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When Should Startups Start Building An SEO Strategy?

I was approached by a startup founder the other day about when to approach SEO? To say I get this question or the question of how to get started often, would be an understatement. I’ve been doing this since 2002, dating myself quite a bit, which is a really really long time. I’ve seen all the iterations from spam to “white hat” to the usability side of it, and I always come back to the same things: build a great product, have great site architecture, and create amazing content…and you’ll easily win!

Okay, I know, that’s easier said than done. Because, of that, not a lot of startup founders have the experience I’ve had when it comes to launching into building an SEO Strategy or Program, no matter the stage.

Also, I have found many of these startups have investors OR advisors telling them they need to start doing SEO right away. (And, while it does Visible Factors an injustice to say that is incorrect advice, we’re not in the business of billing, just to bill.) It’s important to think through the phase the business is in relative to the approach of SEO the company should be taking.

Sometimes just an SEO Audit is a great start

One of the things I always tell people is to get started building SEO into your product from the day you get started. When founding Eventup, it was pretty easy for me to start building in the best practices, infrastructure, and requirements to start owning certain phrases quickly, because of my knowledge and experience. But, if you or your team is not well versed, it’s best to bring someone on with this expertise to build this out for you.

An SEO Audit can be pricey, but, you know what is even pricier? Getting an audit six months later and having to re-architect your site architecture, URL architecture, and page content all over again. You’ll be paying for the audit, plus all the development costs to re-engineer a large part of the site. Plus, add in the time and effort to pert resources from product development to this.

I always recommend at least starting here so you can get the basics implemented and lay the groundwork for future endeavors around SEO.

SEO just might need to wait

Great, so now I am contradicting myself, but, I promise it makes sense. If you’re an e-commerce marketplace or content/media company, it makes total sense to get moving right away because SEO can be a big part of your growth. But, other examples like lets say a B2B company targeting restaurants, yoga studios, etc. should wait on SEO because you’re even sure if there truly is search intent out there and if people will convert based on that intent. Many SMBs are bombarded with people trying to advertise to them and other searches like “how do I get customers” are so generic you might not even generate a conversion.

Where should I start before SEO? 

Usually my recommendation here is, start testing some SEM to understand if people are actually converting. Don’t worry about the conversion rates, don’t worry about optimization of keywords. But, answer three simple questions:

  1. Can I drive people to our website and have them convert into customers or leads?

  2. Is there enough search intent and volume of phrases people are searching for to benefit the endeavor?

  3. Can we afford to invest in this for 6-12 months before seeing a considerable return?

Answering the question about conversion is especially important because it would be a calculated mistake to start driving all this traffic to the site, have a terrible bounce rate and hurt your overall SEO relevance. (Bounce rate is a ranking factor). On top of that, if the traffic now doesn’t convert, and, you haven’t solved for that, you’re going to lose  an opportunity to convert what could be a lifelong customer and your brand will take a hit. People might be averse to clicking on search results if the experience is so bad they remember it and don’t ever want to come back. Maybe less dramatic, every time they enter through search, they might bounce, which negatively impacts your SEO long term. Once the site is optimized for conversions, driving organic search traffic will be able to drive a great return and brings down eCPA.

When it comes down to search intent and search volume, this is mostly focused on primary converting terms. Things like “comfortable women’s sweaters” or “engagement rings” or even “small business website builder.” Which leads me to the last question around can you afford to invest time and energy into an SEO Program knowing filling the top of the funnel with traffic will lead to conversions and revenue.

If you have solved for the above and you know people coming to the site will convert into customers, it’s now time to think about the investment of resources. There are many paths you can veer down in order to build more traffic to fill the top of the funnel and this is where SEO can get fun due to the somewhat “free” nature of the traffic. Building content relevant to the customer profile you have can be a great way to get people familiar with the brand at any point in the customer experience.

Creating a blog with content that answers specific things your customer might be searching for and/or content they might be interested in reading about are great ways to generate traffic even higher up in the journey. Organic search allows you to keep getting the brand in front of the customers, driving impressions and one undervalued thing is the building of customer lists and audience retargeting, thus leading to lower CPA from paid channels, more customers, as well as the benefits from the organic traffic.

Create things like resource centers, help centers, content directories, among many other examples in order to create evergreen organic search traffic that people will always be searching for to answer simple questions they might have. Creating a blog with tips, tricks, DIY ideas, etc. could spark someones interest in something they’ve been looking for. And, those ideas could lead to vitality effects of people sharing that content. Being a resource is a great way to drive brand awareness, conversions, and customer loyalty without even attempting to sell your product or service, and doing this from organic search with no customer acquisition cost associated will help even more.

Just remember to ask yourself if you are truly ready to get started with SEO. It’s not a simple process, it requires a lot of time and energy and dedication by your product, marketing, and technology teams to be done right. You’re going to need to be okay with investing 6-12 months of time without seeing a return because you’re at the mercy of Google’s search engine. SEO is not like CPC traffic that you are paying for clicks via keywords or demographic targeting. SEO is holistic, requiring you to get the right phrases on the pages, with the right architecture allowing search engines to crawl and index your content, and generating authority through links. If you think of it this way, holistically, and have some patience to understand it will take time, you will almost positively see the fruits of your labor with all that juicy sweet organic search traffic that you won’t have to pay for.

