Please Note: In November 2021, Google retired the name ‘Google My Business’ and now uses ‘Google Business Profile’ to refer to the profile searchers see and ‘Google Business Profile Manager’ to refer to the dashboard used to manage the listing.
Ranking for local searches requires focus on a combination of different local SEO factors. But with Google’s local algorithm relying on so many different signals, it can be hard to know where to spend your time to maximize your chances of ranking highly.
This is where our Local Rank Tracker tool (or just ‘Rank Checker’ for short) comes in. Not only does it make it easy to know where your business is ranking online, but dig a little deeper and you can uncover a world of useful information that can help you to make faster and smarter decisions.
In this post, I’ll be revealing how you can use Rank Checker to spot and seize opportunities to claim more local search traffic, as well as to get the data you need to prioritize the keywords that matter and fuel the right optimizations. It’s just one of the key tools you’ll be mastering when you learn how to use BrightLocal.
Let’s jump in!
1. Compare local keyword search volume
Keyword research is an essential part of local SEO. It allows you to make sure that you’re focusing your time and energy on the search terms that potential customers are actually using.
Our keyword rank checker is a great place to sort keywords by search volume, so you can see exactly where the biggest opportunities lie for your or your client’s business.
When setting up a report, you’ll have the opportunity to add a list of validated keywords or search terms that you want to rank for.
Once your report has run, you can reference the ‘Count’ column (see below) to see which keywords have the highest search volume, and therefore the highest traffic potential.
(Quick note: search volume estimates are only available on our SEO Pro plan)
You could also look out for keywords that are the most profitable to your business despite having lower search volumes. For plumbers, these could refer to more expensive procedures like ‘boiler repairs,’ or for dentists they could be ‘cosmetic dentistry’ or ‘dental implants’.
2. Discover where there’s potential to reach the Google local pack
As well as helping you to understand keyword search volume, Rank Checker is also useful for learning if a keyword or search term has local pack potential.
Google’s local pack might have a greater impact on certain businesses and industries than others, but it’s valuable to any business looking to strengthen its visibility and engage with a local audience. (In fact, according to one of our studies, the local pack attracts 32% of clicks when Local Services Ads aren’t present.)
Not all keywords or search terms display a local pack, but knowing which ones do could have a bearing on what you end up targeting.
In a Rank Checker report, the Google My Business logo (the blue ‘building’ icon seen below) underneath the individual keywords in the Ranking Table indicate where Google is displaying a local pack for that search term. This icon makes these keywords quick and easy to spot.
If you want to see a live view of the search results page for that keyword, and the local pack, you can click on the ranking number and then on the ‘Search Results Page’ button in the popup.
This is a good way of finding out what’s ranking right now, but if you go back to the popup and click the ‘SERP Screenshot’ button you’ll be presented with a screenshot of the search results page as it appeared at the time that the report was run.
This is useful for learning who was previously ranking for important keywords, and highlighting any businesses that you may never have heard of and wouldn’t have thought to track as a competitor. (I’ll share more on competitors later on.)
The ranking data in the rest of the table can also help you to understand where you’re currently ranking and how close you are to breaking into the coveted local pack.
At the top of the report is an option to display it the data in either Blended or Unblended mode. You can learn more about these in our FAQ.
What’s the difference between Blended and Unblended Mode?
In BrightLocal’s Local Rank Tracker, we give you the option to view search ranking data in what we call ‘Blended’ or ‘Unblended’ mode.
Blended results are when Local and Organic results are displayed together, so the local pack becomes 1A, 2B and 3C, and the first organic result is number 4.
Unblended results are when the local and organic rankings are split out in the report. Local pack rankings are indicated with A, B, C. Organic results are represented with numbers 1, 2, 3, etc.
It’s really a matter of preference whether you use Blended or Unblended mode. However, most BrightLocal customers prefer to look at unblended results, so let’s do the same here.
In our example, for the keyword ‘Plumber’, this business is ranking in third position in the local pack in Google desktop results (as indicated by the letter C). However, they’re ranking in 14th position in organic for the keyword ‘Colorado Springs Plumber’ which is an important search term for them and therefore has local pack potential.
To improve their rankings for this search term, they could try on-site optimization or improving other local ranking signals, such as changing the primary category in their Google My Business listing or increasing their numbers of reviews and citations.
3. Learn if the right web pages are ranking for the right keywords
It’s always a good idea to check which pages on your website are actually ranking for the keywords that you’ve chosen.
Why? Well, you might discover that your ‘About Us’ page is ranking for one of your targeted keywords keyword instead of the dedicated page for that service, which isn’t going to give your potential customer a great user experience or the information that they’re looking for.
By clicking on the ranking number in the Rankings Table and then on ‘Landing Page’ in the keyword info popup, you can find out which page on your website is ranking for each keyword.
