Top Local SEO Myths

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It may not be springtime, but it’s time for a little housecleaning.  Local SEO – like its organic cousin – is filled with myths.

Img. courtesy of flickr.com/photos/8102808@N05/4303113482/

By “myths,” I mean misinformation and other junk that’s piled up over time.

One reason for the myths is local SEOs can be superstitious.  Many among us are like pro baseball players – who believe they won’t play a good game unless they eat Taco Bell the night before, or who must wear the lucky pair of underwear they’ve worn since Little League.

The other big reason for all the misinformation is that local search is complex.  It’s hard to separate what actually helps a business get visible from what doesn’t.  “Scientific” tests are a red herring.  (Correlation doesn’t equal causation, remember?)

Pretty much all we have to go on is experience.  The good news is that can be extremely useful – provided we get insights from others’ experience and not just from our first-hand observations.

If you round up enough people who wrangle with local search all day and every day, you can get some insights – which you can use to help your business get in front of more customers.

That’s why I’ve asked my fellow local-search aficionados what they think are the myths that hurt businesses.

Mike Blumenthal, Mary Bowling, Linda Buquet, Don Campbell, Greg Gifford, David Mihm, Mike Ramsey, Darren Shaw, Andrew Shotland, Adam Steele, and Nyagoslav Zhekov were kind enough to weigh in.

Here are what some very knowledgeable people consider the top local SEO myths:

(FYI, I’ve ranked the responses in the order I received them in.  My thoughts are at the very end, because I’m a big procrastinator :).)

 

Mike Blumenthal – Blumenthal’s Blog

Myth One-

When you verify your listing data in Google (Places, Places for Business Dashboard, Google Plus) you are claiming your page.

Fact: Google views local as a syndicated service that uses local data stored in and retrieved from a canonical record in their Knowledge Graph. The data that you provide to them is stored in that record along with data that they get from MapMaker, Community Edits, third party sources, web scrapes of your website etc etc etc.

The data that your provided them may or may not be considered the authoritative data in this scenario and the page that you thought you owned may show data that they think more trustworthy than what you provided.

Google will take any of the authoritative data that they have in this canonical record and show it where they think it makes the most sense. Some will show on the front page of Google search results, some will show on the Google Plus Page for your business, some will show in Maps, some will show Glass. What shows is determined by them.

Moral: Your local data is seen in Google’s main search results seen many orders of magnitude more often than your data shows on any other Google local output. In fact it might be more than the total of all of the other views in their other products and services. Thus you should focus on what your data looks like there.

You own nothing in this environment, least of all “your page”.

Myth Two-

When you verify your listing in the Places Dashboard (old or new) it creates a Places page and when you verify it in Google Plus it creates a Plus Page and somehow these are viewed differently by Google.

Fact: As noted above Google syndicates data from their Knowledge Graph to the many local services they provide via software. The page about any given business that shows in the Google Plus is viewed by Google pretty much the same whether it was claimed via the Places for Business Dashboard or via Google Plus. The only differences are whether the page also shows videos, a social stream and a verification mark. Regardless it is a Google Plus Page for the local business.

Moral: A business listing is a business listing at Google Plus. It is either claimed or unclaimed and may have social features but it is still just a Google Plus business listing. And these days, it is one that very, very few people ever see directly.

Myth Three-

That Google reviews are somehow worth more than reviews at (insert your third party site here).

Fact: Google is data agnostic in their evaluation of a business. Google looks far and wide to gather as much information as they can about your business and that includes reviews. A read of their patent language would indicate that review site diversity is equally if not more important of a ranking factor.

Certainly having at least 5 reviews at Google leads to stars showing on your business  and that visual eye candy can’t hurt click through rates. There is some research that indicated that hitting the benchmark of 5 reviews also correlated with a single position gain in ranking. That same research indicated that having more than 5 reviews showed no correlation with any additional ranking gain.

Moral: focus on garnering reviews at sites that your clients are comfortable with not the ones that you think are important.

Myth Four-

Data changes to your business listing in MapMaker are faster and more powerful than data changes from the Google Dashboard.

