Episode 10 | September 12th, 2023

Best Multi Location Strategies For Your Service Area Business

A2O Digital discusses the best practices to consider when starting multi locations for your service area business. Multi-locations help elevate your local SEO within your market area. If you're struggling to boost rankings in Google Maps and Google Local Services, this episode will guide you on the important factors to consider.

Tim 00:21

Hello, my name is Tim Coleman and I am your host. I am also the managing partner of A2O Digital a full service digital marketing agency working exclusively with home service businesses. In today's podcast, we will discuss what a multi location strategy looks like for home service business. Our guests today are Ashley Bencsko and Justin Bencsko, both members of the A2O Digital team. Ashley has been working in the digital marketing space since 2008, and Justin since 2011, both have spent a significant amount of time on local marketing and strategy. Ashley and Justin, welcome.

Justin 00:59

Thanks, Tim. Excited to jump on this and talk about multi locations.

Tim 01:04

All right. Okay, so I'm just gonna start by saying what we're not talking about today's how to spam Google. What we are talking about is when you're a home service business, and you have multiple locations, or you want to adopt a multi location strategy, or leveraging the already existing multi location strategy, and get the most out of it from a marketing perspective. That's kind of what we're talking about today. We're definitely not talking about mailboxes, etc, and renting storage spaces and trying to come up with fake locations you can put into Google, that's definitely not what we're talking about today. So let's start by what we are talking about today, what would we how would we kind of define what is a multi location strategy for home service business? Let's start with you Ash.

Ashley 01:50

Yep. So I think a typical starting point for most home service businesses is there a single location, they run all of their operations out of that location, that's where their staff is coming in. If they have a marketing team, that's where they're based, right. And it's very centralized. When we talk about multi location, we literally mean multiple physical locations for that business. And then today, we're gonna talk about a lot from a marketing perspective, that's a lot of focus, although we will touch on some ways that you can use it operationally or what we've seen people be successful with in the past, but it's really about having more than one physical location and expanding outward from your like, initial central office into having maybe its branches or whatever it may be for your business, but multiple physical locations spread throughout your service area.

Tim 02:37

Ok cool. So why would a business want to have more than one physical location, and I mean, this primarily right now from again, a marketing perspective?

Justin 02:51

Sure, I can kind of jump in here and talk about it a little bit. Number one thing, right? When a customer is looking for a business, they have an issue with their home, they're looking for a home service business, whether that's in you know, plumbing, hvac, garage doors, whatever you know that vertical may be the number one thing that they're going to look at is how local you are to them. So obviously, having another location, you're going to be local to more people, and that's going to inherently end up getting you more business. And to kind of increase conversion, so to speak. On top of that, from if you look at Google, there's multiple places within Google search results, that having a location allows you an additional location allows you an additional opportunity to rank. So to start, there's GBP, Google Business Profile, maps, if you go on and you kind of see the pins on the map, that is all based off of location. So you are going to rank there based on being the most local. Now there's other factors as well. But you are going to rank when people local to your location are searching, that's the number one factor. So obviously, you have one location, you're going to be local to a certain number of people. Now if you can strategically get other locations, you know, that gives you more opportunities to rank in a larger area. There's also Local Service Ads, which are the tiles across the very top of the search results. And having an additional location would give you an additional local service ads listing. Now Google's changed over time how important location is to ranking and local service ads. So you know, if we go back probably a year, year and a half ago, location was very important. So having multiple locations played a huge impact. Now they beat the algorithms and for a while now, it's not been as important the number of reviews that you get. And other factors have been more important as what we've seen. And that can change again, right. So that's just another area where having a location could potentially benefit you. Additional locations in your traditional organic results, you tend to see better rankings when you actually have a location in the area that people are searching. So a lot of people search, you know, near me searches, whatever town that person's in, if you have a location, you're gonna have a much better chance of ranking in that town. So that's kind of another area where where it can help you. So from a marketing perspective, those are you know, some of the main ways I don't know Ashley, if you have anything else in mind that comes to the top of your head.

