SEO has always been a breeding ground for misinformation. With Local Seo, this has created a lot of problems for small businesses on main street, trying to follow the rules and keep pace with the changes.
Needless to say, this is a challenge for local business owners.
It’s like diagnosing and treating yourself based on what someone told you a friend read on WebMD.
Despite search engines pushing to get better content in front of the people who need it, we’re still seeing a lot of myth and incorrect information surrounding local SEO.
Here are ten myths that you should be aware of.
1. Targeting Keywords for Local Search is Irrelevant
Updates like Hummingbird did have a significant impact on the future of search. Hummingbird prompted content products to adopt a new mindset – one that benefits the end-user.
With that said, if keywords are still being used for search, and they’re still showing on the first page of Google, then they still matter.
According to Matt Cutts, 90% of searches were expected to be impacted by Hummingbird. It wasn’t an update like Panda or Penguin. Rather, Hummingbird was a complete revamp of the algorithm.
Rand Fishkin, the founder of Moz, stated that less than 15% of the ranking equation is wrapped up in keyword targeting. Instead, he suggests focusing on offering unique value, rather than unique content, which is what SEO’s tried to achieve before.
Algorithm changes like Hummingbird actually tell us that it’s important to know the reason behind a particular keyword being used and creating content for a local audience that meets that need.
Without keywords, you would never know the searcher’s intent.
According to Brian Dean, “Keywords are like a compass for your SEO campaigns; they tell you where to go and whether or not you’re making progress.”
2. You Can Remove Your Business Listing From Google
Sometimes a business ends up with duplicate listings in Google. I’ve seen and heard recommendations for business owners to claim those additional listings and then delete them from Google’s system using the Google My Business Dashboard.
But “deleting” a business listing from Google doesn’t actually delete it. It does clear all the content including posts, videos, and photos along with any associated AdWords ads.
Then it marks it as an unverified listing.
The listing still exists on Google maps and, provided you didn’t clear category data for the listing; it can still rank.
This is even clearly defined in the Google Help Center:
When you delete a local page, the corresponding listing will be unverified and you will no longer be able to manage it. Google may still retain business information from the page and may continue to show information about the business on Maps, Search, and other Google properties, including marking the business as permanently closed, moved, or open, depending on the information that’s known about the business.
3. Google+ Content and Posts Help Improve Local Ranking
Nope. Even when Google+ was tied into search with the ability to +1 content you found, it still didn’t contribute to local search rank.
There was believed to be social authority involved, but Matt Cutts has already stated social signals are not a ranking factor.
It’s pretty much impossible for Google+ content to pop in search unless someone is specifically looking for a local brand. Your Google+ page doesn’t get included in the local business pack in search, either.
And link posts within your Google+ don’t contribute the way you think they do. Any social links in Google+, Twitter, etc. are no-followed.
You’ll get referral traffic if your audience is active there, but SEO value is a no-go.
4. Professional/Practitioner Listings (Like Lawyers) are Duplicate Listings
This is a common question where practitioner listings can appear and there’s concern that they’re duplicates – so the natural approach is to remove them.
Example: Google creates individual listings for the public-facing professionals in a legal office. The owner of the practice doesn’t want those individual listings to show up at all.
There are two methods of recourse here:
You can request that non-public facing staff be removed, like back-office professionals, and Google will remove them if they’ve been created.
If your business only has a single public-facing individual like a firm with a single owner, then it’s a solo practice. Google will merge the listing of the professional with that of the office.
If neither of those cases applies, the listings stick until the professional in question is no longer a part of that business.
But they’re not duplicate listings and do no harm to your local search rank.
5. Trackable Phone Numbers in Business Listings
Local businesses often aim to get their brick and mortar listed across a number of directories – it’s a smart approach to local search visibility.
Some business owners will use call tracking numbers to track the performance or effectiveness of those local listings, so they know how customers found them.
This can negatively impact your local SEO efforts.
Google cross-checks your NAP footprint (name, address, phone number) to verify the information and uses it as a factor when ranking local businesses.
An inconsistent NAP footprint reduces confidence in your business and can reduce your search visibility.
6. Using Google My Business Listing Categories Like Keywords
This is one of the most common mistakes up there with having no categories at all.
The categories on your Google My Business profile page are like the sections of the Yellow Pages. It’s how Google knows to display your business for relevant searches.
You want to add a couple relevant categories, with your top category being the primary category for your business.
Don’t go overboard though. Google recommends using as few categories as possible to describe your business.
If you start throwing in irrelevant categories or try using categories like keywords it can hurt your listing.
7. Claiming a Google Listing Will Automatically Increase Search Visibility
You should absolutely claim your business listing in Google so you have full control over it, but the mere act of claiming a listing isn’t going to have any impact on local SEO.
You need to go a little further.
Optimize the listing and stay consistent with how you optimize your business listings.
Google frowns on inconsistency, so frequent changes can hurt you – especially with your business name. Consistency in your listing once it is claimed and optimized goes a long way.
This includes consistency across guest posts, social media content and any other sites that link to you.
If you really want your local listing to work in your favor, get others to link to it.
8. A Huge Radius Will Make Me Rank Better for Local Cities
If you’re a service-based business then Google will let you set up a radius around your business address that shows how far you’re willing to travel to provide that service to your customers.
It’s common for business owners to set the radius to the maximum distance, or as wide as possible, because they think it will help them appear in local search for the cities within the radius.
That’s not how the local radius works. It’s there to provide value to the end-user, not as a ranking metric. More than likely you’re still just going to rank for the city in which your business resides.
9. Mark Old Locations as “Closed” in Google
The last thing you want to do when you relocate your business is flag the old location as “closed” and try to establish a new listing.
The only thing that accomplished is placing a red “permanently closed” notification on your old listing. The end-user has no idea if you’ve actually moved. They just know you’re not there anymore.
If you have a verified listing with Google then just go into the Google My Business dashboard and update the address information to match the new location. Any other unverified listings can be flagged as “moved” to avoid any kind of confusion.
10. Only Focusing on Maps SEO
Some businesses still get tunnel vision with map listings, doing everything they can to get a local map listing to pop up in the 3-pack with local SEO.
I’ve seen footer stuffing with city data, multiple micro-site creations with the same location data, and businesses purchasing volume reviews trying to get their local listing to show up at the top of the pack.
None of that is going to work the way they hope. In order for a business to gain rank locally and wind up in the 3 pack the website also needs to rank organically and develop strong local signals (NAP, citations, behavioral signals, domain authority, etc.).
With the sheer volume of content out there along with the many hats that business owners wear, I shouldn’t be surprised that we still see local SEO mistakes like these. After all, we’re not all perfect. I’ve had my fair share of SEO mishaps and fumbles.
It’s a learning process, but hopefully these tips can help you avoid the mistakes that others are making as they try to build their local search visibility.
Have you come across any Local SEO mistakes besides the ones I’ve listed?
Featured Image: Vector Goddess/Shutterstock.com All screenshots by Neil Patel. Taken May 2016.