How To Do Local SEO Keyword Research

By  May 3rd, 2017



Whilst so much SEO strategies are often focused on ranking sites for competitive keywords relating to their service or product offering, there is often a hugely overlooked ROI in local SEO. Despite relatively lower search volumes, local searches often carry a lot more intent and can deliver traffic to your site that is far more likely to convert.

In this article, I want to look at how to go about thinking about local SEO strategy for your business. We’ll look at how you can rank your business in local search, whether or not you have a bricks and mortar premises, but first let’s look at keyword research.

Researching Local Keywords

Be sure to research what your competitors are doing first and foremost. How are they targeting the locations? Do they have dedicated pages to each location? Do they have their contact details on every page? Simply put their contact page URL into Google’s Keyword Planner tool and you will be able to see which keywords Google is likely to be associating them with. You should then be putting these terms on your target keyword list.

When researching your local keywords, you should also use Keyword Planner to get search volumes for your location. Don’t just stick to your exact location, such as your city, but think of distinct areas (e.g. for a search like “plumbers Bristol” you might want to think of you locality at the locations that you service or are near; so “plumbers Bishopston”, “plumbers Horfield”, “plumbers Clifton”, etc.)

Individual search volume for such specific areas will probably be low but cumulatively, it can deliver a modest amount of pre-qualified traffic potential with high intent. It’s important, however, to not optimise for location terms far away from your chosen location, as this will reduce the potential to rank for your actual location.

There are variations on how people do local searches, so try to mix it up with additional terms. (e.g “plumbers in Bristol”, “Bristol plumbers”, “Bristol’s best plumbers”. You shouldn’t ignore long tail search terms either, as despite the low search volume these can often have very high conversion ratios, especially those that express intent to purchase (eg “Bristol plumbers who do emergency callouts”.

A local search strategy should also take into account the fact that people will not always specify to Google their location, as in most cases, Google will already know this. Continuing with the plumber example, you should include in your list of keywords, variations on “plumbers near me”.

Optimising For Local Search (With A Website)

It’s not necessary for a business to have a bricks and mortar physical location to rank for location terms. A local search strategy can enable a business without any bricks and mortar premises to rank for local search terms in the SERPs.

If you do have a physical location premises however, then it’s essential to register for a Google My Business page, as this will allow your business and website to appear in Google Maps as well as Google’s Local Pack, which has a significantly higher click through rate than organic search results.

If you have a website for your business and you have a physical location, the following will get your site appearing in local search listings:

1. Schema data: You can use schema markup for local businesses injected into contact pages to give clear indications to search engines of your shop’s physical location (example 4 is probably the most explanatory in this link). You can also add things such as opening times and the type of business. If read by Google, this will increase the chance of the knowledge graph being presented for a brand search of your local business.

2. Location keywords: Make sure you have the location of your business in at least one title tag, preferably the homepage, as well as the body copy of your homepage.

3. Local directory listings: Some web directories are not the best quality, so always try instead to get on legit directories such as or Thomson, or sites such as Local Pages. It’s not worth the time and effort trying to get listed on poor quality directories.

4. Additional content: If you wish to service multiple locations, a great strategy is to publish location-specific guides or blog content. (e.g “how to find good plumbers in Bristol”). As a general rule, it utilising your site’s blog to create regular content, will help you target local and non-local long tail keywords.

5. Mobile friendly site: As well as ranking above non mobile optimised sites in the SERPs, mobile website optimisation will pay dividends if you are trying to rank for local search. That’s because more and more business searches are being performed on mobile devices and with the integration of map based apps, into smartphone based browsers, this is really a no brainer.

Optimising For Local Search (Without A Website)

It’s not even necessary to have a website to have a presence in Google (although this is obviously not a particularly sensible digital strategy). If you don’t have a website for your business but you do have a physical shop or office, you can still have a web presence for your chosen keywords in Google by doing the following:

1. Local directory listings: Research which directories are ranking highly for your service in your area. Getting your business on these makes sense.

2. Create a Google My Business page: This is key. When you have your page set up, you can input your location and opening times etc, and you will start appearing in Google Maps listings.

The benefits of ranking on local search terms are often very dependent on your business. For many businesses, such as those with a national or global outreach, or those who operate solely online, there may not be a huge benefit to ranking on local search terms. For the majority of small business owners though, a well researched local SEO strategy can be the backbone of a solid digital strategy.


* Adapted lead image:  Public Domain, via


About the Author: Joe Cox

Joe Cox is founder and director of content marketing agency, Rocketship Content. He has written about SEO, social media marketing and digital PR for the likes of Smart Insights, Ad Age, Marketo, Social Media Today and Hootsuite.

Rocketship Content


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