Local Search Secrets Exposed – An Adventure in Keywords and Categories

I’m honored to have this post for you by Shannon Evans, contributing author and editor of Get Found Now! Local Search Secrets Exposed: Learn How to Achieve High Rankings in Google, Yahoo and Bing (Volume 1) and multiple business books. What I’ve learned about local search I’ve learned from Shannon and, as you’ll read below, I still have much more to learn! (P.S. Shannon, I just got my book with your sweet note inside. Book looks great! Can’t wait to read it cover-to-cover!)

Shannon Evans wrote Get Found Now! Local Search Secrets Exposed

Click to buy "Local Search Secrets Exposed" by Richard Geasey and Shannon Evans

Below we transformed an email Shannon wrote me about improvements I could make to my own Web site into an informative post for you. For those joining us for the first time, I have a full-time job as a director of marketing communications for a publicly traded company. I keep this blog to learn/compete/help/entertain and build. (You can read “Why do you blog” later if you like.)

Shannon’s email starts here: Hey Joe,

I have been pondering your local search listing and have a few ideas to give you as well as a few observations.

In a recent blog post you hoot and holler about being number one in local search results for Seattle Marketing Strategy.

Well if you do a keyword search on that search string in Google: https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal, you will find that “Seattle Marketing Strategist” has no measurable search volume of note. It gets roughly 140 searches per month. That means only 140 people in a month used that particular search string to find the service providers or information they were seeking on marketing. I don’t know about you but 140 people may or may not be enough for a target audience to prompt into calling or emailing you for more information.

So now let’s evaluate a few other keywords you have in your listing that are not working well either:

Maybe I should use "Seattle Online Marketing" instead?

Maybe I should use "Seattle Online Marketing" instead? (Click to enlarge)

You show up number one for “Seattle Marketing Communications” (your second category choice). Great! But the bad news is that search phrase had no searches in October but had searches in the previous month. Then you use the phrase “Seattle Brand Building” as a category (as well as fun, etc) and it has NO search volume whatsoever. Things are looking pretty bleak for your local listing at this point; however, don’t lose faith in keywords that are geo-targeted! There are a few that you might consider using so you can crush your competitors like a bug…or at least rise to the top of the local search listings!

Let’s examine some other keyword phrases that are more frequently searched where you could easily dominate (and you currently don’t even show up on the first page!) if you included them in your local search listing:

Seattle Online Marketing (no JH Presence) 2400 searches in Oct – rising trend
Seattle Marketing Consulting 170 searches in Oct – rising trend
Seattle Marketing Firm 210 searches in Oct – rising trend
Seattle Marketing Firms 480 searches in Oct – steady
Marketing Consultant Seattle 140 searches in Oct – rising trend
Marketing Consultants Seattle 210 searches in Oct – rising trend
Marketing Research Seattle 110 searches in Oct – rising trend
Market Research Seattle 2400 searches in Oct – rising trend (almost double from Sept searches)
Seattle Marketing 14,800 searches in Oct – rising trend

Now let’s look at your actual listing as it appears on Google local search:

First, you should create a small paragraph-styled description of your business sprinkling in some of these keyword phrases. Currently you have “marketing strategy, marketing communications, brand building…”

People want to read more than that. Yes, keywords are important but Google will sometimes penalize a description that is not in paragraph form in this section. It is believed Google considers this “keyword stuffing,” a no-no in Google’s TOS. Describe what you do briefly and use keywords in natural flowing language.

Next you want to create logical categories (like Consulting) and add in a full descriptor: Consulting – Seattle Marketing Consultant, Marketing – Seattle Bellevue Marketing strategy, Communication – Seattle Metro Marketing Communication (etc ad nauseum).

Dump the categories that are not keywords (big ideas, fun). They are empty and gimmicky.

Add your url.

Phone a friend or trusted former customer who you have helped with their marketing needs and ask them to write a review on Google or on Yelp. Ask them to use Seattle and one of these super search phrases in their review title. Then you need to go on Yelp and create a free business listing there and on Merchant Circle or Hotfrog as well.

