Last year I did a lot of writing around the web focused on local keyword research, so much so that I had vowed not to do any content on the subject matter in 2014, but alas here we are and I'm doing another piece on local keyword research. Overall the fundamentals of local keyword research haven't changed, and I'll even be recapping some of the methods I've outlined before with some updated info based on recent changes to Google's local products and just the overall change in the local search climate, but more importantly I'll be sharing some insights into possible keyword research tactics for the future.
Google's Keyword Planner
While it's been around for a while, Google's Keyword Planner is still a good place to start your local keyword research. Using terminology related to your business or your industry you can identify search volume behind your keyword ideas and also get an output of keywords similar in themes. When doing local keyword research it is best to add a local modifier to the query if using the default settings of the Keyword Planner and to use variations of keyword formatting. For instance if you were a dentist you would want to run "City Dentist" as well as "Dentist City" just to see if searchers prefer one format over the other.
Getting Local Data
One great feature for local SEO's in Google's Keyword Planner is that you can actually drill down to the Country, State, or even City level for your keyword research.
By default Keyword Planner is set to All Locations, but you can easily add a geographic target to your keywords to find out just how many searches a specific keyword or set of keywords gets in a specific geographic location. Just make sure that your targeting is set to only one area at a time, as it will skew the numbers if you have Country, State, and City all selected at the same time.
While Keyword Planner definitely provides more keyword insights than the past keyword tool provided it can oftentimes still under-report or not list keywords that actually have some interest from Google searchers. As a backup to localized queries I will always use the tool ubersuggest just to make sure that people aren't interested in the localized query.
Though it's a keyword research method I've previously outlined, Google Trends is still another great data set for understanding how people are searching in a specific region. If Google's Keyword Planner doesn't uncover much data for you, Google Trends may bring insights into broader keywords used in a region and also provide insights into the growth or decline of the use of certain words. Like Google's Keyword Planner, Google Trends can be filtered to narrow down trend data to specific geographic locations including Country, State, and City. It can also give you insights into how different terminology has fared over time. For example the word "exterminator" versus "pest control" in the example below shows how the two words have fared since 2004 in the Los Angeles, CA region.
Even in a (not provided) world, Google Analytics can still provide some valuable insights from a keyword research perspective. Sure, you might not get full data, but you may be able to pull some partial data to at least understand if there is interest behind certain keywords related to your website. If your website has been established for a while and you're just now conducting keyword research you can use Google Analytics to identify queries in your keyword data that include location modifiers (e.g. "City name keyword.") There are also two more keyword sets that can aid you in your local keyword research that may be worth looking into. First, your organic keywords data can be filtered by City to see what terms are driving traffic from locations you are interested in targeting. Simply select Users > City under the Secondary Dimension dropdown and you'll see a list of terms as well as where they were searched from. As an added bonus, this method shows you locations where searches are being conducted that you may not have been currently targeting.
Bonus: If you've connected your Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools accounts you can also collect additional keyword data that may be hidden by the (not provided) bucket with your Webmaster Tools search query data. Simply select Search Engine Optimization from your Google Analytics account and then queries.
Google My Business
If you've already staked your claim in the local search space, you may already have a listing in Google My Business (formerly Google+ Local, Places, etc.) The platform, which has married Google Places and Google+ into a single location, still provides some great insights that can be of value when conducting keyword research, or better yet expanding keyword research. Like the old Google Places dashboard, Google My Business features data related to where people requesting driving directions for your business are located. By reviewing this data under the Insights section, you can identify other cities or zip codes worth doing research around.
Local search expert Andrew Shotland recently uncovered an interesting finding in how Google has begun to identify and categorize certain subsections of cities. With this discovery creates a whole new opportunity for keyword research in the future. Beyond just cities, states, or countries, local businesses may soon be able to target certain neighborhoods or city subsections not previously recognized or leveraged by Google and other local search providers.
As I pointed out in a follow up discussion regarding the post, this sort of categorization has already been getting a lot of attention from local apps like Foursquare, who have been actively collecting data from their users on neighborhoods and neighborhood nicknames. If this is any indication that the local search space will begin segmenting locations further, there may be an opportunity for leveraging the use of these keywords within your site's copy. I wouldn't make them the focal point of your keyword research, as the tools outlined above still provide more substantial data around how people are search, but if Google is recognizing certain neighborhoods, and Foursquare has established data for some local neighborhoods it may be worth at least the mention in the rare chance it might give you a slight bump in how Google classifies your site locally.