Local SEO Competition Citation Analysis

KFC Vs Auntie Ji (His Chinese Rival)

Businesses have been spying on one another as long as business has existed.  Everyone wants to know what the competition is doing, especially if they seem to be doing it better.  The internet has revolutionized how businesses find and attract customers.  Local business searches have made it necessary for a business to be listed online if they hope to corner their share of the market.  Now it’s just not enough for Joe’s Pizza Parlor to know what newspapers Fred’s Pizza Shop is using to attract customers or where Fred gets his ingredients.  Joe must also know where on the virtually endless World Wide Web any mention of Fred’s Pizza Shop exists.  This is where new age competitive analysis comes in while doing local search marketing.

In its simplest form, competitive analysis simply means finding out exactly what a competitor is doing and how that competitor goes about doing it.  Once you are armed with this knowledge, you can then compare their practices with yours to decide who is doing what the best.  If the competition has an edge, this knowledge will help you catch up.  If your strategy is better it will help you stay ahead.

For local search listings, the most important factor is business name.  We’ll cover that in another post.  The second most important is citations.  As we have discussed before, citations are references to the business’s name, address and phone number.  Considering the importance of citations in local rankings, it would stand to reason that a competitor that ranks higher than you will have more citations or better citations.  What you now need to do is find out where they are.  Once you know, you can go about getting your business listed there as well.

We have some in-house software that will determine that for us, and we use it to benefit our local seo clients.  However, there is some less sophisticated but still workable software available for purchase.  Competitive analysis software snoops around the net by backtracking from the Local search listing.  It can uncover obscure mentions of a business on blogs, online newspaper ads, and in some cases even tweets.  There are several versions of such programs, some of which are available as freeware.  If you are a small business owner who prefers to take matters into your own hands, such software can help you maximize your local search optimization and help your business stay ahead in the competitive world of internet advertising.  We will dig more into this specifically in an upcoming article.

Call Tracking Can Kill Your Local SEO Results

Local SEO Telephone Sheep

Sheep Made From German Phones - Courtesy Loop_Oh

Call tracking is an idea thought up by marketing companies to use as a tool to track which strategies are producing the most return on each advertising dollar.

The idea of call tracking is pretty simple.  A business sets up an account with a calling service that provides them with several different phone numbers that all ring at the business.  A different one of these phone numbers is then used for the business listing for each advertising source.  Once in place, the call system software can then monitor which numbers are calling the business with the most frequency and the owner will know immediately which advertising is paying off and which isn’t producing results.  This sounds like a good idea, but in the age of Google Local Business Listings and local seo it can have an adverse effect on page rankings.  Here’s why.

In traditional Search Engine Optimization for websites, the primary factor for determining page rank is the number of back links, or other sites that have links to the ranked site.  However for businesses, even extremely popular and reliable businesses may not have a web page to link back to.  This can skew the results and make a relatively unpopular business with a well optimized web page rank above a huge business without a site.  To correct for this, Google and other local search providers reduced the importance given to back links and instead rely on what are called citations.  Citations are simply a reference to the business somewhere in the vast world of cyber space.  A citation is something that lists the business’s name & phone number, name & address, or both.  In local SEO parlance this is called the name, address, phone number or NAP factor.  Are you beginning to see why having multiple numbers can be bad?

Local searches use what are called trust factors.  These are merely consistent indicators that a particular listing is legitimate and refers to what the engine thinks it does.  This makes having all of you business information standardized across the board.  Multiple numbers can confuse the engine and citations will be disregarded as unreliable.  In the world of local searches, a business’s NAP is how they are identified.  It’s the DNA of online business listings.

If a marketing company is telling you that call tracking is a good idea, then you might want to reconsider your company.  At least give them a pop quiz and make them tell you exactly how such a technique will not affect your local listings.  Be prepared for a song and dance.

Local Search Marketing Series- Getting Reviews

Complaint Box- If Only Yelp Was So Easy To Ignore

We have previously talked about the penalty for those faking google local reviews, today we are going to discuss how to get them legitimately.  So get ready for the next post in our local search marketing series.

First Rule: Ask For Them

You never get anything without asking for it and good reviews are no exception.  The more contact you have with your customers the easier it is implore them to do you a favor and leave their honest opinions on the review site of their choice.  Simple and it works.  Obviously the more extreme your service-good and bad- the more likely they are to praise or chastise you publicly.

