3 Most Common Local SEO Mistakes to Avoid

The other day, I was consulting with a new client who wanted to boost local visibility for all of his business locations. However, as I dug deeper into his current local SEO status, I discovered he had made some common local SEO mistakes.

The other day, I was consulting with a new client who wanted to boost local visibility for all of his business locations. This new client’s main business office is in NYC, but he told me he has smaller offices throughout Long Island, Fairfield, CT, and Hackensack, NJ. His goal was to rank #1 for all of these areas. At first, this didn’t seem difficult to do with some local SEO work, such as optimizing his Google My Business accounts for each location, citations for each one, and then content to support the different offices. However, as I dug deeper into his current local SEO status, I discovered he had made some big local SEO mistakes.

Common Local SEO Mistakes

Most of the mistakes I identified for this client are ones we’ve seen many times, and have helped clients correct, so they could move on to better exposure for their local areas. In an attempt to help others avoid those mistakes, I wanted to explain what these common local SEO mistakes are and why they can end up hurting your online marketing efforts.

Mistake #1: Setting Up Fake Office Locations

Many people set up Google My Business pages for locations where they don’t physically have an office. This includes using P.O. Boxes, employees’ home addresses, and even addresses of other businesses. As long as you have an address, Google My Business allows you to open a page for it.

While this may seem like a good idea because it makes it possible to rank for different local areas, if or when you get caught, it could ruin your online visibility for all locations. Yes, this includes your real office location. Google doesn’t stand for people trying to scam the system, and will penalize them when caught.

Competitors of businesses have turned in Google My Business pages to Google for investigation.  Also, frustrated customers who thought a business was in their local area and then found out it wasn’t have reported it to Google.

The risk isn’t worth it. You may be leading in many local areas one day, and then vanish from all search results the next day if you’re caught using fake addresses.

Mistake #2:  Using One Phone Number for Multiple Locations

Having one central number to capture your online leads makes sense, but it’s not what Google wants. They want business locations to be separate entities with different phone numbers. To Google, having one phone number listed for more than one business is considered as duplicate or incorrect information, which could decrease your ranking for local SEO.

If you don’t want to use your main number for each of your business locations, consider getting a different line for each one just for online leads. You would then be able to satisfy Google and still be able to have a way to keep track of calls from people who found you online.

Mistake #3: Stuffing Google My Business with Keywords

When Google Places was first introduced, marketers quickly determined that adding keywords to the business name and description helped the profile rank higher in the search results.

Integrating Local SEO Into Your Existing Marketing Plan

Local SEO is Google’s gift to small businesses, yet many are ignoring it. Some marketers who’ve been doing SEO for years are too entrenched to see the benefits of shifting their strategies; others might be stuck in the past, thinking that earning a difference-making search engine ranking is nothing more than a pipe dream.

Local SEO is Google’s gift to small businesses, yet many are ignoring it.

Some marketers who’ve been doing SEO for years are too entrenched to see the benefits of shifting their strategies; others might be stuck in the past, thinking that earning a difference-making search engine ranking is nothing more than a pipe dream. With local SEO, though, anything is possible. Local SEO levels the playing field, letting small businesses get ranked by leveraging their relevance to nearby customers. Thanks to local SEO, the auto shop 30 miles away can’t outmuscle the one that’s just down the street.

Most small businesses already engage in both digital and traditional marketing. Here, we’ll review how you can integrate local SEO into your existing marketing plan.

Google My Business

Before going further, we must stress the importance of Google My Business. This is Google’s business directory where business owners can list their establishments for free. After signing up, Google sends a postcard with a PIN to your business to verify its legitimacy. Once you log into GMB with your pin, then you can optimize your business page with photos, your contact information, your hours of operation and more.

Once you’ve verified and optimized your GMB page, your website will be eligible to appear in Google’s “Local 3 Pack” above all the other organic results. Businesses in this grouping are shown on a locator map along with star ratings, phone call buttons, and other useful information. These elements are highly engaging, especially for smartphone users.

But why does this matter for small businesses that already have top-ranked organic placements? Think of it this way – if you owned a cabin next to a beautiful mountain lake, would it matter if someone built a bigger cabin between yours and the shoreline? The Local 3 Pack takes up a hefty amount of prime real estate atop Google’s search results pages, requiring users to scroll down for everything else. As a result, click-through rates on organic listings have decreased by up to 40 percent.

