More threads by jspratt

Jan 6, 2016
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Hi all,

Long-time reader, first time commentor. I have a question about local SEO that I would love some insight on. I'm wondering if I can get a bit of advice.

My client is a home services company in Toronto, Canada. I've been at this agency for about 2 years, and since well before I was here, they've been top 3 for terms like 'Toronto [service]'.

The city of Toronto was amalgamated years back from the former 'cities' of North York, Scarborough, Etobicoke, etc - which I'll just call neighbourhoods. Even though the search volume of a term like 'Etobicoke [service]' is miniscule in comparison to the same terms for Toronto, the client has repeatedly expressed a desire to rank higher for the local 'Etobicoke [service]' type pages.

Now, at some point in the past, the client's MAIN site featured all the neighbourhood pages on it, but later on, those pages were ditched in favour of 'going after Toronto'.
They also have a number of thin, duplicate-type domains and sites to target all these neighbourhoods, that tend to rank anywhere from the 20s to 50s.
Again, these were all decisions that were made before my time at this agency.
The main Toronto site ranks better than the satellite sites for a few of these neighbourhoods terms, and worse than the satellite sites for others.

So, I'm looking for insight on these issues that I've been mulling to myself for a while now:

1. Is it worth focusing on these separate neighbourhood sites, building links, creating/upgrading content, etc. Keeping in mind that they don't actually have physical addresses and aren't eligable for GMB listings.

2. Or, is it better to add these neighbourhood pages (about 6, large swaths of the city) back to the main site, which is by far most powerful.

3. Is there any possibility that adding content relating to these neighbourhoods could hinder the site's ability to rank for his prime money keywords, featuring the word "Toronto"? This was the rationale when the change was made in the past.

Thanks in advance for any insight you can provide based on your own experiences!
1. I would prioritize making great city pages over working on those neighborhood microsites. Focus your content-creation and link-earning efforts on the mothership. See this post for what I mean by "great city pages": 25 Principles of Building Effective City Pages for Local SEO |

2. As I alluded to in point #1, you'll want to focus on the main site. Maybe don't nuke the neighborhood sites - especially if they already rank well and attract customers - but there's little point in working on them more. The nice thing about having city/neighborhood pages on the main site is that if you rack up lots of links and develop a little "authority" in Google's eyes, those pages are more likely to rank well than if they were on some microsite.

3. No, if you don't mess with your existing content. Just make those Etobicoke and Scarborough pages incredible, and earn some local links to each of them (e.g. Chamber of Commerce and local sponsorships).
Thanks Phil, great points all.

Hi jspratt and welcome to the forum. You'll get a lot more benefit as an active member.

Phil's right about focusing on one site. This is what I tell people all the time. Since you are new here you may not be tired of hearing it yet. I share because it's something you can tell the client that I think may help.

"Many business owners have a "divide and conquer" mentality - thinking the more sites the better.
In Google Local the best strategy is "United We Stand".

One site, one NAP identity. All authority, link building and marketing effort focused on one strong Internet presence."

What Linda said.

Some business owners want to gobble up more space on page 1, in which case I'd suggest shoring up your "barnacle SEO." Half the spots on page 1 typically go to general local directories and industry-specific directories. The best way to draft off their traffic is usually to get reviews on those sites. Way easier than trying to ram a microsite up there.
Thanks again Phil & Linda - very helpful stuff. Linda, I'm looking forward to being involved going forward! Been at this SEO thing for a few years but there's ALWAYS more to learn, and it helps to have confirmation from true experts that my intuitions are on the right track :)

In the client's industry, a big multinational company relaunched their site last year with literally thousands of city pages and have been making up ground, which gave me further inclination that the "divide and conquer" approach (as Linda eloquently put it) which I inherited was an outdated strategy. The client's concern was always that by including the local 'cities' (neighbourhoods), it could harm the site's ability to rank for Toronto, which I couldn't say for sure that it wouldn't - so it certainly helps to hear that if we don't change existing content, it's not likely to have a negative impact.

Phil - You're correct that a few of the major directory sites are eating up top results (even moreso than when I started, it seems). Fortunately, they're a bit less prevalent on the neighbourhood searches.

I'd likely be looking at building 5 or 6 neighbourhood pages (the 'neighbourhoods' in this context are more like large swaths of the city, as mentioned).

Again, thanks so much for all the insight!

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