Most small businesses operate in a particular area around where their store is physically located.
These business owners often want to rank for their whole city. This approach has no benefit to themselves, their customers, or their ability to rank as Google wises up to businesses targeting areas that they don’t actually exist in.
So does that mean you should only try to rank in your own exact area?
As a business owner you obviously don’t want to limit your customer base to the one single suburb that you happen to operate from.
Customers are willing to drive over to the next suburb for local services. So it’s realistic that you would obtain genuine leads from the suburbs that are right next to you, and that those search users would genuinely find your services of relevance to them.
Firstly, Are Suburb Pages Dodgy?
What Google dislikes are “doorway pages”.
Doorway pages are pages on a website that offer no real value to the search user and exist only to acquire traffic for additional search keywords.
What this means, using our florist as an example, is that we can’t go making a page that targets “florist Joondalup” and another page that targets the keyword “flower delivery Joondalup”.
What we’re trying to do is different.
Our example business in Edgewater is still useful to real people that live in these surrounding areas and therefore we have a right to prove it to search engines without the fear of being pulled up for gaming the system.
So, writing SEO content with the right level of Search Engine Optimisation for location pages ticks the boxes both for being useful, and for being relevant in the real world.
Planning Our Location Pages
In this scenario we’re a Florist in Edgewater and we want to target our surrounding suburbs for both our flower delivery service as well as attracting some in-store visits from people in these neighbouring suburbs.
For this example business, we’re wanting to target the immediately neighbouring suburbs of Joondalup, Heathridge, Beldon, Craigie and Woodvale.
So, now that we know which suburbs we aim to target, we now need to create a unique page for each suburb so we can individually optimise each location page for SEO:
Let’s start off with the URL structure.
- Heathridge: floristwebsite.com.au/heathridge
- Joondalup: floristwebsite.com.au/joondalup
- Beldon: floristwebsite.com.au/beldon
- Craigie: floristwebsite.com.au/craigie
- Woodvale: floristwebsite.com.au/woodvale
These suggested URLs are clean and future proof as they’re not over optimised.
Examples of how to NOT structure these URLs are:
Whilst you may see some websites ranking high and mighty with a URL structure like this, it doesn’t mean you should or even need to copy them.
These websites that have resorted to spammy URL structures may very well be a ticking time bomb about to explode and fall from their top end rankings.
Another theory is that Google gives a pass to some of these businesses that put their websites together back in the day when this sort of behaviour was acceptable, but won’t ignore it for newer websites.
Making Suburb Pages Rank In Google
In the past, it would be acceptable to start writing copy for your Joondalup page and then copy and paste that over when you create the Heathridge page, but just swap the location words to suit.
Nowadays with the looming threat of duplicate content penalties and the rewards for unique SEO content; that strategy can hardly be called a strategy at all.
There are two topics on every location page which we need to prove relevance to Google.
- Relevance to the service
- Relevance to the area
So on our Heathridge page, for example, the page needs to have relevancy to both florists and to the suburb of Heathridge in order to rank well for a keyword like “florist heathridge”.
In order to gain more relevancy, we need to naturally sprinkle our content with proof words for both topics.
Proof Words For Your Service
Littering your content with direct variations of your main keyword (Florist Joondalup, Flowers Joondalup, Joondalup Florist, etc.) will get you hit with a penalty for keyword stuffing pretty quickly. Instead of shouting out what you are to Google, try to prove what you are instead with what I like to call “proof words”.
We have to forget about keywords for a moment and start thinking about words that are related to the word ‘florist’ in the real world. So let’s go ahead and think of some words that you’d associate with Florists (bust out the Thesaurus if needed):
You get the idea. So make sure that you embed these proof words when writing up SEO content for your location pages to make sure that Google can see the relevance of your copy to the main subject (Florist).
Why do we have to do this? Because Google is no longer going to rank a page just because you’ve stuffed your main keywords into the content a few times, especially when the rest of the content isn’t completely relevant to those keywords. Remember that modern search bots used by providers such as Google and Bing are trying to offer the best content to their search users as possible and they’re getting pretty darn good at it too!
