One of the most common questions I get asked when it comes to SEO is how to rank outside of the city where your business is located. It’s natural for businesses to want to rank outside of the city that their brick-and-mortar operates in, but they have challenges ranking in the surrounding cities. Do you want to rank in a city beyond the city where your brick-and-mortar is located? Let’s get started.

So the first thing to understand is that Google is very focused on user experience. This means that when you are trying to rank outside of your brick-and-mortar store city boundaries, you have to understand that if somebody in Mississauga is searching for a dry cleaner with a near me quotation, or they are looking for a dry cleaner in Mississauga, Google does not want to present them with results in Toronto. Because Google assumes that the user is not going to want to drive there or take a train there or whatever else. The user wants to be presented searches that are local; that pertain to a local business. This has to do with proximity, so that is a user experience factor that Google takes into consideration. Which is why it is so hard to rank in a city that your store is not physically in.

If that is the case, then how can I rank my brick-and-mortar store on Google’s map pack you ask? Here are a few ways to do this. One strategy that tends to work best is to shoot for organic listings rather than the Google map pack. You can achieve this by creating unique service pages for all the cities that you want to rank in. So let’s assume you are a dry cleaner in Toronto, but you service the surrounding cities, you can create a dry-cleaning service page for each city individually; one for Mississauga, one for Brampton, one for Maple, one for Scarborough and so on and so forth. You can be as specific as you want – you can even break it down to neighborhoods like North York, the Junction, or the Beaches. So the easiest way to get ranked is by creating a dry-cleaning service page on your website for all the surrounding cities you want to rank in. Given the number of people commuting into Toronto from surrounding municipalities, you can really expand your business to a much larger target audience by simply creating a few service pages on organic listings for other municipalities or cities around your brick-and-mortar store, that you would like to offer services too.

The next thing to try along with this organic strategy is actually to create a page on your website called “areas we service”. Let’s say you are an auto body shop in Oakville. You can create a single page that lists out all the cities you service – Burlington, St. Catherines, etc., or, if you have the time, create a page for each city that you would like to rank in, along with relevant hours and services you are providing; or some kind of combination of the two. You will also want to link to that service area list page, or those individual pages for each city from other parts of your website in order to spread the link authority while also increasing the ranking potential of those other City searches as well. One thing to take note of here, when you go through this process, rather than maybe keeping the service areas in the footer area, or keeping it in your site-map only, put these service area pages in your top menu and build internal links to them. This should really service that aspect of ranking organically.

But be careful here – if you are going to go this route, that is creating a page for each city you are trying to service, make sure that each page has original content on, not simply a duplication of your services from another page. Google is smart enough to locate duplicate content and will punish you for doing that. Rather, the content must be suited to the location you are targeting. While longer content is generally better, something in the range of 500 words (or more), will do the job.

Now, what about a business without a physical address. Let’s say you’re offering catering services. Is Local SEO right for you? The answer is a resounding yes. What you would do in this instance is include what are called Location Signals within your website or web pages. These signals point to landmarks and websites in the local area you are targeting. For example, if you are catering to business events, you can add links to businesses you have offered services in the past. Or if you cater weddings or other occasions, a list of links to banquet halls within the hyperlocal area you are targeting will increase the relevance of your page.

Finally, when it comes to local SEO, it is important that you design your pages with the intent of converting visitors to these pages into customers. Whether that is getting the visitor to schedule an appointment, filling a form, or give you a call, make sure that your pages are designed to get the site visitor to complete an action. To get the most out of your local SEO, you need to acquire new leads or customers.

it can still be challenging to outrank your competitors, but if you are already using keywords and meta tags right, and you have good domain authority, then you have you stand a strong chance of coming up in other searches that are outside of your city. Outside of organic SEO, your other option is, of course, run pay-per-click campaigns using Google AdWords. There are some great features with ad extensions that can help you rank outside the city that you’re in, but I will leave the details for another day. Hopefully, this helped clear up some of the air on how to rank outside your city. If you have any other questions please post them in comments below, or on the RBL Facebook page.