Robin Goad of Hitwise just posted some data on postcode searches and seo (“postcode” sounds so much more polite than “zip code” doesn’t it?). He noticed an increase in searches for a specific postcode – b78 3tw – and figured out that it was related to people searching for directions for the Drayton Manor Park theme park. The increase in search traffic occurred around a school holiday so it was safe to assume that the searchers were parents looking for something to do with their kids.

Here’s the chart:

Drayton Manor Park Searches
Robin also provides a list of popular terms that people pair with the post code when searching. If I were a UK site I might make sure that for the next holiday I had rolled out some page that target zip code searchers in a helpful way as part of my local search engine optimization strategy.

Whenever I suggest to a client that they may want to have a strategy to target zip code searches their first response is usually “nobody searches by zip code”. Take a look at your site. Have you come up with a good strategy to target zip code – sorry Guvnor – I mean postcode searches?

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18 Response Comments

  • Matt McGee  June 5, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    In my experience, it’s fairly accurate to say that “no one searches by zip code.” It probably depends on the geographic area and maybe the vertical involved, but for the most part, zip code searches are few and far between from what I’ve seen….

  • Andrew Shotland  June 5, 2008 at 8:57 pm

    And just because you worked on thousands of zip code specific sites that makes you an authority or something? 🙂

  • Andrew Shotland  June 5, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    While zip code search is certainly lower than service category search and business name search the data I have seen suggests that for an IYP type site zip code searches account for between 1.5% and 3% of search engine referrals.

    Not huge but I’ll take them if you don’t want them Matt.

  • Matt Collins  June 6, 2008 at 4:48 am

    Interesting post.

    I live in London, England, and although people do generally refer to suburbs by their names, it is fairly common here to use postcode area codes (the first two or three characters of our postcodes) in searches, e.g. “plumber nw1”. It’s still not a huge amount of traffic, but could be well worth having. As far as I’m aware this a London-specific (not UK-wide) phenomenon.

  • dhurowitz  June 6, 2008 at 7:23 am

    One of the reasons we advise clients to include zip codes or postcodes as you suggest is as handheld devices become more location based in the results being delivered over mobile search, we believe the postal code will come into play in ranking results. As just a matter of practicality, what is the down side of including additional information on a site, not quite sure if I could think of any?

  • Don  June 6, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    Awesome tip Andrew. Thank You

    @dhurowitz, thank you for that also

    Andrew what practical ways can i implement this in my site.

    I have seen people place their local biz address in footers, is this an effective option?



  • Stever  June 7, 2008 at 7:49 am

    The problem I see with zip code search is its just too fine a scale. Most local businesses operate at a courser scale than a single zip code. For a business in a moderately sized city their effective service area covers a dozen to a few dozen zip code areas.

    I have seen sites with a long list of zip codes in the footer. Looks a little silly. I tried it myself on one site and have seen less that 1% of visitors using zip coded searches. But a couple did convert.

    May only really be feasible for businesses that do operate at a neighborhood level. Perhaps a florist. Some real estate searches may be conducted by zip codes to find homes in specific neighborhoods.

    But like others have said, here in North America at least, searchers are just not doing many zip code/postal code searches.

    That may change some with mobile search but again most people only know the code for the neighborhood they live in. Maybe a couple nearby. So if they are out on the other end of town running some errands they wont be using zip code searches because they don’t even know the zip code they are in at the time.

    Andrew, that IYP type site is probably picking up the zip code type searches because nobody else is targeting them. Much easier for a IYP to target wide ranges of zip codes as its basically just a directory that includes full mailing address of lots of businesses in lots of zip code areas.

    Marchex probably ain’t making out like bandits with those bucket loads of zip code domains they scooped up. OpenList is just another IYP scraper like all the rest.

