How Important Are Exact Match Keywords?

how-important-are-exact-match-keywords

Whether you’ve been doing SEO for a while or you’re just getting into the topic, there’s a good chance that you’ve already done some research on keywords. In fact, you’ve probably received quite a bit of advice on how to best use keywords–that you should focus on long-tail keywords and phrases; that you need a specific keyword density so search engines can pick up your content; that you should be adding keywords into headers and creating anchor text.

Well, at one time, all of these tips were true. While many of these practices are now outdated, there’s a reason you’ve been hearing so much about keywords: At one time, keyword-focused strategies were at the top of any SEO’s game.

So the question remains, how important are exact-match keywords now? How do keywords translate into useful information for search engines? Read on and find out!

Back in the day

Because search is an ever-evolving practice, search engines have had to make a huge number of adjustments in how they rank sites over the years. These adjustments are referred to as “algorithm updates”. And with each of these algorithm updates, SEOs find new ways to help boost page rank. So back when the web was less sophisticated and the algorithms weren’t quite as effective as they are now, search engines looked for pages with keywords that matched the search query exactly. These were called exact-match keywords.

Keyword stuffing

Once SEOs noticed that the usage of exact-match keywords would get sites ranking higher, they began putting those keywords in all the content on the website. They’d put it in image descriptions. In headers. In footers.

It got so bad that they’d even put it in the background of the site–yes, as in the space behind the text and images–and just change the color so that it blended in with the background color. Talk about obnoxious (and shady).

Now that is something that Google strongly dislikes. In fact, they wrote a whole piece about why hidden text and keyword stuffing is bad. Needless to say, it didn’t take too long before they started penalizing sites that stuffed keywords.

Keyword density

A tactic used alongside of keyword stuffing was adhering to a specific keyword density. Many of the people who used to stuff keywords realized that the search engines had begun to penalize them for it, so they decided instead to hit a specific density of keywords per article, thinking that this made the text appear more “organic” to search engines and thus would not be flagged as spam. Their density goals usually ranged from 2-5%, and the keywords had to be an exact match.

Of course, this led to really sloppy writing. We’re talking keywords and keyphrases shoved in roughly every two sentences, leading to repetitive, grammatically- and syntactically-incorrect content. It was so obvious that it was “optimized”. And soon, Google began flagging many of those articles as spam, too.

So how do exact-match keywords work now?

As a part of the Hummingbird update in 2013, Google began taking semantic indexing into account. What does that mean? It means that the search engine is smart enough to parse sentences and pick up on keyword variations as well as topics and themes. This eliminates the need to try to stuff strangely-worded keywords into your content.

So let’s say that you run a site promoting salon services and you’re located in Atlanta, GA. Before, with exact-match keyword phrasing, you might only want your content to reference “salons in Atlanta, GA” so that you could rank locally for salon services.

With the Hummingbird update in place, however, you wouldn’t have to worry about it. If you have claimed your Google business listing and made sure that your address is correct, you’ll already have a location associated with your website. As long as your site contains content about salon services, Google will understand that when someone is searching for salons in the Atlanta area, there’s a good chance they might be looking for your page.

So if exact-match keywords aren’t as important now that Google utilizes semantic indexing, what should you focus on?

Website structure

When it comes to your website’s layout and the way the code is structured, you might think that SEO has nothing to do with it. Well, you would be wrong.

If your site is easy to navigate, then visitors will find the information they’re looking for without much trouble. Google looks at this data–how long is someone on your site? Do they click around?–which, if they stay a while and look at your content, implies your site has what they needed. But what if they just back out immediately? This would suggest they didn’t find what they were looking for, and Google will assume your site isn’t relevant to their needs.

So be sure to title your pages with descriptive words. Make your menus easy to navigate. Ensure your web designer has enabled a site map. All of these things are far, far more important than exact-match keywords.

Site speed

Something that you might not even consider to be an issue can often really make or break your SEO efforts–if your site is slow or has errors in loading, you could be damaging your ranking without even knowing it. So what can you do to make sure your website loads quickly?

  • Clean up any extra pages that you don’t use anymore (perhaps from an old design).
  • Get rid of plug-ins that are broken, outdated, or are otherwise unused.
  • Ask your web developer if there is any unneeded media or outdated code that you can get rid of.
  • SSL encryption could possibly give a ranking boost, although it’s not significant.

Other content tips

If you’re writing your own content, here are some good things to keep in mind:

  • Use proper grammar and sentence structure. Writing poorly comes off as spammy.
  • Choose a topic and stick to it. By using the topic keywords organically throughout the post, you will tell Google what the page is about.
  • Do not repeat the same words over and over again. You’ll look spammy.
  • Interlink your posts. Google loves links, including links on your own site.
  • Use images. When you use images with proper titles, you increase reader interest and you tell Google more about your topic.
  • Encourage conversation. Leave comment sections open. You can earn trackbacks to your post (other links) and make it easy for people to engage with you.

And there you have it! Exact-match keywords aren’t important today, but staying on topic and providing fresh, relevant content for your visitors is. So keep practicing your writing and let the ideas come naturally–and remember that you need to write for people, not for search engines.


Internet Local Listings is an internet advertising company in Santa Ana, CA, serving clients across the country with the best website marketing services available in the industry. Visit us here for more information, or give us a call at (888) 770-3950 to discover how we can help you be seen online.

No, SEO Isn’t Dead.

 

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If you  haven’t heard it before, you’ll probably hear about it sometime soon: SEO is dead, and we’re all a bunch of fools to invest any more time and money into it. We might as well just accept it now: We’re never going to be able to use any kind of strategy to boost our ranking on the biggest search engines on the planet.

