Mobile SEO: What It Is and Why It Matters

In April 2015, Google rolled out a new algorithm update that places more importance on mobile optimization. This means that websites Google does not consider mobile-friendly probably took a hit, while those that are mobile-friendly saw a boost in rankings. It was a logical update for Google, because today roughly half of all searches are conducted on a mobile device, but it means more work for businesses to stay ahead of the algorithm.

Now more than ever before, Google takes a holistic look at the entire mobile site, which means that mobile SEO must include such factors as how the page fits on a small screen and whether the user must pinch or swipe in order to read all of the information. Here is a look at some of the top issues to consider when improving your mobile SEO.

1. Responsive Design
Google actually supports three different ways of making a website mobile-friendly: responsive design, dynamic serving, and separate URLs. Of these, responsive design is both the simplest and the one that Google normally recommends. Rather than scaling the content or displaying only the portion that fits, responsive design renders the site with the proper dimensions. It allows users to easily share the same URL between computers and mobile devices, and prevents many of the difficulties that you have no doubt encountered when trying to access some websites from your tablet or phone.

2. Content Playability
Flash is relatively easy and powerful, and has long been a favorite among web designers. However, it is not supported at all on the iPhone, and requires special plug-ins and long load times on the Android. Some other programming software also has trouble on certain devices. To ensure that mobile users can access all of your content, choose HTML 5 instead. Providing a transcript of all video content will also help users who use assistive devices.

3. Page Speed
Slow load times are a major problem for mobile users, with more than 70 percent leaving a mobile site that takes more than five seconds to fully load. To improve your page speed, carefully go through each page’s coding to make sure it is compressed and optimized.

4. Local SEO
Local SEO is a very important part of mobile SEO, because Google likes to display local results to mobile searchers. Claim your Google+ page, ensure that your NAP (name, address, and phone number) information is absolutely correct and identical across all business directories, add geographic keywords to your title tags, and add schema markup code to the business information on your website. These actions tell Google exactly where you are and what you do, resulting in higher rankings for customers who perform Google searches in your area.

5. Mobile 404 Errors
In some cases, clicking a link directs computer users to another web page, but mobile users receive a 404 page not found error. Responsive design generally solves this problem, but it is worthwhile to check all of your links on a mobile device. If you find these errors, make sure you have appropriate redirects in place and that the linked page works properly when you manually enter its URL.

6. Pop-Ups
Pop-ups are a common way to advertise, request mailing list sign-ups, and offer special promotions. On mobile devices, however, they can actually cover the entire screen, negatively affecting the user experience. Instead of pop-ups, include the information within the content of your mobile webpage.

7. Conversational Search Terms
As more and more people turn to voice searches, it is not enough to simply insert keywords into your copy. Instead, you need to implement conversational search terms in natural sounding ways. Try talking to yourself or someone else about the main information that a particular page provides, and then insert some of the phrases that naturally come up.

8. Content Parity
While it may seem simpler to create a stripped down mobile website, consumers are no longer satisfied with this solution. Armed with smart phones and tablets with a great deal of processing power, mobile searchers expect to access a rich, fully developed mobile site that rivals the full computer version. Compare both sites side by side, and make sure that nothing is left out. Responsive design can help with this, but a manual review can help identify errors or omissions.

9. Results Analysis
When you feel that your site is well-optimized for mobile, run each page through Google’s free mobile-friendly test tool. Type in the URL, wait a few moments, and Google will present a detailed analysis of any issues it finds with mobile-friendliness, as well as links and resources for improvement.

Mobile SEO requires some specific techniques that are different from those used for traditional SEO. With 50 percent of all searches now originating from a mobile device, and Google’s new algorithm rewarding sites that are mobile-friendly, now is the time to make sure your website is fully optimized for mobile usage.

Want even more SEO tips? I created a simple checklist that walks you through specific actions you can take to improve your rankings and traffic. Click here to get my SEO Checklist.

 

SEO Audit Checklist: Why Aren’t You Ranking Number 1?

SEO (search engine optimization) is undergoing rapid changes as Google rolls out new updates, and it can be tough to stay ahead of the power curve. However, the basics remain the same as they always were. Before you start chasing the latest SEO tricks, take time out to audit your existing SEO. Tweaking the basics can have a dramatic impact on boosting your rankings. Follow this SEO audit checklist to find out what you need to change to rank first.

Website Content
The core of your SEO rankings is your website content. Ensuring that it is of high quality, properly tagged, and well integrated should form the basis of your SEO improvement plan.

