101 Local Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

A good read and a comprehensive list from our friends at Synup – recommended for all local business owners…

As a small to midsize business, being present on the web can make or break your business. Doing things properly can only help further your business agenda. If you don’t do things properly, it could bite you in the behind, so it’s best to consider everything when setting up your site to avoid issues down the road.

Here are our top 101 mistakes that you as an SMB should avoid. We’re breaking this into sections to ensure that you hone in on the sections that are most applicable to you.

General business information:

  1. Not having a clear purpose. Does your business have a truly clear purpose?
  2. No strategy.Do you have a strategy that helps realize that purpose? Review your plan and organizational goals at least once a year, preferably quarterly, to see if you’re staying on target.,
  3. Not respecting employees. Your most important customers are your employees.
  4. Losing the passion. If you’re building something and you’re in it because you felt you had to, and not because you wanted to, your product will suffer and you will be unhappy. Either change directions and give up the pursuit, or continue with the trudge despite its incompatibility with your values. You want to go to work empowered and happy, not dejected and unhappy.
  5. Not striving to improve. Never settle for status quo!
  6. Not having a unique value proposition. What makes you better than the other guy offering the same service down the street? Competition is fierce. If you have a competitive advantage, flaunt it!
  7. Poor grammar and spelling. People are not going to want to do business with those who don’t have a firm grasp of the language and spelling. If you can’t spend a little bit of time proofreading, you give off the impression that you simply don’t care. Is that really true?
  8. Not humanizing the business. In this day and age, it’s critical to communicate to people with emotion. Be funny on your company blog. Be approachable on social media. Show videos of the happenings behind the scenes.
  9. Not building relationships: If you build them, they will come.
  10. Having poor customer service (or none at all): Your customer service is one of the primary ways people will know to work with you (or not). If you’re not responding to phone calls, you’re losing leads. If you’re not getting back to people after promising something, you’re losing credibility. If you overpromise and underdeliver, you might find yourself with a 1 star review on Yelp, and then what? Probably nothing, except you just cost yourself a handful (or more) of potential clients. Whoops.
  11. Not asking for their business. You’ve just engaged a potential prospect and then forgot, after the meeting, to ask them to patronize you by buying your product or service. Don’t let them walk out of the door without knowing next actionable steps.
  12. Being too timid. Unless you’re an intern sitting behind a computer, most small businesses require some face to face time with clients. Show confidence in your product offering and be personable too. I would very much rather work with someone who has personality than someone who I spend my time with who doesn’t say a word.
  13. Not communicating. Communicate regularly with your customer. Find out what s/he likes about you. Find out what you can do better. Offer deals and promotions to keep your product top of mine and to ensure they keep coming back.
  14. Taking on projects that you can’t execute upon well. Do whatever is within your skillset. Don’t take on projects that are not within your core competency. If you’re a painter, don’t offer to cut lawns. Veterinarians don’t do plastic surgery. You shouldn’t either!
  15. Not building external relationships: It’s not just about your current customers but about the relationships you can build that will help you grow your customer base. A barber shop can align with the town carnival. A fitness center can align with a healthy restaurant. Find partnerships and co-promote each other!
  16. Putting decisions solely in the hands of experts. Experts know things, but you have a gut feeling too. Trust your gut–and let the expertise follow.
  17. Making things too complex rather than simplified. Simplify your business plan. Don’t do 50 things because it would seem awesome. It would just overwhelm people, as Barry Schwartz explains in his book, The Paradox of Choice. If you cut hair, cut hair. Don’t offer a cat cafe in a side room and a gardening class in another room.
  18. Not having a disaster recovery plan in place. Any business, big or small, needs a disaster recovery plan. In other words, all data needs to be backed up somewhere, such as to an offsite location. Using online tools such as Dropbox and CrashPlan are two preferred methods of backup for all local files on the computers in the office. The more subscriptions, the better! (I use both.)
  19. Losing confidence in yourself based on your company. You are not equivalent with your company. If your company has performance issues, don’t let it get to you. When things get rough, don’t go down in the dumps with it.
  20. Assuming your product will sell itself. Especially when starting out in a new business, you may think that EVERYONE will love your business. Now, you’re open for customers–yet no one comes. Word of mouth is critical!
  21. Not having a budget. You need to pay to play. Without funding, you probably can’t accomplish much. If you have to seek outside investment, go for it.
  22. Making bad hires. Hire smartly. You will make mistakes.
  23. Working hard but not smart.
  24. Not giving up control. There’s no way you can do it all, so don’t be afraid to bring someone on board who can help you succeed.
  25. Not celebrating successes. Employee morale goes up when you make people feel happy at work.

