21 Local SEO Mistakes You Didn’t Know You Were Making

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:: By Travis Bliffen, Stellar SEO ::


Local SEO is quickly becoming the way people search. For the past couple of years, Google has been showing local results for many non-localized keywords. In addition, many local searches are being done on mobile devices by people looking to make a purchase in the near future. 

Moz released data showing that about 7 billion localized searches are performed each month, and I wouldn’t want to miss out on that massive opportunity for customer acquisition. It's safe to assume, you don't either. 

Below we are going to look at 21 local SEO mistakes you didn't know you were making. 


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1. Not Creating Google, Bing And Yahoo Listings For Each Location.

The most common thing I see is people entering a broad service area into a single local listing. If you have a company with locations in St Louis Mo, O’Fallon, IL, and Fairview Heights, IL (these towns are neighbors) then you should have a listing specific to each location. It is more work, but it works more for you in return.

2. Not Actively Seeking Reviews From Clients

Countless case studies have proven a relationship between the number of reviews and higher rankings. Just as you would run a promotion to gain likes on Facebook or followers on Twitter, you need to find ways to get reviews for your business. Clients can leave reviews on your Google+ pages and in several other local listings. You could offer a discount or special offer in return for an honest review. Most of the time simply asking will get you reviews so don’t be afraid to ask.

3. Choosing Poor Keywords

Even if you nail every other aspect of your local marketing strategy, choosing the wrong keywords will set you up for failure. When you select your terms you need to find a perfect balance of traffic, intent and competition level. Long tail keywords are a good place to start your search.

4. Forgetting Competitive Analysis

This should begin when you are looking for keywords and continue as your site improves in the rankings. Carefully studying what the top 5-10 competitors in your niche are doing will allow you to see what works, what common keywords are being targeted, and what types of backlinks are needed to rank for each term. Before you do anything, look at your competitors!

WebMeUP offers a good free backlink analysis tool that you can use to pull competitor links. Here is a sample of the results.

5. Stuffing Keywords Where They Don’t Fit Naturally

Traditional wisdom suggests that including your keyword in the title, URL, subheadings and throughout content is how to optimize for a keyword. This is true, but not to the extent that you should stuff terms where they do not fit. If you have to leave the keyword out of all subheadings to make the content effective and readable, just do it. The numerous benefits you will receive from have high-quality content will outweigh the benefit of stuffing a keyword. In case you didn’t know, you should keep your keyword density below 2 percent.

6. Not Adding Fresh Content 

We live in a content-driven world and not producing quality content is a great way to never rank for anything. I love SEO, but even I admit that content is crucial to the equation. Creating fresh content is so important because every page you create is another opportunity to earn inbound links and improve your rankings while gaining notoriety and exposure within your niche.

7. Not Mentioning Location Specific Terms In Content

Above I mentioned how you should not stuff keywords in your content or place them where they do not belong. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you should make sure you have your keywords somewhere on your page. Preferably in the content, Meta description and the page title (at a minimum). Just like walking the high wire, balance is a must in organic and local SEO.

8. Not Including Location Data In Images

Images are a great way to add extra relevancy to your pages. Most pages have at least one image. When you are adding the image, make sure to create a relevant file name and alt text to include with the image. I add the target keyword plus that target location in the file name and alt text.

9. Forgetting About Hyper-Local Directories

You have to remember that the key to ranking number one is to do everything your competitor has and more. Hyper-local directories are ones that cover a city or even a single zip code within a larger city. These citation opportunities are often overlooked but can provide an advantage over the competition with only standard local citations.

10. Providing Inconsistent Nap Data

If you use “St.” on one page and “Street” on another directory; does it make a difference? Yes, but it will likely be a small one. On the other hand, using different phone numbers across a number of major listings can have a major impact on how you rank. It has also been shown that having an address on your website that differs from the majority of your citations has a negative impact. To avoid this, create a template with your address and add it identically to every citation site, local blog and anywhere else that will take it.

11. Overlooking Site Speed

Here is a great infographic from Kissmetrics that details the impact of site speed. As you will see below, site speed matters and should not be taken lightly.

