Thursday, May 23, 2024

How to Create an SEO Strategy for a Multi-Location Business

The brand that has a well-executed SEO strategy is the brand that will appear at the top of search results when their goods or services are sought out locally. Studies have shown that the average consumer does research to understand what they need or want before they go and purchase it, and the most common tool used is a search engine. When we consider the example of a restaurant franchise, the average person today might seek out a place to eat while they are out and about, which leads them to pull out their mobile device and search for what is around them. The restaurant franchise that appears at the top of the search results in that local area is going to have the best chance of gaining that potential customer’s patronage. This very same principle is applicable to just about any type of business out there. The higher the business appears in search results, the higher chance that it will bring in customer traffic from people doing local searches. And the highest chance of customer traffic means the highest chance of generating revenue.

Given the state of the world today, the internet serves as a significant nexus for the majority of humans seeking information, goods, services, and entertainment. There are many brands strategizing and marketing towards national and global scale, understanding that the internet is providing a paramount access point to these broad audiences from all over. However, this does not diminish the feasible strategy to utilize the internet to market towards localized audiences. Location-based marketing is being proven more and more effective as technology advances and becomes highly accessible, allowing individuals to find whatever they seek around them, wherever they may be. Multi-location businesses are the prime example of entities that can benefit from a marketing approach focused on location. With ever more efficient and widely accepted technology such as smartphones and tablets, people can now seek information on local goods and services whilst ‘on the go’ around them in their communities. This makes it essential for the businesses providing those goods and services to have an online presence that is easily found by their potential customers. And that is where an effective SEO service becomes a crucial investment.

Importance of SEO for Multi-Location Businesses

But you may be wondering what exactly it means to capture the local search market. First, we need to ensure that the site is optimized for search engine crawling (i.e. Google can see and understand the web pages). This is no different from a national or e-commerce site, but can be more complex depending on the number of locations. We then need to put in place all the on-site elements to allow each store to have proper NAPU information displayed in search results. Having a page for each location is crucial, but this is often not the case. With keyword research, we can begin to understand the demand for products/services in each location and optimize certain pages to capture different markets. This may mean creating custom content for a specific city and when more than one location exists, avoiding keyword self-cannibalization. Off-site efforts will want to synchronize business directories with NAPU information and obtain local backlinks, while measuring the effectiveness of these tactics with local search traffic and rank changes.

Helping multi-location businesses leverage their locations through SEO is a niche within a niche. These businesses have the opportunity to capture their local market by showing up in search results and the ability to capture markets in many locations. Without SEO, these companies won’t show up in maps, local packs, and even brand-related search terms. Considering 72% of consumers who did a local search visited a store within five miles, and 50% of mobile users are more likely to contact a store with a mobile search. These are the kind of leads you don’t want to miss. A study on clicks in a Google search found that 55% of users click on a Google search result before the 6th position. With little to no search presence, many location businesses are ending up on page 2 and beyond in search results.

Benefits of a Well-Executed SEO Strategy

Segment isolation and detailed site analytics: Creating separate pages for each regional location can be beneficial if there is a unique offer of service in each area. Often this requires a highlight of the specific product or service offer and cause problems when trying to generalize content. To explain further, consider a company that offers several services and products to a variety of different customer types in multiple cities nationwide. This company has to weigh the benefit of promoting each individual offering and service, versus a more general advertising campaign to their entire customer base. If they choose the latter, they often find the general message gets muddied, advertising funds get spread too thin, and the promotion is not as successful as anticipated. With a strategy, they can assess the cost/benefit of each type of promotion and forecast an ideal scenario for each. This can be done by creating hypothetical segment-specific campaigns and assessing the potential success rate compared to the increased cost. If it’s decided that it’s worth a go, it can be mirrored with landing pages designed to specific segment and a modified PPC campaign. This can be monitored with the use of campaign-specific analytics and compared to the overall data to gauge effectiveness.

Enhanced internal coordination, efficiencies and overall effectiveness: An effective SEO strategy can help generalize web content across all regional locations while still catering to specific regional needs and maintaining linguistic nuances. This becomes a daunting task without a strategy that can guide the development and content of a particular webpage or section. If each location is creating content as they see fit, the brand message can become diluted and the corporate customer may become confused about the brand offer. An organized strategy can guide content generation and promote the global brand message, while still allowing for regional difference. This leads to more efficient use of resources both human as well as financial. Often times many pages are created that are similar in nature. This can be interpreted as duplicate content by the search engines and therefore harm the site’s rankings. A well-defined strategy can produce a blueprint for page development and help businesses avoid this potential pitfall.

