I've talked a lot about keyword research as of late, this is partly due to the fact that with (not provided) sneaking into the mix it's hard to mine keyword ideas from existing site analytics, but also because when it comes to local SEO it can be harder to identify keywords to target, especially in niche markets. Back in October I shared a way to use Google Trends to fine tune your local keyword research, but this month I'd like to talk about another way to uncover the best keywords to target for your local campaign using paid search.

I've recently been working with a local client who practices structural integration, or rolfing, a special kind of deep tissue massage. His business is very niche and there isn't a whole lot of competition to borrow from when it comes to understanding how people are searching and worst of all we were working with a new site with no past analytics data.

To get things started I wanted to better understand how people found this type of business so I head over to some of my favorite keyword tools to see what I could find. As you can probably guess, the local search traffic for these sorts of keywords was non-existent in most keyword tools. Next, I attempted the Google Trends method outlined in my previous post. That too netted zero results in the area the client practiced. Running out of options, I finally made a suggestion. Why not run a small paid search campaign within a radius around your business and see what most people are looking for.

To start out we did some broad keyword research to better understand how most people in the U.S. searched for this sort of therapy. We were able to narrow it down to a handful of core terms that most people seemed to be using that had a decent amount of search traffic nationally. We then built a handful of ad groups targeting the various keywords and we were ready to go.

The client was willing to travel up to 60 miles to see his clients, so we set the campaign target radius to 60 miles around his office and let the campaign loose. Not a service area business? That's ok, simply set your radius to a reasonable distance that you feel customers would typically travel from to visit the business you are doing research for.

After just a couple of weeks we had plenty of keyword data to get us started and to better understand the local market and how people were searching for his type of business. Best of all, we didn't have to expel the entire paid search budget to get the data we needed. Google AdWords provides query data for both clicks and impressions, so even if your campaign is under-performing you still have the data to work from organically.

Ad Words search query data

After you've run your campaigns long enough to feel you've secured enough keyword data, simply apply what you've learned to your SEO keyword targeting and you'll be well on your way.