Analyzing Your Local Organic Search Competition – Search Engine Journal

Know what you’re up against in search results with a local organic competition analysis. It’s an essential early step in your SEO strategy.
A local organic competition analysis is an essential early step in defining your strategy as it helps you understand what you’re up against in organic search results.
From this competition analysis, you can move forward knowing that your information will help you achieve the results you’re looking for.
By looking at content, it is possible to figure out:
Going through this process helps you understand what they are doing so you can adapt your content strategy and beat theirs accordingly.
By looking at links, it is possible to figure out things like:
By looking at on-site factors like on-page optimization, it is also possible to develop a strategy that will outlast and beat their local strategy.
The factors you analyze in this local competition analysis will help you create a winning strategy.
Focusing on your market, your niche, and your locale, you will want to perform a deep local competition analysis.
On the surface, a local competition analysis will include the following factors:
Diving deeper, the local competition analysis should include the following to gain a clear picture of the local competitiveness of the market.
Please note that not all of these factors will increase local rankings – some will, but they are here to help you create a winning local strategy based on everything the competition is doing.
This competition analysis should focus on the top 10 results on Google.
Do a search for your local area + keyword phrase in an industry you are targeting (e.g., [Orange County personal injury lawyers]).
Use a combination of link analysis tools like Google Search Console, Majestic, Semrush, Raven Tools, and Ahrefs; export all the data; put together that data; analyze the link profile.
I recommend using at least two or three link profile analysis tools because single tools by themselves do not always have all of the data available.
What you are looking for in this link profile are things like:
Directories still work as a linking tactic, if it is done with high enough quality links and they don’t all appear to be spam.
Really, though, it’s just a directory – pretty self-explanatory here.
You’re looking for directories that aren’t all ad spam, meaning they do not contain ads above the fold, and the ads don’t interfere with people looking for the link. The directories are generally clean, high-quality, and can drive high authority link equity.
Niche local sites are those sites in your industry that are local authorities on their topics.
They can be anything from animal rights organizations to charities to other sites that will help lend an air of authority when they link to you.
The main idea when going after these links is to ensure that they are of high quality and not spammy in any way.
These sites can also take on the guise of local partners.
Please note that I am not advocating link exchanges in this way because that is a bad idea. I am advocating for creating partnerships with other local businesses to obtain links that will help your site in the SERPs.
We are trying to gauge the feasibility of beating the site in the search results. We don’t want to actually copy their link profile.
By gauging ranking feasibility, it will be easier to determine an overall linking strategy afterward.
And the reason we don’t want to copy their link profile is this: I can’t be there to guide you every step of the way.
If you slip up and optimize with a low-quality link, you could eventually get yourself a penalty by getting too many of them. It is very easy to continue old habits once you start.
Chamber links are essential to good local SEO.
They provide high authority, can be a great partner-type link, and can also refer local business.
However, it is important to note that not every Chamber of Commerce link will be a .gov.
These links can be from local government offices or charities to local schools.
They are .gov and .edu links are all just a major bonus.
Things have not changed regarding the weight of .gov and .edu links.
They still tend to be some of the highest quality links available.
When gathering data for the local competitor analysis, it is important to consider things like:
All of the above factors will help determine the content you will ultimately put on the site and how to go from there.
Please note that Google’s John Mueller has stated that content doesn’t have to be long content to rank well:
“There’s no minimum length, and there’s no minimum number of articles a day that you have to post, nor even a minimum number of pages on a website. In most cases, quality is better than quantity. Our algorithms explicitly try to find and recommend websites that provide high-quality, unique, and compelling content to users. Don’t fill your site with low-quality content. Instead, work on making sure that your site is the absolute best of its kind.”
This means: always making sure your site is crawlable from a local standpoint.
When using highly targeted, niche keyword phrases, use them in the URL as you name your page.
If your site is not crawlable and technically accurate, you can’t expect Google to rank it appropriately.
Yes, I realize what most SEO professionals will say: high quality, valid HTML and CSS coding do not matter.
While Google doesn’t have any such requirements, high-quality coding does matter and can help rankings significantly as a quality attribute.
