5 Steps to Optimize Your Website Like a Pro

photo credit: Google via photopin (license)

photo credit: Google via photopin (license)

Everyone uses search engines to find products and companies these days. About 60% of all consumers use Google search to find businesses, and over 80% of online searches result in direct sales or in-store visits. You want to optimize your website so that you show up on the top of these searches. This should be a top priority for any business owner.

Unfortunately, search optimization is not a fix it and forget it type of task. Google’s search algorithm is constantly evolving as they attempt to provide the best results for their searchers, and, of course, make as much money as possible in advertising. Your website has to keep up. You can’t simply hire an SEO expert to optimize your website once and forget about it for years; you’ll begin to see diminishing results.

With that in mind, you should be doing these following tasks on a regular basis to continually optimize your website, and stay ahead of the search curve.

5 Steps to Optimize your Website

1. Keyword Research

All search optimization begins with keyword research. You have to have an understanding of the current search landscape and your keywords. This is critical to not only do at the beginning of any marketing strategy, but also occasionally re-evaluate. These numbers always change, and you want to stay up-to-date.

Using Google Keyword Planner, begin with your industry and location. The tool will then give you a wide range of search terms, how often they are searched, and the competition over those words (based on how many businesses are buying ads based on those search terms.) You’ll want to find as many relevant keywords for your business as possible that have low competition but high search numbers.

Once you identify those terms, write them down word for word. Any slight variations on your identified keywords will hurt your optimization. Use these keywords in all of your efforts to optimize your website moving forward.

2. Create Great Content with Keywords in mind 

Content is the basis for the entire Duct Tape Marketing approach, and posting regular content will help your website show up on more searches. When approaching content, you must keep the keywords in mind. The entire point of the content is to reach people who are looking for it.

Use your keywords as a springboard for content ideas, and try to work your keywords into the posts as often (but as naturally) as possible. For even more tips on optimizing each post for search, check out Kala’s post on post optimization.

3. Speed it Up

Google is beginning to punish slow running websites. You want to make sure your page is always up to speed. Luckily there is a tool to do just that. Google Speed Insights will not only tell you if your page is running slow, but it will give you suggestions on how to speed it up.

It is important to do this regularly and even follow up on those suggestions. Things you are doing on your website (posting new content, new products or pages) can slow your website down. You don’t want to be penalized for slow speed if you don’t know it is occurring.

4. Use Landing Pages

You want every single one of your landing pages to keep your keywords in mind. If you’re creating a landing page for a new product or promotion, try to work a keyword that is most relevant to your individual product into the title and body copy of the page.

If there are multiple keywords you think apply to this promotion or item, you may want to test multiple landing pages with each page focused on one keyword. Do this too often, though and you’ll slow your website down, so be sure to delete underperforming landing pages.

5. Update Your Page Titles

Quick question: what are the page titles of your website? Most business owners have their page titles as simply the name of your business. This is great if your business name is perfectly optimized, but most aren’t (the best search names usually follow the City + Service format, like Kansas City Auto Body for example.)

Try changing your page titles to include your #1 keyword. This can be something as simple as “Your business name + Top Keyword” but you can get creative. Try to incorporate a slogan that includes the keyword.

Optimal Results

With these five tips, your website will be consistently delivering you optimal results. Be sure to evaluate those results, find what works and what doesn’t. Also, this is not a complete list by any means. SEO is an incredibly deep and ever-evolving strategy, but that means there are tons of great resources to help you along the way.

Alex-Boyer-Photo-150x150-e1420769709443Alex Boyer is a Community Manager and Content Ninja for Duct Tape Marketing. You can connect with him on Twitter @AlexBoyerKC

Proven Strategies for Local Lead Generation

Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 3.06.12 PM

Marketing Podcast with Mark Z. Fortune and Kevin Jordan

Every local-based business wants to improve their local lead generation process. Leads are the life-blood of your marketing efforts. The best salespeople can convert those leads into sales, but without leads even the best sales force on the planet can’t bring you more business.

That is why lead generation is one of my favorite subjects to discuss, and the topic of a new book from a group of my friends and Duct Tape Marketing Certified Consultants called Local Lead Generation: Proven Tips to Help Grow Your Business.

My guests for this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast are Mark Z. Fortune and Kevin Jordan, Certified Duct Tape Marketing Consultants and co-authors (among others) of The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Local Lead Generation: Proven Strategies and Tips to Grow Your Business. We discuss the new book, how to improve your total online presence.

