Micheal Utley: Hey, welcome everybody. It's Michael and Chris, this is Episode 40 of the Dodgeball Marketing Podcast. Welcome, Chris. Happy Friday.
Chris Raines: Happy Friday to you.
Micheal Utley: And you survived. You made it this far through the week.
Chris Raines: There were doubters. There were haters that said I wouldn't.
Micheal Utley: But you did.
Chris Raines: I did. I proved them wrong. We proved them wrong.
Micheal Utley: That's right. Happy Friday. We're going to talk today about a best practice in SEO: making sure the internet knows your geographic service area. This sounds pretty obvious, but Chris, why don't you take the first topic: Get your team on the same page about your service area, make sure everybody in the company knows. What's this about?
Chris Raines: Yes, that's kind of foundational. A lot of people might. . . There might be some misalignment between your marketing people and your sales and delivery people. What is a serviceable area? So depending on what kind of business you're in, someplace might be too far to drive, or it might be pointless to advertise or market or do SEO for a certain area because people aren't going to drive that far to come to your practice or any of that thing.
Micheal Utley: Or you don't want to drive that far.
Chris Raines: Yes, if you're going out to do quotes or something like that it might not make sense. So yes make sure that your team, your salespeople, your marketing people get together and say "What is our actual service area for this business?" It might be really tight, it might be really wide depending on what kind of service, or the kind of business, you have. So step one is just get on the same page, talk to people on your team and decide what is our service area, and then you can move forward with the next steps that we're about to talk about and the next one, Michael is: Update your geographic info in search.
Micheal Utley: Yes and this is where it really gets tight. When you're trying to develop alignment with your new team, there can be some interesting discussions. You can have some disagreement, and at the end of the day, the Internet's going to force you to simplify, even though you might have some nuanced information. For example, we work with a lot of companies that do a mix of residential and commercial services.
Chris Raines: Right.
Micheal Utley: And we have over the years, and so they would say, well for a big commercial job, we'll go out so-and-so but for a small residential thing, we want to stay closer to home. Well, you have a little bit of a choke point in this with the Internet that's forced on you; and that is that you need to update your geographic info in your search engine listings, your primary listings.
Chris Raines: And that would be?
Micheal Utley: This is going to be Google My Business and Bing Maps and we'll talk more about directories in a moment, but when it comes down to it, you don't have the luxury with these platforms of sculpting your service areas by service. Often they want you to be one corporate entity, and what you have to remember is they're trying to distinguish between, are you a sport orthopedic network of clinics and surgical centers? Or are you a dentist or are you an oil change shop? The internet is brutal in its complexity and there are points of contact that are brutal in their simplicity
Chris Raines: When we say the Internet, we mean Google.
Micheal Utley: Google Maps is one of those brutally simplistic choke points, so what you have to do here is just cast the widest net and then figure out how to deal with the trouble that comes along. You really don't have the luxury of pulling your service area in, beyond what it should be when it comes to your Maps listings, because that would be the same as telling potential customers that you want to serve; that you don't want to serve them. So in this case, we recommend leaning to the direction of the broadest service area for any of your major services, and then if you have leads coming in that are not in your sweet spot, say it's a little too far to drive for a small driveway paving project, that's a real sample for us. . .Then have a ring of referral partners that you can send that business out to and. . . There's a train saying, hi.
Chris Raines: Choo-choo.
Micheal Utley: So for us, when it comes down to this sort of unfortunate choke point with articulating what services we offer, we recommend, go to the broader one and have a solution to not create a bad experience for anybody who's calling in and wants something that's not a good deal for you. Chris, why don't you take us to the next one?
Chris Raines: Next thing you can do is add geographic info in the header and the footer, and also on any location pages that you have. So we've got tagline style geographic info, an example might be, if you're a sport orthopedic practice with 10 locations in the New England area, for instance, you would want to include for each individual practice, you would want to have a location page, right, Michael. So on the title of that page, you would want to include that geographic information as well as your address, including your city, state, and zip.
Micheal Utley: Because those are all really good keywords, those local names.
