The harsh reality that we all need to accept is that business websites on the second page of the search engine results page might as well not exist.You know the drill—you want something so you get on your phone and search for it. Google presents its top 3 local options in the “Snack Pack” and 10 other organic results. If your business corresponds to the user’s needs, you want and need to appear on the first page for those target keywords. To do so, you will need to do a local SEO audit, a simple procedure for any website. Here’s how to get it done.

Step 1: Audit Keywords

A strong SEO audit starts with effective keywords.

Here is how to conduct a keyword audit: Start with ranking, how the keywords you’re already using are ranked 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 and then put together a list of high volume local target keywords (you can use tools like Keyword Finder).

Step 2: Audit Your Competition

Your local SEO audit should include a snooping session to determine your competitor’s SEO status and tactics. It is essential  that you determine what you’re up against, especially if you’re located in a highly competitive area where top businesses are excelling.

Here is a tool that helps you learn why your competitors rank so high what you need to do to outrank them: Ahrefs.

You don’t need to do a full diagnostic on each competitor, but you can simply take a look at these factors, find out what the website is built with, and compare that data against yours, helping you develop a logical hypothesis:

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

Step 3: Audit Google My Business Listing

Google My Business is a free and easy-to-use tool for businesses to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps and your business absolutely requires it.

It has been ranked as the biggest driver of local SEO success, according to the 2017 edition of Moz’s Local Search Ranking Factors Survey.

The GMB results are often referred to as the ‘three pack’, as Google picks out the three best or most relevant local listings for these searches and If you want to appear in Google’s three pack, your GMB listing should be well-optimised.

According to Google, 46% of all Google searches are local, while the GMB ‘three pack’ of results appear in 93% of all local searches.

Here are some things to look for, these elements make up a strong GMB listing:

  • 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?

Step 4: Audit Reviews

Reviews play a big role in both the local ranking and reputation building areas. They are 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 across multiple review platforms like GMB, Facebook, Yelp, and TripAdvisor helps you win on many levels.

In fact, Local SEO Guide notes that Google does pick up on the keywords people use in their reviews: “At a high level, having a keyword you are trying to rank for, and a mention of a city you are working to rank in, in reviews has a high correlation with high ranking Google My Business results.”

And don’t forget to respond to these reviews, whether they are positive or negative because 89% of consumers read businesses’ responses to reviews!
A helpful tool you can use is KiyOh, a tool to help you invite your customers to rate and review your company.

Step 5: Audit Links

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

Darren Shaw of WhiteSpark notes that “Google is still leaning heavily on links as a primary measure of a business’ authority and prominence, and the local search practitioners that invest time and resources to secure quality links for their clients are reaping the ranking rewards.”

A link audit would be having a diverse array of quality links and evaluate the links pointing at your website to find potential problems or opportunities.

To evaluate your links, you should consider looking for links with:

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

Remember, link quality will always win over quantity, and quality plus quantity will help you dominate the search rankings in your market. On the flip side, if you see a high volume of spammy, off-topic links, that is an immediate red flag that may be damaging your ability to rank well. Open Site Explorer is a highly accurate link tool that lets you check the backlink profile of your site.

Step 6: Audit Site for Structured Data

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

This is the perfect way to tell search engines exactly what a given website is about, which will help them serve it up on the search engine results page 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.
There are many different types of structured data but when it comes to structured data for SEO, a particular ‘vocabulary’ is used, called Schema.org in order to have a standardised list of attributes that all search engines support and understand.

Step 7: Audit Local Citations

A local citation is a mention of your business online, whether it’s a name, an address or a phone number. It’s important to look into both 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.

For unstructured citations, mentions of your business will be found on random websites, blogs, event listings, job posting sites or social media mentions. These are unstructured because they could be as simple as a company mention. Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder is a great free tool to find and analyse both your structured and unstructured citations.

Step 8: Audit Website’s Main Pages

An audit of the main website pages is probably the most important step 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. It’s a free tool that crawl websites’ URLs and fetch key elements to analyse and audit technical and onsite SEO.

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

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

You are now well-equipped to analyse how well your pages are optimised for local SEO and 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.

Step 9: Audit Images

Firstly, don’t dismiss the power of images; when people hear information, they’re likely to remember only 10% of that information three days later. However, if a relevant image is paired with that same information, people retained 65% of the information three days later!

There are two main components to image optimisation: image keyword usage and how it affects page load speed.

You can in this case also use ScreamingFrog’s free SEO tool to evaluate both.

Auditing image keywords comes down to evaluating each image’s filename and alt text.

Since Google can’t tell what visual content an image contains, site crawlers rely on things like the image’s filename and alt text to determine what’s being displayed. This is why you need to use the right and optimised keywords.

You can get some big improvements in page load speed when images are optimised to reduce their file size without 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.

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% when the page load time goes from 1s to 3s. 1s to 5s increases the chance to 90% and if your site takes up to 10s to load, the chance of a bounce increases to 123%. That’s incredible. For search engines, better results and performance is a sign of a healthy site that pleases customers and therefore should be rewarded with a higher ranking.”

Google PageSpeed Insights Tool performs an instant audit of a given URL, which will give you a quick way to tell if improvements are needed, and a list of actions to take to improve your website speed. Pingdom’s Website Speed Test and GTmetrix are also helpful website speed test tools.

Step 11: Audit Customer Experience

What visitors do when they discover your business online affects your rankings. In fact, David Mihm argues that “Engagement is simply a much more accurate signal of the quality of local businesses than the traditional ranking factors of links, directory citations, and even reviews.”

Factors such as search click-through rate (CTR), dwell time, bounce rate, and conversion rate are all ranking factors. To examine customer experience and engagement, you can use Google Analytics to and then compare them to industry benchmarks.

Step 12: Audit Social Engagement

There’s no doubt that a strong social media presence can significantly boost local SEO efforts even though we’re not sure to what extent social signals are baked into Google’s ranking algorithm.

“The bigger your brand is and the more consumers trust you, the more likely you are to receive a larger share of clicks in Google. Social media can be a great and efficient way to help you build your brand and get in front of people who wouldn’t have otherwise found you.”

Therefore, evaluating your social platforms is an essential part of your local SEO audit:

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

To go a step further, you can analyse what content performs best for any topic or competitor using the free tool BuzzSumo.

Final Thoughts

Performing a comprehensive local SEO audit using these 12 steps is 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!

To understand how Local SEO can help your business, book a consultation now.