  • ivy  June 8, 2008 at 10:22 am

    hi i want to log in…..from africa

  • Roberto  June 9, 2008 at 12:07 am

    Overall Andrew has truth to his post, I have recently completed the second inter-phase for a local search engine I am involved in here in Jacksonville, Florida and the numbers we have for people search zip code searches is very high. Thing is people have to be educated first and understand what kind of content they are looking for. Once people understand what they are really trying to achieve then zip code search can be quite impressive. We are in the process of patenting our very own local search engine page ranking system and seo process. We feel that local offers more simple solution for a search query. Whether it is zip codes, street locations, and or landmarks. We have tons of visits from people out-of-town, and we encourage any business owner, business consultants, free-lance, hobbits, artist, any whom would develop a website to work on their tags and esp. on their contact page and include a zip code from where they are operating from, also included the most popular street you are close to and or how many mile from a popular landmark. It is just like seo for Google, you have to think for your audience. So in our application we want to set the standard for connectivity @ the speed of thought and people are looking for that complete connectivity. We are implementing our marketing and launching the second phase to our website this summer, and we continue to crawl webpages and offer a sole database full of content that connects to Jacksonville, FL and optimize webpages so that consumers can connect by zip code, street names, landmarks, and other tactics.

    Roberto Perez

  • Colin Bruce  June 9, 2008 at 10:15 am


    We launched around 3 months ago and our site was structured to allow Google to find all of the content (normal sitemap + XML sitemap). The nature of UGC determines internal and external links.

    We are seeing roughly a 50% week-on-week traffic increase and a majority of this actually involves long tail out code (first 3/4 characters of the British post code system) searches. We doubled up and added location + out code in page titles.

    We’re again looking at our options in structuring the site to better present content to Users which should naturally help SEO. If anyone has feedback please contact me.

  • Andrew Shotland  June 9, 2008 at 10:23 am

    Sounds like things are cranking Colin. You may want to consider doing a little bot-herding on your business profile pages as all of those tabs could cause duplicate content issues.

  • daryl  June 14, 2008 at 9:49 am

    Suburb or geo area not postcode in my experience

  • Jon Clark  July 23, 2008 at 8:11 am

    I optimized a small private school’s website a few months ago and really had to rethink my SEO strategy. After digging through a months worth of analytics data, i found a large majority were searching for ‘private schools in 1234’, ‘elementary schools near 1234’ and similar keywords. It was truely a mind-shift for me in my optimization techniques. So, to say “zip codes are never searched” is a terrible oversight. It could possibly be the most targeted user your website will ever see!

  • Manly  December 29, 2008 at 4:41 am

    I would think that appending a suburb name as opposed to a numeric postcode would be a more likely intuitive search for a general search engine browser. Certainly, based on stats for visitors to my site this is the case. The suburb name (my local search site covers about 30 suburbs) is often appended to any particular search in a field. According to the data I have the suburb term would be more regularly typed than the postcode by about a ratio of 100 to 1.

  • Andrew Shotland  December 29, 2008 at 9:28 am


    While no doubt city name searches are far more popular than postcode searches, postcode searches are less competitive and for certain types of queries, as mentioned above, they may be more common. As readers of this blog may know, I look at SEO as a game of incrementalism – most of your competitors will target the common, popular searches. Part of the game is figuring out viable niches and getting there before everyone else figures it out.

  • Chris Tucker  November 6, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    I think adding zip codes may be a good idea.
    I have added some to my blog, adding more all the time.
    I think content matters.
    Place too many zip code directed posts w/o substantial content, and you may get in trouble.
    Great Article, and a lot of good reading here.
    Thank You Andrew!

  • atlantaseos  April 21, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    I agree with the third post from top, if you dont want them I will be glad to collect them. One thing I have noticed in reading these posts is it sounds like many of you are strictly relying on SEO to test this or other new methods…
    Thats a chicken and egg thing and will leave you with no clear data in my experience. PPC set to broad match will give any doubters a very clear picture of how people use a search engine for local search.

    But again, please keep doubting

  • EricK  June 1, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    I reiterate the notion that it all boils down to incrementalism. In the SEO game I am looking not only for the obvious, but also for all of the gaps.