Local SEO: What to Consider When Opening a New Location
If you’re thinking about opening a new location for your business, it’s important you have a complete understanding of how Google operates when it comes to making sure your customers find you. Senior SEO Strategist at Powered By Search, Kyle Goodchild walks us the through how you can enhance your relevance, proximity, and prominence, all while avoiding competing against yourself in SERPs.
You’re here for a reason. Your business is expanding and you want to capitalize on organic real estate. As a business owner you know how tough it can be to compete in the world of Google. Search engines form part of an ever-changing ecosystem, and present battle that can be very tough, but can also be won. Read on as I guide you through the top things you should be considering when you open a new location.
But before we start, let us revisit how Google determines search results for ‘location intent’ keywords.
How Does Google Determine Rankings For a Location Modifier Keyword?
Search results are a competitive landscape, an environment that changes fast, and frequently to adapt to the needs of users. Here are the 3 core pillars of Local SEO: Relevance, Proximity, and Prominence.
Simple to say, you won’t show up for a query or keyword if you don’t have relevance. Relevance means that when a user searches for something, Google sees a similarity or relevance with a given page or Google My Business listing. That’s the first signal to rank for a desired keyword. Further on, I will explain how you can ensure relevance is prominent throughout your SEO strategy.
When it comes to local rankings, Google wants to show a relevant listing within the proximity of a user’s search (or search intent). Remember, search engines want to give users the most relevant search, as quickly as possible. We have two-high level search intents:
- Local Intent Search Within Search Area
- Local Intent Search Outside Search Area
We’ve all performed these types of searches. A local intent search within a search area means a user is searching for something near them. For example, I’m in Toronto searching for “pubs near me”. These results are going to take proximity highly into consideration because they want the user to find a result nearest them that meets their needs.
But what if I don’t live in Toronto and I’m going to Toronto for the evening? Users would perform a different search, “Pubs in Toronto.” These search results are going to vary because it weighs the other ranking factors higher.
How well is your brand known across the online ecosystem? This pillar is about your brand’s credibility. Google trusts websites that are trusted by other trustworthy websites (say that 5 times fast).
This means that if a domain with high authority links to one of your pages, your page will get an authoritative boost. By building authority to your website you increase your online credibility. Building authority can come in various forms; the most familiar are:
a) acquiring backlinks from relevant websites (ex, editorial articles)
b) citations (like directories), and
c) online reviews.
If you want to dominate organic search results, you need to build up your website’s authority. You need Google to see you as a prominent, trustworthy source.
Getting Started with Your New Location
The above introduction should have given you insights into how search engines like Google think when it comes to serving users with the most relevant search results.
Since you’re in the process of opening a new location, you need to understand how you can incorporate these three core pillars into your SEO strategy. This article is broken down into three sections:
- Your Google My Business listing
- Your website
- Your online credibility (or prominence)
If you follow these guidelines and insights, you will set your new location up for the most success.
1.Create a Google My Business Listing
We all know the power a Google My Business listing holds. Here, business owners have the ability to provide all the key information about their business that users require to make a decision. But first things first…
Does My New Location Qualify for a Google My Business Listing?
Qualifying for a Google My Business listing is the first thing you need to consider when opening your new location. A listing on Google My Business should represent a business that has a physical location that customers come to, or acts as a service area business that travels to customers.
In order to properly leverage your listing, you need to make sure it represents your business correctly. That means, the name, address, phone number, website, etc. should all be accurate and don’t attempt to manipulate Google’s algorithm (e.g. keyword stuffing, virtual offices, etc.).
If your location meets Google’s guidelines, you can create and advertise your listing on Google My Business. For a full list of Google My Business guidelines and tips visit the help centre.
Create OR Claim Your Google My Business Listing
Before your can actually verify your Google My Business, you need to create or claim one. Here’s a great guide to setting up your Google My Business profile.
If a listing already exists, Google My Business will inform you and allow you to contact the listing owner in an attempt to request ownership transfer. Don’t be alarmed if a listing already exists, it happens more frequently than you’d think.
Verifying Your Google My Business Listing
Verifying your listing allows you to have ownership in the Google account you have selected. After verifying you will be able to further optimize your listing and take advantage of all the perks and benefits within.
Depending on the options available (they vary by business) you can select the verification process that works best for you and your business. Below are the options you may see:
- Verification by mail: In this process, Google sends a postcard out to your entered business address with a verification pin. Upon receiving, you enter the code into your Google My Business listing for verification. Postcards typically get delivered within 14 days.
- Verification by phone: Here, Google calls the phone number that you entered as your business phone number. Once you pick up the call, Google will give you a verification code to enter into your Google My Business listing. Keep in mind, you want a physical person to pick up the phone.
- Verification by email: If this is an option that appears for you, make sure that you have control or know who owns the email address that Google will be sending the verification code to. Once you receive it, enter it into your Google My Business listing to verify.
