As a small business owner, and even as a web user yourself, you probably understand that people most often search for a local business using the formula “service + city.” Understanding this user behavior, it makes sense to optimize your website for these important keywords. Here’s an example, you run a preschool with a single location that serves families in Lancaster, PA. You’d be smart to optimize your homepage, About Us page, and Contact page using keyword variations of “preschool + Lancaster.” However, things get tricky for small businesses that fall into one of these categories:
- Single location serving multiple areas
- Multiple locations serving multiple areas
If your small business operates as one of these business models, it makes good SEO-sense to create locations pages on your website for each city you serve or operate out of. This will allow you to optimize your homepage, About Us page, and other key pages for your brand and concentrate the “service + city” keywords on your individual locations pages. Sounds simple enough. But here’s the catch, you need to present all the local information in such a way that you avoid the issue of duplicate content on multiple locations pages.
What is The Issue With Duplicate Content?
Google’s SEO best practices identify duplicate content as content that “either completely matches other content or is appreciably similar.” Duplicate content may come as result of content that has been “templated” and is not uniquely crafted for each page. Titles may be too similar or the content itself may be virtually the same from page to page with only minor keyword changes. So, when a user performs a search, the search engine struggles with which piece of content to return to satisfy the user’s needs. As a result, the search engine may not return any of these pages in the search results. While you won’t be “penalized” for duplicate content by Google, having unique content for each page on your site is a ranking factor. Without it, you may see drops in DA and organic traffic.
How Your Locations Pages Can Suffer
For a long time, it was easy to produce content for your location or service area pages. You created a template page, with the same word-for-word content, and then simply popped the correct city onto each page. A little something like this: The trouble with this practice is that when search engines encounter multiple locations pages with identical content, they have trouble telling them apart. Additionally, multiple locations pages with content that is too similar can be flagged as “doorway pages.” What are doorway pages? They are templated pages, keyword optimized (in this case for “service + city”), that offer no real value to the user. They are pages whose only purpose is to drive users to another part of the site. If you’re going to include locations pages on your site, make sure they include everything a user needs to know.
How You Can Individualize Locations Pages
There are several pieces of content that you can incorporate to avoid duplicate content on multiple locations pages. If you can include them all, great! But even including just a few of these elements will help you avoid the issue of duplicate content and the confusion it causes for search engines and users alike.
Write Truly Unique Content
This one is non-negotiable. You must take the time to present the key information about each location so that it doesn’t mirror another page. You need to go beyond the quick-fix of simply swapping out the city name
Add Photo or Videos
Showcase photos or videos that are specific to each physical location or service area you work from. Remember to add appropriate alt text for each image to further individualize the page for an exact location.
Include Staff Bios
Whether your staff includes teachers, accountants, electricians, or chefs, including staff pictures and bios is an easy way to add unique content to your locations pages.
Share Customer Review or Case Studies
Another easy way to get over the hump of duplicate content on multiple locations pages is to include customer reviews or testimonials that are submitted for each of your business’ locations. Also, consider creating case studies to shine a spotlight on the great results you’ve produced for clients in those areas.
Provide Directions and a Local Map
Driving directions and maps are fantastic ways to localize your individual locations pages and provide key information to your customers. Do your locations pages suffer from “cut and paste” duplicate content? It may be a huge time investment, but individualizing your pages can only help your search result rankings.
Anchal Sharma says
That is really nice information. Exactly what I was looking for. Thank you.
Can you please guide me on the true use of the rel=”canonical” tag? Or any article’s reference if there already?
Mike Shaw says
Hi Anchal Check out this post by Yoast regarding rel=”canonical” tags – https://yoast.com/rel-canonical/
Kathy Long says
I’m looking for data that absolutely proves duplicate content on local pages is bad because I’m seeing sites that have absolutely identical content, word for word, with the only difference being the meta title and they all rank number 1. In one example, they forgot to change the city name on the page (they did put it in the meta), and all their city pages ranked first. And so I’m wondering if we’re all just following advice that we’ve been read in Search Engine Journal or others. Where’s the evidence? Are we wasting our time rewriting the content for every page? Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to? I have evidence that proves we don’t, but it’s only 2 sites. I really want to see large scale studies. Do you know of any?