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The Complete Local SEO Guide for Multiple Locations & Franchises

January 22, 2021

There are common local SEO solutions every website should implement, but optimizing your website to rank for multiple locations requires specialized strategies.  You must understand how to avoid filtering, manual actions, duplication, and cannibalization.

With our complete guide you will learn how to dominate local SEO, so your locations can rank for high-value keywords and reach more customers.  Let’s get into how to dominate local SEO for multiple locations.

Here’s our multi-location SEO Process:


What is Local SEO for Multi-Locations?

Local SEO is a search optimization strategy that works to rank businesses for local searches – both organic searches and Google Maps searches.

With multiple locations, you will have multiple Google My Business listings (GMB) and website location pages. Multi-location SEO is the process of ranking your individual location pages and GMB listings for your target keywords and geographic areas.

What’s Different?

Handling multiple listings and location pages can be a tad bit difficult, because  all target closely related niche and geo-specific keywords. On top of that, you have to optimize each without diluting the rankings of your other listings. Instead, you have to drive more visibility for all your local listings in SERPs.

Why is Local SEO Important?

4 out of 5 consumers reporting regularly searching online for local businesses. Your business must be front and center. Otherwise, your competitor gets that customer.

We’ve all searched for something like “restaurants near me” and chosen one of the top results.

However, search terms for local businesses don’t need to have an explicit mention of the location or “near me”. As long as the search term is about a service or product which is usually consumed locally, local results will be shown. For example, food or retail shops or an appliance maintenance center. For local searches, the GPS location of the user tells Google to show relevant local results.

These rising popularity of local searches and online searches in general means your local business must optimize for local SEO to be shown prominently.

What Does Local SEO Look Like Now?

Today, local SEO has evolved beyond stuffing location-based keywords and bulk building links.

Websites must focus on high-quality, local content that matches user intent, while building relevant citations, high-quality backlinks, and collecting reviews.

Local SEO is also becoming ever-more important to business success…

72% of customers who conduct a local search will visit a nearby store. If you aren’t showing in these customers local searches, you’re missing out on a big piece of the market. Showing up prominently in local searches increases your customer reach and chances they will visit the business.

But you have to rank at the top…

Over 75% of users don’t go past the first page of search results. You must invest in optimizing your local listings with trusted SEO services to ensure your locations are on page one. Otherwise, your SEO efforts are somewhat wasted. Even if you rank on page two, only 25% of users are potentially seeing you.

How to Dominate Local Franchise SEO for Multi-Location Businesses

The first result in 93% of Google searches in the local map pack. That’s why the main goal of local SEO is to rank your business’ listing in the local map pack (3 top listings in SERPs).

How to Rank in the Local Map Pack 3 Pack with Local Brand Advisor

If your location listing shows up here, your chances of phone calls, customer visits, and sales exponentially increases.

While you may know some local SEO, when you have more than a couple locations new challenges begin to arise. Should you implement location pages or a store locator on the website? How can you avoid potential filtering of your multiple Google My Business listings? You will also have to strategize technical decisions like website architecture and URL structure.

Knowing common local SEO issues for multi-location businesses can help you avoid potential problems down the line and achieve maximum results for every location. Our thorough guide to local SEO will show you how to rank for multiple locations and help resolve common local SEO issues.

Get ready to dominate the local 3-pack listings!

Now let’s talk about how to dominate local SEO for franchises or multiple business locations…

Craft a Strategy for Multi-Location SEO and Franchise Rankings

Having a strategic plan is the first step for multi-location businesses to succeed online. There are more moving parts with multiple listings and locations, so you need to be organized.

If you don’t plan ahead for SEO strategy, it can harm your business’s growth in the long run.

Most of the time, they pick a bunch of strategies and use them without giving any second thought. There are also times they place listings where they had an opportunity to get the postcards sent.

We have worked on many multi-location SEO campaigns that lacked a structured plan or strategy before we started the campaign. Clients will pick and choose strategies and use them without giving any second thought to what they should be doing. For example, clients might place GMB listings where they had an opportunity to get the postcards sent.

Poorly thought out moves like this can wreak havoc on your online presence, creating issues that need to be resolved before an real SEO work can begin…

Your multi-local brand needs a proper strategic plan. If not, it can cost you time, sales, and money.

