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Category Archive: SEO

  1. 7 Essential Qualities for an SEO Provider

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    For most business owners, SEO is overwhelming. Rather than existing as an independent strategy, proper SEO campaigns integrate dozens of separate, interrelated strategies that work together to yield a meaningful result. That means onsite development, branding, design, onsite content, social media marketing, offsite content, link building, and countless other factors must all be considered as part of a unified whole, and finding one person (or even a team) with the expertise to handle all of them is virtually impossible.

    SEO agencies provide the full suite of services necessary to reliably build search ranks, and because they exist as specialists, they tend to run cheaper than a full-time hire offering those same services would. Still, there are a lot of SEO agencies out there, and not all of them are worth doing business with. Some don’t have your best interests at heart, some are ridiculously expensive, and some simply don’t know what they’re doing.

    When searching for an SEO provider, be sure to prioritize these seven qualities:

    1. Credentials.

    articleimage1222credentials

    First, look to see what kind of credentials the agency has, particularly at the top. If the agency boasts the reputation of its CEO, who has been featured in multiple SEO-related industry publications, you can rest assured that the company probably knows what it’s doing. On the other hand, if you visit the site and it’s not clear who is behind the company, it may not be worth the risk in finding out whether they’re actual authorities or not. One wrong move in the SEO world could land you in serious hot water with Google, so don’t take the risk. When in doubt, ask.

    2. Results.

    articleimage1222 results

    Any SEO agency worth its salt should have client results to show you that prove its ability to improve rank. Case studies showcasing the company’s past triumphs should be a given, along with statistics on increases in organic traffic and ranking for various keyword phrases. If those case studies are not available, the company should at least be doing SEO for itself—take a look at where the company is ranking and find out. If you’re in any doubt, ask for a handful of client references. Make a few phone calls and see what previous clients have thought of the service.

    3. Range.

    articleimage1222 range

    Be careful of niche specialists in the SEO world, such as link builders who promise to increase your ranks practically overnight. Generally, these segmented approaches are highly risky and unpredictable. Instead, look for an agency that’s capable of executing multiple individual strategies in the context of the broader campaign. For example, if torn between a company that only writes content and a company that writes, publishes, and syndicates content along with doing onsite SEO updates and social media management, go with the latter. These are not bells and whistles—SEO is a collection of different important elements.

    4. Creativity.

    articleimage1222creativity

    While there is certainly a science to SEO, there is also an art, and you’ll need an SEO agency with a degree of creativity if you want to be successful. Samples of the content written by the agency should have a personal, warm feeling to them—if they come across as flat or clearly written for search engines, you should move along to a different candidate. Creativity is also important in SEO troubleshooting and problem solving—there’s almost always more than one way to address a problem, and outside-the-box thinking is a requirement for getting the job done.

    5. Adaptability.

    he SEO world is always changing. Google releases a new algorithm or data refresh on an almost-monthly basis, sometimes completely negating the effectiveness of certain strategy elements and introducing new ranking factors to consider. New technologies constantly emerge on the scene to disrupt the old way of doing things. In order to be successful, you need an SEO provider who stays abreast of these rapid changes and adapts quickly in response to them. It’s simply not possible to be successful following the strategies of yesteryear.

    6. Reporting.

    Before you sign on with an SEO agency, take a look at a sample of their metrics reporting. How many different factors do they consider? How often do they report? What factors do they use to determine when a change needs to be made, and how ready are they to make those changes? These are important questions to ask because measuring performance and making corresponding improvements is the most important part of any SEO campaign.

    7. Communication.

    You’ll be going back and forth with your SEO agency often, exchanging new ideas, making updates, and swapping information. You want a provider you can work with easily, and who will keep you in constant communication no matter what. Your point of contact should be easily available during standard work hours and then some, and you should feel comfortable throughout each of your conversations. Without a fluid and reliable system of communication, your SEO strategy could crumble. Get to know your eventual account manager before committing to any term of service.

    If you’re considering an SEO provider that’s missing one or more of these qualities, you might want to move on to your next candidate. If you want your SEO strategy to be a valuable investment, and not just another monthly fee, it’s worth the extra effort it takes to find a great partner. If you’re interested in seeing how AudienceBloom can help your business succeed, contact us!

  2. 3 Dead Online Marketing Strategies You Shouldn’t Be Using

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    Technology evolves quickly and with it, consumer tastes. What’s acceptable and useful to a user today doesn’t match what was acceptable and useful to the same user three years ago, and three years from now, it will probably change again. Successful brands aren’t the ones who can leverage present audiences most effectively, but instead are the ones who can adapt quickly to changing circumstances.

    Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs get trapped in old lines of thinking—and I can see why it’s easy to do. If an online marketing strategy works well for you for years, it can be hard to tell when it gradually fades from utility or efficiency in the landscape of potential marketing campaigns.

    Still, if you’re using one of these utterly dead online marketing strategies, it’s time to close up shop and move on to something more modern:

    1. Keyword Focused Search Optimization.

    articleimage1209 Keyword Focused Search Optimization

    Search engine optimization has gone through a number of different phases, and one of the longest ones was keyword-centric ranking (and the accompanying strategy of keyword-centric optimization). Unfortunately, this phase has ended, and if you’re still using it, you’re living in a dead era.

    Here’s how keyword-centric optimization worked. Google would take a user’s search query, break it up into important “keywords,” and then look all over the web for sites that mentioned those keywords the greatest number of times. As the search algorithm grew more sophisticated, the framing of those keywords became more important. For example, articles with a keyword in the title were worth more authority than articles with keywords in the body, and any instances of “keyword spamming” were immediately thrown out. Still, optimizers could select a handful of target keywords, optimize for those terms, and then hope to achieve rank for queries containing those keywords.

