When someone in your community searches for the products or services you’re selling, do they find your business or a competitor’s first?
For a local business, showing up on the second page of Google search results is like having a shop hidden away on the side road of a country line on the outskirts of town.
It’s there, but only the most determined will find it.
But securing a spot on the first page of Google is like owning a storefront in the busy downtown core, where traffic flows continuously and curious eyes are always drawn to your display.
While a brick and mortar location with that level of visibility would require a significant investment, ensuring the same in the digital world doesn’t have to cost nearly as much.
In fact, the journey to acquire these coveted spots begins by asking the simple question we posed at the beginning: Do local searchers find you or your competition, first?
The answer to this is at the heart of what a local SEO audit provides.
What is a Local SEO Audit?
A local SEO audit is an incredibly valuable evaluation tool. It examines your rankings in the results of search engines and guides you toward increasing your online visibility so that your business becomes the top local choice.
While this process may begin with a simple question, finding the full answer can be complicated. That’s why we’re going to provide a systematic, step-by-step approach to doing a local SEO audit, including a Local SEO Audit Checklist, that explains everything from the importance of local keyword research to competitor analysis.
Let’s begin, however, by looking a little more closely at local SEO.
What’s The Difference Between Local SEO and General SEO?
Local SEO is essential for engaging your nearby audience effectively. Where general SEO aims for broader global or national visibility in search rankings (ideal for businesses without geographical limitations), local SEO targets the immediate vicinity to ensure your business appears in search results for nearby customers, using specific strategies like location-based keywords and local business listings.
The Importance of Conducting Local SEO Audits
To build the type of digital presence that’s deeply connected with the local community, it’s not just a one-and-done scenario. It takes maintenance. And to ensure your local SEO is working as well as it can, you need to check it regularly.
Regular local SEO audits are like health check-ups for your business’s online presence. These audits are essential for understanding how well you’re connecting with your audience and for identifying areas for improvement.
How to Perform A Local SEO Audit
This section is a comprehensive step-by-step guide to not only conducting a Local SEO Audit, but conducting an effective one that ensures your digital presence is perfectly attuned to your local market.
Local SEO Audit Checklist
Understanding what your local customers are searching for is crucial for any local SEO strategy. The very first task to complete in your Local SEO Audit involves identifying keywords that are most relevant to your local audience and ensuring those keywords point to your business.
4 Steps to Effective Keyword Research
- Identify Your Core Topics:
- Start by brainstorming the core topics or themes related to your business, products, or services. These are the broad categories that encompass your offerings.
- Use Keyword Research Tools:
- Utilize keyword research tools like Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Moz Keyword Explorer. These tools provide insights into search volume, competition, and related keywords.
- Generate Keyword Ideas:
- Enter your core topics into the keyword research tool to generate a list of potential keywords. Look for a mix of short-tail (broad) and long-tail (specific) keywords.
- Analyze Keyword Metrics:
- Review key metrics for each keyword, including search volume, keyword difficulty, and CPC (Cost Per Click). Focus on keywords with a balance of decent search volume and manageable competition for future content.
Your website is where potential customers go to learn more about your products or services. A comprehensive website evaluation is essential to ensure that your website is not only user-friendly but also optimized for the highest possible search rankings.
5 Steps to a Thorough Website Evaluation
- Assess Website Structure and Navigation:
- Start by evaluating the overall structure and navigation of your website. Ensure that it has a clear and intuitive menu structure that allows users to easily find the information they need. Check for broken links and make sure all pages are accessible.
- Check Page Load Speed:
- Page load speed is crucial for both user experience and SEO. Use tools like Google PageSpeed Insights or GTmetrix to analyze your website’s loading times.
- Ensure a Mobile-Friendly Design:
- With the majority of users accessing websites on mobile devices, it’s vital to have a mobile-responsive design. Test your website’s mobile-friendliness using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
- Content Quality and Relevance:
- Review the content on your website. Is it informative, relevant, and up-to-date? Ensure that your content addresses the needs and questions of your local audience.
