Dominating Local Search with a Multi-Location Business

Are you ready to step-up your local SEO game?

State of Search Chris Silver Smith

Chris Silver Smith dropped an almost unhealthy amount of local SEO knowledge on State of Search attendees this afternoon in his presentation, Structuring Local SEO for Multi-Location Businesses. And while more businesses than ever are doing local SEO, there’s still a lot of stuff too many businesses overlook — which is great for you, because we’re going to give you the hottest tips straight from State of Search.

First of all, it’s important to think of the ranking factors of local SEO like a constellation; everything is connected, and each factor relies on the other to make up the broader picture. Three of those important ranking factors Google has talked about are relevance, distance, and prominence. And while the weight of each of these factors has fluctuated over time, they’re still important pieces of the local SEO puzzle.

One of the bigger chunk of relevant factors is what we now refer to as “classic SEO” — things like your HTML title tags, your meta descriptions, your H1 headings, your image alt-descriptions. These are elements of your site that absolutely need to be optimized to include your specific keyword phrases and location data. Why? Because the chances are that your competition isn’t tacking all of these elements — and if they are, then they’re not doing them as well as you. Especially if the business has multiple locations.

The problem with multi-location businesses is that they (more often than not) fail to optimize their sites for local SEO. They use what’s called a “dealer locator system,” which can be great if they’re utilized well, but some of the most common SEO problems Smith has come across include:

  • No individual location pages
  • Lack of spiderability (meaning Google can’t crawl and index your pages) to individual location pages)
  • All the info is embedded within a map info box
  • Utter lack of the “classic SEO” tactics mentioned above

The first problem is the first thing you should tackle if you haven’t already. Every single one of your business locations need to have their own page on your site. Why? Because when you create a separate page for each of your locations, you’re sending incredibly strong local signals to Google, letting them know that your business is a part of a local community.

Another critical aspect of local SEO that is often under-optimized (or entirely forgotten) is citation consistency. Smith was adamant in telling the audience that all of your citations/listings need to be consistent with what’s actually on your site. The name, address, phone number (NAP) and site URL need to be unified and formatted the same way across the board. Why? Again, you’re sending strong local signals to Google by doing this, and it will help the search engine deliver the most accurate information when answering a search query.

Thankfully, Smith offered some great tips on how to audit these issues on your own (or a client’s) business:

  • Search by business NAP
  • Locate the incorrect/inconsistent data
  • Remove any duplicate listings
  • Correct the incorrect/inconsistent NAP, URL, business categories, etc.

And, as Smith pointed out, there might even be a problem with someone hijacking your citations by creating false listings with their site URL or phone number, so it’s important to stay on top of this to make sure your citations are 100% correct and consistent across the board.

But say your citations are all in great shape — how do you go about getting more of them? As we all know, the more citations you have, the more relevant your site will appear to Google (and, by extension, the searcher). Smith rattled off an incredible list of unorthodox citation sources that you could (and should) be taking advantage of, including:

  • Wikipedia articles about or featuring your business
  • Chambers of Commerce directories
  • National registers or state historical marker locations
  • Weather monitoring locations
  • And unique directories if your business offers something your competition doesn’t, such as Wi-Fi hotspots, geo-caching spots, or if your business is affiliated with particular religious or charitable organizations.

Customer reviews are another important piece of the local SEO constellation. Well-rated businesses often rank high in the SERPs, so it’s important to get good reviews for your business.

Of course, correlation doesn’t equate to cause — as Smith was quick to point out — so it’s not required for high rankings. Even a poorly-rated business can still rank at the top of the SERPs, depending on where the business is located, and other ranking factors.

Oh, and make sure you’re monitoring these reviews and responding to the good AND the bad reviews, just to show Google (and potential customers) that you value your consumer base and are engaged in the community — which brings us to the final piece of the local SEO constellation!

Social media. The elephant in the room that everyone knows about, but nobody knows what to do with — especially if you have multiple locations. Do you have one account? Several? How many!?

In Smith’s view, it’s important to have a social media account created for each business location. A great example he used was Whole Foods. The company has a broad, national Twitter account, and then local Twitter accounts that interact with their communities. Not all businesses can replicate this strategy, but it’s one you should keep in mind as you’re boosting your local SEO efforts.

This only scratched the surface of what Smith delivered at State of Search — thankfully, you can check out his slide deck below.

Slide deck

Timothy Huneycutt is the SEO Coordinator at DealerOn, Inc., where he helps beef up his clients’ sites to rank well in Google Search. When he’s not neck-deep in reports, he enjoys reading, writing, and binging shows on Netflix (are there any Whovians in the house?). For more fresh insights in all things SEO and nerd-culture, you can follow him on Twitter – @Timotheous128