The Ultimate Local SEO Guide To Location Pages
Would you like to learn about a simple but crazy effective way to bring in customers from local areas?
Whether you are a brick-and-mortar business, service area business (SAB), single location or multi-location business, or even an internet-based business,
A location page SEO strategy will make your website appear in searches for multiple different cities, which equals more qualified traffic and customers.
(Adding city pages for this Sugar Land SEO client in April doubled their organic traffic in a few months!)
However, before we dive into the guide, I would like to warn you that a large chunk of businesses fail miserably with their city pages.
In fact, most of the times that I’ve gone into a business to repair their local SEO, I’ve noticed that:
- Some, can’t even get their pages to Index on Google(more on that later)
- Others have their city pages stuck on pages 5-10
- And in the worst situations, some are being penalized by Google!
So clearly, there’s a large margin for error here, and the last thing you want to do is get sent to the Google dungeon. However, in this foolproof, A-Z guide I’ll walk you through everything you need to do to create location pages that RANK.
If you’ve already made location pages and just need to double-check you’ve done everything right, skip ahead to the complete location page SEO checklist.
But, before we jump in, allow me to explain what a location page is and why you need to take advantage of these ASAP.
What are Location Pages?
Location pages, also known as city landing pages, city pages, town pages, or service area pages, are area-targeted service pages that give search engines and local customers your primary business information.
This means your NAP(Name, Address, Phone Number), business hours, your products or services, directions, and more conversion-focused information like local reviews or case studies.
Regardless of your business location type(eg. Online, single location, or multi-location), your location pages will have the same essential information. However, the optimal strategy for these city pages changes depending on how many locations your business occupies.
If you are a single location business, you have fewer physical addresses than a multi-location business, and that changes things up a bit. This is because of the top ranking factors for location pages which Whitespark revealed last year.
In Whitespark’s 2021 Local SEO ranking factors survey, the top 50 experts in local search were surveyed on Local Pack(map pack, or the Google 3 pack) and Local Organic(location pages) ranking factors.
Local Organic(Location Pages)
(Local organic pages)
Here’s what they found most important for Local Organic Pages(in
- On-Page SEO(34%)
- External and Internal Link building(32%)
- User Behavior(11%)(Time on site, click-through-rate, bounce rate)
- Local Citations(7%)(Any mention of your site locally)
- Personalization(6%)(Based on individual data of the visitor)
- Google Business Profile(GBP) (6%)(keywords in the name, category, etc.)
- Reviews(5%)(quality, count, as well are your responses to them)
Local Pack(map pack)
And then for getting your business on Google’s map pack, the most important factors were
- Google Business Profile(36%)
- Google reviews (17%)
- On page SEO(16%)
- External and Internal Link building (13%)
- User Behavior(7%)
- Local Citations(7%)
As you can see, depending on which side of local SEO strategy you target(Local pack, or Local Organic), you will have different priorities. Approaching a local organic campaign just like you would a local pack campaign will lead to disappointing failure and vice versa.
But here’s the thing, if you were to ask me which of these sections I’d rather have my business on, it's going be the map packs all the way. They show up first on Google and simply get more clicks.
The problem with this though is that you cannot compete in a city’s map pack unless you have a business location already there. So this would only be a viable strategy for multi-location businesses that can make a GBP(more on that later). For a fool-proof guide on specifically dominating Google’s map pack, check out this detailed article.
Now, without further adieu, let’s get ranking.
The Complete Checklist for Location Page SEO
This complete checklist serves as a no-nonsense guide to optimizing your location pages. Each component has been tested and proven by experts to be the most important in ranking. In this guide, I’ll not only tell you what to do but also why you’re doing it.
Additionally, following these steps will strengthen your website’s user experience(and lead to more conversions) and help search engines find and index your location page to rank in search engine results pages (SERPs).
Read through each step or click the links to jump to the sections that apply to you:
Before diving in, make sure your website has everything it needs to succeed in an SEO campaign. The most important of which is being mobile-friendly.
Google forced mobile-first indexing to all websites in September 2020, which means Google will only crawl and index the mobile version of a web page.
This means that if your webpage is loading at 1990 speeds for mobile devices, you’re not going to rank(among other pressing concerns).
With that said, let’s dig in.
0) Create a High Conversion Template
The goal in making location pages is to bring in more customers. Additionally, the main benefit of a location page, is how easy it is to scale and appear in multiple city searches on one website.
The caveat though, is there are inherent risks to this popular method.
When creating a template, many website owners fall into the trap of just switching out the keywords for each location.
The problem with this method though is that Google despises duplicate content to the point that they will nuke your rankings if you do this.
I’ve experienced situations where Google will even refuse to index a website if it has duplicate content.
However, this risk is easily negated by doing one simple thing:
Don’t duplicate your content.
Take, for example, Thrive Agency, an SEO agency that brings in millions worth of traffic every month with their city pages alone.
That’s their Austin digital marketing page, and if you look at the New York page, you’ll see some striking similarities:
Their styling and format are identical!
