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Local SEO audit: 6 steps to get it right

Entrepreneur doing a local SEO audit of her website

Key takeaways

  • A local SEO audit helps you assess how your site performs on local searches and how you can improve its visibility
  • Your rankings (and those of your competitors) can act as metrics you track when setting local SEO goals 
  • Keep your business information consistent across all channels so search engine algorithms can verify your location and industry

The days of phone books are over. Today, the internet is the ultimate business discovery tool. When shoppers want to find local business information, 72% choose search engines as their go-to tool—and most of these searchers will end up making an in-store visit. Getting your website on the first page of the right local searches can multiply your foot traffic fast. One of the best ways to improve your rank is by performing a local SEO audit that shows where your site currently stands. Here’s what local SEO audits are and how to conduct one.

What is a local SEO audit?

A local search engine optimization audit is a type of analysis that helps you gauge your company’s visibility on search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo—specifically, for searchers in your geographic area. If you own a brick-and-mortar store or have a specific service area, a local SEO audit can tell you if you’re maximizing your chances to reach your target market.

Local business owners and marketers use audits to:

  • Get the full picture of their company’s local SEO efforts
  • Understand how their competitors are performing on local search
  • Identify opportunities to rank higher on local search engine results pages (SERPs)

When users search for local information—for example, by entering “dentist near me” or “contractors las vegas”—search engine algorithms use a set of criteria called “ranking factors” to determine how relevant your website is. An SEO audit helps you figure out which ranking factors you’re meeting and where you need to fill the gaps.

How to conduct a local SEO audit

Doing a local SEO audit at least twice per year can help your small business improve and maintain your ranking on local SERPs. Since the first two pages of search results capture 71% of clicks, showing up above your competition can win you potential customers. Below are six steps you can take to complete a thorough local SEO audit—no professional SEO services needed.

As you go through these steps, jot down your findings on an organized document or spreadsheet, taking note of any improvements you want to make.

1. Check your current local search rankings

Woman happily working

To give your local SEO audit some context, start by assessing where you currently stand. When you know your local search rankings, you can better understand how your current SEO marketing efforts impact your performance. Plus, once you start updating your local SEO strategy based on your findings, you can objectively track improvements in your ranking.

Before you can check your current rankings, you’ll need to perform keyword research to create a list of local search terms for which you want to rank—for example, “manicures miami” or “miami nail art” for a nail salon. These free keyword research tools can help.

Then, use a keyword rank checker to determine your website’s ranking for each keyword; Ahrefs and Small SEO Tools offer free versions. If your keyword position is listed as “1,” this is ideal. It means your website shows up at the top of the results page. Local businesses should aim for a keyword position of seven or under, as this keeps your website on the first page of most search engines.

2. Audit your business listings

Search engine algorithms scan online business listings to verify information on your website and determine if you’re a trusted brand. These listings might include your profiles on Yelp, Better Business Bureau (BBB), Google My Business (GMB), Bing Places, and local listing sites.

For each of your business listings, double-check that the content on your page is accurate, consistent, and complete to show search engines you’re a trustworthy local business they should recommend. Key sections for the audit (if relevant) include your:

  • Business name, address, and phone number: Known as your NAP, these three key details should be exactly the same on your website and business listings.
  • Website: An accurate URL (your website address) is a must for helping your site rank higher on search engines. Make sure it’s accurate on all your business listings, including social media.
  • Business description: This description doesn’t have to be exactly the same everywhere, but providing it and including keywords can help you rank higher on local search. For example, if you have a nail salon, be sure to include those keywords.
  • General business information: Keep essential information consistent, such as your hours of operation, business categories, and list of products or services.
  • Photos and videos: Add high-quality images to boost credibility and show up on local image searches.

Keep in mind that your local business may already have a listing on sites like Yelp, even if you didn’t create one yourself. When you claim your Yelp Business Page, you can make instant updates to your business information, add photos, and more. This helps you keep your listing up to date if things ever change. A claimed Yelp Business Page is also a verified one, which can further boost your visibility on local search results.


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3. Analyze your reviews

Many business directories double as review sites. For example, users can post reviews on your Yelp Business Page, on your BBB and GMB listings, and on industry-specific review sites. Reviews on these platforms contribute to your online reputation, which can influence local search rankings (and search rankings in general): Digital media strategist Johnny Ross says, “Spending time responding to reviews and communicating with customers increases engagement and brand mentions, resulting in a positive impact on your search engine rankings.”

As part of your local SEO audit, take note of:

  • Your average star rating
  • The amount of reviews you have
  • The quality of your reviews (detailed reviews are higher quality than star ratings with no descriptions)
  • How fast and how often you currently respond to reviews

The more recent and positive reviews you have, the better. Building a stand-out customer service experience can help you inspire more reviews and positive testimonials from clients.

4. Comb through your website

Man checking his local SEO audit

Your website content plays a huge role in your local search ranking. Include local keywords throughout your site to increase your relevancy, and aim to include your business address and city on any page of your site where it makes sense.

Along with adding keywords to content visible to visitors (like headlines and image captions), include them in behind-the-scenes places like your meta descriptions, alt text, and title tags, which you can update from your website’s content management system, like WordPress.

Title tags and meta descriptions summarize your webpages on SERPs, while alt tags are used by screen readers and displayed when images don’t load. Also, take a look at the hyperlinks you include throughout your website content. Linking to other pages of your site—as well as to high-quality, relevant, and local sources, such as .gov and .edu sites—can help you improve your local SEO. Take note of both the quantity and quality of the links you have on each page.

5. Assess your backlinks

When another website links to one of your webpages, you gain what’s called a “backlink.” A backlink can boost your search engine ranking as it offers “evidence” that your site is trustworthy. If these websites are high-quality and relevant to your location, backlinks can do wonders for your SEO.

Start this part of your local SEO audit by using a backlink checker (the Ahrefs tool is free) to see how many links you have. Take a look at where those links are coming from and whether they’re from quality sites. Moz‘s Domain SEO Analysis Tool can provide objective domain authority ratings.

If you have less than 25 quality backlinks, it’s time to prioritize link-building in your digital marketing strategy. A lack of backlinks can hurt your search engine ranking. Ideally, you should have at least 75-100 backlinks, although there’s no such thing as too many quality backlinks.

You can gain backlinks by guest posting on blogs (like your local Chamber of Commerce site), asking business partners to link to your site, or by writing high-quality content that other websites can cite.

6. Compare your competitors

Once you finish a local SEO audit of your website and ranking factors, go through the above process for at least five of your top local competitors. Then, assess how your local SEO performance compares to theirs. You can do this with the help of keyword rank checkers, search engines, review sites, and similar online tools. Performing a local SEO audit on your competitors can help you set specific goals and brainstorm more ideas to boost your local search rankings.

Improve your rank with a local SEO audit

The closer to the top of local SERPs your website gets, the more leads and sales you can gain. Auditing your online presence is a great way to discover new opportunities to improve your local search ranking. Whether you’re checking for accuracy on business listings or assessing your backlinks, the local SEO audit process can uncover where you’re doing well and where you need to change your strategy. 

Ready for a deeper dive into SEO? Read our beginner’s guide to small business SEO for more tips on how to boost your bottom line.

The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.