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Category Archive: SEO

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. How Changing Technology Influences SEO

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    articleimage881How Changing Technology Influences SEO

    In some ways, Google remains pretty consistent with its algorithm updates. Though major updates like Panda and Penguin have shaken up search rankings and caused frantic business owners to scramble to update their strategies, ultimately Google just wants to give the people what they’re looking for.

    Still, as people search in new ways using new technologies, different qualities become important to them. As a result, Google and other search engines gradually refine their approach, catering to these new technologies, and forcing search marketers to adapt their SEO strategy as well. Understanding the complex relationship between technology and search can help business owners adapt those SEO strategies proactively, anticipating the needs of their users and staying ahead of the curve in the world of search.

    Cause and Effect

    articleimage881Cause and Effect

    Historically, there have been many phases of search evolution as a result of new technology. Looking back at these calls and responses can help you see the pattern that Google and other search engines continue to follow. Even the rise of search itself began as a response to the need to search the ever-growing amount of information on the web. In each of these milestones, you’ll see a distinct series of steps; an emergence of new technology, the adoption of new technology, and eventually an algorithm to address the popularity of the technology.

    The Discovery of SEO

    Search first emerged as a solution to a problem: how do you find relevant information on the web? In a sense, search technology was the first new technology to influence search. When Google came on the scene, people quickly realized how it worked, and made frantic efforts to get their sites ranked using whatever tactics they could, including black hat practices and spam. It worked, for a time, but Google soon caught on. Because so many websites were trying to take advantage of search technology and more people were demanding more relevant results, they refined their quality standards and started penalizing sites that engaged in black hat strategies.

    The Onset of Social Media

    Social media started out as a fleeting hobby by niche groups of adolescents, but it quickly evolved into the ubiquitous medium we know it as today. People began to rely on social media for daily communications, updates, and even relationships with their favorite brands and companies.Responding to this emerging trend of use, Google started incorporating social signals into its algorithm. Relevant social media profiles began to emerge in branded searches, and the social followings of companies were incorporated into their overall domain authority. Today, it’s almost impossible to get ranked without engaging in social media in some way.

    Tablets and Mobile Devices

    Desktop computers have been slowly dying over the past five years or so. Smartphones started out as a novelty, which a small percentage of users owned and a smaller percentage of users relied on. But within a few years, people across the country were ditching their traditional phones for upgraded smartphones, and starting to rely on them for online searches. Now, users rely on all kinds of mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, and in response, Google has refined its algorithm to make search easier for users relying on such devices. Sites that are optimized for mobile rank higher than ones that aren’t, even in desktop searches, and the better user experience you offer for mobile users, the more likely you are to rank high.

    Apps and Services

    In part due to the emergence of mobile devices, users are starting to rely on the information of third-party apps more than information they can uncover through traditional searches. Local directories like Yelp provide detailed information, including reviews, on local establishments, and utilities like Google Maps can offer functionality independent of a separate website. Because of this, Google has incorporated signals from more third-party apps into its ranking process. For example, companies with a large number of positive reviews rank higher than those with bad reviews.

    Technology to Come

    articleimage881Technology to Come

    The best way to apply the insights you’ve gained from looking back on Google’s response to new technology is to anticipate the changes that are to come. If you can proactively change your strategy to cater to the first users of a new technology, you’ll stand to see massive benefits while the competition is still struggling to catch up.

    Wearable Technology

    Wearable technology, most notably in the form of smart watches, will soon start to grow in popularity. Due to their small screen size, search results will be restricted, and users will rely even more on apps to get their information. Similarly, they’ll rely on more visual information, and Google will reward sites will ample images and videos to serve those users. Smart watches will also be used frequently by usersen route somewhere, so local search will become more important than ever. Voice search will also be popular, due in part to smart watches’ small screen sizes, so companies can benefit from writing in a more conversational format.

    Of course, emerging technology won’t just stop at wearable smart devices. It will continue to evolve, year after year, and user adoption trends will change in response. Your goal as a business owner should be to spot those trends early, predicting the next wave of technological evolution, and anticipating the needs of those users. As a general rule, making your users happy will get you ranked higher on search engines, but more importantly, you’ll be improving your customers’ satisfaction and loyalty.