General website information

  1. Using a free website builder to establish a presence. Oh god, please don’t do that. It doesn’t speak to a credible business if your site is hosted on Blogspot, Weebly, or Wix, and it’s visible in your domain name. Invest in a domain name and web hosting.
  2. Building a Flash based website. While it was a nice touch in the 90s, it creates for a horrible search and user experience in the 10’s. Don’t.
  3. Using splash pages.
  4. Not using Google Webmaster Tools or Google Analytics. This is paramount. Without this kind of data, you’re not going to know how people are interacting with your site, and worse, you’re not going to know what errors Google is finding with your site. You do want Google to find you, don’t you?
  5. Not paying attention to Google Analytics to see what converts. Having a Google Analytics account is one thing. Using the data provided by Google Analytics is another. There’s so much you can learn, such as best performing content, inbound searches, and more.
  6. Not having descriptive title tags and meta descriptions. And they should be unique as well! Describe what you do. Remember, those results show up in search engines and the title tag means everything!
  7. Having dummy placeholder text. Okay, so it doesn’t happen often, but haven’t you seen placeholder text on websites you visit? Think Loren ipsum. Yeah, they are everywhere. Some people just forget to put in content. Make your website look like you care about it.
  8. Ignoring the power of social media. No, social media alone won’t really do much to move the needle. But having a presence says much about your business: it shows that  you’re innovative, approachable, and willing to listen to what people are saying. The third point is possibly the most important. People will approach you, and you will want to answer. Nurturing positive perception is key!
  9. Not targeting the right audience. If you find that your product is for professionals, focusing on Instagram and Kik (know what that is?) is not the best use of your time and won’t translate to leads that you need in order to stay afloat.
  10. Not having a web presence optimized for mobile. In 2014, the number of desktop and mobile users converged. It is paramount to consider that your website be optimized for mobile browsers and tablets. Consider a site specifically for mobile, or consider a responsive design.
  11. Not including targeted keywords on the site. Put simply, how are people going to find you if you don’t target what they would be searching for?
  12. Not including testimonials.
  13. Not taking advantage of the SERPs.
  14. Not having a customer database for regular communication. In our general section, we talked about the importance of regular communication. We’re hoping you have a customer database so that you can regularly communicate with your customers. Otherwise, build it yesterday. It’s important!
  15. Not having your website files backed up regularly. Ensure you work with your web host to get your website files backed up. Hard drives don’t last forever, and not all web hosting companies have backups for you. Worse, backups aren’t done on a regular basis either. Let’s say you back up once a week and have a ton of data that comes in daily. If it’s day 6 since the last backup and your site hard drive crashes, you’ve lost six days of critical data. Find out what backup tools your website host support and buy something additional if required.
  16. Not having backlinks. Remember our emphasis on relationships? Forge partnerships that matter and get links to your website from these partner websites.
  17. Not having appropriate anchor text for links. You won’t necessarily be able to control your backlink portfolio, but your links should say more than just “click here” or “read more.”
  18. Using the same anchor text for all your links. Vary your link portfolio! Don’t use the same anchor text for every single link. Make it look natural, not ridiculous. People notice. So do search engines.
  19. Having too many links. That doesn’t work in your favor.
  20. Having broken redirects. This often happens when you have a mobile version of your site and a desktop version of your site, and the site redirects to the wrong version. Worse, you’re on a desktop and click a m.websitename.com link from Facebook, only to find a really ugly version of the website because the website script doesn’t recognize that you’re browsing from a super high resolution display. Fix that. Create a great user experience wherever possible.
