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Competitor Research Tips for Local Businesses

If you want to make sure you have a leg up in the game of online rankings, then competitor research is a must. This especially goes for clients with local businesses as you have to go for geo-targeted keywords along with the best keywords for their industry. In this post, we’re going to look at the various things you need to analyze and monitor from local competitors to keep small local businesses on top of their game.

On-Site Search Optimization

Optimizing a local business website for search can be a bit more complex than a non-localized business. Why? Because you don’t just have to choose industry keywords, but you have to choose the right regional keywords as well. Sure it’s easy to target Phoenix plus the industry keyword, but what about the surrounding areas – Scottsdale, Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, Sun City, etc. Which ones are the most popular for your local business client? You can’t put them all on your homepage, so you have to be right about your selection.

If you’re working with a client in an area you are not familiar with (ie., your agency is in Los Angeles and your client is in Phoenix), then competitor research can help you discover the most popular regions to target for your client. The best way to do this is to find the competitors that are ranking best and seeing what they use in their homepage title tag.


Snapshot of competitor’s homepage title text.

Here, you can see that most of the top local businesses are targeting Phoenix, with one additionally targeting Scottsdale and Paradise Valley. You’ll also find some more geo-target keywords in the meta description of your competitor’s homepages.


Snapshot of competitor’s homepage meta description.

Now you will see confirmation that Scottsdale and Paradise Valley are good areas to target along with Phoenix. And if you’re still stuck on keyword ideas, check out the competitors that are still using their meta keywords.


Snapshot of competitor’s homepage meta keywords.

Between these three areas, you should get a good idea of what the competitors are targeting and have a good start for optimizing your own website.

Off-Site Search Optimization

Once you have your on-site optimization in place, you’ll want to see which of your competitors have the best off-site optimization in the form of external links.


Snapshot of competitor’s total links from Moz.

Getting a quick snapshot like this can save you from the headache of entering domain after domain of local competitors in the search for one with a large backlink portfolio. Once you determine who’s got the best one, you can then use CognitiveSEO, Open Site Explorer, or your other link research tools to dig into their backlinks to find the best ones for your local client.

Local Resources

While digging through local competitor’s backlinks, take note of the local profiles they have built up for themselves. While there are the obvious ones (Yelp, YellowPages, Merchant Circle, etc.), you want to be on the lookout for sites like local news and media, local business directories, and local resource pages. If you can find sites that are linking to several local competitors, it should be easier to get your client’s local business listed as well.

When you are browsing through local review site profiles, also note which ones the competitors are getting the most reviews upon. This will help you determine which review site is popular with the target customer base so you can make sure your client has created and claimed their presence there and is promoting it actively.

Social Networks

There are lots of ways to make a local business’s social media locally optimized. But first, you’ll have to convince your client that they need social media to begin with. Lots of small, local businesses just don’t see the need for it. That’s why it’s good to let them know where they stand amongst their competitors in terms of which social networks to use and how many followers their competitors already have.


Snapshot of competitor’s Twitter following count.

Once they are willing to get on social media, you need to make sure that they have set up their business correctly on networks like Facebook and Google+, both of which have categories specific for local places. This makes their business eligible for check-ins (Facebook) and reviews (Google+).

Next, you’ll want to make sure that the local business has their location in their profile / page description so more people can discover them in each network’s search.


Snapshot of competitor’s Twitter and how they optimize their bio.

Of course, just being on social media isn’t everything. You have to emphasize how important being active on social media is in order to encourage positive word of mouth about their business. Local businesses have the extra advantage of not just talking about their industry, but talking about relevant local events in order to engage with their community.

Offline Presence

Online marketing isn’t everything. There are lots of ways local businesses are marketing their business offline. If you happen to live in the same area as your clients, keep an eye out for competitor’s ads in the local newspaper, business cards and flyers on community walls, local event sponsorship and volunteer work, billboards, pre-show commercials at movie theaters, and other ways competitors are getting local visibility.

If you’re not in the same area as your client, employ them to be on the lookout for the same things. Maybe have them grab a quick photo with their smartphone for reference later.

When you find competitors using these offline avenues, encourage your local business client to follow the lead. While online marketing is powerful, combining it with a strong offline marketing strategy can be key to gaining the upper hand in local lead generation and attracting customers.

Want to see all of your local competitors in one grouping as shown in the examples above? Be sure to sign up for Rival IQ to research your competitors – the first 30 days of research are free!

What do you look for when performing competitor research for local businesses? Please share in the comments!

About Kristi Hines

Kristi Hines is a freelance blogger, ghostwriter, and social media enthusiast.

View all posts by Kristi Hines »


  1. Doing competitor research is so important in SEO, this is definitely something every website owner needs to take a look at.

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