Over the last few years, Google has "refined" the way it handles business identities (or at the very least, has made lots of confusing changes to where and how your business is listed).
Here's where we stand today:
The Google My Business dashboard is the platform you will use to "manage how your business information appears across Google, including Search and Maps" as well as to interact with customers on Google + and through Google reviews.
This means that you can go through Google My Business to create and manage Google+ local business pages, Google+ brand pages, and Google search listings.
This new platform is more geared toward businesses with one or more physical location, for which local search traffic is important. If you're a taco truck or Gwen Stefani or the Seattle Seahawks and that's not really what your business is about, stick with me—I'll address how this affects brand pages and businesses with service areas, too.
To help you jump directly to what you need, here's a little Table of Contents:
- About Google My Business
- Setting Up Google My Business for New and Existing Google Accounts
- Setting Up a Google+ Business Page
- How to Add an Existing Google+ Business Page to your Google My Business Account
I'm going to have to say "Google My Business" 1,000 times today, so let's just call it "GMB" and save my keyboard the stress.
Whatever you call it, it has 3 goals:
- To manage your business information as it appears on Google properties
- To help you interact with customers on Google+ and reviews
- To help you understand and expand your presence through insights and metrics
Because GMB provides the information for your local search listings, they have tried to make it as easy as possible for you to add and update information.
Through the dashboard, you can edit things like your hours and upload images to be displayed on your search listing (though they won't be the only ones that appear there, so be sure to click through them periodically).
In addition to managing search profile information, the GMB dashboard also allows you to view insights and analytics, manage reviews, and access all of your Google Apps (now known as G Suite).
It's also connected to your YouTube and Google+ accounts, so you can share updates to Google+ right from your dashboard or start a hangout.
People who rely on mobile devices to manage their businesses will be glad to hear that there is a GMB mobile app. Even if you're not that reliant on your phone, you may still want to respond to reviews in real time or post about what you're up to on Google+.
for New and Existing Google Accounts
Before we get started, a few important notes: If you own a business with multiple locations, you'll need to create a separate Google Business Page for each location (because of the local search information associated with the account). You can do this through a single GMB account, and add locations (and location managers) to the main account.
If you need to, you can also create a separate "Business Account"—thanks for the super-confusing naming conventions, Google—which would allow multiple locations to operate with more independence. You can also do this if your company contains different businesses or really distinct departments or services (like a retail and a commercial arm).
Note: if you are a large business with many locations, this blog post is a great resource. There's also a special Google My Business Locations dashboard available if you manage more than ten locations.
Fair warning: I'm about to say "with the same account" a bunch of times. Heed my warning and sort out which Google accounts are associated with which business listings (and check on whether you already have Google+ pages for your locations, including unverified ones) before you get started.
Decide which Google account/email address you want to be the primary one for your business, and transfer ownership of any Google properties held under other accounts to your primary account. Then, set up your GMB account under the primary Google account for your business. You'll thank me later.
Go to google.com/business and click "Start Now." Enter the Google account you use to manage that business or that location of your business.
If you don't yet have a Google account associated with your business, click "Create Account" below the login box and follow the instructions.
If you have a private account associated with the business but want to make sure multiple people have access, don't create a new account—you can always add and remove page managers later. Just choose someone who will be actively using the account as the “owner” of the page.
Search for your business by name and address using the box in the top left-hand corner, and select the correct listing for your business or location.
If your business isn't listed, make sure you entered the correct information for the location associated with the email address you used, and check variations of the street address and phone numbers that reach the business directly.
If you still can't find your business, select "Add your business" or and you'll be asked to enter more information.
If you're setting up a new business listing and your company has a service area rather than a fixed location, be sure to check "Yes" under "I deliver goods and services to my customers at their location" and follow the instructions.
To add a service area to an existing business listing, follow these instructions from the Google support team.
Verify your business. You can do this by postcard, by phone, instantly, or through bulk verification if your businesses has 10+ locations.
If you have already verified your business's website through Google Search Console, you may be instantly verified. Just make sure you use the same account you used to verify your site with Search Console. FYI, this verification option may not be available for some business categories.
