How to Stay Competitive in Local Search During the Holidays

Santa claus typing

The holidays bring lots of shoppers, more business, stress, and chaos. And of course, it intensifies the competition for search rankings to get all those additional customers.

Check out these tips for beating your competition during the holidays:

  1. Do a Google Trends Analysis to See What Searchers Want

Say your customers are looking for “fast laptop PCs.” What if more start to type in “fast laptop computer?”

Google Trends shows you exactly what’s going on. Then, you can take those keywords and add them in where they make sense throughout your website to increase your visibility for them.

Whatever your core keywords are now, identify some synonyms where people want exactly what you have. Add those to your website for the holidays. Consider running some paid search campaigns to access those additional terms fast.

  1. Modify Your Web Pages to Show Off Your Holiday Deals

Each web page has a title. It’s the big blue one you see in Google’s search results. It’s so easy to forget because you never see it yourself. But, it has a huge impact on whether or not people click on your search listing.

So, consider changing as many of your web page titles and descriptions (just below the title) as you can to reflect your positioning related to the holidays. Google also likes more relevant content to what searchers want, so you might get a small rankings boost for that too.

  1. Build content Around The Holidays and Your Products and Services

Content’s always a winner, isn’t it? With content, you can be as creative as you want.

For example, you could create a holiday buyer’s guide that shows customers the ins and outs of buying your product or service. This could be several pages long. That’s fairly substantial, something your visitors would find useful, and that Google would like too. Then, require users to give you their email address in return (your best customers always join your list). Make sure to sprinkle your keywords throughout so you get found for related searches.

You could also repurpose this guide into several blog posts too. So, you get twice the work done with the same level of effort.

Whatever you decide to do, it’ll only help your cause around the holidays. Smart businesses do this, while many let it fall by the wayside.

It’s a golden opportunity for you!

What to Do Immediately After a Google Algorithm Update

I'm stuck...On September 23rd, Google released the Penguin 4.0 real-time update. And not too much earlier than that, it also released Possum, which affected the Local 3-Pack.

Sometimes, you get a little forewarning of the next update. Other times, SEOs and webmasters notice a big shake-up in their rankings and find out about the changes as they happen.

In both cases, what should you do immediately following an update?

Here’s a general blueprint to keep in mind:

  1. Take a Deep Breath and Find Out How the Update Impacted You

Now, with the recent Possum update to the Local 3-Pack, some companies had their search result removed from it entirely. That means other companies got rewarded with those spots.

With Penguin, Google’s algorithm may have gotten the ability to penalize individual pages of your website, rather than your entire website. So, first see how the update impacted you.

Take some time also to learn what actually happened as a result of the update. Research credible SEO websites like Search Engine Land, Moz, and Search Engine Journal. That way, if you notice a dip in your rankings, you know why and what to do to recover.

  1. Have a Conversation with Your SEO

Now, if you’ve been having a SEO company or consultant doing white-hat work, you shouldn’t notice an overall dip in your rankings after a Google update of any kind. You might notice dips in individual pages and search terms here and there. But, you should notice a net gain.

Talk with your SEO and get their opinion on what’s going on and why. Ask what you can do to improve your rankings. Ask what they’re going to do in reaction to this update.

  1. Keep Up The Hard Work

In 2016 and beyond, maintaining a single website and growing your search rankings takes a large amount of hard work. It requires a small team of professionals.

You may assist with your SEO in some ways, and especially so through content. That’s because you’re the expert in your industry, and know it better than anyone on your SEO team.

Consistent production of unique and high-quality content will not only keep you safe in the search rankings, it will help you thrive. Your SEO team then takes care of the hard technical work like optimization and link-building.

It’s a recipe for success. And it’s the perfect reaction to any Google update.

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.