Category: SEO
What Are Google My Business “Posts?” – All You Need to Know

What Are Google My Business Posts? – All You Need to Know

I have to admit, I really like Google My Business and I’m glad to see that they are rolling out more and more features for local search.  If you found this post, you’re likely interested in finding out what the new “Google My Business Posts” are and how you can use them.

Look! There’s a Whole New Section to My Google My Business Profile!

google my business posts explanationNow, we can add posts directly to the knowledge graph results for our businesses.  This will be useful for a business that wants to communicate information beyond the basic name, address, phone number, reviews, and hours of operation.

Now, we will be able to communicate information such as:

  • Events that we are holding
  • Specials that we are running (as we did for Active Fitness over to the right)
  • Important news, such as welcoming a new team member to the business
  • Sharing blog content from our site (not that you can share it per se; you can post a link to it through your Google My Business profile)
  • Pretty much anything that you would want to communicate to a person that is researching your business

 

 

Great, how do I post from my Google My Business account?

When you log into Google My Business, you’ll see this screen:

Google my business first login

You need to scroll down to your locations.  If you don’t see a bunch of maps, and see something like the photo below, you need to click on the six little boxes icon below “download insights.”

walkthrough of google my business posts

google my business resultFind the the card for your business and click on “manage location.”  Once you click on it, you’ll see the Google My Business screen for that specific business.  This has always been useful, since it allows you to respond to reviews, add photos of your business, all that fun stuff.

Now, you’ll notice that below the “home” button, you have a “posts” item.  It is telling that Google placed it right below the home button; the company clearly wants you to do Google My Business posts, otherwise it would not have placed it in such a prominent place.

 

how to post from google my business

When you click on “posts,” you’ll see a prompt for “write your post.”

write your google my business post

You definitely want to add an image and a button, so add your image, then click on “add a button.”

add link to your site through google my business posts

As you can see, it allows you to create a link to a page on your site and add a call-to-action.  This is a really cool feature that will allow you to share links to specific content on your site, such as promotional specials, events, blog content, or whatever you may want people to visit on your website.

 

 

 

Use any and all features that Google My Business provides.

If you are a local business, you want to do all that you can to stay in Google’s good graces.  Providing as many images, review responses, posts, 360° pictures, or anything else the company asks of you will likely increase your business’s likelihood of ranking in local search.  Additionally, Google My Business posts will help you to communicate information to people that learning about your company.  This is an opportunity to potentially:

  • help someone find some valuable information about your business
  • get someone to attend an event that you are hosting
  • increase the likelihood that someone will find a piece of content that you are sharing
  • provide favorable info to someone that is considering your business for a future purchase

Whether you begin doing Google My Business posts to help increase your rank in local search or to help communicate with people searching for your business, this is likely to be an attractive feature that you should explore.

What ideas for Google My Business posts have you come up with?  Please share and comment.

 

 

 

Do 360° Photos Help Rank on Google? How Do You Create and Post Them?

Do 360° Photos Help Rank on Google?

Google wants more 360° photos, but does it reward you for taking them?

Google really wants 360° photographs and they love it when you do it for them.  It has spend tons of money on its “Street View” project and has launched an app to encourage users to shoot more of these photos to complement it.  For those business owners that are less tech-saavy, the company has gone as far as to set up an entire service to facilitate the hiring of photographers that are equipped to do 360° photos for your business.  Since Google wants these kinds of photos to be included in Maps and local search, do they reward sites that include them in their Google My Business profile?

We decided it was worth the hour or so to figure out how to take and post a 360° photo

After looking at a few options for actual 360° cameras, I decided to go with the free iPhone app.  It took a few minutes to download and install the app, then find the listing for my business so that I could post it.  I followed the prompts on the app and in about 15 minutes, I had the photo listed in my Google My Business account for 12khz.  It really was that easy.

What was the impact on search?

It’s hard to attribute one SEO tactic to the results that one sees, but there is a chance that the posting of this 360° panoramic photo had a disproportionate impact on our local search results.  Our SEO efforts have been pretty steady over the last few months and as far as organic search is concerned, it’s been a slow, steady rise for everything that we’ve targeted.  The only exception to this were our local results.

We posted the 360° photo sometime in mid May.  Our sheer number of impressions took a noticeable upwards tick after posting this photo, despite the fact that we haven’t really made any other big changes to our SEO efforts and there was no corresponding increase in our impressions for organic search.  While this huge jump may have been a coincidence, there’s also a chance that it wasn’t, and considering how easy it was to post this photo, it was certainly worth the time and effort.

increase in local results after posting 360 photo

How to post a 360° panoramic photo

Download the app for iPhone here and Android here

Search for your business address.  Click on the little camera icon in the lower right corner of the screen.

how to use street view app

Follow the instructions on the screen, then publish.

how to use street view app step 2

That was really all it took to publish the photo.

I’ve had a few hundred views of it since I put it up and a possible rank boost in local search.  While it all could have been a totally coincidence, there is always the chance that it wasn’t, and it was totally worth the time that it took to put up.  Additionally, even if 360° photos are not a ranking factor, that doesn’t mean that they won’t be in the future, and those local businesses that have taken the time to post them will reap the benefits.

Are SEO Gigs on Fiverr Any Good? I Spent Some Money to Find Out.

Are SEO Gigs on Fiverr Any Good? I Spent Some Money to Find Out.

Over the last several years, I still see websites using terrible, utterly spammy SEO approaches that are actually helping them to rank.  Every month, especially when there is news of “volatility” in the SERPs, I expect to see these guys crash and burn after a penalty, but alas, there they are ranking—all thanks to 425k blog comments that they sprayed across the internet.

How it is that they don’t get penalized is beyond me, but there they are, right in the money spots for some fairly competitive keywords.  I know for a fact that one of these websites is run by the owner of a competitor of my client’s business, a person that has no SEO training beyond “links will get you to page 1.”

