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Category Archive: SEO

  1. How to Optimize a Brand Name for Search Engines

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    articleimage1061 How to Optimize a Brand Name for Search Engines

    Creating a brand name can be tough, and it’s even tougher to come up with one that’s friendly for search engines. Obviously, when someone searches for your brand, you want your site and your products to come up first, but perhaps more importantly, you want to ensure that search engines see your brand name often and imbue it with authority so you rank higher for relevant searches.

    Optimizing a brand name for search engines takes time and a lot of upfront work if you’re coming up with a new name or renaming an older product. The majority of the advice in this article will focus on a “brand name” as the name of your company or organization, but keep in mind that the same strategies can be applied to the branded name of a particular product or service to achieve the same ends.

    That being said, take a look at the ways you can create a search-friendly brand name and populate that brand name in authority-rich ways around the web.

    Creating a Unique Brand Name

    articleimage1061 Creating a Unique Brand Name

    First, your goal is to create a brand name that is both memorable and unique. The “unique” factor of the equation is important because it differentiates you from the competition. If you have a slightly modified version of a competitor’s brand name, your potential traffic could become confused if they see both in the SERPs, or even worse—mistake your competitor for you in a more general sense. The “memorable” factor is important to encourage more searches in general—for example, if someone hears your name from a friend and makes a note to search for you later, you’ll want to be sure your name is memorable enough to stick around.

    For the sake of illustration, imagine a company with the name “Qwoxillyyon.” It’s definitely a unique name, but it’s also not memorable because it’s not catchy. On the other end of the spectrum, a name like “VitaSupps” is more memorable, but it’s not unique—it’s pieced together from names of existing companies in the supplement industry. The key here is to find a balance between those two qualities.

    Don’t rush into your brand decision; this name is likely what you’re going to be stuck with for a long time, so spend some time really perfecting it.

    Associating the Name With Your Industry

    articleimage1061 Associating the Name With Your Industry

    In addition to crafting a brand name that’s both memorable and unique, you’ll want to include some keywords, phrases, or even chains of letters that are related to your industry. Barring that, you’ll want to come up with a tagline or slogan for your brand that clearly defines what you do. There are two major search-related motivations for doing this. First, including industry-based language will make your brand more likely to appear in industry-related searches. Second, incoming searchers who see your brand name and/or tagline in search results will be more likely to click on your link and understand exactly what it is you do.

    If you’re stuck on trying to figure out exactly what type of keywords to include, run an exercise that can help you determine the strongest possible identifying words in your industry. Forget about your brand for a second, and just work with your team to come up with a list of seven to ten words that most succinctly describe or are most associated with your business or line of work. See if you can work at least two of those words into your brand name, or the tagline associated with it. Doing so will increase your brand’s relevance to the industry and attract more total search traffic to your site.

    Onsite Optimization

    articleimage1061 Onsite Optimization

    Once you have your brand name and tagline finalized, you’ll have to find ways to work it into your website in a way that maximizes your chances of getting shown. In your title tags, the first few words should be the most important and most descriptive—so here, you’ll want to include the title of your business or a description of your space. Do include your brand name, but try to include it closer to the end, perhaps segmented off with a vertical bar (|). Throughout the body copy of your site, make references to your brand in text and in the context of descriptions of who you are and what you do. Google will semantically learn to associate your brand with whatever type of terms and subjects you include it with.

    Ongoing Management

    articleimage1061 Ongoing Management

    As an ongoing process, include references to your brand on offsite sources. Google sees brand mentions in a way highly similar to the way it views offsite links—but with a much lower chance of getting penalized if you appear spammy. Post mentions of your brand in the context of relevant, appropriate responses on industry-related blogs and forums, as well as major publishing outlets, news sources, and .edu/.gov sources whenever you get a chance. Just be sure to stay consistent in your efforts and diversify your sources.

    As with any search optimization strategy, the upfront work is important, but the true value only comes through an ongoing process of dedication, refinement, and improvement. The more time you invest into making your brand name strong and visible on the web, the more results you’re going to see. In short order, you’ll be dominating any searches related to your brand name directly, and in time, your brand name will help you rank higher for even searchesperipherally related to your industry.

