One of the most important steps when setting up a Local Services Digital Marketing strategy is to decide on;

  • the search terms (keywords) that people will use to find you and 
  • what geographic areas to focus on as your catchment area so you can be strong in the relevant search terms
To get a video introduction to how we improve your ranking by keyword and location, watch this 7 minute video on the Local Search Grid Report.  In particular, there is a discussion about optimizing keywords about 4:00 in the video.

Service Related Keywords

You most likely offer a range of services which we call your portfolio.  Some of these are;

  • more popular than others
  • more profitable than others
  • you like doing
  • you have to do

You want people searching for the types of service you offer to find you in their Google searches.  And you want to try to be listed at the top of the Google rankings for whatever services you select.

This is a Mission Critical step because your whole website and marketing strategy will use your choices.  Pick the wrong ones at the start, or not give the process sufficient consideration, and your digital marketing strategy will be less than optimum; and your results will be poor and only rectified by redoing a lot of your earlier work.

We suggest the following approach to get you started.

List the services you want to offer

Ideally in a spreadsheet, list all the services you can think of that you want to offer; one per row.  

  • Do this fairly quickly
  • Think what search terms you might use
  • remember, you are a specialist.  The general public might use more common terms than what you would use when talking to a fellow professional (e.g. hearing specialist rather than audiologist) . Add both technical and common terms

Neil Patel (a SEO super guru) provides a sample spreadsheet on this link which should autodownload.  He is behind Ubersuggest mentioned below.

Check on your Competitors

It can be very insightful to check on how your competitors are ranking and for what.

That way, you might learn what works for them and use that information.

You might choose to compete against them by doing better with SEO and reviews for example.

Or you might think they are too hard to beat – at least for now – and look for alternative services and locations where you can be more competitive.  Having mopped up the “low hanging fruit”, you can come back later to go after more competitive areas.

There is a useful guide to using BrightLocal for Competitive Research on this link.

Find the Keyword popularity

We want to make sure we cover the most popular keywords that you want to because that is where the most searches will be done and the most potential customers found.  If you don’t come up for these, you will automatically get fewer customers.

You can find keyword popularity using free tools like;

Once on one of these site,

  • choose your country if that is available
  • enter your first term in the spreadsheet and check results
  • add into the spreadsheet the number of monthly searches for that term.  Generally you will also get “degree of difficulty” scores for each term.  It might be useful to record the DoD for SEO number for later use. That gives you an idea how hard it is to rank.  You might like to go for the easy ones but remember the hard ones are likely hard because they have worked for your competitors so many businesses are using them
  • you may also get a list of similar keywords.  Google thinks these are similar so a searcher might use one of them rather than the one you entered.  It is a good idea to add any that appeal to you, and which get good search scores, into your spreadsheet.  You can use the most popular ones for this ‘cluster’ of keywords covering the same service.

When done, you can choose the keywords that seem best to you.  You are looking for;

  • popular
  • at least one popular one to cover each service ‘cluster’ you think to offer.  Services that score very low might not be worth doing Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for.  Each keyword you use will need to be referenced on your website and some might need their own webpage to stand out as important.  Each such page will cost you
  • rank the keywords for popular to unpopular (the spreadsheet RANK function is a quick way to do this).  Do this over the whole list and within each service ‘cluster’ so you don’t overdo the keywords in a single cluster at the expense of not covering all clusters.

When finished, you have a prioritized list of service oriented keywords.

In the section entitled “Assembling your Keywords” below, we cover the next steps.

Catchment Area Selection

Local Services businesses by definition cover a ‘local area’ or catchment.

We want to achieve two things at this stage;

  1. define the “corners” of your catchment area and
  2. identify any population centres you want to use in keyword searches

Catchment Area Perimeter

You operate from a “home base” and cover a certain area from there.  

