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!
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…
Good website design and management is not based on feelings or personal preferences. Rather it’s based on data and facts that move you closer to your goals. That’s why I love A/B split testing. It’s all about figuring out the correct path for your design based on hard data.
If you’re serious about measuring the ROI of a website, then A/B split testing will help you work towards the best design by allowing you to test different options against each other to discover which is the higher performing design. You start by picking a key conversion metric (like a buy button, a sign-up button, or some other call-to-action or metric), and designing two (or more) versions of the page. Visitors to the page can be randomly served one page or the other, and the tracking tools will measure how often your desired conversion happens on each page. Once you determine a winner, then you can direct all traffic to the final, higher-performing page.
You should also consider incremental design using A/B split testing. Once your initial experiment is complete, you can try again with the same page by changing another element, allowing you to continue improving the page’s performance over time.
There are many tools available to help you with A/B split testing. But everything you need to run a split test experiment is available for free in Google Analytics. Here’s what you need to do to set up your own experiments:
Step 1: Decide What You Want to Measure
The first thing you’ll need to do is to determine what you want to measure. Is it a site metric like pages per visit, or length of time on site? Or is it getting to a specific page like a sign-up form, or a purchase “thank you” page?
As you define your desired outcomes, you’ll need to create multiple versions of the web pages you plan to test hoping to achieve that outcome. Each of these two (or more) pages will have something different in their design. While you can test two pages with completely different designs, it’s best to test smaller elements of similarly designed pages. Test things like placement of the call-to-action on the page, or the colors of sign-up forms, or the wording used in the header text on the page, or whatever other option you want to test. Whatever it is, create the pages with your desired outcome in mind and how you think you can improve conversion rates with your page variation(s).
Once you have your split test pages created, you’ll be able to set up the goals you’ll need to measure their success.
Step 2: Create Goals in Google Analytics
Once you know what it is you want to measure, then you’ll need to set up the Goals so that Google Analytics can track the conversion rate on those events. Goals are good to track regardless, but you’ll need specific goals to use for your split test experiment. Here’s how you set those up in GA:
Go to the Admin tab in Google Analytics
Select the profile you want to add your goal to
Click on the ‘Goals’ tab
Click the ‘+ New Goal’ button
Select the option for either an existing template or a custom setup (most likely a template)
Complete the Goal Description by giving it a name and selecting the type
Complete the Goal Details with the desired outcome/values for your goal type
Once your goals are set up, then you’ll be able to create your split test experiment.
Step 3: Create Your Split Test Experiment in Google Analytics
At this point, you should have two (or more) versions of a web page you’ll be testing, and at least one goal you’ll be using to track and compare the pages. With that you’ll be able to set up your split test experiment in Google Analytics.
Go to the Reporting tab in Google analytics
Select ‘Experiments’ in the ‘Bahvior’ menu
Click the ‘Create experiment’ button
Set name and objective for the experiment
Configure your experiment with the original page and variations
Your experiment will run for a period of time (Google defaults it to 30 days) tracking the goal conversion as it sends visitors randomly to the original page and each variation. After your experiment has run for a sufficient amount of time, you’ll be able to determine a winner.
Step 4: Determine the Winner and Repeat as Needed
Once you determine a winner, then you can direct all traffic to the winning page. Now you can be confident that you’ll be getting the better conversion rate for your goals. At this point you can leave it alone, or try another change on the page. The beauty of incremental design using A/B split testing is that you can constantly be working towards better conversions. The result will never take you backward. If you try another split test, and your new “B” page does not perform better than your “A”, then you keep the existing “A” page. And when a new “B” page out-performs your “A” page, then it takes over as your new “A” page for the next test.
I recently worked with a client on a split test for the highest traffic page on their website (it gets more traffic than the homepage). The problem with the page was that it also had a high bounce rate. So we knew it was effective in getting people TO the website, but not with KEEPING them there. We reviewed the page and rebuilt it with a cleaner design and a nice call-to-action at the top of the page to encourage click-through to another page for more information (lowering that bounce rate). With the newer, much fancier design, we were certain the new variation would be a big hit with visitors.
Much to our surprise, the split test experiment showed that the original not only out-performed our awesome new design, but it beat it pretty decisively. That was a great reminder for me that I should never base design on feelings or personal preferences. Data shows the real impacts.
Use the data available to you effectively, and you’ll reap the rewards of a high-performing website.
Note: This post was originally published on the MainWP Blog.
The internet of today is competitive, and having a strong local SEO strategy is a necessity for small businesses. Most business owners know the difficulty of remaining competitive online, but they don’t know where to start. Small businesses owners should consider these local SEO optimization tips.
Stay Compliant With Google Updates
Google rolled out their latest update in September 2016, and it encourages business owners to provide a more useful, relevant experience for searchers. The Penguin update lists a few strategies that can help business owners push their sites to the top of local rankings. Some factors revealed in the Penguin update include domain authority, on-page optimization, and the physical address of businesses.
