Do you think spending time on social media is wasted?
If so, it’s time to think again. They way customers interact with small business has changed dramatically over the years. They now want to interact and engage with small businesses digitally. That means they are looking to connect on social media, probably using their mobile devices. It is important that you deliver on this type of experience.
Search Engine Land talks about social media & ranking in search results. They explain that social signals are ranking factors as search engines determine how to leverage our social interaction and behavior. Social Reputation relates to the authority of the social sites with mentions of you and links to your web pages. Social Shares relates to having social mentions and links in a variety of authoritative social sites; they provide a list of some of the most powerful ones.
Every business needs to have a presence on social media. Whether you are just someone selling your crafts on Etsy or a well established business with employees, social media should play an integral part in your marketing efforts.
Large companies and national franchises have an obvious edge in search visibility over your small business.
They have thousands of inbound links giving them authority or importance on the web.
They have a budget for SEO that probably far exceeds your own.
Their websites have more pages and deeper content than you can afford to create.
At least some of them are bound to have been around longer than your company has.
But that doesn’t have to stop you.
SEO is no longer just about who’s been on the web longer, who has more pages on their website, or even who has the most links. It’s about which web page has the most relevance to what was searched and who has the best answer for the searcher’s question.
You can do this.
Here are eight things for you to understand and put in place on your site.
1) Focus on Quality Content
If you sell products, you need to go beyond the manufacturer’s stock product description that everyone has on their website. Add valuable information about how to choose the right product or what extra value you offer that makes your company the smart choice to buy from.
If you sell a service, explain your Unique Selling Proposition: what sets you apart from your run-of-the-mill competitor? What questions should a customer ask to tell if the company they’re considering is the best?
Provide extra value to the searcher in your content and you’ll be rewarded with higher rankings.
2) Backlinks are Essential
Link Popularity — the number and quality of other sites that link to yours — is an essential tie-breaker for search rankings. Google doesn’t want to show lousy web sites on the first page, and the more other web sites think you’re good enough to link to, the better search engines assume you must be.
Quality is more important than quantity here; sites with a good authority or importance themselves bequeath more value to you via their links. The more important sites that link to yours, the higher is your Domain Authority or importance on the web.
Relevance is also a factor: a site that’s related to you is a more valuable link than one that’s not. Links from sites in similar businesses or in the same Chamber of Commerce or professional association tend to count more than sites that aren’t.
If two web pages address a given search equally well, the one with a higher level of importance on the web will almost always outrank the other one.
The term long tail refers to the ends of a normal distribution bell curve.
The head portion represents the more generic searches people use: shoes, plumber, lawyer, restaurant.
The long tail portion represents more specific searches that aren’t searched nearly as often: women’s Muk Luk boots, plumber in Morristown NJ, criminal defense lawyer in San Diego, Mexican restaurant in Fargo.
Competition is much less for long tail keywords and your chance of ranking well is vastly improved.
5) Leverage Local SEO
If you’re a local business that interacts with your customers on a face-to-face basis, you need to take advantage of Local SEO opportunities. Google recently explained how to improve your rankings for local search. The three main factors for local search rankings are:
Relevance — how closely your content matches the searcher’s intent
Distance — how local you are to the search being conducted
Prominence — how widely known you are based on SEO rankings and information Google has on you from reviews, links, and listings in local directories, maps and apps.
You handle relevance through your normal SEO process of keyword selection and keyword-focused content. Distance requires that your pages include your address. Prominence is a bit more challenging in that there are dozens of directories and other locally-focused websites you need to be listed on. That brings us to the next item:
6) You Need Widespread and Consistent Citations
If you show up in lots of local sites with a consistent NAP (name, address, phone), search engines have a higher degree of trust about who you are and where you’re located. If you don’t show up, there’s less trust and that translates into lower rankings. Also, if you’re listed inconsistently with previous addresses on some sites, variations of your company name, or bad/old phone numbers there’s less trust as well.
You need to make sure you’re listed correctly on as many of these sites as possible. We have a product called PowerListings that automates that for you and locks in your information. You can learn more about PowerListings here.
7) Achieve Freshness on Your Blog
Having fresh content on your site encourages the search engines to visit more often and helps with your rankings. But beware of people who tell you to change or freshen up the content on your optimized pages. In our experience that’s likely to de-optimize your pages and hurt your rankings.
Instead, host a blog on your site and write informative content for your target market at least monthly, Weekly may be better if you can manage it. That’s all the fresh content you need, and it provides you with an opportunity to share your blog posts on social media and an email newsletter.
8) The Value of Google+ and +1 Signals
You probably know that you need a Facebook page and perhaps a Twitter account. But lots of small businesses ignore Google+ and that’s a mistake. If you have a strong, active Google+ presence you’re likely to earn +1s. They’re similar to Facebook Likes. The folks at Moz notedthat next to your web authority, the number of Google +1s is most highly correlated with great search rankings.
In addition, links back to your web pages from Google+ carry more weight than links from Facebook and Twitter because they’re the only ones that convey actual PageRank value.
