The 9 Most Common Local SEO Myths, Dispelled

I regularly hear things in the Local SEO world that many people believe, but which are completely false. I wanted to put some of these myths to rest by listing out the top 9 Local SEO myths that I run into most frequently.

1. Deleting your listing in Google My Business actually removes the listing from Google.

Business owners will often question how they can get rid of duplicate listings on Google. One of the more common things people try is claiming the duplicate and then deleting it from the Google My Business Dashboard. When you go to delete a listing, you receive a scary message asking if you’re sure you want to do this:
The truth is, removing a listing from Google My Business (GMB) just makes the listing unverified. It still exists on Google Maps and will often still rank, provided you didn’t clear out all the categories/details before you deleted it. The only time you’d really want to delete a listing via GMB is if you no longer want to manage the listing.

Google confirms this in their help center article:

When you delete a local page, the corresponding listing will be unverified and you will no longer be able to manage it. Google may still retain business information from the page and may continue to show information about the business on Maps, Search, and other Google properties, including marking the business as permanently closed, moved, or open, depending on the information that’s known about the business.

2. Failure to claim your page means your business won’t rank anywhere.

I’m sure most of you have received those annoying phone calls that say: “Your business is not currently verified and will vanish on Google unless you claim it now!”

First of all, consider the authority of the people who are calling you. I can say with certainty they are not experts in this industry, or they wouldn’t resort to robo-calling to make sales.

The Moz Local Search Ranking Factors does list verifying your listing as #13 for making an impact on ranking in the 3-pack, but this is often because business owners add more data to the listing when they verify it. If they left the listing exactly how it was before verifying, the verification “status” would not likely impact the ranking much at all. We often see unverified pages outranking verified ones in really competitive markets.

3. “Professional/Practitioner” listings on Google are considered duplicates and can be removed.

Google often creates listings for the actual public-facing professionals in an office (lawyers, doctors, dentists, realtors, etc), and the owner of the practice usually wants them to disappear. Google will get rid of the listing for the professional in two different cases:

a) The professional is not public-facing. Support staff, like hygienists or paralegals for example, don’t qualify for a listing and Google will remove them if they exist.

b) The business only has one public-facing individual. For example, if you have a law firm with only one lawyer, Google considers this to be a “Solo Practitioner” and will merge the listing for the professional with the listing for the office. Their guidelines state to “create a single page, named using the following format: [brand/company]: [practitioner name].”

In the case that the professional has left your office, you can have the listing marked as moved if the professional has retired or is no longer working in the industry. This will cause it to vanish from the search results, but it will still exist in Google’s back-end. If the professional has moved to a different company, you should have them claim the listing and update the address/phone number to list their new contact information.

4. Posting on G+ helps improve your ranking.

Phil Rozek explains this best: “It’s nearly impossible for people to see your Google+ posts unless they search for your business by name. Google doesn’t include a link to your ‘Plus’ page in the local pack. Google doesn’t even call it a ‘Plus’ page anymore. Do you still believe being active on Google+ is a local ranking factor?”

No, posting on G+ will not cause your ranking to skyrocket, despite what the Google My Business phone support team told you.

5. “Maps SEO” is something that can be effectively worked on separately from “Organic SEO.”

I often get small business owners calling me saying something along the lines of this: “Hey, Joy. I have an SEO company and they’re doing an awesome job with my site organically, but I don’t show up anywhere in the local pack. Can I hire you to do Google Maps optimization and have them do Organic SEO?”

My answer is, generally, no. “Maps Optimization” is not a thing that can be separated from organic. At Local U in Williamsburg, Mike Ramsey shared that 75% of ranking local listings also rank organically on the first page. The two are directly connected — a change that you make to your site can have a huge influence on where you rank locally.

If you’re a local business, it’s in your better interests to have an SEO company that understands Google Maps and how the 3-pack works. At the company I work for, we’ve always made it a goal to get the business ranked both organically and locally, since it’s almost impossible to get in the 3-pack without a strong organic ranking and a website with strong local signals.

