Small Business Website Fundamentals: Behind the Scenes in a SEO Audit

Small Business Website Fundamentals: Behind the Scenes in a SEO Audit

Getting the SEO rockin’ for your small business website can be tricky (and frustrating). Especially, if you’re trying to do it on your own. The good news is that there are a number of common issues you can easily resolve, with a little direction. Focus on these strategies, and your website will be taking a giant leap in the right direction.

I’ve completed hundreds of small business website SEO audits over the past couple of months. I’ve tracked the data from these audits and ran some statistical analysis on it. There are definitely some noticeable trends.

The first thing I noticed is something many owners/managers may not realize about their small business website…

Lots of people can put together a nice looking website these days. But from what I saw, many of the most amazing looking websites were some of the worst performing ones. A primary purpose for any small business website is to drive sales. So all the pretty in the world doesn’t mean a thing.

Aside from that, there are eight key observations I’ve been able to make from looking at the data. Each of these has a significant impact on your website’s ability to do its job well.

What To Expect

  1. Use an Effective Domain Name
  2. Get Encrypted with an SSL Certificate
  3. Build a Portfolio of Quality Links Back to Your Website
  4. Establish Your Authority
  5. Work on Page Speed for a Better User Experience
  6. Optimize for Mobile First
  7. Clean Up the On-Page Elements
  8. Step Up Your Professional Brand Image

#butfirst…


Use an Effective Domain Name

This first observation simply blows me away. After all, this is the foundation of all other strategies for your website. It’s about domain name selection. One thing you need to understand is that the first thing people and search engines see is your domain name. And first impressions matter, to both people and search engines.

No pressure. But don’t mess this up.

Here’s what I’m talking about. Let’s say your company, Southern State Roofing Company, launches a new website. The worst thing you can do is to abbreviate the main identifying keywords into something like ssrcompany.com. That doesn’t tell anyone anything about who you are and what you do.

You’ll miss out on any kind of name recognition with people. You’ll also miss the opportunity to get the business keyword of “roofing” in there.

A domain name like southernstateroofing.com, while longer, will be easier to remember and will help your chances on search engines.

Better yet, try using one of the many not-com names that are gaining popularity. If the .com isn’t available, then a great option in this example could be southernstateroofing.contractors (yep, .contractors is an option). This can help a great deal when people search for terms like. “[your city] roofing contractors.”

TIP #1: It’s important to use a name that’s not only memorable but also one that sets you up well with the search engines.

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Get Encrypted with an SSL Certificate

If you don’t know already, security is a huge deal on the Internet these days. It’s such a big deal that Google is impacting search engine rankings based on how seriously you take this. And Chrome, the leading web browser, is starting to show “Not Secure” warnings for websites that don’t run an SSL (encryption) certificate.

Of the websites I reviewed, fewer than 30% of them currently do not have a security certificate.

Using an SSL certificate on your website means that it will run as an HTTPS website instead of the regular HTTP version. It will encrypt user information when delivered over the web. For example, when someone fills out a contact form on your website, their information could be exposed on a non-HTTPS website.

Taking care of security and encryption on your website with an SSL certificate will have two main benefits:

  1. It’ll protect you from the security-mageddon happening now with search engines and web browsers.
  2. Your visitors (potential customers) will have more confidence in doing business with you when they see the big green “Secure” indicator in their browser.

TIP #2: Get an SSL certificate for your website now. Standard Domain Validation (DV) certificates are inexpensive and are sometimes included in hosting plans.

Build a Portfolio of Quality Links Back to Your Website

There’s no doubt about it, the Internet is built on links. That’s why it’s called the web. That’s all Google is doing. At their core, they’re providing you with some links that should answer your questions. Google’s mission statement is to, “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Google not only provides links to answer your questions, but they also evaluate links to your site to determine usefulness.

Their goal is to always provide the best answers they can to your questions. If they start providing non-relevant information, then they know we’ll leave to find answers elsewhere. So the quality of the links they provide is of utmost importance.

One of the ways they evaluate the value and authority of your content is to look at the links to your website. The idea is that if a higher authority website links to you for an answer on something, then you must be valuable.

That’s where MozRank comes in as a measurement (for us, not necessarily for Google). It’s a way to measure link popularity of a website. A website is scored on a scale from 0-10, with 10 being the highest.

