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I got a rather straight forward scenario that I was hoping someone could help me sense check.

I have a client who has a site that sells a service. The service is actually only available from one location. For simplicity sake, lets say the service is only available in London.

However, because they want other people in places like... Cambridge, Oxford to pick up their service. What they've done is created a page for each location which look visually the same, but the text changed so be slightly unique and incorporating the location keyword.

So basically there's 5-6 identical looking pages for 5-6 different locations with slightly amended text. whats more, it's not linked from main page and can barely be discovered by intext hyperlinks on a page elsewhere...

My understanding of SEO tells me that this is just wrong, and should be avoided. In fact, fixed before it causes more harm.

Am I right or wrong here? Need someone to sense check me.

  • You expand your local reach by improving your local SEO which is done through local signals such as citations, reviews and mentions. The pages you have currently may rank in the organics section but lower than the local pages. Creating too many similar pages will work negatively. – Simon Hayter Nov 11 '16 at 12:21
  • Hi Simon, That's what I was thinking. Surely it can't be any good. Several factors I see here for bad practice. The fact that there isn't a genuine offering specific to that location, and the fact it's visually similar page spun to avoid duplication penalty. None of this seems good practice to me and something that would be clamped down on soon or later anyway... – Kam Nov 11 '16 at 12:27
  • I'd have to agree with both comments. You want search engines to know exactly what page you want displayed for a specific keyword. When using the same keyword multiple times on multiple pages it's best to set meta tags to inform the search engines of the ONE page that is most important for that keyword. Doing anymore then just one page per keyword is just confusing to both users and search engines. – DwillX Nov 11 '16 at 17:07
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Google defines copies of pages with keywords changed as doorway pages. Using doorway pages is against the Google Webmaster Guidelines. They are likely to get your site penalized and kicked out of all search results.

Their guidelines give your situation as an example of what not to do:

Having multiple domain names or pages targeted at specific regions or cities that funnel users to one page

You can have a different page for each nearby location, but it has to be improved. It can't just be a copy with keywords changed. It needs to offer specific value for people from that location. Some ideas about what you can put on that page:

  • Distance to travel
  • Number of customers from that location that use the service
  • Benefits of coming to your store as opposed to the local competition
  • Customer reviews or testimonials from people in that location
  • Hi Stephen, Thanks for clarifying this. This is exactly what I thought, without even looking at the guidelines, I assumed this would be bad practice anyway. An SEO guy I spoke to claims that it shouldn't matter as long as it ranks it ranks. But I'm sure that's why people panic every time a supposed update impacts their rankings - simply because they didn't put in best practice from the beginning. – Kam Dec 4 '16 at 16:11

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