If you’re a local business, one of the most important things you need to do is build up your local SEO. Local SEO is a bit different than regular SEO and while the broad strokes are the same, the nitty-gritty is going to vary slightly.
That’s why you need to perform a local SEO audit. You can take the pulse of your current standings on the web while also looking at what your direct competitors are doing. Running an audit can sound scary, but it really doesn’t have to be. In fact, we’re going to tell you how to do a local SEO audit in under an hour.
Let’s get started.
What’s the Point of a Local SEO Audit?
The goal of any local business is to improve their organic rankings. ‘Near me’ searches have grown by over 900% in the last two years.
According to HubSpot, only 25% of Google searches will advance past the first page. If you’ve got your business ranking at the top page, it’s no doubt that traffic, clicks, and eventually, customers will increase.
An audit is there to help you figure out where you’re standing and what you need to do to improve. Your SEO audit can be part of a larger digital audit, or it can be its own thing. If you see yourself ranking lower than you want, which of these steps can you focus on? If you’re ranking high, what can you do in order to stay there? What is going to set you apart?
Your audit is not going to solve all your problems. It’s going to get you started on the right path but this is the first step towards success.
Step 1: Don’t Freak Out
When people run audits on their websites, they can sometimes get overwhelmed by the number of things they feel like they should be doing immediately. If pages aren’t optimized and listings aren’t perfect, then your site is bound to fall into the depths on Google and never be seen again, right?
An audit is a part of the process to give you a comprehensive local SEO strategy. From your audit’s findings, you can lay out what has to be done and what steps should be taken next. Don’t feel like you have to rush in and fix everything immediately. Take the time to make those changes and best improve your rankings.
So, what are those steps?
Step 2: Layout Keyword Research
Keyword research can be a lengthy process for big websites but for local sites like yours, it doesn’t have to be a giant ordeal. That’s because your website should be focused around a few search terms in order to zero in on your audience.
One of the best free tools to start out with is the Google Keyword Planner. It can tell you keyword volume and difficulty for ranking for a specific keyword. You do have to create a Google Ads account to make use of the tool and you can access it without paying.
If you’re willing to pay, there are a few other options such as Semrush, Brightlocal, Moz, and Keyword Finder which can help you find certain keywords and terms related to your business. Many of these services offer free trials, so you can test the waters to decide if you want to pay or not.
For example, if you were running a local plumbing business, you might want to target keywords such as:
- Plumber Nashville
- Nashville plumber
- Nashville plumbing service
- Best plumber in Nashville
Once you target some of your keywords, you’re going to want to move onto the next step.
Step 3: Competitor Research
One of the most important steps during a local SEO audit is checking to see what exactly your competitors are doing. How do you expect to outrank them if you don’t know their strategy?
You don’t have to deep dive into each competitor, but you should know who you’re competing against to start. If you’re not sure, start by Googling the keywords that you came up with. From there, make a list of the top 5-10 competitors in your niche. That number could vary based on things like location, local area, and more.
You should be looking at things like:
- Their GMB profile
- Rankings for the KWs you’ve selected
- Local listings
- Review count and presence
- Basic social media presence
Most of this information can be taken right from a quick Google search. It’s best to put it into a spreadsheet so you have a bird’s-eye view of everything.
Step 4: Audit Your Google My Business Page
Get ready to see the acronym GMB so many times it will make your head spin. You can’t do any local SEO without making sure you have a proper GMB page.
If you don’t have a GMB page, then it should be one of your top priorities to make one part of your local SEO strategy. For those that already have a GM page, what should you be looking for? Your quick checklist should include:
- HIGH-QUALITY Images related to your business (we cannot stress high-quality enough)
- Correct category and sub-category
- Description and proper keywords (750-word maximum)
- Hours of operation
- Any relevant information (menu for restaurants, basic Q&A, etc.)
If you don’t have any of these items, make sure you add them to your to-do list of things to take care of. Having all of those properly listed will not only give potential customers all the information they need but will also help build up your local SEO and improve rankings.
Step 5: Check Out Your Links and Citations
There are plenty of things that determine your ranking on Google, but one of the most important is the number of links you have pointing towards your website. The more links you have coming from high-authority, relevant domains, the better it’s going to be for your business. On the flip side, if you have lots of low-authority domains pointing towards your website, that could be hurting your rankings.
But how do you check out the quality of your backlinks? The tools listed above also have backlink checkers, but Ahrefs offers a free trial of their backlink checker tool. You’ll be able to plug in your domain and check out how your links look from a quality and quantity perspective.
Along with the topic of links, you’re going to want to check out your citations. A good citation is one that has the following criteria:
- Lists the NAP (name, address, phone number)
- Uniform across all citations
- Placed on high-authority websites
When we say uniform, that means uniform. That means ‘street’ isn’t the same as ‘st.’ or ‘Nashville Plumber Service’ isn’t the same as ‘Plumber Service Nashville’. When it comes to finding citations, BrightLocal is a great tool to help you manage them. Run your business through their checker and see where errors may be popping up.
For adding citations, should you just blast your business listing everywhere? Most certainly not. In fact, there is a list of the top citation sites where you should be building out your business listing.
Step 6: Review Your Reviews
One of the most important parts of running a business is garnering online reviews. Over 90% of Americans say they trust online reviews, so having a few one-star reviews may send your business cratering.
Do you have a lot of reviews? If you don’t, what can you do to get more reviews? Are you responding to reviews?
Responding to reviews is a way to show Google that you are an active business that continues to participate and pay attention to your customers. In fact, it’s a sneaky important ranking factor. For your reviews, make a plan on how to obtain more of them and the best way to respond to customers who aren’t satisfied.
Step 7: Get Started on Your SEO Plan
Now that you’ve gone through the audit, it’s time to start laying out your plan. You’ve done the groundwork and now it’s time to start taking actionable steps. As you move onto the next part, it’s important to remember a few things.
The first thing to remember is patience is key. SEO is a long game and it will likely be months before you start seeing yourself climb the rankings.
The second, which goes hand-in-hand with the first, is to not get caught up in daily rankings. We often see people get frustrated because they search for their service and city and don’t see it climbing up. Be dutiful, smart, and celebrate the baby steps.
Performing a local SEO audit may seem like an overwhelming task, but it doesn’t have to be. You can do all of these steps in just under an hour. Remember, this is just an audit and not a list of things you need to do immediately. Proper SEO takes time and while you may want to see results right away, a thorough audit is the first step to climbing in the rankings and seeing more results.
Here at Atiba, we perform SEO audits and a larger number of other SEO services. We can look at your local SEO and also do a complete audit including analytics, links, in-depth competitor research, and more. Reach out to us today to schedule an SEO audit and start achieving the rankings you want to achieve!