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Thread: Keyword expansion for geo areas

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  1. #1
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    Keyword expansion for geo areas

    I stumbled into a discovery while looking at my analytics.

    While glancing at keyword phrases I inadvertantly clicked on a drop down menu I had never tried before and sorted phrases by keywords rather than by click totals.

    It knocked me out and gave me a better understanding of the impact of long tail...and specifically how applications of the long tail for local sites (geo oriented sites), or long tail sites can be very effective. In fact I had finding that I haven't seen mentioned anywhere else but could be significant for many local sites in particular regions.

    A Little Background

    My main business site is well ranked for the #1 industry phrase(non geo) with 1st page rankings in all 3 engines and currently a #1 in MSN and a #2 in Y. (Currently at 7 or 8 in G and supplemented by an aggressive ppc campaign run on a regional basis). Of over 11,000 total phrases on this test there were over 1300 visits for the main industry phrase.

    Sorting by phrase enabled me to look at the effective long tail phrases.

    I did one test. It was a review of long tail phrases that followed the key industry phrase. By example....if divorce attorney was the number one phrase...I looked at all the long tail combos that followed divorce attorney So if you had a business site for divorce attorneys in San Diego, what follows are a great variety of phrases, some of which were geo oriented like divorce attorney San Diego, divorce attorney Southern California, and divorce attorney for every town/region/geo term around San Diego other long tail phrases might include descriptive phrases like divorce attorney inexpensive, divorce attorney vicious , etc etc. etc.


    With over 1300 searches for just the #1 phrase there were an additional 1100 long tail searches w/the industry phrase first and other phrases following it.

    Of those, 1000 were some kind of relevant geo phrases. As a regional business the most popular were variations of 2 relevant state names and the relevant city name (that includes the full word and the initials for the state and city name.). Besides that there almost 30 different town names, one regional phrase that was searched on quite frequently, and a type of term that I had seen often but never focused on before.

    For this region there are a lot of searches for combination geographical areas. This site and business is regional and covers Washington DC, and portions of Maryland and Virginia. The site has optimization for not only each individual geographic but combinations of the phrase.

    Surprisingly there were a lot of searches for the main business term followed by 2 or all three of the jurisdictions.

    How popular was it? Surprisingly popular, trailing searches using just one of the major jurisdictions as a geo phrase but far more popular than any county phrase or the very often used regional phrase.

    Where and how would this work? Any border city or region where there is wide-spread consumer activity across regions. Deleware/Pennsylvania, Rhode Island/Massachusetts, Cincinnati which draws customers from Ohio and Kentucky, Kansas City that services Kansas and Missouri.

    Who would it work for? All sorts of services and businesses that service wide geographies; movers, auto dealers, technical schools, home repair and everything having to do with homes, etc. etc.

    Would it work and could SEO's use this to sell their services and make headway against spending on IYP's and verticals? Absolutely. I checked the rankings in this region for various popular and competitive services and businesses where IYP's (Internet Yellow Pages) and vertical directories (say a directory of auto dealers) tend to dominate and the sellers of these directories and the IYP's are missing.

    What else did I find? The one thing that has surprised me....with regard to user searches is that there are a fair number of searches for a product or service where the searcher uses a zip code and not a town, city, state, or regional name. Not lots....but it adds up. Now the only way my site currently gets traffic off of these searches is through Google Maps as the site doesn't have zip codes(except for our address) in the content. (so the revised site is including zip codes from nearby areas in the content)

    In any case, when reviewing keyword phrases in analytics....don't just do what I've been doing for the past 3 or 4 years....and always look at the default sort by # of visits. Change and review keyword phrases by word or phrase. You may find some interesting results.

  2. #2
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    Though it is clear that looking at the keyphrase log helps find other words to rank for (nothing new in this respect), can you tell me/us what the jurisdiction is and how it relates to geo searches? Can you give an example, along the lines of the 'divorce attorney' phrase?

    How else would you characterise the phrase that is popular? How is it different from basic 'bus term state' or 'bus term town' key phrases?

    Thanks.
    Last edited by A.N.Onym; 08-28-2007 at 06:15 PM.

  3. #3
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    Yuri:

    2 things.
    1. The real thing I discovered (by error) was to look at keyword terms on an alpha basis (alphabetical) rather than sorted by numbers (descending) the most often hit phrase ranking first and 2ndary phrases afterwards.

    What it did was reveal patterns that give better insights into potentially powerful long tail phrases that convert better.

    What I did was convert a data base of phrases into a spread sheet format.

    Then I copied a sample of the sort, focusing on long tail phrases that followed the most important industry term;

    Say the industry term is used cars If the site is ranked for used cars or is spending through the roof for ppc for the phrase used cars you may have a lot of traffic for the phrase...but that might not be the strongest of conversion phrases. A long tail phrase might be better ie.... used cars-Toyotas or on a geo basis used cars St Louis or even more long tail used cars - Toyotas St Louis.

