In the digital age, ranking in local search results is essential for businesses that want to remain competitive within their area. Although some business owners rely on word of mouth and vibrant signage to catch the attention of new customers, more have realized the massive benefits that local SEO provides as a marketing strategy.

Despite their knowledge, many business owners are currently making critical mistakes in the midst of their efforts to improve local SEO rankings.

Check out some of the biggest errors business owners are making in regards to local SEO, as well as ways to fix them.

1. Not Prioritizing Ratings and Reviews

Ratings and reviews play a larger role in the success of local businesses than ever before. Potential customers and search engines alike rely on ratings and reviews as valuable social signals when deciding on which businesses to prioritize in local searches, so it’s essential that your business has them.

As the world becomes increasingly digital, more people are turning to the internet for their information. A recent Forbes article confirmed this, noting that 90% of customers read online reviews before visiting a business, 84% trust reviews as much as a personal recommendation, and 67% of purchasing decisions are affected by online reviews. The only way for businesses to remain competitive in the digital age is to maintain a positive online reputation, with positive reviews on platforms such as Google My Business, Yelp, and Facebook.

How to Fix It:

Online reputation management goes beyond just getting positive reviews posted; it also means responding to and addressing negative reviews that customers may leave. Google prefers to list businesses that actively engage with their customers and only recommends businesses that are going to give the highest quality customer experience. Be sure to direct customers to your review pages and stay diligent with responding quickly to the reviews that they leave.

2. No Local Directory Listings

When it comes to increasing the visibility of your business locally, local directory listings are a vital tool. Aggregating businesses from numerous industries and putting them all in one easily accessible place, directory listings providing searchers are credible resources that give consumers easy access to the best businesses in every niche.

Furthermore, directory listings help your business because they give your business mentions in other places online, which Google pays close attention to when crawling the web. Having your business name, website, and phone number listed on multiple credible sites associated with your region shows Google that your business is legitimate and a viable option for consumers in the area.

How to Fix It:

To increase your brand’s visibility, be sure to search for local directories specific to your niche, and get listed in popular directories with influence, such as local chambers of commerce, Yellow Pages, the Better Business Bureau, and more.

3. Non-User-Friendly Website

With so many customers accessing businesses solely from the digital space, it goes without saying that a successful business needs a powerful website. But a great website requires more than a bunch of images and some nice copy; it must be optimized to the fullest extent possible, meaning it’s mobile-friendly, responsive, and quick to load. If a business’ website lacks these qualities, it’s highly unlikely that Google will recommend it for users.

Google only wants the best for its users, which is why it only prioritizes websites that cater to them. Websites that are slow, non-functional, and difficult to navigate frustrate users and provide a low-quality experience, which takes away from Google’s overall mission. Over 50% of users abandon sites that take more than 3 seconds to load, and over 60% of users access the internet via mobile devices, which means websites that load slowly or don’t adjust to mobile format have a much lower chance of ranking in search engines. Nearly half of all Google searches are solely for local information and 88% of those searches are from mobile devices, which means mobile-friendly optimization isn’t a suggestion—it’s a requirement.

How to Fix It:

Selecting a design layout that adjusts to mobile is one of the first things business owners can do to optimize their site. Once that’s taken care of, using a tool like Google’s Page Speed Insights can help you figure out how quickly your site loads and what can be done to make it load faster. Optimize the site’s copy and images for scannability as one of the final steps to creating a user-friendly site.

4. No New Content

Original content is key to maintaining high rankings online. Fresh content on a website not only gives you a better shot at ranking for essential keywords, it also signals to Google that a business is alive, active, and cares about providing new, relevant information for its customers.

Content is a valuable tool for building trust and brand affinity with customers. A recent study showed that customers were 131% more likely to make a purchase from brands that educated them with informative content about the product or service being offered. Aside from its educational aspect, content marketing campaigns around targeted keywords help businesses compete locally against other businesses that may be ranking higher for the same search terms. It doesn’t happen overnight, but a site with enough pages of relevant information about its niche, products, or services will begin to crawl up the local rankings.

How to Fix It:

Developing an original content strategy that fits your industry, niche, and business is the first step to producing more onsite content. Doing keyword research to find out which keywords are being searched most frequently by your consumer base can help you figure out what your blog and social media posts should be about. However, your content shouldn’t just be random posts that are stuffed with spammy language. Implement a strategy that adds value and answers specific queries customers frequently ask.

Improve Your Local Marketing Strategy

For organizations that earn most of their business locally, improving your local rankings is a must. Improving your brand’s digital presence takes time, but the rewards are plentiful once you begin ranking. Do what you can today to optimize your site for local rankings.