It can be daunting doing a local SEO audit without having a decent reference that you can go down the line with.
I decided it would be helpful if I made a list of the more common issues I run across, as well as some improvements that can be made to a local site that I rarely see (and sometimes forget about). So I made this page both for you and me, too.
I will keep it updated as things change.
Google Places Page
Get verification rolling now if it hasn’t been done yet, the longer you wait the longer it will take you to get any kind of decent results with local SEO.
Remember that you can link out from the business description on your G places page. Use this opportunity to link out to some of the client’s most popular products or services.
Use this tool to if you need help selecting the right categories. It can also help with categories for Angie’s List, Bing, Yelp, and others. Pretty cool.
Get rich content on the places page. Use plenty of photos and videos if you have them. No video for the local business yet? Check this out.
Keep a call to action above the fold. You would be surprised how many sites I look at that make the phone number hard to find. If the business thrives on incoming call leads, make that phone number nice and big.
I’m a big fan of long content. I like my pages at a 600 word minimum. Stuck for ideas? Along with the usual article/sales pitch style content, you can beef up the word count with:
- Local landmarks
- Driving directions
- Related case studies
- Unique offers
- Employee/Owner bios
Keep duplicate content to a minimum. Use Screaming Frog to grab the site’s URLs and bulk upload to copyscape to check for duplicate content. This may be difficult when building out similar pages for multiple locations, but it’s something to keep in mind.
Duplicate content on city-specific landing pages with just the city and state names changed are very common across large franchises. I imagine Google will take measures to combat this eventually and I wouldn’t want to get caught in that crossfire. It’s better to invest in unique content now than be sorry later.
Shoot for around 60-70 characters in length. Google will sometimes show a longer title tag but it’s rare.
Don’t think too hard about SEO beyond putting in a targeted keyword. Remember your title tag is more like a headline, optimize it for the highest CTR and consider putting the businesses phone # in there.
Use hyphens instead of pipes to separate phrases.
Use Screaming Frog to dig up any duplicate title tags.
Doesn’t have the real SEO power that it once did.
Like the title tag, optimize it for users and getting the click instead of thinking about SEO.
Put in the businesses phone number because it can be clickable on some devices.
And of course include a keyword or two because they’ll be getting bolded when they show up in the SERPs.
When you inherit a client site with a less-than-optimal permalinks you’ll have to make a judgement call. Is it worse enough that you’ll need to change the architecture and endure the temporary traffic drops that come from that or are their problems just minor and you can let it go?
In my opinion permalinks like this are worth changing ASAP: http://www.johndental.com/?p=8201.
It will require a 301 redirect but you’ll end up with a much more effective search-friendly URL like so: http://www.johndental.com/cosmetic-dentistry-in-new-york
Does the site itself have enough content to work with to actually create a decent internal linking strategy? The more content you have to link from, the better.
Want a good example of internal linking? Check out any popular Wikipedia article.
You can use internal links in a couple different ways. Use them to 1) push up your your most important pages (landing pages, category pages, service pages) or 2) you can use internal links to link out to deep pages within the site that might not get a lot of spider love.
Run an index check on all of the sites pages and see which pages might need some internal link love. Wow that sounds really dirty.
Make sure the NAP is in text on the page somewhere and that it matches the Google places page exactly. This is probably the most common issue, believe it or not.
Use Schema which will go even further in telling search engines the location of the business, how many reviews it has, and what it’s about.
Before you get started, check your client’s site for any existing Schema data with Google’s own Structured Data Testing Tool.
If no data is detected, you can get a lot of benefit from using a tool like this and implementing what it spits out.
404’s and Broken Links
You can use something like Xenu to find all of the broken links and 404’s on the site. Make sure you do this before you put together the sitemap if it needs one.
Interactive Google Map
Google makes it nice and easy to drop in an embeddable map on the site, I’m in love with them so I figured I’d note it here.
You can drop the place marker with the business NAP right on the map. It makes sense to put in the map from a user-experience perspective, too.
Really no reason to not include one.
Don’t forget to generate and submit your sitemap. Pretty standard stuff.
At one time geo/KML sitemaps were a big thing but unfortunately Google doesn’t really use geo sitemaps anymore.
Optimize Loading Speed
I feel like optimizing load speed could easily turn into a giant article on it’s own, but I just want to note it here because it’s not something you want to forget about.
If you want to go crazy, Udacity has a free 6 hour course on website performance optimization that you can morph yourself into a page speed ninja from.
Remember all of the suggestions here are purely onpage. If you’re looking for a boatload of offpage suggestions (and my basic gameplan for ranking local sites) then check out Your Local SEO Guide to 30+ Leads Per Month.