Top 10 Ways Local Business Owners Botch the All-Important Homepage, and How You Can Get Yours Right

It’s a shame so many business owners spend more time chasing shiny new objects than they do nailing the fundamentals.

Mess up your homepage and your local rankings won’t be all they can be, or you’ll scare away people, or both.  It’s of outsize importance to Google and to customers/clients/patients.  Craft an excellent homepage and you might give yourself wiggle room to mess up in other areas – and maybe for it not to matter as much.

In helping business owners make rain, I see and get to work on more homepages than your average bear.  Here are what I’d consider the 10 most-common homepage mistakes, and how you can avoid making them:

Homepage mistake 1: It’s wafer-thin on content.

Most homepages skimp on info about specific offerings (services, products, treatments, or practice areas).  Have at least a blurb on each offering you care about, and include links to the pages where you describe them in more detail.

Homepage mistake 2: There’s little info about the service area or locations.

You don’t want Google and customers to have to guess or dig to determine where you are or what areas you serve.  Make it as plain as day.

Homepage mistake 3: It’s got no or too-few links to important subpages.

If you’ve got other pages you want visitors to see and for Google maybe to rank well, you’d best link to them.  Maybe your most-important 5-10.  I like bullet-point lists.

Homepage mistake 4: It’s been colonized by a slider.

Most sliders slow down the load-time of your page, push your strongest material below the fold, and are ignored by visitors.  Consider taking yours behind the barn, or at least replacing it with a static image.

Homepage mistake 5: There’s nothing unique or compelling in the title and/or description tag.

Having your keyword(s) + city is not enough.  Be a giraffe among zebras.  Weave in as much of your USP as you can.

Homepage mistake 6: Not tracking visitors’ clicking and scrolling behavior.

Use a tool like CrazyEgg or HotJar to determine which parts of your page visitors care about and which they ignore.

Homepage mistake 7: Clear calls-to-action aren’t in all the places they should be.

Having one call-to-action at the top and bottom of the page is a no-brainer.  If it’s a long page, have a call-to-action somewhere in the middle.  Because you’re tracking clicking and scrolling behavior (see above point), in time you’ll probably know which one pulls the most weight.

Homepage mistake 8: A functional Google Map isn’t embedded.

If you’ve got an office or bricks-and-mortar location, your would-be customers probably want to be able to pull up directions easily.  Google may like to see driving-direction look-ups.

Homepage mistake 9: It’s filled with knickknacks for non-customers.

Links to social profiles, a “recent blog posts” section, etc.  Eschew them – unless you want people to pay attention to those doodads and not call you.

Homepage mistake 10: It assumes the visitor saw the reviews.

Will your homepage impress a word-of-mouth referral or others who might have gone directly to your site without Googling you first?

Hhomepage mistake 11 (bonus): It’s too reserved.

Don’t assume everyone will even see other pages on your site.  Make it very clear where visitors can get more in-depth info on you and your services if they want it, but don’t assume they’ll click or scroll.  Say your piece, say it early, and say it plainly.

Any homepage mistakes I forgot?

Any you don’t think are mistakes?

What do you consider the most or least serious issue, and why?

Leave a comment!

How to Structure Your Site for Local Search Visibility That Lasts

The Ise Shrine is pretty cool.  The Emperor of Japan had it built in the 7th Century.  It’s made of untreated wood, yet it’s stood for over 1300 years.  How?

Because master carpenters rebuild the whole thing – board by board – every 20 years.

Your site won’t have to serve you for quite that long, but you can build it to last.  If you structure it according to a few best-practices, it’s more likely to rank well in the local results, and to be easy for customers to use.  It will also be easier to make changes later on if you need to.

I’m not talking about internal link structure (how your pages should link together).  Other posts deal with that nicely.  Nor am I talking about what should be on your pages.  I’ve talked about that, too.

I’m talking about where to put stuff.  Simply having “content” on your site isn’t enough.  You need to organize it in a way that Google and customers can understand all your business offers.

For my clients’ sites, there are some points I really harp on, and some that I don’t consider crucial – but wise to do.  Let’s go through the former – my “hard rules” – first.

My hard rules:

1.  Have one site – or as few as possible.  Avoid microsites.  Avoid mirror sites.

2.  Put your blog on the same domain.  Preferably it’s at  You want your posts and any links to benefit the site you’re trying to rank.  (By the way, if you don’t have a blog because your wheels are spinning, see this and this.)

3.  Your page structure should be granular: Have a page for each service, each location, each practitioner or employee.

4.  Form a “bulls’-eye” pattern with your content.  You should have an area of your site – like your blog – where you’re concentrating useful content, but you should also have “content” spread throughout the rest of your site.  That stuff can rank.  Think FAQ pages, bio pages, or city pages.

5.  Your homepage should be a static page, rather than feature your latest blog posts.  One reason (of many) is that Google needs a consistent picture of what your business offers, if you’re to rank for those services.  The blog post du jour won’t necessarily do that.

My softer rules:

6.  Your navigation should be dummy-simple.  You want to avoid pogo-sticking.  If you want people to see your “Products” page, it should probably be in your top menu.

7.  Avoid “island” pages – pages that have no internal links to them, or only links that are buried in pages few people see.  This is in the same vein as point #6.  Everything should be findable in 1-2 clicks from your homepage.  Google needs to be able to crawl those pages easily.  And if you don’t want people to find those pages easily, you should reconsider whether they even should be on your site.

8.  Use as few subdirectories as possible.  (Or else you get this.)

OK, time for a quick break.