However, if you look closer, you’ll see that they’ve changed the words. They’re still saying the same things semantically and offering the same service, however to Google, it is no longer duplicate content.
And that’s what matters at the end of the day.
Sure, because of this technique, Thrive has to write about 2000 words differently on their pages, but they also get to rank on Google with their template pages, which most businesses aren’t able to do(because they lazily duplicate their content).
*And bring in millions of dollars worth of qualified traffic every month*
After you have a highly converting template set up, you can then move on to finding the keywords that will make your website rank.
1) Steal Your Competitor's Keywords
Finding the keywords you should target is as easy as:
- Typing your “service + city” into Google,
- Copy and paste the URL of whats ranking first into Ubersuggest(which is free for 3 searches)
After you paste your competitor's location page URL into Ubersuggest, you’ll be able to see what keywords that page is ranking for.
Now, selecting the best keywords depends on the authority of your website. Additionally, learning how to find the best keywords is something that takes years, however, in this guide I break it down for you in only 2000 words.
After you see which keywords you like, write them all down and group them up. These will be the keywords you have on your location page which we’ll get to later.
2) Optimize Your Location Page Linking Structure and NAP(Local Relevance)
The next essential step in creating location pages is having a proper linking structure and consistent NAP across each page for local relevance. Nap stands for:
P: Phone Number
Not only is this information necessary for making a new customer, but Google uses this information in determining your rankings for local searches. However, one of the common mistakes I see business owners making is they either don’t list their NAP enough, or they do not use the same NAP every time.
This inevitably hurts their rankings because Google doesn't know where they’re located(local relevance).
Therefore you must have your NAP listed consistently on your website, location page, Google Business Profile(GBP), and online directories.
Additionally, a tight internal linking structure allows you to give local relevance to your town pages because Google will see the link structure and be able to deduce which city each page covers.
However, depending on your business location type, you will need to use slightly different strategies in creating local relevance with your location pages.
Different Strategies for each Location Type
Single-location brick-and-mortar business:
Build one location page for each city you target on your website that features the same NAP details and include links to these pages in your footer. This is done to spread link equity(more on that later).
Service Area Business with an office location:
With SABs that have an office, the main difference is that you want to show which areas you service. Include your NAP on your location pages and also have a “Service Areas” section on your navigation bar.
If you do not want people to go to your office location, then still include your address but make the text invisible to users. This will let Google map out your location while also preventing people from knocking on your office doors.
Additionally, if you are targeting a large area, break it up into smaller sub-city sections.
Let me show you exactly what I mean, using Miller Pest & Termite as an example
Miller is based in Iowa, but they service a large interstate area:
To optimize their SEO, they’ve split their location pages into two tiers. State-wide location pages, and city-wide location pages. The reason why they do this is that it helps Google define the local relevance of the city pages(as they fall under each State page) and it also allows Miller to pass link equity. If you’d like to learn more about link equity(a.k.a Link juice), see this guide by Moz.
Here’s a visual diagram of how the link juice is flowing from their home page.
This setup allows each of the town pages at the very bottom to get the most ranking power they could have, which allows them to rank higher on organic results. Additionally, given the structure, each of the town pages also has local relevance to the city it branches off of. To learn more about this structure, see this guide on Silo linking structure by Bruce Clay.
Remember, links are one of Google’s primary ranking factors and experts say it alone produced 32% of their local SEO results. So getting your links done right is essential. The way we do it is by planning out this silo linking structure before we begin making city pages.
SAB without an office location:
Add your NAP on each location page. If you don't have an office or you don't want customers showing up at your address, an alternative solution is to use your business’ registered address and hide it from users using CSS. This lends towards the realm of greyhat strategies as doing this is purely done for the Google algorithm, so do this with caution.
Multi-location brick-and-mortar business:
Build one web page for each location and include them in your footer. The difference here is that because you have multiple locations, you can register for another GMB location, which will get you on the map pack. This means your focus will be more on local map pack SEO than location pages.
For example, Fong’s Pizza in Iowa has four brick-and-mortar locations: three in and one in Cedar Rapids. Given this, they can have a separate google map listing and show up on the map pack for different locations.
For optimizing these pages in local SEO, make sure you link to your location pages in your website's navigation and footer. This ensures that Google will be able to crawl and find your location pages. Additionally, these pages will experience a large boost in ranking power because they will be benefitting from the most powerful links on your website.
As an example, check out how Fong’s pizza links out to their locations.
There you have a navigation bar link from the home page(which is the most powerful link you have on your website)
And then on their footer, you have this:
This not only makes for a superb user experience but also helps search engines rank your website tremendously. Here you can see how they have the NAP different for each location. This helps Google figure out where these locations are on their map, which boosts their local SEO.
Large multi-location Brick-and-Mortar businesses
Additionally, if you run a larger business and have many store locations consider building out a store finder tool and a unique web page for each location.
