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Geographic Boundaries are Dictated by Google, Not Your SEO


Hi guys, and welcome to another edition of Zupo's SEO Talk & Tea. 

Today's conversation is about geographic boundaries and SEO, and who dictates them. And short answer, it's Google, not us. But before we dive in, explaining what I mean by that, I want to introduce the tea we have today. Today we have a jasmine green tea, and the reason why we're having this tea today is, one, I like it, but two, it is a relatively hot day. I don't know if you can tell by just the lighting of the day, it is really sunny and hot, and it's really early in the morning. I normally film these very early in the morning so I can get away from the sun, but I don't know how the sun is so high in the sky. I guess today is going to be a really hot day. That's why you don't see me with my pad and green jacket. It's just way too hot for it. So hopefully you guys like the white T-shirt.

But let's go ahead, jump in, and talk about the conversation we have today. So when it comes to digital marketing, I think the world has benefited from a lot of sophistication and options. The days of TV or radio advertising, where you got to spend big bucks to get national coverage or statewide coverage, it's not really there anymore. Marketing is now more micro-targeting. Instagram influencers, Facebook ads, Google ads, and, of course, SEO is kind of one of those pockets. But there's something that kind of came up in my meetings the other day, and I wanted to film a video about this topic.

I had a client say to us, we were working on this campaign for a very long time where we were trying to get them ranked for two keyword groups that they were selling this product across the nation. And they were one of the distributors of the product and so they want to rank for it. And we spent months on it. And we ended up right at the cusp on the first page. So generally, where we were at was some days we were the eighth spot on the first page, and then some days we were the 11th spot, so on the second page.

So we were right on the cusp, and we were on that final push to get us on there. And the client had told me, "Actually, there's been an update on our contract. We can actually only sell these products in the southwestern part of the United States." And so they said, "Is there any way, with all this SEO work we've been doing, geotargeting it only to the area that we can actually sell. It doesn't matter to us if we rank on the first page in Florida because we can't sell there." And that's a great point. And the contract is updating with that product provider.

Now, the problem is SEO is something that is not as Swiss Army Knife as Google PPC, Google Ads, or Facebook ads, and so on and so forth. There is local SEO, but there isn't a method to be like, "Okay, I want to rank for..." Let me use the pizza example. "I want to rank for pizza." Let's say pizza recipes. Let me use a more easy example. Let's say you want to rank for pizza recipes, which is a informational search, that if you look on it, recipes will come up. And I haven't done the search myself, but I believe it's a national search. The results will generally be the same across the country, no matter where you're searching. You, as a website, cannot optimize your pizza recipe keyword groups to say, "I want to rank for the national keyword, but only appear in the California or Orange County searches."

That doesn't really work. There's no way to tell them that. The only way to do that is to say pizza recipes in Orange County. Now the limitation of that, though, is, the limitation of SEO is always if people will search for it. So with that client, I said we can go look into that product, and say product in OC, or product in California, or product in Southern California. The problem is we needed to discover if anyone's even searching for that. Because if not, we could optimize for it, but what's the point if no one searches for it. So when it comes to geographic targeting... Wow, did I never brew the tea? I'm sorry, I'm going to talk and brew the tea. I got so into the topic that I never even got brewing. Why didn't you guys remind me, guys? That's your job, to remind me. Wow.

Anyways, where I was going with this is that, of course, again, you cannot just dictate to Google, like, "Oh, these are my geographic limitations." That's more for the PPC, social media, where you can say, "Okay, I only want to appear in these zip codes." The way that you can figure out where you can rank on Google is just really one of two ways. One is just how Google treats it. If you take a Google search and you test it and it's national, that it doesn't matter where you are in the States, it'll be generally the same results, it's a national kind of search query. If it's a local SEO play, where you can say like, okay, if I type this query in, it will return the local city or the local county back. On those, it will just depend on how Google treats it.

So if I type in pizza right now, you will most likely get search results that appear in your local city. There's no way to dictate. If someone types in pizza, I want it to show, even if I'm in a different county. You can't really play by that rules. You play by the rules that Google has set. So therefore, the only ways around dealing with geographic limitations is that if you have, like I just said, localities or geographic limitations, the first route is to go look into Google searches, see how they're treating the searches. If they're treating the searches out of a wider scale than you can deal with because your business is a local business, you can then try a second option, which is to add the locality or the geographic area.

Now, when you test those, they probably will show local results. And that's great, but you have to cross-reference with average monthly searches. There needs to be an average monthly searches to make it worth it. If not, then that keyword may not... You have to make a decision. Even though we don't really service the far realms beyond our locality, do we still want to rank for it? Or second, do we want to go in the local realm, even if there's no searches. Or you know what? This keyword just doesn't fit very well for our bottom line, so we'll pivot to another keyword group. That's also a common example.

Other ways around it is if the SEO side of things isn't playing nice, in the sense that you can't get the geographics to figure themselves out, that's when you can use Google ads, social media ads, LinkedIn, and Instagram to kind of offset it with that geographic kind of play.

So this is just another reminder then, guys, I filmed a video at the very beginning of the series, is that SEO and the other marketing tools, they have very differing circumstances in context, and there are some shortfalls of each one and they can cover each other. This was an example of where SEO is not as customizable, and you can use other marketing tactics to cover that up as well.

So hopefully you guys found that valuable. I'm going to pour the tea out. I'm going to remember that because I've told you not to pour this in earlier. If you guys found the video valuable, please like and subscribe, and I hope to see you guys again soon. Thanks everybody.

Jason Khoo

Jason is founder and CEO of Zupo, which is an Orange County based SEO consulting agency helping construct powerful long term SEO strategies for our clients. Jason also enjoys multiple cups of tea a day, hiding away on weekends catching up on reading and rewatching The Simpsons for the 20th time.