Reblogged 1 month ago from www.outreachmama.com
Firm falsely implied it was affiliated with Google and signed SMBs up to recurring annual contracts worth from $250 to more than $300.
The post UK local SEO firm Movette shut down by regulators for deceptive sales practices appeared first on Search Engine Land.
Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
Reblogged 2 months ago from feeds.searchengineland.com
For your email newsletters to be effective, you need to reach a wide audience and appear relevant to all of the people in it. But the first step is to convince people to join your mailing list, by standing out in the sea of online marketers.
Opt-ins are the gold standard of increasing sign-ups: they give your target audience the ability to choose whether or not to sign up for your email newsletter. They also provide you with numerous ways to lure people in, including:
- On-page opt-ins: this option prompts site visitors to sign up while they’re browsing a page on your site.
- Slide-up opt-ins: this opt-in slides up from the bottom of a website. It is minimally intrusive, can be displayed on every page, and gives the site visitor the option of closing it or responding.
- Pop-ups: Popovers are everywhere, and for good reason—they work! With the right online tool, you can customize these pop-ups and decide what pages they appear on, when they appear and who they display for. They can take on many forms, including:
- Standard pop-up stating the benefits of joining the list
- Incentivized pop-up
- Discount-led pop-up
- Shopping cart-abandonment pop-up, encouraging the user to create an account
Remember, it’s important that no matter what type of opt-in you use, you should provide your subscribers with a double opt-in option. This means they not only opt in when they see the initial offer, but also they receive an email confirmation that they want to receive your newsletter.
By doing this, you are ensuring a loyal online newsletter reader who is more likely to remain subscribed and engaged. Additionally, it will reduce the number of people marking your email newsletters as spam.
Often, a potential subscriber wants to see what you have to offer before they make a decision to sign up for your email newsletter. You can create a landing page that’s specifically designed to show users what the benefits are for subscribers.
One of the best aspects of the email-specific landing page is you can direct all external traffic to this page, whether they are from web searches, social media, blogs, or another source. Keep this page short and sweet and let people know what they will be receiving in their inbox. Examples of what you can offer them include:
- Weekly tips
- Product reviews
- Interviews with experts
- DIY/how-to guides
- Anything else you include in your newsletter
Whether users are directed to these email-specific landing page or to other parts of your website, be sure to have call-to-action (CTA) buttons on every page. Doing so means you don’t miss out on any potential subscriber, no matter where on your site they’re browsing.
You can increase the number of sign-ups you have simply by giving potential subscribers special offers. These offers come in many forms and can be introduced on a range of platforms (e.g. your social media accounts), such as:
- Courses and webinars
- Content downloads, such as whitepapers
- Referral offers
The key to online newsletter effectiveness is to be creative and use the technology at your disposal. The more distinctive you make each of these methods, the more successful you’ll be in gathering those engaged subscribers.
Check out our free list acquisition cheatsheet for more advice on collecting email addresses for your database.
The post Follow these best practices to increase newsletter sign-ups appeared first on The Email Marketing Blog.Reblogged 9 months ago from blog.dotmailer.com
This winter, ensure that every aspect of your business is prepared for shoppers so you can have a high impact and low-stress holiday season by following these simple site search best practices.
1. Include autocomplete
Autocomplete is a great addition to an ecommerce site as it works by completing a word in the search box while the customer types and provides intuitive, relevant, and error-tolerant search suggestions. Autocomplete can also help detect and correct spelling mistakes, as well as guide consumers to the right product regardless if a mistake was made. Retailers can also use autocomplete to promote certain products of higher margin or products they’d like to sell quickly throughout the holiday season by pushing them to the top of their autocompletion suggestion box as recommendations to shoppers.
2. Improve site search with synonyms
By properly configuring synonyms into your site search, you’ll not only be able to quickly drive revenue to your online store but you’ll also be able to ensure that your customers can always find exactly what they’re searching for regardless of what they search. Being aware of synonyms isimportant to your on-site search so that you can always provide your customers with accurate results regardless of the language customers use in their searches.
Through Nextopia’s advanced search tools, you have the ability to set up “synonym redirects” which will automatically direct a customer to products they were searching for regardless of the product name. For example, if you run a shoe store and none of your products have the keyword “sneakers” in them, you can manually set up a redirect so every search for “sneaker” goes to the results page for “running shoe”.
By configuring synonyms, you’ll can reduce how much your customers visit the dreaded “no results found page” directing your customers to the products you offer, reducing customer frustration and thereby creating an exceptional user experience.
3. Easy-to-locate search bar
The search box is an often overlooked feature of an ecommerce store, despite how powerful it is. A retailer’s site search box is the pathway to improved sales, better user experience, and most importantly, higher average order value and conversions. Ensure your search bar is easy to locate by keeping it front and center and on every page of your site.
4. Have a mobile-optimized site
In 2015, 36.16% of online sales were generated via mobile devices and this figure is only expected to grow over time. Consumers are now turning to their smartphones to research deals, products and reviews, and for the sheer convenience. Make sure your product pages are optimized for smaller screens, your search box is easy to locate and use, and that site text and product images display correctly on mobile devices.
5. Use product images effectively
To further enhance the online shopping experience, it’s important to include images of your products in your search results so your site visitors can see your products without having to search through your product pages. Make sure that your product photos are clear in thumbnail form, and are flattering to your product. The chances of a customer buying increases when images are displayed along with a product description. Showing product images along with suggested search terms in your autocomplete can help further turn browsers into buyers.
6. Site navigation
Site navigation allows customers to refine their search results without having to use the search bar again. You can refine and sort your products by any attribute you’d like, such as by price, color, size, gender, brand, or any otherrefinements that best describe your product offerings. Enhancing your navigation will help bring your customers to their desired items much more efficiently, which results in higher conversions, happier customers, and more revenue.
7. Ask for customer feedback
Taking the time to ask your loyal customers for feedback will provide you with valuable insight into your website’s performance. You can get this information simply by asking “Did you find this search useful?” with a link to a survey somewhere on your results page, or by adding “How’s our navigation?” below your dynamic filters.
By listening to your customers, you’re ensuring that your site is catering to exactly the right group — the people who are actually using it.
8. Improve ‘no results found’ page
If you don’t sell an item your customer is searching for or perhaps it’s currently out of stock, rather than sending them to the ‘no results found’ page improve the experience by providing them with other calls of action. Provide them with product recommendations that they might find interesting and relevant or links back to the homepage, category pages, or the contact us page. This will help eliminate your site visitors leaving to go search on a competitor’s site.
9. Include category pages
For the holiday season, take the time to create some category pages that cater to your holiday shoppers. For example, highlight the deals and promotions on your site by creating a festive clearance page. This will drive your low-cost items to one page and help your customers access these products more efficiently.
10. Customer ratings and reviews
Seeking out online reviews and ratings has become a standard part of the buying process for consumers, which is why retailers need to include them. A positive customer review can become the powerful social proof that shoppers are looking for when making an online purchase, and considering 63% of shoppers are more likely to make a purchase from a site that has user reviews this needs to be a feature that’s added to all ecommerce sites.
