Search Marketers’ 5 Best Practices for Internal Linking

Internal links function a lot like road signs for the Internet. You reach your destination faster when they are clear and lead you in the right direction. Internal links perform a similar function for popular search engines. They use them to guide visitors to relevant information on your website.

Internal links function a lot like road signs for the Internet. You reach your destination faster when they are clear and lead you in the right direction.

Internal links perform a similar function for popular search engines. They use them to guide visitors to relevant information on your website.

First, What Is Internal Linking?

Internal links connect the pages of your website to one another. You may be discussing a topic like making sunflower oil and link to a previously written article on different types of equipment you can use in this process. Doing so helps apply structure and logic to the design of your website.

By adding internal linking, you can:

  • Define the architecture of your website
  • Help users navigate through your site
  • Give pages throughout your site more “SEO power” to help ranking and authority

Internal linking helps Google and other search engines find clear paths to your content. They also encourage users to linger on your website longer and build a tight network of posts and pages.

How Are Internal and Inbound Linking Different?

Inbound links, also commonly called backlinks, connect one external website to another. Your online reputation rises whenever an external site makes a legitimate link back to your webpage. It is a digital representation of a recommendation. Someone is confirming that your website is a valuable resource on a specific subject.

Inbound links are also an important factor in Google’s assessment of how well you conform to E-A-T standards.

  • E — Expert
  • A — Authoritative
  • T — Trustworthy

That is how Google decides how well sites rate when it comes to answering user queries. The higher your E-A-T factor, the better your overall rankings in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

OK, now that you understand inbound links let’s switch the focus back to internal links…

How Do Internal Links Affect SEO?

Internal links also play a significant role in E-A-T. You strengthen the optimization of your site and make it easier for Google to assess how well you rate in responding to search requests. This helps Google more easily index your pages and, hopefully, result in better search rankings for your website.

If your analysis of your inbound links shows most of them coming to your homepage, that is a sign that your pages are not fully optimized. You want to see users coming to your internal pages and then making their way to your homepage. External links should target various pages around your site.

Strong internal linking creates better indexation and clear paths to relevant content around your site. It helps contribute to a pyramid-style structure of your website, meaning there are very few links (or pages) between your homepage and other site pages, helping them achieve stronger ranking power.

Tips on Improving Your Internal Linking

You should keep the following in mind when adding internal links to content throughout your website. Please note that you should no longer need to stuff internal links with keywords, a popular SEO method from prior years.

  1. Use Anchor Text instead of navigational text or images to increase the value of your internal links in search engines.
  2. Make Sure You Have a Lot of Content Pages around your site. The better your information, the longer users will linger.
  3. Link as Deeply as Possible and stay away from links to pages already included in your main navigation like your Home page. Make those links as natural as possible for a better content marketing strategy.
  4. Make Your Links Relevant to the information users need. Don’t send users to a page about red sneakers when they are interested in details on orthopedic inserts.
  5. Avoid Overkill. While internal linking can be a powerful SEO tool, adding too many can end up being less useful for the user. That means no blocks of link footers at the bottom of your page.

Summary

Keep the following in mind when it comes to internal linking.

  1. Make sure your internal links provide a clear path to relevant information for a user.
  2. Understand the difference between internal and inbound links. Both can be leveraged in improving your site SEO.
  3. Follow best practices when creating internal links. Avoid misleading links, keyword stuffing, and overloading of internal links within your content.

Want more tips to improve your search engine optimization? Click here to grab a copy of the “Ultimate SEO Checklist.”

How Your Site Speed Could Be Slowing Your Business Growth

Site speed not only hurts conversions, but it can also hold back your search engine optimization efforts. Learn how to identify and fix site speed issues that may be slowing your business growth.

Imagine that you are casually browsing through a clothing store and something catches your eye. You are interested in buying the item, but all the lines are backed up in the store. Not wanting to wait around, you put the item back on the shelf and move on to a different store.

That same scenario can happen on your website if your site speed is too slow. And the end result is the same — lost sales.

The Impacts of a Slow Site

Your website should be capable of allowing visitors to quickly answer questions that inform their decisions on making a purchase or using your business’s services. They do not want to wait around forever to read a product description or to go through checkout with items in their online cart. Every second your visitors waits around is a potentially lost conversion.

Fifty-three percent of mobile users abandon a site that takes longer than three seconds to load. Here are other ways a slow website can impact your business prospects.

