Things not to do in geographic targeting
Many times I see websites use local SEO tactics that are forced, unnatural, misleading or all of the above. Many of these violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
Here are some examples of what to avoid when trying to target local markets:
- List all cities/towns in your service area (e.g. Chicago area) on every web page in the footer. Search engines may ignore this and/or consider it spam.
- Over-stuff pages with geographic keywords. Possible over-optimization penalty.
- Create duplicate pages for each town you want to serve. Using the exact same text with different town can result in a possible duplicate content penalty.
- Put geographic keywords in hidden text on web pages such as using white text on a white background, locating text behind an image, or positioning text off-screen. This may cause your site to be removed from search results.
Identify Geographic Market
When targeting a geographic area, it pays to understand the demographics as well as where the target markets are located. It also pays to be very specific on your website.
For example, you may want to target your local SEO for the state of Illinois. Illinois is a very broad market with a lot of online competition for keywords. For that matter, so is Chicago, but a neighborhood or suburb of Chicago would be much more specific.
Here are some steps to follow to pinpoint your geographic targeting:
- Identify your geographic market by city, county, and state. Optionally add zip codes to your list.
- Further identify geographic market by neighborhood or common names that people use to refer to the area. For example, Chicago proper is identified by north side, south side, Lakeview, Hyde Park, etc.
- From your list identify the top 3 markets to target. For example, include the main city/town and two other areas from your list.
- Identify the second tier of markets to target: 5 to 10 more areas.
Use Geographic terms in your website
After you’ve decided on your target markets, then you need to get the markets into your website. Remember not to overdo it, but to have the geographic terms appear more naturally.
- Identify markets you serve in various places on the website: header, footer, sidebar, contact page
- Use combinations of the top 3 markets in your search engine keywords on as many web pages as possible where it makes logical sense.
- Combine geographic terms with your focus keywords for on-page optimization.
- Use geographic terms in your content and meta tags throughout your website.
- Add a Service Areas page if it makes sense for your business.
- Add a Google Map on your contact page for your physical location.
See our website content writing tips for ideas on where to put keywords and geographic terms.
Use Local Search Directories
Claiming and updating your business profile on the follow websites can also aid your Local SEO efforts.
- Google+ Business Page (formerly Google Places)
- Bing Places for Business (formerly Bing Business Portal)
- Use Yext.com or another tool to see how your business appears in local search directories.
- Join industry associations or local organizations such as the chamber of commerce.
Local SEO Content Strategies
If you feel you still aren’t getting enough local traffic after optimizing your existing web pages for local SEO, then consider adding some targeted content to your website that focuses on your local keywords.
Some ideas include:
- Writing case studies on projects you’ve done in certain towns.
- Share customer testimonials on your website where you identify the type of work done and the town where the customer was located.
- Creating locally focused blog articles