Search engine optimization for small and very small businesses.

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Your Small Business Reputation Management

Reputation management for your small business is important.

Reputation management for your small business is important.As a small business owner you can’t afford to ignore what people write about you online. Online reviews are reported to factor into 70% of buying decisions. Search Engine Land has found that 88% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from family and friends. Your small business reputation can have a direct impact on your bottom line. Positive reviews do drive business your way. And bad reviews can drive customers away.

Some quick facts from BrightLocal:

  • 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses
  • 95% of people ages 18 to 34 read local business reviews
  • 91% of 18-to-34-year-old consumers trust reviews online as much as recommendations from friends and family
  • 57% of consumers will only buy from a business that has 4 stars or more
  • Consumers read an average of 10 reviews online before they feel they can trust a business

It’s also been found that reviews produce an average 18% increase in sales.

How to establish and manage your small business reputation

There are four ways to ensure you have a good online reputation. And it’s important to pay attention to each of them.

Google values your authority.

Authority

Establish your expertise by creating content that’s not directly about you but provides useful information about your industry as a whole. For example, an accountant might publish easy to read explanations of recent changes in the law, explain how to file for government benefits during the current COVID-19 pandemic, or provide record-keeping tips for small businesses. You’ll see concrete examples of this kind of content in our own blog.

Prominence

Citations are mentions or listings of your business with at least your NAP — your Name, Address and Phone — on local search engines, directories, social media, maps and mobile apps. The more you have, the more prominent you are and the more easily your business can be found.

Prominence helps both your reputation and your rankings.So be sure you’re listed on as many of these platforms as possible. And claim your listings at places like Google My Business, Yelp, SuperPages, MerchantCircle, CitySearch and YP.com.

It’s also very important that your NAP be consistent across all of them. Nothing is more confusing than citations with different variations on your company name, old addresses, and inconsistent phone numbers. If some of your citations have a previous address or some have your toll-free number while others have your local number, customers (and Google) aren’t sure which is right.

Prominence also helps you show up better in local search. A recent survey found that nearly 60% percent of small businesses aren’t optimized for local search, which is surprising when you consider that 45% of searches are for local businesses.

Shameless plug: Our PowerListings service will get you listed on about six dozen of these sites and lock in your information to ensure perfect NAP consistency among them all. You can learn more on our Local SEO page.

Social media

Social Media can help or hurt your small business reputation.Be active on social media. GlobalWebIndex reports that there’s a growing role of social media to research products that can be leveraged beyond mere brand recognition to enhancing your reputation. They report that 40 percent of consumers use social media to look up businesses and products. Beyond that, Statista research showed that more than half of consumers have a more favorable view of businesses that use social media to engage with customer complaints and questions.

You can use social media to enhance your authority by leveraging the content creation described above. Every new piece of content you add to your website  should be promoted on all of your social media accounts with a link back to that content on your website.

Online reviews

9 of 10 people trust online reviews.

Small businesses can live or die based on their online reviews. If you haven’t been paying attention to your online reviews, now’s the time to start. When someone passes along a word of mouth referral for you, the person they refer is more likely than not to look you up before calling you. More than your own website is going to show up when they do that. Your listings on Google My Business, LinkedIn, Yelp, and elsewhere will populate most of the results. Any of those sites that host reviews about you will show the average review stars in the search results. Those stars jump off the page and capture attention. And if they are not universally good or excellent, that’s a significant dent in your reputation.

It’s important that you monitor your reviews online. If you don’t have any on a particular platform, it’s relatively easy to get one: ask a delighted customer to write one for you (just don’t tell them what to say about you). If a mediocre or negative review is written, it’s critical for you to respond promptly to that. A good response can turn a negative review into a positive experience for the person who reads it.

A survey found that more than 90% of consumers will avoid a business because of a negative review. But if you respond to it positively and act on it, that can enhance your reputation. Responding to negative reviews makes it more likely for 45 percent of people to give you the benefit of the doubt.

Shameless plug: To help our clients stay on top of this, our PowerListings service alerts them as soon as a new review appears on any of dozens of online review sites. You can learn about that on our Local SEO page.

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Need help with your visibility online? If so, Rank Magic can fix that!

 

How to Use Keywords to Get Your Blog Found and Read

You do have a blog, don’t you?

Write your blog around keywordsWe always recommend that our clients host a blog on their own website. Google loves fresh content, and a blog is the perfect place to add new content on a continuing basis. Blogs are perfect for answering long-tail keyword searches. Keywords are the search phrases people type or speak into a search engine. Long tail keyword searches are typically at least four or five words and are thus quite specific. They are also easier to rank for than broader keywords.

