Until now service area businesses have been the poor cousins of their brick and mortar neighbours in local search. But, Google has recently given a little more trust to local businesses that clearly “belong” to a locality but don’t necessarily bring customers tripping through the door. If you are trying to tackle the search engine optimisation for marketing your business on your own, you need to be aware of the best SEO practises for SABs (or service area business). In search terms a service area business is one where you may have a central base or premises, but you don’t usually encourage customers to visit you; you go out and do your business in the local area at your customers’ locations.
The Basics of On Page SEO for SABs
On-Page SEO for SABs is broadly similar to what a shop or other fixed location business will do to flag themselves up as important to a locale.
Meta Data and the Service Area Business
Just like any other business website, you do need to ensure that the title tags for each page of the website are constructed appropriately. This is the most important place for the primary keyword to appear as it is still one of the critical identifiers of the You will still have to make your meta description into a killer piece of copy – a hook to draw searchers in to your site.
Your meta keywords won’t impress or depress Google or the rest of the Big 3; so it’s up to you whether you include them or not. If you think there might be some significant traffic from smaller more obscure engines then it might be worth using them. (In the case of writing a press release: then you should very definitely use them).
Keywords and Headings
Within the text of the page; try to include the primary keyword(s) in the H1 and H2 headers: if it reads well and is helpful to the folks you’re targeting. Where those keywords won’t read well for your human audience, no matter how you phrase them… there’s an “app” for that! For harvesting closely related, synonymous keywords that might just fit the phrasing you want to achieve, take a look at Ubersuggest. This pulls suggestions from Google’s own synonym list: so you should get something that’s on the right track. At the end of the day though; use a heading that is going to be useful to the PERSON you’re talking to. It’s also good practise to try and drop the phrases you are targeting, into the opening sentence or two, as further confirmation for your visitor that he or she has actually found something relevant to their original search!
The final paragraph of the page is another sensible place to include your keywords. In fact there is very little different to writing for your website than for writing those primary school KS2 reports and reviews! Simply plan out what you what to say where and give that page a little structure. Like most pieces of useful writing, that final paragraph will summarise the article and so; the phrase(s) would naturally pop up there in the vast majority of articles.
Images and On Page SEO
As with any image you include, don’t forget to rename the file so that it is descriptive of the photo as in this example “pure-holistic-health-beauty-stanwix-carlisle.jpg” . These seemingly excessive details become important; if your competitors are out ranking you and they also reinforce the message that you are firmly nailing your colours to the mast of the locality you have decided to serve.
The next “must-do” is to make sure that the “alt text tag” is properly completed. for this particular new business in town, I have used “pure holistic health and beauty a new business with good facebook presence but little optimised presence in stanwix, carlisle”so that I clearly associate the image with Stanwix in Carlisle and with the brand name. Because it’s also about optimisation I’ve over done it a bit with a reference to that theme. It also has the benefit of explaining the context of the image very clearly, if someone with sight problems can’t really see the picture: their screen reader will speak out exactly what the image is about!
NAP for the SAB
In your Google Places and Google Plus listings a service area business is compelled to hide its address. The website however is YOUR property and it makes sense for the NAP (Name, Address and Phone number) data to be included in the fabric of every web page for which it is relevant. Traditionally the NAP data has been included in the footer of every page. However don’t be afraid to use the Phone number in the header (as text- not an image) so that the visitor gets the message straight away that you want them to make a call.
Additionally, it is pretty clear that microformat data is going to become important in competitive situations. These micro format fields are extra meta data which talks directly to the search engines and explains exactly the meaning of the information on the page. Within these little chunks of data you can add extra weight to your local credentials. It’s a significant amount of work but will pay off over time.
A paragraph ago I made the comment “…for which it’s relevant.” Some service area businesses operate over a variety of areas. So which address do you choose? The weight of opinion and experience currently suggests that most pages of the website should be linked to your central or main office. For the different areas that you work in and where you want to be found by customers; then you need to develop separate landing pages for those areas with their own unique information and if feasible, their own NAP: if different premises are involved.
SAB On Page SEO Summary
In essence, the on page work that you need to do for the SAB business model, to ensure that your page is tuned in to local audiences, is pretty similar to any other local area business. Without getting spammy (and loading the page with Keywords), you need to make sure that the keyword searches you are targeting with a page, represent a good answer to the people who are trying to solve a specific problem or satisfy a specific need. So use the keywords you identify properly. Title Tags should contain them – that’s the first flag a searcher sees in the search results, so it helps you to look like a relevant answer… as this screenshot from a search for an orthodontist in Newcastle shows.
Once the most basic elements are taken care of, it’s then that you need to look at the images on the article and ensure that their filenames, descriptions, tags and alt text tags are written with the purposes of informing a partially sighted visitor about the content of the image and also clarifying to search engines exactly how to categorise the image, which even Google’s computing might can’t quite yet interpret, the way we do. Finally, if your local market is highly competitive you should begin to use microformat data. The most commonly talked about microformat currently is schema.org which can categorise anything. Additionally you might consider implementing Open Graph tags, Twitter Cards and Google’s own favourite, Rich Snippets.
The nuts and bolts of these techniques is a whole series of articles on its own and when I have finally got my head round them I’ll be giving a short how to on these pages. For a deeper treatment of these topics, you could also refer to Bright Local’s excellent webinar on the topic from late November 2013 or pop across to Mike Blumenthal’s Blog where he seems to have a direct line to the thinking at Google Central – it doesn’t make him any less critical of some of their practises and customer service though!