  2. 5 Common Mistakes That Could Ruin Your Local SEO

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    Success in local SEO is reliant upon a vast network of interconnected strategies. Your onsite content, offsite links, local profiles, user reviews, and social presence all need to work tightly in sync if you are to earn higher ranks for local-specific queries. As with any SEO campaign, one mistake isn’t going to kill you—posting a poor piece of content can’t completely ruin your chances at ranking as long as the rest of your content strategy is in proper order—but there are some mistakes in local SEO that can seriously compromise your results.

    These mistakes are all too common because they aren’t always apparent or easy to spot. Many entrepreneurs make them without even realizing it and end up with falling ranks, so don’t let yourself become one of them:

    1. Discrepancies in Your NAP.

    articleimage1051 Discrepancies in Your NAP

    As you might imagine, one of the most important parts of a local SEO campaign is making sure Google understands where your business is located. The search algorithm scans multiple sources for information that includes your name, address, and phone number, then forms a conclusion based on that information. If it finds a piece of information that conflicts with the others, it is unable to form that conclusion, and as a result, you’ll end up with less authority. If the discrepancies are severe, you may not even end up ranking in the right city.

    Google is serious about NAP information—even small discrepancies can be problematic. For example, writing out “street” on your website while abbreviating it to “st” on your local profile could result in a major problem for your ultimate ranks. The details matter more than you think, so take the extra time to verify that your local listing is correct on every publicly available location. Fortunately, there are a host of automated or service-based options available to you to make quick work of this task.

    2. Incomplete Local Profiles.

    articleimage1051 Incomplete Local Profiles

    Modern SEO is about far more than just what’s on your website. There are hundreds of external sources, such as local directories and review sites, that all contain pertinent information about local businesses. Google relies on these profiles to form conclusions about a company’s direction, status, and quality, so leaving them empty is a bad idea.

    Most local directories give you several options to fill out, including details like how many years you’ve been in business and what your mission statement is, along with sections for uploading pictures. If you aren’t filling out all of these forms, and filling them out accurately, you’ll be missing out on some serious web visibility, and that could hurt your ranking.

    To take things a step further, remember that many individual users consult these local directories when making a purchasing decision. If all they see from your business is a bunch of empty spaces, they’re highly likely to move on without a second thought. Instead, take the opportunity to sell yourself.

    3. Inaccurate Categorization.

    articleimage1051 Inaccurate Categorization

    Categorization, like your NAP information, is a bigger deal than it seems to be. If you choose an inappropriate category, or if you select conflicting categories on different local directories, you could lose out on authority and rankings as a result. When you first start a campaign, think carefully about the type of category you want to be known for, and once you choose it, be consistent with it on every platform. It also pays to be as specific as possible. For example, listing yourself as a “criminal defense attorney” is much better than just an “attorney.” This distinction will help you rank in more specific searches and will help Google understand your business better.

    Also consider your business category carefully when choosing the type of local directories you seek in your campaign. For example, UrbanSpoon caters specifically to restaurants—you wouldn’t want to list yourself there if you run an auto body repair shop.

    4. No Local Content.

    articleimage1051 No Local Content

    Some marketers make the mistake of drawing a line between traditional SEO and local search strategies. They take care of all their local listings, but then focus on the remainder of their SEO campaign like they would a national program. As a result, their content isn’t specific, and they end up losing out on a ton of local authority.

    Make sure you write at least one or two local-specific articles every week on your site. Find ways to make your content specific to your city or region, and take every opportunity you can to get involved in the community and write about it.

    5. Ignoring Local Connections.

    articleimage1051 Ignoring Local Connections.

    Finally, don’t lose out on the opportunity to cement yourself further in the community by forging local connections and using them to your advantage. Work with your local newspapers to get some additional press. Mention nearby or similar local business on social media, and share their material—they’ll likely share yours in kind. Donate to local schools and universities in exchange for getting mentioned on their valuable .edu real estate. The key is to embed yourself into the local community however you can, and use those connections to build your authority.

    Of all the mistakes you could make in a local SEO campaign, these are likely the worst. If you catch yourself making one, take corrective action as soon as possible to mitigate the potential negative consequences. Do take solace in knowing that the vast majority of SEO blunders can be made up for in time—just commit yourself to adhering to best practices, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

  3. How to Find New Targets for Long Tail Keywords

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    articleimage1034 How to Find New Targets for Long Tail Keywords

    Traditional keywords are remnants of an obsolete strategy. In older days of SEO, it was possible to pick out a handful of short keywords and keyword phrases, stuff them into as much content and as many links as you could, and eventually rank for them. This is because Google’s algorithms once favored quantity as much as quality, and compared user queries to existing web content in one-to-one comparisons.

