Google Business Profile reviews: give your reputation a boost online
As a real estate agency or brokerage, you know the value of exposure. Google Business Profile (previously known as Google My Business) helps you build your online presence and get discovered in local searches. The free tool places you in front of potential clients looking for your listings and services, highlighting important information about your business. To help you get the most out of Google Business Profile, take time to set up and optimise your listings with this guide.
This Google Business Profile guide covers:
• How Google determines your local ranking
• A Google Business Profile optimisation checklist
• Google Business Profile best practices
• Examples of Google Business Profile listings
• Prop Data’s Google Business Profile set-up service
How Google determines your local ranking
Before optimising your Google Business Profile listing, it’s important to understand the factors that Google uses to find the best match for searches. According to the search engine, local results are based primarily on relevance, distance, and prominence. Take note of this as your optimisation tips are centred around these three factors:
1. Relevance: This refers to how well your Google Business Profile matches what someone is searching for. By ensuring your listing information is complete and detailed, Google can better match it to relevant searches.
2. Distance: This factor considers how close you are to the person searching for a term related to your business. If the person adds a location to their search term, Google will provide listings that are nearest and most relevant to that search. Without this information, Google will simply calculate distance based on what they do know about the person’s location. Ensure your address is provided in your listing, especially if your real estate agency or brokerage is based in a specific area.
3. Prominence: This refers to how well your real estate business is known. Some places are more prominent in the offline world, and search results try to reflect this in local ranking.
To determine prominence, Google looks at all the information available about your business from across the web like links, articles, and directories. Your position in web results will also factor so make sure you are applying search engine optimisation (SEO) best practices.
The review count and review score factor you’ve received will also factor into your local search ranking. More positive ratings and reviews will improve your rankings so ensure you make this a priority with your listing optimisation.
Unlike search advertising, you can’t pay your way to a better local ranking for your Google Business Profile. Google also keeps the search algorithm details confidential to make sure everyone has a fair shot at getting a presence in searches. By optimising your listing, you can improve your chances of being found.
Google Business Profile optimisation checklist
Your competitors will also have Google Business Profile listings. To ensure you stand out from the crowd, you must optimise your listing. Here is a checklist of steps to keep in mind when getting your listing in order. For detailed help, you can continue to the next section on Google Business Profile best practices.
Step 1: Get rid of duplicate listings.
Step 2: Claim or create a Google Business Profile listing.
Step 3: Add information to your Google Business Profile listing.
Step 4: Tell your business’s story with photos and videos.
Step 5: Share company updates with posts.
Step 6: Take charge of your ratings and reviews.
Step 7: Respond to the Questions and Answers section.
Step 8: Strategise with Google Business Profile Insights.
Step 9: Keep an eye on your competition.
Step 10: Maintain your Google Business Profile listing.
By following these steps, you enjoy the benefits of Google Business Profile. A verified listing is not just important for ranking higher in local results. Being verified gives you access to the Google Business Profile Manager which helps you complete and manage your listing. This, in turn, increases the number of actions potential clients can take when viewing your listing. And it provides them with information that can help convert them into clients. It truly pays to put Google Business Profile best practices into action.
Google Business Profile best practices
You’ve searched for a restaurant, shop, or service provider on Google. It’s likely your top choice would have been the highly ranked Google Business Profile listing with a completed profile and stellar reviews. The very same process happens when a potential client searches for real estate.
Getting your Google Business Profile listing on track isn’t difficult but it does require effort. Ignoring your listing or not completing information fields means leaving an opportunity on the table as every change, big or small, has an impact on your local search performance. The best part is that every single category is free — there are no premium features so there’s no excuse not to put in the work. Here are best practices to help you get started.
1. Get rid of duplicate listings
Before you claim your Google Business Profile listing, ensure no duplicate listings exist. Employees at your company or a service provider you’ve worked with could have created a Google Business Profile listing for you. You can choose to take control of the profile or delete it by contacting Google’s support team.
2. Claim or create a Google Business Profile listing
To update your name and other information on your listing, you will have to claim and verify your profile. To claim your profile, you’ll need to log onto https://www.google.com/business/.
