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STEP SIX TO SEO: Reviews

Do I have a strategy for gathering reviews from happy customers?

Happy customers leave great reviews.

The number-one, not-so-secret strategy for achieving high customer satisfaction––which causes them to leave positive reviews––is giving them the very best user experience possible.

Let’s assume you’re already doing that (of course you are).

We know your business is awesome. But every once in a while, someone comes along and says something negative about it. And they post it on the web for the whole world to see.

This is both a problem and an asset.

It’s a problem because of what Craig Bloem reports on Inc.com:

“Research shows that 91 percent of people regularly or occasionally read online reviews, and 84 percent trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. And they make that decision quickly: 68 percent form an opinion after reading between one and six online reviews.”

Yikes! (Of course that’s good news in the case of great reviews––which we’re going to help you get).

What people say about your brand can either promote it or destroy it––sorry to be blunt, but research shows we’re more likely to report on a bad experience than a good one. Bad stuff makes better stories, and people love telling stories.

The kicker is that quality beats out quantity when it comes to reviews. One bad review is worth about three good reviews. So even ten incredible, amazing, super-duper reviews are virtually worthless if you have three bad reviews.

This is where most business owners feel a little uneasy because of their inability to control what is said about their product or service offering. Except that’s not entirely true.

Remember I said they’re also an asset?

Reviews are a bit like press exposure: even bad press is good press. Negative reviews are free user-generated content which helps SEO efforts. You might be surprised to learn that once people are on your site, bad reviews have very little to do with how long they stay or how well they engage with your site––keep reading to discover this juicy little stat.

But of course, we don’t want to generate bad reviews just to boost our ranking.

Negative reviews are the insight that helps you improve your already awesome business to make it even more awesome and enhance the customer experience, which organically influences more reviews of the positive variety––and we like those.

You can also take key steps to direct and influence the quality of reviews and ultimately, your business’s reputation. And depending on how you deal with negative feedback, you can transform it into more sales.

The main aim of the game though is to get as many happy customers as possible leaving a review so let’s take a look at how to do that.

How Can I Get Satisfied Customers to Leave a Review?

Give them a voice and let them know you’ve heard it.

Every great business has a solid customer correspondence strategy, whether it’s the people you hire to manage customer feedback or the quality of your email newsletters.

But it’s not a one-sided conversation. You have to give your customers a voice too, so you can gather insight into how to improve and maintain the quality of your product or service.

And when they leave a positive review you want to jump on it, right?

Word.

But why is that so important?

It is a simple psychological truth called positive reinforcement. People like to be acknowledged. When their “good behaviour” is recognized, they are more likely to continue it. This encourages others who are also vying for recognition, to share their experience too (if you’re not convinced, observe a class of kindergarteners for five minutes as the teacher praises one or two students for good behaviour––it’s a teaching strategy, why not a business one?)

via GIPHY

One thing to keep in mind here is that good reviews influence other people to leave good reviews. It’s something the industry calls social proof (I call it snowballing), and it looks like this:

Determine which review websites to use and provide your customers with several options.

Type “[your industry] + reviews” into Google and see what comes up in the SERP to determine which one is best for your business. Some platforms keep reviews exclusive; others syndicate them to other sites. Check out this graphic from Phil Rozek:

Source: MOZ.

Ask your customers to leave a review and make it easy for them.

This is so obvious that many business owners overlook it. If you want something, you have to ask for it. Make sure you ask customers for a review soon after their purchase so their experience doesn’t fall from memory. It’s an act of kindness on their part (though I might argue it’s consumer responsibility), they’re not getting anything out of leaving you a review. Don’t send them through a matrix to help you out. Send them an email with a simple call to action.

But go one step further here. While a good review is great, a story is even better. So, in your invitation, ask your customer to “tell us a story about your experience”. It reads like you’re more interested in them than in getting something out of them––which, of course, you are––and they are more likely to provide more details about what they liked because you prompted them to.

Digital Alchemy: Transform negative feedback into sales

Sounds too good to be true, right? I mean, how do you turn a lump of coal into a pot of gold?

