How to Conduct a Simple Competitive Audit of Local Businesses
“Why is their company better than mine?”
This must be the most frequent local search FAQ, and a good response will always need much research.
Today, I’ll show you how to evaluate more than 50 variables. I’ll give a detailed explanation of each field in the worksheet with illustrations, and I’ll also go over how to apply what you learn to develop a strategy, a point of differentiation, and a competitive ethos that fits well with localism.
How to utilize the spreadsheet for the competitive assessment of local businesses
The worksheet has four columns that you may fill out: one for the company you’re marketing, one for its rival, one for victories, and one for notes.
When both firms are performing equally well for a certain factor, keep this column blank; however, if one is performing better than the other, place their name in that column. This is how you use the “wins” column. In this manner, you can keep track of whatever elements are probably giving the winner an advantage and add up the winner’s wins at the end of the audit. To keep track of intriguing discoveries along the road, use the “notes” box.
Multi-sampled local finder rank
With these initial, crucial measures to get oneself situated within a local market, your audit gets underway.
- Decide on a search term that you want to rank highly for locally. You can use this procedure for each of your significant search terms but start with one to get a feel for it. In the spreadsheet’s top box, type that keyword phrase.
- Search on Google while you are at the company location for that keyword and click on the local pack to be directed to the whole local search results, often known as the “local finder.” Ask your client to conduct the searches and submit the data if you are conducting this audit on their behalf.
- Note the name and address of the company that appears in the local finder’s top non-paid place. Ignore any paid advertisements that appear.
- In the local finder, scroll until you discover your company. Note its location.
- Continue looking and making notes while doing so from various areas within your town or city. This is how multi-sampled data is obtained. Because Google tailors results based on the location of your device, you may notice that the ranks alter as you switch locations. Depending on the size of your community and your competitive objectives, you might visit just one or two more places, or you might visit several.
- After completing this process, you will have a list of rivals from which to identify the dominant player. Although you can conduct a competitive audit for each significant local rival, choose the one that appears in the top spot on local finders the most frequently to get going.
- In the first three fields of the spreadsheet, input the position, name, and address of the company you’re promoting as well as the name of the main rival.
Using a local rank tracker that simulates searching from several locations is an alternative to manually multi-sampling local rankings, but keep in mind that the results might not be as accurate as those obtained by walking about with your feet on the ground. Follow your strategy.
Examine how the actual words in the name might affect rankings now that you’ve filled out the name fields for both the company you’re promoting and its main rival. Businesses with names that include keywords typically rank higher on Google. For instance, if the keyword we were looking for was “Breakfast San Rafael,” a company with the names “Delish Breakfast” or “Good Morning San Rafael” might have an advantage over “Joe’s Place.”
The “Vicinity Update” by Google, which was released in late 2021, appeared to drastically lessen the influence of keywords in the business name. Early in 2022, they allegedly released a second upgrade that may have softened Vicinity, suggesting that a competitor may still have a little advantage due to keywords in the company name. If a competitor’s business name contains keywords but yours doesn’t, enter their name in the spreadsheet’s “wins” column, and vice versa. Leave the “wins” column empty if neither business has a keyword in its name, or if both do.
Maps, addresses, centroids, and proximity
Now, use the address in row 5 to fill out rows 6 and 7 by conducting some searches.
Start by conducting a Google search for the city you’re looking into and then clicking on the map. Check to see if both establishments are located within the city’s red Google-drawn boundary. When a company isn’t inside the boundary of a city, it’s often more difficult to rank there.
Next, have a look at where the city’s name appears in Google’s knowledge panel. That is regarded as the city’s “centroid.” Calculate the separation between the centroid and each of the two enterprises. You can achieve this by seeking up driving instructions between the company’s address and the town’s roughly located address on a map.
