Case Study: How to Rank for Multiple Keywords in Multiple Cities (Local SEO)

how-to-rank-for-multiple-keywords-multiple-cities

 

A couple months back we started a case study titled “Getting a Local Site in a Competitive Niche from Page #5 to Page #1“. In that case study we talked about our plan of attack for ranking the keyword “[service] [city] [state]”.

The problem with that case study is that we were just trying to rank one keyword in one city at the time to start things small and now we want to go big or go home. We want to finally rank whatever the hell we want to in whatever city we want to so we feel it is appropriate to make a new case study with our new plan of attack by starting with the basics rather than talking about blasting social profiles with GSA links. We also neglected the case study a bit because as usual, we bit off more than we could chew :-)

The problem we have is that the physical location of our brick and mortar business is not in a city we wish to rank for (we’re talking a population of -500 people) so that seems to automatically eliminate us from the 7 pack for any of our desired cities. Also, we service a couple larger cities 30 and 90 miles north of us, so Google hardly sees that as a related city. We are taking the plunge and creating verified listings for all of our target cities. Below are the details.

Our New Ranking Strategy

  • Step 1: Outsource the verification of addresses for each city we wish to rank in (4 cities) to 4 different people
  • Step 2: Build unique URLs for each city/service. Our URL structure will look like: http://www.domain.com/city/service
  • Step 3: Outsource citation building to 4 different companies for the 4 different cities
  • Step 4: See where things are at. We will likely boost our citations by building links to them and/or adding additional citations, plus explore other SEO efforts.

Ranking Benchmarks

[service] [city] [state] 1 = 14 (closest to our physical location at 10 miles away)

[service] [city] [state] 2 = 17 (second closest to our physical location at 25 miles away)

[service] [city] [state] 1 = 34 (fourth closest to our physical location at 90 miles away)

[service] [city] [state] 1 = 29 (third closest to our physical location at 35 miles away)

Step 1: Outsource “Google My Business” Verified Listings

Since we are primarily a mobile business, we don’t really have a physical address and the one we do have is not within a city we wish to target, we will need to get verified listings in the cities we wish to target. How do you do this, you may ask?

There are a few different methods (I’d link to a couple articles on how to do this but don’t know of any off the top of my head), but we don’t really have time to do that ourselves and don’t want to wait for things like postcards to arrive, so we are choosing to outsource this. We have better things to do (like ranking more affiliate sites) than to do this ourselves. The services we will use include:

  • PBN Butler $97/listing – PBN Butler offers PBN creation, social signals, citations, and even GMB (Google My Business) verified listings. Jonathan reached out to me to offer this service so I thought I’d try it out since I’ve heard good things about PBN Butler.
    • Update 5-20-15:  I have received my GMB listing. I received this a bit later than others because apparently I was offered the service before it was really launched so I had to wait a little bit extra which is okay. The listing was good, the address I wanted, and all information was correct.
    • Update 6-29-15: Since the prior update the listing was removed. I think it lasted for 3 week sor so. PBN Butler gave us a full refund.
  • Instant GMB $97/listing – This is a pretty straightforward ordering process. They advertise that they will get your verified listing within 24 hours or your money back. You need to provide your own address.
      • Update 5-15-15: I received the email you see below. I’m not sure how much of a delay we are talking about but it looks like it will be more than 24 hours. I’m willing to wait.instant-gmb
      • Update 5-21-15: The listing has been created after 5-7 days or so. It was lacking a URL so I had to login using the credentials given to me and add it myself. This one took the longest to get even though it is “instant” GMB. Time to put the “within 24 hours or your money back” to the test!
        gmb-24-hrs-back

     

