Word of mouth is still the most important way consumers find local businesses, but online searches are also near the top of the list, with 85 percent of consumers using the Internet to find businesses in their area.

Making errors when setting up your local SEO can have significant consequences. Avoid these common mistakes that make your website harder to find, target the wrong audience or hurt the overall user experience.

Not Registering Their Site

All local businesses should have accounts on Google+, Yahoo and Bing. These accounts take very little time to set up, and pay off in a big way in terms of improving your page ranking and making it easy for customers to find your physical store. Local listings on Google+ are especially important, as they combine reviews, directories and maps. For franchises or businesses with multiple locations, each store should have its own listing.

In addition, make sure to register your business with local directories such as the area Chamber of Commerce and Yellow Pages. These are low-cost, easy ways to drive more links to your site and boost your ranking while potentially also generating another source of traffic.

Make sure each listing, as well as each page on your website, has your business' NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number), as this information is critical to getting your site to show up on local search results.

Ignoring Mobile

Google confirmed earlier this year that mobile searches now outnumber desktop in several developed countries such as the U.S. and Japan. For that very reason, the search engine updated its algorithm to reward mobile friendly sites, a move that will affect at least 12 percent of all searches.

For local businesses, mobile SEO is even more important. Mobile devices are already equipped with location tracking, which means searches on these devices will automatically turn up results that are nearby.

This can lead to powerful, immediate results. A total of 50 percent of consumers that search for a local business on their smartphones will visit a store within the next 24 hours. A mobile friendly site means they're more likely to find and visit your store rather than a go to a competitor.

Not Seeking Reviews

The quantity and quality of reviews for your business accounts for roughly 8 to 9 percent of your SEO ranking. Quality reviews on Google+ and Yelp increase your ranking and make your location more visible on mapping applications like Google Maps and Apple Maps.

Fortunately, there are easy solutions to help your business get more positive online reviews. There are multiple products and services that can automate the process of encouraging satisfied customers to leave positive reviews online. Other tools get customers with a complaint to leave feedback so their issue can be addressed before they leave a bad review.

Neglecting Content

Content is king. The best way to drive traffic to your site is to have interesting, informative content that people actually want to read. What's more, that content has to be fresh. The bots that Google has crawling the web love sites that consistently update their content, and so do consumers. An impressive 52 percent say that blogs have influenced their purchasing decision.

Relying Only On SEO

As important as SEO is, it's only one tool in the vast arsenal of resources marketers have at their disposal. Ranking algorithms can be opaque and difficult to master, so even if you're doing everything right it might be hard to get your business at the top of the keywords you want.

Instead of viewing SEO as the center of your marketing efforts, think of it as one channel through which you can reach customers, along with e-mail, SMS, social media and a variety of offline strategies. The more channels you utilize, the better chance you have to reach your target market.

Published on: Jan 4, 2016