The average MozRank of the website evaluated in this study was 3.79. That’s not a horrible number but still shows that most sites have a great deal of room for improvement as it relates to link building.

The average website you’ll visit when surfing the web will likely be around 3-4.

TIP #3: Make sure you have a strategy for building strong links back to your website. This can be done with SEO link-building services (like ours), guest posting on other websites, and developing local citations for your business.

Establish Your Authority

Like MozRank, the Domain Authority (DA) score has to do with how authoritative your website it. But it takes into consideration more than just the MozRank factors. It’s a score that measures a site’s authority through measuring links (internal and external), mobile-friendliness, on-page content, and site structure.

In my experience, I’ve seen DA scores go up and down just based on the page structure of a website. Specifically, as it relates to the topic(s) your website is supposed to be about.

Using the Southern States Roofing Company example from earlier, that domain name is one of the factors considered in the DA score. Choose your name wisely, and it’ll help you out quite a bit.

In addition to that, it should be clear to search engines (and visitors) what your website is about. If your main pages and menu structure include more generic About, What We Do, Testimonials, Gallery, Contact pages, then you’re making it more difficult for search engines to figure out what you’re really about. None of your keywords are showing there.

Instead, consider main navigation pages like About, Roof Replacement, Roof Repair, Roof Inspections, etc. This will make it more clear what you are an authority on.

And for a bonus, create subpages to build more depth and structure. So under Roof Replacement, consider adding subpages for Tile Roof Replacement, Shingle Roof Replacement, Metal Roof Replacement, etc. Additionally, blog posts can be another way to add depth to the website and pass authority up to other cornerstone content pages.

small business website, website design,

The average DA score for the websites we evaluated was 15.25. That’s on a scale of 1-100. Getting your DA score more into the 30-40 range can result in great improvements in rankings. Get yourself over 50, and you’ll almost be able to write your own ticket on the search engines.

TIP #4: Consider how well your website is built from an authority perspective (check out this case study on website structure). And develop some depth with strong content to establish your authority.

Work on Page Speed for a Better User Experience

One really important ranking factor that seems to be often missed is PageSpeed. From Google’s perspective, if you’re too slow, then you’re not a good answer for them to present. They want to minimize the impatient-factor in the results they present.

Too often, website owners and developers go for the super flashy and pretty design, but don’t do it in a way that keeps the site running smooth. Too many large images and videos and scripts can knock you way down on this score.

The average PageSpeed score of the websites I evaluated was 60, well below the 85 (on a scale of 1-100) that Google gives a green light to. And the greatest offenders were the people who likely thought they have an amazing new website that looks incredible but had scores in the 30s.

In WordPress, there are plenty of great tools to help you optimize images, minify scripts, and leverage caching. All of these are crucial in maintaining quicker page load speeds.

TIP #5: If you’re on WordPress, then consider some optimization plugins to clean things up right away. If you’re on other site builders like Wix or Weebly, consider moving to WordPress. Our managed WordPress hosting will include plenty of these tools, and we’ll even help take care of it for you.

Optimize for Mobile First

Whats worse than scoring a 60 for Google PageSpeed on your website? How about scoring a 51 for PageSpeed on mobile for your website? Unfortunately, that’s the average mobile PageSpeed score for the evaluated websites.

During a time when Google is focusing so much on mobile-first indexing, you need your website to perform well on mobile.

There are two ways you can do this:

  • Get your web pages running on AMP. This is Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project. Basically, the idea is to push your page content into a more mobile format that Google serves up really quickly through their results pages on mobile devices. The downside is that it technically doesn’t get the traffic ON your website, so you may lose some of the experience as pages are stripped down for speed.
  • Focus more on the mobile version of your website’s design. All websites these days should be mobile responsive. But mobile responsive doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s mobile optimized.

With the typical website getting around 50% (and constantly increasing) of their traffic through mobile now, you cannot afford to skimp on this.

TIP #6: There are advantages and disadvantages to each of the methods of mobile optimization. The important thing is that you spend some time doing this optimization. Do take a desktop-only approach to design. And don’t just think about converting the design to mobile optimized, consider mobile-first content too.

Clean Up the On-Page Elements

One of the biggest on-page factors for your content is the metadata, image alt tags, and header text. Your keywords should be built into each of these elements on every page. Too many websites fail to optimize this for their keywords, or simply miss it altogether. In our experience, cleaning this stuff up across the website is one of the easiest ways to get some big wins with your SEO.

