Don’t neglect your local keyword research if you have a small business website!
Are you looking to rank higher in local searches? If yes, then you should start thinking about keywords that are relevant to your area. The problem is that many businesses don’t realize that they can get traffic from local searches.
Local SEO has become very important because of the rise of mobile devices. In fact, Google now shows local listings at the top of its SERPs (search engine result pages). This means that if you want to rank high in local searches, you need to optimize your site for local keywords.
There are two types of keywords: broad and narrow. Broad keywords refer to general terms that apply to multiple categories. Narrow keywords describe specific topics or services. For example, if you run a restaurant, you might target “restaurant” as a broad keyword. On the other hand, if you specialize in catering, you might choose “catering” as a narrow keyword.
Finding your local keywords is a great way to get your website and content in front of consumers who matter, who are going to buy your products and services.
What Is Local SEO?
Local Search Engine Optimization (LSEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a website within the context of a specific location. In simple terms, local SEO is about making sure that businesses are showing up in the right place when someone searches for them locally.
The most common types of local SEO are optimizing a site for map packs and local/localized organic search. Map packs are designed to help searchers find nearby businesses, while localized organic search helps searchers find information about businesses based on where they live.
There are many different aspects of LSEO, including how to make sure your address appears correctly on maps, how to ensure that your phone number is correct, and how to make sure your hours of operation are optimized for the local area.
However, to be a success with local SEO, first you need to do the right local SEO keyword research, so you know what you’re targeting and why.
The following shows an example of a local SEO element of the Google search results, for the query “personal injury lawyer in Orange County”.
How Do You Know If You Need Local SEO?
If you’re a small business owner, chances are you’ve heard about local SEO. But do you know what it entails? Or how much it might cost? Maybe you’re thinking about starting out with local SEO, but aren’t sure whether you really need it. Here are five things to consider:
Are your customers predominantly local?
Is there a physical address associated with your business?
Does your business have a physical storefront or office space?
Have you searched for specific types of businesses in your area? For example, “restaurants around me,” “bars near me,” “hotels near me.”
How many people are looking for your business online?
Asking these questions can help you determine whether or not your business is a candidate for local SEO. Chances are, if you have a brick-and-mortar location, you need this type of SEO for the most effective digital marketing.
What’s The Difference Between Local SEO & Organic SEO?
Organic SEO refers to SEO that targets the Google organic algorithm. These are all listings below the paid results on Google. Organic SEO targets these results with high-quality content, links, video, social, and other SEO promotion to get a website’s content in front of as many eyeballs as possible.
In contrast, local SEO cares about the local modifiers to SEO keywords. But there is an entire dimension of techniques that are used in local SEO that target the local aspect of a successful SEO strategy. From content to where you get links to what platforms you use for driving results, the execution of that strategy can be a night and day difference compared to organic SEO strategy.
Why Should You Care About Local SEO?
According to HubSpot, more than half of all consumers now use mobile devices to shop online. That means that if you want to reach these shoppers, you’ll need to optimize your site for mobile users.
In addition, a recent study by Experian Hitwise found that nearly 40% of smartphone owners use their device to look up local businesses before visiting a store. This means that having an optimized site will increase your chances of being found by those potential customers.
Finally, local SEO has been proven to boost conversion rates. According to Moz, one study showed that companies who had local SEO performed better than those without.
So, if you’re ready to start working on your local SEO strategy, here are some tips to get started.
Why Is Local SEO Keyword Research Important?
If you want to rank well for local keywords, you must do keyword research. If you don’t know which keywords are important, how do you know whether or not you are doing enough? You can use tools like MozBar, Ahrefs, and SEMrush to find out. These tools give you a lot of information about the competition, including where they rank for specific terms. They also tell you which terms are most popular among searchers.
The best way to learn what people are searching for locally is to ask them. Ask friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, and anyone else you think might be interested in knowing what they’re searching for. This could include asking businesses you frequent, too.
Local SEO keyword research involves everything on the local spectrum: anything dealing with brick-and-mortar businesses is considered local SEO.
The following screenshot shows how local results for the local query “Riverside car accident attorneys” might look in Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool, along with their search volumes. This is an example of a local search query:
How Do You Do Local Keyword Research?
We are going to use the car industry as an example since it’s one of my favorite industries to work with. We’ll start off with a quick overview of how to do local keyword research and then dive deeper into each step.