How to Create a Multi-Location SEO Strategy:

If you want to create your own local SEO plan, there are questions you must ask yourself.

Are you planning to go with a single site for all locations? Or do you want subdomains or a separate website for each location? Did you plan your business locations, or were they a random opportunistic choice? What website structure will help you to maximize SEO effectiveness?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, we recommend speaking with a local SEO specialist about your goals for SEO. This can give clear direction for your online strategy.

Here are things to consider when creating your local SEO strategy:

  1. Who is your ideal target audience for GMB listings of your business?
  2. What services do you want to highlight in your GMB listings?
  3. Could you utilize a bulk GMB listing verification strategy?
  4. How will you create focused website location pages?
  5. Which strategy will you use for ranking service pages on the site?
  6. How will you prevent keyword cannibalization?
  7. What local content can you create?
  8. How can you attract backlinks from high-quality sites in your industry?
  9. Do you plan to expand or add new business locations?

In addition to creating a multi-location local SEO strategy, you need a plan for growth…

Consider Your Growth Plan for Local Franchise SEO Services

Another common local SEO issue is not having a growth plan. If you’re not prepared for the future, last-minute decisions happen that aren’t the most thought through.

Think about your growth ahead of time to set yourself up for success. When creating your strategy, we recommend also asking yourself questions about building your business and local SEO growth:

  1. How many locations are you planning to open in the next 12 months?
  2. What is the next market you plan to open your business in?

If you cannot answer these 2 questions, then you don’t have a local SEO growth plan. Not having a growth plan an impact your SEO efforts down the road and cause you to backtrack to fix issues like mixed GMB listing types. Get to work!

Local Franchise Marketing Helps Evaluate Competition & Markets

Look at what’s working for your competitors. Are there common trends in their GMB listings? What is the website structure of the competitors ranking on page one?

By assessing your competitors you can find insight that can cut the learning curve. Look at things like:

  1. Common linking strategies among top-ranking pages.
  2. What content are they writing about?
  3. What content format do they rank for?
  4. How do top rankers structure their site?

Remember that not all locations, industries, or markets are the same. What works in one area may not work in another.

You must evaluate each market individually. This allows you to hone in on what the best local SEO strategy is for each. Consider:

  1. What is the population and traffic potential in the market?
  2. What budget does the market demand?
  3. Is there significant competition that will drive SEO costs up?
  4. How easy will be it be too rank?

Claim Google Maps Listings for Every Location with Our Regional SEO Strategy

GMB listings are the heart of any local SEO effort. Yet the majority of them are not claimed.

Make sure you claim the GMB listings for every single location. This not only helps promote your business, but also protects your brand from others claiming the listing.

Avoid Spamming & Filtering When Doing Local SEO for Multiple Locations

When a user searches for your business online, the first thing they should see is your listing info in the SERPs. If your listing is spammy or be filtered, some of your listings are probably not visible for customers. Here’s how to avoid this:

  1. Make sure that your address/phone number for the same brand isn’t linked to many locations.
  2. Don’t use spammy SEO practices like keyword stuffing your GMB listing. This can push you down the rankings.
  3. If you are working with multi-locations SABS, then make sure no listing overlaps.

Another way your GMB listings can be filtered is if there are too many listings…

Too Many GMB Listings OR Not Enough

This is one of the most common local SEO issues we see with clients. A multi-location business either has way too many GMB listings or not enough listings to effectively cover their market.

First, let’s cover what can happen if you have too many GMB listings…

Let’s suppose a business has too many GMB listings near each other. The weaker and less relevant GMB listings will filter out the stronger ones. While this may sound counter-intuitive, we at Local Brand Advisor observe this regularly when onboarding new SEO campaigns for local businesses. Using Local Viking tools, we can see how local listings of a brand interact with each other.

We recommend using tools like this as a check when launching new listings. This ensures new listings will not interfere with established listings.

If you have too few listings, this can create ranking challenges…

Do not try to rank your listing for a location that is too far from your verified location. It’s nearly impossible to rank a GMB listing in an area outside of the verified city location. GMB listings that have a verified location city matching the target city will be given ranking preference.

