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Search Engine Optimization

Wooden figures representing audience targeting

You have the option to now combine audience targeting to create special audiences for your search targeting efforts in Google Ads. You can layer in elements such as demographics, in-market, affinity and other targeting options. Requiring that users be included in a set of demographics, affinity or intent, and searching for your chosen keywords allows you to really hone in on a specific audience.

Changing the Way You Set Up Campaigns

This may change the way you’d like to set up your campaigns if there is a targeted audience that you would speak differently to or even use different keywords for. Since you’re able to target them so well with this combined audience, you may be able to use more general key phrases that you otherwise would not use.

You can also choose to set up these combined audiences and set it to Observation instead of Targeting to get data on how that audience performs without strictly targeting only that audience. You can test this audience matching without limiting your reach to just those specific audiences this way.

Set Up New Combined Audiences

To set this up, you would need to go to the Audience section within the search campaign you’d like to use. Under Browse, you would select to add a New Combined Audience. You can choose your ideal audience, allowing your search campaign to narrow in on who your ads will be shown to. Google Ads makes this easy to use with their audience builder. For example, maybe you’d like to target the following: Homeowners, Home Decor Enthusiasts affinity market, and in-market for Home Furnishings.

Google will show you information regarding estimated audience size as you build your custom audience. These combined audiences must have at least 1,000 members in order to be used in your campaign. To use this, you should know your audience well and use resources such as Audience Insights in your Google Ads account.

Get Help Targeting the Right Audiences

If combined audience targeting is a little too much to tackle right now, the Sanctuary team would be happy to figure out how we can help maximize your Google Ads. Contact us today to talk more about audience targeting!

Combined Audiences for Search Targeting in Google Ads
Question marks on sticky notes representing frequently asked questions

In the past, FAQ pages have been treated like a non-important essential—if that even makes sense. You know you should have an FAQ page (everyone does, right?), but you haven’t really put much time into making it something beyond a list of questions and answers.

Now that Google is displaying Featured Snippets at the very top of search results, and voice search is gaining in popularity, your FAQ page is key to higher visibility. If you’re trying to think back to the last time you’ve touched your FAQ page and can’t remember, don’t worry! There are steps you can take to optimize the page and help it rank higher in search.

Why Does My FAQ Page Matter?

Featured Snippets, which show up in what is being deemed as Google’s “position zero”, are selected search results that appear at the top of organic results and are aimed at directly answering a user’s question. Google searches content on the internet to find the article that best answers the question, and then displays a snippet from that article. These featured snippets are seen by users as the “ultimate” answer to their question.

Whether performing a traditional text search or a more on-the-go voice search, featured snippets are what pop up first in response to a user asking a question.

It would probably be beneficial to have your content show up in that prime spot, right? Absolutely. And the easiest place to start optimizing your content for featured snippets is the place where all your frequently asked questions are housed—your FAQ page!

How Can I Optimize My FAQ Page?

If you’re looking at your FAQ page and wondering what more you can do to make it effective, it’s helpful to run through an initial audit of the page. Touch on the following points in your audit:

  • Location - Is your FAQ page easy to locate? Or is it tucked down in the footer where no one will likely see it?
  • Relevance - Is your content outdated? When is the last time you’ve refreshed the answers on this page? It’s important to make sure your information is accurate before trying to improve it.
  • Media - An FAQ page that is straight text is not only boring, but probably not all that effective at answering questions. Consider adding in images and video where applicable to make your information even more clear and easy to understand.
  • Content - Beyond answering simple questions about your hours or location, be sure to include highly valuable information on your products or services that will gain traction in search results. Dive deeper into topics that your current and potential customers may think about during the buying process.
  • Design - Do you have to scroll on and on to get to the end of your FAQ page? Consider making the design of your page a little more user-friendly by adding in pagination, a sorting feature, or even just creating separate pages to link out to for more information.
  • Cross-Linking - In addition to creating a new page for each question and linking out to the answer, it’s also a good idea to cross-link to other pages on your website to increase traffic to those pages and provide the user with more information. If your information gets picked up for a featured snippet, this will help gain traffic to other pages on your site in addition to your FAQ page.
  • FAQPage Structured Data - You can add schema markup to any content that represents a question and its answer for a better chance of having a rich result displayed in search results. The great thing about the schema markup is that it can be used for content anywhere on your site where you have a question and answer, not just on your FAQ page.

