Following on from our recent multi location SEO article local SEO insights for multi-location businesses, today we look at some of the main SEO challenges businesses face when they are trying to increase visibility online of more than one location.
The first challenge with running a multi-location SEO strategy – and probably the biggest – is managing the strategy at scale, potentially across dozens, hundreds or thousands of locations.
We’ve discussed this before when looking at how waste companies can build a national presence through local SEO.
First of all, you have to build a local profile for each business location, link them together and optimise each listing for local engagement. This should include all of the following for each business location:
The challenge is, building a local profile for each business location involves a lot of work. The first task alone of completing and maintaining a Google Business Profile for each location is time-consuming enough. This workload prevents most companies from taking full advantage of their local search potential.
“Near me” searches demonstrate high purchase intent and generate results based on users’ physical locations. When someone specifies they’re looking for something in their nearby area, it suggests they want to find what they’re looking for and make the purchase as soon as possible – so “near me” searches are a huge opportunity for business locations.
In local searches, “near me” acts as a trigger keyword for users to specify they want to see local results. Another common trigger is to include the location name they want to find local results for, such as “best Thai restaurants in London”.
While “near me” searches specify that users are looking to find local businesses in their immediate area, location-specific searches suggest the user isn’t currently in the location they’re searching about.
This is an important distinction because it affects the potential purchase intent of location-specific queries and the time frame for potential purchases.
For example, someone typing in “best Thai restaurants in London” could be visiting the city this weekend, planning a trip to London in the near future or someone in the US daydreaming about a trip to London that may never happen.
“Near me” searches almost guarantee the user is looking to do business in their local area, in the immediate future but location-specific queries have a far lower lead quality. Unfortunately, it’s much easier to target location-specific queries with pages and content optimised for that location but targeting “near me” searches is far more difficult.
The reason “near me” queries are difficult to target is because they rely on the precise location of the user at the time they perform the search. You can’t target “near me” as a keyword, which is why it’s so important to build a local profile for each location.
Local SEO got even harder for companies with multiple locations at the end of last year, thanks to Google’s November 2021 local search update. Since the update, Google seems to favour local listings that are closer to the user’s physical location when they perform a search.
Previously, large companies with many business locations were often favoured over lesser-known but more local companies. However, now, Google is increasingly showing smaller, more local companies over the branches of bigger brands that are located further away from the user.
In other words, the radius for “near me” searches is now smaller and it’s more difficult for companies with multiple locations to rank for them.
Google wants to know that it’s promoting legitimate businesses in its local results but fake and hijacked business profiles are a real problem. In 2019, Google Maps had an estimated 11 million illegitimate local listings so the search giant has to take steps to identify dodgy business profiles.
Consistency is a key signal for legitimacy and Google wants to see the exact same business information present across all of your profiles. This includes your Google Business Profile listings for each location, your website, social media profiles, directory listings and anywhere else your business information displays.
Google is quite strict about consistency, too. For example, you need to have the same formatting for phone numbers, addresses, URLs and other details – so don’t start phone numbers with +44 in some places and 0 in others or use Street in some addresses and St. in others.
Earlier, we talked about the challenge of managing local SEO at scale and this is the level of detail you have to maintain across your profiles for each location.
The challenges of managing local SEO for multiple locations are multiplied for global brands that need to optimise for international locations. In terms of location targeting, the same general rules apply so you’ll be creating profiles for each business location and striving for the same level of consistency where possible.
Local SEO at the international scale brings a bunch of added complexities, though:
All of these challenges are manageable with the right processes but they each add a significant amount of work to a multi-location strategy that’s already intense.
Most local SEO advice is geared towards businesses with physical locations that welcome customers through the door: shops, restaurants, local facilities, etc. Unfortunately, this ignores a common type of multi-location business – the kind that provides services by visiting their customers or an off-site location.
This includes a wide range of service businesses and sole traders, such as plumbers, roofers and mobile hairdressers – any service provider that visits customers across multiple locations.
This also applies to businesses that provide services at off-site locations – for example, marquee hire, catering services and events companies.
Whatever line of business you’re in, local SEO is challenging when you have to optimise for locations where you don’t have a physical business address. This is because local search relies heavily on the user’s physical location at the time of their search so you have to focus on search queries that specify location – eg: “emergency plumber London”.
To help overcome this, you can create location pages on your website that target each area, helping to increase your relevance for local searches. We’ll be talking more about this in our next mutli-location blog so keep an eye out.
If you need help with local SEO for multiple locations, we work with many multi location businesses so are perfectly placed to help you get found online. To chat to our team, contact us on 02392 830281 or submit your details below and we’ll call you.
Marie has a varied marketing background, first starting out in advertising in 2008 at creative agency HSI London as a runner. After a gaining a degree in Broadcasting in 2013, she worked in the radio advertising industry managing Group M Content Solutions ad campaigns for Coca-cola, Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Disney Retail UK, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson and more across the 8 national radio networks at Global Radio.
She then sidestepped into SEO after finding her calling writing online content whilst working in radio and joined Amara.com in 2017 as an SEO Executive. She then spent 3 years contributing to Amara’s highly successful organic channel managing the SEO Outreach and Inbound team, and part of the UK Search Awards’ nominated Best In-House Team 2 years running. She has spoken at Brighton SEO and often speaks at Tech SEO Women and other UK SEO and marketing conferences.
She relocated to Hampshire from Essex in 2019 and now lives in Southampton with her boyfriend and cat, Percy. She loves running, drawing portraits, nature walks, live music and watching Star Trek. When she’s not doing SEO at work, she’s doing SEO on her food blog.