Local SEO audits are an essential part of every SEO strategy for local organizations. Local businesses rely on localized search results for targeted, organic traffic. Local SEO rankings fuel the online component of many brick and mortar stores, but it’s not as simple to achieve local rankings like it has been in the past. Many businesses have started using Google ads to generate immediate traffic when they don’t yet rank, but a paid ad strategy should be complementary to local SEO.
If you’ve been struggling, you’re not alone, and local SEO audits are designed to help.
After Google’s Pigeon update, the scope and environment for local SEO has changed dramatically. There are now dozens of new ranking factors, stemming from third party sites and user reviews, which can affect your overall ranking for a local term. The good news is that you don’t have to spend as much effort stuffing keywords into your content, but in exchange, you have to rely more on the actions of your customers and audience to fuel your authority.
If you want to get a read for the health of your local SEO campaign and find direction for any changes you’ll need to make, it’s a good idea to perform a high-level SEO audit.
Get a Campaign Snapshot
Before you start looking at the individual factors that are affecting your local SEO authority and rank, you’ll want to get a relative measurement of how your campaign is performing with a local SEO audit. For this, you’ll want to look at some of the same metrics you’d use in a national campaign, with extra attention to your user demographics.
Log into Google Analytics and check out the Acquisition tab, whose Overview will show you a breakdown of how many site visitors you had, and where those visitors came from. Pay special attention to the organic traffic number—this is the number of people who came to your site from searching for a term. Social Traffic is also important, especially if you have an active social media presence as a part of your overall campaign.
Your Organic Traffic figure should grow from month to month fairly consistently. If you notice the numbers growing stagnant, it could be an indication of something wrong with the campaign.
While still in Analytics, head over to the Audience section, and take a look at the Overview. Depending on the operating range of your company and which local markets you’re targeting, you can look at the county and territory of your users or the city under the “Demographics” tab on the left. Analytics will break down your user visits as a total number of visitors, and as a percentage of your total traffic. A high percentage of local visitors is generally an indication of a high-quality local optimization campaign.
Once you know where you stand with organic visits and demographics, you can look at the individual components of your campaign and analyze how they are influencing the broader numbers.
Check Your Offsite Presence
Getting a local SEO audit will help you sort out any issues with your offsite factors that impact your local search rankings in the search engines. One of the most important elements of a post-Pigeon local optimization campaign is your business’s presence on as many third party and local directory sites as possible. Business listings will not only drive traffic to your site, but they’ll also help you rank in local results. The go-to example is Yelp, an aggregator of local business information and customer reviews, but there are several other sites with a niche focus, such as UrbanSpoon or TripAdvisor.
Don’t forget about Google
Everyone knows Google is the most popular search engine, but it also pulls some serious weight where local search is concerned. Google has their own business listing and it’s important to take advantage of this.
Google Business Profile is perhaps the most important business listings you could create. When you have a Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business), your listing has a chance at coming up above the organic search results for local search. Having a Google Business Profile will help you generate traffic when you have yet to rank your web pages for Google searches.
When your business is included in local listings, potential customers will see your local business details, like your business name, contact information, website URL, and business location. With a Google Business Profile, your potential customers will also see where you’re located with Google Maps, making it easy for them to find you.
To maximize your local search presence, claim your company’s account on as many of these local listings platforms as possible. You’ll want to do this for two reasons: first, you’ll be able to verify your information’s consistency across the web, especially your name, address, phone number, and business hours. Second, you’ll have more opportunities to cultivate reviews, but we’ll get more into that in the next section.
Claiming your profile and verifying your information on these sites is usually a one-time process, but you’ll want to check back every so often to make sure your information is still up-to-date. You’ll also want to do a quick check to see if there are any new, relevant directories that have emerged and claim your account early.
Getting a local SEO audit will tell you which directory listings you’re missing. You’ll get a list of where you need to create a listing to reach more local customers and start showing up in search engines.
The Importance of Reviews: Analyze and Nurture Your Reviews
Checking your business info is only the first half of a local SEO audit. The second part is more intensive, and arguably more important for your customer relationships. These sites all share one core feature: the ability for customers to post public reviews. The more high-quality reviews you have the better—it looks good to the other customers and even sends an authoritative ranking signal to Google.
Nothing will give Google a better ranking signal than positive reviews on your Google Business Profile. However, keep in mind that only having 5-star reviews isn’t ideal. Google understands that a mix of reviews is more realistic, and tends to favor business listings that display a more realistic array of reviews and star ratings.
Take a look at the number of new reviews you’ve gotten, and how positive those reviews are. If you’re getting a high number of negative reviews, read them carefully and try to figure out what you can change to encourage more positive reviews. If you aren’t getting many reviews at all, you need to do more to encourage your in-person customers to leave feedback. (Remember, it’s a violation of policy to directly ask for reviews. Instead, simply direct your customers to the review site itself and leave the decision to review up to them).
You’ll also have the opportunity to reply to reviews. This is a good chance to reinforce positive experiences, and make up for any negative ones.
