Search engine optimization for small and very small businesses.

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10 SEO Mistakes Small Businesses Make

Small business SEO isn’t obvious

SEO is not magic. We explain 10 common small business SEO mistakes.I often explain that despite the “Magic” in our company name, SEO isn’t magic, and there really should be no secrets about how it works. Nevertheless, it does require a little shift in how you think about your website to understand what works and why. Small business SEO mistakes can be pretty easily avoided if you know what they are.

Startups and small business owners, especially those with cash flow concerns, often try to do things for themselves. We found that there are some common SEO mistakes that small businesses make which are easily avoidable. Here’s a list of the top ten things small business owners often mess up when trying to do SEO. (Needless to say, if you want or need professional help in optimizing your site without making these errors, Rank Magic is here to help.)

Much of what follows comes with a tip of the hat to the folks at Search Engine Watch; if you’d like to read a bit more about this from their perspective, here’s their article on the subject.

Ten SEO mistakes that small businesses make

Neither are some of these ten common mistakes

1) Waiting too long

Small business owners often spend months or years designing their websites and creating content. Without an SEO strategy in place from the beginning, they often find their efforts to be sub- optimal. When they come late to the SEO process, very often much of what they have worked on so diligently on the website needs to be redone in accordance with SEO best practices. The best time to start SEO is when you start designing (or redesigning) your website. This may be the single most common small business SEO mistake.

2) Avoiding low-competition keywords

It’s easy to think that you should focus on the keyword phrases everyone is searching for all the time. It feels like a waste of time to optimize for niche keyword phrases that receive fewer searches. But for a new business or a new website, the reverse is actually true. It takes months and years to develop the online authority to rank highly for those keyword phrases – you may be trying to compete with Amazon or Wayfair or Costco for those super-high volume keyword phrases. They’re the most competitive.

Optimizing for appropriate low competition keyword phrases is easier and much more likely to result in success over the shorter term.

For local businesses, niche keyword phrases might include a county, town, or neighborhood. Think electrician on the upper East Side or Indian restaurant in Morristown. Those kinds of keyword phrases narrow your competition dramatically and make it much easier to achieve first page rankings. At Rank Magic, we do extensive keyword research and analysis for our clients.

3) Optimizing for Google instead of the customer

Design for humans, not Google.Just about anything you do on a website specifically for Google, is likely to fail to address the needs of your customers. As Google has improved over the years, it’s gotten very smart about identifying websites that are helpful to users as opposed to being focused just on Google. It’s important to bear in mind that the user experience on a website is a ranking factor at Google.

4) Ignoring or avoiding long-tail keywords

Long-tail keyword phrasesLong tail keywords are easier to rank for. are more precisely focused on your products or services than more general terms. A new plumbing company may optimize for the keyword plumbing.  But most people searching for that phrase are looking for general information about plumbing — or perhaps jobs in the plumbing industry — rather than looking to hire a local plumber. The keyword plumbing services receives fewer searches per month but is much more closely focused on the needs of the plumber’s customers. An even longer-term phrase for one of this company’s services might be sump pump repair or sump pump leak. Our new plumbing company is likely to have much better success with these long-tail phrases.

5) Ignoring the code

I see this often, especially with new businesses that have tried to create their own website using one of those do-it-yourself sites like GoDaddy or Yahoo Site Builder. The code that runs the website is not visible on the page and is easy to ignore. But that code includes lots of information critical to search rankings and to conversions once you do show up in a search. Things like

Meta tags are in the HTML code that runs your site and they tell search engines about your page.

  • The page title, which shows up as the headline of your listing in Google,
  • The meta-description tag, which often shows up as part of your listing in Google,
  • Page and image file names,
  • Image alternate text,
  • URL structure and more.

These items all relate to the underlying code of your web pages which either A) help Google understand what the page is about and the value it offers or B) contribute to the likelihood of someone clicking on your listing when it shows up in Google.

6) Keyword stuffing

The now-ancient practice of keyword stuffing involves using a keyword phrase over-abundantly on the page in the hopes that it will convince Google the page is really, really, really about that phrase.

It doesn’t work. And it makes the user experience on the page really crappy, driving people away instead of converting them to paying customers. This is a small business SEO mistake that was usually made many years ago and has just never been fixed. If it applies to you, it’s time to fix it.

7) Forgetting internal links

Once you have people on your site, you want them to stay long enough and learn enough about you so they want to do business with you. Internal links – links among the various pages on your site foster those more extensive visits on your site.

