Local SEO has a lot of different factors that influence your business’ rankings in local search results. Using local search analysis is a great way to keep up with competitors and see what changes and updates need to be made to your website and across your local listings to stay relevant in search engines.
Doing an audit can help you develop a local SEO strategy for your small business and help you follow best practices that can help your business grow by showing up in local search results.
As an SEO company, we use audits as a way to reevaluate tactics and test new strategies. When we conduct local SEO audits, we can see areas of improvement to include to get better rankings and work towards constant improvement for rankings.
We put together a local SEO audit checklist of all the things that you should consider in your local SEO audit report and how to conduct a basic local SEO audit on your own. This local SEO audit guide was created to help you recognize the areas that your business should be focusing on, fixing, or optimizing, to take your business to the next level.
Do a Google My Business Audit
An optimized Google My Business listing usually has the biggest impact on your local SEO. It plays an important role in ranking your business and getting customers to your website. Auditing your GMB listing to make sure you have all of the correct information in place so your business listing is properly working is the first step.
GMB audit tools might help you but overall, it’s best that you conduct local SEO reports yourself or use a local SEO agency to make sure you didn’t miss anything so you can dominate Google Maps.
Check you have a GMB page, it’s verified, and information is current.
If you don’t have a Google My Business page or it’s not verified, your business could be not showing up in Google search results. Additionally, if the information on your GMB isn’t up to date, it could also hurt your rankings on the search page.
Make sure there’s no duplicates or old pages from old locations.
Having duplicate accounts or old pages from old locations can impact your GMB listing and cause it to rank lower or not show up. Google doesn’t favor repetitive content or incorrect information on a listing, so it may cause your listing to go down or confuse Google of which is the right information. If you do have duplicate pages from old locations, you can request to merge them through Google or you request removal of old pages.
Make sure you don’t have a GMB penalty.
If you have a GMB penalty, chances are your business isn’t showing up in search results or it could be hurting your rankings. You can check for a GMB penalty by searching for top keywords, your business name, or other key identifiers that would pull your listing up in search, and making sure it shows up. If you don’t see your business, you may be suffering from a penalty.
Check your GMB categories.
Using the correct category on your GMB is essential to how you rank in search engines. Any categories that fit your business description should be used on your GMB listing. Rather than only choose categories that describe what your business does, you should also include information about what your business is and how it would apply to potential customers. If you need to change your category on your GMB listing, you can do so through your GMB dashboard. Check and make sure all of your main categories and subcategories are complete.
Your GMB has the right landing page linked.
If you’re a local business and have a single location, making the homepage of your website the main landing page for customers to get to makes sense. However, if you have multiple listings, different landing pages for appropriate locations is important. For example, your landing page for a different location might be something like: MyBusiness.com/chicago. Make sure that you’re using the most relevant landing page for each location.
Optimize your business description.
Part of Google’s guidelines to optimizing your GMB page includes optimizing your business description. It allows you to introduce your business to your customers but it is also another place on your GMB listing to include keywords and a non spammy, unique description of your business.
Add photos to your GMB.
Photos play a huge role in local SEO and adding comprehensive photos is one of our top tips for improving your GMB listing. They should provide an accurate representation of your business and should be good quality photos. Your GMB carousel relies heavily on the photos that you include on your listing. Relying on customers for photos can also negatively impact potential customers' perceptions of your company because they’re not as professional looking as photos you’d share.
Make sure your profile is complete.
Having an incomplete GMB listing can result in lower search rankings. Filling out as much information on your listing can greatly improve your local rankings. If your listing isn’t complete, spend time going through this list and complete your profile with as much information on your listing as possible.
Do a Local SEO Website Audit
While your GMB listing is very important, having a properly optimized website is an equally important ranking factor for your overall local SEO but is often overlooked when doing small business local SEO. A well optimized website will help you outrank your competition more effectively, especially since you have total control over your own website.
Helpful local SEO checker tools can tell you a lot about your website's health, tracking problems, conversions rates, and other important pieces of information to help you properly audit your website.
