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Preview: Search Engine Guide : Small Business Search Marketing

Search Engine Guide : Small Business Search Marketing

Search engine marketing news and information you can use to grow your business.

Last Build Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2016 12:59:56 -0600

Copyright: Copyright 2016

6 Strategies for Small Businesses to Outrank National Competition in Search Engines

Tue, 22 Nov 2016 12:59:56 -0600

by Jayson DeMers Search engine optimization (SEO) is an effective and cost-efficient strategy, so long as you can get past the biggest obstacle to success: competition.Even if you work tirelessly to rank for a valuable keyword, one strong competitor is all it takes to knock you out of the top position and compromise what you've built. Big national companies, which have spent years establishing massive domain authorities and solid positions in their respective industries, are some of the fiercest competitors there are, but there are strategies small businesses can use to remain competitive.Top Strategies for SuccessThese are some of the most effective ways to remain competitive on a national scale, even with a limited budget:1. Highlight your brand's unique advantages.As Elorus notes, one of the best ways for small brands to remain competitive with bigger brands is to show off what makes them unique; for example, a small business may get the edge on a national competitor by showing off personalized customer service (such as with a dedicated account representative). You can do this in SEO too; the trick is to select keywords and phrases that reflect those unique advantages. Write pages of content on your site that fully explain and detail those advantages, and optimize accordingly.2. Target niche keywords.Along similar lines, you can differentiate yourself by choosing more niche target keywords. Instead of optimizing for basic keywords relevant to the entirety of your industry, choose keywords that are only relevant to your specific demographics. For example, you could choose keywords that appeal to an audience segment that you seek, but your national competitors wouldn't. It's a way of taking advantage of audience members that nobody else is pursuing.3. Use more long-tail keywords.As explained by Moz, another good strategy is to optimize for more long-tail keywords. "Head" keywords are generally short, topic-based keywords like "taco restaurant." These keywords are high in search volume, which makes them generate lots of traffic, but they're also highly competitive. The opposite is to choose long-tail keywords, which contain more words and longer phrases, usually representing longer, more conversational queries, like "where are the spiciest tacos in California." These won't see as much search volume, which gives them less total potential, but at the same time, they'll be far easier to rank for.4. Consider local optimization.Quick Sprout offers another strategy in the form of pursuing local optimization (local SEO) specifically. Google actually uses two separate algorithms for national search results and local results. For local results, it displays the top three relevant results in a "local 3-pack," where each company's name is presented next to links to a website, phone number, and directions. Optimizing for this isn't much different from national optimization, but will maximize your audience's relevance and weed out some competition. You'll need to optimize for more local-specific keyword terms and phrases and get yourself listed in local directories like Yelp or TripAdvisor.5. Rely on third-party references.Many SEO strategies have benefits in addition to their ability to increase your search engine rankings, especially when they involve third-party sources. For example, getting guest posts published on external publishers will earn you more inbound traffic from referral links and boost your brand's reputation. The same is true for any local citations you earn with third-party sources. To get an edge over the competition, focus less on the primary goal of earning higher rankings, and diversify your strategy by earning traffic, visibility, and a better reputation with these third-party references.6. Seek alternative modes of visibility.Finally, remember what the core value of your SEO campaign is in the first place; the quality of your content. If you write great content, you'll be rewarded with higher search rankings, but the power of your content is independently rewarding. Consider using your content to generate[...]

6 Ways to Make Seasonal Content Effective in SEO

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 12:27:10 -0600

by Jayson DeMers In the SEO world, most people pay significant attention to "evergreen" content, which is content that remains relevant no matter what time of the year it is, or even what year it is. It can be repurposed, reposted, re-syndicated, and re-read at any time, and it still retains its value, so most people see it athe smart, long-term investment.While this is mostly true, you shouldn't neglect the potential power of its counterpart--seasonal content. Seasonal content is content that's only valuable or relevant during certain times of the year or during certain events; for example, it could be tied to a literal season, a holiday, or a particularly busy time of the year for your business.For example, you might write about how to protect your plants from the winter cold, or about your favorite Halloween recipes, or even how to address a boom in real estate spending. But how can you implement this seasonal content effectively?Key ConsiderationsThese are some of the most important things to keep in mind:1. Remember the advantages.Seasonal content isn't inherently better or worse than evergreen content; instead, it has its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, even though it's only effective for part of the year, it also comes with less competition, so you can use it as a way to build a more specific niche readership. It's also useful for targeting specific keywords related to your chosen season and it can build your brand's expertise in that area. Play to those advantages when developing your content.2. Headlines are everything.The headlines of your articles are the most important feature--with seasonal content as well as evergreen. The headline is the first thing your readers are going to see, and the most important piece to optimize for SEO, so put ample time and energy into creating your seasonal content headlines. Make sure you explicitly include keywords relevant to that season, or your readers may be disappointed when they read it.3. Build on your previous efforts.Seasonal content may not be relevant for the entire year, but that doesn't mean it can't be reused or built upon. After all, winter comes around every 12 months (whether you like it or not). Instead of launching a new seasonal content strategy every year, or abandoning your efforts at the end of the season, reexamine your strategy to build on your previous year's efforts and keep your momentum going.4. Only syndicate your posts when appropriate.Hopefully, you've already got a syndication strategy in place, promoting your older content marketing posts on social media and other publication channels on a regular basis. However, you'll want to avoid promoting your seasonal content when it isn't appropriate, or it could appear as though you aren't organized. Instead, keep your evergreen content in regular rotation, and only syndicate your seasonal content when the time is right.5. Pay attention to the competition.Next, pay close attention to how your competition is using seasonal content. Not every industry benefits from using seasonal content, so think about what your contemporaries are doing. Beyond that, look for key competitive opportunities by considering types of content your competitors aren't writing, and jump on them. If your competitors seem to have a lockdown on a given seasonal niche, it may not be worth the pursuit. One of the greatest advantages of seasonal content is its low competition, so if that advantage is made irrelevant, its power significantly wanes.6. Target your keywords carefully.Finally, do your keyword research well in advance of creating any content. Seasonal keywords spike in traffic for short periods of time, so it's important to notice patterns in traffic and competition from year to year. Optimize your headlines and body content accordingly.Keeping these considerations in mind and adjusting your strategy accordingly will help you develop better seasonal content and make it work better for your brand. Evergreen content, while cost-effective, doesn't have a monopoly on the content m[...]

