How to Make a “Service Areas” Page That Hunts

An “Areas Served” or “Service Areas” or “Cities” or “Locations” page doesn’t get much consideration in the local SEO world, and that’s a shame.  If you do it right, that kind of page can rank for some juicy terms, help other pages to rank, make your site structure simpler, help people navigate your site, and impress would-be customers.

A “Service Areas”-type page is like a “Location Finder” page, except it’s more for service-area businesses that travel TO most customers (rather than have customers visit a bricks-and-mortar location).   Most often it’s for a home-based business – or one with one physical location – that serves customers in a wider area (like within a 30-mile radius, for example).

Even more so than your typical “Location Finder” page, the average “Service Areas” page is pretty feeble, because it’s hard to know what you should put on it, other than a big ugly list of cities you serve.  The result is those pages usually have all the charm and appeal of a rubber glove factory.



The competitive bar is low, yet you have a lot to gain by getting a “Service Areas” / “Areas Served” / “Cities” page right.  How can you do that?  I’ll do this post somewhat backwards and start off with a list of examples.  I’ve got a little color commentary below each example, plus my list of principles below all of the examples, at the end.

Example 1:


Main strengths of this page: Lots of content on the places where the business has done jobs, effective “near me” optimization, internal links to relevant “city” pages, and relevant photos and videos.  This page itself gets plenty of internal links from other pages on the site.


Example 2:


Main strengths of this page: Photos of jobs in specific areas the business owner has prioritized, a blurb on why each town is in the service area, and well-placed links to “city” pages (without overdoing it).


Example 3:

Main strengths of this page: Plenty of info on the specific services offered within the service area, and a good section on why the service area matters.

Though not technically a “service areas” page, this similar page could double as one, and it’s also done well:


Example 4:


Main strengths of this page: Houses “city” and “county” pages effectively, has a nice map graphic at the top, and doesn’t just pay lip service to each city or county.


Example 5:


Main strengths of this page: Though not presented as a “service areas” page, it functions as one, in that it targets and seemingly ranks in a variety of cities and towns surrounding the main focus (Boston).  Also wheels out a ton of proof elements (photos, videos, reviews, and news appearances).


Honorable mention:


Main strengths of this page: It’s a “service areas” page in disguise.  Technically the page is about one specific (relatively niche) service, but it’s optimized somewhat for several main cities in the service area.  With some work it could be like the pages in examples #1 and #5, above.

Now that we’ve gone through a few examples, my dos and don’ts might stick more.  Here are my main suggestions to create a “service areas” page that works for you:

1. Don’t assume the visitor has chosen your business yet. You can’t assume visitors are ready yet to take the next step and click on one of your “city” pages or pick a nearby location to visit, because you can’t be sure they’ve picked you yet. Especially if your “Areas Served” or “Service Area” or “Locations” page ranks for a competitive search term, pretty much everyone on your page isn’t in the bag yet.  Devote a visible blurb or two to why people should pick you at all

2. Try to get it to rank for “near you” / “near me” or “near [city]” search terms. In general, those terms are relevant to an “Areas Served”-type page. In most cases that “near me” optimization is pretty straightforward (see this post and this one).

3. Include plenty of info on your specific services – or at least on each service you consider a high priority. The page shouldn’t be limited to info on your service area. All that would say is what places you travel to, and not what services you perform in those places.  A good “Areas Served” page makes both the “what” and the “where” clear.

4. Provide war stories: showcase the jobs you’ve done more than the jobs you want. Some customers don’t care if you’re new to their town or area. But other people do care, for reasons good and bad, practical and tribal.  If you’ve never done a job in a certain place, you might still rank there and may get customers out of the deal.  But it’s a little harder then, because your page is more likely to amount to a fancy way of saying, “Pick me, pick me, pretty please.”  Talking about the jobs you’ve done is the best kind of content also because you don’t have to think too hard about what to say.

5. Go heavy on internal links to relevant pages. Your “service areas” page is one of the best places to plop down plenty of links to relevant pages on your site, like to “city” pages and to various “service” pages. Of course, you don’t want it to be the only place you link to other pages you care about: your homepage and main nav (and maybe footer) also should have plenty of links to high-priority pages, and your “city” pages should link generously to your “services” pages and vice versa.  Still, the “service areas” page is the place to go heavy, if ever there was one.

