Tag Archive | "Optimize"

How to Optimize Car Dealership Websites

Posted by sherrybonelli

Getting any local business to rank high on Google is becoming more and more difficult, but one of the most competitive — and complex — industries for local SEO are car dealerships. Today’s car shoppers do much of their research online before they even step into a dealership showroom. (And many people don’t even know what type of car they even want when they begin their search.)

According to Google, the average car shopper only visits two dealerships when they’re searching for a new vehicle. That means it’s even more important than ever for car dealerships to show up high in local search results.

However, car dealerships are more complex than the average local business — which means their digital marketing strategies are more complex, as well. First, dealers often sell new vehicles from several different manufacturers with a variety of makes and models. Next, because so many people trade in their old cars when they purchase new cars, car dealers also sell a variety of used vehicles from even more manufacturers. Additionally, car dealerships also have a service department that offers car maintenance and repairs — like manufacturer warranty work, oil changes, tire rotations, recall repairs, and more. (The search feature on a car dealer’s website alone is a complex system!)

Essentially, a car dealer is like three businesses in one: they sell new cars, used cars, AND do vehicle repairs. This means your optimization strategy must also be multi-faceted, too.

Also, if you look at the car dealerships in your city, you will probably find at least one dealership with multiple locations. These multi-location family of dealerships may be in the same city or in surrounding cities.

Additionally, depending on that family of dealerships, they may have one website or they might have different websites for each location. (Many auto manufacturers require dealers to have separate websites if they sell certain competitors’ vehicles.)

So if you’re helping car dealers with SEO, you must be thinking about the various manufacturers, the types of vehicles being sold (new and used), the repair services being offered, the number of websites and locations you’ll be managing, manufacturer requirements — among other things.

So what are some of the search optimization strategies you should use when working with a car dealership? Here are some SEO recommendations.

Google My Business

Google My Business has been shown to have a direct correlation to local SEO — especially when it comes to showing up in the Google Local 3-Pack.

One important factor with Google My Business is making sure that the dealership’s information is correct and contains valuable information that searchers will find helpful. This is important for competitive markets — especially when only a handful of sites show up on the first page of Google search results. Here are some key Google My Business features to take advantage of:

Name, address, and phone number

Ensure that the dealership’s name, address and phone number is correct. (If you have a toll-free number, make sure that your LOCAL area code phone number is the one listed on your Google My Business listing.) It’s important that this information is the same on all local online directories that the dealership is listed on.

Categories

Google My Business allows you to select categories (a primary category and additional categories) to describe what your dealership offers. Even though the categories you select affect local rankings, keep in mind that the categories are just one of many factors that determine how you rank in search results.

  • These categories help connect you with potential customers that are searching for what your car dealership sells. You can select a primary category and additional categories – but don’t go overboard by selecting too many categories. Be specific. Choose as few categories as possible to describe the core part of your dealership’s business.
  • If the category you want to use isn’t available, choose a general category that’s still accurate. You can’t create your own categories. Here are some example categories you could use:
    • Car Dealer
    • Used Car Dealer
    • BMW dealer
  • Keep in mind that if you’re not ranking as high as you want to rank, changing your categories may improve your rankings. You might need to tweak your categories until you get it right. If you add or edit one of your categories, you might be asked by Google to verify your business again. (This just helps Google confirm that your business information is accurate.)

Photos

Google uses photo engagement on Google My Business to help rank businesses in local search. Show photos of the new and used cars you have on your dealership’s lot — and be sure to update them frequently. After you make a sale, make sure you get a photo consent form signed and ask if you can take a picture of your happy customers with their new car to upload to Google My Business (and your other social media platforms.)

If you’re a digital marketing agency or a sales manager at a dealership, getting your salespeople to upload photos to Google My Business can be challenging. Steady Demand’s LocalPics tool makes it easy for salespeople to send pictures of happy customers in their new cars by automatically sending text message reminders. You simply set the frequency of these reminders. The LocalPics tool automatically sends text messages to the sales reps reminding them to submit their photos:

All the sales reps have to do is save their customers’ photos to their phone. You set up text message reminders to each sales rep and when they get the text message reminder, the sales team simply has to go into their smartphone’s pictures and upload their images through the text message, and the photos are automatically posted to the dealership’s Google My Business listing! (They can also text photos to their Google My Business anytime they want as well — they don’t have to wait for the reminder text messages.)

Videos

Google recently began allowing businesses to upload 30-second videos to their Google My Business listing. Videos are a great way to show off the uniqueness of your dealership. These videos auto-play on mobile devices — which is where many people do their car searching on — so you should include several videos to showcase the cars and what’s going on at your dealership.

Reviews

Online reviews are crucial for when people search for the right type of car AND the dealership they should purchase that car from. Make sure you ask happy customers to leave reviews on your Google My Business listing and ensure that you keep up by responding to all reviews left on your Google My Business listing.

Questions & Answers

The Google My Business Q&A feature has been around for several months, yet many businesses still don’t know about it — or pay attention to it. It’s important that you are constantly looking at questions that are being asked of your dealership and that you promptly answer those questions with the correct answer.

Just like most things on Google My Business, anyone can answer questions that are asked — and that means that it’s easy for misinformation to get out about your dealership and the cars on your lot. Make sure you have a person dedicated on your team to watch the Q&As being asked on your listing.

Also, be sure to frequently check your GMB dashboard. Remember, virtually anyone can make changes to your Google My Business listing. You want to check to make sure nobody has changed your information without you knowing.

Online directories (especially car directories)

If you’re looking for ways to improve your dealership’s rankings and backlink profile, online automotive directories are a great place to start. Submitting your dealership’s site to an online automotive directory or to an online directory that has an automotive category can help build your backlink profile. Additionally, many of these online directories show up on the first page of Google search results, so if your dealership isn’t listed on them, you’re missing out.

There are quite a few paid-for and free automotive online directories. Yelp, YellowPages, Bing, etc. are some of the larger general online directories that have dedicated automotive categories you can get listed on for free. Make sure your dealership’s name, address, and phone number (NAP) are consistent with the information that you have listed on Google My Business.

Online reviews

Online reviews are important. If your dealership has bad reviews, people are less likely to trust you. There are dedicated review sites for vehicle reviews and car dealership reviews. Sites like Kelley Blue Book, DealerRater, Cars.com, and Edmunds are just a few sites that make it easy for consumers to check out dealership reviews. DealerRater even allows consumers to list — and review — the employees they worked with at a particular dealership:

If they have a negative experience with your dealership — or one of your employees — you can bet that unhappy customer will leave a review. (And remember that reviews are not only left about your new and used car sales — they are also left about your repair shop as well!)

There are software platforms you can install on your dealership’s site that make it easier for customers to leave reviews for your dealership. These tools also make it simple to monitor and deflect negative reviews to certain review websites. (It’s important to note that Google recently changed their policies and no longer support “review gating” — software that doesn’t allow a negative review to be posted on Google My Business.)

NOTE: Many automotive manufacturers offer dealerships coop dollars that can be used for advertising and promotions; however, sometimes they make it easier for the dealers to get that money if they use specific turnkey programs from manufacturer-approved vendors. As an example, if you offer a reputation marketing software tool that can help the dealership get online reviews, the dealership may be incentivized to use DealerRater instead because they’ve been “approved” by the manufacturer. (And this goes for other marketing and advertising as well — not just reputation marketing.)

Select long-tail keywords

Selecting the right keywords has always been a part of SEO. You want to select the keywords that have a high search frequency, mid-to-low competitiveness, ones that have direct relevance to your website’s content — and are keyword phrases that your potential car buyers are actually using to search for the cars and services your dealership offers.

When it comes to selecting keywords for your site’s pages, writing for long-tailed keywords (e.g. “2018 Ford Mustang GT features”) have a better chance of ranking highly in Google search results than a short-tailed and generic keyword phrase like “Ford cars.”

Other car-related search keywords — like “MSRP” and “list prices” — are keywords you should add to your arsenal.

Optimize images

According to Google, searches for “pictures of [automotive brand]” is up 37% year-over-year. This means when you’re uploading various pictures of the cars for sale on your car lot, be sure to include the words “pictures of” and the brand name, make, and model where appropriate.