  6. 10 Common Questions About SEO on WordPress Sites

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    WordPress sites are some of the most popular options for small business owners because of their affordability and ease of use. Thankfully, they’re also set up to be highly functional in the context of an SEO program. Under the right conditions, WordPress sites can earn a powerful domain authority and rank high on search engines.

    Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions and bits of ambiguous information that prevent business owners from getting all they can get out of the platform. These are 10 of the most common questions I’ve seen:

    1. Are All WordPress Sites Optimized for Search Engines?

    articleimage880 Are All WordPress Sites Optimized for Search Engine

    While WordPress sites are designed to be compatible with search engine optimization, that doesn’t mean they come optimized as a package deal. SEO is never a one-time process, and just setting up your WordPress site with a plugin isn’t nearly enough to get you ranked. The platform is search engine friendly, meaning it’s structured to be easily crawled by search engines and to be compatible with many plugins, but manual work is still required to get your site ranked.

    2. Will an SEO Plugin Make My WordPress Site Optimized?

    articleimage880 Will an SEO Plugin Make My WordPress Site Optimized

    Again, there’s no such thing as a once-and-done SEO strategy. Using an SEO plugin for your WordPress site is advisable, but simply installing it isn’t going to get the job done. If you want to rank, you’ll need to select a good SEO plugin and work with an experienced SEO specialist (either in the form of an in-house hire or an outside agency) to optimize your site and put an ongoing strategy in place.

    3. How Can I Tell Which SEO Plugin Is Best?

    articleimage880How Can I Tell Which SEO Plugin Is Best

    There are dozens of SEO plugins available, and not all of them are equal. The All in One SEO Pack is by far the most popular thanks to its functionality and ease of use. However, you may want additional plugins that are related to specific SEO tasks, such as one related to content or social syndication. If you’re looking for new plugins, be sure to take a look at their popularity, user ratings, support level, and the presence of a community surrounding them.

    4. How Do I Install Google Analytics on WordPress?

    Google Analytics is an essential product if you’re interested in marketing your site. It’s going to give you detailed insights on your traffic patterns and user behavior over time, and can tell you how effective your SEO strategy has been. To install Google Analytics, first set up an Analytics account with Google, then claim your unique Analytics code, copy it, and paste it into your theme’s header.php, immediately following the <body> tag. You can also use a simple plugin to get the job done.

    5. What Do I Do if My Site Is Running Slow?

    If your site is running slow, your domain authority might suffer. The faster your site is, the higher you’re going to rank and the happier your users are going to be. Clean up your WordPress site by deleting any unnecessary plugins and making sure your caching plugin is installed properly. You can also disable trackbacks and delete any unwanted information—like meta data in images or old blog drafts—to speed your site up.

    6. What’s the Best Way to Host a WordPress Site?

    There are countless hosting solutions available. If you have the money, time, and expertise to handle everything internally, a virtual private server (VPS) is the best way to go. Otherwise, hosting your site with WordPressyourself is usually the best option. Their fees are minimal, and they take care of practically everything.

    7. How Do I Choose a Theme That’s Good for SEO?

    Most themes are perfectly fine for SEO, but some themes, particularly free ones, can have negative SEO qualities. For example, some themes exist as part of a spam-based link network, which will hurt your domain authority. Others are not mobile-friendly or quick-loading, or they in some other way violate Google’s best practices for web user experience.

    8. Should I Use a Subdomain for My Blog?

    Some users wish to host their blog on a separate domain, but it’s actually better if you have your blog as part of your main domain. Using a subdomain, like blog.example.com, is a bad idea because it can draw away the authority of your core domain; using an extension like example.com/blog is superior.

    9. How Often Will I Need to Post for SEO?

    This is more of a question for ongoing SEO strategy than it is for WordPress sites specifically, but it’s still important to answer. One of WordPress’s greatest benefits is its content management system, which makes it easy for you to draft and publish articles and information. Generally, the more often you update your site the better—as long as you’re posting high-quality information. If you’re just getting started, once a week is a minimum. If you have the resources, try posting several times a week.

    10. How Can I Use WordPress Widgets for SEO?

    WordPress widgets cannot directly help your SEO campaign. Since they usually duplicate content across your site (through sidebars or headers), they can actually be harmful. However, there are certain types of widgets that can peripherally improve your SEO efforts; for example, media plugins can allow your users to upload images and videos directly, and social media plugins can allow users to share your content with their online networks.

