Organic SEO vs. Local SEO: Which Do I Need?

Organic SEO vs. Local SEO: Which Do I Need?

Each of these digital marketing disciplines — organic SEO and local SEO — involves boosting online visibility for businesses and their websites. In other words, both strategies focus on making websites easy to find when potential customers search for relevant products and services of a business. Each discipline comes with its own distinct strategies and techniques and, when strategies for organic and local SEO dovetail with one another, they can become even more powerful.

Organic SEO

Components of organic SEO include selecting relevant keywords for a website that have reasonable levels of traffic with achievable levels of competition. These keywords are then used in page and blog copy, tags (title, meta description and H), internal links and so forth to send signals to the search engines about what keywords are important on that URL in particular and the site, overall.

Optimizing for keywords, though, is not enough. It’s important to also have a diverse set of quality inbound links pointing to a site. In addition to using common SEO tactics to improve your website’s ranking, you should also ensure that your site is well structured and easy to use. Equally as important, make sure the website aids in converting traffic into sales.

As part of organic SEO, it’s important to rank well for keywords that are appropriately paired with the locations of brick and mortar stores, if applicable, so strategically using geotargeted keywords (for example, Jacksonville blue widgets) is crucial. And, this is the point at which organic SEO and local SEO intersect.

Local SEO

A primary goal of local SEO is to have a website place well in the Google Maps local pack for relevant keywords. Not all keywords trigger a local map — only the ones that Google determines have local intent, such as for a pizza parlor or an attorney, a dentist or an ice cream stand.

When a local map does appear for a term, Google is currently showing three listings (the three-pack) and then a “More places” link. Ideally, you want your site to appear in the three-pack. To help make that happen, local SEO strategies include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Google My Business (GMB) optimization
  • Google reviews
  • Citation strategies, which involves verifying name, address and phone information wherever listed online, and correcting errors whenever possible

Local SEO became a unique discipline in 2005 by starting to distinguish itself as a separate branch of SEO. That’s when Google released its Local Business Center and then combined that center with its Google Maps. Although, as searchers, we now take this convenience for granted, that’s when we began to be able to access store information, including hours and contact information, with driving directions and more in one spot.

You can find more information about local SEO strategies here.

Strategic Synergy

Although organic SEO and local SEO each have unique features, commonalities exist, including:

  • Keyword research is essential for both, with organic SEO requiring a broader strategy and local SEO focusing on more niche ones.
  • Location pages on a website play a key role in both disciplines, as they can appear in search engine results pages (SERPs) as well provide key signals to help the site appear in Google three-packs for relevant keywords.
  • Online optimization is important for each, with NAP consistency central to local SEO.
  • Schema, a specialized form of HTML coding, helps Google “understand” the purposes of content; one area of specialization is for NAP, as one example, while another is for online reviews shared on the site.

Reverse Engineering Rankings

To rank well organically, it’s important to create keyword-rich content that engages readers, and to optimize back end tags and new URLs, to steadily increase the number of inbound links and so forth. Creating a quality user experience is also important, which includes (but is not limited to) boosting page speed. You can find more about organic SEO ranking factors in 2018 at Moz.com.

Ranking factors for local search, though, are somewhat different, focused on “relevance, distance, and prominence,” according to Google. “These factors are combined to help find the best match for your search. For example, Google algorithms might decide that a business that’s farther away from your location is more likely to have what you’re looking for than a business that’s closer, and therefore rank it higher in local results.”

To become more relevant, it’s important to comprehensively provide local information about the business. That’s because, the more easily Google can match your business and site with prospects searching for your products or services, the more often this will likely happen.

Distance is an important factor in local search, and Google will look at geotargeted terms used in a searcher’s query and then compare potential search results and their distance from the person. If the searcher doesn’t use a location-specific term, Google will still use what is known about that location when offering up results.

Then there is prominence. Being a well-known brand never hurts. But, even if you’re not a well-established brand, you can build a quality online presence to boost your authority signals. This can include regularly getting Google reviews, building relevant links and citations and more.

Clearing Up Misconceptions

People new to SEO sometimes have misconceptions about local SEO. As one of the most common examples, they might associate “local” with step one and “organic” as a broader step two. In fact, the most powerful SEO campaigns focus on how these two disciplines can be used in tandem to gain the most powerful online presence possible, being found right where potential customers are searching.

