With SEO, we never attempt to create a market or control the language around it. Instead, we understand what our customers call our products and services, then use these words in our content strategy to get found on searches.
Once, while pitching a prospect in the business of building those giant, expensive, curved staircases you find in rich people’s homes (like in “Gone With the Wind”), the marketing manager tells me, “Oh we don’t need any SEO help. If you type ‘curved staircase’ into any search engine anywhere in the world, we’re always #1”. When I returned after doing the research I told him straight up, “Right now, NO ONE IN THE WORLD is using that term to look for your product. The keyword phrase “curved staircase” has zero, zilch, nadda registered monthly traffic. Which pack of monkeys is in charge of your SEO?”
Long before Google reorganized itself under the “Alphabet Inc.” corporate umbrella, the lion’s share of revenue came from Adwords so Google created slick, FREE tools that help us determine which Adwords we should buy. The Adwords Traffic Estimator Tool (and similar 3rd party products like it) give us the actual monthly traffic volume for any given search term. The Keyword Planner is another Adwords tool used for building Search Network campaigns that suggests keyword ideas and estimates how they may perform.
These are the power tools we SEO geniuses use to qualify the keywords currently being used by prospective customers to search for your products and services. Not only do they quantify how many times the search occurs in a given month (recall these numbers are never static as Beanie Babies taught us), they also suggest keywords other people are buying that relate to this term. Since we’re simply pillaging here and not buying anything, we keep cycling and cycling all of Google’s suggestive selling until we end up with a giant sortable list of qualified terms.
This is how we strategically derive what’s known as “The Top 25” (taken from the top 50) which are regional-specific terms we pack our website content, YouTube channel description (and video scripts), social media “About Us” overview pages, blogs, and everything else in our SEO battle of attrition. The remaining, more obscure terms (and a select few of the juicier terms when organic competition is too intense) get excellent traction with Adwords since there’s a good chance they will be presented as the only link to the answer on rarer category searches.
The reason why the “regional competitor” context is used is simply because of how people search. In the beginning the proper search had to be CITY + KEYWORD or KEYWORD + CITY since omitting the city would return results from a much broader pool of national and sometimes international websites with hundreds of thousands or millions of pages. Another reason is many location-specific searches are conducted by people away from their home cities on vacation.
The mass adoption of Google+ for small business and Google Maps business listings combined with strong city/region-specific keyword content now helps the Adwords traffic estimator qualify local results for generic search terms. For example, in Vancouver, search traffic volume for “Vancouver closets” is dwarfed by local results tabulated for searches using only the term “closets”. It wasn’t always this way but again Google has figured out how to both reward webmasters for best practices compliance while providing users with local marketplace info without always having to use the CITY prefix or suffix.