Every brand wants to be able to crush the competition, but you’ll have a hard time doing that if you don’t even know who your competitors are to begin with. And if you’re trying to find local competitors specifically, doing so can seem like a daunting task.
But we’re happy to tell you that the process is much simpler than it appears: With these five easy steps, you can find, analyze, and overtake your true local competitors.
- 1. Start with Google
- 2. Check Local Directories
- 3. Use a Robust Tool
- 4. Monitor Local Ads
- 5. Leverage Social Media
1. Start with Google
We promised you five easy steps, and the first is certainly a breeze: just make a Google search as you would if you were a local customer and see which businesses pop up in the SERPs.
For instance, let’s say you’re optimizing the site of your coffee shop. To find local competitors via Google, simply make a search such as:
- coffee shop near me;
- [area] coffee shop; or
- best coffee shops in [area].
The results Google returns will give you an instant rundown of competing coffee shops. This may include roundup articles from local publications, and will always include a directory of businesses gathered from Google My Business listings:
Click the view all button at the bottom of the Google My Business listings and you can view an even longer list of businesses, all of which you can filter by star rating, price, and hours to hone in on the most relevant ones.
Despite its simplicity, this method might just help you find nearby competitors you didn’t even know existed.
2. Check Local Directories
Remember when you used to have to thumb through the Yellow Pages to find a nearby business? It wasn’t always convenient, but it was effective.
Similarly, you can use local directories to find your true local competitors in a snap. The only difference is that now those directories are online, and they won’t take up any precious space on your coffee table.
Start with (what else?) the Yellow Pages website. Just enter a category, choose your city, and click find to quickly get a list of other local businesses in your vertical:
Also be sure to check other widely-used directories such as:
3. Use a Robust Tool
If you’re ready to dig a little deeper, it’s time to break out a powerful purpose-built tool. You have plenty of options that can help you uncover local competitors and a wealth of information about them, including:
If you’re looking for a tool that’s both free and doesn’t require an account to use, then Similarweb will be right up your alley.
To use it, simply enter your site’s URL in the provided field and click search. On the results page, find the left-hand navigation bar and click the button labeled competitors. You’ll instantly see an easy-to-understand list of your site’s top competitors, complete with data about their total monthly visits and overall category rank:
At the top of that section, you can click the add to compare button in order to directly compare your site to that of another competitor.
Or if you want to see Similarweb’s complete list of competitors, click the see all competitors button at the bottom of the section (for this feature you’ll need to create an account in order to proceed).
We’ve discussed Semrush’s competitor research capabilities before, and it’s worth talking about again. If you’re willing to invest in a paid tool, Semrush is simply one of the best.
It can generate a whopping six types of competitor reports, including those based on shared organic keyword rankings, paid keyword rankings, backlinks, audience interests, and more.
And once you’ve discovered who your competitors are, Semrush allows you to do things like compare your traffic, unique visitors, and bounce rate to those of several competitors at once:
You can also identify keyword and content gaps which can help you create a better plan of attack going forward.
Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
Another fantastic paid option is Ahrefs, which comes bundled with the Site Explorer tool. By using Site Explorer, you can:
- conduct organic research;
- compare backlink profiles; and
- do paid traffic research.
And just as with Semrush, you can also use Ahrefs to identify content gaps you can fill in order to gain a competitive edge:
4. Monitor Local Ads
One of the best ways to discover competitors is to keep an eye on local ads, whether online or in-person. To do so, try:
- performing a search on Google and Bing for businesses in your location and taking note of the sponsored results;
- searching for your niche on Yelp and seeing which businesses have paid to be shown first;
- combing local newspapers, magazines, and coupon books for relevant ads; and
- watching local TV commercial slots.
You can even gain new insights on competitors by paying attention to local billboards, flyers, bus stop ads, and the like.
While it might seem low-tech, the truth is that not all businesses are active online and in social media (though they certainly should be!), so turning to offline sources could reveal competitors you never would have been able to pinpoint otherwise.
5. Leverage Social Media
Finally, no competitor discovery efforts would be complete without diving into social media.
Here, you’ll be able to see not only which competitors are operating in your niche, but also which ones are actively vying to capture the attention of social media users.
Here’s how to get started:
- Perform a search: Most social media platforms have their own built-in search engine, so the first step to finding competitors is to use them to search for your brand’s most relevant keywords.
- See what the social media platform itself recommends: Features like Twitter’s account suggestions can point you in the direction of accounts similar to your brand’s.
- Check which other brands your audience follows: Some social media platforms like Facebook allow you to see other brands that your followers tend to like.
And if you want to let a paid tool do most of the heavy lifting for you, you might want to check out options like Sociality.io, Socialbakers, Sprout Social, and Hootsuite (they all offer free trials, so you don’t have to worry about paying for results you’re not happy with).
Identify Your Competitors to Get Ahead
When it comes to local SEO, marketing, and doing business in general, knowledge really is power—after all, if you don’t know who your competitors are, then how can you expect to beat them?
Fortunately, the five steps outlined above make it a breeze to find and learn more about your local competition. Trust us, your competitive edge is about to get a whole lot sharper.
Screenshots by author / March 2022
iloveseo.com / December 2020
Ahrefs / Accessed March 2022