And don’t optimize every page on your site to the same keywords. That feels unnatural because not every page is about the same exact thing. Using our roofing company example, consider optimizing pages like this:

  • Homepage –> “roofing contractor” as the keyword focus
  • Roof replacement page –> “roof replacement [your city]” keyword focus
  • Roof repair page –> “roof repair [your city]” keyword focus

Using a plugin like Yoast SEO, the metadata can be updated in the “snippet” settings for the page. That’s the information that shows up in the search engine results for your page. (Can you guess what keyword terms the page shown below is optimized for?)

small business website, meta data

Many websites also contain generic text in header text on most website pages. For example, the header text for a section on the page might be “Our Services,” which doesn’t contain keywords. Instead, consider using something like “Roofing Services” instead.

TIP #7: Review the metadata settings for each page on your website, and make sure they contain your keywords and look enticing for searchers to click on. Also review all header formatted text to make sure it’s specific, and check all images to ensure the “alternative text” contains your keywords.

Step Up Your Professional Brand Image

This last item isn’t necessarily a performance or SEO metric. It’s more of a branding issue. Many (a large many) of the websites analyzed used a non-domain based email address for their contact email.

For example, our southernstateroofing.contractors should be using joe@southernstateroofing.contractors for email instead of southernstateroofing@hotmail.com (or worse, ssrcompany@hotmail.com).

Honestly, Gmail is not as bad because of how widely used it is. But using a domain name based email address that matches your company’s website address provides a much more professional image. And people will judge you based on little things like this.

TIP #8: Just get the email addresses set up. If you prefer, you can set up your Gmail to send/receive that email for you. So you can continue to use the Gmail interface, but with a much more professional image.

Conclusion

If you want your online marketing efforts to be successful, then getting your small business website design done properly is of great importance. And it involves more than throwing up some cool photos or some drone video. You’ll need to get these website design fundamentals done right if you’re going to have a chance of succeeding.

But if you get these elements right, you’ll set yourself up far ahead of the competition. If you already have a small business website in place, then let us run a free, no-obligation website SEO analysis report for you. You can use the information to improve your website on your own. Or hit us up to talk about how we can help take care of issues or just build you a well-designed website.

Regardless, it’s important to know where your website stands and to take steps to improve its ability to drive results for you.

Dan is the creative and technical genius behind Fistbump Media. His uncanny wisdom and online prowess is the stuff of legend. When he’s not leading incredible growth around here, he’s loving on his wife of 19+ years, and five kids (two biological, three adopted).

Cybersecurity and Your Website (Our Responsibilities, and Yours)

Cybersecurity and Your Website (Our Responsibilities, and Yours)

cybersecurity, cyber security, SSL, HTTPS, malware protection

With a greater reliance on using technology to manage our personal information, there is a greater emphasis on cybersecurity for protecting that information. It seems like reports of large-scale breaches come out every few news cycles. Some of the big ones, just this year, include the likes of Verizon, Equifax, Yahoo!, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Even Chipotle fell victim to a hack.

It’s enough to make even the most confident people feel vulnerable.

And if you have an online presence you’re trying to develop through your website, email, and/or social media, then you need to be extra careful. No matter how big or how small, your digital presence could easily become a target.

Search engines and web browsers are even getting more into the security game. Site security and encryption is now a ranking factor for search engines. And browsers are starting to kick out “Not Secure” warnings on websites without an SSL certificate.

Why Being Proactive About Cybersecurity is Important

One of the bigger security concerns has to do with protecting your website from malware and phishing. Poor website security leads to cracks for malicious users who get in and leave things like viruses and other malicious tools. Sometimes these activities can even lead to using your site (even unbeknownst to you) for phishing activity to capture sensitive information. A hack on your website can damage your reputation with your visitors, search engines, and other web services.

Another major area of concern has to do with protecting your email from hacks. A hacked email account can expose more of your personal information contained in various emails. It can also result in someone using your account to send out malicious spam emails. Those emails are often used for phishing purposes or delivering viruses to unsuspecting recipients. A compromised email account could be dangerous for you and for many others.