Second Rule: Make It Easy For Them

Include appropriate links on receipts, flyers, business cards, any where and every where you can.  If you use emails to keep in contact with customers that is an excellent way to direct them to reviews.  You can do that by simply pointing out a favorable review and asking them if they have something to share to do please do so.

Third Rule: Cater To Those Who Write Reviews

Spend some time with Google and look for those bloggers, journalists, etc who may have an interest in what you offer and write them an email or pick up the phone and invite them to try your service.  Once again, you are only after honest reviews, and those most familiar with the technology are those most likely to utilize it.

Fourth Rule: Be Careful

Check the terms of use for the review sites so you know where the line is [so you don’t cross it].  None of these methods should upset any of the review sites but their TOS’s are always changing so you need to be careful and review them.  For example some sites don’t like it if you offer your customers an incentive to give you a review.  Keep it in mind.

Fifth Rule: Respond To Feedback

All businesses dread negative reviews however the business can disarm most negativity with a cordial and respectful reply.  If something went wrong, own up to it.  Don’t argue or dismiss it.  Plus, there is an upside to an occasional negative review.  For those who are browsing reviews a little negativity shows that the reviews aren’t fake and if the problem was addressed, then all is well.  A business can’t be perfect all the time, just respond and move on.

I have some tactics I use for my clients and I need to keep them secret to preserve them but these 5 Rules work as guidelines that are always to be followed.

Local Search Marketing Series- Fake Reviews

Fake Reviews

People Are Proud To Catch A Fake

There are a lot of bad ‘self-proclaimed’ Local Search Marketing Experts running around as Google Maps are one of the top ways that a local business can get traffic.  However, since reviews [can] help a site’s rankings many unskilled providers use fake reviews as one of their major methods to enhance rankings.

This can cause serious damage to your business.

Case In Point:

Carbonite Games Amazon Reviews – NYT Does An Article

Most companies dream about the New York Times doing an article about them.  Do you think Carbonite was happy with this publicity?  Doubtful.

However, sometimes it can cost more than just a loss of reputation.

Lifestyle Lift – These guys not only got a NYT article, however they also got the NY Attorney General charge them with $300,000 in fines for faking reviews of a procedure called LifeStyle Lift.  Ouch.

There are many more examples.  However, these few should be enough to convince you to pursue only legitimate reviews.  We will cover how to get legitimate reviews in a following article in our Local Search Marketing Series.

Google Local Business Center Enhancements

Google business listings is a great way to promote your business.  In today’s internet dependent market, if you are not listed with Google business listings, you are giving your competition a serious advantage when it comes to advertising and business exposure.  Now that the majority of businesses are listed in the Google listing directory, you need an edge.  A recently introduced service being offered in some markets allows businesses to sign up for additional features that they can use with their business listing.  For the small fee of $25 per month, businesses have access to a service called Google Local Business center enhancements.  This service allows the addition of photos, videos, coupons, menus, reservations and several other features and highlights aspects of the listing.  Businesses with enhanced features are given a yellow flag next to their listing, which stands out quite well.   Though purchasing this service won’t automatically increase your page rank or local listing rank, it is a great way to promote your business, which will eventually enhance your ranking.


This is a great way to highlight the products you offer or the work you do, depending on your business.  Your listing will show an icon alerting them that there are photos available.  Once they click on your listing, the photos will be there for them to see.  While you can add photos with the standard free account, they won’t be highlighted in your listing.


Online videos are a great way to supplement TV ads for bigger businesses and are an economical way to provide video ads for smaller businesses.  You can be as creative as you want and place the videos for free on YouTube.  With a local business center account, your listing will provide direct links to these videos for customers to view.  Since YouTube hosts these videos for free, they can easily be changed as often as you like, promoting daily sales and specials.


Google teamed up with coupon distributor Valpak to offer the option of online coupons.  Businesses with local business center accounts can create custom coupons to lure customers to their listing.  Many websites crawl the internet looking for coupons.  Having coupons is a great way to get your listing mentioned by more sources, which we by now know is directly related to your local ranking.  Once you have coupons available, this will show up next to your local listing, prompting customers to click on your listing as opposed to businesses without coupons.

