We’ve dedicated a lot of blog posts to local SEO – it’s the topic we’re passionate about and a set of tools that we use to get hundreds of local US businesses to grow explosively online.
Creating a local SEO strategy is one thing, but you need evaluation as much as you need planning. What gets tracked – improves, that’s a law of Nature you can’t avoid.
This post will help you get started with tracking your local SEO efforts, and not just in terms of tools and to-do lists, but rather in terms of understanding why you need to do what you need to do.
Measuring Local SEO Success — the Philosophy
As we keep saying, focus on your business goals before anything else. Your SEO goals should be a continuation of your business goals, not vice versa.
A lot of SEOs are tracking things just because they can be tracked — and a lot of unscrupulous SEO contractors are charging local businesses money for impractical tactics and skewed metrics like domain rank or informational traffic (basically, things that don’t quantify to dollars).
Instead of tracking/celebrating vanity metrics, you should prioritize tracking user actions that bring money into your business.
Service shops need to focus on request for directions and inbound calls; medical professionals need to prioritize inbound calls and appointment bookings; restaurants need to put food orders and reservations on top of their metrics pyramid.
Only after you’ve determined your most important KPIs does it make sense to track other SEO metrics, like:
- rank tracking (but for rigorously evaluated specific keywords with proper intent)
- organic traffic (but to pages that convert and not just entertain)
- Google search impressions (locally)
Generic vs Local metrics
There are the “classic” SEO metrics you can be tracking: keyword rankings, number of indexed pages, number of backlinks, CTR rate, session duration, and so on. Most of these are listed in our analytics articles.
Unlike the “classic” SEO metrics, local SEO KPIs will normally be more business-focused rather than website-focused. In local SEO your Google listing can outperform your website, and that’s OK.
Here’s a list of 7 metrics that every SEO should track to justify the effectiveness of a local SEO campaign:
- Google Business Profile: Track the following metrics for your Google Business Profile: number of views, clicks, calls, direction requests, photos, reviews, and response rate.
- Bing Places for Business: Similar to Google Business Profile, track the number of views, clicks, calls, and direction requests, as well as photos and reviews.
- Other online directories: Track the same metrics for other major local directories such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Yellow Pages.
- Reviews and ratings: Keep track of your business’s online reviews and ratings on all local directories, and monitor for any negative feedback, reply to them in a timely manner.
- Citations: Track the number of instances where your business is mentioned or listed on other websites, including the accuracy of the information.
- Local keyword rankings: Track the ranking of your business for targeted keywords in localized search results.
- Social media metrics: Track the number of followers and engagement metrics like likes, shares and comments on social media platforms where your business is active locally.
By tracking these metrics closely, SEOs can analyze the impact of their local SEO campaigns, identify areas that require improvement and refine their strategies accordingly.
Be creative and focus on your business needs and goals more than on generic reports everyone else is using.
Distinguish and Ignore Global Traffic
If you’ve been tracking your global SEO, or, rather, regular SEO activities then you probably have your flows and sequences ready and set in stone. Local SEO tracking may require you to re-think and tweak some of that.
Sometimes the global traffic you’re getting can be a distraction from your local SEO goals and benchmarks. This global traffic can come from informational queries or from seasonal spikes that are not related to any local business — you need to spot, distinguish, and filter that out so it doesn’t mess with your general stats.
Weeding out the “useful” local traffic from the global search results activity helps you not only track your local SEO efforts better but also sets better goals. This concerns content planning, link-building strategy, and other things.
Once you remove the inflated global traffic from your stats you will get a clearer snapshot of where you stand in actual SEO that matters, not chasing traffic for traffic-sake.
If, on the other hand, local SEO is the only type of search engine optimization you’ve ever done and cared about, you may actually have an easier time setting up strategic tracking.
With local SEO tracking, external property performance sometimes becomes more important than your website performance.
So a GBP listing insights report may be giving you all the data you need without ever setting up a rank tracking project for your actual website.
SERP Rank Tracking for Local SEO
We’ve explained what rank tracking is in detail in our SEO analytics article.
In terms of local SEO, you need to be extremely careful picking your rank-tracking software — it needs to support location-based rank tracking, and produce accurate data.
Not every rank tracker is capable of that, because tracking local results is technically complicated and demands a lot of proxy servers. There are organic results, and there are local places results, maps results, and local packs — all of that is constantly shifted and tweaked by Google for the best user experience. It is only natural that local rank trackers may be off.
Google pays attention to the relevance, distance, and prominence of each business listing and website, so the results will vary for different areas and neighborhoods.
In fact, Google is going more and more local and personalized with their results, so you need to keep in mind that you will probably not find a third-party rank-tracking software that is 100% accurate. So whenever you have first-hand data (in tools like Google Search Console, Google Business Profile Insights, Google Analytics, etc.) — use that for your rank tracking.
