In this new series, Large-Scale Local Search, Steady Demand’s Ben Fisher gets to the heart of the local SEO issues affecting big brands and franchises with hundreds of locations.
To say that local SEO can be a little tricky is an understatement, and that’s only when it comes to small, single-site businesses. When it comes to a company-wide organization with multiple locations (e.g. franchises) in multiple markets, it can quickly become a mess.
To begin with, before we delve into how best to approach local SEO as a large business, let’s briefly define what we mean when we talk about local SEO. Local SEO is a marketing strategy that has one goal: to help your business be more visible and rank higher in local Google searches. Any type of business that has a physical location or a particular service area (known as a Service Area Business or SAB) can greatly benefit from a targeted and organic local SEO campaign.
Sounds simple enough, right? Why then do so many large businesses usually fail with their local SEO efforts? Let’s discuss and move on to five tips that can help you improve your campaigns.
The main challenges that large companies face
While large businesses enjoy many advantages over their smaller counterparts (massive budgets, larger talent pool, etc.), their size can actually be a drawback when it comes to running a local SEO strategy correctly. Some of the main problems I’ve encountered in my years helping organizations large and small with their local SEO are:
1. A lack of understanding of where their marketing dollars can be most impactful in terms of local SEO
I mentioned the budget above, and companies aren’t shy about flexing their financial muscles when it comes to large advertising purchases that run in every market they have a franchise in. However, when it comes to a targeted local approach that needs to be implemented at the individual affiliate level (like getting local owners / managers to post content regularly and upload new photos to your Google or GBP business profile), there is often one. fundamental detachment.
Because companies are generally used to higher expenses (like throwing a real ransom for a Google AdWords campaign) and because they are used to thinking in terms of hardline ROI (“we spend X amount of dollars and see Y amount of new business”) , often hesitate to spend on an individual level. They would rather not “rock the boat” and keep it safe with the same old approach (which doesn’t move the needle locally).
2. Lack of communication between all parties involved in each location or branch
Local and organic SEO work requires just that-Opera. It’s not exactly brain surgery, but it takes real people doing real things and being in charge of the process. In large companies, this can prove to be a challenge.
Often times, a campaign can be as sterile as a global marketing manager emailing all affiliates about a promotion or effort they should undertake that can help bring in new leads. Some actually do, many don’t, and some probably don’t even read the email. Then, when the results are not there, of course, there are not, the executives at the company level will pass the responsibility to the local managers and claim that they have done everything possible.
3. Too many involved decision makers can stop the approval process
I mentioned earlier that one of the biggest advantages businesses have over small businesses is often their huge employee pool. There will certainly be talented and motivated people who can (or at least should) work together to achieve their goals.
However, with so many people involved in the process, things invariably fall through the cracks.
You have people who feel “too old” to do things like claim local listings or hire new suppliers for affiliates to work with.
Conversely, you may have people who are new to the organization and hesitate to intervene because they don’t want to step on anyone’s toes (or just haven’t been told what they should and shouldn’t do).
In any case, nothing is approved and nothing is done. This can be disastrous if the task at hand were something like making sure all Google business profiles at every location were compliant, as a suspended GBP can be a costly mistake.
4. The difficulty of deciding who should actually do the job
The situations listed above where employees and businesses are unsure of who is doing the work spill over into a third situation. You may have a situation where there are a dozen or more “decision makers” in a meeting, something is raised that needs to be done (like making sure every Google business profile for every franchise is compliant) and everyone agrees that it is. important … but no one volunteers to do it because they assume someone else will (AKA – the Bystander Effect).
As you can imagine (or that you are personally aware of if you have worked for a large company), this is a common occurrence.
One of the best ways to mitigate this problem is to have the company control all marketing at the franchise level, including small but critically important updates to all of Google’s business profiles. This doesn’t completely solve the problem of slow decision-making processes and concerns about targeted local budget spending, but at least it’s all happening in one place.
5. The difficulty of ensuring that the plan is executed in all locations
Some of the problems I mentioned above only get worse when a business has hundreds of locations. Not only are there more people involved, which increases the likelihood of tasks not getting done, but it also increases the scope of the work (especially if the franchisor is in charge of the local marketing efforts).
Let’s take something as simple as responding to a review on the GBP page for each location. If we allow five minutes per response and have an average of five reviews per month (which is a Very conservative estimate for some types of companies), it is about half an hour of work per month per site.
If a company has 200 locations, it quickly reaches 100 hours per month. It is not an amount that can only be thrown to one person or it can be assumed that someone else is coping.
Here is my recommendation on how to improve this particular problem: First, businesses must clearly define who is responsible for what tasks, when they should be completed and how they should be performed. They also need to create documentation for these processes and include a way to track activities. They should indicate desired results from the start so team members know how they are monitoring and there should be a budget in place to help with supplier expenses and whatever else.
The five best local SEO tips for business
In my opinion, the following list contains the five best local SEO practices that will not only solve the above problems, but will also help you reach your discoverability goals and start outperforming the competition.
1. What should be on the website for each individual position
First, every place should definitely have a website. This is not in question. I won’t go into too much detail on the SEO strategy for each individual franchise site, but the following should be considered the bare minimum:
- Title Tag: Make sure the shop locator page on each site has the city and state in the title tag
- Clickable movable elements: This is especially crucial for things like cell phone numbers and anything else indexed by Google and other search engines
- Schema markup: Make sure you implement local schema markup on all Store locator pages
2. Properly manage Google company profile pages
I could spend all day telling you how important GBP is for local SEO rankings … but instead, you could just take Google’s word for it.
The bottom line is business must work to ensure that the Google business profile for each franchise location is optimized, that a regular stream of relevant content is posted, and that it is all continuously monitored to ensure that there is no misinformation.
3. Building links
Link building has long been a cornerstone of a successful SEO strategy and it’s no different when it comes to the business approach to local SEO. I’m not going to go any further how to link builds here (there are plenty of good guides on how to do this via a quick Google search), but I’ll say it’s not something you should ignore.
Many companies make the mistake of skipping link building because of the number of locations they have and the fear that all this time and effort won’t have a noticeable impact. While unfortunately not a scalable endeavor, linking is critical to the success of any local campaign.
4. Management of citations
Similar to link building, citation management is something that has been known to SEO experts for some time and is also something that companies should definitely do for their franchise locations. The good news and the notable difference is that there are tools available that make citation management scalable across all of your locations.
Yext and Moz Local, for example, allow you to create, verify and optimize ads for each location of your brand. They can help push quotes, clean up duplicate data, correct incorrect data, and defend the online presence of hundreds of franchises at once.
5. Solicit and respond to Google Reviews
Reviews have quickly become one of the most important metrics a prospect uses when making a purchase decision. In fact, according to BazaarVoice, 78% of online shoppers trust reviews Moreover with respect to advice or word of mouth from family and friends.
This is an eye-opening statistic and perfectly illustrates why businesses should encourage customers to leave reviews. But getting a large number of reviews is only half the battle; you also need to respond to them in a timely manner and respond to both of them positively And bad reviews. Customers expect to see occasional negative reviews from a brand, but how that brand responds to them is critical.
In conclusion, the best way for companies to manage local SEO is to take a clear look at their organizational structure, identify some of the weaknesses (particularly when it comes to workflow), and make informed decisions about who should do what. .
Once you’ve assigned people to the critical jobs of managing citations, optimizing your Google business profile, building links, and soliciting / responding to reviews, it’s also critical that you have implemented ways to track these activities and measure performance against your goals. Once your team knows what to do, how to do it, who is doing it, and where to monitor it, you should start to see a noticeable increase in your local SEO efforts.