Few activities will deliver a better Return on Investment for your local business than providing accurate and complete store information to Google. Hands-on testing has revealed some specific areas to focus on.

Per Google, 88% of people who conduct a local search will visit a related store within a week. Whether you run a quaint café, a bustling retail shop, or any other local business, the digital footprint of your business can attract more new customers than your physical storefront.

Since your Google Business Profile provides a free and sizable source of new customers, always make sure it is accurate and complete. It takes just a few minutes.

Key Benefits

We’ve run hundreds of tests of various changes to Google Business Profiles to identify which ones have the most significant impact. Here are the key benefits we found, with more specifics provided in the sections below.

  1. Increased Visibility on Google. To provide the best experience to its users, Google boosts the visibility of local businesses with accurate and complete profiles. For example, if Google detects your store hours are incorrect (based on your website or foot traffic it monitors), your visibility will suffer.
  2. Improved Customer Experience. When visitor expectations match reality, it’s more likely to be a positive experience. Bad reviews often result from missed expectations. For example, if Google shows you are open until 10pm, you may get a bad review from someone who visits at 9pm only to discover you close at 8pm in the summer months.
  3. Growth in Sales. It’s not possible to prove a direct causal relationship between an accurate profile and increased sales, but the anecdotal evidence is strong — and obvious. A bigger presence on Google results in more visitors, which results in increased sales.

Areas of Focus

It’s easy to suggest that all aspects of the Google Business Profile are important, but here are some specific areas to focus on. They’re often overlooked or can have an oversized impact on your business (or both).

Holiday Store Hours

Image of Google Store Hours showing warning message for Memorial Day

You obviously need to keep your regular store hours up-to-date, but few businesses confirm or update their store hours for major holidays. As a result, businesses lose customers because of the ambiguous store hours message shown on Google.

This is especially important if you’re open on holidays when most businesses are closed (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, etc.) or closed on holidays when most businesses are open (Memorial Day, 4th of July, etc.).

To see this for yourself, search for “Is <your business name> open on <holiday name>?” for an upcoming holiday. Do the same for your competitors to see the advantage offered by an up-to-date profile.

Multiple Business Categories

It’s not uncommon for a Google Business Profile to have just one business category selected, even though up to 10 categories are allowed. This can significantly reduce your visibility on Google.

The primary category is the most important by far, so choose it carefully. For example, if you own a bakery/cafe, you must choose between Bakery and Cafe as the primary category. The other one would be a perfect secondary category.

The primary category will appear in your business listing. Also, you’re most likely to be shown for searches that include that category name.

Choosing a more specific category is generally better if it more accurately describes your business. For example, Vegan Restaurant is a better category than Restaurant if you specifically focus on vegan products. However, if your restaurant only offers a few vegan options, Restaurant is a better primary category.

The best practice is to choose as many categories (up to the limit of 10) that accurately represent your business. For example, do not choose Vegan Restaurant if you just have one vegan product on the menu, but do include it as a secondary category if a section of your menu is devoted to vegan dishes. Said another way, if a customer visited your business because they found it searching for “vegan restaurant,” would they be happy or disappointed?

To test the impact these business categories have, do a search for “<business category> in <city name>” — such as “vegan restaurant in Tulsa.” Note where your business appears in the ranking before adding this category to your profile, and then check again in a few days. You will likely see a significant change.

There are about 4,000 categories available, but you can easily search the list to find the ones most relevant to your business.

One final note: Do not include a category if your website’s home page does not mention this category. Google will notice this discrepancy and may reduce your visibility as a result. If a category accurately describes your business, add it to your home page before adding it as a business category. This will also boost your website’s visibility (not just your business profile) on Google.

Business Description

Google provides up to 750 characters to describe your business. Potential customers will see it in your Google profile, and Google also uses it to understand more about your business.

The description should include keywords that customers will likely search for when looking for a business like yours. The category names mentioned above (bakery, cafe, vegan restaurant) and the names of your best-selling products are good examples of keywords.

You don’t need to include information like store hours that are shown elsewhere. Instead, focus on what differentiates your business from local competitors. People like trying new places that offer something unique, so use this description to explain what that is.

Alerts

Sign up for Google Business Profile alerts in the Settings section. For example, you can receive an alert when you receive a review or if your holiday hours haven’t been confirmed. This will ensure you don’t miss out on opportunities to create more visibility for your business, and is an excellent reminder to review your profile if you haven’t for a while.

Next Steps

Spend a few minutes searching for your business on Google like a potential customer would. Search for “Is <business name> open on <holiday name>?” or “What’s the best <business category> in <city name>?” to see where (or if) your business shows up.

If you’re near the top for all the common searches and the information is accurate, kudos to you! If not, spend some more time on this. It will be worth it.

Next Up: Bad Reviews: Turning a Negative into a Positive