Posts

STEP FIVE to SEO: Local SEO

Have I built and fixed online citations for my business?

We’re reaching into the SEO arsenal and pulling out another tool for digital marketing success: Online business citations.

Don’t worry––no injection required.

The number one reason why online citations are so important––let me repeat––SO IMPORTANT is a secret we’re going to let you in on in this blog.

And the gooey little nugget of truth comes from SEO master Rand Fishkin, so we know it’s going to be good.

But first––

Let’s be clear––the tools defined here and in the previous four steps to SEO success do not exist independently of each other. Nor are they take-it-or-leave-it strategies that can be actioned once and then expected to care for themselves.

Think of each of these strategies as two-year-old children–they require constant parental guidance and commitment if they are to grow into human beings other people will want to be around.

These steps form the foundation of SEO success. Miss a step and you’ll trip yourself up. You want a solid stairway to SEO heaven and it requires a certain amount of devotion––and faith––to the practice.

So, let’s start with the basics of Step Five to SEO Success.

What are Citations?

An online citation is a reference to a company’s contact details and other core data found on business directories, websites and apps, and social media platforms. They are either structured or unstructured.

Unstructured citations are mentions of a business in a blog or other online publication.

Structured citations are listings on local business data platforms, such as Google My Business (GMB) and geo/industry-specific platforms, like chamber of commerce or professional association websites.

Structured citations are the ones we’re most concerned with because, as the name suggests, structuring them appropriately will boost our rankings and establish validity and trust with potential customers.

MOZ outlines four core business data platforms: Google My Business, Acxiom, Neustar/Localeze, and Infogroup.

These are the ones you want to use when building citations, which is why we included the links––so you can get down to business right after you finish reading this (and keep reading because we included six crucial ingredients for building your online citations).

Then go hand-pick your industry-specific platforms.

But the big question is––

Why should I build online citations for my business?

Good question. Rand Fishkin breaks it down for us here:

Photo Credit: Moz.

Online citations help potential customers find you or your client’s business online, particularly through the use of third-party directories.

They also achieve links and although most of them are no-follow, they validate the association of your website with your NAP (name-address-phone number) listing.

Experts agree that NAP consistency between the business website and that referenced in citations and GMB (if built correctly), can have a significant impact on local search rankings and influence localized organic rankings.

And there’s more.

Most people think online citations are about helping customers find your site.

While that’s true, you wouldn’t be reading this blog if it were the only reason. Unintended benefits often trump the original purpose of an action plan.

What’s the purpose of customers finding your site if they’re not going to visit it? You need to enhance your online citation image before people even get to your page so that they want to get to your page instead of your competitor’s.

The primary reason online citations are so important is not just that they help validate your business out there in cyberspace, but they also––

ESTABLISH TRUST

Think of it like this––

When you’re reading an online article about the use of steroid injections for sports injuries, you’re not just going to take that information at face value. You’re going to scan the article for references that validate certain information. These citations will show as links to other sites, or at the least, include the bibliographic reference, which we can consult to verify data. This helps to establish trust.

In addition to having an influence on ranking, Rand Fishkin tells us that online citations are also useful for signalling trustworthiness. This is a particular benefit for online-only businesses because Google effectively tells people that yours a legit business and your site is a real site, not spam.

Six Tips for Building Online Citations

Determine which platforms are most useful for your business. In addition to those mentioned earlier (see links), Facebook, Yelp, and IYP (Internet Yellow Pages) are also big league. Then go pick platforms specific to your industry and geography.

Ensure your citations are accurate and consistent. Mistakes or inaccuracy can hurt your reputation and lead to lost revenue. According to marketing expert James Watts, NAP consistency on major citation sites is a critical ranking factor on par with reviews and backlinks. Further, NAP consistency is one of the most critical factors in making it into Google’s coveted 3-pack/local finder (yes, 3-pack is the new 7-pack as of August 2018).

Use an automated solution like Moz Local for getting your business info into various forms to save yourself time. Such tools prevent you from feeling like you’d rather pluck each of your nose hairs out, one by one.

See Google’s guidelines for representing your business online. To get started, first claim and verify your GMB listing.

Choose the right categories in GMB and when selecting industry-specific platforms. See Moz for how to choose local business categories and HubSpot for 57 Online Local Business Directories.

