As search engines get smarter and more capable of delivering web users the webpages they want and need, local SEO rises in priority for small business marketing teams. Local SEO involves optimizing webpages for searches with local intent, meaning web searches by local users looking for products or services from local providers. When small businesses master local SEO, their engagement with their local community skyrockets — but local SEO is more difficult than many small business leaders expect.

Unfortunately, it is possible to make mistakes that can irrevocably damage a small business’s ability to reach local search users. Here are a few of the worst local SEO mistakes and how to avoid them to achieve local SEO success.

Local SEO Mistakes

Stuffing Keywords

The importance of including popular search terms as keywords in web page content is one of the most well-understood components of SEO strategy. Search engines return results to web users based on relevancy, and the appearance of search terms as keywords certainly demonstrates a web page’s relevancy. However, search engines are also aware that websites can manipulate search results using keywords, so they go out of their way to punish web pages that overuse keywords with lower rankings or, occasionally, removal from the search index. Unfortunately, including enough keywords to appear relevant without falling into keyword stuffing territory is a difficult path for non-SEO experts to tread, and often small, local businesses are penalized for keyword stuffing without realizing it.

Maintaining Poor Technical SEO

High-quality websites are appreciated by web users and search engines alike, and typically, quite a bit of technical work goes into building and maintaining a website to a high standard. Small businesses need to be sure that their internal links are sound, that pages load correctly and quickly, that images appear as they should, that content is not duplicated and that the site is properly secure against various online threats. While technical SEO might be simple for a white label local SEO agency to manage, it is often beyond the scope of a small business’s in-house team, and issues with technical SEO will certainly result in a lower search ranking.

Ignoring Negative Reviews

All small business leaders should understand the value of good reviews as well as the danger of bad reviews, which is why all small business leaders should be working tirelessly to provide customer service that results in good comments and ratings online. However, every business will receive the odd low rating — and both web users and search engines are watching to see how a business will respond. While it might be tempting to avoid interacting with poor reviews in the hopes that other potential customers don’t see them, a much better strategy is to respond to the reviewer and strive to right whatever wrong they experienced. Search engines will favor businesses that are active and engaged with their audience, and negative reviews can hold more weight in rankings than positive ones.

Lacking Essential Information

Most web users engaged in local searches are looking for specific information about the businesses they find, such as where that business is located, what kinds of products they have available, how customers can get in contact with the business and more. Search engines also look for these details, often to pull out and display in side panels and other useful features on their search results pages. If a search engine cannot find essential information about a business, it is unlikely that a web user will be able to, either, which will result in a much lower ranking in the results.

Failing to Optimize for Mobile

Radically more web traffic comes from mobile devices than traditional computers, and local searches in particular are more likely to come from a mobile device. Thus, it is imperative that small businesses optimize their web pages for use on mobile screens. Mobile optimization can be more intensive than many small businesses expect, and it is best to use the services of a digital marketing company or an experienced mobile web developer, either of which may help integrate dynamic web page design and reformat web pages to be more accessible for mobile visitors. Because so many mobile users are engaged in local searches, small businesses that fail to make these updates are almost certain to appear much lower in the search rankings.