    Today, Google uses a system of semantic search, which means it analyzes the intent behind a user query, then searches the web for potential answers. Combined with the fact that SEO is a much more competitive space for short keywords, long-tail keyword phrases are the best way to go when writing content and building an SEO campaign. Unfortunately, it’s hard to come up with new long-tail keyword ideas that attract significant traffic.

    There are many strategies you can use to overcome this and generate dozens of new ideas in relatively short order.

    Run Experimental Searches

    articleimage1034 Run Experimental Searches

    Google likes to be helpful to searchers, and it does this by attempting to better understand them. Using information it’s aggregated from millions of searches, Google offers a convenient “related searches” section at the bottom of each SERP. For the searcher, this prompts a series of related and further elaborating searches, but for the search marketer, this is offers some key insights. For example, if you search for one of your own products, you can look at the “related searches” to see what else your customers typically search for—and these are typically presented in the form of long-tail keyword phrases.

    UberSuggest is a great tool for harnessing this power. It extracts information from Google’s auto-suggest feature, giving you hundreds or even thousands of different long-tail keyword ideas based on a single initial keyword entry. Take your pick.

    See What’s Popular on Your Site

    articleimage1034 See What’s Popular on Your Site

    Another great strategy to find new keyword ideas is to take a look at what’s worked so far on your current site. This assumes, of course, that you’ve already written and syndicated some great content. Head over to Google Analytics and take a look at some of the most popular pages and blog posts of your site. Do the same thing with your social profiles. Are there any themes that people really seem to respond to? Are there any new ways you could present these themes?

    You can also figure out how people are finding you using Webmaster Tools. Under the “Search Traffic” tab on the left-hand side, select “Search Queries.” Here, you’ll find a list of keywords for which you’re currently ranking on the first page. If you reset the parameters to include a much longer list of keywords, you’ll also find keywords and phrases for which you are on page two or three—these keywords are a prime opportunity for rank building.

    Check Out the Competition

    articleimage1034 Check Out the Competition

    Similarly, you can look at your closest competition for inspiration in coming up with new topics and long-tail keyword phrases. See what types of articles they’re posting on their blogs and which ones seem to be the most popular among their target audience. Do they answer a specific type of question? Think about how you can answer this question in a new way, or how you can answer a similar question. Remember, it’s a bad idea to copy anything your competitors have already done, but there’s nothing wrong with using their content as a jumping-off point for your own.

    Google Trends and Social Listening Software

    Google Trends is a handy tool to see what people are searching for and how those search patterns have changed. This is especially useful if your company offers a niche product line—here, you’ll be able to tell which keywords have risen and fallen in popularity, along with other related keywords which may have defied the norm. Use this in conjunction with social listening software, which will be able to tell you what types of topics are currently trending on blogs and social media. Use these bits of information to come up with topics that belong to your niche but also relate to current trends.

    Browse Boards and Forums

    Oftentimes, the best long-tail keyword phrases are common user questions that need answered. It’s easy to write posts around these topics, and they tend to get a lot of traffic. The problem usually lies in trying to figure out what types of questions your customers have. By browsing blogs and forums, you’ll have a direct route to these questions being asked in real time. Look for threads pertaining to questions you know how to answer and take action—you can even use these threads as link building opportunities in the short term.

    Talk to Your Followers

    articleimage1034 Talk to Your Followers

    Sometimes, you get so busy trying to figure out what people want to read that you forget the fact that you can just ask them directly. Your followers are hungry for new content, and many of them already have an idea of what they would most like to read. Conduct a user survey or ask casual questions to uncover new long-tail keywords worth pursuing.

    Once you come up with some ideal target keyword phrases, head over to Google’s Keyword Planner. Here, you’ll be able to run a report and see exactly how much traffic each of your ideas receives. Eliminate any that receive little to no attention, and focus your efforts on those that remain.

  4. 3 Rules for Setting Realistic SEO Goals

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    Search engine optimization is an increasingly popular strategy. Once confined to the realms of tech-based companies and major corporations with sizable budgets and dedicated departments, today, the availability of resources and broadened benefits of SEO have made it a top choice for businesses of all shapes, sizes, and industries.

