Rachel Lindteigen – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Fri, 29 Apr 2016 21:08:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.3 The #1 reason why position #1 doesn’t matter /1-reason-position-1-doesnt-matter-248390 Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:20:54 +0000 http:/?p=248390 As the layout of search engine results pages continues to change and evolve, columnist Rachel Lindteigen notes that being the top result may not be as important as it used to be.

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That’s right — position #1, the elusive goal for so many SEOs, may not matter so much anymore. Crazy statement, right? Trust me… follow me for just a minute.

The screen shot below shows what Google refers to as a featured snippet, also known as a direct answer. (It’s also one I searched recently when baking, realizing I forgot to buy self-rising flour and hoping I wouldn’t have to go back to the store. Anyway, moving on… )

self-rising_flour_direct_answer

As you can see, the direct answer information is displaying above the initial search result. I don’t even have to click on the link to find the answer I need. I’m able to see that if I pull the baking powder and salt out of the cupboard, I can save myself a trip to the store.

While this is great for the end user, it means that MyRecipes.com provided me the information I needed, but I never visited their site. In many instances, however, the consumer is still going to visit the website because they need more information than what’s displayed in the direct answer.

So why does position #1 not matter as much? While the direct answer shown above does come from the #1-ranked website for the search query, it doesn’t always work this way. The direct answer is pulled from the site with the best answer, and Google doesn’t seem to care how it’s ranked.

In the example below, the featured snippet has been pulled from the #3-ranked result. (Not that I’ve ever searched this particular query in a sleep-deprived moment during the past year… )

when-will-baby-sleep-direct-answer

Can you imagine the difference in traffic for the #3 result with the direct answer vs. the #1 result without? Normally, the top organic ranking would have the highest click-through rate; however, the direct answer is likely taking traffic from the top result here (if not getting the majority of the clicks).

It’s important to optimize the content on all of your properties, not just your website. Yes, you really do need to include full content descriptions on your social profiles, because you never know what Google’s going to deem the best candidate for a direct answer.

In the example below, Google has chosen a featured snippet from a video on Pottery Barn’s YouTube channel for the search query, “how to hang drapes.” A page from Pottery Barn’s website that contains tips and how-tos for hanging drapes is #1 in the SERP — but because they’ve optimized their YouTube video description, it’s been selected as the direct answer. This benefits Pottery Barn in the long run, because now they have more real estate above the fold.

how-to-hang-drapes-direct-answer_1

The video is embedded in their website, along with additional supporting content on hanging drapes. Pottery Barn’s how-to guides provide a great information resource for customers, and that’s likely why Google’s rewarding them with both the featured snippet and the #1 position in the SERP.

how-to-hang-drapes-direct-answer

The featured snippet is pulled from the video description on YouTube:

pottery-barn-you-tube

So, what does all of this have to do with your SEO content strategy? When you provide useful information that’s easy to follow and understand, it could be used as a featured snippet in Google search results. If that happens, you will likely see a boost in traffic to your site — perhaps even more than the top organic result.

If you have optimized your site and your social channels, you can potentially gain a bigger portion of the SERP landscape through the featured snippet and position #1 ranking. However, even without #1, if you have the featured snippet, you are essentially the new #1.

Now that you understand the reward, you need to determine how to go after the direct answers. Start by searching Google for some of your target keywords (especially long-tail variations that take the form of a question) and find out if these queries trigger a featured snippet.

If these searches do produce direct answers, look at the sites that are obtaining them and evaluate what they’re doing differently. If you have the right information on your site to answer the query, double-check your setup. Do you have a dedicated page for each question with comprehensive, high-quality content? Or do you answer the question as part of a larger FAQ page? You may need to make some changes in order to win the featured snippet placement.

Direct answers are still relatively new, and they’re not on all queries. You may find that they’re starting to add them for queries related to your vertical, but the number of questions being answered is limited. Remember, even if a particular query doesn’t trigger a direct answer now, it may in the future — so you can always start creating content with that in mind.

Keep in mind that featured snippets are more commonly found on informational queries rather than transactional ones, so optimizing your content for direct answers will primarily be for the purpose of capturing searchers at the top of the funnel. In other words, plan your content accordingly; don’t try to use product pages to obtain featured snippets unless it’s appropriate to do so.

Position #1 isn’t as important as being the direct answer. Focus on creating great content that’s useful to your audience, and target the queries that would send someone to your site. While simple answers such as “what is a substitute for self-rising flour” may not drive tons of traffic, queries like “how to hang drapes” will likely drive traffic and quite possibly revenue in time.

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Measuring Success For Your Local SEO Program In 5 Easy Steps /measuring-success-local-seo-program-5-easy-steps-218017 /measuring-success-local-seo-program-5-easy-steps-218017#respond Fri, 10 Apr 2015 13:18:43 +0000 http:/?p=218017 First quarter is over, which means that businesses should be reviewing their SEO progress thus far. Columnist Rachel Lindteigen shares her process for conducting a quarterly business review to evaluate local SEO performance.

