Verify and Optimize Your Business on Google

October 14, 2020

Is your travel agency listed on Google My Business (GMB)? Is your Google My Business profile optimized so Googlers can find you? If not, you may be missing out on hundreds of leads each year.

Verifying optimizing your Google My Business can help you in two major ways:

  1. Gain more exposure with a knowledge panel: If someone Googles your business name, what do they see? If you have a Google My Business panel, it helps your business stand out and adds a level of legitimacy.
  2. Find more local leads: 46% of all Google searches are looking for local information.1 Listing and optimizing your profile will help your business show up in a local search.
Google My Business Local Search and Knowledge Panel

We’re going to walk you through how to set up your GMB page, optimize your business profile, and set a service area to maximize your chances of showing up on a local google search.

Best yet, you can do this all in 10 minutes. Let’s do this thing.


⭐️Summary: 10 Steps to optimize & Verify your GOogle My business profile⭐️


Before You Begin: Set up a Google Account: We walk you through setting up a Google Account and can offer you a 10% Google Workplace--formerly G Suite--discount. (If you already have one, skip to #2)

Phase 1: Collect Collateral for Your GMB Profile

1. Create a Google My Business Logo: The optimal size for your Business logo is 720x720. Find other specs and tips on Google My Business logos.

2. Create a Google My Business Cover Photo: The cover photo is the face of your business. Read more for recommendations and rules on GMB photos.

3. Choose Google My Business Images and Video: The median (most common) number of business photos for small businesses is 11. Read here on more guidelines and tips for images and video.

Phase 2: Set Up and Optimize Your GMB Profile

4. Set Up Your Google My Business Profile: This section covers 8 quick steps to setting up your GMB business account. This section walks you through that process and helps you decide what choices are best for your business.

5. Verify Your Business on Google: This step is critical for gaining exposure for your business and for accessing Google My Business features. (This section also covers what to do if you don't have a storefront address open to the public.)

Phase 3: Optimize Your Google My Business Profile

6. Complete Your Google My Business Profile: Filling out your profile fully and thoroughly is important. This section includes a list of which GMB features are a must-have for your profile, so you'll be going strong right out of the gate.

7. Upload Your Google My Business Collateral: Since you have all your collateral ready to go in one file, uploading it to your GMB profile will take no time at all. Here we walk through what collateral you can include and tips for optimizing it.

8. Set Up Your Google My Business Service Area: This is especially critical for businesses that don't have a store front location open during business hours. Here's how to select up to 20 different locations to create your service area.

9. Solicit Reviews: Getting Google reviews for your GMB profile adds legitimacy to your listing. This section offer sure-fire tips to seeding your profile with reviews.

10. Update You Profile: Update your profile (at least) every few months to ensure it's current. Read this section to learn the importance of checking up on your profile and sign up for our biannual reminders.



First Things First: Create a Google Account (if you don’t have one already)

Most of you already have this. If you already have a Google account, you can skip to #2!

Create Google Account Step 1

First things first: If you don't have a Google account, you will need to set one up. Since you're a business, HAR recommends setting up your business account through Google Workspace (formerly G Suite).

  1. Go get a 10% off Google Workspace code from HAR (or) test the waters here to create your Google account.
  2. Fill in your info
  3. Verify your account



Phase 1, Prepare: Google My Business Images and Video


Hold your horses! Before you run off to the magical land of Google My Business, you’ll want a few things at your fingertips. This list is magical dust from the Time Management Fairy, and it will make your setup swift.

GMB offers you the opportunity to display your logo, a cover photo, videos and additional team photos and pictures of your business.

When you create your profile, it's a good idea to collect what collateral you have into one file so your profile will be complete right out of the gate. If you don't have it all (like a video) that's okay. Just use what you have for now.

Here's what you need for a great GMB profile:


1. Google My Business Logo

If you have your Google account all set up, then the next thing you need is a logo that is optimized for a Google My Business page.

The optimal size for your Google My Business logo is 720px by 720px.