That will be larger or smaller depending on e.g.;

  • the willingness of people to travel to your business or you to travel to their locations
  • the point at which a potential customer is more likely to travel to another town or suburb for a service like yours than to you.  Factors like competing town size, combining other chores like shopping and school trips etc will play a part in this
  • the amount of competition; more competition may need a larger catchment area to get enough customers
  • level of demand; services in low demand might have to draw customers from a larger area to be viable.
  • the population in each locality within the catchment area.  For example, industrialized catchments might need to be larger because there are fewer residents.

Now we want to decide on the 4 “corners” of the geographic area you want to cover so we can set up your “Local Search Grid” in BrightLocal.

These will be either towns in regional areas or suburbs in larger areas.

Make a note of these for whomever is setting up your BrightLocal.

Select Population Keywords

With that catchment in mind, choose the localities you want to cover with keyword searches.   For example, the search phrase “Audiologist noosa” will reach 50,000 people residing the Noosa Shire..

Pick those population centres likely to be rich in the potential customers you are looking for.  Certainly one should be your office location if people come to you.  

Also choose ones that you know your customer knows is more likely to have the service they want.  A 5,000 person town is more likely than a 50 person village to have required medical services so a potential customer knows searching with  keywords for the small locations is not much point.

You don’t want too many location-keywords because it will take a lot of SEO resources to cover the SEO for a lot  of locations.

If you want to drill down, you can likely find the population of each locality with a Google search.  For example, “population Kenmore Brisbane” shows 9,600 residents.

Necessary Market Size

Sometimes you can find what population you will need to support your business with a Google search.  For example, a search disclosed that there are 201.9 General Practioner doctors (GPs)  per 100,000 people or approximately 495 people per doctor.  Simple maths will indicate the population size a GP needs when the total number of GPs is known.  A catchment with 10 GPs will need a population of 4,950.  Check you have a catchment area of at least that size.

It may also be helpful to do this work to see if your business is viable or if it can grow.  Growth at one service centre will be limited by the distance people will travel to vist the provider.  Adding other offices or going mobile can expand the service area.

What Is Covered in a Geographic Search Area

When someone makes a geographic-based search for e.g. “western suburbs brisbane” it may be unclear to you just what that covers in the mind of Google. 

Fortunately, there is a simple way to find out what Google will show for this search.  If you go to Google maps and type in that search term it will;

  • show you the area it considers with a dotted red ring around its border and
  • will position the search term in the centre of the area so you can see the closest locations

You can check if all your important locations are covered with that ring.  If not, you need more location keywords to service the desired population centres in your catchment area.

Build Your Location Keyword List

Now make a list of the location-keywords that are to be mated with the service-keywords to give e.g. “plumber noosa”, “drainer gympie” and so on.

Send these to the person setting up your Local Search Grid.

Multiple or Alternative Service Catchments

Many businesses have multiple service areas.  Others might be physically located in a poor quality catchment area but will service a nearby good quality catchment.

It is possible to set up several locations in Google Business Profiles and in this Local Search Marketing Audit tool.

That is an advanced topic that you should seek advice on.

If you only want one service area but you are not physically in that area, you can set up an alternative service area.  For example if your home office is in a semi rural location on the outskirts of a larger town, basing your location on your remote home office rather than the better larger market can impact on your marketing performance.

It would seem that Google will allow you to use a virtual  or shared office location in the larger area providing it is staffed with reception during office hours.  This is a grey area that may change as Google evolves.

If you take this approach, you might want to choose a virtual office in the middle of your chosen geographic catchment area for best marketing effect.

Relocating Your Office

Another handy opportunity is to use the Local Search tool to decide on where you might move your office to if relocating.

One factor influencing where to move to might be your ability to have powerful local search marketing to boost your revenue.

You can use BrightLocal to help with that. See this article on the topic.


Putting your Keywords together

Once you have the raw data, you can assemble the keyword combos you are going to use.  

A combo might have a combination of service and location.  It might also appeal to where people are in the buyers journey as they will be using difference search terms.

A good resource to learn about making your combos is provided by Local Search expert BrightLocal.  

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