Consider this: 60 percent of American adults conduct searches for local services or product information on mobile devices. Beyond that, 50 percent of the people who did a local search on their phone went to a physical store within one day. These figures alone suggest the importance of making sure your local search engine optimization (local SEO) is pointing customers to your business.
Dominating local search results has helped many businesses to be successful, but what if your business is struggling? As with most forms of search engine optimization, local SEO is complicated and features many elements that can influence your performance. Many businesses make these common mistakes that can be easily avoided with a little bit of SEO know-how. Here, you’ll learn what local SEO is, why it’s important, and what mistakes to avoid.
What is Local SEO?
To understand what mistakes to avoid, first we need to gain a clear understanding of what local search engine optimization actually is. Local SEO is when one focuses on optimizing a website to be found in local search results. You know that search you do that goes “find … near me” Or “lawyers/doctors in [city name]?” That’s local SEO.
If you are a brick-and-mortar business, local SEO is an essential marketing strategy. Using local SEO practices means you’re directing your content, link building and web-page optimization toward customers in the region where you are located. Local SEO involves making sure all of the local signals pointing to you are updated and correct, and that Google can find them easily.
Why is Local SEO Important?
Customers want their top local businesses to be using local SEO techniques. For them, being able to find “just the thing they are looking for”— that they can buy locally after an easy, reliable, and fast search experience — is what makes local SEO invaluable. Seventy-eight percent of local-based searches lead to a sale a brick-and-mortar location. This proves that despite the popularity of delivered-to-your-door online stores such as Amazon, customers still seek local shopping options and are willing to travel to a nearby location to make a purchase. But to be able to do that, local businesses have to use local SEO strategies to help make their online presence shine.
Who Benefits Most From Local SEO?
The impact of expertly executed local SEO can be observed by all kinds of people. Customers benefit hugely, of course. But besides customers, services and people that are particularly well suited to local SEO include lawyers, doctors, plumbers and restaurants. Google says four in five consumers want search ads to be customized to their city, zip code or immediate surroundings.
For lawyers, local SEO can push the local firm and its contact phone number (which appears in the Google listing) to the top of the search results. In the case of doctors, the nature of illness is that people don’t want to have to travel far, so online searchers often use the words “near me” to find a local medical practitioner. The local search results include a map, which patients appreciate too. Plumbers are similar in that people with household water issues don’t have time to wait. They punch in “plumbers near me,” read credible reviews, and get in touch immediately. For restaurants, the flow of customer reviews helps draw patrons to the best quality food, at the most convenient location.
While any business can stand to gain from a well-optimized local SEO presence, the most important beneficiary is the searcher. Google’s entire mission is centralized on the concept of connecting searchers with the best solutions possible, so your goal should be to provide the best solution for your customers. The most customer-centric your approach is, the more likely you can create a presence that Google can elevate to the top.
The Common Mistakes That Happen With Local SEO
Successful SEO means paying attention to getting the smaller details right. Here are the ways some companies let themselves down by not conducting local SEO properly.
Inconsistent NAP (Name, Address and Phone Number)
What to do: It’s important to make sure that you’re name, address and phone number are consistent across your website and your business citations. What is a citation? It’s an online reference to your business’s name, address and phone number (NAP). Google uses these when evaluating the online authority of your business.
Why it’s important: Correctness and consistency helps instill trust in Google that your business is called what you say it is, and is located where you say it is. Customers also do their research: 71 percent of people search for the location of a business in order to confirm it is where Google says it is before venturing there for the first time.
What to do: When it comes to business citations (GMB ,Yelp, etc.), it is critical that your business has one definitive listing.
Why it’s important: Having multiple listings can confuse Google as to which one it should show. Sometimes, this can result in the wrong one being displayed in the search engine result pages (SERPs), which could lead customers to incorrect information about your business. Having one definitive listing means you avoid confusion and funnel all searches through a single local presence.
Missing Relevant Categories
What to do: When filling out business citations online, best local SEO practice is to ensure that you include all of the categories relevant to your business.
Why it’s important: Including all categories helps search engines fully understand the industry or industries to which your business is related. This can allow Google to show more personalized results for people who are searching for your product or service. For example, if you have a local contracting company, you may want to include categories such as roofing, remodeling, and solar if they apply so that Google can factor those into the results they provide for searchers.
What to do: When search engines crawl citations with your name, address and phone number (NAP), it helps build trust when they discover your business information is uniform across dozens or hundreds of other platforms.
Why it’s important: If there are business citation websites where your business is not listed, you are missing out on another trust signal that you could send to search engines. Fast checks on citations ensure consistency and is an important element of local SEO.
No Reviews (or not Responding to Reviews)
What to do: Having good, honest reviews is important for search engines and also to users, because such reviews demonstrate that “real” people have experienced what your business offers.
Why it’s important: Including and responding to reviews helps to show search engines that your business is legitimate and that customers have engaged with you in the past. Reviews are a local SEO trust-builder. In addition to the SEO value, reviews are a trust factor for consumers, demonstrating the caliber of your product or service.
Website Not Optimized for Mobile
What to do: In 2019, customers expect that all websites should be optimized for mobile devices. However it’s extra important for businesses with a local presence, because it’s common for users to look up businesses before leaving home, or while they are on their way.
Why it’s important: Half of people who conduct a local search on their phone visit a physical store within one day of the search. A website that is not optimized for mobile can, and does, hinder users from finding and engaging with local businesses. In 2019, web users are accustomed to intuitive and smooth online experiences. A poor experience on a mobile site will be enough to send them — and their money — elsewhere, fast.
No Social Media Profiles
What to do: Social media profiles such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and others are a great way to connect with users in your area. Not only that, you can keep customers updated on what’s going on with your business, including special promotions and seasonal sales.
Why it’s important: Your social profiles are ways for customers to easily find information about your business. These profiles are so important that many customers turn to social profiles to research local services. In addition to providing information, social media profiles like Facebook can serve as additional citation sources for Google to verify your business information against.
Conclusion: If you are a brick-and-mortar location offering services or products to customers within a limited region, local SEO is how you can gain a competitive edge. Avoiding these common mistakes can signal to both Google and your customers that your product or service is the perfect solution for them. Your customers are looking for you online, and local SEO makes it easy for them to find you.