Local SEO is one of the best (and most profitable) ways to get a steady flow of customers for small to medium-sized businesses.
Appearing at the top of Google results in leads and sales for virtually no cost.
Before doing local SEO, you need to know what keywords to target. Finding such keywords is a process called Local Keyword Research.
What is Local Keyword Research?
Local keyword research is the process of identifying words and phrases that people search in Google to find goods or services in a city or nearby.
Researching keywords for local SEO is the easiest part of SEO and should only take an hour or two.
Local keywords are appealing to businesses because users click on organic search results (from SEO) at a much higher rate than Google Ads or PPC.
Simply put, SEO brings in more traffic at a lower cost.
Local SEO keywords are fairly easy to target, even for new businesses.
By including local keywords in their website and marketing materials, local businesses make it easier for customers to find them via search engines.
More specifically, small businesses use local keywords in the following places on their website:
- Title Tags
- Meta Descriptions
- Landing Pages
- Blog Posts
How To Do Local Keyword Research
- Start with a Seed Keyword
- Create a List of Keyword Modifiers & Synonyms
- Use a Keyword Research Tool
- Analyze Your Competitors
- Use Google’s Search Console
- Assess Your List of Keywords
- How It All Comes Together
Let’s get started.
1. Start With A Seed Keyword
A seed keyword is one or two words that describe your service, product or solution.
For example, a seed keyword for a renovation contractor could be “renovation”, or “remodelling”.
Build a small list of a few seed keywords that are related to your business.
2. Create a List of Keyword Modifiers
Keyword modifiers are words that when combined with a seed keyword change the search intent (what the user is expecting to find in Google).
Try Googling the following terms for yourself:
- Renovation Ideas
- Renovation Contractor
- Kitchen Renovation Contractor Near Me
Pay attention to how Google’s search results drastically change based on the keyword modifiers used.
The goal is to be in front of potential customers who are actively looking for your products or services already.
Brainstorm keyword modifiers
- Service Provider
In our renovation example, you could also keyword modifiers that are specific to the type of renovation:
Here’s an example:
note: it is up to you if you want to include modifiers such as best, cheapest etc. I left these out for demonstration purposes.
3. Use a Local Keyword Research Tool
Picking a keyword research tool can be a bit overwhelming, there are many available and each has its advantages & disadvantages.
Keyword Research Tools:
Free Keyword Research Tools
I am going to walk you through how to do local keyword research with SEMRush (I recommend using SEMRush or Ahrefs):
- Login to SEMRush
- All Tools > Keyword Analytics > Keyword Magic Tool
- Enter your seed keyword… for example “renovation”
- Select country
- Click search
Here’s where it gets a little bit technical…
include the city you are in or the service
You will start to notice random or irrelevant keywords within the results of your search, especially keywords with lower search volumes.
This is because we started our keyword research with a seed keyword, we are going to get every single type of variation of this keyword that is in SEMRush’s database.
The menu on the left is a list of keyword modifiers that make up all of the keywords that were returned from your search.
The list on the right is all of the keywords with your “seed keyword” in it
The strategy here is to start with a massive list of keywords and to start pruning away irrelevant keywords as fast as possible.
This will ensure that you will not miss any valuable keywords.
Using the menu on the left, exclude all the irrelevant modifiers by adding the keyword groups to SEMRush’s exclude filter.
This can be a gruelling process, however, you must do it this way so that no stone will be left unturned and you will be left with the highest quality keywords for your business.
After you have finished excluding all the random modifiers from the menu on the left, its time to export your keyword list:
Import your keyword list into your “Keywords List” spreadsheet.
Once your keyword list is imported into a spreadsheet quickly do a once-over and remove any random or irrelevant keywords.
Now that you have completed the local keyword research for our first seed keyword, you need to repeat this process for every synonym of your seed keyword and add all the keywords to your list.
After each synonym has been researched you will then repeat the same process for the rest of your seed keywords (if you have more than 1).
Once you’re done you should have a healthy list of keywords to continue with.
4. Analyze Your Competitor’s Local Keywords
Local keyword research can be a long tedious process, but it doesn’t have to be.
An easy way to find the best opportunities is to find out what the leaders in your industry are doing and simply reverse engineer it.
Analyzing local SEO competition requires a premium keyword research tool such as SEMRush or Ahrefs, either will do the trick.
