Optimizing To Target Geographic Location

    August 27, 2004

With most of the major search engines embracing the geographic targeting, through local search engines or by organic search using regional information, users now have more options with which to optimize for. Be it organic listings or PPC listings, there are a number of things that users can do to improve their performance within each area.

Discuss Geo-Targeting and Local Traffic at WebProWorld.

Preparing for localized search...
Preparing for localized search…

One area that can be targeted is search engine advertising. Google and Overture both offer services that will allow you to target your ads to regional areas. Google offers Regional Targeting and Overture offers Local Match. Google’s Regional Targeting gives users the options of selecting the location in which their ads will appear. From Google’s Regional Targeting FAQ:

“Regional targeting is an AdWords feature that helps you focus your advertising even more. Instead of specifying only the countries where your ads will appear, you can choose individual states and regions as well. For example, if you set your regional targeting preferences to the San Francisco-Bay Area, users based in San Francisco, Palo Alto, and Oakland will see your ads; users outside this area will not.” Google determines user location by IP address. This means that if there are no ads to be shown for the query, Google will show national ads.

Currently, with Google’s local search engine, the only sponsored links that appear on Google’s Local Search are at the top of the search results page. These ads also belong to national companies. For instance, a local search of hotels showed top ads for Orbitz.com. However, this could be because there are no geographically relevant ads to be shown.

However, judging from some of the things I overheard at SES, and the fact that national sponsored ads are appearing on Local SERPs, it seems that it will only be a matter of time before AdWords ads begin to be displayed on Local Search. They are almost too related not to.

A quote from Scott Van Achte concerning this subject suggests the same: “This precise method of targeted PPC advertising is still quite new, but will likely shift over to the second tier engines in time if it proves to be beneficial to both advertisers and searchers.”

Overture’s Local Match works much like Regional Targeting does. You determine a geographic area where you would like your ads to be displayed. Also like Google, Local Match doesn’t yet appear on Yahoo’s local search engine. According to Overture, the Local Match ads will initially appear on the following sites: “Yahoo, Alta Vista, AlltheWeb, InfoSpace, Citysearch and other popular Web sites.”

Optimizing for Local Search Queries

With more and more users searching with their location in mind, optimizing for this has become an issue that webmasters and others have to deal with as well. An article that was recently written by Daria Goetsch, a moderator at the SearchEngineWatch forum for link building, wrote an excellent article discussing this. She explains optimizing for geo-targeted searches as follows, “Localized search engine optimization is the addition of local search terms to your tags and web pages.” Simple enough, eh?

For instance, if you were trying to target local traffic from Lexington, Kentucky, you would include the city and state within the tags of your webpage. This includes the use of Meta tags, even though there have been discussions about the importance of such tags. Daria’s article gives a nice example of how to include the necessary tags within your HTML:

The simplest way:

– Title tag
<title>Blue Widgets Sonoma County California</title>

What if you want to get even more specific? Try including:

– Title tag
<title>Blue Widgets Santa Rosa Sonoma County California</title>

– Heading tag
<h1>Blue Widgets For Sale – Sonoma County, California</h1>

– Page text:
Looking for blue widgets? We have the most affordable prices on blue
widgets in the Sonoma County area. We deliver throughout Sonoma
County and all of California.

Daria also offers this piece of advice for those of you who have some trepidation about having to consider the local market, “Don’t worry, localized search engine optimization works much the same as regular optimization. With local search terms, you are simply providing additional information for your local customers, much like you might in the yellow pages.”

As the search engines embrace targeted search and advertising, you now have a leg up on what to expect and how to prepare your website and PPC campaign. With Scott’s suggestion that search engines will begin to “offer very targeted city and precise searching by radius” options, preparing your web presence for this eventuality is something to be considered.

Chris Richardson is a search engine writer and editor for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest search news.