Let’s face it: Local Search can get ferociously competitive.
With the new three-pack listings (R.I.P 7 packs), local businesses are doing whatever they can, getting into those coveted results.
While every business does some superficial and over-the-surface research about their competitors before entering the market, it is mandatory to explore their standing from an SEO perspective as well.
Through this post, we will walk step-by-step through a Local SEO Competitor Analysis.
How to find your competitors?
How to pull out their data, understand it and use it to your best?
Also, Local SEO competitor analysis drops us hints to deconstruct algorithms.
By just understanding the attributes of the websites that rank for a particular keyword, evaluating the aspects they have in common and trying to deduce the factors that helped them rank.
Why do I need Competitor Research, you may ask?
Well, one reason is that it helps you get a better understanding of your customers and the market. It gives you insights into the audience you should target. Also, you get first-hand information on what you have to do to get ranked in local search results.
Once you have a list of factors that can improve your rankings, you can create a hypothesis and start testing to find what is working for you and what is not.
Before getting started, I would suggest you create an Excel sheet to get a better understanding.
Step 1: Who really are your competitors?
Whether you have an in-house team for SEO, or you have hired an SEO agency to do it for you, it’s good to know who you have to compete with.
To begin, make sure you have a list of 10-15 competitors (businesses which rank on the local listings pack, the first and second page for your targeted keyword phrases and location).
Let’s get started.
How to find your competitors?
Here, you have to run the standard Google search.
Running your list of keywords through Google will give you a basic idea of the trend – who is at the top. I will suggest you use Google Keyword Planner.
Don’t limit this list to only 5-6 keywords or competitors. Instead, create an exhaustive list of keyword phrases that you want to rank for in your geographical location.
- Make a list of keywords
- Perform a Google search for all of them to find which businesses are ranking in the local packs.
- Scrape this data (business’s name and URL) on the Excel sheet under the tab “Competitor Research.”
I ran a query for PR Agencies in New Orleans. The highlighted box are your competitors (of course only if you are in the same business!)
I would suggest you also use automated tools as they provide insights and hidden opportunities.
Step 2: Once you know them, pull out their data
Once you have a list of competitors, you can mine the data to find who is ranking better than you and why.
To begin, pick out your top 5 competitors from the spreadsheet (created in the last step) and run a Google search for each of them with their business name and location (if it’s a multi-location business).
In this step, you need to pull out the information from their Google My Business page.
Make sure you record this information in a different or separate “Competitor Analysis” tab.
This is the information you have to look for:
- Business Name: Record the full business name of your competitors. Analyze it for the number of keywords in the name or any geographic modifier.
- Business Address: Copy-paste the full address, you will need this information to search for the business in the steps later on. Make sure you record the City, state, zip code separately.
- Phone Number 1: This is the primary phone number.
- Phone Number 2: If there is a secondary number, even an 800 or a toll-free number, record that.
- URL to their website or Landing Page: Check if the URL is taking you to their homepage or any other internal landing page.
- Categories: Check how many categories are they listed in. Once you click on the primary category, a popup will display all the other categories (Secondary categories) the business is listed under.
- Reviews: Record the number of reviews on their Google My Business Page.
How will this data help you?
Evaluating becomes much easier when you have data by your side. The collected information will help you understand the trends that are working for your competitors. You might have already optimized your listings. Now, this data will help you unveil if you are missing out on something.
For example, you might be listed in 2 categories, but your competitors have one primary and 4 secondary categories.
Step 3: Go to their Landing Page with a fine tooth comb
The next step is to do a thorough examination of your competitor’s landing page.
Do not forget to record the information on the spreadsheet side by side.
Here’s what you have to look for:
- The title of the landing page: Does it include a relevant keyword? Is it catchy enough? Does it reflect their business values?
- City Name in the title: Is the city name present in the meta title of the landing page?
- State Name in the title: Is the State name mentioned in the meta title of the landing page?
- H1: Is there any H1 tag? Is there any major keyword in H1?
- City Name in H1: Does the H1 tag include the City name?
- State Name in H1: Does the H1 tag include the State name
- Content: What is the word count in the content? What is the tone? Is it in first-person? What is the keyword ratio?
- Local Business Schema: Does their business use Schema markup?
- Google Map: Does their landing page have an embedded Google Map?
Once you have this information, start comparing your data and see what you are missing out on.
Step 4: Are the competitor’s citations on authoritative websites?
There is no point in creating citations at places which Google does not consider as relevant.
Before you go ahead and start getting listed in all the places where your competitor has a presence, I would advise you to check how Google sees it.
The best way to judge this would be to run a quick Google search. Pick out ten competitors’ NAP and Google it.
I searched for a Pediatrician’s office in New York, and these are the websites Google is associating the business with:
- NY businessman
You can analyze these results for your competitors to see what is common in all of them and weed out the unimportant ones.
Step 5: Keep track of your Competitor’s recent citations
You would want to maintain a balance between quantity and quality.
Getting listed in top citation directories is important, but you should also keep a track and monitor where your competitors are making citations so that you can stay ahead of the game.
Also, many businesses leave out this process once they have reached the apex of local search results. In digital marketing, you should always remember that someone out there is always trying to pull you down.
The bottom line is to check your competitor’s citations at least once in two weeks.
Going through it manually every once in a while would become time-consuming. Instead, you can use automated tools. Run your competitor’s NAP and get all the listings of your competitors under one powerful dashboard in some seconds.
Step 6: Which of your competitor’s citations are “Do-follow”?
You might not be aware, but some citations are Dofollow – the one which passes link juice to your website. These citations provide an extra incentive for promotions.
You can add a NoFollow plugin to Chrome; it highlights Nofollow links on web pages. While reviewing your competitor’s citations, you can easily find out which are Dofollow links and which are not.
But why do you need this?
Suppose you have a Dofollow citation coming from a specific website. If that Web page is authoritative in the eyes of Google and talks highly about your business, you would want to keep linking to it time-to-time. This way you will earn link juice for your page and improve the authority of your website.
Step 7: Links
Links have always been an important ranking signal – not only in increasing organic traffic but local search results too. High-quality local links bring targeted traffic to your website and improve your rankings.
Apart from the factors discussed above, you also need to keep pace with your competitor’s domain authority and page authority.
In this step, you will have to use the data which we accumulated in the first step – list of competitors!
Extract the backlinks of each of your competitors.
Once you have them all together at the same place, organize them in order of their authority. This way you can effectively prioritize your efforts.
Remember this is an ongoing process. If you thoroughly evaluate your competitors on the above-mentioned points or parameters, analyze the aspects you need to work on and act on them, you can go a long way in improving your rankings.
Also, don’t forget the power of internal linking if you want to get in a higher ranking on the Google SERPs using Local SEO Competitor analysis
Over to you! Do you think I am missing out on something important?
I would love to hear about it in the comments below!