Create Pages for Local Listings
Another effective strategy is to build local listing pages on directories such as Google+, Yelp, and Foursquare (just to name a few). Business owners should create profiles on these directory sites and claim site ownership. From there, the owner should ensure the accuracy and consistency of the listings. By listing the website on these directories, business owners can rise through local listings.
Sign Up for Your Google My Business Page
By signing up for Google’s My Business, a local business owner can make his or her site more visible on Google+, Search, Maps, and Google Local. When the site owner signs into this service, they can enter or update the business’ address and contact information, and they can also access other apps such as Reviews, Insights, Analytics, and Hangouts. The business search service can be accessed via desktop browser or mobile app, and the app provides notifications when someone reviews the site on Google+.
Add a Blog Page to the Business Website
Putting a blog page on the company website will help the owner improve the site’s visibility. The more posts you publish, the more visitors will come to the site. Writing blog posts allows business owners to target locally-relevant search terms and keywords, and these posts can keep visitors on the site once they’re there. The longer a visitor stays on the site, the more likely they are to turn into a customer. Relevant, engaging blog content reduces bounce rates, which are an important measurement of the site’s search engine ranking.
Optimizing a site for mobile users is another important way to improve its search engine rankings. With each Google algorithm update, mobile optimization becomes more important. Updates prioritize sites that display well on smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices, and these sites rank higher in mobile search results.
Ask Visitors for Positive Reviews
Google gives great importance to online reviews during site rankings. Good reviews build trust in a site and enhance credibility, and that’s why it is important for business owners to gather positive reviews from customers. Owners can increase the likelihood of customer endorsement with emails listing all the major review sites such as Google Places and asking for their input on products and services.
Create Engaging Content
With each algorithm update, it becomes increasingly important to have site content that offers users something of value. It’s quite easy to create engaging, valuable site content. All the business owner has to do is determine customers’ concerns and write content that attempts to resolve them. By solving a reader’s specific problem, a business owner can enrich that customer’s online experience.
Create and Maintain Social Media Pages
Building a solid presence on sites like LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter is critical for a business owner who wants high search engine rankings. Social media also has indirect effects on site rankings. When a company’s fan base increases, more people visit the site. Search engines take site popularity cues from search results, and increased traffic can boost the site’s rankings.
Improve the User Experience
Business owners should focus on an improved user experience (UX) by making sites easy to navigate. Clear layouts, appealing designs, and easy-to-find contact info can go a long way toward a better UX, and these factors can encourage visitors to remain on the site longer. When visitors stick around, conversion and bounce rates improve, and it boosts the site’s search engine ranking.
To dominate search rankings, site owners should regularly update site content. This helps sites in two main ways. First, regular updates keep customers coming back to see what’s new. Second, Google’s algorithm updates tend to favor sites that frequently post new content. By following the tips listed here, business owners can improve their local SEO.
If blogging had a secret sauce or magic potion, this would be it. By far, this is the most common question I get asked about blogging and social media.
When is right time to share blog posts on social media?
I can confidently respond without hesitation…
I’ll be honest. I really wish I could tell you an exact formula for sharing your (amazing) blog posts so they reach the millions of people who need to be reading them. But the reality is that there isn’t a formula.
With that said, there are some things you can do that’ll help you figure it out. With a little bit of testing, measuring, and retesting, you’ll find the right answer for you pretty quickly. In no time at all, you’ll be able to share blog posts like a boss.
The First Key to Social Media Success
It’s not about you.
First and foremost, the success of your blog posts in the world of social media has nothing to do with you. Well, maybe a little bit. Many bloggers misunderstand social media success as having to do with getting the right mix with when and how they post their content. However, if it only depended on your sharing, then it’s not really social, is it?
If you want to find success in social media, then you need to be thinking about how other people share your content. Your role in that is two-fold:
Create content that’s share-worthy. Think about blog post titles that make readers want to click. Think about eye-popping images that catch their attention. Think about writing content that would make them want to share with their friends because of how it moved them.
Make it easy for them to share. I’m amazed at how many websites I visit where I can’t find social sharing buttons. Sure, I could copy/paste the blog post URL, but if I have to go to that much effort, you’ve already lost me. Share buttons should be highly visible and easy to use.
Finding the Right Times
While most of your success comes from how other people share your content, you’ll still want to optimize how you share your blog posts for maximum reach. This is where you’ll want to experiment with different types of posts (text, images, links, and videos) at different times of the day.
Social media gurus will look at the data and tell you that you should be posting your content at 2pm on Thursday afternoons (or some other flavor of the month). However, that’s based on meta-data from thousands of accounts, not your data.
So how do you find the optimum times for your accounts?
