Local Search

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

By April 15, 2015 47 Comments


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 error 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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  • Cathie says:

    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.

  • Mike Blumenthal says:

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

  • 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.

    • Mike Blumenthal says:

      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.

    • Mike Blumenthal says:

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

  • Ann Griffith says:

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

  • Anthony says:

    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?

    • Mike Blumenthal says:

      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.

  • Greg Shadik says:

    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.

  • 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%”.

  • Phil says:

    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.

    • Mike Blumenthal says:

      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.

    • Greg says:

      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.

      • Mike Blumenthal says:

        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.

  • Phil says:

    @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!

  • Mike says:

    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.

  • 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.

  • Andy Kuiper says:

    Thanks Mike – excellent tips!

  • John says:

    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.

  • Andrew H. says:

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

  • Dave says:

    Great info…You know, it’s been a bit of a challenge manipulating my Google Plus account for my business…When I finally got things right, I stumbled upon one last deatil which is really annoying…..
    In my WordPress website dashboard, I blog and have them forwarded to all of my connected social media accounts…..But, with G+, it doesn’t go anywhere because Google+ recognizes “my name” and not my “business name”……Unfortunately, I don’t have a G+ “personal” account…..All I have is my business page, and WP doesn’t see it…
    I wish there was a fix……?……

    • Dave says:

      Oh, and one more thing….If I used this RSS feed for posting good content to my audience once in a while, is this site “neutral”? Or does this site conflict with me because it’s trying to “sell” people marketing services as well?
      I would like to use the RSS feed here for great education to my audience, but wouldn’t want to be stupid, know what I mean?

  • Hello Mike,

    I just stumbled on your informative article. My challenge is that the business I run is home-based but I deliver a decluttering service to clients. In other words, my business is mobile. This is indicated on my business profile but I have no idea what photo to have as my banner shot since logos and head shots are not welcome. Do you have any suggestions. I do appreciate that no photos is not a great look!

    Thanks in advance.

  • Emily says:

    I uploaded my profile photo (my logo) but there seems to be 2. One small one in a circle on top of a larger one that doesn’t quite fit the box. No clue how or if I did this or how to fix it. Any ideas? help!

    • Mary Bowling says:

      Emily, Google does not want you to use a logo as a profile photo. Try uploading a different photo, instead. A exterior picture showing your sign and building is a type of photo that Google prefers.

  • Dave P says:

    Google has somehow chosen my personal profile picture for my business page? I changed the picture for the business page yet my personal photo comes up. Any idea how to deal with this?

  • Peter says:

    For the past week, Google displays a logo from a completely different business as my profile photo – clicking it displays the image > info says it is “from the web”. What’s worse is that the logo has a link through to the website that is hosting the image – some kind of appointment booking site.

    Image is not selectable in google my business or my google+ business page, so I cannot delete it – and shows up on google maps too! Visits to my site have halved during the period.

    • Mike Blumenthal says:

      You need to flag the image and if it isn’t removed in 2 weeks you need to contact Google support and ask for assistance.

  • Reuben Adamah says:

    Hi Mike,

    I am the admin of a school website. I have selected a profile photo of a child reading a book but google insists on using a different photo in my library. It seems quite pointless to have the option of selecting a profile photo, only for your selection to be disregarding because google thinks it can pick a better one.

    Are you aware of them changing this policy at any point? I am at a loss for further options.
    Many Thanks

  • Ellen says:

    Hi Mike,

    I see you touched on different photos showing based on different devices and browsers. Are there any updates since this article? I’ve been seeing different featured photos in the Local Knowledge Panel for car dealerships depending on whether you’re in Chrome or Firefox.

    • Mike Blumenthal says:

      It is largely still a crap shoot…. you need to have good photos of outside, inside, people and products… try to have them square and center weighted. That way if they get cropped you don’t lose something critical.

