Top-3 Local SEO “Content” Wins for People Who Hate to Write

You shudder at the thought of having to write content for your site or pay someone to write it until the day you sell your business or buy Depends.

Don’t get me wrong: writing and sharing your best info over a period of months or years can have enormous payoff.  My post “100 Practical Ideas for Small-Business Blog Posts” and its follow-up can help you on that.

You’ll probably find a way, if that’s what it takes for better local rankings and more customers.  But must creating “content” feel like a trip to nowhere?

Img. credit Ratha Grimes https://www.flickr.com/photos/ratha/4833010513/

No.

Is there another way to make progress?

Yes.

Focus on one-time content first.  Build on the content you have, the knowledge you have, and the site you have.

You’ll still have to write or get someone else to, but the point is you’re focusing on the highest-payoff work.

So, before you worry about what to create and share long-term, here’s what you should do on your site to make the most of a limited tolerance or budget for writing:

Priority 1: Perform “content CPR.”

Find short, undetailed pages on your site and beef them up with all the info a potential customer might want to know.  Focus on pages where you describe a specific service you offer.  If possible, find pages that rank very low on page 1 or somewhere on page 2.  Those pages may just need a little life breathed into them to start moving in the rankings.

Not sure what to put on those pages?  My post on “25 Principles of Building Effective City Pages for Local SEO” might get the juices flowing (even if you’re not creating “city” pages).

Priority 2: Fill in the gaps.

For example, do you have a giant “Services” page with one paragraph on each service you offer?  Break it up.  Create a separate page for each service, and go into more detail on each of those pages.  You can keep the main “Services” page if you want: just add some links to the more-specific subpages.

In general, is there a service you want to promote that doesn’t have a page you’re really proud of?

That’s low-hanging fruit, especially if it’s a less-popular search term.  The benefits of getting really granular with your pages are that (1) it’s an easy way to pick up rankings for niche terms (e.g. “blower door test Atlanta”), and that (2) the people who’d type in those niche terms probably aren’t tire-kickers, know exactly what they want, and are just looking for the right person or company.

(For more suggestions on busting out more pages, this other post of mine might help: 21 Pages a “Small Local Business” Site Needs for Tip-Top Local Visibility.)

Priority 3: Cannibalize your other resources.

Do you have underperforming microsites or old websites that have some decent info in them?

Did you put a lot of time into writing a blog post that not even your mom would read?

Did posters on your Facebook page ask questions that you get asked all the time, and that should maybe go on an FAQs page?

Do you have customer reviews that would be a shame not to show off on your site?  (As I’ve explained, it’s OK to do that.)

Was the “about us” section on your Yelp page a labor of love?

If you think your site would be a higher-payoff place for anything you’ve written, online or offline, bring it on home.

Only once you’ve taken those 3 steps as far as they’ll go should you turn to creating blog posts, videos, or whatever other content on an ongoing basis.  The timing matters.  At least the one-time stuff can start paying off while you’re wrestling with the ongoing content-creation.  Or you can just conserve your energy.

What are your “content priorities”?

Any you’d add to the list?

Leave a comment!

 

12 Kinds of Duplicate Content in Local SEO: Which Ones Are Trouble?

There are two intertwined myths about duplicate content:

1: That Google is on the warpath against it, penalizing sites left and right.

2: That duplicate content is a thing – one specific problem.

Neither is true, because of one fact: there are many different types of duplicate content.  (Google says so, too.)

That’s even more true in local SEO – because to rank well in local search you’re not just dealing with your site, but also with a bunch of listings.

Some types of duplicate content hurt your rankings, whereas many are just a mild drag or are harmless.

It’s not bad SOP to try to make all your content everywhere unique.  But sometimes it’s just not necessary, and you don’t want it to suck up too much of your time and distract you from stuff that really matters.

I can think of at least 12 types of duplicate content.  Pay attention to the types that (at least in my experience) might hurt you, and don’t spend time worrying about the harmless ones.

Bad:

1. Mirror sites
Same content, different domains.  The rationale is that maybe both the sites will rank well, or that one of them will have a call-tracking number to “prove ROI!”

Google’s warnings are strongest for wholesale duplicate content between sites.  In my experience, using mirror sites never ends well.  Either one site ranks OK and the other doesn’t, or neither ranks well.  Mirror sites confuse Google and would-be customers alike.

 

2. Duplicate / near-duplicate Google listings

Google listings that have nearly identical names, addresses, and phone numbers can hurt your rankings.  Use Michael Cottam’s excellent duplicate-finder tool to uncover them.

By the way, “practitioner listings” often aren’t a problem, in my experience.  (In other words, if you’re a doctor, lawyer, real-estate agent, or insurance agent, it’s OK if you have a listing in your name and the practice or agency has one in its name.)

