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Search Engine Guide : Small Business Search Marketing
Search engine marketing news and information you can use to grow your business.

Search Engine Guide
  • 6 Local SEO Mistakes Small Businesses Make

    by Jayson DeMers

    In the coming months, local SEO and search marketing will become invaluable for small businesses everywhere. In order to remain competitive within your industry and capitalize on local traffic, it's important to not only focus on best practices, but also to avoid costly mistakes. Let's take a look at a few of those errors and show you how to stay on the right path.

    Avoid These Local SEO Mistakes

    While there are potential mistakes around every corner, an overly cautious marketer won't be a successful marketer. Instead of worrying about things you can't control, work on the things you can - like avoiding the following: 

    1. Posting thin content. Quality content is still one of the key driving factors for local SEO. While quality content alone - without optimization - may not attract the right SEO traffic, you won't acquire any leads without it. Focus on posting content that's easily shareable and relevant to your industry. 

    2. Listing the wrong NAP info. In local SEO, NAP stands for, "Name, Address, and Phone." Whether it's a local directory, social networking site, or your website, NAP information needs to be complete and accurate - as well as present across a wide variety of local directories and publications. Yext is a great way to synchronize NAP information for local directories, but other directories exist which are crucial as well. Crunchbase is a powerful and popular business directory (here's an example of Park View Legal's CrunchBase page, which is well-done). Other popular directories include the Open Directory Project, and the Yahoo Directory. Furthermore, you need to ensure there's 100% consistency across each one. Google will notice if you have inconsistent information and won't rank you as well as it would otherwise.

    3. Not using page title tags. One of the most influential SEO page factors is the title tag. However, despite this, many businesses either don't use a title tag or leave it set as a default term like "home" or "about us." This is wasted real estate and should be named something like [City], [State], [Title].

    4. Failing to invest in inbound links. Links have been, and always will be, an integral factor for Google and other major search engines. Thankfully, Google clearly explains the process of crawling and indexing so you can fully understand the value of attracting inbound links.  

    5. Not seeking social reviews. While it's against Google's policy to require anyone to review your business or brand, you can encourage clients and customers to leave reviews on Google+, Foursquare, and Yelp. Google+ is arguably the most important, as these reviews show up in search results and provide added confidence for users. According to Neil Patel, "Reviews are so essential for local search optimization that it's worth it to go the extra effort and beg for these things (in a tasteful way, of course)."

    6. Ignoring niche directories. While you likely have your NAP information published in YP.com, Yelp, and your Google "My Business" page, you can't afford to ignore specialty niche directories. These are invaluable sources of highly-targeted traffic - especially if they're tied directly to a zip code. 

    Stay Up to Date With Changes and Trends

    Few aspects of internet marketing undergo as much rapid and ongoing change as search engine algorithms and local SEO techniques. By staying current with recent trends, and continually educating yourself on what does and doesn't work, you can ensure that you always make the right decision.  

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.



  • 7 SEO-Boosting Tactics You Might Be Neglecting

    by Jayson DeMers

    When thinking about SEO, it's tempting to concentrate on what's occurring behind-the-scenes and neglect better ways to increase exposure. Whether you're directly dealing with SEO or looking to compliment your existing SEO presence with tactics for additional exposure, it's important to continually focus on developing and growing your digital marketing strategy. 

    On-Page vs. Off-Page SEO Factors

    When you look at SEO, it's important to understand the difference between on-page and off-page factors. While these two groups work together for the greater good of increasing rankings and driving traffic, they're unique ventures. According to this handy infographic that divides SEO success factors into a periodic table design, on-page elements refer to content, HTML, and site architecture, while off-page elements include links, trust, social, and personal. 

    On-page factors. When the average marketer or amateur thinks about SEO, things like keywords, HTML structure, meta descriptions, headlines, site speed, and crawlability come to mind. These are the on-page factors and are very important; however, you can't forget about off-page elements.

    Off-page factors. These are largely related to brand awareness and exposure and include things like backlinks, site and brand authority, social reputation and shares, and geographical location. 

    Being successful at SEO and maximizing exposure requires you to pay attention to both sets of factors.

    7 Ways to Boost and Enhance SEO Efforts

    With the goal of enhancing brand awareness and SEO prowess in mind, let's take a look at some of the best SEO-boosting tips to pursue: 

    1. Produce high-level content. The number one tip is obviously to produce high-level content. What that means is writing content that satisfies both human readers and the search engines. When you're able to do this, you can affect both on-page elements like content quality and keyword relevancy, as well as enhance off-page elements like authority, trust, and identity. While you never want to let keywords dictate your entire content strategy, it can be helpful to start with a group of relevant terms and use those niches as launching points for more in-depth content. 