For instance, if you’re showing the interior of the 2018 Dodge Challenger, you may want to name the actual picture image file “picture-of-dodge-challenger-2018-awd-front-seat-interior.png” and use the alt tag “Pictures of Dodge Challenger 2018 AWD Front Seat Interior for Sale in Cedar Rapids.”

As with everything SEO-related, use discretion with the “pictures of” strategy. Don’t overdo it, but it should be a part of your image optimization strategy to a certain extent on specific car overview pages.

Optimize for local connections

One thing many car dealerships fail to realize is how important it is to make local connections — not only for local SEO purposes but also for community trust and support as well. You should make a connection on at least one of the pages on your site that relates to what’s going on in your local community/city.

For instance, on your About Us page, you may want to include a link to a city-specific page that talks about what’s going on in your city. Is there a July 4th parade? And if so, are you having a float or donating a convertible for the town’s mayor to ride in? If you sponsor a local charity or belong to the Chamber of Commerce, it’d be great to mention it on one of these localized pages (mentioning your city’s name, of course) and talk about what your dealership’s role is and what you do. Is there an upcoming charity walk or do you donate to your local animal shelter? Share pictures (and be sure to use alt tags) and write about what you’re doing to help.

All of this information not only helps beef up your local SEO because you’re using the city’s name you’re trying to rank for, but it also creates good will for future customers. Additionally, you can create links to these various charities and organizations and ask that they, in turn, create a link to your site. Local backlinking at its best!

Schema

If you want to increase the chances of Google — and the other search engines — understanding what your site’s pages are about, using schema markup will give you a leg-up over your competition. (And chances are your car dealership competitors aren’t yet using schema markup.)

You’ll want to start by using the Vehicle “Type” schema and then markup each particular car using the Auto schema markup JSON-LD code. You can find the Schema.org guidelines for using Schema Markup for Cars on Schema.org. Below is an example of what JSON-LD schema markup looks like for a 2009 Volkswagen Golf:

Listen to the SEO for Car Dealerships podcast episode to learn EVEN MORE!

If you want to learn even more information about the complexities of car dealerships and search optimization strategies, be sure to listen to my interview on MozPod’s SEO for Car Dealerships.

In this podcast we’ll cover even more topics like:

  • What NOT to include in your page’s title tag
  • How to determine if you really own your dealership’s website or not
  • How to handle it if your dealership moves locations
  • Why using the manufacturer-provided car description information verbatim is a bad idea
  • Does “family owned” really matter?
  • How to handle car dealers with multiple locations
  • How to get creative with your Car Service pages by showing off your employees
  • Why blogging is a must-do SEO strategy and some topic ideas to get you started
  • Ways to get local backlinks
  • Tips for getting online reviews
  • What other digital marketing strategies you should try and why
  • And more

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


Moz Blog

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How to Optimize Your Google My Business Listing [Updated May 1, 2018]

Posted by sherrybonelli

Updated May 1, 2018

An important first step in any local SEO strategy is to claim and verify your local business’ Google My Business (GMB) listing. Getting on Google My Business can increase your chances of showing up in Google’s Local Pack, Local Finder, Google Maps, and organic rankings in general. Qualifying local businesses can claim this free listing on Google and include information about their company, like their address, phone number, business hours, and types of payments accepted.

Additionally, over the past several months, Google has added some great features to Google My Business that companies should take advantage of that enhances your Google My Business listing and helps to grab viewers’ attention — and can increase how you rank in local search results.

If you haven’t claimed and verified your Google My Business Listing yet, that’s the first step. To get started, visit https://www.google.com/business.

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

Many local businesses just claim their GMB listing and forget about it. What most businesses don’t realize is that there are a variety of other features Google gives you that you can use to optimize your Google My Business listing and several reasons why you should frequently check your business listing to ensure that its accuracy stays intact. Want to know more?

Complete all the information Google asks for

There are a variety of questions Google wants you to fill out to complete your Google My Business profile. When done, your listing will have valuable basic data that will make it easier for potential customers to find more information about your company. And if you don’t fill out that information, someone else could. Many business owners don’t realize that anyone can suggest a change (or “edit”) to your business listing — and that includes your competitors.