Sorry, old-school SEOs. Top-ranked organic results are still nice, but optimized local SEO is better for small businesses that focus on local customers.

5 Things to Start Doing Right Now

Ready to make local SEO a priority? To make it as easy as possible, we’ll focus on optimizing five popular marketing tools that might already be included in your overall marketing strategy.

1. Leverage Online Citations

When your business name, address, and phone number is listed on a website, that’s called a citation. Yelp, Angie’s List and Facebook are three examples of popular, highly ranked websites where any business owner can easily get citations. Building citations not only helps customers find your business, but it also increases the likelihood of your business information displaying higher up in Google’s search results, potentially giving Google users more than one listing to click on.

Additionally, some people skip Google entirely and favor sites like Yelp when seeking local goods and services. Optimizing your citations on these sites will instantly raise your profile among local shoppers.

One thing to remember — make sure all information in your citations exactly matches your Google My Business profile.

2. Flex Your Local Muscles on Your Website

Your website is your most powerful digital marketing tool. When someone clicks on a search result and lands on your site, that’s when the real sales pitch begins. However, your website is also important in a different way – it’s where you can prove your value to your community and local customers.

Infuse your website content with as much local content as possible. Include mentions of your city, your neighborhood and even your street. Start a blog and help people solve their local-specific problems. Post photographs of your business, your employees and your customers. Post locator maps, service areas, hours of operation, accurate phone and address information and anything else that establishes your place.

3. More Mileage from Local Outreach

Link-building has always been a foundational element of SEO. With local SEO, there is increased value from getting inbound links from local movers and shakers. Engaging with your local media is a great way to optimize your local link network – pitch story ideas and offer to be quoted in exchange for links on each story’s web version. You can also offer to contribute blog posts to regional websites, blogs and trade associations that carry weight in your community. Not only is this good for your link network, but you’ll also build brand awareness as more people see and recognize your business.

4. Be Local-Centric on Social Media

Most businesses are already active on social media, but too often this activity is focused upon promoting sales or new products. You should also be using social media to establish your local presence and connect with local customers. Optimize your social media pages in the same way you should your website, engaging visitors with as much local-specific content as possible.

5. Encourage Customers to Leave Online Reviews

Like it or not, your customers are already talking about you online — you just might not be aware of it. These online discussions can be the deciding factors in whether people give your business the time of day.

Take control of the situation and encourage your satisfied customers to leave online reviews. This is even easier once you’ve created and optimized your citations! Chances are you’re already engaging your customers on a regular basis — they’re either coming into your store, or you’re connecting with them via social media, follow-up emails, follow-up appointments or other means. To start inviting reviews, simply embed Yelp or other business directory buttons on your digital marketing materials. For the best results, simply ask your customers face-to-face, on calls, and via email whether they’d leave a quick review of your business.

Conclusion

Local SEO is a game changer for small businesses. More people are using smartphones with the goal of visiting restaurants, bookstores, clothing retailers and other establishments in their immediate vicinities.

With local SEO, even old-school mom-and-pop businesses can be seen along with big-budget companies.

This doesn’t happen automatically. Business owners and marketers must integrate local SEO with every phase of their marketing plans. Make local SEO a priority, though, and the results will be well worth the effort.

Want more SEO tips to improve your Google rankings?  Click here to grab a copy of our Ultimate SEO Checklist.

6 Pro Tips to Customize Your Local SEO to Your Type of Business

Local SEO is a big deal. Whether you run a small business or a larger company with several locations, you risk being invisible to ready-and-willing customers without a viable local SEO strategy — you might as well take the signs off your building and wave as shoppers pass by. Capitalizing on this growing trend isn’t rocket science, but it does take a bit of work.

Grass Roots SEO: 5 Ways to Win Over Local ConsumersLocal SEO is a big deal. Whether you run a small business or a larger company with several locations, you risk being invisible to ready-and-willing customers without a viable local SEO strategy — you might as well take the signs off your building and just wave as shoppers pass by.

What exactly is local SEO? It’s what gets you found when people speak “chimney sweep company in southeast Portland” or “24-hour laundromats in Phoenix” into their smartphones. Search queries are becoming increasingly conversational as Web users shift from desktops to mobile.

