Realistic Expectations for Clients Trying to Rank for Competitive Terms

How to Set Realistic Expectations for Clients Who Want to Rank for Competitive Terms

Being realistic when estimating results can be hard. That is especially true if you are starting out, as you have less experience under your belt and may need to make an extra effort to impress potential clients and have them invest in your work. On the other hand, you don’t want to set the expectations too high and end up under delivering.

The first step to make a good offer is listening to the client. Of course, you are the professional and it is your job to guide them and explain the best strategy forward and the most reasonable outcomes they can expect. This is fundamental if you want to manage client SEO expectations and the results that you can provide - so that you can help them reach their goals, deliver real value to them, and they will remain a client and provide referrals.

So what do you do when your client, for example, owns a business in a big urban area and wants to drive traffic by ranking for a highly competitive term — for example, the name of the big city itself + service or product? In this post, we’ll see how to accommodate clients who want to rank for competitive keywords and give realistic expectations.

Why Ranking for Smaller Areas Is a Good Idea

First of all, search volume is not everything. Most people will be looking for local services and products on their phone. And mobile Google results will show them services that are near them at the time of their search. That is why if you rank well for a specific area or suburb, you will appear on the mobile results even if you are not targeting the big city term or general, competitive keywords.

However, it goes beyond mobile searches, also known as “near me” or “nearby” terms. Google Keyword Planner may not show search volume for service + suburb keyword, but that doesn't mean that people aren't searching for it. It just means that people aren't paying for pay-per-click ads for it. Or if they are, it's not enough for them to track the search volume. There can still be keyword rankings that are worth pursuing in the search engines with what appears to be no search volume.

If you want real search information, make sure you're using a keyword suggestion tool. That is where you're going to find out whether there is traffic or not. If you're using a Google keyword suggestion tool, then you should be able to find terms that actually produce traffic whether they show up in the Keyword Planner or not.

Our best recommendation is PowerSuggest Pro, which comes at a one-time affordable fee and delivers top quality keywords in seconds.

How to Target Smaller Areas to Achieve City-wide Results

We only suggest strategies that we have tried and tested in real life. So let’s talk numbers and make a practical example.

Let’s say that you want to rank for tree services in Fairfax County, Virginia. There are about 23 cities, towns, and suburbs within that county. “Tree service + Fairfax” gets about 140 searches per month according to Google Keyword Planner.

If we were to optimize for the 23 suburbs, which have little to no competition compared to that general Fairfax term, we might only get five or ten searches per month per area. It is a very small volume, but if you multiply it times all 23 areas, cumulatively it ends up being more traffic than just trying to optimize for the one term.

But the optimization doesn't have to stop there. You can optimize for multiple areas while linking to the overall broader term — in this case, the bigger city — and use this strategy to push, as part of the SEO plan, the ranking for the bigger city.

You will initially get some traffic and some phone calls coming in from the easy-to-rank suburbs — as to say, you will be already generating leads for your client. At the same time, you will be working towards more competitive terms, helping to keep the client relationships good on both fronts.

How to Convince Your Client to Target Less Competitive Terms

The problem with focusing on optimizing for big city terms is, it’s going to take time. The clock is going to be ticking and your client is going to become impatient.

When a business owner tells you that they want to rank for a competitive term, you will need to explain the situation to them and give them two options:

  1. You can rank for competitive terms, of course. But it’s going to take a long time before they see significant results, usually between 3 and 6 months, at a minimum - you need to manage client expectations.

  2. You can target adjacent small areas such as suburbs and municipalities, and start generating actual leads for their business within 30-45 days. At the same time, you can work towards ranking for the more general time.

You obviously recommend the second option and you may have to go into details to explain why. And you should, because after all, you are the marketing professional and it is your responsibility to educate your clients so that they can make an informed choice.

By proving to them what the best strategy is, you will be working in their best interest. At the same time, you will be setting realistic expectations so that you can enjoy a long term engagement with the client and begin to offer them additional services like content marketing and social media management, if you want.

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