6. Google employees are the highest authority on which ranking signals you should pay attention to.

Google employees are great; I love reading what they come out with and the insight they provide. However, as David Mihm pointed out at Local U, those employees have absolutely no incentive to divulge any top-secret tips for getting your website to rank well. Here are some recent examples of advice given from Google employees that should be ignored:

  1. Duplicate listings will fix themselves over time.
  2. Posting on Google+ will help your ranking (advice given from phone support reps).
  3. If you want to rank well in the 3-pack, just alter your business description.

Instead of trusting this advice, I always suggest that people make sure what they’re doing matches up with what the pros are saying in big surveys and case studies.

7. Setting a huge service area means you’ll rank in all kinds of additional towns.

Google allows service-area businesses to set a radius around their business address to demonstrate how far they’re willing to travel to the customer. People often set this radius really large because they believe it will help them rank in more towns. It doesn’t. You will still most likely only rank in the town you’re using for your business address.

8. When your business relocates, you want to mark the listing for the old location as closed.

The Google My Business & Google MapMaker rules don’t agree on this one. Anyone on the Google MapMaker side would tell a business to mark a listing as “closed” when they move. This will cause a business listing to have a big, ugly, red “permanently closed” label when anyone searches your business name.

If your listing is verified through Google My Business, all you need to do is edit the address inside your dashboard when you move. If there’s an unverified duplicate listing that exists at your old address, you want to make sure you get it marked as “Moved.”

9. Google displays whatever is listed in your GMB dashboard.

Google gives business owners the ability to edit information on their listing by verifying it via Google My Business. However, whatever data the owner inputs is just one of many sources that Google will get information from. Google updates verified listings all the time by scraping data from the business website, inputs from edits made on Google Maps/MapMaker, and third-party data sources. A recent case I’ve seen is one where Google repeatedly updated an owner-verified listing with incorrect business hours due to not being able to properly read the business hours listed on their website.


Marketing and Productivity Hacks for the Digital World

Technology is the cornerstone of the future. We continue to think of its effects on the future of search, marketing, and even our own productivity. The digital marketing world needs to prepare for how technology will affect us in the future.

Here are some clever hacks to prepare your marketing efforts for what’s to come and boost your productivity in today’s digital world.

How Disruptive Marketing Will Affect the Future of Search

At Pubcon 2016 in Las Vegas, SEJ Executive Editor Kelsey Jones sat down with Geoffrey Colon, Communications Director at Microsoft, to talk about disruptive marketing and the ways it will affect search in the future.

Here Are Some Key Takeaways from His Interview:

  • Conventional practices don’t work as well now because of the abundance of solutions. It’s harder to find information since there’s so much information available through search and social media. Disruptive marketing involves thinking differently about how people discover you. A lot of that ties into company culture and corporate social responsibility. It’s not what you do but why you do it.
  • Look at search not only as another advertising channel, but also as an intent channel where you can find out what people are looking for. Use this to your advantage and figure out what trends may be bubbling to the surface.
  • Voice search hasn’t been monetized yet, but will be in the future. To prepare for the emergence of voice search, start to think about what phrases people would say and what phrases we would purchase more than what keywords we can buy. We’re going to learn a lot from that.
  • Searching by emojis is now possible. Emojis are static for now, but they can be dynamic in the future. They can be programmed to speak or become bots in some respect. Emojis will continue to evolve.
  • AI is disruptive and will have a huge impact on search. They can be your personal assistants in the near future, so instead of doing the search yourself, AI will do the search for you based on your habits and what you have previously searched for.

For more information on disruptive marketing techniques such as AI and voice search, explore the following resources:

  • Using Voice Search & AI for Content Marketing: An Interview With Purna Virji
  • Voice Technology and the Evolution of Search
  • Don’t Ignore Voice Search in Your SEO

Simple and Effective Ways to Do a Daily Digital Detox

In this interview at Pubcon 2016 in Las Vegas, Lisa Buyer, author and owner of The Buyer Group, shares a few tips on how we can detoxify our digital lives.

