New Google Penalty Means the End of Popups

Working on Laptop

In a rare case, Google recently announced an algorithmic penalty to be applied to websites on January 10, 2017. This time, they’re attempting to put an end to disruptive and annoying popups.

Note that this does not mean that it will put an end to all pop-ups. However, it will penalize websites for using the most obnoxious ones users like least.

Here’s the 3 types of popups, and the situations where Google says it will penalize website owners:

  1. Creating a popup that covers the main content immediately after the user arrives at your website or while they look through your page
  2. Displaying a standalone popup that you have to close out before you read the main content
  3. Using a website layout that looks similar to a popup above-the-fold, but the original content actually remains hidden beneath the popup

So basically, that puts an end to most popups that website visitors don’t like. It’s most common for solopreneur personality-based internet marketers to use them. However, you can also see these kinds of popups at big-name websites like Forbes and Inc.

What Does This Mean for Small Business Owners Like You?

Now, as a small business, you probably don’t care about this a ton from a business perspective. You probably don’t spend much time building your email list.

But you should.

Because it’s the best long-term source of leads you can get with digital marketing. In fact, it outperforms all other digital channels combined by nearly 600%.

Not too bad.

Why does email work so well?

Because you can be so direct and personal. Only your best customers even bother to join your list in the first place.

Then, you simply build the relationship over time by staying in touch and offering valuable information your prospects or customers can put to use. You extend some special offers now and then to get them to act and buy.

It’s a simple (though time-consuming) process, really. Plus, you don’t have to worry about any Google algorithm updates or penalties costing you all the names on your email list. It’s a good buffer against temporary changes in your search rankings.

If you don’t already, you should make building your email list part of your marketing strategy. It’s too valuable to pass up. And you can grow a good-sized list without using pop-ups.

Google to Divide Its Index to Improve the Search Experience for Mobile Users

 

Coffee and wireless freedomSomewhere around 60% of all searches now happen on mobile devices. Remember, while Google makes the rules on how search actually works, it also serves the market. And, it has to change with the shifts in the market so the market continues using Google. If it doesn’t, another search engine will take its place.

Fortunately for Google, they’re adept at meeting the demands of the marketplace. So, you probably won’t see it go away anytime soon.

They’re latest change involves dividing its index between mobile and desktop searches.

Why Is Google Doing This?

Currently, Google takes data from desktop content to formulate the mobile rankings. So, that leads to the search results being less than ideal for mobile users. In the coming months, reports Search Engine Land, Google will create and use a pure mobile search index.

The desktop index, which activates when you search from a desktop PC, won’t be as up-to-date. The benefit for Google is they can use their algorithm only to determine the mobile rankings, and users of course can get more relevant results for their mobile devices.

If You’re Not Already Optimized for Mobile Search, You Need to Be

At this point, no one can really point out the specifics of this update and how it might work. But, Google’s shown a clear trend towards improving the search results for its users. So, if you haven’t already optimized your website for mobile search, or if you haven’t analyzed your website for mobile search friendliness within the past year or two, it makes sense to give it a look.

Because, if you don’t, you risk a dent in your rankings. At a high level, here’s what you need to make sure your website ranks well in mobile search:

  1. A responsive design
  2. Only one version of your website, and not a desktop and mobile version
  3. Fast page load speed
  4. Large font size that’s easy to read – at least 16px
  5. Links and buttons easy for thumbs to press
  6. Avoid use of flash
  7. Videos that execute and display correctly
  8. Compress all images for smaller file sizes, without reducing image quality
  9. Avoid using pop-ups, even though they can be welcome for desktop users

If you follow those tips, you’ll do all right in mobile search.

Google Shakes Up Its 3-Pack with New “Possum” Update

Search

Google’s taken another furry critter and turned it into a terrifying animal no one wants to encounter.

This time, it’s a possum.

Some SEOs call this update the biggest one to hit the local search rankings since Pigeon back in 2014. Fortunately, it looks like one that’s not going to impact local small businesses in an unfair way.

What’s The Deal with Possum?