6. Make your “service areas” page good enough that you link to it often on other pages of your site. It’s not just there to rank: it also serves a practical purpose for customers. But it won’t help them if they never go the page, and (in my experience) Google is much less likely to rank pages that aren’t woven much into a site’s internal linking.

7. In general, observe the same principles you would for “city” pages or “state” pages. That means, among other things, that you should explain (or at least hint at) why your service area is what it is. It also means that although you should try to think of something to say about each town and why someone there should hire you.  If you can’t think of anything to say or show off about a specific town, but still want to try to rank in a place, at least mention it on your “service areas” page.  (In most cases that won’t be enough to rank there, but because you’re don’t just ignore the place, at least it’s possible you’ll get calls from there.)

8. Know that it can rank for a range of search terms: “city” terms, “near me” terms, and “service” terms (without any place name).  One result of that is “service areas” pages take a little pressure off of you to create “city” pages, particularly slapdash pages that don’t rank, don’t rank for long, or that don’t get you any customers.


9. Build your “service areas” page before you build any “city” pages.  That makes it much easier to integrate your “city” pages into your internal linking, and to house them in a place visitors will see them.  Also, if it takes you a long time to create a good page on each high-priority city or place, your “service areas” page can run interference in the meantime.

10. If you have multiple physical locations within the larger service area, add at least one solid blurb about each physical location. It’s a little easier to write something coherent about a place if you have an office or showroom there.

11. You don’t need to call it “service areas” or “areas served,” necessarily. It can be a page about a whole region, or about a core city and its suburbs, for example. You can see one example of that in example #4 (earlier in the post), and a few related examples here.

12. It’s a good time to lay it on thick with the “image SEO,” especially if you can showcase specific jobs you did in specific cities in your service area. Also consider putting up a map or other graphic that shows your service area.

13. It’s OK if the page doesn’t rank – either for a while, or much at all. Your consolation prize is that you put work into a page that answers would-be customers’ questions, and that either gets them to pick up the phone or that directs them to another page that gets them to take the next step.  Again, that’s the worst-case scenario.  More likely is that you’ll also sweep up some rankings you didn’t have before.


Do you have any examples of GOOD “service areas”-type pages?

What’s a principle that’s worked well (or hasn’t worked) for you?

Leave a comment!

Good Ways and Bad Ways to Save Money on Local SEO

Some business owners say things like, “I don’t have enough budget for local SEO.”  You may not have money to waste on work that doesn’t work, and you may not have the budget for all the conveniences you want.  But the basic activities you can always afford, if you make the right decisions for the right reasons.  Half the battle is not wasting money on stuff you don’t need, so that you have some left over for what you do need or really want.

Below are (in my experience) the bad ways and the good ways to try to save money on your local SEO effort.  I want to emphasize that they are general rules.  I don’t know your exact situation.  Sometimes your money is well-spent on something I don’t think is useful for most people.  Sometimes you don’t need and wouldn’t benefit from a tool or service I recommend to most people.  Sometimes you’re so short on time that your least-bad option is to farm it out.  And so on.

Bad ways to save money on local SEO

1. Moving to a cheaper or free website platform just because it’s cheaper or free. I won’t name names. But I will say that whatever money you save on upkeep you’ll probably lose (many times over) because you can’t make basic changes easily, or because you can’t make certain improvements at all.  Probably won’t work out the way you want it to.


2. Buying spammy links. May help your rankings short-term, until it doesn’t or until Google whacks you.


3. Working with an “SEO copywriter.” Sounds better than “professional keyword-stuffer.” You’ll end up with a site that’s optimized only skin-deep, and copywriting that makes you sound as exciting as a three-bean salad.


