The Multilocation SEO Guide

Posted on in White Papers & Guides

What is it, what isn’t it, and how do I do it right as my organization grows?

Executing SEO for multiple locations is tricky, whether your business has locations across a single state or the entire world. One of the best ways to concentrate the benefits of all your marketing efforts is to represent all those locations on a single domain, in subdirectories. But if your locations are all on different domains or subdomains, there are still tactics you can use to support your entire system.

Rev up your website performance and local listing performance by following our best practices for multilocation SEO! This guide is ideal for all franchises and other multilocation businesses.

Download our multilocation SEO guide and share with executives, colleagues and anyone else on your marketing team.

What Is Multilocation SEO?

Multilocation SEO is the work of using localized keyword research, unique local content, technical website updates and national-supporting-local strategies to help individual locations sell products or services without cannibalizing the efforts of other locations or incurring Google’s wrath for duplicate content. It’s one of the most difficult strategies to maintain as companies grow.

Multilocation SEO vs. Local SEO

You might think, “Hold on, now, this sounds a lot like local SEO.” Well, that’s because they are nearly synonymous! Multilocation SEO is broader than local SEO, as it includes not only local SEO tactics but also corporate/national/global strategies that start from the top but benefit the entire system. Local SEO is part of multilocation SEO; it’s the process of using geographically relevant keywords within the context of your product or service. This guide covers it all.

These are some of the most prominent multilocation and local SEO challenges:

  • Managing many stakeholders at the corporate and local level
  • Managing many digital properties, from web pages to social media profiles to local listings
  • Preventing counterproductive competition between locations
  • Keeping up with change as locations are opened or closed

The Benefits of Multilocation SEO

Supporting multiple locations with SEO is worth the time and effort. These are key benefits:

  • Clarity for search engines – Using local keywords makes it easy for search engines to serve the most relevant results to users. Having specific location pages indexed increases the likelihood that Google will serve the page closest to the user (on Google Maps) or closest to the query if it includes an address, neighborhood or city.
  • Local owner and customer satisfaction – When your local content is truly unique, it captures the “local spirit” of each location. Local owners and/or managers can convey their location’s value to their community: free parking, community involvement, employee spotlights, and so on. And local customers can relate better to content that is hyper-localized, leading to brand trust, higher conversion rates and better customer satisfaction.
  • Brand awareness – For businesses with multiple locations, one of the core benefits of multilocation SEO is more brand impressions in more areas. This happens mainly through organic search results, where more users across a wider market will see your brand more often. However, multilocation SEO can also have spillover benefits on local paid search campaigns, as localized keyword strategies improve quality scores for those campaigns.

How to Structure Digital Properties for Multiple Locations

While multilocation SEO improvements may mostly occur on your website, your local listings and social media presence should not be overlooked as SEO tools!

But should all your locations share one website, one social media profile, and one business profile? Should they all be separate? Is the answer different for each type of digital property? Let’s discuss the best structure for everything!

Domain Structure for Multiple Locations

We hear this a lot: “Should I have a different domain for each location?” Oneupweb’s experts recommend not doing this. Putting all locations on a single domain, within subdirectories, is more beneficial and efficient for SEO purposes. The single-site setup is also more efficient for global web development changes; tag management and analytics; and backlink strategies.

However, if all your locations are already on separate domains or subdomains, you don’t need to scramble to consolidate everything; in fact, you may be better off continuing with your current setup if you’ve already established your business processes and your domain authority within this structure.

Whatever domain structure you have, the key to success is making local content unique and truly localized, based on the tips in this guide.

Local Listings Structure for Multiple Locations

“Should I create a Google business page/profile for each location?” Yes, absolutely! Unlike the website, local listings are best kept separate by location. This is true even if you have service-area locations that don’t have specific addresses. The tricky part is determining how to manage multiple Google business locations in Google Business Profile. Some multilocation businesses allow local owners/managers to manage their own profiles, while other businesses manage everything at the corporate level. Either way, we recommend managing all profiles under a single master account so there can be some level of corporate oversight. A local listings management tool is also ideal for making changes to all profiles at the same time, when necessary.

Social Media Structure for Multiple Locations

Remember: Social media is an SEO tool, too! There are social media SEO best practices to be aware of.

Do you need a different Facebook page for each location? It depends. If local owners/managers do have the time to post frequently, it is recommended to have different social media profiles for each location – do it for whatever platforms the local team can remain active on. However, don’t create local social media profiles if they are just going to sit idle. The national social media profile can make up for whatever locations are not up for social media management.  

Website Optimization: Local Pages and SEO

For growing organizations, this is a brief overview of how to build a strong SEO presence across multiple locations the right way.

1. Create Location Pages

The basic building block of multilocation SEO is the vitally important location page, otherwise known as a “location homepage” or (if you’re old-school) the “doorway page.” A location page is usually in a specific subdirectory of a domain, like these examples from Oneupweb’s favorite imaginary jam company:


Each of these location pages would have specific keywords based on location, even if both pages share identical formatting.

2. Make It Feel Local and Unique

The content for location pages should be significantly unique in several ways that benefit the user:

  • Use unique on-page copy – not the same words with different location DBA.
  • Include actual photos of the business – not the same photo for every location.
  • Describe goods or services unique to that location – e.g., Traverse City has cherry jam, but LA doesn’t.
  • Include unique details about that location: parking locations, employee details, owner quote, etc.
  • Include hours of operation.
  • Include the location address (and map, if applicable).

3. Make It Local to a Search Engine

Do local keyword research (or let Oneupweb handle it) to find local keywords for your core products or services. Use exact matches of these keywords in on-page copy and meta data of your location homepages. Some examples:

  • apricot jam Traverse City
  • jam company Traverse City
  • jam near me

Additionally, use links to other local businesses. For example, this fake jam company may link to their local distributors, especially if they aren’t focused on ecommerce. A local service company may link to other local businesses with whom they have mutually beneficial referral relationships.

