One question that we’re asked a lot at SEO+ is how you can effectively optimise a website for local searches if your business has multiple physical locations. Equally, how can you promote your business if you have one premises but serve customers in multiple locations that are located close to one another geographically?
Both situations certainly pose a challenge but it is more than possible to optimise a single website with local SEO for multiple locations. In this best practice guide, we’re going to look at how
Understanding the challenges of local SEO for multiple locations
When you need to optimise your website for multiple locations, you can end up competing with your own site in search engine results pages (SERPs). This can result in the wrong pages ranking for a specific location.
You may also find that different locations have a different demographic, making it harder to create a central message that appeals to your target audience for each premises.
Another common problem for single websites for businesses with multiple physical locations is that they end up featuring a lot of duplicate copy. It can be tempting to create a new page for each location and simply change the location name throughout the text. This can result in duplicate content penalties from Google, and can also make your website dull and repetitive to human visitors as well as search engines.
One website or many?
If you do want to promote multiple locations for your business, one option is to create a different website for each location. Although this could work for smaller businesses with just two or three premises, the costs of this approach can quickly add up.
There are a number of problems inherent to running multiple websites for the same business. The time and budget you need for maintenance, SEO, content management, content creation, and performance analysis increases with each new website. You may also find your websites competing with one another in SERPs. If different people maintain each site, you can also dilute your brand identity and have issues around how each individual interprets their role.
In most cases, it makes sense to have one website, even if you do have multiple physical locations to promote. It is far less expensive and time consuming to maintain one website, enhance your local SEO, and keep your content ‘on brand’.
Where to start
Before you can begin your local SEO for multiple locations, you will need to identify which areas you want to target. In the case of physical premises, you will probably want to target the village, town or city where each is located, but what about the surrounding areas? This is especially relevant if you serve customers in multiple locations – e.g. a pizza delivery company in Cardiff that wants to build its orders to areas such as Newtown and Riverside.
Rather than optimising for every location within a specific radius from the outset, we recommend that you concentrate on your most profitable areas or those closest to your premises initially. Once you begin to see positive results for your initial locations, you can apply the same strategy to other locations.
It’s a good idea to look at the local competition and the demographics of the customers in each physical location that you want to target. For example, a florist may find that one of its premises attracts more orders for wedding flowers than at its other premises where the population is generally older. Its SEO strategy might therefore differ for each location.
Once you have an idea about the locations that you want to incorporate in your local SEO, type your target key phrase in Google and see what kind of results come up in SERPs.
- Are there lots of directory listings or actual websites for businesses similar to your own?
- If the SERPs aren’t particularly relevant, you could try other keyword variations. Do they bring up SERPs that would better represent your business?
You may also want to look at what businesses come up in the Google local pack listings for each of your area searches (see below for an example of what the local pack listings look like in desktop searches). Are they your competitors? Would your business fit in well with them?
Going back to the example of a pizza delivery business in Cardiff, a search for ‘newton Cardiff pizza delivery’ brings up more relevant results than ‘pizza delivery cardiff’ or ‘pizza delivery newtown’. However, it’s important to remember that Google will adapt SERPs to reflect the searcher’s physical location and whether they have searched for a particular company before, so SERPs will change according to the searcher.
Once you have found the top ranking results for your location-focused search terms, you should do some more research.
- How have your competitors optimised their content? A free tool like the Moz SEO toolbar will enable you to see your competitors’ meta data for each page.
- Do they have a blog?
- How long is a typical article?
- Are they active on social media?
- Where are their most engaged social media audiences?
These points will all help you build up a picture of your local market, what’s working for your competitors and what you could do better.
Linking strategy for multiple locations
A strong link strategy is a must for SEO, especially within the context of optimising for multiple locations.
Your aim should be to build incoming, high authority links that are specific to the locations you want to target. Directory listings are crucial here.
Whenever your business is listed on a directory site, make sure that you include all of the locations you serve or list all of the addresses where you have premises – see below for a more detailed look at address listings for multiple locations
You can explore other local link opportunities, such as placing an ad on your local paper’s website or sending out a press release to try to secure a story about your business that has a local angle and specifically mentions one of the locations that you want to target.
You might also want to ensure that your business – with all addresses or locations – is listed on your local Chamber of Commerce website and other local business networks.
Again, it’s worth doing some research here. Are there any other websites promoting businesses like yours in the local area? This might be websites for tourists or local information sites, or perhaps a website for different wedding suppliers, craft websites or whatever is appropriate to your business. If so, you may be able to approach that website about providing a listing, an advert, a guest blog or even running a joint campaign to your shared audience.
Especially look for websites with the location in the URL as this will tell search engines that the content is locally relevant.
High authority review sites such as TripAdvisor can also help you to secure a presence in SERPs for your chosen locations.
