Every business is a local business.
Whether they have an office front (or not), multiple locations (or not), there is some locality to how every company operates in the day to day – and businesses would be wise to use it to their online advantage.
Search queries on Google, for example, including the words “near me” have nearly doubled since last year – with the vast majority (80 percent) coming from mobile.
This means local service providers, merchants, retailers and the like need to optimize for placement on the local search engine results pages (SERPs), which starts with avoiding the following common local SEO mistakes.
1. Being Mobile Un-Friendly
This past April, Google started labeling sites as “mobile friendly” and other search engines have since followed its lead. The risks of not having a mobile-friendly site are plenty. For starters, mobile users will bounce off a site quickly if it is not catering to their device type. Secondly, Google will penalize the business for not providing “its” users a good experience. In fact, very shortly after Google’s algorithm update, BrightEdge found that the share of non-mobile friendly URLs on the first three pages of the SERPs decreased 21 percent – in just seven days. With the majority of local searchers being conducted on mobile, companies need to act quickly on this critical update.
2. Ignoring Directories
Directories may no longer be the quality backlink producers they once were, but they still play a critical role in SEO as digital properties like Yelp, Citysearch and others are often returned on the first page of SERPs. Businesses must ensure their information (name, address, phone number, hours of operations, images and more) is correct and available across any and all directories. This is, of course, a tedious process, so companies should look to services from their domain or hosting companies (1&1 offers a listing management service) or other providers (e.g. Yext – screenshot shown below) to alleviate the process.
3. Avoiding Google+
Ninety-percent of the people who create a Google profile never post to Google+, according to Stone Temple Consulting. Even so, local businesses have to be part of the minority because there are benefits of doing so. For instance, in the example below, roughly half of the SERP is information from Google+, even sitting side by side with paid results. With the release of Google My Business, it’s easy than ever to manage a company’s Google+ profile from a single dashboard with the other Google products it’s using. Companies need to solicit Google reviews, keep information updated, add quality photos and share content (e.g. blogs, announcements, etc.) on Google+ to leverage this valuable resource.
4. Not Marking Up
Local searchers (or mobile searchers) have immediate needs to phone numbers, directions, reservation procedures and other relevant, actionable content. A lot of companies make this information present without ever making users leave the SERPs. Businesses wanting to compete for clicks need to use structured data to give its “locations,” “events” and other local-focused links a better chance of getting clicked. By including structured data in Web content, they’re helping Google algorithms better index and understand the content. Some of this data can be used to create and display rich snippets within the search results (like “events” shown below). These rich snippets may increase click-through rates, which is a factor in how a local business is ranked.
Local SEO efforts are being fueled by the massive amounts of people turning to their phones to conduct business online and in-person. All businesses need to begin catering to local audiences and avoiding the common mistakes above is a good place to start.
Amberly Dressler is the managing editor of Website Magazine, the leading print and digital publication on Web success.