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Local Search Ranking Factors

Ever wonder what it takes to rank high in the search engines? Ranking factors, despite being perceived as a great mystery, are in reality relatively straight forward. Create great content, get people to link to it, make sure your business listings are in order and you’re all set! Of course, I’m oversimplifying things. There’s a bit more to it than this, however knowing what the search engines are looking at provides a perfect place to start.

Every year the top SEO service providers pull their shared experiences, tests, and case studies to produce a Top Ranking Factors list.

For local business owners, this list is a valuable resource for deciding where to spend time and budget to put your business in the best possible position to be found in the search engines.

Check out this infographic on the top Local Ranking Factors.

Local Search Ranking Factors

Sanctuary provides optimization services for local businesses. Let us help you get your business showing up at the top of the search engines.

Search Engine Local Ranking Factors
Black-Hat-SEO

Back in 2012, Chris Auman wrote an article titled “5 SEO Tactics to Avoid at all Costs.” Needless to say, a lot has changed over the past four years when it comes to digital marketing and SEO.

Despite all the information on the web about how search optimization has changed and what not to do when it comes to SEO, we still find many companies dealing with old SEO tactics. Perhaps these are still around because of a less than reputable SEO provider or maybe just because companies haven’t had the time or budget to addressed their approach to search optimization.

With that in mind, we thought it would be a good idea to revisit these tactics for a little refresher on what you should not be doing. What Chris wrote in 2012 is still very much relevant in 2016.

 

Top 5 SEO tactics to avoid at all cost Black-Hat-SEO

#1: Keyword Stuffing – Keyword stuffing may happen if you are writing about something that requires certain keywords to be repeatedly used but it is still something that needs attention. While overusing certain keywords once worked to get your site or blog bumped to the top of a Google search, it now has the opposite effect. Saturating your piece with the same words over and over is a clear abuse of SEO and can now get you booted from search. Also, it makes the content clunky to read.

#2: Paying for Links – Having links and backlinks is something else that should happen naturally. Paying for this type of connection is considered unethical and will probably not get you the results you want. Creating fake websites just to increase the backlinks to your site is not an ethical practice to follow, which ties into the next point.

#3: Hiring someone to leave fake comments or to write false reviews and testimonials – The idea is that you should be attracting authentic versions of these for other users to see. If you want to encourage visitors to your blog or users of your product to leave real comments, reviews or testimonials that is one thing. If you go out of your way creating false reviews, you are operating with black hat marketing techniques.

#4: Hidden or Invisible Text – This is the practice of using text that cannot be seen by visitors to a site or blog but is detected by search engines. Again, it is considered a less than ethical tactic to use to rank higher on search engines. Using hidden text is seen as a form of spam,  frowned upon by most and if used, the site runs the risk of incurring a penalty from the search engines.

#5: Using Misspellings – This happens when you create content using keywords that are commonly misspelled as part of your content marketing plan. Using the misspelled version of the word but directing it to the correctly spelled version is frowned upon and not a good practice to get in the habit of for SEO.

While it may be tempting to use some tricks that are “in the gray area” you will more than likely be sorry you did. In the long run, it is never worth using these types of black hat approaches to SEO. Yes, it may take more time to build up the desired effect from white hat techniques, but the results will be better and longer lasting.

 

Avoid making these mistakes, whether intentional or not. If you are not sure whether your site falls into these traps or not or need direction on how to update your marketing approach, contact us. Sanctuary Marketing group has Digital Marketing strategists who are experts at this, and we’re here to help.

5 Sketchy SEO Tactics

google_analytics logoAs a small business owner, you have many things to keep track of. What visitors are doing on your website may be on that list, but if it’s not, it’s time to start thinking about it. For most small businesses, their website might be the primary source of leads or a point of sale. For others it is an invaluable marketing tool. In any case, your website is there to bring you more business.

Tracking or “analytics” is how you know your website is either working to make you money or costing you money. Tracking the visitors to your site can yield valuable insights as to who is visiting, how they found you and what they are doing. With this information, you can find ways to gain more traffic, improve sales with the traffic, find holes or conversion roadblocks on the site along with many other insights.

Awhile back we at Sanctuary wrote a blog post 9 Great Google Analytics Features. Since then Google has provided even more new features and reports that can help you easily measure the success of your website. Here are a few of those updates.