Except that SEO isn’t dead. We’re not wasting money or time by investing in optimization services.

And there are strategies that help you boost your online presence. There’s no magic bullet, but there are best practices that successful SEO companies follow to get their clients more exposure.

So what gives? Why do people keep saying SEO is dead?

In this post, we’ll go over a few of the top reasons people cite for the “end of SEO”. Keep in mind that Google does change its algorithm frequently, and that what works today might not work sometime in the near future. But that’s natural. Change can be dealt with; strategies can be adjusted. Just because search is an evolving thing doesn’t mean that SEO has no place in today’s business marketing strategies.

Reason #1: People are losing trust in big businesses.

It’s a reflection of economic strife and increasingly-agitated people: Trust in leaders, particularly corporate leaders, is plummeting. With security breaches, scandals at the top levels of big businesses, and news about middle- to low-rung workers being mistreated or underpaid, it’s no wonder people are beginning to raise their eyebrows at large companies.

In fact, Google itself has gotten into a number of heated legal tiffs. People are actually more likely to trust the NSA than they are Google, according to one survey.

And that’s just it, isn’t it? Google is everywhere, almost omnipresent. It’s so ingrained into peoples’ lives now that there are comics and jokes about the search giant’s software being implanted in our brains sometime in the near future! “Big Brother”-type concerns used to be something that you only found in a George Orwell novel, but nowadays, they’ve become a real, legitimate concern.

All of this to say that because people are losing trust in big businesses, they’ve lost trust in Google. They fear where Google could go, given all its power. So when applying this to SEO, people assume that Google has the system rigged, and that you’ll have to pay increasingly more to be considered above other sites in the SERPs.

However, while the legal troubles have been concerning, that doesn’t mean that Google will be slowing down anytime soon. SEO is still effective in spite of all that.

Reason #2: People use apps to search, rather than Google.

Some people say that because people are searching for things using apps such as Amazon, Yelp, or Pinterest, that SEO is dead. They argue that when customers begin moving away from Google like this, optimization just doesn’t have the same kind of effect that it used to.

Except that that is wrong for two reasons:

1) People still use Google to find things, particularly small local businesses. Apps might draw some attention away from Google and the other search engines, but that doesn’t mean that people never use them. How many times have you looked for restaurants or movie tickets simply by typing it into Google? Probably a lot, right? Yelp reviews definitely have their place, but you don’t always go straight to Yelp to find a place to eat.

2) Sites/Apps like Amazon have their own internal search algorithms. And guess what? Those can be used to your advantage as well. It’s true that when people are shopping for things like Kindle books, they’re probably going straight to Amazon rather than Google. But again, this doesn’t mean that SEO is dead–you can even apply what you’ve learned to Amazon if you’re selling items there.

Reason #3: People are sharing links via social media, and that’s caused would-be Googlers to shift away from search.

Some claim that because people are always getting news and information from their friends on social media platforms, that means they don’t use Google anymore. After all, why search for “peeptoe shoes on sale” when you could just buy the exact same pair that your friend just shared with you?

If you thought you sensed some sarcasm there, you’re correct. People do take recommendations from their friends seriously, and people do click on links that their friends post to social media. But that doesn’t mean this is a 1-for-1 exchange with Google! Especially when it comes to shopping for clothes or local services, people will want recommendations, but they’re also going to want to shop around. And that means that they’re going to do some Googling before making their final decision.

Reason #4: Ad blocks and distrust of paid placement makes people avoid your paid promotions.

There is some truth to this statement. People get sick of having advertisements pop up in their feeds all the time. They want to be able to search without accidentally clicking on some spammy ad. And that’s a totally legitimate concern.

But not everyone blocks ads. And some people do still click them. It seems to depend on where you’re listing them. Facebook ads still work, and so do Google ads, although it’s getting more and more difficult to reach your audience through advertising without paying more competitive prices.

When it comes right down to it, though, people are more likely to trust a legitimate link rather than a sponsored ad. So SEO is still important in this scenario, too–you can pay to promote your site, but if you’re found organically, you have a higher chance of nabbing more clicks.


Internet Local Listings is an internet advertising company in Santa Ana, CA, serving clients across the country with the best website marketing services available in the industry. Visit us here for more information, or give us a call at (888) 770-3950 to discover how we can help you be seen online.

 

5 Things You Can Do to Make Your Blog More SEO Friendly — in 30 Minutes or Less!

5 ways to make your blog more SEO friendly in 30 minutes or elss

1. Install a responsive-design theme (Time: 7 minutes).

Look through your blogging platform’s pre-made themes and you can find responsive designs for free. If you want to have a little bit more choice, you can always pay a one-time fee to have access to a design that’s more customizable.

So how does a responsive design help with SEO? More and more people are searching the web through mobile devices nowadays–that includes phones and tablets. As this becomes more commonplace, Google is going to start valuing mobile-friendly sites more than those that don’t cater to all devices. Don’t be left behind–get on this now. It can be free, and seriously–7 minutes. You can do it in the time it takes you to take out the trash.

2. Make sure your URLs are easily indexable (Time: 3 minutes).

When you post a new article, does it show up looking something like this?

Myawesomeblog.com/?p=431

Yeah, that doesn’t really  help the search engines find your site. Instead, go into your permalinks customization and make sure you choose something that enables you to format the title with keywords. Search engines love keywords, not random letters and numbers that tell them nothing of the page’s content.

(Note: on wordpress.com, your links should automatically be formatted correctly; on wordpress.org blogs, or self-hosted blogs, you can find the permalinks customization option under “settings.”)

