How to Find Your Accurate Competitors With Google Tools
Too many of you are thinking of competitors in small business the wrong way. Typically, competitors are not even in your circles. They run in different circles. They aren’t even “on your radar”.
Following are two major reasons you need a more dynamic way to understand your competition. Just after that we discuss the steps you need to take to use Google tools to find your local competition, and begin adjusting your business accordingly.
2 Major Reason to Find Your Actual Local Competition in New Ways
1.) SERP Results Are Diversified.
Why are you competing for #1 when Google will change it the next instant on a different phone or 1 block down the street. Ever used a Search Engine Result Page (SERP)? Every used one by typing in your own name “Stacy’s Landscaping Service”?
You found you were number 1! That’s good, right? Wrong.
And when you found out you were wrong, you then did what you should have done. You searched for general terms: “Landscaping Service”, “Landscaping Service near me”, etc. You found out you may not even rank. That’s good to know, right? That means you should fire your website host, right? Wrong!
Though the second search is much better, it is not the full picture. If you did that search again with a different device, your phone, your co-worker’s computer, different results would show up.
In short, the SERP tools that we use are often varied enough that one or two particular tools alone will not help us know how we’re performing in the market place.
2.) Even Good Tools Are Inaccurate.
There are more than just SERP results. There are tools out there that all claim to know why your business does or does not come up when people search for “landscaping service near me”.
We use these services, but they are never “gospel” when it comes to site performance or site ranking. And, though these services are helpful to learn about ranking and how you rank, let’s not confuse “ranking” with competition.
You see, google views ranking in an entirely different way. Here’s how we use Google tools in general to see how Google views your business, not as a website or web property, but as a local service.
To better understand who your accurate competition is do these 4 things:
- Begin to Understand “Packs”
- Use the Google Sheet linked below
- Use Google Directions to See the Distances to the Top 3 Competitors
- The Top 3 Are Your Actual Pack
Google has begun assembling local competitor “packs”. Google has a very complex algorithm for assessing what business listings should show up in a search, within a certain geography, regarding certain keyword terms.
They have upped their game to be sure that anyone searching receives the best possible result. Users are changing. They want someone local, even for digital businesses like our website design company.
So a pack is Google modifying its typical search algorithm. The modification is to narrow down to certain geographical locations close to the search.
You may think you know your competitors, but did you know that you have competitors you’ve never heard of just 5 – 10 miles away? Yep, it’s true.
And Google knows. And Google is serving that “pack” to someone searching for “Landscaping Services” 5 miles away.
Here’s the good news: someone can be in multiple packs, but only if they do the right work (hear: quality content creation over a long enough period of time serving a high enough number of people).
We’ve build a (very) basic Google Sheet that we have actually used to see who our actual competitors were over distance. Below are the (very simple) instructions for you to make use of the same tool we use to identify your actual local competition.
- Go to our Local Competition Audit Google Sheet.
- Save a copy to your own Google Drive.
- Follow the steps below.
1. Replace Our Keywords with Yours
Now, local competition is, first and foremost, local. Now that you have the Google Sheet open and ready to use, replace our Keywords with keywords you actually think locals (who do not know your name) will use when searching for services like yours.
2. Open an Incognito Window
Once you answer those questions, open an Incognito window. When you use your browser to search, Google personalizes everything. An incognito window will prevent Google from using your browser history and show you an authentic look at what search results come up for your terms.
3. Generally Only Look at the Map Entries
Though there is a solid argument for the actual page results listed below the map as your legit competition, in general the Maps are the most engaged with component of a Search Engine Result Page.
Under each keyword search, enter in the top 3 local competitors that appear in the Search Results page.
4. Use Google Maps to Map the Distance Between Your Location and Your Top 3 Local Competitors for Each Keyword
Once you’ve done all the searches and filled in the top 3 local competitors for each keyword, it is time to find the distance to these competitors.
What does it matter to know the distance to these competitors? We are looking to see how far Google is willing to go to rank a local competitor. We are looking to see how well this competitor is performing in Google’s eyes.
If a competitor is big in Google’s eyes, Google is going to continue to rank that local competitor higher and higher. The higher they rank, the more potential business of yours they are taking at large.
These are your REAL competitors. Just because you can’t see them does not mean your potential clients don’t see them. Just because you don’t know them, doesn’t mean your potential clients don’t know them!
We even found a few we didn’t know about!
(Of course, delete any businesses you know are closed or focusing on specific niches you don’t serve.)
The top 3 businesses listed are your actual local competitors. These are your local pack. These are the businesses you want to follow, profile, check out their content strategy, and learn about intimately.
We are not all about obsessing about competition. In fact, personally, it factors pretty low in our business planning. However, you still should at least know what your competition is up to!