The pandemic has taken a toll on marketing budgets and now more than ever, organizations are looking for their SEO strategy to perform its absolute best. In many enterprises, teams are running lean and often remote even as they are faced with dramatic shifts in demand, market, and consumer behavior. It’s important to stop and take stock, to ensure that amidst all of this recent change you haven’t fallen into any of the common mistakes killing your local SEO.

SEOs overwhelmingly ranked content factors such as quality and relevance highest on their priority list for 2020, with technical on-page factors and performance factors (load time, server uptime, etc.) also important areas of focus. In a recent webinar co-hosted with Localogy, we assembled a panel of local search and SEO experts to tackle the most common mistakes killing your local SEO. The panel included Doug Gargaro, Account Director at Rio SEO, Chad Klingensmith, Senior SEO Strategist at Rio SEO, and Edward Mendoza, Local Listings Coordinator at Rio SEO.

watch the full webinar

Here are 12 of the top on-page, technical, and performance SEO mistakes discussed during the webinar that you want to avoid:

1. Insufficient Local Pages Structure

A single webpage that just simply lists all your locations is not user-friendly and will lack rich, aesthetically pleasing location information consumers are looking for. In short, simple location lists don’t encourage user engagement. These static locator pages are indexed as one page on Google, severely reducing the indexing ability of multiple pages for city, state, individual locations, and specialty pages.

An optimized, multi-page dynamic locator is an impactful and important part of the local consumer’s conversion journey. More than a simple location finder, it provides search and filter functions to help your customers find just the right location to meet their needs. You want to send local searchers to the most relevant page, not a list of locations. With a dynamic locator, Google pulls keywords in from the locator page and dynamically optimizes MapPack results, making your results that much more meaningful and personalized for each searcher.

2. Trying to Manage Local Listings Manually or Occasionally

Multi-location brands must have the ability to update key business information for locations, regions, individual stores, etc., regularly, in real-time, and across multiple networks and sites.  

Google loses trust in the brand if you aren’t updating listings regularly, which can impact your ability to verify and help you avoid suspensions. This loss of trust can negatively impact your rankings and the misinformation that is allowed to proliferate about your brand can seriously erode customer trust in your brand, as well. 

Major events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and social unrest can have quick impacts on business opening hours, closures and social distancing mandates. However, location information accuracy should always be a priority. See Local Listings Management: Creating Exceptional Customer Experiences from Search to Sale [Whitepaper] to learn more.

3. Not Staying on Top of Duplicate/Rogue Listings or Ownership Issues

Duplicate or rogue listings can cause a great deal of confusion for consumers and are also a key factor in Google’s trust in your brand. Duplicate listings can split your reviews and traffic, too, driving customers away from the accurate information you’ve worked hard to distribute.

Understand the various ways that duplicate listings can be created and how information about your brand appears online. An experienced local marketing partner is key in taking control of your brand’s image and reputation. Enterprise brands need both the technology to automate monitoring and expert intervention to quickly resolve complex issues. Learn more in Duplicate Listings & Ownership Conflicts: Expert GMB Tips for Enterprises

4. Failing to Optimize Local Pages

Local Pages give your brand greater visibility in local search and deliver the engaging, hyperlocal content that converts searchers to in-store customers. Make sure you aren’t missing any optimization opportunities due to these common mistakes:

  • Under-optimized or duplicate meta tags
  • Lack of keyword research to identify important topics to focus on unbranded search
  • Failing to optimize key SEO elements such as H1 tags or breadcrumb links
  • Making major technical errors including not properly using rel-canonical tags
  • Using generic or duplicate content across all locations’ pages

Example of responsive local pages

5. Inadequate or Duplicate Content

Speaking of content, it’s a massive mistake to sacrifice content quality for the sake of other items in the budget. Content is the basis on which search engines and humans alike evaluate your brand; at the heart of every interaction is a listing, an email, a blog post, ad copy, or some other form of content.  

Thin content on your local pages and listings substantially limits keyword rankings you could be obtaining especially when it comes to long-tail keywords.   And when your content lacks local focus, Google doesn’t have a chance to understand how your location is the best and most relevant answer for motivated local customers in search of products and services like yours. 

If you used templated content for all locations in the past to at least get your local pages populated, all is not lost. Make it a priority now to craft localized content that will help differentiate your locations—financial advisors vs. bank branches, for example—and improve your visibility on those valuable unbranded queries. 