It’s helpful to carry out some competitive backlink analysis to explore what local sites are linking to your competitors’ websites. There is a range of free and paid-for tools that you can use to do this. One such tool is Moz’s Open Site Explorer – simply type in your own or a competitor’s URL and click on Linking Domains and Anchor Text to see details of external sites linking to that address. Although the data you can access is limited without a subscription, you can still unearth some useful information and potential opportunities for your own link strategy.
Address listings for multiple locations
We briefly mentioned above how important it is to make sure that all of the addresses for your business’s physical locations are listed correctly and consistently anywhere they appear online.
It can be handy to set up a spread sheet detailing every instance you find of your address on directory sites, Google My Business, networking sites, ecommerce sites and so on. Seemingly small differences such as writing ‘St’ instead of ‘Street’ or ‘Ave’ instead of ‘Avenue’ can make a difference to how Google sees the address. In turn, this can dilute your local presence in SERPs.
For the best results, all instances of your address should match in off-site profiles. If they don’t, you should edit and correct your address where you can or contact the host of the site to ask them to correct your details.
Another top tip for optimising for multiple locations is to ensure that you have all of your business addresses on your website in text format so that Google can read them – you might want to add them to the header or footer of your website so that the addresses are visible on every page.
A further step is to use Schema to mark up each address. By doing this, you can show the search engines that each item property in the address relates to a local business and physical location.
A word about geo location tags
It is possible to add HTML geo location tags into the header code of location-focused web pages on your website. These tags show the exact longitude and latitude of your location. Most businesses don’t use these tags, especially when search engines will take your location information from your web domain, IP address and Google My Business listings.
However, there may be some instances where geo location tags are helpful. For example, if you want to feature a gallery of pictures that relate to a precise location.
As geolocation marketing is predicted to be one of the biggest marketing trends for the rest of 2017 and beyond, geo location tags may take on more importance in the future. At the moment, we know that geo location tags don’t affect rankings.
Content strategy for local SEO and multiple locations
Throughout the process of optimising your local SEO for multiple locations, the key is to treat each location as its own entity, especially when creating content for your website.
You should strive to publish content that’s unique and specific to the locations you want to target. To do this, you might have more general information pages such as your Home page and About page that include the content that’s relevant to your business in its entirety, but then pages that are specifically about each of your locations and the products/services you offer at these locations.
It’s crucial to include the locations you want to target in your on-site optimisation. You can do this by:
- Using URLs that include your location (see the section ‘Location-specific URLs’ below)
- Featuring your location in your title tags and meta descriptions
- Including your location in your heading tags
- Talking about your location in your content
- Using location-specific internal links and anchor text
- Adding some location-specific keyword tags
Way back in 2010, Google’s Matt Cutts advised that, for businesses with multiple locations, each location should have its own URL. Despite the huge changes to SEO since then, this advice has endured.
Your customers will appreciate a dedicated page of your website for each physical location. On these pages, you can give them helpful information such as the full address, phone number, email address, opening hours, a map (ideally, an embedded Google Map), directions, information about access for disabled customers, parking information and more. If you have a dedicated team at each location, you could even include some staff profiles on this page to add a personal touch.
Many businesses with multiple locations decide to hide the store-specific pages from the website’s main navigation, instead making them accessible via a ‘store finder’ search facility or map. The problem with this is that it can be hard for Google to decipher these pages. Best practice is to include each store/location URL on your website’s main HTML site map so that Google can easily index the pages and return them in SERPs. You can do this in addition to offering a ‘store finder’ search rather than instead of.
Another complementary strategy is to add a ‘Locations’ or ‘How to find us’ option to the main navigation menu with links to each of the geo-specific sub-pages.
Above, we briefly mentioned using location-specific URLs on your website to help you optimise for multiple locations. The easiest way to do this is to have a location-focused portion of your website featuring URLs such as:
In the place of ‘location-a’ or ‘location-b’ etc., you would use the names of the geographic areas for which you want your website to rank. If you only have a small website, you may not want to include multiple location-focused URLs but even one or two can help your local SEO.
You should then aim to attract some links to these pages – this might be by generating shares on social media, a citation in someone else’s blog or as a news story on a press website.
Blogging and local SEO for multiple locations
One of the easiest ways to optimise your website for multiple locations is to write blog articles about the different geographic areas that you want to target. This can sound daunting. After all, you want to promote your business rather than become a tourism guide for the local area (unless that is your business, of course!)
Still, there are ways to make your business-focused articles location-specific. Here are just a few ideas:
- Write an article that puts one of your stores/offices in the spotlight – you could talk about why you chose that location, what’s unique about the premises, your client base in the area, news from that store’s staff, etc.
- Write about a way you’re working with the local community at one of your locations
- Highlight any products or services that are unique to one of your premises
- Feature case studies about a client in a specific location and show what a difference your business has made to them
- Talk about a local news story and how it impacts on your business – for example, how you’re dealing with changes put in place by your local council
As is always the case with effective SEO, your focus should be on creating high quality, high value content and, for multiple locations, also including location-specific information.
