Local Keyword Research Process: Secrets to Dominate Local SEO

Keyword research is a crucial first step when optimizing a website for local search engine visibility. Understanding the terms and phrases your potential customers are searching for can help you tailor your content, products, and services to their needs. This, in turn, can lead to higher click-through rates, lower bounce rates, and increased conversions.

local seo keyword research

Key Insights

  • Keyword research is pivotal for enhancing local SEO and tailoring content to customer searches, leading to better engagement and conversions.
  • Location-specific keywords, including city names and “near me,” help tailor your website’s content to the local audience, boosting relevance.
  • Balancing local and broad keywords enables businesses to capture both local and broader audience searches, optimizing overall visibility.
  • On-page SEO elements like title tags and headings should incorporate target keywords to help search engines understand page relevance.
  • Creating location-based content and continuously monitoring keyword performance are essential for adapting and refining SEO strategies over time.

Local Keyword Research Process

Keyword Research Benefits

For local businesses, keyword research provides unique value and insight. By analyzing the keywords containing geographic modifiers like city names, zip codes, and local landmarks, you can better understand what searchers in your area are looking for. Creating content that targets these highly specific local keywords helps search engines understand your business serves a particular location. As a result, you may rank higher in the map pack and local results for relevant searches.

Conducting comprehensive keyword research prior to a website redesign ensures you preserve any existing pages ranking well organically. You don’t want to drop pages from search results during a site migration inadvertently. Understanding precisely which keywords and pages are driving traffic can help avoid this issue.

Overall, keyword research forms the foundation of an effective local SEO strategy. The time invested upfront in identifying relevant keywords that match your products, services, and location will pay dividends through increased visibility and conversions over the long term.

Check Existing Analytics and Rankings

Before undertaking a website redesign or optimization effort, it’s important to analyze the existing site’s performance. Looking at analytics and search engine rankings will provide key insights into top traffic drivers, successful pages, and existing organic visibility for target keywords.

Specifically, examine Google Analytics for:

  • Traffic volume over time – is it growing or declining? Seasonal patterns?
  • Top referral sources – where does your traffic come from now?
  • Landing pages – what pages do visitors arrive at first?
  • Bounce rate – are pages encouraging visitors to explore further?
  • Top keywords – what terms are people using to find your site today?

You can also use tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Moz to see current search rankings. Look at branded and non-branded keywords—sort by volume to identify high-priority terms.

This review will spotlight pages that are already ranking well. Optimize and preserve these as much as possible during a redesign. It also uncovers opportunities, like high-volume keywords with no rankings. Use this intel to shape the project’s priorities.

Checking analytics and rankings first protects your existing organic search visibility. It also informs keyword selection and site optimization decisions. You want a new site to build on its current strengths while closing gaps.

Identify Location-Specific Keywords

Performing keyword research is a crucial step for optimizing a local website. Start by using tools like Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, Moz Keyword Explorer, or Ahrefs to generate keyword ideas. Make sure to include the geographic location in your research queries to surface more relevant, geo-modified terms.

For example, a plumber in San Francisco would research keywords like “plumber San Francisco”, “San Francisco plumbing services”, “emergency plumber 94102”, etc. Look for keywords indicating commercial intent like “best plumber near me”, “24 hour plumber”, “affordable plumbing”, etc. Analyze the search volume and competition data to identify viable keywords with enough search interest that can realistically be targeted.

Prioritize keywords containing your city and neighborhood names, ZIP codes, “near me”, and other location-based modifiers. This matches the searcher’s intent for local services and businesses. Avoid generic plumbing terms like “drain unclogging” or “pipe repair” that have no geographic context. Integrating location keywords throughout your site’s content directly answers searchers looking for service providers in a specific area.

Balance Local and Broad Keywords

When conducting keyword research for a local website, it’s important to balance optimizing for location-specific terms with more general keywords that appeal to a broader audience. While you want to target keywords that include the city, state, or other geographic identifiers, relying too heavily on just hyperlocal terms can limit your reach and visibility.

The goal is to mix specific keywords that contain your location with non-locale-specific terms people may use when searching more broadly for your products, services, or information. For example, a bakery in Austin may target keywords like:

  • best bakery in austin
  • austin bakery delivery
  • bakery near me
  • custom cakes
  • birthday cakes

Including generic industry terms like “custom cakes” and “birthday cakes” helps attract site visitors who aren’t just searching for Austin bakeries. The same strategy applies for service professionals like lawyers, dentists, accountants, etc. Mixing the profession and service terms with the locale maximizes visibility.

When mapping out location-based keywords, also consider searcher intent. Targeting informational keywords can pull in traffic earlier in the buyer’s journey, while more specific transactional terms convert visitors who are closer to becoming customers. Analyzing search data can reveal this mix of early- and late-stage keywords to integrate.

With the right balance of local and broad terms, you can optimize a website for local search while also effectively competing for non-geotargeted traffic. Monitoring the results over time and iterating on your keyword strategy is key to maximizing your reach, visibility, and conversions.

Select Primary Target Keywords

When doing keyword research for a local website, it’s important to identify which keywords you want to target on key pages and sections of your site. The homepage, services pages, and contact page tend to be the most important to optimize with locally-focused terms.

Choose a primary target keyword for each of these pages, along with 2-3 secondary keywords. The primary keyword should reflect the main theme and purpose of that page. For example, the homepage may target “[city] [services]”, the services page could target “[city] [specific service]”, and the contact page “[city] [business name] contact.”