- Look at Technical SEO:
- Are your header tags, meta titles, and meta descriptions causing any issues with your website’s search engine ranking? Verify that your XML sitemap is submitted to Google Search Console.
Google Business Profile Optimization
An optimized Google Business Profile ensures that potential customers find accurate and compelling information about your local business when they search for products or services in your area through regular search or Google Maps.
5 Questions That Lead to An Optimized Google Business Profile
- Have You Claimed and Verified Your Profile?
- The first question is as obvious as it is important. Start by claiming your Google Business Profile if you haven’t already. Visit the Google Business website and follow the verification process.
- Is Your Business Information Accurate?
- Ensure that all your essential details are filled out accurately. This includes your business name, address, phone number, website URL, hours of operation, and business category. The last thing you want is for Google Maps to be confused about any of this information.
- Does Your Business Description Engage?
- Does your business description highlight your unique selling points and services? Use relevant keywords naturally, but avoid keyword stuffing. Focus on providing valuable information to potential customers.
- Do You Have Images and Videos?
- Visual content is powerful. Do you have high-resolution photos and videos showcasing your products, services, interior, and exterior of your business? You might want to consider images of your team, if applicable. High-quality visuals build trust and entice potential customers.
- Are You Encouraging Customer Reviews?
- When you actively encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews on your Google Business Profile and respond promptly to both positive and negative reviews, it demonstrates your commitment to customer satisfaction and boosts your profile’s credibility.
Optimizing your Google Business Profile is one of the best things you can do to establish a strong online presence, attract more local customers, and ultimately drive foot traffic to your physical location. It’s worth emphasizing its importance to your local SEO audit checklist because it ensures your business is found by local traffic.
Duplicate Content Check
Duplicate content can harm your local SEO efforts by confusing search engines and potentially leading to lower rankings. Conducting a duplicate content check is essential to ensure your website provides unique and valuable information to both users and search engines.
4 Steps to Checking Duplicate Content
- Use a Website Crawler:
- Employ a website crawler tool like Screaming Frog or Sitebulb to analyze your website’s content. These tools will scan your site and identify duplicate pages, titles, and meta descriptions.
- Check Internal Duplication:
- Examine your website for instances of internal duplication. Look for identical or very similar content on multiple pages. This can occur unintentionally, such as when you have printer-friendly versions of pages or paginated content.
- Review URL Parameters:
- Pay attention to URL parameters, as they can create duplicate content issues. Ensure that parameters are properly handled through canonical tags or by using the URL parameter tool in Google Search Console to instruct search engines.
- Check for Duplicate Title Tags and Meta Descriptions:
- Duplicate title tags and meta descriptions can negatively impact click-through rates and SEO. Review your website’s title tags and meta descriptions to ensure each page has unique and descriptive elements.
Building and managing backlinks is a vital component of your local SEO strategy. High-quality backlinks from authoritative sources can significantly boost your website’s credibility and search engine rankings.
5 Steps to Ensure You’re Getting the Most Out of Backlinking
- Identify Relevant Websites:
- Begin by identifying websites and online platforms that are relevant to your industry or local area. Look for authoritative directories, local business associations, industry blogs, and news websites that may offer opportunities for backlinks.
- Competitor Backlink Analysis:
- Analyze the backlink profiles of your local competitors. Tools like Ahrefs or Moz can help you identify websites linking to your competitors. This analysis reveals potential backlink opportunities you might have missed.
- Content Creation Check:
- Are you developing high-quality, informative, and shareable content on your website? Content such as blog posts, infographics, guides, or case studies can attract natural backlinks when others find your content valuable.
- Examine Your Relationships:
- Are you connected to relevant websites and influencers in your community? Building relationships with local bloggers or businesses can lead to collaborative content and backlink opportunities.
- Local Directories and Listings:
- Think beyond your Google Business Profile, and ensure your business is listed in other reputable local directories and listings, including Yelp, Yellow Pages, and any industry-specific directories. These listings not only improve your online visibility but also provide valuable backlinks.
Local Citation Study
A local citation is any online mention of your business’s name, address, phone number, and other pertinent details. Managing these is an important part of a local SEO audit because mentions of your business name validate your business’s existence and location.