If you multi-sampled the market, you might have found that the leading rival appeared wherever you went in the city. They may be situated in an area of the city, such as an auto row, that Google seems to strongly identify with a particular industry, or they may be situated in the heavily populated core of the city, while your company is situated outside of or even beyond the mapped area.
Next, have a look at where the city’s name appears in Google’s knowledge panel. That is regarded as the city’s “centroid.” EstimateNote down if one company is closer to the centroid than the other, or if one is inside the boundary but the other is not.
Get the free GBP Spy Chrome Extension now, then check out the categories that both companies have selected. Mark a win for your rival and mention any categories you are lacking if they have categories that you don’t. The category you select as your primary or first category is thought to have the biggest impact on local search rankings because it is essential for proper classification.
If the company you’re marketing shares space with other companies operating in the same sector, you already know that. Look up the address of your rival and enlarge the map to see if any other companies in your sector are situated there. This is important because Google may exclude results for businesses with the same category and address. Since the 2016 Possum update, this behavior has been particularly highlighted. It’s crucial to realize that Possum may be to blame if the brand you’re marketing shares space with another in the same category and you can’t see your company on the local finder map unless you zoom in.
Next, look around the area a few blocks from both shops to check if there are any other businesses with the same categories listed on the map. Make a note of this because filtering can occasionally happen in this situation as well. Write down a victory for either of the two companies in row 11 if there is no rivalry for a few blocks around them.
Next, make a note of each company’s website address. Having the search phrase in the domain name could help the company a little bit, similar to using keywords in the Google Business Profile title.
Google Business Profile Landing Page URL
Now, follow the website link on each company’s Google Business Profile and note its address. Businesses frequently link from their profile to the home page of their website, while other types of businesses also frequently connect to other landing pages on their website. The homepage is typically the strongest page on a website, so if you are connecting to a landing page and the competition is linking to their homepage, consider it a victory for them.
GBP name, address, and phone match NAP info on the website?
Next, verify that the NAP (name, address, and phone number) on your and your competitor’s websites exactly matches what is listed on the Google Business Profile. Small inconsistencies, such as “street” vs. “st,” are meaningless, but a change in a company’s name, street location, or phone number may cause Google to feel less “trusting” about the authenticity of the firm, thereby lowering its exposure.
Google Business Profile reviews
To fill out rows 15–21 of the sheet, we now delve into the various potent components of reviews.
To begin estimating how old the Google Business Profile is, start by looking at the oldest review. Whether listing age affects local rankings is up for debate, but there’s no denying that an older listing has had more time to gather reviews, images, and other crucial components.
Next, make a note of the overall star rating for each rival. Because consumers use star ratings to determine whether or not to support a business, they are a significant conversion element.
The total number of reviews that each company has received should then be noted.
Then, compare the two sets of reviews’ attitudes, noting whether they are more generally good, neutral, or negative. While you’re at it, check the topics listed under “People often discuss” (see screenshot, above) and make a note of them to see if your competition is gaining favorable mentions of any elements of their business that you haven’t yet.
Because recency might be a ranking influence, note the date of the most recent review each firm received.
Estimate the proportion of reviews that each company has reacted to since owner answers are crucial for local search marketing.
GBP Web Results links
Check out the links Google displays in the “Web Results” section of the listings that lead to other websites. Consider whether the websites linked to your competition are more reputable than those linked to you. List your competitor’s links in the “notes” area of your spreadsheet.
Date of last Google Post
Look through each profile and note the most recent Google Post date for each company. Posts are a useful indicator of how actively and thoroughly a rival is managing their Google Business Profile, while not being a direct ranking factor. Give a “victory” to the company that posted the most recently.
Google Q&A count
Keep track of how many inquiries each company has received. Mark a “win” for the company that has the most inquiries because their customers are the most interested in this feature.
Business response to Q&A percentage
Calculate the proportion of inquiries that have gotten a direct response from the company owner, as seen in the screenshot above. Because the alternative is to ignore customer service chances and subject a client to the whims of receiving public responses of dubious quality or no response at all, the owner with the highest response rate prevails.
