For many local businesses, organic search traffic is their strongest source of leads.
Ranking well for keywords that have strong intent can relieve a lot of pressure for business owners as it relates to marketing and sales.
But as is the case with any good source of leads, it’s never easy and there is always work involved. When you start trying to rank in multiple cities, it gets even more difficult.
So how do you rank in multiple cities?
With really good on-page and off-page SEO.
We’re going to dive in and address the specifics around how to rank in multiple cities.
How To Rank In Google In Multiple Cities
There are two areas (three if you count paid traffic) where you can show up in the search results if you’re a local business. Let’s use the term “eye doctor” in San Marcos Texas as an example.
As you can see as I scroll down the first results are the local pack and then the fourth result down is the organic search results.
You may have also noticed that #1 for both the local results and the organic results are the same business. That particular business is soaking up close to half of all available clicks.
You may also have noticed that, that is a local mom and pop business and the competitors are multi store optometrists.
This is one advantage smaller, truly local businesses have – they’re often more relevant compared to a larger franchise or national brand with dozens of stores across the country.
But we’re not here to talk about ranking in just one city. We want to rank in Austin AND San Marcos.
The Two Types of Businesses That Can Rank In Multiple Cities
If you run an e-commerce store, you don’t really need to worry about individual cities. If you rank well in Atlanta selling heart necklaces, you’re going to rank well in Phoenix. That’s how the search results work.
Some searches are city or region specific, others are national.
The two types of businesses where you can leverage ranking in multiple cities are:
- Service based business where you cover an area. Example: a moving company who operates out of San Marcos but also services New Braunfels.
- A local store who operate locations in multiple cities. Example: an optometrist who has a store front in San Marcos and in New Braunfels.
We only want to rank in cities that make sense. If you’re a moving company out of Austin, TX and you don’t service New Braunfels ranking for New Braunfels Moving Company is a waste of effort.
Same goes for the optometrist. If you don’t have a location in New Braunfels, you’re better off allocating resources to ranking well in San Marcos.
Assuming that you do service the area or have a store front in that city the question becomes how do we rank for multiple cities?
With location / city landing pages and Google Business Profile.
Lets start with city landing pages.
What Are City Landing Pages? How to Rank for Organic Search Results
Earlier in this article I showed you the two areas that you can rank the local pack and the organic search results.
City landing pages are designed to help you rank in the organic search results. You do NOT need a physical address or location to rank organically for a keyword in a specific city.
A city landing page is a service page that is specific to a city or region. For example, if you were a mover and you serviced major cities throughout Texas you may have a page for Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Houston etc.
Once again, I reiterate you do not NEED an office in all of those cities to set up a location page in each. It certainly helps but it’s not vital.
Here is an example of a city landing page for a short term rental company we work with.
What Makes a Successful City Landing Page?
Keyword research, unique content, on-page optimization and links.
Keyword Research to Rank In Multiple Cities
Performing adequate keyword research will ensure you’re selecting the right regions or cities to target. The first step is understanding how broadly you want to target.
Let me use Massage Therapy and my city, Calgary, AB as an example.
Massage Therapy Calgary is searched 3600/month. It is relatively competitive, so you may decide that you want to drill down further.
Massage Therapy NW Calgary. 250 searches per month but much easier.
NW is a large quadrant of the city.
You can drill down even further…
Massage Therapy Marda Loop. 10 searches per month and even easier.
How far you drill down is going to be a function of a few variables: how competitive is the search term and how many times per month is that search term used?
Now let’s imagine your company has locations in Airdrie, Edmonton and Calgary.
You’re going to want to create three city pages, one for each location.
Airdrie is a suburb and you may opt to simply target “Massage Therapy Airdrie”. With Edmonton and Calgary you may opt to choose particular regions, areas or neighborhoods to target those city pages.
Unique Content to Rank Multiple City Pages
Most businesses write content for one city landing page and then simply replace the name of the city and use it across the rest of the cities they serve.
This is the wrong way to do it.
There are plenty of great examples of sites that have done a nice job finding creative ways to create unique content. But if you’re stuck here are a few that can get you started.
- User generated content (UGC) is often the easiest way to create content without having to actually write the content yourself (usually reviews for local businesses). Use different reviews on city landing pages.
One tip: don’t use images to display your user generated content. We want the UGC to be text if at all possible. If your UGC is in video format consider pulling a few lines out of the video and including it as text.
- Rewrite existing content. You don’t need to write entirely unique content on each page. Rewriting the content or restructuring the page so the text is differentiated is often enough.
- Add employee bios. If you have employees who service a particular area consider adding their bios to that city landing page.
- Write (relevant) content about the city or region. Going back to our moving company – writing about the area, what makes it unique and why locals love it is perfectly relevant content.
If you were an HVAC company you might choose to highlight the temperature ranges in a certain region and tie that into heating and cooling services.
- Write a description of a cities office or location. Using our massage therapy example each office is going to be unique. How many sq ft? How many staff members? What other services do you provide at each location?
- Nearby cities or suburbs. If there are suburbs within the area you can include those or if there are smaller cities that may not warrant a dedicated city landing page you can
How Do You Optimize for City Landing Pages?
- Unique Content
The first part of optimizing a city landing page is ensuring you have (relatively) unique content on each one of these pages. The next important step that we want to cover is word count.
- Word Count
You want to ensure your word count is in line with what Google currently ranks on its first page.
To do this you can use a tool like Surfer SEO which will give you the average word count of the top 10 sites. Or you can do this manually with a free chrome plugin like word counter plus.