3. Duplicate citations
Not a big deal if you have 2 very similar listings on, say, MojoPages or Brownbook – one of those little sites.  But do you have one YellowPages.com listing named “Acme Dynamite” and another named “Acme Dynamite Company”?  Delete one of them, or else Google might scrape YP (a trusted third-party source) and create an unwanted Google Places listing for you.

Also, you should be gung-ho about removing duplicate listings on highly visible sites like YP, Yelp, and Facebook.  To the extent you get reviews on those sites, you’ll want to get the reviews piled up on one listing, rather than spread them thin between several listings.

4. Internal duplicate title tags
Does your “Services” page have the same title tag as your homepage?  Google won’t penalize you or anything; it’s just that you’ve lost an opportunity to help different pages rank for different search terms.

5. Duplicate title tags between sites
Similar problem as in point #4.

But there’s an additional problem: if you have multiple sites that include the name of your business in the title tags, you may mess mess up your brand-name search traffic.  When people search for your business by name you want one site to come up in Google, so that everyone goes to that site.  Why?  Because Google loves brands.  The more you can seem like one (i.e. popular offline and online), the better.  But you don’t want to confuse Google as to what site represents your “brand.”

6. Duplicate / near-duplicate pages on your site – particularly “city” pages
I’ve never noticed a site get penalized specifically for barfing up two dozen pages that target different cities by swapping out the city names (“HVAC Contractors Atlanta,” “HVAC Contractors Decatur,” etc.).

But a few problems remain: (1) those clone pages often don’t rank well, (2) even if they do rank well they eventually drop because users pogo-stick away from them, and (3) they usually don’t produce many phone calls.

Low-quality “city” pages aren’t as much a drag on your rankings as they are a giant lost opportunity.  Yours don’t have to suck, though.

7. Reviews cross-posted by customers
Scenario: a customer writes you a nice review on Yelp, so you ask her to write a review on Google+.  Just make sure it’s not the same review.  Make sure the words are significantly different, or the review might get filtered on both sites.  (By the way, Yelp and Google are the only sites that aggressively filter reviews – at least as far as I know.)

Not a problem:

8. Reviews that you copy and put on your site
This isn’t against Yelp’s or Google’s (or other sites’) policies, and I’ve seen so many businesses copy and paste their reviews onto their sites that I’ve concluded it’s just not a problem.

9. Duplicate descriptions between listings
You can use a different description on Yelp from the one you use on Manta, or you can have those descriptions and all your others can be pretty much the same.  (I say “pretty much” because different sites have different length requirements for your blurb, so a little variation is inevitable.)  Doesn’t matter.

10. Website content cross-posted on listings
Want to use a blurb from your homepage as your description on Angie’s List?  Harmless.

11. Google+ posts duplicated on multiple Google Places / Plus pages
If you’ve got multiple locations – each with a Google Places page – it’s OK to publish the same post in each one’s “Posts” stream.

12. Re-posting Google+ reviews
Google allows this.  Very few businesses know that they can show off their Google reviews in their “Posts” stream.

Can you think of any other types of duplicate content, in the context of local SEO?

Which ones have you found to be harmful vs. harmless?

Leave a comment!

Low-Tech Local SEO Fix-ups for Your Site

You can’t make big or technical changes to your site, for whatever reason.  (Maybe you just aren’t sure how.)  Your options may be limited, but you still want to start ranking in Google Places and elsewhere.

Maybe your webmaster pulled a Houdini on you.  Or selfishly went belly-up at just the wrong time (before you’re ranking top-7).

Or maybe you are your own webmaster, but don’t think you can take your site apart and make it whole again.

There’s still plenty you can do to make your site local-search-friendly.

After my last post – which was a little technical – I thought it was time for something lower-tech.  Here, my suggestions would have made sense for you to do 10 years ago, and they’ll benefit you 10 years from now.  Many of them I’ve mentioned before.

You only need to be able to make basic changes to your pages.  You should be able to implement these suggestions whether you’re using WordPress, a hand-coded site, one of GoDaddy’s contraptions, or any other “website builder.”

Here are the low-tech local SEO steps I suggest you take on your site:

Structure

1.  Create a page for every specific service you offer.

2.  Create a page for each location, if you have more than one location.  (Don’t necessarily use these as your Google Places landing pages.)

3.  Create the other pages you should create.

 

Content

4.  Make sure your homepage at least mentions your specific services.

5.  Add old-school driving / walking / public-transportation directions.

6.  Describe some local landmarks.

7.  Go through every page of your site and see if you can explain your services better.

8.  Describe your qualifications, certifications, etc.  If applicable, also link to them.

9.  Describe your service area.  (Notice I said “describe” it.  Don’t just paste in all the city names in a paragraph that’s taller than Shaq.)

