Have you ever passed by a blank billboard on a backwater highway with a 1-800 number on it? Now as a kid, I remember the old Burma Shave signs because they were different and funny. I remember a number of teaser campaigns over the years that had me guessing as to what was coming next, but I can’t remember what any of them were about at the moment. But I don’t remember ever buying something because I saw a billboard, do you?
My uncle Urban had a billboard on the highway from the Minneapolis to St. Cloud where he had a butcher shop. The sign read, “Gaida’s Meats” with a sausage on a fork that protruded above the sign. It was a clever enough visual effect, breaking out of the box. I suspect he got at least occasional comments from customers in the store about it. But I doubt it brought in any new customers. It may have, however, brought in a few more existing customers. Not because it made his product any more valuable, but because it created status. A sense of importance because everyone who lived in St Cloud saw it whenever they returned home from a trip to the cities.
In my uncle Urban’s eyes the sign wasn’t meant for people from Minneapolis that happened to be going to St Cloud, it was for people from St Cloud who happened to have traveled to the Twin Cities. They would be coming back on this road. And that’s where he placed his sign.
I’m talking about billboards, because in many ways they are like a business website. The clever ones may catch my attention as I browse the web. But only if they are on the highway I am traveling. If I am on the freeway, and the web site is on a dusty county road, I will never see it. And no matter how cute, creative or otherwise inspired it may be, it may as well not exist at all. It may as well be blank.
When it comes to online advertising, far too many people have spend all their efforts coming up with a great image and feel for their sites. But they often fail to give any thought to whether to put their site on a freeway where it will be seen by thousands or on a dirt road where only the crows and gophers will see it.
On the internet, the way you get in front of the traffic from Minneapolis to St Cloud is to make sure the keywords in your meta tags put you in front of traffic. This is particularly easy for local businesses, and a bit more difficult for those who compete on a national scale.
If my uncle still had his butcher shop, I would encourage him to use “St Cloud Butcher Shop”, “St. Cloud Meats”, “Saint Cloud Butcher Shop”, “Stearns County Butcher Shop”, and “Polish Sausage” as just a handful of maybe several hundred keywords in his meta tags.
In fact, I would take every conceivable term like meat, sausage, etc., and pair it with every conceivable geographical term that people in the area might legitimately use. I call such terms geographical long tail keywords. And they are designed to mimic the actual phrases people might type into their search engine. While they might type “sausage” the first time, when they see over 20 million responses they will quickly find a geographical term to narrow their search if they are looking for a place like my uncle’s where they can get good Polish.
And yet if you look at most business web pages you will see terms like plumber, attorney, dentist, groceries, resort, bait, or whatever in their meta tags. Such keywords are worthless. But so too is having just a city name like Minneapolis, or St Louis. But put them together and you have a term people might actually use.
Where do you want your billboard to be? Follow my example and create a series of geographical long tail keywords. It will make a difference in how often your potential customers find you. It also will make it far more likely that you get top ranking for a keyword phrase when you are the only person who has taken the time and effort to include it in your keywords.