Start with keyword research

People search for answers to their questions in search engines.You want to base your blog posts around keyword phrases that represent questions your customers or potential customers are likely to be asking. Blog posts that introduce a totally new idea are unlikely to show up in search because very few people will know to be searching about that. But if your blog answers a question that lots of people have, it’s more likely people will be searching for it.

That doesn’t mean you can’t introduce new subjects in your blog, just that those posts are unlikely to bring in readers from Google or other search engines. Those posts will need to be promulgated through things like your email newsletter, your Facebook page, or other social media.

How does a small business do keyword research?

Start with keyword research for your blog.If you’re one of our clients, we’ll do the hard work for you. But if you’re not, that doesn’t mean it’s out of reach. One place a lot of people use is the Google Keyword Planner. It’s actually designed for Google Ads, but doesn’t have to be limited to that. You can also search for a good keyword planning tool. In tools like this you can enter sample keyword phrases and see what related phrases are searched for frequently.

Be careful to avoid using keyword phrases that are jargon — terms that are common to you but may not be common to your target market. Google used to have a rule to help identify potential keywords; they called it “Ask 10 Taxi Drivers”. What that means is to ask a number of people who might become customers or clients but who are not in your line of work. They’re likely to use terms you wouldn’t think of because they’re not as close to your business terminology as you are. What questions do they have? Are those questions lots of people might ask? If so, those are good questions to build a blog post around.

Check the search volume

Your keyword research should indicate roughly how many times a month each variation on your keyword phrase is searched. You don’t automatically want to pick the one that is searched most frequently. That’s because you need to balance that with relevance to your customers and your business. A good keyword phrase is searched often enough to make it worthwhile and is also focused enough to be of interest to your target market.

Use your keyword in your blog post

Use keywords in your content, but carefully.If your keyword phrases a question, it might make an excellent headline for your blog post. You might also want to use it in the title tag and/or the description tag of your blog post.

Long gone are the days when the key to showing up for a search phrase was to repeat that search phrase multiple times throughout your blog post. Don’t do that; Google abhors keyword stuffing. Instead, use variations on the keyword and linguistically related terms. For example if your post is about how to pick the best running shoe, you might explain the difference between running shoes and sneakers or jogging shoes.

Make sure your primary focus is on answering the question. Chances are you will almost automatically use related terms that will help Google understand how related your blog post is to that question.

Check out your competition and be better

Answer the question better for more traffic.Take a look at other material online that tries to answer your question or is all about your chosen keyword phrase. See how you can answer the question better or more thoroughly. See what they didn’t explain well, and do a better job than they did. See what they left out and include it.

Google is getting better and better at identifying the best answer for a question. Make sure it’s yours.

Comments start a conversation and can increase conversions.Allow comments

If people can comment or ask questions at the bottom of your blog post, you can engage with them and leverage the value of your blog post in terms of converting readers into customers.

Promote your blog post

Share your blog post where you think it will find interest. I like to promote every new blog post I write on social media and in my email newsletter. It’s always helpful to jump start visibility of your content.

Questions? Share them in the comments below.

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7 Keys to Showing Up in “Near Me” Searches

If you own a local business, you need to show up in “near me” searches

Google's Local 3-Pack for "near me" searches.Google’s Consumer Insights has reported a 150% increase in “near me” searches in the past two years. A near me search almost always signals that the searcher is ready to buy a product or service. Think With Google reports that 76% of those result in a same-day in-store visit. Results are almost as strong for services like lawyers, plumbers, and landscapers.

Ideally you want to show up in Google’s Local 3-Pack, which shows three organic listings and a map showing where they are. Failing that, you want to show up in the organic listings beneath it and in the list when someone clicks “More places” at the bottom of the 3-Pack.

The 7 keys to “near me” visibility

Small business SEOClassic search engine optimization (SEO) is always essential to visibility in searches of any kind. But local SEO, which is needed for showing up in near me searches require some extra attention. Here are seven keys to improving your visibility in those kinds of local searches.

Most local searches are done via voice search on a phone.1) Mobile-friendly website

I always recommend a responsive website  so that the same content and experience is delivered regardless of the device visitors are using, whether computer, tablet, or phone. It needs to be mobile friendly with text that’s easy to read and buttons that are not too close together to be selected with a finger press.

You can check this easily with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.

