Google My Business is a powerhouse tool for small businesses that want to take control of how they show up in search results. Here’s what you need to know to make the most of your profile.

Establishing a solid online presence is a must for small businesses. Setting up a Google My Business profile can help make sure that your business’s vital contact info, such as your address, hours of operation, phone number, and web address, is easy for customers to find in search. That’s just the beginning of what Google My Business offers, however.

You’ll want to do more than just create a Google My Business account, though: making the most of your profile can attract new customers and even help you show up more often, and for more terms, than your competitors in search results. Here’s how to get started and, once you’re up and running, get the most out of your Google My Business profile.

What is Google My Business

Every business needs to do what it can to boost its web presence. Competition online is fierce, and it’s more than likely that your competitors are already doing everything they can to optimize their digital presence. A Google My Business profile is a fast and easy step you can take to make sure you’re keeping up with your competitors.

Instead of merely having your business’s website show up in search results, Google My Business offers you an opportunity to curate your business’s search results. This means adding photos of your establishment, listing your address, adding your phone number, and even providing a short summary of what you do.

There are a ton of reasons why Google My Business is worth the time it takes to set up and maintain a profile. Chief among these is review management. According to recent market research, about 93 percent of consumers read reviews online before making a purchase. You can’t delete or edit reviews with a Google My Business account, but you can make sure that prospective customers can read what others have to say.

Getting started with Google My Business

Getting started with your Google My Business profile is easy. If you don’t already have a Google account associated with your business, you’ll need to create one. You can use any email address to begin. Follow the prompts provided and head to the Google My Business homepage to get started.

Create a Google My business Profile

Getting started with your Google My Business profile is easy. If you don’t already have a Google account associated with your business, you’ll need to create one. You can use any email address to begin. Follow the prompts provided and head to the Google My Business homepage to get started.

Create a Google My Business profile

If you’re creating your business’s Google My Business for the first time, click on “Manage now” in the top-right corner of your browser window to begin. Once you’ve logged in, you’ll see a search field in the center of your screen. Enter your business’s name and, if it appears in the drop-down menu that appears, select it. If your business does not appear, click on the “Add your business to Google” link below the search field.

Be sure to check for your business thoroughly before adding a new listing to Google. You’ll want to use an existing entry whenever possible rather than starting from scratch. Many business listings already have information in Google, even if you haven’t claimed ownership of your listing yet. Starting over with a separate listing will make it more difficult to merge any existing entries.

Fill out your profile

Once you’ve selected your business (or created an entry from scratch), you’ll begin adding important information about your company. Then you’ll begin by choosing a category that reflects what your business does. Several options will appear once you begin typing—note that you cannot choose a custom business category, so try to pick one that is broad but still accurate.

Next, Google will ask you to add a location for your business, if you have one. This should be a retail establishment or office, rather than a headquarters that isn’t open to the public. If you have none, select “No.” Enter the address of the location you want to include in your profile on the next page. You can also include a geographic region if you provide a service area and visit clients on their premises. You can select several geographic locations, and Google will suggest a few for you to consider adding as well.

With location information set, you’re on to adding your phone number and web address (if you have one). Enter the phone number that you’d like to make public for your business, and add the web address for your business in the following field. If you do not have a website (and don’t need one) you can select that option. Alternatively, if you don’t have a site and want one, Google can help you get started on one.

You’ll have to verify your association with the business you’ve set up before you can go much further into building out your Google My Business profile. To do this, Google will send you a postcard to the address on file for the business. The postcard contains a code that you’ll have to enter into the Google My Business platform in order to proceed.

Optimizing Your Google My Business Profile

Setting up the basics of your Google My Business profile is a great start. But to truly get the most out of your listing, you’ll want to put in a little more work to stand out among the crowd. Thankfully this isn’t too tricky, either, since Google tries to make it as easy as possible to maximize your profile. To boost your profile, consider writing a few introductory posts. These can include updates about your business, new products, and discounts.

Be sure to monitor and use the messaging function within Google My Business, too. This feature makes it easy for prospective customers to reach out to ask you questions in real-time, and business owners can reply through the Google My Business app on their mobile device.

Lastly, if you’re looking to take your web presence to the next level, you might want to consider dipping a toe into digital advertising. Google My Business makes it easy to get started and offers credits to help business owners get their first ads up and running. If you do decide to pursue Google Ads, you can measure your performance and manage your campaigns seamlessly through your Google My Business profile as well.

The Last Word on Google My Business

Gaining a competitive advantage over your rivals online isn’t always easy. You can’t control who shows up first for a coveted keyword (outside of search advertising, that is), but you can make sure that you’ve done everything possible to make your business prominent online. A Google My Business account can go a long way toward helping your business show up in search in the right places, and can help make it easy for customers to decide to give you their business. A bit of setup to start—plus some ongoing maintenance—can make a massive difference for your online branding. Best of all, the only thing you have to spend is your time.