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Keyword Variations:  “Subs & Soda” or “Grinder & Pop”?

This article discusses how to select specific keyword variations to target people by age, location and gender and outlines why it is important to ensure that your targeted keyword phrases, your website and your text copy all work together to increase conversions and sales.

To aid in understanding this article, I will target potential visitors interested in a sub and a soda… or should I say a grinder and a pop?

I first looked at soda, soda pop, pop and soft drink to determine which phrase is more popular by location, age and gender.

I also took a look at subs, submarines, grinders and hoagies to uncover how the phrases differentiate based on the searcher’s age, gender and location; and how, as a website owner, you could be missing the mark if you fail to complete the proper research to find the proper keyword variations for your target market.

The Online Business Plan

Before most companies open up a brick and mortar business, they usually create a business plan.  Within that business plan, they outline their target markets:

  • Businesses or Consumers
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Location

This information is generally heavily researched and decided upon to ensure the company’s success.

However, when most people have a website, they seem to only worry about how much traffic a keyword receives, not whether it is reaching the same targeted market that matches their online business intentions. Often times when I speak with business owners they provide a handful of keywords that they say are a must to sustain their online business.

Their chosen keyword phrases are usually the generic or broader term keywords that tend to attract anyone and everyone, whether they are a potential customer or not. Keyword variations are generally overlooked.

It’s important for website owners to give as much attention to their online business plan and business model as they would to their offline business to ensure that their website can be another successful marketing force for their company.

Keyword Research & Selection Tools

When Search Engine Optimization companies (SEOs) first began completing keyword research for clients, the tools were limited and we did not have a large amount of information that was available to us.  We were usually only able to obtain an estimated number of searches for a given phrase, and the number of competitors for that phase.

A lot has changed in a few short years and now many of the search engines are providing much more information; far more than ever before.

  1. Google Adwords Keyword Suggestion Tool provides you with the average number of searches and last months’ estimated number of searches for a specific phrase. Additionally, you can receive a list of related keyword variations based on your website’s content.
  2. MSN AdCenter provides geographic and demographic information which allows you to ensure you are targeting the right searchers.
  3. Spyfu gives PPC and competitor data for both organic and paid search marketing. You can also receive a list of related keyword variations that your competitors are paying for on Google Adwords plus terms that are achieving top rankings within Google’s organic listings.
  4. provides you with traffic patterns for your competitors’ websites, the top phrases they are using to bring in that traffic and information that tells you how much of their traffic comes from specific search phrases.
  5. provides you with a complete list of top search phrases; plus Wordtracker & Yahoo! Search Marketing search estimates

Keyword Variations Based on Age, Gender & Location

All this valuable information, as provided by these online sources, will allow you to select keyword variations that target visitors by age, gender and geographical locations, which can make a significant impact on your conversions; and ultimately you’re ROI.

It is important to know your targeted market and the keyword variations used before selecting your keywords phrases for your SEO campaign.

Selecting Keyword Variations by Location

When targeting search visitors by location, website owners commonly put actual location in the keyword phrase; such as “Tampa SEO Company”.

There is nothing wrong with doing this, however if you offer your products and services on a national level then you’ll need over 6,700 keyword variations to target all the cities within the U.S.

The truth is that people from different geographical locations tend to phrase things differently, even within the United States. Often times the terms we use when talking are the ones we use when searching as well.

Subs, Submarines, Grinders & Hoagies

If you’ve ever gone to Philadelphia and asked for a sub, most likely they looked at you funny and said, “You want a what?”  They will then correct you and tell you that they call it a hoagie!

Although you were not wrong, people in different geographical locations may use specific terms that are not used in other parts of the world…or country.

    • Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey use the term “hoagies” more often
    • Ohio, Michigan, Illinois Missouri and Utah use the term “grinders” more often
    • Nevada, Florida, Arizona and South Carolina use the term “sub” more often.

Soda, Soda Pop, Pop & Soft Drink

When I visited Pittsburgh, people would ask me if I wanted a pop.  For the life of me, I kept thinking do you mean a soda?

When visiting South Carolina, people asked me if I wanted a Pepsi. When I said yes, they would ask me “what kind?”  I would say, “What kind do you have?”  They would say, “Orange, Sprite, Ginger Ale…”  It would seem that in South Carolina a soda is considered Pepsi and the name Pepsi isn’t actually being used as a brand.

    • Utah, Washington Wisconsin, Connecticut and Missouri use the term “soda” more often
    • Iowa, Nebraska, Oregon and Utah use the term “soda pop“more often
    • Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey and New York use the term “pop” more often
    • Alabama, Tennessee, Indiana and Georgia use the term “soft drink” more often

The end result is that although they are all trying to find a sandwich and a drink, they are all utilizing different words to accomplish the same end.

If you are attempting to attract a specific state or sub-region to your website, it is important to ensure you target the keyword variations that state or sub-region are likely to use.

