What is Local SEO Keyword Research?

If you have ever typed “Tacos near me” into Google, you have performed a local search. Perhaps you’re not a taco person – while I personally find the idea incomprehensible, you still have likely performed a local search for some other type of product or service.

Local searches go beyond the ‘near me’ suffix and also include any searches conducted using zip codes (“29212”), city names (“Columbia”), or any sort of specific location (“the Midlands”). Local search engine optimization is the process of boosting your company’s ranking on these sort of search result pages – and keyword research is the process of finding which keywords are locally relevant and are important for your business to rank for.

Today, we’re going to do a deep dive into local keyword research to help make the most of your local SEO efforts.


a list of local keywords on AHREFS for a local Pest Control Company

Why is local keyword research important?

Local keyword research is essential for any business which has a physical location or service area. Simply put, your customers are the people who live in your area and so making your business easy for them to find is of paramount importance. By using better local keywords, you enable your business to appear higher in search results when users are looking for local offerings. This is critical because 78% of local mobile searches resulted in an offline purchase within 24 hours. When your customers are performing a local search they are usually ready to take their wallet out and make a purchase!

It is important to remember that the top three ranking pages on a search engine results page (SERP) receive 54.4% of the total clicks for a given search The eight, ninth, and tenth results combined only muster a meager 8.4% of a given search’s click volume! It should be your goal to be in the top three results for any keyword you are targeting.

Google Business Profile (GBP) – a prerequisite for local SEO efforts

If your business does not have a Google Business Profile business listing (formerly Google My Business), then this is where your local SEO efforts need to begin.

Without a GBP your business will not rank on Google Maps and your attempts at maximizing your local search result rankings will be stymied from the start. Check out our article on GBP and local marketing if you don’t already have a GBP listing or want to ensure your listing is optimized.

How to do local keyword research

When brainstorming relevant keywords for local SEO, one essential thing to remember is to make a detailed list of keywords. It doesn’t matter whether you prefer to do this in an Excel spreadsheet, on Google Sheets, or even with pen and paper – but it is absolutely essential that you write down your findings as you go!

Start by researching your competitors

Your local competitors can be a goldmine of keyword ideas. Begin by listing your main competitors and use SEO tools like those available at AHREFs to analyze their websites. Look at the keywords they rank for, the ones they target in their content, and even those they pay for in paid Google Ads search campaigns.

Observing your competitors’ keyword strategies can help you spot opportunities they might have overlooked and avoid their mistakes.

Identify industry-related keywords

Next, it’s time to identify industry-related keywords. These are terms and phrases that your target audience would likely use when searching for your products or services. Look for both broad terms that describe your overall industry and long-tail keywords that pertain to your specific products or services.

Note: Long-tail keyword is the term used to describe longer, more specific keyword phrases. Instead of ‘plumber Columbia SC’ a long-tailed version might be ‘garbage disposal installation Columbia SC.’

While long-tailed keywords usually have significantly lower search volume, these keywords are generally easier to rank for and tend to enjoy higher conversion rates than their more frequently searched peers.

Use keyword modifiers

Keyword modifiers are additional terms that users might add to their search queries to find more specific results. For example, a person looking for a local bakery might search for “gluten-free bakery near me” instead of just “bakery.” In this case, “gluten-free” is the keyword modifier that can help your website appear in more specific, relevant searches.

Of course, you want to set realistic expectations for your customers, so choose keyword modifiers that accurately represent the products and services you provide.

Specify your location

Remember, the goal of local SEO is to attract customers in your specific area. That’s why it’s crucial to include your city, zip code, neighborhood, or even your street name in your keywords where it makes sense. Be as specific as possible, and remember to include common abbreviations and local nicknames that potential customers might use when searching.

Generally, it is safe to assume that physically larger areas and more heavily populated regions will be harder to rank for than smaller regions. “Columbia SC” is a more hotly contested realm of local SEO than “Irmo SC.” For businesses which service Irmo, this will be easier to rank for and is more likely to generate conversions.

a list of local keywords on AHREFS for a local Pest Control Company

Determine search volumes

Determining search volumes is crucial for understanding which keywords have the potential to drive the most traffic to your site. Google Search Console is an excellent tool for this as it provides real-time volume measurements for different keywords.

However, don’t just go for the keywords with the highest search volumes – also consider keyword competition and relevancy to your business. As mentioned above, long-tail keywords generally offer lower volume but are both easier to rank for and often result in higher conversion rates. On the other hand, there is such a thing as too niche a category. If you are able to rank first on a search term that no one uses, all you win is dubious bragging rights.

Analyze your target keywords’ SERPs

Analyzing the SERPs of your target keywords can give you a wealth of information. You can understand the user intent behind the searches, identify content gaps your website can fill, and evaluate the strength of the competition. If the top-ranking sites for a particular keyword are all major national brands, it might be difficult for your small local business to compete.

Search intent

When it comes to determining local keywords, intent is essential. You want to choose the right keywords to rank for in order to get your landing pages in front of customers who are looking to buy a local product or service. The alternative could see customers who want to learn more about how to fix their own toilet arriving on your toilet repair landing page. While this would boost traffic, you wouldn’t expect this to help increase conversions.

Generally, for local keyword research you should prioritize Google search terms that produce a ‘local pack’ or ‘map pack’ in the results. The map pack result will highlight three businesses which have Google Business Profile listings and is a strong signal that Google regards this search as having local intent.

Choose your battles

At the end of the day, if a national chain decides they want to dominate a particular keyword, they have the budget to do so. Trying to directly compete for keywords with businesses whose marketing budgets likely exceed your annual revenue is an act of futility. If you are finding keywords which are dominated by industry juggernauts, your best bet is to choose easier targets. Local keyword research tools, like AHREFs, provide helpful metrics including keyword difficulty estimates which can give you a realistic idea of what it will take to rank for a given keyword.

Remember, failing to rank within the top few results for a given keyword can be essentially equivalent to not ranking for it at all.

Map your keywords to URLs

Finally, you should map each keyword to a specific page on your site where you plan to optimize for that keyword. This strategy helps avoid keyword cannibalization and ensures that you have unique, relevant content for each keyword you’re targeting.

Business owners should resist the temptation to try to have each of their landing pages rank for every keyword as this will result in pages competing with themselves. Your goal is to have a single page rank at the top of the organic search results – not to have three pages rank at the bottom.

How to track your local keywords rankings

Once you’ve chosen the keywords that you want to rank for, it’s important to begin tracking how your website is performing on them. This will let you know whether or not your local SEO strategy is working, and can help you determine when it is time to refresh old content.

Google Search Console’s (GSC) Search Performance Report is a great, free resource for monitoring your website’s performance and can provide you with data on organic traffic, keyword ranking, CTR (click-through rate), average position, and more.

At Cut Throat Marketing we supplement GSC’s reports with AHREFs excellent tracking tools. Together, GSC and AHREFs provide a comprehensive overview for monitoring keyword performance, identifying trends, and making data-driven digital marketing decisions.

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Local Keyword Research Helps You Capture More of Your Market

Mastering local SEO keyword research is like unlocking a secret weapon for your small business. It allows you to compete effectively with larger businesses by catering specifically to your local audience’s needs, and helps you make the most of your online marketing efforts.

From identifying long-tail keywords to tracking your site’s ranking over time, local SEO is a process that can deliver amazing results. If you’re interested in maximizing your local SEO but aren’t ready to go it alone, we specialize in search engine optimization for small, service-based businesses and can help you not only rank higher, but generate more revenue!