Local SEO: 7 Google My Business questions asked and answered

At first glance, Google’s offering for local businesses might appear fairly simple. But questions inevitably arise. Contributor Sherry Bonelli explains the nuances and offers answers.

The post Local SEO: 7 Google My Business questions asked and answered appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Reblogged 2 weeks ago from feeds.searchengineland.com

Why is segmentation a must for all business types?

Targeting your audience with the right and relevant information is not only going to increase your chances of conversion, but will massively help with keeping your customers engaged and loyal – and you’ll likely see an improvement in your campaign reporting.

Back to basics

Think about what you’re trying to achieve as a business and the ways in which segmenting groups of contacts can help you reach those goals. In other words, don’t create segments for the sake of creating segments – make them meaningful.

You might find it hard to prioritise, so here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Engagement: who’s opened your emails in the last 30-60 days (depending on how frequently you send)? These contacts are going to be your key engaged audience, so consider how you can maintain and further cultivate the relationship. Perhaps thank them for engaging with your brand and ask them to complete a quick survey to capture more information / feedback on how they think your emails are doing, or what they’d like to see in the future.
  • Non-engagement: like the above but reversing the rule. Has the contact avoided opening the campaigns you’ve sent in the last 30-60 days? Pop those subscribers into a nurture program to help keep your data clean and your engagement strong.
  • Geographical: if you’re a store-based or location-based brand and have access to your customers’ postcodes, you can make use of dotmailer’s geographical segmentation – it’s handy for any local events, sales, store openings, or just a reminder that you’re there.
  • Gender: a great segment for retailers and healthcare, though in some cases it’s still good to include multi-gender products/information in your communications as your audience are likely to make recommendations to friends or family members. “Have a look at this, I think you’ll find it interesting” or “Look at these shoes, I think you’ll love them”.
  • Subscription date: show your customers you’re thinking of them by reminding them that they’ve been a member for 6 months, a year etc. You can use dynamic content to personalize the emails, perhaps offering them some kind of reward or incentive.

Transactional data segmentation – must-haves for retailers

This mostly applies if you have order insight and are pushing data through the API or Magento. Of course, some of these can still work using a flat data field and by manually updating your contact records based on the category or product type they’ve purchased.

The following segment examples are based on a mid-size company with mid-range prices (so somewhere in between your Primark (UK) / Target (US).

  • VIP customers: makes at least 1 purchase a month and has opened 1 campaign per month for the last 6 months
  • Discount spenders: have only purchased ‘Sale’ items in the last 6 months
  • Loyal customers: have opened at least 3 campaigns per month for the last 3 months and have made at least 2 orders
  • Big spenders: spend frequently with full priced items and are likely to bulk buy that one shirt you sell in 12 different colours
  • New customers: subscribed, opened an email and have purchased in the last 30 days
  • Win-back: non-openers and non-purchasers in 90 days or more
  • Online shopping carts containing: one of ‘X’ stock keeping unit

How do the above segments help me?

The above segments will help you to get a handle on the clients you’re losing and why they’re no longer buying from you. Your high-engagers and spenders are undoubtably worth your time and effort, so segmentation can ensure that you’re always sending them the relevant products and content that’ll keep them warm.

If I still haven’t convinced you to give this a try, reach out to your Account Manager or contact us for a demo and we’ll be happy to walk you through the platform.

The post Why is segmentation a must for all business types? appeared first on The Marketing Automation Blog.

Reblogged 3 weeks ago from blog.dotmailer.com

How to Perform a Basic Local Business Competitive Audit

Posted by MiriamEllis

“Why are those folks outranking me in Google’s local pack?”

If you or a client is asking this question, the answer lies in competitive analysis. You’ve got to stack Business A up against Business B to identify the strengths and weaknesses of both competitors, and then make an educated guess as to which factors Google is weighting most in the results for a specific search term.

Today, I’d like to share a real-world example of a random competitive audit, including a chart that depicts which factors I’ve investigated and explanatory tips and tools for how I came up with the numbers and facts. Also included: a downloadable version of the spreadsheet that you can use for your own company or clients. Your goal with this audit is to identify exactly how one player is winning the game so that you can create a to-do list for any company trying to move up in the rankings. Alternatively, some competitive audits can be defensive, identifying a dominant player’s weaknesses so that they can be corrected to ensure continued high rankings.

It’s my hope that seeing this audit in action will help you better answer the question of why “this person is outranking that person,” and that you may share with our community some analytical tips of your own!

The scenario:

Search term: Chinese Restaurant San Rafael

Statistics about San Rafael: A large town of approximately 22 square miles in the San Francisco Bay Area with a population of 58,954 and 15+ Chinese restaurants.

Consistency of results: From 20 miles away to 2000+ miles away, Ping’s Chinese Cuisine outranks Yet Wah Restaurant in Google’s local pack for the search term. We don’t look closer than 20 miles, or proximity of the searcher creates too much diversity.

The challenge: Why is Ping’s Chinese Cuisine outranking Yet Wah Restaurant in Google’s Local Pack for the search term?

The comparison chart

*Where there’s a clear winner, it’s noted in bolded, italicized text.

Basic business information

NAP

Ping’s Chinese Cuisine

248 Northgate Dr.

San Rafael, CA 94903

(415) 492-8808

Yet Wah Restaurant

1238 4th St.

San Rafael, CA 94901

(415) 460-9883

GMB landing page URL

http://pingsnorthgate.com/

http://www.yetwahchinese.com/

Local Pack rank

1

2

Organic rank

17

5

Organic rank among business-owned sites


*Remove directories and review platforms from the equation, as they typically shouldn’t be viewed as direct competitors

8

1

Business model eligible for GMB listing at this address?


*Check Google’s Guidelines if unsure: https://support.google.com/business/answer/3038177…

Yes

Yes

Oddities

Note that Ping’s has redirected pingschinesecuisine.com to pingsnorthgate.com. Ping’s also has a www and non-www version of pingsnorthgate.com.

A 2nd website for same business at same location with same phone number: http://yetwahsanrafael.com/. This website is ranking directly below the authoritative (GMB-linked) website for this business in organic SERP for the search in question.

Business listings

GMB review count

32

38

GMB review rating

4.1

3.8

Most recent GMB review


*Sort GMB reviews by “most recent” filter

1 week ago

1 month ago

Proper GMB categories?

Yes

Yes

Estimated age of GMB listing


*Estimated by date of oldest reviews and photos, but can only be seen as an estimate

At least 2 years old

At least 6 years old

Moz Local score (completeness + accuracy + lack of duplicates)


*Tool: https://moz.com/local/search

49%

75%

Moz Local duplicate findings


*Tool: https://moz.com/local/search

0

1 (Facebook)

Keywords in GMB name

chinese

restaurant

Keywords in GMB website landing page title tag

Nothing at all. Just “home page”

Yes

Spam in GMB title


*Look at GMB photos, Google Streetview, and the website to check for inconsistencies

No

Yes: “restaurant” not in website logo or street level signage

Hours and photos on GMB?

