How to Conduct a Local SEO Audit in 7 Simple Steps
SEO (search engine optimization) is the process of improving your website to increase visibility when people search for specific terms or keywords. A local SEO audit means reviewing your site and its appearance on search engines like Google.
A local SEO audit can drastically increase awareness, conversions, and revenue if done correctly. We’ll explain how to execute a thorough local SEO audit in seven simple steps within this blog. Trust us; it’s straightforward and easy to accomplish — let’s get started!
Why a Local SEO Audit Matters
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All businesses, especially multi-location companies with 100s or 1,000s of physical sites, should conduct an SEO audit. If you’re not paying attention to local SEO, also referred to as local search, you’re likely losing out on customers.
In fact, 46 percent of all Google searches are linked to something local. A local SEO audit helps local businesses maximize their SEO potential and increase their online visibility and revenue.
Your Local SEO Audit Checklist
The information below can also serve as an SEO checklist for your multi-location business to leverage. It’s crucial to do each of these steps when conducting your local SEO audit. If you want to develop a comprehensive local SEO strategy, read our local SEO guide.
1. Review Your Google Business Profile (Formerly Google My Business)
Google Business Profile, formerly known as Google My Business, is a platform where businesses can manage their local listing in Google Search and Maps. If your multi-location business doesn’t have a Google Business Profile (GBP) with updated and accurate local listings for each business location, you should create them ASAP. If you’re unsure how to, our blog on how to claim your listing on Google can help!
When creating or auditing your local listings on GBP, ensure the following information is up to date:
- Hours of operation
- Correct pin location
- Proper categorization
- Products and services are correctly listed
- Photos and reviews are readily accessible
Review our article, Best Practices for Google My Business Photos, for more insight on how to optimize your images.
2. Examine Your Keywords and Intent
For large brands and enterprises, a keyword audit can seem daunting, but it’s not overly complicated. A successful keyword audit requires putting yourself in your target audience’s mind and using a robust keyword tool.
If you’re on a tight budget, you can use Google Keyword Planner (an extension of Google Ads used for search advertising) to measure keywords’ volume and ranking difficulty. If you have room in your marketing budget, Ahrefs, Moz, and Semrush are some of the best keyword tools available.
When conducting a keyword strategy and research, put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Think about how they would search for your products or services. For instance, Pluckers, a wing bar in Texas and Louisiana, should target these keywords to gain local traction:
- Wings restaurant
- Eat wings
- Chicken wings
- Wings sit down restaurant
- Restaurant and bar near me
They should also geo-modify top-ranking keywords. For instance, adding “Austin, TX” to “wings restaurant” or adding “near me” can help boost your local SEO and customer experience efforts. Users are searching “near me” now more than ever. In fact, “open” + “now” + “near me” increased by more than 200 percent in mobile searches from 2013 to 2018. If you’re a restaurant brand, read our blog post on restaurant SEO for more information on how to gain online visibility and increased foot traffic.
Your keyword audit should also include a review of each page’s title tag and meta description. If you’re not already familiar, the title tag is similar to what it sounds like; it’s the HTML element that specifies the title of the webpage. The meta description summarizes your web page and appears as a snippet on the search engine results page (SERP).
While your title tag and meta description needs to include a keyword, you should also incorporate your list of targeted keywords throughout each page. Review our blog on Google rankings and local SEO for a more in-depth overview of keywords.
3. Double Check for Duplicate Content
Duplicate content is when the same content appears in multiple places on the internet. For example, printer-only versions of web pages or large blocks of identical copy are considered duplicate content.
Duplicate pages and content can negatively impact your local SEO efforts. Google doesn’t want to rank pages that have copied content from other pages in Google’s index — including pages on your website.
Duplicate pages can happen for multi-location businesses when multiple employees create their own websites or a location has moved but not updated. If a location has moved, make sure you claim and merge outdated GBPs.
Law firms and real estate firms often experience duplicate pages and issues when lawyers or real estate agents manufacture their own websites and write identical or similar content to the central business’ page. It’s important to note though that having multiple local pages isn’t considered duplicate content. Only if you have two or more local pages for the same location or franchise.
Take the following measurements to check for and address duplicate content:
- Canonicalize your URLs
- Redirect duplicate content to the chosen canonical URL
- Don’t continue to create duplicate content
Canonicalizing your URLs means telling Google which URL is canonical. For instance, let’s say you have a desktop and mobile version of a page. Google considers these duplicate versions of the same page. Google will then choose one of the URLs as the canonical version and the other as a duplicate URL. Google will only crawl the canonical version, hurting the duplicate page’s ability to rank on the SERP. Help Google and your business out by explicitly telling Google which URL is canonical. Here is Google’s guide to specifying a canonical page.