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April marks the beginning of Q2 — which means you should be reviewing your local SEO program’s performance over the last quarter to see how you’ve done. Did you achieve the goals you had for Q1? If you’re not sure, then it’s time to walk through a quarterly business review (QBR) so you can find out whether your strategy is working or whether it should be adjusted now for the next quarter.

What should you review during your QBR? You’ll want to look at all the goals you laid out initially and your program’s overall SEO performance. You can track it any way you want, though I like to lay the data out in Excel spreadsheets and look at both year-over-year and quarter-over-quarter performance to get a clear picture of what’s happening.

Note: When making quarterly comparisons, be sure to keep seasonality in mind

1. Review Overall Traffic Numbers

Log in to your analytics platform and review the traffic from January 1, 2015 to March 31, 2015. How does it compare to the same timeframe last year? How does it compare to last quarter? It’s good to know what your year-over-year and quarter-over-quarter percent change is for key performance metrics like overall traffic.

If you’re using Google Analytics, here’s how to find this information: In the left column, scroll down and select Acquisition, then choose All Traffic and Channels.

channels

This will update the screen to the right and show you daily traffic information by channel. You can compare to the Previous Year or Previous Period (quarter) by clicking on and adjusting the date range in the top right.

2. Review Conversions & Profit

If your site has an e-commerce portion, review your order and revenue information year-over-year as well. What does the trend show? Determine your conversion rate (traffic/orders) and compare it to last year.

3. Look At Your Mobile Traffic

With Google’s new mobile algorithm rolling out on April 21, it’s critical to know what percentage of your traffic is from mobile so you know if you need to adjust your mobile strategy.

To find your mobile data in Google Analytics, navigate to Audience > Mobile Overview on the left side. This will update your center screen again and show your mobile, tablet and desktop traffic.

mobile-overview

Take note of your mobile percentage this year/quarter versus last year/quarter. If a majority of your traffic is from mobile — or if mobile traffic is increasing significantly — you need to make sure your site is mobile-friendly. (You can do that here.)

4. Compare New Vs. Returning Visitors

You’ll also want to know the number of new vs returning visitors coming to your site. Go to the Audience section on the left side and choose Overview — this will update basic information about your site’s visitors.

audience-overview

Note your new vs. returning visitors this year and last year.

5. Review Your Referral Traffic

Look at your referral traffic, paying special attention to sites like Yelp and Google Maps. How are you performing year-over-year? How are you performing quarter-over-quarter?

Are you receiving more or less referral traffic than before? Are you happy with the percentages? Is the growth what you expected? If not, you may need to focus on optimizing for these local sites during the upcoming quarter.

Did You Hit Your Goals?

Now that you have all of your data compiled, you’ll want to review the metrics. How did your site perform? Are you up or down for your most important metrics? If you’re up in all metrics, that’s great — but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to stop working and expect your progress to continue.

It’s time to review your Q1 goals and see how you performed. What were your goals? Were you looking to drive new traffic to the site? If so, what was your year-over-year (or quarter-over-quarter) new traffic percentage? Did you reach your goal? If not, what can you do differently for Q2 to try to support this goal?

If your goal was to increase overall year-over-year traffic by 20%, for example, then look at that. How much growth (or deficit) did you experience? Is 20% a realistic, attainable goal for your site? If it is and you didn’t hit it, what can you do differently? If it’s too aggressive a goal, consider if it should be adjusted for Q2 or if you should you change your tactics to have a better chance of success.

Finally, review your overall marketing plan to see what you’re doing to support your goals. What strategies and tactics have you laid out for the quarter? How successful were you in deploying them? What needs to be changed? You have a better chance of being successful and achieving your goals when you review your site’s performance on a quarterly basis.

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Understanding & Leveraging Search By Voice: Up Close @SMX /smx-session-13a-3-understanding-leveraging-search-voice-215978 /smx-session-13a-3-understanding-leveraging-search-voice-215978#respond Thu, 05 Mar 2015 14:37:45 +0000 http:/?p=215978 Columnist Rachel Lindteigen recaps a presentation on voice search and opportunities for marketers, in coverage of the SMX West conference.

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Alexander Supertramp / Shutterstock.com

Alexander Supertramp / Shutterstock.com

Today, smartphones represent 75% of all mobile devices in use, and by the end of 2015, that number is expected to be over 80%, comScore reported in 2014. Increasingly, those smart devices are equipped with voice search in the form of Siri, Cortana or Google Now.

Voice search is changing the way consumers interact with their smartphones — and other devices — and it’s important for marketers to understand this shift. It’s even more important for those targeting teens as 55% of them are using voice search daily, Northstar Research notes.

