Easy To Implement Local SEO Optimization Tips For Small Business

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Every local business wants to be at the top of the Google or Bing search engine results when someone searches for a product or service like theirs.

Just think how much business you would have if every time someone searched for, “family dentist in Charlotte”, your family dental practice showed up at the top of the search engine results every time.

For every local search result in Google, there is a local business sitting at the top of the page.  These businesses usually place a high importance on Local SEO optimization and invest the time and resources to get their business at the top of the search engine results.

Wouldn't it be great if your local business could do the same?

Local Searches Lead 50% Of Mobile Visitors To Visit Stores Within One Day – Google Think Research report

Now you might be saying to yourself, “I don't have the money to hire someone to do this”.  The good news is that there are lots of things you can do to help in your local SEO efforts that require no money and little to no SEO experience.  It simply requires a commitment from you to do it and a few hours a month to set aside to get it done.

Below I am going to outline some Local SEO optimization tips that can help your business show up higher in the search engine results.  More visibility in the search engines will get you more targeted traffic to your website and more opportunities to generate leads online.  Isn't that worth investing a few hours a month on for your business?

Now, not every industry is equal.  For example, if you are a lawyer, mortgage broker or a plumber in your city, the competition online is fierce.  With highly competitive industries like these where the rewards for new a customer is high, they are usually paying marketing companies with their local SEO to get to get top search engine rankings for their city.  You may eventually need to hire someone to help, but you will have a solid foundation in place and a much smaller gap to close when you do get to that point.

So if you are serious about wanting to get your business higher in the local search engine results, here are some local SEO tips to get you started.  All of these tips, when done correctly, can have a big impact on your rankings.  They work best when you use them in conjunction with each other and when you do them consistently over time.

Google My Business and Bing Places

If you do a local search in Google like, “Pizza in Denver”, you will see a map show up in the search results along with a bunch of local pizzerias nearby.  That is a local search result, sometimes called a maps result.  This type of result has two parts:

This type of search engine result has two parts:

  • The map listing, which shows local businesses on the map.
  • The organic listings, which shows a list of the top web pages for that particular search.

Sample local seo search results page in Google

When a business shows up on the local map results, it is not your website that is doing it, but your Google My Business listing, which is a free listing by Google.  Bing Places is the Bing search engine equivalent and works pretty much the same way.  We'll talk about Google My Business here as it is the dominant search engine in most markets.  When you look at a search engine result with a map listing, you will notice these local businesses are listed above the traditional search engine results, giving them a lot of visibility on the page.  This is why optimizing your Google My Business page is so important.

Setting up your Google My Business page is pretty simple.  Go to Google My Business and sing up for your free listing.  You will be asked to verify that you are the owner of the business and they will usually send you a postcard in the mail to verify your location.  The good thing is that you don't have to list your business address publicly if you don't want to, which is great for home based businesses.

Once you have signed up and accessed your listing, these are the most important things you need to do:

  • Make sure your NAP (name, address, phone number) are correct and match what you have on your website
  • Make sure your business category is relevant. You can add multiple relevant categories for your business
  • Add lots of images.  Add multiple images for every image category
  • Fill out your listing completely. They show a progress bar, make sure it is at 100%

Now, once you have finished this for Google My Business, head over to Bing Places and do the same.

Once Google and Bing have verified your business, your listing will be live and you now have the opportunity to have it shown in the local search engine results and appear on the map.

Local SEO optimization tip: Download the Google Maps app on your phone and search for your business.  Once you find it, scroll down and look for the “Add Photos” tab.  Click on that and you can use your phone to take pictures of your business and upload them to Google as a customer of your business.  Encourage your customers to do the same.  Google loves to see customers interacting with local businesses through reviews, image upload, etc and it helps add content to your Google My Business listing and will help it rank higher in the local search engine results.

 

NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number)

This is a simple tip that can pay big dividends over time.  Make sure your NAP is consistent across all of your online web properties.  These include:

  • Your website
  • Google My Business and Bing Places
  • Social media properties
  • Review sites
  • Online directories

For every business, Google has to scan numerous websites and try and match each page to a business.  Sometimes, if the NAP is inconsistent, Google will have doubts if this is the same business, so when in doubt, they will leave it out.  So by not being consistent with your NAP, you run the risk of losing associations (and resulting links to your website) because of NAP inconsistencies.

Examples of NAP inconsistencies would be:

  • Business Name: Sam's Plumbing, Sam's Plumbing Service, Sam's Plumbing Services, Sam's Plumbing Services Inc.
  • Address: 123 Main Street, 123 Main Street, 123 Main
  • Phone Number: 704-999-9999, (704) 999-9999

Now many times Google will pick up on the inconsistencies and still give you credit for the listing, but sometimes it won't.  It's such a simple thing to do so it doesn't make sense to lose any time of SEO credit for a silly technical mistake.

Out of these three identifiers, your phone number is the most unique.  You may share an address and other people may have the same business name, but a business will rarely share their phone number with another business.

Local SEO optimization tip:  Perform your own NAP audit to check for inconsistencies with your NAP.  The easy method is to go to https://moz.com/local/search and enter your business and check the results.  From there, you can make edits to any inconsistencies you find with your NAP online.

 

Citations For Local SEO

A citation is a mention of your business online, regardless if it is a link or not.  There are two types of citations, structured and unstructured.

Structured Citations

These are where your business is listed in an organized and structured format.  Examples would be:

  • Google My Business and Bing listings
  • Review sites like Angie's List and Yelp
  • Online directories like the Yellow Pages and Manta

Unstructured Citations

These are mentions of your business, but not in a formal structure.  Examples would be:

  • A blog or media website mentions your business name in the body of an article
  • Someone mentions you on a social media post
  • Someone mentions your business in an online forum or Q&A site like Quora

Google understands that not all local businesses can be SEO and link building masters.  So they routinely scan the Internet for people talking about your business.  When they find these mentions and the sentiment is positive, they give you credit for that towards your local SEO, which helps to increase your rankings and visibility in the local search results.

Your goal with citations is to make sure you are listed properly (having a consistent NAP) on major 3rd party platforms like Facebook, Linkedin, Yelp, etc.  You also want to make sure you are listed in niche sites that cater to your industry.  An example would a restaurant being listed on AllMenus.

Here is a nice resource from Moz that shows you the best places for citations organized by business category.

Local SEO optimization tip: To find important websites to be listed for your business, perform several searches in Google just like a person trying to find a business like yours would.  Check the first 1-2 pages of Google to see what directories and review sites show up.  These are important to for your business and you should make sure you are listed on all of them.  Another tip is to Google your competitor's phone number and sift through the first 5 pages of results.  Here you can find websites where your competitor is listed but you may not be yet.

 

Online Reviews

Online reviews are super important when it comes to local SEO and getting your web properties to rank high in local search.  Google reviews on your Google My Business listing are probably the most important as they directly tied to your Google My Business account and are the first reviews people will typically see when they search on Google.

 93% of all Millennials rely on online consumer reviews, both from their social media contacts and from strangers, when they make purchasing decisions. – Adweek

Depending on your country and industry, Google also pulls in reviews from 3rd party websites as well.  This is why it is important to have positive reviews on all of the major review sites like Facebook, Yelp, Yellow Pages, etc.  There are also review sites like Angie's List and Homestars (Canada) that cater more towards service businesses or specific industries.

As you can see with the example below, Google pulls in reviews from across the web all of the major review sites play a part in your local rankings, not just Google Reviews.