4. Inspect Backlinks and Be Aware of Penalties
Another critical step in conducting your local SEO audit is inspecting and updating backlinks. Backlinks are inbound links from other third-party websites to your site’s pages.
If another website links to your website, you have a backlink for them. While backlinks can help boost your SEO, ensuring your business gets backlinks from the right websites is crucial.
Here is a breakdown of positive and negative backlinks:
You can use the same keyword tools (Ahrefs, Moz, and Semrush) to check for and disapprove of bad links — such as spammy or nofollow attribute links. You can also qualify your links via the nofollow attribute.
It’s best to conduct a backlink audit once every quarter or biannually, depending on the size of your website and how many locations you have.
5. Capture Citations and Mentions
Similar to backlinks, citations also impact your local SEO. A citation is when other sites mention your brand or company. Typically, citations reference your name, address, and phone number (NAP).
However, not all citations include a backlink to your site. Sometimes, these NAP mentions can even contain incorrect information. As you can imagine, having incorrect listing citations confuses search engines and creates unnecessary pain points for your customers.
One way to review and fix your citations is to contact data aggregators and confirm that they’ve correctly documented your NAP citations. These organizations gather information (including NAP) about your local listings or business and pass that data to other sources.
The four leading data aggregators in the U.S. are:
Poor citations and incorrect business information can again lead to consumer confusion which can often result in negative reviews, which we’ll discuss more in the next section.
6. Diagnose and Respond to Reviews
Reviews can make or break your SEO efforts. Even if you do everything else listed in this blog, a lack of online reputation management can negatively impact the rest of your efforts.
In an ideal world, you’d only receive positive reviews. However, that’s rarely the case. Negative reviews occur, and they can hurt your business’s online reputation. What’s most important is how you handle them. Ideally, your business would respond to 100 percent of the reviews it receives in a timely and personalized manner, but that’s not always feasible.
If your company has to choose which reviews to respond to, negative reviews should come first. The data speaks for itself. Eighty-seven percent of consumers are willing to change a negative review depending on how the business responds.
Managing reviews across business locations can be challenging, but SOCi’s streamlined reputation management tool can help. Ideally, you’ll address reviews within 24 hours.
SOCi’s reputation management solution can help you monitor and respond to reviews on multiple platforms (Facebook, Yelp, Google Business, etc.) The product also has sentiment analysis and reputation management capabilities. These features allow you to identify and manage emerging sentiment trends and make proactive changes.
Here’s an example of a pizza restaurant analyzing content they’ve received in their local reviews.
- One of the company’s locations keeps seeing the keywords “customer service,” “counter,” and “change amount” with a negative connotation.
- After digging deeper, the company discovers that the location has trouble giving exact change at the counter.
- They can quickly work to create a system with local managers to ensure that enough cash is in the cash register each day.
- Finally, the company publicly addresses these reviews on the various review platforms.
7. Do a Competitor Analysis
Most, if not all, businesses want to get ahead of their competitors.
An important step when conducting a local SEO audit is to see what your competitors are doing and where they’re outranking you. Understanding competitors’ general and local SEO strategies will help you surpass them.
If you’re unsure who your competitors are, Google your keywords list and see which competitors come up. Afterward, make a list of three to six competitors within your industry. When looking at your top competitors, collect the below information about each competitor. We recommend organizing this information in one spreadsheet or database.
- Whether or not they have claimed GBPs and local listings for every location
- Their keyword rankings both nationally and locally
- The total number of citations to the website
- The number of reviews each location has and the general sentiment
- Their corporate and location-specific social media presence
After doing a competitor analysis, you’ll have a better understanding of where your competitors are outperforming you, and what is needed from your business to bridge the gap. You can then begin to build your SEO strategy using the tactics above to increase local authority and gain more customers.
You now have the knowledge and tools to run our own local SEO audit. It’s now time to start putting in the work. That’s where SOCi comes in. SOCi is the marketing platform for multi-location brands.
If you’re looking for a platform to consolidate your marketing efforts, SOCi has you covered. SOCi can help you dominate your local SEO strategy while strengthening other aspects of your localized marketing plan, from local pages to local social and local listings.
If you want to see how visible your brand currently is, check out SOCi’s Health Check now. For more insight into how SOCi can help your multi-location business reach its SEO goals, request a demo today!