Black Friday is on the horizon and before you know it, the holiday season will be upon us. Local business owners/managers and the corporate or franchise marketing elves who support them are diligently (perhaps fervently) planning holiday marketing campaigns to attract shoppers in-store.

How can you get ahead of the curve this holiday season to give all of your locations the best possible local positioning? We assembled a panel of local marketing experts to share their most current and insightful tips about what works right now in GMB for multi-location brands. 

 

Our How to Win Local this Holiday Season webinar (now available on-demand) was a deep dive strategy session into the highest-impact tactics and optimizations brands are using this season to dominate their local markets. In it, you’ll hear from our diverse slate of local SEO experts: 

  • Ben Fisher, Google My Business Gold Product Expert
  • Niki Mosier, Technical SEO Manager for Seer Interactive
  • Mary Bowling, Local SEO Expert at Ignitor Digital
  • Alli Berry, SEO & Editorial Lead for The Motley Fool
  • Jason Brown, SEO Manager for Over The Top Marketing and founder of Review Fraud
  • Krystal Taing, Director of Local Search for Rio SEO

Here are 37 of their recommended strategies and optimizations that you can’t afford to overlook this holiday season, including Google Posts, Local Reviews, and Holiday Content.

Make Google Posts an Integral Part of your Holiday Marketing Strategy

  1. Make sure all of the links in your local Knowledge Panel are going to your website. Google has been inserting links for third-party platforms and you need to keep checking your links to make sure you don’t have any of those. ~ Mary Bowling

  2. Take advantage of Product Posts. They currently have high visibility in your Knowledge Panel. If you have a product you’re putting on special, get in-depth and use all the fields available to you. There’s no way to import a feed or copy products, which is a challenge for brands using Product Posts at scale. You can still do Special Offers in Posts, as well, so put in a coupon code and use those to track visitors coming in-store. ~ Ben Fisher
  3. For Service Area Businesses, make sure you have your service menus filled out. Make sure your hours are up to date in GMB for the holidays! ~ Niki Mosier
  4. Think of specials you can offer based on services and products that might not necessarily be connected to the holidays. If you’re a cleaning company, for example, you could offer a special for clean-up after the relatives come to visit. ~ Mary Bowling and Krystal Taing
  5. Product Posts are much higher and more persistent right now, especially on mobile. That’s really where it’s at this holiday season—put together a collection of Product Posts. ~ Ben Fisher
  6. If your business is sponsoring events through the holidays, create a properly marked-up landing page on your website so it will appear in your Panel. ~ Alli Berry
  7. Create a calendar image with your holiday hours and make a Google Post so your holiday hours are visible further in advance than Google typically shows. ~ Jason Brown

  8. It’s common that you’ll put a Post up and only see one click on it. That doesn’t mean it was only seen once. ~ Krystal Taing
  9. Universally, the statistics you’re seeing inside of GMB Insights for Posts are off. The way impressions are calculated means the impression is not counted unless someone clicks on the Post. So if they’re just looking at it, you don’t see that. They use the same logic as Google Analytics as far as uniqueness and latency so if you’re using UTM codes, you’re going to see that views are much higher. ~ Ben Fisher

GMB Reviews: Managing, Responding to, and Soliciting Local Reviews

  1. Start getting your Reviews strategy ducks in a row right now. With the holidays comes a lot of new reviews. ~ Ben Fisher
  2. You’re going to need to make sure you’re monitoring emails for reviews if you have a GMB listing, but if you have over 100 listings in your account you don’t get that. You have to have a mechanism in place so you’re seeing all new reviews and responding to them. ~ Jason Brown
  3. Businesses are starting to lose their stars as Google is rolling this “star snatch” out. Keep an eye on your reviews and those of your competitors. You can still get stars by marking up Product reviews, but not local business reviews. Look at how you can shift your focus there. You may be able to get some stars on Services, too, despite this current “Starmageddon” that’s happening. ~ Mary Bowling
  4. The amount of resources is an issue for multi-location brands. Statistically, 90% of consumers do read responses to customer reviews, and 53% expect brands to respond within a week. In the holidays, your staff is stretched thin and you have a decision to make. Companies fall into three camps: Do we respond to positive reviews? Do we respond to negative reviews? Do we respond to all reviews? Unfortunately, it’s very rare that companies choose to respond to all reviews. Having a game plan—whether it’s handled internally, outsourced, or managed with a tool—it’s extremely important to answer all reviews or you’re going to lose business to your competitors. ~ Ben Fisher
  5. If people are reaching out to leave a review, it’s because they either had an exceptional experience or a terrible one with your brand. It’s to your detriment to ignore that. Especially during the holidays, you need to either staff up or put technology in place to ensure that you can manage those reviews at scale. ~ Krystal Taing

