How to Rank in Cities Where you Don’t Have an Address
Last Updated: April 28, 2021 (Originally Published – June 28, 2017)
As a local business or service area business it is very common to want to rank for a neighbouring city in search results. While you may never be able to show up in local pack results (because you can’t get a GMB listing in a city you don’t have an address in), it is possible to achieve top rankings in the local organic results.
Just in case you’re not sure what the difference is between local pack and local organic results, here you go:
Targeting local organic results for areas you serve outside of your current location requires creating well thought out and planned city landing pages. If you invest time and energy into building an awesome, informative, and relevant page, then you have the chance to earn solid traffic and drive leads without having to open a physical location in these cities.
The city page strategy is nothing new, however, it is often overlooked, or is executed poorly by some businesses (and consultants), which can lead to underwhelming results. In light of this we’ve decided to put together a list of ways to help you improve and create awesome city pages.
What you need to know about city pages
A city page is similar to any other location landing page, except that they don’t have a physical business address in the desired ranking city. But, both of these types of landing pages require the same basic principles and elements.
City pages are ideal for:
- A business that has only one location but serves clients in surrounding cities.
- Service area businesses that don’t have a physical location and come to clients located in multiple cities.
- Any other business wanting to earn rankings in cities that they don’t have an address in.
Elements For Making an Exceptional City Page
If you are targeting another city for local organic results then you will need the following onsite elements at bare minimum:
Proper Title Tags
We suggest incorporating the city location plus surrounding localities, top keywords, and business name in each page’s title tag. Don’t limit your title tags to the “SEO recommended” standard of 50 – 60 characters, even though a title tag longer than this creates an elipsis (…) in search results, everything behind that ellipsis is driving relevance in search.
Examples: Top Keywords + City + Localities – Your Business Name or Top Keywords + City + Localities – Compelling Content
We recently covered how to write Title Tags for Local SEO: Increase Your Local Traffic and Click Through Rate, check out this video as we take a closer look at the art of creating title tags.
Create a description for the user that best describes your business and services. Don’t stuff this with keywords. Instead, say something that might compel a user to click. Try to keep the length to 160 characters so your text doesn’t get cut off in search results.
Page Name & URL Structure
It’s accepted industry practice to use your top keyword and city name for your page name and URL. Especially since it does have benefits from an SEO perspective. Some would argue that it may also have click-through benefits and attract visitors.
If you’re going with the City Name + Keyword, be sure to use only one keyword that best represents what your business does. Don’t go crazy and spam the URL.
Local SEO Benefits – www.CompanyName..com/decatur-cosmetic-dentist
*Personally, if I were creating 15+ city pages then I would err on the side of caution and keep the page name and URL simple by using just the target city. This, however; is my own preferences for having simple and clean URLs.
My Preference – www.CompanyName..com/decatur
Particularly if you have a nice chunk of content on your page, headings can help users parse the text. It never hurts to thoughtfully optimize your headings, too. But again, no need to stuff them with keyword spam.
It is good practice to have prominent and logical internal linking on your website. Make sure to connect relevant internal pages that already exist on your site to the new city page. Internal links can pass value to the new page by sharing their existing ranking power. They also help create relevance by linking to related topics that add value to the user.
For instance, if you are showcasing your services and completed projects on your page, it makes perfect sense to include a link to any existing projects page that goes into greater details about the work completed in that city. If you have any blog content that is specific to that city which is helpful to visitors, then you would want to link to that too. Link to any service pages that go into further depth about the services or products you are offering in that city.
Also keep in mind that linking from within the content of appropriate pages on your site is generally more valuable than linking from your navigation or footer (although, linking from your navigation is still usually a good idea).
This is a no! Don’t do it:
Linking out to websites that make sense with your services and the locale you are targeting can help you provide prospective customers with valuable and informative resources, and create a connection to the city you want to earn organic rankings for.
For instance, let’s say you provide lawn maintenance services in Edmonton and your company chooses to “go bagless” for environmental and lawn health. Linking to the city’s resource that promotes this initiative may provide your visitors with a helpful resource and creates a relevant connection.
Don’t forget to incorporate your city pages into your navigation. They should be easy to find and not hidden; if you have multiple target cities it could make sense to include an “Areas We Serve” in your main navigation or create sub-pages under your “Contact Us” page.
