This week’s Ask An SEO question comes from Stephen, who writes:

“How does a service provider know what people are searching for and how does one convert blog content to income when there’s no book or product being sold yet?”

Great question. There is a big difference between traditional e-commerce SEO and service provider SEO when it comes to keyword research and blog content that converts.

This changes again on local vs. national levels, but for the sake of this post, I’ll keep it actionable and applicable for service providers in general.

Note: When reading, please keep in mind that service providers can be online (hosting, VPNs, legal documents, etc…), physical (like a plumber or a car towing service), and hybrid (like a veterinary pharmacy that allows pickups at locations and national shipping).

You’ll want to tweak these strategies based on the type of service you are providing.

Localized Keyword Research Tactics

The first part of this post is about keyword research.

Much like a shop that sells t-shirts, you’ll have standard phrases like “electricians near me” or “dog groomers in logan circle.”

For these, the keyword research will be the same where you use your preferred tool, like Google’s Keyword Planner. But because Keyword Planner doesn’t break down local volumes well, you should also use your knowledge of the area.

Think about neighborhoods where your audience is.

The way I estimate market demand is by combining the total search volume from a larger city with a similar demographic – or as a nation – and then dividing it by that city’s population and adding in a weight based on the demographics from that region.

For example, if there are 100 people searching nationally and your city is 10% of the population, assume 10 people are searching.  If your city has a higher density of demographics, increase to 12 – if lower, then decrease to 8.

Pro-tip: You can find demographic information on the census website for free.

Personalizing SEO With Local Insights

If you have a daycare service and your city has a higher population of people who are more likely to have children than others, add a bit of extra search volume to your forecast.

If you run a dog grooming service for large dogs, but your suburbs have a demographic that loves Chihuahuas and Pomeranians, reduce the volume a bit.

Now it comes to your personal knowledge of the area.

Sticking with daycare, let’s imagine your location is downtown, but your audience lives in the suburbs and residential neighborhoods within the city.

When doing local keyword research, don’t worry about the neighborhoods your people live in; you cater to the professionals downtown who need childcare while they work.

If the daycare is in DC, where I live, I wouldn’t focus on “child care in Petworth” because my location isn’t there.

Instead, I’d focus on “childcare in downtown D” – or where my store location is – because this is what my customers are looking for, and this is where my business exists.

Long Tail And Longer Phrasing

Next is the long tail and phrasing, and this is where the money phrases are.

Think about the needs of a busy professional.  There are nights when they’re going to be working late and not able to pick up their kids on time, so you should optimize for “open late.”

The same can go for near their employment. Instead of searching for “downtown,” they could be searching “by Chinatown” or “near the capital building,” if they work on the hill. Consider incorporating this into your content, possibly as an FAQ explaining the distance to those areas or how to find you with directions.

This type of content provides value to the potential customer, helps current customers locate you, and lets search engines know what it is you do and where you offer it.

A keyword research tool won’t help you with this because it won’t find these volumes – that’s why you, as the local service provider, will need to use your knowledge to combine the modifiers with the main queries.

Pro-tip: Make sure you also place the hours you’re open visible on the page, include operation times within your Google Business Profile page, and have proper schema markup with the area served, including hours of operation by day. Doing this gives you an advantage over competitors that do not offer flexible hours or have a knowledgeable SEO pro building their business.

Local Service Blogging And SEO Strategy

A third way to do service provider keyword research is by looking up questions your audience has.

If you live in a dry area without much water vs. a flood plain on the coast, your audience will have different needs.

Let’s use a handyman or plumber here.

In the desert, you may find roofs with dry rot, and in wet climates, you may find mold or leaks more prevalent because of how water and ice expand, shrink, and break apart the materials.

If you’re local, write about what to look for to identify the problem and create “how to” content for your blog based on the most common and uncommon problems you fix.

By creating this content, you’ll be able to help your local community and people in similar climates see what it takes to fix the issue. They can try to do it themselves, and if it is complex, you can provide them with a method to get a quote from you for services.

You can also set a remarketing pixel and promote your services to them, including a home upkeep subscription package to build your monthly recurring revenue (MRR).

And if you sell the parts or tools needed to do the repairs, build internal links to these pages. By adding a call to action at the bottom of the post saying, “If you’re a DIYer, click here to shop for each of the tools you’ll need to fix the XYZ damage,” you can still make some money.

Do you offer these services nationwide? Good, use the same strategy, but make sure to categorize your blog differently.

The local business will have categories relevant to local issues. You want categories that are easy to navigate for people regardless of location so they can find the resources they’re looking for.

Pro-tip: YouTube is a great resource for finding “how to” topics. Start typing the first few words, or even just the issue, and see what the search box recommends.

Then, look at the titles of the videos showing up for each.  Now, look at the view counts, comments, thumbs-ups, and other signals to see if it is a common issue or not.

The blog post is for the how-to, but what about the service pages themselves? Divide the keywords up based on intent.

Someone looking for “how to” do something could be identifying problems, wanting to fix it themselves vs. hiring someone, and just wanting the steps required. Or they could be looking for the skill levels necessary to complete it and then decide it is too complex. That’s where you can come in and solve it for them.

If the query is “roofers that specialize in mold,” then this is someone looking for a service provider. Don’t optimize the how-to guide for it, optimize your service page for it.

Monetizing Your Service-Based SEO Efforts

Now that you have multiple ways to research keywords for service providers let’s go to the last part, which is making money without having a product or ebook yet.

You have plenty of options here. They include:

Build a newsletter list and sell sponsorships to local or national businesses that are complementary to what you will offer.

You still make money if they’re not ready to purchase or are out of the market.

By sharing relevant content on a weekly or monthly basis, you earn their trust and may be contacted when they need the service.

Use affiliate links within and throughout your content.

By doing this, you’ll see which types of products, services, and guides convert the best and know which to build or create first.

As you are ready to expand your offerings, you’ll also know what your audience uses more often and can jump right in vs. having to guess what to offer next.

Once your traffic goes, join a cost-per-thousand (CPM) or cost-per-click (CPC) ad network and get paid for the views and clicks from your audience.

Sell ad space and sponsorships from complementary companies or service providers.

There’s no shortage of ways to make money, the trick is getting the audience to a platform you control and can market back to them, like a newsletter or SMS list, or a forum and community they feel at home in.

I hope this helps answer your question, and thank you for reading.

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Featured Image: Stokkete/Shutterstock

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By Rose Milev

I always want to learn something new. SEO is my passion.

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