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  1. #1
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    Arrow Local SEO Warning: City in Title Tag - Former Google Spam Team Member Speaks Out

    Here is one Local SEO tip I want to point out because I suspect it can cause a ranking penalty.

    I was reading an exclusive interview with Andre Weyher who used to be on Matt Cutt's Search Quality team. He gives some overall tips, nothing to do with local specifically, but it called to mind something I've been wanting to point out that I believe Google would consider spammy over-optimization.

    He says: Don't repeat main keyword more than twice in title tag
    Linda adds: In local CITY is a MAJOR Keyword!

    We know Google hates keyword repetition and that's what spammers do. I think everyone knows you should not repeat keywords more than twice in title tags and really for internal targeted pages I think just main key phrase once is best.

    But I see title tags with CITY 3 times quite often. I believe that in local CITY is considered a primary keyword so you really don't want to overdo it. (More tips below the quote.)

    An Interview with an EX-Member of Matt Cuttsís Search Quality team!

    Question 6. From your time in Google what are 3 on page tactics that you recommend?

    Very good question, on page tactics are often overlooked, while in reality they should be a key element in your SEO strategy. First of all, choose your domain name wisely, having a good URL can give you a head start in the race. Good domains are still expensive and for a good reason. Second, be very thorough about your basic elements like titles, descriptions and H1/H2 headers. People are so focussed on putting the most expensive fuel in their car (link building) that they totally forget about the basics like putting wheels on it (on page elements). Of course you canít over-do it as Google now also penalises for over optimisation, so donít putt more than 2 commercial keywords in your titles or Google will frown upon it. Third, and most important, focus on content quality. Try to work on your website as if SEO was not part of your plan, create content out of a sincere interest and enthusiasm for the topic of your page. This is what Google and your users want form you, I know itís tempting to think about financial gain but remember that Googles primary concern is valuable information!
    I saw a pro the other day say he thinks Google penalizes for city more than once! That has not been my experience. I think you can use city twice if done properly. I would not do "City Keyword, City Keyword" repeated exactly like that in title or anything.

    But in my local SEO training, here is what recommend - in order to try to rank whether surfers search for city 1st or keyword 1st. Cover both options but on opposite ends of the tag, formatted slightly differently.

    TITLE: Atlanta Plumbers, my secret sauce stuff in the middle, Plumber in Altanta GA

    So that's how I handle city in title. I do use it twice but on the head and tail of the tag with other content in the middle. One with state and one without. And I still have plenty of clients ranking #1 and can see no penalties from doing so.

    HOWEVER, just lately I'm seeing a new trend that I am currently researching. I've seen several #1 listings lately that are almost UNDER optimized for location. Titles like: "John Doe DDS, Denver"

    Are you seeing what seem to be under-optimized sites ranking higher lately?

    What do you guys think as far as City repeated in title?
    Do you agree 3 times could trip a filter?
    Do you think twice is OK?
    Or play it safe and only use city once?


    Like I always say in my training, there is no single 'right' way to do SEO...
    and SEO opinions/theories are like a$$holes, everyone has one!

    So what's yours???
    Linda Buquet .:. Forum Founder, Google Local Specialist

    If you benefit from advice here... Please pay the community back by sharing on social OR helping someone else at the forum. Thank you!

    Don't Miss Important News & Tips! Subscribe to Daily Email Digest Here

    Note: Due to mulitple RSI injuries, pardon short replies. Typos? Blame it on "Dragon".

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    Re: Local SEO Warning: City in Title Tag - Former Google Spam Team Member Speaks Out

    Awesome find, Linda! And here's something I'd add to this. Remember, if your title tag reads like this:

    Award-winning Landcaping Services in San Diego | R. Jones Landscaping


    .....

    You've just used the keyword 'landscaping' twice.

    I find this to be a really common scenario because, for many businesses, a core service OR city term is part of their business name.

    So go easy on that!
    Local Business Website Design, Professional Copywriting and Consulting at Solas Web Design!

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    Re: Local SEO Warning: City in Title Tag - Former Google Spam Team Member Speaks Out

    Even if using a keyword 3 times doesn't trigger a penalty, it's a waste of prime "real estate" and will annoy users. Who wants to read something like this:

    Looking for the best Atlanta plumbers? We have been Atlanta plumbers since 1930 so call us for all your Atlanta plumbers needs.

    I personally believe 2 city keywords, as you've recommended in your training, is totally fine because the title still reads naturally - and I think that is the key. If it reads like crap, it is crap!

    Having said that, I do believe Google is smart enough that using it twice isn't necessary. If you have Atlanta plumbers in your title, I think Google knows you're a plumber in Atlanta so no need to say it again. Of course as I write this, I have seen examples where Google doesn't get it and a site doesn't rank as well as his competitor because he has his keywords ordered a different way so go figure.