Start Connecting Users with Better Answers to Their Questions

Once you’ve run through an initial audit to see how you can improve your FAQ page, start chipping away at the changes. If you’re not sure where to start or need help making some of the changes, reach out to us to see how we can help!

It’s Time to Dust Off That Old FAQ Page for a Shot at Position Zero
Web push notifications

When a notification pops up on your phone or computer, it’s pretty hard to ignore, right? That’s the whole idea behind push notifications, and the reason why they’re becoming more prevalent. Push notifications are something you will see more brands adopting in 2020 as they find ways to engage with customers on a variety of channels.

Push notifications can be viewed across several devices including desktop, mobile and tablet—meaning more ways to reach users. They can be delivered as long as the user has consented to receiving them and if they have their internet browser open. They also work on some mobile browsers like Chrome and Firefox.

Why are Push Notifications Important?

  • Sign-up rate is higher.
    Twice as many people will sign up to receive push notifications compared to receiving a newsletter. Only 10% of the top email marketers achieve a sign-up rate that matches web push notifications.
  • People see push notifications quicker.
    The average time that passes for when a person will open a newsletter is 6.4 hours compared to someone opening a push notification immediately or within the hour of receiving it.
  • Click Rate is higher for push notifications than email.
    Businesses using push notifications report a 7 times higher click rate.

Different Types of Push Notification Campaigns

  • Promotional - Promote a product, service or event. Unlike an email that can get buried, a push notification is a bit more of an active approach to spreading news and inciting urgency.
  • Transactional - These campaigns are triggered after a person completes a transaction on your website. They would go into a campaign based on the transaction completed. For example, if the customer recently completed a purchase, you could send them tracking information on receiving their purchase.
  • Alerts - These alerts should entice the user to take an action. For example, maybe a sale is ending soon and the message notifies the user of the last chance to participate in the sale. This helps create a sense of urgency for the user.

Best Practices for Using Push Notifications

  • Personalizing messages is important. Personalized push notifications increase open rate by 4% and 54% of users will convert if they receive a personalized push notification, compared to a broadcast message to a larger audience.
  • Timing matters. Send notifications based on a customer’s local time zone. If sent at the wrong time, a customer may view your message as intrusive and they may unsubscribe.
  • Create short and clear content. The basic messaging to include in a notification is a Push Title, Push Description, Website Icon, Notification Image and Call To Action.
  • Target messaging to segmented audiences. The user experience will be enhanced by sending them messages that provide them with value and also increase click rate.
  • Call To Action should be easy to understand. After the user has read your messaging, the Call To Action should guide them on what you want them to do next.
  • Where you are landing the user after clicking the Call To Action is very important. The landing page should be relevant to the push notification because the user cannot go back and re-check the notification after they have clicked on it. If there is important messaging on the push notification (example: discount code), make sure the discount code is also on the landing page.
  • Limit the number of messages sent per day. You should not be sending more than one push notification per day. Sending more than that decreases click rate and can increase your opt-out rate.

Integrate Push Notifications Into Your Digital Marketing Plan

Overall, push notifications are a great tool to explore and see if it makes sense to integrate them into your digital marketing plan. They offer a lot of benefits when done right, and ultimately can lead to increased customer retention and conversion. Contact us today to see if push notifications will help you reach your goals!

Sources: Single Grain, e-goi, PushEngage

Push Notifications: What are They and Why are They Important?
Person searching internet on mobile phone

Why Does Google Think Lead Form Extensions are Effective for Businesses?

