If you run a local business that provides products or services to a limited geographic area, web site localization can boost your web site in localized searches and drive more qualified traffic to your web site. The idea behind this is quite simple. In addition to the normal products or services being offered, a site should focus on the keyword phrases that identify the geographic scope of the business. That means the specific local areas in which you provide or deliver services.
Think like a user. If someone is searching for real estate properties in the Mesa, Arizona area, a search for “real estate” will yield all of the real estate Web sites on the planet. A user quickly learns to localize their search by adding keywords that identify the specific area they are interested in. A search for “real estate in Mesa Arizona” or “Mesa AZ real estate” will yield search results much better suited to their needs. When using localized words in a search, the results will favor those Web sites that form a local presence through proper Web content localization.
Localization of Web content starts with the keyword themes selected for the pages. The web site localization process starts with the use of the local keywords in a page’s HTML title tag. That is the first place a search engine spider will look for the keyword theme for the page. An effective HTML title tag starts with the keyword theme people will most likely use in a search. If you have a local pizzeria that delivers to the Arlington Heights, Illinois area, an effective HTML title tag might be “Italian Pizza Delivery – Arlington Heights, Illinois”. You only have about 60 characters and spaces that can be used effectively in an HTML title tag, so don’t get carried away. Not every page in a Web site has to mention the geographic area in the HTML title tag, so just use it where is appropriate. Place the main keyword theme for the page on the left, and the localized words on the right. Sometimes it’s most appropriate to use an entire search phrase in the exact word order that people use in a search. The words “Arizona Real Estate” in the exact word order of an anticipated search is the most effective way to boost a site for that phrase when used in a search in that exact word order.
The second most important place on a page for Web site localization is the page content itself. When describing a business’ products and services, be sure to add the geographic areas to the content as often as it is appropriate without destroying your message to the user. It works well to include variations of words and different word order in the content. This is a great way to include singular and plural forms of words, as well as different combinations of words that someone might use in a search. Going back to the real estate example, a mix of “real estate in Mesa, Arizona” and “Mesa, Arizona real estate” can be effective. The ideal amount of page content for most search engines is 250 to 500 words with a keyword density of 3% to 6%. That means that the keyword theme should appear in the content between 3% to 6% of the total word count for the page.
Another important place for localized content is in the page footer or the bottom of the left or right column on a page. Place the name of the business, the address and the phone number in a specific location on every page in the site. This is an ideal spot for the abbreviation of a state name. If the business is in Utah, use the abbreviation UT in the address. Although most people tend to use the full state name when performing a localized search, some people do use abbreviations. If the abbreviation does not appear on the page, the chances for high rankings for that page diminish significantly when a localized search is performed. It can sometimes be awkward to include the state abbreviation in the main content on a page, but it is entirely appropriate to use it in the address.
That pretty much covers all of the “on page” issues related to web content localization, but there are some “off page” areas that are also important. Whenever someone links to your site, the words that they use in the hyperlink help to reinforce the theme for the page being linked to. Try to get people to use the keyword theme for the page and mix it up with variations of the theme. If a business is named Corleone’s Properties and sells real estate in Mesa, Arizona, the Web page being linked to will get a boost for Mesa, Arizona real estate” if those words are used in the hyperlink text. Think of the hyperlink text as an indicator of what will be found on a page. If you click on a link that says “Mesa, Arizona real estate” you expect to find a page dealing with that topic. Search engine spiders are programmed to recognize this in the same manner.
Always think in terms of how a user will search for the local products, services or information that a Web site offers. Form specific keyword themes and designate one or more pages to represent each keyword theme, and always focus on the localization of Web content whenever is appropriate to do so.