    In 2013, Google introduced a new means of search analysis called semantic search. Rather than focusing on keywords, Google’s algorithm now takes the effort to understand the intention behind user queries and formulate responses that seem appropriate for those queries. In effect, keywords don’t matter at all anymore. The quantity or phrasing of your keywords won’t factor into how Google ranks you. Instead, focus on the topics you write about, the niche your company serves, and peripheral authority factors like guest posting on industry blogs and syndicating on social media.

    Continuing to optimize for specific keywords is an inefficient strategy, but more than that, it could actually harm you in the long run. If you use the same keyword phrase over and over too many times, its algorithm will take notice, and you could actually suffer a ranking penalty as a result.

    2. Buying Social Media Popularity.

    articleimage1209 uying Social Media Popularity

    When social media platforms first started to emerge, there was ample fruit ripe for the picking, and nobody knew the best way to take advantage of it. Similarly, few social media platforms had the sophisticated level of user experience necessary to sustain a full-scale customer communications platform the way they can today. Old-school social media strategies were all about getting as many friends, fans, and followers as humanly possible as fast as possible. It was thought that higher audience volumes directly correlated to greater sales, and on some level, that’s true. More followers means your messages can spread further, and new people exposed to your brand will think you have a higher reputation if you have more followers.

    However, in order to artificially and quickly inflate these numbers, people resorted to buying followers. Back in the day, this strategy was marginally effective, but today, it’s a good way to sabotage your brand.

    First, bought followers are usually fake accounts with names in foreign languages. Anyone who looks at your “massive” follower count will instantly know you paid for all those followers, and you’ll be discredited instantly. Second, if you post quality content, your audience will grow naturally—there’s no need to buy anybody. All the fake followers in the world won’t mean anything if your content is bad. Finally, numbers don’t mean much anymore. People know that follower counts can be inflated, and they care far more about what you’re willing to do for your followers than how many followers you have. Focus on making your audience—no matter how small it is to start—happy.

    3. Making Impressions or Clicks the End Goal.

    articleimage1209 Making Impressions or Clicks the End Goal

    This is a broad online marketing approach rather than a strategy pertaining to any one channel. In older online marketing campaigns, favored results were always impressions or clicks—it was thought that the more people that can see your brand online, the better you’re faring. As a result, SEO, PPC, and other marketing strategies always had the ultimate goal of increasing either the number of impressions or the number of clicks a message received.

    Today, there are two more important metrics. The first is conversions—a click doesn’t mean much if a user ends up wandering away from your landing page. Think about it; would you rather get 1,000 clicks but only 1 conversion, or 100 clicks but 10 conversions? The latter is more valuable, rendering the “clicks” measurement practically worthless.

    The second important metric is ROI, or the return on investment of any given strategy. How much you spend to get a certain result means just as much as the type of results you receive. ROI tells you not just how effective your campaign is, but how profitable it is, and at the end of the day, that’s more important.

    These strategies may still hold marginal benefits for your brand, but in all likelihood, they’re doing more harm than good. The faster you can dump them and get on board with a more modern, suitable strategy, the better. Don’t let your ROI suffer any longer.

  3. The Best Way for B2B Companies to Build Online Authority

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    “Authority” is a term with multiple meanings, especially in the context of online marketing, but all of those meanings are important. Your level of domain authority, for instance, determines where you rank in search engines for various terms related to your brand. Your level of industry-based authority determines how easy it is for you to accumulate followers and get published on outside platforms. And your level of perceived authority among your customer base determines whether they buy with you or move onto one of your competitors.

    For B2B companies, authority is everything, but acquiring it is somewhat more difficult than it is for B2C companies, which rely on networks of end consumers to spread the word and support their products. As a B2B company, you have to prove your expertise to a smaller number of more discerning clients, and you have to do so in a way that generates attention from a targeted niche.

    There are many authority-building strategies out there. Writing great onsite content, developing your social media presence, and building offsite links are all valuable ways of building multiple kinds of authority with your audience, but for B2B companies, there’s one strategy that trumps them all: brand mentions.

    What Are Brand Mentions?

    articleimage1198What Are Brand Mentions

    Brand mentions are relatively simple in theory, but more complex in execution. Essentially, you’ll be publishing well-written authoritative pieces of content on external sources—in this way, brand mentions are like a guest blogging strategy. But instead of trying to funnel traffic or improve ranks with links, you’ll merely be mentioning your brand. It is possible to also include links in your article, but the brand mention is the main objective. If you use this strategy, working your way up to the highest-authority publishers and regularly submitting new content for syndication, eventually your authority levels will skyrocket.

    Why Are Brand Mentions Useful?

    articleimage1198 Why Are Brand Mentions Useful

    Let’s dig into exactly why brand mentions are so useful for building authority. There are actually several distinct ways this strategy operates, and all of them are valuable.

    Building domain authority—without risk

    In the old days of SEO, Google calculated authority based on the number and quality of links that were pointing back to your site. Since then, Google’s algorithms have become significantly more sophisticated. Today, Google is very sensitive to the types of links that are pointing back to your site, and if you build too many on the same sources or the wrong sources, it could earn you a penalty rather than a ranking boost.

