It was one of those great days in the office. Janet showed me an email from one of our clients who had recently asked us for search engine optimization (SEO) help for their economic development website. The email contained a graph of the site’s hit rate, showing that their web traffic had DOUBLED in the three months since they put our recommendations in place. Our client was excited, and so were we!

For you digital marketing newbies, SEO consists of techniques designed to help websites show up higher in search engines like Google and Bing. Those search engines are constantly prowling the web, collecting data on websites and then applying an algorithm to determine which sites should appear in what order when content matches a particular search term. This placement is vital to the success of your economic development website; if searchers must hunt several pages into their search results to find your site, odds are they’ll never get there.

What’s in that all-important algorithm?  It’s a secret, and the search engines change them periodically, so what works this year might not work next year. Based on a lot of observation, however, crucial SEO elements include how much traffic your website receives, how many other sites link to it, how fresh the content is, and, most importantly, whether the exact phrase the user is searching for appears in the content of a web page.

Some of these factors are hard to control, but you can take steps to make sure that the content on your site contains the information searchers are looking for. The secret to good SEO for economic development websites is to understand how site selectors use the internet to research possible locations for siting a business expansion or relocation project. Knowing what site selectors are looking for as they narrow down potential candidates, and then making sure that information is included in a way that will match likely search terms, can get your site at or near the top of website searches.

Most people researching siting locations are not going to start with a hunt for your community. They may start with an area of the country they want to be in, or a particular state or metro region. Initial considerations will also be tied to the most important criteria they’re looking for – perhaps access to markets or suppliers, availability of workers with the right skills, other major players in their industry, availability of raw materials, and so on.

Once they’ve narrowed their geographical scope, they will look for sites with the assets they need – buildings of a certain size, the right kind of utilities and infrastructure, sources of worker training, and so on.  Only when they’ve settled on sites that meet their core business needs will they start probing the communities those sites are located in to check on factors like livability, cost of doing business, incentives, and other local details.

All of this research is being done online before you’re even aware the company has a project to site. That’s why it’s vital that your website contains the information site selectors are searching for in the way they’re searching for it. Some examples:

  • If your community offers access to a metro region – even if it’s a day’s drive away – is the name of that metro region on your homepage?
  • If you’re trying to attract companies in a particular industry, does your website contain a page named for that industry and laying out the facts that make your region competitive for it?
  • Is important information about your region buried in PDF or spreadsheet files that can only be accessed by links from your site?
  • Do your property listings include phrases describing the kinds of industries that specific sites and buildings are well suited for?

In short, SEO for economic development websites isn’t a mystery. It’s a matter of putting the information site selectors need on your site in a way that is easily accessible. Because we understand the site selection process first-hand, Ady Advantage can use that insight to help you attract site selectors to your website and encourage them to give you a call. We’d value an opportunity to discuss how Ady Advantage can give your web presence optimal effectiveness.