Posted by Erin Meyer & filed under Search Engine Marketing.

Making sure that prospects can find you is the first hurdle you must clear in online marketing. As a local business, you probably face competition, which may include national retailers with big marketing budgets and seemingly unlimited resources. The good news is that you have an edge – you know your market area and your buyers. The marketing experts working for large chain retailers are not spending time with the customers in your neighborhood. Your firsthand experience and knowledge gives you the power to make your marketing more effective. One way to apply that knowledge is in your choice of the keywords you target in your online marketing campaign.

Keywords are the words you anticipate that people will type into a search engine to find you. To develop a keyword list you will start with your products and services. In most cases a keyword will actually be a long-tail phrase, which means it will have three or more words. For example, if you sell tires, your keywords may include:

  • “buy tires near me”
  • “best tire brands”
  • “affordable quality tires

When choosing your keyword terms, start with the obvious ones, which are probably the ones your competition is using. Then expand that list to include really focused terms that speak to the needs of your buyer.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when selecting your keywords:

  1. Don’t think like an insider. As a person who is knowledgeable and experienced in your industry or market, it is easy to get in the habit of speaking in terms that are familiar within the industry. (For example, back in the 90’s, during our home building process, I remember the contractor talking about “lick and stick”. It turned out that he was referring to manufactured stone.) Keep in mind that your average prospect is not likely to be aware of insider jargon. Reflect on conversations you’ve have with your customers. How do they typically describe your products or services?
  2. Look for buying phrases. This really refers to those long-tail keywords, but you can take it a step further. What features do your buyers seem to value or look for the most? For example, in the case of a medical practice that has evening hours, patients may really appreciate having evening appointments available. That medical practice might want to use a keyword term such as, “doctor with evening appointments”.
  3. Study your market in different, but similar geographic areas. A little research into how local businesses similar to yours are succeeding in other cities may reveal some keywords for you to try in your neighborhood. For example, a Cincinnati HVAC business may look at similar businesses in other parts of the Midwest by performing searches like “Louisville HVAC services”. By looking at who is ranking well and seeing what they are talking about, the Ohio business may find some new keyword terms to try.

It is important to keep in mind that keyword terms will only work for you if you have content on your website that pertains to the keyword. For example, the doctor’s office with evening hours could write a blog post such as:

Evening Appointments Now Available in our White Oak Office
And there goes your last excuse for putting off a medical check-up.

For especially important keyword terms, such as a specific product, it is a good idea to have a page on your site that is dedicated to, and optimized for, that keyword.

Are you interested in learning more about keyword strategies? We’d be happy to help! Contact us to discuss your business goals.