In this episode of Make SEO Simple Again, you’re going to learn how to set up your very first GMB profile from start to finish.
So you want to create your first ever Google My Business?
Stick around because over the next few minutes, I’ll show you how.
Now before we begin, if you’re new to SEO in general, in particular with local search, I won’t be explaining concepts in this video in order to keep the running time concise. However, I have prepared an introduction to Google My Business and the role it plays in local search in another video that I will link to in the video description. So if you want to understand why local search may or may not be important to you, I highly recommend that you watch that video first as it will provide a lot of context as to what we are going to do today and why.
And I also want to preface this tutorial by saying that there is so much more to setting up a GMB than putting in your business name, an address, and waiting for your verification postcard because there’s quite a bit of optimisation you can perform to your listing. However, for the sake of keeping things short, you can find how to optimise your GMB in a separate video. I’ll also link to this in the video description.
So to set up your very first GMB, you will need 4 things.
The first thing is a personal Google account. If you have a gmail or YouTube account, this is your Google account.
If you’re someone who likes to separate your personal life from work, you can create a new Google account for your GMB listing.
The second thing you will need is a real physical address. This can be where the business is located or a home address.
The third thing you’ll need is a bit of patience. This is because it can take anywhere from 2-6 weeks for the verification postcard to arrive.
Last but not least, you’ll need to have a name for your business.
So let’s jump onto my screen so we can go through the set up steps together.
Right, this is what you should see when you go to create your first GMB and the first thing you will be asked to do is to type in your business name.
I’m going to recommend that you skip this step and instead click on the blue link that says “Add your business to Google” because as you can see here, you will be asked to enter your business name again on the next page.
So begin typing in your business name and the field will show autocomplete suggestions with existing Google My Business profiles. This is done to avoid duplication and what I like about this feature is that it will give you an idea if there are other businesses that have the same or similar business name to yours. I think it will only show GMB names from within the same state or country but don’t quote me on this.
By the way, if you do come across another business that has the same business name as yours or is very similar, this is not great for you and I would recommend that you rethink how you name your business as it can be (a) confusing for customers to figure out which business they were looking for and (b) having the same name as another business will increase the chance that your GMB will be filtered out in the search results – which is bad. In fact it’s very bad.
So if this is the case for you, you may need to rethink the name of your business. I know this isn’t ideal but dealing with this now may save you a lot of headache later on.
Once you have decided on a name for your business, proceed by clicking the blue “Next” button and the next step will ask you to input a relevant business category.
But what are categories and do they matter?
Well, according to Google documentation, categories are used to describe your business and connect you to customers searching for the services you offer. For example, if your primary category is “Pizza restaurant”, Google may show your business in local search results to people who search for “Restaurants”, “Italian restaurants”, or “Pizza” in their area.
You’ve probably come across categories in your own searches in Google Maps without knowing it.
This is how they’re displayed.
As you can see, when I do a search for “lip filler”, the map pack shows relevant businesses. But notice how each of the categories on display are different?
For example, the first GMB has set their primary category as “Plastic Surgeon” while the second GMB has set their primary category set as “Skin care clinic”.
What this means is that the category that you pick for your GMB is important. It can either help make your GMB more visible or do the opposite. But don’t be afraid of picking the wrong category at this stage because you can always change the category of your business later on.
And as an FYI, there are over 3,500 categories and they range from “cold noodle restaurant” to “wedding bakery” and while there may not be an exact match for what you have in mind, you can usually find a broader category that fits. And new categories are created every single month.
But here’s my advice – when it comes to SEO, the answers are often right in front of us in the SERPs. So instead of looking for a specific category, jump back into Google and try a few different keywords and if a map pack shows up, take note of what ranking competitors are using.
Because if they’re already ranking, it is a strong indicator that they’re doing things right and it is probably safe to copy the business category that they have chosen.
Now that we’ve picked the best category for your GMB, the next step is where you will decide what type of business you are.
One of the misconceptions that I come across on SEO groups and forums is the one where people think that GMBs with a physical address rank better than service area businesses. I think there was some merit to this myth many years ago but these days I can easily see just as many service area businesses with high visibility in local searches as I do with physical locations.
