cientiros

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I'm building out a mortgage business website focused in California. (they're based in San Diego but will expand in a few years.)
Subdirectory Locations Question.JPG

Blue areas on map are the counties I'm targeting with SEO.
CA Service Areas.JPG

Should I build pages for every zip code in these counties? (thousands of zip codes)
Should I not build zip code pages and only go as deep as City pages?

Are subdomains a better approach?
 

Phil Rozek

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@cientiros, I'd avoid subdomains. In my experience, they don't rank well. It seems Google treats them as separate domains, and so the links to the main domain don't benefit the sub. That's been my working theory, at least.

You're more likely to get some rankings this century with, in this case, county pages, rather than with city pages. County-level pages (at least in California) are more manageable, because they make it easier to target certain places without your needing to scrape together content that may or may not be good and then needing to create hundreds of pages. Also, if your pages don't rank well after a while, you're in a better position to tune up or overhaul a couple dozen of them rather than thousands.

You can always create city pages later, and I'd probably suggest creating them for your highest-priority communities at some point. But even then you'll need a place to link to those pages in a not-too-messy way. Which is where county pages come in.

They can and probably will also rank for city-level terms and "near [city] terms," at least in the meantime and probably longer-term. It's similar to the "state page" strategy. You're still going after "city" terms - just from a different angle.

So the subfolder structure should be something like domain.com/county/city (in this case). For a non-ecommerce site, I'd say having more than 2 subdirectories is excessive. Not that I've ever noticed that having more hurts one's rankings, or that you should restructure if you've got a messy setup that seems to work fine.
 

cientiros

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@cientiros, I'd avoid subdomains. In my experience, they don't rank well. It seems Google treats them as separate domains, and so the links to the main domain don't benefit the sub. That's been my working theory, at least.

You're more likely to get some rankings this century with, in this case, county pages, rather than with city pages. County-level pages (at least in California) are more manageable, because they make it easier to target certain places without your needing to scrape together content that may or may not be good and then needing to create hundreds of pages. Also, if your pages don't rank well after a while, you're in a better position to tune up or overhaul a couple dozen of them rather than thousands.

You can always create city pages later, and I'd probably suggest creating them for your highest-priority communities at some point. But even then you'll need a place to link to those pages in a not-too-messy way. Which is where county pages come in.

They can and probably will also rank for city-level terms and "near [city] terms," at least in the meantime and probably longer-term. It's similar to the "state page" strategy. You're still going after "city" terms - just from a different angle.

So the subfolder structure should be something like domain.com/county/city (in this case). For a non-ecommerce site, I'd say having more than 2 subdirectories is excessive. Not that I've ever noticed that having more hurts one's rankings, or that you should restructure if you've got a messy setup that seems to work fine.

So here's what I'm picturing the right structure for 24 county pages looks like?
County links would actually be in the Footer section of the website.
I originally pictured one (california) service location page, and all Counties -->Cities branched off that.
Picture1.png
 
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NexstarNickR

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I would be very interested to see how this plays out, because for the most part, I do not see search volumes for counties; people tend to do searches with city. However, with the increase in "near me" searches, Google might start to include pages targeted by county.

In my opinion, you are better off picking the most important cities first. Go for the big ticket items that have a proven track record, and test some county-level pages at the same time. See which ones give better results, and then follow that lead.
 

cientiros

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I would be very interested to see how this plays out, because for the most part, I do not see search volumes for counties; people tend to do searches with city. However, with the increase in "near me" searches, Google might start to include pages targeted by county.

In my opinion, you are better off picking the most important cities first. Go for the big ticket items that have a proven track record, and test some county-level pages at the same time. See which ones give better results, and then follow that lead.

My thought process is to build hub (county) and spokes (relevant cities and city data) to build authority around them.

I know one very successful company does County sub-domains (county.website-name.com). I also know they run PPC ads to those sub-domains.

I want to do this for the sole purpose of SEO, build California/County website authority starting with a top 24 list of the higher Median Household Income + Population Density.

I can easily spoke out to all the zip codes within a city.

My concern is

1. I'm afraid this could expend "crawl budget" because I'd take it 3 levels down
- or maybe it wouldn't because every page would be unique with relevant niche Keywords

2. I'm afraid the site will look unnatural and spammy with so many pages. This is why I'm looking at doing zip-code targeted Blog Posts instead of pages...


Once I'm done building out the site, I also plan on building out county sub-domains like the one competitor to test SEO and later run ads.
 

NexstarNickR

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My thought process is to build hub (county) and spokes (relevant cities and city data) to build authority around them.

I know one very successful company does County sub-domains (county.website-name.com). I also know they run PPC ads to those sub-domains.

I want to do this for the sole purpose of SEO, build California/County website authority starting with a top 24 list of the higher Median Household Income + Population Density.

I can easily spoke out to all the zip codes within a city.

My concern is

1. I'm afraid this could expend "crawl budget" because I'd take it 3 levels down
- or maybe it wouldn't because every page would be unique with relevant niche Keywords

2. I'm afraid the site will look unnatural and spammy with so many pages. This is why I'm looking at doing zip-code targeted Blog Posts instead of pages...


Once I'm done building out the site, I also plan on building out county sub-domains like the one competitor to test SEO and later run ads.
I would tend to agree with you about the layers as it comes to SEO. Most of the hob and spoke content I see is around a city and services, not a county and then cities. I guess it would depend on if each city page would have spokes around it or not. I work primarily with PHCE companies, so they need a city page with different services within the city. If you had county > city > service, then yes, I would see the "3rd tier" issue.

If you have proven examples of success, though, you can always try and replicate it. But my fear is your fear, and that is why, for me, I would probably suggest trying a sampling of both strategies and see which one pays off more. Testing testing, 1-2!
 

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