    WordPress gives you the perfect platform to create a great SEO structure, but don’t be fooled; you’ll still need to pour effort into your strategy before you start seeing any tangible results. Find plugins to improve your customer experience, commit yourself to a solid ongoing content strategy, and constantly reevaluate your strategy to make sure you adhere to best practices.

  7. Why Very Long Articles Can Hurt Rankings and Engagement

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    You’ve heard it before; content is king, and the more content you have, the better.

    Be careful how you interpret this. More content is almost certainly better—having more content means you’ll have more indexed pages in Google, more eyes on your work, and more opportunities to convert your readers into customers. But that “more” word is ambiguous and tricky. More content can only be better for your business if the level of quality remains the same, and if the quality drops, more content can actually be a bad thing.

    Take for instance, the very long article—referring to articles of several thousand words or more—it’s true that they have ample body, giving Google lots of text to scan through and giving your users lots of information, but they can actually hurt your search rankings and user engagement strategy.

    The Page Problem

    articleimage866The Page Problem

    The first problem with long articles is what they take away from a short- to medium-size article strategy; page space. Google, when it scours the web for information on websites, looks at site maps and page structures for the bulk of its information. It scans your entire blog, looking for clues to who you are, what you do, and what you like to write about, and prioritizes the titles of those blogs when drawing conclusions. Because titles are critically important, very long articles can cause your relevance to suffer; if you only have one title for every 5,000 words, you’re artificially throttling what Google takes into consideration. If you take your articles down to 1,000 words, you’ll instantly quintuple the number of titles it scans.

    Furthermore, Google loves to see new content. It rewards sites that offer brand-new articles on a regular basis, and tends to decrease the rank of those with fewer updates—even if the total volume of content is high. Publishing one very long article a week instead of five shorter articles is a bad move that can make your site look inferior in Google’s eyes.

    Tired Users

    articleimage866Tired Users

    Google’s eyes aren’t the only ones that matter—you also have to keep your users in mind. The average user has a low attention span, and a high demand for fast, immediate information. Web users are accustomed to 140-character tweets and short, punchy news articles. They don’t have the time, patience, or desire to trudge through a massive article.

    Writing a very long article might seem necessary for longer, more demanding topics, but if nobody wants to read the full material, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice. If you’re having trouble finding a way to shorten your articles, consider breaking them up; instead of writing one massive article, split it into a five-part mini-series that your users can more easily digest. Or, simply hit the high points and make your title more general in turn. Users do want to see detail, but that doesn’t mean you have to go over the top with your explanations.

    Fewer Conversion Opportunities

    Longer articles also take away some of the conversion opportunities you’ll find in other, more concise articles. Generally, if you’re writing for conversions, the rule of thumb is to end with a lead-in to a conversion opportunity, or else have one major leverage point for conversion. If you have one possible conversion per article, you’ll have more conversion chances with five smaller articles than you will with one extremely long one.

    Additionally, because long articles tend to alienate readers, you’ll find that your conversion attempts will often go neglected in your longer features. That means your total number of conversions will suffer if you continuously churn out very long posts.

    Higher Cost to Engagement Ratio

    articleimage866Higher Cost to Engagement Ratio

    It’s also worth mentioning that the cost of generating long articles, provided they have the same level of detail as your shorter articles, is much higher than that of their shorter counterparts. While you might spend the same level of effort on your 5,000 word post as you do on five 1,000 word posts, the cost to engagement ratio is much higher.

    Each post you publish is an opportunity. It’s a new link that you can syndicate to your audience through social media, a new opportunity to attract some referral traffic, and a new chance to get featured on an RSS feed or similar blog aggregators. Writing longer posts means writing fewer posts, so the total number of those engagement opportunities goes down. Since you’re spending the same amount of money on a much lower ring of visibility, you’ll be getting less value for your investment.

    A Note on Minimum Length

    Many of these explanations indicate that multiple short articles are superior to fewer long articles. However, this should not imply that shorter is always better. Your articles need to be of sufficient length to interest and inform your readers, usually 500 words at least.

