How to Perform Local and Competitive SEO Analysis
Businesses that rely on local consumers should periodically review the search engine optimization efforts of their competitors. You’ll see what they do – what you like and dislike – and how your business compares.
In this article, I will go over how to perform a local SEO competitive analysis, to improve your own performance.
I’ll start with a list of keywords. You probably have two or three main keywords that you want to rank for in Google. Whether it’s “Dallas Attorneys” or “New York Restaurants,” make a list of your top three keywords and place them on a spreadsheet.
Once you’ve assembled this list, complete the following steps, recording what you find along the way.
- Search Google for each keyword using your laptop or desktop computer. List the top three results for each keyword in the card lists, including company names and websites. Mark them in your spreadsheet as “map results”.
- Search the keywords on Google using your laptop or desktop computer. List the top three results in the organic search results, including company names and websites. Mark them as “natural search results”.
- Search the keywords on Google using your laptop or desktop computer. List the top three results in the paid search results, including company names and websites. Mark them as “paid search results”.
- Do these first three steps, above, but use your smartphone rather than a desktop or laptop computer. This is important, especially for local businesses. Often a search on a laptop or desktop will produce different results.
I’ve put together a sample Google spreadsheet, using three hypothetical keywords, to illustrate.
When analyzing these results, look for trends. Do the same websites come up repeatedly? If so, these are your online competitors.
For example, suppose your business sells lawn equipment. There may be a nationwide chain store nearby that also sells lawn equipment. This chain of stores could appear repeatedly in search results. It’s essential to identify your online competitors (those who appear for your top keywords) even if they don’t provide the same level of service or expertise.
Identifying your competitors online is the first step. After that, analyze what they are doing to rank high in search results.
Analyze competitor tactics
Several areas need to be reviewed
- Local Ranking Factors for organic search maps and listings.
- Factors on siteincluding content.
- Off-site factorsincluding inks from other websites.
Local ranking factors for maps, organic search. It’s helpful to look at local ranking factors, such as the number of reviews. Record this information and compare it to the number of reviews for your business. For more local search engine ranking factors, check out Moz’s list.
Beyond reviews, look for your competitor’s local quotes. Google the address of your competitor’s business. Put it in quotes when doing a search to see how many times the address is mentioned.
Compare that with the number of times your business is mentioned. This will show the number of local citations – that is, listings of the name, address and phone number, or “NAP” – of your competitor. For SEO, the more the better. Citations should be accurate and consistent across the board – the same NAP across all sites.
On-site factors, including content. To examine the content and organization of a competitor’s website, for ranking factors, see these elements.
- Search site:domain.com on Google to see how many pages are indexed.
- Research the competitor’s business name. What is displayed? Does he have social media profiles? Do other websites mention your competitor? Could these sites also mention your company?
- Use a crawling tool (such as Screaming Frog SEO Spider, which is free to crawl up to 500 pages) to check out your competitor’s website. View the site’s title tags, headings, meta descriptions, the links it links to, the size of its page content, and the number of errors on the site, among other factors. Using a crawler will help identify which keywords the competitor is targeting, as these keywords could appear in title tags, for example.
- Browse the competitor’s website. Does it use the NAP scheme? Look at the source code of the page and search for “schema”. Is the site easy to navigate? Is it mobile friendly?
- Is there something on your competitor’s website that yours is missing? For example, is the competitor’s site updated regularly?
Off-site factors. There are generally two areas to look for offsite factors.
First, examine your competitor’s social media presence.
- Does he post regularly on his blog and then on social networks?
- When he posts on social media, do his followers respond and comment? Or are there comments and likes? Does your competitor interact with their subscribers?
- When was the last time your competitor posted on social media?
- How many subscribers does he have?
Second, examine links pointing to your competitor’s website using tools such as Open Site Explorer, Majestic, or Ahrefs.
- How many inbound links does your competitor have? How much does your site have?
- Compare the quality of the links pointing to your competitor’s site. What is its domain authority or trust flow (in Majestic).
- Review the link topics that point to your competitor’s site, to see if they are relevant. For example, links that point to lawn equipment should relate to that topic, as opposed to, say, payday loans.
- Does your competitor’s site regularly receive inbound links? Does your site regularly receive links?
Paid search, too
Finally, use a tool like Spyfu or SEMrush to determine if your competitor is actively bidding on paid search, like Google AdWords. SEMrush will show how much your competitor is spending, on what keywords, and even what ad copy they are using. This will help you decide if you should use Google AdWords. To learn more, see “How to spy on your PPC competitors”.