Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Importance of Being Found

The web has made location less of an issue for a lot of sites that sell directly online.

I know a few local companies that were able to give up expensive leases, and move to much more affordable warehouses because their internet-based business brought them much more business that walk-in customers.

But, there are many sites online where letting people know the location of their business is one of the main objectives of their site, or at least it should be.

I recently conducted a search for local restaurants in my area on Google, and was really saddened by the results of my search. I was looking at the top 100 results for a query which consisted of the name of the town, the name of the state, and the word "restaurant."

I only saw one result that was an actual local restaurant. All of the other results were directories that may or may not have listed restaurants in the area. I know that a number of local restaurants have web sites. So, why were those failing to show up in the search engine? I took a look at the pages of the restaurants I know are online to find the reasons why.

I came up with a number of things that these places could do that would increase the likelihood that they would be found. These suggestions apply to more places than just restaurants. They could include many different types of small businesses and nonprofit organizations,

You may ask, why would someone take these steps with the growth of local searches on search engines like Google, Yahoo! and MSN? Well, one of the places that these local searches get their geographic information tend to be from regional and topical directories and portals that often charge a fee for a site to be included. Sometimes that fee can be very significant. And people often perform their searches in search engines without bothering to use the tab on those search engines that are for local searches.

Here are some things that can help your site get found in geographically related searches:

1. Include address information on each of the pages of your site, and make sure that it is in text upon those page. There were more than a couple of local restaurants that did have their addresses on each page of their site. But, it was in image text. Search engines can't read images of words.

2. Include a contact page on your site, and provide a number of ways for people to contact you, including phone, mailing address, email addresses, and more. Let people know which time zone you are in if there is a chance of people from other time zones visiting your site. Let them know what your normal businesses hours are, too. Give them an idea of how quickly you will likely response to any questions or comments they might have. Give a brief overview of what you offer on those pages.

3. Have a directions page on your site, and use maps and include photos of the building or buildings that you are in. Make sure you tell them a little about the area, and some of the landmarks or other navigational elements that might make it easier for them to find you. If roads are closed due to construction, let potential visitors know, and tell them about detours that might help them get to you. Again, tell your visitors a little about your business on that page, and tell them why they should come visit you in person.

4. Link to those contact and directions pages from each page of your site. Again, use plain text instead of image text or java script for those links.

5. Consider including a page on your site about the business and its history. In addition to telling visitors about the business, let them know where you are on that page, and what else is nearby. Tell them how far away you are from other towns and cities.

6. If you are involved in the local community, write about it. Tell your visitors about memberships in the local chamber of commerce, main street association, little league sponsorship, and so on.

7. If there are some places nearby that might be of interest to your visitors, tell them about those, and where they are located. If there are a lot of antique shops in your immediate vicinity, let people know that. If you have a world class golf course a couple of miles away, you might be able to attract a couple of golfers for a nice meal after 18 holes. If there are some nearby museums, people might make a trip to see them, and may stop by your restaurant on the way there, or on the way home.

Location is more than just your mailing address. Make sure that address is on your pages, but also let people about the community that you are in, and your part within it. Your web site can help you be found, if you will let it.


Larry said...

Good points all, Bill. We will be checking to be sure we cover them all.
I went to since I know I have looked up the address there before and what did I find? FRAMES, urgh!

William Slawski said...

Thanks, Alan.

The restaurants in Newark have gotten a little better. There are now five in town that show up in the top 100 for that type of search. If the other twenty or so that have sites would lose the flash, remove the frames, link to their location page with a plain text link instead of an imagemap, or include the words "Newark" and "Delaware" and "restaurant" on the same page on their site, it might help. :)

The town I work in has some great restaurants, and many of them have web sites. I wanted to make a list of them recently on another site. Guess they just don't want to be found online.

Larry said...

I linked to your post about finding businesses in real space today at

On behalf of our clients, thank you for the free advice.