If you haven’t taken advantage of Google My Business, what’s the holdup?
NB: This is an article from Fuel Travel
This free local search tool opens the door to a bevy of SEO opportunities and increased awareness for your property.
Whether you’re running 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 super important, and Google’s constant algorithm updates play a prominent role.
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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.
Typically, verification is accomplished by mail or phone.
If you’ve already verified your business’s website with Google Search Console, you can verify your business instantly.
Just make sure you’re using the same email account you used to verify your site with Search Console as Google My Business.
Once verified, you can begin updating information.
At this point, you’ll also choose a primary category for your property. That could be Hotel, Resort, Bed & breakfast, etc.
Your business’s information can also display in the Google Local Pack or Google 3-Pack, a search feature that lists several businesses when someone makes a local search like “boutique hotels in san diego”, “pet friendly hotels in chattanooga”, or “hotels near me”.
Important Note: A Google My Business listing typically sits to the right of the SERP on desktop, and below search ads 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 INFORMATION
You may have heard that your Google My Business listing is like the front door to your business.
That’s because it’s true.
Your Google My Business listing acts as your virtual storefront, communicating important information to searchers, similar to what you may see in a physical storefront, so it can’t be stressed enough how important it is that this information is correct.
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 Business Profile—which sits at the top of your listing—will contain the following information:
- Phone number
- Hours of operation
- Website URL
Important Note: Make sure the info (phone #, address, etc.) displaying on your Google My Business listing matches with your social profiles and website.
HOTEL ATTRIBUTES AND DETAILS
Using Google My Business’s ‘Hotel attributes’ section lets hoteliers select the amenities and services offered at their property.
You can see above that there are two tabs to select from to update your hotel’s information (Property details and Room details).
You can select whether your property has a casino, a kid’s club, daily housekeeping, and so on and whether those amenities are free, only offered on specific days or seasons, or are under renovation.
These are useful features that can make your listing user-friendly and your property more appealing.
A “Hotel details” section in the Knowledge Panel will also provide a short description detailing the property.
Important Note: Unfortunately, hotels do not have the option to customize their ‘Hotel details’ section. This information is aggregated by Google from your website and other digital listings, so make sure your information is consistent and correct across the web.
DON’T LEAVE QUESTIONS UNANSWERED
A potentially time-consuming, yet positive function of Google My Business if performed well, is the Questions and Answers feature.
This section is super useful because it allows you to respond to questions from potential guests.
When answering a question, 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 visit your website or contact the front desk if they have any more questions.
If a searcher asks a question that you find particularly important, you can upvote it, potentially increasing the visibility of that question on your listing for others to see.
Important Note: Anyone can answer questions on your Google My Business listing. Therefore, it’s best to frequently review your listing and make sure potential guests are seeing the correct answers by answering questions yourself.
BUILD YOUR OWN FAQ PAGE
As previously mentioned, you can upvote questions and answers 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.
With that in mind, you can also create your own questions, answer the questions yourself, and upvote the question and the answer.
Not only does this provide searchers with an instant answer straight from the source, but it also prioritizes your time so you’re not receiving the same questions over and over.
When you can, incorporate keywords in a loose, organic manner. But don’t keyword stuff.
ENCOURAGE GUESTS TO LEAVE REVIEWS
Reviews carry a lot of weight on SERPs—your local listing’s visibility can increase in local pack 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 where 64% of people are likely to check out before making a decision.
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: 72% of people left a review after a local business asked them to do so. 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 post-stay emails, physical signage (in-room, front desk, etc.), social media, and hotel mobile app.
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.
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 logo, a cover photo, 360 photos, video, and several image categories/labels 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
- Don’t use stock photos
- 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 business or violates Google’s policy guidelines, you can report the image to Google for removal.
GOOGLE MY BUSINESS FOR HOTELS: THINGS TO AVOID
We’ve covered a handful of do’s and don’ts, but there are a few other items that you should avoid when optimizing your Google My Business listing—avoiding these will not only keep you in the good graces of Google but will also provide a better user experience for searchers:
- Having multiple listings for the same location
- Keyword stuffing in responses to questions and reviews, image alt text, etc.
- Using the wrong address
- Including links to your website in a response to a question or review
- Choosing categories that don’t match your offering
Do follow Google’s guidelines so you don’t get penalized.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT BING PLACES!
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:
- Use the Bing search engine
- 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 knowledge panel with your hotel’s information will display
- Select “Is this your business?” at the bottom of the panel 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.
Aside from traditional verification methods like mail and phone, you can also verify your Bing Places listing via Bing Webmaster Tools (BWT).
If you have a BWT account set up using the same email account you used to claim your Bing Places listing, and the website URL in Bing Places matches the verified domain in BWT, your listing should verify instantly.
Once verified, it typically takes up to two weeks for your listing to publish with new information you’ve added.
You can also import your business information from your Google My Business listing, which saves time from filling out property details.
The login information you used for Bing Places must also match the login information you use for Google My Business for this feature to work.
GOOGLE MY BUSINESS AND COVID-19
Google My Business now features “Health & safety” and “COVID-19 responder policy” sections under Hotel attributes.
Fuel has published several traveler sentiment studies surveying leisure travelers and their thoughts on travel during the pandemic.
The consensus has always been that travelers want to know what hotels are doing to keep guests safe, which is exactly what the “Health & safety” feature accomplishes.
There are several options to choose from, including “Enhanced cleaning of guest rooms” and “Masks required on the property” that will help your listing stand out and build confidence in travelers to stay at your hotel.
Bing Places’ “COVID-19 Related Announcement” feature allows businesses to add an announcement and a website link that details safety and health protocols.
ALWAYS BE ACTIVE
Now that you have your shiny, updated listing ready for the world to see, that doesn’t mean you should take a set it and forget it approach.
Staying active on your listing, whether it be answering questions, responding to reviews, or adding new images every so often, sends signals to Google that your profile is active and updated, which can have a positive impact on your local rankings.