Digital Marketing Megatrends 2017
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Google’s campaign to deliver more relevant search results to users has led them down the path to personalization and localization. We’re not just talking about their country-specific search engines, we’re talking local cities and municipalities.
With the growing number of users on mobile and other portable devices, localized search results are in high demand.
There is a group that’s affected by this move towards localization. Brands with multiple locations, that generally rank on Google.com but are not necessarily targeting specific local areas in their campaigns, are at a disadvantage. This has particularly been the case since mid 2012 when Google's Venice update gave prominence to local business in the search results through maps and Google Places listings.
So, why is it better for you to target individual local areas even if you’re a brand with multiple locations?
In this post, you’ll learn how to get multiple branch locations to rank in Google Maps. The following should serve as your guide to getting your brand’s multiple branches visible on Maps and ranking on local search results.
Local optimization for brands with multiple locations begins with setting up your website for local search. You’ll need to focus on the following:
The first thing you need to decide is whether to use several top-level domains for each location of if you’ll use subdomains. While Google says there’s not much of a difference whichever you choose, you’ll have to take into consideration the possibility of your network of websites being flagged as spam.
Cutts answered this a long time ago, where he recommended in a previous Webmaster Help video to use top-level domains for country-specific websites. Meanwhile, multi-language websites have the option to use subdomains instead. Note however that you shouldn’t use Google Translate for the content – get a native speaker to write your content in other languages.
Aside from optimizing the URL, you’ll need to optimize the page titles, H1 tags, image tags, and the body of your website(s).
As I’ve mentioned above, don’t use Google Translate or any other automated translator for your content. These are inaccurate and sometimes incorrect, and the body of your site will sound unnatural both for readers and for search engines. Make sure to write in the vernacular of your target market for easier reading.
Next, you’ll need to implement local schema tags in your website script to improve your local SERPs listings. The most important Schema tag you need to add is the “branchOf” tag, which indicates a particular store is a branch of a bigger chain. There are several other tags you can apply, such as:
You can view the full list at Schema.org/LocalBusiness.
Check out the example I have below. I searched for “Domino’s Pizza” and I set my Google account to Palmdale, CA. You’ll see they included different Schema mark-ups as they appear below:
I made this a separate item from the earlier on-page optimization discussion because it’s an important part of ranking for Maps. Google uses your contact page as one of the references to verify the legitimacy of your business listing in their Google+ Local and Maps platforms. You need to remember three main things:
Setting up your accounts in preparation for local SEO for Maps is your next step. You won’t be focusing solely on Google+ Local and on claiming your Maps listing. Google uses other trusted data sources to compare and verify your information, which is why you’ll need to set up your listings in other databases as well.
Here’s what you need to do:
There’s been a debate on how to approach creating Google+ Local accounts if you’re a business with multiple locations. This is because Google hasn’t really given out specific guidelines on the proper referencing of Google+ Local listings on your main Google+ business page without being tagged as spam or as a link network.
A discussion on Google Product Forums provides insight on this. The general rule is to create a unique listing for each location, and only businesses with physical storefronts should create multiple listings in one metro area. Here are your guidelines when creating Google+ Local accounts for your multiple locations:
The example above shows some of Nordstrom’s Google+ Local listings in San Francisco, CA. Note how there are two separate listings for the two different branches in San Francisco Centre and in Stonestown Galleria, with two unique phone numbers. You’ll also see these locations pinned in Maps, which is displayed beside the Google+ Local search results.
Google doesn’t rely solely on their database to check and rank local listings on Maps and on local search results. They also evaluate external sources that are known data providers to cross-reference your information and check if it is accurate. Make sure you claim your listings in the following groups of data sources:
Once everything is in place, you have to build your visibility to make your listing the priority in Google+ Local and in Google Maps. This is where local SEO comes in.
High user ratings send signals to Google that your business is a trusted establishment. Encourage customers from different branches to rate and review your establishment online. Give them a link to your listings on your website (I’ve mentioned this earlier in the contact pages section) for easier reference, create a gate that requires them to rate you before accessing content, or simply advertise it in your stores.
Never neglect the negative comments, down votes, and negative press you receive online. There’s no removing these negative comments once they’re posted, unless you want Google to be suspicious if you get purely positive reviews all the time. Have a look at this negative review for Pizza Hut, for example:
While you can’t avoid comments like this from appearing on your page every now and then (there will always be detractors), you can show Google that you are listening to your customers and addressing these reviews.
You need to respond to these types of comments in a timely and polite manner, and in a way that helps the customer.
You can also neutralize the effects of these negative reviews by diluting it with good reviews and higher ratings. It’s important to maintain communications with your loyal customers and to maintain your good relationship with them. Monitoring and addressing negative comments requires diligence on your part. Remember that word spreads faster in local online markets.
As mentioned earlier, Google doesn’t have any guidelines on linking local listings together to indicate that they’re branches of one brand. You have the following options:
Placing too many links on your Google+ for Business profile might make Google think you’re a link network.
Finally, you need to build your visibility and reputation across the local market by being published in locally relevant and influential online publications.
Make sure to use the location names in your target keywords whenever possible, but don’t focus on the keywords exclusively.
Creating and sharing location-relevant content will get people interested in what you have to say, improve your reputation as a local service provider and information source, and get you the links you need to rank better on local SERPs – and, consequently, in Google Maps.
Ranking your multiple locations in Maps may be challenging given Google’s algorithm updates and their recent Maps and Google+ Local updates, but it’s nowhere near impossible. Remembering to build local presence as your competitor local establishments do, linking local branches of your business to your corporate website for consistent branding, and maintaining your local online reputation are the key stepping-stones towards your Maps ranking success.
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