If you haven’t taken advantage of your hotel’s Google My Business listing, what’s the holdup? This free local search tool opens the door to a bevy of SEO opportunities and increased awareness for your property. Whether it’s a hotel or bed & breakfast, you can use Google My Business to better promote your property and increase your presence in local search.
We already know that holding real estate in the SERPs is important, and Google’s constant algorithm updates play a prominent role. But focusing and optimizing for local search is an increasingly important element of SERPs, and a simple one at that!
First thing’s first…
Claim and Verify Your Hotel’s Google My Business Listing
Before your business listing can display on Google Maps, Search, and other Google services, you must claim and verify your account, and the steps are simple.
Login to your Google My Business account (if you don’t have an account, sign up is free) → Search for your business by name or address → Select your business.
Once you’ve claimed your business, you’ll receive a notification to verify the listing. Once verified, you can begin updating information.
Important Note: The Google My Business listing typically sits to the right of the SERP on desktop, and below ads—but before organic results—on mobile. On Maps, it will display to the left on desktop and the bottom on mobile.
Update Your Knowledge Panel to Display Your Business’s Up-to-Date Information
You may have heard the phrase “your Google My Business listing is like the front door to your business”. That’s because, in a way, it’s true. Your Google My Business listing acts as your virtual storefront, displaying important information to searchers, similar to what you may see in a physical storefront.
How many times have you made a search for a service, only to discover the phone number or hours listed in the Google My Business listing was inaccurate? Pretty frustrating, right? Don’t be that business.
When searchers find your local listing, the Knowledge Panel—which sits at the top of your listing—will contain the following information:
- Phone number
- Hours of operation
- Website URL, etc.
You can also select amenity emoticons to display on your listing, like Pool, Restaurant, or Non-smoking. These are useful features that can make your listing user-friendly and your property more appealing. A ‘Hotel details’ section will also display with a short description detailing the property.
All of this information can be easily updated in the admin of your Google My Business account.
Important Note: Make sure the info (phone #, address, etc.) displaying on your Google My Business listing matches with your social profiles and website, too.
Don’t Leave Questions Unanswered
A time-consuming, yet positive function if performed well, of Google My Business is the Questions function. This function is super useful in that it allows you to respond to questions from potential guests and humanizes your business.
Typically, when someone leaves a question, you will receive an email notification, making prioritization a bit easier. If not, you can check through the Google Maps app, or search for your listing in a mobile browser to see if you have any new questions.
Don’t respond with simple “yes” or “no” answers; be informative and leave a detailed response. If someone asks about check in or check out times, provide the answer and refer them to a phone number if they have any more questions.
If a searcher asks a question that you find particularly important, you can upvote it, potentially making the question more visible on the local listing.
Important Note: Anyone can answer questions on your Google My Business listing. This is why it’s best to frequently review your listing and make sure potential guests are seeing the correct answers.
Build Your Own FAQ Page
As previously mentioned, you have the ability to upvote questions asked by searchers on your local search listing. If someone asks a question you believe to be particularly important, you can upvote it. Doing so may increase the visibility of the question. Over time, as your question/answer box continues to build, it can become its own improvised FAQ section.
Not only does this provide an instant answer for searchers, it also prioritizes your time so you’re not receiving the same questions over and over.
Encourage Guests to Leave Reviews
Reviews carry a lot of weight on SERPs—your local listing’s visibility can potentially increase in local search results and Google Maps rankings because of them. Google reviews and star rating sit just below your property’s name—near the top of the Google My Business listing—and can help your property stand out.
Listings also include a ‘Review summary’ section, a feature that collects and condenses aggregate reviews and scores from across the web. This section sits towards the bottom of the Google My Business listing.
To ask, or not to ask, that is the question!
Did you know: 68% of people left a review after a local business asked them to (Bright Local, 2017). If you’re looking to build reviews for your hotel’s Google My Business listing, the odds are in your favor!
Incorporate ways to encourage guests to leave reviews across several mediums like email, in-room, and social media.
Similar to answering questions left by searchers, if a guest leaves a review—positive or negative—it’s best practice to leave a response.
Add High-Quality Photos and Video
It goes without saying, but presenting your hotel with high-quality images and video is an eye-catching advantage—listings that have photos or virtual tours of the business are twice as likely to receive interest (Google, 2015). Photos and video sit at the top of your listing and they should provide guests with an inside look at your property. This includes a preferred photo, 360 photos, video, and several image categories including exterior, interior, rooms, and food and drink.
A couple of do’s and don’ts for adding photos and videos:
- Do include images of unique features that separates your hotel from the rest
- Do include exterior shots, room interiors, amenities, employees assisting guests, etc
- Don’t use a logo as your preferred photo (FYI: it’s not a guarantee Google will use the photo you select as the preferred photo)
- Do use wide-angle, well-lit shots
- Don’t use close-cropped images or images that don’t convey what your hotel has to offer
- Do optimize your images for SEO: filenames and alt tags (optimizing your images can have a positive impact on Google Image searches)
- Don’t keyword stuff the filenames or alt tags of your images (ex. Alt text: “Downtown Chicago Hotels” for an image of a room interior) – be clear and descriptive of what is in the image.
If you don’t have equipment for 360 photos or video, it’s worth it to hire a professional.
Important Note: Guests can also post photos to your listing. If there’s an image someone posted that you believe is harmful to your listing, you can report the image to Google.
Google My Business: Things to Avoid
We’ve covered a handful do’s and don’ts, but there are a few other items that you should avoid when optimizing your Google My Business listing—doing so will not only keep you in the good graces of Google but will also provide a better user experience for searchers.
- Multiple listings for the same location
- Keyword stuffing in responses to questions and reviews, image alt text, etc.
- Using the wrong address
- Adding special promotions or sales to your listing
Follow Google’s guidelines so you don’t get penalized.
Don’t Forget About Bing!
With all of this Google talk, Bing can easily be overlooked, but it’s just as important. Claim, verify and make sure your Bing Places for Business listing is optimized and displaying the correct information.
To claim your Bing Places for Business listing visit Bing Places and search by phone number or by hotel name and location → select your hotel from the results (if there are no results, you can create a new listing) → a box with your hotel’s information will display; check to make sure the information displayed is correct and change any info if necessary.
Once submitted, select the method you would like to receive your verification code.
Optimize for Increased Local Search Presence!
Have you heard? Listen to the Fuel Travel podcast for optimizing your hotel’s Google My Business listing – and stay up-to-date on the latest podcasts and hotel marketing news!