There are a reported 1,664 IHOP locations and close to 2,000 Applebee’s restaurants in the United States. That’s a whole lot of world-famous buttermilk pancakes and Bourbon Street Steak with an Oreo Shake.
If your business has more than even one location, you have a clear opportunity to promote every single location and aim those properties toward occupying Google’s most valuable local real estate: The Local Map Pack.
Single location brands may get by with a well thought out Google My Business profile linked to their website, but for multi-location companies who intend to rank in search engine results with “near me” or city-specific queries, creating a separate and unique Local Landing Page (LLP) for each location cannot be skipped.
A 300-page study on how to create and optimize these multi-location web pages revealed these key areas to focus your time and energy:
- Essential Content for Local Landing Pages
- Add Hyperlocal Content
- Optimize with Technical SEO in Mind
- Mobile-First Page Design
- Other Critical Ranking Factors
Ready? Let’s dive in.
The Ultimate Guide to Organic Traffic for Small Business
The goal of multi-location SEO
Keep your eye on the straightforward prize of multi-location SEO: to regularly boost the number of qualified visitors from unbranded search engine queries, such as “restaurant near me”. Simply put, someone searches in Google for the products and services you offer, in the area you serve, but does not specify the name of your business. If you’ve done your local SEO well, you should be ranking in Google Maps and local organic results, capturing traffic from the billion different ways your customers are searching.
Essential content for local landing pages
Make sure your understanding of a Local Landing Page (LLP) is clear: these are standalone web pages, each created for a specific business location. LLPs offer the opportunity for each location to have its own separate listing in Google My Business (GMB). Many industry experts agree that GMB listings are a major ranking signal for Google Maps.
Our multi-location study found that you should pay attention and implement these content elements onto your location pages:
- Add hyperlocal content to each page
- Provide unique links to social media profiles for each location
- Add a link for directions to your location
- List your hours of operations and an obvious “Open Now” status
- Feature “native” reviews on your LLPs – especially ones that are hosted directly on your website (instead of third-party reviews like Yelp or Facebook)
- Add relevant Coupons with trackable QR codes or barcodes
- Add keywords that emphasize your products or services and your location
Our study demonstrated a strong search engine ranking advantage (listed by percentages) for pages that added many of these elements to their LLPs, versus those that did not.
Add hyperlocal content to your LLPs
Hyperlocal content can be understood as content that is specific enough to each property’s location in order to differentiate it from your other properties.
Local pages that are too similar to other existing pages run the risk of not being indexed by Google, which can easily flag these pages with “Duplicate, submitted URL not selected as canonical.”
Our study of location pages revealed that pages that included hyperlocal content had a 107% probability of outranking pages without it. Take that stat to your key stakeholders to push through a test of your own.
Examples of Hyperlocal Content
With a little research into the local area of each business property, hyperlocal content becomes a clear differentiating factor to make each location page unique. Here are some typical examples of hyperlocal content to add to each location page:
- Location-Specific Images and Videos – So it’s not a photo or video of your main office or your brand, but very specific to each property. Make sure these are high-quality and focus on both the inside and outside of the location, B-roll footage, even local customer testimonials. Our study noted an 84 percent advantage for pages containing these hyperlocal images.
- Add a 360-degree Virtual Tour of your location, filmed by a Google Certified Photographer. This will add value to the location page and provide your Google Street View. Our study noted a 20 percent boost in local landing page rankings.
- Add Helpful Location Information by reaching out to your franchisees or location managers. Where relevant, this could include:
- Wi-Fi availability
- Delivery, Takeout and Curbside Pickup options
- Parking information
- Distance to nearby local freeways, parks, historical landmarks, universities and similar places
- Flashpoints of neighborhood history and founders
- Safety information about Covid-19
If you’re dealing with dozens or hundreds of locations, keep in mind that it may often be enough to build one main location page template, and then inject unique hyperlocal fields throughout the page to demonstrate differentiation to Google for indexing purposes.
Optimize with technical SEO in mind
The technical side of SEO can become a major headache – both when diving in, but especially when left ignored. Technical SEO plays a crucial role in providing the best page experience for users while ensuring an optimal experience for web crawlers (such as the Googlebot).
While our study determined many factors like visitor privacy, security, and accessibility for the disabled, two main focal points rose to the top for technical SEO in the Page Experience Update. Nail these two local page optimization focal points below and you’re well on your way to strong location pages:
1. Fast Speed for Page Loading
A slow-loading webpage can kill the user experience, and Google takes note. Factors that commonly affect page speed may include overuse of heavy code, large file sizes for images, videos, HTML and CSS, and too many redirects for a page.
Our study noted that LLPs with lower page sizes had a 14 percent ranking advantage, a 10 percent ranking advantage with faster full page load times, and a 7 percent advantage with stronger PageSpeed scores.
Need to know where you stand? Start with Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
2. Healthy Core Web Vitals
Core Web Vitals can be thought of as your overall page performance and how it might impact users. Although page speed is considered with core vitals, there’s indeed more to it. Google’s Search Console provides an opportunity to review your core vitals in order to “fix poor user experiences on your site.” The report provides a “Poor,” “Needs Improvement,” or “Good” score for URLs based on three main criteria:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
- First Input Delay (FID)
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
To learn more, start by reviewing Google’s Core Web Vitals report page.
