If you have a local SEO agency providing services to your company and aren’t getting clear reporting on results every month, you may wonder just what the agency is doing (and if what they’re doing is working).
You can determine this for yourself by doing a local SEO audit. Read on to find out how to do an easy but thorough local SEO audit in less than an hour.
Why should you perform a local SEO audit?
An SEO audit is a great tool to help focus on areas of your online presence that need attention. From a business owner’s perspective, doing an SEO audit will help you determine if the money you’re spending on an SEO agency is worth it: Are they completing important aspects of a digital marketing campaign? Are they providing everything specified in your contract? Is it helpful to your business? You may trust the marketing company you work with, but you should also verify you’re getting what you pay for.
How often should you audit your local SEO?
There’s no hard and fast rule for conducting audits. We like to do audits on our client’s sites every six months or so. As a business owner with other things on your plate, once a year would be a good benchmark to shoot for.
Don’t have time to do your own local SEO audit? Let us help!
Tools you’ll need for a quick local SEO audit
- Google Search Console—Similar to analytics, Google Search Console is a free tool that provides tons of information about where your clicks are coming from, what pages are getting lots of visits, submit new pages for Google to crawl, and importantly see queries that led to clicks (this is a big deal, because you cannot see this in Analytics without a PPC account).
- Screaming Frog—This free tool is available as a paid version, but for most small/medium sized businesses the free version is sufficient. This tool allows you to crawl your site and see what pages are being found by bots and any issues such as 404 pages, 500 errors (something is wrong on your server and the page/site cannot load), missing information on title tags and descriptions and more. The free version will crawl up to 500 URLs, whereas the paid version is effectively unlimited.
- Ubersuggest—To understand what your potential or ideal customer is searching for, you need to have some idea of the keywords and queries they use when searching online. A keyword research tool is critical for this. In the past, Google’s keyword planner was a free tool you could use for this information. We’ve found Ubersuggest to be a great alternative that is free for most everything you would need. One drawback is you will not get localized search results (you can’t see what people in your area are specifically searching, rather you will see nationwide results). If you need definitive info on local keywords, we’d recommend KWFinder, and you can get a free 10 day trial when you register—this tool is actually our preferred paid keyword research tool for local information.
- Copyscape — if you need to find out if you have duplicate content on your site or if your content has been plagiarized, Copyscape is the best tool to find this info out. While the plagiarism checker is free, there are some paid aspects that may be worth your while and the cost is relatively minimal.
- PageSpeed Insights — This is a free web-based tool offered by Google to gauge the PageSpeed of your site. This will give you an idea how fast your site responds to server requests. This is technical, but you’ll want to save your score so you can review it with a developer. Alternatively, you can also use GTMetrix to see how your site performs and to discover opportunities to speed up your site.
- Google Docs Sheets — Create a google docs spreadsheet where you can copy and paste information to make todos and things you will need to correct or focus on.
Now you know some of the tools you’ll need to have access to, let’s get started—we want to try to crank this out in about an hour. But for more in-depth insights you’ll want to block out a few hours or so.
Steps to doing a quick and simple local SEO audit in under an hour
While most people would immediately go to their website and start looking at technical things, we suggest starting off where your potential customers will start: with keywords. Starting off we want to do some quick research on keywords and queries that your ideal customers would use to find a company just like yours.
Do your keyword research and query checks.
Keyword research for search volume and ideas
Tools to use: Google Search Console, Ubersuggest or KWFinder
Keywords are the terms you want to be found for—these will determine your page title tags, meta descriptions, your URLs, the headings and subheadings on a page, and possibly even blog articles and content you’ll produce for your site. This is why understanding your keywords and what people are searching for is important.
To see what customers are searching for we have a few steps you’ll want to do.
We’re going to start with manual searches—you’re going to want to open an incognito browser for this.
You’re going to pretend you’re a typical customer and do some keyword searches for 5-10 of the primary keywords you want your website to rank for. This is also a good way to gauge who your top competitors are and what they’re doing.
Here’s an example: if you’re an HVAC repair company in Dallas, Texas you are going to open an incognito browser and run various searches around the terms you would search if you were looking for your services.
