here’s no other way around it: SEO for multiple businesses and franchises can be difficult.
But with the right tools and know-how, it’s not an impossible task.
In this post, we’ll be covering everything you need to know about local SEO. Specifically, how to rank pages for individual store locations.
We list down tips and tricks to make Google recognize each business as its own entity and make them more relevant to local search queries.
So if you’re ready, let’s dive right into this in-depth guide to local SEO for multi-location businesses.
How to Do Local SEO for Multiple Locations the Right Way?
Local SEO for multiple stores requires three things: a page for each branch, proper Google integration, and link building.
Along the way, you’ll be introduced to concepts and tools that will help you achieve your goal.
But don’t worry, we’ll do our best to explain each one to the best of our abilities.
1. Create Separate Locations for Each Location
Let’s start with creating web pages for each store location.
Your pages will have to be optimized to increase the potential of ranking higher in the SERPs for localized searches.
Also, all pages will need to have unique content.
Below are all the factors you need to keep in mind while developing your pages.
Your metadata needs to be specific to the location of the store.
Metadata is the first thing users see when viewing the results page. Meta titles and descriptions are also used by Google to determine a page’s significance to the query posted.
So adding information that specifies the location of your store really puts your localized pages front and center.
Take this example from Bed Bath & Beyond.
When asked to provide information about branches in the Burbank area, Google placed two results directly tied to the company’s Burbank location.
Looking at both results, you’ll notice how prominent Burbank is in both the meta titles and meta descriptions.
It’s the same way with Whole Foods Market.
There are multiple branches in and around Boston. But the SERPs featured the two locations that are closest to Boston.
Note that the main site only came in third.
Much more focus is given to location-specific pages.
Did you notice how unique the metadata is between the Charles River Plaza and South End pages?
You cannot use the same metadata for your location pages no matter how similar they are.
Whole Foods got around that by being creative with their meta descriptions.
NAP (Name, Address, and Phone Number)
NAP is one of the most important things to include on every page you’ll create.
Before you continue, you have to remember this:
Your NAP needs to be consistent across all platforms. So all the details you add to your pages should also be the same ones you use later on.
Starbuck’s Mountain & 6th location has the same address and phone number with its Google My Business listing (which will be discussed later).
This is what we mean by consistent listing. The same NAP details should be used on other sites.
The advantages of having a consistent NAP goes beyond search engine optimization.
You’re also promoting a better customer experience. You’re taking the extra steps necessary to stop misinformation and confusion.
By adding accurate data on your webpages, customers will be able to find you faster and get to your store sooner than later.
Though NAP needs to be consistent, Google is getting better at detecting context. So smaller details like how addresses are spelled (example: Ave vs. Avenue) or capitalizations aren’t such a big deal.
Take this example from Gap.
However, it’s still best practice to keep all details the same.
Images of the People and the Branch
How can I make each page unique?
There’s only so much you can say without regurgitating the information found on your main site.
Restaurants will likely have the same menu. Stores will mainly sell the same items.
How can pages stand out on their own?
Well, images are a great start.
You can make use of images of your staff and your storefronts.
In-N-Out Burger’s landing pages include storefront images to give customers a better idea of what each site looks like.
It’s competitor, Shake Shack, has tons of pictures of the store, their employees, and the local community.
Note that the images change based on the store location.
Plus, you get the added benefit of making your pages look “lived in”.
Unlike some of our previous examples, Shake Shack went beyond store information and maps to populate their store pages.
They go out of their way to describe what each location is like. Pages also have an option to order online.
They have pictures of the people who spend time in their stores. Some pages even have a Shack Cam, giving you a view of the store in real-time.
Embed Google Map to the Branch’s Location
Do you know what else is a good idea?
Adding a map.
A Google Map to be more precise.
Embedded maps have been helping lost souls find store locations for years. And when customers are able to ascertain where a store is, your chances of converting climbs higher.
And best of all, adding Google Maps to pages isn’t that hard to do. You don’t even have to log into Google to do it.
Head on over to Google Maps and find your store through the search field.
Click the hamburger icon to expand your options. Select Share or Embed Map from the list.
A window will pop up. Click the Embed a Map tab.
Select a map size from the drop-down menu or set a custom size. When you’re happy with your selection, copy the embed link and paste it to your site.
