When you started out you probably were excited to be on page 2 of the Google SERP, but then you learned as we all did that page two may as well be page 22 for all the traffic it brings. That’s a tough message, but it just happens to be true with only a very few exceptions.
People are lazy, heedless and Snow blind to stuff on their browser. They need a “tow truck”, they pick from the first two or three local options after checking reviews. If not satisfied they may look down the first few organic listings below the “Snackpack”. Now suppose you happen to be running a tow truck service, you need to appear on the first page for those target keywords.
To get in that prime position for local search for your most commonly used search terms, you’ll need first to do a local SEO audit and find out how you compare, what needs fixing and what is working for your competitors as a starting point..
Here’s the run-book you’ll need to follow.
Step 1: Competitor analysis
For many small businesses, the key to success is matching or outdoing local competitors, so rather than aiming at perfection, the best starting point is to create a benchmark form how your two or three main competitors are doing and then identify the gap or rather what you need to do so that your site overtakes them in the SERP.
Take a close look at their SEO status and tactics. The better they are doing, in the SERP compared to you, the more work you will have to do to get ahead of them.
The following is a good set of viewpoints to adopt:
- Google My Business ranking for your top keywords
- Organic rankings for your top keywords.
- Quality based on how users react e.g. bounces.
- Number and quality of back links.
- Site Speed.
- Social Statistics.
This way you will a get strong first impression of the task at hand and begin forming a view of what you will need to do. I would suggest top three competitors and top three search phrases to keep it within reasonable bounds.
Step 2: Keyword Audit
You need to know what keywords your site and especially your target page is ranking for. You may be surprised to find that Google takes a very different view of what your business, your site and your content are about than you do. That’s irritating for sure, but it’s the real world. The semantic capabilities of Google search are not renowned. A recent edition, BERT adds a little element of understanding, but it still has along way to go and seems committed to machine learning rather than programming as way to analyse and understand natural language, What all that means is that you need to follow some SEO rules, but not overdo it, in order to make Google get the message. Sort of like translating for tourists.
It looks at certain points on the page especially features like images, video, headings and links and it measure proximity of words to decide whether they are closely related in context, That has been a particular weakness which was addressed by BERT, but you do need to help it out a little by addressing basic “on-page” issues, i.e. how your content is laid out and how a spider will interpret it.
Screaming fog is a great free tool to help with this job, but you will still need to pay attention.
The next issue to address is synonyms or more accurately local vernacular and habits. E.G you may be found for ”Coventry Tow Truck” but not for “Coventry breakdown” or even ” Coventry Tow-Truck”. Yes, it’s still that dumb.
Start by making a list of products and the searches locals might use for a page you’d like to drive traffic to. Once you do this you’ll be able to use tools like Keyword Finder to quickly put together a list of high volume local target keywords and longer keyword phrases. Don’t spend too much time on a short phrase like breakdown because that is automatically covered in “Coventry Breakdown”
Once your audit is finished you can then compare to see how well you have optimised for the most valuable words.
A helpful tool at this point is Ahrefs
Step 3: Local Search Audit
According to Moz’ Local Search Ranking Factors Survey GMB is the most influential driver of local SEO success. If you want to appear in the ‘snack pack’, make sure that your GMB listing is up to par, and optimise it for your core target keywords.
Here is a useful checklist of core issues:
- Is your GMB listing claimed and verified?
- Is your business information all in place and all correct?
- Do you have plenty of reviews aa good average rating and recent reviews?
- Have you been responding to reviews?
- Have you written regular GMB posts?
- Do you have correct business categories listed?
- Have you uploaded images?
The GMB app for Android or Apple will help you make improvements.
Step 4: Check Reviews for Quality and Quantity
Potential customers read reviews and take a lot of notice of them when deciding whether to visit or purchase or to move on.
For that reason, search engines pay a lot of attention to the quality of your reviews and this is why I urge you to pay close attention to this area.
Well written reviews on a range of review sites like Google, Yelp, Facebook especially plus any relevant specialist review sites like Trip Adviser is a great way to not only improve conversions, but also improve your quality score and increase traffic.
If you are starting out with reviews, approach a few happy customers and ask them. If they agree, then make sure you asked ones who will write a thorough review. The reason I say this is that most reviewers tend to be influenced by the style of the previous reviews and even the content.
Helpful Local SEO Tools:
- SEO Insight is a super tool that will do most of the work for you , helping you to complete your audit in a short time and it will then give you a step by step set of actions to put the problems right and get the ranking your deserve.
Step 6: Schema-Markup Audit
To test your NAPS you can use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to see if all the correct information is present for your business.
There are lots of WordPress plugins to help you with schema and this is a useful tool for other sites. Always take a backup before playing with the code of your website.
Step 7: Backlink audit
For now at least, Back Links are the most important factor in competing for SERP position.
A range of quality links is critical for local business and they need to include local links, links form sites in the same business vertical and links of fairly high Domain Authority (DA)
Your job is to find out who links back to you and whether this list includes all the quality criteria mentioned above. If not you will need a strategy to address this.
Large numbers of links is not overly important unless they are all high quality, otherwise focus on quality at first.
A useful tool to help you is Ahrefs
Step 8: Citations Audit
You need to examine sites and directories like Facebook, Yelp, Yellow pages, MapQuest and many more. You’ll also need to check to see if the data is correct and consistent. In USA there are different aggregators than in UK and the reason I mention them is because they unofficially attempt to collect and distribute this data in a very uncoordinated manner that can be confusing and irritating to deal with.
For example, you might manually edit all your citations and after a long day congratulate yourself only to find that an aggregator has copied wrong data over your corrected data.
Our Listing builder tool is free to use and will run these checks for you and distribute your data whether in UK or US. Just call us on the number at the bottom or email us at Listingbuilder@nv8v.com and well show you how to get it done for free.
Step 9: On-Page SEO Audit on Main Web Pages
An audit of the
for local SEO. Plus, you’ll be able to determine improvements and content gaps that might be missing.
Once you’ve evaluated and recorded the weaknesses in your local SEO, you can make use of a host of top-tier SEO plugins to help you do your work.
Screaming Frog is also a very helpful tool for examining the page structure, assets etc..
Step 10: Audit Image SEO
Using Scremingfrog free version you can easily get a look at how the images on your site are named and how quickly they are loading. Both aspects of images are important in SEO
Wherever you can, rename the image to reflect a keyword that is very important for the surrounding text.
Step 11: Check Website Speed
According to Google’s research the likelihood of a bounce increases 32% when the page load time goes from 1s to 3s. 1s to 5s increases the chance to 90%.
Low bounce rates combined with time spent onsite are two major parts of how Google assesses your site for quality. This also impacts the price you pay for PPC keywords. For a seemingly small thing the impact can be major.
WordPress provides cache tools to speed up their sites, a search through plugins should help you. Unfortunately, the weakness of WordPress is that it is by nature slow and the only sensible approach is to use caching.
For others a reduction in image sizes will make a substantial difference. But depending on how it is built there could be other issues
Google PageSpeed Insights Tool will give you an indication of your site performs on speed.