Now, you may want to check out some examples of well-structured sites.  Here are a few keepers:

It’s also worth checking out these relevant posts (including a couple of mine):

Intelligent Site Structure for Better SEO – Joost de Valk

Site Architecture & Search Engine Success Factors – SearchEngineLand

The Anatomy of an Optimal Local Landing Page – Mike Ramsey

Location pages for local businesses and organizations – Google Developers

Microsites for Local SEO: the Pros and Cons – me

21 Pages a “Small Local Business” Site Needs for Tip-Top Local Visibility – me

How do you suggest structuring a site for maximum local visibility?

Did I forget any big no-nos?

Leave a comment!

50 Examples of Title Tags That Rock at Local SEO

Title tags have been around forever (at least in Web years), and they’re not particularly sexy.  But they’ve always been a big influence on rankings, and probably will be for at least a while.

People ask me how I’d write a title tag.  It’s a good question, but I’d rather explain with examples than blabber on about best-practices.

I’ve rounded up 50 examples from 50 “local” businesses.  I went to all that trouble because you’ll need to go to a little trouble, too: Your title tags can affect your local rankings big-time – probably more than they should.  It’s worth taking the time to write good ones.

Some of these examples belong to clients of mine, but most examples I found just by poking around.

Most of these title tags aren’t flawless (not that there’s such a thing as a “perfect” title tag anyway).  And I’m not saying they’re the reason these businesses rank well.

But these title tags do seem to pull their weight.  All the businesses rank well as of this writing – usually both in the Google+ Local results and in the local-organic results.

By the way, all the title tags are for homepages, not that that makes a difference: You’d go about writing a title tag for a subpage in the same way.

Flip through these 50 examples of good title tags, and see how you can make yours a little better:
Carpentry Boston & Tile Installer – RJT Carpentry and Tile
An Sen Acupuncture in Portland Oregon
Concrete Driveways, Patios – New Brighton MN – Creative Concrete Inc.
Criminal Defence Lawyers Edmonton | Pringle Chivers Sparks Teskey
Nashua Dentist | Todd G Pollack DMD | Cosmetic Dentistry | Nashua NH 03064<
Furniture Store – Northern NJ, Bergen County & Princeton | Design Spree
Chandlee Jewelers: Your Trusted Source for Diamond & Gemstone Jewelry in Athens since 1980
Barbara Oliver & Co Jewelry: Engagement Rings, Diamonds, Design, Appraisals | Buffalo Jewelers
Farzad Family Law – Top Orange County Divorce Lawyers & Family Law Attorneys
Ice Dam Removal Minneapolis & St. Paul MN |
Westlake Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery – Austin Dermatologists
Suwanee, GA Dentist – Suwanee Family Dentistry – General Dentist
Car Title Loans in Las Vegas | USA MONEY TODAY
Dentist in Dublin, Award winning | Portobello Dental Clinic
Brunke Chiropractic | Monterey Chiropractors
Back and Neck Center of Brick – Chiropractic & Physical Therapy, Brick, NJ
Tampa Wedding Photographer – Justin DeMutiis Photography – Tampa, FL
24 Hour Las Vegas Veterinary Emergency Care
Welcome to CS Roofing | Roofing Company, Replacement and Repair
Perspective Consulting – Career & Educational Coaching – Oakdale, MN
Concrete Cutting | Concrete Core Drilling Contractor
Window Cleaning & Pressure Washing | Medford, Ashland, S. Oregon
Tucson’s premier Endodontist Root Canal Specialists
Heaven`s Best Carpet Cleaning – Rug Cleaning in Seattle and Tacoma WA
Family Dentist Wheaton IL | Wheaton Family Dental Care
Car and Truck Repair Springfield, MA – Lyndale Garage Inc.
Viva Day Spa | Austin, TX | Massage, Nails, Facials, Skin Care & Gift Certificates
Boulder Divorce Lawyer & Family Law Attorney | Rick Dyson | Home
Dr. Robert Sarro Dermatology in Boca Raton, FL
Skilled Home Health Care in Dallas and North Texas | September Services
Royal Tuxedo | Austin, San Antonio, Laredo
Elwood’s Tree Service in Salem Oregon
Maternity Clothes, Maternity Wear & More | Motherhood Maternity
Lawn Pride | Your Indianapolis Lawn Care Company
NORTH COAST PAVING | Paving Contractor | Cleveland, Ohio
Plastic Surgery St. Louis | Paul Rottler, MD, FACS
LifeCare Dental 9221 2777 Dentist in Perth Open 7 Days 8am – 8pm
Bill the Dog Walker – Premier Dog Walking Service
Laser Hair Removal San Diego | Botox | Avalon Laser Medical Spa
Ann Arbor Towing | Heavy Duty Towing – Michigan Roadside Assistance
S&S Limousine | Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse NY Limo Service
Aplus Computer Service | 10% OFF Coupon “INTERNET632” 973-483-5359
Hairston Appliances – Appliances, appliance repair and parts – Akron, Ohio
Liberty Tobacco, San Diego’s Destination Cigar Lounge for Cigar and Pipe Smokers
Custom Remodeling in Knoxville | Standard Kitchen & Bath
San Antonio Wedding dresses and bridesmaid gowns – Debi’s Bridal
Granite Fort Lauderdale | Custom Countertops | Marble | Quartz
Savannah’s #1 Fence and Deck Contractor
Dunham Associates CPAs – Certified Public Accountants in San Jose, CA>
Santa Barbara Chimney Cleaning – Montecito Chimney Service

Do you have any very solid examples of title tags?  Leave a comment and let me know!  (Please don’t include a link; just the name of the page.)