Your Google My Business Profile Image – The Most Important Image?

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There probably isn't an image of your business that gets seen more by potential customers and searchers than your Google My Business profile image. There isn't a single image that has more impact on searcher's behaviors. And there isn't an image in the online world that is harder to "get right."

The profile image is something that Google shows virtually everywhere, from the Local Pack results to the much, much less visible profile circle on your Plus page. Along the way, it is seen at

  • the highly visible branded Knowledge Panel for your business
  • competitor's "People also search for" area
  • the old and new Google Maps
  • Google Now
  • various apps and mobile browsers on both Android & iPhone
  • who knows where else

The profile image is the image that creates the critical first impression that a searcher has about your business. There is data from Google that indicates that having photos on your listing increases direction requests by 42% and clicks to your website by 35%. I am sure that your profile image plays a huge role in those numbers. According to Google's research, listing photos are second only to reviews in increasing the performance of your Google+ listing.

Google My Business recently rolled out a feature to actually allow you to pro-actively select your profile photo, which is a dramatic improvement over the previous crapshoot. But there are still issues and problems that need to be dealt with. Just because you identified an image as your preferred choice doesn't mean that the Google algo will show that image. It will give the image you chose preference ... BUT ... if it is a logo or a head shot and they have an image that would improve a users Map experience (like an exterior view) they will substitute that image for the one that you chose.

iPhone Google Now Pack Result

iPhone Google Now Pack Result

Even if Google uses the image that you indicated, there is another problem: Google insists on using the very same image, but cropping it arbitrarily to different aspect ratios in different display contexts.

There is no perfect solution to creating the perfect photo, but there are some guidelines that will insure that yours performs better rather than worse.

Firstly, use a profile photo that Google is likely to accept. Those seem to be either interior shots, exterior shots or product shots. Not logos or head shots.

Secondly, pick an image that performs well in both a landscape layout and a square layout.

Thirdly, pick an image that is upper-half balanced. That is, the core of the image is not on the bottom of the image but up towards the middle.

Fourthly, pick an image that resolves well at very small display and pixel sizes. This image will be used in a range of sizes and it should look good whether viewed on a very small display or a large one. To achieve that, the image should be a close up and not have a lot of background detail.

Fifth, make sure that the other images you upload all work reasonably well. You never know when the Google machine will get a bug up its behind and will pick one of them, instead.

Finally, test, test and retest in the most important environments. You won't be able to find an image that works perfectly every place that Google shows it. For my money, I would focus first on how the image looks in the Local Pack, the Knowledge Panel and the "People also search for" area. Then I would move on to Google Maps on the desktop and Safari, Chrome and Google Maps in the mobile environment. I would worry less about how the image looks on your Google+ Page in its various presentations. Thank goodness the carousel has mostly disappeared.

Here are screen shots of two examples of getting profile images to work (or not) in the context of Google's somewhat arbitrary decisions as to what to show and how to show the profile photo.

Note that in the case of Barbara Oliver & Co Jewelry, Google only started showing the photo of her showroom in the past week or so on mobile while still showing her preferred profile image on the desktop results. Prior to that, Google kindly was showing her chosen photo, the ring. Why? Who knows.

Fiddling with the images sometimes gets Google to change their minds and obviously I have fiddling to do. I uploaded new images to Barbara's Google My Business and, over the past few days, Google chose one of those instead of my chosen image. Again for mobile only. It points out why every photo needs to be of a reasonable quality but I still have work to do. And it points out why Google is extremely hard to work with for most businesses.

Google provides no guidance nor testing of which images work best, but with some trial and errorĀ and attention to detail, it is possible to have a positive impact on what is arguably your business's most important single image.

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23 Responses to “Your Google My Business Profile Image – The Most Important Image?”

  1. This is great advice. Profile images are so important and tend to get overlooked by so many companies. Some just keep the default images and that looks unprofessional.

  2. Hi Cathie
    I saw that. It will be nice to meet you.

  3. Mike,

    Very timely and thorough article. Thought you may appreciate this. I know you say worry the least about how the Google+ image looks. Good thing. I did a Google Business View for a local restaurant. Their verified Google+ page has over 3 million views and they still have the default Google images on there. I have tried to get them to use an appropriate photo, even offering to walk them through the process.
    Another restaurant only had one photo that someone they didn’t even know had uploaded to their Google+ page. A bad photo of a dog outside a screen door. That photo was their profile photo until I pointed it out to them and shot some new professional photos for them.
    My point is, I’m still amazed at businesses lack of concern for the images that represent them.