A third, and potentially greater, area of concern has to do with protecting your other personal information and accounts. Chances are, the password you use for your website and email accounts are the same or very similar to the passwords you use for other online accounts. If a hacker can figure out your email password, and see that you do your online banking at a certain bank, then they may have everything they need to log into your bank account. Basically, getting into one of your accounts may provide easy access to everything else you do. And that could be bad news for you.

What We Do For You To Maintain Website Security

Maintenance is everything. One of the reasons our BASIC (and higher) Hosting plans are so popular is because the maintenance we do keeps websites running smooth and secure. We run WordPress, theme, and plugin updates on each site several times throughout the week. And we perform database cleanup and optimization. Many of the updates include regular bug fixes and security patches.

Server-level security monitoring. Our data center team monitors potential issues 24/7/365. Aside from maintaining server uptime, we constantly monitor any malicious activity. If/when something is spotted, we take corrective action almost immediately. This level of monitoring minimizes the impact in the event a user account gets compromised.

Site-level security monitoring. Also as part of our BASIC (and higher) Hosting, we monitor potential in-site security issues. Using tools like Wordfence Security, we regularly scan for any malicious and unusual files on the website. We take immediate corrective action and remove any potential threat we find.

Security-Related Services You Should Consider

Domain name privacy. Most people don’t realize that your ownership information on your domain name registration is public. That means anyone can look up a website owner’s name, address, and phone number. That is unless you have Domain Privacy on your domain name. It’s well worth the $7.99/yr cost to hide your personal registration information. This not only limits the volume of spam coming your way, but it also limits the amount of information people can find on you.

domain privacy, cybersecurity, website security

SSL certificates. Security certificates encrypt information when passed between visitors and your website. Without this kind of encryption, even simple contact form information can be intercepted and read by people with malicious intent. Visitors can have confidence that their personal information is safe on a website when they see the HTTPS (the “s” for secure) and the green padlock in their browser address bar. A basic SSL Certificate can be purchased for as little as $27/yr, and is even included in some hosting plans.

Your Responsibility for Protecting Your Website

Change your password regularly. The more often you can change your passwords, the better. Ideally, you should change them (at least) every 60-90 days. If a password does get compromised, then it won’t be effective for very long. But if you use the same passwords for everything for years, then it opens you up to other attacks. Getting comfortable with a password is one of the worst things you can do.

Use strong password formats. The best format for a strong password is a random string of unrelated letters, numbers, and characters. But that doesn’t usually help your ability to remember your password. Alternatively, you can try using a combination of two unrelated words, a number, and throw in a special character or two. Your goal is to provide as much of an unknown scramble as possible.

Use different passwords for your various accounts. Do you use the same password for everything? If so, then one compromised password means that you’ve opened the door to all of your accounts. At minimum use different passwords for the accounts you most need to protect (like your banking, etc).

Final Thoughts…

Website security is bigger than just keeping hackers out of your website. You need a cybersecurity plan to protect your website, email, and all of your other online accounts. Taking a few simple steps and having the right tools in place can protect you and your website visitors from all kinds of malicious activity. And you will be able to sleep well at night not worrying about all of the latest cybersecurity craziness in the news.

Dan is the creative and technical genius behind Fistbump Media. His uncanny wisdom and online prowess is the stuff of legend. When he’s not leading incredible growth around here, he’s loving on his wife of 19+ years, and five kids (two biological, three adopted).

How To Make Money With a Blog: 5 Tips to Turning a Profit

How To Make Money With a Blog: 5 Tips to Turning a Profit

make money with a blog, how to monetize a wordpress blog

Anyone can start a blog, but most don’t make money from blogging. In fact, many people don’t realize it’s possible to make money with a blog.

Before you can think about making money, you need to focus on writing useful content. Until you do this, you cannot move forward and bring in even a little extra income. It’s your content that keeps people coming back.

Your blog must also have followers, as they are the ones who will help bring money in. You can start with only a handful of followers. But monetizing a blog is a numbers game. The more followers you can gather, the more likely you are to increase your earnings.

Suggested Resource: Learn how to build a strategy that reaches the audience you want in 31 Days to #BlogAwesomeness.

Once you’ve done these things it’s time to begin monetizing your blog. Here are five ways you can start creating income with your blog right now.

