MozPod Podcast Transcript: Google My Business Best Practices
I LOVE being a regular guest on Moz’s MozPod podcast. One of my most favorite episodes was the Google My Business Best Practices podcast. Below you will find the full transcript of the podcast so you can listen AND follow along! Enjoy…
Brian Childs: 00:08
Welcome to another episode of MozPod, the podcast for SEO, brought to you by Moz Academy. We have a great episode for you this week where we’re going to be talking about the ins and outs of local SEO with Sherry Bonelli, specifically on how to optimize your Google My Business account.
Brian Childs: 00:24
Before we get started though, I just want to do a quick shout-out to Dave who’s the sound technician here at MozPod. We’re always getting questions about how to set up podcasts, what kind of equipment to use, that kind of stuff, and I have to say that one of the secret weapons for doing a podcast is having a Dave around, someone who’s a sound technician who can help you out with that. Even though it’s behind the scenes, Dave is on the help team here at Moz. If you have an email, just say hi and say, “Thanks for doing such a great job with the sound.”
Brian Childs: 00:58
Today on the Pod, we’re going to be chatting about local SEO with Sherry Bonelli, and for those of you who don’t know, Sherry is a nationally-recognized SEO expert who owns early bird digital marketing, a marketing firm in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She has customers all over the US, though, and has made a huge impact on the industry. Sherry started in digital marketing back in 1998 when she launched her first e-commerce business selling pregnancy and baby products. If you Google her name, you’ll see what kind of experience she’s had since then. Certainly, she has done a lot — writes for Moz, writes for Yext, writes for BrightLocal. [She] has really contributed a lot to the knowledge of the community.
Brian Childs: 01:38
If you want to reach out to Sherry directly and learn more about her background or see what she does at early bird digital marketing, you can just go to earlybirddigitalmarketing.com, all one word, and check her out there.
Brian Childs: 01:50
Today, we’re going to be talking about Google My Business. Everything from the history of why Google started this service to some of the common mistakes businesses make when setting up listings and some super practical insights about how to organize your business listing management strategy. There’s a lot of little things that Sherry says that are super interesting to pay attention to. She’s been doing it for years, and it definitely comes out in the conversation. I hope you find the discussion insightful and actionable, and as always, feel free to reach out to the MozPod team at #MozPod on Twitter or firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s go ahead and jump into the discussion with Sherry Bonelli of early bird digital marketing.
Brian Childs: 02:36
Hey, Sherry. Welcome to MozPod. Thanks for joining me to discuss Google My Business today.
Sherry Bonelli: 02:41
Thanks, Brian. I appreciate being here. Thanks.
Brian Childs: 02:44
Yeah, awesome. Sherry and I just went through a long troubleshooting phase with our audio issue. Some pro tips to anybody who’s looking to do a podcast: Sound quality. Sound guy. Worth their weight in gold, for sure.
Sherry Bonelli: 02:58
Brian Childs: 03:01
Awesome. So, Sherry, today, we’re going to be talking about best practices and tips for Google My Business’ local SEO tool. Really interesting. And you’ve got a ton of great background in this. Can we start out? Maybe like the first question is, why generally should a business have or manage a Google My Business account? Like what’s the point of that?
Sherry Bonelli: 03:31
Well, Google My Business is important because Google is making a big effort to show small to medium-sized local businesses that they want to help them. About seven years ago, they started an initiative called “Get Your Business Online” where they partnered with local chamber of commerces and other affiliations to try and get businesses to get listings on their Google My Business platform.
Sherry Bonelli: 04:03
The reason they want to do this is because they want to make sure that a business’s information is accurate and current and correct so that when they search for — look for a business, they find the correct information because, Brian, as you probably know, if you’ve ever gone online and searched for a business, and you drive all the way there only to find out that they’ve [the business] either moved or they’re closed on Saturday, it’s really frustrating; right?
Sherry Bonelli: 04:31
Most of the time, those frustrated customers don’t blame Google, they blame the business. It’s in Google’s best interest and the business’ best interest to make sure that all of their information is as correct as possible. And so it’s important for the business to make sure that their name, address, phone number, business description, hours of operation, types of credit cards that they accept — all that information is as correct as it can be on Google — and Google wants that to happen. Google actually really encourages small- to medium-sized local businesses that qualify for a Google My Business listing to get one.
