If you want to invest in local SEO, you’ve taken a big first step. However, while it’s always better to try than to avoid it entirely, there are some simple mistakes that can seem small but be incredibly costly.
Even long-time SEO experts can make these same SEO mistakes from time-to-time. It’s important for you to know what the common errors are for two reasons: so you don’t make them as often, and so you set up regular checks to make sure you don’t miss making them before.
Local SEO Mistakes
As search engines update their algorithms, everyone is left scrambling to update their local SEO best practices to make sure they aren’t doing anything that will get them penalized. So if you want to make sure your new local SEO campaign is successful, you can use this guide to avoid making those mistakes.
For a local business, small mistakes can cause problems beyond having your business website penalized. A mistake that leads to your listing dropping out of the local 3 pack, for example, can affect how many leads, calls, store visits and sales you get.
Here are 11 of the common mistakes to avoid that will greatly impact the success of your business.
#1 Ignoring Google My Business
Having a verified and optimized Google My Business profiles is one of the first and most important parts of any local SEO strategy. Some business owners think that the information is pulled automatically from their website, but this is not true.
To have a business listing on Google My Business you need to actively create it. If you haven’t done this already, go to business.google.com/create. Enter your business information to see if a listing already exists. If it does, claim it and verify your ownership of the listing.
Not having a Google My Business profile means your business won’t appear in local search results, such as the 3 pack or Google Maps searches. That’s a huge amount of potential customers who may not be able to find you.
#2 Having a Website Not Optimized for Mobile
Local searches on mobile are hugely important for local SEO. That’s why having a mobile-optimized website is arguably the most important thing you can do. Without it, people who go to your site will quickly leave and will go to a competitor instead.
That’s why search engines rate mobile-friendliness as a major ranking factor. They may show your website less and less depending on just how unfriendly it is.
Think about it. People who are out with friends will look on their phones for a restaurant to have dinner, or they might be out shopping and want to find the nearest hardware store. If you don’t have a website optimized for mobile, you are costing yourself a lot of customers.
#3 Not Removing Duplicate Listings
Sometimes you’ll find that your local business has two or more listings on a local citation source. You might not think this is a problem, or you might even think it’s a good thing. After all, that means your business could show up in a local search more than once!
It’s actually very, very bad. Search engines hate duplicate content, including duplicate listings precisely because it can very easily be abused to spam their search results. If you have enough duplicate listings you might get penalized because they think they you’re doing it on purpose.
So if you see a duplicate listing, don’t overlook it. Immediately do everything you can to have it removed.
#4 Not Filling Relevant Business Categories
On Google My Business and other local citation sources, they often give you the ability to choose from a list of relevant “categories” to describe your business. You should always add as many as you can find that are relevant.
For example, say you own a car dealership that sells new cars of a certain brand, used cars, and has both a service and parts department. If you look up the categories you will likely be able to find specific categories for each of those.
If you miss any relevant categories, search engines are less likely to show your business in local searches based on the category. So think of all the products and/or services your business offers and add as many as you can. Google My Business lets you add up to 10.
#5 Unoptimized Contact Information On Your Website
The reason why citations and business listings are so important is that they add your business’ contact information across multiple sources. That allows search engines to trust that the contact information it can find online is accurate and that you haven’t moved locations or closed.
If your contact information is missing, search engines might not think you are a local business and won’t list you in search results. So make sure your phone number(s), email address, and the location address are all included on your website in text. Do NOT include them in an image. Search engines cannot read the image text.
#6 Inconsistent NAP Information on Citations
Expanding on the same point, this is also why you need to make sure your business Name, Address, and Phone number (NAP) are consistent on all citation and directory sources.
If you have changed locations, changed your business name, and/or changed your phone number, then you might have old NAP information on listings you created in the past. If you don’t update them, search engines won’t be able to know what is the correct information.
If it cannot trust that the information it shows users is accurate, it won’t show your business in search results. It’s always important to do a thorough search wherever your business is mentioned online to make sure it shows the correct NAP.
#7 Not Having Citations on All Major & Local Sources
Citations are one of the main sources that search engines use to verify that a local business is open and active at your location. It trusts some sources, like Google My Business, more than others.
That’s why it’s very important that you have citations on all the major and local sources online. If you don’t, search engines are less likely to show your business over competitors that do have citations on all of them.
#8 Not Having Customer Reviews
A lot of businesses will not make a concerted effort to get customers to write reviews about them online. They might think asking will make it more likely they’ll get negative reviews, or that it’s not worth the effort when people can do it themselves.
This is a mistake. All of the local SEO studies show that people are more likely to pick a business that has more reviews and/or a better average review rating. If you have no reviews, only one or two from years ago, or a bad review score, people won’t choose you.
The other problem is that you won’t show up in some searches at all. One of the fastest-growing types of local searches is “Best [business type] near me”. With any local search that has “best” included, Google by default will only show local businesses that have a review score of 4 stars or better.
#9 Low Quality or No Local Content on Your Website
While Google My Business and other citations are still important for local SEO, search engines are starting to more heavily weigh the amount and quality of content on your website. Local SEO is still SEO, after all.
That means your business website needs to have good quality content about your business, the products, and services you have, and so on. For local SEO, you should also make sure to add local keywords, phrases, and entire pieces of content.
Localized content helps send more signals to search engines about your geographic focus. Good quality content about your business, with local keywords, establishes your business focus. Together, they both help you appear higher in local searches.
#10 Little to No High-Quality, Relevant Links
Similar to content, search engines are also starting to weigh the backlinks your website has to other relevant websites. Local directories that let you add your business as a listing may also let you include a link to your website, so make sure you always add it if you can.
But you need to do better than just directories. Look into getting your website linked on your city or town’s Chamber of Commerce website, on your local news websites, and on any local charity or organization you are involved with.
The best way, however, is to write great quality content that will get linked to by other local and relevant websites organically.
#11 Not Being Active on Social Media
A lot of local businesses do not properly use social media to its full potential. You might have tried making regular posts in the past and not found that you got any website traffic or sales from them.
It would be a mistake to stop using social media, however. Search engines do use regular posting and activity on the big social media platforms as a signal that your business is active. It is not one of the biggest rank factors, and there is still debate about just how much it matters.
One tip: if you are already making good content and need to promote it, posting on social media is a no-brainer. You stay active with posting to hit send that signal, you do get some attention and awareness to your local customers, and that awareness might lead to backlinks.
You can also use social media to get great ideas for locally relevant content, based on upcoming events and what is making the local news.
Avoiding Mistakes Can Be a Competitive Edge
Let’s bring all of it together. Avoiding these mistakes can ensure your website will be shown to potential customers in your area. It can also mean that they are more likely to contact or visit you to convert into actual customers.
But these are all common mistakes that local businesses make. If you can avoid making them yourself, or if you can catch them and fix them all not long afterward, you will have a competitive edge on a lot of your competitors.
It will help you rank higher than them, it will help you appear in more searches than them, and you will convert more of them into sales. Seems like a no-brainer doesn’t it?