The ability to have local customers find local companies through Google search engines is critical to the success of many small businesses. Many of our clients are seeking to determine what it takes to increase local ranking within search engines.
We have seen Google begin to rely on social media factors when weighing a sites local worth such as Google+ local reviews. These social media signals are becoming an ever stronger indicator of local search engine success. In a recent interview Eric Enge got Matt Cutts to give some other insights into best practices when it comes to gaining local ranking. Matt is the leader of Google’s webspam team, and a major force in SERPs and local ranking:
Eric Enge: I would like to review an example scenario with you. I often use this in my presentations on SEO. The scenario is one where a user searches on “frogs”. The first result looks promising, so they click on it, and they get something that looks like this:
“Here is some info on Frogs:
Frogs are green
Frogs live in water
Frogs like to jump
Frogs are not toads”
However, they don’t see what they want, and they return to the search results and they click on the second result. Here is what they get:
“Frogs are interesting creatures partly because they are green. Many people do not realize that they are not toads. Frogs like to jump and live in water.”
The resulting page isn’t a duplicate of the first, but the information provided is the same. So they go back and click on the third result and get yet another non-duplicate page that still does not have what they want. At this point, they’re very frustrated. It turns out the information they’re looking for is what frogs eat, and they’re not finding the information they’re looking for.
The reason I use this example is I am trying to show clients that being non-duplicate is not enough, and they need to do more to expect to rank in the search results.
Matt Cutts: That’s absolutely right. Those other sites are not bringing additional value. While they’re not duplicates they bring nothing new to the table. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with what these people have done, but they should not expect this type of content to rank.
Google would seek to detect that there is no real differentiation between these results and show only one of them so we could offer users different types of sites in the other search results.
Eric Enge: Of course, one thing that make one of these sites a bit different is if it represent Jane’s opinion about frogs.
Matt Cutts: It might make it different, but that may not be enough. Without meaning any offense to Jane, but if Jane is just churning out 500 words about a topic where she doesn’t have any background, experience or expertise, a searcher might not be as interested in her opinion. In the case of movies, for example, a lot of people care about Roger Ebert’s opinion so that is an example where a person’s opinion could be of great interest.
Unique Content for Different Locations Helps Increase Local Ranking
Eric Enge: Let’s switch gears a bit. Let’s talk about a pizza business with stores in 60 cities. When they build their site, they create pages for each city.
Matt Cutts: Where people get into trouble here is that they fill these pages with the exact same content on each page. “Our handcrafted pizza is lovingly made with the same methods we have been using for more than 50 years …”, and they’ll repeat the same information for 6 or 7 paragraphs, and it’s not necessary. That information would be great on a top-level page somewhere on the site, but repeating it on all those pages does not look good. If users see this on multiple pages on the site they aren’t likely to like it either.
Eric Enge: I think what site owners may argue is that if someone comes in from a search engine and lands on the Chicago page, and that is the only page they see on the site, they want to make their best pitch on that page. That user is also unlikely to also go visit the site’s Austin pizza page.
Matt Cutts: It is still not a good idea to repeat a ton of content over and over again.
Eric Enge: What should they put on those pages then?
Matt Cutts: In addition to address and contact information, 2 or 3 sentences about what is unique to that location and they should be fine.
Eric Enge: That won’t be seen as thin content?
Matt Cutts: No, something like that should be fine. In a related situation, I had a writer approach me recently and ask me a question. He has this series of articles he provides to gyms that own websites. He wanted to know if there was a limit to how many times he could provide the same content to different gyms, yet still have it be useful from a search perspective for his customers. Would it be helpful, for example, if he kept on rewriting it in various ways.
It gets back to your frog site example. The value add disappears. Imagine 4 gyms in the same small city all offering exactly the same advice. Even before you get to what search engines think, users aren’t going to understand what the difference is between these 4 places. As a user, after reading your content, why would I pick one over the other? For search engines, it’s the same challenge.
Find a way to differentiate and stand out, so that people want to try your product or service and see what they think. When they try it, give them something outstanding and earn yourself a customer.
You can read the entire interview on local ranking with Google between Eric and Matt on the Stone Temple Consulting website.