Yes

Yes

Proximity to city centroid


*Look up city by name in Google Maps and see where it places the name of the city on the map. That’s the city “centroid.” Get driving directions from the business to an address located in the centroid.

3.5 miles

410.1 feet

Proximity to nearest competitor


*Zoom in on Google map to surface as many adjacent competitors as possible. Can be a Possum factor in some cases.

1.1 mile

0.2 miles

Within Google Maps boundaries?


*Look up city by name in Google Maps and note the pink border via which Google designates that city’s boundaries

Yes

Yes

Website

Age of domain


*Tool: http://smallseotools.com/domain-age-checker/

March 2013

August 2011

Domain Authority


*Tool: https://moz.com/products/pro/seo-toolbar

16

8

GMB Landing Page Authority


*Tool: https://moz.com/products/pro/seo-toolbar

30

21

Links to domain

*Tool: https://moz.com/researchtools/ose/

53

2

DA/PA of most authoritative link earned


*Tool: https://moz.com/researchtools/ose/

72/32

38/16

Evaluation of website content

*This is a first-pass, visual gut check, just reading through the top-level pages of the website to see how they strike you in terms of quality.

Extremely thin, just adequate to identify restaurant. At least has menu on own site. Of the 2 sites, this one has the most total text, by virtue of a sentence on the homepage and menus in real text.

Extremely thin, almost zero text on homepage, menu link goes to another website.

Evaluation of website design

Outdated

Outdated, mostly images

Evaluation of website UX

Can be navigated, but few directives or CTAs

Can be navigated, but few directives or CTAs

Mobile-friendly


*Tool: https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly

Basic mobile design, but Google’s mobile-friendly test tool says both www and non-www cannot be reached because it’s unavailable or blocked by robots txt. They have disallowed scripts, photos, Flash, images, and plugins. This needs to be further investigated and resolved. Mobile site URL is http://pingsnorthgate.com/#2962. Both this URL and the other domains are failing Google’s test.

Basic mobile design passes Google’s mobile-friendly test

Evaluation of overall onsite SEO


*A first-pass visual look at the page code of top level pages, checking for titles, descriptions, header tags, schema, + the presence of problems like Flash.

Pretty much no optimization

Minimal, indeed, but a little bit of effort made. Some title tags, some schema, some header tags.

HTML NAP on website?

Yes

Yes

Website NAP matches GMB NAP?

No (Northgate One instead of Northgate Drive)

Yes

Total number of wins: Ping’s 7, Yet Wah 9.

Download your own version of my competitive audit spreadsheet by making a copy of the file.

Takeaways from the comparison chart

Yet Wah significantly outranks Ping’s in the organic results, but is being beaten by them in the Local Pack. Looking at the organic factors, we see evidence that, despite the fact that Ping’s has greater DA, greater PA of the GMB landing page, more links, and stronger links, they are not outranking Yet Wah organically. This is something of a surprise that leads us to look at their content and on-page SEO.

While Ping’s has slightly better text content on their website, they have almost done almost zero optimization work, their URLs have canonical issues, and their robots.txt isn’t properly configured. Yet Wah has almost no on-site content, but they have modestly optimized their title tags, implemented H tags and some schema, and their site passes Google’s mobile-friendly test.

So, our theory regarding Yet Wah’s superior organic ranking is that, in this particular case, Yet Wah’s moderate efforts with on-page SEO have managed to beat out Ping’s superior DA/PA/link metrics. Yet Wah’s website is also a couple of years older than Ping’s.

All that being said, Yet Wah’s organic win is failing to translate into a local win for them. How can we explain Ping’s local win? Ping’s has a slightly higher overall review rating, higher DA and GMB landing page PA, more total links, and higher authority links. They also have slightly more text content on their website, even if it’s not optimized.

So, our theory regarding Ping’s superior local rank is that, in this particular case, website authority/links appear to be winning the day for Ping’s. And the basic website text they have could possibly be contributing, despite lack of optimization.

In sum, basic on-page SEO appears to be contributing to Yet Wah’s organic win, while DA/PA/links appear to be contributing to Ping’s local win.

Things that bother me

I chose this competitive scenario at random, because when I took an initial look at the local and organic rankings, they bothered me a little. I would have expected Yet Wah to be first in the local pack if they were first in organic. I see local and organic rankings correlate strongly so much of the time, that this case seemed odd to me.

By the end of the audit, I’ve come up with a working theory, but I’m not 100% satisfied with it. It makes me ask questions like:

  • Is Ping’s better local rank stemming from some hidden factor no one knows about?
  • In this particular case, why is Google appearing to value Ping’s links more that Yet Wah’s on-page SEO in determining local rank? Would I see this same trend across the board if I analyzed 1,000 restaurants? The industry says links are huge in local SEO right now. I guess we’re seeing proof of that here.
  • Why isn’t Google weighting Yet Wah’s superior citation set more than they apparently are? Ping’s citations are in bad shape. I’ve seen citation health play a much greater apparent role in other audits, but something feels weird here.
  • Why isn’t Google “punishing” Yet Wah in the organic results for that second website with duplicate NAP on it? That seems like it should matter.
  • Why isn’t age factoring in more here? My inspection shows that Yet Wah’s domain and GMB listing are significantly older. This could be moving the organic needle for them, but it’s not moving the local one.
  • Could user behavior be making Ping’s the local winner? This is a huge open question at the end of my basic audit.* See below.

*I don’t have access to either restaurant’s Google Analytics, GMB Insights, or Google Search Console accounts, so perhaps that would turn up penalties, traffic patterns, or things like superior clicks-to-call, clicks-for-directions, or clicks-to-website that would make Ping’s local win easier to explain. If one of these restaurants were your client, you’d want to add chart rows for these things based on full access to the brand’s accounts and tools, and whatever data your tools can access about the competitor. For example, using a tool like SimilarWeb, I see that between May and June of this year, YetWah’s traffic rose from an average 150 monthly visits up to a peak of 500, while Ping’s saw a drop from 700 to 350 visits in that same period. Also, in a scenario in which one or both parties have a large or complex link profile, you might want additional rows for link metrics, taken from tools like Moz Pro, Ahrefs, or Majestic.

In this case, Ping’s has 7 total wins in my chart and Yet Wah has 9. The best I can do is look at which factors each business is winning at to try to identify a pattern of what Google is weighting most, both organically and locally. With both restaurants being so basic in their marketing, and with neither one absolutely running away with the game, what we have here is a close race. While I’d love to be able to declare a totally obvious winner, the best I could do as a consultant, in this case, would be to draw up a plan of defense or offense.

