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How To Target Multiple Cities Without Hurting Your SEO

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How To Target Multiple Cities Without Hurting Your SEO

Can you imagine the hassle of finding an electrician if every Google search returned global SEO results?

How many pages of search results would you have to comb through to find a beautician in your neighborhood?

On the other hand, think of how inefficient your digital marketing strategy would be if your local business had to compete with every competitor worldwide for clicks.

Luckily, Google has delivered a solution for this issue through local SEO.

By allowing you to target just the customers in your area, it’s a quick and easy way to give information about your business to the people who are most likely to patronize it.

But what if you have multiple locations in multiple cities?

Is it possible to rank for keywords that target multiple cities without hurting your local SEO?

Of course, it is.

But before you go running off to tweak your site for local searches, there’s one caveat: If you do it wrong, it can actually hurt you. So, it’s important to ensure you do it correctly.

It’s a bit more complex than regular old search engine optimization, but never fear – we’re here to guide you through the process.

Follow the instructions below, and you’ll rank in searches of all your locales before you know it. Ready to get started?

Why Is Local SEO Important?

If local SEO can potentially “hurt” you, why do it at all? Here are two good reasons:

Local SEO Attracts Foot Traffic

Imagine you’re out of town for a cousin’s wedding.

On the night before the big day, you’re in your hotel room when you crave a cheese pizza.

You pick up your phone and Google … what?

“Pizza?”

I don’t think so.

No, you’re probably going to Google a location-specific keyword, like [best pizza in Louisville].

When you get the results, you don’t say, “good to know,” and then head off to sleep.

No. Instead, you take the action that drove the search in the first place. In other words, you pick up your phone and order the pizza.

Or you get up, take a taxi, and dine out at that spectacular pizzeria.

And you’re not the only one doing this.

In fact, every month, searchers visit 1.5 billion locations related to their searches.

And you’re not the one in a million person who’s doing a local search, either.

Nearly 46% of Google searches have local intent.

That’s huge!

So, the next time you’re thinking of skipping local SEO, think again.

It could actually be your ticket to getting that random out-on-vacation dude to check out your pizza place. (Or beauty salon. Or hardware store – you get the point.)

Local SEO Ranks You Higher On Google

We’re all well-informed on the SEO KPIs you should track to rank on Google.

Two of these are:

  • Clicks to your site.
  • Keyword ranking increases.

With local SEO, you hit both of these birds with one stone. Note that it’s based on the searcher’s location distance/relevance to the business.

City Pages: Good Or Bad For SEO?

Long ago, in the dark ages of SEO, city pages were used to stuff in local keywords to gain higher rankings on Google.

For example, you’d create a page and write content on flower delivery.

Then, you’d copy your content onto several different pages, each one with a different city in the keyword.

So, a page for [flower delivery in Louisville], [flower delivery in Newark], and [flower delivery in Shelbyville], each with the exact same content.

As tends to be the case, it didn’t take long for Google to notice this spammy tactic.

When it rolled out its Panda Update, it made sure to flag and penalize sites doing it.

So, city pages can hurt your SEO and penalize your site.

But not if you do them right.

This brings us to…

How Do I Optimize My Business For Multiple Locations On Google?

1. Use Google Business Profile

Remember, Google’s mission is to organize and deliver the most relevant and reliable information available to online searchers.

Its goal is to give people exactly what they’re looking for.

This means if they can verify your business, you’ll have a higher chance of ranking on the SERPs.

Enter Google Business Profile.

When you register on Google Business Profile, you’re confirming to Google exactly what you offer and where you’re located.

In turn, Google will be confident about sharing your content with searchers.

The good news is Google Business Profile is free and easy to use.

Simply create an account, claim your business, and fill in as much information as possible about it.

Photos and customer reviews (plus replying to reviews) can also help you optimize your Google Business Profile account.

2. Get Into Google’s Local Map Pack

Ever do a local search and get three featured suggestions from Google?

You know, like this.

Screenshot from search for [plumbing near Florida], Google, November 2022

Yes, these businesses are super lucky.

