The key to a successful online marketing campaign is to always, always think the way your potential customer thinks. Armed with that perspective, you must build a keyword list to take advantage of these hypothesized search habits. You must test ad creative that speaks to these customers. And you must follow the numbers as you expand and contract your keyword list and adjust your ad creative.

Depending on the estimate you read, anywhere from 15 percent to 30 to 40 percent (to probably more) of searches are local in nature. Users typing in a specific location, followed by the product or service desired. Further, of these searches, fully 75 percent are non-branded, meaning that customers are searching categorically. This is a gap that can be exploited by a keyword list full of geo-specific terms.

Let’s talk first what I mean by “geo-qualified” or “geo-specific.” Typically, a pay-per-click keyword list will consist of location-general keywords such as “thai restaurant”, “discount skis”, or “home health care services”, presumably not all in the same campaign. When I refer to “geo-qualified” or “geo-specific” keywords, I mean that a specific location will be added in the keyword itself, “thai restaurant chicago”, “discount skis in maryland”, “home health care services in burlington”.

With regard to building your keyword list, the best way is to consider your “seed” terms, the keywords that most generally describe your product line or service, and are the most crucial to your successful online campaigns. To those terms, add every geographic descriptor you can think of, from town or village, to township, to state, to state and town, down to even the ZIP code. Add the word “in” when describing your location as well, because that’s the way that your searchers look for you.

So, to take you back to the pizza place example, the first image in this series, posted last Friday. Let’s say you are a pizza delivery outlet, a single-unit company, based in Bloomington, Indiana. Let’s further say that you believe “pizza delivery” is your key traffic driver.

If this is the case, geo-qualified keyword list around the keyword “pizza delivery” should include the following (and probably some that I have missed):

Pizza delivery Bloomington

Pizza delivery Bloomington Indiana

Pizza delivery in Bloomington in

Pizza delivery Monroe county

Pizza delivery Monroe county in

Pizza delivery in Monroe county in

Pizza delivery 47401

Pizza delivery in 47401

Bloomington pizza delivery

Bloomington in pizza delivery

Monroe county pizza delivery

Monroe county in pizza delivery

47401 pizza delivery

Your list should be built out to this extent for every key term in your campaign, including “pizza restaurant”, “take-out pizza”, “home food delivery”, “pizza place”, and any other term that people are using to find you.
It is an exhaustive list, but it’s also easy. Build it using Find and Replace functions, or, if you want to save real time, learn concatenation in Excel.

You will also note here that I have recommended including the state string as well as the town or village name. Quick research indicates that there are 12 different towns in the United States called or including the word “Bloomington”, and, from my time living here, I have learned to always be specific when I’m doing my searches. Your customers will have learned the same things.

Ad creative on geo-qualified keyword lists follows much the same pattern as typical ad creative. Where possible with space constraints, use the location qualifier in your headlines to increase relevancy and quality score and, therefore, decrease cost-per-click. Where it is not possible, consider using a geo-specific root directory (whether it is a real directory, or for display URL purposes only) for the same reason.

A final note now, as we consider the strategic differences between geo-qualifying and typical geo-targeting by adjusting campaign settings to hone in on specific counties, Nielsen markets, states, or polygonal geographic areas. While geo-targeting is generally the act of removing the portion of the searching customer base that most likely will not convert, adding specific geographic tags to your keyword list will instead more aggressively target those who are likely to become your customers. Geotargeting is a tactic to better stretch a limited budget, while geo-qualifying is a tactic designed to more aggressively target your higher-converting potential customers.

Both tactics, however, are important. If your business or service has any element of it that is geographic in nature (and, most all of them do), you need to be testing both strategies.