- Instant verification: Although this option is somewhat rare, I have seen it!
- Bulk verification: Businesses that operate 10+ locations have the option to verify via a bulk upload spreadsheet. This route is a lot easier to manage and maintain consistent business information for larger businesses.
*For more detailed information on verification, visit GMB help
Optimizing Your GMB Listing for Success
Now that you have a Google My Business listing for your new location, you are going to want to make sure that you provide all the details that will help a user find what they are looking for. Some additional optimization features include:
- Photos (interior, exterior, business): Provide users with a glimpse of your business. Who will they potentially be working with? What does your store look like inside? What does the outside look like (this helps for those driving there)?
- Reviews: Reputation is a huge factor in the decision making process for a user. I go into more detail later in this article, as it’s worthy of its own section.
Verifying and claiming your Google My Business listing doesn’t necessarily add value, but optimizing and leveraging features within Google My Business helps consumers make better decisions.
The average well-maintained Google My Business listing gets five times more views than listings which haven’t been claimed by their owners.
Source: Google Internal Data
Watch Out: Be Aware of New Location Cannibalization
Consider this an additional tip for Google My Business, something that business owners don’t plan for when opening a new location on Google: store cannibalization. This typically happens when you have two locations fighting for the same keyword within a general area. Although this is rare, it does happen and can hurt a business.
It’s not out of the ordinary for businesses to have multiple locations; sometimes within a single city. Google typically doesn’t want one brand to own every search result for a query in a given area, so it may filter out one location over the other. Look at this screenshot below of Louisville, KY that’s returned for the search query ‘Valvoline Louisville, KY’:
This just shows you how some brands can dominate cities. Now here’s an unbranded search result for ‘oil change service within Louisville, KY‘.
Notice how ~80% of Valvoline’s locations are no longer showing? This is a perfect example of Google working its magic. It factors in the 3 core pillars and tailors search results to the intent of a user.
Keep this in mind if you plan on opening (or recently have opened) a new location close to another location. Monitor your metrics closely and try to avoid competing against yourself organically as much as possible.
2. Create A Localized Landing Page On Your Website
The next asset we need to look at is your website. It has the power to send strong ranking signals to Google for location intent keywords. This is where we can really enhance our relevance and prominence!
Optimizing a Landing Page for Location Intent Keywords
Once you know how users are searching, you can create content and landing pages to focus on the intent behind those queries.
We all know that best practice is to create a ‘Contact Us’ page with core location details, but did you know you can capture more users by creating location intent keyword landing pages? Google My Business will help you show up in the local map pack for relevant queries, but by creating a localized intent page you can capture more real estate in Google by showing up in the organic search results, too (double the exposure)!
Below is a template to help you better understand the anatomy of a well-optimized landing page targeting location intent (click to expand in a new tab).
3.Build Up Your Online Credibility
So far, we’ve discussed two key pieces of local SEO: your Google My Business listing and your website. The third piece is your online credibility. By building trust and authority, your business’ credibility will increase. Let’s look at how we can achieve this.
Foundations of Citations
Whether you’re creating a brand new location or moving addresses, citations are very important. Cleanliness and consistency across the web can actually help boost local ranking signals. A citation is any mentioning of your brand across the online ecosystem. Part of your local SEO strategy should be to:
- Make sure your business information can be found on niche local directories.
- Make sure your business information is on data aggregators. Data aggregators help push your business information around the web. Check out how complex the U.S local search ecosystem is! This shows you how certain data partners feed information online.
A great way to get started with citations is to perform an audit. Audits typically help identify opportunities for expansion and cleanup. BrightLocal offers an awesome citation auditing tool, and they also provide citation building/cleanup services. Tools like this are a great way to lay the foundation for local SEO success.
Tip: If your business location is moving address, you will most likely need to perform citation cleanup. This invoplves removing any mentions of your old location on the web and updating them to your new address.
Remember, consistency and cleanliness is key!
How many times have you used a review or testimonial to help make a consumer decision? Did you know that 91% of 18-34 year old consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations? How about that for the power of online reviews and reputation?!
Since you’re creating a new business location, you need to make sure that your business has a review generation (and reputation management) strategy in place. Using the voice of customers is a great way to build credibility. Users trust online reviews from consumers that have used a product or service before, and most often make a decision based off of those reviews.
To get started, your business needs to develop a strategy or plan. If you don’t know where to start, don’t worry, there are some great reputation management tools out there! The best tools will not just help you to build reviews, but to manage them as well. For the managing aspect, focus on responding to user reviews. This is a great way to show your appreciation and to show you value your customer’s voice. These little tips will help your business succeed in the local market.
Wrapping Things Up
Thanks for reading! I hope that my insights allow you to easily and successfully open a new location from a digital landscape standpoint.
Always remember how the three core local SEO pillars work into your business strategy. This will set your business up for success now, and in the future.