• Local SEO Tips for Small Businesses
    19/11/14 SEO

    Local SEO Tips for Small Businesses

    Hi All,

    In checking and trying to install Google Authorship for some of my clients, which is what makes your picture show up next to your search engine listings, I recognized most did NOT have a personal Google+ account, only a Google+ Local (map listing) for their business. This likely applies to many of you then as well, so I thought I would take this opportunity to share some local SEO tips.

    Here is how I think Google+ is going to work in the future and why:

    Like Facebook, going forward, Google is not going to allow a business to have a Google+ Business page (which is equivalent to a Business Fan page on Facebook) unless it is connected to a personal Google+ profile. (Google+: https://accounts.google.com/SignUp)

    Facebook is stealing PPC revenue from Google because of their ability to serve highly targeted ads based on people’s personal interests and conversations. Not just my opinion – This is the main reason Google created Google+, to compete with Facebook. Eventually there will be paid advertising on all Google+ accounts, but first they have to get everyone to sign-up and use it. However, it is so confusing compared to Facebook (what I myself think and what others have routinely expressed to me), it’s not happening voluntarily as fast as they would like, so they are going to force us to use it by making it count towards Google rankings. Now Google +1s, which are equivalent to Facebook Likes, are definitely counting in the ranking metrics for Google (and so is Google Authorship, which is personal profile related).

    Now that it counts everyone will be signing up, who has a business and cares about rankings on Google anyway… And in the future to have a business account or a local map listing even, you will have to have a personal account that your business listing is claimed under. From what I’ve heard and read, all Google+ Business pages and Google+ Local map listings NOT eventually claimed under a personal account will go away. It’s one more step to ensure authenticity, prevent spamming, and the perfect way to force as many people as possible to use Google+ personally as a social platform whether they like it or not.

    Here’s what needs to happen:

    You need to create a personal Google+ for yourself if you haven’t already (using your current Google login if you have one (the one you already use to manage your Google+ Local map listing, Gmail account or other Google services).

    You need to claim or create a Google+ Business page under your same login and fill out both profiles as much as possible so they are 100% complete.

    You need to get in as many Circles as possible and acquire Followers who will hopefully interact with the things you post, both to your personal and business profiles.

    Once you have both a personal and a business page, then Google+ Authorship (personal) and Publisher (business) rich snippets code needs to be installed on your website, so that both Google+ accounts are officially connected/credited to your website and your personal profile picture can start showing up in your search engine listings. You can test your site here with Google’s Structured Data Tool.

    Your Google+ Local map listing and Business page need to have your legal company name listed in the company name field and NOT a keyword phrase. Your company name needs to be established as your brand, which is partly accomplished by making sure it matches on your website, Google+ Business page and Google+ Local map listing, Twitter, Facebook Business Fan page, and LinkedIn business page… Yes, even LinkedIn now has a separate page for your business you can create which is connected to your personal LinkedIn profile. What a confusing bunch of spread out mess to have to manage (that’s me putting it nicely and not cursing). You may need help getting all this set-up properly and integrated into your website (God knows I could use some help!)… whether that be through in-house training or hiring someone to just manage it all for you.


    All your citations, which are listings on directories and review sites like Yelp and Yellow Pages, likely need to be cleaned up. You can see what I mean by going here and entering in your company information – name, address, phone number, url. It will scan all the worthwhile directories Google looks at and considers to be important sources of 3rd party information, and will show you if you have mismatched company information or other local listings issues that need to be cleaned up. All information about your business – name, address, phone number, url – needs to be consistent across the web including on your website and social media sites. This applies to each and every location/address you have.

    Yext has a partnership with most of the important directories and provides a convenient control panel where you can fill out one profile to sync and manage all of your directory listings from a single place. If you are my local SEO client and want me to help you with this, I can set you up under my Certified Partner account. You would still have full access to your own control panel so you can work-on and manage your own profile yourself, but the advantage would be a little cheaper pricing. As a matter of fact, only through a Certified Yext Partner can you get the option to pay monthly.

    What you want is the Power Listings service, which you can learn about here. Normally the price is $527 per year (I believe). The price through me is $499 annually per address if paid in advance or $45 monthly per address (yes monthly costs a little more). This does NOT include my time for filling out and optimizing your profile. You can do that yourself pretty easily. If you are a current SEO client of mine, you have the option of paying for 1 hour of my time for set-up per address, and I’ll handle it for you (currently I’m $150 hourly). If you are on a monthly SEO services plan with me, there will be no additional charge for set-up, I will consider it included. You will just need to pay the $499 annual fee or I can add the the monthly cost to your current recurring payment. Contact me if you are a client and want to discuss it.

