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My question is how to maintain and optimize SEO when moving a site from the domain root to a subfolder, creating a second parallel subfolder, and having the domain root be a landing page that allows users to choose between the two subfolders.

Hopefully a (fake) example will illustrate my question best. Imagine the website for a small local business that serves its surrounding neighborhood -- let's call it ACME Cleaners of Crown Heights. Crown Heights is the neighborhood. The URL is www.acmecleaners.com. This site has good SEO and does well for searches looking the cleaning services in the Crown Heights area.

Now the business has expanded to a second location in a different neighborhood in the same city, let's call it East End. The new location is called ACME Cleaners of East End.

As for the website, the homepage, www.acmecleaners.com, which used to be the homepage for the Crown Heights location, has been changed to a landing page that simply shows the ACME Cleaners logo and gives the user a choice between the two locations. The user is then taken to either www.acmecleaners.com/crown-heights or www.acmecleaners.com/east-end, which are individual WordPress sites for each location. The location is saved in a cookie and users are redirected to the individual location site next time they visit www.acmecleaners.com (with a 302 status code thanks to PHP's header function with the "location:" parameter).

Specific questions:

  1. What should I keep in mind to maintain the strong SEO that the Crown Heights location had now that its site is moving from www.acmecleaners.com to www.acmecleaners.com/crown-heights?

  2. Specifically, how do I "tell" Google that the right URL for searches for "cleaning in Crown Heights" is now www.acmecleaners.com/crown-heights, not the domain root?

  3. Likewise, what do I do to get searches for "cleaning services in East End" to show www.acmecleaners.com/east-end? Interestingly, without me doing anything, this search is already generating first-page results for pages within the subfolder, e.g. www.acmecleaners.com/east-end/about-us, but not for the location "homepage" which is simply www.acmecleaners.com/east-end.

  4. What SEO should I do for the new landing page at www.acmecleaners.com to support good SEO for both store locations/website subfolders?

  5. Any other do's and don't do's in this situation?

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Whoa, that's a lot of questions. Maybe you can cut them down so members might be more inclined to answer? –  dan Jun 18 '13 at 14:50
    
@dan - fair enough, but my sense is that the questions -- and the answers -- are all closely related, which is why I put them all together. –  Ghopper21 Jun 18 '13 at 15:16
    
I follow - just trying to help you get some answers :-) –  dan Jun 18 '13 at 15:40

1 Answer 1

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What should I keep in mind to maintain the strong SEO that the Crown Heights location had now that its site is moving from www.acmecleaners.com to www.acmecleaners.com/crown-heights?

Don't change the content domain landing page all that much and the SEO won't change either. Essentially you need to move information off the front page and into the sub pages but keep enough of it on the front to avoid losing referrals. There are suggestions below for how best to frame the content to tell Google you now have multiple locations.

Specifically, how do I "tell" Google that the right URL for searches for "cleaning in Crown Heights" is now www.acmecleaners.com/crown-heights, not the domain root?

We don't tell Google anything :) We merely suggest very politely and Google decides what to do based on its interpretation of available information. The easiest way to inform Google is to make sure your links to the Crown Heights page all use "Crown Heights" as anchor text and also make sure the link appears at least once on each page via your menu and/or widget systems. Google will pick up on cues set by your navigation and your sitemap so if you have a "Locations" header in the sidebar and/or menu followed by "Crown Heights" and "East End" links then you are probably giving Google enough information for it to associate the sub pages.

All of the above being said, Google still prefers to serve up the domain root over an interior page if it can't truly decide which is better. As long as you keep navigation to each location to a single click from the domain root, you'll be fine no matter which page gets served up.

Likewise, what do I do to get searches for "cleaning services in East End" to show www.acmecleaners.com/east-end? Interestingly, without me doing anything, this search is already generating first-page results for pages within the subfolder

This indicates you're on the right track but the About Us sub-page outperforming the landing page may mean you have some issues with the landing page and indexability. On the other hand, brand new content calculates and percolates through Google at different rates so if you just (within the last 30-60 days) launched this stuff, be patient and wait for Google to shake itself out.

What SEO should I do for the new landing page at www.acmecleaners.com to support good SEO for both store locations/website subfolders?

I've mentioned some things in each of the previous answers (anchor text, widget with a "locations" or "stores" header, etc). Other things you should be doing is using Google Places for Business to register each location. This is the single best way to let Google know you have multiple branches. Another suggestion would be to make sure the structure of each location's sub pages are similar with similar (but not exactly the same) text. You don't want to consciously or unconsciously give more weight to the older location by having more and better content available on its pages.

Any other do's and don't do's in this situation?

Don't panic and do be patient. Messing with an established page will create some instability in the SERPS for as long as it takes Google to sort itself out but having three potential targets is better than one in the long run.

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