In January of this year, I decided to do a little experiment.  Can I rank a website locally solely through Fiverr gigs?

This competitor of my client has been ranking his site by purchasing the following kinds of backlinks:

  • profile links on websites that allow dofollow links
  • massive amounts of blog comments
  • links from nonsense articles hosted on servers in Russia

It would not surprise me if he were buying traffic as well, but there was no verifiable way for me to check that.  I opted to purchase some traffic packages as well

I settled on the legal niche.

I do a lot of SEO work for law firms, so it is a niche that I am highly familiar with.  This would also allow me to compare the results of my white hat efforts for local clients against the spam efforts that I put forward for this website.  Additionally, SEO for law firms is notoriously competitive, and I thought that it would be even more powerful to rank a site in this niche than a less competitive one.

Since this website would technically constitute attorney advertising, I got a client to agree to allow me to use his phone number and contact info on the site just in case someone actually did contact him for representation.

I set up the site for my Fiverr SEO.

I didn’t want this site anywhere near my legit work, so I opened another hosting account and put up a WordPress site in about an hour (if I ever do this again, I’m going to hire a $50 Fiverr gig to do the site, which would make this an even better experiment).  It was a responsive template that didn’t look that bad.  I really put minimal time into creating content, so the copy was on the thin side, at around 200-300 words.

I bought my first Fiverr SEO gig ($6)

do fiverr seo gigs workdo fiverr seo gigs work

Sure, I’d love to get some links from Harvard, Berkeley, and Penn State!  I also loved the fact that he was “Expert and Best Hi Quality Backlinks Provider” born and raised in the old U.S. of A.  I placed my order, which was completed within a day or two.   I received a spreadsheet with the urls of the links that were “created” including the following:

http://brooklynatlantis.poly.edu
http://ask.buffalostate.edu
http://boinc.umiacs.umd.edu
https://netplusadmdev0.internet2.edu/
http://ict.usc.edu/
https://vue-forums.uit.tufts.edu
http://www.unioncountyga.gov
http://setiathome.berkeley.edu
http://courses-sandbox.uplb.edu.ph
http://www.peacockroom.wayne.edu
http://milkyway.cs.rpi.edu/milkyway
http://ecologicalurbanism.gsd.harvard.edu/
http://volunteer.cs.und.edu
http://rdbp.sea.gov.ua
https://www.iupui.edu
http://community.openscholar.harvard.edu

Impressive, right?  I should be able to just sit back and let the visitors start rolling in!

Unfortunately, they were all forum profiles with a link to my new site and the anchor text that I was targeting.  Six months have passed, and none of these links have shown up in my search console.  Neither Majestic or Ahrefs ever found them either, so it really was a wash.  Obviously, these pages are not getting indexed and I’m out $6.  Could have bought a sandwich!

Since that was a wash, what about a Fiverr gig that actually gives me some metrics? ($21)

fiver gig listing tf and cf

Ok, so here we have a gig that is going to give me 5 “PBN links” with a high TF and CF and a DA/PA of 25.  I ordered the gig and got my report a few days later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

These were the domains that linked to my site:

the sites that linked to my fiverr gig

 

Now, if Google just followed Majestic’s metrics to determine rank, I’d be happy with this.  The gig cost $21 and got me a couple links from sites with metrics that weren’t that bad.  Let’s take a look at the actual sites linking to me:

fiverr gig seo site example

 

So this is less than ideal.  The link that I purchased was for a “worker’s compensation lawyer in cherry hill,” but here it’s sitting next to blogs for testosterone injection therapy.  I don’t know what Google is going to make of this, but it is typical of what the other four websites looked like.

I will add that after 6 months, all of these links are listed in my search console, so Google did crawl them.

What about a Fiverr SEO gig offering 150 links? ($11)

supposedly panda-safe SEO links from fiverr

This one is 101% manual!

It’s Penguin and Panda safe!

What could possibly go wrong?

I put my order in and wait a few days.  I’m dreaming of the torrent of cases that my client is going to get from the $50-something dollars that I’ve spent on Fiverr SEO.

I get the report and check the sites in Majestic

 

 

fiverr seo gigs are not trustworthy

 

 

 

 

Again, by Majestic standards, it’s a mixed bag.  Most are sites with no backlink profile to speak of, but a few do have some numbers in the 20s, so who knows?  The one thing that I do know is that many of these links are also in my Search Console, so Google did crawl them.  My takeaway was that I added a lot of super-spam links to my site, and if anything was going to get it penalized, it would be this gig.

Ok, let’s see how buying some Google Search traffic affects the site

buying search traffic doesn't help rank

So this service is going to search for my keyword, go to my website, and send signals to Google that my search result is best.

This has got to work, and it’s only $5!

I order, a few days go by, and I see a massive spike in visits… as well as a massive 99.9% bounce rate.  This is definitely not going to be the signals that I was hoping to send to Google.

I contact the seller and share my concerns.  She responds with an offer to provide some other services to make up for the mess that she made of my analytics.

I strongly advise against buying search traffic.  These sellers do not care enough about your $5 or $10 gig to not cut corners and end up sending your bounce rate to the stratosphere and your dwell time to 00:00.  Just don’t do it.

I stumble upon something that moved the needle ($6)

a fiverr gig that may have helped with SEOI tried a few other $5 gigs and other than seeing them affect my numbers in Majestic, I didn’t really see any other effects.  I ordered one last gig from what seemed to be one of the most popular sellers and waited.  Within a few days of buying this gig, my site was suddenly ranking on page 3-4 for the “workers comp” keyword variations that I ordered.  I was quite shocked.

The sites that hosted the blogs looked spammy as hell (see right), but amazingly enough, there was a definite correlation between buying this gig and the site starting to rank locally for the keywords I was targeting.