  • Title Tags: A title tag is a short snippet of text that describes your webpage in search results. This is where you need to convince both Google and the human searcher that your page is relevant and useful, so every word needs to count. Make sure that each page has its own unique title tag that includes your target keyword phrase for that page.
  • Meta Descriptions: A meta description is the text that appears below the title tag in search results. Although it does not affect the Google algorithm directly, it is what entices a prospect to click on your page. The click through rate, in turn, does affect your Google rankings. Think of the meta description as a short ad of approximately 150 to 160 characters. It should be unique and descriptive, and include your target keyword.
  • H1 Tags: Think of the H1 tag as the webpage’s headline, or the title of a paper. It is usually the first piece of information a prospect sees when she visits that page. It should be clear and concise, and contain some variation of your keyword phrase. This will convince the reader that she has reached a useful page that is worth reading.
  • Webpage Copy: In the old days of SEO, keyword-stuffing was rampant. The idea was that it didn’t really matter what the copy looked like, because it would rank highly as long as the keyword was inserted all over the place. Naturally, this led to a lot of poor quality junk pages. Google revamped its algorithm to combat this practice, and today, high-quality copy is essential. Long-form content of at least 500 words, written in a natural way that is easy to read, is an absolute requirement. Polish your copy, ask others to read it and make comments, and then polish it again. Make sure it is the best it can be.
  • Duplicate Content: If a webpage is duplicated, Google will only rank one of the pages. That’s why it’s important to create unique, original copy for each page. To ensure you do not have duplicate pages on your site, use an online tool such as Siteliner or Copyscape.
  • Image ALT Tags: An ALT tag describes an image to a prospect who cannot view it. More importantly for SEO, it also allows Google to understand the image. Use 5 to 15 words, including one of your target keywords, to clearly state what is in the photo.
  • Blogging and Social Media: Increasingly, integrating a blog and social media into your webpage can improve your rankings. These items let Google know that your website is regularly maintained. They also improve your chances of receiving link-backs from other sites. To be effective, however, you need to stay on top of both the blog and the social media presence, creating frequent, high-quality new content. Make sure your webpages have links to your blog and your social media accounts, possibly in the header or footer, and provide a way for readers to share your blog articles on their social media.
  • Separate Webpages: A very common mistake that business owners make is trying to optimize one webpage for multiple keywords. Create a separate, well-optimized page for each core keyword, making sure that each page follows all of the best practices for SEO.

Local SEO
Local SEO, or optimizing your webpages for your local area, is absolutely essential for many types of businesses. If you provide a hands-on service or sell products of local interest, local SEO is essential to improving your rankings.

  • Claim and Complete a Google+ Local Page: This will get you ranked in the map-based results that appear in the upper right corner of the Google results page. Make sure your contact information is entirely accurate, and ask your current customers to write reviews.
  • Webpage Contact Information: Review your contact information on each webpage. Every instance should match precisely, and they should all match what you have listed on your Google+ Local Page. This gives Google confidence your information is accurate and up-to-date, and deserves to be listed in their results.
  • Citation Consistency and Schema Markup: Citations are mentions of your name, address and phone number on other websites like directories and blog posts.   Over time it is easy for outdated or erroneous information to appear, which can negatively impact your local rankings. Moz Local is a great tool to check if your citations are 100 percent consistent across the Web. Schema markup is a type of code, available at Schema.org, that helps search engines understand the data on a webpage. Using it on your contact information can help Google find important information to display in the search results.

Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to optimizing your website, but it all starts with the basics outlined above. Focus on making your website content and local SEO the best they can be, and you should see a dramatic jump in your rankings.

Would you like more SEO tips? I created a simple checklist that walks you through specific actions you can take to improve your rankings and traffic. Click here to get my SEO Checklist.

 

How to Double Your Landing Page Conversion Rates With 6 Easy Tune-ups

One of the biggest mistakes you can make with your Google AdWords campaign is failing to optimize your landing page. No matter how carefully you fine tune your ad copy, tweak your keyword match settings and reallocate your budget, if your landing page conversion rates are low, you are literally giving away sales

One of the biggest mistakes you can make with your Google AdWords campaign is failing to optimize your landing page. No matter how carefully you fine tune your ad copy, tweak your keyword match settings and reallocate your budget, if your landing page conversion rates are low, you are literally giving away sales. Today, I will walk you through the steps to improve (even double) your current conversion rates.

What Is a Landing Page?
A landing page is the specific page on your website where prospects land after clicking on one of your ads. Note that you should never use your homepage as a landing page, because the homepage gives a general introduction to your company, while a landing page needs to be tightly geared to the ad copy. In fact, it is best to create a separate landing page for each ad. This allows you to clearly reiterate the main idea in the ad, improving the overall congruence, or harmony, of the prospect’s experience.

What Is Your Conversion Rate?
The most important conversion rate is the ratio of sales to visitors. However, that’s not always quick and easy to calculate, so advertisers measure other key sales actions, such as filling out a contact form or making a phone call. For example, let’s say that 1,000 people click through your AdWords ad to your landing page, but only 20 of them fill out the contact form on that page. Divide 20 by 1,000 to find that your “contact form conversion rate” is 2 percent. Your numbers might be very different, but remember that the conversion rate refers to the percentage of people who take further action toward making a purchase after landing on your page.

Why Should You Improve Your Landing Page Conversion Rates?
Simply put, improving your conversion rates means that you will get more leads or customers for fewer advertising dollars. Taking the example above, suppose that the action you want prospects to take is purchasing a product that you sell for $100. If 20 of 1,000 people who click on your ad buy the product, you make $2,000. If 40 of those same 1,000 people buy the product (4% conversion rate), then you make $4,000. That’s $2,000 extra revenue from the exact same investment in advertising!