    It’s true that extremely long articles can be damaging to your customer engagement and SEO strategies, but don’t ever let word count become your top priority. Your first goal should be providing the type of content your users want to see and read, and that means keeping things as concise and detailed as possible, regardless of length. It’s also important to diversify the types of posts you publish—not just long articles and not just short articles, but articles of varying lengths and formats. As long as you’re working with your readers in mind, you won’t have to worry too much about how long your articles get.

  8. Local SEO for Multiple Locations in 5 Steps

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    Local SEO is a gold mine for local business owners. Optimizing your site based on your business’s location can help your business appear in local directories, Google Maps, and climb the ranks in traditional searches.

    Most of these strategies are based around your business’s specific location. For example, one step of the process is ensuring that your name and address are appearing accurately and consistently across the web, and one ongoing strategy is to use your city and state in the context of your written content. This presents a major problem for businesses with multiple locations: how do you locally optimize your site?

    Fortunately, locally optimizing your online presence is simpler than you might think. I’ve outlined the process in five easy steps:

    1. Consolidate Everything in One Domain.

    articleimage863Consolidate Everything in One Domain

    It may be tempting to split your locations up into multiple domains, and some businesses have tried this as an ongoing strategy. On one hand, it makes logical sense—if each location is different, why not try to rank on each site individually?

    However, in practice, this segmented strategy is ineffective. Google’s search bots and individual users may be confused when they see multiple domains for what appears to be one master brand. Even if you need separate information, like different menus, using a single root domain to consolidate all that information still gives you the chance to present those in a segmented format. Using one domain gathers all the authority you would have built in your individual presences and places it into one master hub. Otherwise, you’ll be forced to split your domain authority; for example, if you have five locations, each location would only get 20 percent of its potential visibility if you split them into separate domains.

    2. Create Specific Pages for Each Location.

    articleimage863Create Specific Pages for Each Location

    Even though you’ve consolidated all your locations under one domain, it’s important to differentiate between your locations. Otherwise, Google won’t know that you have multiple locations and your users might have a hard time figuring out the nearest one to them.

    The best way to do this is to create a separate page for each of your locations, usually listed in the navigation under “Locations” or something similar. Create a page title that includes each city or neighborhood (as relevant), and write a full body of content that elaborates on the unique features of each location. Be sure to also include the address and phone number of each location on these individual pages. This will clearly demonstrate to Google how your locations are set up, and how they all relate to your master brand.

    It’s also important to list all of your locations on your “Contact” page, with the address and phone number for each reiterated.

    3. Check Your External Listings and Correct Any Errors.

    In the post-Pigeon era, having your contact information clearly segmented for your locations on your site—even when it’s on multiple pages—simply isn’t enough. Google looks to external sources to organize and verify its indexed information, and any inconsistencies on offsite listings of your locations could result in a decrease in your domain authority and rank.

    To remedy this, you’ll have to check every local listing or directory site you can find to ensure your information is accurate—and update it if necessary. Common places include Yelp, UrbanSpoon, and TripAdvisor, but you’ll want to look for others, just to be sure. Some directories function differently than others, but as a general rule, you should have a separate entry for each of your locations. If you’re having trouble finding these directories, or want to double check to make sure you’ve hit them all, there are a number of local citation tools that can help you automate the work.

    4. Start Writing Locally for Each Location.

    articleimage863 Start Writing Locally for Each Location

    This can be tricky, especially if you’re consolidating everything into one master blog, but it’s important to include content based around each of your individual locations. That means featuring the city or neighborhood of the location in the title and body of each relevant piece.

    If you’re having trouble generating topic ideas, look to each location’s recent events. Have they celebrated an anniversary? Have they made new hires? Have they hit a new landmark achievement? Obviously, your content marketing campaign can’t solely focus on your office, but posting these kinds of topics occasionally can seriously help your local ranks when you have multiple locations.

    5. Have Each Location Cultivate and Manage Online Reviews.

    Reviews are critically important for local businesses—the more you have and the more positive they are, the higher you’re going to rank. And, since each of your locations is going to be listed separately on review sites, it’s up to your individual locations to actively cultivate and manage those online reviews. Make sure each of your employees know to encourage your customers to post reviews about their experience. Then, designate a contact at each of your locations to take point on actively monitoring and responding to those reviews. Commenting on positive reviews is a show of customer appreciation, while proactively responding to negative reviews (which will come up from time to time) can help mitigate the situation and show you’re willing to step in and make things right.