2) Fast pages

With today’s microscopic attention spans and general lack of patience, many searchers won’t wait more than two or three seconds for your site to show up in their browser or phone. There are a number of techniques you can use to speed up your pages that are beyond the scope of this article. But there are some excellent tools that can show you what your page download speed is. And if it’s too slow, some explain what factors are responsible for that and offer suggestions to speed things up. Here are three that I like:

3) Effective Local SEO

Increase your local search visibility on Google.This involves clearly having your location or locations listed on your website. And not just on your Contact Us page. If you have a single location, it belongs in your footer so it’s on every page. If you don’t have a storefront but provide services at the customer location, describe your service area, both on your Contact Us page and, if it’s not too extensive, in your footer.

Some businesses create individual town pages for the most important towns in their service area. If you elect to do that, it’s absolutely essential to make sure that they don’t look like duplicate content to Google. Each page needs to be completely unique and obviously focused on the town it’s about.

Any place your address appears you should have schema code for it. Sometimes called structured data markup or structured coding, this is a construct cooperatively developed by Google, Yahoo, & Bing to help them better understand information on web pages. We explain it in our blog post entitled What is Schema Markup? How important is it for local business SEO?

4) Claim your business listings

The most important business listing for you is probably going to be Google My Business. Make sure to claim  your listing there and fill it out as robustly as you possibly can. Include things like business hours, your logo, photos, a description of your business, handicap access — anything and everything that Google My Business will accept.

claim your social media listingsDon’t stop there. You need a social media presence in at least Facebook and Twitter, and depending on the nature of your business and your target market, possibly Instagram and others. You need a listing on Yelp, Yahoo Small Business, Bing Places for Business, and LinkedIn. Other good listings would be Angie’s List and Judy’s Book, and there are plenty more good ones as well.

Vertical directories are another good source of listings. Depending on the nature of your business, you might want to be listed in places like FindLaw or Houzz. Caution – these are more likely than others to charge a fee.

5) Get more reviews

Positive Yelp reviews can help your small business.Online reviews can help assure Google that you are worthy of a prominent listing in search results. Start with Google My Business itself; asked a delighted customer or two if they would give you a review there. More reviews are better, but only if they are spread out over time. If you get too many reviews in too short a period of time they may appear as though you purchased them or enlisted everyone in your family to write them, which is a violation of Google’s terms of service.

Don’t stop there. Get reviews on lots of sites. The more broadly across the web your reviews appear, the better your chances of showing up prominently in Google.

If someone gives you a word-of-mouth referral, the person they refer to you is very likely to check you out by looking you up. If they see lots of sites that show online review stars for you, it adds to your credibility and improves the likelihood that they will reach out to you.

6) Ensure broad and consistent NAP citations

NAP - name,address & phoneYou need to be everyplace your customers are on the web. You should have listings everywhere you can. These are called citations rather then links because some of them, like Alexa, don’t link to your website. A local citation is any online mention of your NAP. Citations can appear on local business directories, on websites and mobile apps, and on social media. They help customers  discover local businesses and can also improve your local search engine rankings.

One risk of widespread citations across the web is that older ones may have a variation of your company name, a previous business address, or an old phone number. That can confuse Google: if Google isn’t sure where you are, it’s unlikely to show you in local search results. If you don’t have the time to actively manage that, we have a service that can help get you that broad exposure and also ensure consistency across more than six dozen authoritative platforms.

It’s also critical to not only be consistent across the web, but also with how your NAP appears on your website. If you show a suite number across the web, don’t fail t include it on your website. Consistency matters.

7) Get geographically relevant backlinks

Backlinks are links from other websites to yours and are an essential part of Link building is essential to your authority on the web.all SEO efforts. Your website derives its authority or importance on the web based on the number of other websites that link to you and the authority they can pass along to you. And your authority is a critical factor in how high you rank in Google search results.

For local and near me searches, you should also have a good number of local backlinks. If you belong to a local chamber of commerce, make sure it links to you. If you participate in networking groups, make sure that they link to you. Any local businesses you work with repeatedly ought to be linking to you and, especially those you’re in a referral relationship with. And you can also get articles and press releases in local or hyperlocal news sources. That would include your local paper if they have an online presence, and other online sites like Patch.com and TAPinto.net.

Go Get ’em!

These are all things you can do on your own. As this is written, we are in the midst of the COVID-19 quarantine and many businesses have temporarily slowed temporarily. If that applies to you, use the extra time you have to go through these seven keys to showing up in local and near me searches and implement everything you can. That should position you for a faster recovery once the current pandemic ends.

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If you run into difficulty implementing any of the above recommendations, give us a call. Rank Magic can help, even if it’s just giving quick advice over the phone or referring you to one of our strategic partners to help you.

Email Marketing and Social Media: What happens when they’re combined with SEO?