How to Use Competitors to Your Advantage in SEO

Fri, 04 Nov 2016 15:06:27 -0600

by Jayson DeMers Search engine optimization (SEO) is a powerful strategy, enabling you to get your website in front of thousands of monthly searchers--but it's also a sensitive one. Because users often go with the first thing they see in search engine results pages (SERPs), all it takes is one competitor outranking you to completely stifle your potential.But what if you could use your competitors to your advantage, rather than letting them climb over you?Competitive StrategiesThere are actually distinct strategies you can use to take advantage of the fact that your competition exists. Rather than serving as an obstacle or an annoyance, these strategies turn your competitors into boosts for your SEO campaign.1. Optimize product reviews.First, you can work on optimizing product reviews for SEO. Reviews affect SEO in a number of different ways. For example, getting better reviews for your business can help you rank higher in local search results. Earning detailed, positive customer reviews for products can help you rank for target keywords relating to those products. Reviews can even appear in SERPs directly if you use the correct microformatting. Take a look at how your competitors are using reviews in their current SEO campaigns; are there any opportunities for you to one-up them, with more or better reviews for your business or products? Work to outperform your competition here, and you'll easily earn a higher slot.2. Optimize for competitors' brand names.You could also write articles or optimize specifically for your competitors' brand names, like how Printing Center USA recently wrote about Kinkos pricing. It's unlikely that you'll be able to outrank your competitors for their own brand names, but you could earn a competing spot near the top of the search results. This gives you some degree of control over new users' expectations for that brand. Don't write attack pieces or your own reputation could come into question, but don't be afraid to point out some of their shortcomings; it's a valuable opportunity to improve your visibility and relative reputation. 3. Write comparison and industry articles.You could also write an extended comparison guide or list of companies like yours, like how the Creative Ham publishes a list of advertising agencies. The idea here is to provide valuable information to users who might be looking for companies in your industry--and of course, you can throw your own name into the mix. Write up honest details about each brand, including pros and cons, and let your readers decide for themselves. You'll get tons of new visibility in search engines, so there's no need to be pushy about advertising your own services in the article--you might even turn people away if you do.4. Monitor and mimic link building strategies.You can also use a tool like Moz's Open Site Explorer to perform a detailed analysis of your competitors' link building strategies. Pay attention to what links they've built, where they've built them, and how they've grown over time. You can adopt this strategy for yourself, mimicking their lines of development and earning similar growth in domain authority and reputation. It's an easy way to catch up to a competitor ahead of you, and spot weaknesses that you can take advantage of with a simple twist to your existing tactics.5. Track and differentiate niche keywords.Keywords are another key area of SEO where you can easily gain an advantage. Pay attention to what niche keywords and long-tail phrases your competitors are optimizing for, then pick a group of keywords completely unrelated to them for your own strategy. Oftentimes, there's an entire open field of subtopics and keyword phrases that are untapped by the competition. If you swoop in to pick them up, you'll be in the clear to rank without contest.6. Work with your competitors directly.Finally, don't discount the possibility of working with your competitors directly. In this scenario, you could work together to produce a piece of collaborative content, drawing on[...]