Landing pages that are not properly integrated give off a spam feel, and could be considered by search engines as “Doorway Pages” which are pages that target specific keywords and have been created to get visitors to another page on a website. Doorway Pages often have duplicated content on them, are keyword stuffed, and have an excessive amount of links on the page. These types of pages violate Google’s quality guidelines and are considered a big no, no. But since you’re about to create top-notch unique content this isn’t something you need to worry about!
Create Unique and Engaging Content
Creating unique content for city pages is usually the biggest challenge for consultants and business owners. The content on the page should be interesting, informative, engaging, and relevant. Having repetitive content or following a cookie-cutter template and just plugging in your ideal keyword + city location is not recommended.
Below are ideas and suggestions to help get your creativity flowing and produce an awesome city page.
Start With Your Business
Customers want to know about your company. Answer these questions and then put it all together to create a story.
- When was your business established?
- How long have you been helping customers in this community?
- What are the values and beliefs of your company?
- Do you have a mission statement?
- What services are offered to customers in this area? Describe the services and products.
- Describe how your services differ from the competition?
- Is there a manager or specific team that helps customers in this city? Create a biography for these teams and have them listed as direct contacts to questions related to this city. Have them list one of their favourite things about the city.
- List any references and resources that relate to city bylaws or initiatives, events, or information that are connected with your services and offerings to that city.
Use your experience with customers to grow your content even further.
- Create a list of the top frequently asked questions and answers for that specific city. Use as much detail as possible, and if it makes sense with the questions, incorporate city specific details in the answers. If you have trouble generating questions, use a tool to get more idea. Answer the Public is perfect for this, and it’s free!
- Showcase projects and services of clients that are located in the target city. Incorporate before and after images if it is applicable to the service you offer.
- Create a case study for a successful project in that city or if possible, a customer success story that outlines the problems your customer was facing, how your business helped them, the outcome, and even a follow up if it makes sense.
Testimonials & Reviews
Get testimonials from clients in the target city and feature them on the page. Customer testimonials helps create trust, provide you with valuable and relevant unique content for your page, plus you can use them to your advantage from a local SEO perspective by marking it up in Schema to get those lovely gold stars in your search results.
Ideally, you really want to get original testimonials directly from your clients for use on your city page(s). If you are still in the process of getting testimonials, then use reviews you have on other third party sites like Yelp, Google, or Foursquare in the interim. In the case of Yelp, they offer an embed feature that allows you to add your favourite reviews from your business listing to your site.
You cannot, however, markup these reviews with rich snippet coding, as this is a violation of the rules and guidelines for this markup data. If you are not publishing unique testimonials that have been provided directly to you from your customers, then avoid a potential penalty and don’t mark up these reviews.
While your trust has to be earned, there are some signals that can help you on your way to establishing trust with prospective customers. Beyond reviews and testimonials, another way to encourage potential customers to feel secure in choosing your business is to incorporate any or all of the following signs on your page:
If you guarantee your services or product then this should be on the page. It is an effective way to give a customer peace of mind about the investment they are making by choosing your company. This includes things like your return policy, guaranteeing labour, or money back guarantees.
For example – Wolfer’s Heating company offers Lifetime leak, Money back, No Lemons, and Workmanship guarantees.
Associations & Memberships
Is your business part of an association that is recognized in your industry? Share this information with potential clients. While this is a broad trust signal, being an active member of an industry association is another way to exhibit that your company cares about the work and being part of an industry network. It’s an even bigger bonus if you are also part of any city specific memberships to the location you are targeting. Think business associations, chamber of commerce, or even meet-up groups.
News & Mentions
Has your business been featured in a local newspaper, online magazine or blog post in this city? If yes, don’t forget to include this on your landing page. Even if your business hasn’t been directly featured but your work is on display or mentioned, it is still relevant to include this as as a resource on the page.
Like this example:
If you have had multiple news articles, interviews, or features then it is likely that you already have a page on your site dedicated to your media mentions, be sure to refer to these on your page too.
Make your contact information visible, easy to read and find.
- How can people get in touch?
- Add all contact numbers.
- Add all email addresses. If there are different contact email addresses for different services or types of inquiries, make the distinction clear.
- Have a contact form for people who don’t want to leave the page and open their email.
- List your hours of operation. Make sure they are up to date. If you have seasonal hours include these too.