Here Are Some Key Takeaways from the Interview:

  • Start each day with an intention and a focus. The mindfulness concept is getting us to be present in the moment. Doing yoga and practicing meditation can help us be mindful. An app like Buddhify can also help with modern-day mindfulness. It has a slot called work break where you can pick a track and listen to it for five minutes.
  • Email apnea is when you tend to hold your breath while reading email. Do deep breathing during the day while working. Breathe and be aware of your breathing.
  • Statistics show that your morning time is typically your most productive and creative. A short workout in the morning would be good, but taking breaks during the day would be even better. That way, you’re getting a spurt of freshness during the day. Look into segmenting things and working in time blocks. A two-hour time block is the sweet spot because you reach the peak of your momentum in two hours. Take a five, ten or 15-minute break after that.
  • Most of the time, we’re consumed by our screens and we’re always sitting. Movement is good and walking is a great way to stay active. Also, think of your posture while sitting.




Google Says it is Now OK to Put Content Behind Tabs

In today’s mobile-first world, content hidden behind tabs for user experience purposes will now be given full weight by Google’s search engine crawlers.

This news comes courtesy of Google’s Gary Ilyes after a question about the subject was asked to him on Twitter:

Kristine Schachinger @schachin

@methode on desktop content in page elements like accordions is devalued or not indexed. Is this the same when crawling mobile content?


Gary Illyes ᕕ( ᐛ )ᕗ


@schachin no, in the mobile-first world content hidden for ux should have full weight



It sounds like that means we can disregard the knowledge previously thought to be true when Google’s John Mueller stated crawlers may “actively ignore” content that is “hidden”:

“From our point of view, it’s always a tricky problem when we send a user to a page where we know this content is actually hidden. Because the user will see perhaps the content in the snippet, they’ll click through the page, and say, well, I don’t see where this information is on this page. I feel kind of almost misled to click on this to actually get in there. So that’s…the problem that we’re seeing. …we’ve gone a little bit further now to actively ignore the information that’s not directly visible. So if you want that content really indexed, I’d make sure it’s visible for the users when they go to that page.”

So, there you have it. Time to update your technical audits, checklists, and so on. Click-to-expand content, and content hidden behind tabs, are not negative SEO factors anymore.


Getting Local Store Locator SEO Right

Right now, a customer is trying to find your local business. How quickly are you delivering the NAP, directions and other details he needs, on the go? See how accurate your listing information is right now.

Volumes of excellent free advice have been written for small businesses about creating quality, optimized local landing pages, but today, I’d like to talk about a topic that has received much less attention: helping customers discover locations when you’ve got a ton of them. This article is for the medium-to-large business with 50, 1,000, even 10,000 physical locations and a pressing goal to have each one be found by the customers local to it. Let’s talk about store locators!

Shopping wisely for store locators

A business with 5 or even 10 locations can easily work them into a menu tab labeled ‘Locations’ and trust that customers hitting the site will be able to click to their landing page of choice to access NAP, hours of operation, photos, reviews, etc. But when your company has grown beyond this, it simply isn’t practical to list dozens of locales in your top level navigation, whether on desktop or mobile devices. The solution, then, is a store locator widget that enables customers to enter a city and/or zip code, or click on an interactive map, to be guided to the right resource.

There are six main things you are looking for when assessing the quality of a store locator widget:

  1. Does it let me build and/or link directly to a customizable, permanent landing page for each of my locations? If so, this is a good sign. If not, your SEO opportunities will be severely limited.
  2. Does it allow me to search by city as well as zip code? If not, then you’ll have a problem with all travelers who may be trying to find your business in a strange city and have no idea what the local zip codes are.
  3. Does it work properly on all devices? This is must these days, given that as many as 50% of mobile queries may have a local intent.
  4. It’s a must that the widget will work with your existing website, whether that’s running on WordPress, Magento, Demandware, or what have you. You don’t want to have to redevelop your website, just to get your widget to function.
  5. A bonus to look for would be automatic geolocation detection — the ability of the widget to detect where a customer is searching from. This provides convenience.
  6. And, finally, there may be extra features you’d like to have to ensure the best possible experience for both users and your business. This might include search text autocompletion, the ability to sync with a database to upload location data, or search filters that allow users to refine results based on personal criteria.

