Promising Results on the Cheap (SEO Case Study)

Promising Results on the Cheap (SEO Case Study)

Many of the small businesses we work with have a small marketing budget. That means when it comes to evaluating the services they spend on, they are often looking for cheap SEO tactics. Not cheap as in worthless, but cheap as in not breaking the bank.

Ultimately, the goal is to get pages on your site to rank in the top 3 positions on Google. Studies have shown that approximately 62% of search engine traffic goes to websites ranked in the first three positions (33% to position one, 18% to position two, and 11% to position three). That means only a third of it goes to the other seven results on the first page. Then things drop off significantly after that…

cheap seo, local seo

Getting results with SEO is definitely an investment. And it’s not an overnight success kind of thing. Rising to the top of the rankings for all of your biggest keyword terms can cost a pretty penny and/or take some time to build the momentum you need.

But there are some great SEO tactics that can help you get some nice traction, without spending a ton of money. This case study looks at work done recently with a client of ours. We’ll break down the work that was done, the results of that work, and explore suggestions we have to drive even greater impact.

The Digital Marketing Strategy, Specifically for Local SEO

The large majority of the marketing budget went towards other strategies (ads, etc). But we kept some regular search engine optimization work in the mix. The reason is simple. Over the long-term, earning rankings sticks better. Google Ads stop delivering the moment you stop paying for them. But if you earn a spot on the first page, then you’re more likely to keep it (at least until someone proves they’re better than you).

But, we had to keep the budget investment in SEO as low as possible. So we focused on what I considered two “must-have” tactics that I believe every small business should be doing. Those tactics are content marketing (business blogging) and local citation link building. Here’s the breakdown of the work we did every month:

  • Local Citation Link-Building ($197) – After running a full citation audit, we would add/update ten online business directories (i.e., Yelp, BBB, Thumbtack, etc), ten geotagged photos, and ten social profile links every month.
  • 1 x Blogger 500 ($97) – Our team of SEO writers would research and find trends to write 500-word blog posts targeting general keyword terms related to the client’s industry.
  • 1 x Blogger 1,000 ($173) – We would also research and write 1,000-word blog posts related to high-value keyword terms we wanted to build authority around.

So for less than $500/mo we were building links and developing a core of content on the website with a focus on high-value, local search terms. We did this consistently, month after month, without fail. And consistency is one of the keys to building momentum with search engine results.

The Results We Saw

The initial baseline report at the end of December 2018 showed a very low volume of total keywords, especially those on the first page. Just one term ranked on the first page, and there were only six total keywords on the first three pages. And while there were other terms ranking on pages 4-10, the overall volume was still pretty insignificant.

cheap seo, local seo

The September 2019 report (nine full months later) showed a very different picture. We increased the number of keywords ranking on page one of the search results from 1 to 10, and the total for the first three pages from 6 to 82. Additionally, the total number of terms ranking anywhere in the top 100 positions on Google increased from 81 to 505.

cheap seo, local seo

While the total volume of terms appearing on the first page of search results isn’t overwhelming, this definitely shows a trend of increasing opportunity to get found. The breadth of keywords fueled by the blogging strategy coupled with the authority driven by link-building is a solid mix for driving visibility.

The Impact of Cheap SEO, and Driving Better Results

This data shows some encouraging trends, however, there are still some big opportunities to improve. Here are a few key take-aways:

1) Consistently adding content and building links drives positive results. This is an important concept in the strategy. These results are what we’ve seen over a nine-month period. If we did a couple of posts here and there or stopped the link building, then we wouldn’t have experienced this kind of success.

2) It’s an active and ongoing strategy. With this latest report, there are 10 keywords ranking on the first page, and only 5 of those in the coveted first three positions. However, our SEO strategies look for low-hanging fruit to push forward, and that’s everything from positions 4-30 (the rest of page one through page three). Those are the terms that are doing well enough where a little boost could bump them higher onto the first page. Looking at the current data, in this case, there are 77 opportunities in this range to focus our efforts to get significant rankings. Time to get to work!

