One domain VS multiple domains? SEO

Our real estate company is based in one city but has branch offices in multiple cities. We have one real estate site/domain that I'm trying to optimize for 4 separate local markets (cities) in the same state. right now we just have pages setup like (ranks well for the city where we are based) ,,, etc... The problem is that competition is very intense in all 4 cities for real estate related phrases. And while our domain ranks well in the city where we are based, the branch office city pages are not that competitive even though I've done all the on page optimization I can without being over optimized. I'm thinking we should buy keyword rich domains for the the other 3 cities in which we operate and start building separate sites for each, optimized just for that city and those keyword phrases. I'm looking for ideas and opinions, strategies...
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Matthew NguyenSenior Associate: Social ListeningCommented:
I am not a fan of buying separate keyword rich domains mainly because it is not the domain (per se) that gets you ranked.  The reason I say this is because keyword rich domains tend to still work in ranking signals but not as much as they have before and Google has said many times that they are devaluing keyword rich domains in ranking signals and looking more toward branding signals for ranking.

With this said, remember that a domain name is not the only thing that is going to get you ranked.  On site optimization, links to your site from other reputable and related websites, social signals and branding signals are going to be the other factors that are going to play a role.  If you purchase a new domain, you are essentially going back tot drawing board for each domain you buy to develop all these signals... signals that your main site may already have.  

In this situation, I would recommend developing sub-folders like you have ( or sub domains ( so that those sub-folders of sub-domains can benefit from your current's site domain authority.  Make sure the linking strategy and site architecture is set up in such a way that you pages can benefit from the "link juice" and authority from your main site.  Once these are set up, develop useful content specific to that regional niche market.  From there, I would link build to all your branch pages to get them ranked from your targeted key terms.  I would recommend doing some guest blogging and outreach to get ou started, a good resource is My Blog Guest.  This website can help you find blogs in your targeted area to guest blog on.

The last thing is, since local results show in general search queries in Google, I would also suggest claiming and optimizing your local presence.  If you haven't done so already, claim your local branch in Google Places and start developing reviews about your local branch from existing and previous clients.  Even if you don't rank well in the organic search, you may be able to break into the local search results, which primarily show up on the first page of Google for search queries.  

Hope this helps

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Bang-O-MaticAuthor Commented:
"Make sure the linking strategy and site architecture is set up in such a way that you pages can benefit from the "link juice" and authority from your main site." do you mean having good anchor text links from the homepage to the city folders or sub-domains?

So you do you think I should optimize the main site ( for only the keyword phrases pertaining to the city where it  is located? One of the things I'm struggling with is trying to optimize the homepage for multiple markets/cities, it's kind muddying the water so to speak.

Thanks for your insight!
Matthew NguyenSenior Associate: Social ListeningCommented:
For internal linking and site architecture:  Yes, anchor text, but also how pages link to each other within your website as well.  Here is a question I answered a few months back in relation to this, essentially the points to consider with your Internal Linking strategy:

For your second question, I think you should optimize each of your sub-folders or sub-domains for the keywords pertaining to the city in question.  If you are already ranking for specific keywords on your homepage, I wouldn't mess too much with it.  Though, I would add links from your home page (part of internal linking strategy) that link to your city specific pages that keyword targeted (Example:  New York Real Estate Information).

FYI, I should clarify the local listing parts, if you are going to go this route as well (I would recommend it since local results take up a lot of space on the first page of Google), to use sub domains for each individual branch.

Bang-O-MaticAuthor Commented:
Thanks Matt!
Matthew NguyenSenior Associate: Social ListeningCommented:
You're welcome and good luck!
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