For this example, I will be using SEMRush’s organic research tool:
Step 1: SEO ToolBox > Organic Research > Positions
Step 2: Enter your competitor’s website
Now we want to exclude any keywords that are irrelevant for us to target.
Click on Advanced Filters and exclude keywords that contain your competitor’s brand name, as well as keywords that they are not ranking below position 20.
After excluding your competitor’s brand name and keywords with positions greater than 20, you are left with a list of keywords that your competitor is actively targeting.
Export the list of keywords, you will come back to them later.
5. Use Google’s Search Console To Find Local Keywords
This next local keyword research technique is one of my absolute favourite tricks for finding keywords.
If you don’t already have your website connected to Google’s Search Console then what are you waiting for?
Head on over to Google Search Console, sign in with your Google account and add your website.
- If you’re using the old version of Search Console, click “Search Traffic > Search Analytics”
If you are using the new version of Search Console, click “Performance”
- Select “Impressions, Clicks, and Position”
- Sort the search queries by position from lowest to highest
Find search queries that your website is getting higher than average impressions for and is in position #1-20.
6. Perform a Local Keyword Analysis
The most important part of local keyword research is the analysis & prioritization of your keywords, which oftentimes is the most overlooked.
The analysis of keywords can be broken down into 4 simple segments:
- Search Intent
- Search Volume
- Cost Per Click (CPC)
- Keyword Difficulty
Let’s go over each segment, one by one:
a) Search Intent
Search intent is pretty self-explanatory, it is the intention of finding something specific on a search engine.
Remember when I was talking about keyword modifiers and I gave the example of home renovation ideas vs home renovation contractors?
When you compare these two search queries you can see a difference in search intent:
Ideas – Someone using ideas as a modifier in their search query is looking for renovation ideas, examples, inspirations etc. They are not quite ready to buy; they are just looking for information.
Contractor – Someone using contractor as a modifier in their search query most likely has a good idea of what they want and at this point, they are looking for a contractor to do the job.
You get the point…
b) Keyword Search Volume
Search volume is the average number of searches per month for a search query.
Now I know what you’re thinking: I’ll just target the keywords with the highest search volumes.
Here’s the thing…
The higher the search volume of a keyword the more competition there is as well as it is unclear what the search intent is.
For example, take our seed keyword renovation:
As you can see there is a ton of search volume, but look on a scale of 0-100 it has a difficulty score of 77 (that’s high).
When someone searches “renovation” what are they looking for?
It’s too broad of a search query to tell… if you did manage to rank for it a majority of people will come to your website and leave right away because you are not satisfying the searcher’s intent (then your website will inevitably lose the ranking you worked so hard for).
You need to find the right balance of keywords with sufficient search volume that also matches a potential customer’s search intent.
c) Cost Per Click (CPC)
The cost per click (CPC) of a keyword is how much you would have to pay every time someone clicks your ad when you are using Google Adwords.
Although I don’t condone the use of Google Adwords (I mean why would you when you get more clicks for free), you can still benefit from knowing what advertisers pay per click.
Generally speaking, the higher the CPC is on a given keyword, the more search volume & purchase intent it has.
d) Keyword Difficulty
Keyword difficulty is a rating on a scale of 0-100 of how difficult it would be to rank organically for a given keyword.
Keyword difficulty will take into account the authority of the websites that are currently ranking for a keyword, you can read more about it here.
The name of the game is to do the least amount of work possible for the biggest return, keyword difficult will help analyze those exact opportunities.
You want to find keywords that have the highest search intent, search volume & CPC while having a low difficulty score.
7. Bringing Your Local Keyword Research Together
Throughout my years as an SEO consultant, I have trained many other SEO analysts on how to do exactly what I just showed you.
Over the years I found that people don’t know how to create an SEO strategy, especially when it came to analyzing hundreds and even thousands of keywords.
- they didn’t know which keywords to target with absolute confidence
- they didn’t show exactly what keywords to prioritize
- they didn’t have the time or the patience to analyze thousands of keywords
- they didn’t trust themselves
I get it, it’s hard to do local keyword research and be confident enough to stick to it.
If the above bullet points were a page out of your book, consider downloading my full keyword research course below.
You no longer have to be overwhelmed with all the different local keyword research strategies and tools available on the internet.
Find your seed keywords, brainstorm keyword modifiers & synonyms, use a keyword research tool and finally, analyze & prioritize your keywords.
Learn More About Keyword Research: