We recently cohosted a webinar with our friends at SEMrush where we delved into how companies focused on local SEO can earn huge traffic and leads by creating high-quality city pages.
In case you missed it, here’s a link to the slides and recording.
I had a great time chatting with Krista about this topic and seeing firsthand how SEMrush’s suite of tools can support a great city page program with keyword research, topic and question discovery and local rank tracking.
Be sure to check out the replay if you’re looking for help with those areas, or send Krista a note.
The live chat was pretty lively for this webinar, and we were asked some really great questions.
I answered the questions that came up during the webinar, but I feel that many of them deserve more in-depth information.
With that in mind, here are the top questions I was asked along with some more detailed responses.
Google likes fresh content. What do you add to the city pages to make them fresh?
This is a great question, as freshness is an important ranking factor with Google. If you’re creating and managing a large number of city pages, keeping their content fresh could be a challenge.
The way I see this, there are two main ways you can keep fresh content on your pages:
Dynamic content can be a lot easier to manage, as it shouldn’t require you to spend any time creating it. This can include things such as user-generated content (reviews, questions and answers, etc), product or data feeds (MLS listings, event feeds, etc) and even social media feeds.
The beauty in this type of content is that it’s always updating. You can’t get much fresher than that.
The downside is you might not always have control over it. If there’s a risk of bad content being published, you might need to jump in and curate the content. These elements typically represent a small portion of your page’s overall content, so the bulk of your page would still be static.
What we see most of our clients do is develop a schedule for manually refreshing all of their city page content. One partner has a list of 300 city pages that they constantly refresh, starting over once they’ve finished a cycle.
If you get into a regular routine and have the resources to manage and stick to it, freshness should be easy for you.
Here are the main reasons we see companies refreshing their content:
- Seasonality: Getting fresh content in advance of the holiday season, for example, is a good way to boost search rankings and connect with users.
- Business changes: If you change how you operate in a city, it’s important your copy is updated.
- Local changes: Sometimes the environment you operate in changes, so it’s also important to refresh your content to reflect that.
- SEO driven: This is probably the biggest reason, but clients tend to refresh pages when its SEO performance calls for it. If rankings slip or new competitors emerge with better content, it might be time to improve your content.
If you’d like more info on creating fresh content for city pages, be sure to check out our ebook.
Is Schema markup useful with city pages?
Google uses schema markup to find relevant content that it can include in featured snippets. With city pages, this often shows up with your page’s content being included in their Instant Answers and People Also Ask sections.
Say I was considering a trip to Iceland and searched for “What type of car to rent in Iceland?”
This is what I’d see at the top of Google results (beneath the ads):
You can see the Instant Answer points to a page created to answer questions like this. You can also check out the Instant Answers from Iceland Like a Local and Frommers . If you click through to those pages, you can see that they’ve set up schema, which makes them more likely to get picked for these featured snippets.
Note: I used the OpenLink Structured Data Sniffer (OSDS) to look at these pages. Doing this, you can see what types of schema markup your competitors are using. SEMrush can also help you identify competitors using schema.
While schema can help you get selected for Google’s featured snippets, you do need to have high-quality content that will deliver a great result to searchers who see the snippet.
In the case of the People Also Ask section, you need to have great answers to those questions. Adding an FAQ section to your page is a good way to present this content in an easy-to-read manner that also makes it easy for Google to pull your content.
You probably know what a lot of these FAQs are, but as I mentioned on the webinar, often you’ll discover long-tail keywords when doing your keyword research that are actually questions you can answer on your page. If you do this, you’ll help your chances for getting featured in a snippet and create more semantically complete content that delivers a better user experience, which on its own can lift all your search rankings.
Tip: Krista actually highlighted how SEMrush’s keyword research tools can surface questions for you, which makes for great content on your pages.
Can you get covered if you are in a suburb?
Yep, but you want to approach how you present information about suburbs with caution.
If you have great locally relevant content for the suburb that visitors would be looking for and is more useful than getting generic corporate info, you’re probably safe to create a suburb page of its own.
You’ll also want to do some keyword research to determine if there is sufficient search volume to make it worth your time. What I’ve seen is that many suburbs don’t have search terms with enough search volume to make creating a page for it worth your while. If this is the case, searchers might be looking for your services in the main metro, and you might want to focus on ranking for terms at the metro level.