Your Google My Business logo is what will appear when you respond to reviews. It’s the “face” of your business. For the profile photo, I’d recommend going tried and true with a logo image (you can add your headshot for the “team” photo . . . more on that later)

Here’s a few tips on how to optimize your logo for a Google My Business logo photo:

  1. Use a Square Logo: If you have a rectangular logo, you’ll want to make it a square logo before you upload it into GMB. So before you get started, make sure you have a square logo on hand.
  2. Logo Size: Your The optimal size for your logo is 720px by 720px (min. Is 250 by 250). If you need to resize it and aren’t sure how, we suggest Canva.

When you have your logo ready, put it in a GMB folder so you can keep all your profile collateral in one place. Because you’ll also want . . .


2. Google My Business Cover Photo & Images

Below is a list of collateral you can (and should) include on your Google My Business profile. Why include images on your GMB profile? Because your business will receive 35% more click-throughs to your website if you include images.[Source: Medium] It’s a no-brainer.

Your business will receive 35% more click-throughs to your website if you include images on your GMB profile.

See what you have that’s listed below and add it to your GMB folder:


Google My Business Cover Photo Size (and other rules):

This is what the Googlers will first see when they find your GMB profile. Just like a great name or tagline, it’s optimal if your cover photo is:

  1. Professional-looking (but not cookie-cutter)
  2. Communicates what kind of travel you sell/ service you provide
  3. Personal

GMB frowns upon stock photos and screenshots. They’re a no-no. So while you may use them for your website or other marketing initiatives, steer clear of using them for GMB.

In fact, Google has a bunch of rules for your photos and videos that essentially amount to, keep it PG and keep it minimal.

  1. Style adjustments are okay (so long as they’re minimal): Photo touch ups are acceptable so long as you’re not creating a collage, a border, or adding filters that alter the image to the point it doesn’t reflect reality. (Think, putting on a little makeup vs. plastic surgery)
  2. Superimposed text or graphics must be minimal: It’s probably tempting to slap your logo on every picture. And that’s okay, but it must be minimal:
  3. Any superimposed text can only comprise 10% of the image or video space, and must be limited to a single edge
  4. It must be relevant
  5. Distracting text or graphics are not permitted

While the cover photo may be the poster child of your business, all business photos you post to your profile fall under the same guidelines as the cover photo (more on this later)


3. Google My Business Images & Video

Google My Business Images

You can include headshots of yourself and your employees or ICs to help Googlers get to know your business better. I recommend including team photos, especially if your business is service-oriented. Who you are is important.

As with the photos, keep them professional. You don’t need to shell out a bunch of cash for professional pics if you don’t have the budget for it. If you’re a part of a networking group, or have a professional photographer friend, you can always see if they're willing to barter headshots in exchange for booking their trip (and giving them back some or all of the commission).

At the very least, have a friend with a good eye snap some good pics of you. No backlit photos that make people look like ghosts and no selfies! NO SELFIES.


Google My Business Video

GMB gives you the opportunity to add a video. A video give you a chance to share the story of your business and your unique selling point. It puts a face to the name. (Psst! Bonus if you can include a testimony of a happy traveler in your video!)

It’s more important to take the time to create a professional video that’s well done than just to check off the box.

If your business is service-oriented, I recommend including a video, but only if you can do it well. It’s more important to take the time to create a professional video that’s well done than just to check off the box. If you don’t have a video at your fingertips, you can always add one later.

Videos must meet the following criteria:

  1. Duration: Up to 30 seconds long
  2. Size: Up to 75 MB
  3. Resolution: 720p or higher
Tip: Creating a video is a great way to introduce your business. If you create a video for GMB you can use it across your social platforms as well in order to unify your branding.

Okay, you're set with your trusty file of GMB collateral. If you don’t have all of this at your fingertips, it’s okay! But gather what you have and collect it into one folder. As you get more collateral, you can always add it to your GMB profile later.

It’s time to set up your profile.