  21. Intrusive advertising (or advertising where inappropriate!). There’s a time and a place for advertising on a small business website, and usually, there’s no time and place for placing a big 300×250 ad for flowers on your website about catering — unless, of course you’re partnered up with some sort of flower company to help with local affairs! Put it this way: you’re a pool cleaning company and you’re promoting a Zulily, a discount kids’ toy outlet. No, no, and no. Focus on relevancy. Don’t distract your users because you can make an extra buck or two. They won’t take you seriously.
  22. Offering a global service and having an address 13,000 miles away. You send the wrong message if you’re selling a service and you appear to be a local-only company located 13,000 miles away. A recent website tried to sell me a solar panel, only for me to find out (in New York) that the company was based in India. I have no problem working with Indian companies, but the logistics of getting those guys over here and establishing shop, not to mention being available during my working hours (which they were not) made me look elsewhere.
  23. Linking to the wrong websites. Search engines use algorithms that create an assessment of what the website is about based on the similarity of two interlinking sites. If they’re not similar, why would you link them?
  24. Not performing competitive analysis.
  25. Stuffing keywords inappropriately. Keyword stuffing is bad. Make sure the content is readable to a person. If you are a New York City masonry company, that’s enough! Don’t call yourself a New York City flood waterproofing slab tile company. No, you’re not, and I have no idea what it is that you do.
  26. Not adding content regularly. A website without fresh content seems to most as a stale website, and it also means that search engine crawlers won’t be visiting either. Add fresh content to establish thought leadership, but also to get search engines (and hopefully visitors) to see you more often!
  27. Poor quality content. Your website plays a crucial role in your local online rankings. Having lots of content per page is key! Try to go for at least 500 words to rank well.
  28. Duplicate content.
  29. Having a super slow site. Super slow sites will hurt your visitors–they’ll just hop off–but will also hurt your search engine rankings.
  30. Not using https. This is a bit of a controversial topic, but Google also announced the importance of using https for ranking. Many, especially those running pure content sites (think companies with informational content, such as a window washing company, a psychologist, etc.) may think it’s ludicrous, but it seems you’d be making a mistake to overlook its importance when the Google Webmaster Central site told you that you should make it a priority.
  31. Not using appropriate image attribution. You can add relevancy to your pages using images. A target keyword is a great alt tag!
  32. Having a website that autoplays music. It creates for a very poor user experience. Think about this: I like to browse the web looking for service providers while on conference calls. I’ll lose my job if your website starts blasting Culture Club or AC/DC.
  33. Creating content for the sake of it.  The worst thing you can do as a business owner is to write content just because you have to. Or, because you are compelled to do so.
  34. Not being W3C compliant.
  35. Having a website that takes too long to load. Use Pingdom to test your website’s load time. It shouldn’t take more three seconds to load different pages on your website.
  36. Not using the right imagery on your website. In the past few years, with the launch of sites like SnapChat, Instagram, and Pinterest, there’s a clear emphasis on visuals. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words! Use great high resolution full sized images (no squishing a 800×600 image into 200×500 so the aspect ratio is off) that makes people excited about doing business with you.
  37. Not making it easy for users to share your content. Don’t restrict the flow of information. Make it easy to share products, mission statements, and whatever else through email or on social media. Disabling right-click is a horrible thing to do!
  38. Not using proper call-to-action buttons. What are you trying to achieve from your website? A sale? A booking? A free consultation? Get it together because you’re losing potential sales.
  39. Not having a page for each product/service you provide. Make sure people know what you’re offering. It’s better for SEO and creates for a better user experience. If you’re a psychologist, for example, you can focus on the various things you offer: child psychology, adolescent psychology, basic diagnoses, public speaking, group therapy, seminars–the bottom line is that people should know what you do.
  40. Not letting people know who you are by including a Meet the Staff section on your website. You’re a human business, so show it. Who is behind the company? Tell a story about them. What are their responsibilities? What do they like to do in their spare time?

