Your How-To Guide On Local Keyword Research

When you have a local-based business, you depend on local traffic. 

Local search keyword research can help you attract and drive local traffic to your business.

This step-by-step guide walks you through the exact steps you need to take to conduct local keyword research for your business.

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What Is Local SEO Keyword Research?

Keyword research is all about figuring out what words or phrases your ideal customers are typing into their favorite search engine to find the product or service that your business is offering.

Localized keyword research puts a spin on keyword research because it adds a specific location or area to the search. 

Local keyword research is about figuring out what location-specific words or phrases those customers are typing into the search engine.

What YOU Think Local Keyword Research Is Might Not Be Correct

Here’s the thing:

Most of our clients THINK they know what their local keywords are. They’ll say something like: “we really, really want to target local keywords X, Y, and Z.”

And you know what usually happens?

We look into those keywords and… you probably know where we’re going with this… those keywords aren’t great keywords to target.

Here’s a quick example:

There’s a cannabis dispensary in Portland that’s pushing really hard to dominate the dispensary SEO game. It’s a hyper-competitive space and a growing industry.

They say: “oh, CBD is ALL the rage right now. We really should be targeting a keyword like “CBD dispensary in Portland.”

Upon looking into the data, only 10 people per month are searching for this keyword. Not great.

However, we say to the client “hey, you’re a black-owned dispensary, right?”

They respond, “yeah… why?”

We say “Well, did you know that there are at least 140 people per month searching for black-owned dispensary Portland. That’s MUCH more volume than your CBD idea.”

Why Is Local Keyword Research Important?

Local business keyword research is an essential step to creating a successful local SEO plan for any type of business.

Someone who is looking for a local business that provides the product, service, or experience they are seeking likely has the intent to buy.

Local keyword research can help you get your business in front of your potential consumers and gives you the chance to convert them into paying customers.

How Is Local Keyword Research Different Than Regular Keyword Research?

The primary difference between regular keyword research and local keyword research is that local keyword research is specific to a location. 

For example, someone searching for a dog groomer is not going to get on the Internet and just type in dog groomer.

If they do, they might pull up dog groomers clear across the country from where they live. 

They are going to be uber-specific about where they are searching for a dog groomer because they want to take their pup to the closest (and best) groomer to where they live.

Instead of “dog groomer,” they are going to search for Portland dog groomeror “dog groomer near me.” 

They may even narrow it down further by searching for a dog groomer in or near their specific neighborhood.

Local Keyword Research Tools And How To Use Them

The good news is that there are both free and paid tools that can help you with your local keyword research. 

Free local keyword research tools include:

  • Ubersuggest: Created by Neil Patel, one of the content greats. The data accuracy seems to be a little off if you compare it to other keyword tools. You’ll also only be able to search 4 free keyword topics per day with their free version.
  • Keyword Shitter: Browser extension that makes it easy to conduct keyword research from your favorite (compatible) search engine. You can also use it in combination with a paid tool called Keywords Everywhere.
  • Keyword Tool: One of the better alternatives to Google Keywords that allows you to do research by platform (Google, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
  • Answer the Public: Helps you to brainstorm topics, titles, and content based on keywords. Results are in the form of questions.

Paid local keyword research tools include:

  • Ahrefs: One of the most robust and accurate SEO keyword research tools. It’s on the pricey side, though. 
  • SEMrush: Another robust suite of keyword tools that is more affordable and practical than Ahrefs. 
  • Keywords Everywhere: An extension that can be added to your browser, which makes it super simple to conduct keyword research. Rather than a monthly fee, you pay by the number of searches. The fee per search is nominal. 
  • KWFinder: Focuses on longtail keyword research, which correlates well with local keyword research (since local keyword research tends to be longtail keyword research).

For our purposes of walking you through how to conduct local keyword research, we are going to focus on one free and one paid local keyword tool:

  1. Ubersuggest (free option)
  2. SEMrush (paid option)

We are going to walk through how to do local keyword research using each of these tools. 

How To Do Local Keyword Research Using Ubersuggest

Ubersuggest is a free local keyword research tool. 

Besides being free, it helps you find local keywords that are related to the keyword you use to search Ubersuggest. 

Ubersuggest also provides you with volume information so you know how popular a search term is (or isn’t).

How Accurate Is UberSuggest?

This is not an easy question to answer.

However, data indicates that Ubersuggest is around 90% accurate in reporting keyword ideas and search volume.

Why only 90%? Well, trends and data are constantly changing. No tool trying to determine, with accuracy, the search trends, keyword volume, and keyword difficulty for tens of millions of keywords will be fully accurate. The internet (and the way people search) is too vast!

How To Find Local Keywords in Ubersuggest

When you open up Ubersuggest, you’re going to find a main screen with a lot of different options that run along the left side of the screen.

You can start in the Overview screen but before you type in the keyword, consider that it’s important to use keyword modifiers in your search.

Use modifiers such as:

  • Best
  • Top
  • Buy
  • Cheap
  • Where
  • How
  • Near me

A modifier is really just a word or phrase that is more specific and helps to narrow down the choices to be as relevant as possible. 

Since you are doing local keyword research, you want to search using local-based keywords

Think: keyword + location.

If you are in Portland, OR and are searching for a dentist, you would think of local based keywords such as dentist in portland or portland dentist.

You can even take it a step further and search for best portland dentist.

The target keywords you find by using Ubersuggest can help shape and create the focus of the local SEO content you create.

Pay Attention to Search Volume in Ubersuggest

You want to focus on finding keywords with high search volume. 

If you type in a local search term and nobody is searching for it (meaning there is 0 search volume), then you have to find a related search term that has a higher volume.

