6 Top Questions and Answers about SMB SEO

SEO isn’t easy. Nope. Not at all. Especially today. And it’s not going to get any easier. 

Plus, it’s changed dramatically from what it used to be 5 years ago.

Take a look at some of the top questions and answers about SEO in 2017 below:

  1. Is SEO right for my SMB?

Maybe. Maybe not. Today, you need a significant budget to achieve any kind of rankings. If you’re in a competitive market, you may easily need several thousand dollars per month. And you may also need time…upwards of at least a year before you begin to see results.

In some cases you may be competing with large brands, and it may be difficult, and nearly impossible, to overtake them in search.

  1. How will my SEO company help me win in search?

SEO these days is quite open-ended. There’s no one path to the top. Yes, there’s good solid fundamentals that help you succeed (on-page optimization, fast page load times, rock-solid content etc…).

But what’s your specific strategy?

Ask your SEO about your site and competition to see how they’re going to help you win in search.

  1. How do you attract links to my site?

Links are the lifeblood of any website. But not just any old links. You want high-quality links from reputable websites.

Google likes some ways you get links (promoting your content). But it doesn’t care for other ways you might choose to get links (building them on forums or placing them on directories).

In fact, doing the latter could completely ruin your website rankings. It’s important to know precisely how your SEO company will attract links to your website.

  1. Can you share a case study of a similar company you helped succeed?

Local SMBs can vary markedly by industry. Your SEO company may not have worked with another SMB that’s in exactly the same industry.

But they should have a customer story or two featuring another company in a similar industry. And they should be able to share exactly what they did to help that company achieve search success – as well as the results they got.

  1. What metrics do you measure to track progress?

Small business SEO is tricky…even for SEO companies. Your SEO company should be able to show you keyword rankings, the total number of pages on your website receiving search traffic, and the total amount of organic search traffic you get monthly.

  1. Do you have a contract?

If you like a SEO company’s approach, but they don’t have an extensive and verifiable track record, sign a contract with an opt-out clause after 3 months. Don’t sign a long-term contract if you don’t have concrete measures of the company’s reputation. If they do have a reputation you can research and verify online, then you can feel more comfortable signing a one-year contract.

Those are some of the most common questions you may ask a SEO company. Keep them in mind in your search going forward.

Watch Out for Bad SEO Information

As good as the Internet has become, the truth is web pages last forever. Theoretically, they can be found in any year – even though Google pushes the bad pages down its search rankings.

So, bad SEO advice can stay on the web for the rest of eternity. Then, what used to be great SEO advice, actually becomes bad SEO advice because Google’s changed how the game works.

It’s quite easy to read a blog post, think you’ve discovered a brand-new tactic that works, but end up doing something that doesn’t work at all, or even hurts your website rankings.

How Do You Spot Bad SEO Advice?

Let me explain the ultra-conservative way to use to make sure you’re reading only good SEO advice:

  1. Only Learn from the Most Reputable Blogs and Communities

Active blogs and communities only accept top-notch guest content. Or when they publish their own, they do an equally amazing job.

Their posts should get thousands of social shares. You should see at least 1,000 shares on the majority of their posts. Ideally, that number should be higher.

A blog with hundreds isn’t necessarily one to ignore. But if you’re being ultra-conservative, only wanting to stick to what really works, aim for thousands of shares.

  1. Does the SEO Have a Test To Back Their Claims Up?

Leading SEO minds always have their own test to back up what they say. They won’t say anything new, different, or controversial if they don’t have hard data standing behind it.

Google changes so much and so fast that you can make up a lot of different stuff and claim it works. The bright minds know you can’t get away with telling SEOs whatever you want.

Your SEO should have done the test themselves. Or, they should have a link they can send you that backs up any questionable claim they make.

  1. You Must Be Able to Understand What the SEO Says

SEO gets technical. Really technical. But that shouldn’t make it hard to understand. Even though some of the language and concepts get technical, a competent and trustworthy SEO can make them easily understandable…even if you consider yourself a SEO novice.

So, if you find yourself bombarded with “geek speak,” ask for clarification. Shoot, ask for clarification even if you know what the SEO means, just to test what they’re saying.

If you’re careful, it should be difficult to fall victim to bad SEO advice. Treat it like your most important business decision because it is going to significantly alter the destiny of your business.