    That last phrase is so much closer to an actual conversion then the #1 phrase, used cars

    What I did was (first) convert the keyword list into a spread sheet and then sort alphabetically.

    Then I pulled a list of a phrase with all those long tail searches based on the first word in the alpha list--say used or alternatively used cars

    I copied the list w/ all long tail searches to another spread sheet (or another portion of the spread sheet. I then added a column and characterized the geo description (or it could be a product description).

    From an analysis basis....this enabled me to see trends rather than lots of different long tail searches with 1's and 2's of phrases. It was certainly time consuming....but not outrageous.

    Characterizing the long tail phrases enabled me to group together all the individual searches that might have had a key secondary phrase ie toyota. It aggregated what searchers were looking for...rather than isolating them by spelling differences or variations on search tendencies...like when searchers add parentheses ... " " or a plus + to the long tail search.

    It provided a better look at what or how searchers do and what they are inputting via a trend of critical groups of words and concepts than I had seen before.

    2. The thing I saw that could be relevant for certain geo sites in certain areas was the following, and it does reflect where I live rather than every area.

    I live in the Washington DC region and have a business that markets regionally. That means I market to 3 main jurisdictions; 1 city-Washington DC, and 2 states, Virginia, and Maryland.

    Breaking down the analysis into groups....I called searches that included more than one jurisdiction-combos. So for me and my analysis it didn't matter whether the searcher put DC first, Maryland first, Virginia first, or whatever. It didn't matter whether the searcher had 2 or 3 jurisdictions.

    I simply found that there were a relatively lot of searches with more than one jurisdiction for this area.

    Now this wouldn't work everywhere but it would definitely apply in certain regions. (I limit my comments to the States-because I'm ignorant about buying patterns elsewhere).

    Bill lives in Deleware. Ask him. I bet he'd acknowledge that a lot of consumers in Deleware will end up shopping in Pennsylvania or Southern PA, or Philadelphia. Skitzz and Pops are from Illinois but they live in the St. Louis metropolitan region and St. Louis is in Missouri.

    I'd bet for various large businesses and services there is plenty of shopping that involves going from one jurisdiction to another. Cincinnati, Ohio is very near the Kentucky border and definitely attracts shoppers from Kentucky; and San Francisco-Oakland is an example of two larger cities/metro regions bordering one another. On the other hand, Pittbug just moved from Pittsburgh. He could tell us if consumers in that area would shop in Ohio and Pennsylvania or not. The multi-jurisdiction approach would work in some areas but not others. I know it works in this region.

    I did some extensive searching for businesses and industries in my area that definitely pull shoppers from one jurisdiction to another. Surprisingly there are very few sites that have any emphasis on multi-jurisdiction geo descriptions on there websites in this area.

    Surprisingly there were quite a large number of searches that included multi-jurisdiction search terms for my site.

    I couldn't see that by looking at search terms from a numerical search basis. I only saw it by sorting by alpha....and then looking more deeply.

    I'm speaking about this from the perspective of an operator/owner--not from strictly that of an SEO.

    As a business operator I simply want to use wide (effective) coverage. I want Newspapers, radio, tv, billboards, promotions, etc etc. etc. Of course I'm limited by budget so I'll keep trying and testing to find what is most effective.

    Long tail keywords and keyword expansion are a variation on this effort for wide coverage.

    I simply found interesting patterns for wider coverage by studying analytics on an alpha basis rather than on a numerical basis.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by earlpearl View Post
    On the other hand, Pittbug just moved from Pittsburgh. He could tell us if consumers in that area would shop in Ohio and Pennsylvania or not. The multi-jurisdiction approach would work in some areas but not others.
    Sorry, just found this call out...

    There's no hard and fast rule on geo searches and the long tail. It's all about the business, understanding the product/service and it's usual draw. For example, when dealing with a storage company, one of the factors is not physical distance from the location i.e. 5, 10 ,20 mile radius. They can also use drive time as a metric, which obviously has you breaking out a map and looking for highways and possible areas of congestion - This tactic is great for ppc, since you can target other location names. Of course this is only for local business, for out of town you just have to target the location name.

    I never worked with any local Ohio businesses that would draw from Pittsburgh, but I doubt there would be many because there really isn't much once you get into Ohio - unless there's some specialty store in some small town. The only one that I know for sure would be the new Cabelas in WV, but I found out about that store from traditional media.
    Find your company listing on Manta.com and claim it for free - upload a logo, add detailed info, contact info and (seo friendly) links

  5. #5
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    Dave, thanks for a thorough explanation.

