Local SEO Audit: Everything You Need to Know (+ How to Perform One)

Local SEO audits are one of the most important tasks on your local search to-do list. Unfortunately, many companies struggle to run them often enough. Smaller businesses often lack the tools and expertise to run audits, in the first place, while larger companies face the logistical challenge of running audits for every business location. The good news is that – with the right system in place – businesses of all sizes can run local SEO audits without the hassle.

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What is a local SEO audit?

A local SEO audit analyses the visibility of your web pages and other assets for local searches. First, an audit reviews your rankings for priority keywords and queries, but it also checks the overall performance of your local SEO strategy.

This includes a technical analysis of your website, target keywords, backlinks and citations, off-site content – and everything else that contributes to local visibility.

local search results for open air cinema near me

At the end of each audit, you’ll have a measurable summary of your local SEO performance. You should also get a breakdown of strengths and weaknesses, including any issues that need fixing and new opportunities to optimise for.

Why should you run a local SEO audit?

The goal of a local SEO audit is to analyse the current performance of your strategy. This tells you where you’re currently at and reveals the strengths and weaknesses in your strategy.

By running audits regularly, you can address issues before they negatively impact your local search rankings. You can also identify new opportunities faster and keep track of your competitors.

On the other hand, not running local SEO audits regularly allows technical issues to pile up. Websites and pages naturally degrade over time and various issues inevitably crop up: slow loading times, broken links, indexability problems, code conflicts, etc.

Google's pagespeed insights results showing technical errors

Even using free tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights can help you identify a range of technical issues.

Local SEO audits are also an opportunity to reassess your opportunities and challenges. You can identify new keywords, search trends, backlink opportunities and check in on what your competitors are doing. Think of it as a performance review to see how well you’re currently doing, what you can do better and address any issues that need fixing.

What’s included in an SEO audit?

Depending on the nature of your business, a local SEO audit may include some specialist insights. For example, restaurants might analyse interactions with menu content on Google Maps, online orders and reviews on delivery apps.

Specialisms aside, every local SEO audit should include the following nine essentials:

  1. Keywords review: Your existing target keywords and new keyword opportunities.
  2. Rankings review: Where you rank for each target keyword and the opportunity/value of each ranking.
  3. Website audit: The technical performance of your website for local search and users.
  4. Google Business Profile: The quality, depth and accuracy of your Google Business Profile.
  5. Local content audit: Analysis of local pages and localised content on your website.
  6. Local backlinks & citations: Your existing backlinks and citations, plus new opportunities for both.
  7. Customer reviews: Analysis of your customer reviews profile and feedback they provide.
  8. Competitor analysis: The strengths and weaknesses of your competitors’ local SEO strategies.
  9. Local social media review: Your visibility for local users on relevant social media platforms.

Before we explore these nine key elements in more detail, let’s quickly discuss the tools you need.

What tools do you need for a local SEO audit?

Again, some businesses may require specialist tools for specific niches. Otherwise, the following tools cover everything else you need from a local SEO audit:

  • Google Analytics provides the base level of web analytics, including location insights, demographics and conversion reporting.
  • Search Console is Google’s SEO-centric reporting system with search performance metrics (impressions, clicks, CTRs, etc.), keyword reports, visibility insights and more.
  • Google Business Profile reporting provides insights on profile views, direction requests, call button clicks, website click-throughs and other interactions.
Google business profile reporting
  • Keyword research tools can identify new keyword opportunities, track search interest, analyse competitor keywords and prioritise opportunities.
  • Search ranking analysis tracks your ranking positions for target keywords, where competitors rank and helps you determine the reward/difficulty of new opportunities.
  • SERP analysis reveals what results pages look like for target queries, including SERP features (local packs, featured snippets, etc.) and paid ads – so you can understand the scope of keyword opportunities and the placements available.
  • Website auditing runs a technical health check on your website for things like indexing issues, broken links, loading times, code/rendering issues, etc.
  • Backlink checkers track the inbound links pointing towards your website (and competitors’), evaluating their quality and measuring insights like traffic volumes – to help you manage your link profile and find new opportunities.
  • Internal link checkers analyse the internal linking structure of your website, identifying any broken or problematic links so you can address issues quickly.
  • Citation management tracks your business profiles on third-party platforms like Google Business Profile, Bing Places and directory listing sites.
  • Review management monitors customer reviews across platforms (Google Reviews, Trustpilot, TripAdvisor, etc.) so can analyse feedback and respond to reviews.
  • Competitor analysis audits rival websites and local SEO strategies – so you can pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses.

Building a complete auditing system can get expensive, which is why many companies outsource auditing to an agency that already has all the tools they need.

How to do a local SEO audit

To run a local SEO audit, follow these nine steps for each business location:

  1. Local SEO keyword review
  2. Local SEO ranking review
  3. Website audit
  4. Google Business Profile review
  5. Local pages & content review
  6. Local backlinks & citations review
  7. Customer reviews analysis
  8. Competitor analysis
  9. Social media audit

If you’re managing multiple business locations and you need help with performing local SEO audits at scale, take a look at the guide below or contact us for assistance.