Use a local area code and address. While GMB allows toll-free numbers, a few directories don’t, and GMB recommends using a local phone number. Allow your address to appear, even if you’re a service-area business operating remotely or out of your home. This makes your listing more complete, and therefore, verifiable. It also helps to establish your business as locally-focused––a main pillar in local search success. The chances of anyone showing up at your home are slim (and––a recent development––specific address and phone number don’t show in the SERPs anymore, only in the actual listing).

That’s Not All, Folks…

You know you should check your sources before making any decision––when there is a monstrous needle involved but most especially concerning which listing to click. After all, we’d hate to give the wrong impressions…

Help your customers to not only make the right decision but avoid making the wrong one. Get visitors to your site and increase your conversions by putting forth the effort required to build and maintain accurate and comprehensive online citations.

The results will be well worth your time, and you’ll avoid stabbing yourself in the ass.

Then, review steps 1-4 to ensure they haven’t fallen by the wayside.

Remember––SEO is a staircase of strategies; each step gets you closer to the top of the SERP.

Logging out,

Logical Mix

 

Step FOUR to SEO: On-Page SEO

Am I using Step 1’s insights for page targeting & structuring?

If you did your homework, you would have made some discoveries about how to rank for keywords.

If you haven’t already checked it out, see Step One to SEO Success: Keyword Research to find out how to get started on this critical stage.

If you’ve done your research, let’s take a look at what you’ve discovered.

Two of your major findings would have been:

  • How people are searching for your product or service offering and,
  • How your offering aligns with their queries.

Using as many tools as possible, you compiled a list of long-tail keywords. You ranked them by relevance and difficulty and then chose the ones that are most relevant and least competitive.

Right?

Great, what were they?

If you used a Venn diagram to display the results of a simple keyword investigation in the health supplements niche, it might have looked like this:

Now, what do we do with this? Let’s get to the nitty gritty…

What is On-Page SEO?

On-page SEO is essentially structuring individual web pages around target keywords with the goal of creating more traffic and achieving a higher rank.

It’s also about responding to the people who come to your page looking for answers.

One of the most obvious ways to hit on all these points is through content so let’s start there.

You could start structuring content around the keyword “gluten-free supplements for weight loss” because it is both relevant and low competition. This is a perfect jumping off point for a review of competitors’ brands (if there are any), or an article about how gluten-free supplements are hard to come by (until they stumbled across your brand of course), etc., etc.

Let’s hope you don’t just plop this juicy keyword into existing content about the benefits of supplements.

Of course you wouldn’t because you know as well as we do that it is better to start at the beginning.

Like a plant has a seed, a keyword is the crux of great content, which is still one of the top ranking factors. It’s easy to sniff out in the opening paragraph when keywords have been stuffed or simply dropped into existing content. Readers will quickly realize that your page is not going to deliver what they came looking for.

Irrelevancy makes you unreliable, and when you’re unreliable, people aren’t going to ask you for help and Google will note that and respond accordingly.

Don’t be that guy.

Make yourself trustworthy and deliver fresh new content that answers your users’ questions.

Now, let’s take a closer look at why content is king in SEO success and how to masterfully craft content around the keywords you want to rank for.

Enter RankBrain.

RankBrain is a machine-learning component of Google’s algorithm that measures dwell time (how long users are spending on your page) and click through rate (CTR), which is the total clicks divided by total impressions (read more about Google Analytics here JOEL – PLEASE ADD A LINK TO STEP 3 BLOG ONCE IT’S PUBLISHED). RankBrain then moves your page up or down the SERP depending on those two factors.

3 Techniques for Improving Rank

There are three key ways to win at RankBrain. First, optimize your titles and meta descriptions for better CTR. Second, rank for highly relevant keywords. Third, write quality content.

Sounds easy, right? They are, and they’re also dangerously easy to overlook. Each point carries some pretty heavy weight when it comes to on-page SEO so ensure you are focusing your efforts on all three.

 

  1. Optimize titles.

The first point is so important. Time and effort are wasted on creating great content out of awesome keyword research if there is nothing to attract users to your page. A gripping title and simple, to-the-point meta descriptions are necessary. Like the department store Macy’s revolutionized the storefront window, the title and meta description can lead users right to your page, wanting more of what your virtual window promises.