    Google also now takes brand mentions into consideration when calculating authority. If it sees your company’s name pop up on multiple high-authority publishers, it’s going to greatly increase your domain authority, and therefore, your ranks—and you’ll never have to worry about getting penalized for it, since they can’t be considered spam.

    Establishing brand value

    Merely mentioning your brand on these high-traffic sources is valuable in generating greater brand recognition. Because you’re not calling too much attention to yourself, and instead are providing great value to people, your readers will come to associate your brand with value and trust. Whenever they need to make a purchasing decision and your name comes up, they’ll recall associating you with those sources, and they’ll be more likely to buy. Plus, when you’re published on some major publishers, you’ll get authoritative badges you can put on your site.

    Greater syndication value

    Articles on these publication platforms give you entry to even bigger, better platforms. For example, getting published on a small business website on a local level can help you get published on a national platform. The higher up you go, the more value you get, and the value compounds with every new publication. Plus, syndicating these high-profile articles on your social media channels will attract more direct traffic and more followers.

    Getting Started

    articleimage1198 Getting started

    Getting started is the hardest part about brand mentions. It takes a long time to build up a high enough level of authority to get published on major platforms, so you’ll have to start at the bottom and work your way up. Start guest blogging on companies relevant to your industry, then work your way up to local publications. Once you’ve established yourself on that level, you can work up to low-level national publishers, and then gradually to higher-level publishers. It’s a time intensive process, but the benefits are worth it.

    Of course, you can always take a shortcut by leveraging the power of our own Brand Mentions service, which connects you to high-profile publishers immediately.

    Ongoing Management

    articleimage1198 Ongoing Management

    Getting your foot in the door of these publishers is only the first step. For the best long-term results, you’ll have to regularly submit content and constantly branch out to new sources. Once a week is plenty for most publications, but as you add more publishers to your wheelhouse, it may become more difficult to manage.

    Brand mentions are the best strategy to use when building your company’s authority, but that doesn’t mean they’re the only strategy. Only when used in conjunction with a great onsite SEO, content marketing, and social media strategy will it be able to yield the best possible results. Regularly diversify your strategy with new sources and new types of content, and always ground yourself with best practices in writing and publication. With a wide enough reach on external publishers, the clients will start flooding in, and you’ll never have to worry about sales figures again.

  4. How to Write for Local SEO Without Keyword Stuffing

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    articleimage1197 how to Write for Local SEO Without Keyword Stuffing

    Local SEO is one of the most important online marketing strategies available to businesses today; like national SEO, it’s a cost-effective way to generate more brand visibility and greater traffic to your website, but because it operates on a local foundation, you’ll be dealing with far less competition. Plus, some local SEO strategies (like online review cultivation) are completely hands-off, giving you more flexibility to focus on the strategies that really matter.

    Writing content for local SEO is relatively straightforward. Like with any content marketing strategy, you’ll need to create content that’s well-written, appealing to a given audience, and high in quality; the only additional consideration is that you’ll also need to include some geographically specific language as indicators of your business’s location.

    Because Google’s search ranking algorithm is sophisticated enough to detect the use of “keyword stuffing,” or deliberately placing a word or phrase in order to send a ranking signal, this poses a difficult problem. Geographic language isn’t easy to naturally inject, so how can you write content for local SEO without triggering Google’s keyword stuffing penalty?

    Fortunately, there are a few strategies you can use.

    Choose Locally Relevant Topics

    articleimage1197 Choose Locally Relevant Topics

    If you choose topics that are specific to your location, you’ll never have to worry about injecting local keywords into your article unnecessarily. They’ll come up naturally, and you won’t have to think twice about it.

    Local event coverage

    One of the easiest sources of local content is in local events. Attend a community festival, a tradeshow, or some other organized event and publish an article detailing the results. Not only will this type of article give you greater local relevance in Google’s index, it will also be more appealing to local fans of your brand. If you want to make the most of this type of content, be sure to take lots of pictures, and consider making live updates—especially if it’s a multi-day event.

    Local competitor analysis

    Mentioning your competitors by name might seem like a bad idea—if your customers see your competition directly, they may leave and seek them out instead. But creating an article that lists and analyzes all the businesses like yours (including yours) in the area will be far more valuable than damaging—and it carries a huge local context. People often search for businesses with phrase like “plumbers in Minneapolis,” looking for a broad analysis of the industry with multiple companies to compare. If your article gets in front of this type of query, you’ll have full control over what your visitor reads. Keep it accurate and balanced if you want to keep your quality scores up.

    Company news

    Last but not least, company news can be a great excuse to mention your city or community by name. After all, you are an integral part of the community. Keep these types of articles to once a month or less frequently—your readers want valuable information, not a running stream of self-interest stories.

    Syndicate in Local Publications

    articleimage1197 Syndicate in Local Publications

    If you want to step up the local relevance of your material without stuffing it full of more local-specific keywords, one of the best strategies is to submit it to local publications. Rather than identifying your own work with the name of your city, you can submit it to your city’s local newspaper, or to a forum that operates exclusively within your city. Google will use these as contextual clues to categorize your content as specific to your region, and will, by extension, increase the local relevance of your business. Fortunately, because local publications tend to be smaller and hungrier for any type of content they can get their hands on, getting yourself published in them is a relatively easy process. Start building relationships with your target publishers to make the process easier on an ongoing basis.

    Avoid Long Geographic Phrases

    articleimage1197  Avoid Long Geographic Phrases

    Long geographic references will get you red flagged more often than basic references. For example, if you try to stuff the phrase “Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland Ohio” multiple times into the body of your article, you’ll probably suffer a lower quality rating. In this example, it would be fine to call out “Cleveland” alone, or even “Tremont.” Google knows where these places are, so a single reference is more than ample to convey your meaning sufficiently.