Google Broad Core Algorithm Update: What You Need to Know and What to Do Next

Many people in the digital marketing world were impacted last month when Google introduced a Google broad core algorithm update. There has been an obvious and visible change in the rankings of search results for many websites. Google confirmed this via a tweet:


Here is Google’s official statement:

“Just like with every broad core update, webmasters around the world are once again going over ranking fluctuations and examining ranking factors with a fine-tooth comb. Many websites hoped their rankings would increase, and it did, while others either had a drop of rankings or no change at all.”

Google Broad Core Algorithm Update vs. Core Search Update

If you are unfamiliar with digital marketing or SEO, Google updates and changes their algorithm very often, more often than they even announce. They do two types of updates – small daily algorithm updates and major ones several times per year.

Daily algorithm updates – core algorithm updates – generally happen a couple times a day, but are not really reported and there isn’t much info revealed about them. On the other hand, the Broad Core Algorithm Updates happen only few times per year and usually make significant changes in search results for users. These updates are focused on improving the quality of search results and providing the best possible user experience to it’s users. This is really the main difference, creating more relevance, between the two types of updates.

What do I do if I’ve noticed Rankings have dropped?

Many people have noticed a drop in their key rankings for some search queries. This is due to the fact the update was focused on improving user experience by providing contextual results based on search intent. Just like the update from March, there are no website fixes for those hit by the update. 

If your website, or some of your key pages had a drop in ranking after the broad core update, it is not because your website lacks quality, has issues, or is being penalized. Google explains this as a result of having other pages which were “under-rewarded” and now are ranking higher after the update. Or as Google officially stated:

“As with any update, some sites may note drops or gains. There’s nothing wrong with pages that may perform less than well, now. Instead, it’s the changes to our systems that are benefiting pages that were previously under-rewarded.”

One of the things you can do is identify if there are content pages that are lacking in quality and see if there is a need to overhaul your content strategy or just make some minor updates to it. The key is to remember to tailor it to the search intent of your target audience. Based on our research and findings, we noticed that the focus has shifted from keyword-centric results to topic-based results. This is Google’s way of providing searchers with insightful results answering their search queries, matching search intent more closely. 

Even Google’s Danny Sullivan stressed the importance of high-quality content in a tweet soon after the official announcement of the algorithm update.

Actionable Tips in the aftermath of the Broad Core Update

First and foremost, take some time to identify the pages that dropped in rankings, how considerable the drop was, and what websites replaced yours. Do an analysis of your previously high-ranking pages and compare them with the ones that took over in rankings. Try to discover what makes the content on those pages better, more relevant and what matchers searcher intent as compared to the content you had that was rankings previously. 

Keep in mind, just like with any update, Google may roll back a few of the changes and you might have seen some rankings return, I have yet to notice this, but, keep an eye out. Monitor the SERPs carefully while you strategize your new content creation approach. When you do decide to start creating content, make sure you do extensive research! Quality over quantity generally works, but, keep an eye on what Danny mentioned above. 

Think about your overall content strategy, how the new research you’ve done has made you re-think or want to re-work the content strategy. This doesn’t mean stuffing pages with more content OR drastically re-writing entire sections of your site. Rather be thorough, be thoughtful, and be mindful about the approach and take into account the research you did relating to the sites now rankings for the terms you once were.

(Of course, our team would be happy to help you identify these trends and any obstacles you may have around your search rankings. Feel free to reach out about seo consulting and our team will be happy to help you!)

 

Featured Snippets and SEO

What You Need to Know About Featured Snippets

 

Featured snippets are short, direct answers that show up on top of Google search results as an answer to a search query. Featured snippets are a result of good on-page content best responding to search engine query.

 

There are three types of featured snipped that can show up in search: paragraph, list, table.  Paragraph is the most common type, occupying 82% of snippets.

 

Featured snippets are enticing to marketers because they can easily get you to the #0 position on Google search. This matters because it helps you to prove your relevancy to Google and users that your content is useful, and offers people with quality information. When your content is shown in a featured snippet, you are the top pick, meaning you are beating the competition and out-ranking sites that rank in the top 10 positions for that particular search topic. But the most important reason why marketers love seeing their content featured on top of search results is the increased traffic their websites receive which can go upward of 20-30%.

 

How Do Feature Snippets Affect SEO?

 

Featured snippets are changing the SEO landscape. Over time, Google has added different types of featured snippets, and modified them, but the most striking change has been the increase in the number of search queries that trigger featured snippets.

 

A recent study by Ahrefs, which included around 112 million keywords from their US database, showed that almost 14 million keywords have featured snippets in search results. That means that 12.29% of queries have featured snippets, out of which only 30.9% rank at the very top in organic results. As Google gets better at understanding search queries and delivering featured snippets, it’s most likely that the numbers will continue to grow. It’s also interesting to note that the majority of snippets are triggered by a long-tail keyword.

 

Another interesting finding shows that featured snippets have a negative impact on the first organic search result with fewer clicks to the overall organic search results. When there’s a featured snippet, the first organic result in Google search gets a significant drop in click-through rate. When there is no featured snippet present, the first result gets 26% click-through rate, compared to with the snippet at 19.6%, and the featured snippet itself at 8.6% click-through rate.