Research and Analysis

The final task in researching an SEO strategy is to conduct a website audit. This mainly consists of checking whether each domain’s website has the basic requirements to rank effectively for local keywords. The website audit can be a lengthy process and the emphasis of what needs to be checked would depend on the size of the business and the resources available to make changes based on the audit. The first check in the audit should be to ensure that each domain has correct and consistent NAP details. NAP stands for name, address and phone number. It is essential that these are clearly displayed on the website, often the best place for these details would be the footer of the website or the contact page. It is also essential that these details are included in text format and not an image, Google looks for these details when determining the ranking of a business for local searches.

The next task is to analyse the competitors SEO strategy. This can be done at the same time as identifying the target keywords. This is a key element in any SEO strategy, but can often be overlooked on a local level. Often with location based businesses you will find that national competitors are also focusing on local SEO in varied locations. You can choose the keywords you have identified and search for local competitors, or sometimes local information will be included in national search. Take notes on the competitors Meta data and content, more and more these days localised content is being used with a content strategy targeting specific locations. A tactic such as this can be hard to compete with using national SEO.

The first task conducted when creating a local SEO strategy is to identify the target keywords for each location. This can be the most difficult task when there are a large number of locations or many similar services or products offered at multiple locations. The most effective method used to identify the keywords is to conduct a brainstorming session involving key stakeholders. This can be done by arranging a meeting or in some cases be done remotely if the business has many locations in varied geographic locations. The best way to conduct the session would be to provide a spreadsheet to all those involved and have them list the keywords which they think customers would use to find the businesses products or services. They should also consider regional differences in terminology used. After this use the Google Adwords keyword tool to find related keywords and search volumes for each location. The keywords can then be input into the same spreadsheet to make it easier to compare and choose the most effective keywords for each location.

There are a variety of methods which can be used when creating an SEO strategy for a multi-location business. The nature of the business will often have a large impact on the strategy which is used. This section provides guidelines on how to research and better understand your strategy on a local level before executing a campaign.

Identifying Target Keywords for Each Location

Now, in a multi-location business, you would basically be using the same process but with each location in mind. If the business is based in the UK and only sells to UK customers, the location can also be considered as a theme. This would further expand the long-tail keywords. Using the previous example, a UK-based customer may search for “buy Nike Air Max trainers UK”. So whether the business has one or many locations, the location itself can essentially be considered as another keyword.

Root keywords are the generic, often one-word keywords that relate broadly to your business. Using a shoe retailer as an example, a root keyword would be something like “shoes”. Long-tail keywords are more specific keywords that further expand on the root keywords. An example of a long-tail keyword would be “buy Nike Air Max trainers”. The purpose of finding long-tail keywords is to identify what your customers are searching for and to try to match those searches with your content or products.

Apply the standard keyword research process to find themes for the whole site. That’s where I would start with a new online business. Whether it’s a content site or an e-commerce site, I would begin by brainstorming a list of root keywords and expand them into long-tail keywords.

When it comes to SEO, keyword research is incredibly important. But when you are researching for a multi-location business, it’s hard to know where to start. Do you use the same approach as a standard website? Should you target location-based keywords, or is that too limiting? Hopefully, by the end of this article, you will have a clear idea of where to start with keywords for a multi-location business.

Analyzing Competitor SEO Strategies

Another key assessment that can be made using the Moz bar and other similar tools is the quality of the on-site optimization of the top ranking competitors for specific keywords. By analyzing the top ranking pages for specific keywords, you can get an idea of the on-site strategies that are working for the specific keyword. Assessment of on-site strategies used by competitors can help formulate a strategy for targeting specific keywords. Competitor’s off-site strategies and the number of links built to pages can also be assessed using these tools. An overall assessment of the strength of the off-site strategies can help determine how feasible it is to take a top ranking for specific keywords. If the top competitors have a strong on-site and off-site strategy, it may be best to target the keyword at a later date. If the competitors have a weak on-site and off-site strategy, it may signal a good opportunity to try and take the top ranking.

The first step in analyzing the competition for keywords is to identify the top competitors for each keyword. With a list of the top competitors for each keyword, you can then begin to assess the strength of their website and the targeted keyword. An overall assessment of a competitor’s website can be made using SEO tools such as the Moz bar. The Moz bar provides an overall Domain Authority (DA) and Page Authority (PA) score for websites. If a competitor has a low PA and DA score, it can indicate that they are not actively targeting the keyword and can signal an opportunity to take the top ranking.

