This document outlines the concepts, features and steps necessary for fully taking advantage of MetaLocator's Hosted SEO features.  MetaLocator's SEO features allow the content you upload to MetaLocator to be indexed and understood by Google.  Hosted SEO is included in Professional and higher accounts.

This guide focuses on the practical, SEO-relevant aspects of configuring MetaLocator as opposed to an overall guide to search engines, SEO best practices and SEO in general.

MetaLocator's SEO offerings include the following key features:

  • Location Landing Pages:  MetaLocator generates one page for each record in the MetaLocator database.  These pages are commonly locations, but they may also represent physicians, products or some other data configured in your account.  They commonly include all content relevant to a specific location.  An example LLP can be found here.
  • Directory Pages:  MetaLocator generates a hierarchical directory of pages that provides an index to your Location Landing Pages based on the country, state, city of those records.  A sample directory can be found here.  Directories can also contain region-level content.  This allows you include content specific to a particular city or state on that region's page.
  • Hostname & Page URLs: MetaLocator provides a free hostname for each Interface, such as yourbrandname.locationlandingpages.com.  This hostname is where we publish the Directory Pages and Location Landing Pages.  This hostname is linked underneath your MetaLocator Interface installation code and provides the gateway through which Google can index (spider) your location content.  Each LLP receives a unique URL such as https://yourbrandname.locationlandingpages.com/United-States/NE/Colon/Sample-Location/45139/6504.  The components and format of these URLs are configurable.  Enterprise customers and those who have purchased a custom domain can specify a custom domain to replace locationlandingpages.com.  
  • Page Templates: Your Directory Pages and Location Landing Pages can include the same look and feel as your Web site.  
  • Item Templates:  In the Location Landing Pages and Directory Pages, your location content can appear in different formats.  The Item Templates are used throughout MetaLocator when an address or record is displayed.  These templates control what content is displayed on your Location Landing Page and where it's displayed.
  • Site Map: MetaLocator provides an XML sitemap containing information regarding each Location Landing Page and Directory Page.  This XML can be submitted to Google's Webmaster tools in addition to your site's overall site map.
  • Rich Snippets:  MetaLocator publishes rich snippets, also known as "schema" or "structured content" for your locations automatically.
  • Page Titles, Header tags & Meta:  Page titles, h1 and meta-tags are configurable within MetaLocator.  This article covers how to configure the relevant titles.

Understanding how to build and configure the above elements is essential to success with MetaLocator's SEO features.

Caching Considerations

MetaLocator caches location landing pages and directory pages via a CDN.  This allows us to handle large amounts of traffic in a cost-effective manner.  This caching can cause confusion if you are performing multiple edits and expecting to see immediate changes on these pages.  When a location landing page or directory page is first requested, it is generated by the origin server and placed on the CDN.  All future requests within the cache duration are served from the CDN so changes to data and settings will not be immediately visible.  There are two strategies to getting around the cache:

1) Add a revision parameter to the URL:

https://<yourhostname>.locationlandingpages.com/United States/Wisconsin/Milwaukee/Starbux?revision=1

(The revision number needs to be updated to reflect additional changes, e.g. revision=2 and so on)

2) We provide a cache-less domain that bypasses the CDN.  This URL does not support HTTPS and must not be used in production.

http://<yourhostname>.cloudlocatorsoftware.com/United States/Wisconsin/Milwaukee/Starbux

Location Landing Pages

By default, all new Interfaces include Location Landing Pages automatically.  This feature is enabled by default in new Interfaces and is controlled by the Enable SEF URLs for Detail Pages option found under Advanced, in case you're working with an old (pre-Q4-2016) Interface.  This option enables the search-engine-friendly URLs throughout MetaLocator, which are essential for Google to spider the location pages.  Newer Interface Templates like the Sleek and Modern Design layouts include these options enabled automatically.  You can reach a Location Landing Page a few ways, but the easiest is by clicking a location's details link as shown here:

The details link placement may vary in your Interface since it is rendered by the {details} template tag.  In our public demo, the link opens in a new window according to the Advanced > SEF URL Link Target option.  The Location Landing Page is primarily built by the combination of the Landing Page Header, the content as rendered by the Detail Page Item Template and the Landing Page footer. These 3 elements combine to produce the complete output for the Location Landing Page.  Let's look at each item:

  • Detail Page Item Template: This template controls the fields displayed on each LLP.  It controls the placement and HTML markup of the location content such as name, address, images and so forth.  This template is found under your Interface Settings, in the Templates group, as shown on the right.  You can access the full HTML of this template by clicking Source on the toolbar.  The MetaLocator dynamic fields are displayed in yellow and are wrapped in {curly braces}.  There are a few pre-configured example templates under the Templates toolbar item.  This template is configured, like all MetaLocator templates, according to this tutorial.
  • Landing Page Header: This setting contains the HTML content that is pre-pended to your Detail Page Item Template.  By default, it contains a standard HTML head, title and body tag.  This setting should be set to the top half of your Web site's template.  You can add this information manually.  You can also have MetaLocator extract it from your Website. This option is only available when your Interface installation code has been placed on your Website and the published page has been loaded in a browser at least once.  That action records the page in MetaLocator's settings and makes the "Pull Template" button available.  When clicking Pull Template, MetaLocator extracts the HTML content above the installed interface and inserts it into the Landing Page Header field.  Before including a header and footer, your Location Landing Page only contains the Detail Page Item Template content as shown below:  Clicking "Pull Template" as shown above will extract the top and bottom of the page on which the Interface is installed. 
  • After clicking "Pull Template", the Landing Page Header and Footer options are populated with the HTML from that Website's header and footer.
  • Landing Page Footer:  This option contains the lower half of the Landing Page template.  It is automatically inserted with the "Pull Template" command above.

