How to Create SEO-Friendly Location Pages for a Local Business
Location-based SEO for a business with a single location is easy. It gets a lot harder when you’re running an organization with multiple locations, whether it’s the same city, the same state, or all across the country.
Local SEO is extremely important. Over 50% of web traffic comes from mobile devices, and mobile users often want results local to where they are. Google can provide those results, but only if they have the information to do so. If you aren’t presenting your website in a way that it can be used as a local page, you’re not going to appear for those users.
There’s a lot to keep in mind with local SEO, but you have to start somewhere.
Determine the Kind of Local Pages You Should Use
The first thing you should do is determine what kind of local pages you want to use. There are a few options, each with its own pros and cons.
Option 1: A single page with dynamic content for location-specific data. This is a very common option among national businesses with dozens or hundreds of franchise locations. For example, many major restaurants, retailers, and chain stores use this method. If you go to, say, McDonalds.com, they’ll ask you for your location, but almost none of the content on their page changes. All you get is a more personalized map, the locations of nearby restaurants, and the menu and hours information for each. Even though the menu and hours are typically the same across all restaurants, they act like it’s personalized to you.
The biggest drawback to this option is that it’s not actually personalized local SEO. Google doesn’t see any of that location data; they have to rely on things like Google Maps data or an overall list of all locations. This is fine for companies with national or global saturation, but it doesn’t work for smaller businesses with only a handful of locations within a given county or state.
Option 2: A single page with all locations listed on it. This option is a single website for your business, with a “locations” page that lists the addresses and information for each location. This is often used for small retailers and businesses that have several storefronts in a small area, but not enough unique content to create unique pages for each of them. It’s very similar to option 1, except it’s more plaintext and less dynamic.
This option can work fine, but it’s not going to get you much unique SEO benefit. It will rank well for whatever general queries your users are searching for, but it won’t have any particular benefits to local queries or location-based queries. The main benefit is that a user can see each location and make their own determination about which is closest to them, rather than using a script to find one and having to dig for others.
Option 3: A page for each location, with duplicate content on each. With this option, you tend to have a unique page for each location in terms of URL, but the pages themselves are all mostly identical. You might have example.com/Key-West and example.com/Tampa and example.com/Orlando for three different locations in Florida, but each of those pages has the same copy. The only difference is the names and contact information, and possibly any photographs of the location are changed.
This option is terrible for one reason: duplicate content. Google hates when a site makes multiple pages (or a business that makes multiple websites) that all have the same content, with a few keywords changed. This is the exact kind of strategy that was penalized in 2011 and remains penalized to this day.
You can potentially alleviate some of the problems by making one of the pages canonical and hiding the rest of them, but then you don’t get the SEO benefit of having the rest of them.
This is not to say that it isn’t done. One example is the Hawaiian Falls water park franchise in Texas. They have one core site, with five sub-pages for each of their five locations. All five pages are identical except for a couple of images, the list of amenities, the contact information, and the map.
Option 4: A page for each location, with unique content on each. This is our general recommendation. One central page, with sub-pages for each location, each page providing unique content relevant to that location. It can be a lot of work to come up with unique content for each location beyond the facts of contact information, but it’s worthwhile when you do. Each can be optimized for local keywords, focus on a local community, area, and amenities, and be considered unique enough that Google won’t penalize those sub-pages.
Petco.com did this well, with separate pages for each service that they offer in relation to the city that they service:
Option 5: A domain for each location, with unique content on each. This final option isn’t really one worth discussing too much; registering a unique domain name for each location and having unique sites on each. It’s fine, and it can work well if each location is mostly independent. If the locations are part of a chain or are all part of the same overall organization with little or no room for individuality, the websites will reflect that, and they will end up competing with each other rather than building upon each other.
The fourth option is generally the one we consider the best. It allows you to create an optimized page for each location while allowing each location page to benefit from all of the content and SEO effort you put into the main page. Alternatively, Option 1 works just as well once you reach a certain size and can afford to miss out on specifically optimized local SEO. As long as Google knows where each of your locations is, they can serve up the appropriate version of your contact information via Maps and you don’t have to worry as much about it.
Take Advantage of Google’s Tools
Google has a lot of different tools, and sometimes it can be hard to figure out which ones are relevant to your business.
When it comes to stores with physical locations, one excellent tool is Google My Business. This is a free tool that allows you to register specific business information with Google, to make sure it’s accurate. You can create a business profile for your business and for each location. This lets you verify address and contact information, standardize information about your locations. That way, Google’s local search results are guaranteed to show the correct information. There are a bunch of additional tools packaged in with Google My Business as well, for you to explore.
