Searchers use Google and other search engines to find information about a local business. Common queries include:
- Finding the location of a business or the nearest branch of a chain
- Opening hours, whether to find out if the business is open now or at a future date (such as holiday opening hours)
Such queries are answered when Google correctly identifies the page on the business's site containing this information, and then correctly extracts the information from the page. Such pages, called the location pages, can be the business's homepage, the "contact us" page, or part of store or branch locator.
The guidelines below explain how to build location pages for optimal crawling and indexing, and how to use schema.org markup to help Google's algorithms extract the relevant information.
Table of contents
What are location pages?
A location page is a general term covering any page that has information about a business. It can be an individual page for a single-location business (for example, a restaurant) or it can be a page that's part of a store locator of a national chain with thousands of locations.
As shown in the example location on the right, a typical location page includes information about:
- The address of the business
- The opening hours
- The phone number
- The services or departments are available at the business, for example:
- A bank can have an ATM and lobby service
- A supermarket may have a pharmacy in addition to selling food and household goods
- A clothes shop may have a tailoring and alterations department
For some locations, the different services or departments have different contact information or different opening hours. Although this adds some complexity, our guidelines help you build and mark up location pages that are easy to understand for both users and Google.
Guidelines for building websites for local businesses
Like any content webmasters want to surface in Google search results, good location pages are easy to crawl by Googlebot and their content is easily indexed. Specifically:
- Have each location's or branch's information accessible on separate webpages
- Allow Googlebot to discover and crawl the location pages
- The location information should be presented in an easy-to-understand format
- Use schema.org structured data markup
A note about mobile-optimized websites: many users access location pages using their smartphones. In addition to the specific guidelines above, make sure that your site is optimized for smartphone devices, and that the information you share on the location pages is easily consumed on smartphones. Learn more about Google's recommendations for smartphone-optimized sites.
Have each location's information accessible on webpages
Each location's or branch's information should be readily available on a webpage. This means that each location needs to be accessible on a unique URL. Knowing the correct page for each location allows Google's algorithms to surface the page for the relevant queries.
A common misconfiguration found in branch locators is to require cookies or otherwise manage the browsing session. These branch locators generate URLs for location pages that are typically valid only for a short period of time and show error messages after the session expires. Because of this, such branch locators are very hard (or even impossible) to crawl by Googlebot and make it harder for users to share and link to them.
For multi-branch businesses, Google's algorithms can handle multiple branches listed on the same page. Google's algorithms support branch listings on a city, state/district, or country level; use what works best for your business and your content management system. Because such pages convey more information, it's important to structure them for usability for users by having each branch's information in a distinct section on the page, and use schema.org markup to help Google's algorithms understand the page correctly.
Allow Googlebot to discover, crawl, and index the location pages
In addition to having each location's information accessible on a webpage, make sure that the site's robots.txt file does not disallow the crawling of the location pages. Blocking Googlebot's ability to crawl the page is the most common reason why customers looking for a business's location can't find the information in Google's search results. Learn more about robots.txt and its uses.
To help Googlebot discover all your location pages, make sure the URLs are easy to find through internal linking. Also, submitting a Sitemap containing just the location pages makes it easier for search engines to discover these pages, helps you keep track of how many of these pages Google has crawled and indexed, and can help you identify any problems.
The location information should be presented in an easy-to-understand format
The best presentation of location or branch information to users is also the one that's easiest for Google's algorithms to understand. Some specific tips:
- Avoid complex or nested tables. Complex layouts are harder for users and Google's algorithms to understand, and may not display correctly on mobile devices.
- Use a simple format, and don't have overrides without schema.org markup. For example:
- Describe your opening hours as "Monday to Wednesday and Friday: 9am-5pm, Thursday 10am-4pm instead of "Monday through Friday 9am-5pm, except Thursday 10am-4pm"
- Say "Open 9am-12pm and 1pm-5pm" instead of "Open 9am-5pm but closed for lunch 12pm-1pm".
- Use common names and abbreviations. When describing the day of the week, use the complete name ("Monday") or one of the common abbreviations (such as "Mo" or "Mon" for Monday).
- Use 24-hour format or specify AM/PM. The time format should be what's customary for the location, either the 24-hour format ("15:00") or specifying AM/PM ("3PM" or "9am").
- Be explicit on the opening hours times. Instead of saying "open from 11am to close", or "open from 11am till dusk", say "open from 11am-11pm" since the closing time isn't immediately obvious otherwise.
- Split off each department separately. If a service or department available at the location has different information (e.g. a different phone number or different opening hours), split off the department into its own section to display the information.
Use schema.org structured data markup
To help Google understand your location pages and help surface them in our search results better, we recommend you add schema.org markup to describe your content to our algorithms.
The examples page has several location page examples using schema.org markup, starting with a simple example and building up to more complex scenarios.
In the examples, we use the most specific subtype of schema.org/Organization, including schema.org/LocalBusiness and schema.org/Pharmacy. Our algorithms accept schema.org/Organization and all its sub-types and you should use the most relevant one for your business.
You can use the Structured Data Testing Tool to check that your markup is correct.