Ashley 05:56

Yeah, I think the other one that we've seen is, is related to the Google Business Profile, and that's through paid search having location extension. So having a location extension and paid search, you have to have a GBP, or Google Business Profile to be eligible for location extension, you can then have that in your paid search ads. And that makes you eligible to have essentially ads in the map pack. So if you ever do a search, where you see the maps listings, and at the top, there's like a sponsored ad, those are actually coming from the location extensions, which comes from GBP, and it's all managed through your Google Ads account. So definitely seen having additional locations be helpful from that perspective too, and just having another bite at the apple on that page in that sponsored section of maps and say, that's the other big one that we see.

Tim 06:42

What are the benefits do some of our customers see outside of marketing from or outside of digital marketing at least I'll say?

Justin 06:55

Yeah, I mean, if you can blend, right, getting a location, not just for the marketing aspect, but for it to help your business that's going to kind of be the most sustainable, right? Google changes things all the time. We just talked, I talked about it with Local Service Ads, right, and additional location had a huge impact on point that a change and will probably change again. So you know, if you can make a location work, not just from the marketing, but for other parts of your business, that's going to be the most sustainable, you know, can it help with your operations in any way? Can you put have inventory there? Do you have techs local to the area where it's going to help with maintaining those techs as they don't have to drive? As far as you know, to get to the shop every morning? Could you potentially get some type of advertising from that location? Right? Is there foot traffic if you're on a main highway, or a main road with a site with signage there, right, that's another benefit you're gonna get people are driving by seeing your name all the time. So any way that you can kind of build the operational side, operational benefit into this, that's going to kind of be the best long term strategies, is what we've seen.

Tim 08:09

All right, what what are some of the challenges? What are we seeing some of our customers run into that maybe they didn't expect? Or some of the problems they ran into having a multilocation business?

Ashley 08:19

Yeah, I can. Yeah, this is definitely just from their experiences and being shared with us. But um, the first is just you don't have like a centralized management team, you started to have these branches, right. So when everyone's in your building, and everything's being managed out of one building, maybe you're there every day, you're seeing and hearing and feeling everything that's going on, just by being part of that. And by opening additional location, and having a team now sort of satellite to that main location, sometimes just the management of the team or keeping things consistent between locations, those things become more challenging and difficult. So it's certainly something you want to be prepared for. One of the other things is your reputation. So not just managing your reputation in multiple locations, which you do have to do if you go and push these from a marketing perspective, right, you have to now manage multiple places. So that can be challenging, but making sure you have enough reviews and ratings coming in to sustain all of your locations. So if you don't have a really good system, where you're asking for reviews regularly, and you're getting reviews regularly, it's hard to maximize the results from additional physical location from a marketing perspective, when you're GBP listing says you have 10 reviews with a 4.9 rating and all their competition say they have 1051 reviews and 1239 reviews. You look like the new guy, you look like the small player, people aren't sure if they should use you. And so I think a lot of times businesses forget that as they open this location, they have to like extend a lot of their process procedures and make sure that they're doing them for all of these locations. And that also means that so like let's say you go from one location to two, you need to make sure you start getting reviews your second location, but you need to keep getting reviews to your first location because you can't just have that stop and get no reviews for a year, your first location. So it's really maintaining that reputation across locations and then having the volume to sustain it so you can maximize the results. The next thing might sound a little silly, but we've literally had this happen to like, you got to get the location and keep the location. So we've had people get the location and say, great, like I'm ranking in GBP, this helps me in LSA and my organics going better, I'm getting more leads, I can see the results. And then it comes time to renew the lease. And there's like, I don't need it anymore. Like I'm getting the leads, and they get rid of it. And in this case, we on that listing gets suspended in GBP. Maybe because Google caught wind of the location, so we go to get it reinstated with them, hey, they're asking for this paperwork. And they say, oh, yeah, we don't have that location anymore, we got rid of that we stopped paying for it, someone else is already in our signage isn't even on the building anymore. Well, you're no longer eligible for that listing from like a GPP perspective, or whatever it may be. So you got to commit to it and like, stick with it. So you can like maintain those results. And Justin you want to add to that?