3) The lower budget for SEO means slower results. Cheap SEO can drive some results. Some. But to be completely honest, these results aren’t driving a ton of traffic yet. And at the current budget for SEO spending, it’ll still take some time to experience big impact. Investing more in additional content (I like to see 4 posts per month) and additional link-building tactics (guest posting, content syndication, etc) will drive stronger and faster results.

There’s plenty of good news in this data. But, there’s also still a great deal of opportunity. The key is to stick with it, follow the data, and keep building based on what that data is telling you. Got questions about how a strategy like this can drive more traffic for your business? Grab some time with us to talk through your digital strategy. (Talking is always free!)

 

Strong Blogging: How To Grow With Content Syndication

Strong Blogging: How To Grow With Content Syndication

Do you use your blog for your small business?

If so, you’ve got a lot of competition. Currently, there are over 30 million small businesses, some of which are in direct competition with you. And 57% of marketers say they’ve gained new customers through their company’s blog.

If you’re just starting out with content marketing (our fancy term for business blogging), you may see a long road ahead of you. You may even ask yourself if you, or your team, actually have the time to invest in creating fantastic posts that make people want to read what you have to say.

Or what if you have the time to create amazing blog posts, but you don’t have any readers to read it? The age-old question of “if a tree falls in the woods and there’s no one to hear it, does it make a sound” applies to your blog. That is, if you write professional copy with amazing photos and great information, but there’s no one to read it, does the blog exist at all?

content syndication

This is where content syndication comes in. It can help you build your blog from the ground up, chock-full of information people are looking for, without spending your valuable time creating it. And if you’re creating content, then this will get your work in front of more people, quickly.

What Is Syndication?

If you grew up during the era before streaming services almost completely replaced television, you may be familiar with the term syndication. This is where television shows sell their rights to a variety of channels to allow their show to play in syndication. Often times, shows that played in syndication were those that had been off the air for a decade or longer.

However, talk shows are often still played in syndication as they are sold to several local channels to play during the day.

Newspapers also use this tactic to help get their content read. For example, your local newspaper may have a column from someone who works across the country. That’s because that person’s column is run in syndication across a variety of newspapers.

In essence, syndicated content is very similar in that your blog content will run across several websites.

content syndication

How Does Content Syndication Work?

Content syndication works similarly to newspaper and television syndication. It works in two ways. First, you can publish articles that other people have written, stating that the content was first published on another site.

Most people, however, use content syndication the other way in order to get more clicks to their site. If you’re a blog for your business, you’ll want to syndicate your content with a variety of larger websites. The links back to your site not only create opportunities for clicks, but the links alone carry a great deal of search engine optimization value for you.

You’ve probably read an article on a website and scrolled to the bottom and seen something along the lines of “This article was originally published by” and then the name of the magazine or blog. The media companies, or the individuals, have entered into a deal to allow their content to run in syndication.

This allows a maximum viewership, which is a mutually beneficial relationship if done correctly.

How Does Content Syndication Help a Small Business Blog?

Content syndication works extremely well for a small business. You can choose to syndicate content with smaller websites and businesses, but it won’t earn you much traffic.

Instead, if you syndicate content with a larger website, preferably one that pulls in hundreds of thousands of views per month, you’ll get more eyes on your blog or business.

You can’t be positive that people will go to your site, but you will have a byline on a larger site, and if you’re advertising your product or service, it immediately gets advertised to a larger audience.

But in order for content syndication to work, you need to do it well. It isn’t enough to syndicate with a website or blog that has a larger audience. Ideally, you’ll need to syndicate with one that is in your niche.

For example, if you’re a business that is centered around teenage and young adult clothing and trends, it wouldn’t serve you well to syndicate with a site targeted to adults age 35-55. While you may get lots of eyeballs on your content, they’re not the right eyeballs.

