Global vs. Local Search Volume for Keywords

Global vs. Local Search Volume for Keywords

I have been asked a number of times in comments on previous posts, whether the global or local search volume should be looked at for a keyword.  This is really an important question when you are basing the entire future of your niche website on these numbers, so I felt like it deserved an entire post on the subject.

Just to make sure that we are all on the same page, I am referring to the search volumes that show up on the Google Adwords Keyword Tool.  When you plug in a seed keyword, Google will display 2 search volumes.  One is the “Global Monthly Searches”, which is the amount of searches that are done on all over the world using Google.com AND all international versions of Google (more on this in a minute).  The “Local Monthly Searches” shows how many searches are done in the “Location” that you have selected (a country).  See the image below for the search volumes of the keyword “Books”:

You can see that there is almost three and a half times the amount of search volume globally for the term “books” as there is in the location I selected – which is the United States. As you can see, there can be a HUGE disparity between the global and local search volumes, so its important to understand fully why you would pick one or the other.

Where is the Search Coming From?

I want to take another example that illustrates very well that people in different countries search for different things.  For example, if I was doing keyword research and ran across the keyword, “cheap car hire”.  According to the Google keyword tool, the exact match search gets 33,100 searches Globally and has a CPC of $2.75.  On the surface, this looks like a high volume/high paying keyword, right?

Well, if I then look at the “Local” search volume in the US, it only gets 880 searches per month from people in the US…what the heck happened?  Where are the searches coming from?  Well, if you haven’t guessed by now; people in the US don’t use the phrase “car hire” they use the term “car rental”.  However, if you are from the UK, you use the term “car hire” rather than “car rental”.  So, if I switch my location to the United Kingdom, I then get a Local search volume of 27,100 for the term “cheap car hire”.  Aha!  So, most of the searches for this term come from people residing in the United Kingdom, NOT the US.

But does it really matter where the searches come from?

Why Search Location Matters

What country a search is coming from matters immensely.  Here is why it matters: The search results displayed on Google.com are vastly different from the search results displayed on Google.co.uk.  In fact, most countries have their own version of Google and each ranks sites differently.  So, there is a Google.fr for France, a Google.ca for Canada, a Google.jp for Japan, and the list goes on and on.

Here’s the big deal.  If you pick a search term that gets all its searches in the UK and then you go to Google.com to analyze the top 10 competition, you are looking at the wrong competitors!  The competition for that term would be on Google.co.uk!  So, you might rank #1 on Google.com for a search term you thought would get tons of traffic, but you are stunned to find no one coming to your site.  The reason is that all the traffic is coming from a different country and in that country you don’t rank anywhere.  Make sense now?

The point is, you need to look at Local search volume only so that you know how to analyze the competition.  You can certainly rank in foreign search engines like Google.co.uk, but extra weight will be given to those sites with the proper country domain extension, like .co.uk.  So, if you want to rank for “car hire” – don’t look at Google.com.  Analyze the competition on Google.co.uk and be sure to buy a .co.uk domain extension because that is where you want to rank!

Try it yourself.  Plug in just about any keyword and you will see for yourself that the top 10 competitors are very different in Google.com (US) versus Google.co.uk or any other international version of Google.

Don’t Shoot Yourself in the Foot

This is one of the most common mistakes that I see new people to niche websites making.  They look at a high global search volume and think they have hit the jackpot.  They put in hours picking a domain name, building a site, writing articles, building backlinks, and ranking their site.  Then they rank well only to find out they don’t get any visitors to their site.  I have seen this happen with TONS of people that ask me to see why no one is visiting their site.

So, do yourself a favor and ONLY look at the LOCAL search volume of a keyword.  If you must look at the Global search volume, you better make sure you know which country that search volume is coming from and then analyze the competition and build your site according to that location.

In fact, I know there are some keyword tools out there that will actually show “search volume” and it turns out they are showing “Global” search volume.  This is just asking for failure.  If you are using any sort of keyword research tool, I would advise double checking to make sure you are actually looking at LOCAL search volumes.  Hopefully this simple little step will save you some headaches down the road.  As simple as it is, I have seen some “experts” making the global volume mistake still.

So, what are your thoughts on the subject?  Were you aware of the difference between global and local search volume?  Am I crazy or am I giving bad advice? If you analyze your keywords in a different way using the global search volume, I’d love to hear why!

If you like what you are reading, be sure to get my free guide here and get all my updated tips for niche websites!  Already have the free guide?  Be sure to “Like” me on Facebook – lets connect!