  • Convenience: Users can complete the lead form directly from the search results instead of navigating to a mobile site.
  • Relevance: You’re reaching customers right at the moment when they are searching for your offered products or services.
  • Seamlessness: The form can pre-populate with user information.

Google points out that in just two clicks and three seconds, you can engage with a quality, high-intent audience.

Where Do Lead Form Extensions Show Up?

The Lead Form Extensions will only show on mobile and tablet devices since they are more focused on providing ease and convenience to users on the go.

We have found that only a limited number of accounts are eligible to show these, but Google is expected to roll out the ad extensions to all accounts in the near future. If you’re interested and wondering if your account is eligible, we can check for you!

Options with Lead Form Extensions

There is a lot of personalization with these extensions. You can choose a call to action, headline, description, background image, information you’d like to request and a submission message.

There is also an optional webhook integration, which is an API that enables you to send leads to your CRM. You would need to add a webhook URL and key and may possibly need to configure something within your CRM. This part is purely optional. If you don’t do this, just make sure to download your leads often as a CSV file, as Google will only keep this lead information for 30 days.

Get Lead Form Extensions Running for Your Google Ads Campaigns

To set up Lead Form Extensions, you would go through the steps to create a new extension in your desired campaigns. Of course, at Sanctuary, we’d love to help you get these extensions running in your Google Ads campaign. Contact us for more information!

Google Lead Form Extensions Show Promise for Higher Conversion Rates
Man working on laptop updating Google My Business account

Google My Business (GMB), like all other Google platforms, continues to make innovative new features to help both local and national businesses get the most out of their listings. We’ve evaluated how each of these new features will help local businesses maximize the potential of their GMB listings.

Use Attributes to Let Customers Know What You Have to Offer

Attributes let customers see what your business has to offer, such as Wi-Fi or outdoor seating, or if your business is women-led. Adding relevant, accurate attributes to your Business Profile helps you stand out to your customers that find your business on Google.

Attributes appear on your Business Profile on Google Search and Maps. Some attributes, like "Outdoor seating" or "Women-Led," can be highlighted as badges when customers find your business on mobile.

Attributes in Google My Business

Certain factual attributes (e.g. outdoor seating, women-led) are directly editable by you. Subjective attributes (e.g. whether your business is popular with locals) rely on the opinions of Google users who’ve visited your business.

Your business category determines the attributes available for your Business Profile. Here is a list of attributes that are available:

  • Accessibility
    • Wheelchair accessible elevator
    • Wheelchair accessible entrance
    • Wheelchair accessible parking lot
    • Wheelchair accessible restroom
    • Mobility scooter rental
  • Amenities
    • Gift wrapping
    • Online scheduling
    • Wifi (Free or Paid)
    • Restroom
    • Unisex restroom
    • Bar onsite
    • Good for kids
    • Restaurant
    • Baggage storage
  • Highlights
    • Veteran-Led
    • Women-Led
    • Active military discounts
    • Live performances
    • Play area
  • Offerings
    • Same-day delivery
    • Assembly service
    • Installation service
    • Repair services
    • Coat check
    • Help desk
  • Payments
    • Cash only
    • Checks
    • Credit Cards (American Express, China Union Pay, Diners Club, Discover, JCB, MasterCard, VISA)
    • Debit Cards
    • NFC mobile payments
  • Planning
    • LGBTQ friendly
    • Transgender safespace

NOTE: Your business category determines the attributes available for your Business Profile, so you may not see all of these options.

Include Links to Compel Users to Take Action

Your business listing can include links to specific actions such as online orders or reservations. These links make it easier for customers to take action directly from Google Search or Maps.

In GMB, you can add your own URLs for specific actions, including:

  • Booking an appointment
  • Placing an order
  • Reserving a table
  • Searching for items
  • Viewing your menu or list of services

In some cases, links to certain third-party booking services will appear automatically on business listings. These links cannot be edited in Google My Business.