Using SurferSEO we can see that the average word count is between 600-1300 words for Airdrie Massage Therapy.
Once you’ve added unique content and word count the other elements we’ll want to consider:
For our Airdrie massage therapy example we would use the term: /Airdrie-massage-therapy. For our Calgary location we could use /Calgary-NW-Massage-Therapy
- H1 Tag
The most important element on any page is the H1 tag. This should match your keyword ie:
Airdrie Massage Therapy
Calgary NW Massage Therapy
Edmonton Massage Therapy
For SMBs do not get cute with your H1 tag. Keep it simple target your primary keyword.
- SEO Title
Your SEO Title is what shows up in the search engine. It should include your keyword eg: Airdrie Massage Therapy and you can append your company name to the end.
Keep in mind it needs to be 50-60 characters.
- Meta description
Include your keyword in the meta description as Google will bold the keyword in question. Aside from including the keyword once you want to write a meta description that attracts clicks.
- Internal Links
Make sure to include internal links from your city pages and linking back to your city pages.
- Include NAP
NAP stands for Name, Address and Phone number. If you have the luxury of having unique addresses or store fronts in different cities you absolutely want to make sure you include those.
I would recommend including the NAP in the body of the content AND in the footer. You should also include a Google Map in the body of the content even if it’s simply a pin drop in the middle of the city (ie: you service the area, but you do not have a location).
- Site speed & mobile optimized
These are really site wide issues but they’re worth touching on. Your site needs to be mobile optimized. No tricks or hacks here – just have a good mobile site.
SEO’s talk WAY too much about site speed in my opinion. It’s table stakes.
Your site needs to be reasonably fast sub 1s is excellent. Anything sub 2s is a passing grade. Don’t overthink it. You can use a tool like GTmetrix to test your site speed.
Building Links for City Pages
Link building deserves its own article so I won’t waste too much time explaining it here. But here is the “short” version.
When you’re building links for any website you want to start with a link audit of both your site and the competitor sites. You want to make an inventory of quality links and DR.
What do I mean by quality links? Do-follow links that aren’t low quality directories, spammy PBN links, foreign links or web 2.0 links.
This is a quick video where I do a quick audit of throw away vs. high quality links.
Once you’ve determined how many links each competitor has you can then make a plan to overtake those competitors.
This usually is some combination of local links (news articles, local awards, local business groups, charities you support etc.), guest posts, link insertions and directories.
What Are Google Business Profile Pages? How to Rank in the Local SEO Map Pack
The best real estate on page 1 for local search terms is the local SEO map pack. This sometimes is referred to as the map pack, local pack or snack pack.
Maybe I’m the only one who calls it a snack pack?
So how do you rank in multiple cities in the local SEO map pack? With multiple locations of course.
Before I proceed it’s worth mentioning Google works hard to make sure “offices” are legit. They don’t want businesses setting up PO boxes all over the country to abuse local SEO map packs.
That said, you don’t always have to have a real office in a given city but you do need a real address that you can receive mail to.
You can interpret this however you like.
Assuming you’ve already signed up for one location the process to add another is identical. In Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) you add a business, add the address and request the postcard.
You want to fill in as much information as possible. Operating hours, website, description, images, your category etc.
Assuming you’ve done a good job filling out your Google Business Profile there are four core ranking factors that really move the needle.
Google uses the users location data to deliver the most relevant results. If you own a pizza shop and someone searches “pizza shop” a block from your location there is a higher probability your store will show up over the store 20 minutes away.
Build out a workflow to generate Google reviews. Incentive employees and ask everyone. They don’t need to be clients they can be anyone you interact with through your business.
You want to build reviews to all of your locations.
We talked about links above so we won’t cover this again. Links to your website matter for local SEO snack pack rankings
Citations are anywhere your business shows up on the web with a name, address and phone number. Yelp is a citation, Facebook is a citation, Google Business Page – you guess it a citation.
The critical part of citations is ensuring that your NAP information is consistent and matches.
TLDR A Summary of How to Rank in Google in Multiple Cities
This article contains a lot of information so you’re forgiven if you can’t remember what you read in the first few paragraphs.
- There are two areas you can focus on ranking: local SEO map pack and organic search results.
- Organic search results require individual city landing pages like this. They do not require you to have a physical address in that area.
- Create unique content for every city landing page you want to setup
- Optimize each landing page
- Build links. These help both your city landing page and your Google Business Profile page.
- Local map pack listings require a Google Business Profile page in that city or area to rank.
- You can have multiple Google Business Profile pages as long as you have multiple real addresses
- Include as much information as possible on your Google Business Profile page
- Proximity is a big rank factor.
- Generate reviews and citations.
Can you rank high on Google with a small website?
The short answer is yes. The long answer is it depends. You need target attainable keywords if you have a small site. If you’re referring to local keywords having your primary location in that specific city or town is very beneficial for both the organic results and local SEO results
I currently have a website that is ranked for a city and appears number 1 on searches for my main keywords. How do I add another city to the site?
Have your web developer (or us) add a new page targeting a new city. Follow the guide above to optimize that page. Conduct proper keyword research, optimize the page well and build links to that page.
How do I set up Google my business for local SEO?
To setup a Google My Business (now called Google Business Page) visit this URL and sign into Google. Click add a business and follow the steps. You will need an address you can receive mail to, to verify. Google also won’t accept a PO box. If you’re a service business that services a particular area you can get your business verified without an address.