Designing Business Location Website Pages, Part 3: Mass Location Business With Store Locators

This is the final article of a three-part series on creating the best business location landing pages for your website. Local search ranking factors put a strong trust signal on the location information your own website provides and we'll explore how to best create your landing page design, experience and data for single location businesses, multi-location businesses (two dozen) and mass location business that need a location finder or geo-search tool.

Mass Location Business With Store Locators and Web Design

Store locator on websiteThis post is aimed at retail, service and franchise businesses with well more than dozens of locations and likely hundreds or thousands of locations.

For many businesses of this size there are a number of factors that go into how a company serves up its location information on the web and mobile. The website is often integrating data from a database or another technology platform and those individual pieces may have limitations on top of the clear necessity to have accuracy in the data.

The first post focused on the content types and quality your location page should have. The second post covered how to structure locations when you have more than one. This post will help you meet the needs of the user and the search engines when you have a large amount of locations.

Common Store Locator and Landing Page Pitfalls for Mass Location Businesses

The lack of an indexable page for each location. One location or 1,000 locations, you need to have a unique page per location. While store locators do provide the ability to find out what locations are near you, they lack the proper structure to produce a location page the search engine can crawl and index.

Limited store locator. Many store locator features on websites use a Javascript and AJAX set-up that serves up the nearest locations on a map when you search by zip code or city/state keyword. This is a completely dynamic request and the website doesn't contain a physical and unique page or URL for that location. It's great because the solution focuses on the user and gives her what she needs, but it completely ignores the search engines and their need to easily understand each location's information.

5 Guys Burgers Store Locator

The store locator for Five Guys Burgers hits this pitfall as their store locator offers up a zip code search and interactive map, but lacks going a step deeper and offering up individual location pages.

Minimal location content. Each location may only have the address and contact information available while lacking location photos, directions, unique content and more. Companies have a hard time learning how to scale this unique location content.

Creating the Best Mass Location Experience On Your Website And Good Examples

This next statement should come as no surprise to you, but you have to build a solution that serves both the user and the search engine. Let's look at how to satisfy both of these without alienating one of them, especially the user.

A. Each location gets its own page. No different than our first two posts, this remains true in any size organization. The focus is to create the most authoritative and trusted page for that location.

B. A crawlable location information structure. This is where many companies get tripped up. They have a store locator, but it doesn't produce or allow each location to have its own page. The most common way to combat this is to employ both a store locator feature AND a solid page structure that Google can crawl and index.

Store locator Sports Authority

Sports Authority is a good example of the best of both worlds by offering their store locator and mapping feature at the top of the page (circled area #1), but then including a store directory structure through crawlable links and state pages down to each location page (circled area #2). This solution gives both users and search engines what they need.

What happens when you lack a unique location page? You deny yourself better opportunities to attract clicks in the search results. In the Google search result example below, you can see that Sports Authority and REI both have local results and organic results in the SERP. Dick's Sporting Goods, whose site only offers a locator and no unique location pages, lacks an organic result. The lack of this authoritative location page also plays a part (with other factors) in its ranking as map result C, while Sports Authority and REI rank above it. You will also notice that, based off the way Sports Authority structures their location section, they have both a city page result and a location page result, giving them a dominant placement in the results.

Local SERP Google

C. Architect your static pages. Build your website's user flow and URL structure in a way that makes sense to a user and the search engine. The most common practice is to have state pages, then city and/or location pages. As a rule of thumb, you don't want to have a page with over 100 links, so larger organizations might need to break down to a city page level or even further if you are a franchise like Subway.

Sports Authority: Their site uses subdomains as part of the URL structure. As we pointed out above, in addition to their zip code locator they offer a static HTML link structure lower in the page.

Locations page: http://stores.sportsauthority.com/
State page: http://il.sportsauthority.com/
City page: http://il.chicago.sportsauthority.com/ (5 stores)
Store page: http://il.chicago.sportsauthority.com/sporting-goods-chicago-617.html

Many sites will build a link from their store locator page to their static directory structure -- both Sports Authority and REI do this from their locations page. Others, like Great Clips, will offer both a store locator page to search by zip and then a separate page for their static page structure of locations by state.

