Adding city pages for your business’s products or services can bring in more search traffic and paying customers, but if they are “doorway pages” or not depends on a variety of factors.
Are city pages doorway pages?
In the past, doorway pages were easy to spot. Let’s say you sold screwdrivers. On your site you could add a page for Phoenix AZ screwdrivers, Dallas TX screwdrivers, Charlotte NC screwdrivers, etc. The pages would be almost the same other than the title. Or worse yet, the pages would simply funnel the user to the screwdriver page. This is obvious spam and we do not see it often any more. Although the company I buy my car insurance from does just this (and their website is impossible to find).
But city pages are much more complicated these days, and this especially depends on the type of business you have. Businesses and professionals who may want to target multiple cities include:
- HVAC repair companies
- Roofing companies
- Lawyers (bankruptcy, personal injury, criminal defense, and more)
- Any other business which caters to multiple cities
So, are city pages considered spam / doorway pages? It’s complicated.
In March 2015, Google announced that they were cracking down on doorway pages. In their quality guidelines, they (vaguely) provided 3 examples of doorway pages:
- Having multiple domain names or pages targeted at specific regions or cities that funnel users to one page
- Pages generated to funnel visitors into the actual usable or relevant portion of your site(s)
- Substantially similar pages that are closer to search results than a clearly defined, browseable hierarchy
City pages are not mentioned here, at least quality city pages where a legitimate service is offered.
But over on their announcement of this algorithm change, they provided a list of questions to ask of pages that could be seen as doorway pages. One of these questions was:
- Do the pages duplicate useful aggregations of items (locations, products, etc.) that already exist on the site for the purpose of capturing more search traffic?
Well, of course people want more search traffic.
Legitimate uses of doorway pages
Sometimes you have a business with multiple locations or a franchise. I think what Domino’s has done is perfectly acceptable. They are going after the term “Pizza delivery” in every city. Yes, they want search traffic. But yes, the page serves a purpose and could be there even if no search engines existed.
Domino’s pages look like this:
Can city pages rank well?
There are a lot of people in the SEO world who say that city pages can not rank. Avoid these people; they are idiots. I personally owned a brick and mortar business for 13yrs which ranked in a variety of cities and these days I have a handful of clients who do just that. This does, of course, depend on the power of a site, and building a powerful site doesn’t happen overnight. And, search engines also have what I call geographical relevance. That is a thing too.
Creating valuable city pages
This deserves and article of its own but here are a few ways I create city pages.
- Create a page which is valuable to the user.
- Make sure the page is unique to the city it is about.
- Need content? Avoid fluff. Add a FAQ specific to that city, or add customer reviews specific to that city.
- Target your main city and a handful of cities around you.
Would you create these pages for people if there were no Google? If so, generally, they are “ok”. But, we are talking about an algorithm here, there is no reasoning with it.
- Creating city pages can be dangerous.
- Read Google’s guidelines, weigh the risks for yourself and proceed with caution.
- Use common sense: pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. Don’t create pages for every city in all 50 states.
I haven’t seen any clients with decent city pages penalized, but this is indeed a grey area.
If you have seen a website receive a doorway page penalty, please comment below or email me; I would love to hear all about it.