Nusite_Group_Waterproofing_Toronto_Google_My_Business_Listing

How many reviews you need to rank higher in the search engine depends on your competition.  If the Google My Business listings ranking at the top of the local search results are averaging 30 reviews, then you need that at a minimum in order to compete with them.  When it comes to reviews

When it comes to online reviews, having a system in place is critical to gaining reviews on a steady basis.  Timing also plays a big role in getting people to leave reviews. Have a system set up where you call or email (better, do both) your happy customer right after you have delivered your product or service.  This is usually when they are the most enthusiastic about your business and most likely to leave a review.  Do this on a steady basis and you will steadily add reviews to your online profiles over time.

Local SEO optimization tip: If leaving a review becomes a hassle for the customer, then they most likely will not do it.  Try to make their lives as easy as possible.  If a customer is using a Gmail account for email, then ask for a Google review since you know they already have a Google account and do not need to register.  Unless they are regular “Yelpers”, don't ask people to leave a Yelp review, they have a notorious filter system and one time reviewers on Yelp almost always get their reviews removed from public view.  Facebook is a generally good place to send people as most people have a Facebook account these days.

 

Service and Category Pages

Service pages, and category pages if you sell products are great pages to rank high in the search engines.  They are specific and focused in content and with a little tweaking, you can localize the pages for your area.  Spend some time customizing these pages to get them to rank higher in the local search results.

Let's use a local dentist in Charlotte, NC as an example.  These are the typical offerings on a dentist website:

  • Family Dentistry
  • Cosmetic Dentistry
  • Orthodontics
  • Dental Implants

You would start with localizing the titles of each page for their city:

  • Family Dentistry in Charlotte
  • Cosmetic Dentistry in Charlotte
  • Orthodontics in Charlotte
  • Dental Implants in Charlotte

Once you have done this with all of your service/category pages, you have started the process of localizing the page for your city.  You will further localize the each page and stand a better chance at ranking locally by doing the following:

Body Copy.  In the text description of each service, talk about how you serve the residents of Charlotte and talk about how long you and your staff have been doing business in Charlotte.  The important thing is not to keyword stuff, but to incorporate your city into the description naturally.  Something like, “Big Smiles Dentistry has been serving the residents of Charlotte for over 20 years…..”, or “Our dental office, located conveniently in South Charlotte,….”.  Aim for at least 500 words for each page, anything less and there probably isn't enough text for Google to view it as comprehensive enough to rank high for that topic.

Images and Video.  Bring your page to life with various media you can incorporate into the page.  Insert images of your dental practice and staff.  Add video to the page if you can.  Google loves to see multi-dimensional content, so if your competitors have Plain Jane service pages, turn yours visual eye candy for both Google and your customers.

Interlinking.  Interlinking is when you link one of your website pages to another.  It's not much of a ranking factor, but linking from high authority pages on your website to other pages can help give these pages a boost.  Your homepage is almost always your strongest page, so be sure that any service/product page (or any important page you want to rank high) has a link on the homepage pointing to it.  The easiest way to do this is with your main menu navigation.

Local SEO optimization tip: Similarly to Service/Category pages, consider creating area pages for your website to get even more hyperlocal with your marketing.  If you do not have a physical location in an area, don't pretend that you do.  But you can create pages about the various areas you service in your city.  For Charlotte, you could create “Areas We Serve” pages for Matthews, Pineville, BalHuntersvilletersvills, Concord, etc.  People will often not search for their city, but their specific neighborhood when looking for a local business.

 

Blogging

Think of your blog as the doorway maker for your website.  If you do not have a blog or an optimized website, then your homepage is most likely the only door for your website, which is how people find your website.  With a blog, every time you create a new piece of content, you are creating a new door where potential customers can find you.  Wouldn't you like to have 500 doors to your website instead of just one?

A blog is great for what we call “Long Tail Keywords”, which are longer and more specific search queries people make in Google.  An example of a long tail keyword would be, “Dentists in Charlotte that cater to young children”  This search query may not get a ton of searches in your area each month, but if you are the only dental practice in Charlotte that has a blog post talking about how your practice caters to young children, you have a good chance of ranking very high in the search results for this query.

Below is a list of hundreds of potential topics by simply entering the term, “Dentist”, in our keyword research tool.  You can do the same by using a free service like Keywordtool.io

Content_Suggestions_for_Dentists

Local SEO optimization tip: Make a list of the top 20 questions prospective customers ask you on a regular basis.  These should be the foundation for your first 20 blog posts.  Make each one at least 500 words long and add several images to the blog post.  Don't actively promote your business in the article, but add a nice byline for your business and a call to action at the end of the article.  Be sure to add local elements to your blog post, like the city that you are in.

 

Youtube

Most small businesses avoid video like the plague.  If you are not used to being in front of a camera, recording yourself on video is akin to public speaking, most people are terrified of it.  But like public speaking, the more you do it, the easier it becomes.  If you can get over yourself and get comfortable in front of a camera, video marketing can be a gold mine for your local marketing strategy and give you a major boost in your local SEO efforts.  While the links you add in Youtube are what's called no-follow and don't directly contribute to your Local SEO, the content of your videos can and will contribute to your overall Local SEO.

When it comes to video, Youtube is the king of video marketing.  It's free, easy to use and is the second largest search engine on the planet, after Google.

Google is incorporating video into its search results more and more, and there is less competition with video than there is with traditional text-based content.  The good news is that the only thing you need is a mobile phone and some nerve to create lots of videos for your business.

Use Youtube like your blog, create lots of Q&A posts on common questions people ask you.  You can also create a brand video for your business, basically you in your business talking about what you do and who you serve.  Make the videos short, 2-5 minutes in length, and keep them upbeat in tone.  The last thing you want to do is bore people to death.  Aim for being educational and lighthearted, smile a lot.

When it comes to creating Youtube videos, follow these tips when uploading your videos to Youtube:

You can upload videos directly from your phone when you are finished recording, but be sure to go back to Youtube with your computer and finish adding all of the necessary details that help you rank high in Youtube as well as possibly in the regular Google search results.

Add a proper video description.  A good format is to use the first paragraph to describe what the video is about and what people will learn from it.  After that, add information about your business along with a call to action and a link to your website.  You can also add links to some of your social media properties.

Add Tags.  Tags are keywords you can add to a video to give Youtube a better idea what your video is about and how to associate and categorize it properly.  Spend time adding lots of relevant Tags to your video to help it get more visibility on Youtube.  Currently, you have 500 characters available to add Tags, add as many relevant ones that you can, including your industry and city.

Example_Youtube_Tags

Embed videos on your website.  While embedding a Youtube video on your website is not a ranking factor (according to Google), embedding a video on your website will help it get more views, which can translate into higher rankings for your video.  Adding multimedia like video also adds another dimension to the pages on your website and can help liven them up.

Local SEO optimization tips: If you are hesitant about getting in front of a video camera, there are lots of other types of video you can easily create without getting in front of a camera.  Take lots of pictures of your staff and location and create an awesome video using a tool like Animoto.  Create a Powerpoint slide answering a question and either add your voice narration to the PPT or just play it to music.  Powerpoint lets you easily convert slideshows into a video.  With their permission, take short (less than 20 seconds) testimonial videos of your customers.  Best of all, every video you create for Youtube, you can also upload your video to Facebook as well.

 

Optimizing for Local SEO isn't difficult

Yes, it takes time and patience, but it isn't rocket science.  You just need to create a plan and dedicate yourself to implementing it.  Your business will thank you for your efforts.

5 Things Business Owners Should Know About SEO

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Thinking about investing in SEO but not sure if you should?

SEO, also known as search engine optimization,  is one of those things that is simple in concept but difficult in practice.  SEO also means lots of things to different people.  A social media strategist will most likely have a much different definition of what SEO is compared to someone with a background in outreach and link building.  SEO encompasses so many areas that even many so-called “experts” have a hard time actually defining what makes up SEO.