 

Are Featured Snippets Good or Bad for SEO?

 

We already established that featured snippets are gaining popularity with Google and stealing organic traffic. But do they have a negative impact on SEO and overall ROI? Not necessarily. Despite the fact that the reduced click-through rates, there are a few things to consider before labeling them “bad for SEO”.

 

  • People who read featured snippets are not your most valuable audience. This might be subjective, and vary from person to person, but hear this out. If a user is looking for a quick answer to a simple question, chances are they are not interested in reading long-form content or making a purchase. So the traffic you potentially lose isn’t that valuable.

 

  • You can optimize for feature snippets. If ranking at the top of search starts to lose meaning when there’s a featured snipped above the results, then you need to find your way to the #0 position. The right on-page content optimization can get you that position and get your site included in featured snippets.  

 

  • Brand visibility is still important. Getting a featured snipped doesn’t necessarily mean getting more traffic. Yes, we are aware it’s a bit contradictory to all said above, but it’s true, some people still choose organic results. But the good thing is, you will receive brand exposure and visibility that can increase brand familiarity and increase trust among your audience.

 

  • There are still 87.7% of queries that function as they always have. Even though there’s an increase in the number of featured snippets and almost one in every eight queries, that’s still a tiny portion of the overall search volume. You can and should still optimize for the 87.7% of queries that still don’t have a featured snippet, allowing you to rank higher and garner more traffic.  

Winter is Here. Sorry. Featured Snippets are Here.

 

Yes, featured snippets are here, and they are here to stay, as it seems. So, if you are thinking about optimizing a page or two to be cited in a featured snippet, then you can use these optimization techniques:

 

  • Use Microformatting. First, make sure your site is properly updated according to the microformat standards, which you can find and use on Schema.org. Microformatting will help Google understand the type of information on your site and make it easier for search bots to crawl and parse the information. If your site doesn’t have this formatting, it won’t be considered for featured snippets at all.

 

  • Optimize for long-tail search queries. Next, make sure your site is optimized for long-tail keywords, rather than shorter ones. The more specific your keywords are, the better. So instead of optimizing for “Game of Thrones” you can be more specific and go for a phrase like “What happens to John Snow in Game of Thrones Season 7?”. (No spoilers please, I’m two episodes behind.)

 

  • Offer brief and accurate answers. Once your page is optimized for a search query, you should answer it as briefly and accurately as possible. Users, and more importantly, Google, like to offer answers that are one or two sentences long, so do your best to keep it short and simple.

 

  • Get inbound links. Link building is an important factor, in organic search, and in featured snippets. Do your best to attract inbound links from quality sources, like you already do.

 

Yes, featured snippets are changing the SEO world. They steal potential traffic from organically ranked sites, but there’s no need to panic. There is still an 87.7% chance that your traffic won’t get poached by a featured snippet. Keep that in mind when you create and adjust your strategy, and optimize for SEO. From where we stand, you have two general options. Consider optimizing your own site to be included in the featured snippets as well, or adjust your strategy to avoid them altogether. We can provide suggestions and recommendations, but it’s up to you to figure out how you want to handle the situation.   

 

How to Optimize Your SEO for the Mobile-First Index

Google’s main goal is to provide the best possible results to a search query. And since most users rely on mobile devices for the majority of their online activities, Google’s focus is on catering to the needs of the ever growing number of mobile users. In the past years, Google has released several updates aimed at making the web better for mobile consumers, but now, it took its game up a notch by rolling out a mobile-first version of its index.

There’s no choice for website owners but to adapt to the mobile-trend in order to maintain traffic and ranking because the new index will split the desktop and mobile results, and if your website is not prepared for the change, you could be in for hard times. Mobile will become the primary index and mobile searches will no longer show results for desktop, and vice versa.

If you have a desktop and not a mobile version of your site, or different mobile and desktop versions, you should be concerned and address these issues as fast as possible, or before the mobile-first index is fully released. The first step is to create a fully-functional mobile website. Next comes SEO in a mobile-first index.

Let’s take a look at what you can do to improve your mobile website’s SEO. But to make things easier, and so you don’t have to do everything on your smartphone, open your website in a desktop browser and view the mobile version. You can do this by right-clicking on the site, and choosing the “inspect” option, then, you can toggle between desktop and mobile in the upper left corner of the menu.

 

1. Perform the Google Mobile Friendliness Test

First of all, you need to check if your website can pass the Google Mobile Friendliness Test. Begin with your key navigation pages, and your highest selling category and product pages, one by one. Take a look at the “No Mobile Configuration” section to see which pages you need to focus on first. If you still don’t have a mobile site, responsive site or AMP pages, start implementing them right away. Or, if you can, go for a responsive website design. But remember, pages without mobile optimization can badly impact your performance in the SERP.  