  1. Lower Search Engine Rankings — Google began using site speed as one of its criteria for organic search rankings back in 2010. It updated the algorithm in July 2018, making speed an even more critical factor. That means your best SEO efforts could go to waste if the pace of your site causes high bounce rates.
  2. Poor User Experience — Slow load times discourage users from revisiting your site. Seventy-nine percent of web shoppers won’t return to a slow-moving website. (Opens as a PDF)
  3. Bad Word of Mouth  — The impacts of slow load times extend beyond a single visit. Forty percent of visitors let others know about the bad experience they had, which keeps other potential customers from paying a visit. (This PDF shows that percentage is higher)

You can see a lot of money spent on advertising and other digital marketing go down the drain, thanks to slow website speeds.

Testing Your Site Speed

Speed tests on your website will tell you how fast your website moves for visitors and how search engine algorithms would rank you.

Speed Tool Options

  • PageSpeed Insights — PageSpeed Insights from Google measures your site speed and gives you details on improving your load time. The tool can also be accessed from Google Analytics under Site Speed in the Behavior section.
  • GTmetrix —  GTmetrix provides you with feedback on your site loading times and makes recommendations on improvements and optimizations. It also offers a guide full of suggestions on optimizing your WordPress pages.
  • WebPage Test — Use WebPage Test to find out what’s happening behind the scenes of your site. One great feature offered is the ability to test loading from different devices and server locations.
  • TestMySite — This Think With Google tool informs you of areas around your website where you have an opportunity to improve your page load time on mobile devices.

Many of these tools do not require administrative access to a website, meaning they can be run on both your own and competitor sites. You can gain insight into rankings for both yourself and rivals in search engines.

Improving Your Site Speed

Once you have a good idea on where your site ranks speed-wise, you can opt for a variety of tools to improve your page loading. One thing you can start doing is tracking any alerts Google puts out around changes to its speed algorithm, which usually happens six months before they go into effect. Use that time to make some of the following updates to improve your site-load time.

  1. Utilize Website Cache — If you’re not already using cache, then this is a quick way to improve your site speed. Think of cache as a copy of your webpages that can be served much faster to visitors.
  2. Use AMPs (Accelerated Mobile Pages) — AMPs point your standard HTML web page to a stripped-down version for mobile devices. They load much more quickly, cutting load times by as much as 85 percent.
  3. Watch Your Image Size — As much as you might love the header image on your site, the size of it might be impacting your page speed. It is recommended that you keep web pages under 500 KB in size.
  4. Think About User Intent — Because so many users issue voice commands, it is essential that your site accounts for conversational queries vs. static keyword phrases, which can make searches faster for visitors. Localizing your content can also speed up searches issued by users in your area.
  5. Review Your Site Construct — Take the time to have your page documentation reviewed. Unwieldy JavaScript and CSS can add to your page load times.

Summing It Up

Slow site speed can stunt the impact of any digital marketing plan. Use the recommended tools above to measure your site speed and get insight on how to improve your site speed on web and mobile. Lastly, review your site content for ways to reduce your page size and improve page loading.

Investing the time to improve your site speed will improve the user experience and ultimately boost your conversion rates.

Do you want more tips to improve your SEO? You can  grab a copy of the “Ultimate SEO Checklist.”

How Structured Data Enhances Local SEO

Want to rank higher in Google’s local map results? Want your website to rank for voice-only searches? Then you need to learn how and why to add structured data to your website.

Structured data, also commonly referred to as schema, makes it easier for search engines to present beneficial results to users about local businesses. For example, consumers issuing a voice command like, “Find a restaurant near me,” through Alexa feeds back search engine results for places closest to their current location.

That doesn’t happen by accident, just like it wasn’t an accident that this page came up when you looked up using structured data with local SEO.

What Is Structured Data?

Structured data organizes the information in your web pages into understandable and searchable sections. It is similar in concept to taking a spreadsheet filled with data and adding columns with labels and formatting that makes it easier for a user to understand.

Adding structured data to your webpage performs a similar function. Search engines can quickly locate relevant results that match up to a user’s query and feed them back in to the search engine results pages (SERPs). There are several different sets of rules supported by popular search engines, along with two standard vocabularies. Visit Schema.org and Microformats.org for more information about the syntaxes.

The vocabulary from schema.org is most commonly associated with the markup used in SEO web pages. The mark-up can be added directly to the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) used to build your page. Those more technically proficient can place relevant localized business data into page headers using a web language called JavaScript. JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) is another alternative language to use in loading structured data.

How Structured Data Helps Local SEO

Embedding a business’s web pages with location information allows Google and other popular search engines to quickly scan the page for items that match the user’s query. And it does make a difference. Fifty percent of people who looked up a local business on their phone visited it in person the next day. Overall, mobile users perform 60% of local searches using a mobile device.