If you run a Facebook page for your website, then you’ll have access to Insights for your page.
In your Insights, you’ll find “When Your Fans Are Online” on the Posts tab. The initial chart shows general population volume, but when you mouse over different days of the week you’ll see when your fans are online that day. This is based on recent data specific to the people who are fans of your page. Note that when your followers are online will vary from day to day.
You can find similar data for Twitter using third-party tools, like Follwerwonk. Once you sign in with your Twitter account, you’ll be able to analyze followers… both those who follow you, and those who you follow. You’ll get a great deal of demographic information about your followers, and a detailed chart of when they are most active on Twitter.
I want to draw special attention to that “Schedule at Buffer” button below the top chart. That brings me to my next point…
Buffering Your Way to Success
Once you’ve figured out the best times to schedule your posts, then you can plug that information into a tool like Buffer. In Buffer, you’ll be able to create a custom schedule for each of your social media profiles and set the times you want to post. You can even schedule different frequency and posting times for each day of the week. In the example below, you’ll see that I set my schedule to reflect the peak times for my Facebook page on Tuesdays.
This is where that “Schedule at Buffer” button in Followerwonk comes in handy. You can select a frequency for scheduled posts in a day, and automatically import an optimum posting schedule into Buffer.
One of my favorite parts of Buffer is the analytics for the posts you share (only through Buffer). Based on interaction thresholds, you’ll get a good idea of what kinds of social media posts are resonating the most with your audience.
It’s important to note here that using Buffer for scheduled posts doesn’t mean that everything you do on social media needs to be scheduled through Buffer. It is, however, a great tool that will help you push your blog posts out to different platforms at predetermined times, making sharing much simpler.
CoSchedule: A Premium Solution
If your blog is on (self-hosted) WordPress, then you can use some cool tools like CoSchedule. This WordPress plugin comes with a small monthly fee, but it has some pretty slick scheduling functionality. Basically, while you in your Edit Post mode, you can also create your social media posts to publish at whatever times you specify. Create, text, image, and link posts to run at the same time that your blog posts publishes. And then run a different kind of social media post at x-number of hours after the blog post publishes.
If you publish your blog post at 6am, you can publish a link post to Facebook at 6am, then an image post 5 hours later, and a text post 10 hours later. Then think about the Twitter and Google+ posts you want to send out in order to get the best coverage for when your followers are most likely to see it. Everything is triggered automatically based on the publishing of the blog post. CoSchedule even has a slick calendar that shows you all scheduled blog and social media posts for easy management.
The best thing you can do to determine what social media posting methods and schedules are best for you is to test, measure, adjust and test again. When you share blog posts, pay attention to the types of social media posts you run at different times, and how well each of those resonates with your followers. Before long, you should be able to pick up on some trends and patterns with your followers that will help you optimize every post you make…
Like a boss.
Note: This post was originally published on the Allume Blog.
With all of the talk about how Facebook is changing algorithms to push down your page’s posts, there’s finally something to look forward to! It’s called Facebook Audience Optimization, and it’s a new tool which allows Facebook Page publishers to better target the audience for each post, making it more likely that your content will be seen by the people who really want to see it.
But why not show all of your posts to all the people? Well, that’s not great marketing, to be honest. Remember:
That’s where Audience Optimization comes in. It allows you to tag a preferred audience who is most likely to be interested, or remove those who are least likely to be interested with audience restrictions. And it will give you audience insights to help you understand which interest tags are having the greatest impact with viewers of the posts.
Getting Started with Facebook Audience Optimization
Before you can use Audience Optimization on your Facebook Page, it must be allowed via your Page settings. To enable this feature, go to Settings > General > Audience Optimization for Posts, check the box to allow the feature, and click on the Save Changes button.
Once the feature is enabled, then you’ll be able to use Audience Optimization when creating posts on your Facebook Page by clicking on the targeting icon.
This will open the tool which allows you to select your preferred audience and/or audience restrictions.
Getting the Most Out of Facebook Audience Optimization
When using a tool like this, it’s worth mentioning that you’ll need to think first about how people consume your content, not just who you want to get your content in front of. There may be some people who you believe need to see your post, but if they don’t want to see it, then your efforts will not produce the engagement needed to lift it in Facebook’s algorithms. So target the audience who is most likely to like, comment, and (most importantly) click.
Target audiences with relevant tags – What matters most? Think about the interests which are most relevant to that post.
Tag with a mix of broad and narrow terms – “…think about the classic “who, what, where, when, why and how” elements of the story as a starting place.”
Think associatively about related interests – Which topics or interests overlap the main ideas you’re tagging in the post?
Consider including organizations and brands – This is also about finding the overlap in interests.
Use tags with small audiences strategically – It’s not always about reaching LOTS of people, but finding the people who will be most passionate about your content.