    Now a Little About Social Signals

    You should have a sharebar installed on all of your static webpages in my professional opinion, and not just on your blog pages, to make it easier for people to interact socially with all of your content. You can see what I mean if you go to my site www.bestdallasseo.com and look in the content heading area of all my static pages.

    You need to get as many people as possible to +1, Like, and Tweet your site’s content pages. For example, if you have a Facebook Fan page for your business and people go to it directly and then click Like, those Likes are not what is counting or being tallied in the ranking metrics. The ones that count are for your actual website domain itself. If you have a sharebar on your site’s pages, and I go to your home page or any page of your site and click Like, +1, or Tweet from there, those are the social signals that count towards your website’s search engine placement. At least that’s how it appears across all of the optimization reports and software I have looked at. It’s all about people socially interacting and sharing your actual website domain content.

    When you write and post an article, it should be posted on your physical website, not on one of your social sites only, like Facebook directly. Once it’s posted on your site or your integrated blog, you need to then click on your own sharebar icons, i.e. Like, +1, Tweet, LinkedIn and PUSH your articles OUT to your own social sites. This way if your Friends, Circles, Connections, Followers etc. interact with it, it not only counts as a social signal for your social site, but for your website domain as well, and is how you go about creating natural links back to your website from the social sites of all those who interact with your content. When they share it, they are sharing a page that originated on and links back to your website itself. This is what you want to happen and NEED to be working on. It’s crucial to the future of your rankings and is already affecting them.

    Thanks, and I hope this information helps clarify some things for you as a small business website owner! If you found this article useful, PLEASE show me some love by Liking, Tweeting or +1-ing it.

    All the best,

    Shelley Cates
    Dallas SEO Consultant
    (214) 212-2495

    Follow-up to this article originally written in July 2013

    Since I wrote the above, as you may be aware, Google’s Matt Cutts has put out a video stating that Google +1s do not count towards rankings on Google. It seems I was not the only SEO that formed that opinion, based on comparing numerous local top ranking sites, across a variety of industries for multiple keyword terms (after the release of the Penguin 2 algorithm update on May 22, 2013). Many of us were commenting on how sites with Google+ Authorship installed, especially those with the most Google +1s, seemed to come out of nowhere and start ranking in the top 5. It has been a huge topic of debate recently. I imagine, if +1s do count, that it might be considered an unfair trade practice (certainly seems bias to me). Bottom line, it is my own personal opinion after careful observation, but that doesn’t mean it’s fact and I do not want to publicly say anything that may be considered libel.

    I am not an SEO that seeks the limelight, speaks at conferences, or frequently expresses my opinion publicly, as often times what I think is controversial and not of popular industry opinion, which Google seems to largely control concerning SEO now. They appear to me, to be pushing their own agenda(s) for the sake of profit, and not so much for their claimed reason(s) of making their results of a higher quality for end users. The things they do certainly do not always seem to serve the best interests of web surfers, small business owners, and especially not my industry, which has somewhat become their enforcement crew. To disagree with them will often times get you labeled as being “black hat” by other SEOs. It feels like they are using us, SEOs, to carry their messages of conformity to websites owners, and at the same time causing us to kill our own industry, by promoting the fear of being banned for using any kind of method to manipulate their results… which is of course what we ultimately get paid to do.

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  • 10 Point On-Page SEO Checklist
    19/11/14 SEO

    10 Point On-Page SEO Checklist

    1. Site Title: Title needs to be closer to 60-65 characters to rank, please keep your best (most traffic) keyword at beginning of title as well.
    2. Meta Description: Make it clear and precise to the point, and thematic to your keywords. This is a great place to have a USP (Unique Selling Point)
    3. H1: Your H1 should have your main keyword in it and be more of a Headline about the overall theme of your site/business/product.
    4. Page load time: Use Pingdom Tools, your goal is 1 second flat!
    5. Trust Classifiers: Link out to 1 or 2 other trusted resources within your niche. I usually like to do this with a generic word (within your actual content) related to your niche/theme and link to Wikipedia, W3C, or BBB, etc… Those things are all trusted and they will help when you want to rank between #2/3 and #1 and they will also hold value for trust with manual reviews especially if you are offering any type of service or product.
    6. Social Accounts: Link out to them, try to hard code into the page/site because plugins suck up a lot of page load time.
    7. Code, Design, Unique Theme, www. or non www: I’m not a code specialist, or theme design quality checker, but please make sure your code is clean, and that your theme is 100% unique. Make sure you’ve chosen to re-direct to either www or non www for your url. Here is a great video by Google Webmasters that will describe more. You can find the content on this particular subject at exactly 50 seconds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=El3IZFGERbM |  A sitemap should be prevalent on your website so that the spiders can quickly crawl the entire site.
    8. Terms of Service / Privacy Policy: Please make sure you have them, and available for someone to click to.
    9. Content Thematics & Keyword Density: The sweet spot is 1% for density with the current algorithms. Please make sure that your content also clarifies your USP (unique selling point/proposition) This will also help you with ranking top 10. Using this tool while ‘un-checking the option ‘title’ and ‘meta’ works well: http://www.seocentro.com/tools/seo/keyword-density.html
    10. Landing Page Layout & Call to Action: Call to action is on top right (where people will always want to click), make sure your banner is not taking up the whole upper half of the page, this (on rare occasions) can result to a penalty, so, you may want to trim off just a bit of that so that you are 100% sure there is a bit of content showing to every browser, mobile device, and desktop. You can use this tool to help you with your adjustments. http://browsersize.googlelabs.com