How to Learn SEO When You Know Absolutely Nothing About It

Thu, 20 Oct 2016 13:04:09 -0600

by Jayson DeMers Search engine optimization (SEO) can be intimidating if you're a newbie. Even the concept -- making changes to your website to increase its visibility in search engines for specific keyword searches -- sounds complicated, and once you dig into the technical details, it all seems even harder to grasp.But in reality, SEO is much simpler than it appears on the surface. Almost every tactic you need to increase your rankings can be learned in a matter of weeks ... at least enough to get you going.All it takes is the certainty that you can learn this, the dedication to follow through, and a good starting point. So I've come up with the following six steps to master SEO even if you know nothing at the start.High-Level BasicsFirst, keep these key and high-level basics in mind:The learning never stops. As with any entrepreneurial venture, you should recognize that you'll never learn everything. As Sam Ovens comments, you need to commit to an ongoing learning process if you want to keep making progress. SEO changes all the time, thanks to new technologies and search algorithms, so you want to stay on your toes if you hope to prosper.Scale your knowledge gradually. You aren't going to learn everything overnight, no matter how hard you work. So instead of trying to cram as much information into your brain as possible, focus on a small segment of SEO at a time.SEO is an ongoing experiment. Even if you had all the current knowledge in place, there's no guarantee that you'll succeed. You need to measure, analyze, and refine your efforts constantly to improve your approach on an ongoing basis. Phases of LearningWith those precepts in mind, you can start to learn SEO over six key phases:1. Get the 10,000-foot view.Start with the basics. Before you tackle anything with regard to SEO tactics, you need to grasp the strategy: what it isn't, how it's used, and how it can benefit your firm. Even if you believe you have a good idea, it's wise to check your assumptions: There are a number of misconceptions about SEO that might skew your approach if you start working under those premises. Moz has an excellent Beginner's Guide to SEO that's worth reading, even if you're already familiar with how SEO works.2. Learn how Google works.Next, you'll want to get a feel for how Google works as a search engine ... but don't worry: you don't have to learn any programming. Instead, you'll want to learn how Google's algorithms evaluate the authority of domains and pages, how keyword contexts are determined, and the various Google updates that have altered the SEO game over the years. (High-level understanding is fine for most of these.) You can go straight to the source for this one: Google has a great interactive feature that explains the long and short of how Google search operates to index sites and calculate rankings.3. Study keyword research and strategy.After that, you should learn how keyword research is performed -- as well as why it matters. Hummingbird has transformed the function of keywords within Google search over the past three years, but it's still worthwhile to include target keywords as part of your strategy. Backlinko has a detailed guide on this topic if you're completely unfamiliar with it, but try to experiment with lots of keyword research tools before you settle on the best one for your brand.4. Understand how to measure and analyze your campaign.Before you start experimenting with the tactics that are intended to help you rank higher in searches, you need to know what you're looking for and how to gauge your success. In this phase, you'll become acquainted with the tools that can help you measure your progress, understand your effectiveness, and ultimately improve your results. Google Analytics is a nearly perfect tool for beginners, and Google offers a fantastic help guide that can walk you through it.5. Delve into on-site SEO.Once those basics out of the way, you can start to work on the individual tactics and strategies that will[...]

Which Social Media Platforms Should You Use for SEO?

Mon, 17 Oct 2016 13:05:52 -0600

by Jayson DeMers Social media has become a wonderfully diverse field, with dozens of different platforms in all kinds of different niches. While some powerhouses have clearly risen to the top (i.e., Facebook), some platforms offer incredible niche opportunities for businesses trying to get the most out of their campaigns.But when it comes to choosing the right platforms to support your SEO campaign, things can get a bit confusing. It's too much effort to pursue a strategy on every single platform you can find, but at the same time you want to make the most of your budget. So which social media platforms work best to support an SEO campaign?Why Social Media Matters for SEOFirst, we need to clarify an important misconception: social media doesn't directly affect your search rankings. It may seem like getting more popularity on social media could feasibly improve your rankings, but that's not how Google's algorithm works. So why is social media still important for SEO? Because it has a number of peripheral benefits for your search optimization strategy:Building an audience. Social media makes it easier to build an audience, helping you expand your brand visibility and reputation, which in turn makes it easier to pursue SEO strategies like link building.Promoting your content. Syndicating on the right platforms can also increase the reach of your content.  With more reach, a better reputation, and a bigger audience, you'll also stand to earn more inbound links, which have a powerful effect on your organic search rankings.A Look at Each PlatformNow let's take a look at how each of today's major platforms can help you in this regard:1. Instagram.First up, we have Instagram, which now stands as the second-most popular social platform in the world (with over 400 million users). Instagram has a huge visibility advantage--if you run a contest here, you could easily attract hundreds of new followers or retain some of your older ones. It doesn't take much effort to manage a branded account, but there's one major disadvantage; you can't include links in your posts. This makes it exceptionally hard to distribute your content and earn more links.2. Facebook.Facebook remains the king of social media, with more than a billion users worldwide and enough flexible functionality to make even the pickiest marketer happy. You can post links, written content, images, or video, and employ contests, run ads, or join groups and participate in discussions. It's arguably the best platform for content syndication and audience growth due to its universal appeal, but keep in mind that organic reach is slowing down, making it more difficult to scale effectively.3. Twitter.Twitter is a fast-paced platform that allows you to syndicate links quickly and reach out to new people easily. For these reasons, it's one of the better platforms for quickly building an audience and pushing your content out. However, the main drawback for Twitter is that it's showing signs that it may be past its prime as a social media channel. Many people have predicted the imminent death of Twitter, and its user base doesn't show many signs of a potential recovery.4. LinkedIn.LinkedIn serves a great niche--professionals, entrepreneurs, and career builders. Unfortunately, there are a few drawbacks. LinkedIn caters to individuals, so there aren't as many opportunities for brand pages to get visibility. However, if you're using personal brands as conduits to gain connections, participate in groups, and promote your core brand's content, it can be highly effective.5. Pinterest.Pinterest's format makes it a make-or-break platform for most brands. If you're interested in promoting image-based content or appeal to its consumer demographics, it can be one of your greatest assets. However, there isn't much range of functionality here, and it's not going to appeal to every business. It also has a comparably smaller user bas[...]

