Higher search visibility leads to a higher number of impressions, which means more traffic, and hopefully more potential customers and sales. While content marketing and link-building strategies are aimed at improving organic search rankings, local SEO helps to increase search visibility on a local scale.
Local search isn’t a trend or a fad and it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. On the contrary, many industry experts agree that local factors have become increasingly important search ranking signals. For many businesses, this is good news because in some ways it levels the playing field for smaller companies that are often outranked and outbid by larger, well-known brands. However if you own a businesses with multiple locations, maintaining a strong local presence in each of your markets can prove to be rather difficult.
Here are some local search tips to help larger companies with multiple locations rank in their target markets.
Local search expert David Mihm refers to NAP data as the online “thumbprint” of your business. The term NAP is an acronym that stands for Name, Address and Phone Number (in some cases web is included, making it NAP/W). Since NAP data appears on a variety of different sites across the web, it’s important for businesses to keep this information as consistent as possible.
The goal of a search engine is to provide the user with the most relevant and accurate content in relation to their search query. So Google, Bing and other major search engines rely on NAP data to verify and legitimize the online identity of a business.
Since there’s usually more than one way to list any given address, your NAP data may contain some inconsistencies. For instance, you may choose to spell out “suite” or abbreviate it as “ste.” Or if your business is located on Cherry Oak Road, you may instead abbreviate it as “Rd.” The same goes for your DBA or “doing business as” name. If the name of your company is Blue Widgets, Inc., then you wouldn’t want to use Blue Widgets Co. or Blue Widgets elsewhere on the web.
The more consistent you keep your NAP data, the more likely you will outrank your competition in local search. This is especially important when managing multiple locations.
Subdomains vs. Subfolders
When it comes to structuring a localized online presence for your multi-location business, there really is no universal right or wrong. It’s more a matter of which strategy is best for you and your business, based on your industry, manpower/resources, the types of services/products you offer and your total number of locations. Below I put together examples for how subdomains and subfolders can each be effective strategies to build up a strong local presence in multiple markets.
The subfolder (also referred to as subdirectory) route is probably the easiest solution, and is best for companies that don’t have the resources or man-power to create and implement unique content for several different subdomains. Additionally, if your business has only two or three locations, then it might be best to just list out each location on a main locations page and then link out to dedicated landing pages that are optimized for their respective localities. For instance, if you had locations in New York, Paris and London, then you would create geo-targeted landing pages for each market. The url structure would look something like: http://mysite.com/new-york, http://mysite.com/paris, http://mysite.com/london, etc.
Subdomains seem to be the most popular choice for larger scale, multi-location sites. With subdomains, you still have the advantage of “piggy backing” on the root domain value, but you can now optimize for the subdomain instead of the root. For example, if you owned bluewidgets.com and one of the countries you serve is Canada, you could create canada.bluewidgets.com and optimize the subdomain content specifically for your Canadian customers. This local relevancy not only boosts your local SEO, but can also improve the user experience and boost on-site conversions.
Single listing for multiple locations
Directory listings can be extremely effective for local SEO. Especially Google and Bing listings, which are integrated into the search results. I’ve seen companies that have over 40 locations across the U.S., yet they only have one Google listing. Even more disturbing, they listed their corporate headquarters which doesn’t even serve customers. Not only does this have zero benefit for local search, but it also makes for a poor customer experience.
Google (and many other directories) allow businesses to create multiple listings and optimize each listing for a specific location. In fact, in the Google Places quality guidelines, Google recommends that businesses create one unique listing per location. It’s also a good idea to make sure that you don’t have any duplicate listings – meaning two (or more) separate listings for the same address/location.
Now that Google+ business pages are integrated with their associated Google Places listing, you can leverage the social power of Google+ to boost your online authority in every market you serve.
Paid search marketing
Although “local SEO” usually refers to strategies and techniques that are geared towards increasing organic traffic, such as citation-building, directory listings and geo-targeted content, paid search can significantly augment your organic efforts.
According to Google, 20 percent of all searches show local intent, such as “[city] [keyword]” or “[keyword] [state].” So if you own a widget store in New York, instead of hoping that your organic SEO is strong enough to rank, you can guarantee visibility with paid ads. When you use paid advertisements to supplement your local search campaigns, you have the opportunity to drastically increase your online visibility for local search queries.
The best part about paid search marketing is that the results are usually immediate. The only downside is that you pay for each click. So your ROI depends on how well your traffic converts into real customers.
Another great feature of paid search that comes in handy when you’re managing multiple locations is the ability to segment campaigns based on locality and geo-target your ads, and even add negative filters and conditions to exclude specific user types and demographics. Not all markets perform equally, so paid search enables you to give each market an individualized approach.
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