John recently emailed me with a situation that isn’t uncommon for business big or small: a variety of spellings/versions of the primary business keywords. John wants to know the best way to optimize for these variations, and specifically if he needs to create tons of landing pages to target each one. I haven’t seen John’s web site, his keyword list, the pages he’s talking about, or the copy he’s writing, but I’ll share some general advice after you read John’s email.
Situation: While doing keyword research related to our dog exercise and pet sitting business, I noticed that my main keywords have a variety of spellings, word spacing, and use of suffixes of “-er”, “-ers”, and “-ing”, for example “dog runner”, “dog runners”, and “dog running”. If I take all of these into account – and especially if I add location modifiers – I could easily have up to eight landing pages for each main keyword/phrase.
Question: If I have multiple and different landing pages for a similar term, such as a unique page for each of: “doggie day care”, “doggy daycare”, and “doggy day care – Chicago, Evanston, Northshore”, will the search engines reward me for being so specific or will they penalize me for having near duplicate content other than the different spelling/case/spacing of the key words (I will have unique page titles and meta info for each keyword/phrase)? I don’t mind the effort/time to make all these pages, but just want to make sure I’m not doing myself harm.
You don’t need to — and shouldn’t — create separate web pages for every spelling variation of your primary keywords if the only thing unique on the pages will be how you spell the keyword. It’s not user-friendly, nor is it SEO-friendly. Will the search engines penalize you? Well, generally speaking, there’s no penalty for duplicate content. But if you overdo it and create a lot of junky pages with no benefit to users, you get penalized indirectly when the search engine sees that a high percentage of your pages are of no value.
Consider the Google search results for the phrase “doggie daycare”:
(I’ve removed the Google Maps results to keep the screenshot a reasonable size.)
In the top five pages, there are three different versions of the keyword, and the exact match (“doggie daycare”) isn’t even ranked first. Search engines algorithms are very good at handling multiple spellings and versions of words and phrases. They recognize that “day care” and “daycare” are the same thing, and that “doggy” and “doggie” are the same thing. This means you don’t have create separate pages for each version of your primary keywords. But you can, and probably should still target the spelling variations in different ways. Read on….
How I’d Optimize John’s Keywords
1.) Geographic considerations: I’m not super familiar with the geography John mentions, but on the assumption that Evanston is a unique city/town and not part of Chicago, I’d have separate pages for the two cities. On each page, I’d talk about the fun things you do while taking care of other people’s dogs. I’m guessing there are different parks and locations John uses when walking/running dogs for his clients in these areas. Talk about the best places for dogs in each area.
2.) Runner vs. Runners vs. Running: All of these can be used on a single page. Keyword research should reveal which one is the primary keyword, but you can use these kinds of phrases in your page copy to cover all versions of the keyword:
“…professional dog runner with XX years of experience…”
“…many dog runners to choose from, but none offer the attention we do…”
“…our dog running service is…”
And you go from there, continuing to use the different versions of the main keyword in your page copy — without overdoing it.
3.) Doggy, Doggie, Daycare, Day Care: This one is a little different because you’re talking about different spellings of the same thing. If you had a ton of time and money, you could do all kinds of keyword research and competitive analysis to determine what spelling would be best to target, but since you’re a small business, I’d guess you have better things to do with your time and money.
As the screenshot above shows, it really doesn’t matter much how you handle this. So, I’d probably find a way to elegantly put both “daycare” and “day care” in the page title(s). Then I’d choose either “doggie” or “doggy” and use one across the site. And I’d call it good and move to something that’ll be a better use of your time than fretting over “doggy” or “doggie” and “daycare” or “day care.”
Your turn: How would you suggest John optimize in this situation? Did I give bad advice? Did I forget something important? Comments are open, please share your thoughts!
(image courtesy Bogdan Situ via Creative Commons)