Brian Childs: 05:17
If I’m a small business and I have a physical location, is it only physical location businesses or like — What if I’m like an app or I have an e-commerce store? Like is it … that are the same or is there an implication that, like…I’m going to be trying to navigate to this business and the value gets creative when somebody either picks up the phone and calls me or walks through my front door? How should businesses think about the role that this plays in terms of the type of business that they are?
Sherry Bonelli: 05:49
Right. That’s a really good question. Not every business qualifies to claim a Google My Business listing. If you are an online-only business, you do not qualify for a Google My Business listing. If you have an online e-commerce store and that’s all you do is sell e-commerce products and sell them online, you are not allowed to have a Google My Business listing.
Sherry Bonelli: 06:13
Now, there are a few exceptions, and Google has a great document online. If you search for “qualifying businesses on Google My Business,” you will come up with a document that shows you which are the outliers that you can get a Google My Business listing for. One of them is, like, movie rentals. If you have a Redbox, you can get a Google My Business listing. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part, it’s only for businesses that have a physical presence — and that means a physical address. If you run, let’s say, a landscaping business, but you run it out of your home because you really don’t need a storefront where people can come and go, that’s okay as long as you have a physical address because you are servicing people from that address.
Brian Childs: 07:10
Sherry Bonelli: 07:10
In all cases, yeah, you just need to have a name, address — street address — and phone number in order to claim it, but you can’t be an online-only business. Does that make sense?
Brian Childs: 07:23
Yeah, for sure. For listeners, I’ll actually put a link to that qualifying business URL in the show notes that Sherry mentions because that goes into great detail about the different aspects of qualifying for the Google My Business service. For agencies that are out there, inevitably, what happens — it seems like they have a client, [and] that client wants to have search engine optimization, and maybe all of a sudden, they realize that this is a thing where like, “Hey, I looked on my phone when I was at home, and it didn’t show up in this map thing. How do I get into that?”
Brian Childs: 07:59
If you have advice for agencies that are thinking of maybe providing this kind of service or holding out this kind of service for their clients, what are some of the different types of businesses that they should watch out for, or not necessarily watch out for in a bad way, but like that require a little bit more thought to them other than just like the creating a business? Like are there different types that require a little bit of different thought?
Sherry Bonelli: 08:27
Yeah, there are definitely some businesses that need a little bit more handholding and may need a little bit more touchpoints as I like to call them. For instance, I have one client where they were two separate businesses, and they merged to become a different business name, and they moved physical locations, and so what we had to do is merge those two business names together to become a new one and change that address. There was a very specific process that I had to follow and very specific steps that I needed to go through in order to correctly merge those businesses so that I wouldn’t lose the brand equity that those two local businesses had by themselves and lose the reviews that they had built up over the years.
Sherry Bonelli: 09:22
Attorneys are also another really a challenge because essentially, all the attorneys at a practice are competing against one another because Google doesn’t like to see the same types of practitioners at the same office at the same physical address, and so one way to separate some attorneys from others would be to … If one attorney specializes in family law, that would be that attorney’s main category where another attorney might be just a lawyer, for instance, so you may have to strategically think differently with some types of businesses versus others.
Brian Childs: 10:05
Interesting. Yeah, that’s sort of … It seems like there is the different flavors of that same complication, right, where it’s like it’s the lawyers and it’s the dentists, and I think you mentioned this before we got into the recording as well. It’s like any business that has more than one practitioner at the same location will fall into this challenge of like all of a sudden, on a map, technically, if everybody is just saying, “I’m an orthodontist,” then it’s like there’s going to be 20 orthodontists at that same … 20 pins showing up at that same spot, which is not great.
Sherry Bonelli: 10:36
Right. Yeah, and Google will generally filter some of them. That syncs quite frankly because they’re all qualified to have a listing, but Google does not want that one business location to dominate the first page of search results, so it’s a catch-22.
Brian Childs: 10:58
You mentioned a couple of these different features, name, address, phone number, and you mentioned in some of the notes that we’re looking over prior to getting on the podcast here about making sure that all this information is complete like completeness and accuracy. What are some of the things that people just discount regularly, or are there things that people say, “Well, I’ll get to that later,” or what are some of the most important things that people need to make sure that they have with their listing?
