Monday 11 Feb 2013
If you own a local business and are investigating ways to utilize the web to promote your company, chances are, you’ve come across discussions of strategies involving city landing pages. First, let’s clarify…
What Are City Landing Pages?
City landing pages are commonly defined as pages you create on your website to target multiple cities. In one scenario, you might have a single physical location in San Francisco, but are considering creating additional pages on your website that focus on neighboring cities like Oakland, Mill Valley or San Jose. Alternatively, you may have physical locations in more than one city and need to let the public and the search engines know this.
The two typical goals of creating city landing pages are:
1. To present your message to a specific audience in a target city.
2. To increase your chances of search engines showing your business as a result for searches for more than one city.
From my work in the Local category of the SEOmoz forum, and from helping our clients with their Local SEO, I know there is some confusion surrounding this topic of city landing pages. Many local business are unsure of whether they should invest time and money in these types of pages. Others wonder what makes a good city landing page. I’ll help you get clear on this topic in this article!
To determine whether city landing pages are a good fit for your business, let’s start by defining your business model.
Service Radius Business
Like the milkman of old, and the modern landscaper, carpet cleaner, general contractor, at-home healthcare provider or mobile notary public, if your company goes to clients to do business, then you are likely to be operating in a service radius that extends beyond your city of location. You may have just one headquarters in City A, but your employees travel to Cities B, C, D, and E to render services.
City landing pages are typically an excellent fit for this situation.
You’ll be optimizing your overall website for your physical location in City A to give you the best possible chance of ranking well in Google’s true local results, but your other service cities can often gain some additional visibility in the traditional, organic results, thanks to city landing pages.
Wait – What’s The Difference Between Local And Organic Results?
Organic results are the traditional results that have been Google’s mainstay since day one. Local results are currently displayed with a grey, lettered pin and contact information, often linking to a local business’ Google+ Local page.
Most often, your business will be able to achieve local rankings for searches related to or stemming from the city in which it’s physically located. The goal of your city landing pages will typically be to get organic results for cities where you don’t have a physical location. There are exceptions to this rule of thumb, particularly when Google doesn’t have a ton of data about a category of businesses in a specific geographic region (such as a non-competitive business in a rural area), but in general, your expectations for rankings with city landing pages for cities in which you’re not physically located should be organic rather than local.
And, don’t expect to outrank your competitors who have physical locations in your service cities. Google will generally favor businesses with physical locations in a target city over businesses that simply serve there.
What About Businesses That Do Have Multiple Physical Locations?
That’s a different story. Let’s say your carpet cleaning company has three different physical locations (one in City A, one in City B and one in City C). In that case, you have the excellent option of creating a unique landing page for each of those locations cities and optimizing it with your distinct contact information for each city.
For each location you must have:
1. A unique, non-shared local area code phone number
2. A unique, non-shared physical street address
With these essentials, you have every reason to expect to be able to show up in the true local results, because you’ve got physical locations there.
Then, if from your 3 locations, your employees travel to serve 10 total cities, you can certainly consider creating additional pages to cover the remaining cities where you’re not physically located, but for these location-less cities, you’re back to aiming for organic rankings rather than local ones.
City landing pages are typically a good match for service radius businesses. Work towards high local rankings for the cities where you are physically located (whether that’s with one office or three) and towards the highest organic rankings you can achieve for your location-less cities.
Brick And Mortar Businesses
This is where the topic of city landing pages becomes more complex. I’ve fielded quite a few questions from dentists, doctors, lawyers, shopkeepers, restaurateurs and other brick-and-mortar business owners who are wondering about strategies for communicating with potential clients beyond their city borders. For example, a dentist in San Francisco may have patients who come to his office from Berkeley or Oakland, and he’d like to get more clients from those neighboring cities, so he decides to create city landing pages for these other locales.
This is the scenario in which I most frequently find a lack of justification for the creation of city landing pages.