More than 65% of users will read four or more reviews before they trust a brand:

Consumer trust is one of the biggest factors in conversion rates and negative reviews make your brand more trustworthy. One online source reports that 95% of people suspect fake reviews if they don’t see any negative feedback.

Further, less than 1% of consumers will actually leave a site after reading a bad review (there’s that juicy little stat I was telling you about).

A few bad reviews peppered in amongst all the good ones give your potential customers a reason to believe the content in the good reviews––and it prolongs their engagement on your site.

But there is a critical point here––owner response to negative reviews. It is the alchemy that transforms those not-very-nice words into powerful sales pitches. This is an opportunity to demonstrate your superior customer service publicly.

Respond quickly (within 24 hours if possible).

Acknowledge the customer’s concern authentically, sympathetically, and politely.

Offer to make it right.

A few more bonus tidbits of info…

Did You Know?

  • Reviews influence your rankings in local search engines.
  • GMB (Google My Business) pages that have reviews mentioning a keyword or a city name tend to have higher rankings in Google’s local three-pack.
  • Yelp, Google, and Facebook are three major review platforms that customers can use to join an online discussion about your business.

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

 

Step THREE to SEO: Web Analytics

Have I implemented Google Analytics and Google Search Console?

Have you seen the movie Tag? It’s about five friends who’ve played a 23-year-long game of Tag.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is kind of like that: a continuous game of Tag–but inverted. You want to be IT.  

In the game of Tag, being IT means you’ve let your guard down and left yourself wide open to the competition.

In SEO, being IT means you’ve done the opposite and you’re ranking #1 because you’ve kicked some butt.

But in SEO, maintaining IT status requires continuous effort.

Luckily, there are tools that can help you, so you don’t have to run all over the place trying to stay ahead.

Google Analytics and Google Search Console are two of these tools, and they’re some of the best tools for SEO.

Why?

They give you detailed metrics about your site, which you can use to get more traffic.

More traffic = more conversions.

Sounds simple, right? It is.

And the more we know, the better equipped we are to solve the issues that are preventing us from ranking in the top spot of Google’s search results and converting users to buyers.

Contrary to popular belief (not knowledge), ignorance is not bliss–especially in the world of digital marketing!

What’s one of the most loved things about these tools?

They’re free! And there is no catch. Simply embed the proper code on your website.

Granted, not all free stuff is good. I don’t like free advice I haven’t asked for and I don’t like free hotdogs.

In fact, there is a lot of research out there that supports the notion that the more you pay for something, the more you value it.

But tools like Google Search Console and Google Analytics are the exception.

The fact that they’re free is not the best thing about either tool though.

Keep reading to find out why they’re the scaffolding of a successful SEO strategy and how they can help you discover what’s working on your site and what’s not (you might be surprised).

Before I get into what each one is, I feel compelled first to point out that both tools are extremely useful for both beginners and experts.

Also, installation and setup for both tools are fairly intuitive, so I won’t offer a step-by-step guide here. Instead, I’ll get to the meat of how these tools are a necessary part of any SEO strategy.

So, what is Google Search Console (GSC) and Google Analytics (GA)? Are they the same thing?

They appear similar, but the information they provide is different.

Google Analytics tells you about your visitors: who they are, how they’re getting to your site, where they are geographically, and how much time they’re spending on your site.

Google Search Console, on the other hand, is a suite of tools that provide information about external links and keywords.

But read it from the makers themselves:

“Google Search Console is a free service offered by Google that helps you monitor and maintain your site’s presence in Google Search results. You don’t have to sign up for Search Console for your site to be included in Google’s search results, but doing so can help you understand how Google views your site and optimize its performance in search results.”

With GSC, you can understand how you’re ranking and why, so you can focus your efforts and continue to improve. You can’t be successful in internet marketing if you’re a passive learner. Well, maybe you can be by sheer luck, but the odds are against you.

But that doesn’t mean it takes a lot of hard work either. GSC and GA are some of the best tools available because they’re easy to use, they’re comprehensive, and they’re free.

Let’s start with GSC.

How can Google Search Console help your SEO efforts?

