The Ultimate Guide to Geographic Specific Content
While some businesses market their products and services globally, many businesses market only to clients or customers in a specific geographic area. Restaurants, hotels, and brick-and-mortar shops all serve a local clientele. If a customer in Seattle wants sushi, they look for sushi restaurants in Seattle, not for sushi places in New York. Geographic specific content helps your business show up in localized search results.
Global SEO (search engine optimization) is optimizing your Internet presence so that your business shows up on the first few pages of a search for your business’s keywords. Global SEO places you into competition with other businesses like yours all around the world. Local SEO, on the other hand, is about competing with local businesses for people who are searching locally.
How Local SEO Works
In Google, local SEO is triggered in three ways. The first is when a person enters a keyword and the name of a city or state, for example, “sushi restaurant Seattle”. For this entry, Google will display any websites that have all three keywords (including the city name) at the top of the list.
In the second case, Google will localize search results based on the user’s location. For Chrome users, Google will select location based on the user’s IP address. If you’re in a different location, you can change your default location using the search settings. When you’re looking for something near your default location, Google will automatically find you nearby businesses with the keywords you’re searching for and display those as top results.
The third way a user receives local SEO results is by using an app like Google Maps. Google Maps will display local results whenever possible based on the location of the device.
How to Claim Your Listing
In most cases, you’ll find that your business listing already exists, even if you haven’t personally submitted it. A quick search on Google or Yelp will tell you if a listing already exists. If it does, click on the small link that says “Are you the business owner?” (for Google) or “Claim This Business” (for Yelp) or “Claim Business” (for Bing).
Once you claim your business, the search company will verify that you’re the real owner. They may give your business a call and provide you with a PIN number, send you an email to have you verify, or even send you a postcard in your “snail mail” with a verification PIN number. Major changes to your business (especially changes to its location or phone number) may require re-verification, depending on the search engine.
Your Search Listings
Depending on your business, you’ll probably wish to list your business in several search engines. These should always include Google, Bing, and Yelp. Depending on your clientele, you may also wish to have a listing in Angie’s List, Yahoo! Local, Internet Yellow Pages, or local business listings as well. But regardless of the directory you choose, a great search listing has four critical elements:
- Business information
- Business description
Business information should include all the information necessary for a customer to walk through your door. At a minimum, this should include your address, phone number, and business hours. Ideally, you’ll include your website address and your email address (but only if the email address is checked and responded to regularly). You may also want to include links to your social media pages.
Your business description is the short blurb that tells all about your business, your services, and your unique selling proposition (USP). This short description is the most important piece of your local business listing that you have control over, so even though it’s not very long, it’s critical that you get it right.
It’s important to have at least a few photos and to include at least one or two photos of your business’s exterior. Customers looking for your business will find it easier to find you if you have a picture of your exterior location. Other images may include:
- the inside of your shop
- pictures of your most popular products
- pictures of your staff members
- pictures taken at special events
The most important aspect of your listing overall is the one you have the least direct control over, but your business needs positive reviews. However, the listing agencies like Yelp and Google frown on businesses who attempt to manipulate their ratings. For example, you cannot offer free products or discounts to customers in exchange for a favorable rating. You cannot ask your friends and family (who have never been to your shop) to leave you a positive rating.
But there are ways to encourage your legitimate customers to leave you a rating. You can place your Yelp profile on receipts or brochures with a request: “Please rate us on Yelp!” You can have your staff members ask customers to leave a rating or review online. You can even have business cards made with your listing addresses so that customers can rate or review you easily. If your business does any email marketing, you can include the links to your business profiles and request a rating in your emails.
Citations are like the local SEO equivalent of backlinking. A citation is when your business’s name and address are listed on another local website. For example, a listing on Yelp or Foursquare is an example of a citation. Local directories are also a great place to be cited, such as Best of the Web’s Regional Directory.
Another excellent way to be cited is by locally oriented blogs. For example, the popular website Red Tricycle frequently lists family-friendly activities, stores, and restaurants in various cities and metro areas throughout the country. Larger collaborative blogs (like Red Tricycle) usually use a variety of freelance writers. You may have to search on Twitter or Google to find a way to contact these writers, but many writers will happily come to review your business if you contact them and ask them nicely. Make a good impression, and they’ll often include you in their next roundup post for the larger blogs they write for.
