How to Create Local Content for Multiple Cities

Filed in Blogging, MY BEST POSTS, SEO by Matt McGee on October 10, 2012 29 Comments

local-contentMaybe this describes your small business, or a client’s small business:

1.) You know you need to create great, unique content so you can target relevant local keywords and attract new search traffic.

2.) You offer the same (or very similar) products/services in multiple cities.

3.) You’re struggling with how to combine #1 and #2 above.

This problem was a common conversation that we had recently during the Local Content Marketing roundtable session at GetListed.org’s Advanced Local University. I’m not sure my replies were very good in the moment, but I’ve been thinking about this in the meantime and can share some more coherent thoughts.

The One Thing NOT To Do

In this situation, the worst thing you can do is to create a series of web pages (or blog posts, etc.) that are all the same, with only the city/town names changed — like this:

dupe-local-content

If you have a law firm with offices in Seattle and these other nearby cities, you can’t write the same exact pages for each location and just change the city name throughout each page. Search engines will likely see this as duplicate or low-quality content and, if you really go overboard, maybe as spam.

This is tough because there are only so many ways you can explain the products/services that you offer, right? If you only have five locations, you might be able to make it work with unique content for each page. But if you have a dozen locations? 25 locations? More? Good luck. Or, rather than luck, think about some of these ideas:

5 Ways to Create Local Content for Multiple Cities

Here are a few ideas that may help get past the “what do we say about each place we do business?” problem.

1.) Ask yourself: What’s different about the areas we serve?

In many businesses (admittedly not all), the services you offer are different in each location. There’s a local lawn care company in my area that also serves Spokane, Boise and Salt Lake City. They may offer the same services in each location — lawn maintenance, tree care, pest control, etc. — but I’m sure each city has different challenges. For starters, the weather in all those locations differs, so lawn care tips and ideas can be explained differently. Each city surely has different pest control challenges, so that’s another opportunity to write unique content.

2.) Tell your customers’ story, not (only) yours.

Maybe your story is the same no matter what city you do business in … but surely some of your customers have different stories, right? So don’t just write about what you do, but write about how your customers have used your product/service to solve some unique problem. You may have similar text on each city page, but you can expand that boilerplate copy with a unique case study or two — and that’ll help reduce the chances that each page gets flagged as duplicate/low-quality content.

3.) Use different types of content.

In the process of doing #2 above, you can also try different types of content on each city page. Put videos on some pages, but not all. If it’s a video testimonial or interview with a customer, be sure to include a text transcript (to help make the content unique). Show photos (with text captions) on other pages. Do a text-based Q&A with a customer, or maybe the location manager, and add that on some pages. Use different types of content to make sure the city pages aren’t identical.

4.) Considering hiring a professional copywriter.

If you’re really struggling, think about bringing in a pro — preferably one with a good understanding of SEO and the need for high-quality, unique content. Not only can a pro help you improve your existing content, but s/he should also be able to help come up with new ideas for making your location pages unique.

5.) Blog regularly!

You knew I was gonna suggest blogging, right? The very nature of a blog forces you to write unique content — you can’t put the same blog post up time after time. Even if you’re really struggling with getting unique content on your main website, you can use a blog to write unique articles about different locations, different stories in each location, different challenges and solutions in each location, etc. You can target your main keywords with these posts, and you’ll also probably end up getting new visitors for a bunch of long-tail terms that you hadn’t thought of before.

There are five ideas for avoiding the problem of boilerplate content and creating unique, local content. What ideas can you add? Comments are open – share your thoughts so that everyone benefits!

(Stock image via Shutterstock.com. Used under license.)

Comments (29)

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  1. Becca says:

    Can’t believe this didn’t occur to me… well I feel stupid! Great post!

  2. Matt:

    I always struggle with this issue when working with clients so it’s a great topic. I have a couple additional ideas to share. One thing a service business can do is highlight the various projects they’ve worked on in a given community. I’m working with a painter and so what he did was describe some of the commercial projects he worked on in each city. And because he’s been a life-long resident of the general area, he intertwined some personal anecdotes for each community.

    Another idea that was shared with me was to have customers in each community write stories about their experience with the business. The guy that shared this idea with me is working with a dance studio. They encourage their customers to submit “family stories” that emphasis where they are from. You can check it out here:
    http://www.mhdancecenter.com/dance-studio/

    Notice how each family story “targets” a city by simply indicating where the families are from? I thought it was brilliant.

    Travis Van Slooten

  3. Dean says:

    Very good topic and exactly the thing we often struggle with, we work with Plumbing contractors and the exact situation comes up, they have a handfull of services as operate in multiple cities. We have a checkin system in place that geo-tags the plumbers location on a map and allows them to comment about the job they are working on.