Here’s a quick look at what you can do with this suite of tools:

  • Quickly find the overall performance of your website.
  • Manage what content gets crawled and what you don’t want appearing in search results.
  • Maintain your site with minimal disruption on the front end.
  • Resolve spam issues and malware.
  • Discover which keyword queries made you appear in search results.
  • Determine what sites are linking to your pages.
  • Manage mobile site performance.

Google Analytics provides filters to help you access valuable data about your site. The options are Clicks, Impressions, CTR (click-through rate), and Position.

Clicks counts the number of clicks that brought users to your site from the SERP.

Impressions displays how many links to your site appeared in the SERP, even if they don’t display in their field of vision (if the user didn’t scroll down to the bottom of the page). However, this only applies to the first page, so if your link appeared on the second page, it doesn’t count.

CTR is the sum of the clicks divided by the impression count (because an impression is required for a click).

Position measures the average position of the topmost result from your site.

Pretty cool, right?

Keep in mind that these metrics will change depending on whether you aggregate results by site or page.

These metrics are a good starting point from which to refine your results further. From there you can look at several more options.

Queries – lists all the keywords that brought users to your site.

Page – shows you which of your site’s pages appeared in the results.

Country – displays where the searches originated.

Device – calculates which devices and how many of them were used to search.

Search – indicates the type of search used: video, images, web, etc.

Date – allows you to choose the timeframe.

What can you do with these data?

Start with impressions. If you’re showing up in search results but not getting clicks, then you need to optimize for those specific keywords. You can do this by selecting those first four filters (clicks, impressions, CTR, and position), as well as queries. This will return a list of keywords. Go through each one, applying those first four filters again, to see how each keyword is performing in better detail.

Then grab your finest SEO tool–your brain–and go into manual mode. Search each keyword in Google to see the SERP. If you’re on page, you need to look very closely and objectively at why you’re not getting a lot of clicks.

What’s the one thing that draws you into an article, a book, or a film more than anything else?

You guessed it–the title!

The title tag and meta description are the most significant but often overlooked parts of SEO. Even little tweaks, such as changing one word, can boost your CTR. We won’t get into the nitty-gritty of them because that could (will) be an entirely separate blog. For now, ensure your title and meta tags are optimized, compelling, and specific. Look at what is also showing in the results page. How does yours compare?

Mobile keyword research is an essential part of serious SEO, and you might be surprised to learn that mobile keywords are quite different from desktop keywords. How much do you spend on your phone? For some, it’s the only device they use.

GSC can return results on which keywords are being used specifically in mobile searches, which you can then use to enhance your mobile SEO strategy.

Another impressive feature of GSC is that it gives you the ability to compare dates. A report generated by GSC only covers the previous four weeks so you can look at older dates (up to 90 days back) as well as compare dates within a specified range. This feature will assist you in examining and analyzing any changes in your position in the SERP.

How can Google Analytics increase your conversion rate?

This tool gives hundreds of different metrics, but there are a few on which you want to focus.

Discover what people are looking for in your site by finding out what they’re typing into the search field. When you know exactly what people are searching for you can provide targeted information, right? Right!

Check on-site behaviour with the behaviour flow report and see how people are navigating around your site. This gives insight into where your users are dropping off so that you can create more internal links or CTAs, and improve those pages with better content.

Using the goals function, track your conversions according to each of your marketing activities, so you know which ones are returning the best ROI.

Analyze your social media posts to determine which channels are generating the most traffic.

Determine what devices are generating more conversions. If your mobile conversation rate is low, this is an opportunity to optimize your pages for mobile.

Discover what pages are generating the most conversions so you can guide traffic to other areas of your site.

Wrapping up…

This blog is just a sample of what GA and GSC can do.

Remember, these tools are made for beginners and more experienced SEO geeks.

After an easy installation, play around with each tool and learn how to take advantage of their features to improve your user’s experience and ultimately, increase your conversions.