Benchmarking

Benchmarking ReportThis Google Analytics feature provides a true measuring stick of how you stack up against the competition within your industry. Google uses hundreds to thousands of other sites within your industry category to create Benchmark numbers or averages. You can then compare how your site is performing in terms of acquisition and behavior metrics compared to the rest of your specific industry. Additional filters include by location, size of a site by daily sessions, channel grouping, and by a device. This report can show you where you are doing well and where you need to up your game to breeze by the competition.

Demographics & Interests Reporting

This relatively new feature uses third-party cookies to define your users. This will help you better gain an understanding of who makes up your audience in terms of age, gender, and categories of interests. Through additional segmentation, you can identify what content was successful for certain demographics or what demographics had the highest value in terms of conversions. As a business, you can then relate and market to your specific audience. Demographics & Interests Reports

Visitor Loyalty Reporting

The Count of Sessions and Days Since Last Session reports allow to you to understand better who your loyal visitors are.
Count of Sessions answers the question: How many visitors are just passing by and how many visitors come back consistently? Days Since Last Session is often referred to as “visitor orbit” and shows the loyalty of visitors based on the time since they last visited the site. By digging deeper, we can drill down to find out what brought these loyal visitors back to the site consistently and also what methods did not work for the other visitors.

Segmenting by Users

Google recently expanded their segmentation feature to allow analysts to define segments on a User basis. Previously you could only view data of visitors in terms of what they did by session. Now you can look at how specific users engaged across multiple sessions. This is another way to see how your loyal visitors are engaging across your site. If you have conversions or eCommerce tracking set-up, you can also see how visitors engaged on previous sessions before converting. What led them to convert? What channels or content reeled them in to eventually convert?

Multi-Channel Conversion Tracking

This report is an expansion of the previous feature we referenced. The Multi-Channel Conversion Tracking Report allows you to easily view the top paths visitors took on their way to conversion. Perhaps a visitor originally came to your site via a search engine, left the site, and then came back the next day via a post on Social Media. On that second visit, they then converted for one of the goals you set up in Google Analytics.

Previous data only credited the Social Media visit with the conversion. Now we can see that the true acquisition of the valued visitor came from Organic Search.
This gives us a different level of data when looking at how valued, converting visitors behaved on the site. What sources were best at bringing these visitors to the site originally? What channels brought them back before conversion? This shows more of the complete picture.

 

Google Analytics and Small Business Owners

Knowing a little bit about Google Analytics can help you make good business decisions, but let’s be honest, not every business owner has the time to spend digging through the data. We can help. Sanctuary Marketing Group, located in North Canton, Ohio can help guide you through the information and identify growth opportunities. Our goal is to equip business owners with the information they need to make smart business decisions. Give us a call 330-266-1188 or use our contact form and maximize the information your website is gathering.

Getting the Most out of Google Analytics
Local Mobile Search

You already have a mobile friendly site? Better be sure of that! On April 21, 2015 Google’s mobile ranking factors will kick in. Those who do not have a mobile friendly site will begin to see a “significant impact” in their search results, according to Google. This roll out will happen over the course of a week and will be a “Yes/No” on whether your site is mobile-friendly or not, there are no degrees of mobile-friendliness in this algorithm.

Mobile Usability
Our Mobile Planet: Understanding the Mobile Customer

Mobile is something we all should have been paying attention to anyway. According to a survey sponsored by Google and Ipsos MediaCT, smartphones have become an indispensable part of our daily lives. Smartphone penetration has risen to 56% of the population, and Smartphone owners are becoming increasingly reliant on their devices. In 2013, it was reported that 67% of smartphone users accessed the internet everyday on their phone and most never leave home without it. These number have undoubtedly risen.

Google is now stepping up the game with this update by ‘requiring’ businesses to have a mobile friendly website to be found in mobile search results. And it makes sense: Google wants to deliver results that their users can be happy using. As a business, you should have the same goal! Make your site easy for people use, and they will use it. To be clear, this will mostly likely only affect non-branded searches done through Google on your browser or the Google App. Those searching for branded terms will likely not see any changes in the results.

Local Mobile SearchOur smartphones allow us to research anything, anywhere. The moment an idea crosses our mind we can pull out our phone and begin the process of getting “more input.” Statics tells us that 94% of smartphone users have looked for local information on their device, and 57% of these users do it once a week, with a whopping 25% doing it every day. Being optimized for local search is a key part of being found.

So how do you make sure you’re ready for April 21st?

