In today’s post, I’m going to show you exactly how to conduct a Local SEO audit.
These are the exact same strategies that our team recently used to grow a previously stagnant Google My Business profile to over 700+ phone calls per month and over 200 qualified inbound website form conversions per month on a consistent basis:
Below you’ll find the step-by-steps on exactly how to conduct a proper local SEO audit.
I’d also suggest checking out the video I put together for you where I walk you through each of these areas in-depth.
Let’s dive in.
Let’s get the basics out of the way first.
Search engine optimization is all about optimizing your website’s presence to rank high in Google’s search results.
A local SEO audit is a structured process for finding opportunities across your Google My Business profile and website to generate more local leads.
Anytime you conduct an audit, you’re looking to understand the strengths and weaknesses in comparison to your competitors and how you can effectively improve on those weaknesses, and further capitalize on your strengths.
Once you have a process in hand (which I’m going to give you step-by-step in this guide) you can then use that process to find those find and implement those opportunities.
The answer to that question comes in the form of two simple questions:
If it isn’t, you no doubt want to improve the organic rankings of your local business because a business that ranks on the top page undoubtedly gets more traffic, clicks, and conversions than a business that ranks on the second or third page.
When it comes to Local SEO, the “map pack” is the name of the game for driving qualified clicks and calls to your business.
If you’re not already familiar with the map pack, this is what it looks like in the SERPs (search engine results page):
When a searcher runs a search query that includes local intent, this is the first thing they’re going to see on their screen.
The majority of searchers are clicking on these first three results, and this is where they start vetting local businesses to solve their issues.
Some might argue that Google’s paid ads are the first thing that’s shown, and while that’s true, over 40% of global searchers use an ad blocker – so that’s a moot point in 2021.
Now – with all of that being said it’s important that your business is being shown in Google’s map pack but it’s also important that you’re being shown in the organic results underneath:
We want to take up as much possible real estate in the search results as possible.
While the majority of clicks are going to go to the map pack, users still tend to navigate towards the organic results underneath.
It’s imperative that our business is listed in top positions both in the map pack, and the organic results for best results.
Google’s local algorithm continues to change over time, but there are still certain ranking factors (factors that influence Google’s algorithm) that you should be focusing on.
I like to break those ranking factors down into three core categories:
Our goal here is to understand each of these factors at a high-level, and what we can do to positively influence these factors through our efforts.
Note – If you’re more of a visual learner, you’ll want to check out my local lead generation series.
Within each of these categories, falls the specific factors which we will get into – but for starts, let’s take a closer look at each of these.
Proximity refers to the physical location of a searcher at the time of their search, in relation to the physical address of your business.
Google is then going to determine based on the user’s location, and other factors, whether your business is listed in the search results, or not.
This is one of the three core ranking factors which generally we can’t influence.
Think about it – we can’t influence where a user is located when they conduct their search, and we can’t pick up and move the physical address of our business.
So what can we do to influence proximity?
Well, at a high level we should be focused on:
Remember – which listings that are being shown are going to drastically be different in most cases both dependant on the number of local businesses offering your service, as well as the nature of your business.
Google knows and understands in most cases, how far a user on average is willing to travel for a particular service.
Someone looking for “dry cleaner near me” is not in most cases going to travel 30-40+ miles from their physical destination.
Google’s serving up relevant, nearby local listings.
This is something to keep in mind and build your expectations around accordingly.
Again, proximity is one of the three core ranking factors we have the least amount of influence over.
We want to put our focus on the remaining two.
Relevance is all about ensuring that our online presence is relevant to the core search terms our users are searching for in Google – this includes both your website, as well as your Google My Business profile.
We can easily influence relevance, and it’s the one factor that we have the most possible influence over.
When we think about relevance, we’re thinking about:
All of these are items that we’re in full control of.
Think about it:
Knowing the above, you can strategically build out an action plan which reaches to influence the relevance ranking factor which will have an impact on your local search rankings.
Authority is all about how authoritative your business is in the eyes of Google.
This comes in two flavors:
You can demonstrate your expertise in the core service area(s) which your business operates through content.
This isn’t just about listing out the services your business offers.
This is about demonstrating through content that your business is truly an expert within the industry.
Businesses that understand the value of content are creating the best content assets in their industry.
They’re creating video content for YouTube and other social channels which demonstrate their expertise.
This is how you become both an authority within your industry to not only Google but your target audience as well.
When we look towards backlinks, we understand their meaning at the highest level as follows:
Links are known to be a top-ranking factor with search engines and are a necessity for driving inbound leads.
Alright, now that we’ve got the ranking factors out of the way, let’s jump into running an actual local audit for your business.
One thing I’ll mention here before getting started – in order to run this analysis, there will be a few tools I’ll mention below and walk you through step-by-step.
