Posted by Clayton Johnson | May 14, 2018
Want to know how to do SEO for a business with multiple locations? This post has you covered!
With just a little time and effort, you can start cashing in on the customers in your area who are ready to purchase right now.
Did you know that a whopping 46% of all searches on Google are local?
Yep, you read that right. Nearly half of ALL Google searches revolve around local businesses.
In other words, if you don’t already have local SEO setup for the multiple locations of your business, you are missing out on massive traffic and sales.
But… what if I told you that with a few simple changes to your website, you could be easily and organically attracting more targeted traffic to your store?
Keep in mind that 72% of people who did a local search then visited a store within five miles.
Wouldn’t it be nice if your local store was the one showing up for that person who is ready to buy?
Whether it’s a client’s business or yours, this step-by-step guide will show you how to dominate local search for a multiple-location business.
In this post you’ll learn tactics for:
- 1. Why You Should Build Out Separate Location Pages on Your Website
- 2. The Best URL Structure for Your Brand’s Domain
- 3. Meta Data That Gives Geographic Cues to Google
- 4. Schema Markup for Multiple Location SEO
- 5. How to Add and Optimize Google My Business
- 6. Embedding a Map to Your Locations
- 7. Optimizing Location Content for Maximum Traffic
- 8. Managing NAP Citations for Your Business
- 9. A Review Management Strategy That Works
Let’s get started!
What is Multiple-Location SEO?
Does your business have multiple storefronts? Or is it part of a franchise system?
If so, then tailoring to geo-specific searches for each location is a vital element of your Local SEO strategy.
To do this successfully, your SEO goal for a multi-location business is to get first-page rankings for all of the locations.
There is no reason for the search engine results pages [SERPs] to show you local results for “Walmart” in Atlanta when you’re searching for a Walmart in St. Petersburg.
So when customers input your brand’s name and their own geographic location into Google, the search is localized to show the businesses matching that name in that location.
This also relevant when people conduct a voice search for “____ near me” such as “Walmart near me.”
I know- you may not be as big as Walmart, it’s a business with a LOT of locations…so should you still do it for your business?
YES! Whether you have 2 locations or 2000, it’s crucial to present Google and the other search engines with the right information.
Doing so allows the search engines to distinguish between the different locations, and present the right one to people who search for it.
Are you ready to learn how to do SEO for a multiple-location business?
Let’s get into it!
Step 1: Build Out Separate Pages On Your Website for Each Location
We see a lot of businesses that have a single page listing all of their locations on it.
This is not enough. To be truly optimized for SEO, each individual store on that page also needs its own dedicated page.
Done correctly, it should yield a result like our first Walmart example.
Clicking “Website” for one of the Walmart stores listed in the Local 3 Pack goes to that store’s individual page, where we see relevant information about that location:
By adopting a centralized approach and listing your business’s multiple locations on a single website, you’re able to capitalize on whatever Domain Authority (DA) the brand’s site has.
Don’t: Leave it to one page dedicated to listing all of your locations, or you won’t show up properly.
Here’s an example of what you should be careful not to do:
When I searched for “PoFolks Restaurant St. Petersburg FL,” neither the restaurant closest to me nor the locations page showed up in the top results, even though my local search intent was clear:
Searching “PoFolks Restaurant Locations” yielded their locations page as the top result, which contains embedded maps of all the restaurants, but without a dedicated page made for each restaurant.
This restaurant will have more success in the SERPs if they take the next step of adding an individual page for each storefront and populate each page with relevant information about that location.
Once they add that same information to a Google My Business Listing for each location, THEN the individual PoFolks restaurant closest to me would be more likely to appear in the Local 3 Pack.
Step 2: Create a sensible URL structure on a Single Brand Domain.
Your URL structure will depend on the number of stores and where they are located.
An example of one way to do this for a business with many locations across multiple states could be:
yourbiz.com/locations/ for a list of all the locations
yourbiz.com/locations/state/ for a list of all the locations in a particular state
yourbiz.com/locations/state/city/ for a list of locations in a city, region or metro area
yourbiz.com/locations/state/city-1 for store #1
yourbiz.com/locations/state/city-2 for store #2 in the same city
Be sure to make the URL geo-specific whenever it makes sense.