If you discover that the wrong page is ranking, you’ll want to look into how you could get the more relevant page to rank instead. Has the page been optimized well enough? Are the right keywords in the page title and web copy? If they aren’t, then you might want to go and do that. If they are, then you’ll need to investigate what else might be holding this page back, such as lack of quality backlinks.
4. Notice changes to keyword rankings
The popularity of search terms and keywords that potential customers are actually using to find your services or products is always changing, so if you want to maintain or improve your rankings then keeping up with them is important.
By checking the ‘Change’ column in a Rank Checker report, you can learn which keywords have moved up or down in ranking position since the last time the report was run.
A green arrow pointing up means a keyword has increased in ranking and a red arrow pointing down means the ranking has dropped. A grey dot means the ranking has stayed the same.
Armed with this information, you’ll know which keywords to continue focusing your attention on, and any pivots you might need to make to rank for different ones.
For example, if you notice that a keyword you were previously ranking well for has dropped and another keyword has increased, you might want to change your focus from the one that’s dropped onto the one that’s increased.
If you want to dig a little deeper to learn how an individual keyword has changed position over time, you can click the bar chart icon next to the keyword in the table.
You can see below that, in March, the keyword ‘Plumber’ dropped from position 23 down to 42, and then later jumped up to position two.
This is really useful data to help you figure out what you might need to do to improve each individual ranking and also react to any instances when a keyword might have dropped or improved.
5. Identify keyword groups worth targeting
As the name suggests, the tab called ‘Keyword Groups’ in a Rank Checker report allows you to group keywords together. This is useful if you need to get a better understanding of how keywords on a similar topic are ranking.
For example, let’s say this plumber wants to understand how well they’re ranking for two of the main services they offer: boiler repairs and drain unblocking. They could group all of their keywords for these two services into two different groups and make the information that they need easier to understand.
If they noticed that one keyword group wasn’t ranking as well as the other, they could look at whether they’re actually creating content that targets these specific keywords.
If they’re not, they could create dedicated landing pages for it, optimize existing content around these keywords or look at Google My Business and determine if this is a primary category they want to consider using there.
6. Benchmark competitors
Our Google rank checker doesn’t just tell you how your business is performing, it also measures the performance of your competitors.
When you set up your report, you can add any competitors that you want to track. The data that we gather will be shown in the ‘Competitors’ tab (see below) and is super-useful for understanding how your business compares to your competition for different keywords and on different search engines.
For example, this plumber is ranking in 35th position for the keyword ‘Cheap Plumber Colorado Springs’ in Google, but two of their competitors are occupying spots in the local pack.
If you spot something similar in your own report for an important keyword that you want to go after, you’re going to need to investigate what your competitors are doing that you’re not. Luckily, there are a variety of tools that you can use to do this in BrightLocal, such as Google My Business Audit, Citation Tracker, and Local Search Audit.
7. Identify how well your site is working on mobile
According to Google, more than 50% of local searches take place on mobile devices. This is why Google has spent the last few years extending mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal and experimenting with mobile-first indexing, which is where Google uses the mobile version of the web page for ranking and indexing purposes.
If your website isn’t offering users a mobile-friendly experience, your rankings may be much lower on mobile than they are on desktop. This is one of the reasons why mobile and desktop search results are split out in our Rank Checker report.
If you want to check whether or not your website is mobile-friendly, you could use Google’s free mobile-friendliness testing tool. Simply submit your website URL and, once your website has been analyzed, Google will send you an easy-to-read report about your site’s mobile-friendliness, as well as additional resources to help you learn more.
(Quick note: Google mobile rank tracking is only available on our SEO Pro plan)
8. Report success to clients and stakeholders
We know that it’s often hard to communicate the impact of your efforts to clients and stakeholders.
With reports created by our rank tracker, this couldn’t be easier. For starters, they can be white-labeled, meaning that you can customize them with your own company’s logo and branding to create a slick and seamless brand experience.
You could take things a step further by automatically sending your clients the latest branded reports each week or month, as well as downloading CSVs or PDFs of reports to include in performance meetings and other business settings.
If you’re managing multiple locations or franchises and need to see your complete ranking performance in one place, roll-up reports allow you to aggregate data from multiple Rank Checker reports into one overview report. Handy, right?
So that’s it! Eight ways that Local Rank Tracker will help you uncover better insights so you can make smarter and faster decisions.
We know that our customers have plenty of innovative ways to take advantage of this great tool. If you’d like to share your own tips and hints, head to the comments and tell us how you’re using Rank Checker, or email us if you’ve got a particularly compelling story to share.
Want to give Local Rank Tracker a whirl? Grab a 14-day free trial and see what’s possible.