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Keyword Research for a Local Business

Keyword research is essential to SEO, but I’m often challenged by the fact that it’s hard to get good local information for a local key-phrase using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. Maybe someday they’ll get better at showing us the valuable nuggets of information hidden in the dark niches of their servers. But for now we have to live with what we have.

So what are our options for local keyword research?

We’ll, if you get lucky you’ll actually get some results using the Google Adwords Tool. But the results will be hit or miss unless you live in a large metro area.

As I mentioned previously, Google actually does provide you with a decent tool to study trends with their Google Insights For Search Tool. This is a great option to study industry and local trends and see how different terms compare.

But what’s great about this tool is that it does actually show you the relative keyword volume for terms that are fairly niche queries in smaller cities.

For example, I live close to Canton Ohio, a small city about an hour south of Cleveland. Therefore, I might be working with a local bakery that wants to rank locally for what they do. Everyone loves baked goods but how many people REALLY search online for a local bakery in Canton?

(Bakery Canton Ohio) Whalah. Keyword Gold! (Kinda)

So here is a cool graph showing the volume of the key-phrase “bakery Canton Ohio”, but how do you use it?

Are those numbers on the right side showing the number of searches performed for this phrase?

Unfortunately, no.

From Google: “The numbers on the graph reflect how many searches have been done for a particular term, relative to the total number of searches done on Google over time. They don’t represent absolute search volume numbers, because the data is normalized and presented on a scale from 0-100. Each point on the graph is divided by the highest point, or 100.”

Um, yea, so what they hell does that mean?

The answer is that it’s simply a representation of the overall volume of searches for this term. The bottom line is obviously your timeline and the numbers on the right side show the frequency of searches.

Your takeaway? Yes! People ARE searching for this term locally. But it’s up to you to determine if it’s ultimately worth pursuing it and if it makes sense based on your available budget and resources.

So how do we take this to the next level? 

I simply compare my terms like this to other key-phrases, other cities that are close to me and eventually larger metropolitan areas. The tools allows you to analyze serveral terms at once so it will give you an idea how individual terms stack up locally and how they compare in other geo-locations. This is valuable data that can help you make better decisions.

For example, here are the bakery search terms for several larger cities in Ohio. The smallest city (Canton) is still on the radar which is positive sign and you can see how it compares to other cities.

The key to determining local, niche keyword volume:

Ready for this? Now that we know how our small city stacks up against our big cities, do a search for your largest city term using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. From here you can determine an estimated number of searches for the small cities.

Bakery Cleveland Ohio = 2400 searches/mo. on average so you can guess that Canton Ohio probably has around 15-20% of that volume. (Excuse my fuzzy math)

Whahoo! Real data! Ok, well kinda. But it’s better than nothing.

Bonus nuggets of keyword love

All this trend information and guessing is great, BUT, we need real data. I want to wrap my hands around real keywords. I want to know what’s important and what I need to focus my energies on!

Well, scroll down the page and Google will give you a few nuggets that are highly valuable. (Search Showing: Bakery New York City) As you can see they show you “top searches” and “rising searches”. Since bakery is a general term you can feel somewhat safe applying these same key phrases and trends to smaller cities. (This may not always be the case so you’ll need to put your thinking cap on.)

Pick out the good stuff and you’ll have new ideas about where you should focus your energies going forward!

What observations can I make from this data?

  1. Branding is important. Maybe more important than ranking in searches. People do seek out businesses by name.
  2. People tend to use the keyword before the city
  3. Explore niches. Maybe cupcakes, wedding cakes, cake decorator, etc. are terms to explore.

There’s a lot of good data in these simple pages if you take the time to analyze what you’re given. If you use this data creatively as I’ve shown you’ll be better armed to make good decisions about the local key-phrases that matter the most.

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About Chris Auman:

Chris Auman is a veteran digital marketer with over 25 years of experience in the trenches. As Sanctuary’s founder and President, Chris has successfully guided online marketing efforts for companies large and small.

Learn more about Chris.

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