 


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58 Comments for this entry

  1. Shuck says:

    Spencer, you are dead on about Local Search Volume. I use both global and local in my keyword research, but I always make sure that the local search volume is high enough to warrant trying to rank.

    There are a lot of keywords that you really don’t have to worry about local search volume, because they mean relatively the same thing in different countries, but if you find a golden keyword you def have to make sure it’s searched for in your country.

  2. Rahul says:

    Well thanks for this post. This may help me in big way in future. I did wrong keyword analysis last year. I used to buy domain with broad searches. Now i concentrate on exact match. And now i will also look into location based competition just in case.

  3. I’m just like other folks here. I used to based my searches on global and broad matches… now I used local and exact match. In my mind, it is kinda like searching based upon the worst case scenario.

    Thanks for another great post Spencer!

  4. KimP says:

    Good post! I always search for local volume by exact match.

    You’ve made me think of something, I wonder if an IMer located in the US wants to rank in the UK, would you also need to build backlinks using UK sites (versus US sites), in addition to using a domain with the .co.uk extension?

    Not expecting you to know the answer to this, but just a thought.

    • steve wyman says:

      Hi

      the answer is yes, kinda :-)

      In a perfect world you as a US imer would have the ..co.uk domain on a server hosted in the UK and have “some” of your links for UK sources.

      The uk sources is not vital but it helps.

      Diversity of location of backlinks (i..e not just th e US) is also helpfull. But the reality is the vast majprity of sites are US hosted so its fine.

      hope thats helpfull

      regards

  5. Javier says:

    Is it possible to check for local competition with LTP? I created a project and did a competition analysis with settings for USA and UK and it seems to get the same results for both countries.

    Am I doing something wrong or this feature isn’t enabled yet?

    • Spencer says:

      Long Tail Pro does indeed check local competition. In the campaign settings make sure to select the country you want to analyze the local results for (just like the adwords tool). The feature is there and works just fine – as I just tested it. Its possible that the keyword you looked at have similar results for both the uk and us. Try some other keywords as the tool is indeed pulling local results based on your selection.

  6. Tom Ewer says:

    Great advice Spencer – I am willing to bet that far too many people undercook their keyword research, when it is in fact the most important factor by miles (IMHO) when working on a niche site.

    It is the relatively subtle details such as the one uncovered in this article that can easily trip people up. Kudos to you for revealing it in such detail here!

    • Spencer says:

      From what I have seen – I agree! Too many people think the hard part is building links or some other part – wrong. The hard part is properly analyzing your keyword.

  7. Regardless when I’m doing keyword research, I’m all ways looking at the local. I;m looking for a real search versus a not so real globe search that’s just not that accurate.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  8. Dustin says:

    Also the CPC’s an be vastly different for different locations.

  9. Great point. I always thought local search meant near me, not the entire country. lol It will make me look better at my next keyword project. :) Thanks for the heads up.

    P.S. all I see below this message box is a checkbox that says nothing next to it, and a submit button. I don’t know if I need to check the box or not. Don’t know if it’s to say I’m not a spammer or to sign up for an email list… I tested this in Chrome and i.e. Both with the same results.

  10. Ritsos says:

    bit of an aside … would you use a brand as a keyword .. eg .. found the name of a well searched radio station which I could rank for .. but should I use it ?

    • Spencer says:

      I have used brand names in the past, but don’t usually. You always run the risk of the brand or company asking you to shut down the site.

  11. Jim says:

    After finding a few good (or so I thought) local searches that met the “low competition” criteria, I found out there was a bug in the software I was using for backlink and pagerank data.
    In any case, a few of my good ideas turned into junk :) Which is somewhat ironic considering the volume of local searches is just not that high at 1300 – 2400.
    Back to the drawing board…or more accurately back to LTP!

  12. Ritsos says:

    Hi Spencer, Given what you have said above about a .co.uk domain name being given extra weight on google uk, is there any chance you can add that extension on LTP to find an exact match .. that would be VERY useful.

    thanks

    • Spencer says:

      It was in the tool originally, we are adding it back now. We briefly made a change because our data source was not providing .co.uk info. Should be added back soon!

  13. Dan says:

    Great article.
    Have you tried to target a none US market with any of your sites?
    Do you track how much of your search volume & adsense revenue that comes from none US markets? Would be interesting to know some rough proportions.

    • Spencer says:

      I have only targeted US keywords. I don’t track how much of my income comes from foreign visitors; although you can indeed track where your visitors are coming from in Google Analytics.

  14. David says:

    Hi Spencer,

    Great post. I’m new to SEO development and your website has been a tremendous tool. Thank you.

