Have you ever passed by a blank billboard on a backwater highway with a 1-800 number on it? Or perhaps one saying, “Your message here?” I have, but it’s been a while since the last time. Mostly I suspect, because I seldom venture off the main freeways in my normal travels these days.
In past years, I did a bit more traveling to smaller towns in out-state Minnesota and Wisconsin and I would see a fair number of them. Mostly on roads that used to be the main thoroughfare in the pre-freeway era. I suspect a good many of them still exist.
In those traveling days I used to consult with towns and counties on how to attract businesses to their communities. Today, I consult with businesses on how to attract customers. Same business, different focus.
A billboard is a marketing device some businesses use to attract customers. It’s like a display ad in a newspaper or magazine. It provides a graphic image and perhaps some keywords to people who happen to be passing by. On the highway, in their cars. In the newspaper or magazine as one’s eyes pass from one article or story to the next, one page to the next.
They have a hard job to do. They need to make an impression on your conscious or sub conscious mind quickly. It must be the sub conscious the advertiser is aiming for because there are very few such images that ever really capture my conscious mind’s attention.
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. I admit that I do notice some of the new billboard campaigns from time to time when they change along one of my regular routes. 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 on 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. Particularly when it was new. 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.
Now I’m talking about billboards today, because in many ways they are like a business website. The clever ones may catch my attention as I browse through many related sites online. 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. In my book, it’s not even worth a toll free call to find out how much someone wants to put my message on it.
When it comes to online advertising, far too many people have spent all their effort coming up with a great image and feel for their sites and not given 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 on the right highway. In addition, you need to use those same keywords in your message – in the body of your web pages.
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, Benton 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 use to find what they were looking for in a computer search. 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 sausage.
And yet if you look at most business web pages you will see terms like plumber, attorney, dentist, groceries, resort, bait, or what have you in their meta tags. Such keywords are worthless. But so too is having Minneapolis, or Saint Cloud, or New York.
As my frequent readers know, I have been working with the Home Staging Industry for the past 9 months or so. As I dug deeper into the keywords that people actually use, I have grown a list of 124 terms for the home staging industry. Most were fairly obvious, others less so. I have been offering a service to the industry where I concatenate the various keywords I have researched together with the relevant geographical modifiers for individual home stagers. It gets a bit tedious and time consuming. But the result has been a block of keywords that puts my client’s web pages on the internet freeway, while their competitors are advertising their business on the dusty back roads of the internet where no one goes.
Where do you want your billboard to be? If it’s appropriate for your business, 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 in in your keywords.
Don’t forget that you also want to incorporate as many of the major terms into the body of you text as well. So if you are a Homestager in Saint Cloud, Minnesota, make sure to say so in the text of your web page as well as in the meta tags.