28/01/17 Content Marketing , SEO

New Study Reveals Content Gaining Ranking Power, While Links Losing It

A new study by Searchmetrics reveals content relevance is gaining cred with Google, while backlinks are declining as a ranking signal. If you follow that link, you can read a summary of the major highlights of the report. It also contains a link that gets into gritty, nerdy details. Anyway, you get the gist.

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21/01/17 SEO

4 Benefits of Bing Ads Over Google Adwords

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ve heard me mention Bing Ads as an alternative to Google Adwords.

…But why?

Isn’t Google the god of search?

Well, yes. With search results they rock.

But Bing Ads really is an awesome alternative to Adwords.

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Adwords Expands Headline Length – Why Should You Care?
11/11/16 SEO

Adwords Expands Headline Length – Why Should You Care?

Google Adwords now gives you 5 more characters in the headline and 10 more in the description. This could mean thousands more in revenue. Find out why. All right, so Google made some new changes. At least this time, they’re not taking away your search rankings! Instead, you get a positive change. And if you take advantage, you can grow your business quite nicely…

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What Causes Your Search Rankings to Fluctuate?
25/07/16 SEO

What Causes Your Search Rankings to Fluctuate?

Why do your search rankings change from month-to-month? Could be any of a million things. Learn some common reasons why this happens in this post. With some keywords, you move just a couple spots or so. With others, you slide up or down 80-100. I’m sure you’re used to it by now. You take a look at your monthly search rankings report. In SEO, that’s completely normal. Everyone experiences this. Why does it happen?

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The Truth about Google RankBrain (And How to Optimize For It)
25/06/16 SEO

The Truth about Google RankBrain (And How to Optimize For It)

What do you know about Google’s RankBrain? There’s scattered and varying information on it. Learn what it’s really about in this post.

Ever heard of Google’s “RankBrain?”

The gist of Rankbrain is that it’s artificial intelligence that finds and ranks websites. And rather than manual updates to Google’s core search algorithm, Rankbrain’s going to handle many of those changes on its own.

Up to this point, however, you probably haven’t noticed much of a difference in Google’s search results.

So what makes RankBrain such a big deal?

It’s going to do a lot to determine the future of search. According to Jayson DeMers at Forbes (from whom much of this info already came), RankBrain will be the third most important ranking signal going forward. DeMers also later notes that RankBrain currently isn’t making a huge impact on search results because right now it focuses on returning relevant results for ambiguous and complex long-tail searches.

An article at Bloomberg notes that RankBrain’s being used to contend with the 15% of brand-new, never-before-seen searches Google has to deal with on a daily basis.

So, How Do You Optimize for RankBrain?

Well, for once in SEO, that’s actually a fairly easy answer. Jennifer Slegg from The SEM Post asked Gary Illyes (a well-known webmaster trends analyst) from Google exactly how to optimize for RankBrain.

And this was his answer:

“Optimizing for RankBrain is actually super easy, and it is something we’ve probably been saying for fifteen years now, is – and the recommendation is – to write in natural language… If you try to write like a machine, then RankBrain will just get confused and probably just push you back.

But if you have a content site, try to read out some of your articles or whatever you wrote, and ask people whether it sounds natural. If it sounds conversational, if it sounds like natural language that we would use in your day to day life, then sure, you are optimized for RankBrain. If it doesn’t, then you are ‘un-optimized.’”

So, like many SEOs have been saying for years, you should create your content for humans, not for RankBrain. If you write for people, the rankings will follow.

Then Why Still Use Keywords?

Smart as Google is, you can’t get your website to rank well by simply sitting down and writing quality content in natural language. Yes, keyword research still needs to be done. Keywords are still critical to your success, but they need to be used in the flow of natural language.

So for now, that’s the scoop on RankBrain! We’ll see how (or if) it really changes the future of search.

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Think SEO is Dead with Spending at $65 Billion This Year?
31/05/16 SEO

Think SEO is Dead with Spending at $65 Billion This Year?

SEO will not die anytime soon. You’ll get a great ROI from your investment. Learn why in this post.

Remember how the Yellow Pages used to be the place to advertise? You could pay a few hundred dollars for a one-inch ad. And the cost of a full-page ad would run well over $10,000.

But back in the day before the internet, it was well worth it because that’s where everyone looked for SMB contact info. You’d get plenty of leads over the course of the year in return.

