How to increase your sales by optimizing for local markets

According to comScore last month, local search queries now consist of up to 7 percent of all searches within the United States. In addition, in a single month, nearly 36 million Internet users conducted 200 million searches that included keywords designed to localize a query. This number is only going to increase as the search engines add more features to encourage localized searching. In recent months, a number of new and existing search engines have announced local search initiatives.

So what is localizing a query? It is simply attaching local or regional qualifiers onto a search keyword or phrase such as a zip or postal code, city, state, province or street. The goal is often to find a nearby product, service, or business. For example, you may want to hire a Web designer to build a Web site for your business. However, you may prefer to hire someone locally. Therefore, you could localize your search via one of the following phrases:

Orlando Web designer
Web designer Florida
Web designer 32837
Web designer Orlando, Florida
Web designer John Young Pkwy Orlando, Florida

Obviously, some products and services are more likely to be localized than others by the consumer. However, with over 200 million localized searches a month just in the United States, you might be surprised at how often people prefer to shop locally. For much of the service industry, location is often essential. Therefore, it’s important that you design your Web pages with local searches in mind even if you also sell globally.

How do you do this? It’s easy. Simply add local keywords such as address, city, state, province, or postal code to all of your keyword-rich Web pages. One simple technique is to add this information to the header or footer of all of your Web pages rather than burying the information solely on your contact page. Businesses that specialize in a local point of presence such as dry cleaners, mowing services, brick-and-mortar retailers, and so-forth will find this tip critical to reaching their local market. Unfortunately, how many Web sites do you see that make the mistake of including this data only on their contact page?

To find a match, the search engine will give strong preference to pages that include ALL of the words of a search phrase on the same page. Therefore, if your contact data appears on one page and your best content and keywords on another, you will not likely show up for a localized search.

Want to go one step further to tapping into the local search market? Add other keywords such as regional indicators or nearby cities. Here’s an example of a footer I could add to each of my Web pages if I owned a Web design company:

AAA Web Designers

1001 John Young Pkwy Orlando, Florida 32837. Tel: 407-555-5555.
Located in Southern Orlando just north of Kissimmee, FL and St. Cloud FL. Directions >>

Notice that I included the address, city, state, and phone. I also included both the state name spelled out along with the two-character abbreviation. In addition, I added keywords to take in nearby towns such as Kissimmee and St. Cloud, which local shoppers may be searching upon as well. Regional words such as “southern,” “northern,” and so forth are also good ideas, particularly for businesses in or near large cities.

You will notice I included a link called “Directions” to give people specific directions to my store or office. If I wanted to include even more localized keywords on the page, I could have written out detailed directions referencing nearby streets, cities, and landmarks to obtain the broadest possible search exposure. Of course, I must balance my desire for greater visibility with the goal of not cluttering my Web pages. A reasonable compromise would be to at least work in my best business keywords onto my detailed “directions” page. This page could be used to pick up some of the less frequent localized searches.

The great thing about localization is how easy it is to grab top 10 rankings on the major search engines. The number of competing Web pages for localized searches is often a fraction of what you will find for non-localized searches. Therefore, take an optimized page that you’ve fine-tuned using WebPosition Gold. Insert your local keywords onto every applicable page of your site. If you don’t have a centralized header or footer file you can modify, a global search and replace via your favorite Web page editor will often make this task easy. For example, search for a common phrase or set of HTML tags on your page near where you wish to place your localized text. Search for that text and replace it with that same text PLUS the address and contact data you wish to insert. Presto! Your pages are now localized. (Caution: Be sure to back up your original pages before making any sweeping changes just in case you receive unexpected results).

After your page has had time to be re-indexed, use WebPosition to check your newly localized search engine rankings. If your page was already optimized for your favorite keyword or phrase, you’ll likely have shot to the top of the search results without much effort. Work smarter, not harder as I always like to say.

About the Article

This article is copyrighted and has been reprinted with permission from FirstPlace Software, the makers of WebPosition Gold. FirstPlace Software helped define the SEO industry with the introduction of the first product to track your rankings on the major search engines and to help you improve those rankings. A free trial of WebPosition Gold is available from their Web site.

Ritu Sharma
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