Local search and maps drive traffic and leads — when done right. Watch for these 15 common local SEO mistakes and learn to avoid them here.
Local SEO is the leading driver of organic traffic for local businesses. And with around 5 billion searches per day, Google search is the place to get your business found by people searching for products or services like yours.
But optimizing for local search isn’t always a simple task.
It takes keyword research, on-page optimization, and much more to turn your website into a local traffic-generating machine. Even the savviest of SEO professionals make mistakes along the way.
Here, you’ll learn about the 15 most common local SEO mistakes and find simple tips to help you avoid them when optimizing your website or listings.
One of the most common mistakes we see when it comes to SEO is targeting broad, unspecific keywords.
While all of us would love to rank # for [best lawyer], this keyword is not specific enough to drive the local traffic that we want.
In implementing local SEO, you should identify geo-specific and service-specific keywords that are likely to attract your target audience.
So, instead of optimizing for [best lawyer], keywords like [Seattle family lawyer] or [divorce lawyer in Seattle] would be a much better fit.
Many business owners treat online reviews as a “would be nice” addition to their marketing strategy – not a necessity.
But in local SEO, having positive customer reviews (and a lot of them) can help your business rank better in local search.
Generating positive reviews for your website, social media profiles, and online profiles should be a high priority. Not only do reviews help build trust with potential customers, but they indicate to Google that you run a reputable business.
These signals can help you rise to the top of Google Maps and the organic search results.
NAPW stands for “Name, Address, Phone number, and Website,” and covers the most important information to be included in your online listings.
Unfortunately, one of the most common local SEO mistakes is having inconsistencies in your NAPW across multiple listings.
This often happens when you move locations, change your phone number, or change your website URL.
But other inconsistencies include not having your office suite number, forgetting “ave” or “st” on your address, or using the wrong website URL.
In creating new or updating existing online listings, be sure to use the exact same NAPW across all listings. Many directories – like Google My Business – will allow you to update this information pretty easily.
Keep in mind, though, that large aggregators often push out your information to different listings across the web, so getting your information right the first time and monitoring it on an ongoing basis is your best bet.
Submitting your business information to directories like Google My Business, Bing Places, Yelp, and Yellow Pages can help your business rank in local search.
Many business owners neglect to build out their local listings altogether, or strictly stick to one directory.
In fact, having your business listed in multiple directories can help drive even more traffic to your website, as you are giving users multiple opportunities to find your business in search.
The goal is to identify a range of reputable directories and submit your business information to drive traffic. Just remember to keep your NAPW consistent across all listings.
Google My Business is the primary place to be if you want your business to rank in Google Maps.
Not having a Google My Business listing could hinder your appearance in local search and make it harder for potential customers to find you – both online and offline.
Be sure to submit your information to Google My Business or “claim” an existing listing. You can then include your NAPW, business hours, categories, customer reviews, photos, and more.
Having a complete and optimized Google My Business profile is your best chance for driving local traffic via Google.
Bummer – you have a negative customer review (or several) on Google, Yelp or another third-party review site. While many may choose to ignore these unsatisfied customers, doing so may actually hurt your business even more.
Be sure to respond to negative customer reviews to help build trust with potential customers. Your response can give context to the situation and help reduce some of the damage.
Additionally, you can often report spam or inaccurate reviews to the directory and have them removed – but this varies from platform to platform.
Backlinks are an important ranking factor in SEO – but building backlinks is an often overlooked practice for local businesses.
You can’t rely solely on website and directory optimization to rank highly in local search. You’ll need high-quality backlinks, as well.
Be sure to have a link building strategy in order to improve the authority of your site.
For local businesses, this often involves publishing guest posts on other local websites or creating geo-specific content that naturally attracts backlinks. Be sure to check out this complete link building guide for even more ideas.
More users are searching for businesses via their mobile devices than ever before. While most websites are optimized for desktops, neglecting to optimize for mobile search could significantly limit your traffic potential.
Work with an SEO professional or developer to ensure your website is mobile-friendly.
