Long ago, a beast of a book known as the yellow pages dotted lands far and wide. Thick in stature and powerful by nature, the remains of its massive spine are the only remaining evidence of its former dominance in the business landscape. As the apex source of information, the yellow pages commanded respect, and companies did everything they could to associate themselves with the book.
Following extinction, the battle was on to become the new primary resource that consumers use to find local businesses — and website location pages rose to the top of the food chain. Location page SEO also emerged as a necessary consideration for companies. The race was on to learn how to get the most out of Google, and how to rank for multiple cities.
Creating these pages is a no-brainer for businesses because:
- From a user’s perspective, completing a local search feels like second nature.
- To Google, providing relevant information for users with an increasingly capable algorithm is the name of the game.
For content creators, well…you might be surprised how often something like a location page can make them feel lost. It’s not that location pages are particularly difficult to write or build — location pages with generic filler content are all over the web. Doing them correctly is the real challenge. The factors that Google deems useful to its users are constantly evolving. SEO experts and content creators must be on top of the latest ranking signals to understand what will put more eyes on their location pages. Don’t know where to start? What follows is a roadmap of how to create a successful SEO strategy for multiple locations.
1. Know Your Audience
First things first. Before you can create content for your location pages, you must understand the type of person you want to find it. Website visitors vary greatly by industry, but every company has one thing in common: They have answers to the questions their customers are asking.
With that in mind, your location page must be tailored to a certain type of person, in a certain mindset, who has a specific want or need. Put yourself in the shoes of the searcher. While this should ideally happen when you’re creating your keyword plan, it’s worth reflecting on when creating location pages. Why would a customer be searching for products or services with a location in his or her query? What type of imagery or written content will satiate their curiosity? Consider creating buyer personas to get a better idea of who you’re targeting at each location.
2. Divide and Conquer
It takes research to fully understand a location. If you’re a business owner that operates in multiple locations, start conversations with customers at each site to gain insights on geographical considerations for your page. If you’re not from the area, you might be surprised at the subtle cultural differences just a few miles can make.
For a more technical analysis, here are a few online resources worth exploring:
- City-Data provides a wealth of statistical information regarding income, race, weather, housing, education levels and crime on easy-to-analyze maps. The website also features a large forum section, where residents of locations across the country discuss daily life in their area with users looking to relocate.
- The Walk Score website may also come in handy. This online resource analyzes the walkability of areas by taking into account local businesses, sidewalks, trails and other factors that would affect living in the area without driving. Think outside the box with your location-based research, and you’re sure to find unique content to include on your page.
Remember that people in different places care about different things. For example, if you’re writing location pages for a moving company, the content you include for your Chicago location should have different main points than one for a small town location. People in a big city might search for “high-rise movers in Chicago” while the small town search might look more like “farm relocation in Waterloo.” Where someone lives provides insights into who they are, so don’t rush through your landing page research.
3. Introduce Your Brand
When you introduce yourself to someone you don’t know, you probably don’t describe what you had for breakfast, how rude it was that someone cut you off in traffic or other bits of inconsequential information. First impressions are important. Most introductions, including those on the internet, begin with a bit of background information. When it comes to your website, this introduction should set your business apart.
Remember, there is a good chance this is the first time someone has ever laid eyes on your brand. Your title tag and meta description looked enticing enough on the search results page to get a click, but the beginning of your content should concisely summarize what your business does, and how you can help the visitor solve a problem.
4. Make It Easy
Once first introductions are out of the way, the next question on the user’s mind is likely related to the physical location of your business. It’s good to create a balance between written content and engaging imagery, so include a map that indicates your location to show exactly where you operate. Supplement the map with written contact information (name, address, local phone number, hours) to enhance your local search value. For some website visitors, this information is all that matters, and your location page will pay off with an in-person visit to your location. Others need some more enticement before they take action.
Getting specific is a good rule of thumb for location pages. Some businesses offer only certain products or services at particular locations, and this should be clear to anyone exploring the page. Use short paragraphs, bulleted lists and relevant imagery to break up the page content and make it more digestible for visitors. The people who end up on your site know what information they need, and the faster they can locate it the better.
Some users tend to be skeptical about how well businesses can meet their needs — and rightly so. When SEO was in its infancy, companies would stuff their location pages with keywords, useless links and other fluffy content in an attempt to deceive search engines. Today, Google’s algorithm technology is much more sophisticated and capable of understanding page content. Consider including ratings directly from review sites or connecting your social media pages to build trust with your users. Google recognizes and rewards these types of inclusions.
5. Provide Value
Value is the lifeblood of your location page. If you can’t provide value to your users, your location page serves no purpose. A page may be content-rich, but still lack the relevant information a user wanted to find in the first place. When a user bounces from your page, you don’t just lose a potential conversion, it can also damage your reputation. A high bounce rate is a sign of a low-quality page in the eyes of Google, and your search rankings could take a tumble.
Because Google penalizes websites for thin or shallow content, continually improving upon existing content is crucial. That’s easier said than done, since there is no definitive “ideal” layout for a location page. What to include on a local landing page largely depends on the type of company you’re building the page for and your users. Take a realty company for example: Property locations are a likely to be a large part of what attracts customers to this type of business. As such, ideas for content might include:
- The names and local contact information of the realtors who work in the area
- A description of nearby retailers, attractions and schools
- Images of a specific town or neighborhood
- A map that helps customers visualize the geographic locations of properties
Regarding map-related content, the Google My Maps tool is a great way to embed a customized map on a page, allowing users to see exactly where specific points of interest are geographically.
Moving around a map is an intuitive way for users in a specific city to click on homes they’re interested in and learn more about them. This tool allows content creators to upload images and descriptions for specific locations, adding value to a location page and making a user more likely to choose the company for their next move.
Whatever you include on your location pages, keep scalability in mind. If you implement a feature on one location page, you’re probably going to want to include it on others as well. Creating a content frame for the types of information you’d like to include on all of your location pages is a great way to keep things organized and build location pages as fast as possible. If you know that your website gets more traffic from specific locations, such as big cities, you can create one thorough content frame for those types of locations and another scaled-back version for less important locales.
What Not To Do
With so many guidelines for how to build an effective location page, you might be wondering what not to do on yours. While a content frame is a good way to create a general framework for pages, you never want to use the exact same content on every location page. Too often, companies believe they are creating “unique content” by merely switching out city names for each page. Unfortunately for them, when Google crawls the website, it will penalize each page for reusing a majority of wording.
While it’s a best practice to make your location pages only as long as necessary to provide value to users, you also don’t want to leave them disappointed by a lack of useful material. If you’re feeling stumped for what type of content to include, ask yourself, “What would I want to see if I were visiting this page for the first time?” Consider how the location itself relates to the business. If nearby parks, walking trails, retailers or entertainment options pertain to your website, by all means mention them. If they are irrelevant to the business, including content like this simply creates fluff that the user will not take the time to read.
Make Locations Matter
If you’re in the process of creating location pages, you already have the right idea. Simply having a local presence on the web for all of your physical locations or areas you serve goes a long way toward connecting with relevant customers.
As you develop your location pages, it’s important to keep a few key goals in mind.
- Your content needs to be audience-driven, so it meets the needs of the person that’s likely to read it.
- In order to learn more about your target audience, you must understand the location in which they reside.
- Geography doesn’t just physically separate people — it affects their way of life.
Once you know who you’re creating content for, you can introduce your brand and communicate what your business is all about. The content should be clear, concise and packed with value to the user. Follow these guidelines, and you will be well on your way to connecting with more local customers than ever before, no matter where your business is located.