B2B brands are often reliant on channel partners to sell products and services to end users. And while manufacturers and others offer traditional co-branding marketing tools, they often fail miserably at driving traffic to distributors, dealers, and other channel partners through B2B search marketing. Optimized channel partner landing pages, bulk uploads of locations to Google Maps, and geo-based sitemaps are three good ways to do this. Here are some strategies to help you succeed.
Develop optimized pages for channel partners
Previously, I wrote about creating optimized landing pages on your site to help drive traffic and business to your channel partners, especially for relevant geo-specific search queries. Although I wrote the article almost three years ago, the information is still sound. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen many B2B marketers taking advantage of this strategy. Most still have dynamically generated dealer and location information at a single URL. Read the article on driving traffic to channel partners and review what you’re doing for you channel partners on your site.
Upload channel partner locations to Google
In addition to creating unique content with unique URLs for your channel partners and locations, you should also upload the channel partner and location information to Google’s Local Business Center.
Since upload of business locations is typically handled centrally, you should inform contacts at individual locations that Google may mail to the location a request to verify a specific listing. Generally, the request requires input of a PIN to verify the listing. People at the individual locations, however, may not know what to do with the request, since they weren’t involved in the upload and don’t have appropriate access to enter the PIN themselves. You should make sure all verification requests are faxed back to the person handling business listing so listings can be verified promptly.
Upload geo-sitemaps and KML files to your site
In addition to location uploads to Google’s Local Business Center, you should also create a geo sitemap for your channel partner locations. Adding a geo-based sitemap involves creating geo-sitemaps and KML files, and uploading them to you site. The KML file contains all the location data, including the needed geo-coding information. You have to upload both to your server and point to the KML file from the geo sitemap.
Unless you’re really into learning all of the issues and the code that goes with it, you’ll want to find a simple option for creating the geositemap and KML files. Google Earth Plus used to allow you to create the KML file, but Google Earth Plus is no longer available, and the existing free version (Google Earth) doesn’t have the same functionality.
The tool has been, and still is, in beta. I recently worked with Martijn Beijk and Arjan test some files and had good results. Thanks also to other local search experts, David Mihm and Mike Blumenthal, who, along with Martijn, have also been working with Arjan to test the tool.
Once you’ve uploaded the geo sitemap and KML files, you can use Google Webmaster Tools to notify Google of the sitemap, just as you would an XML sitemap. The benefit of the geo sitemap and KML information is that they provide Google with additional information it can use help verify location information, and because you’re uploading the geo sitemap and KML file to your website, Google can use those files as another authenticated source of location information. This should help visibility in the 3- and 10-pack local results in blended web SERPs and also for Google Maps searches.