A final tip – like any of your SEO strategies, GSC and GA are not one-time deals. If you want to drive thousands of people to your site, you have to use these tools consistently to stay on top of your success. Like Tag, it’s a never-ending game. (We didn’t get to mention Tag Manager, even with all the puns at our fingertips)

Oh, and we love to help so,

Logging out,

Logical Mix

 

 

black and white line up

STEP TWO to SEO: Competitor Research

Have I Found Usable Insights From Top Organic Competitors?

Why should you do competitor research?

Well, SEO strategizing is like storytelling.

One guy can tell a story so well that you feel like you’re actually there. A different guy can tell the exact same story, and you feel like you lost 10 minutes of your life you’ll never get back.

One had the power to bring the story to life. The other completely missed the boat.

Similarly, some people are really good at growing traffic, increasing their following, and converting potential customers into regular users or buyers. They’re smooth sailors. They seem to have all the answers.

Others can barely keep their heads above water.

Although it may come as a surprise, successful SEO is not about having all the answers.

It’s about asking the questions you don’t even know you should ask to get the answers you didn’t know existed.

Great storytellers and successful online marketers have tactics that don’t just help them toward success. Those tactics are the very reason they succeed.

We can tell a thousand stories or write a thousand pieces of content, but if we don’t have strategies in place for targeting or engaging our audience, we end up with a pile of literary or digital vomit. Stinky words without meaning because no one is there to receive them.

So, what questions do you need to ask to develop the right strategies?

Multiple factors are at play in search engine rank. And there are skippable steps in SEO–competitor analysis isn’t one of them.

No one should begin any SEO campaign without investigating not just who they’re up against, but why they’re up against them.

To become successful in your industry or niche, you need to find out three things:

  1. Who your competitors are,
  2. What makes them successful, and
  3. How to use those insights to develop your SEO strategy.

Let’s start with #1.

Who Are Your Competitors?

Looking to your competitors is crucial for identifying usable insights you can include in your SEO campaign.

But insight tells us more than just what we should do; it also tells us what we shouldn’t do, or what isn’t worth our time or effort.

Competitor analysis isn’t a passive step. It’s also not intuitive, meaning you can’t just think you know who your competitors are or what makes them successful (or not) without doing the research. Sure, top of the head can be a good place to start. Then you have to go digging.

Now luckily, sussing out the competition overlaps with keyword research so you can double up and make a day of it. You can use keyword research (see step one in SEO success) to identify your main competitors. Take the most important keywords you want to rank for (or all of them) and see who comes up in the SERPs. If you see one domain in most of your searches, this is one of your top competitors.

Or, you can use paid tools like SEMrush. I encourage you to use every tool available, but as I mentioned in a previous post, make your brain your #1 go-to tool.

Then, like the clever little investigative mouse you are, find out what keywords your competitors are ranking for that you aren’t and add them to your keyword list(s).

Armed with your top four or five competitors, you need to evaluate each one by determining their strengths and weaknesses through the lens of your brand.

This is where questions #2 (why are they successful) and #3 (what usable insights can you gain) come in, and while you can make this a systematic linear process, it doesn’t have to be. If you’re the creative, artsy type, your research may be more dynamic.

Competitor ≠ Enemy

Now, many SEOs audit their competitors with the idea that competitors=enemies.

I totally and completely, to the power of infinity, 100% disagree.

Enemies work in opposition to us. Our competitors want the same thing we do.

Competitors are essential for helping you grow and succeed in your industry because they provide a vital point of reference. They show you what’s working and what’s not.

Why Are They Successful?

Now that you know who your competitors are, you want to find out why they’re rocking your industry and then use their insights to guide your SEO campaign.

But remember–everyone has flaws, so pay close attention to where your competitors are failing. Those gaps will be your most usable insights.

UEO: The New SEO

In addition to some cut and dry strategies, one of the first things you want to note as you visit each competitors’ site is its usability. Note when you feel frustrated, confused, or impatient and why, and then compare those irritating features to your site. If your site shares any of those attributes, change them.

Even the best SEO won’t help if your site is a pain in the ass to navigate.

Keep this in mind: SEO is more about user experience optimization (UEO) than optimizing the search engine.