These next few weeks are going to be crucial for retailers. Ensure your ecommerce site is ready for the influx of traffic and by following the best practices listed in this post. With only a few shopping weeks left, there’s no better time to improve your site search and in turn increase your sales and conversions this holiday season.
The post Top 10 site search best practices for the Holidays appeared first on The Email Marketing Blog.Reblogged 10 months ago from blog.dotmailer.com
Optimizing your brand
One of the most crucial email design practices is preserving brand identity and consistency. These principles include putting your brand name in the “From” field, ensuring that the “To” field holds the receiver’s name instead of their email address, and using an identifiable address to send from. Essentially, each part of your email needs to be on brand.
Adding your logo to the top left corner is also a great way to catch your reader’s attention.
While the subject line does play a key role in email marketing, it’s the domain reputation that matters. If your company holds a high domain reputation score, it becomes easier for other design elements to act in support.
Headers and pre-headers
Snippet text is one of the newest, most popular trends in email marketing. Email clients such as Outlook, Gmail, and iOS mail allow users to show a snippet (or preview) of text, which is usually limited to 100 characters or less.
The iPhone 6S and the iOS 9 also have a feature known as “Peek and Pop” that allows users to “peek” at the content of the email from the pre-header section, without actually opening the email. This is especially advantageous for users opening emails from their mobile device, which you can guarantee will be a majority of your customers. By being mobile-responsive and including pre-header text that will grab your reader’s attention, you prove your company to be both tech-savvy and legitimate.
The pre-header text of an email is used as a prescreening tool by subscribers. Because the pre-header is the first thing subscribers see, this is an opportunity to slip in a little subliminal advertising.
Keep the following points in mind when crafting your pre-header text:
- Keep your text between 40-50 characters
- Consider how the text will look in the body of your email campaign
- Use this text as an extension to your subject line
- Include a call to action
The layout of an email includes its size, the fonts used, the text size, the colors, etc. Certain studies suggest that the “ideal” email width ranges between 500 to 650 pixels; a vertical layout is preferred.
If you have a lot to cover, a table of contents should be used. And, if you’re showing off multiple products, a navigation bar is the best way to go.
Limit yourself to four or five sections so that your email doesn’t lose its visual appeal.
To ensure your layout is optimized for mobile viewing across several devices, dotmailer offers an EasyEditor tool that does all of the work for you. EasyEditor speeds up the design process with CSS inlining, creating a flawless email design.
Graphics are the face of an email and should define your content sections clearly. If you’re using an image, remember to provide fallback color and alt-text. Avoid using background images layered behind text, as some email providers, such as Outlook, do not support background images.
Your links should stand out. At minimum, a hyperlink should be underlined and formatted in a bold, blue font.
Content is King
Aside from using short sentences and paragraphs, be sure to employ design elements like dividing lines, spacing, and content blocks to separate topics. Custom content blocks are an easy and efficient way keep your emails organized and individualized. Use short text blocks of 100 to 200 words that include a strong call-to-action; break up your larger sections of text with images or headlines.
Bullet points are also a great way to make your content readable and digestible. Just remember to use a web-safe standard font such as Arial, Veranda, and Times New Roman.
The ideal email footer should include your organization’s contact information, links to your website, key products or services, social networks and sharing or “forward to a friend” buttons.
Another way to avoid being sent through the spam chute is to add a, “Why are you receiving this email?” line. Making it easier for readers to unsubscribe from your email will reduce the risk of your email getting tossed in the junk pile.
Standing out from the rest of the emails clogging a customer’s inbox can be a challenge. Applying the design tips above will give you a far better chance not only of avoiding the spam folder, but also of getting people to read your email and convert.Reblogged 11 months ago from blog.dotmailer.com
Unlike the one-to-many communication model used across social media platforms, blogs and advertisements, ecommerce email marketing works on a simple, one-to-one basis. If you perfect your email campaigns, you’re almost guaranteed to boost sales, improve customer loyalty and build your ecommerce brand image within no time.
Whether it’s a monthly update, a welcome email or an upcoming sale notification, these tips will put your business ahead of the curve.
Keep it personal
Emails are a direct form of marketing communication, so you’ll want to keep your messages light and personal. And it all starts with the greeting. Sending out countless detached, irrelevant emails isn’t going to get you or your business very far; customers like to feel as though you’ve carefully crafted an email specifically for them.
Something as simple as adding the customer’s name in the greeting is a good start. Consumers would much rather open an email to read something like, “Good morning, Karen!” instead of a general mass greeting. With the right email marketing provider, a simple automated personalization tool can make this task easy.
Another way to keep your emails personal, yet professional, is to add dynamic content. Dynamic content is content that changes based on the preference or the demographics of your customers, which allows your business to target individual subscribers. Adding dynamic content to your emails could be as easy as switching the image that is displayed for your male subscribers versus your female subscribers.
Make it clear as to who you are
Once you’ve selected a personal greeting, let your customers know who you are. The more information you provide, the less likely your email will be tossed into the spam pile.
Every person wants to know the following three things when they receive an email:
- Who is writing to me?
- Why are they writing to me?
- What to do they want me to do?
You want to make sure the “who” part is answered almost immediately upon opening, as this is the basis for legitimizing the rest of the email.
Grab their attention
Think about the subject line before shooting off an email with something generic. It should be engaging and interesting enough for the receiver to open the email. Remember, your email is competing against several other “unread” messages sitting in their inbox, so why should they open yours? The subject line is the first thing readers see – think of it as a first impression.
Keep it short and sweet
Keeping your emails concise is crucial. While you may be tempted to cram in as much information as possible, do refrain. Follow these three rules: make your email:
- Exclusive – let your readers know they’ve received this email because they’re special. For example, let them know they are the “first to know” about your newest products or offer them an “exclusive discount.”
- Urgent – try and make the proposition a limited-time offer.
- Simple – don’t crowd the email with too many visuals or information. Stick to one or two calls-to-action and one or two key messages.
Remember: People want to know who you are, why you are contacting them, and what you want them to do, all within a few sentences or paragraphs.
Double and triple check everything you send out
Sending an email with broken links or out-of-date information sends the wrong message. Be sure to check your links and proofread your copy before it’s sent out.
In addition, redundant coding and an excessive use of links, text, and images are practices that should be avoided. If you’re unsure about your emails’ link or image-to-text ratio, try running your email through a spam checker before sending it out.
A top email marketing platform includes spam check and preview tools so your email not only appears at its best, but also reaches its intended audience. These checks also ensure everyone in your team (or appropriate stakeholders) can review before you hit send.
When done right, the direct and personalized nature of email marketing means you’re likely to see a boost in online sales. By following these tips, you’re setting yourself up for a successful marketing campaign.
The post Ecommerce email marketing – Best practices to triple your sales appeared first on The Email Marketing Blog.Reblogged 11 months ago from blog.dotmailer.com
Posted by wrttnwrd
In spite of all the advice, the strategic discussions and the conference talks, we Internet marketers are still algorithmic thinkers. That’s obvious when you think of SEO.
Even when we talk about content, we’re algorithmic thinkers. Ask yourself: How many times has a client asked you, “How much content do we need?” How often do you still hear “How unique does this page need to be?”