So, as a final piece of advice, we recommend you create a customized SEO strategy for your site that, from its inception, includes a focus on both local SEO and organic SEO.

Patience: The Foundation of Successful SEO Campaigns

Patience: The Foundation of Successful SEO Campaigns

It’s only natural, when you start an SEO campaign, to be eager to see results. After all, you’re investing time, money and energy into making your business more visible online. But, when you become impatient, it’s easy to rush through important steps, which almost always hinders the overall success of your SEO efforts.

How can you tell the difference, though, between being ultra-efficient and rushing through SEO actions too quickly? How can you tell if your SEO isn’t working or if your campaign simply needs more time to succeed?

Here are four practical tips to keep your campaign on track and to protect it from the harm that can come from too much impatience.

Know Your Competition

Before you begin any organic SEO campaign, it’s crucial to be realistic about the pace in which you can achieve your desired keyword rankings. What’s realistic, of course, depends upon your online competition.

It may help to compare increasing your keyword rankings to a race that you run (an ironic analogy, for sure, when we’re encouraging patience). Still, the analogy can help. Let’s say, for example, you want to rank well for “commercial lawn care services.” But, plenty of competitors have been focusing on that term for quite some time. This means that, while you’re still at the starting line, they’re already further along on the racetrack.

This doesn’t mean you can’t catch up to your competitors. But, like in a foot race, one or more of these things must occur to allow you to close the gap:

  1. Your competitor quits competing and rests on its laurels; that could happen, but don’t count on that as your central SEO strategy.
  2. You run faster than your competitor; that can definitely help to close the gap, and, with SEO, you can compare running more quickly with investing more into your campaign.
  3. You run harder than your competitor; you can compare this to working harder with SEO, perhaps by using the keywords in more content than competitors.
  4. You run smarter than your competitor; this is comparable to being more strategic with your SEO campaign.

Here’s the bottom line: You must know your competition and plan your SEO strategies accordingly.

Don’t Quit

Assuming you’ve got a solid foundational strategy, you then need to be:

  • Persistent
  • Adaptable

You’ll need to test your strategies, monitor results, and tweak as needed, repeating this pattern for as long as it takes.

And, you’re probably wondering approximately how long it will take to rank for a desired keyword. Although there are no hard-and-fast answers, Ahrefs.com randomly selected two million keywords and monitored how long it took for each to rank in the top ten in Google, as well as to rank number one. Results published in 2017 are as follows:

  • The average top ten ranking took two years.
  • The average number one ranking took almost three years.

Results will vary, depending upon the levels of competition, but patience. Patience is key.

Now, to use another sports analogy (football, this time), once you reach your desired rankings, you’ll need to switch from being on the offensive, pushing hard to get the rankings, to being on the defensive. That’s because other eager companies would be happy to take your hard-earned rankings from you, and you need to protect your turf.

Don’t Let Impatience = Taking Shortcuts

Although investing more resources into your SEO can make good sense, taking shortcuts can be foolish. For example, let’s look at link building campaigns. You know that links are important to rankings and you know (by following our tip #1) your competitors have plenty of them. So, it’s tempting to be super-aggressive in getting your own.

But, when you try to get as many links as you can as fast as you can, the links probably won’t be of the best quality. And, to have a good inbound link profile, it’s important to have quality links from diverse yet relevant sources. By being too impatient, you might create a spammy link profile, which will likely do your site and business more harm than good.

Instead, create relevant, keyword-rich content that people will want to link to. Promote that content, including through reaching out to relevant influencers who might be willing to share your content, and further expand your digital reach.

Don’t Forget Local SEO

If you have a physical location, it’s crucial to also focus on local SEO strategies. For example, you might really want to get into Google’s three-pack for “pizza delivery in Miami, Florida.”

You know that getting positive Google Reviews will help your local SEO campaign — and you see that competitors have plenty more than you do. So, you figure, if your goal is to get a total of 500 reviews, then you’ll pull out all the stops and get, say, 100 reviews a month. Then, in five months, you’ll be on top of the three-pack.

Except, it doesn’t work that way.

Google tends to reward steady progress, with a sudden influx of reviews looking pretty suspicious (that’s also true with inbound links). So, instead, create a program where you regularly reach out to satisfied customers and ask each of them to write a review about your pizza and/or your delivery service. Don’t specifically ask for a good review; instead, ask the customers you believe will provide a positive one. Make it super-easy for them to do so by creating a unique link that will take them exactly where they need to go.

