Local SEO for Multiple Locations: A Complete Guide
So you’ve just landed a new SEO client – and instead of having just one location, they have numerous locations or franchises. First of all, congratulations! Now you’ve got to create an effective local SEO strategy for all of this client’s business locations.
But how? You might be a local SEO pro already, but when you’re dealing with more than one location, optimizing local SEO for multiple locations gets a bit trickier.
Don’t feel overwhelmed. Though it takes some extra planning and organization, it’s definitely possible to put together a strong local SEO strategy for multiple locations. In fact, if you understand the basics of local SEO, you’re already most of the way there. Here’s what you need to know about doing local SEO for businesses with more than one location.
Site Structure for Multi-Location Businesses
Many agencies, when they’re confronted with a situation like this for the first time, wonder, “Does my client need a separate website for each of their locations?”
The short answer is no. At first glance, it might seem to make sense for a business to have a unique website for each location. In the long run, though, this is bad for both SEO and the business’ image.
It confuses customers when a single brand has multiple homes on the web, especially if those sites aren’t consistent quality-wise. And it’s hard enough for a single website to gain traction in search engines – imagine trying to achieve the same goal with numerous websites at once! Besides that, websites can be expensive to build and maintain, and that’s impractical for businesses with limited budgets or dozens of franchises.
The best approach? Your client should have one main business website – e.g. http://awesome-business.com – and create separate location pages on that website. These location pages can be set up as subdomains, which look like http://city.awesome-business.com, or as subdirectories, which look like http://awesome-business.com/city. Google has said there’s not much difference between the two when it comes to SEO. But whichever you choose, it’s important for each location to have its own unique URL.
What should go on a location page? At minimum, each page should contain the following information:
- Phone number
- An embedded Google map
- Any specials unique to this location
- Any services unique to this location
- At least a paragraph of unique content that contains location-based keywords
- Directory links, such as Yelp links
Two things that shouldn’t go on a location page are duplicate content and contact information for other locations. In other words, don’t copy-and-paste the same generic text on all your client’s location pages, and don’t include nearby locations’ addresses or phone numbers.
Once you’ve created individual location pages full of useful information, it’s time to optimize each location’s on-page SEO. To do this, check each page’s title tag, meta description, and H1 tag. Each of them should contain geo-specific keywords for the location. In addition, tell Google more about each location by adding structured data to the page. You can do this with Google’s structured data markup helper.
An example of structured data in code. Source
Finally, check that Google can find your client’s location pages. If the pages can only be accessed through a search function or branch finder, Google won’t be able to crawl them, and all your optimization will be for nothing. You can ensure all the pages get crawled by submitting an XML sitemap to Google.
Spreading the Word
Your client’s website is all set. Great – what next?
First, make sure a Google My Business listing exists for each location. For each listing, you’ll need to provide the business’ name, address, phone number, website, and hours. You’ll also need to categorize the business.
An example of a Google My Business listing. Source
As you fill out this information, keep the following tips in mind:
- Make sure to link to each location’s individual page on the main website. In other words, link to http://awesome-business.com/city, not just http://awesome-business.com.
- The phone number for each listing should put customers directly in touch with that location. Don’t provide the central office’s phone number.
- Ensure the business’ name is the same across all listings. Don’t include city or other geo-specific words in the name.
- Select as few categories as possible from the list Google provides, and ensure they’re consistent across listings. The only exception is if two locations provide very different services, but that’s uncommon.
Once your GMB listings are good to go, repeat this process to create similar listings on other third-party sites. Bing Places for Business and Yahoo Local Listings are two good places to start. Yelp, Yellow Pages Online, and Facebook are also worthwhile. A search for industry-related local business directories can help you find other relevant places to list your client’s business.
Yelp is a major business directory on the internet.
Don’t fall into the trap of creating too many listings, though. Dozens or hundreds of listings won’t help your client that much, and they could actually be harmful.
Why? Well, Google pays attention to whether a business’ information is consistent online. If a business’ name, address, or phone number vary from listing to listing, it hurts their trustworthiness, and Google lowers their rankings accordingly. It’s easier to monitor and update your client’s information when you’ve only got to deal with a limited number of listings.
This leads to an important final point. If other people talk about your client’s business online, they might inadvertently provide inaccurate or misleading information. This can hurt your client’s SEO, even though it’s not their (or your) fault. Because of this, you’ll need to Google your client’s business regularly and check on the information you find. If you discover inaccurate information anywhere, contact the site right away and request that it be changed.
Reviews are a key part of a local business’ reputation, but as most business owners know, it can be tough to get reviews for even a single location. How can you help your client get reviews for more than one location?
If you help your client with content creation, you can include CTAs encouraging customers to leave reviews on Google or Yelp. For best results, though, your client will need to take an active role in asking customers for reviews in person. That’s because customers are most likely to write a review immediately after having a positive experience with a brand.
You can coach your client to ask for reviews in a number of ways. One simple way is to suggest that they include a request for reviews on their receipts. Printing something like, “How was your experience with us today? Let us know by leaving us a Google review!” on every receipt can go a long way towards encouraging more customers to leave feedback.
Sending follow-up emails with links to Yelp or Google Reviews can also work. Your client can also offer an incentive, such as an entry in a drawing, in exchange for reviews, as long as they don’t stipulate that the review must be positive.
It’s important to respond well to reviews, too. Someone should be in charge of monitoring reviews and dealing with any negative ones that come in. When handled correctly, bad reviews can actually bolster a brand’s image by giving them a chance to show off their great customer service skills.
Lastly, reputation management tools like Synup help keep your review campaigns maintaned and tracked. When you're managing multi-locaiton businesses, it's easy to lose track of locations. Investing in a few key tools will have a big pay off!
Don’t Forget to Track Your Data!
AgencyAnalytics recently launched multi-location SERP tracking. Track each of your locations in a single campaign, so you can easily compare which locations are ranking well or not. This way you can easily identify which locations need further optimization.
Doing local SEO for multiple locations isn’t that different from doing it for just one. The principles are the same – you’ve just got to do a bit more legwork and keep track of more details. It can be a complicated task, but with a good overall strategy, data monitoring with AgencyAnalytics, and an efficient plan of attack, you can help your client get more business at every one of their locations.
Written by Joe Kindness
Joe is the CEO of AgencyAnalytics, but often spends his day programming, designing or executing marketing tasks. And like most Canadians, he can be found playing or watching hockey!