    1. is what I always do in keyword research. I use it to have a 3-5 keyword phrase that combines all the related phrases into one, so I could create a single page for it. It works like a charm for long tail phrases.

    As for using multiple geo terms in search queries, that's a new direction of local search for me. I guess it pays not only to specify on pages that you serve multiple areas, but only to link to pages about those areas from all geo-targeted pages.

    For example, if you sell used cars in WC, you'll say that you also serve customers in MA and DE, linking to pages about used cars in MA and used cars in DE.

    In the end, all your geo pages are linked to each other, thus increasing and leveling their visibility in case one of the pages is more highly linked than the others.

    I am not sure how you can fully optimize for multiple locations for a single site or even a page. Would having three full addresses in the footer confuse or clarify things for the search engines? Of course, having the geo terms on the page helps, but that's perhaps one of the several things (besides linking) that can be done to help optimize for many geo locations at once.
    Yura

  6. #6
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    I'm glad you've been doing that; reviewing keyword phrases on an alpha basis. I never did that. I never thought about it. (3-5 years of missed opportunities )

    Its a far better way to grasp the potential power of long tail phrases.

    As far as searches that have multi jurisdictions; I saw a lot of them, but didn't realize the numerical extent until sorting and looking at phrases from an alpha perspective. The number and percentage surprised me. It is significant.

    I don't feel competent to speak to how G deals on geo phrases outside of the States. Within the States, though, I'd guess it wouldn't be prevalent for a major metropolitan area like Denver, Colorado. There are no markets of similar size anywhere's near Denver and its located in the middle of the state. I don't think it would work in a city like Pittsburgh....but I'm not sure. I think Pittbug could give us good commentary on that.

    I'd bet it would occur in other cities like St Louis, where Skitzz, or Pops might see it.

    Its simply an option for certain locations.

    In terms of optimizing I have all three jurisdictions in a Header. I have them in appropriate meta tags (whether that means something or not) I have a good bit of anchor text linkage that describe either 1, 2 or all 3 jurisdictions. All 3 jurisdictions are referenced on all pages in the content. (finally) and possibly most importantly, competitors in the region aren't doing this so the site shows well for searches for the combo phrases. But its not just competitors, I didn't see these optimization elements from other industries that should be applying them.

    Of further note, Mike Blumenthal and I have had a lot of conversations with regard to local issues, G Maps, etc. Mike's clients are in a rural area. My business and the others I look at less frequently are in an urban area. We dectect clear differences between long tail phrases that hit the relevant sites. The wordage is different. I see many phrases with state names. Mike sees many phrases with town names.

    I'd suggest there is no single rule for geo phrases that applies across the board. It depends on the business, the industry, and the location. For instance I'm wondering if Mike had a site for a riding stable (horse riding stable) in his region if he would find more search phrases that were regional ....if only because there wouldn't be a stable in every town.

    On some of this I'm just wondering.

  7. #7
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    To be clear, I only sorted alphabetically several times, but been gathering related keyword phrases into one since I started. To find the group, I just narrow down my keyword search from 'used cards' to 'used cars toyota'. Thats from keyword tools, not logs, though. And you still need to look through the long list of keyphrases for 'used cards' to get some ideas.

    I think this approach is very similar and that your approach offers a similar sorting thing, although in logs, not in keyword tools (though you can export to Excel .cvs and do it there).

    When I did sort alphabetically, the phrases didn't give me much insight beyond my method, as it was just a change of the interface for me.

    Other than that, I think every geo business needs to do everything it can (optimize completely) and it'll only get certain benefits, as you have identified.

    Cheers.
    Yura

  8. #8
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    Yuri:

    I got a bunch of insights out of the alpha listing. And I kick myself for not looking at this before.

    Basically, organizing on an alpha basis opened the door to see trends that I hadn't noticed.

    For the DC region, the one mentioned above, searches done with more than one logical geo area surprised me.

    Just think w/ three different geo areas and a lot of variations of industry terms.....those types of searches always show as 1 or 2 times....when looking at the data from a numerical basis. There are too many combos of words; putting the industry terms first/putting the geo terms first/rotation of the geo terms for any single term to show up at a great frequency.

    But looking at the information on an alpha basis turned up the phenomena.

    I was startled. Its not huge....but it is so frequent that I'd deem it real important for this area.... a coup really.

    I found a combination phrase that surprised me. It's a long tail phrase of 4 words combining 2 different concepts. The concepts apply to our service and site.

    I never realized this but currently we show 1st in Y for that phrase.

    I'm very aware of the marketing behind the two concepts but I never noticed a significant search term that captured this. This search showed me that I need a page on the site to better combine the concepts and then work to get that phrase high in Google and additionally see if there are variations on the phrase that capture this key selling point.