Most of the links that I got from this gig are still listed in my Search Console and as I have checked a few of them, they all seem to be live still.

Flying high until March 21st.

drop on march 21st

 

 

 

 

We were ranking 17-25 for the keywords that we were targeting and had spent less than $100.  That all ended when Google did something on March 21st, 2017.  My impressions dropped to half of what they were, and as of June 14th, they haven’t gone back up.  Now, I do recall training a new employee to work with the template that the site was built with around this time, and we did end up removing some content.  It may have been a result of the changes that we made to the site, or it may have been the inevitable slap that Google decided to give us.  I did notice that around this time, we stopped ranking for keywords that were often used as anchor text, so it was likely related to that.

My final opinion on Fiverr SEO gigs.

The vast majority will have no positive impact on your search rank at all.

There are a few in there that may help you in the short term, but long term, it is not an effective source for you to rank a website.  Don’t waste your time or money.

 

 

What Is Majestic TF and CF? A Quick Explainer

What is Majestic TF and CF?  A Quick Explainer Of Majestic’s Trust Flow and Citation Flow.

TF stands for “Trust Flow.”  This number reflects the amount of traffic that comes through a link and measures the “trustworthiness” of a page.  CF stands for “Citation Flow.”  It reflects the amount of “link juice” that a page has and is able to pass onto another site through links.  Together, they are used to measure the impact of a link from a website, as well as the likelihood of a certain website ranking well for a specific keyword.

It does go a bit beyond this, so I recommend that you read on.

First, why have two different metrics?

As you probably know already, Google has played cat-and-mouse with people trying to game their algorithm for several years now.  One of the ways that they were successful in gaming the system was by using bots to spam the internet with links, through comment spam on blogs and tons of other methods.  They also caught onto the fact that some “authoritative” or “trustworthy” websites were linking to other websites, but few to no visitors ever clicked on these links, calling into question the value of linking to these sites in the first place.  The way Google saw it was that either the link was irrelevant or the site linking could have been possibly paid by the site receiving the links; in either case, it resulted in a less-than-optimal web experience for web users.

So what is the difference between Pagerank (PR) and TF & CF?

Pagerank used to be what Google used to rank a page.  It’s no longer a factor and is not worth really discussing anymore outside of a few contexts:

  1. If you’re talking about the history of SEO, it is definitely worth talking about PR
  2. If you’re trying to spot a BS SEO, any mention of PR or Pagerank should be a dead giveaway that he or she has no clue of how SEO works.

The idea of TF and CF is similar to what the old PR bar would tell you, with some big differences.  First, TF and CF are generated by a third party, Majestic, and have no data coming straight from Google, while Google provided us PR directly from their data.  Ultimately, there is a correlation between TF & CF and rank in the search engines, but it is by no means a direct, 100% correlation as PR used to be.

How can I use TF and CF to work on my SEO?

There are a few applications:

  • Competitive analysis – what linkbuilding has my competitor done to rank his website?
  • Link outreach – is this site even worth reaching out to for a link?
  • Keeping tabs on your SEO – is the company that you hired cutting corners or doing good work?
COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS

I do a fairly thorough walkthrough of how to use Majestic to see what links a competitor has acquired.  This guide should give you a good idea of whether your competitor has been doing something that you can replicate, or if you should just consider another method for driving links and traffic to your site.  A word of warning: you may see that other sites are spamming and getting traffic—you may be tempted to do the same thing, but mark my words.  Google. Will. Figure. It. Out.  When it does, you’re going to get slapped.

You can tell if they have been using spammy methods through one of the following:

  • There is a huge difference between the TF and the CF.  A TF that is 1/2 to 1/3 or lower of the CF says that they are getting links from “authoritative” sites, but those links are generating little traffic.  That is fishy and Google can easily tell that they are doing something manipulative.
  • You look at the backlinks going to your competitor and you can tell that they are from BS websites like this one:

how to use tf and cf for seo

LINK OUTREACH

This is the main thing that we use to do linkbuilding for our clients. There are many ways that you can use Majestic to find new opportunities to get links:

  • Find a website that is linking to an article on another site, then offer a better article for them to link to
  • See if a specific blog has enough authority to even bother reaching out
  • Find a website that is relevant to your industry that you did not know about.  This can allow you to establish a relationship in a place where you can gain some new followers.
KEEPING TABS ON YOUR SEO

There are companies and individuals out there that are dishonest (gasp!)

You may be paying a company to write blogs and establish an internet presence for your business, and what they are actually doing is spraying the internet with spam comments.  They only way that you would ever know would be to go to a site like Majestic or Ahrefs and take a look at your backlink profile.  If you see something that doesn’t look kosher, it will give you the opportunity to fire the SEO that you are working with, avoid any potential penalties down the road, avoid blowing even more money on something that is bound to damage your online presence, and move on to another company that is able to do the work that you need.

What you should be looking at:

  • The TF to CF ratio should not be any lower that 1/3 and even that is pushing it.  Ideally, you have a TF/CF of 1/2-2/1 and you are actually getting some traffic from the links that you built.  Links for the sake of links are not the way to go, necessarily.
  • The backlinks that you acquire should be from a variety of websites, with a bunch of differing anchor text (the underlined words that form the hyperlink to your site), and should be in different contexts.  They should not all be guest posts, blog comments, blogroll, footer, or any one type of link.  If they are, for example, 50 blog posts and nothing else, your SEO is getting lazy and you might be at risk for a penalty.
  • All in all, look for anything that doesn’t look natural.

TF and CF are metrics given by a proverbial “blind man feeling the elephant.”

As I discussed in another post, none of the SEO available paint a complete picture.  There is a lot going on in Google’s algorithm (supposedly, over 200+ items) and these tools are only measuring links, which are just one part of the equation.  As Google’s AI becomes even more powerful, it is likely that links will decrease in importance, at which point the entire SEO industry will be upended yet again, and tools like Majestic will need to change in order to continue to provide value.

