Longer Keyword Strings Include GeoMods?

Hitwise put out a report earlier in the week that showed keyword search strings getting longer:


I asked Hitwise whether the company had any visibility into whether these queries included an increase in the use of geographic modifiers or not. They said that would be difficult to determine. 

Back in late 2006 when the first round of WebVisible-Nielsen’s local search data came out, I wrote this:

Now back to WebVisible’s research, which appears to support the idea that a large percentage of searches with a local intent don’t appear as such because they lack geographic modifiers. Here’s what the research determined about respondents’ local search query formulation:

  • 51% used a general service term to search (“dentist”)
  • 49% used a general service term and regional term (“dentist in Cleveland”)
  • 23% used a specific business name (“Dr. Bob’s Dental”)
  • 19% used a specific service term to search (“root canal”)

(Respondents had the option of answering more than one)

Interestingly, younger respondents (18-24) were more likely to use a geographic modifier than older users in the sample. But overall 51% of the actual, local search behavior didn’t carry a geo-modifier – that’s striking. 

As the data above show and other anecdotal evidence suggests, lots of queries that are ultimately “local” or that have “local intent” are not necessarily going to feature geo-modifiers. We also may see a decline in the use of geo-modifiers over time because location detection is getting better — whether in the browser or on the mobile handset.

5 Responses to “Longer Keyword Strings Include GeoMods?”

  1. ian Says:

    I’d be happy to help Hitwise with that one…
    And Greg, you forgot the Trademark registration. GeoMods is a registered trademark to Urban Mapping 😉

    But this is interesting research. For many years keyword length has hovered around 1.5 words (depending who you ask/how it’s defined), but with a clear and marked movement to longer keywords, everybody should be happy–engines have more to help determine what users want (but this will be a *massive* query disambiguation problem to work on–how is a quality score impacted by query length?), and this also presents easier opportunities for publishers/advertisers *if* engines can deliver something useful.

  2. C. J. Newton Says:

    One thing to always keep in mind when looking at keyword data: people spend an awful amount of time searching for themselves online. As “local search” grows in reputation and desirability (a direct result of all of our conversations about it), we will see more and more automated queries including local search modifiers. The result: a positive trend in people searching using city and town names.

    Those of us in the SEO business like to joke about the fact that “SEO Minnesota” was one of the most frequently searched phrases with the term SEO in it for quite some time a few years ago.

  3. Andrew Shotland Says:

    As browsers get better at determining location we could in fact see a decrease in the avg. query length, but I am not so sure about that. The local results will still have to compete with the national results for queries where local intent is ambiguous – even “dentist” is not necessarily local in nature. So the engines will offer more “did you mean” type stuff that pulls the user towards the results that better match their intents. In the case of local queries this will likely generate a page of “dentist in Pleasanton” type results. So even though fewer users may be typing in long tail queries, they will in fact still be producing them in large numbers by clicking on these types of links. And I think most users are still going to refine their search by entering geomods-tm anyhow.

  4. Greg Sterling Says:

    Search suggest/assist features will be more prevalent and get better — I agree. TM

  5. Lindsay Says:

    Personally, I nearly always use a geomod when searching for services and products and it tends to give me a much more relevant set of results back.

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