Justin 11:08

Yeah, I was just gonna kind of started to say them, right, you have to get the location. Sometimes finding the location is hard, it depends on what part of the country you're in, right? Finding location, costs of that location, you know, in some of these places, where real estate is super expensive, you know, we have customers in the LA area, right? They can't find anything, or if they do, it's like so ridiculously expensive, that it doesn't make sense to do so like actually doing that. And we'll talk about this a little bit to making sure you get it in the right location to have the maximum benefit. So, you know, you may say, Okay, we want you to be, you know, ideally in this town. And now you gotta go find something in that town, it's not always that simple. And it takes some, some, some digging, and some waiting, it doesn't always happen right away. So we've seen that. And then Ash you mentioned, documentation, right? That can be a big pain in the butt to get these listings, once you have the location to get it up on Google Maps GBP, to get it up on Local Services. there's all this documentation that you need to get. And it's a pain in the butt utility bills with specific names, there's all of these different things that you need to do to make them eligible. And, you know, we've seen times where, you know, it's just the admin of that, and you're, you know, dealing with other entities to get these documents done. And that can be kind of cumbersome and hard to do.

Ashley 12:41

Yeah, I think that teams often underestimate the administrative man hours that go into opening that additional location before you can even say like, oh, we put we sat people's butts in the chairs and like, right, there's a lot of work that goes into the administration of getting that up and running. And like Justin said, having the supporting documentation and all that. So I think the other piece of this too, one of the frustrations or difficulties is, if you get your physical location, and Timlol you're I think you mentioned this earlier, if you get it and you're like, the reason I'm getting this is just so I can rank in Google, I have no other intention of using this. It's just I need to have signage, and like, that's what I'm doing, you're gonna probably end up being frustrated, because you're not fully committed to having that location. And every little task, you have to do that Google requires to get the listing live, or to reinstate the listing, if they suspend it, or whatever ends up happening is going to feel frustrating, because you're like, I'm just doing this for the leads, like why do I have to do all this extra work, if you commit to that location for those other reasons, having a signage, having a foot traffic, maybe recruiting more local employees, making your routes tighter, if you're in a business where you have routes that you run regularly, having that local inventory, all the things that we talked about, in addition to driving more leads to your, to your business, and to your bottom line, you're in a much better place, because inevitably, Google will change how algorithms work. How powerful having a physical location is maybe having eight locations isn't as beneficial as to in the future. And if you're just doing it for the lead, that's gonna drive you nuts. So if you're using it in as many ways as you possibly can to benefit the lives of your customers lives of your employees, your own life, you're gonna feel less frustrated in this process, because the reality is, you can't stop people from doing what they're gonna do, right? You're just kind of along for the ride and trying to optimize your business. So really being fully committed. So you can hopefully, avoid some of the frustrations that will come your way just because Google changes things on that regular basis.

Tim 14:45

When you start thinking about getting additional locations, there's a lot that you want to think about, right? It's not just opening up a map and throwing a dart. So you know, from least from I think there's a lot of things right, it was what are some of the things that our customers think about? What are some of the things, especially from a marketing standpoint, we think about?

Justin 15:08

Yeah, there's a number of factors you want to look at. First of all, obviously, you don't want to cannibalize what you currently have, right? Like, I mean, this is, I guess, somewhat common sense. But you don't want to go to the town next to you that you're already ranking in and say, Okay, I'm gonna get a location there, right. So you want to kind of keep that in mind. We'll actually do kind of like audits to look at a number of things. But some of the things that we would look at, we would pull up our, you know, paid search accounts and look at where the demand is, right? You could put a location in a number of different spots, and the impact that you have can be very different depending on what the opportunity is in that in that specific area. So we'll look at, you know, where are people searching from in paid search? Because they give you that data? Right, that's a perfect place to look and see, okay, there's a lot of demand coming from this specific area, right? There's a lot of people searching for this specific area, versus another area where there might not be, you'd rather go with the one where there's a bigger piece of the pie to to gain. So you can look at that competition, right? What is the competition like in that area? Are you going against, you know, three, four or five competitors that are, you know, pretty, pretty decent at what they're doing, have a good review, count, that type of thing. You know, you may, if you're looking at several areas that you think opportunities similar, you may want to go to the place where there's less competition, you're going to have a better chance of ranking quicker, you can look at the demographics of those areas that you're looking at, right, maybe that's another tiebreaker that you're going to pick a place with a little bit better demographics, more of your target customer. So those are some of the things from like the marketing side, obviously, you want to look at the operational side to we've said, you know, trying to make this work, not just from the marketing side, so you have to kind of consider some of that other stuff as well, but from the marketing, that some of the things that that we would look at.