    The simple fact is that organizing by an alpha basis enabled me to see patterns that I hadn't seen via keyword analysis ranked by numbers of times of visits.

    Its a different way to open eyes.

    Actually, I think I saw somewhere where you referenced not just doing what the competition does, but look for areas where the competition isn't....and try to optimize for that.

    I(we) have done that to some success for over 20 years. It is a great business truism. Any time we found a marketing source wherein we knew our competitors weren't advertising...we always knew we had something of an advantage in trying to get the sale.

    We started out as the smallest of 5 competitors in this region and over the long term became dominant. First it was the result of applying hard work, finding out what the competition wasn't doing, emphasizing that, and using it to our advantage. Ultimately that made us strong.

    Later we were always the high priced competitor, but we'd price compete when we needed to. BUT...whenever we had a potential customer who contacted us through an advertising source not used by a competitor, we were pretty confident we didn't need to compete on price.

    Likewise, if doing an alpha sort enables you to find some hidden keyword phrase gems, it can be worth it.

    I just kick myself for not seeing this earlier.

    Dave

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by A.N.Onym View Post
    To be clear, I only sorted alphabetically several times, but been gathering related keyword phrases into one since I started. To find the group, I just narrow down my keyword search from 'used cards' to 'used cars toyota'. Thats from keyword tools, not logs, though. And you still need to look through the long list of keyphrases for 'used cards' to get some ideas.

    I think this approach is very similar and that your approach offers a similar sorting thing, although in logs, not in keyword tools (though you can export to Excel .cvs and do it there).

    This is a summary of what Yuri does. Actually I agree. Doing this is more informative than just an alphabetical sort.

    Since I am using a remote server and can't develop queries specifically for my logs I rely on a log analysis tool. Exporting keywords into a spread sheet allows you to do a variety of sorts....and this would get you to what Yuri is suggesting. Really a great suggestion, Yuri.

    I just started doing this. The advantages are several:

    1. It allows you to see the data in a different way. You may pick up trends from this alphabetical sort that you can't see when looking at the data while sorted numerically.

    Now I picked up one interesting thing by doing this. Lets use an example.

    Imagine that the most popular snack food in the St Louis, Missouri region was
    made by our friend Skitz.

    Skitz's popcorn is sold under the name....Skitzz's Little Ole Popcorn...aka SLOP.

    Everyone in the region wants to buy SLOP. But its only sold in a few special places.

    Now the region includes St Louis, Missouri, and Illinois (just over the border from ST Louis.)

    So I'm Skitzz's webmaster and I'm looking at the traffic data for searches and we have optimized the site for some terms, including a title that says SLOP in Missouri, St. Louis, Illinois and gotten anchor text back links that might say MO Ill Slop and other combinations of the geo terms with all 3 jurisdictions.

    I get searches for St Louis Slop, Illinois Slop, Missouri Slop, Slop in Missouri, Slop in StL, Illinois Slop, Ill Slop, Mo slop, St Louis and Mo Slop, etc etc. etc.

    Now I may get a lot of searches that start with the word SLOP and then are followed by geo areas such as Missouri, Illinois, Mo (initials for Missouri,) Ill (initials for Illinois) etc.

    If I search on alpha basis, or using Yuri's method with Slop followed by another word I'd find that there are a lot of searches hitting my site for all three major jurisdictions.

    Since there are a huge number of ways to search on that basis including Ill Mo Slop, Mo Ill Slop, Slop in ST Louis MO, etc. etc. I never see more than a couple of the particular variations when looking at keywords sorted numerically.

    On the other hand when I look at Slop from an alpha perspective and see all the 1's and 2's searches with different variations of the 3 important geographical areas I realize that a large number of searchers in the St Louis metropolitan region may well search for a service using more than one Geographical area.

    That is exactly the kind of thing I found for my site. I only picked it up via the alpha type listing. I couldn't see it otherwise.

    The simplest answer is that looking at things alphabetically may enable you to see trends and combos of words that you wouldn't see when looking at them in numerical order.

    RMC puts it well. It just allows you to see things in a different perspective.

  10. #10
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    Well, I guess it does offer a benefit of looking for phrase easier in a very large list of keywords (more than 1k).

    What seems interesting to me is that people are including distinctly different notions in one keyphrase. How do you optimize for that? Only by creating articles on these two subjects, because it is impossible to create such a landing page? Or it is?

    I said that it is best to look where there's no competition, when I commented on KeywordSpy, which only shows current data for your competitors. I find it largely useless for my case, so far, though it may be useful for your case

    Technically, the most useful keyword research tools show KEI or any way of difficulty to rank for the keyword, so you essentially seek and choose phrases that are mildly competitive to get more traffic, too.
    Yura

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