The Key Differences Between Regular and Local Keyword Research

Regular or "global" keyword research is meant to be widespread; whereas local keyword research is meant to be more targeted.

Because of this key difference -- especially outside of large urban centers -- finding and listing local keywords can definitely be much more difficult than finding "global" keywords. The challenge is determining the search volume of your local market. Where there are fewer searches in a local region, there is less data from which to rely.

The Best Way to Do Local Keyword Research for SEO

There are two ways to conduct local keyword research. First, we can use a "global" tool -- tools like Google Adwords, listed later in this article -- and use it to narrow the otherwise "global" advertising down to a more desirable target market.

Otherwise, we'd want to create a list of localized search terms. This list would include the area codes, zip codes, cities, counties, regions, and neighborhoods in a local target market. Using this method, we'd first target our more general primary keywords ("yoga", "fitness", etc.) along with all of our more specific, locally qualified keywords ("yoga beverly hills california", "yoga 90210", etc.).

Using a Global Tool

This process firstly involves generating a broad list of keyword targets, and ends with filtering down that list to a local region in the advertising backend of the advertising network being used. Generating a long list is a great place to start, considering a long list of related keywords (a.k.a. the terms people use to describe our site, themselves, our product, service, or industry, etc.) is always handy.

Keywords on this list may range wildly at first, so we need lots of rich information to make great decisions about which keywords on the list are important.

We need to understand which of these keywords could actually bring your site traffic; which keywords are "low hanging fruit" vs. which may feel too competitive; and for which keywords our site already has content to present as a landing page vs. what content we may perhaps need to blog about.

After we understand these things, it's a matter of prioritization of our originally long list of keywords -- to focus energy on the keywords we feel are our best bets, first and foremost.

  1. Generate a list of as many relevant keywords as possible.
  2. Collect relative traffic data about this keyword list.
  3. Understand the relative competitiveness of this keyword list.
  4. Assign keywords on this list to their relevant pages on your site, or develop new posts or pages for these targeted keywords.
  5. Prioritize the keyword list.

At this point, we have developed a very useful long list of keywords related to our product, service, industry, customer, etc.

Now, we can bring our list of keywords to a global tool, the advertiser backend of which we'll use to filter our list down to a local region.

Let's step back a moment to step #1 and look at how to generate that first long list of as many relevant keywords as possible.

Different tools are appropriate for different tasks.

With paid search advertising, you can target specific regions and geographies with geographic targeting options in the ad serving. Since keyword volume is key to develop wide-reaching paid search advertising, using multiple tools to generate long keyword lists is even more effective. Below are links to several keyword research tools to use to generate lots of keywords (besides the extremely popular Google Analytics Keyword Tool):

In addition to these sources, you'll find a gold mine of smart terms to include in your targeted keyword set by analyzing your site's Google Analytics data (or other source of data recording the keywords visitors to your site searched for to find the site).
Although moving forward a long list of keywords -- filtered by location inside the advertising backend -- is okay with paid search advertising, SEO demands a slightly more thoughtful approach since the top few keywords for each page so dramatically influences the rankings of that page, and affects internal site organization. Prioritization and following the Pareto Principle are especially important for applying this method to a site's SEO -- so, too, is applying the next method, creating a list of localized search terms.

Creating a List of Localized Search Terms

You can use a spreadsheet program like Excel or OpenOffice, or use online tools to append local terms (like area codes and city names) to your primary keywords list:

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