Chances are that searchers will pick one of them and look no further for their plumbing needs. Tough luck, everyone else.

Of course, this makes it extremely valuable to be one of the three listed in the Local Map Pack. And with the right techniques, you can be.

Here are three things you can do to increase your chances of making it to one of the three coveted slots:

Sign Up For Google Business Profile

As discussed in the previous point, Google prioritizes sites it has verified.

Give Google All Your Details

Provide Google with all your information, including your company’s name, address, phone number, and operating hours.

Photos and other media work splendidly, too. And remember, everyone loves images.

Leverage Your Reviews

The better your reviews, the higher your chances of being featured on Google’s Local Map Pack.

3. Build Your Internal Linking Structure

Did you know that tweaking your internal linking structure will help boost your SEO?

Sure, external links pointing to your site are great.

But you don’t control them. And getting them takes a bit of work. If you can’t get them yet, internal linking will help you:

  • Improve your website navigation.
  • Show Google which of your site’s pages is most important.
  • Improve your website’s architecture.

All these will help you rank higher on Google and increase your chances of discovery by someone doing a local search.

4. Build Your NAP Citations

NAP stands for name, address, and phone number.

Generally, it stands for your business information online.

The first place you want your NAP on is your website.

A good rule of thumb is to put this information at the bottom of your homepage, which is where visitors expect to find it.

Build Your NAP CitationsScreenshot from allweekplumbing.com, November 2022

It’s also great to list your business information on online data aggregators.

These aggregators provide data to top sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Microsoft Bing.

Here are some of the big ones you shouldn’t miss.

Listing your website on all the top aggregators sounds tedious, but it’s worthwhile if you want to get a feature like this.

Build Your NAP CitationsScreenshot from Trip Advisor, November 2022

Important note: Make sure that your NAPs are consistent throughout the web.

One mistake can seriously hurt your chances of getting featured on Google’s Local Map Pack or on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor.

5. Use Schema Markup

Sometimes called structured data or simply schema, schema markup on your website can significantly affect your local SEO results.

But if you’re not a developer, it can look intimidating.

Don’t worry – it’s not as difficult to use as you might think.

A collaboration between Google, Yahoo, Yandex, and Microsoft, Schema.org was established in 2011 to establish a common vocabulary between search engines.

While it can be used to improve the appearance of your search result, help you appear for relevant queries, and increase visitor time spent on a page, Google has been very clear that it does not impact search rankings.

So, why are we talking about it here? Because it does improve the chances of your content being used for rich results, making you more eye-catching and improving click-through rates.

On top of that, the schema provides several different property options relevant to local SEO, allowing you to select relevant schema categories.

By selecting Schema.org/bakery for your cupcake shop, you’re helping search engines better understand the topic of your website.

After you’ve selected the right category, you need to select the sub-properties to ensure validation. This includes the business name, hours, the area served, etc.

The Schema.org/areaServed on the local landing page should always match the service areas set up in a Google Business Profile, AND your local landing page should mention those same towns in its on-page content.

For a full list of required and recommended schema properties and information on validating your structured data, read this article. Using a plugin, you can also find more information about Schema markup for WordPress.

6. Optimize Your Site For Mobile

If you wake up in the middle of the night to find your bathroom flooding with water from an exploded faucet, do you:

  • Run to your laptop and do a local search for the best emergency plumber.
  • Grab your phone and type “emergency plumber” into your Chrome app.

If it’s 3 a.m., chances are you chose No. 2.

But here’s the thing.

People don’t only choose their smartphones over their computers at 3 a.m.

They do it all the time.

Almost 59% of all website traffic comes from a mobile device.

global mobile trafficScreenshot from Statista, November 2022

As usual, Google noticed and moved to mobile-first indexing.

All this means your site has to be optimized for mobile if you want to rank well on Google, especially for local SEO.