    • Update 5-24-15: So it looks like the statement of “get your verified listing within 24 hours of your money back” will not be honored, despite it being advertised. I could care less about the $100 or so, but it doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy when someone doesn’t back up their claims.
    • Update 6-10-15: This listing was taken down since the last update. InstantGMB said it was probably because I edited the listing (I added some photos, a longer description and two extra categories). That or a competitor reported us (high likelihood). With that said, they said they will recreate the listing for us early next week when more postcards arrive.
    • Update 6-26-15: Still waiting for a new verified listing. I check in with InstantGMB every week or so only hear they are out of postcards and will verify the listing again when postcards are in stock.
    • Update 7-29-15: I forgot that we were waiting on InstantGMB so I messaged them this week. Looks like they never got their postcards and said they could not deliver the listing. Wonder if they would have followed up on their own? Doubt it. We are waiting on a full refund.
  • Map Trust PBNs $100/listing – I was referred to Map Trust PBNs from a member of one of the SEO communities on Facebook so I thought I’d try out their services as well. Upon availability, most orders can be done within 24-48 hours but it can also take up to 5-7 business days. You do not need to provide your own address to verify (although you can)… they will do it for you if you provide a city/state. This is the route I went. *Disclosure: Map Trust PBNs does not provide listings to the locksmith niche, home security or escort services.
    • Update: 5-15-15: After submitting my order, I had a verified listing within just a few hours. It was so quick that rather than finding a fourth company to get a GMB listing from, I placed an order for a second listing. This one was also done in just a few hours. I understand this might not happen every time so I don’t want to set that expectation, but when you’re eager to get going on a case study, prompt delivery and having your expectations exceeded definitely rocks!
    • Update 6-6-15: About a week ago or so I noticed that one of our GMB accounts was suspended and that our listing was no longer verified. Not sure if this is just luck or what… it doesn’t seem that I’m the first to have this problem so this may just be a risk with any GMB seller or even doing it yourself.
    • Update 6-12-15: Both of my listings have been removed completely from Google. When I visit the listings I get a 404 error. I’ve contacted Jordan about the problem and he said we would have to wait a couple of weeks to get these reinstated.
    • Update 6-26-15: Since last check-in I’ve reached out to Jordan a couple times to see where things were at. Communication was poor and I was still unsure if he was going to get these reinstated for us or what was happening. I didn’t feel that he was interesting in trying to resolve the issue so he ended up giving a full refund after some hesitation. We will not be using this service again even after getting a refund.

In summary, I’m not going to jump at the opportunity to pay for GMB listings again. 100% were failures for us and even though we got our money back it proved to be a complete waste of time. Unless we want to fight to keep our listings live (we are very busy and have better things to be doing) then we will have to settle for organic rankings only.

Ranking Improvements

Here are the ranking improvements strictly after creating a verified GMB listing for each of the cities we are targeting. The most competitive keyword didn’t move a bit (largest city and city we are physically closest to) and the least competitive keywords (smallest cities and also the farthest away from us) seemed to respond well to simply having a verified GMB listing.

Keyword #1: Previous ranking (14), ranking after NAP placement on page (13)

Screenshot at Jun 06 22-40-39

Keyword #2: Previous ranking (17), ranking after NAP placement on page (13)

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Keyword #3: Previous ranking (34), ranking after NAP placement (20)

Screenshot at Jun 06 22-54-23

Keyword #4: Previous ranking (29), ranking after NAP placement (25 or so)

Screenshot at Jun 06 22-52-32

Step 2: Create Unique URLs for Each City / Service

This is something I actually had some confusion about. I had a lot of confusion on the difference between showing up in the 7 pack vs. the organic listings, URL structure and what pages to build citations to. This page, this page and this page give a lot of clarification on URL structure and NAP (Name Address Phone number) placement when you are trying to rank for multiple cities and multiple keywords.

In short, you can create your URL structure based on subdomains or subdirectories, or unique URLs.

EX: city.domain.com/service, domain.com/city/service or even domain.com/service-city. You get the idea.

We are choosing to do the second option for this business. Creating subdomains seems like it would be more work than necessary and the last option seems limiting, so we are choosing to have a subdirectory for each city, and then we will list individual services after but only targeting new services as we feel like it. Who knows, just by having citations to the city pages may rank us for a lot of services. So our URL structure will look like:

http://www.domain.com/city/service

We will list the city-specific NAPs with schema markup on the city-specific pages once we receive our verified listings from the sources above. We will be sure to do good on-page SEO for the different cities and different services within those cities.

