Local search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising can effectively and affordably attract people to your business. They work whether you have one business location or multiple locations and whether your business is a chain, a franchise or any other business structure.
The trouble with multiple location SEO sometimes arises because search engine optimization has a bit of a reputation for being difficult to understand. Add in the complexity of having multiple locations and it can seem even more challenging.
Don’t let any of that scare you. As local SEO has evolved, many of the best local SEO tools have built-in features for multiple locations. What used to be a complex process is now reasonably straightforward.
By the time you’re finished reading this article, you’ll have an introductory understanding of local SEO and PPC in order to build your strategy. You’ll know what you need to do next to get more traffic to your website – and to every one of your business’ multiple locations.
In many ways, multi-location search engine optimization works like regular local search engine optimization. For example, local SEO rankings are heavily influenced by how positive the reviews are for your business. Multi-location SEO is also influenced by:
Succeeding at multi-location SEO won’t be too difficult or different for anyone who has ever had success with single-location SEO. And if you need help, there are both local business listing services and tools that can help businesses handle multiple locations. Google also has an excellent help page that explains how to use Google My Business for multiple locations.
Of course, it’s not all the same, there are some key areas that businesses should mind if they have more than one online presence to manage. If you’re doing local PPC and SEO for multiple locations, you should:
1. Create a Landing Page for Each Location
This is a long-standing local SEO best practice that still works beautifully. There are a couple of key reasons why. First, having a dedicated page for each of your locations gives you a targeted place to send people who find you in local search or PPC ads. It also helps with local SEO, because search algorithms can index each individual location page.
Having a dedicated page for each location also gives you a place to include detailed information about each of your unique locations, which would be overwhelming to try to put together. By creating multiple pages for your multiple locations, you have the opportunity to include photographs of the location, specials, directions, hours, etc. Your website visitors will appreciate being able to easily find detailed location-specific information without having to scroll through a long page of unrelated information to get to the information they want.
2. Use Optimal URL Structures
Having clean URLs can help search engines understand the structure of your multiple pages for different locations. Use a URL structure like this for optimal results:
3. Keep It Consistent, But Not the Same
Don’t vary your business name for different locations. Keep your business name consistent across your local citations (like on Yelp, Business.com and other directories), as well as on each website location page. Use the different location addresses to show differences between your locations.
There’s an example of this in action in the screenshot below. Walgreens has not varied the name of their business across these different locations. In every instance their business name stays the same:
But don’t get consistent confused with duplicate. Just because you want your branding to be the same across multiple locations and landing pages, doesn’t mean that you want the content of each page to be the exact same. This will create a duplicate content issue for you with search engines, where Google will have a hard time distinguishing one page from another. Instead, rely on content for each location page that makes it unique, from the contact info to the staff, images, reviews and more.
4. Add a List of Your Locations to the Top Navigation of Your Site
Now that you’ve got those location-specific pages, make it easy for people to find them.
Include the full list of your business’s locations in your site’s navigation, rather than just having one item that says “locations” and makes people click through to find the location they want. It’s better because it saves people a click.
Having a list also makes it easier for search engine bots to find the information they want, and it associates the names or your locations with the keywords used in the navigation hyperlinks.
Here’s how a Dallas BBQ chain has included their list of locations in their website navigation:
Make sure each page makes use of proper URL structure and that the content on each page is unique but consistently branded. If you have unique social media channels for different locations you can connect these to their respective location page on your website as well.
You could also include links to your different location pages in the footer of your website, but be careful. You don’t want it to look like you’re keyword stuffing in the footer, which is a local SEO no-no!
5. Use “Location Targeting” in Your PPC Accounts to Direct People to the Closest Location
If someone is searching for your business, you probably want an ad for your closest business location to appear. You can do that with the Google Ads feature called “location targeting.” If your locations are fairly close together, like within the same town or state, you may want to “target a radius” around each location. Google has a good help page for how to set up location targeting by town, state or radius.
Location targeting is done at the campaign level, which means all the ads in a campaign will be affected by it. That means you’ll have to set up a campaign and allocate some PPC budget to each location.
You may also want to have ads for a given location appear if someone uses particular keywords, like “Mary’s Coffee Shop Alto Street,” or “Ted’s Fishing Supplies Armonk.” You can set those keywords and ads up in a separate Google Ads or Microsoft Advertising campaign, or you could just put them all into a particular ad group, with one ad group for each location. It’s up to you. Again, there are multi-location PPC tools and services that can help if needed.
6. Make it Easy for Human Beings to Find Your Locations
The best way to plan your multi-location SEO and PPC strategy is to become your customer. Think and act like they would if they were trying to find your products or services. Where would they go first if they wanted to find a location of your business? Search? Social?
Statistics show that your customer’s most-likely first step is to search for a local business using the location and a product or service. In Google, this would look something like “lawyer, Jacksonville.” Customers will click on the local search results they see for this query in search engines like Google:
As we already talked about for your own SEO and PPC efforts, when customers do click through, they should land on pages with unique information about that particular location.
If you want to go a step further, ask a potential customer who’s not familiar with your business to try to find a particular location. Watch them, in person, try to complete their task. Which search queries do they use? Which site or search engine do they search from? Maybe they click on your Facebook page instead of your local business location page on your website. Maybe they look on a map...You can learn a lot about how to improve the “findability” of your business locations by watching real people try to find them. Better findability is great for local PPC and SEO efforts but the more obvious benefit is more customers.
Thinking in terms of how both humans and search engine bots will try to find your locations can go a long way to getting your business more traffic. The search engines ultimately serve human users, so if you make it easy for human users to find your different business locations, the search engines will probably be able to find them, too.
Use the steps above to develop a basic strategy for managing your multiple location pages, including basic SEO best practices and location-based PPC campaigns.
Feature Image: Unsplash / Waldemar Brandt
All screenshots taken by the author, June 2019.
Image 1: via Giordano’s
Image 2: via Velofix
Image 3, 6: via Google
Image 4: via Dallas BBQ
Image 5: via Google Ads