If store #1 is located in a strip mall called Grand Plaza Mall, or at the intersection of 5th St. and Elm St. then the URL could be:
Whatever way you decide to structure your URL’s, keep their organization tidy by sticking to one system that makes sense.
You want to make sure that your individual pages can be indexed by Google and other search engines: consistency is key.
Don’t: Create a separate domain for each location.
Compare the centralized approach of one domain, many locations, to a decentralized approach of many domains for many locations.
When decentralized, each location gets its own dedicated domain name.
It should be pretty clear that your “link juice” won’t be as strong if it gets diluted over different domains for the same brand.
Listing every location in a subdirectory of your brand’s main website helps to ensure that any rise in the DA of your website also contributes to helping individual location pages rank.
Much like a rising tide lifts all boats, a high domain authority helps to lift pages on that site.
Step 3: Format Your Local Metadata to Give Geographic Cues to Google
This is an important step for sending additional local signals to Google.
Here are some guidelines:
Proper Title Tag Format:
Local geo-indicator | Article | Brand Name
(ex. 201 34th St N. St. Petersburg Supermarket | Walmart)
Meta Description Format:
Be sure to include the location you’re targeting in the meta description.
150-160 characters is a good length for this.
It’s always good to include your phone number in case someone makes a search on mobile and wants to call you then and there.
Use a similar tag to your title tag (ex. 201 34th St N. St. Petersburg Supermarket).
Step 4: Use Schema.org Markup
Google will have an easier time crawling your site if you use schema.org markup.
Schema.org uses tags to give SERPs more information about your website. In this case, you’d go for LocalBusiness markup.
Among other things, it provides Google with your email address, phone number, and address.
Always use a consistent address format in your markup, it should be in the same format as everywhere else where your address is listed.
When you search for a specific address, Google shows their preferred formatting of that same address regardless of whether it’s been claimed as a business yet:
You want to match the way Google lists the address down to the punctuation and words (for example “St” versus “St.” versus “Street”).
Use this same format in the schema markup and anywhere else the address of your business appears, including Facebook, Yelp, and so on.
We’ll talk more about collecting reviews in a bit.
Step 5: Add and Optimize Google My Business for Your Multiple Locations
Creating Google My Business (GMB) pages for each location is vital for pointing Google to those subdirectories you have created.
Here is a video from Google demonstrating how to add or claim your business:
Add or claim your Google My Business listing, and optimize it by entering the exact same information as on that location’s page on your site. Here are the areas to optimize:
- Name: This is your brand’s exact name, for example, “Walmart.” Not “Walmart St. Petersburg” or “Walmart 34th St. N.”
- Address: Google has already assumed that you’re listing an actual brick and mortar location that people can go to. List the address exactly as it appears on your website and on other websites. If there’s a discrepancy in the address appearance between sites, use the format that Google provides in the SERPs when you input the full street address.
- Phone: Each location should have its own dedicated phone number that is then listed in GMB. If your business has a main line that gets shared by multiple locations, you can get a Google Voice number for each location to create the distinction and then forward it to the main phone number.
- URL: Did you make sure that each location’s website goes to its own location-specific page, (yourbrand.com/locations/state/city-1) rather than your brand’s homepage?
- Categories: Select the category that is most like your business as the primary category. Only choose multiple sub-categories if your business actually has them. Here is a full list of category options.
- Complete Profile: More information is better. Add as much to your profile as possible to help both Google and potential customers. Add photos, logos, business hours, fax, and any other relevant information that you can input.
- Consistency: Make sure to stick to your chosen categories, unless one business location is indeed a separate category from the rest.
Best Practices For Using Google My Business With Multiple Locations:
If you are managing a brand with more than a few locations, there are additional best practices to take note of.
1. Use ONE Account for ALL Locations to Centralize Control and Maintain Consistency
Keeping your data entry uniform is crucial. Centralizing control of the account helps to avoid others in your organization from adding information, and causing discrepancies.
Giving access to others whom you trust to input information properly can be done by adding them as a Manager to the account.
2. Add Multiple Locations in Bulk.
Triple check your work before uploading. It’s easier if you get it loaded in right the first time!
3. Keep an Eye on Your Google Updates
Google is constantly checking information from your website and other sources, and crossing them with the information loaded into Google My Business.