Usually updates come up with little or no notice, but Google said it wanted sites to prepare; so, you have some time to make your website mobile-friendly which is a big benefit for business owners. Assuming you have a mobile site already some of the usability issues can be quickly fixed to comply with what Google is looking for. We do offer web design services that can quickly identify any issues, and affordably provide you with a solution. If you don’t have a mobile site at all, we can help with that too.

Identify Mobile Usability Issues

Mobile Friendly LabelKnowing if your site is mobile friendly or not can be done by simply doing a search for your site on your smartphone. Since late last year, Google has been using a ‘mobile friendly’ label on sites which it has identified as being such. If the site does not have this label, then that means it has not passed the test, and there’s a strong possibility it will be affected by the update.

Identifying the issues that are keeping the site from being mobile friendly can be done quickly with a few tools Google provides. Each one of these tools offers varying features and should be used in tandem to assess current issues with usability. Google Webmaster tools will give you the specific items Google is looking for and alert you if the site is not in compliance. It’s also important to understand the potential impact on traffic, which is why I suggest looking at current mobile traffic. Understanding how these mobile visitors are getting to the site and what they do while they are on it will help in making decisions on improving the usability. Identifying landing pages, exit pages, and other metrics will provide information on hurdles users faces and potential areas of improvement.

  • Site validation: Validate your site with Google’s mobile friendly test tool. It’s important that all the elements of your site are crawlable.
  • Current user behavior: Google Analytics provides a wealth of information on mobile users. Identify how they enter your site, where they land, what they do and where they convert. This information will help you understand any hurdles they are facing.
  • Search appearance: Google Webmaster tools will show you what queries your pages are showing up for, what position they hold and which search results these users click. There are features with GWT that will alert you if Google finds usability issues and provide some guidance on the what to fix.

As with most Google updates there tends to be a “freak out” moment where we wonder if we’re going to make the cut. Remember this one simple rule, one that I live by, Don’t optimize for Google! Optimize for the user. If your site is built with user experience at the forefront, then you have nothing to fear. My colleague Jackie Baker has written extensively about The Best SEO Strategy is Always About Your Customers (Not Google).

Sanctuary Marketing Group is ready to assist businesses to make sure they don’t lose rankings and quality traffic on mobile searches after the change is made. Contact us at for a free consultation.

Google Mobile Friendly Update
faking-locations-google
Image credit and tutorials here. Pretty kick ass image, No? http://tinyurl.com/cx8kys

You may be tempted to try and setup multiple fake offices around town or in your region — maybe even in other cities so you can have a presence there. It makes sense. If you can get an actual address and phone number then you can do almost anything — including setting up and optimizing multiple Google+ pages for your business.

There was a detailed discussion of this practice in NYC when I attended GetListed Local U. The guy from Google was there and they obviously frowned on this practice. From their perspective you should be able to call a local number for a local business and drive there to get service. If not it’s going to be bad for you

Here’s the big issue that you should be concerned about. Google has minions overseas that randomly verify businesses. They’ll call the number listed and if they can’t speak to a real person, they can’t get directions to that address or that they somehow find out that the business is not actually located there, they will instantly zap you from the listings and your listing for that location will burn in Google hell for all eternity. It’s happened to people like lawyers and doctors that try to setup multiple “offices” but route the phone number listed to the real central office. If the minion calls and asks for directions to the location and they give directions to another office it will be bad for you. (more…)

Setting up multiple fake offices to get Google listings – Hades Awaits my friend

Google-Plus-local-logoEverybody knows that Google is the 500 pound gorilla of online search. If you want to be found, make sure you’re found here. But Google is a complicated animal these days and there’s different levels of visibility if you’re a local business. Sometimes the little things count.

Many of these little things originate with your Google+ local business page and how well it’s optimized. WHY you rank on Google depends on many factors that I’ve discussed previously. The subject of this post is WHERE you might show up on the page. It’s not as simple as you might think. Below I’ll show you how an optimized Google+ page can give you that little extra push that will make you stand out from the crowd.

The examples below show one of our local clients Jennings Heating and Cooling (a great furnace and air conditioning company by the way). You’ll notice that Google displays results in different ways. Why they do this for some searches and not others is quite a mystery but it’s important to understand. (more…)

Ways that a local business can benefit from an optimized Google+ page

keyword researchKeyword research is essential but I’m often challenged by the fact that it’s hard to get good local information for a local key-phrase using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. Maybe someday they’ll get better at showing us the valuable nuggets of information hidden in the dark niches of their servers. But for now we have to live with what we have.

So what are our options for local keyword research?