Your listings will be stretched thin, meaning they aren’t effective in these outlying areas. You won’t reach these potential customers.

1 City, At Least 1 Listing

You must have at least 1 listing in each target city in order to best optimize for local searches.

This is especially true for competitive search terms in high density areas. For populous cities like New York or spread out ones like Los Angeles, you’d need more than 1 listing that covers specific burrows or neighborhoods.

Don’t Mix GMB Listing Types: Service Area Business, Storefront, and Hybrid

This is a common local SEO issue we see with smaller regional chains and franchises, which can lead to filtering and/or ToS violations.

Because these businesses are trying to grow fast and things are moving quickly, they end up with a mixed collection of GMB listings. These listings are usually a mix of:

  1. Service area businesses with hidden addresses
  2. Storefront listings with visible addresses
  3. And, some are hybrid listings of the above

Companies with the above pattern of GMB listings don’t have a definite growth plan for local SEO. They are focused on growing fast and collecting as many GMB listings as possible. However, this can be counterproductive to business growth.

You must have the same listing types for your locations and areas. If you don’t your listings could be filtered for overlapping service areas or you could have a ToS violation for having both storefront and SAB listings.

Ensure Consist Business Address, Name and Phone Number

It’s vital to have complete and updated information in your local GMB listing. But you must also ensure your business name, address, and place (NAP) are consistent across the internet.

For better rankings of your GMB listings, NAP consistency is necessary.

Google algorithms are getting better each day in crediting brand mentions to the right listings. However, you should still ensure consistency in NAPs across your GMB listings and outside directories and other citations.

This will ensure you get proper credit for your brand’s local citations. You don’t want to work to create citations, then not get credit for them…

In multi-location SEO, not ensuring consistency in NAPs can lead to confusing signals for relevant listings. This confusion will affect both algorithms and consumers, which will not benefit your brand.

When using a bulk verified chain, the risk for inconsistent NAPs increases. The chains use the same listing across all locations. But Google uses the phone number, city, and zip code as prime elements to identify one listing from another, which creates confusion.

People usually think that local optimization only applies to your “Google My Business” listings. However, that’s not true.

Local SEO starts with your online presence (your website). So let’s focus on your website now…

Avoid Keyword Cannibalization with Duplicate Service Pages

Duplicate service pages for each locations can cannibalize your SEO efforts. Basically, these service pages are competing with each other which dilutes their overall ranking power.

You must prevent duplicate pages for each location to avoid this common SEO issue. But how?

Let’s say you run a multi-location business with only a few services. Then you don’t need to create a separate location page for each of those services. For example, there is a plumbing and drain inspection business with locations in 100 cities. They don’t need to create a separate location page for each of those 100 cities.

Instead, they can write about their two services on the main service page. Then, link those two services to each of the 100 locations it is available in.

However, location pages can skyrocket SEO efforts for many types of businesses.

Utilize Location Pages on Your Website

It’s easy to optimize your website for areas that are close to each other by optimizing your homepage. However, once you begin targeting multiple cities for your multiple locations, you will need location pages to rank.

Create a separate page for each target location if you have not already done so. If you have locations pages, make sure each location page is focusing on the proper geo terms. You can use SEO tools to find popular terms for each geographic area.

For example, if the business has 5 locations in New York, our first step would be to optimize the homepage. Then, we would create individual location pages to match each of the five locations.

Next, you want to link all location pages to the homepage. We recommend adding your location pages to the navigation to signal to Google these are high priority pages. It will also create a better user experience.

When optimizing, you want to watch for these common issues that can negatively impact location pages….

Low Quality or Duplicate Website Content

Are you one of those businesses that uses the same content for all location pages? If so, stop.

Google will penalize sites with duplicate content, because it does not provide the best results for searchers. While it’s more work to create different content for each location, it will help your rankings.

Using the same content will cause duplicate content issues that affect rank, but you can also lose rank for low quality pages.

Low quality pages are thin content that doesn’t really tell the user much information. If you have enough low quality pages on your site, it can signal spam to Google. This is definitely a practice to avoid.

Having many spam pages or low-quality pages can never make you stay on the top rankings.

Thus, if you want to have great rankings in SERPs, then invest in high quality content for every page. Never duplicate the same content, as it adds no value to your page.

