This is sort of a venting piece. I was just reminded of some of the crazy thoughts on SEO that clients develop and ask you to build strategies around. And when I say clients I mean both full on agencies with multi million dollar yearly revenues, as well as small businesses. Now I can see the small business folks not understanding many things about SEO or online marketing. But I am still flabbergasted by the strategies that get proposed by large firms, especially firms that specialize in online marketing.
So here is a great example:
CLIENT: I offer these eight different services and I want to target all eight of them organically.
CONSULTANT: OK, that is a great idea. However, with the budget that you have set aside for SEO I suggest that you choose one service, based on competition, profitability, and demand for that service, and focus all off-page efforts in that one service niche rather than trying to hit on all of them at the same time. In my experience it is best to have some focus in your SEO campaign rather than a shotgun approach. We will target all of those services with the on-page SEO and copy but the link building should focus in on a specific area because of the budget you have.
CLIENT: Well, I also serve the greater Bay Area so I want to rank for all of the cities in the Bay Area + each service.
CONSULTANT: Wow, that is a great deal of work. You would need a unique page for each service and each location for that service and unique, high quality, content for each page as well.
CLIENT: Yeah, well I also serve the entire US so I want to rank for every state plus each service keyword.
CONSULTANT: Well, I am not sure that is a good way to go about it. Unless you have offices in each location that you want to target it is typically not worth it to target that location. It is also much more difficult as Google really prefers that actual local businesses target these terms and rank for them. Another thing is that your keywords do not provide much, and in most cases zero, traffic when paired with locations according to my tools. What I suggest is targeting the terms nationally and if you develop enough authority then Google is likely to rank you organically no matter what location someone is searching from.
CLIENT: Well that is the problem, if someone searches for my services from a Chicago IP address then they might get local results and not see me at all.
CONSULTANT: This does happen but typically only with searches that are very local in intent and your services are not, which is why you service the entire US out of one office in the Bay Area. It simply is not worth all of the work, and you have the odds stacked against you because the search engines fight this sort of thing on purpose.
CLIENT: I have a staff that can write as much unique content as we want them to so it is no problem to build out all of these location pages. I really want to rank for these locations because local search is the future!
The problem here is that the client does not understand SEO very well and they want to essentially create spammy doorway pages targeting each location and each service within each location. This could equate to literally hundreds or thousands of pages. And search engines will not find these pages valuable, in fact these pages will most likely end up being against their TOS. The client is also really confused as to how local search works and the amount of traffic generated, as well as that traffic’s intent, from it.
This is why you see so many sites with pages for each state with the same exact copy and images on each page and just the location swapped out of the copy. This is a big no-no and search engines have been cracking down on this stuff much more over the past few years. I’m seeing more and more sites that do this lose rankings.
Be sure to recognize the intent of certain keywords. Type them into search engines and see what types of sites show up. Even try logging out of Google and setting the location to different areas to see the results. Ask yourself, does my URL really add value to these search results? Are people that type this phrase into Google really going to find my site useful? If the answers are no then you are wasting your time working to rank for these terms.
Also be mindful of the effort it will take to get there and how that effort will pay off. If there is not enough traffic for a given keyword, and it is not hyper relevant to you, then it is not a good place to spend your resources. There are instances where a keyword has little to no traffic in keyword tools but it is SO super relevant to your site that even just 2-3 visitors per month can create conversions for you. Just be honest with yourself when evaluating the true value you bring to visitors.
There is no easy way to rank for many locations at the same time, even if you have offices in each of those locations. It will cost you a great deal of time and effort. If you have physical locations I suggest having a dedicated page for each location on your site and a Google Places page for each location that references the local page on your site. I also suggest adding as much useful localized content to each location page on your site. Suggestions are an embedded Google Map with links to find directions (make it easy for your visitors) and any links to local resources that may be relevant to your visitors. Another idea is to post images of your local office and staff on each page, as well as within your Google Places page for each location.
And if you do not have physical locations where you want to rank for then just go after the root keyword term with no local variation on it. Chances are if you can build enough authority for the root, sometimes referred to as the short tail, keyword then you will show for searches no matter where they originate from.