A few years ago I was tasked with helping a multi-location grocery store chain achieve rankings on Google.
They had 12 locations (4 of which were in super competitive markets) that had absolutely zero visibility in search, no website, and a brand-spanking-new url.
Needless to say there were many hurdles to overcome.
I set out to jump these hurdles one at a time and the results were staggering…twice.
Working With Knowledgeable Developers
The first task to be accomplished was to get a working site up. This turned out to be a major headache.
Not because the client was demanding and unreasonable (I’ll get to that later) but because I was working with a developer that had zero experience with SEO, let alone Local SEO and would not take direction when issues arose.
There were multiple Heading 1 tag’s on pages, footers and headers could not contain Name, Address and Phone number (NAP) because of design, and there was extreme “code bloat” because the developer hard coded the site and didn’t know any better.
But the worst part was that it was developed with one contact page that hosted all 7 locations.
Major No-No. Unless of course you don’t have original content to put on each page…
but it shouldn’t be that hard to describe the area around your location and the difference that each specific locations has from other locations.
After is was all sorted out and there were schemas in place, title and meta tags updated, and individual location pages it was off to accomplish getting the client visible in search.
Long story short work with a website developer that has some SEO experience or have your general SEO best practices down pat so that you can catch mistakes as they happen.
The Local SEO Process
Now why did I mention that you want separate pages for each location above?
You need to encode the specific addresses of your locations on each individual page. This means that you will use the NAP in either a Schema or hCard on the page.
12 locations means 12 specific pages that each have one unique address and phone number on them along with original content that’s not the same as the other pages you create.
Also, you now have the opportunity to set a url that is also Local SEO’d, don’t for get about this. Depending on what your top level URL looks like you can tweak this as you need to. (E.g. website-name.com/locations/town)
When you claim a citation (like Google+ Places) in the website address field you add the individual page url (E.g. website-name.com/locations/town).
This tells the robots that update and crawl your data what is going on and where they can find you information so they can serve the user with accurate results.
It looks like this on Google+ Places:
(N) Bobs Grocery Store
(A)1234 Ray St. Finkletown, AW 11111
I like to collect citations one unique address at a time. If you update a couple here and a couple there for all your locations it’s very easy to lose track even if you are using a spreadsheet.
Remember; One location. At. A. Time.
The End Game
After you have built and optimized your website, crafted you business description, collected citations, and you are in the process of soliciting reviews (in a legal way) you will then start to see decent returns.
I was able to take all 12 locations for this grocery store chain and get them 1st page, 1st spot rankings in all their local markets.
Their web traffic went from about 3 hits a day (per location page) to over 200 in about 3 months.
Google places stats shot through the roof.
An email list was being built at an incredible rate and things were on the up and up.
And then it all came crashing down.
You Can Not Hide On The Internet
What happened next was astounding.
A person on the team felt that how the website was built was completely wrong. People don’t want to do any kind of research on your brand and having so many location pages didn’t make sense.
And why couldn’t they just delete their Google+ Places pages? After all they didn’t want anyone to see that they had negative reviews or contacting the store in any way.
And if they couldn’t get rid of all the places that had an option to review them online could they just change the info so people thought they were someone else?
And could they just list the corporate office location everywhere so that they didn’t have to deal with managing so many accounts?
And. And. And…
You get the point.
7 Steps To Destroying Your Rankings
If you are into sabotaging your own local SEO efforts then here are 7 easy steps to do so:
- Rip out your original site and replace with a non-self-hosted alternative
- Do absolutely nothing to redirect old urls (301′s)
- Use “ugly” links on all your pages
- Do not update meta data or page titles, just leave them blank
- Host all locations on one page
- Make sure each location listed on the same page uses the same phone number
- Do not update url info on any previous citations
Now it will take you about the same amount of time, 3 months, for you 1st page, 1st spot rankings to slip into oblivion.
And you may even think that in smaller communities that you would still hold your first page rankings…
But the big G will be so confused that you’ll most likely lose those spots as well, I did.
You can however rest easy in the fact that you will not be able to be found online (even for your brand name and location) and you won’t have that major annoyance of people contacting you because they want to buy your product.
Here is what I want you do now.
Leave me a comment below and tell me what kinds of things you have done that have had a negative effect on your local search rankings.
If you were able to right the ship, how did you do it?