    Limit References in the Body

    articleimage1197 Limit References in the Body

    When Google scans an article to determine what its main function is, it doesn’t weigh the entire article equally. In other words, Google favors the indicators in the title of an article far more than it favors the actual body. Therefore, including a local-specific keyword in the title of your article is more valuable than multiple in-body references. This is almost ironic, because most keyword stuffing offenses come from people trying to fit as many iterations of keywords as possible in the body of their articles. Instead of resorting to this tactic, simply include a local keyword once—in the title of the article—and avoid over-referencing the location unnecessarily in the body.

    As long as you aren’t stuffing more than one or two location-based words into a given article, chances are you’ll be okay regardless. But if you want to write the best possible content for your audience and make sure Google stays happy with you, use these strategies regularly. Over time, you’ll develop a nice rhythm for generating new local topics and crafting well-balanced content that also helps you rise in search ranks.

  5. How to Diagnose a Stagnant SEO Campaign

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    In theory, an SEO campaign should yield consistent, predictable returns on web traffic. The longer and more consistently invest in your strategy, the greater traffic growth you should see. The only problem is that little phrase at the beginning: “in theory.”

    Even the best search marketers have faced the horror of a stagnant campaign—one that seems to have hit a plateau in terms of growth. They’re applying the same valuable strategies and best practices they always have, but for some reason the number of visitors has stopped growing, and there’s no obvious motivation behind the decline.

    If and when this happens to you, it’s in your best interest to quickly assess the situation, diagnose the problem, and apply the fixes necessary to jump start your traffic back to acceptable growth patterns. If that sounds easier said than done, that’s because it is. It’s tough to pinpoint the exact problem when there are so many moving parts, but if you follow these steps, you’ll be in a far better position to form a conclusion:

    Step One: Determine if there really is a problem

    articleimage1196 Determine if there really is a problem

    Just because you didn’t reach your goal for the month doesn’t mean there’s an actual problem with your campaign. Traffic patterns naturally fluctuate, sometimes for trivial factors like seasonal changes or random chance, so don’t take one month of strange data as an indication that something is amiss. First, log into Google Analytics and check out your traffic numbers over the course of the past six months or so. If you’re used to a rate of steady growth but the past three months have shown stagnation or worse—a decline—you could have a real problem on your hands. If the growth is there, but slow, or if the numbers are inconsistent between months, it’s not worth worrying about yet.

    Step Two: Pinpoint any strategy changes that coincide with the stagnation

    articleimage1196 Pinpoint any strategy changes that coincide with stagnation

    If you see an active decline in your traffic, this is almost inevitably the cause. Take a look at your marketing approach and see if there have been any new strategy introductions that were released around the same time the drop began. For example, if you reduced your blog publication from two per week to one per week around the same time that your traffic began to drop, you can pinpoint that drop as the root of your problem. Unfortunately, it’s rarely this easy to diagnose the problem, but make a list and evaluate your position just in case this is the culprit.

    Step Three: Evaluate source-specific traffic changes

    articleimage1196 Evaluate source-specific traffic change

    Hopefully you’re still logged into Google Analytics. While you’re here, take a look at the Acquisition tab and evaluate your four primary sources of web traffic—organic, which comes from searches, direct, which comes from direct URL entries, social, which comes from social media platforms, and referral, which comes from external sources. If one of these areas shows a drop or stagnation in traffic while your other areas continue to grow, you know you have a problem. Direct could mean the problem lies with your ability to increase customer loyalty. Organic could mean you suffered a ranking drop—likely as the result of a search penalty, which you can then take steps to correct with backlink removal or onsite edits. Social could mean you’re not influencing your followers well enough. Referral could mean your external sources aren’t sending enough traffic your way.

    Step Four: Audit the quality of your content

    articleimage1196 Audit the quality of your content

    Regardless of the source of your traffic problems, the quality of your content could be at the root of it. Your content could be failing to meet search engine quality scores, failing to draw in external audiences, or failing to make a good enough impression to keep customers returning. Evaluate your content in terms of your posting frequency, the popularity and uniqueness of the topics you choose, the length and detail of your work, and where you syndicate the end results. Any one of these factors could be influencing the total amount of audience-generation power.

    Step Five: Experiment

    articleimage1196  Experiment

    If none of the previous steps has pointed you to a potential problem, it could mean that there is no direct problem. Your campaign has become stagnant simply because your strategies have become stagnant. You’ve done the same thing for so long that you’ve reached your maximum potential on this path. The only way to break out of the mold and jump start your traffic growth back on course is to play around with new strategies—ones you may not be familiar or entirely comfortable with. Try writing a new type of content. Try writing for a new target audience. Get more aggressive on social media. Step up your guest posting and find new sources for your articles. Tinker with these additional strategies, measure any influence they have on your traffic, and repeat until you find a new wave of strategies that can support the growth you want.

    Fixing a stagnant SEO campaign is more tedious than it is difficult. You will find a way to restore your numbers to an acceptable rate of ongoing growth, but it may take a while for you to explore all the options between here and there. Because technologies, algorithms, and users are always evolving, your SEO strategy has to evolve accordingly, so keep a flexible journey of change at the heart of all your inbound strategies.