If there were any doubts left in your mind at all about Google’s genius for advertising, enhanced business listings should squash them.  In the beginning, the enhancements will stand out and businesses that have them will get noticed.  Eventually, more businesses will sign up for the service to stay competitive and Google will once again have turned a free service into a cash cow.  Though these enhancements are only available in certain markets at this time, don’t wait to start planning your strategy.  You need to understand everything that business center enhancements have to offer and begin developing appropriate content now.  Google local business listings are here to stay and if you are serious about your business’s success, this should be an important part of your advertising and marketing strategy.

Reach The Google Maps 7 Box Quickly By Analyzing Competition

Now that you’ve added your business to the Google business directory and secured your spot on Google maps, your next step is to climb the ladder of the Google local search results.  When you search for your category of business in your area, you are able to find your listing, but only after clicking the “+” to show more listings.  That’s just not good enough.  You know that most people will choose one of first listings, referred to as the lucky 7 [7 box], and that’s where you want your business to be.  Here’s how to gather a little intelligence and use your competition’s success to enhance your ranking.

When Google business listings first appeared, 10 results were listed to the right of the map on the initial search page.  Later, Google decided to reduce the number of results it highlighted to 7 and add more information to the listing.  That’s great news if your business is listed in the top 7; it’s terrible news if you were numbers 8 through 10.

After analyzing your own listing and extracting any helpful information Google analytics can offer you, the next step is to take a look at what makes your competition so successful

The first step is to simply check their information in the Google listing.  If you click on “more info” you will see any reviews that have been linked to the business.  Reviews play an important part in Google’s algorithm.  Even negative reviews will help with you listing ranking, though you probably want to avoid them.  When you check the source of the reviews, you will often see that they come from review sites such as Healthgrades.com or a similar niche review site.  If your business has no reviews listed on the site, do something to change this.

In traditional SEO, back linking still holds the top spot in ranking.  For local business listings, then new king is citations.  Each time the Google bots find a mention of your business by name, address and phone number, your business gets a point.  Though Google won’t confirm it, most experts agree that the more important the source, such as Yahoo, BBB, etc., the more points the citation will bring you.  Software is available that will allow you to track all the citations of your competition.  Like reviews, if you find a competitor’s citation on a site that doesn’t list your business, then you should try to get it added.

Another technique is to check the keywords that the competition is using to get hits on their site.  Find the sites that use the same keywords that your site does and check their page rank.  This will give you a good idea of how hard it will be to overtake them in the listing results.  If your competitors have a page rank of 1-4, then you should have no problem optimizing your site to overtake them.  If their rank is a 5, then you’ll [likely] also need a high page rank to get ahead of them.  By checking the page rank of the lucky 7, you can get an idea of what you are up against.  Keep in mind that it’s not necessary to have a website to have a Google business listing, but those businesses that don’t are at a serious disadvantage.

Some of my competitors claim that they can get your business a top ranking in 30 days-I actually can.  And one of my first activities is competitive analysis just like I just described.  Once I know what the competition is doing, I do it better.  You can learn the same tactics and soon you’ll see your listing appearing in the lucky 7 and should see and improvement in business.

Google Maps Optimization- Citations

Google’s search algorithm places a heavy importance on the number of incoming links to your site. These citations come from other sites that list yours and provide a direct link to your pages. For local search engine optimization based off Google Maps listings, the number of pages that simply mention your business’s name, address and phone number is also an important factor. If the citation contains a link to your site, all the better, but it’s not necessary. These references are called citations and can play a tremendous role in your local page ranking. Often these sites are local directories such as those maintained by newspaper websites or local search engines found in larger markets. If you want your listing to appear in Google’s coveted “7 box,” then you need your business to be listed by as many sources as possible.

Not all referring sources or citations are the same. The more reputable that Google believes the referring site to be, the greater weight it will carry in the page rankings. For instance, the Better Business Bureau and the Yellow Pages are considered more reliable and authoritative than a small, free local directory listing. That’s not to say that getting listed on such sites is unimportant; every citation counts.

There are a few ways to go about building the number of citations your business has. The cheapest way is to do it yourself. Once you have ensured you are cited in the big boys such as Yellow Pages, Yahoo Directory, the BBB, etc., you now need to search out the less obvious sources. One way to so this is to analyze the listings of your direct competition and related local businesses. Often they will provide you with potential citation sources that you haven’t considered. Once you know their sources, try to get you business mentioned also.  We will go more indepth into this tactic in a later article.

