As more consumers increase online shopping and searches, local SEO (search engine optimization) is becoming increasingly important. At least 50 percent of consumers perform a local search via their smartphone device per day while they are in a store. Situations like these spark opportunities that local businesses can leverage, including implementing multi-channel marketing efforts.

Local SEO provides small business owners with opportunities to improve optimization strategies on a local level, especially since Google has increasingly shown a slight preference for local businesses and brands. Local businesses can also leverage the targeted, personalized results and merge efforts with off-site SEO strategies. But, a website isn't enough to rank you high in searches. In fact, competition is increasing, which makes local SEO even more important. But learning from your competitors can actually work because it can give you valuable insight on what to avoid and what strategies are working. It may require a little research and digital sleuth skills. Here's what you can learn:

1. Social Media Engagement

Your competitors are driving engagement not just on their sites but offline on social media platforms and forums. For example, Facebook, Reddit, and Instagram are popular social media networks and forums that have some of the most engagement. So it's important to see which social networks and forums your competitor is hanging out on because that is where they are driving engagement from their existing and prospective customers.

 

2. On-Site Optimization

It's time to put your digital detective skills to use and create a competitive analysis on the local businesses you're trying to outrank. You have to know what your competition is up to in order to be a step ahead of them. For example, you can analyze your competitor's meta descriptions, titles and site speed to identify any weaknesses and strengths they may have. Complete an audit on your site for the same key factors and benchmark them against your competitors. By taking this step, you can see what you may need to improve on to better optimize your site locally.

3. Audience Needs via Comments

You may think you know your audience, but your competition may know them better. Social media and even your competitor's online reviews can play an important role here, too. Read what your competitor's audience has to say about their products and services. Often you can find patterns that may even provide you with valuable keywords you can leverage to enhance your local SEO and improve services and products for your target audience. You can also check forums and online reviews on your competitor's website for insight on what your competitor is not getting right.

4. Reputation Management

Sites, such as Yelp and Google, make it easy for audiences to be a critic and leave poor reviews. Watch how your competition manages its online reputation and resolve issues to gain insight on strategies to reproduce.

Backlinks are important for building authority, and relevant links are important for building that authority. That's why it's even more important to build this relevancy with local backlinks. You can skip the guessing game on how to get this done by checking out your competitor's earned backlinks using a domain search tool. It will help you gain insight on their strategies for obtaining relevant links back to your site and see what your competitors are using.

6. Directory Strategies

Not only do you want to make sure your directory listing is intact, but you want to check out if your competitor is on point, too.

7. Prospective Customers via Ad Platforms

If you're not watching what platforms your competitors are using, you may be missing out on valuable opportunities to improve your local SEO. Monitor the platforms your competitors are using to advertise on for a starting point for perfecting your local SEO strategy. You may also discover opportunities you may not have been aware of.

8. Local Schema Markup Strategy

There's a chance you can rank higher than your competitors by including or enhancing local schema markup--that structured data that helps search engine spiders to better identify the subject of your site's content. Roughly 31.3 percent of sites use schema markup. Moreover, they are only using basic structured markup to offer more business-specific data useful to search engines, such as your business's collected reviews and your company's products. That means there is a large opportunity to dominate local SEO with schema markup.

Even if you don't know which markup language your competitor is using but you notice they are still ranking high or better than your site, you can find out that information with a little research. Determine the markup your competitor is using by simply entering their website URL in Google's Structured Data Tool. This tool is resourceful in helping you identify the strategies they used to execute their structured data. Using the exact schema markup should enhance your site's rankings.

9. Research Tools

Tools that are free, such as CrunchBase and SEMrush, can provide insight your competitor. This can include the backlinks they use and site performance.

10. Local SEO Strategy Success

Not every strategy is meant to be mimicked. That's why it's important to keep up with what works and what doesn't work for your competitor. For example, you can monitor which types of content are performing well for your competitor, such as video content. You'll be able to better determine which strategies are worth replicating and which ones you should run from and avoid.

Conclusion

It's worth being a digital sleuth and taking note of your competitors' local SEO strategies. When you put these tactics into action, you can enhance your local SEO efforts and outpace your competition.

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