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How to perform a local SEO audit for your business in 12 steps

If you were born after 1990, that large book of white pages and yellow pages on your front stoop may have seemed peculiar. What would you use it for? Why were there so many businesses inside? Had these people never heard of the Internet?

But up until January 2019, the Yellow Pages had been printed and delivered for 51 years, starting in 1966. And while Richard Hanscott, CEO of Yell, transitioned to listing businesses online, Internet users are still opting for search engines first. It’s not personal, just business.

But even for businesses who have transitioned into an online space—creating social media accounts and websites—there’s still the matter of making sure their search engine optimization (SEO) can help search engines find them. Without an SEO audit, entrepreneurs and corporate businesses alike may as well be one of those tiny print entries buried under large print boxes in the Yellow Pages.

No matter what company a consumer is looking for, the ones that stood out on those print pages were in bold font, with logos and squares around them, catching consumers’ eyes before anything else. That print real estate is the equivalent of being on the first page of a Google search. That’s where your online business should always want to be, too.

So the next time you want to do an SEO audit on your site, keep that big-box business in mind. Then dive into doing a local SEO audit to get you there. Here’s how to get it done.

Step 1: Audit Keywords

What keywords are you targeting? Step one of your audit should be to determine what you’re currently ranking for and identify any opportunities you might be missing.

For example, if you’re ranking well for “Philadelphia Bankruptcy Attorney” but are nowhere to be found for “Philadelphia Bankruptcy Lawyer,” you’ve identified an area to improve.

Make a list of services, products or a page you’d like to drive traffic to. Once you do this, you’ll be able to use tools like Keyword Finder to quickly put together a list of high-volume local target keywords.

With this list in hand, you can proceed through the rest of your local SEO audit and determine how well these keywords are optimized every step of the way.

Helpful Local SEO Tools:

Step 2: Audit Your Competition’s Local SEO

Your local SEO audit should include a snooping session to determine your competitor’s SEO status and tactics early on. If you’re located in a highly competitive area where the other top businesses are doing everything right, you need to document what you’re up against.

You don’t need to do a full diagnostic on each competitor, but take a look at the following and compare that data against yours:

  • GMB ranking for top keywords
  • Organic rankings for top keywords
  • Review quantity and quality
  • Number of links
  • Site speed
  • Social statistics

In most cases, you should be able to take a look through these items and develop a hypothesis on why your competitor is successful in local search engine results pages (SERPs).

Helpful Local SEO Tools:

Step 3: Audit Google My Business Listing

If you want to appear in Google’s “Snack Pack,” your Google My Business (GMB) listing should be robust and well-optimized with your core target keywords.

Here are some things to look for:

  • Do you have a GMB listing? If so, is it claimed and verified?
  • Is all business information present and correct?
  • Do you have multiple reviews and a high cumulative rating? Are you responding to reviews?
  • Do you have appropriate business categories listed?
  • Do you have images of the business?
  • Have you created any GMB posts?
  • Are you participating in the Questions & Answers section?

These are the core elements that make up a strong GMB listing.

Helpful Local SEO Tools:

Step 4: Audit Reviews for Quality and Quantity

Reviews pack a ton of clout in both the local ranking and reputation building arenas. Search engines regard them as an authentic measure of a local business’s popularity and viability. Potential customers trust reviews as an accurate gauge for that business’s quality level.

Getting an abundance of positive, glowing and wordy reviews (bonus if they have SEO keywords included) across multiple review platforms like GMB, Facebook, Yelp and vertical-specific sites like Houzz, TripAdvisor and Healthgrades helps you win on many levels.

Helpful Local SEO Tools:

Step 5: Audit Links for Quality and Quantity

Links remain the bread and butter of Google’s ranking algorithm.

A diverse array of quality links is crucial for any local business’s link portfolio. This means that you’ll need to evaluate your links, looking for links with:

  • Local content
  • Industry or vertical topic clusters
  • High domain authority

Link quality will win over quantity, and quality + quantity will help you dominate the search rankings in your market. On the flip side, if you see a high volume of spam and off-topic links, you’ll want to make a note of it as a red flag that may be damaging your ability to rank well for your target keywords.

Helpful Local SEO Tools:

Step 6: Audit Schema-Markup for Local

Schema markup is code that goes on a website to help the search engines return more informative results for users. Schema tells the search engines what your data means, not just what it says.

This is a key way to tell search engines exactly what a given website is about, which will help them serve it up on SERPs for the correct search queries.