If you are not trying to target specific areas, then you would not want to limit yourself by selecting only soda, or only subs; ensure that all the keyword variations are available within your content; essentially providing you maximum exposure.

Locating this type of information is becoming easier than it ever has been before, with the help of trend data from Google Trends.  This information can be used to find keyword and phrase trends throughout the world.

Note:  Please keep in mind that although I provided state specific information, your research may need to be city specific.  I live in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and I order a sub, however in Philadelphia it is a hoagie.  Additionally, I drink soda and in Pittsburgh it was called pop.

Selecting Keyword Variations by Gender & Age

I believe it is important to know the Gender and age of your targeted market BEFORE you actually create your website.  Your website design and website copy represent you to your website visitors.  It’s important to know who will be seeing and reading your website.

Note:  If you were to create a website with senior citizens as your targeted market, you would want to ensure you incorporated the Website Usability recommendations for Senior Citizens; created by the Nielsen Norman Group.

Soda, Soda Pop, Pop & Soft Drink Variations

Below is the information I was able to research regarding gender and age for searches on Soda, Soda Pop, Pop & Soft Drink.  You’ll definitely see that there is a big difference within the genders and the ages.

•    More women used the term “soda
•    More men used  the term “pop

•    More People age 13-18 use the word “soft drink
•    More people age 35-50 use the word “pop
•    More people 65+ use the word “soda pop

So now that we know that women love soda and men love pop; but middle-aged men and women love pop, let’s see what we found for subs.

Subs, Submarines, Grinders & Hoagies Variations

Below is the information I researched for both men and women of various ages who search for subs, submarines, grinders and hoagies.

•    More men use the term “submarines
•    More women use the term “hoagies


•    More people 18-25 use the term “hoagies
•    More people 25-35 use the term “grinders
•    More people 65+ use the term “submarines

Seems like women love hoagies and men love submarines while the 20-30 crowd enjoy grinders.

Now subs and sodas aside, if you apply this information to your own website and do the proper research you will begin to look at your keywords, your website content and website design a little differently; ensuring they are geared towards the market you are looking to target.

If you wish to use keyword variations that target a specific age or gender you can download MSN AdCenter’s Excel 2007 Ad-on.

Popularity Keyword Search Trends

As new technologies emerge, so do new products, brands, companies and more.  Knowing what keyword searches change based on trends is important to sustaining your online business.

Google Trends provides trending data and history that will allow you to visually see how specific keyword variations have decreased or increased in popularity over the years.

It’s important to ensure that you take this information into consideration before you do your keyword research as well as throughout the year in order to keep up with new emerging trends and incorporate the proper keyword variations into your website.

Below you will find additional information I researched, which has some pretty interesting results.

Trends for Pop, Soda Pop & Soft Drinks

    • Over the past four years it appears that searchers are decreasing the number of searches for the term “pop”.
    • Although there are more spikes in 2007, people seem to use the phrase “soda” in 2008 as much as they have since 2004.
    • Over the past 4 years there appears to be a gradual decline in searches done for the term “soda pop”.
    • A fairly significant decrease can be seen for visitors who use the search term “soft drink”.
    • Although we see a decrease over the past 4 years for visitors who use the term “pop”, it is still much more popular than “soda pop”, “soda” and “soft drink”.

Trends for Subs, Submarines, Hoagies & Grinders

    • The use of submarines has seen a tremendous drop in searches over the past 4 years.
    • The use of grinders has been roughly the same, a few ups and downs but no real large drops or increases.
    • The term hoagies was nearly non-existent in 2004, but has grown in popularity over the past 4 years
    • The term subs has had a large increase over the past 4 years as indicated in the screenshot shown on the right.

Note:  Over the past four years, searchers have increased their search for subs.  Based on MSN Adcenter, this has grown due to both men and women ages 18-35.  I personally would like to believe that it is because more restaurants are putting up websites, uploading their menus and providing delivery information. Additionally Google is delivering localized results based on your IP address, as well as Google Maps providing maps and directions based on these types of searches.

One other thought is that more people may use their cell phones to do this type of search and Google requests your zip code to help show relevant results.  Let’s face it; there is no purpose in showing me sub shops in California if I live in PA.

Conclusion About Keyword Selection and Target Market Behavior

As you can see, it is important to use any data available to you when selecting the keyword phrases and the keyword variations you will be using for your website, but in order to do so you need to know your target market, by age, by gender and by region.

You need to know who is searching and how they are searching. The tools to accomplish this are now readily so use them often and use them wisely.

To learn more, visit our SEO Keyword Research Page, contact us Toll Free at 1-888-262-6687 or Email our SEO Consultants.

Chris Genge

Chris Genge is the Founder and CEO of 1st on the List. Since 1997 he has helped hundreds of companies across North America with his technical expertise and practical upfront approach to Search Optimization and Digital Marketing. As a pioneer in his field, Chris has the ability to help clients set goals and achieve results all while fostering growth and teamwork amongst his incredible team of SEO experts and Web Designers.