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How to Perform a Local SEO Audit for Your Business in 12 Steps
Search Engine Optimization

How to Perform a Local SEO Audit for Your Business in 12 Steps

March 22, 2024

Businesses on page 2 of the SERP may as well not exist.

It seems harsh but it's just the reality that we all need to accept.

You know the drill-- you want pizza so you get on your phone and perform a search. Google presents its top 3 local options in the "Snack Pack" and 10 other organic results. You choose one, make a call or pop in the pizza joint.

If you're the local pizza joint, you want and need to appear on the first page for those target keywords. So how do you get them there?

You'll need to do a local SEO audit to find out. 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 already ranking for and identify any opportunities you could be missing out on.

For instance, if you're ranking well for 'Philadelphia Bankruptcy Attorney' but are nowhere to be found for 'Philadelphia Bankruptcy Lawyer', you've found an area to improve.

Start by making a list of services, products, or a web page you 'd like to direct traffic to. When you do this you'll be able to utilize tools like Keyword Finder to quickly assemble 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 Competitor's Local SEO

Your local SEO audit should include a snooping session to determine your competitor's SEO status and strategies early on. If you're located in a very competitive place where the other top businesses are doing everything right, you need to record what you're up against.

You do not need to do a full analysis on each competitor, but look at the following, and compare that information against yours:

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

For the most part, you should be able to take a look through these things and develop a hypothesis on why your competitor is successful in local SERPs.

Helpful Local SEO Tools:

Step 3: Audit Google My Business Listing

The 2017 version of Moz’ Local Search Ranking Factors Survey ranks Google My Business (GMB) as the greatest driver of local SEO success. If you want to appear in Google's 'snack pack', your GMB listing should be strong, 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 info present and correct?
  • Do you have multiple reviews and a high collective rating? Are you replying to reviews?
  • Do you have relevant business categories listed?
  • Do you have pictures of the business?
  • Have you created any GMB posts?
  • Are you participating in the Questions & Answers section?

These are the core elements that comprise 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 appeal and viability. Potential customers trust reviews as a true gauge for that business's quality level.

Receiving an abundance of positive, glowing and wordy reviews across multiple review platforms like GMB, Facebook, Yelp, and vertical-specific sites like Houzz, Tripadvisor, and Healthgrades helps you succeed on many levels.

Local SEO Guide notes that Google does notice the keywords users 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 trying to rank in, in reviews has a high correlation with high ranking Google My Business results."

Helpful Local SEO Tools:

  • Get and manage reviews with Customer Voice (contact us for more info)
  • KiyOh

Step 5: Audit Links for Quality and Quantity

Links continue to be the bread and butter of Google's ranking algorithm.

Darren Shaw of WhiteSpark notes that,

"Google is still leaning heavily on links as a key gauge of a business' power and prominence, and the local search practitioners that invest time and resources to get quality links for their clients are enjoying the ranking benefits.".

An assorted 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 beat quantity, and quality + quantity will help you dominate the search rankings in your industry. On the other hand, if you see a high volume of spammy, off-topic links, you'll want to make a note of it as a warning that might be harming 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 information 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 offer it up on SERPs for the right search inquiries.

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 information regarding your business has been included.

To add Schema markup, if it's a WordPress site, then "All In One Schema Rich Snippets" is a good plugin. For other sites, this is a good tool to create the code.

Helpful Local SEO Tools:

Step 7: Audit Local SEO Citations

How often is your company mentioned online? Auditing your citations will identify the amount of online mentions that exist of the name, address, and phone number for your company.

It's important to check 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 shown on the major data aggregators: Axiom, Neustar/Localeze, Factual, and Infogroup.

Next, you'll need to look into 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 might be as simple as a business mentioned. Normally, these citations don't include a business's NAP data.

Whitespark's Local Citation Finder is a wonderful free tool to locate and examine both your structured and unstructured citations.

Helpful Local SEO Tools:

Step 8: Audit SEO on Key Pages

An audit of the main site pages is possibly the most important part of your whole audit. It does not have to be time-consuming if you have the appropriate tools though. Screaming Frog is one of many great tools that'll deliver a thorough look at your on-page SEO.

With your list of target keywords in hand, you'll want to go 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 only this information, you'll be well-equipped to assess how well your pages are optimized for local SEO. Also, you'll be able to determine improvements and content gaps that could be missing.

Once you've analyzed and documented the weak spots in your local SEO, you can use 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 major components to image optimization for local SEO: keyword usage and how it impacts page load speed. You can utilize ScreamingFrog's free SEO tool to evaluate both.

Auditing image keyword optimization boils down to evaluating each photo's filename and alt text. Because Google can not yet tell what visual content a photo has yet, website crawlers rely on things like the filename and alt text to identify what's being displayed. These are areas you should optimize with appropriate target keywords.

You can get some big improvements in page load speed when pictures are optimized to minimize their file size without significantly impacting their visual quality. Using ScreamingFrog, you can take a stock 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 pictures automatically going forward.).

Helpful Local SEO Tools:

Step 10: Check Website Speed

Having a website that loads quickly is vital in today's online business environment.

Edwin Toonen of Yoast states that,

"Google's latest research reveals that the possibility of a bounce increases 32% when the page load time goes from 1s to 3s. 1s to 5s increases the possibility 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 website that pleases consumers and thus 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 offer you a fast way to determine if improvements are needed, and a list of actions to take to increase your website speed.

Helpful Local SEO Tools:

Step 11: Audit Site Engagement

What consumers do when they find your business online impacts your rankings. In fact, David Mihm says that,

"Engagement is just a much more accurate signal of the quality of local businesses than the traditional ranking factors of links, directory citations, and even reviews.".

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

Helpful Local SEO Tools:

Step 12: Audit Social Engagement

The truth is that we're unsure to what extent social signals are baked into Google's ranking algorithm. Nevertheless, there's no question that a solid social media presence can significantly increase local SEO efforts.

According to Ron Dod of Search Engine Journal, the bigger and more involved your audience is, the more they'll improve rankings:

"The bigger your brand is and the more consumers trust you, the more likely you are to obtain a greater share of clicks in Google. Social media can be a great and effective way to help you grow your brand and appear in front of consumers that would not have otherwise discovered you.".

Therefore, analyzing your social platforms is a vital part of your local SEO audit:

  • Amount of users that like your Facebook page + Facebook shares
  • Number of Twitter followers + tweets mentioning your brand
  • Amount of LinkedIn business followers and Linkedin Shares

Helpful Local SEO Tools:

Final Thoughts

Performing a thorough local SEO audit utilizing the 12 steps I've detailed is going to dredge up issues. Finding and correcting any SEO optimization problems you find along the way is also crucial, as is documenting your progress to make sure you're not missing any crucial pieces to the local SEO puzzle.

A good way to get started is to use MarketGoo, which automatically scans a site and creates a detailed SEO strategy to help you improve your site traffic and rankings.

When you're ready to begin optimizing your website for SEO, utilizing Boostability and SEO Network's SEO packages are key ways to power up your local presence. Simply contact us for more info on any of these products.

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

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