If my client were Ping’s:

Ping’s needs to defend its #1 local ranking if it doesn’t want to lose it. Its greatest weaknesses which must be resolved are:

  • The absence of on-page SEO
  • Thin content
  • Robots.txt issues

To remain strong, Ping’s should also work on:

  • Improving citation health
  • Directing the non-www version of their site to the www one
  • A professional site redesign could possibly improve conversions

Ping’s should accomplish these things to defend its current local rank and to try to move up organically.

If my client were Yet Wah:

Yet Wah needs to try to achieve victory over Ping’s in the local packs, as it has done in the organic results. To do that, Yet Wah should:

  • Earn links to the GMB landing page URL and the domain
  • Create strong text content on its high-level pages, including putting a complete dining menu in real text on the website
  • Deal with the second website featuring duplicate NAP

Yet Wah should also:

  • Complete work on its citation health
  • Work hard to get some new 5-star reviews by delighting customers with something special
  • Consider adding the word “Restaurant” to their signage, so that they can’t be reported for spamming the GMB name field.
  • Consider a professional redesign of the website to improve conversions

Yet Wah should accomplish these things in an effort to surpass Ping’s.

And, with either client being mine, I’d then be taking a second pass to further investigate anything problematic that came up in the initial audit, so that I could make further technical or creative suggestions.

Big geo-industry picture analysis

Given that no competitor for this particular search term has been able to beat out Ping’s or Yet Wah in the local pack, and given the minimal efforts these two brands have thus far made, there’s a tremendous chance for any Chinese restaurant in San Rafael to become the dominant player. Any competitor that dedicates itself to running on all cylinders (professional, optimized website with great content, a healthy link profile, a competitive number of high-star reviews, healthy citations, etc.) could definitely surpass all other contestants. This is not a tough market and there are no players who can’t be bested.

My sample case has been, as I’ve said, a close race. You may be facing an audit where there are deeply entrenched dominant players whose statistics far surpass those of a business you’re hoping to assist. But the basic process is the same:

  1. Look at the top-ranking business.
  2. Fill out the chart (adding any other fields you feel are important).
  3. Then discover the strengths of the dominant company, as well as its potential weaknesses.
  4. Contrast these findings with those you’ve charted for the company you’re helping and you’ll be able to form a plan for improvement.

And don’t forget the user proximity factor. Any company’s most adjacent customers will see pack results that vary either slightly or significantly from what a user sees from 20, 50, or 1,000 miles away. In my specific study, it happened to be the third result in the pack that went haywire once a user got 50 miles away, while the top two remained dominant and statically ranked for searchers as far away as the East Coast.

Because of this phenomenon of distance, it’s vital for business owners to be educated about the fact that they are serving two user groups: one that is located in the neighborhood or city of the business, and another that could be anywhere in the country or the world. This doesn’t just matter for destinations like hotels or public amusements. In California (a big state), Internet users on a road trip from Palm Springs may be looking to end their 500-mile drive at a Chinese restaurant in San Rafael, so you can’t just think hyper-locally; you’ve got to see the bigger local picture. And you’ve got to do the analysis to find ways of winning as often as you can with both consumer groups.

You take it from here, auditor!

My local competitive audit chart is a basic one, looking at 30+ factors. What would you add? How would you improve it? Did I miss a GMB duplicate listing, or review spam? What’s working best for your agency in doing local audits these days? Do you use a chart, or just provide a high-level text summary of your internal findings? And, if you have any further theories as to how Ping’s is winning the local pack, I’d love for you to share them in the comments.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Reblogged 2 months ago from tracking.feedpress.it

How to Delete a Google My Business Listing – A Common Question with a Complex Answer

Posted by MiriamEllis

“How do I delete a Google listing?” is an FAQ on local SEO forums — and it represents an oversimplification of a complicated and multifaceted issue. The truth is, simple deletion is seldom the answer. Rather, most events that arise in the course of doing business require knowing which steps to take to properly manage GMB listings so that they’re helping your business instead of harming it.

When it comes to managing unwanted or problematic Google My Business listings, it’s a case of horses for courses. There isn’t a single set of instructions you can reliably follow, because your particular scenario defines which steps you should take. The following table should help you identify common situations and choose the one that most closely matches yours. From there, you’ll learn which actions are available to you, and which ones, unfortunately, can’t be accomplished.

Because management of problem GMB listings usually requires either being in control of them or unverifying them, our chart begins with three verification scenarios, and then moves on to cover other typical business events.

Scenario

Context

Steps

Notes

Unverify a Verified Listing You Control

You have a listing in your GMB dashboard that you no longer wish to control.

  • Log into your GMB dashboard
  • Click “edit”
  • Click the “info” tab
  • Click “remove listing”
  • Check all the checkboxes
  • Click “delete account”

No worries: The last step does NOT delete your Google account or the listing, itself. It simply un-verifies it so that you are no longer controlling it. The listing will still exist and someone else can take control of it.

Verify an Unverified Listing to Gain Control

You need to take control of an unwanted listing. You can tell it’s not verified, because it’s marked “claim this business” in Google Maps or “own this business?” in the knowledge panel.

Once you’ve verified the listing, you can take next steps to manage it if it’s problematic.

Take Control of a Listing Someone Else Verified

You need to take control of an unwanted listing, but someone else has verified it. You can tell it’s verified, because it lacks the attributes of “claim this business” in Google Maps or “own this business?” in the knowledge panel.

  • Contact Google via these steps
  • Google will contact the owner
  • If Google doesn’t hear back from the owner in one week, you can verify the listing

There are some anecdotal accounts of owners being able to prove to Google their rights to control a listing based on their control of an email address that matches the website domain, but no guarantees. You may need to seek legal counsel to mediate resolution with a third party who refuses to relinquish control of the listing.

Manage a Duplicate Listing for a Brick-and-Mortar Business

Your business serves customers at your location (think a retail shop, restaurant, law practice). You find more than one listing representing the business, either at its present location, at an incorrect location, or at a previous location.

  • If the address exactly matches the correct, current address of the business, contact Google to request that they merge the two listings into one.
  • If the address contains an error and the business never existed there, use the “suggest an edit” link on Google Maps, toggle the yes/no switch to “yes,” and choose the “never existed” radio button.
  • If the address is one the business previously occupied, see the section in this table on business moves.

If reviews have become associated with a business address that contains an error, you can try to request that the reviews be transferred PRIOR to designating that the business “never existed” in Google Maps.

Manage a Duplicate Listing for a Service Area Business (SAB)

Your business serves customers at their locations (think a plumber, landscaper, or cleaning service). You find more than one listing representing the business.

  • Once you’ve verified the duplicate listing, contact Google to request that they merge the two listings into one.

Remember that Google’s guidelines require that you keep addresses for SAB listings hidden.

Manage an Unwanted Listing for a Multi-Practitioner Business

The business has multiple partners (think a legal firm or medical office). You discover multiple listings for a specific partner, or for partners who no longer work there, or for partner who are deceased.

