Local search is a growing market as it delivers what most search engines love to highlight: relevant, localized and useful websites. In even better news, it works well for the website owners themselves as internet users who search with long-tail search terms or geographical markers know what they are looking for and are more likely to find your website relevant and therefore create a conversion. Yet to even get to that point, you need to make sure your website is optimized for local search, and that means considering how you use geographic markers in your keywords and anchor text.
Here is a no-nonsense four-step guide on why geographic markers (and where they are placed in relation to anchor text and other keywords) matter for local search, and therefore why they should matter for localized websites.
1. Nobody knows how close together your geographic marker and keyword need to be
There have been no truly comprehensive studies done to assess how close a geographic marker needs to be to a keyword in order to be effective: some say it must be part of the keyword itself as a geo-targeted keyword (such as ‘Salt Lake City Hotels’) whilst others propagate that Google picks up on locations mentioned in a web page regardless of location (meaning that your keyword can be separated by a few words or even a whole paragraph). Without hard data, one must fall back on logic and a degree on common sense.
Google will pick up on a location if it is mentioned a couple of times on a page, so it is not strictly necessary that a geographic marker needs to be directly attached to your keyword. However, incorporating it as geo-targeted keyword does eliminate uncertainty and ‘closer is better’ works as a general rule of thumb.
2. Geo-targeted keywords stand out like sore thumbs
Of course, if it was that easy, this article would be much shorter. Working against the above ‘closer is better’ thesis is the fact that geo-targeted keywords stick out like sore thumbs in content, and can make your webpages or associated content look over-optimised and over-promotional. Therefore a balance needs to be struck.
Trying to work ‘hotels Tucson’ into a body of text can be difficult aesthetically and grammatically, and in such cases it can be better to create a little distance between your keyword (e.g. ‘hotels’) and your location (e.g. ‘Tucson’). That can mean adding some adjectives and prepositions (e.g. ‘Great hotel in Tuscon’) or even spacing out your keywords and geographic markers across the entire page. It can help your writing flow more naturally and ensure that your pages do not sound stilted, over-optimized or too promotional.
3. Weigh up geo-targeting against IP targeting
If your primary internet marketing avenue is PPC, then you can also rely on other methods to localize your search. Google AdWords in particular allows for an effective IP-based geo-targeted schemes, allowing you to only show your ads to visitors who are in the area you are based in (cutting out the need for you to use a geographic marker within your keywords).
Some IP-based geo-targeting however does work better in conjunction with geo-targeted keywords: a person searching for a hotel in New York City probably won’t be in New York City when they search the query. To combat this, AdWords allows for your ad to show if a Google user from Idaho searches for ‘Hotels NYC’. Geo-targeting in this manner is encouraged by pretty much all internet marketing companies.
As noted by OrangeSoda, an online marketing firm, most small businesses are local businesses and therefore working the local angle is the key to success.
4. Prioritize local search without over-optimizing
Last but not least, you should always be wary of over-optimizing. Local search is growing ever more important, but unfortunately some websites go a little too far in their quest to optimize their website for all their markets. Creating a web page targeted to your every local market is a good idea on the surface, but if you are simply spinning the same information into nine or even nine hundred web pages, you will run the risk of over-optimizing and of producing duplicate content.
If you want to create a separate landing page for each of your geo-targeted keywords, ensure they are different in the essentials and are not simply spun from one another, lest you find your pages penalized by Google’s angry Pandas, Penguins and Hummingbirds.
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This is a guest post by Lindsey Mcmahon. Her interests are SEO, Tech and Social Media but she is constantly extending her field of view to incorporate interesting news suggested to her by her readers.
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