The key is making sure all information remains consistent across all aspects of a company’s online digital media. Search engines also reward websites that use structured data with enhanced organic search result placement. These features can come in the form of:

  • Stylized search results that include images and other types of visual enhancements
  • Knowledge graphs that contain brand information about a business
  • A carousel-style collection of results made up of a company’s information
  • Accelerated mobile pages (AMPs) that make it easy for users to see relevant details on a business

Applying Structured Data With Local SEO

Schema.org contains many attributes that can be embedded in your HTML to distinguish specific bits of information. For example, adding an H1 tag to the header of a paragraph helps a search engine understand that you’re emphasizing a title or applying importance to a page section. H1s can be particularly beneficial to local SEO when you add phrases like the function of your business (bakery shop) and where it is located (Los Angeles) into the wording.

Common Local SEO Attributes

The following local business attributes from schema.org can be very beneficial in helping your business online. They represent the items most looked for by web searchers. Properly used attributes can attract more local traffic and help search engines enhance your result before presenting it to the user.

  • Email — Allows you to leave a contact email.
  • Location — Provides your company’s geographical location.
  • Telephone — Provides a telephone number to call your business.
  • paymentsAccepted — Lets a visitor know what forms of payments your business accepts.
  • address — Provides the physical address of your business.
  • areaServed — Indicates the area in which your company provides services.

These attributes also assist in voice searches, since voice-only searches are estimated to account for 30 percent of web sessions by 2020.

How much your company benefits from structured data in local SEO depends on the type of business you run. Law firms, medical practices, restaurants, and other organizations that have no problem revealing public information often see the highest returns.

Pulling Everything Together

Take the time to learn more about structured data and the role it can play in enhancing your business’s placement in localized search results. Here is a quick rundown of what you should keep in mind:

  1. Using structured data makes it easier for search engines to rank and categorize your pages, based on a user’s search criteria.
  2. Adding special tags around your business information helps enhance visualizations in SERPs.
  3. Making your information consistent across your digital platform allows users to find you through both web and voice searches.

Leveraging structured data to your advantage helps “future-proof” your content, ensuring local users can find you using any web search technology.

Want more tips on improving your SEO? Grab a copy of our “Ultimate SEO Checklist.”

3 Tips to Evaluate the Importance of Link Building for Your Brand

While Google continues to emphasize external links don’t matter as much as everyone believes, there are many SEO experts who beg to differ. Here are three tips to help you evaluate the importance of link building for your brand.

Link building has been a hot SEO topic for many years now. While Google continues to emphasize external links don’t matter as much as everyone believes, there are many SEO experts who beg to differ.

Neil Patel reports the link popularity of a specific page makes up about 22% of Google’s ranking algorithm. That’s almost a quarter, which is a huge chunk, in my eyes.

Backlinko did a study and found the average page in position No. 1 on Google search results had 35,000-plus external backlinks.

Of course, this isn’t all you need to know when gauging the importance of link building in 2019. You need to know:

  • which links influence page rank;
  • how much quality matters; and
  • how much power link building really has on your site’s rankings.

Gaining Recognition From Google With PageRank

Links from authoritative pages pass authority to your page. PageRank is what determines how authoritative a page is according to Google. Because sites with high PageRank are already in Google’s good graces, any links to other sites from those high PageRank sites also receive recognition.

It’s a lot like high school. When someone in the popular group accepts a new student, everyone else in the group accepts him. The authoritative page is the popular kid, and your site is the new kid. Google just likes to hang out with the popular kids and decides to grant rankings to those who are accepted by the cool, popular sites.

The following sums up the importance of having quality backlinks. To  increase your site’s PageRank (authority), you must get sites with high PageRank to link to you. Google trusts sites with high PageRank and, in turn, they will trust you when they link to you.

This trust is what leads Google to rank your site higher for keyword phrases your targeted audience uses in search. As your backlink profile grows with more authoritative links to your site, the more trust Google has for your site, which then leads to higher rankings for more keyword phrases.

The Downfall of the Backlink Hustle

People went crazy over getting backlinks when they found out it had an effect on their site’s rankings. They were asking any and every site to link back to them. Some of them even paid website owners for links, or exchanged links with them.

Paying for links and exchanging links worked for a while, but eventually Google caught on. Google tweaked its algorithm and devalued these types of self-created links.

Introducing … The Penguin Update

It all started when the Penguin update waddled itself into our life. Our SEO life, that is.

When the Penguin update was released, SEOs looked intensely at what happened to their rankings. After Google explained some of the reasoning behind the update, it was clear what made some sites increase in rankings and others plummet: backlinks.

Sites that had high-quality external links saw ranking increases, while those that had low-quality, spammy links or not many backlinks, lost their ranking positions.

But Do Links Still Matter?

The short answer is “yes.”  Links are still important in 2019.

