A common question I get from business professionals and business owners is:
“How do I get my business to rank in a nearby city where I don’t actually have a physical office?“
You have 2 ways to try to do this:
Before we explore each of these two strategies, let me clarify our purpose with an example:
Assume you’re a dentist and you have an office in Portland, Oregon. You already rank well in Portland for terms like “dentist” and “dentist Portland.”
But you’d also like to rank well and attract more clients from Beaverton, Oregon, a major suburb about 20 minutes outside of Portland. Since Google has a very strong bias toward your physical location, you don’t rank well in the neighboring city of Beaverton.
What you want is to show up for “dentist Beaverton.” You also want to appear for people who live or have a smartphone in Beaverton and are simply searching Google for “dentists.”
Strategies For Ranking In A Neighboring City
Strategy 1: Doorway Pages
One strategy for trying to rank your website in a neighboring city is to create a specific page on your site that targets that city + your keyword. For example, create a page that targets the keyword phrase, “dentist Beaverton.”
This is called a “doorway” page and is explained in-depth with a video in my post Create Doorway Pages To Rank In Cities You Serve.
The trick with doorway pages is they have to be quality and unique. You can’t just use the same copy for every doorway page and swap out the city name. All that gets you is a lot of duplicate content on your website and it probably won’t rank.
In order to do it well and to give yourself the best chance of ranking, you have to create unique, quality content that is relevant to your keyword, “dentist Beaverton.”
If I were creating a doorway page for a dentist in a specific city, I’d make it unique by including information on the page such as:
- Dental statistics for people in that city
- Directions to your office from that city
- Testimonials from patients who live in that city
- Special services you offer that other dentists in that area do not offer, ie. after hours emergency dental care
- Any other relevant information that sets you apart from your competition
Thus, doorway pages will only help you rank your website. You will never appear in the valuable local Google business listings as seen in the image below.
Nonetheless, we’ve been very successful with “doorway pages” for a client of ours who operates a fertility clinic on the Sunshine Coast of Australia. They are ranking very well in several other cities we’re targeting with doorway pages. These cities range in driving distance 20 minutes to 2 hours away from the client’s physical clinic location.
In the example below, we created a page to target “IVF” in the city of Caboolture, about 50 minutes away. To make the page quality and unique, we extrapolated government fertility statistics and applied them to the population of Caboolture. That data is relevant, unique, and useful to those patients doing research to find a clinic to work with.
Competition Plays A Part
Of course, it goes without saying that a big reason we’re ranking so well is because there is little competition and thus little traffic for “IVF Caboolture.” But that’s ok. We’re ranking on page 1, so the few people who do search each month, they see our website.
In the larger metropolitan city of Brisbane, we’re not ranking as well. There are several clinics in Brisbane and it’s 90 minutes away from my client’s clinic.
But we’re trying. Doorway pages don’t take long to setup once you have a good model, so it’s worth a shot to see what happens.
If we really wanted to boost the authority of the Brisbane page to rank it better, we’d have to aggressively build links. As of yet, we haven’t invested the immense resources to do that.
The method described above will help you rank your website in another city. The “faux office” method described here will help you rank both your website AND a Google Business page in another city.
In order to get a Google Business page in the city your targeting, you must have a physical address in that city, preferably in the city center or the area with the densest population. You can get a physical address 1 of 2 ways:
- “Rent” a physical address from a business or associate who has physical office space in the city you want to target
- Rent office space from a company like Regis
Note that it can’t be a PO Box; it’s got to be a brick and mortar location with an address Google can find on its map.
For business professionals like lawyers, realtors, dentists and other medical practitioners, it’s common to have multiple professionals working from the same physical office location. Therefore, each person can claim and optimize their own Google business page and have a chance to rank in the local 7-pack listings.
But it doesn’t work with everyone.
I have a client who operates an Affordable IVF clinic on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, Australia. Recently, they started offering the same affordable IVF services out of their full service clinic in Bundaberg, a city over 3 hours away. Even though the Affordable IVF business is a completely separate business (with a different name) than the full service clinic, Google would not allow me to setup a Google Business page for Affordable IVF in Bundaberg unless my client either:
- Setup a separate entrance with a different suite number, or
- Added an “Affordable IVF” sign to the front entrance and took a picture of it
Getting back to our dentist example, I’d ask my client if he knew a non-competing dentist (like a pediatric dentist or orthodontist) in Beaverton that he could “rent” office space from. Just enough space to get his name on the door!
Through all appearances, it would look like our Portland dentist had now setup shop in Beaverton as a secondary office. Once we have the physical address in Beaverton, we can claim and optimize a Google Business page for that location with the intent of trying to rank it for keywords like “dentist Beaverton.”
With regard to the “faux” office option, you might be thinking, “Well, this approach seems shady and misleading.” I’d call it “marketing,” but you’ll have to decide for yourself.
Certainly, if you operate a business that serves customers at their location like a locksmith, steam cleaner, or home inspector, you have no choice but to employ one of these tactics if you want to rank organically and attract business in other cities you serve.
Or course, you could always run a pay-per-click ad campaign to target the city you want to target. That’s what Google would like you to do!
I haven’t seen anyone get “penalized” for employing either of the two strategies described here. Worst case, you just won’t rank and you will have invested time and money into something that did not bear any fruit.
The real risks are with consumers and those are twofold:
- What if somebody just drives to the business address expecting to find you and discovers you’re not there?
- For those who find you in Google and call in advance, will they be willing to travel the extra distance to your actual office?
Every business is different and we always discuss the ethics of what we’re doing before we do it. If you’re an attorney or real estate agent and can conduct business over the phone, these approaches may be completely practical and good for your business.
However, if you customers need to come see you at your office, you’ll have to decide how aggressive you want to be as a marketer. Different businesses are willing to take different risks to grow, so if you want to do it, we can help you.
Businesses that see customers at their location such as a chiropractor, doctor, or dentist are the ones who will need to weigh the risk more carefully before deciding to invest.
If you need help ranking better in Google, I’ve put together an entire Guide To Ranking In Google that will help you. Of course, if you’d rather we do the work for you, give me a call at 503-890-6663.