Video Deep Dive: Local Keyword Research Techniques Outside the Box


This is the 26th installment this year of our Deep Dive Into Local series. For the week ending Friday, July 8st, Mary Bowling and Mike Blumenthal shared their thoughts about the previous week in local. The complete video, including links and commentary on critical happenings of the previous week is posted in the Local U forums (paywall). In the second half of that video, they take a deeper strategic and tactical dive into one interesting area that caught their attention during the week.

In this discussion Mary and Mike talk about the identifying local keywords by asking searchers as to how they would search for something .

Mike: So with that, I'd like to move into our deep dive and what made me think about this was a very interesting article from DEJAN SEO that he released today called "Advanced New Tail Keyword Research."

One of the points he made in the article was you can do all the research you want on the head terms in keyword tools and you can make assumptions about what searchers are actually searching on, but you have no real way of knowing what they actually are thinking or how they might investigate it. So what he did, he developed a way to do a fairly objective test using Google Survey where he would take a picture of a product or some types of services, but mostly a product, and he would ask people how they would search for the product. And with this, he developed buckets of words that related to his broader keyword strategy, but allowed him to integrate some of these broader words into his keyword strategy and thus --

Mary: Here comes Bigfoot.

Mike: Yup, here he is. So it was an interesting article and very inexpensive. You know, you can do an open-ended response in Google, get people to just fill in the blank, tell you what they think when they see this and you can then use it to sort of fill out your pages, giving yourself a boost instead of relying on Google's Rankbrain to come up with your page that you can sort of push Google along in your direction. So with that I thought, you know, Mary, you did a very interesting research project developing keywords for the medical vertical and I was just wondering if you could share how you did that, what your thoughts were on the project, and how it went.

Mary: Sure. This one was pretty tough because, you know, in medical, we know that people are searching by symptoms a lot of time but, you know, a normal doctor's website in Olean, New York, or in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, really can't become the subject matter expert on a particular symptom or a disease in Google's eyes. There are huge, well-trusted sites for medical information out there that are always going to outrank you. So it was quite, you know, a dilemma. It was, like, "How do we do this?"

And what I ended up doing was starting with Google trends and searching for what Google considers to be the overall topic and trying to look for the topic that was around a particular type of medical specialty, let's say a neurologist. What is that topic that Google identifies as the overall category that should include all the terms for that topic?

And that wasn't that easy because sometimes something like neurology would be a topic, but sometimes it wouldn't. Sometimes it would be just a search term. Or sometimes a disease would be a topic and sometimes it would just show up as something else. But I then took what I could identify as that big, overarching topic and went to Keyword Planner and put that topic into Keyword Planner, made sure I was targeting health as an overall category, and then seeing what Google would give me back as related to that particular topic. And of course, I got a lot of garbage in there and I had to keep refining things, but overall I think we got a really good overall view of all the terms that Google seems to think are related to that particular medical topic.

Mike: So question: Will Google think that these have local relevance if they find local sites around those topics and then, via the Venice Update, give those sites a boost in the rankings or not?

Mary: Well, that's the hope. I mean, it makes sense and it may not make sense from the point of view of you showing up if somebody says "Causes of migraine headaches." But if they're searching for a migraine doctor or a treatment for a migraine headache, then I think that's where that local piece kicks in and Google says, "Oh, they're looking for someone nearby them."

Mike: Right, so "back pain Detroit" or something like that -- whereas opposed to providing, you know, a purely national site, Google might provide a local relevant site.

Mary: Right.

Mike: Yeah, that's interesting. And so is there anything generally you can take out of this in terms of typical keyword research that you might do for a -- I mean, I suppose this would apply very well to lawyers but what about, you know, the garden shop or whatever? Or the pest control guy?

Mary: You know, I have really shifted my focus over the past couple of years with keyword research because keyword research has been one of those things, like cleaning your house -- it can be a never-ending job. You can keep digging deeper and deeper and deeper and finding more and more and more keywords.

Mike: And I would bet this is why you divorced your husband, because he didn't clean the fricking house! Amongst other things! (laughter)

Mary: Well, so you know, you need to find a reasonable way to do keyword research instead of just, you know, going down all these rabbit holes and finding terms that get no searches or ten searches nationally a year. Who cares? You don't need those terms. So I am really focusing on fat-head terms, what I would call mid-tail terms, and anything that's not getting very much search volume, I'm not even really including that in my primary keyword research anymore.

What I'm doing is separating that out and saying, "These are terms that we should work into our content where they're appropriate so that our content can be semantically relevant, you know, across a broad range of terms," or, "These are terms that maybe we can find a bucket that are closely related and write a page about that or write a blog post about that."

Mike: Or potentially get a couple reviews about, right?

Mary: That mention those terms.

Mike: Right, that mention those terms. Or perhaps even having a microsite on those terms, you know, with schema for the physician. No backlinking, but a site specifically about this sort of sub-specialty or area of problems where you could go into great detail, you know, around it. I wonder if that would reinforce the regular page or the local relevance of it.

Mary: I don't know. To me, that's kind of like a link scheme.

Mike: Well, it's a semantic...I mean, how can it be a link scheme? There are no links. It's semantic. It's about, you know, we're saying this business, marked up, created this head site, but also has this tail site on this very specific topic because it is locally relevant to its users, right? And we're not linking back and forth. We're just creating association between the microsite and the business, right? It's not a linking scheme. It's a semantic scheme. It might be a scheme, I don't know. But again, you're looking to create great depth and expertise on the topic, I guess is what I'm saying.

Mary: True. I prefer to develop that great expertise on one much more powerful website than to try to have to work on multiple websites, many of which usually end up being ignored.

Mike: Right, that's a good point. Well, do you have anything else to add to your keyword advice for the week?

Mary: I do not.

Mike: With that we can say goodbye, and thank you for joining us.

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