Do you run a bakery in San Jose? Are you a doctor practicing in New York? Do you have a salon in New Jersey? Any taxi service in New Orleans?
Cutting it short, if you are any local business, you would have a lot of faith in Local Seo. And, whilst you do Local SEO, you ought to invest some time in Local SEO audit as well.
Why do you need the audit, you may ask? Your website or business listings need a health check-up from time to time to make sure everything is in place. It’s simple, keep doing what works for you and immediately amend everything that goes wrong.
A local SEO audit not only reveals the story of where a business has been but also, suggests where it could go with an effective strategy. It points out where your business listings are present, whether they are accurate and consistent, which are the places where your business should be present but is not, etc
This would keep your website up-to-date with the latest developments and win an edge over the competition. The audit also reveals prior work done by agencies you used to work with. It’s important to know the damage done before you start with your plan of action.
To begin, I would suggest you make a spreadsheet and keep entering the particulars once you complete the steps. Here are the elements to be covered in a complete local SEO audit:
Google My business Page
Google My business Page dashboard provides a lot of valuable information. It’s the best way for local business owners to expand their visibility within Google local results, Google Maps and Google+.
Here is what you need to look at while auditing your information on “Google My Business Page”:
(Quick Note: Mention all the information collected from the steps below in the “current data” under the “Google My Business” spreadsheets).
- Login with your details to your dashboard and check the URL of the page, to make sure it is your primary “Google My business page”.
- Eliminate Duplicate Listings. Click here and, type and search your business name or business phone number. It will display all your listings. You can identify the correct listing and delete the rest. Alternatively, you can find duplicate listings through Google Map Maker as well.
- Check for any Local Listing penalization. This is not an easy job (as Google does not notify you directly) but is a very important one. To find this out, you can search some important keyword of your website in Google Maps as well as Google search. If your business listing appears on Google Maps at say, position C, but does not show up in local search results at all, then it’s likely under penalty.
- Is your Google My Business Page Claimed and Verified? Your work does not end at just creating a business listing here. You need to claim and verify it as well. Log into your account, if is shows a little “check sign” with a text “Verified”, it implies your page is verified. Otherwise, a message is displayed saying, “Your edits won’t show up on Google unless you verify your business”
- Accuracy and Consistency of NAP and other important business information. All the information of your business including your business name, business phone number, physical address, description of your website, URL structure, working numbers, business photos, business category, etc, should be hundred percent authentic and genuine because the exact information would be displayed to customers.
Website and Landing Page Check
A well-optimized site is the key to getting an edge over your competitors and make your way to the higher SERP rankings. First, you need to make sure that if you have multiple locations, each one has a different page so that it is easier for the users to locate it. Here are the things to take care in a local SEO audit:
- Check if your landing page is indexed. This is quite simple. Just copy paste the URL of your landing page on the Google search bar. If it’s not showing up in organic results, it is definitely not indexed. There might be some site structure issue.
- Crawlable HTML NAP on landing page. The NAP details of your business should be correct and consistent with the information on your “Google My Business” page. This will help users as well as the search engines in identifying your business.
- Landing Page content. You should have unique, creative and relevant location-specific content on your landing page. This content should provide information about what your business has to offer, how is it different etc.
- Check if the Title tags, Heading tags and Meta description tags are in place. These are a very important part of on-page optimization. You need to make sure that these elements are in place as per Google’s guidelines. Your title tag should include the primary keywords and be within 512 pixels. The landing page should have one H1 tag with city and state in the tag. The meta descriptions should also contain the primary keywords and be within 165 characters.
- Check the Loading time. If your site is taking more than 3 seconds, users will probably leave the site and never come back. So, you need to make sure that your site loading time is in sync with user’s expectations.
- Check the mobile-friendliness of your site. As there are more smartphone users today, you need to make sure that your site’s design is mobile-responsive. Responsive design is when you do not have different versions of your websites for mobiles, tabs and PC; your site simply adapts to whatever screen size it is displayed on.
Here you basically have to check for your NAP and other business details variations. You citations might mismatch for a variety of reasons:
- Your business address might have changed many times.
- It might have used tracking Phone Numbers sometimes.
- You had hired someone for getting your business listed but due to some miscommunication, it went out wrong.
- Data aggregators might have collected wrong and inaccurate information about your business.
- You might have changed your local phone number.
- You once or even now have a different business name and a different trade name.
- There might be an inconsistency of NAP when setting up listings.
So to begin with the process of citation audit, you need to:
- Find out where you are listed. You can do this by searching various possible combinations of your citations and copy all the URLs where there is a discrepancy.
- Google My business. Check all of your details on Google My business for consistency and accuracy.
- Citations relevancy and accuracy. You need to make sure that all your mentions across the web are consistent and relevant.
- Check on competitor’s citations. You need to find out where your competitor is mentioned. You need to be present at all these places too. And further, to win, you have to be mentioned at more places than your competition.
Organic Penalty and Link check
Link check is a major part of any SEO campaign. Here are a few things to take care of:
- Check the ‘Manual action’ in Google Webmaster tools. If there is any manual penalty, it would be displayed here. To check this, you need to login to your Google Webmaster Tools account. Going further, you need to click on the “Manual Action” Tab. If nothing shows up, you are lucky.
- Check on the Organic traffic. It’s good to frequently check the traffic coming to your site. This would help you frame strategies as well. To check your organic traffic, login to your Google Analytics account.
- Check for the Bad Links. Irrelevant and low-quality links should be weeded out as they can affect your rankings negatively.
- Check the number, quality and relevance of anchor text. There should be variations in anchor text distribution. Exact match anchor text should be avoided.
Given that 88% of the people trust reviews while considering to buy any product or visit any place, online reviews form a very important factor in local SEO.
A recent survey revealed that roughly 85% of the customers read online reviews.
- Check Google My business Reviews
As per Google’s review guidelines, you can remind your customers to leave their feedback and reviews. There should be at least 10 reviews with 4 or more stars.
- Check reviews on other sites
You might notice that you are getting more traffic from some review sites, depending on your niche. You can check the referral traffic through Google Analytics.
Sort these referral sites and analyze which ones bring you most traffic. If they allow, you can easily increase your ratings by adhering to third party review guidelines and getting them whenever possible.
Today, having strong social presence is equally important in your local-SEO campaign.
Before going ahead with the social audit, make sure that there are no duplicate social profiles as this could create a lot of confusion. Customers search for your business using your brand name. Social media would create more opportunities for clicks.
So, if you don’t have social media profiles or haven’t optimized them, you might lose a great deal of referral traffic.
- Check Google+ Local business Page
This page might be the most important social account as it displays business reviews too. So, you should be consistent in posting to Google Plus. Additionally, you should ensure that your business is associated with the right communities so that it’s easier to reach your customers.
- Check your Youtube Channel
Youtube is now on the position of the second search engine. You need to make sure that the videos you upload are of high quality, have NAP in the description and are geo-targeted.
- Maintain your profiles on all important social media platforms
Apart from creating your profile, you should take care that you are posting regularly on each of these accounts. And most importantly, the NAP on all these platforms should be consistent and accurate.
Author Name: Sahil Kakkar
Sahil is the CEO and Founder of RankWatch – a platform, which helps companies and brands stay ahead with their SEO efforts in the ever growing internet landscape.
Sahil likes making creative products that can help in automation of mundane tasks and he can spend endless nights implementing new technologies and ideas. You can connect with him and the Rankwatch team on Facebook or Twitter