Please share your thoughts below.  Did I miss any important uses for Majestic’s TF and CF?

 

 

 

 

How to Track Your Google Rank for Free

How to Use Google Search Console

How can the Search Console help you, the business owner?

The free tool through which Google tells you where you are ranking on the search engine.

While Google Analytics tells you what people do once they find your site, Search Console tells you how they found it in the first place.  Considering how much time and effort is put into increasing the organic rank of a website, it is unfortunate that so few business owners are familiar with the the very tool that Google has made available to track the progress of these efforts.  It is a free, underutilized tool that few people outside of the digital marketing space use.  Adwords and Analytics are ubiquitous tools that you are probably already familiar with, so now it’s time to learn to use the Search Console.  This blog post and accompanying videos will walk you through the basics.

How to track the progress of your SEO campaign

HOW OFTEN DO YOU SHOW UP FOR A KEYWORD SEARCH?

It is a tall order to expect to start off a new campaign or launch a new website and start outranking the competition out of the gate.  For this reason, you should start off by tracking your number of impressions.  Impressions are the number of time that your website popped up as a result for a query.  It is important to track this because if you are not even popping up at all for a specific term, how do you expect to ever get clicks for it?  Impressions are closely tracked to tell how often you are ranking for a specific keyword or phrase.  If you are at the stage of your SEO plan where you simply want to see if you are popping up in the results, impression are what you should be paying attention to.

This is how you use impressions to track progress:

WHAT POSITION ARE YOU FOR A SPECIFIC KEYWORD?

Do not expect to get any traffic for a query until you are ranking in positions 1-5.  A miniscule number of internet users scroll down to 6-10 and page 2 to find what they are searching for, so until you reach there, don’t expect any clicks.  If you are a roofing company in Bordentown, NJ, you know that you want to rank for “roofing companies in south jersey”—the Search Console will tell you how to track that:

WHO IS LINKING TO YOUR WEBSITE?

Now that we know where we are ranking in the search engine results, we probably want to do something to increase our rank for a specific keyword.  As we are writing content, reaching out to online communities, websites, and blogs whose audiences will find our content to be valuable, we want to know which of these new links are being indexed by Google.  While there are much better tools out there to track your new links, like Majestic and Ahrefs, neither of these will give you any information on whether Google has actually found them.  Here is how you see where you are getting links:

Search Console will not give you an exhaustive list of every link that it finds for your website, but it will give you a “sample” that you can use to keep tabs on whether your outreach efforts are being noticed by the search engine.  If you’ve been working to pump out articles for a certain publication that isn’t being indexed by the crawlers, your efforts could be better spent working on something else.

Follow the trends

Do not expect to overtake established websites in a matter of a month or two (insert an axiom about SEO being a marathon and not a sprint here).  What you want to see is progress:

  • How many new keywords are you ranking for?
  • By how much has your number of impressions increased over the last 90 days?
  • How many keywords are you ranking for in the top 1-5?

By tracking trends, you know whether your SEO efforts are having an impact or not, allowing you to adjust accordingly.  It also frees you up from the spin that your SEO provider may be giving you; there are many ways to present numbers, and if you understand the different ways that SEO can be measured, you are better able to interpret the numbers being provided yourself.

 

 

 

Step Three of the SEO Process: Content Strategy

Content strategy: failing to plan is planning to fail.

This is the third part of a three part series on the SEO process.  If you have not yet read part 1 or 2, visit our post on technical SEO and the second post on local SEO.

Establishing a content strategy before you do anything is going to be key to building a successful SEO plan.  A well-designed content strategy will potentially:

  • drive new clients to your business
  • serve as a testament to your expertise when customers are vetting and comparing you to other options
  • help you to serve your current customers by saving you time on the phone because you can simply direct them to blog posts or videos on your site
  • send solid signals to search engines communicating what your website is about

A poorly-designed content strategy will:

  • lack direction
  • have huge gaps in topics, missing key issues that your customers want information about
  • be inconsistent in publishing, with periods of new blogs followed by weeks or months of nothing new being produced
  • speak about topics that your customers don’t care about
  • promote your content in the wrong places
  • not send a clear message to search engines about your business

STEP ONE: WHOM ARE YOU WRITING FOR AND WHAT DOES HE OR SHE NEED?

Who is your audience?  What problems do they have?  Can you answer any of the questions that they may have?  What can you teach them?

Figuring out whom to talk to will help you to determine what to talk to him or her about.  Client-facing employees are key to this part of the process; they understand the pain points of your customers and what you can do to address those pain points.

START OFF BY CREATING PERSONAS

Your content strategy begins and ends with your audience.  The best way to start off your content planning is to create actual personas that represent the audience that you wish to reach.  Let’s show you an example from our own content strategy:

 

This is Tom. He is a plumber that used to work for a well-known plumbing company in the Cherry Hill area, but has since gone off on his own.  He thought that he would be able to get work from referrals, but things have been slow.  He wants to start getting some business online, so he has a site built by someone that his cousin knows.  A few months have gone by and he is still not really getting any business, so he starts doing some research online to find out “how to get to #1 on Google.”

 

He wants to know:

  • how SEO works and how much it costs
  • how long it will take him to start getting business if he does some SEO
  • what Google Adwords is, since he’s seen it mentioned in a few blogs
EMPATHIZE WITH YOUR PERSONA

There will be Toms, Marys, and Josefinas that you will create.  They will be composites of customers that you have met in the past and you will be familiar with the problems and concerns that they have.  Create the persona, empathize with her, really get into the psychology of what she wants and why she wants it, and craft your content strategy around her.  Are you going to write some blogs?  Shoot some video?  How high quality does the video need to be?  How in-depth are you going to get with each topic?  How is each piece of content going to fit into the puzzle of helping this persona?