Chris Raines: Exactly, and that's what people will be searching for. Also in the footer, and I know you do this a lot, Micheal, in the footer of that. . . you might have one website that rolls all of your practices up into one brand in the footer. It's very helpful to have a list of your locations in the footer that have those keywords, that point back to those location pages, and that's another signal to Google. Like this is one brand and all of these locations are connected to this brand and although each location has its own page with those location indicators, keywords, address, phone number. So that's all information in much the same way as the Google My Business listing. If you have GMBs for each location, that's all information that feeds back to Google; like this is the service area, this is geographically where these practices are located.
Chris Raines: And when someone does a search, everything in Google is contextual to the searcher, so when someone does a search for that service or similar services near that area, it's going to be a signal to Google that this business is more relevant, right?
Micheal Utley: Yes.
Chris Raines: And you only get that if you added in Google My Business profiles and you get the location pages going and you give those signals back to Google that this is where we are. So location pages and geographic info and the header and footer very important. Michael?
Micheal Utley: Yes, I'll add a couple of comments to that. I really like a mix of different formats. I think of it like there's a sort of character on stage and you've got different spotlights hitting that character from different angles, and so this is how I think of the header and the footer and the page content, all working together to get all facets of the local identification information.
Micheal Utley: So I'll use another example here: "Providing Healthcare IT Services for Nashville and Middle Tennessee". So here we don't say... on CNN sometimes I might hear something like "Central Tennessee" nobody from Tennessee says "Central Tennessee".
Chris Raines: It's Middle Tennessee
Micheal Utley: We say, and this is my little speech we say Middle Tennessee because the state is cut into three sections by a river. It's a geographic region that is geological, and so the way that's kind of developed is we have three stars on the flag. We don't say "Western Tennessee", like they do on CNN, when there's a tornado. We say West Tennessee, and we say East Tennessee, where you're from, that's where we're from, it's West Tennessee. And now we're sitting here, we're sitting here in Middle Tennessee. And we're not . . . in "Central Tennessee", there is no "Central Tennessee". So if you use your header to get this basic statement of a city name or the big name for the region, like New England or Middle Tennessee, these would be big regional identifiers. Another one is the Tennessee—. . . Go ahead.
Chris Raines: Sorry to interrupt, I was like, they're only valuable because that's how people know them.
Micheal Utley: That's what some people are typing in. People are typing in stuff like "ortho clinic Nashville", "ortho clinic Middle Tennessee", or "commercial construction GC Middle Tennessee". They want to know who's serving these big areas. So when you use that in the header, you're kind of making this big connection and make sure that it's not locked up in an image.
Micheal Utley: Use it as text either below your logo in the top left, or somewhere where it can actually be HTML so that those keywords are, are getting locked in with search engines, and they're indexable. If it's just in the body of an image like the image of text, that's not the same as text to a search engine, a search engine's is not really reading your images in that way. And in the footer, Chris mentioned this, but like, you can kind of do the whole laundry list of identifiers there, and I really liked what you said, have those localization pages. And so we'll often do a block in the footer, that's kind of that laundry list and we'll link to those localization pages and then we'll link those localization pages back to an Areas Served page, and that gives that good interlinking between those two, which associates all those keywords with as target pages. So yes, I think that's a really good one.
Chris Raines: Awesome. I think you've got the next one.
Micheal Utley: Keep location data up to date in online directories. Okay, there are hundreds of maps and apps on the internet that want to have a database of businesses. So if you're in any kind of business, whether it's B2C, B2B, whether you're a local Indian restaurant or a major healthcare hospital network that services the entire United States, this is a factor for you either way. What you want to do is have a system in place where you can identify your clear and correct business information for every location and do what's called syndication. Syndicate that data out to the Internet to maintain recently verified listings in maps and apps. We do this, this is part of our services, anybody who's in one of our SEO programs, we're doing this for every location that they deal with. They may be a regional construction, commercial construction company, serving Pennsylvania, Maryland, and surrounding states and have four regional offices.
