As a landscaping marketing agency, we have a lot of information on landscaping keywords.
Since we manage the digital marketing efforts for so many landscaping and lawn care businesses, we know what works and what doesn’t. Every few months Jake will send me a video of some new marketing guru confidently talking about the best keywords to target and we have a good laugh. It’s clear the guy has no firsthand experience and is only repeating the same stuff everyone else says. I respect the hustle and commend them for trying, but it makes our lives harder — we have to help clients unlearn the generic garbage everyone preaches.
Keywords for landscaping aren’t hard, but there are some critical things you should know. But first, we need to separate SEO landscaping keywords from PPC landscaping keywords.
SEO Landscaping Keywords
If you run a landscaping business and want to show up on Google without running ads, you need to know about SEO landscaping keywords. These are different from PPC landscaping keywords (which I will explain next).
While doing research for writing this article, I came across many articles written by other marketers with long lists of landscaping keywords, including additional information like national average monthly searches and competitiveness. Let me be clear: These keyword lists are overkill for 9 out of 10 landscaping businesses. Not only are they overkill, but they’re misleading and harmful. Here’s why.
- Landscaping businesses should target geo-modified keywords. This is a fancy way to say the keywords should include where the business works. If your landscaping business is in Michigan, it doesn’t help you to rank for “landscaping company” in Tampa, Florida.
- Some keywords are more important than others. Marketers are like politicians. They use big words and make things more complicated than they need to be so people will believe they’re smart and keep giving them money. It’s not a good use of time or money for the average landscaping business to try and rank for hundreds of keywords. It’s important to recognize diminishing returns.
There are two phrases we use a lot in our work as a marketing agency: Primary service and primary geo.
Primary service: If your business could only be known for one general service, what would you want it to be?
Primary geo: If your business could only serve one town / city, where would you want it to be?
When you combine these two phrases with the following formula, the result is your top keyword.
[Primary service] in [Primary geo].
It’s a good idea to confirm there is search demand with a keyword research tool like Google’s Keyword Planner. Many marketers will explore with the Keyword Planner first, then ultimately reach the same conclusion.
With this keyword phrase, you can create your primary keyword bundle to include shorter keywords and minor variations. Notice how the phrase “landscaping company in Iowa City” also includes “landscaping company”, so it targets people at the same time in Iowa City who might only search for “landscaping company”. Additionally, once you optimize your website for this, you’ll see the minor variations, such as including or not including the state abbreviation, reported in Google Search Console.
Most landscaping businesses want to show up for more than one service and location. You can use the previous formula for secondary services as well. For example, many of our landscaping clients also offer lawn care, so we target lawn care keywords too. The same is true for secondary locations (although you want to be careful. Jake has written about this before).
It is a good idea to target, track, and optimize for keywords in addition to your primary service and primary geo, but understand there are situations where you are forced to choose. On your Google Business Profile, Google asks for a primary business category. You can list secondary categories, but you can’t have two primary categories. Another example is the page title on the home page of your website. You only have ~60 characters. Which words are the most important to you?
Many SEOs will talk about the ranking potential for general keywords like “how to build a retaining wall” or “lawn care tips”. These are great topics for blog articles, but it’s important to recognize these are not money keywords and their benefit is indirect.
Articles on these topics earn links and boost the authority of your domain, making you rank better overall. But if your business is in Texas, people may read it in Illinois, and they won’t become customers. That’s why we say blogging isn’t for everyone and it depends on your budget and the long-term goals of your business.
PPC Landscaping Keywords
PPC landscaping keywords are similar to SEO landscaping keywords, but with two main things to consider that affect which ones are best and how to target them.
- Most people don’t click on ads.
- You don’t get to decide what people search.
Since most people click on organic search results (SEO), that means your PPC keywords typically need to be broader than your SEO keywords, otherwise they’ll never see enough clicks for you to know how to manage them effectively. You also don’t get to decide what people search; you can only target what they are searching, so if they aren’t searching for it, you’re out of luck.
When you consider these two things together, some service categories might be very lucrative for your landscaping business but be not viable to target as PPC keywords. Hardscaping is one we run into often — few people search for hardscaping. More often than not, the average person searches for landscaping with hardscaping in their mind.
The best PPC landscaping keywords use the same service + geo formula. The nice thing about ads is if you struggle to rank organically for a location, you can just target that location in your keywords and buy visibility there. Also, since you have the ability to limit the location where your ads serve with PPC campaigns, it makes sense to target broad keywords instead. Broad keywords see a higher cost per acquisition though, so if you have a limited budget, it’s better to prioritize your local keywords first.
With PPC landscaping keywords, you also have to consider keyword match types. The match type of your keywords determines how relaxed or strict Google is when deciding which searches are appropriate to show your ad. You can read the fine details, but here is my opinion after nearly a decade of working with them.
Broad match keywords: Use in more rural / lower population areas; bad for metro regions. Need to pay close attention to user searches and add many negative keywords early in the campaign management process.
Phrase match keywords: Great for the majority of businesses. Less reach than broad match but it means you light less money on fire. The default match type we use for our accounts.
Exact match keywords: Too restrictive for general use. Limit exact match keywords to major metro areas or national campaigns.
If I had to draw it on a chart, it would look like this.
Different people have different approaches to finding the sweet spot. General marketing agencies will usually start by targeting broad match keywords to gather data, then narrow down based on what they learn. It works quickly, but is a bit reckless. The do-it-yourselfers are more likely to start with exact match keywords, then broaden up to avoid burning money in the learning phase. It’s slow, but cost-effective. Fortunately, we can skip a lot of this learning phase by referencing data from other landscaping accounts.
Landscaping Keywords Recap
Landscaping keywords don’t have to be complicated. If you focus on your primary service category and primary location with both your SEO efforts and PPC campaigns, that’s the 20% effort needed to get 80% of results.