EXAMPLE OF WHAT A POST IS GOING TO LOOK LIKE

As you may imagine, this blog post is talking to Tom, someone that has never heard of content marketing.  He gets his info on the topic that I’m writing about on Google, so I’m going to create content specifically for that medium and that’s where I’m likely to promote it.  If I knew that Tom really spends a lot of time on Instagram, it might behoove me to try to create content that would reach him there and drive him to my site, but luckily, he is on a platform that I know plenty about and this is where I’m creating content for him.  I’m trying to teach him the basics of how to do SEO and content marketing, not to give him a sales pitch.  I know that he’s not an expert and he just wants a high level explanation of how to rank higher on the search engine.  Since content is a part of that, I’m teaching him to do it in a way that is more likely to work than letting him waste time by blogging about random topics.

If I had decided that the audience that I wanted to reach was Gina, the director of marketing at a local college in Philadelphia, this entire post would have been different.  I would have gotten into how I use a tool such as Ahrefs.com to uncover topics that competitors are ranking for but that are missing from my site.  I would have gone in depth to show how she can use a similar tool to inform her content strategy with data.  Getting into a topic like that would be way over Tom’s head, so I don’t even mention it, but down the road I’ll get into that other topic for that other persona I want to reach.

GET THE PICTURE?

Great.  Get out the sticky notes, start jotting down all the questions that you regularly get from clients, and start figuring out the best way to answer them through your content.

STEP 2: CREATE A CONTENT CALENDAR

Now that you’ve identified all of the problems that you are going to address for Tom, Mary, and Josefina, you need to plan when you are going to address these problems and you need to stick with it.  Plan to create at least one piece of content a week; preferably, you should create 3.  This content can be a video, a blog, an infographic, or maybe even photography; the format doesn’t matter as much as the pain points it addresses.  You need to sit down with an actual calendar and answer the following questions:

  • Which persona will each post talk to and what problem will it solve for that persona?
  • When are you going to create the content?  Will you create it as you go or write it in big batches and schedule the publishing for future dates?  How are you going to ensure that you are sticking to the planned schedule?
  • How do the posts relate to one another?  How are you going to manage internal linking from older posts to newer posts?

STEP 3: CREATE A PLAN TO PROMOTE YOUR CONTENT

Now it is time to get back to the topic of where your clients are online.  Creating content that no one ever finds is not going to be particularly helpful to your online strategy.  You are going to come up with a strategy for reaching these clients, be it by reading blogs that they read, participating in forums or FB groups, or even through paid advertising.

The best suggestion that I can give you is to test out a few different options.  Put equal time and effort into each one, then check your analytics to see what seems to be driving traffic.  This will help you to identify the platforms that you should be using to promote your content as you move forward, while giving you a clearer picture of the types of content that your customers want to read.  Even if these visitors do not turn into paying customers, the volume of visits to your site and the time that they spend there will serve as signals to the search engine that there is good content on your site, increasing the likelihood of your page popping up for the “money keywords” that you’re hoping to rank for.

STEP 4: CREATE, LEARN, ITERATE

Start creating content.  Check your analytics regularly.  Learn what topics seem to interest your visitors.  Find out what sites are sending your traffic.  Use all of this information as you move forward.  By using data to gain insights into what seems to be working for the content strategy supporting your SEO efforts, you are much more likely to stick to topics that resonate with your readers, sending valuable signals to the search engines, while creating goodwill by helping people, and establishing yourself as an authority in the field that you work in.

The First Step of SEO for a New Website: Technical SEO

SEO starts with taking care of the technical part

In this post, I’m going to walk you through the technical elements that we take care of when doing SEO for a new website and that you can absolutely do yourself.

YOUR SITE MUST BE MOBILE-FRIENDLY

Your new website is mobile-friendly, right?  If it is not, you are probably working with a site that will not best serve about 50%-75% of the people searching for businesses like yours on smartphones.  Even if you do manage to rank the website well, it will be for nothing if it doesn’t get you any new customers.

You can remedy this very easily by installing a responsive WordPress theme on your site.  “Responsive” means that the site will readjust the placement of the images and text according to the size of the screen that it is displaying on.  This means that it will be mobile and tablet-friendly and it will be able to use more of the real estate on a larger computer monitor.

YOUR SITE MUST BE FAST

There are a lot of options for checking the speed of your site, but I’m going to recommend Google PageSpeed Insights.  Type the URL of your website into the tool and Google will tell you what you need to do in order to improve the speed of your site.  There are common issues that can be addressed with any number of free plugins, the most common being:

Images that haven’t been optimized

The dimensions of the images on your site are much larger than they need to be.  Compress them and your site will look the same, yet have to download much less information

No browser caching

Allows a browser to store a local version of some of the info that the site delivers, allowing it to load more quickly

Minify CSS and/or Javascript

Basically, compresses some of the script that tells the browser how to display your website

Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content

This means that the JavaScript and CSS in your theme have to be loaded before the html loads for the content that you first see when you land on the website.  This article goes into more detail about it.

Another way to speed up your site for mobile will be by implementing AMP (accelerated mobile pages).  Amp stores an html version of your blog posts that will allow them to load on smartphones almost instantaneously.  There is a plugin for WordPress that will get you up and running in AMP.  Mind you, it does not support the pages of your site, only blog posts.

YOU MUST HAVE A METHOD FOR ADJUSTING TITLE TAGS AND META DESCRIPTIONS

title tags and meta descriptions

You are going to need a method of adjusting the text in the image above.  This can be done with a plugin like Yoast SEO or by doing it manually, but it needs to be done and you’ll have to figure out how you intend to handle this critical part of your SEO strategy.