Some updates may be correct, but others may be outdated or incorrect information about your business.
These updates can build up over time, especially when managing many locations. So, check them periodically.
Step 6: Embed a Map for Each Location
If you haven’t already embedded a map on your website, the “About” page or in the footer is a good place to put it.
A map signals to Google that your website is associated with the physical location of your business.
Oh yeah, and it’s EASY to do. Here is how to embed a Google map on your website, straight from the source:
1. Open Google Maps for your location and click on the top left menu:
2. Click “Share or embed map” on the left-hand side:
3. And copy/paste the link to the area of your site where you’d like it to appear (probably on the location page for that location):
Now your map appears by the rest of your business’s information on your website!:
Do we really need to remind you to add a separate map for all your locations? Do it!
Step 7: Optimize the Content for Each Location
This is something you’ll want to put effort into only once you’ve completed the previous steps.
If you’ve done everything right and a location doesn’t seem to be competing well with other local results, you may need to put in a little more elbow grease by adding more content to it.
Adopt a “micro-site” building strategy to the location that’s lagging behind by building out more content on additional pages, keeping the same URL structure.
If the local SEO page you’re trying to rank has the URL:
You can give it more juice by adding content, akin to a micro-site:
If you’re lazy like me, you are hoping that adding a blog isn’t necessary to rank since your brand website likely already has one…but it can help!
The additional content and accompanying URL structure pads some more geo-specific content on to your site.
This will help you to compete with other websites that are sending out their own local signals.
While you don’t want to spend more time here than is necessary, populating these pages can have an impact on your local ranking.
What content should you add to these pages?
- Gallery: You’ll get more juice when you add images and videos of your shop’s interior and exterior, products, customers, local events, and other relevant images with local identifiers.
- Reviews: Reviews are crucial to capturing customers with a strong intent to make a purchase. Searches for “[your brand] [city] reviews” are sure to occur. These people are seriously considering your business, they just want to hear what other customers have to say about it.
- Directions: Add instructions for getting to your business from each cardinal direction (starting with the highway exit). Embed a map with your location pinned as well.
- Blog: Try incorporating local signals into any blog posts you decide to publish. For example, a blog post describing a local partnership or recapping a local event your business is tied to. Even better if you can get a link back from a local event webpage to the specific location you’re trying to rank.
Before you go crazy making micro-sites for all of your low ranking locations, though, did you make sure to set up Google My Business for all your locations?
Step 8: Manage Citations for Each Business Location
After setting up your website properly and optimizing your Google My Business Pages, it’s time to NAP.
We’re talking about Citation Management NAP. This refers to your business’s Name, Address, and Phone number as they appear on citation sites such as Yelp and Foursquare.
Placing consistent NAP’s on multiple citation sites helps you rank by letting Google index multiple listings of yours and see that they are all consistent.
This is why it’s important to stick to one address format wherever your business’s contact information is listed.
On the flip side, Google often pulls inaccurate or outdated NAP’s from aggregator sites, resulting in what they see as a discrepancy between their information about your business and what’s on your website.
You’re better off keeping Google happy by managing your citations. Citation inconsistencies are the top issue affecting local SEO.
To solve this, you can start by either:
- Manually auditing your NAP citations to uncover all the listings and variations.
- Do a quick check up with a tool like Moz Local
Wondering what other sites you should start listing your local business on?
Google My Business is your first priority, but there are other places that can impact your ranking.
Yelp is another place where you should definitely list your business. SERPs pull data from Yelp entries. For example, Apple adds Yelp reviews to businesses shown in their Maps app.
Just like Google My Business gives you a free place to list your business online, Bing Places is the Bing equivalent to GMB.
Often your business will appear in Bing Places after listing it on GMB, in which case you’ll claim it as your business. If not, you’ll create a new profile.
Amplify the number of people navigating to your business from their iOS phones by adding it to Apple Maps. This is great for capturing people who are out and about.
Create a Facebook Business Page for each location as well.
Factual is another advertising platform specializing in “the best location data for mobile advertising.” It should help your business appear in Maps.
When you’re in multiple listing sites at once, you have better odds of ranking higher due to these sites pointing to you in “the local search ecosystem.”
