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I am building a business directory page where the user can filter through locations and different branches. The directory uses a freemium-model which means that the basic listings are completely free and business owners can purchase a premium listing for a certain period of time. A premium listing contains more info and each premium listing has their own page for details.

How do you handle SEO for temporarily available premium listings? At first, I thought about setting noindex,follow to the basic listings and index,follow to the premium ones and then, when they have expired, setup a 302 redirect to the listings page where you'd see all listings and could use the filters to find what you are looking for.

But, if a listing went from basic to premium and it expires after i.e. 6 months and goes back to basic, wouldn't that result in a problem because the link to the premium listing details-page would still be indexed until the site is being crawled again?

I searched around the web for a while but the answers differ very much. How do sites like yellowpages handle this? Can someone help me with the logic?

Edit

Basic Listings contain:

  • an address
  • a phone number
  • branches (categories) they are listed in

Premium Listings contain:

  • all of the above
  • a map
  • opening hours
  • a descriptive text
  • a contact form
  • the business website URL
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It is very hard to get local directory sites ranked in search engines these days regardless of whether or not the content is temporary. See this parody letter purportedly from Google, but really written by somebody unhappy that Google is not including directories in the search engine often.

As for your temporary premium listings, I wouldn't change the URL when the listing goes from basic to premium or back. Each business should have one page on your site with a URL like:

/listing-123454-freds-discount-shoes

The content on that page is what should change depending on whether the listing is free or premium. Then you don't have to do any redirecting, you just show Google whatever content you have at the current time.

You should also be worried about thin content. It sounds like the basic listing wouldn't be all that helpful to users as a landing page from the search results. Unless you have something about the business that other sites don't have, you should noindex the listing. Having too many pages on your site that only offer basic data that is available elsewhere will get your site penalized by the Panda algorithm. Sites like Yelp end up ranking well because they have so many reviews that are only available on their site.

  • Sorry if I put that wrong: each listing keeps its URL, no matter what their status is. So what you're saying is that I'd need to take care of the content that's being displayed based on the listing-status. The premium ones do have unique content that cannot be found elsewhere (a descriptive text), but the basic ones don't because they only contain basic contact info. The only question left is, if I could make the premium ones more popular with search enginges in any way. What do you think about redirecting when they expire? – okiedokey Oct 28 '14 at 11:06
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    When they expire, they should just revert to basic listings, so no redirect would be needed. – Stephen Ostermiller Oct 28 '14 at 12:08
  • Just unique descriptive text doesn't seem to be enough to make a positive user experience for a business directory. How many users need a description of a business to answer their question? My guess: close to zero. Unless you have hours, address, directions, prices, inventory, and testimonials that are unique to your site, users are not going to have a reason to stick around. That will hurt your rankings. – Stephen Ostermiller Oct 28 '14 at 12:10
  • So, hypothetically, it would suffice to set index,follow to the premium ones and noindex,follow the basic ones, when there is a function that automatically sets expired premium listings back to basic-status - is that right so far? I edited the information both listing types contain in my question above, sorry I did not give that info before. – okiedokey Oct 28 '14 at 12:26
  • Yes, that would be a good solution to the thin content of basic listings. – Stephen Ostermiller Oct 28 '14 at 12:27

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