Where am I?
Location based context for your website
As Geolocation technology grows in popularity, sophistication and its overall use, it's worth thinking about whether your website properly lets people know where you are based. If people search for your type of business, product or service in your area - does your website appear? Is your address featured prominently on your website? Is your site listed in Google Local? Read on for some thoughts and tips...
So what is the fuss with Geolocation?
Geolocation is the identification of the real-world geographic location of an Internet-connected computer, mobile device, website visitor or other. IP address geolocation data can include information such as country, region, city, postal/zip code, latitude, longitude and timezone. Geolocation may refer to the practice of assessing the location, or to the actual assessed location, or to locational data.
The web has changed the way we buy things with the barriers removed on when, how and where we purchase. Now we are able to buy pretty much anything from pretty much anywhere and the only limitations are the cost of and the time taken to deliver. Whilst this change has been quick and revolutionary there is now a solid move to providing information based on where we currently are.
This has come about in large part due to the technological advances of smartphones such as the Blackberry, Google’s Android and the iPhone. People are now able to search instantly for specific restaurants, bars and shops from anywhere and in relation to where they are or where they’re going.
In technology and on the web decent geolocation is where it’s at. Companies are investing time and money to progress their geolocation features such as Google maps and features within the Firefox browser. Twitter is looking to make itself more “location-aware” and the recent proliferation of geolocation based twitter spin offs are proof of its popularity and importance. Also there are some funky augmented reality applications such as the one below which brings it all to life and into the proper “Hollywood Apps” territory.
What has this got to do with my website?
Whilst your website might not be as whiz-bang as an augmented reality application, to a user it can serve a similar purpose as they may be interested in your business due to where you are in relation to them.
Understanding that some searches come with a location-based context and altering parts of your site accordingly will help you attract those types of visitors.
This all forms a small but very significant part of what those in the search industry call understanding the “context” of a persons web search. Having said that, whilst this post is framed around attracting more visitors and the principles of web search what we are really talking about here is just good web practice (i.e. making sure visitors find relevant and useful information.)
Note that this post addresses the content of your website to convey your location as opposed to the physical location of the server or other deeply techy considerations. If you are interested in more technical discussions for dealing with geolocation and your website have a look at Rand Fishkin’s Friday Whiteboard about geolocation.
A vague area and/or your specific address?
Here are a couple of examples of different contexts for when location might be relevant for your users:
- A user searches google for “Your-product your-location” i.e. “Web designer London”
- A user is on your website and wants to find out a little bit more about where you are based i.e. What areas you operate in or ship to, where your office or shops are.
Let’s take the first point. A user is looking for companies like yours (or your products or services) in your town. In this scenario the user will in all likelihood be searching Google or Yahoo using general regional terms i.e. Manchester, Central London, North West England in combination with other keywords specific to your business. From this point of view your site should then feature “vague” regional search keywords.
The second point is connected to “user trust”. Having your company’s physical address on your site will not only be useful to a visitor it will also help increase their trust in your company or brand. Added to this, it’s been argued that Google will assign more trust to your website if you include a physical address and more trust can mean higher rankings in search results. Bear in mind though that this belief is based on a series of educated guesses and experimentation because search engine ranking systems are such a highly guarded secret . You can find some more info about that in Michael Gray’s article on Searchengineland.
So you should therefore try and include both vague and specific location details on your site.
So what should i do? (the useful stuff!)
Below are some specific things you should think about doing on your website. By no means exhaustive but hopefully useful.
Add your postal address to your website:
Because your postal address will include specific as well as vague location information (i.e. your town or county) its worth adding your postal address on as many pages as possible. I’d suggest you use the footer of your site for this so that it will therefore appear in search engine indexes but won’t get in the way of your average user. For an example take a look at Red, White or Pink. Also, if you have a physical shop it would be worth while adding some directions too. This will give added usefulness to your site users and also give you some more space for some more legitimate geographical keywords. Take a look at the Barnstaple shop page on Carol Anne Jewellery.
Add a google map to your site:
This will be useful for your site visitors and also increase their trust. It may also improve your trust rating with the search engines too (although see the caveat about that above). For an example take a look at our contact page or the Boutique locator page on Carol Anne. For help on setting up Google maps take a look at their API page.
Add yourself to Google Local:
Google Local is an often under utilised service and allows you to list your physical address and then displays those results within Google maps and also at the top of searches which appear to have a location based context. The service is free but you will need to verify your address by post. For example take a look at this search result for “website company Camden” which was recently spotted in the wild:
In addition Google Local lets you add additional information about your business, testimonials and images too – which all amount to another trusted avenue for users to find out more info about your company. For an example take a look at the Espresso Apartments listing on Google Local. This Google Business Centre tips page may be useful too. You might also want to take a look at Yahoo local.
Create a general statement about your company which includes the more vague location-based keywords in it and include it on your website:
It’s a good idea to include some general statements about your company on your website with information about what you do or sell. Again I like to use the footer to utilise this. By adding some of the vague regional information in here it can really help the search engines understand more about your company and therefore serve it up to people on their results pages. For examples take a look at the coldpie footer below or the Espresso apartments footer.
Add location context to the page titles on your website:
Add a couple of location keywords to some of your websites page titles including your homepage and contact page. For more information about what page titles are and why they are important take a look at another one of my long blog posts: Quick tips to improve your page titles.
And finally….Add some Microformat magic:
This one is a bit more techy and a subject perhaps deserving of a blog post all by itself. Adding Microformats to your site add another level of usefulness for some of your website users. For more information about Microformats have a read through some articles by the self-confessed Microformats nut Andy Clarke: here and here. Another article about SEO and Microformats is here. For those with the Operator Firefox extension you can see Microformats at work on this site and also on the Greenwich Community College website.
UPDATE: It’s worth having a look at Google’s “Rich snippets” which allow you to use Microformats to mark up additional search result information. More info on that In their introduction in May, their update in October and their testing tools on the Webmaster site