Search engine optimization for small and very small businesses.

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To Blog or Not To Blog?

Why should I blog?

Does your small business need a blog?

Would you love to have the perfect prospects find you without having to spend thousands in purchased advertisements?

Would you be happy to grow your business and build sustainable profitability with a steady stream of top clients without spending hours per week on marketing tasks?

For any business to grow, new prospects need to be able to find you easily where they search – Google. And while Google has millions of websites to review, one thing that helps yours climb to the forefront of Google’s attention is fresh, high value content.

The most effective way to accomplish this is with blogging. Blogging is just one form of content marketing, and we’ve all heard that content is king.

Bottom line, consumers are not randomly choosing a company to work with. They are researching, reviewing, and weighing in on whether you’re the company they want to choose. Notice I didn’t say “the best” company – I said the one they want to choose. Years ago, marketing and advertising messages were focused on the company proudly stating that they are the best in their industry.

Times have changed – we know that “best” is strictly subjective – and quite frankly, meaningless. Your company may be the best option for some prospects and be a bad fit for others. So focus your blog topics on your uniqueness, who you help and how you help them. The best-fit prospects will identify with your company as “the best” – for their situation and needs.

A blog makes your small business more competitive

Yes, you need a blog.

But do I really need a blog?

Yes. High value blogs give your audience new, meaningful content to consume on a consistent basis. They are interesting, educational, thought provoking and memorable. Blog content is not only what Google is seeking, it’s what your next top client is searching for, reading and evaluating. Now if your perfect prospect has a choice of 2 companies – who do you think will get the sale: the company that posts valuable content 2 to 4 times per month, or the company that randomly posts blogs 2 or 3 times per quarter? And if you’re not blogging at all, you’ve automatically lost that sale.

Yes, you can do this yourself. Simply write clean and informative articles, without spelling or grammar mistakes, with a friendly and professional tone of voice, accompanied by high quality images, at least twice a month, every month. Post that article on your blog page and on your LinkedIn profile. For good measure you’ll want to include that article in a branded and formatted email campaign for those prospects who have found you and have signed up for your emails but are still considering working with you.

Peek into What Content Marketing IS NOT

Writing a small business blog

This is totally do-able. However, it takes time. Time away from servicing your clients, time away from leading your team, time away from building your projects and running your operations.

It also takes skill. You may have gotten away with acceptable writing for college term papers, but marketing-ready copy is a different skill set. Tone of voice as well as grammar and punctuation are all essential.

Even for the most devoted Do It Yourselfer, please know that creating high quality content consistently is not a Saturday Home Depot project. It’s a “must get done every month” ongoing business process. It must be planned ahead of time and executed according to a pre-determined launch schedule.

You can do this. In fact, you can jump in right now. Get out a paper and pen….

  • List the top 3 questions you get asked about most often in your industry.
  • List the top 3 frustrations and problems your clients have that your company solves.
  • List the top 3 goals your prospects have that your company can help attain.
  • List the top 3 ways your company does things differently.

If you can do this (of course you can!) you’ve got your topics for weekly blog posts for the next 3 months! You’re welcome 😊

Now …

Now that you’ve had the experience of beginning your plan – decide if you’re willing to commit the time to carry this out yourself, or if you’ll outsource it. Is this going to be in your Zone of Genius or will it be an unwelcome burden? Either way – blogging is a must, and it’s here to stay.

About our guest blogger

Susana Fonticoba, Clear Path MarketingSusana Fonticoba is the owner of Clear Path Marketing in East Hanover, NJ. Have questions? You’re invited to reach out and ask. Better yet, she’s giving away her popular Content Marketing Cheat Sheet. The mission and specialty of Clear Path Marketing is to work side by side with entrepreneurs who are growing their revenue but lack processes and structure to map out a consistent, sustainable growth plan. Susana is a certified business growth strategist who partners with entrepreneurs across the country.

What’s been your experience? If you have a blog, how happy are you with the investment of time and attention it takes? Let us know in the comments below.

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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.

