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7 min read

Why Local Content is the Achilles Heel of Multi-Location SEO

Why Local Content is the Achilles Heel of Multi-Location SEO

For multi-location brands, local content is their Achilles heel—a vulnerability that, in the business world, can lead to lost business, sales, and opportunities. Why? While businesses with local storefronts attempt to manage many individual location pages on their corporate brand websites, local single-location competitors are deploying multi-page websites with broader and more locally relevant content. That tactic helps them appear more relevant and therefore rank higher in local search results.

Why Local Single-Location Businesses are Winning Over National Brands 

A multi-location brands' website trying to compete against local businesses by using a single webpage to highlight local locations will fail. Every page on a local business website is optimized for that specific market, sending out a lot of “we’re local” clues to search engines. In most cases, big brands have only a single page with content about that local market.

And Google gives preference to businesses with a high degree of local relevance. Google is smart enough to know when users are searching for home services, such as "window shutters,” they’re looking for a local business—so, results match users up with what Google's algorithm determines are the most locally relevant, trusted, and authoritative businesses in the local marketCLICK HERE to view an example. 


How You Can Stand out Locally to Google 

Building a site that attracts local search traffic is fairly straightforward for local, single location businesses. For multi-location brands, the task becomes increasing complex requiring significant time, effort, and investment to ensure:

  • Content is optimized for local users
  • Content is unique enough to ensure Google gives you credit toward your site authority and promotes your pages 
  • Content is locally relevant enough to compete with single-location businesses with a lot of locally focused content  
  • Volume and frequency of content is enough to cover all your important topics regularly to maintain your expertise, authority, and trustworthiness over competitors in each market 

How Can You Be Sure That Local Content Works?

For starters, we know local content is important because Google tells us it is the most important factor. Consider these quotes from Google’s own SEO Starter Guide and Affiliate Programs Quality Guidelines:

“Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other factors”

“Create fresh, unique content. New content will not only keep your existing visitor base coming back, but also bring in new visitors.”

“Keep your content updated and relevant. Fresh, on-topic information increases the likelihood that your content will be crawled by Googlebot and clicked on by users.” 

“Pure affiliate sites consisting of content that appears in many other places on the web are highly unlikely to perform well in Google search results and may be negatively perceived by search engines. Unique, relevant content provides value to users and distinguishes your site from other affiliates, making it more likely to rank well in Google search results.” 

There are countless third party research reports and studies that also back up the fact that content is the most important ranking factor. Here are just a few SEO industry articles backed by research that show definitely the importance of content as a ranking factor:

Finally, and most importantly to us is our own first hand knowledge of what moves the needle for our clients at the local level. We currently manage over 30,000 local markets for clients across a wide range of industries and we're always seeking out the best long term results for our clients. When we have helped clients enhance their local SEO strategies from only having location pages on their corporate brand website to creating local web presences with unique, locally relevant content their results skyrocket. We are not talking about small incremental improvements but earth shattering, game changing growth, even with companies that have maximized their SEO at the corporate level. Our average client sees upwards of 300% growth in organic traffic and lead generation over the first 18 months of a program when they begin to implement these types of content strategies at the local level. 

Local Search Landscapes 

Not only are there the initial hurdles of creating local content that competes with local single-shop businesses, but it's important to know that search patterns shift significantly over time. You cannot just do your research, create content, and “set it and forget it.” You must periodically reevaluate local search patterns to ensure your SEO strategy remains relevant.

Evaluating local search, and search in general, also continues to be increasingly complex as Google continues to change its algorithms in an ongoing quest to deliver the best possible search results to its users. Marketers must stay attuned to a wide array of shifts already in place, as well as changes that are continually emerging. They’re impacted by shifts including the rise of Google Local results based on Google Business Profiles, Google Questions and Answers, images, reviews, video--and other ways that Google’s SERP continues to evolve over time. Staying abreast of these trends ensures they can navigate this shifting landscape to maintain and build their results. 

Understanding Google Local “Map Pack” Search Results

Another critical concept to understand is how Google Local search results work. For example, when someone searches for a keyword like "HVAC Repair", Google uses both the searcher's location and the physical location of the business to determine the best results to show the searcher. This is demonstrated in the below graphic, where the further the searcher is away from the physical location of the business, the lower the ranking of the business is. Green means you are in the top 3. Yellow/Orange means you are 4-7, and Red means you are 8+. The exact ranking is in the circle. It is also important to understand that with Google Local “Map Pack” results only the top 3 results show on the first page and very few people ever click through to see all the Google Local results.

