Mastering GMB with Help from the Local University Faculty

LocalU Advanced recently hosted a virtual Google My Business (GMB) Master Class where they covered all things related to GMB. If you didn’t have the opportunity to attend, we’ve got you covered with our favorite insights, advice, and key takeaways from some of the talks.

Attend the upcoming Local U Advanced!

Brush up on the latest in local search marketing and further develop your local SEO skills with help from LocalU Advanced Virtual Seminar. Join the team from LocalU on June 3, 2020 for a full day of training, you’ll hear all new content and participate in new workshops, presented at an advanced level, and geared toward helping you learn advanced techniques to help your business rank better.

Mary Bowling (Sterling Sky)

Mary reviewed the history of GMB starting with the acquisition of Keyhole (which became Google Earth) and Where2 (which became Maps). In 2005, the Places (Maps) layer was added to Google Earth and the Local Business Center made its debut. Google released some guidelines in 2008, but by then, years of opportunistic listings had been created. In the beginning there was a lack of rules around listings, and even service area businesses (SAB’s) and home-based businesses weren’t allowed to have listings until 2010. In 2012, the advent of the Knowledge Graph helped connect Maps and businesses to users.

“Google Maps has always been focused on real things in real places.” – Mary Bowling

How can businesses and consultants alike manage in a constant state of bedlam? Here are some of Mary’s tips:


2. Do not immediately react to any changes you see in the local search results. The Bedlam Update (November 2019) was a good example of this. Remember, all Google’s testing can lead to bugs. And often, Google isn’t clear about what’s a new feature and what’s a bug.
3. Relax. Panic is never the proper reaction. Let your client know not to panic either.
4. Know when to let go of outdated tactics. This isn’t good for your clients and will corrode your business over time.
5. Keep an eye on the thresholds Google is using for ranking. Stay above those thresholds.


“It’s Google’s playground. We’re most successful when we can figure out how to take advantage of what’s available.”

Aaron Weiche (Gather Up)

Reviews always have and always will be critical to a business, however; “what your customer thinks is more important than where they post it.”

How you can max out your reviews

  • Make your ask human – ask in person, ask directly using email, or send a text.
  • Put your reviews to work for you – share them front and center where your customers can interact with them:
    • Feature reviews on your homepage.
    • Incorporate a review page on your website.
    • Showcase relevant reviews on your product and service landing pages.
    • Add reviews on your support and contact pages.
    • Include reviews in your emails.

Learn from your Reviews
You have a unique opportunity to take all your customers’ raw feedback and leverage it to build a better business. Use your reviews to:

  • Find your activator – the right ask at the right time.
  • Identify the difference between great and poor experiences.
  • Look for any trends in feedback.
  • Determine how to repeat the experiences expressed in 5-star reviews.
  • Figure out how to prevent or fix experiences expressed in 1-star reviews.

Blake Denman (Rickety Roo)

Mary Bowling (Sterling Sky)

Blake and Mary tag teamed the local link building workshop. Their session was jam packed with practical advice on how businesses and SEOs can build links while building up the brand.

Start by considering the business as a whole and the kind of brand they want to create. Find out what the business is already doing in their community and leverage that for missed link opportunities. Then look for opportunities that align with the business’s values and interests.

  • The best links are the links that have potential to bring new customers. It doesn’t matter what the domain authority is, the importance lies in getting in front of potential customers.
  • A niche or geographic relation is more important than domain authority or link volume.
  • Topically relevant links pass authority.
  • Do-follow vs. no-follow used to matter but hasn’t been an issue for local search for years.

Should you join local chamber sites with directory pages?
Many directories have no-follow set up, but Google and potential customers will see you’re a serious player in the community and that you value the community, which makes these links worthwhile. In large cities, the chamber might be expensive to join so look for smaller, neighbourhood-specific chamber pages.

If you’re going to fork over money to join, you should participate. If you’re just joining for the link, you won’t get the full value of the membership.

How effective is linking between related local businesses?
There are many benefits to linking between related industries. The links are usually topically and locally relevant, and they can often drive traffic and business. If there’s an opportunity to link between your local partners, you definitely should. It’s often one of the quickest ways to build links for your business.

How should you build links for multi-location businesses?
See if there’s a way to get multiple links to location pages but if you can only get one link, direct it to the homepage.

