How We Achieved Map Pack Rankings for a Multi-Location SAB
This case study will dive deep into the local SEO strategies that achieved map pack rankings state-wide for a multi-location business. Listing visibility in organic search skyrocketed nearly 500%, which led to a 400%+ increase in phone calls year over year. This boost in calls enabled our client to expand to more than 10 locations across their state.
Our optimization transformed a messy, inconsistent brand into a state-dominating presence for money terms – even beating out .gov and .org sites in the SERPs. This client is now the top-ranking site state-wide for a variety of high-value terms, and each of the company’s numerous GMB listings ranks in the map pack for their respective cities.
Let’s Recap The Results We Achieved for This Client
- Nearly 2,000% increase in Google Maps visibility, which attributed to all customer actions increasing – phone calls, driving directions and visits on website.
- Increased phone calls by nearly 400% for multiple locations. One location went from 127 calls to 580 calls per month.
- 450%+ increase of their listing in organic searches, which drastically improved their online visibilty.
- Secured map pack rankings across geogrids for money terms, as well as the #1 for high value keywords for all locations.
- Our growth allowed our client to open additional locations and expand state-wide.
Here’s how we did it….
Optimizing Multiple GMB Listings
In the beginning of the campaign, we used our Accelerated GMB package to strengthen the brand foundation and the local listings. GMB listing optimization is included in all DFY GMB campaigns, starting with a local SEO audit and strategy plan. This includes reviewing listing type (brick-and-mortar vs SAB), categories, description, and industry features.
Below you can see how we worked through each one of the these items for our client. Once the client completed the accelerated package, we moved to monthly maintenance and added custom tasks into the mix. Our local plan of attack included:
- Ensuring Consistent Listing Types
- Watching for Filtering (Possum)
- Niche & Local Citations
- Tiered Links for Stacked Signal Creation
- GMB Category Optimization
- Brand Foundation & Brand Signal Building
Consistent Listing Types
When we began working with the brand, they had a mix of legitimate and lead generation listings. Some listings were service area listings, while others had physical addresses, which confused search engines – a brand should not have a mix of listing types. Before we optimized anything, this had to be addressed.
We worked with the client to create consistency across listings, clear up any fake listings, and reverify pre-existing listings where necessary. Once we knew the listings were consistent and following guidelines, we went to work optimizing.
Watch For Filtering & Overlap
Because of the mix of listing types, close proximity, and inconsistent information, some listings were being filtered. This is a common issue in multi-location SEO campaigns as listings can compete with each other, causing one of the two to be hidden in results. To combat filtering, we went through each SAB listing and ensured there was no overlap of service areas. We also made sure that our service areas were fully covering the proper cities/counties to maximize local relevance for the brand overall.
Niche & Local Citations & Brand Mentions
Strong local SEO and citations go hand in hand. That’s why we implemented citation building, along with custom signals, for this campaign.
Because this was a multi-location business, the citation audit and cleanup was vital to ensure NAP consistency across all locations and assets. Consistent NAP citations may seem like a basic detail, but it is the basics that create a solid foundation for rankings.
The audit also allowed us to see which locations were lacking in citations. While every location doesn’t need to have the exact same number of citations, we wanted to make sure we were spreading the love around. We also had to consider the competition level of each location. For example, Dallas is a much larger city than Flower Mound and more signals are needed to maintain adequate visibility.
After we submitted updated information, we began building both structured and unstructured citations – general business citations, as well as locally relevant and/or industry relevant citations. We found new citation opportunities through detailed competitor analysis that shows common citations among competitors. These are the gaps we began to fill.
Our process is to build citations in tiers, starting with the most impactful listings first. Once we have created all our essential citations, we then work on secondary citations. Keep in mind, secondary citations alone won’t move the needle, but they do support increased brand visibility and authority. Generally, our next step would be niche citations, but we don’t have a citation package for this niche, so we moved on to our Custom Signals to find additional opportunities.