GUIDE: SEO and content strategies for multi-location businesses

1. Local SEO keyword review

Regular keyword reviews ensure you’re targeting the most important queries and you know where your traffic is coming from. In each local SEO audit, you want to review two key aspects of your keyword strategy:

  1. Existing target keywords: The keywords you’re targeting, which ones you’re generating the most traffic from and which queries drive valuable actions (conversions, store visits, etc.).
  2. New keyword opportunities: Identify new, emerging keyword opportunities as search trends evolve and the local search environment changes.

You can review your existing keywords in Search Console. Once logged in, click on Search results to view the top queries driving impressions and clicks.

Google search console queries

To find new keyword opportunities, start by checking that you’re optimising for all of the queries in Search Console generating impressions. Pay close attention to any queries with high impressions and low clicks.

Next, use a dedicated keyword research tool to find new keyword opportunities. Make sure you use a tool that includes location filters so you can check search volumes within your target areas.

2. Local SEO rankings review

Next, you want to analyse your search rankings for target keywords – and the results pages they generate. Above all, you want to know where you’re ranking for your most important keywords and keep track of any changes. However, you also want to understand the characteristics of the SERPs your target keywords produce, as this affects the placements, visibility, competitors, etc. involved.

Here’s a quick summary of the key things to review for each target keyword:

  • Avg. positions for target keywords
  • Change (+/-) in avg. positions over time
  • Placements (blue links, local pack, etc.)
  • Result analysis (title, meta description, rich results, etc.)
  • Competitors for target keywords
  • SERP features
  • Visibility (impressions vs local search volumes)
  • Engagement (clicks and CTRs)

Make sure you have an SEO tool that can track your rankings for keywords and analyse results pages, including SERP features like local results.

3. Website audit

Website audits check that search engines can crawl and index your pages properly – and that users can access them. For example, if you have multiple business locations, you probably want the nearest location page to show in results.

A local SEO audit should analyse all of the following:

  • Website structure
  • Local pages
  • Local keywords
  • Page URLs
  • On-page SEO (titles, headings, meta descriptions, etc.)
  • NAP details (name, address and phone numbers)
  • Localised content
  • Duplicate content
  • Images and visual content
  • Keyword cannibalisation
  • Internal links
  • Backlink profile
  • Core Web Vitals
  • Schema implementation

You can automate basic website audits with most modern SEO tools and these will usually flag up common issues like broken links and duplicate content. However, automated audits can’t detect everything and, sometimes, they even get things wrong. Ideally, you should get your website audited by SEO experts at least once a year to make sure everything is in order.

4: Google Business Profile review

In terms of local visibility in Google Search, your Business Profile is the most important asset in your strategy. This profile stores all of the business information Google and users need to find your business and choose you over the alternatives in your local area.

Every local SEO audit should review your Google Business Profile to make sure it’s up-to-date and 100% accurate.

Google business profile info

If your opening hours have changed, the new times better be on your Business Profile. If you’ve recently added parking facilities to a business premise, add parking as a facility to the relevant location. If you’re running multiple business locations, each location needs its own, complete Google Business Profile.

5: Local pages & content review

Every business location you’re optimising for should have its own location page on your website. Each location page should include a descriptive URL with the location (eg: example.com/service-location) and location keywords in the title, headings and main content.

If you’ve got multiple location pages, make sure they all include unique content – don’t just switch out the location keywords. Create a “locations” category page on your website with links to each location page.

Optimise each page for its target location and highlight any differences between business premises. Use your Google Business Profile as a reference. Include the branch name, location, address and phone number. Add the opening times to each location page and any services,  attributes or facilities local audiences care about (eg: in-store pickups, on-site parking, free WiFi, etc.).

To boost the visibility of your local pages, you also need to create localised content for each location. This means creating relevant content for local keywords, covering the topics local audiences care about and offering genuine value.

Whether you’re optimising for one or multiple locations, this guide will help: SEO and content strategies for multi-location businesses

6: Local backlinks & citations analysis

Backlinks and citations are important for every SEO strategy. Like any business, you want as many quality backlinks pointing to your website and relevant pages as possible.

However, as a local business, you also want local backlinks and citations pointing to the relevant location pages on your website.

  • Local backlinks: Inbound links from authoritative local sources – like local media, government institutions, registered charities, etc.
  • Local citations: Any set of business information including your business name and location-specific info (branch name, address, phone numbers, etc.).

To track and manage local backlinks, you need a backlink checker capable of identifying the location of inbound links. You also want a tool that can identify new local backlink opportunities worth optimising for.

7: Customer reviews analysis

Customer reviews are an important signal for local search, but they’re even more important for users themselves. Reviews help potential customers choose between rival companies – the difference between visibility and valuable actions (bookings, store visits, purchases, etc.).

