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All my competitors (as a small, local business) use the full - Los Angeles, but I'm wondering if I can't get away with LA County in my homepage title. I assume it's important for SEO to have that in the title, as all businesses from my industry in other states (whom I don't compete with) use states/cities either in their domain, page title, or both. So will LA County have the same impact as Los Angeles County?

Edit: How about area codes, like 818? That may let me stand out from my competitors, from a visual standpoint on the search result page.

  • Have you tried doing a search for both variations? The number of results could help you determine if they are interchangeable, or, if the abbreviated version has other meanings. – elbrant Feb 15 at 6:59
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If I were in your shoes, I'd change my shoes and then focus on setting up and optimizing a Google My Business profile. If you've already got that, good, on to the main question...

Does google recognize city abbreviations in page titles?

It can, yes -- and in your situation there's no reason to doubt it will, LA is an incredibly common abbreviation for Los Angeles.

Extra questions...

I'm wondering if I can't get away with LA County in my homepage title.

You say you're a small local business, do you serve the entire LA County??

  1. Yes; go for it.
  2. No; don't go for it.

I assume it's important for SEO to have that in the title.

Only somewhat, though it is a quick way to inform/reassure users of your business' location.

Will LA County have the same impact as Los Angeles County?

It's likely, but there's no way to know without performing some A/B tests.

How about area codes, like 818?

I doubt that'll perform better, unless that's what your audience searches for.

Overall, I suggest worrying less about Googlebot's capability for interpreting title tags and more about creating a unique brand persona and/or value proposition. Optimizing title tags alone can only get you so far.

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I have more experience with state abbreviations than I do with city abbreviations, but I believe that the same techniques apply.

Google will not treat "LA" and "Los Angeles" the same. It is important to use both of them in your pages. If you search for LA <service> and Los Angeles <service> you will see different search results. Ideally you want to be listed in both of them.

Your title should have the version that more people search for. For states, that is usually the abbreviation. MA is searched for 10 times as often as Massachusetts. For something shorter like Texas it is more 50/50. TX is only searched about half the time.

If your competitors are all spelling out the city name, that sounds like an opportunity to rank easily for the abbreviation. In addition to search volume, it is wise to consider how easy it is to rank.

So I would recommend using "LA" in your title and using "Los Angeles" in the body of your page.

If you think that something like using an area code will help you stand out, the try it. Standing out can dramatically increase your click through rate from the search results. You can also load up your meta description with things that help you stand out. Some things that I've found help:

  • A call to action -- Tell users what to do when they get to your site and they will be more likely to do it: "Call for an appointment"
  • Testimonials: "Rated #1 by local newspaper the last three years"
  • Stats: "Over 500 installs"
  • Timeliness: "Guide for 2019"
  • Stephen, are you saying you put testimonials, stats, etc in your meta description? – Trebor Feb 15 at 15:06
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    Yes, absolutely. They can increase click through rate from Google. It used to work better when Google showed the meta description consistently. Now Google seems to only show meta descriptions 30% of the time or so. Something at the end of the title can work well too if you have room, and it gets shown more consistently these days. – Stephen Ostermiller Feb 15 at 15:08
  • That's probably the best thing I've learned on this site. Thanks. – Trebor Feb 15 at 15:09
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So will LA County have the same impact as Los Angeles County?

It directly depends on the fact that users search the web for products / services of your business. You can analyze these requests using free online tools such as Answer The Public. All the results of your research on this tool will also help you determine the users' intentions regarding your products / services.

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