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Location, Location: Geography in Web Marketing and SEO

by Marcia Yudkin

When you're hunting online for a roofer, bicycle repair shop or optometrist, one of the first screening criteria you use when looking at web sites is "Are they nearby?" You want that question answered in the first five seconds after landing on a company's site.

Sounds obvious, right? Yet during my judging of sites for the Webby Awards this year (my eighth time), failing to state clearly and prominently where the business operates is a common error, made by architectural firms, real estate developers, a one-state restaurant directory, a regional chain of hospitals, environmental engineers and others.

If you work nationally or internationally, web visitors might not realize that unless you say something like "From our headquarters in St. Cloud, Minnesota, we work with clients throughout North America and Europe." Or, "Thanks to telephone conference calls and web-based collaboration tools, we can serve you regardless of where you live."

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Specifying your location and service area also helps you rank higher when shoppers search for a provider via geographical words. When you have a location-relevant business, don’t use only one geographical phrase, use many of them.

For instance, let’s suppose you have a pest-control business in Milford, Connecticut and serve customers within a 20-mile radius of your headquarters. One option that would help you come up in web searches would be to list all the towns you service. You could place such a list in a sidebar column and introduce it with “Getting rid of bugs and rodents in…”

Besides naming towns where you operate, you should think of general terms for your area, including the name of the county, the nearest big city, town neighborhoods and any local nicknames for your surroundings, so that you incorporate phrases like “Greater New Haven,” “New Haven area,” “New Haven suburbs” and “Naugatuck Valley.”

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Where should you insert your location terms when location is central to your business? Always insert your most important location term in at least these four places: 1)Your graphical top banner. This is the picture that appears not only on top of your home page but also on top of major every page of your site. 2) Your page title. This is the wording that shows up in the upper left corner of your visitor’s browser. 3) Along the bottom of every page (designers call this the “footer”) along with your telephone number. 4) On the Contact page.

In addition, search engine optimization experts recommend you include location words: 5) In the alt-tag for the site’s top banner. The alt-tag is the little label that shows up when a user puts their mouse over an image. 6) In alt-tags for other graphics and photos included in the site. 7) Wherever appropriate, in photo captions. A caption is the line or two below a photo that identifies what’s in it.

Finally, try to include at least your most important geographical term in page headlines and subheads. These should be coded with the html command “h1” and “h2,” respectively. 

By taking these measures, you maximize the chances that people looking for what you sell where you sell it can find you online. You also maximize the chances that when they reach your site, they realize quickly that you operate in the area they’re searching for. You then have the opportunity to turn your web site visitor into a customer.

Marcia Yudkin is the author of 16 books and publisher of the popular newsletter, The Marketing Minute. Ideas and techniques for getting found in geographical searches are part of her report, "Do-It-Yourself SEO: 16 Simple Tweaks That Increase Search Engine Traffic to Your Site."

Copyright 2009 Marcia Yudkin.  All rights reserved.

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