SEO for Local Business … What Gives?

If you’re a local business, showing up in the right places on Google is crucial for driving website traffic which in turn drives sales. Whether you’re an offsite service-area business or a restaurant with a brick-and-mortar location, there are a number of things you can do to improve your chances of outranking your competition on Google.

A number of factors that play into local search engine optimization, including:

  • Google My Business verification
  • Local citation campaigns
  • Pagespeed optimization
  • Mobile responsiveness
  • Content creation
  • Structured data markup
  • + many more

Today we would like to focus on one of the most important parts of content creation, keyword research. While you may already have experience with keyword research, there are a few things to consider when developing a content strategy for a regional business.

Keyword research helps us understand what we’d like to be ranking for, what our competitors are ranking for, and what our customers are searching for.


Getting Started with Local Keyword Research

Here’s a step-by-step plan to get you started with local keyword research today:

  1. Understand what is currently driving traffic to your site.
  2. Discover what queries competitor sites are ranking for.
  3. Refine our list of aspirational keywords.
  4. Organize and categorize target queries.
  5. Analyze local-specific search volumes.
  6. Begin URL mapping and content strategy.

Step 1 – What’s Driving Traffic Right Now?

The easiest place to start with keyword research is to get visibility on what is currently driving traffic to the site. By using tools like Google Search Console, we can take a look at a 3- to 6-month date range and understand what terms our site is currently ranking for.

By looking through this list, we can start to identify terms that we need to maintain and improve upon.

Step 2 – What are our competitors ranking for?

The next thing we recommend is looking at our top competitors and assessing the terms they appear to be targeting based on their website content and search rankings. Tools like SEMrush or Moz can give us a sneak-peek into any site’s current positions on Google. When looking through competitor terms, gather the ones that have high volume and low competition, and add those to our master list.

Step 3 – What terms do we aspire to rank for?

If our master list doesn’t already contain our primary service or product offerings, now is the time to do additional research on our aspirational keywords. We recommend spending some time in Google searching for terms we would like to rank for and using a tool like Keywords Everywhere or SEMRush to favorite those queries and uncover different permutations or related queries.

Step 4 & 5 – Organize, categorize, and analyze terms

To keep things organized, we recommend tagging or grouping terms in a way that makes sense for your business. Categories may include things like branded, non-branded, high-intent, low-intent, educational, actionable, local, non-local, etc. After categorizing the keywords, it makes sense to reduce all of the terms into a “priority order” that will be analyzed and targeted first in our master list.

Now that we have our master list put together, it’s time to get our local specific search volumes so we can narrow things down a bit. Up until this point, all of the keyword search volume information we have been looking at has been at the national or international level. What really matters to us is the search volume of these queries at the local level. To better understand the volume of the square is at the local level, we will need to use a location spoofing tool like BrightLocal to understand the volumes in our neck of the woods.

Based on business relevancy, local volume, and relative competition… we are now ready to move on to content strategy with our first batch of target keywords!

Step 6 – Map terms to URLs and assign content!

Finally, now that we have our master list of search terms and their local volumes, it’s time to identify the primary keywords and secondary keywords and assign a content strategy. For some terms, you may want to improve existing site content. For other terms, you may need to create new content.

While we could write a whole novel on content strategy and on-page SEO, this initial keyword research will be a great start for your content roadmap.


OK, so there is one boneless nugget we’d like to leave on the table for you today. Some regions search for the same thing differently… What do we mean by that? “Soda” in the Northwest has a higher search volume then “pop” on the East Coast. Know your customers and know their language!