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How To Do Local Keyword Research & Improve Brand Visibility

Keyword research involves knowing your customers, the market, and your competitors, as well as creating a customer journey funnel that describes the experience ― from the first touch to the final sale. Unlock your geographic potential by tapping into local keywords, even if you don’t have a brick-and-mortar store.

Aug 9, 2022

10 m read

Local keyword research can help get your business in front of the people most likely to buy your products or engage your services. Since roughly half of all web searches are local, having a local search engine optimization (SEO) strategy in place that helps you capture traffic for local keywords can bring more organic traffic to your website and more foot traffic to your storefront or office.

But how do you get the process rolling?

If you’ve tried using keyword tools to identify the right words to optimize your content around and come up empty-handed, don’t worry. I’m going to share a process you can implement to start identifying and using crucial local keywords so you can capture a greater share of local traffic and boost your local SEO rankings.

Why Local Keyword Research Matters

Local keyword research allows you to optimize pages offering location-specific products and services so they appear in local search results.

If you’ve tried running local keyword research for your business and gotten stressed from all the low-volume options, it’s time to turn that narrative on its head and recognize the opportunity those keywords present.

Targeting low-volume keywords is worthwhile.

Here’s why:

Keyword data is not always accurate. Keyword research tools like SEMrush and Ahrefs don’t get their data directly from search engines. Instead, they have their own crawlers that gather information. That means the data they present isn’t directly from a search engine and may not match up 100% with actual search volume.

While local keywords may seem like they don’t have enough volume, they represent searches that are more specific than high-volume keywords conducted by consumers who are more prepared to buy. Dominating these local keyword niches can be the key to victory over your local competitors.

What makes a search local? Sometimes it’s obvious: A localized search query like “Jamaican restaurant in Philadelphia” makes it easy for search engines to return appropriate local results for users to evaluate. But sometimes there are no specific location-based terms in a search, meaning search engines have to rely on conditional or contextual clues instead, like with near-me searches.

That’s where local keyword research can help. If you can anticipate local searchers’ intent by identifying and leveraging the most relevant local keywords, you stand a greater chance of capturing local traffic.

Map Pack / Local 3-Pack

When trying to capture local web traffic, one of the most common goals is appearing on the “Map Pack,” sometimes known as the “Local 3-Pack.” The Map Pack is the generic term for the localized business listings that show at the top of Google’s search engine results page (SERP). These listings are contained in their own box with images and location points on a map. This additional real estate on the SERPs makes being included in a Map Pack a top goal for all businesses that offer location-based services. 

Google local pack for Jamaican restaurants in Philadelphia

Google chooses who appears in the Map Pack based on a variety of factors — some of which you can control. 

  • Proximity: The most important variable is proximity to the searcher, which is something you can’t control. Google is more likely to select businesses that are physically close to the searcher.
  • Strong Google Business Profile: Your Google Business Profile should be accurate, consistent, and complete. Resist the temptation to engage in keyword stuffing, and be sure to use high-quality, compelling photos to enhance your listing’s visual appeal. Follow our Google Business Profile optimization tips to maximize this real estate.
  • High-quality reviews: Consumers trust reviews. In fact, nine out of ten consumers check reviews before purchasing a product or going to a restaurant. Not only that, but Google uses reviews as a ranking factor for local search.
  • Citations: Just as backlinks can vastly improve your SEO, having your local business cited elsewhere on the web — on social media, in directories like CitySearch, review sites like Yelp! and local blogs — adds authority and heft to your business’s overall profile.

Near-Me Searches

“Near me” searches are typically made by someone ready to make a purchase. An up-to-date Google Business Profile may boost your ranking for these valuable localized searches on Google.

In addition, if your business has multiple locations, creating a separate page — ideally with a local keyword in the URL (such as — sends strong signals to Google and other search engines regarding your location. 

What You Need to Do Local SEO Keyword Research

Get started with local keyword research — familiarize yourself with these tools so you can start finding the best words and phrases to optimize your web pages around.

Keyword Research Tools

You can use any keyword research tool to identify and research local keywords. However, they may not provide you with the most accurate results since local keywords tend to have lower search volumes. Check out the pros and cons of keyword research tools here.

