Local Keyword Research - The Complete Guide
There are hundreds of free methods to find keywords for local SEO. In this article, I want to show you my top 7 local SEO keyword research methods. They’re proven, tested, and will eventually provide you with high-quality keywords.
Global vs. Local Keyword Research
While the scope of global keyword research is wide and covers a global audience, local keyword research is narrowed down to a specific geographical location. Keyword research on a local scale is mostly limited to the local area. Unless you’re serving multiple local areas across a state or across the globe, your research abilities are limited.
A local area has geographic limits that are primarily defined through the competition in the area. However, local keywords are less competitive and mostly easier to nurture than global keywords that face global competition. Each geographical area and industry provides different ranking opportunities for small local businesses.
What is Local Keyword Research?
In order for you to know what types of keywords you’re researching in the first place, you need to understand the different local search intents. Each search intent requires a different targeting strategy and what type of content you need to create to turn the people who search into paying customers.
So before we dig into how to find local keywords, I want to give you a quick overview of what search intents and types of keywords you should be looking for. There is a bunch of different keyword search intents and types you’ll need if you want to succeed in local SEO.
Local Keyword Research Types
Local Service/Product-Related Research
Especially people who already know what they need will search for specific services or products. They’re basically looking for information about the availability of services and products on a local basis. In order to satisfy service and product intents, you want to create service or product pages. That’s where you explain specific products and services in more detail but also try to convert the searchers into customers.
Those local search intents can certainly be clustered in many different ways but these are the most important so you can understand what customers search for in the first place and what they really want. A great way to find different search intents for every local business is by prompting the following into ChatGPT:
It sounds so simple, but especially when you start doing SEO in a new industry, this can be a game-changer. This quote will tell you within seconds what the customers of your clients need in the first place. Be sure to refine your prompt to get even more specific results.
These keyword types are probably the most searched ones. Since they’re quite valuable to a local business, your main focus should be on these types of keywords. They can consist of service keywords like “plumber”, “gardener”, “auto repair”, and “dentist”, or product-related keywords like “mattress store”, “ice cream parlor”, and “where to buy water”.
Many of these services can be found in different variations and synonyms. So you should prioritize finding them in order to address your customers’ problems most accurately. Also, many of the services or products have subcategories.
Someone who needs a plumber might search for someone who can repair the drain and would not use “plumber” in their search query. So it’s important for you to find those service/product-related subcategories and keywords as well.
Branded Keyword Research
Those branded keyword intents don’t really differ from global branded search terms. Only the results are going to be different as every business has its own Google Business Profile in that particular area, showing its name, address, phone number. In case the brand owns multiple locations across a state or nation, the one that is most prominent, mainly the closest to the searcher, will be shown. This is an important consideration when implementing local SEO strategies. By following relevant guidelines, you can optimize your online presence for multiple locations and ensure that the most relevant location is displayed to potential customers in each area.
Global companies’ knowledge panels, on the other hand, provide more general information about the specific company. Most branded searches want to see more general or contact information. So a homepage, about page, or contact page would be the right type of content to address those searchers’ intents.
Customers use branded terms when they already know your business and want to find specific information about your brand. Try to find all sorts of brand-related questions and keywords.
They will tell you a lot about what customers are interested in. And that information is pure value to you. For example, many customers search for photos, reviews, and specific service/products of your particular brand. If you know what they are looking for, try to give it to them.
Many search queries contain both branded and service or product-related terms. They belong to the branded search terms as they don’t really compete with other local business pages on the SERP.
Area & Geographical Keyword Research
There are search queries that contain a specific geographical area. People who search for businesses in specific areas don’t necessarily be located in that same particular area. What they want is a business in a specific area, regardless of their own location. An example might be “taxi service New York City”. Searchers might look this up before their trip to New York City. Location pages or service/product landing pages are the types of content you want to create for those types of intents.
Location modifiers are geographical keywords that define a particular local area more specifically. You’ll need to research location modifiers, especially if you want to create location pages to target areas you cannot rank in normally. So if your business is located in Manhattan, New York City, and you want to expand your reach through location pages, then researching neighboring districts would be necessary in order to know what the neighboring districts are.
You can start by researching big districts like Queens, Bronx, Brooklyn, and co and then narrowing it down to suburbs within each of these districts. You can use Wikipedia to find those districts and their respective population.
