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. Although 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.
In this guide, we'll discuss exactly what you need to know about local SEO for businesses with multiple locations.
Site Structure for Multi-Location Businesses
Many agencies, when they’re confronted with a situation like this for the first time often 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, however, this is bad for both search engine optization and user experience.
First off, it confuses customers when a single brand has multiple homes on the web, especially if those sites aren’t consistent quality-wise. Secondly, 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, making it impractical for businesses with limited budgets or dozens of franchises.
So what's the best approach to URL structures?
Your client should have one main business website—e.g.http://awesome-business.com—and create separate location pages on that website. These location landing 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. Whichever you choose, it’s important for each location to have its own unique URL.
Now, what should go on a location page? At minimum, each page should contain the following business information:
- Phone number
- Business hours
- 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.
Here's an example of structured data in code from Google:
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's 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.
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 Google 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 company's business profile is consistent online. If the business name, address, or phone number vary from listing to listing, it hurts their trustworthiness, and Google can lower their search rankings accordingly. It’s also 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 want 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 another key part of a local business's reputation. As most business owners know, however, it can be tough to get online reviews for even a single location.
How can you help your client get reviews for multiple locations?
If you help your client with content marketing, one way is to include CTAs encouraging customers to leave reviews on Google or Yelp. For even better results, though, your client will often 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 giveaway 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 maintained and tracked. When you're managing multi-location 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 also has a feature for multi-location SERP tracking. This allows you to 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 quickly identify which locations need further optimization.
Local SEO Reporting
After you've helped your clients gain traction in local search engines, the next step is to send them an SEO report with the results. For many clients, they don't necessarily care about the technical details, and instead just want the essential information presented in an understandable way.
To give you an idea of what to include in your SEO report, here are a few of the sections we've included in our SEO report template:
- Report Summary: First off, you want to provide an overview of the report in plain English. This will often include the project goals and KPIs, tasks completed, and resulted achieved.
- Traffic Overview by Channel: Next, you want to show your client where their traffic is coming from. This can include organic search, direct traffic, referrals, and paid search for each channel.
- Conversion from Organic Traffic: Traffic is great, but clients want to see how it actually impacted their bottom line. You can do this by setting up Goals in Google Analytics, which can measure things like leads, purchases, or whatever else your client considers a conversion.
- Keyword Rankings: Finally, keyword rankings are an essential part of any SEO report. This section provides an indicator of if your overall strategy is trending in the right direction.
Keep in mind that running a local SEO campaign for multiple locations isn’t that different from a single location. The principles are the same—you’ve just got to do a bit more legwork and keep track of the details. It can be a complicated task, but with a good overall strategy, the right SEO dashboard or report, and an efficient plan of attack, you can help your client get more business at every one of their locations.