Google My Business (GMB) is Google’s preferred way for businesses to provide information that can be shown across Google’s search results, including Google Maps. When used correctly, it can be a powerful way for real estate agents to increase their visibility to searchers and offer them accurate and up-to-date information about your business.
This is especially important for real estate agents because Google uses your GMB listing in two primary ways:
- When a potential client types your name into the search box (perhaps after learning about you from a friend), Google will show your GMB listing in a featured box at the top of the mobile search results or to the right of desktop results. In this case, what the buyer or seller finds on page one may determine whether they get in touch with you.
- When a potential client types something like “Portland real estate agent” or “best realtors in Columbus” (or any city) into the search box, your Google My Business profile may show up in the “map pack” or “3-pack” of local businesses that appear with a map.
All real estate agents who own their own business are eligible to claim and optimize a Google My Business profile, even if your brokerage has one, too. However, if you own a vacation rental or have an apartment for rent, you can’t create a GMB profile specifically for those properties. See Google’s guidelines for more info about business eligibility.
Claiming and optimizing a GMB profile is free and fairly easy to do. In episode three of HomeLight’s podcast, The Walkthrough, local SEO veteran David Mihm said most agents “Can probably put together a pretty complete profile in an hour or 90 minutes, assuming that you’ve got photos at the ready and you’re already using a business description on your Facebook page.” Here’s how it works.
How to Claim a Google My Business Profile
1) Go to Google.com and search for yourself (or your real estate team) by name. If you already have a GMB profile, it should show up at the top of the mobile results, or on the right of the desktop search results. Here’s what Mihm’s profile looks like on desktop for his SEO consulting business:
“You want to make sure that you are claiming the record that they already have for you, as opposed to creating another one,” Mihm says. Creating a second profile “Can really cause confusion among both existing clients and prospective clients.”
2a) If you see your GMB profile, look for a link that says “Own this business?” (Note: Google occasionally changes the wording of this link, so it may be different depending on when you’re reading this.) Click that link to begin the process of claiming your Google My Business profile. Google will walk you through all the steps from start to finish.
2b) If you don’t see an existing profile in your name, you’ll need to create a new one. Go to business.google.com and look for the link/button to get started. Right now, the button says “Manage now” but again, that may change depending on when you’re reading this.
Whether you’re claiming an existing profile or creating a new one, you’ll need a Google account. Google will tell you to use your business’s email domain, but Mihm recommends against using your personal account/email address. “Use an account that you don’t mind sharing with employees or other team members, because it’s likely you’ll want to delegate access to this profile to other folks in the future.”
3) Follow Google’s prompts to claim or create your listing. You’ll be asked for basic business information like name, address, and phone.
a) For your business name, include the terms “Realtor” or “Real Estate Agent,” as in Sally Smith, Real Estate Agent. “If you have the word ‘real estate’ or ‘Realtor’ in your business name, that probably will help you rank better in the Google My Business algorithm,” Mihm says.
b) When Google asks you to choose a category(ies), be sure to select all that are relevant to what you do. “Real estate agents” and “Real estate consultant” are two obvious ones that should apply to all agents. Don’t add categories that don’t match the nature of your business.
4) At the end of the process, Google will tell you it’s time to verify your GMB listing. In most cases, this happens via mail. Google will send a postcard to the business address within a couple weeks. The postcard will have a unique verification code and instructions to login to Google My Business, where you’ll input the code to verify your business.
Some businesses are able to verify through other methods like text, call, email, or Google Search Console. If those options are available to you, follow the directions and ignore the paragraph above about postcard verification.
Google warns that it may take a couple weeks for your business information to be fully visible. Even if you have to wait, you can login to business.google.com anytime and optimize your profile.
How to Optimize Your Google My Business Profile
After you’ve claimed or created your GMB profile, it’s time to optimize it — to tell Google as much as possible about your business and present yourself in the best way to searchers.
1) Add all relevant information about your business and keep it updated on an ongoing basis. You can provide your business hours, services you provide (think “Buyer’s Consultation” and “Home Valuation Report”), a brief description, a link for setting appointments and much more.
2) Add photos and videos related to your business. This could be photos of you working with clients or photos of your For Sale/Sold signs. You can upload your team logo. Mihm says Google appears to be putting more emphasis recently on photos. “I would pay very close attention to the photos that I was uploading to Google. Make sure they’re really high quality, make sure they’re not stock photos… do a really good job of presenting yourself visually. [It’s] not as big [of] a ranking factor right now… but I think moving forward it’s going to become more important.”
Google also says photos are important: “Businesses with photos receive 42% more requests for driving directions to their location from users on Google, and 35% more clicks through to their websites than businesses that don’t have photos.”
3) Reply to client reviews. If you were claiming an existing profile, you may already have reviews associated with your profile. Reply to each one, and remember that the reply you write is as much for future clients as it is for the person who wrote the review. (See our article, How to Get More Real Estate Reviews (Without Breaking Any Rules!) for more advice on how to write a reply to reviews.)
If you don’t have any reviews, look on your GMB dashboard for a section that says “Get more reviews” and share the link Google provides with past clients. (Again, the article linked in the paragraph above has helpful advice for this.) Reviews are an important ranking factor — not just how many you get and what the say, but also how consistently you get them.
“If you get 50 reviews tomorrow, that’s going to look like spam to Google. I wouldn’t advise that,” Mihm says. “Or let’s say you get 50 reviews in a given month and then none for the rest of the year — that’s probably not as good as a steady stream of four or five reviews a month. Google likes to see a consistent trend of ongoing engagement with your business with respect to reviews.”
There are additional tools in GMB that real estate agents can use, but the above are considered the most important right now: Keep your business information accurate and current, add photos and videos regularly, and receive/reply to client reviews.
For a deeper dive on claiming and optimizing your Google My Business profile, along with a detailed explanation of current ranking factors for Google’s local search results, be sure to listen to our podcast with local SEO veteran David Mihm: Google Yourself: How to Use Local SEO and Google My Business to Convert New Leads.
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