Google Releases Its Own Recommendations for Hiring a SEO Consultant

Shot of two male colleagues working on a computer at the office

 

Seems a little late to the game, doesn’t it? SEO’s been around as a practice since 2000. It’s had a reasonably popular reputation since 2008 or so.

You can actually see the video on YouTube here:

Here’s some of the main highlights of the video if you prefer to read instead of watch:

  1. SEO is not “black magic.” It’s a legit practice. Some shady SEO companies certainly treat it like black magic. But Google says it’s definitely a legitimate thing.
  2. You can’t use quick tricks to rank number one in just a few short weeks. You could have done that 12-15 years ago. But SEO isn’t that easy anymore.
  3. Successful SEO helps your site put its best foot forward so it ranks appropriately. No surprises here. Searchers want the best websites at the top of Google’s rankings. This demand forces Google to continue to improve its algorithm so that happens.
  4. Good SEOs ensure you give your online customers a good experience. This certainly follows from the previous point. Spammy tactics, shortcuts, and fast results are not promised by good SEOs.
  5. It takes 4-12 months to rank. Good SEOs need time to implement improvements. And they need some more time for Google to pick up on those and rank your website accordingly.
  6. The best thing you can do is to get a SEO who correlates their recommendation to a documented statement from Google. Google has great resources for this. You’re better off Googling the specific recommendation. But, a couple resources include Google’s Webmaster Search Console and the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog.
  7. In most cases, doing what’s good for SEO is good for your customers (and vice-versa). Again, this relates to points made earlier. Users want websites where they can learn what they want fast and either order it, or save your site and come back to it later to learn more, until they are ready to order.
  8. Conduct a two-way interview with your SEO. There’s several aspects to this. First, try to make sure the SEO is genuinely interested in your business. Check their references. Ask for a search audit (which will cost you money). Finally, make your decision to hire (or not hire) the SEO.

So that’s how Google says to hire a SEO. It’s good, commonsense, practical advice that helps you make a great decision you won’t regret.

3 Techniques You Can Use to Win in Local Search

"Search area on LCD display, pixelated close up view."

Yes, you can do some things to win the fight for local search rankings. And what’s more, they’re fairly simple.

You may be a time-strapped local business owner. But, you can take some small steps to help out your SEO company.

Here are some simple things you might consider:

1. Compelling Titles and Meta Descriptions

For titles and meta descriptions, you simply use the SEO by Yoast plugin. It shows you exactly how your search result appears as you type it in. This is important because the length of both your title and meta description actually change. Go too long, and you see the dreaded (…) in the search results.

That’s a huge turnoff for searchers. So, Yoast SEO helps you stay on top of that so you don’t make mistakes.

Now, as to writing titles and descriptions, you simply answer the question,”So what?”

That’s what searchers think. “So what? Why should I click on your search result instead of any others?”

The better answer you offer to that question, the more clicks you get. Benefits, emotions, and experiences are most enticing for consumers. Business people want emotional benefits too, and you have to compliment those with benefits for their business also.

2. Make Your Business Worthy of 5-Star Reviews

Local business owners are finally getting it. Reviews are key to their success. 70% of consumers will leave a review when you ask. 84% trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

For starters, make sure your company offers 5-star products and services. Study your competition’s reviews to see what people like and don’t like about their company. When you get negative feedback, take that to heart and change your company for the better (assuming it’s not an unreasonable customer). Publicly show you care by responding and fixing what’s wrong, and then ask your customer if they’d update your review.

Never, ever create fake reviews. Many businesses do this. They get away with it for a while. But it eventually catches up to them.

3. Monitor Your Analytics Carefully

If content is king, analytics is queen. You’ll want to watch how long people are staying on your website. Do they bounce? How many take the action you really want them to take?

Test small changes to your website to optimize these. Change what you offer in the headline. Write different calls to action. See what works best with your website.

That’s how the winners separate themselves from the pack.

If you use these 3 techniques, you’ll be well ahead of most local businesses.

Pay Per Click Marketing Guide

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Want to Cut Your PPC Costs?

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Type an extra “0” in the wrong place in Adwords, and you send your PPC costs out of control!

That’s an easy fix though.

Did you know you could be wasting hundreds, maybe thousands, each month on PPC?

Instead of one gigantic mistake, you slowly drain the financial health out of your company.

Google defines “Quality Score” as “…an estimate of the quality of your ads and landing pages triggered by that keyword.”

Sounds simple in theory, but it gets amazingly complex in practice. In reality, the rank of your PPC ad equals your bid times your Quality Score.

So, the more you increase your Quality Score, the lower the bid you have to pay to keep your rank the same.

Here’s a quick hint too: you don’t want the number one PPC ad rank all the time. There’s lot of research on this, and this post at Wordstream.com shows why it doesn’t always give you the best ROI.

In general though, you want be near the top.

And of Course, Google’s Changed How Quality Score Works (Although it’s Still Unclear What This Means)

It used to be something worth obsessing over, but Google now advises you to keep an eye on it, and not to get too worked up about maximizing it. At ThinkWithGoogle.com, they advise to view it as a “check engine light,” not a defining metric.

You should focus on ad relevance, expected CTR, and landing page experience. Beyond that, don’t get hyper focused on every little detail.

