Ronak Kothari is the founder of RONKOT, a full-service digital marketing agency.
They say if you want to hide something from the whole world, stake it on page 2 of Google search results.
For local businesses, who want to beat their competition, it is getting increasingly hard to rank due to the cut-throat competition.
Suppose a customer goes online and makes a search for a ‘Best Cafes in New York’ or ‘Best Pizza Places Near Me’. But turns out your cafe or restaurant is the best-reviewed one and still left out of the top Google search results.
This makes you wonder why your place isn’t showing up for local Google searches?
Well, one way to get an answer is by performing a local SEO audit. For that, you’ll need a simple local SEO checklist and some tools that will help you analyze the right data. But before we get into how to perform an audit, let’s understand why it’s important in the first place.
Why Local SEO Audit is Important?
As per Brightlocal’s Local Consumer Survey for 2022, 99% of respondents said they have used the internet to find information about local businesses in the last year.
In the same survey, 78% said they use it more than once a week, and 21% said they use the internet every day to search about a local business.
Hacking local rankings is often more complicated as the competition is very stiff. It requires a strong fundamental understanding of SEO along with the right local signals.
There are three core categories local businesses should concern themselves with. These are Proximity, Relevancy, and Authority. Let’s understand a bit about each in detail:
- Proximity refers to how close a local business is to the users’ search location.
- It helps Google to determine whether to list your business or not in the local search.
- To appear on Google local listings, ensure your physical address is updated on the Google Business Profile.
- Relevancy is a measure of how relevant your business or services are to the users’ search terms/intent.
- Relevancy can be easily influenced by how you structure your website/Google business profile.
- A strategically built action plan helps make an impact on relevancy to improve local search rankings.
- The quality of content and backlinks you build helps Google determine how authoritative your business is.
- It goes beyond just offering services and demonstrating expertise your business holds in the core services.
- Content helps establish expertise while links act as votes of popularity, combining both helps Google determine the Authoritativeness for your brand.
Stepwise Process to Perform Local SEO Audit to Beat Your Competition
Step #1: Audit Your Google Business Profile (GBP)
Google My Business has transformed into Google Business Profile that local businesses can use directly from Google’s Search and Maps. Google has also streamlined the process for claiming and verifying your business profile from Google products.
Let’s see what a Google Business Profile looks like.
Auditing & optimizing your GBP is significantly important. Here’s how to properly audit your Google Business Profile:
- The first thing you want to do is identify and audit your competitors’ GBP profiles and find what works for them.
- Make a list of keywords they rank for and find additional ones they missed out on, which you can leverage to your advantage.
- Next, analyze your GBP title tags and categories. They have a high impact on your local rankings.
- Check the consistency of your business name, address, open hours, contact details, and other business info across all other local directories such as Bing Places, Apple Maps, and Facebook.
- Since GMB is transforming into Google Business Profile, look for new changes and remove any irrelevant media files, images, content posts, etc. to improve your listings.
Step #2: On-Page Optimization Audit
On-page optimization audit includes checking your content quality, metadata, keyword optimization, site indexability, and many other factors.
Let’s look at the on-site audit steps:
- Pay attention to your site and URL structure to ensure it follows best practices to appear in local searches.
- Next, you want to uncover the duplicate content and posts from your website or GMB listings. It does more harm than any good.
- Analyze your website speed using Google’s PageSpeed Insight tool and optimize as suggested in the analysis.
- Audit your keyword optimization using tools like Ahrefs. Find what keywords you are currently ranking for in local searches along with additional ranking opportunities.
- The most important factor is to optimize your user experience through site design, navigation, and website optimization to rank well.
Step #3: Backlink Analysis
Backlinks act as the backbone for your business and their importance cannot be overstated. Quality backlinks set your business apart from the rest of the competition:
Here are the backlink audit steps:
- First, analyze your backlink profile using the Ahrefs tool to find how many unique backlinks your website has.
- Analyze the healthy backlinks. Out of all, how many are quality ones and how many are spammy backlinks. Start removing the spammy links at once.
- Next, audit backlinks your competitors have created using the same tool to find opportunities to get links for your website.
- Focus on creating backlinks from relevant unique domains from local businesses with a high domain rating through authentic ways.
Step #4: Local Citation Analysis
Citations are listings of your local business on 3rd-party websites or social platforms. Local citations are vital for your SEO effort. Even though they are losing their flair, still they are one of the primary factors to outrank your competitors.
