What Is Your Local SEO Strategy Missing?

When I speak with new or potential clients about local SEO, I often get questions like: “How many/how much [insert local ranking factor] do we need to rank well?” I never have an immediate number; instead, I head to the SERPs.

It’s tempting for enterprise businesses to adopt a vertical-oriented one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to local SEO campaigns. Likewise, it’s tempting for local practitioners to seek checklists with specific answers for their location.

But that’s often looking at local search like a distinct prescription, inscribed on stone tablets from the search gods, instead of a temperamental formula designed for flexibility.

In reality, local search improvements require location-based competitive analyses. Local competitive analyses can help to establish a baseline: “these are the minimum standards for this vertical, in this location.” And they can also inspire campaigns: if no competitors have built out a strong local backlink profile, there are potential gains to be made by focusing on links.

While it’s important to cover the bases with local SEO, a local strategy has the most opportunity in areas competitors are neglecting. Each local SERP is its own battlefield.  Here are a few fronts to look at:

Quality of reviews and number of reviews, among local competitors

Legitimate, positive reviews are important. But the number of great reviews a local business needs to affect their competitive advantage can’t be found in any local SEO advice column. A plumber in Chicago may be able to rank well with 20-40 good reviews, but the local maps top-ranking plumbing services in Seattle are much more competitive.

Number and quality of backlinks

Don’t stop with referring domain count; locally-oriented backlinks can and do affect local rank. Even among local businesses, it can often be hard to find hyperlocal backlinks; there are virtually none among the top-ranked botox providers in San Diego, according to If one of these businesses started focusing on local press and/or local sponsorships, there’s potential for some serious SERP differentiation.

Domain Authority of local competitors

My local locksmith SERP is a great example of a page where the organic listings descend in domain authority (DA) as you scroll down the page. The great thing about sussing out DA is that this metric can clue you in on the quality of many other ranking factors, such as number of backlinks, and domain age and strength. It’s a great metric to get a quick comparison.

However, DA can be misleading. Often, multi-location national chains out-DA locally and regionally owned companies. It makes sense; they’re just bigger – they have more links, content, traffic, etc. And while DA often does correlate to organic ranking factors, the local pack, likely in an effort to give local businesses a solid chance, doesn’t follow the same pattern.

Quantity and quality of web content

Enterprise businesses – how do competitors fare when it comes to creating unique content for local landing pages? How much local flavor are you competing with?

Local businesses – are competitors content-focused? Content doesn’t have to mean blog posts. For many industries, it can mean digital tactics that make a customer’s experience easier like online booking/ordering, local delivery services, pricing info, service descriptions, etc.

Where expert advice and research meet

If expert advice is met on your local SERP, then there’s a clear local baseline. If it’s not met, there’s clear opportunity. To answer the question “how much” or “how many” go beyond experts; see where local competitors left off.

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