Conclusion

Although we don’t agree with the “slow” part of the “slow but steady wins the race” saying, we do strongly advocate steady progress. Successful SEO programs are well planned and consistently executed. Patience, persistence and adaptability, we believe, are what really win the race!

Google’s Speed Update: How Small Businesses Can Stay Competitive

Google’s Speed Update: How Small Businesses Can Stay Competitive

On January 17, 2018, Google announced that page speed will become a ranking factor in mobile searches, effective July 2018. Couple that announcement with the mobile-first search index that began rolling out late in 2017 — a rollout that will cause Google to favor mobile versions of websites in its search engine results pages — and it quickly becomes clear that businesses of all sizes need to optimize the mobile experience they’re offering to prospects and customers. Here are six steps for SMBs to take to stay competitive online.

Step One: Ensure Your Site is Mobile-Friendly

Google offers a simple way to check: their Mobile Friendly Test. If your site passes the test, that’s great. If not — and if you use a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress, Drupal, Magento, Blogger and the like — you can find CMS-specific guides to optimizing your site for mobile. If you don’t use a CMS, Google offers this Mobile SEO Guide.

Step Two: Evaluate Your Page Speed

A fast and easy way to check the speed is through Google’s PageSpeed Insights, but there’s a catch: only sites with enough traffic (exact number unspecified, but the bar is still pretty high) will receive ratings. If your site gets enough traffic to qualify, you’ll receive an overall rating for mobile: fast, normal or slow. You will also receive a page load distribution chart that will allow you to see what percentage of your site’s pages are considered fast; how many as normal; and how many as slow.

There will be two bars in this chart, one for FCP and one for DCL. FCP is short for First Contentful Paint and measures how quickly a visitor to your site would see a visual response. Amazon, for example, has an FCP rating of 1.3s. DCL stands for DOM Content Loaded and measures the speed at which HTML was loaded and parsed. For Amazon, that number is 1.5s.

If data is not provided for your site at PageSpeed Insights, you can estimate your page speed via a synthetic performance audit using an open-source tool called Lighthouse. As another option, you can determine how quickly your site loads for visitors with a 3G connection at TestMySite. Yet another site with free page speed tests: GTMetrix.com.

Don’t stress out if you don’t have a perfect score. Most websites don’t. What is important: comparing your page speeds scores with your competitors and making continual improvements to stay ahead of them.

Step Three: Analyze Problem Areas

At PageSpeed Insights, even if you can’t get mobile speed ratings for your site, you will still receive information about page elements that are preventing your site from rendering as quickly as desired. If you test your speed at TestMySite, you can download a free report that offers recommendations to address problems.

Review your site’s search console, looking for crawl errors that might be slowing you down. Carefully sift through the Mobility Usability report, as well.

Step Four: Determine if AMP is For You

Webmasters have the option to “AMP” their pages by using Accelerated Mobile Page technology. With AMP, you are stripping down code to its basics and, because the pages are pared down to their bare minimum, they are lightning fast when loading. There are advantages and disadvantages to AMP-ing pages, and you should note that you can create fast-loading pages without using AMP technology. But, it can’t be argued that this technology is succeeding in creating streamlined pages that render quickly, indeed.

Step Five: Optimize, Compress, Minify and Remove

Google offers advice on the following areas:

Now is the time to create a plan to prioritize and fix problem areas. Developer tools are available from Google here.

Step Six: In-House Versus Outsourcing

If your SMB has an inhouse IT department, you may have all the resources you need to tackle these fixes. But note that some areas may be outside the scope and/or expertise of your team and, in that case, it’s important to outsource any work you decide to take on to the right developer. Google provides tips on how to choose a developer to make your site mobile friendly and it never hurts to ask for recommendations from professionals you trust.

More about the Speed Update

Page speed has been a ranking factor for nearly eight years with desktop searches so, if you’ve been focusing on speed for desktop and have created a responsive mobile site, you may already be in pretty good shape. Google has said that this update will only affect a small percentage of queries, those with the slowest loading experiences.

