In 2014, I acquired one of my first clients. It was a business called Divine’s Auto. Divine’s owns and operates a series of gas stations, auto repair shops, and towing services in Spokane, WA. In terms of Google My Business, they have 14 physical stations, plus their towing service. Despite the fact that this would be my first foray into a multi-location business web project, I was young and naive so, of course, I was excited to take on the project.
Divine’s has been in business since 1956 and, in all that time, there was no consistent effort to build their online presence. Instead, over the course of 20 years or so individual store managers (or various other individuals) added Divine’s stations and services to the web in their own unique way. There was no naming consistency, phone numbers had come and gone, even branding had changed multiple times. Fourteen locations being updated by countless individuals for the last 20 years. Needless to say, their NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) consistency was a mess. So, I did what every good novice would do – I opened up a new Excel sheet and began, one by one, cleaning up and logging each station’s NAP for each directory site across the web. Believe it or not, I actually got pretty far before turning to a service for help. I now use Bright Local to track my citations, which has made my life quite a bit easier.
My process was fairly simple after their website rebuild:
- Priority # 1 – consolidate and gain control of each station’s Google My Business listing
- Consolidate and correct listings on the most popular directories
- Set up a brand and individual social media profiles.
- Begins link building campaign
- Begin acquiring reviews from all the primary review site (Google, Yelp, Facebook, others)
Decision # 1 – What is the best naming convention for a business which offers multiple services depending on which physical location you go to, but falls under one brand? The main argument would be to simply go with “Divine’s”, (like “McDonald’s” instead of “McDonald’s Restaurant”). But, McDonald’s only does one thing, it sells fast food. Divine’s has three distinct businesses (fuel, auto repair, and towing) and while we could list these as categories, which we actually did for a little while, we quickly realized that there were some major issues with this strategy. The first of which involved towing. Since towing was listed under specific storefronts, individuals needing a tow in the evenings would call a station only to get a message that it was closed. In reality, towing was not closed. It has a separate phone number and is open 24 hours, but people didn’t know that because it was listed as a category under a closed station. You can see why this was a problem. The second issue is it was confusing to see Divine’s Auto on Google Maps and drive there for automotive repairs only to show up and be told that while they made it to Divine’s, that station didn’t offer auto repair.
With that in mind, we made the decisions to create three different primary categories for Divine’s stations based on their primary services. We felt that this naming convention maintained the branding while letting people know what service each station provides. Starting with Google My Business we implemented the following naming strategy:
- Divine’s Auto Repair Shops (5 stations)
- Divine’s Auto Centers (7 stations) (these are the gas stations)
- Divine’s Towing (1 service area)
With this Google My Business naming convention, I was able to update most of the directory sites without a problem (although yelp was not as easy). Things were going pretty well until I hit Facebook which had three clear problems:
- Divine’s had only focused on building one Facebook page called “Divine’s Auto Centers, Towing, and Fasmarts”. This single active Facebook page did not match any stations and had a phone number and address which matches only one of the stations.
- We have a plethora of duplicate and incomplete other Facebook pages displaying inconsistent and, more often than not, inaccurate NAP.
- Even if we got a Facebook page up and running for each station I would never be able to find enough people willing to post to each page to keep it active and updated.
Decision # 2 – Do we abandon the idea of a Facebook page for each individual station and only concentrate on the one brand page? Personally, I did not want to do this for a couple of reasons. One, having a Facebook page helps validate a business?s NAP and legitimacy in local search. Two, Facebook will only continue to grow as a review site. Three, social media is continuing to evolve in how it is viewed by search engines and although it may not be a full-blown search ranking factor now, it may in the future.
In steps Facebook Locations. Facebook Locations is a tool that allows multi-business locations to create a “Parent” Facebook page which will distribute post to “child” Facebook pages. I knew that we would never be able to get each station to consistently post to their own Facebook page, but with Locations and its trickle-down posting, we can get enough content out there to keep the pages active. And, while it is no longer imperative, if I can convince stations to post to their pages it will complement our corporate-level strategy.
Did we find the perfect solution? No, not really – in order to use the Facebook Locations tool all of the locations have to have the exact same name. Unfortunately, we already discussed the confusion that using only one name for every station caused on Google My Business.
This is where I got stuck. In the end, I used a workaround that, while works, is not perfect. The solution was to use the same primary categories and naming convention we used with Google My Business; auto repair shops, gas stations, and towing. Using these I created three distinct “Primary” Facebook Locations. It looks like this:
- Six “Divine’s Auto Repair Shop” Facebook Pages (1 primary, 5 locations)
- Nine “Divine’s Auto Center” Facebook Pages (1 primary, 8 locations)
- One “Divine’s Towing” Facebook page
The main issues with this set up are 1) if we want to post something to all of the Divine’s pages we have to post it to three separate pages. Sure this is easier than posting it to 14 different pages, but it is still not perfect. 2) Facebook Locations has a great feature that lists all of the locations on a map, but because we’ve sectioned the company apart each map will be incomplete. i.e. if someone is just looking for a gas station they will not see the Divine’s Auto Repair Shops, even though they also carry gas.
The entire process, while tedious, worked out in the end and Divine’s is ranking better and better. But I am still not sold that this was the best implementation and I am curious what others would have done in this situation.