Brands with multiple corporate stores, franchisees, or service areas have unique challenges and needs when it comes to their local SEO strategy. The sheer volume of local listings, reviews, and customer data inherent to multi-location marketing can quickly derail your efforts at the local level, if not managed properly. 

Enterprise local SEO is an area you cannot afford to make missteps. According to Google, 78% of shoppers use search before visiting a store—and 8 out of 10 use Google to search. In this post, Sr. SEO Strategist Chad Klingensmith responds to just a few of the more frequently asked questions that enterprise marketers have asked of our local search experts, to help your brand win at the local level in all of your markets.

What is unique about multi-location SEO?

Enterprise brands with hundreds or thousands of locations most likely have an excellent SEO team, either in-house or agency-based, at the national/international level. However, it is the brand’s local assets that drive 85% of consumer interactions. While there is some trickle-down benefit of a strong brand presence to the local level, it really takes a concerted local SEO effort to achieve search visibility and conversions from search to in-store traffic for each location. 

Multi-location SEO requires that the brand empower local managers with access to the technology and expertise to keep local listings up to date, publish engaging local content, evaluate local performance, and more. Brands also need access to tools and reporting from the local level, to improve SEO across the chain.

Do long-tail keywords matter for enterprises?

Absolutely. Marketers who struggle to obtain Page One organic rankings for competitive phrases need to look at their entire local SEO picture. Your locations may be performing well for longer-tail, more descriptive queries that demonstrate greater commercial intent and therefore convert better. In fact, an estimated 85% or more of all search queries have three or more words. Long-tail keywords may not get as much search volume but can drive higher value traffic to your site and into your locations. 

Is there any point in ranking on Page Two?

Search results in the 11th to 20th positions still get between 1% to 3% click-throughs on both desktop and mobile, according to this CTR study by AWR Cloud. It is true that the click-through rates drop off once a website is ranking on the second or third page of Google, but there is still search volume for these pages. If your local pages are engaging, user-friendly, and apply SEO best practices but still do not rank high in the organic listings, look for different opportunities to appear on Page One. Your most important opportunities, including Map Pack listings, are controlled within the Google My Business dashboard for each location. It is also important that you make good use of structured data (schema) to help Google understand why your local pages are the best answer to relevant queries.

Why is local content important?

Local content on top of a solid foundation of SEO best practices is a powerful signal to Google that you are involved and relevant in the local community. In addition to the ranking benefits, it gives searchers the decision-making content they crave as they look to solve their immediate needs with nearby products and services. Location-specific copy, local reviews, photos, and video of the business exterior and interior, and other types of local content help searchers understand the experience your location offers.  Localized, long-form custom copy can also improve visibility for long-tail keywords and voice search optimization

Are mobile and desktop SEO different? 

As important as page speed is for desktop, it is even more critical for mobile local SEO where consumers are on-the-go and expect instant answers for their local queries. Another key difference is that Google negates SEO value to hidden/collapsed desktop content (text).  However, having collapsed content on a mobile website is fine with Google as text-heaviness is contrary to good mobile user experience. Marketers need to pay special attention to and evaluate tools and opportunities that can help improve mobile performance including AMP Pages, rich snippets, mobile friendliness testing, and local reporting.  

Do we need to optimize for different search engines?

Years ago, there were significant key differences between how the major search engines evaluated content. For example, Bing/Yahoo! cared more about on-page optimization while Google cared more about backlinks. Now, SEO best practices for any search engine are heavily weighted towards providing a positive user experience. Be sure to set up both Google Search Console profiles and Bing Webmaster Tools for your brand’s website. Submit your sitemap to both interfaces and also pay attention to the feedback these tools provide.

How can we rank new locations quickly?

Establishing local search visibility for a new website can be incredibly challenging for even one store, let alone over 1,000 at a time. Longer established domains are more likely to have a strong backlink profile that gives them a ranking advantage in search engines. However, the greater opportunity for quick wins at the local level is in your local listings. It takes a concerted effort and the right technology to bring hundreds of locations online quickly, but it can be done. See what it looks like in practice in this case study where a seasonal retailer generated the local visibility to produce measurable foot traffic and in-store sales gains within just weeks of opening its 1,400 pop-up stores.

How important are local reviews?

Local reviews are a key component of your local search strategy. Not only do they provide important social proof for on-the-fence consumers, but Google uses consumer reviews as a local ranking factor, too. Brands need a scalable review management strategy to ensure that all customer interactions are responded to in a timely and appropriate way. Go further by integrating reviews in your local landing pages to increase their visibility and provide location-specific customer feedback that can aid in conversion to an in-store visit.

Why does local listings accuracy matter?

Inaccurate, outdated, duplicate or otherwise erroneous local listings erose search engine trust in your brand and can result in poor user experience. Imagine sending a searcher driving to a closed store, or to an outlet that doesn’t even exist at that location anymore. Duplicate listings can confuse users and search engines alike and proliferate quickly as aggregators and search engines draw from multiple data sources to populate new listings. Accurate local listings are critical so that each of your brand’s locations will be visible on the local queries that matter most.

Who should manage GMB at the local level?

Scalable Google My Business management is a key element of an enterprise local SEO strategy. Local managers may lack the time or expertise required to manage local listings, Google Posts, reviews management and other aspects of GMB management. However, these are not only good opportunities to improve rankings—they are integral to creating positive customer experiences from search to sale. Brands can empower local managers and franchisees with the technology and access to search expertise they need to succeed. Backed by the Open Local Platform, brands can maintain control and ownership of all data and track performance across the enterprise while facilitating the creation of review responses, rich media, and other local content needed to improve local visibility. 

Want to learn more? Take advantage of a free local search audit and discover your brand’s most promising opportunities in local SEO.