Did you know 46% of all searches on Google have ‘local intent?’
When you consider how many searches take place on Google, that stat represents a huge number of local searches.
If you own a local business, you might want to invest in SEO so that you can get in front of all these people that are searching for local businesses.
However, you might be worried about the competition you’re going to face and whether you can actually beat the top-ranking websites in your local niche.
This post will provide you with some tips on how to analyze local SEO competition.
Follow these tips, and it won’t be long before you understand what it takes to beat the competition.
Why Should You Analyze the Competition?
At the most basic level, analyzing the competition will help you determine how much effort it will take to achieve a ‘good’ ranking.
After all, if you study the competition, you’ll have a better understanding of what you’re up against. This, in turn, will help you determine how much work it will take to achieve a good ranking.
You can then use this information to decide if local SEO is the right thing for you.
Analyzing the competition will also help you figure out how you should approach things in your niche.
That’s because there’s a good chance the existing competition has had plenty of time to work on SEO.
Because of this, they’ve probably figured out what works when it comes to getting results in your particular niche. You can then use this information to improve your own approach towards SEO.
Will you need special competitor analysis tools?
When analyzing local SEO listings, many people like to use specialist SEO tools such as Ahrefs, SEMrush, and BrightLocal.
That is because these tools tend to provide a lot of relevant data that would be hard to obtain otherwise.
That said, these tools can be expensive, and so this can represent a problem for some people.
Fortunately, most tools provide a free trial, and if you plan properly ahead of time, you might be able to perform a lot of research within this trial window.
Alternatively, you might just want to save up for one of these tools as they really can make things easier.
Local SEO Metrics – What Do You Need to Focus On?
If you want to do a good job when it comes to analyzing the competition, you need to make sure you analyze the right SEO factors.
Now, when doing competitor analysis for a standard ‘non-local’ SEO campaign, you typically focus on:
- Identifying Relevant Keywords
- Conducting a PPC analysis of relevant keywords
- Identifying Competitors
- Determining the difficulty of targeting relevant keywords
- Competitor content quantity and quality
- The number of backlinks competitors have
- The technical SEO ‘quality’ of competitor sites
However, something to note here is that local SEO is a little bit unique.
That’s because you need to include a few things that you wouldn’t otherwise pay attention to when dealing with a non-local campaign.
For instance, when it comes to local SEO, you’ll need to focus on the factors mentioned above, but you’ll also want to focus on:
- The existence and optimization level of Google My Business profiles
- Review quantity and quality
- Local links
- Citation quanity and consistency
These things tend to have a much bigger impact on local SEO campaigns than they do on non-local campaigns.
If you want to do a good job in regards to local SEO competitor analysis, you need to combine both of these approaches.
Conducting a Standard Analysis
In this section, we’re going to look at how you can analyze local SEO competition by using standard techniques that are often used in non-local campaigns.
Identifying Keywords and Competitors
To start with, you need to get a rough look at the landscape to figure out who your competitors are.
Perhaps the easiest way to do this is by identifying some of the high-value keywords in your niche. Once you identify these high-ranking keywords, you can then see who’s ranking for them, and these websites will then represent your competition.
In most cases, a high-ranking local keyword is essentially a keyword that follows the ‘niche + location’ format.
For instance, if you’re a dentist based in the UK city of Manchester, a high-value keyword might be something like ‘dentist Manchester.’
Now, if you’re just coming up with keywords off the top of your head, you might not be able to identify a lot of high-value keywords.
Fortunately, if you use a keyword research tool, you can identify the best keywords in a given niche with relative ease.
You can find keywords by using a paid keyword tool, such as the one from Ahrefs. However, for most people, the free Google Keyword tool is often good enough for this task.
To get results with this tool, you just need to type in a keyword related to your niche.
Once you’ve done this, the tool will return a list of keywords related to this niche. It will also return some metrics associated with these keywords, such as search volume and CPC.
When you use this tool, you should try to select a relevant location, as this will help the tool return accurate data.
For the sake of this post, let’s go with the ‘dentist manchester’ search query from earlier.
As you can see, this tool has returned some related keywords, as well as search volume and CPC bids for these results.