A List of Steps for a Multi Site SEO Migration

Fri, 07 Oct 2016 10:21:20 -0600

by Todd Bailey A multi site migration can result in a better user experience, increased organic metrics and a simpler long-term management solution.  But many SEO's get hung up or miss the most critical pieces to a successful transfer.  Having done many migrations I can say there is more to it than you may have previously thought.Let's start with the fun part, Research.  Exactly - Not so exciting.  But this is the most important part of the process.  A professional SEO expert will compound hours of research and data to formulate the best migration plan.  Creating lists of high priority content, looking at search console and evaluating how you will accomplish the project.Research can be an intangible to a client.  Sending them a spreadsheet of URLs with a roadmap and justification is good document to ease their mind.  But how you come up with that roadmap is part of your strategy, which you should pull from research online from others who have done it. Here are some of the items one needs to consider for a multi site migration to maintain as much of their SEO value as possible: Internal Content Analysis Prioritize Legacy Content/Posts on age, authority, linking & traffic URL Structure Analysis & Mapping 301 vs. 404 Analysis of Legacy Content Media Mapping (Images, Videos, PDFs +) CMS Plugin/Tool Review Migration Architecture Development (Categories, Tags, Posts) Internal Linking Mapping External Link Analysis Post Migration Consultation Header Check Unified XML Sitemap Development & Submission Analytics Set Up Indexation Monitroing Search Console Analysis (404, Server Errors) Link Reclamation from External Link Partners NOTE:  It is recommended not to change the following at the same time during site migration: Platform (CMS) URL Structure/Naming Design Content Hosting (whois, IP - Only if Necessary) Have any other steps?  Drop them in the comments below. Be sure and visit our small business news site. [...]

7 Strategic Decisions You'll Need to Make for Your Link Building Campaign

Mon, 26 Sep 2016 11:15:04 -0600

by Jayson DeMers Link building is one of the most effective ways to improve your rankings in search engines, passing authority to your domain and making your site seem more trustworthy to Google. But link building isn't nearly as simple as it used to be, and if you want any hope of earning top rankings in search engines, you'll need a solid strategy directing your efforts.Why Link Building MattersThe first step is to create an interesting and profitable blog--if you haven't done that, be sure to check out Neil Patel's guide on the subject. But simply having a profitable blog isn't enough to generate revenue; you'll need to drive traffic to that blog and raise awareness that it exists. It's almost impossible to build authority online without association with other authorities--and that goes for search rankings as well as earning followers and a generally bigger reputation. Link building is indispensable for establishing those associations.Strategic Decisions to MakeBefore you go posting links indiscriminately, take some time to sit down and go over the strategic direction you want for your campaign. These are some of the most important areas to address:1. Guest posting, link attraction, or both?If you want to avoid any possible penalties for link building, you'll need to ensure your links are "natural." The main ways to do this are to use guest posts to embed your links in highly valuable, relevant content, or work on promoting great content on your own blog in the hopes that other people eventually link to it on their own. There are advantages and disadvantages to each; guest posts take more time and scale more slowly, but they're also more predictable and easier to control. Viral content is wholly unpredictable, but could net an explosion of links for your site.2. How to approach your niche.Your site should belong to a specific niche, and the first round of link building you pursue should be based on establishing your authority in that niche. There are many ways to do this, so you need to have a solid idea behind your approach. For example, will you try to get yourself featured on an industry site, like an association for businesses like yours, or will you partner up with influencers--or even competitors--in your space to create impressive collaborative content? You can choose multiple routes, but you need to know what each one has in store for you.3. Page targeting.When you build a link to a page on your site, you'll be passing authority both to your overall domain and to the individual page you've chosen (donned "page authority" by Moz). This allows you to selectively target pages of your site with specific links, building up the rankings for the most important or impressive pages of your site in addition to improving your domain. Think carefully about which pages you'll want to specifically promote, and how those might change over time--you also don't want to spam links to only one page, so diversify your strategy here.4. Pacing and frequency.You'll need to figure out how fast you want to build your link profile, but remember--building links too quickly can appear unnatural. Instead, it's better to think about how often you'll want to guest post to various outlets. This is less about how fast you can see results from your link building campaign and more about how much time and money you're willing to invest in your campaign to see it grow.5. How to scale.Next, you'll need to think about how your campaign is going to scale. A single link on a high-authority source is worth more than several months' worth on low-authority sites, so how are you going to work your way to higher and higher authority sources? Will you do so gradually? Through internal connections? Are there specific sources you have your eye on?6. When to analyze.It's important to analyze the effectiveness of your efforts, both from a high-level perspective (such as referral traffic and org[...]