    Additionally I’m going to implement some of your ideas in this article.

  4. For one client, I created a section of the page called ‘More About [City]‘. It allowed me to have the standard product/service pitch along with unique page content. I also added pictures and different internal links when appropriate.

    Sometimes I think is looks a little funky, but they generally rank well.

    Another tactic I use is to edit indivitual sentences with a thesaurus and changing a sentence gramatically. If G has a algo that measures exact match sentences, this helps. But, I don’t know if this tactics works.

    I live in an area where there are a lot of small towns in a metro, so this is a common task for me.

  5. @Kristinn:

    I love that idea! Any chance you can provide a link to one of those pages? If not, I understand:)

    Travis Van Slooten

  6. Try this one. http://paulhauls.com/dunedin-movers/
    Then do a search on ‘dunedin movers’. I’m in Dunedin, so I get #1, but not sure what you’ll get. The other cities linked at the bottom of the page have similar stuff. Cheers, Kris

  7. @Kristinn:

    Awesome…thanks for sharing! It’s so much easier to grasp these ideas by actually looking at them. By the way, it comes up #1 from where I’m searching (Minneapolis, MN). Good job:)

    Travis Van Slooten

  8. Mike Wilton says:

    Great post Matt. Here is a question for you, what strategy would you use if you are a business who has a single location, but wants to target surrounding areas, such as a doctor or dentist? Obviously unlike the lawn care example there is no real difference. So what’s an effective, and no-so-spammy way of creating relevant content to target the surrounding areas?

    • Matt McGee says:

      Mike, in that case I’d go real heavy on blogging and customer stories/testimonials. I don’t see much value in making specific “dentist [cityname]” pages, but if there are ways to write more creatively about those kind of services and other citynames, I’d try it on a blog and maybe with customer stories, videos, etc.

  9. Linda Buquet says:

    Great points Matt! This is right inline with a post I did today about new Google Guidelines that target City + Keyword spam.

    Guidelines quoted in part:

    “Examples of keyword stuffing include:
    - Blocks of text listing cities and states a webpage is trying to rank for”

    I’m going over now to add a link to your post because it has tips that tie right in for either multi-location or service area businesses.

    • Matt McGee says:

      Nice find there, Linda – I think the guidelines prove that we need to be more creative in this kind of situation.

      Thanks to all for the kind words about the post. Glad it helped, and thx for adding to the conversation with the excellent comments!

  10. @Matt:

    You said to Mike to go “heavy on blogging.” What does that mean specifically? For a small business, that could mean one post per month…lol. What frequency, in general, would your recommend…once per week, twice per week? And how do you “write creatively” about those services and city names? Do you have examples of specific small business blogs that are doing this right?

    Travis Van Slooten

  11. Great post Matt. I run into this with a property management client that serves multiple locations. Really like the idea of adding unique case studies to freshen up the copy.

  12. Wow, Matt: Articulate and great topic that is already being referenced in a number of places on the web. Its clearly a “struggle”

    Kristinn’s response above was very creative. I went to the link, read the page, and looked up the search phrase in a proxy for google.com. Her client’s page is ranked #1. Darn great approach and creative. Ha ha. love it. I can do stuff like. THANK YOU Kristinn!!!!!!!

    We have taken a myriad of approaches on this issue. I was discussing it with Mike Blumenthal a bit ago, and ended up looking at some of our smb’s traffic vis a vis longish tail traffic with the business service/different town names.

    Some traffic was coming in via broad phrase ppc. Some traffic was coming in from various organic methods we have used over the years. Some things we did years ago pretty much don’t work as well as they did years ago. Some new things do.

    We have had success with blog pieces where we have created unique content associated with a town name and our services for any of several types of businesses. We have #1 rankings for some phrases. We pick up traffic into the page, we pick up traffic into the tag. It works.

    After speaking with Mike, I happened to look at one alternative which is a duplicate of what you warned above not to do; duplicate content with the only change being the town names.–DOES NOT WORK!!!

    I looked at a smallish industry for a service around a major city. Two different smbs/sites had myriads of pages each identical content per website with the only content change being the town names.

    In both cases searches for the service/town names, done a couple of different ways town first/service second or service first/town second….found references for those businesses but they were on the 2nd page of google or worse.

    Your advice should be heeded. Great article…and thanks Kristinn for sharing a great idea!!!!

