This week I’ve had two websites come to my attention that are ranking for lots of terms they shouldn’t and I wanted to share a technique that clearly works and is absolutely worth pursuing for at least the near future……service business location pages.
Now I can hear you whispering in the back we know how to put up a location page for each area we have an office and optimise it as a normal local page. That’s the correct answer but rankings show it’s also not the correct answer. In fact my research here shows that much of perceived best practice does not give a complete picture of what works.
I wanted to examine the correlation between rankings growth and quality of internal pages – to try and determine what factors are crucial to location pages particularly those without a physical business address.
What I quickly realised was that:
Location pages can be highly effective even without physical premises
And without original content
In fact just template, auto-generated content
Now as respectable SEO followers we can’t really advocate this approach without a little tweaking but we can adapt it. After examining current techniques we look at how these can be adapted so that you can build better local business pages without a physical address.
Before we delve into the actual techniques I want to share two examples
- SEO Agency
This agency outranks a number of local area marketing agencies (with head offices in the town/city and fully optimised local profiles including Google My Business) in a wide number of areas with generic content that is uniform between every single area page.
How the Content Changes Between Pages
The content in this example changes heading tags between pages. There is no other differentiation between pages. Keywords are in bold because this is, as we all know, a ranking factor.
2. Pest Control Company
This pest control company uses location pages for every city and county in the UK.
How the Content Changes Between Pages
Each page is differentiated by the appending of the location to the end of each heading tag.
How these companies make this work
Further analysis of these examples showed me that the majority of these websites have strong backlink profiles,they also have rich and, regularly updated content on their other pages. This means that the location based pages make up a small portion of each website’s overall SEO.
In our 2 examples:
The SEO agency has 851 backlinks a trust flow score of 44 and a PA/DA of 44/33
The pest control company has 8600 backlinks a trust flow score of 47 and a PA/DA of 53/54
The reality is that these companies are successfully using this technique to target high volume markets. The overall quality of their website’s and marketing campaigns mean that they are able to make these pages work very well.
Having seen these two examples I examined a number of other sectors to look at correlating features between these location pages that did not rely on a local business listing or office premises. I found examples in different sectors and looked at the factors influencing the rankings. Each site using this successfully had strong backlink profiles and high authority/trust flow scores.
The key on-page factors were:
Location Included in Tagged Headings
All of the websites examined used the location in the H1 header tag. The majority used it in all internal headings.
Location Included in Meta-Titles
All of the websites examined used the location in the meta-title for the page.
Map Included on Page
40% of the websites I examined used a map location on the page.
Unique Location Information Included
30% of the websites used specific area location information alongside duplicated content. An example of this is below.
Items that made no difference:
In the sample examining a number of other factors made absolutely no obvious difference to the efficacy of the pages. These were duplicate content which existed well beyond normal ratios, schema – missing on all examples, links built to the internal page missing in most examples.
To test the efficacy of this approach I took an old domain with content that has very few rankings or historical backlinks. I ran a script to auto generate pages just using content modification for H1’s, titles and internal keywords.
The results have been fairly spectacular and the website actually generated a significant number of inquiries for targeted local marketing terms in this period.
What this means for Us
Though more extensive research is needed but it still appears that if your overall website ranking strategy is sound and that you build high quality links and create high quality content you can get away with some absolute rubbish on your website – and still be rewarded for it.
The strength of the domains analyzed shows that these thin and duplicated pages work exceptionally well.
My own test shows that even poor websites can use this approach effectively. For larger clients having well developed location pages is undoubtedly the answer. Despite thin content and any other Google spam guidelines you’d care to mention this approach works.
How to action your own location pages
Whilst this research demonstrates that thin content auto generated pages work well providing your base domain is at least reasonably strong it is clear that a less automated approach could deliver even better results. With that in mind I’d look at creating pages in the following way.
1. Use Unique Content
Rather than spamming individual location phrases into the text write text specific to that area. You will need to include H1’s and meta-titles that have the location in them but the rest of the page can be less generic. Start with a framework of location optimised keywords and titles then build unique content around it.
2. Include Case Studies
The easy way for us to differentiate our pages is to include location specific case studies of the work or services you are providing. This will add a layer of unique content to your page that will also increase the location relevant data being displayed to search engines. Including one or two short case studies for an area, with accompanying images, creates new opportunities to rank locally.
3. Include Location Specific Content
Though only included in 30% of our analysed websites I would recommend this is included. Better yet it should be tailored to the service you are providing. For example if a client was a property developer you could discuss the nuances of property in that area – the most common architectural styles and building materials. This allows us to build out these pages without creating low quality content.
4. Include Maps
Map results clearly make a difference to your page’s rankings and I think it is obvious that Google likes seeing Google Maps on your pages…..much like YouTube. I would recommend including a footer map on every location pages.
5. Location Pages in Website Architecture
Location pages MUST be discoverable in your standard website architecture and should be listed on a locations served page. Hiding them outside of your standard website architecture can still work but it makes them perform less optimally in the SERP’s.
6. Use Phone Numbers
Using a region specific phone number isn’t quite as good as having a physical business address but including one that redirects to your normal number is still a positive local SEO signal.
Overall we have two options that both work – we can either run a script and reap the short term benefits or opt for a compromise approach building unique pages with unique content. What I myself will be trying is auto-generating content and then optimising pages that secure rankings quickly with unique content, discarding the rest if they appear too competitive.
Let us know your thoughts on creating local landing pages for national businesses below.