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SEO Challenges for Local Businesses and Contractors

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While most of our clients are national reach type businesses, we are sometimes approached by local businesses and contractors to see if SEO services will work for them. In most cases, the client has

been using some form of sponsored listing/pay per click program and has spent a lot of money with very little return on investment. Why does this happen? Typically, they don’t understand the best methods in which to title the ad, create the best description– and then send the user to a targeted landing page specifically set up for that ad. Furthermore, the website usually tends to be amateur in construction with bad aesthetics and usability. When you combine all these factors, a client run pay per click campaign usually ends up with a success rate with that of a government run program… in the red. So, the customer contacts us in an effort to get listed on the natural (or left handed, free) results.

At the local level, SEO challenges can be very difficult since much of the population tends to search for information in a general manner.

For this post, I am going to use a hypothetical charter boat company in the Hilton Head, South Carolina (coastal) area which specializes in inshore fishing. For reference, there is an attached keyword research report which shows the key phrases, monthly search volume and competition (# of search results).

Rankings-Report_My Hilton Head Fishing

According to the data, most people are searching for “city + fishing,” “city + fly fishing” and “city + shark fishing” type terms. Keep in mind this business specializes in inshore fishing, yet the general public is not searching specifically for these terms. As a matter of fact, all “city + inshore fishing” terms are returning “0” searches per month. Houston, we have a problem.

Why is this happening? Probably because the web visitor is not savvy enough yet to understand how to search in exact terms. As I write this, web surfers will continue to use better and more refined techniques when they search; but still have a long way to go. So where does that leave us? We have to target the words THEY are searching for and BRING those visitors to the site.

Typically, charter boat fishing on the coast is considered either ‘inshore’ or ‘offshore‘ in nature. The boats used are considerably different in size/capability and so is the species of fish which are sought after. For conversation’s sake, lets say that people who search for “city + fishing” are looking for inshore charters 40% of the time and offshore charters 60% of the time. Basically, only 40 of every 100 inbound visitors will be a potential customer from our optimization efforts. I would normally learn this information by talking to the charter boat captain and asking him to explain how the public uses this terminology. His experience, with the right questions from me, usually gives us a good understanding of ‘how’ the public is thinking and talking about his services. While this is not an exact science, it can be accurate when doing keyword research.

If the majority of SEO traffic will NOT be our intended customer, we need to adjust the website’s message to reflect exactly what we do (and even sometimes what we do NOT do). For example, a banner across the top of the site saying “We specialize in inshore charter fishing in the Hilton Head area” would be a great start. There is also a good chance this charter boat captain may want refer any “offshore charter” visitors to a friend of his, or a reciprocal marketing partner who does the same for him. You can see how we are maximizing the benefit of the incoming traffic to benefit the client’s charter business. In addition, by clearly telling the public what he does on the website, the captain will be contacted less frequently with “unqualified/bad” leads.

In summary, many local small businesses will continue to have these same type challenges on the search engines for some time to come. The proposed scenario in this post can be modified to fit other business models, but the thought process and strategy usually remains the same. The optimizer and customer are targeting terms that are not specifically related to what they do, in order to glean/extract the most business possible.

About the Author: Rhett DeMille, the owner of PalmettoSoft, is a leading search engine optimization consultant located in the Charlotte NC and Charleston SC areas.

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