Questions I ask Mark and Kevin:

  • What are some of the common mistakes small business owners make?
  • How do I get customers to visit my website?
  • Why shouldn’t you just buy traffic with pay-per-click?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • Why it is so critical to focus on local search and local lead generation
  • How reviews draw customers into your store
  • What the role of social media is in local search

Why is Local Search So Important?

Marketing podcast with David Mihm

In answer to the question in the title of this post, chew on a few of these stats:

  • 82% of local searchers follow up offline via an in-store visit, phone call or purchase (TMP/comScore)
  • 74% of internet users perform local searches (Kelsey Group)
  • 61% of local searches result in a purchase (Search Engine Watch)
  • 59% of consumers use Google every month to find a reputable, local business (Search Engine Watch)
  • 37% of all searches are done on mobile (ClickZ)
David Mihm

David Mihm

If  you own a business that thrives on doing business locally, you must understand how businesses in local markets are found today.

Sure, a lot of people find local businesses by asking a friend for a recommendation and if you are lucky enough to have made a positive impression on said friend there’s a chance your business will benefit. But, as the stats above reveal, today you must show up strong when people inevitably turn to a search engine – even after a recommendation from a friend – to find local goods and services.

My guest for this week’s episode is one of the world’s foremost local SEO experts and Director of Local Search Strategy for Moz.com, David Mihm.

Questions I ask David:

  • What is the difference between local SEO and traditional SEO?
  • What changes do you foresee in local SEO in the future?
  • How has content marketing affected local search?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • How location changes your search results on Google
  • How reviews, even industry specific reviews, are affecting search results
  • What is a knowledge card, and why it matters now and in the future

Check out Moz.com’s local search learning center at https://moz.com/learn/local

If this topic seems appealing join me for a live webinar – How to Win With Local Search – Thursday, May 28th – Noon CDT (GMT-5) – Enroll here

This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Hostgator, where you’ll get 24 hour live support via chat, phone or email, 1-click WordPress installs, easy-to-use website builder, design services, marketing services like SEO and PPC, and for my listeners: a 30% Discount. Go to www.Hostgator.com/promo/ducttape

5 Local Search Tactics You Must Employ Today

This post is one in a series of tips designed to guide small business owners through the challenges of today’s startup environment and is sponsored by Canon MAXIFY – the printer lineup designed to help small business owners increase productivity so that they can focus on everything else that matters. For more information about the Canon MAXIFY printer lineup visit here 

Search is pretty much everything these days.

photo credit: D.Clow - Maryland via photopin cc

photo credit: D.Clow – Maryland via photopin cc

Even businesses that rely on people in their town, coming into their place of business to complete a transaction, are held to the fact that, increasingly, most buying decisions start out with an online search.

The category of local search engine optimization has picked up steam over the last few years as search behavior combined with the rapid growth of smart phone use created a truly mobile search consumer. Services like Yext have cropped up just to help tackle this very specific form of SEO.

Below are five local search tactics that demand your attention today if you are a local oriented business.

Get the NAP right

NAP stands for Name, Address and Phone and the search engines obviously want to make sure that when someone is looking for a local business there’s no ambiguity around what and where the business is.

Google depends upon list and data compilers to make sure this information is accurate and up to date. If you’ve been in business more than a few months there’s a good chance your business is in one or more of the directories that Google depends on, but in addition to adding business to these directories you must make certain that the information is correct and consistent.

MOZLocal is a great free tool for analyzing the current state and gaps in your directory listings.

Local profiles matter

Profiles in social, local and review sites such as Yelp, can be a great place to add lots local information.

While many people are familiar with the more popular networks such as Google+ and Facebook, there are other important directories that might help in giving your local business an edge. MOZLocal is one of the best tools for automating this process.

Localize your content

Many people forget to consider their web content and make sure that they are adding localized content where it makes sense. Obvious things like blog posts with suburb names and maps with directions are a must, but you might also consider adding a community calendar and blogging about events that happen in your town.
The Yoast Local SEO Plugin is an invaluable tool for optimizing content on WordPress sites.

Consider adding location specific landing pages where you might have content specific to a suburb, town or even neighborhood.

Reviews drive local trust

Reviews are one of the many ranking factors Google throws into what businesses show up for a local search. If you search on a term like “SEO” and Google thinks you are in say, in Kansas City, you are going to see a list of Kansas City based SEO companies.

If you do this search yourself take note of the fact that all of the local pages listed also have Google+ Pages associated and while not all have reviews, the ones that do certainly stand out.