  • Unfortunately, Google will not remove multi-practitioner listings for partners who are presently employed by the business.
  • If the partner no longer works there, read this article about the dangers of ignoring these listings. Then, contact Google to request that they designate the listing as “moved” (like when a business moves) to the address of the practice — not to the partner’s new address. *See notes.
  • If, regrettably, a partner has passed away, contact Google to show them an obituary.

In the second scenario, Google can only mark a past partner’s listing as moved if the listing is unverified. If the listing is verified, it would be ideal if the old partner would unverify it for you, but, if they are unwilling to do so, at least try to persuade them to update the listing with the details of their new location as a last resort. Unfortunately, this second option is far from ideal.

On a separate note, if the unwanted listing pertains to a solo-practitioner business (there’s a listing for both the company and for a single practitioner who operates the company), you can contact Google to ask that they merge the two listings in an effort to combine the ranking power of the two listings, if desired.

Manage a Listing When a Business Moves

Your company is moving to a new location. You want to avoid having the listing marked as “permanently closed,” sending a wrong signal to consumers that you’ve gone out of business.

  • Update your website with your new contact information and driving directions
  • Update your existing GMB listing in the Google My Business dashboard. Don’t create a new listing!
  • Update your other local business listings to reflect your new info. A product like Moz Local can greatly simplify this big task.

Be sure to use your social platforms to advertise your move.

Be sure to be on the lookout for any new duplicate listings that may arise as a result of a move. Again, Moz Local will be helpful for this.

Google will generally automatically move your reviews from your old location to your new one, but read this to understand exceptions.

Manage a Listing Marked “Permanently Closed”

A listing of yours has ended up marked as “permanently closed,” signaling to consumers that you may have gone out of business. Permanently closed listings are also believed to negatively impact the rankings of your open business.

  • If the “permanently closed” label exists on a verified listing for a previous location the business occupied, unverify the listing. Then contact Google to ask them to mark it as moved to the new location. This should rectify the “permanently closed” problem.
  • If the permanently closed listing exists on a listing for your business that someone else as verified (i.e., you don’t control the listing), please see the above section labeled “Take Control of a Listing Someone Else Verified.” If you can get control of it in your dashboard and then unverify it, you’ll then be able to contact Google to ask them to mark it as moved.

The “permanently closed” label can also appear on listings for practitioners who have left the business. See the section of this chart labeled “Manage an Unwanted Listing for a Multi-Practitioner Business.”

Manage a Merger/Acquisition

Many nuances to this scenario may dictate specific steps. If the merger/acquisition includes all of the previous physical locations remaining open to the public under the new name, just edit the details of the existing GMB listings to display that new name. But, if the locations that have been acquired close down, move onto the next steps.

  • Don’t edit the details of the old locations to reflect the new name
  • Unverify the listings for the old locations
  • Finally, contact Google to ask them to mark all the old locations listings as moved to the new location.

Mergers and acquisitions are complex and you may want to hire a consultant to help you manage this major business event digitally. You may also find the workload significantly lightened by using a product like Moz Local to manage the overhaul of core citations for all the businesses involved in the event.

Manage a Spam Listing

You realize a competitor or other business is violating Google’s guidelines, as in the case of creating listings at fake locations. You want to clean up the results to improve their relevance to the local community.

  • Find the listing in Google Maps
  • Click the “suggest an edit” link
  • Toggle the yes/no toggle to “yes”
  • Choose the radio button for “spam”
  • Google will typically email you if/when your edit is accepted

Google doesn’t always act on spam. If you follow the outlined steps and don’t get anywhere with them, you may want to post the spam example in the GMB forum in hopes that a Top Contributor there might escalate the issue.

Unfortunately, spam is very common. Don’t be surprised if a spammer who gets caught comes right back on and continues to spam.

Manage a Listing with Bad Reviews

Your company is embarrassed by the negative reviews that are attached to its GMB listing. You wish you could just make the whole thing disappear.

  • If the reviews violate Google’s policy, consider these steps for taking action. Be advised that Google may not remove them, regardless of clear violations.
  • If the reviews are negative but genuine, Google will not remove them. Remedy the problems, in-house, that consumers are citing and master responding to reviews in a way that can save customers and your business.
  • If the business is unable to remedy structural problems being cited in reviews, the company may lack the necessary components for success.

Short of completely rebranding and moving your business to a new location, your business must be prepared to manage negative reviews. Unless consumers are citing illegal behaviors (in which case, you need legal counsel rather than marketing), negative reviews should be viewed as a FREE blueprint for fixing the issues that customers are citing.

Bear in mind that many unhappy customers won’t take the time to complain. They’ll just go away in silence and never return to your business again. When a customer takes the time to voice a complaint, seize this as a golden opportunity to win him back and to improve your business for all future customers.

Whew! Eleven common Google My Business listing management scenarios, each requiring its own set of steps. It’s my hope that this chart will not only help explain why few cases really come down to deleting GMB listings, and also, that it will serve as a handy reference for you when particular situations arise in your workday.

Helpful links

  1. If you’re not sure if you have problem listings, do a free lookup with the Moz Check Listing tool.
  2. If you’re a Moz Pro member, you have access to our Q&A forum. Please feel free to ask our community questions if you’re unsure about whether a GMB listing is problematic.
  3. The Google My Business Forum can be a good bet for getting advice from volunteer Top Contributors (and sometimes Google staffers) about problem GMB listings. Be prepared to share all of the details of your scenario if you post there.
  4. If you find yourself dealing with difficult Google My Business listing issues on a regular basis, I recommend reading the work of Joy Hawkins, who is one of the best technical local SEOs in the industry.
  5. Sometimes, the only thing you can do is to contact Google directly to try to get help with a tricky problem. Here is their main Contact page. If you’re a Google Adwords customer, you can phone 1-866-2Google and select the option for Google My Business support. Another way to seek help (and this is sometimes the fastest route) is to tweet to Google’s GMB Twitter account. Be advised that not every Google rep has had the benefits of complete training. Some interactions may be more satisfactory than others. And, if you are a digital marketer, do be prepared to set correct client expectations that not all problems can be resolved. Sometimes, even your best efforts may not yield the desired results, due to the limitations of Google’s local product.

Why it’s worth the effort to work to resolve problematic Google listings

Cumulatively speaking, inaccurate and duplicative listings can misinform and misdirect consumers while also sapping your ranking strength. Local business listings are a form of customer service, and when this element of your overall marketing plan is neglected, it can lead to significant loss of traffic and revenue. It can also negatively impact reputation in the form of negative reviews citing wrong online driving directions or scenarios in which customers end up at the old location of a business that has moved.

