The 6 Best Local SEO Tools for 2021

Shawn Heitz / 11th May 2021 / Comment / Local SEO

One of the biggest changes in SEO over the last several years has been the evolution of Local SEO. 

Led by Google’s continual charge to hyper-localize transactional SERPs, this new focus underscores the company’s aim to get more local businesses front and center in the eyes of searchers. Ever since the Google Penguin Update in 2014, “Map Packs” (a collection of the top 3 local businesses alongside a map showing their locations) have become increasingly important for virtually all brick-and-mortar businesses looking to compete in organic search. 

And as Google’s emphasis on local search continues to grow, the algorithm they use to determine how these localized searches are handled has grown right alongside it. 

Today, many searches that lack the sort of keyword modifier you’d expect to yield a map pack (“local,” “near me,” etc.) will still bring up a map pack regardless. Take any item from your grocery list, punch it into search, and you’ll likely see a map pack with local grocery stores and supermarkets that carry it. 

As a result, it’s easier than ever before for local businesses to court online customers.

For retail businesses with digital marketing savvy, this is potentially great news! But the path to well-optimized local digital properties is a long and winding one, and it’s not as simple as throwing together a few Google My Business listings. That’s why, if you’re serious about boosting your local SEO, we recommend doing your research and picking up a few tools to help you out along the way.

 

The problem with manual listing management

A common mistake businesses make when building out their local SEO is optimizing solely for Google.

While Google My Business listings typically take up the majority of the local search real estate, there are plenty of additional spaces that businesses overlook all too often. Bing Places, Apple Maps, MapQuest, a plethora of local directories and industry-specific ones — these are just a few non-Google spaces you should keep in mind if you really want to make the most of your local strategy.

If you factor in the scale that your business operates in, as well as the budget and bandwidth available to research, create, optimize, maintain, and tackle reputation management on many of these platforms, suddenly local SEO goes from “make GMB listings” to something much more intense and time-consuming.

Local SEO tools to the rescue

Fortunately, in 2021, there’s no shortage of great local SEO tools vying for your attention. In fact, there may even be too many — with so many competing offers, how can you know which one’s right for you?

Here’s the way we see it: A great local SEO tool shouldn’t just take the tedium out of your work, it should also make your strategy easier to formulate and scale. Beyond that, the tool should be old enough to have reached a kind of maturity — in other words, it should know what their value is and lean into it when possible. 

In the right hands, tools like these can get you where you need to be, and allow you to cover everything you need to compete — not just a few barebones GMB listings.

Keyword research and monitoring rankings (i.e. competitive analysis), listing and citation management, and reputation management — these are the three primary aspects we look for in tools that help us bring our local strategies to fruition and wins to our clients. Some are specialized, some are capable of all three — but they all excel in one way or another, and we’re all the better for them. So without further ado, here are our 6 favorite Local SEO tools that we use/recommend to our clients in 2021:

 

KEYWORD RESEARCH, RANKING, AND COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS

These tools don’t tackle listing management (including all of the smaller citation sources and data aggregators), nor do they help with review management or generation, but they can be useful in monitoring keyword ranking, performing competitive analysis, and identifying keywords to optimize your local listings around. Both tools could make a great pair for smaller businesses who don’t need an extensive local SEO program, and don’t mind some manual work and re-iteration in order to get their Google My Business listings to a good place.

LocalFalcon by dba

Website: https://www.localfalcon.com/

Price: Credit-based pricing with plans ranging from $24 to $199 per month, or true pay-as-you-go pricing

Pros:

  • Truly flexible pricing allows you to get what you need without unnecessary expenses
  • Offers super granular real-life ranking data via map grids
  • Shows the full local GMB/Maps results
  • Quick and easy to use and connect to GMB
  • Has built-in reporting feature that in 2021 now offers time-lapse of ranking changes – great for retrospectives

Cons:

  • Not a one-stop shop local SEO tool
  • Needs to set up on an individual-keyword basis
  • Doesn’t help with keyword volume or finding out what keywords are important to your business

Who it’s for:
If you already have an idea of what terms you should be targeting, LocalFalcon can be an immensely powerful tool in your arsenal. The hyper-local ranking data they offer isn’t something you can get from most conventional keyword research tools — it can analyze your local search landscape, guide optimizations, evaluate the impact of said optimizations, and help your business expand. The fact that it does all this with such great pricing flexibility makes it an excellent tool for businesses of all sizes across a variety of industries.