The right eyeballs would, of course, be a high traffic site for young adults and teens.

How Do I Start Syndicating My Content or Accepting Syndicated Content?

If you’re keen to accept syndicated content, you may wish to let others know your site accepts guest posts or syndication.

But getting your posts to syndicate with high traffic sites can be the most challenging part (unless you know someone who rocks it). Most people do this by writing fabulous copy and then pitching it to the magazine or website.

content syndication

This can be a difficult and tedious task, and you may hear scores of no’s before you finally get one yes. However, hitting the proverbial pavement is one way to score a deal.

What If I Don’t Have Time to Pitch My Content?

If you’re just starting a business, you may be working two jobs at once or working around the clock to stay afloat. Sitting down and pitching your content to sites across the Internet may seem overwhelming and even frustrating. That’s totally fair.

And that’s where Fistbump Media comes in. In addition to the SEO services we already offer to help your site rank high in searches, you can try our team of amazing content writers for your company’s blog, and we have existing relationships for syndicating your content to a bunch of high-authority websites.

We can help you take the busy work out of getting your content syndicated and start getting eyes on your company’s blog today.

 

The Most Epic SEO Guide For Competitive Small Business Owners

The Most Epic SEO Guide For Competitive Small Business Owners

You own a small business and you have a million things on your plate. Read on to learn everything you need to know about SEO in our ultimate SEO kickstart guide.

When Scott Paxton entered a competition to see who could get their new website to the front of Google the fastest, he decided to look at what his competitors were doing.

What he learned can help you take charge of where your business ranks in the top search engine result pages (SERPs).

You want to rank first for your industry on Google…but you don’t have the time or money to spend hours trying out different strategies…how do you get great SERP results without blowing your whole budget?

This guide will walk you through how to use SEO for small business. Stop wondering why you aren’t ranking as high as you want and get a free site audit now!

seo audit, local seo

Is SEO for Small Business Worth It?

You love your business and nothing excites you more than waking up to help it grow every day.

But your website and all its subdomains aren’t popping up on the first page of Google.

As much as you’ve heard about how small business SEO can help bring in new customers, you just don’t want to bother trudging through educational resources on the subject.

One easy place to start is with a SEO score. You’ll get an easy to read SEO report sent right to your inbox.

This is a great place to start if SEO seems like a daunting subject. It will show you everything you could be doing to rank higher for your keywords.

Let’s take a look at what else can help your rankings.

SEO Then and Now

In the early days of SEO, volume was all that mattered. Google wasn’t as savvy to spam and other black hat tactics as they are now.

seo guide, seo kickstart guide, small buisness seo

Today, Google prizes quality over quantity. That means having great content that solves your audience’s problems will always put you ahead of your competitors.

Everyone tells you that you need great content. Sure, that’s easy to say, but how do you consistently produce great content that your readers love?

Good question. Every business using digital media in the world wonders that, so you’re not alone.

Start by creating your content strategy. Having a strategy helps eliminate the possibility of creating the wrong kind of content for your customers.

Plan Ahead

A content strategy should answer each of the following questions:

  • What is the content about?
  • How will it be displayed? Which social media outlets, websites, etc.
  • Who will you need to hire to produce the content?
  • Who will make decisions about which content is produced?

Often times marketers fall short of completing the real goal behind SEO. To get more sales. Just ranking higher for certain keywords will undoubtedly bring more traffic to your site, but if you’re attracting the wrong visitors your efforts are in vain.

How well you do at matching your customers to content that solves their problems determines your reputation with Google.

“I Have a Reputation with Google?”

Yes, Google ranks websites by how trustworthy they are. Everything from how long visitors spend on your page to whether they scroll through and read everything are factors in your reputation.

seo guide, seo kickstart guide, small business seo

Small business online reputation management relies on several factors to help pages rank higher than their competitors.

→ Put Mobile First

On January 10th, 2017 Google made an official announcement that the future is now.

