Most businesses are sabotaging their local Google rankings and the worst part is they don’t even realize it

Are You Sabotaging Your Google Rankings?

Go through this list like a checklist to determine if you’re sabotaging your own Google rankings.

We frequently complete SEO audits and nearly 100% of the businesses we review are making at least 1 of the 11 common mistakes in this article.  So there’s a good chance you’ll find you’re making a few mistakes as well.

Local SEO Mistakes to Avoid

With that said, don’t get discouraged if you do find a few mistakes. The good news is it’s fairly easy to fix all of these.

My goal here is to help you identify what’s wrong and what’s preventing you from ranking high in Google’s local results, and then it’s up to you to take action to get everything cleaned up.

Alright, let’s get started with the easiest mistake to fix…

1. No Google My Business Profile

When you think of search engine optimization (SEO), then you immediately think of your website ranking in Google’s results.  However, with local SEO, there’s a bit of a twist.

Search for “nearby dentists” and you’ll see a big map in the upper right corner.  Plus, you’ll see information for dental offices listed in the main results (i.e. name, address, phone number, reviews, etc.) .

Here’s the thing… that information is from each business’s Google My Business profile page, not their website!

So if you do not yet have a Google My Business profile page, you’re missing out. It’s 100% free to set this up and shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes of your time. Click here to learn more and get set up today.

Don’t forget the very last step which is to verify your business listing.  That’s an important step to ensure you’re the owner of your page so you (and no one else) can make edits in the future.

2. Duplicate Listings

The next common mistake I see is having duplicate Google My Business profile pages.

Google hates duplicate content in their search results.  It’s a bad experience for their users to see the same information twice in their results, and it’s a waste of Google’s resources to analyze and store duplicate information.

That’s why creating duplicate listings is against Google’s terms of service.  Each business location should only have one Google My Business profile page.  To see if you have more than one page, use the Moz Local tool.

Simply type in your business name and address and Moz’s tool will let you know if there are some duplicate listings floating around online.  If there are, then contact Google to get them removed as quickly as possible so they don’t drag down your rankings.

3. Missing Relevant Categories

OK, now let’s look at the most common (and often most costly) mistake made on the actual Google My Business profile page.  In my experience, the biggest mistake is missing relevant categories.

Don’t rush this critical step when you’re setting up your page.

Think of categories like sections of the Yellow Pages.  The more sections you advertise in, the more likely your prospects are to find you.

So the more relevant categories, the better.  Note that it’s against Google’s terms to include irrelevant categories so be careful when you select your categories.

Google doesn’t make this super easy so I recommend you take a look at this big list to find all the relevant categories for your business. Another tip is to review the categories top-ranking local businesses have selected in their profiles.

4. Missing Contact Information On Your Website

Go to your website’s contact page and confirm all of your contact information is listed on the page.

More specifically, make sure that your business Name, Address, and Phone number are listed as text (not an image!).  This ensures that Google can easily read your contact information and verify its accuracy.

Google doesn’t want to show incorrect information in their search results.  That would be devastating for their credibility, and over time they would lose users.

So one of the measures Google takes to ensure accuracy is to compare the information listed on your website versus the information listed on your Google My Business profile page.  If your website and profile aren’t displaying the same exact contact information, you’ll want to edit your website and/or your Google My Business profile to make them consistent.

This leads us to mistake #5…

5. Inconsistent NAP Information Online

Mistake #5 is inconsistent NAP, which is simply an acronym for Name, Address, and Phone number.

As I mentioned above, it’s important to have the same contact information listed on both your website and your Google My Business page.

But that’s not all…

Google takes this a giant step further and compares your contact information listed on your website versus the information listed on other websites across the entire internet!

That means you must have consistent NAP on every single webpage that lists your contact information.  Mainly we’re talking about business directories since those are the types of websites most likely to display your contact information publicly online.

To check for inconsistent NAP, again go use the Moz Local search tool.  Simply type in your business information and the tool will quickly tell you if you have any problems.

6. Missing Citations

A citation is simply a mention of your NAP on another website.

In mistake #5 above, we emphasized the importance of consistency across all your online citations.  Well just because you have consistency doesn’t mean you’re in the clear.

It’s possible you’re missing some important citations that are hurting your chances of ranking high in Google.

To check if you’re missing important citations, you can start by using the Moz Local search tool.  If you find there are opportunities, then simply add all of your business information to the websites.