    A major part of the appeal is the sheer potential of the strategy; with time and effort, it’s easily possible to build up to earning thousands of visitors per month. However, this appeal sometimes morphs into a lust. The desire to pursue SEO as a strategy becomes something like a get rich quick scheme, where the idea of thousands of inbound visitors takes precedent over the realistic and patient applications of SEO tactics and best practices. Inevitably, entrepreneurs possessed by this rampant desire end up disappointed, feeling that the strategy wasn’t worthwhile because it failed to meet their expectations.

    Without goals, it’s nearly impossible to objectively measure your progress, but with too lofty or unfounded goals, you’ll only set yourself up for a skewed sense of disappointment. Setting realistic goals is the remedy for this problem, and there are three rules to do it effectively:

    1. Factor in Your Available Resources.

    articleimage1021 Factor in Your Available Resources

    Your goals need to be grounded in your means to achieve them. That seems obvious, but to many entrepreneurs and marketers new to SEO, building ranks is akin to switching on a light; you’re either making progress, or you aren’t. SEO simply doesn’t work that way. Instead, the amount of effort and type of effort you put into it has a direct impact on the eventual results you’ll achieve. Therefore, if you’re only investing a few minutes a day to your campaign, it would be unreasonable to set a goal that a large company with an entire dedicated SEO team might set.

    There are several of these factors you’ll have to keep in mind. First and most obviously, consider the man-hours you’re pouring into your efforts. Are you doing this yourself in short bursts? Do you have one dedicated person? Five dedicated people? Next, consider how many outlets you’re using in conjunction with your SEO campaign—including how much onsite content, offsite content, link building, and how many social platforms you’re using. Finally, be realistic about your expertise. If this is your first company, or your first time launching an SEO campaign in this industry, be more conservative with your goal setting. There is no objective way to go about this, but do make sure to temper your expectations with the type of effort you’re putting forth.

    2. Use Long Time Periods and Relative Measurements.

    articleimage1021 Use Long Time Periods and Relative Measurement

    This is almost two rules in one, but they’re both related to the way you measure your goals. First, use long periods of time to measure your progress. Don’t look for rapid climbs in growth in the span of a few days or weeks. Instead, you’ll have to look at periods of months or more—this is because it takes a long time for SEO to show results. It’s also important to use long time periods to compare against each other—for example, it’s better to compare a first three months with a second three months than one month to a second month. This is because traffic and rankings fluctuate, sometimes randomly, and could skew your data if you’re only using a small sample size.

    Relative measurements are also important. Rather than aiming for an objective goal, such as getting 1,000 visitors a month by September, aim for something less concrete, like at least 10 percent visitor growth, month over month, until September. Using firm numbers can sometimes blind you to your otherwise substantial progress.

    3. Make Adjustments.

    articleimage1021 Make Adjustments

    Under most circumstances, goals should not be changed. You set a goal at the beginning of a given period, and follow that goal to the end. In the world of SEO, it’s okay to make adjustments throughout the course of your ongoing strategy, and it’s because your strategy is ongoing. It is a fluid process that undergoes nearly constant changes, so it only makes sense that your goals and expectations should change along with those circumstances.

    Let’s say you’ve set a goal to increase your monthly organic traffic by 25 percent within the first four months of your campaign. In month two, you bring on a new freelance writer to increase your onsite content and social media efforts. At that point, it would be reasonable to increase the expectations of your goal. On the other hand, let’s say in month two, Google releases a new algorithm change that sets you back several positions on a number of target keyword topics. At that point, you would need to lower your expectations.

    SEO is an ongoing strategy, and in order to be successful, you’ll have to create ongoing, dynamic goals. They can, and should, change as you learn more about where your company fits and how your strategy is developing. When it comes time to evaluate your progress, compare your real results to your target results, but don’t sum everything up as a “hit” or “not hit.” Instead, take a look at the factors responsible for you meeting or not meeting that goal, and use those factors to shape your strategy for the next period. Eventually, you’ll arrive at a pace and an understanding that will allow you to adeptly measure your impact and find the greatest possible level of success for your campaign.

  5. The 3 Main Approaches to SEO

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    SEO is a big world, stretching across multiple online marketing strategies to become unified in a single, focused campaign. From onsite optimization and ongoing content, to social media activity and offsite link building, the most successful companies are the ones that pay attention to every facet of SEO.

