How To Do Keyword Research for Local SEO + 1 Secret Weapon

How to Do Keyword Research for Local SEO

How do you do keyword research for local SEO? This is a question we’re asked about often. We’re constantly telling our clients how important it is to do keyword research for local SEO still. Some people will tell you it’s dead. They’re wrong. Keyword research for local SEO is the foundation for any successful website and sales funnel, and we’re here to tell you how to do it properly.

Keyword Research for Local SEO is NOT Dead!

The evolution of SEO in the past decade has led to a belief that the importance of keywords in our ability to rank well for daily searches has decreased. As a local SEO marketing company, we disagree with a caveat that keyword research for local SEO is dead.

Keywords vs. Topics

From an SEO perspective, the focus is not so much on the keyword itself but on the intent behind a keyword and whether or not content addresses that intent. Google has now become an expert in recognizing a searcher’s intent, so keep that in mind when you start keyword research for local SEO.

Keyword research for local SEO can provide valuable insights into the topics that interest your audience and their level of popularity. By analyzing high-volume keywords, you can organize your content into relevant topics and target those keywords to optimize your SEO strategy.

Performing Keyword Research

Therefore, keywords and keyword research for local SEO are still an important part of any successful SEO campaign. No longer is it enough for a piece of content to simply include keywords; instead, the ultimate aim is to focus on topics and understand the intent behind each search term. To do this successfully, keyword research for local SEO must be conducted to ensure you are providing answers and solutions to popular searches. By identifying these topics, you should be able to craft content that caters directly to your target audience’s needs.

Let’s talk about how we do this research for our SEO clients…

How RebelFish Local Does Keyword Research for Local SEO

Anytime we onboard a new client, we have an intake form we use to ask questions about their services and products.

We use that to start getting into the head of the potential customers who are searching for the products and services that particular business offers. We have to know what they’re searching for and how they’re searching.

We never assume we know what we think we know, so we ask all the questions we can to ensure we’re using the best top keywords to bring them traffic.

Some of the Questions We Ask:

This is by no means a complete list, but here’s a jumping-off point for you to consider.

  • What do you do?
  • What is your most profitable service or product?
  • How do you solve your customer’s problem(s)?
  • Who are your top competitors? What do they offer?
  • What do your competitors rank for?
  • What do you think you should be showing up for on Google? (This gives us a starting point for our research)


Asking a lot of good questions helps with the keyword research for local SEO. It will help narrow things down for you.

One of the things that we do first is search for their keywords on a national scale. The reason is to get an idea of the volume percentage between certain keywords.

This article will use examples from some of our recent and long-time clients when we did research for local SEO for them. These businesses were a new tattoo shop business and dental practice. Let’s start things off with the tattoo business.

Tattoo Shop SEO

Once I’m finished looking into the national and local keyword search results, I look at what the intake form says, what the client said they expect to rank for.

Then I look at the categories that Google Business Profiles (GMB) supplies for the local business. The reason for that is that Google is mostly on the local side.

3 Primary Ranking Factors (and a 4th for good measure):

  1. Business name
  2. Title tag
  3. Primary category in the Google Business List

Some icing for your Local SEO cake…

  1. First 10 reviews


Getting the first 10 reviews is critical for any business. A new business should get over 10 because getting over 10 creates the biggest impact, and then they need to keep gathering these consistently every month.

The 2023 guidelines just came out for Google Business Profile. They never tell you exactly what ranks, but they always give you some indicators of stuff you should be looking at, like the four big factors we’ve listed above. There’s a lot more to it, but those are the things you should worry about as a local business owner. It’s nice to have at least some place to start with information about what to do and what not to do.

Three of them, you can set it up quickly, and then the fourth, getting reviews, you have to have a strategy and a process and execute that every single month, every single week.

Next, I look at local competitors. I researched all the categories that they’re showing up for, and then I cross-match those findings. (the different sets of categories). Sometimes long-term businesses haven’t been optimized, and sometimes they have been.

Google Keyword Categories

I look at the three different competitors, and I cross-match all their categories to see which are the top percentages, and we use a tool (list of tools below) that allows me to see the percentage of traffic to the different categories.