NAP should match exactly to GMB
You may be familiar with the emphasis with name, address, and phone number (NAP). You want to make sure that your NAP is the same across all platforms both onsite and offsite. If your NAP on your website and on your GMB don't exactly match, it can send mixed signals to Google and create local SEO problems. You can use free NAP checkers for SEO optimization to help make sure your NAP is consistent.
Make sure your site structure makes it easy to navigate to find local information
The way your site is structured can play a large part in how easily your customers find it and how they use it. Your site should have a strongly optimized homepage with local keywords, various services or products pages, links to relevant subpages, and blogs with long form content. Your site structure should be easy to navigate and should meet your customers needs.
Add business hours
Customers who are looking for your business may be more than likely looking for your business hours on your website. Google prefers to read written information so make sure you have textual information about your hours. Writing out your hours on your website, rather than creating an image with your hours, can improve your local SEO if they are matched exactly with your business listing.
Optimize for localized keywords
When you’re conducting local SEO analysis on your website, it is beneficial to check for localized keywords. You want to make sure that your website is turning up for keywords being searched in your area. Including those keywords across your website content can help boost your rankings.
Add schema markup for local businesses
Schema markup is code that is put on your website that helps give users more information in their search results. The code is specifically designed for search engines but doesn’t show on your site to visitors. Including local business markup can help Google and other search engines better understand your business and what you business does for customers.
Embed maps and driving directions
Embedding your maps location and driving directions on your website is more convenient for your customers to easily find your business and can boost your Google Maps rankings with engagement. Embedding a map on your website allows customers to engage with your website and creates a better user experience for them.
Add schema for reviews
Having reviews on your website is a great way to increase trust with your customers. Consumers are more likely to trust a company that has reviews listed than ones that don’t. Including reviews on your website is not only great for customers but benefits your local SEO as well. Including your reviews a review tag in the schema markup on your website tells Google to classify the content on your website as a review and show star ratings on search results.
Many of your customers are probably looking for you on their mobile devices. Does your website work well on a variety of mobile devices? Google uses the mobile version of your site to gather information for ranking purposes so if your site doesn’t work well on mobile, it’s less likely to rank. In addition, user engagement on your site from search result pages can impact your rankings and if people quickly leave your site because it doesn’t work on their phone, it can hurt your SEO further.
Check for duplicate, thin, and out of date content
When you’re auditing your website, it’s helpful to make sure that your content isn’t duplicated or out of date. Additionally, if you have “thin” content, meaning it offers no value to the website or doesn’t include keywords, it can hurt your SEO. Improving content, creating new content, and removing poor quality content may boost your rankings.
Do a Local Citations Audit
It’s important to note that although citations are very important to your business’s rankings, you should always place quality over quantity. Better quality citations will produce better results in Google rather than low quality or spammy looking directories. Many citations include important information about your business and can include links back to your website.
You may be familiar with popular citation sites like Yelp or YellowPages that include your NAP information along with other important information about your business. Your overall goal when conducting a local citation audit is to make sure that there are no duplicates or incorrect information across any of them. Remember, Google doesn’t like duplicate information or NAP information that doesn’t match.
Use a tool to check your local listings
You can use tools like a location citation finder to check for your local listings. Certain tools will track your NAP information across a list of directories to check for consistency and correctness. As a local SEO agency, our favorite is Moz’s local citation tool.
Search for current, correct information and correct anything that’s outdated
If you do find information that is incorrect, for example if you have updated a phone number and see an incorrect phone number on a citation, you should correct the information. You should search for your current information in citation finders to see what appears in the results, but you should also search for old information to see if it’s still somewhere out there on the internet. Basic local SEO services should always include citation clean up.
Optimize citations for keywords
When customers are looking for your business on these directories, they are more than likely putting in keywords to find what they are looking for. Include high ranking keywords in your directory descriptions to help boost your SEO. Also make sure that you’re not keyword-stuffing citations and are using a range of keywords and descriptions. Unlike NAP information, you don’t want descriptions to be identical across directories.
Check niche specific directories
Although using big directories can be beneficial, don’t forget to check those niche specific directories to include your information. Chances are niche directories appeal to the target audience that you want, so don’t forget to look at local citation finders for your niche field.