What Are the Basic Keys to Improve Landing Page Conversion Rates?
Improving your landing page conversion rates is both a science and an art. Monitor your AdWords campaign closely at first to determine the results of the changes you implement, and be ready to tweak your landing page as needed depending on what you discover. These are the parts of the landing page that often need fine-tuning:

  1. Congruence: This is the overall harmony of the user experience. Your landing page should tightly reflect the message, tone, and feel of the ad that was clicked on. Your prospects clicked on the ad because something in it resonated with them, so follow up on that with the landing page. If you change nothing else, ensuring congruence can dramatically improve your conversion rates.
  2. Headline: The headline is the most important part of your landing page. People scan quickly and make snap decisions when reading online, so your headline needs to captivate them. Don’t try to close the sale in the headline, but do restate the offer or the most important point from your ad.
  3. Offer and Call to Action: Most people know that a strong offer is an important element in making a sale, but is your offer irresistible? Try offering something different from what everyone else in your line of business offers, or add an extra bonus. Make sure to give clear instructions on what to do next to make the purchase, and if possible, add a deadline to increase urgency.
  4. Copy: Make sure your landing page explains exactly how you can solve the customer’s current problem or fulfill a specific need. In other words, focus on benefits rather than features. Plus, add elements that make your business sound legitimate, such as testimonials, reviews, or industry affiliations.
  5. Reduce Risk: Prospects tend to be skeptical when shopping online, largely thanks to the frequent horror stories in the media. If your offer requires payment, reduce the perceived risk by providing a guarantee, adding third-party trust verification, and providing full contact details for your company.
  6. Layout and Aesthetics: Because people scan rather than reading in depth online, clearing out the clutter can improve your conversion rates. Make it easy for prospects to figure out what to do. Make the buttons they need to click bigger. Remove extraneous navigation menus. Avoid long blocks of text. Keep it simple and obvious, aesthetically pleasing, and congruent with your overall brand.

Want more Google AdWords tips and advice? I put together an AdWords checklist to help you get your campaigns set up for success. Click here to get my Google AdWords checklist.

How Social Media Impacts SEO

SEO is evolving at what feels like “ludicrous” speed. When I was getting started in 2006, on-page keyword density, a cursory understanding of HTML meta tags and links from article directories were about all you needed to know to get a page to rank high in Google.

SEO is evolving at what feels like “ludicrous” speed. When I was getting started in 2006, on-page keyword density, a cursory understanding of HTML meta tags and links from article directories were about all you needed to know to get a page to rank high in Google.

Then Google tweaked their algorithm and higher-quality link-building was the golden ticket to a #1 ranking. Fast forward to today and the old-school tactics of just a few years ago no longer work. That’s because SEO has evolved and grown to the point where engagement is the new measurement of success.

Old-School SEO Is Dead
In my experience talking with business owners every day, there is a huge misconception that SEO is simply about HTML meta tags and backlinks. That’s what I call old-school SEO and it’s been dead for a while now.

As mentioned above, SEO is now about engagement. To be successful in ranking high in Google, plus driving traffic and ultimately leads and sales from SEO, you need to focus on engaging your target prospects online. That means creating compelling content your prospects would want to read and share with their friends and colleagues.

And, of course, where do people share content online? You guessed it: social media! That brings us to the first way social media impacts SEO…

  1. Content Distribution
    To clarify, I am not saying that on-page SEO factors like HTML tags or off-page factors like backlinks are no longer important. They are—and always have been—the foundation of a solid SEO strategy.

    What has changed is the shift from old-school link-building tactics to more natural content distribution. Sharing content on social media accomplishes two important goals for SEO:

    • Your content can spread virally, which drives more traffic and more engagement with your website. This can also lead to more brand searches in Google, further reinforcing your authority.
    • Your content can get in front of other bloggers and news sources who in turn are more likely to link to your webpages. As mentioned already, backlinks are still critical for SEO so this leads to higher rankings.
  2. Control Your Brand in Google
    When you search for a company in Google, what do you see? Most likely, you’ll find the company’s website, Google+ profile page, LinkedIn page, Facebook page, Twitter page and any other social media profiles.

    Clearly, Google gives preference to company social media pages in their search results. This is good news because it’s not hard to set up your social media pages and nearly instantly dominate the results for brand searches.

    Why is this important? Well, before a prospect contacts you, they most likely going to do their homework online. That means searching for your brand in Google and reviewing the websites they find. By creating and maintaining active social media profiles, you put yourself in control of your brand in Google.

  3. SEO Expands Beyond Google
    Google is the top search engine, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore Bing. Bing has said they do take social media signals like the number of Twitter followers into account when ranking webpages. That means social media activity directly impacts your rankings on Bing.

    Plus, let’s not forget about searches on the social media sites themselves. That’s right, social media sites are search engines as well! Every day people are searching on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and others to find content and search for businesses. If you ignore social media, then you obviously miss out on the opportunity to get your business in front of those relevant searches.

