June 25, 2024

Local SEO Audit: A Step-by-Step Guide

A Step-by-Step Guide for Local SEO Audits

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a complex process involving content, keyword, and competitive analysis. It can be even more challenging for a small local business trying to win over a specific target audience in a certain region. How do you stand out from the rest when people search for your services?

You need a robust local SEO strategy. Local SEO entails a number of particular activities intended to develop a company’s authority and significance inside a given geographic area. However, it can be impossible to tell what you need to do without analyzing your current standing as a business. That’s where local SEO audit comes into play.

It has two primary goals:

  • to persuade a local consumer that your search result is the best option;
  • to demonstrate to search engines that your website is worthy of their attention and rank as high as possible.

How do you determine which adjustments have the best chance of driving visitors to your website or door and converting them into paying customers? In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of a complete audit to improve or maintain your local online presence.

Local SEO Audit

What is a Local SEO Audit All About, and Why Do You Need It?

When deciding who appears first in organic search results, search engines like Google take into account a multitude of different data factors:

  • featured snippets;
  • maps;
  • local packs;
  • images;
  • videos;
  • or other SERP features.

A local SEO audit is an assessment of your website’s SEO performance. It involves discovering strengths and weaknesses to see why your site ranks as it does and how you can improve the situation for your online store, boutique, office, or retail outlet. As there are so many reasons for Google to downgrade a website, you need to know whether you need to optimize website speed, polish the user experience, or acquire more links from trustworthy resources to climb organic search results.

You can run the audit using specialized tools yourself or address a dedicated agency specializing in SEO for your area. Here are the reasons to practice local SEO audits occasionally:

  • increase the exposure of your company in local search results;
  • attract more clients;
  • outperform local competitors;
  • track return on investment (ROI) of marketing campaigns;
  • understand which marketing channels are most effective in attracting local customers;
  • optimize marketing expenses;
  • make your website more mobile-friendly;
  • make sure your website follows Google’s guidelines;
  • avoid squandering time and energy on pointless SEO tactics.

The local SEO algorithm consists of three main components:

  • Proximity: The searcher’s distance from your company. 
  • Prominence: The popularity of your brand online (the number of inbound links, article mentions, reviews, and citations)

Relevance: How well does your company match the related search terms?

A Comprehensive Local SEO Audit Checklist

Let’s divide a checklist into distinct categories and examine each separately, as there are many elements to consider. An exhaustive checklist for a local SEO audit comprises:

  • Google Business Profile audit (optimizing your profile for maximum visibility);
  • Local keyword analysis (uncovering high-impact local keywords and implementing them);
  • On-site SEO factors (page optimization, internal linking, schema markup, and mobile optimization);
  • Local citations and business listings (online references to your local business name, address, and phone number (NAP));
  • Ratings and review management (handling online reviews and leveraging them for better local search rankings);
  • Social media integration (assessing the role of social media in local SEO and fine-tuning them).
How to Perform a Local SEO Audit: A Step-by-Step Guide

1. Google Penalties Check

Most users conduct searches on Google, the company with the biggest market share in the world (around 81.95%). That’s why you need to tweak your SEO campaign according to its rules and algorithms.

Local SEO Audit Penalties Check
Image Credit: Statista

Google penalties can severely impact your visibility. However, not all websites take measures to mitigate issues or even send a reconsideration request after resolving them. So, the first step of your local SEO audit should be identifying if your site has been penalized by Google to recover lost search rankings.

Why Do They Happen?

Common reasons for search engines to punish a resource are as follows:

  • Sneaky mobile redirects. These are instances of sending a mobile user to a different URL than the one they initially clicked on. For example, while desktop visitors see the intended content, mobile users are redirected to an unrelated page. These practices often have malicious or deceptive purposes, leading to a penalty as they fool people and provide a poor user experience.
  • Thin content. It adds little or no value to people, including automatically generated content, low-quality affiliate pages, or simply pages with very little or superficial content.
  • An unnatural link structure to or from your site. This encompasses a range of issues related to how links are obtained or created. Inbound unnatural links can come from low-quality or spammy third-party websites, be paid for, or amassed in large volumes in an artificial way (like through link farms). 