In fact, nothing has really changed over the years except that Google does a better job at weeding out the websites that don’t really belong on the first page of the search results.  As long as you focus on high-quality, relevant links and steer clear of shortcuts, like paid links or spammy links, then you’ll stay in Google’s good graces.

Conclusion

Link building is important, as long as you’re collecting quality backlinks. Publish top-notch content, share it with your industry, and see if others find enough value in it to share a link to it on their sites. As you publish more content and get the recognition from industry leaders, you should see rankings increase little by little. While it may seem like a lot of work, all of the content creation and marketing is worth it when you start to see your site improve (instead of decline) with each algorithm update.

Want more tips on improving your SEO? Grab a copy of our “Ultimate SEO Checklist.”

SEO or PPC: Which Should Marketers Invest in First?

SEO or PPC? Both are both effective marketing strategies to send targeted audiences to your website. They are different, though. Understanding how they are different, and which one you should utilize first in your digital marketing campaign, is important to your success online.

SEO or PPC? Both are both effective marketing strategies to send targeted audiences to your website. They are different, though. Understanding how they are different, and which one you should utilize first in your digital marketing campaign, is important to your success online.

SEO vs. PPC

Let’s tackle SEO first. Search engine optimization is the process of making your website attractive to not only search engines, but to users, as well. When your website has an intuitive navigation, informative and focused pages, clean HTML code and keyword-optimized meta tags, then you signal to search engines that you have pages that deserve to rank high in the search results.

SEO also involves making sure your website performs efficiently enough for users. This includes making it fast enough, mobile-friendly and easily navigable. These website factors are important to users, so they are important to search engines.

The downside to SEO is that it generally takes months or even years to gain traction in the search engines.

PPC, or pay-per-click advertising, is much different, in that you can see results from it in a matter of days. Like any advertising, it’s important to research the best targeting for your business, create engaging ads, and display those ads at the perfect times for your target audience. It’s not easy, especially when you first start, but as you collect and analyze your data, you start to figure out which combinations of keywords, ads, locations and times of the day bring the most qualified users to your site.

What’s great about PPC is that you can use the information you gather from successful campaigns to boost your site’s SEO. The keywords that are the most effective in ads will also work for your website in organic searches, so it’s a win-win.

What to Do When You Have a Limited Budget

The best way to bring in targeted leads as soon as possible is to invest in PPC and SEO right from the start. However, if you do not have the budget to do this right away, there is an alternative that we recommend.

Start with SEO to get the basic foundation of your website in order. This means making sure your site functions well, existing pages are optimized for relevant keyword phrases, and you have the landing pages needed to convert visitors. Once you have laid a solid foundation, then invest money into PPC.

Putting your money into PPC while your website builds strength in the search engines is a great way to benefit from the people searching for your services and products each day. You will start getting leads faster, while still remaining in your budget.

Conclusion

So, let’s review. If you have the budget, invest in PPC and SEO right away. PPC ads will bring you leads quickly, while SEO will help you get your website noticed by the search engines and users for free organic traffic.

If your budget doesn’t allow investing in PPC and SEO, start by optimizing your website for relevant keywords. Once the site is optimized for search and users, you can switch gears to focus more on PPC. PPC ads can always be part of your campaign, and should be, as the results from your ads can be used effectively in your site’s SEO. With successful PPC and SEO management, you could end up having your site on search engine results pages twice for keywords, increasing the likelihood of people clicking through to your site.

Want more tips on improving your SEO? Grab a copy of our “Ultimate SEO Checklist.”

 

How to Optimize Your Site for Voice Search (VEO)

As voice search gains popularity, a new form of search engine optimization has arrived: Voice engine optimization (VEO). Learn how to optimize your website for voice search to ensure your website ranks when prospective customers are searching.

For years, we’ve all been optimizing our websites based on what people type into a search engine. We look at the keyword planner to see how people are typing search queries in, and then use those phrases to match the content we publish. A couple of years ago, people started to open up to voice search thanks to Siri and Google. It was a little uncomfortable at first, but as time went on, people got the hang of it and started using it more and more.

Fast forward to the last year, many more people are using it, and it’s not just for fun anymore. They use it to search while walking, driving, or just lounging on the couch watching the game so they don’t have to take their eyes off the screen.

Websites no longer are just ranked for search queries people are typing in, but instead for what people are saying into their mobile devices. This change in the way people are searching means marketers need to optimize our sites for voice search.

How to Optimize a Site for Voice Search

First things first, don’t stop implementing SEO best practices to rank on Google’s search engine results pages. You still need this because text-based searches still make up the majority of searches and will for quite some time. To broaden your reach, implement voice search engine optimization (VEO). To do this, you need to add information to your site to make it more accessible to that type of search.

