The Ultimate Guide To Local Keyword Research For Small Businesses

Ranking your website for local keywords can be one of the greatest lead generation strategies you implement for your business.

This is because potential customers in and around your business’s physical location will be able to discover your business when they’re actively searching for your product or service.

Your business can be put in front of high-intent searchers ready to purchase right at that very moment.

But in order to be able to rank for these relevant search terms and become visible to these potential customers, you need to perform proper local SEO keyword research from the get-go.

Benefits Of Proper Local Business Keyword Research

The main benefit of proper local keyword research, as mentioned above, is that it will help your business to become visible to potential customers that are actively looking for your product or service in your local area.

For example, if you own a men’s barber shop and your barber shop shows up first when someone types in the search term “best men’s barber shop near me”, there is a high chance that this searcher will visit your website and become a customer.

Local Google Search results.

When we talk about “local” keywords, these also include terms that typically include your city.

For example, if you’re trying to perform SEO in Sacramento, then terms such as “Sacramento barber shop”, “men’s barber in Sacramento”, “cheap haircut Sacramento”, are great examples.

As a barber shop owner, showing up high in Google Search for these types of keywords can be extremely lucrative for your business.

Keyword Concepts To Understand

With advanced keyword research, there are a few concepts you need to understand in order to perform this research at the highest possible level.

Monthly Search Volume

The number of times a certain key phrase has been typed into Google over the past month.

Of course, the higher this number, the better – as this means your business will be visible to more potential customers each and every month.

However, you must keep in mind that the higher this number is, the more difficult it will be to rank for this key phrase, as more companies will be trying to rank their website for it as well since it can be seen as more valuable than key phrases with a lower search volume.

Keyword Difficulty

This is an arbitrary number that local SEO keyword research tools provide to gauge the level of difficulty it is to rank for a target key phrase on a scale of 1 – 100.

The closer this number it is to 100, the harder it will be to rank for this key phrase.

Keep in mind, though, that this number is simply a benchmark for how difficult it may be; it is not the end-all-be-all of ranking for a target key phrase.

We must do more research to determine if we think we will indeed be able to rank any specific term (which we’ll get into later).

Search Intent

What is the searcher really looking for when they type a specific phrase into Google?

If a searcher types in “barber shop” – what do we think they are looking to find?

Are they looking to get a haircut?

Or just looking for a picture of a barber shop for a school project?

Compare this to a term such as “cheap men’s barber shop near me” – the intent is clearly different.

The best types of phrases for your website to show up for are “buyer” keywords, which are simply keywords where the intent is to purchase a product or service right now.

Domain Authority (DA)

This is another benchmark number that suggests the ability of any website to rank on Google, on a scale of 1 – 100.

The closer this number is to 100, the greater it’s ability to rank for any given query.

At Active Business Growth, it has been our experience that local websites begin to start really seeing tangible rankings once they reach between 15 – 20+ DA (depending on the niche, of course).

Therefore, a local website that is between 1 – 14 DA should focus on ranking for more long-tail keywords, rather than seed keywords which we’ll discuss in the next section.

To view the domain authority of any website, simply install the free MozBar Chrome Extension here.

Competitive analysis tool.

When clicked, the bar will show you the DA of the website you’re currently on.

Long-tail keywords.

Keyword Selection

Your website’s domain authority is the preliminary benchmark that should dictate which type of keywords you should try to rank for.

Seed Keyword

This is one or two words that describe your business and what you want to rank for at the highest level.

Let’s use a different example here. Let’s say you are an orthodontist in Seattle and so you want to perform orthodontist SEO.

One of your seed keywords will be “orthodontist”.

Or, since the purpose of this research is to rank locally: “Seattle orthodontist”.

Long-Tail Keywords

Depending on your domain authority as mentioned above, “Seattle orthodontist” is going to be much too difficult to rank initially for most orthodontists.

Because of this, we need to brainstorm longer variations of this term that still receive a decent amount of search volume, but are much less difficult to rank.

Examples of long-tail keywords for this orthodontist are:

  • “best orthodontist in Seattle”
  • “Seattle family orthodontist”
  • “affordable orthodontist Seattle WA”
  • “emergency orthodontist in Seattle”

Keyword Synonyms, Products & Services

We don’t need to limit ourselves to simply the seed keyword “orthodontist Seattle”.

We can think of other angles in which we want our website to show up for.

For example, instead of “orthodontist Seattle”, we could use “braces Seattle”.

Performing your advanced keyword research for the products or services you’re trying to push is also a great idea.

In this case, we can brainstorm additional key phrases such as:

  • “affordable braces Seattle”
  • “cheap braces Seattle”
  • “braces Seattle cost”
  • “cheap Invisalign Seattle”

Local SEO Keyword Research & Competitive Analysis

Now that we know what keywords we’d like to show up in Google Search for, we need to analyze these search terms to see if they have a good combination of search volume and difficulty.

What we’re specific looking for here is a high search volume with a low keyword difficulty.

This means that there are a lot of people searching a specific search term each and every month, but this term is underserved by our competitors, since all signals point to the fact that it will be relatively easy to rank for this specific query.

*Note that the tool below is a paid tool, but you can get a 10-day free trial (which is all you need to start).


KWFinder gives you the ability to view the monthly search volume of any key phrase from any city in the world.

It also provides the keyword difficulty and website metrics of your competitors that are currently ranking in the search engine results page (SERPs).

Let’s take a look at our seed keyword “Seattle orthodontist” for users searching in Seattle, Washington.

Keyword research for local businesses.

Once we click “find keywords” there is a ton of useful information that shows up.

First, we find the search volume for our seed keyword.

SERP competition for high volume keywords.

Over the past 12 months, the average monthly search volume for “Seattle orthodontist” is 390.

And with a keyword difficulty of 16/100, this seems surprisingly easy to rank for.

However, remember that keyword difficulty is simply a benchmark – not the end-all-be-all of ranking difficulty. So, we have to dig a little deeper.

Luckily for us, immediately under the above metrics are all of the competitors that currently rank for our seed keyword.

To get a better idea of how difficult it will be for us to rank above our competitors, let’s take a look at their domain authority scores.

Seed keywords vs. keyword modifiers.

Here, we can see that half of the results have a DA of between 15 – 19.

Depending on our website’s own DA score, we may indeed have a good chance of ranking for this key phrase.

However, keep in mind that the domain authority of a website is simply a benchmark.

You will want to do further analysis on these competitors by clicking into their websites, viewing their ranking content, backlinks, etc.

By doing this for all of the keywords we brainstormed, we will have a very good idea of what keywords we want to target.

Lastly, to receive even more keyword suggestions, there is also a section of this tool that show you 100+ related terms for any query you research.

Here are the related terms for our seed keyword “Seattle orthodontist”:

Local SEO keyword research.

If we dig into these keywords, there is really no end to our research.

By spending a few hours on this, you will most definitely be able to find keywords in which you have a high chance of ranking for, provided you optimize your website accordingly.


Local keyword research is an advanced keyword research tactic that can be very tedious, but rewarding when done right.

By understanding your website metrics in relation to your competitors, as well as how to properly brainstorm local key terms for your business, you will have a good idea of which key phrases would be beneficial for your business if you appeared in Google Search.

By performing local business keyword research with the strategy outlined above, you will be well on your way to attracting new clients to your small business.

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