Here are six tips on making your website mobile-friendly:

  • Make sure your website is responsive and fits nicely into different screen sizes.
  • Don’t make your buttons too small.
  • Prioritize large fonts.
  • Forget about pop-ups and text blockers.
  • Put your important information front and center.
  • If you’re using WordPress, choose mobile-friendly themes.

Bonus Tip: Make Your Most Important City Pages Unique

If you want to name all the cities in a region you serve, just list them on the page – you don’t need an individual page for each city to rank in most cases.

To make the pages different, write original content for each area or city.

Which means it’s up to you.

You can simply list all the cities you serve on one page.

Or you can go ahead and create individual pages for each city.

When you take this step, make sure each page’s content is unique.

And no, I don’t mean simply changing the word “hand-wrestling” to “arm-wrestling.”

You need to do extra research on your targeted location, then go ahead and write specific and helpful information for readers in the area.

For example:

  • If you’re a plumber, talk about the problem of hard water in the area.
  • If you’re a florist, explain how you grow your plants in the local climate.
  • If you’re into real estate, talk about communities in the area.

Here’s an excellent example from 7th State Builders.

Unique City Pages

Adding information about a city or town is also a great way to build your client’s confidence.

A OnePoll survey conducted on behalf of CG Roxane found 67% of people trust local businesses – by identifying your understanding of the situations and issues in a locale, you’re insinuating that you’re local – even if you have multiple locations spread throughout the country.

They’ll see how much you know their area and trust you to solve their area-specific problems.

Important note: Ensure this information goes on all variations of your website.

With Google’s mobile-first index in place, you don’t want to fall in the rankings simply because you failed to optimize for mobile.

5 Tools To Scale Your Local SEO

What if you have 100s of locations? How do you manage listings for them?

Here are some tools to help you scale your local SEO efforts.

Ready To Target Local SEO?

Hopefully, I’ve made it very clear by this point – local SEO is important. And just because you’re running multiple locations in different cities doesn’t mean you can’t put it to work for you.

How you go about that is up to you. Do you want to create one landing page for each location? Or do you want to list all your locations on the same page?

Whatever you choose, be aware of the power of local SEO in attracting customers to your neighborhood.

Just make sure you’re doing it correctly. If, after reading this piece, you’re still unsure what steps to take, just imagine yourself as a customer.

What kind of information would you be looking for?

What would convince you that your business is perfect for their needs?

There’s a good chance location will be one of the driving factors, and the best way to take advantage of that is with local SEO.

More Resources:


Featured Image: New Africa/Shutterstock



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Google Documents Leaked & SEOs Are Making Some Wild Assumptions

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Google Documents Leaked & SEOs Are Making Some Wild Assumptions

You’ve probably heard about the recent Google documents leak. It’s on every major site and all over social media.

Where did the docs come from?

My understanding is that a bot called yoshi-code-bot leaked docs related to the Content API Warehouse on Github on March 13th, 2024. It may have appeared earlier in some other repos, but this is the one that was first discovered.

They were discovered by an anonymous ex-Googler who shared the info with Erfan Azimi who shared it with Rand Fishkin who shared it with Mike King. The docs were removed on May 7th.

I appreciate all involved for sharing their findings with the community.

Google’s response

There was some debate if the documents were real or not, but they mention a lot of internal systems and link to internal documentation and it definitely appears to be real.

A Google spokesperson released the following statement to Search Engine Land:

We would caution against making inaccurate assumptions about Search based on out-of-context, outdated, or incomplete information. We’ve shared extensive information about how Search works and the types of factors that our systems weigh, while also working to protect the integrity of our results from manipulation.

SEOs interpret things based on their own experiences and bias

Many SEOs are saying that the ranking factors leaked. I haven’t seen any code or weights, just what appear to be descriptions and storage info. Unless one of the descriptions says the item is used for ranking, I think it’s dangerous for SEOs that all of these are used in ranking.

Having some features or information stored does not mean they’re used in ranking. For our search engine, Yep.com, we have all kinds of things stored that might be used for crawling, indexing, ranking, personalization, testing, or feedback. We even have things stored that we aren’t doing things with yet.