Google’s PageSpeed Insights report will give you some insight into how your website performs across all types of devices. Your website should be fast, easy to navigate, and user-friendly no matter what device a user is searching from.
Simply including your target keywords across your website isn’t going to cut it. Having thin, irrelevant, or unoptimized content is one of the biggest mistakes businesses make when it comes to their local SEO.
Your website should include valuable, accurate, relevant, and keyword-focused content in order to rank in search and generate more traffic. This includes the content on your main webpages and blog articles.
Be sure to follow on-page SEO best practices to completely optimize your content.
There are a few reasons why a business might have multiple directory listings. Perhaps the business has moved and a new listing was created with the new address. Or the business owner forgot the listing existed and accidentally created a new one.
Whatever the case may be, having duplicate listings can confuse Google – and users – about where your business is and which one is the correct listing.
This could also cause you to miss updating listings when you make changes in future, further eroding Google’s trust in the information it sees about your brand.
Clean up is an important task in your local SEO strategy. You should aim to remove duplicate listings, update your NAPW, and make sure you only have a single, accurate listing for your business on any given platform.
Some directories make this difficult, so it’s always best to avoid this mistake from the very beginning. Make sure you’re monitoring for new duplicates as they can happen for a variety of reasons at any time.
Missing contact information makes it difficult for potential customers to get in touch with you. It’s also a missed opportunity to provide additional context to search engines as to where your business is and how users should reach you.
Make sure your business website has an obvious Contact page with accurate information.
Even better, include your location information – with an embedded Google map – and make sure it matches what’s included across your other directory listings. Be sure to double-check that the map pin is in the right location.
Are your images missing optimized alt text? Are the file sizes slowing your website down?
Poor image optimization can make for a poor user experience and cause you to miss out on more traffic from Image search and rich search results.
Conduct a crawl of your website (you can use tools like Screaming Frog) to audit your image files and find existing optimization issues.
The most common issues include missing alt text, large file size, or poor URL structure. It’s best to include relevant, descriptive alt text for all images and compress your images to increase website load speed.
See these 11 image optimization tips to learn more.
We’ve covered that you should find geo-specific keywords to use on your website – now don’t overdo it!
Keyword stuffing is the practice of shoehorning your keywords into various areas of your website or listings, so much so that your site is essentially “over-optimized” and not user-friendly. The result is a poor experience for visitors and a spammy appearance to search engines.
Use your target keywords as naturally as possible across your website. This includes in your page titles, meta descriptions, body content, and even image alt text – but in a user-friendly way.
This is not an opportunity to use all of your keywords in the footer of your website or to use as many keywords as possible.
Remember, too, that Google is a lot smarter than you may think. It understands plural vs singular, synonyms, and other nuance so you do not need to try to use every different form of a word to optimize for it. Think of the topic as a whole, instead.
If you’re in the habit of posting on your blog, you likely have the goal of driving more traffic. But blog content without a clear keyword focus or on-page SEO is unlikely to rank in search.
Conduct local keyword research to find geo-specific keywords to target in your blog articles. You might be surprised what content ideas you might find.
Then, follow on-page SEO best practices to optimize your articles for search, paying close attention to elements such as the title tag, body content, internal links, and images.
Technical SEO is important for any SEO strategy. It covers the architecture of your website, your site’s ability to be indexed by Google, and a range of other factors.
A technical audit of your website will help uncover any existing technical issues that might need to be fixed – such as missing HTTPS, poor site security, or duplicate content.
A technical SEO professional or website developer should be able to fix all these issues for you, ensuring your site is technically sound and ready to rank in local search.
Download Advanced Technical SEO: A Complete Guide to learn more.
While a lot can go “wrong” when optimizing your website, these mistakes are easy to avoid if you go into your strategy with the right information.
This guide helps you sidestep many of the most common mistakes, while following best practices to optimize your business for local traffic.
This is the best way to rank higher in Google search and attract more local customers to you.
Featured image: Visual Generation/Shutterstock
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Jason Hennessey is a serial entrepreneur and internationally known search engine optimization (SEO) expert, author and speaker who specializes in … [Read full bio]
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