How To Uncover Search Intent for Local SEO

Christy Walters


June 17, 2022 (Updated: February 9, 2024)

cell phone with google map listing in white hand for local search intent

It feels like, especially after 2020, the entire world has moved online. We rely more on eCommerce stores and shipping than ever before. Clients and customers like to choose chatbots and video calls to get their questions answered rather than traveling to a physical location. Is this the way of the world now? Gone are small-town stores and businesses replaced by the convenience of online shopping and services? They don’t have to be with search intent for local SEO.

But if those small businesses aren’t dedicating the time to make an online presence, they’re losing out on potential customers and revenue for people who start their shopping and service journeys there. One of the best and easiest ways to pull in people is to target search intent for local SEO. When you know why your customers are searching for solutions online, you can prove to them that the answer is right in their hometown, off the internet.

What Is Local Search Intent?

Local search intent is when someone looks for specific information, businesses, or items online that relate to a specific geographic area. We often link local and navigational search intent together because people looking for local information often want something like a store address. But there are other ways local search intent pairs with the four dominant types of intent.

Local search intent also works together with local online marketing and SEO by targeting ads and content in Google’s position zero that appear above the organic search links. These provide the most targeted results for people in a specific geographic location.

Related: Local Online Marketing: What It Is and How To Use It

Why Should I Care About Local Search Intent?

Optimizing your content for local search intent helps increase the visibility of small and medium-sized businesses online. Even though you’re concerned with getting people to find you in the real world, most of those same clients or customers find you first by doing online research. When people search for city-specific information and add keywords like “near me” to their searches, you want your business, content, and information to show up.

How Does Google Determine Local Search Intent?

Google determines searchers’ intent for local content in a variety of ways. First, if the device the searcher uses has location services enabled, that’s a signal to Google right away that they’re in a specific place and they’re probably looking for a solution that’s nearby. Beyond that, search engines also use some of the following factors to determine if people are looking for localized content:

  • Searching for brand names, addresses, or phone numbers
  • Adding words like “near me” or “nearby” to queries
  • Including a street, city, or state name in a query
  • Interacting with Google Business Profiles
  • Leaving or interacting with online reviews for local destinations
  • Checking-in and tagging content, like social media posts, with specific geographic locations
  • Sharing localized content on social media
  • Interacting with Google Maps features

If a searcher completes these activities or engages with these types of content related to specific keywords, this signals to Google that they’re looking for localized content.

How To Target Local Search Intent with the Big Four Intent Types

What can you do to target your audience’s search intent and the local bent to get people into your brick-and-mortar locations? How do you attract people nearby to your business when they’re doing their initial searches online? We’re breaking it down by intent types to give you tips and strategies to grow your in-person audience from their online research:


Navigational intent is most often associated with local search intent. People use navigational intent when they’re trying to find something specific. In local SEO, that might be a specific business name or address.

screenshot of a google serp of ford dealership map pack for local search intent

For example, if someone is looking for a Ford dealership, they may type that into the search bar and Google knows that person is looking for the location or address of a dealership. Then the program takes it a step further if the searcher shares their location or has location services turned on. No matter where the searcher is, Google brings up a map pack to show the closest Ford dealership or dealerships to the searcher’s location.

If people are already looking for your specific company or a product or service you provide, what can you do to make sure you show up in the map pack? How can they find you beyond just being in your immediate geographic area? Try strategies like:

  • Making sure your name, address, and phone number (NAP) citations are accurate and consistent on every marketing channel, including your website, eCommerce store, and social media profiles.
  • Creating or claiming your Google Business Profile and updating it regularly.
  • Receiving backlinks, reviews, and citations from directories like Yellow Pages, Yelp, and TripAdvisor, as well as utilizing a local citation finder, can significantly boost local search visibility.
  • Encouraging social shares on platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
  • Partnering with local community groups and services to increase name recognition and build more authority with Google and other search engines.


