15 Common Local SEO Mistakes
Suppose your business has a local clientele, and you're not making any sales despite your best SEO (Search Engine Optimization) efforts. In that case, there's a high chance that you're making some local SEO mistakes.
Wait, local SEO? I'm already doing a lot of SEO. What's the difference?
All these questions are probably runnin' around your noggin right now.
You see, in the digital marketing space, there's a common misconception that the more traffic you'll have, the higher your sales will be. Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but online marketing doesn't always work that way.
News flash: only some people who visit your site will become paying customers. This is especially true if they're located thousands of miles away from you. So to increase your chances of getting more customers, you need to localize your traffic.
That is where local SEO comes in.
Local SEO is a search engine optimization technique to make your business more visible in local search results.
While general SEO targets web users from around the country or around the world, local SEO targets potential customers from within your immediate vicinity. Since your business is near their location, they are more likely to benefit from your products and services.
In short, to increase your sales, you need to step up your local SEO strategy. And if you don't know where to start, no worries. That's what this post is about.
As a business owner myself, I've committed my fair share of local SEO mistakes and acquired some hard-learned lessons along the way. To help you avoid the same fate, I'm listing below some of the most common local SEO mistakes and how to avoid them.
But first, let's review the benefits of focusing on local SEO.
The Importance of Local SEO
The benefits of increased visibility in local search results go beyond increased sales. It can also help you establish your brand and develop rapport with your customers.
According to data from Google, 76% of people who search for something on their phone end up visiting a related business within a day. About 28% of those searches resulted in a purchase. So if your site appears on top of local search results, you're more likely to get visits from the very same people who are searching for your services.
Let me give you a demonstration.
Let's say you're selling pizza, and someone is looking for the best pizza place in your city. Obviously, they'll first go to Google and type "best pizza in (name of your city)." Then Google will churn out a list of places selling pizza in that area.
If your business doesn't appear on that list, you just lost a potential customer to one of your competitors. But if your business does appear, you will gain more than just a new customer. You'll also get your name out there and let the local community know that your business exists.
Plus, Google's local search results include ratings and reviews, providing an opportunity for your business to get reviews from your customers and further cement your brand's reputation.
Common Local SEO Mistakes
Now that you know how important local SEO is for your business, here are some of the common local SEO mistakes you could be making right now:
1. No Directory Listings
Before your business can appear on the search results, Google will first verify if your business is indeed legit. One way they do this is by looking at your directory listings.
Online directories are a place to store your NAPW (name, address, phone number, and website) and other information about your business.
Many businesses overlook directories, yet when customers type in service-specific or geo-specific keywords, directories will initially show, overshadowing website presence. When used correctly, this is beneficial to local SEO. It will help give customers helpful and promotional information through keyword searches.
How to Create Directory Listings:
Start by creating a spreadsheet of online directories. You can check out your competitor's directory listings for reference. Then fill up those directories. Ensure consistent information in all those listings, as conflicting contact information can confuse your customers.
2. No Google My Business Listing
If you want your site to rank on local searches, Google My Business is where you ought to be. It has become the crème de la crème of local search.
How to Create a Google My Business Listing
There are several steps to create or claim a business listing on Google:
- Sign-up or sign in to your Google account with your business email address.
- Create a business profile or claim an existing business listing.
- Enter your business address or pin it on Google maps.
- List down the areas you serve. Google allows up to 20 service areas.
- Enter your contact information, like your phone number and website address.
- Verify your listing.
3. Poor Quality Website Content
Yes, your site's content matters in terms of local SEO too. Great content educates your customers about your products and services and helps establish your business's credibility. For local SEO, however, great and educational content isn't enough. You need to localize your content too. This will make it easier to target local audiences.
How to Localize Website Content:
Localized content should include valuable, accurate, and relevant information to the local community.
For instance, if you're in New York, your content should focus on relevant and helpful information for New Yorkers. You can talk about the latest Broadway shows or tips on surviving a particularly harsh winter. But if your business is in Hawaii, talk about things local Hawaiians and tourists can relate to, like surfing sites or the local watering holes.
