To be successful, it is imperative that you plan and strategize your local SEO strategy before moving your brand into multiple locations. The biggest questions that you have to ask are, ‘are my locations going to be independent of one another, or are they going to be simply stuffed under the larger umbrella of the brand?’ The toughest answer to the question is… it depends on your SEO goals.
Let’s look at some of the common SEO challenges large companies face when marketing multiple locations. The key is to be careful, have a solid plan, and understand the technologies that are in your favor.
The 5 Biggest Challenges In Local SEO Strategy
1. Local SEO is different from Traditional SEO
The usual SEO goal is to attain the highest rank possible, but local SEO is a bit different. The goal is still to be found, but it’s not necessarily by reaching the top of a search engine results page. A search involving local SEO might be done through a mapping service, a voice query, review site, or a standard search.
You could have the top ranking for a keyword but not show up well in local SEO searches. Therefore, you have to understand the different channels where local SEO applies and set goals for establishing and improving your presence in those channels.
2. One Strategy Doesn’t Fit All
While there are best practices for local SEO, each company will need to take their audience into account. Local SEO for a B2B business looks different than a B2C business. Niche differences may also demand different approaches. While we will be covering some best practices, you’ll need to study how your competition is using local SEO techniques so you can build a working strategy.
3. Each Location is Unique
Furthermore, the strategy you have for one location may not be what you need in another. Every location will have a different market and competition. While there may be some similarities, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that one site’s local SEO strategy will work across all of your locations.
4. Prioritizing and Understanding What You Need
Companies must know what they want to get out of local SEO and what they need to meet best practices. This can include setting up Google My Business accounts for each location, doing NAP cleanup, claiming review site pages, and much more.
Local SEO is much more than just tweaking a couple of keywords on a page and duplicating the content. In fact, that’s a strategy that will drag your rank down. Search engines are smarter than that and there are much better ways to differentiate your locations from one another while still maintaining brand cohesion. You may also need to prioritize based on location. A new location might need some extra attention for a few months to get noticed. An underperforming location with bad reviews could drag the rest of your brand down. Each situation is unique.
5. Setting Adequate Goals
SEO is often seen as a technology game, not a social one. But for local SEO, there is a strong social component that’s beyond the direct control of a company. For instance, you can’t control how someone will review your site.
What you can do is to give local searches the best possible image you can. This starts by leveraging local SEO practices that give searchers the information they need to make a decision. After that, you can aim for improving your social proof by soliciting reviews and interacting with the local community. The information for each location must be separated so that they have distinct identities.
5 Tactics for winning at Local SEO Strategies for Large Business
1. Google My Business is a Priority
There is one fundamental local SEO technique for a business that has a physical location. You must get a Google My Business (GMB) account. This will allow you Google to connect the physical locations of all your offices to your website and to their services.
GMB doesn’t just put you on the map. It also gives you one of those handy panels that show up at the top of the search results to describe your business, collect reviews, allow customers to contact you through click-to-call, and much more. The best part? Google My Business is a free service. However, it can take some time to register all your locations.
2. Don’t forget about citation management
Whatever business information you add to GMB should be considered canonical and should match what’s on your website. However, those aren’t the only places that have your business information. You might be surprised how many places online have some sort of record about your business through public databases.
Unfortunately, these may not all be exactly the same. In the worst case, there’s still a record for an old business under the same address or phone number. But even slight variations can bump your SEO down, even something as simple as using “Franklin St.” instead of “Franklin Street”.
Correcting these entries is called citation management or NAP (Name-Address-Phone) management. There are companies that offer this as a service, or you can do it yourself.
3. Optimizing for voice search
Remember when voice search used to be really awkward? It’s much better now and people are using it, whether through smartphones or through smart speakers. And since it’s easier to speak than to type, it’s becoming the first choice of search.
One thing SEO experts have noticed is that we use different language when we ask a question than when we type in a query in a search engine. One common change is to add “near me” to the end of a query, like “Find pizza near me”.
Before you run to add “near me” variations to all of your current keywords, fear not. While you can add this keyword, there’s going to be a lot of competition for it. Search engines already do the heavy lifting of figuring out where a voice searcher is located. All you need to do is to give them the records they need to decide whether your locations truly are near the searcher. If you’ve done the previous two steps, you’re most of the way there. Using structured data (see below) will get you the rest of the way.
4. Pay attention to structured data
In the past, search engines had to make educated guesses about where to find important information on your website. But now, using structured data, you can give them some pretty explicit information about your businesses.
Setting up structured data can feel a lot like programming. It has to be precise and accurate or the structure data object will confuse search engines (watch those commas!) and you need to know which fields you need to use.
Multi-location businesses need to pay special attention to IDs and types so that search engines know that different location-based pages refer to separate business entities.
5. Social presence and reviews
Finally, the last thing to differentiate your local SEO is to make a strategy for social media and reviews. If you have a large business with multiple offices but a main point of contact, or if you have a national brand, this is pretty straightforward. Set up a single page on your preferred channels using your cleaned-up citation information and use the same information when claiming any listings on review sites.
But if you have multiple independent locations, you have to make a choice. Do you let each location run their own social media and maintain their own reviews or not? There’s no right or wrong answer, but if you give your locations independence you’ll need to have someone you can trust running it so that a bad location doesn’t drag down the SEO for the whole brand.
At the start, you can standardize social media posts across locations at your head office while letting local offices handle the review side. If a bad review comes up for a location, the management responsible for that location will know much more about the situation and how to approach it. Meanwhile, the head office can keep the core of the social media messaging all on the same page.
Eventually, depending on your market and your businesses, you could spin off the social media marketing to each location once they know the market. The corporate office can create some general brand guidelines for social media then let the local businesses work within them to create messages that work well with the local market.
Creating a local SEO strategy for a large multi-location business does take a bit of prep work, but the ability to have local people find your closest location can really boost your revenue. Fortunately, search engines have given us a lot of tools to make these connections simple.
Standardizing contact information, leveraging local SEO services like Google My Business and voice search techniques, and using structured data tell search engines and people about your locations. Using best practices for review sites and social media lets each location interact with the local market without interfering with the others.
Before you draw up a huge list of location-based keywords and worry about how you’re going to avoid duplicate content, give these tips a try instead. You’ll be able to do better local SEO with a lot less work.