Local keyword research in 2021
Local Keyword Research finds keywords that are searched for when searching for local products and services. Ranking for these keywords will drive targeted local traffic to your website and send more customers on your way.
But how exactly do you research keywords locally?
In this guide, you will learn how to:
Why is local keyword research important?
Local keyword research is important as you need to understand what people type in search engines like Google when looking for your company's products or services.
It may sound obvious, but that's the problem.
Most people just guess these keywords and assume they know how people search for their business. This often leads to them targeting the wrong keywords or completely neglecting keywords that could have a positive impact on their bottom line.
For example, if you're a plumber in London, you've probably already figured out that you want to rank keywords like "plumber in London". But what about the other services that you offer? Do you have a page that deals with drain unblocking? Do you know how people search for these services?
These are all things local keyword research is designed to answer.
How to do local keyword research
Just follow these five simple steps.
- List the services you offer
- Check the local intent
- Check the search volume
- Group and assign keywords
- Look for "things to mention".
Step 1. List the services you offer
Before even looking for keywords, the first thing you need to do is understand the services that the company offers. You should do this whether you are doing local keyword research for a customer or for your own business.
Here is the process I would recommend:
a) Questions or brainstorming
If you are doing this for your own business, you probably already have a good idea of the services you are offering. Write them down in a text document and proceed to the next step.
If you are doing this for a customer, ask them to list the services they offer.
This exercise is very important as many people never consciously think about the various services they offer.
For example, a plumber could offer all of these services …
- Drain the unblocking
- Boiler repairs
- Boiler installation
- Boiler maintenance
- Installation of the cooler
- Pipe repair
… But in your mind you probably only think of your job title: Plumber.
While people search for “plumber,” many are also looking for more specific services. That is why it is important to understand everything that is offered as a starting point.
b) Expand ideas
Brainstorming rarely uncovered all of the relevant services that are being searched for. So it's worth taking a minute to look for any services that you may have missed.
Here is the easiest way to do this:
- Enter your ideas in the Keywords Explorer
- Select your country from the drop-down list
- Go to the "Have Equal Conditions" report
This will display all of the queries from our database that contain all of the words from your keywords (in any order). It's then just a matter of looking for services that you may have missed.
For example, when we do this for plumbing-related services, we see things that we missed like "combi boiler installation", "gas boiler installation" and "radiator installation".
Remember, you are looking for services that you missed out on here, not keywords that you missed out on. In other words, you're not looking for all the ways someone could be looking for the exact same thing:
- Plumbing company
- Plumbing service
You're basically just looking for keywords that are associated with services.
Another way to find "missed" services is to bring a competing site into Ahrefs' Site Explorer and then look for URLs associated with the services on the Internet Top sites Report.
Alternatively, you can check the navigation on the site as the services are usually listed there.
c) Refine your list
When you work with a client, send the ideas you have found and ask if they offer these services. Add all verified services to your original list.
Step 2. Check the local intent
Local SEO It's about ranking for keywords with local intent, meaning the people who search for them are explicitly looking for local services.
So the next step is to check that people looking for these services actually want to shop locally.
If you live in the same area as the company you are doing local keyword research for, the easiest way to do it is to search Google for your services. Google uses your location to personalize the results. So you can use the option to determine if there is local intent SERP for two things:
- A "card package"
- Local businesses rank in organic results.
For example, if we search for "boiler installation" we see a map package and some local businesses in the search results, as this keyword has a local intent.
When we search for "Worcester Boiler" (we're talking about Worcester, the brand, not Worcester, the location, by the way), there is no map package and none of the results are from local businesses. It seems that this keyword has no local intent and that searchers are just looking to buy a Worcester boiler to install themselves.
For keywords without local intent, set them aside for the next step.
If you don't live in the area you work in, here is a workaround to check local intent:
- Go to Google's ad preview tool
- Enter a search term (e.g. "boiler installation").
- Specify a local location (e.g. Nottingham).
- Search hits
You should see a local SERP Here you can look for local company rankings and the presence of a package of cards:
Step 3. Check the search volume
Getting accurate local search volumes for local keywords is difficult as pretty much every major does SEO The tool only shows national and global volumes.
But here's the thing: people worry far too much about search volume with local SEO.
Nine times out of ten, even if the search volume for your services is very low, you still want to create a page about it for your visitors.