[sign up below to get reminders (and tips) 2x year to update your GMB profile]



Phase 2: Set Up and Verify Your Google My Business Account


Once your Google account is set up, creating your GMB account will be just as fast. Read on for an explanation on how to best complete each step!


Set Up Your Google My Business (in 8 Steps)

1. Go to Google My Business:

  1. Go to https://google.com/business and click on “Add Your Business to Google” (if you haven’t already created an account).
Step 1 - Create Your Google My Business Account
1. Add your business to Google


2. Add Your Business Name:

Self-explanatory, but if you don’t have one yet, check out this resource on creating a name for your travel agency (or other business!)

Step 2 - Google My Business Name
2. Input your business name

3. Add Your Business Category:

When you choose your category, make sure you pick one that best reflects your business type and that consumers will easily recognize.

Here you can select your type of business so the Googlers can find you. If you sell travel, you select travel agency. Google isn’t as savvy to all the more appropriate and more-clarifying terms for travel agents like advisor or consultant.

Step 3- Google My Business Category
3. Select your business category

When you choose your category, make sure you pick one that best reflects your business type and that consumers will easily recognize.

For a little perspective, Travel agency near me, received 15K monthly searches in Sept. 2020. (This is down from 30K pre COVID, in Jan. 2020). But when you Google “travel consultant” or “travel advisor” near me, the number of searches isn't high enough to register.2


4. Select Your Location:

Google My Business will ask if you want to set a location for your store or office that customers can visit. This is where things get interesting for home based or online businesses. Your location selection will depend on your business type.

Select YES if you have a storefront business OR you have a home office where you’re willing to meet clients AND if you’re willing to have your storefront/home office address listed to the public. Don't want random people coming off the street to your house during business hours without an appointment or notice? . . .


Select NO if you’re home based and do not want to meet clients at your home office without notice or appointment.

If you selected "No," don't worry, you'll still have a chance to set up a service area if it applies to you (more on that soon!)

Step 4 - Google My Business Location
4. Select if you'd like add a location


5. Set Location or service area:

Step 5 - Google My Business Location

If you selected YES: Enter your address

If you selected YES, all you need to do is enter your storefront address. Keep in mind, this is the location that people will randomly drop by during your listed business hours.

If for any reason you don't want your address to be listed to public—if you have a storefront, business office address, or home office address but you see clients by appointment only—you'll want to set up a service area instead.




Step 5 - Google My Business Service Area

If you selected NO: Set up a service location:

If you don't want to publicize your business address, you'll have an opportunity to select a service area. This is great for business owners who don't want their storefront or home office address published to the general public, but are willing to meet with clients by appointment outside their business location.

To set up a service area, you can only choose one location. But when you optimize your profile you can include up to 20 different locations that will make up your service area. (You'll be doing this in a jiffy, so read on!).

To start, select the location that is nearest to your business address. This will be the focal point of your service area.

Of course there's an exception: If you're an online-only business and aren't willing to meet with any clients, you can select a broad area (e.g. "United States" or "Florida").


6. Add Business Phone Number:

If you have a business number already, plug it on in. If you don’t have a business phone number yet (but you’re an eager beaver already setting up), you can skip this step and fill it in later.

If you're in the market for a business phone number, we recommend Google Voice for a free and fast option to connect business calls to your phone.


Step 6 - Google My Business Phone Number

7. Add Your Website:

If you do not have a website, it’s time to slam on the brakes and go directly to our article on creating a (free) Wix website in 7 min.

Go ahead we’ll wait.

Why is it so important to have a website? Because even if you get all your biz from word of mouth, your best friend’s cousin, Angie, who’s planning her family reunion Mexico getaway is going to spy on your website to make sure you’re legit. A referral might not be enough.

If you don’t have a website, we highly recommend Wix because it

  1. Has a free plan
  2. Is user-friendly (we’re serious when we say you can do it in 7 min.) and
  3. Looks professional (yes, even the free version)
Step 7 - Google My Business Website

8. "Finish” setting up your GMB profile:

Finishing your GMB setup is as easy a click of the button:

Step 8 - Google My Business, You're Set Up!

