Tips for Mastering the Art of Local SEO Audits
Looking to drive more local traffic to your brick and mortar business? It may be time for a local SEO audit. And no, before you ask, this has absolutely nothing to do with financials. In fact, it’s not nearly as scary as it sounds. But first, let’s back up a bit.
What is Local SEO?
So, you already know all about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), but now, a new term is being thrown at you called local SEO. You might be wondering, how is local SEO different from regular SEO? Don’t worry, the answer is actually quite simple. As opposed to traditional SEO marketing, local SEO efforts are targeted towards helping local businesses stand out in their area of operation and attract more local customers to their storefronts. Essentially, you’re looking to make your business appear in organic searches along with Local SERPs. Local SERPs are the results that show up when someone searches for a certain type of business near them. This includes the “local 3-pack” results that are compiled and listed on top of a Google map. So, what does it take to get your business to appear at the top of local SERPs? For starters, your chances of appearing in local searches are based on the following factors:
- How close your business is to the searcher.
- How relevant your products and services are to the search query.
- What other consumers are saying about your products and services.
However, there are also a variety of methods you can use to help optimize for local SEO, the most important being setting up a Google My Business Profile. Google My Business (GMB) is the portal used to set up your business profile on Google and is where you can provide important information about your business that you want to appear in local SERPs. Getting on Google My Business is crucial, as it delivers information from your profile to the local pack and Google Maps. It will also help to improve your organic rankings and increase your chances of appearing in Google’s Local Pack, Local Finder, and Google Maps. For this reason, you will need to make sure all relevant information about your business is included on your profile and kept up to date, such as:
- Business name
- Hours of operation
- Phone number
- Business description
- Business Category
You will also need to go through the process of verifying your business. But besides optimizing your Google My Business listing, you should also be carrying out a local SEO audit.
OK, Now What’s A Local SEO Audit?
A local SEO audit is the process of doing a thorough analysis of your website, specifically when it comes to technical issues along with on-page and off-page SEO. Doing so will help you uncover any issues with your site or site pages so you can make an informed decision on what to tackle first for local SEO. via GIPHY
The Importance of Auditing for Local SEO
To be frank, an SEO audit is simply not an option. It’s a necessity. Carrying out regular audits is critical, as it will help you pinpoint your website’s strengths and weaknesses so you can determine the best ways to attract more people to your storefront. Plus, it will allow you to take a deep look at your on and off-page SEO as they relate to region-specific keywords. Doing this will also help you uncover any issues that are affecting your rankings when it comes to local SERPs so you can come up with a plan of attack.
Local SEO Audit Checklist
Once you have examined your Google My Business Profile and made sure all relevant information is included, you can begin your audit by following these steps.
When starting your local SEO audit, the first step is to carry out an in-depth technical audit to help identify any technical issues that need to be addressed. Because until these technical issues are resolved, you won’t be able to see any improvement from your local SEO efforts. There are some tools available that can help you with this, such as:
- Screaming Frog
Common technical issues that you might come across during your audit include:
- Internal Links. Internal links are a form of navigation for both users and crawlers, so if there are issues with how your pages are linking together, your site won’t be functioning as well as it should be. Common issues you may come across include broken and/or internal redirects. It’s important to fix these as they can cause major inefficiencies for both crawlers and users.
- Markup Implementation. Proper markup code implementation is critical when it comes to optimization, as it allows you to provide detailed information about the pages on your site to search engines.
- Crawl Errors in Google Search Console. One of the most important tools you should be taking advantage of is Google Search Console (GSC), which acts as a direct line of communication with Google. So, it’s important to know how Google is crawling your website and whether there are any issues the crawlers are experiencing that could be impacting SEO. You can find this information by examining your coverage report in GSC.
- Server Issues. Just like with GSC, it’s important to be tuned in to your site’s hosting platform and look for any server issues that could be holding you back.
