As an SEO for a service area business you might be asking yourself, how can I rank for cities outside my company’s physical location? This question has plagued the local SEO community for years, and I am happy to introduce the five steps you can take to rank outside your physical location.
First, let’s make sure we are all on the same page. Local businesses can essentially be split into two camps. First is a storefront business like dentists, doctors, grocery stores, etc. and second is a service area businesses like plumbers, roofers, lawyers, etc. Although both of these businesses are local, they are very different in many ways. SEO Strategies for local business should be different with these two camps. In this article, I am going to talk specifically about Service Area businesses only.
Alright, now that we are on the same page let’s dig into the five steps.
Step 1: Seek for More Opportunities within Your Physical Location
The city where your physical business is located in has the opportunity. Before you expand beyond that location, you need to make sure that you have taken advantage of all the opportunities within that location first. You would be surprised at how many businesses that spend all this money and time trying to find opportunities outside their physical location when it would be cheaper and faster to seek opportunities within your city first.
Take this business as an example. Scotthale.com is ranking #1 for “Plumber Salt Lake City”. This plumber might think that he as succeeding with his goal and is ready to expand outside his physical location. You will notice however by adding a slight variation to the keyword “plumber in Salt Lake City” the business doesn’t show up on the first page anymore.
To identify additional opportunities within your city first requires a bit more research. Here are a couple things you can do.
- Look at Keyword Variations: The reason you are even considering moving to other cities outside your location is because you have likely found success within your area. Take those keywords you are already ranking for and apply some direct variations of those keywords. Here are some ideas.
Plumber Salt Lake City, Plumber in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake City Plumber, Plumbers Salt Lake City, Plumber Salt Lake City UT, Plumber Salt Lake City Utah, plumbing Salt Lake City, Plumbing Repair Salt Lake City..
- Look for Additional Services: Review all the service you provide and review keywords for those services. There may be some services you are not ranking for that you don’t even know yet. Try searching for your services in a given area. Here are some keyword service variation ideas for a plumber.
Plumbing Repair Salt Lake City, Water Heater Installation Salt Lake City, Plumbing Remodeling Salt Lake City.
- Combination of Steps 1 & 2: Take each of your service keywords and apply different variations. There are thousands of keywords a local business could target for a single location.
If after doing this activity you found some keywords that are not ranking as high as you would like, I strongly advise that you achieve success with those opportunities before moving on to a different location. The reason for this is that these keywords are likely quick wins. You can achieve keyword ranking success in as little as a couple weeks. In addition to the quick success, it also shows that you are an expert first and foremost in your physical location. Being an expert, there is key if you want to be seen as an expert outside this area.
Step 2: Select the ‘RIGHT’ Cities you want to Target First
To find the right city to target first we must consider two facts:
- You must stay within your business service area (duh right?)
- It is better to start with cities that are closer to your physical location than to target cities that are larger but further away
As long as you service the city you want to target it is achievable with keyword ranking success. Since most marketers don’t have the budget to target all locations at once, we have to prioritize. My advice for prioritizing is that you start with the cities close to you first and then expand beyond that. The reason for this is to apply a snowball effect. This same tactic is used to get out of credit card debt. 1st you pay off your smallest debt, then use the money you saved paying off that debt and apply it to the next smallest debt. This goes on and on (like a snowball falling down a snowy mountain).
By working on closer cities you can achieve quicker success, bringing you more business faster, giving you more opportunity to budget marketing to larger further away cities. By doing this, you are being seen as more and more of an expert and can naturally expand your cities. Also, we have seen that success can be achieved more quickly by targeting cities that are closure. This gives you a few quick wins.
Step 3: Evaluate your Competition
Competition is that generic terms we online marketers use to define the businesses that are competing for the area/service you are working towards. If you are thinking of expanding your service area, then you are also thinking of expanding your competition. Makes sense huh?
Analyzing your competition can help you understand the marketing expectations. There are many ways to analyze your competition. Below are two examples of analyzing your competition for a city you want to target.
- Conduct a Google Search for the Keyword and look at the maps results. Below is a maps example of a search I did for “Plumber Lehi Utah”. As you can see, the maps section (which takes of upwards of 50% of the first page) is mostly made up of results that are physically located in Lehi. Your expectation should be that your business will not show up in the maps section of the SERPs. This makes ranking on the first page twice as hard for businesses outside the desired city.
- Conduct a Google Maps search for your service in the city you want to target. This will give you a visual view of the amount of competition you face when targeting that keyword. Here is an example of what a plumber would view if targeting the city of Orem Utah. All the red and yellow dots below are businesses that do plumbing.
Analyzing your competition can help you understand your overall ability to rank for the city you are targeting. Doing this can help with step 5 with the overall expectations of success.
Step 4: Setup a Location Page on your website
Alright, you have chosen a city close to you and have analyzed your competition. Now you are ready to create a location page for your website. There is not enough room in this article to discuss every detail you need to write a good location page but you can read more about the best location page template with this link. But to sum up, your location page needs to be local.
Since you are saying you service a certain area, then you must know about that area. Your Location Page should answer this questions:
- What can you do to improve on the Search Engine results already available for that area? That answer will help you create a location page. Your answer could be that you provide special deals to this city, you are cheaper than the competition in that city, etc.
- What service do you provide that is specific to that area? As an example, if you are a plumber targeting a college town, what services do you provide that are specific to the college town?
- What is special and specific to that city you are targeting? Is there a popular landmark, sports team, prominent family, etc. By discussing what is special in a city, you are making your business more relatable and local to the city you are targeting.
- What pictures can you provide of that city? Pictures are a great way to show that you are relevant to a city. Is there a map or a popular landmark you can add to your location page? This is also a great way to add alt text to images
Now, the only other bit of advice I would like to add for your location page is that you make sure the content is not too duplicate. There are going to be parts of your content that is duplicate such as a list of services, company information, etc. Other than that, make sure that nothing else on the page is duplicate. When going into detail about your services make sure you discuss how those services work specific to the city your location page is targeting. Don’t go the lazy route of duplicating your content from other pages and calling it good.
Step 5: Set Proper Expectations
You did it! You have properly selected your service areas, made sure you adapted for competition and have created a location page that is the best in the world. Should you be ranking for all service keywords for that area right away right? Wrong. Make sure you have the right expectations when targeting cities outside your location.
In general the further away you are from your physical location, the longer it will take to rank. If it took you 6-9 months to rank for your city, it would likely take you 9-12 months to rank for a city outside your location. I don’t mean to discourage yours from moving forward, but only to ensure you have the right expectations going into this.
Now the only thing left is to implement this. I have implemented this strategy to plenty of service related businesses and have yet to see this not work. This can help you expand your business and grow your business.