Taken altogether, these unwanted outcomes speak to the need for an active location data management strategy that monitors all business listings for problems and takes appropriate actions to remedy them. Verifying listings and managing duplicates isn’t glamorous work, but when you consider what’s at stake for the business, it’s not only necessary work, but even heroic. So, skill up and be prepared to tackle the thorniest situations. The successes can be truly rewarding!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Reblogged 4 months ago from tracking.feedpress.it

Local SEO & Beyond: Ranking Your Local Business in 2017

Posted by Casey_Meraz

In 2016, I predicted that ranking in the 3-pack was hard and it would continually get more competitive. I maintain that prediction for 2017, but I want to make one thing clear. If you haven’t done so, I believe local businesses should start to look outside of a local-SEO-3-Pack-ONLY focused strategy.

While local SEO still presents a tremendous opportunity to grow your business, I’m going to look at some supplementary organic strategies you can take into your local marketing campaign, as well.

In this post I’m going to address:

  • How local search has changed since last year
  • Why & how your overall focus may need to change in 2017
  • Actionable advice on how to rank better to get more local traffic & more business

In local search success, one thing is clear

The days of getting in the 3-pack and having a one-trick pony strategy are over. Every business wants to get the free traffic from Google’s local results, but the chances are getting harder everyday. Not only are you fighting against all of your competitors trying to get the same rankings, but now you’re also fighting against even more ads.

If you thought it was hard to get top placement today in the local pack, just consider that you’re also fighting against 4+ ads before customers even have the possibility of seeing your business.

Today’s SERPs are ad-rich with 4 paid ads at the top, and now it’s not uncommon to find paid listings prioritized in local results. Just take a look at this example that Gyi Tsakalakis shared with me, showing one ad in the local pack on mobile ranking above the 3-pack results. Keep in mind, there are four other ads above this.

If you were on desktop and you clicked on one of the 3-pack results, you’re taken to the local finder. In the desktop search example below, once you make it to the local finder you’ll see two paid local results above the other businesses.

Notice how only the companies participating in paid ads have stars. Do you think that gives them an advantage? I do.


Don’t worry though, I’m not jaded by ads

After all of that gloomy ad SERP talk, you’re probably getting a little depressed. Don’t. With every change there comes new opportunity, and we’ve seen many of our clients excel in search by focusing on multiple strategies that work for their business.

Focusing on the local pack should still be a strong priority for you, even if you don’t have a pay-to-play budget for ads. Getting listed in the local finder can still result in easy wins — especially if you have the most reviews, as Google has very handy sorting options.

If you have the highest rating score, you can easily get clicks when users decide to sort the results they see by the business rating. Below is an example of how users can easily sort by ratings.

But what else can you do to compete effectively in your local market?


Consider altering your local strategy

Most businesses I speak with seem to have tunnel vision. They think it’s more important to rank in the local pack and, in some cases, even prioritize this over the real goal: more customers.

Every day, I talk to new businesses and marketers that seem to have a single area of focus. While it’s not necessarily a bad thing to do one thing really well, the ones that are most successful are managing a variety of campaigns tied to their business goals.

Instead of taking a single approach of focusing on just free local clicks, expand your horizon a bit and ask yourself this question: Where are my customers looking and how can I get in front of them?

Sometimes taking a step back and looking at things from the 30,000-ft view is beneficial.


You can start by asking yourself these questions by examining the SERPs:

1. What websites, OTHER THAN MY OWN, have the most visibility for the topics and keywords I’m interested in?

You can bet people are clicking on results other than your own website underneath the local results. Are they websites you can show up on? How do you increase that visibility?

I think STAT has a great tracking tool for this. You simply set up the keywords you want to track and their Share of Voice feature shows who’s ranking where and what percentage of visibility they have in your specific market.

In the example below, you can see the current leaders in a space I’m tracking. Notice how Findlaw & Yelp show up there. With a little further research I can find out if they have number 1–2 rankings (which they do) and determine whether I should put in place a strategy to rank there. This is called barnacle SEO.

2. Are my customers using voice search?

Maybe it’s just me, but I find it strange to talk to my computer. That being said, I have no reservations about talking to my phone — even when I’m in places I shouldn’t. Stone Temple recently published a great study on voice command search, which you can check out here.

Some of the cool takeaways from that study were where people search from. It seems people are more likely to search from the privacy of their own home, but most mobile devices out there today have voice search integrated. I wonder how many people are doing this from their cars?
This goes to show that local queries are not just about the 3-pack. While many people may ask their device “What’s the nearest pizza place,” other’s may ask a variety of questions like:

Where is the highest-rated pizza place nearby?
Who makes the best pizza in Denver?
What’s the closest pizza place near me?

Don’t ignore voice search when thinking about your localized organic strategy. Voice is mobile and voice can sure be local. What localized searches would someone be interested in when looking for my business? What questions might they be asking that would drive them to my local business?

3. Is my website optimized for “near me” searches?

“Near me” searches have been on the rise over the past five years and I don’t expect that to stop. Sometimes customers are just looking for something close by. Google Trends data shows how this has changed in the past five years:
Are you optimizing for a “near me” strategy for your business? Recently the guys over at Local SEO Guide did a study of “near me” local SEO ranking factors. Optimizing for “near me” searches is important and it falls right in line with some of the tactical advice we have for increasing your Google My Business rankings as well. More on that later.

4. Should my business stay away from ads?

Let’s start by looking at a some facts. Google makes money off of their paid ads. According to an article from Adweek, “During the second quarter of 2016, Alphabet’s revenue hit $21.5 billion, a 21% year-over-year increase. Of that revenue, $19.1 billion came from Google’s advertising business, up from $16 billion a year ago.”

This roughly translates to: “Ads aren’t going anywhere and Google is going to do whatever they can to put them in your face.” If you didn’t see the Home Service ad test with all ads that Mike Blumenthal pointed out, you can check it out below. Google is trying to find more creative ways to monetize local search.
Incase you haven’t heard it before, having both organic and paid listings ranking highly increases your overall click-through rate.

Although the last study I found was from Google in 2012, we’ve found that our clients have the most success when they rank strong organically, locally, and have paid placements. All of these things tie together. If potential customers are already searching for your business, you’ll see great results by being involved in all of these areas.

While I’m not a fan of only taking a pay-to-play approach, you need to at least start considering it and testing it for your niche to see if it works for you. Combine it with your overall local and organic strategy.

5. Are we ignoring the featured snippets?

Searches with local intent can still trigger featured snippets. One example that I saw recently and really liked was the snowboard size chart example, which you can see below. In this example, someone who is interested in snowboards gets an answer box that showcases a company. If someone is doing this type of research, there’s a likelihood that they may wish to purchase a snowboard soon.
Depending on your niche, there are plenty of opportunities to increase your local visibility by not ignoring featured snippets and creating content to rank there. Check out this Whiteboard Friday to learn more about how you can get featured snippets.