    Like with any optimization strategy, the setup phase is important but it’s the ongoing work that will make or break your campaign. Make sure you implement a plan that allows for each of your locations to actively encourage and respond to online reviews, and keep your content strategy as present and relevant as possible. Over time, each of your individual locations will rise through local-specific searches, and the authority of your master domain will skyrocket as your individual locations all feed into it.

  9. How to Minimize Your Bounce Rate Without Design Changes

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    Bounce rates are online marketing killers. You might be radically successful in your inbound marketing strategy, funneling thousands of visitors to your site through search engine, social, and referral traffic, but if your bounce rates are too high, all that traffic won’t mean anything. If you want your users to stick around long enough to convert or at least learn a thing or two about your company, you’ll have to get those bounce rates down and keep your users engaged.

    Unfortunately, lowering bounce rates isn’t always a straightforward process. It often includes major design changes that are more appealing to the eye or more inviting to the user, but not all business owners have the means or desire to experiment with such design changes. As an alternative, you can use one of these design-free strategies to decrease your bounce rate:

    Interlink Your Pages

    The first strategy you can use is also one of the easiest, though it might take some time for you to get your existing website up to speed. The process of interlinking involves tightly connecting the internal pages of your website together through hyperlinks, usually embedded in your page text. Interlinking accomplishes two goals: first, it gives users something to do by giving them a chance to venture further into the site, and second, it makes your internal pages easier to stumble upon because each page can be accessed in a fewer number of clicks. It also makes your site easier for search robots to understand, which can improve your domain authority.

    Talk to Your Customers

    articleimage849Talk to Your Customers

    Who is your audience? If you can’t answer that question, or you answered that question with “everyone,” you’ll be in serious need of adjusting your written voice. Your internal pages need to speak directly to your target demographic, and your target demographic needs to be as specific as possible if you want to minimize the chances of someone leaving. For example, if your target market is highly experienced marketers and you explain basic marketing concepts in simplistic terms, you could easily alienate your users and cause them to leave your site.

    Be Concise

    articleimage849beconcise

    SEO best practices demand that there be an ample amount of written content on your site, across all your internal pages. Unfortunately, some business owners misinterpret this to mean that the more content you have, the better.

    If you’re trying to lower your bounce rates, you have to focus on quality over quantity. It’s true that having more scannable text on your site can oftentimes make you appear more authoritative, but only when your material is well-written. Fluffy content or content stuffed with keywords is only going to irritate your users; if you want them to stick around, you need to reduce your message to the smallest possible space.

    Be Relevant

    Make sure your on-page content adequately reflects the purpose of your page. If you have a page called “Services,” but instead, you talk more about your capabilities, you might feel like you’re capturing the intentions of your page, but you’re actually diverging from what your customers will expect. Do a thorough audit of your current site structure, including how your content engages your users on each individual page. Are you giving your users exactly what they expect to find? If not, you can be assured a large portion of your users are going to leave.

    Offer More Value

    Another way to keep your users on your site for as long as possible involves increasing the value of each of your internal pages. You might have content, images, insights, facts, or something entertaining on your page, but is it truly valuable to your customer, or is it just filler to round out your web space? The easiest way to do this in a web format is to provide valuable information, but at the same time you have to understand what information is most valuable to your users, and deliver on that.

    Direct Your Users

    articleimage849 Direct Your Users

    Oftentimes, users will bounce from a site simply because they don’t have anywhere else to go. They feel like they’ve reached the end of the road, so to speak, and will exit to move on to their next destination. In order to prevent this loss by apathy, you’ll have to direct your users through action-based language, or immediate calls to action. For example, at the bottom of one of your pages, you could lead into another with a phrase like “for more information on this, please see our page on…” Doing so gives your customers motivation and direction to venture further into the site.

    Simplify Your Sitemap

    Finally, simplifying your sitemap can work wonders for your bounce rates. Complicated navigations are one of the biggest contributors to user dissatisfaction, but if you can streamline your site structure and give your users a very clear path to any desired destination, you’ll instantly eliminate the problem. If you’re concerned about how your sitemap and navigation appeal to your target audience, enlist the help of some user testing to get a clearer picture.

    If you want to keep your bounce rates as low as possible, you’ll need to commit yourself to nurturing your site. It’s highly unlikely that your first round of changes are going to instantly solve your problem; instead, you’ll need to monitor the effects your changes have, analyze which changes have had the greatest impact, and revise accordingly.