Of course, local SEO benefits traditional desktop searches, too (i.e. “Portland chimney sweep company” or “24-hr laundromat Phoenix”). But local SEO flourishes by capturing mobile users in your neighborhood.

Capitalizing on this growing trend isn’t rocket science, but it does take a bit of work. Here, we’ll review six pro tips to customize your local SEO strategy according to your type of business.

Tip 1: Get Squared With Google My Business

Google My Business (GMB) is a free listing service that can get your business seen on Google Search and Maps. In addition to being a valuable tool for consumers, you can use GMB to read and respond to customer reviews, learn how customers find your website online and more.

Just one listing is needed for businesses with single brick-and-mortar locations. If your business has multiple locations, then you’ll need more GMB listings. Or you can hide your address in GMB if you don’t want your address shown, which is useful for home-based businesses.

In a nutshell, your customers must be able to find contact information that’s local to them. You can’t cultivate a good local SEO strategy without that foundational step.

Tip 2: Localize Your Website Content

People who search for goods and services on Google aren’t interested in general, non-specific information — they want localized information that’s relevant to where they live. They want to see local contact information, familiar locator maps and endorsements from neighborhood organizations. They also want to see exactly how you serve their neck of the woods.

If your business is based from a single brick-and-mortar location with just one service area, then your website should have pages for each service, product model or category of products you provide. If based out of more than one location, then your website also needs pages for each business location with unique contact information prominently displayed. Single-location businesses with multiple service areas need separate pages for each major city or region they serve — you get the idea.

Tip 3: Don’t Thin out Your Content

Thin content is an SEO killer. Website content is regarded as thin when it’s too short, low-quality or hardly changed across several pages. The problem is that thin content creates a poor user experience. Google doesn’t want to give its users a bad experience so the ranking algorithm penalizes websites with thin content.

Why does this matter for local SEO? Some marketers attempt to cut corners by reusing content when making region-specific webpages. Don’t do this! Invest the time (or money) to get unique, high-quality content for each of your locations or service areas.

How Google’s Paid Search Layout Affects Organic Search Results

Changes to Google’s paid search results are making it harder for SEO experts to get traffic to their websites the old-fashioned way. As always, though, online marketers are finding ways to adapt — but with less real estate available, it isn’t easy. The big change came earlier this year, when Google stopped showing paid search results on the right side of its search engine result pages (SERPs).

search-engine-76519_640 googleChanges to Google’s paid search results are making it harder for SEO experts to get traffic to their websites the old-fashioned way. But as always, online marketers are finding ways to adapt — but with less real estate available, it isn’t easy.

The big change came earlier this year when Google stopped showing paid search results on the right side of its search engine result pages (SERPs). Google made the change to streamline the user experiences for mobile and desktop, following the announcement that mobile searches now outnumber desktop searches worldwide. But all changes have consequences. To make up for losing side-rail ad placements, Google added extra ad space to the top of some SERPs. Organic search results had already been forced down the page by videos, images, news listings and the Knowledge Graph. The additional ad listing is enough to force organic results completely below the fold, requiring users to scroll down to find them.

Obviously, the change is a huge win for marketers who invest heavily in AdWords. The prices for those top-ranked positions have increased, but suddenly you can buy your way to what used to be the top organic search result.

What does this mean for marketers who focus on organic results? The short answer is “it depends.” The full answer is a bit more complicated, and it starts with understanding Google’s goal of delivering the best possible experiences for people that use its search engine.

Imagine that it’s the dead of winter and your furnace stops working. If you don’t know much about furnaces, you might immediately grab your smartphone and search Google for “furnace repair” or “emergency furnace repair.” Try this now, and you’ll likely see four above-the-fold ad placements above a map with nearby companies beneath it. You’ve got to scroll pretty far down to find your first organic listing.

On the other hand, folks who are handy around the house might do their own troubleshooting before finding a repairman. They might end up making search queries such as “Bryant furnace blower won’t turn on.” They’re not actively seeking help; rather, they’re looking for answers for a DIY fix. Try that search query, and you’ll probably see a full page of organic search results without a single ad in sight.

Starting to see the big picture?

Organic SEO definitely took a hit when Google reshaped its ad layout, but only for buyer-oriented search queries. By showing more ads with these queries, Google realized it could increase its profits while still providing a high-quality user experience. Meanwhile, Google users in search of product details, research materials or other types of information are more likely to value organic results.