3. Make your images SEO-friendly (Time: 10 minutes).

Well, to be honest, this depends on how many images you have on your blog. But if you have a reasonable amount, you can easily make this work in under 10 minutes.

Simply go to your media section (where you host your videos and images), and open up the editor. On wordpress, you can see all your media in one spot and you have the option to rename them, add links, and add something called an “alt tag”. That’s where the gold is.

Alt tags tell search engines what the picture is about. So if you go in and edit all your images’ alt tags, search engines will be able to associate them with your site and keywords.

For example, instead of leaving the alt tag of an image of a plumber working at a toilet blank, try writing a descriptive sentence like, well, “plumber working at a toilet”.

4. Install a plug-in that helps you stay on top of SEO best practices (Time: 5 minutes).

Yoast SEO and All-in-One SEO are the best choices. Yoast recently had a security issue, but they quickly worked to seal it back up, and everything is back to normal again.

These plug-ins can easily be installed on WordPress from here or here, or you can do a search for them yourself from the native WordPress dashboard. After they’re installed, you can then begin playing around with options and implementing strategies that will help your posts rank better in search engines–and the best part is, this can be free, or close to it.

5. Submit a fresh site map to Google (Time: 5 minutes).

You can do this manually, or by using the Google Webmaster Tools generator. Then you can submit your sitemap through Webmaster Tools yourself, and it’ll all work just fine. We promise.

Or, you can do it an easier way. With a WordPress blog, you install another plugin that’ll make this much more convenient.

Try something like Google XML Sitemaps, which you can download here for free. What this enables you to do is create a sitemap quickly and easily–and the plugin will submit it to Google, Yahoo!, and Bing. It notifies these popular search engines every time you update so that they can quickly index your work. Much, much easier than trying to do it yourself, right?

Internet Local Listings is an internet advertising company in Santa Ana, CA, serving clients across the country with the best website marketing services available in the industry. Visit us here for more information, or give us a call at (888) 770-3950 to see how we can help you be seen online.

Why Search Engine Optimization is a Long-Term Investment

When it comes to search engine optimization, there are so many things to consider before you get started that it might seem like an impossible task to take on. From meta tags to building backlinks, and from content marketing to social media, it seems there’s a million things you need to do to play the ranking game–and actually do well at it.

But SEO is a long-term investment. It’s not a “set it and forget it” type of process–it’s a fluid, ever-changing industry, and it takes a lot of knowledge and dedication to keep up with all the latest strategies. Before we get into that, though, take heart–There are some things you can do to get started immediately:

  • Make sure to list your business on Google + and as many major directories as possible. Defining keywords, linking to your website, and providing vital information about what your business does makes it easier for the search engines to index you.
  • On that note, make sure your address, phone number, and business name are listed consistently across all directories. Search engines can create duplicate listings for slight variations in addresses, and this creates confusion for customers who are searching for your services.
  • Build a website with an easy-to-navigate structure and visitor-friendly photos. Make sure you include meta tag descriptions, provide search engine-friendly alt tag descriptions on photos, and submit a site map to Google periodically. Updating your blog or at least providing fresh content is a must. And you should always make sure your link structure is clear to search engines. I.e., website.com/blog/how-to-install-a-faucet is great; website.com/22560 is not.

SEO is ever-changing and increasingly complex.

But the nature of the beast is that SEO is an ever-changing process. Google is always trying to make its algorithm more accurate–for example, when you think of how search functioned in the 90s versus now, they have improved a lot at returning relevant results! Why? Because Google has invested a lot of time into researching user intent, so that when someone types in a query, he or she gets more accurate results. Naturally, the company is going to continue doing their research and honing the algorithm in the years to come.

What does all of this have to do with Search Engine Optimization? Well, put simply, SEO is the process of getting a site “Google-ready”. SEO experts take current Google data and make sure that client sites comply with it, so that they’re ranked higher in comparison to their competitors.

SEO experts must work with an algorithm that is unknown to anyone–and still try to stay in Google’s good graces.

So basically, once you’ve achieved that ranking, if you’ve hired good SEO people, you’ll likely hold that spot for a long time to come.

However, sometimes Google makes SUCH drastic changes that while you may have been ranking on page one on Monday, suddenly on Tuesday, you’re not ranking at all. You soon discover that you are lacking now-important SEO elements or utilizing outdated techniques.

For example, “keyword density” used to be a big concern for SEOs. They advised that articles and content on sites contained keyword-rich articles, using the exact same grammar structures every time the keyword was used, even if it didn’t make sense in the context of the sentence. Back then, this was actually a way some people would “cheat” Google–just stuff keywords in some text and end up ranking on page one! (By the way, this is what’s known as “black hat” SEO–doing things simply to cheat the system–and black hat techniques will get you booted from page one on Google’s next update faster than you could imagine.)

Now, Google actually punishes people for stuffing keywords. And the search algorithm has become sophisticated enough that Google can understand changes in a query’s grammatical structure. What that means is that you no longer have to JUST search for “landscapers cheap Lexington” to get relevant results, but you could search for “cheap landscaper in Lexington” and get basically the same thing.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a screenshot. Take a look at the pages:

cheap-landscaper-lexingtonlandscapers-cheap-lexington

Yep, the majority are the same links. One just has a map, so they’re listed as Google + business listings, and that’s where you’ll spy the difference. But the point still stands. Google is really good at interpreting what the user is looking for–affordable landscapers in or around Lexington. Whether you word it like Yoda or an English professor, Google wants to help you out, and does a pretty good job at it!

SEO experts are in it for the long haul–and so are you.