 

2. Check whether your Mobile Pages are Indexed

You’ll have to do this check on a smartphone. And to make sure Google is indexing your mobile pages, open Google and in the search box type: “site:visiblefactors.com”. If there are no results for your site, Googlebot may be unable to access the mobile pages. If you are using separate mobile and desktop site, and Googlebot is not indexing your mobile pages, we recommend you create and submit a mobile sitemap. Tag the mobile pages with the rel=canonical and rel=alternate tags.  Googlebot might not be indexing mobile pages because of the separate mobile and desktop URLs, but this should do the trick. But, if you don’t have separate URLs, double-check the robot.txt file and make sure you are not blocking Googlebot.

3. Look for Smartphone Errors in Google Search Console

For this step, go to Google Search Console, Crawl Errors, and choose Smartphone. The errors you identify here can help guide your strategy. Analyze each error and deal with it in the right manner. One common mistake that shows up frequently though, is a faulty redirect. Make sure you have matching smartphone and desktop URLs, so users (and Googlebot) get sent to the right page. When you fix the smartphone errors you allow Google to index your content better.  

4. Change Your On-site SEO Optimization for Mobile

Mobile and desktop on-site optimization differ. For example, title tags on mobile are shorted than those on desktop. Keep in mind that you need to create good user experience, and that includes good on-site optimization, from title tags, to headers. The simplest way to address this issue is by using Screaming Frog. Run the check, then go over the “Page Titles” mane at the top. Get all results for “Over 65 Characters”, and download the data. Rewrite the longer meta titles, and repeat the same procedure for meta descriptions as well. Make sure all of them are shorter and mobile friendly. And for the headings, you can opt for slightly reducing the size for a better mobile UX. Also, run a check with Google’s robot.txt testing tool to make sure you are not blocking Googlebot.  

 

5. Improve Page Load Times

Mobile page load speed can be a crucial UX factor, and load times longer than 4 seconds can make visitors leave. To test your page load times, you can use a lot of free tools, like PageSpeed Insights and Pingdom. Just open your website and run the speed test. Depending on the result, there might be several things to consider. But the simplest optimization you can do, without help from a development team, is optimizing image size. Next, if that doesn’t help much, have your dev team reduce code, add browser cache, manage plug-ins. And lastly, see if your web designer can move more content above the fold.

6. Mobile and Desktop Content Should be a Perfect Match

In order to cross-check and compare your mobile and desktop website, you will have to do it manually. Pull up a list of your most visited and highest performing pages from Google Analytics, then open each page, one by one on desktop and your smartphone. Also, check and scan your code for any inconsistencies. If you find pages with more content on desktop than the mobile version or vice versa, go over them with your editorial and development team to redesign them. It’s advisable to have a completed content audit before you do this so you’ll know what content can and can’t be removed, without hurting traffic. To make sure Google sees your web pages the same way you and your users do, use Google Search Console’s Fetch and Render, and choose mobile user agent from the menu. That way you’ll get to see two pages, side-by-side, and you’ll know whether your content looks the same to Googlebot and your users. Remember that Google ranks content only from the mobile site, and uses the canonical links as guides for users searching from desktop or mobile. So be careful when you making the redesign.

7. Make Sure To Add Structured Data to Your Mobile Pages

While many webmasters skip adding structured data to mobile sites, in the mobile-first index, if you want to keep it, you’ll have to add it to the mobile pages manually. If you already have a responsive website, then your schema should do it. But if you have separate mobile and desktop sites with different URLs, you will have to make sure you followed all the necessary steps for mobile, as you would for your desktop site. Double-check with the Google Structured Testing Tool if your schema markup has been added correctly to your mobile site. Use the “Inspect” function to make sure it’s coming up on mobile devices. Make sure to update all URLs you use in the schema, but be careful not to drown your site in structured data. And if you use a plugin for structured data, use a testing tool to make sure the displayed markup is correct.

8. Launch AMP if You Still Don’t Have Mobile Pages

If you still didn’t have a chance to create mobile pages for your website, then create AMP versions of your pages – it’s the easiest way to get Google to index them. But if you have a m.mobile site, and the content of your AMP page is full and different from the one on the m.mobile site, Google will rank he m.mobile site above your AMP page, and you won’t rank for the keywords included in the full content. Also, you can’t rank higher if you have a mobile version and an AMP version of a page. Google will rank the desktop version of the page instead. If you set up AMP pages, you can easily check them on your smartphone by trying to open a specific page from your website. If you see the small AMP symbol – the gray lightning bolt next to the result, you’re good. You can also do a check-up on your desktop, by viewing the source and searching for rel=”amphtml” or by using the AMP Chrome extension in order to switch between the regular and the AMP versions. And in order to do a final check on whether you implemented AMP pages correctly and get suggestions on how to fix any problems you might have, use the AMP testing tool.

9. Check Your Subdomains Using the Google Search Console

If you already have a responsive website, then skip this part 🙂 But if your website uses subdomains such as m.visibleactors.com or visiblefactorsmobile.com, than you need to verify them in Google Search Console. First, open your Google Search Console account and click the “Add Property” button, and add your subdomains. Next, after you upload your subdomains, Google will send you notifications about your mobile site to let you know if you have smartphone errors, manual actions, if you’re blocking Googlebot, or basically if there are any issues with your site. Beware that Google treats subdomains as separate sites so pay attention to all notifications you receive and make sure to fix all problems.

