Any business of any size can benefit from search engine optimization (SEO). Geo-specific optimization in particular can make a small investment go a long way, as well as ensuring more relevant people click through to your pages.
For example, “plumber in London” or “offices in Oxford” will be less competitive than simply “plumber” or “office hire.” If you provide services to a specific area, then read on for my 10 top tips.
1. Get Involved in Your (Online) Community
If there are local websites and forums, then it’s a great idea to get your business participating on them.
This continues to bring home to Google the relevance of your business to a specific area, especially if you’re able to include links to your website (be very careful not to spam social communities, though).
2. Make Your Mark on Google Places
Getting listed on Google Places is free for businesses and lets people searching both Google and Google Maps see details of your organization.
You can list your address, number, and website, and users can leave reviews of your services (so it goes without saying you need to be a company that leaves customers satisfied to get the most out of this).
But, just like the regular Google results pages, ranking can be hard. After all, there will be hundreds of firms wanting to appear under a search for “plumbers in London.”
Make sure the information on your listing is accurate and matches that on your site.
Invite happy customers to add reviews to your listing so Google can be confident it’s offering searchers a useful business.
Normal SEO tactics also work: aim to develop plenty of links pointing at your site, using your location in the hyperlink if possible, and it’s also good to get other local websites to link to you.
3. Update Your WHOIS Info
Is your domain name registered with your current business address? Some experts believe that Google takes this information into account when considering which websites to rank for local searches, so it’s worth checking.
You can easily update incorrect information through your registrar account, making this a simple first step towards geo-specific optimizing your services website.
4. Get Involved in Your (Offline) Community
If your business can get active in your local area, perhaps by supporting local charitable endeavors or participating in community campaigns, you’re more likely to get local press coverage.
These stories will go on the newspaper’s website, further highlighting your relevance to the local area.
5. Don’t Forget the Other Engines
Google may have the lion’s share of the market, but that doesn’t mean it’s all you need to consider.
Yahoo Local and Bing Maps also feed customers to local businesses, so make sure you dedicate some time to your profile in these listings too.
6. Incentivize Positive Reviews
Anyone using the web to find local services is also likely to look up reviews to determine which company to use.
In addition to review sites, Google includes reviews on businesses’ Places listings. This makes it hard to hide from unhappy customers and will affect how much traffic lands on your pages via your Places listing.
If you can encourage happy customers to review your local services then that can make a big difference.
7. Consider Using Multiple Domains
For international businesses that provide local services, it can be a tough decision choosing whether to use multiple domains, subdomains, or subfolders on your website, as there are different SEO benefits to each.
However, if ranking in local search is of primary importance, then it’s worth considering multiple domains. Google and other search engines will look at your top level domain to see if your site is relevant to a country.
If you’re using a generic domain, such as .com, you can set your geo-targeting using Google’s webmaster console.
8. Look Beyond Google
When people want to look for a local service, Google isn’t necessarily the first place they think to look.
In fact, many people will automatically turn to Yell.com or other business-listings websites. Make sure your business has a presence beyond the “traditional” search engines. They are the first port of call for most people, but not all of them.
9. Give Prominence to Your Contact Details
It’s important to give real prominence on your website to any terms you want to rank for. If you want to rank highly for a specific service in a specific area, then it’s a good idea to give a prominent position to your address.
Mention your location naturally throughout your website’s copy, so the search engines can see that your pages are associated with a specific place or region.
10. Don’t Alienate Nationwide Customers
Some businesses also provide services on a national basis, so this can all be a balancing act. If you’re in this position, ensure you also highlight that you offer your service across the country and not just locally. This will help you avoid alienating potential customers from further afield.
For example, if you’re an accountant in North London, you might want to include information on your pages like “North London-based XYZ Accountancy offers its services nationally.” That way, you’re including your location while assuring non-local customers that you’re also available to them.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!