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The Secret to Keyword Research for Local Businesses

The Secret to Keyword Research for Local Businesses
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In Ultimate Guide to Local Business Marketing, Google AdWords expert Perry Marshall and lead generation expert Talor Zamir introduce you to the basic framework behind a successful local marketing campaign. In this edited excerpt, Perry and Zamir reveal the best way to choose the most effective keywords for your AdWords campaign.

Keywords are the foundation of your Google AdWords account. You have to be sure to have the right keywords in your account so your ads show up in front of your ideal prospects who are searching for you on Google.

While keyword research can be a highly complex, time-consuming process, we want to make things as easy as possible for you. So we're going to suggest that you not go too crazy with your keyword research. In fact, for a local AdWords campaign, our advice is not to cast too wide a net when it comes to keywords, especially when you're starting out.

Especially for those used to doing keyword research for SEO purposes, this may sound like bad advice. For SEO, it's necessary to do comprehensive keyword research and come up with a list of hundreds or thousands of keyword variations for a business.

That isn't what we recommend for a local pay-per-click (PPC) campaign. In fact, when you're starting out, before you even open any of the keyword research tools that are available, we want you to do the following: Think of your ideal prospect and ask yourself, “What would my ideal client type into Google to find a local business that does what I do?”

Go with the obvious keywords and write them down. And that's it! You've just done your initial round of keyword research. It may be a small list, but that’s good. You want to at least start your campaign off by focusing on your best, most targeted keywords.

Here are some examples from a few local business niches that will give you a clearer idea of what we mean by the “best, most targeted keywords.”

For a cosmetic dentist, there are a handful of keywords that describe what you do, including:

  • cosmetic dentist
  • cosmetic dentists
  • cosmetic dentistry

In addition, there are variations of the specific products/procedures you offer like veneers, dental implants, crowns, etc.

For a chiropractor, the most targeted keywords are ones like:

  • chiropractor
  • chiropractors
  • chiropractic

You'll also want to combine these keywords with the name of the main city (cities) you serve. For example, “Chiropractor Lake Tahoe,” “Reno cosmetic dentist,” and “personal injury attorney in Seattle.”

You may be thinking, “Hold on a minute. I’m a chiropractor and help people who have back pain, sciatica, neck pain, and more. Why shouldn’t I bid on keywords that include those words?”

Especially if you're on a limited budget, you do not want to start out bidding on a keyword like "back pain" because it's too broad. There are people with back pain who could be good prospects, but you don’t know what someone who types “back pain” into Google is looking for. Are they looking for a back brace, a back pain cream, or some other option to get pain relief?

Also, for broad keywords like this, you're going to be competing against national advertisers that sell back pain cream, back braces, etc. That’s generally going to mean more competition and higher click prices. Not that a local business can’t outcompete national competitors, but it's a harder battle to win, especially when you're starting out. That's why we recommend sticking to the specific targeted terms. If you're a chiropractor and someone types “chiropractor” in Google, you know they're searching locally for someone who does exactly what you do.

You can always add more keywords later. But, initially, you don't want to blow through your budget because you have too many keywords, and the less relevant keywords steal clicks and budget away from your best, highest-quality keywords.

So let your best keywords lead the way. Then, after a few days, if you're not getting enough clicks, you can always add more keywords to the mix. Only at that point (returning to the chiropractor example) should you consider adding keywords like back pain, neck pain, sciatica, and other broader keywords.

One of the big mistakes we see with advertisers and consultants is they start off way too broad with their keywords. So they end up blowing through the budget and don't get a good number of leads.

Here is another example of how going too broad can hurt you:

If you're a mortgage broker, it seems obvious to bid on the keyword “mortgage broker,” right? However, the mortgage brokers we’ve seen have the most success are those who focus on a specific type of refinance. For example, one of our clients specializes in HARP refinancing. So we bid on keywords like “HARP refinance,” “HARP loan,” and “HARP mortgage,” then created ads that referenced HARP refinance. Those ads lead to a landing page that was all about HARP refinance, the benefits of a HARP refinance, and why you should call them now for a free quote.

Again, the more specific you can be in your targeting, the better. So, if you're a mortgage broker, ask yourself, “What are the two best types of refinances that I can help people with?” and focus on those to start.

The bottom line with keywords is, we would rather you start your campaign with your top 20 or 30 keywords, instead of 200 or 300 keywords, and build from there.

Here's the secret to keyword research for local businesses: There really is no secret. The keywords you should use are pretty darn obvious. Don't overcomplicate matters.

When someone is looking for an immigration attorney, what are they going to type into Google? Immigration attorney, immigration lawyer, or some close variation. It's unlikely you're going to uncover a magical keyword that no one has ever thought of before (because if no one has ever thought of it, then probably no one is typing it into Google). So for local business search marketing, keeping things simple and targeted is the way to go.