OK, here is a classic math problem with a “local search” twist:
- At 10:45 a.m., Jim gets on a computer in Norfolk, VA and searches for real estate license information.
- Pam gets on a computer in Charlotte, NC one hour later and searches for real estate license information.
- What does an Internet marketer need to do to target both of these audiences?
Answer? Local SEO campaigns (sorry, the “time” element of the equation was irrelevant).
There is little debating that local search is the future of search engine optimization – and, more generally, the future of Internet marketing. There are already a number of different tactics and techniques that are all part of a savvy marketer’s toolkit. These includes claiming and optimizing Google Places listings for all of your physical businesses.
But relying solely on Google Places, Yahoo! Local, Yelp, and other local listings will significantly limit your local search campaigns (especially if your business doesn’t have traditional brick-and-mortar locations).
A truly effective local search campaign requires a local content strategy. And by local content strategy, we mean:
- Identifying your target regions
- Performing local SEO keyword research for your top products/services in these regions
- Creating unique content tailored to the search demand of each region
What we DO NOT mean by local content strategy is creating 20 versions of the exact same page by simply substituting the names of different cities and states. This kind of local search strategy is scrutinized now more than ever by Google following the Panda update.
But white, black, green or blue hat tactics aside, the most important part of any local content strategy is keyword research.
The Google Adwords Keyword Tool is a good place to start, particularly when you want to find and compare search volume on keywords using a geographic modifier:
The keyword tool also attempts to estimate the amount of local search volume for your terms. However, this number is based on Google’s estimate of search traffic in your current location (so in our case, people in Columbus Ohio searching “real estate license nc”). This is not very helpful if you are not physically in the location of your research target.
In order to justify adding a region to a local SEO campaign (or maybe even to justify creating one in the first place), you are probably going to need more detailed information.
Enter Google Insights for Search.
This tool allows you to compare the search “interest” of various keywords over time in multiple geographic areas. You can also fine tune your comparison and filter by search type (web, image, news, or even product).
Once you enter your search term(s) and select the regions you want to compare, the tool first provides you with a graphical representation of the interest in your search term(s) over time in the selected regions:
Under this graph, you can view a more specific breakdown of each state selected. The interface provides you with a map of search “interest” broken down by the top metro areas in the state. The tool currently will include some metro areas from other states if they are geographically close (e.g. the map below includes the New York City and Washington metro areas).
Finally, the tool also provides a list of top search keywords for that state, related to your initial keyword term(s). It even goes so far as to provide insight to search terms that are rising rapidly in search volume.
Obviously, the tool provides ample possibilities for comparing as many different data sets as you can imagine – which, of course, is a true SEO keyword researcher’s dream.
Things really start to get interesting when you use Insights for Search and the Adwords Keyword Tool in tandem. Use the Keyword tool to find an initial set of data and then migrate that to Insights for Search for deeper analysis. Then, take the recommended keywords from Insights to explore more possibilities in the Keyword Tool. After a few rounds of back and forth you should be able to create and ultra targeted keyword list for each region in your local search campaign.
For example, you may find that the phrase “real estate license + the abbreviated form of each state” is a good keyword to use on all pages. But then you may find different variations are better in different areas. So you might determine that the best strategy is to target “real estate classes” in Pennsylvania, but then target “real estate license renewal” in North Carolina.
You can also check out Google Sets for even more local keyword research ideas.
Now that you have your dynamic list of regional keywords, you can begin creating your content strategy. Need help determining how to use these keywords in the creation of your content? Webbed Marketing can help.