Amanda Jordan smiling against a brick wall, the LOCOMOTIVE Agency beside her
Local SEO

GMB Competitor Audits: Rank Higher and Convert More Often

  • Written by Amanda Jordan

To Be the Man You’ve Got to Beat the Man

tl:dr

This post will 1) show you out how to conduct a Google My Business competitor audit and 2) highlight which GMB elements actually affect rankings and conversions.

Landing more local business through Google search results, especially when you have significant competition in your area, can feel like a pipe dream for many businesses. What works? What efforts are a waste of time? How did your high-ranking competitors get so lucky?

Like most things internet-related, luck has nothing to do with it; some efforts really do work; and yes, some efforts are a waste of time. This post will lay out a two-pronged, overlapping strategy that will help your business rank higher on local search and gain more conversions.

  1. Conduct Google My Business (GMB) competitor audits. Competitor audits can help you uncover exactly what your competitors are doing that’s working for them. Why? Because what they’re doing will probably also work for you.
  2. Focus on those parts of your GMB profile that actually matter. Turns out, that while there are plenty of customization options for businesses to consider when putting together their Google My Business profile, only a handful of those options actually have any effect on rankings and conversions. 

Google My Business Elements That Matter

Yes, your customers need to know the hours you are open. Yes, filling out the Q&A is a good idea for potential customers who have questions, but when it comes to rankings and conversions neither of those GMB elements really matter. What does? 

For rankings, these are the GMB elements matter:

  • Business category
  • Reviews
  • Website link
  • Business name
  • Address

For conversions, these are the GMB elements that matter:

  • Reviews and review responses
  • Attributes
  • Products/Services
  • Google posts

Great! Now you know what customization options turn Google’s head and lead to higher rankings, and you know what elements to focus on to increase conversions. One question remains: How do you make the best use of those elements to gain a competitive advantage? Enter the Google My Business competitor audit.

Conducting a GMB Competitor Audit

Conducting a competitor audit is a standard technical SEO practice that sheds light on why your competitor is outranking you in the SERPs. You perform a GMB competitor audit for the same reason. Here’s how you get started:

  1. Make a list of keywords and phrases that are most relevant to your business.
  2. Out of that list, choose three to five keywords or phrases. 
  3. Run a separate search with each of those three to five keywords/phrases.
  4. Track which competitors pop up in the top 10 search results the most often.
  5. Out of that group of high-ranking competitors, choose three to five to track.

 

Screenshot of the 1st page of Google search results for "Raleigh NC apartments"

 

Now that you have your competitor list, it’s time to dig in and find out why they’re doing so well in search rankings.

Ranking Factors

While you could spend a lot of time poking around your competitors’ Google My Business listings, we know there are only five GMB elements that affect ranking: Business categories, Reviews, Website link, Business name, and Address. We’ll look at each in turn.

1. Business Categories

First, review the business categories your competitors are using. Next, find out what categories they could be using but aren’t. PlePer is a local SEO tool that allows you to see which categories related to your primary category are most often used. If you see a category your competitors aren’t using that’s also a good fit for your business, ranking high for that category might be possible for your business. Keep in mind that different categories provide different features and attributes, so it’s important to choose your categories wisely. 

 

Screenshot of PlePer with Apartment-related categories

 

2. Reviews

Search engines love reviews, and they love to reward businesses that have good reviews with high rankings. Because reviews come from actual customers, they signal to search engines that the business being reviewed can be trusted and has authority and expertise. It’s essential, then, when conducting a GMB competitor audit to also look at your competitors’ reviews.

Tools like BrightLocal make it easy to compare the number of reviews and ratings your competitors have. Check your competitors’ reviews to find out how often they use different keywords and phrases. Once you find out what those keywords and phrases are, solicit their use in emails when you ask customers and clients to leave you a review.

The takeaway? Make sure you are asking your clients and customers for reviews. You should even build it into your customer service workflow.

 

Screenshot of top ten businesses listed for "apartments in raleigh nc" and their rankings, reviews, and categories

3. Website Link

The majority of Google My Business listings link back to the business website. Is that what your competitors are doing? Or are they linking to a landing page? Whichever it is, dig deep into the conversion elements on the page they’re linking to. What are the H1 and H2 tags? What are their title tags and meta descriptions? 

Whether you use a landing page or the homepage of your website, make sure the page your GMB listing links to is well-optimized. 

4. Business Name and 5. Address

While these are usually static categories, your business’s name and address do affect search rankings. Because of this, if you ever find yourself rebranding, carefully consider whether a name change will hurt you or help you in the SERPs. 

Conversion Factors

Now that your research into your competitors has given you a good sense of how to improve your rankings, it’s time to tackle conversions. After all, ranking high in search results won’t matter much if the increase in traffic doesn’t yield more leads and customers.

1. Reviews & Review Responses

One key to increasing conversion rates is not just to garner positive reviews but to also respond to reviews — both good and bad. With that in mind, take notice of your competitors’ reputation management.

  • How quickly do they respond to reviews?
  • Do they respond to only negative or positive reviews?
  • Do their reviews often use keyword phrases?

It’s true that responding to every review takes time, and it can be a pain to effectively smooth any ruffled customer feathers. Still, quality reputation management will help improve your products and services and your conversions. Dedicate time and resources, and consider it part of your social media, SEO, and customer service efforts. 

2. Products/Services

Another important part of your competitor audit is finding out which of your competitors are using products through GMB. WhiteSpark’s GMB Explorer can help with that. 

 

Screenshot from WhiteSpark GMB Explorer showcasing options under "Products/Services"

 

Knowing this information about your competitors can help you determine whether or not this feature is underused or extremely popular in your industry.

The takeaway: If relevant to your business, products/services are a great way to stand out in search results. It can also help you avoid a User Experience issue if most of your competitors are using this feature and you are not.

3. Attributes

Attributes are business features that can be highlighted in Google Maps results. By adding attributes to your GMB listing, you not only help consumers learn more about your business, you also make it more likely that your business will show up in local searches that are specific to your attributes

Once again, take a close look at your competitors. What attributes are they using? Are there any attributes your competitors aren’t using that apply to your business? If so, put those attributes to work for you.

4. Google Posts

Google posts make it easy for business owners with a Google Business Profile to connect with current and potential customers on Google Search and Google Maps. When you regularly share announcements, events, news, specials, promotions, videos, photos, etc. through your posts, anyone who finds you via Search or Maps can immediately see current, relevant information — the kind of information that can sway them toward your business.

Just don’t include a phone number in any of your posts, as Google tends to reject posts with that information.

So there you have it — a plan you can put into action that will help you rank higher on local search and convert more often. If you have any questions, or if you’d like expert help with local SEO, contact LOCOMOTIVE Agency today.

This post was originally a presentation by Amanda Jordan, December 9th, 2020 at SMX