6. Not Responding to Local Reviews

Responding to all reviews for each and every location may seem daunting, especially if you haven’t had a review management strategy to date. And if you had to pivot your reviews strategy due to COVID-19, you’re certainly not alone.

Wherever you are today in the maturation of your reviews strategy, it’s imperative that responding to all reviews going forward is a priority—positive and negative alike. Reviews are not only an extension of your customer service experience but impact your visibility and rankings in local search, as well. 

Check out our Ask the Experts: Reputation Management & Local Listings [Webinar Recap] to learn more.

7. Failing to Activate Local Data

Brands need both high-level and granular insights to inform business decisions and allocate local marketing resources. In fact, 56% of organizations leveraging analytics are experiencing faster and more effective decision making, and more than half are realizing better financial performance. Monitoring and listening only go so far, though; if you’re trying to sift through data from multiple tools to cobble together meaningful insights, you’re already falling behind.

Custom local reporting can help you filter out the “noise” and home in on the data that best meets your brand’s needs. It’s important to identify top performers, establish benchmarks, and get granular with customer insights but even more important is that you’re able to put those to work efficiently. While 81% of management teams and 76% of executives have access to organizational data and analytics, just 3% of frontline employees are able to access it quickly. Many can’t access these insights at all. 

Choose a robust local reporting solution with a universal dashboard that curates all key performance metrics in one interface, with access at both the brand and the local levels.

8. Not Using the Available GMB Attributes

Choosing the right primary category for your business in GMB ensures that you have the attributes available that make the most sense. Attributes help quickly answer common questions searchers have about businesses like yours. For restaurant brands, this could be:

  • Does this location serve breakfast?
  • Is there outdoor seating?
  • Can I order ahead?

Customers seeking out their financial services options have entirely different questions when performing a search:

  • Can I book an appointment online?
  • Is the parking lot wheelchair accessible?
  • Does the ATM offer drive-through accessibility?

Use all available attributes to help potential customers understand why your brand’s location is the best choice for their immediate needs.

Example of GMB attributes

9. Poor Use of Structured Data (schema)

Schema markup improves Google’s ability to understand the content of your site and local pages. It can help trigger rich search results that offer searchers more options and help your listings stand out in organic results. 

Google prefers the JSON-LD format for structured data, which helps give your site’s content greater context than the words that appear to users on the page. Google has a rich results testing tool you can use to test and diagnose your structured data, and you’ll find expert schema tips in this recent blog post.

10. Using Old, Outdated, or Generic Images

Images need to be kept fresh and should be unique to each location. Use high-quality images and make sure you’re updating them every few months. Google is open about what they’re looking for in the photos uploaded to GMB:

“Add different photos to highlight features of your business that customers consider when making purchasing decisions… You also can add photos of the storefront, products, and services to provide more information about your business. It’s also a good idea to add an exterior photo so people can recognize your business when they visit.”

11. Not Following Google’s Guidelines

Maybe you’re not aware of the features available to you, or it could be that a member of your team or an external contractor has inadvertently broken the rules. Whatever the cause, running astray of the Google My Business guidelines can result in suspension issues that are time-consuming to resolve.

Sometimes you need the intervention of those who know how to solve these issues quickly. While it’s best to avoid suspensions and penalties entirely, an experienced local search partner can help you quickly get to the bottom of issues hindering your locations’ ability to rank.

12. Slow Download Speeds & Website Technical Errors

A slow-loading page is an absolute killer when it comes to user experience. In fact, every second it takes to load increases the likelihood your visitor will just leave:

Mobile Page Speed industry benchmarks

Source: Think With Google

For this reason, page speed is an important ranking signal considered one of Google’s Core Web Vitals.  Core Web Vitals has been announced to be an official ranking signal in 2021.

Make sure your local pages are mobile optimized and clean up 404 pages, improper redirects, and other problematic technical errors. Use Google’s Page Speed Insights tool to find opportunities to improve.

How can you really move the needle in local search?

A custom local search audit can help you take control of your brand’s presence in local search, clean up issues keeping your locations down, and find new opportunities to surpass even the toughest competition. Get your free local audit report now.

Watch Our “Common Mistakes Killing Your Local SEO” Webinar Now