Has It Has Really Been a Quarter Century?

Early search marketers literally created on-the-fly the methodologies that are still in use today. Clever developers constantly wrote and marketed new tools that would gather the data more rapidly that we needed for deeper insights and better campaign performance.

Most early Internet marketers came into the online space accidentally. I was no exception. We all raised our hands at an opportune moment. We stepped off the edge into a void. For me, building a website seemed like a good way to increase the reach of a public relations client’s message. It was a good idea. It was 1995 — a quarter of a century ago. In fact, this good idea launched the second half of my marketing career, with a focus on search marketing.

Lots of Energy and Sharing

Early search marketers literally created on-the-fly the methodologies that are still in use today. Clever developers constantly wrote and marketed new tools that would gather the data more rapidly that we needed for deeper insights and better campaign performance.

There were numerous search engines and directories all vying for dominance, and Google wasn’t even founded until 1998. The big names were Alta Vista, Yahoo! As the industry has matured, it has lost the edginess of the early days. Today there are monoliths that dominate the search industry.

Early on, the sharing of information was essential. The industry grew through sharing what was online in forums like Webmaster World, in person at conferences bearing titles like Search Engine Strategies (that by the title alone clearly gave the prospective attendee a clear picture of what might be learned from attending), and in the written word through numerous online and print publications. I trained to be a college professor, albeit not in technology, but I jumped at any chance to teach/share with my colleagues (and anyone who would listen) my digital marketing insights and discoveries.

It was a wonderful heady ride, but for me the carousel of speaking and traveling came to an abrupt halt five-plus years ago when I returned home from a Pubcon in Las Vegas with my arthritic knees too painful to walk through the airport. I decided to hang up my spurs and stay at my desk and write instead of speaking at conferences; to travel less and train smaller groups.

Grateful for the Opportunity

An opportunity met my decision to focus on writing when I was approached to write a search marketing regular column for Target Marketing. It has been a wonderful opportunity for me to continue having my voice heard without the stress and strain of travel. I will confess that writing a regular column has often forced me to think more deeply about strategies my clients might use — a bonus. I am grateful for this opportunity.

Not Yet Over

Writing a monthly column about search marketing is an excellent discipline, but it can be a distraction. I have found myself increasingly unwilling to let it distract me from other writing tasks. So, as you may have guessed, I am signing off. I am not gone yet, for I am working on a monograph on search and have other writing projects outlined that are calling me. For now, let me say thank you once again for listening to my conference panels and reading my columns.

Why You Should Stop Keyword Stuffing in SEO Now

Keyword stuffing is like Michael Myers in “Halloween” — it refuses to die. It’s also very dangerous for your business, because it will kill your search engine rankings.

Keyword stuffing is one of those things left over from the earliest days of digital marketing that refuses to go away.

You have already seen in it in action if you have come across blogs full of phrases like “best seafood near me” or “women dress store Atlanta.”

It is awkward, unnatural, and still one of the go-to techniques for many content creators. Why?

Why Keyword Stuffing Became So Popular

As digital marketing and search engines evolved, it became clear that people tended to use specific phrases when doing an Internet search. Marketers figured out that they could get high rankings for their clients by filling content with these phrases. That led to lots of ads and other content filled with popular search phrases.

As the practice spread, so did the number of keywords crammed into the content. It got to the point where popular keyword phrases were making their way into landing pages and blogs, even if they didn’t fulfill the user’s intent. That meant lots of annoyed users who didn’t end up finding “red sandals Dallas” when they clicked on an ad or link.

How Keyword Stuffing Hurts You Today

Connecting audiences to their desired result is the primary goal of search engines. Having tons of users annoyed by low-quality results does not allow them to do that. Search engines now reward content written for actual human consumption, not to game their algorithms in pursuit of higher search rankings. Spammy content that does not satisfy user intent now gets driven down in SERPs.