 

The challenges for SEO-teams become even greater when you need to adapt your SEO-efforts to the upcoming mobile-first index and prepare your website for the upcoming change as fast as you can. And maintaining a dedicated mobile site, if you still don’t have a responsive one, is vital if you want to stay afloat in the mobile-first index, at least for the time being. The rollout will be global, and all websites will face the same constrictions, there’s no escape. So make sure to be prepared when it happens.     

 

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How to Make Your Textual Content SEO-friendly?

Whether you are writing content for your company website or the next company blog post, the goal is to create great content that offers value to the reader, while positively reflecting your brand. But at the same time, you want your content piece to be search engine optimized. Let’s face it; great content is not useful if nobody can find it.

The goal to write a great blog post that is SEO-optimized while attracting an audience can seem contradictory. But if you have great writing skills, it is easy to create content that can accomplish both objectives.

Generally speaking, writing valuable content is one of the best ways to optimize it for SEO and there are no tricks that can compete with the raw power of high-quality content. That being said, even the best content can use a few structural tweaks and tricks to make it even more SEO-friendly.

If you want to be optimized for SEO and easily discoverable/sharable, here are some universal guidelines that you should stick to when creating your next piece of textual content (supposing you already did your keyword research).

 

Headline and Subheadings

First things first – your headline is the first thing anyone sees and reads. If your content is valuable, but your headline is mediocre, your click-through-rate will be low. Before writing your blog post body, write your headline. It should be clear and concise, conveying a specific message or idea that attracts people’s attention and prompts them to click and read further. A good practice is including your main keyword in the headline. Adding numbers is also an effective way to make the headline more enticing and clickable.  

Subheadings are an important part of you blog post’s body because they make the text scannable. Most people read the headline and subheads first, then decide whether to read the whole text or only the parts that matter to them the most. Also, subheads are another way to strategically use your keywords and increase keywords saturation.

When you prepare the blog post for publishing, make sure to add suitable HTML tags (H1, H2, H3…) to your heading and subheads in order to optimize the post for search bots too.  

 

Body Structure

If you created your headline, and are ready to move to writing the body, start by writing a short outline of the text. Think about the purpose, target audience, and the main action you want the reader to take at the end of the text. When writing the outline, you can write the subheadings first. That will give you an overview of what you need to write in each section.    

Once you start the actual writing, pay attention to the quality, originality and the structure of the text.  Always write unique content. Plagiarism can only hurt your ranking with Google, and the trust and authority you built among your audience. Use storytelling principles to improve the content quality and try to connect with readers on an emotional level. Use short sentences and short paragraphs, no more than 100 words, to improve the readability and the blog post structure. Smaller chunks of text are easier to read. When you want to specify or highlight and list certain points, use bullets or numbering to emphasize their importance and separate them from the general text. That will also help readers scan the text easier.

Be careful with the keywords used throughout the body. Use the main keywords and synonyms in moderation. And try to use signal words like “first of all’, “second” and “finally”.  And conjunctions “surely”, “consequently”, “for this reason”, because they will improve the structure of your text, and the reader will get clear signals about what follows.

 

Blog Post Length and Keyword Density

The minimum length of your blog posts should be 300 words. Even though Google likes long articles, and sometimes ranks them better, readers often are scared away by posts that are over 1000 words long. The ideal article length is somewhere between 600 and 800 words, depending on the topic, the target readers, and the goal of the blog post. For example, in-depth guides may require 3000 words or more.

As a general rule of thumb: the ideal keyword density is about 1-2% of your text. So, in a 600-word post, you should mention your keyword 6 to 12 times. Do not stuff your blog post with keywords because instead of making your content more SEO-friendly, it will only hurt your ranking.

 

Links to Previous Content

Page links are the main building blocks of your webpage. Your link structure is important to Google. Links tell Google if your content is valuable to people, and you are connected and sociable. Adding links to high-quality, reputable websites also improves the validity of your website, and your ranking. And using credible sources in the body of your text is also a good way to create trust with your readers.

If you have other posts closely related to your current one, link back to them. It will make the post stronger because it will show more authority on the subject. But whether you link to internal or external pages, use appropriate anchor text which flows naturally with the rest of the content.     

 

Meta Descriptions

Another important part of on-page SEO optimization is writing your meta description. Use the meta descriptions to guide the search engine, and help it understand what your content is about. It is the HTML attribute that provides search engines with a concise explanation of your page’s content. The meta description should be enclosed in the <head> section on your webpage.    

But meta descriptions help searchers understand what your content is about too. The text in a meta description is what Google uses as a snippet when your web page shows in the SERP. And that copy, along with your headline, will determine whether the searcher will click on your page or not. So use those 150 – 160 characters wisely, and make sure to incorporate your main keyword as well.

 

Optimize the Images

Visuals make textual content more interesting and shareable. People are more likely to share the content if there’s a fun or unusual image included. And if it a sales-related text, people will be more likely to buy if they can see the product featured in attractive and relevant photo. But images are important and should be optimized for search bots too. So make sure you enter text in the title and alt tag fields, and preferably use your keyword too.