- Directions. When it is relevant for your business, include a map to your location for customers when it makes sense for them to come to you.
- List accepted forms of payment.
Take Your Page and Content Further With More Details
Does your business partake in any local events? If yes, share the details of the events you are involved in or events that you host in the area. For some businesses this section has the potential to add rich and informative content, while helping create an even deeper connection to the area.
Perhaps you have a booth in the summer time at the local farmers market and are setup there every week at a specific date and time, whatever the event may be that you are taking part in list as much detail as possible about the event:
- the hours,
- the location of your booth,
- what people can expect,
- your favourite thing about the market,
- any specials or features, and
- a link to the event website.
The more helpful information you can provide, the better. Here’s an example:
Sponsorship’s & Community
Is your company involved in any community activities? Do you sponsor a local team or event? Do you donate your time or volunteer in the community as a team?
Perhaps you take part in an annual run or walk with your company in the target city. All of this is perfect content for your city page. Sharing this not only shows your dedication and commitment to a community, but it is also something to take pride in.
If your company has any sponsorships:
- Share details on any teams or organizations your sponsor, what does your sponsorship entail?
- Write a blurb on why it’s important to your company to sponsor.
- Include photographs, details of events and link out to the organization or team.
Share your community involvement:
- Which events does your company get involved in? Why?
- Do you participate yearly? Is this a company tradition?
- Do you volunteer your time or give any donations?
- Do you have annual goals that you help meet?
Videos & Photographs
You could have killer content, but if that’s all you have on your page it won’t be very engaging for site visitors. Nothing is less welcoming that a huge block of text that lacks personality.
Photographs help tell a story, so get in the habit of taking quality images and incorporating them into your content when it make sense for your business. It can be as simple as a team photo, a photo on a job in that city, or at an event. Anything that helps paint a picture of your company.
Video is becoming much more common, so if you are not camera shy you can take your city page to the next level with a video. Ideas for videos:
- Welcome or about us video – make a quick video about your team, and what people can expect from your company. You could also include your company history, and experience. Incorporating a welcome video that is approachable, friendly, and professional can give visitors and potential customers a better idea of who you are as a company.
- Turn your FAQ’s into a video – make your most popular frequently asked question(s) into a video. For service businesses that can show and explain the answer at the same time, this is a double bonus.
- Create explainer videos – Turn the most common services in that specific city into a quick and informative explainer video. These kinds of videos can be really effective and also helpful to potential clients especially if a large percentage of clients are experiencing similar problems.
Consider creating a special promotion on your services or products just for that city perhaps in the form of a printable coupon or discount code. This can be an incentive for clients to call your business sooner.
How Many City Pages are Too Many?
The likelihood of your ability to rank in local organic results in 25+ neighbouring cities or towns is low. To have successful results with this strategy you need to invest the time to create unique, high-quality city pages.
We recommend a range of 10 to 15 city pages, max. Any more can be excessive and then your site starts looking like this:
Other Important Factors to Consider
Don’t forget to incorporate basic tracking for your local city pages to help gauge their performance.
- Call tracking – this is the ideal use of a call tracking number in local. Depending on how many city locations you are targeting you may want to have an individual call tracking number you use for each city. Learn more about call tracking for local search with this guide and how you can get the benefits of call tracking without changing your local number.
- Contact form tracking – setup tracking for each city page to see which pages are getting the most completed contact forms.
For some fortunate businesses in less competitive markets it won’t be as hard to rank organically for their local city page, but this is becoming rare and the majority of businesses need links pointing to each page to create authority and stronger rankings.
Some easy wins for getting links to your city pages would be through:
- Any existing partnerships you have in those cities – do you source any products from local producers? Do you attend a specific weekly even that has a website? etc.
- Getting links from a sponsorship or donation.
- Joining memberships and associations in the target city.
For more ideas on link building strategies and further details how to utilize the suggestions above check out our 7 Easy Local Link Building Tactics You Should Be Using and The Ultimate List of Local Link Building Ideas.
Research the Competition
This goes without saying, but I’m going to say it – see what the local competition is up to and then take your pages an octave higher and be on a whole other frequency. At the very least, observing your competitors can be a lesson in reinforcing what not to do, but you may find valuable insights, discover an element your page is missing, or a service/product that you offer over and above the competition. Either way, seeing what other companies are doing will give you a sense of how much harder you need to work to take over their ranking positions.