Add Structured Data

Google has been pushing webmasters to use structured data for a while now, and one reason is because of voice search. Information included in structured data can be more easily accessed by voice search to find answers to questions people ask.

Structured data can be added to your website using schema or JSON. Google recommends JSON, which requires a bit of coding skills. If you’re not comfortable adding or editing code on your website, then I strongly recommend hiring an expert to implement structured data on your website.

Publish Answers to Questions

Most people who use voice search ask questions. That’s why a great tactic is to add an FAQ section to your website where you answer frequently asked questions about your product or service. This information is exactly what prospective customers are asking, so it’s highly relevant and more likely to be used as the answer.

Make Your Site Mobile-Friendly

If your website isn’t mobile-friendly yet, then this needs to be No. 1 on your priority list.

Many people who use voice search are on their mobile device and in case you haven’t heard the big news, Google is moving to a Mobile First Index. That means if your website is not mobile-friendly, then you will be at a severe disadvantage in the voice search results.

Conclusion

Voice search is growing in popularity every day, and to stay ahead of your competitors, it’s important to set up your website to provide searchers with answers to their questions. This means adding structured data to your site’s content, adding new content that answers questions, and making sure your site is mobile friendly.

By taking the time now to cater to all users (desktop, tablet, mobile, digital assistant), you will be able to take advantage of not only text-based searches, but voice ones too.

Want more tips on improving your SEO? Grab a copy of our Ultimate SEO Checklist.

 

Important Key Performance Indicators for SEO

Tracking success in SEO depends on certain performance indicators. If you’re not sure what you should be tracking to ensure your marketing efforts are taking you in the right direction, review these KPIs and start tracking them this month.

Success online depends on how well you are optimizing your website and marketing your brand off-site. Times have changed, so have key performance indicators for SEO, and it’s no longer easy to rank a website for whatever keywords you believe people are searching for on Google. A lot goes into the process, and because there is an extensive process, you need to find a way to track the results of it to see if what you’re doing is successful. Here are the new, important KPIs.

How to Track SEO Success

Tracking success in SEO depends on certain performance indicators. If you’re not sure what you should be tracking to ensure your marketing efforts are taking you in the right direction, review these KPIs and start tracking them this month.

KPI 1: Traffic

The first KPI to monitor your SEO is website traffic from organic search. To track this KPI, use Google Analytics. Analytics is free and easy to install on nearly every website platform. Once installed, go to the “Channels” report within the “Acquisition” section. By default, the Channels report will show you how much traffic is coming from organic search (AKA, your SEO traffic).

KPI 2: Leads

The next KPI you should track is leads from organic search. Conversions are obviously your goal, so knowing how many leads you’re generating is critical for monitoring your SEO performance.

To measure leads, you’ll need to set up “Google Analytics Goals.” A Goal can be a website form submission (ex: a quote request, a demo request, appointment request, etc.) or a phone call. Tracking phone calls within Analytics requires a phone call tracking tool, like Dialogtech or Convirza.

KPI 3: Rankings

The third KPI is your keyword rankings. Contrary to popular belief, ranking your website high in the search engines is not the No. 1 goal of search engine optimization. The No. 1 goal is to drive more leads and sales, which is why traffic and leads are the first two KPIs listed above.

Of course, keyword rankings are important, and you want to monitor trends to spot opportunities to drive more traffic and leads or to spot potential problems that could decrease your traffic and leads.

To track your keyword rankings, use a paid tool, such as RankRanger and/or a free tool like Google Analytics. By default Google Analytics, does not show keyword rankings until you connect your account to “Search Console.”

KPI 4: Website Bounce Rate

Website bounce rate is the percentage of people who visit the site and then leave without visiting another page. A high bounce rate indicates that visitors couldn’t find what they were looking for when they clicked through to your site. A low bounce rate means that visitors found something on the page they were interested in, and then navigated to other pages of the site.

Bounce rate has a lot to do with conversions. Many times, a page with a low bounce rate has a high percentage of conversions. In other words, people who visit the page are interested in the content and because of that, they act on it. When the bounce rate is high, conversions are lower, because the people going to it are not interested in the content.

Paying attention to bounce rate helps you know how well you’re targeting the right audience. If you see that a particular page has a high bounce rate from Google Search, then your message is not matching the market. Adjusting that content to better match the intent of the searcher will not only reduce the bounce rate; but in turn, you’ll improve the rankings and leads!

Stop Stabbing in the Dark and Track KPIs for Success

If you don’t track your KPIs, you’re simply stabbing in the dark when trying to be successful with your SEO. Start tracking your SEO traffic, leads, rankings, and bounce rate, and then adjust your marketing plan based on the results. When you do this, you’ll likely end up seeing much more success.