Optimize the photo dimensions and size. It’s a good practice to match the image dimensions (width) with that of your web page template and use browser resizing capabilities to make the images responsive by setting a fixed width and auto-height. Try to use smaller files because large files load slowly and that can hurt SEO. Make the images slow, but don’t compromise their quality and visibility.

 

There are no special tricks on how to write great content. Nor are there tricks on how to rank high in Google if your content is average. Remember to always write for people, and don’t underestimate the importance of SEO-optimization. High-quality, original content is what matters the most, but it takes a little extra effort to additionally optimize it for SEO and rank highly for SERPs, clicks, reads, likes and social shares.

It may be difficult at first, but it’s very much possible to achieve both goals. Then again, if you believe that it’s a job best handled by the pros, you are welcome to drop us a line or give us a call, and we’ll make sure your brand’s name and story take off.

 

 

 

Boost Local SEO Efforts to Improve Reputation, Rankings and Revenue

If you want to market a local business online, begin with search. Investing in, and optimizing for local SEO is a great way to place your business in front of a local target audience, while selling your product to people who will provide the most growth for your company.  But, unlike optimizing for organic search, SEO optimization for local business includes a slightly different set of components. 

So let’s take a look at the main components of local SEO that influence your 3 Rs – reputation, rankings and revenue.

1. Set up a Google Place and Google+ Local Page

Begin your local SEO optimization with opening a Google Business account. This will allow you to set up a free listing on Google Places, appearing on the right hand side of the SERPs anytime someone does a relevant search. By listing on Google Places, you are giving your website the most important backlink you can get – from Google. You can emphasize the impact by creating a Google+ business page and entering your business details there too.

Make sure your business qualifies as local by checking the Google Compliance Guidelines and stick to them to ensure you are not spamming Google.

2. Optimize your Website for Local Rankings

First, have a technically clean website that offers great user experience and regularly audit your site to resolve problems and avoid penalties.

Next, include your location info, along with your brand’s name and keywords in the pages’ title, tags and meta descriptions. Also try to insert your location as a keyword, or a long-tail key phrase in your content. But make these location-insertions sound as natural as possible, especially in places read by people. Avoid keyword stuffing and include your business address and contact phone number in the footer of the site.

Optimize your website in such a way that you are the best in the business’ geo-industry, but don’t forget that you need to optimize for organic search, local search, and conversions. 

3. Make use of Citations Identical with NAP listings

Your presence on other high-quality listing sites such as Yell and Trip Advisor is very important. They provide authority links to your site, encouraging users to visit your site and trust your business.

Next, make sure your NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) listing are correct and identical with your citations since they are a key ranking factor, and can improve your ranking especially if they present quality and relevant listing sites. Decide which location information you want included, and use that address on yours, and when you list on third-party sites.

So make sure your citations are correct and up-to-date. Monitor and audit them regularly, fix any inconsistencies, remove duplicates, and don’t forget to look for new geo- and industry-specific citation opportunities.

4. Use the Power of Positive Customer Reviews

We all know the power of reviews, and how strongly they can influence our decisions. Google and other search engines are no different. If your business has numerous five-star reviews, you will have a higher rank with proof of excellent service.

In order to get positive reviews from customers more frequently, start by providing better in-store service and encourage customers to leave reviews on Google and other relevant sites. Monitor your reviews, good and bad ones alike, and respond to them – thank them for their honest comments. Take people’s remarks seriously and try to improve your service. Customers always appreciate the extra effort you are willing to put in for them. Use this to your advantage and earn your positive reviews.

5. Get Valuable Local Links

Just like optimizing for organic search, optimizing for local SEO also requires relevant links, especially from other relevant and authoritative local business websites.  To optimize your links, find broken links and resolve them or disavow them.

Make sure to create new linking opportunities by providing great content, and always be on the lookout for new linking opportunities in editorial contributions, local sponsorships, relevant blogs and online local magazines, etc.

6. Create a Strong Social Presence

Being present on social media is a must nowadays. It’s not up for discussion anymore whether you should create social media presence, but where to create it. Start by identifying which social networks are most relevant to your geo-location and industry. Based on each platform, and your goals, come up with a participation strategy, and try to engage your audience. Talk to your audience, share information and experiences with them, and don’t sell your products and/or services aggressively.

Also, remember to use social media to monitor the social conversations about your brand, and to listen to your customers. Try to be fast in answering customers’ questions, and resolving any problems of conflicts. Social signals do matter!     

7. Watch Your Offline Behavior

As a local business, you must beware of your offline behavior too. Anything that happens offline, can be published online, whether it’s a company activity or in-store experience. Your offline and online experience should be consistent because the consumers that found you online and visited your store expect to see the same branding, messaging, signage, promotional materials, in-store experience, apps, etc. Be consistent in your efforts.

Also, use the power of real-world opportunities for establishing a strong brand presence in the community using traditional marketing methods such as TV, radio, print media, and organization, participation and/or sponsorship of local events and happenings.


Now that we explained how to optimize each part of local SEO, let’s look at how these factors influence your 3 Rs.

Reputation: When you are present on Google Places as a local business, your NAP listings and citations are identical, and you have numerous positive reviews, you prove not to be spammy to search engines and you are relevant to customers. Additionally, when you have a great website that is supported with high-quality links, excellent user experience, and positive social signals, your reputation in the search results is greatly protected.