Outbound unnatural links, in turn, occur when your site links to low-quality or irrelevant sites, often in a way that seems manipulative, like excessive link exchanges or partner pages solely for the sake of cross-linking.

  • User-generated spam. Low-quality content that usually appears in comments sections or forums, such as irrelevant links, promotional materials unrelated to the discussion, and other stuff created by users. Search engines may penalize websites that fail to moderate their UGC for allowing spam to proliferate, which can impact the site’s overall quality.

How To Determine If You’re Being Penalized

A drop in local SEO rankings can not always imply receiving penalties. The reasons range from falling behind or not adapting your strategy after an algorithm update.

To determine whether you’re truly being penalized, access Google Search Console. You’ll find a notification there detailing what you’ve been punished for and how to solve the problem.

You can see a Manual Actions Report from your Google Search Console dashboard. This is a list of any penalties imposed on your website. Address them immediately by reviewing Google’s guidelines and making necessary changes.

Google Search Central for Local SEO Audit

2. Audit Your Google Business Profile

Google local business listings (or a Google Business Profile) are what shows up in Google Maps and Google Search’s map results. This box is called a “local pack” or “map pack” and usually consists of the business name, address, hours, reviews, and other key information. The feature displays the “More places” button for more local listings.

Google Business Profiles

If you examine and improve your business profile, it can appear higher than others. To increase engagement, complete the missing contact details, update irrelevant information, and respond to customer questions and reviews.

The Google Business Profile provides viewers with the essential information to make a buying decision, so it can also boost the conversion rate. So, if you don’t have it yet, add your business information to Google and get featured in Google Maps.

3. Local Keyword Analysis

Leverage relevant keywords that drive organic traffic to enhance your SEO efforts and local presence. Moreover, geo-modify local keywords for SEO to enhance visibility. This means giving setting-specific labels to already-existing keywords, for example, adding “Austin, TX” to “bagel shop.”

Conduct local keyword research to see the search queries your Google Business Profile and website rank for and identify terms with the best potential for your rankings. During this process, you uncover the words your target audience uses and in what volumes, plus those competitors rank for, but you don’t. That’s what the competitor analysis stage entails.

That’s where tools like Semrush or Ahrefs can help. They are partially interchangeable, but we recommend using both since Semrush is better for general SEO, while Ahrefs is perfect for working on the link-building strategy:

  • Employ Semrush for keyword selection and keyword frequency analysis. Ahrefs also provides such features, but they’re somewhat less satisfactory: it finds fewer keywords and shows frequency not so accurately.
  • Monitoring SERP rankings is very convenient in Semrush.
  • Semrush and Screaming Frog are suitable for keyword clustering.
  • What is Ahrefs good for? It’s tailored for link promotion. It shows more links, does it faster, and has a highly convenient interface. In Semrush, you have to make a lot of clicks to find what you need. In Ahrefs, everything is very convenient, intuitive, and easy.
  • To build SEO reports, utilize Google Data Studio and Tableau.

If you’re searching for more keyword ideas, you should also look at Google Trends. Type in a term to see its search volume and a list of related queries.

Local Keyword Audit

4. On-Site SEO Audit

Once you have a list of the target keywords, you need to make sure your web pages cater to the search intent behind those terms. Examine the top-ranking pages for your chosen query to gain insight into what searchers are looking for. After that, employ a variety of on-page SEO strategies to improve the readability and Google-friendliness of your content, such as:

  • Page optimization: Assess a page title, header, meta description, and image alt text. This information helps search crawlers understand the page’s essence and the questions it can answer. So, these page elements should contain target keywords, while the pages should preserve a sound structure.
  • Internal linking: Internal links enhance user navigation and tell crawlers how the website pages relate to each other, showcasing the flow of your website. Fix misdirected or broken internal links and see whether you can interlink some relevant pages.
  • Schema markup: Structured schema markup lets local businesses make their links more engaging, boosting the click-through rate and providing answers to questions directly within their SERPs. Such expanded search results are known as featured snippets. They give a glimpse into the web page content, such as local business details, products, events, and FAQs.
  • Mobile optimization: Google prioritizes mobile-first indexing. The share of mobile users is constantly growing as well. So, a non-responsive site could lower your rankings. According to recent statistics, m-commerce will account for 44.6% of all US retail eСommerce sales by 2024. This means that your site, whether an online store or pet grooming, must be a breeze to explore regardless of the used device (desktop or mobile).

