With search engine optimization (SEO) increasingly turning its attention to localized results, business owners and website administrators should also pay attention to the way they guide visitors to multiple store or office locations.
Let’s say you are the proud owner of Lucio’s, a small chain of pizzerias that feature three locations around Tucson, AZ. You can get away with a navigation tab labeled “Our Locations” coded into the menu bar. With this Web design element, you have two choices: one landing page that lists all three locations or a drop-down menu that invites visitors to click on individual locations.
Staying with the example above, your SEO expert may recommend three individual landing pages for Lucio’s Pizzeria in Las Vistas, Tucson Estates and Corona. Each landing page will be sensitive to known Google SEO signals such as addresses, photos, hours of operation, unique menus, reviews, etc. This calls for top-level, static HTML Web development along with mobile-friendly considerations.
Lucio’s Pizzeria is not the same as a medium to large retail chain with dozens of locations within a metropolitan area, a region or nationwide. Listing all locations in the static fashion of Lucio’s would be overkill and not user-friendly for mobile visitors. What you need in this case is a store locator widget, but you also have to check the SEO worthiness of this interactive element.
Choosing the Perfect Store Locator Element
There are two major SEO aspects to consider when evaluating store locator widgets. It is important to not fall for the bells and whistles; many store locators look fancy but they must first be functional in the following two areas:
1 – Each location must allow the developer to easily link to a landing page for each location. This is a must since major search engine crawlers will look for SEO signals coded on landing pages.
2 – Local search these days is practically synonymous with mobile search. This means that the store locator widget must have a great degree of responsive design so that visitors browsing on smartphones can benefit from this useful feature.
Once the two considerations above have been met, the SEO requirements become more technical:
3 – Depending on the geographical distribution of the store locations, visitors may wish to search by city or by zip code. Ideally, the widget will offer both options.
4 – Visitors browsing on mobile devices will certainly appreciate geolocation, which is usually established if the device had GPS functionality.
5 – Auto-complete is also a nice feature, but it is not as important as the quality of the interactive map. Given the popularity of the Chrome browser and the Android operating systems, Google Maps tends to be the top choice; however, you should also take a look at widgets that use Bing maps to determine which one looks and feels better for your site.
You don’t want to get too exotic when choosing a store locator widget. If you have a WordPress site, you should consider something along the lines of a Yoast plugin that also features guided SEO improvement prompts.
Consider Your Competition
If you are a business owner, you may not know this: Google and other major search engines will reward you with a higher placement on the search engine results page (SERP) if the landing pages for your individual store locations look better than those of your competitors.
If you handle SEO for a medium to large retail chain, you probably know this: Google wants you to use their products. To this effect, if you see that competitors are using store locator widgets that feature Bing Maps, you want to choose a widget with Google Maps. In fact, you want to go a step further and make sure that each location is mentioned in Google My Business along with a link on each landing page.
Whatever your competition is doing in relation to store locator content, you want to emulate and do better. If they have one picture of each store, you want to show two. If they don’t have discounts for individual locations, this is your opportunity to strike.