April 2016 Letter to the Editor: RE: Honest Internet Marketing
Did that February article, Honest Internet Marketing, make you a little mad? It sure did me. Not at the authors, but at Google feeding them this kind of information. This was misleading in some respects. I completely agree that many SEO marketing services are just liars, promising things they can’t deliver and optimizing for rarely searched keywords.
But to say that it is, in any way, dishonest to optimize your business for multiple cities you legitimately wish to serve? That’s dirty, unfair and wrong. So if you’re a restoration firm located in Naperville, IL, you can’t optimize for nearby Chicago where most of the business is? You shouldn’t target all the smaller towns and cities around a metro area without being a black-hat practitioner, breaking the eleventh commandment: Thou shalt not create gateway pages?
Look, a so-called gateway page is a good thing. It shows that you are so dedicated to serving your customers in that certain area that you created a webpage just for them. Sure you might wish to make your content more targeted to that community, but why re-create an honest description of your services over and over again just to protect yourself from the duplicate content boogeyman?
You have every right to market your services online in any city you wish to serve. Search engine marketing isn’t like other advertising opportunities.
You can’t just switch to a different newspaper or radio station. Google so dominates this avenue that, in effect, they are all the local newspapers and radios in the entire country! If you can’t get fair treatment there, without being dishonest, you’re not the one being dishonest.
I’m not talking about creating fake locations and addresses. But I am talking about creating pages targeting your geographic audiences. But from my experiences, Google has not, up until now, done this.
I have clients coming up in dozens of cities with essentially the same content on every page. And why shouldn’t they? They serve them. And if Google ever does punish an actual, real service provider just for similar content targeting more than one city, they certainly do not apply this rule to any of those first-page-monopolizing directories they love so much.
Take a look for yourself. I did a search for “carpet cleaning Chicago, IL” and found Angie’s List on the first page (see Exhibit A). Notice the “local articles in Chicago.”
Then I searched for “carpet cleaning Los Angeles, CA,” and who came up once again on the first page for me? Angie’s List (see Exhibit B). Notice the “local articles in Los Angeles.” See any differences?
The stupid, duplicate content scare tactic hasn’t scared Angie. Nor has it hurt her. The directories, franchises and big boys do it. It’s not dishonest or black hat to optimize your website for multiple cities. For now, at least, it’s just smart.
— Gary Arndts, Richmond, IN