Therefore, if you’re a home-based business or an online-only business, be assured that you are at no disadvantage.
So coming back to the setup screen, will customers visit your location?
That is, will people come to your clinic, office, studio, cafe or shop to purchase goods or services? Then in this instance, you will want to select ‘yes’.
You can choose this option if you rent a coworking space – there’s nothing wrong with having your office in a WeWork and despite the rumours, you won’t get penalised for being in a coworking space. It’s virtual offices that start getting you into trouble.
If, however, most of your customer interactions are online or if you travel to go to where your customers are, you’re a service area business and should select ‘no’.
Now depending on what you selected, the next step will differ.
If you answered ‘yes’ to the prior question, you will be asked to enter an address. This address will be displayed publicly for driving directions so that customers can come to you.
Click ‘next’ to proceed.
Fun fact: GMBs with a physical address can also have the option of having a service area and is shown here when Google asks you ‘Do you also serve customers outside this location?’
So you may be thinking, “When would this option be applicable to me?”
Let me give you some examples.
Let’s say you’re a speech therapist and you have a private practice where clients come to you. You can qualify as a hybrid business if you also offer home visitations. That is, customers come to you and you also go to where your customers are.
Similarly, if you’re a professional photographer with a studio location with a public address but also will do on-site headshots or commercial work on location, you will want to tell Google that you have a physical location as well as serve customers outside of this location.
Even a restaurant that has dine-in and offers delivery can benefit from having both a physical address and a defined service area.
Let’s have a chat about service areas as Google made a big change to this function in late 2019.
First of all, when it comes to service areas, these can be names of nearby suburbs, cities or even an entire country.
Secondly, service areas have very little to no SEO impact.
This is what a service area looks like in the real world – all it does is provide your knowledge panel map with a red overlay. That’s all.
Now, you can go ahead and put in different states and even countries but this will not help your GMB at all.
You see, in the past, there wasn’t a limit on the number of service areas that you could define and SEOs would put in every single postcode or zip code. These days, you can only pick 20 service areas, and postcodes, if I recall correctly, are no longer accepted.
Similarly, putting in cities, states, territories, or counties that are more than 30kms away from you is a waste of time. This is because one of the strongest ranking factors for GMBs is the distance a user is from your place of business. After all, we are talking about local search and if you place yourself in the shoes of your customers, does it make sense to be recommended a business that is an hour away from you when there are much closer options?
So don’t spend too much time putting in the maximum of 20 surrounding suburbs .
Now if you selected ‘no’ to the previous question, you will be asked to provide one or more service areas. This is because you have indicated to Google that you are setting up a service area business. Same as my previous instructions, I recommend putting in your city and moving onto the next step.
On this screen, you will be asked to provide contact details for your business.
For those of you who run a home office or have no intention of letting the public know who you are, where you live, and giving out your phone number, the good news is that you don’t have to.
If your shop or office has a local phone number it would make sense for the public to see this number so go ahead and put it in here. You can also add a toll-free phone number if you have one.
The other thing you will be asked to provide is a URL to your website.
If you already have a website, this is where you put in the URL of your homepage.
But what if you don’t have a website yet?
That’s also ok as you can select the option for Google to provide you with a free one as an interim solution.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, brings us to the end of the initial Google My Business set up. By clicking on ‘Finish’, you will have created your first GMB.
So to recap what we have done:
- We have logged into our Google account and created a GMB listing.
- We have assigned our listing with a name.
- We have chosen a primary category for our business.
- We have decided whether or not our business has a physical address on display, and if so, whether we serve customers outside of this location. Alternatively, if we do not wish to disclose our exact address to the public, we have gone with a service area business and assigned a city-level service area.
- And finally, we have provided contact details so that when your GMB does show up, users can either call the business or visit the website for further information.
Now, if you have been following along, you should be at the last step of the GMB creation process. Here, you will need to provide an address for Google to mail out a physical postcard to verify that you are where you say you are.
So let’s do that by clicking on ‘verify now’ and confirming your postal address.
And we’re done.