If you’re already confident your website has all the necessary SEO bells and whistles but you’re wondering if there’s anything else you could be doing, check out The Magic of Service Area Pages, for some fresh ideas to further increase your authority.

Choosing Keywords for a Tattoo Shop

The Importance of Proximity in Local SEO

In addition to the ranking factors above, the proximity of the search to the business is very important. Local search can greatly benefit small businesses, as nearly half of all Google searches are seeking local information. Failure to optimize your business for local search may result in missed opportunities for potential customers who are ready to shop in your area. Local SEO is an important aspect to consider to ensure your business remains relevant, and keyword research for local SEO is a part of that.

A Spot on the Coveted 3-Pack

In terms of LOCAL, you want those proximity searches because that’s where the money will be made. The 3-pack is so important to local businesses because they’re late in the buying cycle. It means someone is looking for something very specific and wants what they wanted yesterday. So, due to that urgency, having a place in the 3-pack is worth its weight in gold.

Google Three Pack

The proximity to the business is critical, and to map out and expand all around that business, all the available keywords that Google allows.

So when you start with the categories, that gives you an idea of what Google is saying is valuable. If Google says a tattoo parlor is valuable because it’s an actual category, that means a lot of people type it into the search engine.

The Tools We Use

  • Keyword Finder
  • Keyword Planner
  • Good old-fashioned manual research


That last one, about the old-fashioned research… If you type in ‘tattoo shop near me,’ there will be suggestions for other related searches below. That is a clue from Google that tells you these are search queries that are being done, are relative to your business, and you need to consider using them as keywords. It’s also an easy way beyond local SEO to get additional keywords or topics for which you need to be writing articles. At least, eventually. Writing articles and blogs is not necessary when you’re starting to build out your website. But it is important that you make that a priority at some point.

In general, the order you want to use for manual keyword research for local SEO is the following:

  1. Look up the categories for the competitors.
  2. Match those against your intake form from the client, both for their keywords and the keywords they feel are their competitors.
  3. Use a keyword finder or other tool to measure the search volume.
  4. Match those to determine the top 5 keywords.
  5. Use that information to optimize your Google Business Profile.


Then, optimize your website and the service pages based on the categories. Here are some additional tools we love to help you with your keyword research for local SEO!

A Secret Weapon for You!

But, is there a secret weapon, you ask? Well, yes and no. But, mostly, yes! One reliable secret weapon for keyword research for local SEO us has been this…

Complete your GMB profile, the title, and the primary category, and get those reviews. Then, using whatever categories you researched (say five), create an exact match page from the category to the website.

GMB - Selecting Dentist Category

When the Google bots crawl your website and pages, it finds two exact matches, and they will then count you as more relevant than another dentist, specifically if they don’t have a service page or blog as your business does. While they may have a stand-alone page dedicated to teeth whitening, it may not be in-depth. Making your pages as in-depth as possible will make a massive difference in how Google ranks you regarding your authority. The more information you offer, the more authoritative you seem as a business and professional. That’s what you want, so keep that in mind when performing keyword research for local SEO!

Some people have such an aversion to having their teeth worked on that doing this well provides you with a major opportunity to make your practice stand out from the rest.

You’ll increase your authority if there’s a category to match on your website and GMB. Even if there isn’t a category to match, you can still rank, but it’s always better to match them up when doing keyword research for local SEO.

Dentist Website Authority

Now, obviously, the big boost will come with on-page optimization. Then, add reviews about teeth whitening to the page that is public and link back to the public review, and that’s another backlink that comes from the Google Business Profile that goes to the website. In Google’s eyes, this is authoritative and will shoot you up to the top of SERP, where you belong!

We know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed as a business owner, especially when you start doing keyword research for local SEO. With all the other things you have to do every single day… now you have to be an expert in local SEO too? It’s not fair, is it? We don’t think so, either.

That’s why we became experts in Local SEO! We’re here to help you reach the top of local SEO searches in YOUR area so that you can share your expertise with the community in which you do business. Schedule A Call with us today, and we’ll do an audit so you know what needs to be done, and help you perform keyword research for local SEO.


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