The ultimate guide to geographic specific content

Kyle’s note: If you have a local business with local customers it doesn’t make sense to try and compete globally for search rankings or to advertise to people outside of your region. This post by Dan Virgillito will help you optimize your site for local SEO and attract customers that matter.

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.

This post covers all the data and tactics you need to consider to acquire local customers with your content strategy.

Here’s a diagram depicting how the process works:

Location-Specific-content

What is geo-specific content?

The term ‘geo-specific’ implies that the content displayed to the visitor is relevant to their location. The content can be in any form (infographic, video, map, image, text, etc.) and is related to a specific locality, which can be a city, state, region, town, or zip code.

Geo-specific content is your first step towards acquiring local customers. (CLICK TO TWEET)

When search engines crawl a webpage and discover geo-targeted content, they view the publisher as more authoritative and rank their site’s content in SERPs (search engine results pages) for geographical search terms. The more webpages indexed for a website with geo-targeted content, the deeper will its footprint be on the internet.

Earlier in the year, Google announced that it would use IP addresses that come from outside the US, in addition to the current IP addresses from the US, for geo-distributed crawling, so business owners from all over the world can take advantage of geo-targeting in their content strategy to reach their prospective customers.

Why use geo-specific content?

Have you tested all of the typical content strategies, yet still need to improve the local customer acquisition rate? Consider this:

Geographic specific content is cheaper and more effective than other types of content for acquiring local customers. (CLICK TO TWEET)

Here are some stats to support the case for geo-targeted content:

  • When visitor experiences were personalized based on their location, it raised conversion rates by as much as 100 percent (source)
  • 67 percent of smartphone users want the ads displayed to them customized to their city or zip code. 61 percent of them want to see the ads customized to their current surroundings, making the case for geo-specific copy (source)
  • 60 percent of advertising professionals believe that geo-targeted ads deliver a stronger ROI than other buys and 50 percent said these ads deliver a higher response rate (source)

The stats imply that matching the content you create on your web and mobile pages to the visitor’s location can lead to viable business results.

The importance of geo-specific content in local SEO

Global SEO (search engine optimization) means optimizing your Internet presence so that your business shows up on the first few pages of a search for your targeted 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 by using geographic terms.

Local SEO is about competing with local businesses for people who are searching locally by using geographic terms (CLICK TO TWEET)

How local SEO works

In Google, local SEO is triggered in 3 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.

seattle-sushi geo targeting

In the second case, Google will localize search results based on the user’s location. For Chrome users, Google will select a location based on the user’s IP address. If a user is in a different location, they can change their default location using the search settings. When they’re looking for something near thier default location, Google will automatically find them nearby businesses with the keywords they’re searching for and display those as top results.

google-search-settings

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).

wiskah

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 your business verified, or even send you a postcard via “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

Regardless of the nature of your business activity, you’ll probably want to list your business in several search engines. These should always include Google and Bing. Depending on your clientele, you may also wish to have a listing on Angie’s List, Yelp, Yahoo! Local, Internet Yellow Pages, or local business directories as well. But regardless of the directory you choose, a great search listing has 4 critical elements:

  1. Business information
  2. Business description
  3. Photos
  4. Reviews

watertown-hotel

You want to include geo-specific content (both visual and text) in the information so that customers can easily discover your business.

An interesting case study in local SEO

Multi-location retailer, Buffalo Wild Wings, had distorted information across online directories, and wasn’t being found in local searches which meant the brand was missing out on local business opportunities.

LocalVox, the online marketing platform, corrected and optimized over 500 online directories for 11 Buffalo Wild Wings locations. Each directory was enhanced with geo-specific content and data to improve local SEO. The result? The business started ranking number 1 on Google+ local for search terms like Buffalo Wings Port Chester. Here are the SEO results from LocalVox:

Buffalo

Citations are important for local SEO

Moving on, you need to work on citations to gain a strong foothold on rankings for local search terms. 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. Using the geo-specific content strategy for your business, you can leverage:

Local blogs

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.

red-trycicle

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.

Press releases

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 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 attracts new viewers to your site. This helps boost credibility in your business and increase local search rankings.

Interviews

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 this business, 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.

Traditional listings

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.

Review websites

Review websites should be mentioned even though they are not considered as citations. The have an impact on local SEO, with a survey suggesting that they make up 10 percent of how search engines rank search results. To receive geo-specific reviews, you would have to claim your listing on different review sites. A list of websites certain businesses want to pay attention to include:

  • Yelp: Restaurants, coffee shops
  • Tripadvisor: Travel agencies, hotels
  • Angie’s List: Doctors, handymen, plumbers
  • Consumer Search: Electronics, home appliances, etc.
  • Avvo: Lawyers
  • Etc.

Citations from the above-mentioned sources will significantly boost your local SEO rankings.

Creating geo-specific content to attract local customers

This is where it gets challenging. Creating geo-specific content is a staple of local SEO. However, you can be penalized for keyword stuffing and raise other red flags if the content strategy is not handled properly. Here are some tips to ensure you publish geo-targeted content that doesn’t penalized by search engines or social media algorithms.

