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


Linda Buquet

Moderator
Moderator
Joined
Jun 28, 2012
Messages
14,433
Likes
4,283
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 Cutts?s 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 can?t over-do it as Google now also penalises for over optimisation, so don?t 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 it?s 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! :p

So what's yours???
:)
 
Joined
Jul 23, 2012
Messages
481
Likes
112
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!
 
Joined
Jul 18, 2012
Messages
440
Likes
76
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. :p

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
 
Joined
Oct 2, 2012
Messages
80
Likes
10
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?
 
Joined
Jul 23, 2012
Messages
481
Likes
112
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.
 

nitromax

Forum Member
Joined
Oct 21, 2012
Messages
8
Likes
0
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
 

Linda Buquet

Moderator
Moderator
Joined
Jun 28, 2012
Messages
14,433
Likes
4,283
Wowser Chad, that example flies in the face of the advice not to repeat city more than twice. :eek:

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.
 

Pankaj Kumar

Forum Member
Joined
Jul 26, 2012
Messages
32
Likes
6
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
 

Dave Cosper

Forum Member
Joined
Dec 7, 2012
Messages
34
Likes
8
To expand this a bit, what's the consensus on domain names which include city? (Not landing pages, but primary websites in the context of local search).

For instance, if "businessname[dot]com" is not available, will "businessnameincity[dot]com" or "businessnameofcity[dot]com" be seen as spammy?
 

Linda Buquet

Moderator
Moderator
Joined
Jun 28, 2012
Messages
14,433
Likes
4,283
Hi Dave,

I don't think that's spammy at all. Google still loves EMDs and PMDs for local. Just watch the title tag in that type of case.
 
Joined
Jul 18, 2012
Messages
440
Likes
76
I don't believe Google has some kind of automatic "spam filter" that targets domains just because of what the domain is. At the end of the day, it's all about the quality of the website itself. That's all Google cares about.

I don't care if you have a .net, .com, .info, or .biz and I don't care if the domain is something "awesome" like plumbers.com or something wordy like, "BobsBestPlumbingInAtalantaGA.com" - there is no automatic penalty coming out of the gate just because of what the domain is.

Google wants quality, useful content and doesn't want you doing any kind of spammy SEO/backlinking. As long as you don't do that, any domain will work in terms of your potential to rank. Just my two cents:)

Travis Van Slooten

To expand this a bit, what's the consensus on domain names which include city? (Not landing pages, but primary websites in the context of local search).

For instance, if "businessname[dot]com" is not available, will "businessnameincity[dot]com" or "businessnameofcity[dot]com" be seen as spammy?
 

camcamcz

Forum Member
Joined
Feb 2, 2013
Messages
32
Likes
1
So would this be legit...

"Ben's Landscape Service, Landscape Service Atlanta, Most Trusted in Atlanta"

Or does that seem too keyword stuffy?
 
Joined
Jul 18, 2012
Messages
440
Likes
76
Definitely too keyword stuffy. My rule of thumb is always this...if I have to question whether or not a title or description (or my content for that matter) it too keyword stuffed it usually is.

If this was my title tag, I would use something like this:

Ben's Landscape Service | Most Trusted Landscaper in Atlanta, GA

I like to add the state abbreviation sometimes but it's usually not necessary - unless you have a common city name that is found in multiple states.

Travis Van Slooten


So would this be legit...

"Ben's Landscape Service, Landscape Service Atlanta, Most Trusted in Atlanta"

Or does that seem too keyword stuffy?
 

camcamcz

Forum Member
Joined
Feb 2, 2013
Messages
32
Likes
1
Thanks for your response. So how would you put it if you are mainly trying to rank for the keyword "Landscape Service Atlanta" ?
 
Joined
Jul 18, 2012
Messages
440
Likes
76
I would keep my title tag the same as I tend to believe Google is smart enough to piece the words together. In other words, as long as I have all my "key" words in the title, I'll be fine. However, if you're not as confident then you could go with something like:

Ben's Landscape Service in Atlanta, GA | A Landscaper You Can Trust

It's still not an exact match but that particular keyword phrase would be tough to use as an exact match as it wouldn't read naturally.

Travis Van Slooten

Thanks for your response. So how would you put it if you are mainly trying to rank for the keyword "Landscape Service Atlanta" ?
 

Linda Buquet

Moderator
Moderator
Joined
Jun 28, 2012
Messages
14,433
Likes
4,283
Thanks Travis! Good points all!

Thanks for your response. So how would you put it if you are mainly trying to rank for the keyword "Landscape Service Atlanta" ?
My advice - most important KWs 1st and don't repeat anything more than twice.

If Ben's Landscape Service is the real name, then there is the KW once.

So I'd flip order to read better and City before KW usually gets the most searches anyway.

Atlanta Landscaping - Ben's Landscape Service in Atlanta, GA

Don't use pipes. Get a different version of KW in there. Get City KW plus KW city in there so no matter which way they search you have a chance of ranking.

In my experience exact match in title tag and H1 and other important spots helps rank higher for that specific phrase. So the one I crafted above would help you rank for several of the top queries.
 
Joined
Jul 18, 2012
Messages
440
Likes
76
Linda:

Curious...why not the use of pipe characters? I know there was a rumor that Google was penalizing sites with pipe characters but I never believed it because I see title tags with pipe characters all over the place.

Back to original poster...

You'll notice I tend to make my title tags read more like the headline of an ad. I do that on purpose. I treat my meta data like PPC ads. I want my title tags to stand out and grab the reader's attention so that's why I liked your idea of putting "most trusted landscaper" in the title tag and kept that in there. I'll guarantee you won't see that in the search results for your keyword...although you will likely see stuff like, "Best Landscaper" as that is used a lot.

Another thing I like to do is run searches for the keywords I want to rank for and take a glance at all the title tags. In most cases all the title tags look the same. Mix it up and be different so your title tag stands out! And don't forget to add the author markup stuff as the image of you will help make your search result pop as well.

Travis Van Slooten
 

Linda Buquet

Moderator
Moderator
Joined
Jun 28, 2012
Messages
14,433
Likes
4,283
Linda:

Curious...why not the use of pipe characters? I know there was a rumor that Google was penalizing sites with pipe characters but I never believed it because I see title tags with pipe characters all over the place.
You see KW and City stuffed Place pages all over too right? :p
Some get away with it.

Not saying there is ANY penalty at all.

Here is my thought. You know how Google in organic keeps penalizing for over-optimization and keep pushing for "natural" results?

Regular people don't use pipes - mainly just SEOs do. (Or webmasters who study SEO and are trying hard to rank.)

So I'm not saying it's penalized, just thinking it would be such an EASY SIGNAL Google "could" use to try to track down SEO'd sites if they wanted to send to manual reviewers. Simply saying it could "possibly" trip a filter in the future.

Plus to the average consumer reading a site or the SERPs I think dashes look more natural to them too than pipes do.

But it's just a suggestion.
 

Local Search Forum


Weekly Digest
Subscribe/Unsubscribe


Google Product Exert

@LocalSearchLink

Join Our Facebook Group

Top