6 Ways to Make Your Content More Authoritative for SEO

Wed, 31 Aug 2016 13:04:42 -0600

by Jayson DeMers Content marketing is one of the most important strategies in establishing a solid online presence for SEO, but it's not as simple as "writing lots of content." There are dozens of factors you'll need to carefully consider if you want to be effective, including the content's topic, appropriateness for your brand and audience, practicality, length, and entertainment value. But there's one factor many marketers end up neglecting: the authoritativeness of a piece.How Authoritativeness Factors Into Search RankingsWhat is authoritativeness, exactly? Though no strict definition is available, authoritativeness is a general measure for how you're able to produce content. The more a source can be counted on as a reliable provider of information, the more authoritative it is. So how does this measure affect search rankings?E-A-T Criteria. Google doesn't go into much detail about how authoritativeness is quantitatively measured, but we do know it has a major impact on how valuable Google deems a page or a domain to be. According to its publicly available Search Raters Guidelines, three of the most important factors for content to demonstrate are expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T), which are all interrelated. Making your content authoritative should give you a boost in page and domain authority.Linkability. Authoritativeness will also make your piece appear more valuable to outside parties. This alone will turn it into more of a linkable asset, giving you more backlinks pointing back to your domain, all of which will pass authority and increase your propensity to rank.Reputation Factors. Don't forget the peripheral and long-term reputation factors that authoritativeness will bring. As you start developing more authoritative content, you'll become more respected as an authority, which means you'll gain more followers, more publishing opportunities, and other indirect ways to increase your rankings overall.How to Make Your Content More AuthoritativeNow that you know why your content needs to be more authoritative, how can you go about actually doing it?1. Write from the professional's perspective.First, try writing from the perspective of a real professional, demonstrating your authority by referencing a professional title or other credential to validate that authority. For example, rather than writing a simple guide to home security, you could step up the authority like Milwaukee Lockstar by making it a "locksmith's guide" to home security. Or you could write blogs like Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, framing your posts as the advice from a professional plumber.2. Use personal brands.You could also make your content more authoritative by using personal brands inside and outside your organization to author posts. Over time, your authors may develop niche areas of expertise, generating followings of their own and lending more power to the content they write. Just make sure you're supporting your personal brands with appropriate strategic initiatives on social media.3. Include more images and videos.Another way to make your content more authoritative is to include more images and video in the body of your work. On a surface level, these multimedia additions will make your content more engaging to users, but they also show that you're going out of your way to illustrate complex subjects.4. Cite real examples and facts.It's easy to speculate about ideas, but it's hard to prove them. That's why it's important, and authoritative, to cite examples as specifically as possible. Instead of using general hypothetical examples, try to cite real examples backed by true anecdotes or statistics that you've measured. The more specific information you're able to offer, the more authoritative your piece will become.5. Link to outside sources.Authority is perhaps easiest to earn when you're getting it from someone who already[...]

5 Strategies for Better Team Coordination in SEO

Wed, 24 Aug 2016 12:05:49 -0600

by Jayson DeMers When most entrepreneurs and marketers think about refining their SEO strategies, they focus on the conventional best practices that constitute a successful optimization approach, such as their on-site optimization, ongoing content marketing strategy, and link building campaign.However, there are also more collaborative, qualitative, and personal factors to weigh when it comes to execution of your campaign. For example, how can you make sure every member of your team stays coordinated with the rest in their mutual efforts to optimize your site? Why Coordination Is Essential in SEODepending on the size of your organization, SEO could theoretically be executed by a single person. In a small business, building a foundation with on-site optimization, content, and an introductory link-building campaign could be handled by a single person doing full-time work.But it's more common to see several people working together in close coordination to achieve exceptional results on behalf of a firm. That coordination could make or break your campaign in the following ways:Deadlines and execution. First, the obvious: SEO is an interconnected series of tactics, and if you're going to execute them in conjunction with other people to achieve a final goal, you need everyone to work on the same interim deadlines and benchmark goals.Cross-disciplinary coordination. Even if you don't have both generalists and specialists in the SEO field working together, your SEO will still be influenced by people in multiple departments. For example, your designers will need to know how to design websites with SEO in mind.Camaraderie and workload balancing. It also pays to keep your SEO team working close with one another so everyone maintains high morale. This will be beneficial when one specialist inevitably gets saddled with more work than another: You can bring the departments together to rebalance the individual workloads. How to Stay Better Coordinated Now let's take a look at how you can help your team become better coordinated in practical terms.1. Use more efficient forms of communication.Modern technology offers a ton of advantages, and you need leverage as many of them as you can for your team. As pointed out by Dialpad, millennial workers tend to be closer to the cutting edge of new communications technology, but that doesn't mean the rest of your team has an excuse to stick with older technologies. Whether you're using an in-house team or some members are working remotely, give yourself flexibility by keeping your team using multiple forms of communication, from phones to cloud-hosted management and collaboration platforms, and chatting apps.2. Set both individual and team goals.Focused teams are able to work more productively because they know what they're aiming for. It's crucial to establish both individual and team-based goals. For example, you might encourage your entire team to work toward a certain rate of growth in organic visitors, with individual goals for your team members, such as getting featured on a number of new publishers or developing a certain kind of content. This will help keep things moving toward a destination while compensating for any individual weaknesses you encounter. 3. Identify and document consistent brand standards.Some areas of SEO get pretty technical, but much of the ongoing work--such as content development and guest posting--will rely on the strength and consistency of your brand to succeed. Because of this, it's a good idea to document your brand standards formally and make those available to everyone on your team. 4. Have overflow policies.An oversized workload can depress anyone; when one individual has too much to do and another not enough, your team can't possibly function efficiently. To avoid this potential hitch, it's a good idea to have overflow and workload balanc[...]

Do you have enough pages in the search index?