Some keyword tools say they specifically support local keyword research. However, these tools may only provide information for specific regions or cities. While this may be helpful for businesses based in popular metropolises, it doesn’t provide a solution for businesses in smaller cities or towns. If you want a local keyword research tool, make sure to check that it includes your geographic region.

Google Search Console

Google Search Console can help you track your organic traffic and identify how people are finding you through search. If you’re not familiar with it, follow our Google Search Console guide.

Since Google Search Console provides insights into search terms used to find your web pages, you can use that information to support your local SEO strategy. I share one way to do this below.

How To Do Local Keyword Research

Once you know the tools you’re going to use or test out, it’s time to identify the most important keywords to target. 

1. Nail Down Your SEO Goals

Determine which pages you want to improve and create measurable goals for them with specific metrics so you can monitor and track your performance. 

For example, you can focus on increasing organic traffic by a certain percentage or the amount of keywords your page ranks for. These SEO goals should map directly to your business objectives.

2. Find & Analyze Your Industry Keywords

To do local keyword research, begin with a list of your business’s services. If you run a pet walking and grooming service, think about everything you do and where you do it. Do you offer dog walking services only in particular neighborhoods? What about pet sitting? Do you offer mobile grooming services, or do you have a set location?

Take the consumer’s point of view and imagine all the ways they could conceivably search for your business.

Along with your physical location, the list you come up with will provide you with possible keywords to run through a keyword research tool to identify search volume and keyword difficulty.

Check Your Google Search Console to See How People Find You

One way to find great keywords is to see how people currently find you.

To understand which search queries people use to find you, navigate to Google Search Console and click on the ‘Search results’ in the Performance Overview.

performance overview screenshot

At the bottom of the page, you’ll see a table with headers such as ‘Pages,’ ‘Devices,’ and ‘Dates.’ Click on ‘Queries,’ and you’ll see a list of the top queries searchers used to find you, with click and impression data for each.

screenshot of top queries for local keyword research in GSC

Click on ‘Pages’ to see each of your indexed web pages.

pages overview in GSC

Select the page you want to learn more about, then click on ‘Queries’ again to see the words and phrases people google to find that page, the number of clicks those keywords have led to, and the number of times your web page has appeared in search results for that keyword.

queries for page in GSC

You now have a great idea of how people search for your business. You can use our tips for optimizing existing content to improve the copy on your page and attract more traffic.

Check Competitor’s Keywords

There are a number of ways to go about this important step; I’ll run down a couple of the most useful (and free) options:

  • Page Meta Tags: On a competing website, pick a page to look for keywords in, and then right-click anywhere on the page to enable “View Page Source.” In the window that appears on the right-hand side of the screen, look for keywords in the title tag, meta description, image title and alt tags, and the optional keywords tag. While not all sites utilize the keywords tag, it never hurts to check!
  • Google Keyword Planner: Google’s Ads may be designed to host your digital advertising campaigns, but it contains a powerful (and free!) tool to help you research competitive web pages, too. Inside Google Ads, click “Tools and Settings” on the top bar and then select “Keyword Planner” at the far left. Select “Discover new keywords” and then choose “Start with a website.” In the text field, enter the URL of the site you want to research keywords for. You can choose to scan a specific page or the entire website.

You can also use a paid tool like Ahrefs to see what keywords a specific URL is ranking for. Just copy the URL you want to learn more about into Site Explorer and select ‘URL.’ 

ahrefs site explorer bar

You’ll see info on how many backlinks and referring domains their page has, how much estimated search volume it receives, and how many keywords it’s ranking for. 

ahrefs dashboard screenshot

Click the number under ‘Organic keywords’ to see a list of the keywords the site is ranking for. 

Identify Search Volume & Keyword Difficulty

Many keyword research tools provide an estimated search volume that tells you how many times a specific keyword is used every month. And while it might seem intuitive to focus on keywords with high search volumes, that’s not necessarily the best course of action.

It’s true that a low-volume keyword isn’t searched as often as a high-volume one. However, this can actually work to your advantage. Many businesses ignore low-search-volume terms, which can make it easier for you to rank for them. Capturing several of these terms will allow you to bring more traffic to your website and possibly help you rank for more higher-volume keywords in the future.