    I am interested in creating a niche website in Spanish targeting Argentina based on an idea I developed while living there.

    Can I buy a com.ar extension on Go Daddy? Is there anything more necessary to target a specific non-US market other than writing in Spanish?

    Thanks!

    David

    • Spencer says:

      I don’t think you can buy a .com.ar through godaddy – in fact you might have to ask around on how to do that as I am not sure. (Ive always bought .com, .net, and .org). I think you can also select a country to target in Webmaster tools – anyone else know this for sure. Since I have never targeted anything besides US, I’m not sure on this one.

    • Javier says:

      David, to buy a .com.ar you must register in nic.ar. I’m from Argentina, and honestly it’s a pain in the ass. You have to register first yourself as a person and as “responsable person” or something like that. Then the domain. And then each nameserver if they’re not in their database. Each part takes at least 2 days to be processed.

      It’s a very archaic process, they hasn’t changed it since the 90’s. The good thing is they’re free.

      Let me know if you need any help David.

      • David says:

        @Spencer, thanks for the response!

        @Javier – thanks for the information on the process. I’ll be sure to be in contact if I decide to pursure further. Kind regards, David

  15. Akil says:

    HI Spencer,

    Your absolutely right as I am base in the UK at the moment and I am from Newyork so I tend to look at both country for niche ideas. I also focus mostly on co.uk domain names because this is where I am base and only will purchase a .com if I am focusing on creating an international site so of speak that will cater to everyone in a way.

    When I select a keyword I look and focus on local search in the UK but also check searches in the US as a secondary check to see whats happening in the US. I also purchase co.uk domain also cause they give you two years compare to .com and the pound is currently stronger then the dollar so I like making pounds.

    I kind of have the best of both world because most marketers dont have the time to look at US stuff but I take the time to check out both countries and IM like yourself who offer valuable information and I test it out in the UK and sometime discover niches idea before they hit the UK. So thanks again for this article

  16. Good points about Global Vs. Local search, Spencer.

    For us, we’re ok with picking keywords based on Global ONLY after we’ve determined the primary country the searches are made from and the competition from those countries. If the traffic is from the UK, Canada, or Australia and the first page competition is still ok, we’ll go for it.

    I’d also like to point out that it’s not just search volume you need to look at in the country…it’s also advertiser competition. Let’s say that, for whatever reason, a good chunk of the searches are made from the Philippines. (Odd choice, I know…but I live here!) You might find that even if you can get ranked there and get the traffic…there’s no $$ being spent on advertising for those keywords and it won’t work for you!

    • Spencer says:

      Excellent point Justin. This further illustrates the importance of knowing where the traffic is coming from for your keyword. I appreciate your insights!

  17. jiao says:

    Hi,Spencer
    I have some questions about this. I am a chinese ,and I selected some keywords which the volume comes from USA.I use google.com to judge the keywords competion ,and I want to know this method is correct,and can your Long Tail Pro work correctly .
    Sorry for my poor English,but I need your help.thanks

    • Spencer says:

      Jiao:
      Yes, you can still pull the keyword volumes for the US using Long Tail Pro. I think its a good idea for you to look at US search results if you are targeting US keywords, as discussed.

  18. Mark says:

    I used to use global/broad also, but after reading your blog for awhile you have converted me and over the last month I have seen results and rankings faster with my new projects based on this criteria.

    So Thank You and GREAT BLOG!

    Mark

  19. Bobby says:

    How much weight do you really think the local domain extension really makes in Google rankings??

    • Spencer says:

      I think it helps a good bit. Although I haven’t personally tested to say for sure. But if you look at google.com.au or google.co.uk or others you will see that the respective domain extensions dominate the results – so it certainly plays a role.

  20. Nicole says:

    This is a great post that clarifies the exact match Global vs Local. I’ve read so much advice about researching Global exact match keywords and many people talk about Broad vs Exact, but not many have touched upon Global vs Local. I only use Local and barely look at the Global anymore. Of course I learned this the hard way! I think this post was needed and will be useful for a lot people. Great job!

  21. Rory says:

    Looks like you’ve cleared this up for a few people Spencer!

    I read all your Niche Site Challenge posts (on your old site) before I made my first nice site so already new about only looking at local traffic during research but I think it was definitely worth expanding on the reasons for doing this.

    One thing I did pick up was from the comments you made about Google Webmaster Tools. I had my site in Webmaster Tools but had pretty much forgotten about it. Your comments jogged my memory and I have now gone back and gone through all the webmaster tools settings to optimise my site.
    Hopefully I have done it correctly and it will help!