Finally, include different types of localBusiness schema markup. There’s a full section about schema markup in this guide!

4. Optimize Google Business Profiles

Make sure each location has a dedicated and optimized Google Business Profile. These are free to create and are featured on Google Maps and the SERP. This will increase brand awareness, help users find the nearest location, and make it easier to contact the right place to learn more.

Wondering how to manage all of this? Contact Oneupweb for help.

Services Pages for Multiple Locations: Yea or Nay?

Probably “nay,” but it depends …

Single location pages (aka local homepages) are relatively easy to localize and structure. But creating local service pages for local SEO purposes is tough, especially on a single domain, because of these reasons:

  • Scalability. It’s difficult to do this right, as you’ll need lots of unique content requiring a human touch. And you’ll always need more as your business grows.
  • Duplicate content risks. If you take shortcuts – like tokenizing a set of boilerplate content to include the location DBA in a few spots – you may detract from all the pages’ performance, including your national/corporate services pages. More about this later!
  • Accuracy by location. If different locations offer different services (especially if locations tend to change their service offerings), keeping local service pages accurate requires a lot of complex automation based on a database – and lots of communication with many, many local stakeholders.

So, if you don’t already have local service pages, you may want to steer clear of creating them. Instead, focus your attention on single location pages (aka local homepages) paired with national service pages that support local success through a localized conversion form experience.

If you already have local service pages, it’s important to use them to their full potential to avoid duplicate content and the other challenges we’ve outlined.

The Challenge: Duplicate Content

Let’s say That’s My Jam holds private jam-making sessions.

The business has a corporate/national page for it:

But what if users want to book a jam party (and who wouldn’t?) in Traverse City and see some Traverse City-specific info about it? In this case, That’s My Jam may want to create a local service page for Traverse City:

Franchises and other multilocation businesses can have dozens of services and hundreds of locations. So, what do they often do? They use the same service page content for every location’s local service page. It saves a lot of time and money, but it has one main drawback: It doesn’t work very well at all…

When there are dozens or even hundreds of identical or near-duplicate pages, Google and other search engines aren’t sure which page to serve in search results, as no unique page intentcan be detected. As a result, the search engines may not serve any page in search results. Differentiating your pages helps inform search engines of what each page is about and who it might appeal to.

Remember that there is no official “duplicate content penalty” (i.e., Google manual action) but there are still consequences.

The Solution: The Commandments of Multilocation SEO

Oneupweb has worked with national franchises and businesses with multiple properties for more than 20 years. Our team has looked at more than a decade’s worth of Google Analytics data across more than 25 franchise brands to develop these Commandments of Multilocation SEO.

1. Thou Shalt Put the Nation First

In other words, focus on optimizing and driving sessions to national/corporate pages first. Think of the national pages (any page not in a location-specific subfolder) as the foundation of the house, and the location pages are the individual rooms. Build the foundation first so it can support all other content.

Your foundation consists of:

  • National service pages
  • National About Us, Why Us, and FAQ pages
  • National blogs and resources

About blogs: We recommend focusing corporate marketing efforts on national blog posts. You may allow your local owners or managers to create their own local blog content, too, but this is best left as a local opt-in-only responsibility that lives in a URL structure totally separate from the national blog.

2. Thou Shalt Make It Unique (Or Don’t Make It at All)

Local content should not jeopardize or negatively impact national content. Changing a word or two on local pages isn’t enough; local pages must be at least 20-50% different from national pages. This could include a mix of unique page title, meta description, H1 heading, H2 headings, paragraph content, contact and address information, links, images, and more. Local versions of national pages should also include geomodifiers on all keywords: cherry jam traverse city.

Check out our research about duplicate content and SEO.

3. Thou Shalt Not Pile on More Content

No amount of new content or optimization can “fix” or overcome poor site structure. If you’re already having trouble with duplicate content or debating whether to canonicalize your local service or blog pages to your national pages, get in touch. We can help you make the right choice.

What If We Have Multiple Locations Without Addresses?

Service-area businesses include home service franchises, mobile repair services or any business that serves a region without a fixed address. In most cases, the Commandments of Multilocation SEO hold true for these types of businesses too: You’ll need unique, localized content that includes village, city or region names that accurately defines individual service areas.

That’s My Jam’s mobile jam delivery service might target the common region name and the names of cities within its service area:

  • Region: Northern Michigan
  • Cities: Traverse City, Suttons Bay, Elk Rapids, Acme

There are a few other wrinkles to consider when executing SEO for a service-area business, but these tips will get you on the right track!

Schema Markup for Multilocation Organizations

Schema markup, or rich text, helps search engines identify, organize and display important information about your business on the SERP. There are many benefits to implementing schema markup across your website, but it can be particularly impactful for multilocation businesses. The most useful schema markup to support multiple locations is localBusiness and all its subtypes. Here are some important schema types to consider on location pages/location homepages:

  • branchOf (defines the location under parentOrganization)
  • brand
  • openingHours
  • address
  • telephone
  • areaServed
  • geo
  • photo
  • map
  • aggregateRating (only if appropriate for the aggregated reviews shown)
  • priceRange

We recommend working with an experienced SEO and web developer to get your schema markup just right!

Create Your SEO Strategy for Multiple Locations

This is kind of our thing. Oneupweb’s team has a wealth of experience in handling web development, digital marketing, and SEO for multiple cities in many industries. Support all your locations with a robust strategy backed by an integrated team of designers, strategists, web developers and social media professionals. Reach out or call (231) 922-9977 today to get rolling!

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