Almost a third of all US consumers use search engines to find local businesses on a daily basis.
If you’re in the local SEO game, you know this. But what if you have multiple locations and want to rank for all of them?
Here’s how to rank in multiple cities using a multi-location SEO strategy that avoids penalization from search engines.
How Do You Rank In Multiple Cities?
Multi-location SEO has a number of moving parts, but it’s a doable venture. There are five main aspects of an SEO strategy for multiple locations:
To help you develop a more thorough understanding of multi-location SEO, let’s dig into each of these aspects independently.
City Pages: Negative or Positive Impact on SEO?
For Google, user value is everything. That’s why search intent holds such hefty weight. What does a page contribute to the user’s journey?
That brings us to SEO city pages. Often used as a ranking mechanism for multi-location businesses seeking a leg up in local SEO, city pages have the potential to provide great value to your SEO strategy. But if done wrong, they can cost your business its spot on the SERP.
Ever since Google implemented its Panda algorithm update in 2018, duplicate content with little to no text variation became an even bigger no-no. For Google, the question “what value does duplicate content on the same web page hold?” proved difficult to answer.
When it comes to an SEO strategy for multiple locations, city pages are a smart move — as long as you do them right. Here are some best practices for SEO city pages, wherever it is you may be targeting on the map.
Every Relevant City Page Must Be Unique (& Optimized Locally)
When you tackle multi-location SEO, you’ll want to develop a landing page that’s optimized for each location you’re targeting.
A good rule of thumb is to select only the most imperative locations (instead of all 100, for example) or break up the locations by region. You can use geo-based keywords to optimize the pages for more specific locales and include names of surrounding towns within the content. Including real landmarks in your content is helpful, too.
Whatever the case, you don’t want to be repetitive. Sure, you can maintain similar formats across pages for ease of construction — but you definitely don’t want to plagiarize yourself. Google will take notice and penalize the pages since they won’t provide unique value to the reader.
When optimizing the content, make it more valuable than a NAP (name, address, phone number). Showcase that you know the area and its nuances. Bring more to the table than a franchise listing.
Each Page Also Needs to Include These Key Factors
Aside from optimizing your pages for localized keywords and unique storytelling, you’ll also want to include a few key pieces of the multi-location SEO puzzle :
- NAP: I know I said your SEO city pages shouldn’t be just a NAP listing, but you do want them to include this information
- Google Map: You should embed this right onto the page. Visit Google’s instructions for their Maps Embed API to learn more.
- Directions: How can customers get there? Use local landmarks in your description.
- Location-specific metadata: This means meta title, meta descriptions, alt text, and more.
- Images: What does your business look like on the outside and inside? What about your staff? Give your guests a visual experience to draw them in, and make the most of alt text and captions for added optimization.
- Customer reviews and testimonials: Specifically ones with geo-targeted wording in the content.
Maintain a Consistent URL Structure Across All SEO City Pages
When building out your various city pages, it’s smart to keep some semblance of regularity in the URL department. Why? For a few reasons, actually.
It helps you keep track of your pages.
Visitors will have an easier time navigating your site.
And Google (and other search engines like Bing, of course) will have an easier time crawling and indexing your SEO city pages.
These perks are worth the marginal effort it takes to keep a logical URL structure. Yes, it’s fairly simple to do.
Develop a system of subdirectory tags to organize your location-specific pages. You may use a string of subdirectories like this:
However you choose to organize the pages for your multiple business locations, remember the age ol’ KISS acronym (keep it simple, sweetie). The clearer it is for people and algorithmic crawlers alike, the better. You’ll also want to maintain the system across your website, even for non-location pages.
Your SEO City Pages Must Be Optimized for Mobile
And when I say must, I mean it. If there’s one thing you should know about digital marketing, it’s mobile-first without abandoning the desktop.
In Q2 of 2020, 51.53% of global web traffic came from a mobile device. For the United States specifically, this number is around 40%. For localized queries on search engines, mobile is even more important. (This makes sense considering people are often on the go while performing navigational searches.)
More than three-quarters of location searches on mobile devices wind up leading to offline conversion. Experts even suggest that smartphone influence for local sales will exceed $1.4 trillion by 2021.
All of this just goes to show how influential mobile devices are for the economy as a whole and your own business’ financial health. That’s why you must focus on making your SEO city pages mobile-friendly, without sacrificing desktop and tablet optimization.