Directory Pages

 MetaLocator generates a hierarchical directory of pages that provides a search-engine crawlable index to your Location Landing Pages based on the country, state, city of those records.  A sample directory can be found here.  MetaLocator automatically redirects to the "root" level of these pages when you visit your chosen hostname directly.  E.g. http://<yourchosenhostname>.locationlandingpages.com.  Astute readers will notice this link is included with each Interface installation code.  This essential element allows Google, Bing and similar crawlers to index your content.

Directory Settings

This hierarchy has a number of options found under the Hosted SEO Directory Pages group of Interface settings.  The default values are the recommended values.

Users with locations across various countries might choose their root level to be the Country level, whereas a user with locations in a few states might choose the root to be the State level.  The root level is set by this option:

Below the root page, each subsequently smaller geography is represented by a series of pages at that level.  Users may choose whether those pages are built based on the Directory settings.  These settings are labelled as shown below, and are included at every geographic level.

Within each level, users can control what sub-geographies are displayed.  This allows you to control where location content is included, and whether to build links to lower-level geographies or to show the links to the location pages at this level.

The strategy for how these options are used depends on the geographic distribution of your location content.  For example, a user with 5 locations in 5 countries would display country pages as the root and likely disable all sub-geographies.  They would enable links to locations at the country level and that would display a single, global page with locations listed by country.

For a user with 5-10 locations in each US state, they might set the root level to be State, and choose to display City-level pages as well.  That would allow for a grouping of State pages with links to City-specific pages for those cities with 10 locations.

Directory Templates

Like the location pages, the Directory pages will use the Location Page Header and Footer if provided.  If a Directory Index Page Template is provided, MetaLocator will use that instead.  This allows a different template to be used for the landing pages, versus the Directory in case that is required.

The directory template can include the Interface automatically at the top of the directory if the {interface} tag is found within the template.  The sample directory linked above includes output of the Interface at the top of the directory.

Page URLs

 In the hosted pages, the Page URLs are built with the Country, State, City and Name fields.  For example this location:
 /United-States/NE/Colon/Sample-Location/45139/6504

This location title is called Sample Location, in the city of Colon, Nebraska in the United States.  These values are taken directly from the values in the location's record.  Therefore, if the location state field contained "Nebraska" instead of "NE", so would the link.  The Location ID and Interface ID are appended to the URL to ensure uniqueness.

Enterprise customers can include a manually specified URL by updating the "slug" field of the location.


Page URLs can be further customized depending on the customer's needs.  Contact the helpdesk if you require special arrangements.  

Hostname

 The hostname is chosen during the Interface installation, or by changing the setting "Hostname for locally hosted pages".  This hostname must be unique across all accounts.  No two Interfaces can have the same hostname.  MetaLocator hosts all pages at locationlandingpages.com.  Enterprise customers can CNAME a custom domain, such as locations.yourwebsite.com to the hostname you've chosen at MetaLocator.  See this article for a discussion of hostnames v.s subdirectories.

Site Map

 Every MetaLocator Interface with SEF URLs enabled includes a site map.  This URL can be obtained by going to SEO Landing Pages > Site Map.  Clicking the link causes the system to generate the site map.  Depending on the number of pages in your account, the process may take a few minutes.  Submit this XML sitemap to Google Webmaster tools for best results.  Before submitting the sitemap, you will need to Verify Ownership of your site in Google Webmaster tools (also known more recently as the Google Search Console).  If you are using MetaLocator's hosted pages, with a domain such as <yourhostname>.locationlandingpages.com, you'll need to add a new property as shown below:

Once added, Google requires that you verify ownership.  MetaLocator supports the HTML Tag and Analytics methods of verification.

Analytics Verification

First, add your Google Analytics UA code to the Interface under Analytics Settings, and ensure you are using Universal Analytics as shown below:

Once complete, log back into the Google Search Console.

Choose the Alternate Google Analytics method as shown below:

and click Verify.  If the verification does not succeed, wait 24 hours and re-try.

HTML Tag Verification

Choose the Alternate HTML Tag method as shown below:

Copy the HTML tag and paste it into the Verify dialog found under SEO Landing Pages shown here:

Once added to MetaLocator, return to Google's Search Console and click Verify. If the verification does not succeed, wait 24 hours and re-try.

Page Titles

MetaLocator set's the page title according to the content added to the Landing Page header.  Within this template, the HTML <title> tag can be found.  Within that tag, you can insert any dynamic MetaLocator template tags allowing you to build any page title needed.  For example

<title>{text_name} {city}, {state} - Our great Website </title>

The above would output the location's name followed by the city, state, then the "- Our great Website".  This might yield a page title such as "John's Rib Shack Amarillo,TX - Our great Website".

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