‎Google Releases “Smart Bidding” To Set the Ideal Bid for Each PPC Ad

 

Google makes the overwhelming majority of its revenue from its Adwords PPC advertising. No other revenue stream even comes close.

So of course, they’ll pay the most attention to it out of all their various services. They have investors watching their earnings, and they don’t want to report those earnings aren’t meeting expectations. That could cause their stock price to fall which would cost Google billions.

With That in Mind, Google’s Introduced “Maximize Conversions” to Adwords

What is “Maximize Conversions?” It uses smart bidding to automatically set the right bid for each PPC ad auction.

…But doesn’t that sound a little fishy? Google, who has a substantial financial interest in seeing you spend more, will automatically set how much you bid?

Now, of course it’s in their interest to give you good results for the money you invest. Because, if you don’t, you won’t keep spending with Google. You might move over to Bing.

But then again, Google stands to profit. And research has found it generally costs you more for the same results than Bing.

So what’s the reality? Should you use this feature? Should you insist your internet marketing company use it?

Let’s find out.

One Agency Generally Experiences Positive Results…With a Small Catch

Seer Interactive does its fair share of Adwords campaigns. The decided to put this “Maximize Conversions” feature to the test. And this is what they found:

  1. In 85% of their tests, clients experience better results with Maximize Conversions
  2. During the first two weeks of the campaign, results got worse while Google learned what to do. However, results improved during the final two weeks, ending up in a net gain.
  3. No patterns existed by client or industry type. They concluded you need to test for yourself to see what happens.

Google also notes that decking company Trex experienced a 73% increase in conversions with the new feature, while also getting a 42% decrease in cost-per-acquisition. And interestingly, Trex was a customer of Seer Interactive at the time.

Test and Be Careful

Google’s likely somehow making more money off this “Maximize Conversions” feature. But initially, it looks like they’re helping you improve your results too (in most cases).

So consider asking your SEO company to test the feature. But do understand, that while it’s likely you’ll experience positive results, there’s no guarantee.

New Google “Fred” Update Rocks SEO World

Well, Google’s finally started stop picking on animals with its updates.

One of Google’s current spokesmen jokingly called the new update “Fred.” And he said he’ll continue to call all future updates the same name also.

What Does Google “Fred” Do?

No one’s positive yet. All everyone knows is that on February 7th, many websites saw a noticeable change in their traffic. As always, some rejoiced with great gains. Others threw their arms up in the air in anger after experiencing massive losses.

Current speculation from Search Engine Roundtable believes the update more carefully examines the quality of your links. It’s still early yet, and others think the update may look at the quality of your content also.

But, at this point, the strongest argument is for link quality. That’s because the Black Hat SEO forums are the most active with debate. Black Hat SEOs tend to use links to manipulate their way up the search rankings (versus creating and promoting quality content). And that of course exposes them to this risk.

Now that they’re getting burned by it, they’re not too happy.

What To Do about This Update

If you’ve already been hit by this update, your business will hurt for a while. Sorry, but that’s the honest-to-goodness truth.

If you noticed a big drop in traffic in your analytics on February 7th, or shortly after, you likely got nailed by it.

The first thing to do would be to talk with your SEO company. If you’ve had multiple SEO companies over the past several years, then you’ve got a real mess on your hands. You don’t know who’s responsible. So, talk to your current SEO company to see what they say and how you should proceed. You may have to decide whether to terminate your relationship with your current SEO company.

The good news is you can recover. There’s three things you can do:

  1. Work on making a Disavow request, which is where you ask Google to ignore certain links pointing to your site. It’s a fair amount of work that you should leave to your SEO company. Moz offers a spectacular guide for how this works if you want to learn about it.
  2. If you got a manual notification of a penalty you’ll have to do the Disavow work, plus possible other work to get back in Google’s good graces. Again, you’ll need an ethical SEO company to do this for you. Then, you submit a reconsideration request once you believe you’ve done all the work necessary to clean up your SEO.
  3. You need to keep creating interesting and unique content. This attracts quality white-hat links to you. And that keeps you safe in Google’s search results.

If this penalty hit you, sorry to hear that. But, just know that while it may hurt your business, it’s far from the end of the road for you.

4 Modern Link-Building Tactics That Don’t Anger Google

Google’s most recent algorithm update,”Fred,” nailed websites that used low-quality links to maintain their search rankings. Many of these websites used “link building” from SEO companies to get their search positions.

