The Most Common Mistake for a Local Business Website

The local business error we see more than any other

You serve people within a limited geographic area.

Oops-250So when consumers in your area search for what you do or what you sell, you need to show up in the search engine results. And to maximize the likelihood of that, search engines need to understand where your business is, and what geographic areas you serve.

Despite how much better search engines have gotten in understanding the focus of a web page, they’re not yet as smart as a person. If you have a page all about in-home widget repair, search engines will understand that very well. And if you have another page about your service area, they can understand that. But what they don’t do well is connecting those dots. To a search engine, each web page is like an island. It connects with others via links, but it needs to do the dot-connecting itself. In other words …

You need location information on every page of your website.

Depending on your business, it’s good to have your phone number posted prominently near the top of every page. And make sure it’s a local area code. Toll-free numbers for local businesses make customers suspicious.

Then, make sure your address, including state and zip code is on every page. Beyond that, you might allude to your service area: counties you serve, or even the major cities and towns, as long as you don’t make that annoyingly long. The easiest place to include this is in your page footer because that allows you to put and maintain it in one spot that will be inherited by all the pages on your site. For example, if Rank Magic was limited to local business, I might place this in our footer:

Serving the north Jersey counties of Morris, Essex, and Sussex
from offices in East Hanover, NJ 07936

If you serve customers (or clients, or patients) at your office or store, you should obviously include the street address as well.

How do you deal with this on your site? Let us know in the comments below.

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How Your Clichés Turn Off Potential Customers

You probably don’t use clichés in the marketing copy on your website.

Or do you?

I learned a simple rule from a marketing consultant years ago that’s stuck with me ever since. Don’t make your reader think “well, I should hope so”. But I see that all the time in website copy  — empty phrases and promises that prompt exactly that response.

  • Quality service!
    Well, I should hope so.
  • We do it right the first time!
    Well, I should hope so.
  • We always honor our agreements.
    Well, I should hope so.
  • We have expertise in [whatever it is we do]
    Well, I should hope so.
  • Free estimates.
    Well, I should hope so.
  • At [company name] you’re the boss.
    Well, I should hope so.
  • We pride ourselves on working hard for our customers
    Well, I should hope so.
  • We provide a job well done and done to your satisfaction.
    Well, I should hope so.
  • We respect our customers
    Well, I should hope so.
  • Fully insured!
    Well, I should hope so.
  • Your satisfaction is our goal.
    Well, I should hope so.
  • We work to make you happy.
    Well, I should hope so.

You get the idea.

The next time you write or revise your web content, I hope you will keep this principle in mind.

Well, I should hope so.

What are your thoughts about this? Let us know in the comments below.

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Too Many Keywords In Your URL?

Keywords in your URL are a good thing.

Keywords in your URLHaving keywords in your URL can help your rankings. For example, our web page describing the value and process of building inbound links to help with rankings has this URL: http://www.rankmagic.com/seo/link-building.shtml.  It contains the keywords SEO and link building.

But blog posts in particular can get pretty long because often by default the entire title of a blog post becomes part of the URL. For example, our blog post titled 6 Ways Small Business Owners Can Get More From Their SEO has this rather long URL:http://www.rankmagic.com/blog/2013/09/6-ways-small-business-owners-can-get-seo/

Is that URL too long?

A few years ago, Stephan Spencer published an interview with Matt Cutts (“The Google Guy”) and that very question came up. Since we often recommend our clients establish and maintain a blog because of the many ways it can help search engine rankings, I thought it would be good to address this now. Here’s what Matt had to say about that:

If you can make your title four- or five-words long – and it is pretty natural. If you have got a three, four or five words in your URL, that can be perfectly normal. As it gets a little longer, then it starts to look a little worse. Now, our algorithms typically will just weight those words less and just not give you as much credit.

The thing to be aware of is, ask yourself: “How does this look to a regular user?” – because if, at any time, somebody comes to your page or, maybe, a competitor does a search and finds 15 words all strung together like variants of the same word, then that does look like spam, and they often will send a spam report. Then somebody will go and check that out.

So, I would not make it a big habit of having tons and tons of words stuffed in there, because there are plenty of places on a page, where you can have relevant words and have them be helpful to users – and not have it come across as keyword stuffing.

Would something like 10 words be a bit too much, then?

It is a little abnormal. I know that when I hit something like that – even a blog post – with 10 words, I raise my eyebrows a little bit and, maybe, read with a little more skepticism. So, if just a regular savvy user has that sort of reaction, then you can imagine how that might look to some competitors and others.

There you have it. Don’t go too overboard with using keywords in your page file names and URLs, but within reason there’s nothing wrong with ensuring you have essential keywords in them.

Do you have any thoughts on Keyword rich URLS? Let us know in the comments below.

