3641006669_0b42a9f3bc_z
Local Search

Local SEO: How to Optimize Your Website to Rank For Multiple Locations

Most people assume that the larger the brand, the better the rankings. However, that is not always the case, particularly for non-branded search queries and keywords. Since each geographical market may cater to a different demographic, it can also be difficult to streamline your individualized online marketing campaigns, especially when you’re working with a large number of locations. For the past four years, I’ve worked for a company called BodyLogicMD – a national network of physician-owned franchises that specialize in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT). Currently, the network consists of nearly 60 physicians and over 50 locations across the U.S. In this post I’d like to share with you some of the things I’ve learned along the way and offer some actionable tips to help businesses maximize search visibility for each market they serve.

First, a Few Reasons Why Local SEO Matters:

  • Google (and other search engines) factor in location data when displaying search results.
  • People tend to include cities/states/regions when searching for businesses on the web.
  • Consumers are starting to trust smaller, local businesses over larger, well-known brands

Single Domain

Managing over 50 different websites for one business can be extremely time-consuming. As an SEO, my biggest gripe with using multiple domains is that each is indexed separately so my efforts aren’t compounded. Instead of having one client or company to focus on, you have 50+. And if you want to make fully functioning sites and want them all to rank well, then you will need to create 50 different versions of your “About” page, 50 different versions of your “Services” page, and so on. Our site has nearly 1,000 pages, so this isn’t exactly ideal. Instead, I would recommend using a subfolder or subdomain. I personally prefer subfolders, but they’re essentially the same thing, it’s really a matter of preference. I find that subfolders are easier when you’re only geo-targeting a specific portion of the site. This way all of my URLs for non-geo-targeted content stay the same. But for the most part, using one over the other won’t have much of an impact on SEO.

State/City-Specific Pages

It’s virtually impossible to rank well for each one of your target markets, unless you create content that is optimized specifically for each location. According to Google’s head of web spam Matt Cutts, individualized pages/urls are the way to go. According to Cutts, each location should get its own unique URL and each page and their respective URL should be included in your sitemap to help Google and other search engines index the content. At BodyLogicMD, each physician has their own dedicated bio page that includes their picture, contact information, and board certifications. Since many states have multiple practices and some practices even have multiple doctors, it made more sense to group the physicians by state and metro area.

533a1eaab52bc8.78641321 Local SEO: How to Optimize Your Website to Rank For Multiple Locations

Screenshot taken 03/06/2014 of www.bodylogicmd.com

By creating separate web pages for each of your locations, you can better leverage some of the on-page elements, like optimized H1’s, page titles, localizedURLs, geo-specific content, and so on. Keep in mind that “geo-specific” content doesn’t mean taking one page and simply swapping out the city and/or state name. The content for each page needs to be as unique as possible, not only to avoid duplicate content penalties, but also to provide a more targeted and focused user experience. If you feature product/service reviews or testimonials on your website segment the content by location so that all reviews and testimonials are featured on their respective location page. Same goes for other details that may vary depending on the location, such as hours of operation, payment types accepted and driving directions. The more unique content you can include on these geo-specific pages, the better. You can then create a main “Locations” landing page and link out to each state/metro page.

Google+ Local

Directory listings certainly aren’t as popular as they once were, but they still hold a tremendous amount of value for local businesses if done right. There are countless directory listing sites out there, but if you were to only choose one directory to use for your local business, I would highly recommend Google+ Local (formerly Google Places). With Google+ Local, businesses can create one unique listing per phone number. So if you use a centralized toll-free number, you will need unique (preferably local) phone numbers for each location you plan on listing. Before creating your listings, you should check out Google’s policies and guidelines to make sure that all of your locations meet the requirements. These listing details are heavily integrated into Google’s search results, which can increase search visibility for locally relevant keywords and search queries and increase click-through rate.

