Local Keyword Research – Are You Doing It Properly?

Brian Bojan Dordevic
About The Author

Brian Decoded

President at Alpha Efficiency

Join me at the forefront of web design and digital marketing innovation. I am obsessed with web design, business philosophy and marketing performance.
I write Conversion Insider newsletter.

Harnessing the power of a well-crafted local SEO strategy is crucial to obtaining high-quality local leads for your business. And it all starts with conducting thorough local keyword research. But what exactly does this process entail, and how can it help your local business grow?

In this comprehensive guide, our SEO agency in Chicago walks you through a step-by-step process to perform effective local keyword research that delivers results. We’ll cover everything from understanding the difference between implicit and explicit local searches, identifying local keyword search volume, and handling local keyword research for businesses with multiple locations. And don’t worry; we’ll show you some of the best local keyword research tools to boost your visibility in the local market.

Whether you’re a seasoned SEO expert or a small business owner competing with large companies in your area, this article is for you. It will provide valuable insights and actionable strategies to optimize your online presence for local searches. So, let’s dive in and explore the best way to conduct local keyword research.

Table of Contents:
Well-executed local keyword research will help you reach more people who live in your area and are searching for your services.

What Is Local Keyword Research, And What Makes It Unique?

Local keyword research is the process of identifying the most relevant and high-performing keywords that your local target audience uses when searching for products or services similar to yours within a specific geographic area. By uncovering these local keywords, you can tailor your website’s content to align with your potential customers’ search terms. This helps you attract high-quality organic traffic. But it also increases foot traffic to your physical store.

What sets local keyword research apart from general keyword research is the focus on geographical factors. Local keywords often include geographic identifiers like city names, neighborhoods, or landmarks. Such keywords are especially valuable for businesses primarily catering to a local community. Optimizing your website for local search terms allows you to target users who are more likely to convert since they are actively seeking products or services in your area.

Perhaps, the best way to explain local SEO keyword research is through an example:

Let’s say you run a small pizzeria in Chicago, Illinois. You want to improve your online presence to attract more customers from the neighborhood. After conducting local keyword research, you discover that popular search terms in your area include “best pizza in Chicago,” “Chicago pizza delivery,” and “pizza near me.” Optimizing your website for these local keywords ranks your business higher in local search results, leading to increased visibility, online orders, and more customers enjoying pizza at your physical location. This simple yet powerful SEO strategy has made your business much more profitable.

What’s best is that the principles are similar across all industries. Keep reading to find out how to utilize your keyword planner to craft the perfect strategy for boosting your visibility in search engines.

Understanding The Difference Between Implicit and Explicit Local Searches

To shine in local keyword research, it’s essential to recognize the difference between implicit and explicit local searches. This distinction helps you better understand how users search for local products or services and enables you to perform website optimization accordingly:

  • Explicit local keywords are search terms that directly specify a location or include terms like “nearby” that make it obvious the user is searching by location. Some examples of explicit local keywords are “Los Angeles dentist,” “Chicago Italian restaurant,” and “coffee shops near me.”
  • Implicit local keywords, on the other hand, don’t specify a location or include terms that suggest a location-based search. However, it’s still evident that the user is searching for nearby services or products. For example, when someone types “dentist” or “coffee shops” in search engines, it’s hard to believe they want to drive cross-state just to drink a cup of coffee. 

Despite lacking an explicit location, Google’s algorithms are highly adept at detecting local search intent. They can deliver local SERP features based on factors such as the user’s IP address, search history, and device location. This means that even if a user doesn’t include a specific location in their search query, Google may still display local results relevant to their geographic area.

Local businesses must consider explicit and implicit keywords when optimizing their website for local searches. By understanding and targeting both types of search terms, you can ensure your website ranks well in local search results, regardless of whether users include their geographic area in their queries or not.

Why is Local SEO Keyword Research Extremely Important For Your Business?