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On-Page SEO Checklist for Your Blog

On-Page SEO Checklist for Blogs

I don’t think header tags are very important anymore, especially in Google, but I do like using title attributes, which aren’t listed here. If you’d like to know more about any of this, we can help.

Please share your own thoughts and experience in the comments below.


Should You Avoid a Niche-Designed Website?

Niche Websites: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

search-magnifying-glassThere are web design and hosting companies out there that focus on a specific industry or niche. Some create only Realtor websites, others specialize in car repair shop websites, some do only podiatrist websites, and so on. They have advantages and disadvantages, and for some situations they may be the perfect solution. But for others, they can be a very bad solution despite how attractive the process might appear.

The Good

  • Considering their specialty, they may understand your target market or readership perfectly; better than other web designers.
  • Often you’ll have a single point of contact for web design, web programming, content writing, etc. instead of different individuals.
  • They may integrate with your back office systems like practice management systems, CRM (Customer Relations Management) systems, etc.
  • They may offer specialized, pre-programmed tools to enhance your website; things like mortgage calculators, diagnostic questionnaires, etc.
  • They may have pre-written content that can really expand and flesh out your website.

The Bad

  • You may get stuck. If you’re unhappy with pricing or customer service, you may be unable to pick up your website and plunk it down at another web hosting company.
  • If you’re stuck, you may find yourself at the mercy of abnormally high recurring costs for your hosting.
  • Once you’re stuck, the company may have less motivation to update your site to current standards and your site may begin to look stale.
  • Limited templates may mean your site looks like a lot of other websites that are in your niche.
  • In some cases, you don’t own the rights to the content on your site; it may be legally owned by the website creator, not you, the website owner. That means if you want to move your site away from them, all the content needs to be rewritten from scratch.

The Ugly  — Sometimes

You may be in a niche that doesn’t require SEO. Not every website needs to draw visitors from search engines. Someone new to a community may search online for a pediatrician or a podiatrist, but someone who needs a brain surgeon is very unlikely to search the web to find one. If you’re that brain surgeon, you rely on referrals from other doctors and patients, and your website serves to provide information to people who have already been referred to you. For you, a niche-sprcific website may be perfect.

But if you’re like most website owners you need to attract new customers, clients and patients via your website. You need to show up in search engines when people look for what you sell or what services you provide. Here is where niche-designed websites may get ugly.

Some may not permit many optimization techniques that will help your website show up for the searches your target is looking for.

Google hates duplicate contentBut perhaps the ugliest thing is something I listed above as a good thing: They almost all offer pre-written content for your website. If you’re a podiatrist, say, they may have content about bunions, ingrown toenails, ankle injuries, plantar fasciitis, and many other conditions of the foot and ankle. Good, right? Not really.

The Danger of Duplicate Content

Let’s say you want patients suffering from bunions to find you online. If a dozen local podiatrists have a page about bunions that says the same thing on all of their sites, Google is very unlikely to show more than one of them in search results. What good does it do the searcher if every one of the top ten results has exactly the same information for them?

How likely is this to happen? Well, in a search for a local doctor who treats bunions, I found a podiatrist’s web page that began with this sentence: “A bunion is a bone deformity caused by an enlargement of the joint at the base and side of the big toe (metatarsophalangeal joint).” That page has a good deal of relevant, interesting content. But then when I searched in Google for that precise sentence, I found quite literally thousands of web pages with exactly the same content. The likelihood that multiple podiatrists serving the same geographical community have the same page on their websites is very high. Any two or three such podiatrists are almost certainly not all going to show up on the first page of Google because of that duplicate content issue.

Those websites will be fine as brochure websites for people who already know the name of the doctor or medical practice, but almost worthless in terms of attracting people looking for a podiatrist on Google, Yahoo, or Bing.

Does your experience with a niche-designed website support or contradict this? Let us know in the comments below.

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3 SEO Tips For Lawyers – Plus 1 Bonus Tip

21.9% of people needing a lawyer search online.Not everyone looks for a lawyer online.

However, according to Lawyernomics, search is the second most common way people look for an attorney.  If you want your share of those clients, SEO is essential so your website ranks near the top in Google, Yahoo & Bing.

Are you getting your share of clients from search? It’s easy to tell. Pretend you’re a potential client who doesn’t know the name of your firm or of any attorney on staff. Go to the search engine you use the most and see if you can find your website. If you don’t show up in the top two or three pages, you’re missing out on those clients. And if other local firms show up prominently, guess where those clients are going for representation?