Lacking Local Elements

Incomplete information on your location pages can impact the algorithm’s ability to understand the page, which will negatively affect your SEO results. It can also give the wrong impression to potential customers.

Always make sure you have all locally-relevant information on the location pages. Mention the areas you target, the services you offer, and its sub-categories. Also be sure to include elements such as operating hours, contact details, and directions.

To make the page more prominent, you can also add landmarks, embedded maps, or the popular events of that location.

Now, let’s get into how to optimize location pages…

How to Optimize Location Pages

On-page optimization is a must for Local SEO rankings. But do you know which pages are the most important to optimize on your website?

We recommend focusing on your homepage and location pages. In order to optimize location pages, your must address the following:

Keyword Research & Search Intent

Don’t guess at what keywords your customers are searching for. Do your research.

Start your optimization by finding the right target keywords for your business. Then, create variations of these keywords based on locations your business serves. Once you know your keywords, add them to your headings, subheadings, and throughout the content.

The ideal keywords have high volumes and high buying intent. However, you want to target the right people.

This means you want to target keywords that drive more phone calls and foot traffic to your business. The keywords that drive business could be lower volume because they are specific, so be sure to analyze not only the search volume, but also search intent.

Competitor Analysis & Insights:

One of the easiest ways to prepare a good local SEO strategy is to analyze top competitors. Study top-ranking similar businesses in your target areas/market to see what’s working for them.

When you look at other top-performers then you can easily discern the following:

  1. What keywords they are targeting
  2. How these businesses structured their location pages
  3. What info do their location pages include, and how it appears in the SERPs.

The above info will give you a lot of insight into what’s working for your competitors. It will also give a direction for your business growth.

Now, the only task on hand you will have is how to replicate local SEO success for your own business.

Remember, you don’t have to copy the exact local SEO strategy of your competitors. Instead, identify trends of top-ranking pages and apply those to your location pages. You can also look for SEO gaps to fill that your competitors are missing.

Title & Heading Tags

Once you have your keywords, include the main keyword in the beginning of your title. Heading tags play a key role in your SERP rankings, so it must be optimized appropriately. Like title tags, the heading also should contain your main target keyword(s) and the location of the business.

Be sure to only use one H1 tag per page as a best practice. Use other heading tags such as H2 & H3 to format your content in order of importance.

Meta Title and Descriptions

A good meta title indicates what the web page is about and entices the searcher to click on our result.

The meta title should also include your main target keyword, as well as a benefit. The meta title should be a max length of 60 characters.

The meta description appears below the meta title in the SERPs listings. Here you have about 160 characters to write a summary of the page that make users click through.

It is best to include some of your primary keywords here, as well as synonyms. This helps drive relevancy for users.

Unique Content

You may have heard content is the king, and indeed it is of importance when it comes to SEO.

When creating location page content, don’t recycle similar copy for all location pages. We see this all too often with incoming clients.

This practice leads to duplicate content or thin pages, which is not going to help your local page rank.

You need to write unique, locally-relevant content for each of your location pages. This helps you differentiate your pages and emphasize each location, which in turn helps your rankings.  So what should you include in your location page to make it unique?

  1. Address, Phone number, and reviews.
  2. Unique service or products offered at a specific location
  3. Videos and photos of staff at a specific location
  4. Driving directions to the location and nearby landmarks
  5. Business hours
  6. Locally relevant keywords
  7. Links to location’s social media accounts & review sites
  8. Map embeds

Map API Embeds, Driving directions, and GMB Places embeds.

Having driving directions and maps are critical signals for your GMB listings. An embedded map on your location pages with a drop pin is a great way to tell Google where your business location is. This will also help your website users find your business location with ease.

Though Google Maps API is no longer free to use (Google now charges websites $0.50 for every 1000 page loads), you can still use it. But don’t worry, if you have a high traffic website, you will be given a $200 monthly credit. This means you won’t have to shell out money for map embeds.

You can also show the GMB listing on your location/contact us pages rather than using Google maps API.

Call to Action (CTA)

You want your website visitors to not only consume your content but also take action. Hence, it is important to have at least 1 business-critical CTA on your local pages.

