10 Common Local SEO Myths Debunked

There are many strategies and tactics that you can implement to help your business increase rankings in local search results. But for every well-known and proven ranking strategy, there is an equally well-known unproven strategy masquerading as an effective local SEO tactic.

In today’s Whitespark Weekly episode, Darren is busting 10 common local SEO myths! Stop wasting your time implementing these tactics in the hopes of positively impacting your rankings!

Video Transcript

Hey there, Darren here with another way Whitespark Weekly video. These videos are to help you understand local SEO, give you optimization strategies, and keep you up to date on the latest in local search. If you’re new here, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up for our newsletter. We will send you an email every time we release one of these videos. Never miss an episode and get awesome helpful content delivered to your inbox.

Today I want to talk about the top seven local SEO myths that need to die – they need to go away, people need to stop talking about them – and three other ones that I think are likely myths, but I’m still testing. I think that they’re myths. I don’t think they help rankings but we’re going to talk about them. Let’s get into it. What’s the first myth?

Myth #1 – Setting a Service Area in GMB Impacts Rankings

The first myth is that people seem to think that if you set a service area in your Google My Business listing, on your profile in your dashboard, it’s going to have an impact on your ability to rank in all of those areas.

No, it doesn’t. It does not. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, this has been tested to death by many people, it doesn’t have an impact on rankings. The only thing that has an impact on is this little drawing on your Map. Google will say this is the service area that you serve. That’s all they do. That’s the only impact it has. You can go ahead and set anything you want in here but it doesn’t help you rank in those areas.

So spread the word! Tell everybody, tell your mom, tell all your friends. It does not impact ranking at all. Don’t do it anymore. Well do it if you want to draw that nice little red outline, but it doesn’t impact your rankings in those areas.

Myth # 2 – Keywords in the GMB Description Impact Rankings

This is a big one. Oh my gosh, I hear this all the time, “Keywords in the Google My Business description impact rankings.” People think this will work and think Google gives me this field for the description so I’m just going to stuff that with keywords, like this company with the description “Miami plumbing company, Miami plumbing company, emergency water repair serving Miami, and nearby areas, water pumps, water heater repair, plumbers, commercial residential Plumbing Services”. Anyway, they go on and on with all the different services. You see this quite regularly in GMB listings. They are wasting that space because Google does not look at that field for ranking purposes. I’ve tested it. So many people have tested this. Put whatever you want in there, Google does not consider it for ranking.

The best thing to do with this field is to use it as sales copy. You want to convert somebody reading it, get them interested in your business so that they pick up the phone and call you or click to your website. Make sure that you’re using this field for conversion purposes, not for ranking purposes.

Funny thing happened. Actually, I want to talk about this. Brodie Clark tweeted this back in February, that Google added a section to their guide, Google is propagating these stupid myths. They added this section:

“It’d be easier for the customer to find your listing on Google if your description included Harry’s NY Pizza in Dublin, CA” instead of only “Harry’s Pizza in CA”

Local SEOs’ minds were blown!

They were like, “Oh my God! Google is saying it’s a factor.” And everyone was like, “No, it’s not. We’ve tested it.” Product Experts Joy Hawkins and Ben Fisher spoke up. Lots of people were talking about this saying, “Oh no, Google, take it back, take it back.” They did roll it back soon after, because it isn’t a factor. Even though Google may have said that, you generally can’t trust Google on their ranking advice. They rolled it back the very next day. Now this whole document that Brodie was referring to has been completely rewritten. It doesn’t even touch on anything like that. A little bit of hubbub happened in the industry when that came out.

Myth #3 – Keywords in Owner Responses to GMB Reviews Impact Rankings

The next myth is that keywords in owner responses to GMB reviews impact ranking. Keywords in reviews? Yes, beauty! You want those. They definitely impact your ranking.

But what doesn’t impact ranking is for you to respond to those reviews and be like, “Thanks for using our best plumbing service in Denver.” That doesn’t help. Adding keywords to your responses? Nope, it’s not a factor.

I heard this tip and I was like, oh my god, it’s so smart. We know keywords and reviews work. Why don’t you just put keywords in the responses and so I was really excited about it. I tried it and t was just… sad trombone. Nothing happened, it fell flat, zero ranking impact.