  1. Aim for uniqueness

You’ve collected 4 locations for which you want to create specific blog posts. You create a lengthy copy and publish it on each of the 4 blog posts, modifying only the locations. That will help local customers to find you, right? Yes, but for a while till you get penalized by search engines. What you currently have is duplicate content.

To avoid red flags, aim for unique content in all your blog posts (locations will remain the same). Incorporate elements like interviews of local customers; videos of regional staff; support from other businesses; events in the location; and other variables to offer unique value in each of your blog post.

Example: Decorwise is a company that provides full-home refurbishment solutions in London, UK. Here is the content they posted for 2 different areas in London:

decorators

Both posts have no similarity in terms of content, but the city remains the same.

  1. Offer value

Algorithms from both social media and search engines are going to ask: “Is the content solely published for drawing local traffic and isn’t providing any real value to the reader?” Visitors should find valuable information as soon as they land on the page, so if your content isn’t offering value, it will get neglected by readers. Also, when you have a high bounce rate for webpages, algorithms will mark them as low quality and penalize them.

Example of low-value geo-specific content by a cake seller in Utah:

specials-menu

Only a 2 line description for a business catering cake consumers in Utah. Not impressive. The ‘Read More’ tab doesn’t prolong the description.

Now take a look at another cake seller in the same location:

wedding-cakes

See the difference? The text provides value by answering everything an individual ordering a cake would want to know: Details of customization, types of cakes available, how to order, etc. No wonder the first cake seller is ranking far beyond the first few pages of Google.

  1. Be real and relevant

Whether it’s writing copy for a paid search ad or a tweet, it’s important to be relevant and real in your approach. Your content should funnel human eye with a natural flow of keywords so that visitors can easily find what they’re looking for. Once you’ve got eyes on your content, conversions will follow.

Visual storytelling is one strategy you can apply to humanize your brand and keep it relevant to your visitors. If you think about the most successful businesses targeting local customers you’d be hard-pressed to find any company not immersing itself in visual storytelling.

Related: 12 ways to increase engagement through visual content

This is what a user sees on Uber when searching for a city:

Uber

Lots of visuals. There’s even a picture of the Uber team at the bottom.

Tools to help with geo-targeting

For a local business owner, the simple way to manage geo-targeting is to target location specific terms through PPC ads. Using Google AdWords or Bing Webmaster Tools, you can create a geographic specific campaign that will route users to a landing page designed specifically for them. Any website tools you have, Google Analytics, Bing Webmaster Tools, or third-party analytics tools will still work as they always have, but your landing page will be customized for the ad. Ads can be customized to target countries, regions, or languages.

adwords

adwords

One tool often used for user segmentation is BTBuckets, an easy-to-install app now bundled with the SiteApps platform. This tool can be used to segment users based on IP address or previous browsing behavior and display geographic specific content to users.

BTbuckets

Social media geo-specific content

Social media geographic specific content runs a lot like PPC content, although it uses the Facebook or Twitter sponsorship feature to display content specific to a user’s location. For example, Facebook users in San Diego could see an ad that mentions something specific to San Diego, whereas Seattle users would see something specific to Seattle. Alternatively, this allows you to target your content only to areas where you offer service.

Geo-targeting options are in Facebook’s ad options. After selecting your ad goal and entering some information about what type of ad you’re running, you have the option to segment your ad so that it shows only to certain people. In addition to selecting an audience based on areas of interest, you can segment the ad to show to people only in a specific geographic area. Alternatively, you can exclude people in certain geographic areas.

Related: Content is not enough: How to use Facebook ads to get the most from your posts

target

Geo-targeting for WordPress

For WordPress users, geo-targeted content is as simple as installing a plugin. Some of the best WordPress plugins we’ve found include the WordPress Geotargeting plugin (by TimerSys) and Geolify, a SaaS program.

timersys

Of the two programs, the WordPress Geotargeting plugin seems to be the easiest to use, and it integrates smoothly with the latest versions of WordPress. However, it allows only country-specific targeting rather than targeting to specific geographic regions, states, or cities. It’s also more economical, at under $60 for a single-site license.

Geolify, on the other hand, allows you to target specific regions, cities, and towns in addition to country-specific content. While installation is a bit more challenging, the customer support from Geolify is excellent, and prices range from $0.0025 to $0.0001 per page view depending on the size of your website and geotargeting options.

geolify

Is geo-specific content right for your business?

If your business has a brick-and-mortar storefront, or if your business provides service to local clients through localized channels, geo-specific content can help you target customers in your service area, rather than customers located thousands of miles away who can’t take advantage of your products or services. As more users search via mobile, and as Google continues to place local listings at the top of the search results, it’s a good idea to consider adding geo-targeted content to your business’s content marketing plan.

About

Dan Virgillito is a storytelling specialist, blogger and writer who helps digital startups get more engagement and business through online content.

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