  6. The 5 Most Aggravating Problems Search Marketers Face

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    Search marketers have been enjoying a relatively golden age of organic lead generation on the web. Hell, search marketers weren’t even around 20 years ago because online search didn’t exist (or at least wasn’t popular enough to warrant any attention). As such, we should all be grateful for the opportunities we have. We’re spending a little money and putting forth a little effort, but realistically, we’re organically generating leads and customers in ways our parents would have never imagined to be possible.

    Still, as a search marketer, some days just suck. There are some real aggravating problems out there, and they tend to come up out of nowhere to ruin your day. Knowing what these problems are and knowing how to fix them is critical if you want to stay productive—and sane—in your position as a search marketing expert.

    1. A Sudden, Unexplained Drop in Rank.

    articleimage1190 A Sudden, Unexplained Drop in Rank

    You aren’t alone. We’ve all experienced it. One day, you’re ranking around 2 or 3 for a specific keyword phrase and the next day, you’re down on page 9. What could have happened? The main problem here isn’t the drop, necessarily, it’s not knowing what caused the drop, which can send you into a mad scramble to uncover the root of the problem.

    Oftentimes, this is due to a Google update or the relatively calmer Google data refresh, which reevaluates certain rankings. Other times, a competitor could have ousted you, or a bad link pointing to your domain caught up with you. Read up on search news first to see if Google has an explanation, then evaluate your link profile and see if anything major changed in your competitive landscape.

    2. A Theoretically Perfect Piece of Content That Flops.

    articleimage1190 A Theoretically Perfect Piece of Content That Flops

    You spent a lot of time or money on it, and when you sent it out it seemed perfect—new, original, funny, surprising, and visually engaging. But it didn’t generate the type of response you were hoping for. Instead of getting thousands of shares and tons of new visitors for your site, it fell flat, and there’s no explanation for it.

    If this happens, try re-syndicating the piece in other channels, or at other times. If that still doesn’t work, don’t fret—try breaking up your original piece into smaller pieces, or reformat it into a different type of content, like an infographic. The bottom line is to experiment until you find the right place for it.

    3. Inconsistent Returns on a Specific Platform.

    articleimage1190 Inconsistent Returns on a Specific Platform

    Search marketers live and die by their metrics. We’re proud to report on consistently positive returns, and we’re always finding answers for consistently negative returns. But when a certain platform, a certain channel, or a certain strategy gives us inconsistent data to work with—it’s maddening, to say the least.

    There’s no way to tell whether you should ditch the strategy or keep it because the data is so inconsistent. Instead, find ways to make sense of those fluctuations, and think outside the box—is it about your timing? Seasonal differences? Random blips that come onto the scene?

    4. Finding Broken Parts of Your Site.

    articleimage1190 Finding Broken Parts of Your Site

    Websites are fragile things, and even a handful of problems with them can interfere with your domain authority. The problem is, some of these issues go undetected for long periods of time, and when you discover they exist, it can drive you crazy.

    404 errors, duplicate content, poor loading times, missing images, and broken links are just a handful of the types of site errors that can come up over time. It isn’t your fault most of the time—it can be a natural result of decay, a faulty post by one of your staff members, or some fluke problem in the code. The key is not to get discouraged by these errors, to accept them as natural, and then fix them quickly and move on.

    5. Some New Feature or Technology That Ruins Everything.

    articleimage1190 Some New Feature or Technology That Ruins Everythin

    Big tech companies are always experimenting with new products, new features, and new gizmos to make our lives better. When we’re out and about or relaxing, we truly appreciate this—the new app on our phones can make shopping easier, or the new tablet makes working from home far simpler. But when it’s introduced to our carefully balanced landscape of search marketing, it can tilt everything on its head.

    The Google Panda update is a perfect example of this. In 2011, it came out of nowhere to completely disrupt the SEO strategies of more than 11 percent of webmasters out there—which is a bigger number than it seems. All at once, the search game changed and marketers had to scramble if they wanted to stay afloat. Today, the Knowledge Graph is quickly becoming a threat to organic search traffic, and it seems to grow stronger every week. New social platforms emerge like clockwork, and it’s only a matter of time before the next wave of technology arrives and starts uprooting everything we’ve worked for over the past few years.

    Still, we can be grateful that some fundamentals—like user experience and quality content—will never disappear. All we can do is return to the basics, pay attention to the news, and adapt our strategies when the inevitable shakeups hit.

    Hopefully, the analysis of these problems has helped you put your own search marketing stresses into perspective. You may have found an alternative strategy to deal with them, but even if you haven’t—you can at least rest easy knowing that you aren’t the only person facing these problems. Stay refreshed, stay focused, and don’t forget—regardless of the problems, there is still plenty of fun to be had as you stay on top of your search marketing game.

  7. Are “Nearby Business” Ads Threatening Local SEO?

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    articleimage1189 Are Nearby Business Ads Threatening Local SEO

    Google advertisements have been around since, well, Google itself, and businesses have been taking advantage of them in every iteration they’ve seen. From the off-hand ads that nobody clicked, to the yellow-denoted paid results at the top of your list, to the carousel like shopping results for products related to your search, Google is always tinkering with the way it processes and displays advertisements.

    For many marketers, these ads are a blessing—they’re a quick, relatively cheap way to get some extra exposure on the most popular search engine on the planet. But there’s also a flip side for businesses looking to generate more attention organically. Dealing with prominently displayed ads means receiving less search traffic—even if you’re ranking first, organically. There are only two ways around this dilemma. One is to pay for your own set of ads, but because so many businesses are competing for that ad space, costs have dramatically risen over the course of the past few years. The other solution is to go after more targeted, niche phrases that don’t carry advertisements, but those generate far less total web traffic. Both solutions only mitigate the problems that paid search ads present for organic search marketers.