SEO can also be done on your own if you're willing to take the time to learn how to do it.  It's not rocket science, but it takes a lot of time and dedication to learning all of the little technical things that, when added together, form a solid SEO strategy.

But the truth is, most businesses don't have the time to learn how to do SEO properly, at best they may learn a part of it and do that part well, which may be good enough if you are not in a competitive industry/market.  But if you are in a competitive market and you want to make SEO a core part on your marketing strategy, you'll have to either really dedicate the time to learn about it or invest the money in hiring someone who does.

Small businesses don't have a lot of extra money lying around, so they tend to search out affordable SEO solutions.  Unfortunately, the majority of affordable SEO solutions don't work, some may even be a complete ripoff.  You can watch this video to learn more about how much SEO should cost.

Good practice is to speak to similar companies investing in SEO and that are having success with it.  If their company is a similar size and market as yours and they are spending $2,000 a month on SEO, then don't expect to spend $200 a month and be an SEO rock star.

Before you decide to invest your time and money on SEO, read some of the tips below to learn more about what you are getting into.

It Won't Fix a Broken Business

If your business is struggling and paying for SEO is your last ditch effort to save your business, then you can probably kiss it goodbye.  For starters, SEO can take several months to start to show any sort of returns (see below) and it's not going to fix underlying problems going on with your business.  If you have poor customer service, terrible online reviews or have trouble closing deals, then all of those things need to be fixed before you invest in any sort of lead generation activities.  It's like having a leaky pipe and trying to get the water you need from the faucet by cranking up the water pressure, you're going to have a big mess on your hands.  Fix the leaky pipe before you crank up the pressure.

Many times businesses will approach us wanting SEO, but once we examine their business we realize that there are more serious issues that need to be addressed before starting an SEO campaign.  If you have poor customer service, terrible online reviews or can't close a deal to save your life, then all of those things need to be fixed before you invest in any sort of lead generation activities.  It's like having a leaky pipe and trying to get the water pressure you need from the faucet by cranking up the water volume.  You'll get water out of the faucet, but you're going to have a big mess on your hands.  Fix the leaky pipe before you crank up the pressure.

 

Don't Expect Meaningful ROI the First Few Months

If you need online leads now, then concentrate on Pay Per Click advertising or some other form of advertising where you can generate business fast.  SEO isn't a quick win, it doesn't return an immediate ROI like advertising and the results during the first several months can seem ambiguous.  But this is also the same reason most businesses never do it, or at least do it properly, they only think in the short term.

SEO can pay major dividends, just ask anyone doing it successfully, but you need to have the time, patience and money to let it develop.  It's a long term investment and will return the best ROI for you if you give it enough time.  SEO is like a Flywheel, it's really hard to move in the beginning, but as you slowly turn it, it starts to pick up momentum where eventually it's spinning like crazy even with minimal effort on your part.

 

SEO is Not Cheap

No, you're not going to create an online empire by paying an overseas company $300 a month to “optimize” a dozen keywords for you.  SEO, when done right, is labor intensive and requires a lot of expertise to do right.  It's not rocket science, anyone can do it if they spend enough time learning about it (think years), but there are so many factors involved in good SEO and so many things that will either waste your time or get you in trouble.  So you either need to spend the time to do it right or pay the right people to do it for you.

Factors involved in pricing SEO services:

Industry – Some industries like finance, legal and healthcare are extremely competitive online so it's harder to establish yourself with high search engine rankings.  There are much more highly competitive industries, these are just some examples.  Industries with a high potential return when acquiring a new customer (real estate, finance, etc), tend to be very competitive online, which requires more expertise and work to compete with established players.

Location – If you're in a big city like New York or Toronto, then your potential audience is much larger, which also means increased competition.  The bigger the potential payday, the more competition, the more time and energy it will usually take to get good search engine rankings.  So if you want to compete nationally, expect to pay a lot more for SEO than if you wanted to compete in just your city or a section of your city.

Competitors – How you stack up against your competition also plays a role in how much you will pay for SEO services.  If you are just starting out online and your competitors have been building their online presence for years, you will have a pretty big gap that needs to be filled in order to catch up with them.  It's like starting a marathon where you competitors had a 6-hour head start, you'll need to haul ass just to catch up with them, let alone beat them.

 

Understand What Metrics Really Matter

You need to know what metrics to track so you can understand what progress is.  SEO is not like advertising where you pay for an ad and then track how many leads are generated.  Pretty cut and dry.  With SEO, the work (and money you spend) now may not create results for several weeks or months down the road.  So what do you track?  Most people would say individual keywords, it's easy to wrap your head around a single keyword.  The problem is that keyword tracking is getting less and less accurate as the search engines continue to

So what do you track?  Most people would say individual keywords, it's easy to wrap your head around a single keyword.  The problem is that keyword tracking is getting less and less accurate as the search engines continue to localize and personalize search results.  And Google has all but removed organic keyword tracking inside Google Analytics, so it is very difficult to measure results at the keyword level even if you were ranking #1 for that search term.

Besides, ranking well for a single keyword is unlikely to get you the results you're looking for.  A better metric to track is overall organic growth traffic, measured over time.  You can also do page level tracking, where you track the metrics on individual landing pages on your site that you know you rank high in the search engines for.  You'll also want to measure non-branded search terms, general terms like, “plumbers in Austin”, vs, “Joe's plumbing in Austin”.  The idea with SEO is to attract new customers who don't know you, so you want to remove searches by people that already know you (branded search terms).

 

You Have To Participate For It To Succeed

If you love the idea of ranking high in the search engines and getting a steady supply of traffic and leads each month through organic search, then you need to commit to it as a marketing channel for your business.  Businesses that fail when it comes to SEO usually do so because they either had the wrong strategy or they didn't commit enough resources (time and money) for a long enough time for it to really take hold.

SEO is not like advertising, where you run a newspaper ad for 3 months and then stop if it didn't produce the kind leads you wanted.  When it comes to SEO, there is a period of time where you have to commit to it without really knowing if it is going to work.  That could be many months, depending on your industry and the resources you put towards it.  There will also be many times when you think you should pull the plug on it because you're not seeing results.  As long as you know you have the right strategy and are working with the right people, SEO is about time and effort.  Almost anyone who is successful with SEO can tell you that in the beginning, they had no idea if it was going to work and had doubts about continuing.  What they will all tell you is that they are glad they stuck to it.

 

Is SEO a good option for your business?

SEO is not for everyone.  Hopefully, you learned a few things here that will help you make a better decision when it comes time to invest in SEO for your business.

Have questions about SEO or looking to speak to someone about how it can help grow your business?  Contact us here to learn more.

How Much Should I Spend For SEO?

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How much does SEO cost?  That's the first question that comes to mind for people considering hiring for an SEO campaign.

The problem is that when you start searching online or start calling SEO agencies, pricing is all over the map.  A company in India will quote you $150 a month and promise you the moon while an SEO agency might quote you 2K a month with no promises of SEO glory. So how do you make sense of it and know who has the potential to deliver a lot of SEO value for your business and who is just full of crap?

The term, “SEO”, or search engine optimization is a loosely used term.  Wed designers claim to do SEO on your website when they are designing it, social media experts will claim they are doing SEO for you when they work on your  social media campaigns, even online directories like the Yellow Pages will sell their listing to businesses as an “SEO solution”.

Are all of these offerings actually SEO?  Partially, but not really.  The search engines use hundreds of different factors in determining how a given page will rank in the search results, so only focusing on a few of these factors will likely return poor to mediocre SEO results if other factors the search engines use are not being considered.

