Time is a precious commodity for local business owners and their marketers. Each step in a local SEO campaign requires time, but it can become a competitive advantage when you learn how to automate some of the more routine tasks, freeing up resources for work that requires more human creativity.
For example, an hour saved on deleting duplicate listings can be reallocated to something like crafting a flight of really persuasive new Google Posts for the month ahead, or networking with fellow local business owners to find cross-sales promotional opportunities.
Meanwhile, the ability to track and analyze the outcomes of each effort you’re making to market a local business is crucial to understanding which parts of your strategy are delivering most value, and where more work needs to be done.
In this chapter, we’ll look at tools that can help you automate local SEO tasks, tools for local SEO reporting, and tips for utilizing Google Business Profile Insights and Google Analytics.
Save time with automation
The less time you have to spend on any local SEO task, the less money you’re having to invest in acquiring each new customer. How does this look in action?
Imagine you’re marketing a sporting goods chain with 25 locations. The holidays are coming and you need to update hours of operation for all 50 of the listings you’ve created for each store in the chain. Here’s a breakdown of your manual vs. automated options for getting this work accomplished:
Practically speaking, an employee at your business or agency can either spend a full week manually updating your holiday hours across all listings, or they can spend half an hour doing this, and use the rest of the week for more creative tasks.
Publishing your listing data and responding to reviews is just one piece of the local SEO puzzle. Ensuring that the brand you’re marketing is achieving maximum visibility in both the local and organic SERPs is crucial.
The top questions you should be asking when you’re diving into local SEO analytics are:
Are there keywords that your locations should be ranking for that you’re not?
Who are your local competitors?
Are there SERP features that appear for geo-modified or geo-located keywords that you could/should be showing up in? Are your competitors showing up in them, but you’re not?
What is the Page Authority of your competitors’ location pages? If it’s higher than yours, why?
What is the Domain Authority of your competitors’ domains?
What shows up on the SERP when you look at keywords with local intent? Are there citation opportunities that exist for your top keywords on the first 3-5 pages of Google? Are any references to your business showing up there? Are they accurate and complete? Where/how could I get my businesses cited on these top-ranking platforms? Are there linktation (unstructured citations which include links) opportunities present, too?
The level of detail you need/want from your SERP data will determine whether you use Moz Pro or STAT (or both) for your local SEO analytics. Moz Local is great for managing your location data and tracking activity directly related to Google Business Profile, but does not provide local keyword rank tracking or SERP analytics. Below is a helpful breakdown of the difference between Moz’s Local SEO solutions.
Analyzing local SEO performance in Moz Pro
As covered in Chapter 1 of this guide, proximity, prominence and relevance are the key influencers of how your Google Business Profile listings rank in local packs, local finders, and Google Maps. What shows up in the organic links below the Local Pack is determined by the strength or prominence of your domain, the content on your website, and the relevance to the searcher’s intent, all in relation to the local competitive landscape.
Use of Moz Pro on a regular basis will ensure you’re tracking the overall health of your website, your organic keyword ranking performance, and the state of your link profile in relationship to competitors.
Moz Pro will help you:
Find the right keywords to drive more quality traffic to your site.
Group your keywords into topic segments so you can easily filter and compare categories.
See how well your on-page content is optimized for your target keywords, then take steps to improve where needed in order to strengthen your relevance to searchers.
Ensure your website is free of technical issues like broken pages, duplicate content, and page load speed.
Check and track rankings for specific keywords and pages
Examine the type of content on your competitors’ top pages to see how you should design your content for attracting links.
Find link building opportunities in order to strengthen your site’s link equity and build linktations to your location pages or Google Business Profile.
Once you’ve set up a campaign in Moz Pro to track your target site, subdomain, site section, or page, take the following steps to perform a full competitive local SEO analysis:
1. Review your Campaign Dashboard and keep a close eye on Mobile vs. Desktop Visibility. It’s very common these days for the majority of local searches to happen on mobile devices. Because of this, it’s imperative that your mobile visibility is as strong or stronger than your desktop visibility.
Example: Grouping Keywords
2. Dig into your search visibility score to estimate the percentage of clicks your site is receiving based on your organic rankings across all of the keywords you’re tracking. Get an overview of how well your site is performing across groups of keywords (like pizza vs. pasta) when filtering by label.
3. Take a look at the SERP feature tracking section to see how/if you’re showing up in the SERP features that have local intent. If none of your keywords are showing up in the Local Pack or the Local Teaser Pack (similar to the Local Pack, but shows up primarily for hotels and restaurants and includes additional information like hours of operation, reviews, images and options to sort by price, rating, etc.) this is a red flag and an opportunity you’ll want to address or instruct your clients to address soon.
