As you undoubtedly know, keywords are the terms people type when they search for something. For instance, if someone searches for Akron dental implants then “Akron dental implants” would be the keyword.
The Google Keyword Tool is probably the most-used keyword tool out there. It’ll give you a great start and it’s free, but if you stop with that, you’re selling yourself short. If you’ve never used it before, you can learn about doing keyword research here.
Let’s say you’re a cosmetic dentist in Houston. If you search for the terms “cosmetic dentist houston” and “cosmetic dentistry in houston,” you can see in the screenshot below that the terms look like they get almost the same amount of searches.
Whenever you’re searching with this tool, be sure to select the “exact” checkbox on the left. That limits the number of searches to searches done in the local area instead of the entire U.S. (Click on the image below to see larger version and hit the back button to come back here).
But let’s head over to Google Trends, where we can dig deeper for locally relevant search information over time or for specific time periods.
First, you’ll see a plain kind of screen like the one below. Just enter in one of the search terms you’re looking at and hit enter (or click the Explore button).
On the left you will see “Search Terms.” Click “Add terms” and put in the other keywords you’re researching. You’ll also see a map. Click on the map until you zoom down to your area.
In our example, it’s Houston. Now the data and graph will change. In this instance, you’ll see that “cosmetic dentistry Houston” (in red) is almost always searched for more often than “cosmetic dentist Houston” (in blue).
There are a few little peaks where they were close in terms of the number of searches that web surfers entered for them, but not most of the time. Nice to know, right?
Another thing to consider when you do this is that many people wouldn’t even include “Houston” in the search term. They would just search for “cosmetic dentistry.”
If you use Google Trends and drill down to your area on that map, you can compare that too — i.e., “cosmetic dentistry” versus “cosmetic dentistry Houston.”
Ranking for local terms sometimes means more than just keyword research and optimizing your own site, though. When you’re searching in Google, a local keyword phrase like the ones above will often bring up “local search results” as seen in the image below.
Getting into the local search results ballgame is an entirely different monster. It includes ensuring you have a Google Places listing that is perfectly optimized, gaining valuable citations (mentions of your business, URL, and address) around the web (think Yelp and other review sites), and more.
Warning: Do not buy into “local SEO services” that offer dozens of rave reviews for your business that they claim will boost your Google Places page rank. Don’t take a chance on buying reviews directly from anyone, either.
This is bad business, and these review sites are taking notice. Yelp has recently slammed down on this, publicly outing businesses they caught doing this. If they catch you doing it, there’ll be a huge warning to any visitor who visits your listing that resembles the one below.
There are many ways to get reviews and citations naturally. You just have to come up with the right marketing plan!