Question. We are a local business with multiple locations, and have issues with localized landing pages. I am still unclear how duplicate content will affect the service area pages and how I should be linking to the service area pages from our branch pages and main service pages. I have been told by some people that I can’t have any duplicate content on any of these pages or I will get penalized and I have been told by other people that google is smart enough to figure out that we are a service based company providing hyper local information and that we won’t get penalized.
Answer. Well, like everything in SEO, the answer is “it depends.” The other answer is that Google’s official policies say one thing and the reality is another. So, let’s look at the scenarios of a hypothetical company (e.g., a Pizza restaurant servicing Tulsa, Oklahoma, as well as surrounding towns like Jenks, Sand Springs, and Bixby. And let’s assume that they have a physical store in Tulsa and one in Jenks, but not one in Sand Springs or Bixby. BUT they do want to rank in all four cities.
Scenario #1 – you have a REAL physical address
City #1 and #2 – Tulsa and Jenks. They HAVE a physical address. These are easy. Create / claim the local listings on Google and Yelp, cross-link them to/from the landing pages for those cities, and use a service like WhiteSpark to claim the 2nd tiers. Optimize everything in terms of tag structure. Also, try to have UNIQUE content. For example, paste your recipe for Pepperoni Pizza on the Tulsa page and your recipe for Sausage Pizza on the Jenks page. Even better, add some UNIQUE Tulsa content on the Tulsa page and some UNIQUE content on the Jenks page (I like to add an excerpt like a historical factoid or a list of famous people from that city). The point is to make sure that the pages are UNIQUE in terms of content and won’t be dinged by Google as duplicate content. They may end up 80% alike but that means 20% different.
Scenario #2 – you do NOT have a REAL physical address, you just service this city / town –
City #3 and #4. Here you don’t have a physical address. So you do everything according to the above AND make sure you have some unique content about each target city. Again, I like to use a historical factoid paragraph for each localized landing page. For these, you’ll need to build inbound links – local links of course are the “strongest” signal to these pages. You probably can’t rank for the short tail “pizza” but you may be able to rank for “Pizza Sand Springs” or “Pizza Bixby.” The real dark side (black hat SEO) would be to build a fake address and solicit reviews into these city pages.
That said, probably everything works together so REVIEWS and LINKS and ON PAGE all optimize ALL of your localized landing pages to rank better, even if the review is for location A and the page you want to optimize is location B.
As for duplicate content, yes you need to do some things to “scramble” the pages so that they aren’t clear duplicates. I like to do “driving direction” pages as these actually ARE helpful for real people AND can be SEO-optimized so that they hopefully pass the “smell test” by Google that they aren’t just doorway pages per se.
You can read some other helpful posts on this topic, here.
Got a question? Click this link to email Jason or call 888-993-1122. Dr. Jason McDonald is founder and Senior SEO / Social Media Director of the JM Internet Group. He teaches the SEO training classes for the group, and therefore provides most of the SEO tips for this blog. His goal with this blog is to provide an easy 'one-stop shop' for the busy marketer looking for tips, tricks, and secrets on how to get to the top of Google and Bing for free using proven SEO tactics. When not dreaming up SEO tips, Dr. McDonald lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, two dogs, a cat, four iguanas and twelve children (just kidding). Really you read down to the bio on this guy? Enjoy the blog.
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