For years smartphones were the future of media consumption. Businesses knew eventually they’d need to optimize for mobile, but Google’s update set a firm date.

By now, if your site isn’t easy to bring up on a smartphone, there’s no way you’re going to make it to the top of the SERPs.

So what makes a website suitable for mobile devices? One of Google’s most recent beefs with the mobile user experience (UX) is intrusive interstitials.

→ Bad Pop-Ups

You know those pop-up ads that ask you to subscribe or buy something and don’t let you see the content until you comply?

Or even worse, when you do comply and the pop-up is unresponsive, making the whole site useless.

seo guide

These are what Google considers “intrusive interstitials”. Keep in mind that only ads that hurt the user experience by either crashing the site or creating a paywall are intrusive.

That’s because Google aims to serve the searcher, not the business. Think about when you’re searching for something.

How much time have you wasted clicking on links that looked promising only to be led to a paywall?

It sucks and Google knows it.

Fix Technical Issues

Often times entrepreneurs will focus on how their website looks without testing to make sure all the features and links work.

→ Loading Speed

Research shows that 53% of people will leave a site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.  That’s bad news given that the average loading time of a mobile page hovers around 22 seconds.

Complicated graphics or videos can cause your site to lag too much, ultimately losing your potential leads.

→ Broken Links

Make sure every link on your site is functional. Broken links hurt your online reputation and make your whole site look unprofessional.

→ Canonical Link Elements

Canonical link elements tell search engines which page of duplicate content should be shown.  You probably have several duplicates of content pages from your own site and don’t even know it.

That’s because duplication can happen due to something as small as opening a new user session. Often times a single instance URL is issued when each visitor comes to your page.

Forgetting to use canonical link elements can result in the wrong page being pushed up the SERPs.

“Would I Do This If Search Engines Didn’t Exist?”

Is the exact question Google says to ask yourself before modifying your site. It’s tempting to cater to search engines because they bring in so many of your customers.

But it’s important to keep in mind that you share the same goal as Google, to better serve your customers.

So look at Google as more of a partner than a landlord. One way to prove to Google your site is trustworthy while still providing tremendous value to the end user is through backlinks.

Backlinks are when other websites link back to your content.

How to Get Backlinks

Before we talk about how to get backlinks, let’s talk about how not to get them.

This is just as vital because black hat tactics like link schemes can result in penalties that will make your site harder to find than Timbuktu with a blindfold on.

seo guide

→Original Content

Original content reigns supreme within Google and other search engines. Unique opinions and commentary on content from other sources is still considered original.

But content scraped from other sites with nothing of value added to the user experience will earn you a penalty fast.

A great way to get other sites to take notice of your content (and link to it) is to create a resource center.

→ Resource Center

A resource center, like this one, is the perfect way to build backlinks. No one likes being sold to. It’s why we fast forward or skip commercials whenever we can.

But a source for high quality, fresh content that answers your readers’ questions will have them begging for more.

And yes, your resource center should be totally, 100% free. Think of your resource center as a first date with a potential customer.

You want them to see the expertise and skills you have to offer. You don’t try and sell to every visitor right away the same way you wouldn’t propose to every stranger walking into Starbucks after you.

The less sales-oriented your resource page is, the better. This isn’t a buyer’s guide. Don’t try and upsell or link to products. Provide only the information readers are looking for.

It might seem counterintuitive not to focus on sales here, but remember we have a reputation to uphold with Google.

The more time reader’s spend on our pages the higher they’ll rank. A resource page builds your credibility as an expert in your industry.

How Social Media and Content Marketing Work Together

Social media is a double-edged sword when it comes to content marketing.

It democratizes content creation but it can also be more demanding than your typical marketing strategy.

That’s because not only do you speak to your users on social media, but they speak to you.

→ User-Generated Content

Taking advantage of user-generated content like customers using your branded hashtags is an important part of making your social media campaign a success.

