A long-tail of four cities
Which cities search for which cities online? A place name can help refine search results to your local area – but is that more likely to be the searcher’s own location, or somewhere they are planning to go?
Google Trends data gives an insight into the issue, listing in relative terms the cities most likely to search for the designated keyword – including keywords that are, themselves, the names of cities.
If we look at four major British cities – London, Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham – some of the results come as little surprise, while others have important lessons to teach us about optimising content for location-specific searches.
Unsurprisingly, the UK’s self-centric capital city dominates searches that include the word ‘London’ – even despite the outside interest generated by the London 2012 Olympic Games this year.
For searches conducted within England in 2012, Londoners conducted the most queries containing their own city name.
Even the runners-up are in the same general area, with Wembley, Poplar and Croydon accounting for 72%, 64% and 56% as many searches as those carried out within London itself.
Further down the list, we find major cities elsewhere in the country, including Birmingham and Bristol, who produce 19% as many ‘London’ queries each as the city itself, and Manchester close behind on 17%.
If London is led by a closely local search market, then Manchester is even more so – Birmingham produces just 7% as many ‘Manchester’ queries as Manchester itself, while even Londoners only search for the city 12% as often.
By contrast, the most frequent search locations outside of Manchester itself are Sale (81%), Salford (66%) and Stockport (62%) – showing this is a highly defined local search market.
As a result, geographically targeted SEO in the north-west city is arguably a much better prospect for companies targeting local customers with goods and services, as opposed to those trying to attract the tourism trade.
Liverpool, as a city, is a much more clearly defined urban area – and this is reflected in the data, with second-placed St Helens accounting for only 40% as many ‘Liverpool’ queries as the city itself.
Manchester barely makes double figures on 11%, and the remaining search markets for Liverpool-based queries are very small in relative terms – London (8%), Leeds, Sheffield and Birmingham (5%), and Leicester (4%) complete the top ten.
Birmingham’s relatively central location may explain why it attracts interest both from the north-west and from the south-east, but these again are small markets – Manchester just 5% as many ‘Birmingham’ searches as the city itself, and London just 8%, matching the capital’s interest in Liverpool.
All of the above indicates that the trend towards local search is very much focused on tight regional geographies – people search for the place they are, not for the place they want to be.
It’s a reminder of the transactional nature of the internet, and the desire many searchers have to locate goods, services and entertainment close to home.
Meanwhile, for those in the tourism industry, it seems wise to suggest an intelligent long-tail approach to on-page SEO, as much search traffic is likely to be coupling your place name with a venue, activity or other form of entertainment.
Written by Rob Henry