And now it’s all gone!

Do you ever have fears that all this money you invest in SEO will go to waste? For example, all of a sudden the “next big thing” comes along, and Google’s no longer where everyone goes to find what they want?

Well, don’t worry about that happening anytime soon. It’s not that it could never happen, but it’s not very likely.

Check out why:

  1. Borrell Associates Predicts Steady, Continued Growth in SEO Spending

Currently, the SEO industry’s worth about $65.26 billion, according to research from Borrell Associates. Small and local businesses account for more than two-thirds of that number. Borrell estimates SEO spending will grow to $79.27 billion by 2020.

That makes SEO a fairly large industry in the grand scheme of things. Wikipedia, for example, ranks the top 19 industries in the US by dollar value. Agriculture comes in 19th place, with a value of $173 billion in 2011. In terms of size, SEO’s not far off.

  1. Congress May Not Call Google a Monopoly, But It Really Is (On Search Anyway)

Check out these stats (updated monthly) from StatCounter:

  • Worldwide, Google accounts for just about 90% of all searches, with Bing coming in a distant second place at 5-7%.
  • In the US, the story changes a little. Google currently has nearly 80% of all searches in its control. Bing’s market share increases slightly to 10%, and maybe slightly more.

You know Google makes the rules about search. And, that’s likely to continue.

  1. Despite Increasing Difficulty, SEO’s Still Got a Great ROI

You know how I’ve talked with you about the many changes in SEO – especially in recent years. Yes, it’s like 10 times harder than it used to be. And it’s nearly impossible for a single person to do it.

But you still get a great ROI from it. Check out this image from Adobe to see what I mean:

So…even though SEO’s not quite as strong as email at generating ROI, it’s still awfully powerful.

A 2224% return for every dollar you spend? I don’t know any business owner who’d turn that down!

Whenever Someone Says “SEO is Dead,” You Can Tell Them They’re Full of Hot Air!

SEO is alive and well. And because you, I, and every other human being alive goes to the internet to do research before buying, it’s going to continue to be effective.

Every dollar you put into SEO is well-spent.

The only thing that will change is how you do it. And that’s something I’ll take care of!

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5 Offline Marketing Strategies to Boost Your Online Success
31/05/16 SEO

5 Offline Marketing Strategies to Boost Your Online Success

Your offline marketing can greatly enhance your online tactics. And you don’t have to put in a great deal of effort. Learn how in this post.

Digital marketing or SEO, whatever you want to call it, confounds many small business owners. But, the reality is it works similar to any other kind of marketing. In the end, it’s all about relationships and making sure the other person’s needs are met.

Sure, some of the tactics and strategies change and look a lot different than years ago. But if you generally follow the rule of giving the most to others that you can (usually with content), you’ll succeed online too.

But you yourself may not be a digital marketer. You may be more of an offline “people person.” How can you use what you do offline and in person to support your online marketing efforts?

I’ll show you how:

  1. Networking in Relevant Groups Where Your Target Market Can Be Found

You can think of your website, in this case, as a brochure. You use your business card to drive people to your website.

Online, quantity of traffic is not important. Qualified traffic is. When you meet your ideal customers at an event, give them something to keep with them so they know where to go to learn more about you.

And since that traffic quality is high, the visitors will spend more time reading your content and they’ll browse several pages on your website (most likely). The higher both of those factors are, the better your search rankings.

  1. Taking Videos and Photos

Both of these are indirect ways of increasing your search rankings. They could play a larger role in your conversion rate once people visit your website.

You can also help your customers get to know you by taking photos and videos of company events. Videos help boost engagement on your website. And better engagement boosts search rankings. With photos, you can keyword optimize your “ALT” tags, which can help you be found in image searches.

Professional videos and photos are nice, but not necessary. These can both be done with your smartphone

  1. Speaking at Events

You simply cannot underestimate the power of public speaking. It’s a huge weapon in your marketing arsenal, if you think you have the ability to do it.

Honestly, links and social shares can go off like crazy when you find yourself speaking at an event, even if it is a small one. Links are still the most powerful search signal. And of course, at the end of your presentation, you can send people to your website too.

  1. Donate Your Services to a Charitable Cause

Regardless of what you do, there’s a non-profit out there who could benefit from your products or services. Think of the audience that uses that organization’s services.