Do the same for the rest of your store locations and then you’ll be all set.
Remember that the link is an HTML code so you’ll need to treat it as such. You’ll have to switch to HTML if you’re drafting content from a visual editor in your CMS.
Not only are you making your content unique, but you’re also helping out potential customers in the process.
Written Descriptions and Directions of the Business
Let’s make your pages even more functional.
Write meaningful descriptions about the store and insert directions on how to get there.
And just to be clear, we’re no longer talking about meta descriptions. We’re referring to an actual description in the body of the page.
Talk about the history of the store, how long it has been open, and the kinds of services you provide.
Buybuy Baby does an excellent job of providing content that’s useful for their customers.
Not only do customers get a better sense of the company, but they’re also told exactly what to expect when they’re in the store.
As far as directions are concerned, you add a Google Map and call it a day.
But why not go the extra mile and provide directions to your customers? After all, they will be coming in from different directions. We’re sure that they’ll appreciate clear instructions on how they get to your place of business.
If you need getting directions, Google Maps has another feature that lets you set a point of origin going to your store.
Locate your store on the map and then click Directions.
On the next page, add a starting point. There are options you can choose from: driving, transit, walking, cycling, or flight.
Select whichever is more applicable for your store. You can set your directions from a well-known landmark.
After you state your point of origin, Google will provide directions on how to get to your store. You can use this as a reference when adding directions on your pages.
Whether it’s staff information, testimonials, news, or ratings, leave some room for location-specific content.
It’s yet another step towards making store pages that are different from one another.
Staffing information doesn’t need to be bland. Use this opportunity to showcase your company culture.
Take Kickstarter’s employee page where users can browse through the company’s employee list by interests.
Or take the same approach as Khan Academy. This nonprofit offers free education to people. So while the team is serious about their mission, employees come off as approachable and relatable in their employee page.
As for testimonials, they can be gathered by either asking or by waiting. B2B companies can get in touch with the people they’ve worked with. Remember, you want to highlight local customers as much as possible.
B2C companies can try scanning social media accounts for favorable reviews.
You can try publishing news on your location-specific pages. Keep in mind that the news you publish should mostly concern the specific store page you’re working on.
If news seems too formal, you can write blogs instead. You can talk about what’s going on in a specific store. Customer features are also a great way to connect with the community.
User-Generated Content (Comments, Reviews) for the Location
User-generated content adds more SEO value to a page. However, it is a double-edged sword.
You’re basically giving users a chance to introduce positive and negative comments and reviews.
So you will need to stay on top of things.
This process will take hours or days away from you. Especially if you have too many locations to manage. So hiring a community manager might be worth looking into.
But in the event that you do get negative feedback, you’ll need to know how to handle them like a professional.
- Be courteous.
- Ask what the problem was.
- Explain what happened without directly blaming the customer.
- Avoid having a defensive tone.
- Tell the customer what you’re going to do about it.
- Follow up with the customer once the problem is resolved.
Make it easy for the customer to leave reviews. There are tools you can install on your site for this very purpose. Bright Local’s Reputation Manager is a good place to start.
If you have the resources, you can even create a forum on your location page to engage the community even further. This requires you to insert an external forum code and paste it to your site using an HTML widget.
Schema markup allows Google to digest your content easier. It does so by using tags to identify the different data present on a webpage.
You’re basically telling Google “Hey, this is my business name” or “Google, this is my phone number”.
Schema is also used to set your headings, main content, author name, and other important details.
There are different schema markups available. There are markups specifically designed for articles, book reviews, events, movies, products, and more.
But since you’re an entrepreneur with multiple locations, the local business markup is the most appropriate to use.
Google has a tool that you can use to set up your schema. You can access it by going to Google Structured Data Markup Helper.
You simply enter your URL, select a category, then start tagging.
Tagging is as easy as highlighting a section and identifying what that section is.
Continue highlighting sections until you’re able to identify as many elements as you can.
Once you’re finished, click the Create HTML button.
Once finished, you can add the HTML code to your location page. If you’re unfamiliar with how coding works, you may need to contact your webmaster.
To validate your schema markup, you can use another Google tool, the Structured Data Testing Tool. You can either paste the code to see what the schema would look like in Google or paste the URL once the schema had been added.
Below is a schema markup example using movie markup.
Search results that make use of schema markup are more informative than your average SERP result.