Thu, 28 Jul 2016 09:07:47 -0600

by Mike Moran More pages in the search index means more chances to be found. So maybe you never really have enough pages--since every extra page is a lottery ticket in the search sweepstakes. You've gotta be in it to win it. But this does not really offer us any answers. There are obviously some amount of pages that seem OK and other amounts that are probably Bad, like, zero would be bad. How do you determine how many pages you have in the search index, and if your number is enough?First off, you need to understand that there is no single search index-each search engine has its own search index. Google has its own, Bing has its own, and so do many other search engines. So, you need to know which search engines are worth worrying about-in the U.S., it's Google and Bing.So how do you find out how many pages are in Google's index and how many are in Bing's?Both Google and Bing have a tool called the "site:" command. You can just enter into each one the word "site:" along with your domain name (Such as "").  For some sites, this handy command works just fine and you can see how many pages are stored in each index. If your results look right, great. But sometimes the results just look nuts. For example, "" yields 2.8 million pages on Bing but a crazy 12.2 million pages on Google.To avoid such inaccuracies, use each search engine's Webmaster Tools sites. Both Google and Bing will tell your Webmaster exactly how many pages are in the index and will even let you know which pages they are having trouble grabbing. It's possible that the IBM Webmaster is aware that there actually is a big discrepancy between Google and Bing, which might be just fine or might be something they are working on.I've spoken to a few experts and they have varying theories. One told me that Bing stops crawling when more than 1% of the pages get errors-the Bing Webmaster site will clue you in on this. Another speculated that Bing is only returning counts of pages that get search visits, not every page in their index. No one I spoke with knew for sure why this is happening, but it shows you the importance of checking your numbers.Likewise, big swings in indexed pages (1,000 pages indexed in Google today vs. 5,000 yesterday) mean that you should look into it. And, in general, an inclusion ratio (pages indexed divided by actual pages) below 70% is something that should give you pause, although with these Bing errors who knows what a good inclusion ration is for Bing right now.Regardless. knowing how many pages are indexed is the first step to seeing if you have a problem.Originally posted on Biznology Be sure and visit our small business news site. [...]

5 Technical Factors to Check When Your Search Rankings Take a Dive

Mon, 11 Jul 2016 19:48:45 -0600

by Jayson DeMers In an ideal world, your SEO strategy would be on a constant, steadily forward-moving trajectory. As you invest more time and effort into your online presence, your rankings would gradually increase--with no interruptions. However, this is almost never the case. Eventually, no matter how careful or experienced you are, you'll run into a ranking drop that leaves you frustrated and confused.The problem is, SEO and online visibility are such complicated topics that they're impossible to reduce to single variables. Everything, from the type of hosting you use to the type of social media marketing you pursue, can affect your organic search rankings.Where do you start when troubleshooting a ranking dive?Technical vs. Non-Technical IssuesGenerally, there are two categories of factors that can cause a dive:Quantitative, technical factors. Sometimes, there's a simple, technical factor affecting how your site is ranking. On many levels, Google's algorithm is simple and mathematical in its approach. For example, if your site isn't structured in a way that Google can see and readily interpret, it won't be able to index your site, and your rankings will drop. These tend to be obvious once spotted, but they require a degree of technical expertise to solve.Qualitative, non-technical factors. Other times, you'll be dealing with more subjective, non-technical factors. Google has a number of qualitative evaluating segments to its algorithm, such as Panda, which evaluates the quality of your content, and Penguin, which evaluates the quality of your inbound links. Sometimes, a drop in content quality--which is hard to objectively identify--can be responsible for your ranking drop.Technical Factors to Check When Your Rankings DropYour first course of action, after seeing a major drop in your rankings, should be to check for technical factors that might be affecting your positions. These are plain to see and often simple to fix--and once repaired, there's a good chance your positions will be restored quickly (if not instantly).Here are things to check:1. Your hosting.The first place you should look is your hosting. A lot of things can happen with your hosting provider--your site may be temporarily unavailable, or your site may not be served properly. You might even be experiencing page loading problems because of your hosting provider. Run an audit on your hosting situation and consider switching if you're not receiving consistent service.2. Your robots.txt file.The robots.txt file is a meta data file that instructs Google how to view and index your site. You can use it to prevent certain pages from being indexed, which is highly useful for canonizing duplicate content pages. However, many people end up making mistakes in the robots.txt file, masking the entire site (or entire sections) from being indexed. 3. Improperly set up 301 redirects.301 redirects are an important and powerful tool in online visibility, but they're often misused. If you set up a 301 redirect improperly, it could result in a number of different errors, such as duplicate indexing or the complete loss of certain pages of your site. Be sure you're actually using 301 redirects, and not 302 (temporary) redirects or any other means of forwarding traffic.4. A content loading issue.Sometimes, technical hiccups are simple and easy to identify. If some of your content isn't loading properly, it could cause your rankings to tank. For example, if none of the images or videos on your site are loading on mobile devices, you could suffer a massive blow to your mobile rankings and traffic.5. Functional errors.You may also find functional errors throughout your site, which can influence how your site is ranked. These can range from very small, such as broken internal links, to very large, such as [...]

