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Got Online Reviews? You’d Better!

 How important are online reviews to your small business?

9 of 10 people trust online reviews.Surprising fact:

Whether or not you have online customer reviews can make or break your online visibility and also affect your conversion rate.

According to a survey by BrightLocal, nearly 9 out of 10 consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation from family and friends. That may be surprising to you, considering those reviews are probably posted by complete strangers. Nevertheless, your own experience and that of your friends and family almost certainly bears this out.

According to The Huffington Post:

This means that if a client comes across a favorable review of your business online, this can be just as effective as having one of their friends personally recommend your business to them. … It’s been known for a while that businesses [that] are rated positively are more likely to rank for relevant search terms

People trust online reviews when seeking out a local business.

88% of customers sought and trusted online reviews in 2014.

Online reviews increase your search rankings

Not only do consumers read and trust online reviews — they actually help you to rank higher in Google, Yahoo & Bing. The state of your reviews online ranks 5th among the most important search ranking factors according to Entrepreneur Magazine.
Top rankming factors according to Moz and reported by you probably know, showing up in the Local Pack is like gold for a local business.  It’s been reported recently that Google’s “Local Pack” is now filtering out businesses with fewer than 4 stars. If you have problematic reviews, the best remedy is to encourage more delighted customers to review you.

Fortune Magazine insists that:

… getting reviewed on as many sites as you can will help your business. … If you’re not encouraging your customers to write reviews of your business online, you’re missing out on a great way to gain perspective [sic0000000000] customers’ trust and get them to try your business.

Only 10% of people ignored online reviews in 2014.

Forbes says that as online reviews increase in importance and more of your competitors start doing more to encourage customer reviews, your involvement is only going to become more important.

Search Engine Land pointed out that only 1 in 10 consumers ignored online reviews in 2014 (down from  12% in 2013). The trend is clear from the chart above: this percentage is decreasing each year.

Online reviews improve your conversion rate

Having more reviews online will also give you a higher conversion rate according to Forbes. Your conversion rate is the number of people who convert from being visitors on your site to being actual paying customers. Note that even if your reviews aren’t all good, they still help.  As counter-intuitive as that may seem, bad reviews can have a positive effect on your conversion rate. A blend of good reviews and bad reviews shows that you aren’t trying to hide anything, and makes the good reviews seem more sincere. And if you respond to bad reviews positively, that can leave a very favorable impression of you. You might want to check out our advice for dealing with bad reviews.

Third party and first party reviews

Many of these sites feature online reviews.Sites which host reviews include Google, Facebook, Merchant Circle, Yelp, Show Me Local, and many more.  The more reviews you have on these sites, and assuming you average 4 stars or better, the more likely you are to show up in Google’s Local Pack.

Those are referred to as “third-party reviews” because they appear on websites that you don’t own. First party reviews are reviews that show up on your own website. You may think that reviews on your own site would be viewed with a certain degree of suspicion, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. First party reviews do actively contribute toward better search rankings.

It’s possible to format reviews on your website with special markup that allows Google to display the stars from your own site when you show up in search results. Your reviews and stars might even show up in the large site profile at the top right of search results in Google when people search for your name. So it’s a good idea to enable customer reviews on your own website.

Encourage  reviews

Clearly there’s an advantage for you to encourage reviews from delighted customers. Don’t offer incentives for reviews, but make it as easy as possible for people to review you.

We have a program that makes it particularly easy to encourage customer reviews. It can also spread them out so that they are balanced across third-party sites and your own website.

Call us to find out how that works.

We value and encourage your feedback in the Comment section below.

You Need Citations for Your Local SEO

Local SEO is important for local businesses

Your local search rankings are highly dependent on widespread and consistent nAP citations.If you have a local business where you interact on a face-to-face basis with your customers, local SEO is important to you. Even if  you don’t have a storefront where people physically come to your location, if your customers are local you need local SEO.

If your service occurs at a customer’s home or business, they are still likely to search for you  in their town, county, or using a “near me” search. Examples might be “plumber near me”  or “landscaper in  Morris County”.

There are three factors that control how prominently you appear when cusOKtomers do a search like that:

  1. The strength of your standard SEO
  2. The number and consistency of citations of your name, address & phone (NAP)  across the web
  3. Your proximity  to the person doing the search

The first item is what most people think of when they want to show up prominently in the search engines.  And that’s certainly important. There’s not much you or we can do about the third item, of course.  But what’s often overlooked is the importance of citations.

Don’t overlook your citations

NAP - name,address & phoneA citation is simply a mention of your company  on the web. It can be in local search engines,  directories, apps, maps, or  other websites that may be recommending you. For purposes of local SEO, the important citations are those that include your NAP.

