How to Rank for Multiple Local Cities Without Over-Optimizing

Published Nov 08, 2014 by John Boitnott in Local
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How-to-Rank-for-Multiple-Local-Cities-Without-Over-Optimizing

A lot of SEO ends up focusing on unique content.  Local SEO, specifically, focuses on unique content targeting a specific area.  This presents an interesting problem for local brands with multiple locations.  A brand that provides HVAC service to four or five areas in a county might want to rank for each of those locations.  A fast food brand might want to rank in every location they have a presence, globally.

However, much of the information shared between each location will be the same.  Two different locations for a fast food restaurant are likely to have the same menu, for example.  The HVAC servicer might have the same rates, the same “about us” page, and so forth.

How can a brand with multiple locations, whether it’s two or 200, rank without tripping over-optimization flags?

Don’t Use Multiple Domains

When you’re a small business with two or three locations, it can be tempting to use individual domains for each branch.  Unfortunately, the more you grow, the more upkeep this entails, on an exponential level.  You would have to maintain individual blogs and service pages for every single subdomain, and you would need to make them unique enough so as not to trip duplicate content filters within Google’s index.  Can you imagine trying to create five, ten or more versions of your “About Us” page while making them suitable unique?

Typically a better option is to use a subfolder.  You can use subdomains if you wish, the difference is largely minimal.  Subfolders are typically easier to name in a memorable way, and you can include location information in that folder heading for an additional smidge of geotargeting oomph.

Another advantage of the subfolder option is that your blog can have a subfolder of its own, without specific geotargeting information.  This allows you to run one blog for every branch.  If you choose to geotarget individual posts, they can link to the subfolders for that specific branch.

Create Location-Specific URLs

Create-Location-Specific-URLs

Say, for a moment, that you have a business selling novelty hot dogs in three locations around Utah: Holladay, Murray and Cottonwood Heights.  For the most part, your site is going to be unified with just Salt Lake City geotargeting.  Then, when you get to specific location information, contact information and the like, you would have individual, customized, unique pages for /holladay/, /murray/ and /cottonwood-heights/.  Your SEO for the majority of your page is unified, but you don’t sacrifice your ability to use multiple pages.

Customize On-Page Elements

Each page needs to be carefully designed for its purpose.  Any page that is generalized between all three locations would need to be generally targeted.  You can mention each of your three locations in the content, with links to sub-pages for those locations, but you do not need to make additional pages.

For example, if all three of your locations sell the same jumbo blue hot dog balloon, you can create www.hotdognovelties.com/products/jumbo-blue-balloon/ with content that relates to that product specifically, without undue geotargeting.  When it comes time to ask where that product can be found, you can mention each of your three locations, with links to the informational page for each location.

Google+ Places

Google+, thankfully, allows you to manage multiple Local pages with a single account.  This way you, as head of marketing for Jumbo Novelty Hot Dogs, Inc., can manage all three Local pages with minimal disruption.

You will not be using Google+ Local as a blog.  They will largely act as passive landing pages and pages you can use to rank in search.  They also serve as ammunition for the carousel, if there’s a carousel in any related search results.  Each Local page will need to link back to the individual location landing subpages, rather than your general homepage.  This is so that Google can cross-reference specific location information from your location contact pages.

Maintain Accurate NAP

Speaking of contact information, yours needs to be accurate to a fault.  You need each individual location page to have the name, address and phone number of that specific brand.

Maintain-Accurate-NAP

Name should be easy.  If all three locations have the same name, you can subdivide them with a location description.  Novelty Jumbo Dogs – Murray, for example.

Address needs to be your specific mailing address, even if no one actually knows the street address and just finds you based on the crossroads and nearby businesses.  You cannot use a P.O. box or your corporate headquarters office location.  Essentially, think of it like a URL; two different addresses, even if they’re formatted differently, will point to two different places as far as Google is concerned.

Phone number is tricky.  You should avoid funneling all users into the same generalized phone system, or into a corporate system.  If you have a corporate location with a centralized customer service number, post that separately.  For each page, the phone number should be specific to that location.

You should also strive to use a local phone number.  For Salt Lake City, the area codes are 801 and 385.  You would want a phone number using one of them, depending on your location, rather than using a blind 800 number.

Finding Local Reference Links

Once you’ve established your location subpages, you’ll want to try to rank in search for them.  Unfortunately, according to Pigeon, you don’t get to.  Instead, your best bet is going to be trying to find the people who do and get your information on their pages.

This means you have three groups to target; the business directories, the local aggregators and the resource centers.

For business directories, you’re looking at sites like Yelp, which list local businesses and allow you to optimize a profile.  Whenever possible, you will want to claim a profile for each of your branches for specific geotargeting information.  Thankfully, these are largely passive, so you don’t need to worry about keeping them maintained most of the time.

For local aggregators, you’re looking for local publications that hold sway.  These typically include local organizations and newspapers, as well as community portals.  Finding a place on these sites, particularly if they create top 10 lists, can be a great help.

Third, resource centers, don’t always exist.  If they do – and you should run searches for your keywords to check – try to insert your site into their lists.

Generally, as long as your NAP is unique for each subpage, and you’re not duplicating data with swapped geolocation keywords, you’ll be fine.

Written by John Boitnott

John Boitnott

John Boitnott has worked at TV, newspapers, radio and internet companies in California for 20 years. He’s an advisor at StartupGrind and has written for NBC, Inc, Entrepreneur, USAToday and Venturebeat.

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