That’s 100% algorithmic thinking: Produce a certain amount of content, move up a certain number of spaces.
But you and I know it’s complete bullshit.
I’m not suggesting you ignore the algorithm. You should definitely chase it. Understanding a little bit about what goes on in Google’s pointy little head helps. But it’s not enough.
A tale of SEO woe that makes you go “whoa”
I have this friend.
He ranked #10 for “flibbergibbet.” He wanted to rank #1.
He compared his site to the #1 site and realized the #1 site had five hundred blog posts.
“That site has five hundred blog posts,” he said, “I must have more.”
So he hired a few writers and cranked out five thousand blogs posts that melted Microsoft Word’s grammar check. He didn’t move up in the rankings. I’m shocked.
“That guy’s spamming,” he decided, “I’ll just report him to Google and hope for the best.”
What happened? Why didn’t adding five thousand blog posts work?
It’s pretty obvious: My, uh, friend added nothing but crap content to a site that was already outranked. Bulk is no longer a ranking tactic. Google’s very aware of that tactic. Lots of smart engineers have put time into updates like Panda to compensate.
He started like this:
And ended up like this:
Alright, yeah, I was Mr. Flood The Site With Content, way back in 2003. Don’t judge me, whippersnappers.
Reality’s never that obvious. You’re scratching and clawing to move up two spots, you’ve got an overtasked IT team pushing back on changes, and you’ve got a boss who needs to know the implications of every recommendation.
Why fix duplication if rel=canonical can address it? Fixing duplication will take more time and cost more money. It’s easier to paste in one line of code. You and I know it’s better to fix the duplication. But it’s a hard sell.
Why deal with 302 versus 404 response codes and home page redirection? The basic user experience remains the same. Again, we just know that a server should return one home page without any redirects and that it should send a ‘not found’ 404 response if a page is missing. If it’s going to take 3 developer hours to reconfigure the server, though, how do we justify it? There’s no flashing sign reading “Your site has a problem!”
Why change this thing and not that thing?
At the same time, our boss/client sees that the site above theirs has five hundred blog posts and thousands of links from sites selling correspondence MBAs. So they want five thousand blog posts and cheap links as quickly as possible.
Cue crazy music.
SEO lacks clarity
SEO is, in some ways, for the insane. It’s an absurd collection of technical tweaks, content thinking, link building and other little tactics that may or may not work. A novice gets exposed to one piece of crappy information after another, with an occasional bit of useful stuff mixed in. They create sites that repel search engines and piss off users. They get more awful advice. The cycle repeats. Every time it does, best practices get more muddled.
SEO lacks clarity. We can’t easily weigh the value of one change or tactic over another. But we can look at our changes and tactics in context. When we examine the potential of several changes or tactics before we flip the switch, we get a closer balance between algorithm-thinking and actual strategy.
Distance from perfect brings clarity to tactics and strategy
At some point you have to turn that knowledge into practice. You have to take action based on recommendations, your knowledge of SEO, and business considerations.
That’s hard when we can’t even agree on subdomains vs. subfolders.
I know subfolders work better. Sorry, couldn’t resist. Let the flaming comments commence.
To get clarity, take a deep breath and ask yourself:
“All other things being equal, will this change, tactic, or strategy move my site closer to perfect than my competitors?”
Breaking it down:
“Change, tactic, or strategy”
A change takes an existing component or policy and makes it something else. Replatforming is a massive change. Adding a new page is a smaller one. Adding ALT attributes to your images is another example. Changing the way your shopping cart works is yet another.
A tactic is a specific, executable practice. In SEO, that might be fixing broken links, optimizing ALT attributes, optimizing title tags or producing a specific piece of content.
A strategy is a broader decision that’ll cause change or drive tactics. A long-term content policy is the easiest example. Shifting away from asynchronous content and moving to server-generated content is another example.
No one knows exactly what Google considers “perfect,” and “perfect” can’t really exist, but you can bet a perfect web page/site would have all of the following:
- Completely visible content that’s perfectly relevant to the audience and query
- A flawless user experience
- Instant load time
- Zero duplicate content
- Every page easily indexed and classified
- No mistakes, broken links, redirects or anything else generally yucky
- Zero reported problems or suggestions in each search engines’ webmaster tools, sorry, “Search Consoles”
- Complete authority through immaculate, organically-generated links
These 8 categories (and any of the other bazillion that probably exist) give you a way to break down “perfect” and help you focus on what’s really going to move you forward. These different areas may involve different facets of your organization.
Your IT team can work on load time and creating an error-free front- and back-end. Link building requires the time and effort of content and outreach teams.
Tactics for relevant, visible content and current best practices in UX are going to be more involved, requiring research and real study of your audience.
What you need and what resources you have are going to impact which tactics are most realistic for you.
But there’s a basic rule: If a website would make Googlebot swoon and present zero obstacles to users, it’s close to perfect.
“All other things being equal”
Assume every competing website is optimized exactly as well as yours.
Now ask: Will this [tactic, change or strategy] move you closer to perfect?
That’s the “all other things being equal” rule. And it’s an incredibly powerful rubric for evaluating potential changes before you act. Pretend you’re in a tie with your competitors. Will this one thing be the tiebreaker? Will it put you ahead? Or will it cause you to fall behind?
“Closer to perfect than my competitors”
Perfect is great, but unattainable. What you really need is to be just a little perfect-er.
Chasing perfect can be dangerous. Perfect is the enemy of the good (I love that quote. Hated Voltaire. But I love that quote). If you wait for the opportunity/resources to reach perfection, you’ll never do anything. And the only way to reduce distance from perfect is to execute.
Instead of aiming for pure perfection, aim for more perfect than your competitors. Beat them feature-by-feature, tactic-by-tactic. Implement strategy that supports long-term superiority.
Don’t slack off. But set priorities and measure your effort. If fixing server response codes will take one hour and fixing duplication will take ten, fix the response codes first. Both move you closer to perfect. Fixing response codes may not move the needle as much, but it’s a lot easier to do. Then move on to fixing duplicates.
Do the 60% that gets you a 90% improvement. Then move on to the next thing and do it again. When you’re done, get to work on that last 40%. Repeat as necessary.
Take advantage of quick wins. That gives you more time to focus on your bigger solutions.
Sites that are “fine” are pretty far from perfect
Google has lots of tweaks, tools and workarounds to help us mitigate sub-optimal sites:
- Rel=canonical lets us guide Google past duplicate content rather than fix it
- We can use rel=next and prev to guide search bots through outrageously long pagination tunnels
- And we can use rel=nofollow to hide spammy links and banners
Easy, right? All of these solutions may reduce distance from perfect (the search engines don’t guarantee it). But they don’t reduce it as much as fixing the problems.
The next time you set up rel=canonical, ask yourself:
“All other things being equal, will using rel=canonical to make up for duplication move my site closer to perfect than my competitors?”
Answer: Not if they’re using rel=canonical, too. You’re both using imperfect solutions that force search engines to crawl every page of your site, duplicates included. If you want to pass them on your way to perfect, you need to fix the duplicate content.
