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Local SEO Competitor Audits: How to Find Actionable Strategies Faster

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In our last Tea Time SEO before we took a break for summer, we had four experts all from the Women in Tech SEO Community join us. Emily Brady, Sophie Gibson, Julia-Carolin Zeng and Niki Mosier spoke about Competitor analysis – Your Competitor Audit Template. Emily has further elaborated on her tips below:

Few things are as frustrating as a competitor analysis that doesn’t yield actionable insight – but local SEO competitor audits can go down rabbit trails pretty quickly. This framework is designed to help you identify which one to go down first so you can find actionable information faster. 

For the purpose of these tips, “local SEO” refers to organic search with local intent (i.e., “dog groomers near me”), not Google My Business optimization alone – although GMB is an integral part of local SEO. 

How to audit competitors for local SEO: 

First things first: Identify your primary competitors. For local businesses, “competitors” might mean the sites ranking on page one for your primary keyword (or group of keywords). 

For most local searches, there will be between 4 and 6 competitors in the “ten blue links.” The rest are probably directories. For the sake of this audit, directories aren’t considered a “competitor” as they serve a different purpose than direct competitors (i.e., other local businesses). 

You can also pull competitors from the local pack, although there may be overlap between the two. 

You can find the template I use for these types of audits here. Make a copy and drop your competing domains in the applicable tables. 

Now you’re ready to move onto the actual audit! In a nutshell, the analysis will include:

  • Indexed pages,
  • Number of ranking keywords
  • Backlinks / linking domains 
  • Domain authority (or a similar metric)
  • GMB relevance (proximity & reviews)

1) Indexed Pages 

The first item you’ll review is the total number of indexed pages for your site and competing domains. You can do this with a simple “site:[yourdomain]” search in Google, like this: 

Site domain

This will give you an estimated number of URLs Google has indexed for the site, just above the results on the page. Using your website as a baseline, indicate in your audit doc whether or not competitors tend to have fewer or more indexed pages. 

  • Why this is important: Content is about quality, not quantity; however, sites with more indexed pages may be investing in long-term content strategies and consistently creating value for users with new content. 

2) Number of Ranking Keywords

For  this step, you’ll need access to an SEO software such as Ahrefs, Moz, or something similar. Within your preferred tool, identify the estimated number of keywords for which your domain and competitors’ have organic traction. 

Because we want to keep this report high-level, we’re not looking for the individual keywords that rank, but the total number. Here’s where you can find this information in Ahrefs: 

Number of ranking keywords

I personally like Ahrefs organic keywords report for this, although Moz makes this information easily accessible as well. Note that these tools can only estimate, so you’ll want to use the same one for all of the websites in your report to keep the baseline consistent. 

Add this information to your audit and calculate what percentage of competitors have more or fewer ranking keywords. 

3) Backlinks, Linking Domains, & “Domain Authority” 

I’ve included these three items as one because it’s typically easier to get them from the same place. Just like your keyword data, you’ll need access to some sort of SEO tool to get this information. 

Additionally, keep in mind that “domain authority” is not a ranking factor or a metric used by Google. It was created by Moz to measure the overall perceived “authoritativeness” of a given domain. Ahrefs has a similar metric called “domain rating,” which you can also use. You can find it here (along with the number of referring domains and total backlinks):

Backlinks
  • Why this is important: Just like content, links are about quality, not quantity. Thus, competitors with more links may not necessarily have a better backlinking strategy; they could, after all, have a lot of bad backlinks. Identifying which competitors have more links and linking domains is simply an indicator of whether or not your site’s SEO strategy has invested the same amount of time into creating a robust backlink profile. 

4) Google My Business Relevance 

Finally some local local SEO! The last piece of your audit will take place on Google My Business, where you’ll measure a few tangible items that may contribute to competitors’ local relevance. 

These include: 

  • Number of Reviews 
  • Review Rating 

You can find both in the local pack or from Google maps search results: 

Review

Transfer this information to your audit doc as well, and calculate the percentage of competitors with better / more reviews on Google My Business. 

If competitors have their address displayed on GMB, you can also audit their proximity to the geographic region for which you’re trying to rank. This isn’t an exact science, as proximity is most important when it refers to your business’ location and your customer. 

However, it may be worth noting if your business is located in a suburb of a larger city, for instance, and wants to rank where the search volume is higher (i.e., the city). 

Putting It All Together: How to Identify Deep-Dive Opportunities 

The final step in your audit involves a little math. Calculate the percentage of competitors whose SEO strategie are beating yours for each item you reviewed. 

Here’s an example of what the results might look like: 

Table for the audit

Based on this information, you should have a pretty good idea of what to examine next. 

In the example above, for instance, MyWebsite.com doesn’t seem to have as much content or rank for as many keywords as the majority of competitors. The same thing goes for backlinks, but the number of competitors who have more linking domains / backlinks is less, which means content is the rabbit trail we’d want to explore first. 

Here are some suggested actions you can take for each metric: 

  • If the majority of competitors have more indexed pages and / or ranking keywords, focus on auditing competitors’ content (topics, content gap analysis, etc.) 
  • If the majority of competitors have a higher DA and / or more linking domains or backlinks, focus on auditing competitor backlinks first (backlink gap analysis, local citations, etc.) 
  • If the majority of competitors have a strong GMB presence, focus on auditing competitors’ Google My Business (categories, review quality and velocity, posting strategy, etc.)

Create additional value.

The goal of your deep-dive audit shouldn’t be to mimic competitor strategies but to find gaps in their own strategy and leverage those to create unique value on your domain. 

Yes, there may be some things competitors have implemented that you should as well, but copying strategies won’t necessarily incentivise search engines to rank your site higher. When everyone’s special, no one is. Creating value your competitors don’t have, on the other hand, will strengthen your site’s relevance and give it a better chance of performing well in search results. 

Emily has also shared a very useful local competitor audit which you can access here. Thank you Emily for coming on Tea Time SEO. If you missed the talk, you can watch it below:

Featured image by Morning Brew on Unsplash

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