Keep all of these necessary and optional features in mind when evaluating Store Locator widget choices. Capterra has recently done a good job of profiling a number of popular options which should help you hone in on the right solution for your company.

Pricing varies widely, from free to upwards of a $1,000 initial investment with reduced rates for subsequent years of service. WordPress offers a number of free and premium store locator plugins with varying degrees of popularity. For any paid product, I recommend choosing only those which offer a free trial period of at least 1–2 weeks so that you can be sure the solution works for you.

Weak landing pages? Weirdly, not a big worry!

I’m now going to write something kind of shocking you thought never thought you’d read on the Moz Blog: you can evidently get away with thin and duplicate content on location landing pages — if your brand is established enough.

I’m writing this because, having looked at a considerable number of live store locators while researching this article, I found landing pages like this one with next to zero content on them, landing pages like this one with a very meager attempt at content that is observably duplicative, and landing pages like this one with some duplicate content, but also, some added value for local users. Not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings, but, with the exception of the last example, the sheer volume of locations operated by these companies has likely caused their marketers to settle on the most minimal effort possible to differentiate between landing pages. The last of these (REI) has actually done a good job of adding interest to their pages by including a regional event schedule. I like what they’ve done, but is it necessary?

The answer may surprise you

In a word: no. Google is correctly finding for me each of these businesses in the right cities, both organically and locally, when I search for them. While I would never advise a small business to take a least-effort approach with their store landing pages, it’s my conclusion from my research that established brands can get away with a great deal, simply because they are established. It seems you can get the right data in front of the customer with a very minor effort, and that the minimum requirements for data on those pages would be that they have correct company NAP on them and are indexable.

Am I handing out a lazy pass for all?

Are lax standards a good reason to go with the minimum effort and call it a day? In another word: maybe. The investment you make in landing page development for your brand is going to be dictated by:

  • Funding
  • Scalability
  • Creativity
  • Competition

If funding is modest, you may need to spend elsewhere in your marketing for now. If you have hundreds of locations, the cost of going the extra mile on your store landing pages may not show any easily-discernible ROI. If your marketing department throws its hands up in the air regarding differentiating store #157 from store #158, there may be a lack of available creative solutions to the scenario. But this last bullet point — competition — this is where things get interesting.

Besting your toughest competitors

Let’s say you’re operating one of three sporting goods stores in town. Competitor A has zero content beyond NAP and hours on his landing pages. Competitor B has thin, duplicate content on her landing pages. But, you, you smartie, have not only got a unique paragraph of text on your pages, but also store-specific reviews, and a maintained schedule of guided hikes in the region. All three of you link to your respective landing pages from your Google My Business listings. If you were Google, would A, B, or C look like a more authoritative resource to you?

And let’s look at this from the perspective of me on my cell phone on a winter’s day, looking for a high end snowboard and being given raw NAP by one competitor, a generic message by the second, but a promise of a free cup of hot cocoa (according to your reviewers) and a welcome message from you that states that every employee at your shop is a fanatical outdoors enthusiast, ready to show a novice like me the ropes of investing in sporting goods.

In a competitive scenario, if your store is the only one maximizing the potential for consumer engagement on your store landing pages, you are working towards impressing not just search engines, but customers, too. You could end up earning more than your fair share of those 50% of local-intent mobile queries, in city after city.

Supercharge your landing pages

Here’s a quick brainstorming list of both typical and optional content you could include on store landing pages to make them extra useful and extra persuasive:

  • NAP
  • Hours of Operation
  • Driving Directions
  • Unique welcome message
  • Proofs of local community involvement
  • Store-specific reviews or testimonials
  • Links to major review profiles for the store
  • Social media links
  • Live chat apps
  • Store-specific specials, including coupons
  • Location-specific schedule of in-store or topically related regional events
  • A summary list of brands, goods and/or services offered at that location
  • Indoor/outdoor imagery of the specific store
  • Video content relative to the store or region
  • A statement of guarantees offered at the store
  • An interactive map
  • Calls-to-action for how to communicate with the brand after hours
  • Education about the availability of beacons or other in-store apps

Looking for more inspiration? Try this Moz Academy video to spark extra landing page content ideas.

