How to Do Effective Local SEO Reporting

How to Do Effective Local SEO Reporting

Creating local SEO reports that brick-and-mortar clients understand and are relevant to them is a tricky but important job. This is where local SEO tools can lighten the burden.

But, how can you make local SEO reporting more meaningful for the local businesses you work with so they easily understand the value that you’re bringing?

Here are five things to consider to make your job a little less challenging, followed by an overview of what you should be looking for in a local search rank monitoring tool:

1. Mom and Pop stores don’t think like software companies

Working with clients in the tech sector has its challenges. Startups in particular often bring in agencies once they’ve secured funding, at the kinds of critical moments when senior leaders have little time to devote to supporting external projects, and nevertheless, expect results.

But if there’s any vertical that can be called home by SEO agencies, it’s tech. Despite the difficulties, skilled SEOs typically understand the needs of these kinds of clients. The culture of SEO, after all, has evolved side-by-side with the explosive growth of the software industry.

One consequence of this is that SEOs are often great at describing their activities and results in engineering terms. Data is the shared language, so metrics take center stage.

This style of communication translates reasonably well to e-commerce, and indeed to any kind of business that lives, first and foremost, on the internet.

Even global brands that first found success offline, like Nike, have spent the last decade-or-so going through rigorous digital transformation programs. Even if they’re not quite fluent, many businesses can speak the language of software to a certain degree.

For most SEO agencies, good client management depends on a well-honed intuition of when it’s possible to have technical conversations with clients, when to explain difficult concepts and when to avoid them. Many clients may be perfectly at home with complicated SEO analysis, or even reading SEO audit reports themselves, while others may require a more simplified method of reporting focused on key real-life outcomes. 

But remember, not every business has gone through these changes. For thousands of retail and hospitality companies, ‘online’ is simply an uncomfortable necessity. Family-run businesses, especially those of which the key decision-makers are from older generations, might even view the internet as something rather dangerous and unfamiliar.

2.‘Traditional’ business owners know they need to change

Despite this, most brick-and-mortar businesses know that they need to think about how customers are finding them. At the very least, they’ll be passively aware that they could be losing business to a competitor with a more complete Google Business Profile, or more reviews on Maps.

GMB Listing

SEO can be a fantastic way for a store, cafe, hotel, or local service provider to improve its bottom line, and its business health in general. Agencies that understand the quirks of local SEO can offer immense value to these clients, even while executing repeatable, predictable activities. It’s an enormous opportunity to scale.

But the execution is only half the battle. Getting results for a local SEO client demands a decent understanding of their business, and for the client, in turn, to understand the value of what’s being delivered, especially in the earlier, less predictable stages.

Increasing a site’s Moz Domain Authority by ten points, or shaving five percent off its homepage bounce rate, may be meaningful to tech-savvy clients. That kind of thing is less likely to be obviously exciting news to a local restaurant owner.

In order to demonstrate value and earn trust from brick-and-mortar clients, it’s necessary to understand their businesses on their own terms. All good client onboarding processes feature a lot of careful listening and asking questions, but when it comes to local SEO it has a whole extra level of importance.

3. ‘Educate us’ or ‘Just take care of it’

SEO agencies should seek to understand both the desired business outcomes and the knowledge goals of their brick-and-mortar clients.

Fundamental concepts like the customer journey still apply in this world but have an additional dimension. For instance, retail stores are conscious of footfall. This isn’t quite parallel with website traffic; a small increase in footfall can have an enormous impact. In-store experiences tend to be more memorable than website visits.

The challenge for SEOs is to map rankings and online interactions to offline goals. When it comes to in-person transactions, you can’t precisely track conversion rate.

With purely online marketing, identifying bottlenecks in the sales funnel is straightforward. Sometimes Google Analytics gives the answers in black and white—low click-through rate to product pages; poor site speed; most traffic coming from countries the business doesn’t ship to. For local businesses, it’s a little different.

Asking clients the right questions can yield insights like—“we’re busy at breakfast but the lunchtime crowd goes across the street” or “locals come from across town for our Chai Latte.” Sometimes this information can directly guide local search tactics, other times it’s simply a useful north star to ground SEO reporting on results.

One way or the other, when local SEO clients hear that they’ve nabbed a first page ranking for a high-volume keyword, or acquired prominence on Google Maps, they need to understand why that’s meaningful.

Some brick-and-mortar business owners have the intention of becoming more digital-savvy. In that case, being an educator is one of the most sticky value-adds an agency can provide. Other clients might prefer to build a relationship with a trustworthy expert who can simply take care of these matters so the owner can focus on what they do best.

The key is to establish the client’s preference early on in the engagement.