I love this tweet from Jason Brown.

By all means keyword-stuff the heck out of your replies to reviews (and this is a great example), but it doesn’t work, it doesn’t do anything… so don’t do it. Just make your responses like you were speaking to a human that had left your review and tell them how thankful you are for their review. Just kindly respond to them. But do not stuff it with keywords because they will not help you rank.

Myth #4 – Using a Call Tracking Number Negatively Impacts Rankings

Some people seem to still think – still, to this day! – that adding a call tracking number to your GMB listing can negatively impact your rankings. No, it does not! You just have to do it the right way. If you keep your regular number in there, then it’s no problem. The primary number becomes the call tracking number so that anyone that goes to your listing will call the tracking number and you get it tracked in your tracking software – wonderful!

Myth #5 – Paying for Google Ads Impacts Rankings

People seem to think paying for Google Ads impacts rankings. I’ve seen this a few times where they’re like, “Well, I want to rank better in the local results or even the organic results, if I pay Google advertising, they’re probably going to help me rank better.” That’s not the case, it doesn’t work. You might see it sometimes, like in this example here.

We’ll look at Crowell Law Offices. They’ve got an ad and boom they’re ranked number two. That’s not how it works. It’s just coincidental. They also seem to care about SEO and PPC. So, they’re doing both, but one does not impact the other in any way.

Google has even said, “There’s no way to request or pay for better local rankings on Google. We do our best to keep the search algorithm details confidential, to make the ranking system as fair as possible for everyone.

And that’s true. You can’t buy your way into the results, well actually you can, you buy your way into the ads and it works actually quite well. You can rank number one, you just have to pay for it. But it doesn’t impact your actual organic rankings.

Myth #6 – Ranking #1 is All That Matters

Alright, next up, ranking #1 is all that matters. Some people put so much effort into ranking at the top that they don’t think about the optimization opportunities. I just did a video about this recently and what you find is that sometimes the business ranking #1 gets less leads and calls than the business ranking #4, if the lower ranking has taken the time to really build out their GMB listing.

Watch my video on conversion rate optimization for Google My Business. The gist of it is: fill out everything, add photos, regularly publish Posts, maintain your listing and keep it up to date.

So it’s not all about rankings. That’s a myth.

Myth #7 – It Takes a While to Rank in Local Results

How long does it take? Some people think local rankings can take a really long time. I see people out there saying “two months”, “three months”. How about one day? How about like 20 minutes? It’s so fast. It’s like, you set up a Google listing, the moment it gets verified you have the ability to rank immediately. This business was ranking like the day that the listing went live.

Now typically, you’re not going to rank around the whole city. Typically, you only rank within your own immediate area, which is the case here. But you can rank the day that your listing goes live. From that point, you’re going to start with a small radius, and you’re slowly going to grow it as you work on your website, get links, get more reviews, build out your business listings, and all that stuff that you need to do.

Now onto three more “Likely Myths”… I’m calling them “Myths”!

Myth #8 – Geotagging Images Impacts Rankings

This is probably the most prolific myth, that I think is myth. I’ve never seen any evidence to back up the claim that if you stuffed keywords into the EXIF data of images and geotag it with your location, that your listing will rank better.

Prove it to me. Please, somebody. Somebody prove this. I’ve never seen any evidence to back this up. I’ve seen a lot of people touting this advice. And I’m not buying it until I get your proof. I’ve tested it. I haven’t seen anything. I’m calling it a myth. It’s a myth. It’s out of here. Tim Kahlert conducted a case study on geotagging image on Google My Business and he found that “there is a high chance that geo-tagging images is just a myth and that this tactic currently has no effect on the local rankings.”

Myth #9 – Embedding a Google Map on Your Website Impacts Rankings

Embedding the Google Map of GMB listing. This is kind of like an old school local SEO thing. It’s been around forever that you need to embed a map on your page, and it’ll impact your rankings.

There are many reasons to embed a Google map on your website, but the act of doing it on its own is not a ranking factor. Brian Barwig wrote a really great post about why you should do it. There’s lots of good reasons to do it. It offers many, many benefits. I encourage you to read this post. But what I’m saying is that the act of doing it is not a ranking factor on its own. You’re going to drive more driving directions. You’re going to get some engagement on your listing, through the embed. There’s lots of good reasons to do it, it makes it easier for your customers and so do it. But it’s just not a ranking factor on its own.