OK, that’s enough about your NAP and citations.  Let’s move on to the mistakes that aren’t so easy to fix…


7. No Customer Reviews

Most businesses struggle to get customer reviews online.  So if you’re lacking reviews on your Google My Business profile, then don’t beat yourself up too bad because you’re not alone.

The problem is that it takes some real effort on your customers’ end to add a review.

I’m sorry to say there’s no silver bullet solution here.  All you can do is ask (via email, in-person and over the phone) and make it as easy as possible for every customer to leave a review.

Of those 3 methods, we’ve found that asking via email — along with a link and directions  — is the most effective method because your customer doesn’t have to find your profile, you’re leading them right to it.

Getting positive reviews will likely be a slow process, but over time it adds up and will give you a real competitive advantage that is difficult to replicate.

8. Low Quality, Thin Website Content

The remaining 4 mistakes are not directly related to your Google My Business profile.  That’s because Google changed their algorithm to incorporate more signals, like the content on your website.

Your website plays an important role in how high your Google My Business profile will rank in the search results.  If your website is full of low quality, thin website content (less than 500 words per page, as a general rule of thumb), then you’re going to struggle to rank in Google.

If you think about this from Google’s perspective then it makes a lot of sense…

Google’s mission is to give searchers the most relevant webpages that are most likely to answer the searchers’ questions.  Generally, webpages with more content provide more information than webpages with less content.  That’s why it’s so important to review all your key webpages and make sure they have at least 500 words of relevant content.

9. No High-Quality, Relevant Links

Links from other high-quality, relevant websites have always been a major factor in SEO, and more recently Google is using links in their local ranking algorithm.

That means you can’t just rely on an optimized Google My Business profile page and citations.  You also have to invest in tactics to get high quality, relevant links.

You’re probably wondering how do you get other websites to link to your website?

The first step we always recommend is to get your business listed in quality, relevant directories. Directories can help to lay a foundation of links, and they also provide citations (mentions of your Name, Address, and Phone number).

Over the long-term, the best way to attract quality links is to publish and to promote great content.  I know it’s probably not what you want to hear, but the best way to get other websites to link to your website is to create something worth linking to.  If you try to use shortcuts, then you’ll likely get yourself into trouble down the road.

10. Ignoring Social Media

Over the years, there has been some disagreement among experts regarding the impact of social media on SEO. Take a look at David Mihm’s local SEO ranking factors and you’ll see that social media activity is one of the many signals Google uses to rank businesses. (In contrast, the BrightLocal’s most recent report on local SEO ranking factors from 2020 didn’t include social media).

As a follow up, AdviceLocal includes social signals as part of ‘link signals’ in their 2021 local search rankings factors prediction report. AdviceLocal wrote:

Search engines trust the authority of sites like Facebook, so it’s a no-brainer to post on them, plus they drive traffic to your business’ website, which sends many other positive signals to Google for organic search placement of a website’s pages and posts beyond the local pack.

There’s a lot of debate about this, but regardless of whether you agree that social media activity directly impacts rankings, there’s no denying the fact that social media can provide a helpful channel to create more exposure and buzz about your business.

As mentioned above, the best way to get links to your site is with great content.  And one of the best ways to promote your content to get it in front of your target audience is via social media. While we don’t consider social media a primary driver of local SEO success, we think it’s a mistake to completely ignore social media.

11. No Mobile-Optimized Website

The final mistake is not creating a mobile-optimized website.

Local SEO and mobile go hand in hand because more and more people are using their mobile devices to search for local businesses on the go.

I personally do this all the time…

Even when I’m home, I’ll use my mobile device rather than go and turn on my computer and wait for it to load up.  As more of your prospects turn to mobile devices, they are going to expect to see a mobile-optimized website.

Google has already started to experiment with labels in their search results to tell searchers which results have mobile-friendly webpages.  Then back in April 2015, Google updated their algorithm to include mobile-friendliness signals in their ranking algorithm. And more recently, in 2018, Google moved to mobile-first indexing, which means that your mobile website will be the primary website Google analyzes for ranking purposes.  And for a while now (since July 1, 2019), Google has enabled mobile-first indexing by default for all new websites.

So if you haven’t already, you need to create a mobile-optimized website in order to compete in the local search results in the coming months and years.

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