However, Google doesn’t like “built” links as they were doing them. At the same time, your SEO company can still “build” links. It’s just that it has to be done in a certain way so that Google doesn’t penalize you for your links.

What has to be done? Ask your SEO company how they build links. If they’re doing it in ways that Google likes, they should say they do one or more of these:

  1. Manual Email Outreach to Influential People in Your Niche

Google wants “natural” links. In an ideal, perfect world, a natural link is one that someone decided to post on their website because they thought your content was so useful it was worth linking to.

Well, you can’t get any closer to that than by emailing a website owner or editor of a content-heavy website and letting them know you have a piece of super-useful content their audience would love. Not every one will give you a link. But some will.

And those links are as close to “natural” as you can get.

  1. Social Media Promotion to Your Followers

Nothing gets easier than this. Every website owner does it. Unfortunately, that’s where promotion for most website owners ends.

But you should do it. Make sure only 20% of your posts (at most) go back to your content. Watch your analytics to see which posts get shared the most. Then, reshare them after 3-4 months or so.

  1. Guest Blogging

A few years ago, Google said it would penalize guest blogging. The SEO community, however, overreacted.

Unfortunately, guest blogging can be manipulated just like any other link building method. Spammy, low-quality blogs exist which have virtually no audience. And they sound like they’re written by third-graders.

Those aren’t really “blogs.” They’re designed exclusively for the purpose of getting links.

However, get posted at a blog with an audience of a few hundred to a few thousand people, and Google loves that link. It knows that website already. It knows it has an active and engaged audience.

It’s a legit community. Google loves links from places like those.

  1. Create a Joint Venture

Who serves the same audience you do? Who doesn’t directly compete with you to serve that audience?

Say you’re an HVAC company. Look for a plumbing company. Offer to work together on a blog post, which both of you will post on your websites and social media profiles.

You’ll each win links and social media followers. But you won’t hurt each other’s businesses.

Just make sure you target a company with a similar audience size as yours. If you go for the “big guys,” they won’t be interested because they don’t stand to benefit as much as you. However, they might go for an in-depth blog post from you because their audience would love your niche experience, and they can’t provide it themselves.

Links Will Remain the Currency of the Web

Social shares have gained some importance when determining your search rankings. But for right now, and the foreseeable future, links will have greater power than social shares.

Work with an SEO company who understands how to provide you with high-value links that don’t get on Google’s bad side.

Google Ramps Up Efforts to Filter Out Factually Inaccurate Content

Did you know Google has teams of human quality-raters whose sole job is to rate the quality of websites?

Google gives them their own document in its “General Search Quality Guidelines.” Simply put, the searchers have to conduct various searches and rate how well the pages returned satisfy their query. This information then gets applied to Google’s algorithm so it can automatically apply the judgment to its search results.

Google does this for “offensive” and “upsetting” content. But of most concern to you is that they do this for “factually inaccurate” content. Google recently updated the section of their search guidelines that describes how evaluators should rate “inaccurate” content.

What Should You Do About This?

Truthfully, you don’t even need to look at the document to understand what to do. If you look from a high level at what Google’s trying to do strategically, they’re trying to clean up the web.

Users should be able to go to a website, get the information they want, and get a factually accurate answer.

What if there are different opinions on the correct answer to a question? Now, there’s a legitimate concern.

But again, you have to go back to what Google wants to do: help users. So if there are differing opinions on a particular subject, it’s okay to offer those as possible answers.

Let This Example Clear “Inaccurate” Up for You

Google offers an example in its search evaluator guidelines document. The website in question states (and this is serious):

“Christopher Columbus was born in 1951 in Sydney, Australia…”

You can see an image of this website here.

It continues:

“Columbus knew he had to make this idea of sailing, using a western route, more popular. So, he produced and appeared on infomercials which aired four times daily.”

Clearly, that’s not accurate information. It’s not going to help the website’s users in any meaningful way.

If this were a humor website portrayed as such, it may not get subjected to the filter. However, as it is, it appears to want to be a legitimate website. So, its real motivation may be to deceive its intended target audience (young elementary school students).

Google doesn’t want that in its search results because users won’t find that helpful.

So when you publish blog posts or web pages, make sure your information has good factual backing. As long as you have solid intent to help your users, you’ll be okay.