Ashley 17:16

And I think coming from the marketing side as well. If you as the business owner are moving and you don't have that conversation with your marketing team, you're really missing an opportunity. We've had so many occasions where people have moved and then like three months later told us they moved. So obviously we have no say in that process. We didn't know it was happening. It was just like an after the fact Oh, yeah, I forgot to tell you, I moved. And I get it like a move. They say like moves are like one of the I think three most stressful things you do in your life, right? Like, it's a big deal. It's a big process, you probably spend a lot of time thinking about it. But before you get too far into thinking about a move, I really encourage you to get your marketing team involved in that conversation and see what their perspective is, it doesn't mean that their number one recommendation from a marketing side is the best fit for you. Because like Justin said, you have operational needs, you have needs that your marketing team may not always be aware of, but getting their perspective may help you choose a location that can change your business exponentially. We've seen like when this is done really well, it can increase lead volume monthly in the hundreds by hundreds of leads a month when you choose another additional location really well. We've also seen it where people had to donate locations to in this case, it was a franchise and they were a franchise because they stuck their location. So close to where the other franchise was that when the leads came in, they were they belong to somebody else, right. So we have seen full gamut of how well from a strategy perspective locations have been chosen and how much it truly can impact your bottom line and how much you can bring in from allocation.

Justin 19:00

It can even come down to like, within a specific town you want to be in this area or within a specific city you need to be in this area. There are times that we run into Google what Google considers within a city limits and what like the post office, you know, address is don't always match up. So you will even you know, we will even sometimes look at it down into that level like hey, you want to be in this city. But you need to be within this map. And if you go and actually search on Google that city, a map will come up with Google and they'll kind of be an outline of that city. And that's kind of what inside of that outline is what Google considers within the city limits. And there's a lot of times outside of that. You look at the address, you know, or you're looking and you look at the address the address is that city but Google doesn't consider it that city and that can make a difference within your rankings depending on how competitive it is, so there's just like a lot of different kind of factors that you you'll look at there, when you're, when you're trying to find that location, optimize it as best you can.

Ashley 20:08

Yeah, and I think the other thing to remember is there can be little law of diminishing returns here, if you really get deep into the multilocation strategy. So oftentimes people are fine, the other one location, they get a second, they're not cannibalizing, they're still getting great results, they may get a third location in that same metro area as they expand, and they're still seeing an increase in results, maybe they get a fourth, fifth, sixth, we've seen people, we have some people that have, I think eight is the max right now that they have in their metro area. And they're still getting better results by adding and they're not cannibalizing their existing locations. But at some point based on your service area, you may start to see like a decline and what their return is from those locations, if they start getting too close together, or you've kind of run out of areas that like demographically are the right fit for the business and the services you provide. Whatever the reason may be, so most people start, you know, easy with this, they get one additional location or two. But if you're in this realm of thinking, like I want to blow this up, I want to have a lot of physical locations, I want to make the most out of this strategy from a marketing perspective. One, I would say always reevaluate a location as you like, as you add. So if you add a second one, before you decide on what your third one is, really look at what your reach is really look at, if there's anything overlapping, really look at the competition, things change. And then two like, the second thing is just at some point, you might have done enough. And this might, you might have kind of maxed out on this strategy as far as having additional physical locations. And so that really depends on your market area, how large your service areas, how many competitors that are, there's a variety of different things that will impact that. So literally, one Metro area you might be able to have eight locations, and it's great. And another one you may only need two. And that's really like how you're getting the most out of it. So that would definitely be a case by case depending on your business and where you're located and the competition, all that kind of stuff, but important to consider.