Responding to comments and DMs also go along way in ranking your social media pages higher in SERPs.

→ Keep It Share Worthy

Social media is all about sharing. Sharing something that makes you laugh, cry, or angry is what makes social media so addicting.

It’s not like traditional media that talks at you. It’s your best friend sending you something that made them crack up.

It’s your mom sending you something that made her go, “awww!”

Always ask yourself, “would I share this on my personal profile,” before posting something on your business profiles.

Customer Research

Marketers used to go on nothing more than trial and error. Not anymore. We have more data than ever to base our marketing decisions on.

A website audit report is a good place to start. You’ll get a look at what’s working (and what’s not) with keywords your visitors might be using to find you. You can focus on those subjects and remove irrelevant content that may be holding you back.

Facebook’s targeting metrics are arguably the most advanced of any tech company. You can find everything from keywords your customers are searching for to what their favorite band is.

A pet supply store might target the keyword “black cat” on Halloween, which would probably create a short term surge in traffic.

But most people searching for the term “black cat” are not going to be interested in pet food.

Know who your customer is before trying to connect with them.

seo guide

Keyword Research

One of the best ways to do keyword research is with an in-depth keyword analysis. These are great because you get an instant critique of your keyword usage.

If you’re not ranking well, don’t worry! That’s the whole point of the audit. Improving your SEO strategy starts with fixing what’s broken.

If your site is lacking in keywords there is a lot of help. Content creation and backlinks are what will get you to the top of the SERPs. You can outsource a lot of this time-consuming work to a service like this.

You Can Start to See Results in Less Time Than You Think

So what did Scott Paxton learn while racing to rank his website?

Every top search result led to a subdomain of their homepage. Your homepage should act as a directory that hosts all your valuable unique content.

That’s because we want to provide value above all else. Backlinks and keywords create the language we use to communicate with Google.

But content is what speaks to our customers.

No one wants to do business with a faceless corporation. SEO and content marketing set you up to be an industry leader by humanizing your business.

To start ranking higher and attracting more customers, get a free site audit and start optimizing your page immediately! If you still need help with your SEO strategy we can help with everything from designing your website to creating a solid network of backlinks.

Stop ignoring your SEO strategy while your competitors thrive. Read this article now about what happens behind the scenes of a site audit.

seo audit, local seo

What Local SEO Investments Can Do For Your Offline and Online Sales

What Local SEO Investments Can Do For Your Offline and Online Sales

online sales, local seo, e-commerce

The line between offline and online sales has become very blurred. There’s showrooming and Research Online, Pay Offline (ROPO), point of sale (POS) e-commerce systems, click and collect options— and then there’s local action-focused search to factor in.

With smartphones that keep us connected to the internet wherever we go, we always have the option of buying something in under a minute. We can search for things, place orders, and carry on with our days. Micro-moments are an ever-present danger to our wallets.

Retailers that aren’t taking advantage of this power are making a huge mistake, because it’s a huge source of revenue. Let’s look at what local SEO really involves, why Google cares about it, how you can optimize for it, and what really makes it worthwhile: ROI.

What does local SEO for online sales mean?

Before geo-targeting was an option, SEO was unfocused. The overall goal was always to get more traffic in general, reasoning that the more people visited a site, the more conversions there would be. It makes sense, and it works— but when there’s a physical location involved, your SEO requires a far more granular approach.

Because it operates through a physical location, local SEO needs to be geographical to an extent that goes beyond simply knowing what country a user is from. Consider the average Google search made from a phone in today’s world. Google won’t just parse the text; it will use the searcher’s specific locational data in combination with the specified keywords to try to find the best possible solution in that context.

Just look at the enormous increase in the use of the term “near me” in America over the course of the last 7 years. We know that we don’t need to type our current locations, so we don’t bother. We pass our tasks to Google, and it takes one look at our location data and figures out what exactly we’re talking about.

google trends, local seo, local search, near me search, online sales, e-commerce

That’s what makes it so much more important (and interesting) to optimize for.