Analyzing local SEO performance with STAT
Take your analysis to the next level with STAT by getting to know details in the data that will help you make strategic local SEO decisions.
STAT tracks local keyword rankings down to the street level, and shows your position in the Local Packs.
With STAT, you can get a solid understanding of exactly where you’re sitting in the local search landscape before developing and executing a comprehensive strategy.
STAT will help you get the full (and detailed) local SEO picture:
Know where exactly you show up on the local SERP
Track ranking changes on a daily basis
Questions to ask when you’re conducting your local SEO analysis in STAT:
Which SERP features matter most in the specific ZIP codes my locations are in?
Check which local keywords are surfacing SERP features for the sites and locations you’re tracking.
Look at the types of SERP features they’re surfacing.
Are there any new SERP feature types that you didn’t know about before? (STAT pulls in fresh SERP feature types as soon as possible)
In which locations and keywords do I have the strongest position in the Local Pack and where can I focus in order to beat the competition?
- Check the Local Pack Report in STAT to see all the details you need to answer this question: ranking positions, business names (and/or fake business names with keyword stuffing), URLs, Google ratings, count of ratings, and ads.
What are searchers looking for in your target markets and what is their intent?
- Think about all the different ways searchers may be discovering you. Add geo-modifiers and geo-locations to your keywords to track different search intents. Example: “Detroit Hospitals” and “Hospitals” with the location set to Detroit.
Local SEO analysis using Moz Local
Moz Local takes the hassle out of maintaining the accuracy of your location data and managing local reviews.
As covered extensively in Chapter 4, reviews are absolutely essential to local business marketing. Earning positive reviews, analyzing negative reviews, and responding to all types of consumer sentiment quickly and effectively are core local SEO tasks. Your success in review management will directly impact both your local rankings and conversions.
Within the Moz Local dashboard, you can see the star rating across all your locations as well as your Reviews Reply Rate. And a great way to spot hot topics or new keywords is within the Reviews Analysis section. See which words are popping up across customer reviews more frequently than others, then drill in to get the context. Review sentiment analysis can lead to operational changes at a brand to ensure better customer experiences. It can also surface keyword phrases you should be highlighting in your website’s content and tracking within Moz Pro and/or STAT.
Getting to know Google Business Profile Insights
The core goal of setting up analytics is to be able to define how many leads/conversions/transactions are being generated by which assets and marketing campaigns. Knowing this information enables you to decide which activities you should prioritize because they yield the highest profits.
In the local business setting, Google rules the roost and there are two Google platforms you’ll want to know best: Google Business Profile insights and Google Analytics.
In your Google Business Profile dashboard, clicking on the “Insights” link in the menu will take you to the interface known as GBP Insights. There’s nothing you need to do to get access to this. It’s an extremely simple reporting tool that will give you some information about:
How customers are searching for your business, including some of the top search phrases they use.
How many customers are finding you via Google search vs. Google Maps.
How many actions are being taken via your Google Business Profile listing, including requests for driving directions, phone calls, and clicks to your website.
How many times your Google Business Profile photos have been viewed.
How many photos have been uploaded by your business vs. by the public.
Google Business Profile Insights is a useful interface for getting an at-a-glance view of how a local business may be doing in Google’s world. However, it’s important to know that this reporting has shortcomings and drawbacks. For example, as identified by expert Local SEO Joy Hawkins, many business owners are extremely confused about what the “views” element represents:
Know that this graph does not represent how many users saw, searched for, or interacted with your Google listing. Rather, if your business appeared on Maps or even in the Google Business Profile “people also search for” area when someone was searching for a completely different business, Google can count this in your “views”. It’s just not a useful metric, and it continuously exhibits odd volatility. Hawkins recommends paying attention to Queries, Actions and Discovery data in Google Business Profile Insights, instead.
Note that clicks-to-call is also not an accurate metric, because it only tracks people that clicked to call you from a mobile device. Your desktop users who call you after looking at your listing are not captured.
Finally, be advised that the Google Business Profile Insights is not reporting unique visitors. Rather, any numbers provided can represent a single visitor who took multiple actions. Take all Google Business Profile Insights numbers with a grain of salt.
There are many tools out there — free and paid — that provide you with helpful (or sometimes just cool) insights into how your business is performing online. Local business owners and their marketers are always performing a balancing act of multi-tasking to meet dozens of demands against a backdrop of finite time and money. This makes it paramount to choose tools that provide the best ROI for the time spent using and studying them.