Now that we’ve looked at some ways you can expand your strategies, let’s look at some tactical steps you can take to move the needle.


Here’s how you can gain more visibility

Now that you have an open mind, let’s take a look at the actionable things you can do to improve your overall visibility and rankings in locally centric campaigns. As much as I like to think local SEO is rocket science, it really isn’t. You really need to focus your attention on the things that are going to move the needle.

I’m also going to assume you’ve already done the basics, like optimize your listing by filling out the profile 100%.

Later last year, Local SEO Guide and Placescout did a great study that looked at 100+ variables from 30,000 businesses to determine what factors might have the most overall impact in local 3-pack rankings. If you have some spare time I recommend checking it out. It verified that the signals we put the most effort into seem to have the greatest overall effect.

I’m only going to dive into a few of those factors, but here are the things I would do to focus on a results-first strategy:

Start with a solid website/foundation

What good are rankings without conversions? The answer is they aren’t any good. If you’re always keeping your business goals in mind, start with the basics. If your website isn’t loading fast, you’re losing conversions and you may experience a reduced crawl budget.

My #1 recommendation that affects all aspects of SEO and conversions is to start with a solid website. Ignoring this usually creates bigger problems later down the road and can negatively impact your overall rankings.

Your website should be SEO-friendly and load in the 90th percentile on Google’s Page Speed Insights. You can also see how fast your website loads for users using tools like GTMetrix. Google seems to reduce the visibility of slower websites, so if you’re ignoring the foundation you’re going to have issues. Here are 6 tips you can use for a faster WordPress website.

Crawl errors for bots can also wreak havoc on your website. You should always strive to maintain a healthy site. Check up on your website using Google’s Search Console and use Moz Pro to monitor your clients’ campaigns by actively tracking the sites’ health, crawl issues, and domain health over time. Having higher scores and less errors should be your focus.

Continue with a strong review generation strategy

I’m sure many of you took a deep breath when earlier this month Google changed the review threshold to only 1 review. That’s right. In case you didn’t hear, Google is now giving all businesses a review score based on any number of reviews you have, as you can see in the example below:
I know a lot of my colleagues were a big fan of this, but I have mixed feelings since Google isn’t taking any serious measures to reduce review spam or penalize manipulative businesses at this point.

Don’t ignore the other benefits of reviews, as well. Earlier I mentioned that users can sort by review stars; having more reviews will increase your overall CTR. Plus, after talking to many local businesses, we’ve gotten a lot of feedback that consumers are actively using these scores more than ever.

So, how do you get more reviews?

Luckily, Google’s current Review and Photo Policies do not prohibit the direct solicitation of reviews at this point (unlike Yelp).

Start by soliciting past customers on your list
If you’re not already collecting customer information on your website or in-store, you’re behind the times and you need to start doing so immediately.

I work mainly with attorneys. Working in that space, there are regulations we have to follow, and typically the number of clients is substantially less than a pizza joint. In pickles like this, where the volume is low, we can take a manual approach where we identify the happiest clients and reach out to them using this process. This particular process also creates happy employees. 🙂

  1. List creation: We start by screening the happiest clients. We then sort these by who has a Gmail account for priority’s sake.
  2. Outreach by phone: I don’t know why digital marketers are afraid of the phone, but we’ve had a lot of success calling our prior clients. We have the main point-of-contact from the business who’s worked with them before call and ask how the service they received was. The caller informs them that they have a favor to ask and that their overall job performance is partially based off of client feedback. They indicate they’re going to send a follow-up email if it’s OK with the customer.
  3. Send a follow-up email: We then use a Google review link generator, which creates an exact URL that opens the review box for the person if they’re logged into their Gmail account.
  4. Follow-up email: Sometimes emails get lost. We follow up a few times to make sure the client leaves the review…
  5. You have a new review!

The method above works great for low-volume businesses. If you’re a higher-volume business or have a lot of contacts, I recommend using a more automated service to prepare for future and ongoing reviews, as it’ll make the process a heck of a lot easier. Typically we use Get Five Stars or Infusionsoft integrations to complete this for our clients.

If you run a good business that people like, you can see results like this. This is a local business which had 7 reviews in 2015. Look where they are now with a little automation asking happy customers to leave a review:

Don’t ignore & don’t be afraid of links

One thing Google succeeded at is scaring away people from getting manipulative links. In many areas, that went too far and resulted in people not going after links at all, diminishing their value as a ranking factor, and telling the world that links are dead.

Well, I’m here to tell you that you need good links to your website. If you want to rank in competitive niches or in certain geographic areas, the anchor text can make a big difference. Multiple studies have shown the effectiveness of links to this very day, and their importance cannot be overlooked.

This table outlines which link tactics work best for each strategy:

Strategy Type Link Tactic
Local SEO (3-Pack) Links to local GMB-connected landing page will help 3-pack rankings. City, state, and keyword-included anchor text is beneficial
Featured Snippets Links to pages where you want to get a featured snippet will help boost the authority of that page.
Paid Ads Links will not help your paid ads.
“Near Me” Searches Links with city, state, or area anchor text will help you in near me searches.
Voice Search Links to pages that are FAQ or consist of long-tail keyword content will help them rank better organically.
Barnacle SEO Links to websites you don’t own can help them rank better. Focus on high-authority profiles or business listings.

There are hundreds of ways to build links for your firm. You need to avoid paying for links and spammy tactics because they’re just going to hurt you. Focus on strong and sustainable strategies — if you want to do it right, there aren’t any shortcuts.

Since there are so many great link building resources out there, I’ve linked to a few of my favorite where you can get tactical advice and start building links below.

For specific tactical link building strategies, check out these resources:

If you participate in outreach or broken link building, check out this new post from Directive Consulting — “How We Increased Our Email Response Rate from ~8% to 34%” — to increase the effectiveness of your outreach.

Get relevant & high-authority citations

While the importance of citations has taken a dive in recent years as a major ranking factor, they still carry quite a bit of importance.

Do you remember the example from earlier in this post, where we saw Findlaw and Yelp having strong visibility in the market? These websites get traffic, and if a potential customer is looking for you somewhere where you’re not, that’s one touchpoint lost. You’ll still need to address quality over quantity. The days of looking for 1,000 citations are over and have been for many years. If you have 1,000 citations, you probably have a lot of spam links to your website. We don’t need those. But what we do need is highly relevant directories to either our city or niche.

This post I wrote over 4 years ago is still pretty relevant on how you can find these citations and build them with consistency. Remember that high-authority citations can also be unstructured (not a typical business directory). They can also be very high-quality links if the site is authoritative and has fewer business listings. There are millions of listings on Yelp, but maybe less than one hundred on some other powerful, very niche-specific websites.

Citation and link idea: What awards was your business eligible or nominated for?