D. Unique and best practice location content. Apply the same types of unique location content types in mass on your individual location pages that we outlined in the first post of this series.

REI does a great job with its location pages by including many different pieces of content for each location. The page is well optimized using the location name in headers, sub-headers and other appropriate areas. They also provide all the needed location info like hours, photos and a schedule of upcoming classes and events specific to that location. REI is cited A LOT at industry conferences for examples of a bigger brand doing local search, SEO and online marketing right.

REI Tempe Location example

Best Buy offers up individual location pages that covers a strong amount of local store information. I really like their hours display, store reviews, specific store services and the General Manager's email address displayed.

Best Buy location page

Additional Thoughts: If you are a big brand, I would look at these two areas to possibly generate wins for local content on your store pages.

1. Give your location control. I get that this is scary or even technically challenging for a larger company, but give your store mangers or team members access to update your location pages with content. They ARE the experts on your location and chances are you have a manager, employee or team member that could be a great content and marketing asset to your individual location page. Staff picks, community events, nearby attractions, photos and more are all possible.

2. Social content. Integrating feeds, parsing location content or hashtags into your page can be a great win. A retail or restaurant could make great use of Instagram photos of their clothes or food. This content will benefit users first and foremost.

You Are Now A Location Page and Web Design Master

I hope that you've found these three posts to be simple, straightforward and helpful. Location landing pages can be some of the most valuable pages on your website, so make sure you are giving your best efforts to make them easy for users and search engines to understand and use them.

10 Responses to “Designing Business Location Website Pages, Part 3: Mass Location Business With Store Locators”

  1. Aaron,

    Awesome article! Too many brands do this incorrectly or get halfway there without finishing the job. Loved the examples of the hierarchy that the state/city/location pages create.

    Nice work!

  2. Aaron, fantastic post. Thank-you very much for putting this out. As an in-house marketer for a big brand, this is an area we have identified as something that needs more and more of our focus.

  3. In the Sports Authority example, do you think that the added organization of having city/state pages as sub-domains outweighs the lost domain authority and link equity? I like the idea of keeping things clean like this, but I understood we would lose traction by moving off the http://www.domain.

  4. Caleb- Thanks for the read and the kinds words. I’ll take them!

    Ryan- Glad to hear its on point for you on your company. In a perfect world I’d prefer to use a folder structure (.com/state/city) over a sub-domain (state.website.com). While authority and equity are great to pay attention to, some websites and organizations have other issues like technology and resources that determine this outcome.

    For Sports Authority, I’d guess the sub-domain is being used as the locations are being serviced by a 3rd party service or vendor that can create this structure, path and content without touching the main e-commerce site. For many, it’s better to have a good solution than fret over if it will be perfect. As we can see from the post and examples, it’s working just fine for their desired outcome, getting their locations highly visible in the search engines. Hope that helps, thanks for the comments!

    Aaron Weiche
  5. Thanks for sharing this insightful article Aaron.

    In my experience, having an ‘expandable’ list in the form of “Country > State > City” is more usable because it is less prone for user errors (like search forms have).

    But of course the store locator functionality gets tricky when many stores are involved.

    Viewing stores in a particular State and getting a list with over 30-40 links, becomes overwhelming.

    In addition, I find that sometimes a website user might be in proximity of a few ‘neighboring’ city locations, so having a list of locations will require that the user will click back and forth to see multiple location details.

    So its nice how REI included the “Other Stores Near…” on the location details page.

  6. Great article, one question.

    I work for a Furniture Company with hundreds of locations. When I search for my location specifically on my phone it will come as a search result, when I click on it it will redirect to closest location regardless of what location I wanted. Why this approach?

  7. Aaron, absolutely the best article I’ve read on multi-store locations. Great article! …and, two years later, still every bit as valid as the day you published it. Keep posting!

  8. Hi Aaron.Nice information regarding it.I have a questions which WordPress or normal html plugins can we used to locate the places that we want to share?

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