Step 1 – Pick Your Industry and Location
In this case, we want to look at the auto industry in California, specifically the San Francisco Bay Area. This is where most of the major automakers are located, so there will likely be plenty of competition. Notice the number of results for the query “san francisco car repair.” This is a query that has over 28,300,000 results, indicating a very high level of competition. This is the number of pages you have to compete against for that query.
Step 2 – Find A Niche
There are many ways to narrow down your niche. Here are three:
1) Choose a specific product or service. For instance, we could choose “car repair.”
2) Choose an aspect of your industry. For instance, we might decide to focus on “tire brands.”
3) Choose a geographic location. In our case, we would choose “San Francisco Bay Area” because that’s where we live.
Once you’ve selected your niche, you should have a good idea of what types of keywords you’d like to target. The next step is to figure out what words people are actually using when looking for something related to your niche.
Step 3 – Use Google Trends To Identify Popular Search Terms
Google Trends is a great tool for finding popular search terms. It allows you to see how often certain phrases are searched over time.
For example, let’s say you wanted to rank for “san francisco car repair.” You could enter that phrase into Google Trends and see how frequently it was searched. You may notice that searches for “car repair” aren’t very common, but “car repairs” are. That means that people are more likely to type “car repairs’ instead of “car repair.”
In our example, the query “san francisco car repair” gets approximately 120 searches on average per week, depending on the week.
You can also check out other cities by entering their name into Google Trends. For example, if you were trying to rank for “auto repair near Sacramento,” you could enter “Sacramento auto repair” into Google Trends.
You can even compare multiple locations by entering different city names into Google Trends. For instance, if you wanted to rank for both “car repair near Sacramento” and “car repair near Stockton,” you could simply enter “Sacramento Stockton auto repair” into the search bar.
Step 4 – Create An Excel Spreadsheet
Now that you know which keywords you want to target, it’s time to create an excel spreadsheet. We recommend creating two spreadsheets: one for broad match keywords and another for long tail keywords.
Getting Started with Local Keyword Research
Before any keyword research is started for a client, it must be understood what the client wants to achieve. This includes knowing the type of lead the client wants to attract, such as commercial plumbing customers vs residential plumbing customers.
The next step is to determine what keywords best describe each type of lead. For instance, if the goal is to sell water heaters, the keywords that best describe this type of lead would be:
- Water heater installation
- Water heater repair
- Water heater replacement
If the goal is to generate commercial plumbing leads, the keywords that best fit this description include:
- Plumbing contractor
- Commercial plumber
- Commercial plumbing services
- Commercial plumbing repair
- Commercial plumbing maintenance
After determining the keywords that best describe each type of customer, the next step is to find out how much competition there is for these keywords. This will help you understand whether or not those keywords are worth targeting.
The following shows what a hypothetical search for “plumbing contractor” would look like in Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool:
Implicit vs. Explicit Keywords
There are two different types of local SEO keywords: implicit and explicit keywords. Implicit means that when you are searching for a particular keyword, you are not including the location modifier within the search term. Explicit keywords include the location within the search query explicitly, hence the term “explicit keywords.”
There are many ways to do implicit keyword research. Some people like to perform searches on topics that interest them and look for patterns. Others prefer to take advantage of tools like Google Trends to see how often certain terms are used over time.
When you use Google, expect that you might get very similar results for implicit keywords vs explicit keywords. The reason behind this is because Google automatically knows where you are located, so you don’t always have to explicitly type the location within the query you are searching for.
Implicit Topic Keyword Research
The Semrush Keyword Magic Tool is one of our favorite tools because it allows you to see how much competition there is for a particular keyword. This tool gives you the number of monthly searches for a given term, average position, CPC, competition level, etc., which helps you understand whether or not the terms are worth pursuing. In addition to seeing the general trends, we like to look at the most popular long tail terms. These are the terms that people type into the search bar to find something specific. For example, if you’re looking for “water tanks,” you might enter “water tanks for sale.” If you’re looking for a water tank manufacturer, you might enter “water tank manufacturers.”
To start our analysis, let’s take a look at the most common terms related to the topic of our project. To do this, we simply type “tankless water heaters” into the Keyword Magic Tool. You’ll notice that there are over 37,000 variations of the phrase. This is a lot of work to comb through, so we’ll narrow down our choices to those terms that contain the word “water.” There are still thousands of potential keywords, but now we’ve got a manageable amount to choose from.