Sherry Bonelli: 11:33
Yeah. I think that one of the most important things is as a business, make sure you have a master document that has all of your contact information and login information. Often times, as an agency, you will get a client, and you’ll ask them for their login, for their already claimed Google My Business listing, and no one will know who claimed it. That person may have left two years ago and they don’t have the email address, and that again is another hurdle that you have to go through to try and get that information, so it’s always best if the owner or somebody who’s going to be at the business for a long time keep some sort of record of, “Here’s the login information, the username, the password. Here is how we are going to specifically call our business’s name, address, and phone number.”
Sherry Bonelli: 12:31
Keep that master document. That way, if somebody does decide to go out and claim an online directory or citation site, they have the guidelines for doing that. I think also important for businesses to also talk with their employees about … Just don’t go out and start claiming these online directories on your own because you’re not helping us. We need to have a marketing person or an agency help us do this so we do it correctly. You have to have a strategy, so it’s very important to do that.
Sherry Bonelli: 13:07
Another thing with regards to agencies is generally, a lot of agencies will go ahead and use their personal Gmail account to claim a Google My Business listing for a client or they will make up a Google My Business or a Gmail address for that client and use that to claim the business’s Google My Business account. You shouldn’t do that. You should really have the client use their business’s address to claim their Google My Business listing, and then that client should make you a manager of that account. The business should always have the ownership of that account at all time.
Brian Childs: 13:52
Ah, it’s great advice. Yeah, both of those. It’s like … What I think is so interesting about local SEO, and like the reviews are part of this as well, is that just like you say like talking with the employees and … It’s almost like the kinds of things you think of where you say, “Well, this is a digital marketing thing, so that must be those people over there in my company,” or, “It’s that person,” versus saying like, “Look, this is about your brand online, and your brand includes every single touchpoint you have.” The people who are in the front of the house or delivering service directly impact what kind of reviews you might get, and that matters for SEO or local SEO for that reason where it’s so comprehensive to the business. It’s really interesting.
Sherry Bonelli: 14:34
Yeah, it is. Everybody is involved in it, and like you said, we can talk about reviews a little bit later too, but everybody at the company needs to have a vested interest in that. Everybody can be called out with either a good review or a bad review.
Brian Childs: 14:51
One of the things with the actual listings themselves, which I think is interesting is … When I go, and I googled a business, and I get into the map functions, and I see that little like panel that shows up, there is this link on it that says, “Suggest an edit,” and I can go in as just random Brian like just go in and suggest edits. Does that overwrite the things that are in the listing, or is it literally just suggestions? If it does overwrite, why would Google allow that to be a thing? I don’t understand that, that function specifically.
Sherry Bonelli: 15:33
Yeah, you’re thinking like 99.9% of other business owners quite frankly. It depends. If the person making the changes is a person that Google trusts and has made suggestions that have been reliable and trusted in the past, those changes could go through automatically. In most cases, the changes that are recommended just sit there and wait there for the business to approve, but it’s true. Anybody can go in and make changes to your Google My Business listing and even your competitors can do that, and that’s why it’s very important for all businesses to go in and check their listings frequently.
Sherry Bonelli: 16:21
I generally recommend at least once a week going in, checking to make sure the name, address, phone number hasn’t changed, checking to make sure there are no questions that need to be answered because that’s a new feature that Google recently released as well, and just make sure that everything is as it should be because people can add to your listing. I think the reason why Google is doing that is they want user input. They see their whole system as almost like a built community by everybody. Not just the owner, but by everybody who goes to that store.
Sherry Bonelli: 17:03
For instance, when I go to the local grocery store, Google knows that. It’s creepy that they know that, but they do, so I will often get a popup that says, “Hey, does this grocery store sell liquor? Does it sell this? Does it have handicapped accessibility?” It’s looking for input, and that input just builds that listing up even more, so it’s really I think all about getting feedback from the people that visit and patron those businesses.
Brian Childs: 17:37
Is your sense of … Let’s say that there’s the wheelchair accessible, right, like it’s a binary or at least … Let’s just pretend it’s a binary. Like is it or is it not? If I say yes, and you say yes, and 10 other people say yes, does that become an element of structured data associated with that business where … Like does that just go into the listing itself and just say like, “Hey, this is wheelchair accessible,” and does that have some kind of code that I’ll be able to see associated with my business at someplace, or it just show up in that listing alone?
Sherry Bonelli: 18:11
Yeah. I don’t know. Again, it depends on the quality and quantity of answers, but there are sections within Google My Business that does display those types of answers.