4. SEO reporting should focus on tangible business results

Of course, the best way to retain brick-and-mortar clients is to demonstrate that SEO activities are making a tangible impact on their businesses.

But there will almost certainly be periods of time when authority-building, experimenting, or investigating has to take center stage. Local SEO clients might not immediately see why these activities are important if they don’t directly move the needle for them.

Local SEO Reporting example - BrightLocal

Building trust early on is vital to create long-term success with these businesses.

Whether providing education or concise reports, each piece of information should connect back to the client’s day-to-day realities. For example, local citation building and efforts to improve the performance of a client’s Google Business Profile should be understood in light of extra-digital customer actions like asking for directions or calling.

The ideal local SEO report presents the headline metrics in the context of real-world objectives. For many businesses, the relationship between website traffic and revenue is immediate and visible. In the brick-and-mortar world, it’s not always so clear.

Situations may arise where it’s necessary to explain something a little more abstract to a local SEO client. Perhaps enormous digital progress has been made, like a plethora of new page two rankings or a dramatic improvement to site performance. These results can be made meaningful to clients by indicating their place in the overall plan.

5. Adapt client services for brick-and-mortar businesses

For agencies in the process of niching down to local SEO, there are some assumptions that are easy to make but ought to be avoided.

For example, it’s typical for many business owners and managers to routinely use email at the heart of their workflows. At the more tech-savvy end of the spectrum, they may use tools like Slack or Asana to stay organized and connected. But restaurant owners and managers spend significantly less time plugged-in.

It’s a good idea to put some consideration towards adapting client service processes to better fit with the workflows of these clients. In the first instance, agencies should have a frank conversation with each new client at kick-off.

If the client is somewhat tech-savvy or committed to the strategic importance of SEO, there’s no better way to offer them clarity and convenience than having a client portal that brings all information into one place.

In other cases, perhaps phone calls have to make up the overwhelming majority of project communication. Agencies must consider how this will impact internal workflows. For instance, if extensive client knowledge is required for content creation, their input needs to be saved and made accessible to the delivery team.

There is an enormous opportunity for agencies that can find ways of working that flow dynamically with brick-and-mortar clients. These businesses absolutely need the expertise of SEOs. Any agency that overcomes these operational obstacles will surely secure lucrative relationships with local businesses.

What to Look for in a Local Search Rank Monitoring Tool

Having the correct tools to hand can be the difference between the success and failure of your search engine optimization efforts. For the most part, tools equal efficiency and provide you with the valuable data you need to make informed decisions. A prerequisite for keeping your SEO on track is a local search rank monitoring tool. The right tool can be a vital part of your local search arsenal and does much more than simply telling you that keyword A is in position X. 

Finding a local search ranking monitoring tool can be a process of trial and error. A quick Google search will return thousands of pages of results, and with literally hundreds of tools on offer, knowing where to start can be a challenge in itself. It’s important to make sure that you choose the best tool for your needs, so we’ve compiled a no-nonsense rundown of exactly what you should look for.

Why monitor local search rankings?

Having visibility in the local pack is absolutely fundamental to your a local business’s success in search. By association, this means that knowing where you rank within the local pack is a vital business insight that you simply can’t afford to overlook, guess, or have anything less than a comprehensive idea of.

Many local businesses can’t compete with national and international brands for the top three organic rankings, making local search the most valuable (and realistic) pathway to consumer visibility. This visibility is highly prized, with research confirming multiple benefits of local SEO visibility.

Did you know…

Of course, to ensure you’re in the running for these benefits, you need to know that what you’re doing is effective. The only way to tell that for sure is to have a handle on where your or your client’s business is ranking in local search. This not only tells you whether you’re making progress or need to change your direction due to a lack of tangible results, but it also gives you reliable data upon which other decisions can be made – such as whether to direct resources to a paid search campaign to compensate for a lack of local search visibility. 

While many of us are tempted to do a quick Google check each morning with our coffee to see where we rank for keywords, getting an accurate and holistic picture of local visibility isn’t quite so easy. 

To guarantee accuracy, a proper ranking check must take into account the searcher’s location and give a true picture of how you’re performing in local search for those users both close to and further away from your business location. Proximity is a local SEO ranking factor. It’s a local SEO cornerstone and can’t be accurately reflected in results when you perform a search from your desk or own device each day. If local SEO is still a fairly new area to you, the BrightLocal Learning Hub covers the different types of local search. You can start with the basics like “What is Local SEO?” or learn about a specific aspect like local keyword research. Meanwhile, this piece on explaining Local SEO to beginners has a comprehensive outline of proximity and the role it plays in the local pack.

The results you see are also influenced by the type of device you’re using and your normal search habits (i.e. if you search for the same thing each day when signed into your Google account, the search results you see will be personalized to reflect this habit). 