Want more tips on improving your SEO? Grab a copy of our “Ultimate SEO Checklist.” (Link requires email registration.)

Top 10 SEO Tools for 2019

Looking to improve your search engine rankings in 2019? Here are the top SEO tools that are sure to give you a competitive advantage.

SEO is not dead. Sure, the tactics have changed over the years, but SEO is still a very important marketing channel for nearly every business in 2019.

And to be effective with SEO, you must use the right tools.  That’s why in this article I’m going to highlight some of the top SEO tools for 2019.

1. Google Analytics and Google Search Console

These fist two SEO tools are a must. Google Analytics provides insight into the traffic your site receives. Google Search Console tells you if Google runs into any issues spidering and indexing your website.  Plus, these tools can be linked up so that your Google rankings data (impressions, clicks, click-through rate, average position, landing pages) can be reporting on within Google Analytics.

2. Screaming Frog

Screaming Frog is SEO software that will crawl a website to identify issues with its optimization. Get information on title tags, meta descriptions, H1s, site structure, broken links, response codes, and so much more. It’s the best tool to use when coming up with a plan on what needs to be fixed on a site.

3. Yoast SEO

Add this plugin to your WordPress site if you haven’t already. Use it for every page and post that is published on your site. It will allow you to optimize the title tag and meta description easily. It will even help you optimize the content on the page by suggesting where you should place the keyword phrase you’re trying to rank for in Google.

4. Keywords Everywhere

This is an amazing tool that most people don’t know about yet. It’s a Google Chrome extension that shows various metrics to help with your keyword research, such as:

  • Search Volume
  • Competition
  • CPC

The tool supports many different platforms like Google Search Console, Google Analytics, UberSuggest, and many others.

5. GTMetrix and PageSpeed Insights

Both of these tools should be used monthly to ensure the site is loading fast enough for users. They will scan the website to identify any slowdowns. They also provide suggestions on how to boost speeds across the site.

6. SEOSiteCheckup

Simply type your website URL into this tool and you’ll quickly get an automated SEO audit. This is a quick and easy way to find low hanging fruit to improve your SEO.

7. MarketMuse

To step up your content marketing game, consider using MarketMuse. It will analyze a page’s content and compare it to other sites with similar content. It will then give you information on how to improve yours to help you rank over competitors.

8. GroupHigh or Just Reach Out

Backlinks are still critical for SEO, but unfortunately there’s no silver bullet solution to getting links.  Great content is step one. Step two is identifying websites and influencers that would like to link to your content.  And that’s what GroupHigh and Just Reach Out can do. Both tools will help you find websites and influencers so you can build more links.

9. Bing Webmasters Tools

Yes, people do use Bing!  Plus, Bing Webmaster Tools is another great tool to get more insight into how you can improve your overall SEO.

10. Your Brain

At the end of the day, the most powerful tool for SEO is between your ears – your brain.  There’s no one tool that can give you everything you need to know so it’s up to you or the SEO expert you’ve hired to put all the pieces together and implement a solid SEO plan.

Want more tips on improving your SEO? Grab a copy of our Ultimate SEO Checklist.

SEOs: Forget Keywords, Focus on This One Thing to Zoom Up Search Rankings

Every time there’s a whiff of a Google Search update in the air, SEOs around the world lose their minds. Everything from rumors to conjecture to plain fiction flies around, till the dust settles and search rankings go back to “normal.”

Every time there’s a whiff of a Google Search update in the air, SEOs around the world lose their minds. Everything from rumors to conjecture to plain fiction flies around, till the dust settles and search rankings go back to “normal.”

This environment of confusion and Google’s famed reluctance to divulge the real details of its search updates means we see any number of “SEO authorities” publishing their “complete list” of definitive search ranking factors. Most lists are pretty interchangeable, with keywords and links dominating lists in various avatars: keyword in backlink, keyword in TLD, keyword in title tag, link anchors, number of links, authority of links and so on.

The problem is, everyone reads these same articles. And implements the same advice. You and your competitors.

So how would you break out from the cage of keyword and backlinks? By leveraging that one thing which is uniquely yours: your brand.

Your brand is what will help you beat the competition to the top spot on SERPs; everything else remaining constant. Rand Fishkin explained in detail Google’s site-quality-score-related patent in one of his Whiteboard Fridays, and implied that the algorithm might give additional prominence to brand names used in search queries. This could be taken to infer that the more often users search for a keyword along with a brand name, the higher the brand moves up in the rankings for that keyword.

Credit: MOZ

Let me explain.