Even smaller local blogs (like solo blogs) can be a great way to add some extra citations. Look on Google or Bing for blog posts or articles that fit your niche. For example, “Best Children’s Clothing Store in Seattle” would give you several front-page results for articles that have been written on that very topic.
A press release usually accompanies something notable happening with your business. For example, a new business, a new location, a change in ownership, or even a special sale might trigger a press release. You can sometimes submit press releases directly to your local newspapers and news stations online or by snail mail. Press releases can also be submitted directly to industry-specific journals or newsletters. A press release can also be syndicated through a service such as PRWeb. Syndication allows your press release to be distributed to many different news agencies.
The press release increases citations from reputable, trusted websites, as well as attracting new viewers to your site. This helps boost credibility in your business and increase local search rankings.
Let’s say that there’s a news story circulating about sushi restaurants using cheap fish and lying about it. A reporter covering the story needs to talk to someone who knows sushi, but how do they know who to call? The reporter goes to an online directory of subject matter experts called Help a Reporter Out (HARO), looks for a local expert on sushi, and contacts that expert for an interview.
Being an interviewed source for a major news article gives you (and your business) a major publicity boost. Signing up for HARO is free, and it puts you into the directory to help out reporters, provide interviews and expert assistance, and get some free publicity for you and your business.
In many cities, the Chamber of Commerce or local networking groups will list member businesses in a local directory. The Better Business Bureau provides business listings as well, and the yellow pages often has an online version which lists local companies. To find the best places for citations in your city, Moz has a handy searchable guide available.
Your website is the place where all of your local SEO will point back to. While some customers will find your address and pay you a visit, many customers will check out your website first. A few simple website tweaks can help your website show up in the right places on a search.
The Tech Side
On the technical side of things, two simple tools can solve the vast majority of your local SEO problems: Google Webmaster Central and Yoast Local SEO.
Google Webmaster Central allows you to see what Google sees when they look at your site. For example, are all your pages able to be crawled by Google’s bots? Are all your pages indexed? Have you uploaded a sitemap to Google yet? Bing has a similar webmaster tools suite for sites that receive a fair bit of traffic from Bing.
Yoast Local SEO is a WordPress plugin that functions beautifully for companies with a local presence. It allows you to insert Google maps, your address, your store hours, and a store locator feature onto your website. It can also generate and submit sitemaps and update your website’s schema information.
Your website should have your NAP information on every page. NAP stands for name, address, and phone number. When this information is written in text (not in a graphic or image) on each page, the search engines recognize it as local search data and index it accordingly.
Finally, a few simple tweaks can help your site rank more highly in global and local SEO. Linking your website to your Google+ page helps Google rank your website higher, and making sure that your website loads quickly and is mobile-friendly boosts Google’s opinion of your site.
The first rule of content is that it must be written for people to read, not search engine bots. Your content must always be high-quality, valuable content that encourages readers to seek out your business. Once your content is readable and useful, you can worry about adding in keywords. For local SEO, location-specific keywords are beneficial.
While it’s sometimes difficult to write about your own business, you may find it easier to view things from a customer’s standpoint. For example, what are some common questions that you receive from customers? Could you answer these questions in a blog post or short article?
Writing for a local market means that you have to understand the specific concerns that locals have. For example, a roofing company in a high-end suburb might write about the roof’s impact on property value, whereas a roofing company in a blue-collar neighborhood would write about how a damaged roof can lead to mold damage, which is expensive to repair. A roofing company in Seattle might write about how overgrown trees damage the roof, whereas one in Minnesota would write about the damage done by winter storms.
Finally, case studies of previous projects can help your customers see your work and help you with local SEO ranking. If your customers are amenable, having them write a testimonial or record a video testimonial helps to boost your credibility and provide social proof to your potential customers, but any video testimonials should have a written transcript in the text portion of your page.
Geographic specific content follows the same rules as any other content:
- Create great content that’s valuable and useful to your reader.
- Optimize your website for SEO.
- Provide outstanding service so that your customers will give great reviews.
- Make your content applicable to the specific audience you’re reaching out to.
With geographic specific content, the content applies to people within a specific geographic area. Making your content unique and valuable to your friends and neighbors results in more friends and neighbors finding out about your business.