    Now, Google is unleashing an entirely new type of advertising, to roll out immediately, that could disrupt the local SEO world. If you’re involved in local search marketing, you need to know the specifics and start preparing for the inevitable changes to come.

    The Extent of the New Local Ads

    articleimage1189 The Extent of the New Local Ads

    The local ads produced and managed by Google are a bit different than their older counterparts. Perhaps most notably, they’re only available on mobile devices. When a mobile user searches for a certain keyword phrase, he/she may now be subjected to these new “local” advertisements, while on a desktop or laptop, only organic results may appear. We know that “near me” searches have more than doubled in the past year, with the vast majority of those queries being performed on a mobile device, so it makes sense that Google would try to appeal to that growing demographic of local searchers.

    Google is calling these mobile-specific ads the “nearby businesses” pack, which generates results based in part on proximity. For certain queries, up to four separate results may appear—sometimes less, but never more. The paid ads themselves are quite similar to organic listings, featuring the name of the business in a functionally similar layout. However, as you might expect, paid ads are listed more prominently, and they feature not only the name of the business and a link to their site, but also hot buttons that allow a user to call the business or get directions.

    The advertisements function within AdWords like any other paid Google ad. However, they are primarily driven by the optional location extensions that businesses can enable. Because it is a new feature, not much is known about the tricks and settings you can play with for the best possible results. Google will likely experiment with the ads further before becoming satisfied with the layout.

    How Nearby Business Ads Will Affect Local SEO

    articleimage1189 How Nearby Business Ads Will Affect Local SEO

    Local SEO was once a relative safe haven for businesses intimidated or frustrated by the level of competition in a national search. Optimizing your business for local-specific queries was faster, easier, cheaper, and ultimately more successful, especially if you only had a limited budget to work with. It was a space where any local business could conceivably rank at the top for at least one keyword phrase.

    Now, paid local ads are diminishing that competitive edge. Even in local-specific queries, users will first face a list of paid advertisers before getting to the organic listings, meaning a top organic rank today won’t generate as much traffic as a top organic rank did a few weeks ago. However, that doesn’t mean that local SEO will no longer be effective.

    There are a couple of complicating factors that make local SEO still viable, even in this new context. First, consider the fact that paid ads do generate much traffic, but many users still see paid ads as white noise, skipping down to the organic results because they know the businesses listing themselves have an ulterior motive to generate revenue. This means that, while paid ads will take away some of your organic visitors, they won’t take away a majority of them.

    Second, the competitive landscape for local ads will be less severe than the one for national ads, just like local SEO is less competitive than national SEO. This means that fewer businesses will be listing ads for the majority of search queries, leaving some of your territory completely untouched and other parts of it with one or two ads, rather than four.

    Finally, remember that paid ads are a good option for generating more traffic—it brings to mind the expression, “if you can’t beat them, join them.” Nearby business ads will cost less than their national counterparts, and will guarantee you some level of traffic for your campaign. If working in conjunction with a traditional local SEO plan, your results could easily multiply.

    As of now, there is no indication that these new local advertisements will kill local SEO. On the contrary, they may actually help businesses in the local SEO game improve their overall position. Watch for developments, defend your turf, and keep following best practices to get yourself ranked higher organically.

  8. 7 Reasons Why Local SEO Should Be Your Top Priority

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    Local SEO has caught the attention of search marketers everywhere. By optimizing your site for a geographic location, you can ensure more visibility for your business in searches that originate within that region or searches that contain geo-specific keywords. That concept typically resonates as impressive, as it should, but only as a gimmick. Many entrepreneurs and search marketers see local SEO as a peripheral strategy—an add-on to consider only once all the other strategies have been taken care of.

    However, local SEO is far more powerful and more important than most people realize. If anything, it should be your top priority, and here are seven reasons why:

    1. It isn’t that different from national SEO.

    articleimage1175 t isn’t that different from national SEO

    Realistically, you’re going to be using the same techniques for local SEO that you’re already doing for your national SEO program; you’re just going to be tweaking them and rebalancing them for a local focus. That means you don’t have to learn anything new and you won’t have to change much in your existing structures. Some search marketers are reluctant to get into local SEO because it’s yet another strategy to toy with and master—but this simply isn’t the case. Your transition should instead be smooth and painless.

    2. The competition is relatively low.

    articleimage1175 The competition is relatively low

    SEO is popular. A decade ago, when not every business had a website and even fewer businesses were actively marketing themselves online, national SEO was a viable option. Today, the market is oversaturated with businesses, and unless you have a decade of history under your belt, it’s almost impossible to rank for anything on a national scale. On the other hand, local markets have yet to see that level of saturation. Instead of dealing with an entire country’s worth of competitors, you’ll be zeroing in on your competitors within the city. That means fewer headaches, and faster, better results.

    3. It’s cheaper than a national SEO plan.

    articleimage1175 It’s cheaper than a national SEO plan

    All things considered, a local SEO plan is going to cost you less than a national counterpart. Let’s say you’re trying to rank for two different keyword topics. On a national plan, you’ll spend months trying to rank with high-authority backlinks and tons of great content—both of which cost significant money—and you’ll end up near the bottom of page one, if you’re lucky. On a local plan, you’ll use more cost-efficient strategies like moderate link building tactics, moderate content efforts, and the cultivation of local reviews, and you’ll have a very good chance of ending up at a top rank. All in all, you’ll be spending less for equal or better results.