So today we are going to discuss what SEO really is, how pricing works (at least for me), and what you should know when looking to hire for an SEO campaign.

What is SEO?

SEO is when you work on optimizing your website or web pages in the hopes to rank them high in the search engines results when someone searches for a given search term.

So how do you do this?  In a nutshell, SEO is 3 things.  I like to call it “TLC”, which is a simple explanation.

Technical – The technical part of SEO is having clean code on your website so the search engines can find things easily and your website loads nice and fast.  It is also optimizing meta data on your site (information usually only the search engines tend use) like you Title Tags, ALT Tags for images and structured data markup language.  You probably don't know what most of this stuff is, but a good SEO does and will optimize them according to the SEO strategy that has been set.Links – When another website links to your website, the search engines look at this as referral or trust signal.  The more quality the site linking to you, the more credibility

Links – When another website links to your website, the search engines look at this as referral or trust signal.  The more quality the site linking to you, the more credible your website becomes in the eyes of the search engines.  Links to your website is the #1 single biggest ranking signal the search engines use.  It is also the single hardest SEO activity to do well, which is why many people selling SEO services disregard it completely.  Links can be from blogs, the media, social media, local organizations, etc.

Content – Your written content, your blog, service and category pages, will most likely make up the bulk of your content.  But content is also video, images, PDF documents, etc.  The more content you create for your website, the more opportunities you have to rank in the search engines.  A good SEO person or agency will have a good understanding of what type of content needs to be created as part of your SEO strategy.

So the way I usually explain “TLC” is like this.  A good piece of content will give that page an opportunity to rank in the search engines.  Links will help boost that page towards the top of the search engine results and the technical aspects will make it easy for the search engines to find and index your content as well as giving your web page a boost in the rankings if you have optimized your page with proper meta data and structured data markup formatting.

And what brings all of this together is having an SEO that has experience, knows how to do research and can formulate a proper SEO strategy for your business.  Otherwise, you may spend all of your time and resources barking up the wrong tree, which happens quite often and why many people feel that SEO does not work.

How SEO is Priced

SEO can be priced in a few different ways.

Monthly Retainer – You pay a set fee each month for an SEO agency to deliver agreed upon work each month.  It usually encompasses a range of SEO activities that you have agreed upon to be delivered each month as part of your SEO strategy.  This is usually how most comprehensive SEO campaigns are priced since an SEO campaigns will likely last at least several months and involve lots of different kinds of work.  You may not start with this payment structure right away, but reserve it once you trust your SEO agency and are ready for a longer SEO campaign.

Hourly – I hate metering my time, I find it ruins the client relationship when they are always watching the clock and I am always having to keep track of time.  You find this less and less as an SEO pricing model, but some still use it, especially when it comes to SEO consulting projects.  You may choose hourly if you are brining someone in for a specific purpose and you have an idea of how long it will take to complete.

Project Based – This is when you have a specific SEO project with a start and stop date in mind already.  The price would be based on the entire project, start to finish.  Maybe you just opened a new location and need someone get it some local SEO visibility, you may agree to a customized  3-month SEO project for a set price and specific deliverables.

Contract Services – This is where an SEO agency offers a set list of deliverables for a fixed price.  An SEO agency might offer a Website Auditor Competition Analysis report, for a fixed price.  Usually these offerings are smaller parts of what would make up an SEO campaign, not a full SEO campaign.

How SEO Pricing is Determined

I can't speak for other SEO agencies, but in general, this is how I price my SEO services.

The first thing you have to understand is that you are buying time and expertise.  SEO is time-consuming, technical and tedious.  It also requires good strategy as it is easy to waste a lot of time and money if you are focusing on the wrong things.

These things are taken into consideration when it comes to pricing SEO.

Your Market – Are you looking to compete worldwide, an entire country or just a region/city?  Is it a major city like New York or Toronto or a smaller one?  There will be big differences in competition and the work involved depending on what market you are looking to compete in.

Your Goals – What are you looking to improve?  Specific products or service offerings or are you looking to improve everything?  You may have 10 different services you want to rank #1 for but only have a budget to optimize 1-2 of them.  SEO involves optimizing individual pages on your site, not just your website as a whole.  So when you say you need SEO, you have to think in more specific in terms than your website as a whole.  An ecommerce store might focus on certain product categories or a law firm may focus on specific legal services they offer.

Your Competition and Your Website – How well are your competitors doing from an SEO perspective?  If they have been optimizing their websites for several years and you are just starting out, it will require a much larger budget than if you were all starting out brand new.  Think of it like a race.  If your competitors started a marathon and are running a 10-minute mile and you start 2 hours after them, how long will it take to catch up to them if you are running a 10-minute mile as well?  Or worse, a 12-minute mile?  Exactly.  So if your competitors have been doing SEO for 2 years now and spend 3K a month with a quality SEO agency, your 1K budget may not get you very far.  You may have to scale down your ambitions so that 1K a month can get you results.

Your Industry – Some industries are much more competitive than others.  If you are in the finance or legal industries, competition is fierce and you will usually have to pay top dollar for quality results.  Everything is in relation to your competitors and how your website stacks up against them.  Some industries spend lots of money on SEO in general, while others may not.

Pricing Examples

These are just some examples based on previous projects and speaking to business owners who pay for SEO services.

Plumbers – A plumber in Toronto might pay 3-4K a month for local SEO while a plumber in Columbia, SC might only pay 1K a month because the city is much smaller and with less competition.

Mortgage Brokerage – A national mortgage brokerage might pay 12-20K a month for SEO services for a nationwide campaign while a local mortgage broker in Boise, ID might pay 2K a month for that city.

Physical Therapy Clinic  – In NYC, you may be paying 2-3K a month for SEO services but 1-1.5K a month in a smaller city like Providence, RI.

These are just some examples, but you can see that industry and the size of your market play a role in costs.  SEO agencies also have different pricing structures, so you may have to get a few quotes to get an idea on pricing, just be sure the deliverables are similar.

Some Questions to Ask

What exactly do you plan to deliver as part of the SEO campaign and can you show me examples of your work?

This will give you idea of what type of work they will be delivering and give you a chance to ask questions you may not have thought of. Ask to see an example of a monthly report if possible.  Will they be doing link building?  Will they be creating content for your site or will you?  Will they be fixing the technical issues on your site?  Find out exactly what they will be doing as part of their SEO services.

Who will be working on my SEO campaign?

While they may not be able to tell you the exact person who will be handling your account, you should get an idea of how they structure their SEO operations and will give you an idea if entry level hires (and sometimes interns) will be working on your account, or more seasoned SEO veterans.  This usually has to due with the size of the SEO agency you hire as well as your budget.  A small monthly budget with a larger agency usually means you will be stuck working with a new hire that knows little more about SEO than you do.

What will communications and reporting be like?

Will you receive a monthly report with little insight or will there be monthly or quarterly phone calls to discuss strategy?  Communication is a big issue and one of the main reasons people become dissatisfied with their SEO agency.  If you are having trouble with communications before you sign on, it may not get any better after.

What will success look like?

You should agree on what metrics will be used to determine the success of the SEO campaign.  It might be organic traffic growth, keyword rankings, or a combination of user metrics and rankings.  Just have an idea so you can monitor progress.

Things To Keep In Mind

Seo takes time.  It is not like paying for advertising, you most likely will not see immediate results, but when the results do come, they will be long lasting.  If you decide to invest in SEO, you need to commit for a minimum of 6 months, but 12-24 months realistically.  SEO is a long term strategy that can bring long-term results.

SEO is not cheap.  You pay a pretty penny for good SEO because it can return some serious ROI once it gets going.  The cheapest option is almost never the best option.  If you are planning on spending $200 a month on SEO, do yourself a favor and spend that $200 on a fancy date with your spouse or loved one, you'll get a much better ROI on your money than paying for garbage SEO services.

