Many companies based in a smaller market would like to get more clients or customers outside of their local area.
Why? Especially in bigger cities, you’ll find more bigger companies with larger budgets and a more extensive need for services. And that can translate into less one-time project work — which can be feast or famine from a workflow and revenue standpoint — and more ongoing service relationships that promise a more predictable revenue stream.
In the bad old days, it was difficult to convince bigger clients in bigger cities to do business with a company in a smaller area. Aside from the bias by city slickers against country bumpkins, there’s the simple fact that big cities already have plenty of service providers to choose from in every industry.
So, in Virginia, for example, why should a company based in downtown Richmond look in Southside or Charlottesville for services that it can find just across town, or at least in one of the bustling office parks of Henrico or Chesterfield Counties?
One reason is that your services aren’t available in the Richmond area. Or, that you’ve got a reputation for being the best in your field throughout the state. Having the reputation as the go-to provide of a very specialized service in your industry — and thus, having few real competitors — helps a company offer value outside its local area. But even a company so specialized that clients come from far and wide still has to find a way to get the word out to those potential clients far away.
In the past, that might have meant taking out ads in the target city’s newspaper or business magazine, traveling to attend networking events or even setting up an unstaffed branch office just to have a local address — all expenses that may or may not have paid off with new clients.
Today the Internet makes it a lot easier to connect with potential clients in major metro markets even if your company is headquartered hundreds of miles away. The key will be making your website appealing to clients in target cities outside your area who can find your website through Google searches.
That’ll mean optimizing your website for keywords from your likely client in the cities you want to reach. Here’s how to do it right:
1. Don’t just repeat a bunch of city names
First, don’t just stuff your website with keywords for a bunch of cities where you’d like to get clients. Too many companies already try this, with predictably poor results.
For example, let’s say you own an architectural firm. Don’t create a boilerplate paragraph at the bottom of each page of your website that reads “architectural services Richmond, architectural services Washington, DC, architectural services Norfolk, architectural services Virginia Beach, etc.” Google has explicitly warned that they’ll penalize websites that attempt to stuff keywords by geography.
2. Do create pages with relevant content for different cities
Instead of annoying Google by stuffing keywords with city names, which will also look artificial and even a bit desperate to your human visitors, create pages with relevant content for the cities from which you’d like to attract new clients.
For example, the architect from the Shenandoah Valley who’s done a historic renovation project in Alexandria can create an Alexandria page on its website and then link it to the case study on the building in Alexandria. That page should also some lessons learned — Do’s and Don’t’s — about renovating buildings in this upscale and well preserved historic northern Virginia city. Finally, the Alexandria page can also have links to helpful resources in city government (such as permit and inspection info) and of course a testimonial with a headshot from the local client.
The point is, you want to fill your page on a particular city you’re targeting with content that will actually be useful to clients in that city. Then, use a keyword tool such as the Google AdWords Keyword Planner to optimize your pages for the terms your ideal customer in that city is likely to search for.
And don’t hide your city pages and just hope the Google crawler will find them. Instead, make these pages part of your website’s navigational structure. Thus, the architect would link its Alexandria page to its main navigation menu under a heading such as Areas We Serve.
Finally, be sure to demonstrate your ability to serve your client remotely, if that’s your approach.
3. Target a limited number of cities
Unless you’re a huge corporation, if you try to reach out to 10 or 15 cities, it probably won’t be very convincing to your potential client. But even if you have established credibility in so many markets, your website will become unwieldy if you try to cover them all.
Instead, start by focusing on just 3-5 major target cities. So, to go back to the example of the architect in the Shenandoah Valley, let’s say the firm had good case studies ready to go from Alexandria, Richmond, and Lynchburg. Those would be good cities to target first. Then, later on, the firm could focus on putting together case studies from work in Richmond and Fredericksburg. And if the firm wanted to break into Williamsburg, then it could make it a priority through other new business channels to get a small starter project as a portfolio piece.
Once you’ve made your website a good citizen of a few cities outside your area, then consider optimizing your business listing in Google Places.
— Erik Curren, Curren Media Group