YOU HAVE PLACED MICRODATA ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS ON YOUR WEBSITE

This is particularly useful for a local business.  There are ways to share information about your business, products, or services in a way that Google will be able to share it right on the search engine results page.

rich snippets example

To start, this result jumps out from the rest since it is the only result for “italian restaurant in philadelphia” that has a price range displaying as well as 789 reviews.  If you are trying to get in front of a person that is looking to spend $30+ a person and wants to know that there are reviews that he or she can see, then this microdata could help to push your business ahead of the rest on the search engine results page.

There are WordPress plugins that can handle the entering of microdata and Google allows you to do it right in the Search Console with its data highlighter tool.

data highlighter tool

YOU HAVE A SITEMAP AND YOU SUBMITTED IT TO BING AND GOOGLE

Sitemaps make it much easier for the search engines to know what to crawl and index your site.  Think of them like a map of downtown Manhattan—sure, you can just wander around and you’re likely to stumble upon a bunch of cool stuff, but a map would guarantee that you saw everything that you wanted to see.  A sitemap will do exactly that.  You can manually create a sitemap or generate one using a plugin such as the Yoast SEO WordPress plugin.  Once you have a sitemap, submit it in Search Console.

submit your sitemap through search console

Now that we’ve gotten the basics of the technical SEO started, let’s move onto the second step: local citations and listings.

Should Your SEO & PPC Reports Be No More Than 3 Numbers?

The case for simplified SEO and PPC reporting.

Does in-depth reporting provide any value in the first place?

I work primarily with professional services firms, the majority of whom are law firms.  These clients are highly intelligent, extremely well-educated, and generally speaking, highly successful in their fields.  If anyone outside of marketing is going to be able to easily understand a typical PPC report, it would be the accountants, lawyers, and adjusters that we work with, but surprisingly, most do not.  Even after the meeting or phone call that explains a CTR or a CPA, I can tell that the majority do not entirely understand what the reports are telling them and that we need a new way to report to our non-marketing clients.

“All kinds of lines and graphs”

I recall a first meeting with a small firm in Philadelphia that was leaving a well-known attorney marketing firm from out of state.  I asked about the results that he had been seeing, what was working and what wasn’t, and he answered that “they send me an email with all kinds of lines and graphs every month, but it is impossible to read.  I’ll send you a copy of some of them and you can tell me.”  The forwarded email was a standard report that clearly outlined the changes in traffic, time on page, bounce rate, and all of the typical metrics that we use to track web traffic.  The client was a 38 year-old graduate of the University of Pennsylvania that was very comfortable managing most aspects of his website, so it was not an issue of not being “tech-savvy” or uneducated.

He just didn’t get what the numbers meant in terms of his business and the time that his agency put into those reports was wasted.

Pick three numbers and put them front and center.

PPC and SEO reporting must be simplified to the point that a child can understand it.  At 12khz, we have started creating dashboards for clients using Google’s Data Studio. These dashboards prominently feature the numbers that mean the most to that client.  What does your client care about?

  • Number of phone calls?
  • Number of people visiting the website?
  • Time on page?

By focusing on a few numbers that the client clearly understands and that you have mutually agreed impact the business the most, your reporting goes from being “an email with a bunch of lines and graphs” to being a document that communicates the progress and results of the work that they are paying you to do.  In the case of analytics reporting for non-marketers, less is significantly more.  All of the typical detailed reporting should be placed on separate pages as to not overwhelm or distract our clients, but still remain available should they choose to delve more deeply into the work that you’ve done.

What are your thoughts?  Have you had any positive experiences with greatly simplifying your client reporting?  Am I totally wrong? Please share below.

 

When Is Lower Production Value Better For Video Content?

Sometimes, people want to see your brand’s pimples and stretchmarks.

“I don’t want any video to go up on our Facebook page unless it is broadcast quality.”

Our client had a brand image that was highly polished and refined.  We were discussing the business’s content strategy, and the topic had turned to video content; specifically, Facebook Live.  Until that point, the website had no video content other than advertisements and case studies of the work that it had done.  We suggested that the site begin featuring more video content, but it was rebuffed as being cost-prohibitive.  We countered by suggesting that the business could shoot “whiteboard-style” videos and behind-the-scenes content with a smartphone, eliminating the high cost of video production.  The owner did not want any video content that wasn’t broadcast quality, and to this day, the blog and social media pages have no video content whatsoever.

Does video content have to be broadcast quality?

Ten years ago, I would have answered “absolutely.”  Any shop that put out video content that looked in any way amateurish could have done more harm than good to their brand, leaving them worse off than if they had simply left “good enough” alone.  Now that high quality video equipment is available to pretty much any small business, the need for broadcast quality is actually less, and in some cases, could actually even be counterproductive.  For a brand that aims to foster trust and exude authenticity, lower production value can help them achieve it.

Wait, how can lower quality ever be preferable?

Today, people crave authenticity.  We have become so inundated with cleverly edited, touched up content that internet users have become a bit fatigued from it all; we live in a state of feeling like we’re being lied to. Additionally, we have become better than ever at sniffing out inauthenticity in what we find online.

It can be argued that many have come to regard much “high production content” as suspect.  We hear the occasional stories of high-profile Instagram models “outing” their pages as inauthentic.  Rapper Kendrick Lamar expressed the sentiments of fatigue with overpolished content, expressing a distaste for Photoshop and a wish to see “stretchmarks.”

This explains the odd success that people like DJ Khaled have had on media like Snapchat.  His Snapchat story about being lost at sea was viewed 1.8 million times.  He posts videos such as this that people love:

Why do people enjoy this content?  Because it is real.  Here, DJ Khaled is inviting us into his life, starring in his own self-produced reality show—a reality show that differs from the high production “reality” shows that we have become accustomed to because it is real.  People see that it was shot with a smartphone and posted to Snapchat; this is the brand equivalent to the “stretchmarks” that people like Kendrick Lamar want to see.

