The challenge of local keywords that show local intent
What makes local keywords different from any other keyword phrase?
Earlier this year, Google enlisted the assistance of research firms Ipsos MediaCT and Purchased® to study searches conducted by people on their smartphones to better understand their intentions. Of course Google analyzes the data from the perspective of their money maker – Google AdWords – but we can see that data pertains to all aspects of our internet marketing. For the same reason they point out you should put local info in their ads, you should be doing the same for your organic search efforts: use “local intent” keywords.
“…four in five U.S. smartphone users believe search ads should be customized to their city, zip code or immediate surroundings.”
I particularly like how they kick off the report by stating Local SEO is just the new Yellow Pages. The concept isn’t new; just the format. That’s exactly how I explain it to clients that are understandably confused by all the marketing options available to them today, and thinking “internet marketing” means “I need to be on Facebook”.
While the study was intended for smartphones, the data proves that local intent searches happen everywhere, on every device.
So what it means to us local search marketers and local business owners is to identify what those local keywords are that Google triggers local results for and include an address and phone everywhere possible for our call to action. While it may not be interactive at all times like in Google’s ads, it does provide the actionable information local searchers are looking for. And there’s no shortage of evidence a well optimized search result increases click through rates.
5 Steps to Local Keywords with high CTR
After some research on how to perform local keyword research I’ve come up with 5 steps I use to get a good idea of what keywords to target.
First, what are your primary categories? I borrowed this bright idea from David Mihm – this guy is local search.
Just as stated earlier, searching Google for services has replaced the century old method of using the Yellow Pages. How was the Yellow Pages book organized? By Categories.
Here’s an example for Lawn Care Service in Clearwater, FL
Step 1: local categories
Jump over to Moz.com/local (this site is local search) and find out what categories Google and all other directories are using for our service.
Step 2: identify local intent
Search for each of those categories manually in Google WITHOUT a mention to a location and see if local listings appear in the SERP (search engine results page).
As you can see, “lawn care service” provides a Google Maps result and some local results below the 1st 3 organic results.
This search phrase is clearly indexed by Google as a search with local intent. When people search this phrase, they want a local lawn care service. Not a lawnmower. Not a how-to video.
If you search some of the obscure categories, like “lawn & grounds maintenance”, Google doesn’t have that as local intent, and frankly gives an obscure SERP. If you watched that quick video, you’ll see what I mean about why this is obscure compared to other SERPs.
Step 3: get traffic and CTR estimates from Google’s AdWords Keyword Planner (requires free AdWords account)
Login to Google’s AdWords Keyword Planner and input those categories found in step 1 in the traffic estimator. You’ll get pretty accurate area results if you use the location targeting option. What we find with “lawn care service” is that “lawn service” and “lawn services” have a higher impression count (amount of times the ads appeared in SERPs) and they have a higher CTR (and that’s why they’re so expensive).
Step 4: check the local intent algorithm for those keyword phrases
BONUS! Those 2 phrases have such expensive click costs there’s only 1 or 2 ads instead of 3. Greater chances your result will show up “above the fold” and get seen.
Step 5: put these variations everywhere!
Put them in your Google Places description and use them as anchor text hyperlinked to your website; in your personal Google Plus profile; YouTube business channel description; Title tags of your website, etc.
Now that you’re going to show up on the first page, above the fold, take the extra step to optimize your meta descriptions for higher CTR. Try putting in your business address or a nearby, common landmark and a phone number so people know you’re right around the corner.
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