Local website information

  1. Not having listings for each search engine for your physical location. Sure, we all think about Google and want to add our listings there, but there are plenty of people who still use Yahoo and Bing. Make sure you have your company listed there as well.
  2. Having inaccurate and inconsistent business information.  Your rankings will suffer as a result.
  3. Not having clear contact information, especially electronic, for your business. Some people prefer email to phone conversations. Give them a way to reach out to you–the more touchpoints there are, the better.
  4. Not including a business address on the contact page. People search for businesses and will trust people who maintain a physical address. Make it as easy as possible to include all available ways that your customers can reach you. If you don’t, expect to lose possible leads.
  5. Not claiming your Google My Business page. You should ensure it includes a long unique description, correct categories, as many photos as possible, a local phone number, a business address that is consistent with other searches, your opening times and days, and real reviews.
  6. Using incorrect categories on your Google+ page. Like sections of the Yellow Pages, categories on Google+ are important. Put your company in all relevant categories. Don’t skimp. Of course, don’t go overboard either. Your babysitting agency isn’t also in the Doctor category. There are a lot of categories you can add your company to; here’s a great list of where to start.
  7. Not having a Schema.org markup. Use our Schema scanner to see if you have a relevant schema markup.
  8. Not having local reviews. Local reviews have a direct impact on search rankings. You’re not as competitive without them. Focus on acquiring them across Google, Yelp, and any other local directories.
  9. Not including significant on-page SEO factors: On-page content is important for search engine rankings. Ensure that you include the city or county name if your business specializes in those areas. For example, try adding your city plus a keyword within your landing page title tag, H1 tag, URL, content, or even image ALT attributes. If you are a Dunwoodie carpenter, make sure you put it on your website so that visitors — and search engines — know.
  10. Not embedding a Google Map with your business marker on your homepage. Not only does that help people find you, it helps Google find you too!
  11. Not building bridges with other local entities. And we don’t just mean bridges, we also mean links. Local SEO is heavily dependent on links from other local websites that are relevant to your business. Ensure that whatever citations you get are consistent.
  12. Having duplicate listings.
  13. Not filling up your complete details. It is important on top of creating local listings to ensure that you’re filling up as much information as possible on these sites. Most of these sites give preference to listings that are more complete in their in-site search rankings.
  14. Not creating location specific landing pages for each office.
  15. Not providing an easy way for customers to review you online. If you provide good service, you want to encourage good reviews. People who hate you will go out of their way to review you since they like to tell their friends to avoid you. And people who love you don’t necessarily think to review you online. Encourage them to do so. Send out a newsletter. Have review links on the bottom or top of your website. Make it easy to do.
  16. Not making it easy for users to navigate to different sections of the website. People don’t go to your homepage just to stare at it and bounce off. Those who are genuinely interested in your product/service will click around and find the right information. Don’t have super tiny links they can’t click. Also, don’t have some ridiculous infinite scroll that makes getting to your footer nearly impossible. Use menus or links that clearly show what you do, and make them visible so people navigate to where they need to go.
  17. Not building clean URLs. Search engines like clean URLs as they describe what the page does. A URL like http://www.example.com/8248sfjsfhslandjfhsdf.asp is not as powerful as a URL like http://www.example.com/sports/wilson-tennis-racquet-model-b3921/. Go with the latter, not the former. Make sure your web developer is versed enough in SEO to build this functionality into your site design. If you’re doing a redesign, prioritize this–and then make sure you 301 redirect those old links to the new ones!