4. Buying gigs of any kind for SEO-related work of any kind.

5. Working with a cheap (usually local) company.

6. Using a “listings management” SAAS solution (e.g. Yext) rather than pay for one-time manual work on your local listings. (I’m talking about services that claim to take care of pretty much all your listings. Those are different from, say, Moz Local, which often is a good way to take care of a few listings that are a pain to deal with manually.)  Hiring an outfit like Whitespark to create, correct, and de-dupe your listings usually isn’t cheap, but unless your business info changes you’ll only need to do it once.  (Even then, because you’ll have the logins to most of your listings, making changes will be easier.)  If you cancel a listings-management service, many of your listings at some point will revert back to the way they were before you signed up.  Also, many directories that matter (especially “niche” sites) aren’t covered by the listings-management service, so you’ll need to do or pay for some amount of manual work anyway.  Listings-management software can be useful if you’re a big organization with a ton of locations.  Otherwise, “renting” your listings yearly soon becomes more expensive than getting manual work done once.

7. Glad-handing experts in the hope you’ll get free advice and won’t need to pay for any help. People with expertise tend to be in-demand and a little guarded with their time. Aside from not wanting to be known as a tightwad and avoided as one, you run a couple of risks: You risk getting boilerplate advice that isn’t specific enough for you to act on, and you risk getting advice that’s based on a poor understanding of your situation.  That advice can mess you up, even if it’s from a great source.

8. Requesting a bunch of proposals just for the free input on your situation. Same issue as in the last point. RFP abusers don’t come away with much.


Good ways to save money on local SEO:

1. Do your own local SEO, or as much of it as you can. (That’s where an in-depth audit can help.) Even if you do only a couple of steps, you’ll make it easier to hire competent helpers later, because they won’t need to be good at quite as many things.  You’ll also want your sea legs in case the company you hire doesn’t work out, in which case you are your plan B (at least temporarily).  It’s possible you might even take a little satisfaction in it.


2. If you need to get third-party help, consider hiring a website developer and a stunt pen (“content writer”) or copywriter, rather than a marketing agency. With specialists often it’s clearer exactly what you’re paying for, because the scope of work is tighter and there’s less overhead. You’re less likely to pay for the catered lunches, the beanbag chairs, and the bathroom janitor.

3. Keep only one site or very few sites. If one site doesn’t rank, put time into developing it and earning links to it rather than into squeezing out another site that doesn’t rank. Five sites that almost perform don’t get you anywhere.  Five Pacers don’t equal a Mercedes.

4. Let your site develop a fine crust. A font you can’t shrink or an image you can’t align is not an emergency. Unless your site is so hard to navigate and use that you know you’re losing business, an ugly site is not why you’re struggling, so you can deal with it once your dance card is fuller and you’ve got more budget.

5. Skip reputation-management tools, unless maybe the one you want to use is supplementary to a review strategy that’s worked for you. If your whole review-encouragement strategy is to use software, you may get good results, but more likely is that would-be reviewers still ignore you. The basic issue is that most customers can tell when they’re asked for a favor by a piece of software rather than by a person they recognize.

6. Run a feeler AdWords campaign for a week rather than use keyword-research tools or SEO tools that require a monthly subscription. The difference is you can see what people do search for, rather than what they probably search for. You’ll be amazed at what you see in an AdWords “Search Terms” report and in other reports, even when you run ads just to glean data and not necessarily to try to get customers.

7. Eschew paid third-party tools in general. (I’d probably make exceptions for Ahrefs and Mouseflow, though.) Focus on building up your internal resources.

8. Skip paid local-business and industry directories. Unless you have reason to believe your listing or ads bring you customers or some other clear benefit, paid-inclusion directories are a slippery slope. Before you know it you’re shelling out for 10 of them every month.

9. Don’t get BBB-accredited just because you think you’ll get a link. These days, for better or for worse, you won’t get a link that helps you. (There are other reasons to consider getting accredited, though.)

10. Don’t pay for LocalEze. I say that not because that data-aggregator isn’t important, but because usually you can take care of your listing(s) there by using Moz Local or by using a citation-building service that has an API relationship with that site and others.

11. Avoid or wean yourself off of listings-management tools (e.g. Yext). Ideally you work on your listings in-house. The second-best option is to get manual work done once and be done with it.


12. Minimize the number of SEO consultants you use. Maybe get a second opinion every now and then, but don’t hire 7 different people. You won’t develop a good strategy by United Nations resolution.  If none of the SEO people seems good, don’t settle for the least-bad of the bunch.  (In that case, consider doing at least some of the work in-house.)

How have you saved money (or blown money) on your local SEO effort?

Have you had success with any of the practices on my “worst ways to save” list?

Leave a comment!

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