When you use Angular.js to deliver regular content pages, ask yourself:
“All other things being equal, will using HTML snapshots instead of actual, visible content move my site closer to perfect than my competitors?”
Answer: No. Just no. Not in your wildest, code-addled dreams. If I’m Google, which site will I prefer? The one that renders for me the same way it renders for users? Or the one that has to deliver two separate versions of every page?
When you spill banner ads all over your site, ask yourself…
You get the idea. Nofollow is better than follow, but banner pollution is still pretty dang far from perfect.
Mitigating SEO issues with search engine-specific tools is “fine.” But it’s far, far from perfect. If search engines are forced to choose, they’ll favor the site that just works.
Not just SEO
By the way, distance from perfect absolutely applies to other channels.
I’m focusing on SEO, but think of other Internet marketing disciplines. I hear stuff like “How fast should my site be?” (Faster than it is right now.) Or “I’ve heard you shouldn’t have any content below the fold.” (Maybe in 2001.) Or “I need background video on my home page!” (Why? Do you have a reason?) Or, my favorite: “What’s a good bounce rate?” (Zero is pretty awesome.)
And Internet marketing venues are working to measure distance from perfect. Pay-per-click marketing has the quality score: A codified financial reward applied for seeking distance from perfect in as many elements as possible of your advertising program.
Social media venues are aggressively building their own forms of graphing, scoring and ranking systems designed to separate the good from the bad.
Really, all marketing includes some measure of distance from perfect. But no channel is more influenced by it than SEO. Instead of arguing one rule at a time, ask yourself and your boss or client: Will this move us closer to perfect?
Hell, you might even please a customer or two.
One last note for all of the SEOs in the crowd. Before you start pointing out edge cases, consider this: We spend our days combing Google for embarrassing rankings issues. Every now and then, we find one, point, and start yelling “SEE! SEE!!!! THE GOOGLES MADE MISTAKES!!!!” Google’s got lots of issues. Screwing up the rankings isn’t one of them.
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 years ago from tracking.feedpress.it
Posted by Isla_McKetta
“How can I learn SEO?” is a deceptively simple question. The standard approach is to attempt to appeal to anyone who’s interested in SEO without any idea of your previous experience or the actual reasons you want to learn SEO. That’s fun. Especially the part about weeding through tons of information that might not even apply to what you want to learn.
So let’s fix that. This guide is written to help you choose your own SEO adventure. If you know very little about SEO and just want to learn enough to impress your CMO, start at the beginning and stop when you feel like you understand enough concepts. Or if you’ve been doing SEO for years but need a brush up on the latest tips and tricks before impressing a potential client or employer, there’s a path for you too. Be sure to follow the links. They refer you to resources that are much more in-depth than we could reproduce in one post.
First choose your character
You may know what a title tag is, but you aren’t quite sure how to use it or why. The SEO Newbie could be a web developing hobbyist on the verge of a new obsession or someone looking for the next growing career path. Regardless, you have the most to learn (and the most to gain) from this adventure.
Start at the very beginning with What is SEO? and explore as many paths as you can. You might be surprised at the bits of information you pick up along the way. For a guided tour, follow the teal boxes. Don’t forget to bookmark this page so you can come back and learn more once you’ve absorbed each batch of info.
You were doing SEO back in the days of AltaVista, so you know all the things to know. Except maybe you took a break for a few years or decided to swap that black hat for a gray (or even white) one and need to know what’s the what with the major changes in the past few years.
Make a quick stop at the Algorithm Change History to catch up on the latest updates and penalties. After that, we’ll guide you through some of the topics that are more likely to have changed since you last checked. Just look for the purple boxes.
You’ve heard of SEO. You might even have worked with a few SEOs. Now you’re ready to dig in and understand what everyone’s talking about and how you can use all that new info to improve your marketing (and maybe level up your career at the same time).
Start with What is SEO? and look for shortcuts in orange boxes along the path to gather highlights. You can always dig deeper into any topic you find especially interesting.
Whichever path you choose, don’t worry, we’ll keep weaving you in and out of the sections that are relevant to your learning needs; just look for the color that’s relevant to your chosen character.
Table of contents
For you table of contents types who like to read straight through rather than have someone set the path for you, here’s a quick look at what we’ll be covering:
- What is SEO?
- Building an SEO-friendly site
- Content and related markup
- On-site related topics
- Link-related topics
- Other optimization
- Test your new skills
- Celebrate your success
- Other resources
First things first. It’s hard to learn the ins and outs of SEO (search engine optimization) before you even know what it is. In the following short video, Rand Fishkin (a.k.a. the Wizard of Moz) defines SEO as “The practice of increasing the quantity and quality of the traffic that you earn through the organic results in search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.”
Watch it to understand the difference between paid search and organic search and a few basic things about improving click-throughs from search pages.
A lot of different factors, from site speed to content quality, are important in SEO. These are, as far as anyone can tell, the factors that search engines use in determining whether or not to show your page to searchers. For a great intro to those elements and how they interact to affect your site’s overall ranking, check out Search Engine Land’s Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors.
That’s all nice, but if SEO is starting to seem like a lot of work, you probably want to understand whether SEO is even worth it. The short answer is that yes, SEO is worth it, but only if you want potential customers to be able to find your site when they’re searching on Google (or any other search engine).
Yes, search engines are crawling your site, but those crawlers aren’t as sophisticated as you might like. SEO gives you more control over how your site is represented in those search engine results pages. Good SEO can also improve how users experience your site. Learn more with Why Search Engine Marketing is Necessary.
About search engines
Who are these search engines anyway and why do we spend so much time worrying about how they see our sites? To get the best answer, let’s look at that question from two points of view: search engines and searchers.
How search engines operate
First, it’s important to understand how search engines crawl sites, build their indexes, and ultimately determine what’s relevant to a user’s query. Some of the specifics are trade secrets, but this section of the Beginner’s Guide to SEO offers a solid overview. And for an introduction to how Google ranks pages, watch this video:
As you’re learning about SEO, remember that not everything you read on the Internet should be treated as gospel. Here are some common myths and misconceptions about search engines.
The human side of search
Understanding how people use search engines is as crucial to SEO as understanding their needs is to marketing. Learn about classic search query patterns and how people scan search results here.
Search engine results pages
So far we’ve dropped a lot of phrases like “search results” and “search pages,” but what does any of that really mean? Search Engine Land does a great job of decoding the standard search engine results page (SERP). It’s a strong foundation for understanding why everyone is shooting to be in the top ten search results. But one thing you’ll find the more you get into SEO is that SERPs are rapidly evolving. Ads move, knowledge graphs appear (and disappear) and sometimes local search results invade. Dr. Pete takes you on a tour of how SERPs have changed and why ten blue links are probably a thing of the past in this article.
And then there’s the darker side of SEO, because once there’s a system, there’s someone trying to game that system. Spend more than a few minutes talking to anyone about SEO and you’ll hear something or other about black hat tactics like keyword stuffing and unnatural linking.