Get serious about collecting reviews! Tools like Grade.us and GetFiveStars can help make this process more streamlined.

Local social

Don’t forget to add to your overall local approach by localizing much of your social media activity. As mentioned above, your profiles are a great place to start, but you can go beyond that as you post new content and updates.

Think about ways to curate local content to share in social media. GeoTarget your social media advertising with local personalization. Find and use popular localized hashtags. See if anyone has created local Twitter lists of influencers you can tap into.

When you work consistently on the local search tactics outlined above you can expect to gradually start raising your local search profile to the point where Google may become your greatest source of leads.

 

Canon will be spotlighting several small business owners on its social media channels throughout the next several months, so be sure to leave a comment and share your thoughts on this post using the hashtag #MAXIFY in order to qualify. If you are a U.S.-based small business owner (1-9 employees) and have faced a unique business challenge in your first year on the job, let us know! We’d love to hear what line of work your small business falls within and what you feel is the most important takeaway from this post. We’ll also be rewarding select small business owners with a prize pack including the Canon MAXIFY MB5320 printer as well as other essentials to help you run your business more efficiently. So don’t forget to leave a link to your website or social media pages that way we can see how well you’re marketing your business and get in touch!

How Can I Get My Local Business to Rank Higher in Search?

Friday is “Question of the Week” day here at Duct Tape Marketing. Each Friday I’ll tackle a specific question I received via readers or in places where I’m speaking. Submit your question here and if we use it we’ll highlight you and send you a signed copy of Duct Tape Marketing.

For today’s answer I wish I could say there was some magic pixie dust, but the fact is getting your local business to show up high in the search results takes some work.

For the local business the goal must be to move into what is referred to as the Google Local Pack – those 6-8 listing that show up for a local search. This is particularly important on mobile devices that are often pinpointing local only.

The Google Local Pack

There are many factors and of course a great deal has to do with the competitive nature of your particular industry.

However, there are several tried and true steps that you should take in order to give your business the best chance possible

Clean up your NAP

NAP is the directory acronym for Name, Address and Phone. This data clearly tells that a business is local and guess what – if you’ve been around for a while there’s a good chance some data source has this wrong.

Here’s how to assure you have an accurate NAP listing in as many places as possible.

Go the USPS site and get the correct address format for your business

Check with these major data providers to ensure your listing is complete and accurate.

Get listed

Now that your listing is accurate with the data folks, make sure that you listing in some of the more popular online business directories. Claim enhance these profiles.

One of the best tools for doing this is getlisted.org – this free tool will find your listing or lack of in some of the major directories and lead you to the place where you can edit and add.

Brightlocal is another very powerful paid tool for improving your local presence.

Get reviewed

Reviews carry a lot of weight, both with search engines and would be customers. You must get serious about this aspect of local search. Note the image above – the site that ranks #1 in Google has the best review profile.

The three most important place to focus your review work are

  • Google+Local – Google want your business on Google+ so they’ve moved the local pages there. Start building your local page and focus on getting more reviews.
  • Yelp – On top of being the biggest review site Yelp provides Bing Local results.
  • Foursquare – this location based check in site is working hard on becoming a local directory and should not be ignored.

Bing local listings

Localize your pages

One of the most overlooking opportunities is the local nature of the content on your site. Make sure you:

  • Add your NAP in Schema.org format to every page
  • Add local terms such as suburbs, neighborhoods, places and events in your titles and subtitles.
  • Create localized happenings and news pages
  • Create site sections or landing pages dedicated to local phrases.

For WordPress users one of the best things you can invest in is the Local SEO for WordPress plugin from Yoast. This plug in will handle a great deal of the techie stuff for you and let you do some nice things with maps and directions.

One Simple Tactic That Can Give You an Unfair Advantage in Local Search

Showing up in local search results is a pretty big deal if you’re any sort of local business. When people search online locally, but plan to buy offline locally, being the organization they find first and find when mobile could mean the difference between growth and death.

While lots of people publish tips about Google Places pages, local web content, address citations and the sort, not enough people are talking about the power of local video when it comes to gaining an advantage in local search.

Many people are talking about video from a content standpoint and I agree, but what about locally optimized video for SEO. I’ve seen this intentional tactic produce some pretty incredible results in a very short time – particularly when it comes to a Google and YouTube combination.

See, here’s the deal – Google wants to give people interesting search results and as often as possible that includes a mix of local Places pages, videos, products, images and blog posts all mashed together on page one for specific search phrases.

