Before any other search engine optimization of your local business can proceed, local SEO audit must be performed. We include it as a first step of our local SEO services, but we constantly get requests from our clients to explain our process, so here it is.
As we all already know, if you are in the top three results in Google, you can expect to receive around 90% of clicks. Results four through ten will receive combined 9%, and the remaining 1% might go to those located on page two. In most cases however, your potential clients will not be looking beyond first page of results. So, if you are not on page one, you might as well not exist. At least as far as organic search traffic is concerned. There are other ways of generating traffic, such as Pay-Per-Click or PPC, or mailing lists, or other forms of promotion, but for this article we will concentrate just on SEO audit services for a local business.
Imagine you would like to order a pizza. It is very likely that you already have favorite pizza place to order from, however for this example lets say you do not, or you are in town just for a short while and unsure of what is available. What do you do? Well, most likely, you open up Google, and you type something like “Best Pizza in Karachi” and order from one of the places you see on first page. Most likely, one of top three results. Even if you do not include name of your city in your search keyword, Google uses your IP to decide where you are located and will show you local results nearest to your location.
Audit Local Keywords
First step of Local SEO audit is to find out whether you already rank for any search terms which can bring buyers to your business. Keyword like “how to make best pizza” is not a buyer keyword, but informational keyword, and someone who is searching for it is not looking to purchase a pizza but to make one. They are not your customer and ranking for that keyword as a Pizza business is irrelevant. On the other hand keywords like “best pizza”, “cheap pizza”, “buy pizza”, “discount pizza” and “pizza coupon” are buyer keywords. People searching for those keywords are looking to buy a pizza, right now. For purposes of local SEO audit we do not do extensive keyword research, that comes later. Instead we use our tools to simply check what keywords local business already ranks for, go through that list and see if it is solid, or needs improvement.
Audit Competitors Local SEO
In this step we basically go through our complete checklist for a local SEO audit, but apply it to who we identify as primary three to five competitors. To simplify, we look at competitors Google My Business listings, competitors organic search results for basic keywords we would target, we review competitors quality and quantity of reviews, we check number of backlinks competitors have, we check site speed of competitors websites, and we check social profiles of competitors, including their Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.
Through this process we establish viability of methods we may use to improve our clients return on investment. In some cases, local SEO simply will not work for clients business and in that case we will tell that to client directly and suggest a different approach. For example, we might say, “look, your niche is too competitive for budget you quoted us, and we would advise with going for offline marketing, or facebook ads, or …”
Audit Google My Business Listing
Obviously first we look at whether client even has Google My Business listing. You might be surprised to find out that most do not. Then we check if all business information is listed correctly, we check their reviews, ratio of positive to negative, we check responsiveness to negative reviews (you do NOT want to do what Amy’s Bakery owners from Gordon Ramsay’s Tv show on bad restaurants were doing), we check which business categories they are listed in and if they perhaps would do better by changing them, we check for images on Google My Business (if client does not have any, we advise they put up some high quality ones ASAP) and we check whether client is participating in Questions and Answers part of Google My Business.
Audit Reviews For Quality And Quantity
At this stage we expand to look at literally any place we can find any reviews of our clients business. That can mean places like Better business Bureau, Yelp, Facebook, Reddit, Quora, and depending on country, local places like Craigslist in USA or OLX in Pakistan, as well as Houzz, TripAdvisor and HealthGrades.
As they say, ounce or prevention is worth pound of cure, so if we find negative reviews, we advise client to go resolve them if possible.
Audit Links For Quality And Quantity
In this step we run basic backlinks check (more complete one happens later on, past local SEO audit phase) and if we find large quantity of spam, off-topic links we mark it as something client should have resolved, most likely by disavowing links. It is not always necessary, and it varies on case by case basis. Ideal backlink profile will have lot of dofollow backlinks from high profile, high DR, high PR, sites and local sites.
Audit Schema Markup For Local
Basically schema markup is code which helps search engines decide what exactly your website is about. It helps when your keywords have multiple meanings, or when search engine needs to decide whether you are ecommerce site, or if you sell physical items only, where do you ship them, and things of that nature. Among other tools, for this step, we use Google’s Structured Data Tool.
Audit Local SEO Citations
Here we check our clients online citations for business name, names of owners, business addresses and phone numbers on places like Yelp, YellowPages, Facebook, SuperPages, MapQuest, Axiom, Neustar, Localeze, Factual and Infogroup. We also check for unstructured citations on any random websites which might list our clients information.
Audit SEO On Main Pages
For this step we usually begin by using tool called Screaming Frog. We check page titles, title tags, sub-headings, word counts, meta descriptions, and many other signals of on-page SEO optimization. Then we switch to few other tools we developed in-house for our own use and run more extensive diagnostics.
Audit Image SEO
We check each image’s file name and alt text as well as description. We also evaluate page speed, page load, and identify any problem images.
Audit Overall Website Speed
We use Google PageSpeed Insights Tool, Pingdom, GTMetrix and few other tools to find out how quickly do local servers load clients websites pages. Statistics and polls show us that, on average, if page takes more than three seconds to load, potential buyer will be moving on, they will not wait.
Audit Site Engagement
During this step we check for things like how long are visitors staying on site, how many pages do they go through, click through rate, bounce rate, and conversion rate. In general, for this, we use tools like Google Analytics, Google Webmasters, Bing Webmasters, Yandex Webmasters and sometimes our custom plugins for WordPress websites.
Audit Social Engagements
How many people have liked clients Facebook page, number of Facebook shares, number of likes average post on clients Facebook page generates, number of Twitter followers on clients Twitter account, number of tweets mentioning clients brand, how many people follow clients company on LinkedIn and whether they share and/or interact with content on other sites which might bring traffic to our client.
How We Report These Results To Clients
In general, most clients are not going to be interested in a hundred page pdf to read. It is not optimal for us to be making them anyway, unless client requests it, because it tacks on additional cost. That means we skip reporting on every single point and instead concentrate on main concerns which should be dealt with immediately.
We can provide basic ballpark estimate of how long it should take to fix issues we found, how much it will cost, and which items might see most improvement. Thing to keep in mind is that while we are very good at what we do, each business requires different set of considerations and actions to be taken. That means each project will result in different pricing depending on clients needs and wants.