If you decide to use these tactics, you might soon become acquainted with search engine penalties. These algorithm updates, like Hummingbird and Penguin, are implemented by search engines at various intervals. The official word is that these updates improve user experience, but they can also be effective ways to penalize SEOs using spammy tactics. Learn more about Google’s algorithm updates. That page includes not only a full history of prior penalties, but it’s consistently refreshed when a new algorithm update is confirmed.
SEO veterans, you get to skip ahead of the class now to learn about the current state of page speed, mobile web development, and competitive research along with info on the best tools available today.
Analytics platforms (or how to measure SEO)
As you can see, a lot of work can go into SEO, but the results can be pretty incredible, too. To track your progress in topping the SERPs, make sure you’re using an analytics platform like Google Analytics or Omniture. You can get by with something like Rank Tracker to track rankings on keywords as a start, but eventually you’re going to want some of the data those more sophisticated tools offer.
Brain full? You’ve just learned everything a beginner needs to know about what SEO is. Go take a walk or get some coffee and let all that info soak in.
Before you go, save this bookmark.
First of all, don’t freak out, you don’t have to build a totally new site to get something out of this section. But if you’re an SEO Newbie intent on making a career of this, you might want to set up a practice site to really get your hands dirty and learn everything you can.
About domains and URLs
Before you start worrying about site content and structure (aka the fun stuff), you have a real chance to set your site up for success by using a strong domain name and developing a URL structure that’s SEO and user friendly. This stuff can be hard to change later when you have hundreds (or thousands) of pages in place, so you’ll be glad you started out on the right foot.
While you’re decades too late to score “buy.com,” it’s never too late to find the right domain name for you. This resource will help you sort through the SEO dos and SEO don’ts of selecting a root domain and TLD (don’t worry, all is explained) that are memorable without being spammy. There’s even info on what to consider if you have to change your domain name.
Don’t skip the section on subdomains—it could save you from making some rookie duplicate content errors.
Anatomy of a URL
Oh the SEO havoc that can ensue when your URLs aren’t set up quite right. Learn what not to do.
Things to think about at this point are that your content is indexable (that the crawlers can actually find it) and that you don’t have any orphaned pages. Learn more about those issues here.
And then you’re going to need a sitemap. Sitemaps help search engines index your content and understand the relationships between pages. So where better to get advice on how to build and implement a sitemap than straight from Google.
Another vital way to show search engines what pages are most important/related (and to help humans navigate your content) is through internal links. You want enough links to show users what’s what, but not so many that it’s impossible to tell what’s really important/related. Read more about optimal link structure and passing ranking power.
How long it takes a page on your site to load (page speed) mattered when we were all using desktops, but it’s crucial now that so much Internet traffic comes from mobile devices, plus it’s one factor in how pages get ranked. So whether you’re new to SEO or looking for new tricks, page speed might be a good place to start.
Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to get specific recommendations on how to speed up your site and then get crackin’.
Speaking of mobile traffic, is your site mobile friendly? Learn about the difference between responsive designs and device-specific solutions on our mobile optimization page. You’ll also see a list of don’ts for mobile design (ever tried to close a pop-up on your iPhone?). This only gets more important the more mobile traffic you get (and want).
Phew! That was a lot of information, but once you’ve absorbed it all, you’ll have an excellent handle on site structure (which will save you a lot of trouble down the line). Bookmark this spot, then take a well-deserved break. We’ll start back here together when you’re ready.
Now that you have that site framework all set up, it’s time to get to the good stuff—populating it with content!
Before you write or post too much of your own content, you might want to see what’s working (and what isn’t) for your competitors. This analysis helps you identify those competitors and then understand what their links, rankings, and keywords look like. It’s important to update this research occasionally because your competition might change over time.
Veteran SEOs, you can skip straight ahead to Schema structured data unless you want a refresh on any other topics related to content.
Marketers, this is your chance to learn all the basics for SEO-friendly content, so stick with us for a spell. You won’t need the same depth of understanding as someone who plans to do SEO for a living, so let your curiosity guide you as deep into any of these topics as you want to go.
You may feel like you just did keyword research in the last step, but it’s crucial enough that we’re going to dive a little deeper here. Understand the value of a particular keyword and see what kind of shot you have at ranking for it by reading Chapter 5 of the Beginner’s Guide to SEO.
We promised you’d get to actually create content and that time is finally here! Now that you have an understanding of the competitive landscape and the keywords you want to (and can) rank for, write away. Remember that while you’re really writing content for users, a few simple tips can help your content stand out to search engines too. Isn’t it nice when something does double duty?
On-page factors and meta data
Go the extra mile by incorporating Schema structured data into your content. This additional info gives search engines the data they need to include rich snippets (like review boxes) below your search results.
Veteran SEOs, it’s a good idea to skip ahead to on-site related topics now.
Duplicate content is the bane of a website. Even if you think you’ve done everything right with your content, there’s a chance that a dynamic URL or something else is surfacing that same content to crawlers more than once. Not only does Google fail to see the logic in “twice as much is twice as nice” but they might also penalize you for it. Navigate around the most common pitfalls.
SEO for video
Content doesn’t just mean words, but unfortunately, the crawlers aren’t (yet) sophisticated enough to parse things like images and video. If your alt attributes are in good shape, you’re covered for images, but there are some SEO tactics you need to incorporate if you’re using video on your site. The good news is that once your video SEO is in good shape, video content often gets better rankings than text.
So you’ve got all that content on your site, but how do you know if it’s actually helping your SEO? At the beginning is a good time to set yourself up to measure your success so you can establish a baseline. Learn more about what metrics you should be tracking and how.
Time for yet another well-earned break. Grab a nap if you can and then spend a day or so observing how these issues are handled by other sites on the web. For maximum learning, try practicing some of your newfound knowledge on a site you have access to.
Set your bookmarks before you go.
When you’re ready to continue learning SEO, Newbies should make a stop at on-site related topics to get familiar with Robots.txt and HTTPS.
Any veterans still hanging about might want to take a quick read through on-site related topics to see what might have changed with Robots.txt and to take in the latest wisdom on HTTPS.
Marketers, you get to sit that one out and head straight on over to link-related topics.
For the true SEO aficionado, there are some technical details that you must get right. We’ve all heard stories of people accidentally blocking their site from being crawled and then wondering where all the traffic is. To keep from being one of these, learn about Robots.txt: how it helps you get found and when blocking robots is not actually effective.
The other technical on-site topic you’ll want to master is the switching of your site from HTTP to HTTPS without slowing down your site or losing traffic. This is especially important since Google announced that HTTPS is a ranking factor.
See how far you’ve leveled up already by getting current on just those two topics? Bet you aren’t even tired yet.
Newbies, it’s time to dive straight into link-related topics.
Veterans, go check out guest blogging for a look at how that practice has changed.
You now know a lot about how to make your site SEO friendly. Now it’s time to look at how to bend the rest of the Internet to your SEO will. Don’t worry, this’ll be TAGFEE.
External links are a fantastic way to show search engines that your site is credible and useful. They’re also a great way for users to find you by navigating from sites they already use. In short, they build your authority with humans and bots.
There are two effective ways to get more links from external sources: you can either earn them or build them. Chances are that you’ll get the best results by focusing on some combination of those two tactics.