Advertising On Your Blog

In the past, companies would advertise where their target audience spends their time. Often, that would be in magazines, newspapers, or on TV. Today, it’s much easier to reach a target audience by advertising on websites where they spend time. Through better targeting, companies generate more leads and boost conversion rates. Thus advertisers are willing to pay the site owner to help share their message.

Suggested Resources:

Hosting Events

You can host an event (online or in-person) and charge attendees for participation. This trend isn’t very common among bloggers yet. But it is gaining popularity as writers see how much income they can generate by putting together events for their readers. For example, a blog dedicated to scrapbooking can organize a scrap-a-thon or a class.

Suggested Resources:

Develop and Sell Products

Bloggers often have a marketable skill set they can share with others. After all, that’s why you write and share with the world, right? You already offer basic information about these skills through your blog. Once you’ve established yourself as an expert, you can develop and sell products on more advanced topics. Also, you can create new (exclusive) material to sell. A blog written by someone who loves to crochet could teach the basic crochet skills at no charge. As followers become more proficient, they can buy advanced classes or unique patterns.

Digital materials fall under this category and remain in high demand. You can sell an e-course, an ebook, or anther kind of digital download. Podcasts are another option to consider. Many are free, but you can also create premium content to sell. Think outside the box and offer something others in the industry aren’t. Bloggers who do so will find their following expands and they generate more income as a result.

Suggested Resources:

Affiliate Marketing

A large majority of bloggers turn to affiliate programs to generate income. This involves linking to a product that is being sold on another site. When a visitor clicks on this link and purchases the product, you earn a commission. The site providing the commission supplies you with a unique affiliate code to track sales. Some sites offer a commission if the person clicking the link purchases anything on their site, as opposed to only the advertised item.

Suggested Resources:

Outside Engagements

With an established blog following, you might find that your opportunities will expand. If you position yourself appropriately, you may be offered public speaking gigs. Or you might receive a request to consult on a project. Teaching opportunities also have arisen for some bloggers. These are only a few examples of how you can generate income through outside engagements.

Suggested Resources:

Blogging is fun for many individuals as share their thoughts and feelings with friends. Others blog to share the special knowledge they have with others and have a great opportunity to make some money. For those who fall into the second category, there are many ways to achieve this goal. With the right combination of methods, anyone can make money and turn their hobby into a full-time job.

Start with one method, become confident and add a second. If something doesn’t work, drop it and move on to the next. There is no one combination that works for all. Making money with a blog won’t happen overnight. Stick with it and you’ll find your hard work will pay off in the end. The solid foundation you created before you attempt to make money with a blog helps to ensure your success.

Dan is the creative and technical genius behind Fistbump Media. His uncanny wisdom and online prowess is the stuff of legend. When he’s not leading incredible growth around here, he’s loving on his wife of 19+ years, and five kids (two biological, three adopted).

How To Design a Website for Better Search Engine Ranking

How To Design a Website for Better Search Engine Ranking

design a website, search engine ranking

I’m asked about this quite frequently. It’s this question about how to design a website and ensure it’s set up for the best possible search engine ranking. Because being found on search engines can make or break your online success. So it’s not just a question about ranking high for a certain keyword. It’s about ranking high for the best keywords to drive results.

Before we dig into the details, it’s important to understand that search engine optimization (SEO) success is dependent on two factors. The first factor is on-site design and setup. This has to do with the structure and mapping of pages on your site, the content you offer, and several behind-the-scenes settings. The second factor is off-site promotion. This has more to do with link building and gaining outside credibility for your website. Our focus here today will be with the first of these two factors, on-site design.

The Background

A few years ago, some friends started a new laser engraving business. As they were kicking things off, they knew that the website was going to be a key piece of their strategy. So we got together and built a site around their main keyword of laser engraving. The site did well in ranking for that phrase, and it helped generate several new customers for them.

Over time, the business continued to grow, and the owners gained a better understanding of their niche. Most of the work they are doing falls into two main categories. One type of customer they get is business and corporate accounts looking to get logos engraved onto other products as promotional giveaways. The other type of customer is looking for personalization on keepsake items, such as wedding party gifts.

As they began to expand and focus on those two categories, they also felt like it was time for the website to evolve with them. The good news is that the website was rock solid with terms related to laser engraving. However, it wasn’t anywhere on the radar for terms related to these two categories. The new design would need to capitalize on these niche categories.

