Here's What We Did:

LocalPI wanted a fully localised website for every town and city in the UK.  

Each site required unique combinations of services, prices (and of course SEO).  All the sites were to be managed centrally via a secure client portal. 

  1. Aberdeen Detectives
  2. Ayelsbury Detectives
  3. Banbury Detectives
  4. Barnsley Detectives
  5. Basildon Detectives
  6. Bath Detectives
  7. Etc

Go to any of these sites and hit About > Branch Finder to view the full list. 

Lessons We Learned

1. The Easy Stuff 

Some bits we're much easier than we imagined, for example: 

  • It was relatively simple to set up a server so that a single web application served 160 domains (set up as aliases)
  • Differentiating the sites was not as hard as we expected, just a few well thought out DB tables / fields for each site
  • SEO - most of this was much easier than expected - we got about 90% of the sites in the top 3 slots on page 1 of the Google. Adding Google Map listings helped dominate the SERPS too. 

2. The Harder Stuff

There were some difficult bits. But most of these pertained to the sheer quantity of websites, and were out of our control. For example: 

  • Managing website spam - a pain when you have a single site. A nightmare when you have 160!
  • Setting up 160 Twitter accounts, google map locations, etc
  • Obtaining and managing 160 office addresses / phone numbers 
  • SEO - while 90% obtained top Google positions quite easily, the top 10% (for big cities like London and Birmingham) were very challenging

Good planning was also essential.  My first idea was (naively) to base pricing on the website location. But there was an obvious flaw in this approach that I didn't consider initially. What if somebody lived in Grantham (cheaper pricing) but required the service to be carried out in London (more expensive)?

3. Technical Challenges

Setting up Https

This was a big challenge. There is a maximum of 100 websites per certificate, and each website requires 2 (one for the www version of the address and one for the non-www version). 

The only way we found to achieve this as clunky at best. We created 4 different deployments of the master website, each serving https certificates to 40 domains. 

Client's Interface

Because we were managing 160 websites, some of the bulk management work was very repetitive and monotonous. 

For example:

  • Setting prices for each region could be done in a few passes - until you hit a markedly different pricing area such as London. 
  • Applying a testimonial across a whole region (e.g. East Midlands) required adding it individually to each website (e.g. Nottingham, Leicester, Lincoln, Derby, etc). 

Making these actions easy for the client to perform and understand required some careful planning with the back-end code and  within the client's user interface 

Sheer Quantity of Data

Making each site regionally relevant was essential for both SEO and to engage meaningfully with customers in each area. 

To this end we required plenty of unique data for each town and city. For example we had 

  • Over 3,200 testimonials from local clients (approx 20 per site)
  • 2,000 suburbs / areas within the town and city (approx 12 per site)
  • 8,000 service prices (50 services individually priced on each site)

These had to be gathered and organised in the first instance. And once live, they need to be easily managed, updated and maintained by the client's staff.

In Summary

This project required a lot of work.

Not only from a development standpoint, but also from the client's staff in terms of compiling data and their management team in terms of aligning prices and services.

SEO was easier than expected in many areas, but achieving good results in challenging areas like London, Birmingham and Manchester was significantly more difficult. 

“That's a wrap!“

My name is Martin and I've been your host for this article.

I am by no means a strong writer, but I hope you found it of value.

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