"Finish" is a little misleading. Why? Because even though you click "finish," you're still not done setting up your account.

After you finish setting up your account, you need to verify your business. (Read on)


Verify Your Business on Google:

Verifying your business on Google is a critical step. While you can wait to verify your business, I recommend doing it right away. Google verifies your business by sending you a Google My Business postcard containing a verification code that you enter into google.com/verifymybusiness. It's pretty darn easy.

It can take a few weeks for Google to verify your business. During that time, there's a ton of great things you can do to optimize your Google My Business profile.

Without verifying your business, you cannot optimize your Google My Business profile.

This step will look different depending on whether you're a storefront business, or if you're a home based business.

Verifying your business if you have a storefront location that's open to the public is easy. All you need to do is plug in your business' address and that's where the GMB postcard with the verification code will be sent.

If you’re home based (and don’t want your clients to realize that your home office is really an old nursery covered with a Muppets mural) you have three options:

1. Don’t Verify Your Address. This is a terrible option and defeats the purpose of setting up a GMB profile. Without verifying your business, you cannot optimize your Google My Business profile.


2. Use your home address. You may be thinking, are you nuts? That’s a terrible idea. You can see my Muppets mural from the street! Your home address will not be public if you choose to use it as the address to send GMB's verification postcard. If you still don't feel comfortable with that option, here's one more choice:


3. Get a (premium) USPS (United States Post Office) Box: USPS offers a street address that functions as a PO box. This is great if you want to set a service area, but don’t want to use your home address in any way shape or form (even if it is hidden from the public).


Since you can't list a PO box as your address, you'll need to get a premium USPS street address if you want to go this route. Here’s the details on the cost and process of setting up a street address via USPS or UPS:


Setting Up Your USPS (United States Postal Office) Street Address:

Setting up a street address via USPS is easy. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Find a USPS location: To find a USPS location near you with premium services, go here. Make sure you select one that has a convenient location for you and accurately reflects a service area in which you’re willing to meet clients.
  2. Select size and term of contract for your PO box. (Right now, USPS offers a month free if you sign up for 12 months of service).
  3. Set up (or log into) your USPS account and follow their prompts.
  4. Fill out this USPS form. It sounds like you're signing your life away, but guess what. You’re not.


Cost of a USPS Street Address:

The cost of you USPS street address will depend on three things:

1). Your location and

2.) Size of PO Box and

3.) Term of your contract

Where I live, in Minneapolis, USPS street addresses via USPS range from ~$9/mo (shortest/quarterly term for smallest box) to $30/mo (longest/1-yr term for largest PO box). Right now they have a special where you get a baker’s dozen (an extra month free if you sign up for 12 months).

Important Note: You CANNOT use your USPS street address as a place to receive legal documents. Good news is that a GMB postcard to verify your address isn’t considered a legal document. They just want to make sure you’re not a robot.



Phase 3: Optimize Your Google My Business Profile


Now that you're all set up, it's to go back to the collateral you gathered from Phase 1 and input it to optimize your Google My Business profile along with other info.

Here's a 5 critical steps to optimize your GMB profile.


1. Fill Out Your Profile Completely

Ensure your profile is filled out thoroughly and accurately. The most important is info what appears on your knowledge panel including:

  1. Hours of Operation
  2. Holidays/ Days you’re closed
  3. Website
  4. Phone number
  5. Your Address (IF you choose to publicize this)
  6. Email address for inquiries (IF you choose to publicize this)
  7. COVID Updates
  8. Services
  9. Highlights
  10. Appointment link (we use Acuity and love it)
  11. Products (if applicable)
  12. Services (you can create custom services such as “travel planning” or “vacation packages”)
  13. Website


2. Upload your Google My Business Logo, Cover Photo, Images and Video

This is extremely easy because you have a folder with all your Google My Business collateral at the ready.

Google My Business Logo and Cover Photo

After you’ve created your account, you can drag and drop your logo and image files.


Additional Tips for Your Google My Business Images:

11 images is the median (most common) number of photos that local businesses display on their Google My Business profile.

