Search engine optimization for small and very small businesses.

Archive for the directories Category

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.

[Update 1/4/2020:] The folks at T-Ranks have published a thorough article on How To Get Backlinks.

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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Local Listings are Essential for Local Businesses

Google’s Pigeon algorithm


The newest Google algorithm update, Pigeon, has put a larger emphasis on local SEO and search. Well-known local listing sites like Yelp, CitySearch and SuperPages are seeing a boost in rankings, which means having listings on these sites is now more important than ever.

The biggest factors in SEO remain unchanged and you should still focus on site structure, content, link popularity and authority. But now a presence in local listings with links back to your website is an increasingly valuable supplement to organic SEO.

Too Many Local Sites, Too Much Inconsistency

Too often we see local listings that are incorrect: old phone numbers, confusing variations on your business name, inconsistent addresses. It’s been reported that one in every five local searches returns false information, and that hurts your business. Getting them all current, correct and consistent is important but time-consuming. And they’re subject to being changed as the publishers collect information from multiple sources; keeping them correct requires frequent attention.

PowerListings Addresses That

We’re now offering PowerListings — a service to ensure you have an effective and consistent presence on more than 50 local directories, search engines and mobile apps. It: can:

  1. PowerListings local sitesMake sure you’re listed on 50+ local sites
  2. Synchronize them all so they show the same name, address and phone (important for Google rankings)
  3. Allow for detection and removal of duplicates and near-duplicates (also a ranking factor)
  4. Provide you a dashboard where you can see any of the listings anytime and add updates whenever appropriate
  5. Synchronize display of additional information like logos & photos, payment methods, office hours, events, special announcements and more
  6. Monitor your online reviews at about a dozen and a half local sites that publish reviews
  7. Prevent unexpected changes to your listings as the publishers gather information from other sources; always keeping your listings current and accurate

Want to find out how many local listings you have and accurate they are? Run a free scan to see.

Want to explore this in greater depth? Learn more here.

We encourage your feedback in the comments below.

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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DMOZ 2.0 Rumored to Launch at the End This Month

The Open Directory“There have been many reports and rumors about the forthcoming Open Directory Project overhaul, dubbed DMOZ 2.0. […] This may lead to the development of additional tools that could help editors analyze websites and identify higher quality sites based on common non-DMOZ data metrics.” <More here>

Non-DMOZ metrics could include Google PageRank, whether the site is listed in the Yahoo Directory or Best of the Web (both of those listings carry an annual fee). In the past, we’ve maintained that listings in the Yahoo Directory and Best Of The Web weren’t worth the $299 annual fee. It may be time to reassess that position.

Niche Directories

Kathryn Katz of has published a helpful article in Jill Whalen’s terrific High Ranking Advisor on the subject of niche directories. Here’s what she had to say.

Finding Free Niche Directories

The value of niche directories

As search engines place more and more emphasis on “link popularity,” web site owners find themselves pressured not only to optimize their site, but to find other quality web sites in their niche market that are willing to link to their web site. Many niche web directories like, and are willing to list your web site, but at a price. For those web site owners that are working on a tight budget, paying for every link is not only expensive, but not in their budget.

But don’t despair; there are many quality, free niche directories out there. The biggest challenge is finding them. Here are three easy methods to find free niche directories:

Method 1: “Search Engine Search”

Go to your favorite search engine (mine is Google), and type in general keyword(s) related to your site. For example, if I have a wedding caterer site, I would type in “wedding.” Usually, well-ranking niche directories will place in the Top 10 results. In this case is ranked #1 and mentions in the description that the directory offers free links. Click through to the site and look for an “Add a Link” or “Join Vendor Directory” button or link somewhere in the navigation.

Method 2: “Directory Search”

Go to a standard directory, like the Google Directory, and click on “Reference.” Click on “Directories” and then select the major category that relates to your web site. For example, if I have a CPA site, I would click on “Business.” At this point, I could choose to submit the site to the general directories listed under “Business” like or narrow my search further to “Accounting Firms” like Probably, I’d end up going through both the “Business” and “Accounting Firms” categories and submitting my site to all free directories that were relevant to my niche market.

Method 3: “Competition’s Links”

Go to your favorite search engine and search for the web sites linking to your competitor by typing in link: Then click on each link and find directories that your competitor submitted their site to. Or go to your competitor’s site using the Google Toolbar’s Page Info > Backward Links feature. (The Google Toolbar can be downloaded from

Here’s another tip: Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when searching for a free niche directory. When looking for a directory, try to think of all markets that relate to your web site. You’d be surprised at what counts as a related directory. For example, I market a general law practice. I came across a quality, free niche directory,, that specializes in human resource issues. Because the law practice does employment and labor law, they were eligible for a submission to under their “Legal Issues” category.

Keep in mind that you might have to go through several directories before you find some quality, free niche directories that are right for you; however, your persistence will pay off. You will find some great directories that will boost your link popularity and maybe even bring in some quality, targeted traffic as well.

Good luck and happy hunting.

Kathryn Katz
Search Engine Marketing Specialist
Searchwiz Marketing – division of Webcast 1, Inc.