What is local keyword research (and how to perform one)?

Local keyword research is a crucial part of SEO for any business that offers physical products or services in a particular region or city.

In other words – if you are not appearing in Google Search, how can people in your area find your business (or even know that it exists)?

In this article, we will therefore take a look at what local keyword research is, why it matters and how you should perceive and analyze local keywords.

What is local keyword research?

Local keyword research is a process of finding and analyzing search queries that users type into Google in order to find services or products around them.

The purpose of local keyword research is to determine which keywords you should use for your pages so they would appear to users in a specific area.

Why is local keyword research important?

Local keyword research helps you better understand how people are searching on Google for products or services in a particular region.

If you own a business in some place and you would like to appear in SERPs for local users, you need to know what kind of search queries are people typing – and not just guess the most common keywords that come to your mind. 

Therefore, local keyword research will show you what particular keywords you should optimize your pages for so they would be displayed to relevant users (and hopefully potential customers).

How to do local keyword research?

1. Brainstorm your business

In order to start your local keyword research, you need to brainstorm your business first. 

Expanding the ideas about your business is an important first step as it helps you specify what you can offer to your customers in a particular area.

For example, let’s say that you own an automobile repair shop in London.

You don’t have to be a genius that one of the most common keywords for your business would be “car service”.

But this is not the only query that people usually type into Google when searching for car repairs – users might want more specific repair services for their cars.

Therefore, you should brainstorm your business and come up with more specific services (keywords) that you are offering, such as:

  • car brake repairs
  • brake fluid change
  • car battery check
  • or even “car engine diagnostics

You can create a list of specific services that you are offering and that might be interesting to users in your area.

Once you brainstorm your business thoroughly, it is time to expand and transform your ideas into specific keywords that users are typing.

In our keyword finder tool, you can quickly find out what keywords are people using in your “niche” and a particular country:

  1. Open KWFinder and type any of your brainstormed idea into the search tab
  2. Select the country that your business is in
  3. Choose a specific language
  4. Hit the “Find keywords” button

The tool will show you keywords users are searching for in your country – and also show you what kind of services you might have missed (or just did not think of)

You can enter your brainstormed ideas one by one and check every related keyword that might be relevant to your business and create the list of services that you are offering – all in just a few clicks:

This will help you to have a better grasp of how people are searching for the type of services that you are offering on Google and establish a base for your local keyword research.

Pro tip: You can also spy on competitors in your region and discover the keywords (and services) that they are ranking for.

If you know the names of their websites, you can simply:

  1. Select the “By Domain” tab in KWFinder
  2. Enter their domain or URL
  3. Hit the “Find keywords” button”

KWFinder will then show you all the keywords that your competitor is ranking for – just sort them according to their ranking positions and check whether any of those keywords are relevant for your business as well.

2. Perform SERP analysis (for local intent)

In order to optimize your website for relevant keywords, you need to determine whether or not there is a local intent behind them. 

Some keywords might seem to have the local intent but after a further inspection you might find out that the intent behind them is completely different.

The SERP analysis for local intent is pretty straightforward: If you live in the same region as your business, you can simply enter individual keywords into Google Search and inspect the SERPs manually. 

Local intent in the SERP can be usually indicated by 2 main SERP features: The “map pack” and the local businesses that are ranking as top search results.

In the case of our example with a car service business, if we take a look at the keyword “car brake repairs” we can clearly see that it has local intent behind it – the SERP behind the query displays many local businesses offering this type of service as well as the SERP contains a map pack:

On the other hand, the search query like “how to change car tire” has rather informational intent – it shows only pages with guides and step-by-step instructions that have nothing to do with local intent:

Pro tip: If you cannot check the SERPs of your keywords from the location of your business manually, you can use tools like Google Ads – Ad Preview and Diagnosis Tool for further inspection:

  1. Open the Google Ads Ad Preview tool
  2. Enter a specific keyword
  3. Set the language, location, and the device
  4. Hit enter

The tool will show you a current SERP for the given location – with all the possible SERP features it may contain:

3. Check the search volumes

Once you analyze all your keywords and check the search intent behind them, it is time to prioritize these keywords according to their search volumes.

Search volumes of the keywords will give you a hint about how popular they are among normal users in a particular region or country.

But before you just start just sorting them out according to their search volumes and use them on your pages, you need to distinguish them into two categories – implicit and explicit keywords.