Rankings: All of the above mentioned factors influence how Google perceives your website. Google evaluates and trusts the validity of your business based on your reputation, your website’s performance, content quality, penalties, and more. And when your on-page efforts are supported with good reviews, listings, citations, and strong social media presence, Google will rank your site higher in the SERPs.

Revenue: By optimizing all these areas, you save yourself from losing customers due to lack of or incorrect information, lack of customer support, bad comments, or plunges in visibility. If you prove to be a highly reputable site that ranks high in the local searches, you will get more online traffic, more store visits, and ultimately, and will enjoy increased profits.

By providing good customer experience, online and offline, instigating positive reviews, getting quality listings and citations, generating great and relevant content, being present on social media, and getting recognized as a high-quality brand, you set yourself for success in the online and offline world.

Never underestimate the power of any component of local SEO, and optimize each and every one of them at the same time, and be consistent in your work. Keep monitoring, tracking and improving your actions and adjusting your strategy. And if you can’t do it alone, we can assist your local business and help you grow and become the best in your area. Give us a call!  

 

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All you Need to Know about Google RankBrain

Google RankBrain: What it is and Why it is important

Over a year ago, in October 2015, Google announced they are going to use machine learning techniques of artificial intelligence in research. The topic raised a lot of questions and led to confusion about what Google RankBrain is, what it means for search marketing, and what brands should do about it. Today, a year and a half later after the dust settled, we learned (everything) we could and decided to share that knowledge with you.  We intend to answer all remaining questions you might have and eliminate all uncertainties.  

What is RankBrain?

First and foremost, let’s settle this dilemma: RankBrain is NOT an ‘update’ to the search algorithm. In fact, it is the third most useful search ranking signal, right after content and links. The actual list includes 200 different ranking factors. So what actually is RankBrain? Google RankBrain is a machine learning AI (artificial intelligence) system used to assist the processing of Google search queries.   

How Does RankBrain Work?

Google’s main goal is to provide its users with the most useful and relevant results for each query entered. In order to complete that goal, Google has to understand the search queries and to be able to match them with the appropriate content, even when the words of the search query are very different. In the past, Google’s algorithm was focused on matching user searches to the same webpage wording. Now, Google’s decided to take a slightly more sophisticated approach in trying to understand that actual context and search intent, and use it to deliver improved search results. That is why Google created RankBrain.  

RankBrain’s main purpose, according to Google, is to interpret queries that are very complex or just haven’t been seen before. Therefore, it converts the innumerable search words and keywords from Google Search, into quantitative figures that machines can understand and decipher. Instead of being pre-programmed and scripted, by using mathematical processes called vectors, plus additional advanced semantic processes, RankBrain learns people’s search patterns inference and then applies those interpretations to future search results.

Simply put, RankBrain is a system that aims to better understand search queries and give them meaning by identifying the real “user intent” and returning the best and most fitting results to the user.

Why is RankBrain important?

There are more than two trillion searches entered in Google yearly. And most of those searches are not limited to short phrases or a couple of words, but rather use full sentences such as, “What’s the best place to eat pizza in Napoli?  These searches cannot be effectively processed with an ordinary search algorithm. That’s why Google created RankBrain – a technology that studies and learns from the study – to learn from the search query and give more comprehensive results.  RankBrain avoids simply matching all words in the query and returning exact or filtering the nearest results related to the query.

At first, RankBrain processed around 15% of the searches, but now it is used to help with every search query.  Besides being able to process queries better and more accurately than before, there are several other ways in which RankBrain impacts search engines. In addition to faster query processing and increased optimization for search results, RankBrain is more relevant and user-friendly.  RankBrain is effective by learning from searches and drawing from offline phrases to understand more complex and long-tail keywords. 

How Does RankBrain Influence SEO?

It is well known that keywords play a crucial role in your website’s SEO, especially when you are creating content. So far, Google’s algorithm was able to identify the keywords in the page content and use them as a ranking factor. Now, Google has learned to identify great content, and keywords alone are not enough to get you high ranking. With RankBrain as part of the ranking equation, great content is more important than ever, and if you don’t provide great user experience, you lower your changes of ranking success.

The search ranking algorithm has also undergone major changes with the emergence of RankBrain. Before RankBrain, the algorithm produced constant search rankings until the next update. Now, we see constant updates of the ranking algorithm with fluctuating results to ensure better accuracy. Therefore, website owners, SEO consultants and content creators need to increase their versatility in content creation and keyword choice.

RankBrain employs AI technology to understand the user’s search intent and to determine what the user really wants. So instead of creating pages focused on a single keyword, it’s better to create content that targets the main keyword or phrase with related keywords and synonyms.

 

It is safe to conclude that RankBrain is changing the search landscape while helping users find what they are looking for easier and faster. From an SEO perspective, we can say that RankBrain is not something you can specifically optimize for in terms of ranking factors. RankBrain is a little bit different. According to Gary Illyes from Google, the only way to optimize your website for RankBrain is to simply optimize for natural language. And that might be a good thing because website owners will create web pages optimized for people, not machines, yielding quality results for users.