Brian Childs: 18:24
It’s interesting stuff. Another thing, so alluded to this. You mentioned the Q and A features. You mentioned a couple things in here actually. There are some ads like a lot of advertisement or evolution of the advertisements within the local businesses. Booking features, Q and A, messaging. It’s becoming so rich of an environment when you look at a business. Are there things that you see, that you find really interesting ways to engage like the “I Know This Place” feature or the Q and A? Like are you seeing businesses take advantage of this in really interesting ways to establish their brand uniquely, or is it just so new that everybody is trying to get their heads around it?
Sherry Bonelli: 19:09
Yeah. I think there’s a little bit of both. I know that there are a lot of businesses, even agencies that don’t know that there are new features being released by Google for Google My Business listings. One of the things that I think is most exciting is the posts, and posts are basically mini ads that you can create. The awesome thing about posts are they show up in the Knowledge panel when someone searches for your business. If you have a business called “Brian’s Superstar Record Store,” which …
Brian Childs: 19:44
Sherry Bonelli: 19:45
Probably this anymore, but it does. You can show an image of the latest record released by Bruce Springsteen, for instance. Okay? I’m going way back here.
Brian Childs: 20:01
Sherry Bonelli: 20:01
You can write a little message about it, and if, for instance, it’s on sale this week, you can create an event where it goes on sale from February 7th through Valentine’s Day, February 14, and then that post will stay live during that event period. Now, the interesting thing …
Brian Childs: 20:01
Sherry Bonelli: 20:22
The interesting thing is I was talking with one business that is tracking some of this information, and they actually did a test over Veterans Day where they were working with a client that is a restaurant, and that restaurant was offering free meals for veterans, so they created an event a couple days ahead of time and extended it out to Veterans Day and a few days after, and they saw a huge spike in just searches for “Veterans Day meals,” ” Veterans Day discount.”
Brian Childs: 21:03
Sherry Bonelli: 21:03
We don’t really know how Google is taking the keywords and those types of things into account with regards to posts, but I strongly think that they’re paying attention to those.
Brian Childs: 21:20
These posts can have a couple … It sounds like they can have a couple different variants like I would be able to say, “I’m going to …” Like an example, let’s use the example of like the record store example, so it’s like, “I can share an image or I could share that image as some kind of promotion,” or like it’s almost like a little mini social post, right?
Sherry Bonelli: 21:20
Brian Childs: 21:38
Like if I say then repost, it’s basically like I get to have a little social channel that’s limited to or is inside my local listing.
Sherry Bonelli: 21:47
Yes, exactly. Exactly.
Brian Childs: 21:49
Oh, so cool. Wow, that’s awesome. Oh my god, that’s great and so neat.
Sherry Bonelli: 21:53
Yeah. It’s awesome. You can engage with your audience like you’ve never been able to do that before. If businesses aren’t taking advantage of it, they should. Now, I have seen some people put in a bunch of hashtags and heavy keyword stuff. Don’t do that because hashtags don’t help you. Stuffing it just looks tacky, so don’t do that.
Brian Childs: 22:17
Sherry Bonelli: 22:19
Use up to 300 characters, but often, those characters get cut off depending on the device, so make sure like normal keyword and regular marketing copy. Put the most important things towards the front of the paragraph.
Brian Childs: 22:37
Tell me if you think this is right or not, and I don’t know, but is it that Google with these … with Google My Business is someday going to replace Brian’s Superstar Guitar Shop or Record Store? Like is that store not going to have to have a website someday because its address was in the listing? Like conceptually, is the objective here to make it so that this is going to be such a rich experience that my entire online presence, if I was a brick-and-mortar store, could exist just within the listing? Is that what it’s trying to do?
Sherry Bonelli: 23:14
It’s really interesting that you say that, Brian, because I’ve been doing a lot of research on voice search and featured snippets, and featured snippets are basically when you ask a question of Google, and Google gives you like the one answer. Once you get that answer, you typically don’t even need to click on that link to go to the website because you’ve already got the answer. I think that Google My Business is the same thing where you go to search for a business, you get the office hours of a dentist, and you really don’t need to click to the dentist’s website. I think there’s a huge correlation to that where Google is making it easier for the searcher to get all that information faster than ever before.
Brian Childs: 24:06
Yeah, and it goes along with my statement earlier about like if this stuff ends up as structured data in some way where I could then say, “Hey, I got to go to that dentist. Hey, is it wheelchair accessible? Hey, is it open right now? Do they have appointments available?” It’s like you could imagine the decision tree or decision matrix of different options that the search engine could then feed up and answer from a voice perspective if it has a high degree of confidence from its user base.