Benefits of faster-loading pages will go beyond the ranking issue, though, as site visitors also prefer fast loads. According to Kissmetrics.com data:

  • 47% of them expect a web page to load in two seconds or less
  • 40% abandon sites that take more than three seconds to load
  • 79% of shoppers who have a dissatisfying experience because of website performance are less likely buy from that site in the future
  • 52% of shoppers say that quick page load is important to site loyalty
  • A one second delay (or three seconds of waiting time) decreases satisfaction by customers by about 16%
  • 44% of shoppers will tell friends about bad online experiences
  • A one second delay can result in a 7% drop in conversions

How much work you need to do to remain competitive depends upon two main factors: how much you’ve already done, and how much your competitors have done and are currently doing. As a final tip, regularly check your site in site speed tools to see what recommendations remain and continue to prioritize the most important.

How to Develop an Authentic Brand for Your Business Online

How to Develop an Authentic Brand for Your Business Online

When companies talk about building an authentic brand, conversations often revolve around developing or changing the mission statement—or the logo, the tagline or some other tangible thing—and then, when that matter is solved, the build-a-brand item is checked off corporate agendas. Building a brand, though, involves so much more, and it starts with taking a step back and determining what the term “brand” really means.

An article in Forbes.com does a good job of tackling that task, distinguishing between a “brand” and a “brand name.” Brand names are objective, factually stated, with examples of brand names including Nike, Pepsi and Starbucks. A brand, though, is something much more than a company, product or service name. It’s subjective, consisting of what your prospects think about when they hear your brand name. Uncomfortable as this may make some company executives feel, you can’t dictate your brand as it actually exists only in people’s minds.

In other words, this means your brand isn’t who you think you are, or say you are. It’s who you really are! With that definition at the forefront, developing a brand might suddenly feel like being told to capture lightning in a bottle. So, now what?

Well, because your brand is defined by what people think about when hearing your brand name, developing an authentic brand—whether online or offline—is really about your reputation, your relationships, how well you understand your audience and respond to customers, and how you help your audience get to know more about you. The real you.

Who Are You, Really?

To define this, you need to take two key steps. First, list your unique offerings and how you describe them. This will likely involve getting rid of catchphrases you’ve come to cherish, and taking a deeper look at claims you make. If, for example, you state your FasterBusiness App will skyrocket productivity in the workplace, have you compared your app with those of your competitors’? Does your product really boost productivity or is that a too-easy (untested!) cliché to use?

If it’s the first, that’s fantastic, and now you’ll need to quantify to what degree your app boosts workplace productivity, and prepare to share that information with prospects and customers. If it’s the second, what truly is your unique offering?

As a second step, you must define your desired customers. If you’ve created personas, take another look at them and adjust, as needed. If you haven’t created them yet, put that on your priority list. Compare your personas to your actual customers. Is there a gap? If so, define it and determine what needs to change in your offerings to entice your desired customers. (Note how different this is from simply changing your messaging to what your ideal customers would want to hear!)

Once you’re clear about your offerings and audience, and you’ve addressed any gaps, what do you need to adjust in your messaging? Now would be the time to make changes in how you are presenting your brand in messaging both on and off your website online, as well as offsite.

Building Relationships

Now that you’re clear about your messaging, and it meshes with your targeted audiences and your products/services, it’s time to offer value to your online audience by providing your expertise. This includes, but isn’t limited to, creating useful content—with this content being created for people who are just starting to research your industry to those who are ready to buy products and/or services. It also includes methods for people to contact you to ask questions, and it’s essential that you foolproof how quickly and well you respond to those questions, including concerns and negative experiences with your products and/or services.

Social media channels are an excellent place to build relationships, so be sure to effectively respond to people who engage with you there. Also build relationships with people who might not buy your product but might help to spread the word about how you fulfill your brand promises. This group of people can include bloggers in your industry, people who share your posts and more. Cultivate relationships with influencers in all relevant niches in your space.

Be sure to monitor what people say about your company by reading reviews at Google, Yelp and the like. Do Google searches or set up Google alerts to see what shows up under your brand name and variations of it, the names of key members of your team and the like. Are you proud to read what’s written about your brand? Are there issues that clearly need correcting to strengthen your brand?

As you build relationships, be transparent, be human! Avoid corporate speak and show your personality.

Tangible Brand Building

You’ll also need to invest in the tangibles, building a great website that’s easy to use with an eye-catching design. The logo needs to represent your brand well, not just be a visual representation of your brand name, and the mission statement and tagline need to accurately portray your company.

Review your social media profiles and anywhere else you have an online profile and/or presence, and make sure that each accurately reflects what you’ve learned through the process of developing an authentic brand.