    There are a thousand “wrong” ways to do SEO, including spamming backlinks or writing fluff content stuffed with keywords, but what many people don’t know is that there are actually several “right” ways to do it. Even as you do your best to follow best practices in every SEO-related vertical, there are three possible approaches you can take for your campaign.

    The Aggressive Approach

    articleimage1010 aggressive approach

    The aggressive approach is generally used by companies looking to rank high and as quickly as possible. Sometimes, this is a startup looking to make a big impact with a low budget, and other times this is a well-established company looking to break into the world of digital marketing for the first time. No matter the case, this company is either new to the scene or otherwise desperately motivated to get more online attention.

    The aggressive approach is all about rapid expansion. It involves the creation of multiple onsite posts—usually at least one per day—high-volume social media activity, and a sharply scaling offsite link building process. The key benefit of this is the rapid build of rank and domain authority; taking all these actions quickly and uniformly over the course of as little as two months can have a substantial impact on your long-term rank. However, you must keep in mind that domain history plays a part in its authority—if you’ve just purchased your domain, don’t expect to build a great authority in your first year.

    There are two major downsides to the aggressive approach. First, it costs money. Unless you plan on doing everything yourself, you’ll need to pay for all those high-quality blog posts and all the time that must be spent vetting external link sources. Second, it’s risky. Even if you prioritize the quality of your production, the fact that you’re working quickly leaves you vulnerable to errors and quality slips. If you choose the aggressive approach, take extra caution.

    The Competitive Approach

    articleimage1010 competitive approach

    The competitive approach may sound similar to the aggressive approach, but it’s possible to perform work based on your competition without becoming aggressive. Usually, this company isn’t sure about their SEO strategy. They may not have specific goals, they may be wary of SEO’s effectiveness, or they may have no idea what they’re doing. In any case, they’re mostly interested in SEO only to gain an edge over their competition or stay afloat in the competitive digital landscape.

    Because of this, the competitive approach is all about using your competitors and gaining ground on them wherever possible. It involves looking at your competitors’ blogs and finding inspiration for topics of your own. It involves researching your competitors’ backlink profiles and mirroring those profiles the best you can. It also involves performing highly detailed keyword research and finding the keywords valuable to your company that your competitors haven’t yet touched. It’s a way of analyzing your competition, mirroring their strengths and taking advantage of their weaknesses.

    In many respects, this approach is the most efficient. It doesn’t require the budget that an aggressive approach would, and it has a surgical focus intended to get you one rank higher than your biggest competitors. However, this focus on beating the competition also has some drawbacks. First, positioning yourself in line with a competitor could damage public perception of your brand by making you indistinguishable. Second, you’ll be spending less time developing your infrastructure, which makes you poised more for short-term gains than long-term sustainability, thus reducing the total eventual value of your SEO campaign.

    The User-Focused Approach

    articleimage1010  user focus

    Finally, the user-focused approach can be implemented without any prior knowledge of SEO. You’ll still have to make some onsite tweaks, such as ensuring your meta titles and descriptions are in order, but for the most part, this approach can be implemented by anybody. It’s usually reserved for companies interested in gaining higher ranks, but aren’t concerned with meeting specific traffic numbers in the short-term, and aren’t too worried about the competition. Instead, they want a steady, long-term path for growth with minimal risk and a minimal budget.

    The user-focused approach is simple. Make moves and produce content that is going to make your users happy. Design your website so a visitor enjoys the experience. Write content that is truly valuable for your users. Post on social media in a way that’s funny or entertaining. Dedicate yourself to making your users as happy as possible. Happy users will share your content, post links to you, and generally behave in a way that will naturally increase your domain authority—and you’ll never have to worry about getting penalized for sneaky or unnatural practices.

    This strategy’s biggest drawback is the fact that it takes time and commitment to execute properly. You won’t see the immediate pragmatic results of the competitive approach or the quick scalability of the aggressive approach, but you’ll also pave a risk-free road to steady long-term growth in the process.

    Which Is Best?

    The best approach is the one that does the best job of meeting your goals. If you have some extra money to spend and you’re looking to rise quickly, go aggressive. If you’re only interested in SEO to get a quick leg-up on the competition, go competitive. However, most companies will stand to benefit the most from the reliable, long-term user-focused approach. As long as you’re making your users happy, it’s hard to go too wrong.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

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