Digital marketingDigital Marketing

What is digital marketing? How can some digital channels be combined and have SEO baked in? How can you make this scheme actually work?

You already know that social media contributes to your SEO efforts. Well, so does email marketing! In fact, email marketing and marketing automation is one of social media’s predecessors — one that can be quite profitable.

Hence the need for various email marketing and marketing automation platforms, such as Moosend and MailChimp, two of the best free email marketing services-and various marketing tactics.

But how do these tactics work together? What kind of impact do they have on each other?

Let’s go ahead and see…

Why combine them?

First of all, let’s clarify a very basic thing: the marketing approach email marketing uses is very different from the one social media marketing does.

The two media are quite different, but this doesn’t mean you can’t make them work together. Especially since email marketing provides measurable ROI — up to  4400% to be exact — and social media’s ROI can’t be easily measured.

Email marketing is used to entice, engage and keep an open dialogue between people who opted to sign up. In short, it’s not like you’re going to send a newsletter and your work is done. You need to maintain a profile that will gently nudge the user into interacting with you.

On the contrary, social media can be used to actually draw attention and help a brand go viral. A clever punchline and a well-made visual, perhaps a post with a sneaky QR code that people will have to scan to get special prizes -kind of like a treasure hunt game- will draw more attention and reach a larger audience.

Social media and email markewting can work togetherTo reach more people

Combining the two media will help get rid of an obstacle or two.

Let’s say you’ve already got a mailing list and you’ve just created your first social media profile. Try uploading your email list on your social media profile.

Just click on the “Find people you know” button for Twitter, “Add connections” for LinkedIn and so on, and click on the email option each social media platform will give you. This way, you’ll create a followers’ count without even trying, simply by following your subscribers.

Urge your followers to share your posts around and incentivize the offer. That way, you’ll get more brownie points when it comes to referrals and you’ll grow your reach through affiliate marketing.

Let’s assume that you’re a company like Amazon or eBay. Your product is a service. And let’s assume that you want to use affiliates and referrals to grow your prospects’ base.

You can have your prospects share your posts or your email. Every person clicking on the post will be redirected to a landing page with one simple purpose: to get your prospects to sign up and earn either some kind of discount code or an incentive like free shipping.

Incentivise sharing your content.But here’s the thing: you need to incentivize the process for those who are going to share the post around, otherwise why would someone share your post in the first place?

Perhaps, the more people they get to sign up to your website and services, the better their chances at a huge discount.

That way, you incentivize both ways and people are eager to share your social media posts around and have more people sign up.

Not to mention that the more people to see your ad, post or anything your followers decided to check out, the better when it comes to being viral and generating more traffic and, ultimately, more conversion.

To get new followers and — in the end — buyers

It’s a shame to have just a selected few see your email marketing campaigns, as you’ve invested a lot of effort there.

And despite its cost, it’s also a shame to not spread the word when it comes to your email marketing efforts through your social media channels as well.

Include one of the stunning visuals you’re going to use in your next email campaign in one of your posts and spice things up with a headline promoting a discount or a customer loyalty program.

Then create a landing page — optimized for conversion, of course! — and link the landing page to your post. Urge them to subscribe and give them a little extra if they share your landing page with their loved ones.

A prospect won’t convert to a customer just because you asked nicely. You’ll need to include multiple touch-points into your strategy, and this means leveraging social media to your advantage.

But your efforts won’t be enough without the use of some good  SEO tactics.

How is that even possible?

It may sound a little strange and the two media may seem to be quite different from each other, but in reality they’re not, as you can always use one to promote the other and vice versa.

Email marketing in social media

First of all, you can add a subscription form or a little subscribe button to your Facebook page and encourage people to subscribe.

Secondly, repurpose content from your emails. Turn them into posts and ask for feedback. If people love these, urge them to subscribe to get more content like that.

Create a contest that will be urging people to subscribe to your mailing list for better chances at winning, or maybe to know more.

social media marketingSocial media in email marketing

Of course, this goes vice-versa as well.

The buttons of your social media pages need to appear down at the bottom of every email newsletter you send. This way you can spark curiosity and have your prospects connect with you using different methods.

Another benefit of using social media buttons on your email campaigns is the credibility those add to your brand overall.

Your brand’s social media pages are the place for your prospects to communicate with you in real-time, which is increasingly important in 2020.

Time for some SEO

I’ll bet most of you wonder what SEO has to do with these two mediums — especially with email marketing. Well, there’s a strong relation, even though it may not seem obvious.

It all comes down to the content you decide to use for each campaign and each post.

