- A local search engine optimization audit determines how well you rank in search engine rankings and how to improve your rankings in both the map pack (local SEO results) and the organic search results.
- You need to look at many factors when looking to improve SEO, we use multiple strategies.
- Consider using an SEO tool such as Google Analytics and Ahrefs to help with audits.
- We charge $1000 for a local SEO audit.
What is a local SEO audit?
A local SEO audit is an assessment of your businesses Google Business profile and your website. The goal of a local search engine optimization audit is to determine how well you rank in the SERPs (search engine rankings) and how to improve your rankings in both the map pack (local SEO results) and the organic search results.
What does a local SEO Audit cost?
We charge $1000 for a local SEO audit. However, if you sign on for a monthly local SEO package this audit is part of our package.
What does a local SEO audit include?
As part of our local SEO audit we’ll look at
- Local keyword research & targeting
- Google Business Page (formerly Google My Business)
- Website audit
- Review audit
- Local SEO strategy
- Content audit
- Google analytics audit
- Google search console audit
Comprehensive Local SEO Audit: 8 Detailed Steps to Help Your Local Business Rank Better
1. Keyword Research and Keyword Audit
I’ve talked a lot about keyword research for local small businesses. To summarize my previous article, these are the steps to find relevant keywords.
- Determine what services you offer. Drill down, yes you offer plumbing services such as hot water tanks. Let’s take this one step further. Hot water tank repair, hot water tank installation, hot water tank removal and replacement, instant hot water tank installation.
- What areas do you service? Again drill down. You offer services to Calgary? How about Calgary NW, Calgary SW, Calgary NE, Calgary SE or “near me”. What about the beltline or downtown Calgary? You can get into specific neighborhoods and suburbs.
- What keyword modifiers exist? Best, cheap, local, top, affordable, weekend service etc.
- Use a tool like Mangools to determine specific local search volumes, in specific areas.
- For organic search results Mangools keyword tracking and Ahrefs to determine where you currently rank for your list of keywords. We will want to start with terms that already rank well – often on-page optimization can improve those rankings dramatically.
- For local SEO map pack results, Local Falcon is pretty hard to beat. It gives you geotargeted results around a specified area. Most don’t know this but if you search for a local service your results will greatly vary depending on where in the city you are searching from!
You want to end up with a list of keywords you rank for and keywords worth targeting.
2. GBP (Google Business Profile) Audit
For many small businesses, their GBP drives more conversions than their website. It’s not uncommon to generate hundreds of website clicks, phone calls and requests for directions per month.
According to a survey by White Spark these are some of the most important ranking factors (I’ve listed these in order). There are a couple hundred factors, however these tend to be the most important.
- Primary business category
- Business name (keyword in the business name)
- Business address (proximity to the searcher & physical city address)
- High review rating
- Additional Categories
- Description, Phone Number etc. (completeness of the GBP profile)
- A sustained influx of reviews
- Dedicated page (on your website) to each service
- Internal linking on your website
- Inbound links to your website.
The first thing you want to do is ensure your business information, specifically your NAP (Name, address and phone number) are consistent across the web. This includes your GBP, Bing, Apple Maps, your company website, Yelp and any other directories your business is listed on.
Next you want to make sure you’ve selected the correct primary business category and you want to include all of the appropriate secondary categories.
Write a detailed description. As of writing this you get up to 750 characters for your description. Write about your business and what makes you unique. You can include your services here as well but there is no need to keyword stuff. There isn’t much value in stuffing this section with keywords.
A word on your business name:
You are only supposed to include your actual business name. That is to say ours should be “Salt Water Digital” not “Salt Water Digital Marketing”
What works versus what Google tells you to do often are at odds with one another. Unquestionably if we added “marketing” we would rank better in the local map pack.
A great example of this is “Vancouver Digital Marketing”. It is held by War Room Inc. They have appended their name with – Digital Marketing & Programmatic Advertising which helps them rank for both digital marketing and advertising.
Now technically our pals at War Room are likely cheating (unless they are legally “Doing Business As”) – it is against Google’s TOS. And they know that but they’ve decided to play outside the lines. There is some risk in appending your name with a keyword.
That said, it’s a huge ranking factor for Google Map Pack and Google hasn’t shown a lot of interest in shutting this loophole down.
What else should we look at?
Make sure you have a review system in place. Reviews are critically important. Bonus points if you consistently publish content (images and posts) on your GBP
3. Website: Local SEO Audit
Your Google Business Profile drives the bus for GBP visibility. Your website drives the bus for Google Organic search results. Oh and it also helps your GBP results. It’s pretty important.
A lot of local business owners I talk to assume no one clicks on the organic search results. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
The #1 spot in the organic search rankings gets more clicks than any other spot on the first page of Google.
Local pack receives ~30% of clicks, organic receives about 51% of clicks (Source: Bright Local). The top organic spot receives 1/4 of all clicks.
