The question of conducting a local SEO Audit comes up quite regularly and to be fair, it’s one of those tasks that you should carry out on a weekly basis.
Yes, there are several tools you can use like Screaming Frog, SEMrush, Majestic SEO and Webmaster tools. However, this will be a straightforward guide mainly using Google search and Google trends.
We all want more traffic, page views and engagement on our pages don’t we? Better still, if that traffic is organic this means our previous efforts of optimising our site have helped improve our search ranking so we can do so.
If you are marketing to a local community, you’ll find that these users are those most motivated and easier to convert them
Carrying out a local SEO audit is pretty much the lifeblood of any small to medium business. Get it right and you will be rewarded in spades. get it wrong and you’ll fail. By fail I mean your page and website won’t be found in the search engine results page (SERPs).
Did you know that 85% of Consumers Use the Internet to Find Local Businesses. This means, by having pages that rank naturally helps you grow your business. I underlined the word “pages” since a common misconception is that you need to focus on ranking your website. You don’t. Concentrate on ranking individual pages for different keywords and you’ll see an increase in visits to your website which will allow you to convert those visits into sales.
Done correctly, you can start to evaluate all of the things that are wrong with your page and the things you need to focus on.
Grow Your Business – Carry Out A Local SEO Audit
So, Where Do You Start?
Carrying out your own local SEO audit is pretty easy (if you have the time). If you feel that you just don’t have the time to carry this out, then you’re best bet is to find a local agency to do this for you. This will allow you to focus on other important areas of your business.
Before you get started with your local SEO audit, make sure that you…
- Check your business name reach and NAP (name, address and phone).
- Make sure the geographical location of your business is correct on Google Places.
- Ensure you have listed all of the services you offer both on your website and Google.
- If you have example pictures or videos of the services you offer, ensure they are on your website as well as local listing directories.
What Is NAP?
You may have seen 3 letters bandied around which are (NAP). NAP stands for name, address and phone number. First of all, you need to ensure that your NAP is located on your website’s “contact us” page. Additionally, try to locate these details on the footer (the bottom) of your website. That way, it will show up on every page of your website correctly.
Google and other search engines use the NAP data when they determine which companies will show up for geo-targeted searches.
The general idea is to ensure that your NAP details are exactly the same on your website as they are on other websites like local business directories etc.
Step 1 – How Do I Add My Business To Google Maps?
This is relatively straightforward:
- First of all, double check that your business isn’t already listed. You can do this by typing your business name into Google and see if your name appears with a map either above or below it. Already there? Then check that the NAP details are correct. If they are not, then correct them. You might find that your business isn’t listed at all and if this is the case then you may proceed to the following steps.
- You may not be already signed into Google, if that’s the case, open maps and sign in. If you are not already registered then visit this website and follow the instructions.
- After you have finished logging in/signing up, zoom in to the map where you want to add your business
- In the bottom right, click Report a problem.
- Click Add a missing place.
- Drag the marker where your business is, and add any relevant information.
- Click Submit. That’s it, all done!
How Do I Optimise My Google Places Page?
After you have added your NAP details, there are a few other things you need to fill in such as the category of your business, the hours your business is open, photos or pictures of your business services or premises and a short description.
Category – This is an extremely important part of the optimisation process and is sure to give this plenty of thought. This is where you will list 5 of your primary services that your business offers. Even if you don’t have 5. Add your services in the category field.
In most cases, your category will autocomplete when you start typing your services in. However, on the odd occasion, it might not. If this is the case, try and find a category option that best describes your business. Please don’t fill in your own service terms.
Business Hours – Remember, this will be shown on Google Places so make sure you enter the correct opening hours of your business. If you are an eCommerce business, make sure you enter the hours where you or your staff are happy to reply via email or telephone if your client decides to contact you.
I’ve seen companies state that they are open 24hrs a day. Only do this if you intend on answering the phone or replying to an email at 2 am. If you are not, then state the correct times.
Note: When you using citations, ensure that you use the exact same times (where possible) so these match your Google business listings. To be fair, you can’t always exactly match these times. As long as
Keep in mind people don’t have to visit your website to find out your hours. They can see that on your page or when they search your business name so fill them out properly.
Photos – If you have decent photos of your premises or services offered then enter them where it says photos. If you are a retail store, then add as many photos of the interior and exterior of your premises (obviously clean up and clear away any junk so that you can showcase your business at its best).
Tip 1 – Don’t cut and paste pictures from your website (where possible try and use new pictures or do a brand new screenshot of your pictures). That’s because when you copy a picture from a website (even your own), there are several pieces of code in the background of your picture. You want a fresh a brand new picture to place into Google places.
Tip 2 – Save your photos with a specific keyword for your business, i.e. If you are an electrician use “city name+county+electician.png”. This will help with over SEO properties within the listing. If you have more than 1 photo then add the numbers 1,2,3 etc.