Take a service like boiler installation, for example.
Chances are, very few people look for it in a small town. However, if it's a service you offer, you should probably create a page about it anyway because it's useful to visitors – including those you found by Googling something broad like "plumber".
With that in mind, you might be asking yourself, why bother checking the search volume in the first place?
The answer is simple: this is how you know which pages to prioritize in your region SEO Efforts.
How do you find local search volumes?
It depends on whether you want to check volumes for implicit or explicit keywords – a concept that Will Critchlow and Tom Anthony of Distilled explain in this 2013 video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBgJ6E6hSY0&t = 301s
Find search volumes for implicit keywords
Implicit local keywords are those where the searcher is looking for a local result even though he does not mention his location in his search query.
- Boiler change
- Installation of the cooler
This is hands down the way most people look for local businesses. Why bother typing "plumber in New York City" when you can get the same results simply typing "plumber"?
But there is a problem:
If you check the search volume in Keywords Explorer (or any other third-party keyword research tool) for implicit keywords, the estimates are for the whole country.
This is not very useful for locals SEO because we need to know how many people are looking for these implicit keywords in the field in which we operate.
How can we find this information?
Google Keyword Planner is arguably the best tool for that.
Here is the process:
- Go to Google Keyword Planner
- Select the Get Search Volume and Forecasts option.
- Include your implicit keywords / services
- Change the location to your service area
Now you can see average monthly search volume ranges for implicit local keywords in your region.
Find search volumes for explicit keywords
Explicit local keywords are keywords for which the searcher explicitly refers to their location.
- Plumber in Nottingham
- Boiler replacement nottingham
- Nottingham cooler installation
If you found that the implicit searches for some of your services were not intended to be local, this is where you can add a location modifier to turn them into explicit searches.
For example, the implicit search "Worcester Boiler" had no local intent – but the explicit search ("Worcester Boiler Nottingham"):
There is no need to rely on Google Keyword Planner for explicit keywords as the query itself gives the searcher's location. So, you can use a keyword research tool like Keywords Explorer to get more accurate estimates of search volume for those keywords.
Step 4. Group keywords and map them to URLs
Local keyword research isn't just about figuring out what people are looking for. It's also about understanding how to target those keywords.
In most cases, your homepage will not be ranked for all of the services you offer.
For this reason, most of the local businesses create pages devoted to each service.
It can get a bit confusing here, as it is not always clear which services require dedicated pages and which do not.
Take these services for example:
- Boiler installation
- Combi boiler installation
- Installation of the oil boiler
It is not clear whether we need special pages for "Combi boiler installation" and "Oil boiler installation" or whether we can rank for all these terms and more with one page on "Boiler installation".
The best way to check is to analyze the current top ranking results for the keywords.
For example, if you look at the search results for “Oil Boiler Installation”, the page from the local company ranking at position 4 is specifically about oil boilers installation – not just boilers installation in general.
In my opinion, our website should have a dedicated page for this service.
If we do the same for the "installation of gas boilers" we will see this page in the top 10:
Since this is not specifically about installing gas boilers, we probably don't need a separate page for this service. We can try to evaluate this and related terms with a broader page about installing / replacing boilers.
However, it is worth noting that this process has a certain nuance and is not an exact science. If at any point you are unsure, just consider whether website visitors find a page useful for a particular service. If you feel like you can easily find everything there is to know about that particular service on a broader page, then it's probably not worth creating your own.
Step 5. Look for "things to mention".
Let's say one of the services you offer is boiler repair.
How do you create a page that locally stands for "boiler repair" and related terms?
Unfortunately, the approach that a lot of people are taking here is keyword filling. Here you will find the most popular ways someone can search for a service and repeat exactly these sentences in their copy.
Here's an example:
This is the wrong approach. All it does is make the page illegible.
While you shouldn't enter keywords, it's worth searching for relevant "things to mention" for several reasons:
- It can improve the "current relevance".. If a boiler installation page lists the boiler types, prices, and locations you offer, it will likely help Google understand the overall theme of your page and be confident that it will rank higher.
- It can help you rank for long-tail keywords. Not everyone is looking for something in the same way. For every 100 people looking for boiler repairs in London, there are likely a handful looking for boiler repairs in North London.