  13. Chris Alphen says:

    Thaks Matt and I for one am glad to see this topic. I’m reluctant to work with plumbers who either already have a site with this config or that know other plumbers who do.Sort of a catch 22 because even though they weren’t ranking well to begin with if we “fixed”the site and it appeared to get worse it’s our fault. It’s not just the site either as many have or want optimized places pages to go with each # and PO box in multiple cities.
    Writing the unique content is not the biggest problem(for me anyway) because I try to do as you say Matt and focus on a problem the customer wants to solve. We may not like to believe this but many visitors are not hanging on every word. They really just want some assurance that this service provider is trustworthy/capable. There’s not a shortage of topics to write about for most of my clients but I’m not in law or medicine.
    I may not be a big fan of Google but I love a fair game and of course I love the advantages I get from reading you and your following.
    Thanks

  14. Chris Auman says:

    Good stuff to add to our arsenal. Here are a few more ideas:

    Discover unique things about each city that you’re targeting and turn it into content that integrates your target keywords? Tough challenge? Yes, but none of this is easy.

    Incorporated unique testimonials from users in the area that you’re targeting. Maybe combine this with #2 above and turn a testimonial into a keyword rich customer story. Can you turn a 2 sentence testimonial into 3 paragraphs of text? Give it a shot.

  15. Suzanne says:

    I retweeted and reposted this on FAcebook, too. Every Brand a publisher these days, right?

    When I was ProFlowers’ SEO copywriter, they developed different activities guides for different cities. It wasn’t flower information, but Mother’s Day is quite connected to flowers. Here’s one example: http://www.proflowers.com/guide/los-angeles-mothers-day-guide. ProFlowers figured out what their clientele would be searching close to mother’s day and then created content around that. It worked well for them. They also have Valentine’s DAy races and marathons page, lots of content that SEEMS off-topic but brings people right back to a proflowers page that has lots of offers on it. Good luck everybody!

  16. Just what the doctor ordered. I will be discussing this on Friday at the Circle of Legal Trust. com on Google Plus and would love to have you as a guest speaker. Interested?

  17. Thanks for the article Matt! We ran into this same issue a number of months ago. We knew we needed high quality content for each area even though the topics were similar. We were able to post interesting facts about the city and also engage the users on a higher level by including interesting information about their cities. This provided a good user experience and also eliminated the possibility of spammy duplicative content.

  18. Probably one of the best articles that I’ve seen about this topic. I have a client that has over 25 service areas and nearly identical services in each area (at home academic, behavioral, and social services for kids) and I found it difficult to produce unique, quality, and relevant content for each area.

    I also think writing quality articles about local topics to those areas and publishing them elsewhere (or on your own blog) and then linking back to your service area page should make you more relevant to users and search engines for that region.

    Thoughts?

    Cheers Matt,
    David

  19. Evan says:

    I find writing unique content in a competitive market, such as personal injury law, very difficult. There is a herd mentality that exists in this marketing space. Why go out on a limb and get left behind? Why not follow the pack so that you at least get some of the kill? There is a lack of originality in most personal injury marketing due to the exceptional competition for traffic. This problem is compounded, when similar content is required for multiple locations.

  20. John says:

    Thanks for the topic, helpful points provided. I’ve often fallen into the category of The One Thing NOT To Do, but adding district/city testimonials to each unique page is a great idea. Photos are too!

  21. Ben says:

    Wow. Great article Matt. It really sparked a great conversation and I found most of what interested me in the comments section here.

    Kristinn, very awesome to see the site you did for a moving company. I have a client that is wanting to target individual cities like this and I think I am going to take a very similar approach as you, as well as throw in a couple testimonials based on each city.

    What are your opinions on adding images to each city page? I was thinking of adding a screenshot of google maps border of the cities on a couple of pages, as well as maybe an image or two of attractions in each city. Good use of Alt Text, right?

  22. Kristinn says:

    Hi Ben, Thanks for your comment. You can do all kinds of fun stuff. Another location based service industry thing I did was over here: http://detaildaddy.com/map/
    It shows a live Google map of the service area with icons for different jobs he did. If you click on an icon you get a little popup with a link to a blog post on the job. I should propalby done the popup on hover…it’s a work in progress.
    Little gimmics like that can add a little fun for the visitor and improve conversions.
    As far as inproving rankings, adding additional pages and linking back to the main landing page is a good way to make headway and increase brand awareness.
    A good question is this: what else does my target market do in the local community? Write about those things.

  23. Nick Ortiz says:

    This is especially relevant for us. Although we don’t have offices in other cities, we still service those areas and would like to rank for other cities in our geographic area. Obviously duplicate content won’t work. We will create new organic content for each city, and create a bit of a SILO structure to try and gain traction with Google. Thanks for the confirmation that you should not simply duplicate content and change the city name.

  24. Great article Matt
    I just have a question is the length of the article important? How many word you recommend to use for a local landing page.

  25. Seems like Panda may confuse a multi city site as “overlapping” content since the business does the same thing in each city. Anyone?

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