This was the subject covered in the “Understanding & Leveraging Search By Voice” session at this week’s SMX West conference featuring speaker Greg Sterling, VP of strategy and insight at the Local Search Association and contributing editor at Search Engine Land. In this column, I’ll recap Sterling’s presentation.

Ok Google. Hi, Siri. Why Hello, Cortana!

In 2010, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt reported, “25% of Android searches in the U.S. are voice searches.”

Google continues to expand its capabilities; today, voice search is available on mobile or desktop and in over 30 languages. As of June 2014, all Android devices (Kit Kat +) respond to the hotword, “Ok, Google” much like the iPhone’s, “Hi, Siri.”

Teens are using voice search for directions (40%), dictating text messages (39%), initiating calls (32%), and checking the weather (27%), notes Northstar.

Why Voice Search?

Several reasons account for the popularity of voice search, according to a survey conducted by Thrive Analytics and the Local Search Association:

  • Mobile keyboards still aren’t very user-friendly (10%)
  • Voice search is hands free (36%)
  • It’s faster (27%)
  • It’s more convenient (16%)

While consumers have different reasons for using voice search, 50% of the searches are occurring on-the-go, Thrive Analytics found, and 40-50% of all voice searches have a local element to them, according to statements by Google and Microsoft.

People are searching for food and drink, local information, shopping, travel, sports, and entertainment more often than other categories.

The Future Of Voice Search: Personal Assistants?

Google has unofficially said it expects mobile traffic to surpass desktop traffic in 2015. With this movement to mobile and the number of mobile users who are frequently using voice search (63% use it at least weekly, according to Thrive), it’s important for marketers to understand the opportunity so they’re not left behind.

Users would like digital assistants like Siri to be able to complete actions for them, rather than just return search results pages.

When asked, “Pick one thing you wish your phone could do for you” teens selected, “send me a pizza” 45% of the time. While Siri can’t send you a pizza today, it’s likely that technology will evolve to the point when it’s possible in the future. (Meanwhile, Domino’s has seized the opportunity by adding voice recognition to its mobile app.)

dominos-voice-app

The majority of users are satisfied with voice searches’ digital assistants but there are still things they wish the assistant could do for them.

While teens want their phone to send them a pizza, Thrive found that adults are looking for their phone to automatically notify them of traffic delays when driving (58%), allow them to order something online and pay by saying a keyword or phrase (36%), and dial a conference number without them (16%).

Users really want their phones to do more for them. Users want digital assistants (Siri, Google Now and Cortana) to anticipate their needs, personalize results, provide contextual information, and complete transactions by voice.

We’re still in the early stages of voice search and understanding why people use their digital assistants may ultimately lead to new products and service lines from brands.

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Is Your Local Site Mobile Friendly? Should It Be? /local-site-mobile-friendly-213-column-option-not-available-assignment-list-214453 /local-site-mobile-friendly-213-column-option-not-available-assignment-list-214453#respond Fri, 13 Feb 2015 14:22:06 +0000 http:/?p=214453 Local businesses often don't see the need to go mobile, but columnist Rachel Lindteigen reminds SMBs that the time to prepare is now.

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Mobile usage is growing, and if you think this doesn’t impact you…. you’re very likely wrong.

U.S. smartphone penetration is now at 75% as of December 2014, up from 65.2% in December 2013, meaning that traffic from mobile is likely to be increasing as well. In fact, in late 2014, mobile traffic surpassed desktop traffic for the first time.

Mobile device owners aren’t just using their devices for fun, either — according to a report from Nielsen, 87% of smartphone and tablet owners report using their mobile devices for shopping activities. And Shopify reported 50.3% of traffic to its e-commerce platform was from mobile devices with the other 49.7% from desktop in August 2014.

Furthermore, research from Google drives home just how important mobile is to local businesses:

Appearing on smartphones is critical for local businesses. 94% of smartphone users look for local information on their phone and 84% take action as a result, such as making a purchase or contacting the business.

Prepare For A Potential Google Mobile Algorithm

While it’s obvious that more consumers are both browsing and shopping online, it also appears that Google may be preparing for a mobile algorithm update based on some of the recent activities.

Late last month, Google started issuing notices to webmasters if their sites were not mobile friendly. This is on top of the mobile-friendly label they’ve been displaying on mobile search results for sites that are mobile friendly.

With the increase in mobile traffic, it makes sense that Google would want to ensure the best user experience, and sometimes it takes an algorithm update to make that happen. If your site is not mobile-friendly, it could impact your overall performance and hurt your business, so it’s important to know where you stand.

What’s Mobile Friendly?

