Let’s face it, local SEO can be very cut throat. People are doing whatever they can to help ensure their business is listed atop the local pack above all of their competitors.
How much do you know about your competitors, though? Do you know where all of their citations and reviews are coming from? What keywords they’re targeting and where they rank for those terms? Do you even know what their backlink profile looks like?
“I suppose I see a different world than you do. And the truth is that what I see frightens me. I’m frightened because our enemies are no longer known to us.” – M
M said it best in Skyfall: if you don’t know who your enemies are in your field and how you compare to them, then you are going into battle blind. Luckily, there are some great tactics out there that can help give you an inside look at your competitor’s local search strategy.
Get your best James Bond impression ready and let’s see how you can spy on your competitor’s local strategy and become the 007 of Local SEO.
Just like James Bond, you too have villains who took something from you that’s rightfully yours. It’s up to you to take these villains down and reclaim your position atop the local search pack.
Who are your villains? Who’s sitting atop your local SERP that you need to target and take down?
To find out, start by performing a search with your service followed by city and state.
The results will display a unique kind of SERP called the Google Local 7 Pack. These are the top ranking businesses for your service in your target area. These are the people that you aim to take down. Make a spreadsheet of your top competitors to keep track for future use. We’ll use the businesses from the above local SERP for examples throughout this post.
Discover Your Villains’ Weaknesses
Now that you know the villains you’re up against, you need to see how you stack up next to each one. You want to look for the areas that they are doing really well in, and the areas that are weak points.
A key component for local SEO is being well rounded in all aspects of the optimization process. By doing so, it gives competitors fewer points of entry. Otherwise you’re leaving yourself open for competitors to come and take over.
When you’re looking into your competitors, ask yourself a few key questions to help you see what you need to do to take down your villains:
- What local citations do they have?
- What local listings are they missing?
- What’s their total number of citations?
- How many total reviews do they have?
- Do they have reviews from a diverse set of sites or only a select few?
- What categories are they associating their business with?
- What keywords are they targeting?
By keeping those questions on your mind as you dive into the structure of your competitors’ local optimization, you’ll be able to find areas of opportunities for your business to capitalize upon and conquer.
A good spy never leaves home without their essential spy tools and gear. Nor does any local SEO expert. To help discover where your villains’ weaknesses are, there are some great spy tools available to you.
Here are a few tools that can provide you with a thorough and in-depth analysis of your competitors’ local SEO.
The first spy analysis tool is Moz Local. This is going to show you 15 of the major listing services available today and if your competitor has a listing there, if they have duplicates, and if they have consistent NAP.
Keep track of all of the listings they have and especially where they aren’t listed, and also take note of what categories they’re associating with their listings. Then see how it compares to what you have and look for areas of improvement. If you see that you competitor has missing listings, go ahead and create those listings for yourself if you haven’t already. These are easy wins for you to gain some ground on a competitor.
For example, I ran a quick analysis of Cosmetic Dentistry Austin (CDA), who is listed 3rd out of 7 in their local pack, and they’re extremely vulnerable to be taken over by an up and coming dental practice who has their local citations in order.
If you’re analyzing your competition and see this sort of vulnerability, this should ensure you that you can easily make your way into the local pack. At the same time, if the CDA spent some time to really get their local optimization done properly; they would really strengthen their presence in the local pack.
Utilize the 200+ local directories that Synup connects to and get a more granular look at your competitors’ local citations. With this spy gadget you get more than a list of local citations: it shows you what listings you have, what ones are missing, and whether or not the listing is claimed. It also gives you a review and keyword dashboard to help you monitor where you’re reviews are coming from and track where you rank for specific keywords.
Examining the local citations for the Austin Cosmetic Dentistry (ACD), we once again see vulnerability. If I were Austin Dental Spa, who’s right behind ACD in the local pack, I’d be creating listings on all missing listings that ACD has missing according to Synup.
ACD has some diversity when it comes to their reviews, but they only have a total of 11 reviews spread across 5 different sources. Again, this leaves room for a competitor to easily come in and overtake them.
Reviews are one of the trickiest pieces of the puzzle, but they continue to be a top local SEO ranking factor each year. If you can get customer reviews that abide by the review guidelines, it will do wonders for your brand, business, and local rankings.