Once you have finished tackling the keywords you should add some photos to your listing. Perhaps a picture of your logo, you in that funky wizard hat and even a photo of the front of your business are really helpful in making you rank above your competition on local search. Make sure that you name those photos in your files before you upload them to your local listing. I use a keyword and a geo-tag so I can use more keywords in my listing. So if you have your logo to load as a photo image consider naming it: Seattle Marketing.

The data on Google is updated daily so you should be able to quickly identify what is working for you in your local search listing. Google’s local business center dashboard can be invaluable for showing you which keyword phrases in your local search listing lead to which action by the user as well as the geographic location where the search originated. That is HUGE! According to an old proverb: The man at the top of the mountain did not fall there!

About Shannon Evans
Shannon Evans is contributing author and editor of Get Found Now: Local Search Secrets Exposed and multiple business books. Her books teach entrepreneurs that they must deliver a consistent and unified message on the internet. Shannon is recognized in the Puget Sound as an expert in how to make your business have a web presence rather than just a web page. Her workshops and discussion groups are much admired by local and national professional networking groups. Whether coaching entrepreneurs on the ins and outs of writing a white paper or in how to create a website that sells, her classes are all well attended and often standing room only.

As co-founder of Practical Local Search she loves nothing better than teaching local businesses how to think globally but to be searched locally. When not writing or teaching she can be found coaching boys’ lacrosse, biking, fishing or clamming somewhere in the Seattle area.


  1. In the spirit of sharing our conversation so readers can benefit, Shannon, a few thoughts:

    1. I chose “Seattle” in the first place because “marketing strategy” seemed unattainably big given I keep this blog for learning, experimenting, and sharing.

    2. When I began more than a year ago, I wouldn’t have targeted Seattle Online Marketing. Even now, it would be ambitious for me to lay claim to online marketing expertise relative to agencies focusing on it.

    So my questions: Is targeting by geography (using “Seattle”) the best way to stratify?

    And would you have me target “Seattle online marketing” despite my relative strength in strategy versus online?

  2. Just passing through – thought I’d mention something in your very busy page caused a stack overflow alert to pop up, then resolve. IE8 on XPPro SP3.



  3. Thanks, Bill. Very considerate of you. Will explore.

  4. Joe,

    I am glad you posted this about Shannon’s great new book!

    I put this over on her fb page and up on Amazon, but thought I would add here for your readers as well.

    I gave it this review title:

    Brilliant Concise “head shot” for the DIY Small Business

    Okay – 58 minutes cover to cover with 4 pages of notes of great points and tips. Okay I read fast, but I think most should be able to read, absorb in 4 hours. My initial estimate is this book will save the average do it yourself (DIY) small business owner/marketer about 60 hours of research at the library ( I have done this without Shannon’s book) and they are in my Google library. This is a value of $3000 if the person brings $50per hour they spend on their business selling, managing, etc. I suspect they will be able to implement the sample walk thru’s in 8 hours and see results in 24-72 hours. So for a similar investment of $50 per hour, they will spend $400 in results bearing work and if they get 1 new sale per week with a net sale profit of $50, they break even in 2 months for their time, 1 more week for the book and miles ahead in profit by the end of one year. Net, net, net is no need to invest in $3000 of research, use $400 of DIY time to get $2500 back in a year minus the book and DIY time, net $2050. Yes, I like numbers that involve time and money. I will be posting a “Book review” on my site and blog by weekend, so you can see my references and why this book is such a brilliant concise “head shot” for the DIY Small business and pros of the IT community that do this day in and day out

  5. Joe,

    The short answers to your questions are yes and yes. Adding a geographic “modifier” to a keyword phrase really helps your search presence in your selected geographic area. 65% of searches are local in nature so the odds are in your favor. In many instances there is simply not much competition.

    For Seattle Online Marketing the #1 local search listing is not even a marketing company. For that search you’ll also see no one else is using that phrase in their title or the categories.

    Frankly I think you could rank well for both seattle online marketing and seattle online strategy. Give it a go, heck the listing is free!



    PS- I’m Shannon’s co-author of the book 😉

  6. Thank you, Rich! I’m very much looking forward to reading your book.

    I’d like your point of view on something else: I made up the Seattle address on my local search because (a) listing my work address would be inappropriate and (b) I didn’t want to make my home address public.

