When I take my approach to identifying keywords and executing a strategy, there are a handful of things I consider:

  • How competitive is the keyword? – Which will be a combination of geo (where it is located) and service (what part of the business the client is attempting to acquire leads for). A keyword or keyphrase for a local business is typically going to have this composition: (Orlando) (car accident lawyer), geo and service for a personal injury lawyer, (St. Paul) (landscaping company), geo and core service for a landscaping and lawn maintenance company.  Both have their levels of competitiveness that have to be identified and create opportunities, which we will discuss later.
  • How much time I’m going to have? What arrangement do I have with the client? – If we’re on a relatively smaller account and can only go after a few keywords, we have to be selective. Perhaps we will go for a handful of competitive, high-traffic keywords via building a ton of authority or a bunch of non-competitive, lower-traffic keywords through a meaningful content strategy.
  • Is the industry completely dominated? – If someone has a unrealistic budget in mind for keywords like “buy purses” or “mountain bikes”, it likely won’t be a good fit for SEO. Social and SEM on the other hand may be.

So this is the part that brings up what happens when you build a strategy with yourself or an SEO company – let’s say you’re a dentist in Philadelphia.  You identify some obvious keywords: “Philadelphia dentist”, “dental care Philadelphia”, and then the not-so-obvious long-tailed portion “Affordable dental services Philadelphia”, “Dental implants Philadelphia”, or “porcelain crowns in Philadelphia”.  It depends on the time and effort you can put into it and the level of competency for an SEO.

To summarize keyword-driven SEO campaigns, there is a different approach for going after multiple low-traffic keywords over a small amount of high-traffic keywords:

  • Low Traffic – Heavily content driven, articles, blogs, additional pages, all optimized for long-tailed phrases.
  • High Traffic – Heavily authority driven, well-made finite amount of pages for each desired keyword, internal linking, heavy link building, promotion via social.

Picking Keywords

At the end of the day, you only want keywords that people search for. This is so important, especially when working with someone that brags about getting you rankings on the first page for 10, 20, 30, even a 100 keywords. If most of them look like (population < 10,000 city) (extremely niche service searched for 0-1 times a month), then you do not care you are on the first page or even the first position.

If the keyword is (10,000-20,000 city population) (niche service searched 2-4 times a month) and you’re ranked 8 on first page, you should not care.  For a strategy like that to work, you have to have literally dozens upon dozens of low-traffic keywords positioned at least 1-3 on the first page.  SEO companies often get away with a “first page guarantee” because they got you 27 keywords hardly anyone searches ranking 5-10 on the first page, and you’re scratching your head because your call volume hasn’t picked up.  Did they “do their job?”. Yes. Does it work most of the time? No.

So you may be wondering, how exactly do I know if someone actually is searching the term so I can decide if it is pointless or not? Well a decent starting point to get a bit more insight about keyword trends and interest is using Google Adwords Keyword Planner – it will say you need to have an account but you can make one without an intent to actually pay for keywords. You’ll see to the left you can search a keyword and then “Get search volume and trends”. Perfect.

Keep your searches somewhat broad – the longer the keyword, the less likely it is to return results.  I’ve always found these results to be somewhat conservative, so consider numbers like “20” to perhaps be slightly more.  If your result is “–” it is likely negligible but not zero.  Think < 10.

answer the public keyword researchKeyword planner is also pretty nice by showing you the trends for the services, like dog grooming.  If you wanted to launch a campaign and it was based on seasonality, you could ramp up efforts towards the end of October or during May or so.  It also tells you the level of competition and the average bidding price – you may be pleasantly surprised by the cost of the keyword and give PPC a shot if you wanted to attempt to bring in quick leads.

We also like answerthepublic.com as a means of understanding public interest of a topic – I believe this website simply aggregates Google’s suggestive search, which is a great keyword research tool.
keyword-planner-2 search-result

So now that we have a screenshot of if people are actually searching for it, it is important to measure competition to see who is writing content about your keyword. You can search a keyword on Google specifically in quotes to get that exact keyword – as you can see for “boca raton organic dog grooming”, there are zero people that feature that phrase on their website. If you omit “organic”, you’ll see there are 412. Right now we’re looking at the possibility of competing with 412 pages of content online for potentially 20 monthly visits.  Yikes, but are you up to the challenge?


A long-tailed content strategy can be executed in a meaningful way for most business owner themselves (see our blog post on coming up with good blog ideas for a content strategy).  A short-tailed strategy normally takes a decent degree of experience. You can write a page on your website for “Boca Raton dog grooming with organic products” and expect that phrase to hit the first page with minimal effort. You can write “Boca Raton Dog Grooming” alone and click until the 7th page of Google to see it.

So what’s the takeaway from this information? An individual may have some success doing solid keyword research and taking the time to write many pages about long-tailed topics (which depends in the time and effort you want to put into it, or the resources should you hire a writer or SEO agency). Once you exhaust all of your city and service combinations (combining every city you serve with every service you offer), so perhaps 10 cities in a 10 mile radius with 5 of your services = 50 pages of content on your site, you’re left with having to optimize for your most important pages (top 3 populated cities with top 3 services = SEO strategy for 9 pages, perhaps).  That’s when the advanced techniques and/or third party SEO could come into play for working on rankings.

I can’t stress enough about not being fooled by an SEO that brags about rankings going through the roof for unimportant keywords – it is something I’ve seen flaunted many times by peers and even when I was being pitched when I worked in-house.  You should either be impressed by a handful of high-traffic keywords being positioned well or many lower-traffic keywords being positioned extremely high (1-3).  Anything else is a portfolio of keywords that likely results in nothing besides a pitch point for selling or a vanity you can show your friends and family.

Have any other questions about this topic? Market My Market is well-versed in all things digital marketing strategy. We have experience working with a variety of clients to optimize their content strategy and digital presence. Our team can help you find the right keywords, conduct competitor analyses, and improve your company’s SEO. Contact us at (800) 954-9441 to learn how you can get a free service quote.