Once those are all set up (we’re only creating 4 services pages at the moment for the leads we really want), then we will move on to step 3.

Step 3: Build Citations

The final step in this case study is to build citations to each city page.

We used BrightLocal to run a citation report on a competitor and it appears they have 39 citations. Maybe we need 39+ citations to outrank them, but we’re going to start with just 15 for each city and see where that lands us.

Here is the page(s) we will be building our city-specific citations to: http://www.domain.com/city

We will be using four different services to try them all out and report feedback. They will be as follows:

  • PBN Butler – 15 citations for their base price of $18.75. We will have them build citations to the GMB listing they created for us. I’m also happy to support other members of the Facebook groups we are in so I’m rooting for this one! Cost: $18.75

    • Update 5-21-15: Citations ordered.
    • Update 5-25-15: Order completed. Citations are on as follows:
      • myhuckleberry.com (DA 61)
      • ezlocal.com (DA 63)
      • foursquare.com (DA 92)
      • 2findlocal.com (DA 72)
      • yellowusa.com (DA 49)
      • citysquares.com (DA 61)
      • judysbook.com (DA 66)
      • tupalo.com (DA 68)
      • clickblue.us (DA 44)
      • bizsheet.com (DA 39)
      • checkmyreview.com (DA 29)
      • rateitall.com (DA 70)
      • local.6qube.com (DA 43)
      • yellowtalk.com (DA 20)
      • ikimap.com (DA 52)
      • businessrater.com (DA 44)
      • dapeem.com (DA 33)
      • usa-yellowpagesonline.com (DA 20)
      • oregon.bizhwy.com (DA 41)
      • communitywalk.com (DA 74)
      • magicyellow.com (DA 70)
      • number.com (DA 37)
    • Update 6-12-15: We have had these citations for a couple of weeks not and it doesn’t appear that rankings have moved in the slightest. We are now 12 in Google Maps, but our organic position still sits at around 25 which is in the same neighborhood that it was in just after getting our verified GMB listing. It appears that these listings are slow to be indexed and show up in GWMT so we have started building links to them with GSA and One Hour Indexing.
    • Update 6-26-15: As of today it looks like 8/21 citations are showing up in GWMT. In the screenshot below, the yellow notes were placed when creating the verified listing (first jump) and the second jump is after some of the citations were found.We are hitting #9 in the map results (first image) and #18 organically (second image).

    • Update 7-29-15: 9/21 citations are showing up in GWMT. Rankings are flatlined. It also appears that our ranking for this city is down to 30 which is lower than where we started this case study at.
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  • Whitespark – Whitespark allows you to choose between generic citations ($4/ea.) such as local.com, yellowpages,ca and kudzu.com and local/niche citations ($5/ea.) such as mylocalhvac.com or lawyerlocate.ca. We may go with 10 generic citations and 5 local/niche citations. The information they ask for to create your citations is pretty thorough which gives me a confidence boost that the citations will be good. Cost: $65.00

