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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
  • 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.



  • How do you post to your blog every day?

    by Mike Moran

    One of my colleagues calls me "committed." Others think I should be committed. But one way or the other, I post an entry to my blog every work day. How do I do it? Often, it's a labor of love, but sometimes it feels like a chore. I find something I think is worth saying every day, but I admit that it is not always easy. Today, it was easy, because I can tell you all of the things that I do to post every day. 

    First, I cheat by asking other people to post to my blog. It might strike you as the easiest way to fill the days, and in some ways it is. We have a great staff of Biznology bloggers, including Chris Abraham, our most prolific blogger, who posts every Tuesday. But it took a few years to create a popular enough blog for others to want to contribute. And I still must be constantly talking to bloggers and getting new ones or cajoling veterans for another post. It's important, but it isn't always easy. 

    Despite these great contributions from others, I still write more of the posts than anyone, and people want to know how I pull that off. I have a few methods that keep those posts coming, some obvious, but I hope a few are new to you:
    • Save ideas. Keep a running list of every idea that occurs to you that might be a post. Don't judge them. I have ideas that have sat around for a year before I felt like writing them, but waking up to several dozen ideas on a list to pick from is a lot better than a blank page. I also write part of the post when I jot the idea down. That way, I feel like I am off to a running start and just need to finish it. For some reason, it feels much easier that way. (I jotted down the bullet points in this post two weeks ago.)
    • Schedule a post each day. Scheduling is important in two ways. First, you must schedule the time that you will write the post--block an hour on your calendar if you have to. But I go further and actually plan which post I will write each day. That way, some big decisions have already been made for me when the appointed hour arrives.
    • Write for other venues. Even that schedule isn't enough pf a prod for me. I write for other sites on a regular basis because I promised that I would. When one of my posts runs on another site, I can link to it from Biznology and my post for that day is done.
    • Write down questions. If you are like me, you can't go 20 minutes without someone asking you a question. Sometimes it's in a formal setting, such as after I present a Webinar. Most times, it is informal, such as with co-workers, clients, or just over e-mail. Every time someone asks you a question that you know the answer to, it's a possible blog post. Usually others have the same question.
    • Take breaks. This might seem counter-intuitive, but it's easy to burn out on something you do every day, so give yourself some time off. I don't write when I am on vacation, and I take a lot of vacation.
    Perhaps I'm leaving out the most important reason I post every day. I like to write and the writing helps my business. I get more consulting and speaking engagements from my writing than from any other source. If you like to write and you want an easier way of making a name for yourself, you might find that writing a blog is not as tough as a lot of other ways to spend your time. Good luck.

    Originally posted on Biznology.

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.



  • Do tricky marketing claims really help you as a marketer?

    by Mike Moran

    "Drivers who switched to us saved an average of $538." Maybe you've seen that claim on TV commercials or online. So it sounds like their auto insurance is cheaper, right? Well, maybe not. This is actually a tricky claim, designed to fool us. It actually doesn't tell us a thing about whether this company has cheaper auto insurance rates than any other one. Many insurance companies make this claim and it is meaningless. The question is, "Is it good marketing?"

    Before we delve into that question, some of you might be dying to know why it is that this claim is meaningless, because it sounds like this company must be cheaper, doesn't it? I will walk you through it.

    When someone compares insurance rates, and find that this company is higher-priced, they don't switch. So, when people do switch, it's almost always because the rates are lower. That means that every insurance company can total up the average savings of those that switch. So this claim tells you nothing about which companies are cheaper or more expensive, although it sounds really good.

    But the question remains, is this good marketing?

    I say no, and social media is the main reason why. TV commercials, salespeople, and other marketing can put out these kinds of fatuous claims and fool you. Maybe this claim fooled you. Maybe you even got a quote from a company that claimed this. Maybe you even saved money, so you switched.

    But now that I have used social media to puncture the claim, it might not spur you to the same action. And now you might look with suspicion upon any company that tries to foist this claim on you. Because with social media, you can no longer fool one customer at a time. You need to fool all of them. And as each tricky claim is unveiled, you are not only forced to come up with another tricky claim, but you lose a little credibility each time, so each claim rings a bit more hollow, even if people can't puncture the claim.

    Is that worth it? If trust is the main ingredient in getting someone to buy, is it worth using tricky claims to shortcut that process? Now understand, I am not accusing insurance companies of lying or in any way making a false claim. The people who switched really did save $538, I am sure. But they are carefully formulating that statement to fool people into thinking that all or at least most people save that money by switching, which is hardly true.

    There is nothing illegal about this. There isn't even anything unethical about this, I don't think. My question, though, is whether it is smart. In the long run, will it work, or is it just one more desperate scorched earth tactic that wins in the short run but loses badly over time?

    Do you have any claims like this one? If someone wrote a blog post about your claim, what would you say?

