One of the biggest challenges that SEO teams face is to sustainably and safely maximize a brand's visibility in as many ways as possible. For that, large and enterprise businesses not only have to rely on highly trained and competent professionals defining the strategy, but also make use of several tools and techniques that help drive companies closer to their goals. As we have discussed before in an article written by John Marcinuk, "The Evolution of SEO", Search Engine Optimization is not what it was in the early 2010s. A lot has changed since then and therefore we, as SEO professionals, have to adapt to play nice within the search engines' guidelines. I cannot stress enough that the only way to successful SEO growth is to play by the rules however, we must do it better than the competition for our brands to truly succeed. At Blue Fountain Media, some of our clients are nationwide companies with several locations spread across the country - and even around the globe. One of my personal challenges is to grow local SEO for large and enterprise companies, which aligns with Blue Fountain Media's mission to maximize our brands' presence online. This leads into a common question that many large and enterprise companies ask: How can I make my individual locations perform better in search?
The Right Partners, Time, & Patience
The Right Partners:If your company is very large with many locations, you will find yourself overwhelmed with decisions on how to prioritize. You may be anxiously wondering how much these choices will cost your marketing department, both in dollars and resources. The first decision should be to choose a partner to lead you through this process, whether it's an in-house professional or an agency that offers reliable SEO services. This is ultimately a decision that you or your company's executives will have to make based on a variety of factors.
Time:You will soon enough notice that local optimization is a time consuming task, and the more locations you have the more time it will take.
Patience:Don't expect immediate results. SEO has always been a long-term growth channel, and even more so in 2016. So sit back, relax and enjoy the process!
Treat Each Location IndividuallyDepending on the industry in which you are operating, you will find that each location has its own demand, so a single strategy might not be appropriate for all locations. These next steps are required to develop a unique strategy for optimizing your local presence:
Perform Keyword Research:Find and target business opportunities via keywords. If, for example, you sell sports tickets in different cities you shouldn't expect that people in Anaheim will perform a meaningful amount of queries for tickets to Rangers games. Target Anaheim locations towards Ducks games and you will have more success!
Develop Meta Data for Each Location:Based on the keyword research, apply the most relevant keywords in Meta Data for each location. You should not be afraid to customize Page Titles and Meta Descriptions.
- If your business is in New York, go ahead and state it in the Page Title and Meta Description. Header tags should be unique, include business goals, and target each location with keywords wherever possible.
- It's important to follow SEO best practices when applying localized keywords in header tags. An H1 should only be used once on a page and should describe the core of your business in as few words as possible. As an alternative, use the branded name of your location or the actual physical location and complement the rest of the information with H2 headers.
Write Unique Content for Each Location:Using your keyword research, write targeted, user-friendly, unique text as location page copy.
- Don't try to spam the copy with keywords. Rely on keyword research as a guide but always write copy with the user in mind. A user's positive behavior on your website is ultimately what will determine positive keyword ranking and business success online.
Define Your Priorities:Some locations may be business priorities; however others may have low competition locally, allowing your brand to surpass your competition more easily. This takes us to our next point
Assess Your Competitors:Find your local competitors and perform proper competitor research. Don't forget that your locations are not only vulnerable to large businesses with multiple locations like yours, but also smaller local businesses with a presence in the same city or state. Sometimes a mom-and-pop store might be your staunchest local competitor. It is also important to assess the market depending on the areas your business serves.
- Different cities have different needs and interests, so you should target each one uniquely. If you're a bakery, for example, and you find that New Yorkers love cronuts but Chicagoans are obsessed with cupcakes, you'll want to target these stores properly in Meta Data and within page content.
No, Listings Are Not "Obsolete"Over the past few years, a handful of local citation sites have stood out amongst the pack. Yelp, FourSquare, and Google Places are some of the most recognizable citations, but don't discount the importance of having your brand listed accurately in smaller, hyper-local websites that help to fill out a search engine result page. The more real estate your location takes up in search results, the more likely a user will trust your brand over a competitor. Submitting each location to the hundreds of sites that accept local citations could be a daunting task, and we recommend working with one or more service that submits to local data aggregators. The benefit here is more than a time-saving technique, in that when working with one of these services your NAP (Name, Address, Phone) will be consistent across platforms and eliminates the potential for duplicate listings. The tools we recommend the most are MOZ Local and Yext. Moz Local is less expensive but submits to fewer listings. It is also limited to US and UK, while Yext can submit to listings in the US, Australia, Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Germany, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland and United Kingdom. Yext can also submit listings from any country to global listings.
Master Google My BusinessIt's obvious that Google is, by far, the most frequently used search engine on the web. So anything that Google provides to improve a brand's presence is something you should use. Google My Business is one of the best tools for acquiring more business via local search. Google My Business allows you to list your business (in your case, all of your local businesses or a branch of your large business) on Google Search and Maps. You might say "okay, but I'm on Google Search already and I am listed on Google Maps." Most businesses are, whether or not they use Google My Business, but using this tool has advantages:
- Accurate business information: business hours, store/office address, business logo and business name
- Categorizing your business: Google My Business allows you to choose up to 5 business categories for your location. This helps users find your business when a category is queried.
- Set special hours: Inform your customers if you have any special or seasonal business hours at any point in the year
- Keep uploading photos Regularly: Uploading photos shows users that you care about how your business is perceived, elevating trust factors that lead to a conversion.