Tip 3 – Try to use PNG files instead of Jpeg files. They are much better quality a look better when blown up full screen.
Tip 4 – Add as many photos or pictures as you can. There’s no real evidence that a listing with 4 pictures trumps one with 2. However, It gives your potential client more ways to feel comfortable about you and your business.
Introduction – At the time of writing you can only write 250 words. Please don’t copy and paste text from your website (I know it’s tempting). Try to write a unique content description of your business. There’s no need to stuff as many keywords in here as possible. Google already knows what your website is about. This is more for potential clients interested in your business. So, write as naturally as possible.
Once done hit the blue “Done Editing” button.
Important Info To Be Aware Of!
Google My Business is a free listing in Google and can provide you with a ton of traffic is set up correctly. However, don’t try to game it or abuse it. Silly little tricks and hacks worked back in the 90’s. THEY DON’T WORK ANYMORE and you’re are likely to be banned and struck off.
- Whatever your business name is, use this on the listing. Don’t use the major keyword you’re trying to target. It might work short-term (a few weeks) but in the long term, you’ll fail.
- Don’t use a P.O. Box or virtual address as your business address.
- Don’t register more than one Google Places account. If you have more than one location then you need to check out this page.
What If I’m Running My Business From My House?
Relax, this is absolutely fine. In fact, there are probably more people running their businesses from home than others running them from an office location. Don’t want clients visiting you at home? then ensure you “hide” your address from the listing.
If you don’t have face-to-face business at your home then you must select “Yes, this business serves customers at their locations” under the “Service Areas and Location Settings” on the dashboard. If you have forgotten to do this don’t worry, you can always go back into the listing and edit these details later on.
Getting More Traffic from your Google “My Business Listing”
Take your time and make sure all of the details within the listing are correct. Add as much relevant information as possible. This will help you and your business with more traffic in the long run.
- Google will indicate whether you have filled in ALL of the information they are requesting. Please make sure your Google Places profile is filled in completely.
- As well as adding photos, you also have the option of adding videos to your listing. Now, you don’t need to get a professional in to do this. If you or your staff have a smartphone, the video quality these bad boys pump out is truly amazing these days. Take the time film your staff at work and upload it to your Google Places listing.
- Whatever the maximum characters allowed is in the description field, ensure you max this out. As already mentioned. Try not to spam this section with keywords but write as naturally as possible.
- Encourage your clients to leave reviews and feedback. This will help boost the overall SEO of your listing and will also help potential clients choose you over the competition. Reviews really matter!! If you purchase something on Amazon how often do check out the reviews?
- Integrate your Google Places with Google+. If you don’t know how to do this then this page will help.
Step 2 – Conduct an extensive keyword analysis
Google constantly tries to keep us on our toes by consistently updating its algorithm. However, one thing that remains consistent is the keywords that your clients are searching to find you.
First things first and something many articles and blog posts misses. You’ll need to conduct a detailed buyer persona before you start conducting keyword research.
So What Exactly Is A Buyer Persona?
Constructing a buyer persona sounds like high-level complicated stuff doesn’t it? However, (stick with me here) even if you’re a small fledgeling business running as a one-man band, you can still create one. In fact, by doing this you’ll be streets ahead of your competition since there are large companies that aren’t even doing this!
Sometimes referred to as “marketing personas”. A buyer persona tells you what prospective customers are thinking and doing as they weigh their options to address a problem that your business resolves.
In essence, this is your “ideal client” for the business. Knowing this will help you shape your whole sales funnel, customer service, product development and even help your client choose you and your business over a competitor. Trust me, this is powerful stuff!
So, how do you create a buyer persona? Good news, I’m about to tell you…..
Simply ask the right questions from the right people.
If you are a small business simply using Google Analytics will enable you to start collecting demographic information on website views on your website. This is a great place to start and some of the results might even surprise you. Grabbing these stats will help you build a basic picture of your clients.
You’ll be able to gather stats like:
Are they male or female?
Do they have children and if so what is the average?
What is the average age?
Where do they live?
If you are a larger business then compile a questionnaire that asks existing clients:
Basic details about persona’s role
Key information about the persona’s company
Relevant background info, like education or hobbies
HH Income (Consider a spouse’s income, if relevant)
Urbanicity (Is your persona urban, suburban, or rural?)
Once you’ve carried this out you’ll have a better understanding of the type of phrases and keywords they will use to find your product or service.
Tip: Once you have carried this out you’ll then know how to write the content on your website and what type of language, buzzwords and mannerisms to use.
What is keyword research?
This is a question that we get asked via email regularly. Keyword research is when you carry out research to find out what your clients are typing into a search engine to find your product or service. Armed with this knowledge allows you to craft your content strategy as well as your paid marketing strategy too!
