When it comes to ranking in Google Maps, there are some key things that you have to get right in order to compete. The reality is, most of the Google local / Google Maps search results are most impactful via Google mobile search. On mobile search results, Google will only show the top 3 local listings. If you are ranked beyond the top 3, then you’ll reach a very small percentage of the overall search market.
Here’s what a typical Google local search result looks like on a mobile phone:
For this highly competitive keyword phrase “atlanta personal injury lawyer”, notice how the top 3 local search results are presented on both desktop and mobile.
If you are ranked below the top 3, you will have a very difficult time capturing any substantive search traffic.
So what are the biggest local SEO mistakes to avoid, and how can this negatively impact your ranking and presence in local search?
Let’s dive in…
4 Local SEO Mistake To Avoid
1) Lack of Volume & Authoritative Citations
A citation is an instance of your local business name, address, phone #, and website (also known as NAP) published on an external website. For example, here’s an instance of local business citation published on Yahoo’s Small Business Directory:
The more citations you have published, and the more domain authority these sites carry, the more potent your citation will be in helping you rank in Google local search.
A citation is a lot like a backlink to a website in that the more backlinks, and more authoritative the backlinks are, the better your website will rank in Google organic search (in summary).
How to build a lot of high quality and relevant citations for your local SEO
To keep things simple, there are a few resources you can leverage to build high quality, authoritative citations to fuel higher rankings in Google Maps.
Here’s a quick list of citation building resources:
Any one of these resources will help you build a strong portfolio of citations for your local business.
Important Local SEO Note: When you add your business information to these resources, it’s important that you match them exactly to your GMB listing (Google My Business listing).
If your citations aren’t an exact match, then you’ll create a large scale volume of inaccurate listings throughout the web.
For example, here’s a Google My Business listing in Google Maps. If this was your business, you would want your business name, address, city, state, zip code, phone #, and website URL to be an EXACT match in your citation distribution platform.
2) Missing Relevant / Authoritative Backlinks
Google Maps / local search rankings are also a function of your website’s overall domain authority.
Domain authority is mostly a function of your backlink portfolio, both the volume and authority of your backlinks.
There are two main tools I use to quickly find the domain authority of a website:
Using the citation distribution tools mentioned above can be a good starting point for building authoritative backlinks.
Although the majority of the backlinks from the end point sites in the sources above are “no-follow” – meaning, they don’t help build domain authority – a few of the sites do actually provide do follow backlinks.
Yext partner sites that offer dofollow backlinks
We’ve actually done some research with Yext where we analyzed their partners that publish citations, and below is a list of websites where the citations are providing dofollow backlinks:
Although this list from Yext might not be exactly accurate whether they do or don’t offer do follow backlinks, the point is that citation distribution services can help you build backlinks from authoritative resources.
Another way to find relevant backlinks is to review your competitors in Moz.
For example, let’s say Leibel Law Offices in metro Atlanta was one of your competitors. You could simply enter their website URL into Moz Open Site Explorer > isolate only the do follow backlinks > and start building your list of target resources from there.
Check this out…
I’ve shared a few different ways you can go about creating authoritative backlinks to your main website.
The point is, when it comes to local SEO and top rankings in Google local / Google Maps search results, you’ll want to have a website with at least the same level of domain authority as your competitors.
The more domain authority your main website carries, the easier it will be to compete in the local / Google Maps search results.
3) Poor SEO Structure on Your Website
Site structure is one of the fundamental principles to getting found in Google search.
And unfortunately, or maybe fortunately for your business, the majority of websites have extremely poor site structure.
You can think of site structure sort of like an organized filing cabinet where folders are organized alphabetically, or by topical categories, and within each category you have files organized by date or name.
A highly structured website for law firm SEO, or the way pages are organized from a navigational perspective, might look something like this:
DUI / DWI
Family / Divorce
This is of course a theoretical law firm website structure, but you get the point.
A highly organized / structured distribution of pages, sub pages, etc… helps to create a high quality site structure within your website.
And the most structured your website, the more Google will perceive your website as being high quality. And in turn, a high quality website will typically rank better in search.
Here’s a mockup of another high quality site structure:
SILOS for high quality site structure
Another key idea in high quality site structures is what’s called SILOS.
Silos represent one of the most powerful strategies in SEO, and not surprisingly, they are the most underutilized.
The simplest way to describe a silo structure is to have a target page, with many supporting pages linking up to the target page.
