Success in local SEO is reliant upon a vast network of interconnected strategies. Your onsite content, offsite links, local profiles, user reviews, and social presence all need to work tightly in sync if you are to earn higher ranks for local-specific queries. As with any SEO campaign, one mistake isn’t going to kill you—posting a poor piece of content can’t completely ruin your chances at ranking as long as the rest of your content strategy is in proper order—but there are some mistakes in local SEO that can seriously compromise your results.
These mistakes are all too common because they aren’t always apparent or easy to spot. Many entrepreneurs make them without even realizing it and end up with falling ranks, so don’t let yourself become one of them:
As you might imagine, one of the most important parts of a local SEO campaign is making sure Google understands where your business is located. The search algorithm scans multiple sources for information that includes your name, address, and phone number, then forms a conclusion based on that information. If it finds a piece of information that conflicts with the others, it is unable to form that conclusion, and as a result, you’ll end up with less authority. If the discrepancies are severe, you may not even end up ranking in the right city.
Google is serious about NAP information—even small discrepancies can be problematic. For example, writing out “street” on your website while abbreviating it to “st” on your local profile could result in a major problem for your ultimate ranks. The details matter more than you think, so take the extra time to verify that your local listing is correct on every publicly available location. Fortunately, there are a host of automated or service-based options available to you to make quick work of this task.
Modern SEO is about far more than just what’s on your website. There are hundreds of external sources, such as local directories and review sites, that all contain pertinent information about local businesses. Google relies on these profiles to form conclusions about a company’s direction, status, and quality, so leaving them empty is a bad idea.
Most local directories give you several options to fill out, including details like how many years you’ve been in business and what your mission statement is, along with sections for uploading pictures. If you aren’t filling out all of these forms, and filling them out accurately, you’ll be missing out on some serious web visibility, and that could hurt your ranking.
To take things a step further, remember that many individual users consult these local directories when making a purchasing decision. If all they see from your business is a bunch of empty spaces, they’re highly likely to move on without a second thought. Instead, take the opportunity to sell yourself.
Categorization, like your NAP information, is a bigger deal than it seems to be. If you choose an inappropriate category, or if you select conflicting categories on different local directories, you could lose out on authority and rankings as a result. When you first start a campaign, think carefully about the type of category you want to be known for, and once you choose it, be consistent with it on every platform. It also pays to be as specific as possible. For example, listing yourself as a “criminal defense attorney” is much better than just an “attorney.” This distinction will help you rank in more specific searches and will help Google understand your business better.
Also consider your business category carefully when choosing the type of local directories you seek in your campaign. For example, UrbanSpoon caters specifically to restaurants—you wouldn’t want to list yourself there if you run an auto body repair shop.
Some marketers make the mistake of drawing a line between traditional SEO and local search strategies. They take care of all their local listings, but then focus on the remainder of their SEO campaign like they would a national program. As a result, their content isn’t specific, and they end up losing out on a ton of local authority.
Make sure you write at least one or two local-specific articles every week on your site. Find ways to make your content specific to your city or region, and take every opportunity you can to get involved in the community and write about it.
Finally, don’t lose out on the opportunity to cement yourself further in the community by forging local connections and using them to your advantage. Work with your local newspapers to get some additional press. Mention nearby or similar local business on social media, and share their material—they’ll likely share yours in kind. Donate to local schools and universities in exchange for getting mentioned on their valuable .edu real estate. The key is to embed yourself into the local community however you can, and use those connections to build your authority.
Of all the mistakes you could make in a local SEO campaign, these are likely the worst. If you catch yourself making one, take corrective action as soon as possible to mitigate the potential negative consequences. Do take solace in knowing that the vast majority of SEO blunders can be made up for in time—just commit yourself to adhering to best practices, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.