    I neither work nor live in Seattle proper and reasoned “Woodinville” and “Bothell” would yield very limited results.

    What do recommend in these situations?

  7. Lots of companies use virtual addresses at UPS type mailbox stores. The only bad thing is while Google requires a physical address for a business…they also often use their ‘street’view images in your local search returns. People will see that you are really not physically at that location.
    It is really a dilemma that has no real resolution; however, if you have a need to have multiple city presences and multiple local listings in those cities, it is a good ‘work around’ when paired with a Marchex type redirected ‘local’ phone listing.
    Let’s say you sell funeral urns on line and want a Miami presence because you know that is a huge target audience for your goods but your home office is in Bothell. You can get a Miami phone number with Marchex that redirects to your phone in Bothell, get a UPS address in Miami, and then create your local listing using those numbers…et voila! You are local in Miami…
    .-= Shannon Evans´s last blog ..Extend Your Local Presence with Google Scannable Stickers =-.

  8. Shannon, do you recommend clients get Marchex/UPS solutions and have multiple presences in multiple cities?

    When you say a UPS address, is that like a P.O. Box? Does Google work with P.O. Boxes? And I tend to think of P.O. Boxes as “shadier” than physical addresses … what are those businesses hiding, I think.

    As for me, since this site is more for my education/testing out new concepts/helping others, the Marchex/UPS step seems more than I require.

    Is there an ethical question here? Could it be said that all these “local presences” where we really aren’t is deliberately misleading?

    Interested in your take.

  9. David Campbell says:

    I think the important thing about Shannon’s comments is how crucial it is to test and analyze the key word phrases. You can’t set it up and be done, you need to know how much traffic the keywords get.

  10. Thanks, David. I think you are saying “do your homework first,” yes?

    All, what is the best way to “test and analyze key word phrases”? David, are you saying try one term and if it doesn’t get you high enough in search results try another?

  11. You can use both terms and cover two birds with one title…and get the best of both worlds!
    Results will show up in 60-90 days in your Google local search analytics.
    Try: Joe Hage – Seattle Online Marketing Strategist
    .-= Shannon Evans´s last blog ..Google Goggles- Google Visual Search =-.

  12. David Campbell says:

    I think just like with advertising you test and tweak. Use a handful or so of terms and keep playing with them until your result are driven higher. Keep the good ones and then test some more.

  13. I was wondering what tool Shannon use to determine how often search terms were used.

  14. Elge, in her post Shannon wrote said she uses AdWords at https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal

    Is this the answer you are looking for? I know you work closely in the space as well. What do you use? Do your approaches differ from hers?

  15. There are multiple Google tools for the DIY business owner to use that are cheap (read: FREE). Google Keyword tool, Google Insights, Google Trends, Google Sets all provide useful insight into search habits and some break those habits into specific geographic segments, some do not.

    As the book was designed for the person with the least amount of experience doing this sort of thing I prefer to use Google’s tools as they are easy to use, easy to interpret, and easy to integrate the results in your site or listing. I also say test, test, test…and revisit your list often as different words behave differently at different times of the year, different phases of the moon, and different shifts of the purchasing cycle. So you have to work hard at understanding your audience and how they search in you particular market segment.

    I hope this helps answer your question! If not let me know and I will tackle it again.
    .-= Shannon Evans´s last blog ..Google Goggles- Google Visual Search =-.

  16. I have been looking for a tool / service that helps automate the process of getting a local business into all the local searches (i.e. Google, Yahoo, Bing, YellowPages, CitySearch, ect…) all at once.

    Has anyone come across (even a pay site) a site that has such a service. And if it had an affiliate program – it would be even better!

  17. Hi Jerry,

    That is a fantastic idea for an SEO service. I’ve got imagine somebody does it but I don’t know who they are. However, I have worked with http://www.startrankingnow.com/ for directory submissions in the past and they did a great job at a very reasonable price. I encourage you to contact them. If they don’t have the service, they might be interested in starting it.

    Good luck!


  18. Elge – I found one tonight looking around that combines all the local searches – but want to check it out before I recommend it. I was finishing up a local client’s site over the weekend so i will give it a try and keep you posted.


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