Maybe it does work for people with mental disabilities. Those people have parents. So maybe you replace a couple windows just for the cost of goods. Not only can you ask for a link (which could also get shared in local news sites), but the parents, nonprofit staff, and other close family members may see your name.

So, you could win business right away. And you can also drive up your search rankings at the same time.

  1. Signs & Billboards

You don’t have a ton of space with these. And you don’t have a lot of time to engage drivers. You have a little more to engage foot traffic.

If it makes sense for your business, a billboard or sign with your name, disruptive marketing message, and URL could make great sense. Maybe throw in an offer or special link for those who see the ad to give them a personalized discount or gift.

Merging Online and Offline Marketing Is Only Limited to Your Creativity

Those are just some examples. You might use those exact ones yourself. You can also use them to inspire your own creative thinking.

There’s really no “right” or “wrong” way to do this. It simply shows you how online and offline marketing can work together. So, consider all the benefits any offline marketing tactic can provide for your online efforts!

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How to do a Basic 3-Step SEO Audit of Your Website
26/04/16 SEO

How to do a Basic 3-Step SEO Audit of Your Website

Curious how your SEO is going? Check these three things, which can indicate the quality of results your strategy is likely to produce.

Is your SEO doing their job? Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how many people come to me angry and frustrated because they got burnt by a less-than-honest SEO.

It happens. But you don’t have to be a helpless victim.

You can take actions to protect yourself. So if you’re not confident in your SEO, do these simple checks to analyze their work:

  1. Is every page clearly optimized for at least 1 keyword?

Digital marketers still like to argue about keywords. Regardless, Google’s still a machine. While it depends less on keywords today than ever before, it needs you to clearly tell it what you want to rank for.

Your target keyword should be in the visible <H1> tag at the top of your page. And it should be within your page’s <title> tag too.

Here’s how to do that:

  1. Simply go to a website page
  2. Right-click anywhere on it
  3. Choose “View page source”
  4. Hit “Control+F”
  5. In the search box that appears, type “<title>” and go to it and do the same for <h1>
  6. You should notice an obvious phrase, or similar variation of it in both
  1. Check Your Links

In offsite search, your links will be your most powerful search signal. And there’s no reason to believe that will change anytime in the near future.

You can check yours a couple ways:

  1. Go to http://www.opensitexplorer.org and enter in your URL. It’s easier. But you get less complete info.
  2. Login to Google Webmaster Tools. Go to “Search Traffic” and “Links to Your Site” and you’ll get this screen:

Link profiles are a little tricky to analyze. Generally, you should see links from websites you recognize or trust, and with information relevant to yours. Every link profile suffers from irrelevant links. None’s perfect.

For example, fastnow.tk and fastnomoney.tk would be spam/garbage websites. Google looks for clear and persistent patterns of manipulation. So if most of your profile involves reputable sites, with just a few clunkers, you’re not doing too bad. But if you see half or most of the links from junky websites, you’ve got an issue.

It could be your SEO building spammy backlinks. But, it could also be someone starting negative SEO attacks on you, trying to trash your rankings.

  1. How Fast Do Your Web Pages Load?

Next, download Screaming Frog SEO Spider. You can actually get a ton of technical information with this. A lot of pro SEOs use it.

Anyway, I want to call your attention to “Response Time,” which is how long it takes your website to load its pages, a key component of user experience.

Check out the info below:

This website has a few responses above 1 second, and most are under that. That’s pretty good. You want to be under 4 seconds in general. Anything longer than that does serious damage to your site’s ability to convert.

Those are three simple steps you can take to check on your SEO’s work. If you find anything grossly out of whack, then it’s time to have a conversation with your SEO and see what’s going on.

They may be aware of the issue and working on it, after all. So keep an open mind. But now, at least you have a little more awareness and the ability to protect yourself.

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Google Says Local Reviews Not Ranking Factor, But Is It True? 
26/04/16 SEO

Google Says Local Reviews Not Ranking Factor, But Is It True? 

Do local reviews help search rankings? Whether they do or don’t, you should have at least a handful of positive reviews. Find out the truth.

You’ve got a nice, shiny 4-star or more rating with Google reviews. That’s definitely going to help you get business in the door.

Web searchers place a high amount of trust in third-party reviews. And, at least so far, they don’t get manipulated a lot.

