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It’s well known by now that when people are on the go and searching on their phones, they’re doing so with great intent to visit a business ASAP. In fact, 88% of smartphone searchers will visit a local business within 24 hours (Google). Overwhelmingly, customers find what they need on the search results page—over 98% who view the MapPack do not even click through to a website for more information.

Why would they, when they can see phone numbers, addresses, reviews, photos and more for a variety of business locations right there in the MapPack? Rio SEO recently hosted an expert panel webinar that explored the most impactful optimizations a multi-location brand can make to improve the MapPack visibility of each of their locations.

As panelist Carrie Hill, Co-founder of Ignitor Digital and Community Manager at LocalU, says, Google My Business is the new homepage for local businesses. Your branded search has replaced the phone book—when people need an address or phone number, they Google a brand and whatever they see in the result is the new homepage of your website. They’re also searching for specific products and services and may not yet have a brand in mind. These non-branded searches are an incredibly lucrative opportunity for you to win new business, but you have to be there in the MapPack when they’re expressing that need.

Hill was joined by fellow local search expert Al Sefati, SEO Strategist at 9th Wonder, and Krystal Taing, Director of Local Search at Rio SEO (Moderator), in our recent Making It Into the MapPack webinar. Ranking as close to the top position in this incredibly valuable real estate is vital if you want your listing to be the one they’re clicking on to call or get better yet, to get directions to your store. Here are 7 areas of focus to help drive a more successful MapPack strategy for your brand.

1. Own as much real estate for your branded search as possible (including MapPack).

GMB is a huge part of that. Use sitelinks, MapPack placement, and other local search features to dominate above-the-fold search results for your branded and non-branded searches as much as possible.

2. Track your search visibility and decide which KPIs truly matter to your business.

Are pageviews on your website really a good indicator of how much business you’re driving in your doors? Are you tracking phone calls from GMB? How valuable is each click to get driving directions? Are you comparing new appointments driven from search month-over-month?

Make sure local managers have access to the insights that will help them make smart optimizations at that level, but also that you have high-level access to all location performance, as well. For local businesses, tracking online-to-offline is key.

3. Use GMB content optimization to your advantage.

Each of your locations’ GMB profile should have Google Posts, Videos, Photos and other GMB content to entice searchers who are never going to make it to your website to do business at that location. Help people understand the experience they can expect if they take that next step and visit in-store.

4. Be vigilant in protecting the integrity of location data across the brand.

Make sure that your phone number, address, and all other critical business data for all locations is accurate in GMB. Be aware that any user with a Google account can change your location data. This includes your Map pins, phone number, web address, physical address and more—imagine having a competitor change your phone number to theirs and Google not catching it!

These changes are often made with good intentions by users who think the business information truly needs to be updated. But Google won’t necessarily notify you of the change. Often, they’ll show other searchers the suggested change and ask them to verify it, in an effort to determine whether the suggested edit is correct. It is absolutely vital that each location is being monitored constantly for these suggested edits, whether they are malicious or simply mistakes. Once aggregators pick up a piece of misinformation, it proliferates quickly.

5. Facilitate review management for your local managers.

Get proactive in your reviews management for more efficient, effective performance. Reviews management can quickly get overwhelming, especially for multi-location brands and high-volume locations. The key is developing a proactive review management process and procedure and for multi-location brands, this means having the technology in place to support monitoring and flagging opportunities for your local managers to respond.

If you have a multi-location business, you have to be able to do this in such a way that it can scale, so you need some kind of automation to optimize and manage local listings at scale. This automation needs to be augmented by an experienced team of local search experts who can quickly recognize issues and proactively eliminate incorrect business data before it impacts your business.

6. Build your review volume authentically.

Keep soliciting reviews. Ask clients to leave them for you and always, always respond. You don’t need to game the system—in fact, that will almost certainly backfire as searchers can smell fake reviews a mile away. You can certainly ask for Google reviews in a way that is authentic and encourages a positive review. Try emailing the day after a service call, for example, with a message that the specific employee who looked after that customer is following up to make sure they’re happy with XYZ service. Your feedback is important to us and we want to know how to serve you better. Use language in your ask that you would like to see mirrored in the review.

7. Humanize and localize your GMB content.

Use keywords in your business content and Posts, but always remember that you’re writing for humans. Don’t overdo it! Write in the voice of the person interacting with your customers—what would that front-line person say about where to find you and why your brand is a good choice? Talk about your staff and management, your neighborhood, and local landmarks that will help them orient you to your location.

Want to learn more? Get your copy of our Top 10 GMB Optimizations for Enterprise playbook now and learn how to optimize all of your brand’s Google My Business listings to improve visibility in the local 3-Pack in all markets. You’ll also discover strategies for using bulk uploads, API and manual strategies to manage GMB listings efficiently at scale, and explore ways to optimize each location’s online presence to improve organic SEO performance, build search engine trust, and convert more searchers to in-store visitors.