SEO traffic- limitations on control over geographic origin of traffic

One of our clients is interested in getting leads only from some specific cities in India. They rely mainly on SEO for their lead generation with a small amount spent per month on pay-per-click advertising using Google AdWords.  One of the regular feedback items we receive is that many of the inquiries they received are not relevant because they have come from other cities. As we have experienced a similar situation with a couple of other clients as well, we reckon there may be a more widespread gap in understanding what SEO can and cannot do.

One of the key benefits and differentiators of paid-search advertising is the targeting options that are available to the marketer. This includes geographic targeting at a country and state-level typically and even city-level targeting in some parts of the world. So, if you are looking for attracting traffic or leads from a specific geography, use a paid-search program such as AdWords that allows for such targeting.

SEO on the other hand is a lot more broad-based. It is next to impossible to guarantee that you will be generating traffic only from a specific targeted geography.  A marketer can take steps to tell the search engines their preferences/ target geography using various means such as either using a country-specific domain name or using avenues such as Webmaster Centre to indicate the targeted geography, or use various signals within the site content or other meta data. Note, however, that these are guideposts at best for search engines; they do not rule out traffic from other geographies—at least not currently. At least until search engines begin to offer some sort of geographic exclusion options, a marketer has to live with the reality that they will be getting visits from audiences outside their target geography.

Our suggestion in a situation like this: don’t fuss about such traffic or leads; treat those as a bonus. While you will be justifiably wary of spending too much resource on the ‘irrelevant’ traffic and leads, build mechanisms to engage with that audience without expending too much time and effort. For example, an e-mail inquiry from an ‘irrelevant’ city could be responded to with an automated e-mail informing them that you are currently not serving that market but will get in touch with the inquirer as and when they have plans for that city. Such an auto-responder can also request the inquirer to spread the word to anyone they think could benefit from the service in the cities that the company currently serves.  Who knows, that e-mail address captured from a city that is not on your radar could be extremely valuable sooner than you expect!

-          Naveen Kodappully

Naveen Kodappully is a search marketing manager with On Target Marketing Solutions. He is responsible for traffic acquisition for numerous B2B and B2C web properties.

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