A high bounce rate represents lost business.Email marketing boosts SEO efforts

One thing SERPs are affected by is the time spent on a website and the bounce rate. You could have excellent SEO and it still wouldn’t work well if too many people bounce from your website.

Linking your website from your email marketing campaigns is one way to get quality traffic — in other words, control the quality of people who visit your website.

Remember that those are the people who’ve already subscribed to your email list and they’re, by extension, already engaged and eager to receive your content.

Also, by making your content shareable to social media, you can easily engage people outside the realm of your email marketing campaigns… However, this content practically demands some SEO optimization, as social media have a direct link to SEO.

Social media platforms are mini-search engines

Don’t tell me you’d never thought of that…

Social media platforms have those little search bars and those search bars work in the exact same way as a search engine. In other words, they look for keywords.

Hashtags are keywords tooSo, in order for your content to pop up first, you need to work with keywords, to show that it’s interesting and up-to-date.

And hashtags are keywords as well.

So, optimize your content for the keywords you’re trying to target each time and then post it on social media with captions that contain spot-on hashtags.

Now, of course the links you receive from social media do not affect your SERP efforts. Directly. But indirectly, there is much at stake if you don’t optimize for SEO and don’t get links from social media shares.

Keywords will mean that your content will pop up first, which means more traffic, which means more brand awareness and buzz around your name.

And who doesn’t need some buzz?

Content always needs optimization

Content is always critical.Last but not least, we’ve got content. And content needs to be aligned with your SEO efforts, whether it’s on your website or in a documents file somewhere in your computer.

Using keywords and SEO optimization, you can create content that will be segmented, making your life easier when it comes to going for some serious targeting.

After all, well-written and valuable content can always appeal to a wider audience and feel tailor-made and specific.

And if you’ve no idea what type of content your audience would love, just ask them through a poll or a survey.

Another reason you should optimize everything for SEO is that you can always repurpose your old content, be it from your emails or an older social media post and turn it into a blog post, a roundup post or website content.

Of course, this goes vice versa since you can repurpose old web pages and blog content and create fantastic social media posts. Especially if it’s video content, which is always short, bite-sized and easily comprehensible — therefore, full of keywords and SEO optimized, provided the content is valuable, of course.

Takeaway

Combining email marketing and social media is no easy task, but it’s one of the most beneficial things you can do, as it shows brand consistency and can easily create more buzz around your name.

What’s more, it can make you go viral, increase your reach and satisfy your already existing prospects.

By combining social media and email marketing and creating content based on SEO principles, you’re aiming for high engagement and, in the end, conversion. You’re also creating content your prospects will find valuable and will spend time on, as they’re the ones creating trends and — by extension — keywords.

About our guest blogger

Téa Liarokapi

Téa Liarokapi is a content writer working for email marketing software company Moosend and an obsessive writer in general. In her free time, she tries to find new ways to stuff more books in her bookcase and content ideas — and cats — to play with.

 

 

 

Note from Rank Magic:

If you struggle with this, we can help. We can help personally with your SEO issues, and can recommend strategic partners who specialize in email marketing and social media. Reach out to us!

404 Errors: What Can Happen if Your Page is Broken

Oops! Don't run afoul of a Google penalty.Your company website is one of the leading sources of traffic for your business, so keeping its structure healthy is a must. You want to be able to meet your visitors’ need to have accurate information about your brand and offerings directly from your website. This way, you can move your target audience further into the succeeding stages of the buyer’s journey.

So, imagine if your prospect is ready to engage with you, but finds a page 404 error message instead of the branded content that they are hoping to see? They’ll probably feel frustrated and disappointed, which isn’t a really good way to welcome people visiting your site. Because of this kind of negative experience, you may lose potential customers.

Google cares about 404s

Plus, broken 404 pages make your website look bad in the eyes of Google and other search engines. As a consequence of serving your online visitors with 404s, your website’s ranking on the search results may drop.

Before 404 errors escalate into a serious issue for your organization, you should mobilize your web developers to look into the problem right away. Have them check if the trouble is on your end or on the server where your website is hosted. As soon as you identify the source of the problem, you need to apply the fix as quickly as possible.

While you’re at it, you should also aim to ease the users’ difficulty in finding what they initially came for. Perhaps you can redirect them to other pages on your site, request them to reach out to you via chat, and so on. Last but not least, make sure to take precautionary measures so that the same scenario of having 404 pages show up on your site doesn’t happen again.

To have a clearer understanding of how to go about fixing problems related to 404 pages, check out this featured infographic.

All about the 404 Page Not Found error

Infographic provided by Spiralytics

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