There is a lot of noise around local SEO.
From the latest buzz in a company to the details of a specific website, a strategy to-do list can quickly fill up with tasks that don't consider the big picture.
But only some of these tasks matter if you don't pay attention to your competitors.
An analysis of the competition for local SEO can show:
- Who is first on the list??
- Why they got where they did.
- Where they've decided to focus their plan.
- How much work they've put into getting ranked?
- When you could rank higher than them.
If you know what people who rank well locally do and how they do it, you can do well in even the most challenging search environments.
Determining your local competitors
For local SEO competitors, you need a different strategy than for national SEO competitors.
In a national SEO campaign, competitors usually go after hundreds or thousands of keywords. Most competitors at the local level usually go after between 20 and 100 keywords.
Local SEO usually has fewer keywords because it is based on the community where it is used.
Local SEO is made to help a network of small businesses, franchises, and companies that sell goods and services in person. Different from national SEO, no leading national eCommerce website uses SaaS or cloud-based architecture.
Local dealers, practitioners, and businesses offer a service or product that customers can get in their community. The people who live near these businesses are the only ones who can buy their goods and use their services. If a local business fixes garage doors, the demand is limited to the number of people in that community who need garage door repairs.
Local SEO is limited to a certain area, which makes it easy to find competitors. Find 5–10 keywords and see who comes out on top.
But when a business has more than one location, it quickly gets hard to do a competitive analysis for local SEO. Each location poses unique challenges.
Even though local competitive analysis looks at a smaller number of keywords, these keywords are affected by how complicated local search is.
3 steps to conducting a competitive analysis for local SEO
In a competitive analysis for local SEO, the visibility of keywords is looked at in relation to three local ranking factors:
- Compare proximity.
- Assess Google Business Profile (GBP) optimization.
- Analyze on-page content.
Are you farther away from the centre of the city than your top competitors? Does it even matter where you are if I know this? After all, you can't move places to improve your SEO.
It's important to know where you are in relation to where your competitors are because proximity could explain why they are number one.
In the image below, a search for the keyword "Kansas City defense attorney," which is a very popular search term for defense lawyers in Kansas City, shows that the number one spot goes to a law firm that is only.2 miles from the city center. The business that is ranked #2 is 3.1 miles from the city center.
With a quick search for your top keyword, you can find out if your campaign will be affected by how close it is. Check how far away the verified location of the #1 GBP in the Local Pack is from the city center. This is your competitor. Then, compare the distance between your location and the city center to the distance between where your competitor is and where you are.
If you're a Service Area Business (SAB), your competitors are probably also SABs, so you won't be able to find out how far away their address is from the city center. In these cases, you should still write down how far away from the city center your verified location is.
If your website needs help moving up in the local rankings in the future, it could be because of its location. If your verified address is too far from the target location to rank, you may need to change your target location.
During a competitive analysis for local SEO, it's enough to quickly look at how close your competitors are to figure out how much distance matters in your market. But after this first check, you may decide that a better understanding of how close you are to the target would help you plan your strategy.
If a fuller analysis of proximity would be helpful, the next step could be to do a full proximity audit. For example, you should do a full proximity audit if you look at distance, GBP, and on-page strategy but still can't figure out why a competitor ranks well. The proximity audit is a more in-depth look at all the factors that affect rankings based on proximity in a certain market.
Assess GBP optimization
Google Business Profile is the most important part of local SEO. Everyone wants to be in the top three in the Local Pack. When it comes to local SEO, competitors usually pay the most attention to GBP because this profile shows up right at the top of search results.
Check the following ranking factors on the GBP listings of your competitors and compare them to your own profile:
- The first type
- Something else
You can see the business's name, primary category, and reviews on the profile right away, but you'll need a tool like GMB Everywhere to see its other GBP categories. These are the most important ranking factors on Google Business Profile, but you should also look at how much your competitors have spent on other GBP features:
- Questions and answers
If your competitors are ranking based only on reviews and proximity, you can move up in the Local Pack rankings by making a few changes to your GBP categories. But if a competitor who is ranked #1 has filled out their profile with every detail and posts every week, it will likely take a lot of work to beat them.
In the end, a Google Business Profile is meant to give users as much information as possible about the business. Rankings are great, but letting customers know what's going on with your business is a good idea across all channels of communication.
Analyze on-page content
On-page SEO is a big part of how the Local Pack ranks. So, what does that competitor's website look like that is number one? To get started, click the Website button right in the Local Pack.
When you look at the websites of your competitors, you'll usually find two types of sites linked from GBP:
- Home page for a business with only one location.
- A page for a business with more than one location.
The way content is organized on a homepage is often different from how it is organized on a location page:
Check out a competitor's website's home page or location page to see how much work needs to be done on your own. How much time and money has your competitor put into their website and/or location page?
Here are some questions to think about for a GBP-linked homepage or location page.
- Is the navigation filled with service pages?
- Does the website look modern and work well on mobile devices?
- Does the site have awards, customer reviews, or testimonials?
- Does the site use title tags that are optimized?
- Does the homepage feature video, Q&A, or other standalone content?
Location page questions:
- Does the location page discuss local services?
- Is the content original to that location page?
- Is there a CTA that users can easily view and interact with?
- Does the location page use optimized title tags?
- How does the rest of the website link to this location page?
- Does the page include content from local providers (video, bios, etc.)?
These questions are not the only ones, but they're a good starting point and can help you understand the level of investment and strategy behind a competitor's website.
Compiling the information and looking at the big picture
You've learned about a competitor's location, GBP, and website. Now is the time to look at this data and come up with ideas for your local SEO strategy.
Here's an example of what we could find out about a competitor that ranks #1 for "Houston dentist."
In the above example of a competitive analysis for local SEO, we can see that our business needs to update the GBP category and think about video content, among other things, to compete for the #1 spot.
The best local SEO strategy is unique to its marketplace.
Some competitors have put different amounts of time and money into content optimization, links, and even real estate in that market. There will always be a list of things to do for SEO, but a competitor analysis can help you figure out which tasks will have the biggest impact.