Do you want more SEO tips? I created a simple checklist that walks you through specific actions you can take to improve your rankings and traffic. Click here to get my SEO Checklist.

Google’s Mobile Algorithm Update: What You Need to Know

Google announced some very big news about a major algorithm update that landed on April 21, 2015—yesterday. Due to the shift in how people are searching and surfing the internet, Google has updated its search algorithm to take into account more mobile signals.

Google announced some very big news about a major algorithm update that landed on April 21, 2015—yesterday. As I’m sure you know, mobile traffic and the number of Google searches from mobile devices is on the rise. Well, it’s more than rising, because it’s about to surpass desktop computer traffic online by the end of the year.

Due to this shift in how people are searching and surfing the internet, Google has updated its search algorithm to take into account more mobile signals.

What Does This Mean for Your Business?
Zineb Ait Bahajji, a member of Google’s Webmaster Trends team, said this Google update will have a bigger impact on search rankings than the infamous Panda or Penguin updates. If you’ve been following SEO for a while, then I’m sure you’ve heard of the Panda and Penguin updates, which both caused massive changes in website rankings.

In other words, April 21 should have sent a lot of ill-prepared businesses off of the first page of Google!

What Do You Need to Do to Fix It?
If you haven’t already, then now is the time to get serious about your mobile website strategy. Answer these three questions to determine if you were ready for the April 21 update:

  1. Do you have a mobile version of your website?

  2. Can Google’s mobile bots crawl your website?

  3. Are your mobile webpages easy to use and navigate?

If you answered no to any of those questions, then you need to take action ASAP. Let’s go through each one in more detail.

1. Mobile Website
The two most common options to create a mobile website are:

  1. Create a separate mobile website on a subdomain like m.yourdomain.com. This is a great option if you have a limited budget. In fact, you can set this up for free using DudaMobile.com. If you have a complex website or a large e-commerce website, then this is not going to be a good option for you and I would recommend Option No. 2.
  2. Create a responsive website. A responsive website responds automatically to the device requesting the pages and displays the page differently depending on the device. Many popular CMS systems like WordPress have themes that are already responsive, so I recommend using an existing theme whenever possible. If you’re just getting started, then I highly recommend creating a responsive website rather than a separate mobile website because it’s easier to maintain in the long run.

2. Allow Google’s Mobile Bots
This should be fairly obvious, but if Google’s mobile bots can’t crawl your website, then Google is not going to show your website in the search results. It’s like your website doesn’t exist!

To check if Google can crawl your website, go to Google Webmaster Tools. Create an account (if you don’t have one already) and then go to the Crawl section in the left navigation. Then click “Fetch as Google”, select “Mobile: Smartphone” and click the big red button that says “Fetch.” Google will then tell you if there are any issues crawling your mobile website.

3. Mobile Website Usability
Finally, go to every page on your mobile website and make sure the pages are easy to use and navigate. Google started using mobile usability as a ranking factor as of April 21. Check all the images, hyperlinks, videos, and any other functionality normally available on the desktop version and fix anything that’s broken on the mobile version because that will drag down your rankings.

5 Types of Google AdWords Conversion Tracking

When I first started using Google AdWords in 2006, conversion tracking was in its infancy. There was only one type of conversion pixel code and there was no option to customize anything. Oh boy, have the times changed

When I first started using Google AdWords in 2006, conversion tracking was in its infancy. There was only one type of conversion pixel code and there was no option to customize anything.

Oh boy, have the times changed. AdWords now gives advertisers five different conversion types, along with options to customize exactly how conversions are tracking in your account. For example, you can now track all conversions or you can track only unique conversions to exclude the instances when prospects complete multiple forms on your website.

In this article, I’m going to bring you up to speed on all five different conversion types:

  1. Webform Submissions
  2. Online Sales with Revenue
  3. Calls from Website
  4. Calls from Ads [Call Extensions]
  5. Offline Sales [Import]

1. Webform Submissions:
Again, this was the only option for me back in 2006. Webform submissions like quote requests, demo requests, or any other key action on your website should be tracked as a conversion in your AdWords campaign. This can be easily set up by adding the conversion code to the “thank you” page of all your webforms.

2. Online Sales with Revenue:
Eventually, Google introduced the ability to assign a value to your conversions, which revolutionized campaign management. If your business sells anything online, then you absolutely must set up revenue tracking for your shopping cart. Once set up, you’ll start to see revenue data in AdWords so you can calculate your profit per keyword, placement or ad.

3. Calls from Website:
Just last year website call tracking was launched so that advertisers can see how many phone calls are generated from the AdWords ads. This code is fairly technical so I recommend assigning this task to your webmaster to get set up. Once installed you’ll start to see conversions in your AdWords account any time a prospect calls after clicking on one of your ads.

4. Calls from Ads:
Most people do not call directly from the phone number listed in an ad, but some do. In AdWords you can track these calls by using a Call Extension, which is one of the many Ad Extensions available in AdWords. When you set up your Call Extension, make sure to click on the advanced options and check the box to track phone calls using a Google forwarding number.