This leaves online marketers with several approaches to the change, and we’ll consider each one below.

Solution No. 1: Invest in AdWords

If you’re not already using Google AdWords, now is a great time to get started. Getting a top placement in the paid results can be much easier than organic SEO. In fact, savvy advertisers with compelling ads, strong landing pages and high bids can instantly get top-ranking placements.

Of course, paid search results have an obvious downside: They cost money. The days of converting tons of free traffic directly into sales are long gone. That said, don’t be intimidated by the thought of paying for traffic. With help from Google Analytics and tools offered within AdWords, it’s easy to monitor your advertising accounts and determine which campaigns are boosting your bottom line.

7 Quick and Easy SEO Tips for Small Businesses

Start off simple. If you’re new to SEO, that’s the best advice I can offer. Search engine optimization is an ongoing effort with many moving parts, and the payoffs are never immediate. But you don’t need to be an SEO guru to start moving the needle on your search engine rankings. Start with some simple tips to boost your SEO — and work at them consistently — and good things will happen.

Easy SEO TipsStart off simple.

If you’re new to SEO, that’s the best advice I can offer. Search engine optimization is an ongoing effort with many moving parts, and the payoffs are never immediate. But you don’t need to be an SEO guru to start moving the needle on your search engine rankings. Start with some simple tips to boost your SEO — and work at them consistently — and good things will happen.

Here are seven easy SEO tips that any small business owner can do. You don’t need to be a Web designer or have years of experience in marketing. Of course, you’ll want to learn more about SEO and expand your efforts as time goes on. Until then, these tips are more than enough to get you on your way.

1. Start a Blog

Content is king. That’s an old SEO adage that you’ll hear repeatedly if you hadn’t heard it already. Google’s algorithm is programmed to favor websites with unique, relevant content that’s highly useful to visitors.

Starting a blog is a great way to get useful content on your site. And there’s so much you can do with a blog. You can write about new products and industry trends, or you can engage your customers by offering helpful advice. Blog posts can help to establish your business as a local authority, and they can also be shared on social media to provide backlinks and positive social media signals — both of which are helpful for your website’s SEO.

Google’s search algorithms also favor websites with regularly updated content. Maintaining a blog serves this purpose. And if shoppers like what you have to say, they’ll be more likely to bookmark your site and return for future purchases.

2. Create a Google My Business Account

Creating a Google My Business profile allows your business to be shown in the local “maps” results of Google.com. If your business has walk-in customers, then that’s a big deal. Think about how many people use their smartphones to find nearby places to eat, shop and run errands. You can get an influx of new customers from the few minutes needed to start a Google My Business profile.

3. Start Building Backlinks

Building a network of backlinks (hyperlinks to your website from other sites) can establish your business as an authority in your field, resulting in a higher search ranking. To start building backlinks, create profiles for your business on sites such as Yelp, Bing Local and Foursquare. Build a company page on LinkedIn, and create a YouTube channel if you can offer informative or instructional videos — the possibilities are endless.

As you start profiles on different sites, remember to list your business information exactly as it’s listed in Google My Business. Doing so will boost your SEO efforts.

4. Get Your Titles, Headers and Meta Description Tags in Order

Titles and headers help Google determine which search terms are relevant for pages throughout your website. For example, if you owned a formalwear shop, then the wedding dress page should have the term “wedding dresses” in the page Title and a variation of that phrase in the <h1> header. The page Title is not visible on the page so you’ll need to view the source code to review your page Titles. The <h1> header is usually the main headline above the page content, and there should only be one, unique <h1> per page.

Like the page Titles, the meta description is also not visible on the page, but it does appear with your website in the search results. You can think of your Title and Meta Description like an advertisement in Google’s search results.

5. Ask Your Customers to Write Reviews

Reviews are helpful for small business SEO especially when they’re positive. Always ask your customers if they’ll post reviews to your Google My Business page or any other online review sites you’ve joined.

And really, you should create profiles on as many of these sites as possible. Angie’s List, Yelp and TripAdvisor are three of the most popular. Remember to make sure your name, address, and phone number (aka your NAP) on these sites match exactly with your Google My Business profile. As noted above, these citations can make a sizeable impact on your local SEO. Positive reviews can be even more impactful because they can lead to more prospects turning into customers.