ECommerce owners may consider upgrading their online stores by building a progressive web application (PWA). This headless commerce solution can be a big step towards ensuring mobile usability and optimizing a website, making it faster, more appealing, and easier to use.

Here’s the Tally Weijl Italia PWA from a smartphone browser.

On-Page SEO for Local SEO Audit

5. Citations and Listings

These refer to your brand mentions on other websites that don’t necessarily entail linking to you. These are places like Yelp, review sites under specific business categories, or local partner sites. Citations include your name, address, and phone number (also known as your NAP), which is helpful to users in case they need to contact you or visit your business.

Tracking your citations and mentions throughout your local SEO audit can help you understand how people perceive your brand. High-quality local citations can boost your authority and local search visibility.

You have two options when it comes to citation audit: 

  • employ citation management tools;
  • manually search for your company name on Google and click on each link to verify the information.

The easiest way to find listings is by searching for “company name’s reviews”.

Local SEO Citations

Note: NAP should be up-to-date and consistent to avoid issues with irrelevant phone numbers or address changes.

6. Review and Rating Management

Online ratings and reviews are an effective way to gain clients’ trust and build credibility. It’s not just about providing a place for people to leave feedback. You need to react to reviews, both positive and negative, as soon as possible.

As potential customers mostly rely on the experiences of others, it’s more important to reply to unfavorable comments. If left unaddressed, they can seriously hurt your company. You may not always spot these reviews promptly. To minimize the risks of overlooking them, perform a rating and review audit.

Start by discovering all of the comments to which you haven’t replied. Consider whether there are any persistent issues that need to be fixed, such as sluggish checkout loading, delays in deliveries, or messy storefronts. As you continue to go over these reviews, jot these recurring points down.

Handling Google Reviews

Pro tip: Encourage customers to leave reviews and kindly ask them to include the product or service they are evaluating in their overview. This will help your site’s keyword ranking.

7. Employing Social Media

Social media should be the last area of focus for your local SEO audit. Although it’s not necessary for your local business to be on every social media platform, you should have an account on those that align well with the interests of your target audience. For instance, a law firm shouldn’t obligatorily focus on Instagram, but it should still maintain an active LinkedIn page.

Yang Law Offices

Answer the following questions during the audit:

  • Are your network’s cover photos, logos, and “About” information consistent? 
  • Do you frequently update the profiles?
  • How do people respond to your posts?

It’s also worthwhile to assess how your local rivals manage their social media accounts. Do they make use of a feature that your company doesn’t? Do they employ strategies like freebies, “Lives,” or “Stories” that you don’t?

Get Your Local Business Noticed with an SEO Audit

If you provide local services, a local SEO audit is an essential tool to ensure your business can withstand fierce competition, Google updates, and shifting customer demands. From creating an effective business listing to enhancing your brand appearance on Google Maps, you need to find SEO issues and opportunities to improve your local search presence.

Monitor your average star rating, conduct a website audit, and leverage local SEO audit tools. And if you need help, turn to professionals at Momentum Digital. We focus on elevating your business in local organic search results, providing the following assistance:

  • Google My Business management;
  • comprehensive local SEO management;
  • educating on local SEO with dedicated courses.

So, don’t neglect a local SEO audit. Appear in the top search engine results, secure your position in the local pack, and drive more organic visitors.

About the Author
Kate Parish

Kate Parish is a chief marketing officer at Onilab. She has almost a decade of experience in the company and is still enthusiastic about every aspect of digital marketing. Kate sees the marketing mission in ensuring sustainable business growth. For this purpose, she helps companies and readers create efficient campaigns, solve common problems, and enhance crucial website metrics, such as conversions, bounce rates, and others.

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