5. Offline Sales [Import]:
Up to this point all the conversion tracking options sound great, but they don’t solve the major problem for non-eCommerce businesses, which is tracking sales generated off of the internet.Luckily Google recognized this problem and introduce the Offline Sales Import conversion option. This is the most technical of them all, but it’s well worth the effort to have your webmaster set this up. Here’s how it works:

  • Your webmaster will have to edit all the forms on your website to add a hidden field called “GCLID” (stands for “Google Click ID”)
  • Your webmaster will set the value of this hidden field using the URL parameter called “gclid”. For example, when someone clicks on one of your ads, Google automatically ads the “gclid” URL parameter, which looks like this 123ABC567DEF. This is the unique tracking code you’ll use to track sales back to your ads.
  • You’ll need to send the GCLID code to your sales team and/or your customer relationship management (CRM) tool like Salesforce.
  • On a monthly basis, you’ll need to find all the sales that have a corresponding GCLID code and import those codes, along with the sales revenue, into Google AdWords.
  • AdWords will automatically match the GCLID codes to the keywords, placements and ads that the customers originally clicked on before ultimately making a purchase off of the internet.

If that didn’t make sense, then just send your webmaster this page and he or she will be able to help. Trust me, it sounds more complicated than it is.

Go through the 5 conversion types again and make sure you have them all set up in your AdWord campaign. These are all critical to maximize the performance of your campaigns.

Want more free Google AdWords tips? Click here to get my Google AdWords checklist.

Top 10 Local SEO Best Practices for Small Businesses

Have you ever wondered how you could get your business to show up on the first page of Google, along with a map showing your prospective customers exactly where your business is located? The answer is to use local search engine optimization (SEO).

Have you ever wondered how you could get your business to show up on the first page of Google, along with a map showing your prospective customers exactly where your business is located? The answer is to use local search engine optimization (SEO).

With local SEO, you can get your business in front of prospects at the precise moment when they are literally searching for you. It doesn’t get much better than this. However, due to all the Google algorithm updates, local SEO is not quite as easy as it used to be. Whether you’re an SEO veteran or you’re just getting started, use the top 10 best practices in this article to give your business the best shot at ranking on the first page of Google’s local results.

  1. Claim and Complete a Google+ Local Page
    Next time you search in Google to find a business, pay close attention to the big map in the upper right corner of the results page. An entire section of the results list is devoted to the businesses that appear on that map. But here’s the catch: Google doesn’t pull the business information from websites. They are pulled from Google+ Local business pages!

    Setting up your Google+ Local page is easy and free, but you need to pay attention to what you are doing. The number one rule is to create only a single page per location. Creating duplicate Local pages is forbidden by Google’s Terms of Service, and can hurt your rankings.

    In addition, your page must use relevant categories. Think of categories like sections of the Yellow Pages, so the more categories you choose the better—as long as you don’t choose irrelevant categories, which is also against Google’s Terms of Service. Choosing categories can be difficult, so use this list for help.

  2. Add Your Service and Geographic Keywords to Page Titles
    This is especially critical for your homepage, but is a Best Practice for all your web pages. Title tags are like chapter names in a book—they tell Google what the page is all about. Your homepage title tag is like the book’s cover. It needs to be enticing but accurate, and explain to Google what the website holds. For local SEO, adding both the service and geographic keywords to your title tags lets Google know that your site is relevant to people searching for your particular service in your local area.
  3. Make Your NAP Consistent—and Omnipresent
    NAP is an acronym for the most important information when it comes to optimizing for local SEO. NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone number.

    Google strives to provide the most accurate, credible information to its users. Therefore, before displaying your information, the algorithm cross-checks your NAP across not only your Google+ local page, but the entire Internet! To ensure your NAP is consistent, I recommend searching for your business name in the Moz Local search tool.

  4. Add Pages for Different Services and Locations
    If you provide multiple services, and/or practice in different locations, make sure you create a separate web page for each. Although it may seem redundant, this step is crucial to local SEO. You simply cannot optimize the same page for Houston, Texas, and Deer Park, Texas, and expect it to perform well for either location. Likewise, a page with keywords for both oil changes and collision repair is not truly optimized for either. Make sure that each page is entirely unique, and target each to a core keyword phrase.
  5. Install Schema
    Schema markup is a type of HTML code that tells Google more about your website. When a human reads a particular page, he or she innately understands certain things about that page, such as exactly what is being discussed. Search engines, however, have a much more limited understanding. Schema bridges that gap by adding machine-understandable explanations. Many webmasters are not yet using this valuable tool, so this is a great opportunity to get a jump on your competition.
  6. Get Customer Reviews on Google+ Local
    Unfortunately, getting customer reviews is one of the most challenging tasks that small business owners face, and there is no magical shortcut. The two keys to success are first to ask, and second to make it as easy as possible for your customers leave an online review. Even when you make things easy for your customers, this will be a slow process, but over time, it will improve your local rankings and create a big barrier for your competitors.
  7. Create a Mobile-Optimized Website
    Increasingly, consumers are turning to their phones and other mobile devices when searching for products and services. This is even more true for those who are looking for local companies, which means you absolutely must have a mobile-friendly website to compete in the local search results.