 

Keywordtool.io

Website: https://keywordtool.io/

Price: Ranges from $69 to $159 per month

Pros:

  • A versatile tool you may already be using for advertising or other platforms
  • Cheaper
  • Quick and easy to use
  • Lets you filter by city
  • Great starting point as it finds related keywords and you don’t need an existing local listing
  • Has accurate search volume data and shows how each term is trending

Cons:

  • Does not offer GMB/Maps-specific data
  • Lacks the finesse for expanding local businesses
  • Similarly lacks the finesse for identifying the actual “sphere of influence” of your business (i.e. where your business or a competitor’s strengths and weaknesses in rankings are)
  • Does not track rankings at all

Who it’s for:

Keywordtool is a great place to start doing localized keyword research for smaller businesses, as well as businesses who already have a multi-pronged digital strategy. It works well across platforms, and has keyword data specific to Amazon, YouTube, eBay, Instagram, and more.

If you’re only looking to monitor Google rankings (or any other data specific to Google Maps/Google My Business), this probably isn’t the tool for you. But Keywordtool’s ability to drill down on keyword and search volume data and filter it by city (with a fair amount of smaller towns and cities included) is what makes this tool great. We recommend using it to find related terms when you’re doing initial research on a locale.

A small business could ostensibly get by using this tool to find ideal keyword targets, optimizing their Google My Business and other listing(s) around these terms, and just keeping a close eye on real SERPS and performance data as they go!

 

LISTING & REVIEW MANAGEMENT PLATFORMS

When it comes to do-it-all local search platforms, these are as close as you can get. From monitoring rankings to auditing listings and citations (and often pushing that data out to other platforms), they do a little bit of everything, making them essential for businesses of all sizes.

BrightLocal

Website: https://www.brightlocal.com/

Price: Up to 3 locations: $29 per month / Up to 100 locations: $79 per month

Pros:

  • Audits listings and citations
  • Has a credit-based citation builder – pick the citation sources and they can often take that manual work off your hands
  • Keyword rankings tracker includes Bing and an estimated search volume
  • Local search grid similar to LocalFalcon recently added for 2021
  • Rolls up GMB and social reviews and allows managers to respond in one view
  • “Get Reviews” builder helps streamline review generation CTAs to send via email or SMS

Cons:

  • Ranking reports can be slow to build out manually, and difficult to edit
  • Does not automatically push listing data
  • Does not automatically suppress duplicate listings
  • Reports are slow to run
  • Citation work is done manually by their staff, so it takes time and their options are limited
  • Not for larger businesses or those wanting an efficient and automated experience
  • Most things are capped due to the smaller and more manual nature, further limiting business size

Who it’s for:

BrightLocal is perfect for smaller businesses looking to pack a punch with their local presence. If you’re stuck with a smaller marketing team and budget, Brightlocal can set you up with citation management, review management, and local ranking data and reporting from Google and Bing. It’s a great starter tool, and with a little effort and dedication, it can be a great way to expand your business.

 

Moz Local

Website: https://moz.com/products/local

Price: $129 to $299 per year per location

Pros:

  • Addresses everything BrightLocal does
  • Offers automation that BrightLocal does not
  • Integrated with Moz – a good platform for all-around SEO
  • As part of the above, Moz comes with an excellent keyword research tool
  • Easy to use and pick up
  • Review monitoring and notifications
  • Automatically respond to negative reviews
  • Notifications sent when actions are needed
  • Automatic removal of duplicates
  • Social sharing

Cons:

  • More expensive than BrightLocal if you are only in need of an audit tool
  • Doesn’t have the dashboard feature of Yext
  • Doesn’t have the customizability of Yext

Who it’s for:

Moz Local is great for a wide-range of business sizes, and touches on all the major components. Moz Local is perfect for those who are too big for BrightLocal, and who want a few bells and whistles — namely, the ability to push data out and automate most management processes. 

