If you want to “win” the SEO game, you know that you need to target specific cities and regions with your website content. But, in the fervor to get to the top of the rankings, a lot of law firms and medical practices go a little overboard.
Instead of improving search rankings, they put themselves in a position to get dinged by Google for bad behavior. And they often do it by making a single, super-common mistake.
Even if you have the best intentions, seemingly obvious solutions can sometimes get you in hot water. Want to avoid the risk while still targeting all the areas your perfect clients come from?
Keep reading below, where we’ll reveal this common mistake and break down some better ways to target multiple cities on your website.
Where Lawyers and Doctors Go Wrong When They Target Multiple Cities
When law firms and medical practices try to target multiple cities, they often make the mistake of putting up several landing pages that are nearly identical—they just change the name of the city in the keyword string!
So, for example, an attorney might have separate practice area pages for:
- Kansas City estate planning
- Overland Park estate planning
- Olathe estate planning
While they’re all separate pages, the content on each of those pages is exactly the same except for which city is mentioned.
I know some of you are probably shaking your heads right now because you already know how Google feels about duplicate content. And you’re right.
That’s exactly what goes wrong in these situations: You think you’re effectively targeting people in all the nearby cities you serve, but Google comes along and penalizes you for violating duplicate content standards.
As easy (and even seemingly logical) as it may be, the truth is that duplicate content like this is a big no-no with search engines, and it won’t help you reach a bigger audience of potential clients.
Why Having Nearly Identical City Pages Is a BIG Mistake
A decade or so ago, having duplicate pages like this was a valid way to market a law firm or medical practice. Google needed the extra help to figure out what you do and where you do it, and clear keywords were the best way to show Google what it needed to know.
It wasn’t necessarily the ideal solution, but you could absolutely load up a bunch of identical pages with similar keywords and call it good. Not anymore, though.
These days, Google is a lot smarter and more sophisticated. It doesn’t need you to bang it over the head with generic keywords seeded into identical pages. It can now “read” through your site more naturally and get what it needs to know. Google has also spent the last few years increasingly bringing down the hammer on sites that want to try to game the system by using outdated practices.
For example, duplicate content and over-stuffing of keywords are two things that Google has identified as “spammy.” And creating super-similar landing pages for the cities you serve is a tactic that goes on the “naughty list” for both of those things.
Doctors and lawyers still sometimes create these kinds of pages without realizing that SEO has evolved and become more intricate. All the old ways to measure rankings and performance have changed, and outdated strategies have become a liability.
Google is smart enough to pick up on what you’re doing, and it will potentially penalize your website for breaking the rules. So, you need a more modern strategy that matches the modern state of SEO.
What IS the Best Way to Target Multiple Cities?
All the above being said, what’s the right thing to do to target multiple cities with your website? Here are some fresh recommendations from our SEO experts:
Stick with one page per major practice area
If you want to target all the cities in a region, just list them on your practice area page or work them naturally into the content on those pages. In most cases, you don’t need an individual page for each city in order to show up in searches. For example, you can create a page that focuses on Kansas City estate planning, but mention that you also serve the nearby cities of Overland Park and Olathe. Google will pick up on it, and it will make a lot more sense to potential clients that are browsing your website for answers.
Focus on unique content instead of generic landing pages
Your practice area pages may be where most of your potential client convert, but it’s your individual content pages (like blogs, FAQs, case results, and articles) that bring them in from search. So, that’s where you should focus your efforts to target multiple cities. Write optimized website content that speaks to each target area, and include unique information that is really tailored to that area. Make sure you don’t simply change one word. You don’t want to get dinged for duplicate blogs, too! Instead, put the effort into creating content that shows people that you know the area and understand their concerns, even if your office doesn’t share a zip code with them. Along with the main keyword that targets the city, you’ll also naturally create long-tail keywords in your content that drive more clicks from people that are typing their concerns—in their own words—into the search bar.
Customize your content based on what you know about your perfect clients in that city
In a similar vein to the above, it’s also worth doing extra research on your target audience and customizing your content for their area. For example, in some areas, people will be more likely to search for “car wreck” instead of “car accident.” They might be more likely to search for a “lawyer” instead of an “attorney.” You can use that knowledge to create something that really reads as local and relevant. Pro Tip: Google Trends is a great tool for finding out which keywords are used most often in your target area. You can easily type in a keyword, choose a state or metro area, and even type in a similar keyword to compare popularity over time.
What If I Have Physical Office Locations in Several Cities?
If you have physical satellite offices in several different cities, all the above still applies. Rather than creating multiple practice area pages targeting those locations, we recommend creating unique office pages for each location. Again, you don’t want to copy and paste the same content with only the name of the city changed. Instead, you want to add unique photos of the location, describe your services at that location, include directions, and vary the content to fit the area.
Need an example? Check out Rossen Law Firm’s website. If you mouse over “Get Help Now,” you’ll see he has three offices, and each office page uses totally unique content to describe the location and services provided.
Work With a Team That Understands Modern SEO for Law Firms and Medical Practices
Website templates, plugins, content management systems, and other tools make it easier than ever to control your online marketing strategy. But it also makes it a lot easier to wreck your site if you’re unknowingly working with advice that’s outdated or flat-out wrong.
That’s part of the reason we exist—we’re a dedicated team of experts that can confidently guide you around complicated SEO traps, and we make sure that you can do it ethically, sustainably, and sanely.
Is Your Law Firm Or Medical Practice Website Getting Enough Exposure? Foster Web Marketing Can Help With Our Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Services
Are you concerned that your website isn't pulling in enough traffic to keep you swimming in leads? Do you need help with SEO for your legal or medical website? If so, Foster Web Marketing can help! Please contact us online or call our office directly at 888.866.0939 to schedule your free consultation with our experienced marketing team. We have been helping clients throughout the United States and internationally since 1998 and are confident we can help you not only reach, but exceed your goals.