Search engine optimization for small and very small businesses.

Archive for the SEO practices Category

What is Schema Markup? How important is it for local business SEO?

What is Schema (Structured Data Markup)?

Structured code markup in accourdance with schema.orhSchema is a common short term for structured data, named after Schema.org, the website for structured data markup. It was created by a collaborative team from Google, Bing, and Yahoo. It’s not too often that competitors come together with a common purpose. But structured coding is important enough for them to do it. It creates an agreed-upon set of rules for structured data that tells the search engines exactly what kind of information is on your website.

Schema code goes into the HTML code that tells a browser what information is on your website and how to display it. According to schema.org:

Most webmasters are familiar with HTML tags on their pages. Usually, HTML tags tell the browser how to display the information included in the tag. For example, <h1>Avatar</h1> tells the browser to display the text string “Avatar” in a heading 1 format. However, the HTML tag doesn’t give any information about what that text string means — “Avatar” could refer to the hugely successful 3D movie, or it could refer to a type of profile picture—and this can make it more difficult for search engines to intelligently display relevant content to a user.

Schema for SEO

SEO really does improve small buisiness visibility.We always recommend that our SEO clients include schema structured data markup as an important SEO technique. That’s because giving the search engines structured data helps them understand your webpages better and results in a ranking increase for you. One study determined that websites with schema coding rank an average of four positions higher in search engine results than those without schema markup.

Schema allows search engines to better understand addresses, dates of events, phone numbers, email addresses, and other information about you. So it helps Google understand:

  • who you are
  • what you do
  • how to reach you,
  • and (critical for local businesses) where you are.

Neil Patel explains this in more detail if you’re interested in digging in deeper. And for a strictly local business focus, Search Engine Journal has a guide on How to Use Schema for Local SEO.

You don’t need to know structured data details

Since schema is in the HTML code of your website, it’s the responsibility of your web designer to understand how to write that part of the code for your site. The structured code in schema tends to be detailed and complex. Unless you’re acting as your own web designer, the two things you need to know about schema on your website are

  1. Why it’s important, and
  2. Making sure that it’s there.

Surprisingly, according to recent research less than one-third of websites use schema markup.

Did I say this stuff is complex? True. But that’s why your small business’ competitors are probably not using it. So implementing it on your own site gives you a significant advantage over those competitors who don’t use it.

Don’t worry!

SEO really does help small businesses show up in Google.There is a stupefyingly simple way to implement this stuff on your website. It’s a lifesaver if you’re doing your own coding, but even if your webmaster does it for you, this solution can save significant time, effort, and money.

I have long been a proponent of Yext PowerListings for local businesses. Yext is the leader in local data management, and many of my clients subscribe to their Knowledge Graph service. [Full disclosure: I am a Yext Certified Partner] In a nutshell, PowerListings gives you a single place to enter tons of information about your business which is then published on more than six dozen local search engines directories maps and mobile apps.

The simple solution: Yext Knowledge Tags

Yexy Knowledge Graph PowerListings Yext Knowledge Tags is an enhancement to their Knowledge Graph PowerListings which provides a simple short snippet of code to add to your web pages that will implement full schema coding throughout. If anything changes in your Knowledge Graph, it’s automatically reflected in the schema code on your website.  Immediately.

For existing subscribers, this is a no-brainer in my opinion. But whether or not you currently subscribe to the Yext Knowledge Graph or “PowerListings”, this is worth your serious consideration. I refer you to our explanation of local SEO, citations, and PowerListings.

Reach out for a friendly phone call about your website and how much of a difference this can make for you.

We welcome your opinion. Join the conversation in the Comments below!

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How to Avoid a Google Penalty

Oops! Don't run afoul of a Google penalty.Some “Google Penalties” Aren’t

Colloquially, the term “Google penalty” , usually means anything on your website that is harming your rankings. According to Google, though, a “penalty” is a manual action taken by Google that negatively affects your rankings.

Manual Penalties

These are real “penalties”. If you get hit with a manual penalty, you should see evidence from that in your Google Search Console. Normally Google will identify exactly what you’ve done that they don’t like. So obviously, you should fix whatever that might be.

Google penalties will reduce your online visibility and traffic.

Once you’ve fixed the offending practice on your site, you can ask Google to re-index your site with the corrective actions implemented. Normally that will restore you to Google’s good graces and eliminate the penalty. This doesn’t happen immediately, though, and you can expect the delay of possibly weeks before you see your rankings improve.

Algorithm penalties

There are a number of things that might happen on your website that can negatively affect your rankings without incurring a manual penalty. I call those algorithm penalties because they’re just a normal result of Google’s algorithms evaluating the content on your site. Here are a few of the most common ones.