Social Media information

  1. Focusing on the wrong platforms: Your customers are on one forum/Facebook group. You’re on another.
  2. Capitalizing on tragedy for personal gain: This is a huge no-no, and it happens all the time. If bad things happen, don’t use it to market. Sensitive issues need to be left alone. You can express your condolences, but don’t use it as a way to sell your brand. Yuck.
  3. Not responding to concerns and feedback: These people either want you to succeed or fail. For those who are after your success, empower and acknowledge them, and they will continue to recommend you to everyone. For those who want to see you fail, make it right. They spent time because they were upset. You have an opportunity to fix it, and they handed that to you on a silver platter.
  4. #Overly #Hashtagging #Your #Updates: A lot of brands love hashtags. But hashtags, when overused, make your business look pretty clueless and possibly even “social media desperate.” Use hashtags where appropriate. Don’t go overkill.
  5. Spamming your updates without engaging: Have you ever seen a Twitter feed where the updates are repetitive, with only the recipient’s name swapped out? For example, “@name1 check us out!” followed by “@name2 check us out!” followed by “@name3 check us out!” – and well, you get the picture. Don’t take without giving back. Ever.
  6. Posting too little. It never looks good when a brand doesn’t post enough content to real time mediums that somewhat command your participation. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to a brand’s Twitter page only to find out their last tweet was from 2012–and it saddens me that they seem less accessible. Usually, I end up going with the competition, because I realize they’ll listen to me.
  7. Posting too much. Flooding Twitter and Facebook rubs people the wrong way. The exception would be if you are at an event on Twitter (TweetChat or conference) and are live blogging or participating in the chat (with a hashtag–which, by the way, you should do to build relationships!)
  8. Not engaging in real time. Don’t wait in a response. Give people responses within 4-6 hours, or 12 at most. It drives me bonkers when I submit a support request and the response comes from the brand a week or two later. By then, my concern is usually irrelevant.
  9. Not having a strategy in place. You are on social media. Now what? Create a strategy and stick by it.
  10. Focusing on quantity and not quality. Buying followers and going after numbers will not create a better experience. In fact, on platforms such as Facebook where there are algorithms in play that penalize you if no one engages on your updates, your updates will be hidden into oblivion. You don’t want that, do you?
  11. Giving everyone access to your account. Social media gives people a public forum to broadcast on behalf of your company. Do you trust everyone with that kind of access? Your social media password should be a cherished commodity.
  12. Not separating social and professional. No one wants to know that you just had a cucumber tomato sandwich with tuna fish. It would also help to keep religion and politics and other “hot button” topics out of reach from a professional presence.
  13. Not tying any of your activity into goals. Is there ROI to your social media efforts? You won’t know unless you do some sort of measurement. While some of the tools for this are insanely costly for a small business, you can incentivize local customers with promotions that are explicitly promoted via social media. That’s a great way to find out whether you are doing is working.
  14. Opting people into promotional email just because they are LinkedIn contacts. One of the things that drives me ballistic is when people think that a relationship is an opt-in. It’s not. If I want your company newsletter, I will sign up. Just because I think of Harry as a professional colleague doesn’t mean I want to learn about Harry’s chiropractor company news.
  15. Being disorganized.
  16. Deleting all negative comments. There’s a time and a place for negativity on Facebook. While you may not wish to maintain ALL negative comments on Facebook (some things just don’t fit at all), if there’s a genuine concern, address it with empathy and help to provide a solution. If you ignore valid complaints, don’t be surprised if the customer brings his concern to another platform, this time that you cannot control.
  17. Not diversifying the messaging: What belongs on Twitter should not be posted verbatim on Facebook. Focus on diversifying the message. Broadcast different messages across each challenge, mostly because on Facebook, you’ll have more space to do so, and also because each platform is different and the expectations are different.
  18. Getting all emotional while responding to bad reviews. You may have an emotional attachment to your company or brand, but don’t respond defensively. Certainly don’t attack the poster. Nurture positive perceptions. Bite your tongue if you have to! You must keep your cool to maintain that professionalism. It’s hard, but you need to do it. It will be a public relations nightmare to see a two way fight with a customer and a brand in a public forum.
  19. Using a service to generate fake reviews.
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