Most local service companies, including plumbers, utilize city pages as part of their local SEO strategy. In the past year, Google has made it much more difficult to properly optimize these pages. Traditionally, city pages were essentially duplicates of one another. If you were a plumber in Dallas, you would list location pages for hundreds (or even thousands) of other cities, counties, and towns in or around the DFW area. Sometimes a few words would be changed here and there, but overall they were carbon copies of one another. Google finally said enough is enough, and altered their algorithm to prioritize location pages that are unique and customized. The consequence of this shift was significant for most plumbing websites. Pages that once ranked very high in certain locations, dropped down the rankings rabbit hole. Worse yet, entire sites suffered, including the homepage, because the site was now deemed by Google to be promoting duplicate and spammy content (and let’s be honest, that’s exactly what city pages have been). So city pages in their traditional format, are now bad for SEO. Plumbers must adjust.
So you still must optimize for more than your main city, right? It depends. If you are located in a major city, it might be enough to go for that location alone, because the population is large enough to get the customers and overall traffic numbers you need to sustain your lead generation. But most plumbers still want even more business, in which case you should still produce city pages, but far fewer of them, and ensure they are both custom and unique. Make sure the content references things like city landmarks and addresses the reader as someone presumed to be from that town. And no we don’t mean nonsensical gibberish that is intended to stuff verbatim city names in the content. We mean logical and informative writing that a real resident from that city would feel connected to in some way. For plumbers whose main city is a small town, you will have no choice but to produce additional city pages. Again, make sure they are both custom and unique. While you might do more cities than someone in a major metropolitan area, you still don’t want too many.
Duplicate Content Problems
City pages in their earliest iterations were a picture of SEO manipulation. While they weren’t always considered black-hat, the intentions of those who produced them were certainly manipulative. That’s not to denigrate plumbers who are trying to get their business seen in as many locations as possible, but more so the SEO’s that encouraged this type of strategy. But hey, it worked, and because it worked, there was no logical reason not to partake in it. But times have now changed. Google has gotten smarter, and has demanded better content for their users. Duplicate content is trash and creates a porous user experience. The user knows when they are reading it that it was poorly written, and likely mass produced. The question is, do they care? The answer, as Google sees it, is evidently; yes. So why do users hate duplicate content?
- Readability: Very discouraging to read, off-putting even
- Spam: Duplicate content, in most cases, is spam-like and trash
- Uselessness: Provides zero value to the user, other than contact information
The concept of dupe content being bad for SEO is not new. The difference is that it used to be thought of in a different context. People thought that when a page from one website matched that of a page from an entirely separate website, a manual penalty loomed. The reality is that most duplicate content does not cause a manual penalty. Additionally, the type of duplicate content that relates to city pages is not coming from external domains. It is duplicate content on the same site. The impact from Google on this kind of content is algorithmic, and not manual. What that means is that the algorithm knocks down traditional city pages through a programmed mathematical equation. It is not some web guy at Google going through your pages and penalizing them. The moral of the story is this; duplicate content is trash, and city pages using them should be avoided.
Google My Business Problems
Another problem with many old-school location pages is that they are not properly linked to Google My Business, or in some cases, are linked to Google My Business pages with virtual offices. Google recently devalued listings that come from virtual offices. They would rather match their users with real businesses in real locations. After all, who should be more trusted, a plumber with a legitimate office space in Dallas, TX or a plumber out of Waco, TX who lists a janitor’s closet from his mother in law’s health club as his Dallas location? Best practice is to promote your real business location on your website and link it to your verified Google My Business listing, and vice versa. If you have multiple legitimate locations, you’ll want to link each GMB profile (you’ll need one for each location) to its corresponding location page. Take a look:
The button that says website; highlighted in red above, should link to the corresponding location page. So if you have a listing in Houston, but are from Dallas, your Houston location should link to your Houston city page? Of course the page will have to exhibit all the qualities discussed in this blog post for it to really take affect. That means writing a thorough and custom page about the specific city, along with supporting pages to go with it. Most importantly, the address listed on your Google Maps profile should be identical to the one listed on the footer of your location page. You can even take it one step further and embed the Google Maps data onto the location page itself. This way, Google crawls your webpage and knows exactly which Google My Business profile it is associated with.
One Page Problems
Aside from the whole duplicate content issue, another major red flag for city pages are that they are what are known in the SEO industry as; one pagers. Let’s say one of your secondary locations has a legitimate office space and a Google My Business profile. If there’s only one page of your website devoted to that city, it isn’t enough. You should have supporting pages like you would on a typical plumbing website. Whether that’s sump pump repair, slab leak repair, or anything else, it should be a supporting page for each location. Keep in mind however that this can’t utilize duplicate content. Most plumbers and their SEO companies don’t want to take the time to write all these unique pages for each city. The consequences are these:
- Low Rankings: It will be difficult to rank on either Maps or organic with just a single page
- Low Relevance: One page about the location won’t make you an authority in Google’s eyes
- Unbranded: A single page doesn’t let itself to brand integration, since it’s scarcely referenced
We learned in 2018 that Google prefers content that shows itself to be an authority on subject matters. Using this same frame of thought, a plumber can’t be a Houston authority, when only mentioning Houston on a single page of their site. The same is true for smaller cities like Graham and Rockwall. For Google to deem a plumbing company to be an authority in a certain city, not only do they have to see more than one page of content that specifically relates to it, but they have to see the aforementioned Google My Business connection and legitimate and verified business address. These things in concert, will help prove authority for your company.
URL Structure Solutions
As a plumber, you may not be able to afford an additional business location, but you still want to show up in more locations. The best advice we can give you today is to create subfolders for each city. This is the same method you should use if you do have legitimate offices throughout the state or region. The difference in cases like these is their will be no corresponding Google My Business address that links to and from the page. You should only attempt this strategy for cities that you can drive to within an hour’s time from your main office. Each subfolder will serve as a mini-website of sorts, and have 10-15 supporting pages to accompany it. Let’s say you’re going for Corpus Christi. You will have a unique location page, and than pages for Sump Pump Repair in Corpus Christi, Slab Leak Repair in Corpus Christi, etc. They must all be unique.
- Home Page – www.myplumbingcompany.com/
- Sub Page – www.myplumbingcompany.com/slab-leak-repair
- City Page 1 – www.myplumbingcompany.com/corpus-christi
- Sub City Page 1 – www.myplumbingcompany.com/corpus-christi/slab-leak-repair
This is where the process becomes extremely tedious. Not only do you have to write multiple slab leak repair pages but they mustn’t be similar. You have to write the Corpus Christi slab leak repair page from the perspective of someone who resides in that area. That means no scraped content and gibberish. It means referencing local landmarks and make the reader feel connected to the page they are consuming. It’s the only possible way to dominate for city pages in 2019. If something changes again, more adjustments will be made. That’s the reality of SEO.
For help with content writing, local SEO, plumbing leads, and other digital marketing services for plumbers, give us a call today at (877) 388-9884.