Because Google is always changing, search engine optimization must follow suit. There are those out there who say SEO is dead (there’s always somebody saying that about ANYTHING, though) and there are others who say it will become obsolete as search engines grow closer and closer to behaving like human minds. But the fact is, the web is always changing. People build new websites. New businesses crop up, while others close their doors forever. It’s not enough to rank on page one today. You have to work with experts to make sure that you continue to rank on page one in the future too, whether Google releases a major update or another business moves into your vicinity. So until Google can read your mind and pull up the best business to match your personality (eep–that’s some scary stuff, isn’t it?), search engine optimization will be a thing. SEO is a long-term investment, and if you have a great business at your side, it will be worth it.

Internet Local Listings is an internet advertising company in Santa Ana, CA, serving clients across the country with the best website marketing services available in the industry. Visit us here for more information, or give us a call at (888) 770-3950 to see how we can help you be seen online.

6 Simple Ways to Promote Your Blog

1. StumbleUpon

A lot of people think of StumbleUpon as being a social media network that sort of disappeared into the depths of the internet several years ago. But it’s actually still a really great way to promote your work. There are sponsored pages if you’d like to pay for advertising, but even if you just list your articles under relevant categories, you’ll see traffic begin to trickle in.

Some good StumbleUpon tips to remember:

  • Don’t just add your things. StumbleUpon is a social media network–so add friends and “like” their sites too!
  • Choose good tags when you add a site. The more specific you get, the better.
  • Ask your network of peers to “like” your site. You can do the same to theirs.
  • Make sure you have an opt-in area clearly visible to Stumblers–i.e., somewhere on the front page. Often, they’ll leave as fast as they came, but if they’re interested in hearing more from you, they might opt-in to your newsletter.

2. Reddit

Reddit can be a real hit or miss. Post at the wrong time, and your content will be lost to the abyss very quickly. Post at the right time, and you could see a major influx of traffic. But there are some rules that apply here that you won’t want to break:

The way it works is by posting to a page called a subreddit. (Take a look at the SEO subreddit here for an example.) Users can then “upvote” or “downvote” posts on the subreddit page. It makes sense then, that in order to get to the top of the list, you have to get a steady flow of “upvotes”–otherwise your post will be buried by other submissions. And, as it turns out, Redditors are a little bit pickier with the content they choose to upvote: your post must be very well-written, and it must contribute valuable information to the subreddit’s topic of discussion. Furthermore, no one wants to upvote a spammer. So to make sure that you get the most out of Reddit, be sure to:

  • Respond to comments on your posts so that readers know you’re invested
  • Cross-post to different subreddits. However, you should be sure that you choose different categories. If you post to two similar subreddits in the same day, you might be perceived as a spammer. (I.e., posting an SEO article to an SEO subreddit as well as an internet marketing subreddit (good) vs posting to SEO and SEO tips (too similar).
  • Post entire links. Some platforms almost require shortened links (like Twitter, for example), but Redditors do not want to be clicking text links and have malware installed on their computers. Make sure your links are clear and easy to read.
  • Help out fellow Redditors by upvoting for relevant content.

3. Pinterest

Pinterest is a visual social media platform that allows users to share “pins”–or pictures with text descriptions and links. Pinterest users curate pins into themed “boards”. So how does this help you promote your blog?

Well, Pinterest is actually quite widely used. And its users are invested, often creating boards with thousands of pins on them.

By adding an easy-to-spot “Pin It” button to images on your blog, you’ll be able to more easily facilitate sharing on Pinterest. In order to achieve pin-worthy pictures, you can use tools like Canva.com to make gorgeous (and free!) images to appeal to your audience. Keep in mind that Pinterest is largely visual–unlike Reddit, pinners enjoy the aesthetic look of their boards, so you can’t just post a link and hope for the best.

You can also use a widget to drive traffic. Head over to your profile on Pinterest.com and click the little gear icon, then navigate to “Create a Widget”–and voila! Pinterest feeds you the code. You put it on your blog and it allows people to see your boards, then click through to browse more closely.

Some tips go get the most out of your pins:

  • Make sure that your descriptions are clear and concise. Add hashtags if you like.
  • Double check to make sure your links are all good. No one wants to follow someone who mindlessly posts spammy links.
  • Leave comments on pins you particularly love.
  • Every once in a while, re-pin your old content to make sure it is seen by more pinners.

4. Interlink on your own blog

As time goes on and our blogs grow larger, we build up a great arsenal of content. But after six months, eight months, a year… well, you aren’t making use of a lot of that content, because it gets buried under all the fresh stuff. A great way to lead your readers to your other posts is to 1) insert links to older articles in your new content, and 2) to go back to older articles and insert relevant links to fresh content.

For example, do you have an old social media article that would help corroborate your data in a newer article? Go in and link it! Have a guide that has been buried under pages of new posts? Find a way to promote it on the front page or in your newest articles. By making it easy for your audience to find content, you’re going to see a big increase in page views and traffic.

Another great reason to do this is because search engines love it. They’ll see your site as more connected and active, and your articles will be seen as higher quality. You can’t lose with this method!

5. Post Old Content Intermittently

This ties in with the above tip: If you’ve been blogging for a while, you should definitely consider promoting your older content again. By doing so, you’ll bring a fresh persepective to your older posts. Plus, tied in with new interlinking, you’re creating an interconnected “web” of data on your blog, rather than disjointed posts that are too easily lost in the sea of information you’re producing.

How can you most easily manage this? Be sure to keep a content calendar to repost old articles on a regular basis. If you have time-sensitive content, you obviously should make sure to not include it in your posting plan–no one wants to read “Top Social Media Trends of 2013” right now, unless we’re doing a Throwback Thursday event!

