Techniques for local rankings have changed a bit this year, and some of the previously “tried and true” methods not only don’t work so well anymore, they may even damage your rankings.
SEO advice for several years regarding improving rankings for specific cities was that you needed to insert that city as many places as you could on your website — meta titles, page titles, subheadings, body copy, map pictures, etc.
This operated on the [also outdated] idea that you had to continuously reinforce certain things about your website to Google. If it saw things in the titles and content of one page, and then kept seeing those things on other pages, Google would say, “Wow! This site must really be an authority on X topic!”
It doesn’t work quite like that anymore, and continuing the old way will cause issues for you.
The reason why stems from Big G’s focus on satisfying user intent. It’s not enough to simply have a page that talks about a given topic anymore. That page now has to meaningfully and uniquely incorporate that topic.
Note that this post is about on-site tactics. Backlinks help, like they’ve always helped, but are another tool altogether.
What doesn’t work anymore:
- Making pages for every major city you want to rank in that are basically reiterations of your core service, all very similar to each other.
- Blogging continuously about the exact same topic. This used to help reinforce topical themes, but now it ends up making your content compete with itself.
- Blogging about topics your core service pages already cover, without covering new angles of those topics or related topics.
- Creating a big block of text that lists every city you service (this is spammy and Google doesn’t like it)
**Why? Google wants to have one clear place on your site that is the authority on a topic. When there are multiple places it sees the same thing being discussed, it won’t know which to use in search results and will often opt for neither of them.
How city pages work now in 2018-2019:
The core idea of a city page is still sound. Create a page centered on a given city to improve your site’s relevance for it. BUT…
There are some things your city page needs to do, and if it doesn’t do these things well it won’t give you the desired result.
1. Your city page needs to have content that is truly unique to that page. If it mentions your services, it needs to do it in a way that doesn’t feel like a rehash of one of your service pages.
One way you can do this is to talk about the types of jobs you’ve done in that city and maybe some success stories, rather than laying out all the features of your service like you probably did on the service’s page.
Or, if you’re only targeting one city, you can structure your primary service page as a city page. The important thing to remember is that if and when you add another city page for a different city, it will need to talk about different things than the first one.
2. If the page truly is about the city, it needs to mention locale. This is similar to the concept of latent semantic index (LSI), but in this case it’s more about mentioning things locals would know, such as nearby cities, landmarks, etc.
Bipper Media (that I linked to above) uses the example of a city page for Fort Lauderdale, and that it should talk about Miami and Pompano Beach to really anchor the locale. These are things right around Fort Lauderdale, and anyone interested in the city or thinking of traveling there would legitimately want to know about those other places.
3. Address multiple angles of the core idea. Bipper Media also links to a useful tool, LSIgraph.com, which allows you to enter a topic and get ideas for related searches people do dealing with that topic.
If you’re a personal injury attorney, as they discuss, some useful spinoff content are subheadings like “auto accident checklist,” “car accident with no police report,” and “youtube auto accident.”
Each of those topics can be a subheading (H2) on your city page, which reinforces the authority of your core service, which are legal services for auto accidents. If you can meaningfully tie your city into all that discussion with stats and info, you’ll reinforce that, too.
But just as importantly, using subheadings for a series of related searches will give your page significant length and depth, and improve the types of searches related to your core idea that the page can rank for. If you can write 350-500 meaningful words for each of those subheadings, you can quickly create a page that is 1200-1500 words in length.
Most of your competition probably has thin pages of 100-300 words on similar topics, so who do you think Google will see as more authoritative once it’s examined both?
4. Include name, address, phone number (NAP) that matches your local citations. Nothing roots your business to that city more than properly tagged NAP details, especially if you reside in or immediately near the city your page is about. When these details match your other local business directories, it will earn you legitimacy points with Google.
5. Link to other websites in that city. Remember, the idea of this city page is to be a genuine resource for people in that city. To follow the example above of being an auto accident attorney, you could recommend places to get repairs done on one’s car, warn against certain parts of the city with higher accident rates, or discuss differences in insurance policies that have affected cases you’ve worked on.
Those would all be meaningful pieces of advice that help the user and your page’s authority.