Today, I want to talk about some specific tactics for making sure your site is Search Engine Optimized for the right Google database – Canada or the USA.
In general, you want your site to give Google as many hints as possible about the geographic market you serve. And here are some practical ways to do that.
Google+ Local / Google Places
One of the best ways to let Google know where your business operates is to tell them. And one of the best ways to tell them where you are is through something called Google+ Local (it used to be know as Google Places and you’ll still see it called that in some contexts)
Google+ Local allows you to create a listing for your business that includes the address, hours of operation, keywords about the products and services you offer – even special offers for customers and prospects – and that integrates with Google’s search engine, maps and social networking services.
There are a lot of good reasons for setting up a Google+ Local listing – almost every business should have one – and doing SEO for the right target audience is only one of the best ones.
Google Webmaster Tools
Google Webmaster Tools is one of the great hidden gems of Google’s suite of tools. In addition to helping you diagnose problems that might interfere with your search engine rankings and make tweaks that can help your SEO, Google Webmaster Tools lets you define your Web site’s target audience by country. Here you can tell Google whether you’re targeting Google.ca or Google.com
SEO keywords on your pages
Google takes most of its cues about the things your site is relevant to from the content of your site itself. It knows your site is relevant to, say, custom-made doors in Toronto because your site has lots of fresh, high-quality content that talks about custom-made doors in Toronto.
It’s the same for your location or target market. If your site has a lot of fresh, frequently updated content that talks about Canada, Google will probably perceive your company as being more relevant to the Canadian marketplace, and vice versa when it comes to the States.
That doesn’t mean you have to be constantly publishing content about Canada, but at the very least DO make sure that your full business address is on your site.
Your domain name
Having a .ca domain name – like CBC.ca – for your site sends Google a strong signal that your site is relevant to a Canadian audience.
Having a .com domain name sends a weaker signal about relevance, since Web sites all over the world, and not just in the USA, use .com (like Fruition Interactive, for instance). So if you’re doing business in the US and/or Canada, a .com domain isn’t really likely to hurt you.
But having a .ca domain for a business that’s largely US-facing could be hurting you a lot. And it may provide a little bit of a boost if you’re exclusively selling into the Canadian market.
When you’re building links back to your site from other sites, put some emphasis on thinking about which audience THOSE sites target and how Google perceives them in terms of SEO. Don’t just think about what their page rank is, think about:
- Do they have a .ca or a .com domain name?
- How high do they rank for localized keywords – so not just “financial services”, but “financial services Toronto” or “financial services Canada”
- Do they have associated Google+ Local listings? Do they have locations listed in your target market?
Your Internet marketing back-up plan
Don’t despair if you’re not currently ranking high for key search terms in the right target market right now. Take a look at the tactics above and implement as many as you can, and remember that quality long-lasting SEO takes time.
Also remember that Internet marketing works best when you take an integrated approach. So while you’re working on your SEO, don’t ignore other ways of generating qualified, traffic from the right target market. Definitely keep working social media. And you can – and often should – supplement your SEO with Cost Per Click advertising on Google’s AdWords network to make sure your site is getting the traffic it needs to help your business thrive.