As you navigate through your competitors’ sites, ask yourself these questions:

  • How quality are the images and videos used on their pages?
  • Are there links to organic content/informative pages that naturally extend the user’s journey?
  • Are their CTAs logically placed and do they lead the user to the place they said they would?

Now, let’s go digging.

The following is a non-exhaustive list of some of the more important aspects of your competitors’ sites that you’ll want to examine and analyze to determine what is worth extracting for your site – and what’s not.

Investigate link opportunities.

Link building is a major contributor to ranking. The more links that point to your site show Google that your site is trustworthy.

How many referring domains do your competitors have? This points to site popularity and strong SEO.

You can use the MOZ link explorer tool (free for 30 days) to generate a list of all the backlinks to your competitors’ sites. From there you can compare those links against yours (use a spreadsheet for this) to see where the gaps are, if any.

If you’re already ahead of your competition, this is not your current focus (but, don’t lose focus of this important aspect). If you are behind, time to step-up your link-building strategy.

What sites are linking to your competitors and not to you? Reach out to them.

Perform a keyword gap analysis.

Follow the same steps as you did to discover the gaps in competitors’ links but now focus on keywords using SEMrush or Ahrefs (both are paid tools). Although we can guess where the gaps are, this process helps us know with certainty.

Determining what keywords your competitors are ranking for that you aren’t is a starting point for creating unique content. Notice what works well for your competitors then take that a step further and make their best ideas even better.

One way to do this to type your main keywords into Quora or Answer the Public (both free) to discover what people are asking about it.

Content

Is their content well-written and does it provide valuable information that the user can’t find on a hundred other websites?

We live in a time of consumption. Anybody can claim to be an expert in anything by scouring the web for quick-digesting info and posting those regurgitated tidbits to their site. It’s the new-age style of digital research. But we end up with copycat versions of the very same thing, which ultimately, lowers the quality of the information.

Ask yourself: What content can you create that is going to set you apart from your competition?

H1s

Notice if your competitors have unique H1 tags that represent the content. H1s are a major ranking factor. While other features trend hard for a while in SEO, the significance of H1 hasn’t changed and it likely won’t.

H1s are the most obvious text on the page. Follow these quick tips for determining the quality of your competitors’ H1:

  • Is there only one on each page?
  • Is their H1 the title or does it accurately reflect what the page is about?
  • Does it include a target long-tail keyword? (this helps Google index the page appropriately)
  • Does it respond to the user’s intent?
  • Is it 20-70 characters?
  • Does it stand out on the page?

Social Media Presence

Buzzsumo is a good paid tool to find out how many people are talking about your competitors’ brand, your niche, or a specific topic identified by a target long-tail keyword. Type in your general topic and refine your search by adding or removing words. This tool will also help you determine your competitors’ social media presence, which is growing in importance in SEO.

And, spend a few minutes each day with a double-chai-matcha-ball-latte smoothie swiping through Insta to check up on your competitors from a user’s perspective.

How can I use those insights?

Hopefully you’ve gained some major insights by analyzing your competition. With these insights, you can develop tactics for improving or enhancing your SEO strategy.

Now, ask yourself:

What should I prioritize? (Where are you falling short of your competition? Or, where can you outshine your competition?)

And,

What is not worth focusing my efforts on?

Consider this last question carefully. We may think something is irrelevant (or important), but the metrics can surprise us. Unless you’re beating the pants off your competitors, you want to be as comprehensive and inclusive as possible in your SEO strategy, but you also don’t want to be barking up the wrong tree. It is an exhausting waste of energy and effort.

Inspecting rug with magnifying glass

STEP ONE to SEO: Keyword Research

Am I Matching Search Queries To My Service or Product Offering?

At its most basic, SEO is a game with Google–and a gazillion other online proprietors all vying for attention and page rank.

There are infinite, contrasting strategies for “how to do SEO”, but they all start with one thing: keyword research.

Keyword optimized content can increase traffic to your site and help your page rank higher in search engine results page (SERPs)–but you already know that.

What you really want to know is how to get more conversions.

You’ve come to the right place.

Every great enterprise starts with research.

I know, I know, who likes research, right? (Well, I do, but I swim in the nerd pool).