So what exactly is “mobile-friendly,” and how do you find out if your local website qualifies? According to Google, in order for a website to be classified as mobile friendly, it must meet the following criteria:

  • Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
  • Uses text that is readable without zooming
  • Sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom
  • Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped

If you’ve read the list above but still aren’t sure if your site is mobile-friendly, there are ways to find out. First, you can search for your website from your mobile device and see if the “mobile friendly” tag is displayed. If it is, you’re good. It not, you need to dig further.

Tools For Testing

Next, you can check the Mobile usability report in your Google Webmaster Tools account. This report will tell you about your site’s overall performance.

(Note: If you don’t already have a Google Webmaster Tools account set up for your website, do so ASAP. It’s a pretty simple process to set up and it’s free. Once you have verified ownership of your site, Google will let you know if there are issues you need to resolve, and you will be notified of these type issues automatically as they crop up in the future.)

If you want to check individual URLs for mobile-friendliness, you can use the Google Developers Mobile-Friendly Test Tool to determine if Google is finding any issues. Read more on the Google Webmasters Mobile Guide to learn how to resolve the issues.

What To Do About It?

If you find that you have issues and your site is not currently mobile friendly, then you need to determine how big an issue it is for you. It’s time to do a bit of digging.

  1. Check Your Competition. Is the mobile-friendly label displaying on their SERP listings? If it’s on their site and not on yours, you will likely see a lower click-through rate from mobile device users as customers will go to the competition rather than you. If the competition doesn’t have the label, this can quickly become a competitive advantage for you if you can update your site first.
  2. Dig Into Your Analytics. Determine what percentage of your traffic is from a mobile device. It’s possible that more than half of your traffic is mobile — many of my clients are seeing almost equal numbers between mobile and desktop traffic. If the mobile traffic percentage is high, you have a bigger issue than if it’s low. Essentially, the higher the percentage, the more you’re risking your performance.

Depending on the severity of the potential issue, you may need to consider moving your website to responsive design or creating a mobile-friendly site that’s separate from your desktop experience.

While Google isn’t explicitly saying that there’s a mobile algorithm update on the horizon, the signs are pointing in that direction. Mobile traffic is definitely growing, and Google is again trying to ensure it delivers the best user experience possible by calling out mobile-friendly sites in its mobile search results and alerting webmasters of mobile issues.

By taking a few minutes now to determine if your site is mobile-friendly or not, you can either find yourself with a competitive advantage or needing to quickly play catch up. It’s important to understand how Google views your website in order to stay competitive.

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The Franchise Challenge: How Do You Stand Out When You’re One Of Many? /stand-youre-one-many-212499 /stand-youre-one-many-212499#respond Fri, 16 Jan 2015 14:35:55 +0000 http:/?p=212499 Local search marketing can be a challenge for franchisees, but columnist Rachel Lindteigen has some tips.

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Local marketing is especially important for franchisees, but it can also pose many unique issues — for example, how do you stand out among a sea of many? The good news is that it’s possible, depending on the situation there are multiple possible solutions.

Several years ago, I worked in the marketing department of a children’s franchise organization, and we ran into several challenges. All of our franchise owners were essentially targeting the keyword [kid’s birthday party], and they all had URLs on the same domain.

As we know, Google will only rank a limited number URLs from the same site for the same keyword. What do you do if you have 175 people who want to rank for the same term and all share the same root domain? How do you accomplish this?

That’s the beauty of local marketing — you can do just that with a little bit of localization.

With some planning, we successfully launched both SEM and SEO campaigns for the franchise owners. It took some time and a bit of collaboration (which can be a challenge within a franchise system at times). So, how did we do it?

Local Targeting & Content Customization For Franchise Sites

map-pins-local-locations-ss-1920

We used three local targeting and content customization strategies as shown below.

1. Website. First, we focused on the website itself. Just how do you target the same core keywords for each franchise owner? You add in “City, State” localization.

Keep in mind that you don’t want to just use the exact same copy with “City, State” localization on every page, or you’ll likely end up with a duplicate content issue and we all know Google doesn’t like that. This brings me to my second recommendation….

2. Multiple Content Versions. In order to avoid potential duplicate content issues, we created multiple versions of content the franchisees could choose from.

For the homepage, we wrote ten different variations of copy that targeted the core keywords we selected. The franchisees were able to mix and match any of the ten approved copy options. Each option was two paragraphs, so we really cut down on the duplicate content chances by telling them they could create up to 20 options for the homepage copy.

We then focused on the localization of that copy and targeted up to three cities within each metro area. By taking this approach, every page had unique content and each franchisee was able to target their local market area.

3. SEM Landing Pages. This is where it became a little more difficult. Once the SEO efforts were under way, we turned our attention to the SEM landing pages. Due to the proximity of franchise locations within a metro area, they were limited to a very small targeting radius for AdWords campaigns.

In some instances, the franchise owners could only target 5-10 miles around their location and, in turn, missed the opportunity to target the parents who were likely researching from work (which was more often in the city center) while their ads ran in the suburbs. This was a far from ideal situation.