Rank Magic can help!
We’re the small business SEO experts.
We focus on what I call “small and very small businesses” and we address all eight of these factors and much more for our clients. We recognize that as a small business owner you have your hands full with running your business and have little time to spend paying attention to all of your marketing efforts.
Please give us a call to discuss your website. I’ll be happy to personally look at your site with you and evaluate its strengths and weaknesses so you can determine if we’re a good match for what you need.
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can help customers find your website easily because they help you show up prominently when customers search for what you do or what you sell. Failure to apply these best practices obviously doesn’t help you show up in Google, Yahoo & Bing. There are also quite a few things that small businesses actively do on their websites that hurt search rankings.
Bad SEO practices …
Some of these mistakes may be due to some persistent SEO myths that people still believe. But most of the time these mistakes happen by accident. Here’s a handy list of 25+ SEO mistakes you should avoid. If they’re not obvious or clear to you, please ask questions in the comments below … or call us.
Google’s testing a change that may destroy some site rankings
Google has announced that they’re testing a big change in the index of websites they use for ranking search results. It may not affect most sites, but if your site is built a certain way it can really hurt your Google rankings.
The change is in recognition of the fact that more searches are now done on phones than from desktop/laptop computers.
The Google Index
Google’s index is a complicated copy of the content of every web page, which Google uses to tell what the page is all about so it knows what keyword searches the page is suitable for. Since desktop and mobile versions of websites may differ, Google has been using the desktop version of a website in it’s index.
However, for many websites, the mobile version may be quite different from the desktop version. The mobile version may actually be like a separate website with less or different content from the desktop version to accommodate the limits of a small cell phone screen.
What’s being tested is relying primarily on the mobile index
If a website has different versions for desktop and mobile, that constant may be quite different. Content that’s well optimized for a critical keyword on the desktop may not be well optimized for that keyword in the mobile version.
By default, Google has up until now relied primarily on the desktop version of a web site in its index. If a website has a desktop version and a mobile version, Google uses the desktop index to decide what searches to display a given web page for. Only if a website exists solely in a mobile format does Google use the mobile version in its index.
Google wrote recently:
To make our results more useful, we’ve begun experiments to make our index mobile-first. Although our search index will continue to be a single index of websites and apps, our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site, to understand structured data, and to show snippets from those pages in our results. Of course, while our index will be built from mobile documents, we’re going to continue to build a great search experience for all users, whether they come from mobile or desktop devices.
While it’s only under testing at the moment, we can reasonable expect this is the direction Google will be moving in going forward.
If your site is configured to have a separate mobile version with even slightly different content, you may be at risk. If your site is “responsive” then you’re probably safe.
Is your site “responsive”?
A responsive website is one that changes in appearance in response to the device that’s looking at it. Certain elements on a page may shift around to accommodate a different screen. So that site will look different on a tablet, a phone, and a laptop or desktop. But all the content remains the same.
Typically you can check this by changing the width of your browser window on your desktop. Make the window narrower and narrower until it’s roughly the shape of a phone screen. Does stuff change and move around?
If it does, you’re responsive. And you’re probably safe from this change.
If you’re not responsive …
You may need to check the mobile version of your site. Is it essentially identical in content to your desktop site? If so, you’re probably fine.
If it’s different,make sure it’s optimized as effectively for your important keywords as the desktop version. Otherwise you’re likely to suffer a drop in your rankings.
If your site isn’t currently responsive, you should be planning to make it so. And don’t put it off until your 2018 budget year, but plan for it now.
Google’s been reporting a surge in “near me” type searches, probably at least partly related to the increased use of mobile phones for search.
One of the problems centers around searches by town or city. If your business falls just outside the city limits, you were unlikely to show up in the Local Stack or the listings revealed when you click on “More Places” for searches focused on that city. People very close to you might find only listings within the city limits that are much farther away from them than you are.
We’ve been able to get good rankings in the organic listings for searches like this. But listings in the Local Stack and More Places have been very difficult if not impossible to achieve
Then Came Possum
Possum arrived on or about September 1. Search Engine Land calls this the most significant update since Google’s Pigeon update in 2014. And it seems to be doing wonders for those businesses just outside of the city limits. This is a good thing.
The physical location of the searcher is now more important than before in these searches as well. Normally that’s a good thing, especially for “near me” types of searches. However, a client of ours has headquarters in New Jersaey and a second location on the outskirts of Phoenix. While Arizonans searching for what they do in Phoenix find them in the Local Stack, if my client searchers from New Jersey they’re not there. Organic searches appear to be unaffected though.
On the down side, when there are multiple companies in the same line of business with offices in the same building, it appears most of them get filtered out, leaving only one of them in the Local Stack results. It’s as if Google thinks they’re affiliated with one another, like multiple doctors in the same medical practice.
Search Engine Land is reporting significant fluctuations in behavior leading them to conclude that Google is still tuning up the Possum algorithm. We expect it to settle down soon.
What changes have you seen in your local rankings since September 1? Let us know in the comments below.
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