Tim 22:03

Yeah, let's get back into just a little bit of spam. And the rules associated with a multilocation strategy. I feel like first and foremost is kind of attitude. Like, I feel like we make an effort to learn all of the rules so that we can follow them. I feel like there are still too many people on Earth who learn how Google works so they can get around things. So I think first and foremost is like that attitude. We are learning the rules, we when rules are changed or published, we actively tried to seek them out. And in an effort to communicate those to our customers or other people and make sure they're being followed and all that type of stuff, right? Let's just talk about what those rules look like. Now, when we started adopting a multilocation strategy.

Ashley 22:55

Yeah, I think I think the most rules come up with Google Business Profile, or maybe they're the most published rules around multiple locations, right? So when you go to have more than one physical location, you're going to need to have signage on that building. And like a permanent space, you can't be in a virtual office or a co working space, purchasing a door from your neighbor and saying, like, Hey, can I stick a sign on your door? And like, stay on here? Like, do people get away with it? Yeah. So do we see jokes about it all the time online? Yes. But is it the long term strategy that you want to be using for your business? If you're really committed to something like this? Because you want to impact your bottom line and grow your number of employees and support the lives of all these people? Like? No, because at any point, if it does get caught, like there's, they're not, it's not coming back, if they figure it out, it's not coming back. So you're really building house of cards and stuff like that. So I think it's just with the multiplication, you need to have the signage you need to have the documentation to support it. We encourage people to have proof of ownership or lease available, so that if that question gets asked, they can provide it, a lot of verifications in GBP now require a video you're going through and you're showing them the inside and the outside of your location to prove that you really are where you say you are. Has to be your own dedicated space. I think the big thing is around it. And the other thing is sorry, staffing. The rules technically state that if you have a physical location more than one physical location, and you're showing your address, and you have hours displayed that there should be staff at that location during those hours. Now, again, do we see people break those rules? Yes, we do all the time. But if you're really thinking long term strategy, that's another thing you have to consider is putting staff in that building on a regular basis, find a reason for them to be there that makes your business better and you know, the rest kind of takes care of itself, right. So that's where a lot of the rules around multiple locations are stated. Local Service Ads does have some rules and they go through verifications around additional locations. If you're meeting the GBP rules and guidelines, you're generally going to be On for local service ads, because they're not really necessarily stricter or anything. So you're kind of going to follow those local search ads, which are those ads in the map pack, right. And that's because you can have those ads because you have location extension, which is because you have a GBP listing. So like, kind of the same rules, there around an additional location. And then organically, I don't even know that there are rules around having location. There's nothing really stated. So again, like kind of, if you follow the GBP rules for marketing, and additional location, generally, you're in really good shape for everything else. And again, it all just goes back to like, are you doing this to just get leads? And that's it? Are you doing this? Because there's a business needed that's greater than that. Because a lot of times you end up meeting all those guidelines when you have a business need that's greater than I just want leads from Google right now.

Tim 25:54

Yeah, so when should a business start thinking about getting an additional location?

Ashley 26:00

As soon as we tell them to start? I always think it's not your first marketing strategy as a new or like infinite business, right? Like, you should be maximizing your results from your first physical location, you should be maximizing your results on the SERP. And by search, I just mean search engine results page. So like, are you making the most out of paid search and LSA and GBP and organic with that one location? How are you operationally sound like you don't need a satellite office, when you have so many problems, you can't function in your main office, that's just going to spread your problems out, right? So are you operationally sound? Do you have a process in place for maintaining your reputation and requesting that people leave reviews for your business and having conversations around that and how to deal with an unhappy customer when you have to deal with that from a reputation perspective? Because, again, you're gonna spread that problem out. So you really need to have like a sound basis for managing your reputation. Just, can you think of other things that I like good to have? You start spreading yourself too thin?