Local businesses that get good at producing and optimizing video can find their YouTube videos zapped to page one for highly competitive search terms with very little effort.

I did a little test over the weekend to prove this theory. Granted there may be other factors at play here, but here’s what I and I believe you can do it too.

I am hosting a couple workshops in Kansas City in June. Since this is for me a rare local play I wanted to see what could do to get some local search results. So, here’s what I did.

  • I created a very brief video recorded directly to YouTube.
  • I even did a little bit of editing using the new YouTube Tools
  • I named the video Kansas City Marketing Workshop and Training
  • I added a description with this term
  • I added keywords that related to the term
  • I saved the video
  • I embedded the video on a page on my site.
  • I pointed to the video on YouTube from my Facebook page

Total time invested was about 15 minutes. About 30 minutes later this video showed up on page one for the search term – “Kansas City Marketing Workshop”

Kansas City Marketing Training and Workshop video

A day later it moved to the #2 position for the search term and #4 position for the term Kansas City Marketing Training. I conducted these searches logged out of my Google account and even received the same results using private browsing in Safari.

There’s no telling how long this video will stay at the top of the results for my search term, but it certainly reinforced the idea that this is a powerful way to gain additional local search results while creating useful content.

Below are tips to keep in mind as you explore this tactic:

Do the keyword research

Use a tool like WordTracker or Google Keyword Tool to hunt for some search phases that make the most sense. You’re not looking for hyper competitive terms like “Marketing,” you’re looking for longer, less searched phrases that you can quickly impact.

Also keep in mind those frequently asked questions. Focus on making videos that address those issues.

Create multiple videos

The idea behind this approach is to create dozens of simple videos that allow you to build a library of content that addresses many of the things your prospects are searching for.

Make the videos sell

Make sure you add URLs and annotations to your videos so you can send people to pages that give them even more information.

Optimize for specific terms

Use the search phases you uncover as your video titles, in descriptions and as keyword combination. Do a search on YouTube for the phrase you are trying to win and see what comes up. Once you find the top videos in your search term make note of the keywords and borrow liberally.

Point to the videos

Google loves it when other sites point to videos that are hosted on YouTube. You can give your videos even more juice by linking to them from your web site, Facebook and other video hosting sites.

Experiment with the intriguing little tactic and you may uncover some pretty fantastic results for frequently searched terms that might not otherwise stand a chance of competing for.

5 Ways to Improve Local Search Results for Business

“This article originally appeared on the OPEN App Center. Visit www.theopenappcenter.com for more information and resources for streamlining and growing your business.”

Local SearchIncreasingly, when folks turn to a search engine, they aren’t looking for something around the world, they’re looking for something around the block. The good news for local businesses is they aren’t just looking; they’re jumping in the car, going out and buying what they find when they search.

Make it a priority to improve search results for your business, because this new way of finding and buying locally means that your business better show up in the top results when people turn to a search engine to shop locally.

Below are five local search engine optimization and search engine marketing plays that you can do today to improve your chances of coming up big in the local search game.

Be Geographically Complete.

Search engines want to return the best local search results, so make sure you have lots of local markers on your pages and pointing to your pages. Things like addresses, city names, suburb names, neighborhood names, zip codes, area codes, maps and directions are all markers that say your business is local. Sprinkle this kind of data liberally throughout your site and make sure you use city names in high priority text such as internal links and headlines.

You should also have geographic links pointing to your business. You can do this by adding local links and descriptions that point to your site in social media profiles and exchanging links with other local businesses and strategic partners.

Lastly, make sure the location data in the primary directory and data service providers is accurate and complete. Two of the best ways to accomplish this little technical piece is to visit GetListed.org or use the annual listing service of UBL.org

Be a Community Resource.

Another powerful way to improve local search results and amplify your local search opportunities is to create content that is related to your community, regardless of whether it directly relates to your products or services.

A great example of this might include coverage of local sporting events or festivals. A B2B example might include maintaining a calendar of networking events or business related seminars.

Using a little RSS magic and a bookmarking tool like Delicious, you could even automate the aggregation of news and other related content for neighborhoods with very little work.

The net effect is that you’ll improve local search results by creating content that offers value to local readers and this is just the kind of information the search engines value the most.

Create Neighborhood Pages.

If you serve a number of communities in a large metropolitan area, it’s probably a good idea to add suburb- or neighborhood-specific pages with extra information personalized to that part of town.