All these elements, when put together, results in a one-of-a-kind location page for a specific location.
But let’s be real for a second:
Doing all of this is hard work.
That’s why you’re gonna have to make it a little easier for yourself.
We’ve talked about getting reviews from social media platforms. Facebook is a great resource. Check your company page to see if there are comments you can utilize.
Yelp reviews are respected everywhere. You can use those too!
If you simply don’t have the time to gather reviews, you can automate the process with tools like WP Review Pro (for WordPress users). This plugin pulls reviews automatically and places them in your pages.
If you have a Google Business Page (note: you should start one), you have access to user reviews for your store. You can add those to your site by embedding them directly to your pages.
Another thing to remember:
Do not use duplicate content.
It’s tempting, we know. But it will only hurt you in the long run. Google is massively against duplicate content. Search engines need to be able to distinguish one page from another.
Handling several clients at the same time will require some care and it would be worth your while using a contract management system. So you can handle contracts efficiently.
Next, check your URL structure. All the examples we’ve shown thus far used clear URLs that include location details.
Your location pages should look similar to these:
The most important thing is to make sure your pages are crawlable. Otherwise, going through all this would be for nothing.
Once you’re finished creating your location pages, create a sitemap using a plugin or an online tool like XML Sitemap Generator.
You can then submit your sitemap to Google Search Console.
Doing so will increase the rate at which Google crawls and indexes your pages. You want to do this every time there’s a major change to your site.
Simply log into your account and select your website in the sidebar. Next, click Sitemaps from the menu.
You will need to remove an existing sitemap if there’s already one in place. Then add your new sitemap and hit Submit.
2. Update Your Google My Business Listing
After tackling your location pages, you will need to set up your Google My Business Listing.
This is a free service that gets your business information online. There are two ways you can set up an account. You can either claim a business that’s already listed or add a business to the database.
Go to Google My Business and log into your account.
When prompted to add your business, search for your store using the search field provided. If your business does not appear, click the magnifying glass icon to add a business.
You’ll then be prompted to add your business information such as the business name, country, and address.
When finished, click Continue. You will be asked to verify that the business is truly yours. A code will be mailed to you.
The same process is used to verify an existing business.
Search for your business and select the right listing from the results.
You will then be asked to verify the business.
Please remember to only request for verification after you’re done updating your store information. If you edit the information while verification is still underway, you will have to submit another request.
It’s also a good idea to only use one Google account to manage all your locations.
Here are some of the information you can add to your business. Use the same NAP you used on your location pages.
- Store address
- Phone number (we recommend each location having its own number)
- URL (add your location page, not the main domain)
- Business category
- Profile (photos, logos, business hours)
When adding profile information like photos, make sure they’re specific to the store branch you’re adding to GMB.
Make sure you use the same business category for all the location pages.
If you have too many locations to update, you can use Google’s bulk upload feature to submit your business information.
A template is available when you log into Google My Business. Entries can be submitted in spreadsheet format.
Once the information had been added and verified, Google will begin updating your store information.
So what’s next?
You will have to monitor Google from time to time. Google has a tendency to update store information based on other sources. So it’s best to keep an eye out for any misinformation that’s added to your listing.
It can be challenging, especially if you have so many locations. But it’s worth checking for inaccuracies.
3. Optimize Listing Using Google My Business Insights
So what is Google My Business Insights?
Insights gives you an idea of how customers are interacting with your GMB listings. The tool can be accessed by logging into GMB.
Not only are you shown how customers are finding your listings online, but Insights also tell you what customers do after finding them.
According to Google, Insights can show you:
- How customers find your listing – See the percentage of users who found you through direct searches, discovery searches, or branded searches.
- Search queries – Shows you terms that led to the discovery of your pages.
- Where customers find you on Google – Tells you whether users found you through a search query or through Google Maps.
- Customer actions – Tells you what customers did after seeing your listing. They could have visited your website, requested directions, or called the store.
- Direction requests – Lets you know where your customers were when they asked Google for directions.
- Phone calls – Gives you an idea of how many customers called after seeing your listing. Listed as day of the week or time of day.
- Photos – Shows how many images are associated with your listing. Also shows how many times the images are viewed.
- What your business is known for – Shows user-generated content that describes your place of business.
All these data lets you assess the performance of every listing so you can optimize your listings better.
