This great question came in today from Mary Ann:
I am helping a small dance/fitness business with local SEO. Keyword research yields zero (0) search volumes (Keyword Discovery) for keyword terms once I add the location or any variation on the location/general area (Westport, Connecticut). Any suggestions as to the best keyword strategy in such cases?
My guess is that almost everyone involved in local SEO has run into this problem; I know I have. As much as I love Keyword Discovery, it has its limits (like every tool out there). In Mary Ann’s case, neither Keyword Discovery nor Wordtracker show results for possibly prime terms like “westport fitness club” and “westport dance studio.”
So, here’s a list of what I’d do next if I’m working with the client Mary Ann describes:
1.) Do non-local keyword research
The first thing I’d so is stay on Keyword Discovery and forget that this is a local client. Just do research on the industry/business terms. Find out if “dance club” is generally a stronger phrase than “dance studio.” Find out if “fitness club” is stronger than “fitness center.” Find out if “fitness dance studio” is a strong term. Look for appropriate misspellings and related terms. Do all the keyword research you would normally do, just without the location-related terms. Generate a list of relevant non-geographic terms and save it.
2.) Add geographic terms to that list
Once you have your list of industry-related terms, it’s pretty easy to just add the appropriate city, town, county, neighborhood, and other geographic terms as modifiers. If you’re dealing with a small geographic coverage area, this shouldn’t take long. If it’s a big coverage area, use this local keyword generator tool. In Mary Ann’s case, she’d input her non-geographic terms, a central zip code, and a radius, and the tool will spit out a list of keywords that mashes it all together. Mary Ann will probably need to prune that list because (like all tools) it’s not perfect.
But, at this point, we now have a big list of keywords that includes well-researched industry terms with appropriate geographic modifiers. The only problem is that we don’t know for sure how strong any of the individual keywords are.
3.) Try other keyword research tools
The Google AdWords keyword tool draws a blank when you type in “westport fitness club”, but it does show some numbers for “westport fitness.”
Again, that’s not perfect, but it’s progress. Using related keywords like “westport gym” and changing to nearby city names like Norwalk or Fairfield should help create new keywords and/or confirm those already on the list. On a related note…
4.) Pretend you’re in a larger city.
Since Westport seems too small to generate a lot of good keyword data, I might pretend I’m in a larger city nearby and see if there’s good keyword data for that area. Hartford might be a good substitute for Westport, and if that doesn’t work, I might even try Boston. True, many cities have their own language, but there should still be some good insights to be had by substituting a nearby city’s name.
5.) Use Internet yellow pages for keyword ideas
You can go to Superpages.com, for example, and type the word “fitness” to see a list of related categories — note that you’ll have to hit the ENTER button twice, because the first time it demands a location. Just click again and you’ll get a page like this with several dozen category names in the left column. Each one that matches your client’s business is a potential keyword. And you can take these category names and redo the keyword research you did earlier.
(Note: It’s not a yellow pages site, but you can also browse categories with Google’s Search-based keyword tool.)
6.) Setup a PPC account
This is the best way, in my opinion, to do local keyword research, especially when you’ve hit a dead end with the traditional tools. Unfortunately, it’s not free like the options above. But setting up a PPC account, even one with a smaller budget, will give you exact keyword counts for all the terms you bid on. The danger is that, if you set your budget too low, your keywords won’t show enough to collect good keyword data.
What I would do is take the keyword list I’ve built via the previous items on this list and create several keyword groups and ads, run a campaign and watch over time to see which keywords get searched.
Your turn: How would you have answered Mary Ann’s question? What did I get wrong or right in my reply? Comments are yours…