|Where on Earth is your Websitee?
You've just finished congratulating your marketing team. After six months of concentrated effort you can now actually find your own company web site within the search engines. Everyone is busy handshaking and back patting when a voice from the back of the room rises above the din. "Yeah this is great! Can't wait until we can find ourselves on wireless devices."
All conversation comes to an abrupt halt. Eyes widen. Everyone turns to the fresh-faced intern standing in the corner with a can of V8 juice in one hand and a PALM device in the other. You, being the Department Manager, barely managing to control your voice not to mention your temper, ask the now nearly frozen with panic intern, "What do you mean find ourselves on wireless? We just spent thousands on our web site visibility campaign!" "Well... Explains the sheepish intern, "There is no GPS or GIS locational data within our source code. Without it, most wireless appliances won't be able to access our site."
Guess what? The intern is absolutely correct. Anyone interested in selling goods and services via the Internet will soon be required to have some form Geographic Location data coded into your web pages. There are approximately 200 satellites currently orbiting the Earth. (even Nasa won't confirm the exact number) Some are in geosynchronous or geostationary orbit 27,000 miles above your head. The Global Positioning System (GPS) is the name given to the mechanism of providing satellite ephemerides ("orbits") data to the general public, under the auspices of the International Earth Rotation Service Terrestrial Reference Frame (ITRF). Sounds like Star Wars doesn't it? It's pretty close. The NAVSTAR GPS system is a satellite-based radio-navigation system developed and operated by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).
The NAVSTAR system permits land, sea, and airborne users to determine their three-dimensional position, velocity, 24 hours a day, in all weather, anywhere in the world, with amazing precision. http://igscb.jpl.nasa.gov/
Wireless devices, WAP, Cellular, SATphones and a whole host of newly emerging appliances and indeed, new software applications, will all utilize some form of GPS or more likely GIS data retrieval. GIS stand for Geographic Information System and relies on exact Latitude and Longitude coordinates for location purposes.
Several car manufacturers currently utilize GPS for on-board driver assistance and the Marine and Trucking Industries have been using it for years. Obviously your web site is a stable beast. It sits on a server somewhere and doesn't move much, so at first glance it seems quite unplausible you'll need GIS Locational Data within your source code. On the contrary. One aspect your web site
represents is your business's physical location(s) and if people are going to try to find your services and products, shouldn't you at the very least, tell them where it is and how to get there?
Let's look at it from the other end of the spectrum. The end user approach. Let's say you're vacationing in a new city for the first time. Once you get settled into your Hotel room, what's the first thing you want to find? Restaurants? Bank machines? Stores? So you pull out your hand-held, wireless, device, log onto the web and search for "Italian Food in San Francisco." Five Hundred results come back so you click the new "location" feature on your hand-held (which knows exactly where you are) and ten Italian restaurants, who were smart enough to code their web sites with GIS data, light up on the screen. Guess which restaurants didn't get selected? The other four hundred and ninety. Starting to get the picture?
How does this affect you and your web site marketing? GIS Latitude and Longitude co-ordinates will soon be a must have on every web site operators and web developer's list and an absolute necessity for anyone wishing to trade good and services via the Internet. This data may relate to the physical location of the web site or where the site is being served from (if applicable) or where the actual business represented by the site is physically located. There may be multiple web site locations and coding involved, if for example, you have a franchise with multiple locations, each location will probably need a page of it's own with the correct corresponding location data.
If you run a home-based business, I doubt if the co-ordinates to your living room are going to be necessary, but you should provide the latitude and longitude of the closest city or town. Large corporations such as banks may want to code the exact location of every automated teller machine across the country.
Industry standards and the methods of serving out this data are still in the development phases but it's a safe bet to assume there are plenty of people working on the solutions right now and given the speed of technology, implementation will probably be much sooner than later. Give yourself an edge. Find out where in the world your web site is...before your web site is nowhere to be found.
Robert McCourty is a founding partner and the Marketing Director of Metamend Software and Design Ltd., a cutting edge search engine optimization (SEO) and web site promotion and marketing company. Scores of Metamend Client web sites rank near or on top of the search engines for their respective search terms.