We’ll, if you get lucky you’ll actually get some results using the Google Adwords Tool. But the results will be hit or miss unless you live in a large metro area.

As I mentioned previously, Google actually does provide you with a decent tool to study trends with their Google Insights For Search Tool. This is a great option to study industry and local trends and see how different terms compare.

But what’s great about this tool is that it does actually show you the relative keyword volume for terms that are fairly niche queries in smaller cities.

For example, I live close to Canton Ohio, a small city about an hour south of Cleveland. Therefore, I might be working with a local bakery that wants to rank locally for what they do. Everyone loves baked goods but how many people REALLY search online for a local bakery in Canton? (more…)

Keyword Research for a Local Business

I’m taking a little detour from local search marketing to discuss and recommend a solution for project management and CRM software.

crm-softwareThe Problem

I’ve used project management software for many years now and recently developed my own system that made sense to me. But recently I’ve realized that there are major things missing and that I needed to look around for a robust system that allowed me to do what I do best (internet marketing) and let others build and maintain the software that I use to manage my business.

The problem is that I have a long list of requirements. What I really need is one online system where I can manage my staff’s tasks and time tracking, view and understand their workload, easily manage my projects and tasks, my sales leads and collaborate and organize and store all of my company’s procedural documents. I know there is stuff out there that does all this but the devil is in the details. Let me be a little more specific. (more…)

Online Project Management and CRM Software System Review

Sometimes I step back and breathe a sigh of relief about what I do for a living. It really does seem that the future is bright. Barely a day goes by that I don’t hear about how having a website is essential for every business or that internet marketing spending is growing in leaps and bounds. Everything from social media to seo and mobile to conversion are all things that people are talking about and doing more of.

Checkout the TopRank Blog for many resources related to the future predictions of our industry.

Also, here are a few quick highlights from the recent Hubspot blog post 33 stats that paint a picture of the future of marketing.

  • 84% of B2B marketers use social media in some form.
  • Currently, marketers allocate 7.6% of their budgets to social media. CMOs expect that number to reach 18.8% in the next five years. (more…)
The future of internet marketing

Google-Local-Optimization-300x220In a video and comments regarding local search rankings, Jeremy Sussman of Google Maps described Google’s local algorithm as having three main parts: location, relevance, and prominence. The information contained within your Google+ Local Business listings data is a major piece of how Google determines these three factors and ultimately who shows up first in the local listings.

Google+ is one of the best ways to improve your local search rankings so we’ll focus on some specific tips and recommendations for this first. But it’s not the only site or tactic that you should be concerned about. We’ll discuss my additional recommendations in part 2 (coming 8/31/12) that go beyond Google+ and it’s mapping products. (more…)

20 ways to take your local search rankings to the next level (Part 1)

Research is an important part of effective local optimization. At the base level you need to know if it’s worth your time and effort to even attack a niche and if you’ll ultimately survive as a business. Getting that data is sometimes hard for small, local businesses due to the lack of data at the micro level. But here’s one good strategy to gauge the demand for your services locally.

Google Insights is a valuable tool to study search trends. If you live in Canton Ohio like I do, getting data about your niche or industry is going to be difficult. But by using Google Insights for Search you can checkout the trends for larger cities in your region or even trends in large metro areas in New York City to get a good idea if you’re industry is on the rise or on the decline. You might even find out that searches are increasing in one region but not another.

For example, I’m working with a local furniture store. It’s hard to get data for furniture shopping in their area. It’s one store, in one city in Ohio.

But can we learn more about furniture shopping in Ohio or the country in general?

Searches for furniture stores New York: (Ouch!)

(more…)

How to check what search terms are being used by potential local clients

The world of social media can be daunting for a small business owner. Even the mention of the term probably makes your brow furrow at times, right? So who needs ANOTHER social media site to deal with? Well, stick with me on this because this is not just another “how to succeed with social media” post.

Have you heard of Google+? If you haven’t please let me tell you why you should drop what you’re doing now and learn more. Here are some top level stats:

  • Google+ Local Business PageGoogle+ now has over 26 million users and growing daily.
  • Google+ has grown by 821% from the week ending on July 2
  • As of July 16, 2012 Google+ is the 638th most-visited site on the web.

Maybe you’re still saying “who cares”? It’s just one more thing to deal with. Well, let me give you a few reasons why you should care and why you should take an hour out of your day to claim and optimize your personal and Google+ Local Business Page. (more…)

5 Reasons why you need a Google+ Local Business Page