10.  Rework crappy blog posts.

11.  Remove or rewrite duplicate content.

 

Details

12.  Put your business’s “NAP” (name, address, phone) info on every page.  No, it doesn’t need to be in Schema.  (Some guidelines here.)

13.  Add links to your subpages – particularly pages where you describe specific services – where appropriate.  Do not overdo this.  Only add links when you realize, “Gee, maybe a visitor would want to know more about this point.”

14.  Add links to sites where customers have reviewed you.

review-links-sidebar

Maybe also create a “Review Us” page with those links on it.

15.  Add photos.  Name them relevantly, and make sure they’re relevant to whatever you’re describing on the page.

16.  Read your content out-loud.  Take note of any areas that sound clunky.  I’ll bet you a beer they’re links with keywords awkwardly inserted.  Remove or rephrase those links.

 —

Even if you nail the low-tech stuff, your site may still need work.  But you’ll be in much better shape.

How many of these fixes have you crossed off the to-do list?

Any non-technical suggestions you’d add?

Leave a comment!

100 More Doable Ideas for Small-Business Blog Posts

That was not [BLEEP]-ing good enough, Private Phil!  Hit the deck and give me another 100!

I felt the burn when writing 100 Practical Ideas for Small-Business Blog Posts a few months back.  It took my pecs and triceps 3 months to shake off the soreness, but they cranked out another 100 for you.

My mission is the same as it was in the earlier post: to make it impossible for you to say, “I want to blog for my business, but I don’t know what to write about.”

It doesn’t need to be painful to write posts that (1) you enjoy, (2) showcase your expertise, and (3) customers find useful.  You just need ideas.

Here are another 100 practical ideas for blog posts.  Cherry-pick your favorites, and write ‘em.

101.  What’s the biggest change you’ve made in your business?  Why did you make it?

102.  Where’s the Mecca of your industry?

103.  What was a situation where you felt the profitable thing to do wasn’t the right thing to do?

104.  What’s a part of your service that you insist on doing personally – even when most people in your position don’t?

105.  How did your schooling / education influence what you do for a living?

106.  Why is / isn’t your business a family business?

107.  What’s the Golden Age of your industry?  (Or do you think it’s yet to come?)

108.  What are your “10 commandments”?

109.  How much money does your company spend on books, training, or any types of ongoing learning?

110.  Your year in photos.

111.  Conduct a survey / poll (like with Google Consumer Surveys).

112.  Commemorate an anniversary.

113.  Describe a time you became complacent and got a wake-up call.

114.  Describe an ethical dilemma.

115.  Do people in your position love their work so much that they never retire – and do it until they die?

116.  How was your business different before the Web?

117.  Cannibalize a page on your site nobody seems to see or care about, spruce it up, and turn it into a post.  Or vice versa.

118.  What advice have you gotten from friends or family about running your business?  Was it any good – did you do it?  Why, or why not?

119.  Discuss a mixed review you got from a customer, and what you got out of it.

120.  If you didn’t do what you do for a living, what would you do instead?

121.  What’s a piece of jargon in your industry that most people misuse or don’t understand?  (In other words, a misnomer.)

122.  Explain your “guarantee” policy (even if you don’t have one, that’s still a policy).

123.  What’s your policy on estimates / quotes?

124.  What’s an event that almost wiped out your business?

125.  Have you served multiple generations of a family – a customer, then his son, then his son (for example)?

126.  What questions do you ask possible hires in an interview?

127.  Describe why you fired the last person you fired.

128.  What do all your oldest, longest-term customers have in common?

129.  How do you benefit from writing blog posts?  What does it get you really thinking about?

130.  What are your professional regrets?

131.  What have your competitors taught you?

132.  Why do you keep the business hours you keep?

133.  Why do you have the number of locations you have?  How likely is that to change, and why?

134.  Describe the last situation where you were asked for a refund.

135.  Has your industry ever been the subject of a TV show?  How well did the show portray what you do?

136.  How many people feel ashamed or embarrassed at needing what you offer – and why should they not feel that way?

137.  What are some rules that tick off your employees, but you know are necessary for doing good work?

138.  How cutthroat is your industry?  Why?

139.  What crimes are committed by some people in your industry?

140.  Talk about the pros and cons of hiring or buying from the giant in your industry.

141.  What’s the worst advice you’ve heard or read?  Best?

142.  Write the “Complete Guide to ___.”

143.  Do you have a book in you?

144.  What are some unspoken, unwritten rules in your industry?

145.  What’s your opinion of the single most-famous person in your industry?

146.  Describe in the first-person voice the situation your customer is in right before he / she calls you.  Tell a little story.  Show that you know your customers inside and out.

