If you have a small business with multiple locations, how are you supposed to manage that on your website?
That’s the big question I’ll answer for you. Of course, I’ll cover what not to do with a multiple location business website, too.
It’s important to know all sides of the story.
Creating a small business website for one location is easy, as long as the website is useful, but, of course, it gets more complex as your geographic footprint expands.
Everything gets more complex with growth. You can no longer include the phone number and contact information for your one location because now there’s likely multiple phone numbers and contact information. That means your website increases in complexity the more locations you open.
Take a look at a large organization with hundreds or thousands of locations. How they present information to you is different from a single store business. In fact, the main page of the website of a multi-location business website becomes less important.
My favorite example is the UPS store because it’s so vast and each store is so unique.
The first thing you’ll notice from their home page is that it’s fairly generic for the company. Most of the links point visitors to other pages that guide them towards individual stores. Or, the most prominent link, a search to find the location you’re interested in.
My example may offer you some hints about what the best way to do things is, but there’s more to it. First, The UPS Store has a huge budget for their website. These configurations can be expensive and probably overkill for many small businesses which might have only 3-6 locations.
You don’t need something this complex for 6 locations. It’s likely overkill for anyone who doesn’t spam several states too unless you have a high location density ratio. There are easier ways of organizing a multiple-location website well without investing in a complex search.
It’s important to also understand some other ways of doing multiple locations suggested and the reason you should stay away from them.
Why People Visit Your Website
Your business has an overarching theme for what you do. While each store may be unique and have unique features, there are some similarities.
It’s also important to understand the difference between your small business website and the location of each store.
Some people visit your website to find out information about your company or what you do. Others may come to your website to find a store or learn about a specific store.
Your website and store page have different reasons for visitors to visit. Of course, they are both related, though. That means there has to be a clear link, so if a visitor lands in the wrong place, they can quickly find what they need.
That’s part of what makes the first option a bad choice…
In the old days of search engine optimization, a separate website for each city or location your business operated in was a great strategy. It had the negative impact of creating a management nightmare managing all those separate websites, though.
Now times have changed.
There’s no benefit in having a separate website for each store or even city. The reasoning behind the separate website idea was that a domain with a keyword in it was more powerful than not having it. It used to be better for search optimization to have sacramentoplumbingpro.com and sanfranciscoplumbingpro.com and not joesplumbing.com/sacramento and joesplumbing.com/sanfrancisco.
There’s little to no benefit to maintaining the separate domains anymore. It’s just a management nightmare.
Some SEO experts insist on exact match domains, but that won’t work well for website management. If you rename your business to fit the name people will search for, then great, grab that domain too. Otherwise, don’t bother.
The way Google and other search engines work have changed. Not only that, the way the search engines display local business results has changed.
The way local business results are displayed plays a huge factor in how best to do things today. The way people search has changed the way Google displays search results.
Changes In Search
The way people search has changed and Google has changed the way they display search results. While ranking your website high in search results is great, it’s not the most important factor in ranking a local business in many cases. A business website now plays the part of supporting actor more today than it used to.
The website contributes a great deal to ranking, but it’s not the main point of entry. At least not from local search results.
When someone searches for a local business, Google shows a lot of information before they even get to the organic results. First are local service ads for many local business searches, then comes text ads, and FINALLY comes the Google Business Profile. That’s your opportunity to be listed first.
Consider that more than 50% of consumer web traffic is from a mobile device, and that’s growing. This is probably the first experience someone will have with your small business when they search:
This is using the search term “Sacramento plumber.”
That means your local website ranking is less important than your having a good Google business listing with a website to back it up. Yes, a well-built local-optimized business website does contribute a great deal to your Google Business Profile ranking.
You’ll want to be sure it’s easy for visitors to learn more about your business, specifically the location they want to visit. Does your website make it easy to learn about each location?
Google likes that.