As you can’t be everywhere at once, keep in touch with staff at each physical location and ask them for their ideas, opinions, local news stories or local initiatives affecting your customers. You could also ask your customers what local information they would love to find on your website.
On your location-specific pages, you could feature reviews or testimonials from people who mention that location in their feedback. An easy tip is to add the reviewers’ location next to their name, e.g. ‘Hazel, Newton Abbot’, if you use a direct quote from a customer who lives nearby.
Reviews are powerful for any business but local reviews can be a subtle yet compelling way to build your presence and reputation locally.
Unfortunately, people are far more likely to leave an unprompted review after a bad experience rather than a positive one, so you may need to actively ask for reviews from your happy customers. Just asking a customer to fill out a feedback card at the till or emailing them a quick customer satisfaction survey can help you to create a repository of positive and locally-focused reviews.
Social media strategy
Having a social media strategy that includes local SEO for multiple locations is important. You can use your social media pages to give your customers a real insight into your different stores or premises, while utilising advertising options on platforms such as Facebook to put your content in front of a targeted audience in very precise locations.
Google doesn’t use every like, comment or share to rank the pages on your website, but social media gives you another avenue to connect with your local audience and bring traffic to your location-focused URLs. In turn, this sends the search engines important signals about the local relevance of your content.
Google My Business for multiple locations
Whether your business has one location or many, it’s essential to have a presence on Google My Business when you’re endeavouring to strengthen your local SEO.
The following hints and tips can help you use Google My Business to the best effect for multiple locations:
- Once you’re logged into your Google My Business account, you can see how many locations you currently have listed by clicking on the main menu icon (the three horizontal lines to the left of ‘Google My Business’ at the top of the page) and click on the ‘All locations’ option. This will take you to a screen where you can manage your locations.
- Use one Google account to control all of your locations rather than letting someone at each premises log in from their own account. This will help you to keep all of the information consistent across locations.
- Although you should only have one account – and, remember, you can give other people different administration rights so you’re not managing your Google My Business profile alone – you can set up different business accounts for each location. This won’t be the right option for every business but it can be especially helpful if you offer different services at different locations.
- As with directory listings, you need to make sure that your addresses and contact details are listed correctly on Google My Business and consistent with how your address appears in other online profiles.
You can find out ‘bulk location management’ on Google My Business.
As an aside, Google My Business has recently added an ‘Accessibility attributes’ feature to let you provide more detailed information to customers about accessibility at each location. You can also list different opening times for each location, different contact details and much more.
Google Maps and local search ads
Google Maps – with its local search ads facility – is also the ideal place to build your presence across multiple locations. Check out our recent blog about boosting your visibility on Google Maps to find out more about how you can apply the advice to your multi-location business.
Things to avoid
It’s also important to be aware of things that can negatively impact on your local SEO for multiple locations. Google Search Console advises against:
- Having multiple domain names or pages targeted at specific regions or cities that funnel users to one page
- Generating pages to funnel visitors into the actual usable or relevant portion of your site(s) as this can add an extra, unnecessary layer of pages people have to move through before they reach the content they need
- Substantially similar pages that are all closer to search results than a clearly defined, browsable hierarchy
What if you only have one location but serve multiple areas locally?
If you only have one physical location but provide services or goods to multiple areas locally – e.g. you run a takeaway that delivers food – then much of the advice in this article applies to your website too.
It is still crucial to create some location-focused content on your website but it may be overkill to have dedicated pages for every location you serve, especially if you’re based in a city and deliver to lots of different boroughs within a specific radius. In this case, your local SEO efforts should probably combine:
- one page per city, if you cover several cities within your region
- one page per service, if you offer multiple services
- frequent but appropriate mention of the areas you serve throughout the website (but don’t shoe horn long lists of places into your copy!)
- hyperlocal blogging on an ongoing basis that mentions specific areas, probably mixed with more generic articles about your products or services
It is helpful to feature your main location in your page URLs, meta data, headings, etc. Remember that Google will consider the searcher’s location when returning SERPs. If your business’s main location is clear and the website reinforces the areas you serve throughout the copy and optimisation, your website should rank well.
In all instances, our advice is to be targeted and selective about the locations for which you want to optimise your local SEO rather than trying to reach too many locations. You can always add more as you discover what works for your audience.
Local search is extremely common and extremely valuable. Half of all mobile searches were done with local intent in mind. More than 6 in 10 resulted in the purchase. (Source: Ironpaper)
I’ve recently created a FREE Local SEO Checklist, which reveals The 7 (Vital) Things You Need To Do To Get Your Local Website Ranking On The First Page Of Google. Grab it here!
Hazel Jarrett, director of SEO at SEO+, is well-known in the SEO space, has won many awards during her 20-year career and has been published on various well-known sites. Through her services and training programs, her SEO strategies have generated 10s of millions of sales for her clients, earning her a big reputation for delivering the results that matter.
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