How to Run a Local SEO Audit for Your Business in 12 Steps
Updated: Dec 1, 2021
Businesses on page 2 of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) might as well not exist.
It sounds harsh but it’s the reality that we all need to accept. Unless they feel like spelunking or unless they feel like there’s some strange magic beyond Page 1, no person is going to look beyond the top 10, especially when they’re hungry.
You know the drill—you’ve got a mad craving for a hamburger, but it’s 11 p.m. on a Tuesday and your favorite spot is closed. So, you pull out your phone and do a little Google search for open hamburger restaurants near you. Google presents its top 3 local options in the “Snack Pack” at the top and 10 other organic results toward the bottom. You pick one store and place your order or pop into the burger joint.
If you’re the local burger 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 Your Keywords
Have you identified the keywords your target audience might use to find you in a search? If so, 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 ‘Chicago Bankruptcy Attorney’ but are nowhere to be found for ‘Chicago Bankruptcy Lawyer’, you’ve identified an area to improve.
Start by making 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 Keyword Auditing 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:
Google My Business (GMB) ranking for top keywords
Organic rankings for top keywords
Review quantity and quality
Number of industry relevant links
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 SERPs.
Helpful Competitor Analysis Tools:
Step 3: Audit Your Google My Business Listing
The 2018 edition of Moz’s Local Search Ranking Factors Survey ranks Google My Business (GMB) as the biggest driver of local SEO success. If you want to appear in Google’s ‘snack pack’, your GMB listing should be robust and well-optimized with your core target keywords.
Below are some of the factors that make for a strong Google My Business listing. Here are some things to look for in your GMB:
Do you have a GMB listing? If so, is it claimed and verified?
Is your business description compelling? Does it make people “want to go to there?”
Is all business information present and correct?
Do you have multiple reviews and a high cumulative rating? Are you consistently responding to reviews in a professional and friendly manner?
Do you have the appropriate business categories listed?
Do you have clear, well-lit images of your business?
Have you created any GMB posts? If so, are you updating those weekly or monthly?
Are you actively participating in the Questions & Answers section?
If you’re an appointment-based business, are you leveraging the booking button?
Helpful Tools for GMB Audits:
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 across multiple review platforms like GMB, Facebook, Yelp, and vertical-specific sites like Houzz, Tripadvisor, and Healthgrades helps you win on many levels.
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.”
Our Favorite Tools for Checking Review Quality:
Step 5: Audit Links for Quality and Quantity
Links remain 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 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:
Industry or vertical topic clusters
High domain authority: 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 spammy, 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.
Our Favorite Tools for Link Auditing:
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.
Our Favorite Tools for Auditing Schema Markup:
Step 7: Audit Local SEO Citations
How often do folks mention your business online? Reviewing your citations on social media and online directories like Yelp, Yellowpages, Facebook, Superpages, and MapQuest will determine how many online mentions exist of the name, 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. 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 Name +Address + Phone (NAP) data.
Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder is a great free tool to find and analyze both your structured and unstructured citations.
Our Favorite Tools for Finding Local Citations:
Step 8: Audit SEO on Main Pages
An audit of your main website pages is one of 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, mostly free 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 (H1)
Word count (ideal is 300-500 words per page)
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.
Razzo's Top Free Pick for On-Site Audits: Screaming Frog
Step 9: Audit Your Website Images
Yeah, I said it: you gotta audit your images. So what the heck does that mean? Well, there are two main components for local SEO: image keyword usage and how the size of your images affects page load speed. You can use Screaming Frog’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 text-based 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 and rankings when images are optimized to a reduced their file size without significantly impacting their visual quality. Using Screaming Frog, 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.)
Step 10: Check Your Website Speed
Having a site that loads rapidly is crucial for SEO in general AND for voice-based search.
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 1s to 3s. 1s to 5s increases the chance to 90 percent and if your site takes up to 10s to load, the chance of a bounce increases to 123 percent. 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.”
Your image file sizes, unnecessary website code, browser, website plugins (I’m looking at you, Slider Revolution), ready-made website templates, server location, and website hosting are just some of the factors that can slow down your website.
GTMetrix and the Google PageSpeed Insights Tool performs a near-instant audit of a given URL for both mobile and desktop searches. These free tools will quickly tell you if you need to make improvements to your site and also share a list of actions to take to improve your website speed.
Razzo's Top Picks for Checking Website Page Speed:
Google PageSpeed Insights Tool
Pingdom’s Website Speed Test
Step 11: Audit Site Engagement
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.”
Metrics like organic search click-through rate (CTR), dwell time, bounce rate, and conversion rate are all ranking factors. You can use Google Analytics to examine your engagement metrics and compare them to industry benchmarks.
Razzo's Favorite Tools for Auditing User Engagement:
Google Analytics Industry Benchmarks
Step 12: Audit Social Media Engagement
The truth is that no one other than maybe Google’s engineers is sure how extensively 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.
According to Ron Dod of Search Engine Journal, “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.”
So it’s essential to evaluate your social platforms while you’re conducting your local SEO audit. Pay attention to the following:
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
Helpful Local SEO Tools:
Track dark social (contact us for more info)
Find all social media profiles
Find your most shared content
Performing a comprehensive local SEO audit using the 12 steps I’ve outlined is going to dredge up some issues. You may even throw your hands up in the process, but recognize that finding and fixing SEO issues is essential, business-changing work.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and defeated when it comes to any form of SEO, which is why we’re happy to take it off your hands. Get your life back. Contact Razzo today to learn how we can help you with your Local SEO.