When you get a local SEO audit, your reviews will be analyzed to see where there’s room for improvement. Of course, you can’t dictate what people post, but you do have some control over how your business gets reviewed. It’s important to take control where you can because it will help you rank in the search engines.
Skipping this part of a local SEO audit can be detrimental to local businesses. As a business owner, you should want to know how your business is perceived and experienced by your customers. Reviews are an excellent opportunity to gather ideas for improving your company. Nobody likes hearing what they’re doing wrong, but it really is the best way to rise above your competition and get better search engine results.
Local reviews are more than just surface-level pieces of information that occasional users use as guides to make purchasing decisions. Even users who never explicitly read reviews can be indirectly affected by them:
- Local reviews inform users of past transactions. The first benefit here is probably the most obvious. Well-written user reviews inform others whether a given transaction was beneficial, neutral, or unfortunate. Consumers who are serious about a buying decision rely on these specific details to help them make a final call. In this way, your business page is a valuable tool for generating new customers.
- Local reviews affect your search ranks. In fact, local reviews affect your search visibility in search engines in more than just one way. Google relies on data from third-party directories and review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor to form an aggregated judgment of a local business—more reviews and more positive reviews mean you’re more likely to rank in local searches. Plus, if you get more reviews on a specific directory, your profile page on that directory will be more likely to rank as well.
- Local reviews are aggregated to form first impressions. In Google’s new local 3-pack, you’ll see that each business’s entry is accompanied by an aggregated star rating, drawn from Google reviews specifically. Users who glance at your business and see a star rating may form an instant judgment. A local SEO audit will help you find ways to improve your business visibility in this local 3-pack.
- Local reviews drive direct traffic to your site. Plenty of users peruse local review sites directly, hoping to discover new businesses or find alternative suppliers. If a review is well-written and positive enough, it could attract a decent stream of direct referral traffic to your site.
- Local reviews can help you build a better business. Last but certainly not least, local reviews are raw information about how you’re doing business. The more reviews you receive, the more information you’ll have to improve your company.
Run a keyword audit
Using a browser with cleared cookies and a clear cache, run a quick Google search to see if your website shows up in the search results for some of your targeted keywords. If your website isn’t anywhere to be found, don’t panic. In addition to optimizing your site to rank for keywords and phrases, you also need to make sure the keywords you’re targeting are actually worth the effort. For instance, you can rank on the first page for a lot of search terms, but it’s pointless when not many people search for those terms. This is where a keyword audit comes in.
Unfortunately, Google no longer provides access to real search data, so there’s no way to know exactly which search terms people are typing into Google. However, an SEO company can help you narrow down your target keywords because they’ll have access to industry tools and plenty of industry experience.
When you hire a digital marketing agency to run a local SEO audit, a keyword audit will be part of their services. If your target keywords aren’t helping much, they’ll tell you and suggest alternative keywords. It’s actually common for businesses to discover their chosen keywords aren’t ideal for local SEO.
Performing a local SEO audit is worth the time
Running your own local SEO audit can be time consuming, but it’s worth every minute. You’ll need to review, analyze, and optimize every web page if your goal is to get better search engine results. If you don’t have the time, or if you’d rather outsource your local SEO strategy, hire an agency that specializes in local SEO. They’ll perform a competitor analysis and a complete local SEO audit to help you find the right target keywords, tune up your local listings, and show up more often in organic search results for local search terms.
Is there anything else involved in a complete local SEO audit?
After reading this article, you know most of what’s involved in a local SEO audit, but don’t forget about optimizing your content. Your website content is what comes up in the search engines, but ranking your content is only the first step.
There’s no point in running a local SEO campaign if you’re not going to benefit from the traffic. When you rank, your web pages show up in organic search results. However, to get clicks, you need more than a good local listing and optimized keywords. You need content that entices users to click. This isn’t hard to achieve, but you will need to use some effort. For instance, you’ll need to craft meta descriptions that encourage users to click on your web page in the search results.
A local SEO audit will analyze your content to see how it can be improved in order to generate more clicks. Remember that ranking only makes your website visible in the search results, and you’ll need another strategy to get clicks.
When you work with a professional SEO company, they’ll help you get visible in search results and perform a website audit to help you get more clicks. Optimization could involve small things like adjusting the marker on Google Maps or optimizing your Google My Business listing. Maybe your business name was spelled wrong or you haven’t listed all of your services. Whatever the case, a professional SEO company can help you get better results from your local SEO efforts.
Start your local SEO audit today
If your goal is to scale or grow your business, you can’t ignore local search optimization. Search engines – especially Google – will favor your web pages when they’re optimized for local search. However, you also need to optimize your pages at a basic level (think meta description, meta title tag, headings, targeted keywords, and page titles).
Use this blog post as your local SEO audit checklist, but don’t stop auditing and optimizing. SEO audits should be performed on an ongoing basis. There’s only one way to achieve local SEO success and that’s through hard work and effort. If you’re confused about the local SEO algorithm Google search uses to rank your sites, connect with us and we’ll perform a comprehensive local SEO audit for you.
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