It wasn't that long ago that we relied on the heavy brick of a book we called a telephone directory to list our business details so that our customers could find us.

That combined with radio, newspaper or magazine advertising, and TV (if we could afford the exorbitant prices), we could place our business in front of our customers and potential customers. Times have changed, though – and massively – due to Google's ever-widening reach on how people search.

What is a Google business listing, and why do I need it?

Having a Google business listing is so much more than ensuring your business appears in search results (although it's that too). A Google business listing gathers your business information – the information you've curated yourself carefully on search, Google maps, and Google+.

It gives your customers and potential customers all the information they need, from driving directions to hours of operation and your all-important phone number. It also has the bonus of helping you ‘build a loyal fan base' by allowing your customers to add reviews and giving you the option of responding to these reviews.

If you think you don't need to worry about Google because you've got all your info on your website, think again. There are many people out there who will Google your business and never visit your website.

These people are generally after a quick bit of info – say, your phone number or your address, or perhaps they've googled to find the closest flooglebinder shop to their house. They're not likely to visit your site; they want their info short and sharp. If you proactively manage your Google business listing, you are in control of what these flooglebinder hunters will see.

Consider this:

  • 59% of consumers use Google every month to locate a good local business.
  • 71% of searchers value the information contained in local search results.

In the past, you would have spent bucketloads on a simple Yellow Pages listing, so you can look at Google business listings as a super-economical alternative (that will be much more effective in this century).

My favourite line on the Google business listing website is, ‘Playing hard to get: good for dating, bad for business. And it's true.

The number one reason for having a Google business listing is to have your information there ready for your potential customers, curated and updated by you, and it's something that accurately reflects how you want to represent your business.

Creating your Google business listing

Before creating your Google business listing, you need to choose the correct dashboard. The right dashboard will make it easier in the long run.

Google provides two dashboards for you to manage your information:

  1. Google My Business
  2. Use this dashboard if you are a business with one location.
  3. Google My Business Locations.
  4. Use this dashboard if you're a business with multiple locations. Google My Business Locations lets you manage multiple locations and can make it even easier when you have ten or more sites by allowing you to import a spreadsheet.

Tip! Gather all of your business information on your computer before you start. This information should include all of your location's data, phone, email, address, and a good amount of photos to show off your business.

Once you've chosen which dashboard will suit your business, you can follow these simple steps.

  1. Go to Google My Business
  2. Click the ‘Get on Google' button.
  3. Sign in or create a Google account.
  4. You'll need to sign in to your existing Google account or create a new one – it's free and easy to set up. For those who are already signed in, you'll skip this step.
  5. Tip! Before creating a Google account, double-check your business doesn't already have one. If you use Google Analytics to track and measure your website traffic, you will already have a Google account.
  6. Search for your business.
  7. Use the search box to search for your business.
  8. Select or add your business.
  9. If you're an existing business, you may already have a business listing, and by typing in your business name, you can choose from the results Google displays. If your business is new, type your business name and address details. If there are no results displayed, click on ‘I've correctly entered the name and address.
  10. Tip! Ensure your (NAP) Name-Address-Phone-number appears consistently across the web. The address you use here should be the default you use – for example, St or Street.
  11. Add your business detail.
  12. This step will work through the fields to add your business detail. At the end of the form, you will need to choose a category for your business. Google uses this category to classify your business based on preset categories or keywords for each industry (you can view a list of these here). Start typing to add your business category. You'll have the chance to add to these categories later on.
  13. Verify your business.
  14. Once you're happy with your business details, you can select the ‘verify now' button. Once you click the button, you will be presented with options for verification. Only select options are available for businesses. In the example I've provided below, you can see I only have the opportunity to select verification by mail.
  15. Google offers four types of verification :
  16. Verify by postcard—the most common. You'll receive a postcard in the mail. If you want it to be addressed to you, make sure you add your name to the field and give your team a heads up that it's on the way.
  17. Verify by phone. Make sure you can answer the phone at your business directly. A local number with no extension is best. The code will be provided in the call, and you'll need to write this down.
  18. Instant verification. You can use instant verification if you've already verified your business's website with Google Webmaster Tools. Just a side note that only some business categories are eligible for this option.
  19. Bulk verification. For businesses with ten or more locations, you'll be able to use the Google My Business Locations.
  20. Once you have the verification number, you can enter it into your dashboard.

Refining, optimizing, and making your business listing sweet!

Once you've verified your business, you'll be dropped into the editing area. The look and feel of this changes depending on whether you are using the Android appApple app, or on a desktop.

Now it's a matter of systematically working through your business listing and updating or adding to the information.

You want to refine, optimise, and make your business listing as enticing as possible for your current and potential customers.

The more inviting, descriptive, and shareable content you add, the better.

Here are some tips for this:

  • Edit info
  • Getting the basic business info correct is very important. Check your business name and contact information. Review the category you've selected and add more if necessary. Remember, the categories describe your business, not what it does or what it sells. There is some more handy information here.
  • Add photos
  • Photos help people find your business, but they can also showcase your brand, products, and services. They are a brilliant way of visually representing your business. Check out this helpful resource provided by Google, and it includes best practice sizes as well.
  • Add a virtual tour
  • Let your customers experience your location before they arrive by adding a virtual tour. Virtual tours are Google's answer to the 360-degree view. Here is an excellent site for further information and examples.
  • Manage your reviews
  • Reviews provide feedback for potential customers and you as the business admin. It's essential to manage your reviews and stay on top of good feedback by thanking them and bad feedback by responding. This article from Google has some great tips.

It's worth looking at the Google business quality guidelines.

Maintaining your business listing.

Have I worn you out? Are you exhausted from creating and then optimising your business listing? Well, wait, there's more! Just like search engine optimisation, Google Business listings are an ongoing investment. Here are some maintenance tips you can do regularly:

  • Review your basic information regularly.
  • Phone numbers change, businesses move to new premises, and products and services get added, deleted, or updated. Set aside time to review your essential business listing information and ensure you check it across all of your locations.
  • Review your photos and virtual tours.
  • Are your photos current? Have you got new ones you can add? Recent research tells us that customers respond to images and video. Adding these progressively will add to your marketing arsenal. Also, review your street view image – make sure it is of your business.
  • Manage your reviews.
  • I've indicated this above, but to add to this, you might like to provide an offer to customers who review your business, like a discount or special product offer.
  • Take advantage of Google business insights.
  • What an amazingly fantastic tool this is! You can get your business listing out there on search, maps, and Google+, but you can also track how your customers or potential customers interact with your business listing. You can see insights into the total number of views from maps to photos. You can see who clicks, areas where customers have searched for driving directions, click to call, and much more. In your scheduled maintenance, it's worth reviewing this information and even adding any insights to your tactical arsenal.

I hope you've enjoyed this ‘brief' overview, and it helps you win more business!

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Raels Robertson
Raels Robertson

Raels is managing director of Mettro. She is a highly experienced business strategist and design visionary.