Fact: From early 2012 until now Google has been in the process of first changing the underlying architecture of their local data and then changing both the UI front ends garnering that data on their site AND upgrading the pipelines that fed that data into the canonical local record in the Knowledge Graph.

MapMaker was one of the first products that received both a UI refresh and a pipeline update in early 2012. As such at the time it was faster at updating a listing than data coming from the old Places for Business Dashboard.

However with the rollout of the Google Plus Page for Local and the subsequent rollout of the new Google Places for Business Dashboard meant that those two products now have the new improved data pipeline that can update listing data in hours not days. One of the advantages of these products is that it is likely that the changes will be moderated more quickly than in MapMaker.

Moral: If you are still in the old Places Dashboard using the old, slow data pipeline then yes using Mapmaker will speed data changes. However so will data changes made from either the new Places for Business Dashboard or the Google+ Pages Dashboard.

 

Darren Shaw – Whitespark

1) Claiming your Google+ business page will help your rankings. You might notice that the people with claimed listings tend to rank better, but that’s just because people that take the time to claim their profile are going to be more active in all areas of their online marketing. Claiming will give you the ability to enhance your categories, which WILL help, but just the act of claiming won’t make a difference to your rankings.

2) Address formatting on your citations must be 100% consistent everywhere. Don’t get me wrong, consistent citations are super important, but you don’t need to worry about minor discrepancies like Suite vs Ste, Street vs St., or Northeast vs NE. Google will normalize the addresses it finds around the web to a standard version before trying to associate it with your business in the local cluster. This tool can help you see what kind of discrepancies still normalize to your correct address: http://aus-emaps.com/bulk_geocoder.php

3) Call tracking numbers are always bad. They’re USUALLY bad, but if executed properly, they’re not going to cause problems. The best way to implement them is to display the call tracking number on your site in an image, and then put the real phone number in the image ALT attribute. Google won’t see the tracking number and it won’t get scraped and distributed all over the web. The second best way is to load the number on the page with Javascript and put the real number into a <noscript> tag. While Google can and does parse Javascript, in all cases I’ve seen, they are not picking up tracking numbers obfuscated through Javascript.

 

Mary Bowling – MaryBowling.com

Your website doesn’t matter in Local Search. While this is still true in non-competitive markets, if you expect to rank in Local Packs in competitive niches and locations, you cannot ignore the quality and domain authority of your business’s website.

You should use an exact match domain name for your website in order to rank well. This tactic used to work like magic, but Google will not reward your website with good rankings, even with an exact match domain name, unless it also has unique, useful content and good quality links pointing to it.

You should do internet marketing through your local phone company or newspaper. These are both dying industries that are trying to survive by transitioning into internet marketers. Unfortunately, most of them are much better at making sales than they are at understanding how search works and adapting to the on-going changes in local search. In fact, some of the tactics they use can actually hurt your local search marketing and make you dependent upon paid advertising going forward.

 

David Mihm – Moz

You should worry about NAP details like “St.” vs “Street”, “Ave.” vs “Avenue,” etc. in an effort to make your citations consistent.

The fact is that Google has gotten very smart about clustering business information.  They’re smart enough to realize the similarity between these types of abbreviations. You should focus on higher-level inconsistency issues (such as different business titles, street numbers, or ZIP codes) and then move onto other priorities.

Implementing Schema.org will improve your rankings.

Schema is really intended as a mechanism to increase the confidence in the authoritative NAP info for your business. And associating that NAP with an authoritative (canonical) domain.  While at some level increased confidence at Google will improve the rankings of your business, schema primarily makes it more likely that your information will be shown correctly, and may give you an expanded search result visually, much more than it will improve your rankings.

Claiming your page at Google Places for Business will ensure that the data you enter there appears at Google.

The reality is that your Google Places for Business (or Google+ Local) account is just one of many datapoints Google uses to surface information about your business. 99 times out of 100, Google will trust the information provided by the business owner, but if it sees other authoritative data sources (such as government entities, major data aggregators, utility companies, etc.) providing different information, your trusted information may become subsumed by these other trusted sources.