Create a Shortname to Make Your Business Easier to Find

You can now create a short name, or a custom name, for your Business Profile to make it easier for customers to find you. Click the @ symbol in the Info section and create your own custom url.

Business shortname for Google My Business

Define Service Areas without a Physical Location

Struggling with local SEO because your business doesn’t have a physical location? The new Service Areas feature on GMB addresses that problem. Service Area Businesses can now define their service areas by region, city, or ZIP code without having a physical business address.

Define service areas in Google My Business

Showcase Your Products

The Product Editor allows merchants to showcase their products and drive consumer interactions. Consumers will see a more curated showcase of a store’s products on the Business Profile Products tab on mobile, or the Product Overview module on the computer.

The Product Editor is for small- and medium-sized individual businesses. All categories of businesses, except for a few verticals, can use the Product Editor to showcase their products to potential customers.

Showcasing products in Google My Business

You can add your products through the Products (Beta) tab in your GMB dashboard. The Product Catalog isn’t currently displayed on Google Maps.

Update Your GMB to Get the Most of Your Listing

In order for you to get the most out of your listing you have to optimize it regularly. These stats show how underutilized GMB listings are:

  • On average, under 20% of businesses are utilizing GMB Q&A.
  • 91% of questions posted to GMB business profiles have not been answered.
  • 92% of businesses are displaying their URL on their GMB profile.
  • Less than 40% of businesses are using Google Posts.
  • Over 50% of businesses haven't utilized GMB posts
  • More photos correlate to more actions on GMB, yet only 16.5% of business owners are providing photos to GMB.
  • The average rating of businesses across all categories is 4.43, with an average of 34.6 reviews.
  • Businesses are receiving new reviews at a rate of three per month, up from less than one review per month in 2015.
  • Currently, just 40% of businesses are responding to their GMB reviews.
  • Website actions on GMB account for 49% of clicks (zero-click searches).

Get Help Optimizing Your GMB Listing

If you need help updating your Google My Business listing you’ve come to the right place.

Contact our team today, and we can optimize your GMB so you get the most out of your online listing.

Are You Getting the Most of Your Google My Business Listing?
Slow site loading speed affecting web visitors

You may have already been dealing with Google’s more recent focus to improve user’s mobile experience. Mobile site speed was key to maintaining good organic search rankings for your site. Now Google is experimenting with ways to clearly indicate that a website is slow loading, no matter the device. They are examining warning badges that will display in a number of ways, including in search results and on loading screens.

image1

Image Source: Google Chromium Blog

Why Do Google’s Slow Site Speed Warnings Matter?

In today’s fast-paced world, website users don’t want to take the time to wait for a slow-loading page to appear. As if your slow site wasn’t enough of a deterrent already, Google’s new warnings will make users even more leary of waiting around for content to load. Any type of added warning or alert that shows up when someone is trying to load your webpage just reduces trust and credibility. These new warnings could cause your website traffic to drop, so it’s important to make improvements now.

Google wants to reward those who are providing a good user experience with their website. Consequently, poor sites will be punished and could even suffer a drop-off in website traffic, leading to fewer leads generated for your business.

Now’s the Time to Update Your Website

If you have a website that needs an upgrade, now is the time to do it. Google Chrome prioritizes speed and giving users an instant experience. They are also emphasizing the improvement of the user experience on Chrome in general. So, above and beyond warning indicators for slow loading sites, they will also continue to move towards long-term goals of badging sites for overall quality (which will most likely include more than site speed).

Google does provide some tools that can assist you with site evaluation and improvements, such as PageSpeed Insights and Lighthouse, a lab tool. However, this announcement has really been directed at website developers as a call-to-action and a warning. Google wants websites to be improved, and if not, they could be clearly labeled for users as poor quality.

There are a few things you can address right off the bat to help improve your website speed:

  • Minify and combine HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files
  • Upgrade your hosting
  • Reduce image sizes
  • Enable compression
  • Enable browser caching
  • Set up lazy loading
  • Reduce plugins
  • Utilize external hosting platforms for video

If you’re not sure what has been done on your site to improve speed and you’re not sure where to start, our team can put a plan in place to help.