Google Analytics is the most natural fit for understanding performance within Google’s own platforms. It may not provide all the insights you need, but it offers so much. You can use Google Analytics to understand your audience, what they’re searching for, and how you are (or aren’t) attracting them to your business. The platform can help you track performance toward your goals and provide insights to help you attract and convert more customers. Plus, there is a treasure trove of supporting content SEOs have created over many years to help you learn Google Analytics and increase your proficiency with the platform, including Google Academy for free online courses and certifications.
But before we dive in to the Google Analytics reports that can help you improve your marketing, a few things to note:
This section assumes a basic-level understanding of Google Analytics. If you’re brand new to Google Analytics, check out the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics.
To view all the Google Analytics reports we cover in this section, you’ll need to enable advertising reporting, enable demographics and interest reporting, and if you have internal site search, you’ll want to be sure Site Search Tracking is turned on.
When viewing Google Analytics reports with the goal of understanding your audience, be sure to choose a large-enough date range. A longer date range means more data, and more data means a higher likelihood that the data you’re looking at is a good representation of the whole (i.e. it’s more accurate). If possible, aim for at least three months of data.
Reports to help you understand your audience
A strong understanding of your audience will help inform components of your marketing strategy, such as the content you produce, the messaging you use, and the marketing channels you leverage. For example, if you understand that your primary audience is Gen-Z, then you wouldn’t promote your business through an advertisement in AARP Magazine.
There are many tactics you can use to research your audience — the best being speaking directly with your customers on a regular basis — but there are additional insights you can learn about your audience by using Google Analytics to better understand the people who are visiting your website.
Age and gender reports
Audience > Demographics Overview
This report will tell you the breakdown of people visiting your website by age and gender. Google Analytics does not display ages younger than 18 years.
Audience > Interests
The Interest report is broken down into three different sections: Affinity Categories, In-Market Segments, and Other Categories. Together, these insights show you what your audience is interested in. When used in conjunction with conversion tracking, you can see what your most valuable audiences care about.
Audience > Interests > Affinity Categories
Affinity Categories allow you to learn about your audience based on what they’re interested in. This insight is designed to help you discern how to reach more users at the top-of-funnel: those at the very beginning of the customer journey who may not yet be aware of your brand or products.
Audience > Interests > Other Categories
Other Categories provide a more granular look at affinity categories. For example, an affinity category may tell you that your audience is interested in sports, but through this view, you can dig deeper to discover that it’s actually team sports/soccer that your audience is most interested in.
Other Categories also shows what Google Analytics calls a Life Event. Life Events can include things like starting a new job, moving, graduating college, or getting married. Let’s say that one of your most valuable audiences is people who are starting a new job. Knowing this information is incredibly useful in crafting content strategies to attract more visitors that are going through this life event. You could also use this to inform ad targeting (e.g. creating a Google Adwords campaign, or group targeting people who are starting a new job).
Audience > Interests > In-Market Segments
In-Market Segments give you insight into users’ purchase intent. This insight is designed to show you how to reach people that are further along in their purchase journey: they’re actively researching and comparing products and are more likely to purchase. Google recognizes and categorizes intent by looking at the ads people click on, the content of the web pages people visit, as well as the frequency and recency of those visits.
Geo > Language
The Language report will tell you the languages spoken by the users who are visiting your website. Google determines language based on the browser’s location and language settings.
This report can show you how you’re performing in the language(s) you’re actively marketing in, as well as uncover opportunities for localization. For example, let’s say all your marketing material is in English and your primary markets are English-speaking locations. You would undoubtedly want to segment your website visitors to see how you’re performing among English-speakers. This can be done using Advanced Segments. In the demographics section under language, you can add “en.” This will create a segment for all users who visit your website who Google has identified as English-speakers.
But let’s say you also find that you’re seeing both high website traffic volumes and decent conversions from Spanish-speaking audiences. This may point to an opportunity to test localizing your marketing for Spanish-speaking markets, and thereby potentially tapping into a whole new audience.
Geo > Location
The Location report will tell you where your website visitors are coming from geographically. You’re able to view this by Country, City, Continent, and Sub Continent. In some countries you’re able to see data by region, and in the US you’re able to segment and view data by metro area. Google determines location based on a user’s IP address.
If you’re a regional business, you’ll want to segment and view data for the regions you serve. If you only serve customers in Oregon, Washington, and California, you can use Advanced Segments to segment your analytics data for a subset of users. If you serve multiple regions, you can use Conditions. Conditions allow you to easily group multiple options with “And/Or.” For example, you can create a segment that looks at visitors from Oregon or Washington or California.