 

Don Campbell – Expand2Web

Myth #1: The one with the most reviews wins.

Online reviews help with rankings and conversions. So the more the better, right?

As turns out, it’s not the number of reviews that matters so much. What you are really looking for – and what Google is looking for – is a diverse, natural review profile. You should be consistently getting reviews over time, from a variety of sources that matter in your industry. This type of review profile  performs much better in terms of search results and conversions.

Myth #2: The one with the most citations wins.

It’s common knowledge that you need “citations” or mentions of your business name, address and phone number throughout the web to get good local search results. And your information should match across all of these citations.

So some businesses go to work building as many citations as they can from as many sites as they can. This is time intensive, labor intensive work.

But in many cases, having one really good high quality citation from a locally relevant site can make all the difference in your rankings. My advice is to look for that “killer citation” and spend time getting that before trying to obtain tons of citations from medium quality sources across the web.

Note: This is after you’ve claimed your business in Google and the other key citations for your type of business.

Myth #3: Having lots of websites is better than having one website.

Imagine having a network of websites, all linking to each other, providing tons of traffic and back-links for your business. How cool would that be?

Well, that’s great – if you have the resources to pull it off. But most small businesses simply do not have the resources to build and maintain lots of websites. Heck – most businesses don’t have the resources to maintain one website properly.

For each website you build, you have to cultivate and maintain it if you want it to be effective. This means creating unique content regularly, obtaining links into the site and interior pages, and maintaining it with backups, security updates, etc.

I’ve seen so many businesses create a ton of low value sites only to leave them sit out there and stagnate. Better to create one website and focus your energy and resources on making that site great – by publishing new content regularly, building quality links over time, and keeping it backed up. Create a page with great content for each product or service you offer, for each location or area that you serve, and update it regularly by blogging about the questions your customers ask you.

That site will be far more valuable to you than a bunch of thin sites that never get updated.

 

Greg Gifford – AutoRevo

Myth 1) Links are the most important ranking factor.

We’ve had dealers outrank competitors who have 5x the links with solid content and awesome citations.

Myth 2) Domain age is powerful.

A guy called us asking how his competitor is outranking him, assuming it’s because he’s only 5 months old and competitor has been around for years. Turns out it was because his citation data was messy, once we cleaned it up and added a few, he jumped ahead.

Myth 3) Bounce rate is a ranking factor.

Motorcycle dealer in Minnesota was/is obsessed with it, and was sure that his high bounce rate was hurting his rankings. Turns out it was incredibly messy citation data (he had changed his business name 3 times in the last 2 years). Plus, his site very clearly pushed customers to call, so many times he got a call off the first page visit – customer got exactly what they wanted, and he got the conversion, but it registered as a bounce.

Myth 4) Having your address and phone number on your home page is all you need to rank locally.

You’ve got to have NAP on every page of your site, not just the home page… and not just in the content, you need city/ST in the title tags, H1, and meta description as well – if you get a page to rank, you want to boost your chances of ranking higher and getting more clickthroughs by doing everything possible. Putting your address and phone only on the home page and trying to rank locally is like entering the Indy 500 in a beat up Prius.

Myth 5) 800 numbers are better for local businesses because of call tracking!

Local numbers are one of the most important elements – your number has to be local, and it’s got to be all over your website. That local area code is a huge signal of local relevancy – if you care about ranking locally, a local number is much more important than tracking calls.

Myth 6) Your business will only show in local SERPs if the person searching is within X radius of your business.

If you’re in Austin and you’re wanting someone to see you in local results in Dallas, you’re out of luck… but if you’re in a suburb, it’s totally possible to outrank businesses that are closer to the user if you’re highly optimized for that city. It’s all about relevancy, so if you’ve got great citations, awesome content, and a few good links, you can blow away guys that are “closer” to the user.

Myth 7) You don’t have to do social.

If you have any doubts left about social, check out the 2013 Local Search Ranking Factors by David Mihm. Social plays a huge part – but even outside of whatever effect it has on local ranking, you NEED to do social. Your customers are there, and your customers turn to social media before making a purchase. Just because you personally don’t use social media doesn’t mean your customers don’t… Maximize every avenue and get in the social game!

