Where should I market my private investigations agency?

I own a small private investigations firm in North Dakota. I have a fairly small team, 3 investigators total. I want to market my private investigations website using SEO & Google Adwords.  Should I market my website at a local level? Or should I cast a wider net to a state wide level?

As private investigators we don’t have service areas or specific regions in which we serve our clients. We’re technically limited to how far we’re willing to travel – assuming we’re licensed within that area. Because of that, you want to market your service in the areas that you can reach within your budget; City Wide, County Wide, State Wide, Regionally, or National. Regardless of your market area, you need to understand the costs associated with your decision.

I would recommend starting at a local level. Typically, this means having an SEO campaign to target “Your City private investigator”. This type of campaign makes it easy for people to find you online when they are searching for a private investigator in a specific city.

This type of marketing tends to help outsiders find your agency on major search engines. Try to place yourself in the position of a client in need: if you need a subcontractor in Arlington Texas, do you search for “Texas Private Investigator” or do you search for “Arlington Texas Private Investigator?” The chances are that you will start in Arlington since that’s the area you are looking to get covered. In general, we tend to search for very specific keywords when we’re searching for a service.

A common mistake that we oftentimes see our clients make, is geographically miss targeting their campaigns. They tend to setup their websites as a “County Private Investigator” or “South *insert state* Private Investigator“. For example, mostly everyone knows that Austin is the capital of Texas. As an outsider, when you need a private investigator in Austin, you tend to search for “Austin Texas Private Investigator”. Not many people know that Austin lies within Travis County. In this example, labeling your company as “Travis County Private Investigator” will exclude the outsiders searching for your company that have no idea that Travis is even a county in Texas. The same applies when you label your company in a region.

When was the last time you said “Let’s go to Cook County” when you were referring about Chicago Illinois?

Marketing at a county level, or state wide level does not typically work in your favor. With the advent of GPS in virtually every mobile device, most search engines are starting to focus on localized results. It would be advantageous for your company to be labeled as a local leader. Once you have established a local presence, then you can grow your website to target different cities within your vicinity. While this is typically more expensive and time consuming, the results are far better than focusing on an entire state.

Can you really afford the price of servicing an entire state?

A very important fact to consider when you cast a large net is the price associated with the cast. As an example, we’ve had clients market their services as State Wide Agencies only to realize that people are searching for their services as far as 8 hours away from home. Charging a client for mileage is simply not fair in this circumstance. Imagine if you hired a local plumber to fix your bathroom and he had to drive out to your location 8 hours away and charged you mileage. Is that your fault? Why is he advertising in your area if he’s not local? If you’re going to offer a service at a state wide level, it is usually recommended to clearly identify billing points – within reason; typically this includes all major cities. OR, you can hire sub contractors… which cuts into your profits, opens you up to liabilities, and puts your quality and “name” on other people’s hands.

In conclusion, I would focus on local oriented marking strategies and then grow your website and marketing plan as you begin to gain traction in your market area. If you need help, we can help you establish a viable and affordable marketing solution that fits your needs.