Myth #10 – Google My Maps Impact Rankings

This one… I’ve seen this mentioned quite a bit in Facebook groups, where people are selling this crazy stuff called “My Maps rankings”.

This guy will do 5,000 Google Map citations for GMB ranking. What this is, is you go into your Maps account and create your own custom My Map. People are building out like 5,000 points and putting your business all over here… I don’t even know what this even is. But I’m telling you, it doesn’t help rank. This is crazy stuff. And I’m calling it “likely” because I’m going to test this. Like, what is this crazy stuff? There’s no way this is helping them to rank.

I’m going to try to dispel this myth with some of my own tests. I’m running one right now. Once I have conclusive evidence, then I will shoot it down. But this one is kind of funny to me. Look at this crazy map that they built. Anyways, I think this is a myth. I’m not calling it yet. But likely this has no impact on your rankings.

That’s all I got for you today. I hope this was helpful. Hope it dispelled some of these myths for you. Please stop wasting time on things that don’t help you ranking, and please help spread the word. You could share the link to this video anytime you see someone mentioning these things. Hope that was helpful.

What are some common local SEO myths you’d like debunked and gone once and for all? Share them in the comments below!


Darren Shaw

Darren Shaw founded Whitespark in 2005. The company specialized in web design and development, however, Darren's passion and curiosity for all things local search led Whitespark to focus primarily on local SEO in 2010 with the launch of the Local Citation Finder, followed by the Local Rank Tracker.

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13 comments on “10 Common Local SEO Myths Debunked

  • Good article. The only issue I’ve seen with using a call tracking number in your GMB listing is that if you use a service like Moz Local, that tracking number will propagate on your Moz Local directory listings. I’ve had this happen before so I stopped using call tracking numbers on GMB listings.

  • Hi Darren, I am so glad you posted this list, I have heard most of them from prospective customers and they are so much baloney. BTW I really enjoy your newsletter it’s always quite helpful, keep up the great work!

  • All good stuff 🙂 I don’t do the my map stuff mentioned in the last (likely) myth, but I’ll be interested to see what you find out. There ‘may’ be something there. *I hope not, cause that’s not work I’d like to do 🙂

  • Good information Darren, these are really great information I can second that as well, we have some client listings managed by us and we have only focus on filling out the information on GMB listing with natural language and not focusing not keyword a listing are performing very well.

  • While the point that it won’t affect rankings per se is sound, it seems like an odd statement to make not to set up a service area for a service area business since Google *literally will not allow* you to hide the address without setting up a service area in the first place…

    • Yes, valid point Jean-Sébastien. For service area businesses that operate out of their home or do not have a physical location that customers can visit, then it is a requirement to add service area information. But for businesses that do have a physical address that customers can visit, we’re saying adding Service areas will not help you improve your local rankings. Some people believe that service area impacts rankings and it doesn’t.

  • Don’t suppose you know how to convince Google that an existing listing GMB profile should have ownership transferred?

  • Andy,

    You can usually try and claim the listing with a domain email account. If you do that, and when you request access to the listing, then you should be able to get access to it. The key is using a domain email. Once you’ve done that, I’d reach out to GMB Twitter Support. https://twitter.com/GoogleMyBiz

  • Thanks for this clarification. Given that Darren explicitly refers to the red-outlined area it’s hard to assume he’s actually talking about the use of service areas for GMB with physical locations.

  • Hey Darren Shaw,

    Thanks for solve many queries regarding local SEO. My business face the issues because other businesses used keywords and location in their business name. How to beat them? My business have higher no. of reviews and information. But due to some spammer we face issues in ranking. Is there any other way to solved it? Kindly provide me suggestions and guidance on it.

    Thank you.

  • Darren, excellent job of debunking some of the myths that plague GMB. We have found some our clients hammering us to add in EXIF data to images as they have seen multiple FB groups, SEO’s and sites proclaiming that it does have an impact. At least we can now show your post to those clients nd say ‘actually its a myth’.

  • Mohsin Maredia of course, keyword stuffing is terrible, poor, and wrong

    You should create unique and relevant content. I think you are doing? 😉

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