Optimised Business Location Pages Are Critical To Local Search
Location pages are an incredibly important element of any business website, yet few business owners seem to spend enough time and effort when developing them.
What makes location pages so important?
A well structured location page helps Google identify relevant pages and businesses when it comes to local search queries. With a properly designed location page, Google is far more likely to list your website at the top of results for queries like “sofa store near me”, or “plumber carlton”, or any other brand neutral local queries.
Most business websites have always included location details, first starting out as the physical address and contact number(s) in the footer. In some instances the location details were added to the contact page, and as web technology allowed, started to include a map showing the exact location.
This approach is still quite common, and may work well for businesses with a single physical location. You may even be found this way with two different locations. But more than that and the page becomes cluttered, and almost impossible to decipher, both by your customers, and by Google. Which led to a new navigation menu option: Store Finder, Our Stores, Our Locations, or any number of variations.
What happens when you select this menu option also varies from one business to the next, and it isn’t necessarily dictated by how many physical locations the business is active in.
When it comes to website design and search engine optimisation (SEO), there are often three ways of doing things: the wrong way, the right way, and the best practice. This definitely applies to location pages, and in this article we will examine best practices to follow in creating a great business location page. The focus will be on businesses with multiple locations, but many of the principles can be applied to businesses with only a single location.
Add Your Business to Google My Business
Listing your business with Google My Business isn’t necessary in order to create location pages on your website. However, it is a critical part of local search and SEO, which is complemented by location pages on your website. If you don’t add your business to Google My Business, it won’t ever appear in any Local Packs on search engine results pages.
- Add/claim your listing using your actual business name, but without using city or location name.
- Add as much information to your profile as possible. NAP is an acronym you’ll encounter often in articles about local SEO, and it refers to Name, Address, and Phone Number. It is quite important for these to be consistent wherever they appear on the internet: your website, Facebook, Google My Business, etc. Always use exactly the same name, to the comma, and make sure your address and phone number always follow the same format, i.e. don’t list your number as (XX) XXXX XXXX in some places, and as XX XXXXXXXX in others.
- Double check that Google has pinned your location correctly on the map. They’re usually quite accurate, but sometimes you may need to do a bit of manual adjusting.
- Be very precise with your trading hours, and don’t forget to include your trading hours for national holidays, and weekends.
- Make sure you’ve selected the most relevant categories for your business. Google prefers businesses to select as few categories as possible.
- You should definitely add photos of your business, but make sure they are good quality images, and an honest reflection of the business.
- Having similar information, especially your NAP details, listed on other sites like Facebook, Yelp, Yellow Pages, and local business directories can serve as trust signals to both Google and your customers.
- Keep the information up to date. If any of your business info changes, update it on Google My Business immediately.
Businesses with fewer than 10 locations will need to add and verify each location individually. Businesses with 10 or more locations can make use of a bulk location management and verification process to speed up the process.
Bing offers a similar service – Bing Places – and adding your business here too makes sense if you have some search traffic coming from Bing.
Best Practices for Location Pages
Google has long frowned on the practice of using doorway pages to influence how a site ranks for particular terms, and they adjusted their algorithm in 2015 to counter this. Having separate pages for each of your locations can – if done incorrectly – be seen as trying to manipulate how your rank for certain terms, but Google also understands there can be real user value in these pages. What is important – over and above the best practices that follow – is that the structure for each location page is largely identical to the rest of your website; it must be accessible from any page in your website. This means that the header, footer, and navigation should be the same throughout, but the content of each location page should be unique and add value to users.
Navigating to your location pages
Your location pages should be treated like any main page on your website, and be accessible directly from the main navigation or page header.
You can label the link however you want – Our Stores, Store Finder, Showrooms etc. – but it should be immediately clear what the link points to.
Businesses with fewer than 10 locations could get away with employing a dropdown menu, allowing users to immediately navigate to a specific locations page, but always consider how this will affect users on mobile.
Try to keep the folder structure simple, with descriptive name, and your actual location pages not too far from the main domain – it just means that the pages are easy to get to, and the site is easier for Google to crawl. In the example shown above, Plush has separate folders for showrooms and all-showrooms, but once you have selected a location, it appears directly below the main domain. Coles places the actual store page within a folder for the state (nws), which itself is in a stores folder, within a store-locator folder.
Standard practice for stores with multiple locations is for the link to point to a page that lists all the locations, with some detail for each, or allows users to search for a location.
If at all possible, avoid the use of dropdown selectors which only serve to add more steps to the process, and don’t always offer the best user-experience on mobile.
Location page content
While Google is willing to recognise some value in having a separate page for each of your locations, and having each of these pages largely similar in structure to other pages on your site does make for a more pleasant user-experience, Google also doesn’t want to see a strict cookie cutter approach.
That means avoiding location pages where the only difference from one to the next is the location name, address, and phone number, and maybe the trading hours. If we dissect any of the location pages for Plush, we discover the following:
The meta title includes the location name, and the page title includes both the business and location name, using the H1 tag. Immediately following the page title is the location address, telephone number, and email address. Large retailers tend to not list email addresses for each location, but including it just makes you more accessible to all your customers. The information listed here must match what you have listed on Google My Business, right down to the format of your telephone number.
Below the store’s contact details are the trading hours, and a map showing the precise location. Unlike Coles, the map is not a static image, so users can move around the map, zooming in and out to orient themselves. Your developer should have no difficulty embedding a Google map, which adds the benefit of users being able to select the map and then get precise directions from their current location to yours.
What sets the Plush location pages apart is that each one includes a panel listing basic directions to the store, and where to park – which is a nice touch if your store doesn’t have its own off-street parking. If available, details of public transport and nearby restaurants are also listed; these are specifically aimed at making the page more valuable to users, and help ensure that each page is somewhat unique and not just using a cookie cutter approach. Walmart includes store specific news and events on each of their location pages, while other features you could add include:
- Photos and short bio’s of the staff.
- Specific services available in each branch, such as a pharmacy, ATM, or in-store pickup for online orders.
- Store specific promotions, or top sellers or services for each store.
- Customer reviews and testimonials.
Individual location pages serve two purposes, first they help strengthen your local SEO and your appearance in local search. But they also make it easier for your customers to learn more about your specific branches, so don’t shy away from adding unique information to each location page. However, it should add value to the page and users, not diminish the user experience, and not just be there purely for SEO purposes.
Under the hood
Finally, there are the components of a location page that are not seen by your typical user, but are extremely important for SEO and Google: structured data. Structured data doesn’t only help Google understand what your business is about, but in the case of location pages it helps Google understand that the page applies to a specific location, while helping Google detect the information that is important for local searches.
Using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool allows us to see all the structured data Walmart has on their individual location pages, which allows Google to identify the location’s address, telephone number, operating hours, and more.
Speak with your developer if your location pages aren’t already making proper use of structured data. Implementing structured data is critical for local SEO, but can be challenging if you don’t understand the purpose of the various attributes and properties.
The most important points to remember when creating location pages – or local landing pages – are that they should include some unique content, they must be accessible from your primary navigation, and that they should include all the information your customers could need in relation to that branch or location. Location pages are very valuable when it comes to local SEO, but that should not be your only focus when designing them.
*Predikkta has sourced several external independent global tools to analyze websites.These tools do not reflect on occasion the internal website analytics, but are recognised global tools and provide accurate comparative results for measurement against competitors.
**The views in this article are those of the author