SEO is not a mystery.  It's not rocket science, but it is doing a lot of little things right on a consistent basis.  Make sure whoever you work with isn't a one trick SEO pony that only does social media or only writes content, these are components of SEO, but it is not SEO.

 

Still have questions about SEO?  Contact me here.

What Google’s Pigeon Update Means For Local SEO

Google released a new update to their Local Search algorithm a few days ago and it may mean big changes in how your Google+ Local Page and website rank in the local search results.

The Pigeon update (informally named so by Search Engine Land), is not a penalty based update like the Penguin (bad links) and Panda (bad content) updates, but a change in the overall algorithm that determines how Google+ Local Pages and websites rank in the local search results.

While it's still early to know all of the details of the update, here are some of the details being pushed out by some of the authority SEO sites on the web.  The update is currently only in the U.S., but Google says it will eventually be rolling it out to other countries.

So what do you need to know?

Higher Emphasis on Strong Domains

It looks like the Pigeon update is placing a higher emphasis on the strength and domain authority of the website itself, meaning stronger domains are getting a boost in the local search results.  The local search algorithm that Google uses is different from the main search algorithm, though there is overlap in the signals they use to determine rankings in the search results.

While domain strength has always been a factor, it seems that Google is placing a higher emphasis on the website itself to determine local rankings.

So what should you do?

If you've had success before with your Google+ Local Page in the past and didn't pay much attention to your actual website, it may be time to change that.  Many Google+ Local Pages can rank highly regardless of your website if it the page is setup correctly and it has a lot of customer reviews.  While these factors will still play a big role, businesses should take a look at their websites and make sure they remain accurate and updated with fresh content.

Directories Have Made Gains

Big directories seem to have made major gains with the new update.  If you look at this sample local search for “plumber san francisco”, you'll see that Yelp dominates the local search results.  Numerous local seo blogs are reporting similar results for other local search terms.  Hopefully this over-emphasis on directories will iron itself out once Google makes some tweaks to the algorithm, but it looks like directories got a win here.

 

plumber-san-francisco

 

 

So what should you do?

If directories are showing up in the local search results for your main keyword terms, it may make sense to start building a presence on that directory and get some reviews posted there.  I'm not a fan of paying for directory listings, luckily most of the major ones are free to use.

Just like with local seo before, getting a profile and proper citations on high quality directories is always a good idea.  It helps Google determine that you're a legit business in the area and gives them the confidence to rank you in the search results.

Changes In How The Local Listing Packs Display

For many local searches in Google, they will display what's called a “Map Result” or “7 Pack” listing.  This is a search result where the Google Map displays along with a list of local businesses.  Early tests have seen that these types of results have been reduced, some say by as much as 23%.  It's too early to tell how much these types of results will be affected, but it looks they will be showing up less often.

gogole-local-7-pack-example

What should you do?

Make sure your website is optimized for your local area and you are doing things to increase the domain strength of your website.  Making sure your NAP (name, Address, Phone#) are displayed prominently and accurately, adding fresh content and getting links back to your website are all ways to increase the strength of your website over time.  Basically, time to do some SEO on your website.

Local Carousel Seems Unaffected

While the Carousel only shows up for a very small number of search results and only for specific searches (like restaurants),  it appears that it is unaffected so far with the Pigeon update.

So what should you do?

To get the most out of search results that feature the Carousel, make sure you have high quality images uploaded to your Google+ Local Page as well as customer reviews, as these are both highlighted in the Carousel.

Google-Carousel-sample

 

 

If you're new to Local SEO or need to go back and do a refresh, here are some general tips for you.

Make sure you have a Google+ Local Page

If you don't have one (it used to be called a Google Places page), make sure you go and set one up, it's free.  If you do have a page, now is a good time to login and review your listing.  Makes sure the listing is live,  information is accurate, you have uploaded nice images to your listing and that you have a process in place to get some more customer reviews.

Customer Reviews

Now is a good time to look at how many customer reviews you have online, not only in Google, but on the major directories like Yelp and Yellow Pages.  If your reviews are lacking, now is a good time to start calling people to write reviews for you.

Local Information on your website

Review your website and make sure that your location information is displayed prominently throughout your website.  I like to display location information in the footer so it shows up on every page of the website.  At the very least, make sure you have it written out on your contact us page.

Make sure your NAP is accurate

Make sure that your NAP (Name, Address, Phone#) are accurate and the NAP on your website is the same on your Google+ Local Page.  If you run a Google search on your phone number (the most distinct item out of the three), you'll be able to see other websites that have your information and can check to see if it is accurate.  If you are in the U.S., you can also go to Getlisted.org (now MOZ Local) and run a check of your website to see where you are listed.

Have a question about local seo?  You can contact me here.

Does Your Website Have “Authority” In The Eyes Of The Search Engines?

Did you know that there are about 200 factors that Google takes into account when determining how a website will rank for a given keyword term?

This is a good thing because it makes any single tactic not very useful if that's all you do.  Many low quality SEO companies have made a killing off of massive, low quality link building.  This tactic alone does not work….anymore. This is where SEO professionals come in.

To make things even harder, these factors are always changing.  Some new factors are added, some are taken away, and some existing ones that used to be positive, now are a negative.  Talk about confusion.  The search engines, namely Google, do a great job of consistently throwing a virtual monkey wrench in our search engine strategies.

Whenever I work with a new customer, I like to educate them on some of the factors that the search engines use to decide whether or not a given website is worthy of ranking.

While quality content and building links to a website are concepts most people know and understand, there are some other important concepts that should be understood.  This is especially true for new websites, or older ones that have never used SEO best practices before.

I'm talking about Domain Authority and Page Authority.  If you're a new website, just building links back to the site just doesn't do it.  At least not in the very beginning.  The search engines want to give search engine credit to sites that they deem to have some sort of authority in their industry.  They are looking beyond just links, they want to understand the relationships you have forged with the rest of the web.

Domain Authority – Domain Authority is a formula created by  SEOmoz.com.  It attempts (rather well) to match Google's 150+ search engine ranking factors and creates a domain authority score based on that.  It also incorporated their own MozRank and MozTrust ranking factors into the equation.

Domain Authority looks at your domain “as a whole” when creating your Domain Authority score.

The Domain Authority score determines the “Strength” of a website by looking at not only the websites that link to it, but by the links that the websites linking to it have linking to them.  Sounds confusing?  You don't know the half of it.  It's kind of like saying that I can determine your popularity as a person by looking at who your friends are, their friends, and their friends-friends…..and so on and so on.

In a nutshell, it looks at the quality relationships your website has built with other high quality websites through the links you share with each other.

Domain Authority is scored on a logarithmic scale ranging from 0 to 100-points. Scores get progressively harder as they increase.  While it's relatively easy to from 0 to 30, it's extremely difficult to go from 80 to 90.

Page Authority – While Domain Authority looks at your website “as a whole”, Page Authority looks at the strength of each individual page on your website.  Similar metrics apply as when scoring your Domain Authority, except it's applied against a single page.

Think of each page on your website as a mini-website within your site.  The way I like to explain it is if you have a website with a single page, you have one door to your website for possible visitors to find you.  If you have 500 pages, there are now 500 doors or “opportunities” for visitors to find you.  That makes a 500 page website much more likely to be found than a 1 page website.

What this means is you can have a low Domain Authority website, with a high Page Authority web page, and vice-versa.  An example would be a new small business blog (low Domain Authority) having one of their blog articles getting picked up by The New York Times (High Page Authority).  The more high Page Authority pages your website has, the more your Domain Authority will grow.