  • Free hosting services
    • If you’re cutting costs by using a free hosting service, there is one common attribute of those that can get you in trouble with Google. That’s when the hosting service compensates for the free service they’re giving you by adding advertising to your web pages. Some of  that advertising may be pretty spammy, and Google is not likely to be happy with it.
  • Malware
    • If your website has been infected by any viruses, trojans, or spyware, you’ll get hit with one of these penalties. Make sure your website is malware-free. The GlobalSign blog has some excellent suggestions on how to find malware on your site and how to protect against it. You can check that out here.
  • Thin content
    • Many websites for visually oriented businesses overly rely on images on their pages and have very little text. Those photos or graphics could be pictures of your pet cat as far as Google can tell. Google can read the alternate text behind your images (you do have that, right?), but other than that images do little to help Google understand what your page is about.
    • Aside from that, if you’re overly concerned about brevity on your pages, you can run into the same problem. If there’s too little text content on your pages, regardless of why, you may be penalized for thin content.
    • You can also run into those pages being considered “duplicate content” if the actual body content of the page pales in size with other elements on the page that are common to all pages on your website (think footers, sidebars, and so forth). In this caseyou may be facing the plagiarism penalty (see below).
  • Keyword stuffing
    • This is an ancient SEO technique to make sure your targeted keyword phrase appears many times on the page. This used to work with some early search engines. But it provides a very poor user experience for those trying to read your content. Google is smart enough to identify that and consider it a negative ranking factor. I still see this from time to time.
  • Plagiarism
    • Duplicate dogs are fine. Duplicate content? Not so much.If you copied significant amounts of content from another website (even if you own that other website) Google considers it to be duplicate content. Google is excellent at identifying duplicate content and will usually try to show only the oldest of those duplicate pages. If you think about it, it’s pretty obvious that there is little benefit to the user if Google shows a bunch of pages that all say the same thing. So Google doesn’t do that. If the content on your page is not original, it may never show up in Google search results.
    • I see this sometimes on websites designed by vertical web services. These are companies that specialize in a particular kind of businesses like handyman services, dental practices, plumbers, etc. The often have lots of excellent pre-written content about the kinds of services these businesses provide. One problem with this is that many other businesses in your niche may use the same pre-written content that ends up on your website. Bingo: you have duplicate content! If you use such a company, please ensure that the content they put on your pages is unique to you.

We can help!

If you’re concerned that you might be at risk for some of these penalties, give us a call. We can review your website with you over the phone at no cost and help you understand any potential issues that may be lurking there.

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NJ Presentation: The Secrets of Do-It-Yourself SEO

Sponsored by SCORE of Northwest New Jersey

I’ll be presenting at Fairleigh Dickinson University on Wednesday, May 8 at 6:30 PM.

The presentation is focused on small businesses and startups, and will explain the essentials of search engine optimization, focusing on things you can do yourself.  If you have more time than money in your startup or small business, invest some time in making sure that you show up in Google when potential customers are looking for someone who does what you do.

Click here to register.

Score presentation for New Jersey small businesses on SEO.

I hope to see you there!

Click here to register.

Mastering the Art of Voice Search Optimization

Amazon Alexa“Alexa, tell me about voice search”
“I found this information on: Boy George”

Virtual assistants may be far from perfect – just search #AlexaFail on Twitter – but they sure are popular.

A 2018 survey of over 90,000 internet users found that 17% currently own a smart speaker (such as a Google Home, or an Amazon Echo), with a further 34% planning to purchase one in the near future. 20% of mobile Google searches are also carried out using a virtual assistant such as Siri.

Voice search is clearly here to stay, and businesses need to pay attention. Why? Because while the Alexas and Siris of the world may be saving lives, they could be killing your SEO.

We’ll take a quick look at four foolproof ways to stay on their good side.


1.  Siri Loves Structured Data

It’s true, she really does.

But first, what exactly is structured data? Structured data helps the Google bots to better understand your website, and the content you write. While humans can easily identify tables, lists and reviews by sight, robots need a little more help.

Voice search on phones is increasing in frequency.When you add structured data to your pages, you’ll need to use what’s known as ‘schema markup’. This is a specific type of HTML code that lets Google recognize the format of the data you’ve added, and – crucially – pull this data through for search result snippets. Think of it like speaking to the Google bots in a language they can understand. And the better they understand you, the better chance your site will have of ranking.

That said, adding elements like ‘review schema’ benefits users, as well as robots. By pulling through a review’s star rating to the results page, users have a far clearer idea of the type of content they’ll be viewing, which in turn should boost your click-through rate. Plus, by adding a variety of types of content to your pages you’ll also improve the experience of those viewing your site online (nobody likes to be faced with a huge wall of text!), so it really is a win-win.

So why does voice search favor structured data so much? By adding schema markup in the right places, you’re spelling out to Google exactly where it can find the content it needs to answer a voice search query. The easier you can make its job, the better!

And keep your eyes peeled for the launch of ‘speakable structured data’. It’s still in its BETA phase at the moment, but if introduced it will let you wrap certain parts of your copy in a specific markup code to signpost it as the perfect voice search result for Google.


2. Conversation is Key

Most local searches are done via voice search on a phone.The way we type a search query is different from  the way we search by speaking aloud.

Instead of typing ‘what is SEO’, or even ‘SEO what is’, we’re more likely to say ‘what’s SEO?’. This might seem like semantics (and technically, it is!), but bringing a conversational feel to your content is a surefire way to set you up for voice search success.

