Promoting a locale-based website can require different and somewhat modified search marketing techniques. For example, if you’re marketing a website with a national or global audience, you may focus on building links from other websites that have a similar audience. However, for websites that have a local audience, it’s generally best to focus on websites that are relative to your locale.
Note: These techniques assume that you’ve already done the basic search engine optimization techniques, like providing search engine friendly URLs and HTML to your pages, and including your locale in the title element of the head area.
Local Contact Information
Always Include Your Address & Phone
The locally focused website must always have local contact information on every page. That includes a valid address and phone number for the area the website is serving. You may want to consider using semantic structure in your HTML, like using the hCard Microformat (You can easily create an hCard using the hCard Creator) or Schema using Schema Creator.
Include Related Cities In the Footer
If your website is focused on one city, but there are several cities within the same locale, you may want to include those city names on each page — including a sentence on the footer of each page that says, “We also serve [city name], [city name] and [city name].”, should be sufficient.
What About Multiple Websites for Multiple Cities?
What if you run multiple websites that target different cities, but only have one physical address? That can be solved by setting up post office boxes at The UPS Store and then forwarding all of your mail to your main address. Setting up an account at The UPS Store is also desirable, because their addresses provide real physical addresses, not PO Boxes.
Get Local With Virtual Phone Numbers
Providing a locally based number is also a good technique, because it reinforces the idea that the website is locally based. Vonage provides virtual numbers at a low monthly fee that allow you to have several phone numbers with local area codes of your choice. All of the virtual numbers can be configured to forward to one main phone number.
Submit to Local Search Engines and Directories
One Submit to Rule Them All!
Once you have your local contact information and business details organized and available on your website, you will then need to submit it to local search engines and directories. The most important step in this process is by far the easiest. The vast majority of local search engines and directories get their data from data providers. For example, by submitting your business data to the infoUSA — click on the Update My Listing link located on their footer — you are also populating most of the major local search engines and directories, like Citysearch, AOL City Guides, YELLOWPAGES.com, Yahoo! Local and Google Maps.
Provide That Extra Data
Although data providers offer a quick hit solution, it’s still a good idea to submit your business details directly to some of the major websites. For example, submitting directly to Yahoo! Local and Google Maps provides options that you don’t get with infoUSA. Such as, images, more detailed descriptions and other more detailed information.
Article Creation and Distribution
Keep It Original and Keep It Local
As every SEO specialist knows, original content is the only way to go when populating a website. However, special attention should be given to locally focused websites. Not only should the content include references (keywords related) to the locale, it should also include stories, information and links to local services and websites. Those links, in particular, help establish and solidify your website’s focus to search engines, and also act as a marketing tool, bringing awareness of your website to the websites you’re linking to (through viewing referrers, trackbacks, etc…).
Mass Distribution + Republication = Organic Linking
Article distribution (aka syndication) is also an excellent and proven way to build immediate links to your website and also foster organic links through the republication of your content. The same rules apply to the content as described in the previous paragraph, with a couple of exceptions. First, you may not want to include and endorse other local websites. Second, when and if possible (and appropriate), include the locale and the keywords associated with your website’s service in the title of the article.
Blogs and Comments
When In Doubt, Blog
Keeping an active blog is one of the best ways to grow awareness about your website. Similar to creating content for local websites, blog entries should also include information and links to local websites. In fact, by using that strategy, you will probably see greater growth if you blog regularly.
Comment Locally and Comment Often
In addition to managing your own blog, it’s important to research and participate in the local blogosphere. Look for websites that are focused solely on your locale, subscribe to them in your RSS aggregator and then frequently read and comment on their entries. Be careful to not be too controversial in what you write, but try to make your comments interesting enough that readers will want to click on your name and learn more about you.
Be Real or As Real As Possible
In the blogosphere — especially the local blogosphere — it’s important to either use your real name or the name of a persona. Otherwise, if you leave the name of your website or business, instead of person’s name, most people will assume your comment is spam.
Complete Your Profile
Social networks can play a crucial role in promoting your website. Most social networks provide the ability to create a profile and allow you to leave a link to your website. After you setup your profile, you should then look for local groups on their network and join any you can find.
Use It if They Have It
Once you’ve created your profile and have joined any available groups, you should then focus on the different ways you can promote your website on their network. An obvious place to start is a group you’ve joined. You should participate in discussions and promote your website when appropriate — possibly in your signature or in a related thread.
Focus on Geo-Targeting and Tags
There are several social networks that allow you to submit and share content that is locally based. For example, Newsvine allows you to seed links or write articles and specify the locale. You can also include the locale and keywords related to your website in each item you submit to them. If the network doesn’t request a locale for the bookmark, seeded link or article, then just make sure you include it in the tag and keyword list for that submission.
Let the Media Know You’re There
Press releases that are targeted to a geographical location are often cheaper to distribute and offer exposure to local media. Depending on the PR service used — services like BusinessWire and PRWeb — each release can include links to your website and provide organic linking opportunities from websites that republish the story.
Additional Local Search Resources
As with most SEO techniques, this article was built upon the knowledge of others. Several of the ideas in this entry were inspired by the following resources.
- Before You Launch That Local Small Business Website by Sugarrae
- “Local Search” blog entries by Graywolf (aka Michael Gray)