Mobile-first page design
When designing your local landing pages, make sure mobile devices are at the forefront of your quest. Some web design companies may deliver a stunning desktop mockup for your consideration. However, our study honed in on restaurant chains and noted that 84 percent of all visits came from mobile users. Be sure your web designers are using a mobile-first design strategy.
It may look great on your laptop or large screen, but if it doesn’t shine on a mobile phone or tablet, users may bounce and return to the search results for a better user experience.
Just as important from the data we uncovered – provide the most relevant location details first on your LLPs. That will typically include:
- Type of Business and Location (featured in a prominent headline)
- Hours of Operation (with “Open Now” status)
- Contact Info (with clickable phone number)
- Social Media icons (clickable to local profiles)
- Directions (with links to Google or Apple Maps)
- Positive Local Ratings and Reviews (go for “native” first-party reviews!)
Other critical ranking factors for multi-location SEO
We’ve covered the importance of creating unique Local Landing Pages for each location. We’ve signaled the value of strong Ratings and Native Reviews (commonly referred to as Reputation Management), and now we’ll leave you with two elements that cannot be ignored for a thorough Local SEO strategy: Business Data Management and Business Data Visibility.
Managing Your Online Business Data
Consistency of your business information across the entire internet can be a beast to manage, but it really matters. Users get frustrated when Yelp has one phone number, and your webpage has another. Search engines recognize these discrepancies, and your rankings can take a hit. For this reason, give your full attention to accuracy, particularly with:
- Exact Business Name
- Exact Business Address
- Exact Business Phone Number
These three elements together form the NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number), and your goal should be to improve the accuracy of this info everywhere it exists on the web.
The two most straightforward ways to manage your business data are:
- Updating your info in popular “Data Aggregators” – Data Axle, Foursquare, and Neustar. These will roll data out across many, but not all, directories, and platforms.
- Streamline your data with third-party management tools like Moz Local, Yext, BrightLocal, Rio SEO, and Uberall.
Business Data Visibility
As mentioned, the main data aggregators will only take your business info so far. Your goal with visibility is to see a consistent boost of your local company details (for each property) listed in popular industry directories and local directories.
How is this done? Often manually, by allocating a team member or company who will research opportunities for listings (commonly called “citations”), reach out to these directories (both free and paid), and get your business listed alongside your competitors. Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder and GeoRanker are two common tools used to find these opportunities.
Citations can be categorized and organized into the following types:
- Aggregators are the online databases used by several online directories to gather new information and to validate user-submitted information. They are paramount to the management of accurate data as mentioned above.
- Search engines are what we are trying to rank within, but each has its own product for business owners to claim, manage, and optimize. These include Google My Business, Bing Local, and Yahoo! Local.
- Navigation engines, such as TomTom, HERE, Apple Maps, MapQuest, and similar are used by real people trying to navigate in their vehicles or getting walking directions, two activities that should not result in confusion or a lost customer.
- Social-local websites are called such since they not only offer business information but are active social networks users engage with via the web or through proprietary mobile apps, such as Yelp, Foursquare, and Facebook.
- Industry directories are just that, directories specific to your industry. For a restaurant, it might be OpenTable or Zomato. For a law firm, it could be SuperLawyers.com.
- Local directories help organize all businesses in your local area. If your business is Chicago-based, for example, some local directories would include usa.businessdirectory.cc/chicago and 312area.com/directory.
- General directories such as MerchantCircle, Hotfrog, and Manta monetize business listings or upgraded listings, despite rarely being visited by real humans (most humans use search engines, not directories). Though inclusion is sold as a value proposition for many data management platforms, the value of these directories is questionable.
Organize your local team and get to work
It’s very helpful to create or dedicate resources for your local efforts. A local SEO team might include:
- Content Writer – to research and write the LLPs, content for each location’s Google My Business profile, and weekly GMB posts.
- Web Designer – to bring your LLP vision to life and launch on your site.
- Technical SEO Specialist – to dial in your web core vitals, including page speed.
- Local Citation Builder – to get your LLPs listed in local and industry directories (and to request often-needed updates for accuracy)
While you can attempt all multi-location local SEO efforts on your own, the more locations your company offers, the more it may make sense to build a team to focus exclusively on Google Maps and local organic SEO. Greater attention to the tips discussed above may in time point to stronger map rankings, eventually translating into increased traffic to your location webpages and more customers visiting your stores, purchasing your products, and booking your services.
Guest author: Brian Wallace is an entrepreneur, writer, and podcast host. He is the Founder and President of NowSourcing and has been featured in Forbes, TIME, and The New York Times. Brian previously wrote for Mashable and currently writes for Hacker Noon, CMSWire, Business2Community, and more. His Next Action podcast features entrepreneurs trying to get to the next level. Brian also hosts #LinkedInLocal events, promoting the use of LinkedIn among professionals wanting to grow their careers.