A lot of confusion and misunderstanding still exists about how webmasters should optimise a website for high ranking on localised search engine results. This article deals with the main issues surrounding local search engine optimisation, with focus on the UK in particular. The lessons learned here can be applied to localised search results in any other country.
Domain extensions: .com or .co.uk
The leading search engines recognise a website to be UK-based and will list it even when visitors limit the search to ‘UK websites only’ if any of the following conditions are met:
- The domain extension is .co.uk
- The website is physically hosted in the UK
The first condition is pretty simple to check. The second condition is easy to verify too. Most websites offering free domain tools will include a facility to find the city or country from the IP address.
The link above provides a number of tools related to hosting and domain names. Use the ‘DNS Lookup’ tool to find the IP address of a website from the URL. Then use the ‘City From IP’ tool to find the city and country of the website from its IP address.
If a website does not have a .co.uk extension and its IP address resolves to a location outside the UK, it will not be listed in the search results for “Pages from the UK”.
Localised search queries
When visitors search with a specific place name in the query, e.g. “Hotels in London” or “Soho nightclubs” the search engines consider these queries to be local to the place indicated in the query and will serve websites that are physically hosted close to this location.
Businesses targeting a specific location should therefore aim to host their website as close to that location as possible. It is also equally important to ensure that the business and website are listed with the correct, updated address in all major local directories and relevant publications.
Local search results delivered via online map services such as Google Maps and Wikimapia are increasing in popularity. Optimisation to rank high on Google Maps or Google Local search results can be very competitive because visitors tend to click only on the first few listings or the one closest to their target location on the map.
Maintaining an up-to-date listing on Google Maps as well as local directories such as Yell.com and Thomson Local is very important here, because most search engines take their local search data from these sources.
Local search engine optimisation with content
Content is king, even when considering optimisation for specific geographic locations. Websites that deliver localised content will therefore rank higher and yield more conversions. This does not mean that webmasters should stuff their pages with the names of every place they wish to target, as that can seem rather unprofessional to visitors. The right way is to provide content relevant to visitors from each location.
For example a cleaning services business that has offices in East Finchley, Hampstead, Highgate and Muswell Hill would benefit most from optimising individual pages on its site to target people living in each of those areas and providing them specific information, local testimonials and the nearest office address without repeating generic content unnecessarily.
As more and more websites, search engines and information portals introduce more ways for consumers and businesses to find products, services and information online, it is more important for advertisers to ensure that their business is visible to their target market at all points. Local search engine optimisation for the business will also ensure that as mobile search grows, the business gets featured in localised mobile searches so long as the website is mobile friendly.