When you’re in Ottawa, there are a lot of different things trying to capture your attention. From National Museums like the War Museum and the National Gallery, to the natural beauty of the Rideau Canal. Love politics? You’re going to want to take a tour of Parliament. Love perogies and pinball? You’ll be drawn to the House of TARG.
The point is, there are a lot of different attractions in Ottawa, which means you’re going to have to stand out in order to get people’s attention. Another important consideration in Ottawa is just how big the city is, especially when you keep adjacent regions in mind.
Take, for example, the City of Ottawa itself. Someone in Hunt Club might not be thrilled to go all the way to Vanier in order to buy baked goods. In the same vein, someone from Carleton Heights might not feel like making the trek all the way down to ByWard Market just to get some craft brews. The problem is, if you only know that certain businesses exist in certain locations, that may be where you have to go (even if there’s a closer business you could go to).
Then you think about all the cities and suburbs of Ottawa that might be well-served by your business. Areas that were independent before amalgamation like Kanata and Gloucester, or nearby cities like Gatineau. While these regions are generally well-served by a variety of different businesses, if you’re in a relatively niche market, it can be smart to try to reach them.
Now that we’ve taken a look at some of the challenges that face Ottawa businesses looking to promote their businesses online in a local capacity, let’s take a look at a few solutions:
Search engine optimization (SEO) is all about ensuring that when people look up terms that are related to your business in Google or other search engines, your business will be in the top results. Where you’re located is extremely relevant, and that’s where location pages play an important role.
Let’s say you have multiple locations: one in Central Ottawa, one in Kanata, and one in Nepean. You can make a page on your website for each one of those locations, so when people look up “mechanic in Kanata” or “24-hour gym in Nepean”, they’ll find you.
You might think multiple location pages is only a good idea if you actually have multiple locations, but that’s not always the case. By making a location page for different neighbourhoods in Ottawa, you’ll be more likely to catch people looking up location-specific terms.
Here are some quick tips on location pages:
- The URL for the location page should contain the name of the location (e.g. yourottawabusiness.com/centretown)
- You should mention some of the traits of the neighbourhood e.g. landmarks, well-known streets, a brief history
- You should tie in the traits of the neighbourhood and/or the people who live there with a need for your business (e.g. “people from Riverside Park love the beach, and we have the best beach supplies in Ottawa”)
Think in Two Languages
Do you speak both English and French? You might find yourself with quite an advantage. Ottawa is a very bilingual city, and there are a lot of searches happening in French. By creating pages in both languages, you’ll show up for search terms that other companies aren’t even aware of. Location pages, other content pages (like product pages), even blogs in both languages can be a huge boon in Ottawa.
Blog Well, Blog Often
There are a lot of ways blogging helps with your SEO. It sends search engines signals that:
- You’re updating your site regularly (and thus are still in business)
- You’re an expert on relevant topics (your location and your industry)
- Your website provides relevant answers to searchers’ queries
When it comes to blogging in Ottawa, it’s important to stay up-to-date on happenings in the area. Let’s say you have a restaurant, and you’re going to participate in the Ottawa Bluesfest as a vendor. You might make a couple of blog posts: one as a guide to navigating the Bluesfest, and the other, a summary of your experiences at the Bluesfest. Think about how much blogs like that will help you:
- They advertise your presence at Bluesfest
- They establish you as a unique, Ottawa-based business
- They show your audience the human side of your business
- They send relevant signals to search engines
You want to post blogs often – aim for at least once a week. You can share these blogs across social channels and use them for link-building, the topic we’re going to talk about next!
Let’s take a moment to talk about one of the fundamentally weird things about search engines – for how smart they can seem, they’re pretty stupid in a lot of ways. That sounds harsh, but it’s true. They don’t (as far as we know) experience things subjectively, so they can’t evaluate what’s good or bad unless they’re told what good and bad are.
One easy way for search engines to evaluate this is by looking at which websites they already think are good and see what other blogs or sites they are linking to. The reasoning is simple: if a good website is linking to another website, that website must also be good!
We can use this to our advantage by creating high-quality content and encouraging other Ottawa-based influencers to link to it. That can be getting Bluesfest to link to your article about Bluesfest, or getting a well-reputed craft brewer to link to your restaurant. It can be hard to tell which websites are considered “authority” (“good”) sites by Google. Getting onto the Ottawa Citizen’s site is a great example, but it can be tough. Your SEO specialist can help you find authority sites that you can encourage to link to yours.
Remember, the best way to encourage other sites to link to yours is by creating great content!
These are just a few of the many ways you can improve local SEO in Ottawa. SEO is a complicated business, full of ever changing signals and factors, so it’s helpful to have an SEO specialist on your side!