Keyword Research (Where a Good SEO Strategy Begins)

When we set out to design a website for search engine ranking, the first thing we need to do is keyword research. I’m a firm believer in following what the data tells me. I never arbitrarily pick a keyword phrase out of a hat and build a website.

We targeted three keyword phrases in order to show up in searches for the best possible audience.

  • laser engraving (already ranking well locally for this, and didn’t want to lose it)
  • promotional products
  • personalized gifts

We selected these phrases after evaluating dozens of options and alternatives in Google’s Keyword Planner tool. When doing this for a local business, it’s helpful to filter results geographically. For example, you don’t want to use soda in an area where it’s more commonly called pop. Filtering geographically will get you the terms people actually use in your area to find what you’re offering. Beyond that, it’s all about finding the terms that have the highest search volume. And it’s a bonus if they have low competition. These terms present the greatest opportunities to capture visitors.

How To Design a Website for Results

Search engines are looking for authority. They want to ensure that the pages they send searchers to are the most helpful resources available. Old SEO methods of keyword stuffing pages just don’t do the trick anymore. So you need to show value. One of the best ways to show value (and authority) is through strong content. And long-form content typically shows higher authority than a few short blurbs. Therefore we built three high-authority pages mapped out like this:

  • Homepage (main keyword: laser engraving) – Our target for the homepage is 1500 words of content. Within that content, we have sections with short summaries for the other target keyword phrases. And then we added other general information about laser engraving.
  • Authority page (keyword: promotional products) – The target for other authority pages is at least 800 words of content. We used similar keywords, such as promotional items and custom logo engraving, but the main focus was on primary term.
  • Authority page (keyword: personalized gifts) – This page has the same 800-word target and used other supporting key phrases like anniversary gifts and personalized wedding gifts.

The new website structure focuses primarily on these three pages. Other existing pages aren’t removed. However, the more we can focus on core navigation for these three pages, the better. Therefore, we add the new authority pages to the header menu and link to them from the homepage. Likewise, the authority pages link to each other and back to the homepage.

Back-End Tactics to Improve Search Engine Ranking

Strong SEO writing is an important part of this process. Additionally, there are some other back-end pieces that to take care of. It’s things like creating strong snippets (using Yoast SEO) that can make a big difference. Not only should a snippet contain your keywords, but it also needs a strong call-to-action.

In addition to this kind of metadata, we make sure other elements are properly addressed:

  • Content readability – Yoast SEO does a great job scoring the page content for this. And I like to run all of my content through Hemingway App to help me find and correct difficult to read sentences, passive voice, and other readability factors.
  • Link balance – Every page should have links to other internal (your site) pages, but also external links to other websites. Don’t overdo it, but make sure the page’s links are strong and add value.
  • XML sitemap considerations – Static pages on the site that provide authority should be set to a high priority for the search engine bots. Additionally, less important pages (like your contact page, etc) should be bumped down in priority or removed from indexing altogether. This helps tell the search engines to determine what content is really important on the website.

Beyond this, if you have green lights from Yoast SEO on readability and SEO, then you should be all set.

The Results

Before this redesign work on the website, laser engraving was already performing well for us in local searches. Usually in the top three, and sometimes number one. The site was not ranking at all for the terms promotional products or personalized gifts. Once Google’s bots got to index the new site changes, we noticed some nice results. The homepage now seems to have a pretty strong hold on the #1 spot for laser engraving locally. And local searches for the other terms are now ranking the website in the top five!

Promotional products is currently ranking the homepage at #5…

how to design a website, search engine ranking

Personalized gifts is performing even better with TWO pages ranking in the top five! Here you see that not only did the homepage rank for this term, but so did the authority page…

how to design a website, search engine ranking

Other Considerations

These results were achieved without any other external SEO work. Simple, yet strong design strategy resulted in major improvements in search engine rankings.

At the same time, there are a few other tactics which could support (or even improve) strong results like this:

  • Link building and other off-site SEO promotion – Building a good portfolio of links pointing back to all of these pages could continue to enhance their credibility.
  • Content marketing strategy – Producing fresh and relevant content using related keyword terms can strengthen on-site authority.
  • Social media marketing – Providing social proof for these pages by sharing them regularly on social media sends strong signals to the search engines.