    If you’re like most businesses, then you have been dragging your feet and putting off investing in a mobile website. Well, the time has finally come because on April 21, 2015 Google will launch an algorithm update that will drastically change the mobile search results. In short, if your site is not mobile-optimized at that time, your rankings will suffer dramatically in any Google search launched on a mobile device-which is approximately 50% of all searches today!

  8. Provide High-Quality Website Content
    The importance of high quality content is nothing new for SEO. However, until recently this wasn’t a big factor in the local search rankings. Now, failing to create well-written, unique, informative web pages with at least 500 words of content each could mean your business will not show up when prospective customers are searching for you.
  9. Build High-Quality Links to Your Website
    Again, this is nothing new for SEO, but it’s a fairly new factor for local SEO. Your domain authority, or online reputation, is now a critical factor in your local Google rankings. One of the biggest factors in your domain authority is the quantity and quality of relevant links from other websites.

    As you gain more and more high-quality links, then your domain authority will increase, and in turn, your local rankings will also improve.

  10. Be Active on Social Media
    Exactly how much of an impact social media presence has on local SEO is currently the subject of hot debate. What is not open for debate, however, is the fact that social media is a great way to generate buzz and get exposure for your business. This exposure can lead to more referral traffic, more high-quality links, more reviews, and more online comments about your business, which are all signals that will improve your local Google rankings.

Want more Local SEO Tips? Click here to get my Ultimate Local SEO Checklist

5 Common Google AdWords Mistakes to Avoid

Google AdWords is one of the most powerful tools you can use to advertise your business. It allows you to target your advertising dollars towards customers who are already ready to buy, and to tap into a constant stream of prospects searching for your product or service. Plus, there’s no big upfront investment so you can start with a low advertising budget and then scale over time. These factors make Google AdWords a vital resource for any small business, but like any tool, it is often misunderstood and misused.

Google AdWords is one of the most powerful tools you can use to advertise your business. It allows you to target your advertising dollars towards customers who are already ready to buy, and to tap into a constant stream of prospects searching for your product or service. Plus, there’s no big upfront investment so you can start with a low advertising budget and then scale over time. These factors make Google AdWords a vital resource for any small business, but like any tool, it is often misunderstood and misused.

I’ve reviewed hundreds of AdWords accounts and the most common mistakes I see typically fall into 5 basic categories, all of which can be quite costly to your business, but are fairly easy to fix. Here is a look at the most common types of mistakes people make when using Google AdWords, and how you can avoid them.

  1. Budget Allocation Errors
    This mistake can happen during the planning phase. Many company owners simply allocate their available dollars equally across all of their products or lines of business. This is almost never the best idea because all products and services are not equally valuable to your business. Instead, focus on your marketing goals based on maximizing your ROI (Return on Investment).

    Ask yourself what you are trying to achieve with your ad campaign. Do you want to grow an already profitable business unit or try to scale a new product or service? How many new customers do you hope to attract per month? Figure out what you want to accomplish, and then allocate your budget based on what is most likely to help you quickly reach your goal.

  2. Ad Writing Problems
    Writing ads is a tough job, but a great ad is the key to attracting the right prospects and turning them into customers. Many business owners struggle with exactly what message they want to send, and end up making one of 4 basic ad writing mistakes. See if your ads fall into any of these categories:
    • One Size Fits All: One size fits all ads try to target a single ad to a long list of keywords. Instead of being highly relevant for one keyword, the ad ends up being mediocre for all of them. To fix this, create separate, tightly targeted ads for each of your core keyword phrases.
    • Me Too: These ads don’t stand out from the competition in any memorable way. If everyone in your line of business offers free consultations, then a free consultation doesn’t make you special. Figure out what you provide that is different from what your competitors provide, and highlight that difference in your ads.
    • Feature Rich: Your prospects want to buy a product or service that solves a problem in their lives. Feature rich ads focus on all the bells and whistles, but fail to answer the basic question of how the purchase will meet a specific need. To improve these ads, identify your customers’ needs and explain how you will fulfill them.
    • Company Focused: Like feature rich ads, company focused ads fail to explain what you can do for the customer. Talking too much about your company wastes space that could be better used for telling prospects what you will do for them.
  3. Landing Page Issues
    It is easy (and often the obvious first choice if you’re just getting started) to set your website’s home page as the landing page for all your ads, but it can cost you customers. Your home page gives a general introduction to everything you do, but your prospect clicked on a specific ad to meet a specific need. Make it easy for your prospects by targeting individual landing pages to the relevant ads. Describe the benefits of your product or service, give specifics, demonstrate your credibility, and don’t forget a call to action.
  4. Keyword Match Type Mistakes:
    Keyword match types is one of the least understood aspect of Google AdWords for new advertisers and unfortunately these mistakes can be extremely costly. When you add keywords to your AdWords campaign, then Google allows you to set 4 different match types to tell Google exactly which search phrases phrases should trigger your your ads.
    • Broad: This is the default setting so new advertisers often unknowingly select this when setting up their campaigns. However, it is almost never the best option. With this setting, your ad will display when a prospect searches not only your chosen keyword, but any other keyword that the algorithm thinks is related. You could end up paying for clicks from people who have no interest in what you are actually selling.
    • Exact: This setting displays your ad only to prospects who search for your exact keyword phrase in the exact way that you set it up. This can be overly restrictive because you could ignore prospects who are highly interested but searching in a slightly different way. For this reason, I generally do not recommend starting with Exact match until you identify the top performing search phrases. Once you know the exact phrase, then you’ll want to use Exact match to laser target your advertising.
    • Phrase: Phrase matching is almost always the best choice for a new Google AdWords campaign. It displays your ad when your keyword phrase is searched, even if it is part of a longer search phrase. Note that your ads could still display for irrelevant searches so it’s critical to use Negative keywords whenever you use Phrase match. Negative keywords will block your ads from displaying on any irrelevant searches you select.
    • Modified Broad: This is generally the best setting for business owners who want to expand their advertising campaigns. It matches your ad to search phrases that include all of the words in your keyword phrase in any order. It improves your reach, but also raises your risk of irrelevant clicks, which is why you’ll want to avoid this advanced setting when you’re just starting out.
  5. Conversion Tracking Omissions
    Without conversion tracking, you have no objective data to use in tweaking your advertising campaign and maximizing your ROI. Yet many business owners omit this crucial step. Setting up online conversion tracking for solely web-based businesses is as simple as adding a bit of code to your receipt, or “thank you” page.