 

Andrew Shotland – LocalSEOGuide

1. Google+ Pages can’t pass Page Rank.

G+ pages are similar to other Web documents.  They can absolutely pass PageRank (or at least the Google+ version of PageRank) and help your rankings

2. Posting a lot on Google+ will help your rankings.

Just like G+ pages are similar to other Web pages, building up their ability to affect rankings is the same as building up any URL’s authority.  Even if you get thousands of followers on Google+, if they are “low quality” followers (i.e. inactive, don’t have a lot of connections, etc.) and your posts don’t attract interest inside of G+ (e.g. +1s, shares, etc.), your G+ efforts will have little effect on your rankings.

 

Mike Ramsey – NiftyMarketing

Myth #1: Local SEO is easier than Organic SEO.

Fact: Local is usually more difficult because not only do you need to have your Name, Address, and Phone information correct across the local search ecosystem but you also need to take in account most organic factors as well. For a business that cares about local you can’t get away with just dealing in maps or just dealing on the website or with link building. You need them all.

Myth #2: Google has really bad support for Local.

Fact: This used to be the case. Now, Google not only keeps the forum full of Top Contributors but they have phone and email support that is quite responsive and helpful compared to most free products. While there is always room for improvement local support has came a long ways.

Myth #3: All that matters in Local Search is Google Places for Business rankings.

Fact: Local search marketing is much more than just a Google map listing. Companies can take advantage of a local organic strategy, local AdWords advertising, reviews, and local outreach. People search in more places than just map listings.

 

Linda Buquet – Local Search Forum

Myth: The “centroid” is city center and proximity to city center affects ranking.

I need to give credit to Mike Blumenthal for blowing this myth wide open during our 1st InsideLocal webinar.  He explained the centroid is not always city center as most assumed. It’s the center of the wherever Google determines the cluster of the most prominent businesses are – in that particular industry and city.

(Example screenshot here.)

If your client was a Dentist located near city center in Atlanta or just south of downtown, they would have a hard time ranking for “Atlanta Dentist” as they would be out of the centroid radius for that particular search. Very obvious when doing car dealer searches in most cities as dealers are normally clustered in an area away from downtown. (Thanks for giving me inspiration back in July for a myth to share today, Professor!)

 

Adam Steele – LeanMarketing

Myth: Organic SEO isn’t important in influencing local rankings. Blended or not, organic is a part of the local algorithm. Sure, in some small cities, and non-competitive niches you can get away with little organic, but in today’s landscape, that is rare. It has long been my opinion: 50% organic, 50% local. Regardless of the dominant algo at play for your keywords, you should put forward a strong, equal effort.

Myth: Citations are local business directories. If you search for the definition of a local citation, you will quickly realize that is hardly exists in the confines of a local directory. A local directory is simply the most popular example of property to submit a citation to. It was somewhere between testing Scrapebox to blog comment NAP, and my review citation research that this really hit home. Consider this, whenever you are asking for a link, submitting a link, guest posting, or whatever it may be, why wouldn’t you include your NAP?

Myth: Local SERPs are updated in the same manner/frequency as organic SERPs. I can update a title tag, or build a backlink, and my client’s website will move organically. However, if I build a citation, make an edit in the Google+ Local dashboard, or remove NAP from website (just some examples), my Google+ local profile won’t move today, probably not this week, and maybe not for at least a month. I am not sure I am qualified, or understand the specifics, but Google updates their local index much more slowly than their organic index.

Not-Myth: Google+ local pages have domain authority. No, perhaps not in a Moz sort of way, but in a history sort of way. Similar to an aged domain, an aged listing is a trusted listing and is something that tends not to come quickly. Protip: if you are creating a new listing, and are a new business, spend some time building up your citation profile. When you create that listing, you do not want Google to try and connect the dots (ie. find that you have no citations). What signal do you think that sends them? Give them a reason to trust you, and you will gain trust quicker.

