In most cases, when someone is looking for what your local business provides, or they want information about you, they will go to Google. If they aren’t finding you, then they’re finding your competition. That’s just one reason you should make sure your Google My Business (GMB) listing shows up. And not only should it show up, but it should look fantastic! That’s where doing a GMB audit comes in.

We’ve had many conversations with clients who want to understand how to get more calls, website visits, or prospective clients visiting their location from Google. And one of the best ways to do this, is if you have a well optimized GMB listing. What’s involved in having a “well optimized GMB listing?” Well, answering that question is the purpose of this blog post.

But I should point out, as with the other digital marketing audits in this series, the purpose of this post it to look at what has already been done, and evaluate it. This GMB audit process outlined below does not evaluate your competitors. Competitor research will be a completely different series we will write about in the future. And at that time, we will cover how to do competitive research on the GMB listings of your competition. But for now, this is purely looking at what you’ve already done, and where there is room for improvement, based on research and best practices.

To get started, let’s make sure you actually have a GMB listing!

Make Sure You Have a Google My Business (GMB) Listing

Google My Business Pensacola Joshua Lyons Marketing

This first step should be pretty easy. Simply log into your Google My Business account. When you sign in, just use whatever Google login you would ordinarily use for your business. After logging in, if you don’t see your business, then try signing into a different Google account. If you can’t find a GMB listing for your business, then try doing a search on Google for your business name. You should see something like the accompanying screenshot. But, it would be for your business, rather than ours.

If your GMB listing appears when you search your company name, but you don’t have access to edit your listing, you’ll want to get that resolved. You can do so by clicking the “Own this business?” link that displays in the listing. In our screenshot, you can see this just before our “Products” section.

Verify You Own The Business

The verification process is pretty straight forward and there are a few ways to do it. Here’s a support article by Google, explaining the process to verify your listing.

When working with our clients, they typically take the verification route that involves receiving a postcard to their address. This process usually takes about five days. So, if you’re wanting to do a GMB audit and then update your listing based on your findings, be sure to get the verification process started ASAP. That way, you can start making edits as soon as the verification is completed.

Do You Have Multiple Locations?

If you have multiple locations, there should be a Google My Business listing for each one.

The rest of this GMB audit process, outlined below, is going to assume you have just one listing. But, if you have more, repeat everything for each location. And of course, if you have multiple locations, make sure you also have access to edit all of them, if possible.

GMB Audit Action Items

  1. Make sure your GMB listing has been created, verified, and that you have access to it.
  2. If you have multiple locations, repeat the first action item for each of them.

Is Your NAP Consistent?

No, NAP has nothing to do with sleeping. Rather, it’s an acronym that stands for name, address and phone number. Search engines, such as Google, like to see your name is spelled the same way wherever it’s listed, across the internet. They want to see your address is consistent. And the phone number should remain the same as well.

Here’s an example of how the NAP might not be consistent, using our agency as an example:


Example of Potential for NAP Inconsistency

Directory Name Address Phone
Pensacola Chamber of Commerce Joshua Lyons Marketing 225 N Pace, Blvd, Pensacola, FL 32505 (850) 898-2237
Better Business Bureau Joshua Lyons Marketing 225 North Pace, Blvd, Pensacola, FL 32505 (850) 920-5740
Google My Business Josh Lyons Marketing 225 North Pace Boulevard, Pensacola, FL, 32505 (850) 898-2237
Business Network International Joshua Lyons Marketing LLC 225 N Pace, Bouldevard, Pensacola, FL, 32505 (850) 898-2237
Yelp Joshua Lyons Marketing, LLC 225 N Pace, Blvd, Pensacola, FL 32505 (850) 898-1711
Facebook Josh Lyons Marketing, LLC 225 North Pace Blvd. Penascola, FL 32505 (850) 898-1711

And by the way, all the addresses and phone number variations above are technically correct and would work. The only typo above is for the name called “Josh Lyons Marketing,” which we’re sometimes called. It’s an understandable mistake, but it still impacts our NAP consistency. Just glancing through the names and addresses above, you’ll see there is the potential for information to be inconsistently entered into a directory style website. And sometimes, it’s not the business owner who enters this information. The directory itself could have found information about the business and entered it in themselves, in efforts to make their directory larger and more helpful.

Here’s a blog post you may be interested in, if you want to submit your business to some free local listing sites: Get Found: 35 Free Local Business Listings to Claim Now

GMB Audit Action Items

  1. Make sure your NAP is consistent across the internet.
  2. If you need help with this, let us know and we can do it for you. Or, you can check out this great article by Smart Insights, where they walk you through the process of doing it yourself.

Company Name

Is your company name spelled correctly? If not, this should be corrected.