6 Tips for Managing Local SEO With Multiple Locations

Tue, 05 Jul 2016 13:19:45 -0600

by Jayson DeMers Local SEO holds tremendous potential for almost any business with a physical location (and even some without). Because local SEO functions on an algorithm separate from Google's national search, you'll face less competition, higher relevance among your local audience, and even higher visibility, thanks to Google's local 3-pack listings. Unfortunately, most conventional local SEO tactics cater to businesses that have only one physical location - what happens if you have multiple locations?The Trouble With Multiple LocationsHaving multiple locations means you'll have multiple streams of revenue, and it's a valuable way to increase brand recognition and your potential pool of customers. However, much of the power of local SEO is derived from associating your business with a single location. If you try to split your efforts inefficiently, you could end up only weakly optimizing for your target cities, but if you only focus on one city, you'll miss out on the visibility potential of your other locations. What are you supposed to do?Strategies for SuccessTry using these strategies to succeed with multiple locations in local SEO:1. Create a separate landing page for each city your business operates in.Your first job is to create a separate landing page for each of your locations. It's possible to create a new domain for each of your sub-locations, but this is inadvisable, as you'll lose out on the cumulative authority you'll gain from all of your sources. For example, you could create a page for a specific city location, complete with location information and any specific unique features that this location offers--for example, US Storage Centers has a designated page for San Antonio, with hours, directions, and unit availability.2. Create city-specific content for each city you operate in.Next, you'll want to fill those pages with content specific to that location. Don't leave your landing pages as empty shells! Instead, write rich, descriptive content about the unique features each of your locations offers that particular area. If you get hard-pressed, write about some of the features of the city, such as surrounding landmarks or things to do.3. Split your social media pages.If you only have two or three locations, you can probably get away with having one "master" social media presence, but if you have more locations than that, you'll want to split your social media profiles into individual locations. Create a designated contact for each location to manage their respective pages, and keep one "master" brand page to help people find the social media page most relevant to them. This will help you connect more specifically with your target demographics, especially if your locations are around the country.4. Segment your link building strategies.As long as all your locations are under the same domain, you'll gain collective domain authority with any links you build. However, remember that inbound links pass page authority as well as domain authority, and any links you have pointing to city-specific pages will help those individual pages rank higher. This is valuable if you want to promote one location more than another.5. Manage your third party profiles and local reviews separately.Each of your locations should have a separate entry in each third-party review site you leverage (such as Yelp). This will ensure that Google lists your businesses separately for each respective location, and will enable you to monitor and manage local reviews more efficiently. Again, you'll want to designate a responsible contact for each of your locations to take charge of this duty.6. Produce ongoing blog content for each city.Finally, you'll want to produce ongoing content for each of your locations that's specific to that city. F[...]

The 6 Ways Small Businesses Can Stay Competitive in SEO

Fri, 24 Jun 2016 11:27:21 -0600

by Jayson DeMers Search engine optimization (SEO) is more popular than ever as a marketing strategy these days, and one of the biggest reasons for its mass appeal is its scale and sheer potential. There are billions of searches per day, performed by people all over the world, so optimizing your site to rank higher for these searches has practically unlimited potential. But can small businesses hope to capitalize on this potential when there are so many big businesses competing with them? Popularity and TimeThere are two problems with this "infinite potential" model. First, SEO has become incredibly popular--most businesses now have an online presence, and the vast majority of them are actively competing for more visibility online. Second, SEO has been around since the dawn of the Internet, and major corporations who have been pouring millions of dollars into their online strategies are pretty much untouchable in terms of rankings.These two issues make it seem practically impossible to many small business owners--with limited resources and little existing domain authority--to break onto the scene. But it is possible for small and local businesses to gain an edge with these six strategies:1. Zero in on a specific niche.Your first job is to cut down the competition. Not all search terms get the same amount of search volume, and not all terms carry the same amount of competition. If you're worried about squaring off against major national competitors, refine your target market to a more specific niche. This will cut down the amount of competition you face, and increase your relevance for that specific niche--you'll be working with lower search volume, but you'll rank faster and become more relevant for your audience. For example, you could focus on one specific demographic, or target a specific point in the buying cycle.2. Target overlooked long-tail keywords.There are two main "types" of keywords, with a bit of gray area in between. "Head" keywords are short, like "bike tire," and feature high volume and high competition. "Long-tail" keywords are long, often using conversational sentence structures like "how do I change a flat bike tire," and feature lower search volume but correspondingly lower competition. You can rank for these search terms easily because of how specific they are. Refine your keyword targeting strategy to focus on more long-tail keyword terms.3. Prioritize local optimization.Local search results rely on a different algorithm than Google's national search framework. You may notice when you perform a local search that the top three relevant brands for your search appear in a box (with links to a website, directions, and a prompt to call on mobile devices) above typical organic search results. It's possible to optimize your site to appear for these local searches; not only will you get a "free pass" by getting featured above the typical national search results, but you'll face far less competition in the process. As an added bonus, you'll get more locally relevant traffic for your site.4. Use the power of personal brands.Personal brands have a number of advantages over corporate brands. They're instantly more trustworthy, they have a higher likelihood of being featured in offsite publishers, and if used independently from your local business, they'll provide an additional potential route of traffic and visibility for your corporate brand. Start developing your key leadership and personnel through content and social media, and tie those personal brands back to your core corporate brand.5. Work with local publishers.Major corporations will have more power and resources to force an increase in their content's visibility (through things like paid advertising), but as a small business [...]