Update May 2019: Sad to say, Google+ never lived up to its potential and is being discontinued as of October, 2019.

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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Why Do I Need a Blog?

Do I really need a blog?

Why do you need a blog? Because there are lots of ways a blog helps you rank well in search engines.

We almost always recommend that our SEO clients maintain an active blog on their websites. Often they are concerned about the time and attention that requires, and ask how important it is. Do they really need a blog? More to the point, do you need a blog?

It’s true that a blog requires a certain level of dedication to write new blog posts on a regular basis. While opinions differ on how often you should write a new blog post, we typically recommend a minimum of one blog post per month. That level of blogging should be pretty easy to maintain, right?

Well, we’ve seen several instances of clients (and non-clients) starting a blog, and posting very frequently for the first month or two, and then forgetting about it for a year or more.

That doesn’t work.

Search engines, seeing regular activity in the way of new content on your blog, consider your website to be alive and active. That’s a positive ranking factor for SEO. But if you start a blog and then forget about it for months on end search engines are likely to consider your website to be like a vacant lot: uninteresting and unworthy of visitors.

So the question arises again: do you really need a blog? And the answer is almost always:

Yes, you need a blog.

Why should I blog? Is it worth the time and trouble?

Here are 3 reasons why:

  • Fresh content is good for your search engine rankings.
  • Your blog opens up some great marketing opportunities.
  • Your blog will help conversions – converting visitors into paying customers.

Let’s address those in a little more depth.

Fresh content on your blog

  • We’ve already touched on the benefit that it shows search engines your site is healthy, alive, and active.
  • Blog posts about your business will naturally address existing keyword phrases, cementing the relevance of your site for those terms for search engines.
  • Blog posts naturally focus on long-tail keyword phrases. Those are the search terms with four, five or more words that are narrowly focused. There is less competition for these and you’re likely to rank very highly for them as a result.
  • Regularly posted content on your blog gives visitors a reason to return frequently.

Leverage your blog for better marketing

  • Your blog is your friend when it comes to showing up in search.Having an active blog allows you to be listed in a number of blog directories on the web. Each of those listings provides an authoritative link back to your blog post, which enhances the link popularity of your whole website.
  • Blog posts provide great fodder for your email marketing campaign or newsletter. In fact, that was the main reason I started this blog way back in 2005.
  • Every blog post gives you at least one new opportunity to post a link to it on all of your social media accounts spreading your message further on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and maybe more.
  • For our clients, we typically promote each blog post on a dozen of the top social sites, expanding visibility beyond their own social circles.

Your blog can increase your conversion rate.

Conversion rate is the proportion of visitors who become paying customers, clients or patients. The higher the better.

  • You can use blog posts to promote special offers and promotions.
  • Every blog post gives you multiple opportunities for calls to action to encourage readers to contact you.
  • Blog posts about relevant and important aspects of your business establish your authority and expertise. That helps visitors trust you.
  • Especially if you deal with your customer base on a face-to-face basis, your blog can help to convey your personality as helpful, approachable, and a person or company that visitors will want to do business with.

An additional side benefit of a blog

We often have the opportunity to explain things to clients and others. Very often part of what we’re explaining has been dealt with in a blog post, so we can refer them to an old blog post for additional information. I would say I have the opportunity at least once a week to send someone to a past blog post to help answer their question or explain a concept. Will that be helpful for you? Only you can tell.

What’s been your experience? If you have a blog, how happy are you with the investment of time and attention it takes? Let us know in the comments below.

Is your site like a Billboard in the Woods? Take a simple test.

If you’re not happy with the results of that test, Rank Magic can help.

How to Drive More Readers to Your Blog Posts

There are lots of ways to attract readers to your blog.None of us writes a blog just to admire our own words of wisdom. We write it to provide information, to bolster our credibility, to illustrate our expertise, to attract new customers … the reasons are many and varied. But they all share the common factor that we want readers.

 

Attracting Readers

Just creating and writing a blog is not a guarantee that it will attract readers.  There are many things readers may find attractive: humor, images, pithy writing, helpful information, insightful analysis, compelling content and more. But if no one knows about your blog, no one will read it.  Just like a website without SEO, it may end up being like a Billboard in the Woods.