- It helps the visitors. People looking for boiler installation services likely want to know what you are offering and how much it will cost.
Let's look at a few ways to do this.
Check the keyword rankings for similar pages
Go to Google, find any of your services, and look for a top local business site.
Put that in Url In Site Explorer, go to Organic keywords Report and filter for top 10 placements.
Often times, when you look at these keywords, things come up that you might want to mention on your page.
For example, one of the leading sites for boiler repair services in London also stands for:
- Boiler repair North london
- Boiler repair East london
While we don't want to include these exact terms in the content of our page, it probably makes sense to list the areas we serve on the page. This can potentially help us rank long tails and give potential customers confidence that we are serving their area.
Other things the page ranks for are:
- Fixed price Boiler repair
- gas Boiler repair
- emergency Boiler repair London
- Station wagon Boiler repairs
So it looks like it is probably worth mentioning what types of boilers we fix (gas, station wagon), whether we offer fixed prices, and whether we are available for emergency calls.
It pays to repeat this process for all relevant top ranking pages to get a comprehensive overview of what customers are looking for.
Check the top pages manually
While keyword research tools like Keywords Explorer run on huge databases (ours have over 11 billion keywords), some local keywords are simply under seldom searched for tools that can be discovered.
Because of this, it is well worth looking at senior local business sites for a mention.
For example, here are a few things that are mentioned on a high-level page on boiler repair services:
- Gassafe registered
- city & Accredited guilds
- vaillant, worcester bosch, baxi (i.e. popular boiler brands that you can fix)
Even if few people look specifically for gas safe registered boiler repair services in London each month, the mention of these terms on our site helps educate potential customers, build trust and likely lead to more business – that's the whole point local SEO.
If you don't want to guess, you can use that too Also talk about Report in the Ahrefs Keyword Explorer. This shows which other keywords and phrases are mentioned frequently on the top ranking pages of your target keyword.
Look for general questions
People looking for your service will likely want some questions answered before they hire you. So it's worth looking for these questions and answering them on your side.
There are several ways to do this.
The first method is to find your service and look for a "People Also Ask" box in the search results. This shows related questions that searchers are also asking on Google.
The second method is to link the service into Ahrefs' Keyword Explorer and check those ask Report. Frequently asked questions that include the service name are displayed here.
If any of these questions seem like things that potential customers want to know before they do business with you, they should be answered on your side.
Dealing with multiple locations
Typically, if you have offices or stores in multiple locations, you don't have to repeat all of the above process for each location. All you have to do is specify the locations on your website.
If you only have a few locations, the easiest way is to list them all on your contact us page.
This is what this local sandwich shop does:
Google then ranks its homepage for relevant explicit local searches.
You can create landing pages for each physical location if you want.
This is what this accountant does:
When we embed your website in Ahrefs' Site Explorer, we see that Google rates your local landing pages for relevant explicit local searches:
What about keywords for blog posts?
Given that local businesses only cover their region, you typically cannot write and rate blog posts on Google that will actually bring you a lot of business.
For example, let's say you are a plumber …
If you search for "plumber" in the Keywords Explorer and check the box ask According to reports, you see a lot of things your customers might be looking for, such as:
- How much does a plumber cost to set up a bathroom?
- how to find a plumber to trust
- How much does an emergency installer cost?
The problem is, these searches are rarely local in intent. Even if you've managed to rank for them, 99% of the visitors you attract are not around you – and never become customers.
Does this mean you shouldn't be writing keyword-focused content for your local business blog?
Not necessarily. Keywords are really just a proxy for what people are looking for. When many people search for "how much does a plumber cost to furnish a bathroom", it is clear that this is what potential customers want to know. You may want to blog a post on the same topic for website visitors arriving by other means.
How to Track Local Keyword Rankings
With the local keyword research in your pocket and the pages built, you need a way to track your local keyword rankings. This is how it works with Ahrefs' Rank Tracker:
- Go to your project
- Click "+ Add Keywords".
- Select your country from the drop-down list
- Enter your locale (city / state / zip code) in the text box
- Choose a locale from the drop-down list
- Add your keywords
Local keyword research is pretty easy. But remember, this is only one aspect of the local SEO. You should also create and optimize your Google My Business profile, create local quotes, optimize your pages, get reviews, and much more.
Find out more in our complete guide to local SEO.
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