StorageHQ is an example of a business that doesn’t get a lot of traffic from his GBP. He’s too far outside of the city he operates in to rank well with his Google Business Page.
Yet he manages to generate >200 clicks per month through organic SEO. Unlike Google Maps which are heavily determined by the location, Google Organic doesn’t discriminate (much) beyond having the city in your address.
So what are you looking for on your website?
- Check the NAP (Name, Address and Phone Number) match your GBP. If the NAP info isn’t in the footer, add it.
- Use an SEO audit tool like Screaming Frog to check for technical SEO issues. This includes but isn’t limited to:
- Site structure optimization
- Broken pages
- Index bloating (low quality or duplicate pages)
- Crawl errors
- Issues with web vitals through Google Search Console
- Any penalties in Google Search Console
- On page optimization which includes but is not limited to
- Heading optimization (H1, H2, H3 etc.)
- URL optimization
- Meta descriptions
- SEO Title optimization
- Internal link audit
- Schema Review
- Inbound links. A tool like Ahrefs is the best option. This will let you sift through the backlinks pointing to your site and filter out the quality links versus the low quality links.
If you don’t have an Ahrefs account a tool like Mangools can give you a baseline. Mangools uses a score called LPS (Link Profile Score) which will let you see how you stack up against the other local businesses. If your LPS score is much higher than your competitors and your local seo rankings aren’t good you likely have a great opportunity on your hands. If you LPS score is much lower, you’ll need to build links to catch up.
4. Review Audit
Determine which local businesses are capturing the bulk of the Google Map Pack visibility. For example for moving companies there are six that capture majority of the SoLV (share of local voice – a local falcon metric).
Take the average star rating and the average number of reviews that those six companies have. That’s our target. Setup a review system – this thread on Twitter was pretty great.
You should also be responding to positive reviews and negative reviews on your Google Business Page. It increases the activity on the page and is generally a good practice. Stuffing keywords into these responses does very little.
In addition to your GBP reviews you should go look at your reviews on Yelp, Facebook, BBB, Homestars, Angi’s and anywhere else reviews are often left.
Check to see if any of those platforms rank for your service in your town.
This serves two purposes
- If you have a 1 out of 5 star rating on FB (or anywhere else). Generate a few reviews on that platform to at least bring it up to 4 stars. The last thing you want is to have local customers think your company is rubbish because Frank left you a 1 star review 6 years ago and you’ve never bothered to patch over it.
- If one of those platform ranks well in the search rankings for your service it makes sense to generate reviews on that platform. These reviews will help you rank up on that platform which you know generates clicks because it ranks well!
- These reviews are part of Google’s algorithm as well. Google considers your entire brand presence across the web.
A note on reviews:
It can be almost impossible to catch up if a company has a massive lead. Don’t worry so much about that – you don’t need to overtake them to generate a lot more eyeballs. Just have ambitious goals (see the above thread) as far as it relates to your review rate!
5. Local SEO Strategy Audit
Once you’ve reviewed your website you can put a local seo plan together. From your list of keywords build out a list of additional pages you need to build.
Each service deserves it’s own page and each location deserves it’s own page.
For example if you own an HVAC company you will have separate pages for:
- Air Conditioning Repair
- Air Conditioning Maintenance
- Air Conditioning Replacement and Installation
- Indoor Air Quality
and so on.
You also should have a location page for every suburb and neighborhood.
If you’re thinking you’re going to just duplicate pages and change the word “Akron” to “Cuyahoga Falls” I got bad news – you’ll need to put in more effort than that.
I would recommend having one or two paragraph’s that are completely unique, a few sections that are duplicated (eg: why hire HVAC Dan) and then switch up the reviews you use on each page. You should also have unique photos and unique headers.
All that said, don’t cannibalize your own hard work. If your homepage ranks for self storage Houston, you don’t want to create a page that is overly optimized for “Self Storage Houston”.
Another example is if you rank for “Plumbing Akron” with your homepage it’s fine to have a sub-page for “plumbing”. In fact you probably should so you can sub-nest your plumbing services. Just go easy on the optimization. The URL should be /plumbing. The H1 tag can just be Plumbing Services. Same goes for the SEO title.
With your link audit you can determine how many links you’ll need to acquire and with your review audit.
With your review audit you’re equipped with the number of reviews you need to generate.
6. Local SEO Content Audit
Local businesses don’t have to blog.
A local business does not have to be active on social media.
First let’s talk about blog content
Enough low quality content will hurt your local SEO. If you’re wondering what low quality content is read these Google Guidelines on helpful and useful content. While you have to take everything Google published about Google search results this one is worth reading.
A couple of rule of thumbs:
- Is there search volume?
- If there is no search volume – would it do well on social media (ie: people would care to engage with it?)
- Does it add any value?
