How to do Local SEO Keyword Research [2020]

Keyword research is one of the most important aspects when it comes to SEO.

It’s imperative to understand not only which keywords customers are searching for that will allow them to find your business, but also which keywords you can target based on the current state of your domain’s authority.

Keyword research breaks each keyword down into three main categories:

  • Keyword search volume
  • Keyword difficulty
  • SERP intent

Local keyword research is even more essential for companies that want to rank in Google Maps, and target customers who are searching for specific keywords related to local businessess in their area.

What is Local Keyword Research?

Local keyword research is the process of determining which keywords your target customers are searching for while typing a query into Google when searching for a local business.

Once we understand which keywords customers are searching for, we can then modify existing pages and/or create new pages to specifically target those terms related to your business’s products or services.

Not only do we want to understand what keywords those customers are searching for, but also how difficult it is to rank for those particular keywords, and how much potential traffic those keywords can bring to your business.

It’s important that the content on your website is relevant for the particular areas your business services, in order to rank accordingly in Google.


Why is Local Keyword Research Important?

To start, the most important reason why local SEO is so important is that most local search queries have purchase intent behind them.

That means customers are looking to find and make a purchase at this exact moment.

88% of searches for local businesses on a mobile device either call or visit the business within 24 hours.

Source

For this reason, local SEO is an extremely important part of an SEO campaign for businessess that wish to serve local customers within their service area.

The second reason is that Local SEO results provide customers with results based on their proximity.

If you search for “criminal defense lawyer” in Google, you’re going to be shown results that are based on your current location.

Google’s main objective is to show you results that are relevant for you, and location plays a big role when it comes to local search queries.


How to Do Local Keyword Research

The objective of local keyword research is to find the most commonly searched for terms related to your business’s products/services as well in your industry.

As a business owner, you probably have a rough idea of what type of search terms your potential customers are searching for, but there’s more likely than not a ton that you’re unaware of that can greatly benefit your search traffic.

When conducting local keyword research, you’re going to want to find and focus on keywords that have search volume, search intent and that your domain is capable of ranking for (keyword difficulty).


Determining which keywords to target

To start, you’re going to want to come up with a list of keywords that are relevant to your website, and keywords that you think your customers are searching for to find your business.

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and ask the question:

If I was a customer, what would I search for in Google to find my business?

Think about the product or services your business offers, and go as deep down as possible when generating keyword ideas.

Start by making a list of these keywords and listing them down.

Next, think about the location(s) you service as you’ll want to include different variations of that in your list.

If you’re a criminal defense lawyer in New York City with your office in Brooklyn, your list might start to look as follows:

  • defense lawyer nyc
  • defense lawyer new york city
  • criminal defense lawyer nyc
  • criminal defense new york city
  • defense lawyer 10001
  • criminal defense attorney nyc
  • criminal lawyer new york city
  • New York City criminal defense law firm
  • Brooklyn criminal defense attorney
  • Brooklyn criminal defense lawyer

The above list is only an example.

Also, keep in mind, you’ll want to include all of the local keyword variations for each keyword.

If you focus on the keyword criminal defense lawyer specifically, you’d want to consider:

  • NYC criminal defense lawyer
  • New York City criminal defense lawyer
  • Brooklyn criminal defense lawyer
  • criminal defense lawyer NYC
  • criminal defense lawyer New York City
  • criminal defense lawyer Brooklyn

And so forth.

You’re going to want to make a list of all of the different search queries that you come up with, and save that for a little bit later.

Additional to brainstorming keywords yourself to start, one way to see keywords that you’re already ranking for is by using Google Search Console.

Open up Search Console and on the left-hand side, click on “Performance” and then scroll down to the tab titled “Queries”.

Here’ you’ll find a list of search queries that users search for and saw your website in the search results. This will also show the total number of clicks these search queries generated:

By seeing which keywords you’re already ranking for, you can start to get a good idea of how customers are finding you, and come up with other relevant keywords around then terms and verify them in our next step.

Remember – we’re looking for local keywords. If a keyword doesn’t display the local map pack when you search for it, we don’t want to target this keyword.

You can simply pop a keyword into Google search, and quickly see if the local map pack is displayed for the said query:


Keyword search volume

Next, we’re going to want to jump over on to Ahrefs to start taking a deeper look at these keywords.

It’s important that we understand how many searches per month a keyword is receiving from Google.

Using the Ahrefs tool, you can achieve just that.

If you visit the Keyword Explorer tool in Ahrefs, we can input our list of keywords to start understanding their volume, and later to get other additional keyword ideas:

When we input our keywords into the Keywords explorer tool, we will then get back important information for each keyword, including the keyword’s search volume:

We now have a list of keywords, their traffic volume, and their keyword difficulty.