What is more likely is that SEOs are making assumptions that favor their own opinions and biases.

It’s the same for me. I may not have full context or knowledge and may have inherent biases that influence my interpretation, but I try to be as fair as I can be. If I’m wrong, it means that I will learn something new and that’s a good thing! SEOs can, and do, interpret things differently.

Gael Breton said it well:

I’ve been around long enough to see many SEO myths created over the years and I can point you to who started many of them and what they misunderstood. We’ll likely see a lot of new myths from this leak that we’ll be dealing with for the next decade or longer.

Let’s look at a few things that in my opinion are being misinterpreted or where conclusions are being drawn where they shouldn’t be.

SiteAuthority

As much as I want to be able to say Google has a Site Authority score that they use for ranking that’s like DR, that part specifically is about compressed quality metrics and talks about quality.

I believe DR is more an effect that happens as you have a lot of pages with strong PageRank, not that it’s necessarily something Google uses. Lots of pages with higher PageRank that internally link to each other means you’re more likely to create stronger pages.

  • Do I believe that PageRank could be part of what Google calls quality? Yes.
  • Do I think that’s all of it? No.
  • Could Site Authority be something similar to DR? Maybe. It fits in the bigger picture.
  • Can I prove that or even that it’s used in rankings? No, not from this.

From some of the Google testimony to the US Department of Justice, we found out that quality is often measured with an Information Satisfaction (IS) score from the raters. This isn’t directly used in rankings, but is used for feedback, testing, and fine-tuning models.

We know the quality raters have the concept of E-E-A-T, but again that’s not exactly what Google uses. They use signals that align to E-E-A-T.

Some of the E-E-A-T signals that Google has mentioned are:

  • PageRank
  • Mentions on authoritative sites
  • Site queries. This could be “site:http://ahrefs.com E-E-A-T” or searches like “ahrefs E-E-A-T”

So could some kind of PageRank scores extrapolated to the domain level and called Site Authority be used by Google and be part of what makes up the quality signals? I’d say it’s plausible, but this leak doesn’t prove it.

I can recall 3 patents from Google I’ve seen about quality scores. One of them aligns with the signals above for site queries.

I should point out that just because something is patented, doesn’t mean it is used. The patent around site queries was written in part by Navneet Panda. Want to guess who the Panda algorithm that related to quality was named after? I’d say there’s a good chance this is being used.

The others were around n-gram usage and seemed to be to calculate a quality score for a new website and another mentioned time on site.

Sandbox

I think this has been misinterpreted as well. The document has a field called hostAge and refers to a sandbox, but it specifically says it’s used “to sandbox fresh spam in serving time.”

To me, that doesn’t confirm the existence of a sandbox in the way that SEOs see it where new sites can’t rank. To me, it reads like a spam protection measure.

Clicks

Are clicks used in rankings? Well, yes, and no.

We know Google uses clicks for things like personalization, timely events, testing, feedback, etc. We know they have models upon models trained on the click data including navBoost. But is that directly accessing the click data and being used in rankings? Nothing I saw confirms that.

The problem is SEOs are interpreting this as CTR is a ranking factor. Navboost is made to predict which pages and features will be clicked. It’s also used to cut down on the number of returned results which we learned from the DOJ trial.

As far as I know, there is nothing to confirm that it takes into account the click data of individual pages to re-order the results or that if you get more people to click on your individual results, that your rankings would go up.

That should be easy enough to prove if it was the case. It’s been tried many times. I tried it years ago using the Tor network. My friend Russ Jones (may he rest in peace) tried using residential proxies.

I’ve never seen a successful version of this and people have been buying and trading clicks on various sites for years. I’m not trying to discourage you or anything. Test it yourself, and if it works, publish the study.

Rand Fishkin’s tests for searching and clicking a result at conferences years ago showed that Google used click data for trending events, and they would boost whatever result was being clicked. After the experiments, the results went right back to normal. It’s not the same as using them for the normal rankings.

Authors

We know Google matches authors with entities in the knowledge graph and that they use them in Google news.

