If you have (or your client has) a local business with multiple locations, how can you effectively optimize your online presence without suffering duplicate content penalties? This article will clear up any confusion you may have about local SEO for multiple locations, and will offer some simple, concrete strategies to get you started in the right direction.
In my ongoing series on Local SEO, I’ve covered many strategies to increase a local business’s visibility in the search engines utilizing free techniques (in other words, no paid advertising). We’ve discussed local ranking factors , structured data, the Google 3 Pack , and more.
However, we haven’t yet touched upon the unique challenges faced by a local business with multiple locations. How can these businesses successfully optimize their online presence? Assuming each location offers the same products or services, how can they avoid Google’s dreaded duplicate content penalty?
Before we continue, it would be beneficial to review what we mean by duplicate content, and why duplicate content should be avoided.
What is Duplicate Content?
Put simply, the term “duplicate content” refers to web content that appears in more than one location on the internet. There are two forms of duplicate content: internal duplicate content and external duplicate content.
Internal duplicate content is content that appears in more than one location on the same domain. This could happen if the same content is accessible via multiple URLs. With a WordPress blog, this could happen if the content is available from a category page or an archive page (such as an author page or tags page).
Another example of internal content would be if the same content is simply copy and pasted across multiple pages. This can occur if a business website has multiple locations, creates landing pages for each location, but then simply places identical (or nearly identical) content on each of these pages.
External duplicate content is identical (or near identical) content that appears across multiple domains. External duplicate content can often occur on e-commerce sites, where the site has copy and pasted product information from manufacturers or suppliers. External duplicate content can also occur if a piece of syndicated content has been published on multiple platforms. More relevant to our discussion, external duplicate content can occur if a business has multiple websites set up for multiple locations, and each website contains the same content throughout.
Why is Duplicate Content Bad?
Now that we know what duplicate content is, why is it such a bad thing? Google rolled out the initial iteration of the Panda algorithm update way back in 2011 (and has updated Panda many times over the years). Google Panda was designed to reward high-quality websites and penalize low-quality websites. This reward and punishment manifests itself through search engine rankings. Pages deemed “low quality” were pushed down in the search engine results, while “high quality” pages saw their search results improve.
While many factors contribute to Google’s quality assessment, duplicate content plays a major role. If Google detects duplicate content (either internal or external), Google will try to determine which one location is the authoritative resource, and then the locations that are deemed “duplicates” will be subjected to a penalty of being pushed down in the search results (if not disappearing completely).
How to Optimize a Business with Multiple Locations and Avoid Duplicate Content
Keeping all of this in mind, how can a business with multiple locations effectively optimize for the search engines while avoiding penalization? Here are some great starting points.
Create Unique Pages for Each Location
Too often, business websites create one page containing information about all their locations. Don’t be one of those businesses!
Instead, create a separate optimized page for each of the business’s locations. Be sure that each page is full of unique, rich content, including:
- Accurate Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP)
- An embedded Google Map highlighting the business location
- Unique content that is specific to that location: this can include some information about the neighborhood and surrounding area, staff biographical information and photos, customer testimonials, and more
On each of these location pages, be sure to optimize the content, title tags, meta description, H1 tags, and img alt tags with location specific terms. When possible, include properly formatted structured data so that your business’s relevant data will appear correctly in the search results.
Optimize Google My Business Listings
Local SEO involves more than just optimizing a business website. Google My Business Listings https://www.google.com/business/ should be a key component to every business’s online marketing strategy.
For businesses with multiple locations, you will be able to add the URLs for all your locations to your Google My Business Profile.
Next, you’ll need to:
- Verify each location
- Verify your NAP information
- Provide your business hours
- Add high quality, compelling photos
Remember, consistency is key. Make sure you are consistent with your naming and categorization across all your locations.
For more information about Google My Business, check out their online help center. https://support.google.com/business#topic=4539639
Citations and Reviews
Once you have taken care of your business website and Google My Business listing, you will also need to manage any other mentions (aka “citations”) that are found on various directories, review sites, etc., including:
- Yahoo! Local
- Yellow Pages
- Industry-specific directories
Once again, consistency is key. If your business name, address, or telephone number are different across these citations, this can hurt your SEO efforts.
This is an ongoing effort. You should regularly be checking your business’s online presence, and adjust, correct, and respond whenever necessary.
Another important piece of any local SEO campaign is link building. Strategic building of high quality, high authority backlinks can drastically improve your search engine visibility.
Once you have created your location-specific landing pages, you should develop a solid plan to build high quality links to each of your location pages. While developing a link building marketing plan is beyond the scope of this article, our experts at PosiRank would be happy to help you design and implement an effective link building strategy.
The Next Steps
The ever-changing playing field of local SEO can be challenging, even for an experienced SEO agency. This article should give you a clear starting point in your efforts to optimize the online presence of a business with multiple locations.
If you would like some assistance with designing or implementing your local SEO marketing strategy, PosiRank can help. PosiRank offers a wide array of services that will help your local SEO campaigns succeed. Our services include on-site optimization (comprehensive on-site audits, title tag and meta description rewrites), local business listings, reputation management, content creation, and much more. Contact us here to get started today.