What's Your Company Name_It’s possible the person who created your Google My Business listing may have done something called “keyword stuffing.” This is where they include a really important keyword that’s relevant to your business, as part of your name. For example, we could have called our company “Joshua Lyons Marketing – SEO Pensacola.” However, that’s not what we’ve called our name. But, keyword stuffing can be extremely effective at boosting your rankings in the local search pack (the three locations that will show at the top of a Google search, where you can click to call, get directions or visit the website). We actually experimented with this a while ago. Just by putting “SEO Pensacola” in our name, we jumped up by about seven positions, right to the top of the local search pack.

However, we reverted our name back to what it’s supposed to be. Keyword stuffing in the company name violates Google’s guidelines and we would rather play it safe. However, there are some businesses who prefer to take the gamble of getting suspended by Google, in exchange for the benefits that come from keyword stuffing.

Our stance is that while there are short term benefits to keyword stuffing, it would be better to play by the rules and ultimately see better success without cheating the system. And getting on Google’s bad side is definitely not a smart marketing move.

GMB Audit Action Items

  1. Review your name to ensure it is accurate.
  2. If you’re interested in keyword stuffing, to boost your rankings, be sure to review the Google Guidelines first. Also, be aware that if your competitors are keyword stuffing, you can file a complaint and report them to Google.
  3. Review your competitors, not as competitor research, but just to see who is keyword stuffing. For those who are violating Google’s Guidelines, make a note to report them. By lowering their rankings due to reporting them, you will increase your own GMB rankings. This is called “spam fighting.”

 

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Check to Make Sure the Basic Details Are Entered

There are a number of details to fill out in your GMB listing. Log into your account and make sure the following info has been provided:

  • Address: This needs to be a real physical address. A P.O. box, or something else of that nature, doesn’t qualify.
  • Phone Number: Make sure to use a unique local phone number for each location, if you have more than one GMB listing.
  • Website Landing Page URL: According to an article by Darren Shaw, if you have a single location, then just link to your homepage. But if you have multiple locations, you may need to adjust where on the website you link.
  • Categories: List all that apply.
  • Hours: This is straight forward. Just make sure they’re correctly displayed.
  • Special Hours: List these too.
  • Photos: The rule of thumb is to include at least three photos for each category of photos available. So, three team photos, three interior photos, etc. This isn’t a must, but is good, if it’s something you’re able to do. Also, make sure the images uploaded are geo-tagged to your location or area of service. You can use a tool like GeoImgr to do this. All our screenshots in this blog post, for example, are geo-tagged to Pensacola, by using this tool.
  • Company Description: You have 750 characters to inspire someone to connect with you, when they review your GMB listing. Is it compelling?
  • Accepted Forms of Payment: Go ahead and fill this out.
  • Other: There are other details you can share about your business, though we don’t have any reason to believe they will impact your local search rankings. However, check and see if there is anything else in the “Info” section of your listing that should be filled out. Examples include appointment links, products, amenities, etc.

Complete Your GMB Profile

GMB Audit Action Items

  1. Make sure your GMB profile is 100% complete. When you’re logged into your account, go to your “Home” tab. You’ll see something like the accompanying screenshot. Make sure your profile is 100% complete.
  2. Please note, if reading this in 2021, there is a reported glitch that makes some completed profiles only show as 85% complete. This may be fixed by the end of the year (2021).

What Impacts Your GMB Rankings?

The purpose of this GMB audit is not to focus on search engine optimization (SEO). That will come in the future. However, if you wish to maximize your exposure in Google’s local search pack, there are specific ranking factors Google is looking at. These factors impact whether you should out rank your competitors, or if they should out rank you.

Factors Believed Not to Impact Your Rankings

As part of a healthy GMB audit, we should review these factors. But first, let me mention this article by BrightLocal. After citing a survey by Whitespark, they shared the following factors that are NOT believed to be ranking signals:

  • Keywords in the following locations:
    • Company description
    • Services
    • Products
    • Posts
  • Enabled messaging
  • Enabled appointment URL
  • Quantity and quality of posts

GMB Audit Action Items

  1. Make sure the items above (company description, services, etc.) have been added to your profile.
  2. If functionality like messaging and sending people to an appointment URL aren’t necessary for you, don’t be concerned about not including enabling them.
  3. Don’t worry or stress out about keywords and posts for ranking purposes. However, do make a point to share posts, at least occasionally. This can help influence those who view your GMB listing to contact you. That will also help increase your value to Google, which will then indirectly increase your rankings, due to boosted user engagement/behavior.
  4. Based on the previous point, make a point to review your existing GMB posts, and plan how to make them even more effective. The more engaging and interesting, the better.
Not only does having a website add to your credibility, but it also makes up part of the ranking signals that impact your GMB listing. #SEO #GMB Click To Tweet

Non-GMB Listing Factors Believed to Impact GMB Rankings

Now, based on that same article by BrightLocal, there are some ranking factors that aren’t relevant to this GMB audit process. These ranking signals have more to do with your actual website. But, that does lead to a good point to make. We’ve had clients ask if they really need to have a website, if they just care about GMB and don’t want a website. Our response is that they should have a website. Not only does having a website add to their credibility, but it also makes up part of the ranking signals that impact their GMB listing.

