What NOT To Do On Local Business Websites

There’s lots of advice out there for what to do in optimizing websites for local businesses, yet day after day, we see some of the same bad practices continue to be perpetuated in bad web designs. So, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, here’s a reminder of some basic things NOT to do if you want your local business site to perform well with search engines and consumers.

Vanity Phone Numbers ExampleDon’t Use Vanity Numbers

At all! Vanity phone numbers are those jazzy, personalized phone numbers that use letters instead of mere numbers, usually to spell out some tagline or a business’s name.

These may have come into vogue back in the 1960s or 1970s, and they seemed to work well by providing a mnemonic by which consumers could remember a company’s phone number.

Fast forward to 2011, though, and many cellphones don’t include the letters on the numeric keypads anymore — making it difficult to peck out the phone number if you only recall the vanity version.

Worse yet, it makes it impossible for search engines to associate your phone number on your site with your business listing, and it could impair your SEO. So, vanity numbers = bad for both search engines and customers!

Don’t Put Your Local Phone Number Within A Graphic Image

Designers often wish to use prettier text fonts than what they can achieve through straight HTML, but doing this can shoot you in the foot if this is the only way your local business phone number is included in your site.

For best performance, at least make sure the image containing the phone number includes the number in the image tag’s “ALT” text, and include it elsewhere on your webpage in regular HTML text as well.

Don’t Forget To Update Your Copyright Date

We’re now halfway through 2011, so your site shouldn’t still be showing “2010″ or “2009″ in page footers. Worse yet, it really shouldn’t still be saying 2003! Never updating your dates will make your site start looking stale to search engines and prospective customers.

Late Copyrights on WebsitesOld Copyright Statements on Webpages

Avoid Making A Flash-only Website

It’s okay to have some parts of your webpages done in Flash, for example, if you’d like to have an animated banner below your header. But, if your whole website is in Flash, or your main site navigation, it still doesn’t perform well for search engines. Not only that, it won’t work for some mobile phones, and it won’t get properly interpreted to be shown through Google Instant previews, either:

Flash Instant Preview in Google

Don’t Use “Click Here” For Your Link Text

Example of click here link textThe text you use in your links can help pass keyword weight to the pages they’re linking-to. Since consumers aren’t searching for “click here”, you’re wasting a lot of opportunity each time you use that for your link text. Try to find ways to label your links descriptively to help the pages on your own site.

Don’t Let Your Website Sit Vacant

Sites sporting “Under Construction” or “Coming Soon” messages for their homepages are only good for ranking badly. Why would you want to send a message to search engines that you might not be opened for business yet? Do what it takes to go ahead and roll out your website, at least with the bare minimum information – including business name, location and local phone number.

Coming Soon

Don’t Let Your Homepage Serve Up An Error Or Let Your Domain Expire

Example Error PageThese can be signals that your business may have shut down, so it could result in losing some ability to rank. Defunct businesses are one of the hardest issues to solve in online directories, causing nearly all business databases to be clogged up with some percentage of bad listings.

When your business website shuts down, Google may drop your listing in the SERPs to make it less likely they’ll be suggesting erroneous listings to consumers. As such, make a point of visiting your website at least once every few weeks to make sure it looks right.

Don’t Neglect To Pay Your Site Designer Or Host

This should be a no-brainer, but if you don’t pay what you owe, it could result in an error page as described above. Or, worse yet, it could result in your designer messing up your online reputation like this business owner who skipped on his bill:

Example of trashed online reputation

Don’t Allow Music To play By Default On Your Website

…or we’ll never visit it again. I stole this recent suggestion from Lisa Barone, because it makes me crazy! Half of those of us searching on the Internet are already listening to music we really prefer, so your webpage’s tune is going to interfere with that. The other half of us are surfing from work, and we’d prefer not to so blatantly obvious that we’re looking at your site instead of finishing some report.

Don’t Put Addresses & Phone Numbers In Fine Print

And don’t have them only appear only at the bottom of your webpage. Here’s one extreme example – this site has overly many links in its footers, and they made the smallest, finest print on the page to be their office locations/addresses/phone numbers: Fine print is bad for local sites' SEO

The small print is also barely contrasted with the background color, too. This fine text at the bottom of webpages is not good for usability and not good for your site’s search-engine-friendliness.

Historically, some site owners would cram links and/or keywords into the footers of webpages, in fine print and even making the text color match the background to render it invisible to human visitors. As a result, Google and other search engines are now more sensitive to lots of links and text in fine print which contrasts poorly with the backgrounds on webpages. Avoid doing this.

Keep these various recommendations for “What Not To Do” off of your local busines website, and you’ll make both consumers and search engines happy.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Local Search Column


About The Author: is President of Argent Media, and serves on advisory boards for Universal Business Listing and FindLaw. Follow him @si1very on Twitter.

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  • http://cfoxchange.com Jonathon Frampton

    Great Post! I can run this list down with almost every client I have. I have seen a ton of these little “snags!” Seems like a battle each time… “Oh no, but my previous designer said small and background color text will help me in Google… AHHH”
    Anyway, Great article.