Here’s what you want to look for:
- Do you see local results for your terms (local results are maps box results on the first page).
- Is your business in the local results? Are you in any of the organic listings below the local results?
- Go through the maps listings and the first 3-5 pages of search results—note your rankings.
- Look to see which competitors are running ads for keywords.
- Look at the ‘searches related to’ section at the bottom of the page for more keyword ideas you may not have thought of.
Now if you have access to your Google Search Console account, you’re going to login at search.google.com and check your clicks and queries.
When you login click on Performance → Search Results then look at Query and make sure you’re sorted by Clicks from High to Low (arrow pointing down)
These are queries people are using to click on your site. Alternatively, if there are low numbers of clicks, these are queries that have caused your site to show up in a search result somehow but you’re not getting clicked. Review the queries to get an idea of what terms people use to find your business. You should be able to tell which of these terms are more important to you and which aren’t as important. Add the queries you’re most concerned with to your list.
Next take your list of keywords and any additional keywords you want information for and go to Ubersuggest or for more accurate localized information, KWFinder.
You’re going to copy your keywords and search for the search volumes. These are rough estimates of how many times that term is being searched monthly. The higher the number of searches per month the more people are searching. But this also usually means those keywords are more competitive and potentially harder to rank for.
Now, open a spreadsheet and copy this list of keywords and search volumes into it. You’re going to refer to it again shortly.
Take a quick NAPS.
We’re not referring to a refreshing afternoon snooze.
NAPS is an acronym local SEOs use when referring to a company’s Name, Address, Phone number, and sometimes Site.
Why do you need to check your NAPS? Because this is a quick way to ensure information and data about your business is accurate. The thing you want to see is if there are multiple versions of your business information floating around online. While Google and other search engines have gotten much better at consolidating and clearing up conflicting information, it’s still helpful to ensure your NAPS are as accurate as possible.
Checking your information
Open your spreadsheet and create a new tab for researching your NAPS info. You’re going to want to keep note of incorrect and outdated information that will need to be updated.
The first thing you need to do is search for variations of your business name and your address. There are a few different searches you’ll want to do:
“Name” + “Address”
“Name” + “Phone Number”
“Address” + “Phone Number”
“Name” + “Zip Code”
“Name + “Old Address(es)”
“Name” + “Old Phone Number(s)”
Note: searches with quotation marks tell Google you want exactly what is inside the quotations. We call this ‘exact match search’.
What you want to do is look quickly at the search results that show up. You’re likely to see mostly directory listings such as Yelp, Manta, BBB, etc… You want to see which if any have incorrect information. Just quickly copy any listings with inaccurate information into your spreadsheet. Review the first 2-3 pages of Google results for the different searches you’ve done.
Check your Google Business Profile page:
Google Business Profile (GBP), if you’re not aware, is a free page Google will create and verify to ensure your business is legitimate. Having a verified GBP is critical to being able to show up in local search results and maps. If you do not have a GBP already, you’re going to have to create one—but that won’t help with this audit.
**IF YOU DON’T HAVE A GBP ALREADY—STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING, GO TO BUSINESS.GOOGLE.COM AND START CREATING YOUR GBP PAGE. ALSO, FIRE YOUR LOCAL SEO AGENCY—THIS IS BASIC STUFF FOR AN SEO COMPANY AND THERE’S ZERO EXCUSE FOR THEM NOT TO HAVE THIS DONE FOR YOU (IF YOU’VE BEEN WITH THEM FOR MORE THAN A MONTH)**
If you do have an existing GBP but you don’t at least manage it or it’s not claimed you must get it controlled and verified.
Hopefully the above isn’t relevant to you, so we’re assuming you have access to your managed and verified GBP page. Now check the following things:
- Is the most relevant primary category for your type of business selected? (example: Southern Restaurant)
- Are secondary, relevant categories also on your GBP? (example: Brunch Restaurant, Breakfast Restaurant, Seafood Restaurant)
- Do you have a good, keyword friendly description for your page? Keyword friendly means that the most important keywords for your business are included in the description—additionally you would want your city/area you serve in the description too (example: Pest Control company in Charleston, SC)
- Do you have your logo, a banner, and photos added to your GBP? Ideally, you’ll have at least 5 photos but more would be better. Include pics from indoors, outside the business, and some of your employees.