** Bruce Clay has some great content on silos and website structuring.
For example, let’s say I sell Kobe Bryant basketball sneakers, and I want this page to rank in Google for the most relevant keyword phrases for this product.
I would obviously have my landing page where I sold the sneakers, and this would represent my target page.
But now I need to figure out how to get this page to start competing in Google for my targeted keyword phrases.
And this is where the silo structure comes into play.
I would start by building out 5 pages of content, each talking about a different element of the Kobe Bryant basketball sneakers. I might have one page that talks about Kobe himself and his history. And then another that talks about the styles of sneakers he’s worn over the years, etc…
Each of the sub-topical pages of content would make up the body of the “Kobe Bryant basketball sneaker” silo, and within each of these pages, I would link up to the target page.
What’s interesting with the silo structure is how you do not link down to do the silo / supporting pages from your top level page – you are only linking up from the silo / supporting pages to the target page.
This creates a one-directional linking relationship between the supporting pages and the dominant top level page.
When Google crawls and indexes these sets of pages, the crawlers will see the 5 pages of related content that are all linking up to the top level page, but not from the top level page down to the 5 supporting pages.
This creates buoyancy in the top level page because Google sees the “many to one” relationship in the structure. Meaning, there are many pages that are all linking up to this one page.
To reinforce the silo structure further, I then would link all 5 of the supporting pages together through the use of hyper links with the content.
In the end, you have a top level page that acts as your main landing page for a particular product or service, with many pages linking up to the top level page, and then also linking across to each other.
This internal / cross linking creates a strong association at the topical level, and then by linking up to the top level page, creates buoyancy in your main landing page.
And when I say “buoyancy”, what I mean is strength in the search results in Google.
The stronger your silo structure, and the more definitive your hierarchy, the better you’ll position your top level pages to compete in the search results.
This strategy is critically important for hyper competitive keyword phrase markets. The more competitive your keyword phrases, the more reinforcement you’ll need with silo structures and strength in brand.
Here’s a screenshot of a simple SILO structure within a website architecture:
In summary, a high quality website structure will help you have a more authoritative website.
And the more authoritative your website, the better you’ll rank in Google local / Google Maps search results.
Although SILOS are typically referred to with as an organic SEO strategy, since SILOS can add more structure and authority to your website overall, and since your website is directly tied to your Google My Business listing, SILOS can definitely play a role in Local SEO.
4) Missing Schema Language
The final local SEO mistake I’ll discuss that, if missing, can have a dramatic negative impact on your local rankings, is the use (or lack thereof) of Schema language.
Schema language is a structural protocol adopted by Google, Yahoo, & Bing with the purpose of making it easier to determine certain datasets within web pages. I like to refer to Schema language as direct data that enhances key data sets within web pages. Direct data is particularly relevant when it comes to local SEO.
You can view the full hierarchy of Schemas, or direct data sets, here. There’s even a new paradigm of Schemas called autosthat are designed specifically for modes of transportation.
The point in leveraging Schema language, or direct data sets, is they dramatically enhance the authority of your webpages within your local market. Sticking with the 80/20 rule described above, the majority of local businesses (the 80th percentile or more) have no idea what Schema language means.
And to be honest, based on my own conversations, most have never even heard of the term.
This means, if your business website leverages Schema language for key direct data sets, you would be in the minority (the 20th percentile) and your website would be exponentially more authoritative in your local market.
And since Google considers both your business website and your Google business page in determining local search results, this is a key strategy to understand.
Here’s an example of Schema language code
You can go ahead and use the Schema language below, just replace the attributes for each with your own business information.
The advantage to leveraging Schema language for your local SEO strategy is that relatively few, if any, of your competitors are using it.
So if you implement Schema language into your website, you could quickly give your business a competitive edge in the local search results.
Of course, your rankings wouldn’t be 100% driven by Schema language, but it is something you can do to gain a competitive edge.
Summary of local SEO mistakes that can sink your Google Maps rankings
Local SEO is made up of a lot of components. Here at Bipper Media we have a checklist of approximately 20 items that we use for all of our local SEO client campaigns. But when it comes to local SEO, the 4 mistakes I highlighted above can carry a substantial amount of negative weight if neglected.
On the other hand, if you implement these 4 elements into your local SEO campaign, you can quickly give your local business competitive edge in Google Maps rankings.