8) Not measuring results

This chart of search traffic is an example of result tracking.You need to know if your efforts are working or not. If they’re not helping, you know you need to change things. How are your search rankings doing over time? How much traffic are you getting from search? Is it improving? You need to know this. Rank Magic provides extensive reporting to our clients on the essential things they need to know but if you’re not a client of ours you should take steps to track results yourself.

9) Focusing on features instead of benefits

You’re enmeshed in your business and are proud of the features of your products or services. Small businesses often get bogged down in the details of those features and go on at length about them.

Guess what? No one cares.

Your customer cares about benefits, not features. They want to know how you can address their concern or relieve their problem. They won’t search for a high tech toilet float valve — they want you to stop their leaky toilet.

This is one of those SEO mistakes that small businesses make that requires you to change your perspective about what to tell people about your business.

Learn more about customer-focus in this blog post.

10) Forgetting about calls to action

Order a hamburger at any fast food restaurant and I’ll bet the person taking your order asks “You want fries with that?” They sell a lot more fries because they ask. That’s known as a call to action.

This Buy Now button is a clear call to action.We all think our website copy is going to make us irresistible and will make users reach out to us without us having to ask. We’re delusional about that.

What do you want your website users to do? Buy something? Call for an appointment? Subscribe to your newsletter? Ask them.

To finish up this post, here are a few examples of calls to action:

If your small business is not ranking well and bringing in customers — Rank Magic can fix that!

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How Many Incoming Links Do I Really Have?

Link Popularity Is an Important Ranking Factor

Link popularity — the number and quality of inbound links to your site is a critical ranking factor. I estimate it counts for 40-50% of where you rank on Google. While link quality outweighs link counts, many of our clients still like to know how their link counts are doing.

Moz and Majestic

Your link count is one of the link-related ranking factors at Google.

We track client inbound link counts from both Moz and Majestic because there are different ways to “count” links that results in occasionally large differences in link counts between them.

Link age may be a consideration: older links may count less than fresher links. Link weight is also important: the weight of a link is related to the web authority of the linking page so that links from more authoritative pages count significantly more heavily in your favor than links from lesser sources.

Link trend chartMoz tends to track high value links while Majestic tends to dig deeper and track many lower quality links. Moz tends also to have fewer false positives. Both constantly refine their link counting algorithms, resulting in occasional dramatic changes in reported link counts.

Links versus Domain LinksIn our monthly reporting to clients, we rely on the Moz link counts. But we track both and periodically report to clients about both of them, as well as counts of how many other websites are linking. Some websites (domains) may link to you from multiple pages, resulting in a difference between total links and linking domains. We also report on MozRank and Domain Authority.

MozRank

Moz logoMozRank is a link popularity score that weighs the number of incoming links to a given web page (or a given website for Domain MozRank) but modifies that with a quality score for those inbound links. It’s designed to approximate Google’s PageRank score which is an important ranking factor at Google, and is on a logarithmic 0-10 scale like Google’s PageRank.  While Google used to display an approximate PageRank for web pages, they stopped doing that around 2014. MozRank is the closest approximation of that we’ve found.

Domain Authority

Domain Authority by MozDomain Authority is another metric from the folks at Moz to measure the strength of a website in terms of its likelihood to rank prominently in web search results. On a logarithmic 0-100 scale, it’s based on a number of more elementary metrics including link counts, linking domains, link quality, MozRank, and more. It’s being continuously tweaked via machine learning against actual Google search results

If you’d like to know more or have us track your own link popularity, just reach out anytime.

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How to Keep Spambots From Ruining Your Traffic Reporting

Google-Analytics-logoA couple of weeks ago, we ran a post alerting you to the fact that spambots may be inflating your traffic reporting in Google Analytics. Now let’s consider a couple of ways to prevent that.

Google’s Bot Filter

About a year ago, Google added a filter for just this sort of thing. It’s quite simple to implement. With Administrative rights, open your Google Analytics and click on the Admin link.

Google Analytics Admin sectionOnce there, Click on View Settings:

Google-Analytics-View-Settingsbot and spider filterDown near the bottom of the screen you’ll find the Bot  Filter checkbox. Just check that and you’re done.

Sort of. Google is only filtering out traffic from known bots and spiders.There may be many spambots that aren’t on the list, so you may still get some of that traffic  reporting. But at least it will filter out friendly spiders like Googlebot.