  10. 5 Types of Written Content You Need Other Than a Blog

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    Content is king, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.Through content marketing, businesses can improve their online reputation by appearing more authoritative, attract new customers by offering valuable information, and even get higher search visibility through SEO. While visual forms of content, like images and videos have taken many forms as supporting players in mainstream content strategies, written content has remained relatively stagnant in the form of an onsite blog.

    Onsite blogs are important because they’re highly valued by Google, and they give you a perfect opportunity to regularly update your site with new information. However, it’s important to have complementary forms of written content to fully round out your strategy. Here are five of the most valuable types you can use:

    1. Landing Page Copy.

    No matter what type of business you have or what your ultimate goals are, a landing page should be a part of your strategy. As a standalone page, your landing page will serve as the target destination for whichever segment of your audience you choose to funnel to it—for example, you could use social media or PPC advertising to drive targeted users to the appropriate page.

    The goal of your landing page should be to drive your users to a conversion. How you define that conversion is up to you; for e-commerce sites, that conversion is a product purchase, but for B2B companies, a conversion could be the filling out of a short information form.Because it’s your conversion gateway, the copy of your landing page is some of the most important written content you’re going to have. Take your time and develop the most concise, most appealing wording you can to maximize your potential return.

    2. Social Media Updates.

    articleimage845Social Media Updates

    Social media marketing should already be a part of your content marketing strategy, but you need to use those platforms for more than just basic updates and simplistic responses. Social media posting is a written art, and it’s much more complex than people realize.

    Because you have a shorter space and shorter attention spans to deal with, you’re going to need to reduce your content to the bare minimum. It’s an entirely different format than a blog post, where you have room to elaborate on your ideas. Instead of focusing on detail or value, you need to focus on conciseness, and appeal to your customers as immediately and as clearly as possible.

    The best way to improve your social media posting game is to measure the effectiveness of each of your posts. Use Facebook analytics and regular observations to determine which of your posts seem to get the most attention—are there certain topics or phrases that get more attention than others? Refine your strategy accordingly.

    3. Whitepapers.

    articleimage845whitepapers

    Whitepapers are dying in popularity due to their length and the requirement of effort involved, but they are still a highly valuable form of written content to use for your business. Select a topic in your industry—try to be as specific as possible—and write in as much detail as you can about it.

    Then, use your whitepaper as a bargaining chip. Offer it as compensation for some type of user action—such as a reward for filling out a form or a questionnaire—or use it as a marketing tool to show off your true value. It’s your chance to show off what a major authority you are in the industry, provide valuable information to your customer, and immediately improve your reputation as a result.

    If you’ve written a truly great whitepaper, you can even try to sell it as an independent product and recoup some of the costs you spent creating it.

    4. Case Studies.

    Specific case studies are valuable because they describe a real example of your company’s work. Start off by describing your customer or client, including a description of how they were before your involvement, then describe the products and services you offered followed by a description of how they ended up. Use statistics and specific facts to back up your case, and try not to be too salesy with it—your goal should be to logically and factually demonstrate why your relationship was valuable to your client, not to directly sell.

    That being said, case studies can be a valuable sales tool to offer on your site and distribute to your potential leads. Visualizing the type of results that are possible, in the form of a real story, has an incredibly powerful effect.

    5. Original Research.

    articleimage845Original Research

    Of all the types of written content I’ve covered, this is probably the most difficult to accomplish, especially if you’re a startup or a small business with limited resources. Coming up with an idea for original research alone takes a substantial amount of effort, not to mention the exhaustive follow-through. Depending on what you’re researching and compiling, it could require a full-time team member.

    In any case, producing original research makes you an instant magnet for inbound links. Writers and industry players everywhere will be dying to cite your brand-new information. It also bolsters your reputation as a thought leader in the industry, since you’ll be producing the information before anyone else. And like with whitepapers, if your original research is high enough quality, you can introduce it as a paid product, and make a little extra money on the side.

    Every business is unique, so you may not need to include all these types of content in your specific strategy. However, it’s a good idea to at least consider forms of content as alternatives to the traditional blog post. Diversifying your strategy can only be beneficial for your search engine rankings, for your brand reputation, and for your overall user experience.

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