Search term tails wagging content dogs

SEO copywriting has always thrown up conflicts between the requirements of search mathematics, and those of sound, intelligible marketing communication.

But the now prevalent search strategy of optimising pages for ‘long tail’ keywords creates a situation which is especially hard to resolve.

(Long tail keywords are the ‘long tail’ of key words or phrases which may only individually be searched a handful of times a week, but which, when added together, may account for a relatively high proportion of a site’s traffic. Chasing rankings on these terms is wise, because competition is likely to be less intense for them.)

Now one set of keyterms which I’ve been asked to optimise for twice in the last couple of weeks is those achieved by adding the name of a town or city to more generic terms.

Let me give you an example. You sell TVs. Your keywords are  ‘TVs’, ‘LCD TVs’ ‘Plasma TVs’ etc. The problem with these is that everyone who sells TVs is chasing them.

So say your high street TV shop is in Birmingham.

If you add ‘Birmingham’ to those key terms, you get new terms like ‘LCD TVs Birmingham’.

Now less people will search for that term, but those that do will be very likely to be near to your shop. You get the idea?

Here’s the problem though.

A searcher types ‘LCD TVs Birmingham’ when searching, because he wants to locate somewhere in Birmingham that sells LCD TVs.

But when you or I have to integrate this naturalistically into a piece of copy, it all goes a bit haywire.

How can you, for example, naturalistically mention ‘Birmingham’ within the flow of copy about TV’s? You can maybe do it once, here and there, but as a Birmingham based TV retailer selling online, the last thing you want to do in your copy is suggest disproportionately that you are based in any particular place. Place is irrelevant. You’ll be happy to sell me a TV if I live in Glasgow, so long as I pay carriage.

So far as I can see, the only way to do this sensibly is to create a raft of pages which feature the name of every major conurbation, and which are engineered to include the words ‘LCD TVs Birmingham (or wherever)’ in close proximity to each other. It’s hard, but everyone will know why it’s there, and the page will not be a part of the site’s main navigation.

But if you’re an SEO writer asked by SEO technicians to do this to general page content, you should probably explain to them that they’re letting an SEO tail wag a content dog.

And, at the risk of overstretching a metaphor, barking up the wrong tree.

3 Responses to “Search term tails wagging content dogs”

  1. Matt Ambrose

    I had a similar experience with Google’s Adwords. Rather than compete with the cleverly worded ads, my ad was intentionally blunt in describing and differentiating my services (i.e. ‘website copywriting, blog & article writing’) with the aim of narrowing down the click throughs to my target market.
    Whilst it generated a few enquiries I doubt I’ll be pouring money into Adwords anytime soon, but if Google send me another £50 voucher I’m not going to complain.

  2. Mike Beeson @ Buzzwords

    Whilst I agree that adding locations to your text can look a bit ‘spammy’, the options are to include the chosen town or conurbation in your h1 tag or create a landing page specifically targeted at the place(s).
    I’ve seen websites with every town and city in the UK lined up as places where you can do business with them. Google doesan’t seem to mind, although I for one wouldn’t like to run the risk of a site being banned for the sake of scoring with a few long-tail keywords.

  3. Laurence Blume

    Thanks for commenting. My original post was concerned not so much with page son which it was possible to include a town in the tag, as for pages on small brochure sites: the page is devoted, say, to ‘Our Services’, but the keyword list includes ‘commercial property Manchester’, for example. (Your site looks like you’re giving a great service there, btw.)