Tiered Links for Stacked Signal Creation
After we built the essential and secondary citations, we used tiered links to boost the power of our citations. We used tier 2 links from news sites and budget link networks, but there are multiple tier 2 links to choose from. This tiered linking approach increased the authority of our citations, maximizing the impact of our optimization.
Using tiered links also improves indexation of citations. Most of the client’s citations were indexed quickly because of this strategy, which bolstered local rankings. We also included unique descriptions for each citation to increase indexation rates.
When we began working with this client, they only had one category per listing, which didn’t fully leverage their GMB categories. During our competitive analysis, we identified the common subcategories among top-ranking listings, then implemented them on our client’s listings.
GMB categories are one of the most important listing features – they’ve been proven to impact rankings in our Mad Scientist tests. But you also want to be careful not to add too many categories to your listing. For this client, we added both the primary categories and a few near match categories because our client operates within a narrow niche.
Brand Building & Brand Foundation Creation
To build and strengthen your brand online, we include multiple branding features in our GMB campaigns – brand foundation creation and brand boosting.
All of the above strategies combined to produce some pretty big increases. Here our some of the results of our local optimization year-over-year:
SEO For Multiple Locations
In every DFY SEO campaign, we begin with a citation audit, backlink audit, technical audit and content audit. Once we know where the client stands, we review their online brand with Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines. This is especially important in restricted niches, which this client is in.
- On-Page Optimization
- Content Silos
- Inner Linking
- Press Releases
- Local & News Link Building
- Title Tag
- Heading Structure
- Meta Description
- Image Optimization
- Adding Keyword Variation
Below you can see the items we review in the on-page optimization portion of our DFY SEO campaigns:
Keyword driven content was also lacking with this client. There was blog content, but a well thought out strategy was needed. We identified content gaps and laid out a content strategy to address these gaps. Each piece of content fit into a specific content silo in order to support rankings for top level service pages.
Content silos not only supported stronger rankings, but also broadened the brand’s relevance to rank for more terms and expand audience reach. Many of the content pieces were created around informational intent, which started to build brand awareness early. In addition to the informational content, we also developed actionable content items for what to do if you’re in specific situations.
Internal linking is always an integral part of our on-page optimization strategy, especially for multi-location clients. Our campaign linked heavily between service pages, location pages, resources and blog posts. Nearly all content benefits from a proper internal linking structure.
Pay special attention to your anchors when linking. We laid out the referring page and specific anchor text for each and every link to ensure we didn’t overuse any one type of anchor text. Overoptimization of anchor text can counteract any work you’re doing, even when it comes to internal linking – make sure that you plan your anchors in advance where you can to avoid it. We also ensured non-contextual anchors were updated to be more relevant to the target page.
Local & News Links
We used press releases throughout the entirety of the campaign to boost authority and strengthen the link graph. We also used guest posts, custom signals, directories, sponsored links, and unstructured citations.
When creating a press release, one of the biggest factors for results is the press release title. On a live page, this is one of the most important elements. Make sure that you include your target term and a local modifier (for local brands) when making your title. The title also often becomes the URL, which is another impactful factor.
Create Co-Occurrence with Content
You can also use press releases, citations, and other links to create co-occurrence, which is exactly what we did with our client. We published content using variation and semantic keywords to associate our brand with these terms. The more content that referenced these variations, the stronger co-occurrence. We continued to leverage this strategy throughout the entire campaign and continue to do so.
As you strengthen co-occurrence for your main terms, you can begin to work in more long tail keywords that may be more distantly related to your brand. This will expand relevance and open the door to rank for more search queries. Ultimately your traffic, audience, and leads increase.
Custom signals is an integral part of why this client is able to dominate state-wide. This outreach and link building allowed us to get in the map pack quicker and maintain these rankings. Our client was able to overtake strong competitors who were heavily investing in SEO by acquiring some of the same backlinks.
The custom signals service is at its core a custom link building campaign based on competitor link investigation. We use 10 hours each month to continually build local citations, links, and signals based on gaps with our direct competitors. This allows us to not only rank at the top, but to maintain these top rankings even if others are doing SEO. We can stay ahead of the curve and continually build links without a huge time commitment from our team.