Step 9: Manage Reviews for Each Location
All of this hard work will have a smaller impact if your business has bad reviews. Think of the times you made a search along the lines of “[business name] [reviews].”
Did you bother with going to the places ranked below three stars? Most of the time, you probably didn’t.
Reviews drive sales.
Take into account that 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a recommendation from a friend or acquaintance, and 49% of consumers look for at least a four-star rating before choosing a business.
Don’t be like a two-star Walmart. Ensure a pleasant experience for all of your customers.
Try to circumvent bad reviews with the strategy below:
Step 1: Obtain an email list of all new and previously existing clients.
Step 2: Send an email to all of these clients using an autoresponder with a request to review their experience with your business.
Step 3: Ask them if their experience was positive or negative. Limit their options to two clickable links. For a “good experience” or a “bad experience.”
You can do this by including both links within the email itself or by directing them to a single page on your website.
As an example, here is how one law office displays this first step on their website:
For Option 1: ”I had a positive experience.”
Direct users to a page on your site with direct links to review you on other sites.
According to BrightLocal, Yelp and Facebook are the top trusted review sites by consumers, followed by Google and BBB.org
The last page simply asks which location customers were served at. It’s up to you whether to capture this information:
For Option 2: “I had a bad experience.”
Direct dissatisfied users to a page on your website that contains:
- An apology addressing that they did not receive the expected level of service
- The option to communicate why via phone, email or a form
- An offer to remedy the situation if they contact you and tell you why they were dissatisfied.
This law office skipped the apology on their form. It wouldn’t hurt them to add at least 1-2 lines saying they regret the bad experience (or something along those lines).
Most people are used to crappy customer service; if they receive any service at all.
Show that you care (and circumvent bad reviews) by letting your customers know that you are there for them.
When you offer people a few options for websites to get your business reviewed on, they are more likely to leave a review in general by selecting a website they already use.
By directing them to contact you in the event of a bad experience, they may be less likely to leave a bad review since you showed that you care.
What else should you do to project good customer service? You should monitor your online reviews.
Respond apologetically to negative comments, and thank people who post thoughtful positive comments.
Doing so helps to demonstrate that you care about the feedback you get from your customers’ experiences.
Do Want an Awesome Way to Hack the Review Process?
You can use our own system, which we used to get over 500 positive reviews spread across multiple sites including Google.
This system led to Google’s rating of us to reflect the positive reviews our customers are leaving.
We shot up from a yucky 3.5 stars to a tasty 4.8 stars in less than 2 months!
What did we do, that you should also do?
1. Add widgets to your website. We ask visitors to review us whenever they convert on our website.
If they took the time to sign up for our newsletter or make a purchase, chances are, they’d be willing to rate us.
We take advantage of this to the fullest extent, and it pays off with more positive reviews!
2. Use the autoresponder method mentioned above. Or make a super simple version like this one:
In our experience, asking for reviews is the best way to get them.
3. Ask for reviews in all of your email signatures.
Each email that your company sends is a chance to obtain a new review!
With all of the emails that your business is sending, even if just 1 person leaves a review each day, you’re still getting 30+ reviews per month!
4. Aggregate all of your reviews from across the web into a database.
This lets you track your reviews from across the web and increases the number of reviews you’re able to display.
We took all the top strategies for improving our reviews and combined them into one awesome tool that does the work for us!
Instead of repeating it all each time, we made our own in-house reputation management software. We now use it to boost the online reputation and rankings for other businesses.
Now that you know where to direct your energy for the best rankings, it’s time to put this multi-location SEO strategy into practice.
First, get your site in order.
Then work on Google My Business and other local listings.
Finally, ensure that your reviews are glowing so that you don’t show up prominently but with a low rating.
If you have a lot of locations to cover with this strategy, take a deep breath. You’ll be alright.
Do you have any questions about doing local SEO for multiple locations? Have a story or strategy to share? Let us know in the comments below!
Clayton Johnson is the CMO of The HOTH SEO company. He has over 8+ years experience in the SEO industry and has spoken at events like SEJ Summit. The HOTH has been featured in Inc 5000, Forbes, SMX, Pubcon, Content Marketing World, Affiliate Summit, Brighton and more.