I’d suggest at least grabbing a copy of Ahrefs or SEMRush which will give you the insights you need to start taking action.
For the purpose of this post, I’ll be using and referencing Ahrefs in the video and screenshots.
If you’re serious about improving your inbound leads, you’ll be ready to invest the small amount that these tools cost.
I will make one caveat with the above tools, and others:
Don’t get lost in the weeds of all of the “issues” or false positives they return.
For most local businesses with one or just a few locations, there are a few core “Technical SEO” factors that matter – the rest is noise, and you’re going to be spending money and hours which will have zero impact on improving your rankings, conversions, and revenue.
If you stick to the 7-step process below, that’s all you need to see gains.
Before we do anything else, we want to first ensure we have a structure and strategy in place for understanding both our target audience and how they’re actually searching to find solutions to their problems, i.e. the services which our business offers.
Let’s see where you’re currently targetting when it comes to keywords:
This is going to give you an overview of your current keyword rankings.
Missing core terms you know are relevant and your target audience is searching for?
You’re going to want to build pages/content around those terms in order to rank.
If you haven’t previously structured your pages out in a meaningful way or conducted keyword research I’d suggest starting with the following:
Write this down on a piece of paper, and start to map out these two core items.
This is going to give you insights into using Ahrefs to dig up additional keywords you can look for and rank for to drive targeted traffic and leads for your business.
You’re also going to want to repeat the above steps for your competition.
Plug your competitors into Ahref, and check what they’re ranking for at a high level.
You can also plug in an individual page and check that page’s rankings and which terms they’re targetting to give additional ideas around keywords to build out.
Want to dive in a bit deeper? We’ve got a whole guide on local keyword research you can use.
This is one of my favorite ones and an easy one to audit.
Open up your business site, and look at your core service pages. (If you don’t have individual service pages for your business that focus on the pain points you solve for your customers, this is something you’re going to want to build – not all services should be listed out on one single page.)
If you’re a local business, you’re most likely constrained to one or a few different geographic locations.
With that in mind, you’re most likely to market your core services to a national audience.
That means your service pages should be built with local intent.
The easiest way to do this is to build a local landing page.
A local landing page is going to showcase:
Here’s an example output of a local landing page:
Why is this so effective?
It propels your GMB listing by driving relevance to your listing, and it also allows you to take up double the real estate by ranking in the organic search results.
Now – there are different and strategic ways to structure local landing pages based on how many services and geographic areas you cover but as a basic core starting point, we want to ensure that we have our core service pages focused around the keyword research we’ve done in the previous step.
Best practice for a local landing page includes the following:
When you combine these best-practice items along with great content and UI/UX, you’re going to have a winning formula for building local landing pages around your services which rank, drive organic traffic, and inbound leads.
This is honestly my favorite technique when done right, and not in a spammy way and it’s ultra-effective.
If you’re not currently using this in your strategy, I’d highly encourage you to start building these quality pages which can be an absolute lead magnet, especially in less competitive search results (the above screenshot took around 3-4 weeks to drive top position rankings and 3x inbound efforts specifically from the organic search results.)
To get started, I’d recommend getting a crawl of the data using a tool like SiteBulb so we can comb through the pages at a high level.
Unless you’re a “large” website (think 5,000 pages+), there are a few core “Technical SEO” items that matter and you should be concerned with and they are as simple as follows:
You don’t need to overcomplicate things at this stage of the game.
If you’re hitting on the above core items, you’re already better than 90%+ of your competition.
There are a few things you want to look at when it comes to your GMB profile and how to squeeze out the most performance.
Head on over to Google My Business, and open up your listing.
Here’s what we’re looking at:
This is the core business information we want to be looking at when considering optimizing the Google My Business listing.
Reviews play an integral part in allowing us to stand out against our competition.
Yes – keyword-rich reviews which our happy customers leave naturally on our Google My Business profile help out but the reason why reviews are so important is that we’re constantly being vetted against our competition.
Take the below example:
You’re the Marketing Manager at a small business, looking to purchase billboard space in Austin, Texas.
You had on over to Google, and run a local search for “billboard advertising Austin texas” to see what turns up.
You type in your search, and here’s the first thing you see:
Which one of these listings are you going to click on first?
Maybe I might be thinking a little too logically here and making a big assumption – but you, me, and the majority of searchers are going to choose the second listing to probably start their exploration process and learn a little bit more.
This is exactly how your business is being vetted against the competition on a constant basis when it comes to local search.
Reviews play an integral part in whether a searcher interacts with your profile, or moves on to the next.
Most searchers are going to shop around and check out a few different providers, probably make a phone call or two (and depending on the urgency of the service you provide, this might happen a lot quicker and be even more important than other businesses and industries – something to keep in mind).