Be sure to post content on all of your social media sites, and if you’ve done significant updates to an article, feel free to repost it on your blog and let everyone know you’ve revisited the subject.

6. Blog exchange

As a blogger, you probably have other blogger friends. If this is the case, why not offer to do a blog exchange? One of the most important parts of getting your blog in front of more eyes is networking. Not only do search engines find sites with external links more valuable (from reliable sources, of course), but readers might already read one blog and trust its content–and if they trust that content, they’ll be willing to give yours a try.

This isn’t necessarily the same thing as guest posting, but it’s similar. Guest posting can go in this vein as well–you can offer a post to a blogger you feel would benefit from your content and hope for the best. But building a network among your connections certainly won’t hurt either.

Internet Local Listings is an internet advertising company in Santa Ana, CA, serving clients across the country with the best website marketing services available in the industry. Visit us here for more information, or give us a call at (888) 770-3950 to see how we can help you be seen online.

Back to Basics #16: 5 Ideas for Your Marketing Strategy

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In our Back to Basics series, we’ve covered a wide range of topics, from the basics of SEO to implementing a few reliable social media strategies. But what if you’re looking for more ideas for your digital marketing strategy? What if you want to go above and beyond social media marketing? In this post, we’ll give you five great ways you can improve your digital marketing strategy without focusing solely on social media and local listings. As always, we try to supply helpful and affordable suggestions while keeping the small business owner in mind.

1. Build an app.

You know the line: “There’s an app for that!” Well, there might not be an app for that. There are plenty of ways small businesses can get in on the app craze. If you run your own restaurant, you can build an app to let customers place an order using their phones or tablets. You can offer periodic deals that only app subscribers can access. There are plenty of ways to get creative. And the best part is that now that apps are so popular, you can get one built on the cheap. Check out freelancing sites such as elance.com or fiverr.com to find prospective contractors!

2. Migrate to mobile-compatible platforms.

We can’t stress it enough: If you’re not mobile compatible, you’re falling behind the times. A lot of people are searching for small, local businesses using their phones. They want access to immediate information about the products and services they seek: Business hours, phone number, website, menu (if you’re a restaurant, obviously), and of course the street address. Many look for Yelp ratings or BBB listings. All of this can be found through a quick local search. Make sure that all of your website’s information is up to date and displays correctly on mobile phone screens as well as tablets. You can hire a designer to make sure that your site looks flawless on all devices, or you can sign up for a free site at squarespace.com or weebly.com and choose layouts that are mobile-friendly. (Or, Internet Local Listings offers a free website with our starter package!)

3. Focus on creating good content.

If you haven’t noticed already, social media visibility is becoming increasingly dependent on paid-for advertising. You want more people to find you on Facebook? Be prepared to spend money advertising. You want more people to retweet you? You’ll have to purchase promoted tweets. According to aforbes.com article, it’s only going to get worse. The monetization of social media is inevitable—with the amount of people using the services, companies are eager to shell out money in hopes of attracting more customers.

Of course, this unfairly discriminates against small business owners. Without the budget to push their ads out there, they get buried under the noise of larger corporations. The way around this? Start and regularly update a blog.

Google is always looking for great content. It helps you rank better and it helps keep visitors interested in your site. You’ll never have to pay to write your own thoughts down in a virtual “journal.” So get started with a free blogging platform such as WordPress or Blogger and make sure that your voice is still being heard amongst the never-ending calls for you to spend money on advertising.

4. Create a podcast.

You might be raising your eyebrow at this one. You probably don’t know how to make a podcast, and that’s okay—not a lot of people do. But that’s precisely why it can put you ahead of the curve. Small business owners can get in on the podcasting craze and reach an audience that their competitors can’t. Run a yoga studio? Talk about the health benefits of yoga, interview students who have seen great health benefits, and give listeners a weekly yoga challenge. Are you an electrician? Talk to your listeners about seasonal electrical tips, how to save money on electrical bills, and how to use your existing décor to spruce up your interior decorating. There are plenty of things you can talk about in a podcast. Make a list of things you are interested in that relate to your field or industry. Then check out sites like RawVoice or Wizzard to get ideas and find out more about podcasting.

5. Hire Digital Marketing for Small Business.

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that search engine optimization still delivers one of the highest returns on your monetary investment. Take a look at Moz’s handy-dandy chart here and see which things small businesses could handle easily on their own vs the amount of time that needs to be invested. You’ll immediately notice that SEO is affordable and the results are worthwhile. However, you’ll also see that it requires a large time investment and an expert to help you navigate the subtleties that come with the SEO process. Digital marketing doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, though—you can check out our plans and pricing to see which works the best with your budget and long-term goals.

 

Is there a digital marketing strategy that you would recommend to a small business owner? Leave it in the comments below!

Back to Basics #15: Do it Like a Small Business SEO Company

small business team seo company
Can you do marketing like a small business SEO company?

By now, you’ve probably read a number of articles about how you, as a small business owner, can learn how to do SEO to benefit your own business. You may have read about how important it is to be on Twitter or Facebook; you probably saw studies claiming that a specific keyword density is key to ranking well; you may even have considered buying links to get more traffic.

It can all be confusing. It can be expensive. And honestly? It sometimes doesn’t seem like it’s worth the effort, does it?

Well, we’re here to help you out. In this post, we’ll show you five easy ways you can get involved with your company’s marketing campaign just like a small business SEO company would do. With these tips, you’ll begin to see results that definitely pay off.

plagiarism comic
Unfortunately, this is all too common nowadays.