If you are willing to spend a little money, you can submit your business information to a business listing service. These services ensure you are listed in all the major directories, many of which you would likely have not considered. These services usually charge somewhere around $50 to list in all the major directories.  We will review the most popular in the coming weeks.

The most expensive and most thorough option is to hire the services of an SEO company to formulate an in-depth online marketing strategy. These services will ensure that your business has as many citations as possible and will also optimize your web pages to make sure they will get noticed by Google. For businesses in competitive markets, this is often the best option.

Link and citation building is a continuous process. You must consistently seek new sources of citations and stay ahead of the competition. Try to ensure that your citations remain as consistent as possible when it comes to your business name, address and phone number. In Google terms, consistency is trust. This works well for customers too.

One way to really keep on top of things is to make sure you know immediately every time your customers are talking about you.  To make this possible we offer our clients a special Local Reputation Management Service so that every mention of your company-good and bad-you can be made aware of.  This allows you to turn no reviews into lots of reviews and good reviews into glowing reviews and bad reviews into ‘handled’ reviews.

The price for this is a very reasonable $79/month.  There is no contract, cancel any time.  However, most people love it and stick with it indefinitely.  To get started simply click the paypal button below.


Google Local Listings Optimization

For years businesses have tried feverishly to find the magic formula that would ensure that their websites would be displayed near the top of the Google results when a search was initiated that pertained to their area of concern.  Business spent billions in advertising dollars in an attempt to this.  Just about the time Search Engine Optimization came into its prime, Google went and changed the whole game by introducing Google Maps and Local Business Center.  Now it wasn’t just good enough to be on the first page in global search results, businesses needed to be near the top of the page on these localized results.  Understanding this is just a small part of local SEO.

For years, the Yellow Pages, newspapers and local radio have seen steady drops in their advertising sales due to increased consumer use of internet searches to find what they are looking for.  Many newspapers and some radio stations began offering a local search feature on the websites to increase page hits and ad revenue sales.  Eventually the sites began tying the searches into the Google Maps feature to offer a very customized local search service that would narrow businesses down to the exact street.  Google of course saw this and knew they could do it better, and they did.

These days, the new trend is local Search Engine Optimization for Google Local Business Center.  The basic idea behind Business Center is that it allows business to manually enter their business information using the business Center dashboard.  This allows savvy businesses to quickly rise in the search result rankings.  The information entered will undergo a verification process by Google to ensure it is accurate and then the site will be automatically indexed.  Like many things Google, the exact method they use to rank pages is a closely guarded secret, but there are some things you can do to raise your sites page rank.

  • The first and easiest thing to do is make sure that all information is filled out in the listing as completely as possible.  Basic stuff such as address and phone number is pretty simple, but the last two sections, description and category, are where the men are separated from the boys.
  • Think of the description as a miniature web page.  It should stick to the basic tenets of SEO and use keywords specific to your business.  Books have been written on SEO so it’s outside the scope of this article, but by thinking like a customer looking for your business, you can tailor the description to match that search.
  • Category is also important in that it is heavily weighted when consumers browse Google business listings.  In this section you must think like a Google categorizer as well as a customer.  You can only choose five so think carefully.
  • Customer reviews of your business play big role in the rankings.  Businesses with more reviews will be considered more popular and will therefore rank higher.  Included reviews are those posted directly to your listing as well as those posted on other popular review sites.  Encourage your customers to leave feedback if they are happy with your service or product and watch your ranking climb.
  • Since you can list a website on your listing, make sure this site is also well optimized for search results since it will now be automatically linked to your Business Center listing.  A complete and informative website, complete with a blog and customer reviews, is the optimum situation.
  • Since Google “crawls” other local directories looking for information, make sure you manually add your listing to as many of these sites as possible also.  Though you may not get as much traffic from these smaller sites, the listings will translate into Google results.

Google Business Center is a great resource for consumers and businesses alike.  Take advantage of what it can offer and you will see your business grow.

One way to really keep on top of things is to make sure you know immediately every time your customers are talking about you. To make this possible we offer our clients a special Local Reputation Management Service so that every mention of your company-good and bad-you can be made aware of. This allows you to turn no reviews into lots of reviews and good reviews into glowing reviews and bad reviews into ‘handled’ reviews.

The price for this is a very reasonable $79/month. There is no contract, cancel any time. However, most people love it and stick with it indefinitely. To get started simply click the paypal button below.