A dentist, a restaurant, a barber shop, is located in one place and offers a set menu of services to everyone who walks in the door, regardless of whether the customer lives down the street or twenty miles away. Yet, I’ve encountered many websites on which five or ten or twenty near-identical pages have been created in an attempt to target customers beyond city borders. Often, only the city name has been changed out in the title and header tag on the page and then the same text and same list of services is repeated ad infinitum. The bad news is, neither I nor Google are going to be impressed with this. Google may well penalize the website for having published duplicate content. And, of similar importance, if your customers have the least bit of web savvy, they are unlikely to be impressed with this effort, either.
To me, the creation of city landing pages in this brick-and-mortar situation seems like nothing more than an awkward attempt to grab at rankings. And, as there can be definite negative effects from creating duplicate or near-duplicate content, for clients that fit this business model, I don’t recommend the creation of city landing pages.
Where Does That Leave You?
For many brick-and-mortar businesses, the story need not end here. In fact, if you’ve got a story to tell about your involvement in neighboring cities where your business isn’t physically located, you’ve got something worth writing about. Rather than taking the lame and lazy approach of duplicating a list of services provided across a ton of city landing pages, consider building a blog on your website and starting to document what you do beyond city borders.
For example, a doctor may have hospital privileges at 3 hospitals in surrounding cities. He can write about his work there, with the goal of establishing his place in these neighboring communities. In his blogging, he can tie this back into his home base at his office.
A restaurant in City A may contribute leftovers to a food program in City B and can write about their involvement in this second community. They can tie this back to their restaurant and menu.
A sporting goods store in City A may sponsor a little league team in City B and can report on the team’s progress on their website, perhaps tying it back into the bats, balls and other equipment they sell.
In other words, you’ve got to take a creative approach. If you have legitimate involvement in communities outside your own, you have a legitimate reason to write about it and legitimate hopes for gaining visibility both organically and via social media that ties your company name to more than one city. Yes, this is a longer shot than the carpet cleaning company that is going to cities B, C, and D every day to clean rugs, but with creativity, you can offer your potential customers, and the search engines, something of genuine value to read. I consider this a much more authentic approach to a content strategy for brick and mortar business than those awkward, meaningless city landing pages I’d like to see vanish from the local web.
What Makes A Good City Landing Page?
If you’ve determined that city landing pages are a good match for your business model, then make the investment of time and money to do the work well. You need to utilize the services of the best writer in your company or hire a professional copywriter who is skilled in Local SEO to ensure the best outcome. Here are some simple suggestions that will help you craft quality city landing pages:
- Make each page unique. No cutting and pasting text from one page to the next. Make each page a stand-alone piece of writing.
- If you’ve got multiple physical locations, include the complete NAP (name, address, phone number) of each business on its respective page in a prominent manner. I recommend using Schema to markup the NAP for most impact.
- Client testimonials from each respective city make great, unique content to include on a city landing page
- Equip your technicians with digital cameras or have them use their cell phones to take before-and-after photos of projects and then write up the projects, embellishing them with photos.
- Videos make an awesome addition to city landing pages.
- Address concerns that are specific to each unique community, if applicable. For example, if City A has different zoning laws than City B, address those if you build houses. If you walk dogs, make an interactive map of the best dog parks in City A and another for City B.
- If you offer different or additional services in a specific city that aren’t offered elsewhere, by all means, cover those in full on these pages.
- Show ‘best of’ awards you may have earned in the different cities.
- Offer a special to clients in a given city. Rotate the cities receiving specials and discounts. Promote these deals via social media, linking back to your city landing pages.
- Give different helpful tips to customers in different cities. Make their visit to their city’s designated page worthwhile.
- Don’t be shy about praising other local businesses. For example, if you’re a contractor, feel free to recommend that your clients visit the local home improvement store to check out drawer pulls and cabinet hardware. If you like something that another business does and you feel it will help your clients to know about it, why not tell them?
- Don’t stint on effort or budget for this work. These need to be thorough, strong pages that are written beautifully and represent your business well.
- Organize your city landing pages into a sensible, easy-to-use menu so that visitors (and search engine bots) can find the right pages while they are on your site.
The creation of high quality city landing pages may not be the right strategy for every local business, but when done properly for appropriate business models, they can increase your visibility on the web and generate new leads, calls and conversions for your business. In this article, I’ve attempted to cover the FAQs I most often encounter, but if you have a question about this topic that I haven’t answered, please ask!