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Category Archive: SEO

  1. Where to Share Your Content for Local SEO

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    Local SEO has always been a big deal for local companies, and now more than ever it’s vital for businesses to get involved. Local SEO offers a much less competitive landscape than its national counterpart, and getting started with a campaign is relatively simple. All you have to do is cultivate positive reviews on local directory sites like Yelp, and follow up with a recurring locally-focused content strategy.

    By now, you probably know what it takes to write great content, but do you know how to write locally focused content? Do you know the best places to syndicate and share that local content? Knowing these tidbits can mean the difference between your campaign taking off or fizzling.

    Types of Content to Produce

    articleimage998 Types of Content to Produce

    For the most part, the content that works best for local SEO is the same type of content that would work for national SEO campaigns. There are just two distinguishing factors that will require you to update your approach: you’ll need to take extra care to make your content shareable, and you’ll have to make it specific to your region.

    The best local content will include:

    • Your city, neighborhood, or region in the title as well as the body of your article. Whichever local keywords you choose to use, stay consistent with them from article to article.
    • Some kind of local relevance. Stuffing a local phrase into your articles isn’t going to work. Instead, focus on articles that are important to your community, such as those related to an upcoming event.
    • Written material is fine, but use occasional multiple mediums. Experiment with images and videos to share.
    • Links back to your website. Otherwise, you won’t be able to pass domain authority to your site.

    Now that you know how to write great local content, all that’s left is to find the best places to share and syndicate it.

    Social Media Profiles

    articleimage998 Social Media Profiles

    Your first stop is also the easiest, and you’ve probably already thought of it. Share your content on your brand’s social media pages. This is especially useful for time-sensitive content, such as posting an article the day before you plan on attending a local event. Sharing this type of content on your page regularly will help your followers understand how dedicated you are to your region, and strengthen the connection between your brand and your locale. It’s also a great medium to inspire further social sharing; followers belonging to your same region will be far more likely to share your material to their followers and increase the reach of your local content.

    Local Social Groups

    Local social groups are pages or groups on social media platforms dedicated to various happenings and events going on in a particular area. For example, your neighborhood might have a Community page on Facebook or a Group on LinkedIn. Do some research to ferret out these groups, and consider using them as a platform for your local material. Keep in mind that only individual profiles will be able to share content with the group, so choose a representative from your team to follow through. These community pages have a much more personal feel, and will likely attract more people to your brand. Just make sure your content has some real value for the community as a whole.

    Local News Sites

    articleimage998 local news site

    Local news sites are perfect opportunities for your local content. Most local news outlets are desperate for new material, and some may even offer a publication platform that local businesses can use to submit material. Getting a piece of content hosted on one of these sites will not only increase your brand’s visibility, it will also pass high authority to your domain if you include a backlink. Even better, since the site is local, it will increase the relevance of your brand to the community in the eyes of search engines.

    Local Community Groups or Forums

    There is no shortage of community groups and forums online, but you might have a difficult time finding them. A quick search should turn up a handful of results to get you started, but don’t be afraid to ask around in the community to find some deeper, less obvious results. Posting your content here is an open invitation for more traffic, and like with local news sites, the links and authority you get from these will do wonders for increasing your brand’s association with your local area. You can even post comments and get involved in discussions to increase engagement with your material.

    Press Releases

    If your local content is newsworthy (which is always a plus), you can also consider submitting it as a formal press release. This might cost a bit of extra money, but you’ll get your content the chance to be published on practically every local news outlet and a handful of national ones. Getting published on a national channel will give you tons of authority, and your region will get significant attention because of it. If your content generally isn’t newsworthy, consider going out of your way to find more newsworthy material for regular press releases.

    As with a traditional SEO campaign, the success of your local SEO strategy will largely depend on your consistency. You’re going to have to produce content on a regular and frequent basis, and syndicate that content to similar yet diversified channels to see results. The more dedicated you remain to your core strategy, the greater reputation you’re going to build.

  2. 6 Types of Businesses That Desperately Need SEO

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    SEO

    Search engine optimization has undergone many phases in its evolution. Originally perceived to be a niche, tech-heavy strategy only for online-exclusive brands, SEO today is a much simpler process that can be harnessed by almost any company.

    Still, there are some types of businesses that can stand to benefit from SEO more than others. In fact, any of these types of companies that doesn’t use SEO as part of a greater brand visibility strategy will likely be swallowed up by the competition within the next several years. In some cases, SEO is simply a must-have.

    If you belong to any of the following categories, you need to be using SEO now:

    1. The Startup.

    startup

    Startups have two big problems that can completely compromise the launch of their brand. First, they have zero visibility. When ramping up for the launch, your brand is completely new, and you have no way of instantly getting people familiar with it. Second, they have limited budgets due to little or no revenue. That means you can’t afford any large-scale marketing and advertising efforts. SEO presents a solution to both of these problems.

    At its core, SEO is very simple, meaning it won’t take a lot of money to make an impact. As long as you get your onsite optimization in order, publishing regular content and syndicating it offsite is all you’ll need to do to start gaining visibility. And ranking for relevant keywords means your brand will be more visible even to people completely unfamiliar with you.

    2. The Mom and Pop Shop.

    Mom and Pop shops are great, but they’re starting to struggle in the modern economy. In a world where giant franchise brands and online stores are dominating, these locally owned individual shops have trouble getting recognition. SEO presents a great alternative solution to this problem.

