If you’re a small business with local interests, the notion of competing with major brands on a national scale in a search engine optimization (SEO) campaign can be intimidating. They’ve got years of experience optimizing for keywords that get millions of searches a day, and domain authority that would take many years and tens of thousands of dollars to match.
Fortunately, there’s a cost efficient alternative in local SEO. Because local SEO uses a different algorithm than national SEO, and local results are shown in a “three pack” that sits above traditional SERP results, it’s possible even for small businesses with modest budgets to earn significant visibility and traffic. Still, there are a handful of mistakes that can derail even the best of local SEO campaigns.
Biggest Local SEO Mistakes
These are the dire mistakes that can wreck your entire campaign, so avoid them at all costs:
- Neglecting Google My Business. Google draws information about local businesses from many sources, including local directories like Yelp and TripAdvisor. But as you might expect, it trusts its own information the most. Google My Business is a free service that allows you to list your business in Google’s database (and update it with new information). This will help you ensure that Google has all the information it needs to provide a fully fleshed out listing for your business; plus, you’ll have the opportunity to create special events and other pages relevant to your business.
- Failing to streamline your contact information. One of the most important benefits of earning a spot in the local rankings is getting to display your contact information to searchers, including your address and phone numbers. If your business has multiple phone numbers, consolidate them, and collect your main phone number with your main address. Make sure this information is accurate and consistent, across all channels. It needs to be updated on your website, in your My Business listing, and in all your local citations. Otherwise, your ranking will suffer—and your customers might get the wrong information.
- Not attracting or moderating user reviews. User reviews are vital to get a spot in the local three pack. You’ll need to attract high star ratings and positive reviews on multiple channels if you want to succeed. The terms and conditions of most review sites explicitly forbid you from soliciting reviews directly, but that doesn’t mean you can’t encourage more reviews by letting customers know your availability on those review sites. Failing to do this, and failing to respond and recover from negative reviews, can derail your campaign.
- Confusing multiple locations. If your business has multiple locations, local SEO can be especially confusing. Do you choose one location and optimize for that alone? Do you establish a separate campaign for each location? You’ll actually have a few options here, but you’ll need to choose one of them and stick to it. Otherwise, your campaign could easily become muddled, your domain authority could become decentralized, and your customers might get information that leads them to the wrong location.
- Missing conventional SEO strategies. Finally, remember that while local SEO is different than national SEO, it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Your traditional SEO strategies, including producing high-quality content and attracting inbound links, still matter to your local rankings. If you focus exclusively on local tactics like building local citations, and you neglect the foundational elements of conventional SEO, you won’t be able to make progress. These national SEO strategies should get at least as much attention as your local-specific tactics, if not more so.
Like national SEO, local SEO isn’t a strategy you can switch “on” and leave alone to continue earning you benefits. It’s a strategy that requires significant ongoing maintenance if you want to keep earning traffic. That means updating and submitting new local citations, building visibility through social media, attracting more links, writing more local content, and of course, attracting more reviews. The more time and effort you invest in your campaign, granted you’ve avoided any compromising mistakes, the more secure your position will be.