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Your Locations are Your Biggest Digital Assets

hasty-herndon
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Your site's digital assets -- the images, videos, documents, and other snippets -- come together to make up your site, your brand, and your business. The importance of these easily forgotten files has been growing exponentially over the years with the advent of universal search, and should factor heavily into your 2010 plans with Google's planned Caffeine update.

However, for many companies, one asset that can make or break your search presence wasn't discussed. An element so important that its presence can literally take up 100 percent of the above-the-fold natural search real estate for critical keywords, representing something so tangible that your customers don't just touch it -- they live in it. Interested?

They're your locations. Your storefronts. Your properties. Your good ol' brick and mortar stores. Whatever they're called in your nomenclature, a physical address has huge online implications. And while you're covering your assets, make sure that you're building up your presence for local-based searches as well.

On-site Opportunities

The most controllable place to ensure the visibility of your locations is at your site. Single-location operations can (and should) be integrated throughout the site, but more than one will almost certainly require at least one 'location' page. Even with just one address to hawk, it's a good idea to build one just to be able to improve your targeting.

Go Beyond City-Level Pages
  • Setting up pages for your individual stores increases your potential natural search reach, and also offers location-specific deals and information.
  • This will improve the content levels of your pages; increase online and offline conversion; and give you a more targeted landing page for PPC and local search efforts.
  • If you're already going to be building these pages, take a few extra seconds to build in microtags around your addresses and phone numbers.
  • For the truly intense, consider taking the time to put together a KML sitemap, which functions like an XML sitemap for physical locations and helps spread your footprint across directories.

If you have to go as far as having a location-finding search function, bear in mind that search engines don't have keyboards or mice, and thus won't be able to get to a list of your locations in a given city unless you have a link directly to such a list. Be sure to back up your search functions with an HTML directory of some sort, and optimize these pages toward local searches around your brand and your product/service offering.

Local Search Portals

While on-site location listings can help with standard search results, placement within Google Local, Yahoo Local, and other similar directories will drive placement in universal search results. Submission and verification to as many of these programs and directory listings -- as tedious and difficult as it can be -- is well worth your while, as your presence here sets the stage for placement in both local 10 Pack results, as well as straight-up local searches like Google Maps.

Content and keyword matching determine rankings in these results, but other factors include the number of sources you're found at, number of reviews, and -- even better -- positive reviews. So encourage customers to leave feedback directly at Google and common review sources, and to leave it often.

Review and Comparison Sites

Local review sites separate from the engines (e.g., Yelp, Urbanspoon, and TripAdvisor) play into a wide variety of local search options. In addition to being SEO forces in their own right, your presence and popularity here feeds into your presence on local universal results. These sites frequently have more options to showcase your location and offerings -- including images, menus, and catalogs.

Start by making sure all your locations here are represented; if they aren't all visible, add them. Verify that your location information is accurate and as thorough as possible.

If there's an option to include a deliverable, do it. Not only will you add to your listing's reputation with the site and help internal search rankings, you'll provide visitors with more information that can ultimately drive your site and bring more visits to your stores.

Share and Share Alike

As much as the two are frequently siloed, your site feeds your stores, and your stores feed your site. Promoting storefronts in search results is a great way to help bridge that gap. Foster teamwork between online and offline to make the most of all of your opportunities.

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