Get Competitive with Local Search

September 13, 2012

Collective Measures
Local SEO could be the pond where you get to be the big fish. Here is a brief competitive analysis and example to help you wrap your head around competing in local SEO.

National search engine results pages can be difficult to compete in. Fortunately localization cuts down national competition with local search result pages. Local SEO could be the pond where you get to be the big fish. Here is a brief competitive analysis and example to help you wrap your head around competing in local SEO.

Sizing Up the Competition
In Hopkins, there are three Chinese restaurants that deliver to the area.  There are many factors that go into what contributes to local search rankings. Some of the main factors are: physical location, categories & keywords, website domain authority and NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) citations, and many others. What makes Star Wok rank #1 in almost all the local search results for this segment? Lets look at some of the major ranking factors. I’m curious to know what would it take for one of these listings to displace the other.

[hopkins mainstreet chinese]

Geographic Relevance
All of these locations are geographically close to what Google refers to as the “centroid” of Hopkins. This is a signal of relevance for local search for obvious reasons. All three locations are about the same distance to the centroid, which contributes to an interesting case study.

Local Search Citations

I used a tool but this can also be done manually. I searched for the competitions NAP to see how many references are made. These references are the “links” of local search and they’re called citations. They don’t have to be a literal link to your listing, they just need to exist and be readable by the search engines. This contributes to a citation profile. Here’s how the three competitors stack up:

  • Star Wok – 73 citations
  • Jasmine Garden -76 citations
  • China Palace – 72 citations

Based on this information, here’s how I would improve China Palace’s local citations.

  • What are the differences between China Palace and Jasmine Gardens citations? Are there missed opportunities? I’d look for citations with high domain authority.
  • Act on the citation research. Push the citation count up. I’d consider using aggregators.
  • Ensure that the citations across the web are in the best practice format. China Palace has more than one phone number: Only one should be used for citations.

Website Domain Authority
Star Wok ranks #1 because it is the only one with a website. Which makes the comparison of domain authority very clear. The domain authority has significance to the citations power. When the citation is interlinked with the listing, it holds even more sway because it is signalling to Google that this is the businesses website. In contrast, a business without a website, is at disadvantage because it won’t benefit from any domain authority.

Based on this information, here’s some advice I’d give China Palace.

  • Create and optimize a website for local queries. The website should be user friendly and provide value for your customers.
  • Add their NAP to the footer and content.
  • Do effective keyword research and follow SEO best practices with local queries in mind. Title tags/H1/H2/URL with local queries.
  • Gain quality inbound links from relevant local sites.
  • So-Lo-Mo: Integrate social and mobile into your website. The customers want to call for orders and need directions for carry-out. Encourage sharing!

Claim and Optimize the Google+ Local page
This page is the intersection of social, local and mobile for any business on Google search. It appears as a pinned result on local search engine result pages in what is referred to as the 7-pack.

This would be how I recommend China Palace optimize their Google+ Local Page.

  • Claim and verify the listing.
  • Ensure that all five allotted categories from Google are relevant.
  • Fill out the local listing page with pictures. Show off the best dishes.
  • Use keywords and a call to action in the description
  • Update business hours, recommended links, and videos
  • Respond to bad reviews, respond to good reviews! Interact with your users.
  • Just because Google+ is not as popular as many social networks doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start building up circles of users relevant to you business. It could be of tremendous benefit in the future.

If China Palace or Jasmine Garden optimized and improved their listing they would be able to displace Star Wok in a short amount of time. In this example- the businesses have a lot of room for improvement. However, the more competitive, the more important the nuances of local become. To see one of the best resources for many of the factors that go into local search, read David Mihm ranking factors.