Myth: Keyword rich reviews do not help rank. By no means am I a proponent for writing, and publishing your own, keyword stuffed reviews, but it wouldn’t hurt to point your customers in the right direction when they are writing them for you. Suggest that they be specific. What service did you perform? Tire repair? Bookeeping? In what city?

 

Nyagoslav Zhekov – NGSMarketing

Myth #1: You can rank only by using citations (similar to: “you don’t need a website to rank high in local”).

Many people seem to think that getting a bunch of citations can still rocket you to the top. While this worked for some time in the past, it doesn’t anymore. You need a combination of strong website, strong citations profile, and strong social profile in order to achieve positive results in local nowadays. In this sense, citations are just one piece of the puzzle.

Myth #2: You need to have your city of business mentioned everywhere on your site.

This is really unnecessary and could even be harmful. I sometimes see sentences such as “Our Chicago law firm helps people in Chicago get their Chicago cases successfully closed (in Chicago).” You need to think of Google as if it was a human user of your website. Think about how many times, or even better – how, your business location or the city where your business is in should be mentioned in order for a user to understand it, without getting annoyed of the repetition.

Myth #3: You need to have meta keywords on each and every page of your site.

Please, stop it.

Myth #4: Your location needs to be next to the city center in order to rank high.

This, or at least some version of this, had been the fact for some time and this is the main reason for this myth to still be discussed around the community even nowadays. Unfortunately, there are still people hiring virtual offices or using post office boxes to try and get an “advantage” by making Google believe they are closer to the city center than they are.

Myth #5: Your NAP should be EXACTLY (with a big stress) the same everywhere.

Don’t get me wrong, your NAP must be as accurate as possible. However, it is not necessary to sweat too much on differences such as St vs. Street or # vs. Suite. Google is too smart to see that these two are the same.

Myth #6: You must have a local phone number for your business.

This myth is so popular nowadays that there are even people that buy local phone numbers just for the sake of using them for their Internet marketing (these numbers just forward calls to their regular phones, which are mobiles or toll-free). Mobile phone numbers and toll-free phone numbers are perfectly fine as long as these are the actual phone numbers used for business.

 

Phil Rozek

Myth: you need a lot of citations.

Reality: consistency matters more than anything else.  Get your listings right on all the big sites and you’ll be OK in the citations department.  We’re talking about a few dozen, not a few hundred.  Quality over quantity.

Myth: “local SEO = optimizing a Google+ Local listing.”

Reality: when you’re working on your Google listing, you have two jobs: (1) don’t break Google’s rules, and (2) pick out as many categories as describe your business.  Aside from that, there’s not much to optimize; your rankings will come down to the other factors.

Myth: you can rank well locally if you just work hard enough.

Reality: yes, you’ll probably need to work at it.  But it also takes time.  In fact, I suggest you work on it a little more slowly than you might be tempted to.

A huge thank-you to everyone who weighed in.  You guys and gals rock.

Any questions or thoughts on the local SEO myths?  Conclusions you’ve drawn from seeing all the myths?  Leave a comment!

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Comments

  1. Awesome post Phil, thanks for asking me to participate.
    The myths were great, but the tips in the comments are PRICELESS!

  2. Top notch stuff. The differences in opinion on some things are a good indication that this is still art, not quite science, but I didn’t see any bad advice in here. A tremendous help in the local search game.

  3. Awesome post. Great collection of minds to contribute! Tons of good info

  4. I am a web designer who tries to implement on page optimization for my clients. All of my clients are local brick and motar business. I am starting to offer my clients a citation building service. After reading Adam Steals contribution to the article, I wondered if I am creating citations by submitting local directories.

    I done a search for the definition of a citation and found this on getlisted.org:

    “A mention of a business name in close proximity to its address, phone number, or both. Used by the search engines to weigh both the accuracy and popularity of businesses in their indexes.”

    Would having your NAP listed in local directories not help your local rankings?