    • Well if their G+ page has 3 million views then their Knowledge Panel likely had 10-20x that. Although does sort of muddy the analytics on that. And I am not suggesting they shouldn’t have a great cover photo (see my previous article) just that the profile photo on the + Page is hard to make look good in a circle and it shows less than the image shows elsewhere.

      Regardless it is amazing that many businesses have no clue about their images on Google. Google has estimated that 90% of all profiles have not added images to their pages.

    • Charles
      I see that you are a professional photographer so any tips would be appreciated

  4. Thank you for the excellent tips! They are so helpful.

  5. I had a google photographer take my photos. Google desk top shows the outside of the building where my law office is located and give a choice of inside view. On andriod you have to hit the more button and it shows – see inside- street view ( which is a pic of inside and photos which shows the outside of the building.

    What is your recommendation for an attorneys office . I can see how maps would want to show the building . Is it desirable to try to get a head shot to surface . How do you optimize it by the way?

    • You can always try to do a head shot but if Google finds anything else they are likely to substitute it. I know lawyers like to do head shots but I have no idea if that is what consumers like.

      I think you do a headshot you shot have some staff group photos that give a sense of your office as backups.

      The optimization is visual as noted above.

  6. Thanks for the info Mike. There seems to be no rhyme or reason even on a daily basis for service based businesses.

    I’ve had 3 different photos show in 3 different places in one 2 hour timeframe.

    My advice is be patient (maybe a week). If you don’t like the photo they have, delete it. But like you said there are no guarantee you are going to get the one you pick.

  7. Can you give us a reference for this statement, “photos on your listing increases direction requests by 42% and clicks to your website by 35%”.

  8. Hi Mike,
    This was a really helpful and timely post as I’m seeing some business beginning to stand out by optimizing their profile pic but it definitely is very hard to determine how to optimize this and get it to actually show in the key places you call out.

    Another thing I’ve seen and wondered if you can shed some light on is that when you search for some business names, Google automatically expands their Google+ business profile on the right-hand side of the results while for others, you have to click on the arrows they put below the profile pic. Any idea on how to get that profile to automatically be expanded in that company search view?

    Thanks again for all the super helpful info you post here.

    • @Phil
      Google offers up two types of knowledge panel; informational which shows the photo and navigational which shows the Map.

      Which depends on search history and location of the searcher. Sometimes the store name sometimes plays into it.

      I don’t know if any way to get Google to show one rather than the other.

    • If you have made updates to your G+ Business page it might have the arrow. I’ve done some test with multiple listings, changes & updates and it’s still hit & miss. Sometimes see arrow & other times seamless.

      When I delete or update my photos the arrow shows up on my listing for a short period of time too.

      Don’t know if Mike’s done any testing on complete profiles, changing name, multiple listings, etc. but if I had to guess (it’s a guess) I would say it has something to do with updates & how they see your business.

      When you have listings for millions of businesses even Google gets a little confused at times.

      Best suggestion be patient even a week which is forever online & see if you get your listing without the arrow.

      • Apparently Google is aware that mobile images are not being handled the same as the desktop image and is working to make it more consistent.

  9. @Mike & @Greg, thank you both so much for your insights. I was not able to find any useful information on this topic elsewhere, and now I have some idea of what factors may be influencing and what to test.

    Ultimately I understand that Google may choose not to reveal or make it easy to influence this, but I wanted to get input from the experts. Thanks!

  10. My sense is that Google shows the navigational panel when they think you want directions and the info panel when it is a discovery search. IE they are interpreting intent based on who you are and why they think you searched.

  11. Great info! I am new to Google Your Business and this information will help me provide even more value to my clients – I am a social media manager and local video marketer. Thanks for sharing. Much appreciated.

  12. Thanks Mike – excellent tips!

  13. It’s great to know that we really have to put effort in uploading profile pictures and cover photos on Google+. Thanks for the great advice and for presenting different profile picture views from different browsers and different devices. Now I know what to do and how to do it better.

  14. Well done Mike. This is the first article I have read re Google+ that makes sense.
    Few businesses are across this issue.

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