Google Updates Local Search Rankings

Working on LaptopThey’re at it again…

Google’s updated the local search results.

They’ve changed the local 3-pack, which shows listings on Google Maps right at the top of what Google considers a “local” search.

Publicly, they’ve not really said anything specific about the update or how it works. They always, if nothing else, get away with saying “we make thousands of updates per year.”

So yes, even Google’s very own engineers don’t really know exactly what the algorithm does at any specific point.

However, local SEOs always take notice because they run their entire businesses on Google’s unpredictable algorithm.

What Are Top SEOs Seeing?

So, when it’s not possible to get a straight story from Google, you have to go to the opinions of SEOs. Many top ones hang out on LocalSearchForum.com.

In general, they’re seeing lots of new companies ranked in the local 3-pack for many types of small and local businesses. For example, that means companies like locksmiths, chiropractors, and so on.

So far, the general thinking is that Google refreshed its spam update to clean manipulative and deceptive websites and SEO practices from the top of its search rankings.

What Does Google Consider “Spam?”

You have to remember Google’s not perfect. Sometimes, they knock perfectly legitimate websites out of their search results.

And, there’s little you can do about it sometimes. So, to protect yourself, you can do 3 things:

  1. Rely on more than just organic search to get business (consider AdWords, Facebook, LinkedIn, and offline marketing to extend your internet marketing)
  2. Try to rank for a number of different keywords so you gain some positions when you lose others
  3. Avoid anything that Google could remotely consider “spam”

What might Google consider “spam” in 2016?

The following things:

  1. Using too many keywords on any one page (keyword stuffing)
  2. Placing your exact keywords in links that point to your site (overoptimized anchor text)
  3. Very low-quality content that doesn’t make basic sense when read or contains lots of grammar errors and typos
  4. Lots of spammy comments on your blog (ones that only exist to gain a link and don’t add value to the conversation)
  5. Sites hacked and used for spammy purposes by dishonest persons
  6. Duplicate content (this can happen unintentionally on WordPress sites)

At the end of the day, Google wants good, clean sites that offer valuable information and services. They want the types of sites that searchers want.

So, focus on making your website as useful and interesting to your user as possible, and you’ll be just fine, regardless of the update that hits.

3 Overlooked Competitive Advantages in Digital Marketing

Competitive Advantage Road Sign

Digital marketing, or SEO as you could also call it, moves fast. You could exploit an opportunity that your competitors close in on in just 30, 60, 90 days, or even 6 months. None of those are a long time in the internet marketing world.

But, what if you could create a competitive advantage that other companies simply couldn’t reproduce anytime soon? For example, it would take years before they could find a way to execute something similar themselves.

They do exist online. And when you find them, they’re huge. Because then, your customers have a reason to do business with you, and not the other companies who do the same thing.

Take a look at some ways of making this happen:

  1. Creating the Perception that You’re an Authority

Becoming a perceived authority, or leading expert, takes a lot of time and effort. Think of Bob Vila, for example.

You can do the same online by getting published at reputable blogs. You might also have many video or podcast interviews.

It takes time to create the perception that you’re an authority. But once you have it made, it’s going to take your competitors the same amount of time, or longer, to catch up.

  1. Making Vastly Superior content Your Competitors Can’t Match

This one’s a little harder to pull off because people typically see content published on authoritative blogs as having more credibility than content posted on your own blog.

But, it’s simpler to do. Check out what your competitors have in place for content. Then, do them 10 times better. Go so far into depth that you become the encyclopedia on your subject.

Yeah, it’s a lot of work. But remember this: the quality of your content determines the quality of the customers that come to you. So, do a quick job of it, and you’ll get low-paying customers that complain or avoid paying entirely.

Work hard, and you’ll get the customers who buy based on value and look for long-term relationships.

  1. Be the First to Do Something New or Different with Content in Your Niche

Any time you use the words “first, new, different” in business, you’re on the right track. Now with content, it’s hard to pull off because there’s so much of it.