    If your sales convert offline through phone calls or face to face meetings, conversion tracking is a bit more complicated, but still entirely possible. Your options include tracking phone numbers, coupon codes, and Offline conversion imports. All it takes is some understanding of the Google AdWords conversion tracking system and a little persistence to continually keep track of your leads and sales from your advertising campaigns.

Want more Google AdWords tips and advice? I put together an AdWords checklist to help you get your campaigns set up for success. Click here to get my Google AdWords checklist.

SEO 101: The 3 Keys to Rank No. 1 in Google

Mark Twain was only half joking when he said, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, then wait a few minutes.” Growing up in Massachusetts I distinctly remember days when one minute it would be raining or snowing, and the next minute it would be clear skies.

Mark Twain was only half joking when he said, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, then wait a few minutes.” Growing up in Massachusetts I distinctly remember days when one minute it would be raining or snowing, and the next minute it would be clear skies.

In other words, the weather in New England is a lot like Google’s algorithm; It’s constantly in flux, and it can seem nearly impossible to stay on top of all the updates. Whether you are new to SEO (search engine optimization) or your rankings have recently slipped, you might have gone looking for answers only to become overwhelmed by all the conflicting advice. If you are feeling frustrated and confused, don’t worry because you are not alone!

Fortunately, no matter how many new updates Google rolls out, following the fundamental best practices of good SEO should keep you ahead of the power curve. Here are the 3 steps to achieving and maintaining a spot at the top of the rankings.

  1. Research
    No matter what else you do, choosing the right target keywords is the most important step for your success. Begin your research for free with the Google AdWords Keyword Planner. As you study the available keywords, look for the ones that best meet 2 separate but related criteria:
    • A) Search Volume: This refers to how many people are searching for that particular keyword. A higher search volume means more potential eyeballs for your page.
    • B) Relevance: You want to focus on the keywords that draw customers who are ready to buy. Later, you can expand your reach to include “tire kickers,” or prospects who are in the early stages of considering a purchase. But for now, you want to bring in people who want your product or service today.

      While the “perfect” target keywords include both high search volume and high relevance, those can be tough or even impossible to find. For now, focus on those that hit a “bullseye” for relevance, even if the search volume is not quite as high.

  2. Relevance
    Once you have a list of target keywords, you need to make sure Google considers your website as relevant to those keywords. At one time, “keyword stuffing,” or unnaturally forcing the keyword all over the site, was a common strategy. Today, this action is penalized with lower rankings. Instead, focus on naturally incorporating the keyword where it makes sense. There are two steps to improving your relevance:
    • A) Website Structure: Match one keyword to each page of your website. This keeps the focus clean and helps Google recognize that the page is relevant. For your homepage, focus on your “dream” keyword—the one word or phrase that best describes your business and for which you would love to rank No. 1.
    • B) Page Elements: Each web page contains numerous areas where you can add your keyword. These include the Title Tag, Meta Description, Header Tags (H1, H2, and H3), and Body Copy. Remember to use the keyword in the Title Tag and Meta Description, and to incorporate it only where it naturally fits in the Header Tags and Body Copy.
  3. Reputation
    Convincing Google that your website and its individual pages are relevant is not enough. You also need to demonstrate that you are a trusted authority on your particular target keywords. You do this by building your site’s reputation.

    Traditionally, the best way to build reputation was through hyperlinks from other sites to yours. While this still remains very important, many old-school link building tactics are now penalized by Google. You need to focus on organic, natural relationships with other websites, rather than simply going on a campaign to build as many links as possible.