For desktop searchers, the most prominent listing of your business will be similar to mobile, just displayed specifically for a computer. Same search terms, different device:
Again, each one is tapable and the link could either bring visitors to your business homepage or that specific location page (ideal).
You can see neither of these search results would have any benefit to having separate websites. It will create an administrative nightmare for you and end up being more expensive than it’s worth.
So that means combining it all into one website, right? No.
To make things easier on the administration side, you could ignore locations and just have a generic business website. That’s not good either because each location is still important.
People look for the location most convenient for them, whether it be on Google search or from your website navigation. Having one website and ignoring local variations for locations isn’t a good solution either.
You should still have multiple business listings with your Google Business Profile, which points to each physical location. But what about if people want to learn more about each location and click on the website?
Are you pointing each business listing in Google to the top level of your website?
If visitors only find one address and phone number on your website and no unique information about the location they’re looking at, that’s all they’ll see. Your business now only has one site in their eyes even if you have a unique listing on Google. That won’t work for a multiple location business website.
Separate websites aren’t the solution, combining locations into one main website isn’t the solution either.
So, what is the solution?
The Solution To Multiple Business Locations
Going back to the beginning of this post, I mentioned the UPS store. This is the perfect example of how a small business with multiple locations should also show each site.
Here’s the organization a multiple location business website should follow:
You can have any layout that makes sense for the rest of your small business website. The important part of a multiple location business website is that there’s a search or display at the top-level with pages for each location.
Search functionality isn’t even required in this scenario. A simple navigation item for locations is quite sufficient. On that page it can be as simple as either listing the locations (this takes fewer pages), or if each location has a lot of unique information, a page for each location.
If you just need to list the phone number and address for each location, a small 5- page website will likely suffice. If you need to display more information about each location, a website with slightly more pages will do just fine with a unique page for each location.
What Goes On Each Location Page
Each location page isn’t a way for you to rank these pages better in search engines. There’s a functional purpose to setting it up like this, which Google knows and loves.
Your general website should have information about the overall business. Information should tell about everything that’s the same across all locations. Maybe that’s about the company, the leaders (CEO, President, etc.), or how to contact the general company (headquarters perhaps?).
Each site page, in contrast, is specifically about that location only. People should be able to find information specific to each location. That means the following list of items will be really helpful for visitors to know what they expect when they step through your doors.
- Phone number
- Services available
- And more
Even unique pictures are great to have on each location page.
Google will easily be able to show people the most relevant page depending on where and for what a person is searching for. That’s helpful to you and your visitors. Your pages will rank better and customers will be able to find what they want about the location that’s relevant to them easily.
The most important part? People will find relevant information instead of information created to rank better, that’s what search engine optimization is all about. Google is great at determining what people are looking for and giving it to them. If you can offer Google something good and relevant to show searchers, they’ll prioritize your business.
Each page should answer this question:
What makes each location unique besides the contact information?
Back to the example of the UPS store, I want to know if there’s a laminator, a notary republic, or whatever at the location. They make the unique services available at each store available on each location page.
With a well-formatted multiple location business website, you’ll rank better for local searches for each location and visitors will find what they’re looking for if you offer it.
SEO Is Still Important
SEO for a local small business is very different from general SEO, but that’s a good thing for local small businesses. Managing how a multiple locations business website is configured is now part of optimizing for search engines.
Google is infinitely more intelligent than it was 10 years ago. It still relies on factors as basic as who’s linking to your website, though to a lesser degree.
Google still pulls many signals from local business directories which have an effect on your local business location rankings. A local marketing automation tool can help you maintain your multiple locations easier and more efficiently, which will improve your ranking even more.
Directory listings for each of your locations, paired with a well-optimized website, will ensure you have a great chance at ranking high in search results. Your website will ensure customers find what they need, and you’re providing unique information for your customer’s questions.
How effectively your website is built to be purposeful and optimized will determine how your multiple location business website will perform in search results.