More threads by JoyHawkins


Local Search Expert
LocalU Faculty
Aug 23, 2014
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Hey Guys,

I'm collecting some information for my upcoming Mozcon presentation. Can you help me out by answering the following?

When you get a new client, how do you go about determining what keywords you want to focus on & track ranking for? Please describe how you do it and what tools you use.

Since there are so many different variations, how do you determine what to prioritize?
We keep it really simple.
1) Go through the site and build a list of main services and products.
2) Discuss list with client to see if there are any others we missed from the site (some sites are really bad at describing what they do).
3) Run the list through the Adwords keyword planner to get national search volume for non-geomodified terms (we assume the national search volume gives us a sense of the local volume at least in terms of what terms are searched more often than others)
4) Pull in other good suggested terms that typically come up in the adwords planner.
5) Assign terms to pages, suggest new pages to create where they don't exist, optimize titles and content with geomodified variations.
6) Build a list of "content ideas" for the terms we weren't able to assign to main pages of the site. These could be blog posts or resources later.
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I'll probably end up repeating what Darren says here! I have a good look at the website and identify key products and services. I work with the client on their seed list (my process is here Building out a keyword seed list • Claire Carlile Marketing) - pull head terms and head terms with geo modifiers out of search console - and then look at their site and competitor sites with ahrefs or similar.

Bucket search queries into thematic groups, map across existing content, optimise existing content, use the research to highlight content gaps (often evergreen content opportunities) and also use to suggest and shape existing or new product or service offerings. I'll make sure there's at least a simple measurement framework in place on the site for the next stage - monitoring success.

Monitor visibility for some head and head plus geo phrases using tracking tool of choice - but more attention focused on monitoring via search console - visibility and clicks, and the simple measurement framework for measuring increased actions (calls, contact us, visiting key pages - whatever).
Another question for you.

Do you or your clients tend to care more about one variation of keywords vs the other? Explicit (plumber denver) vs Implicit (plumber)? If yes, why do you think that is?
One tool folks didn't mention here, google trends. Its very good for comparing if the keyword planner or other tools are accurate. If it is wildly different I look deeper to explain. You have to use a keyword with a known quantity to compare, but if you have multiple clients you usually have your hands on a few of those.
Good call on pulling in Search Console keywords, @Claire Carlile !

@JoyHawkins I don't really care more about one variation over the other. I tend to look optimize for and track both. It's hard to get localized search volume, so it's a bit of a crap-shoot. My completely unscientific guess is that about 50% of people search with a geomodifier, and about 50% don't. I'd love to see some real data on this though. It's generally not a good idea to guess and assume with SEO things. :)
  • Google Search Console is my go-to.
  • Google Keyword Planner, making sure to check the "Ideas" section.
  • Google searches for some of the main keywords and look at:
    • What's ranking highly
    • People Also Ask
    • Related Questions
    • Competitor websites - ex. how are they phrasing things?
We follow the same process Darren outlined to get our first round of target keywords. Then as we assign them to pages we check the primary keyword for each page in Ahrefs' keyword explorer, and in Google Search and pick the variation with the user intent that best matches the content. This added step has helped tremendously over the last year.

Also, we just started using Topic to find secondary keywords, and we love it.
I agree with Darren, of course. Let me just add that I have noticed if searching "plumber" for example and it gives you another state or city, the user is going to put the geo word on the end. So you'll get more people searching for "plumber Denver" than for "Denver plumber".
There's not too many other ways to say what's been said, but our process is generally:

  1. Initial discuss with client about services, and we make sure to get a list of all of their services, and we make sure to discuss, the services that:
    1. they like to perform (Invisalign for example)
    2. they want more of (services they enjoy that are profitable, or that others in the office can't or don't do)
    3. they currently get the most leads for
    4. they get very little leads for
  2. Review the site and come back with recommendations of potential new content based on their goals
  3. Use SEMRush/Ahrefs/Agency Analytics to see what they currently rank for, and get keyword search volume
  4. Use GA/GSC to see what pages on their site are getting traffic and for what terms
  5. Build out a map of the targetted keywords and pages
  6. Start with the best opportunity-ranking 'okay' but site or page isn't optimized very well
  7. Creating new pages/content is the last priority unless the situation calls for it (example-they want to get more Invisalign leads and rank well for Invisalign terms but don't have a page on Invisalign. We'd write new content after discussing the service with the client, looking at competitor pages, including using Surfer SEO for optimization)

Of course, with local clients, we are using GMB, and optimizing GMB for their services, along with the website.
I also run Google Local Ads GMB Smart Campaigns and review the Search phrases which Google has decided to show the add.

GMB GMB Smart Campaign Search Phrases.png
  1. Use SEMRush/Ahrefs/Agency Analytics to see what they currently rank for, and get keyword search volume
Hey @Tyson Downs I'm curious about using Agency Analytics here. Do they have their own database of terms the business already ranks for? Is it different than the SEMRush or Ahrefs data? I would guess they use the SEMRush or Ahrefs APIs.

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