One of the things search engines judge when determining whether the content is useful is the keyword density throughout a piece of content. You may be using keywords that tie into your client’s product, but the sheer volume used could have it penalized.

That also applies to your hidden web content. Some content creators attempt to circumvent search engine penalties by stuffing multiple keywords into the alt tags in images or the meta tags in their HTML. Search engines are aware of these tactics, and will penalize your pages in response.

Better SEO Techniques for Your Keywords

Keywords still help improve page rankings, when used correctly. Working the following techniques into your content will earn better rankings by Google and other search engines.

User-Friendly Phrasing

One thing you can let go of is the idea that you must use common search phrases in a specific order.

Let’s go back to our “red shoes Dallas” example from before. You could easily rewrite the phrase to read, “We have many red high-heeled shoes in stock at our Dallas location.” and get the desired result.

Google, for example, understands how to match that directly to the keyword phrase in question and pull back the proper result. The content itself is richer and much more comfortable for a visitor to consume. Using keywords this way also helps when users issue voice searches through IoT or mobile devices.

Lower Keyword Density

Make sure the body of your blogs and articles contain at least 300 words. The longer and more useful you make them, the easier it will be to naturally work in keyword phrases, while maintaining a keyword density of around 2 percent.

You should also use secondary keywords and other long-tailed keywords that tie back to your content. Search engines will continue to give you better rankings, if you maintain a proper balance.

Summing It All Up

Keyword stuffing is an outdated methodology that unfortunately still gets widely used. Search engines penalize pages that use keyword stuffing techniques.

Instead of unnaturally adding keywords to your pages, use natural phrasing and long-tailed variations in rich content to help content rank better in SERPs.  Ultimately, letting go of outdated keyword stuffing benefits content creators, search engines and, most importantly, your prospective customers.

Want more tips to improve your SEO?  Click here to grab a copy of our “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.”

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.”

 

Search Data Voids and Evil Unicorns

Not all search queries are alike — there are “search data voids.” That is, there are many search terms where there is little quality or relevant content in the search engine’s database. Some of the available information may be inaccurate or present a deeply troubling fringe view.

Search Data Voids and Evil Unicorns
Credit: Pixabay by Colin Behrens

Not all search queries are alike — there are “search data voids.” That is, there are many search terms where there is little quality or relevant content in the search engine’s database. Some of the available information may be inaccurate or present a deeply troubling fringe view.

In a recent article, Michael Golebiewski labeled these as “data voids,” drawing attention to situations where searching for answers about a keyword returns content produced by a niche group with a particular agenda.

Wired picked up on this phenomenon in an article on the complexity of searching for medical information. Commenting on the article on Twitter, Matt Cutts noted that when he was at Google, he called the phenomenon of data voids “the evil unicorn problem.”

He called them this because you can still search on the topic, but you will find little content on it. These “data voids” represent both a threat and an opportunity for those who rely on search for business and information in their daily lives.

Opportunities for Exploitation of Search Data Voids

By focusing attention on developing machine learning algorithms that can interpret the user’s intent, search engines have conditioned the searcher to expect to find the answer to their query on the first page of the search results.

There is a problem with this for queries that are “data voids.” Where there is no quality information for the search engine to return in response to the query, those promoting fringe ideas or with malicious intent can flood the results with seemingly authentic or authoritative information and virtually own the first page of results.

Golebiewski provides a somewhat chilling discussion of how these “data voids” can be weaponized by adversarial actors. The search engine companies are actively searching for ways to continue to provide access to content while minimizing the potential that the searcher will fall upon potentially harmful content.

As responsible members of the search ecosystem, it is incumbent on all search marketers to do what we can to promote a healthy ecosystem.

All Things Unicorn

A “data void” presents a zone of opportunity for both evil actors and for those with a profit motive. Prompted by the label “evil unicorns,” I personally started looking for unicorns. No! I know they are mythical and unreal, but just try telling that to a child.