Sherry Bonelli: 24:36
Right. Exactly, exactly. With voice technology, rich snippets are now … They’re calling it something different. I can’t remember what it’s called now. They’re narrowing it down to just one generic term, but voice search, and schema, and the more robust qualities of Google My Business, I think that’s the direction they’re going, and it’s making it easier for the searcher. Now, how that’s going to impact the businesses, we’re not sure yet.
Brian Childs: 25:12
Sherry Bonelli: 25:14
If the searcher gets enough information by just going that direction and finds the information they need just by searching on Google, and they go to that business and buy what they need to buy, that’s great too.
Brian Childs: 25:29
Yeah. It’s so interesting. It’s almost like there’s this aspect of it that is like taking almost like these two far ends of a spectrum, which is like brick-and-mortar service or like a service business like the dentist, right, and then the e-commerce. It’s almost like these two things are merging as close as they possibly can where you could be like, “How can I get as much of the transaction done without ever having to actually contact that service business, and go to their website, and figure all that stuff out?” It’s like Google My Business could be like this bridge almost between these like two polar ends of this spectrum of businesses.
Sherry Bonelli: 26:09
Yeah, it’s definitely changing. It really is, and I think as an SEO professional, I’ve been in the industry for 20 years now, and I have certainly seen a lot of things change. Right now, it is probably one of the most exciting times, but it’s also one of the most challenging times because it’s open territory. We don’t know what’s going to happen.
Brian Childs: 26:36
Yeah. By the way, when Sherry says this is a time of a lot of transformation like you are definitely a voice of reason, a voice of knowledge in all this. It’s really interesting to hear that because it certainly seems like it’s changing, but your perspective adds a lot of weight to that. One last question here for MozPod is … and for MozPod listeners, I always love to give them places where they can look. Any recommendations for where listeners might look in terms of brands that do this really well consistently, or people that maybe they should follow, or brands that they should follow just to like see somebody who does it really well and seems to be on top of it? Any suggestions there?
Sherry Bonelli: 27:20
Oh, good question. As far as brands go, I haven’t really researched any brands that are doing it really, really well. The place to go I think for a lot of the information are the typical SEO places for up-to-date news, which is like Moz, and Search Engine Land, and Search Engine Journal. What I do think every business should do and every agency should do is go look for local businesses and do random searches, and go ahead and see what their local businesses have as far as their Google My Business listings, and see where they’re lacking and what features they’re using and not using.
Sherry Bonelli: 28:09
What I would even recommend, Google has their new Q and A. Ask one of those business owners a question and see if they answer it. If you’re looking for clients, go ask them a question, and if they don’t answer, call them in a couple of days and say, “Hey, I had a question and I asked it. I noticed you didn’t answer it. Would you like me to tell you about this feature?” There are different ways that you can go and follow the businesses in your local community. See what they’re doing, and if you’re an agency, it’s a good way to find leads that way as well.
Brian Childs: 28:49
Yeah, it’s a great, great recommendation. I think that’s such always an interesting way of an approach, right? It’s always challenging to do the cold call, but it’s quite different to say, ” You clearly want to sell more of your services, but do you realize that I got no response?” A fantastic way to open that door to a relationship because it’s so value-driven. It’s so like, “I’m literally going to try to help you sell more of your business, and here’s this channel that you probably aren’t aware of, and it’s new.” Just do a Google search on any business, and it’s like you’ll see that these maps show up, so it’s like it’s a great way to have that discussion. Yeah.
Brian Childs: 29:31
Sherry, thank you so much for your time. It’s been really interesting, really interesting discussion. I am so grateful that you joined MozPod to have this conversation. You have so much experience and insight. I do love that you make it sound easy. Great. Well, hey. Thanks a lot, Sherry, and we’re going to put those links you mentioned in the show notes for everybody. Cheers.
Brian Childs: 29:51
Well, there you have it, another episode of MozPod. Thanks for listening. Don’t forget to sign up for the SEO Bootcamp Series at moz.com/training and get 10% off when you use the coupon code “MozPod.” Also, I’d like to take a moment and thank the MozPod team that puts these episodes together. Our podcast manager is Heidi Noonan-Mejicanos, editing is supported by Laura Giuliari, and our sound engineer is Dave Kudera. A big shout-out to all of them for making the pod happen. Have a great day, and see you again for the next episode of MozPod.