Image courtesy of: Olive Harvey College Library Guides

1. Make friends with Copyscape. Are you writing your own content? Have you tried optimizing your front page or started a blog? You’ll definitely want to look into using Copyscape. For no cost, you can enter your site’s address and Copyscape will scan the web looking for plagiarized text. If your blog or site content have indeed been plagiarized, it can hurt your rankings. Furthermore, if you’re using references in your writing, you might want to run your text through Copyscape. The last thing you need is to be blamed for plagiarism from your end. Make sure your content is 100% original all across the board, and you’ll be better off for it.

2. Make content easily shareable. When people read an article and enjoy it, they immediately look for the “share” button. They want to tell their family and friends about the great thing they’ve just read. It would follow, then, that if you don’t include sharable links at the end of your post, you’ve just potentially cost yourself thousands of views. Be sure to make it easy for your visitors to share your content to all the most popular social media platforms, and you’ll notice that your content will be shared more frequently. If you need help figuring out how to set this up, there are plenty of tutorials around the internet as well as easy-to-install plug-ins for blogging software such as WordPress.

3. Get your customers involved through reviews. We’ve written about this in the past, but it’s so important that we feel we should reiterate here: your customers need to be involved with your company through reviews. There’s a fine line between asking and encouraging your customers to participate willingly, and pushing your wishes in their faces aggressively. You can encourage customers to leave reviews by putting a sign up in your store, offering a coupon as compensation, or even provide a free service with proof of a positive review. Reviews not only help people searching for your services find your store, they also help you stand out in the crowd. Searchers nowadays rely on sites such as Yelp to help them make decisions about which business they want to give their money to. Don’t let this opportunity slip through the cracks—you’ll be surprised at how much good reviews can help.

pay per click advertising for small businesses
You’ve probably heard of pay-per-click advertising. But will it work for a small business?

4. Consider PPC (pay-per-click) advertising. If you’re just getting your business off the ground, we’ll be honest: It can take some time for Google to start picking it up and ranking it. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t make the most of the time in between. You can purchase ads from Google for only a few dollars a day and they’ll appear alongside search results related to your keywords, helping guide visitors to your site. Google ads allow you to get the word out about your site in ways that organic ranking can’t; at least not in the beginning. Check out Google’s free keyword planner to take a look at keyword suggestions you can use in your ad campaigns.

5. Try your hand at video advertising. A big part of advertising nowadays is visual. Think about it: If you’re on Facebook or Twitter, you probably share images and videos all the time! That’s why it’s important that you get into the habit of creating media content for your company’s social media sites. People are much more likely to share media than they are to read through a “wall of text”. Furthermore, video advertising helps a lot with SEO and ranking. Google gets strong ranking signals from videos and the keywords used in them. Even if you don’t have a big media budget, you can still put together helpful “how-to” videos or showcase happy customers recommending your products and services.

You can do it like the SEO companies!
You can do it like the SEO companies!

With these tips, you can easily dip your toes into the waters of advertising and marketing. It might sound cliché, but if you don’t start small, it’ll be too much for you to manage all at once and you’ll feel as if you’re drowning. You can do it like the small business SEO company professionals by trying these few simple tips! And as always, if you need help and advice, Internet Local Listings is here to help. We offer everything from business listings to custom content to personalized websites! Visit us here for more information.

Any other tips you can think of that we missed? Let us know!

Why Small Business Marketing is Essential in 2014 and Beyond

small-business-marketing-in-2014
In 2014 and beyond, how can small business marketing benefit your company?

Getting the word out about your business has always been your top priority. As a small business owner, you already understand how important marketing is—whether it’s word of mouth, fliers, direct marketing, or running local advertising campaigns, you know that you have to get the word out or your numbers suffer. But what many small business owners don’t take into consideration is a marketing plan. And without some type of marketing strategy, you’ll likely become frustrated, not knowing whether your efforts are paying off.

This is the primary reason that small business marketing is now non-negotiable. In 2014, we have a number of options to help us determine how and where to market to our clients: social media, blogs, video marketing, online local business listings, Google Places, and more. With all of these tools at our disposal, is there any excuse not to have a marketing plan in place?

No, there isn’t. In this article, we’ll talk a bit about why small business marketing is essential in 2014 and beyond. When you understand just how effective marketing is for your business, you’ll have a better foundation to grasp the concepts of beginning your own marketing campaign.

Small business marketing is the only way to get the word out.

word-of-mouth-marketing
Get the word out about your business!

You’ve heard of companies like Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook, and Apple. Why is that? Because they have a massive consumer base and they have massive marketing budgets. Their ads are fed to you frequently to ensure you know what the company is up to, and they make sure that their products stay up-to-date and relevant.

Now, you’re probably thinking, “Well, I don’t have that kind of money to spend on an advertising campaign!” and you’re probably right. Most small business marketing budgets are scant. And that’s okay. You don’t need a ton of money to start seeing returns on your efforts. As we’ve discussed in previous articles, you can implement social marketing strategies for very little money, and you can get started with blogging completely free of charge. The best thing about this type of marketing is that you can begin to spend money whenever you like to boost your efforts. Want to place an ad on Facebook? You can spend as little as $5 a day to promote your business. Want to pay for a domain name and host your blog as a website? For less than $20, you can grab a domain name, and hosting can be as low as $3-5 a month. There’s no reason you must feel like you are required to spend thousands of dollars just to be seen online.

When you get the word out with small business marketing, you begin to build your audience online. And that’s the #1 most important thing.

In 2014, traditional networking is still important.

traditional-marketing
A traditional marketing plan is still helpful for local small businesses.