When your business or brand can benefit from “low production value” video

You want to create trust.  If you operate in an industry that needs to foster trust, low production value video can often gain that trust better than a video that could be aired at the Super Bowl.  An iPhone video will better communicate what it’s like behind the scenes at your business—just be sure to hide your startup’s ping pong table and piñatas before you hit record.  In other words, the fact that you are shooting with the smartphone lends authenticity, but you still don’t want to overshare.  As anyone that ever watched Chappelle’s Show can attest, keeping it real can and does go wrong.

You want to create a large volume of content.  For whatever the reason may be, sheer volume of content could be part of the content strategy that your business has adopted.  Being able to shoot and edit on the fly could facilitate this strategy for your company.

You need agility.  If you are creating content to create thought leadership for your brand, weeks are the equivalent of years.  If you want to create content about the latest Google or Facebook algorithm changes, you don’t have weeks to plan, create, edit, and promote your video. Get some decent lighting, a tripod and clip for your phone, and get it out ASAP.

Ultimately, there are advantages to creating video content with a smartphone.

The agility, authenticity, and cost afforded by smartphone video can create value for you and the audience you wish to reach.  For a brand wishing to outflank its larger competitors, this sort of content could be key in doing so successfully.  What are some brands that you’ve seen do this well?  Are there reasons to embrace low-production value video in addition to the ones that I have listed?  Does your brand have plans to implement a similar strategy?  I look forward to reading your comments.

 

3 Steps to Getting Your Business into the Google 3-Pack

We’re going to show you how to get into the local 3-pack.

First, why do we want to be in the local 3-pack?

Open up a new tab in your browser and do a search for the service that you offer.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.

If you’re like 90%+ of Google users, you skipped the paid results at the top, then saw a local map with three businesses there.  You’ve heard that it can be incredibly difficult to get to #1 on Google, but these results are even higher than #1 and it’s not hard to rank rank there if you know what you’re doing.  Want proof?  Here is a search for a medical spa in Cherry Hill, NJ.  Two weeks ago, result #2, Revamp Medical Spa (our client), didn’t even have an internet presence beyond a Facebook page.  Now look where they are:

 

How would you like to place your business in that little 3-pack of local businesses?  Our client even showed up higher than Anu, a business that has been around for several years and has 26 reviews.  How is this possible?

You never even know how far “local” can actually be.

If you’re lucky, the “local 3-pack” can have an even bigger reach.  Here’s a search for “PPC agency in NJ”

new jersey local seo

SEM Geeks are over an hour away from my office, yet here they are ranking in the “local” 3-pack.  Get your business into this spot and you don’t know how far reaching the impact can be; we get phone calls from businesses located hours away from our office that we know found us through the 3-pack.

So, how do you get into the local 3-pack?

Step 1: Local Citations

The very first thing that you need to do is choose your NAP (name, address, and phone number).  Are you located on Rt. 73, Route 73, or NJ-73? (these are all variations of the address of our office)  Are you 12khz, LLC or 12khz SEO | Web Design | PPC?  Does your phone number have dashes or periods? Do you use the main line or your personal office’s line?  Frankly, the most important thing is that it must be consistent across your website and all of the local citations that you are going to claim.

Once you have picked your one consistent version of your address, claim your Google My Business profile.  Complete the profile as thoroughly as you can (logo, photos, everything) and verify your listing (you’ll get a postcard in the mail).  After that, there are hundreds of directories that you can list your site on, but having 300 directories pointing to your site can look spammy as hell, so only submit to the good ones.  You can find a shortlist of the ones that you should definitely be on here and you can find a list that includes the “trust flow” (the trustworthiness/non-spamminess) of a large number of directories here.

I don’t want to scare you; if you don’t have time or the manpower to list your site on all of these directories, get on the big ones:

  1. Google My Business
  2. Yelp
  3. Homeadvisor (for contractors)
  4. Facebook
  5. Apple Maps
  6. Foursquare.com
  7. Yellowpages.com
  8. manta.com
Sometimes, this is all that you have to do to rank in the local 3-pack.  If you operate in more of a competitive market, you may have to do more.
Step 2:  Create pages for each of your services and areas that you serve

Services

We often see websites where a client may list all of his or her services on the home page or services page and call it a day.  By creating individual landing pages for each of the services that you offer, you can tailor the message of why someone should hire you vs. someone else to perform that very service.

Below is a screenshot of the website of a brand new client that we started working with this week:

The first thing that we are going to do for this client is create individual pages for each of these services.  Once there is a dedicated page for each service and a mention of the area served, this client will be much more likely to rank for “home appraiser for divorce settlements near me.”  Odds are that none of his competitors have a page on their sites targeting that long tail keyword, which should make it much easier to rank for than “home appraisers.”

Areas of service

This is an area where you can be tempted to get spammy.  Do not cut and paste the same exact page and change the name of the town.  While this is not a common reason for a site to get penalized, it’s only a matter of time before Google decides to slap everyone that has put up 400 pages targeting every single town in the state with the same exact text.  If you do create individual pages for each area you serve, be sure to make each page significantly different and you won’t run the risk of a future penalty.  Nonetheless, if you do this right, you’re going to greatly increase your chances of popping up for someone doing a local search.

Step 3: Stay active on your Google My Business

Since the local 3-pack pulls data from Google My Business, it would only make sense to stay on top of it.  Regularly adding photos and content to it makes Google happy, and they are likely to reward your efforts by delivering your results in local search.

Some tips:

  • Solicit reviews from your clients and be sure to respond to each one
  • Post images regularly—people love pictures, and so does Google
    • Post pictures of you and your employees.  You’ve heard the saying that people don’t buy services, they buy people.
  • Add the virtual tour!!!

Thank you for visiting us.  Be sure to like us on Facebook and sign up for our free mailing list (scroll up and look at the right sidebar) to learn more about how you can get more business through the internet.