    2. Craft sleek landing pages. If you're not tapping into the power of custom landing pages, you're missing out. They provide a great opportunity for driving targeted traffic to your website and building trust with a specific audience. Thanks to user-friendly tools and plugins, even those with little design experience can craft sleek, high-converting pages. The goal for landing pages is to keep the message brief, while using relevant content and interactive elements to engage with readers. 

    3. Earn quality links. Authoritative backlinks have always been an important off-page factor for SEO. While purchasing links can lead you down a slippery slope, investing in highly relevant guest blogging opportunities and industry partnerships can allow you to enhance brand awareness and increase exposure over an extended period of time. In addition to guest blogging, there are plenty of other ways to earn backlinks. These include joining and participating in blogging communities, answering questions in message boards and social communities, linking to your blog in forum signatures, commenting on other blogs in order to build a reputation or enhance thought leadership, and more. 

    4. Target long-tail search queries. The competitive nature of SEO and Google's affinity towards semantic search means long-tail keywords are more important than ever. Instead of focusing on basic two or three word search queries, identify very specific four, five, or six-plus word terms. Not only will this help you enhance your rankings, but it also attracts more relevant traffic.

    5. Prepare for mobile audiences. It's no surprise that local mobile traffic will become increasingly important in the coming months and years. This point is further solidified by Google's recent focus on rewarding mobile-friendly sites in the search results. In order to satisfy the demands of varying devices, the best SEO investment you can make is transitioning to responsive design. 

    6. Invest in rigorous A/B testing. The only way to truly know if your on-page SEO strategies are working is to invest in A/B testing. In fact, you should rigorously approach A/B testing and begin analyzing anything and everything you can get your hands on. With dozens of feature-rich, cost-effective testing software solutions available, there's no reason not to.

    7. Build a loyal social following. Anyone who tells you social media and SEO are completely independent isn't telling you the truth. Social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest help you enhance awareness, attract valuable backlinks, increase shares, and grow trust. In fact, it's arguably one of the most important off-page factors. 

    Developing a Balanced Strategy

    Whether you're looking to attract more leads, increase conversions, boost search rankings or enhance overall brand awareness, these seven tips can get you closer to where you need to be. As you move forward in 2015 and beyond, focus on a balanced approach that keeps both on-page and off-page factors in mind.

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.



  • 4 Ways to Humanize Your Online Marketing Campaign to Drive Sales

    by Jayson DeMers

    Online stores are incredibly convenient, and they bring in plenty of customers who don't want to make the trip to a physical location. However, they just don't have the same feel as a physical store. One of the biggest reasons is that there's no human interaction with online transactions. One of the best things you can do to improve your marketing and drive online sales is humanize your online business.

    A marketing campaign directed toward individuals creates a better experience for all parties. The users feel like they're being taken care of, and your company reaps the benefits of increased page views, customer engagement, brand loyalty, and improved profits. If you're looking for ways to boost the success of your online marketing campaign, use these tips to make your company seem a little more human.

    1. Introduce Your Team

    In a physical store, the first thing customers experience is a greeting from an associate. You can replicate this in a web-friendly fashion by introducing your team on your website. Include employee names, a little information about each person, and make it interesting. People want to put a face to the name of the person they'll be working with if they choose a particular service. Overall, this makes it a much more pleasant and personal experience for everyone. 

    2. Use Social Media

    The best possible way to connect to your customers on a more personal level is through social media. The various platforms make it possible to reach out to your audience, gain reviews, and deliver relevant content. To optimize your social media campaign for personal interaction, consider the following tips. 

    Use a Human Name: Though a company page on various social media platforms is important, use a human name as you interact with your page and its followers. 

    Give Your Company a Face: Make sure your customers know what you look like. Everyone likes to have a face to put to the name. 

    Interact with Consumers: Host activities, offer promotions and deals, and respond to customer comments. 

    Social media interaction that's more human in nature is always more successful than the flat, standard ways of using social media to connect to clients. 

    3. Create a Consistent Voice

    In both your content and your outward marketing schemes, be sure that you use a consistent voice. Every person has their own distinct personality, and your company can have one too if you use a consistent voice in everything you do. It will help to engage your audience and create more consumer interaction. 

    This can be difficult to do if you have more than one writer producing the content on your website, but finding and training multiple writers allows you to publish more content across a wider array of topics. Elance, oDesk, ThePensters, and even Craigslist are a few resources for finding freelance writers to help with your content marketing strategy. 

    Good writers can fabricate a voice that matches the tone you desire if you describe what you want to them. Write down the characteristics of the voice you want to use in your content and give the summation to each of your writers. Request revisions as many times as you need to in order to get the right voice. The extra cost will be worth the effort.  

    4. Give Users a Voice

    It's also extremely important to give your users a voice. You can learn a lot from those who visit your website. Make it easy for them to leave reviews by creating a comment form at the end of blog posts or a transaction. Also, ask for reviews and comments on social media. 

