Here at EverSpark we work extensively to help our clients with local SEO. Local SEO means you’re not just trying to rank high for certain terms globally—which is lost cause for most businesses—but to rank for those terms among searches from people in your area. That has obvious value, whether you’re a one-location restaurant, a law firm that works statewide, or a chain with offices across an entire region. Local search is how your next customer finds you.
But just because we’ve given a lot of advice on what you should do for local SEO, doesn’t mean there aren’t also things you should not do. Neil Patel covers that very eloquently in his latest column, tackling head on the mistakes he still sees business making, and how to avoid them.
I want to call out a few of the most important points he makes, and add some thoughts of my own. Local SEO is a different horse from SEO writ large, and two of Neil’s points in particular are crucial to understand:
#1: You Don’t Need to Hit 100 Directories
Directories are sites that help consumers find businesses, like Yelp. But there are a lot of them. And as Neil points out, in the past all you had to do was create a listing on as many directories as possible and you’d see an SEO boost. In fact, there are services that you can pay a small fee to go list your site on 100 directories or more.
This is a bad idea.
That’s for two reasons. First of all, links from a bunch of low-quality directories don’t really help you, so you’re wasting your money (or time). More importantly, people only use a couple of directories. Everybody uses Yelp, and there may be two or three others based on your niche. Avvo is a common one for lawyers, for instance, as long as you’re cautious with their badges.
The best use of your effort is to identify those key directories—Yelp and a couple others—and make your profile on those few as good as possible. That means adding pictures, responding to reviews, making sure your contact info is accurate, and generally just shepherding your listing. That will increase the number of users who click through.
#2: Don’t Forget Your Own Content
Local SEO is often seen as a game involving third-party sites like Apple Maps, TripAdvisor, or reviews on Google Plus. But ultimately these signals only determine which of two strong, valuable websites should should appear first in local searches. If your website is not in fact strong and valuable, then you’ll remain far down the list.
The best way to make sure your site is valuable to search engines is through content marketing. Not only is content marketing good marketing in its own right, it’s also the key to effective SEO, local or otherwise. In other words, tending your Yelp profile is going to do little for you if your own website is stale and lacks great content.
Bonus Tip: Stop Duplicating Content
Neil leaves out one tragedy of local SEO that I see all too often: duplicate content. Duplicate content arises when business owners hear that they need a separate page for each of their locations. The seemingly easy way to get that, of course, is to copy/paste the content from one location onto pages for all of the others. After all, your services are the same everywhere, right?
But duplicate content really hurts you. At a minimum it’s not considered valuable content, and if it’s on a wide enough scale it could earn you a penalty.
So what do you do? For now, Google really does give you the most local exposure if you have a unique page for each of your separate service areas. This is a clunky system, and one I would expect to see change in the future, but that’s how it works. The key is to write each of these pages fresh and original, whether you have four locations or 400.
EverSpark routinely works with clients who want to rank in dozens of communities or more, and we always create fresh, unique content—with the same basic message—for each locale. The result is that our clients get more clicks and more calls in each service area while their competitors sputter.
I highly recommend reading Neil’s entire article. But if you want expert help with your local leads right away, contact EverSpark Interactive. We offer a free consultation and results you’ll like.