These ‘related’ keywords are the other keywords people might use when they’re looking for this kind of business.
If we sort these keywords by price, we can see which keywords attract the highest CPC bid on Google AdWords.
This information is helpful because the keywords with the highest bid tend to produce the best ROI, thereby making them the ‘best keywords.’
If this wasn’t the case, people wouldn’t be willing to bid the amount they do for the keywords in question.
Now, of course, you may not be able to target all of these high-value keywords because some of them might not align with what your business actually does.
For instance, just because you’re a dentist, it doesn’t mean you can offer 24-hour emergency dental care.
Yet, there will often be a good few keywords that you can cater to, and thus you should go through this list to identify the ones that are relevant.
Once you’ve spotted ‘good’ keywords, you might then want to put them into a spreadsheet.
If you then type these keywords into Google, you can see who else is ranking for these terms.
These companies are your competitors, and if you want to create a high ROI SEO strategy, these are the companies that you’ll have to analyze and overtake.
Determining the Difficulty of Targeting Certain Keywords
In the last step, we reviewed how you can identify the top keywords in your niche, as well as who is ranking for these keywords.
In this section, we’ll take a look at how you can determine the difficulty of ranking for one of these keywords.
Now, at this point, you’ll find that certain SEO tools like Ahrefs are very useful.
That’s because, with something like Ahrefs, you can just input a given keyword and the tool will then return a ‘keyword difficulty’ score.
This score is calculated using an algorithm developed by Ahrefs, and while it isn’t perfect, it can be a good indicator.
To help clear things up, below, you can see a graphic that explains how Ahrefs organizes keyword difficulty scores.
The domains figure is in reference to the number of backlinks you’ll need from individual websites to achieve a top ten ranking for this particular term.
Note that if you want to calculate the difficulty of a given keyword, you don’t always need to spend money on the paid Ahrefs tool. That’s because you can use the ‘free keyword difficulty’ tool offered by Ahrefs.
For example, we can use this tool to determine the difficulty of the keyword ‘dentist manchester.’
As you can see, this free tool returns a score of 39, and it also gives us a rough estimate in regards to how many backlinks we will need to rank for this term.
In addition to this, it also gives us the top three competitors for this keyword, and some metrics associated with these sites.
It’s worth noting that a keyword can provide a high ROI and still have a low difficulty rating. This represents an opportunity, as it shows that the level of competition for a particular local SEO term isn’t that high.
Also, in some cases, the tool will not be able to return a difficulty score because it won’t have any data on a given keyword.
In a situation like this, you can still get a difficulty score, but you will need to invest in the paid solution.
In any case, different SEO tools will have their own rating in regards to ‘keyword difficulty.’
Whatever tool you use, you should always verify the difficulty score you receive by doing your own due diligence and diving deeper into the SEO credentials of the high-ranking listings.
Once you’ve done the above, the next thing you’ll need to do is actually analyze your competitors. Typically, this comes down to analyzing:
- The number of backlinks your competitors have
- The amount and quantity of content on their site
- The general usability of their site
- Technical SEO issues
Note: As mentioned, there are also some special ‘local SEO tactics’ you’ll need to use when analyzing the competition, and we’ll cover that later.
Ahrefs has a free website authority tool that we can use to analyze the backlink profile of a competitor. Let’s go with the ‘dentist manchester’ keyword and use a competitor URL from this search.
Using this tool, we can see the number of websites linking to this competitor and the number of backlinks it has.
We can also see that Ahrefs has assigned this competitor a ‘domain rating’ score of 13.
As with the keyword difficulty tool, this is an arbitrary number, but it can help us determine the standing of a given competitor. If this number is low, it may not be that hard to overtake the competitor.
Note: As is generally the case with SEO, link quality often tends to matter more than link quantity.
The geographic nature of these links can also play a big factor when it comes to local SEO, and this is something we’ll explore later on.
Analyzing competitor content is another important part of this process.
When analyzing competitor content, you generally want to look at the quality and depth of the content.
If they have content that’s ranking for valuable terms, you should find out how many backlinks each particular article/webpage has.
If you want to overtake competitor content, you’ll probably need to create a better version of the content, and this piece of content might also need more links.