So what does all this mean?

What it means is that it's not just all about the links and the content.  Even with great content and alot of links, in the eyes of the search engines it still takes some time for you to build some “Authority” in their eyes.  Now depending on your website and how well you are doing with it, it can be several weeks or several months.  In some cases, several years.

So the next time you think about SEO for your website, think beyond links and articles, and think about building an “Authority”site in your industry.

 

 

The 5 Wrong Questions To Ask When Hiring An SEO Agency

Ask the wrong questions and you'll get the wrong answers.

Most business owners don't know a thing about SEO.  Heck, the SEO world changes so much that many people who work in the industry fail to keep up with the latest changes. Looking for a quality agency to handle your search engine optimization can be like buying a used car, approached with skepticism at best.  If you're a business owner, you've been solicited several times by “reputable” SEO companies that cold call you and spam your email inbox relentlessly. Buyer beware.

Shady seo angency

When you set out to find a person or agency to handle your SEO campaign, you should have a general understanding how SEO works and what questions you should be asking.  If you're not prepared, you could get yourself in trouble.  Here are a few questions you should not ask as well as some suggestions on what you should ask.

How many links per month do I get?

As many as you like sir.  The thing is, links come in various types and of varying quality.  You could be promised a 1,000 links a month. They would be the lowest quality spam links you've ever seen, mostly from countries far far away, but they would still be 1,000 links.  You could also be promised somewhere between 3-5 links per month, but from legitimate websites that are highly related to your industry.  These links over time would start to give you some good authority in the eyes of the search engines.  See the flaw in this question?

A better questions to ask is, “When it comes to link building, can you describe your process in acquiring links and give me some examples of the kind of links you will get for my website?”  Make sure that they use best industry practices and can demonstrate that they will not do anything that could damage both your website and your brand.  Let them give examples of the kind of links they earn for their clients and examples of types of links they will get for you.

 

Can you guarantee a top place ranking in the search engines?

I can guarantee you a top place ranking as much as a stock broker can guarantee you a stock he sells you will rise in value.  In the end, the only one who has control over the ranking of a website are the search engines.  Anyone that tells you otherwise is lying.   What an agency offering SEO can do is use their experience and best industry practices to put your website in the best possible position to rank high in the search engines.  This involves an understanding of the Technical aspects of your website, Link building and content creation both on and off your website (TLC).

You also have to understand that ranking is done on a per keyword basis and there are potentially thousands of keywords/terms that could generate leads for your business.  Unless a single search term delivers a bonanza of traffic each month, it will unlikely to generate enough business for you in the long term.  A proper SEO strategy involves building rankings for a variety of search terms and building the overall authority of your website.

A better question to ask is, “From your experience, what kind of results do you think we can get given our budget and competition?”.  There are no guarantees, but a good agency (after some research) can give you a reasonable estimate of what your chances are for ranking in the search engine results.

Can you rank me #1 for (1-2 word money keyword)

Everyone business owner wants to rank for their (perceived) money keyword.  The lawyer wants to be #1 for “your city+Lawyer”, the contractor wants to be #1 for “your city+Contractor”.  The reality is that there are probably 10,000+ ways someone can search for what you have to offer and you're focusing everything on only one of them.  1-2 word money terms are easy to wrap your head around, that's why most people use them. They are also very competitive and expensive to rank and going for a key term like this really depends on your competition, your budget and the current state of your website/rankings.  In reality, the people that are most likely to contact you will search using much more specific search terms, one's you most likely aren't thinking about.  For a lawyer in Charlotte an example might be “lawyer in south charlotte that does family law”.  If you specialize in family law and practice in Charlotte, this term is much more likely to convert than “charlotte lawyer”.

A better question to ask is, “What strategy will you use to increase rankings for my important search terms?”  In reality, you probably don't know your important search terms, that's what a good SEO agency will help you discover.  An ideal SEO campaign will get you ranking for a variety of “long tail” search terms in addition to a few select money terms.  A good campaign will also work on building the overall authority of your website in the eyes of the search engines.

Can we setup a pay for performance model?

No.  The ramp up period for an SEO campaign involves a lot of time and work and there are too many variables involved to put forth the work with a possibility of not getting paid for it.  A good SEO campaign involves not only the agency you hired, but the business that employs them as well.  It's a team effort and both parties need to play their “A” game if they really want to succeed at this. There are too many things that an agency could execute as planned on their part but the business owner fails to deliver on their part and vice/versa.  I've had experiences where we needed key information in a timely manner from a business owner in order to deliver on time, yet they dragged their feet for weeks.  For this reason, I am very upfront with clients as to what they will be expected to deliver in order for me to do my job correctly.  In the end, you're still responsible for your business and marketing and need to be a part of the process.

You have to make some sort of leap of faith when it comes to hiring an agency for your SEO.  SEO takes time and if you're not willing to give it, at a minimum, 6 months then don't bother getting started.  Do Pay Per Click instead.

A better question to ask is, “What will be used to measure success for the campaign and how will this be communicated to me?”  Work together to work out what success looks like and then hold each other accountable for moving towards it.

 

How much does SEO cost?

It's like asking, “How much does a car cost?”.  It depends.  Want to rank high for your small town or the entire state? The work and complexity involved and the costs are much different.  Are you a lawyer specializing in class action lawsuits?  That will be a “little” more expensive than trying to rank your personal organizing services.  Cookie cutter SEO packages like “$300 a month for 20 links and 2 search terms” are a bunch of garbage. Every industry, market and business is different…….it's not a one size fits all type of service.  Only after there is an understanding of your business, industry and competition can you get a reasonable estimate on what an SEO campaign will cost.  Paying $300 a month for an SEO campaign that has no chance of working is more expensive than paying $1000 a month for a campaign that generates quality leads for your business month after month.

A better question to ask is, “For my industry and in this market, what would you estimate the costs to be to run a successful SEO campaign?”  From this point you can probably get a good price range to wrap your head around and more accurate pricing after some analysis.  In the end, it really depends on competition.  If your competitors have been building their website rankings for several years and you're just starting out, you obviously have a lot of work cut out for you.

 

Do you homework and ask the right questions

Before you even consider talking to someone about an SEO campaign, take some time to understand what SEO actually is and how it works.  Ask the right questions and don't be pressured into anything you're not comfortable with.  The best starting point is to look for a referral from someone you trust or at least spend some time researching online to make sure the person or agency you hire has a good reputation.

6 Ways To Create A Website For Users & For Search Engines

Creating websites is a challenge. Even for those that have knowledge of the technical industry, they have to deal with the fact that there are over 300 million websites online; huge competition. Standing out from the crowd is something that needs to happen in order for a website to be successful.

 

For most online businesses, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the key to their success. Some search terms generate thousands of searches every single month. Having the ability to rank for those terms can help to boost a business dramatically.
Here are some things to consider…

 

Video content

Video content can have a huge impact on a visitor. The problem is, most search engines have no real way to index this content. They can’t scan the video for relevance and they can’t track the user’s response to that video. For that reason, a video alone is not going to rank in search engines.

 

Most companies will accompany a video with a 2-300 word description, or they will include the transcript of the video on the page. This content will include keywords and search engines will find relevance to the topic, helping it to rank in search engines.

 

Meta descriptions

Many people misunderstand SEO. They visit top SEO blogs and realize that their meta description has no value in terms of helping their site rank in search engines; they leave it out.

 

How are potential visitors going to know that you have products at the lowest prices, or that you offer the best information on the internet? Every action is a result of a call-to-action. You need to persuade potential visitors that your content is worth reading and this is where writing a great meta description really comes in.

