How Online Reviews Are Impacting Your SEO

How Online Reviews Are Impacting Your SEO

You work tirelessly to create an image for your business through authoritative, insightful content. Unfortunately, this is rarely enough. Customers are more likely to believe others who say a business offers a great service than the company itself. This is why reviews are critical to your online success.

Not only do 90 percent of consumers read reviews before visiting a business (according to Dimensional Research), Google cares, too. Reviews can improve your SEO for several reasons.

  1. Fresh Content

Reviews fulfill around 9.8 percent of total ranking factors. For instance, they are unique, they are often relevant to search queries, they are useful, they provide unique value, they are easy to read on any device, and they are the kind of content others want to share.

  1. Long-Tail Keywords

The people leaving reviews for products and services share many of the same characteristics as those who are looking for your business offerings. This means they use many of the same terms to describe your company and offerings. In other words, they use the same long-tail keywords.

  1. Rich Snippets

When you adhere to schema standards, Google favors your site. In terms of reviews, schema means Google can create rich snippets. These often appear at the top of search engine results. They feature the name of the product, its star rating, the number of reviews, and a brief summary of the top pros and cons. These rich snippets are highly-clickable.

  1. Higher Rankings for Other Pages

One of the best ways to prove your authority is to be backed up by other sources. If the majority of your reviews are positive, Google will take this to mean that your brand is popular. This will boost rankings for many of the page on your site. However, for this to be effective, you need to increase both the number of reviews you receive and the percentage of positive reviews.

  1. Third-Party Star Ratings

Google looks at reviews on your own website and on third-party pages. Ideally, you should maintain a high star ranking (at least 3.5 stars) on the most important third-party site for your industry. You should to aim for at least 30 unique reviews in the last 12 months.

Creating a Review Strategy

If you just wait for reviews to pour in, you’ll definitely be disappointed. No matter how great your service is, only a small minority of customers will leave reviews without a push or incentive from you. Worse still, if customers do have a bad experience, they may feel obliged to share it with the world. This can lead to a skewed number of negative reviews, leading to a distorted picture of your business that negatively impacts SEO.

To ensure reviews have a positive effect on SEO, you need a strategy.

Ask for Reviews

Ask satisfied customers to leave you reviews whenever they have a positive experience with your company. You can send an email after a purchase or invite users on your website and social media accounts. Asking for reviews needs to be a constant campaign — it is always beneficial to have new reviews.

Clearly state where you want reviews. The most important place is usually Google My Business, as these reviews appear on Google Maps and in Google search results. You need at least five reviews on Google My Business before you will even see a star rating in the search.

Win at Yelp

Another important third-party site for many types of businesses is Yelp. Be warned: this site is smart — it knows when reviews are likely illegitimate are hides them. To make sure the reviews you ask from your customers are published, never provide direct links to your Yelp page. Instead, ask customers to Google your business name and look for it on Yelp. Also tell customers to leave descriptive reviews, as Yelp ignores those that are too short.

Social Media

Some social media platforms allow users to leave reviews on brands’ pages. You can incorporate more reviews by using them as part of your social media strategy. Among other strategies, post your best reviews to make sure they become highly-visible to prospects and to start conversations.

Respond to Negative Reviews

Responding to negative reviews is your chance to address what went wrong and apologize or justify the situation. Never be defensive — this will only make things worse. Instead, see what you can do to make things right. This demonstrates that you care to potential customers.

Reviews have the potential to boost your SEO, but there is always the risk that they ruin your company’s reputation online. With a large number of positive reviews, you can dominate the search results for long-tail keywords that relate to your offerings. To achieve this, it is critical you have a strategy to receive the right types of reviews.

Effective Ways to Conquer Local SEO

Effective Ways to Conquer Local SEO

Local SEO is a highly effective form of online marketing, which enables businesses of all sizes to promote their products and services to local customers. While mastering the local aspects of your SEO campaign may sound daunting, it’s one of the best ways to help your business achieve great success. Are you looking for ways to conquer local SEO?  Here is a detailed guide:

Get Organized

All winning strategies begin by creating a solid plan and getting organized. Therefore, when creating a local SEO strategy, make sure that you allocate the appropriate time and resources required for achieving success. Keep in mind that your SEO won’t change overnight, and you won’t see instant results. You need to be ready to put in great effort and remain consistent with your strategies. It’s a good idea to first get your entire team onboard with the strategy, so that everyone is on the same page about the time commitment from day one.

