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How to Use Google My Business: A Field Guide for Local Businesses [UPDATED for 2021]

Table of Contents

If you have a business that serves local customers, you need to know how to use Google My Business. You already know you’re showing up in search results, especially if people search directly for your name. How do you control these results and get more hits by ensuring the right information appears at the right time for the right people?

Let’s start with the basics. 

What is Google My Business? 

Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool from Google that lets you manage how your business appears on Google Search and Maps. By claiming your business on GMB, you can also monitor and reply to customer reviews, keep your hours up to date, add photos, and much more.

Who should use this service?

GMB is for local businesses. If you run a business that serves customers at a particular location, or you serve customers within a designated service area, Google My Business can help people find you. GMB plays a big role when searching for local results, emphasis on local. Do you want more calls to your store? More foot traffic? More quote requests and appointments? Greater volume of in-store sales? Google My Business is for you.

Look at things from a customer’s point of view. Let’s say you need a car mechanic ASAP. So you type “car mechanic near me” into Google. The first business that pops up in the results has a nice photo of the front of the shop, several 5 star reviews, a link to start navigating, and a phone number so you can call with questions or to let them know you’re on the way. You can also find their hours, website, and other helpful info. This business likely has their GMB profile set up. 

The other businesses you find don’t seem to have their GMB profile set up, so you’d have to search separately for their website to locate their hours (which are probably out of date), and guess at what the shop itself might look like. Which one would you choose? We’d choose the one with the complete and up-to-date profile, no doubt! And the data supports this.

“Verified businesses on Google are twice as likely to be considered reputable by users.” Source

So, how do you use Google My Business?

Start by setting up your Google My Business (GMB) profile

We won’t rewrite the manual here, as Google has provided plenty of resources for this part. Here is a link to start setting up a GMB. These are the basic steps you’ll follow:

  1. Sign in to your regular Google account 
  2. Once in your Google account, navigate to Google My Business page and click the “manage” button. 
  3. Type in your business’s name. If it doesn’t appear as an option, add it by selecting “Add your business to Google” below the search box or “Create a business with this name” in the dropdown that appears when searching for your business.
  4. Google will ask you a few questions about your products and services. Follow the prompts, and remember that you can update most of these things later.
  5. Select a business category. Make sure it fits your business well. Customers who search this will find your business.
  6. Add your contact information.
  7. Verify your business via phone, email, or postcard. This part can sometimes be tricky, so here’s Google’s resource on getting your business verified to help troubleshoot if something unexpected happens.screenshot of setting up google my business profile

What can Google My Business help you do?

Update info easily

Add and adjust your hours of operation, including any special holiday hours. Make sure your website URL, phone number, and any other information is always up-to-date and ready for customers to use. With GMB, you can keep a close eye on your business information and quickly make changes as needed.

Google has even created an entire section for small businesses to keep their customers updated with COVID-19 related changes to products and services. Check it out here.

Create posts to promote events, specials, products, and more

Posts appear on your Google business listing. Customers can tap to read the full post, and they can also share your post with their friends directly from Google.

Posting on Google lets you engage with more potential customers. You can:

  • Share daily specials or current promotions
  • Promote events and tell customers about upcoming happenings at your location
  • Showcase your top products and highlight new arrivals.

Within posts, you can give people a one-click path to make a reservation, sign up for a newsletter, learn more about latest offers, or even buy a specific product from your website.

Upload photos and videos

In Google’s own online optimization advice they state that businesses with photos received “35% more clicks to their websites and 42% more requests for driving directions than businesses without them.” Give people a look at what you do by uploading some carefully chosen images. It’s a good idea to add an exterior photo or two so people recognize your business when they visit. GMB gives you a platform to show off, so don’t be afraid to add images that highlight your products and services too.

You want to add anything that will help customers make the decision to visit and buy from you, but be sure to keep it authentic. Customers can upload their own photos and videos to your profile, and Google separates these from the ones you upload, which will show as “by owner.” It’s not a good look if the images you upload are wildly different from the ones your actual customers upload. Here’s more on how photos and videos work on Google My Business.

Set up messaging

You can add a button to your listing that allows customers to message you directly. You’ll just need to have the app installed on your phone – it’s available on Google Play or the App Store. Messages will appear in the Google My Business app, and you’ll receive notifications for incoming messages. Be sure to follow the guidelines from Google in order to keep messaging active. This includes responding within 24 hours to any incoming messages. 

screenshot of google my business messaging

Respond to and encourage more customer reviews

We can’t stress enough how important it is to encourage customer reviews, and consistently respond to them. If you have a ton of great reviews, your profile will get prioritized over a similar business who may not have as shiny of a reputation.

The majority of customers (56%) report that they read at least 2 to 6 online reviews before trusting a business, while another 18% read at least 7 to 10. Localbright’s 2019 Consumer review survey says that 76% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

There’s lots of ways to encourage online reviews, but make sure to actually respond when you get them. Even if they’re negative, you need to speak up for your business. Here’s a guide from Hubspot on how to handle reviews, both bad and good, with professionalism and respect.

Optimizing and maintaining your Google My Business profile

Ok, you’ve set up your profile and you’re ready to start reaping the rewards. How do you maintain your Google My Business profile for the best results?

Monitor your listing appearances 

Search for yourself, and review what appears on the sidebar.  If anything looks off, go find it and correct it in Google My Business. It’s a good idea to use your phone and your computer to do some testing, and to do it often – Google changes all the time. Here’s an example from our own listing. We check this frequently to make sure we haven’t missed any needed updates, and to try to see what our potential clients see.

clever tiger google my business profile screenshot
See the new health & safety section? Pretty cool!

Create a “short name” for your Google My Business profile

Google added the short name feature in 2019. By setting up a short name, you create a shareable URL that can take people directly to your business’s Google My Business profile. You can create a short name & URL for your business in the info area of GMB. Your short name will look like this “[yourcustomname]” – here’s ours:

Optimize search categories

When you first set up your GMB, you chose search categories for your business. As your company grows, you may begin to evolve your products or services. Make sure you’re checking periodically to make sure you still have the best possible categories selected. You are able to choose up to ten search categories, but you need to decide on just one to be your main category, which will carry the most weight.

Review insights

The Insights tab in GMB will show you how people are finding and viewing your listing, and what actions they take once they find you. For example, are they typing in your business name directly, or searching for another term? Are they viewing your listing within a Google search, or from Google Maps? Where are they requesting directions from?

screenshot of google my business insights for clever tiger


The Insights tab is packed with answers. If you make it a habit to review, you’ll start seeing patterns. These patterns will help you understand where your customers are coming from and how they prefer to get their information, so that you can better cater to them.

Need help?

If you recognize the need for Google My Business and want to get the most you can out of it, Clever Tiger is happy to help! Our social program includes setting up and optimizing your profile, then posting regularly to Google My Business. Contact us when you’re ready to start making the most of this free marketing tool.

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