When a searcher clicks on your GMB listing they see a “Suggest an edit” option:

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

When someone clicks on that option they can literally edit your Google My Business listing (and make some pretty dramatic changes, too):

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

And these aren’t just “suggested” edits — these user-generated changes can actually be made live on your listing without you even being notified. This is just one reason why it’s very important that you log in to your Google My Business dashboard regularly to ensure that no one has made any unwanted changes to your listing.

Here’s how:

If you log in to Google My Business, you can switch back to the “Classic” dashboard here:

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

In the classic dashboard, you might see “Google Updates” notifications.

If you see updates, these are changes that Google made to your business listing because either their algorithm found new information about your business (perhaps from another directory/citation site or a change they found on your Google Map) or a Google user submitted an edit that was published. (Yes, when people make “suggested edits,” they are not really “suggestions” -– the changes are often made live without you ever getting a notification or the opportunity to dispute the change!)

When you click on “Google Updates,” you’ll see a box that allows you to “Review Updates.” It’s here where you’re given the opportunity to remove incorrect information that may have been made by a troublesome Google user.

Now, Google supposedly sends out emails to the owner and others managing your Google My Business account when changes are made, but oftentimes those people never receive notifications about changes to their listing. So beware: you may (or may not) be notified by Google if changes are made to your listing. (For example, your business category could be changed from “criminal attorney” to the generic “lawyer” category, which could negatively impact your search rankings.) That’s why it’s extra important for you to log in and check your listing frequently (especially when, quite literally, some businesses have had their address and website URLs changed in their GMB listing by nefarious users.)

If you see a change that is incorrect and you have difficulty changing it (like a bogus review, for instance), create a new post explaining the situation in detail in the Google My Business forum and reach out to one of the Google Top Contributor volunteers for help.

Also, it’s important to realize that Google encourages people who are familiar with your business to answer questions, so that Google can learn more information about your company. To do this they simply click on the “Know this place? Answer quick questions” link.

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

They’ll then be prompted to answer some questions about your business:

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

If the person knows the answer to the question, they can answer and then they’ll typically be asked another question. If not, they can decline.

Now, some business owners have cried foul, saying that competitors or others with malicious intent can wreak havoc on their Google My Business listings with these features. However, Google’s philosophy is that this type of user-generated content helps to build a community, more fully completes a business’ profile, and allows Google to experiment with different search strategies.

Just remember, after you get your Google My Business listing verified, continue to check your listing regularly to be on the safe side.

Once you have your GMB listing verified, now is the time to optimize your listing. (This is where you have a greater chance to outdo your competition!)

Google My Business Posts

Google Posts are almost like “mini-ads” or “social media posts” that show up in Google search in your Google My Business listing (in the Knowledge Panel and on Google Maps).

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

To get started with Posts, log in to your GMB dashboard and you’ll see the Posts option on the left-hand side:

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

You can have fun with your Google My Business Posts by adding an image, a call-to-action (CTA), and even including a link to another page or website. If you’re using Yext, you can create GMB Posts directly from your Yext dashboard.

Not sure what type of Post you should make? Here are just a few Post ideas:

  • If you’re having an event (like a webinar or a seminar about your chiropractic practice) you can set up an event Post with a date and time, then add a link to the registration page.
  • Do you have a sale going on during a specific time? Create a “sale” event Post.
  • Does your latest blog post rock? Add a short description and link to the post on your blog.
  • New product you want to feature? Show a picture of this cool gadget and link to where people can make the purchase.
  • Want to spread holiday joy? Give potential customers a holiday message Post.

The possibilities with Posts are endless! Posts show up prominently in your business’ Knowledge Panel, so don’t miss this opportunity to stand out.

TIP: To grab a searcher’s attention, you want to include an image in your Post, but on Google Maps the Post image can get cut off. You might have to test a few Post image sizes to make sure it’s sized appropriately for Maps and the Knowledge Panel on desktop and mobile devices.

