In search engine optimization today, winning a high rank on SERPs isn't necessarily about targeting specific keywords. Generally, inbound marketing agencies like Weidert Group advocate for focusing on creating buyer-relevant content first, and worry about specific keyword performance second.
And generally, this approach matches Google's overall algorithm. The search engine's priority for authentic, helpful content is specifically meant to weed out SERP-grabby companies that don't offer content that actually helps visitors find what they're looking for.
Yet, there are certain parts of your SEO plan in which specific keyword combinations should absolutely be targeted. For instance, if you build paper conversion equipment in Northeast Wisconsin, you probably want to appear in SERPs for "Wisconsin paper converter manufacturers." Or, if you build servers in Florida, you should try to show up for "Florida business server companies" queries. These are no-brainer SEO goals that are highly valuable for attracting sales-ready leads.
So, what are the modern-day SEO principles behind behind ranking for such searches? In this article, I'll provide 4 comprehensive principles that should guide your content efforts to rank locally and in your industry.
1. Aim to rank with explanatory content, not core website pages.
Many, many companies try to make their About Us page rank for local searches. To do this, they add all sorts of copy about their geography and radius of service. I cringe when I see this. (1) This probably won't help in SERPs, and (2) it might even hurt your ability to close customers outside of that radius.
What happens when a customer outside of your geography wants to buy from you? An 'About Us' description with decisive geographic boundaries can be a major turn off in today's hyper-connected, virtual business world. Plus, no company should count on getting first-time visits to an 'About Us' page. In many cases, core site pages aren't appropriate landing pages. Instead, pages like 'About Us' tend to be most effective as secondary or tertiary level pages where visitors learn more about your company, once sure of the kind of company you are.
The best way to get rank high in SERPs is to use explanatory content—either a blog, a purpose-specific explanation page, or a landing page with a downloadable content piece. Generally, headlines on these pages are more apt to be ranked in search, and they're better setup to provide a helpful explanation to your prospects.
2. Recognize your competition and geography—don't shy away from naming them.
Too often, marketers are afraid to recognize where they are and who they compete with. This is a major pain point for prospects, because they don't understand how to accurately compare various vendors.
If you want to rank high in search, you need to be prepared to help customers out by recognizing who and what they can choose from. That's why, many industries have started to produce guides like, "How to Choose a [insert industry] Provider." These are highly useful pieces of content because they give prospects a perspective on how to properly formulate a buying process.
The best of this kind of content ranks in SERPs because it goes ahead and recognizes the names of who the other options are.
3. Identify the most relevant industry categories. Don't try to own them all.
Most industries have lots of variations on industry categories. For instance, distribution verticals can be categorized as supply chain, logistics, wholesale, transportation, warehousing, etc. In SEO, your marketing team needs to know that you can't win it all. No company is an expert in everything, so don't try to be it all for Google.
Especially in geographic searches, search engines already try to bring related categories to the table, so if your company ranks for "Wisconsin's best paper manufacturer," and somebody searches for "Wisconsin's best tissue manufacturer," you might still show up somewhere in the high SERPs. But don't try to win #1 on all, until you've won #1 on at least one.
4. Build in social sharability factors when writing content designed to rank.
When aiming for local SERPs on industry categories, the best way to scale to #1 is for everybody in your industry to recognize the ranking page as a relevant, credible source—i.e. share it on social media. If your entire industry congregates around the content and socially validates it, then you're much more likely to rank highly and see that ranking last for the long term.
Recently, we tested out what happens if we ranked our competitors, and honored them within their niche. The results were outstanding. Nearly all agencies in the blog posts shared the content, and many of our non-local agencies did as well, resulting in an instant boost in SERPs.