Notice how we didn’t say “buy them”? Don’t buy links.
One tried and true way to build external links is through guest blogging, although this tactic has evolved a lot in the past few years. What used to be an “I give you content, you give me a link” sort of exchange has given way to guest blogging with a purpose.
Veterans, go ahead and pop on over to conversion rate optimization unless you want a refresh on link-related topics like link nofollow and canonicalization.
When you’re out there on the Internet trying to build links, be sure you’re looking for good quality links. Those are links that come from sites that are trustworthy, popular, and relevant to your content. For more information on factors search engines use to determine link value, read this page.
Anchor text is simply the text that’s used in a link whether it’s a link to a site or within that site. The implications of anchor text, though, reach farther because while keywords in anchor text can help your site rank for those words, it’s easy for keyword-stuffed anchor text to look spammy. Learn more about best practices for anchor text.
“Nofollow” is a designation you can apply to a link to keep it from passing any link equity (that’s kind of like the SEO equivalent of an up-vote). What might surprise you is that links don’t need to be “followed” to pass human authority. Even nofollowed links can help you build awareness and get more links. So when you’re linking to a site (or to other content on your site) think about whether that link leads to something you’re proud to be associated with.
HTTP status codes
Every Internet user eventually encounters a 404 error page, but that’s just one of the many HTTP status codes found on the web. Learn the difference between a 500 and a 503 along with some best practices for 404 pages here.
One of the most useful HTTP status codes for SEOs is the 301 redirect which is used to tell search engines a page has permanently moved elsewhere (and passes a good share of link equity). Gather all the in-depth info you ever needed about 301s and other redirects.
Perhaps because it’s one of the hardest SEO words to pronounce, canonicalization has a reputation for being complex. But the basic concept is simple: you have two (or more) pages that have similar content and canonicalization allows you to either combine those pages (using redirects) or indicate which version of the page you want search engines to treat as paramount. Read up on the details of using canonicalization to handle duplicate content.
You’ve now mastered so much SEO knowledge that you could teach the stuff (at least on a 101 level). If you’ve read and digested all the links along the way, you now know so much more about SEO than when you started.
But you’re so self-motivated that you want to know even more, don’t you?
Newbies, read closely through other optimization to refine your knowledge and apply those newly-minted optimization skills to even more aspects of the sites you’re working on.
Marketers, you’ve done a fabulous job powering through all these topics and there’s no doubt you can hold your own in the next SEO team meeting. To take your understanding of optimization even further, skim other optimization.
Or scoot on ahead and test your skills with the SEO Expert Quiz.
There are many ways (beyond the basic SEO knowledge you’ve been accruing here) to give your site an optimization boost. Find (and fix) what’s keeping potential customers from converting with conversion rate optimization, get your storefronts found on the web with local SEO, and find out how to prep your site to show up in international SERPs with international SEO.
If shoppers are abandoning their carts so fast you’re looking around for the tornado, your marketing funnel is acting more like a sieve and it’s time to plug some holes. Stop the bleeding with Paddy Moogan’s five-step framework for CRO. And keep on learning by keeping up with the latest CRO posts from the Moz Blog.
Even if you do most of your business in person at a local shop, customers are still trying to use the Internet to find you (and your hours, phone number, menu, etc.). Make sure they’re getting the right info (and finding you before they find your competitor across the street) by investing some time learning about local SEO. On that page you can also sign up for the Local 7-Pack, a monthly newsletter highlighting the top local SEO news you need to know. Or, watch for the latest local SEO developments on the Moz Blog.
A global customer base is a good thing to have, but you want to use international SEO to make sure potential customers in the UK are finding your British shipping policies instead of your American ones. Master hreflang to direct Chinese customers to content using simplified Chinese characters while you send Taiwanese customers to content that uses the traditional characters they’re used to. And find out how your site structure and whether you’re using a country code top-level domain (ccTLD) (like “.uk”) affects your SEO and potential ranking in international SERPs.
SEO newbies, we really can’t call you newbies anymore. Congratulations! No one has read deeper into this blog post or learned more along the way than you have.
SEO veterans, you knew a lot of this already, but now you’re up to date on the latest tips, tricks, and techniques.
And SEO-curious marketers, if you’re still hanging around, bravo! You can safely add “speaks SEO” as a feather in your cap.
You’re all ready to test your skills against the experts and prove just how much you’ve learned, take the SEO Expert Quiz and brag about your score.
Feel like you’ve mastered SEO already? Take the New SEO Expert Quiz to see how you stack up.
Congratulations! You’re well on your way to SEO mastery. Bask in that glow for a moment or two before moving on to your next project.
9. Other resources
The fun thing about a developing field like SEO is that the learning and adventure never end. Whether you’re looking for more advanced knowledge or just to learn in a different format, try Distilled U‘s interactive modules or Market Motive’s web-based classes. If you’re looking for a job in SEO, Carl Hendy might just have your roadmap.
Thanks for following along with this choose your own adventure version of how to learn SEO. Share your favorite resources and ask us about any topics we might have missed 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!
Posted by Casey_Meraz
Competition in local search is fierce. While it’s typical to do some surface level research on your competitors before entering a market, you can go much further down the SEO rabbit hole. In this article we will look at how you can find more competitors, pull their data, and use it to beat them in the search game.
Since there are plenty of resources out there on best practices, this guide will assume that you have already followed the best practices for your own listing and are looking for the little things that might make a big difference in putting you over your competition. So if you haven’t already read how to perform the Ultimate Local SEO Audit or how to Find and Build Citations then you should probably start there.
Disclaimer: While it’s important to mention that correlation does not mean causation, we can learn a lot by seeing what the competition has done.
Some of the benefits of conducting competitive research are:
- You can really dive into your customers’ market and understand it better.
- You can figure out who your real customers area and better target them.
- You can get an understanding of what your competitors have done that has been successful without re-inventing the wheel.
Once you isolate trends that seem to make a positive difference, you can create a hypothesis and test. This allows you to constantly be testing, finding out what works, and growing those positive elements while eliminating the things that don’t produce results. Instead of making final decisions off of emotion, make your decisions off of the conversion data.
A good competition analysis will give you a strong insight into the market and allow you to test, succeed, or fail fast. The idea behind this process is to really get a strong snapshot of your competition at a glance to isolate factors you may be missing in your company’s online presence.
Disclaimer 2: It’s good to use competitors’ ideas if they work, but don’t make that your only strategy.
Before we get started
Below I will cover a process I commonly use for competition analysis. I have also created this Google Docs spreadsheet for you to follow along with and use for yourself. To make your own copy simply go to File > Make A Copy. (Don’t ask me to add you as an owner please 🙂
Let’s get started
1. Find out who your real competitors are
Whether you work internally or were hired as an outside resource to help with your client’s SEO campaign, you probably have some idea of who the competition is in your space. Some companies may have good offline marketing but poor online marketing. If you’re looking to be the best, it’s a good idea to do your own research and see who you’re up against.
In my experience it’s always good to find and verify 5-10 online competitors in your space from a variety of sources. You can use tools for this or take the manual approach. Keep in mind that you have to screen the data tools give you with your own eye for accuracy.