Hire a Copywriter
If the mere thought of writing unique content for just one city page invokes feelings of dread, then invest money in a qualified copywriter (like Joel Klettke – he’s the best). You will not regret it. Especially when you have multiple unique city pages that are fantastic and on a whole other level than what you would have been capable of creating. It could be the difference in having an engaging page that attracts potential clients and more on-site traffic versus a lame city page that will never rank.
Pay To Rank
Ranking locally is becoming more challenging, from the monetization of the local pack to zero click results, it’s increasingly difficult for businesses with no physical location in their target city to show up in results.
While some businesses try to avoid the pay-to-play route all together, if you’re not willing to put in all the hard work required to create an amazing city page (and I mean doing everything mentioned in this post), then you’ll need to pony up. Paid advertising ideally should be incorporated into your search strategy regardless, you don’t need to have a huge budget to benefit from ads either.
Enter: Local Services Ads from Google.
Other local search experts agree that the answer to “how do I rank in a city where I have no physical location?” is paid ads, more specifically Local Services ads. So what exactly are these and how do they differ from other types of Google Ads?
Local Services ads act as lead generation directly from Google (you pay per lead not click). These ads appear at the top of search results and are available only in specific ad regions (which means sadly they aren’t available in all countries or cities) and industries (plumbers, house cleaners, electricians, house painters, etc). When a searcher clicks on one of the ads, they are directed to a new results page that lists all of the businesses that participate in the local service. The user can then call the service provider or message them. Not all businesses can join, you have to apply and be verified via Google.
The benefits to LSA are plenty though:
- Top placement and increased exposure (these ads sit above PPC ads and organic results).
- Google Guaranteed badge.
- Review ratings and stars in ad that link to your GMB listing.
- Inclusion in voice search results.
- No keyword research/ management or ad optimization required.
- Potentially more qualified leads.
If you want to learn more about Local Services Ads, check out these awesome guides, and how-to’s:
- The Ultimate Guide to Google’s Local Service Ads
- What You Need to Know About Google Local Services Ads
- Tom Waddington – His site is dedicated to help make sense of Local Service Ads and he’s also a GMB Top Contributor.
LSA Not An Option? Implement A Good Ol’ Fashion PPC Campaign
If gaining business from another city is a big focus for your business, then creating a PPC campaign for your city page(s) is a great way to see how effective it is. Again, if you are in a very competitive market or industry, the likelihood of having to incorporate paid advertising for growing your traffic and attracting new customers from a different city is going to be high.
Harness the Untapped Power of this Strategy
In the pursuit to discover the best city page examples, all that was uncovered were a million examples of how NOT to make a city page. There is a huge opportunity available to businesses willing to invest the time and resources into constructing the ultimate city pages. It really is unbelievable how this tactic is not being used to its full advantage!
In case you forgot, here’s a list of WHAT NOT TO DO:
- Keyword stuffing or listing a ton of cities or towns, postal codes/zip codes on the page. Or worse, hidden text on the page or in the footer.
- Using boilerplate content, duplicate content, or spinning content.
- Having a high link-to-text ratio (think links everywhere).
- Adding local information that isn’t relevant or helpful to the visitor, in the hopes that you can create localized content.
Below are some examples of what not to do with your city pages.
Take Your City Page Even Further with These Resources
Amplify the impact of your city page, take it to the next level, and make it hard for your competition to keep up with you, through using these awesome resources from some of our favourite local experts.
- Overcoming Your Fear of Local Landing Pages by Miriam Ellis – This is post helps not only show you what your page needs, but also gives you a list with additional what not to do’s on it. Miriam also, includes a really great mock-up of how a page looks when all of the elements are incorporated on a local landing page.
- Phil Rozek’s, Template for Creating a Knockout City Page – this spreadsheet covers a wide range of questions you need to consider for creating a city page. If you answer yes, it has the next steps you need to take.
- Nifty Marketing’s, Anatomy of an Optimal Local Landing Page Infographic – see the ideal local landing page based on data gathered from top ranking sites across the largest 50 cities in the US.
Ready to start creating a fresh and inviting new city page? Are there elements that you would include, that have not be listed? Please share them in the comments. Also, if you find an example of an awesome city page, please share it with us, so we can show it off as an example of what to do!