrong: Some businesses assume that Google will list their business whether or not they verify it, or believe that there is no reason for them to verify it if they are already showing up in local search results. In reality, failing to verify your business in GMB damages Google’s confidence in your location and status as a legitimate business, and reduces the chances that you will show up in search results, meaning that even if you show up sometimes, you could show up in more results if you verified. Verifying your GMB account also allows you to modify your listing, correct inaccuracies, improve your branding, show off pictures of what you do, and more.
How To Fix: Most businesses verify by mail on a desktop PC as follows:
- Sign in to GMB
- Select your business and click Verify now
- Verify that your address is correct on the postcard request screen, update it if it isn’t, and include an Optional contact name to make sure that the postcard goes to the person in charge of setting up your GMB account
- Click Send postcard
- You will receive your postcard within two weeks. Don’t make any changes to your business name, address, category, or request another code during this time, or you will slow down the verification process.
- After getting your postcard, log in to GMB and select the location you are verifying
- Click the Verify now button
- Enter your 5-digit verification code into the Code field
- Click Submit
For other verification methods, or if you are verifying by mail with a mobile device, see Google’s guidelines.
2. Using spammy techniques for your business name
What’s Wrong: Some businesses attempt to game their SEO by using an inaccurate business name. They believe that including keywords in their business name will allow them to rank better in local search results. Instead, doing so is a violation of Google’s guidelines and may get you penalized. Even if it doesn’t, the discrepancy between your business name in GMB and your business name in other places that list your name, address, and phone number will reduce Google’s confidence that it has the right location for your business, and will result in your being less likely to shop up near the top of the local results.
How To Fix: Use your business name as it is consistently used on your signs, logos, website, and any business listing that shows your name, address, and phone number.
3. Using your legal business name instead of your widely recognized name
What’s Wrong: If your legal business name and the name used across all of your platforms are identical, there is no problem. However, if your logos, signs, and business listings list a popularized business name that is different from its legal name, this leads to discrepancies that will reduce Google’s confidence in your business’s location.
How To Fix: Make sure that your GMB business name is the same as the one listed on your website, business listings, and on your signs and branding, as opposed to your legal business name, if they are different.
4. Bad Business Description
What’s Wrong: Businesses often enter a long-winded business description that doesn’t sell users on the business quickly enough to positively impact their decision about whether or not to visit your location. Google only displays the 250 characters of the description, and users will be comparing you next to dozens of other businesses when they make a decision.
How To Fix: Use a business description that clarifies what your business is for and how it is different from competitors as quickly as possible. Prioritize the things that customers tend to be most curious about, questions about your business that often come up in phone calls or walk-ins about what you can do for them.
5. No Reviews
What’s Wrong: Reviews are the most important ranking factor for local search. If your business has no reviews, this dramatically hurts your chances of showing up in search local search results and in Google Maps listings. Even if you do, a lack of customer reviews harms consumer trust, and users will be less likely to choose your location over others without any information from other customers to guide them.
How To Fix: Start incorporating the process of asking for reviews into your business processes:
- Train your staff to ask after completing a job or interacting with a customer
- Ask through emails or when you send a bill
- Ask at the end of your phone calls
- Show customers how to leave a review
6. Solicited Or Fake Reviews
What’s Wrong: Some businesses incentivize users to leave reviews by offering a discount or coupon, or more egregiously, outright paying others to leave reviews. Doing so violates Google’s guidelines and could result in your listing being removed from local search results entirely. Google requires that reviews left by customers who have actually visited the location and that they don’t receive compensation for leaving a review. Even customers who visited the location and bought your products or services fall under this category if they are given a coupon or discount for leaving a review.
How To Fix: Implement a clear and strict policy against rewarding customers for leaving reviews on GMB. If any incentives are in place to reward staff for encouraging customers to leave reviews, they must be very carefully chosen to avoid incentivizing staff in any way “bribe” customers.
7. Duplicate Listings
What’s Wrong: If you add a GMB location that already been verified, your business will not show up in listings, and it will show up as a “Duplicate listing” in your GMB account.
How To Fix: You will need to remove the duplicate, making sure not to delete the verified listing:
- Sign in to GMB and go to Duplicate locations in your Account Summary
- Click the duplicate location
- Click Delete this listing
To remove multiple listings from the Duplicate locations section, check the boxes next to each listing, click the three-dot menu icon, and click Remove
If you don’t have access to the verified listing, you will need to get access to it. See Google’s instructions on gaining access of an already verified listing.
If your duplicate listings are mistakenly listed at different addresses, or at the same address with different names, you will need to remove the incorrect listing. These will not be listed as duplicates in your account summary and will need to be identified manually. See this in-depth guide on dealing with these types of duplicates.
Bonus Tip: Use GMB Insight
GMB Insight tells you important information about how customers are discovering your business that you can use to drive your local SEO strategy. Make sure to leverage this information:
- “How customers search for your business” tells you what percentage of people are seeing business impressions (not clicks) based on searching for your business directly or discovering it by searching for keywords that led them to you. It also tells you the total number of searches you appeared in. Your local SEO goal is to increase this number and show up for more keyword searches.
- “Where customers view your business on Google” shows you a graph of views in Google Maps and in Google Search. Be aware that the graph is cumulative, meaning that the search data is displayed as an addition to the Maps data, rather than being plotted independently of it.
- “Customer Actions” is a graph over time of customers who chatted with you, called you, requested directions to you, and visited your site. This is where you will find your conversion data, so don’t neglect it.
- “Photo Insights” is the number of times people have seen your photos, whether or not they have clicked on them. For some useful competitive insight, Photo Views graph shows how often your photos have been compared over time compared to similar businesses.
- “Photo Quantity” shows how many photos you have compared to similar businesses. Check here to make sure you are uploading enough photos to be competitive.
- “Popular Times” tells you when people who are using Google are visiting your business most often in person.
These seven mistakes plague businesses that are new to local SEO. The good news is that tackling these issues will put you ahead of a fair number of your competitors and put you on the map. Put this advice to use, and you should expect to see some gains in your GMB insights and in your store.