Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What Drycleaning taught me about SEO - A Series

Hello everyone!
This blog entry is about to become a series.. and it comes as an inspiration at an odd time.
I was driving my van (a massive van to fit a large family) and thinking to myself in one of my quiet moments, how hard it is for most people to understand this whole search thing... and it dawned on me.

Most of what I did in the traditional retail world in the 1980's when I opened a dry cleaning shop applies directly to the fundamental elements of search today.  The more I thought it through, the more obvious the local marketing parallels between traditional retail marketing and local Internet search become obvious.

Let's start with something as basic as signage!

Our shop was called Jorgen Anton Cleaners.  It was directly across the street from another cleaner.  In fairness to my former competitor, I will call his shop, Waldo's Cleaners.. It is very close to the truth.  We were on SW 18 St. in Boca Raton Florida in a fairly affluent area of town. The street we were on had a lot of traffic, commuter traffic, people heading to and from their homes and work.
Now.. My signage said Jorgen Anton Cleaners and was on the road.  Across the street, much to my delight, Waldo was limited by county ordinance in signage.  Like most business owners, his name was his brand.  His signage said WALDO'S.

Picture yourself driving home, and needing dry cleaning services.  Across the street from each other you see one sign that says CLEANERS and the other says WALDO'S.   Where do you think the cleaner is in the neighborhood?  I know it's a loaded question.  Obviously, the signage that says CLEANERS is more clear about the business than the sign that says WALDO'S.

Now, lets take this example from the 1980's to 2012 and the age of local Internet Marketing.
Businesses that have a web page, have what is called a domain name.  The domain name is the name people type into the browser to call up your site.  For us, its

The sign on the street for the dry cleaner is like a domain name.  The sign tells people driving by what you do.  Instead of traffic driving by, the Internet has clever little software programs that are called Spiders, because they travel the world wide web  (Spiders.. Web.. get the connection.. and you probably thought Internet search geeks weren't funny!).

These Internet search spiders have the tedious job of indexing the entire internet so that when you search for something, the search engine knows where it is.  The spiders run tirelessly indexing this great big Internet of ours.  Its goal is to make sure that if someone is looking for your business or service, your website shows up around the top of the search page.

You see, search providers like Google, and Yahoo and Bing, and all the others know that you have a choice.  They know if you don't see what you are looking for when you search, that you will probably go to another search engine and try again.  THEY HATE THAT!  So, they try to find whatever is the most "relevant" match for your search.  Keep that word in mind by the way.  Internet Search, especially Local Internet Search, is simply enough about "RELEVANCE"
So a spider on the Internet is like the traffic on 18th street.

If you want the traffic on 18th street to know that you have a dry cleaning shop, then CLEANERS is a better sign than WALDO'S.   The parallel is that if your domain name has something to do with the goods or services you offer, then it is better for search than a domain name that doesn't.

Take 4thstreetweb.com  We are in the web business.  We service local businesses, and want to focus on businesses in our area.  In St. Petersburg, Florida, we live just off of 4th Street.  4th Street is home to thousands of mostly locally owned business, within an 8 mile radius of our business.  Now we have someone in the area who has a VERY creative name.. a very artsy and savvy brand, and they use that for their domain name.  In fairness to our competitor, we will say they are "arstyfartsy . com"  Our domain name is very geo targeted to 4th Street, and specific to web.

If someone searches locally for "web developer on 4th Street" or they search from a location that is close to 4th Street (Google KNOWS where you are when you search) then 4thsteeteweb is pretty relevant to the search.. much more so than "artsyfartsy".

It comes down to relevance.  Your domain name does not have to be the name of your business.  It should be about you.  You can also have 2 domain names that point to the same place.  I have a client Maintech Pool Solutions.  By the way, if you need a pool guy, these guys are great.  They do our pool so we are clients of each others businesses.   That's the way local marketing should work.. but I digress. 

Their primary domain name is

they have another domain name that is literally parked right on top of it called

They have one domain name that tells the spiders "Hey, I do Pool Service and I am in St. Petersburg"  When someone searches in St. Petersburg Florida for a Pool Service provider.. what do you think is more relevant?    StPetersburgPoolService?  MaintechPoolSolutions?  The answer is obvious.
Your domain name should be relevant to the services you provide, and if you can add in some geography.. so much the better.  It is just like the sign on the road, trying to catch the attention of the drivers looking for a drycleaners.