Most small businesses fall into 2 categories:
- Service-Area Business – Services or goods are delivered to customers at the locations they want.
- Location-Based Business – Services or goods are purchased at the location of the business.
Both of these business models deal with various challenges in terms of local searches. However, the service-area business is especially frustrating. This is especially the case when you try to gain local search engine visibility in a city where there is no physical presence.
In an attempt to build a profitable local SEO campaign, you naturally try different strategies. The problem is that most people have no idea what to actually do. This is why local SEO specialists are hired. When you do things alone, usually because of an attempt to save money, it is normal to make mistakes. However, some mistakes are much more dangerous than others.
Below we will talk about those local SEO mistakes that should always be avoided in 2021.
Footer Keyword Stuffing
Usually, this mistake happens as cities and zip codes are stuffed inside the footer. The reason for this is that for a pretty long time, the belief was that adding such keywords inside the footer helps the site rank for those location-based queries. This did work at times, but Google eventually realized that this was done. As a result, the current algorithm can actually penalize websites that use this keyword stuffing technique.
The massive problem with this practice is that it can easily lead to a Google Penalty. You do not want to deal with this since it is very costly to recover from a large penalty.
Creating GMB Listings Without A Physical Presence
Ever since SEO appeared, business owners have been actively trying to cheat the algorithm. With local SEO, because of how important Google My Business is, people tried to create new pages for locations without an active physical location. This includes P.O. boxes, personal homes, and virtual offices.
Google is actively removing false or fake pages. The guidelines are stringent and have to be respected. Remote locations, P.O. boxes, and other remote locations are not accepted if they are not staffed during the listed business hours.
The consistency of the business’ NAP (Name, Address, and Phone Number) is a substantial local SEO ranking factor. Not only do these listings get deleted because they are against the terms of service, but they will also create an inconsistent NAP that will undoubtedly harm local ranking.
Basically, when you create a false GMB page, the rankings you have right now will be negatively affected because the NAP is not consistent.
Choosing The Wrong GMB Categories
This type of mistake may seem impossible, but it happens much more commonly than it might seem.
Remember that Google only analyzes the first category, and it is considered to be the primary one. You thus have to make sure that the category you choose is specific.
As an example, the piano tuner business has to choose “Piano Tuning Service” as the main category. When in a hurry, you may select “Musical Instrument Repair Shop”. In this case, it is challenging to rank for the all-important “piano tuners” search.
We often see businesses trying to stuff keywords by simply choosing various general categories. The best practice is to add the company to a maximum of 2 categories.
Spamming Anchor Text
It would be best if you created a highly descriptive anchor text in your listings. But it is very easy to end up over-optimizing. Many businesses do that in order to gain more visits. The problem is that such a practice will hurt your rankings.
Websites should always be created for the users. When you try to trick the search engines, only problems appear. Overly-optimizing anchor texts are very bad for the user. Your site can end up being penalized.
The best thing that you can do is to optimize your on-page elements. This includes headings, page titles, image ALT text, and so on. It is just a lot better than trying to use many local keywords in your listings and site content.
We already highlighted this above, but we have to dig a little deeper. Google My Business is not the only directory where you have to create a profile. You also have to appear in others, like Superpages.com and YP.com.
What you might not know is that Google actively cross-checks directory entries. This is done to verify the NAP. The information gathered is used to understand the business better.
The NAP footprint that you leave is a vital part of local SEO in terms of off-site citations. If the NAP is inconsistent, Google loses confidence. Your rankings go down.
The most common problem is the phone number businesses list. Many companies have different phone numbers. Because they do not realize it, other phone numbers are listed in different directories. This inevitably leads to fewer views generated on the GMB listing.
Duplicate Content Posted On Location Pages
This ancient practice of creating several pages for every single serviced location and using the exact same content on each, with minor modifications, like the name of the city, is horrible. But the topic is rarely correctly understood because of the focus put on duplicate content.
Google no longer penalizes duplicate content. However, when several pages feature the same content, the search engine ends up choosing one that it thinks is relevant. You practically end up dealing with keyword cannibalization without even realizing it.
There is nothing wrong with saying that you offer the same services in different locations, and you can have different pages for every location. But you should have a large part of the text differently.
Local SEO is still relatively new, and we do not have as much information about it as the data we gathered during the years from regular search engine optimization. This means that we have to stay informed. New practices keep appearing, and Google keeps making algorithm changes.
The good news is that it is not that difficult to improve local SEO rankings. You just have to avoid the mistakes above because they are very dangerous, and focus on creating an excellent experience for your current and potential customers.