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I make websites for small businesses, and for some reason business owners love to have several domains with the same website but the TLD containing the city name. For example:

  1. smallbizname.com
  2. clevelandsmallbizname.com
  3. columbussmallbizname.com
  4. cincinnatismallbizname.com

I've seen questions about localization per country aspects, but this is a much smaller scale, so I don't think the same rules apply.

The problem I have is the companies never want to write separate content per domain, just have the same website hosted several times at each domain. I feel this probably hurts SEO for two reasons:

  1. Traffic gets scattered throughout domains, could be boosting just one domain.
  2. Duplicate content penalty because the content is identical.

My question boils down to this: should I redirect all the city domains to the main business name domain, or does having these separate sites help to rank better per city? If they are redirected, how does Google rank the redirects?

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3 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Google wont index your redirected domains high in the searches so you'll get very little traffic coming through to you main site if you set them up as redirects to the main domain.

An option might be to have a landing page for each business location so mycompany.com/my-company-cleveland, mycompany.com/my-company-columbus etc and have content on each page about that business in that location.

Some people may point out that if you don't actually have a business located in these locations this could be seen as spammy.

If you do have a branch in each location it may well be worth looking into Google Places (or whatever its called nowadays) here you can set up a page for each location and these when setup correctly can rank very highly in search results with little effort.

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Thanks for the input @sam. The business does have locations in each of the cities that they have a domain for. My idea is that you look at a big company like Best Buy and the don't have BestBuyCleveland.com. Just the one company domain. So what if there was a home page on clevelandbizname.com and a home page on the other cities domains, but after clicking any links on the home page it takes you to the main domain of bizname.com –  Brett Nov 9 '12 at 17:39
    
@brett google will see that they just redirect and they wont rank well, if at all, if you want to rank for a term your best bet would be to for mycompany.com/city-name and make a landing page for each location, link back to them in the footer aswell –  sam Nov 10 '12 at 22:04
    
Thanks @sam, I think I will end up making landing pages for each location. –  Brett Nov 26 '12 at 16:37
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I also have clients that do the same they have over a dozen domains using various local city and county names. The content is nearly identical with the exception of a few keywords changed. I would focus on building unique content on each of these city domains and link to the main domain. You can add historic facts about a city include RSS feeds and more to make the content on them different. Setup Google Alerts or subscribe to Google News RSS feeds that include those city names to come up with ideas for content to write about as long as its relevant to their service. You should considering hiring someone in the US to write blog posts for each site once per week to start building unique content. Have the copy that's already on the page re-written. The other option is to have smallbizname.com/columbus and give it a proper title and content and focus on getting traffic to the main site. If you keep all the city domains make sure you have a form on each page and phone number above the fold.

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Thanks for this idea. Using RSS feeds would be a great way to have fresh content, as well as hiring a blogger. Thanks for the ideas! –  Brett Nov 26 '12 at 16:34
    
@Brett you're welcome if this was a helpful answer you can upvote it –  Anagio Nov 26 '12 at 16:42
    
I updated the post just before you posted your comment... "UPDATE: Thanks for the input guys. I would upvote you all but I can't because I have no rep!" When I gain rep (need 15 rep to vote up) in the future I will be sure to vote up your comment. You could help by upvoting my question :) –  Brett Dec 7 '12 at 20:06
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For me the easy answer is just to support business owners in taking informed enough decision.

Domain aliasing is the best solution if they trust they need all those additional domains (but they must be aware their sites ranking will split). With the time one of them will be ranked higher than all other so only this one will appear in search results because equal content.

The alternative way is to use 301 redirects - which will be good for ranking keeping it for a single site, but visitors will see domains switch and probably with the time search engines will skip the redirected domain names showing only the main one.

Trust this article can help you describing them situation clearly.

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