5 Steps to Learn About Your Local Citations
- Identify Existing Citations:
- Begin by identifying your existing citations. You can use tools like Moz Local, BrightLocal, or manual searches on Google to find mentions of your business online.
- Consistency Check:
- Ensure that your contact information is consistent across all citations. Inaccurate or inconsistent information can confuse both search engines and potential customers.
- Claim and Verify Listings:
- Claim and verify your business listings on popular citation sources like Google My Business, Yelp, Yellow Pages, and industry-specific directories.
- Audit Competitor Citations:
- Analyze the citation profiles of your local competition. Identify which citations they have and you may be missing. This can help you discover new citation sources and opportunities.
- Build High-Quality Citations:
- Seek out authoritative and relevant websites, directories, and local platforms to create new citations. Ensure that your business information is accurate and up-to-date on these platforms.
Social Media Reputation Management
In the same way that local citations can make or break your business, it’s vital to manage your social media reputation to ensure a positive online presence and keep attracting local customers through search.
5 Steps to Examine Your Social Reputation
- Take Stock of Social Media Channels:
- Regularly monitor your social media channels, including platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Use social media management tools like Hootsuite or Buffer to streamline monitoring.
- Check Response Time to Comments and Messages:
- Are you responding promptly to comments, messages, and reviews from customers? Engage in a professional and courteous manner, addressing both positive and negative feedback.
- Ensure You’re Sharing Valuable Content:
- Is informative and relevant content being posted to your social media profiles? This can include blog posts, promotions, updates, and engaging visuals. Consistent posting keeps your audience engaged.
- Look at Your Reviews:
- Do satisfied customers leave positive reviews on your social media profiles or review platforms like Yelp or Google? Positive reviews enhance your reputation.
- Pay Attention to Tone:
- When faced with negative feedback, are you addressing it diplomatically? Offer solutions, apologize when necessary, and seek to resolve issues privately when appropriate.
Analyzing your competitors in the local market is an important step because understanding your competition’s strategies and performance can guide your own local SEO efforts. This part of the Local SEO Audit is just a matter of repeating the steps that you did for yourself, but this time looking at what your competitors are doing.
5 Steps to Analyzing The Competition
- Identify Local Competitors:
- Begin by identifying your local competition. These are businesses that offer similar products or services in your area and compete for the same target audience.
- Analyze Their Online Presence:
- Visit the websites, social media profiles, and online listings of your competitors. Take note of their website design, content quality, and user experience.
- Keyword Research:
- Conduct keyword research to identify which keywords and phrases your competitors are targeting. Tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs can provide insights into their top keywords.
- Backlink Analysis:
- Analyze the backlink profiles of your competitors. Determine which websites are linking to them and the quality of those backlinks. This can uncover potential backlink opportunities for your own site.
- Review Content and Social Media:
- Assess the quality and relevance of their content. Examine their social media engagement and the types of content that resonate with their audience.
Why Expertise Matters in Local SEO
Reading through all of the Local SEO Audit advice above might feel overwhelming. That’s because navigating the complexities of local SEO is not an easy task. To get the most out of a Local SEO Audit, it not only requires knowledge, but also expertise.
Local SEO experts can perform and implement the findings of a Local SEO Audit report to provide tailored strategies and up-to-date insights, ensuring that your business gets ahead and stays ahead in your competitive local market.
Partner with Harvard Excelerate for Local SEO Strategies That Make a Difference
And because competition in local business can be so fierce, now is the best time to find the local expert who can transform your local digital presence through a comprehensive Local SEO Audit.
At Harvard Excelerate, we offer extensive digital marketing checkups to refine your local SEO strategy. These comprehensive assessments include actionable recommendations proven to help a local business outshine its competitors.
With our expertise, your local business will not only attract local customers but also become the established source for your products or services in the area.
We began this blog post by asking: If someone in your community searches for what you’re selling, will they find your business or a competitor’s first? To ensure the answer is always your business, reach out now for a free local SEO scan and performance report, and take the first step to becoming your community’s go-to solution.