The idea of using local SEO tactics to promote a local Web site makes perfect sense on the surface, but putting it into practice can be incredibly difficult.
Google and Bing may get 10,000 national searches a month on “early American antique dealers,” but they may get only 10 searches a month for “Nashville early American antique dealers.”
Naturally, the smaller the local market, the more likely the total searches will be small to nonexistent. Even worse, sponsorsing those keywords will become very expensive.
Even if there are some regular monthly searches on a particular keyword or phrase, it may not be enough to chase after them with organic search engine optimization (SEO) or paid search engine marketing (SEM).
The value of the lead may determine if it is worth it.
Realtors and Auto Dealers
In the case of SEM, the issue becomes more interesting for a Realtor or auto dealer. A $20,000 car sale or $300,000 home sale usually provides enough profit to more than cover a $5 cost per click if one click out of 50 turns into a sale.
The volume of the searches can be small and still worthwhile if the ad is well formed, the audience properly targeted and the enticement enough to generate a click.
It is certainly not worth it if 10 clicks out of 50 searches turn into $10 sales for someone selling low-cost products.
The picture changes again if 5,000 clicks out of 10,000 searches turn into $10 sales for someone who spent $1,000 on a local SEO expert. This assumes of course that the profit on the $50,000 in sales is more than $1,000.
So online marketers try to strike a balance between value and volume. They track both cost per click and cost per conversion. and settle on a reasonable profit margin.
The same valuations can apply to local SEO. The business is either spending money on an outside expert or is spending precious staff time trying to get higher rankings in the search engines to attract an organic audience.
Whether it is worthwhile depends on the volume of the searches and the value of the leads. A business should consider trying a campaign with the help of a consultant and then trying it on their own to compare the costs and the results of each effort.
Know the Market
Keyword research is always a critical step in preparing a local SEO or SEM plan.
Certain keywords are popular in just about every local market including news, weather, schools, apartments, hotels and restaurants.
Narrow the geographic range a bit and discover that the volume nearly vanishes.
More than one Realtor has tried to target down to the neighborhood level but without success.
Who does searches on their own neighborhood when they drive through it every day? If any opportunity exists, it lies with a house hunter who has targeted a specific neighborhood.
The numbers show that people thinking about moving into a neighborhood don’t do enough searches on it to justify an SEO or SEM campaign.
Certain keywords would seem to generate high volume but don’t.
My hometown of Richmond VA, has a metropolitan area population of about 1.2 million people plus a couple of dozen car dealers and dozens more used car lots.
The total exact match monthly search volume for “Richmond car dealer” — 36.
How Few is Too Few?
Which keywords to chase is a judgment call based on common sense and what is appropriate for the business.
It is a wise use of time to prioritize the keyword list and focus on a handful of keywords that have the highest volume, most value or best opportunities for improvement.
That last point is worth expanding. If 100 other businesses are chasing after the same keyword, the competition may be too intense and require too much time or money to make it worthwhile to pursue.
One of the great frustrations in SEO and SEM is throwing every effort into a keyword and watch its rank grow from #50 only to #45.
It is much more satisfying and productive to chase after a less competitive keyword and watch it grow from #20 to #1.
A less important keyword ranked #1 produces much more value and volume than a more popular one ranked #10.
Local businesses should use local SEO marketing for the sake of efficiently spending time and money chasing after local customers. But first understand the risks and limitations.