Justin 27:13

Yeah, I think you I think you covered it, right. The review part is important. Can you you know, sustain getting reviews to both of you know, your additional location? I think you kind of covered it, like, you know, if you're just starting out, start with your one location, you know, get all the other marketing stuff going. Do all of like, kind of that stuff. And this is kind of like the marketing side, like, the next opportunity if you're looking to grow after that stuff. So I don't know if I'd have anything to add to that. Yeah. Like, you need to make sure you have someone dedicated towards this project with the talking about the documentation, all that we've had many times where there's not someone dedicated towards that and say, okay, here's what we need ABCDEFG to get going. And, you know, six months later, they're checking in all the time, nothing gets done, because there's no one dedicated to, you know, making sure all those things happen. And now you're paying for a location for six months, and you got nothing out of it. So it's like, you know, you got to make sure you have someone dedicated towards it. And yeah, I mean, it's, it's, uh, I think, I think that kind of kind of covers it.

Tim 28:29

I feel like tell me what you guys think of this, I almost feel like before you should even consider from a reputation standpoint, you should be the leader in your with your current location. And you're, especially if that's the main, the biggest city in your viewable location, the biggest city in your service area, you should be the leader there before you even consider. Yeah, I mean, that's,

Ashley 28:56

I think the leader or close to it, like, like a strong competitor, like, I don't really have to wait until you have more reviews than anyone else. But like, if you're at five reviews on your first location, like start a second location, you got a ways to go before you were gonna do that. But go ahead, Justin.

Justin 29:11

I was just gonna say like, if you had some huge competitor that's been around for 50 years, and like, you're never going to catch them in that town, like, still go get another location. Right. I agree. You know, if you can barely get a few reviews for your current location, you know, you're not looking at a sec.

Ashley 29:28

You know, what else has been interesting with these locations, and again, it varies like a lot of times when a business starts. It starts for a variety of different reasons. It may not be located in the best physical location, it's not like you have your first location and that's probably the number one best location you could possibly be in from a marketing perspective. And so what some cases people do choose those locations and it works out great because they can they can get a ton of business from that first physical location before they even have to think about a second or a third. But there are are some cases where we see people start in a small town, I'm just making this up on the south side of their metro area. And it's great, they've built a great foundation, they have a great reputation, they're running a great business operationally. But like they have so much to gain from an additional location, because they're in a relatively small town in a certain part of their service area. It's not centrally located and local to a lot of people. And so that next location is almost like where your first location should have been. But it wasn't because that's where you were at in the business process. And so we've seen both happen, where the first one is in the best location, and you're just trying to add to it, and we've seen it where the second one ends up being in one of the best locations, because you had a chance to stop and think about it, and study an existing business and understand it from a whole different perspective than before you open your doors, and then make a really well educated decision on where to put it and get more from that second location than they ever did from their first and then consider making their second location, their primary location, we've seen that to where they've moved the center of their operations into what used to be their multi location, second location, and make their original location, their multi location, second location. So we've seen that from both sides. And again, like really customed to your business, your vertical, your metro area, and kind of where you started. But that's kind of a cool and exciting thing to see people do as they have that information available to them.

Tim 31:29

All right, final words multilocation strategy, Justin anything?

Justin 31:33

Oh, man, I don't know, I think we I think we covered all right, this can be a super effective way to grow your business, and improve your business from operations standpoint, from lead generation marketing. You want to make sure you do it in a smart way. Right? Make sure you look at it, think about it, pick a location, that's going to have the biggest impact. Make sure you can sustain it with reviews, right? If you do it right, though, it can have a big impact, like Ashley said, potentially hundreds of additional leads to your business. So again, the you know, it all goes into those details, though, of how you do it. So that's what I would say.

Ashley 32:20

I don't think I can add to that but I would say if strongly consider it as an option and make it a conversation with your marketing team. Be a part of the conversation to like, we love when people participate in the multi location conversation. We can come with a lot of data and suggestions from our perspective. But your perspective on the ground running the business every day with people that are local is so so valuable as well, and like what can help your business operationally. So make it a conversation and be a part of that conversation. participate in that conversation. I think you can you'll find that in. I haven't seen a metro area that we've worked with yet where at least one additional location hasn't been beneficial.

Tim 33:03

All right. Sounds good. Well, thank you for that. I was really good stuff. Folks. If you enjoyed listening to our podcast today, you know, hit that subscribe button, hit the like button, whatever buttons they give you in the way that you will enjoy our podcast. Go ahead and smack those buttons. We appreciate it. And we'll see you next time. Thanks.

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