If you’re a legitimate business doing white-hat SEO, Possum’s all good news for you. According to an article at Search Engine Land, here’s what’s happening:

  1. Fairer Treatment in the Search Rankings

Historically, if you fall outside of the physical limits of the city in which you want to rank, Google’s made it maddeningly difficult to top its search rankings. But, that doesn’t necessarily make sense.

For example, say your business is in Mesquite, but you want to rank for Dallas.

Well, if your business falls one foot away from Dallas, you still serve Dallas. But, why shouldn’t you rank for it in search?

Seems like Google gets the absurdity of that situation. In the past, they made it difficult to rank in cities in which you are not physically present so you didn’t open up “virtual offices.”

  1. Multiple Search Listings for the Same Result Get Removed

Some SEOs have been exploiting this. What happens is, if you run a law firm with 3 partners for example, some would rank all 3 partners for the same keywords.

From a user’s perspective, that doesn’t make sense. They only need one result because it’s the same firm.

Google understands that. So now, it does a better job of identifying multiple listings, removing them, and allowing just one listing from the same company to rank.
This is a win for you because now you have previously unavailable ranking positions that you can take over.

  1. Physical Location Matters More To Searchers

Say that again, you’re in Dallas, and you’re searching for a personal injury lawyer because you just got in an accident. Well, now it’s more likely than ever before that you’ll see listings primarily from Dallas. And you’ll see fewer listings from around the suburbs in the Metroplex, and possibly none at all.

So from a searcher’s perspective, they’re going to see companies closer to their search location in the Local 3-Pack. That’s something your optimization strategy needs to account for.

If you’ve been doing white-hat SEO all along, you’ve got nothing to worry about. These are all positive changes for honest and ethical SMBs and SEO companies.

So, you should actually rejoice!

And, as always, make sure you’re working with a SEO company that always uses white-hat methods. If they’re not, they will get you burned at some point in time.

Where to Focus Your SEO Time

Search Engine Journal recently took a survey of 215 top SEOs to see where they were spending their time these days. The creator of the survey ended up talking with 64 of 215, which means about 30% responded to her initial request.

And this is how their time broke down:

time-spent

Image Credit: Search Engine Journal

And here was the real eye-opening part: 72% of those surveyed spent most of their day creating quality content. That makes sense because Google has been militantly consistent in telling SEOs and website owners that’s what it wants to see from websites.

What Makes content Succeed Online?

By now, you’d probably guess that there’s so much content available online that it’s hard for searchers to find yours specifically. And you’d be right by making that guess.

Today, marketers call this “content saturation.” Some niches get much more saturated than others. For example, if you market in the technology niche, it’s tough to get noticed. At the local level, for businesses like AC repair and law, it’s still hard, but much easier than tech.

So, if you’re going to write content, what makes it stand out? Well, here’s some pointers on that:

  1. First, Have a Plan

According to content Marketing Institute, marketers with a plan:

  • Are far more likely to consider themselves effective
  • Feel much less challenged in content marketing
  • Consider themselves more effective in all the different tactics and channels they use
  • Spent a higher percentage of their budget on content marketing

So, you must have some sort of plan to see big returns from your content. And if you’re afraid to make plans, remember you can always change yours if it’s not working.

  1. Your content Must Have These Qualities

Simply showing your audience that you’re smart or an expert doesn’t necessarily get them to act. Research presented at Harvard Business Review found your content must:

  • Teach customers something new
  • Give them a compelling reason to change their behavior

So, all your content must focus on that to convince people and get them to act. Simply publishing as much content as possible may net you some results, but not as much as you’d like.

  1. Have a Product or Service Worthy of Attention

Know how the “same” doesn’t get as much attention as the “new?” This appears to put you in a bit of a pickle if you run a common service, like AC repair.

So, you simply have to position your service in a new way in people’s minds. For example, instead of focusing on “AC repair,” you focus on improving comfort (something your market really wants).

Then, your blog and social media profiles all need to be about improving comfort, and how AC repair helps you give that to your customers.

So in 2016 and beyond, that’s where you need to focus your time: on content and differentiating from your competition.

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.

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.