Check your website’s on-page optimization for local SEO signals
Now we’re going to dig into your company website. We want to try to look at this from a technical perspective. We’re not focusing on design elements really, just how a non-feeling Google bot would see your site—but if there are obvious user-experience things you feel should be corrected, keep a note of these changes you would like to make.
First, you’re going to review your site’s title tags and meta descriptions.
You might be thinking “what are title tags and meta descriptions?” These are pieces of code, more accurately HTML elements that tell search engines the title of your page (title tag) and a brief explanation of what the page is about (meta description). When you do a search, the prominent titles and short paragraph in results are a page’s title tag and description. Title tags are a ranking factor, they have the ability to affect how well your site ranks in Google searches. Descriptions are not a ranking factor, but they can affect if someone clicks through to your site.
Tool to use:
You can do this manually, but it is easier and quicker to use the Screaming Frog crawler tool we recommended earlier.
If you want to do this manually, you’re going to visit your site → right click somewhere in the body → a menu should pop up and click “view page source.” This will open a new window/tab with your site’s HTML code. Then do a CTRL-F or CMD-F and search for “title”
Better option: install/open Screaming Frog and input your site’s URL and hit start, then choose “HTML” to get all your pages. Now go through your homepage and main/most important pages looking for:
- Does the homepage title tag include the main/most important keyword and location/city as well as brand name if appropriate? (i.e., Pest Control Jacksonville, FL)
- Do your other pages/service pages have title tags with relevant keywords and city/location business targets?
- Are there a lot of duplicate title tags throughout the site? Usually this occurs when you have a template setup that automatically puts a default title tag if one isn’t set. NOTE: You don’t want duplicates.
- Check that URLs are reader friendly (i.e., no weird symbols or parameters, they use words)
- They should be relatively short. At least short enough to convey the information of the page.
- They should have main keywords in the URL (i.e., companyname.com/bed-bug-removal-jacksonville
- Do you have the NAP in the header or footer of your site?
- Extra credit: is it properly marked up in Schema
- Do you have pages that target the services you provide in a city/location? Ideally, you would have a page per major service you provide.
- Is there a blog? And is it active with good articles?
Now you’re going to look at the site from a customer’s perspective—just to get a feel for if it’s user-friendly.
- When you look at the menu, is it easy to find information a user might need?
- Are service pages easy to find and click on?
- Is there a way to easily contact you or schedule service? Ideally you have a contact page as well as contact forms and clickable phone numbers. This is really helpful for visitors who are viewing the mobile version of your site.
- If you have a business that clients come to you, is there a map embedded on the contact page?
Quick content review
Next you want to do a quick content review of what is on your site and blog. You’re not going full-on Editor-in-Chief here. You just want to make sure your content isn’t being duplicated everywhere (or isn’t plagiarised from somewhere else) and the content is not spammy or reads like it was written by a 3rd grader.
Tool to use here: Copyscape or Siteliner
Open up Copyscape or Siteliner and put in your homepage URL—this will run a scan and see if the content on your homepage is duplicated elsewhere. Do this with your most important pages and any major blog posts you have on your site. Take a note of any pages that appear to be duplicates or have a high percentage of on-page content that is copied on other sites.
Note: if you’ve used a copywriter to create content for your site you should always check the content they provide is unique. For a small fee—minimum purchase is $5.00 or $10.00 if using Paypal—you can purchase Copyscape Premium credits which allows you to run searches on specific pages, copy & paste content, and batch search your URLs.
Run a PageSpeed Insight analysis
I feel the need…the need for speed!
When it comes to your website you want to be like Maverick and Goose (before the tragic accident that is). You want your site to be fast.
PageSpeed is important because it affects how quickly your site will load for a user and how quickly search engines can crawl your site. This affects everything from rankings to how long someone may bother staying on your site. The tools you’re going to use here are Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool and GTMetrix.