147.  When did you have to take significant time off from work?

148.  How has your reputation changed over the years?

149.  What’s the lifespan of most businesses in your industry?

150.  What do you think will be the next game-changer?

151.  Do people who offer like yours tend to specialize – or do they usually offer many other services?

152.  Let’s say your industry doesn’t get much press, but there was a celebrity who recently drew some attention to it.  Talk about that.

153.  What are the barriers to entry?  What prevents many people from starting a business like yours?

154.  Why are your profit margins as thin or fat as they are?

155.  Open letter to ___.  (Doesn’t need to be a real open letter.)

156.  When have you needed the service you offer?  Who did it for you?

157.  What’s some technology that you started using (for your business) before others did?

158.  What kind of spam plagues your industry?  And how can you tell it’s spam?

159.  What kind of pro bono work is done in your industry?  Have you done any?

160.  What’s the #1 cause of burnout?

161.  What did you learn on the job today?

162.  What’s the etymology of the word that describes your business?  What does it mean in other languages?  (Do other cultures even have it?)

163.  What’s a question for which people just can’t find an answer by searching in Google – and can you answer it?

164.  Post a question you’re researching.  (Give a reason for your readers to try to answer it for you.)

165.  What’s your overhead?

166.  What kind of paperwork do you have to slog through for each job?

167.  What’s a change you made based on what your “feet on the street” told you?

168.  Why do you like your current role more than your “previous life,” in your old job?

169.  Showcase or excerpt a (nice?) testimonial from a customer.  Thank him or her, and then criticize yourself: describe how you could have done a better job.

170.  Is there a public-sector version of your business?  (And how badly does it suck?)

171.  What’s the ideal size of a business like yours?  What’s too small to be helpful, but too large to serve customers well?

172.  What’s the bond between coworkers?  Is it “work together, play together”?  Does the bond mean that your team is a well-oiled machine that’s in a better position to help customers?

173.  Rake some muck.  What’s a company that gave you a raw deal?  (Bonus points: what did you learn?)

174.  Profile a city you serve.  Talk all about the jobs you’ve done there, and what you like about doing jobs there.

175.  Do you hold any patents?

176.  Publish a sequel to one of your best posts.

177.  Is your field of expertise an art or a science?  How right-brain versus left-brain is it?

178.  How old are most people in your position?

179.  Recommend a competitor.  Think of a way to do it genuinely.  (I don’t recommend saying, “Want crappy service?  Go with Jones & Sons.”)  No need to be an altruist: Maybe there’s a service you don’t offer that your competitor does offer – and maybe you’re just sick of being asked about it.

180.  What are all the products your customers tend to buy to remedy the problems you deal with?  Which are good, and which are useless?

181.  What’s an animal (or other organism) that destroys (or creates) your work?

182.  How does the government make life hard for your business (and others like it)?

183.  What’s a fable or piece of mythology (e.g. Greek) that your customers should keep in mind?

184.  What do you keep on your desk?

185.  What are 3 things you’d love to write more about – but know you’ll never get around to?

186.  When were you the low man on the totem pole?  (Bonus points: how you got from there to where you are now.)

187.  What’s your fear?

188.  What are the all the ways businesses in your industry market themselves?

189.  Do you need your team?  Or can you be a one-musician band?

190.  What part of the job simply can’t be taught?  Are there “naturals”?

191.  Mirco-tip.  (As in a few sentences.)

192.  What questions do you have about your industry?

193.  What do you need from your customers?  To what extent do they need to help you help them?

194.  Do a photo collage – like of some recent work you’ve done.  Maybe describe what’s in the collage.

195.  What if you had a chance to redo the worst job you’ve ever done?

196.  What’s an untrue stigma associated with your industry?

197.  Post a job opening – a position you’re looking to fill.

198.  Do a Holiday-themed post.

199.  Quick history lesson.  (Make it relevant to your industry, and to your reader / customer.)

200.  If you took a year-long hiatus from the day-to-day stuff in your business, what would you do?

Still feel like you don’t know what to write about?

What’s the best post you’ve done so far?  Or a post you want to do?

Leave a comment!

100 Practical Ideas for Small-Business Blog Posts

Right now I’d like to nuke the two most-common excuses I hear business owners make for not putting a little of their expertise into blog posts:

Excuse 1: “I don’t have time,” and

Excuse 2: “I don’t know what to write about.”

There are a few good reasons not to want to blog, like having as many customers as you want and not feeling the need to have your website bring you more.  Heck, if you don’t need online visibility at all, more power to you.