One way to check to ensure that your site is using schema markup is to enter your URL in Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool. You’ll be able to check to see if all the correct info about your business has been included.

To add Schema markup, if it’s a WordPress website, then “All In One Schema Rich Snippets” is a great plugin. For other websites, this is a good tool to create the code.

Helpful Local SEO Tools:

Step 7: Audit Local SEO Citations

How frequently is your business mentioned online? Auditing your citations will determine how many online mentions exist of the name, and correct address and phone number for your business.

It’s important to look into both your structured and unstructured citations. For structured citations, you’ll audit your business listings across the web, looking at social platforms and directories like Yelp, YellowPages, Facebook, SuperPages, and MapQuest. You’ll also need to check to see if their correct business info is listed on the main data aggregators: Axiom, Neustar/Localeze, Factual and Infogroup.

Next, you’ll need to check your unstructured citations. An unstructured citation can be found on random websites, blogs, event listings, job posting sites, government records or social media mentions. These are unstructured because they could be as simple as a company mention. Usually, these citations don’t include a business’s NAP data.

Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder is a great free tool to find and analyze both your structured and unstructured citations.

Helpful Local SEO Tools:

Step 8: Audit SEO on Main Pages

An audit of the main website pages is probably the most important piece of your entire audit. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming if you have the proper tools though. Screaming Frog is one of many excellent tools that’ll deliver a comprehensive look at your on-page SEO.

With your list of target keywords in hand, you’ll want to run through each page on your spreadsheet, looking at the keywords on each page. Specifically, you’ll be looking at:

  • Page title
  • Title tags
  • Sub-headings
  • Word count
  • Meta description

Even with just this information, you’ll be well-equipped to analyze how well your pages are optimized for local SEO. Plus, you’ll be able to determine improvements and content gaps that might be missing.

Once you’ve evaluated and recorded the weaknesses in your local SEO, you can make use of a host of top-tier SEO plugins to help you do your work.

Helpful Local SEO Tools:

Step 9: Audit Image SEO

There are two main components to image optimization for local SEO: keyword usage and how it affects page load speed. You can use ScreamingFrog’s free SEO tool to evaluate both.

Auditing image keyword optimization boils down to evaluating each image’s filename and alt text. Since Google can’t yet tell what visual content an image contains, site crawlers rely on things like the filename and alt text to determine what’s being displayed. These are places you should optimize with relevant target keywords.

You can get some big improvements in page load speed when images are optimized to reduce their file size without significantly impacting their visual quality. Using ScreamingFrog, you can take an inventory of all the images on your site and highlight the images that are slowing things down. (There are also image size optimization plugins that resize images automatically going forward.)

Helpful Local SEO Tools:

Step 10: Check Website Speed

Having a site that loads rapidly is crucial in today’s online business environment.

Edwin Toonen of Yoast notes that,

“Google’s latest research shows that the chance of a bounce increases 32 percent when the page load time goes from one second to three seconds. One second to five seconds increases the chance to 90 percent, and if your site takes up to 10 seconds to load, the chance of a bounce increases to 123 percent. That’s incredible. For search engines, better results and performance are signs of a healthy site that pleases customers, and therefore should be rewarded with a higher ranking.”

Google PageSpeed Insights Tool performs a near-instant audit of a given URL for both mobile and desktop searches. This will give you a quick way to tell if improvements are needed and a list of actions to take to improve your website speed.

Helpful Local SEO Tools:

Step 11: Audit Site Engagement

What visitors do when they discover your business online affects your rankings.

Metrics like organic search click-through rate (CTR), dwell time, bounce rate and conversion rate are all ranking factors. You can simply use Google Analytics to examine your engagement metrics and compare them to industry benchmarks.

Helpful Local SEO Tools:

Step 12: Audit Social Engagement

The truth is that we’re not sure to what extent social signals are baked into Google’s ranking algorithm. However, there’s no doubt that a strong social media presence can significantly boost local SEO efforts.

Evaluating your social platforms is an essential part of your local SEO audit:

  • Number of people that like your Facebook page plus Facebook shares
  • Number of Twitter followers plus tweets mentioning your brand name
  • Number of LinkedIn company followers and Linkedin Shares

Helpful Local SEO Tools:

Final Thoughts

Performing a comprehensive local SEO audit using the 12 steps I’ve outlined is going to dredge up issues. Finding and fixing any SEO optimization issues you discover along the way is also crucial, as is recording your progress to ensure you’re not missing any vital pieces to the local SEO puzzle.

Want to skip all this work and let the experts handle your local SEO? Contact us today!

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