You may necessarily end up with a minor amount of duplicate content, but by brainstorming a list like the above, you will be making a maximum effort to inspire bots to consider your pages authoritative and to inspire searchers to become customers.

Discovery and indexing: Making landing pages pay off

Now that you’ve made the effort to create all of these individual landing pages for your locations, your top priority is to be sure they can be discovered by customers and indexed by search engines.

Simple enough

The first is really easy: be certain your Locations or Stores link is in your top level navigation, at the top of every page of your website. Don’t count on users finding it if you’ve stuck it in a box somewhere within your homepage layout. Many users will not be entering your website via the homepage and you want to deliver the link to find the store nearest them immediately. Don’t make them search for it.

Take care here

Ensuring that search engines can crawl and index your local landing pages requires a bit more thought, given that different store locator widgets are developed with different types of code. Google can crawl CSS, and they can typically crawl Javascript and AJAX. Hopefully, the widget you choose will facilitate your landing pages being properly indexed with no additional effort. But, to make this foolproof, here are additional things you can do:

  1. Be sure you are linking from the Google My Business listing for each location to its respective landing page on the website.
  2. Be sure your other citations also consistently link to the landing pages instead of to the homepage.
  3. Submit an XML sitemap to Google Search Console.
  4. Create a permanent sitemap on your website, that includes links to all of the landing pages.
  5. On the main Locations page of the website, include an alphabetical directory of all locations with crawlable links. You can see an example of this at
  6. Earning inbound links to these pages from third parties and, also, linking internally to landing pages from other pages of the website or blog posts, where appropriate, are other forms of insurance that they will be discovered, crawled and indexed.

You say “local landing pages,” I say, “customer service!”

Comscore/Neustar Localeze have estimated that more than ½ of desktop local searches and more the ¾ of mobile local searches result in an offline purchase. The same study asserts that almost half of the searches surrounding services, restaurants and travel are performed by users looking for companies with whom they’ve never had any previous transactions.

In this lively scenario, the smart business will be that one which gets name, address, phone number and driving directions in front of the customer fast. The winning business in a competitive environment may be the one which not only extends the courtesy of basic data to the customer, but which offers extra inducements (in the form of additional useful information) to be that customer’s choice.

Store locator widgets and local landing pages have become an established component of customer service. Properly implemented and developed, they may be the very first sign you give to a major percentage of your incoming customers that you are there to serve their needs. Serve them well!


Why You Need to Find All Your NAP Variations Before Building Local Citations – Whiteboard Friday

Citation consistency got you down? It’s one of the most important local search ranking factors, but it can be an overwhelming task to find inconsistencies, and it’s often easy to create accidental duplicate listings. In today’s guest Whiteboard Friday, Darren Shaw, founder of Whitespark and recent speaker at MozCon Local, outlines a foolproof way to discover all your NAP variations to prepare for proper citation building.


Why You Need to Find all Your NAP Variations Before Building Local Citations Whiteboard

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hey there, Moz fans, I’m Darren Shaw from Whitespark, and I’m here today to talk to you about why you need to find all of your NAP variations before building local citations. It’s an important topic to cover because citation consistency is one of the most important local search ranking factors. In last year’s local search ranking factor study, it was ranked the number two most important factor, second only to just actually having a business in the city you’re trying to rank.

Before I get into it, I want to cover a couple of definitions really quickly. So NAP stands for name, address, and phone number. A citation is basically a mention of your name, address, and phone number somewhere on the Web. Typically you’re going to see that on sites like or or Superpages, but you can find them on any kind of sites like blogs, newspaper, whatever. Anywhere your name is mentioned, that’s a citation.

I want to illustrate a mistake we see happening all the time in citation building. I’m going to show you an example here.

Bob is a lawyer.

He wants to figure out how he can rank in the local pack.

So he does a little research. He comes across an article on how to rank in local SEO. He reads about citations and how that can help with his local rankings. The article suggests that he uses the local citation finder to research his competitors and find citation opportunities. So he’s done that. He’s got his list, and he’s off to submit his business to all the various directories.

He goes to, and he’s thinking, well, maybe I already have a listing there.