When searchers have an informational intent, they’re looking for facts or knowledge. Things like FAQs, step-by-step instructions, or how-to demonstrations are popular with this intent type. Unlike traditional SEO, informational intent with a local skew isn’t about creating the best answer to a question on the internet. It’s about creating the best answer in your local market. For a service business like a plumber, it’s not about having the best tutorial on how to unclog a shower drain in the world, just within your service coverage area.

You may wonder, “but isn’t that information going to be the same everywhere?” Parts of it, yes. But there’s always a way to give something a local spin to better target what people want to know in your area. You might include the basics like what tools to use to get the job done and the step-by-step process, but you need to expand on that and give it a local flavor.

Are there deposits in your water supply that make drains more likely to clog? Do you have a partnership with a local hardware store that sells the right tools? Does your plumbing company ever run informational clinics or workshops to provide more maintenance information?

The more you can mention your town and local businesses, the more likely your website or blog is to rank for informational search in your area. This is a healthy strategy to grab people earlier in the sales funnel when they’re looking for information. It builds brand recognition. Even if they don’t need your product or service right now, you can still become a valuable resource.

If you help someone unclog a drain themselves, the next time a pipe bursts in the wall and they need to hire a plumber, who are they going to call? The company that gave them the information to fix their first problem.


When people search with commercial intent, they’re researching products and services to buy. People look for comparison guides, reviews, and ratings to make informed decisions in this phase. Commercial intent is a hybrid of informational and transactional intent. People need the information to make a decision, but they have the intent to buy at the end of the process.

Every business in every geographic region may not need to target commercial intent. If you run the only grocery store in town, there’s no need for it. You’re the only option. People either use your services or they don’t. Commercial intent, especially for local SEO, is most important when there’s competition for the same target audience in your area. For small businesses, this often means going up against big names like Walmart or Home Depot. For service organizations, it means competing with other people who offer the same products and services you do.

First, find out if there’s a reason to target commercial intent. Search your industry, product, or service along with your location and see what comes up in SERPs. Do you get a map pack? If these kinds of things show up, then yes, it’s worth targeting commercial intent. But how? And why should you care?

Let’s look at an example for the keyword “patio furniture.” Before 2020, this would have brought up all eCommerce results and online shopping. Now it gives us a map pack. More people try to buy local and get their products faster, so there’s more local intent. The map pack appears right below the paid ads. It’s the first thing people see. It recommends three locations to get patio furniture in the area. Clicking “More places” presents a wider range of map options.

screenshot of google map pack serp for patio furniture

If your business doesn’t appear in the map pack or “More places” link, you haven’t done the work to target navigational intent, which is hurting your commercial local SEO. You’ve taken your company out of consideration for comparison and price matching.


Transactional search intent happens when someone knows what they want to buy. This type of local SEO has close ties to both commercial and navigational intent. If you’re not in the conversation for the commercial intent phase, people won’t choose you when their motivation is transactional. Even if you are part of their commercial comparison, if they can’t find your business, they’re never going to make a purchase.

What can you do about that? If you have an eCommerce arm to your business, make sure you have your products listed online. Adding great product descriptions helps you appear in Google features like Shopping ads. If you don’t, then you want to make it as easy as possible for people to figure out how to find you or make a purchase.

Do that by making clear calls to action on your pages. List accurate phone numbers and hours of operation. Include directions to your brick-and-mortar locations. Don’t just give a street address, but include nearby landmarks for your community. Make it as easy as possible for people to find you once they pick you as their best solution.

Targeting search intent with a local spin is tricky. It requires more thought, research, and factors to appeal to a local audience. But these are the people most likely to bring you business. That’s why a content partnership with CopyPress is so important. We put SEO, including search intent, at the center of every strategy and campaign. We work with small businesses and agencies in a variety of industries, so we know what your local audience wants to see. With remote creatives all over the country and the world, we have no problem understanding your local flair. Ready to see more online and foot traffic for your business? Start your free strategy call with our team today.

Author Image - Christy Walters
Christy Walters

CopyPress writer

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