Networking. It sounds like a buzzword, and to some extent, that’s what it’s become. That aside, you should never underestimate the power of networking. If you go to local business expos, connect with influencers on Twitter and Facebook, and simply ask your customers to refer you to friends and family, then you’re already networking. If you’re not networking and these activities don’t sound like they’ll increase your sales, then think of it this way: you’re building a strong reputation and a sturdy foundation of support and availability for your clients. And that is absolutely essential.

The easiest way to get started is to simply ask your customers to review you on Yelp and Google. This has the added bonus of sending “relevancy” signals to Google, helping you to rank higher. Many customers would be happy to submit positive reviews when asked, but they often don’t bother to go online and leave reviews otherwise.

You can also get started on Facebook and Twitter for free. Place signs around your office or store that tell customers where they can find you online. Ask friends and family to spread the word. None of this will cost you a thing, except maybe an hour or two of your time to craft the signs!

Are press releases outdated? Nope. Not even close.

making-a-list-of-blog-topics
Sharpen your press release skills.

Spread the word about newsworthy business developments: A new product, a sale, or a special event your company is attending or hosting. Try to send out a press release once a month to keep the word about your company relevant and fresh. This can cost money if you choose to promote your company online—you can pay anywhere from $120 to upwards of $250 to have your press release promoted on popular sites. But you don’t have to do this. Small business marketing is all about leveraging your local connections. Talk to your local newspaper or ask to be on the news or featured on a radio show. You can talk about your new products or even offer customers a special discount if they mention your interview or article. By doing this regularly, you can easily make a good impression on your local community.

The new way of connecting to customers: Videos.

YouTube logo small business
Small businesses should be making visual media–including videos.

Many small businesses specialize in a specific, niche service: Plumbing, dog grooming, notary services, etc. Think of how you felt when you first started learning about your industry. You probably felt overwhelmed and looked to professionals for guidance. Or consider how you feel when you want to save money and try to take care of things yourself—fixing a pipe or cleaning your roof, for instance. Many people look up tutorials now on YouTube.

This might seem counter-intuitive to teach your customers learn how to help themselves, but it is actually a great way for your customers and company to share a dialogue. It establishes you as an authority figure and expert in your industry. Plus, taking the time to create a video tutorial for your customers shows that you spend time thinking of their needs—and customers truly appreciate that. Finally, videos on YouTube, when properly optimized, send strong relevancy signals to search engines, and that helps your website rank higher.

And there you have it. Small business marketing is essential in 2014. You need to network to connect with clients. You need to create content to stay relevant on search engines. You need to connect with customers in new and innovative ways. As the internet grows more content-based, your small business will have to keep on top of these trends to ensure your customers are still finding you.

If you need assistance with any small business marketing services, Internet Local Listings is always here to help. Simply contact us here or visit our site for more information. We have a special running right now, too—so act fast and save money while you start bringing in more customers!

3 Easy Google Ranking Factors to Implement on Your Website

Google Ranking Factors, Google Logo
There are a lot of Google ranking factors, but you can easily implement a few on your site–and you’ll see results!

Learning to market your own website can seem like an extremely daunting task, particularly if you’re new to being online. But there’s no need to worry. All it takes is learning a few easy tricks and you’ll start seeing improvement on your site’s ranking. So what’s the easiest way to improve your site’s ranking without spending a fortune? By learning a bit about content creation. Content creation is one of the top ways you can improve your site’s rankings because Google places a lot of value on websites with valuable content. This means that the successful sites update often with helpful posts. Google also particularly likes posts with pictures and great formatting that includes using bolding and italics. In this post, we’ll go over the top 3 easiest Google ranking factors to start implementing on your site—once you’re armed with this information, you’ll be ahead of the game!

Update frequently.

Google is constantly caching new data. As such, it’s important that your site stays up to date by posting fresh content frequently. This doesn’t mean that you need to update every hour, or even every day—but at least once a week should help. Easy topics include posting about what your company is up to, any specials you’re running, or events that are on the horizon. But don’t just promote yourself—always find ways to connect with your customers and engage them in a conversation. If you find yourself running low on post ideas, try thinking outside the box a bit. What would your customers like to learn about? What are some related interests that your readers might find useful? For example, let’s say you run a dog grooming studio. You might try writing about:

  • The best hairstyles of the Westminster Dog Show
  • The top foods to feed your dog to keep his or her coat healthy
  • Little-known facts about dog breeds throughout history

Your clients would find all of these posts fun, entertaining, and useful, and they’ll surely enjoy coming back to check out your site to see your new content. You can use these posts as a way to pitch your business as well—just include links to relevant products and services at the end of the posts!

Use images in your posts.

Not only does this make your post look better, but it is actually one of the easiest Google ranking factors to understand and implement. Most blogs allow you to set a “featured image” before you publish a post. You’ll need to upload a relevant picture and name it something descriptive. For example, the title “dog grooming scissors” is better than just “scissors”. Set this phrase as the image’s name and as well as the “alt” text. Why? Because images on-page deliver strong relevancy data through their file name, alt text, title, description and caption. Plus, when others share your post on Facebook or Twitter, the picture will show up with the text. People are much more likely—in fact, 42% more likely—to click on links with photos, so it’s a win-win all around! Here are a few key things to remember:

  • You’ll find the file name, alt text, title, description, and caption in your blog’s image editor. WordPress makes it very simple and intuitive. You can do it all from an organized “dashboard” while you’re crafting your post.
  • If you’re having trouble understanding how to use an image in a post, here is a great tutorial at ManageWP Blog. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll wonder why you haven’t been doing this already!

Use title tags and repetition.

