Titles for bricks and mortar businesses

It's well known in the industry that page titles are important for SEO. Not just for getting the rankings, but for enticing a visitor to actually click on your search engine result. I spend most of my time these days working with "bricks and mortar" businesses - that is, a business with a real shop in a real town. SEO for bricks n mortar businesses is different to a totally online presence, and it's because potential customers search differently. This article, Titles for Bricks and Mortar Businesses, explains the subtle differences with the title tags.

What's so different?

With a local business, almost all of your customers are local. There will always be some mail order type jobs, but the majorty of the business comes from a local shop. I was recently helping a friend in Whakatane (a small town in New Zealand) with some tips to optimise his site. He does photography and photo restoration.

For this sort of business, it's unlikely that someone will drive the length of the country for some photography (they may order prints online, but this is a different part of the business). Anyone in Whakatane searching for local photography is going to use the word "Whakatane" in the search phrase. If not they will probably use the region (in this case "Bay of Plenty"), or sometimes a suburb if it's a larger area. Try going to Google.com and typing "photography" and see how many local shops are listed. Then try adding the name of your town to the phrase and see how much more relevant the results are. Many searchers know this.

The biggest mistake this site made was not using the location enough in the text.

Targeting phrases on a page

It's a good idea to be realistic when optimising a page - it's simply not going to rank well for every phrase under the sun. So, pick 1 or 2 phrases and optimise the page properly for those chosen phrases. By adding more content to your site, you can cover all the phrases you need.

So, for the site mentioned above, on one particular page we would like to target the following phrases...

Image Editing
Digital Image Altering

And we would like to rank well for any of the following locations included in the phrase...

Bay of Plenty
New Zealand

Some Bad Examples

Consider the following examples of titles...

Image Editing, Digital Image Altering - Business Name
Unless the page has enough links, these phrases are too competetive and getting ranked is unlikely. We need to include the location as discussed above.

Whakatane Image Editing, Whakatane Digital Image Altering, Bay of Plenty Image Editing, Bay of Plenty Digital Image Altering, New Zealand Image Editing, New Zealand Digital Image Altering - Business Name
Covers all combinations, but looks a bit spammy don't you think? Far too much repetition of terms, far too long.

Whakatane Image Editing, Whakatane Digital Image Altering - Business Name
This is looking better, but you would need 3 pages to cover all phrases (one each for Whakatane, Bay of Plenty and New Zealand).

Writing for Search Engines and Visitors

Search Engines like lots of keyword rich text - if it doesn't make any sense, that's no problem. There are plenty of sites that rank very very well by loading rubbish keyword packed text into the footer. But this won't last for ever - sooner or later this technique will start getting your site penalised, so we won't consider this as an option.

Visitors like text that reads well, is well spaced and is not too wordy. How to write keyword rich text that search engines will love and visitors can read easily is one of the more difficult aspects of SEO.

Visitors appreciate punctuation, whitespace and paragraphs. Search Engines don't care. This is something you can use to your advantage. Regarding our titles, a good way to cover all bases is to sprinkle the location between your phrases. For Example...

Image Editing Whakatane Digital Image Altering - Business Name

Search engines will pick up the following phrases...
Image Editing
Image Editing Whakatane
Whakatane Digital Image Altering
Digital Image Altering

By inserting our location between our phrases, we get extra keyword combinations which we can try to rank for.

Extending this concept, we could use something like this...

Whakatane Image Editing Bay of Plenty Digital Image Altering New Zealand - Business Name

This is about the right length, has all our words, and only repeats one word (image).But it doesn't read very well to a visitor.

The Improved Bricks and Mortar Business Title

Search engines usually ignore punctuation, so insert some breaks for the visitor's benefit...

Whakatane Image Editing | Bay of Plenty Digital Image Altering | New Zealand - Business Name

This is much more readable. It's about the right length, contains all our keywords and doesn't look spammy. But the great thing is we have unlocked a number of phrases that we wouldn't have otherwise done.

Whakatane Image Editing
Image Editing
Image Editing Bay of Plenty
Bay of Plenty Digital Image Altering
Digital Image Altering New Zealand

Search Engines prefer exact phrases, but we will still have a chance of being found for phrases such as "Bay of Plenty Image Editing". Exactly how you arrange the title depends on which phrase is most important.

It's very important to make sure your H1 heading and first paragraph continue with these targeted phrases. Writing readable optimised paragraph copy is much harder than writing titles, but the same rules apply.


How you seperate your phrases is up to you. Most people use a dash or a comma. I think comma seperated lists look a bit spammy, but it does save one character (comma,space vs space,dash,space). Many sites use all sorts of strange characters from different character sets - this can differentiate your site in Google (which is good) but may cause character set problems on some platforms, so I think it's best to avoid these altogether.
I use a pipe | character to seperate phrases because it clearly defines the phrases.


For the Bricks and Mortar site, all page titles should be optimised in this fashion. The reality is that someone looking for local services is not going to find what they want unless they include their location in the search phrase. And your site is unlikely to be found unless it includes the location in the list of targeted phrases.
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