How to Draft a List of Local Keywords for a Small Business

by on May 31, 2010 · 0 comments

This post is part 3 of a 10 post series on local website optimization and keyword selection by guest author Jeff Howard. A complete list of all posts and links can be found at the bottom of the page.

The previous post outlined 3 rules of thumb for local based keyword research. Now it is time to draft a list of keywords. This is best started by asking yourself (and others) a series of questions.

Each of these questions will result in answers that will make up your initial keyword list, and keep your research accounted for. It might help to write down the answers to each of the four questions in columns (use excel).

What Areas Does My Business Serve?

Because we know that it’s better to target searchers from specific areas and not target broad searchers let’s first create a list of regions that your business serves.

Keep in mind, your business might service multiple regions. For example, possibly your business is located between two townships, or in a twin city. In that case, two separate phrases may be searched to find you. Maybe your business is located in a small part of a city, but also could serve the entire city, this would create a need to describe your location in two different manners. Maybe your business only serves a very small portion of a larger city, this might require you to be very savvy on how locals describe where they live.

Take for example a small gym The gym is located in the city of Pittsburgh, but more specifically it’s located in the Southside neighborhood of the city. Therefore, the location can be described in two different ways; one Pittsburgh, and more granularly the Southside. Generally speaking if I can attract visitors from the Southside I will have the best chance at increasing business, possibly folks using searching Pittsburgh are looking downtown, or will refine their search later for a smaller area.

How Would People Describe What My Business Offers?

The level of difficulty involved with this question is relative to what it is your business offers. For instance, if I own lawn care business and offer grass cutting, landscape design, and mulch delivery, people might describe what my business does in a number of different ways.

The ambition of this list is to write down as many keywords as possible that might describe what it is that your business provides. While doing this step pay close attention toward finding keywords that broadly define all of your services. As in the example above “Pittsburgh Landscaping Company.”

How Are People Finding My Website Now?

If your website uses analytics to record how visitors arrive bring that information up now. Most analytics programs will tell you how people are using search engines to find your site. Specifically, the analytics program will tell you exactly what phrases people are searching to find your website.

This information is going to offer up a lot of good intelligence. You’ll want to spend some time looking through the list of referring phrases and while doing so mark down the most popular phrases that do not include your business name. The objective is to attract new customers unaware of your business.

What Keywords Are My Competitors Using?

Another method to aid in creating a keyword list is to spy on your competitors. It’s actually pretty simple. All you need to do is look at their website’s title tags. This is the name of the page as presented in the very top bar of your web browser. For example the title of is “ The National Hockey League.”

If you know your competitors’ website go straight to it and begin scanning through a couple of pages. Take special note of the homepage’s title tag. Here is how we know if your competitor is actively engaged in SEO. If every title tag on the website is the same, and does not include keywords outside of just the business name, generally speaking they have not done much to optimize the website. If you find competitor’s exhibit tendencies toward SEO mark what keywords they are using.


With the answers to our questions categorized, now it’s time to put together a complete first draft of the keyword list. Here we need to utilize the answers to the keyword questions and demonstrate some creativity.

Start by combining the location answers from the first question with the service and product answers from the second question. If you have analytics add those words to the final list, and if you took at look at the competition add those keywords to a final draft list as well.

<< Previous Post
Part 2 – The Elements of Keyword Research for Local Based Websites

Next Post >>
Part 4 – Tips for Using Google Keyword Research Tool in a Local Context

The next post of this series will discuss how to evaluate the traffic volume potential for this list of keywords using Google’s Keyword Research Tool. It will also cover how the tool will help spark ideas for new keywords.

About the Author

This is a guest post by Jeff Howard. Jeff has delivered SEO results for major consumer oriented websites all the way down to local businesses, and writes a column for Search Engine Guide.

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