Proof Words For Your Suburb
Now that we’ve proven what we are and what we provide, now we have to prove that we have some relevance to the location that we’re promoting ourselves and it has to be done a bit better than just tacking the suburb/area name to the end of each keyword.
First we want a meta title that contains the postcode and the state of your location like this: “Florist Joondalup WA 6027 – ExampleFlorist”
Next, make sure you place your main keyword “Florist Joondalup” in your main header tag (preferably a H1) like: “Your Local Florist Joondalup”
Now throughout the copy we need to be a bit clever. I usually like to open up Google Maps, enter the suburb that I’m trying to optimise the page for and look at what main roads and landmarks are around there and find a way to slip them into the copy.
Lastly, I like to go back into Google Maps, search the suburb and then embed the local Google map into the page.
This all may sound like we’re going a bit overboard, but since the rest of your website likely doesn’t mention this suburb at all you really have to make it extremely evident that what we’ve written on our location pages are genuinely relevant to that suburb for search engines to get the idea.
It makes sense for users who land on the page too.
It strikes a high level of relevancy when they see the mention of roads and landmarks that they know of as well as a map of the area where they live or work.
Note: What I have been calling “proof words” has been coined as ranking signal called “Topical Authority” in this post by Backlinko.
Bringing It All Together
Okay so now you’re wondering how you can possibly fit all of those requirements into a 300-400 word body of content (could be less or more depending on the level of competition) not just once, but multiple times for each location page.
Well, it can be hard, especially when there is really only so many ways you can describe the services of a florist…so I like to give the page a bit of personality.
Below is an example of the above principals being implemented on a website that has a “Florists Joondalup” page.
The tone is far from serious, but it’s engaging (to the people who actually read it), easier to write, and as an added bonus it could possibly generate some natural backlinks if someone decides the copy is quirky enough to show to others.
There have been many times when I’ve optimised location pages using the same strategy used here and have seen first page rankings or even in the top 3 positions as soon as Google crawls/re-crawls the website. Clever SEO content is rewarded so spend more time improving the overall quality of the content on every page of your website before you spend time chasing the next high authority or niche directory listing.
Location Pages For Mobile Services
The other time when we would use location pages are for mobile services such as an electrician, plumber or painter where the physical location base is irrelevant to the customer – as long as the service provider is willing to drive out and service that location.
Using our electricians from PWA Electrical Services as an example this time, let’s look at how we’ve laid out our suburb pages.
Firstly, whilst our links are not accessible from the main navigation, they’re not hidden and are naturally accessible in the footer of every service page.
Having these links here allows Google’s search bot to naturally crawl through the site and discover these pages without these links getting in the way of the main navigation area.
So, let’s click on one and see how it’s laid out, we’ll look at the Ballajura page (you can click on the image to enlarge and zoom in).
Now to see how one location page would differ from the other, let’s now go over to the suburb page we have for Nedlands.
Whilst the nature of the content is similar, it’s worded differently enough to be classified as unique content.
Keeping the content as unique as possible is important to ensure that pages on your website are not getting penalised for duplicate content, which Google is getting better and better at picking up on.
Make Sure Google Knows
These suburb pages are hugely important for local SEO along with increasing relevance site-wide for our bigger area wide keywords too.
So, don’t wait for Google to chance upon your valuable content.
Make sure you’re logging into Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) and requesting that Googlebot crawls your new pages, as I’ve done below with the suburb pages for Able Removals.
Remember that these pages location/suburb pages are effectively going to be the Home Page for search users looking for your services in these areas.
This means that we have to make sure that any big call-outs or any other selling points that you have on your actual Home Page are going to be present on each one of these pages too. Some things you will want to include are:
- Most popular products (if applicable)
- Attractive images of your shop or even a Photo Sphere
- Links to third-party review sites (Yelp!, TrueLocal, etc.)
- Local phone number and address clearly visible as well as a contact form
These are all changes that you are able to action today and doesn’t cost you anything other than your time to implement the above advice. If you’re planning to apply these changes or already have applied these changes to your Website and have some great results to report, or if you feel that you’ve got something to add to the above points – leave a comment down below!