We can continue narrowing things down by excluding terms that don’t make sense for our client. For example, we might not include “home water heater” because the consumer might not know exactly what they wanted. However, we could put together a campaign around “[brand name] home water heater” since this is a little bit more specific, and includes the brand name of the water heater. We could create pages of content about specifics regarding this particular water heater model, how to repair it, how to install it, etc.
Let’s add some additional filters to help us hone in on the exact phrases that we think our client needs to target. First, we’ll exclude terms that aren’t very competitive. A low search volume doesn’t necessarily mean that the term isn’t important; however, it’s usually a good indicator that there may not be much here in terms of customers searching. But, not all is created equal and there are still possibilities for “diamond in the rough” keywords. Next, we’ll filter out terms that are too broad. If we had included every variation of “hot water heater,” we’d end up with hundreds of keywords. Instead, we’ll pick the ones that are most likely to bring customers to our site, and we can create sustainable topics around.
When you’re ready to move forward, you can download the spreadsheet from Semrush.
The following is an example from Semrush, showing the search query “tankless water heaters” along with different keyword variations. This also includes their search volume, search trends, keyword difficulty, cost per click, and more useful metrics:
Explicit Local Keyword Research Using Semrush
Next, we’re going to use Semrush to help us find keywords that are actually getting traffic. This includes looking at what people are searching for, how many times they searched each keyword, and how much competition there is. We’ll also look at which cities those searches take place within.
To start, open up Semrush and log into your account. If you don’t already have one, you are going to need to create one. Once logged in, navigate to the “Keyword Magic Tool.” Here, you can choose to search for or view the keywords you want to research. If you go directly to the keyword magic tool, you can insert a keyword like “san diego water heaters”.
Once you’ve entered in your keyword, let’s select the volume column and sort by search volume.
This will sort all of the keywords in this column by its search volume, which you can then use to narrow your search and focus on other types of keywords if you don’t like this batch. Also, if you’d rather focus on KD (keyword difficulty), that’s possible as well.
If you do decide to target specific keywords, you can also filter the list by including and excluding certain keywords. These are terms that you don’t want to include in your list, or rank for, because your site might not be relevant for these particular queries. For example, if someone types in “san diego water heaters,” you might not want to show up for “expensive san diego water heaters.”
Explicit research means that you’re including local variations. So if you live in Atlanta, Georgia, you could enter “Atlanta water heaters” or “Atlanta water heater repair.”
Now that you’ve got some ideas, let’s dive deeper into the data. First, click on the export button. Choose the options for how you would like to export the data, select your format (XLSX, CSV, or CSV Semicolon), and hit save. Now, you should have a spreadsheet full of data.
Finding Questions to Enhance Pages
The Semrush Topic Research tool allows you to find content ideas based on the types of keywords that you enter. In addition to finding popular topics, it helps you identify less common topics that might be useful for optimizing your site. You can see how often people search for specific words and phrases and whether those searches are increasing or decreasing over time. This information can help you decide what types of content to focus on.
In our case, we’re looking for questions about tankless water heaters. There are plenty of questions already on the site, but we want to make sure that we don’t miss anything important. If we look at the list of questions, we can see that there are thousands of topics related to tankless water heaters, including some very similar ones.
When you use the question filter, you can choose to view questions sorted by relevance, frequency, or both. For example, here we can sort by relevance and see which questions are most likely to answer our needs. We can also sort by frequency and see which questions have been asked recently.
We’ve found several good questions that we want to add to our site. Now we just need to write great answers for them. If you are creating an FAQ page, then you want to make sure that you include FAQ Schema markup.
Finding Keyword Opportunities by Leveraging Your Competitors
We’ve been working hard to find opportunities within our niche. After doing some keyword research, we came up with several topics that seemed like good candidates. However, it’s important to note that there are different types of keyword searches. Some people just type in a few words into the search bar and see what pops up. Others use tools such as Google Trends to help narrow down their options.
In either case, here are some things to consider when finding keywords that will help you rank better for your target terms.
1. What Are Your Competitors Ranking For?
If you look closely at the first five organic results for our main term, you’ll notice four of the five sites are local businesses. This tells us that there is likely competition in our area. If you don’t know where to start, you could try searching for similar phrases in your city or state. You can do this manually by typing one phrase at a time into the search box. Or, you could leverage tools like Google Trends to see how popular certain phrases are over time.
2. How Competitive Are These Keywords?
You’re probably familiar with PPC ads, which show up alongside organic listings. These ads usually cost money, but they can be very effective. However, don’t discount the quality of leads that the right SEO can bring. This can really pay dividends to your overall online presence.
