How to Determine a Benchmark for Local SEO Work
Blake Denman is the President and Founder of local SEO agency, RicketyRoo Inc. In this article, Blake will explain just how you can help your business stand out from the rest by finding your own unique benchmark.
You’ve spent a lot of time figuring out all the keywords you want to rank for. Now what? Your goal is to increase rankings on Google Maps and in local organic search, but where should you start?
There’s no shortage of things you can do:
- Google My Business optimization
- Google My Business spam-fighting
- Reviews/reputation management
- Citation building and monitoring
- On-site SEO
- Link building
- Social media management
- Content creation
Some of these tasks might take just a few hours to “dial-in”, while others will take longer, require more resources, or are considered a long-term play. So it’s important to consider what’s a priority and what’s not.
In this article, I’m going to share a framework you can start using today to help figure out the what and why of it all by identifying the unique benchmarks in your market.
You won’t need a ton of third-party tools for this. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to use BrightLocal’s Local Search Audit, but the SEO tool of your choice will do just fine, too.
Let’s get started!
To demonstrate the process I performed a local search for a personal injury lawyer in Portland, USA, and selected a business that was not ranking very well. This data was pulled on May 11th, 2020, and their business info has been blacked out throughout for privacy (it’s not included in the SERP screenshot below).
Using Local Search Audit
1. Start by logging into your BrightLocal account. Then, under SEO Tools, select Local Search Audit.
2. Set up your preferred general settings and give the report a name.
3. Enter the business information for your or your client’s business.
4. Put in your top 5 keywords and make sure the ‘Search Location’ and ‘Type of Business’ are correct.
5. In ‘Report Sections’, the only area you’ll need to check is ‘Local Listings & Reviews’. Once you select this option, the tool will start to find the local business across the 21 listing providers they use for the report. It can take a minute before you’ll be able to run the report.
6. Finally, run the report.
Investigating Your Report
When the report is ready, it’s time to dive in!
The ‘Summary’ section gives you an overview of what’s included in the report. This can be helpful at a quick glance, but we need to dive further into each section before coming up with priorities for our local SEO strategy.
Links & Website Authority
Nobody likes a “poor” status, do they?
When comparing these metrics, there are a few things worth paying attention to.
The average competitor for this business has more than 5x the number of linking domains, yet Majestic C-Flow and Domain Authority are not quite so far behind.
What could this mean? Without looking at each ranking competitor’s backlink profile, I would bet that a lot of the linking domains are not providing much SEO value.
You could also make the other argument that you shouldn’t rely entirely upon third-party metrics (like Domain Authority) to “score” your ability to rank. There are plenty of other factors to focus on, too.
That being said, coming up with a link building campaign is going to be something to start addressing sooner rather than later if your results look anything like this. After all, 89% of local SEO experts prioritize link building for their local business clients.
This firm isn’t ranking well for any of the keywords we used. There’s just one top 10 ranking in Google Maps and a whole lot of ‘not found’s.
So what are the top three things this business could do to help improve its rankings in Google Maps and local organic?
And this isn’t even the full strategy just yet. Stay with me!
Local Business Listings
Out of the listings checked, there are five NAP errors and seven listings not found at all. The NAP errors have to do with very minor variations of the business name.
Overall, updating these listings, and claiming the seven not found, will not be a “game-changer” for this firm.
Across the sites checked (Google, Facebook, Yelp, Foursquare, and Yellowpages), this business has 14 reviews with a 5-star rating.
It’s important to note how long this business has been in operation, here. For context, the website has been live since 2011 (more on this later).
Google My Business
The top-ranking sites on Google My Business, on average, have more photos and more reviews than the business we’re looking at. So, this business would definitely want to start working on sourcing more GMB content.
Outside of the website not being very fast, there were only a few other issues that this crawl found:
- One broken internal link
- Two duplicate meta descriptions
- Missing alt tags
Overall, there isn’t anything detrimental to the functionality of this website. Yes, speeding up the website and clearing up the other issues can be beneficial but they aren’t going to be the highest priority compared to other things.
Using Local Search Audit provided us with a good overview of how this business is performing compared to their local competition. So, what should they focus on first and why?
1. Review strategy – This business has been operating for nine years and they have just 14 reviews. When checking another sources for this law firm, they have an additional 10 reviews on Avvo, so that’s 24 reviews in total. The top 3 ranking Google My Business listings have 78, 50, and 18 reviews, respectively.
Implementing a review building strategy is a long-term play but is needed for this business. When the top two ranking websites have more than 10x the number of Google My Business reviews than you, who do you think a potential customer is going to call? And remember, total review count is one thing but the content inside of those reviews is another.
2. Google My Business spam – The third listing in the screenshot at the start of this article has the business name “Portland Personal Injury Attorney”. Their domain name is different, and so is the logo and the business information on the website.
There is an additional listing in the local finder that has some keyword stuffing, too. This should all be reported to Google. (And if this attorney’s listing is removed, guess what? Our example business climbs another spot in the local pack).
3. Link building – Obtaining topically relevant and hyperlocal links are really going to help move rankings in the right direction. Local link building is crucial, but also really tough to do.
A simple start would be for this business (or their agency) to look at the ‘Affinity’ categories in Google Analytics. This will help show what people are interested in outside of their firm. Mainly, it helps surface interests. You can use those interests to find local sponsorship opportunities or local organizations to get involved with. This creates a local link and local brand awareness.
4. On-site SEO – A more thorough audit should be completed and the issues identified should be addressed. One thing an on-site SEO audit does not cover is the actual content on the website. The content on this website is written well, but isn’t organized, it lacks imagery, and needs more headers to create separation.
5. Google My Business photos – All of the images for this listing show the inside of their office space. It’s a nice-looking office but there should be more photos showing the actual legal team that works there to build consumer trust.
Creating Your Own Benchmark for Future Work
The example above is for just one business in one specific market. Your results are going to be entirely different.
If you’ve been doing very well on your review building and are close to, or have more positive reviews than, your competition, then obtaining even more reviews isn’t going to be a big priority for you. It’s important to maintain that work but your primary focus should be on GMB spam, link building, and on-site SEO.
Once you’ve run the Local Search Audit, you should have a good idea of what you need to be prioritizing based on your unique benchmark.
Is your market riddled with spam on Google My Business? Then taking care of that spam is going to be a top priority for you.
If all other things are equal, focus on link building. And remember, building citations does not equal link building.
If your website hasn’t been updated since 2009, you’re probably going to want to invest in a new one. Or, if your ‘Performance’ score is 0/100, that’s a high priority item to address.
Google uses a plethora of signals to rank results. Don’t pigeon-hole yourself with one tactic or “thing” to do.
Run a business audit to get an idea of where you stand against your competition. Create your list of priority items based on your unique situation, then get going!
One thing you can’t outrank, though?
“You can’t outrank a sh*tty reputation.” – Blake Denman