12. Failing To Optimize Navigation

People expect your website to be easily navigated and search engines reward it. If you do not have a clear hierarchy on your website; how will Google know what is most important on your site? If users can’t find out what services you offer, they are going to leave and look elsewhere. This is going to increase your bounce rate, lower conversions, and let Google know your site is not the best result when people quickly return to the search results and visit another site.

13. Ditching Tradition Link Building

Inbound links were found to be the fourth most important factor in local rankings in a 2013 study published on Moz. Inbound links will help you drive your domain authority higher and will help you rank for keyword variations as well. Several link building methods exist but here are 17 creative link building strategies to get you started.

(Image Property of Moz)

14. Not Tracking Site Traffic And Flow With Analytics

Contrary to the article title, you probably know you’re not tracking your website. The real question here is; why not? Google Analytics is free and very detailed. Head over to the site and set up your account. Install the tracking code on your site and voila, you are now tracking your site. Learning how to read the data can be a bit more complex though; this Google analytics guide should help.

15. Not Including Contact Information On All Pages

Many websites only have contact information on the contact page. If you want people to call or message you, make it easy for them. Including your local address and phone number on each page of your site will help with lead generation and provide better local rankings. Remember to have your NAP data appear the same as it does in local directories and citations.

16. Not Being Mobile Ready

Holy cow! This is 2014 and there is no reason to not be mobile ready. Over 50 percent of searches are done from mobile devices. If your site is not compatible, you can kiss traffic and rankings goodbye. If you are on a tight budget, you can switch to a CMS like WordPress and make use of a cheap mobile-ready template.

17. Neglecting Social Media

This one is probably the most heavily debated topics in SEO at the moment. Some SEOs say social media does not have a major influence on SEO and others believe it is indispensable. I believe that getting social shares (please share this post by the way!) is beneficial on many levels. Aside from direct impact of social shares, you are also able to get your content in front of more people who may want to link to it. Even if you do not have social profiles for your business, you need to include social sharing buttons.

18. Not Using Videos For Local SEO

There are several search terms that trigger videos above fold. Simply upload your video to YouTube and include your keyword in the title. Build some links to the video page and voila, express ticket to the front page of Google. You may also get traffic from YouTube directly since it is the second largest search engine. Here is an example of videos appearing for localized terms that did not trigger local results. If local results were triggered, you would see videos in the first-third or fifth result or lower.

19. Not Being Consistent

Most of us are guilty of this from time to time. When you build a following they will expect great content from you on a regular basis. They begin to anticipate your posting schedules and check back expecting new content. After enough visits with nothing new to read they are going to stop coming. Whether you are going to post once a week or twice a day, consistency is the key to successful blogging.

20. Giving Up Too Soon

I just recently spoke with a client who told me he had worked with another company who promised him top rankings in fewer than 90 days. While some terms can be ranked that quickly, her target keywords needed more like 9-12 months to rank. When you are trying to improve your own rankings or even if you are working with a reputable company, SEO takes time. Make sure you have a realistic understanding of how much time and money you will need to invest to rank for a keyword. Be wary of people offering fast results as well.

21. Never Getting Started

In 2012, Google rocked the SEO world and put an end to strategies that had kept companies ranking for years. Since then, numerous updates have been rolled out increasing the complexity and expense of SEO. Many businesses have become gun shy and completely avoid doing any SEO work. If your website is not getting any organic traffic; what do you have to lose? Give SEO a try and it may or may not work out. If you do not try however you have a 100 percent chance of failure so why not go for broke?

“Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly.”

-John F. Kennedy


Travis Bliffen is the founder of Stellar SEO, a search marketing firm near St Louis, Mo. Travis enjoys researching and writing about SEO and search marketing. He has been featured on several industry related sites and recently published, "A Complete Guide to Local SEO." 

If you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear them below!

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18 comments

First Class Code 03-25-2014 2:30 PM

Thank you for the tips! Local SEO is super important for small business.

Ken Glick (EEI) 03-25-2014 2:41 PM

The problem with using free tools such as Webmeup.com to do competitive analysis is that they only show you a few of your website's backlinks and if you want the rest you're going to have to cough up as much as $99 per month. Saying that, one advantage of having using Webmeup.com is that they have a package as little as $19.95 per month.