This time, let’s say you run a salon, and you want to make sure that the search engines know that you have the best salon hair products. You’ve uploaded your image appropriately, and now you’re set to write your content. So how do you make sure your content stands out among the competition? There are two main things to consider. You don’t need to understand a lot about marketing to do this—it’s simple and easy. The first is to include the keyword in the title. This makes sense. If you’re writing about salon hair produts, be sure to put that in your post’s title. It’s that simple! Ideally, you should put the keyword toward the beginning rather than close to the end, but this doesn’t really make that much difference. To illustrate, an example would be:

  • Salon Hair Products: Worth the Price Tag?
  • Why Everyone Should Invest in Salon Hair Products

The first title would be better simply because “salon hair products” appears at the beginning of the title. However, both utilize the keyword, so they’re both good choices.

Keyword Repetition

One of the most important Google ranking factors to this day is the repetition of the keyword or key phrase. When Google scans your content, it will pick up on phrases that have been repeated. It will see this as relevant, and thus, you’ll rank higher for that keyword or key phrase. This is all well and good, but it’s also been one of the most heavily-abused ranking practices. You must be sure that when you write your content, your keywords fit in without being referenced too often. There is no magic number to aim for, but use it a few times in a natural way and you should be fine.

More About Google Ranking Factors

There’s so much more to ranking on Google than what was discussed in this article. But the information you’ve received here should help you learn the basics of blogging for search engine optimization! Now, as a small business owner, you can certainly take the time to craft your own posts according to these rules. However, unless you become an expert in the content marketing industry, you won’t be able to match the results you’d get by hiring professional writers.  This is also a time-consuming endeavor–you must update frequently to see results. So if you find yourself strapped for time and want to get the best services available, you can always give Internet Local Listings the chance to create great content for you! Simply call us or fill out our form here and we’ll be happy to talk to you about how we can put all the important Google ranking factors to work for your business.

Back to Basics: What is SEO?

What is SEO, content marketing, social media

This is the first post in the “Back to Basics” series. To stay caught up on posts, follow our blog and posts will be sent directly to your inbox!

If you’ve been following our blog, you’ve probably noticed that we talk a lot about search engine marketing and optimization. And while that notion is easy to grasp, some of the terminology surrounding the subject can be a bit… exclusive. If you’re feeling a little in the dark about what internet marketing entails, then this post is for you. If you’re already well-versed in the intricacies of SEO, then you may enjoy reading about how to increase customer engagement, or our tips on implementing new marketing strategies this summer!

So What is SEO Anyway?

As you’ve probably gathered, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and it refers to the process of crafting a website and its content around the algorithms search engines use to rank search results. It sounds confusing—and when you get into the details and science of it, it can be—but the concept is actually not very difficult to grasp. SEO covers a number of industries: Search Engine Marketing, Internet Marketing and Advertising, Content Syndication and Marketing, Social Media Management, and more. You don’t necessarily need to understand exactly what all of these terms mean, but it’s important to understand that SEO isn’t a precise science, and that it is applied across a number of industries—it’s dynamic; not static.

The good news is that for most small businesses, having a rudimentary understanding of SEO is enough to get started on improving your search engine rankings. So let’s go over a few things that you’ll need to know to understand the science of internet marketing!

  1. Content is king. If you haven’t heard this one yet, you’ll definitely start hearing it now that you’re looking for more information on search engine optimization.  What is SEO without content? It’s an incomplete effort at best. To rank better on search engines, you’ll need to provide the robots that “crawl” data on the internet with new and fresh content. And how do you do this? The easiest way is to start a blog. You can also opt for frequent social media posts, but you should note that in this case, the search engines will likely rank those sites higher than your own website!
  2. Organic results are best. Organic? As in, like the food? No, not exactly. Here, “organic results” means the results that pop up when you search for a specific phrase. Let’s say you’re looking for information on how to install your own windows. You’ll search for something like DIY window installation or installing your own windows. The results that pop up are “organic” search results. What is SEO’s role in this? Simple: You want to get the search engines to rank you for these kinds of terms, which are otherwise known as keywords. Do some in-depth keyword research and build your content around the best choices for your industry and local competition.
  3. People love social media. In fact, chances are, you’re already on Facebook, if not a number of other social media sites. Most of us are on social media in some capacity today, right? And it’s important that your website and company are listed across a few choice social networks as well. Not all industries are the same and thus not all social media platforms are suitable for everyone. Look at your competitors and see what they’re doing. Then create your profiles and start gathering your own fanbase. So then, what is SEO in relation to social media? The more you update your social media sites and interact with fans, the more attention you bring to your sites. Your social media pages will also appear in search results when customers search for your business’s name.

What is SEO to a small business?

Your small business may already be ranking fine for a couple of keywords. But the thing about SEO is that it’s a fickle beast—between Google, Bing, and Yahoo!, ranking algorithms are changing all the time. It can be difficult to stay caught up on all of these factors, particularly if you don’t have a dedicated marketing team. Chances are you’re doing this mostly on your own. And when you’re trying to run your business, do you realistically have the time and resources to spend learning about best SEO practices? Probably not.

These few tips should help you grasp a few of the main components of ranking—providing fresh content, choosing good keywords, and setting up social media accounts to connect with fans and customers—but the science goes much deeper than that. Search engine optimization is a necessity if you want to succeed as a business online.

If you’re interested in learning more about this subject, simply browse through our site or fill out a contact request form. At Internet Local Listings, we have over 50 years combined experience with SEO and internet marketing services.

What is SEO to you? An investment you’d like to make? Something you’d like to learn more about? Whatever it is, Internet Local Listings would like to help. Give us a call or drop us a line on Facebook, Twitter, email, or via our contact form today!