Why Your Local SEO Idea is Bad
You can’t believe everything you read on the internet these days. In fact, you probably shouldn’t believe 90% of it. Everyone has a get-rich-quick scheme, the biggest news story or a way to lose 50 pounds that will make gym owners hate you. Local SEO is no different than any other industry in that there are plenty of untrue rumors and downright lies. Here are some of the local SEO ideas that we often see that are just plain wrong.
A lot of these rules are about respecting mother Google. If Google advises against something, then there is probably a reason, and if you do not heed the warning you will find yourself with a ranking penalty.
1. Creating Google My Business listings at ineligible addresses
If your office is in Tulsa, OK, but you also want to service install solar for Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City, you need to rank your website in both locations. Incredibly, even in 2018 the Google Local Pack is heavily influenced by how close your office is to the searcher. We’ve talked about this before but it is clear that people don’t care if an HVAC contractor is 2 miles closer to their house, they care about quality work and friendly service.
So the first reaction to trying to rank in a system that rewards office locations, is to put up another Google My Business page in the desired city, even if you don’t have an office there. It is an extremely common SEO practice to create multiple GMB pages for a single business labeled “Dave’s Solar - Tulsa,” “Dave’s Solar - OKC,” “Dave’s Solar - Lawton.” This strategy might work for a few weeks, but the strong arm of Google will come down quickly.
Who is really going to check if your business is actually located at 100 MakeBelieve Avenue, Oklahoma City?
The answer is Google will be checking. Google’s rules state that your page must be “created at your actual, real-world location...Service-area businesses—businesses that serve customers at their locations—should have one page for the central office or location and designate a service area from that point.”
*I should also note that PO Boxes are not acceptable, so don’t even try it.
2. Sharing phone numbers between multiple entities
“Our insulation company has three locations in the state, but we want all the calls to go through one number to our corporate office. That’s where our customer service reps are.”
This is a common problem for multilocation businesses. Unfortunately, we have another Google guideline that contradicts this strategy.
“Provide a phone number that connects to your individual business location as directly as possible, and provide one website that represents your individual business location.”
So if you have a few locations but only one phone number, it is best to find a workaround because Google doesn't respect multiple locations with one phone number. Again this is not the perfect measure of which home performance company is the best; it is only a measure to stop companies from spamming with different GMB pages all leading to one phone number.
If you relate to this problem and there is no chance that you can employ phone operators at every location, then luckily there is a solution. Creating simple tracking numbers with a service like CallRail can give you multiple numbers that lead to the same place. BUT, you must be careful with this and make sure that every online listing for each location has the corresponding phone number. If you start switching up your phone numbers Google is going to get suspicious and it will put your rankings at risk.
3. Keyword stuffing GMB listing names
Keyword stuffing is so 2000 and late. Jamming keywords into your Google My Business profile name is another strategy that works for like a week, but then will fall flat. Your business name should be exactly how it appears on the checks you write or at least the same as how you represent yourself everywhere on the internet.
You will see the occasional business that is ranking with this technique. The image below shows an example of a company who has chosen the name El Cerrito Heating, while this is probably a common search term, making it your GMB name will not help your rankings long term - and they are currently losing out to our good friends at Hassler Heating.
Not only does this not help your brand, because your brand is hidden behind all the keywords, it is also against Google’s rules on GMB names. Even though Google is not super strict about taking down these profiles, do everyone a favor, including yourself and use your actual name in your Google profile.
4. Creating a multi-site mess
You’d like to rank for 15 local towns for each of your services. So why not put up 15 different websites? BangorHVAC.com, AugustaHVAC.com, PortlandHVAC.com, etc. There are many reasons that this is not going to work.
The first to consider is how much work it is going to be to manage multiples sites. Most likely, if you are managing your own online marketing and website, you are barely finding the time to manage a single site. Now imagine you have another 14 sites to keep on top of — sounds exhausting and will definitely get sloppy.
Another reason to avoid the trap of multiple sites is simply that it doesn’t work for rankings. Google respects deep sites with great content that people like to visit. Multiple sites usually end up being low on backlinks, weak on content and in some cases, full of duplicate text. Multiple site creation is expensive and ineffective. If you are going to try it, be ready to employ a full marketing budget on each one of your different sites.
Quality SEO Advice
Great advice is tough to come by. Rooting through the local SEO articles online to find the truth can be difficult. It is best to find articles based on results and analytics from people who write about the subject a lot.
Most likely, if you have an idea to cheat the system, someone has already tried it before and has written about it. So do your research, don’t try anything shady and keep your NAP consistent!