Sanctuary Can Help Improve Your Website

Overwhelmed by the thought of website improvements? Our team can help. Let’s talk!

Sources: Social Media Today, Mobile Marketer, Google Chromium Blog

Don’t Let Slow Site Speed Warnings Deter Website Visitors
FAQPage Structured Data Alt

Schema markup provides significant opportunities to improve a website’s SEO performance by helping search engines to better understand its content.

According to Search Engine Journal, “Schema markup, found at Schema.org, is a form of microdata. Once added to a webpage, schema markup creates an enhanced description (commonly known as a rich snippet), which appears in search results. Top search engines – including Google, Yahoo, Bing, and Yandex – first started collaborating to create Schema.org, back in 2011.”

What is FAQPage Structured Data?

FAQPage structured data is a new structured data from Schema.org that makes your site’s FAQ pages eligible to feature on Google Search as rich results. It wasn’t until May of 2019 that FAQ markup was announced as a new arrival to Schema.org structured data markup by Google Webmaster Central Blog.

According to the blog, “An FAQ page provides a list of frequently asked questions and answers on a particular topic … by using FAQPage structured data, you can make your content eligible to display these questions and answers directly on Google Search and the Assistant, helping users to quickly find answers to frequently asked questions.”

Take a look at the example below:

FAQsStructuredData

Where can FAQ Schema be used?

FAQ Schema can be used on any page of your site that contains a list of questions and answers on any topic—it doesn’t have to be reserved for only dedicated FAQ pages. You can place FAQ schema within the body of any website page to indicate a “frequently asked question” is present on the page.

Why should I consider using FAQ Schema?

So, now you know what it is and where you can use it, but why should you consider it as part of your digital strategy?

  1. It allows you the opportunity to capture a large amount of real estate and vertical space in organic search listings as a featured snippet.
  2. It’s a way to use informational content to drive searchers to your product or service pages. How? Google supports links and other HTML with the FAQ answers. This means you have opportunities within your FAQ answers to link to other relevant pages on your site, furthering the opportunity for increased organic search.
  3. It sets you up as an authority on topics your primary audience is most interested in learning about.

Get started using Schema on your site today.

If you’re interested in creating valuable ongoing content and utilizing schema markup to increase the chance of that content being seen—you’re in the right place.

Contact our team today, and we’ll create a custom strategy for your business.

Google Officially Launches FAQ Schema

How Important is Google to Local Businesses?

In the digital marketing world, we focus a good portion of our efforts on getting found or showing up in Google and Google-owned networks for a good reason. In case you haven’t noticed, Google pretty much owns everything related to the internet. Of course, this is an overstatement,  but their products and related advertising tools have extensive reach and can be extremely valuable to businesses owners, particularly those in our North Canton community.

Consider Google’s Dominance  

Google’s DominanceDid you know that Google processes over 40,000 search queries every second? That works out to over 3.5 billion searches per day! You can’t afford to ignore how your business appears when people search for it – or what people are saying about you online.

Consider Google’s Economic ImpactEconomic Impact of Google

In the state of Ohio in 2015, over 34,000 businesses and non-profits benefited from using Google and it’s various advertising tools such as Adwords and Adsense. Google estimates it helped generate $2.92 billion in economic activity for Ohio alone (nationally over $165 billion). The potential economic impact is another reason why every small business should have a plan for utilizing Google.

Consider Google’s Local Rankings

Small businesses specifically have an advantage in their local markets because Google is very focused on returning results that are unique to the location where a search takes place, as well as the best possible result for the users. Google does this by considering these three factors for local results:

1. Relevance

2. Distance

3. Prominence

There is not much you can do about the distance factor in this equation. However, the Relevance and Prominence portions are areas you can influence. Every local business needs a local presence on Google, which requires a plan for providing relevant information to the search engines and for building prominence within the online community.