    Today, local SEO is more important than ever, and it’s not highly competitive the way that national campaigns are. Instead, ongoing commitment to customer experience and an online presence on local directories like Yelp are all you’ll need to start getting noticed. The higher your reviews are, the higher you’ll rank in search engines, meaning that as long as you’re running a great business, your local SEO campaign will pay off in spades.

    3. The Contractor.

    Contractors face several challenges with marketing, but visibility is the biggest one. Most contractors don’t have much of a brand to speak of, and they certainly can’t afford any advanced advertising campaigns. However, SEO’s affordability, combined with the possibility for building local ranks through user reviews, makes it a perfect strategy.

    Plumbers, roofers, handymen, and other contractors only need a simple, possibly WordPress-based website to begin building a strong online presence. From there, cultivating local reviews and writing occasional content is all it takes to get an edge on the competition. Since most contractors have a depth of knowledge on their area of expertise, that part should be easy.

    4. The Practitioner.

    Doctor

    Practitioners, like doctors and lawyers, also struggle with the challenges of personal branding. Many don’t have a formalized brand; instead, they rely on their personal reputation to get by. However, establishing a website and building an SEO campaign can attract hundreds, if not thousands, of new clients and patients.

    This is especially useful simply because so many people rely on search to find practitioners. Imagine you’re in a new city and you’re searching for medical care, but you don’t have any contacts—the first thing you’d do is head to Google and search for one. If you can get your practice at the top slot, you’ll earn the majority of those visitors.

    5. The Competing Brand.

    Highly competitive brands are also a perfect fit for SEO. These types of companies are surrounded by close competitors who either operate in the same space or produce very similar products.

    There are two extreme scenarios for these competing companies; either every company in the scope of the competition is already involved on SEO, or none of them are. Either way, using SEO is advantageous. In the first scenario, you’re almost forced to use SEO just to survive in the competitive landscape. In the second scenario, you have a key opportunity to cheaply improve your rank and steal visitors from your competitors’ websites.

    6. The Solution Offerer.

    Finally, companies who have products or services that address a very specific need can substantially benefit from SEO. These types of companies are driven by a specific customer desire or necessity, giving them one unique possible search phrase that’s tied to their product and their product alone.

    This is a perfect opportunity for cost-efficient optimization. Because you’ll be capitalizing on a unique problem, you won’t face much of a competition, so your costs will be very low. Plus, because search volume for this particular problem will be high, you’ll never have to worry about getting enough traffic from the strategy.

    The bottom line is SEO can help virtually any business get more visibility and more traffic. It doesn’t matter how old your company is, what industry you’re in, or even how much you have to spend. You get out of SEO what you put into it, and the web is ripe with opportunities to get more recognition. If you belong to one of the businesses listed above, you should get into SEO as quickly as possible, but even if you aren’t, you should at least consider SEO as a long-term strategy for your business.

  3. Is Google Using Information Accuracy to Rank Sites?

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    articleimage664Google’s Slow Decline

    It’s well known that Google puts its users first when it comes to calculating search ranks. Domain authority, a measure of a site’s merit or trustworthiness, is one of the most important factors for determining where a specific page within a domain will rank. For example, if a user searches for “shaving cream,” a site with a “shaving cream” page and a high domain authority will rank higher than a similar site with a low domain authority.

    The factors responsible for forming a site’s domain authority are somewhat mysterious. Search marketers have uncovered many of these factors, either through official Google releases or through trial-and-error based experiments with Google’s search directly. For example, we know that the number and quality of backlinks pointing to a domain factor into how authoritative that domain is perceived to be. But new information suggests that Google is attempting to find new, better ways to calculate a site’s authority, including using the accuracy of information found on the domain.

    What the Research Shows

    articleimage619 Analyze and Nurture Your Reviews

    New Scientist recently revealed that the search engine giant was starting to push the idea of Knowledge-Based Trust (KBT), which is a proprietary method of calculating a page’s authority based on how accurate the information found on it is. Rather than exploring the backlink profile of a site, this algorithm would focus on “endogenous signals,” which would determine the correctness of various facts listed on the page.

    To determine the correctness of this material, Google would compare snippets of information found on the page to similar snippets of information it already has compiled on the Knowledge Graph. In case you weren’t aware, the Google Knowledge Graph is a compendium of verified information pulled from various authoritative sources on the web and reviewed manually for accuracy. You can see information from the Knowledge Graph in its current state by searching for movies, actors, politicians, or other famous subjects—it’s presented in an organized box on the right-hand side.

    According to Google’s recent report on the matter, the KBT algorithm has already been used on 2.8 billion facts and snippets taken from the web. In what was considered to be a successful test, Google verified the accuracy of 119 million web pages and 5.6 million websites. While it’s difficult to say how accurate the algorithm was in determining that accuracy, it seems to be a good start for the technology.

    How Will This Affect Existing Websites?

    Assuming the KBT algorithm one day goes live, Google researchers have suggested that it will only serve as a complement to existing authority-determining factors like backlink profile analysis, rather than a replacement of them. Should the algorithm take effect, there will likely be significant volatility in search ranks. Depending on how accurate your site’s information is compared to Google’s Knowledge Graph, you could move up or down in rankings in a sudden motion.

