Most businesses that are serving a local area are focused on showing up in the Google local 3-pack search results for relevant search terms. Four to five years ago, focusing on just this was a pretty viable strategy. However, as they always do, things have changed.
For starters, there used to 7 results listed in the local results. In August of 2015, Google changed it to the 3-pack we have now. Obviously, this makes it much more competitive to be seen.
They also have been turning up the dial on proximity to search results.
If you perform the search “dentists” from your computer, you are likely going to see the offices that are closest to you show up, sometimes even in order of their proximity to you.
You can test this with many different searches. They won’t always be in order from closest to farthest, but if you study the local search results, you will notice that the ones in closer proximity to your location often seem to have a leg up on other competitors that are farther away.
Local businesses are faced with less potential to show up at the top of search results in the 3-pack versus the old 7-pack and the emphasis on proximity has made the old adage, “Location, location, location…” even more important.
With the old 7-pack ranking for searches performed near your business as well as those in close by towns was not that difficult. Besides the fact that you had 7 places to shoot for, not as many businesses were as savvy about local search results. The competition was much easier to beat if you knew what you were doing.
Today it is much more difficult to show up in search results for people searching from 5 or even 10 miles away unless you have a unique business with very few competitors between you and them. Where it gets really tough is when a business wants to pull customers from further away, such as neighboring counties.
For example, maybe a specialist in the medical field like a cosmetic surgeon, or perhaps a company that specializes in hazardous waste disposal.
This is where local landing pages can help a business compete in local search results.
To be clear, this is not necessarily going to help a business rank in the local 3-pack. This is an alternative strategy to try to capture some of the local search market.
This will also work very well for “local” searches that are not triggering the local 3-pack in the SERPs at all.
The concept of a local landing page (LLP) is not a new idea. But I want to provide some ideas on how to go about doing it and show you a real example of how it works.
To show this in action, I created a local landing page right here on this site.
This one is designed to target local searches, such as:
Let’s look at the results first, then we will talk about how I created the page and what I did to rank it.
Here is a search for “seo york pa”. The results are basically identical for the other search terms above and similar related results.
In this case, you can see that the business shows up in the local results, the home page shows up in the organic results, and the LLP shows up right after the home page.
Keep in mind that this search is performed inside, York. If you perform the same search from other locations, the local 3-pack results may vary, and you will likely see just the LLP in the organic search results.
That’s okay though because if I was designing a LLP for York, I would most likely be targeting people who are searching from that location, right? Somebody sitting in Chicago is not going to perform this search.
So let’s talk about how I like to create pages like this.
There are two schools of thought on local landing pages in the SEO community. Either one can be effective.
Method 1: The first strategy is to simply create a page that mentions the town or city you want to rank in several times throughout, but in nonspecific generic ways. Then this page can be duplicated over and over with the name of the town or city just swapped out for each new page.
Method 2: This method takes a little more work, and is the method I used in the example above. You write a page that is very specific to the local market. You name landmarks, events, sports teams, etc. that are relevant to the local community. If you read through the content on the LLP I used above, you will see what I mean.
If you are not familiar with the area, you can easily find some basic information on Wikipedia or by doing a simple search. You don’t have to do a complete historical essay on the town.
Does one method rank better than the other? No. Not that I have been able to prove anyhow.
So why go through the extra work of Method 2?
That’s pretty easy to answer. The first method works. I’ve done it. I have seen it all over the SERPs from other companies. I have no doubt that not only does it work, but it works well.
There are two reasons I prefer the second method. As I mentioned, the first method works extremely well, but it is also the kind of thing that Google could easily target one day if they decided to. It would not take a very complex algorithm to identify such pages and remove them from the rankings.
The second reason I like Method 2 better is that it is likely to convert better with prospects that land on your page. It builds trust. It reads like it was written by someone that knows the market (or at least has done a little bit of research about the market).
The other thing you can do with both of these is break them out even further for different keywords. For example, I could do the same thing for PPC services or I could keep this one targeting “SEO company” related keywords and build another one for “SEO services” or “search engine optimization service” related keywords.
You don’t have to limit it to just one page per town if you have multiple lines of business you want to target.
On the other hand, I could modify that page and add PPC services related content to the page and use it just as easily.
You go about ranking one of these pages the same way you would any other page: good onpage SEO and relevant links. Simple as that.
In smaller markets, you likely will be able to rank the page with just internal links, however, I like to orphan these pages to a large degree. I won’t add them in the navigation or with a ton of footer links. You don’t want a drop down menu that includes a list like this:
I also don’t want these links crowding my footer up looking spammy.
There are two ways to handle this that I have used. You can use one or both of these methods, and again in smaller markets you will probably move to page one if your site has a moderate amount of authority. Otherwise, you might have to go looking for a few external links to give it an extra push.
First thing you can do if you are creating multiple pages like this is create a Locations page. You can add this link to the navigation menu. Then you create a page stating that this is a list of the areas you serve. I would not go keyword rich with the anchor text for a page like this. Using this list above, instead of listing them like that, I would simply list:
You would use those as the anchors leading to each of the location pages.
Now you have a link on every page leading to this location page, and then it links to the locations. Should be a pretty strong link.
The second thing you can do is only list these pages in the sitemap of the site. Then add a link to your sitemap in the footer. Again, now you have a link to the sitemap on every page (although a much weaker link), and then the sitemap leads to these location pages. Often times, this is enough.
In the example I did on my site for this article, I did a hybrid of this second option. Only difference is I skipped the sitemap and linked directly to the page. I wouldn’t normally do this, but I was hoping to speed up the results a little bit for the purpose of this article.
There you go. A simple guide to using landing pages for local SEO.