533a1eab61dbf0.67113038 Local SEO: How to Optimize Your Website to Rank For Multiple Locations

Screenshot taken 03/06/2014 of www.google.com

Since the location listing is tied to the associated Google+ account, you have the opportunity to expand the online presence of each location as a separate entity. The best part is each page’s posts have their own URL and can potentially rank in search results. And since Google+ profiles were recently integrated with YouTube accounts, YouTube engagement will also feed to your profile. Here is an example of how Google+ posts may appear in the SERPs:

533a1eabddf5d4.61759486 Local SEO: How to Optimize Your Website to Rank For Multiple Locations

Screenshot taken 03/06/2014 of www.google.com

Google+ Local offers a lot of potential benefits, but there are plenty of other online directories that can be very effective for multi-location SEO. Just make sure that you keep record of what directories you’re using and what locations are currently listed on the web. There should always be a dedicated team member responsible for maintaining the individual listings for each location. Citation services can help with this.

Citation Services

While we’re on the subject of directory listings, I wanted to discuss the importance of NAP consistency in citations and also citation services that can help streamline the process. NAP is an acronym for name, address, and phone number. And according to many local SEO experts, NAP consistency is the key to citation building. Not only should the data itself be consistent, but also the format that the data is displayed. For instance, if you list your address as 123 Maple Lane, Suite 4 on your website – you wouldn’t want it appearing as 123 Maple Ln., #4 elsewhere on the webThrough a process known as data normalization, Google is capable of deciphering minor inconsistencies within your NAP info. But it’s still a good practice to make sure that you’re using a standard formatting. Citations aren’t just about rankings either. Citations can actually drive leads and customers. Although these citations may not drive as much traffic as Google or Bing, traffic is traffic.

Maintaining citations for one location is hard enough, let alone managing several. To make it easier, there are citation services available, like Yext, Localeze, and UBL. Although these services are not a substitute for manually managing your business details on major aggregators, they can certainly help lighten the workload. In my opinion, Yext is the best platform available, but it’s also the most expensive. The primary reason I prefer Yext over other citation services is because it gives you the ability to update all of your listing data in real-time. This can really come in handy when editing or removing listings on the fly. If you want to read up some more on how to find and build citations for your business, I’d recommend reading Casey Meraz’s post on Moz.

Schemas And Structured Data

Schema and structured data allow you to markup your web content with special tags that help Google extract specific types of information and then display them in search results. Although schema markup may or may not boost search engine rankings, SEOs have been using schema to improve click-through rate for years. Traditional organic search results typically include a page title, the URL, and a short description of the page content. These details are pulled from the website’s meta data. Schema markup can help businesses expand the types of information that is displayed to users by tagging portions of the existing content.

For instance, if one of your location pages lists your hours of operation, a description of the business and a postal address, you can use special tags to define what these individual “properties” are in order to help Google display the data in search results. These additional details are referred to as “rich snippets.” The best part about schema is there are specific “item types” that make it easier to categorize and tag specific industries and entities. I included some examples below. Here is an example of a music rich snippet:

533a1eac74bc10.21030141 Local SEO: How to Optimize Your Website to Rank For Multiple Locations

Screenshot taken 03/06/2014 of www.google.com

Here is an example of a recipe rich snippet (note the calorie count and prep/bake time):

533a1eacdc4ec7.30683990 Local SEO: How to Optimize Your Website to Rank For Multiple Locations

Screenshot taken 03/06/2014 of www.google.com

Here is an example of a review rich snippet:

533a1ead47e574.47184503 Local SEO: How to Optimize Your Website to Rank For Multiple Locations

Screenshot taken 03/06/2014 of www.google.com

Schema isn’t just for Google SEO. It is actually a collaborative effort between Google, Bing, and Yahoo to create a universal format to extract and display structured data. After Google’s recent Hummingbird update, contextual and semantic search are increasingly becoming more prevalent rankings factors. Using schema markup can help you start optimizing for entities, rather than just keywords. The best part is schema implementation only requires minimal HTML knowledge and there are many online tutorials that can walk you through the entire process. Be patient, though. It can take several weeks for your schema markup to take effect and start displaying in the SERPs.