 

 

 

6 Invaluable Tips For a Law Firm Starting SEO

As you begin the somewhat scary process of investing thousands of dollars into SEO for your website, here are 5 invaluable tips.

1. Make sure that you’ve gotten some references for the company that you hire.

While most attorneys are too busy to get on the phone and vouch for their SEO vendor, any reputable company will have developed relationships with a few that will be willing to answer a short email about whether they are happy with the service that they’ve received.  If your prospective SEO agency cannot deliver on this, pass.

2. Make sure that you will have a monthly scheduled call

You should be constantly in the loop with what is going on.  It will send the message to your agency that if there is any slack on their end, you will pick up on it quickly.  It is very easy for a company to deliver results off the bat, then start to spend less and less time on your account as time passes.  Avoid inattentive husband syndrome.

3. Retain control over everything

Your hosting should be in your name, as should your domain name registration, and you should have administrative access of the site through WordPress.  Unless you really don’t want to deal with it, there is no reason for your SEO company to have total control over anything. Should its delivery begin to falter, the divorce will be much more difficult if you do not have possession of the site or domain name.

4. Learn to use Google Analytics

Lynda.com has a course that will teach you all of the must-know basics.  I highly recommend you take it and monitor your analytics at least twice a month.  This will give you some insights into the SEO work that your agency is doing.

5. Learn to use the Google Search Console

Start tracking your ranking for specific keywords.  If analytics tells you what people do when they land on your site, Google Search Console will tell you how they found it in the first place.  While there are many third party tools that will tell you how you are doing on Google, none will be as effective as the tool that Google provides us due to the sheer amount of data that they have.  This will give you even more insights into the work that your company is doing.

6. Your SEO company should be creating content, building backlinks, and changing things around on your site.

If they are not writing blogs, shooting video, or posting some sort of content, that is a red flag.  If they are not building backlinks to your site, that is another red flag.  If they give you some story about doing “on-site optimization,” ask for specifics about title or header tags that were changed and the effect on rank that was reflected in the Search Console.  This will allow you to call bullshit on any company that is billing you and not actually doing anything.

If you are interested in learning about SEO in general, I highly recommend you check out our series on the process of SEO:

Phase 1 – Technical SEO

Phase 2 – Local SEO

Phase 3 – Content Strategy

If are ready to take the first steps towards hiring an agency to help rank your website, you can find out more about our SEO services here.

Local SEO Checklist for Small Business Owners

Local SEO checklist for business owners

This is the second part of performing SEO for a website.  The first part involves the technical elements of SEO, which you can learn about here.

There is much that you can do for your own website that could increase your chances of ranking when potential customers are searching for businesses like yours.  Whether you handle these tasks yourself, delegate them to a subordinate, or opt to hire a local South Jersey SEO agency such as ours, there are a number of tasks that can be completed with a minimum amount of technical knowledge.  This article and accompanying checklist at the end will walk  you through a number of these steps.

  1. Determine Your NAP
  2. Claim all of your business listings
  3. Set up landing pages for each of your services and towns your serve
  4. Set up Google Analytics and Search Console

1. Determine Your NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number)

Before you do anything, you must settle upon a single name, version of your address, and phone number that you want to associate your business with across the web.  What do I mean by this? Our office is located on Route 73 in Marlton, NJ—an address that could also be listed as NJ-73 in Evesham Township, NJ.  It is important that we choose one vs. the other and keep it consistent throughout all of our listings.  I would suggest claiming your Google My Business to start the process; this will allow you to see how Google has your physical address listed in its system.  In other words, does it know your address as Route 73, RT 73, or NJ-73?  As far as Google is concerned, are you in Marlton or Evesham Township?  It’s important to determine this ahead of time in order to maintain consistency throughout all of your listings and your website.  Once you have determined what version of your name, address, and phone number will be published across the web, place the same information on the footer and contact page of your website.

2. Claim All of Your Other Listings

There are a number of web directories other than Google My Business that you should use to list your site.  The purpose of this is not necessarily to gain referral traffic—as we stated in another post, you can’t expect much traffic from these lesser-known directories—but they will have an impact on your chances of showing up in the local 3-pack.  We have an extensive list of of directories where you can list your business here.

3. Have Landing Pages for Each of Your Services

Let’s say that you are a local mechanic.  Your website should have a dedicated page for oil changes, brake service, transmission repair, and every other service that you offer.  Your chances of ranking highly for “mechanic in cherry hill” are much lower than they are for a keyword like “transmission repair in cherry hill,” and your chances of ranking for that term will be greatly increased if you have a dedicated page for that service.  Having a dedicated landing page for transmission repair will allow you to use the keywords “transmission repair cherry hill” right in the title of the page, the header tags, and the url, all signals that point to Google that your page is relevant to the term that the user is searching for.  Additionally, you will have the chance to increase the likelihood of the user clicking on your result by writing a metadescription that talks specifically to your transmission services, as opposed to your auto shop in general.

This same tactic can be used to target specific towns, though it can start to look a little spammy, so tread lightly.  There is a good chance that Google will one day penalize sites that publish 200 identical pages targeting “mechanics in _____________.”

4. Set Up Your Google Analytics and Search Console

Search Console will track how your website ranks in the search engine results and Analytics tracks the behavior of visitors once they get to the site.  It is imperative that you track both how people are finding your site and what they are doing once they find it.  These two tools are free, extremely powerful, and able to tell you all you need about these two aspects of your digital presence.

You can set up a Google Analytics account here.  If you are not comfortable installing the tracking code yourself, there are a number of WordPress plugins that will do it for you, such as these.  Once you have your Analytics code installed, go to your Google Search Console and set up your account.

Once you have completed this part of the SEO process, it is time to establish a content strategy, the third part of the SEO process.