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As the digital landscape becomes more competitive, local business owners simply cannot afford to neglect their site. Even more so now with recent changes that Google has made to the way it displays local search results. An SEO audit provides invaluable insight and reveals areas that can be further optimized.

The actual process is rather straightforward and takes a few hours. But the effort involved is well worth it as an audit can reveal actionable opportunities to boost targeted traffic. You will want to keep yourself organized with a spreadsheet that you can refer to later on.

Here we look at how to conduct a basic local SEO audit.

1. On Page SEO Signals

Rankings are determined based on hundreds of different factors to deliver near instantaneous results for each search query. But on page signals (e.g. page titles, keyword usage, etc.) are easily one of the most important. A survey conducted by Moz provides more insight on the top ranking factors for local SEO:

SEO Ranking Factors

Note the following in your spreadsheet:

  • Title tags: Are your page titles optimized? Pages should include the target keywords as well as a city name to increase their relevance (e.g. internet marketing companies in Austin).
  • Meta descriptions: Does the description accurately describe the page? Write a unique meta description for each page and include target keywords.
  • Headers: Does the content have headers? Headers are useful in that they break up large blocks of text but they are also great for including relevant keywords.
  • NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number): Is NAP for the business visible on each page? Google looks for this information when determining rankings for geo-targeted searches.
  • Content: Is the content relevant and up to date? Informative and engaging content stands a much better chance of ranking well compared to spammy or keyword stuffed content.

2. Local Citations

Citations mentions of your business name, address and phone number from other web pages (e.g. online yellow pages). These are another important ranking factor that Google considers for geo-targeted searches and essentially help search engines confirm contact details for a business. Citations from well-established portals such as Superpages or Yelp can dramatically improve local search engine rankings.

Here are the top local citations in the US:

Local Citations

Local businesses will want to claim listings with as many quality listings as possible. In addition to the directories as listed above, you can also do a search for your target keywords and your city. Go through the ones that rank high and claim your listing.

Double-check all listings to make sure the information is accurate.

3. Google My Business

Google My Business lets small business owners manage their online presence with Google. Here you can easily update your business information, share new posts, see reviews, and even get insights on your customers. If you haven’t already, head over to Google My Business to claim your listing.

Google My Business Page

Then completely fill out each part of your profile including:

  • Business information: Make sure that all contact details including your phone number and address are correct. Then add a short intro about your business.
  • Photos: Adding photos can help your local listing stand out even more. Use professional photos in your profile.
  • Reviews: You will want to keep a close eye on your reviews so you can respond accordingly to any negative feedback.

4. Backlinks

Backlinks are a major ranking factor in the search results.

But the key is quality, not quantity.

A profile that is filled with links from spammy sources or keyword rich anchor text could end up doing your site more harm. It’s a good idea to regularly audit links to your site and remove those that could be negatively affecting your site. You can see links to your site from Google Webmaster Tools under Search Traffic and Links to Your Site.

Google Webmaster Tools

Alternatively, there are a number of tools available that provide more insight on backlinks to your pages:

5. Mobile

As more users rely on their mobile phones, search engines need to respond accordingly.

Google has rolled out a major algorithm update to favor mobile-friendly sites in the mobile search results. This means that your site could be ranking lower if it is not optimized for mobile devices. The first step is to enter in your site URL into Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test:

Google Mobile-Friendly Test

The next page will then tell you if the site is mobile friendly or not as well as any errors that are on the page.

Pushing Forward

Here are some areas of improvement that your local SEO audit may have revealed:

  • Content: Pages with missing or duplicated content can be optimized to improve their search visibility. Start with those pages that provide the most value such as the home page, service pages, etc. And be sure to include target keywords within your content. But be careful not to spam your content as the last thing you want is a ranking penalty.
  • Citations: Local citations are key to improving rankings. If your audit reveals incorrect information, take steps to edit your listings and claim new ones on different local directories such as Yelp.
  • Backlinks: If rankings are suffering, the culprit could be links to your pages. A backlink audit is especially valuable as it could uncover harmful links to your site. Remove links by contacting webmasters directly or using Google’s Disavow Tool.
  • Mobile: Mobile is becoming increasingly important as evidenced by major algorithm changes. If your audit shows that your site is not yet mobile friendly, make it a priority. Responsive design is a good start as your site will dynamically adjust to fit all screen resolutions. It’s also Google’s recommended mobile configuration.

Site audits are incredibly valuable as they under hidden opportunities to improve your site. Conduct an audit of your site as soon as possible and take steps to optimize those areas that are lacking. Doing so will dramatically boost targeted traffic to your site and increase visibility in the local search results.

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