This is a guest post from Ashwin Ramesh, cofounder of Synup.
When starting to do SEO for your physical retail business, it is important for you to be able to audit your website and campaign to see whether all of the important factors are in place.
Even if you have a consultant doing this for you, it makes sense to audit some of these things yourself just to be sure you have all your tracks covered.
In this article, we'll go over ten of the most important steps you should take when auditing your Local SEO campaign.
The actual audit by itself isn’t going to be easy to follow unless you keep yourself organized. Ideally, you should write down all of your steps in a Google Docs spreadsheet you can follow.
Your spreadsheet needs to have rows with the different pages / sections or sites you’re doing an audit on and columns with the ten important audit steps.
Alternatively, you can use an easily laid out checklist like the Local SEO Checklist.
Let's get started.
1. Citation Audit
A citation is an online reference to your business’s name, address and phone number (NAP). It’s important that your existing citations on the web are accurate. A typo on your phone number or name will lose you traffic or customers fast and it’s too much to ask that they hunt for the right info.
The first step is checking your NAP details on directories. You can do this by searching on Google for:
- Variations of your business’ phone number (###) ###-#### and ###-###-### and ##########.
- Variations of your current business name and any other name it may have been known as.
- If you are an office with multiple lawyers/doctors/practitioners working for the same company then search by their names as well.
Additionally, you can search using directory names as well. Go through the top directories and important niche/local directories, and double check the information to ensure that it’s accurate.
The most important directories in our opinion are:
For a list of the top 50 local directories, go here.
While you’re at it, claim all of those listings as yours so that you (and not unauthorized people) can edit and update them.
2. Meta Tag Audit
Your Meta Tags are visible on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), so you should make sure they’re optimized and readable since it will often be a first impression to customers.
Mention your main keywords on the Meta Title Tag as well as an identifier since it will be your title and link on the SERPs. Having said that, make sure it’s readable and not just a list of keywords. Your home page and any location-specific pages should have the city and state of that location in the title tags.
As for your Meta Description, make it self-contained and not too long. It will show as a snippet on the SERP. Also ensure that they’re geared towards conversion - you want people to get the info they need and click through if it’s what they were looking for.
Make sure there is a unique Meta Title Tag and description for each page with unique keywords. You can use Google Webmaster Tools to check for any duplicates in your meta tags.
There are several different meta tags that can be added to a web page. Here is an old post that you can refer too. Some of the information on it is a little outdated (like Authorship Tags), but it is still a useful resource.
3. Website Content Audit
Content needs to be unique and varied, without too much focus on stuffing keywords all over the place. It is important that you create your content for users and not search engine bots.
Check to see if there is duplicate content within your own website. If your site is hosted on Wordpress there are chances that there are some duplicate content issues on the category pages. A tool like SiteLiner can help you easily detect duplicate content and CopyScape can look for copied content from other sites within your website.
Don’t add irrelevant keywords. Do your research carefully and pick out a few important and relevant keywords for each page. Mix it up and don’t repeat keywords on every page - maybe even use simple variations on different pages, for example, “web marketing” and “online marketing” as different keywords.
You can do your keyword research using Google’s Instant Search or Related Searches to find what users search for in relation to your product/service.
You want users to go beyond just your first landing page, so direct them the way you want them to go with a call to action; a well-placed one can reduce your bounce rate and increase conversion since the user knows where to go next.
A good way to organize yourself is to create a simple spreadsheet while going through each page on the website and note down the word count, call to actions, content issues, errors, link anchors etc. Create and maintain an inventory that you can easily refer to from time to time to find out gaps/issues and to help speed up your checking process.
4. URL AuditFor your URL Audit, the first thing you'll want to make sure of is that the URLs are not parameter driven.
You should also check your URL’s because they should be readable for a user - it makes navigation easier. Especially since users who have visited your site before would have the pages cached on their computer, if they begin typing your site name, they should know what page their browser is suggesting they go to.
You can’t avoid it if your site needs a lot of dynamic pages with long URL’s. But if you want to check them, you can get a list of all URLs by extracting your sitemap or by using a tool similar to Screaming Frog or xml-sitemaps.
URL’s are best organized with dashes (-) separating words, it makes it easily readable. Using underscores is not suggested; since underscores are used in coding language, Google doesn’t treat underscores as word-separators, but does for dashes. Here is an explanation of it by Matt Cutts.Secondly, you should check to make sure that your website has a flat architecture.
Flat architecture means that your pages are not nestled in too many other pages or categories. This means that it’s easier to navigate through your website from the homepage and a handful of other categorical pages.