For businesses already using one of the other Moz tools, Moz Local makes even more sense, as you can receive notifications and tackle a variety of tasks throughout your online presence through the Moz interface. 

A good all-around selection, this is one we often recommend to small- to medium-sized businesses and configure for them during a Local Completion Project. After that, we trust that their marketing staff will be in good hands despite not being Local SEO experts.

 

Yext

Website: https://www.yext.com/

Price: Pricing for Yext varies and is not publicly released, businesses must get a quote

Pros:

  • Tackles virtually everything Moz Local does with similar automation and more power for enterprise businesses
  • Dashboard and data visualization
  • Powerful customizability – reports, data fields, location groupings
  • Partners with Yelp
  • Review monitoring and notifications
  • Automatically respond to negative reviews
  • Automatic removal of duplicates
  • AI-driven analysis of review sentiment and user search behavior
  • Allows up to 50 users
  • Has in-person training and training videos in addition to the support, webinars, and forum that Moz Local offers
  • Social sharing

Cons:

  • Typically the most expensive option
  • Can be difficult to navigate and get the most out of – not ideal for a marketing staff that hasn’t been trained
  • Not rolled in with additional tools like Moz
  • Doesn’t do conventional keyword research like Moz Local does

Who it’s for:

We typically look at Yext as the enterprise option. It’s a bit overkill for most small businesses (though they do offer a smaller, stripped down version), but medium- and large-sized businesses can find a lot of value in its many features. 

The platform’s robust feature set is similar to Moz Local’s, but with more support and training available (not to mention customizability). Built-in data entities, custom reporting, and custom fields make Yext a very powerful local tool for the businesses who need it.

 

OTHER TOOLS (FOR FREE!)

Google Analytics and Google Search Console

GA and GSC are free, must-have tools that most businesses with any kind of online presence should already be putting to use. 

One way we like to use these tools is 1) tagging landing page URLs in our clients’ local listings; 2) making the necessary changes to channel groupings/segment creation/etc.; and 3) slicing that data in a way that lets us get the whole picture of local performance, rather than just a snapshot. 

In this way, we’re able to isolate our traffic and gain a much better perspective on what local users are doing before they visit our site. Later on, we can use that intel to tailor our listings and landing pages in a way that maximizes conversions.

If all you’ve ever had to go off of is rankings, clicks, phone calls, directions requests, and reviews, then this method can be a valuable alternative!

 

In Conclusion

All of these tools are invaluable resources — they can add efficiency at scale, offer insights on your local landscape, and expand your overall reach.

Still, none of them will magically turn a business into a local search juggernaut.

It takes a cohesive, expert strategy augmented by a combination of these platforms to drive meaningful lift for a business. And that’s where a partner like Wheelhouse can help.

Wheelhouse has been partnering with businesses of all sizes for over a decade, and our Digital Strategy team has been knee-deep in local SEO from the very beginning. We’ve partnered with small, single-location businesses as well as large healthcare entities with hundreds of locations across the country. At each, we’ve helped them enhance their local reach, streamline their advertising efficiency, and improve their overall website performance to help them reach their full potential in what is often a hyper-competitive space.

As just one aspect of our digital strategy retainers, we help businesses improve all aspects of their local SEO, identifying and pulling the levers that make the biggest impact and achieve real business value.  We also offer our Local Completion Project — an adaptive, project-based approach designed to take our clients from wherever they’re at now to the best, most competitive position possible. 

Have a question, or interested in learning more about our approach and what we offer? Give us a call, use our online form to reach out, or request a video meeting to get in touch with one of our local search specialists today. Together, we can help your business hit its SEO goals and kick your digital strategy into overdrive. 

 

By Shawn Heitz