One way to use geo reports is to see how regional promotions are performing. If you’re running a marketing promotion in one region, you could use Google Analytics to see if there was growth in new users in that area during the promotion. If so, you could determine (in combination with down-funnel metrics) that the promotion was successful at reaching new audiences within that geographic area.
If your business serves areas that are not available “out of box,” you can create a Custom Dimension for custom regions (vs. the IP-based regions) based on geographical criteria. See the geo targets available.
Understanding your audience composition can help inform your messages and also your marketing tactics. When used together, these reports allow you to understand your audience at a granular level. You can use Google Analytics to understand the demographic and geographic characteristics of your most valuable audience, then see what this segment is most interested in so you can target them through advertising, content marketing, etc.
Reports to understand search intent
Now that you’ve had a primer on some of the reports available in Google Analytics to better understand your customers, it’s time to uncover what they’re actually looking for. Understanding what your customers want is key to ensuring that your business is prepared to serve the community well.
Acquisition > Search Console > Queries
This report will tell you the actual search query that triggered an impression in search. It doesn’t include paid search impressions. Although Google doesn’t give you 100% coverage of all queries used, it does provide insight into what users were actually searching for that led them to your website. You can use the data to identify content gaps and then work to fill them, spot opportunities to improve SERP click-through rates and ultimately drive more traffic to your website, or determine how relevant your landing pages are for the queries being used to reach them.
When comparing data between Google Search Console and Google Analytics, you may notice data discrepancies. This is because they display data in different ways. Search Console will show the aggregated impression and click data for a canonical URL, whereas Google Analytics will show it for a landing page URL.
Note: Advanced Segments cannot be applied to Search Console data.
Behavior > Site Search > Search Terms
This report will tell you the actual search terms (and frequency of those terms) people type when using your internal site search. If you have an internal site search but don’t have access in Google Analytics, you’ll want to set up Site Search. If you don’t have an internal site search for your website, consider setting one up to help website visitors find what they’re looking for faster.
Site Search reports can help you uncover gaps in website user experience and discover potential opportunities to attract customers. One of Moz’s site search queries is “digital marketing courses.” This shows that our audience is interested in digital marketing courses (not just SEO) and that people may be having a hard time finding the Moz Academy courses on our website.
Reports to understand how you’re acquiring customers
Acquisition reports will help you understand how (i.e. by which marketing channels) you attract people to your website, their behavior when they have arrived on your website, and how you’re ultimately converting them. To best use the data in these reports, you’ll want to first understand traffic source dimensions: how Google categorizes and labels the incoming traffic to your website.
Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels
The Marketing Channels report shows you a roll-up view of the marketing channels sending traffic to your website, and how they’re performing. For many, the Google Analytics default channel groupings will be sufficient.
For those looking to customize the channel report, you may do so by creating a custom channel grouping. Let’s say that you regularly place ads through media sponsorship agreements on a collection of websites — you may want to create a custom channel grouping that segments out this type of referral traffic from “Referral” so you can view and monitor performance separately.
Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium
The Source/Medium report is especially useful because it describes both the where and the how: where a user was before they saw your content (like a search engine) AND how they found your website (through a paid search advertising or through an organic search result).
With this report, you can view performance of your traffic sources, bucketed into three areas: Acquisition, Behavior, and Conversions.
Acquisition (reported via Users, New Users, Sessions): How is the traffic source performing at driving users to your website?
Behavior (reported via Bounce Rate, Pages per Session, and Average Session Duration): How are people from this traffic source engaging with your website once they arrive?
Conversions (reported via Goal Conversion Rate, Goal Completions, Goal Value, Ecommerce Conversion Rate): How are people from this traffic source converting?
This go-to report helps you quickly gauge how your website is performing, which traffic sources are performing well and which ones aren’t, and prioritize accordingly. It can also help you uncover new opportunities that you may not even know are there!
Acquisition > Campaigns
The Campaigns report will show you how your marketing campaigns are performing. Campaigns included are ones that you have either manually tagged using a tool like Google’s Campaign URL Builder, or those that were automatically included because your Google advertising account has been synced to Google Analytics.
You can use Google’s URL Builder to tag and track performance of a vast variety of marketing initiatives from email campaigns to webinars, to physical events. When properly set up, you will be able to see how much traffic your campaigns drove to your website, how many conversions (transactions or goal completes), and the value generated (revenue and/or total goal value).