Look – to win at Local SEO you need to have a stellar review rating and have a solid amount of reviews behind your profile.
You don’t need 1,000’s, but the more you’re able to collect, the more you’ll be able to create a moat around your Google My Business profile that makes you stand out against the competition.
Take a good look at your Google My Business profile and your current review rating:
Make a list of the top 10 direct competitors with the highest review count, and hold yourself accountable for collecting and increasing your aggregate score and review count.
I’d encourage you to use a reputation management tool that makes review collection easy.
Why, you might ask?
The cost is minimal, and you can use this tool to automatically send review requests to customers.
Better yet, it can mitigate the risk of negative reviews as most platforms now first ask a simple for a simple NPS:
If the reviewer is a detractor, or a 6 or under, their review request will remain internal on the review platform – i.e. this won’t go public.
If they’re a net promoter, meaning a 9 or 10, they will be asked to leave a review on Google My Business.
Again – you should be asking all customers for a review and giving an equal chance here, but I’m giving you my experience here of what I’ve seen is being done industry-wide, especially for larger organizations that are looking to automate this process internally.
Whether you’re a small business with a single location or a franchise business with 20-30+ locations, this is going to make your life and the lives of your sales and marketing teams much easier.
The importance of backlinks can not be overstated.
In competitive cities and industries, backlinks are what is going to set us apart from the competition.
Here’s what you’re going to want to do:
Your output should look as such:
This is going to give you an aggregate understanding of where you stand in comparison to your competitors when it comes to domain rating.
Now – this is a very high-level look at where you stand – but, it’s going to tell you if your business is link deficient.
The outcome of this exercise is going to group you into one of the following buckets:
When it comes to links and Local SEO – the power of links lies in those especially hard to get local links.
This is going to come mostly through outreach, and I’d encourage you to use your own network to build at least a few quality local links which the competition is highly unlikely to have.
This is what can set you apart easily – putting in the work to find these quality opportunities.
Bonus Tip: Links should come naturally, but links that include “anchors” (the text behind the actual link itself) for key terms you want to rank for are going to be also extremely helpful.
Understanding citations in relation to your competition, although losing a bit of its flare in the local ranking equation, is still an integral part of pushing positive outcomes.
Still to this day, we can see citations being the main factor that sets us back from outranking our competition in the local search results.
If not already familiar, a citation is considered as a listing of your business on a third-party website directory or social platform.
Apple Maps, Better Business Bureau, and Yelp are all considered as “core” citations that help to drive relevancy to your business, and show Google that you’re are a legitimate location.
Citations really come in three different flavors:
Core citations are going to be the main citation sources you need to be on as a starting point. This includes on social media sites such as Facebook, as well as other general directories like Yellow Pages, BBB, and so forth.
It’s always a good idea to knock these out first.
|Citation Name||Domain Authority|
From here, you want to move into the more local and niche directories for your industry.
Local directories, generally you need to do some research for your location to find these.
This step is going to take some digging and work.
Most of the precompiled lists that you’ll find on Google include outdated links, so take my word on it you’ve got to put in some work on this one.
A good starting point is heading over to Google and searching for queries such as:
This will allow you to start finding local listings in your local area where you can list the NAP and details of your business.
From here, you’ll want to rinse and repeat when looking for industry-specific listings:
and so forth.
Don’t be afraid to get creative here – and remember, by doing this you’re going to be steps ahead of most of your competition.
This is the same as local links which aren’t accessible easily online – some sources and citations will be paid.
Which is great.
Do you think the majority of your competition is actually taking the time to find these citations, let alone spend a minimal amount on actually securing these citations?
99% of the time, they’re not – and that’s what’s going to set you apart here – and drive big points for your listing when it comes to Google.
Looking back at our existing citations – we want to analyze our citations and understand the following core points:
The least painful way to start understanding your citation profile is to run a citation audit.
There are multiple tools on the web that can handle this for you, including the infamous Loganix $7 citation audit.
Once you have the output from the citation audit, you can start to work on:
I’d suggest checking out BrightLocal for their citation service for quick access to building out the citations you need here as a starting point.
For the local and niche citations – that’s going to take some heavy-lifting and getting your hands dirty to secure.
If there’s one piece of advice I’d follow when it comes to Local SEO it’d be the following:
Understand the core three ranking factors, and how you can influence them:
Once you understand those ranking factors, you’ll know what changes you can make to have a big impact on your local search traffic and leads when implementing a winning Local SEO strategy.
Remember – we want to care about metrics that matter and move the needle. Don’t get too lost in all of the other items and stay focused on what matters – inbound leads, and revenue.
Want to take a deeper dive? Check out the video series on local lead generation for more insights.
Justin is the Founder of Rock The Rankings and has over 13 years of experience in the realm of SEO across multiple business ventures and agencies.
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