Keyword difficulty

Keyword difficulty refers to how difficult it will be to rank for a particular keyword.

The main consideration here is the authority of your website and your backlink profile.

When you use keyword explorer in Ahrefs, it will display a score between 0-100 for the keyword difficulty.

100 is the highest, meaning nearly impossible, with 0 being extremely easy.

Generally, we want to start with the lower-hanging fruit keywords in the 0-15 range in terms of keyword difficulty, and then make our way up over time to target the more difficult keywords as we build authority.

If you click on an actual keyword, you’ll get more information about the difficulty of the keyword, including an estimation of how many backlinks will be required to rank in the top 10 search results:

This is only an estimation, but it’s important to understand how feasible it will be to rank for keywords based on your current domain authority.


SERP Intent

In the case of SERP intent, we generally want to look at the search results themselves for a keyword, and see what Google is showing.

If the results show 10 listicle style articles on the first page, we know we want to build a piece of listicle style content in order to rank.

Google is clearly telling us what type of content they prefer for a specific keyword, and if we want to rank, we should build the same type of content.

In the case of local keyword research, we want to take a look and understand if the “Local Pack” is showing, or not.

If the Local Pack is showing for a particular term, then we want to consider targeting it in our keyword research.

Finding Similar Keywords

Using a combination of Google and Ahrefs, we can come up with similar keywords that are related to the products or services your business is selling.

Go to Google, and from the results page, start typing a local keyword such as “criminal defense lawyer nyc”.

You’ll get a list of other suggested and relevant terms as shown below:

Here, we already get a list of a ton of new keyword ideas including different keyword variations of the city and its placement in the query, relevant terms, and keyword modifiers.

Another great way to leverage Google is to type a search query into Google, and scroll to the bottom of the result’s page:

Here you’ll have even more keyword suggestions by Google related to your query.

Ahrefs is another excellent way to find related terms.

Fire it up, and head back on over to the keyword explorer.

Type in a keyword, and on the left-hand side click “All keyword ideas”:

You’ll now get a full list of keywords related to your search query.

Comb through these, and find the ones that are relevant to your product or service offering, and jot them down.

You’ll most likely find many different variations here that you haven’t previously thought about, so you’ll want to start building out other ideas from those keywords you’ve found.


Research Competitor’s Keywords

Checking what is working for your competitors and those ranking on the first page of Google for the keywords you’d like to target is an extremely powerful way to get insights and additional keyword ideas.

There are two great ways to go about this.

The first – take a competitors website and plug it into the Ahrefs search bar:

Next, click on “Organic Keywords” from the left-hand menu and you’ll then find a list as shown below:

You now have a list of all of the keywords your competitor is ranking for.

You’ll want to comb through this list, and determine which keywords might be relevant for your business.

Another tactic is to see your competitor’s top-performing pages – meaning the pages that are driving them the most traffic.

On the left-hand menu, click “Top Pages”:

You now have a list of your competitor’s top-ranking pages, listed from the most trafficked to least.

This not only provides you a list of keyword ideas but actually shows you the pages and their content that you can drill deeper down into on an individual basis to scan and get even more additional keywords and to understand your competitor’s strategy for targeting these keywords.


Use Keyword Modifiers

Keyword modifiers are words that are added to a search term to produce a specific, longtail keyword.

These are normally adjectives or adverbs either appended or prepended to a search query to be more descriptive about the search.

Examples of keyword modifiers include:

  • Best
  • Top
  • Cheap
  • Buy
  • Same Day Delivery
  • Fast
  • Easy

You can start by searching some of your keywords, and taking a look at the results and noticing what keyword modifiers are being used.

You’ll also want to brainstorm a bit and think about what keyword modifiers your customers would use to find your business and its product or services.


Local keyword research tools

There’s a lot of tools out there on the market to conduct local keyword research.

After reading this article, you’ve probably realized that our go-to tool for keyword research is Ahrefs.

Arguably the best tool for finding as accurate as possible information on keyword difficulty and keyword search volume, this is one you should have in your arsenal.

On top of Ahrefs, we use the Keywords Everywhere plugin for Google Chrome, and also the “Searches related” at the bottom of a Google search.

With the help of these tools and a bit of common sense, you’ll have everything you need to build out a proper keyword research campaign.

There’s plenty of other tools out there as well that can help to get the job done:

Depending on your budget, and what works best for you, you’ll find a combination of different tools and tactics that will get the job done.


Local keyword research is an integral part of any SEO campaign.

Putting a strategy in place behind your local SEO efforts will help to ensure you rank higher in Google Maps, and drive more traffic.

Find keywords for which you can rank, build excellent, hyper-local content around those keywords related to your product/service and you’ll be on your way to success.

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Find out how we can increase your search traffic and grow inbound leads for your business.

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