Keyword research isn’t hard. Some might call it exciting. But don’t take it from me. Take it from my non-nerd friend Rob who actually hates reading–a research requirement–but giggles like a small child on a merry-go-round when he nails down the right keyword to rank for.

How Is Keyword Research Done?

All research begins with a question (or two), and keyword research is no different.

Keyword research starts with identifying what your customer wants through two critical questions:

  1. How are people searching for your product or service offering?

And,

  1. How does your offering align with their queries?

To start, let’s tackle question #1.

How Are People Searching For Your Product Or Service Offering?

The number, order, and meaning of words in searches inform us of the searcher’s intention and where they are in the conversion cycle.

Matt Diggity, founder of Diggity Marketing, identifies three phases of research (in a 6-stage process) that potential customers go through when they are seeking a product or service. They are:

  1. Actively looking for a solution to their acknowledged pain (the need that your product is going to meet).
  2. Actively looking for the best solution to relieve their pain.
  3. Looking for the best place to buy the best solution.

During the first two stages, your customer is in the research phase. They’re using 1-2 keywords in their searches. These are your head or seed keywords.

Example: “yoga retreats”

In the second and third phases (they overlap), your customer is seriously considering a particular product or service. They’re using 2-3+ keywords in their searches. These are your long-tail keywords.

Example: “best yoga retreats in Bali” or “best Bali yoga retreats” or “kundalini yoga retreats in Bali”

As their research deepens, the search becomes more specific.

Make sense? Great.

Let’s move on to question #2.

How Does Your Product Or Service Offering Align With Search Queries?

By asking this question, we’re essentially seeking to know how to use keyword research for SEO.

This step is strategic. It’s where you begin to use the information you’ve gathered through rigorous keyword research.

You want to make your focus keywords those that represent the consideration and conversion stages of the journey–the long-tail keywords. Although your site will include head keywords organically, they are too general to focus your core efforts on.

You care more about long-tail keywords for two reasons:

  1. They are specific and therefore relevant to your customer’s queries.
  2. They are least competitive (because they’re specific) and therefore, have higher conversion potential.

Now, you need to find target long-tail keywords that are most relevant, more frequently searched, and are moderate or low competition.

How do you do that?

Luckily, some of the best things in life are free, including the best apps for keyword research.

For starters, try these:

Google Adwords Keyword Planner

Keywords Everywhere

Keyword.io

Keyword Shitter

Next, compile a list of long-tail keywords generated by any one of these tools (I recommend all) and then rank them, first by their relevance to your offering and then by their difficulty. This will help you determine which keywords you should focus on because they address your customers’ queries and are least competitive.

Assessing keyword difficulty is a bit labour intensive and while several tools can help determine the difficulty factor, they can be expensive and aren’t 100% accurate because no one knows how Google ranks pages–we can only estimate.

However, as a tool for assessing MOZ puts out a free extension: MOZ Toolbar, which reports on the page domain (PA) and domain authority (DA) of each search result. When SERPs have a low PA and DA, you’ve got a good starting point for choosing keywords to rank for.

screenshot of DA and PA from MOZ

But we do know that high-quality backlinks and relevant content that also considers user-intent are significant.

(We’ll take a look at backlinks in another blog. Right now, relevant content is in the spotlight).

Low competition long-tail keywords exist because there is insufficient responsive content available.

Remember–you want to optimize your pages by writing content around those keywords that are most relevant and least competitive.

Don’t take this lightly because this where many SEOs mess it up.

We can make anything fit if we really want it too. Those too-tight jeans from ‘95? Nothing an hour worn wet can’t cure (a humble confession of a thrifty nomad). But when we try to make something fit that naturally doesn’t, it’s obvious and uncomfortable for all those involved.

 

We call it stuffing–don’t make this mistake. Stuffing irrelevant keywords into your copy increases bounce rates and signals to Google that your page is not providing useful information.

Why Keyword Research Is So Important

Providing relevant content is one of the most important ways to respond to your customer’s needs (I argue it’s the pinnacle of SEO success). It starts with knowing what people are actually searching for and then responding with information that doesn’t relate to but explicitly answers their questions.

