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Competitive Analysis Tips For Local SEO

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by Steven Mehler
February 28, 2017


Steven Mehler

Steven Clarke is business consultant for WebDel Wordpress development companies in Syndey. In his spare time, he likes to write about his ideas and share them with the world. Steven is a regular contributor to several websites.



Steven Mehler has written 3 articles for PromotionWorld.
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When it comes to optimizing for local search results, you and your competitors are vying for a limited number of prime positions. To put yourself in the best position possible, you need to identify your competitors, gain as much information about them as possible, and use that information to your advantage. The way to do this is to perform a competitive analysis. This will give you an idea of the market in the location for which you are trying to optimize. You will also learn what has and has not worked for your competitors. Finally, you will be better able create localized customer personas and gear your marketing efforts towards their needs.

As you identify things that you believe could work for you, the next step will take is testing things out. This will go a long way towards strengthening your local SEO results as you begin to determine what will and will not work. Let’s get going!

Identifying Your Local Competition

This starts simply enough. Just do a google search on your product or service along with in your city and state, e.g., “dry cleaners in Dallas TX” . Obviously, if you are optimizing local SEO for multiple locations you would do this multiple times. The three competitors that appear in Google’s local search box at the top of your search engine results page are what you should consider to be your top competition. They have earned that ranking somehow. Your job is to figure out how.

Before going on to the next step, there are a few minor considerations. If there is more than one name that could be used for your product or service, you’ll want to search for those terms as well. For example, if you own a drywall company, you might also search for sheetrock or gypsum to identify other competitors in that area. Also, don’t forget to consider terms that might be unique to a specific area. For example, if you own a convenient or liquor store, you could probably use the terms in almost any location to find your competitors. However, if you were looking up your local competitors in many parts of Michigan, you’ll want to search for “party stores” as well. In New York City, you might add “bodegas” to your search.

Collect All of The Data That is Available For Each Competitor

Once you know who your top 3 competitors are using every search option necessary. Create a spreadsheet or database. Competitive analysis isn’t something you can do only one time, so you will want to keep records. You’ll want to record the company name and address, website URL (Find the main page if Google routes you to a landing page), social media pages URLs, location information, telephone numbers, categories (there may be more than one) and a space for taking notes.

You can start gathering data by clicking on the business in Google’s local search engine results box. When you do this, you will find yourself on your competitor’s Google My Business page. There is a wealth of great information here. In fact, almost every bit of information you want to add to your database will be right there. You will also notice what information is missing.Scroll down, and you will find the reviews and web search results.

Once you have all of this information in one place, you can do a side by side examination of each competitor’s information. What are the common characteristics you can glean from this information? If it is working for the top 3 ranking local competitors, it might work for you as well. Then, take a look at what they are not doing. Are they missing parts of their profile, are their images old and out of date, or are they lacking positive reviews? When you ultimately use this information to improve your own local search engine optimization, you want to be sure you are exceeding your competitors’ efforts.

Explore Their Websites

Now it is time to take a look at your competitors’ websites, especially their landing pages to see how they are optimized for local search. One thing that you will want to do is you examine each page is to view the HTML source behind that page. The second one is about their content and, especially, the specific topics they’ve used to optimize it. Getting to that depends on your browser, but there are instructions available. This can give you some helpful information. Once you have the source view open, you can look for some key things.

First of all, does the title and meta description contain location information such as city and state? Also, is there a relevant keyword in the title and meta description? The next thing that you want to look for on each page are the H1 tags.  You should record whether or not they have keywords or location information in their H1 tags as well. If you want, you could add this information to your initial database or spreadsheet. Although, you might want to create a new one so that the data you collect doesn’t become too cluttered.

Now, use Google’s structured testing tool to determine if your competitors are using a local business schema. This is something that helps search engines identify that a particular web page or landing page is associated with a specific geographical location. It is very common for businesses who operate in multiple places to use local business schemas.

Finally, see if the company’s web designer has embedded Google maps of their location into their landing pages, or if they have included their coordinates. Remember that local search and mapping information are very closely married to one another.

Check Each Competitor’s Authority

Now is the time to back out of the websites and head back to Google. Ideally, you’ve tested what Google thinks of your website, most importantly, what it thinks is authoritative about your website. It seems logical that you would do the same with top ranking websites in your locale, doesn’t it? Fortunately, this is really simply. Just paste your competitor’s name, address, and phone number into Google. This information is known as N.A.P.  This will show you the associations Google makes. Usually the company website appears. So do reviews and local directories. Unfortunately the directories are usually worthless. One way for a business to gain authority is through social media. You can check out some social media cheat sheet on the Internet to learn how your competition might be leveraging social media platforms.

Search For Citations And Determine The Quality of Those Citations

What is not worthless is much of the other information that does come up in these searches. Amazon Local, Yelp reviews, white papers, and other posts or web pages that display your competitor's NAP information. These are known as citations. When it comes to local SEO,  citations are more valuable than links. Citations are a good thing, but some are better than others. For example, if well-known and authoritative websites are showing your competitor’s NAP info, that is probably having an effect on their local search engine results. Websites like YELP and Amazon Local carry much more impact than websites that simply gather this information up in an attempt to drive traffic to irrelevant websites. A good rule of thumb is that websites that you consider to be authoritative are likely to be authoritative by search engines. The more, quality citations that a competitor has earned is a sign that they have established themselves as a bit of a go to resource in your niche, in that particular geographical location. This is important to note, because it likely means that they are going to be a formidable opponent when it comes to local seo positioning.

Check Out Their Local Social Engagement And Reviews

Now, things have come full circle. It’s time to head back to the local Google search results where you began. While many people see Google + as being a bit of a flop as a social media platform, there is no denying the importance of the reviews that are posted there. After all, when somebody Google’s your local competitor, one of the first things that they see on that company’s Google My Business page are Google reviews. If those are largely positive, that is a factor that is helping them earn such a high ranking. Then, if you continue to scroll down, you will see search engine results. You might see other product and service review sites such as Yelp. If they are generating a lot of buzz on Yelp and similar sites, the same thing applies, higher search engine rankings when people conduct local searches.

Next, you will want to look at their social media engagement. More specifically, you want to look at their local social media engagement. There are a few ways to do this. First, visit their social media pages. Then, see if they are active in groups or discussions that are specific to your local area. You can also use a website such as BuzzSumo to see if your competitors are getting attention for content they are creating with locally relevant keywords.

Conclusion

Once you know what other businesses in your space are doing to land at the top of local search results, you have the information that you need to move forward. Local search engine optimization is all about learning what your competitors are doing, and then doing that better.

         


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