Once a keyword list has been established, it is important to analyze the competition for each keyword. If your business is located in a highly competitive market, it may be unrealistic to try and achieve top ranking for highly competitive keywords. In some cases, the cost of achieving high rankings for highly competitive keywords can outweigh the revenue the keyword will generate. In this case, it is best to pursue a strategy of targeting lower hanging fruit, by going after lower competition keywords. Assessing the competition for keywords will help determine what strategy to take for each keyword.

Conducting a Website Audit

Carrying out a website audit can be a demanding task. It encompasses the health of your site, the competitive landscape, and identifying action items to improve your site. Auditing a large site, one with thousands to millions of pages, whether it’s a static website or one that’s database-driven, it’s difficult to perform a manual analysis when your goal is to surpass an arbitrary number of pages as your sample size. In instances like this, it’s best to prioritize efforts based on ROI, and the action items with the greatest ROI are generally those that resolve issues with a widespread impact and/or issues that impact key pages. The advantage of any SEO activity should be a positive difference between where you were at then and where you are now. This is why measuring changes is critically important. Any activity that is not having a positive difference on results should be considered for possible action, de-prioritization, or elimination altogether. It’s not uncommon for a large site to encounter indexation issues, or for Google to not index any pages at all. Indexation is the ability for a page to be included in the search engine’s database and is the first step towards that page’s visibility in the search results. The information about a page must be obtained and analyzed before it can appear in the search results, but it cannot appear in the results until it has been included in the database. Indexation is no guarantee of rankings, and a page that is not indexed may still appear in the search results if it has been linked to by a page that is in the index. Often when a page is not indexed, or when too many pages are being indexed, it’s a result of spider traps and/or improper use of directives in the robots.txt file. Directives in robots.txt files are instructions for search engine spiders as to which pages of a site are to be indexed and/or archived. When spiders visit a site, the first thing they look for is a robots.txt file, and if one is found, the directives contained in it are followed. The indexing of a page can be prevented if the robots.txt file has a disallow on that page, and the archiving of a page can be prevented with a noarchive meta tag. Any search engine with an active interest in a site should have its own section in the analysis. A competitive analysis enables comparison between how a site is performing versus its competitors and against a site’s own previous results. Competitive analysis is a benchmark for improvement in an SEO campaign.

On-Page Optimization

Title tags are an essential part of on-page optimization for both local and non-local businesses. A title tag is the HTML element that defines the title of a web page. They are often shown on search engine results pages and are also clickable links for easy access to the page. Title tags should be concise and accurately describe the content on the page. The character limit for title tags is about 65-70 characters before Google will truncate the tag. It is important to include any geo specific information in title tags. Geo specific terms are terms that are used to describe a location. An example of a geo specific term would be ‘Milwaukee’ because it defines the location. When optimizing title tags for each location, it is important to include that location’s geo specific information in the tags. An example of optimized title tags for a multi-location business would be:

On-page optimization is important for any multi-location business in order to increase local search visibility. Taking the time to understand and identify meta data, content, and URL structure at each location can lead to more search traffic. Although it is important to fully optimize all locations, it is important to note that you must still keep the big picture in mind. Don’t over-optimize for a single location at the expense of the others. This could lead to potential cannibalization of your own rankings.

Optimizing Title Tags and Meta Descriptions

If you’re going to spend the time on search engine optimization (SEO), it’s critical that you spend some on the meta tags. Despite their old reputation as an easy thing to manipulate, crafting a good meta title and meta description is a valuable exercise that can have a major impact on your business. This is doubly true when you’re doing local SEO for multiple locations. Each different location page on your site should have unique and relevant meta tags. An effective strategy could involve pairing up someone at the business location with someone on your marketing team. Have the location person be responsible for writing up a good description of their location. Have the marketing person look over those descriptions, then think of comparative searches people might do to find the service your business provides. This will ensure that you aren’t only reaching those looking specifically for your business name to find your location page, and will increase the effectiveness of more long-tail location searches. For the meta titles, it might be easiest to just include the business name along with a service, with some slight variance for each location. Be sure not to just copy and paste the same title or description between different location pages, as this could have negative effects.

