How to run SEO for a multi-location business

Dave Colgate, Head of Enterprise SEO, Vertical Leap, looks at local content, TripAdvisor, and other golden methods of boosting your visibility
Dave Colgate
Map of the world with pins in it

Where can I have a drink while watching the sunset? How many parking spaces are there? Does the pub have charging points for my electric vehicle?

Consumer enquiries about local businesses are infinite - so attracting them to your outlet rather than letting them go to a rival’s requires a comprehensive and cohesive SEO strategy.

It’s especially true for multi-location businesses. By this, I mean two different things: either a corporate office with franchised locations, or a business with multiple, dispersed premises. In both cases, multi-location business models present many challenges in terms of building and maintaining a constant and consistent online profile.

SEO’s main role is to raise brand awareness locally, with the potential to increase consumer interest that leads to footfall and online orders. But it’s not always as simple as it sounds.

Understand the SEO challenges

There are so many moving parts to managing SEO for multiple outlets, whether that’s Google Business accounts, local SEO data, stakeholders of the business – the list goes on. Businesses can sometimes find prioritising hard with so many different elements to manage to deliver impactful SEO. But they can also be viewed as a set of useful business leaders.

Things can get political quite quickly when rolling out an SEO strategy to local branches. All of the various stakeholders - franchisees, for instance - must start on the same page. The local business managers will be the ones providing the data and images for campaign content, after all.

Local SEO can be resource intensive, depending on the number of outlets and content you need to produce. It can require a big investment of budget and people power, which is often off-putting for central and local business managers.

But the potential - and proven - boost to ROI is worth the fight.

The dos and don’ts of SEO strategy

Too many brands rely purely on their name to drive search results. But taking the time to create nuanced content to improve visibility can make all the difference.

There are key variations between local and global SEO strategy; not least the use of language. It’s important to understand the goal is local not international as the two different audiences have distinct needs and requirements.

This is where taking a TripAdvisor approach can reap rewards. The brand has excelled with local SEO. It ranks top everywhere thanks to great landing pages and content that answers all of the questions searchers might have.

Using more ‘narrow’ language - thinking local, not global - can magnify smaller details which will engage a local audience. After all, the ultimate goal is to increase walk-in trade for branches. Create local copy for SEO, making it unique to each location and reflecting the details of the specific location; for example, the history of the building.

It’s also good practice to check out the competition. Look at your rivals’ search engine results and consider why they rank well. Review their pages, information and the questions they are answering for potential customers. This can provide a bank of new ideas for content.

Harness your local data

Businesses often hold a plethora of the data managers think won’t influence SEO - but they’re usually wrong. For example, generic sales data and information gathered by front-of-house or call centre staff - such as customer opinions - can be very valuable. Getting data from these sources can provide a helpful steer on what your customers want from SEO.

‘Near me’ searches are another example of useful insights that can be used to inform local SEO strategy. The data provides information about the target audience’s intent and expectations of what they will find when they visit a website. If there is only a name and opening times on a website, the chances are it will leave potential customers with too many questions and put them off visiting.

If your website content isn’t up to scratch it won’t be crawled or indexed by Google, and that means many local outlets will be missed off search results. It’s okay to start small; we’ve helped brands with hundreds of outlets test and learn for SEO, selecting a handful to prove the ROI of a new search content strategy. Rolling out the resulting strategy across entire estates then proves effective, and the whole process leads to efficient, satisfactory outcomes.

Visibility is key to local success for multi-location businesses, no matter the sector where they operate. Walking in the shoes of local customers is a good place to start to ensure they come to your site, or your store, in droves.

Written by
Dave Colgate
March 30, 2023