Organizational management and data management are two of the biggest hurdles marketers face when it comes to creating a local SEO strategy for their multi-location brands. So if you have a business with various locations, how can you best optimize your local SEO plan?
"There are lots of challenges that impact multi-location SEO. But probably the biggest one and one that maybe doesn't get much attention but it's really the one that is difficult to solve, is organizational management," says Jason Dailey, head of search at MediaVest.
To begin with, multi-location businesses need to determine who is responsible for local SEO, Dailey explains. Is it someone who manages IT? Is it someone on the digital team? Is it a national marketing team? Does each location have a say? And it's important to understand the decision-making process: Who is responsible for what? Who gets to contribute? Who can be consulted?
Then, multi-location businesses need to put corporate guidelines in place to ensure all the different locations follow the same practices.
"You can have the best strategy in place, and you can have a really good strategy for what you want to do from a local SEO perspective, but if you cannot organize all those different [things] within the organization, oftentimes your local SEO cannot be executed very well," Dailey says.
For franchise businesses specifically, Dailey believes if the relationship between a national brand and its franchisees is good, the optimal solution is to allow franchisees to have control over updating their own content and social presence.
"People in that location are the ones who have relationships with the customers. They are the ones who know their customers are, they are the ones who can respond to questions that come up, and they are the ones who can personalize the content based on knowing about that particular location or particular setting. So it's optimal if they are empowered to do it on their own," he notes.
Organizational management issues aside, Antonio Casanova, director of SEO at Starcom, adds that the management of data across platforms is another challenge. Multi-location marketers have to manage the data associated with different locations across multiple platforms, including Google+ Local, Bing or Yahoo Local, and Yelp, among others, he says, and many times the accuracy of the data is an issue.
"For example, having a wrong phone number, a wrong address, having duplicate listings, or missing listings on these different local profiles [such as] Yelp can be an issue. And also just developing and maintaining the social media presence across different locations can be an issue," Casanova says.
To deal with these problems, he suggests two key strategies. The first is to establish a strong "on-site presence," which is ideally built under one domain, with a folder structure with original and customized content for each location. The second method is to centralize management, optimization, and distribution of location data feeds across the local ecosystem, including aggregators, and individual platforms like Google+, Bing or Yahoo Local, and Yelp.
If a site has a search functionality like "find a store," for example, it should have individual pages for each of the stores with information about the local business. And then on the local profile site, businesses can centralize the management, optimization, and distribution of that location data.
"Location data on different platforms is very fragmented. But once you centralize the management of that data, optimize it, and distribute it across the ecosystem, that’s going to help you improve the accuracy of your location data, and also improve your results in ranking," Casanova notes.
Have you ever come across these local SEO challenges?