After adding or claiming your business, you’ll get a verification option. This helps ensure the accuracy of business information across Google and prevents someone from posing as an agent or broker from your business. Your business will be verified by postcard which takes up to 14 days. Google recommends not to request a new code or edit your business name, address, or category while you wait. If you have not received your code, you can talk to a support specialist. Your business may also qualify to get verified by email, phone, Google Search Console, or video recording.
3. Add information to your Google Business Profile listing
With complete and accurate information, your business will find it easier to match with the right searches. To update information, you can complete fields on your Google Business Profile listing or through the Google Business Profile Manager. Remember to fill out all relevant fields consistent with other platforms you use. Also, always keep this information updated as your business changes.
• Business name: Add the official name of your real estate business as it appears on your website, office signage, and company stationery. You should avoid adding in a geographical location or other keywords not included in your name as you could be penalised by Google for keyword stuffing.
If your competition has done this to rank highly, you can report their profile. Click on “Feedback” at the bottom of their Google Business Profile listing and suggest the correct name as an edit. Google will review the listing and update the profile.
• Categories: Categories help Google understand what kind of business you run, ensuring your listing appears for the right searches.
Choose your primary category based on your business’s most relevant search terms and phrases. Your primary category should be as specific as possible e.g. residential real estate agency over just real estate agency. You can change categories after a few months if your search rankings aren’t improving.
Secondary or additional categories can be used to cover all the real estate services you provide e.g. valuations, seller services, auctions, etc. Again, be specific with your wording, keep it relevant to your business, and experiment to find categories that will boost your rankings.
• Description/From the business: Your Google Business Profile provides a 750-character section to let people know about your real estate business. Use this as an opportunity to promote your USPs, services, experience in the industry, your passion, or any other useful client information. Your About Us page on your website can be an inspiration but don’t copy from it verbatim — be unique.
As the first 250 characters of your profile are displayed before being cut off, you should ensure all the essential information comes through in this space. Bring in relevant keywords you wish to rank for but don’t stuff them unnaturally. Your tone should be conversational and persuasive. Using second-person narration (‘you’, ‘your’) can draw your reader into your writing and speak directly to them. Also, don’t include any URLs or HTML here as Google provides separate fields for this.
• Opening date: Don’t neglect including your opening date to let potential clients know when your real estate business was established. This can make your business feel new and exciting or well regarded depending on the year.
• Phone number: You can add your business’s primary number and up to two other numbers associated with it. It pays to use a local number so Google detects you are a local business for geographical search. It will also score you points with clients looking to support local businesses.
Whichever number/s you choose, ensure they are a direct line of communication and consistent with contact information on your website.
• Business location: Remember, Google uses a searcher’s location as criteria to provide businesses closest to them in search results. Including your full business address correctly and without abbreviations will serve you well. Also, look at your location on the map and make sure the pin marker is in the right place. If your business moves, you simply have to update this section rather than create a new Google Business Profile listing.
• Service area/s: Share the geographic area/s where you operate. You can add up to 20 service areas so make smart choices. Google will display you in results pertaining to specific areas; stretching out of your areas of specialisation can frustrate clients in need of properties or real estate services close to them.
• Opening hours: Setting your business’s operation hours lets clients and suppliers visit your business at the right time. This convenience can even give you an advantage over your rivals who have not provided their times. Google Business Profile allows you to set hours for holidays and special events which you can do once you’ve finalised your business operations for these days.
• Website: You should add your business’s website URL as this allows searchers to easily click through to your website. Use this opportunity to make sure your website is in tip-top shape; check your home page for grammar and spelling and display issues and see if Google Search Console has revealed any issues needing to be fixed.
• Attributes: Attributes help you to describe what your real estate business is all about and what you offer. You can list accessibility attributes or facility attributes such as free WiFi and onsite parking. You can also choose to highlight attributes like being women-owned or having staff that can speak certain languages. If you own a short stay real estate business, you can disclose amenities, lodging, dining options, the type of crowd, activities, and highlights. Besides helping potential clients understand your business, attributes can help you appear in search results and make you stand out from your competition.