Local SEO keyword research can be pivotal to your business’s online marketing success. By understanding and targeting the right local keywords, you can increase your visibility in local search results, driving more traffic to your website and ultimately improving customer acquisition and brand engagement. Here’s why local keyword research is essential for your business:

  • Capture local leads: Local keyword research helps you identify search terms your target audience uses when looking for products or services in your area. By targeting these keywords, you can capture local leads actively searching for businesses like yours, increasing the likelihood of conversions and sales.
  • Improve brand engagement: Local keyword research enables you to create content that resonates with your audience. You can foster greater brand engagement and loyalty by addressing your local customers’ specific needs and preferences.
  • Outperform competitors: Conducting local keyword research enables you to identify unique opportunities and niches that your competitors might have overlooked. This can give you a competitive edge and help you stand out in the crowded local market.
  • Enhance customer experience: Local keyword research allows you to optimize your website for location-specific searches, making it easier for potential customers to find your business in search engines. A well-optimized website that caters to local search queries can significantly improve the overall customer experience.
  • Cost-effective marketing: Focusing on local keywords allows you to target a specific geographic area, making your marketing efforts more efficient and cost-effective. This ensures that your marketing budget is spent on attracting customers likely to convert.
  • Improve your local SEO campaign: By continually refining and updating your local keyword list, you can ensure your website remains relevant and visible in local search results. 

Incorporating profitable keyword research techniques will help you maximize your return on investment and take your local SEO strategy to the next level.

6 steps to successful local keyword research

6 Steps To Successful Local Keyword Research

As a digital marketing agency, we’ve seen firsthand the transformative impact of a well-executed local keyword research strategy on a business’s online presence and overall success.

And now that you understand the benefits of investing time and effort in local keyword research, it’s time for us to show you how to conduct it in six steps. Following these steps, you can optimize your website for local search and drive more targeted traffic to your business. 

Create A List Of Products And Services You Offer

The first step in successful local keyword research is creating a comprehensive list of your business’s products and services. This list will serve as a foundation for local keyword research and help you identify search terms most relevant to your target audience.

This step should be straightforward if you’re conducting keyword research for your business. Simply list all your products and services and any variations or specific features that differentiate them.

When working with clients, it’s vital to collaborate closely during this stage to ensure nothing falls through the cracks. Sit down with your client and discuss their offerings in detail, asking questions about any unique aspects of their products or services that might be relevant to local searchers.

Once you’ve compiled your list, the next step is to brainstorm local keyword ideas. Think about the different ways people might search for your services and make a list of these search queries.

With your list of potential search terms, it’s time to utilize a keyword explorer tool in your favorite SEO platform. Many powerful keyword suggestion tools are available, including AI keyword research tools. Enter your search term into the keyword explorer, and you’ll see a list of related keywords, along with their search volume and other relevant metrics.

Now that you have a list of related keywords, refine your list by eliminating irrelevant terms or those with low search volume. Don’t be surprised when you find out that long-tail search terms have lower volumes than short-tail keywords. Include them in your keyword planner if they’re relevant to your business.

This first step sets a solid foundation for your local keyword research, giving you a lot of material to work with during the next stage.

Check Each Keyword And Look For Local Intent

Once you’ve compiled a list of potential keywords related to your products and services, the next step is to analyze each keyword for local intent. The goal of local keyword research is to rank your website for search terms that demonstrate a strong intent to find local businesses, products, or services.

A keyword with good search volume might seem promising, but ensuring that people using this term in search engines are actually looking for local products or services is essential. Ranking for a keyword without local intent won’t bring you the targeted, location-specific traffic your business needs to thrive.

To determine if a keyword has local intent, you can:

  • Perform a Google search using the keyword and analyze the search features displayed in the results. Suppose you see local search features such as a map pack (a group of local business listings displayed on a map), local businesses ranking in the organic search results, or a “near me” suggestion. In that case, it’s a vital sign indicating that the keyword has local intent.
  • Look for location-specific terms within the keyword itself. You can’t go wrong by using keywords that include city names, neighborhoods, or other geographical references. For example, “dentist in Miami” or “coffee shops in Chicago” are search terms with explicit local intent.
  • Examine the search results for local business websites, review sites, or local directories. If the majority of the search results are from local businesses or resources, it’s a good sign.

