There comes a time when every local business needs to conduct a local SEO audit. This is not as fun as, say, posting on Facebook or Twitter or taking time off to relax, but if you want your business to rank as high as possible in local search results, you have to take charge of how you’re being seen by search engines.
The devil is absolutely in the details, and a local SEO audit will uncover the details that are deviling your ranking efforts.
Here is an overview of the 9 steps you should take to conduct a local SEO audit of your website. While there are some (or perhaps many) things pursuant to the audit you will undoubtedly want to hand off to your inbound marketing professionals, there are a number of elements you may be able to handle yourself, depending on your inclination and ability.
Rest assured you’ll find problems, perhaps lots of them. But you can’t fix what you don’t know about. Consider creating a chart to track your local SEO audit results as you perform each task, so you can easily see what corrective measure you’ll need to take.
Step 1: Background.
If you have ever hired an SEO company or someone to build citations or links for your website, you should have documentation from that work which will help with your review process. Note that if you have additional websites that 301 direct to your primary site, you should also audit them to be thorough and ensure consistency.
Step 2: Google My Business page review.
The URL associated with your Google My Business page is the one you are going to audit. This is likely your home page since you’re a local business, but if you have multiple locations, you should use the landing page URL most useful for your site visitors instead. We’ll just call it “page” for our purposes here.
To start your audit, you need to scrutinize your Google My Business page.
- Use Google MapMaker to identify and delete any duplicate pages.
- View the back end of your page to ensure Google has not assigned any local penalties.
- The email address used as your Google My Business login should be associated with your domain.
- Your page should be claimed and verified.
- Your business name should be correct and not artificially stuffed with keywords.
- Is your physical address is correct and complete? Your NAP (name, address, phone number) must be identical everywhere, or you risk search engine confusion. PO Box and UPS addresses are not allowed.
- The phone number should be your primary published number. It cannot be an 800 number or a call tracking number.
- Verify your main category is correct and add any others relevant to your primary line of business.
- The email address should be public and associated with your domain.
- Your introduction description should be at least 250 words of unique content.
- Are your map and search photos as professional as they could be?
- Are your business hours correct and complete? Don’t display them as an image, because Googlebot can’t read that.
- Are you posting at least once a week on Google+? Consistency boosts SEO.
- Have you conducted a Trusted Photographer search to add a virtual tour? This can significantly enhance your SEO and visitor experience.
Step 3: Website optimization.
- The NAP should be in hCard and match your Google My Business profile and display.
- Site structure should fit your optimization goals. Include your city and state.
- Business days/hours should be in crawlable format, identical to your profile.
- If you have multiple locations, content for each location landing page must be unique.
- Your page meta title, meta description, H1 tag (just one, please) and ALT text should include city and state.
- Add driving directions and embedded map to your page.
- Show the payment forms you accept.
- At least one customer review should display in Schema or hReview.
- Page load time should be under 3.5 seconds at 1.5Mbps.
- Create a KML file for your domain name with all your locations.
- Put your NAP in your footer.
- Minimize Flash use – text should be crawlable.
- Use responsive design to promote mobile access.
- Check WHOIS to ensure your NAP matches exactly.
- Verify Google Analytics is installed and Google and Bing Webmaster Tools are properly configured.
Step 4: Citations.
Structured citations come from sanctioned business directories; unstructured citations come from sources such as getting mentioned in the local newspaper. You want both, so you need accurate information, with no duplicates. Check your listings on major data aggregators and the top 50 sources for your industry. Confirm your NAP is accurate on Apple Maps.
Step 5: Organic penalties and links.
This is one of the audit steps you should leave to a professional, because it takes specific experience.
Step 6: Reviews.
You want at least 10 Google My Business reviews with 4+ stars overall. You should also shoot for a similar showing on the three top third-party sites for your niche.
Step 7: Social media.
Since you’re local, focus on geo-tagging content. Check NAP and other details for consistency on Facebook, Google+, YouTube and Foursquare.
Step 8: Your competition.
Ask your audit professional to analyze your competition, too.
Step 9: Moving forward.
Performing a local SEO audit may be tedious, but once you have completed the process you will have a ready-made list of ways you can improve. Armed with that data and a peek at your competition, you’ll be prepared to outrank them. Prioritize your to-do list, get to work and pat yourself on the back every time you cross something off.
And when your list is down to zero, use what you’ve learned to create a strategic plan that will carry you forward with best-possible SEO, thanks to your great content creation, link generation, citations and, of course, customer reviews.