The solution posed some challenges; in order for everyone to benefit and be able to target the business areas in the city center, they had to work collectively. If you’ve ever worked with a franchise system, you know this can be a challenge.

We worked together to establish or partner with already established regional marketing groups and created SEM-only metro area landing pages. Each franchisee who was participating in the program was represented equally on the landing page. The thought was that customers would naturally click on the location that was nearest their home, and they did.

By working together, the franchise owners were able to grow their exposure and revenue through the use of pay-per-click advertising. It took a while; but in the end, it worked well.

Local Targeting & Customized Content Works

The use of local targeting and unique, customizable content achieved the SEO goals and allowed all franchise owners the opportunity to rank for the most important keywords to their business.

It is possible to stand out when you’re one of many but sometimes you have to get creative in order to make it work for everyone and ensure you’re playing by Google’s rules.

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Google Maps, Yelp & Local SEO In 2015 /google-maps-yelp-local-seo-2015-210846 /google-maps-yelp-local-seo-2015-210846#respond Fri, 19 Dec 2014 16:16:20 +0000 http:/?p=210846 When it comes to digital marketing and SEO for your business, it’s important to look beyond just your website. For local businesses, a strong online marketing effort requires an investment in local directories, maps and review sites, too. If all of your optimization efforts are spent on your site, you’re likely missing out on opportunities. Google’s Pigeon […]

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When it comes to digital marketing and SEO for your business, it’s important to look beyond just your website. For local businesses, a strong online marketing effort requires an investment in local directories, maps and review sites, too.

If all of your optimization efforts are spent on your site, you’re likely missing out on opportunities.

Google’s Pigeon algorithm update, released in July 2014, gave more prominence to local map and directory sites such as Yelp. In many instances, Yelp listings now rank above the business’ website.

For example, when you search on the query [bakery phoenix], you have to scroll past three map listings and three organic listings before you finally see a local business website listing. That first local business website is in position 7, essentially.

Bakery Phoenix SERP Listing

How many potential customers are going to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page to find your actual website? Nowhere near as many as are likely going to click on the map or directory listings that are more prominently positioned at the top of the search results page.

Thus, it’s important to make sure you’re watching these listings on a regular basis and optimizing your presence in the map and directory sites.

Step 1. Set Up Your Google My Business Account

The most important thing is to make sure you’re listed and your information is correct. You can do this for Google maps via Google My Business. Google My Business provides an easy way for a business owner to create a listing or claim an existing one, allowing them to ensure that their information is accurate and complete. Best of all, it’s free.

If you were signed up and verified through Google Places or Google + Pages, you should automatically be moved over to Google My Business.

Step 2. Get Started With Yelp

Claim your business listing on Yelp. Once you’ve claimed your business, you can update information, respond to reviews, upload photos and more. Yelp is the most popular consumer review site, and as such, it’s important to ensure your information is present (and accurate) on their site.

Step 3. Optimize Your Listings

Once you’ve claimed your listings and verified that your contact information is correct, it’s time to optimize your business information. You can add photos, hours of operation, contact information, your URL, and other information to make your listing more robust (allowing it to stand out from the crowd). You can also create deals, respond to reviews and more.

Step 4. Gather Reviews

Gather great reviews on your listings. I know, that’s easier said than done; this is one of the more critical and more difficult tasks to coordinate.

There are a few methods you can use to generate reviews. Some will advise you to “just ask for them,” but honestly, that’s not very organic. Yes, you can ask people to write reviews or offer an incentive to someone who reviews your business; however, you should be cautious with that type approach, as many review sites (including Yelp) discourage review solicitation.

As with everything else, Google wants to provide the best information to their customers (searchers), and that means it wants honest, reliable information. If you offer great products, provide great service, and take care of your customers, they’re going to be inclined to review you on these sites whether you ask them to do it or not.

Step 5. Engage With Customers Online

Respond to reviews. It’s likely you will have a mix of both good and bad reviews on Google Maps and Yelp. That’s normal.

Unfortunately, customers are often more inclined to leave negative feedback than positive — that’s why it’s critical that you respond.

There will of course be some customers that can’t be satisfied, and in certain instances you may feel that you were in the right and they were in the wrong. However, if you have multiple negative reviews that all talk about similar issues, that might warrant double-checking the situation to see if maybe what they’re saying is true.

In any case, respond, acknowledge their concerns and try to make them right where you can. It’s not necessary to air the entire concern publically; rather, respond and provide an email address or phone number where they can contact you further to work to resolve the situation.

Final Thoughts

By now, you understand the importance of working with local maps and directories such as Google Maps and Yelp. In today’s post-Pigeon world, this type of site will often rank above your own website — as such, you must be present there.

