How Do You Do Local SEO?

It’s quite clear that local SEO will be *one* of the places to be in 2010 and beyond. Need convincing?
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  • Google and Yelp’s failed deal – If local search was unlikely to see a decent ongoing up tick, Google might not have as much interest in acquiring a site like Yelp. Even if Google was just buying Yelp out to remove competition for it’s own local stuff, it still shows an acknowledgement that local search is quite important.
  • Google’s Flat Rate Local Adwords Pricing Model aimed at local businesses
  • Google’s Local Business Center is becoming a more and more robust service.
  • The local 10 Pack continues to show up in general service related queries. Local SEO is also about gaining visibility in Google’s 10 pack and maps in general so it is equally as important to be optimized for your geo-specific keywords as it is to be set up to succeed in the local pack

Speaking of the local 10 pack, it appears to have done part of its job for Google. Consider the following from TMPDM/ComScore

So Google’s maps increased sharply, likely due to the local 10 pack being shoved down people’s throats. I happen to like the 10 pack to some degree, more when I type in a town/city + service instead of my town + service because lots of times they pull from my IP which is a ways away from where I am now, which kind of renders the initial map findings a bit useless for me. I also like it much better when it takes up #4 in the rankings rather than having be at spot 1 or 2

The Process

One of the nice things about local SEO for me is that I don’t have to fuss around with a bazillion different keyword tools, cross reference data points, wonder which data sets are more accurate (and which ones are entirely useless), or spend time creating a site structure which ultimately has to be redesigned after finding some some of the keyword data was rubbish.

There are a few ways get a general idea of which keywords you should incorporate in your campaign. You can use tools like Google Trends, Google Insights, as well as PPC campaigns. You can also look at competing sites to see how they structure their page or site in order to target specific keywords.

A Case Study

So you just spoke at a local chamber of commerce meeting in your hometown of Atlanta and now you have the locals all fired up about search marketing. You end up landing a client named Mary Smith who owns Peachy Insurance Agency which has offices in Atlanta, Savannah, Macon, and Athens.

Mary has decided her agency is going to focus on vehicle insurance only. So she asks you to begin the process of figuring out which keywords best suit her goals. Will it be broader geo-local keywords (on the state level) or pursuing really local keywords (down to the town level) or both?
In this case, we have to figure out if car insurance or auto insurance is the more popular keyword in this specific area. I would start with the Adwords Keyword Tool to figure out if there is any big difference from a broad perspective

It appears that the modifier georgia and “auto” is a bit more popular (but it is pretty easy to work in other variations like the state abbreviation into your on-page copy)

Then I would head over to Google Insights for additional data points, one targeted to the state and one broader country wide search with local modifiers

Broad Search with modifiers

Broad Keywords but geo-targeted by region

Lastly, from a tool standpoint, I would give google trends a shot. They break out volume by town/city but I would still test that heavily in Adwords.

My next step would be to type in some keywords, since the difference is not huge and trying to target both might be a good move

Note the local box on the more niche, local search. Also, note how some sites target both car/auto. From a relevancy standpoint, Mary’s site should be able to do pretty well in these SERPS as a local resource guide, a local insurance agency, and a site which is not essentially a lead generation site. If Mary can create content which is valuable to the local community, earn local links, promote the site in local communities, etc.. she should do pretty well when compared to either thinner affiliate sites or one page off-shoots on a large lead generation domain.

Georgia Auto Insurance

Georgia Car Insurance

Atlanta Auto Insurance

Atlanta Car Insurance


The best way to figure out local keyword volume, or really any keyword’s volume in most cases, is to set up an adwords campaign. I like to set up 2 PPC campaigns:

  • Campaign 1 – no radius targeting, targeting keywords with specific geo-local modifiers (georgia auto insurance, car insurance in atlanta, etc)
  • Campaign 2 – targeting by maps (state of Georgia and specific zip codes) with no geo-local modifiers (auto insurance quotes, car insurance quotes) etc.

So that second option will probably be fairly pricey but the long term payoffs of making sure you or your client are optimized for the correct keyword variations in your market are much bigger than any nominal PPC campaign costs.

Conclusions

So the volume might not be huge but keep in mind this is a local insurance agency. They may not be able to scale their operation with a huge firehose of traffic (say the 10’s of thousands places like Geico and Progressive receive per day), it is all relative.
You might proceed as follows:

  • Go with the state level keywords on the home page and try and grab the exact match if possible (either GeorgiaAutoInsurance.Com or GeorgiaCarInsurance.Com depending on what your PPC campaign tells you has the higher volume)
  • Target towns/cities on individual pages like peachyinsurance.com/atlanta-auto-insurance.com

Most of the time local SERPS are ripe if you can figure out which angle you want to pursue, be able to execute it, and have a client willing to spend some capital

Must have resources, for me, when launching an SEO campaign is to browse through the local search ranking factors and see how I can apply them to my client’s site. Also, I am a big fan of Andrew Shotland’s Local SEO Guide& understanding Google maps & local search.

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