And you really have to study what everyone else does so you do what would be “new” or “different.” It could be creating detailed videos of how to perform maintenance on various types of air conditioners and posting them on your website.

Keep in mind at this point that you don’t need to have these videos look “perfect.” They simply need to be clear enough so your audience can see what to do. Your smartphone would suffice.

None of these tactics is fast or easy. But then again, nothing that works well in business ever is. Make sure you keep them in mind to win the internet marketing war.

3 Reasons Why Your PPC Ads Get Low Click-Through Rates

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Some experts say that the best measure of marketing’s performance (which is often hard to analyze) is how many people you get to take the next step. That shows commitment and willingness.

Compare that to vanity metrics that don’t have much meaning, which include things like followers, likes, and shares. Just because someone engages with your company, that doesn’t mean they have much of an interest beyond that.

However, if they take the next step you ask them to, that’s a much more powerful sign of interest. So, when you get a good click-through rate (CTR), that’s likely going to indicate decent sales on that keyword too.

Check out these reasons why you may not be getting the click-through rate you want:

  1. Ineffective Ad Titles

The first thing any searcher sees is your ad’s title. It’s big and blue – possibly right at the top of the search results. Every word you use counts. And the precise words you say can greatly affect clicks.

Even if you communicate the same idea, you can get dramatically different results with various words. Aim to use ones that your customers might use to describe the products and services you offer for best results.

  1. Bidding Too Low

It’s nice when you find a keyword you can bid low on, and yet still rank high for that key term. If you target lots of keywords, you’ll undoubtedly have a couple where you have to adjust your bid upwards.

Remember, Adwords is Google’s big moneymaker, so they’re going to do everything they can to make sure those bids stay high and keep Google profitable.

  1. Not Using Ad Extensions

“Ad extensions” let you make little improvements to your ads that actually can boost your CTR quite a bit. However, they only show when you rank in the top two positions for your target keywords.

A call extension, for example, lets you put your phone number directly in the text of your ad. “Sitelinks” let you promote additional links on your ad.

Small, but powerfully helpful for your CTR. And there’s many more extensions than just these.

This guide is a very simple overview to boosting your click-through rates. But, implementing each of these ideas can shoot your CTR through the roof.

Just In: Nearly 60% of All Searches Come from Mobile

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Okay, so the truth is this is an estimate. However, it’s likely more accurate than any other out there.

According to an article at Search Engine Land, Google’s said more than 50% of searches come from mobile devices.

Now, they’re reporting that Hitwise has done some extensive research of their own and believes that number sits around 58%. To get the data, Hitwise analyzed several hundred million searches across both smartphones and tablets.

So, whether the number’s at 58% or not doesn’t matter. What we do know is that most online searches happen on mobile devices.

By the way, they found this pretty cool data too, which shows the percentage of mobile searches by industry:

mobile graph

Is Your Website Optimized for Mobile Searchers?

Having a responsive design is not enough. It’s a good and necessary start because Google says you should have one. Don’t have a responsive design, and it will hurt your search rankings.

But, just being responsive won’t be enough over the long haul. For example, your site may look good for mobile devices, but you could still have buttons that are way too small for people to click with their fingers.

So, instead of buying or clicking to call, they click the wrong button and go to the wrong page and get lost. Or, they get frustrated because they can’t click the button and leave.

Sales lost right there.

Or, maybe you sell a service and rely a lot on them to read your content to sell themselves on you. If they have to constantly zoom in and out and scroll around to read, that takes more work.

The more work they have to do, the less likely they are to buy eventually.

Your website could also be too fancy and take way too long to load. Every second counts. Even though data download rates are increasing, you still have to keep your website compact (in terms of file and image sizes), to make sure it loads quickly enough.

You see, it’s all about user experience. They just want to click a couple buttons and get what they want now. And that’s it.

The smoother and more valuable you make their experience, the more sales you’re going to make. With online marketing, it really is that simple.

How Small and Local SMBs Can Stay Competitive in SEO

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Many SEOs believe Google gives special preference to larger companies in its search rankings. We’re not sure if that’s true, but it is an opinion that’s out there.