Managing your business on these sites needs to be part of your ongoing SEO strategy — in other words, it is not a one-time task. This “set it and forget it” mentality could leave you with outdated information, negative reviews that are unanswered, and other issues.

It’s likely that more customers will be exposed to your business through these sites than your actual website, at least initially. By including these sites in your overall strategy, you will be able to build your customer base and, hopefully, grow your business.

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Black Friday Is NEXT Week. Is Your Local Business Ready? /black-friday-next-week-ready-208927 /black-friday-next-week-ready-208927#respond Fri, 21 Nov 2014 15:00:45 +0000 http:/?p=208927 The holidays are right around the corner, and columnist Rachel Lindteigen provides helpful advice for how local business can prepare.

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It’s hard to believe, but the holidays are upon us. Thanksgiving is less than a week away. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are almost here. Is your website ready?

Did you implement a holiday marketing strategy? Have you checked that everything is in proper working order? If not, now is the time. Before you head to the store to stock up on the last items you’ll need for Thanksgiving dinner, ensure your website is ready to greet your customers.

If your website supports a retail location, double check that all of your store contact information is correct on your social media accounts and more importantly, in the local map directory listings.

Have you updated your listings to include extended holiday hours? Be sure your customers can find this out easily. It’s a bit late to add Schema markup for your store hours and holiday specials now unless you’ve got an on-staff IT person readily available. If you can’t add Schema, it’s OK.

Add information about your holiday hours anywhere you can and be sure you update your information on your website, too. Make it visible, have it on the homepage or provide a prominent link.

Remember, many of the holiday weekend shoppers will be browsing on their mobile phones; don’t make them dig for information. Help them find what they’re looking for and they’ll be more likely to visit your store or site and buy.

If you sell products or services on your website and offer shipping, there are a few more tactics to review:

  • Include A Shipping Calendar. Do you have a shipping calendar on your website that is easy for your customers to find? If not, add one now. If you can create a separate page for your shipping information, that would be ideal. You can share this via your social media channels, and be sure to optimize the title tag and Meta description. Be sure your shipping information is clear and easy to understand.
  • Feature Deals, Sales & Special Offers On Optimized Landing Pages. If you’re offering Black Friday or Cyber Monday specials, do you have your holiday landing pages optimized and live yet? If they’re not live today, it’s almost too late. Google needs a few days to index new content, so make this one of your top priorities today. You can create your Black Friday and Cyber Monday landing pages even if you haven’t finalized your product specials yet. Get the pages live and ensure the title tags and meta descriptions are optimized. For now, include some evergreen content about Black Friday or Cyber Monday and let your customers know when to check back for more information. Update the product specifics when you’re ready.
  • Create Landing Pages For Holiday Gifts/Special Services. If you’re promoting holiday gifts or offering special services such as gift wrap, create a page to provide that information. The holiday shopping period is short this year; consumers will be looking for convenience options. Thanksgiving and Christmas are just four weeks apart this time. Consumers have only three weekends beyond the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend to shop.
  • Offer free gift wrap. Offer free (or nominal fee) gift wrap with purchase (in store or online) and promote this on your website and in social media.
  • Offer Free Shipping. Offer free shipping, if not for the entire holiday season, consider participating in Free Shipping Day on December 18th.
  • Bundle Related Products. Create product bundles that make it easier for consumers to buy a gift. This is a great way to upsell; you can offer bundles or additional related items.
  • Create An Optimized Page For Gift Cards. If you offer gift cards or gift certificates in store, are you able to sell them online? If so, have you created a page for your gift cards or e-gift cards? Some shoppers, especially the last minute ones who haven’t started yet, may be looking for a very simple gift like this. Send reminders about gift cards via email and social media; have the page visible on your website. Some holiday weekend shoppers won’t want to go near a store but would love to buy their gift cards online. Consider an incentive offer for the buyer, perhaps a small percentage off. You’re more likely to end up with two sales this way.

Finally, think about the customers that find you online and visit you in person over the holiday weekend. They may be tired, they may be frazzled, and they may be going to every store in town in search of that one item their kid absolutely must have that they can’t find anywhere.

Try to make it easier for them. Have extra staff in store to help them; if the weather is cold where you are, consider offering warm beverages like coffee or cocoa in your store. If you provide a great experience online and offline, you’ll be more likely to build loyal customers that want to come back again next year. It’s easier to keep a customer happy than to find new ones all the time.

Before you settle in for the holiday weekend with your family (or staff), be sure your website and retail location are ready for the influx of shoppers you hope to see. Double check that everything is in working order and ready to go before you wind up in a post-Thanksgiving turkey coma.

Once the holiday weekend is over, consider sending personalized thank you notes to some of your best customers (online or offline purchases), it’s a great, easy way to create a lasting impression.

