TL;DR If you are an enterprise or multi-location business that wants to capture more local search volume, look at how your store locator is structured. Many brands have poorly structured store locators and location pages that cause them to miss a lot of opportunities to increase their traffic. By having the right locator and unique pages at the state, city, and location levels you can capture the maximum amount of search users and increase your visibility.
How do store locators & location pages help SEO?
Even if your business only has a handful of locations, it’s time to think about a store locator and location page architecture for your site. Whether you go to your customers or they come to you, you need to have a page that represents the particular area you serve to capture that search traffic.
To rank well for local search – that is searches containing a particular geolocation (geo) like, “tires in Chicago” or searches made in a geo that have local intent (e.g “tires near me”) – you need to have unique pages for those areas. For brick and mortar businesses these might be unique store pages. However, many kinds of businesses, like plumbers, don’t have a physical store but need to get visibility in their service areas. Here too, pages targeting individual locations are key for local search.
Store locators help organize all this information so users and search engines find all available locations and, more importantly, find information about the best location for the user. Having the right pages and site architecture help businesses scale and ensure local visibility no matter how many locations or areas they serve.
Which store locator is best for my business?
There are three main types of location page solutions. They have different pros and cons associated with each which we will compare to give you a better understanding of why businesses choose them and which is best for you.
1. Single-page location list
A single-page location webpage is the simplest solution but also the least advantageous for SEO. They are what they sound like; a single page with a store list and the details of store pages/service areas like the location data, phone number, etc. This is typically the option chosen by small businesses, especially if they just have a couple of locations. This is least effective from an SEO standpoint because the one page sends mixed relevancy signals, diluting relevance for any one search. It also has tremendous drawbacks for growing small businesses and for large businesses trying to get visibility in several different locations.
2. Search-only locator pages
It’s much more functional from a user experience standpoint and an improvement on the single-page solution. However, it’s still not the best solution because the search results page is generated by user input (adding the zip code). So, Google has no way of finding this location information. In short, the internal search result helps users get the basic location information they need to know, but it’s not great for SEO purposes.
3. Geo-targeted location pages (GTL)
Geo-targeted location pages are organized in hierarchical architecture starting with state, city, then location. This architecture helps search engines understand the hierarchical relationship of a store page to its city and state, especially if you use breadcrumbs and structured data. Having pages at each level of the architecture also presents an opportunity to target city and state searches which means more chances to draw in potential customers.
What is the optimal structure for store locator pages?
The optimal structure for a location site section should include layers that are likely to look like this:
- Locator index page
- State page
- City page
- Location page
We will break down Home Depot’s use of this structure in the following section so you can see what this looks like in practice and get a better understanding of how these layers work together.
Store locator page examples:
Locator index page – This is a top-level location landing page that lists all the states where your locations can be found and links down to the state-level pages. This page can IP target the user to show them their closest locations or feature a zip code search, but it must still link down to the state pages.
If you have fewer locations (less than 50) or only operate in one state, you may want to link directly to the cities from the location index page. If you operate nationally you can link to a top city in each state to send more juice to priority cities.
State page – The template for this page should list all the cities in the state with links to those cities, essentially, your priority cities.
City page – This page follows the same pattern. It should have all the locations in the individual city and links to those location pages just as the state page contains links to the city pages.
Location page – The last layer is the location. Note that if you only have 1 location in a city then you don’t need a separate city and location page–they are the same.
A Bit Beyond the Basics
If you are already in the know or want to skip to the meaty part of the process there are a few things to keep in mind as you build out your state, city, and location pages.
Don’t Slack on the Copy for Your Pages!
Don’t use a boilerplate copy and simply insert a different city, state, etc. for each of the pages. If you are using the geo-targeted location page architecture, then the template pages for state, city, and location should all have a custom copy.
Why, you ask? Local SEO Guide (LSG) has worked with local directory sites where clients had previously been using a copy and paste kind of page template strategy. All the state and cities pages were exactly the same copy except for the name of the respective state or city. After changing the copy on 50 city pages, with more unique copy, we saw an instant lift in rankings after these had been stagnant for more than a year.
So, it’s important they are unique enough from each other so they can be differentiated. If that’s hard to do, start with a boilerplate copy that has a couple of variations then iterate on the 1.0 version in the highest priority states. Ideally, you would have a priority list and update priority markets over time to expand the number of pages you have with custom copy. If you need help with forecasting and prioritizing SEO investments you should check out our RICE model.
In terms of which layers to focus on first, the location page should have the most custom copy. These are going to be the pages connected to Google Business Profile pages and the one you want to manipulate the most to rank well.
Local Points of Interest
You want to use your target queries as a guide for the copy but you should also reference points of interest (POI). If there are nearby businesses close to your location that could convince a user to choose your location/products/services this should be a part of your copy. For example, if you have a hotel business near an airport, then that should appear in the copy.
