July 22nd, 2016

For those working in the world of search engine optimisation, we hear it all the time: “I would love to be able to target neighbouring areas or these locations”. Business owners naturally want to spread their net as wide as possible but this can be a little tricky, especially when you don’t have a physical office in these locations. Enter local landing pages. You may be aware of local landing pages but you may not be aware of how beneficial they can be in boosting location-specific SEO, nor might you be aware of the potential pitfalls associated with these pages. Fear not, we are here to help.

To be clear, local landing pages are indicators of the geographic locations for a business. They are generally set up to highlight the areas of service or various physical locations in which a business operates. Rather than just listing these different areas on your homepage, it is a good idea to create individual pages for each location. Why do we do this? Well we need to make it clear to Google that we operate in these areas with location specific content and also provide value to users trying to find your product/service within a specific area.

On the surface it appears to be an extremely simple way to boost search result rankings – create a few additional pages, add a few locations and result: rankings boosted! However, if it were that easy then everybody would be doing it perfectly and there would be no need for this blog series. Unfortunately, it is not as straightforward as just creating a number of location pages, with content that is essentially the same but with the location name swapped out each time. This will be considered duplicate content and is not particularly practical for the user; as a result your rankings could suffer. Nevertheless, as long as you are fully informed about the purpose and potential pitfalls of local landing pages then you should be in a great position to make full use of them.

For those that are not au fait with local landing pages, it is the practice of creating pages on your website that have content specific to areas which you want to target/or are already operating within. In basic terms, the theory is that this content is far more relevant and specific to those searching for a good or service within a certain location than the potentially generic and non location specific content on your homepage or inner pages on your website. The problem is that it is all too easy to make them spammy, low quality and ineffective. Furthermore, as we know, there are more factors than just keywords that are taken into account by Google when ranking a page!

Different types of local landing pages

No two businesses are the same and individual businesses operate differently in terms of which areas they operate in, which services are specific to which locations and so on. In other words, some businesses are run from a physical location or multiple physical locations, whilst others offer a service across an area or a variety of areas but operate from a single physical location. The kind of business you are will depend on how you build your local landing pages to make the most of search traffic.

Service area business

A ‘service area business’ is generally characterised as one that offers a service in which they travel to the customers as opposed to the customer coming to visit them at their office or shop. Whether you are a plumber, carer or freelance journalist, quite often these businesses lack a specific physical location due to the fact that they conduct their jobs at the customer’s location. This is also likely to be the case if you are self-employed or operate your business from your home address and would prefer it to not be publicised on the web.

Despite not having a physical location, it is nevertheless of paramount importance that you let potential customers know the areas in which you operate. It is not necessary to have a physical address in order to set up a location page. However, a lack of specific location information does make it harder to differentiate each page substantially but it is nevertheless vital that the location pages offer unique, area-specific information. We will expand on ways to do this in a future post in this Local SEO series.

Brick-and-mortar business

On the other hand, a brick-and-mortar business has a tangible location with a shareable address. This can include single premise business but also multi-location businesses with various physical addresses. Examples of multi-location businesses include a retail company with several branches, a restaurant chain or a travel agent with multiple offices.  As with the service area businesses, it is important to ensure unique content on each location page. The added benefit of having physical addresses is that you have ready-made content unique to each location and can verify the location on Google My Business (or whatever they rename it to tomorrow!), more on verifying locations in a later post. These pages should focus on the value for the user, so an example of location specific content might be directions to a particularly hard to find office.

There will also be businesses which are a cross between these two types – a business with one physical location that operates a service across multiple areas. The same rules apply and there is nothing wrong with having location pages for the areas serviced as well as the specific physical location of the business.

NAP & Citation consistency

NAP and citation may sound like complex technical terms, to be understood only by the SEO geeks of the world, but they are actually very straightforward concepts. Firstly, NAP stands for name, address and phone. It is essentially your contact profile on the web and plays a really important part in improving your rankings in local organic search results. Often it is expanded to NAP+W to also incorporate the web address. Citations are any references or mentions of your business across the web and usually feature part or all of the NAP. These citations include listings in reputable directories.

For example, the below image shows a Yellowball citation in the well-known directory Yelp and it consists of our NAP+W. In other words, the information includes our name, address, phone number and website.

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It is crucial that NAPs are consistent across all citations. For a single-location business who has never changed name or number, this should be relatively straightforward. However, previous address or phone number changes, website URL alterations, name variations and multiple locations can lead to inconsistency. If the users cannot trust the NAP information then neither can Google. As a result, it is worth carrying out a citation audit to ensure accurate information and ensure that you expand this consistency into your Google My Business listing and your location pages. Start with backlink checking tools, including Google’s Search Console, to see where your business is listed. You can also simply search your business, it’s old address or phone number to see if it is listed on directories which have not been picked up by the online tools you are using.

Location page issues

When thinking about adding location pages or reviewing the ones you already have, it is worth first considering any current issues that you may have. Once you can pinpoint the problem areas, you will be able to better address them and formulate the best possible local SEO landing pages. Here are some of the common errors:<

> No location pages. A bit obvious because this is probably why you are here reading this article. You cannot expect to rank in local searches without the appropriate local landing pages.

> Hidden locations pages. Your location pages must be easily discoverable and not solely through a branch finder. If the user cannot directly find them on your website then Google will not be able to either. This applies to any page – if it is difficult for the user to find then it may detract from its credibility and usefulness.

> Duplicate content. It is widely known in the world of SEO that duplicate content is a no-no. Unfortunately it is a common mistake when it comes to local landing pages as the easy option is to keep the same content and swap out the location name. You must avoid this and provide unique, quality content specific to each location page.

> Information holes. Ensure that you are providing as much useful information as possible on each location page. This not only includes NAP but also any relevant site-specific insight, directions, location-unique special offers, local projects, local testimonials and anything else that will benefit the user.

>No schema markup. This is a very broad topic but ensure that your location pages have the appropriate structured data markup. Important across your whole site but particularly useful for location pages as it will enhance the rich snippets that are displayed in the SERPs, optimising the search results for location-specific searches. If the mention of structured data markup brings you out in a cold sweat, stay calm and learn more in our schema markup post
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Summary

With all the above information to hand you should now be in a great position to make a start on building your location pages. Have a look at what your competitors are doing but do not feel the need to copy them. Just because they have similar/duplicate content on all their location pages does not mean you should too. Employ superior SEO tactics and enhance your local landing pages in the most effective way possible.

If you need some further advice on building your location pages then we will be covering this in the next post in this Local SEO series. In the meantime, stay tuned for the next post where we will be discussing Google’s Doorway Algorithm. Alternatively get in touch with one of our experts here at Yellowball and we will be more than happy to help.

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