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Strategy - Local or National Approach

Organic optimization approach for a one-state service area



5:06 pm on Feb 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I recently began working on an organic seo project and was looking for some feedback on strategy. I will use 'widget polishing' as the example. The company provides widget polishing services in several cities in a single US State.

Option 1: Optimize the site for a variety of higher volume, generally relevant, keywords such as 'widget polishing' 'widget cleaning' etc on a NATIONAL organic level, despite the service area being only in one State.

Option 2: Optimize the site for 'State widget polishing', 'City widget polishing' etc. which would be far less competitive and would target their service area.

Have the engines integrated local search into their 'normal' results to the degree that a search for 'widget polishing' from someone's computer in a target City would return my client's site? I ask because recently when working with a site in GG webmaster tools I came across a question asking to specify whether the site operated on an int'l, national, or geo/state level.

We are running a geo-targeted adwords campaign on a wide range of terms.

I intend on submitting the site to Y! Local, and others. I need some guidance as to the approach to take from a keyword selection standpoint given the limited service area. I realize the current local capabilities of the engines will impact my strategy.


[edited by: inbound at 7:20 pm (utc) on Feb. 5, 2008]
[edit reason] Removed Specifics [/edit]


7:27 pm on Feb 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

My experience in the UK is that it's best to target the 'service place' phrases, and lots of them.

Sit down and think of the different terms that describe the service your client offers and then put together content that talks about those terms, not in a spammy way, try to work the terms into natural copy.

As for the geographic terms, I'd advise you to have the full business name and address / phone number on every page along with a 'Serving City1, City2 ...' type statement.

You'll be amazed how many different phrases will be used to find the site, so plan for the making the most of the long tail.


9:25 pm on Feb 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Ok, for clarification....you are suggesting optimizing for 'widget polishing state', 'widget cleaning city2', 'widget cleaners city' and abandoning the national 'widget cleaning' generic terms.

That seems to make the most sense - thanks.


9:40 pm on Feb 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Yes, 'abandoning' the generics and going for 'service place' combinations is better for ROI for all sorts of reasons:

Less competition
Better targeted visitors
Less time wasted dealing with out of area queries
Less time required to rank well

You may still pick up traffic for some generic phrases, but that's not where the sweet spot is for local services.


10:25 pm on Feb 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Great stuff. Exactly what I was looking for...last question....

From a site architecture standpoint, would it make more sense to create content pages for each city, and discuss the 'widget cleaning' 'widget polishing' services offered in that area (and name the surrounding services ares too) OR to create content for 'widget cleaning', 'widget polishing' and mention the cities service areas in the page, perhaps with addresses of the service location at the bottom of each page?

Looking at the site I am definitely going to have to develop more content, but I don't know if city pages with essentially the same 'widget services' info would be too redundant (although I bet it would rank well). On the flip side, would a page about 'widget cleaning' that had a brief mention of the cities in the service area be enough mention of 'city' to rank it for 'widget cleaning city'.

Interested on your take.

Maybe I can do both.

Thanks - great stuff.


10:43 pm on Feb 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I'd say think of what the customer wants first, that's what the site should really be about.

If you have one business address then it would make sense to most visitors that you talk about each service you offer (with the sprinkling of alternative terms on that page) on a page (if there is enough to talk about) and state on each page the aread your business covers.

If you have several branches, especially if some branches don't offer all of your services, it may make more sens to have a page about each area and talk about all of the services on offer at that branch (avoiding duplicate content penalties by adding details unique to each branch, e.g. employees names will differ, machinery may differ, etc)


2:43 am on Feb 24, 2008 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Good luck:

Several years ago I optimized a business site for a business in one city/metro region for something like "widget polishing"

Initial efforts were to optimize for the generic terms not the generic term/city name/state name.

Got excellent results and still maintain some very high rankings in all engines and currently some #1's in the various engines for highly targeted industry terms without the location words.

Long experience suggests that the best targeted terms with the highest conversion rates are those where the searches include location/business term.

Very very important to do what I've seen described as keyword expansion....wherein you have all the secondary terms such as widget polishing/widget cleaning etc etc. Include stemming such as adding plurals and variations like widget polisher(s).

Do keyword expansion on all possible location names in the region including state/city and local towns/counties etc.

Structurally in terms of separate pages I think it depends on the size of the site, the content, etc.

Research has suggested and my experience from having the high rankings without the local geo phrases is that many many searchers don't use the local phrase for widget polishing. Of course they may not find good results the first time and do a second search with a more refined and specific long tail phrase--ie widget polishing "specific state or city"

Alternatively have ppc campaigns for widget polishing that are focused on widget polishing city/state.

The other thing, especially with google and yahoo injecting some varying element of maps within organic search its critically important to not only be in maps but get a high ranking. Anecdotal evidence suggests that not being in the top 3 in maps may be brutal to a business--even if the manage to get the #1 organic listing directly below the map insert.

Speaking of that, with google changing the character of maps to show 10 businesses as opposed to 3--that will have a different effect. I think it is too new to get feedback on this impact.

Oh yeah...one other thing. There is other powerful anecdotal evidence that suggests that an "authoritative" one box map insert in google for something like "widget cleaning city name" absolutely rocks for a business.

In my case I haven't seen big differences and my version of widget cleaning city name/or state name controls #1 in organic--has at times had an authoritative onebox--at times been accompanied by a 3 business map--and now is subject to a 10 pack map.

In any case, good luck.


Robert Charlton

4:21 am on Mar 24, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Long experience suggests that the best targeted terms with the highest conversion rates are those where the searches include location/business term.

I agree. In general, searchers who know what they're looking for are the most likely to buy. For local sites with limited SEO budgets, I gave up trying to attain competitive generic rankings (without location names) after the Florida update.

But recently, I've been looking at some AdWords impression data for a regional site I'm about to optimize organically. It's had one of those Broad Match on everything local/regional campaigns, so the ads appear because of searcher IP location... and I'm actually kind of amazed how many of the click-throughs came from searches where no location info had been entered.

The campaign has been so badly managed that they haven't tracked conversion data, so there's hardly anything to be gained from the stats with regard to organic targeting, but it does raise a question of how many people searching locally don't use city or regional search terms.

Anyone have an idea what percentage of locally intended searches do not include location name?

With regard to the above observations about what converts, btw, it occurs that using the local targeting feature (without specifying locations) on AdWords may not be a good idea.


8:33 pm on Apr 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


During December 2006 Greg Sterling (who writes for Searchengineland now) did some research into this topic.

I've quoted below the relevant info. He later published this at screewerk.

Now back to WebVisible's research, which appears to support the idea that a large percentage of searches with a local intent don't appear as such because they lack geographic modifiers. Here's what the research determined about respondents' local search query formulation:

51% used a general service term to search ("dentist")

49% used a general service term and regional term ("dentist in Cleveland")

23% used a specific business name ("Dr. Bob's Dental")

19% used a specific service term to search ("root canal")
(Respondents had the option of answering more than one)

I've long found when marketing for a term such as Cleveland widgets.....that I'd run ads for the search term [widget] in google on a geographic basis surrounding the metropolitan region with specific ads that would say something like Cleveland widgets or Ohio widgets or northern ohio widgets.

Those type ads convert quite well.

Similarly, when the aol data was dumped about 2 years ago I looked at some of the saved data quite extensively.

There were plenty of searches for what should be a logical local term....such as dentist. Then the searcher would refine the search and use a term like Cleveland dentist.

I find that there are still plenty of searches of that ilk.



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