• Profiles: You can’t directly add social media links to your Google Business Profile listing. However, you can make it easier for Google to understand the ones associated with your business. Your website should be added to Google Business Profile for Google to index. Make sure your social media links are present on your website footer or another appropriate place on your website where Google can find them.
• Products: You can use this section to showcase key listings in your real estate portfolio. This strengthens your ranking in relevant searches and provides the type of content that will drive traffic to your website. Include the name, property description, and price as you would for any listing.
• Services: Like the products section, you can also show the services you offer such as rental services, valuations, auctions, insurance, property management, bond origination, etc. On Google Business Profile, you can include the name, service description, and price. If the type of service you perform isn't listed, you can add custom services.
• Hotel information: If you classify your short stay real estate business as a hotel, Google Business Profile gives you a host of category-specific features. You can add amenities, attributes, sustainability practices, COVID-19 responder policy, highlights, and booking links.
4. Tell your business’s story with photos and videos
By adding photos and videos, you can make your Google Business Profile more appealing to potential clients. These can also be used to provide more information about your business such as your office’s appearance, team, property types, and services.
Here are the images you can add:
• Logo: Provide instant brand recognition for your business.
• Cover photo: Set a cover photo at the top of your profile that best represents your business.
• Business photos: These can show off your business to attract and inform potential clients. You can include interior and exterior photos of your business, listing photos, service photos, and team photos.
Here are some tips for your images:
• Your images should be of a high quality and relevant to your business.
• Your images and videos should be authentic. Try not to use stock content.
• Your images and videos should display well-lit environments and happy clients and team members.
• Use the right format for photos — JPG or PNG.
• Follow Google’s guidelines and content policies for your photos and videos.
• Use geotags where possible to signal your local area connection to Google.
5. Share company updates with posts
Appearing under the section “COVID-19 updates from business”, posts are temporary announcements from your real estate business. You can share a range of information such as company announcements, listings, services, events, special offers, and other news. Posts more than six months old get archived unless a date range is specified so these won’t impact your SEO performance in the long run.
Here are some tips for your posts:
• Post regularly to ensure your feed remains fresh and relevant to potential clients.
• Proof posts and use persuasive language.
• Use a call-to-action for each post.
• Embrace different mediums for your posts such as photos and videos.
• Align your post strategy with your current marketing. Ensure events and special offers, for example, are featured.
• Keep your posts respectful e.g. avoid using obscene language or explicit images.
6. Take charge of your ratings and reviews
Your Google Business Profile listing will also display reviews and ratings your real estate business has received. Reviews are a very important part of your Google Business Profile listing. Potential clients make buyer decisions based on these online reviews. Your reviews also factor into your search visibility. Google looks at the total number of reviews, average star rating, and the presence of relevant keywords in reviews when choosing businesses to present in search results. It’s important to create a strategy to nurture positive ratings and reviews and respond to those received.
• Grow your ratings and reviews: The first step is to create a shareable link. Click on the “Share review form” button on the home page of your Google Business Profile Manager. This will provide a link you can share with clients to directly rate and review your business.
Once you have your shareable link, you can reach out to happy clients through every channel you use. You can encourage them to rate and review you in person at your office or share the link in emails, newsletters, on WhatsApp, SMSs, social media posts, or email signatures. You can even get creative and create QR codes for your reviews directing people from your flyers, posters, brochures, or magazines.
• Respond to ratings and reviews: Whether positive or negative, a review shows your real estate business has made a strong impression on an individual. As these are public, you should endeavour to respond to them as soon as possible.
For positive listing reviews (four and above), you should always thank the person using their name. Acknowledge a specific part or parts of their experience and express your hopes they will use your services again in the future or continue using your services. You can include keywords in your response but try to keep your answer as short, authentic, and personal as possible.
For mixed listing reviews (three stars), start by thanking the person for giving you a review. Highlight positive parts of their experience and apologise for any negative parts of their experience. You should discuss ways your business is working to improve based on their feedback and invite them to discuss any frustrations with your team. Conclude by expressing your hope they will update their review once you’ve made changes in the future.