Micheal Utley: We're pushing that regional office data out to all the maps and apps. This isn't just for finding Indian food on Yelp. This is for anybody who wants to be found on the internet. And here's why, this data, the recency of these verified listings is an indirect signal to search engines about your website.
Micheal Utley: One of the key pieces in that data profile is your URL for your website. And if you have multiple businesses, if you're running a business where you've got maybe a parent company and you're running four or five, or in some of the companies that we market, 20 different websites marketed under one parent brand, you're going to want to do this for all the websites and all the locations. This is part of the SEO that we do, but it's a best practice, and it's really critical for maintaining that presence. A lot of companies, when they reach out to us for the first time will say "Hey, when I'm looking for us on the internet, I don't really see us, I see these other companies and they're not as good as us. What are they doing differently?" This is one of those things, it's one of the hundreds of factors that impact SEO. Maps and apps.
Chris Raines: Yes, and they're small when [not] taken together, but when added up they really make a big difference.
Micheal Utley: And what it just like URL, one of those pieces of data is going to be your service area, I should've said that at the beginning, but having that correct information. A scenario that's pretty common is a company acquires an office or another location, and it essentially expands their footprint. Well, what they have to do is say, "Hey, how does that affect our data profile?" There has to be a live, hot update of that, that then gets absorbed through syndication to the internet. That's really important for SEO.
Chris Raines: Awesome. Finally, here, we've got: Build location into your content marketing. So one of these things we already talked about, which is building unique location pages for each of your locations, but you can also do that just in general, with keywords that you use throughout your content marketing. So anytime you're writing a specific post on a topic, maybe it's on your blog. Anytime you can link in those geographic terms into that, do it. We've got also here, they work well for CTA. So, Michael what will be an example of a CTA that would work well in terms of just your general content marketing like that, that would work well for the geographic area.
Micheal Utley: Yes, totally. There are a lot of unique factors in regions, in the industries that we work in. For example, we do a lot of work in Healthcare and rural healthcare is a real problem. There's a lot of constriction in that space right now. So you can have, for example, a landing page on a hospital for an outlying community that for a hospital that is in a hub city like Jackson, Tennessee is a hub for West Tennessee. It's called Hub City for that reason because back in the day, it was the only little dot of roads in the middle of a bunch of farms. But the hospitals there are often marketing in such a way that they are a regional hub. So what they often have is people driving in from an outlying community like Medina, Tennessee.
Micheal Utley: And so what would be a good idea for them in Jackson is to have a landing page that says we are the hospital serving your rural community. We're a 20-minute drive away, here's what you're going to experience when you come in; and that's not necessarily just a comfort level thing, but just a nuts and bolts way to communicate with people. But what that's going to do is somebody who searches for ''hospital Medina'... Actually, a lot of people are moving there because of the school system from, this is crazy, California.
Micheal Utley: Well guess what; those people aren't walking over to their neighbor's house and asking, "Hey, where do we go to the hospital? The kid's really sick." They're getting on the internet. So it would behoove you, West Tennessee healthcare system, to build a landing page for that outline community, so that, that community knows "Hey, we service neighbors, your kids, here are the services we offer. We know that you're in these schools and that you're breaking wrists at soccer games on Saturdays and here's how you get in and get some service today." So that's an example of a very real-world situation where patient care is suffering if hospitals don't do good SEO.
Chris Raines: Perfect. That's all we got for this episode and go ahead and follow us on all the socials. Michael, what are the socials?
Micheal Utley: Listen, we're going places. We're really excited, and we want to get the word out about Dodgeball Marketing Podcast and DodgeballSEO.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, so that you get new episodes. We may even have an email newsletter sign up somewhere. But following us on the socials is a really good way to stay in touch, and we really want to make sure that people who are practitioners, vice-presidents of marketing, marketing directors, founders, owners, people who are responsible for marketing. We're a podcast for practitioners, not for industry experts. This isn't an "inside baseball" type of podcast, this is one that's meant to be as helpful to people who are doing the work. I would say, make that connection with us on socials so that you're getting updated episodes and you're tracking and learning new stuff as it's happening.
Chris Raines: All right, signing off.
Micheal Utley: Cool. Thanks, everybody.