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My boss asked me and I wasn't sure exactly how to answer. I'd like to get some advice from others that have hit this issue before.

Scenario:

We are wanting to purchase a new chain of domain names for a new site expenditure. The #1 goal for my boss is when a customer searches for "This product miami", or "miami this product" that our URL will always show up first because the structure of the URL would be indicative of the search term. So if the user searched for "This product miami", the search result would return

www.thisproductmiami.com

of if they search for "This product new york", it would return

www.thisproductnewyork.com

So, getting thisproductnewyork.com, thisproductmiami.com and so on for every major city in the US. So we will end up purchasing a "thisproductthiscity.com" for every city.

To me as a web developer the best way I'd see this working is:

miami.thisproduct.com newyork.thisproduct.com

That way, the city still searchable, but its all managed and aggregated by one domain.

What would give us the best search results. Purely based on the URL. This would help me out so much, any advice with links to articles or anything covering the subject so I can back it up with docs, would be nice.

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Sounds like spam to me. –  JMC May 23 '11 at 19:57
    
Yet another cargo cult SEO tactic that needs to be allowed to die a proper death, to be left unremembered in the mists of time and never rediscovered. –  Fiasco Labs Apr 5 at 20:15
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3 Answers

Buying multiple domains and pointing them to one website won't help with SEO at all.

As far as the subdomain thing (or subdirectory as for SEO subdirectories and subdomains are equal) you need to make sure the content for each city is different or else it's all duplicate content and will be filtered out of the search results.

So, is the content going to be different for each city? If not this strategy won't work at all regardless of how you do it.

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He's wrong. (But you may be crazy, just not about this ;)) –  John Conde May 23 '11 at 20:34
    
Personally I think google gives more weight to domain names than it should, which could lead someone to believe this works. Boss is misunderstanding that search engines will do their best to filter out each duplicate page across the multiple URLS. There's a risk that your primary domain gets spam filtered because carkeysmiami.com shows in serp always instead of carkeys.com (say this is your preferred if there isn't a city specific page). –  JMC May 23 '11 at 20:57
    
Ok guys, thanks for all the help. I greatly appreciate all advice. –  Chris May 23 '11 at 21:04
    
If your boss isn't willing to build unique and useful content across all these domains, then there's the risk that your one website worth of content gets dispersed across lots of different domain names in the serp with the page still only showing up once in results. Then you'll have the headache of figuring out which domain holds the page that shows up in the serps on a page by page basis. –  JMC May 23 '11 at 21:09
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If it is the same site with shared content then you should use http://thisproduct.com/miami/ :)
If they are different sites with different content, then use different domains (Some hosts allow you to have one server for multiple domains)

With the 2012 changes Google will cluster sites in it's eyes depending on how they are interlinked, this means that it matters much less if it is on a separate domain or subdomain or even a subfolder.

While a subfolder will not take away an otherwise valuable subdomain like http://mobile.thisproduct.com.

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Google does not view multiple city domains highly. Matt Cutts has highlighted this scenario multiple times as something that you need to be careful about. Here is an example of him doing so:

Cutts said if you have multiple sites you want to link together you need to have a very good reason to be linking them together, otherwise it will come across as being spammy. Why do you have 20 domain names that you feel should be all cross-linked?

Cutts said about the only situation where this kind of solution is viable is if you're linking multiple country site for the same company together. But even then, he suggested that you do it in a way that won't come across as spamming. This means instead of having 30 footer links to all the different locations, find a smarter way to do this.

Yahoo has been even more forceful on this issue in the past. They have said that no company should have content indexed on their search engine on more than one domain.

A few years ago, it appeared that owning exact match domains (EMD) was a good way to get rankings. Another reason not to use your strategy now is that is no longer the case. In September 2012, Google launched an algorithm to demote exact match domains in the search results.

Today, you get more benefits from having all your content on your own site (I wouldn't even recommend subdomains) than you would from owning domain names.

If you do have pages targeting these search terms you need to ensure that the pages are both

  • Useful for users
  • Different from each other

You need to make sure that somebody searching for "this product miami" would rather see the Miami page than any other page. You can make this happen with content and data specific to each city such as:

  • A list of places to buy locally
  • Reviews from customers in that city
  • Deals or coupons available for residents in that area

Publishing the same (or even substantially the same content) on multiple city pages is a formula for disaster. Google views this as doorway pages and they will penalize the entire site from appearing in their search index.

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