There seems to be a decent amount of author info in these documents, but nothing about them confirms that they’re used in rankings as some SEOs are speculating.

Was Google lying to us?

What I do disagree with whole-heartedly is SEOs being angry with the Google Search Advocates and calling them liars. They’re nice people who are just doing their job.

If they told us something wrong, it’s likely because they don’t know, they were misinformed, or they’ve been instructed to obfuscate something to prevent abuse. They don’t deserve the hate that the SEO community is giving them right now. We’re lucky that they share information with us at all.

If you think something they said is wrong, go and run a test to prove it. Or if there’s a test you want me to run, let me know. Just being mentioned in the docs is not proof that a thing is used in rankings.

Final Thoughts

While I may agree or I may disagree with the interpretations of other SEOs, I respect all who are willing to share their analysis. It’s not easy to put yourself or your thoughts out there for public scrutiny.

I also want to reiterate that unless these fields specifically say they are used in rankings, that the information could just as easily be used for something else. We definitely don’t need any posts about Google’s 14,000 ranking factors.

If you want my thoughts on a particular thing, message me on X or LinkedIn.



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Do Higher Content Scores Mean Higher Google Rankings? Our Data Says It’s Unlikely.

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Do Higher Content Scores Mean Higher Google Rankings? Our Data Says It's Unlikely.

I studied the correlation between rankings and content scores from four popular content optimization tools: Clearscope, Surfer, MarketMuse, and Frase. The result? Weak correlations all around.

This suggests (correlation does not necessarily imply causation!) that obsessing over your content score is unlikely to lead to significantly higher Google rankings.

Does that mean content optimization scores are pointless?

No. You just need to know how best to use them and understand their flaws.

Most tools’ content scores are based on keywords. If top-ranking pages mention keywords your page doesn’t, your score will be low. If it does, your score will be high.

While this has its obvious flaws (having more keyword mentions doesn’t always mean better topic coverage), content scores can at least give some indication of how comprehensively you’re covering the topic. This is something Google is looking for.

Google says that comprehensively covering the topic is a sign of quality contentGoogle says that comprehensively covering the topic is a sign of quality content

If your page’s score is significantly lower than the scores of competing pages, you’re probably missing important subtopics that searchers care about. Filling these “content gaps” might help improve your rankings.

However, there’s nuance to this. If competing pages score in the 80-85 range while your page scores 79, it likely isn’t worth worrying about. But if it’s 95 vs. 20 then yeah, you should probably try to cover the topic better.

Key takeaway

Don’t obsess over content scores. Use them as a barometer for topic coverage. If your score is significantly lower than competitors, you’re probably missing important subtopics and might rank higher by filling those “content gaps.”

There are at least two downsides you should be aware of when it comes to content scores.

They’re easy to cheat

Content scores tend to be largely based on how many times you use the recommended set of keywords. In some tools, you can literally copy-paste the entire list, draft nothing else, and get an almost perfect score.

Scoring 98 on MarketMuse after shoehorning all the suggested keywords without any semblance of a draftScoring 98 on MarketMuse after shoehorning all the suggested keywords without any semblance of a draft

This is something we aim to solve with our upcoming content optimization tool: Content Master.

I can’t reveal too much about this yet, but it has a big USP compared to most existing content optimization tools: its content score is based on topic coverage—not just keywords.

For example, it tells us that our SEO strategy template should better cover subtopics like keyword research, on-page SEO, and measuring and tracking SEO success.

Preview of our upcoming Content Master toolPreview of our upcoming Content Master tool

But, unlike other content optimization tools, lazily copying and pasting related keywords into the document won’t necessarily increase our content score. It’s smart enough to understand that keyword coverage and topic coverage are different things.

Sidenote.

This tool is still in production so the final release may look a little different.

They encourage copycat content

Content scores tell you how well you’re covering the topic based on what’s already out there. If you cover all important keywords and subtopics from the top-ranking pages and create the ultimate copycat content, you’ll score full marks.

