Believing a business can’t do anything to get to the top of local search engine listings may be the biggest local SEO mistake, but it’s definitely not the only misstep a local business can make. In reality, it’s just the start of a list of reasons why local businesses aren’t showing up in customer searches for local business service and products.
Not optimizing Google My Business
Google My Business is a free way to boost local SEO. It does come with some best-practices for optimization that get businesses to the top of local listings.
The first step is to claim the business listing, which is easily done with a postcard. Businesses with multiple locations should establish a listing for each site or store. The listing should be optimized with images, accurate name, address, and phone number (NAP), and business hours. This local SEO is on-going; businesses should continue to update the information and add pictures regularly. If this list seems to be cumbersome, it’s okay to entrust the process to local SEO pros.
Creating false Google My Business locations
This “more is better” black-hat practice can actually backfire and result in penalties that sabotage a business’ listings. In practice, the rationale behind this scammy local SEO mistake makes sense; some businesses believe that if they want to get found in every community around them, they need a location in that town or city. However, if Google finds the false listing (which they do), the result is a penalty that impacts all the business’ locations—and their position in local search engine results.
Not including an ask for reviews in interactions and marketing
Reviews are a big deal in local SEO. Listings on third-party review sites show up in local search engine results and play in part in consumer behavior. A study in Search Engine Land stated that almost 7 out of 10 consumers reported that positive reviews played a part in their buying decision.
Because the role of reviews in local SEO and sales, it’s in every local business’ best interest to include ask for reviews in their customer interactions and business communications. There are quite a few opportunities that businesses often miss: in follow-up e-mails after a sale, conversations with customers after a service is completed, in meetings with long-time customers. (A full list of ways to ask customers for reviews can be found in this local SEO post.) Every business should review their procedures and training practices to ensure that an ask for a review is a standard part of doing business.
Forgetting to monitor review sites
Positive reviews are a business goal, but not one that is achieved without some monitoring. Businesses should regularly monitor review sites and social media to try and resolve customer issues. This practice can turn a negative review into a positive review.
When businesses do find a negative review, they should ask the customer to communicate privately so they can discuss the details and resolve the issue. Though a business should sound professional, the tone of the communications should be empathetic and human.
Name, address, and place is one of the top factors in the Moz Local Search Ranking Factors, which is why ignoring NAP in local SEO is a bad idea. Instead, businesses should make sure that the business’ NAP is the same in every citation on review sites, Google My Business, social media, and event listings. Every listing should have the same abbreviations (i.e. Ste. versus Suite) and phone number. Businesses with multiple locations should have separate phone numbers for each location.
Creating a slow website that isn’t mobile-friendly
Website search engine optimization is a major part of the search experience, making it a local SEO mistake to ignore it. Mobile-friendly sites rank higher in search engines, and make customers more willing to choose a business. A significant percentage of visitors won’t choose a website if it is not mobile-friendly, which is why businesses should ask a prospective website company if mobile-friendly is part of the package (and be wary if it is not).
A slow-loading website also negatively impacts local SEO. According to Google, when the time for a website page to load goes from one to three seconds, the chance of an online user leaving the website increases by 32%. That number almost triples, to 90%, when page loading speed goes from one to five seconds. The number increases to 106% when loading from one to six seconds. From one to 10 seconds, the chances of a bounce are a whopping 123%. Both factors are key factors in visitors’ search experience, making it an important part of a business’ local SEO efforts—and a major local SEO mistake to ignore it.