With access to a voice-activated digital assistant, a child could easily query: “Where do unicorns sleep?” or “What color is a unicorn’s hair?”

The first query offers ample child-friendly content. The second on hair color provides information on how to dye one’s hair into a unicorn hairstyle. This would not serve as an answer for a child looking for what color to select to use on the unicorn in their coloring book.

Using the same powerful tools used by bad actors to weaponize fringe political ideas, a clever entrepreneur could rapidly create brand (such as The Unicornacopia), build an online retail presence, or even a store around the data void. By creating a meme in social media and a pool of quality relevant content, the same entrepreneur could capture top search results and any business attendant with it.

Not sure how to find a “data void?” You need to watch what auto-suggest returns and you’ll find these unicorns.

War Against Fake Content: Update From the Front

The development of “fake news” and the willful propagation of false information into search engines is a threat to the whole search marketing ecosystem.

SEOThe complexity and accuracy of today’s search engine algorithms are a tribute to the science of information retrieval. The size of the search engine databases and the speed with which they return results are engineering marvels. In the midst of all of the incredible engineering science, there are still huge challenges. “Thin content” and the malicious propagation of false information and fake news threaten the very basis of the search ecosystem. Weeding out “thin content” and false information is a very difficult task.

Google’s Panda and more recent Fred updates have tried to address the problem of “thin content.” Defined as pages that have little or no value, thin content pages are typically:

  • Automatically generated content
  • Thin affiliate pages
  • Content scraped from other sources. For example: Scraped content or low-quality guest blog posts
  • Doorway pages

Additional examples of “thin content” are e-commerce product pages with little or no descriptive content or a few lines that could be found on any site vending the product. All of these produce a less-than-satisfactory user experience; however, they do not spread offensive or disturbing false information. The Google updates directed at algorithmically rooting out thin content have been somewhat successful in and attacking the “thin content” problem.

“Thin content” is just the pointy tip of another huge iceberg. The development of “fake news” and the willful propagation of false information into search engines is a threat to the whole search marketing ecosystem. Bolt onto this that some of the information is not just false, but it is offensive (contains racial and ethnic slurs) and often disturbing (advocates violence or provides how-to information on bomb-making and such).

How Does This Threaten the Ecosystem?

Research studies have shown that naïve consumers often equate those sites/pages that appear at the top of the search results as being authoritative, the best vendor or the correct answer to their query. When the page shown as the top result promulgates a fake story or contains offensive material, the searcher is in a quandary. Is the information accurate, or is the search engine not to be trusted? Huge volumes of false information can crowd out quality, accurate information. When advertisements run on the pages showing disturbing or offensive information, advertisers pull back on their advertisements, threatening to choke off the engine’s economic lifeblood — its advertising revenues.

Send in the Troops

Google has for several years maintained a human task force, some 10,000 contract employees strong, whose members review and rate sites according to a very specific 160-page set of guidelines. (Opens as a PDF)

These guidelines provide interesting reading for those who want to understand how content and pages are viewed. Raters must pass a rigorous test that ensures that they understand the 160 pages of guidelines. Once on-task, reviewing results of actual searches, the raters do not directly influence specific site results, but rather provide data that can feed into the ongoing algorithm development.

Google has used its army of raters for several years. Over time, the guidelines have changed. For example, when Google placed increased emphasis on ensuring the quality of pages with impact on your money or your life (YMYL), the guidelines were enhanced for how to evaluate this type of page. With the growth of mobile, the guidelines included information on reviewing mobile content. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Google has given specific guidelines for how to judge and evaluate offensive or disturbing content. It is a fine line that must be tread between providing accurate general interest information on disturbing topics such as genocide, the Holocaust, human trafficking and providing malicious or dubious information. The results of these human raters will ultimately be used to train the search engine to present quality information. The future is in their human hands, not in the magic of the algorithm, for they are its guidance system.