Some of your information on these pages might be identical, but try to make them as unique as you can so that the search engines see them as different pages or you won’t get them seen. You should add unique images with local descriptions, unique geographic terms and neighborhood descriptions or news.

You can also use these pages as landing pages for offline ads as well. If you want to promote your business in a suburban newspaper, for example, you can send readers to the unique page you’ve created for that suburb and create a more personalized experience.

Encourage Ratings and Reviews.

The local search directories created by Google, Bing and Yahoo play a large role in the local search results. If Google, for example, is convinced someone has a local intent in their search, either based on physical location or a geographic term in the actual search, they will return results of local Google Places pages.

It’s critical that your business claims and enhances its Google Places, Bing Local and Yahoo Local pages, but you must also start to proactively build reviews from happy customers on these pages as these reviews are a key contributor to a business showing up high in the local results.

Simply asking for reviews and pointing people to your Google Places page is a good way to start the review ball rolling

Take Advantage of Local Real Estate.

The final local search suggestion involves placing videos, images, and slides in a number of sharing sites such as YouTube, Picasa, Slideshare or Flickr. These free sites allow you upload videos and other assets. You can use these sites to host and stream your videos on your own site, but you can also use the fact that many people search these sites to draw local search traffic.

When you upload your files to these sites make sure you give the file local names, tag them with local terms and describe the content of the file with rich local descriptions. Most of these sites also allow you to geotag where the video or image was shot.

The various tactics to improve search results described above may seem like little things taken individually, but collectively they can add up to big results in the increasingly competitive local search engine game.

Making Local Reviews Part of the Content Strategy

Reviews from customers must be seen as an important part of the overall content strategy for any business, particularly local businesses. The fact that prospects have begun to expect to find reviews and rely heavily on those reviews when making buying decisions combined with the data that suggests search engines seem to be using reviews as a major component in local rankings, requires a major mind shift when it comes to addressing the category of reviews.

It’s no longer enough to sit back and hope you get some nice reviews from all those happy customers. In today’s increasingly competitive local search environment, you’ve got to make reviews a significant piece of your content strategy and build processes to make sure your business is focused on leveraging every review you can acquire.

It may seem like I’m being a bit overly dramatic here, but the reason I believe this is going to take a mind shift is that it’s also going to take some work, but right now the organizations that are working this angle hard are winning.

Here’s a mini case study to help illustrate this point: (This story is courtesy of Postling)

Park Slope Eye has a very fully developed Yelp business page

Dr. Justin Bazan of Park Slope Eye in Brooklyn has embraced social media and review sites with enthusiasm and it appears to be paying off. Park Slope Eye has over 100 positive reviews on Yelp and is approaching that number on Google Maps as well. Do a Google search for Brooklyn Optometrist and Park Slope Eye come up number one in the local listing.

An emphasis on reviews and social media is paying off for this local business

According to Bazan reviews are so important that they justify the extra work that may come with embracing the tactic. For example, Yelp has a review filter that holds reviews from people that don’t appear to be very active or have a level of credibility on Yelp. This filter is one of Yelp’s tools to keep people from gaming the system with fabricated reviews or reviews generated though campaigns. (The filter isn’t perfect, but it’s there.)

Credibility, in Yelp’s definition, evolves from the level of activity from the Yelper (ie. the level of engagement of the review, and a few other factors like how complete their profile is)

Since Park Slope was putting so much emphasis on reviews on Yelp, they were receiving them, but many were getting stuck in Yelp’s review filter and, while Buzan could see them in his account, they were not available publicly, so he added this step to his process.

“To get reviews out of the filter I went into my filtered reviews and pulled up the reviewer’s individual review of Park Slope Eye. I began to engage that review and reviewer. I sent the reviewer a compliment, a message, and voted the review as useful, funny, or cool depending on the context. I did that for all of the reviews. Lastly, I added them as a friend, which you can do as a business owner. After doing all of this the review was taken out of the filter and is publicly accessible.”

Okay, now understand that in order to get the kinds of reviews they get, they’re doing a few other things right, but this is a great example of how a local business, doing great things, can get great results for very little money using a customer content strategy and social media tools.

In fact, their own website is totally downplayed and somewhat ineffective (except I dig the Dave Brubeck music), but it doesn’t really matter because in their particular case, the reviews from Yelp and Google rise to the top when someone does a search, local or otherwise. (They even point to their Yelp page as their website in their Google Place page and on Facebook)

This kind of engagement around reviews and taking their creation on as a content strategy is the kind of grass roots marketing that every local business must embrace.