Collect Backlinks for Each SEO City Page
A solid backlink strategy will go a long way in helping boost your individual city pages. Even if your domain is young (your site’s limited experience means domain age can indirectly affect your SEO until your web presence is a bit stronger), acquiring backlinks can boost you to the top of a SERP.
Just be sure that your backlink strategy is honest and natural. Google and other search engines have their noses to the ground when it comes to black hat SEO.
Here are a few simple ways to get backlinks to your location pages:
- Write guest blogs on popular sites and link back to your content (you’re not getting paid for these, so it’s mostly an investment of time).
- Sponsor a virtual or in-person event and use a local event page to link back to your city page.
- Build infographics and make them shareable. Your distribution strategy is everything.
Your Google My Business Listings Are a Part of Multi-Location SEO
Statistics show that nearly 60% of all businesses have created at least one Google My Business post. Is yours one of them?
If you’re a multi-location brick-and-mortar business, this digital marketing tactic is that much more important.
Fortunately, the platform is easy to use. You can see our guide on how to set up and optimize Google My Business here.
In the meantime, you’ll want to make sure to keep these notes at the forefront to enhance your SEO strategy for multiple locations:
- Verify your separate business locations individually
- Make sure the hours are accurate. Update them if your hours change — which happens more often these days due to social restrictions from COVID-19.
- Be sure to upload quality photos of your business, on the inside and out!
- If all your stores serve the same function, then keep the same name for each location. For example, don’t name one Lowe’s of Billings while the rest are called Lowe’s Home Improvement. However, if your separate businesses have unique purposes (or there are multiple businesses with the same primary name in the area), label them accordingly.
- Categorize each location. For example, you may have a regional boutique, office supply chain or multi-location market.
All of this may sound tedious, but your various business locations are actually under one Google My Business account, so it’s really easy! You can even use a bulk upload spreadsheet if you have a ton of locations.
Let Google My Business Insights Help You
You can find the data behind your business listings in the Insights section. If you’re analyzing the performance of each of your listings, it’s a great tool to help you visualize various listings in one fell swoop.
Want to know how someone found your business online?
What about where they’re seeing the listing? Is it on the SERP or Google Maps?
And what events (or actions) are those users taking after they view your listing?
Head to Google My Business Insights and you can find answers to these questions and more. Be sure to upgrade to the latest version so you can see insights for the last few months (if you need to save them, you can do so on a quarterly basis).
Analyze Your Web Citations Across for Consistency
Google isn’t the only place your NAP lives. Other popular sites include Yelp, Bing Places, Yellow Pages, Yahoo Local, and Facebook.
The key here is to make sure your business name, address, and phone number for each location are consistent across platforms.
You can do this manually, but it can become a pain if you’re dealing with a whole slew of locations. Fortunately, you can easily find citation tracking tools to help you do this automatically.
One of the most popular — and reliable — citation tracking tools is the SEMrush Listing Management Tool.
This tool helps you distribute info, get rid of duplicate listings (a common Local SEO issue), manage listings on Google My Business and Facebook, track your rankings across the web, and more.
Once you know how to use it right, it’s clear that the web has small businesses’ backs.
Implement Schema for Local SEO
You may be interested in taking things a step further and implementing schema markup on your city pages and other landing URLs.
The simplest option is local business markup, which lets you show your hours and more right on the SERP for your web page results.
Q&A and FAQ schema markup are two other types you may want to consider.
All types of markup are tools to help you gain more SERP real estate. When trying to figure out how to rank in multiple cities, you may want to employ all the tools at your disposal. Schema markup proves there is no shortage of tools for you to use — even if you enlist the help of a trusted developer to get you where you need to go.
Manage Location-Specific Reviews
Reviews have the power to make or break a business. That’s why managing them is so critical to success.
Responding to both positive and negative reviews is important. For negative reviews, you may want to go above and beyond to see if you can resolve the issue at hand. You can’t satisfy everyone, but other users will take notice if you’re at least trying to rectify a negative experience at one of your storefronts. In certain circumstances, you can ask the user to contact you to discuss the matter further and potentially offer them a discount for future visits.
Multi-Location SEO Takes Some Buildup and Maintenance, But It’s Worth It
If you own a chain restaurant, regional service business, or another multi-location operation, multi-location SEO is for you. Half of all folks who search for a product or business on a mobile device end up visiting the facility that day.
If your SEO strategy for multiple locations is out of whack, it may take some overhaul — and it always takes a bit of simple maintenance to upkeep — but we couldn’t recommend it more. Take our tips into consideration and you’ll be ranking for locations A–Z in no time.