Why Google prioritizes local SEO

Imagine that you got hungry on a night out and wanted to visit a restaurant, but you couldn’t think of what could be open at that time. Eager to eat, you could take out your phone and search for “restaurants still open right now”. Google would interpret the string, conclude (quite correctly) that you were searching specifically for restaurants in your area, and deliver results meeting your criteria.

This focus on understanding intent—recognizing what a user meant regardless of what they actually said—is a key part of local SEO. It’s all about figuring out the purpose of a search so the best results can be found, and mobile devices play into this hugely (since searches from mobile devices cumulatively comprise well over half of all web searches now).

By listing a company in response to a local query, whether as a top result or even a featured rich snippet, Google knows it is implicitly recommending the locations it lists. If you can give your business the best chance of being such a recommended location, it will benefit you hugely through increased business from mobile users ready and willing to convert.

How you can optimize for local search

Given the overwhelming importance of being picked by Google as a top result for a local search, local SEO is all about covering all the bases and jumping through every hoop provided. Google wants as much information as possible. Here are some things you can offer:

  • A Google My Business Map Listing
    Filling in Google’s My Business page is an essential component of appearing on Google Maps. Without it, you won’t be featured, and all your local SEO efforts will be ruined as Google won’t want to rank you for a local search when it isn’t even sure your business is in that area.
  • Local Content
    Your business should have a blog or at least some form of content updated semi-regularly. Use your content to write about your area and your place in it— touch upon relevant area keywords, but be sure to make it good content regardless. If you make a guide to your area, it’ll give you new ranking possibilities and further associate your business with your location (remember to share it on social media for added exposure).
  • User Reviews
    A company with no reviews appears suspicious. Even if you get glowing reviews offline, it won’t help your traffic. Encourage your customers to leave you reviews through Google+ (it’s mostly dead, but the reviewing is still of value), an external review service if you have enough customers to justify it, or (if your online store setup supports it) even a free or cheap review add-on.
  • Microdata
    While you can include reviews through microdata, it’s not all you can tag. You can point out anything you can list through Google My Business (including opening hours, holiday hours, menu link, etc.) and more, including product types, dimensions, materials, etc. Google may not want to rely on it, but for the moment it still has value.

By including as much detail as you can about what your business does, where it is, and how it operates, you can make your company a viable contender for SERP positioning when a relevant search is made.

seo audit, local seo, online sales

If you’re willing to do some PPC to get things moving, you can use Google’s Merchant Center to advertise your product listings inside results pages, plus they’re playing with a system for buying directly through search results. PPC doesn’t innately affect SEO, but if it brings in new customers who really like your site and your service, the uptick in your metrics certainly will.

The high ROI of local SEO for online sales

We still need to answer the titular question of what investment in local SEO can do for your online sales (and offline sales)… so let’s do that now since we only need one term: high ROI.

The scattergun approach of standard SEO gets strong results, but it also wastes resources for businesses with physical locations and associated restrictions. It brings in people who never intended to buy anything, traffic from overseas, and a weak return on the effort.

You don’t just catch stragglers— you catch the people who are in the right location at the right time and itching to buy something you can offer them.

While it’s challenging to track local SEO ROI sometimes, try using call tracking to segment the data. Use one number for your Google My Business listing, another for your website, and another for any other type of campaign you run.

Once you’re done, you’ll be able to narrow things down and figure out where all your sales are coming from. You’ll most likely see that your local traffic is converting at the highest rate. If it isn’t, then you’re doing something seriously wrong to push away locals and should think about your overall strategy.

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.

FIND YOUR PERFECT DOMAIN NAME

Build Your Brand Identity

  • Hundreds of domain name extensions available
  • Personal support to fit your needs
  • Backed by eNom, a leading domain name registrar

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.

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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.

How To Design a Website for Better Search Engine Ranking

How To Design a Website for Better 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).