1. Implicit local keywords are queries that do not contain the name of a particular location or region within them (e.g. “car service”)

Generally speaking, people use implicit keywords the most often – this is because Google will always show relevant results to each user individually, with local businesses (as search results) that are nearby.

2. Explicit local keywords are search queries that DO contain the name of a particular region or city (e.g. “car service london”) – although people use these types of queries less often, they are much more relevant for local SEO than the implicit ones.

Implicit keywords have usually super high search volumes – for example, if we take a look at the keyword like “car service” in KWFinder and set up the United Kingdom as a country, we can see it has a very high search volume:

Although this general keyword might be relevant for you, its search volume represents users in the whole country – and not used just by people in a particular town or a city. 

On the other hand, if we check an explicit keyword like “car service london” in KWFinder, the search volume is much smaller but shows exactly how popular it is in London city:

Search volumes for both – implicit and explicit keywords – will help you to decide, which pages you should prioritize and create first for your local SEO.

Although it is merely impossible to determine accurate search results for implicit keywords for a particular region, you can use Google Keyword Planner to get a rough estimate of their search volumes:

  1. Open Google Keyword Planner
  2. Select the “Get search volume and forecasts” tab
  3. Paste all your implicit keywords
  4. Hit the “Get started” button
  5. Setup the location and the language

The tool will show you average monthly searches for every implicit keyword that you put there:

4. Map out keywords

The next step of local keyword research is to map out which keywords should have their own dedicated pages and which shouldn’t and create an overall map of your business website.

It can easily happen that keywords that have just slightly different meanings end up displaying completely different search results in their particular SERPs.

That is why it is important to check individual keywords and their SERPs and decide whether or not you should combine them together into a single page or create individual pages for each of them.

Going back to our car service business, let’s take a look at these 3 keywords:

  • car tyre replacement”
  • “tyre replacement cost”
  • “bmw tyre replacement”

Although all these 3 keywords might seem very similar to each other (and probably could be used for just 1 single page), if we take a look at their particular SERPs we can clearly see a problem – all of them display different search results:

In this case, it would be better to create 3 separate pages that would cover general tire replacement services, the cost of tire replacement, and tire replacement for BMW cars individually.

Keep in mind though, that distinguishing which keywords should be combined together just for a single web page and which shouldn’t is a very delicate practice that differs from niche to niche, from business to business.

A good rule of thumb is to simply think pragmatically – if you can provide every important information about the given service in just 1 page, it’s probably better to do so, rather than create 2 or 3 separate pages.

5. Create and optimize pages

Once you group your keywords and map out the structure of your website, it is time to create and optimize your pages for these keywords.

In order to rank high for your main keywords and their related terms, you need to provide high-quality content that would reflect the local intent behind them.

For example, if we would like to create a page that should be optimized for terms like “car tyre replacement”, “tyre replacement cost”, “bmw tyre replacement”, you have to provide content that would help users to find what they need in a particular area.

If we just added these keywords to our service page, we would never appear as a local service for those particular SERPs – that would only result in potential penalties for keyword stuffing.

A better strategy is to provide more information about tire replacement service, the price of replacement as well as specific information about tires for BMW in the location of your business.

This can help you to increase the relevance of your service page for a particular place, helps visitors to get an idea about the costs of your services as well as potentially improve your rankings for these queries (in the region of your business).

Tip: You can also check the competing websites that are already ranking as top 10 search results for the local queries, to get an idea of what information/content you should have on your pages.

In addition to page optimization, you should also check the SERPs for any features that they may have and use them to your advantage:

  • Featured snippets – local SERPs may sometimes contain featured snippets at the top which can be a great opportunity for you to appear high in a short time
  • People Also Ask boxes – you can answer the questions in the SERPs that appear as People Also Ask boxes and provide relevant information to users (who can potentially become your new customers)
  • FAQ markup – you can implement structured data to your service pages to answer the most common questions and appear as a rich result in local SERPs

This post was last modified on October 12, 2023 12:29 pm

Daniel Polacek

An SEO specialist, content writer, fact-checker, editor, and the person responsible for this blog. I've been an SEO fanboy and online marketing enthusiast since high school. When it comes to creating content about search engine optimization, I prefer to write easy-to-digest blog posts that help marketers and SEO specialists better understand how Google works. Also, I like pizza.

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