On-Page SEO Audit
Now comes the most important part of the process – performing an on-page audit. Because even if your website is performing well from a technical perspective, you still need a proper on-page strategy to ensure it performs at its absolute best. Start your on-page SEO audit by following these steps: 1. Check and Optimize Titles and Descriptions Check to make sure the meta titles and descriptions for each page of your website are unique and don’t go over or under the required word count. Also ask yourself whether the user can easily determine what the page is about based solely on the title and description. If not, then re-write them based on these criteria. 2. Check Your Headings and Text Formatting It’s important that you don’t just have large blocks of text on your pages without headers to break it up. So, make sure that you have headers in the appropriate places and bullet points or numbered lists, and that they are properly formatted. 3. Check Content SEO It’s vital that your site content is unique from other websites and is of high quality. So, check to see how your content compares to other sites by using Copyscape. Copyscape will help you determine the uniqueness of your content and find out if you have any content duplicated from other sites that will need to be removed or de-indexed. Also use Google Analytics to find out what your most popular pages are and check the quality of their content, along with length and freshness. Be on the look for content issues such as:
- Grammatical errors
- Spelling mistakes
- Short content
- Content that’s too long
- Keyword stuffing
- Repetitive content
- Unengaging content
- Content that offers little to no value
- Outdated or inaccurate information
- Misleading titles
If you find that you have pages containing little to no content or multiple pages that have very similar content, you will need to merge them together. And if you see that your content is old or out-of-date, create a plan for publishing refreshed content and make sure you are updating your content on a regular basis. 1. Check Internal Link Structure Linking your pages together is not only helpful for search engines, but users as well. So, check to make sure that related pages are being linked together and are using both the full-page title and non-keyword anchor text. Make sure that you have between 2 to 10 internal links per page and are linking pages you want to rank better to your home page. 2. Check Image SEO Images are a great way to make a page more visually appealing, easy to read, and attractive for social media. However, they can act as a double-edged sword if they are affecting the loading time of a page. The solution here is to check that your image filenames accurately describe what is going on in the photo and have SEO optimized ALT text. Also make sure your images are compressed for web so that the files aren’t so large that your pages have trouble loading. 3. Check for Broken Links Broken links affect both the user experience and SEO, so be sure to be on the look for them. This can be done using a tool like Xenu or the Crawl Errors report in your Google Search Console 4. Look for Proper Use of Banner Ads Google has been known to penalize websites that have too many ads above the fold but hasn’t been clear about what constitutes too many ads. So, to air on the side of caution, check out Google’s best practices for ad placement to ensure you don’t get penalized. 5. Check for User Friendliness This part can get a bit tricky, as it is often difficult to tell what is considered a user-friendly site. However, you can help figure this out by asking the following questions:
- What happens when an incorrect URL is typed in? Is the 404-page friendly?
- Are users able to find what they are looking for in fewer than 3 clicks?
- Is there a clearly defined main menu?
- Is it easy to distinguish between site content and ads?
- Do you have a consistent interface across all pages?
- Is there a user sitemap?
Off-Page SEO – also commonly referred to as link building – is the methods and techniques used to help promote your site on the web. Having SEO backlinks is important, as Google considers each one as a ‘vote of trust’ and helps to improve your rankings. However, it’s also crucial that you have high-quality backlinks, as low-quality links can produce the opposite outcome, resulting in Google penalizing your site. So, ask yourself this: do you want your business to be associated with the external site you’re linking to? Answering this question will help you to make sure you are benefiting from that backlink. Turn your focus towards having consistency with citations and NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) information. This helps to build authority in search results and reinforces the location of your business. And because your site is regularly sending this information to search engines, having consistency makes it easier for search engines to rank your site. So, there you have it. That wasn’t so bad, was it? via GIPHY Always carry out regular audits to ensure your site is in working order and that you are not losing out on rankings in the future. While time-consuming, auditing and correcting any issues you stumble upon is incredibly crucial to properly executing your local SEO efforts and will help you build a strong foundation for your site and business going forward.