    Author:  Joshua Cabe Johnson

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  • Google’s Penguin 2.0 Algorithm Update 2013 – Things You Need to Know
    19/11/14 Google's Algorithm Updates

    Google’s Penguin 2.0 Algorithm Update 2013 – Things You Need to Know

    Although penguins are one of nature’s most harmless creatures, the penguin is dreaded in the SEO/internet marketing world.

    For search marketers, Penguin 2.0 signified another major step forward in the direction of helping quality websites rank near the top of Google.

    It’s not a perfect solution for accomplishing that, but you can bet many SEOs are terrified of the potential ramifications of this Google algorithm update. Websites that aren’t engaging in SEO best practices might find their rankings severely penalized, which could take months, or longer, to recover from. Speaking of ramifications – what are they, and what do they mean to website owners like you?

    Changes Penguin 2.0 Brings and How You can Adapt

    1. Link relevancy – It’s been getting tighter over time and it’s getting tighter now. Links to your website must be from sites relevant to yours. If you run a garage door service, you shouldn’t have links from gambling websites. However, you should have links from business directories or do-it-yourself type websites.

    2. Limit exact-match anchor text – The words “anchor text” are the anchor text of that link. Google uses this text to determine what your website is about and how to rank it in its search results. Somewhere around 10 – 30% of your anchor text should exactly match your keywords. Anything more than that looks suspicious and unnatural to Google, and overuse can harm your search rankings. The rest of the anchor text pointing to your website should be a variation of one or more of your targeted keywords.

    3. The rate at which links are acquired – Most websites acquire links gradually over time. If your website experiences a dramatic spike in links, Google becomes alarmed. There is no exact numbers on this, but think about it this way: it takes time for word to naturally spread about your website, so it only makes sense links will slowly attract to it. If you do build or ask for links, it should be done at a nice, steady pace. Some dishonest SEOs will attempt to manipulate this in order to increase your rank quickly, but it only hurts your internet marketing efforts in the long run.

    4. Disavow harmful links – Since it is clear that some links will hurt your website’s rankings, it’s important to get rid of the ones that most likely do. Google has a disavow tool, which allows you to list the links to your website that you would like Google to ignore when determining your search rankings.

    There is no perfect method of determining which links are causing trouble, but if you look at a website and ask yourself, “Is this a website I’d bookmark or tell my friends about?” then you also know whether or not the link is a good or harmful one.

    5. Create new, quality content and get active on social media – With Penguin 2.0, Google more than ever before places its focus on authority websites. An “authority” website has regularly updated and authoritative content. Get at least 1 blog post on your website per week, and 2-3, or more, if possible. Make sure you share this content on your social media profiles, and ensure you keep your social media profiles active and sharing valuable content (both yours and from third parties) as well.

    6. Make sure you have good, quality content – If your website pages have 100 words on them briefly discussing your business, that’s not considered quality. Also, your blog articles should contain your expertise, but they must be written in an intelligent way.

    If your content reads like someone in elementary school wrote it, you’re probably hurting your search rankings. Your content doesn’t need to be award-winning in its presentation, but it should appear like someone who has a good grasp of writing, and the subject, composed it.

    Does All This Sound Like Too Much?

    If so, that’s because it’s a lot to do. Google is very serious about helping the best websites rank the highest in its search rankings, and keeping your site Google-friendly involves extensive amounts of hard work over the long term.