 

Titles

SEO is not just about ranking higher in search engine rankings. When you eventually get the rankings that your website needs, you need to convert impressions into views. Imagine you are a user looking for a post on “The easiest cake to bake”. You are going to skim read the top 10 results that appear.

 

You are generally going to look at the URL, description, but it is the title that is likely to catch your eye. A “5 Step Guide To Bake A Cake in 30 Minutes” is likely to catch their eye.

 

If you have a snappy title that manages to explain what the article will provide, then you will be on to a winner. Your impression: visitor ratio will increase dramatically, meaning that you don’t just rank in search engines, but you are maximizing the value of those rankings.

 

Page URLs

Some quick research will prove that page friendly URLs are going to rank much better than numbered URLs. For instance, if you are trying to rank for “Football”, then having yoursite.com/football is going to be much better than yoursite.com/blog/686.

 

Search engines use a range of factors to determine the relevancy of pages and this is one of them. So, when you create a page or post, make sure you incorporate URLs that are closely related to the title and keywords.

 

301 redirects

Maybe you have changed the page structure of your website? Perhaps you have realized that you need to incorporate page friendly URLs into your website? The problem is you have links, giving your site great SEO value, to the old URLs. Not a problem!

 

All you need to do is set up a 301 redirect. This is a permanent redirect which will pass on all the link juice that the previous page has. As soon as a search engine crawls the sitemap, the link juice will be passed on.

 

Sitemaps

If you want to rank in search engines, the search engine needs to see a blueprint of your website. It will regularly crawl this blueprint to make updates in search engine listings. This blueprint is the site map. You need to make sure that you have an up to date sitemap that allows search engines to crawl. You can submit a sitemap manually, but if it is easy to access, then search engines should pick it up automatically.

 

Conclusion

The list goes on. Whilst the majority of SEO results are based on technical aspects, some are not. Remember that SEO is not just the art of ranking in a search engine; it is also the art of converting impressions into visitors and those visitors into paying customers.

 

Grant works at Vibe Tech Media. They offer content packages, including blog posting services. Click here to find out more. 

Site Speed and How it Factors Into Search Rankings

Google is constantly implementing new signals into its algorithm to better distinguish quality sites from their spammy counterparts. In the wake of the Google Panda and Penguin updates, increased focus has been placed on creating a better user experience to maximize search rankings.

The old mindset of bombarding a site with anchored links has been phased out in favor of a user-centric approach that calls for high quality content, functional and intuitive site architecture, and social media integration. These are just some of the factors that now determine where a site stands in the search rankings.

 

Among the quality signals that Google now emphasizes is site loading speed. Page speed can be negatively affected by a number of factors, from a traffic congested server to a poorly configured WordPress installation. These hiccups have a number of implications beyond affecting a sites rank, many of which will be explored below.

 

Page Speed as Part of the Evolving Definition of “SEO”

As webmasters continue to process the fallout of Google's most recent algorithm updates, one message has been clearly received – that SEO is a multifaceted process. What was once synonymous with aggressive link building has been redefined. It is no longer viable to base your entire SEO campaign on backlinks, as getting safe links in abundance is no longer a cheap or easy task. Furthermore, backlinks are now only one piece of the puzzle. If your site lacks indicators of visitor engagement, you may not be rewarded with those prized high rankings.

 

Optimizing your site's loading speed is an excellent way to give Google a broader, positive impression of your site. Although this task has been conventionally handled by conversion rate optimization experts and other web professionals, there is no better person than an SEO to tackle the problem. Making a site faster is not the challenge. It's doing so without negatively affecting a site's spiderability and other factors that correlate with ranking.

Google Panda updates

How Slow Loading Speeds Affect your Ranking

A slow site is problematic for a number of reasons as far as search engines are concerned. From a technical standpoint, a page that continues to timeout cannot be crawled by search engines. That means any new pages added to the site or updated won't be rapidly indexed, keeping potential visitors away. This is the proverbial nail-in-the coffin for news websites, which require quick indexing and ranking to garner those initial surges of traffic as a story breaks. Even shopping sites that are chock-full of product pages can suffer, as fewer pages indexed means less long-tail traffic. Existing pages can suffer heavy ranking demotions if the lag is severe enough.

 

In contrast, optimized sites will often have a greater number of pages indexed. This is because the Googlebot spends less of its visit time indexing any one given page. By reducing the footprint of each of your site's pages, you can increase the indexing volume and subsequently traffic. Even those pages that aren't heavily optimized for keywords can attract super-targeted long-tail traffic once they become indexed.

 

A slow loading site can also affect your traffic levels at an algorithmic level. Visitors will often click out of a slow loading site, which increases it's bounce rate. Google correlates a high bounce rate with a poor user experience, meaning the algorithm may demote your site's rankings.

 

Overall, it makes much more sense to optimize page speed on large authority sites than to invest in expensive link building campaigns.

Page Speed from A Marketing Perspective

It's a well documented fact that conversion rates plummet with increases in page loading time. Retailing giant Wal-Mart and others have conducted studies that confirm a dramatic dip in conversion rates on pages that take longer than two seconds to load.

 

The implications of these findings are even more troubling in the mobile device realm. Google attributed more than one-quarter of it's pay-per-click advertising revenue in Q4 2012 to mobile devices, which lack the robust hardware to quickly serve pages. As the average footprint of a web page continues to soar at a level far outpacing the technical capabilities of mobile devices, it can be assumed Google will place increasing emphasis on page load speed in its mobile SERPs.

 

Diagnosing Site Speed Problems

There are a number of free tools available to simulate or monitor (in real-time) your sites loading speed. WebPageTest.org falls into the former category and offers the flexibility of testing your site from a number of different locations while simulating different browser and connection configurations. The tool outputs load times for both new and repeating visitors and even features an intuitive scoring system for those not technically inclined. For those who can make due without detailed reports, Google PageSpeed Insights is a good option.

 

Real-Time Monitoring

You can get real-world page load statistics by using something like Google Analytics. which is extremely versatile in terms of allowing you to compare page load speed with other metrics. Analytics and similar services track page speeds by executing a Javascript code snippet upon pageload. There are two important downfalls to using Analytics. One, it can only collect page speed information from certain browsers. Furthermore, it only probes one percent of your traffic by default, making the results non-representative unless you receive significant traffic. There is a workaround for this which consists of modifying the Javascript code. Some other real-time monitoring tools to consider include Torbit Insight, New Relic, and Log Normal.

 

In Summary

Page speed has become one of a number of factors that are now integral to successful search engine optimization. A well optimized site can generate more revenue by means of having more pages indexed, enjoying better rankings, and being more responsive to a user's needs. A split second difference in loading times can translate to a dramatic loss in revenue. If you embrace the latest SEO practices, you only stand to gain.

 

Author: Gerrid Smith is CEO of the law firm SEO companySmithSEO. For over 5 years Gerrid has helped attorneys generate more business from the web. In addition to his interests in Internet marketing, he also enjoys hiking, fishing and camping with his family.

Site Speed and How it Factors Into Search Rankings

Google is constantly implementing new signals into its algorithm to better distinguish quality sites from their spammy counterparts. In the wake of the Google Panda and Penguin updates, increased focus has been placed on creating a better user experience to maximize search rankings.

The old mindset of bombarding a site with anchored links has been phased out in favor of a user-centric approach that calls for high quality content, functional and intuitive site architecture, and social media integration. These are just some of the factors that now determine where a site stands in the search rankings.

 

Among the quality signals that Google now emphasizes is site loading speed. Page speed can be negatively affected by a number of factors, from a traffic congested server to a poorly configured WordPress installation. These hiccups have a number of implications beyond affecting a sites rank, many of which will be explored below.