  • http://blog.webpro.in Bharati

    One more point. Please don’t add the same business to Google Places and Google Maps from more than one account.

    Some of our clients had done that and it takes time to delete from multiple accounts and then have to wait for Google to reconsider, verify and list the business.

  • http://www.dazzlindonna.com/ Donna Fontenot

    When you said, “Since consumers are searching for “click here”, you’re wasting a lot of opportunity each time you use that for your link text”, I think you actually incorporated a typo that changes the entire meaning of the sentence. I think you meant to use the word “aren’t” instead of “are” when you said “consumers are searching”.

  • http://www.adventuresinsearch.com Elisabeth Osmeloski

    @Donna – thanks for pointing that error out – I totally missed it while editing.. fixed now!

  • http://silvery.com Chris Silver Smith

    Donna, you were right! Thank you for fixing my flub, Elisabeth!

  • http://www.dhcommunications.com Dianna Huff

    Love these tips. The phone number as HTML is especially important for smartphones. Touch to call — can’t do that with a graphic.

  • http://www.moxby.org.uk M.D.

    To be perfectly honest, these are just good SEO practises full stop, not just for local. People historically have only thought about what’s “good for Google” which:-

    1. Ignores the existence of other search engines, thus limits the scope of your visitor base.
    2. Ignores what people actually want and care about

    Think like a person not a search engine and you’ll find your SEO is better as a result.
    Thanks for the post!

  • http://silvery.com Chris Silver Smith

    Very good point, Dianna! A graphic phone number couldn’t be worse for mobile phones where people want to be able to just click to call.

  • http://www.search-engine-academy-washington-dc.com Nancy E. Wigal

    All good points made, particularly about vanity numbers and updating copyright yearly. I’ve been seeing a lot of businesses put a ton of local counties/cities/towns in very, very tiny print in the footer of each web page. According to them, this is the highest pinnacle of local SEO. [Insert giggles and rolled eyeballs here.]

    Thanks so much for compiling and posting!

  • http://www.ontargetpro.com Alisa Maley Meredith

    My very favorite: “Don’t Neglect To Pay Your Site Designer Or Host”. I shut someone down last week after a YEAR of not paying. Received all sorts of threats and harassment, but low and behold he finally paid.

    Great points, all of them. It’s also a good practice to make sure your address as listed on your site matches your local business listings exactly.

  • http://www.richardrazo.com RichardRazo

    Great points…
    A few more I’ve come across are
    1) “We NEED” a facebook account or Twitter account.

    2) “Why don’t we rank high for our business in Los Angeles?-although they are located about 1.5 hours away.

    3) “Can you write several good reviews for me on business directories?”

  • http://www.bluelinemedia.co.uk benjeffery

    Don’t add news or blog content if you’re not going to update more than once a year. Don’t use your brother’s friend to build your website. Don’t design the website so it looks perfect on your personal computer at the expense of everyone else. Don’t have “splash pages” or intro graphics that nobody else cares about. The list goes on!

  • http://sayingitsocial.com AK Stout

    Great to see a nice summary like this with some tips I’m willing to be some hadn’t considered – especially the vanity phone number and business address in the fine print. Another big tip I’d like to add would be to not neglect the Alt Text for images!

  • http://IRMwrites.com Irma Mitton

    great article — I can’t count the number of times I have to persuade my small business clients to alter their “perfectly designed” websites to correct such typical errors as these.

  • http://codehesive.com James Offer

    Depressing that in 2011 you have to list half of these things… by now, everyone should know better.

  • http://www.directresponse.net Dave

    Great tips Chris.
    I would say another piece of advice would be to keep load time in mind.
    A slow loading landing page is more likely to be canceled out of than a fast loading one.
    People are so impatient.

  • http://www.christiandebaun.com Christian DeBaun

    I love the advice on the Vanity number – that never would have occurred to me. Great article Chris, thanks!

  • http://www.cnizz.com Chris

    Don’t use all caps, don’t hide text, get a website….moving a long to an article that wasn’t a waste of my time.

  • Athar Basha

    Thanks for the excellent tips.. This would be a very great tips till the date for local business listings.

  • http://inboundmarketingnj.com Jason

    Great post. I see these mistakes from small and large companies all the time

  • http://trafficsmack.com seth@trafficsmack

    Excellent points. I was having a conversation yesterday with someone about local search marketing and brought up a lot of these same points. It’s also good to avoid using PDFs (restaurant menus), and splash pages. With mobile being such an important factor for local biz these days, the lack of a mobile friendly site can really reduce the foot traffic to your business. Stuff like this keeps us all in business though, right?!

  • http://www.BurtonBookReview.com Marie Burton

    So true on that vanity phone number thing!! My boss called me yesterday and asked me what #s corresponded to ‘snow’ on the telephone keypad because of course the buttons don’t show the letters anymore! And I am one of those that notices the outdated copyright tags as well.

  • gcteam

    Great tips Chris, every website need this specially for local business websites


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