Franchisors and other multi-location businesses face a unique set of challenges when it comes to determining the best approach to website optimization for local searches on Google and other search engines. With search algorithms rapidly evolving and penalties cropping up for duplicate content, what is the best approach for a multiple-location business to take, when it comes to website development and SEO?
One Main Website, Multiple Sub-domains
Experts have long agreed that the best approach for franchisors and multi-location businesses to take is to develop one main corporate website, and create a sub-domain for each individual location. Since Google penalizes duplicate content, a franchisor would have to create a different version of the About Us, Services and other pages for each and every individual website in a multiple website scenario. With one main website, all of that information can be centralized on the corporate web pages, and each sub-domain would simply need to contain information pertinent to that individual location.
Local Search Factors
Branding is still very important, and while all of your locations’ websites are created as subdomains, it’s crucial to treat each location as a unique and separate business. That way you’ll rank higher in local search results, since Google and other search engines put a strong emphasis on location.
Be sure to optimize headings, page titles and content to reflect each specific location, rather than simply duplicating content and swapping out the state, city or neighborhood. Each site’s content needs to be individualized and unique to that geographical area. If you feature reviews or testimonials, they need to be filtered out by location so that they are not duplicated. Be sure to list each location’s hours of operation, a map and/or driving directions, payments accepted and any other pertinent details.
After creating a unique website for each subdomain, you should then create individual directory listings for each one. For multi-location businesses this can be a bit time-consuming; you may want to hire a professional. There are many relevant directories to choose from, but if you only have time for one, Google+ is the choice of most marketing professionals. You’ll need to make sure you have a unique phone number for each location, and treat every store or franchise as a separate entity. This will increase search visibility for each location.
Often overlooked, by business owners and marketers alike is the consistency in how their business’ name, address and phone number (NAP) is represented from one listing to the next. In terms of search engine algorithms, consistency is key. For example, using Boulevard, Blvd, and Bl in your address can cause glitches resulting in lower rankings. Similarly, switching between # and No., Suite and Ste, or Route and Rte can also hurt your SERPS. Make it common practice to routinely use the same formatting and abbreviations for your NAP in every single listing.
While it can be time consuming, the key to managing multiple locations is to treat each one as a unique entity. Some markets will perform better than others, and some might need a bit more effort. Branding is important as well, but when it comes to local search results, individualization and geo-targeting wins the day.