Different portions of the Google Business Profile, profile overlays, and Google Maps can display different types of attributes. A business’s attributes may be the result of data it provided to Google directly while generating its listing or comments it has received from the general public. Instead of having a clear winner in this row of your spreadsheet, use the notes area to include any advantages your top rival has that you would also like to have.
Include the “$” pricing attribute when looking at attributes, and note how this statistic represents your company in comparison to the competition. For instance, jot down if you believe that having a higher or lower pricing attribute than the rival may affect how the general public perceives the company you’re promoting.
Fill in rows 27 and 28 of your spreadsheet by calculating the number of images each company has, the proportion of them that were submitted by the owner, and assessing the overall caliber of the photo collection. Consider whether the most recent photographs submitted by your company or your rival are of a good caliber. These are the fundamental checks.
One of the most crucial and effective components of listings today is photos. The “find places by photos” feature, multi-search, Google’s Cloud Vision AI, Google Lens, and all the other advancements that are making it clearer every year that visual media will play an increasing role in local searching and shopping can be found in Mike Blumenthal’s three-part series on visual search for a more in-depth analysis of these assets.
Check to see if either company has taken the time to add a menu to their listing, whether it be a regular restaurant menu or a menu of services. To determine if a company is hosting its menu or linking to a third-party service that they do not directly own, I also like to note the URL that the menu link is pointing to in the case of the first category.
Use of GBP Products and other shopping features
One of those areas of SEO audits that just keeps growing is shopping, similar to images. Check to determine if either company has taken the time to add products to their listing at the most fundamental level.
Google Business Profiles and the Google Merchant Center are connecting more and more at a more advanced level in relevant industries. If your rival has taken the initiative to set up a Pointy feed of inventory and is taking advantage of the resulting “See What’s in Store” section on their listing, this is a significant victory for them and one that you might need to imitate if you haven’t yet “transactionalized” your listing completely.
Justifications appearing on the listing for the query language
Justifications are important, and you may have a tremendous impact on them. Note the precise language and source of the reasons that the search you’re looking into is bringing up for either your listing or those of your competitors. There are many different types of justifications, such as website, review, sold here, services, menu, in-stock, and posts. In the aforementioned example, Google’s display of a website-based rationale in response to a local search for “Fiestaware” is a clear indication to us of how highly they regard this business about our search term. If the rival is receiving a justification but you are not, mark their achievement as a “victory.”
Any clear GBP spam indicators? (Name spam, fictitious addresses, false testimonials, etc.)
Because you might need a trained eye to recognize spam, this might be one of the more difficult parts of a local business competitive audit. Studying the standards for representing your company on Google and the review guidelines carefully can help you improve. You are attempting to determine whether a rival is achieving its top position with the aid of any illegal tactics. Using a string of employees’ houses as phony business addresses, cramming their company name with keywords, or having some of their reviews look to be the result of review gating are a few examples.
Once you are aware of the restrictions, certain policy infractions will be evident enough for you to spot, and if you report them to Google, they may even be removed, providing a competitor an unfair edge. Unfortunately, in many other instances, it can be challenging to detect and establish specific sorts of spam, as well as to convince Google to take action. Simply note anything strange you find on either listing for the sake of a basic audit, and classify either firm as “winnable” if you think the spam may be helping it succeed.
Percentage of spam from Local Finder
Spend some time exploring further while you are looking for spam. Look at every listing in the Local Finder that is between you and the leading rival, and make a rough estimation of the proportion that uses overt spam strategies. Read my article on Simple Spam Fighting: The Easiest Local Rankings You’ll Ever Earn if you’ve never done this before. Although this exercise does not directly measure the gap between your company and its top rival, it does provide an assessment of the mud you will have to wade through to climb the local search rankings.