6. Mention Your City and State

Boost your local SEO by frequently listing your company’s city and state throughout your website. Don’t overdo it, but putting this information in your meta tags, your home page <h1> header and throughout your content is helpful.

If you have a blog — which was one of the tips listed above — then articles pertaining to how your business is relevant to your city and region are also helpful. Mentions of your city and state can influence Google to favor your website in local search results.

7. Make Sure Your Site Works on Mobile

More people search Google nowadays using smartphones and tablets than desktops and laptops. If your website isn’t optimized for mobile devices, then your mobile search engine ranking is likely to take a hit. Remember that Google’s algorithm is tuned to connect people with sites that offer good user experiences. A site that’s not optimized for mobile won’t display correctly and may not even function as intended.

WordPress and other online publishing tools offer free website templates that are ready for mobile users. So you’re probably in good shape if you use this kind of platform. However, you may need to enlist a Web developer to convert your site for mobile. While this could be expensive, it’s well worth the cost. Otherwise, you risk losing more than half of your potential online customers.

Conclusion

Getting started in SEO doesn’t have to be a big deal, and this guide proves it. Anything you can do to improve your SEO – even the small things – will pay off over time. Just be patient and don’t get overwhelmed. Keep your process simple, and learn new things when you can. Eventually, your quick-hitting efforts will snowball and your website will climb in the rankings.

Want more SEO tips?  Click here to get a copy of our Ultimate Local SEO Checklist.

A Beginner’s Guide to Local SEO for Small Businesses

By the time you finish reading this guide, you’ll have a better understanding of local SEO and how to improve your local search rankings. In this era of smartphones and mobile Internet usage, local SEO may be your greatest ally in expanding your reach online.

Local information is growing in importance when it comes to ranking highly in Google results.Just how critical is local SEO? Every second of the day, more than 40,000 people are making search queries on Google. Many are shopping for goods and services — where to get drinks with coworkers, where to drop off their dry-cleaning or where to pick up a new set of headphones. And half of those consumers who searched using their smartphones became customers of businesses they found online within a single day.

Clearly, ranking high in local search results is vital for small businesses with walk-in customers. And boosting the effectiveness of your local SEO isn’t even that hard! Unfortunately, many small business owners are behind the eight ball. Even business owners who’ve invested in general SEO over the past several years may not be up to speed on optimizing local SEO. Many of the tenants of national and local SEO are the same — you still need great content, a user-friendly website, solid performance and exposure to establish authority in your field — but local SEO requires signals and testimonials that solidify your business as a reputable local asset.

By the time you finish reading this guide, you’ll have a better understanding of local SEO and how to improve your local search rankings. In this era of smartphones and mobile Internet usage, local SEO may be your greatest ally in expanding your reach online.

Start a Google My Business Profile

First things first — create a Google My Business profile for your business.

Your Google My Business profile is the foundation of your local SEO efforts. For starters, you can define exactly how your contact information should ideally appear throughout the Web and social media. Second, a your profile allows your business to be shown on Google Maps, and that alone can bring many customers through your doors.

Google My Business is also associated with online citations and reviews, both of which can heavily influence the success of your local SEO efforts. We’ll go into greater detail on these in the next two sections.

Starting your Google My Business profile is easy. Go to https://www.google.com/business/ and set up an account. You’ll be asked for information about your business such as contact information, hours of operation, available payment options and more. You can even provide pictures and video clips to accompany your listing. Then all you have to do is verify your profile via mail or phone. That’s it. The service is free and ultimately helpful to your bottom line.

Check Your Citations

Citations are one of the most important factors in your local SEO ranking. A citation is any listing of your business name, address and phone number on other webpages or social media pages.

A general rule is more citations leads to a higher local search ranking. Google’s algorithms place even greater weight on citations listed on popular business portals such as Yelp and Angie’s List, so be sure to claim profiles on those sites, too. You can also check out inexpensive services like WhiteSpark and BrightLocal that can help you find sources for new citations.

One thing about citations — it’s critical that your citations exactly match your Google My Business listing. Make sure you keep your name, address, and phone number consistent across every single online citation.

Encourage Your Customers to Write Reviews

Google’s algorithms have evolved over the years to reward websites that provide great user experiences. That’s why positive reviews — both in quality and quantity — are so important for your local SEO efforts.

