Local SEO is a must in order for your business to rank in the top positions of Google’s local search results and even more so if you want your business to be found in the holy Snack Pack.
There are a lot of things that can go wrong when you try to optimize your business’s website and business listings for local search queries.
Going into detail about each and every minor and major mistake one can make would go far beyond the scope of this post. So here I offer you 13 of the most dangerous pitfalls that you have to avoid.
Let’s start with the on-page side of things. 4 pitfalls came into my mind right away that you’d better jump over (or walk around, in case you have a bad knee):
1. Lack of Contact Information
Not displaying at least the name of your business together with its physical address and a phone number that customers can use to call you on each page of your website, for example in the footer, is a big mistake. It hurts your SEO and your user experience.
Furthermore you can add an email address, opening hours, and other information that you consider important.
Also, create a contact page and include it in the main navigation menu. On the page itself add your business info once more. Clickable phone numbers are great for mobile users and driving directions plus a map not only benefit your rankings, they also help customers to better find your business.
2. Thin Or Not Locally Relevant Content
If you want to rank for ‘ice-cream shop NYC’, make sure to publish some content on your site that is on the one hand topically relevant to ice cream and on the other hand locally relevant to New York City.
Creating lots of content on ice cream that is not locally targeted to NYC could make Google think that maybe you are not the best reference to list high in the SERPs.
3. Duplicate Content
If you want to target multiple cities, don’t create exact copies of one or more already existing pages of your website and the only change you make is altering the name of the location. This will very likely trigger a duplicate content issue.
4. Keyword Stuffing in Footer
Although it’s hard to believe, today there still seem to be a lot of so called ‘SEO companies’ out there that recommend keyword stuffing in the footer of a website as part of their SEO campaigns.
Beware that keyword stuffing not only looks suspicious from a user perspective, it’s also a piece of cake for Google to detect (and penalize).
Business Citations or Local Listings
Don’t worry, there is nothing wrong with creating lots of business citations – as long as you make sure to set up each and every one of them properly.
Pitfalls to avoid:
5. Inconsistent NAP
The abbreviation NAP stands for ‘Name, Address, Phone Number’. Your business’s name, address, and phone number have to be identical in all of your local listings on all the different platforms.
Identical or consistent also means that each listing has the exact same format. If you enter:
My Awesome Business, LLC.
155 Example Street
New York, NY 10001
for one listing, then stay with this format and don’t change it to:
My Awesome Business
155 Example St.
New York, NY 10001
or something like that.
6. Incomplete Listings
Google and other search engines want you to provide as much information with your local business listings as possible. Going the extra mile and writing a unique description for your business and adding a couple of images, etc., can already set you apart from your competition.
Also, in most cases the equation is:
More Information = Better User Experience = More Leads
7. Duplicate Listings
Duplicate listings, meaning two or more listings of your business on the same platform, won’t do you any good.
A. You will possibly violate the Terms of Service of a platform.
B. Reviews get split among the different profiles.
C. Search engines might get confused.
Don’t fall into this pit.
8. Mass Directory Submissions
There are services that offer cheap mass directory submissions, where a bot automatically creates thousands of business listings for you – a real bargain, especially if you consider that about 20% of these directories could have been penalized or even banned by Google. Seriously?
Google My Business Listing
A Google My Business (GMB) listing is the most important business listing of all, which is why I decided to dedicate a separate section to it.
Here are 2 pitfalls to avoid:
9. No Physical Office
If you want to set up a proper GMB listing, there is no way around a real physical office address to verify your listing. And no, a PO box won’t work.
10. Incorrect Category
Choosing an appropriate category for your business is one of the most important steps when registering with GMB. The rules are:
1. be as specific as you can be
2. and use the least possible amount of categories. Choosing more than one category needlessly (you can choose up to 10), won’t benefit your rankings in any way and only do harm.
For some SEO providers, managing business reviews might not be part of their local campaigns. Well, to me they are.
11. Not Actively Going After Reviews
Collecting as many positive reviews as you can on your GMB listing, on Yelp, and on other primary business listings is a great way of giving your rankings a boost.
It’s estimated that ‘review signals account for 9.8% of the total ranking factors’ (source).
12. Offering Incentives For Reviews
It’s against the Terms of Service of many platforms to offer incentives in exchange for reviews. Violating the rules can lead to the deletion of your listing, which means that all of the other reviews you’ve build throughout the years will be gone, so be careful.
13. Buying Reviews
Buying fake positive reviews is even cheekier than offering incentives. It ruins the whole purpose of online reviews. Please don’t do that!