The term “regional long tail” was coined, as best I can tell, in this highly amusing essay by Chris Paston. It refers to the practice of optimizing your site not for “hairstylist” but for “North Cleveland hairstylist.”
When would you want to do this? Well, first off, when you deal in a product or service that has to be delivered in situ. Unless you are the kind of hairstylist who jets off to Singapore to style someone’s hair, then you really want your traffic to be mostly from the place where your salon is physically located.
Other kinds of businesses that need local customers:
- Doctors and other healthcare professionals
- Health clubs, gyms, and spas
- Restaurants and bars (you’ll probably also want to talk to tourists, though)
We once built a website for a firm that arranges big game hunts all over the world. The owner lives in Texas, but that doesn’t matter. He wants an international clientele, and being Texan may be a matter of pride for him, but it doesn’t matter at all for his business or his website. His clients aren’t going to look in the local phone book for their guide, or ask over at the Chamber of Commerce, so we’re not going to go for the RLT.
Should you start with the regional long tail?
Some businesses may be best off starting regional and building up to a geographically wider client base. It’s usually easier to develop a local reputation, get local links, and rank for local search terms.
You can extend your reach after you’ve laid down that solid local reputation.
How can you get regional long tail rankings?
Say you’ve decided that you want to go for the RLT. How can you do that?
- Post in local directories. Local directories are likely to be free, and are also likely to add you quickly on the basis of your demonstrated local-ness. This is the fastest way to gain early links, and can sometimes even bring you traffic.
- Make sure Google and Bing have you on their maps. This is obviously essential for businesses that want local traffic. But it also increases trust for those of us who have local businesses that don’t actively seek walk-in traffic. Having a physical address is evidence that you’re not a robot being controlled by some blackhat address scraper. Since trust is essential currency for the web, this matters online.
- Make sure your website has that local flavor. Your physical address is a great start, and you should be sure that your website and as many of your links and citations as possible use your name, address, and phone number in a consistent format. You can also choose keywords reflecting your location. And you can include local news and information in your blog or other dynamic content (that is, the stuff on your page that changes).
All this information demonstrates that you are in fact a local business and improves your RTL rankings.