Getting your content in front of the right people can pay huge dividends for your blog/website. And using a tool like Audience Optimization can help your content get the right kind of reach. Despite what many may believe, Facebook relies on your content. The idea that they are pushing it down is more about them getting the right pieces of content they believe people want to see in front of them. Adding these kinds of tags to your posts helps them filter and better match your posts with the people who will want to engage with that content.
How are you using Facebook Audience Optimization, and have you noticed any difference in engagement as a result?
Most people believe that increasing social media exposure is all about getting more followers.That’s not entirely true. Certainly, building your own social media following is important, but consider this question…
I regularly tell clients that it’s more important to enable and get other people to share your content than it is to build a massive following yourself. In fact, your social media following will inevitably grow if you are effectively getting other people to share your stuff.
And before I get into the practices I suggest for social sharing, it’s worth stating that the first thing you need to do is to create something worth sharing. Your content must be strong if you expect other people to put in front of the people they know. It shouldn’t be something that only tells your story, but also connects with their story. The more people can relate to your experience and say resoundingly, “Yes! That’s me too!”, the more likely they are to share across their networks.
With that said, here are four things I suggest you do with every post in order to maximize your social media exposure:
1. Rock your social media sharing buttons
The first thing you should be thinking about is how you make social sharing easy for your readers. Typically, every action you require a visitor on your website to take in order to accomplish something, the more likely they are to drop off somewhere in the process. Several studies have shown that social like/share buttons at the top of a post get more clicks than the ones at the bottom of a post. Some visitors will visit the page, and because they like you and or your topic in general, they’ll click that button before even reading the rest of the post (an extra action required in order to get to the same buttons at the bottom of the page).
Using the same thinking, floating sidebar buttons tend to get more engagement because they’re always visible, no matter where the reader is. So whenever they decide they like it, and the urge hits them to share, they don’t need to go anywhere else to find how to share. The option is simply always there.
With your social sharing options, you’ll want to make sure you’re offering sharing options for most popular networks, even if you aren’t on them. The idea of social sharing is more about enabling people to share where they want, not just where you are. Think about who your typical reader is, and where they may have profiles.
There are several great plugins for implementing a floating sidebar for social sharing, and our favorite is Monarch from Elegant Themes. The reason we like this one so much is because of the flexibility in design, and the built-in sharing metrics.
2. Use a social media friendly image
What I’m talking about here is more than simply having a nice-looking image on your post. Instead, think about your images as an additional stand-alone piece of micro-content. Create quote images or other stylized images that people will want to share. Think about whether an image has value outside your post if someone were to see it on Pinterest, for example. Ideally, once it’s shared by someone to Pinterest (or anywhere else), it’ll be linked back to your website. But the image can take on a life of its own if it is good content by itself, reaching far more people that you might expect.
Use tools like PicMonkey or Canva to create amazing graphics to share on your posts. And every post should have an image. No exceptions.
Additionally, whether you are on Pinterest or not, you should be using a plugin which will place a Pin It! button on your images, making it easier for your readers to share that piece of content. There are several good ones out there, like this one…
3. Use click-to-tweets in your post
Another piece of micro-content which should be included in every post is pre-made tweets. These click-to-tweets empower your readers to share key ideas from your posts with a single click. Additionally, when you use a plugin like Click To Tweet (linked below), it also creates a nice visual break in your content, making it easier for your reader to scan for key ideas.
So think about what might be some of the biggest, most important ideas from your post, and turn those into click-to-tweets. Having other people sharing tidbits of your wisdom is a great way to establish greater credibility regarding the topic you write about. And having it ready for them means fewer steps to share those ideas (again, making it more likely that it will get shared).
4. Schedule your own social media posts
Every blogger also knows that once you publish a post, you should be sharing it on your own social media. However, many bloggers share once, hoping that everyone who needs to see that post will see it. The reality is that social media posts have a limited lifespan. So having a strategy for sharing your own content multiple times can increase your chances of people seeing it. Kissmetrics suggests a schedule for sharing your content that looks something like this:
Twitter: On publish, two hours later, next day, next week, next month, and two months later
Facebook: On publish, and next month
Google+: On publish, next week, and next month
You can play around with these timings, and if you use a tool like Buffer, then you can easily schedule all of these all at once, and monitor the metrics for how each post is performing with clicks-thrus back to your website. Additionally, Kissmetrics suggests mixing up your posts so they don’t all look the same. Your mix should contain variations such as these:
Straight and Easy: Post Title + Link
The Question: Ask an engaging question to stir conversation
Cite a Fact: Share a fact or figure that is included in your post
Share a Quote: Grab a pull-quote from your article and turn it into a social message
Add Intrigue: Write a teaser message that grabs the attention of your readers
Once you find a posting schedule that works for you with the networks you are on, and enable others to share your content (and micro-content) on a regular basis, then you’ll be well on your way to maximizing your social reach with every post.