Or if you just think blogging is dumb, I won’t try to change your mind.  (‘Course, I’d wonder why you’re reading this in the first place.)

But you probably know exactly why it’s smart to keep a good “small business” blog.  Customers like it, and so does Google.  I’ve mentioned examples.

The trouble is you’re concerned about time.  There’s not enough of it.

It’s true that you don’t have time to stare at the screen and peck away at something that bores and frustrates you.

But if there’s something you want to write, it won’t even be a matter of “finding” the time: You’ll just hammer it out.  Why?  Because it’ll come to you naturally.

It’s the same as when you’re talking: When you know what you’d like to say, you just say it.

So if you have any desire whatsoever to blog for your business, but just feel short on ideas, this one’s for you.

It’s the third part of my unofficial, unintentional trilogy of posts (from this month) about what needs to happen on your site for you to become the big kid on the block.

Not sure of good blog posts you can do?  Here are 100 ideas:

1. Answer a recent question – “mail bag”-style.

2. FAQs.

3. Confess a weakness.

4. Showcase a new “toy” for your business.

5. Profile an employee (new or old).

6. Profile your typical customer – or a handful of common types.

7. Discuss a relevant current event.

8. Rant.

9. Answer fan mail.  (Don’t just be self-congratulatory.)

10. Answer hate-mail.

11. Review a product.

12. Compare multiple products.

13. Explain a law or regulation.

14. Expose a scam.

15. Showcase a job.

16. Interview someone.  (A competitor, a customer, or someone else.)

17. Roundup of others’ posts or resources.

18. Cool photo(s) or video(s).

19. Pose questions to anyone who’s reading – ask for feedback, suggestions, questions.  Get a little conversation going.

20. News in your industry or city.

21. Riff off of a competitor’s post, article, or public statement.

22. Talk about your heroes.

23. Give a rallying cry for a charity.

24. Other than making money and providing good service, what’s your “mission”?

25. How will you know if you’ve succeeded or failed at your “mission”?

26. What’s a book that’s helped your business – and that might help your customer / reader?

27. Is there a disproportionately busy season in your business – and if so, why?

28. Is your work becoming a “lost art” – or are new practitioners (good or bad) popping up left and right?

29. How close are you to your 10,000 hours?

30. Tell a piece of family lore.

31. Describe your training in-detail – and preferably tell a story about it.

32. Commission an artist to draw a comic (that you think of).

33. Tell how your business got its name (assuming it’s an interesting story and not an SEO move).

34. Share a (former) secret.

35. Describe a local / community event you went to.

36. Describe an industry event you went to.

37. Tell the story of how you got into the business you’re in.

38. A wish-list of tools that haven’t been invented for your industry.

39. Describe your hiring process.

40. In what ways are you totally paranoid (in a good way) about safety?

41. Describe regulations you wish there were.

42. Typical conversation between you and ___.

43. How to pick out a ___.

44. Changes you’d love to see in your industry.

45. To what extent are there marketers who specialize in marketing businesses like yours?  What do you think of them?

46. What have you learned in the past year?

47. What’s hard or impossible to know about a job, project, or customer until you start?

48. How did you turn an unhappy customer into a happy one?

49. What are some services you’d like to offer?

50. Complain about a storm or other recent weather event.

51. What’s something about your work that drives you crazy every day?

52. In what ways are some businesses like yours really behind-the-times?

53. When do you refer a customer (or potential customer) to someone else?

54. If you were to retire today, what words of advice would you give your #2?

55. What’s the first thing most potential customers ask you?

56. Open letter.

57. Run a contest.

58. Lessons from __ years in the business.

59. Describe your typical day (or have an employee do it, if his/hers is more interesting).

60. Show internal documents – stuff you use in your organization.

61. Your industry predictions (or speculation).

62. Recap a year.

63. What’s a horror story or “close call”?

64. How you’ve addressed common complaints – your customers’ or just in your industry.

65. Regional differences between businesses in your industry.

66. Myths in your industry.

67. Common misconceptions customers have about your industry.

68. Checklist.

69. Your family-history in the industry.

70. Talk about your technology, equipment, tools, or techniques.

71. If you had to start all over again, what would you do differently?

72. How your customer might justify the short-term costs of your services (to a spouse, employee, or partner).

73. Why, exactly, are your costs higher or lower than others’?

74. Good habits and bad habits of business owners in your industry.

75. Pros and cons of working with a specialist in your industry (whether or not you are one), versus with a “jack of all trades.”

