With smartphone saturation in the US now at 80%, more and more people are utilizing smartphones to search for local brick-and-mortar restaurants, retail stores, and service providers when they are out and about around town. Google recently reported that "Google search interest in "near me" has increased 34x since 2011 and nearly doubled since last year." Managing your local SEO presence can be a challenge for one location, however, if you are a chain restaurant or a multi-location retail store, it can be an absolute nightmare. Fortunately, we are going to share some of our insights on how to dominate the local landscape for large brands.
When a user searches for "[your product] in [a city you serve]" it is crucial that you show up in the local results:
Local SEO Ranking Factors
Just like national or international SEO, there are multiple factors that contribute to how you rank in search results. While Moz.com breaks down Google local ranking factors to a granular level, we like to classify them into three main categories.
1. Search Engine Listings: Using Google My Business to the Fullest
While Bing and Yahoo's share of the search engine market has improved, it is still Google's world, we just search in it. That makes Google's My Business listings, which power Google Maps and local results in the traditional searches, the single most important tool in local SEO. The good news about Google's My Business listings is that it is free to use, however, the downside is, is that just about everyone with a business license has one. So how do you outperform the completion? By using a rich, fully optimized listing of course. If you have more than ten locations, I would highly recommend getting set up with the bulk upload interface. To do this, you will need to have an email address on the domain you are working with. For example, it would take access to an email like: email@example.com to verify multiple Red Door Interactive locations without sending post card pin numbers to each location. After your locations are verified, consider adding the following advanced bits of information to your listings to set them apart from the competition:
A unique URL for each location instead of the home page. I.E., Reddoor.biz/locations/denver
Add UTM tagging to each URL so you can monitor the traffic in Google Analytics
Use the logo as your profile image and a picture of your store front as the banner image
Use a local phone number as opposed to a 1-800 number
Use unique descriptions that include keywords and the city the location is in
Inclue a virtual tour of your locations (if applicable)
Don't add keywords to your business name
Use as many categories being related to your business as you can justify
Use the district column if your location is in a neighborhood within a big city, i.e. Brooklyn, NYC, NY
Don't forget about the other major search engines like Bing, Yahoo and Yelp. Similar services exist for them, however, depending on your brand's size, they're not always free.
2. Citation Tools Compared: Moz Local vs. Yext vs. Whitespark vs. UBL vs. Bright Local
Citation information is extremely important in the world of local SEO. Citations are important for many reasons however, the most important reason is for name, address, and phone number (NAP) information that search engines use to validate the authority of your listings. For example, if Google finds 200 instances of one business that has the exact same address across all directories on the web, it is more than likely the right address and Google will show it to users. There are data aggregators and then there are directories or "publishers". The major aggregators are Localeze, Inforgroup, Acxiom and Factual. These companies collect data about businesses then sell them to business directories such as manta.com and superpages.com. The local SEO ecosystem is pretty complex:
Photo courtesy of moz.com
You can go directly to the data aggregators or to the publishers but most people rely on syndication software such as Moz Local, Yext, UBL and Bright Local to do the heavy lifting. These platforms keep all of your data in one place and then share it across the board. Each platform is a little different and in our opinion, it depends on the brand and the needs to choose which one is best.
Here is our Local SEO Vendor Matrix:
Of the platforms listed above, we have used all but Whitespark over the last few years. Recently, we have been using Moz Local and Yext. The differentiator usually comes down to two things:
2. How bad is the brand's current citation situation
Moz Local Pros and Cons
We like to describe Moz Local as a more passive way to manage your citation information. Moz local does not directly affect publishers, it only submits to aggregators which then has the trickle-down effect to publishers. The cost is much cheaper but it is also more labor intensive to set up and manage publishers outside of their network. Typically, we go with this option when budgets are low and the current citations aren't in too bad of shape.
Yext Pros and Cons
When it is necessary to pull out the big guns, we turn to Yext. Their duplicate suppression service is great when you have a lot of incorrect citations floating around. They also have some strengths with Bing, Facebook, Yelp, and Yahoo as they can create your listing directly on those platforms. Since they use an API for a direct connection with around 60 publishers, your data increases quickly and you have a lot of control over it. This is ideal for making changes such as business hours and sales. The biggest drawback is cost, and the fact that they only submit to one of the aggregators, so using Yext won't cover your citation data everywhere on the web.
Other platforms exist and have their own benefits, including manual citation building. By doing this, you actually own the citations which means you get the logins and have the freedom to do whatever you please with them. The other benefit of Whitespark and Bright Local is the flexibility to choose exactly which platforms you want. This creates more labor in managing multiple platforms and locations, but in the scenario that you only need help on one directory, it's a good option.
3. On Page Local SEO: Advise & Examples
Lastly, we have on-page SEO, which included creating individual location pages with unique location specific content. The name of the game here is making sure that search engines understand two things about each page: it's physical location / service area and the specific services that it provides that area. It is important to include location information such as city and state in the following html elements:
H1 heading tag
You want to provide as much distinction between locations as possible. If you have two locations that are in the same physical city, use unique identifiers such as the neighborhood they are in or the street they are located on. Try to think like a local in this scenario; do people search for "Restaurants in New York City" or "Restaurants in Manhattan" when looking for a nearby place to eat lunch. Try and utilize these user tendencies to your advantage. We often turn to each store manager to provide this sort of locals only knowledge.
The local SEO world can be a daunting place, so Red Door Interactive is here to provide your brand with guidance and execution on getting your locations to the top of the local results. Contact Red Door Interactive today.