Quality and Quantity Matters:

When it comes to images: Start your business off with a few professional looking photos. According to Bright Local3, 11 images is the median (most common) number of photos that local businesses display on their Google My Business profile.


According to Search Engine Land4, the more photos you post, the more monthly customer engagements you stand to gain from your profile.


Submit Team Photos:

Google My Business profile offers the option to submit team photos. I recommend this . . . especially if you’re a small business who’s primary asset is the sparkling service you provide your customers.


Google My Business doesn't have an option to write captions, so if you’re attached to having your title along with your team pictures, you’ll need to edit the photo to include it according to Google My Business’ strict standards.

Insert Google My Business Photos

Videos:

Videos are a fabulous idea for a Google My Business. It’s essentially free advertising, and can help you differentiate from other profiles. It gives you an opportunity to dive into why you do what you do and what your unique selling point is.


But I recommend a Google My Business video with a huge caveat . . . only include video if you have a video that’s professional and well-done (and completed according to the video specs listed above).


Remember, you can always add on later if you want time to take the time to make one that really hits the mark.


3. Ask Your Top Clients to Submit Reviews (and Respond to Them!)

Sadly, you can’t manage reviews until your business is verified. Once you're verified, a great way to optimize your Google My Business profile is to ask your top customers to leave reviews. This adds legitimacy to your business and indicates to the Googlers that you’re engaged and interested.

A fabulous way to get reviews is to include “Leave me a review on Google” with a link to your profile in your email signature.

A fabulous way to get reviews is to include “Leave me a review on Google” with a link to your profile in your email signature.

Want to take it a step further? Respond to all reviews you receive. Yes . . . even the glowing ones! This shows that you’re invested in the service you provide your clients and helps your personality professionalism shine through your profile.

Did you get a doozie of a review? Go to our article, “10 Tips for Responding to Negative Reviews.”


4. Set your Google My Business Service Area

If you’ve gone through our steps, you’ve already set up a location or general service area. If you set a storefront location that you'll publish on your profile, yay! You’re good to go! You can skip this.

You can add up to 20 different locations to your service area.

If you didn't want to set up a location, you can set up a service area. A service area is for those service-oriented professionals who are willing to meet clients outside a home office.

Google My Business used to calibrate service areas by distance. So you could set your service area to reflect how far out you’re willing to go.

Now GMB has businesses set up a service area according to locations. You can add up to 20 different locations to your service area.

It’s probably obvious, but only add locations you’re willing to visit. So if you’re not willing to drive an hour to meet clients, make sure your service area is set within the bounds you’re willing to travel (I recommend your city location and surrounding suburbs).

See the image below to set up your service area:

Set Service Area Locations on Google My Business


5. Revisit Your GMB Profile Every Now and Again

Once you complete your Google My Business profile, don’t let it just sit around and collect dust. Take a look at it to be sure it’s current once or twice a year and don't forget that, like any social platform, you can make posts on your GMB profile.

It’s really important to do this because public users can edit your business information. This means, theoretically, a competitor could go in and cause mischief with your profile by changing your website or hours of operation.

Sure Google notifies you of these changes, but only after they’re live. Yikes! Sign up here to get reminders 2x year to dust off your profile.


Congrats! You’re Even More Googleable!

You did it! Painless, right? Now you can go behold the glory of your knowledge panel and (more importantly) create more visibility for your business.

Have your own tips for making your Google My Business profile fabulous? Comment below!



Footnotes

  1. Source: Social Media Today
  2. Source: Ahrefs data pulled on Sept. 25th 2020
  3. Source: Bright Local
  4. Source: Search Engine Land
About the Author
Mary Stein - Host Agency Reviews

Mary Stein

Mary Stein has been working as a writer and editor for Host Agency Reviews since 2016. She loves supporting travel advisors on their entrepreneurial journey and is inspired by their passion, tenacity, and creativity. Mary is also a mom, dog lover, fiction writer, hiker, and a Great British Bake Off superfan.