76. Mistakes customers make in choosing a company like yours.

77. Common clean-up jobs: what are messes caused by other companies that you’ve had to remedy?

78. How long do employees stay in companies like yours?  What’s the churn rate?  Why?

79. How does your type of business differ in other countries?

80. Different schools of thought in your industry.  (What’s yours?)

81. Legislation that you support or oppose – and why.

82. Questions you ask your customers (or potential customers).

83. When you turn away a potential customer.

84. Insurance coverage of your services.

85. Financing options for your services.

86. What’s the toughest or easiest part of your work?

87. What do your customers have a hard time doing?

88. Describe your Customer from Hell.

89. Describe your ideal customer.

90. To what extent do customers expect to work with you?  (Or do they think, “Oh, I’ll never need that”?)

91. What’s different between people who’ve been in your industry forever and those just starting out?

92. What part(s) of your character did you have to overcome to become good at your work?

93. What’s a way your customers can barter with you?

94. What’s the best suggestion you’ve ever gotten from a customer?

95. How do you “take your work home” with you?  (Do you talk about it over dinner, do you stay up late reading about it, etc.?)

96. Describe a time you did some public speaking on your industry.

97. What questions do your kids ask you about your work?

98. How has the economy of the last few years affected your industry?

99. Who was the first person in history to do what you do (the “mother” or “father” of your field)?

100. What do you want to accomplish with your blog?

These are not 100 paint-by-numbers suggestions.  Crafting some of these posts will require perspective and know-how that only you can supply.

But if you’ve read through the 100 ideas and still don’t know what to write about…well, then you may have “issues.”

By the way, just as a little party favor, I’ve listed these in a spreadsheet, where you can sort all the ideas by which ones (1) are quick to write, (2) may give you more than one post, and (3) may be ideas you can have someone else in your company write.  This might help you cherry-pick.

I’d also suggest promoting your posts a little, like by applying the suggestions in this great post by Larry Kim.

Go ahead: hammer out a couple of blog posts today, and give your customers (and Google) more reasons to choose you.

(Update) Once you’ve burned through those, check out my 2nd list of 100 ideas.

What are some good post “angles” you’ve read or written (or thought of just now)?  Leave a comment!

21 Pages a “Small Local Business” Site Needs for Tip-Top Local Visibility

What pages on your site can help you snag some better local rankings – and customers?  And do you have those pages on your site?

May seem like basic questions.  But if most of the sites I see are any indication, most business owners haven’t lost sleep over them.

They’ve got a homepage.

There’s a “Contact” page with a phone number on it.  (The number has a typo.)

There’s an “About Us” page that doesn’t identify “us” or anything about “us” but does tell you how great the company is.  Maybe it even has a stock photo of office workers with clip-on ties high-fiving each other.

The better sites might even have a “Services” page, plus maybe a “Testimonials” page with a one-liner from JJ in Chicago and Anna Karenina penned by Martha in Florida.  Now that’s marketing gold.

Let’s put aside the fact that most small-business sites don’t include a good blog or have any way to grow bigger this year than they were last year: The slim number of pages alone makes most sites online paperweights.  If a business is doing OK for customers, it’s despite the site, not because of it.

Fewer pages on your site means there’s less info for visitors to grab onto.  Each page you create is a chance to answer a question a potential customer might be wondering.

And don’t give me that “but people don’t read” hogwash.  They read…when you address their problems and questions.  You want them to have the option of reading more if they want to.

Creating more pages is also a chance to pick up some local-organic rankings, if you play your cards right.  Most sites are so thin that the only page that might – might – rank well in the local results is the homepage.  A meatier site gives you – if nothing else – more opportunities to grab some organic rankings.

Not all of these page-types will apply to your business, but I’m guessing most will.

See if you can create these 21 types of pages on your site:

“Locations” – If you have locations in Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, you might have an “Ohio Locations” page with a short blurb on each of those locations, plus links to pages where you say a little more about each location.  Or you might have a “service areas” page.  Same idea, but you’d be pointing people toward “city pages” for the main cities you serve.

Individual location – You’d have a page for your Cleveland location, a page for your Columbus location, and another one for your Cincinnati location.

“Services” – List all your services, have a blurb on each, and link to a page for each.  Do the same if you offer products, rather than services.

Individual service – The more detail you can give on each service, the better.

“Our Team” or “About Us” – This is a page everyone expects to see.  It’s also one that you can pretty easily optimize: It can be “Our Electricians” or “About Your Surgeons” or “Meet Your Attorneys.”  Here’s an excellent example.

Individual bios – Have a page for each employee, technician, agent, doctor, nurse, lawyer, paralegal, etc.

FAQs – You could have a general FAQ and one (or several) for more-specialized questions.  You could have “Dental Insurance FAQs,” “First-Time Home Buyer FAQs,” “Common Questions on Tankless Water Heaters” – whatever.

Testimonials – Ideally you’d mark them up with Schema or hReview-aggregate.

“In the Media” – Have you been featured in the local paper, or did the local news reporter stick a mic in your face for 15 seconds?  Show or mention it here.

“Community” or “Giving Back” – Describe what you do for charity.  (Do something, if you’re not already.)

Photos – Be sure to name the photos relevantly, and try to include captions.  Don’t overdo it.

Videos – Embed your videos on the page.  See if you can name your page something like “Videos on How to ____.”

Awards or Recognition – It’s fine to mention little stuff until there’s bigger stuff.

Company History – Stick to the story; on other pages you can talk about what makes you great.  If there’s not much of a “history” yet, consider doing a “Values” page.

“Qualifications” or “Certifications” – Same idea as with the “Awards” or “Recognition” page.  Use what you’ve got.

Insurance accepted – If applicable.

Financing – If applicable.

“Why us?”Here’s an example.

Case-study – Describe what you did for a specific customer or client (with his/her permission, of course).  Include pictures if you can.

“Learning Center” – Define relevant, useful, and unavoidable jargon terms you think customers should know.  Explain concepts you’d like your customers to grasp – for their sake and for yours.  Even cannibalize some of your FAQs and use them here.  Here’s an example of a good “learning center.”

“Portfolio” – Most applicable if you’re a contractor, designer of any kind, or consultant.

A late addition, #22: “Coupons” or “Savings” – Thanks to Zac Palmer of Divot Agency for this suggestion (see his comment, below).

By the way, you’ll notice I didn’t mention some common types of pages.  I didn’t mention boilerplate pages like “Contact” or “Privacy Policy,” because those just aren’t going to rank for any search terms, and pretty much every business has one already.

Anyway, back to the action items…

What if you already have those pages on your site?  See how you can beef them up.

What if you like the “minimal” look?  Then get used to minimal rankings and phone calls.  (Or just work on your navigation and menu structure.)

It’s up to you to create the lumps of clay – and yes, that involves writing.

But once you get to the sculpting stage, you’ll want to refer to these handy posts on on-page optimization:

The Anatomy of an Optimal Local Landing Page – Mike Ramsey

Designing Business Location Website Pages: Part One – Single Location Business – Aaron Weiche

Designing Business Location Website Pages, Part 2: Multiple Location Business – Aaron Weiche

Understand and Rock the Google Venice Update – Mike Ramsey

And a few relevant posts from me:

16 Ways to Create Unique “Local” Content for Cities Where You Want to Rank – me

How to Name Your Local Landing Page(s) – me

50 Examples of Title Tags That Rock at Local SEO – me

Maybe the best thing about a bigger, more-detailed site is that it’s a reliable way to get found by local customers even if / when something bad happens to your Google+ Local (or Bing Places) rankings.  Relying on the “maps”-style rankings is just stupid.

While we’re on the topic, I have found that bigger, beefier sites tend to rank better in the Google+ Local (or Bing Places) rankings.  Even when they don’t have many or any links.  Don’t ask me why.  It just seems to work out that way.

March into battle with more weapons.

Can you think of any types of pages that (1) customers want to see and that (2) might actually rank well?  Leave a comment!

16 Ways to Create Unique “Local” Content for Cities Where You Want to Rank

Are you creating pages on your site that target specific cities where you want to rank well in the organic search results for local businesses?

If so, you’d be crazy not to spend a little time making those pages unique – that is, clearly and substantially different from each other.

I’m going to show you a bunch of ways to make your “city pages” unique.  As opposed to having a page for “city1 + keyword,” another page for “city2 + keyword,” etc.

Differentiating your pages will help you avoid (1) possibly being penalized by Google and (2) annoying and repelling your potential customers.

(If you want, you can skip right to my suggestions for how to make your pages unique.  But maybe first you need to get up-to-speed – in which case just read on.)

I’m going to assume three things about your business:

(1) You’re trying to rank for a “boring” service;

(2) You only have one physical location (but also a service area that may encompass many cities/towns), and that

(3) You haven’t been able to think of much to say about the various towns in your service area (other than that you serve customers there).

If any of the above isn’t the case with you, great.  So much the easier for you to make your pages unique.  But I’m working under the assumption that yours is a head-scratcher case, where you just aren’t sure how to make anything but cloned pages.

My suggestions are also applicable if you have multiple physical locations and aren’t sure how you can differentiate your pages (or sites) from each other.

 

Why you might need city pages

Why might you want to go after organic rankings when you can get visible in the classic local search results?  (AKA Google+Local and Bing Places.)

