By Greg Gifford
We all know it – selling local SEO to clients is tough. After my “simple math” post back in October, I’ve gotten a ton of questions asking for more details about our sales process.
As we all know, small business owners assume that their site is the best and that they should always rank at the top of searches. The simple math is great for a “why you need to do SEO” demonstration, but if you want to sell them on your services, what’s next?
Once you have a potential client understanding the general need for local SEO, you’ve got to show them how the services you provide will improve their local visibility. Depending on how large your staff is and how many prospects you have in your funnel, you might not have the time to jump in and do an in-depth local SEO audit for every sales call you make.
Several years ago, we tried to work up a full audit for every potential client, but we quickly found that the time spent wasn’t worth it. Some businesses were just shopping around, others were fishing for tips on how they could do their own SEO, and others would get sticker shock at the price.
We developed a “quick audit” process that allowed us to spot major local optimization issues with only a few minutes of effort. In fact, this process was so quick, we realized that we could perform the audit while actually on a sales call.
Once you get the flow of the audit, you can pull the information up as you’re talking to a prospect, discussing each point as it comes up. Since the process is so speedy, you can even pull up competitor info on the fly. If you find an area where a prospect is lacking, you can pull up the same area for their competitors to see how they compare.
Sure, a bit more research is always better — but if you’re caught off-guard by an unexpected call, or you’re slammed for time, the quick audit we developed can really help you close more potential clients.
So here’s the quick local SEO audit process:
1. Start With On-Page Elements (1-2 Minutes)
Start with a quick look at the home page of the site – remember, this isn’t an in-depth audit. (In most cases, the errors or omissions are very obvious and easy to spot.) Check for the following local optimization elements:
- Title Tag. Does it include City, ST? Is the business name at the end of the title tag?
- H1 Heading. Is there an H1 heading on the page? Does it include City, ST?
- Content. Does the site have enough content? Does it include City, ST in the content? Does it include NAP (name, address, phone number) in the content?
- Alt Text. Do the image embeds include alt text? Does the alt text include City, ST?
- NAP. Is the NAP (name, address, phone number) present on the page? Does the NAP have schema markup? Is the phone number a local number?
For the on-site, spend most of your time on the home page. If there are problems on the home page, the site will likely have the same issues on internal pages. After you’re done with the home page, spot check a few other internal pages and look at the same elements.
2. Spot Check Citations (1-2 Minutes)
There are several citation tools out there, but we like to use Moz Local (formerly GetListed) for a quick spot check of the major citations.
Enter the business name and zip code, wait a few seconds, and check out how many listings show up for the business. If the site has its citations in order, you should only see one listing. If it has problems, you’ll see multiple listings.
I blurred some data to avoid directly pointing out issues (this dealership isn’t a client), but you can see how there are 8 listings that show up right off the bat. After just a few seconds, you can see that the site has 6 phone numbers and 2 addresses out in the major citation sources. In many cases, that’s all the ammunition you need.
You’ll also want to click into the site’s “primary” listing, typically the listing that shows as its verified Google My Business listing. Check the visibility score, and take note of the percentage of incomplete, inconsistent and duplicate listings.
3. Check Inbound Link Profile (1-2 Minutes)
Since Pigeon rolled out this summer, “traditional web ranking signals” have much more weight in local search results. That’s a fancy way of saying: (a) you have to do more than citations, and (b) you have to have a good link profile.
Use your link tool of choice — I suggest Open Site Explorer, Majestic, or Ahrefs. Check the overall Domain Authority (or whatever metric your tool uses), the total number of inbound links and the total number of linking root domains.
4. Check Google My Business (1-2 Minutes)
Most businesses don’t have an optimized GMB page, so it’s easy to find ammunition for your sales process on this step. Check the following:
- Is the GMB listing claimed/verified?
- Are the proper categories selected?
- Is there a well-written description? (Remember, with the new GMB dashboard, you can write long descriptions with formatting and links.)
- Does the NAP exactly match the NAP on the website? (As of the December 1st update, you can no longer add a descriptive word to your business name).
- What is the overall review score? Did they reply to negative reviews?
- Did the site upload a user image and an effective cover image?
- Did it upload multiple photos?
- Is it posting to Google+?
5. Check Social Media (1-2 Minutes)
Again, we’re not looking for in-depth info here. You don’t need to download an Insights report to be able to tell if a business has an effective social strategy. If it has problems, you’ll see them quickly.
Start with Facebook:
- Does the site have a link to its profile from the website? Is the link clearly visible on every page?
- How many fans does it have?
- How frequently is the site posting?
- What is it posting? Are the posts all sales-related “buy from me” posts? Is there any engagement from fans?
- Does the site have an effective cover image?
Then move on to Twitter:
- Does the site have a link to their profile from their website? Is the link clearly visible on every page?
- How many followers does it have?
- How frequently does it post?
- What is the site posting? Is it all sales-related “buy from me” posts? Is there any engagement from fans?
- Does the site have its Facebook account tethered to Twitter so it only has to post in one place? (This is far too common and results in an awful user experience for Twitter users, since all images and links take users back to Facebook)
6. Check Yelp (1 Minute)
Even though most businesses aren’t frequently (if ever) reviewed on Yelp, it can’t be ignored – remember, the review stars on Apple Maps are powered by Yelp.
Do a quick search and find the business on Yelp. Check its overall rating, and see if a representative of the business is replying to reviews.
And In 6-10 Minutes, You’re Done!
The more you work through the process, the faster the process becomes. You’ll be able to pull up your tools on the fly, as you’re talking to potential clients. With 10 minutes of work or less, you’ll find the majority of any major problems or issues with Local Optimization.
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