Creating Unique and Relevant Content for Each Location

Definitely a task easier said than done. The real problem here is that multi-location businesses are faced with replicated content or using one piece of content for all locations. This is seen as a problem in the eyes of the search engine because it looks at each page as duplicate content, and the search engine will filter pages displaying just one version. Filtered pages are rarely shown in Google’s search results. This obviously is not desirable for local search marketing. To get around this obstacle, you are going to need to craft unique content for each location and/or service area. If you want each page to show up in search results and not get filtered, it is essential to have this unique content optimization for each page. This is the first step in putting a specific location on the map, so to speak, and once it’s visible, then you can really start digging into local search optimization. The first thing you are going to need in creating your unique content is time. Do not haphazardly write something for the sake of getting it done. You want this content to be as high quality as possible because it all adds to your brand image and online reputation. Once you have your quality content, you want to make sure it’s easily accessible to visitors. Upon navigating to the specific location’s page, you want the visitor to see this content right away. Placing this content high up on the front page is just another signal to search engines reinforcing the importance of this information.

Implementing Schema Markup for Local SEO

One way to give your business a higher chance of showing up on local searches is to use schema markup. Schema markup is just a code that you put on your website to help search engines provide users with more informative results. If you’ve ever used rich snippets, you’ll know exactly what schema markup does. Here’s an example of a local business that has used schema markup to highlight the address and phone number of their business which is a type of markup, once the code is added it will have a small effect on your local results. But if this information is picked up and used in search results, it could greatly increase the chance of them clicking on to your site. Another way a business might use schema markup could be to show search engines more specific information about their business services. In the same way that marking up reviews or ratings shows information about a product, you can use schema markup to state the specific service you require or offer. The example below shows a law firm that has used schema markup to specify what areas of law their business covers. This information will not have an effect on their rankings, however it could affect WHO comes across the site. If someone is specifically looking for a civil law attorney, there is a higher chance of them clicking on the page which has specified they offer that service.

Optimizing URL Structures and Internal Linking

Now when an URL for a location page is defined, it’s necessary to weave them together through the internal linking structure. The goal of the internal linking structure is to distribute the link juice from the homepage throughout the website down to the location landing pages. A good internal link structure offers 2 benefits: easier crawling and higher authority to the location landing pages. This will be done by creating SEO’d city and service subcategory pages and integrating them into the website’s main navigation. A well-done silo structure also acts as a good resource for off-site SEO which we will discuss later. With the internal linking structure defined, make sure that it is consistent with the URL structure and that it is easy to maintain. This helps to avoid structural errors and promoting location landing pages that are orphaned from the site.

A siloed website structure is often the best way to ensure that URLs are unique and representative of what the page is about. This is because siloing creates a clear organization of content where each URL is a few clicks away from the homepage and separated through categories and subcategories. A simple diagram is often the best way to illustrate this.

When optimizing your website for multiple locations, URLs are often overlooked. There are 2 key considerations to keep in mind when optimizing URL structures for multiple location businesses. First, you want to make sure that the URL is representative of each location landing page. Second, you want to ensure that the URL is unique for each location landing page. A URL that’s representative of the page is important because it’s another signal to both users and search engines about the page’s content. For example, a URL like [website].com/services/queensville-on would be representative of a landing page about services offered in Queensville, Ontario. Static URLs are also easier to work with in tracking codes and can help show more accurate data in Google Analytics for the pages that they represent. A unique URL for each landing page is important for citation building (we’ll talk about this in the off-site optimization section) and avoiding duplicate content issues. If your business has a notary in locations in Markham and New Market, it’s necessary to avoid a URL like [website].com/Markham which would directly compete with the [website].com/NewMarket page for the keyword notary.

Off-Page Optimization

Off-page optimization, which is a critical element of any SEO campaign, is even more important for multi-location businesses. The major part of off-page optimization is focusing on building high-quality backlinks for each location the multi-location business has. What it means by high-quality backlinks is getting a link to each location from a website which is highly relevant to the location. For example, a backlink for a store in New York from a website for a New York newspaper would be considered high quality. Furthermore, the anchor text for the link should also be location-specific, including terms that would be searched for with the location’s select demographic. An example of this would be a link for a restaurant in Toronto with anchor text “best sushi in Toronto” from a local food critic’s blog to the restaurant’s website. This is important for Google Places optimization also, as the backlink can direct to the Places page rather than the main website. Another method of building backlinks and creating keyword-specific content for locations is leveraging local directories and citation sources. Directories are a traditional form of off-page optimization and can still be effective in creating local visibility if done properly. The key is to only submit to high-quality directories which are relevant to the location’s industry and to include the keywords in the business name and a deep link to a page other than the homepage. Yahoo! Directory and DMOZ are great examples of high-quality directories. A citation is a mention of the business name, address, and phone number with or without a link. This method is even more effective when outsourcing a team of data entry workers from somewhere like India, since citations are cheap to produce and can increase a local search ranking. Social media marketing is another great way to increase local visibility through off-page optimization. The power of web 2.0 properties enables a business owner to interact with its potential customers on a more personable level, and local fans or followers can be easily targeted. Facebook fan pages, groups, and events are a great method to promote a specific location, and offers and discounts can be promoted to local fans. Using the example of a sushi restaurant, Twitter can be used to provide updates with location-specific hashtags, and a local event or a good review from a local newspaper can be retweeted to create a buzz.

