Local SEO has become more complicated for small business owners, and when rankings deteriorate, it can have disastrous effects on a business. Is it Panda, Penguin, or Hummingbird that is causing your local listings on Google to suffer? It can be any of the above, but usually it is something much simpler. I would recommend that everyone check the issues below before assuming the problem is a more complicated issue.
1. Check for a Bug on Google
Google may be the most powerful business in America, but they are not perfect. To find out if your problem is an error or bug in the Google system, go to the Google and Your Business Forum. Search for the problem in the search box. Review the search threads to see if anyone else is experiencing the same problem. Google will often comment on these threads with their position on the issue.
2. Check your NAP (Name, Address, and Phone Number)
This is one of the most common issues with local SEO. NAP is the acronym for your business name, address, and phone number, and it represents a huge ranking factor on Google for local SEO. Google spiders not just your Google+ Local page and the website it links to, but also the whole Internet and the citation sites that list your company data. Consistent presentation of your data in your citations is vital to successful local placement. The following may be a factor:
- Lack of suite number on some citations, but not others
- Differences in the business name
- Different phone numbers
- Citations pointing to more than one website for the business
These kinds of NAP issues can cause Google to lose trust in the data they’ve accumulated about your business and create ranking problems. A free tool at GetListed.org allows you to plug in your business name and zip code in order to receive data about your local listings on core directories. This is an excellent place to start your citation audit, though it searches a limited number of citation sites, so a more thorough search may be necessary to correct NAP issues.
For manual NAP audits, simply create a spreadsheet and perform Google searches for the following:
- Your complete business name
- Your partial business name or any variants you have ever used
- Your street address, including old addresses if you have moved within the past decade
- If you have a suite number, search for your address both with and without it
- Your phone number, including old phone numbers you may have used in the past decade
Input the listing details and URL in the spreadsheet of each citation you find. Review the spreadsheet to check for NAP inconsistencies, then track your progress on the document as you make efforts to clean up any problematic local listings. This process will be time-consuming and requires periodic checks to ensure that no new issues come up. Be especially careful of sites like yellowpages.com which may use an outdated database to upload information that is incorrect.
3. Remove Duplicate Listings
During the aforementioned business searches from the last point, it’s also important to look for duplicate listings.
If any of your searches brings up more than one listing in the left-hand column of the page beside the large map, then you are dealing with a duplicate. Be sure you are clicking the link at the bottom of the results to “view all listings” if it’s visible with your search results.
If a duplicate listing exists in your dashboard, delete it via the dashboard. This should remove it from the local search results and prevent its reappearance.
4. Review the On-Page Quality of Your Website
The on-page quality of your website is a major determinate in local rankings. Creating compelling, fresh, and relevant content with a good user experience is vital. Google Webmaster Tools can help you to evaluate the value of that site. Moz.com and Hubspot.com have tools that can help to evaluate your content and local SEO professionals like Zenergy Works are a reliable source of information in identifying problems and improving website on-page quality.
Bottom Line: These are not all of the factors that can lead to local SEO placement issues. Problems with Google Algorithm changes like Penguin (link structure), Panda (content and user experience), and Hummingbird (user experience) can also create issues. Frankly, most of these problems are beyond the scope of the average small business owner. Hire an SEO professional who can explain to you in easy-to-understand terms what the problems are and how they can be remedied.