Having the correct tools to hand can be the difference between the success and failure of your search engine optimization efforts. For the most part, tools equal efficiency and provide you with the valuable data you need to make informed decisions. A prerequisite for keeping your SEO on track is a local search rank monitoring tool. The right tool can be a vital part of your local search arsenal and does much more than simply telling you that keyword A is in position X.
Finding a local search ranking monitoring tool can be a process of trial and error. A quick Google search will return thousands of pages of results, and with literally hundreds of tools on offer, knowing where to start can be a challenge in itself. It’s important to make sure that you choose the best tool for your needs, so we’ve compiled a no-nonsense rundown of exactly what you should look for.
Why monitor local search rankings?
If you run a local business, having visibility in the local pack is absolutely fundamental to your success in search. By association, this means that knowing where you rank within the local pack is a vital business insight that you simply can’t afford to overlook, guess, or have anything less than a comprehensive idea of.
Many local businesses can’t compete with national and international brands for the top three organic rankings, making local search the most valuable (and realistic) pathway to consumer visibility. This visibility is highly prized, with research confirming multiple benefits of local SEO visibility. Did you know…
- More than four in ten searches conducted on Google are for local information?
- 97% of consumers find out the majority of information about a local business online?
- More than 8 in 10 mobile users carry out ‘near me’ searches, with 9 in 10 very likely to click on one of the first three results?
- Half of consumers who conduct a search on their smartphone go on to visit a local store within 24 hours?
Of course, to ensure you’re in the running for these benefits, you need to know that what you’re doing is effective. The only way to tell that for sure is to have a handle on where your business is ranking in local search. This not only tells you whether you’re making progress or need to change your direction due to a lack of tangible results, but it also gives you reliable data upon which other decisions can be made – such as whether to direct resources to a paid search campaign to compensate for a lack of local search visibility.
While many of us are tempted to do a quick Google check each morning with our coffee to see where we rank for keywords, getting an accurate and holistic picture of local visibility isn’t quite so easy.
To guarantee accuracy, a proper ranking check must take into account the searcher’s location and give a true picture of how you’re performing in local search for those users both close to and further away from your business location. Proximity is a local SEO cornerstone and can’t be accurately reflected in results when you perform a search from your desk or own device each day. If local SEO is still a fairly new area to you, our complete local SEO guide covers the different types of local search. Meanwhile, this piece has a comprehensive outline of proximity and the role it plays in the local pack.
The results you see are also influenced by the type of device you’re using and your normal search habits (i.e. if you search for the same thing each day when signed into your Google account, the search results you see will be personalized to reflect this habit).
To get the most from your local SEO investment, and to ensure you’re making data-driven decisions based on accurate data, you’ll need to invest in a local search rank monitoring tool to accurately and consistently monitor local search rankings. A proper tool will also give you the ability to check historical rankings, in order to assess gains and losses over time and per keyword.
What to look for in a local search rank monitoring tool
If you go to Google and simply type in ‘local search rank monitoring tool’ as your search term, 31.2 million results are returned (at the time of writing). Suffice to say, there’s a lot of information out there, thousands of tools to choose from, and plenty of opinions and claims to wade through.
No two businesses are alike and no two needs are alike so when you look for a tool, it’s highly advisable to do your initial research with a view to creating a shortlist. From there, it’s advisable to schedule demos for all of the tools that look like they may fit the bill and assess which one suits you best.
Focus on local SEO
Many local search rank monitoring tools aren’t designed to cater specifically to local search. In fact, only a few are entirely geared towards local rankings and of those, some have more functionality than you’ll ever need – meaning you’ll end up paying more than necessary. Seeking out a rank tracker that has been purpose-built for local business users means that you’re far more likely to get the functionality that is useful to you, rather than paying a premium for enterprise-level tools that you’ll likely never use.
A good indication that a local search rank monitoring tool is actually designed for local search will be the presence of other local SEO features, such as Google My Business audits and citation tracking.
Keep track of your competitors
Even if you haven’t been responsible for a local SEO campaign before, you’ll still appreciate the value of competitor research as a local business owner or marketer – you may keep tabs on competitor prices, for example, their special offers, or even the number of social media followers they have, so you can benchmark your own activity.
As the local pack has shrunk to just three spots, competition has become fiercer than ever so there’s little sense in just looking at your own rankings in isolation. You also need to know where rival businesses are located in relation to your own positions when competing in the same local area.
Monitoring competitor activity is an essential part of SEO success, so be sure to look for tools that include this at no extra cost.
Incorporate Google Mobile and Google Maps rankings separately
As two separate properties, Google Mobile search results and Google Maps results should be tracked separately. They are each powered by different algorithms and have different features and a different search result page layout which could impact on how search users interact with your listing.
Google Mobile is more tightly connected to Google Maps than desktop results, so it’s important to understand the connection when it comes to rankings and to be able to see those rankings as separate entities.
Account for keywords
If you’re used to running a paid search campaign, running shopping ads for an ecommerce site, or handling general SEO, you’ll most probably be familiar with working with large keyword sets. From a local SEO standpoint, it’s likely not necessary to have thousands of keywords per location.
As a good rule of thumb, make 100+ keywords or so your starting criteria when searching for a new local search rank monitoring tool. Tools that allow thousands and thousands of keywords mean you’re paying for more than you actually need. Ideally, you’d pay for what’s essential and then purchase addons, if you really need to, at a later date.
Be aware of proximity factors
While much of your customer base may come (broadly speaking) from the same general local area, it’s not enough to only be able to search from your desktop or device location when checking your local rankings.
The prime reason for this? A variable of even a street or two can make a big difference to your local pack position, especially when your customers are coming from far and wide in your local area and beyond – a potential customer could well be doing research for an upcoming trip while at their home in a different state, for example; you may have a certain item or brand in stock that a consumer from the next town or neighboring city wants; or, the search user could be just up the road.
As Aleh Barysevic notes, it could be that your local pack position remains stable across your service area. Alternatively, it could be that you only appear when the search takes place within one or two streets of your location. Performance could well differ from one part of your town or city to the other and it can be useful for you to know how distance from your physical location affects your local pack rankings. For that, you need to have a local search rank monitoring tool with the option to change search location.
Factor in usability
As a local business owner or marketer, time is one of your most valuable commodities – which means a tool that is easy to use should be one of your search criteria.
Generally speaking, the larger and more powerful the tool, the more complex the dashboard and functionality. To get the most from your chosen tool, you need to be able to see ranking results from a number of different platforms (Google Mobile, local pack, Google Maps, etc.) side by side, but that shouldn’t mean hours of trawling through reports or wrangling with complex tools and functions. When taking demos for your shortlisted tools, don’t underestimate the value of ease of use.
BrightLocal does all this and more
While we might be a little biased, BrightLocal’s Local Rank Tracker has been developed specifically for local search.
- User-friendly interface makes it quick and easy to get the data you need
- See local, maps, and mobile results all in one dashboard
- Track competitor activity and compare your performance in just a few clicks
- Change your search location to see your results as your customers see them
- Create multi-location reports
- Track 100+ keywords
Try the BrightLocal Local Rank Tracker for free for 14 days.