Google My Business (GMB) is a widely popular, free feature that appears in search results, providing additional details about a hotel to travel shoppers. But the benefits of having a GMB listing goes far beyond the search results page. GMB helps hotels expand their visibility online and increase credibility with travel shoppers while enhancing their SEO strategy.
In this episode of the Check In, Jigmit Gwari, SEO Analyst at Leonardo explains why GMB is crucial for hotels looking to increase direct bookings and provides actionable tips to help you optimize your listing.
As you set up and claim your listing, here are the 8 things to keep in mind for Google My Business and hotels.
1. Profile Verification
After you have set up your account and created your GMB profile, you must verify your listing. This is an essential step of the process, as none of your updates or photos will appear in the SERP until you do.
Google won’t let just anyone claim a business listing. And, unfortunately you may not have a choice on how Google decides to verify you are the right person to claim a profile. Depending on your business and its history, you will have the option to verify your account by:
- Google Search Console
- Regular mail
A phone call is the fastest process, as Google will immediately call you at the business number provided. Another option is to verify through a postcard. For this approach, Google sends a verification code as a postcard, which will arrive within 2 weeks. Typically, when you go to claim your profile, Google will select the mode of verification and you will have to comply with its verification method.
It is important to note that prior to verifying your business listing, you should not change any of your listing’s details (e.g.: name, address), as this will delay the process and trigger further verification steps from Google.
2. NAP Consistency
“NAP” stands for Name, Address, and Phone number, as presented across the web. “NAP consistency” means that your website, GMB listing, and other citations reflect your property’s current name, address, and phone number. It is equally important to include your website address in this as well.
Google crawls each and every website collecting NAP data, and should any of your citations include inconsistent NAP information, it will negatively affect your local rankings and your ability to appear in results for relevant keywords.
The best way to maintain NAP consistency is by regularly searching your business in Google to confirm that your business information remains correct and consistent across all sites. In the event that you find any inconsistent information, it is vital that you contact that website as soon as possible to have it updated.
Another step you will encounter while creating your GMB profile is the selection of a business category. It is important that you choose specific categories that closely relate to your hotel and its location.
While ‘Hotel’ should always be your primary category, you will have the opportunity to choose more than one. Add secondary categories that are relevant to and representative of your unique hotel property (e.g.: if your hotel is close to the airport and offers affordable rates, choose ‘Airport Hotel’ and ‘Budget Hotel’). Here are some of the categories listed in Google My Business:
- Hotel Downtown
- Budget Hotel
- Castle Hotel
- Love Hotel
- Luxury Hotel
- Airport Hotel
- Boutique Hotel
- Business Hotel
- Capsule Hotel
- Conference Hotel
- Hot spring Hotel
Following the category selection, you will be asked to highlight your hotel’s attributes. These attributes include things like “wheelchair accessible” and “airport shuttle.” Essentially, you are identifying your hotel’s amenities, accessibility, and the qualities that you believe are most integral to drawing travel shoppers in. Updating your categories and attributes will create a stronger GMB listing and subsequently, will allow you to rank higher in the SERP. Select as many that are available to you and that accurately represent your property.
Google’s latest GMB feature, Business Descriptions, offers you a unique opportunity to personalize the details of your property that customer’s see when they find you on Google. The field is described as a blurb “from the business” and allows you to write up to 750 characters (only 250 of which are actually visible in the knowledge panel for your business when accessed from a desktop computer).
Use this field to write a brief description of your hotel and be sure to highlight what exactly makes your property unique and, if appropriate, the mission history of your property. Avoid keyword stuffing this content, as it will not empower you to rank higher in Google’s SERP, and doing so can get your business penalized or suspended if detected by Google.
Bear in mind this is a customer-facing feature. Providing thoughtful content is highly recommended as a way to provide personal, authentic, and useful information to travel shoppers without forcing them to actually visit your website.
When building the content for your business description, there are some important guidelines to follow as mandated by Google.