4. Duplicate Listings
Creating duplicate listings is one of the most common amateur mistakes in SEO. Sometimes it's due to the business changing its name or the person in charge losing control of the account connected to the listing. Or maybe someone from the staff just loves creating new business listings and makes a hobby out of it.
Whatever the case, the bottom line is you still have multiple listings. And we don't have to tell you this is BAD for your SEO. Aside from confusing Google, you'll also confound your potential customers. This can make your site appear really shady in Google's eyes, causing them to drop your site from the local search results.
How to Avoid Duplicate Listings:
To avoid this, you should have a standardized process for creating listings. Remove duplicate listings, update your NAPW, and ensure you only have one business listing.
5. Ignored Negative Reviews
Getting negative reviews is part of doing business. However, no matter how tempting it might be, ignoring unsatisfied customers is an ultimate no-no for SEO. It won't only hurt your business but also affect your rankings in local searches.
John Mueller, a top honcho at Google, confirmed in 2021 that customer ratings influence local search results and rankings. In fact, as early as June of that year, they had already started incorporating star ratings into organic searches.
Besides, even if your business does appear on the search results, people won't likely click on it if it only has a one-star rating.
How to Deal With Negative Reviews:
The first step in dealing with negative reviews is to respond to them. Make sure to craft a customized response for each negative review. It will just annoy your customers more if they see a templated response. It may even come off as a dismissal of their complaints which can lead to a PR nightmare.
You can also explain your side on social media and ensure your followers that something is being done to address the problem. Or, if you can prove that it's a fake review, you can also report them to the review site to have them removed.
6. Keywords Not Localized
Regarding general SEO rules, using high-volume keywords is recommended. But with local SEO, using localized keywords is the name of the game. It's not enough to target keywords that people are searching for. You should target keywords that people from your area are searching for.
How to Localize Keywords
Look for keywords that target your audience's needs and searches while maintaining geo-specific recognition and trends. Also, make it a point to find geo-specific and service-specific keywords that are likely to grab the attention of your target audience.
For instance, say your products are baked goods. Naturally, you'll want to target people looking to buy bread and cookies in your area. In this case, your customers are more likely to search for the best cookies or the best chocolate cake. To make it localized, add the city or community you're located in at the beginning or end of the keyword. So "best cookies" will become "best cookies in San Diego," and the "best chocolate cake" becomes "best chocolate cake in Altadena."
7. No Contact Information on the Website
Customers need to get in touch with you, and you'll miss opportunities when your contact information is unavailable. Plus, not having any contact information will make it hard for search engines to identify which areas you're serving.
Say you're selling pizzas in Queens, but then you don't have any contact information on your site or a physical address. How will Google determine what local searches to rank you in? They'll probably rank your site on national searches, but what good will that do if you only do business in Queens?
How to Avoid This
Make sure to add a contact page to your site with all your contact information. Include your phone number, address, email, and social media links. It also helps to add a Google Map to your website on your location page.
8. Website Images Not Optimized
Poorly optimized web images result from common issues like missing alt text, large file size, or poor URL structure. It can affect your site's loading page, which can affect your site's core web vitals. We don't have to tell you that you're missing out on significant traffic if you don't optimize your website images.
How to Optimize Your Site Images
Use image optimization tools and plugins to review your images and look for any image optimization opportunities. If your image is too large, you can compress them to improve your site's loading speed. There are a lot of free and paid image resizing tools online that you can use.
Also, don't forget to add alt text to all your images. Without this, Google's algorithm will have a hard time identifying what your image is about. So there's a lesser chance of appearing in image search results.
9. Inactive Social Media Profiles
It's undeniable that social media has become the lifeblood of today's commercial landscape. Almost everyone checks a business' social media profile before buying their products or availing of their services. But if your social media account is inactive, or worse, you don't have one, how will your customers check if you're legit?
Plus, your social media activities can indirectly affect your rankings. Though social media presence isn't a ranking factor, Google tends to rank sites with a robust social media profile. This is why keeping your social media profiles active is of great importance for local SEO.