By including both local and niche related backlink research in our custom signals campaigns through the use of search modifiers, we are further able to maintain a competitor edge by finding citation and link opportunities that could benefit our brand but are not already linking to our competitors.
You can see below the massive maps increase that can be directly attributed to consistent custom signal creation.
Custom SEO – Patch & Social Posting
Custom SEO – Local & Authoritative Website Features
To strengthen local relevance and prominence, you need to leverage all applicable website features. In our experience, the more information you can provide to Google, the better. Don’t allow missed opportunities on client sites. Be sure to leverage all website features possible. For this campaign, we used:
- Find Us Locally Section
- County Pages
- Local News
- Relevant Points of Interest
- Outlinks to Local/Niche/Authority Sources
Find Us Locally
The more trust signals you can include for a brand, the better off you are. On every location page we included a “Find Us Locally” to capitalize on trusted 3rd party reviews (signals). This strategy also highlights our 3rd party reviews, which Google uses as a local ranking factor.
You aren’t limited to only displaying review profiles either. Use the Find Us Locally section as a place to link to industry specific memberships that your brand is a part of, like the Painting Contractors Association (PCA) or attorney state bar association.
Below is a screenshot of the local review sites we used.
We were able to build local relevance for areas that our client served but did not have a locally specific address through the use of county specific pages on the website. Each county specific page included:
- 350-word intro using our supporting terms.
- NAP for each client location in the county
- Link to the location pages for our offices in the respective cities of that county
- Industry-relevant points of Interest in the county
- Keywords with local modifiers
We linked to each county page from the homepage of the site and included these in the main navigation. We also used the locations page of the website to add the address and an anchor for contextual linking for each of our locations. Then, these anchors were used to link to the corresponding location pages.
Here is an example of one county section on the homepage.
We created 7 county pages to cover the entire state. These county pages allowed us to expand our relevance and aided in dominating the local rankings state-wide. If you’re working with a brand that has multiple locations in a county, we recommend building county pages in addition to individual location pages.
Local News Posts
Including local news can broaden relevance by adding another layer of local content. But we didn’t link to external news sites. Instead, we created our own blog posts around local news. Each post focused on news that was locally relevant AND related to our niche. For our client, they are in the legal industry so we focused on news about the court houses, state laws, local committees and different law updates and changes.
Some examples of news posts include State Employees Left without Medical Leave, Jailhouse Witness Bill Turns into State Legislature, and the State’s Medical Marijuana Plan. Your local articles can be uploaded to the site at once and scheduled throughout the month for a more natural news drip, or you can add articles as relevant news becomes available. Even bulk publishing, we saw a positive impact to local rankings.
Relevant/Helpful Points of Interest
In addition to the local website features mentioned above, we also included relevant points of interest on each location page. Because this client is in the legal niche, we included the court house, Supreme court, court clerk office and appellate court on respective pages. For each relevant point of interest we included:
- Public Parking Info
Outbound Links To Local/Niche/Authority Sources
As mentioned, authority outbound links are used in the Find Us Locally section added to the homepage. We included similar sections on some of our location pages for more competitive locations, as well as on our county pages.
Our client benefitted from the authority that these properties brought to their website, which added a layer of brand recognition and trust.
We also added authority and trust by linking to relevant points of interest like courthouses from our location pages. For this client, we linked to county websites, the Court Clerk, their local Chamber of Commerce, and Yelp. There are a wide variety of sources depending on your niche, so be sure to explore your options before linking. What are your competitors leveraging? Are there common outbound links amongst top competitors? These are all things you should look at while doing your competitive research.
Through our work, the client was able to expand their reach and open additional locations, nearly doubling their business since they came on board with us. Not only are they making more money, but the client now has a bigger budget to invest back into their business.
Now that we’ve laid out our framework with state-wide domination, you’re equipped to achieve similar results for your clients. You can stay updated with our latest guidance by joining the Local SEO Community Facebook group or subscribing to The SEO Vault. Each week on The Vault we discuss SEO news, what’s currently working for us and current SEO tests we are running. There’s a plethora of knowledge available, so stay connected!