  • Lilac Lopez says:

    HI Mike,
    I am having problems in loading a google profile picture onto two businesses I am managing in google my business.. when i click on the icon to add a profile photo.. it is a blank screen and I can’t add, upload or see anything.. its a completely blank page (not related to internet or connections.. other functions seem to work) .. also the albums and photos you are tagged in are completely blank in this section…

    Can you help?
    Many thanks,


  • Nikhil says:

    Hi Mike,

    I’m a professional Magician. I have uploaded an apt profile picture in my Google business which does not appear as a profile picture when anyone search for me on google, instead one of my performance picture appears which is not that great. So I decided to remove that picture and once I did. Google business does not show any picture which looks a little unprofessional. I tried my best to fix this issues but I’m unable to. It would be great if you could teach me step by step.

    to understand better please search Nikhil Raj Magician. And you can see there is no picture which appears and I have no option of changing it.

    • Carrie Hill says:

      In Google.com/mybusiness click on photos, then click on the identity tab – then set the Cover, Profile & Logo photos. That being said, Google will pick the photo they think is most descriptive of your business – so logos, etc don’t usually work. Google has probably decided that as a magician, a performance photo is best representative of your work.

      Hope this help,

  • John says:

    Hi I have a situation that I need help with. So I live in a three bedroom two bathroom condo with two other roomates. I am a graphic and web designer. The issue? I work from home so I don’t have an actual business address for my business therefore I do not have an actual business address where I can go and take photos of my business to show people on my google listing pictures of my business address. Usually I meet with people in public places like a diner or coffee shop.

    So in a situation like mines what kinds of images should I post on my google listing to show people about my business? The only picture I have on my google listing is my logo and that is it but when everyone else has images of their business location then it makes me look tacky and not good. Just looking for some advice. Great article btw 🙂

    • Mike Blumenthal says:

      I would take
      Photos of you and your customers at their work locations. Close ups, group shots, looking at the computer screen.

  • Ned Nikolic says:

    Great article, Mike. I’ve found that with my clients Google Local Guides with high levels play a big role in what Google decides to show as the Featured Image. For example, I’ve got a burger chain client in Australia called RocoMamas. When you search for “Burgers Chapel St” (where they’re located), if their GMB comes up in the Local Pack then it would use a Featured Image of a recent review from a LocalGuide who has a high level and in particular takes a lot of photos and uploads them on Reviews. One that currently shows up for my clients is from a Google Local Guide who’s a Level 8 that’s taken 2,617 and has had 44,095,351 million views. I believe that Google places a strong emphasis on Local Guides and especially taking into account their Local Guide level (also what they mainly contribute to with the Local Guide points). What are your thoughts?

    P.S. I’ve also had another client call me up once in a frantic tone basically accusing me of making him loose $150K in Sales for one particular month. After I’ve done a lot of investigating, I realised that he coped a 1 Star Google Review from a LocalGuide who was a Level 9 and he predominately got his points from writing Google Reviews for other businesses. My client basically disappeared from Google altogether for that month until he spoke to that particular customer to get him to change his review, and once he did (put up back up to 5 Stars), my client started showing up again in Local Packs.

    Google Local Guides matter more than we think.

  • Brad Rucker says:

    This looks like good advice on how to get the images you want, but what if you don’t want an image at all. I have a consulting business that I operate from my home. Clients don’t come here and I don’t want them to. Currently, Google is showing a picture of my driveway with a trash can sitting at the curb. Not good. If I can’t remove the image and shouldn’t use a logo, what about a stock photo? Suggestions?

    • Mike Blumenthal says:

      One, you should hide your address in the GMB dashboard so that Google won’t show a driveway picture and you are in compliance.

      I would add your logo and see what Google does with it. If it is the only photo it might show.

      Barring that I would take photos of you and clients on site to put there. I would avoid stock photos as they are shown to reduce conversions.

  • Lead Miners says:

    Thanks for all the tips. We will use them on a group of our projects and test!

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