To find the search volume for a local keyword, type the local keyword into the box and hit the search button. 

This is what you see if you type in Portland dentist:

Once you type in a local keyword, Ubersuggest shows you how popular the term is (search volume) and how difficult it is to rank for the term (SEO difficulty). 

There are 3,600 searches per month for the term “portland dentist” so this term has a good amount of traffic.

Why Does Search Volume Matter?

Search volume is an important metric for your local keyword search because if nobody is searching for the term, or too few people are searching for the term, there is not going to be enough volume to create traffic to your site.

In other words, the juice isn’t going to be worth the squeeze. 

You don’t want to write or create an entire piece of content around a keyword that is going to send very little, if any, traffic to your site.

It is not all about finding high-volume local keywords, either. The local keywords also have to be relevant.

You have to find the balance between high-volume and relevant keywords for your content. 

How relevant the content of your page is to the search term is one of the Google key ranking factors for all searches.

If your content isn’t relevant to the search terms you are trying to target, you’re going to struggle to rank and visitors are not likely to interact with your content.

Pay Attention to SEO Difficulty in Ubersuggest

To the right of the search volume, you are going to find SEO Difficulty

SEO difficulty is a ranking that gives you an indication of how hard (or how easy) it is to rank for the local keyword.

With a SEO Difficulty rating of 28, Ubersuggest says it is easy to rank for this keyword.

Why Does SEO Difficulty Matter?

Keyword difficulty is an important metric for local keyword search because you are competing with other businesses in your area to rank for this local keyword.

If it is easy to rank for the keyword, it means that your competition is not ranking for this local keyword.


If you can create better content than what your competition is ranking for with this keyword, you can outrank your competition in the search engines. 

Look for Related Keywords and Variations in Ubersuggest

Having a good list of local keywords is important because you only want to focus on one keyword per page or per article on your site. 

If you use the same keyword for multiple pages of your site or blog then you are just competing against yourself for that keyword.

Ubersuggest helps you generate related keywords and variations.

From the keyword overview page, if you scroll to the bottom, you can see Keyword Ideas.

This section provides you with alternates to the keyword. 

Ubersuggest provides you with the volume and SEO difficulty (SD column) for each keyword idea so you can tell if it is a keyword that should make your list.

Look For Question-Based Local Keywords In Ubersuggest

If you click on the Keyword Ideas icon on the left of the screen in Ubersuggest, you can find questions. 

These questions can be keywords or questions that you use in your content to help with ranking.

For “portland Dentist,” there are 0 questions. 

If you search “massage therapist in portland OR,” 3 questions appear (see below).

How To Do Local SEO Keyword Research Using SEMrush

SEMrush is a paid option and one of the best local keyword research tool options. 

It shares a lot of the same information as Ubersuggest, but some SEO experts suggest that the information SEMrush provides is more accurate and reliable than Ubersuggest.

When you log into SEMrush, you are on the dashboard page. 

You can type in the local keyword that relates to your business in the search box.

How To Find Local Keywords in SEMrush

Once you type in the local keyword on the dashboard page and hit enter, SEMrush shows you the search volume of the local keyword.

When searching for “portland dentist,” SEMrush shows 3,600 searches per month. 

(Note: This is the same that Ubersuggest showed.)

How To Find Keyword Difficulty For Local Keywords In SEMrush

SEMrush shows the keyword difficulty right under the search volume. 

SEMrush says that the keyword difficulty is 43%. It is saying that it is possible to rank for this local keyword.

(NOTE: Ubersuggest gave this keyword a SEO Difficulty rating of 28 and said it is easy to rank for this keyword.)

How To Expand Your Local Keyword List In SEMrush

Click on the Keyword Magic Tool Link on the left side of the screen. 

This screen generates related keywords and variations of the local keyword you typed into the search box.

You may notice that SEMrush found 1,496 variations of the local keyword. This is a broad match variation of the keyword.

You can also search for…

  • Phrase match
  • Exact match
  • Related keywords 

…by choosing the option in the bar above the list of keywords. 

Choosing the different options can provide you with additional ideas for keywords.  

Generally, doing a broad and related search can provide you with enough local keywords to work with.

Look For Question-Based Local Keywords In SEMrush

You can also search for question-based local keywords in SEMrush. Click on Questions so that it is highlighted in blue.

You can choose broad match and related to find a list of possible questions that you can use in your content.

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Local Keyword Research FAQs

How Do I Implement Local Keyword Research?

Well, we kinda went through that process throughout the entire article above.

However, we’ll share a short checklist in case you want it condensed:

  • Make hypotheses about which local keywords you think your target audience is searching for
  • Confirm your hypotheses using local keyword research tools like Ubersuggest or SEMrush
  • Dig into the data of which local keywords your competitors are ranking for

How Do I Know That My Local Keyword Research Is Helping Increase My Local Exposure?

You need to track the data, you silly goose! 

You’ll know if local keyword research is increasing your exposure if the following things happen:

  • You’re seeing increases in keyword rankings (both organically and in the local pack)
  • You’re seeing increased visibility in your Google Business Profile (such as increases in searches, views, clicks to your website, direction requests, or phone calls)
  • You’re getting more leads on your website

How Many Times Do I Need to Conduct Local Keyword Research?

It depends on the industry that you’re in, but usually not very often. Maybe once a year.

Why so infrequently? Because the way people search for common services (lawyers, physical therapists, etc) doesn’t change dramatically in short periods of time.

Now, if you’re in an industry where…

  • new products are constantly coming out
  • new regulations are changing the names of your service
  • you’re in a local environment where culture or politics is likely to change how people search for your business (maybe you own a gun store or a health insurance agency)