The internet has no borders, it reaches around the globe. But, do you?
While many companies / consultants / freelancers are scared of missing all work available by covering up their location with vagueness, they could be missing out on attracting new customers… on their own doorstep.
I agree that it’s not as simple as that for some business models, but for most of us, even if you do work nationally, it makes absolute sense to pin your geographical location to the mast.
For starters, when 20% of searches on Google are related to location there is the low hanging fruit immediately available. If what you offer is general enough for you to have a local audience (ie. you are not a rocket scientist), you should be embracing local search opportunities, not shying away from them. And, this works for b2b services, b2c and local independent retailers.
Google Likes Specificity and Authority
Google actively encourages businesses to add their physical address location on websites as clear text. Some argue that they also penalise your site if you don’t. Even Google’s localised business centre, Google Places, uses geographical references taken from your published website as a note of authority when determining list positions in Google local.
For me though, it goes beyond the pure technical aspects of search engine placement:
It’s about human reaction and interaction.
If I am a potential customer to your business and I do a localised search (because I want someone local to me) I am expecting to see, in the search results, phrases that contain a location.
For example, if I am looking for an “accountant in Basingstoke”, I would [almost unconsciously] be looking for two words/phrases in the results page: ACCOUNTANT and BASINGSTOKE - especially as Google would be bolding these two words I asked for:
What is Local?
A huge factor for localisation of your content is down to what your business actually has as a service or product offering and subsequently how big your local market is. If you are an accountant, for instance, and you live in a reasonable sized town or city, you have a huge local market within 5-10 miles. If, on the other hand, you sell something like cleanroom products (as a friend of mine does) your local market may well be the UK, or beyond.
But, two points of note here, especially for search engine optimisation purposes:
- Don’t overlook locality completely. If your service offering is too big for Basingstoke but to small for UK, how about Hampshire, or another geographic area widely used in day-to-day reference. A good example would be Reading in Berkshire, which could also cover “Thames Valley”, or “M4 corridor”.
- You can’t be in two places at once, unless you have multiple locations (see below).
What do you do if you have multiple locations?
There are a number of techniques you could play here, and they would need measuring over time for ROI. Google Places is a great local tool if what you are offering could be perceived to be a local service. Eg. You are an accountant in Basingstoke but could also service Andover or Winchester.
In this case, I would consider a serviced offer or telephone answering service that could be fed into Google Places. Costs vary but I know I have had a regional office setup before and the cost was around £70 per month. I may also use a dedicated feeder website – such as SEO Basingstoke – a bespoke website with a similar service offering.
One location – Large Local
This one is a little more tricky, unless you have a lot of authority on the web (especially with incoming links to your website). If you don’t have authority, you need it.
Bear in mind, in terms of search phrases, geography is not the be all and end all, it only plays a part. Remember, your brand and service offering are also as (if not more) important and a lot will depend on the competition you have in search engines.
It may be more beneficial to work on building authority in other ways through article marketing, online PR and offline marketing / advertising activities.
My Top Tips For Local Web Marketing
- Make sure your service offering is localised in your content, especially your Meta Titles and Descriptions. These work as ‘mini adverts’ in a search engine result, so make sure your location is part of the result.
- Put your full address on your website and localised telephone number. This should be in text format. I also tend to add the address (including town and county) across the footer of my websites to make sure that these are on every page and to add a bit of local to every pages content.
- Submit your website to Google Places – it’s free.
- Submit your website to other local directories such as TouchLocal, Brownbook, etc. To find the best ones, search in google for “what you do + where you are” (eg. plumber in Basingstoke) and see which directories come up. If they are free to join, go for it.
- You could, if relevant, swap links with other local businesses. I would suggest though to keep it relevant with companies offering supplementary services. It’s worth checking out to see how credible their website is though before exchanging links – you could be diluting your own authority, which is obviously a bad thing.
- Write articles about local issues, referencing your local area, the services you offer and any specific issues that are topical. Eg. I recently advised an IT company in Basingstoke to write articles about broadband speeds in Basingstoke. It fitted all three criteria. When you think about it, this article does exactly the same