Market Samurai is an excellent piece of software for SEO planning, analysis, and tracking, but did you know that it can also be used as a local keyword research tool?
Here are some tips on how to use it to plan your SEO or Adwords campaigns.
About Local Keyword Research
In previous articles, we have talked about how business listings and citations with the properly formatted phone and address information are at the center of local SEO efforts. Just as important to your local SEO campaign, however, is having the right keywords in the description fields of those business listings. Business owners may also be interested in placing a Google Adwords campaign in order to gain prominence in local search results, and knowing the right keywords is important for this also.
How-To Video Tutorial for Part 1: Know Your Market
Check out this screencast of how to use Market Samurai for local keyword research. We go more in-depth in the rest of this article, but the video can be a good place to start before coming back to the article for more information.
Before You Begin, Know Your Market!
Become familiar with the names of cities, counties, neighborhoods, boroughs, etc. in the region that you’re targeting.
For example, we are located in the Hampton Roads area of Southeastern Virginia, USA.
Hampton Roads, Virginia is a region with several cities, counties, etc. The first thing we did is develop a list of the names of these cities and counties that we thought people might be searching for when looking for local businesses. It doesn’t matter if the list is 100% complete because through our research we’ll discover which ones people are actually including in their search queries for local services.
So our list looked something like this when we began:
isle of wight
james city county
Including State Names and Abbreviations For Local Keyword Research
Since the list of cities in the above example are in the state of Virginia, we also added the word “Virginia” and the abbreviation “VA” to the end of each keyword.
Note: there’s no need for commas or capitalization here.
virginia beach va
virginia beach virginia
This is particularly relevant because there are several city names such as Norfolk, Portsmouth, Yorktown and Williamsburg in other states. We may still end up targeting these without the state name, but it is helpful to know what people are searching for.
The final version of the list included the city name by itself and the city name with the state name and abbreviation for each city in Hampton Roads, VA. We also included the keyword hampton roads as well. That list was then pasted into the Keyword Research module of Market Samurai, which yielded the following information:
SEOT – SEO Traffic: The maximum total daily clicks that a #1 ranked website could potentially achieve.
PBR – Phrase to Broad Ratio: An indicator that the result returned was what the user was really searching for. The higher the percentage, the better.
SEOC – SEO Competition: The number of sites returned in a search for that keyword.
This list is sorted by daily SEO Traffic above which is a good indicator but can’t be taken all by itself. It is not surprising to see that keywords relating to Virginia Beach and Norfolk are receiving them most amount of searches. However, you can’t ignore the PBR, or Phrase-to-Broad ratio.
The Importance of Phrase-to-Broad Ratio
PBR is one of the best indicators that people are actually finding the word that they are searching for. Here’s an example. Suppose I was looking for a restaurant that serves organic food, and I just typed in the words organic food into a search engine. The amount of results would be huge, but it would be doubtful that I’d find what I’m looking for. That would be an example of a low PBR match keyword. A keywords/phrases like restaurants that serve organic food or organic food restaurants in virginia beach would have a higher Phrase-to-Broad Ratio.
Using Filters To Narrow Results
In Market Samurai, I’m able to filter out keywords with low traffic (SEOT) and low Phrase-to-Broad Ratios (PBR.) I’ve used a minimum of 500 for SEOT and a minimum of 15% for the PBR in this example. Your mileage may vary. We use whatever minimums seem to fit the list of results we’re presented with.
We also removed a couple of keywords. For instance, the number one result was Franklin, which is far too general for this analysis. Franklin is not the largest city in Hampton Roads. This is a good example of why human intuition goes a long way when interpreting results.
Here’s the same local keyword analysis after filtering:
This list of cities in the Hampton Roads area is very helpful for local keyword research. There are a lot of conclusions we can draw, such as:
- People are searching for individual city names more than they are the region keyword hampton roads
- The first keyword on this list is hampton, but that is probably because the keyword is commonly found outside of the region (The Hamptons, Southampton, a ton of cities in other states, and of course it is part of the keyword/phrase hampton roads. So we’ll probably include it in future SEO efforts but add the state name after. Hampton is not the largest city in this market.
- The actual top keyword – or the one with the most people searching for it – in this market is virginia beach. This makes sense as it is also the largest city in Hampton Roads in terms of population size.
- More people search for Virginia beach than VA beach. (But as you’ll see later, they use the state abbreviation more in other searches.)
- Top city keywords in this analysis are, in order:
- virginia beach
- newport news
- Hampton probably fits in about fifth here but without further analysis due to popularity of the keyword outside of this market, I would add it near the end of this list.
- I’d also include yorktown on any future SEO efforts.
- More people do search for a city without the state name, but analyzing the same city name keywords with state names and abbreviations was useful, as you’ll see a in a moment.
Bonus: Population Estimates and Local Keyword SEO Traffic
*Source: 2010 US Census.
Some observations about the keyword SEO Traffic for each city vs. population estimates:
- Virginia Beach is not only the largest city in Hampton Roads, it also a tourist destination. This means that a lot of the searches may be done by people outside of the market that plan on visiting Va. Beach in the summer.
- Wiliamsburg has a relatively high amount of search traffic as a keyword on a daily basis compared to the small population that lives there. Two reasons come to mind: Williamsburg is the name of a neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY – and – Williamsburg, VA has a lot of tourism due to Colonial Williamsburg and other historical sites in the area. Both of these data points inflate the numbers for that city so those factors should be considered during any campaign planning.
- Hampton is the fifth largest city in Hampton Roads, but according to the initial report had the highest the daily SEO Traffic. As we pointed out earlier the word “hampton” is part of several keywords that pertain to places and things outside of the city of Hampton, VA. So we used the traffic from the keyword “hampton va” to fill in the amount of likely daily searches (5,081.) You could try to take the “hampton” keyword traffic (69,041 per day) and the “hampton va” keyword traffic (5,081 per day) and come up with an average of 37,061 per day. This is still probably too high for city-related search traffic and would require much more in-depth analysis than we’re doing for this exercise.
Using Full State Name Vs. Abbreviation
Although the highest amount of keyword traffic per day can be found in the city names without including the state, it is still useful to know what the traffic is for each variation of that city name with the state included. The next part of the report shows the following:
- More people are searching for the state abbreviation “VA” than for the state spelled out like “Virginia” when including it with a city name keyword.
- These searches are more desirable when it comes to targeting because they represent a more specific query.
- While more people use “VA” than “Virginia” when including it with a city name keyword, this doesn’t pertain to Virginia Beach, VA where the name “virginia” is fully spelled out in the city keyword, but abbreviated when referring to the state. If people search for the city and state for this particular keyword, they use virginia beach va more than va beach virginia or va beach va.
Now That We Know Our Region, Which City Name Keywords Should Be Pursued?
It largely depends on your location or area of service. In the Hampton Roads area, there are several ways to split service areas but the first two that come to mind are called The Peninsula and Southside Hampton Roads. Businesses with physical locations may want to target a city such as Norfolk, VA or get even more specific with a neighborhood of Norfolk such as Ghent.
For our example in Part 2, we’ll use a fictional personal injury law firm in Norfolk, VA that wants to reach customers in the local area. Because we already know a lot about the region, we’re going to include the cities of Norfolk, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach, VA in our research.
In Part 2 of this series, we’ll talk about the next step: Know Your Industry.