To get the most from your local SEO investment, and to ensure you’re making data-driven decisions based on accurate data, you’ll need to invest in a local search rank monitoring tool to accurately and consistently monitor local search rankings. A proper tool will also give you the ability to check historical rankings, in order to assess gains and losses over time and per keyword. 

Look Out for These in Your Local SEO Monitoring and Reporting Tool

If you go to Google and simply type in ‘local search rank monitoring tool’ as your search term, 350 million results are returned (at the time of writing). Suffice to say, there’s a lot of information out there, thousands of tools to choose from, and plenty of opinions and claims to wade through. 

No two businesses are alike and no two needs are alike so when you look for a tool, it’s highly advisable to do your initial research with a view to creating a shortlist. From there, it’s advisable to schedule demos for all of the tools that look like they may fit the bill and assess which one suits you best. 

Focus on local SEO

Many local search rank monitoring tools aren’t designed to cater specifically to local search. In fact, only a few are entirely geared towards local rankings, and of those, some have more functionality than you’ll ever need – meaning you’ll end up paying more than necessary. Seeking out a rank tracker that has been purpose-built for local business users means that you’re far more likely to get the functionality that is useful to you, rather than paying a premium for enterprise-level tools that you’ll likely never use. 

A good indication that a local search rank monitoring tool is actually designed for local search will be the presence of other local SEO features, such as Google Business Profile audits and citation tracking. 

Keep track of your competitors

Even if you haven’t been responsible for a local SEO campaign before, you’ll still appreciate the value of competitor research as a local business owner or marketer – you may keep tabs on competitor prices, for example, their special offers, or even the number of social media followers they have, so you can benchmark your own activity. 

As the local pack has shrunk to just three spots, competition has become fiercer than ever so there’s little sense in just looking at your own rankings in isolation. You also need to know where rival businesses are located in relation to your own positions when competing in the same local area. 

Monitoring competitor activity is an essential part of SEO success, so be sure to look for tools that include this at no extra cost.

Incorporate Google Mobile and Google Maps rankings separately

As two separate properties, Google Mobile search results and Google Maps results should be tracked separately. They are each powered by different algorithms and have different features and a different search result page layout which could impact how search users interact with your listing. 

Google Mobile is more tightly connected to Google Maps than desktop results, so it’s important to understand the connection when it comes to rankings and to be able to see those rankings as separate entities. 

Account for keywords

If you’re used to running a paid search campaign, running shopping ads for an e-commerce site, or handling general SEO, you’ll most probably be familiar with working with large keyword sets. From a local SEO standpoint, it’s likely not necessary to have thousands of keywords per location. 

As a good rule of thumb, make 100+ keywords or so your starting criteria when searching for a new local search rank monitoring tool. Tools that allow thousands and thousands of keywords mean you’re paying for more than you actually need. Ideally, you’d pay for what’s essential and then purchase addons, if you really need to, at a later date.

Be aware of proximity factors

While much of your or your client’s customer base may come (broadly speaking) from the same general local area, it’s not enough to only be able to search from your desktop or device location when checking local rankings. 

The prime reason for this? A variable of even a street or two can make a big difference to your local pack position, especially when your customers are coming from far and wide in your local area and beyond—a potential customer could well be doing research for an upcoming trip while at their home in a different state, for example; you may have a certain item or brand in stock that a consumer from the next town or neighboring city wants; or, the search user could be just up the road. 

As Aleh Barysevic notes, it could be that your local pack position remains stable across your service area. Alternatively, it could be that you only appear when the search takes place within one or two streets of your location. Performance could well differ from one part of your town or city to the other and it can be useful for you to know how distance from your physical location affects your local pack rankings. For that, you need to have a local search rank monitoring tool with the option to change search location, or better yet, a tool that shows your rankings across a geo grid.

Factor in usability

Time is one of your most valuable commodities – which means a tool that is easy to use should be one of your search criteria.

Generally speaking, the larger and more powerful the tool, the more complex the dashboard and functionality. To get the most from your chosen tool, you need to be able to see ranking results from a number of different platforms (Google Mobile, local pack, Google Maps, etc.) side by side, but that shouldn’t mean hours of trawling through reports or wrangling with complex tools and functions. When taking demos for your shortlisted tools, don’t underestimate the value of ease of use.

While we might be a little biased, BrightLocal’s Local Rank Tracker and Local Search Grid have been developed specifically for local search, and we’re confident that, together, they do everything you need to monitor local search performance and report effectively to bosses and clients alike.

Joe Fitzpatrick
About the author
Joe Fitzpatrick is a writer and SEO professional with 6 years' experience helping businesses grow their revenue and lower their cost of sales through content marketing efforts. He works closely with Typeform and Service Provider Pro, a client portal for agencies.