So he searches for his phone number, doesn’t find anything. He thinks he’s all in the clear so he creates a listing.

This is the mistake he’s made. He didn’t realize, he didn’t think about the fact that he already had a citation because he used to use his old cell number for his business. If he had searched for his cell number, he would have found the old listing on the site. So now he’s created this problem where he’s got an old, incorrect listing on the site, and he’s created a duplicate listing. So he’s created a citation consistency problem, and it’s not really helping him to rank well.

We solve this problem in our Whitespark citation services with this four-step process to find all the different NAP variations.

How to find NAP variations

Step one, we ask the business: Tell us about any previous business names that you’ve had, if you’ve changed your name in the past or if you have a corporate account. How about any addresses? Have you moved locations? Do you have any secondary locations? Do you have your business registered at a corporate address? Phone numbers? Any call tracking numbers, toll-free numbers, cell numbers, any past numbers that you’ve used for the business? This is a great way to start. We get a list of all that stuff.

Next, we’ll go to Moz Local and we run a search for the business name and ZIP. This, because Moz Local queries all the primary data aggregators and a number of other important sites in the local search ecosystem, it tends to surface a lot of NAP variations. So we use this to add to our list.

Third, we’ll go to YellowBot and MerchantCircle. These two sites are interesting because they collect data from a number of different sources, but they don’t do a very good job of merging listings as the data comes in. So we end up with a lot of duplicates on the site. It’s a lot of work to clean up that site, but it’s very helpful for this process.

So for this one, you just put in a portion of the business name. Bob’s business is Bob Loblaw’s Law Firm. Instead of just putting the whole thing in, we’ll just put in Loblaw to help surface variations. Here are some variations that might come up. We’ve got Loblaw and Sons LLC, Loblaw’s Law, and Bob Loblaw’s Law Blog.

After we get that, we’re going to go to Google. We’re going to search Google. Now what we’re doing here is we’re trying to find any variations that we didn’t already discover. We already have a number of different names. We have a number of different phone numbers. What we’ll do is we’re going to find more names. If you put in a phone number for the business and you exclude all the names, Google’s going to surface any sites or any pages that mention that phone number without any of these names. That helps you to surface any variations that you weren’t aware of. You do that for each phone number.

Then on the phone number side, if we’re trying to find more phone numbers, we’ll search for the business name and exclude the phone numbers we already know of. By excluding phone numbers we already know of, we might find new names.

The one trouble with this one is it tends to surface a lot of pages where you just mention the business without the phone number, and that’s a common thing. So what I do in this case is I scan the results looking for obvious business directories, if it’s like a Yelp or a Foursquare or anything like that. I’m looking for business directories in these results.

Then we want to see if there are any other addresses we missed. Put in the phone number and exclude the addresses that you’re already aware of. Do that for each phone number.

An important tip here with the addresses is that you don’t want to use the full address. Let’s say for example your address is 5329 Saddleback Road South, Suite 705. Don’t put in the whole thing. You put that in quotes, it’s only going to match pages that are an exact match with that. Just put in that portion that’s going to be common to all the sites, like 5329 Saddleback.

At the end of this process, you should have a very nice, clean list of all of your various names, addresses, and phone numbers for the business.

Now you’re ready to build citations.

All you have to do at this point is just make sure that you check all NAP variations on the site before you submit a listing.

There are two ways to do that. One, you can use the site search feature to search by name and/or phone number. You’re going to run all those, but you can’t always rely on this. Some of the sites have a really crummy search feature. It doesn’t work very well.

We always double check by running a number of Google searches as well. You’ll use the site colon operator in Google. You’ll go space and put it in quotes, so phone one, phone two, name one, name two, address one.

You’re going to go through all of the different variations that you’re aware of. At the end of that if you found a listing, you want to claim it and update it. If you didn’t find a listing, then you’re clear to submit. This way, you’ll be creating citations without worrying about creating duplicate listings.

That’s everything. I hope it’s been helpful. I want to say a big thanks to Nyagoslav Zhekov who helped me organize all this information and a big thanks to Moz for having me. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments. Thanks very much.