If someone asks about the gestation period of unhatched turkey poults, you’re not going to tell them about the sexual activity of turkeys. While it’s related, it’s not the question they asked.

You know how annoying not having your question answered is–don’t be that person.

And don’t insert those well-researched keywords into lousy copy. Instead, craft your content around those target keywords to provide your customer with on-topic, quality information.

Providing meaningful, relevant content means potential customers stay on your page longer,

their trust in your brand deepens,

they’re more likely to convert,

And Google ranks your page higher–it’s a happy place for everyone.

But, before we wrap up, we also need to consider user-intent. Words have double, sometimes triple, meanings. For example:

Someone searching for “chocolate labs” might actually be looking for one of three things:

A dog,

a factory that makes chocolate, or

a dog-shaped chocolate treat for their favourite uncle (unlikely but don’t cancel it out).

There is greater belief now that Google looks first at whether pages accurately respond to user-intent, which makes relevance a moot point. So, consider all the different ways people interpret the keywords you want to rank for.

Go Keyword Hunting…

Now you’ve got something to start with on your way to SEO success. Keyword research is a necessary first step–a strategic one.

My advice to you is to use every keyword tool available to you. The most valuable one is your brain.

Metrics are important, but they’re machine-generated. Investigate by performing your own search queries and analyzing the results. Read available content and note what is lacking–that’s your opportunity. It requires manual labour, but it supports a greater understanding of how Google ranks pages and why (before it changes again).

Then, write awesome, engaging content built around your target keywords, that feeds your potential customers exactly what they want. Write your own or hire an expert copywriter with SEO knowledge.

Happy researching!

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DeltaGrowth logo

DG’s Roundup Summary: What SEO or PPC Advice Would You Give Yourself?

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Delta Growth (DG), a big boy in Toronto’s SEO & SEM industry, specializing in e-commerce. Eugenia, DG’s SEO/PPC Implementation Specialist reached out to some of the industry’s local brainers to ask a SEO/PPC question that few of us ever ask ourselves during our careers:

What advice would have changed your SEO or PPC career?

It’s the kind of question that encourages us to reflect on our business moves of yesteryear. But it also makes us want to nail our thumbs to the floor for the dearth of knowledge our brains now overflow with. If only a DeLorean time machine were as accessible as a Zipcar.

But alas, DG talked to leading SEOs, so we did something right even back then! As a SEO Specialist in Whitby at Logical Mix I was humbled to be regarded in this mix and appreciated the opportunity to reflect on the ghosts of SEO past.

Whether you’re a blogger, consultant, strategist, or a newbie copywriter, Delta Growth’s Round Up about SEO/SEM career advice from leading industry experts may surprise you. It seems success lies in some good old-fashioned values and technical know-how.

Make Great SEO & SEM Relationships

Relationship building is the cornerstone of success in any business. Regardless of how great we are at the technical stuff, there is a person behind every move we make and that person is either going to trust us or bounce. We don’t want bouncers. Stoney Degeyter, Founder and CEO at Pole Position Marketing urges us to always, “focus on the customer, not the algorithms”.  Make the user’s experience your priority. It’s not enough just to know SEO. A grasp of marketing fundamentals is essential to reaching your audience and garnering the staying power that will bump up your conversion rates. What is the crux of Marketing 101? Know your customer. So, know your customer.

Tor Refsland says that if he could go back in time he would have told himself “to grow some b*lls and become uncomfortable much sooner!” He would have started getting new clients right away, face-to-face. So get out there and show face.

Check in with industry peeps too. Nobody gets very far alone. The e-comm community is huge. Learn from as many people as you can. Garner good quality links by offering something of value. Bump up your social media presence.

Give TOFu and BOFu Equal Opportunity

We want to pay attention to everybody at every stage of the conversion cycle so we’ve got to know how to structure our content appropriately. The experts give a few suggestions here. Nail in on long-tail keywords to reach the BOFu kids. Stick to one topic at a time. Create pages to rank for individual head terms and focus on the low-competition keywords in your niche.