The post Black Friday Is NEXT Week. Is Your Local Business Ready? appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Finding Hidden Content Opportunities For Your Local Website /finding-hidden-content-opportunities-local-website-205980 /finding-hidden-content-opportunities-local-website-205980#respond Fri, 24 Oct 2014 14:00:12 +0000 http:/?p=205980 Once you've fulfilled your website's basic content needs, you'll need to up the ante to stay competitive in search engines. Contributor Rachel Lindteigen shares some tips.

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You’ve undoubtedly heard how important content is for your website’s rankings, and you’ve probably covered the basics. You may now be wondering, Where do I go from here?

Let’s start with the basics; every website should have the following content:

  • Homepage: Crawlable content that speaks to your website’s main goals and your business’ offerings
  • Category Pages: Crawlable content that addresses each of your business’ offerings separately; don’t combine two or three services onto one page as that makes it harder for Google to understand what that page is about and rank it
  • Product Pages: Crawlable content (if applicable), and if you sell something on your site, you want to have individual, SEO-friendly landing pages for each of your products
  • About Us & Contact Pages: Crawlable content including: hours of operation, location, contact information
  • Schema Markup: Ideally, the site should have Schema mark-up in appropriate areas such as contact information, location, product offerings, events, pricing, etc. Find out more at www.Schema.org

So, you’re reviewing the list and thinking, “Great, I’ve already got all that type of content on my site. I’m set.” Not so fast.

Yes, you’ve got content, but there are a lot of other potential areas to expand into if you dig a bit. Google rewards sites with quality content but they also want content that’s updated on a regular basis.

It’s important that you consistently add new content to your site and, more than that, it’s important that its content your customers will find useful.

If you’re not sure what your customers will consider useful, there are a couple easy steps you can take to find out, including:

  • Your Customers: If you have internal search on your site, it’s a great place to find out what customers are looking for and what they are having a hard time finding on the site. Check your internal search results and see if you can identify patterns; if they emerge, use that data to help craft your content strategy.
  • Your Competitors: Be sneaky, check out what the competition is doing and see if they have content that you lack. If so, consider whether or not it makes sense to add this content type to your site.
  • Your Keywords: Search your keywords and see what Google populates in the instant search results. Are there keywords or phrases you could use to craft content pieces or create new pages?
  • Search Terms: Review the terms customers are using to find your site through your Google Webmaster Tools account. Sure, it’s not as robust as Google Analytics data was but in this term not provided era, it’s a good option.
  • Keyword Trends: Dig into Google’s Keyword Planner, or other keyword tools such as KeywordTool.io, and start searching with your core keywords. You can find trends and, often, consumer inquiries surrounding how-tos, DIY guides, fit guides, etc. These are all great opportunities for content development.
  • Your Blog: Create a blog and post regularly. If you’re going to add a blog to your website, make sure you’re fully committed to it and have the resources available to fulfill that commitment. It’s better not to have a blog than to have one that’s not done right. Craft a strategy for your blog, and determine who your audience is and what you want to focus on.  After your content strategy is in place, create a content calendar to guide your editorial focus.
  • Content Forms: Remember, content can and should be more than just words on a page. You should have content in the form of text, video and image.
  • Media Optimization: Be sure your videos and images are optimized and you’re following best practice naming conventions for your photos (keyword-keyword-most important keyword.jpg for example, 5x7black-picture-frame.jpg).
  • Media Hosting: Videos can be hosted either on your site or on YouTube. If you opt to host on YouTube, ensure full optimization of your channel through the inclusion of keyword tags and a link to your website in the video description.

Websites all need content; however, not all content is equal. In order to win the Google rankings wars, you need to provide your customers with useful content on a regular basis.

If it’s not helpful, they won’t interact with it and Google will be less likely to rank your site for those terms. Google ultimately wants to deliver their users the best, most applicable content. Write for the user, not the search engine and follow these simple rules for success:

  • User Engagement: Most importantly, answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” Think about your customer when crafting your content. You may think it’s interesting but your customers may not and if they’re not interested or engaged, they’ll leave your site and go somewhere else.
  • Readers First: Don’t stuff your content full of keywords in an effort to rank. Write for the reader, not the spider. By writing for a person, you’ll deliver what Google wants. Read your new content aloud, and if it feels awkward, edit.  Don’t just add pages of content for the sake of adding content.
  • Quality Vs. Quantity: Always focus on the quality rather than quantity. If you start out with a goal of adding 10, 20 or 100 pieces of content, you may only find five or 10 great ideas and then start pulling together mediocre ones to reach your goal. That’s not going to help you in the long run.

Final Thoughts

By looking at content creation in new ways, you can uncover hidden content opportunities for your website. Local SEO can be challenging since you’re often competing against others who are targeting keyword_location queries.

By branching out beyond the expected, you can provide value to your customers and show Google that you’re an authoritative site. Get creative, dig into data and uncover new opportunities to really connect with your customers.