The point here is when a person searches for a product or service, Google will show them local businesses in that category based on a number of ranking factors similar to traditional organic listings. The major difference, however, is the Google Local algorithm is so weighted towards proximity to the searcher’s location, that even if you go a short distance away from your business’ local physical location, you can easily be off of page one of the search results. This is why overall organic visibility is so important because it gives you many more opportunities to be visible to consumers in the local market and it also impacts your overall visibility in Google Map Pack as well helping you to expand the geographic areas you are visible in.

local search example

Understanding the Local Competition 

An important step in determining how you will compete against local businesses offering the same products and/or services as you is analyzing their SEO. This will give you insights as to what keywords your competitors are going after and the tactics they are using to get results. Through this approach you can understand what the top performing companies in your space are doing to achieve their ranking including website structure, website content, ongoing content efforts (blogs, resources, news, etc…), Google Business Profile, page titles, citations, backlinks, and more. There are various tools available to help you do that—like SEMRush, Moz and others. But they come with a fee. The greater your functionality and granularity, the higher your fee will be. And there’s a learning curve involved to ensure you know how to use these tools to their maximum advantage.

The more local competitors you have, the more time you’ll need to invest in this step.

Pulling Together Relevant Keywords

Based on your research of both the search terms your potential market is using and the search terms that are driving traffic to your local competitors’ sites, your next step will be to identify those terms you want to rank for at the local level. The great thing about local search marketing is you drastically reduce the amount of competition to the handful of competitors in the local market you are targeting, so generally there are no keywords that are out of reach with the right local SEO strategy.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll need to evaluate and optimize your site to ensure that search terms are included appropriately. This is generally accomplished by grouping your important keywords into topical clusters. For example, things like AC Repair, Air Conditioning repair, AC service company, fix my AC, etc… would be in a single topical cluster because Google will view these in a similar manner. For each topical cluster you will want to create what we call a “pillar page” that is optimized for the topic using best practice on-site search engine optimization techniques that include things like unique, high quality page content, keyword focused page titles, meta data, and more. (We could write an entire book on that subject so we won’t cover it in-depth in this blog post.) 

Once your pillar pages are established, the key to success is to create a steady stream of fresh, high quality, unique, and locally relevant content on your local website that talks about your pillar page topics and links to them from within the content. This content should be of high value and interest to your prospective customers that give them insights into problems they may have or information that will be helpful to them as they evaluate a purchasing decision. Google is regularly crawling your website and indexing new pages you create. As they see new content that meets the above criteria, it tells them that you are a trusted authority on the various topics you cover in your local market, thus you build local authority and rise up the search rankings.

There’s one more consideration.

Secondary Local Markets You Should Include

What does “local” mean to you in terms of your target market?

If you’re marketing in a rural area, there may be several small towns and municipalities within a fairly large radius of your physical site that you service. If you’re marketing in a large urban area, there will be a number of suburbs and other geographic terms to consider such as nicknames, landmarks, or parts of town people may search for.

These secondary markets will involve the same steps described above. Let’s say you’re an HVAC contractor in Minneapolis, Minnesota. St. Paul may be another secondary market you’d like to target. In addition, several suburbs are close enough that they might be in your target market area. Google generally understands the relationship between primary and secondary markets so they will reward content for these geographic terms that are affiliated with your primary market. Because secondary markets are generally much smaller than the primary market they are far less competitive. This will allow you to effectively compete for secondary market search terms with much less effort than for the primary market. We generally see good success with secondary market pages on local websites that are well optimized for the geographic term and the product/service term you are targeting.

As you become more sophisticated in your Local SEO approach, you will want to expand your reach by specifically targeting secondary markets. We have found that local businesses can add anywhere from 10% to 30% more organic traffic and leads each month by using this strategy depending on the nature of your market and industry.

A Strong Resource to Get You Started

As you’re likely beginning to understand, optimizing your single page for local search is daunting and time-consuming—time that takes you away from focusing on your business.

MarketSnare can help you market every one of your locations as if it’s your only location. We can help you understand your local competition and build your reputation and relevance in all of your markets. And now we offer access to a phenomenal new guide, How Mature is Your SEO Program Across Local Markets?, which details what you need to know about local SEO, how to assess your local rankings, and where opportunity lies to beat the competition. Check it out!

seo program local search


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