If users search a lot for “Skechers” + “running shoes,” the brand “Skechers” gets an automatic rankings boost for the keyword “running shoes.” This means when people search for just “running shoes,” the likelihood of Skechers running shoes coming up in the results is a bit higher.

So you see, your brand does help your search rankings. How, then, do you boost your brand salience to nudge along those rankings? Here are some thoughts.,

Invest in Your Brand (and Get Partners Along for the Ride)

The one thing that business owners worry the least about could prove to be their online graveyard. With the plethora of options out there, it’s simply unforgivable to not even lay a foundation for your brand.

Starting with a memorable brand name and logo, work on creating a definitive identity for your brand. Brand colors, typography, imagery, all come together to give your brand that elusive “X” factor that is rewarded by search engines. That saves you from spending big bucks on something as frivolous as chasing the Google algorithm, as Fishkin explained.

Partnering with a complementary brand that talks to your same audience is one of the most cost-effective ways of reaching a large pool of potential customers. Whether you care about your SEO ranking or not, this is one tactic every business must leverage.

In essence, brand partnerships are about reaching out to your partner brand’s audience at zero cost, in exchange for offering visibility to your brand partner to your audience, bartering free gifts for your partners’ users and more.

This partnership between Starbucks and Spotify exemplifies how customer experience can be improved, while retaining individual brand identity of both partners.

Here’s another example from the marketing industry: Online visibility platform SEMrush (disclosure: author’s employer) and inbound marketing software HubSpot frequently partner to do webinars for the benefit of their shared audience, which is digital marketers.

Credit: HubSpot

Don’t Miss Trade Events

Do you operate in the B2B or SaaS space? Then trade events are a must-do for you, no matter what. From getting visibility and growing brand awareness in your niche to meeting potential buyers face-to-face, a tradeshow (which could be a conference, a seminar, or a meetup) is a no-brainer to promote your brand.

There are many ways you can milk a tradeshow for SEO traction:

  • Tradeshow website linking back to your website with a URL linked to your brand name. Even if there’s no backlink, a brand mention from high-authority sites helps your own brand visibility and ranking.
  • Blog posts on your own site promoting your participation in the tradeshow.
  • Speaking opportunities at the event that mention your brand and your business or workshops that show potential customers how to use your products.
  • Using tradeshow hashtags on social media to promote your business and brand during the event.

Go Multichannel (Both Online and Offline)

The offline and online worlds are increasingly blending together. While even the most traditional retailers and businesses have now gone online, we’re also seeing digital businesses dip their feet into the physical world. Amazon and Apple are leading the charge with their brick-and-mortar stores. For lesser retailers (or even Facebook), the concept of pop-up retail is also catching up fast.

Credit: Go—PopUp

Integrated marketing involving digital and physical channels has a lot of advantages in branding:

  • More touchpoints for engaging the customer
  • Better brand awareness and recall
  • Broader, but consistent, brand messaging
  • Contextual and relevant audience targeting
  • Personalization in terms of channel and viewing/interaction preferences
  • More (and accurate) data on the customer

No surprise, then, that e-commerce platforms like Shopify are offering e-tailers the option to sell natively on multichannel digital platforms, making it easy to build visibility from the ground-up and convert visitors once they arrive via digital sources, like search or referrals. This visibility and brand recall cycles back to organic search results via branded searches.

Make Influencers Your Ambassadors

With every second person on social media claiming to be an “influencer,” the up-and-coming niche of influencer marketing is already getting muddied. However, the reason why we see so many so-called influencers out there is simply because brands can’t get enough of this absolutely punchy marketing tactic. According to research, a whopping 94% of marketers believe influencer marketing has a positive effect on their brand awareness and preference.

Credit: Social Media Today

Connecting with the right social influencer can be a total game-changer for your brand. Take Bach Flower RESCUE as an example. Their line of homeopathic remedies was a perfect match for a number of natural and healthy living bloggers. So, RESCUE gave these influencers some of their products to try and asked them to share their thoughts. They also included a “buy one, get one free” code to share on their posts to encourage people to give the product a try.


Credit: Real Clever

The results of their campaign? An impressive 258% increase in Instagram followers, 6,000 clicks to claim the BOGO special, and they were even a top trending topic on Twitter.

When your brand receives social signals, backlinks, endorsements and mentions from celebrities and niche thought leaders who command high search volume themselves, the authority rubs off on your brand and domain, boosting your rankings.

Crush Local SEO With Citations and Brand Mentions

Everything that you can do to get your brand out there potentially contributes indirectly to your rankings. As you work on strengthening your local SEO via citations, directories and business listings, the fact that your brand name is going up on multiple niche websites, probably getting backlinks from many of them, and also drawing reviews (engagement) from users, helps boost your visibility slowly but surely in the SERPs.