And please do not spin up 700 words on a topic from ChatGPT and copy and paste it. It’s spam.
Not every post needs to be a masterclass on the topic. Not every article needs to be long, in some cases a short answer from an expert is sufficient. But the only reason a local business should write blog content is to reinforce that they are a topical authority or to drive middle or top of funnel keywords (eg: how much does it cost to replace an air conditioning unit in Houston?).
Producing low quality garbage does the opposite. If you give Google enough low quality pages (signals) you’re wasting your own time and hurting your own local SEO efforts.
So what are we looking for, when we’re doing a blog content audit? Low quality articles. Short articles that add no value. Delete them.
Articles that do add value make sure you’re building internal links from them.
Social Media Audit
For some local businesses, social media is a good thing. For example, a highly visual local business like a home builder will want to use IG to show case their work.
For my own business, I use Twitter extensively. Brokers may use LinkedIn extensively.
However, don’t feel the need to use social media. Like blogging, it’s better to not do it at all than to do it poorly. At that point you’re wasting resources.
7. Review Google Analytics Data
It’s pretty unusual to see a local business with robust Google Analytics data. The first step is to check to see if GA4 is setup and actively collecting data.
This is a pretty good run down on how to check if GA4 is installed. If it isn’t you’ll want to install it but you won’t be able to get a lot of information until you’ve got a few months of data.
If it is installed I would recommend creating and checking two reports. This guide explains how to set those up.
This report will tell you how much organic traffic you’re getting. And if you have conversions setup correctly it will tell you how many conversions you’re getting as well.
This report will show you which pages are the most trafficked pages.
8. GSC (Google Search Console) Review
GSC is also a useful tool to look during your local seo audit.
Assuming it’s setup, Google search console will tell you how many impressions and clicks your website has gotten. In this report you can also see which search terms are responsible for these impressions and clicks.
In addition to checking your traffic, you can check how many web pages on your site are indexed. Along with core web vitals, mobile experience and page experience. These are all areas where there may be opportunities to improve your site.
You can also view your websites, sitemap and check to see if there are any manual actions.
One neat trick is using Google search console to index a web page.
9. Google Ads Audit
Not all Google Ad campaigns are created equal and on most occasions, we find that Google Ad campaigns for local businesses are either under-optimized or missing the mark completely.
Google will promote that getting started with Google Ads is easy – which is true. However mastering Google Ads is an entirely different story and although you don’t need to have years of experience to run your own campaign, having an advanced understanding is vital.
Nowadays, when performing Google Ad audits, we’ll run into Smart campaigns. This type of campaign is totally fine to run as a test but is not the type of campaign that will be most effective for your business. If you’re running a smart campaign exclusively and don’t know how to set-up a campaign in ‘Expert Mode’, please find help now!
Typically when performing a Google Ads audit, we’ll review the following key aspects:
- Conversion Tracking. Is your conversion tracking properly set-up tracking all of the ways that customers can reach you once they view your ad and/or visit your website?
- Keyword Strategy. Do your campaigns at the very least have an ad group for each specific service that your business offers?
- Search Term Report. What search terms are actually firing your ad? Is the search term report being reviewed on a regular basis and are junk keywords removed from the campaign?
- Setting. Are your ads being served to the geographical area you are intending? Are your ads serving on Search or Display or both and is that intentional?
- Results. This is obviously the most important part which is why every audit should ultimately review which results are available to determine the potential profitability.
Finally, if running Google Ads, reviewing how that traffic performs in Google Analytics is important. Everything might look okay in the Google Ads account but if we see in the Analytics accounts that the majority of traffic is bouncing or not engaging, we’re going to recommend a big change.
Useful Local SEO Tools
I’ve talked about a bunch of the tools we use for our clients. Here is a summary of the tools we use for our local SEO audits
- GSC – Useful for figuring out how much traffic you get. And which local searches drive that traffic. It will also help you figure out if you have any core web vital or speed issues on any specific web page.
- Google Analytics – Determine your various sources of traffic and which ones are converting. You can also see which pages visitors are landing on.
- Local Falcon – Helps you visualize local search results. You can also use it to determine which local competitors are ranking well in the map pack. It provides a score to help to audit your local search presence.
- Ahrefs – Great for in depth link audits and to help determine which keywords your website ranks for. It’s very useful for competitor analysis as it lets you see what keywords your competitors rank for and what their backlink profile looks like.
- Mangools – Another underrated tool for local seo. You can perform searches based on the business location. We use it to track search engine results.
- Screaming frog – Technical and on-page SEO. This will help you with fixing crawl errors, 404 pages, missing header tags, meta description, SEO titles and so forth.
TL;DR Local SEO Audit Checklist
- Keyword research & target keywords audit
- GBP Audit
- Website audit
- Review audit
- Strategy audit
- Content audit
- Google analytics audit
- Google search console audit
- Google Ads audit