Companies operating in the local markets that wish to position pages dedicated to particular locations (cities, towns, small towns), may encounter problems complying with the guidelines of Google. Every new update of Google’s Pigeon Algorithm tightens the maps by narrowing the borders of each city.

Introduction to the Pigeon algorithm

If you manage a local company website, then you probably have to deal with a set of pages targeted to different locations /cities. Perhaps you even have few pages targeting the city surrounding your physical location. Lets take

The aim of this post is to develop a good strategy on how to build a very good and solid awareness of your business among the local audience.

Unfortunately, not always the local businesses are sufficiently prepared. Very often the pages of the website are made on a basis of the one template and differ from each other by only one or two key details. It is also common phenomenon, let’s call it “a location greed” – which manifests itself by the website having too many pages aiming different areas.

With other update of Google focused on improving the quality of search results (Phantom), one comes across some difficulties. It is a waste of users time to keep browsing through the pages which are not relevant to the search query. Google wants to reward intelligent, proactive local businesses. As you have probably guessed, I’m going to write about how to turn a potential problem into an opportunity to improve local visibility and how to get rid of doorway pages and create valuable local business pages on your website for multiple locations.

How the Local SEO was up to now?

Google has always had a gun aimed at the doorway pages (Doorway Pages because they are created to target local sites), but recently emphasized that it’s updates and actions will soon become even more aggressive than. Googles main target are typical suspicious sites: low-quality websites trying to improve their position in the local rankings through content overload, cheap and not relevant backlinks and directories…

The documentation for the Google Search Console gives some examples of the doorway pages Google answers.

To summarize, the information provided defines doorway pages as follows:

  • Having multiple domains or sites targeted to specific regions or cities that direct users to the same page.
  • Pages generated to direct users to a useful or appropriate e parts of your site.
  • Substantially similar page, which is closer to the results than to a clearly defined, browsable hierarchy

If you look at few typical websites that have (or target) multiple location, you’ll see several related patterns:

pages that are targeted on “specific region or city” have similar content and exist outside the “hierarchy browsing”. The purpose of each of these sites is to direct users to “appropriate for them part of your site”.

If this also applies to your site, then you have a big trouble. If, however, this refers to the sites of your competitors, it may be your chance.

The mentions of your company – Citations

On the web you can find a lot of different articles that describe how the doorway page will update items in the search results sites like Yelp, ie. With multiple entry points for specific part of a content. If the pages that mention your company are right for your business (and other users), they are visible and generate a large number of queries together with lots of traffic from referral sites, you can benefit from this approach and apply it to your strategy.

Let me make something clear: it is an opportunity to exploit the potential citations of your company to get a better position, while your competitors will cry and wonder why Google is so unfair.

Important: citations do not have to have an active URL to your site – just name, address, phone number and core services of your company – and people will find you!

Local Target / Landing Pages

Local SEO is generally best suited for physical locations, so to get the best ranking position in the surrounding area requires a combination of local SEO (Google map results) and organic SEO. If you use this combination, you may find that your main locations will be displayed in the results of local search, while other cities will appear below in the organic search results.

The problem here is that landing pages dedicated to specific locations generally are of a poor quality, and therefore those multi located Google describing the doorway of Page:

  • targeting multiple regions or cities (and usually way too many)
  • pages exist to funnel users to the main part of the site
  • substantially similar content on all pages

So, basically websites  that have a large number of pages which are basically the same, have a very low value and only guide you to something else and  also interfere with the objectives of search engine algorithm.

Worried?

Take a look at this classic example…

I Googled “web design bredasdorp” One of the companies popped up with a following body text as content:

web design breda

When I scrolled to the bottom, there was a link called “regions sitemap” – it took me to this!:

web design breda1

So yes. Avoid doing that! This is not what uncle Google approves!

Avoid targeting multiple regions or cities.

It is a conundrum, because we want to target multiple regions or towns – This is precisely our goal! The trick is not to be too greedy. Do not point to each of the towns, cities or regions separately – simply select those important and start from them.

When you chose between the municipalities situated in the vicinity of your business, focus on those that can offer a better return on investment. It will help you significantly reduce the number of potentially problematic pages.

Avoid sites that only serve to guide users to the main part of the site.

This point is clear – the landing page itself must have some value. If the landing page includes a low-quality content – eg. The majority are the stock components with optimized text – then you have a problem.

Pages must simply answer the questions put in by the user. If you are offering services in your area, make sure that all the information that one needs, can be found on the landing page. Otherwise, why Google would bother with such a page and display it on the list of carefully selected results?

Avoid pages that are very similar to each other.

Also this point is clear. Do not create similar sites, which differ in small details that only redirect users to another site. Just do not do it.

In addition, make sure that your landing pages, can be reached easily – preferably via the main navigation. A good idea would be to use drop-down menu which displays the “assisted areas” to your business. If your site is large and is targeting multiple physical locations, then the main navigation based on the “subject areas” and sub-menus to landing pages designed to do the job.

To summarise:

  • Create local landing pages only for major cities / locations.
  • Make sure that these sites are unique.
  • Be sure to add them to the main navigation.
  • Take care about content and put all the information needed by the customers.

Sound easy? So let’s get to work!

How to structure your website for local SEO

Now that we know what we should not do, we can get on with the sketch plan, according to which we will create high quality, unique landing pages that will help your prospects achieve their goals – and by the way, hopefully, in a process your rankings will increase to the top search results on Google.

What Google expects us to do?

Often answers queries as puzzles – love to tell us what we are not allowed to do, but reluctant to give advice what and how we should do. For local businesses, however, they published a tutorial on how to create landing pages for local businesses.

Guidance is not terribly long and is worth reading, but the most important information you should take is:

  • Information on local units should be available on separate pages.
  • Landing pages must be available for indexing by Google.
  • The presented information should be in a clear format.
  • Use schema structured tag data.
  • Pages should be friendly for mobile devices.

The landing page should include the following information:

  • Address
  • Opening hours
  • Phone number
  • Services that are provided at the branch office

Although the tips apply to both one- and multiple location companies with thousands of locations, with many local branches – most of them are targeting the latter. For example, sites that contain extensive local branches can hide localized pages for search results, making it is inaccessible from the outside or impossible to be crawled. In this case each page should have an unique URL, so Google will have access to each of the local pages.

With regard to companies with many branches, Google is able to understand the local side with many branches, but the increasing complexity of the site makes it more vital to maintain a proper structure and the use of tags.

What do we say?

Let us look also at the recommendations from the SEO industry.

  • Create unique, useful page.
  • Do not make too many pages.
  • Hook them up to the main navigation.
  • Use the references and other location-specific content.

URLs and Hierarchy

This is how your website should be structured for multiple cities:

/

/locations/

/locations/cape-town/

/locations/george/

/locations/knysna/

This is really simple, but it will work.

If you want to focus on a larger area, for example. Cape Town and its areas, the hierarchy of URL should be amended so there is a link between parent & child.

/

/Location/

/Location/Cape-Town/

/Location/Cape-Town/Rondebosch

/Location/Cape-Town/Camps-Bay

Covered area:

You might want to utilize a tiered-navigation menu or use sub-menus to keep the navigation clear and away from getting out of hand.

– Cape Town

– – District 1

– – District 2

– – District 3

– City 2

– – District 1

– – District 2

– – District 3

– City 3

Questions or ideas?

Don’t be shy! Leave a comment.