One way to get these is to consider awards where you can get an authoritative citation and link to your website. Take a look at the example below of a legal website. This site is a peanut compared to a directory like Yelp. Sure, it doesn’t carry near as much authority, but the link equity is more evenly distributed.


Lastly, stay on point

2017 is sure to be a volatile year for local search, but it’s important to stay on point. Spread your wings, open your mind, and diversify with strategies that are going to get your business more customers.

Now it’s time to tell me what you think! Is something I didn’t mention working better for you? Where are you focusing your efforts in local search?

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Reblogged 8 months ago from tracking.feedpress.it

6 business types that reap the most reward from local SEO

Does your business serve a local market? Columnist Pratik Dholakiya shares tips for six business types that can really benefit from local search engine optimization.

The post 6 business types that reap the most reward from local SEO appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Reblogged 8 months ago from feeds.searchengineland.com

3 local SEO tips that deliver business results

Looking to optimize your business website for local search, but not sure where to start? Columnist Ryan Shelley provides some tips for beginners.

The post 3 local SEO tips that deliver business results appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Reblogged 8 months ago from feeds.searchengineland.com

Combine your CRM and ESP for a 360-degree view of your business

Your ESP is an essential tool that reaches your audiences, engages them through various types of communications (i.e. promotions, newsletters, competitions), and aggregates really useful information on them (i.e. conversion, opens, clicks). It’s the perfect channel to increase and – at the same time – measure brand awareness. Your CRM, as the master data system, needs to store this vital information.

It annoys me that email has often been so unappreciated by other business units, and viewed as an ineffective channel that does not contribute to business growth (when compared with other means, such as PPC and SEO, for example).

I’m of the opinion that the wider stakeholders in business have lacked the visibility of email and have subsequently viewed it as a non-core element of their marketing strategy. They might focus more on offline marketing, for instance. Moreover, other business departments such as Sales, in not recognizing engagement across email, can offer a disjointed customer experience.

Businesses need to be clever in their data processes in order to avoid this and ensure that customer interactions across touchpoints are recorded and circulated within the organisation.

So what’s to be done? Combine the heart and soul, of course!

dotmailer is an advocate of combining the power of your CRM and ESP. This is evident in our two main integrations with Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Clients, such as Help for Heroes, have seen great benefits from integrating these two core systems. The ability to build target lists and create the email in one single interface (i.e. the CRM) has dramatically reduced the time it takes to deploy campaigns, for example.

What are the three main benefits of combining your CRM and ESP?

  • Visibility of email activity across the whole business
  • 360 degree of engagement between brand & customers
  • Automation of processes and freeing up of resources

Subsequently, there should be a wider appreciation of email across the whole business.

If you’re unsure about how to influence wider technological change within your organization, I would recommend downloading a copy of the below ‘Navigating the 5 stages of marketing automation’ guide. This piece will help you to understand where your business is at on the journey and how to move in the right direction.

The post Combine your CRM and ESP for a 360-degree view of your business appeared first on The Email Marketing Blog.

Reblogged 8 months ago from blog.dotmailer.com

How to Choose a Good SEO Company for Your Business or Website – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

When it comes to choosing a reputable company to manage your SEO, there’s both a right way and a wrong way to go about the hiring process. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand identifies common pitfalls to avoid and advice to take when it comes to selecting an agency or consultant to optimize your site for search engines. SEOs, take note: there are great ideas here for how to market yourselves to clients, as well!

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about how to choose a good SEO company, a consultant or an agency. It could be an independent person. What I want to do as we get into this is help you to understand some of the mechanics behind SEO consulting work. This is a critical hire, because if SEO is important to your business, then the choice of which company or person to use is going to have a huge impact, probably one of the biggest impacts on whether you get great results. There are a bunch of mistakes that people make when they go down this selecting an SEO company path.

Don’t make these mistakes

Mistake #1: Using Google as your filter

The logic makes a lot of sense here if you think about it simplistically. Simplistic thinking is a good SEO company will do a great job ranking for SEO company or SEO consultant or SEO consultant plus my city name. So if I’m looking for the best SEO in Seattle, I have only to Google “best SEO Seattle” and surely the number-one company will show up at the top. But, unfortunately, what happens is most of the very good companies, the ones that are in high demand, the ones that do consistently great work and get great referrals, they don’t actually need to rank here. They’re overwhelmed with clients all the time because their clients refer them to people and lots of people in their network refer folks to them. They have a high retention of clients. Lots of people are very satisfied. They’re making plenty of money and they’re incredibly busy, so they don’t spend any work optimizing their own website to get new clients.

As a result, you are often left with some of the dregs here. Many of the companies that rank well for best SEO plus city name or best SEO plus a region or plus a particular specialty, like best ecommerce SEO, are not the best. They are, in fact, the folks who are simply without any client work and so they’re concentrating all their energy on trying to get new clients. Sometimes, maybe, you can find some good folks in there. It’s just not a great filter.

Mistake #2: Trusting “Top SEO” lists

Many people will search for “best SEOs” or “best SEO consultants” or “best SEO companies,” “best SEO companies United States.” They’ll get to a website like, I don’t know, bestSEOs.com or topSEOs.com. There are a number of these types of websites that are essentially just aggregators. Their business model is they try and rank for terms like this, and then they sell those listings, the listings on their page, to SEO firms and companies. Back when Moz was a consulting company many, many years ago, they’d call us up and they’d say, “Hey, do you want to be number 3, we can make you number 3 on the best SEO companies list for $20,000 a year. Or we can make you number 1, but you’re going to have to pay $75,000 a year.”

That is not a great… I mean it’s a great model for them. Don’t get me wrong. But that pay-to-play scheme is not trustworthy for you as a consumer of SEO companies. You would never trust someone that said, “Oh well, what’s the best restaurant in this particular region?” You’d never go to a list where the restaurants just paid. That would give you the conglomerates and the people who can afford to spend the most and the worst. Don’t trust those types of lists.

There are a few lists, there are a few websites, places like getcredo.com run by John Doherty. There’s obviously Moz’s recommended SEO list, which is just my personal recommendations and the recommendations of my network. You can’t pay to be on there. You can’t pay to be listed. Some of those are more trustworthy. We’ll try and link to a few of those good ones at the end of this whiteboard.

Mistake #3: Believing there’s a “secret sauce”

Mistake number three is believing the sales pitch that unfortunately many I’m going to say low-quality SEO consultants use, which is there’s a secret sauce. There are no secret sauces in SEO. If you hear like, “This is how Google works blah, blah, blah, and then here’s how we do our secret optimization techniques. I can’t tell you what those are. It’s a proprietary methodology, but it works really well,” that’s baloney. You should reject that. If you ask, “How do you do it,” and they say, “I’m sorry I can’t tell you, it’s a secret or it’s proprietary,” that is a very, very bad sign. No one has a secret proprietary process. SEO is a very, very open field. It’s well understood. It has origins in a lot of secrecy, but that is not the way it is today and you should never accept that as an answer. That is a red flag.