There’s definitely a strategy to follow if you want to build a website for great search engine ranking. And the key really is to think through all of the elements of the design and don’t skip some for convenience. If you do a good job with all of this, you’ll see the payoff in increased visibility (and traffic).

 

Dan is the creative and technical genius behind Fistbump Media. His uncanny wisdom and online prowess is the stuff of legend. When he’s not leading incredible growth around here, he’s loving on his wife of 19+ years, and five kids (two biological, three adopted).

How To Increase Google Traffic By 48% (A Local SEO Case Study)

How To Increase Google Traffic By 48% (A Local SEO Case Study)

google traffic, local seo, small business

Winning in local SEO isn’t about doing some magic trick and spiking yourself up to number one overnight. Remember the story about the tortoise and the hare? The idea is simple. Keep doing the right things consistently over time, and you’ll win. You can increase your organic (not paid ad) Google traffic over time by consistently focusing on a few key tactics.

That’s what happened last year with one local business we work with. And I’ll be honest with you. I didn’t have much hope for them at times through this process.

If you understand SEO, then you know there are internal and external factors that impact your rankings. Internal factors might include having a strong, user-friendly website design and authoritative content in your area of expertise. External factors deal with off-site issues like having a strong backlink strategy. In order to do really well, both of these areas need to be handled well.

What We Could Have Done Better

It was a year of transition for this local business. Over the course of the year, there were three different Marketing leads to work with. The transitions meant different ideas coming to the table regularly, and a need to move slowly on big changes. For us, that meant we weren’t able to pull the trigger on some bigger website changes we felt needed to get done. In particular, it would have helped our SEO chances greatly if we were able to:

  • Update the look and feel of the site to a more modern design
  • Restructure and streamline the site for user experience and a strong sitemap
  • Bulk up thin content pages to show greater authority

The good news is that it looks like we may be giving these things more attention this year. With this stuff not running optimally, we saw improvements in Google traffic, but not as much as we could have.

The Improvement We Saw In Google Traffic

In 2015, organic search produced 4,333 first-time visitors to the website. In 2016, that number was 6,446 first-time visitors. That’s an increase of over 2,100 more people (48.77%) coming through their (virtual) doors!

google traffic, local seo, search engine optimization

This chart might not look overwhelming, but remember the tortoise and the hare? Each month this year (blue bar) represents an increase anywhere from 110 to 280 more new visitors per month than the previous year (orange bar). It represents steady, consistent work resulting in steady, consistent results.

What We Did To Get These Results

Early in the year, we did some initial cleanup and link building, which gave us a bit of a boost out of the gate. Internally, there was some cleaning up of meta descriptions (the snippets you see in search results), and other optimization. Externally, we did multiple tiers of link building and social bookmarking. That all gave us a good start, but the real story is in the consistency throughout the year. Here’s what we did, and all within a budget of less than $400/mo:

  • Backlink Cleanup – Before we got into building our (good) backlink portfolio, we first needed to get rid of any old backlinks that were hurting us. We were able to uncover several links that held us down and get rid of them (as far as Google is concerned).
  • Creating Social Signals – We have a way to sort of mimic the effect that celebrity social media accounts can have when they share something. These social signals usually have a quick impact by showing the search engines that something on your site is of high social value.
  • Contextual Links with Guest Posting – The idea here is to get authoritative websites to write an article about a subject related to you and include a link in the article back to your website. The higher authority of the website, the higher value of the link back to you.
  • Advanced Crowdsearch – This is a strategic way of creating some of the other signals search engines look at to determine the value of your site (and its content). When search engines see the value, they bump you up in the rankings.

After the backlink cleanup, we just put the other three items on a three-month rotation. Each month we would do just one of them, and target it at the homepage of the website. After we worked through all three of them over a three-month period, we would start over.

Consistency is the Key

It’s also important to note that if the budget allowed for us to do two or three of these things every month, the results we saw would be greatly magnified. You get out of it what you put into it. But more importantly, the key is in the consistency.

Doing the right things regularly paid off by generating more Google traffic to the website. And if we’re doing our job well on the website, then we’ll be converting those visits into sales leads and then into customers. More on that idea some other time…

Dan is the creative and technical genius behind Fistbump Media. His uncanny wisdom and online prowess is the stuff of legend. When he’s not leading incredible growth around here, he’s loving on his wife of 19+ years, and five kids (two biological, three adopted).

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