Keep in mind that users (and search engines) trust average review scores more when they’re calculated from a high volume of reviews. An average score of 3.8 stars from 100 reviews always feels more reliable than a 5-star score from 10 reviews.

Don’t worry about perfect review scores; focus on getting as many positive reviews as you can – and dealing with any negative reviews swiftly. As long as you address any issues raised in reviews and remain professional, you can turn negative feedback into a positive. Show potential customers how good you are at dealing with problems (every business has them). And, once you’ve dealt with a customer’s problem, gently remind them that they can change their review score.

Take a look at the following articles for more help with this:

8: Competitor analysis

Competitor analysis reveals the strengths and weaknesses of your rivals’ local SEO strategies. Between consumer trends, search habits, algorithm updates and other constant changes, new opportunities to beat your competitors are emerging all the time.

Your local SEO audits should answer the following questions:

  • Target keywords: What are they targeting, which keywords are generating the most traffic and are they missing any opportunities?
  • Keyword/topic coverage: How deeply are they covering all relevant topics related to primary keywords and which sub-topics do they prioritise?
  • Ranking positions: Which position are they ranking for each target keyword – and where are you in comparison?
  • Traffic volumes: How much traffic are they generating from each target keyword?
  • Top pages: Which pages are generating the most traffic, impressions and CTRs?
  • Google Business Profiles: How complete are their Business Profiles and are there any opportunities to offer something different/new that could win customers (eg: different opening hours)?
  • Website audit: Are there any technical weaknesses on their website that you can use to your advantage?
  • Backlink profiles: Where are they getting their best backlinks from and can you target the same links or replace them as the destination URL?
  • Citations: Where are their business details listed and are their citations consistent?
  • Reviews: What’s their average review score, how many reviews do they have and what issues are their customers raising?

Don’t simply look at how your competitors are performing on Google, but also Bing and other search platforms. Are they also selling on platforms like Amazon and Etsy or are they reaching local audiences on social platforms like LinkedIn?

Which brings us to our last point.

9. Audit social media for local visibility

Google isn’t the only search engine people use to find local businesses. In fact, a growing section of Gen Z is using TikTok and Instagram to find places to eat and other local businesses.

Example of a business promoting in local search on social media

As we’ve explained before, visibility on Google alone isn’t enough anymore. Social media is playing a bigger role in local discovery and it can also reinforce your presence on search engines like Google.

First of all, think of your social profiles as another citation. Create profiles or pages for each business location on platforms that allow (eg: Facebook), including the relevant branch details for each location.

Next, analyse user behaviours to determine how they’re finding local businesses on each platform. People use Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest and other networks in very different ways and you need to be visible for the right moments on each one. For example, you may find more users are actively searching for content like yours on Pinterest while you have to work on getting seen in TikTok’s “For you” feed.

Questions about local SEO audits

How long does a local SEO audit take?

With the right tools and automation, you can complete most local SEO audits within a few hours to a working day. As a general rule, the more audits you run, the smaller the average workload becomes.

How often should companies run local SEO audits?

Most companies optimising for local search should run at least one audit every six months or quarter. Some larger companies – especially those with a dozen or more locations – may benefit from running smaller local SEO audits every month and full audits every quarter or six months.

What are the outputs of a local SEO audit?

At the end of each audit, you should receive a report showing the current performance of your local SEO strategy. You should also receive a list of issues that need addressing – in order of importance – and a list of opportunities, also prioritised in order of value vs difficulty.

How much does a local SEO audit cost?

Again, with the right tools and automation, the cost of running local SEO audits is greatly reduced. The bigger expense is resolving issues flagged up by audits or optimising for new opportunities identified by them. This is why fixes and opportunities should be prioritised in order of importance – so you can optimise the factors that generate revenue.

Do you need help running your next local SEO audit?

Running complete local SEO audits regularly involves a lot of work – before you even optimise anything they flag up. Our team has the tools and expertise to help you run audits and optimise your local search strategy for the best results. Learn more about our local SEO services.

If you’d like to chat to us about how we can help your business, call 02392 830281 or send us your details and we’ll call you back.

Ollie Griffiths profile picture
Ollie Griffiths

Ollie joined Vertical Leap in 2022, enjoying being part of an incredible team, and working with some amazing clients ever since. He has a range of experience in the hospitality, events, and exhibition industries after finishing his studies in Business & Marketing. His SEO experience extends across many years, keeping in the loop on the latest news and trends in the industry. Ollie welcomes any challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow! When not fulfilling his SEO duties, Ollie passionately supports Pompey FC using his season ticket to ensure he never misses a game! He also can be regularly be seen at live music events, with a particularly keen ear for the likes of Foals, Arctic Monkeys, and Royal Blood. An armchair movie critic, Ollie loves spending time watching films and TV shows.

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