This is a problem because quality content should bring something new to the table, not just rehash existing information. Google literally says this in their helpful content guidelines.

Google says quality content goes beyond obvious information. It needs to bring something new to the tableGoogle says quality content goes beyond obvious information. It needs to bring something new to the table

In fact, Google even filed a patent some years back to identify ‘information gain’: a measurement of the new information provided by a given article, over and above the information present in other articles on the same topic.

You can’t rely on content optimization tools or scores to create something unique. Making something that stands out from the rest of the search results will require experience, experimentation, or effort—something only humans can have/do.

Enrich common knowledge with new information and experiences in your contentEnrich common knowledge with new information and experiences in your content

Big thanks to my colleagues Si Quan and Calvinn who did the heavy lifting for this study. Nerd notes below. 😉

  • For the study, we selected 20 random keywords and pulled the top 20 ranking pages.
  • We pulled the SERPs before the March 2024 update was rolled out.
  • Some of the tools had issues pulling the top 20 pages, which we suspect was due to SERP features.
  • Clearscope didn’t give numerical scores; they opted for grades. We used ChatGPT to convert those grades into numbers.
  • Despite their increasing prominence in the SERPs, most of the tools had trouble analyzing Reddit, Quora, and YouTube. They typically gave a zero or no score for these results. If they gave no scores, we excluded them from the analysis.
  • The reason why we calculated both Spearman and Kendall correlations (and took the average) is because according to Calvinn (our Data Scientist), Spearman correlations are more sensitive and therefore more prone to being swayed by small sample size and outliers. On the other hand, the Kendall rank correlation coefficient only takes order into account. So, it is more robust for small sample sizes and less sensitive to outliers.

Final thoughts

Improving your content score is unlikely to hurt Google rankings. After all, although the correlation between scores and rankings is weak, it’s still positive. Just don’t obsess and spend hours trying to get a perfect score; scoring in the same ballpark as top-ranking pages is enough.

You also need to be aware of their downsides, most notably that they can’t help you craft unique content. That requires human creativity and effort.

Any questions or comments? Ping me on X or LinkedIn.



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Unlocking Brand Growth: Strategies for B2B and E-commerce Marketers

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Unlocking Brand Growth: Strategies for B2B and E-commerce Marketers

In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, scaling a brand effectively requires more than just an innovative product or service. For B2B and e-commerce marketers, understanding the intricacies of growth strategies across different stages of business development is crucial.  

A recent analysis of 71 brands offers valuable insights into the optimal strategies for startups, scaleups, mature brands, and majority offline businesses. Here’s what we learned. 

Startup Stage: Building the Foundation 

Key Strategy: Startups focus on impressions-driven channels like Paid Social to establish their audience base. This approach is essential for gaining visibility and creating a strong initial footprint in the market. 

Case Study: Pooch & Mutt exemplified this strategy by leveraging Paid Social to achieve significant year-on-year revenue gains while also improving acquisition costs. This foundational step is crucial for setting the stage for future growth and stability. 

Scaleup Stage: Accelerating Conversion 

Key Strategy: For scaleups, having already established an audience, the focus shifts to conversion activities. Increasing spend in impressions-led media helps continue generating demand while maintaining a balance with acquisition costs. 

Case Study: The Essence Vault successfully applied this approach, scaling their Meta presence while minimizing cost increases. This stage emphasizes the importance of efficient spending to maximize conversion rates and sustain growth momentum. 

Mature Stage: Expanding Horizons 

Key Strategy: Mature brands invest in higher funnel activities to avoid market saturation and explore international expansion opportunities. This strategic pivot ensures sustained growth and market diversification. 

Case Study: Represent scaled their efforts on TikTok, enhancing growth and improving Meta efficiency. By expanding their presence in the US, they exemplified how mature brands can navigate saturation and seek new markets for continued success. 

Majority Offline Brands: Embracing Digital Channels 

Key Strategy: Majority offline brands primarily invest in click-based channels like Performance Max. However, the analysis reveals significant opportunities in Paid Social, suggesting a balanced approach for optimal results. 

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