In fact, mentions and citations might be almost as powerful as links. The Google Panda patent refers to citations as “implied links” —

An implied link is a reference to a target resource, e.g., a citation to the target resource, which is included in a source resource, but is not an express link to the target resource.

Using Google’s own platforms and tools is an obvious win from a brand awareness, as well as SEO, perspective. So, waste no time in creating your own Google My Business Page and fill out every last detail about your business, adding images and videos to push visibility.

It’s also important to keep updating your business pages to keep your listings fresh and relevant when Googlebot comes crawling again.

Who’s Afraid of Keywords?

Even though it’s ingrained into digital marketers’ psyche that content and links are the two pillars of SEO, we need to realize that there’s more to this game than just pulling longer and longer lists of keywords to rank for. Sometimes the most “human” of marketing strategies is what it takes to get the bots and algorithms to take notice and deliver results. Onward and upward, brave brand custodians!

5 Keys to SEO in the Voice Search Age

Voice search is increasing in use, and many businesses need to adjust their content to fall in line with this new way to search online. Follow these five tips to get your website to rank higher in voice search.

Imagine for a moment that you’re running with a pack of hyenas behind you. As you’re running, you see the road changes ahead. You could stay on the same road you’re on or you could take a shortcut so you get farther ahead of the pack. Obviously, you’ll choose the shortcut… 

Now, let’s switch the focus. Imagine running your business and the hyenas are your competitors. They are coming up behind you quickly. You can continue the same digital marketing path you’ve been taking, or you can switch paths to put your business way ahead of them.

Which do you choose?

If you’re like most, you’ll switch paths, which in SEO means optimizing for voice search.

Voice search is increasing in use, and many digital marketers are adjusting their content creation to fall in line with this new way to search online. Understanding how to do this will help you stay ahead of the hyenas that will soon start to scramble to reclaim lost business due to voice search.

The following tips will help get you started.

#1: Conversational Keyword Phrases

It’s normal for people to type in a different way than they speak. Usually, people will type less than they will say out loud. For instance, people may say, “What are some Italian restaurants near me?” but they may only type “Italian restaurants near me”.

As you can see the voice search includes “what are” and other example searches might include phrases like “how to” or “who is” or “where are.” Start by brainstorming the most common questions your prospective customers will be searching for and create content that answers those questions.

#2: Use Structured Data

Structured data like Schema.org was designed to spoon feed search engines like Google important information about your business. For example, there is Schema code that can tell Google your business name, address, phone number, products, prices, testimonials, recipes and much more. Google then uses this information to create rich search results (ex. search “how to bake apple pie” and you’ll see Directions at the top of Google’s first page, plus additional links to other recipes that include star ratings and even the time it will take to bake the pie. This information is collected using Structured data on websites)

Structured data is also used to deliver information to voice searchers. When you ask Alexa “how to bake an apple pie” then Alexa will likely read the directions that you saw at the top of Google’s search results. That means if you want to rank high in voice search, then you must use Structured Data on your website.

#3: Capitalize on Local Search

There’s no better time than now to claim your Google My Business listing and optimize it.

Be sure you have all of these components in your listing:

  • Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) exactly the same as it’s listed on your website
  • Select all the relevant Categories
  • Fill out your Business Description
  • Add Photos
  • List your Services
  • List your Business Days and Hours

Be sure that all of the information is consistent across your listing, website, and any other online directories. Google cross references your information to ensure your business information is correct and deserves to be listed in the voice search results.

#4: Make Your Site Mobile Friendly

Many voice searches are performed on mobile devices.

And with Google’s new Mobile-First Index, your website doesn’t have a shot at ranking high for voice search if it’s not mobile-friendly. It’s as simple as that.

#5: Use Blogs to Answer Questions

Blogs are perfect for targeting those long keyword phrases that usually come through voice search. For example, “What is the best dog food for my pitbull?” could be a great blog post topic for a business that sells different types of dog foods. What a great time to get your business in front of a prospective customer!

Remember, add Structured Data to the blog post to increase the chances the search engine will grab information from your article to answer the prospective customer’s question.

Putting It All Together

Staying ahead of the hyenas, I mean competitors, isn’t as hard as it may seem. Start by researching to find what your prospective customers are voice searching for, and then create content on your website that answers those questions. Next, add Structured Data to make it easier for search engines to find your information and serve it to voice searchers. If your business serves local customers, then claim and optimize your Google My Business listing. Lastly, make sure your website is mobile-friendly or else you won’t have a shot when people use voice search on their mobile devices.

Want more tips on improving your SEO? Grab a copy of our Ultimate SEO Checklist.