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5 Local SEO Mistakes That Could Cost You Reach and Visibility

A few months ago, I went viral in the most unexpected way. 

I was in El Paso, Texas, visiting my parents when I came across a dental clinic called 'Dentist Near Me.' Being the local SEO enthusiast that I am, I immediately took a photo of the establishment thinking to myself: "Are they really trying to outsmart Google Maps?"

When I shared it online, the post went viral because it resonated with a lot of local SEO experts in my network. 

It brought up the question of whether 'hacks' influence local SEO ranking factors? Is this black-hat SEO? Could a business really be successful using a ‘quick-win’ local SEO strategy?

The truth is, when I searched for this business near the actual store, it showed up on the search. But when I searched for this same establishment from my home, the store name 'Dentist Near Me' never came up because Google recommended local search results for dentists that were actually near me.

The moral of the story? Your local SEO ranking factors can’t be influenced by tricks. Local SEO is based on long-term strategies.

With that thought in mind, let’s go over a few common mistakes that businesses make in their local SEO and how not to get caught up in it.

Local SEO Mistake #1: Stuffing Keywords in Names

Local SEO is long-term. Quick wins are temporary; it only takes a Google update to stop working. Businesses often try to incorporate local keywords like 'Best Wings in Austin' or 'Vietnamese Restaurant in Bay Area' in their establishment names to boost visibility. But in fact, this kind of trick does not improve local search rankings any more than any other name for the business. If anything, such hacks are actually harmful to your brand recognition and recall.

Going back to the 'Dentist Near Me' example, the business not only does not show up outside its immediate neighborhood but has also sacrificed its brand identity in an attempt to hack Google Maps. If this store is recommended to someone and they do a local search on Google to find it, they will most probably end up at some other clinic which is literally a dentist near the person doing the search. 

Quick wins or 'hacks' like these are not scalable local SEO solutions. You need to prioritize creating a solid local SEO foundation so that you can build on top of it to achieve a snowball SEO effect

Local SEO Mistake #2: Leaving Listings Unclaimed or Unattended

Google Maps relies heavily on Google Business Profiles, formerly Google My Business, to determine how to rank businesses in the local pack. Leaving listings unclaimed or unattended is a major concern because practically anybody can claim or edit a business listing. 

Google is vague about how long it takes for it to implement these edits to business listings. However, it doesn’t need any identity or address verifications from the person suggesting changes to accept the edits. Oftentimes, people without any relationship to a business take over its digital presence by exploiting such loopholes. 

There are cases where competitors swap phone numbers for theirs, hijack phone calls and draw in prospective buyers from a competitor. They can also mark businesses as permanently closed and once implemented, such information can be challenging to revert. 

If you are not carefully monitoring your business listings, you could lose all traffic from local search results.

Local SEO Mistake #3: Not Being Consistent With Data

Business owners often forget that data consistency is all about being stringent with any information available online from the business. All data and info from a business, such as a name, address, phone number on business listings, social media, and website must be consistent. Websites often act as a source of truth for most major publishers and all-new communication should match the information on the business’ website for an improved local SEO.

Something as basic as a phone number can impact your local SEO ranking factors if you're not consistent. For example, businesses often use phone numbers from tracking companies and, in such cases, factual differences in phone numbers can impact local search results. Your website, profile, social media, and listings all end up with different contact information. Even if these numbers lead to the same point of contact, when it comes to local SEO ranking factors, it could have a negative impact.

Consistency issues can also crop up with regards to other information like opening hours too. For example: Say a local business has the wrong business hours on Apple Maps but the correct hour is updated everywhere else. Apple Maps would still consider the business hour is not listed on their website at all and wouldn’t fix the information until this information shows on their site. Such cases can lead to tremendous loss of business opportunity and reputation.  

Local SEO Mistake #4: Not Adding Local Business Schema to Your Website

Schema is essentially a snippet of code that summarizes a webpage for a Google bot. It is a quick way for Google to gather details about the type of business and to classify content for user queries in local search results.

For example, there's a schema markup called 'Local Business' that is designed specifically for local businesses to present their most crucial data points like working hours, reviews, different departments within the business, and more. You can also choose to enable bookings, reservations, orders, and payments directly in search results with schema markups.

While this topic is a lot more technical than others on this list, implementing schema has become pretty simple in the last couple of years. If you are not familiar with your website's code, you can just use a schema markup generator such as this and enter the essential details of your business. Various platforms may also have dedicated templates or plugins for local business schemas. 

Local SEO Mistake #5: Ignoring Reviews and Reputations

Reviews are a critical ranking factor in local search, with review signals making up 17% of Google’s local SEO ranking factors. While it is obvious that positive Google reviews are good for business, responding to all reviews can improve your ranking in local search results. 

A very common mistake is for businesses to only respond to negative reviews and ignore the positive and no-text reviews. When it comes to local SEO, responding to all reviews is equally important. Even responding to ratings, which make up 55% of Google reviews according to Uberall data, can help you secure a spot in the local pack. Google recognizes every effort to make your customers feel valued and heard. Customers also pay attention to your reputation and what previous customers think about your brand. Remember that although it’s important to be found, conversions happen only after you’re chosen from the list.

Towards a Sustainable Local SEO Solution

Through the years of doing SEO, I have seen that only long-term thinking is your BEST bet for local SEO success.

Setting a goal and working backwards from it can help businesses adapt and continuously improve their visibility. Optimizing your data, content, reach, and local listings should be the highest priority of your local SEO strategy. This is where Uberall can come in and connect the physical and digital touchpoints of your business.

Uberall CoreX- our hybrid customer experience platform - enables you to improve your visibility and reach with scalable local SEO solutions that focus on building you a fan base of returning customers, rather than driving traffic that does not convert. If you want to explore our solution, drop us a note here.

Christian Arriola
Christian Arriola

Christian Arriola is a Global External Enablement Manager and in-house SEO expert at Uberall, a location marketing company that specializes in hybrid customer experience marketing. Previously, Christian has led SEO teams for large agencies across the US. For the past 12 years, he has helped hundreds of local businesses improve their local visibility in search. Christian hosts his own Podcast and YouTube channel and has been featured by online platforms like Future Sharks and JoinUpDots, where he helps small businesses tackle entrepreneurship and digital marketing.