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Darren Shaw

How to Do a Basic Local SEO Audit in 30 Minutes or Less

Darren Shaw
How to Do a Basic Local SEO Audit in 30 Minutes or Less

A local SEO audit helps tell the story of where a business has been, but more importantly where they can go with an effective plan and strategy. Conducting a comprehensive audit for any local SEO client is a no-brainer. But, sometimes, you just need to take a quick look at the top-level items to see where a business is at with local search.

When new leads come into our LocalSpark service we gather some basic information from the prospect. Before the sales call, we do a quick 30-minute audit of their situation to find the opportunities we can help them with, and to make sure that they're a good fit for our service.

The audit shows the potential client that we've put in some leg-work on their case and are already looking for ways to help them. When you go into the sales call prepared with information about their situation and how you're going to help them, it demonstrates that you know what you're doing and can be the edge that convinces them to choose your agency over another.

So, how can you conduct your own 30-minute local SEO audit? Keep reading.

The 30-Minute Local SEO Audit

To start your quick audit, you will need:

  • The business name of your prospect
  • City where the business is located/conducted
  • Website of business

Step 1 - Keyword Check

Search the obvious top important terms of the prospect's business in their target city. The results will provide you with a sense of their current rankings and position in the SERPs and if a local pack is being returned. If you're only seeing organic results then this business may be better suited to an organic SEO campaign than a local SEO campaign.

Tip: Use an incognito browser and set the location to the business' city to ensure that the results you see are an accurate depiction of current rankings and not biased toward your previous browsing history and Google+ account.

a. Search the top terms, do you see local results?

b. Look through up to 5 pages for the business and note any rankings.

c. Also note if they’re running any AdWords campaigns. You can use SEMrush to gather this data as well.

pet-groomers-miami

This is the time to evaluate if there is "local intent" for this business. While organic campaigns can benefit from local SEO, the focus and execution of the campaigns differ greatly. At this point you can determine if the prospect is the right fit for your services. If the answer is no, then there is no need to move forward with the audit.

Step 2 - Search Business in Google

Search the business name and city in Google to see if their Google+ page link is showing up in the results.

If they are not showing up there could be many factors at play. For instance, no listing, old style listing, Google isn't properly associating their website with their listing or, worse, a penalty preventing the listing from showing up.

tartine-bakery

a. In a private browsing tab, set your search location to the city of the business, then search the company + city. Does the Google+ page link and reviews appear under their search result?

b. Do they get the local knowledge panel on the right?

bar-tartine

c. If there is no Google local listing showing up, go into Google+ Local and complete a direct search. Is there a listing showing up now? If yes, make a note of this. The listing could be unclaimed/not verified, have multiple account owners, may not have been properly upgraded from the old Places dashboard, received a penalty, possibility of duplicates and the list goes on. This is a very important point to discuss during the call.

tartine-bakery-listing

Note: when we take a look at Tartine Bakery's listing, we see that it hasn't been upgraded to the new listing style yet. We can tell because it has the light gray background under the business name, has a map where the cover photo is and it doesn't have the "Posts" tab. Claiming this listing in Google My Business will likely solve the problem, their listing will sync with the knowledge graph and they'll start getting the knowledge panel on branded search.

For more info on why the knowledge panel isn't showing, and some things to do to fix this, see this excellent post from Mike Blumenthal.

Step 3 - Google+ Local Page

A quick review/scan of their Google+ Local page will help you assess the health of their page and see if there are any major concerns (i.e. listing not showing up, spammy description and poorly chosen categories).

dandelion-chocolate-google-plus

a. Is the description user friendly (written for a humans and not search engines)? Is it compelling? Would you click to their site to learn more about the business?

b. Is the description spammed with keywords? The description field isn't considered in the ranking algorithm, but it is checked in Google's spam filter. There's no benefit to stuff it with keywords, but it could harm your ability to rank.

c. Does their primary category reflect their business? (For example, plumber vs. home improvements).

d. Have they associated too many categories with their listing? We have found that when you remove some of the less important categories, rankings for the primary category improve. We call too many categories "category dilution" because your category strength is being split across multiple categories. Tighten the categories up to focus all your category strength on the single most important service. Note: this is just a theory based on a few observed cases. We don't have substantial evidence to back up this theory at the moment. Your mileage may vary.

e. Review their Google Map Maker record by searching their business name and city, then click Edit This Place on their listing (assuming it’s not a service area business). Click the Category section and note the other categories associated with their listing. Are there any junk categories in there that should be removed?

google-map-maker

f. Do they have any reviews? If so, are they good reviews or do they look like a terrible business? (We've found that terrible businesses are also terrible clients).

g. Is all the important contact information listed? Address, hours, website?

h. Any social posts? Photos?

i. Any other thoughts on the listing?

Step 4 - Review Company Website

Perusing the website gives you a clearer picture of what stage this client is at in the local SEO funnel. You will gain insights to the direction their campaign will need to take; whether or not they are in need of a complete overhaul, some minor updates, or somewhere in between.

till-angies-list

a. How’s the homepage title tag? Does it include location, brand and keywords?

b. How would you rate the content on the homepage? Is it keyword-stuffed and spammy?

c. Is the NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) located in the footer or header? Is it properly marked up in Schema?

d. Are there specific content pages about the company's services or products? Is the content informative and well written or spammy?

e. How are the title tags on the rest of the site?

f. Any quick thoughts on the site structure?

g. Is there a contact page? Did they embed a map on the page? Is it properly embedded? (Embed the map to the location, not the address).

h. Do they have a blog? Is it active? How are the articles?

i. What is the site built in? WordPress? Something else? This will help.

j. Any immediate reaction to the overall design? Does it make you want to give them a virtual high-five or hide in a corner?

k. Do they list their social networks? Are they linked properly?

l. Use SEMrush's Site Audit tool to uncover any major site issues.

Step 5 - Social Review

Take a quick look at their social channels to see how they are doing.

a. What networks are they on?

b. What networks are missing, that are a must?

c. How active are they active?

d. Do they have engaged followers?

Step 6 - Backlink Health

Take a few minutes to assess the health of their current backlink profile. Any internet marketer who has had the pleasure of cleaning up nasty links and helping companies recover from penalties can attest that it can take a lot of sweat and tears. It's best to know in advance if you're ready to dive down the rabbit hole.

SEMrush-backlinks-tool

a. Check out their backlinks.

b. What's the total backlink count?

c. Record the number of linking root domains?

d. Does the anchor text look natural or lots of commercial terms?

e. Take a quick look at the referring domains. Visit a few sites, are you seeing a pattern? Are there a lot of paid links, link directories, blog comments, forum profiles, etc.

Step 7 - Citation Analysis

Citations play an important role in local SEO and directly impact local rankings. It's important to have accurate listings, no duplicates and a clean citation profile. Run the prospects primary phone number and any other phone numbers listed on the website or their Goolge+ page through the Local Citation Finder. From the search results record:

a. How many citations do they have?

b. Skim all the results, are they listed on the top important sites? Any junk showing up?

c. Run a scan in Moz Local. How's their score across the data aggregators and other important sites? Any duplicates or other problems?

top-50-citation-sources These are just some quick basic checks to give you a rough idea of the health of their citations. A full citation audit takes far too long to get into for this quick pre-sales call audit.

Ready To Start Closing Those leads?

Conducting a quick pre-sales call check not only gives you a strong understanding of the level of help a business requires with their local SEO, but it also gives you a realistic idea of the work that will be involved in the campaign, or if the client is beyond your ability to help (super spammy link profile).

This 30-minute local SEO audit is by no means a substitute to conducting an exhaustive audit once you've landed the client, however; it helps gives you a head start on the campaign (if you move forward), establishes trust from the first call, and weed out prospects who aren't the right fit for your services. I hope it helps you!

What would you include in YOUR pre-sales call checks?

Darren Shaw is the President and Founder of Whitespark, a company that builds software and provides services to help businesses with local search. He's widely regarded in the local SEO community as an innovator, one whose years of experience working with massive local data sets have given him uncommon insights into the inner workings of the world of citation-building and local search marketing.

Comments

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sally
bookmarked useful post
Juri
Juri
Good service. thanks
chrismccreery
chrismccreery
Great post as usual Darren. Any specific "Canadian" audit tips or tools you can share with others?
Darren Shaw
chrismccreery
Hey Chris, Local SEO is the exact same in every country and industry, with the exception of the important sites to get listed on. In Canada, you must make sure your Yellowpages.ca and IndustryCanada listings are perfectly accurate and as comprehensive as possible. Other than that, there isn't anything Canadian-specific to do.
chrismccreery
chrismccreery
Darren Shaw
Thanks Darren, I guess just meant some tools specific to Canada. Or does Moz Local support Canadian listings now?

Thanks,
Darren Shaw
chrismccreery
Hey Chris, other than the Whitespark Local Citation Finder, there are no tools specific to Canada. Moz Local is not in Canada yet.
chrismccreery
chrismccreery
Darren Shaw
Thanks Darren, that's what I figured. Poor Canada :(
Martin Kura
You can also use a tool like this one: http://localsearch.martinkura.... to check locally specific results by country (you don't have to use incognito search then).
Robin Jennings
Robin Jennings
The Citation Analysis is fantastic if you're based in the US. Not so great in many other countries. But fantastic actionable post.
omaha reader
Love it! We're also doing a ZMOT search now in our presentations.
Mike Hastings
Mike Hastings
omaha reader
I'm familiar with ZMOT, but what is a ZMOT search?
omaha reader
Mike Hastings
The 3 most common searches with purchase intent . . .

[industry] [city]
[industry] reviews [city]
best [industry] [city]

[ ] put your client or prospect's information here. You could also do without [city] if you geo-locate yourself
Ray White
Ray White
Love it! The only thing you left out is how you prepare and show that information to a client. I personally use a combination of screen capture or clipping with a little cropping and slap it on a PPT 1 or 2 pager. Great conversation starter.
Darren Shaw
Ray White
Good point, Ray! I usually just discuss what I found over the phone with the client, but sometimes I'll do a screenshare. Travis, one of our LocalSpark project managers likes to make screencast videos for clients.
Darren Shaw
Hey everyone. I'll keep an eye on the comments, so if you have any questions, just leave a comment!
OmniOnline
OmniOnline
Darren Shaw
In step 1 you said: "If you’re only seeing organic results then this business may be better
suited to an organic SEO campaign than a local SEO campaign."

Can you clarify - I'm thinking just the opposite - if great organic results but poor local - then aren't they a prime candidate for a local search campaign - maybe I'm misunderstanding you.

Thanks - great stuff - thanks for sharing and boiling it all down!
Darren Shaw
OmniOnline
Hi there,

I'm talking about the layout of the search results in general, not the results for the client. For example, let's say the prospect is an real estate agent. If you type in 'realtors cityname', you'll see that Google doesn't display a local pack for any realtor related keywords. Not since the Pigeon update, anyway. So, in the US at least, realtors need organic SEO work, not local SEO work.

Hope this helps!
OmniOnline
OmniOnline
Darren Shaw
I see - thanks for the clarification.
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