2018: The Year of Writing Long-Form Content

2018: The Year of Writing Long-Form Content

Our prediction is that companies creating well-written, appropriately optimized and strategically targeted long-form content will benefit in 2018, more so than ever before. Long-form content typically consist of 1,500-3,000 words, and presents a fairly comprehensive look at a particular topic.

Long-form content benefits companies that create it in multiple ways. This type of content usually ranks better, which boosts traffic to the website. When well-crafted and targeted, it keeps site visitors engaged for longer periods of time and can boost the number of pages viewed, especially when internal links are strategically included. Overall, long-form content improves engagement metrics, which can cause Google to rank the content more highly.

Long-form content is also the ideal vehicle for including checklists, FAQs and bulleted content. This is the type of content Google typically includes in its Answer Boxes, which gives websites outstanding visibility. This content can then be segmented for use in email marketing campaigns, social media messaging and much more.

But, how do you create top-quality long-form content? It’s not just a matter of writing more content, but of strategically creating comprehensive, useful content.

Here are five tips to creating quality long-form content:

1. Glean the Wisdom of Your Team

Before you even start writing, talk to members of your team who have contact with and/or in-depth knowledge of your customers. What questions are they frequently asked? What topics are of special interest to customers? What content is missing from your site that your team believes is needed?

Using this intelligence, you can brainstorm the best topics for long-form content and use it to begin crafting FAQs to include.

2. Gather Intelligence from Analytics

Again, before you ever start writing, do legwork. What posts bring the most traffic to your site? What patterns do you see? What gaps can you fill in and how can you add value to these subjects? How can you create a high-level, long-form piece of content from which you can naturally link to these other assets on your site?

3. Benefit from Expert Perspectives

Interview people from the company to gather quotes about the subject at hand. Also consider interviewing experts from outside the company that are in your business and social networks. If your site meets the Alexa-rating requirements of HelpAReporter.com (known as HARO), this is an excellent way to connect with experts across multiple industries. Requests for interviews and quotes go out three times a day, Monday through Friday, and you can also request urgent help. Another quality source to find experts to interview is ProfNet from PR Newswire.

4. Put the Pieces Together

Types of content often included in long-form content are:

History/context of an industry or product

Let’s say you’re writing content about IoT, and the company sells the latest in wearables. There can be value in including the development of IoT so that the cutting-edge aspects of the products sold can become clear. Contextual history can be a valuable part of long-form content creation in general, helping site visitors who are new to the products and/or services sold, and to create a comprehensive post that Google will reward. But you don’t want to get lost in the myriad of details. Choose what matters. Also know that what happens first, chronologically speaking, doesn’t need to be at the beginning of your long-form post.

Quality images and how-to videos

You don’t want your long-form content to consist of long blocks of unbroken text, because that’s a sure recipe for site visitors to bounce off. Create original images, whenever possible, including infographics; when you need to use stock photos, use them judiciously. Creating original video is a real plus. If you’re using YouTube videos from other sources, embed the videos into your post so people don’t need to click off the site to view them.

FAQs and Checklists

Use the information you’ve gathered from members of the team and from your research to create FAQs that include questions likely to be asked from people just beginning to do research to those who are ready to buy. Consider creating a checklist, as just one example, that shares the top ten things someone needs to know before buying the ideal wearable. This will be useful to a spectrum of potential buyers and may end up in Google’s Answer Box.

Industry leader quotes, testimonials and case studies

You can scatter the quotes throughout the piece so it’s clear your company is in the know, a real authority on the subject. Near the bottom of the post, it makes sense to include testimonials and case studies so that people who are ready to buy can be reassured your company is the one to choose.

These are not the only elements to include in long-form content, but they are important ones. If you’ve got original research data you’re willing to share, definitely include that, as it will be a magnet for inbound links. If you’ve got engaging anecdotes or little-known pieces of information of interest to your target audiences, those are also important to include.

5. Linking!

Whenever it’s helpful to link from the long-form post to other assets on your website, do so. This is an ideal way to keep people on your website, which will boost engagement metrics, and to strategically nurture site visitors along to where they are ready to buy. Appropriate internal linking is also helpful for SEO purposes.

Concluding Thoughts

No two pieces of long-form content are the same, and neither are the ways in which you will research and write them. In general, though, it makes sense to gather together as much relevant information as you can from multiple sources, and to structure the piece well. But, stay alert to possibilities that will take you off the beaten path to create content that surprises and delights your readers.