    However, because Google’s algorithm already detects the quality of your writing and the strength of your content, authority is already based on accuracy by proxy. If you’ve remained committed to posting only the best, most helpful information you can to your users, chances are the release of this new algorithm will not significantly lower your rank.

    Also consider the fact that KBT is mostly based on information housed in the Google Knowledge Graph. Currently, the Knowledge Graph only contains very specific types of information; for example, novels, celebrities, cities, and historical events are all categorized and indexed based on a certain format, but more complex information like “how to change a tire” are more difficult to categorize, and likely will not be indexed by the early stages of Google’s more advanced information-processing products.

    When the Change Could Take Effect

    Google is nothing if not meticulous. Before the company integrates its KBT algorithm into its existing search algorithm, it’s going to want to be sure of the technology’s effectiveness, and that means months of rigorous testing. Early signs appear to validate the effectiveness of the algorithm, but Google’s development team will likely want to refine their approach before debuting it to the general public.

    That being said, Google is constantly pushing for new updates and the best possible search functionality for their billions of global users. Since the KBT algorithm is largely based on the quality of the Knowledge Graph and the Knowledge Graph has been in constantly refinement since 2012, Google may be more willing to make an early push. Google’s updates typically come as a surprise even to search marketers in the know, so KBT will probably be rolled out when we least expect it.

    How to Prepare

    articleimage612 Is your content great enough

    For now, don’t worry too much about KBT. It’s stuck in a testing phase right now, and when it rolls out it will probably be refined to the point where it only minimally affects the landscape of search. What you can and should focus on in the meantime is the quality of your content. Start double checking the facts and figures of all your posts in syndication, and implement a review process that formalizes a fact-checking procedure for all new works that end up on your site. This procedure will help your site become more KBT-friendly, but that’s a far-off concern. Your immediate priority should be taking more steps to ensure that your users get the most accurate, most valuable information possible. Like Google, you must always put your users before anything else.

  4. How to Increase Authority for New Domains

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    articleimage990 How to Increase Authority for New DomainsAuthority is arguably the most important factor responsible for your SEO campaign. If your domain is considered authoritative, you’ll have a much easier time ranking for various keywords, and if your domain is not authoritative, you’ll have a much more difficult time. You can improve the strength of your domain authority over time, but the process is slow, leaving many businesses with new domains to wonder whether it’s worth it to pursue an authority-building strategy.

    The short answer is yes, it’s always worth trying to increase your authority, especially if you’re just starting out. Since authority increases faster over time and through consistent effort, the sooner you start developing your authority consistently, the better.

    Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to get a high domain authority out of the gates. But with a handful of carefully executed strategies, you can prepare your domain for steady, reliable long-term growth.

    Why New Domains Struggle With Authority

    The problem with authority for new domains is actually quite simple. One of the biggest factors Google considers when evaluating the reliability of a site is history. It makes sense; if a site has a long history of providing meaningful, accurate information to its users, it deserves to be seen as more authoritative than a site that just launched. Unfortunately for you that means no matter how hard you strive for perfection in your material and your approach, you won’t be able to touch the authorities of those long-established juggernauts (at least not for a while). Still, if you take the proper steps to build your authority at the beginning of your campaign, you’ll be in a prime position to start ranking in as little as a few months.

    Onsite Moves

    articleimage990 Onsite Moves

    First, we’ll look at the onsite changes and tactics you should use to boost your domain authority.

    Straightforward, Appropriate Navigation

    Your navigation means a lot to search engines. If your navigation is easy to follow, organized in a logical way, and well-documented with onsite sitemaps, search engines will be able to crawl your content easily and will consider you to have a high authority. Structuring your navigation also gives you the chance to create pages that correspond to your primary lines of business. Using pages as major anchors for those keywords can increase your authority for their related topics; for example, having a page for “content marketing” will make you more of an authority in the marketing and advertising world.

    Rich, Well-Written Content

    You’ll also want to make sure your site is full of interesting, well-written content. Make sure you have at least a few hundred words of content on each of your pages, including your home page. Otherwise, Google won’t have much to crawl, and it may consider you to have a lower authority as a result. Also be careful not to stuff your content with keywords related to your business; as long as you’re writing naturally for your target audience, Google will determine you to have a high authority in your industry.

    Recurring Blog Content

    The value of ongoing content for your domain authority cannot be underestimated, and the earlier you get started the better. One of the first moves you should make for your website is establishing a premise for a long-term blog. Prioritize publishing at least one new post a week, increasing in frequency as your website and your audience develop.

    Offsite Moves

    articleimage990 Offsite Moves

    It’s also important that you remember the offsite tactics that can build your authority over time.

    External Links on High-Authority Sites

    One of the biggest indicators for site authority is the quantity and quality of external links pointing to your site. Older, well-established sites have tens of thousands of backlinks pointing at them from all kinds of sources. You won’t be able to compete with that, but you can get started on the right foot. Build links only on sources that are relevant to your industry, or sources with a very high authority of their own, and be sure to diversify the types of links you build and the places where you build them. Your best bets are educational websites ending in .edu and government websites ending in .gov. These links can be hard to get, but they’ll go far in building your initial domain authority.

    Thriving Social Media Presence

    Google also uses social signals to evaluate your domain authority, so building a strong social media presence is crucial in your early stages. Publish and promote your content through Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and reach out to new contacts to build your audience. The larger your audience, and the more active your followers are, the more authority you’ll be seen to have.