Jason Tatum &

Laura Lawrie (CallRail)

Call tracking is easy to set up and allows businesses to gain even more data and insights from their marketing efforts. Call tracking helps businesses:

  • Fill in the gaps for offline conversions (direct mail, TV ads, print) and track the source of online campaigns.
  • Forward calls to the main phone line and generate reports that show the total number of inbound calls per each unique number.
  • Get granular data about their customers and their journey.
  • Gain an understanding of which campaigns are performing and converting best to make better decisions about where to focus time and money.

“GMB undercounts calls by as many as 2-3 times.” – Mike Blumenthal

The call data in GMB insights is limited and does not provide businesses with the full picture.

  • GMB only tracks calls from click-to-call on mobile devices.
  • Insights does not exclude abandoned calls.
  • Call data like the duration, repeat, answered status is not captured by GMB.

Incorporating call tracking in your GMB listing.

  • Call tracking in GMB enables businesses to track all calls including click-to call on mobile devices, calls where the phone number is copied and pasted to dial, and calls dialed manually after a desktop view of the phone number.
  • Put the call tracking number in the primary phone number, keep the real phone number as secondary for NAP consistency.

Joy Hawkins (Sterling Sky)

When it comes to local rankings, every business wants to be in the local pack. But, what really affects local pack rankings? Joy put common theories to the test to share what does have an impact, and what doesn’t.

The results are in and according to Joy’s research, the following efforts do not impact your GMB listing’s ability to rank.

Linking to your GMB listing.
Stick to focusing your link building efforts on your website. It won’t do you much good to direct links to your listing.

Adding GMB products.
Using the Products feature didn’t increase rankings or lead to a noticeable increase in clickthrough rate, but there’s still value in using this feature.

Keywords in image file names.
Save yourself time and energy by not over optimizing your photo and video files with keywords, it won’t help you rank.

Keywords in your business name for Google Ads.
In a test on a rebranded business, impressions actually decreased on the location extension in Google Ads. It’s important to note that GMB business data does not automatically sync to Google Ads – it needs to be resynced to reflect updates.

A combination of having an impact and not having an impact: Adding/Removing Additional Categories.
Does having more categories on your listing hurt ranking? We know that the Primary Category you choose for your GMB listing is an important local ranking factor. But what about Additional Categories? Category dilution is a theory that multiple related but generic Additional Categories negatively impact the listing’s ability to rank for the Primary Category and related keywords. The results of this test showed that adding or removing related, generic Additional Categories on a listing had no impact on ranking for the Primary Category and related keywords.

But on the flip side, adding Additional Categories for your other services can help your listing rank for those categories (we did a case study on this).

Then, what does have an impact local pack rankings?

The local filter.
The local filter is a function in Google Maps that hides listings it considers to be too similar or duplicates.

Merging duplicate listings.
You would be wise to merge any duplicate listings with your main Business Profile. Duplicate listings can ruin your rankings. In one example, a client who was in 10th-15th place moved up to the 2nd position after removing a duplicate. According to Joy, the local filter is directly influenced by a website URL, location on the map, and (possibly) the phone number.

Removing keywords from competitor business names.
Spam fighting and reporting incorrect business names that are being keyword stuffed by your competitors will help decrease their rankings.

The website URL on your listing.
Choose your URL wisely, as the link you choose will have an impact on rankings. In most cases, go with the homepage.

Level Up Your Local Search Knowledge with LocalU

This is just a small sampling of the presentations, sessions, and topics that were covered in Local University’s GMB Master Class. Don’t forget that you can register for the upcoming June 3, 2020 virtual local search seminar by visiting LocalU’s site. Tickets are priced so everyone can attend – $99 USD or $125CAD (plus applicable taxes). Out of work right now, but hoping to attend? The team at LocalU are offering a limited number of scholarships, so get in touch as soon as possible.

We hope to see you there!

The website URL on your listing.
Choose your URL wisely, as the link you choose will have an impact on rankings. In most cases, go with the homepage.

Level Up Your Local Search Knowledge with LocalU

This is just a small sampling of the presentations, sessions, and topics that were covered in Local University’s GMB Master Class. Don’t forget that you can register for the upcoming June 3, 2020 virtual local search seminar by visiting LocalU’s site. Tickets are priced so everyone can attend $99USD or $125CAD (plus applicable taxes).

If you’re recently out of work and would like to attend, Local University is offering a limited number of scholarships, so apply now!

We hope to see you there!


Team Whitespark

At Whitespark we are all about helping enterprises, agencies, and small businesses solve local search problems and get answers to their burning questions. We work together as a team to answer all your inquiries. The answers come from Jessie Low, Allie Margeson, Tessa Hughes, Sydney Marchuk, and Tomas Acuna .

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