    • Good question, Larry. Sorry for any confusion. You’ve been doing it right: those listings you’ve been building are citations. Adam’s point was just that it’s kind of like a Venn diagram: most local directory listings are citations, but not all citations are in the form of directory listings. For instance, if your business info is cited in a newspaper, that’s a citation (an “unstructured” one).

  5. Fantastic reference guide Phil. Having a list like this is super helpful when talking with local business owners/managers with a little bit of knowledge. Thanks for pulling it together.

  6. Really great article here! I really liked how you brought everyone in ans let them talk about different factors. Keep up the good work and we will keep working on making Local SEO pop for our local clients :)

  7. Excellent article, very helpful. And putting all this info in a myth/fact format (with tips!) feels like it was extra informative and easier to make sense of.
    Thanks Phil.

  8. Phil,
    As always, awesome post! You did a great job rounding up the best of the best for this info. There are so many times when I need to explain these same myths to clients or to members on my team and having a resource like this will make my job a lot easier :)

    Two thumbs up. Keep gems like this coming in the future!

  9. avatar Michael Mandis says:

    More relevant, concise, valuable content from Phil and his colleagues. Thanks for all the great advice.

  10. avatar Linda Davis says:

    I’m always anxious and walking around with the feeling that I might be missing something. Your stuff always puts my mind at ease again for a while. Talk about a blast of information from different people that answer a ton of questions asked and Not asked :-) Thanks Phil!

  11. Great advise as usual,
    I offer the bring you a cigar about 2 years ago, still have not made to Mass. will do sooner or later!!

  12. Thank you so much Phil and all contributors -once again invaluable info. Best regards from Australia.

  13. Great round up of local search experts you have got together for this. You have created the ultimate FAQ for local search :) Also it’s good to finally put the old NAP myth to bed once and for all. Getting every business citation exactly the same letter for letter used to be something I used to stress about.

  14. Thanks for this great post. Your post gives some very useful tips on local SEO and So great people in the seo industry sharing their view.

  15. If you are creating unstructured citations and using the business name as anchor text, be careful as I made this mistake. I have had two different sites where Google rewrote the homepage title tag to be just the business name. The specified title tags for both sites were: City name + keyword | Business name.

    • Hi Sean,

      It sounds like you may be referring to two different things. Anchor text and unstructured citations have nothing to do with each other unless the place where you’re getting an unstructured citation also happens to give you a link. Even then, the anchor text you or they use for that link has nothing to do with the fact that Google sometimes rewrites title tags on your pages (or, rather, shows different title tags in the SERPs from the ones you wrote for your pages). Google has rewritten title tags for a while now.

      • Hi Phil, if Google decides to rewrite a title tag, I don’t think it’s a stretch for them to look at anchor text when deciding what they should change the title tag to. Most of what I have read about Google changing title tags involves keyword stuffed titles and overly long titles….but I think there is more to the picture…especially in highly competitive local markets like law where 20 attorneys have title tags that are very similar….in these cases it makes sense for Google to create new title tags to differentiate the SERP and use anchor text signals (along with other signals) to create a new title.

  16. Really useful update, Phil. Thank you :) I shall be diving back in again next week :O

  17. Thanks for taking the time to put this together phil :-) elaborating on the myths can sometimes be just as helpful as focussing on what’s current.

    • You’re quite welcome, Andy. Thanks for your compliments and for stopping by.

      I’m sure glad that everyone chose not to listen to me when I said “You don’t have to explain why each myth is wrong”!

  18. Great article Phil
    This came at a good time as I read Darren Shaw’s slide deck form the Distilled conference the other day: http://www.slideshare.net/DistilledSEO/darren-shaw-audit-and-fix-citations-for-local-search-gains

    and followed that with David Mihm’s whiteboard Friday:
    http://moz.com/blog/how-business-listings-made-whiteboard-friday

    Found those to be incredibly helpful but then combined with this advice from a number of other experts in the field I now have a very clear idea of what to do about local search.

    Well in fact – I still have two questions:

    1) About the local government data sources that Google use. How do you find these out?

    Most of my clients are in the UK and at a guess I would say Companies House as this is the main business database for the country and all companies are registered there so perhaps the most accurate source but I do not know if Google have official access to this. How can I find out what they use?