 

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Mobile-First SEO Planning and Strategies for Startups

Woman on mobile device looking for local listings

Startups often have issues gaining traction on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in general, so trying to make sense of the differences between desktop and mobile SEO can be painful. And, gaining real traction in search engine rankings and getting organic search traffic can feel impossible. There are so many sites that have had more time to tinker with their SEO, more time to produce high-quality content, and more time to build the links that drive the results. How do you even begin to think through your company’s SEO strategy for Mobile at that point?

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Holistic Content Marketing Helps All Marketing Channels

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Content is king. We’ve been hearing this for years, and, to this day it is still the truth. But, the type of content and mediums to promote it have been different and can vary. But, while I was working with one of our clients on marketing strategy, I realized how important it can be to their business.

I like to think about things holistically and how each channel helps each other. I’ve proven this method to work really well when put to use with clients, companies I’ve started, and/or advised. As an example, just creating an infographic doesn’t mean it’s going to drive traffic and awareness. But if you know people are searching for the information included, that bloggers want to use that content, etc. it could drive more than you even expected.

Having a holistic plan and more than just a single use for your content can be a huge win for the company. There are many ways this can work. If you’re an e-commerce company or retail business moving online, this can go a long way in terms of driving down your blended CPA.

As an example, you could be a retail or e-commerce company that sells a variety of name brands or major brands. You might be thinking of how to educate the customer on why they should be Gucci shoes over something like Steve Madden. You might want to do something like”Why high end brands are more cost effective than cheap ones in the long run.” (or something a long those lines). While putting the content together you could do some industry research about the longevity of a pair of high end shoes vs. a pair of cheap ones. Doing a full study and putting a few charts together would really help educate the customer.

What this also does is creates a relatable and personal feeling for your brand to the online shopper. Writing that post tells them you’re looking out for their best interest. Educating the customer here is really the goal and hopefully this post achieves that with the data and facts you’ve provided.

Along with educating the customer, they might have needed that last tip to just convert them to a new customer. Reading the content might have made them go “okay, im sold, I’m here, where do i buy them.” Another thing, assuming they aren’t ready to purchase just then would be to browse the site for more content or more products, to really validate the brand. Whatever the case, you’re providing a resource customers are interested in. Along with customers, bloggers and journalists could be interested in this, promoting this content could lead to multiple people writing about it citing your content.

They might not only be interested in it, they might actively be search for this. For example, I might be googling “steve madden vs gucci pricing” or many long tail variations of this. I might be really concerned about spending $500 on a pair of shoes vs. $79 and not truly understand the difference in the craftsmanship and quality. After understanding this, the customer could be sold (as mentioned above). The great part is, by creating this post, you’ve driven organic search traffic to your site and now you might have possibly converted that customer.

Okay fine, that might be a perfect world scenario, but, that isn’t the only way to convert them. There are two other methods that could potentially lead to a customer buying from you in a more cost efficient manner.

One of those is methods is retargeting. You just got a new user to visit your site through search traffic, them clicking a link in facebook, or a blog post that cites your content. Again, the key here is now this piece of content is already being used in many ways. But, now you’ve got a visitor to your site, that’s being retargeted and will be reminded of your products. Converting this customer over time will be way more cost effective than paying for Adwords or Facebook ad clicks. (that’s not to say we don’t want you to do them, we highly recommend it as well.)

Finally using this content to help email marketing efforts is just another method to help drive new conversions, as well as repeat revenue from existing customers. The first and simplistic thing you can do is have an email / newsletter sign up on your site. The person that came to the site might be so interested in the insightful piece of content you created that they might be interested in more content from you. Also, if they get to site and they find the content interesting but don’t take any action, you can have a modal window (aka pop up) appear on the site that could catch their attention, a service like Picreel will achieve this for you. Here is an example of how we’ve used it on David Kind‘s Blog (p.s. they are one of my favorite companies!):

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Now that they have signed up, you can continue to market to them over email through a welcome series, newsletter series, and continue to promote content, the brands, offers, etc. from your company.

Speaking of that newsletter, the blog post you created, we’re coming back to it here because you might have customers that didn’t know the difference or would be interested in it. Or people who have signed up to the newsletter or welcome series that have yet to convert. You can highlight this content (or any other content you create, for that matter) within this newsletter and yet again use it to you drive a new conversion or repeat revenue from existing customers.

Finally, using services like Taboola or Outbrain, you can use this content and promote it using low cost advertising on a variety of content sites that might be relevant to your brand. An example of this is companies like Harry’s or Dollar Shave Club, who I see all the time when I’m reading about one of my beloved Chicago Sports teams. Here’s an example of how they use the ads to drive customer awareness and also new customer acquisition:

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With all the methods we just listed above, you just drove down your blended CPA. All of this was done with one single piece of content used across various channels and mediums.

Now, I know that was a lot to cover, but, think about it. The possibilities are endless with content. So you should be mapping it out and creating an entire content strategy for your business and not just creating blog posts for the sake of creating them. Think about all the different ways you can use this content to drive new traffic, new users, new conversions, new leads, etc.

Visible Factors is always here to help when you need a Content Marketing Strategy for your company. And, we’d love to hear your thoughts about content marketing below in the comments.

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