LOCAL Keyword Research Tools and Tricks


Linda Buquet

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In my Local SEO training course I teach how it's imperative to optimize the home page (or the specific location landing page) for the the very best key phrase variation(s). But LOCAL keyword research can be tricky. In some parts of the country certain keyword variations or synonyms get more searches than others.

But as you know, the Google Adwords tool does not typically do local keyword research very well and often comes up with a big goose egg when you search for City + Keyword. Or if you use the Google KW tool check if City + Keyword or Keyword + City gets more searches it will show the same numbers, with no distinction. So it can be difficult to figure out which variations have the most search volume.

Google Insights for Search WAS of the coolest tools to drill down and do some serious LOCAL keyword research. I was working on screen shots a couple weeks ago. Then last week Google merged it into the new improved Google Trends and a lot of features are different so I had to start over. I don't like the new combo tool quite as well for local, but it still shows way more local info than the Adwords keywords tool does.

As an added bonus, at the bottom I'll share a couple other oldie but goodie keyword tools that let you get more local keyword insights than the main Google keyword tool gives you.

OK, screenshot city, here we come...


What get's more searches?
Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney OR Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer?


Google Adwords Keyword Tool

<img src="http://marketing-blog.catalystemarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/LAPIAdwords.jpg" alt="" title="LAPIAdwords" width="640" height="100" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-6764" />

(No distinction between keyword counts)


<hr style="background-color: #6699cc; color: #6699cc; text-align: center; height: 3px; width: 90%;" />

Google Trends

<img src="http://marketing-blog.catalystemarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/LAPITrends2.jpg" alt="" title="LAPITrends2" width="717" height="286" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-6765" />

(That's a little better!)​

Now we can see Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney gets about twice as many searches as Lawyer does.

NOTE: Numbers in Google Trends are not KW counts, they are relative. "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.


<hr style="background-color: #6699cc; color: #6699cc; text-align: center; height: 3px; width: 90%;" />

Additionally, as I've said a few times in the past, most consumers search without a geo modifier!
A great majority or LOCAL searches are for key phrase only without city. However if you just check keyword volume in Adwords you may be missing important geo-modified search distinctions a generic keyword search won't show you. You can't select location and search for just KW as you can with Trends.


What gets more searches in LA with NO GEO Modifier?
personal injury attorney OR personal injury lawyer


Google Trends

<img src="http://marketing-blog.catalystemarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/LAPITrends.jpg" alt="" title="LAPITrends" width="582" height="304" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-6767" />

(Attorney by a good margin)


<hr style="background-color: #6699cc; color: #6699cc; text-align: center; height: 3px; width: 90%;" />

What gets more searches in NEW YORK with NO GEO Modifier?
personal injury attorney OR personal injury lawyer


Google Trends

<img src="http://marketing-blog.catalystemarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/NYPITrends.jpg" alt="" title="NYPITrends" width="586" height="297" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-6768" />

(Ha! East Coasters like PI Lawyer better than PI Attorney. Good to know!)


<hr style="background-color: #6699cc; color: #6699cc; text-align: center; height: 3px; width: 90%;" />

What gets more searches?
Los Angeles Dentist OR Dentist Los Angeles


Google Adwords Keyword Tool

<img src="http://marketing-blog.catalystemarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/LADentistAdwordsTool.jpg" alt="" title="LADentistAdwordsTool" width="643" height="132" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-6770" />

(Working blind again!)


<hr style="background-color: #6699cc; color: #6699cc; text-align: center; height: 3px; width: 90%;" />

Google Trends

<img src="http://marketing-blog.catalystemarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/LADentistGTrends.jpg" alt="" title="LADentistGTrends" width="723" height="654" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-6771" />

(Trends shows same volume but give ideas of volume for plurals and other variations)

<hr style="background-color: #6699cc; color: #6699cc; text-align: center; height: 3px; width: 90%;" />
HERE ARE A COUPLE OTHER FREE TOOLS THAT SHOW LOCAL KW VOLUME

<hr style="background-color: #6699cc; color: #6699cc; text-align: center; height: 3px; width: 90%;" />

Los Angeles Dentist - SEM RUSH (Free)

<img src="http://marketing-blog.catalystemarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/LADentistSemrush.jpg" alt="" title="LADentistSemrush" width="650" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-6772" />

<hr style="background-color: #6699cc; color: #6699cc; text-align: center; height: 3px; width: 90%;" />

Los Angeles Dentist - WordTracker (Free)


<img src="http://marketing-blog.catalystemarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/LADentistWordTracker.jpg" alt="" title="LADentistWordTracker" width="650" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-6773" />​

Anyone have another other good LOCAL keyword research tools to share?
 