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  • Google Panda & Penguin Overview 2012
    19/11/14 Google's Algorithm Updates

    Google Panda & Penguin Overview 2012

    Hi All,

    I have spent the last 2-3 weeks studying the recent Google algorithm changes, to make sure I guide you in the right direction as your Dallas SEO Consultant. Below is my rehash of what I learned about the Panda and Penguin updates.

    In Google’s big push to clean up web spam, they first implemented Panda, an algorithm update that occurred in 2011. Panda targeted mainly content farms and article marketing sites, those that were mass producing and distributing content, written with the end goal of manipulating the search results. The content on these sites and in these articles was not serving the needs of users, and the web was becoming littered with them, which was keeping many good sites down and frustrating web surfers (like me for one).

    The Panda update also went after shallow content, unverified content, misleading content, duplicate content, and article spinning. Bottom line, Google wants your content to be designed for visitors, not for search engines, and they want to find it on your site, not distributed across multiple domains.

    To perform well post Panda, your content needs to be easy to read and navigate, informative, and provide real solutions. It also should be original and accurate, not full of false claims or dangerous pitfalls. If a Google user has to visit a bunch of sites to find what they need, or has too many bad experiences with the sites they find, they will likely turn to another search engine, and Google wants to keep its market share.

    Next Google implemented Penguin, another algorithm update which happened in April 2012. Penguin was aimed at sites trying to manipulate rankings using (mostly) automated methods, like blog guest posting software. Blogs allowing tons of off-topic comment spam with links to unrelated sites were especially targeted. These types of sites are usually not run by real people or businesses, and only exist to provide links.

    Many links companies create hundreds and even thousands of blog sites for the purpose of selling links, these are link farms. If your site was found commenting, guest posting, or being linked to from a link farm, it was supposedly penalized. It is said that Google sent out warning letters in March to offending site owners and links companies alike.

    However, there is conflicting opinion in the SEO community over whether Google truly penalizes sites for links, considering it would then be easy to bring down any competitor by throwing bad links at them. I think the sites who believe they were penalized were actually not, and lost their rankings because they lost their links when Google wiped all the low quality pages linking to them out of the SERPS.

    With Penguin, Google also went after sites in bad neighborhoods (not just link farms). Some examples of bad neighborhoods are get rich quick schemes, diet pills, and other shady, snake oil sites offering fast, easy cure all fixes. All seemingly untrustworthy, misleading sites were targeted for removal from their index, in an effort to make the web we experience via Google a safe place.

    Last but not least Penguin penalized over optimization, which is blatant over use of keywords where the content makes no sense to read. This especially applies to keyword stuffing, which is adding for example, a paragraph that reads like one big long run on sentence, listing hundreds of keyword phrases.

    One interesting note about Penguin is that Google did make a mistake and admitted it. Because of an incorrect setting, their system thought some domains were parked that were not, which caused them to remove those sites from the listings. That has been corrected, but has not necessarily brought back all sites affected. A parked domain is a domain that does not have a website attached to it, but instead points to a place holder page that says the site is coming soon or is for sale.

    In conclusion, here is what Google wants to see from a website:

    Quality Content. Up to date, original, quality content is still king. Take the time to revisit your content, make sure it’s unique from your competitors, not too shallow, and is informative and helps solve a problem. Content should be written not for the search engines, but for your target readers. Try to make it something worth sharing.

    Social Signals.  Socials signals are when people using social medias respond to your posts by commenting or sharing. This means you will need to make at least some of your content available for comment posting, and share capable with the major social media sites. I recommend a self hosted WordPress site with added security features, since they are easily hacked. The goal is to get as many people as possible to share and save your content, and cheating is not going to work. It must be earned.

    Video. Video with real content, not just articles turned into videos, and a YouTube channel.

    Quality Links. Links from validated, relied upon sources for correct information, those trusted by Google, and links from authority sites related to your industry or niche.

    The days of building an optimized website and setting it on auto-pilot are over. There is no more easy shortcut to the top. If you are not willing to do the work, meaning produce frequent RELEVANT content that meets Google’s measure of quality, you are vulnerable and will eventually be over taken.

    Personally, I know I have a lot of work ahead for my own site. I have neglected it way to long. However, I do not plan to post something unless it’s worthwhile. It’s time for everyone to stop spamming the web with superfluous information in an attempt to get noticed. It’s just not going to work anymore. For your content to count, it will need to be highly relevant to your target audience and serve their purpose for seeking it out.

    I hope this summation of the information I read and heard on Panda and Penguin has been useful to you. Each of our success on the web will depend upon how well we comply with what Google wants, which is a safer, more reliable internet. If you found this SEO article helpful, please Like it, bookmark it, share it, and sign-up for my feed here.

    Wishing you every success!

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