Want to have even MORE fun and potentially help your local SEO? Try adding relevant emojis to your Post. Google is beginning to index emoji-relevant search results. (In fact, you can now search Google by “tweeting” an emoji at it!) Additionally, people — especially younger people — are beginning to search (typically on their mobile devices) with emojis! So if a person is searching for “[pizza emoji] + nearby” and you own a local pizza restaurant and use the [pizza emoji] somewhere on your Google My Business listing — like in a Post with a special offer on a pizza order — you might have an SEO edge over the other pizzeria competitors in your city.

Not sure how to add emojis? If you’re using a Windows computer, you can add emojis by pressing the Windows key + the “.” OR “;” key at the same time on your keyboard. The emoji list of characters will appear and you can select the emoji you’d like to include (but don’t get carried away — one emoji is enough):

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

When people search using Chrome on their smartphones with an “emoji + near me,” you might be surprised by what they find:

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

You got it! Google knew that I was looking for a great burger joint around my home! (Pretty cool, huh?)

Disclaimer: This strategy is still new and we’re not certain how adding emojis to your GMB listings impact these “emoji search results,” but if you have a related emoji that is pertinent to your business, you should definitely test it! (But don’t overdo the emojis — it gets obnoxious and doesn’t look professional if you go overboard.)

Posts stay live for seven days or “go dark” after the date of the event. (However, the old Posts still appear in your GMB listing — they’re just pushed down by the new Posts.)

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

If you’re forgetful, Google is great about sending you reminders when it’s time to create a new Post.

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

And remember, Posts show up prominently in mobile searches, so make your website stand out among search results by keeping your Posts “topped off.”

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

It’s important to note that at this time, hotels and B&Bs are not allowed to make Posts. That may change sometime in the future, so stay tuned!

Booking button feature

Google’s Booking button feature can really help your business stand out from the crowd. If you have any type of business that relies on customers making appointments and you’re using integrated scheduling software, people can now book an appointment with your business directly from your Google My Business listing. This can make it even easier to get new customers — they don’t have to leave Google to book an appointment with you!

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

If you have an account with one of Google’s supported scheduling providers, the booking button is automatically added to your Google My Business listing. Take advantage of this integrated Google My Business feature if you use the booking providers, it’ll make it super simple to get new clients or customers.

Messaging

Did you know that you customers — and potential customers — can send you text messages? This is a great way to connect directly with people interested in what you have to offer, and a great way to engage with people looking at your GMB listing (and you know that Google is always watching engagement.)

To get started with Messaging, log in to your GMB dashboard and click on “Messaging”:

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

You can then set up the message people will receive after they send you a message and your mobile phone number.

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

If you don’t want text messages sent to your personal phone number, you can download Google’s Allo app. When you set up your Allo account, use the same phone number connected to your Google My Business account. Now when someone messages you, the message will be sent to the Allo app instead of appearing alongside your personal text messages.

The Allo app is a great way to keep your personal and business text messages separate:

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

This feature is still in its infancy, though. Right now, messaging is only available to mobile web users and is not available to mobile app or desktop users. People also won’t see the Messaging option in the Knowledge Panel or on Google Maps.

The ONLY way someone can message your business is if they perform a mobile web search on Chrome. (I expect that Google will expand the Messaging feature once they work the kinks out.)

Questions & Answers

Questions & Answers is a great feature for Google local search. It’s very cool! Just like it sounds, Q&A allows people to ask questions about your business and you can answer those questions.

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

The Google My Business Questions & Answers feature is the perfect opportunity to hear directly from “the people” and you can respond to them. Win-win. However, according to a study done by Get Five Stars, 25 percent of locations on Google Maps have questions (and many of those questions are probably STILL unanswered).

Here are a few things to keep in mind about Questions & Answers:

  • On mobile devices, you can see, ask and answer questions on Google Maps on Android devices and when you search for your business on mobile browsers on both iPhone and Android devices. To use Google Maps on your Android device, download the Google Maps app and sign in with the email address you use for your GMB listing.

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

Ironically, you can’t see Questions and Answers on the Google My Business app.