Linda Buquet

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SIDE NOTE: I'm seriously considering breaking out a separate forum section for Local SEO tools which would include posts like this one, other how to posts, updates and news about tools like Whitespark, Bright Local, Places Scout and other products and FREE TOOLS you should have in your local toolbox.

Now that the forum is starting to grow (we're only 2 months old) and there are so many posts to dig through to find things, I just think it's time to break into a couple more sub cats.

In the meantime I have a bunch of great Local SEO tools, many of them free - listed @ my blog.
Places Software & Local SEO Tools
 

Dr Gil

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Linda,

Great article. As you have mentioned to me in the past that there are differences. Some are quite surprising in your results.
 

tjmccue

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Linda, I don't understand how WordTracker or SEMRush can pull local data like that if you can't see it yourself in Adwords KW tool? I thought they only had API access to the same data that Google reveals in its own tools.

Awesome post, btw!
 
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What a fantastic post, Linda!!! And I like the idea of breaking out a Tools section.

I confess, I am still a little bit puzzled about tools like SEMRush, Wordtracker, etc., and the volumes they provide. It has always been my understanding that no keyword tool provides accurate local search volumes because, in order to do so, they would need to have data centers in each city/region. What do you know about this? Has this changed? This is my understanding of why the Google Adwords Keyword Tool can't be counted on either. I would value further discussion on this.
 

Linda Buquet

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Linda, I don't understand how WordTracker or SEMRush can pull local data like that if you can't see it yourself in Adwords KW tool? I thought they only had API access to the same data that Google reveals in its own tools.

Awesome post, btw!
Thanks!

Ya I'm not sure. Back in the day, like 5 - 10 years ago when I was doing lots of regular organic SEO I used to keep track of which KW tool did what and where they pulled their data from. But have not looked into it for years.

And to be honest I have not looked at WordTracker or SEMRush for local before. Just was doing research for other tools to beef up this post and checked them and saw they were reporting local counts. But have not researched beyond what you see in the screenshots.

If anyone knows or finds out, please post. :)
 

Linda Buquet

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What a fantastic post, Linda!!! And I like the idea of breaking out a Tools section.

I confess, I am still a little bit puzzled about tools like SEMRush, Wordtracker, etc., and the volumes they provide. It has always been my understanding that no keyword tool provides accurate local search volumes because, in order to do so, they would need to have data centers in each city/region. What do you know about this? Has this changed? This is my understanding of why the Google Adwords Keyword Tool can't be counted on either. I would value further discussion on this.
Well the way I look at KW research is the same as I look at comparing different analytics tools. They all count stuff differently and typically none of the numbers are exactly right.

So I look at them more for relative comparative analysis. In general if 3 tools tell me "this key phrase" pulls better than "that key phrase" I'll believe the 1st phrase gets MORE searches, but I'm not betting on anyone's numbers being accurate per se.

"It has always been my understanding that no keyword tool provides accurate local search volumes because, in order to do so, they would need to have data centers in each city/region. What do you know about this? Has this changed?"

Well Trends seems to do a decent job in major metros with GEO targeting search volume, but again who knows how they get that data.
 

Phil Rozek

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Hey Linda,

Great post! I really like your method of triangulating. I tend to lean too much on Google Keyword Tool, so weaving some Trends into it would be a good idea.

Thanks for the intel!
 

Linda Buquet

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Thanks Phil,

Just realized I should have mentioned at the start how I NORMALLY do keyword research. I just use the Adwords tool and don't worry about city to just find the most popular core keyword combos, realizing that based on the size of city it will naturally get a certain percentage of those searches.