    Social Sharing of Unique Content

    One of the best way to build links and authority is to create and distribute unique, highly valuable content. Pieces like infographics or whitepapers tend to get shared often, circulating online and attracting thousands of natural links at a time. Creating these pieces takes time, but if syndicated properly, the process is always worth it.

    The process of building authority for a new domain is time consuming and, at times, challenging, but if you put in the time and effort, eventually your domain will be running with the best of them. Prioritize the strength of your domain and remember that user experience must always come first. As long as you’re keeping your users happy and you’re publishing great material, the rest should come naturally in time.

  5. Why Working With Your Competitors is Good for Local SEO

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    There’s one main idea driving the motivation to market and advertise your business: getting more visibility. And in most cases, that means gaining more visibility for your brand than your competitors currently have. If you can make your brand more visible and more desirable than your competitors, you’ll gain loyalty from the majority of the market, and your sales will grow as a result. Knowing this, it doesn’t make logical sense to work with your competitors or draw attention to them in any way. Any mention you give them takes away from the difference in your visibility, and you could potentially lose a few customers as a result.

    However, working directly with your competitors, and at times giving them mention, is actually a worthwhile strategy for local SEO. With the right approach, you’ll greatly increase your domain authority and local relevance, and any traffic you lose to your competitor will be more than made up for by the increases you see from local searches.

    The Local Relevance Factor

    articleimage785 How Local Search Is Growing

    First, consider the local relevance factor. Google is constantly updating its index to determine which businesses are local where, and what those businesses do. It searches for contextual clues throughout your content, your links, and the prominent titles on your website. One obvious strategy to increase the local relevance of your brand is to include your city and/or state in much of your web copy. But another, even more valuable strategy is to mention your competitors.

    When Google crawls the web and sees you and your competitor’s name frequently mentioned together, it will learn to form a connection between them. Because your competitors operates in the same region and the same industry, you’ll gain extra authority from both a local SEO and industry-based SEO perspective. That means your domain authority will increase, your rankings for local keywords will rise, and you’ll enjoy the benefits of far more organic search traffic.

    The Competitor Search Factor

    articleimage885The Competition Factor

    There’s another major search benefit to using your competitors’ names. Imagine a prospective customer who is searching for a solution both you and your competitor offer. They’ve only heard of your competitor before, but they want to do some research before buying. They search Google for your competitor’s name.

    If your brand frequently mentions your competitor’s name, it’s highly likely that you’ll be the second result to pop up. That means you have a shot at stealing your competitor’s otherwise untouchable branded search traffic.

    Strategies to Use Your Competitors

    articleimage788 A Better Strategy

    Now that you know the benefits of mentioning and using your competitors in a local SEO strategy, we can focus on the day-to-day tactics that make these benefits possible. There are several strategies you can use, both onsite and offsite, but using them in conjunction with each other will give you the greatest benefit.

    Mutually Attending Events

    Your first option is to find out what local events your competitors are attending, and attend them. Local event attendance is a great local SEO strategy in itself, since you have the perfect opportunity to submit a press release and write new content featuring local keywords, but if you can capitalize on your competitors being there too, you can sweeten the deal. Consider interviewing a representative from one of your competitors at the event if you really feel like going all-out.

    Exchanging Links

    First, understand that “exchanging links” regularly can get you into trouble—if you constantly swap links with one partner, Google will suspect you of link manipulation and you’ll likely be penalized accordingly. However, occasionally swapping guest posts can only serve to strengthen both of your sites. You’ll trade authority and diversify your content blend, all while increasing your local relevance. It really is a win-win situation.

    Writing Industry-Covering Review Articles

    This is one of the greatest strategies you can use since it capitalizes on a very specific type of query. Write an article that covers all the options consumers have for businesses like yours in the area. For example, you could use an article to ask and answer the question, “who is the best plumber in Albany?” In the article, detail yourself along with all your competitors, but do try to keep the article unbiased. Anyone looking to comparison shop will find your article easily, and you’ll have the home field advantage since the article is featured on your site. You might lose a few visitors to your external links, but the information you provide will allow you to win out in the long run.

    Mimicking Your Competitors’ Backlink Profiles and Followings

    Finally, take advantage of the work your competitors have already done. You can use a backlink profile tool like Moz’s Open Site Explorer to review and see what types of links your competitors are building. While you don’t want to copy this exactly, you can draw inspiration from it and discover new local sources you haven’t previously considered. You can also engage with your competitors’ social followings; you can usually determine whether each follower is a local resident, and you can definitely tell they’re interested in your industry. Sometimes, all it takes is a simple mention to earn a new loyal follower.

    Don’t hesitate to use your competitors when trying to build your local SEO presence. While it might seem strange or counterintuitive at first, soon you’ll find that the strategy has immense net value to your brand. Build yourself into a recognizable local presence, keep user experience at the heart of what you do, and you’ll see multiplied incoming traffic as a result.

  6. Is It Still Important to Optimize Images for SEO?

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    Images are a big part of your website, and optimizing them for SEO has long been an important strategy. In the old days, stuffing your image tags with keywords was a cheap, black hat way to increase your site’s ranking for those keywords, but now that Google has far stricter quality control, is there anything you can do to increase your domain authority or search traffic using images?

    The short answer is yes; optimizing your images for SEO is still an important element of any search marketing strategy. But the most effective tactics and the target end results have changed. In the modern world, you’ll be optimizing your images for three reasons; to improve user experience, to get your images found using Google Image Search, and to decrease your page loading times.

