Dominating the Long Tail of Local Search with Databases



By Ben Fremer.

These are some of my best trade secrets. Please only use them for Good.

This article will show you little-known techniques on how to dominate the search engine results pages for local searches–searches which are “service name” + “city name”. Whether you are a local realtor, accountant or home builder, or a national services provider, this article will show you how to greatly improve the results of your current search engine marketing campaigns.

It is a little known fact that traffic from extremely uncompetitive local search terms can add up to big traffic and sales if you can cover them comprehensively. For this, I am going to share two methods (one is an easy pay-per-click tactic, and the other is a very advanced organic tactic) of using publicly available databases of world / national cities to totally dominate the search engine results pages where people are searching locally, but where most marketers haven’t spread their proverbial net far enough to reach.

The first method is very straightforward. You simply need a to get one of the available databases and do the spreadsheet-multiply-cities-by-services function to generate all of the keywords that you want to show up for. Simply copy the counties you want to show up in, and you suddenly have the names of all of the theoretical 1,000 cities you serve without having to waste time trying to think them out. You should also be sure to multiply your service keywords by the ‘ “city” + “state name” ‘ combination, as well as by the ‘ “city” + “state abbreviation” ‘ combination as these are commonly looked for in the long tail. You may now have over 20,000 keywords if you cover just one metropolitan area, or hundreds of thousands if you cover the whole United States. Simply put all of these keywords into your ad campaigns, and now you are at least showing up on practically all of the SERP’s in the long tail of your local keyword universe. If you have hundreds of thousands of keywords to input, you may be well advised to contact a sponsored search representative for bulk-uploading your keywords.

This next method for dominating the natural search listings (where people are more likely to see and click your listing) requires a working knowledge of a scripting language and MySQL, to take to its full potential. For our example, we will be using PHP. This could otherwise be tediously done by manually generating static pages.

On a side note, it should be noted that this method should only be used to show up for cities that you actually serve and for services that you actually offer! There is unfortunately potential for blackhat abuse here.

Basically, we will be making a directory of the cities we serve with each city page optimized and skillfully interlinked. Here is an example url of a client website that is currently using this technique: http://www.daspc.com/Accounting-Services.php?city=Troy&state=Michigan . Some quick searching on Google shows that not only does the client show up well for “Troy, Michigan Accountant”, but they also show up right near the top for EVERY SUBURB OF DETROIT! — whether you are looking for an accountant, a certified public accountant, or a cpa firm. This works for companies that serve clients in cities across the entire United States, too!

As you can see, this site uses dynamic variables in the URL. Mod ReWrite can get you even more on-page points by making your pages look like .html files. The script also dynamically generates optimized internal anchor text, and can link to all of the nearest cities by pulling in dynamic latitude and longitude. I will spare the underlying programming, suffice to say reading 300 pages of an O’Reilly PHP / MySQL book can teach you how to do it.

The main thing to be concerned about is the difficulty in getting these pages indexed and ranking well. To help, I am going to share my equation for my simple theory of website rankings on search engines—drawn from hundreds of hours of studying SERP’s – this is so simple, I’m surprised I haven’t seen it before:

A page’s rank = on page optimization (varies by search engine) * Page rank (varies by search engine) + value of link juice pointing directly at the page (varies by search engine) * anchor text distribution of those links

The important point to make here is that these high rankings with the city pages are not achieved by link building to the individual pages, but by passing page rank through to the highly on-page-optimized pages over time (see page rank to understand passing of page rank). The pages will probably be originally indexed into Google’s supplementary index and not rank well, but depending on the PR of the pages on your site linking into your city pages (the higher PR the better), and the length of time the links to your city pages have been in place passing page rank on to your city pages, your site may come out sooner than later. You should be out by the next page rank update – so about a maximum of three months – if you do it right.

Here is another useful relationship equation.

Time in Supplemental Results = the Number of City Pages / Page Rank Value being Passed on to City Pages .

What this means is that you are not going to dominate all the global SERPs for a a competitive keyword ( a few million city pages required) if your own website is a low page rank site, so it would be best not to over-stretch your ambitions.

Well, that is all. This is an extremely powerful tactic for picking up the long tail, especially when coupled with the database and service name multiplication for service and product names. If you would like to utilize our services, please feel free to contact us.

[This has been an entry for Marketing Pilgrim's SEM Scholarship contest. Keep up to date with all entries and other marketing news by subscribing to our rss feed.]

  • http://www.seobomb.com Sverre Sjøthun

    Great article Ben. I love working with large databases like that, and I’ve done quite a few real estate and apartment rental sites in that manner.

    There is a *lot* more that can be done both when it comes to internal linking as well as link building, but Rentsline.com is an example of how I did it(this job is about 14 months old now).

    They rank fairly well, ie page 1&2, for the top key phrases in the BC area (but like I said, need more link juice), and the long tail is about 87% of the search traffic and almost 10 000 different key phrases the last month…

    Shame they decided not to go on with phase II in my plan cause that would get them the first page on virtually all the top phrases too.

  • http://www.itjobfeed.com ITjobfeed

    Very useful article, by coincidence I’ve applied this sort of concept recently on ITjobfeed.com — .
    Check the “Browse IT Jobs” on the navigation.
    The idea I like in the article, is the idea of passing on the page rank from other pages via interlinking

  • Team1111

    What city/state databases do you recommend?