    4. Local searches are dominant.

    articleimage1175 Local searches are dominant

    While an argument could be made that the majority of national queries see more traffic than their local counterparts, the actual number of local searches is high and growing. Because mobile devices are at peak popularity and geographic indicators are in practically every online-enabled device, almost every modern user search becomes a local search by default these days. That means without even realizing it, users are becoming dependent on local searches for their needs.

    5. Some local SEO tactics are completely hands-off.

    articleimage1175 Some local SEO tactics are completely hands-off

    While national SEO strategies almost always rely on you doing the work yourself, there are some local SEO tactics that don’t require your intervention. For example, positive local reviews are one of the best ways to increase your local rank, and you’re forbidden from buying or soliciting those reviews. Instead, all you have to do is make sure your customers know that you’re listed, give them great service, and let them do the rest on their own time—it’s less work required of you!

    6. Your community will grow to love you.

    Most local SEO strategies are dependent upon your community. You’ll be fostering good vibes and positive reviews in an effort to increase your presence on local directories. You’ll be submitting and circulating good press on local news outlets. You’ll be building relationships with individual community members and other local businesses. All these things will increase your rank, but even more importantly, they’ll help your community grow to love your business. It’s almost a sophisticated style of word-of-mouth marketing.

    7. It’s only going to grow more important.

    In the coming years, local SEO is going to grow to be even more important than it is today. Wearable technology, like smart watches, will start becoming more popular, and users will demand even better on-the-go search functionality. Local searches may start being relevant to a neighborhood or city block, rather than just a city or region, and local businesses may be able to make special offers based on physical location. Meanwhile, national SEO will only become more competitive, especially as Google increases the functionality of the Knowledge Graph, which could take away a significant portion of national search traffic. As important as local SEO is today, another five years will make it even greater.

    If you aren’t already engaged in a local SEO campaign for your business, this is a prime opportunity to begin. Start with a local citation audit to find and correct any errors in your business information throughout the web, and then layer in the fundamental optimization strategies—local-specific content, local relationship building, local link building, and of course, the cultivation of positive online reviews. Because of local SEO’s low competition, it should only be a month or two before you start seeing results, and from there, the sky’s the limit.

  9. 5 Strategies for Using Instagram for SEO and Web Traffic

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    With more than 200 million worldwide users and a growing circle of influence in younger generations, Instagram has easily become one of the most important social media platforms around. While most entrepreneurs and online brand managers spend the majority of their time and attention on the “holy trinity” of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, the sheer size of Instagram’s core audience should be enough to persuade you to at least give the platform a shot.

    Instagram is unique because it has no web-hosted version. Instead, all Instagram activities are performed directly through the mobile app. For some marketers, this may be a disadvantage; it means it might be harder to collaborate on a corporate account, and you’ll have to look sharp for real-time opportunities. But it also means you’ll have more direct, immediate engagements with your audience.

    Keep in mind that the key to building your search ranks and web traffic with Instagram is building your level of influence. That means earning more followers, enticing more followers to engage, and making yourself known as a major force in the Instagram community. These five strategies can help you do just that:

    1. Network With the Major Players.

    articleimage1174 Network With the Major Players

    This is a solid strategy for almost any social platform, but it’s especially important for Instagram. The definition of an “influencer” isn’t strict, but generally, influencers have large numbers of followers and are seen as leading authorities or popular personalities in a given space. For example, you might find a noteworthy food critic in your town, or an account for one of your city’s top athletes. Identifying these influencers is your first responsibility—you can generally do this by browsing through top posts and seeing who other members of your community are following. Once you’ve identified them, start making comments on their posts, and engage them in conversation whenever possible. Over time, you’ll build a relationship with a select few influencers, and they’ll start mentioning you as much as you mention them. Then, their audience will naturally start following you, and you’ll build up your own influence by proxy.

    2. Run Contests.

    articleimage1174 Run Contests

    For brands, nothing attracts attention like an Instagram contest. There are a variety of different contest options available; for example, you could have a “like”-based contest that enters everyone who “likes” a given image into a drawing for a prize package. You could also have a hashtag-related contest that does the same thing for anyone who uses a specific hashtag during the promotional period. Whenever you start a contest, be sure to think through the structure carefully. You’ll only have one shot at it, so you’ll need to be sure your prize offering and contest rules are enough to generate significant buzz. If successful, your contest will get shared explosively, and you’ll earn thousands of new followers as a result.

    3. Use Hashtags—Appropriately.

    articleimage1174 Use Hashtags

    When it comes to hashtags, the marketing world is divided. On Twitter and Facebook, a hashtag might earn you a slightly higher chance of getting seen by a stranger who doesn’t follow you, but including too many hashtags or including hashtags the wrong way could ruin someone’s impression of your brand. On Instagram, you don’t have to worry as much. Hashtags are extremely common, and they’re pretty much the only way to expose yourself to new audiences. Just be sure that you fully understand the implications of the hashtags you’ve chosen—a bit of preliminary research can save you a lot of headaches in the event you choose something with a double meaning or something you don’t fully understand.

    4. Create a Symbiosis Between Instagram and Content.

    articleimage1174 Create a Symbiosis Between Instagram and Content

    This is an ideal strategy if SEO is one of your main priorities. Content is the core pillar in most SEO strategies, but because of Instagram’s nature, you can’t exactly syndicate your articles in the traditional way. Instead, you’ll have to actively work to ensure your audience can freely move between your blog and Instagram profile. Embed an Instagram feed in your blog, along with accompanying live updates, and mention your blog whenever you can in your Instagram posts. Make sure your followers know what you have to offer, and let those two platforms nourish each other.