The Art of Quality Link Building

So much of SEO has changed over the past 20 years. These days, search engine algorithms penalize keyword stuffing and ignore meta keywords, and having a website that displays on mobile devices is arguably more important than desktop performance. As technology evolves, more about SEO will continue to evolve. But the importance of links hasn’t changed.

Link building? What are you, a blacksmith?So much of SEO has changed over the past 20 years. These days, search engine algorithms penalize keyword stuffing and ignore meta keywords, and having a website that displays on mobile devices is arguably more important than desktop performance. As technology evolves, more about SEO will continue to evolve. But the importance of link building hasn’t changed.

While other aspects of SEO either get your website indexed or clarify its relevance, links will determine your website’s reputation and popularity. If your website is linked by trade publications, business partners or scores of customers, then the search engines will view your site in a positive light and increase your rankings. On the other hand, a website with very few inbound links — or, worse, inbound links from spam websites — is more likely to be penalized in favor of more popular competitors.

Remember, a search engine’s worth is its ability to provide users with the content that’s likely to be most relevant to their needs. Trusted, popular websites are most likely to have that content. So if you want to get the most out of SEO, then you’ll need to work on building links.

How Do Search Engines Evaluate Links?

As stated above, not all links are equal. Understanding how search engines evaluate links can help you know which links to pursue. Here are some of the more important link factors:

  • Overall popularity: The most popular websites tend to have the most valuable links. Truly popular websites on regional, state, national or global levels tend to have scores of reputable links and strong social media signals.
  • Topic relevance: Look for links from other businesses, publications and associations that are relevant to your line of work. If you run an auto mechanic business, then you won’t get much value from a link about sporting goods.
  • Spam: The Internet is filled with spam sites that aren’t useful for anyone. Search engine algorithms are continually adjusted to devalue spam links.
  • Relevant anchor text: The text that makes up a contextual hyperlink is referred to as anchor text. If several websites link to a site using the same or similar anchor text, then search engines will be more likely to view the linked site as an authority for that keyword term.

Search engines evaluate all these factors and more when determining link quality. Links from social media are also becoming more important, although SEO experts are divided on exactly how search engines value these links.

How to Get Links

Now that you know what search engines look for, the next step is getting others to link to your site — and this doesn’t need to be a struggle. Here, we’ll review five ways to build a network of reputable links.

  1. Ask Customers and Business Partners
    Your greatest supporters are likely to link to your website if you ask. You can make it easy by giving them badges, logos or icons that link back to your site. Many of your customers won’t have actual websites, but people who have blogs can post about your business and include links (with relevant anchor text for bonus points). You can also ask customers and partners to connect with your business on Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels.
  2. Start a Blog
    Blogging has several benefits in the world of SEO. At the very least, blogging is an easy way to populate your site with fresh, relevant, local content. Do a good enough job, and customers and business partners will link to your blog and provide you with a wealth of quality links. Don’t limit your blog to writing about what’s happening in your business; write about your industry and your community, or even write seasonal do-it-yourself pieces that appeal to your customers’ needs. Make your blog a valuable resource and others are likely to build your links for you. You can also send your most interesting blog entries to bloggers, trade associations and others who might want to publish your posts with links.
  3. Do Something Special
    Get others to write about your business by doing something special in your community. Host a charitable event, launch a contest or spread the word about an innovative new service, product or technology. Local reporters, bloggers and publicists for political organizations and trade associations are always looking for good stories.
  4. Register With Site Directories
    Take advantage of popular business review sites like Yelp and Angie’s List that allow you to place a link to your website. You should also create a profile in Google My Business. Registering your business with these well-known directories has numerous other SEO benefits in addition to being quick-and-easy links.
  5. Leave Comments
    Commenting on blogs, forums, news articles and other content is a quick way to expand your link network. However, largely as a result of spammers, search engine algorithms have evolved to minimize the value of content links. But while this tactic is less productive than other link-building options, a high volume of content links on quality sites can still positively impact your SEO.