PageSpeed Insights is a web based tool Google provides which will give your site a score from 1-100. There are separate scores for both your mobile and desktop versions of your site. The analysis will give you specific insights that can be addressed to improve PageSpeed. These are usually technical fixes meant to address things at the server level. Just take note of your results as you will have to give this report to your developer or whoever you use to maintain your site.
Use PageSpeed Insights tool to find out your score on mobile and desktop along with the opportunities and diagnostic fixes recommended.
If you have a developer, you may need to have them fix/address any issues found on PageSpeed Insights tool.
GTMetrix is another useful tool to help you gauge the speed of your site.
Generally speaking, the things these tools are going to give you information about is how to:
- Reduce your server’s response time to improve how quickly your pages, images, other resources are served up.
- Minimize the number of HTTPS requests
- How to minimize redirects. The more redirects a page/site has, the slower it will take to load.
- Optimizing images. The bigger, more resource heavy images you have the slower your site will be.
- How to enable caching. When a browser loads your site, it has to download all the files so everything displays properly. Proper caching allows certain aspects of your site to ‘pre-load’ reducing demands on your server.
These two reports taken together will give you an opportunity to have your web developer address issues to improve speed on your site.
Do a quick social review of your online presence.
Checking your social presence is an important way to ensure you control your branding. Branding is, in our opinion, a potentially major ranking factor and will continue to grow in importance as Google evolves its algorithm.
First, check to see what social networks your company is on. If you’re an involved business owner you probably already know most of this, but it helps to double check and verify.
- Are there any social sites relevant to your business, that you’re not on? If so, make a list of sites you should be on (or that you have competitors on) and plan to have pages created at a later point.
- Of the sites you are on is your page active? Are regular, relevant posts being shared on the social channels? Are you engaged with followers?
- Is your business information—NAPS—correct on the sites that allow that information?
For most companies, Facebook and Twitter are almost mandatory. Depending on your niche Instagram, LinkedIn, Youtube, and others may be important to have. Make sure you’re on any relevant social channels.
Check your online reviews.
Online reviews are critical to local businesses. 82% of consumers check reviews for local businesses and they read about 10 online reviews before deciding if they can trust a business.
Reviews are not easy to get—rarely does your business just generate tons of reviews without having to do anything. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to your online reviews and implement a strategy to constantly get new reviews.
First, you need to see how your reviews are online. What is the general sentiment about your business in online review sites?
You need to search your company online for reviews or go directly to sites you know have reviews for your company.
An easy way to start is to do a Google search for “my business name reviews” (I hope it’s obvious that you have to replace my business name with the name of your company)
Now, in that spreadsheet you’ve created, add another tab. Here you’re going to copy the URLs for important review sites and keep track of your overall ratings on those sites.
Additionally, you want to look at:
- What is the overall sentiment of your company? Are reviews generally positive? By the way, you don’t have to have 100% glowing, 5 Star reviews. All businesses are going to have customers that cannot be satisfied, if you have the occasional negative review don’t stress about it.
- Are the reviews you’re getting generally unique?
Next head over to your Google Business Profile page to check reviews on here. Arguably, GBP reviews are the most important online reviews you can have. Most customers start their journey via search, as opposed to going straight to your site. With local search, and GBP your reviews are going to be front-and-center. Keep track of your overall ratings here as well.
Although this is additional to an audit, checking your online reviews should drive home the importance of having a strategy for getting new reviews. At a minimum, your review acquisition strategy should:
- Have a way to reach out to new and past customers to ask them to leave a review or give feedback about your service.
- One way to do this is to have a page on your site that links to preferred review sites
- Respond to ALL GBP reviews, positive and negative.
- In some instances, a negative review can be turned around just by showing the customer you’re aware of their concerns and willing to work with them to correct whatever their negative experience was.
- Do not offer anything in return for a review.
So you’ve spent about an hour or so doing a quick local SEO audit—has anything stood out about your online presence? If there are any glaring issues you’re noticing, now is the time to schedule a chat with your local SEO agency and discuss the things you’ve noticed and things that need to be corrected.
Looking for a new local SEO agency? Contact us today to schedule a chat and evaluation of your company’s needs!
Ready for a comprehensive Local SEO Audit?
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