Rather than only focusing on search volume, take a look at keyword difficulty. Keyword difficulty is a measure of how hard it is to rank in the top ten organic search results for a given keyword. Some of the keywords in your industry may have a very high keyword difficulty — which means it will be harder for you to rank for them unless you have a high domain authority.

Focusing on keywords with a lower keyword difficulty and higher search volume will allow you to drive traffic to your site. 

3. Include Local Qualifiers & Modifiers

When you include qualifiers and modifiers in your local keyword research — like “in Philadelphia,” or the name of a town, state, or place before or after a keyword — you narrow the scope of the search and place focus on the location. Plus, long-tail keywords such as “Philadelphia Jamaican food” may be easier to rank for than “Jamaican food.”

Modifiers and qualifiers can give information about the keyword: location, style, or brand, for instance. Or they can give information about certainty, intent, or the context of the search:

  • Best
  • Top
  • How to
  • Where to
  • Buy
  • Reviews

4. Pinpoint Search Intent

Web searches generally fulfill one of four basic search intents: informational, transactional, navigational, or commercial investigation. To pinpoint search intent, google your keyword and study the returns. They’ll give you valuable context as to what intent the search typically fulfills.

5. Group Keywords to Create Keyword Themes

Now that you understand what keywords you should be targeting and the search intent Google attributes to them, it’s time to group them together.

You’ll notice that some of your keywords may be similar. While checking their intent, a lot of the same results probably popped up in SERPs. That means that while they’re different, they’re semantically related. Since Google views the search intent of these different keywords in the same way and provides similar results, you’ll want to combine those keywords into a theme rather than using them on separate pages. If you create pages for each of them, you’ll end up with keyword cannibalization.

Optimizing Around Your Local Keywords

Once you’ve identified your keywords and gained insights into who’s using them and why, it’s time to incorporate them into your existing web copy and blog posts. Use your keywords to drive your local SEO strategy.

The following resources will guide you through the process:

Tip: Don’t forget to use local schema and optimize your Google Business Profile. You can include some of your local keywords in your GBP. While you’re at it, make sure your name, address, and phone number are the same on your Google Business profile and website. This sends strong trust signals to Google! 

FAQs about Local SEO Keyword Research

What if I have multiple locations?

Each location should have its own page, seeded with distinct local keywords and accurate NAP (name, address, phone number). Each location should also have its own Google Business Profile leveraging a local keyword for each location. 

Do all of my pages need to feature local keywords?

Any page that houses information for one of your locations should contain local keywords. Some of your blog posts should also contain local keywords, but they don’t all need to. It’s ok to target broader keywords as long they’re relevant to your customer base and business.

Should my blog posts feature local keywords?

Absolutely! Blogs are a great place to feature long-tailed local keywords associated with regions, cities, and neighborhoods. For example, if you’re a local pet boutique in Philadelphia, you can write about the “best dog parks in Logan Square” or another neighborhood. 

How do I show up in “near me” searches?

You don’t just need to append your keywords with “near me” to show up in those local searches. Instead, focus on providing localization clues to search engines. These include:

  • A complete and optimized Google My Business profile
  • Listings in relevant directories (Yelp, Yellow Pages, etc.)
  • Correct and consistent contact info
  • Excellent Google and other reviews
  • Geographically relevant backlinks
  • A location page optimized around a local keyword

Are there keyword research tools only for local SEO?

You can use any of the keyword research tools above to perform local research. Google Trends, which allows you to filter results by state, metro area, or city and determine which keywords (and related ones) are trending locally, can also help you better pinpoint the words and phrases you should optimize around.

Why do my local keywords have low search volume in keyword research tools?

Keyword research tools often struggle to return accurate data on local keywords. However, low search volume doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use a keyword. Low-volume and long-tail keywords still drive traffic to your website and, when semantically related, can be used to create keyword themes.  

Need Help with Your Local SEO?

Whether you’re a national company with multiple locations or a local business serving a specific area, local SEO can help you get your brand in front of the people most likely to engage your services. If you want to connect with more local customers and provide them with the solutions they need right when they want them most, schedule a free SEO consultation to learn more about Victorious’s local SEO services.

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