By carefully evaluating each keyword for local intent, you can focus your local SEO efforts on search terms that will bring you the most targeted, location-specific traffic.

Identifying Local Keyword Search Volume And Other Metrics

When conducting local keyword research, it’s crucial not only to consider local intent but also to examine the search volume and other metrics associated with each keyword. However, keep in mind that high search volume shouldn’t be the only factor that influences your decision of which local keywords to optimize your website for.

If you’re not sure what search volume is or need a more in-depth understanding, we recommend checking out our article where we got keyword search volume explained.

In many cases, niche-specific keywords with lower search volumes can still be precious for local businesses, primarily if they operate in smaller geographic areas. Optimizing your website for these local keywords, even if they have low search volumes, can still attract users in need.

When analyzing implicit local keywords, remember that most keyword research tools display search volume data for the entire country. To get accurate results for your specific area, you can use Google Keyword Planner by following these steps:

  • Go to Google Keyword Planner
  • Click on “Get search volume and forecasts.”
  • Type in your implicit local keywords
  • Change the location setting to the desired area

This will provide you with search volume data specific to your local area, giving you a better understanding of the potential traffic these keywords can generate.

For explicit local keywords, the process is much simpler. Most popular keyword research tools, such as SEMrush or Ahrefs, directly show accurate search volume data and other metrics for explicit local keywords.

Competitor analysis for keyword research.

Check How Your Competitors Rank For Local Keywords

Competitor analysis is a crucial step in developing a comprehensive local search strategy. By examining how your competitors rank for local keywords, you can identify gaps in their approach, seize opportunities they may have missed, and refine your keyword targeting strategy accordingly.

We’ve found that SEMrush’s Keyword Gap tool can make this process very intuitive. This tool allows you to compare your website with those of your competitors, revealing keywords for which each site ranks and highlighting any differences. With this information, you can identify areas where your competitors excel and find opportunities to improve your local SEO efforts. You’d be surprised to find out how many local keywords you’ve missed.

When analyzing your competitors’ local keyword rankings, exclude any search terms that include their brand names. Such keywords are generally not relevant to your local search strategy.

By comparing your website’s performance on search engine results pages (SERPs) to competitors’ websites, you can gain valuable insights into which local keywords drive local organic traffic.

And by continually monitoring and adapting your approach, you can keep dominating the local SEO landscape in your area, attracting more foot traffic and high-quality leads.

Group Keywords And Plan How To Map Them To URLs

After conducting thorough local keyword research, the next crucial step is developing a keyword targeting strategy. This involves grouping your keywords and planning how to map them to specific URLs on your website.

It’s important to understand that attempting to rank your homepage high for all your services is neither efficient nor effective. Instead, the best approach is to create dedicated service pages for your core offerings, optimizing these individual pages for the local keywords most relevant to each service.

To implement this strategy, follow these steps:

  1. Create a target keyword list based on their relevance to your products or services. For example, if you’re doing dental SEO, you might have separate groups for teeth cleaning, dental implants, and orthodontic treatments.
  2. For each group of keywords, identify the most relevant and high-priority search terms. These are the keywords you’ll focus on when optimizing your service pages.
  3. Create dedicated service pages for your core offerings, ensuring each page is optimized for the local keywords associated with that specific service. Use that targeted keywords in your page titles, meta descriptions, headings, and throughout your content.
  4. Develop a URL mapping plan that outlines which keywords will be targeted on each service page. This plan helps you stay organized and optimize each page for the most relevant local keywords. For example, your URL mapping plan might include a page for dental implants with a URL like “example.com/dental-implants-chicago,” optimized for local keywords related to dental implants in Chicago.

Optimize Your Google Business Profile

In addition to optimizing your website for local keywords, optimizing your Google Business profile is crucial. A well-optimized Google Business profile enhances your online presence. It helps you rank higher in the local pack – a prominent feature in Google’s search results that displays local businesses related to a user’s query.

