A strong local search presence and visibility has always been important for multi-location brands. Google continues to make this increasingly so, with local branded and non-branded terms playing an ever greater role in search results, thanks to the Knowledge Graph and Local Carousel.
Ninety percent of consumers now use search engines to shop locally; these queries are happening from the desktop, on the mobile web, in apps, from maps, and even from GPS and other in-vehicle devices. Each and every internet transaction has a local connection, via the user on a device tied to a geo-coordinate.
Local SEO and local listing management are two completely different tactics, yet completely intertwined, and the top brands should know that each is critical to ranking individual locations on Google. The search giant ranks multi-location brand websites based on three common sense factors:
- Best practice on-page validation factors (Local SEO)
- High quality local landing page user experience
- Relevant backlinks on directories and IYPs through listing validation.
Local SEO and SEM are time consuming and tedious, though. In order to achieve optimal results at scale, you need to automate processes where possible.
With these factors and challenges in mind, let's explore the steps necessary to deliver the best possible chance of ranking each of your locations for local queries. Crossing each of these concerns off the list is a multi-location brands' blueprint for scalable local SEO.
On-Page Validation or Local SEO Factors
Local SEO best practices are the core foundation necessary for ranking in organic search for local terms. Map rankings can easily improve when pages with localized URLs are attached to Google, Yahoo, and Bing map listings.
Employ these simple (yet high-impact) best practices:
- Localize title tags (e.g., "Sporting Goods San Diego")
- Optimize meta descriptions (e.g., "Sports Authority | Sporting Goods Stores San Diego")
- Implement localized schema markup (e.g., proper itemprop for local business name, address, and phone number)
- Localize URL structure (e.g., http://stores.jcpenney.com/ca/pasorobles/clothing-stores-pasorobles-ca-2755.html)
- Localize on-page business content (e.g. hours, driving directions, local descriptions, etc.).
If you're still unfamiliar with structured data, get yourself up to speed. Google has increasingly relied on microdata to better understand web content and recommends that webmasters utilize the Schema.org structure.
Although structured data isn't a ranking factor (meaning all other things equal, you won't rank higher than a competitor based on schema alone), it enables the showcasing of rich snippets, which enhances the search user's experience through additional text and images.
Local Landing Page User Experience
Local searchers fully expect a rich, engaging, and high-quality experience, yet many localized pages fail to deliver. Ironically, a lot of the things consumers are looking for may also help your local pages rank higher, like integrating YouTube, Google Maps, Google+ sharing, Google+ Local links, Google Webmaster Tools, and Analytics.
Make sure you integrate each of the following to enhance the user experience and allow customers to interact with your brand on each of your local landing pages:
- Separate mobile and desktop optimized experiences
- Driving directions and maps on page
- Hours of operation including holiday hours
- Localized promotions and/or coupons
- List of products and services available at location
- Local videos, social media links and social sharing options
- Links to review sites like Google+, Yahoo Local, Yelp, Angie's List, and others.
The wants and needs of local searchers are fairly simple. They want to:
- Learn more about you.
- Interact with your brand.
- Find you right now and make a purchase, either online or in person.
If you're making it cumbersome or counterintuitive to accomplish any of these goals, you're doing your brand a huge disservice.
Local Listing Management (NAP)
Local listing management offers multiple measurable influences to higher rankings in local search. Linking your map listings to local URLs, managing your NAP (name, address, phone number) in the "local ecosystem" through data aggregators, and managing your local presence on social networks ensures a consistent data fidelity process for ranking higher.
Providing your business feed isn't the only step. Google also references hundreds of local data sources and directories to validate your business information. The more your NAP matches what you provide to Google, the higher you could rank.
Make sure you:
- Claim and manage your map listings across Google, Yahoo, and Bing with same valid business data.
- Claim and manage your listings in major data aggregators like Acxiom, Infogroup Express Update, Neustar Localeze, Factual, and Yext.
- Claim and manage your listings on major social networks like Google+, Facebook, Yelp, and Foursquare.
For more on intelligently leveraging social and mobile for greater search reach, watch this replay of a recent ClickZ/Covario webinar Authoring Your Way to the Semantic Web 3.0.
Of course, managing all of these citations, claimed and unclaimed listings, reviews, and data feeds for hundreds (or even thousands) of locations can be incredibly time consuming and costly. We recently analyzed the cost-per-click of engaging customers in several highly competitive industries that used automated local SEO and local listing management software.
Automating Local SEO for Better Performance & Reduced Cost
Each of these key steps can be automated to help you save time, while securing relevant local traffic at the lowest cost per visitor:
- Local landing pages
- Mobile optimized pages
- Local SEO best practices and schema markup
- Local listing management
- IYP and directory management
- Search engine map management
A recent case study found that automating these above items helped multiple department stores achieve a CPC below $0.07 from local SEO, compared to the $0.60 they had been spending on paid search. Fashion and sporting goods retailers recorded CPCs under $0.10 cents last summer, with a continued downward trend into the fourth quarter.
A recent Google study reported that consumer electronics retailer Radio Shack found that over a period of four months that 40 to 60 percent of clicks on its store locator resulted in visits to one of its physical stores. Of those visitors, 85 percent went on to make a purchase at that store, while the average order value increased 30 percent. See more about Radio Shack's local search success here.
With the opportunity presented in local search today, big brands need automation tools if they desire to control their digital storefronts throughout the local search ecosystem.