If That’s Not Enough

If you’re still seeing lots of spambot traffic from some of the sources we illustrated in our previous post then we may need to pull out the big guns. The simplest way to keep these bots from crawling your site is to stop them at the door. Not only will they not pollute your traffic reporting anymore,but they won’t even get onto your site, saving your web server some traffic load.

If your web host is running a Unix or Linux server, you can block these spambots in the .htaccess file. (Don’t worry if you don’t know what that is; your webmaster will know.) The folks over at ROI Marketing have done some nice work on this, compiling an extensive list of the most common spambots, and they even went so far as to provide the code you can copy & paste into your .htaccess file.

It May Take a Little Ongoing Vigilance

It may be a good idea to check for new spambots every once in awhile; these things tend to pop up without warning. But utilizing these two techniques should take a really big nite out of your referrer spam traffic.

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Please enter a comment below to let us know how this works for you, or if you’ve found a better way to deal with this.
Need help with your organic search traffic? At Rank Magic, we can fix that!

Are Spambots Ruining Your Traffic Reporting?

Google Analytics

Google-Analytics-logoMany, many website owners rely on Google Analytics to report on the traffic to their sites: where do visitors come from, what pages to they like, how many visitors are coming to their website, etc.

If you’re doing SEO or paying someone like us for it, you need to know how well it’s working.

When looking at SEO, you (and we) like to see how many visitors are coming from organic search, from links on other sites (referrals), from paid search, from social media, and from typing in the URL directly. That’s getting a little more difficult now.

Arrival of the Spambots

In recent months we’ve seen a disturbing trend of spambots showing up in the referral traffic figures. Spambots are not human visitors, so they’re not the kind of traffic we want or need. Some may be scraping email addresses or have other goals, but whatever their motivation, it’s not serving you well.

While a few hundred spambot visits a month are unlikely to skew reporting for a large site like Amazon, for a small local business just getting started on the web they grossly distort traffic reporting.That makes it hard to tell where visitors are coming from and whether or not your SEO efforts are paying off.

Here’s an example of what looks like really nice traffic growth:

total-trafficBut if we look into where that traffic came from, we find it’s almost all referral traffic, and that traffic has just exploded over the past two months, accounting for the vast majority of new visits. Here’s traffic showing only referral visits:

referral-traffic

navigationYou can see where those referral visits came from in Google Analytics, navigating as shown on the right.

Once you do, the websites where those visits originated are listed. In this case, we’re only showing the top ten referral sources, but spambots consume the majority of those sources even when you look deeper into the results.

bot-traffic
1,409 of the top 1,510 visits are from bots — more than 93%. You can see how this makes interpreting your website traffic exceedingly difficult.

Is this happening to you?

The first step you need to take is to determine if this is a problem for you. Access your Google Analytics and navigate to the spot shown just above. If you don’t know if you have Google Analytics installed on your site, just ask your webmaster. If you don’t have it, I encourage you to ask your webmaster to add it, and to give you Admin rights. Having Admin rights will open up one of the tools to help you deal with this.

In the meantime, it helps to know whether you can trust your traffic analytics. In Acquisition | All Traffic | Channels (the location shown above) you can still check all the non-referral traffic sources individually to understand the traffic you’re getting from those.

How do you fix this?

There are ways to filter out much of the spambot traffic from your reporting, and even to deny spambots access to your website. That’s a topic for a future blog post right here.

Stay tuned.

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Need help with your organic search traffic? At Rank Magic, we can fix that!

SEO Delivers the Best ROI for Local Businesses

ROI-600x360Search Engine Land recently published the results of a survey that examines the sources of traffic and leads to local businesses. According to the 288 respondents, organic search delivers the best ROI to local businesses. The survey found organic search delivered the most website traffic and phone calls into local businesses, which justifies the effort spent on it.

Google Places/+Local (now renamed Google My Business) comes in second and delivers almost as good an ROI, although it sends significantly less traffic to local business websites.

website-traffic-600x371When asked what percent of visits to their websites come from different sources, organic search again came out on top, with local search on Google coming in second. The combination of organic search and local search account for a full 40% of all visits, dwarfing the other sources of traffic. That illustrates the importance of having good local visibility in place as well as organic SEO.

Does this agree with your experience? Or do you disagree? Let us know in the comments below.

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Need help with your own organic and local visibility? Rank Magic can help.