I have come across many people in my SEO career who want to feature at the top of the search results in Google and this is entirely understandable, after all if you are a business you want to attract new visitors to your site and hopefully convert some of them to clients. It’s a no-brainer that appearing at the top of the results will do the first part for you.
However, stop and think for a while, if you are a craft shop in a small town or a firm of accountants in an area of London what will people use to look for your services? Generally people look for services in their immediate area – have a think about this for a moment, if you are looking for an accountant and you live in Harrow in North West London what would you personally search for? Would it be “Accountants in Harrow” or would it be “Accountants in London” where you will be presented with 1,000’s of results that are too far away from you to be of any use (by “far away” I mean both in time and distance – we all know that it can take ages to drive from one part of London to another).
Similarly, if you were the craft shop mentioned above in a rural town in North Wales would you be expecting people to travel from all over North Wales (possibly spending a couple of hours to get to you) or would you be expecting a much “tighter” geographical area to work for you.
You could even extend this to something like an hotel or B&B – many people when they are looking for a holiday location know roughly where they are looking for and will look for accommodation in that area – people won’t think “I’m going to go to Spain / North Wales / America on holiday” but will be thinking I need to look for a hotel in Ibiza, the Conwy Valley or Orlando (and in the latter case may even be thinking “International Drive”)”.
All of this means that you need to think about local SEO and how to connect with those people searching for a location.
The easiest, and most important, thing to remember is to include the location in the page content somewhere, so “B&B in the Conwy Valley” or “Accountants in Leicester” for example as you will see that all the sites linked to in this sentence do. Remember though not to just list lots of locations (I’ve seen “Accountants in Hampstead, Highgate, Holloway, Crouch End, Islington and North London” on a site for example where the firm involved seems to think that this will mean that the site will be found for all those locations without any other work being done). By mentioning where you are and what you do you towards the top of the page – maybe as a strap line to your logo – you confirm to the visitor that you match what they are looking for.
Please don’t though try to make out that you are in a location that you’re not actually in. Recently I was looking for a domestic cleaner for my mum who is getting a little unsteady on her feet, so I searched on Google for cleaners in xxx (xxx being the location my mum lives). I was disappointed to see that many of the results seemed to either be firms that weren’t in the area but had somehow managed to convince Google that a page on their site matched the location or were agencies who would pass the information on to cleaning firms. If course, the first thing I did when I realised this was the case was to leave the site and go back to the search. By pretending you are in an area that you’re not all you are likely to do is upset the visitor who may well remember your name as someone that can’t be trusted!
Of course, local SEO doesn’t always apply, if you are selling items on line that are “consumables” such as ink cartridges or that are posted out then people will often buy on price and not worry too much about where you are located. Big ticket (expensive) items though are a different matter as people may well want to see what the TV / fridge / oven looks like before then possibly looking on line for the cheapest price.
So, to sum up – if you rely on local people for your business you need to be thinking about using some local SEO techniques but make sure that you are working on the right location, too wide an area will mean that you might appear at the top of results that no one searches for while missing out on the truly local visitors.
If you would like to find our more about SEO and our view on it please take a look at our other blog posts relating to SEO.