Google Business Profile Tracking and Insights
Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) is probably the most important listing platform for local SEO, and it has its own analytics module as well. It’s called “Insights” and you can access it from the top menu.
You can view the performance of your business listings and get access to data on clicks and other interactions with your business profile and other properties on Google. Let’s go over some of the most important metrics you can follow in GBP Insights.
Direct vs Discovery Traffic
In the section called “How customers search for your business” all your GBP profile visits are split into two major groups — Direct searches and Discovery searches. The dynamics of these two metrics can indicate different things depending on what marketing activity you are trying to evaluate.
For instance, if you are running branding display ads or even distributing offline flyers and other similar types of materials, then your Direct searches would ideally increase. Direct traffic numbers are the searches of people looking specifically for your business name or address.
On the other hand, rising Discovery searches would be good praise for your local SEO efforts — that means people are looking for related products or services, business categories, or even competitors in the area and your listing is coming up more and more often.
Queries Used to Find Your Business
These are the queries that your visitors use to find your business profile on Google, just as the name of the section suggests.
The search data can bring about a lot of actionable insights like new content ideas, or on-page edits for your site’s pages, or improvements for your past blog posts.
If you want to track your local SEO efforts using this report, see if you notice keywords you’ve been working on growing in share of your traffic. That is, the keywords you’ve used in on-page optimization tweaks or as anchors in your link-building campaigns should start appearing in this report more and more often – that would be a sign you’re doing everything right SEO-wise.
The number of times your website is clicked in the Google Business Profile.
There are no “good” or “bad” values here because it’s the conversion that matters the most.
If your GMB listing is getting you customers while your website is not, that means GMB is outperforming your website and you should probably focus on it instead. Your website, on the other hand, would need more conversion optimization work.
NB – if the GMB listing visitors do not click on your website, it might be due to the fact that the listing has enough information for them to make a decision.
This metric tracks the number of times the “call” button in your business listing was clicked. If you are using a call-tracking CRM module you can compare it with data from GMB and see what can be improved.
Direction requests, messages, bookings, food orders, etc. – these are all self-explanatory and will matter a lot for some types of businesses (e.g. restaurants) and matter very little for other types.
Citation Tracking for Local SEO
Citations are similar to backlinks – but they are more than them. A proper local citation usually contains NAP data, a link back to your website, and at least some information about your business.
Google pays extra attention to citations when ranking local business websites, and you need to be religious about your citation consistency.
There are several local citation management services available to track your business’s citations, such as BrightLocal, Whitespark, and Yext. These tools allow you to monitor your business’s citation status across multiple directories and see any changes or updates to your listings.
We have developed a robust local SEO software solution as well – it helps you control your citations and ensure there are no duplicates or inconsistencies.
Check our local citations guide if you want practical tips on building and managing them properly.
Google Search Console
We’ve talked about the logic in GSC in our SEO analytics overview post, but there are some local SEO-specific applications that deserve to be mentioned here as well.
First, filtering your URLs and keywords is really flexible in GSC, and you can set it to display any necessary pool of pages or search queries. This allows you to evaluate organic traffic to different locations represented on your site without setting up rank-tracking projects.
Another great feature of GSC reports is how it displays the CTR rate of your pages in Google SERPs. This matters because a site below you may be taking your clicks with a better description or smarter local business Schema setup.
Google Alerts for Local SEO Tracking
This tool is often underestimated by local businesses. In fact, most local marketers are completely ignoring it – thus leaving a lot of money on the table.
Google Alerts gives a great and easy way to track your business or website mentions. This comes in handy when you are running a massive link-building or a publicity campaign, e.g. selling out press releases or running outreach.
Every mention of your local business online needs to be worked with and turned into a backlink, an interview, a social media post, or a follower, or a link exchange agreement. Very often local businesses get mentioned by local influencers that actually make the best partners for marketing and promotion.
Normally every new indexed mention of your business comes to your email – but you can also create automation scenarios with tools like Zapier to save these mentions into spreadsheets and work with them further.
Ignore Domain Metrics
Domain Authority, domain Rank, and so on – pretty much every major SEO tool like Ahrefs, Moz, or SemRush have built its own domain metric.
It could be interesting to see how they change in progress but in reality these types of metrics are absolutely useless for local businesses. Domain authority matters only if you plan to be selling links from your site.
Grow Your Online Presence and Local SEO Tracking at the Same Time
There are so many opportunities for local SEO tracking and data analysis that you will have to limit yourself to the simplest ones at first. You need to do that in order to get the full understanding of what you need to track and why.
By knowing what moves your business forward you will know what activities to focus on.
As your business presence online grows, you will be able to add more metrics and KPIs, use more tools, and build complex reports as long as you have to.
If you need help getting started with local SEO tracking and measurements, reach out to us ASAP!