Claim Listings

One of the best ways to boost local SEO and rank better on Google’s SERPs (search engine results pages) is to check your listings. Online listings are extremely important, as they give your business instant visibility and validate your legitimacy. Google wants to help individuals looking for a particular product or service find the best business online. So, try your best to list your business across the web with accurate contact information, address and a good description. Popular places to claim listings before you move onto industry-specific forums and sites include Yahoo, Bing and Google+.

Use Social Media

Creating profiles on social media is just like claiming listings on various websites. It is crucial for helping Google test your authenticity and validate your legitimacy. The more active you are on social media, the better chances you have of ranking better. Encourage followers to connect with you by liking, sharing and commenting on posts and by visiting your blog for more information. Publishing and sharing quality content that readers will love can significantly help in boosting reputation. Having a social media profile also makes it easier for prospects to analyze how you treat your customers. Therefore, make sure you create a helpful, cooperative and friendly tone that allows prospects to engage with you.

Communicate and Engage

Besides publishing content on your social media profiles, one of the best ways to keep your customers intrigued and engaged is to create a company blog or industry-specific community or forum. These platforms will only be used for allowing people with great interests in your industry to communicate and engage in serious discussions and share useful information. Blogs and forums can help in keeping your readers engaged, while allowing Google to see you as an authoritative entity—boosting local SEO rankings.

Request Reviews

Lastly, don’t hesitate in engaging with your target audience. Provide incentives for them to buy product or services or simply post a review regarding their experience with your brand. Prospects will always be interested in hearing what others have to say about a business, as it influences their purchasing decisions. The more positive reviews you get, the better chances of you ranking higher on the local SERP rankings of Google.

Conquering local SEO is doable for your business and will help your business grow and succeed. Follow the tips mentioned above to do so!

Google’s Growing Suite of Free SMB Marketing Tools

Google’s Growing Suite of Free SMB Marketing Tools

In an effort to help small businesses connect better with their customers online, Google is promoting five non-advertising tools to create and manage a business’ online presence. The free tools, which Google released last year, provide a number of benefits and help highlight the uniqueness of an individual business to potential customers.

The tools serve various purposes: improve the search experience, help small businesses (SMBs) reach and engage with customers, and generate more original content on Google. Additionally, the tools can be managed via Google My Business (GMB).

The first of the tools, and arguably the most valuable, the website developer allows SMBs to create a website for their business within minutes. In roughly the first month, according to Mike Blumenthal, Google saw the creation of approximately 250,000 websites. This is a dramatic pace — many thousands of sites per day.

The website is created using information generated directly from a GMB listing, and can be edited with custom text, photos and various design elements. Users can choose a custom domain, and manage their website from any device. All of the sites are mobile responsive, and update automatically with new information from GMB listings.

Posts, another tool offered, allows users to engage in unique ways with their current customers, and helps attract new customers. Whether you’re looking to highlight daily featured items, or promote upcoming events, Posts allows users to share relevant updates in real time. These posts then appear on your Google business listing, where customers can read and share them.

The Questions and Answers feature allows businesses to add frequently asked questions to their GMB listing. The tool allows businesses to curate the content by featuring the most common or important question and answers prominently on the GMB listing.

Another resource, the Business Dashboard, provides a means for business owners to regulate their online presence on Google directly from Google Search. Users can enhance their business listings, share relevant photos and posts, and monitor views. The Business Dashboard is designed to help businesses grow their customer base and increase engagement.

To assist customers looking to contact your business quickly, the Messaging tool allows customers to text a business directly on the GMB listing. Business owners can then respond promptly, and provide immediate, useful feedback. Phone numbers remain private when using this feature, so customers can communicate safely and easily.

These features appear to be geared towards cost-conscious businesses with an appetite for DIY marketing. However, given Google’s prominence in the local marketing space, these tools offer powerful ways for businesses to engage with potential customers online. It will be interesting to see how adoption of these tools and the content generated from them impact search results.

Think Local Search Doesn’t Apply to Your Business? Think Again.

Think Local Search Doesn’t Apply to Your Business? Think Again.