The instructions below cover people who are setting up Google+ Business Pages through other means as well as through Google My Business.
There are 2 kinds of Google+ pages: local business pages and brand pages. Brand pages don't include the address, hours, or other information that appears on Google Maps. They're more focused on engagement with customers, fans, and followers, Lots of businesses and brands don't primarily operate through a fixed physical location, making brand pages a better fit for them.
If you don't yet have a Google+ page associated with the account you used in the setup process, Google My Business will automatically create one for you. So thoughtful! So insidiously thoughtful! See my warning above about duplicate Google+ pages.
If you want to make sure you haven’t already set up a business page, or if you want to see all of your Google+ pages, you can navigate to the Create a Page screen by logging into your Gmail account, selecting the 3x3 block icon in the upper right, then selecting the Google+ icon.
Then, at the upper left of your personal Google Plus homepage, click on the “Home” drop-down menu and select “Pages.”
From there, you will be able to see all of the pages attached to your account. If you want to create a new one, select “Get Your Page.” Once you reach the Create page, you’ll see three options: Storefront, Service Area, or Brand. Select the kind of business page you want to start.
You may also see this prompt while you're going through the GMB setup process. Here's what it looks like:
Storefront and Service Area are both types of local business pages, while Brand refers to the aforementioned Brand Page. If you're a brand, you’ll be asked to pick the page name and enter your website address; if you pick one of the other two options, you’ll be taken to the map search page, where you’re asked to type in the name of your business (unless you've already done so as a part of the GMB setup process).
If Google can find your business's location on the map, select it. If not, go to the option that says “Add your business.” Be sure to check the map carefully, including any old addresses or address variations, before adding your business. Once you click create, you may be asked to verify the page via text or phone call.
Next, add your information to the new page. There are lots of ways to optimize your Google+ profile, and there’s a blue progress bar on your new page to help guide you through it. You’ll need a profile picture, a cover photo, a tagline and a keyword-rich introduction. You’ll also need to include the best contact information, and links to your website and social media platforms.
Keep in mind that any Google properties may influence your organic search results, so you’ll want to take every opportunity to optimize your Google+ business page.
After you've filled in the basic fields, you may see a prompt at the top of the page that you're eligible for a custom URL. If so, be sure to take advantage of it! Otherwise, the URL of your Google+ business page will be a string of random numbers.
According to Google, businesses that add photos to their listings receive 42% more requests for driving directions on Google Maps and 35% more clicks through to their websites than businesses that don’t.
The final step to making your page complete: Start sharing content, engaging with other people, joining groups, and connecting with friends and colleagues.
If you've already created a Google+ page for your business but it isn't connected to GMB or your search listing, you can connect them. But first, a warning from Google:
- Sign in as the owner of the Google+ page in order to connect it to GMB. If you don't know who this is, or don't have access, here's some guidance from Google. Once you have access, you can also transfer ownership of a page if needed.
- Sign in to Google My Business, click "Locations" from the top of the page, and select "Manage this location" for the location you want to connect.
- Click the hamburger menu (the 3 horizontal dashes) in the upper left corner of the screen.
- Select "Settings."
- Scroll to the "Profile" section toward the bottom of the menu.
- Click "Connect a different page."
- In the drop-down menu below "Will be linked to this page," choose the Google+ page that you'd like to connect to your Google My Business listing. This option won't be visible unless you're the owner of the Google+ page.
- Click "Next."
- Check through the list of changes that will be made to both your Google My Business listing and your Google+ page, and make sure that you're okay with everything.
- Click "Confirm."
- Make sure to update the information on the new page. If you disconnected one Google+ page to connect the correct one, some information will be imported from the old page. You can find explanations of what will and won't be imported on this page.
- If you want to, remove the old Google+ page (a.k.a. "location") by following these instructions.
Have questions I wasn't able to answer?
Google actually provides decent support with low wait times, so don't hesitate to contact them. But I would also appreciate it if you'd add your question in the comments section, so I can find the answer and add it to this post for other users!
Hey, remember those pictures you can add to your profile? Make sure they look professional with our social media templates...
Note: A version of this post was originally published on 9/20/13 and has been updated to keep up with changes to Google+ Business Pages.