In a minute I’m going to go through the keyword research process you can use so that we can drill down some great terms for you to use and exactly which keywords you should be targeting.
This way your website will be found for the exact same keywords your clients are typing into the search engine to find you. This is pretty powerful stuff and forms the basis of a great Local SEO audit.
How to Research Keywords for Your SEO Strategy
Step 1: This is where you’ll make a list of the relevant topics based on your business.
At first, you’ll probably come up with some pretty generic keyword terms which are fine. If you come up with 5-10 of these you’re doing well. These general topic buckets will then help you come up with specific keywords later on down the line.
Think back to some of the sales conversations you have had with your clients. What sort of topics regularly came up? Try and put yourself in your client’s shoes. What type of words do you think they would type into the search engine.
If you were a company like XenMedia for example — selling digital marketing services — you might have general topics like “SEO”, “SEO services”, “PPC”, “PPC services”, “Web design”and “Social media marketing.”
A think you get the idea?
Step 2: Fill in those topic buckets with keywords.
Now that you have a number of topic buckets to choose from, you can now start focusing on filling them with some great keyword phrases you can rank for in the SERPS. Don’t forget, these are going to be the terms that your customers are typing into the search engine.
For example, if we look at the example I gave you above “Selling digital marketing services” as one of the topic buckets, we could brainstorm some keyword phrases that I think my clients might use like:
- website design services
- digital marketing service
- pay per click marketing service
- google paid ads marketing
- social media management
- email marketing courses
- lead generation company
Etc, etc. I suppose you really need to fill in the keyword phrases yourself to give you an idea of keyword phrases. The main point of this exercise is to basically create a visual mind map of the phrases your client MIGHT use in order to find your product or service. We can narrow down these phrases later on down the road.
Step 3: Research related search terms.
Now that you have these handy phrases you can really start to get a little creative and compile a deeper list of related search terms.
Note: Don’t just do this with Google, you can try this on other search engines too!
The picture below is for the search term “cute puppies” that I typed into Google. At the bottom of the SERPS, you can see the related keywords highlighted. In effect, these are also terms that have also been typed into the search engine by regular people.
Note: For even more keywords, you can also use each one of the related keywords that Google has shown you and do an individual search for these terms too. That will give you additional keywords to put on the list. Pretty cool right?
Step 4: Check for a mix of head terms and long-tail keywords in each bucket.
You might be wondering what “head terms” means? You usually have more generic terms as a head term and they are quite short, where long tail keywords are generally longer phrases containing 3 or more words.
Make sure you have a nice mix of both head terms and long tail keywords. This will keep the whole strategy nicely balanced. Head terms by nature are searched for much more often are harder to rank for whereas long tail keywords are far less competitive to rank for. The search volume is a lot less. For example, which would the easiest to rank for?
- how to write a great blog post
If the answer was #1, you’re absolutely right. Now, don’t worry if the search volume on long tail words is a lot smaller. Ranking for generic one-word keywords isn’t that great since it’s not specific enough. “how to write a blog post” is a much better term to rank for and easier to write content about. The word blogging has far too many topics and just isn’t specific enough.
Step 5: See how competitors are ranking for these keywords.
You don’t necessarily need to rank for the exact same keywords that your competitor is ranking for. Simply understanding which keywords they are using will help your overall keyword strategy.
If there are keywords on your list that aren’t in your competitors then that’s great. You’ll have a far better chance of trying to rank for them.
So how do you find what keywords your competitors are ranking for? I mentioned SEMrush earlier on in this article. SEMrush allows you to run a number of free reports that indicate the top keywords for the domain you enter. This is the quickest way I know to find out this important information.
You can also use a great tool called Similarweb when trying to find your competitors main keywords. If you sign-up for their free package you get:
- 5 Results Per Website Metric
- 3 Months of Traffic Data
- 3 Months of Mobile App Analysis Data too!
Step 6: Use the Google AdWords Keyword Planner to cut down your keyword list.
You’re in a great place. You now have a nice mix of keywords. Armed with this data you’ll really want to start drilling down this list to get more quantitative data.
The easiest way to to do this is to simply use Google Adwords Keyword Planner (unfortunately, you will need to register for an account) and Google Trends. The keyword planner used to be named simply as “Keyword tool”. This is probably the best comprehensive tool you can use to mine keywords.
Using both tools in conjunction is really powerful. Use the planner to find out the search volumes on your list. If there are too many or too few searches then double check their relevance for your campaign by entering into Google trends. This will give you an idea if the keyword is trending upwards and breaking out. This will aid you in determining which keywords to invest your time in even if they have quite a small search volume.
Using keywords in your campaigns that are trending is a great technique to stay ahead of the curve. Done correctly, you’ll always outsmart the competition if you are constantly mining for trending keywords in your niche.
If you are unsure and just want to check Google rules, try the web link below:
Integrate your Google Places with Google+: