Writing by Nick Stamoulis in Internet Marketing
I was recently doing keyword research for a new SEO client when I came across about 15 pages buried fairly deep in their navigation (so deep that I almost missed them!) that were obviously created to target hyper local keywords. For instance, it would be like if the Brick Marketing website had a bunch of pages that individually targeted “Boston SEO,” “Cambridge SEO,” “Woburn SEO,” “Watertown SEO,” “Brookline SEO,” and so forth. Each page was clearly written and designed to help my client’s site rank well for hyper local keywords in various cities in the state they operate out of. While I understand what they were trying to do, practices like this can actually hurt your SEO more than help. When it comes to hyper local keywords and city specific pages, it’s sometimes best to use them as landing pages for your PPC campaigns.
The biggest problem my client has is that these city specific pages are all essentially the same piece of content; the city name has just been changed as needed. This kind of thin content is asking to get caught in the Panda filter; it’s content that is clearly designed to rank for a specific keyword and it’s not unique enough to stand on its own, an organic SEO no-no. While targeting hyper local keywords is a good idea from some businesses, my client had taken it too far and was encroaching on the spammy side of local SEO.
Instead of trying to get these pages to rank organically, I recommended that my client add a robots txt file to the pages so Google would actually deindex them. That way they wouldn’t have to worry about a duplicate content or Panda penalty. Instead, the city specific pages would make great landing pages for my client’s PPC campaigns. Since a large percentage of their traffic comes from PPC ads anyway, targeting hyper local keywords and defining each campaign to only target searchers in the respective city was a great way to target their exact audience. Since the pages were already built and optimized for each city, they could easily be turned into landing pages.
Creating city specific pages and using hyper local keywords is something I’ve seen many small businesses, especially service-based businesses like plumbers, painters or contractors do. In their attempts to broaden their customer base, which helps grow and sustain their business, they often overdo their local SEO program and create a dozen pages for all the cities in their area that they want to do business in. I’ve also seen some businesses stuff city names and zip codes into their footer in an attempt to target more hyper local keywords. This ultimately comes across as spammy and can impact the user experience on your site, not to mention your SEO if you get flagged by Google for web spam (targeted by the Penguin update).