- Do not be misleading or over embellish the features and standards of your property
- Do not display irrelevant, distracting, or low quality content
- Do not use emojis or “gimmicky character use”
- Do not promote your special offers, deals, or sales
- Do not include links
- Do not include offensive, unpermitted, or inappropriate content
- Do not post content in all capitals
5. GMB Photos
Adding media to your GMB profile is an important step that should not be overlooked. Google will allow you to upload up to 12 images. When a customer searches for properties in your area (or your specific property), Google will display these images in the SERP for your listing, allowing shoppers to gain an authentic understanding of your property from a visual standpoint.
It is important that you choose a variety of photos to best represent the different facets of your property and draw in the most guests. While some shoppers may only be interested in seeing your accommodations, others might want to see more about your amenities such as an on-site pool or a fitness center. To ensure that you are attracting the widest net of qualified traffic, upload 2 or 3 photos from each of the following categories:
- Hotel Exterior
Include photos from different direction, which helps customers envision your hotel
- Hotel Rooms
Include photos of the different room types available in your hotel
- Common Areas
Include a photo of each common area (Ex: gym, breakfast room, spa, pool, etc.)
- Meetings & Events Space
Include photos of meeting rooms or event spaces available at your hotel
When choosing the photos for each category, provide high quality and high resolution photos that represent your property in the most positive light. Pixelated or unattractive photos will not achieve the desired effect of driving your direct bookings.
Upload your photos to your GMB profile in the following format:
- Format: JPG or PNG
- Size: Between 0 KB and 5 MB
- Minimum resolution: 720 px tall, 720 px wide
- Quality: Upload original images
You can also add a short video (“rich media”) of your hotel if you have one available. While this isn’t a necessary step, it is recommended. The video cannot exceed 30 seconds in length. Usually, it takes up to 24 hours for the rich media to be visible in the SERP results associated with your business listing.
Messaging is one of the newer features of GMB, but it is only available in select countries. If this option is available to you, we recommend that you seize this opportunity as another way to develop a rapport with your customers and strengthen the effectiveness of your GMB listing. This feature will allow you to engage in direct conversation with potential customers, as well as answer any questions or address any concerns that they may have.
If you do enable the messaging feature, it is crucial that you respond to customers as quickly as possible, at least during your business hours. When you fail to address your messages in a timely manner, you run the risk of losing the travel shopper to another property that was able to provide more attentive service and quick, informative responses.
Ensure that the phone number you provide for this feature has an SMS option, as you will receive GMB messages on your cellphone. If this presents a problem for you, download Google Allo and register with the same number provided when you signed up for messaging within your GMB account. After registering, customer messages will appear in the Google Allo app instead of an SMS. This is a particularly convenient and efficient option if you have more than one staff member addressing customer concerns and responding to your property’s GMB messages.
When you are conversing with customers, never request sensitive information. For example, do not ask for any of the following information:
- Credit card numbers
- Social Security or any government identification numbers
- Login credentials (passwords and usernames)
7. Questions & Answers
Similar to the messaging feature, the Question & Answer function of GMB is not available to all business listings. If it is available, the best practice is to maintain it with frequently asked questions from customers and to readily respond to new questions posed by customers or potential customers. Thoughtful and fast responses help travel shoppers make their final decision on accommodations and will ultimately encourage them to book with your property.
Because any Google user can respond online to questions, do your best to monitor answers provided by other users to ensure they are correct and genuinely representative of your hotel. When crafting your responses to customer inquiries, focus on responding with detailed, polite, and informative responses.
Reviews are a powerful resource to draw in travel shoppers and provide the validation they require to book with your property. When your customers have a positive experience with you, encourage them to post reviews on your Google My Business listing. You can easily provide a link to your GMB listing in your follow up email after check-out to make reviewing simple and convenient for them.
When you do receive reviews, regardless if they’re negative or positive, it’s important that you reply to them promptly and address any issues that were brought up. When you do respond, we have some general guidelines that should be followed:
- Focus on being positive and appreciative
- Always maintain a friendly demeanor
- Focus on conflict resolution
- Avoid heated or impolite responses (particularly to negative reviews)
- Keep your replies brief and informative
Learn more about why Google My Business listings are important for hotels here, and don’t hesitate to reach out to your Success Coach about claiming and maintaining this essential business listing.