Here are three easy ways to nail conversational content:

  1. Use contractions, such as what’s, it’s, and here’s. This is simply more reflective of how we speak. E.g. ‘You might be wondering exactly what SEO is. Here’s a quick breakdown…’
  2. Use questions and answers. Why? Because it makes your content more engaging, and it signposts snappy answers to be picked up as voice search snippets. E.g. ‘So what is SEO? SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s all about…’
  3. Use natural language. It can be tempting to drift into complicated language in your copy, which can be off-putting to both robots and humans alike. Follow the easy rule: ‘If you can say it in a simpler way, do’.

3. Revel in Mobile Responsiveness

Mobile responsiveness is no longe an option. Most searches are done from phones now.Mobile responsiveness is no longer the secret of clued-up web designers; all the best website builders in the business now offer completely mobile-responsive templates as standard. In SEO terms, having a mobile responsive website is an essential, not a preference.

But how does mobile responsiveness help with voice search optimization? With the vast majority of voice searches still carried out on mobile, your site needs to offer the best mobile user experience in order to compete for voice search snippets. That means a site that’s fast, and easy to navigate from your phone. Again, this is something that will benefit all your mobile users, not just those using voice search.


4. Fish for Long-Tail Keywords

When it comes to targeting keywords, voice search presents an opportunity rather than a challenge.

People are lazy when they type. They rely on search engine intelligence to decipher the meaning behind their two or three word queries: think ‘best restaurant Washington’, ‘website cost’, or ‘find gas station’.

With voice search, people are a lot more talkative. You’re far more likely to see queries such as ‘where’s the best restaurant in Washington?’, ‘how much does a website cost?’ or ‘how far away is the nearest gas station?’.

You can harness the power of these long-tail keywords in two key ways:

First, the gift of extra information and a question word in these queries gives a much clearer idea of the user intent behind the search. By targeting these long-tail keywords, you’ll create more precise content that gives users the answers they’re really searching for.

Second, you can (almost) say goodbye to shoehorning awkwardly worded keywords into your articles. Voice search queries are generally fully formed sentences that will easily double up as engaging H2s and H3s. Get ready for your content to (almost) write itself!


So there you have it: four simple ways to set your site up for voice search success.

But the best part? As we’ve mentioned throughout, these optimizations will improve the quality of your site for all users, not just those finding you through voice search. That means happy customers, happy search engines, and a website that’s ready to face future Google algorithm updates head on.


Hannah WhitfieldAbout the Author

Hannah Whitfield writes for Website Builder Expert, the number one resource for getting people online. Behind every successful online business is a sound knowledge of SEO, and Hannah wants to bring you the latest developments that’ll keep you one step ahead of the competition.


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SEO Tactics And Statistics That Every Small Business Should Know

Learning about SEO is an investment in your business.In today’s world, it comes as no surprise that search engine optimization (SEO) has become one of the most important aspects of marketing for small businesses.

SEO is a collection of practices that affect the online visibility of your website online. These techniques are used to rank it higher in the unpaid search results, commonly known as organic search results.

Having a website is not sufficient

Whether you already own a small business or plan to start one, just creating a website won’t lead to success. You’ll have to direct quality traffic to it to increase your leads.

According to a 2017 SEO research published on HubSpot, 61% of marketers say that improving SEO and increasing rankings in organic search is their inbound marketing priority.

SEO techniques include link building, page speed optimization, creating top-quality content, introducing SSL security on your site, and a lot more.

Two essential approaches to SEO

Basically, there are two different but complementary SEO approaches – on-site and off-site.

Understanding SEO is worth the effort.On-site SEO deals with improving your keyword visibility by optimizing context, images, refining code and structure, or anything else that is directly related to your own website.This ensures you’ll be included somewhere in results when people search for those keyword phrases.

Off-site SEO, on the other hand, involves increasing the ranking of your site by relating it to outside sources such as trustworthy sites (link building), social media, citations blogs, etc.

Neither approach is sufficient by itself. On-site SEO gets you included (somewhere) in search results and off-site SEO gets you ranked closer to the top of those results.

Search algorithms are fluid

Search engines update their algorithms on a daily basis, which is why it is hard to keep up with all the latest trends in the industry. Luckily, the infographic below is here to help you.

It takes you through the 72 stats that will help you understand the most important trends in 2019. It’ll explain common SEO concepts and techniques and provide you with a quick look at the evolution of search engines.

You will learn what you have to do in terms of SEO to improve your site’s ranking in search results, attract more visitors, and increase conversions (converting visitors into customers).

Last but not least, you’ll learn what else you need to do if you own a local business.

All about hoe to rank highly in search in 2019.

About the Author

Tina NikolovskaHristina Nikolovska — As the Marketing Manager at SEO Tribunal, part of Tina’s daily engagements involve raising awareness of the importance of digital marketing when it comes to the success of small businesses. As her first step towards this journey was in the field of content marketing, she’s still using every opportunity she gets to put her thoughts into educational articles.