    For me, my general guideline is to use the city once for sure and only use it twice if I can make it fit and still make it read naturally.

    Travis Van Slooten
    TVS Internet Marketing: Helping Small Businesses Increase Their Visibility & Sales Online.

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    Re: Local SEO Warning: City in Title Tag - Former Google Spam Team Member Speaks Out

    Great post and suggestions!

    Chad

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    Re: Local SEO Warning: City in Title Tag - Former Google Spam Team Member Speaks Out

    Hmmm interesting post. This has me almost scratching my head. For example, what if the client has a geographical location as part of their business name? Should they be penalized for this? i.e Toronto Plumbing & Heating (as official business name), and what happens if they use Toronto or even Ontario in their title once again, does Google 'frown' upon this even if it reads and flows organically?

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    Re: Local SEO Warning: City in Title Tag - Former Google Spam Team Member Speaks Out

    Hi Andrew,
    The consensus of opinion here is that using a keyword 2 times should be 'okay', but going beyond this could cause problems. I was thinking along these same lines, above, when I mentioned that many businesses have either a service or locale term as part of their business name. So, you'll want to be careful with what you're doing and not go overboard.
    Local Business Website Design, Professional Copywriting and Consulting at Solas Web Design!

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    Re: Local SEO Warning: City in Title Tag - Former Google Spam Team Member Speaks Out

    As to your questions:

    What do you guys think as far as City repeated in title?
    Do you agree 3 times could trip a filter?
    Do you think twice is OK?
    Or play it safe and only use city once?


    Here is an actual result. I'm not saying this is the way to do it, as it was a just a test, but the results are interesting... here you go:

    Natural Pet Food Richmond Hill GA | Natural Dog Food Store Richmond Hill GA | Pet Food Stores Richmond Hill GA | Dog Food Richmond Hill GA

    Check out this simple page and the title tag on that page; it repeats the city 4 times! Yikes!

    Then check the ranking of the first 2 terms! They are at the top of Page 1. The third term is bottom of page 2, but alive, and the 4th term is on Page 3, but alive.

    Not competitive terms, but they're NOT condemned to no-mans-land either.

    I wonder how all 4 of these terms would rank if I removed the last 2 search phrases and just kept the first 2 on there?

    Any thoughts?

    Chad

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    Re: Local SEO Warning: City in Title Tag - Former Google Spam Team Member Speaks Out

    Wowser Chad, that example flies in the face of the advice not to repeat city more than twice.

    It also flies in the face of a new Google Webmaster guideline I recently posted about regarding city KW spam within content: Warning: New Google Guidelines Local SEOs Must Know - Could Cause Penalties

    "Examples of keyword stuffing include:
    - Blocks of text listing cities and states a webpage is trying to rank for"


    So check out the link to their "areas served" page:
    pawparazzishop.com/Richmond-Hill-GA.html

    WOWser. How many different banks of City/KW combos or just city lists are there on that one page?
    Highly over-optimized in my opinion.

    As far as them still ranking and getting away with it - here's an analogy I like to use.

    All the kids at school say "shoplifting is cool, all the cool kids do it, and we never get caught!" Well if you happen to be the UNlucky one that gets caught, saying "everyone else gets away with it" does not fly with the police OR with Google. You could still be the one that gets caught and gets in trouble.

    If I were a business owner and my SEO truthfully explained the risk/rewards of this type of aggressive marketing - I'd settle for being a steady 3 - 5 forever with good solid ethical techniques - rather than being #1 for 3 months then possibly banned, penalized and invisible for months.

    But then again it depends on the business owner's risk tolerance and if they even know the SEO is pushing the limits.
    Linda Buquet .:. Forum Founder, Google Local Specialist

    If you benefit from advice here... Please pay the community back by sharing on social OR helping someone else at the forum. Thank you!

    Don't Miss Important News & Tips! Subscribe to Daily Email Digest Here

    Note: Due to mulitple RSI injuries, pardon short replies. Typos? Blame it on "Dragon".

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    Re: Local SEO Warning: City in Title Tag - Former Google Spam Team Member Speaks Out

    Point well taken! Thank you!

    Chad

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    Re: Local SEO Warning: City in Title Tag - Former Google Spam Team Member Speaks Out

    Hi Linda,

    Thanks for the post. I would like to share my experience with the same. As I work with local business only, I have found that using the city name twice even don't make any spam. Also as MiriamEllis said for the the business name, its true that with business using you must be caring as your business name also carries keywords. But what I have seen is that it is valuable and good if you carry the business name with keyword.

    But as we experience that all is good untill Google find that To be on safer side use is like not spam.

    Thanks
    Pankaj Kumar

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