SEO Q&A: How Does Geographically Targeted Content Actually Work?

Question: How do search engines connect content to geographic locations? Is it just based on keywords, or are there other indicators that the algorithms use?


There’s a lot that goes into geo-targeting; it’s not enough to simply stuff content full of location-based keywords. Search engines today look at a myriad of signals, including Google Place pages and Google Maps entries, which are linked to industries and services related to the query. On a purely content level, it’s often best to write about a place rather than just write a generic article and throw the place keywords in later on. Remember, you’re not just trying to hit keywords — you’re also trying to achieve relevancy for the reader.

Obviously, geo-targeted content is only used by the search engine if it’s relevant. If you search for something like “flower shops,” search engines are going to identify what you’re really looking for — regional flower shops — rather than trying to return to you basic information about the existence of flower shops. But if you search for something like “hip dysplasia in golden retrievers,” search engines aren’t going to try to give you local information because it’s not a locally relevant query.

There’s a broader geographic question, too — which websites are returned based on which country the user is in. For many search queries, Australians see vastly different search results from American citizens. In the past, a UK-based company might always want to use a address, as this would be more likely to return to a UK user. Today, .com domains are being returned more often for virtually all nations, but there are still some situations in which .au,, .ca and other country-based domain names are preferred.

In Webmaster Central, webmasters can specify which country their website is targeted at. But as Google Webmasters cautions, splitting your focus can actually be harmful to your website. If you list your website as relevant to the United States when it’s really an Australian-focused website, you may have the side effect of getting fewer Australian hits.

Answer: To ensure that your content has been properly geo-targeted, it msut be submitted to the appropriate directories in addition to having highly geographically specific content.


4 Tips for Creating Highly Specific Content

Content marketing has come a long way in the past few years. The best way to ensure that your content is neither irrelevant or ignored is to make it as highly specific and detailed as possible — but that isn’t always an easy task, especially in the wake of the sheer volumes of content that is often produced. “Unique” has become a fairly meaningless word; thrown around and rarely contemplated. But it’s still an extremely important word; content that isn’t unique is likely to be ignored.

men-311308_640Tip #1: Always Write to a Specific Audience Demographic

Marketing is always most effective when it is targeted and personal. Try to imagine the person that you’re talking to — and speak directly to them. Think of a specific person. Name them. Ask yourself what Roberta would want to know about your product or what questions Mike would ask about your service. The more personal you get, the better.

It can be easy to assume that casting a wider net will make your marketing more successful. You want to market to 10,000,000 people, not 10,000 — right? Well, that might be true, but you don’t need to market to them all at once. Most companies will achieve greater penetration by separating their audience into smaller demographics and tailoring their content to those demographics, rather than trying to address their entire audience as some form of amorphous whole.

mapsTip #2: Use Location and Context as Anchors

City, season, neighborhood, events — all of these can be used as anchors for highly specific and detailed content. It’s not enough to simply mention a geographical location in passing context; you need to insert details about that context to create a picture in your reader’s mind.

Think of a book. A book always has a setting and it’s this setting that usually draws the reader in. Without a firm setting, the reader is adrift; even if the characters are compelling, they just can’t relate. When you’re creating the story of your product, service or company, you want the reader to associate and engage. This can only be done if the reader is first grounded.

And there’s a more technical reason behind this, too — geo-targeted content performs much better in search engine rankings. The more specific you get, the better.

newspaper-159877_640Tip #3: Don’t Be Afraid to Get Current

Some marketers shy away from current events because they know that this content is naturally on a time limit. But that shouldn’t dissuade you from delving into news and current events for specific, industry-related and consumer-related information. It isn’t always about building up a lasting content catalog; it’s also about user interaction. The more often a user interacts with and experiences your brand, the more likely they are to trust, engage and convert.

A user seeing a contemporary news article today may not necessarily purchase a product from you today — but they may when they see your name again six months down the road. Every single user interaction is an investment in the future, regardless of conversion. Getting current is an opportunity to seed your chances for future conversion. All content, on some level, is temporary — and this should not be feared.

question-622164_640Tip #4: Try to Solve a Problem

Don’t create aimless content just for the sake of speaking about a particular topic. Your content should try to solve a specific problem — even if that “problem” may just be natural curiosity. Your content should always have a goal of its own, that goes beyond conversion. Remember: your audience usually isn’t specifically looking to buy something. You need to know what they are looking for.

Too often, marketers begin with conversion as their end goal and create their content solely with the idea of conversion in mind. This creates content that is generic and inauthentic; readers will rebel against overly-aggressive messaging. But if you try to solve a problem that your highly specific audience has, you’ll create content that they will be looking for.

It isn’t always possible to be more specific — at least, not without churning out something awkward. When you can’t be unique, just be great. The most famous of our inventors and innovators were not those who thought of an idea first, but rather those who implemented the idea best. If you absolutely have to cover ground that has already been covered, cover it well. A little polish and thoughtfulness will go a long way.