    Optimizing Images for User Experience

    articleimage850Why Images Are Important

    Your first goal is to optimize your images to maximize user experience. While the experience of your users is qualitative, and does not directly influence your search rankings, Google does take user behavior into consideration. If you have better images, you’ll have lower bounce rates, and lower bounce rates means you’ll enjoy a higher authority.

    Image Inclusion

    Your first step is to include images wherever you can. That doesn’t mean stuffing images into every nook and cranny of your website, but it does mean having at least one significant image for every major post on your blog. Without images, your site will appear bland, and people will be less willing to read your content or stick around.

    Image Appropriateness

    Next, you’ll have to make sure your images are appropriate for your content. It isn’t enough to pair a picture of a hamburger with an article about cat behavior simply because you “needed” an image. Your images should be appropriate to the content they’re intended for, and if possible, they should be original. This will keep users on your page for longer, which can improve your authority.

    Image Captions

    As an added measure, it’s a good idea to include captions with your images. While image captions won’t necessarily help your images rank higher in a search, they will help users understand why you’ve chosen specific images for your posts, which leads to an overall better user experience.

    Optimizing Images for Image Search

    shutterstock_125846708

    Next, you’ll have to take some measures to optimize your images so that they appear higher up in Google Image Search results. While Image search gets less attention than Google’s traditional search function, it can be a source of significant organic traffic.

    Appropriate Alt Text

    While the Panda update seriously cracked down on the overuse of keywords, including one or two keywords in your alt text can still help you rank for target queries. To add alt text, add alt=”example text here” to your image’s tag, where “example text here” stands in for your keyword-optimized description. Just be sure that your description is appropriate to the actual image content.

    Appropriate File Name

    In addition to an alt tag, you’ll want to make sure your image is titled appropriately. For example, if you’re using that hamburger picture from earlier, titling it “Delicious looking hamburger” is much more appropriate than “Broken ukulele.” This title will clue Google in to the image’s content, and will help it appear in more relevant searches.

    Adding Images to Your XML Sitemap

    As a final tactic, be sure to include all your images in your XML sitemap. Google peruses your sitemap to learn how your site is laid out and to discover new content on your site, so make sure it is updated regularly. Otherwise, your images will be harder to find, which could negate the effectiveness of your other strategies.

    Optimizing Images for Site Speed

    articleimage822How to Improve Your Site Speed

    Finally, you’ll want to optimize your images for speed. The loading time of your site plays a pivotal role in your search rankings, especially in mobile searches, and your images are one of the biggest factors in how fast your site loads. Keeping your images loading quickly will increase your domain authority, and therefore increase your ranks.

    Appropriate File Type

    Choosing the right file type is easy, and can help make sure your images load quickly on user devices. JPG format is the modern standby, and should give you no issues, with PNG format being a close runner-up. Any other file types for your images should probably be converted, unless you have an animated GIF.

    Reducing File Size

    Next, you’ll want to reduce the file size of your images. While super high-resolution files might look nicer when printed out, it isn’t going to make much of a difference on a small digital screen. Shrink your images as much as you can while retaining high quality to reduce the file size, which collectively can drastically decrease your page loading times.

    Stripping Meta Data

    As a secondary means of reducing the time it takes to load images, you can strip your photos of meta data. Most images have information like the date it was created stored in the image file, but you can delete this by heading to image Properties > Details, and clicking “Remove Properties and Personal Information.” This will make the file smaller with no changes to the image itself.

    Once all the images on your site are optimized for search, you should start to see far more organic search traffic coming in. With a higher domain authority from decreased site speed, you’ll rank higher for relevant keywords, you’ll gain extra traffic from image-based searches, and your users will be more likely to stick around if you have eye-catching, well-captioned images. The bottom line is that while it isn’t completely necessary, it is incredibly valuable, and you’d be remiss in neglecting the optimization of your onsite images.

  7. 5 Great Citation Tools for Local SEO

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    Local citations are critical for a successful local SEO campaign, but they can sometimes be a pain. If you’re working with a tight budget, limited resources, or a limited understanding of how local citations work, it can be nearly impossible to get everything done yourself.

    When Google determines rankings for a local search, one of the most important factors it considers is each business’s information. Of course, Google needs to know your business’s location in order to evaluate whether it fits into the local search’s geographic criteria, but Google also takes your name and phone number into consideration. The accuracy of this information (your name, address, and phone number, known collectively as your NAP), is very important to Google. The search engine wants to bring the most consistent, accurate information possible to its users, and it rewards the sites and businesses that enable that consistency and accuracy.

    To evaluate this, Google scours the web for information listings and local directories, searching for any mentions of your brand. If there are any discrepancies in information, such as a different phone number or a different format for your address, it can actively work against you. If you want to ensure the highest possible local search ranking and ensure your online audience is viewing your information accurately, you’ll have to check how your business is listed in each directory, and make any changes that are necessary.