If users are not interacting with your images, then you should consider switching to better photographs.
Is your listing not driving traffic to your site? Maybe you need to encourage users to do so.
Knowing where users are when they searched for your business is amazing. You can use this information to launch an ad campaign.
4. Manage Citations
What do we mean by managing citations?
In simpler terms, we’re referring to looking up mentions of your NAP details on other sites and correcting them so all your business information are consistent across the board.
Not only is this good SEO practice, but it also helps users to get more accurate information.
For businesses that only have one site, a citation cleanup isn’t all too complicated. But for those who are managing multiple pages, it’s a bit tougher.
So you may want to work on this with a coworker.
You’d want to start with sites that do business listings — sites like Angie’s List, CitySearch, FourSquare, Yelp, and Yellow Pages.
Look up your business information on these sites and see if they match what you have on your location sites and GMB.
Remember to look up NAP for every location you have.
Log your findings on a spreadsheet so you can go back to them in the future.
You’ll then have to contact the site owners to correct the NAP they posted if you find them incorrect.
You might also want to check out the Better Business Bureau or BBB if they got the right name, address, and phone number. The reason for that is because some sites use BBB data when looking up a store’s contact information.
If you have the budget for it, you can use third-party tools like Bright Local to fix citations on your behalf.
The tool is easy to use. After logging in, you’ll be asked to add your first location.
You’ll need to provide information about your business like name, address, and phone number.
Once finished, you can select Fetch Location Details or add it manually at a later time.
If you opted to fetch the location, Bright Local will fill in all the other details you will need to proceed.
You’re also going to want to set the stores search location. This optimizes a page to show up in only relevant local search queries.
The tool has other features that cater to multi-location businesses. We highly suggest checking the site to get a sense of how they can help you grow.
If you need additional information on managing citations, we suggest checking out this post.
5. Build Links to Boost Local SEO
Link building for local SEO is a bit different from your average link building campaign.
Although white hat techniques will always work, you want to focus your attention to local search. That means the link building tactics we’ll be recommending here will be specific to local SEO.
Here are some ideas to rank in local search results.
Find local organizations that you can support. That way, your brand lands a link in the organization’s website.
Of course, there’s the issue of having to donate time or resources to make this happen. But it can have a big impact on your local SEO.
Also, the contributions you make can be tax-deductible.
To find sponsorship opportunities, do a Google search of your location and include terms like “sponsor us” or “sponsorship” (include the quotation marks).
Just make sure the site offers do-follow links.
We all know the linking power of .edu domains. And setting up a scholarship page can get your brand can get you high-authority backlinks.
To do this, you will need to create a simple landing page that includes a brief overview, a description of the scholarship, and how students can apply.
Next, look for colleges and universities (preferably in your area of business) using search queries like:
- New York “outside scholarships” inurl:.edu
- California “external scholarships” inurl:.edu
Filter the results and make a list of potential candidates. Go find an email address you can send a general inquiry to.
Now go send the school a short, well-written email.
Obtaining links by hosting events is another possibility you should be eager to explore.
By doing so this way, you’re making a real connection with your community. Each backlink would not only feel earned, attendees would be more than happy to share your link on their website.
You can do concerts, workshops, seminars, lectures, or conferences.
To start an event, build a page that contains key information about the event assuming you’ve already been able to set up the event.
Find a ticket vendor that allows do-follow links like Eventbrite.
There are event websites that not only promote your events to specific audiences, they’re great places to get backlinks from.
Find event sites in your area by doing a quick Google search. Your search query should include your city plus keywords like “event” and “submit” in the URL or page title.
You’ll also do yourself a favor by reaching out to sites that are in your niche to promote the big day.
I know it seems like a lot. But having location pages is crucial for local SEO.
Stick to our tips and you should see a significant improvement in your local rankings.
At 166 pages long, the document is a hefty read. We’ve done our best to condense the entire thing for your convenience.
You’ll have a better understanding of the best practices to maximize your site’s SEO value.
But to clarify: These guidelines are not the same as the algorithms used by Google to rank pages. Rather, the guidelines are used to tweak the algorithms as needed.
Nonetheless, the guidelines (and the raters to an extent) have an impact on how pages appear on the SERPs.
So if you want to grow your organic search rankings, this document is a must-read. No ifs or buts about it.