10 Common Mistakes To Avoid On Local Websites

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I’ve been fielding a ton of questions recently from both potential clients and Search Engine Land readers. The most popular among them?

What do we do for Local Search success in 2015?

Now that Pigeon has rolled out to Canada, Australia, and the UK, it’s clearly here to stay, and the Pigeon posts are still crowding everyone’s news feeds. Business owners want answers, so they’re doing anything they can to figure out the “next best thing” for Local SEO.

Instead of another list of tips for 2015, I’m going to share a list of the most common issues we see on small business websites. Over the last few years, between our own clients, potential clients, and businesses I’ve chatted with at conferences, we’ve seen the same mistakes again and again.

The best tactics won’t matter if your basic foundation is out of order, so hopefully this list will help your business (or your client’s business) thrive in 2015.

1. Don’t Just Focus On Your Brand

Far too many business owners feel like they need to concentrate only on their brand when many times, that’s the one area that they don’t need to worry about.

Think about it. You’re the only business with that name in your market – you don’t have to optimize for it. Many times, you’re the only business, or one of a select few, that even sell the brand of products or services you sell. Beat your competitors by being “more” than just your brand of products.

2. Don’t Just Focus On What You Sell

Yes, you’ve got a website because you’re selling something… but that doesn’t mean you should only have the stuff you sell on your site.

Every competitor in your niche is selling the same product or service, so you’ve got to differentiate yourself. Talk about your business, your community, your story. Like I just said for number one, beat your competitors by being “more.”

3. Don’t Make The Mistake Of Thinking People Already Know What They Want

I was at a pitch a few weeks ago with a major car dealer in Dallas. They were adamant that there was no need for any site content other than their vehicles, because people only came to the site if they were searching for a specific vehicle. They were sure that customers only came to their site from Google searches for extremely specific year/make/model searches (which is completely untrue).

Don’t fall into this trap – you should create an awesome website with a great user experience so that you can catch customers earlier in the buying funnel.

4. Don’t Forget To Optimize Local Elements On-Site

Here’s where the “10 tips” posts come in. According to the most recent Local Search Ranking Factors study from Moz, on-site signals are the largest piece of the rankings pie.

Once you’ve taken care of your content issues from the first three points, get your local optimization elements set up correctly. We see far too many businesses concentrate on traditional SEO and forget the local elements.

5. Don’t Forget To Optimize Off-Site Local Signals

Again, this is where you’d utilize the standard Local SEO tips posts. Claim and fully optimize your Google My Business page. Make sure your citations are consistent and listed where they should be listed. Get great, relevant links — especially from locally relevant sites.

6. Don’t Forget Your Home Page

This is one of the most common sins of local business sites. Please take note: A slideshow with ten images does not equal content!

You should think of your home page as an advertisement for your business, selling the important points about your business. Your customers need to be able to learn about what you do, and search engines need to have content to index. If there’s nothing there but a slideshow and a few links to products, you’re missing a huge opportunity for both humans and Google to like your website.

7. Don’t Forget Your Internal Pages

I can’t tell you how many sites that have important product or service pages that simply say “We sell (widgets) in the (city) area. Please call us for more information.”

If someone is browsing your site, these pages offer zero value. They’re on your site to learn about what you do or what you sell. Put the information on your site, or they’ll simply leave and check out your competitors instead. Also, with no real content, these pages probably won’t ever rank in Google, either.

8. Don’t Spam Cities Or Keywords

If you pay attention to anything in this post, pay attention to this: You will not rank for a city or a keyword just because you’ve mentioned it one time in a huge list on your home page.

Period.

We talk to potential clients all the time that ask why they’re not ranking in a particular city, even though “they’ve optimized for it on their site.” A comma-separated list of terms or cities does not equal optimization!

9. Don’t Spam Your Title Tags

We see this one all the time, too. You’ve got about 500 pixels of width to play with, so that’s typically around 65-70 characters. More than half of the time we talk to customers, we see 150+ character title tags.

More does not equal better, and according to recent research by Authority Labs, Google is more likely to rewrite your title tags if they’re longer than 60 characters. If they’re not going to help your SEO or your click-through rate, and they’re too long to display at the top of a browser window, then why are you making them so darned long?

10. Don’t Forget To Update Your NAP (Name, Address, & Phone Number) When It Changes

Businesses move, phone numbers change… it’s a fact of life. Unfortunately, most business owners focus on forward-facing tactics, and they forget to look behind them.

If your address or phone number changes, you need to be sure to update your NAP information wherever it appears. Otherwise, you’ll have confusing, inconsistent citation signals, which makes it harder to rank. More importantly, there’s a huge potential to lose business to customers who call the wrong number or drive to the wrong address.

So, as you hunker down and work on your Local SEO strategy, keep this list in mind and make sure you’re avoiding these common mistakes. Make sure your foundation is solid before you start trying to implement tactics.

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