    It’s almost impossible to find every local directory on the web, and even more difficult to try and manage all those changes alone. Fortunately, there are a variety of tools available on the web that can help you not only track down where and how your business is listed, but also help you correct any potential errors. These five tools are some of the best we’ve found:

    1. Yext.

    articleimage919yext

    Yext has exploded in popularity since the Pigeon update in 2014 completely overhauled the way Google handled local searches. For free, you can enter your business name and phone number, and Yext will generate a report of all the places your business is listed on the web. This hits up major platforms like Yelp and TripAdvisor, but also scours for those hard-to-detect nooks and crannies of the web. If you want them to fix the errors in your listings, you’ll have to sign up for a monthly service that’s billed annually—which you may or may not want to do depending on the size of your business and the budget you have allocated to local search. But the reporting tool is incredibly useful regardless.

    2. WhiteSpark.

    articleimage919whitespark

    WhiteSpark offers a more thorough local citation builder than Yext, as well as a management tool that helps you keep everything in order. However, it might be overkill if you’re only looking to fix the citations that are already out there. For as little as $20 a month, you can perform several keyword-based searches per day to discover where your business is or could be mentioned, and gain access to a dashboard that keeps track of all your efforts to list your business elsewhere. If you aren’t sure whether WhiteSpark is a good fit, you can sign up for a free trial and give it a test run.

    3. The HOTH.

    The HOTH is known for link building services, but its local citation remediation is where the company really shines. With the HOTH, you won’t have to go through the struggle of reaching out to each local directory individually. You won’t even have to run a report and view the results. All you have to do is enter your correct business information, answer a few simple questions, and push a button. The HOTH will take care of everything else, correcting any citation errors they find online for a one-time fee of $350, which is more affordable than a prolonged monthly rate available through Yext or WhiteSpark.

    4. BrightLocal.

    articleimage919 brightlocal

    BrightLocal’s citation tracker is a tool that helps you find all instances of your business across the web and easily audit your information. It’s similar to Yext in the sense that it generates a comprehensive report, highlighting any inaccurate or obsolete information that needs to be corrected. BrightLocal stands out by offering a competitive analysis, showing you where your competitors are listing their business, so you can encroach on their visibility or simply learn the most common practices for your industry.

    5. PlacesScout.

    PlacesScout is a local citation finder much like WhiteSpark, but it also has a competitive feature similar to that of BrightLocal. It also gives you a consolidated dashboard where you can manage and post online reviews, further improving your local SEO. It’s a comprehensive resource, but it’s also a bit on the pricey side, so if you’re a new business, you might want to consider a more inexpensive option to get things started.

    Before you can start ranking for local searches, cleaning up your local citations is a must. If only half your information is accurate across the web, your domain authority could suffer and Google might not be able to determine your correct location. For small or emerging businesses, a one-time cleanup is more than sufficient to get everything in order. If you have multiple locations or a major enterprise, a monthly retainer to keep your information in line might be a better bet. Either way, check back occasionally to make sure your local citations are correct.

  8. Why All Startups Should Focus on SEO and Content Marketing

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    Inbound marketing is all the rage. Writers, business owners, and professional marketers everywhere have tried to cash in on the strategy and have professed the purported benefits of a unified, consistent inbound marketing effort driven by SEO and content.

    But SEO and content marketing are more than just buzzwords. They’ve gotten a lot of attention in recent years, but that attention is warranted; building your business up with content marketing and SEO is cost effective, and starts paying off exponentially after only a few months of dedicated effort. And because the strategies are so practically useful, they can be used by almost any business in any industry.

    Startups tend to neglect their marketing, since marketing and advertising are sometimes viewed as superfluous expenses. But every startup should be focusing on SEO and content, from the very beginning, and here’s why:

    The Budget Factor

    articleimage885thebudgetfactor

    Startups have major budgeting problems. That’s not to say that all startups budget ineffectively; in fact, many startups have flawless budgets, but still face the tight constraints of limited capital. Even when startups are fully funded, the demands of recurring expenses typically outweigh initial incoming revenue, leaving little to no money to allocate to marketing.

    This is where SEO and content marketing come in handy. Thanks to WordPress and similarly intuitive CMS systems, setting up your website with basic onsite SEO is relatively simple and painless. Getting started with a content program can require as little as one article a week, a task you can easily delegate to one of your team members. Of course, with the bare minimum investment, you won’t see much in return, but you can get the skeleton of your strategy in place with almost zero overhead. All it takes is a little research and a little time, making it a perfect fit for burgeoning companies.

    The Competition Factor

    articleimage885The Competition Factor

    Startups tend to arise to take advantage of key opportunities in the market. That usually means creating something entirely new, taking a slightly different approach to an existing business model, or improving on a business model that already exists. The first two possibilities create a perfect opportunity for startups: a world with minimal competition.

    Let’s say you’ve created a new product. It can probably be tied to a series of keyword phrases that cannot be easily tied to any other product in the market. If that’s the case, you have almost zero competition, and ranking for those keyword phrases is going to be a snap. That’s going to reduce the already low costs of putting an initial strategy together, and allow you to start seeing results in as little as a few months. That’s going to open up a line of near-immediate traffic (and hopefully revenue), which will help you significantly in your first year of operations.

    The Baseline Audience Factor

    When you’re launching a startup, chances are you aren’t going to have a dedicated audience to start with. You might have a target demographic in mind, supported with mounds of research that supports their willingness to buy your product, but you won’t have actual people familiar with your brand. The only exception to this is when a startup launches as a subsidiary or an extension of a larger company.

    Content marketing is the perfect opportunity to build that initial audience (and that will help SEO, as well). In the early stages of your startup, before you’ve formally launched, you can start building an audience by syndicating content, engaging in social groups relevant to your industry, and letting people know you exist. Your content is going to form people’s first impressions of your company, including how authoritative and trustworthy you seem as well as how much they like your brand personality. If you approach it correctly, you can start growing an audience long before you ever start selling.