Travis B 03-25-2014 3:11 PM

That is right Ken, Web Me up can be much less expensive than some other sites and in my experience they offer a huge chunk of back links for free.

Mark 03-25-2014 3:36 PM

Also, several free sources such as MOZ will display links that the others missed so you can compare links.

Travis B 03-25-2014 4:51 PM

Yes Mark. You can also get some free data from Ahrefs as well.

Sefati Consulting 03-25-2014 7:06 PM

I think you missed a big one. And that is "not getting more involved in your local community". There are a ton of local business and charity events that get local media attention. If businesses are more involved locally, they will get local PR which will help their organic and local rankings.

MartinP 03-25-2014 8:29 PM

100% @Sefati Consulting!! My wife has a photography biz, and once ayear she hosts a day of mini portrait shoots at a local mall to raise funds for the children's hospital. Although the point is fundraising, the side benfits of 1) making LOTS of new connections with potential future clients and 2) having the local media mention the event with a link to her site... well, it's a win all around. Even though we're discussing online optimization, don't discount real-world efforts to feed into that.

Classified America 03-26-2014 6:41 AM

Travis you have done a great job of reminding those in the business of current local SEO best practices with your article. We have seen many in our industry become complacent in their approach to local SEO. Thanks again Travis:-)

Travis B 03-27-2014 12:54 AM

@ Sefati and Martin

Great point from the both of you. Getting involved is a great way to naturally gain a ton of powerful citations and as Martin mentioned, some of those come from authority sites like news stations.

The fact that you are helping the community will get your name in front of tons of consumers and keep you in front of potential clients.

Thanks for pointing that one out!

Ash 03-28-2014 2:01 PM

Great post! I think you covered a lot of aspects of Local SEO, one thing you missed though is the impact of schema especially when it comes to local. Schema seems to at least anecdotally improve conversion and rankings in local.

Another thing is about having consistent NAP data - though you covered this in brief, I think a great discussion point to add is tools that can help you correct your NAP across multiple web directories. In that space, GetListed.org and Synup.com deserve a mention. Both of these tools save tons of hours when it comes to identifying local listings with the wrong info.

Travis B 03-28-2014 11:17 PM

Ash,

You are definitely correct, Schema does make a positive impact. I lean towards getlisted.org for multiple location correction and yes, it saves a ton of time. I actually mentioned get listed in my SEO Roundup, take a look: www.websitemagazine.com/.../seo-roundup-yahoo-backlinks-and-content.aspx

Web Design Quotes 03-30-2014 4:06 AM

Travis thanks for the tips. Especially the YouTube one.

Travis B 03-30-2014 2:05 PM

@ Web Design Quotes.

Glad you enjoyed, you can find more on ranking Youtube videos in this article i wrote www.business2community.com/.../barnacle-seo-youtube-fast-safe-rankings-0827227!BY5Zr

NeilF 04-04-2014 10:47 AM

A friend of mine who I know has a good handle on Local SEO posted this article to my G+ Stream, so I went ahead and sub to your newsletter. These are all good local seo tips, some more key than others. Was curious if you know of any TOS issues if be embedding a 5 Star Google+ Local listing review onto your About Us Page on a WordPress site? I've gotten mixed input on this and would like to get a credible source to confirm what the real deal is? Thx - Neil

Travis B 04-06-2014 6:03 PM

Neil, great question and I am glad you asked. Just to make sure I have it write, you are asking if there would be any terms of services issues with embedding a review from your Google + page onto your website.

If It was me, I would simply use the review on my website and link it to the original source. Mention somewhere on the page the review is from G+ and you should have nothing to worry about.

SaraY 04-12-2014 8:52 AM

Just curious - am I reading this right?  Does #10 really say PROVIDING INCONSISTENT NAP DATA ?  I'm assuming that's supposed to be Map not Nap, but if not, I'd love to read more about naps. I love naps. Naps are awesome.

Travis B 04-13-2014 4:28 PM

Sara Y

I too love naps, but in this case, NAP stands for name, address, and phone number which are very important to list consistently across citations and local directory sites.

TeguhS 05-26-2014 10:36 AM

I'am learning seo, nice to meet this blog

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