Local SEO Ranking and Keyword Help

Local SEO Help If you landed on this page, I’m hoping to give you some “local SEO help” based on a conversation I had with a client today over the phone. Sometimes the Internet is not so obvious to small business owners, and it’s hard to figure out how your web site fits into your marketing strategy, or how it could be used to bring you leads, and sell products and services. There are many misconceived notions (that I’ve come across) – and sometimes a tiny bit of information can go a loooong way!

Small Business Perception of the Internet

I often run across one (or more) of these notions with small business clients…

  1. It can’t do anything for me
  2. It’s too technical for me
  3. It’s not like I’m going to get any business from Facebook or Twitter
  4. I heard you could buy links or Google rankings?
  5. My kid/friend/relative/employee runs/built our web site
  6. We’re #1 in Google for [bla, bla, bla] keywords
  7. I paid a guy [insert amount here] for our crappy web site
  8. We paid [seo company/link builder/spam email] $$ and got nothing from it

From my experience at YEAH! Local I learned that sometimes it’s bad dealing with clients who aren’t technical. I feel bad for people who have been taken by shysters, and there’s so much BAD information out there, and under-educated people (selling services) – there are days when I feel like it’s a losing battle. But I never stop trying to help people, and make them more self-sufficient when it comes to their business and web sites.

How the Internet CAN work for Small Business

The Internet is woven through the fabric of our lives in such a way that now instead of technology being “present” in our daily activities – to some degree they just are our daily activities. They are so ubiquitous that we no longer think it’s weird to use a cell phone to pay for something, an iPad to write a term paper, a computer to watch a TV show, or an iPod to play a game or browse a web site. People use technology constantly now, and that’s how they find, pay for, and recommend things. It’s how they get directions, read reviews, get new choices, AND connect with colleagues, friends, family, schoolmates, business associates, and the community.

If you want people to find your business in all that noise – you MUST:

  1. Understand how people look for things
  2. Form a plan to be in the appropriate results when people do the looking

How Search Works

I read some analytics last year that said “80% of every search entered in Google daily has never been entered before”. Can you believe that? It’s true, and I’ll tell you why. Everybody treats Google like a magic oracle, and they do searches in question, and revisionary format. People do searches like “what does bright green poop mean”, and “where can I find the best prices on a party tent rental?”. When the search doesn’t yield good results, they revise it like “party tent rental North Atlanta”. I’ve seen people change the search a good half dozen times before they get what they want. People learn over time how to “narrow it down”

Google takes search keywords and attempts to find the “best match” at any given time based on a number of factors (they use over 200 signals to rank web sites for keywords). A new factor is social activity, in addition to local or personalized results for you based on your browsing habits, and web sites you’ve liked or visited.

Google has 3 ways they match keyword phrases to results:

  1. Exact Match: matching an exact keyword phrase from a search to an exact keyword phrase on a web page. People use quotes around the keywords in Google search to do this. Like “detroit tattoo shop” (and nothing else).
  2. Phrase Match: matching an exact phrase with other keywords. People use quotes around keywords in a sentence of group of words for this, like [“detroit tattoo shop” grand river]
  3. Broad Match: matching keywords in any order from a search to web pages. Like if you search for [detroit tattoo shop] and the google result was from a web page that had the phrase “in Detroit looking for a great tattoo shop? We are…”.

In google, broad match is used most because most people don’t use quotes in search – they just keep typing in different words to see what they get. The funny thing is, even when I take the time to explain to small business owners the types of search matching – they still think they can come up with the best keywords to use.

Local SEO and Basic Keyword Research

You may wonder why I bother to explain the 3 types of keyword matching to a client or business owner. Here’s why:

“They need to know how to figure out how many people search for their products and services in their market, and what keywords are used most often…”

Basic keyword research for local markets is easy….

Go to the Google Adwords Keyword Tool (it’s free)

Type in phrases that YOU think people use to find your products and services, and then see what comes back for results.

These are the keywords I entered for this example (based on the client conversation earlier today):

google keyword tool

and these are the results it brought back:


So, google is telling us how many people search for the keyword phrases we entered (in bold), with other suggestions and combined phrases. First off, while talking to the client over the phone I told him “nobody really searches for [detroit tattoo shop], there are better keywords to use”. You can see that in the results. It looks like the best keyword phrase to go after (for him) is [detroit tattoo] (and variations of it).

