Local Keyword Research: 3 Ways to Use Google

The foundation to any search marketing campaign begins with extensive keyword research to identify what search queries are likely to drive the highest ROI. The tools available for mining and identifying these keywords are extensive, but often the best place to start is at the search engines themselves.

1. Google Autocomplete

Google Autocomplete can often be a good resource when conducting any keyword research, and that goes double for local keyword research.

Google's Autocomplete essentially gives the user a list of similar options based on the keyword typed in using an algorithm that aims to match user intent and indexed pages. These will help you identify new opportunities that are most related to your primary keywords.

google-autocomplete-chicago-shoe

In the image above, Google is suggesting keywords related to "Chicago shoe". Creating content related to the Chicago Shoe Expo may be an opportunity previously overlooked by local businesses looking to attract new customers.

Note: Because this is customized based on history and a user's account, you will want to log out and delete your web history before utilizing for any research.

2. Google's Shifting Search Queries

As Google continues to roll out updates, it will keep changing the way searches are performed.

Recently a colleague of mine identified how Google is changing search terms as searchers click on a link to Google Maps from a search results page on Google.com. Once on Google Maps, clicking to view the top results changes the search query yet again.

Here's a quick example using "shoe stores in Chicago" as the starting keyword:

google-maps-shoes-stores-in-chicago

When you click on Maps, Google changes the search query to "shoe stores near Chicago, IL."

google-maps-shoes-stores-near-chicago

Once you click on "Go to list of top results," the search changes to "shoe stores" on a revised version of Google Places.

google-go-to-list-of-top-results-shoe-stores

Knowing which queries Google is pushing users toward is another good place to start when defining what keywords to build SEM campaigns around.

3. Search Patterns by Location of User

You can also look at specific geographic locations and their effect on what searchers see. Changing your location to New York City yields different results in Google's Autocomplete suggestions when compared to Chicago.

google-search-patterns-by-geographic-location

Alternatively, using the term sneakers in lieu of shoes provides still more different suggestions.

google-sneakers-search

Summary

When using Google for local keyword research, queries can differ based on Autocomplete, geographic location, regional usage, and even what part of Google you're using; so make sure to use all of them.

As Google continues to refine the local part of their index, more opportunities for discovering new keyword opportunities will present themselves to marketers savvy enough to take advantage of them.

About the author

Adam Dorfman is an interactive marketing professional with over 15 years experience in all facets of online marketing including local & organic search, pay per click, paid inclusion, email, RSS/XML driven advertising, ad networks, social networking, blogging, website analytics, usability and offline integration as well as web development, hosting, networking and project management.

At SIM Partners, Adam drives product strategy for the Local Search Platform as well as working on traditional SEO engagements for clients with enterprise level sites. Selected to be a contributor to David Mihm’s “Local Search Ranking Factors” study, Adam is considered to be an expert in the local search space and spends the majority of his time these days immersed in it.