How to Maintain Active Social Media Profiles
First, maintaining a social media profile for SEO differs from running a social media account for marketing purposes. Though you can always supplement SEO with some social media marketing efforts.
To keep your social media profiles active, post regularly - at least once a week. Engaging with your followers can help too. Doing this helps Google and your customers determine if you're still actively doing business.
10. Website Not Optimized for Mobile
Statistics suggest that more than 60% of all online searches are now on mobile devices. So if your site is not optimized for mobile, you're missing out on some serious traffic.
How to Optimize Your Site for Mobile Search
First off, you need to determine how mobile-friendly your site is. You can use Google's Mobile-Friendly Test tool if you have a Google Search Console installed on your site.
There are also simple improvements you can make to your site to make it more mobile-friendly such as:
- getting rid of pop-up ads
- improving website speed
- stick to a simple interface design
- make sure your buttons are large enough for mobile
If these don't work, you can hire an SEO professional or a web developer to optimize your site for mobile devices.
11. Inconsistent NAPW
NAPW stands for "Name, Address, Phone number, and Website." Basically, it includes the most essential information in your online listing. Unreliable NAPW will make it impossible for local customers to find your location, contact you and engage with you.
How to Ensure a Consistent NAPW
Start by including your area code in your NAPW setup so that people and search engines can easily find you. Also, use the same NAPW information across all platforms, especially when creating new listings or updating existing ones.
12. No Customer Reviews
This is another amateur mistake most business owners make. Customer reviews are vital in a buyer's decision-making process. They also help remotely communicate with search engines that what you offer is valuable and worthwhile. Yet, a simple Google search will show how many local businesses don't have reviews.
How to Get More Customer Reviews
As I've said, customers will only leave reviews if they've had an exceptional experience or want to complain about something. Obviously, you don't want the latter. So the first step to getting more customer reviews is consistently providing exceptional service.
Now I know it's not always possible, so the next best thing you can do is encourage your loyal customers to review. You can offer a discount voucher or freebies for everyone who leaves a review. Just make sure that the reviews are organic. Google algorithms are getting smarter, and it's only a matter of time before they can tell between an organic review and a paid review. When that happens, your ranking can be severely affected.
13. Poor Technical SEO
Many think SEO is just about creating backlinks or using the right keywords. But in reality, it involves a lot of technical work. You must keep track of your Schema, CSS, and your site's crawlability, among others. Collectively, we refer to them as technical SEO.
While it can be tempting to ignore your site's technical SEO, that's the last thing you want to do. Keeping track of the technical part of your SEO strategy is as vital as creating backlinks and doing keyword research.
How to Boost Your Technical SEO
I'm not denying that maintaining a site's technical SEO is no easy task. But you can use tools like WooRank's site crawl feature to do a technical audit on your site. This will help you determine what you're doing wrong and what needs to be improved. You can hire an SEO professional to take care of these things.
14. No Audience Targeting
As I said, not every person online is a potential customer. So it is essential to make sure that your content reaches the right audience who will be interested in your brand or product. Audience targeting primarily focuses on that aspect, so you can effectively convert your website visitors into paying customers.
How to Improve Your Audience Targeting Strategy
For better audience targeting, make sure you:
- find the right niche
- segment your buying stages
- discover appropriate long-tail keyword phrases
- cater to specific search habits
15. Multiple URLs Leading to the Same Page
Yes, this can happen, especially if you've created multiple similar pages on your site and redirected them to the newest page you've made. I don't have to tell you that this can seriously hurt your SEO. It confuses Google, and your page may even be tagged as spam.
How to Fix This
One of the easiest ways to fix this is by adding canonical tags to each page to tell Google which page to display in the search results pages.
Ready to Amp Up Your Local SEO?
Although humans are prone to error, these local SEO mistakes can be avoided by having a regular site audit to ensure that your website is in good health. If used effectively and correctly, local SEO can help you save time, money, and effort in your digital marketing campaigns.