Links, DA, and PA
A Moz indicator called Domain Authority (DA) estimates how likely it is for a website to appear in search engine results. The identical scenario is assessed by Page Authority (PA), but for a single website page. Top Linking Domains are determined by the domain authority (DA) of the websites that link to other websites and how those links may affect results.
If you’re not yet a member, utilize Moz’s Free Domain Analysis tool for a basic audit and to fill up the following few fields in your spreadsheet. Moz Pro subscribers may perform an advanced audit of all these criteria on their premium dashboard. *Take note that you can use Moz Link Explorer or the free Moz Bar to discover this information about any page if the GBP landing page differs from the domain and is not listed by this tool as one of the top pages of the site.
The domain’s age
The age of your domain and that of your opponent may be swiftly determined using a variety of free tools, such as this one. Although Google representatives have claimed time and time again that domain age is not a ranking criterion, I nevertheless take a look at it to see how much time a rival has had to work on its website and establish its authority. Mark a win for the older domain in this row of your sheet regardless of ranking, even though it is unquestionably true that a new website can outrank an old one with a strong campaign.
Ranking naturally for the phrase
For your search term, have a look at the organic (not local) results. Record the true organic rank of your site and that of your competitors by removing the listings for websites that aren’t actual businesses. Whoever has the highest organic ranking should celebrate.
Search phrase in the title tag of the GBP landing page.
Is the full or a part of the search term present in the title tag of the page that the Google Business Profile is linking to? If one company has it but the other doesn’t, write it down and declare a victory. Keep an eye out for how this wording may be affecting how this keyword phrase ranks.
Search phrase in the main body content of GBP landing page?
Check if the whole or partial search word is referenced on the GBP landing page while you are there. Whoever remembers to use their keywords in their copywriting deserves a victory. If both are, don’t record a win here; instead, note what you noticed in the area labeled “notes”. Consider making a note of how the search term is used as well. For instance, is it in the page’s headings or subheadings?
GBP landing page content quality at-a-glance
Review the GBP landing pages for both companies immediately to assess the work that has been done to create relevant, optimized multi-media content. Usually, a sophisticated content audit will be its project. Complete and accurate contact information, text that is helpful and uses many relevant phrases related to the search term in natural language, excellent grammar, images, videos, reviews, and requests for reviews, as well as links to social media, maps, directions, and other relevant websites, are a few things to look for. To determine your winner, make notes on your observations and assign a score of “weak,” “medium,” or “strong” to the efforts displayed on the two pages.
Run the free mobile-friendliness test on both domains on Google. Since mobile and local are closely intertwined, you can quickly tell which domain performs better on people’s smartphones than on the other.
Google started labeling websites that hadn’t switched from HTTP to HTTPS as “insecure” in 2018. For some time, SEOs had emphasized the advantages of secure sites, but if your website displays that warning and your competitor’s does not, you are probably losing clients and ranking prospects.
Moz Check Presence Score
By searching for your company and your rival in Moz’s free Check Presence tool, you can now assess the state of citations across the whole local search ecosystem. You can quickly determine whether your competitor’s success is being aided by providing local business data to several listing platforms.
Yelp ranking, rating, and review count
Document where you and your rival rank on Yelp for your search phrase, your respective ratings, and the number of reviews each of you have received. In all three rows, the winner is usually obvious. Because Google is likely to use Yelp as part of its assessment of the local business authority, we’ll also round out our audit by looking there.
You can now add up your victories!
Congratulations, you have just passed the audit. The final step is to add up the wins for each company name you entered in the “wins” column, create your list of the fields in which they won, and combine this with the notes you took to understand the efforts that are likely contributing to their top visibility. For example, you may have learned that reviews, content, and mobile-friendliness support your peer’s excellent performance.
These insights can help you develop an informed plan for your marketing business to raise its KPIs to a competitive level. Some aspects, such as geography, are beyond your control, but with most of your findings, a to-do list will emerge from the audit process. The more you work in local SEO, the better you’ll get at prioritizing the items on that list based on each customer and market.