Including sections about each suburb on the main metro’s page can actually beef up the content of that page, make it more semantically complete and more likely to rank well.
You might still create city pages if there’s a bigger business case for doing so. If you have locations in multiple suburbs, you might want them to each present their unique info and make it so that visitors to your site can navigate to their closest location.
How do you handle “surrounding cities” when our service area isn’t just the current city but other cities? We do not have locations in other cities.
This question is similar to the one above. I mentioned this on the webinar, but if you provide services in surrounding cities but don’t have physical locations there (hence are not eligible for a GMB account or inclusion in the Local Pack), city pages can get you ranked for valuable local search terms from those surrounding cities.
Make sure you can reasonably provide services to those cities, and if you can, go ahead and create a city page for them — as long as there’s enough search volume to make it worth your while.
Does content length matter? I was once advised to aim for 2,500 words with my keywords intermixed throughout, but I found this to be content overload for my users
It does matter.
But, it’s not a simple answer, and I would never throw out a ballpark number to hit with every page. There are a few factors you should look into:
- How many words do you need to write to solve the searcher intent you found doing your keyword research and create semantically diverse content?
- How long is your competitors’ content? You’ll likely want to write more than them (and solve searcher intent better). Check out SEMrush’s SEO Content Template to get detailed analysis on your competitors’ pages
- How much content can you fit into your page’s design without overwhelming visitors?
If you answer all these questions, you should get a sense of how long your content should be.
Creating comprehensive content that fits nicely into a design template is incredibly effective.
How do you pass authority to these city pages from the main site? For example, do you just link to the main overall Locations page, which then links to all the town/city pages?
That’s probably the easiest and most effective way of doing it. This also makes it simple for your visitors to find the city pages they’re interested in and switch between locations.
If you have a smaller volume of pages, you might also consider creating fresh content on your blog or news section that covers topics unique to each city, and then link back to the associated city page. We do see many clients doing this, but it can be a bit of work.
Many companies will also tie their local SEO programs in with these city pages by linking directly to the city page from the associated local directory and GMB profiles.
When you say navigation, is the sitemap enough, or do you need it in the menu or just a link from a landing page?
I don’t think the sitemap alone would be enough for these pages. It’s really important to remember that you should only be creating city pages if you can present unique, locally relevant info to your visitors. If you can, you should make it easy for them to access that info, which means it should be a prominent part of your navigation.
Just including them in your sitemap might also run the risk of Google considering your pages Doorway Pages.
When identifying Doorway Pages, Google looks at a few things that might cause problems here:
- Is the page a part of the site’s navigation?
- Does the page exist only to rank for search traffic?
- Do the pages all funnel visitors to an actual page with value?
What are the different actions we can take to land in the local pack versus organic results?
This webinar focused mostly on getting ranked in the organic results, as does our ebook. At a high level, a good city page program can help you get ranked in organic results for city specific search terms for your locations or areas you serve.
Getting found in the local pack is the focus of local SEO at large. SEMrush has some great local SEO resources, and I’d really suggest diving into those.
Do you recommend creating town or area pages in addition to city pages?
I can’t say that would be a good strategy for every business, but I think it comes down to two main questions you need to ask:
- Do I provide uniquely local services at the town or area level such that users will find local info valuable?
- Is there sufficient search traffic for search terms that these pages could try to rank for?
If the answer to both questions is yes, you might consider going to the town, area or neighborhood level with your local pages.
Creating the content for these would be much the same as what we presented on the webinar and in the ebook.
There are actually some cool things if you do this. If you’re familiar with Hubspot’s Topic Clusters model for SEO, you can treat the city page as your pillar, and then the smaller locations become cluster items that support the city page.
Do you usually add the state to the city page URL or H1?
This can be valuable, but you’d want to consider what you’re trying to optimize for and what your overall local page structure looks like.
Again, I’d look at the keyword research to see what the search volumes are for the locations you’re targeting. If a lot of the search terms include state, this could be a really good idea. A lot of our clients do this.
Many clients also create state pages, which then link down to each city page that state includes. If you opt for a setup like that, you’d want to make sure you don’t end up cannibalizing the state page’s targeted keywords.
These were the top questions we were asked that I felt warranted more detailed answers. If you have any other questions about city pages, be sure to get in touch, and I’d be happy to chat.