Other points of interest may not entice the customer to visit your business, but they could help them find you. Major highways and cross-sections are good examples. By placing landmarks in the copy, it can help a machine understand the relevance you have to a particular area if it’s a known entity.
Advanced Location Page Tips
The basic location page advice includes the standard SEO considerations like title tag, h1, and location business schema. For the initiated (and curious) the more advanced advice would be to include a few more elements like:
Try linking to nearby locations, typically, with the city name in the anchor text for the link. This is going to do two things:
- It creates more internal links to these most important URLs which signals their importance.
- The anchor text will also influence how that page should rank and for what terms.
If the locations are in the same city, don’t use the city name. In this case, it would be better to use the store name or another descriptor. For example, on the location pages for multiple Sam’s Clubs stores in San Francisco, it might need to have, “Sam’s Club San Francisco Downtown” as the anchor text on one page instead of having a duplicate link anchor that reads, “Sam’s Club San Francisco”.
Ideally, you want to use high-quality images taken at the location. When these images are put on a location page then it increases the conversion tremendously. This is particularly the case with traffic coming from your Google Business Profile page. If you have a lot of locations and can’t create your own custom images then you can use tools like aircam.ai to make images for you.
Category Query Targets
If you want the location page to rank for queries related to a particular query then you can talk about the category in the location page copy or you can link to your category page. For example, say you are a department store and you want the location page to show up for a “video games store” search, you could talk about video games on the copy– although that isn’t always practical when you need to rank for a bunch of queries.
When you can’t talk about your target category or categories in the copy you should at least be linking your video games category page to that location page. This will help you rank better in local pack queries compared with websites that don’t do this.
You also could pump out customer reviews, ideally product reviews for the categories or services that you are targeting with an emphasis on reviews from customers in those locations. For example, if you are a service business (e.g a plumber) and you are targeting Pleasanton, CA and Livermore, CA from your Pleasanton page, then the reviews should be from customers in Pleasanton, CA.
Google Merchant Center
For multi-location retailers, Google Merchant Center can offer a ton of data that will help give you a competitive edge. Google started showing free local product listings at the bottom of Google Business Profile (GBP) pages– basically the free version of Google’s Local Inventory Ads. To take advantage of this just select the option “surfaces across Google” program in Google Merchant Center.
This data will show impressions from the GBP Product Widget which mostly appears with branded searches. Using Google Analytics, you can create a report for non-paid entries to your brand’s product detail page from Google. After you have the report you can filter by the user’s location. This is not precise but can render a good idea for which cities have the most demand for your brand.
Taking this a step further you could also filter “by product” and by “by category”. Just note that the category data is not as useful because you can not separate by product and/or brand. That said, it can give you a bird’s eye view of which general categories are doing the best in different geographic areas.
Creating pages for priority services
If you are a service area business or have multiple service lines you may want to consider creating pages for your priority services. For example, Home Depot may have a location page for their hardware store but you could also create a tool rental page or a hire-a-contractor page.
Similarly, a retailer could create the same for product lines. So, a department store could have a page specifically for mattresses, video games, appliances, or any other priority product.
A warning for those who use this tactic–don’t get carried away! Especially if you have a ton of locations do not make thousands of thin pages as this won’t help you. The key is to create enough to have unique pages and have strong demand for the queries. You should be testing this at a small scale to find the right mix for your business then expand it out to your other locations.
A litmus test for needing unique location pages: If you can create a Google Business Profile for various services at each location. That would be a good indicator that they might be better optimized by creating location and services pages for them.
How do I track the performance of location pages?
There are a few great vendors that can help you build pages and track the performance of your locator page strategy. Some of the top location page providers are:
If you are doing the leg work yourself then be sure to tag all the pages with analytics. If you are linking from a Google Business Profile (GBP) page you need to create a link with a tracking parameter on it.
For Example: ?GBP=locationname
Next, you want to set up a segment in your analytics to track the traffic to that URL and parameter. From there, you can see what kind of traffic those pages are driving. Be sure to canonicalize the URL with the tracking parameter to the non-parametered version so you don’t create a duplicate URL.
You can also get some of this data from Google Search Console in the search results section. This will be another place you can keep track of performance. However, it doesn’t reliably show there. Sometimes the parameterized URLs show up as organic results (not in the local pack) and if you see this then Google is likely ignoring your canonical. You’ll need to follow up with a way to fix it.
A good strategy is going to be key in making sure your customers can find you and your products effectively both on your website and through search engines.If you are interested in updating your store locator and webpage architecture to capture more traffic and refine your SEO strategy–you can reach out to us here. Local SEO guide has experience successfully implementing and building strategies for new locators and developing webpage architecture that allows businesses to maximize search opportunities as they scale and add new locations.