  • No notifications of new questions show up in your GMB dashboard. To find out if you have new questions that need answering, you need to install Google Maps on your phone, log in, and check for questions/notifications. You can also go on a mobile browser, search for your business, and see if you have new questions that need to be answered.
  • Google has recently started sending out email notifications letting you know that a new question has been asked, but it’s possible that not everyone associated with your account receives these emails:

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

This email notification is a BIG improvement over the lack of notification we’ve experienced so far with Q&As.

One thing you should do is be proactive and create a Frequently Asked Questions list to preempt people’s GMB Q&As. Check with your sales reps and your customer service staff to identify the questions people most often ask, then put those Q&A questions on your GMB listing.

TIP: Google has said that upvoting questions can make them more visible. If someone has a particularly important question, go ahead and upvote it.

WARNING: It’s important to note that just like “Suggest an Edit” on GMB, anyone can answer questions asked of your business. Therefore, you want to keep an eye out and make sure you answer questions quickly and ensure that if someone else answers a question, that the answer is accurate. If you find that someone is abusing your GMB listing’s Q&A feature, reach out to the Google My Business support forums.

Still have questions about Google Questions & Answers? You can read Google’s Q&A guidelines.

Google My Business online reviews

Unlike Yelp, which vehemently discourages business owners to ask their customers for reviews, Google encourages business owners to ethically ask their customers or clients for online reviews. (Yelp takes it to the extreme, in my opinion.) Online reviews appear next to your listing in Google Maps and your business’ Knowledge Panel in search results. Online reviews can help your business stand out among a sea of search results.

Additionally, online reviews are known to impact search result rankings, consumer trust, and click-through rates. According to BrightLocal’s 2017 Consumer Review Survey:

  • 97% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses in 2017, with 12% looking for a local business online every day
  • 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
  • Positive reviews make 73% of consumers trust a local business more
  • 49% of consumers need at least a four-star rating before they choose to use a business
  • Responding to reviews is more important than ever, with 30% naming this as key when judging local businesses
  • 68% of consumers left a local business review when asked — with 74% having been asked for their feedback
  • 79% of consumers have read a fake review in the last year

If you follow Google’s guidelines for Google My Business reviews, you can ask your customers for reviews. (However, if you violate any of these policies, your reviews could be removed.)

Recently Google made some changes to their review guidelines. They have now changed it so that current and/or former employees can’t leave reviews. For business owners this is great news because it means that disgruntled and ex-employees with a grudge can no longer post bad reviews. Here is the new section that deals with Conflict of Interest:

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

Additionally, Google made some changes with regard to reputation marketing software. Reputation marketing software can help filter out people who were planning on leaving negative reviews so that they aren’t given the opportunity to leave that bad review online. (This is sometimes referred to as “review gating.”) Google wants to prevent that practice, so on April 12, 2018, Google updated their review policy to include information on this. In general, you don’t want to “Discourage or prohibit negative reviews or selectively solicit positive reviews from customers.”

Also, whatever you do, do not offer a bribe in exchange for a review. Not only does it go against Google’s terms, it goes against the laws of reviews in general: do you really want to bribe someone to leave you a good review — or do you want to earn it?

When customers leave reviews for you — good or bad — make sure you respond to them. Not only does it show that customer that you appreciate their feedback, it also shows potential customers that you care.

So what happens if you get a negative review? First, don’t freak out. Everybody has a bad day and most people recognize that. Also, if you have a troll that gave you a one-star review and left a nasty comment, most people with common sense recognize that review for what it is. It’s generally not worth stressing over.

TIP: Asking someone to leave a review on Google is very cumbersome. To give your customers a direct link to your Google My Business listing so they can leave a review online for you, read and follow the directions in this post on How to Create a Direct Review Link to Your Google My Business Listing.

To learn more about strategically getting more online reviews, check out this article from Moz.

Photos and videos

The Internet used to be all about text and information, but more and more the visual appeal of the Internet is what grabs people’s attention — and that means photos and videos. Videos are so hot that you don’t even need sound. Studies show that as much as 85% of Facebook videos are viewed with the sound off.

However, many business owners are still under the misperception that to get into videos (or even photography) you have to hire a professional video production company or studio. Not true. Some of the best photos and videos are done on the fly — and with a smartphone!