CTAs such as, “call us, sign up now, see the offers, etc,” can be used, but we recommend customizing each CTA to grab users attention and optimize conversions.

Optimize Images

A lot of text on your location pages might provide a ton of useful information. But, make sure that you also add a few images to break the monotony of the location page.

You can add a gallery of photos such as images of the storefront, staff and employee photos, or even photos of your products/services. Add neighborhood or important landmarks photos as well to provide a complete picture to the readers of your location pages.

Then, optimize the photos by using descriptive file names and alt text.  Alt text will help search engines understand what the image is about, which increases your chances of ranking for image results.

For example, if it’s an apple pie photo, then apple-pie.jpg is a good enough image name. We recommend adding a target keywords to your alt text if possible. You should also geotag the images for local relevance.

You also want to optimize for fast load times by keeping the file size of images to the minimum. You can also compress images for further optimization.

Short URLs with Keywords

When creating location pages, you want to use the shortest URL possible, but also include location-based keywords. For example, if you’re targeting plumbing in Tampa Bay, you can use /tampa-bay-plumbing/ for your slug.

You also want to ensure your URLs are organized properly. If the site structure doesn’t make sense, it can confuse users and search engines. Confusion is not good for rankings.

Your website’s navigation can make it easy for users to explore your site, but it is also how search algorithms determine the most important pages and what to index. Location pages must be there.

Include all location-relevant content in the main navigation bar on your website to prioritize them. This will help location pages to rank higher, but also make your service areas visible to all users.

You can also put location page links in the footer of the website.

Include Contact Information

Contact info may seem basic, but it is so fundamental to local SEO that we want to highlight it.

Every location page should have “contact us” information that should include the business name, address, and phone number. Each NAP should be accurate and consistent because that ensures your listing gets credit for every online brand mention.

Internal links are those which link the content on your website to other web pages of your site. These links help users in discovering helpful content across your website. For example, a user may be browsing your website’s blog section and comes across an unknown term. That user can then click on that term and find out more about it from another web page on your site.

We recommend adding internal links to every page on your site, but especially the location pages.

Internal links are not only helpful for users but also beneficial for search engines. Crawl bots discover new web pages of your site through internal links. Therefore, internal links help in better indexation of your web pages in Google. You should link your local website pages as well to form an internal silos of similar information.

You can also link high authority web pages on your website to location pages. This will ensure that link juice passes to location pages as well. For example, if a resource page on your website has high authority then pass some of it by linking it to a location page.

Another good way to do internal linking is using breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs are a navigation path that tells where you are currently on a website.

Use Schema Markup For Location-based SEO

Schema markup is also known as structured data. It tells the search engines by way of HTML code, what data type is on a web page.

Let’s say you want to mention your phone number: 777-888-666-24 on a webpage. Now to search engines, it is a random string of numbers. So to tell search engines that it is looking at the phone number, you need to use schema markup.

Schema markup tells search engines what kind of data it is looking at or parsing. There are around 800 types of schema markup with over 1300 different properties.

Get in Featured Snippets

Schema marked-up data allows your site to show up in featured snippets in SERPs. This helps you stand out from the rest of the SERP listings. You can markup your business’s operating hours and address, which will show as rich data in the SERPs.

In addition to JSON LD Schema, I recommend marking up the address and hours in HTML – directly in the content.

Add Location Pages to Sitemap

The last step of optimizing location pages is to update your sitemap and submit it for search engines to scan through. The sitemap must contain all main URLs of your website, which you want Google to crawl and index. Hence, when you put up new locations pages on your website, make sure the same is present in your sitemap.

After updating the sitemap, submit it in the Google search console. Your site will soon get crawled and indexed in the search engines.

Tools to Improve Your  Multi-Location SEO Strategy

SEO is ever-evolving – what worked yesterday, may not work tomorrow. You will need to track your progress, identify the right SEO strategies and keywords, and where you are lagging. So what SEO tools can you use apart from a rank tracker?

This section is all about working with tools, interpreting data, and using insights to drive local SEO Strategy. We can use 2 free tools for this purpose: Google Analytics and Google My Business Insights.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a powerful and free web analytics tool.