    2) In David’s presentation on Moz he cites Infogroup, Newstar and Acxiom as key data sources used by Google in the US. How does he know this and how can I find the equivalent organisations in the UK?

    • Those are two excellent presentations, all right. Glad you mentioned them, Joel.

      Good questions.

      1. I’m not sure that Google pulls info directly from government records; rather, they get that info from third-party sites (e.g. ExpressUpdate), which get it from places like http://corp.sec.state.ma.us/corpweb/corpsearch/CorpSearch.aspx (to use the example of my home state).

      2. How David determined the data-providers in the US is a long story. A lot of sites say (somewhere) where they get their data, some would tell you if you asked, and in other cases you can tell by where your business info gets spread to once you list it on a given site. It’s a lot of gumshoeing work. Here’s a good list of the UK data-providers and citation sources:
      http://smart-local.co.uk/uk-citation-sources/

      (It also references earlier posts that Nyagoslav Zhekov did and that I did.)

      • Thanks for the fast response Phil

        Glad you mentioned the Smart Local link as that was one of the sources for our local citations for clients!

        I forgot about that when I left this comment though so needed the reminder!

  19. Hey Phil, one of best local posts I’ve read in while. Loved the perspective we got from many of local seo experts.

  20. Excellent material that exposes a number of new and otherwise persistent myths about local SEO.

    I was very interested to read the suggestions offered by your experts about customer reviews; making sure the review profile is natural, quality and diverse.

    • Yeah, the review profile needs to be natural. For many reasons – not least of which is that it’s safe to assume that a lot of your potential customers will probably search for you by name after seeing you in the local results, just to see what they can see. If they see reviews on a diversity of sites, that’s good. If you have a bunch of reviews on one site but none on others, that looks weird (at best).

  21. As someone who has worked with organic website marketing full time for over 17 years, I’d say your local search pros should stick to local search and not delve too far into organic search.

    The reason I say that is because some of the comments made were fairly “off”, i.e., inaccurate.

    One guy said local search is a lot harder to optimize for than organic.

    Not so. It’s much, much easier, because the universe of websites you have to compete with is much smaller.

    With a local listing, you’re competing with your city. With organic, you’re normally competing on a national level, so you’ve got many, many times more competition to deal with.

    • Hi Mike,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I wouldn’t say that either local or organic is harder. Mike R was absolutely right to bring up the “myth” that one type of SEO is hard and the other isn’t, but I draw slightly different conclusions. Both local SEO and organic are difficult. Although a fair number of organic factors matter for your local rankings, they’re two different beasts. There are arguments to be made for each “side” (as to which type of SEO is “harder”) but at the end of the day, there’s not much point in having the debate.

  22. Phil: Excellent article and excellent comments. When you asked if I would contribute my immediate response was not the myths that exist with regard to local search…but the lousy advice local smb’s get from so many sources.

    I just saw this comment in a forum concerned with local food and restaurants in my area: Its pretty astonishing:

    Dear “local chain restaurant whose name I purposefully excluded ;),

    If you have 4 area locations, I’d like to know their addresses. I’ve been looking around your website and can’t find them! Individual location pages with phone numbers, photos of the outside of each location, and reservations links don’t quite do the job. I’m not so lazy that I can’t find them myself via other methods, but I’d like to find them out from directly from you!

    Well the addresses are there but they are incredibly difficult to find. So you have this local chain with 4 sites and in each case its very difficult to find exactly where each restaurant is located.

    Hey Mr. restaurateur I hope you have a lot of local walk in traffic. You’ve made it difficult to find you or drive to you. Who advised you to do this???

    In a second case I spoke with a business owner who showed me the new look of his site. Its the 4th redesign. He told me he understood that google likes things changed around. BTW: He has multiple sites and not all of them are showing up in the PAC. I think some designer is making a lot of money and not helping this owner in the best way.

    Then in a 3rd case I spoke with a business guy who has both local smbs and a presence selling their products webwide. From a webwide perspective I couldn’t find their products easily in my region.

