A lot of companies, particularly mid-sized multi-location brands, can’t seem to get their acts together to do “national” SEO. They may have hired an SEO consultant, or they may have an in-house team driving SEO strategy, but they can’t seem to execute. When it takes six months to update a title tag, you know you’ve got some SEO challenges.
There are a million different reasons for an SEO program to hit a roadblock:
- SEO is a low priority. The people who ultimately decide what gets done when either don’t understand SEO enough, don’t trust it or just have more important things to focus on. Often the levers one needs to pull — updating the website, rewriting copy, marketing the business to get links and so on — are controlled by different departments that don’t share either your goals or your sense of urgency. As we like to say, “SEO is always the lowest priority… until it’s not.”
- SEO is expensive. Rewriting URLs, redesigning the site, rewriting content, marketing the site to attract links and so on — all require resources that many companies often have not budgeted for. SEO is easy when it’s “free,” but when you have to pay to do it, it suddenly seems easier to ignore.
- SEO is complicated. Most likely this is because the company’s site has been developed on a complicated platform that makes even the simplest things (like updating title tags) a nightmare. If you have to rewrite the entire system to add canonical tags, see points #1 and #2. Anyone who does SEO consulting sooner or later runs into a case where it takes double-digit meetings involving multiple teams just to get something basic implemented.
So what do you do when, either as a consultant or an in-house team member, you are the one tasked with driving SEO, but the company can’t seem to find the keys to the car?
If your company has a physical presence (aka a headquarters or sales office), then we strongly urge you to shift your focus from “national” SEO to “local” SEO, even if you don’t think you should be targeting local search queries. Here’s why:
1. It’s Easier To Get A Local SEO Campaign Off The Ground
Local SEO often does not require the input of multiple stakeholders from within an organization. This doesn’t mean you don’t need anyone else’s help to do it — you still need to coordinate with someone at a location to verify a Google My Business listing, for example. It does mean that you can get a lot of traction from local optimization without having to rebuild the website, without involving the PR person and without taking up a lot of time from other internal teams.
Of course, if the website is not optimized for local queries, you’d want to get that taken care of. However, we have seen great results for companies just by focusing on off-page Local SEO factors like Google My Business pages, local citations and local link building — all while waiting for approval on the $1,000,000(!) budget to add individual store location pages to the site.
2. There’s Abundant Low-Hanging Fruit
Many companies have nowhere to go in Local but up. Often it’s the case, particularly with B2B companies, that no one has been paying attention to the state of their location info on the Web. Offices close, move, change phone numbers, rebrand and so on all the time — and often when this occurs, no one thinks that they need to clean this stuff up on Google, at the local data aggregators, on the top local citation sites and elsewhere.
Just doing this kind of thing can affect both your local and your non-local rankings. This can be particularly true when a company has a lot of locations that don’t appear on local citation sites. Just adding new listings to these sites often means getting hundreds, if not thousands of new backlinks to the company’s website. This alone can give you a nice organic pop.
3. Many Of Your Target Queries Are Already Displaying Local Results!
Over the past few years, Google has been boiling the local query frog. If there’s even a hint of local intent in your target keywords, Google is going to surface a local pack at the top of the search engine results page (SERP).
Many businesses think of themselves as “national” and are therefore focused on ranking for non-geo-specific keywords. They are missing out on the Local SERP low-hanging fruit:
4. There’s Less Competition
Local queries are often not as competitive as “National” queries for multi-location brands. The above screenshot is a perfect example of a B2B query that a national plastic molding company could compete at if they had a local presence in the Bay Area.
Multi-location companies often have an edge over single location companies in that each location can be a source of citation backlinks which, in turn, will help every other location’s ability to rank in the Local packs. In many cases, we have seen positive traffic impact for these types of businesses within a few weeks of claiming and updating their Google My Business pages and optimizing their local citations.
5. Local SEO Success Can Justify The “National” SEO Budget
Often the only way to overcome corporate SEO inertia is to prove that SEO works. If you can’t do it, you can’t prove it. So focusing on something you can do, like Local SEO, can point the way towards ROI for all SEO efforts. Note: If you have suffered from Corporate SEO Inertia for more than four months, consult your Local SEO consultant.
Now don’t get me wrong, Local SEO has its own fair share of mind-blowing headaches and Looney Tunes brick walls, but for businesses that have even a small local presence, it often can be a fast (or better put, “a faster“) path to SEO success.
For more thoughts on the subject, see Dan Leibson’s presentation, Small Tactics for Multi-Location SEO = Big Results, from last week’s State of Search conference.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.