Mapping out top pages and sections this way ensures you’re optimizing for searcher intent. People looking for local services want to find relevant information about your business for that location quickly. Targeting location-specific keywords right on those landing pages makes it easier to attract traffic.

It also helps to identify broader keywords that are less location-dependent to mix in as well. For example, including general service terms on interior pages helps cast a wider net. However, key pages should still prioritize geographic and branded keywords that align with customer searches.

Continuously monitoring search rankings and volume for your target keywords helps you refine this page-by-page optimization over time. Focus on keywords driving the most relevant traffic to keep your site aligned with local search intent.

Optimize On-Page Elements

When optimizing a local website for keywords, pay close attention to on-page elements that search engines analyze to understand relevance. These include:

Title Tags – The page title tag is one of the most important on-page elements for SEO. Be sure to include your target keyword for each page here, along with the name of your city or region.

Headings – Break up your content with relevant H2 and H3 tags that incorporate keywords. This helps search engines understand the topic and structure of the page.

Content – Your page copy should focus on providing useful information to searchers who want to find a local business like yours. Naturally, work in your location and keywords throughout the text.

Image Alt Text – Include keywords in the alternative text that displays when images cannot load. Search engines read alt text.

Optimizing these key on-page elements to match your targeted local keywords and searcher intent helps search engines understand your relevance for ranking well. Keep these updated as you refine your keywords over time.

Update Site Architecture to Support Keywords

When conducting keyword research for a local website, it’s important to ensure that the site architecture supports the primary keyword themes. A website’s information architecture should match the searcher’s intent and provide a positive user experience.

Some best practices for structuring your site around keywords include:

  • Create location-based landing pages that target specific geographic keywords, such as city pages. These can rank well for searches like “plumber in Chicago”.
  • Have service-specific pages that focus on keywords for each service offered, like “HVAC repair” or “kitchen remodeling”. Group related services together.
  • Include a page for commonly searched keywords that don’t have a dedicated landing page yet. An “FAQs” or “Services” page can rank for multiple keywords.
  • Ensure your most important pages like “Home”, “About”, “Contact” are optimized for priority keywords. These will be entry pages for many site visitors.
  • Add location identifiers in page URLs such as /chicago/ or /services/hvac-repair to support keywords.
  • Use keyword-rich headings and subheadings to indicate page focus and improve on-page SEO.
  • Create content hierarchies – more general pages targeting broad keywords should link to more niche, long-tail pages on your site.

By designing your site’s architecture and navigation around your core keywords, you can greatly improve findability and rankings for local searchers. Continually refine your site structure as you expand your keywords.

Generate Location-Based Content

Once you’ve identified your core local keywords, it’s time to generate optimized content around them. This is crucial for providing solutions to location-specific searches and standing out in geographic SERPs.

Some ideas for location-focused content include:

  • Dedicated city/neighborhood pages targeting that area. For example, “Best Restaurants in Brooklyn” or “Things to Do in Miami”. Include your top local recommendations.
  • Posts comparing your services across locations. Like “Roof Repair Costs in Dallas vs Houston”. Showcase your expertise across regions.
  • Location-enhanced service pages, like “Seattle Plumbing Services” with content optimized for Seattle plumbing searches.
  • Neighborhood blog posts, like “A Guide to Nightlife in Downtown Austin”. Share your local knowledge.
  • Location-specific FAQ pages, like “Plano Tree Removal: Common Questions”. Answer local searches.
  • Detailed maps and graphics showcasing your service areas. Embed interactive maps highlighting neighborhoods.
  • Local area pages for each branch or store location. Optimize with city keywords plus your branch name.
  • City resource guides, like “New Homeowner’s Guide to Living in Portland”. Offer local advice.

Optimizing your website’s information architecture and content for geographic keywords is key for visibility. Always tailor recommendations and insights to each location.

Monitor and Refine Over Time

Once you’ve implemented targeted keywords, it’s important to track performance and make updates continually. Use analytics and keyword tracking tools to monitor the following:

  • Rankings for your optimized pages in search engines – Are you gaining visibility for your target keywords?
  • Search volume trends – Are your keywords still being searched for frequently?
  • Click-through rates – Are searchers engaging with your listings?
  • Conversions from organic traffic – Are your rankings driving conversions in GA4?

Rankings can fluctuate regularly, so allow time before making major changes. Adjust one element at a time to determine what impacts performance.

Refine your keywords and on-page optimization on an ongoing basis. Remove underperforming keywords to focus on better options. Expand your geographic and keyword targeting over time.

The process is iterative – you’ll need to monitor, test, and update keyword optimization continuously. Appoint someone to take responsibility for this. With the right long-term focus on local SEO, you can improve visibility and conversions.


Keyword research is an essential first step when optimizing a local website. By checking existing analytics and rankings, you can identify pages that are already attracting local searchers. Use keyword research tools to discover location-specific terms people are searching for near your business. Balance optimizing for these granular local keywords with more general terms to reach a wider audience.

Select a handful of primary target keywords to focus on for key pages like the homepage, services page, and contact page. Optimize on-page elements like titles, headers, content, and image alt text for your location and chosen keywords. Keep refining your keywords over time by monitoring search volume and rankings. With an informed keyword strategy, you can attract nearby customers searching for your products or services online.

john reinesch

About The Author

John has spent close to a decade working with businesses to improve their marketing and lead generation. Over that time, he developed a passion for building systems and processes that allow businesses to scale by building a lead generation system.