How do you keep your Quality Score high? Here are a few basics:

  1. Avoid negative keywords. Your PPC ads will appear for keywords that do you no good at all. Add them to your negative keywords list so that doesn’t happen. You get a better CTR and Quality Score as a result.
  2. Try new calls-to-action. One may get you much better CTR and Quality Score. Try out several, and test out new ones on an ongoing basis.
  3. Send people to relevant pages. A common rookie mistake is to drive PPC visitors to your home page. You can do that if you’ve set it up to be a landing page. Always use the keyword searched in the title of the page so your visitors know they’re in the right place.
  4. Fast landing page load times. This is a must-do on your website anyway. Aim for 2 seconds or less with every important landing page.
  5. Keep testing keywords. Keyword research is an ongoing process. Always be testing and refining your keywords. Google considers a CTR of less than 1.5% low. Discard any keywords that go below that threshold.
  6. Test your copy. Always make sure your landing page is loaded with benefits for your readers. Many businesses write facts and features. They’re helpful, but benefits like “fast, saving time, and saving money” sell.

The Moral of the Story: Don’t Obsess Too Much about Quality Score

It’s a general indicator of how well your ad will perform. However, if you’re making a tidy profit on leads that come from various searches, be happy with that.

Don’t worry too much about perfectly optimizing each and every landing page!

Panda 4.1 – The Google Update for the Little Guy

Professional SEOs have long contended that Google shows favoritism to big brands. This may or may not be true.

Some SEOs argue Google’s made some changes that more or less continue the evolution of the internet. And it just so happens big brands benefit the most.

What’s the truth?

We don’t know.

But what we do know about Panda 4.1 is that it’s very clearly designed to help small and medium-size businesses. Forbes wrote a blog post announcing this.

It’s nice to have something cut-and-dry in an ever changing world of search engine algorithms.

Panda itself is really all about taking poor and low-quality content websites and shoving them to the bottom of the search results. Panda 4.1 just means Google does this with even more accuracy than ever before.

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Panda 4.1 Winners and Losers

Depending on the quality of your site’s content, you could experience very good or bad results.

Check out some of the winners:

  • Comdotgame.com – 1353% traffic gain
  • Hongkiat.com – 406% traffic gain
  • Babble.com – 379% traffic gain

And here’s what happened to the losers:

  • Yellow.com – 79% traffic loss
  • Similarsites.com – 79% traffic loss
  • Free-coloring-pages.com – 76% loss

What Specifically Should You Do (or Not Do)?

There are no precise answers to what to do about Google Panda 4.1. If you understand SEO and what Google’s trying to do with the web, you’ve been writing high-quality content for some time now.

Even if you’ve noticed a huge dip in traffic over the last couple weeks (when the update was rolled out), you can still recover. But it may not be cheap!

If you’re a small business and you write the content with an attitude of offering the most value for your readers, you’ll be just fine. Hiring professional agencies and writers can pull you more leads, get better engagement, and get your rankings higher than an in-house employee or doing it yourself.

But as long as the words you write make sense and are helpful, you should be okay as a general rule.

4 Simple Tips for Pleasing Panda:

  1. You want your bounce rate as low as possible. If it’s above 70%, your writing needs work or you need to ask your customers questions and answer those on your blog.
  2. Make sure what you write is unique. If you’re a contractor, odds are your topic has been written about hundreds or thousands of times. But, most blog posts are brief. Go in-depth and write the best guide ever that includes everything your customers need to know about the topic.
  3. Include rich media to increase engagement. Add a few simple images. Slip in a YouTube video. Create an Excel chart and insert it. Anything you do to break up the words gets you lower bounce rates, longer times on the page, and more social shares.
  4. Write for your customers, not Google. Make them happy and Google will love you too. After all, its job is to give searchers the most interesting results.

Keeping your Google Rankings is simple – always deliver value to your website visitors.

But it isn’t easy!

Focus on working hard over the long term, and Google will reward you as a result.

What’s the New Google Pigeon Update all About?

If you want to know how hard it is to stay on top of all the Google updates, this is what we inbound marketing companies have to deal with:

  • 500 Google algorithm updates per year
  • 15-20 of them make the news
  • Even Matt Cutts, Google’s spokesman, makes mistakes when talking about the latest updates
  • These updates don’t always impact websites the way Google says they will, so we have to analyze the real results for clients

Google tends to pick animal names for its updates. Usually, they’re seemingly benign animals, with names like Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird.

Google did release the “Pigeon” update, but SEO thought leader Search Engine Land coined the official name.

So What’s the Point of Pigeon?

The whole reason it’s been rolled out is to make local search results more useful and relevant. One concrete example of what’s happened is that the local search pack listings that look like this now appear much less often:

google_pigeon

This blog post at Link Assistant says Pigeon means Google now focuses more on traditional domain authority factors as ranking signals for local search listings. To put it simply, domain authority is made of:

  • The quality and frequency of content published on your website
  • The number of links pointing to your site, and the quality of the websites linking to you
  • Getting listed on authoritative local business directory sites like Angie’s List and others relevant to your niche
  • Positive customer reviews
  • Optimizing everything on your site with as natural of language as possible

What Should You Do to Make Pigeon Happy?

Really, Google’s not changing what you need to do to rank well. They’re doing exactly what they’ve said they would do all along.

When you think of authority websites in ideal terms, envision those websites that are household names like:

  • Time.com
  • Forbes.com
  • The Huffington Post

“But my site will never attract massive readerships like those!” is your first objection.

You’re right – it won’t. Only a few websites attract such massive audiences. But the point is, the more you aim to be like those niche-leading websites, the better off you’ll be in the search rankings in the long run.

Remember, most local and small businesses do not understand the importance of content. Most also don’t realize what an “awesome website” looks like in the eyes of Google and their users.

If you realize and acknowledge where your website is and where it needs to be, you’ll be ahead of 98% of all other local businesses.

For a nice example of a simple, but useful website, check out PaylessPower.com and their blog. They have 4 blogs per month, and a simple web design anyone can use.