5 Local SEO Mistakes Hurting Your Business – and How to Avoid Them
Most local businesses would love to rank better on search engine results, which would ultimately improve their sales. What’s not to love? After all, 97 percent of consumers hit up search engines, such as Google or Bing, to find local businesses. Perhaps even more compelling, around 69 percent of all searches are tweaked by some form of geographical data, including the searcher’s locale.
Local SEO campaigns have proven to be an extremely effective way for businesses to improve their search engine rankings. But, just like most tactics, there are common ways that the SEO ball is dropped or overeager mistakes are made and these can absolutely hurt your business’ bottom line, even beyond what you spend on a faulty SEO campaign.
1. Forgetting Google+
A lot of businesses make the mistake of categorizing Google+ as social networking, instead of an amazing local SEO opportunity. Sure, Google+ is a social network, but one that gives off the delicious social signals that the search engine’s crawlers love to gobble up. What your business needs is a local Google+ business page. That will allow you to share content, establish your locale, set up authorship, interact with the public and let customers rate your business – among other benefits – all things Google looks for when ranking your site.
Here’s the thing – unless you are a brand new company or start-up – your business probably already has a Google Places page. Yep, even without you having set it up. Google allows you to easily turn that page into a local Google+ business page, claim your business’ profile and reap the benefits in search rankings.
2. Leaving Geography Out of Keywords
This one can get a tiny bit complicated. Like mentioned above, most searches have local or geographical parameters. Yet many local companies are simply trying to rank for their product or service related keywords. So, with the right content and SEO, a chiropractor in Austin could get tons of website traffic for chiropractic-related terms, but what good does that do his business if site visitors are coming in from out of state?
Keyword research would reveal what locals are using to find chiropractors in Austin, and relevant content can be created that organically includes the service and locale. But – and here’s the complicated part – you don’t want too much emphasis on the location. If you do that then you will start getting traffic for the locale, rather than the location + service. Which is slightly better than not pulling in for location at all, but – much like newspaper advertising – is a scattershot way of converting customers.
So keep geographic-specific keywords down to page titles and a few mentions in page content.
3. Poor Use of Local Terms
Of course there is a worse scenario than receiving local traffic that isn’t looking for your services. That’s if your local terms are used out of context or added gratuitously. Search engines can tell whether or not your site’s content is well-written for your target audience and will penalize you if it’s not. So you can’t just place these in your content willy-nilly and hope to trick Google.
So a bicycle shop in Wisconsin might say, “From Three Lakes to Eagle River, our bikes will give you a smooth ride over Three Eagles Trail’s 8.4 miles of lush scenery.” That might connect with the bike shop’s target customer and compel them to take action.
However, something Wikipedia-fied won’t. For example: “Located in Oneida County, Wisconsin, Three Lakes has a population of 2,339. Buy our bikes now.” That type of obvious keyword stuffing doesn’t work (or convert) and adds almost no compelling value to your target audience.
4. Neglecting Local Link-Building
Link-building is thought to be taboo these days, but that’s not really the whole story. Of course spammy or dishonest link-building practices are still bad, but legitimate quality links still have value. Earned quality local links should be one of the goals of any good local marketing strategy.
5. Inconsistent Directory Listings
This may seem like picking at the details, but it is vital that your information be listed exactly the same on any business or local directories. Even down to the abbreviations (like St. vs. Street) and phone number you use. Not only does this help search engines solidify who you are and give your site credit, but it also keeps them from thinking you are a spammer – who often change minute details of legitimate business listings to reap the benefits.