    5. Focus on Your Community.

    articleimage1174 Focus on Your Community

    One of the best ways to build a loyal audience, especially for local businesses, is to focus on your community. Get involved with local events like tradeshows or festivals, and take pictures in and around your city to show that you’re really involved. It’s a good excuse to use city-specific hashtags, which can be especially valuable in building an initial audience, and you’ll earn the loyalty of anyone who is passionate about your region. The more events you can get involved with, the better.

    With these five recurring strategies in place, you should have no problem taking your Instagram account from virtually no influence to thousands of followers. It will take some time, and significant effort on your part, but once you’ve attained that level of influence, the other benefits of the strategy will naturally follow. Your followers will be more likely to travel to your site and spread the word about your brand, and because your social influence has ballooned, you’ll also start ranking higher in search engines. Just be sure to keep your strategy up, or you run the risk of losing those followers you worked so hard to get.

  10. The Future of Voice Search for SEO

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    articleimage1156 he Future of Voice Search for SEO

    Up until now, voice search hasn’t been a major consideration when optimizing a web presence for search engines. The vast majority of online users still rely on traditional typed queries for their searching needs—in addition to conforming to the historical norms of searching, it assures a certain level of precision. Because voice-based search is a relatively new technology, many people believe it is still prone to misinterpretations, poor translations, and inferior results.

    However, voice search today is surprisingly accurate—if you haven’t tried it recently, you should. As more users grow accustomed to the accuracy of the service, and as the service grows more popular in line with voice-dependent forms of wearable technology, it’s likely that one day soon, voice-based queries will overtake typed queries in popularity.

    In order to prepare for this shift, search marketers need to understand how voice search does—and will—affect SEO.

    Who Uses Voice Search?

    articleimage1156 Who Uses Voice Search

    Voice search currently exists in a number of forms, and in places where some users don’t even see it. You don’t need an app or special functionality in order to access voice search—in fact, it’s available straight from Google’s main search page, in the form of a microphone on the right hand side.

    Perhaps more popularly, it’s available in the form of personal digital assistants like Apple’s Siri or the “OK Google” feature on most Android devices. As wearable devices become more popular, these types of voice searches will likely grow in popularity and importance to SEO—but we’ll get more into that later.

    How Voice Search Could Affect SEO

    articleimage1156 How Voice Search Could Affect SEO

    Voice-based searches have a number of qualities that make them distinct from traditional text-based qualities. Because of these distinctions, both in how users perform searches and in how search engines process queries, various SEO elements could grow or wane in importance accordingly.

    Semantic search capabilities

    articleimage1156 Semantic search capabilities

    First, and most importantly, voice-based searches will naturally take a longer, more natural form than their keyword-based text search counterparts. When typing, users are forced to reduce their search intentions down to a handful of keywords—in part to minimize the amount of typing necessary and in part because they’re used to older forms of keyword-based search functionality. Voice-based searches will have no such limitations; users will be more inclined to speak naturally when they search.

    As a result, keyword-based search functions and processes will take another massive step back. Already, thanks to Google’s Hummingbird update, keyword-based optimization is practically dead, so voice search could be the last nail in the coffin. Instead, semantic-based processing will analyze the user intent behind a query and find relevant results, rather than doing a series of one-to-one matches based on existing content online.

    To prepare, you’ll need to eliminate any remaining keyword-based strategies you have running in your SEO campaign. Instead, focus on writing in-topic with your area of expertise and associate your brand with other industry-related blogs and forums to strengthen Google’s understanding of your business.

    Colloquial language

    articleimage1156 Colloqoal language

    Next, you can bet that people will talk to Google the same way they talk to each other, and that conversational way of speaking will translate to search queries. For example, people will be more likely to use unimportant filler words, like prepositions and conjunctions, in their queries. They’ll also be more likely to use slang terms or informal language in their searches. As a result, sites that feature similarly conversational answers to such queries will get a natural ranking boost and more visibility for these new types of searches.

    To prepare, start writing your content with a more conversational tone. Select article and content topics that a colloquial audience might be more likely to search for, and eliminate any unnecessary formalities that could potentially hold you back.

    Query needs

    Finally, because voice search is going to be a more immediate form of searching (and it’s also lined to use in mobile and wearable devices), the immediacy of search queries is about to change. In older days of SEO, searching was a dedicated event—you’d have to remember to search for something, set up your computer at home, and search for it at a later time. Today, mobile devices allow us to search while on the go, and voice-based searches on wearable devices will only increase that mobility. Users will become dependent on immediate answers to immediate questions, and as a result, more queries will be phrased and targeted in a way that demands an immediate answer.

    To prepare, start producing more content that addresses immediate needs. For example, tutorials and how-to articles will increase even further in popularity as people search for answers to common obstacles in real-time situations.

    A Surge in Popularity

    In the next few years, you can expect to see a monumental surge in voice-based searches. This is partly due to a consumer base gradually getting used to the idea of voice search, but for the most part, this rise in popularity will be due to the increase in wearable devices like smart watches and Google Glass. Because these devices have less convenient forms of traditional keyboard/screen interfaces (or have done away with them altogether), users will be forced to rely on their voices to perform searches.

    Voice-based searching won’t overtake typed searching overnight, but the trend shift is practically inevitable. The sooner you start preparing, the further ahead of your competitors you’ll be when the crossover finally takes place.

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