Google’s Pigeon update was nasty – far nastier than anything other than a giant radioactive pigeon would be – and it affected local search more than anything else. In fact, it make it nearly impossible for any small and medium sized business to rank for local keywords. Instead, business directories, Google Places pages and local authorities like newspapers come out ahead. All that’s left for the local business is accounts through those other sites, which brings us to Google Places.
Is it possible to have more than one Google Places location? It has to be, right? After all, search for Pizza in LA or in New York and both will have local places pages for Pizza Hut. National chains don’t choose one location for their page, they have one for each location.
On the other hand, a business that’s online-only doesn’t have a listing at all. This is by design; Google doesn’t want to flood local search users with businesses they can’t use. If you’re out driving looking for a place to buy a given product, you don’t need an Amazon link.
The Benefits of Multiple Locations
One has to ask the question; why does a business with multiple locations want to limit each to the individual area it occupies? Why would Pizza Hut have a dedicated LA page and a dedicated New York page rather than a centralized Pizza Hut page?
The answer is a combination between local incentives and keyword cannibalization.
Local incentives are fairly clear. Picture someone with a cell phone out for errands for the day. End of the day is approaching, and they want some food to bring home. They run a search on their phone for pizza. They want a listing of the closest pizza places to their current location, and Google strives to provide that listing. If your business has six locations in the area, but your site doesn’t point towards any one of them, it’s not going to show up very highly in search. Meanwhile a competitor with a focused page comes up saying “hey look we’re just two miles away at the corner of Main and South streets!” That sounds good, so the cell phone wanderer goes in to that location, even if you had a location right nearby.
Keyword cannibalization is a phenomenon that occurs when two pages are attempting to target the same keyword. If you and a competitor are both targeting “Pizza in New York,” you’re fighting for the same space. If you have two pages both targeting Pizza in New York, your potential value is split. The competitor, limiting themselves to one page, focuses their power and outranks you.
For businesses with more than one location, they can all be managed from one singular Google account. If your business has dozens or hundreds of national locations, like many major chains, those locations can be managed through Google’s bulk location manager.
Google’s Business Restrictions
Google is surprisingly very tight on their restrictions on local businesses. If you add the wrong descriptor or typo your location, your account can be held pending for a long time. Follow these guidelines when setting up each local account. Yes, you have to set up a page for each location, although they can all be managed from one central location.
- You must be the owner of the business or an authorized representative. To allow managers of individual locations to manage their location page, add them as managers to the account.
- Your Places name needs to match your business name, with up to one descriptor that indicates a perk of your business.
- Saying “Steve’s Pizza Delivery” is good, because it indicates that you deliver. Saying “Steve’s #1 Pizza” is bad, because it makes a qualitative judgment that Google will not sanction.
- Your listed Places address must match your website listed address and real physical address. P.O. boxes and fake addresses do not work. Google sends a postcard to the address with verification information.
- Service areas can be listed in their own section; your business still needs a precise central location.
- Your listed phone number must connect to your business directly, with as little interference as possible.
- Your listed website URL must go to your homepage, not a landing page or redirect.
- You can only have a Google Places page if you have a physical office in which you contact customers face to face. Online-only businesses are not eligible.
- Rental properties do not count; rental agencies must list their office locations.
With all of that in mind, you can create individual pages for each business. From there, it’s time to optimize.
Optimizing and Ranking with Google Places
With more than one location, it’s hard to rank with each location beyond the local search, precisely because of the shared content between each site. Here are some tips you can use.
First, set up pages for each location. These can be subdomains, entirely new domains or subpages for each location. The largest businesses unify their locations into one page, with a lookup for individual locations with address, hours and other vital information listed.
Optimize each page for local SEO, which includes local keywords used as naturally as possible. This includes page meta titles and descriptions, header tags, image alt text and the content itself.
Use Google’s Schema tags to list important information. There is a wide range of possible tags to use for additional information. These include hours, payment information, contact numbers, map locations, brands, memberships and even tax IDs.
Make sure all important contact information is listed on a contact page. Avoid listing multiple addresses on a single contact page; Google may get confused and cross-link sites. Subpages for each location work best.
Include a link to your Google+ place pages on each subpage, specific to that location. Always be aware of which profile the user would most want to see when they’re on a given page, and serve that link to them.
While you’re at it, encourage reviews on both Google+ and business directories like Yelp. A decent number of good reviews will help push you to the top of the line for carousel listing. When a negative review appears, address it by reaching out to the customer as soon as possible.
If your business has a corporate headquarters location, don’t list it amongst your retail outlets. Instead, create a corporate page and link to other pages. Allow users to funnel outwards if necessary.