1  — On-Page Local Optimization

Attorneys deal with clients on a face to face basis, so your clients are going to come from a certain radius of your offices. They’ll be searching for such terms as

  • Morristown child custody attorney
  • North Jersey workers compensation lawyer
  • New Brunswick DUI lawyer
  • Wayne NJ estate planning attorney
  • Lake George business attorney

As such, it’s important to have local terms on your web pages so the search engines know exactly where you practice. And it’s not enough to have a page entitled Service Area or something similar; search engines won’t readily connect the dots between that page and your page about child custody, workers comp or DUI. You need your geographical terms on every page.

2  — Local Search Directories

Local search resultsYou also need a presence on Google Places, Bing Local and Yahoo Local, well optimized for display in the local search results. Beyond that, you need to be listed at local oriented directories like Yelp, City Search, Insider Pages, Yellow Book, etc. It takes explicit action to ensure you’re listed in all those places with appropriate information about your firm.

3  — Focus on Sub-Practice Areas

Many firms concentrates in a limited number of practice areas. For sake of discussion, let’s say you practice family law and elder law. It’s not enough to have a Family Law page with a bullet list of sub-areas like divorce, mediation, custody issues, and child support and an Elder Law page that lists services like estate planning, wills, medicaid planning, trusts, elder care issues, probate, etc. You need a page about each of those detailed practice areas with meaningful content. Ensure there’s clear navigation on the site so a potential client can find information related to their specific concern.

Bonus Tip – Not everyone comes from search

Content is what converts visitors to clients.Clearly, many potential clients come not from search but via referral: from a friend or another attorney. Those people will still go to your website to check you out and verify your expertise and professionalism. Regardless of how a potential client ends up on your site, it’s up to your website to convert them into a paying client. You need clarity, reader-friendly copy, appropriate calls to action (“Call now to schedule a free consultation”), and information about the attorneys on staff and their education and experience. But don’t make your content all about you  — you need a clear client-focus to show you’re goal is to solve your visitor’s problem, not to brag about your skills.

Need professional help making this happen? Rank Magic can help.

Find this helpful? If so, we’d appreciate a Like, Tweet or +1. The buttons are right here on the post for that.

We always welcome your comments below.


Why Did Your Nice, New Website Destroy Your Search Rankings?

Loss of RankingsIt’s sad to say, but we see this all too often. An old website gets a facelift, and the new site looks great. But it’s not long before the website owner notices that they’re no longer getting any business from people finding them on the web. What happened?

We’ve written before about why good SEO consultants make lousy web designers, and vice versa, and there are just some SEO techniques that great web designers don’t really think much about.

The two mistakes that kill your online visibility

There are two main factors that govern where you rank in the search engines: Relevance and Reputation. A significant problem with either one of them will cost you rankings in the search engines.

Keyword relevanceRelevance

During the website redesign, the text copy on your pages may be updated. Certainly the HTML code behind the pages is changed. It’s not at all uncommon for the new copy to fail to use some of your essential keyword phrases or for them not to be included appropriately in the code. This makes it difficult for search engines to recognize that your page is an appropriate match for those keyword phrases.

The solution to this is to go back to your original optimization recommendations and re-apply them to your webpages.  (You do have optimization recommendations to reapply, don’t you?)

Reputation

This accounts for 40-50% of where you rank in Google. It’s important in other search engines as well, but Google weighs it more heavily than the rest of them. Your reputation (sometimes called  “authority”) is measured by your link popularity:” the number and quality of other websites that link to yours. Over time, the pages on your website have earned significant link popularity, helping them to rank well in the search engines.

URL changes can hurt your rankings

Unfortunately, most website redesign projects result in new URLs for the pages on your website. Without explicit action, all the link popularity earned by you or previous page URLs is simply lost. This is related to the issue of canonicalization we discuss in the SEO portion of our website, as well as in our blog.

The solution is to do the proper kind of “redirect” from the old URL to the new URL so that the new URL can inherit the link popularity and reputation earned by your previous version of the page. There are multiple kinds of redirects that will ensure that anyone who tries to go to your old page will be sent to the new one. But only one kind, the 301 permanent redirect, will also redirect the link popularity value from the old URL to the new one.

Don’t Panic

Don't Panic!

Obviously, if this happens to you you need to jump on it as quickly as possible and get things fixed. Better still would be to anticipate this potential disaster and deal with it before your redesigned website even goes live.

If this has happened to you and you need help recovering from the loss of search rankings, Rank Magic can help.

Has this happened to you? Share your experience in the Comments below.

WE hope you’ll  Like, Tweet or +1 this post if you found it helpful.


Rethinking Title Tags for SEO

The Title Tag is perhaps the single most powerful place for your keywords to appear for SEO purposes. It’s weighed heavily by all search engines in their ranking algorithms, and it also appears as the headline of your listing in the search engines.

The Old Rule of Thumb

Note how much larger the headlines are than before. Those headlines are the title tags for the pages listed.