While this is outside the scope of a GMB audit, you should be aware of these factors which are believed to impact your GMB rankings. They are as follow:

  • Quantity and authority of other websites linking to your website domain (Your website domain is the website your GMB listing should be linking to).
  • Topical relevance of the keywords across your entire website.
  • Behavioral factors such as click-through rate to your website.

Each of those factors will be discussed during the SEO audit process we will share. But for now, just realize if you want to fully optimize your GMB rankings, you’ll need to take more than just your GMB listing into consideration.

GMB Audit Action Items

  1. Make sure to review our off-site and on-site SEO audits. Once they have published, you will be able to find them by viewing all the posts in our Digital Marketing Audits Series.
  2. Once reviewed, implement what you discover from the SEO audits to enhance your GMB rankings.

GMB Ranking Facts to ConsiderGMB Listing Factors Believed to Impact Your Rankings

These aspects of your GMB audit should definitely not be overlooked:

  • Having the GMB listing verified
  • Making sure the GMB listing is 100% complete
  • Indicating primary and secondary categories
  • Geo-tagging images
  • Keywords used in the Google reviews
  • Quantity of Google reviews that include text

On that last point, you’ll also want to make a point to respond to the Google reviews that are left for you.

GMB Audit Action Items

Some of the items above have already been discussed and included in action items. However, the following have not. Please take care of these action items:

  1. Make sure the images you upload, going forward, are geo-tagged.
  2. Ask for reviews. There are likely many people who would leave you a review, if you would just make a point to request it.
  3. When speaking to someone who will leave you a review, encourage them to specifically describe how you benefited them. The goal is to have them include your keywords in their review. And if they describe how you helped them, this will naturally happen. For example, if we provided you services and you left a review for us, “They do a great job and I highly recommend them” doesn’t benefit us as much as “They really helped me with our digital marketing and helped a lot with our local rankings on Google!” Using that same concept, encourage those who wish to leave you a review to be descriptive.
  4. As part of your audit, take a look at the reviews that have been left for you, and see if they are descriptive. If they aren’t, make a note of this and strategize how to resolve this.

 

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Top Ranking Factors for the Local Search Pack

This is too helpful not to share. Again, according to the article by BrightLocal, which was previously mentioned, the factors below are believed to impact your local search pack rankings. You’ll also see how important they are believed to be, based on a percentage:

  1. 33% – Create a GMB listing.
  2. 16% – Acquire excellent reviews.
  3. 15% – Ensure the website being linked to has good on-site SEO.
  4. 15% – Get high quality backlinks, and a lot of them, to your website landing page.
  5. 8% – Inspire Google users to interact with your GMB listing and organic search results (This includes people calling the business, asking for directions, click-through-rate to the website from regular organic search results, etc.).
  6. 7% – Build citations for the business (directory listings).
  7. 6% – Have a GMB and listing that matches up with what the user is likely to be interested in.

Use a GMB audit to increase your rankings

The percentages above are not provided by Google. Additionally, I paraphrased them from what BrightLocal wrote. But again, here’s a link to read their article, which is titled Local SEO Ranking Factors 2020: What Affects Google Local Rankings?

The factors and statistics above are based on speculations by experts in the industry. But, there has been a significant amount of testing to see what works and what doesn’t. And based on our own testing, I would have to agree with what has been said above. This applies to both what doesn’t seem to impact rankings, as well as that which does seem to impact rankings.

Final Thoughts Regarding Your Google My Business Audit

This is the fifth part in the Digital Marketing Audit Series. Your GMB listing is likely only one very small part of your entire digital marketing footprint. If you’re taking the time to audit your Google business listing, then I believe you would also benefit from reading the other audit guides in this series. Please take a moment to check them out.

Additionally, if you’ve reached the end of this post, I suspect you’re pretty serious about improving your local search rankings. That is a smart move on your part, and I truly wish you great success with both your audit and your rankings. If you get stuck at some point during the process, please feel free to reach out to us and ask for help. We would be happy to provide an estimate for conducting the audit for you, or for just giving general consulting advice. If this is of interest to you, please connect with us via our contact page, or through the contact form below.

About

As the founder of Joshua Lyons Marketing, Josh Lyons primarily focuses on business development. He has studied and practiced marketing since 2008 and launched his first company (a marketing agency in Pensacola, Florida) in 2015. When he's not writing blog posts, recording podcasts or consulting, he enjoys spending time with family and friends. He loves listening to audiobooks and checking out different coffee shops. He also enjoys fire juggling, amigurumi, travel and swing dancing; which is how he met his wife.

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