So any positive reviews you get are a good thing. And the negative ones can often be a blessing too. That’s because you can learn what people don’t like about your business. Then, you can improve what’s wrong and get more, and happier, customers.

Before Google, you might never have discovered the problem. And that meant it could cost you a lot of business for years without you even knowing it.

Do Reviews Do Anything for Your Search Rankings?

While reviews definitely help your company, do they boost your search rank?

In the case of local reviews by customers, Google’s John Mueller says “no.” See it here at the 17:27 mark in this video:

However, he does continue to say that reviews made directly on your website, since they have content Google can index, can contribute to your search rankings. For local professional service websites, however, this doesn’t come into play. It’s just not the way consumers use those websites.

On the other hand, reviews are hugely popular for product-based e-commerce sites. So if you have one of those, reviews could be a significant source of search traffic.

And a Final Situation Where Reviews Come into Play

As you’ve been searching lately, you may have noticed reviews like this that appear, and especially for websites at larger companies:

To my knowledge, they do not affect search rankings. And these reviews only seem to come at websites of larger companies and brands for the most part.

Should You Get as Many Reviews as You Can?

Reviews absolutely should be a part of your online marketing strategy. After all, they build a large amount of trust in searchers.

If you’re not happy with the number of reviews you have, or your rating, ask more of your happy customers to review you online. You could even ask them for their e-mail and send them a link so it’s super-easy.

Once you have a good number of reviews that make you feel comfortable, you’re set.

And for now, that’s all you need to worry about with reviews.

Stay tuned. I’ll keep you posted if Google changes that!

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23/03/16 SEO

How to Get to the Top of the Local 3-Pack Listings

Google’s made the search rankings even more challenging for local SMBs. But you can still get to the top. Learn what to do in 2016 and beyond.

You may remember that Google’s moved to this new way of displaying the search results:

Google-Local-3-Pack-Listings

Theoretically, the move was to “improve the search experience.” Cynics, however, think Google’s doing it to increase organic SEO competition. And they believe the net effect of that will be more SMBs move to PPC. Oh, and PPC just happens to be Google’s largest revenue maker by far.

You can be the judge of the real motivation. But the fact is, everyone plays by the same rules – Google’s.

So, how do you get to the top of this newer local 3-pack search result?

Some tips:

  1. First, Remember How the Local 3-Pack Works

Unsurprisingly, the local 3-pack takes your location into consideration. So when you search from a certain location, you’re going to get results near to that.

You can’t optimize for all locations in your neck of the woods (although you can for many). And Google won’t rank you for certain locations no matter how hard you try.

  1. So, Focus on Giving Google as Much Information about Your Business as Possible

The fundamentals of SEO do not change for the local 3-pack. You still need to optimize your Google Places listing and build local backlinks. Your on-page content needs optimization. You need to be present on local directory websites like YellowPages.com and other popular ones appropriate for your niche. And you need to have consistent name, address, and phone number (NAP) information.

What could be one of the most powerful differentiators? Did you notice the 5-star reviews for “Nelson Tax Accounting?”

Even though they’re #3, they have these bright gold stars showing. That’s easy for searchers to see. And it makes them feel a heck of a lot more comfortable in clicking on that company’s search result.

And they have a perfect rating – with 13 total reviews. SMBs struggle to get local search reviews, so these represent a huge win for Nelson Tax Accounting.

  1. What Holds Companies Back from Doing Well in Local Search?

One local search agency, Inside Local, did some research to find the common mistakes local companies make that hamper their search rankings. They found this, according to Neil Patel:

Want to know a major negative ranking factor? It’s mismatched NAP citations. Inside Local found that it accounted for 41% of the total ranking issues.

2-most-common-ranking-issues

Now if you’re a local SEO consultant, these aren’t hard things to understand. They may be time-consuming. Possibly even complex to pull off.

But they shouldn’t happen with an SEO consultant worth their fee.

  1. Can You Get to the Top of the Local 3-Pack Listings?

Finally, you still can’t control what Google does. It makes the rules all websites live by. Generally, what they want you to do is simple to understand.

But in practice, it’s often not easy to pull off. However, if you continue working on optimizing the fundamentals mentioned in step #2, and avoid any of the killer mistakes in the above graphic, you give yourself an excellent shot at dominating the local search rankings for months and years to come.

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