When you code correctly, you reduce the chance of the browser having to “guess” what you’re trying to have it render.
When you code and develop a website correctly, you reduce page speed and browser render speed.
Page speed is one Google ranking factor we all know about.
Regardless, high-quality, validated HTML and CSS coding should always be the end result of your site’s development work.
If your competitors’ sites in the competitor analysis do not have such validation or high-quality coding in their framework, then you have an attribute you can use against them – make sure your site’s coding and page speed are far better than theirs in all areas: well-optimized code, make server bottlenecks non-existent, etc. coding should be on every website with Schema data type information.
It is crucial to get that site to show up in rich snippets and the carousels of Google’s search results.
If those sites don’t have schema markup for the data types that are present on your site, here is yet another useful ranking signal you can optimize for toward your benefit.
The first schema markup any local business should have is the LocalBusiness schema.
Every site being optimized on a local basis should have locally focused title tags, meta descriptions, and URLs.
What does locally focused mean?
This means if you are trying to optimize for keyword phrases like [Garden Grove personal injury lawyer], you should be using the city name in your target keywords.
Here’s an example of locally optimized title tags, meta descriptions, and URLs:
In the local competitor analysis, you are also looking for competitors who may or may not have locally optimized on-page copy with tight topical and keyword focus.
This will tell you what the competition is actually doing for that on-page optimization.
If you really want to get nitty-gritty with the local competitor research, I highly suggest performing an audit of your competitor sites with Screaming Frog.
Just set the Screaming Frog settings to your desired specifications, crawl each competitor site, and after you export the Excel spreadsheet data, filter out all of the data so that only the titles, meta description, and URLs are showing up.
You can even look up what they are doing to their H1 tags as well.
Looking at all of this useful data will show you exactly what your competition is doing on-site and help you make yours better.
Keywords and topical relevance are important factors to ensuring that your on-page optimization is properly targeted and fully optimized.
When you perform keyword research, you’re looking for keywords with a good search volume (above 70 or so average searches per month is a healthy number to shoot for), have lower competition, and are highly targeted.
A locally focused version of a keyword phrase for lawyers may be [Fountain Valley personal injury lawyers].
If you try targeting personal injury lawyers by itself without a local focus, good luck. It will take massive amounts of links, authority building, and market penetration to expand to the type of reach you want your marketing to accomplish.
When doing keyword research like this, it’s also important to consider the size of the market.
If you don’t consider the size of a market like Los Angeles (with millions of pages in Google’s index and businesses that have already built up their authority), you will be in for a rude awakening if you promise a client they will see rankings in Los Angeles within three months. Not going to happen.
It will likely take a year or more to achieve results on the first page of Google in a market the size of Los Angeles – assuming you have what it takes to beat the competition at their link acquisition and other SEO efforts.
Good search volume, lower competition, highly targeted niche keywords are diamonds in the rough.
These keyword phrases will usually bring the most sought-after improvement to an important metric for your client: conversions.
While lower competition is nice, good search volume should be at the top of your list when performing local keyword research.
The higher the search volume, the higher the interest searchers have in that topic.
If you don’t pay attention to search volume, you may get lucky with a couple of conversions. But that kind of luck will run out eventually.
Solid research is at the helm of any SEO endeavor.
Highly targeted niche keywords are those keywords that are targeted toward people who are performing searches for specific things within your industry. You have to dive deep into the details of your industry when trying to unearth these keyword gems.
For example, if you know that people frequently perform searches for lawyers in Fountain Valley for auto accidents, you would want to use a keyword phrase like [Fountain Valley auto accident attorney].
If you know that people frequently perform searches for specialized items in a particular industry, there is usually intent and questions behind those searches.
By analyzing and thinking through the potential intent of people searching for these phrases, it’s possible to build a keyword list that includes questions about these topics that you can use to build even further, deeper, highly targeted topical content pages. These types of pages can end up being real converters for your client.
The reason behind performing keyword research this deep is that you can then figure out what keywords are going to perform best for your client as a result.
Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal
Brian has been doing SEO since before it was called SEO, back in the days of 1998. Back then, SEO … [Read full bio]
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