How do you find your “real” competitors?
We’re going to look at some tools you can use to find competitors here in a second, but keep in mind you want to record everything you find.
Make sure to capture the basic information for each competitor including their company name, location, and website. These tools will be useful at a later time. Record these in the “competitor research” tab of the spreadsheet.
Method 1: Standard Google searches for competitors
This is pointing out the obvious, but if you have a set of keywords you want to rank for, you can look for trends and see who is already ranking where you want to be. Don’t limit this to just one or two keywords, instead get a broader list of the competitors out there.
To do this, simply come up with a list of several keywords you want to rank for and search for them in your geographic area. Make sure your Geographic preference is set correctly so you get accurate data.
- Collect a list of keywords
- Search Google to see which companies are ranking in the local pack
- Record a list of the companies’ names and website URLs in the spreadsheet under the competitor research tab.
To start we’re just going to collect the data and enter it into the spreadsheet. We will revisit this data shortly.
Outside of the basics, I always find it’s good to see who else is out there. Since organic and local rankings are more closely tied together than ever, it’s a good idea to use 3rd party tools to get some insight as to what else your website could be considered related to.
This can help provide hidden opportunities outside of the normal competition you likely look at most frequently.
Method 2: Use SEMRUSH.com
SEMRush is a pretty neat competitive analysis tool. While it is a paid program, they do in fact have a few free visits a day you can check out. It’s limited but it will show you 10 competitors based on keyword ranking data. It’s also useful for recording paid competition as well.
To use the tool, visit www.SEMRush.com and enter your website in the provided search box and hit search. Once the page loads, you simply have to scroll down to the area that says “main competitors”. If you click the “view full report” option you’ll be taken to a page with 10 competition URLs.
Put these URLs into the spreadsheet so we can track them later.
Method 3: Use SPYFU.com
This is a cool tool that will show your top 5 competitors in paid and organic search. Just like SEMRush, it’s a paid tool that’s easy to use. On the home page, you will see a box that loads where you can enter your URL. Once you hit search, a list of 5 websites will populate for free.
Enter these competitors into your spreadsheet for tracking.
Method 4: Use Crunchbase.com
This website is a goldmine of data if you’re trying to learn about a startup. In addition to the basic information we’re looking for, you can also find out things like how much money they’ve raised, staff members, past employee history, and so much more.
Crunchbase also works pretty similarly to the prior tools in the sense that you you just enter your website URL and hit the search button. Once the page loads, you can scroll down the page to the competitors section for some data.
While Crunchbase is cool, it’s not too useful for smaller companies as it doesn’t seem to have too much data outside of the startup world.
Method 5: Check out Compete.com
This tool seems to have limited data for smaller websites but it’s worth a shot. It can also be a little bit more high-level than I prefer, but you should still check it out.
To use the tool visit www.compete.com and enter the URL you want to examine in the box provided then hit search.
Click the “Find more sites like” box to get list of three related sites. Enter these in the provided spreadsheet.
Method 6: Use SimilarWeb.com
SimilarWeb provides a cool tool with a bunch of data to check out websites. After entering your information, you can scroll down to the similar sites section which will show websites it believes to be related.
The good news about SimilarWeb is that it seems to have data no matter how big or small your site is.
2. After you know who they are, mine their data
Now that we have a list of competitors, we can really do a deep dive to see who is ranking and what factors might be contributing to their success. To start, make sure to pick your top competitors from the spreadsheet and then look for and record the information below about each business on the Competitor Analysis tab.
You will want to to pull this information from their Google My Business page.
If you know the company’s name, it’s pretty easy to find them just by searching the brand. You can add the geographic location if it’s a multi-location business.
For example if I was searching for a Wendy’s in Parker, Colorado, I could simply search this: “Wendy’s Parker, CO” and it will pull up the location(s).
Make sure to take and record the following information from their local listings. Get the data from their Google My Business (Google + Page) and record it in the spreadsheet!
- Business name – Copy and paste the whole business name. Sometimes businesses keyword stuff a name or have a geographic modifier. It’s important to account for this.
- Address – The full address of the business location. Although we can’t do anything about its physical location, we will search using this information shortly.
- City, state, zip code – The city, state, and zip listed on the Google My Business listing.
- Phone number – Take the listing’s primary number
- Phone number 2 – Take the listing’s secondary number like an 800 number.
- Landing page URL – The one connected to their Google My Business listing.
PRO TIP: The URL will display as the root domain, but click the link to see if it takes you to an internal landing page. This is essential!
- Number of categories – Does your listing have more or less categories than the listing?
- Categories in Google My Business
You can find the categories by clicking on the main category of the listing. It will pop out a list of all of the categories the business is listed under. If you only see one after doing this, open your browser and go to View Source. If you do Ctrl+F you can search the page for “GCID” without the quotes. This will show you the categories they’re listed under if you look through the HTML.
- Does the profile appear to be 100% complete?
- How many reviews do they have?
- Is their business name visible in Google Street View? Obviously there is not much we can do about this, but it’s interesting especially considering some patents Bill Slawski was recently talking about.
** Record this information on the spreadsheet. A sample is below.
What can we do with this data?
Since you’ve already optimized your own listing for best practices, we want to see if there is any particular trends that seem to be working better in a certain area. We can then create a hypothesis and test it to see if any gains are losses are made. While we can’t isolate factors, we can get some insight as to what’s working the more you change it.
In my experience, examining trends is much easier when the data is side by side. You can easily pick out data that stands out from the rest.
3. Have a close(r) look at their landing pages
You already know the ins and outs of your landing page. Now let’s look at each competitor’s landing page individually. Let’s look at the factors that carry the most weight and see if anything sticks out.
Record the following information into the spreadsheet and compare side by side with your company vs. the successful ones.
|Page title of landing page|
|City present? – Is the city present in the landing page meta title?|
|State present? – Is the state present in the landing page meta title?|
|Major KW in title? Is there a major keyword in the landing page meta title?|
|Content length on landing page – Possibly minor but worth examining. Copy/paste into MS Word|
|H1 present? – Is the H1 tag present?|
|City in H1? – Does the H1 contain the city name?|
|State in H1? – Does the H1 have the state or abbreviation in the heading?|
|Keyword in H1? – Do they use a keyword in the H1?|
|Local business schema present? – Are they using schema? Find out using the Google structured data testing tool here.|
|Embedded map present? – Are they embedding a Google map?|
|GPS coordinates present? – Are they using GPS coordinates via schema or text?|
4. Off site: See what google thinks is authoritative
Recently, I was having a conversation with a client who was super-excited about the efforts his staff was making. He proudly proclaimed that his office was building 10 new citations a day and added over 500 within the past couple of months!
His excitement freaked me out. As I suspected, when I asked to see his list, I saw a bunch of low quality directory sites that were passing little or no value. One way I could tell they were not really helping (besides the fact that some were NSFW websites), was that the citations or listings were not even indexed in Google.
I think it’s a reasonable assumption that you should test to see what Google knows about your business. Whatever Google delivers about your brand, it’s serving because it has the most relevance or authority in its eyes.
So how can we see what Google sees?