    Once you've collected a few responses, be sure to acknowledge the users' voices. If they leave bad reviews, comment with your apologies and something that will let them know their voice has been heard. 

    If your campaign is successful, everything that you do will lead towards building and maintaining relationships with your clients, and long-lasting relationships are the secret to brand loyalty, more page views, and increased conversions. 

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.



  • 8 Local SEO Tips For Small Business Owners in 2015

    by Jayson DeMers

    As Google shifts to a more semantic-heavy strategy in 2015, it's becoming progressively more important for small businesses to focus on local SEO to drive both targeted website traffic and foot traffic. In particular, there are a few tips and tricks you'll want to spend your time perfecting.

    Pay Attention to Pigeon

    While all signs have pointed towards the importance of local search for quite some time, the official 'stamp of approval' came when Google released its newest algorithm on July 24, 2014. Dubbed "Pigeon," Moz's algorithm change report says, "Google shook the local SEO world with an update that dramatically altered some local results and modified how they handle and interpret location cues." Furthermore, Google has claimed the Pigeon update creates closer ties between core and local algorithms for increased consistency and accuracy.   

    Start with an Audit

    Most businesses fail to have successful local SEO campaigns and strategies because they go about it all wrong. They assume everything they read applies to them and take a very basic approach to an extremely specific and individualized issue. The reality is that no two businesses are the same and you have to find a way to hone in on the tips, tricks, and strategies that apply to your situation. The best way to do this is by starting with an SEO audit.

    Does the word audit make you cringe - like you're being exposed or caught red-handed? Instead of looking at the word audit in a negative light, begin to see it as a learning opportunity that will eventually help you succeed. According to Josh Hamit of ImproveMySearchRanking.com, "In the SEO world, you can't be afraid to admit you don't know something. Everyone needs help from time to time, and an audit or third-party analysis can be really eye-opening."  

    In terms of auditing, there are two routes you can go. You can either perform a self-audit using helpful internet resources and guides, or you can go with a third-party or independent audit. The major benefit of a self-audit is obviously saving money, but it should also be viewed as a learning experience - allowing you to confront your issues head-on. A third-party audit is valuable because it gives you access to a fresh set of eyes. 

    If you do choose to take a DIY approach, SEO expert Casey Meraz has put together a very detailed and easy-to-understand local SEO audit guide. Otherwise, you can find a number of reputable independent professionals to help you.

    Local SEO Tips for 2015

    After performing an SEO audit, you should have a pretty clear idea of where your weaknesses lie and what you need to do in order to improve your overall search presence. In most cases, the following tips will apply for 2015 and the foreseeable future:

    1. Mobile-friendly is a must. Starting April 21 of this year, Google will now consider mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal for mobile search results worldwide. This new development, combined with the fact that smartphones and tablets make up 35 percent of organic search traffic, means mobile optimization should be a priority for all business websites and pages. The best long-term solution is to invest in responsive design. 

    2. Fix Google My Business issues. It looks like Google My Business is finally taking off (despite two name changes in the past few years) and you'll want to ensure your page is completely optimized and accurate. Priorities include making sure your location is correctly placed on the map, checking the accuracy of information (hours of operation, contact information, payment types, etc.), and ensuring your official business website is on your local Google+ page. You'll also want to encourage reviews from customers and clients in order to give your page a social boost. 

    3. Craft strategic location pages. Internally, you can set your website up for success by crafting very detailed and strategic location pages with relevant content and descriptive keywords. For optimal results, include both your target city and state in the title tag, URL, and H1 headings. 

    4. Meta descriptions matter. While the relevancy of meta descriptions in search ranking results is questionable, there's an obvious and concrete relationship between the quality of meta descriptions and CTR. You can increase the value of each visitor by using this valuable real estate to explain what makes you different, how your products or services satisfy their pain points, and why they should believe and click. 

    5. Get listed on business directories. In addition to verifying the veracity of your Google My Business page, you'll also want to include your business information on other reputable online directories. While there are hundreds of different ones - including industry-specific directories that may apply to your business - the top listing sites include Yelp, Foursquare, CitySearch, YP.com, and Whitepages. When creating or editing these listings, remember to include accurate NAP information (name, address, phone number).

    6. Accrue local links. One of the best ways to increase organic relevancy is to target local blogs and websites. You can do this by conducting a simple search for terms like "[target city] blogs" or "[target state] [target industry] blogs." By building relationships with these site owners or bloggers, you can hopefully get mentioned or gain access to guest blogging opportunities. If you've found these sites via an organic search, the chances are pretty good that they're well-indexed by the search engines.

