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.
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.
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 Individually
Depending 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 Business
It’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.
Structured Data is Your Friend
Now this part may get a bit technical, but bear with me: Structured Data refers to data with high level of organization. In SEO, Structured Data is used through the implementation of data respecting the Schema.org initiative. The Schema.org initiative was launched in early 2011, with a cooperative effort between Google, Bing and Yahoo!.
Structured Data allows search engines to easily organize and display the content on your site more creatively. This tagging increases the likelihood of search engines understanding the content on your page and, when displayed by the engines, increases the likelihood of a user clicking on your link in the search results. Elements like event dates, prices, and reviews are some of the most common elements we tag using Structured Data today.
How to Apply Structured Data
There are 3 main ways to implement data: using “Microdata”, “RDFa 1.1 Lite”, or “JSON-LD”. I prefer the latter as it seems more visually organized and it’s easier to construct and pinpoint mistakes.
Before constructing your Structured Data, you will have to define what your location is about. There are data available for any kind of business imaginable in Schema.org, and more are being added regularly. Whether you are a bakery, restaurant, bowling alley, or medical clinic, you already have a dedicated data piece to include on your website.
This is an example of how you could implement Structured Data for your local pet store using JSON-LD:
It is possible to go deeper on Structured Data on general pages of the site by adding more elements (visit Schema.org to find out what you can include), and if you sell products straight from your website you can add Structured Data to the specific product page tagging price, availability, etc.
Optimize Social in Your Site’s Code
Is it really possible to optimize Social Media, something off-site and directly unrelated to your SEO performance, within your own website’s code? Believe it or not, it’s an often overlooked tactic but something that should always be done.
With the enormous and continued growth of Social Media, users, more and more, have the habit of sharing links on their favorite social platforms. So, imagine you are a pet store and someone shares your local Houston page link. If not well-optimized, you might see it populate in Facebook with a messy title or a completely irrelevant description or image.
Implementing Meta Property and Twitter Meta allows a brand to have complete control over what is displayed in a Social Media share.
Here is an example for Meta Property:
And an example for Twitter Meta:
In this section we will briefly cover additional guidelines that your business can benefit from. Of course, not all of them are mandatory and will certainly require time and resources to execute.
Each location should have its own dedicated subpages
We will assume you have a dedicated page for each location. If not, let’s get to work! After you have your dedicated page, it’s always beneficial to build subpages to detail even more information from each of the locations. For example, a menu page for a restaurant, a parties dedicated page for your location (if your location offers parties services) or a dedicated contact page with a contact form are just some examples of subpages you could include.
This is an SEO article, but we always remind our clients and blog readers the importance of Social Media. You can build separate accounts for each location in Social Media such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to target your local audience.
You’ll be a Local Big Business SEO Master!
Take the steps above creatively, as each business has its own demands and goals. In a future blog post we will explain how Local Search Results work, what behaviors you can expect from the search engines and how they affect the results and, ultimately, your business.
If you have any questions or comments, let’s get a conversation started! We are always happy to hear from and discuss SEO with our readers.
Until next time…
Nelson’s article was written in collaboration with John Marcinuk, Director of Integrated Digital Marketing & PR at Blue Fountain Media. Watch John’s video, The Evolution of SEO, for more information on BFM’s SEO philosophy.