The high-quality value and insight that SEMRush provides digital marketers is top notch. Their tools allow you to dive into paid and organic search data, as well as keyword and competitor analysis. Any 007 Local SEO Agent would agree that you aren’t a complete spy until you’re utilizing SEMRush.
For the purpose of a Local SEO competitor analysis, you want to use SEMRush to help find competitors, discover what keywords you and your competitor are both targeting, and what keywords your competitor has ranking in the top Google search results.
Let’s take a look at some of our villains as if we’re Austin Dental Spa, who’s currently ranking 2nd in the local pack.
After looking past the obvious non-competitor yelp.com, we come across a few of our longtime nemeses like Austin Cosmetic Dentistry and Austin City Dental. Both are competitors with Austin Dental Spa in the local 7 pack.
Since ACD currently ranks first in the local 7 pack, we’ll click on their common keywords that they share Austin Dental Spa to get an idea of how the two compare. By comparing these keywords it will help us see what keywords the competitors share and where each of them rank for that term.
We can see that Austin Dental Spa and ACD both rank well for a number of terms and are neck and neck multiple times for certain terms. In this scenario, if I were Austin Dental Spa, I would look at the pages where ACD out ranks them and look at certain things like:
- What is their word count on the page?
- What keywords are they targeting?
- What on-page optimization best practices are they implementing?
- How many internal and external links do they have?
Look for areas that the competitor is weak, then strategize ways to one-up their on-page and off-page optimization strategies.
Next, we want to take a look at keywords that ACD has ranking in the top 20 organic search results. We want use this information to look for keywords you may not be targeting, yet would be great for you to start implementing in your on-page copy.
Look at what keywords are driving the biggest percentage of traffic for your competitor, look to see where they rank, and then look to see if you can start targeting this keyword if you aren’t already. Again, you want look at the URL that the keyword is related to and look to see how they are optimizing for the term. If you see areas of weakness, capitalize!
Our next spy gadget, Ahrefs, will help us discover where your competitors are getting the majority of their domain authority from, and if there are linking opportunities for you to capitalize on. You want to look for opportunities like business associations and professional affiliations, community events and local sponsorships, educational opportunities, and local business links like the local chamber of commerce.
If you don’t know whose backlink profile you should examine first, just start at the top and work your way down. If someone is ranking first for a highly competitive term, then they are clearly doing something right.
For this example, we’ll examine the backlink profile for Austin Cosmetic Dentistry since they rank first in the local pack we’re examining.
As I suspected, ACD has a diverse and strong backlink profile, which is a major reason for their top ranking. When we look through their links, we find multiple domains that are possible for any dentist to earn links from.
When you’re a local business you absolutely want to get involved with local associations. ACD for example, has links from dentist specific directories, local news stations and directories, and dentist/healthcare related sites. If you aren’t listed on these sites or site similar to these, go ahead and investigate how you can get your website listed on there as well.
Ahrefs presents you with the ability to look into the local optimization strategy of your competitors. After some digging around in their backlink profiles you’re likely to find some eye-opening opportunities you hadn’t thought of yet.
Your Secret Weapon
A good spy knows every move that their nemesis makes, and so should a good local SEO analyst. When a competitor gets a mention in an article, you should know about it and know what they did to get mentioned. If they build new citations, you should know where they made it and if it would be a good fit for your site.
Spy on your local villains by using Google Alerts to watch every move they make. Set up an alert for their brand name, local address, and local phone number so you’re notified every time that they get mentioned in an article or they create a new citation.
If you aren’t a huge fan of Google Alerts, you can use Talk Walker Alerts as an alternative. They offer a free altering system very similar to Google Alerts that notifies you of the latest relevant mentions of your specified query.
This will help you make sure your competitors don’t start to pull away from you with their local SEO strategies and leave you in the dust.
Bond Always Comes Out On Top
Like in any James Bond movie, Bond has to do some outside the box thinking, while still relying on his training and knowledge to help take down his villains. The same kind thinking has to be applied with your local SEO competitor analysis. If you do some creative thinking and strategizing, perform great analysis, and implement ethical best practices, you’ll be able to see your villains start to drop like flies as you climb the ladder of local ranks.