Do a Local Backlink Audit
Have you conducted a backlink analysis for your website? Google puts more emphasis on high quality links to your site to determine overall authority and trustworthiness. If someone has talked about you or mentioned you in an article or referenced you on their website, make sure that there is a link back to your site in the mention. Google Maps marketing often neglects off-site SEO so be sure not to overlook this essential to success.
Check your links
The first step is to get a picture of what your links are and check your backlinks to your website. The best SEO professionals consistently watch for new links too because if you have too many new links at once, it can look suspicious to Google. Too many links too quickly could lead to problems with your local SEO.
Look for anything spammy
Remember, high quality links are more important than a lot of spammy looking links. If you find links that are broken or spammy, it may benefit you to take a close look and get them removed. Start by making a list of spammy links you’d like to remove from your link profile that could be negatively affecting your SEO.
Ask for removal on spammy links where you can
If you are linked to spammy content, you can ask that you be removed from the backlink. Google prefers that you make an attempt to remove spammy backlinks on your own first before requesting links to be ignored in their algorithm. You may have to contact someone who can remove the link and see if they are able to do it for you manually to clean up any spammy looking links.
Create and upload disavowal file to Google Search Console
If you have bad links that need to be removed even after trying to manually remove them, you can upload a disavow file. This file tells Google that you no longer want them to include those links in your ranking. Unwanted links that could cause a penalty are removed or discarded by Google and can help you clean up your SEO overall.
Do a competitor backlink analysis
Wondering how your competitors are ranking so well? Take a look at their banklink profile. Conducting competitor backlink analysis can help you determine where you need to be getting quality links.
Make a plan to get those backlinks and others
Competitor analysis doesn’t just stop at looking at backlinks. You should make a plan of how you’re going to start getting links your competitors have or similar links. Maybe you need to contact an editor and ask for a link to an article or maybe you need to create a directory account that will be reviewed. Regardless, having an execution plan is helpful to keep track of what backlinks you have and what you want to get.
Do a Local Review Audit
Local reviews are something that are often overlooked or neglected when it comes to performance for your business. Good reviews can be hard to get and even if you rank well, bad reviews can hurt your reputation and your business. It’s helpful to have as many positive reviews as you can get and it’s important to know how to address the negative ones.
Gather a list of all the platforms someone can review your small business
First start by gathering a list of places where reviews can be left about your business. These places may include your GMB listing, Bing, Yelp, Facebook, or other niche directories.
Analyze reviews for positive, negative & neutral reviews
Once you have a list of places you can get reviews, the next step is to take a look at the quality of those reviews. Analyze which ones are positive, negative, and neutral reviews. Make note of what’s included in each review and look for common trends. You may find that customers like a specific product or service in particular, dislike certain things, or are more neutral. Identifying these trends can help you identify strengths and weaknesses in your business.
Respond to all reviews
Responding to all reviews is an important step in review audits that some businesses don’t take into consideration. Whether they are positive reviews or negative reviews, you should have a response for all of them. When you see positive reviews, be sure to thank your customers for leaving reviews. When you’re faced with negative reviews, it’s best to respond to those as well. If you offer to correct the problem or reach out to the customer who left a negative review, you may not get much in return. However, other customers looking at reviews are more likely to see you making an attempt to fix the situation and view your business in a more positive, helpful manner.
Figure out where your weak spots are for customer service
One of the best parts about customer reviews is that it leaves room for improvement. You have an opportunity to see first hand what your customers think of their experience with you and how you can improve on them. Make a list of the trends you notice and make a plan for improving on those weak spots.
Increase the number of reviews you have with a review system
If you’re struggling to get reviews, you may need to come up with a review system. For example, if you’ve worked with a happy customer, consider sending a follow up email encouraging them to leave a review of their experience. Don’t be afraid to reach out to customers for feedback. You should create a system that shares your Google My Business review form with your best customers to get more positive reviews.
Get a Local SEO Audit By Our Pros
Running through a local SEO audit can seem time consuming and overwhelming. We can perform a local SEO audit as part of our free initial consultation to help you better understand what needs improvement and make an SEO plan for your small business.
Contact our local SEO professionals today to learn more about how local SEO can impact your business, what it will take to get to the top of search, and how we can work together to help your business grow.