    The Branding Evolution Factor

    The vision you have for your startup before it launches is not going to match what your startup eventually becomes. That’s because it’s impossible to predict how your business is going to react to new developments, and it’s impossible to fully develop your brand in a stagnant environment.

    Going through the steps of a content marketing and SEO campaign will force your brand to undergo a natural form of development. As you write more blogs for your brand and communicate through social media channels, you’ll become better acquainted with both your brand and your audience, and you’ll be able to make adjustments accordingly. Undergoing these steps of evolution early in the process, while your ideas and structures are still malleable, is valuable in forging a stronger initial business. Seeing your early SEO results can also guide you toward specific topics or offerings that may present a good ranking opportunity.

    How to Get Started

    articleimage885howtogetstarted

    You don’t need to be a seasoned SEO expert to get the ball rolling. Building a little bit of momentum in your content and SEO strategy is all you need in the early stages of your startup, and you can do that simply by creating and updating a blog. Once your blog is established, start writing content—at least one article per week—and promoting it through social media to your target audience. Identify a handful of keyword phrases to build into the meta data of your site, and install Google Analytics so you can track changes in your traffic. After the first few weeks, you can start analyzing the data, learning more advanced SEO tactics, and preparing to launch your startup formally.

  9. The Difference Between Clever SEO and Link Schemes

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    Link building strategies require a delicate balance. In order to earn more authority for your domain, you’ll have to engage in some kind of link building strategy, but if any of your links appear unnatural or violate Google’s official policies, you could end up getting penalized instead of rewarded.

    In the early days of search engine optimization (SEO), it was possible to earn page rank through sheer force of will. Climbing to the top ranks of Google was a simple matter of posting as many links as you possibly could, using whatever tactics you could come up with to get the job done. Google has grown sophisticated, and today, it’s able to easily detect those link schemes and stick the perpetrators with a ranking penalty. Link building today requires tactful consideration and well-executed strategies, carefully toeing the line between what’s seen as a “link scheme” in Google’s eyes and what is simply a type of clever SEO.

    The problem is that the line between clever SEO and link schemes is thinner than you might think, and it’s difficult even for seasoned experts to tell the difference. In this article, we’ll take a look at the types of link building strategies that can earn you a penalty, and how clever SEO is distinguished from them.

    The Risk of Link Scheming

    articleimage884 The Risk of Link Scheming

    It should be no secret that link scheming will earn you a penalty if you’re aggressive enough. Ever since Google’s Penguin update in 2012 (and its subsequent revisions and follow-ups), Google has been able to clearly evaluate the quality of links on the web and take that quality into consideration when it evaluates rank. Google’s entire philosophy is to improve how people experience the web, and that means weeding out the people who abuse the system or fail to provide value to users.

    Put simply, link scheming is any way of building links that carries absolutely no value for the end user. This is a simple definition, but should allow you to evaluate whether your strategy falls into this category. Because these schemes have no value to users, and may even hinder their experience, Google will penalize domains who engage in them by throttling their domain authority and automatically or manually decreasing their rank for various queries. You’ll want to avoid link schemes at all costs.

    Types of Link Schemes

    articleimage884Types of Link Schemes

    If you’re having trouble determining exactly what counts as a link scheme, you aren’t alone. Since some people qualify a link scheme as any attempt to increase domain authority through link building, the lines are particularly blurry. Below are several examples of plain-as-day link schemes you’ll want to avoid no matter what; they should help illustrate what counts as a scheme.

    Article Directories

    Article directories are low-quality sites that host hundreds of poorly written articles as an excuse to build links. They don’t specialize in anything, they don’t provide value to users, and they don’t offer anything other than a place for random sites to post articles. Building links here or creating your own directory to pass authority qualifies as a scheme. The exception to this is niche directories, which cater to a specialized industry and try to connect industry companies and direct users to them.

    Link Farms

    Link farms are even worse than article directories, because they don’t have any content to back them up (usually). A link farm is a group of peripherally related websites that all link to each other for no reason other than to link to each other. Some people try to wedge their way into an existing link farm and others try to set up their own independent domains; either way, it’s classified as a scheme and will earn you a penalty.

    Automated Link Building

    Building links with any automated process, such as creating a bot to spam links across the web, is a bad idea. In fact, it’s one of the easiest types of schemes for Google to detect; you’ll be caught right away, and your domain will likely face a harsh penalty.

    Reciprocal Link Building

    Reciprocal link building can be good in small doses. Backlinking to a site and having them link back to you is not a link scheme by itself; however, when two sites exchange links constantly, and don’t diversify their strategy with other sites, it’s a clear indication of poor link building.

    Link Buying, in Any Form

    As a general rule, if you pay for the link to be built, it qualifies as a link scheme. The only justifiable reason to pay money for a link is when you’re using an affiliate link strategy—and affiliate link building is acceptable.

    What Constitutes “Clever” SEO

    Clever SEO can take advantage of Google’s algorithm and find ways to link build without risking the threat of a penalty. Diversity is the key here; you can build links on almost any source, as long as you hedge your bets by including many other sources. Use varying types of anchor text, grounded in the body of great, contextually appropriate content, and link to different internal pages of your site. You can even use nofollow links and link-less brand mentions to keep your strategy even more diverse.