Another way to improve local SEO is by using ChatGPT. It returns quite accurate results. However, keep in mind that the data was last updated in September 2021, so it’s not up to date.
It all depends on whether searchers look for a specific service or product in that particular suburb or not. Unfortunately, there is no tool that will show you important areas. You mainly have no other choice than to try and figure out yourself if there is search volume until you find winning suburbs and districts.
Local Entity Research
People who add these terms to their search queries want a business in their vicinity. Not everyone places specific importance on the distance to the business in question. So those searchers want a business that can serve them immediately. These terms are supposed to trigger local landing pages or service pages. For single-location businesses, the homepage is supposed to target their main keyword.
Many people search for their respective service or product-related keywords and add a specific local entity to their search query to define the search even further. Phrases like “Near me”, “closeby” or “in my area” can often be found at the end of a search query.
7 Powerful Ways to do Local Keyword Research
1. Search Auto-Suggest
Many platforms that allow for searching keywords will provide you with an automated suggestion based on what you’ve typed into the search box. Search engines like Google, Bing or Ecosia provide various unique search suggestions. Only looking at these 3 will give you many keyword ideas.
Other platforms are Yelp or Amazon. Both provide customized search suggestions based on your specific needs. While Amazon is more product-related, Yelp displays several local service or product suggestions.
2. Call recording
Call recording is a tricky one but worth trying. When you use a call tracking number, you can set up voice recording and go through all your customer calls and listen to how they defined their problems when they speak. This might even be a great opportunity to optimize your content for voice search. It’s invaluable to know how customers refer to their needs and problems. If you need a reliable call-tracking software, check out Callrail.
3. Review content
This is one of my favorite ways to find keywords your customers are looking for. All you need to do is go to your Google Business Profile on Search or Maps and check out the review content. Most searched words are categorized at the top, so you don’t need to search long for them.
4. Google Trends
Google Trends has evolved into a really useful tool over the years. It’s not the boring trends system as it used to be. You will find a lot of local keywords, trends, and ideas on it. Just type in your main keyword, choose a country and let it display the trends for the respective keyword.
If you scroll further down on that page, Google Trends gives you the option to display trending or top queries on the right and shows you a value related to the proportion of all queries.
5. GBP Insights Section
If you’ve been running your business for a while or you just took on a new client that has been in business for a while, the Insights section on the GBP can be really useful in terms of researching and adding new local keywords. It basically tells you exactly what your business shows up for and how many people have searched for it. The numbers are quite vague but a great indication of the demand for specific keywords.
6. Messaging/ Incoming Mail
What’s better than letting your customers tell you what they need? Check out your messages on Google, your emails and other text messages you’ve received and find relevant phrases your customers use to describe their problems. If you know what terms they use when they refer to a specific problem, use it to your advantage. You should write them all down and then see how and what kind of content you can create to address those exact problems.
7. Semrush Competitor Research
If you’re an SEMRush user this might be one of the best local keyword research methods you’ll ever find. The advantage of this method is that you can find currently working keywords. So basically you’ll be able to use keywords that are currently working well considering the local search algorithm. Get SEMRush here.
Here is how it works:
- Go to Semrush.com
- Now you type in a website URL of a similar business as yours. It doesn’t have to be a direct competitor from your local area. Just be sure that it’s a big business website, with lots of content, like a chain.
- In our example, I chose rotorooter.com, one of the biggest plumbing companies in the US.
- Now you want to go to Organic Research, select your country, and add a filter for new and improved traffic.
5. Now, on this very next page, you can see the keywords that were either improved or that the company just started ranking for. In this particular case it seems that the company started ranking for “plumber near me” with their respective location pages. (as seen on the right)
Now you can check out how those pages look like and what other keywords they target to get those rank improvements. You can also change the order of the table to sort for keyword difficulty, traffic changes, or intent to get the information you’re looking for.
I went into the complex realm of local keyword research, highlighting its distinctiveness when compared to global practices. I elucidate the importance of specifically tailoring keywords based on factors like brand, geographical location, and service or product offerings.
The inclusion of these categories is not merely for variety. They serve as a strategic roadmap to align with your local audience’s expectations and search behaviors. With an intricate understanding of keyword intent, the goal is to provide a seamless and relevant search experience for your audience, thereby enhancing your local online visibility and reach.