    • Update 5-23-15: I finally got my GMB listing from Instant GMB and ordered the citations today. I think Whitespark said they can take up to 30 days to deliver! I ordered these for our biggest money city too but I guess we will patiently wait. I’m also concerned we will have to do a bit of phone verification which can be problematic as this business has a phone tree and all sales calls are directed to a voicemail…
    • Update 6-6-15: Still waiting on these citations. They said they should be done around June 15th.
    • Update 6-26-15: These were done around the 15th or so but we’ve been busy. Only 13/15 of the citations are live and only one has been found in GWMT. Although we have the NAP on the page the listing is no longer verified and since the citations haven’t been found it’s as if nothing has been done which rankings reflect. We are flat-lined and have seen no improvements on this keyword. This is our money city so we decided to stop being bashful and ordered 100 citations from PBN Butler.
      m-results-6-26
    • Update 7-29-15: We now have four citations total showing up for this keyword in GWMT after a month. To be fair we haven’t built any links to the citations aside from some GSA links a while back, so I didn’t expect that many would be indexed.
  • BrightLocal – Citations $3/ea. so we will buy 15 of them. I know BrightLocal is well-known in the SEO community so this gives me confidence that ordering citations will be a good experience. Cost: $45.00
    • Update 5-17-15: I ordered these citations today for Map Trust PBNs’ listing and all seemed to go well. You can pick and choose which citations you get and they can be categorized by citations that require phone verification, email verification, instant verification, etc. Some of the more popular directories require phone verification (like Bing, Yahoo, Yelp, etc.) but they also have the highest DA.
    • Update 5-21-15: I received an email a couple days ago stating that the citation building has begun. BrightLocal provides you a link to see the campaign progress which I really, really appreciate. It looks like nothing has been submitted yet but at least I’m not left wondering.brightlocal-citation-report
    • Update 5-25-15: For some reason I thought these would be delivered a bit quicker but I think these are scheduled to be delivered sometime within the first week of June. I ordered these for our second biggest money city.
    • Update 6-6-15: 4 out of 11 citations are live. The others just show as “pending”. We need to phone verify most of them and one or more needs address verification with a postcard so uh, yea, that’s not going to happen.
    • Update 6-26-15: We have a phone tree and even when we shut it off we are having problems getting these verified as the automated call hangs up too soon. These are all big-name citations which is why they require phone verification. It has become quite time consuming jumping through hoops. Only 4 are live still and none have been found in GWMT so this keyword is also flat-lined. We are going to hold off on more citation building and re-verifying the listing.

      a-results=6-26

    • Update 7-29-15: Two listings appear to be showing up in GWMT out of all of them. What a disappointment… we’ve even built a bunch of links with GSA to these citations and still, nothing. Rankings are flatlined.
  • Local Citation Services – I am using this because it is something else that came up when I searched for citation building services. The starter package with Local Citation Services is just $5 for 15 citations. This seems incredibly inexpensive but hey, let’s try it out? Can’t wait to see how this compares in a case study. Cost: $5.00.
    • Update 5-17-15: The form I filled out for my citations was much shorter than the one for Bright Local. I also did not get to choose my citations… so we will see what they come up with.
    • Update 5-22-15: I have received an email stating that the citation building is finished. I received a file with all 15 of my listings, complete with a user/email/password for every citation so that I can go in and update them. Without having the option to choose my citations, the websites the citations are on are as follows:
      • showmelocal.com (DA 57)
      • brownbook.net (DA 62)
      • merchantcircle.com (DA 87)
      • hotfrog.ca DA (67)
      • us.enrollbusiness.com (42)
      • chiefmall.com (DA 44)
      •  salesspider.com (DA 59)
      • getfave.com (DA 50)
      • tuugo.us (DA 46)
      • find-us-here.com (DA 29)
      • mysheriff.net (DA 35)
      • ebusinesspages.com (DA 52)
      • lacartes.com (DA 53)
      • biznet-or.com (DA 16)
      • manttus.com (DA 25)
      • cityinsider.com (DA 39)
    • Update 6-12-15: Our rankings are still stuck at 20 or so for this keyword which is where after placing our NAP on the page for our verified GMB listing. These are also slow to be indexed in Google and slow to appear in GWMT so we are building links to the citations to get them found / juice them up with GSA and One Hour Indexing.
    • Update 6-26-15: 9/15 citations are showing in GWMT and you can see that this keyword has increased in rankings slightly (benchmark ranking was 34 and now it’s hovering at around 18). We’ll see where it peaks after the remainder of the citations are discovered. This keyword also lost its verified listing which we are not going to spend energy getting back at this point in time.
      r-results-6-26

 

4. Get Citations Discovered / Indexed

I’ve covered this in some of the updates above but it deserves its own section because it’s an important step! So in summary, we’re building all of these citations but they’re not appearing in GWMT, Ahrefs or Majestic. In fact, two weeks after the citations were live, only 4/41 were showing up as backlinks.

It also appears that not many are indexed in Google. To check if your links/citations are indexed in Google, check out this free tool. This tool shows that we have 9/41 citations indexed. You can also do an index check with Scrapebox.

index-check

In short, you can do all the citation building and backlinking that you want but if your links are never found then you are simply wasting a lot of time. Below is what we are doing to quickly get these citations found.