Here’s what you should analyze:
- Check your business’s citations on directories like Yelp, Citysearch, Foursquare, Apple Map, and others. Search engines treat them as high-quality citation sites.
- Audit your citations for any inaccurate or outdated details. Ensure all the details are consistent on all the citation platforms.
- Focus on listing your local businesses on good quality directories, possibly the local ones.
Step #5: Online Review Analysis
As per Brightlocal report, 77% of consumers always or regularly read reviews for local businesses in 2021, up from 60% in 2020. Google also puts emphasis on the reviews for local businesses as seen in the image below.
Here’s how to audit & optimize your reviews:
- Keyword-rich and unique reviews are a goldmine for local businesses to rank better on Google. They should have a positive sentiment to boost the confidence of users as well as Google’s to pick your business above all.
- Look for ways to encourage or incentivize your existing customers to leave a review that best describes your services.
- Also, audit and optimize your reviews on social media, Yelp, Trustpilot, and other high authority review domains.
- Audit for negative reviews as well. Follow the best practices to respond to negative reviews and turn their experience into a positive one.
Step #6: User Behavior & Engagement Analysis
Behavioral analysis is concerned with how users interact & engage with your website, content, and Google listings. Signals like click-through rate (CTR), conversions, mobile clicks to call, check-in, etc. aid in your local SEO rankings.
Let’s see how to audit your website user behavior and engagement:
- Engagement is an accurate measure of the quality of local businesses. So, look through your Google Analytics and find gaps in your engagement metrics.
- Analyze CTR, bounce rate, conversion rate, and other local SEO KPIs.
- Based on the analysis, define the course of action to improve these metrics for higher engagement that ultimately results in higher ranking.
- Since these signals are less susceptible to manipulation, businesses should try to incorporate organic ways of boosting their engagement metrics.
Step #7: Content Audit
Auditing the content you have already put out sends relevancy and authority signals to Google. It’s one of the vital audits of the entire local SEO audit process.
Let’s see what you need to audit here:
- As mentioned earlier, audit your content to find irrelevant, duplicate, stolen, thin, and plagiarized ones that could hurt your local SEO rankings.
- Find which content pieces and posts rank well for your and competitors’ websites.
- Next is to look for content gaps in your competitors and use that to your advantage by publishing content first.
- Also, thoroughly audit keyword optimization to find gaps and identify further opportunities for improvement.
- Diversify your content forms from text to images, GIFs, videos, etc.
Step #8: Audit Your Social Networks
In addition to web presence, social presence is another factor search engine algorithms tend to consider for local SEO.
As seen in the image above, your social profiles may appear on your Google business listings.
Here’s how to analyze your social profiles:
- The first step is the selection of social networks to create your brand presence based on the demographics of your audience.
- Audit your existing social profiles for consistency of NAP (Name, Address, and Phone Number).
- Glance over what type of content have you created and posted for users to engage.
- Also, audit competitors for the same to find what type of content gets them more user engagement.
- Inspect search results to find if your social profiles do appear in organic rankings or not. If not, optimize your GMB for the same.
Step #9: Audit Your Competitors
Competitor analysis poses a significant role in boosting local SEO for your business. We have already discussed in brief about auditing your competitors.
Let’s discuss what else there is to audit:
- Begin by making a list or spreadsheet of your well-ranked competitors that are worth auditing.
- Thoroughly review their Google Business Profiles, websites, social media, contents, backlink profiles, and overall web presence.
- Find gaps and opportunities you can reap benefits from and optimize your business to rank well on that front.
- Use tools like Ahrefs to better audit your competitors to get the full picture of the situation.
The Final Verdict
Local SEO is a completely different ball game than what we are used to with the typical website SEO. Although it can be challenging sometimes to get your local SEO approach right, auditing your overall web presence will help pave the way for local ranking improvements.
Competitor analysis plays a vital role in finding where your local SEO strategy lags behind and what steps you can take to improve and boost your local SEO presence.
Once you’re done with the audit, the next step would be to prepare an optimization plan.That’s where a team of SEO professionals can help you out. Ronkot helps local businesses with optimizing their web presence through strategic SEO implementation.
Grab your favorite beverage and get in touch with our team of SEO specialists to help boost your local SEO rankings.