Reviewing On-Page SEO
On-page SEO is another thing you might want to focus on when reviewing the local competition.
This is an important step when you consider that most local businesses tend to ignore on-page SEO. In fact, 25% of local businesses don’t even have an h1 tag:
On page SEO can include a lot of things, and so to make things easier you might just want to follow a technical SEO checklist when reviewing the competition.
If you need some support here, consider giving us a call. We helped a local auto firm improve conversions by 350%, and one of the main things we worked on was their on-page SEO.
Conducting a Local Analysis
In the sections above, we’ve explored some of the ways you can analyze your competition.
Now, these strategies tend to work well for most ‘non-local’ websites, but if you rely on these tactics for a local business, you won’t be in a good position.
That’s because there are some additional factors you need to account for when conducting local SEO competitor analysis.
If you don’t combine these local factors with the ‘non-local’ factors mentioned earlier, you will end up with an incomplete understanding of your local SEO competitor landscape.
With that said, let’s look at some of the local factors you might want to review…
An Optimized Google My Business Listing
When it comes to analyzing the local SEO competition, you should check if your competitors have an optimized Google My Business (GMB) listing.
A GMB profile is essentially an official Google business listing that contains information associated with your business. It can also be used as a way to promote content and interact with existing and potential custoemers.
Now, 56% of local retailers don’t have a GMB profile at all, and so there’s a chance you might not even encounter any of these profiles.
In any case, looking for optimized profiles is an important step because Google often rewards local businesses that have an optimized GMB profile.
For instance, businesses with an optimized profile often appear higher in the rankings and they might also have a better ‘map packs’ ranking.
For reference, the map pack is the collection of listings you see when you search for a local business. Below you can see an example of what a map pack looks like:
You can generally tell if a company has an optimized GMB profile by checking if they’ve followed all of the guidelines provided by Google.
Here’s an example of some of the things they suggest you should focus on:
If your competitors have skipped a few things here, this represents an opportunity for you.
It’s worth noting that optimizing your GMB profile can still have a positive result on your ability to compete in the search listings, even if it doesn’t massively impact your SEO rankings.
That’s because people tend to lose trust in a business if they can’t find the information they’re looking for. If you look at the chart below, you’ll see how this is the case:
A fully optimized GMB profile should address all the issues highlighted in this chart.
Thus, if you have a complete profile, you may be seen as more trustworthy, which can be very helpful when you’re just starting out and you have poor rankings.
When studying the local competition, you should check how many reviews they have and the overall rating associated with these reviews.
This is because the quantity and ‘quality’ of your reviews can impact how high you appear in local search rankings. This isn’t just a ‘hunch’, as Google actually admits that reviews can impact your rankings:
Generally, ‘Google Reviews‘ tend to hold a lot of weight, but you should also pay attention to reviews that come from third-party websites such as Yelp.
When reviewing competitors, you’ll also want to check to see if they have any local backlinks.
Local backlinks can be good for local SEO as they provide helpful signals concerning geographic relevance and authority.
Examples of local backlinks can include links from local news outlets or even other local businesses.
A citation is essentially when business data is listed on another website.
For instance, business data on a website like Yelp or a local business review site can count as a citation.
According to one study, citations may be the fifth most important ranking factor when it comes to local SEO.
For the most part, you’ll find that ‘complete’ citations include a name, address, and phone number, all of which is often abbreviated to ‘NAP.’
When you’re studying the citations of a competitor, you’ll want to review how many they have, if the citations have complete NAP information, and whether the citations are consistent.
Identifying citations manually is a difficult task, and so you might want to use an SEO tool for this.
In this post, we’ve explored some of the ways you can analyze local SEO competition.
It’s worth mentioning that it’s a good idea to analyze your competition on a regular basis, and you shouldn’t just go through this process at the start of a project.
After all, if you consistently analyze the competition, you’ll see what other people are doing, and this can help you identify new tactics that are producing results.
You’ll also learn about new competitors, and this then gives you plenty of time to work on your SEO so that these new entrants don’t overtake you.
Interested in setting up a local SEO campaign?
We’ve helped several businesses achieve amazing local SEO results. If you want to learn a little bit more about how we can help your business, consider booking a free call with us!