Five Essential Qualities to Look for in an SEO Agency

Mon, 20 Jun 2016 08:00:00 -0600

by Jayson DeMers It's almost impossible to run an SEO campaign by yourself - at least if you want to grow beyond the initial setup phase. However, at the same time, you may be reluctant to hire an SEO agency. After all, you know that there are a number of agencies that do shoddy work, putting you at higher risk for manual or algorithmic penalties.Furthermore, many agencies are prohibitively expensive. But if you know what to look for, you can find an agency that's affordable, reliable, and capable of giving you an incredible return on your investment.Why an SEO Agency?First, let's take a look at your options. You can't do this alone, so your two main options (other than an agency) are to hire someone full-time or leverage independent contractors to handle the bulk of your work. While each of these options has merits, full-time workers tend to be more expensive than contracting with an agency, though you do get more control over how they spend their time. Quality contractors are hard to find and hard to manage, but are typically the least expensive option.Essential QualitiesIf you're looking for an SEO agency that can give you the best results and the easiest working experience, these qualities are absolute musts:1. Knowledge of the latest trends and updates.SEO is a field that changes constantly, so you need an SEO agency that's able to keep up with the latest trends. If you're still using tactics that were only effective 10 years ago, you aren't going to see much in the way of results, and you might even set yourself back by incurring a penalty. Pay attention to how up-to-date your chosen agency's strategies are, and don't be afraid to ask some critical questions about their procedures and tactics.2. Experience in multiple areas.Most SEO agencies are generalists, able to offer you services in multiple categories, such as on-site content writing, on-site optimization, and link building. However, there are also specialists, such as specialized link builders or on-site optimizers. These aren't necessarily bad; however, SEO is a complex and multifaceted strategy. If your agency only has experience in one area, they may have a hard time connecting that area to all of the other significant SEO realms. If you need a niche specialist, a contractor may be a better option.3. Transparency.When it comes to building trust with an agency, transparency is the most important quality to look for. Pay attention to how revealing your chosen agency is with basic information. Are they open about how they do their work? Are they honest about any risks or setbacks that might be involved? Are they focused on making steady progress toward conservative, long-term gains rather than trying to sell you on a package as fast as possible?4. Communicativeness.SEO requires a significant amount of back and forth communication, so look for an agency with which you're able to communicate smoothly. You need to be able to call them up to talk when you have a question or discover a problem, and they need to listen to you carefully if they're going to produce content and to optimize your site in a way that accurately characterizes (and benefits) your brand. If you can, speak with the account manager with whom you'll be working directly, and see how well they communicate with you. 5. Verifiable history.It's also a good idea to look at an SEO agency's past clients and references. A credible history is solid proof that your agency is one worth doing business with. Red FlagsThere are also some major red flags to watch out for, so if you notice any of these qualities, you may want to keep looking:Promises and guarantees. Nothing in SEO can be guaranteed. It takes research, effort, timing, and a bit of luck [...]

How do you test your website's names?

Mon, 13 Jun 2016 12:48:09 -0600

by Mike Moran A little while back I was riding the Washington Metro when I noticed something new. The station name read "NoMa-Gallaudet." I'd never heard of "NoMa", but all it took was a quick googling to learn it's short for "North of Massachusetts Ave." At first I was a little confused why a Metro map would be changed just because a new neighborhood was making an effort to try and look hip. But the article went on to explain that they are trying to provide each Metro station with its own short name (between 13 and 19 characters, depending on the importance of the station) that is easy to scan when hurrying passengers are racing to their destination. That makes sense to me, and it reminded me of how important the same principle is for website information architecture.Too often I see the top nav of a site use words that just don't make any sense to me as a visitor. Half the technology sites I go to list Products, Solutions, etc., and God bless me if I can figure out what the technology does. These words are short and scannable, but not very informative. This was actually the controversial part of the Metro's decision to use the name "NoMa" because area residents (let alone tourists) don't recognize that name as readily as the old "New York Ave." But they at least had tested the word with riders and they made the decision with their eyes open, rather than just changing the name just because they wanted the new cool name.But most websites have bigger issues. Some of them have long names in the top nav, such as the site that had a choice of "Why [Really Long Product Name]" which not only isn't scannable, but I suspect is answering a question that most visitors aren't asking. I saw another site that liked to mix up short names with long names: Products, Why Company Name, Blog, Get a Demo-it really doesn't work. One word navigation names work best if you can make that happen, because the spaces between the words act as the spaces between the choices. If have to have multiple words, you need plenty of space in between the choices so that the eye can distinguish the breaks between them. But when you use too many multi-word choices, you have to make the font even smaller to provide the required spacing, which defeats the ability to scan all by itself.So, when designing your site's information architecture, don't settle for the words that insiders think are the ones that best describe their choices. Try to choose uniform-length, short names that you have tested for recognition. You don't even need any exciting technologies here. Old-fashioned cart sort tests will do. Just put different ideas of the right names on cards and show them to people who represent your audience. Ask them-what kind of information would you expect to see after you clicked this name? See if they know.The names for the areas on your website are among the most scanned and most clicked words on your entire site, so take the extra time to check how well they are working. Your visitors will be glad you did. Be sure and visit our small business news site. [...]