Have you ever been traveling abroad somewhere where you don’t understand the language and are looking for a bite to eat or a quick cup of coffee? You tap into that hotel Wi-Fi you are so grateful for and Google “coffee near me.” Of the top results that come up, you struggle between the choice to try something local and new, and the comfort and familiarity of Starbucks.

Now, ignoring what your ultimate decision was and whether you got two sugars or one, this scenario poses an important question. What is Starbucks doing on your search results, miles away from their starting place in Seattle? Why is it that Starbucks comes up on your mobile device no matter where you are–in Mexico, Germany or Japan?

It’s because of local search marketing.

Many people think of local search as something only for small businesses that are operating mainly in only a couple of cities. However, local search marketing is something that all businesses need to know how to do–even national and global businesses.

Here Are the Facts

The fact is that there are over 100 billion Google searches a month. Of these Google searches, more take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries, including the U.S. and Japan. And of THOSE mobile searches, 32% are related to location!

These are all key findings in a recent infographic posted below by Boostability and Navads.

Further stats from the infographic about the effects of local search for businesses basically can be summed up with one word: Great. 50% of local searches lead to an in-store visit within one day and 28% result in an immediate purchase.

Another Look at Starbucks

Let’s go back to that Starbucks example one more time. Starbucks opened its first store in 1971. In 1987 it had grown to 17 stores. 1996 was a big year as it opened its first store outside of North America in Japan and their total store count had risen to 1,015. Fast forward ten years and their total store count was 12,440. And nowadays? Well, as of 2015 Starbucks lists the store count at a whopping 22,519.

What is Starbucks doing right locally that has helped them get big globally? A couple of things.

One thing they are doing for their local visibility is consistency. Referring to a business name online in many different ways (like “Starbucks, Inc.” vs. “Starbucks Coffee”) can really mess up local SEO. They stick to “Starbucks” and let the internet work its magic.

Starbucks also lists correct phone numbers and opening hours. You would think that is a no-brainer, but it turns out that 67% of local search results have a mistake with their phone number and 75% have errors in opening hours.

Starbucks is on the right maps and on the right business listing pages. 50% of smartphone users are using Google Maps, 30% Apple Maps and 10% use Waze. Without being on those maps, or the dozens of local listing platforms, they would be missing hundreds (at least) of potential customers.

What Does This Mean for Your Business?

If you have a business with a physical location, you need to jump on board with local search marketing. Don’t ignore the trends of local searching and mobile usage. Get with it or get left behind.

What Is Seasonal SEO — and Is It Worth It?

What Is Seasonal SEO — and Is It Worth It?

As SEO is mainly about improving your website for the long run, it may seem like seasonal SEO should be illogical. After all, seasonal SEO only plays a role during a certain time of year. However, many businesses have particular dates when they can expect a higher number of sales. In these cases, seasonal SEO can help reach prospects who are most likely to buy.

In other words, there are both pros and cons to using seasonal SEO. You need to decide if the advantages outweigh the disadvantages to determine if it would be worthwhile for your business.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Creating optimized content for the season allows you to bring prospects highly-relevant content. Plus, if you are targeting customers who are ready to buy, there is less need nurturing and you can expect faster conversions.

However, all the time you spend focusing on seasonal SEO is time and effort taken away from working on your long-term strategy. You are missing the chance to create content that will contribute to your visibility for the rest of the year. On the flip side, these efforts will contribute to SEO in following years during the same seasons — provided you create evergreen content.

Is It Worthwhile?

Seasonal SEO tends to be worthwhile to businesses who experience increased seasonal sales. It is also an excellent strategy if your competitors are failing to use the same tactics, as it makes it easy to rank for popular search terms.

However, it is essential that you are able to allocate resources to seasonal SEO. If implementing seasonal SEO means neglecting your overall strategy, it could end up having a negative impact on your business.

Implementing Seasonal SEO

Conduct Keyword Research
You will need to carry out separate keyword research for seasonal SEO. Bear in mind that your seasonal keywords may be aimed at a distinct audience, such as if you are targeting users looking for gifts. There are also similarities to your regular strategy — long-tail keywords will work best, and local search marketing is most effective if you incorporate your location into phrases.

Find Inspiration
Find ideas that are likely to be successful by turning to data from previous years. See what types of content performed well and create similar pieces for this year, optimizing them with your seasonal keywords.

