In the recent years , Google has been taking giant steps to make the web a better place for internet surfers and a hell for web spammers. In their latest step forward, Google is reportedly planning to introduce some changes in the ranking algorithm for doorway pages.
Doorway Pages are, in Google’s own words, “created solely for search engines can harm the quality of the user’s search experience.” Local landing pages often use multiple doorway pages to increase their website’s search footprint. This translates to a very frustrating search experience for users especially when they keep on getting links to pages that are of very low quality and do not provide any substantial information. Google doesn’t want that to happen anymore and that is why they are planning to change the way they rank local landing pages.
What is a Local Landing Page?
Let’s say you own a chain of restaurants across the country in four different cities – New York, Los Angeles, Houston and Washington DC. Now a user sitting in a New York suburb wants to have a tasty burger for dinner, so he quickly opens Google and types in “ Tasty burger in New York”. A list of restaurants and fast food joint opens up and the user decides to click on the result that displays your website. As soon as the link is clicked, the user is taken to a web page that has the contact details of your restaurant’s New York branch along with photos and other snapshots of people enjoying their food as well as their reviews and testimonials. This web page is what SEO professionals call a “Local Landing Page”. In fact, this is an example of very high quality landing page. More on quality, later.
How Things Currently Stand?
Having separate landing pages custom tailored for different regions or locations makes a user’s journey very easy and comfortable. But it also requires a bit ‘more’ on the website admin’s part. So in order to save time and resources, most websites use a cookie cutter version of a landing page and just swap the name of the location and other geographical details without actually tailoring the content for a different locale.
Also sometimes websites use a ‘funnel’ that usually aims to take the visitor to a specific web page on the website by the false promise of detailed information on the target page.
These practices lead to location-specific landing pages that bring no value to the website and often fail to satiate the curiousity of the web surfer. This is exactly what Google doesn’t want.
Google has created the below checklist to identify such doorway pages. A page is a doorway page if:
a) targeting multiple regions or cities (and usually way too many)
b) pages exist to funnel users to the main part of the site
c) substantially similar content on all pages
To summarize, the best practice would be to create landing pages for only the most important location for your business. Pay special attention to the fact that each local landing page has unique location specific content. Make sure that each local landing is accessible via navigatin links on the website. And lastly, be minful of the fact that each local landing page is information rich and can provide answer to most comon user queries.
What Google Wants?
Now that you know what Google is after with their latest algorithmic update, you must be wondering how must a good local landing page must look like according to Google. Well, a high quality local landing page must have these factors.
1) URL Structure
Google places special importance on how the URL of a local landing page looks. It must make sense to both the search engine crawler as well as to the human users. The complexity of a URL depends upon the kind of liocation who have you chosen for landing pages. If you have locations that belong to the same larger city area, then the URL must be structured in a way to depict the parent-child-sibling relaionship between the locations.
An bunch of ideal local landing page URLs would look something like:
2) Navigation and Internal Linking
A visitor on your website must be able to navigate to various local landing pages using the browser heirarchy. Breadcrumbs can come handy in order to let users locate specific location pages. Or you can also use drop down menus titled “Areas Covered” or “Locations” to allow users to visit various local landing pages.
1) Large City 1
1.1) City Name 1
1.2) City Name 2
2) Large City 2
2.1) City Name 1
2.2) City Name 2
3) Keyword Variation
Although keywords play a less important role in local landing pages than in Organic SEO but they should certainly not be ignored. Google places a lot of importance on intent and semantic value, so choose a keyword that describes what you do and where you do it. Keep your keywords descriptive but without making them long tail. A good example would be :
Local Electrician in Brooklyn – ABC Electricians
4) Google My Business Listing
After optimizing your local landing pages and your website’s structure, the next thing that you should focus on is listing your business on Google My Business listing. Make sure each local branch of yours has a Google My Business listing as this is the data Google uses and trusts the most. It is wise decision to work on this listing and making it as informative as possible using photos, descriptions and other branding information.
All the above points are akin to candle in the wind if you don’t have the content to back your local landing page’s URL structure or keyword selection. In the end, Google wants a web page to ultimately provide users with the answers they were looking for. This means that you local landing page might have all the bells and the whistles but Google still won’t prefer it if a users cannot find your local business’ address on that page. So make sure that your local landing page provide ample information about your local business.
In order to ensure that the content on your landing page is unique, you can use this checklist.
a) A unique description helps in setting your local landing page apart as well as providing the visitors with some tailored information about your local business.
b) Customer Reviews and Testimonials can not only provide your local business with some positive branding but they are also very helpful in providing the search engines rich snippets of keywords.
c) Photos and Videos give a warm personal touch to your local landing page and can also help in building local relevance via YouTube.
Other factors such as Parking details, Reputed clients, Case studies etc make a local landing page informative as well as covers a broad range of topics your customers might be looking for which is exactly what Google is looking for in a local landing page.