My recommended process for choosing an SEO company:

Step 1

I want you to establish, sit down with your team, with your CEO, with your executive team, your board, whoever you’ve got, and figure out the goals you’re trying to achieve with SEO. Why do you want to do SEO? Why do you want to rank organically for keywords? Then, figure out how you’re going to judge success versus failure. In this process, there are good goals and bad goals.

Good goals:

  • I want to get in front of a lot of people who are researching this, and so we need traffic from these specific groups. I know that they perform searches for this. Great.
  • We’re trying to boost revenue, and we’re trying to boost it through new sales and SEO is a sales driving channel. Fine, great.
  • We’re trying to boost downloads or free sign-ups or free trials. Also a fine goal.
  • We’re trying to boost sentiment for our brand. Maybe if you Googled some of our branded terms today, there are some poor reviews, there’s lots of good reviews that rank below them, and we want to push the good reviews up and the bad reviews down. Fine. Sentiment, that could be something you’re driving as well. You know a lot of people are researching your brand or branded terms. Those are all good goals.

Bad goals:

  • We just want traffic, more traffic. Why? Well, because we want it. Terrible, terrible goal. Traffic is not a goal in and of itself. If you say, “Well, we want more traffic because we know search traffic converts well for us and here are the statistics on it,” fine, terrific. Now it’s a revenue driving thing.
  • Rankings alone, unfortunately this is a vanity thing that many people have where they want to rank for something simply because they want to rank for it. Usually a bad sign for SEO companies considering clients. You shouldn’t have that on your goals list. That’s not a positive goal.
  • Beating a particular competitor out for specific keywords or phrases. Again, not a great goal. Doesn’t drive directly to revenue. Doesn’t drive directly to organizational goals.
  • Vanity metrics. I still see people who are saying, “Hey, does anyone know a great SEO company that can help bring our domain authority up or our Majestic trust flow up or, worst of all, our Google PageRank up?” Google dropped PageRank years ago. It’s terrible. Vanity metrics, bad ideas too.

Step 2

Once you have a list of these good goals that you’re trying to optimize for, my suggestion is that you should assemble a list of usually three to five is I think sort of the right comfort zone. You can do more if you have the bandwidth to evaluate more, but three to five, at least, consultants or agencies. Those could be by a bunch of criteria. You might say, “Hey, look we really need someone in our region so that we can meet with them in person or at least someone who can fly to us on a regular basis.” Maybe that’s a requirement for you. Or you might say, “That’s not important. Remote is great.” Fine, wonderful. You might say something like, “Our price range or our budget is this particular thing.”

You want to find whatever those criteria are and make sure you’ve got a list of three to five folks that you can consider against one another. Have some conversations with them and dig into references.

Good sources:

  • Your friends and personal networks and professional networks as well.
  • Similar non-competitive companies. You will find that if you’re, for example, in a B2B space or in an ecommerce space and there’s a non-competitive ecommerce company whom you’re friendly with, you can build those relationships. You should certainly already have those relationships. Talking to those folks about who they use and whether they were successful, great way to find some good people.
  • Industry insiders. If you’re watching Whiteboard Friday here on Moz, chances are good that you follow some great SEO people on Twitter, which is a very popular network for SEOs, or that you read SEO blogs. You can reach out to some of those influential insiders with whom you have a relationship or whose opinion you really like and care about and ask them who they would recommend.

Good questions to ask:

  • By the way, I like asking SEO companies: What process are you going to use to accomplish our goals, and why do you use those particular processes? That’s a really smart one to start with.
  • Ask them about their communication and reporting process. How often? What’s their cadence like? What metrics do they report on? What do they need you to collect? Why do they collect those metrics? How do those match up to your goals and how do they align?
  • What work and resources will you have to commit internally? You should know that before you go into any arrangement, because it could get very complex. If your SEO company says, “Great here’s a list of recommendations,” and you say, “Fine, we don’t have the development bandwidth, or we don’t have the content creation bandwidth, or we don’t have the visual or UI or UX exchange bandwidth to make any of those. So what do we do?” Well, now you’re road blocked. You should’ve had that conversation much earlier in time. *By the way, SEO usually requires some intensive resource allotment. So you should plan for that ahead of time.
  • What do you do when things aren’t working? I love asking that question, and I like asking for specific examples of when things haven’t gone right and what they’ve done to fix that in the past and work around it.
  • I like asking broadly. Especially when you open a conversation, especially if you’re feeling like, hey I want to get to know this company’s approach to SEO and their understanding of Google, you can ask them something like, “Hey, tell me how does Google rank results, and how do you as a company influence them?” You should hear good answers about, yes, this is how Google does things, and here’s how we know that and here’s how we do our process of influencing those results. That’s great.

Step 3

I like to recommend that folks choose on these four things:

  1. The trust that you’ve established with a company. That’s through references, through the conversation, through people that you’ve talked to in your network.
  2. Through referrals. If you hear great referrals and you trust those referral sources, that’s a wonderful signal.
  3. Through communication style match. If your communication style, even if everything else is good, but when you have conversations, you walk away from them feeling a little frustrated, maybe you got the things you needed, but it didn’t flow smoothly, I would suggest that maybe that’s a cultural mismatch and you should look for another provider.
  4. Price and contract structure. Many SEO firms have a contract structure that’s month-to-month and that has a certain length of time. You should expect to pay some upfront payment and then some ongoing monthly fee. There’s usually a time at which the payment will recur and the contract will renew. It’s pretty similar to a lot of other services, consulting types of agreements, so you should expect that. If you’re seeing very non-standard stuff, that can be a bad thing sometimes, but not always. A lot of times SEOs have more creative pricing, and that’s all right.

Pro tips

Three pro tips:

  1. If SEO needs to be a core competency at your company, bring it in-house. An agency or consultant can never do as much with as much resources, with as much communication, as someone in-house can do. Starting with a consultant externally and then bringing someone in-house is a fine way to go.
  2. If the quality SEO folks that you’re considering are too pricy, my suggestion might be to say, “Okay, how about you just advise us on the work, and we’ll hire an in-house person, maybe who’s more beginner-level and you coach that person?” That can work well, again especially if you have that budget to bring that person in-house.
  3. Remember that SEO is not for everyone. SEO is extremely competitive. Page 1 gets 95% plus of the clicks. The top 3 or 4 results are getting more than 70% of those clicks, 65% or 70%. So a lot of the time, if you can’t afford yet to do SEO or to engage in it seriously, it may not be all that valuable to go from ranking on page five for a lot of your key terms to page two or the bottom of page one. Unless you have the budget and the energy to really commit yourself to SEO, it might be a channel you consider later down the road.

All right, everyone, hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. Would love to hear your thoughts on how you’ve picked good SEO companies in the past and the experiences you’ve had there. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Resources

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