In response to a question asked by an SEO professional to Google’s Search Advocate John Mueller about an idea her client has to optimise their website for several US states, Google Search Central SEO held a hangout (14th January 2022), where they provided detailed advice for websites that need to target multiple locations, such as a business with offices in different states.

The idea was to create landing pages for each state they operate in, and via dynamic geo IP redirection, to automatically send visitors from the homepage to the appropriate landing page.

In addition, the discussion included the idea of adding a NoIndex tag to each of the separate landing pages. Which could be a risky strategy. Google explained the SEO implications of following through with this plan, and various ways it can be done better. Below is the advice provided.

ISSUE – Google Crawls From One Location

Providing a landing page for visitors based on their IP is risky, and according to Google this is why:

“I think there are a few things to keep in mind there. On the one hand… we generally just crawl from one location. And probably for most systems, that would map back to California.

And essentially what that would mean is that the content that we can look at would be the content for California, and we would not have access to the content for the other states, which depending on what kind of content you have there, for the other states, that might be okay but it might be problematic.

So that’s kind of the first thing to keep in mind is when you search for your company it’ll look like this is purely in California, or maybe even in San Francisco, I don’t know how the IP addresses would map there. So I think that’s something that often throws people off, especially with geo IP redirects or dynamically swapping the content.”

This makes it very clear that redirecting visitors based on their IP address whilst it may seem like a good idea and work in practice when it comes to Googlebot crawling – it’s not optimal.

SOLUTION – Offer Links To Users to Relevant Pages Based on their Location

It’s better to use dynamic banners to offer visitors links to relevant pages, rather than redirecting visitors to pages based on their location.

“My general recommendation for these kinds of situations, instead of redirecting automatically to a specific location, is to make it so that the user can find that content much easier.

So something like a dynamic banner on a page when the user goes to the homepage, there’s a banner on top that says: ‘oh, it looks like you’re in Texas, and we have an office in Texas, and here’s the information, and click this link to find out more.’

And that way the user has the ability to go to these individual pages. And ideally those individual pages would also be indexable, because that way if someone looks for your company name plus the state name they would be able to find that landing page, which would be essentially ideal.”

You can also swap in dynamic content for some areas of your page based on the location of your visitor.

“The other approach that you could take is to swap out some of the content dynamically on the homepage. So instead of having separate state landing pages, you have your general homepage and you have that state specific information dynamically swapped out.

The important part here is to make sure that overall that homepage still has enough generic content so that it doesn’t come across as like everything is for California, but rather it’s like this is lots of information about your business, and since it looks like you’re in California here’s specific information for California, or whatever state that you’re in.

So those are generally the two directions that we recommend there.”

Alternatively, you can create regional landing pages for each area you have a presence in. But don’t create specific regional home pages.

Do Not Redirect To A NoIndexed Page

This would cause the site’s homepage to drop out of search results… here’s why:

“The other thing is if you noindex the individual state landing pages, then, of course, the state landing page that someone from California would go to would also be NoIndexed, which would basically mean that your homepage would drop out of search results. So that would be a pretty bad thing.”

Why do we care?

Bottom line is that, just as there are many ways to optimise your website for local, there are a variety of penalties lurking if you follow bad practices that violate Google’s guidelines. These are just some of the ways you can optimise your website to gain ranking advantages.

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