But wait, there’s more!

I do come across more and more business owners who have “been reading blogs” (lol), and they know about the Google keyword tool, and they’ve done research on their own (and therefore they are experts and know the best keywords to use already). Guess what…the image above shows a basic keyword suggestion and activity report based on broad matching.

Let me show you a little trick most people don’t do (but should).


In the left hand sidebar are checkboxes for the different types of keyword match types. By default what you see is “broad”. Let’s see what happens when you check the “exact” checkbox and the results reload…


In these search results the broad match terms are as they were, and the exact matches sare the ones enclosed in brackets. I show them both at the same time for comparison. We see right away nobody is searching for [detroit tattoo shop]. Now we’re looking for the best terms this client can use, and some of the broad match numbers were pretty good, but now the exact matches are a small percentage of those – why?

I’ll tell you why – because this is how people search!

From these results you can clearly see:

3,600 people per month search for the keywords: detroit tattoo
320 people per month search for the exact phrase: [detroit tattoo] (with no other words).

What about the other 3,280 searches per month? Well, they’re BROAD MATCH (combined with other phrases)! And guess what – Google’s NOT telling you what (all) those phrases are!

Local SEO Best Practices

For this client – the best I can do is tell him we can optimize his campaign for the exact match “detroit tattoo” and at most expect 8 people per day from that phrase (even if he had the #1 spot in Google). But (in my experience), the best thing he could do is optimize for the exact match phrase, and then mix long tail keywords with it throughout the site. In other words, you optimize for one phrase, and then combine it with lots of matches in regular original content, images, titles, headings, etc.

How do you figure out what words are best to match with?

Start with location matching: Use zip code, area code, suburb, country, regional, township, or landmark locations in combination with the phrase (as people would in searches).

Use refinement words: add keywords like best, top, cheap, quality, award winning, certified, licensed, inspected, etc. with the phrase.

Look at Competitors: Look at competitors web sites, and pay close attention to the keywords they’re using in their content, headings, titles, and search listings

Watch the Ads: Do sample searches in Google, and watch the paid ads on the top and sides of the page. Open the ads (in a new tab by right clicking – don’t click just to cost them money, that’s just in poor taste – AND it’s bad karma!), and look at the keyword used on their landing pages.

Get Basic Metrics: If you still can’t figure it out, run the competitors web site, or use the keyword phrase at SEMRush.com to get as many basic free stats as you can about what keywords a web site is buying in Adwords through PPC, or getting organic traffic for.

When Do I Use These Keywords?

Organic SEO: Well, if you’re going for organic SEO results – you want do some on-site SEO work to put the main phrase and it’s matches in strategic pages you want to get ranked for – and then build links externally to get to the first page of Google. If you’re a business owner and reading this, you may need to hire an SEO for his services. I can attest to this strategy working, we’ve been optimizing for a main (broad match) phrase for about 3 weeks for a client site, and along with the first page broad match, we’re also getting traffic for about 40-50 phrase match keywords based that include the target keyword phrase (we’re getting what is referred to as “the long tail” of that keyword).

Pay Per Click: If you’re running a PPC campaign use all the matching phrases you came up with for best results. Some campaigns run best with exact or phrase match keywords, others with broad. Start with all, and narrow down the best converting ones. You’ll find you’ll get the best quality score when the exact same keyword phrase (of the ad) is in the page title and heading (and content).

External Link Building:

If you’re running an external linkbuilding and SEO campaign to get better rankings, optimize for your main keyword phrase, but use the match variations you came up with to strengthen it. Use the main phrase 70% of the time, and the variations say 30% of the time.

Google and Yahoo Local: When you setup your Google places account or Yahoo local (or Yelp, etc.) – be sure to use your main keyword phrase in your description, in tags, in bio, etc.

Social Networks and Other Channels: Use your main keywords in your social networks (description, bio, tags, and content) like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – as well as Channels like YouTube, other profiles, and even forums you may participate in (in your signature if allowed, and your profile page bio and description)

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