Growing your business is an inherent part of survival. Repair shop and tire retailers are no different. The problem is that the world has changed since you founded or inherited the business. In the past, and for many business owners even today, to grow the business, you placed (expensive) advertising in (inefficient) media or opened more stores in new areas. Media buys are inefficient because no matter where you are located, you are forced to advertise in areas where you are not. Opening more stores involves hundreds of thousands of dollars in investment. So how do you grow if you were to elect to do neither?
I have written a number of articles about the use of social media, collecting consumer reviews and optimizing your website to be more attractive to Google. And, generally, these strategies work. I know at least some of those reading my words have paid attention based on the types of questions I get asked after an article has run. Perhaps you have noticed that your business is not showing up in Google searches in many areas where you know you have a viable pool of potential customers, but in which you don’t have a store to serve them.
In this article, I am going to address a strategy that I can safely guess very few repair shops and tire retailers have ever heard about, much less tried. It requires some up-front effort, but it is dramatically effective. It is not expensive – in fact, once it is set up, it is essentially free. You will want to work with the people who know about your website and, perhaps, some people who can help with the writing to get it started.
For purposes of an example, assume you own a single location. You would like to engage prospective customers who are searching online for tires or auto service who live in cities or towns near you, but not in the city where you are listed by Google.
So, What is the Big Secret?
There are fancy Google terms for it, but the bottom line is you create a single webpage that is dedicated specifically to any town from which you want to pull business. This page is known as a service-area-specific page or sometimes referred to as a geo-targeted page. For our purposes, we will adopt a term that has become more popular as more people learn about the power of this strategy: “city pages.” The city-page strategy is not exactly new, but it is generally overlooked or poorly executed. The strategy requires the creation of well-thought-out landing pages for each city in which you want to be visible.
A city page is really no different than any page of a website that is tied to a physical location. The main difference is that, because you want to rank in a different area, you do not list your business’ address on the city page. Its only purpose is to garner the attention of those prospective customers who are searching for what you have to sell but are located where they would not normally see your business come up in an online search. An example might be a dealership that is located in North Atlanta but wants to draw customers from Roswell, (12 miles north) or Sandy Springs, (three miles northwest) or Dunwoody (four miles northeast). You would need three city pages to cover the three cities.
The other thing that few people realize is that search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing all rank individual pages, not full websites. That is why the city-pages strategy can work. You don’t need to build a whole website for an extra community. Only a single, well-constructed page will do. The key, of course, is “well-constructed.”
City pages will use the name of the city you are targeting along with the keyword of the main service you are offering (e.g. tires or auto service or alignment) to create your city pages.
Content is Key
Once you have made a list of the cities you want to target, you will develop unique content for each of these pages. To produce unique content over multiple locations, the pages need to have city-specific title tags and meta descriptions. You need to also create city-specific opening and closing paragraphs.
You can achieve some efficiency by creating a template that allows you to use almost the same content for each city page while swapping out unique components like the city name and local landmarks in addition to unique opening and closing paragraphs. Include things like the services you offer, the guarantees you make and the specials you offer. This includes typical questions and problems that customers have along with answers to them – particularly if they are specifically germane to the target city. Best of all, describe any involvement your company has in any local events or sports teams you may sponsor.
To further cement your local relationship with the target city, include local photographs indicating your involvement with the city – and make sure to use alt tags for maximum SEO benefit. Video is even better. An easy way to accomplish this is to be involved in some way with a local event and have cameras (or cell phones that take great photos and video) at hand.
As you probably already know, consumer reviews are another key to online success. When it comes to city pages, the ideal goal is to get reviews posted on the page that come from the specific area you are targeting. Ideally, the review will include a sentence that looks like, “I drive the extra distance to (your town) from (customer’s town) because …”
What Not to Do
There are certain things that will forestall all your hard work:
Fake addresses: Do not attempt to “fool” Google by creating a local address in a city where you do not have a store. You actually may get away with it for a while, but with Google’s ability to do address matching, it is a pyrrhic victory. You will lose all of your efforts by cheating.
Have something to say: If you have no real relationship with the target city and cannot reasonably establish one with customers, local events, cooperation with non-competing businesses or some other logical connection, do not try to fill the space with thin or duplicate content. It will not have the desired effect and you will have wasted a lot of time and effort. Pick a different city.
No stuffing: Do not stuff your city pages with large numbers of city names, ZIP codes or random keywords. Again, wasted effort. And there could be Google penalties that will generate more harm than good.
Don’t hide: Do not bury your local landing pages deep inside the architecture of your website. Link them to your home page using a drop-down menu titled “Areas We Serve”. Have your webmaster include them in the site index, too.
Don’t overdo it: There may be dozens or hundreds of cities you could theoretically serve. If you do an unrealistic number of city pages, they become difficult to maintain and, once forgotten, can do more damage than good.
For Multi-Location Operations
For business owners that have multiple locations, there are two strategies. In the first case, the exact same approach that single stores use can be executed for each city in which you have a location. But, you have a huge advantage. Not only can you more easily create unique local content, but you will also have more homegrown relationships, and you can publish a real street address. You don’t need a separate website for each city, but you are also not limited to weak mentions of your locations on your main site. A fully optimized city page will put you on a strong footing as you compete in the city in which your satellite store is located.
Second, each satellite can implement the same strategy described in this article for single-store owners. Create city pages for towns outside of your immediate trading area to draw a larger audience. Properly executed, this can dramatically expand the reach of the entire operation.
Sounds Like a Lot of Effort…
Perhaps the reason that tire dealers and repair shops – most businesses, in fact – do not deploy the city pages strategy is that it is a lot of trouble. So was building your store. But, once it is built, it is done. Just as a store needs upkeep, city pages need to be tweaked over time, but the strategy is a one-time investment that you can reasonably assume not many, if any, of your competitors, will make.
If you have a webmaster, you can hand him or her this article and say, “do it.” If you (or they) have questions, send me an email, and I will forward more information.
Article courtesy TIRE REVIEW.