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

SEO: A Changed and Changing Discipline

SEO should play an important role in the marketing department; however, the death of SEO is frequently decried and its obituary written. This is because its role and fit in the overall marketing mix has changed and evolved. Once viewed as a technology play, organic search is often still considered the province of technicians, and is separated from the strategic marketing effort. Given that search often provides the tip of the spear for getting new business, this separation is a huge mistake. Today, SEO must be aligned with and guided by the overall marketing goals. This alignment can be best achieved when the SEO expert is part of the strategic marketing team.

SEO should play an important role in the marketing department; however, the death of SEO is frequently decried and its obituary written. This is because its role and fit in the overall marketing mix has changed and evolved. Once viewed as a technology play, organic search is often still considered the province of technicians, and is separated from the strategic marketing effort. Given that search often provides the tip of the spear for getting new business, this separation is a huge mistake. Today, SEO must be aligned with and guided by the overall marketing goals. This alignment can be best achieved when the SEO expert is part of the strategic marketing team.

SEO itself has changed. Once upon a time, SEO experts were characterized as techies focused on how to beat each new search engine algorithm change. As they say, that game is over. Google claims to have more than 200 ranking elements in play. No matter how good the SEO expert is, accurately determining all 200 elements and interpreting the valence given to each is in the realm of fantasy. Gone are the cat-and-mouse games. Today, SEO is real roll-up-the-sleeves marketing.

Technical SEO still exists, for a site must be found in the search indexes for it to drive traffic from search. Today, technical SEO experts are expected to identify what is preventing a site from being indexed. It may be as simple as a situation that I encountered where a site had been pushed live from the development environment with a robots.txt file still in place that directed search engines not to index the site. Once this block was removed, the site performed just fine. Most situations are far more complex. These are puzzles that require the SEO expert to review the site’s code and understand the total technical environment in which it runs. Given the complexity and technical depth required to do this, it is tempting to consider the SEO expert a technician, but this is just one area of SEO expertise. Today, some SEO experts do nothing but audit sites and troubleshoot what is creating problems.

Organic SEO experts are often characterized as keyword manipulation specialists. Once upon a time, this was a big part of the SEO toolkit. Today, as Google’s processing technology has shifted from keyword matching to a more sophisticated interpretation of the query and how it relates to the user’s intent, the SEO expert has had to look beyond keyword matching. Because Google no longer provides keyword data in the analytics, the SEO expert has to take a different approach. Searchers still use words in their queries, so keywords are far from gone as part of the discipline. Interpreting page and content relevancy are replacing the more simplistic keyword approaches. The SEO expert has evolved into an expert on online user intent: “What did the user really want to find with that query, and is the site relevant?”

With the explosive growth of social media and the realization that users value the opinions of peers more than marketers, the search engines have added elements to their algorithms that allow them to determine whether one site is more trusted and trustworthy than another. This is a potential game-changer, because bad reputation and negative customer ratings are not just an SEO problem. The SEO expert is expected to understand how to enhance the positive and deemphasize the negative. Poor reputation is a marketing problem.

Gone are the days of the SEO expert as just a technician and a traffic driver. Today’s SEO practitioner should be a valuable part of the total marketing team and a key player in the development of the marketing strategies and tactics that will lead the business to success. Is your SEO expert still waiting for an invitation?

Trending: Consumer Review Sites Leverage Content, Social, Search Marketing

If you’re an Internet marketer, you know there are several online channels you can leverage without paying upfront for advertising, such as some banner ads or pay per click. Three online channels that are super-hot and showing no signs of slowing down include content marketing, social marketing and search marketing (organic). Each of these online channels have one thing in common: They all maximize content.

If you’re an Internet marketer, you know there are several online channels you can leverage without paying upfront for advertising, such as some banner ads or pay per click.

Three online channels that are super-hot and showing no signs of slowing down include content marketing, social marketing and search marketing (organic).