There are a number of places where you can check to see how widely your citations appear on the web.  One simple way to do that is to do a Google search  of your company name, street address, city and state. Another way is to run a scan of local sites here or here.

There are, of course obvious large sites like Google, Facebook, Yelp, and others.  There are also many smaller sites that are important as well.  The more broadly search engines find your NAP, the more highly you are likely to rank in the search results.

Citation building

Unless you’ve been actively building your citations across the web, you’re probably missing from many of the sites that search engines check. If you run a scan from one of the links above, you may find that you’re missing from quite a few of them. You can go to those websites  and enter or claim your listing  and update your NAP and other information manually.

Google's Local Stack is the most prominent place your local business can appear.You may also find citations that list bad phone numbers, old addresses, or confusing variations on your company name. Those inconsistencies cost you some trust with the search engines. If you ask a bunch of friends about a particular restaurant, and you get three different addresses, two different names for the restaurant, and more than one phone number,  you’re not really sure which is right. The same applies to the search engines. So if you find inconsistencies among your citations,  you should work to get them fixed. Search Engine Land recently reported that inconsistency of your citatinos is the #1 issue affecting your local rankings and whether you show up in Google’s Local Stack.

Once you have fixed inconsistent citations, your work isn’t over. Most of these sites on the web  periodically re-synchronize their information from whatever sources they got it from in the first place. So even if you have corrected  your address, for example, in two or three months the site may resynchronize with its sources  and bring back the old address. It can start to feel like a game of Whack-a-Mole.

Local citation subscriptions

Some of the more important sites for your NAP citations.One solution for that problem is to subscribe to  a citation management service like Moz Local or Yext PowerListings. These and similar services  typically provide a dashboard for you to enter your NAP and other information which they then synchronize  across a variety of local search engines, directories, maps & apps. Yext PowerListings goes one step further with a programming interface to each of those sites to lock in your information so that even when one of those websites goes back to their original source to synchronize their data, your information cannot change.

Fair disclosure: Rank Magic is a partner with Yext PowerListings. But if you’ve become frustrated with lousy local rankings or with the challenges of maintaining wide and consistent citations, we can help. Give us a call, if only to discuss your situation and see what we can suggest you try.

Share with us your experience getting and keeping good citations in the comments below.

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Improve your SEO Results with Social Media

Do you think spending time on social media is wasted?

Some of the more popular social media sites.

If so, it’s time to think again. The 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.

Social media and your SEO

More than that, having an active social presence works together with your SEO to improve your search rankings. When people search for what you do or what you sell, your social media presence helps. Hootsuite talked about the importance of content marketing and social media for your SEO.

Search Engine LandSearch 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.

Forbes logoForbes Magazine lists and explains six social media practices that boost SEO:

  1. Growing your number of followers
  2. Encouraging more inbound links
  3. Optimizing your posts for search visibility
  4. Contributing to your authority and helps search rankings
  5. Leveraging social posts for local searches and show local commitment
  6. Increasing your brand awareness

Multiple ways to connect with you

Beyond that, in a Microsoft survey customers polled said they still want to connect with businesses in-person but they also want to connect with them through website, social media and email.

Follow Me logoI always recommend that my SEO clients maintain an active social presence as part of their SEO strategy. Patti Singer of Follow Me Social Media Consulting says:

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.

Reviews are important, too

People report valuing online reviews as importantly as recommendations from friends and family. I’ll be writing more about that soon, but know that you need to pay attention to your online reviews and actively recruit new reviewers.

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Your opinion counts — let us know what you think about this in the comments below.

If you need assistance with any of this, Rank Magic can help.

8 Small Business SEO Essentials You Need to Understand

How You Can Compete With the Big Boys

Learning about SEO is an investment in your business.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.

Backlinks are essential to good search rankings.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.

3) Don’t Try to Fool Google

So-called Black Hat SEOs have tried for years to fool Google into ranking websites higher than they deserve. And sometimes their tricks work — for a little while. But when Google catches them their clients suffer.

Don’t do it. It’s as simple as that.

4) Take Advantage of the Long Tail

Long tail distributionThe 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:

Increase your local visibility on Google.

  1. Relevance — how closely your content matches the searcher’s intent
  2. Distance — how local you are to the search being conducted
  3. 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

Some of the sites in PowerListingsIf 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

There are lots of ways a blog helps you rank well in search engines.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

Google's G logoYou 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 noted that 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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25+ Common SEO Mistakes That Kill Your Online Visibility

Good SEO practices …

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.

common SEO mistakesThanks to the folks at for this helpful infographic.

If you suffer from any of the mistakes above, Rank Magic can fix that!

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