Hampshire SEO: why target your local area?

Good SEO is all about providing targeted visitors to your site. By focusing on getting the right people on to your site, the process can be expected to produce the enquiries, leads and sales that you require.

Within the context of this approach, it’s clear that it’s critical to make the correct keyword selections at the outset. When considering the keywords that you intend to target, it’s necessary to think carefully about the following aspects:

Search volumes

Many people examine search volumes, but don’t put too much more thought into the keyword selection process. You’ll certainly be looking to select terms where a reasonable number of people are carrying out searches each month.

There’s little point in choosing keywords that only receive the occasional hit each year, in most cases. For those low traffic terms, it’s also suggested that minimal SEO effort is usually involved. A long as the content on your site reflects such keywords, it’s likely that you’ll gain visitors over time anyway.

Ideally, you’re looking for terms that offer a reasonable level of potential visitors each month. If you’re using Google’s Keyword Tool, then you’ll find that it defaults to broad match keywords. That’s an issue because the figures that are produced are likely to be over-estimates in the case of most SEO campaigns.

There are 3 match types listed – broad, phrase and exact match. In order to understand the information that’s provided by the Keyword Tool, it’s useful to understand what each of them actually means. Let’s take an example and suggest that you are interested in selling red shoes.

The exact match figures tell you how many people search for red shoes in a given month. These figures would exclude searches for buying red shoes, or ladies red shoes. They only consider the exact match term.

With phrase match, extended searches are considered that include the phrase red shoes. This means that the figures would include searches for:

red shoes
ladies red shoes
buying red shoes online

They would not include searches for finding shoes that are red, since that phrase does not contain red shoes.

So what about broad match? In this case, the figures would include searches for a wide range of related terms, some of which wouldn’t even include the phrase red shoes.

It’s possible, as a result, that the figures might include searches for finding shoes that are red. They may also take into account searches for buying shoes, or other generic search terms.

This has clear implications, when you are carrying out keyword research. In fact, these concepts are important to the entire SEO process.

Typically, the broad match figures will be higher than the phrase match numbers. These will, in turn, be higher than the exact match figures. But the exact match searches will often result in traffic that will convert well.

The exact match stats will also give you an accurate picture of how many people are searching for the specific phrase (in this case, red shoes) and how many potential visitors might be derived from an SEO campaign.

Does this mean that you should use the exact match figures, when estimating visitor numbers? You need to bear in mind that you’ll almost certainly receive a higher profile on a range of related terms, meaning that your target audience is much more likely to mirror the phrase match figures.

There’s another point to remember here: even if you reach the top of Google’s rankings, you won’t receive 100% of the visitors that you might expect. That’s because plenty of people will click elsewhere. If you only ever reach the bottom of page two of the results, then you may discover that you only receive a tiny proportion of the clicks that are available to you.

Relevance of search terms

As well as thinking about the terms that are used often by search engine users, you need to consider whether those searchers are likely to become buying customers.

This is something that will take practice, before it can be perfected. You need to understand that some website visitors will still be in the research phase and will have no intention of purchasing right now. In fact, they may never go on to make a purchase.

Ideally, you want to be targeting those who are expecting to buy online at this moment in time. If someone searches for buy red shoes online, to take an example, then you might suppose that they are close to making a purchase. They would seem to represent the ideal customer.

Levels of competition

Google’s Keyword Tool shows a figure (and wording) for the level of competition that you can be expected to face. Many analysts use this information, when composing SEO campaigns.

There should, however, be a word of warning at this point: the competition figure reflects the number of Adwords advertisers, rather than the situation within the organic search results. Although there may be similarities between the two, this should not be assumed.

In order to establish how much competition you will be facing, you’ll need to take a closer look at the competing websites that are in place. Some key questions to ask might include:

  • Is there evidence of on-site optimisation?
  • Have competitors been actively building links?
  • Do they add content regularly?
  • Are they actively engaged via social media channels?

By understanding the level of competition that you face, you can expect to get better results.

Why focus your efforts locally?

When you think about the process of targeting keywords, you come to realise that focusing on nationwide terms will often mean that you are faced with a highly competitive market.

You’ll be trying to rank for terms that are attracting the attention of many other companies. Even when you do manage to gain positioning and attract visitors, you may find that they don’t convert very well for you.

In short, the risk here is that you spend a lot of time and effort on gaining better positioning. Once that’s been achieved, the results may still be disappointing. The key issue here is that you end up with an SEO approach that is not particularly cost-effective.

This piece started by asking why you should specifically target Hampshire. The reality is that, for local small businesses, looking to target in this way can produce more effective results.

Although the potential audience is much smaller, it’s clear that you’ll be facing a lot less competition. What that means is that you can soon gain a foothold within the online marketplace. Having done so, you have the freedom to expand and to look to target a wider audience.

It’s usually much easier to scale up from this starting point, rather than seeking to focus on nationwide SEO and then being forced to change cause at a later stage. Local SEO makes sense in most cases because it delivers results.

By Keith Barrett

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