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!