 

  1. Target relevant keywords and the people using them.

Let’s highlight the second point. You can write as much content as you want but if it’s not relevant to your offering, people are going to bounce.

The word people is strategic here. We talk a lot about the user, which makes me picture a hand on a mouse, or the reader, which makes me picture a book. But when I read the word people, I imagine a face, which directs my efforts to a person with a brain and the ability to subjectively decide what he or she is going to read and why. It makes my work more personal.

Okay, maybe not that face exactly. This one is a little closer to human (and looks a little like my grandma):

This point is, I’m not directing my efforts to the Google Machine, I’m addressing the needs of the people who ultimately determine what Google does with me. Right? This is a critical mind shift with which to lead.

 

  1. Create quality content.

High-quality content is one of the top ranking factors. But quality is a bit of an ambiguous, static term, isn’t it? Let’s go with engaging instead; it’s a bit more active.

Content that engages draws the reader in right away with a hook phrase that is both relevant and interesting. It keeps the reader wanting more by providing useful bits of information that are easy to absorb and answer the readers’ questions directly. It often tells a story to which the reader can relate. It also leads the reader to helpful resources that explore their query further.

Now, great content needs a bit of decoration. Something that yells out READ ME. Because let’s be honest, no one has time to fart around looking for the juiciest tidbit of meat.

When I land on a page, the first thing I do is cut the fat. I quickly scroll through the content to see if anything jumps out. What do I notice?

Three things, mainly: Images/videos, length, and headers.

We love images. They’re the eye candy that break up the text.

Length is often a good sign that a chunky chunk of content is going to feed me what I’m looking for.

Headers offer a place to start if I’m looking to pinpoint specific information. If the headers aren’t relevant to what I’m looking for (i.e., they don’t match my keyword query) then bouncy-bounce I go back to SERP and right into RankBrain’s time-out chair.

Rand Fishkin outlines seven elements of an optimized webpage. They are less quantitative than the SEO methods of yesteryear that called for specific keyword placement so they may seem a little loosey-goosey. But they’re not.

Qualitative strategies take center stage as the algorithms that assess relevance increase in complexity.

So, what makes a page brilliantly optimized according to Fishkin and Logical Mix?

  1. Offers uniquely valuable content and images
  2. Provides excellent user experience
  3. Targets specific keywords
  4. Easily shared through social networks
  5. Optimized for every device
  6. Accessible to crawlers
  7. Includes authorship, rich snippets, metadata, and schema

Fishkin created this genius, though mythical, perfectly optimized page, highlighting his seven factors, mentioned earlier:

Pretty cool, right? I’d love to land on more web pages like this: perfectly structured to answer my question and oh so pretty.

So there you have it. On-page SEO is actually a bit fun. Maybe not as fun as the keyword research it took to get here, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.

What is the main takeaway?

Remember, you’re doing this for a living, breathing human being (or several thousand if you’re doing it right). Not a doll, not an ape (though possibly some monkey brains). Google is a machine, and although we want to please the machine, we’re still the ones ultimately in control… for now.

Appeal to your customer and find out how you can deliver what they want through super-duper on-page SEO.

When you’re structuring your pages, always keep this in mind:

People have questions. Be that place where the answers are.

Logging Out,

Logical Mix

 

Birthday cake with 6 candle

6 Years In The 6

Today is the 6 year anniversary of Logical Mix.

It has been an awesome ride. Helping small to mid sized businesses grow their online presence has been one of the most rewarding things our company has offered the world. We pride ourselves on customer service and reliability, and that is what has kept us alive and well. Spending our clients money like it’s our own is our secret to success.

The online marketing world is an ever-changing one. We are constantly reading, listening, educating and going to conferences to learn about the digital world. We pass this knowledge on to our existing and new customers. We don’t focus as much as we should on our brand, because we are so focused on your brand. If your brand grows… Logical Mix grows.

SEO marketing in Toronto has been our bread and butter, but we do whatever it takes to get companies the exposure they deserve online. Whether it is web design, getting on local listings or directories, pay-per-click or social media…search engine marketing is what we do! (We stated that six years ago).

6 years in the 6 just sounded like the right title for this article.

This adventure has been incredible. We owe everyone we have had the opportunity to work with everything.

Thank you Toronto and the GTA (and Vancouver, USA, England, Thailand and China), for allowing us to work and build your economies.

Logging Out,

Logical Mix