What NOT To Do If You Want Your Business to Be Found Online in Cumbria (or any other place!)
Usually I try to push the positive when encouraging business owners to boost their businesses’ visibility online. There are well documented techniques in local search marketing to improve your visibility to your next best customer. What’s less well understood is the fact that; even though boosting your marketing effectiveness through search engine optimisation is “easier” for local businesses than for those operating UK wide; it’s also much easier to mess things up and kill off your visibility.
Here are the current “dirtiest dozen” things not to do or habits not to slip into! These have been collated from the experiences of some people who run pretty big agencies with a lot of locally focused clients. Some of these seem pretty innocuous but will really undermine search engine trust in a local business if you don’t nip them in the bud! Once you lose that trust from the robots you will fade from view and your competitors will pick up the punter! So if you want to reap the benefits of being the obvious online answer then read on!
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The Dirty Dozen of Local Search Marketing to Avoid
Incorrect Business Category
This is the worst visibility killer! It surprises most people that this can make such a difference. Yet if you don’t manage to find the right category in your Google My Business (GMB) listing (from Google’s pretty limited and still very US orientated list of categories) you won’t be showing up in very many customers’ search results. A great resource for tracking down the right categories for your listing is Mike Blumenthal’s category hunter for Google UK categories here: http://ow.ly/ZZszl (updated January 2016).
To achieve good results in your local search marketing efforts, getting your Google categories right is pretty critical. But Google isn’t the only listing you need to take note of! Yelp, Yell, 192.com, 118118 and all the other well known business citation sources also work on categories… and they don’t always tie in very well with Google’s categories. Tracking down the right category on each important listing can be one of the more time consuming parts of creating a good consistent set of citations. Bear in mind that there are at least 50 listing services that could be relevant to your business and potentially a hundred more citation sources that would be worth tracking down! However it is worth making the effort to pin down the most consistent categories for your business. If there’s one thing that is important in local online marketing, especially if you’ve got any thoughtful competition, it’s consistency and correct categories!
Listing At A False Business Address! (You’re Kidding Me?)
There are still people who think it’s a smart move to list their business somewhere that’s got no connection to their activities. I’m working with a client now who has become a bit of a nomad and is still receiving his mail at the previous address in the Eden Valley and starting a lot of work from there, but he’s right on the borderline of a potential kick in the nuts from Google! If you don’t have people coming to your office, you should list your business as a service area business and opt for its address not to be shown. This will suppress your visibility on Google Maps but won’t penalise the rest of your search work.
Mis-matching NAP + W Data & Different Tracking Phone Numbers on Different Listings For the Same Business
This is a classic visibility killer. In order to track where leads are coming from, many companies put different virtual phone numbers on their offers and landing pages. If you are a multi location business – say like Routledge’s the Bakers in Carlisle; this could really hurt you unless those phone numbers refer to separate shops and each has a separate GMB listing and a separate landing page on the website. Remember: all of the search engines depend on consistent information for each business location. There aren’t many examples in Cumbria and I couldn’t track a good example down for this article.
Malware On Your Website!!!
How often do you check your website for malware? Not very often I suspect! The only time most smaller businesses even think about the possibility and consequences of a malware infection are when the hosting company contacts them to tell them that the website has been taken down to avoid spreading malware- suddenly your website is completely invisible and its reputation has also taken a battering with search engines and potentially… customers with infected websites: who are mad at you for being the source! There are some tools provided by hosting companies but in general they aren’t hat pro-active – especially on cheap hosting.
More independent solutions include Sucuri and Code Guard which are excellent for the growing numbers of WordPress websites out there. Elegant Themes’ blog has an excellent security round up for WordPress users here. Sucuri isn’t just limited to WordPress either – it will handle almost any platform. Another free option is Quttera http://ow.ly/ZZvS0
Problem Reports to Google About Your GMB Listing
Even with a genuine listing if someone reports a problem such as turning up at the address and not being able to get service or a response at the stated opening times, the outcome is less positive. Negative reports do hurt your business – even in a low competition environment like Cumbria.
Mis-matching NAP or Tracking Phone Number on the GMB Landing Page
At first glance this looks like the 3rd negative ranking factor, but it’s subtly different and not quite so damaging. If you’ve got a GMB listing for a premises and a proper landing page for that particular premises/shop /office in your “chain”; then you need to make sure that the NAP + W data matches… it’s the consistency mantra again!
Mis-matching Address on the GMB Landing Page
Sometimes it’s just the address that is written differently – either through a typographical mistake or because the staff member accidently put the main office address down for the shop on the edge of town. Whatever the reason – try to keep each premise’s information consistent!
Presence of Multiple GMB locations with Same Phone Number
In Google’s terms and conditions, it is pretty clearly stated that a business location only qualifies for a GMB listing if it is a separate place with an individual address, phone number and it’s real enough for someone to knock on the door and walk in! If you’ve got a series of shops in different places and they all use the same phone number, it implies that there’s no-one there to answer the phone! This reduces the value of the listing and can squeeze your visibility harder. It’s not a complete visibility killer if competition is low as it tends to be in Carlisle.
A good example of a company not being hurt too badly by this, whom I noticed as I was fact checking this article, is Armstrong Watsons Accountants which has at least 3 locations in the city with the same phone number and what appears at first glance to be 3 separate GMB listings for them. As not many businesses in Carlisle pay a huge deal of attention to their listings after they are put up, the company’s visibility hasn’t been hurt too much. But, if the accountancy firms in Carlisle find themselves having to fight a bit harder for clients in the future, this is one of the ranking factors that could catch them out in future (if the local algorithm remains as it is of course)!
No Crawlable NAP Data on The Main Website
Many web designers would include the essential NAP data about the business in a graphic for the sake of appearance. Unfortunately search engines can’t read pictures yet – even when they’ve got text plastered across them. When you get your next website built, make sure that the designer understands the importance of including the NAP data as readable text for the search robots to chew over and index properly! Ideally this should include the phone number quite boldly near the top and certainly “above the fold”!
Address Includes A Suite Number That’s Similar to a UPS Mail Store or Amazon Collection point
If your address is not real and looks anything like a drop point address, you are storing up trouble for the future. Real addresses only! There’s nothing wrong with using a Suite number as part of your address when you are based in a serviced office arrangement with several diverse businesses in the same building. Within the local search and marketing field, it’s a standard method for differentiating the various enterprises in the same building. it hasn’t caught on that strongly here in the UK yet but in the USA it’s almost standard practise according to the people I follow.
Association of Your GMB Account With Other Suppressed Listings
If you’ve ever been penalised on other listing services, this can affect your local GMB listing too. The moral is to behave nicely on all the platforms you list yourself on!
Incorrectly-placed map marker in GMB
You know this is a no-brainer! Make the effort to get your pin marker on the map pinned to the right spot where your business actually exists. You don’t want a customer being led to the wrong spot when they look for you on their mobile or Sat Nav! My brother’s plumbing business in Andover was blighted for months by a sassy rival plonking the marker, for a non existent saddlery business firmly on top of his house, where the plumbing business was based. It took an address search in Google to show up the false listing in the wrong location which was constantly pushing my brother’s marker into the main town. An early example of negative SEO in action!
If you take your website at all seriously, as a marketing tool, then you need to make sure you aren’t committing any of these dozen deadly sins of local visibility! Check that everything listed above has been attended to, then take the advice of the points raised in the very informative Local Ranking Factors Survey 2015 to positively boost your prominence to the clients you need… to find you!
Not sure how visible you are? You could always get a quick check of your visibility by using our convenient Local visibility scoring tool to give you an insight into how easy it is for your potential customers to find you!