The post Finding Hidden Content Opportunities For Your Local Website appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Holiday Search Planning For Local Businesses In 5 Easy Steps /holiday-planning-local-businesses-5-easy-steps-203856 /holiday-planning-local-businesses-5-easy-steps-203856#respond Fri, 26 Sep 2014 13:10:32 +0000 http:/?p=203856 How can local businesses prepare their digital marketing campaigns for the holidays? Contributor Rachel Lindteigen lays out her formula for success.

The post Holiday Search Planning For Local Businesses In 5 Easy Steps appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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It’s almost October — which means that Q4 starts in a matter of days. Are you ready for the holidays?

While you may still have plenty of time to tackle your personal shopping list, your website is another matter entirely. Is it ready for shoppers? Have you created a holiday strategy yet?

If not, now’s the time to get started. The holiday shopping season is upon us, and shoppers will soon be hitting the stores and the internet in search of the perfect gift.

There are several things you need to do to optimize your site’s local listings before your customers start checking off their gift lists.

Step 1: Ensure Your Map & Directory Listing Information Is Correct

If shoppers can’t find you, they won’t buy from you.

Audit your Google Places Local, Yelp, Yellow Pages, Facebook, Twitter and any other social, map or directory listings you have and make sure your contact information and hours of operation are current.

If you’re changing your hours for the holidays, be sure to update these listings to reflect new the new holiday schedule.

Step 2: Devise A Drive-To-Retail Strategy (If That’s Your Goal)

Do you have a storefront? Are you trying to drive offline conversions? If so, you need to entice your online customer to get them to visit your store.

Offer free gift wrap or a special discount to online consumers that’s only good in store. This will help drive in-store traffic as well as help you track online-to-offline conversion.

If you have a business that sells a seasonal product, consider offering a trade-in option. For example, if a store sells kids coats, they could offer $20 off the purchase of a new coat when you donate an old coat to a child in need.

Coordinate something with a local charity and have a coat drop-off at your store. Promote the special event on your website and through your social media channels; encourage your fans and followers to share the information about the event.

Step 3: Implement Schema Markup On Your Website

Schema markup allows search engine spiders to index your information more easily.

For optimal results, you’ll want to mark up your location, store hours, events (such as the coat drive mentioned above) and any other applicable options for your business.

Step 4: Optimize Your Social Profiles And Reviews/Ratings

Yes, you probably already have a Yelp Business Page (if not, sign up now), but how optimized is your profile? Do you have information about your business, website, or photos of your store? If not, you’ll want to add those things so that your profile is more engaging.

You’ll also want to read through your reviews — are they positive or negative? What’s the overall sentiment? How current are they? Are there any negative reviews that warrant a response? Do you have three reviews or 20?

If you don’t have many reviews, or the reviews you have are old, you will want to encourage customer reviews. Ask your loyal customers to review you on these websites, and perhaps offer an incentive in exchange for a completed review.

If you have a lot of negative reviews, look for commonalities among them and see what you can do to address these problems. Resist the urge to get defensive — instead, figure out ways to improve your service.

Step 5: Craft A Content & Promotion Calendar — Determine Your Holiday Seasonal Messaging

Will you offer special deals for Black Friday or Cyber Monday? Do you have a loyalty program set up for your customers? If so, are there extra incentives you can offer the program members?

The easiest way to create the calendar is to start by filling in the holiday or promotion information you know. Choose whichever type of calendar you prefer and mark out October, November and December holidays. Add in information about school closures if your business involves kids.

If you’re going to offer specials for Black Friday or Cyber Monday, make notes on the dates. (You don’t have to know what your promotion will be just yet — you can simply set a placeholder for now). If you’re going to be open additional hours right before the holiday, mark that down.

Once you have outlined the holidays and promotions you know you’ll run, take a look at the calendar and see if there is anything else you should include.

If you’re going to run the free gift wrap or discount coupon offers mentioned earlier, then decide on specific dates for those promotions. If you’re going to host a coat donation, then choose a set time period to hold the event. Enter all this information on your marketing calendar.

You now have a calendar complete with holiday and promotion information — all that’s left is to figure out how you’re going to promote your business.

Look at what you’ve mapped out and determine the best method of communication with your customers. Some promotions will be a good fit for email campaigns, while others might be better on Facebook or Twitter.

It’s important to know your audience on each channel and see how they engage. If you’re not sure what will work best, that’s okay — you can experiment this time and use the information to help with next year’s planning.

Final Thoughts

These five easy steps will help you craft a local strategy for your SEO program. Start now so you’re ready when the shoppers want to buy.

If you wait until the week before Thanksgiving, it will be too late, as Google needs time to register your changes and index your information. SEO isn’t instant; you have to work in advance. By planning ahead, you can have a successful holiday season.

The post Holiday Search Planning For Local Businesses In 5 Easy Steps appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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