For many businesses, the local population, will be the most significant customer base. And even if your business reaches national or global markets, how you appear locally in Google can be an indication of your domestic or global presence.

Consider Google’s Potential Traffic  

When time, effort and budget are directed towards a businesses local search presence the results can be amazing. Consider this example of a client whGoogle Traffic o shifted their focus to providing Relevance and showing Prominence in their local search area.

After implementing a strategic optimization plan over a three-month span, their result was a 63% increase in organic traffic from Google! This increase in organic traffic allowed them to cut their PPC budget by more than $6,000 a month while maintaining continual growth in web traffic.

An additional benefit often seen is an impact on Bing and Yahoo traffic. While the user groups on these search engines are much smaller, they work in nearly the same way as Google does so your optimization efforts will carry over exposing your business to even more users.

Larry Page and Serge Brin, Google’s founders, once wrote: “Our goal is to deliver services that significantly improve the lives of as many people as possible.” Even though Google has become the giant monster that it is, their philosophy still holds true today. Capitalizing on Google’s dominance in the digital world and focusing on your local rankings can allow your business to thrive in the digital world and significantly improve your life.

If you are not sure where to start when it comes to Google or how your business appears in Google locally give us a call, leave a comment or fill out our contact form. Together we can build a strategic optimization plan and get your business showing up where it counts!

How Important is Google

content-pyramid-iconOver a decade ago we were preaching “content is king” – long before the field of content marketing was an actual thing. Sure good design, great page layout, and mobile friendly design are important. But it’s great content – and the presentation of that content – that ultimately sells your business.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking to a group of publishers at a seminar in Orlando on various digital marketing topics. One of the sessions I facilitated was an open discussion on “riding the jump to mobile” in which we discussed how mobile, especially in that particular industry, is really driving the approach to how we plan and present websites. One of the participants asked a great question; one that we hear frequently from the businesses with whom we work:

“People keep telling me that pages need to have less and less copy, especially for mobile users. Is that right?”

The answer? Sometimes – but not always!

It’s a commonly perpetuated myth that users don’t want to read; that all website pages should be short and visual with little copy. Instead, we are finding that website visitors will consistently spend a good deal of time reading long and in-depth articles if the topic interests them or meets a specific need. Long-form content, or articles over 1,000 words, are making a strong comeback – largely as a result of the mobile explosion. Users no longer prefer to click around to other pages or navigate through a series; they want to get all the information available with one click.

Not all of your website copy should be treated the same. Here’s a glimpse into how to take a strategic approach to planning your website copy.

Strategic Approach to Planning Website Content

A helpful picture for planning your website content is to think of it as a pyramid. At the top you have the least amount of information, as you go down a level it grows, and at the bottom it is most expansive.

content-pyramid-small
Download Graphic as a PDF

The key approach to remember here is that you provide bite-sized chunks on the main pages of your website – a sampling of what is available and important – and use it to entice readers further into the site. The deeper you go, the more specific detail and in-depth information you give on individual topics. And if you have plenty to say that is valuable to a customer, don’t be afraid to use as many words as are necessary to do it as you get deeper into the site.

These high quality, descriptive, detailed, deep pages are great for searchers who have specific questions and often want to learn all they can – without having to make a phone call.

Best Practices for All Website Pages

No matter the approach, poorly written or formatted copy will kill a visit no matter how few or many words it contains. Here are three best practices you need to keep in mind that apply to all the pages of your site.

Pages Should be 250 Words Minimum

When it comes to developing best practices for copy and search optimization, what Google says is generally what goes. And for good reasons: Google owns the search market, and in the vast majority of cases the largest single source of traffic to your website is Google.

Google is clear that each page of your website should have a minimum of 250 words of unique copy (so not counting header, footer, or sidebar material). If it doesn’t make that minimum, it will be held back in the search results.