  6. Reviews are just another way for customers to communicate with you and let you know whether you’re doing a great job (or not). When you get a negative review, remain calm! You don’t want other customers to see you going viral for the wrong reasons. Take a deep breath, own it, and tell them how you’re going to address it so it doesn’t happen again in the future. ~ Jason Brown
  7. There was a lot of chatter at LocalU last week about first-party reviews on your website and I think you need to still have those on your site. Even if you’re not getting stars, they’re important to have there. ~ Mary Bowling
  8. If you can’t respond to every single review, prioritize. You may not be able to save the one-stars. Focus on your two- and three-stars. Shorten the timeframe, if you need to. But put those processes in place now as you’re likely going to see review volume explode in the next one to two months. ~ Krystal Taing
  9. When you’re trying to solicit more reviews, think about who your customers are and where you’re going to find them online. For example, sending a text message may be the fastest way to reach business people. Really think about who you’re asking. Obviously we can’t incentivize leaving reviews, but you can engage them in the ask and encourage a more meaningful interaction than just asking for a review. ~ Niki Mosier
  10. In person, you can absolutely ask your happiest and most delighted customers to leave reviews. ~ Mary Bowling
  11. Use a simple QR code at the cash register to take people directly to where they can leave a review. Encourage them to help others by sharing their feedback. These are people who’ve just made a purchase and presumably are happy with it. ~ Alli Berry 

  12. Anything you can do to remove the friction and make it easy, fun and memorable for customers is helpful. Take a step back and don’t focus on the review. Focus on the experience you’re creating and make it something they want to share. ~ Krystal Taing
  13. You can’t ask for Yelp reviews, but you can ask for photos! We work with a lot of beauty brands and have learned you can bypass the Yelp no-soliciting-reviews rule by asking for photos. When they post a photo, they become a brand ambassador and it leaves them right there when they can leave the review. ~ Jason Brown
  14. Yes! Google reads and considers keywords in Reviews. Google places a high priority on user-generated content and it’s important for them to see words relevant to your business reiterated by customers. ~ Krystal Taing
  15. Ask customers specific questions to encourage the use of specific keywords in their review. ~ Ben Fisher

How to Create Holiday Content with Staying Power

  1. Think about what you can do on-site during the holidays to move past sales mode and give to your customers. What’s your mission? What can you do locally to meet your charitable goals? How can you get involved in your community in an authentic way? This gives you all kinds of opportunities to create great, authentic stories. Make an event out of it and create content around that. ~ Alli Berry
  2. Like we heard so much about at LocalU Advanced, make sure you’re writing for humans. Don’t write for the Google bot to crawl for keywords. Think first about your audience. If you were your own target audience, what would you want to read? ~ Krystal Taing
  3. Your local media really are the only media that care about what you’re doing in your town. By doing good and partnering with a local non-profit, you can get a lot of really great local media attention and that’s really valuable. Don’t think at the national level for your local businesses. Build local links and good karma. ~ Mary Bowling
  4. You lose a lot of value by taking content down after the holidays and starting over again next year. For example, one of our clients sponsors a parade and we had a blog post about it last year. We’re just going to update that post this year, because they’ve already started ranking for that. Why would we take it down? People aren’t going to be searching for it out-of-season but it’ll be there next year. ~ Mary Bowling
  5. Take a look back at your previous years’ reviews and mine those for specific keywords. You can use this to inform content you’re going to create going forward. You’re then creating content based on customer feedback. ~ Ben Fisher

  6. If you know you’re going to hit a massive traffic day—say everyone books on Fridays for the holiday Christmas parties—put content on the site to help disperse that business into non-peak times. Be proactive so you don’t have to turn people away. ~ Jason Brown
  7. When you’re reusing content, make sure you update the publish date and event schema so Google picks it up as an up-to-date piece of content. ~ Niki Mosier

Other Must-Do GMB Optimizations & Campaign-Planning Tips for the Holidays

  1. Don’t forget that you can chat with people via your local Knowledge Panel. You can turn it off if you’re too busy but if you have the resources, put someone on messaging who can answer product questions. It’s a simple one-click to turn it off when you need to. ~ Mary Bowling
  2. Make sure you have your shortname set up and that you have your convention set up if you’re a multi-location business. You can then email that shortname with /review on the end to get people directly to where they can leave one. ~ Ben Fisher
  3. Set up a selfie station in your storefront to encourage user-generated photo content for your GMB, Yelp, and Facebook. ~ Alli Berry
  4. A little bit of humor goes a long way during the holidays. Do something more creative than the typical holiday campaign to cut through the holiday noise. Take that dancing elf video, for example… if you do something like that with your staff and put it on your page, they’re going to want to tell all their friends and it gets local traction. ~ Mary Bowling

  1. If you’re an edgier brand, you can get away with snarkier content. Not everyone loves the holidays; maybe your campaign is about surviving the family. ~ Alli Berry
  2. Just about any type of business can do gift certificates fairly cheaply and well. You can enable customizations for the giver to make it more personalized. You can offer to mail it directly to the recipient; it costs very little and you can get the email to communicate with that person on an ongoing basis. ~ Mary Bowling

Want to learn more? Check out the full How to Win at Local this Holiday Season webinar —it’s free and available instantly, on-demand. 

Is your brand holiday-ready and in position to create exceptional local experiences for an influx of holiday shoppers? Take advantage of our Free Local Search Audit and discover new opportunities to win at local this season, in all of your locations.