Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Geo Target Your Audience

Every website is built with a purpose and has its own target audience; while some may be targeting the global audience, others may be contending for the local niche. Market segmentation is an age old theory and is practiced widely. Businesses often implement geographical market segmentation based on their product/service offering. A florist based in Seattle is most unlikely to serve customers based in New York. Similarly, a 'car breakdown' service provider in the US would not be interested in promoting his website in the UK, or for that matter on global domain because that it not their intended target market. This is where the concept of 'Geo Targeting' fits into your marketing strategy; the need to showcase your products/services to your targeted audience. After all target audience is what matters the most.

Paid advertising like Google AdWords has a feature that makes it possible for marketers to target their intended geography. Hence, a Seattle based florist can run a paid campaign that is only visible to searchers located in Seattle. With search engine optimization, it was difficult to replicate the same effect and almost impossible to target cities without appending city name (geographic locator) in the keywords. But the search volumes for such keywords were significantly low and therefore made it infeasible in most cases.

Search engines in an endeavor to provide more relevant results to searchers started to incorporate the principles of geo targeting. This was based on the finding that majority of searches are local in nature i.e. city, state or country specific. So if you were to search for budget airlines while in the United States, the results would be tilted towards US based budget airlines. Repeat the same search from a different country and you would find that the results are centered on airlines from that particular country. Different results for searchers present in different geographical locations; you get the hint don't you?

Search engines filter and display results based on the geographical location of searchers. They do so by establishing the geographical intent of a searcher based on various factors. Search engines also establish the geographical relevancy of web pages in order to present the most appropriate search results. Knowing these factors would help you effectively gain online visibility in the desired geographic location. The signals that come into play are:-

* Top Level Domain (TLD) is a potential signal that can be used by search engines to establish the geographic relevance of a page. An .fr domain is a clear indication that the website is intended for France and hence treated the same. Having the relevant TLD for your website is therefore essential.

* Location of web server is also treated as an indicator that can tie a website to a particular geography. Search engines could treat a .com website hosted in Australia to be from Australia. It is therefore important to get the website hosted locally.

* The inbound link profile of your website is another indication that search engines use to associate the website with a particular region. If a significant portion of the inbound links is coming from a particular region, search engines are more likely to interpret this regional association as a sure sign of the website's location. A comprehensive back link strategy is therefore mandated to use this factor effectively.

* The language used on the website can also be treated as an indicator but there are potential pitfalls. In case of multilingual websites this factor may not be foolproof. Also a website in Spanish could be associated with Spain when it could be directed to some other Spanish speaking nation. In addition to this, the repetitive use of city or country name may lead search engines to believe that there exists a regional association. It is therefore required that you incorporate the relevant language signals to help search engines make the desired decision.

* Google local listing details the physical address of a website and is plotted on Google map. This information can be easily used by Google to "put 2 and 2 together" and draw the regional connection. Getting listed there would not only benefit you in local searches, but also help you build the regional connection.

* Google webmaster tool incorporates an option which allows verified site users/webmasters to indicate Google the intended region for the website. By default it is not set to any particular country. Setting the most appropriate region from the list is also a plausible option.

The factors mentioned above may not be comprehensive but sufficient to help you achieve online visibility in your target market. As with all others things pertaining to search engines, it is very difficult to predict the weight each of these factors carry individually. Search engines use these factors in various proportions and the presumed weight could vary depending on the number of factors available for decision making.

Kneoteric is a leading SEO India providing SEM services including Search Engine Optimization (SEO), PPC Services and online marketing consultancy services.


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