Home Depot is an excellent example of this in action; they added a store finder tool to their website that links out to each different location. Additionally, they have a separate GMB listing for each store.
This feature is excellent from a user experience standpoint and an SEO standpoint because it gives Google(and users) all the information they need to map out the location.
3) Use Location Specific keywords
The next step is to include location-specific keywords you found in phase 1 throughout your content. However, given that you likely found multiple keywords in phase 1, you need to find your alpha keyword: The keyword you optimize the most because it brings the best opportunity.
Once you’ve found this keyword, put it in the most important On-Page SEO locations, which are:
- Your title,
- meta description
- And URL path.
- The first paragraph of content
When you do this, you make it clear to Google that your location page is about that keyword.
However, just because you put your keywords everywhere doesn't mean you're done. While you have your main keywords set up, there is still a big opportunity to rank for similar keyword variations.
You want to sprinkle these keywords while also writing about the general topic the keyword grouping defines.
We do this because while Google does look for keywords, it also places a large weight on “semantic meaning,” which makes it possible for a webpage to rank for a keyword that doesn't even exist on the page. This phenomenon happens because Google has an understanding of the topic and can satisfy searches related to that.
However, we still want to include keywords because Google’s algorithm isn’t that smart and doesn't read and understand text as a human does.
Having all of your keywords sprinkled in a few times(note: Do not stuff your keywords) gives the algorithm exactly what it needs to see to rank you appropriately.
4) Include Location Specific Content
Similar to step two, you should also include location-specific content on your location page, like information about the city.
This allows you to dodge duplicate content, which is the last thing you should do, as you will be hurting your chances to rank.
To do this, include content that is unique to each location. Examples of location-specific content include reviews from the locals, important areas in the city like museums or other attractions(Google will read this and boost your rankings in that area), as well as special offers you have for that area. Google’s algorithm will read this and figure out that your page is related to that location, boosing your local relevance.
5) Add Local Customer Reviews
Customer Reviews are a the top-ranking factors for both the Local Map Pack and local search results.
As a bonus, just having your reviews on your page will increase your conversion rate. On average, a typical prospect will read 10 reviews before giving you their business. If you don't have many reviews, ask your happy customers to leave you one. It will never hurt to ask
Also, consider using a review widget to embed Google reviews on your location page for convenience.
6) Use a Relevant CTA
While this leans more towards conversion rate optimization, having relevant calls to action(CTA) is important for SEO.
Once someone clicks on your page, Google is watching them like a hawk to see what they end up doing. If they leave(bounce), Google takes it as a sign that your website deserves lower rankings, however, if they take actions such as clicking your CTA, the opposite happens.
Every page on your website should be aimed at creating value for your business. The same goes for your location page. Including a relevant CTA on your location page not only tells visitors that you have a solution to their problems, but it will motivate action as well. For more advice on CTA, see this guide.
7) Apply Schema Markup
Schema markup is a way of adding data to your website that Google can understand easily.
The reason we do this is so that Google can give us rich results, which dramatically improve click-through rates.
As an example, which of these search results stands out to you the most?
If you said the one with the shiny golden stars then you’d be looking at what the majority of searches are looking at.
Having that extra snippet of information not only steals eyeballs but also gives you more credibility since few businesses are using this feature.
While Schema can be complex if you don’t understand it, I found this free schema markup generator which allows you to copy and past structured data right into your website. Although, do be sure to follow Google’s guidelines(or else you risk losing your privileges).
8) Add External Links
There seems to be a misconception out in the SEO world that links are just “another ranking factor” for Google.
That you can just nail your on-page SEO and you will see your rankings rise. While it is true that On-Page SEO works, the fact of the matter is that everybody and their brother can do this at least at 90% effectiveness.
And when there's a sea of content for Google to rank, what are they going to use to rank pages in hierarchical order?
You have on-page user behaviors, which we touched on, but besides that, the majority of the ranking power will fall on the quality of your links.
Just imagine for a second that you have two websites competing for the same city and service.
Everything is looking similar with the on-page SEO and user metrics, BUT, one of these sites happens to somehow have a do-follow link from Business Insider(an extremely high authority website)
Which of these two do you think Google’s going to rank higher?
The problem though is that only 21% of businesses build backlinks to their website, except, as revealed by Backlinko:
#1 result in Google has an average of 3.8x more backlinks than positions #2-#10
So the conclusion here is simple:
if you want to rank on Google, you're going to have to build links.
The amount of links you need to build, of course, depends on your competition, but you should always go for quality links from quality websites over spammy links.
Going after spammy links will only lead to you getting penalized by Google, doing you more harm than good.
If you would like a fool-proof strategy, I recommend guest posting.
There you have it, a complete, foolproof guide on ranking your location pages. This one came a bit on the long side, so if you would like to check back with this page, do be sure to bookmark it.
Once you have your location pages online and ranking on Google, you’ll be able to multiply your traffic easily.
Honestly, given how powerful location pages are in any local SEO effort, I’m surprised they are so underutilized.
Which is why he had to create LevelU.