The old rule of thumb was that your title tag should be limited to about 70 characters. Some people misconstrued that as a “limit” but it’s really only a guideline. Its origin lies in the number of characters that are visible in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), which is approximately 70 characters. That varies from one search engine to another, and as a result of variable pitch fonts it can be significantly more or fewer characters depending on the prevalence of narrow or wide letters in your title.

Beyond the Visibility Issue

SEOs have tested and proven that search engines register and index the words the get truncated from a long title tag, so the 70-character “limit” didn’t really apply to the search engine rankings for your page. It does, however, limit what people see in he SERPs. The words in the search phrase are typically made bold in the SERP listings, so listings with more words that match  a search query st

and out from the rest and are more likely to be clicked. We don’t want great rankings for rankings sake; we want them for the sake of the traffic they bring. So having your most popular keywords in the first 70 characters of your title tag means you’re more likely to stand out as a match to the query and get clicked.

Google logo

Google Throws In a Monkey Wrench

Google has been testing a change in the appearance of its SERPs, which involves an increase in the font size of the headlines (title tags) it displays. That change is being rolled out to more and more users and we expect soon will affect everyone. Peter Meyers at Moz wrote about that recently, and has screen shots to illustrate the impact.

What this means is that it’s now more important than ever to have your critical keywords at the beginnings of your title tags. If you can limit your title tags to about 55 characters (down from 70) you can expect 95% of then not to get cut off.

Want to Test Your Title Tags?

Well, you can. There’s a title preview tool at Moz. Just enter your title tag and your keyword phrase and it’ll show you what will appear in Google and what will get cut off.

Are you significantly affected by this? Let us know in the Comments below.

Please don’t be afraid to Like, Tweet or +1 this post if you found it helpful.

Need help with your SEO? Contact Rank Magic and let’s talk.


Combat the Bounce

The Dreaded Bounce  — What Is It?

Visitors who bounce like this are bad for your rankings.

We’ve all done it. Clicked on a link to a web page somewhere and realized it’s not what we were really looking for. So we click the Back button in our browser and move on. That’s a bounce: we bounced right back to where we came from.

Is a Bounce Bad?

Clearly, a bounce isn’t exactly good; that visitor didn’t buy anything. But is it really bad? Or just … meh?

Actually, it’s pretty bad. It’s not just a “so what?” matter.

When someone bounces, especially when they landed on your site from a search page, that tells the search engine that (at least to that visitor) your page wasn’t a good match for what they were searching for. And if your page isn’t a good match for whatever keyword phrase was searched, the search engine probably won’t want to rank your page as highly next time.

This can hurt you no matter how well your on-page keyword optimization has been done, and no matter how many relevant pages on other sites are linking to your page. Bouncing is a negative ranking factor.

How Do You Prevent Bounces?

This is where you need the skills of a copywriter. You need to make your page uniquely informative  — or fun  — or surprising  — or outrageous  — or provocative. And unique. SEO techniques can’t help you with this. Nothing done with search engines in mind can help you with this. You need to craft each web page with your visitors in mind. What do they need? What are they looking for? What will they like?

And you need to ask them to do something. “Click for more.” “Sign up for our newsletter.” “Tell us what you think.” “What are your questions about this?” “Buy now.” These are calls to action, and their efficacy is undisputed. Why do you suppose when you order a fast food burger they always ask you “Want fries with that?” It’s because they sell lots more fries that way. It can work for you, too.

Find this post useful? Then please click on the Like button above. Or Tweet it with the button above. Or +1 it with the button below. (See how I’m using calls to action here?)

Give us your feedback in the comments below.

Need help with your own website’s rankings? Rank Magic can help.

 


Do You Need an SEO?

Maybe. Probably.

Google has an excellent post that answers this question and more. Here’s how they start:

SEO is an acronym for “search engine optimization” or “search engine optimizer.” Deciding to hire an SEO is a big decision that can potentially improve your site and save time, but you can also risk damage to your site and reputation. Make sure to research the potential advantages as well as the damage that an irresponsible SEO can do to your site.

So how do you tell an “irresponsible SEO”?

We’ve addressed some of this before with posts that can all be found here. The recent article by Google overlaps a bit with that, and here are the main points Google stresses:

  • Avoid Be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that send you email out of the blue.
  • No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.
  • Be careful if a company is secretive or won’t clearly explain what they intend to do.
  • You should never have to link to an SEO.
  • Choose wisely (our posts can help).
  • Be sure to understand where the money goes (organic or PPC?).
  • What are the most common abuses a website owner is likely to encounter?

Like this post? Please say so with the Like button above or the +1 button below. Or tweet it with the button up top. Thanks for sharing.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments below.

We encourage you, after reading what Google has to say, to put us to the test.


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