Where Do You Get Exposure?

There are a bunch of places to seek visibility for your blog posts. BlogPros.com recently listed 50 of them. Let’s highlight some of the best ones for a small business blog.

  • Social Media Sites
  • Social Bookmarking Sites
  • Article Directories
    • These no longer provide link juice to your blog posts like they once did, but they can still drive traffic to your posts. Here are a couple of the best:
    • Blog Engage
    • EZine Articles
  • Personal Resources
  • Paid Advertising
    • Pay Per Click ads can get expensive, and many businesses spend thousands of dollars a month on them. But they can also help on a much smaller scale for small businesses. These are the top two:
    • Google AdWords
    • Facebook Ads
  • Specialized Sites
    • Google AdWordsBusiness2Community is a great place to automatically syndicate your blog.These are similar to blog directories and bookmarking sites, but are more narrowly focused. Here are a few examples:
    • Business2Community for business related content
    • BizSugar for content related to small businesses
    • DesignFloat for material related to web design
    • DeviantArt for the art and design community
    • Inbound.org for marketing related content
    • MySpace for music and entertainment related content

Tell us about your success (or lack of it) with these. Is there a technique you’ve found that’s not listed here? Please tell us about it in the comments below.

Need help with your visibility? Rank Magic can help!

Your Small Business Website Needs To Be Mobile-Friendly

Why Should I Care?

US smartphone penetration is up to 75% as of the end of 2014. Late last year, mobile traffic exceeded desktop traffic for the first time. And according to Nielsen, 87% of mobile users used their mobile device for shopping activities like searching for a product or service, pricing comparisons, or brick & mortar address search.

not mobile-friendlyAccording to Google:

Appearing on smartphones is critical for local businesses. 94% of smartphone users look for local information on their phone and 84% take action as a result, such as making a purchase or contacting the business.

Google has also been focusing more recently on the user experience of websites, preferring those that provide a good user experience because web users like those sites better. And a website that’s not mobile-friendly provides a poor user experience for smartphone users.

Google has previously announced that whether a site is mobile-friendly is a positive ranking factor. As a hint that it might be due for increased weight in Google rankings, early this year Google started issuing warnings to webmasters if their site isn’t mobile-friendly. Then as recently as last week, Google wrote “Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.” Google has already begun a rollout of alerts for users indicating which sites in it’s search results are mobile-friendly. It’s not universal yet, but seems to be increasing in coverage.

What makes a site mobile-friendly?

mobile-friendly websiteThere are four main things that distinguish a mobile-friendly site:

  • It avoids use of software that doesn’t work on phones (like Flash).
  • It makes links and buttons large enough and far enough apart to be easily clicked with a finger.
  • It uses text that can be easily read without zooming.
  • It sizes content so there’s no horizontal scrolling needed and no zooming required.

Check your site

There are two easy ways to check to see whether your site is mobile-friendly or not.

  1. Use the Google Mobile-Friendly Tool to see if Google thinks you’re mobile-friendly.
  2. The acid test: look up your site on a phone yourself and judge.

What if you fail the test?

If you fail the test, you have three options.

  1. You can talk with your web designer about a site redesign to make your site “responsive”. Responsive means your website changes how it looks depending on what kind of device is used to view it.
  2. Without a website redesign, you can use a tool like DudaMobile to create a mobile version of your site. Typically it replaces the “www.” prefix with a “m.” prefix and does a lot of the redesign work for you. You will still need to spend time tweaking it to look the way you want, and there’s an annual fee for the service.
  3. Do nothing and take your chances with your Google rankings.

Not being mobile-friendly is not yet a major ranking signal at Google, but it will be increasing in importance over time as smartphones and tablets continue to displace laptops and desktops as the platform of choice. The next big jump in its importance as a ranking signal is scheduled for April 21 of this year.

If you’re not currently mobile-friendly, now is the time to fix that.

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Tell us about your own mobile-friendly experience in the comments below.