    Meanwhile a group that really pushes them on adwords set up a couple of local adwords campaigns for a few discreet market regions…and is double billing them. Not very good advice.

    Finally I was in a strong seo forum and a guy who has regularly asked about his website and smb business was asking for advice. He got “free” advice from some really great seo’s that I respect a lot. But I don’t think it was the kind of thing that would give him an inch of presence for business service/town A or business service/town B or any of those type of searches that are relevant to his business.

    There are absolutely terrific responses above. I have nothing to add on myths in the local world. I do agree with Mike Ramsey that an smb will benefit from looking at both local signals and seo signals.

    On top of these myths though a lot of smb’s get absolutely miserable advice that has nothing to do with local. From some of the cases I referenced it looks like a lot of people are making good money giving bad advice.

    • Great points, Dave. Let’s call them “honorary myths” :)

      Most restaurateurs are pretty benighted about online marketing – local search in particular. Some do a good job, sure. But especially if I had a business that cost me a quarter-mil just to open my doors, I’d spend a little more time examining the advice I heard.

  23. Great article! I think my favorite part was “You should do internet marketing through your local phone company or newspaper.”

    I recently brought this up on my Facebook page. I see the service people get from these, the websites that are built by these companies, and the prices for the services and I just can’t believe that a business person would think these are good deals.

  24. Phil,

    This is an excellent work. I’m glad to find relevant and concise myths on local SEO. It shows that Quality over Quantity matters a lot.
    I can say that it is really important to be consistent and interacting with your clients through post reviews. I bet this would really build a great relationship between entrepreneurs and consumers. Also, setting up a Google+ would be an edge in expanding business not only locally but globally.

  25. the connection between Structured Data ( schema org ) and Rankings

    According to David Mihm, there is not a direct connect, but I think schema can help, if the page is not well codded, Google is not so smart to understand each time which is the NAP.

    How can you verify this? Easy: Register your website with WMT and try to use Google Highlighter Tool which shall identify different types of data on your site. Even after you train the tool with few pages, Google will still not be able to recognize the same data type on other pages, so you have either to select it manually or to add structured data to your website.

    Once Google will understand the NAP ( in case it didn’t before structured data ) your website rankings could start increasing as Google will be able to connect it to different Citations from other websites and increase Local SEO Authority

  26. It’s quite amazing how much information there is just pertaining to local search. Just in our market in Salt Lake City, we are very amazed at the sort of leads that come in and the confusion that exists with the other companies here that offer local SEO services. Definitely a refresher to read an article that delves into SEO legends that continue to occur over time. Last week we had a business meeting with a new potential when they informed us that another firm in the area told them that without their proprietary CMS they wouldn’t be able to rank highly for terms and so forth. This continues to amaze us at how others online are essentially taking a proverbial “dump” all over our industry and basically making all of our jobs more difficult. Thank you again for using your resources to provide a wonderful article.

    • Good points, Benjamin. I think you put your finger on a nasty, lingering myth: that some people think a particular platform is so SEO-friendly that they need to use it if they want to rank well. Too many designers perpetuate that one.

  27. This is like masterminding with a bunch of local marketing PHD’s everyone of you guys is the expert..
    Thank you

  28. Thanks for sharing all the myths. Here is a tidbit from me echoing the idea that more citations = higher ranking. I predict that one day having to many citations at low level directories will be a negative ranking factor. Especially verified ones.

    • I see what you mean, Jason. It’s certainly not something I’d rule out. OTOH, citations on low-level directories have never been a help for your rankings. They’ve always been worthless. But I doubt that Google would dole out penalties; those generally seem to be reserved for tactics that actually move the needle.

  29. This is a great post with some top information.

    A lot of these “myth” do the rounds and so many people believe them. This should clear a lot of mis-conceptions up.

Trackbacks

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  7. […] Must match what’s on your Google Places page and citations – more or less.  Don’t worry about little formatting differences – like “Ave” versus “Avenue,” or whether […]

  8. […] talked about “Local SEO Myths” in 2013.  But there’s even more to say.  In that post, I and other local-search geeks […]

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