Use One Hour Indexing

We just stumbled upon One Hour Indexing today. It’s an automated backlink indexing service that appears to have pretty good reviews from users like Matthew Woodward. Matthew Woodward reported that this service was the best in his comparison and after 15 days, 50% of his backlinks were indexed compared to as low as 10% of other indexing services. While they don’t guarantee to get all of your links indexed within an hour, after one week they seem to have a pretty good indexing rate.

Update 6-12-15: We now have 11/41 citations showing up in GWMT and 10/41 showing up as indexed. We aren’t really sold on this tool yet… we will submit 1,000 URLs and it will tell us that we’ve successfully submitted 400 or so… where did the other 600 go? Which 400 were submitted? Customer service didn’t provide us with a clear answer.

GSA Links to Citations

We are also have GSA fired up and linking to our live citations. We’ve recently learned some new tricks to get GSA posting a higher number of links so hopefully that will move the needle.

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17 thoughts on “Case Study: How to Rank for Multiple Keywords in Multiple Cities (Local SEO)

  1. I was curious about Local Citation Services, well, I always am whenever I read about a bargain 😉

    Seems like the link is either wrong or their website is just down. That plus the fact that you didn’t even get to choose your citations doesn’t bode well for them.

    • Hey Bob… 3 different citation builders because it will make for a fun case study :-) I’ll let you know which I prefer and why after they are all completed. Stay tuned!

  2. Jesse and Alyssa
    Nice article and very detailed I will be waiting for the update to see how these services pan out.

    This will be a big plus for the lead gen sites we are building and most are service related so no brick and mortar to be concerned with looking forward to the update.

  3. I use Local Citation Services quite a lot but I always give them my own list. If I ever have any problems with the listings, I send it back and they make the changes very quickly.

    Really looking forward to following this case study!

    • That’s great to know, Mike! Good customer service is priceless. Thanks for the heads up. I think they have fulfilled my order but I need to find some time to check up on things.

  4. And…..???? Not much of a case study without the final results. Hope to see them posted soon.

    For now it is an outline on how to approach getting rankings in multiple cities.

    Everything looks good except I didn’t see how you were structuring your website in regards to the separate cities and if you used separate city pages for each GMB?

    • Hey James! You’re right… not much of a case study without the final results. I’m posting results as each phase finishes up… so you can see what happened with verified GMB listings but the citation building is still in progress.

      In step 2 you can see that we structured our city-specific pages as http://www.domain.com/city/service. We also listed each NAP (same info as on GMB listing) on their respective city pages.

      More results to follow soon!

    • It doesn’t sink the whole thing but it’s a disappointment for sure. The reality is that if Google doesn’t just take your listing down on their own, local SEO is cut throat and there are people out there just waiting for listings of competitors to go up so they can report them to Google. We will either get more aggressive with keeping our listings live or just worry about organic rankings (not being in the 7 pack if we can’t without a verified address).

  5. Great case study. Thanks for sharing. Just an FYI, I tried using Instant GMB and things were looking great, then my page got marked as spam and suspended by Google. Since then my 7 pack rankings have disappeared and my organic rankings have tanked.

    Did you notice similar effects to your organic rankings when your page was suspended?

    • Our rankings have also disappeared from map results once the listings were no longer verified or removed completely but it did not seem to tank the organic rankings. Organic rankings are increasing slowly but surely with citations alone.

  6. Interesting case study, i know how frustrating it can be to rank local sites (and time consuming). Seems like you have tried everything to no a avail… Is there a light at the end of this tunnel?

    • We are still working on this site Anthony. Very frustrating indeed. We are still chipping away at this case study and trying to take things slow so that we don’t blow the study! Currently working a bit on the on-page with adding additional, relevant content in the form of blog posts and pages that can’t be navigated to. We’re doing this slowly. We haven’t even really linked to the site with our PBN which could help but everyone talks about citations and GMB listings so we thought we’d go that route and so far, those things alone seem to be a failure after a couple of months. I think there is a light to the end of the tunnel it will just take more trial and error, plus patience!

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