    Rory

  22. Angela says:

    I’m embarrassed to say what I thought “Local” meant and I actually got this from another website that I was supposedly learning from.
    Thanks for enlightening me.

  23. Jenni says:

    Nice post Spencer. I have to say that I try and make my websites as global as possible (I’m based in the UK) by going for .com, .net or .org unless I’m specifically targeting the UK – rare because it’s a much smaller market as a rule. .co.uk and .org.uk do give slightly more of an advantage, but the .com, .net, or .org domain name alone is worth more for sale purposes to a global market. Once my site is established I look to see where the traffic is coming from, and if there’s a large chunk from a particular country I will buy the domain name (or a similar name) with the country extension…but it’s rare .com/.net/.org isn’t good enough. That way I capture a much larger part of the market. Of course, you could use the keyword tool to assess the searches by region, but I want specifics and it’s not very exact.

    Another point to note is that not everyone in the UK (and Canada, Australia etc.) uses Google.[country extension]; many people will still go straight to google.com and it doesn’t redirect them if it’s the engine they normally use or they are arriving from a browser plugin or custom search..

    • Steve Wyman says:

      Hi

      Great observations. My newest take on this subject is a slightly different one.

      I always use a .com .net or .org not for global reach in fact i ignore those number i just look at US only for traffic.

      I build the site on a US server but dont target us in webmaster tools.

      Now if thats succefull and proves itself then i would look at local exact match traffic for other countries such as the UK. If the number stack up i would build a site there and host it in that country as well.

      A .co.uk host in the US will not stand up against a .com hosted in the US but if the .co.uk is Hosted in the UK it can do so.

      Lastly I see no need to build a country specific website just becasue my .com site is seeing traffic from there. If the .com is winning I’d move to promoting one of my other sites instead of doing the .co.uk build out.

      The last case is where during research there is tons of traffic (and great CPC) from a keyword with an exact local match traffic in the uk where the .co.uk is available but the .com .ne and .org plus many varieties have already been taken.

      Hope thats contributes to the discussion

      regards

  24. Jenny Nassour says:

    Clarified many things in my mind! Thank you so much for posting. You are not crazy or giving bad advice, you are spot on with these rookie mistakes that can cost us too much time to learn these the hard way.

    Thanks so much again.

  25. Jacob says:

    Spencer,

    Thanks for this informative post. So if my niche is something that is accessible worldwide then I am fine with looking at the global search section, correct? In my case, I have a such a niche. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Japan, USA or Netherland, my niche is applicable to you. So I am okay with just concentrating on the global monthly searches? I know this post is kind of old but I hope to get a response :)

  26. daphne says:

    I just wanted to say thanks for this super helpful explanation. Your post was so easy to understand, and I really appreciated it.

  27. George says:

    Thanks for this, I am in the early stages of my website and this i svery helpfulö How about when the local search and global search are exactly the same? how can that be?

  28. sayed says:

    Hi,
    I’ve been enjoying your posts so far however this one made me wonder a bit.
    I’m not an American nor British, Canadian etc.
    I’m what you call the 3rd world.
    The real wonder is can I still make a business making niche sites? the second is should I also look at the local searches or would you advise me to optimize my work for a first world country or preferably the US?

    By the way, thanks for your help!

    • Spencer Haws says:

      I would optimize for the US, UK, or other “first world country”. And yes, you can certainly build a business with niche sites where you are…

      • sayed says:

        Wow!! What makes me believe in you, your website and your strategies is the fact that you never let any comment unanswered! even if the comment was posted after a year!!

        Thanks a lot, very!

  29. cameron says:

    I used adwords to find my long tail keyword. It says it has high global and local searches with low competition. However, when i go to look at the trend of the keyword phrase, it says not enough traffic to get trends.

  30. Russell Tanner says:

    Great article. I have a question though. When it says “Local” search volume, is that meaning local as in the US (relative to the globe) or local as in literally local…my city or region? I’m confused about what “local” actually means and what Google considers “local.” Thanks!

  31. Martin says:

    I have a few questions.. any pointers would be gratefully received!

    I have a .com niche site that is 3rd in Google when searched from the UK where I live (or if I enter the URL http://www.google.com/search?q=the+keywrod&gl=uk into Google).

    I have not set a geographic target and the site has no backlinks from anywhere.

    The site is ranked 400+ on Google US so why does it rank 2nd for Google UK?

    Why doesn’t the site that’s ranked 1st in Google US also rank 1st for Google UK?

    How does Google know which country a site is ‘trying’ to rank for?

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