    Originally posted on Biznology.

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.



  • The 5 Biggest SEO Benefits of Blogging

    by Jayson DeMers

    Blogging has changed dramatically over the past decade. What was once considered a niche hobby or small point of differentiation has become a common practice in nearly every industry. It's no longer a rudimentary aspect of business, either. It's a very strategic mechanism with a wide range of benefits - enhanced SEO chief among them.

    The State of the Blogosphere

    Blogs, bloggers and blogging; these are heavily-discussed topics of conversation in the world of business and marketing. Are you blogging, and do truly know what it entails? The facts will astound you if you aren't familiar with the pervasiveness of blogging.

    According to this infographic, 61 percent of American consumers have made a purchase based on a blog post. In total, 6.7 million people use formal blogging sites, with another 12 million blogging via social networks like Facebook. Nearly 77 percent of Internet users read blogs on a regular basis.

    A massive 81 percent of consumers trust advice and information they read on blogs, while 90 percent find the content useful. As far as long-term benefits go, nearly two-thirds of consumers relate with a company's positivity, long after reading a post.

    The business person inside of you is probably starting to connect the dots. The same infographic further reports some impressive statistics from organizations that participate in blogging. Research shows that small businesses that blog generate 126 percent more leads, develop more trust with consumers, and have 434 percent more indexed pages.

    Why People are Blogging

    The fact that more than six million people blog is incredible, but why are they blogging? From the high school student sharing her thoughts to the budding entrepreneur building his business, people blog for all different reasons. In the business world, however, it generally comes down to three main motives. Sometimes it's a combination of the three, other times the focus is on only one of the reasons, but here they are:

    • Gain industry recognition. Many businesses and professionals are looking to gain recognition in their industry. They understand the powerful nature of blogs, the large potential audience, and hope to make a name for themselves. In fact, many blogs have grown from obscurity to national recognition in a matter of months - so the model for how to do it is certainly there.
    • Share expertise. Very closely related to the previous point is the desire to share expertise. Many people feel like they valuable insight to share, and blog for the purpose of building thought leadership in their respective niche or industry. The result is usually industry recognition and respect.
    • Generate traffic. Finally, people and organizations blog to generate traffic and attract new clients. As businesses become increasingly aware of the power of high quality blog content, more are choosing to blog. Not only does it generate traffic, but it also allows websites to charge a premium for ad space and increase revenues.

    The 5 SEO Benefits of Blogging

    Why people blog and what they actually get in return are two different things. The statistics are certainly interesting, but what tangible benefits does blogging provide to organizations? In many cases, the SEO benefits bring the highest return. Here are a few of the top SEO benefits of blogging for small businesses and large corporations alike:

    ·        Control over content. One of the top SEO benefits of blogging is control. By producing original content, you essentially control your message to the masses. Unless there's some other source pushing out more content about your own company than you are, your commitment to regular blogging will overpower the rest of the content out there and allow you to position yourself according to the keywords you desire to be ranked for.

    ·         Quality and variety. Search engine algorithms have evolved over time. They've steadily adapted to changing consumer demands, and now reward pages able to provide valuable content that answers questions and adds value to important topics and conversations. By developing blog posts that answer questions and provide relevant information, you can naturally move up in the rankings and drive traffic to your site. Once again, you're in control.

     

    ·         Developing backlinks.  Google pays attention to many factors when procuring search results, but one of the primary factors is backlinking. The search engines look at backlinks as recommendations and referrals. A site that only has 20 or 30 backlinks doesn't look reputable or valuable. On the other hand, a website with thousands of backlinks to quality websites and industry sources is obviously reliable. By consistently producing high-quality, engaging blogs, you increase your chances of building backlinks and improving your search engine rankings.

     

    ·         Increased social signals. While nobody outside of Google knows how their search algorithms specifically function, it's pretty clear that social signals impact search rankings. As a result, blogging is that much more powerful. When you publish a blog post and people share it via social media, it appears the search engines consider that to be a social statement about the validity of the content and nudges the page up the rankings.

     

    ·         Humanizes your organization. Albert Scaglione, CEO of Park West Gallery, knows a thing or two about passion and believes it's important for everyone, everywhere to do what they love. And while he cautions that the "road to success is a road strewn with failure," he firmly believes that you should share your ups and downs with those around you. A blog is an ideal channel for revealing your organization's passion and sharing both successes and failures. It humanizes your brand and provides a nice alternative to typically stale SEO copy and salesy content.

    Make Blogging a Priority

    There are plenty of other advantages to be found in business blogging, but these are five of the most important SEO-related benefits you'll find. While you may find yourself strapped for time and short on resources, don't make the mistake of ignoring the power of blogging; it has the potential to greatly benefit your organization. Start small, aim big, and always remain true to your brand. 

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.



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