Building High-Quality Backlinks for Each Location

“Low-hanging fruit” is a term I frequently use for acquiring quick and easy backlinks. This type of tactic can be extremely effective, and often times you can accomplish a lot with a little amount of work. To search for this type of opportunity, simply query the name of the location into a search engine and start to visit any local business, blog, or directory that relates to the location and sift through the site to see if there is anything that can be used in terms of gaining a backlink, whether it be through a blog post or a form of advertisement for a local business. ACME can act as a service provider and offer to provide the site with some fresh content in return for a reference back to the location-specific page mentioned earlier. Another similar tactic is to partner with complimentary service providers. For ACME, a good partnership would be pairing with a local home improvement company. In exchange for ACME providing the company with some discounted or free services, the company can blog about the experience and how it benefited them, thus providing a reference to ACME. By using these tactics and ways of thinking, the goal is to accumulate a large amount of links that are all specific to a certain area. This can be a much easier and less competitive process than the usual grind of attempting to build up one highly authoritative backlink.

Off-page optimization is where you can start to rack up the points, and since this article focuses on building SEO for a business that operates in multiple locations, a heavy amount of the off-page work done for each location will need to be centered around acquiring backlinks for that particular location. You will want to take all of the relevant backlinks that were built for each location and roll them up to the root domain, but the initial push needs to be centered around building location-specific backlinks. Let’s take a look at a very realistic scenario for a nationwide company. ACME HVAC is a large HVAC company that operates its service in every state. This type of company would be ideal for the use of microsites; however, that is not its only option. ACME can also build location-specific pages on the main company website for each state, and for some larger states or multi-city areas, they can even build location-specific pages for certain cities. Once these pages are created, ACME can use against-the-grain link building tactics where they essentially grab low-hanging fruit.

Leveraging Local Directories and Citations

There are countless other ways to obtain local citations, as long as you stay consistent with NAP information and ensure its visibility to users, it should help improve local rankings.

Non-competitive partnerships or barter agreements are also a great way to get some cheap and easy local citations. In partnering with a non-competitive company, you can exchange NAP information and each place it on your site’s links page or something similar. The barter agreement is similar but may involve writing a PR article or exchanging some free product in return for listing the NAP information.

Another form of local citation is sponsorships, event hosting, or participation. In sponsoring an event, some will include a logo and NAP information on the sponsors’ page, and some will include a press release. Event hosting will usually involve creating an event page on your site and providing venue NAP information, and participation may involve just providing your business NAP information on some material at the event. Any mention of your business in these scenarios can function as a local citation and improve local search rankings.

Local citations can come in many different forms, one of the most popular being directory listings. Directories function as an online portal connecting users to various other sites and businesses in a categorized manner. It is important to have consistent NAP information when creating these directory listings, as they function like a citation. Directories can range in quality and it would be wise to get your business listed on some of the higher-ranking ones. You can check for a list of the top 50 directory listings by visiting this article. Data aggregators are also a form of directories as they aggregate NAP information from various sites, an example being Infogroup. Getting listed on data aggregators can improve your local rankings, but sometimes the information it pulls can be inconsistent with what you inputted, so it is important to monitor and update if this is the case.

Engaging in Social Media Marketing for Local Visibility

Social media marketing is the use of social media platforms and websites to promote a product or service. Most of these social media platforms have their built-in data analytics tools, which enable companies to track the progress, success, and engagement of ad campaigns. When it comes to social media marketing for local visibility, the goal would be to build consumers’ knowledge of the business and its product. Companies can create social media pages, which would build a following that could be built through the information of users. When more people know about a business, that increases the chances of new customers. Using local social media influencers in the area could also help increase local visibility. At the location level, franchisees could share corporate content or personalize content by creating and uploading their own material. They could run contests and promotions that are tied to local events and use targeted local paid advertising to increase local fans/followers and encourage viral sharing among their local customers. Franchisees could also engage with local consumers by responding to their comments and complaints and by sharing their local experiences of being involved in the community or sponsoring local events. All of these activities would help to enhance the local visibility of the franchisee location.

Latest Articles