This makes it easy for customers to find what they need quickly since the menus clearly show them all the options. However, if categories are too broad and vague, or menus too large it might be clumsy.
Make a choice in how you organize your page, but usually local businesses do not need deep, highly specific categories.
5. Google+ page Audit
The first steps to audit your Google+ or Google My Business page is to check your dashboard and ensure your profile is 100 percent complete. Just fill in the missing information and make sure your page is verified. Google has a phone verification step you need to complete for businesses.
Just as before, make sure your NAP on Google is correct - especially your address for Google Maps to pick up.
Additionally, make sure your Google+/Google My Business is connected to your website and that you place a +1 button visibly on your website since +1’ can be seen publicly. You can customize the button a little.
And finally, make sure your information is all clear and well-written - no keyword stuffing your business description!
6. Online Reputation Audit
Keep track of the number of reviews that your customers have left for you on different review sites including Google, Yelp, Facebook, and keep an eye on the average ratings you have.
Actually listen to the feedback and find out if there are any gaps in your internal process/services. This will help you become adaptable, give you a different perspective and altogether provide a better customer experience.
If you have the time and money you can utilize some really affordable tools like:
- Trackur (for wbe mention monitoring)
- Synup (for review monitoring)
- SocialMention (for social media monitoring)
Once you can find your reviews, you should take the time to respond to them. Thank fans and listen to critique. An angry reviewer can be calmed with the promise (and delivery) of better service. Additionally, also respond to questions online, especially on social media, since these channels are often used for that purpose.
7. Backlink Audit
Backlinks to your site are a part of ranking algorithms, so link-building is a vital process for any site - but you have to check the quality of those backlinks! Links from sketchy sites can actually hurt your rankings and too many of those would make it look like you’re buying links.
You can audit these links through Google Webmaster Tools. Under the “Search Traffic” tab, go to “Links To Your Site”, then “More” then “Who Links The Most”. Download that entire table and check for spammy sites which have linked you. If you think that any of these links were not built by you and can harm your site, then either contact the website and request they remove the link(s) or use Google’s Disavow Tool to let Google know to ignore those links.
The next thing to check is the “How Your Data Is Linked” section to find out what the Anchor Texts on those backlinks are and make sure they’re not misleading links. Otherwise, contact the site and let them know that the text might be misleading.
There are a few tools which will help provide good data about your backlinks:
8. Site Speed Audit
Users expect site to load nearly immediately. Nowadays a site that doesn’t load while everything else does will not be spared. In the U.S. the average expected time for a site to load is under 4 seconds. So keep your site in top shape.
Google Analytics has a section under “Behavior” for Site Speed. It will give a good idea of how much time it takes for pages on your website to load. Make note of any significant changes or variations between pages and find the cause.
You can also use Google’s page speed insight tool to check the speed of your major landing pages which will often be the first page a user sees. They have instructions provided to work with your website developers to improve your website.
9. Local Schema Audit
Schema basically categorizes key information on your pages for Google crawlers to understand. This then results in your information looking professional and tidy on Search Engine Results Pages. You can have all the necessary information neatly laid out and take full advantage of Google’s Knowledge Graph.
When you’re done with your schema, you can audit it by using Webmaster Tools’s Structured Data Testing Tool.
10. Google Analytics Implementation Audit
Google Analytics is something any local business should monitor like a hawk. Since small events can make all the difference, adaptability is only possible if you’re paying attention to feedback - direct or indirect.
The last thing you need is incorrect or misleading data because your Google Analytics isn’t set up properly for your company, so follow Google’s checklist to set it all up right. GAtective also lets you check your configuration for free.
In order to make sure that the data you want is being correctly tracked and collected, you can use Google’s Tag Assistant, a Google Chrome extension which works on a chosen page. It lets you know if the tracking code is working properly and offers suggestions too.
Make use of Google Drive. Since Google Analytics’ information can be exported into spreadsheets, you can use functions on Spreadsheets to visualize your analytics the way you want to and align it with your business goals (and then make it shareable and editable by your team).
Finally, you need to track the various campaigns you run. The best way to get individual data is to use Campaign Tags. Using unique URL’s for each campaign helps you monitor traffic from those campaigns and recognize what is working/converting and what isn’t.
Here’s a post from Google with some tips on Campaign Tags. Keep in mind that you should only tag external links, not internal links on your site, and that small changes in the links (like capitalization or hyphenation) will create a new tag and can skew your data.