So all these tools are just icing on the cake for when you are in a situation where you want to get more granular data. I would not waste time using all these for every client, just in certain situations were I need to dig a little deeper.
 

Linda Buquet

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Oh another thing I forgot to mention is PLURALS and these tools can be helpful for researching comparative volumes there too.

Realize that for MANY types of local searches the majority of consumers search for plural.
City plumbers, City Dentists etc.

AND many SMBs don't think to optimize for plurals, so it can be a pretty easy win sometimes.
:)

(Wish I'd added the last 2 posts to the initial thread BUT then it would have been too long.
So many tips in my head, Wish I could just do a brain dump for you guys.)
 
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Really good points here, specifically regarding difference in usage of synonymous words. There is a great research about pops vs. soda vs. coke which is on a similar topic. I also explored something similar in an article of mine, but it was more about local search WITH geo-modifier vs. local search WITHOUT geo-modifier, i.e. searches for "personal injury attorney pasadena" vs. searches for "personal injury attorney" that are actually performed by users that are physically located in Pasadena.
 

Linda Buquet

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Wow Nyag that article you wrote in August is really robust and covers some other geo search issues.
I missed it so thanks for sharing it here for our readers!
 

JoyHawkins

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Linda,

This is great! I never knew about the location changing setting on Google Trends. I'm gonna check that out!

If you want to get more accurate data from the Google Keyword tool, change the match type on the left from broad to exact or phrase match (exact is what you'd want if you are looking for that specific keyword). I did this with your example and here's what I got: Google AdWords: Keyword Tool | Diigo
 

Linda Buquet

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If you want to get more accurate data from the Google Keyword tool, change the match type on the left from broad to exact or phrase match (exact is what you'd want if you are looking for that specific keyword). I did this with your example and here's what I got: Google AdWords: Keyword Tool | Diigo
Ahhh, good tip Joy. I know about exact match, but didn't use it and really never thought about it helping in this specific type of example. Plus I never do KW research any more so am a little out of practice on taking deep dives. But wow, makes a big difference! Thanks for sharing and taking time to do the screenshot!
 
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So here is a thought... I just ran 5 Google Places categories through Google Trends, all 5 are relevant for a given client and the results are certainly revealing. It certainly does seem to indicate which categories are the strongest and would make the most sense to reinforce.

Example:

  • Divorce Attorney
  • Family Law Attorney

Given these two categories, Divorce Attorney trends much higher than Family Law Attorney. Good to know!
 
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Joy:

Thanks for posting this. I was going to chime in with the same tip. When trying to determine which keyword is most popular, I always use exact match. I'll then move to phrase match and look at those results - as well as the related searches Google recommends. By doing this you can get a real good idea of which keyword is the one to target:)

Travis Van Slooten

Linda,

This is great! I never knew about the location changing setting on Google Trends. I'm gonna check that out!

If you want to get more accurate data from the Google Keyword tool, change the match type on the left from broad to exact or phrase match (exact is what you'd want if you are looking for that specific keyword). I did this with your example and here's what I got: Google AdWords: Keyword Tool | Diigo
 

Nick Rink

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Google Trends/Insights here in the UK doesn't drill down as far as city unfortunately but it does still give a pretty good picture of what's popular.

For related keywords there's a tool called Ubersuggest which works well. Using one of the examples from above, if you type in "divorce attorney chicago" for example, you get all of the Google Related keyword phrases. You can then copy & paste them into the Keyword Tool and see what looks interesting. It can help to uncover a few golden nuggets.
 

Linda Buquet

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Oh Yay Nick! I almost added Uber in original post, then decided it was too long and meant to come back to add to add as reply later but forgot. :eek:

So THANKS!!! :)

Ubersuggest pulls in part from Google suggest so can be great for related keyword research. Does not give volume or anything. So like Nick said, then you need to go to check the popularity in another KW tool. But it's great for KW brainstorming.

For example here is a search for Dallas Dentist - Ubersuggest
 

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