But the awareness phase is critical and you can’t gain interest unless you give people something useful. Steve Wiideman insists on links to free tools, guides, and checklists as a marketing strategy for garnering tons of TOFu interest.

Invest In Yourself

It’s easy to forget about our own brand when we’re focused on making it awesome for our clients. John Rampton and Michael Cottam urge us to take the advice we give our clients. Clients come and go with their millions. “What will stick with you is your own brand and assets. Build those and invest as much resources (sic) in those as you would your clients’ sites” (John Rampton, Founder and CEO, with over 1 million Twitter followers). Capitalize on what you practice everyday and know one or two things really well – this is your expertise. And study what you’re not practicing everyday to maintain an edge in the industry.

Craft Awesome New Content Every Week

The demand for high quality content won’t change anytime soon so unless you’re a blackhat you’ll want to maximize your content and repurpose it – a ingenious hack from Oleg Korneitchouk. Several experts commented on how they wished they’d known the value of investing in a marketing campaign, with regular, meaningful content at the top of the priority list. Josh Steimle, Founder of MW1 says it’s simple: “High quality work will attract high quality links. It’s a lot of hard work to create great content, but it’s a simple recipe.”  Good quality content helps the customer alleviate their pains and achieve their goals. This points back to relationships and making our brand trustworthy. But it has to be ongoing. Fresh content each week is essential to high organic ranking and traffic.

Get Your Hands Dirty

We’ve gotta be ballsy in this industry. If we want to know what it feels like to jump out of a plane, we’ve got to jump out of the plane. Take risks with what we know. Research. Experiment. Learn from the results. Experiential learning is the key to forming a knowledge base that will compound over time and support innovation. According to the experts, research and risk are our most profitable investments. Know how to code. Use PPC as a learning mechanism for SEO. Don’t be afraid to try and share with others – remember relationships? Eric Enge sums up SEO & PPC advice the best: “Establish yourself as knowing one aspect of it very, very well. Then, when you’re ready, work on adding a second area of expertise, and get to the point where you are recognized as an expert on that. Keep expanding on those things over time.”

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*Full article here: Round Up: What Advice Would’ve Changed Your SEO or PPC Career?

cars in dark traffic jam at night with lights on

Does My Search Engine Marketing Have Dark Traffic?

Dark Traffic Makes A SEO’s Life More Interesting.

Dark traffic is statistically usually under “Direct Traffic” in Google Analytics, and is being referred from an unknown/untraced source (and for some reason being lumped into Direct Traffic).

As a SEO, you must try to figure out where this website traffic is coming from. Get the credit you deserve.

What does this Mean for My Search Engine Marketing?

It means you have to search for stats in other places and on your own. You can also help your company by adding some tools to your arsenal. You’ll never be able to track 100% of “Dark Traffic”, but from our research, this is the best article to read regarding Dark Traffic. That article should send you on the right path.

We Hope That Helped

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Stacked Gold Bars

Why Rich Snippets Help Your Company’s Search Engine Marketing

Rich snippets are a fancy way to spruce up your Google search results within search engine listings.

They don’t necessarily enhance your search engine optimization (SEO), but they do improve your Click Through Rate (CTR). The jury is still out on the search engine ranking effects. Some have reported a SERP improvement.

The most common rich snippets we see are reviews with “Star Rating”. Rich snippets come in many forms though, such as: videos, images, event times, addresses, phone numbers, etc.

The enhancement is real, and positively reflects your search engine marketing efforts.

The end is result desired is almost always quality website clicks funnelling into leads for your business. If this statement is true for your business, continue reading more about rich snippets and how to implement them on your website.

Get A Plugin.

This is the most cost effective way to get rich snippets representing your business online. You could get a developer to code it in for you, but that is a much pricier option.

Here’s a relatively new and great article about Rich Snippet plugins: 5 Best Rich Snippet Plugins

It’s an article about different tools you can use to get rich snippets showing up for your search engine results. Worth the read. Rich Snippets will propel you above the competition.

The Easiest Explanation:

Rich Snippets help your company control what the search engine user sees on the search results page.

This helps everyone in the end. User and Business win!

 

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