Large Site SEO: How to Waste Your #1 Ranking with Bad Formulas

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If you’re a serious SEO, this is the post to show it in the ‘Comments’ below. The following example is a real world example, from a large site, and not for the faint of heart. Keep in mind that we’re looking for tips that work in the real world, not Utopia.

If you work on a large site, or plan to, you had better be pretty good at creating formulas that work across millions of pages. There will not be any one person writing millions of meta descriptions by hand for you. Admittedly, this can be a huge challenge and potentially leave some serious egg on your face when you miss the mark. You may end up ranking #1 for a key term and find that traffic just doesn’t come the way it should.

Here are a few examples of a site that ranks very well for <Geo> <Category> searches. Please note the meta descriptions, as we’re going to be tearing this formulaic approach apart in the ‘Comments’:

Does this make sense? I’ll accept that ‘Plumbers in Pittsburgh maps’ is proper English (not really), but do people searching for plumbers need a map?

“Hello, Mr. Plumber, my toilet is clogged. I’ll be dropping it off around noon. Good thing that map will get me there.”

Now check these out:

At this point, from the three descriptions shown above, we can clearly see the formula applied is:

Directory of <City><Category> in <state abbv> yellow pages. Find <Category> in <City> maps with reviews, websites, phone numbers, addresses, and business profiles.

Now that we have torn apart their formula, I’m left with all kinds of questions:

Does this formula make logical sense?

Is it worth taking the time to address the fact that one formula for ‘Restaurants’, ‘Plumbers’ and ‘Lawyers’ may not be the right way to optimize click through individually?

What internal challenges might we be missing from the outside that explain this odd sounding formula?

Does the meta description make you feel that this site will have what your <Geo><Category> search was looking for?

Do you trust this site from what they have shown?

Along with your answers, my tips will appear in the ‘Comments’ below progressively. Let’s talk about why this approach works…or doesn’t. Let’s take an actionable tactic to apply to our own large site from this example.

Note: The site I’ve picked on here ranks damn well for almost every search I try. I’m using their formulas strictly as an example and in no way diminishing their SEO accomplishments.

Matt Leonard
Matt Leonard currently directs SEO, SEM and Revenue Management for Cruise Critic, the world’s largest cruise site and part of the Trip Advisor Media Group.... Read Full Bio
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