Positive reviews can be the difference in ranking on the first page or being invisible in the search results, especially in more competitive fields where consumers have more choices. That’s why you should always follow up on good customer experiences by asking for favorable reviews.

The most impactful reviews are those attached to your Google My Business profile. However, reviews on sites such as Yelp are also helpful.

Optimize Your Website for Local SEO

By now, you probably understand the importance of contact information in local SEO. To optimize your website for local SEO, make sure your contact info (again, exactly as it’s listed in Google My Business) is listed on your website. You should also add the city, state and/or zip code of your business to your website’s title tags. Also reference the city and state in your website content wherever it makes sense.

Back to Basics: 5 Simple Tactics to Improve Local SEO You Can Do Right Now

The Internet offers unprecedented reach to connect with far-away customers, but shoppers often prefer to buy goods and services from local merchants. Think of it this way: If you owned a plumbing business, a shoe store or a car dealership, would you rather rank high in search results all over the country, or primarily in the area where you live?

Local information is growing in importance when it comes to ranking highly in Google results.The Internet offers unprecedented reach to connect with far-away customers, but shoppers often prefer to buy goods and services from local merchants. Think of it this way: If you owned a plumbing business, a shoe store or a car dealership, would you rather rank high in search results all over the country, or primarily in the area where you live?

That’s why local SEO is such a big deal.

A website that implements local SEO best practices will be easily found by nearby shoppers. Also, the rise of mobile search technology is making local SEO even more important considering the hyper-local searches in Google for “[product/service] near me”. Depending on how much competition you face, a poor local SEO strategy could render your business invisible to folks who are seeking your goods and services.

Want your business to appear on top of the rankings when local customers search for relevant keywords? Improving your position in the search engines doesn’t happen overnight, but these five changes to your local SEO strategy can start you in the right direction.

Tip 1: Create a Local Business Page on Google
Each of the three major search engines — Google, Bing and Yahoo — offer places to create pages specifically for your business. For example, on Google, you’ll want to create a page using the Google My Business service.

Why is this important?

Take a look at the search results for “dentist near me” and you’ll see a big map at the top of the search results, along with relevant information for local dental offices listed below. These listings are not websites!  They are Google My Business profiles.

That means if you don’t have a Google My Business profile, then your business will not rank high in Google when prospects are searching for you.

Tip 2: Add Location Pages to Your Website
More people now search for goods and services on their mobile devices — often while out and about — and Google is returning more hyper-local results to fulfill their needs. For example, if you need a nearby plumber, then you might search “plumber near 10011.” Or if you need a hardware store, then you might search “hardware store in flatiron nyc.”

Google’s goal is to rank the most relevant websites high in the results so the businesses that have specific, 100 percent relevant pages have an advantage.

What’s the key takeaway?

If you serve multiple locations, then consider creating dedicated pages for each location. These location specific pages will naturally be more relevant, so Google will be more likely to rank them high in the search results when prospects are searching keywords that include the respective location.

Tip 3: Get Reviewed
Online reviews can be a bit frightening — the last thing you want is a scathing review that turns potential customers away. However, Google gives search ranking boosts to businesses that get more reviews.

Plus, most prospective customers now want to see reviews before reaching out to a business to avoid wasting time. Think about your own shopping experience — why would you buy from an anonymous business when you could choose a merchant that’s been thoroughly reviewed?

There’s no silver bullet solution when it comes to getting online reviews. The best approach is to create a system for requesting feedback and ask every happy customer for an online review. Not everyone will do it, but as you gain more and more reviews, your rankings will start to improve.

Tip 4: Build Citations
A citation is simply a mention of your name, address and phone number, and Google uses citations in their local search engine algorithm.

Long story short, you need a lot of citations if you want to rank high in Google’s local results. Essentially, that means creating accounts on business directories. As you list your business information in these directories, you’ll gain more of Google’s trust, which translates into higher rankings.

For a quick snapshot of your citations, use the Moz Local tool. This tool will list any important citation opportunities that you are missing, as well as highlight duplicates and/or inconsistent information across existing citations. Start by fixing all the problems listed in this tool and then work on building even more citations to boost your rankings.

Tip 5: Get Social
Social media is taking over. Although Google is still the most popular search engine, Facebook has become a major source of information for many of your prospective customers.

In addition, David Mihm’s recent research about the local SEO ranking factors suggests that social media activity is one of the many signals Google uses to rank businesses.