    Social media is also becoming an increasingly important factor. Page referrals through Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets are now weighed heavily in the new Google algorithms. In fact, some experts believe that social media signals will soon outstrip web links as the No. 1 factor in determining your domain reputation.

What Does All This Mean for You?
As Google continues to roll out new algorithms and updates, some SEO ranking techniques will disappear, and new ones will be developed. What will never change, however, is the importance of creating excellent content.

Rather than attempting to “trick” Google into giving you higher rankings than you deserve, focus on creating content that is worthy of being ranked No. 1. Add new content frequently, spruce up old content that has seen better days, and make quality your number one goal. This simple policy will help you weather any storms and ensure that your site receives high rankings for many years to come.

How Much Should You Spend on Google AdWords?

One of the most frequent questions I receive about Google AdWords is, “How much should I be spending on my AdWords campaign?” That’s a great question, and the short answer is, “It depends.”

Editor’s Note: Don’t miss Phil Frost’s upcoming webinar “Old School SEO Is Dead: What you can do to adapt to Google and the new world of search marketing,” live on February 25. Click here to register.

One of the most frequent questions I receive about Google AdWords is, “How much should I be spending on my AdWords campaign?” That’s a great question, and the short answer is, “It depends.” One of the great things about AdWords is that it is highly customizable, allowing you to make the decisions that best fit your business needs. The downside is that it is not easy to see at a glance how best to manage your AdWords budget.

Fortunately, we have developed a formula that allows you to plug in your numbers and calculate a realistic budget. It breaks down into two phases: Testing and ROI.

Phase 1: Testing

When you begin your Google AdWords campaign, you will need to test several ideas to see what works for you and what doesn’t. While some campaigns are profitable right out of the gate, many others are not. Consider your testing phase to be a form of market research, and plan to invest those dollars without the expectation of getting them back.

Before you begin, gather the following information:

  • Target Keywords Cost Per Click (CPC): Google AdWords follows a pay per click (PPC) model. No matter how many times your ad appears, you only pay when a prospect actually clicks on it. For each keyword, you will pay a different amount of money for that click. This is known as the CPC, or cost per click. For example, Google estimates that “coffee shop” costs $2.90 per click, while “mortgage broker” costs $13.76.

Make a list of the keywords that you want to test, and then use the Google AdWords Keyword Planner Tool to estimate the CPC for each of those keywords. Remember that this is just an estimate, so your actual cost may be higher or lower.

  • Time Frame: How long can you spend in the testing phase before you need to see your results? This is partly dependent on your industry and the keywords you choose. Some keywords have a higher search volume than others, making it easier to get results in a shorter time frame. Also consider your normal sales cycle. Do customers tend to purchase in one day, or does it take months for them to make up their minds? The lower your search volume and the longer your sales cycle, the longer it will take for you to obtain accurate data.
  • Sales Conversion Rates: As a general rule of thumb it’s safe to estimate that 1 in 100 people (1 percent) who view an AdWords ad will click on it, and 1 in 100 clicks (1 percent) will convert into a paying customer. These are estimates, and your ads might drive more or less traffic, but they work for planning purposes in the testing phase.

Now you are ready to put together your testing budget:

  • Per Keyword Cost to Test: If you can turn 1 in 100 clicks into a customer, then the estimated cost per sale is the cost per click (CPC) divided by 1 percent. For example, a keyword that costs $3 per click will cost you an estimated $300 for one sale. Go through the same process for each keyword you want to test, and add up the results to get your total budget.
  • Monthly Testing Budget: To generate a per-month Google AdWords budget, divide your total keyword costs to test by the number of months you want to allot to the testing phase. For example, if your total costs calculated earlier are $2,000, then you could budget $500 per month for 4 months. Or if you wanted to test faster, then $1,000 per month for 2 months.

Phase 2: ROI

Once your testing phase is complete, and you have generated a handful of sales from your ads, then it’s time to move into the ROI phase. The goal here is obviously to maximize return on investment from AdWords.

What should your budget be in the ROI phase? If your ads are profitable, then the answer is you should ditch your budget altogether! If every dollar you spend nets you more than a dollar in sales, it only makes sense to invest as many dollars as possible.

While many businesses focus on writing better ads, which improves the AdWords quality score and reduces the cost per click (CPC), that’s only half of the equation. The real magic comes from the EPC, or earnings per click.

To find your EPC, just multiply your customer value times your conversion rate. Your Customer Value is the average amount that one customer spends on your product or service minus your fulfillment costs. Your conversion rate is the percentage of clicks that become paying customers. So if the customer value is $100 and you have a 1 percent conversion rate, your EPC is $1.00.

Why Is EPC so important?

Well, it tells you exactly how much you can afford to pay per click for every single keyword in your account! If you pay more than your EPC, then you’ll be unprofitable. If you pay less, then you’re profitable. It’s as simple as that.

That means the key to AdWords success is to maximize your EPC by increasing both your customer value and your conversion rates.

Google AdWords is a highly customizable and extremely powerful advertising network, but it can be a bit overwhelming for newcomers. That’s why I put together an AdWords checklist to help you get your campaigns set up for success. Click here to get my Google AdWords checklist.