Let's face it. Most SEO professionals and search marketers work on local SEO campaigns. This is the bread and butter for most agencies and SEO practitioners no matter where in the world you are located. This is mostly true (at least in the US) because more than half of all businesses are by definition, small businesses. This means that all our efforts and resources are limited to a very specific geographic region or locale. This could be a large city like Dallas, Texas or a relatively small one like Naperville, Illinois. This type of SEO strategy is a fairly straightforward one. You would optimize all the meta data of important pages with geo-modifiers and make sure the content reflects the target cities. Just a few tweaks here and there would ensure your website and local SEO campaign was in good shape. But every now and then, our lives tend to become more complicated. Occasionally, we have to work with a large brands with multiple locations across the country. As search professionals, we cherish the opportunity to work with larger budgets and brand names. But with larger clients, the strategies tend to become more complicated as well.
So how does one optimize for a business that has several physical locations across the nation? Well, this would require a national strategy, which is quite different from the usual local strategies that we have become accustomed to. This guide has been broken down by on-page and off-page implementation.
On-Page SEO Strategy
This is where things can get a bit hairy. Depending on the authoritative nature of your brand, you can proceed in one of two ways outlined below:
This assumes that your business has been around for several years and is a well known brand. Your business may not be as famous as Starbucks, but people (and hence search engines) know you exist and serve customers in multiple cities and states. With this level of authority, you can simply create a location specific page on your website under a drop down menu called "Locations." This is pretty standard on most multi-location websites. This is all you would need to implement from an on-page perspective. All your service pages need not be geo-targeted as most search engines have a fairly good idea that your business serves multiple locations. You can see this strategy being used by 24 Hour Fitness, Gold's Gym and other multi location brands, which generally do not have geo-targeted service pages.
If your multi-location business opened recently and does not have an easily recognized brand, it may be difficult for search engines to determine whether you serve multiple locations or not. This means you may need to create separate geo-targeted landing pages for each service/product you offer. This can be done via sub-domains (houston.yourwebsite.com) or sub-directories (yourwebsite.com/houston). Personally, I would go with sub-directories as this would have a much stronger SEO effect than a sub-domain, which is essentially a new website.
No matter which approach you take, all the content on these different mini-location websites would have to be geo-targeted and unique (not 100% unique of course, but you want to make sure there's no duplicate content across your websites). This strategy is essentially creating multiple websites for each location. Its a lot more work in terms of website design, but it ensures that search engines make a clear connection between your business/service and a specific location you want to target.
Off-Page SEO Strategy
The off-page SEO strategy is slightly more straightforward and deals with the less hairy issue of restructuring your existing website.
Claim All Google+ Profiles
This strategy is similar to a local SEO strategy, but you have to claim your Google+ profile for each and every location. As per Google Places guidelines, you can claim a separate Google+ Profile for each business that operates under a separate physical address. This ensures that Google recognizes you have multiple locations because each location has been verified via a PIN postcard. This is a critical step in optimizing for multiple locations. If you dont claim every individual location's Google+ profile, Google and most search engines have no idea that you a location at all!
Create Separate BBB Listings
The Better Business Bureau is a highly trusted website for both, searchers and search engines. Make sure that each business location has its own listing on BBB. This provides an extra signal to search engines that each of your locations has a separate identity all on its own. This is because customers leave reviews for the specific location they have done business with, so it only makes sense to have separate BBB profiles for all your locations from a conversion point of view as well.
Individual Listings with the local Chamber of Commerce
This is the exact same strategy as with the BBB listings. You want to make sure that all your individual locations are listed on the local Chamber of Commerce websites. Google and most search engines collect information from these authoritative websites, so it pays to be listed there.
Create Separate Local Directories/Listings
In much the same way you created separate BBB and Chamber of Commerce listings for all your locations, the next step would be to do the same with important other local directories (Yelp, Yellow Pages etc). Again, since each business operates individually, you need to have a separate local business listing for all your physical locations. This also allows customers to write specific reviews regarding a business location that they had an experience with. This also allows regional managers to understand how specific locations are performing from customer reviews.
And there you have it folks. A concise guide on how to optimize your business for multiple locations. And it goes without saying, this guide assumes that your business actually has a physical address in all the cities you want to target for your search marketing campaign.