Regardless of whether Google directly uses social media signals in their algorithm, there is no denying that social media marketing is a huge opportunity to get your business in front of your target audience. Facebook alone reaches all age brackets, all income levels, and spans urban, suburban and rural areas.

It’s no longer a question of whether or not your customers are using social media. The only question is are you using it to effectively get in front your customers?

Want More Local SEO Tips?
Click here to get the Ultimate Local SEO Checklist.  In this checklist you’ll get 79 expert tips to improve your local search rankings.

How to Audit Your Local SEO in 8 Simple Steps

Local search engine optimization (SEO) has become an absolutely critical component of any small company’s overall SEO strategy. Local SEO optimizes search results based on where the searcher is physically located. Someone in Austin searching for a steakhouse does not need results for San Diego, while a plumber in Kansas City will not help a homeowner in New Orleans.

Local search engine optimization (SEO) has become an absolutely critical component of any small company’s overall SEO strategy. Local SEO optimizes search results based on where the searcher is physically located. Someone in Austin searching for a steakhouse does not need results for San Diego, while a plumber in Kansas City will not help a homeowner in New Orleans. Optimizing your local SEO ensures that your business will pop up when people in your area search for your product or service. Auditing your local SEO lets you see at a glance which strategies are working for you and which need to be addressed.

Although the term “audit” sounds daunting, it does not need to be. Auditing your local SEO is as easy as working your way through eight simple steps. Here is a guide to conducting your audit.

1. Address Your Google My Business Page

Log into your Google My Business dashboard. Make sure that the URL associated with your account is your current, up to date My Business page. Then remove any duplicate accounts. Run a Google Maps search to be sure that your page comes up properly. Finally, check all of your associated business information. In particular, focus on NAP: your business Name, Address and Phone number. Inconsistent or incorrect NAP information can kill your search engine rankings. Other areas to check include your business email address, categories, images and introduction text. Make any needed changes as you go along. Last but certainly not least, make sure that your page is properly claimed and verified.

2. Optimize Your Website

If you have multiple locations, then create a separate local SEO landing page for each. Then cross-reference your NAP listed on your website against your My Business page. Even small discrepancies can drag you down in search results, so make sure everything matches exactly.

Make sure each page has unique content and reads naturally to a human, using keywords where appropriate but avoiding keyword stuffing. Aim for at least 500 words of high-quality content on each page. Finally, use Schema markup to help search engines find and display your important business information.

3. Analyze Your Citations
A citation is simply an online listing of your company’s NAP information. The exact number of citations you have is less important than the quality of those citations. Some citations can be created yourself by setting up accounts in business directories, while others are published by large data aggregators. Regardless of the origin of your citations, it is critical to ensure that they are entirely accurate. In addition, take the time to identify places where you are not yet listed and submit your NAP information to them. For example, Yelp and TripAdvisor are important for companies in the travel and tourism industries.

4. Audit Your Links
Links from other websites are vitally important to improving Google rankings, but spammy links bring heavy penalties. Anyone can easily determine how many links you have and how many your competitors have using free tools such as Moz’s OpenSiteExplorer. Check the anchor text in your links to make sure it fits naturally with your business, and find out where the links are coming from.

5. Study Your Reviews
Determine which review sites are the strongest in your industry, and focus on getting at least 10 reviews of no less than four stars for each one. Reviews are something you cannot force, as they must be genuine. However, if you consistently hear good comments from customers, there is nothing wrong with gently asking if they would mind writing a review. If you find bad reviews of your business, then post a reply as soon as possible to show other prospective customers you care.

6. Take Ownership of Your Social Media
Claim pages on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. Again, be sure that your NAP is correct and consistent across all websites and social media. Then focus on engaging your prospects and customers with compelling content. Social media engagement like this is becoming increasingly important for your SEO.

7. Consider Your Competition
Identify your top competitors, and then take a look at what they are doing right and wrong. Use tools such as Moz Local to check their citations and OpenSiteExplorer to check their links. A quick snapshot can help you identify citation and link opportunities to improve your own SEO.

8. Create a Workable Strategy
Even the best audit is worthless unless you use the information to develop a solid plan. Identify your critical areas of weakness and make it a priority to fix them as soon as possible. For everything else, set long-range goals and check in periodically to see how well you are managing those goals.

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