 

Page Speed as Part of the Evolving Definition of “SEO”

As webmasters continue to process the fallout of Google's most recent algorithm updates, one message has been clearly received – that SEO is a multifaceted process. What was once synonymous with aggressive link building has been redefined. It is no longer viable to base your entire SEO campaign on backlinks, as getting safe links in abundance is no longer a cheap or easy task. Furthermore, backlinks are now only one piece of the puzzle. If your site lacks indicators of visitor engagement, you may not be rewarded with those prized high rankings.

 

Optimizing your site's loading speed is an excellent way to give Google a broader, positive impression of your site. Although this task has been conventionally handled by conversion rate optimization experts and other web professionals, there is no better person than an SEO to tackle the problem. Making a site faster is not the challenge. It's doing so without negatively affecting a site's spiderability and other factors that correlate with ranking.

Google Panda updates

How Slow Loading Speeds Affect your Ranking

A slow site is problematic for a number of reasons as far as search engines are concerned. From a technical standpoint, a page that continues to timeout cannot be crawled by search engines. That means any new pages added to the site or updated won't be rapidly indexed, keeping potential visitors away. This is the proverbial nail-in-the coffin for news websites, which require quick indexing and ranking to garner those initial surges of traffic as a story breaks. Even shopping sites that are chock-full of product pages can suffer, as fewer pages indexed means less long-tail traffic. Existing pages can suffer heavy ranking demotions if the lag is severe enough.

 

In contrast, optimized sites will often have a greater number of pages indexed. This is because the Googlebot spends less of its visit time indexing any one given page. By reducing the footprint of each of your site's pages, you can increase the indexing volume and subsequently traffic. Even those pages that aren't heavily optimized for keywords can attract super-targeted long-tail traffic once they become indexed.

 

A slow loading site can also affect your traffic levels at an algorithmic level. Visitors will often click out of a slow loading site, which increases it's bounce rate. Google correlates a high bounce rate with a poor user experience, meaning the algorithm may demote your site's rankings.

 

Overall, it makes much more sense to optimize page speed on large authority sites than to invest in expensive link building campaigns.

Page Speed from A Marketing Perspective

It's a well documented fact that conversion rates plummet with increases in page loading time. Retailing giant Wal-Mart and others have conducted studies that confirm a dramatic dip in conversion rates on pages that take longer than two seconds to load.

 

The implications of these findings are even more troubling in the mobile device realm. Google attributed more than one-quarter of it's pay-per-click advertising revenue in Q4 2012 to mobile devices, which lack the robust hardware to quickly serve pages. As the average footprint of a web page continues to soar at a level far outpacing the technical capabilities of mobile devices, it can be assumed Google will place increasing emphasis on page load speed in its mobile SERPs.

 

Diagnosing Site Speed Problems

There are a number of free tools available to simulate or monitor (in real-time) your sites loading speed. WebPageTest.org falls into the former category and offers the flexibility of testing your site from a number of different locations while simulating different browser and connection configurations. The tool outputs load times for both new and repeating visitors and even features an intuitive scoring system for those not technically inclined. For those who can make due without detailed reports, Google PageSpeed Insights is a good option.

 

Real-Time Monitoring

You can get real-world page load statistics by using something like Google Analytics. which is extremely versatile in terms of allowing you to compare page load speed with other metrics. Analytics and similar services track page speeds by executing a Javascript code snippet upon pageload. There are two important downfalls to using Analytics. One, it can only collect page speed information from certain browsers. Furthermore, it only probes one percent of your traffic by default, making the results non-representative unless you receive significant traffic. There is a workaround for this which consists of modifying the Javascript code. Some other real-time monitoring tools to consider include Torbit Insight, New Relic, and Log Normal.

 

In Summary

Page speed has become one of a number of factors that are now integral to successful search engine optimization. A well optimized site can generate more revenue by means of having more pages indexed, enjoying better rankings, and being more responsive to a user's needs. A split second difference in loading times can translate to a dramatic loss in revenue. If you embrace the latest SEO practices, you only stand to gain.

 

Author: Gerrid Smith is CEO of the law firm SEO companySmithSEO. For over 5 years Gerrid has helped attorneys generate more business from the web. In addition to his interests in Internet marketing, he also enjoys hiking, fishing and camping with his family.

Boosting Your Guest Blogging and Link Building Endeavors

This is a guest post by Thomas McMahon from Page One Power.

If you’ve tried doing it yourself, you know that SEO is a major time commitment which is why the practice often falls into the hands of an SEO firm. But when it comes to SEO, you truly get what you pay for and bargain deals can often do more harm than good. Search engines, particularly Google, are cracking down on black hat tactics and SEOs that guarantee hundreds of links or high rankings generally partake in these shady practices. If you can’t afford a good SEO firm, don’t want to use black hat techniques, and are stuck trying to build links yourself, these helpful tips may help make your efforts more efficient.

Not all links are equal
As of yet, the inequality in the linking world has not given rise to protests in the streets. Links pass on “link juice” but the flow of link juice going to your site from a backlink varies on a variety of factors. The authority of the site hosting the backlink matters a lot, and a site with a high Domain Authority and Page Rank will push a lot more link juice than a lesser site, but relevancy also matters.

Relevancy
A major tactic of Google to find black hat SEO is to look at the relevancy of the links pointing towards your site. When trying to link build yourself, you should focus on staying within your sites niche and you shouldn’t turn down a link on a site with low DA if it is relevant to your site. Along the same vein, you shouldn’t necessarily shoot for links on high DA sites that are irrelevant to your site. While the high DA and/or PR passes more link juice, it looks unnatural for unrelated sites to link to yours. As a general rule, I will not try to get a link on a site if I cannot describe the relationship in two sentences.

So, a site that is relevant with high DA would be the best place to get a link and it will pass on a lot of link juice to your site.

Getting Better Link Location

When we guest post we are often at the mercy of the editor. They can scrap, nofollow, move, or replace any links we put into our articles, but there are some tricks and tips to help get extra links in better spots more often. Google’s crawlers take not of where a link is on a page and typically your author bio will be found at the bottom.
Bring it to the Top: When you submit an article, submit it with the author bio at the top of the article directly underneath the title. Typically the bio is found at the bottom and the crawlers give the links less influence, but if the piece gets published with the links and bio at the top the crawlers see the links as being more influential.
Mix it Up: Don’t use the exact same anchor text pointing to the same page for every link. Be sure to deep link when it is relevant and vary your anchor text to match keywords. If you can get more than one link in an article make sure they’re pointing to different pages and use different anchor texts.
Share the Love: In my experience, editors are much more likely to keep an in content link of yours if you aren’t stingy with linking to unaffiliated sites. Help out the editor by internally linking from the article to related posts on their site, link to any studies or sites where who got facts from, and try to show that you’re being helpful and not just writing for the sake of link building.
Be Helpful: Don’t just throw a link to your homepage within the content of an article because you’re trying to get an extra one. Editors can be protective of the content on their site and links that add value to the article will have a much higher chance of staying in than another random link to a landing page. For example, linking to link building terms could help readers who are confused about some of the acronyms or terms that are unfamiliar to them in this article.
Link building and guest posting take a lot of time, so be sure that you are being as efficient as possible if you’re trying to tackle this avenue yourself. Be sure to target relevant sites in your niche and if you’re guest posting, try to get in content links by moving the author bio or using other methods detailed above. These tips won’t work every time since guest posts are at the mercy of editors, but they should help you to get more link juice flowing your way.

Thomas McMahon is a writer living and working in Boise, Idaho for Page One Power a relevancy first link building company. When he’s not writing killer content, you can find Thomas protecting his high altitude alpaca herd from timber wolves with only the sound of his voice.