Map Out Dates
Identify exactly when users start seeking more information, products, and services. Develop a plan to start releasing your content in time for these dates. Define periods for awareness, engagement, and purchase. Once the purchase period has ended, you will need to start transitioning back to just your regular SEO.

Update Your Website
Seasonal SEO should extend beyond content. Optimize the rest of your website for the season by focusing on areas like navigation and layout to feature categories that are more relevant for the time of year. You should also create new landing pages and CTAs that have a seasonal appeal.

Only use seasonal SEO if you are confident that it will lead to a positive outcome for your brand. If you decide that it will be beneficial, you need to start implementing your strategy early. Create a content calendar, plan how you will publish and promote posts, and brainstorm ideas for other ways to optimize your website.

3 Marketing Tactics to Implement for Increased Holiday Sales

3 Marketing Tactics to Implement for Increased Holiday Sales

Not sure you want to go all in with your holiday marketing? Annoyed with the hassle of specialized emails, social media and website themes? Think that a basic holiday marketing strategy (if any) will suffice?

Well, maybe you are right. But that depends on what you are looking for in regards to your business this holiday season, and what you are willing to do to get there.

Let’s take some holiday stats from an infographic by Boostability, and dig a little deeper. You can check out the infographic at the end of this article.

What Are You Looking for?

Customers who come to you
The holidays are different than any other time of the year in that consumers are actually seeking to buy. Between all the gifts and parties within the season, people are on a time crunch to get their shopping done. Many of these shoppers start the weekend of Thanksgiving.

In fact, 59% of consumers plan to shop on thanksgiving weekend. 24% of consumers plan to shop on Small Business Saturday, November 26. That means people aren’t just running into an ad online and deciding to go shopping, but that they are deliberately seeking out good deals during that weekend.

Customers may come to you in-store, or online. They are searching for you. Common Google searches during the holidays are variants including the word “gift.” And these percentages are going up from the 2015-2016 holiday season. “Unique Gifts” growth is 65%, 80% for “Cool Gift”, and 70% for “Best Gift.” So if you sell a product or experience, consumers are searching for you. And if you are practicing SEO and marketing yourself as that “cool gift”, they’ll find you.

Increased sales
The holidays typically bring in the most revenue for most business. $1 trillion is expected in retail sales from November to December and $114 billion is expected in online sales this year.

People are buying more than ever before. In general, there is a predicted 4.5% increase in sales for 2017. In 2016 the average number of gifts purchased per person was 12.6, while this year that number is estimated to rise to 14 gifts. Mobile shopping dollars from 2015-2016 already saw a 45% increase, and mobile shopping is more popular than ever.

Here’s What to Do

Focus on local search and SEO
Local searching and SEO practices help people to find you amidst all the holiday competition. 38% of consumers plan to shop at a local independent store this season. 76% of people who research something nearby on their smartphone visit a related business in one business day. What this means? That people are looking for you based on location.

Also, 66% of consumers say online reviews influence their holiday shopping. Encouraging online reviews can boost your SEO and gain the trust of potential shoppers. You may even want to have “fan favorites” from your products displayed. If you sell a service, rather than a product, you will have to approach this differently, but reviews are still relevant.

Go Mobile
Did you know that 21% of holiday sales will be from mobile? That shouldn’t be too surprising when you know that 43% of consumers plan to find all their gifts online this year and that in 2014 around 24% of shoppers planned to do their holiday shopping online. Today, 78% of consumers use a smartphone for online holiday shopping. So if your holiday themes and discounts aren’t accessible via mobile or your site is prone to glitches and crashes, you are going to suffer the consequences.

Offer deals
77% of consumers make deals based on a coupon or offer during the holidays. 30% of shoppers believe shopping early has the best deals, while 27% believe shopping late has the best deals. Either way, people want deals.

The top three reasons consumers make an online purchase during the holidays are: Free shipping, easy returns, and price. The information to sales is in your hands!

Jump Into Your Holiday Marketing Strategy!

But if you don’t like customers who come to you, or high sales, then you are right–going all in with your holiday marketing probably isn’t for you. Leave the customers, sales, positive brand image, and general holiday success to those other businesses who are willing to work on their marketing techniques. As they focus on their SEO, mobile marketing, and special promotions (and you do nothing), they will take all those annoying customers out of your hair. Thanks to them, you can enjoy a quiet holiday and the holiday music playing in the background of your empty business.