3. Are There Any Negative Signals That Suggest That These Keywords Might Not be Worth Pursuing?
There are two ways to approach this:
a) Look for negative signals in the SERPs. Negative signals could be: too high of a negative link velocity to certain sites, spammy content, and other types of negative signals.
b) Use tools to check if your competitors are using these terms.
For example, if you were trying to rank for “best mattress stores near me,” you would want to avoid terms like “mattress store reviews” because they could indicate that a targeted keyword’s search results is more likely to contain reviews, rather than locally-focused content.
4. Do You Have Enough Content to Compete for These Keywords?
This is another reason why it might be smart to focus on low-competition keywords. If you’re not ready to create new content yet, you can always outsource it. You can hire writers who specialize in writing articles for websites like HubSpot, Buffer, and Copyblogger.
5. Is Your Website Optimized for Mobile Devices?
This is especially important if you’re targeting local keywords. According to Search Engine Land, more than half of all searches now happen on smartphones and tablets. That means if you haven’t made your site responsive, you’re missing out on a lot of traffic.
6. Can You Get Links From Authoritative Sources?
The last thing you want to do is waste time creating content only to find out that no one wants to link to it. To make sure you’re getting quality backlinks, you should focus on building relationships with other bloggers and influencers in your industry.
7. Does Your Business Need to Attract Customers Outside of Your Geographic Location?
If so, you may want to think about expanding your keyword list beyond your local area. For example, if you sell products online, you may want to expand your keyword list to include terms like “online shopping” or “eCommerce.”
Leveraging your competitors is an important consideration, and worth pursuing because of the insight that it can give your strategy alone.
The following is an example of four competitors in the SEO space, and their statistics over the past couple of years:
Putting the Plan Together
Before we start writing content and hope to rank for our keywords on Google, we need to look into the top-ranking pages. We want to see what others are doing to rank for those keywords, and how they did it. So let’s take a look at some high-performing pages and see what we can learn.
We’ve already looked at some of the most important factors to consider when creating content, including the best practices around keyword research, the importance of quality over quantity, and the differences between long-tail and broad match keywords. Now let’s dive deeper into the specifics of what makes a good landing page.
First, we need to identify the types of keywords that people are searching for. There are three major types of keywords:
Main keywords – These are the keywords you plan to optimize for. If someone searches for “best laptop,” for example, you might write content about laptops.
Comparison keywords – These are the questions that lead searchers to your site. For instance, if someone searches for “laptop battery life vs. desktop computer battery life,” they’re likely looking for information on which type of laptop battery lasts longer. You’d write content about laptop batteries.
FAQ keywords – People generally ask themselves one question before buying something online. For example, if someone searches for “how does my credit score affect me getting a mortgage loan?” they probably want to know whether they qualify for a mortgage based on their credit score. This is where you build out your FAQ section.
Once we’ve identified the different types of keywords we want to focus on, we can start thinking about the kinds of pages we want to create. Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning your content strategy.
1. Landing Pages
Landing pages are the pages visitors arrive at after clicking through from search results. They’re often called conversion pages because they’re designed to convert traffic into leads or sales.
You can use them to promote any product or service, but they’re particularly useful for ecommerce sites. The goal of a landing page is to convince potential buyers to make a purchase. It should be short and sweet, with clear calls to action.
2. Product Pages
Product pages are similar to landing pages, except they’re focused on selling a specific product. A product page will usually have more text than a landing page, since it has a lot more room to describe the features and benefits of the product.
Homepages are the first thing visitors see when they visit your website. They’re typically very simple and feature large images. Visitors tend to spend less time reading homepages than other pages on a website, so they’re not as effective for SEO purposes.
4. Blog Posts
Blog posts are great for creating new content and expanding your blog’s expertise and authority. By ensuring that you create a comprehensive blog full of posts about your topic, you can increase your expertise and authority to the point that your blog could eventually rank for anything.
Local Keyword Research is a Great Way to Start off Any Local SEO Campaign
By targeting locally-specific SEO keywords as part of your local SEO campaign, it is possible to identify where and how your users are likely to congregate online.
When you find them through your keywords, you can rinse and repeat your local SEO campaign with more of a laser focus than you would be able to otherwise.
Focusing on local SEO keywords, depending on the area, might mean that they are going to be slightly lower in search volume compared to broader keywords. But, this does mean that you will likely have better conversions because of the lesser competition for these keywords.
It’s a win-win-win situation!
When are you planning on starting your own local SEO campaign for your business?