Ensure you incorporate head terms and relevant local keywords into your business description and services sections. This will help Google understand the nature of your business and match it to local searches. Also, you should aim to make the most of available Google Business SERP features, such as adding posts, offers, and events. Doing so is an excellent way to keep your listing fresh and engaging.

Handling Local Keyword Research For Businesses With Multiple Locations

Conducting local keyword research for each area is essential for businesses operating in multiple locations. Don’t just swap location names in your keywords. People in different areas may search for products and services using different terms. Instead, perform keyword research for each location separately, targeting the most relevant searches for each area.

The best approach for businesses with multiple locations is to create dedicated location pages on your website. These pages are optimized for each location, allowing for more explicit targeting and better results in local searches.

To effectively conduct local keyword research for multiple locations and create optimized location pages, follow these simple steps:

  1. Perform keyword research for each location separately. Use keyword tools and techniques, as previously discussed, to ensure that you’re targeting the most valuable search term for each location.
  2. Group your local keywords by location. This helps you plan your location pages effectively.
  3. Create dedicated location pages for each of your business’s locations. Include location-specific keywords in your page titles, meta descriptions, headings, and throughout your content.
  4. Monitor and analyze the performance of your location pages. Regularly review the performance of each location page in search engine results pages. This will help you identify if there is a need for updating content or optimizing your pages further to achieve better visibility.

The local keyword research process for multiple locations is not much different than doing it for businesses that only operate in one area. It just takes more time and slight adjustments in the keyword targeting strategy.

4 best tools for conducting local keyword research.

Best Local Keyword Research Tools You Should Check

Having the right tools at your disposal is essential for conducting effective local keyword research. These tools can help you identify the most relevant local keywords, analyze search volumes and competition, and uncover valuable insights that can inform your local SEO strategy. Here, we’ve listed some of the best local keyword research tools that you should consider using:

  • Google Keyword Planner: This free tool provided by Google Ads is an excellent starting point for local keyword research. It allows you to find relevant keywords, asses search volumes, and get suggestions for new keywords to target. You can also filter results based on location to get more accurate data for your specific area.
  • SEMrush: SEMrush is a powerful all-in-one SEO tool offering a range of local keyword research features. With SEMrush, you can find local keywords, analyze search volumes, track your local rankings, and much more. The tool also offers a keyword gap analysis feature, which allows you to compare your website’s keywords with your competitors to identify opportunities for improvement.
  • Ahrefs: Another comprehensive SEO tool that provides valuable insights for local keyword research. Ahrefs allows you to explore local keywords, check search volumes, and assess keyword competition. The platform also offers a keyword explorer feature that allows you to find relevant local keywords by filtering results based on location.
  • Google Search Console: While not specifically designed for keyword research, Google Search Console is a valuable tool for analyzing your website’s performance in search results. By utilizing the search analytics feature, you can gain insights into the keywords driving traffic to your website and identify opportunities for optimization. To learn more, check out our article on how to use Google Search Console for keyword research.

Final Thoughts

Local keyword research is an essential component of a successful local SEO strategy. By identifying the most relevant keywords and keyword variations for your target audience, you can optimize your website and Google Business account to serve local customers better and improve your visibility in local search results.

To get the most out of your local keyword research, consider using a combination of tools, such as Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, Ahrefs, Google Search Console, and more. Each local keyword tool offers unique features and insights that can help you uncover valuable opportunities for your business.

Remember to analyze both explicit and implicit local keywords and assess search volumes and competition in your specific area. By targeting the right keywords and creating dedicated pages for your services and locations, you can ensure that your website ranks higher in search engine results pages and attracts more local leads.

Finally, keep monitoring and analyzing your local keyword performance regularly. This will help you identify gaps in your strategy and refine your keyword targeting.

If you need help developing a comprehensive local SEO strategy for your business, check out our local SEO package. And feel free to schedule a call with our SEO experts to discuss your needs and explore how we can help you achieve your marketing goals.


Fresh inspiration is a fingertip away,
Download Our Portfolio.

Download Our Portfolio