Local SEO Audits for Small Businesses

If your business has a physical location, local SEO audits are critical in getting discovered by people in your geographic region. Here, we go over the ranking factors to improve your visibility in Google Maps and Google Search.
Written by
Jennifer Chu
Published on
July 10, 2024

In the present digital norm, small businesses who have a physical space or service a geographic area often neglect online efforts to target their local audiences. Local optimization ensures your company’s prominence in city searches. Below is a detailed guide covering the importance of local optimization, effective strategies to implement one, and track of its performance through reports and audits.

What is Local SEO?

Local SEO is the practice by which a physical business (one that has a physical location or services a geographic region) makes changes to its online presence to increase its rankings in local search engine results.  Your business, whether restaurant, service shop, doctor’s office or other, can then drive more in-person visits to convert into sales.

To help potential customers in your area find your offerings, your business’s search engine results pages (SERPs) need to clearly display your business's name. Local SEO is a subset of general SEO and uses slightly different methods, ranging from using citations to maintaining NAP consistency.

Local search happens when a person looks for a business or place near them. Local results in Google can appear in Maps or Search.

Why is Local SEO Important?

Local SEO is vital for several reasons:

  • Increased Visibility: Most consumers use search engines to find local businesses. Being visible in local searches means that more potential customers can find you.
  • Targeted Traffic: Local SEO ensures that your business is found by people who are looking for services or products in their specific area. These people may be higher quality (more likely to transact) due to proximity.
  • Competitive Edge: Optimizing for local SEO helps you stand out from competitors who might not be taking full advantage of local search optimization.
  • Customer Trust: Appearing in local searches, particularly in the Google Local Pack, can demonstrate that you have a legitimate business, increasing your business's credibility and trustworthiness.

Local Ranking Factors

There are three ranking factors for local search1:

  • Relevance: how well does your local business match the search query. This is where inclusion of relevant keywords in your site and profiles can improve your rankings.
  • Distance: how close is your local business to the location of the user performing the search. While you can’t exactly move your place of business, you can rank for searches performed further away from your business by improving your relevance and prominence.
  • Prominence: how well known the business is known. Prominence can be improved with backlinks, reviews, and general search performance (eg basic SEO).

How to Do a Local SEO Audit

Create and Optimize Your Google Business Profile (GBP)

Google Business Profile, which used to be called Google My Business, is a free listing by Google that allows businesses to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. It usually appears on the right hand side of search results, or as a local pack or map pack as seen below.

Local pack or map pack with details from google business profiles

We wrote about how to generate organic visits to your Google Business Profile, but the gist of it:

  • Customers are 2.7x more likely to consider a business reputable if they find a complete Business Profile on Google Search and Maps2
  • Local businesses should absolutely have a GBP if they want to get found in organic search
  • GBPs give businesses control over the information prospects see about them
  • GBPs are easy and free to create
  • Some GBP fields are more important ranking factors than others, including Business Name, Categories, Website, Reviews and more recently Services and Hours of Operation.

For steps on how to optimize your GBP, visit this article.

Conduct Keyword Research for Local SEO

Local search engine optimization requires understanding the right keywords to target. Google Keyword Planner, Moz, or SEMrush, for example, can be helpful in finding local keywords pertinent to the business sector you are in. Additionally, incorporating region-specific terms into primary keywords increases relevance, e.g., ‘bilingual preschool nyc’ and ‘cell phone repair new york’. Studying the keywords that are being targeted by your area's competitors can help reveal the prospects or common phrases used by prospects, provided those competitors are somewhat savvy with their SEO and marketing.

On-Page SEO for Local Optimization

In our our Part 1 of our SEO 101 Series about content, we discussed on-page SEO tactics to improve ranking amongst search engine results to get more customers to visit the page. With local optimization, you would employ the similar tactics but target the local-specific keywords you identified, adding them to Title Tags, H1 Tags and Meta Descriptions.

Ensure NAP consistency.  Your business’s Name, Address, and Phone number should be the same on your website, GBP, and any directories or websites that mention your business.

Post information specific to the region, topic of concern, or activity of interest in relation to your enterprise as the content; this can be blogs, articles, or videos.

Add local business schema markup so that search engines can better understand your business information and enhance your listing in the search results, thereby improving CTR.

Build Local Citations and Backlinks

Local SEO audit relies on constructing local citations along with backlinks, and as such, it is important that one builds them attentively. Your business needs to be listed in various local online directories such as Yelp, Yellow Pages, local chambers of commerce, etc. You should get registered on industry-specific sites that are relevant to what you do because these are the places where you can be found by potential customers looking for your products or services.

To get links from the local websites, engage in local sponsorships, events or partnerships. One way to build authority and acquire valuable backlinks is by writing guest posts for local blogs or websites.

Niche forums and private and public groups, like Facebook, can also be a good source for visibility amongst a highly targeted audience. For example, UES Mommas is a Manhattan moms group boasting 60K members, where members frequently post questions and answers across all topics kid-related.

Optimize for Mobile

Users submit 57% of local search queries with a mobile device or tablet4 - ReviewTrackers

We discussed in Part 4 of our SEO 101 Series how mobile performance is a big ranking factor in search. For the best experience across all devices, use responsive web designs. Improve user experience by compressing image file sizes and reducing the load time for your website when accessed through a mobile phone which will help lower bounce rates as well. Make navigation simpler to allow for quick access to needed information by mobile users.

Use Local SEO Tools to Audit Your Performance

Techniques of local SEO can help you make your audit much easier, as well as get insights into your performance. Check the performance of your GBP profile through Performance, formerly known as Insights, which shows you data on how customers found your profile, the keywords they searched, and how they interacted with your profile.

BrightLocal also has excellent tools for the local SEO audit: citation tracking and management of reviews can point at the problems directly. Moz Local is a tool that deals with your local listings and shows the data about the result of your local SEO strategy and tips for boosting it.

Conclusion

Local SEO audits are a necessary practice for any small business that wants to appeal to more people in their locale. The main factors for ranking highly in local search are relevance, distance, and prominence.  Your GBP profile can play a large role in optimizing for these ranking factors, as well as traditional SEO tactics like backlinks, keyword targeting, and mobile performance. Regularly track and monitor your local SEO performance, as well as competitors, to see which parts of your strategy need adjusting.

Related Articles

Generate Organic Visits For Your Google Business Profile

SEO Rich Text - Beyond Just Keywords

SEO 101: Content (Part 1)

SEO 101: UX (Part 2)

SEO 101: Authority (Part 3)

SEO 101: Technical SEO (Part 4)

References

1 "How to improve your local ranking on Google", Google, Pulled July 7, 2024

2 "Complete your Business Profile on Google", Google Business Profile Help, Pulled July 7, 2024

3 Joy Hawkins, "4 Google My Business Fields That Impact Ranking (and 3 That Don't) — Whiteboard Friday", Moz, October 23, 2020

4 Google/Purchased Digital Diary, "How Consumers Solve Their Needs in the Moment," Google, May 2016

5 "Local SEO Statistics and Trends: a 2022 Report by ReviewTrackers", ReviewTrackers, November 21, 2021

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