by John Eberhard
One of the issues that many companies have to deal with when they are laying out a website marketing strategy, is the issue of geography. Where is the business located? And where does it do business? Is it a local business servicing people in one metro area? Is it a business that does business in one entire state? Regional? National? International?
Many of the online marketing actions you can take are NOT limited in their geography. In other words, they get the word out nationally or internationally. So if your business is a local restaurant or home improvement company, servicing people only in a small area, those strategies aren’t necessarily the best for you.
For example, I was recently approached by a firm that wanted to target prospects in southern California. But they wanted to do search engine optimization and link building to get their site ranking high in the search engines. This is all well and good. But I was envisioning where this was going to go, and even if we clearly stated on the web site that we service people only in southern California, I could see getting lots of leads from out of the area. I could even see getting only a minority of the leads from the target area.
You can always target keywords that include the name of your location, but this only works if there is some decent traffic associated with those localized keywords.
Google has recently announced a new feature on search called “Nearby.” If you go to the main Google search page, then type in some search, right near the top there will appear a link for “Show options.” Click on this and a column will appear on the left. A little ways down the page it will say “All results” in black and “Nearby” underlined in blue. If you click on “Nearby” then all the results will be geographically nearby.
This is a nifty feature that perhaps Google should have offered a long time ago. But it’s sort of hard to find. So for the time being until this feature becomes easier to find and more widely used, Google’s main search results are not local.
So let’s talk about the various website marketing methods and whether or not they can be used to target locally.
- Search Engine Optimization: Doing SEO on a site is designed to help with getting the site to rank well in the search engines for certain keywords. So unless you have some keywords that include names of cities or towns near you, and those keywords have some decent traffic, doing SEO does not allow you to target geographically.
- Blogging: Having a blog, posting to it regularly, and including links within your post going to various pages in your site, is a great way to generate traffic to the blog, and also builds up links to your site. And sending a notification to the blog search engines after each post is what drives traffic. But once again unless you are including the name of your location in your blog posts (in the headlines, links etc.) you will be attracting visitors from all over.
- Optimized Press Releases: Sending out press releases optimized with your target keywords is a great way to build quality links to your web site. My thought on press releases is that they generate some traffic, but it is more of a method of building links. So I think it does not matter so much if the business is local.
- Article Marketing: Submitting articles to article directories, also called content hubs, remains one of the best ways to build up quantity links to your website. But again, unless you are sprinkling the name of your location throughout the article, you will tend to get readers from all over. But again this is mainly a link building action, so my thought is that this works equally well for local businesses, because we’re mainly looking to create links.
- Pay Per Click Advertising (PPC): Pay per click advertising with Google AdWords, Yahoo Search Marketing and MSN Ad Center allows you to exactly target where your ads will appear. So if you only do business in Glendale, Pasadena and Burbank, California, then you can set it up so that only people living in those cities will see your ads. They will not appear to people searching in Florida. You can pick the whole US, individual states, or other countries. So for a local business that only does business in a certain geographical area, PPC is the best way to drive a lot of traffic that is restricted to one geographical area or zone. As I have mentioned in other articles, PPC is not a good fit for every type of business, because the cost can make it not viable for low ticket items (under $100). But if you selling a high ticket item, it’s usually a great fit.
So in summary, for the local business, pay per click advertising is often the best fit in terms of driving local visitors to your site and generating local leads. That may change as Google makes their “Nearby” feature more prominent and it becomes more widely used. But for now, PPC is the best tool for targeting the local customer.