Each of these online channels have one thing in common: They all maximize content.

Recent articles in Forbes hailed that “content is the new SEO …” and that “content is king.”

My view has always been that with relevant, useful, valuable and actionable original content, you can’t go wrong. It will always work with the search engines, despite constant algorithm updates.

This is the core philosophy of my “SONAR Content Distribution Model,” but also has become more commercial- and consumer-driven with the use of product review websites.

A recent study shows 47 percent of consumers indicate the Internet is their favorite place to shop, and U.S. e-tails are anticipated to hit around $370 billion by 2017.

With all this Web surfing and shopping, it’s no wonder consumers are becoming more savvy.

An emerging trend in digital marketing is consumer review sites. These sites are populated with pages and pages of unique, relevant content that’s beneficial to the consumer. It’s unbiased. And has the main focus of harnessing the power of its content with the search engines, as well as social marketing outlets.

The website’s pages are crafted with targeted keywords based on the products or services being reviewed—many well-known brands—and honest feedback. Then it’s good ‘ole inbound marketing tactics, such as online press releases, article marketing, content syndication, search marketing and social marketing that drive consumers to the product review website.

The pioneer of this ingenious online marketing tactic was Cnet.com, which was founded in 1994. They have been reviewing electronic and tech products for years.

Other well-known consumer review sites that have popped up recently include Epinions.com and ConsumerSearch.com, which reviews products. CitySearch.com and Yelp.com review hotels, restaurants, entertainment and more. And of course, AngiesList.com, which is a membership site that reviews local service providers.

But recently, there have been some new players in niche and specialty industries that are creating a buzz. One such new kid on the block is BuyerReview.com.

BuyerReview.com focuses on the health and beauty sectors. This includes cosmetics and cosmeceuticals, such as skincare products, vitamins and supplements—a most robust marketplace, to say the least …

… The U.S. cosmeceutical industry alone represents $6.5 billion with a growth forecast of 5.8 percent annually through 2015. And nutritional supplements generated $32 billion in 2012 and are projected to hit $60 billion by 2021.

I had the pleasure of interviewing one of BuyerReview.com’s editors, Peter Stockwell.

I asked him how he would describe the site, what makes it unique and to describe the overall business model.

According to Stockwell, “Buyerreview.com is more targeted than many of the behemoth product review sites on the Web today. Sometimes when you’re too big and review too many things, consumers get lost on your website. Our team of editors reviews specific products in the vertical of health and beauty. We give honest reviews, as well as health and beauty advice.”

Stockwell continues, “Content is the cornerstone of the website. It helps the consumers. And it works with the search engines. With social marketing, it increases our reach and visibility. It’s really a blueprint for online marketing success.”

Stockwell adds, “There are several things that make us stand out: One is our BuyerReview Seal of Approval, which means our experts have reviewed a product personally and found it acceptable. Two, our editors (which, in addition to reviews) provide expert advice on health and beauty, which is an added bonus to consumers. Three, our Top 10 lists, which takes the best of the best we review and rolls it up into an easy-to-read product grid. Four, we offer consumers the option of getting product reviews delivered directly to them wherever they are, via email. And lastly, we offer free, weekly giveaways of the products we review. We like to think of our website as a one-stop shop for consumer health and beauty product interest.”

Stockwell concludes, “Once you have traffic coming to your site based on superior content, the opportunities are endless. Similar product or service review websites have went the advertising model and sell banner ads on their site for revenue potential. Others charge monthly membership fees. There’s many ways to monetize the traffic.”

Bottom line: There’s a way smart online marketers have turned leveraging quality content into a win-win situation that benefits its target audience, as well as generating revenue.

And the vast space on the Web is wide-open for more to jump on the bandwagon and carve out their own slice.

Marketers in most any industry can take something away from this online strategy and see how the fundamental principle can be incorporated it into their online marketing mix … because content will always be king, and consumers will always be curious.