Search engine optimization for small and very small businesses.

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Are You Getting Screwed by Google’s Pigeon Update?

PigeonRankIn late July, Google released a new algorithm change nicknamed the Pigeon Update. Not to be confused with PigeonRank, a Google April Fool’s posting we reported on back in 2007, this one is very serious, indeed.  And not everyone is thrilled by it.

The “Yelp Problem”

Yelp had complained they it was being discriminated against in Google local results. It seems that even if someone included the word “Yelp” in their search Google often listed is own local listings ahead of Yelp listings. According to Search Engine Land, the Pigeon Update does in fact solve the Yelp problem.

Google's new Pigeon updateThe question now is whether that comes at the expense of your own local listings. Has solving the Yelp Problem caused a new problem for you?

Directories Win. Do You Lose?

It seems that local directories like Yelp, InsiderPages, CitySearch and others are showing up more prominently now than they used to. That’s great for those directories, but it may come at the expense of listings for individual small business websites like yours.

How do you respond?

Google is constantly trying to improve the relevance of its results, so over time the Pigeon Update will be refined and improved. But how do you respond in the meantime?

Those local directories are showing up more prominently now and are seeing a bump in traffic. The folks at Social Media Today have written why it is more important than ever for you to have fully optimized listings in those very local search directories, hopefully supported by positive reviews there. For our own locally oriented clients, we’ve been doing that for some time but for the immediate future that seems to be a more critical activity than ever before.

If you’d like to learn more about that, check out our local search category.

What’s been your experience? Have you seen a loss of local rankings? Have you seen any negative impact on traffic? Please let us know in the comments below.

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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: https://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:https://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. Another article along the same lines by Rocket Pilots may be useful for you as well.

If you’d like to know more about any of this or need assistance with your online visibility, we can help.

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