In the old days of SEO (about a year or two ago), it was an obvious practice for a business to explicitly say where their business was located and where their service area was. Today, more websites are skipping this content because they assume their location is obvious from search engine geo-targeting. What’s the best practice in 2018?
Recently, I started searching for a landscaper in Boulder, Colorado. Here are two sites I compared on my phone.
The second site I looked at:
In most ways, the second website is the prettier design. It has a more modern look, nicer images.
But notice a couple of details.
The first explicitly says they are located in the Boulder area. It’s in their name and headline. The second doesn’t state anything about where they are located or work.
The first has a visible phone number. The second has a “hamburger” menu that I have to click to get a drop down. Then I have to navigate to a “get in touch” page to find their phone number.
The question here is, how much damage is the second site doing by not being explicit about their location and making their contact information more visible?
The main consideration with being explicit about your location is the advancement of geo-targeting with search engine technology.
Today, search engines – for the most part – know where a searcher is because of GPS technology. When I did the search for a landscaper, Google knew I was in Boulder. If I search for “landscapers near me” or just “landscapers”, the search results would have been the same.
Search engine users are becoming accustomed to this, and realize that for local business searches the results will be for the area in their location.
Given this situation, taking up space by claiming where the business is located seems redundant.
Furthermore, service businesses that do on-site work (landscapers, contractors, plumbers, etc.) often have service areas beyond just the city where their business is located. In fact, both the landscapers I looked at work across Boulder County, which has several other cities and numerous small towns. Does the claim that they are a “Boulder” landscaper limit what their actual service area is?
With these considerations, not having a strict location-based keyword on your website may seem like an advantage.
The Three W’s
When it comes to website usability, there are three fundamentals to keep in mind. You must immediately, clearly, and unambiguously answer these questions for visitors:
- Where am I?
- What can I do here?
- Why should I do it?
It’s actually the third question, where you have to motivate a person to act by presenting a value offering, that’s the most difficult to achieve. But the issue we’re dealing with here has more to do with the first question.
This comes down to an assumption. The first landscaping website doubles down by making sure a visitor knows where the business is located.
The second assumes. Since the search engine geo-targets for us, there is no need to repeat the location of the business on our homepage content. The searchers will already know we’re in Boulder because we wouldn’t have shown up in the results otherwise.
Furthermore, the second site doesn’t give the impression that their service areas exclude other areas of Boulder County. We are not just a “Boulder” landscaper.
Because of the way geo-targeting now works in search, there is no right answer here. There is a certain redundancy in stating the location of the business.
However, decades of work with online searchers tell us that making this assumption is a risk that’s probably not worth it.
Online users are notoriously impatient and hyper-skittish. All it takes is a whiff of uncertainty and they’ll take-off.
An effective landing page for a local service business like a landscaper is better off saying where they are with clarity.
When I visit their site, I have a moment where I need to orient myself. In my mind, I ask Where am I?
What I want to be sure of is that I’ve found a landscaper that services the area where my home is. A website which makes that immediately clear has an advantage over one that doesn’t.
In fact, a broader statement like Landscaper Serving Boulder County Since 1981 or Boulder County’s Top Rated Local Landscaper would ensure that visitors know they are in the right place. Better yet, they could include a quick link to “our service areas” that goes to a page that lists all the service areas by name.
Why not include this type of statement? Why not be sure people know you offer services in their area?
The second site, instead of including this pertinent info, offers fluff. The outdoors is their “palette”? The land I inhabit their “masterpiece”? Huh?
Where do they work? How much will this cost? How do I get an estimate?
For goodness sake, where is their phone number?
Without the answers to the three W’s, poetic language and pretty pictures aren’t worth much.
Another factor with using locations in your content is keyword optimization.
In the past, it would have been unforgivable not to have “Boulder landscaper” in the content of the homepage. You never would have ranked without the keyword explicitly used in the page’s content.
Today, this is less certain, but it’s still recommended. If you offer a service in a competitive market, for SEO purposes it’s better to use the keyword phrase you’re targeting in your content, including locations. Your homepage should be optimized for your primary target, landing pages can be used for secondary targets.
If you have a new website and never use the target keyword phrase in your content, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage for organic rankings.
Location Based Businesses
There is another consideration where not being clear about your location is a far worse problem. When customers have to come to you.
We’ve seen restaurants, gyms, retail stores, medical offices and other location-based businesses that not only fail to make their contact information and map clear, they don’t even explicitly state were they are on their homepage.
This is really ignoring the information your visitors need most. If your customers come to your location, that location is a primary piece of content that should be prominent in your layout.
For example, this gym has their phone number, address, and contact form right on their homepage:
They embed a Google map of their location on their contact page. In some cases, like with restaurants, you can include the map right on the homepage.
If people need to come to you to become a customer, don’t be vague about your location.
Our advice for 2018 with location content and keyword optimization is to err on the side of caution. Better to overstate where your service areas are and what your location is than to risk confusing people. Redundant clarity won’t cost you conversions, but confusion will.
There is no good reason not to explicitly state where you work, even if it’s just a general statement. In fact, Serving the Greater Phoenix Area is a statement that provides a lot of information in just a few words. If the reason you don’t want to say this is so you have more room for fluff statements or irrelevant images, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
In the next few years, search engines may train users with geo-targeted results that are so accurate that putting your location in huge bold letters across your homepage will be unnecessary.
But remember, if your goal is to convert website visitors into leads, clarity always trumps clever. When someone is sure you service their area, you have a better chance of winning the business.