Format for Readability

HTML markup such as headers and subheaders are critical for search engine optimization and for your readers. Using shorter sentences, paragraphs of alternating length, and good organization and formatting makes your content easy to scan and enjoyable to read. Make good use of:

  • An engaging page title (be descriptive and convey action)
  • Headers and subheaders
  • Bullet and/or number points for lists
  • Link to other pages on your site when you mention topics that are covered in more depth elsewhere
  • Bold sentences that convey key ideas
  • End with a specific call to action related to the page’s topic

Good formatting is key on short pages and long-form articles alike. Need an example? Follow how this post is formatted!

Write Quality

Every page of your website should be well-written, unique, and convey important information, key messaging points, benefits and differentiators, calls to action and your unique personality. Cookie-cutter or typo-ridden pages waste your time and your visitor’s time. And ultimately they drive potential customers away.

Great Copy is Strategy, Not Just Writing

Website content that converts visitors into customers requires strategy, not just well-written copy. And it certainly requires more than simply copying and pasting from a brochure or other materials.

Want to get started with a strategic plan for how you write and present your business through website content?

Contact Sanctuary Marketing Group today for a free assessment. Our team of strategists and writers will help you develop a content plan that grows your business.

Shorter Isn’t Always Better: Strategic Approaches to Mobile Copy

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

The world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Google always seem to be clouded in mystery. Even though it’s 2016 and Google has been around for 18 years, many business owners or marketing managers have no idea how it works or how to get their companies to show up on Google.

This confusion makes it easy for less-than-reputable individuals to take advantage of those who know they need to be found on the web but don’t know how to get there. These unscrupulous SEO firms throw terms around like Algorithms, Penguin, Penalties, and SERP’s – more to confuse and thus convince clients to trust them.

The end result is a company who pays a lot of money for tactics that, at best, achieve no results and, at worse, cause damages that are difficult to undo.

Evaluating an SEO Agency

Top 5 signs you might be dealing with an “SEO” Agency that doesn’t have your best interests in mind.

#5 No Clear Strategy

If an SEO has no way of articulating their strategy for increasing your visibility then chances are they don’t have one.  A strategy is their chance to explain what and why they will be doing certain things. Always ask what and why.

#4 Lack of Reporting

Reporting is a vital part of business operations. If you can’t report out on it how can you assess the ROI? Any SEO firm that doesn’t provide an account of what they’ve done and how successful or not (which is ok, failure if part of the process) it has been, is not being transparent. Lack of access to analytics (Google Analytics), conversion tracking tools, rank reports etc. are a sure sign things are not being assessed properly.

#3 Magical Results

Everyone wants to see their traffic, sales, conversions etc. grow and grow quickly. But be wary of the ‘magical’ results. Organic traffic can grow fast, but use your gut when you see extreme growth. Often these visitors turn out to be inflated or manipulated and provide no value to your company.

#2 Google Guarantee

Any SEO firm or agency that says they can guarantee an organic ranking is, well, not someone to trust. No one can. Google won’t allow it or Google would be out of business. Certain tactics have proven to be more efficient than others, but there are simply too many factors involved for anyone to declare emphatically they can guarantee rankings.

#1 Laziness

The digital world has changed a lot in the last five years. Google has made over 20 changes to how it interacts with a website in the last two years. If your SEO agency is still using tactics from 2010, they’re being lazy.

 

A mix of proven and innovative approaches always gives a company the best possible chance to succeed. A quality SEO firm will explain the tactics they are using and explain why they are important. If your agency isn’t doing that, you need to ask questions.

These are just a sampling of the things you should use to evaluate your current or prospective SEO agency. Our hope is that your agency passes the test and is providing you with a valuable service. Quality SEO makes the web a better place for everyone!

 

At Sanctuary Marketing Group we pride ourselves on having an open relationship with our clients. Our clients look at us as partners, focused on achieving results openly and ethically. If you’ve had a bad experience with an SEO or Digital Marketing agency, contact us. We are happy to listen to your needs and experience, offer advice and help you get back on track growing your business.

How to Evaluate SEO Providers & Avoid the Sketchy Ones

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