Google provides detailed advice for websites that need to target multiple locations, such as a company with offices in different states.
This topic was discussed during the Google Search Central SEO Business Hours Hangout recorded on January 14th.
An SEO professional named Gail (last name not provided) asks Google search attorney John Mueller for an idea whose client should optimize their website for multiple US states.
Their idea is to create landing pages for each state they work in, and automatically send visitors from the homepage to the appropriate landing page via dynamic geo-IP redirection.
Moreover, they are also planning to add a noindex tag to each separate landing page.
If you hear alarm bells ringing, your instincts are correct. This is not a good strategy.
Mueller explains the SEO implications of pursuing this plan, and explains the different ways it can be done better.
See his advice in the sections below.
First consideration: Google crawls from one site
The first thing to consider when targeting multiple cities or states with the same website is that Google will only crawl from one site.
This means that dynamic geo-IP redirects, as Customer Gail suggests, will not help Googlebot find the different landing pages.
“I think there are a few things to keep in mind there. On the one hand…we’re generally just crawling from one place. And maybe for most systems, that could come back to California.
And basically what that means is that the content that we can see will be California content, we won’t be able to access content that is specific to other states, which depends on what kind of content you have there, for other states, that could be fine but it could be problematic.
So that’s kind of the first thing to consider is that when you look up your company it’s going to look like it’s right in California, or maybe even San Francisco, I don’t know how the IPs are going to be mapped there.
So I think that’s something people often balk at, especially with geographic IP address redirects or dynamically switching content.”
While redirecting visitors based on their IP addresses might work in practice, it is not the perfect solution when it comes to Googlebot crawling.
Related: How often does google crawl and index
Second consideration: do not redirect to the Noindexed page
The second and more serious consideration for the plan suggested by the Gail client is what happens when you redirect to a noindexed page.
Mueller explains that this could cause the site’s homepage to be excluded from search results:
“The other thing is if you don’t index the individual state landing pages, then, of course, the state landing page that someone from California will go to will also be a noindex, which basically means your homepage will fall out of the search results. So that would be too bad.” .
Again, this plan may have worked for human visitors, but it could cause major SEO problems.
That’s what Mueller recommends instead.
Related: The Complete Guide to Local SEO for Multiple Sites
Mueller’s recommendations for targeting multiple sites
Instead of redirecting visitors to pages based on where they are, Mueller says it’s better to offer visitors links to relevant pages with a dynamic banner.
My general recommendation for these types of situations is, rather than automatically redirecting to a specific site, make it so that the user can find that content easier.
So there’s something like a dynamic banner on the page when the user goes to the home page, there’s a banner at the top that says, “Oh, it looks like you’re in Texas, we have an office in Texas, here’s the information, and click this link to learn more.
In this way the user has the ability to go to these individual pages. And ideally, those individual pages would also be indexable, because that way if someone searches for your company name as well as your state name, they’ll be able to find that landing page, which would be basically perfect.”
Another way to handle this situation, Muller says, is to dynamically shuffle some of the copies on the homepage based on the visitor’s location.
Instead of multiple landing pages for different situations, you can set the home page to display different text to visitors related to where they are.
Another approach you could take is dynamically toggling some of the content on the homepage. So instead of having separate state landing pages, you have your own public homepage and specific state information is toggled dynamically.
The important part here is to make sure that the homepage in general still has enough generic content that it doesn’t appear as though it’s all California, but rather that this contains a lot of information about your business, and since it looks like if you’re in California, this is Specific information about California, or whichever state you are in.
So those are the two directions we generally recommend there.”
Mueller makes clear that there is nothing wrong with creating individual country landing pages if a Gail client chooses to go down that route instead.
It’s not a bad idea to create landing pages for every city in every state, but it’s fine to have landing pages for every state in which a business is located.
“In terms of country-by-state landing pages for a few releases, we wouldn’t really see that as an issue. If you had landing pages for every city in every state, that would start looking a little bit for the web’s spam algorithms.
But if you’re talking about a few states, maybe even all states, it’s something where you have 50 different versions of the home page with your local address with phone numbers, business hours, and kind of that extra local information on it. From our point of view, this is generally good.
Hear the full discussion in the video below:
Featured image: Screenshot from YouTube.com/GoogleSearchCentral, January 2022.