For negative reviews, remain professional however harsh the criticism is. Thank the reviewer for providing feedback and respond with empathy. Discuss ways you will investigate their complaint, make improvements to your business operations, or explain your situation. You can invite the reviewer to contact your team to provide further information if necessary. Conclude with a genuine apology.
7. Respond to the Questions and Answers section
The Questions and Answers feature allows people interested in your business the opportunity to ask questions and receive answers from you. By responding to their questions, you can potentially create a lead. As content from the Questions and Answers feature can show up in search results, investing time in this can give your SEO efforts a boost.
Here are some tips for your Questions and Answers section:
• Set notifications when someone posts a question. The alert will ensure you keep on top of any new activity and respond promptly. Since anyone can answer questions, this will help you provide the correct answer before someone spreads misinformation.
• Ensure an experienced team member responds with the right information. Your response should be helpful and concise.
• Use keywords when answering questions as this can help your Google Business Profile listing rank for important searches. However, don’t go overboard! These should come through naturally for relevant questions.
• Since anyone can post, you should always flag inappropriate questions and comments as soon as you can. Leaving these on your listing can tarnish your reputation.
• Why wait for questions? You can create and answer your own questions to create a helpful FAQ section. Talk to client-facing team members to find out common questions asked.
8. Strategise with Google Business Profile Insights
Google Business Profile Insights provides essential data you can use to action changes to your profile for better results. You should regularly monitor the analytics provided as they offer great insights into client interactions:
• How clients search for your business
• Where clients view your business on Google
• What actions clients take when viewing your listing
• When clients make phone calls and the number they make
• How many times your business’s photos are viewed
• A competitor analysis of your photos
Google Business Profile Insights’s new-look report also reveals this information:
• How many times your profile was viewed
• Searches that triggered your listing
• Calls made from your listing
• Bookings made from your listing (where applicable)
• Direction requests made from your listing
• Website clicks made from your listing
Google Business Profile Insights allows you to gain data insights from the last six months. The time periods you can examine are set at a month.
9. Keep an eye on your competition
It’s likely your competition also has a Google Business Profile listing. Go check them out; you’ll get ideas on keywords you could use, photos and videos to post, categories to use, and other updates that can make your listing relevant and useful.
10. Maintain your Google Business Profile listing
Never adopt a set-up-and-forget attitude with your listing. Treat it as if it were a living resource. While maintaining your profile can take time, it doesn’t need to be a stressful endeavour. A weekly check-in is enough to cover the following:
• Ensuring listing information is up to date
• Adding a new post, photos, or videos
• Responding to reviews
• Examining data from Google Business Profile Insights
• Answering questions on the Questions and Answers section
• Reading up on new features or updates to Google Business Profile’s policy
With a little bit of effort, Google Business Profile will become an invaluable part of your digital marketing toolkit.
Examples of Google Business Profile listings
Wondering what a great Google Business Profile listing looks like? Here are some examples of real estate businesses Prop Data has set up. Simply google their names and examine the listing that appears as a result.
• De Zandt Lifestyle Estate: This client offers residential, retirement, and retail property in the heart of Hermanus.
• Ikonic Real Estate: This client assists with residential property sales and lettings in Pretoria.
• OfficePlace Cape Town: This client specialises in commercial property sales and lettings in Cape Town. This is a branch Google Business Profile listing.
• OfficePlace Johannesburg: This client specialises in commercial property sales and lettings in Johannesburg. This is a branch Google Business Profile listing.
Prop Data’s Google Business Profile set-up service
Google Business Profile is a powerful tool to gain exposure online, drive sales, create brand awareness, and stay ahead of your competition. By optimising your listing, you’ll get the full benefit of everything it has to offer. Prop Data’s team can set up a listing for your real estate office/s or update existing listings to help you get the most out of this invaluable digital marketing tool. Add Google Business Profile to your plan through our add-on library or contact your Account Manager to get started.