From GA dashboards, you can observe how many people click through your website, which search terms they are coming from, and which content is bringing in the most traffic. There is a treasure trove of data here, so we recommend setting it up as soon as possible if you haven’t already.

You can even set up events or goals such as order form submission, contact us form, call your business, or book an appointment. You can also use the urchin tracking mechanism for tracking clicks from your GMB listings that led to goal completion.

If you want to learn more about using Google Analytics, Google offers free courses that teach you how to use the different features, as well as advanced analytics tactics.

Google My Business Insights

With GA you can track both the organic performance of your website and GMB listing via UTM parameters. But, with GMB Insights you get data only about your local listings.

The GMB dashboard helps you see all locations and their stats at a glance. From there you can get data about keywords leading to your listing’s visibility, actions taken by users on your listings, and more.

Compare Data with Local Viking

If you want a tool that connects with GMB for better data visualization, Local Viking is the answer.

It’s a great tool for GMB data visualization that compares month-over-month or year-over-year improvements. You can also compare how you stack up against competitors in stats like photo quantity.

Another valuable feature of Local Viking is the GeoGrids. Rankings will vary depending on the area, so it’s good to see the comparisons to understand what you need to work on.

These visual maps show your local rankings for a specific keyword in the areas surrounding your verified address. You can easily understand how you’re ranking in each individual area.

Geogrids from Local Viking

Use both GA and GMB intelligently and you will have enough insights to implement a solid local SEO strategy for multiple locations.

Be sure to check the data often as things can fluctuate. Making data-driven decisions is the best advice we can give any business.

Best Practices for Multi-Location Local SEO

Now that you know the strategies to dominate local SEO for multiple location businesses, how to optimize location pages, and SEO tools, here are the best practices we recommend following.

  1. Research high-volume, buyer-intent keywords. You’d need to combine a niche keyword (eg: running shoes) with a location modifier (eg: New York City, near me, etc.). This would give you the keyword, “running shoes New York City”.
  2. Structure your local content in a way that is useful for both users and search engines.
  3. Make sure your site URLs are simple, consistent, and SEO friendly.
  4. Make it easy for users to reach your local content pages by adding them to the main menu or footer of the website.
  5. Study how your competitors are creating local content & use it to prepare your own strategy.
  6. Create memorable, unique, and locally relevant content for your multi-location business website.
  7. Embed a map of your store on your location pages for the users to find driving directions and more.
  8. Add the name, address, and phone number on the “contact us” page of your website.
  9. Use relevant images on local content pages to spice them up. Add geotags, and metadata for more relevance.
  10. Do internal linking to promote other relevant web pages on your website.
  11. Add schema markup so that search engines know what kind of data they’re dealing with on your website.
  12. Add your new location pages to the sitemap and submit it to search engines for crawling.
  13. Have a unique GMB listing for each of your business locations.
  14. Ensure the name and business category are consistent across all your local outlets.
  15. Build citations via location-specific online directories.
  16. Properly manage and reply to all reviews especially the negative ones.
  17. Build backlinks to your listings by partnering with other businesses, hosting events, and collaborating with local bloggers.
  18. Use Google Analytics and GMB Insights to drive your local SEO strategy every now and then.

Local SEO Takes Time

Multi-location SEO is more complicated than local SEO for a single location business, so you may run into challenges more frequently. Don’t give up.

You should also remember that local SEO is not an overnight success. No matter what type of website is trying to rank, it will take time to break into the top spots.

Keep in mind the factors we discussed to reduce issues with multi-location SEO.  But, if you have a strong strategy for local listings, you can dominate multi-location SEO.

Achieve Results Quicker with Local Brand Advisor

If you want to skyrocket your business or don’t have the time to invest in local SEO, work with Local Brand Advisor. We have a proven process that achieves massive results for clients in a variety of industries and locations.

You won’t waste valuable time figuring out the ropes. Our team knows exactly what your franchise or multi-location business needs to succeed.

We grew one regional marketing franchises phone calls 347% in just 12 months! This allowed them to expand into new areas and open new locations, which greatly improved their local SEO. We can do the same for you with the implementation of GA4 tracking and analysis and much more.

Before you commit to anything, let us review your site to find the best ranking opportunities and explain what needs to be addressed. We will put together a strategic plan so you can focus on what matters most – running your business.

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