Keep in mind that the goal of a competitive audit is more than just to teach you how to match and exceed a competitor’s metrics. Examine your notes and findings for hints on how to stand out in your market. For example, your audit may have revealed that local demand exists for something your competitor either needs to provide or do better. You may fill the void. Or you’ve just learned that a change in business hours could make the company you’re marketing the go-to destination on Mondays and Tuesdays when its competitor is closed. A good audit should not produce a carbon duplicate; instead, it should show how to develop a distinctively compelling local character.
2) Align With Your Brand
Customers won’t have a connection to your business if you don’t have a strong, identifiable brand. You must establish your brand’s reputation and you can hire a digital marketing agency to do it. This can be accomplished by using things like:
- Brand story and values
However, it’s crucial that these components work with and support your brand. A successful organisation constantly thinks, acts, and communicates the same thing. Strong management and outstanding teamwork are used to accomplish this.
Many businesses occasionally drive themselves into contentious discussions that don’t reflect their brand values. Audi’s Super Bowl commercial for gender equality is one instance of this. Due to the lack of women on Audi’s management board, there was a lot of backlash on social media. So, it didn’t look good that the advertisement seemed to advocate principles that the brand itself didn’t share.
This brings up the following idea, which is honesty. Being honest and upfront is crucial for lowering client churn, but you shouldn’t undersell your product or service.
Imagine that you are two sisters who run a small consultancy for SMS customer assistance. You shouldn’t pose as a multinational corporation when creating content or operate in a way that isn’t true to who you are. Your brand credibility could be harmed by this.
3) Continue to follow email campaigns
According to statistics, you can anticipate receiving an average of $42 back for every $1 spent on email marketing. This means that one of the best methods for boosting sales is email marketing.
However, sending emails is insufficient. It’s crucial to cater to your audience when writing them. This entails leveraging the consumer profiles we previously described to categorise your emails. Automation of email is also essential. You can reach out to customers at the ideal moment. Additionally, you may use it to send emails to consumers who have abandoned their cart, present offers, and measure metrics.
Remember that emails are useful for retaining customers as well as bringing in new ones. Even after they’ve made their purchase, a well-written follow-up email can keep them thinking of you. It’s well worth the effort because improving client retention by only 5% can boost your profitability by 25–95%.
4) Assess the Content’s Success
As this article’s title implies, digital marketing can boost your sales. What happens, however, if you redesign your website, boost your marketing budget, and buy the greatest productivity software for small businesses, only to discover that something is still off? It’s possible that you’re not monitoring and evaluating the content you publish.
You may learn how clients interact with your most popular web pages and goods by measuring and tracking content. Making informed decisions in the future will be possible thanks to these insights.
You can find out which search engines are directing people to your website and which regions are most popular for your product or service by using accurate analytics. This implies that you can invest on the right channels and subsequently draw in more of the desired customers.
5) Enhance Your Channels
In digital marketing, optimization is crucial.It could entail personnel optimization to develop a productive and cohesive workforce. It can also refer to optimising websites and mobile apps, which is crucial because 80% of users visit the Internet on their mobile devices. It may also refer to SEO (search engine optimization), which affects your website’s ranking. The more traffic you generate, the better your website will rank. You will increase sales as you drive more traffic to your website.
75% of Google searchers never even glance at the second results page. If there aren’t enough motivations, consider the following:
- Your brand will become more well-known thanks to SEO, and this will strengthen your authority and reputation while fostering client trust.
- Because customers will have an easier time finding what they’re looking for, your user experience will also be enhanced.
- As 87% of consumers will typically only travel 15 minutes to make an everyday transaction, you may concentrate on local SEO.
- By using SEO techniques, you can better comprehend the web market and rival strategies.
- SEO is a long-term solution with a significant return on investment.