Get started with these schema resources:

Conclusion

The key to managing multiple locations is treating each location as its own entity, without spreading your marketing efforts too thin. Every market is different. Some markets just naturally perform better than others. And some require a little extra push. With an individualized approach, you can analyze how locations are performing independently and identify your trouble markets in terms of rankings, traffic, and goal completions. In addition to gaining more visitors, geo-targeting your website can also increase conversions. So you can optimize for both the search engine and the user.

If you have some experience in getting businesses with multiple locations to rank, I’d really like to hear your thoughts.

Featured image by Flickr user sbengineer

BrandonSeymour Local SEO: How to Optimize Your Website to Rank For Multiple Locations
Brandon Seymour is the Director of SEO at BodyLogicMD and the founder of Beymour Consulting, an online marketing agency specializing in SEO, content marketing and web development.
BrandonSeymour Local SEO: How to Optimize Your Website to Rank For Multiple Locations

You Might Also Like

Comments are closed.

15 thoughts on “Local SEO: How to Optimize Your Website to Rank For Multiple Locations

  1. I’m wondering if I have not used the right direction some SEO tools but still no increase in visitors, I need help

  2. Great article. To make anyone’s SEO efforts even more powerful add in some retartgeting to keep your business in front of the prospect.

  3. This article is a proof that directory listing is not dead.directory listing is something that can never be dead no matter what the rumors says because backlink is a basic need of every site and you cannot seperate it from SEO.

  4. Brandon, have you experienced any issues with duplicate content for i.e. 1,000 location website with the same content? It’s a challenge to change the content for a brand that does the same exact service/products in all locations.

  5. excellent work Brandon and i agree that Rich Snippets, authorization and localization is the future and currently the most important factors of SEO. I Appreciate your work.

  6. I haven’t personally encountered any situations where the duplicate content was an issue. However, you can find post/video online that gives a pretty solid explanation of what kind of dupe content Google will penalize for.

  7. Wow, Really good work Brandon. I am very big fan of yours. I totally agreed that many factors are important of SEO.

  8. Very informative article. I use citations, google places and general directories – it helped a lot on ranking the page.

  9. I’ve read, I should create a page for each location and treat it the page independently like avoiding creating canonical content. If that’s the case, how do I name the pages titles and URLs? For example; I am optimizing site in which a business has 4 transmission repair shop locations in the same town (lets call them locations A to D). As per the above mentioned logic, each location needs it’s own page. How do I go about naming each page uniquely (Page title and URL) so that I can avoid being penalized for creating canonical/duplicate content?

    Location A Page Title & URL?
    Location B Page Title & URL?
    Location C Page Title & URL?
    Location D Page Title & URL?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Hey Andre,

      I see it now! lol

      Ok, so if you have 4 locations in the same city, it’s only a good idea to optimize a unique page/url for each location IF (and only if) you have the resources to build out some quality content for each url. Otherwise the pages will be thin and/or redundant and could lead to a penalty. The page names aren’t as important as the content on the page. So in addition to making the page names unique, the content should be unique as well.

      When you have multiple locations within the same city/town, you may still want each location to have it’s own unique Places listing. To do this, I would use landmarks to distinguish them. For instance, you can use a plaza name (e.g. Main Business – Garden Plaza) or a major intersection (e.g. Main Business – Broadway Blvd.).

      Hope this helps!

  10. I have tried to get my google places listing in Google but unfortunately not being able to do so.. Niether the google is sending me the verification code on my address nor my listing appearing on google.. Also the traditional methods of verifying google places listing such as verification through sms or phone call not exist now.. Tell me bro what to do now?

    1. Hi Ovais,

      That’s strange that it hasn’t arrived… Sometimes Google only allows one verification method (either address or phone number) and sometimes it allows you to verify using either of the two. I’ve run into issues in the past where clients try to use a cell phone number to verify their listing.

      How long have you waited? It can take up to a couple of weeks. Keep in mind, it’s just a small, flimsy postcard, and it can easily be mistaken for junk mail.

      Maybe delete the current listing and create a new one and wait a couple weeks to see if the PIN arrives in the mail.