Google has some specific rules about how to use this system for a multi-location business, which you can find here. They’re relatively simple, though, so it’s not too difficult to get an account up and running.
Optimize Individual Location Pages
When you’re running a site for a business with multiple locations, and each of those locations has a page or set of pages on your site, you want to optimize those pages for maximum value.
Remember, above all else, this value needs to be unique. What do we mean?
Consider anything that makes a specific location unique. Are there nearby local services, amenities, or attractions that might be a benefit to your business to mention? For example, a hotel chain with a unique page for each location might mention nearby restaurants, theme parks, or other attractions. A sign business could mention local regulations on signs, zoning restrictions, city ordinances, and so forth for their region.
Every page should have a rundown of what your business offers. Remember that many of the people finding this page won’t be getting here from your homepage, and likely won’t visit your homepage afterward either. Everything about your business needs to be visible on that page if you want it to be visible to users who find the site through local search.
Make sure to include specific location information on the page. Your address for that location is essential to both users and to Google. Users need it to be able to find your location – if they aren’t just going through Google Maps, anyways – and Google loves it as a sign of a high-quality business. The presence of NAP is, in fact, a search ranking factor, and it helps Google identify which page goes with which location as well.
It’s often helpful to embed a Google Map of the city or your business address within that city as well. Having a map right there on the page helps users (particularly mobile users) to more easily navigate to your locations. You just have to be absolutely certain that the tagged location on the map matches the location on the page; mixing up maps and addresses on sub-pages makes for a headache for everyone.
You can also include plenty of media, where relevant. Images are always a good idea because they can do everything from showing a street view of your location to showcasing your wares. Plus, they allow you to tag them with more metadata, which is useful for search ranking.
Videos can work as well, though it’s often harder to produce a video to go with a local page than images. Videos help by increasing dwell time and giving you a venue to reach customers with more detailed information. It’s best to make tailored videos for each location.
You’ll want to treat your content like a blog post or landing page, otherwise. Make sure your text is properly formatted, with a headline in a proper H1 tag. Split up longer paragraphs into several, use bulleted lists, and make sure to use plenty of subheadings. Cut down on meaningless fluff and duplicated lists from other subpages.
Finally, it may be worth looking into implementing rich data markup from Schema.org. Google and a consortium of other tech companies put together Schema as a rich data format, so web crawlers can pull more data accurately from web pages. There’s an entire set of data points you can use for markup for local businesses, ranging from properly tagging your NAP information to listing specific information about your founder. You don’t have to do all of it, but any information you do list should be tagged appropriately.
Claim Other Business Listings
We already mentioned that you should claim your Google My Business account, but you should also make sure to claim or make other local listing pages.
- Bing. Bing has a similar system to what Google used to have, called Bing Places. They allow you to claim each location, and you can even do it in bulk if you have a large list of places to claim. Instructions are here.
- Yelp. One of the biggest Yellow Pages type sites out there, Yelp tends to have a page for pretty much every business they can, and allow you to claim it if you verify you own the business.
- TripAdvisor. While it’s mostly focused on trip-based amenities, TripAdvisor also maintains profile pages that you can claim and populate with your own data.
- Facebook. Years ago, Facebook was trying to do the same thing as Google with a Places page setup, and they auto-generated pages for a large number of businesses. They have since retired most of this, but some pages still linger, and you may be able to claim them. You might do this to shut them down and merge all of the data to your central page, or you might take them over as individual franchise accounts.
There are dozens of similar aggregators out there, and it’s impossible to list them all.
What we recommend is doing a Google search for your brand name and looking for the sites that show up with profile pages. Any that rank for your name or for your primary keywords should be claimed, if possible.
Build SEO Value Naturally
Once you have all of the local business elements of a site set up, you’re free to build your site as a whole. Each individual page doesn’t need to change much or at all, so long as relevant information like address and operating hours remain accurate.
Any value you build to your domain as a whole is built to each of those location pages because they’re all on the same domain. That’s why we recommended the unique pages on one domain option rather than unique domains way in the intro.
Post blog content regularly, with keyword-optimized, rich, valuable content. Build links in any way you can, from guest posting to outreach to press release marketing to social media. Strive to build up your web presence, bit by bit, month after month, and you’ll see returns sooner or later. If all goes according to plan, hopefully sooner!
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