    7. Go after long tail keywords. In addition to creating strategic location pages, it's important to optimize your content and all pages by targeting geo-specific long tail keywords. While you may not appear in as many search results, those you do appear in front of will be very valuable and highly-targeted. Examples of geo-specific long tail keywords include: "San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer" or "Orlando Florida search marketing expert."

    8. Utilize social media. You can't forget about social media in 2015. When it comes to optimizing for local results, you can use some of these geo-location tools to help you track, listen to, and capitalize on local traffic and conversations.

    Google Says 'Go Local'

    Regardless of whether you like or disdain the new Google changes, you have no choice but to comply if you want to have SEO and search marketing success in 2015, and beyond. While the changes may be big significant for some, many businesses will only need to slightly shift their focus and realign their goals. In the end, it all comes down to a better user experience for searchers and more accurate and consistent results. 

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.



  • How to Build an Online Portfolio and Drive Traffic To It

    by Jayson DeMers

    When you're a web designer, graphic designer, or similar professional in a creative field, you have two essential tools for attracting new clients: word of mouth and a stellar portfolio. The latter can be invaluable so it's critical that you're able to build a strong one and drive traffic to it.

    Neglect these tasks and you'll be at a disadvantage, but if you can maximize your portfolio you will increase your chances of landing new opportunities. 

    Quick tips for building a killer design portfolio on line

    While you might still have reasons to carry a physical portfolio, nearly everything is done online these days. And that's an advantage for you.

    It allows your work to be seen through the medium it was designed for, and permits optimal clarity and quality. Although the nuances in a portfolio may be many -- and you could spend hours researching best practices in that respect -- the simple tips below are all you'll really need to get started:

    Aim for simplicity. Don't confuse this with taking a shallow approach. You need to do your work justice, but don't overcomplicate things by incorporating elements that shouldn't be there. Showcase the complexities and quality of your work in a manner that's easy to digest.

    Sell yourself. You'll frequently hear business investors say something along the lines of "We invest in people, not ideas." Keep this in mind when you build your portfolio. Of course your work needs to be good enough to pique the interest of potential clients, but the real focus should be on you, the artist. Sell yourself by creating a compelling "About Me" page and respond to any questions they might have at this point.

    Make yourself reachable. According to Chris Whitling, Director of Marketing for HostGator, one of the leading hosting services for online portfolios, "Sharp website owners will always include plenty of contact information. Don't limit yourself to just an email address on your portfolio. Some potential clients may be inspired to pick up the phone and call you. A detailed contact page will enable you to connect with more leads." 

    Stay current. As a rule of thumb, you should revisit your portfolio at least once every three months to update it and add, or at least alter, content. Ideally, you should do this as often as once every three or four weeks. Design trends change rapidly, and you'll want to showcase your most up-to-date work.

    Optimize your portfolio and pull in traffic

    While the design aspect of your portfolio may come naturally, the optimization and SEO aspects may seem a little foreign to creatives such as yourself. Don't allow that to make you underestimate their value, though.

    Your portfolio can be beautiful, compelling, and informative, but it's pointless without a viewing audience. After you complete it, shift your focus to optimization.

    In particular, you'll want to consider some of the following tips: 

    Maximize titles. Always include the client name and the type of work in the title tag. This will assist search engines that crawl your site so they can more easily identify what each item is in your portfolio. In addition, you should insert the most important information on each page within the heading tags (<h1>). 

    Include descriptions. One of the biggest disadvantages of an online design portfolio from an SEO standpoint is that almost all the content is visual. Currently, search engines aren't able to search, identify, and display visual results with much accuracy or speed unless there are keyword-rich descriptions to accompany them. Always include textual descriptions on each page in order to satisfy the needs of search engines, as well as provide added value for the readers. 

    Build inbound links. While you have to be careful about how you build inks to your portfolio -- always check the latest Google guidelines before committing to a particular practice -- it's worthwhile to have some sort of strategy. For beginning designers with few connections, it may be helpful to talk with other designers and trade links.

    Utilize valid code. If you want your portfolio to be spidered correctly, you need to ensure you're using valid code. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) website has all the information you're likely to need. 

    Build a blog. In the design arena, investment in content marketing can go a long way. That's because very few designers are doing that. By building an onsite blog and committing to creating regular posts (somewhere between three and five entries per week, ideally), you can increase your SEO credibility and attract plenty of human traffic to your site. 

    Make your work shareable. One of the best ways to pull in traffic is to make the content within your portfolio easily shareable. This gives visitors the ability to share your work on social networking sites such as Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, where unique content has a chance to go viral. 

    Getting noticed: the name of the game

    In the design industry -- as in many other professions and fields -- it's all about getting noticed.

    Though you may have the same skillset as some of the top performers in your niche, you won't get a chance to showcase those talents unless you put yourself out there and make yourself known. Use these helpful tactics to build a killer online portfolio and drive highly targeted traffic to it.

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.



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