    The Best Strategy

    articleimage884The Best Strategy

    If you’re worried about what constitutes a link scheme and what’s simply an execution of clever SEO, go the safe route. Let your audience build your links for you. By creating and syndicating high-quality, informative, entertaining content, you’ll encourage viral sharing of your material, and by extension, you’ll be the recipient of hundreds to thousands of inbound links. Creating viral content takes time and isn’t an exact science, but you’ll never have to worry about being penalized for links you earn as a result of it.

  10. How Fortune 500 Companies Handle Their SEO

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    Search engine optimization (SEO) has been a popular strategy for businesses of all shapes and sizes. Because companies can decide whether to take the time and effort to rank for highly competitive, high-traffic keywords or minimize spending by ranking for less competitive, lower-traffic keywords, and see benefits no matter what their budget is.

    Fortune 500 companies are some of the most powerful and high-earning companies in the world, and because of their access to capital and resources, they’re able to approach SEO differently. Learning from this approach can give you insight into your own SEO strategies, and perspective on how your business fits into the grand scheme of things.

    What Makes Fortune 500 Companies Different

    articleimage882What Makes Fortune 500 Companies Different

    Fortune 500 companies are just companies, and like all companies, they stand to benefit from increased traffic to their site and increased brand recognition. However, there are a series of factors that set them apart from small- to medium-sized businesses, and those factors have a heavy influence on how they approach SEO as a whole:

    • More access to capital. First and perhaps most obviously, Fortune 500 companies have more disposable capital. Their revenue streams are much higher, their cash reserves are ample, and they command enough credit to spend whatever they want on their inbound strategy. They’re several worlds away from startups, whose SEO budgets are sometimes limited to only a few hundred dollars a month.
    • Capacity for in-house work. Because of their size and recruiting capabilities, it’s easier for Fortune 500 companies to create an in-house team, or at least assign designated SEO managers to oversee the work that is done. Smaller businesses tend to delegate SEO strategies to one person, who may not be an expert, or rely solely on external sources to provide the work.
    • Brand recognition and authority. Fortune 500 companies start SEO campaigns with a pre-existing level of brand recognition and authority. They’ve typically been mentioned thousands of times on the web already, giving them a perfect leg-up on the link building side of things.
    • Greater competition. The flip side to the high recognition and authority is that Fortune 500 companies often face stiffer competition, usually from other Fortune 500 companies. Instead of competing with the mom-and-pop shop down the street, they’re squaring off against giants, rendering any small-scale SEO strategies ineffective.
    • Greater risk tolerance (usually). Because they already have a widespread online presence, these companies can also afford to take greater risks in content promotion and link building. However, due to their size, they are sometimes more vulnerable to fluctuations—one ranking decrease could result in thousands of lost visitors.

    Because of these factors, Fortune 500 companies are almost forced to engage in highly competitive, high-volume SEO campaigns using in-house team members as much as possible.

    Fortune 500 SEO Goals

    articleimage882Fortune 500 SEO Goals

    The goals of the average Fortune 500 company are the same as the goals of any small- to medium-sized business: get more traffic to the site, and get more site visitors to convert. However, rather than zeroing in on a handful of keywords to rank for, Fortune 500 companies usually focus on more high-level factors.

    They look at metrics like domain authority and organic visits, rather than relying on keyword rankings, because they rank for so many keywords. Similarly, growth must be measured over a longer period of time; since budgets are made annually and minor fluctuations will occur more frequently, most Fortune 500 companies try to examine SEO progress on a year-by-year basis. This gives them a more high-level view, and allows them more time to adjust and make things better.

    However, this also makes it harder to determine the cause and effects of the campaign. Since the campaigns are larger, and cover more ground, tying a change in organic traffic to an adjustment in a strategic approach can be difficult. Larger companies have dozens of people working on inbound traffic strategies, and tracing the root causes for positive or negative changes is next to impossible.

    Fortune 500 SEO Approach

    articleimage882Fortune 500 SEO Approach

    While every Fortune 500 company has a unique approach and a unique situation, most rely on one of two approaches to SEO, or a combination of them.

    Building an In-House Team

    Since they have the budget for it, most Fortune 500 companies do try to hire an in-house SEO team. Sometimes, it’s a division of the overall marketing team, but oftentimes it’s an independent wing of the organization. Using skillful recruiting and careful consideration, they only hire candidates well-versed in the mechanics of SEO, and aren’t afraid to make staffing changes if they aren’t seeing results.

    Because they do the work in-house, they have more control over their efforts—which can be a good or a bad thing, depending on who’s at the helm.

    Hiring an Agency

    Even with an in-house team, many larger companies still enlist the help of a specialized agency. In some cases, this is a way for the company to hedge its bets—rather than investing in only one team, they invest in two and see which pays off more. In other cases, the agency is secondary to the in-house team, and the in-house team decides which responsibilities to delegate to the outside forces.

    If there’s one thing to take away from the average Fortune 500 SEO strategy, it’s that they take a very high-level perspective; they budget on an annual basis and examine metrics from a distance, trying not to worry about any minor fluctuations that could exist only through random chance. Even if your budget is small or if you rely on an agency to do most of your SEO work, try to adopt this mentality. Your SEO is a long-term strategy, and you’ll need to take a step back if you want to evaluate its true effectiveness.

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