It’s actually pretty simple. Just do a Google Search. One of the ways that I try to evaluate and see whether or not a citation website is authoritative enough is to take the competition’s NAP and Google it. While you’ve probably done this many times before for citation earning, you can prioritize your efforts based off of what’s recurring between top ranked competitor websites.
As you can see in the example below where I did a quick search for a competitor’s dental office (by pasting his NAP in the search bar), I see that Google is associating this particular brand with websites like:
- The company’s main website
- Amazon Local (New)
Pro Tip: Amazon local is relatively new, but you can see that it’s going to carry a citation benefit in local search. If your clients are willing, you should sign up for this.
Don’t want to copy and paste the NAP in a variety of formats? Use Andrew Shotland’s NAP Hunter to get your competitor’s variants. This tool will easily open multiple window tabs in your browser and search for combinations of your competitor’s NAP listings. It makes it easy and it’s kind of fun.
5. Check important citations
With citations, I’m generally in the ballpark of quality over quantity. That being said, if you’re just getting the same citations that everyone else has, that doesn’t really set you apart does it? I like to tell clients that the top citation sources are a must, but it’s good to seek out opportunities and monitor what your competition does so you can keep up and stay ahead of the game.
You need to check the top citations and see where you’re listed vs. your competition. Tools like Whitespark’s local citation finder make this much easier to get an easy snapshot.
If you’re looking to see which citations you should find and check, use these two resources below:
Just like in the example in the section above, you can find powerful hidden gems and also new website opportunities that arise from time to time.
Just because you did it once doesn’t mean you should leave it alone
A common mistake I see is businesses thinking it’s ok to just turn things off when they get to the top.That’s a bad idea. If you’re serious about online marketing, you know that someone is always out to get you. So in addition to tracking your brand mentions through the Fresh Web Explorer, you also need to be tracking your competition at least once a month! The good news is that you can do this easily with Fresh Web Explorer from Moz.
So what should you setup in Fresh Web Explorer?
- Your competitor’s brand name – Monitor their mentions and see what type of marketing they’re doing!
- Your competitor’s NAP – Easily find new citations they’re going after
- City+Industry+Keywords – Maybe there are some hidden gems outside of your competition you could go after!
Plus track anything else you can think of related to your brand. This will help the on-going efforts get a bit easier.
6. Figure out which citations have dofollow links
Did you know some citation sources have dofollow links which mean they pass link juice to your website? Now while these by themselves likely won’t pass a lot of juice, it adds an incentive for you to be proactive with recording and promoting these listings.
When reviewing my competition’s citations and links I use a simple Chrome plugin called NoFollow which simply highlights nofollow links on pages. It makes it super easy to see what’s a follow vs. a nofollow link.
But what’s the benefit of this? Let’s say that I have a link on a city website that’s a follow link and a citation. If it’s an authority page that talks highly about my business, it would make sense for me to link to it from time to time. If you’re getting links from websites other than your own and linking to these high quality citations you will pass link juice to your page. It’s a pretty simple way of increasing the authority of your local landing pages.
7. Links, links, links
Since the Pigeon update almost a year ago, links started to make a bigger impact in local search. You have to be earning links and you have to earn high quality links to your website and especially your Google My Business Landing page.
If the factors show you’re on the same playing field as your competition except in domain authority or page authority, you know your primary focus needs to be links.
Now here is where the research gets interesting. Remember the data sources we pulled earlier like compete, spyfu.com, etc? We are now going to get a bigger picture on the link profile because we did this extra work. Not only are we just going to look at the links that our competition in the pack has, we’ve started to branch out of that for more ideas which will potentially pay off big in the long run.
What to do now
Now we want to take every domain we looked at when we started and run Open Site Explorer on each and every domain. Once we have these lists of links, we can then sort them out and go after the high quality ones that you don’t already have.
Typically, when I’m doing this research I will export everything into Excel or Google Docs, combine them into one spreadsheet and then sort from highest authority to least authority. This way you can prioritize your road map and focus on the bigger fish.
Keep in mind that citations usually have links and some links have citations. If they have a lot of authority you should make sure you add both.
8. But what about user behavior?
If you feel like you’ve gone above and beyond your competition and yet you’re not seeing the gains you want, there is more you have to look at. Sometimes as an SEO it’s easy to get in a paradigm of just the technical or link side of things. But what about user behavior?
It’s no secret and even some recent tests are showing promising data. If your users visit your site and then click back to the search results it indicates that they didn’t find what they were looking for. Through our own experiments we have seen listings in the SERPs jump a few positions in hours just based off of user behavior.
So what does this mean for you?
You need to make sure your pages are answering the users queries as they land on your page, preferably above the fold. For example, if I’m looking for a haircut place and I land on your page, I might be wanting to know the hours, pricing, or directions to your store. Making information prevalent is essential.
Make sure that if you’re going to make these changes you test them. Come up with a hypothesis, test the results, and come to conclusion or another test based off of the data. If you want to know more about your users, I say that you need to find as much about them as human possible. Some services you can use for that are:
1. Inspectlet – Record user sessions and watch how they navigate your website. This awesome tool literally allows you to watch recorded user sessions. Check out their site.
2. LinkedIn Tracking Script – Although I admit it’s a bit creepy, did you know that you can see the actual visitors to your website if they’re logged into LinkedIn while browsing your website? You sure can. To do this complete the following steps:
1. Sign up for a LinkedIn Premium Account
2. Enter this code into the body of your website pages:
<img src="https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?authToken=zRgB&authType=name&id=XXXXX" />
3. Replace the XXXXX with your account number of your profile. You can get this by logging into your profile page and getting the number present after viewid?=
4. Wait for the visitors to start showing up under “who’s viewed your profile”
3. Google Analytics – Watch user behavior and gain insights as so what they were doing on your website.
Speaking of user behavior, is your listing the only one without reviews? Does it have fewer or less favorable reviews? All of these are negative signals for user experience. Do you competitors have more positive reviews? If so you need to work getting more.
While this post was mainly geared towards local SEO as in Google My Business rankings, you have to consider that there are a lot of localized search queries that do not generate pack results. In these cases they’re just standard organic listings.
If you’ve been deterred to add these by Google picking its own meta descriptions or by their lack of ranking benefit, you need to check yourself before you wreck yourself. Seriously. Customers will make a decision on which listing to click on based on this information. If you’re not thinking about optimizing these for user intent on the corresponding page then you’re just being lazy. Spend the time, increase CTR, and increase your rankings if you’re serving great content.
The key to success here is realizing that this is a marathon and not a sprint. If you examine the competition in the top areas mentioned above and create a plan to overcome, you will win long term. This of course also assumes you’re not doing anything shady and staying above board.
While there were many more things I could add to this article, I believe that if you put your focus on what’s mentioned here you’ll have the greatest success. Since I didn’t talk too much about geo-tagged media in this article, I also included some other items to check in the spreadsheet under the competitor analysis tab.
Remember to actively monitor what those around you are doing and develop a pro-active plan to be successful for your clients.
What’s the most creative thing you have seen a competitor do successfully local search? I would love to hear about it in the comments below.
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Reblogged 2 years ago from tracking.feedpress.it