Even if it isn’t, you still have the daunting task of competing with big companies online. Plus, because nearly everyone searches online before buying, you’re practically forced to compete with other companies for online attention.

With such intense competition, what can you do to ensure you don’t lose out on great search rankings?

Find out:

  1. Have a Tightly-Defined Target Market

Casting a wide net takes a lot of time and money…and especially so online. If you’re struggling to compete, narrow who you go after online. That way, you can create content that’s highly relevant to them.

And that means you’ll capture more interest. And getting more of that initial interest means you’ll convert more customers later on. Once you’ve mastered a certain niche, then you can add on another one.

  1. Do This with Your content to Get More Attention

With content, you’ll hear most SEOs talking about “relevance.” It’s certainly important to write stuff your market actually cares about.

But, while going that route may get interest, you likely won’t get the sales you want.

That’s because, with content, your customers are more likely to respond with buying behavior when they learn why they need to change. They also respond more frequently when you teach them new and different things they can use to improve their lives and businesses.

  1. Use Personal Relationships to Your Advantage

One of the great benefits of online marketing is your ability to speak directly to a select group of people. The advantage is that you can make the messaging more personal, and that always sells better (especially when compared to content from large corporations).

So…make it clear who the person is behind your business. Write from an “I” perspective rather than “we.” Show customers how they can get direct interaction with you the owner. Make it clear they won’t have to go through 2-3 people if they have a complaint.

  1. Gobble Up Lots of Reviews

With big companies, you can’t see 50 – 100 customer reviews directly discussing the quality of the company’s products or services. With small and local businesses, Google reviews pop right up.

There’s a huge opportunity for you to win trust right there. So…make sure you have at least a 4-star rating and 10 reviews. The more you can get, the better. And if you’re a little short of the good rating you want, read the complaints to learn how to improve your business.

Can you compete with the big dogs? You bet. Just keep those 4 things in mind, and you’ll do  fine.

4 Reasons Not To Do Your Own SEO

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After reading the title of this post, you might think,”Well, they’re just saying that to make money.”

You can certainly look at it that way. Hey, if we’re not going to convince you, then you’re definitely better off doing it on your own.

Once you get sick and tired of doing your own SEO after you realize how much cumbersome labor it involves, then you might have a different opinion. But, as the saying goes, pain is the greatest teacher.

If you’re starting to wonder why it would be a good idea to outsource your SEO, then some of these reasons may make some sense to you:

  1. There’s Nothing Easy about SEO Anymore

SEO, back before anyone knew anything about it, was simple. Remember seeing those web pages loaded with paragraphs of nonsensical keywords back around 2005 or so? That was SEO.

Of course, do that today, and you’ll get booted from the search rankings in a heartbeat. And, you may never return.

Now, it takes teams of people working together to get you ranked for your target keywords, even if they’re not intensely high in competition.

  1. It Changes Fast

Google’s algorithm changes so fast its own engineers can’t even tell you exactly what works. Of course, they know the principles and generally what works. But, ask them specific questions, and you don’t always get straight answers.

Do you have the time to stay updated on Google, and run your own business too?

  1. Google Doesn’t Accept Ignorance as an Excuse

What, you don’t know about the latest change? And, your website violates that change.

Tough luck for you. Google’s going to penalize you and not feel sorry for you.

It’s your problem to deal with. It’s rare. But, you can wake up one day to all of a sudden see your traffic, and sales, have tanked. And, Google’s not always going to tell you why.

  1. Pros Have the Right Tools

Spreadsheets just barely get you through. Plus, there’s a nearly infinite number of tools you can  use to help you do your SEO. Some work better than others, but you have to use them a while first to know their quality.

That’s where pro SEOs come in. They’ve already vetted the tools and have efficient processes set up. It takes years to get these fine-tuned…even when you do this full-time.

Do you really want to do that?

Being a pro SEO is just as difficult as any other job. So, keep that in mind the next time you consider doing your own SEO.

Do you really want another full-time job in addition to what you already do for your business?