Because sometimes there are towns in which you just can’t rank in the local search results.

Let’s say you’re a contractor located in a little town that’s 15 miles from three bigger cities.  Maybe you rank well in the Google+Local results within 5 miles of your office, but you haven’t been able to rank in the local results in the bigger cities because you’re just a little too far from where the action is.

What do you do?

You create pages on your site that target each of those cities you want to rank in.  Your aim is to snag some rankings in the organic results – the ones for local businesses.

 

Why you need unique city pages

It’s pretty easy to get organic rankings in nearby cities, right?  Just whip together a page, clone it for as many cities as you want to rank in, swap out the city names on each page, and watch those rankings roll in – right?

Maybe you’ve seen clone pages work for your local nemesis.  That schmuck has 25 pages on his site that are nearly identical, with only the city names differing from page to page, and he outranks you.

So why shouldn’t you create a bunch of near-identical “city pages”?  Why not build your very own clone army?  For at least four reasons:

1.  There’s a good chance it won’t work.  After all, you only see the cases where Google doesn’t penalize businesses for putting out a bunch of garbage pages.

2.  Even if it works now, it’s not going to work forever.  Google is slowly but surely getting more teeth with which to penalize sites that are long on “optimization” but short on helpful info.

3.  Even if you get the rankings you want, who says your pages will bring you phone calls?  (For that matter, who says your competitors are making money off their clone pages?)  Your customers aren’t stupid.  They can tell when you’re just paying lip service to their city.

4.  It’s lame.

The good news is it can be quick and easy to make your city pages different from each other – in a way that’s Google-friendly in the long-term and customer-friendly always.

 

16 ways to make your pages unique

Here are all the ways I know of that you can make your city pages unique from each other.  Some of these (probably the first 6) will be obvious to you, whereas you may not have thought of others.

On-page elements

1. Title tags.

2.  Description tags.

3.  Page names.  Don’t have these run too long.  A name with more than 4-5 words may look fishy to Google.

4.  H1s, H2s, etc.

5.  Internal links.  For example, you could link to a blog post you wrote about a job you did in your “target” city.

6.  Outbound links.  You could link to the town’s website, to the site of a charity you support in the town, or to a blog post that someone else wrote that’s relevant to the town and to your services.

Content

7. Write a simple case-study on a job you did in your target city.  (All the credit goes to Matt McGee for this idea.)

8.  Write about what you like about working in your target city, or what you like about its residents.

9.  Write a blurb about any employees of yours from your target city.  Better yet, have them do it.  Just something that shows at least a small (but real) connection to that city.

10.  Write about any local laws or regulations that your potential customers might want to know about.  (Hat tip to Marcus Sheridan of The Sales Lion for this technique.)

11.  Photos.  If you don’t have pictures of jobs you did in your target city, maybe have a picture of a local landmark.  Reflect the “local” subject matter in the names of the photos, and maybe in the alt tags and title attributes.

12.  Videos.  Each city page can have a different video.  Assuming you’re the one who created the videos, you can include in your YouTube descriptions a link to your city page, and you can geotag the video.

13.  Testimonials.  Mention the city of the customers who wrote them.  Depending on what your business is and how close you are with your customers, you might also be able to weave in relevant photos (e.g. “Fred’s front yard” or “Before-and-after of Sara’s smile”).

14.  Rich snippets.  You can mark up customers’ testimonials with Schema or hReview, so as to get those nice review stars to show up in the search results.

15.  Offers or giveaways that are tailored toward the residents of your target city.  Depending on how you approach it, this might also help you to track leads / conversions.

16. Make some Google “My Maps.”  See if you can make a few custom maps that potential customers might find handy.

 

Examples of good city pages

LandscapeGuys.com/white-bear-lake-landscaping.htm
(see search results here)

AttaboyPlumbing.com
(look under “About” tab)

(Note: I’ve worked with both of the above companies; I’ve done some consulting for Attaboy Plumbing, and Palumbo Landscaping is a long-time client.)

 

Great resources

(If you don’t read anything else, at least be sure to read the first two posts.)

Understand and Rock the Google Venice Update – Mike Ramsey

How to Create Local Content for Multiple Cities – Matt McGee

The Anatomy of an Optimal Local Landing Page – Mike Ramsey

The #1 Problem with Local Blogging – Matt McGee

The Nitty Gritty of City Landing Pages for Local Businesses – Miriam Ellis

Matt Cutts and Eric Talk about What Makes a Quality Site – Eric Enge

Guidelines on duplicate content – Google

Policies on keyword-stuffing – Google

Do you have any tips on how to make pages unique?

Any really good examples of city pages?

Any city-page woes that make you sing the blues?

Leave a comment!