Adding photos of your business is a great way to humanize your brand and let your customers get a “behind-the-scenes” look at what your company is all about… AND your customers can post photos on your Google My Business listing, too! (Surprise!)

AGENCY TIP: If you’re optimizing Google My Business listings for your clients, you know how difficult it is to get pictures from them so you can add them to their GMB listing. (Your clients are busy and often hard to track down.) There’s a new tool called localPics that solves that problem. This tool makes it super simple to send your clients text message reminders that it’s time to upload pictures. The owner (or whoever the designated “photographer” is) simply takes pictures or goes into their phone’s photo gallery, selects the pictures they want to upload, and the pictures are automatically uploaded to their Google My Business listing! What could be easier?

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

The ability to add photos to your Google My Business listing has been around for a while, but adding videos is a relatively new feature that Google introduced. Instead of being afraid, get excited! You can now add a 30-second video about your company that will grab people’s attention on the most popular place people go to search and find information: Google!

To get started, log in to your Google My Business dashboard. You will either see the “Add Videos” image on the Overview tab:

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

Or you can also click on the blue + sign to add a video:

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

When you click on the “Add Video” button, you can either drag the video you want to upload or select the video from your computer.

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

It’s super simple!

Google states that it can take up to 24 hours for the video to display, but most videos show up after just a few minutes. The videos should be 30 seconds long, but we’ve uploaded longer videos just fine. (Keep in mind that people have short attention spans, so don’t overdo it with videos that are too long — 30 seconds is just about right!)

Now, for you marketers out there that are salivating thinking of the great marketing and promotional videos you can upload, hold on for just a moment. Make sure your videos are taken at the place of business and are of people that work at your business or directly pertain to your business. (Google My Business is not the place for stock photos and marketing or promotional videos.) Google can remove the videos if the primary subject of the content is not related to the business location.

Owners who upload videos will be shown in the “By Owner” tab. When customers or clients upload videos, those videos will appear in the “Customer” tab. ALL of the videos will be displayed in the “Video” tab.

Google has given us some general Google My Business Video Guidelines to follow:

  • Duration: Up to 30 seconds long
  • File Size: Up to 100 MB
  • Resolution: 720p or higher

As a bonus, once you have two or more videos on your GMB listing, you’ll get a Videos subtab that shows up on mobile devices!

Business descriptions

Good news! Google now allows business owners to include a business description on your Google My Business listing. (And it’s about time!) Google recently made this announcement via Twitter and business owners were thrilled.

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

As usual, Google has provided us with some guidelines to follow: Google Business Description Guidelines. It’s important you adhere to these rules because Google does review your business Description.

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

You’re allowed 750 characters in your business description, but only 250 characters show up before they get cut off in the Knowledge Panel. So you want to make sure that you carefully create your business description and put the most important information and keywords — including your city — towards the front of the description.

Google really does review your business description to make sure people aren’t being deceptive or are spamming, so be sure to follow these guidelines:

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

You only have 750 characters (and only 250 of those show up in the company’s Knowledge Panel), so you want to make sure that every character counts.

On a desktop computer, the business description appears in the Knowledge Panel towards the bottom, below your reviews. (It’d be great if Google would bump the business description up towards the top of the Knowledge Panel where it should be… Let’s hope they move it there soon!)

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

On a mobile device, you can only see a business’ description if you click on the About tab:

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

Services/Menus

If you sell services, like a spa, nail salon, hair salon, copying company, or even a holistic center, and have a “menu” of services, the new Services list in Google My Business is a great new addition. This feature is only available for food and drink, health, beauty, and other services businesses that don’t have a third-party “menu” link.

The Services list allows you to categorize and list out all your services (or food items) and prices so that potential customers can easily see what you have to offer.

This list itemizes out each service (or food item) you offer. To get started, log in to your Google My Business listing and click on Info:

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

Then scroll down and you will see the “Services” section where you can Add or edit your items:

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

This is where you can create categories, add items, and you can also add a description of each item (if you want to):

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

If you own a service business with set prices, I’d highly recommend you include your list of services and make sure you update these services and prices if things change.


Get more out of your GMB listing

Google is always looking at the engagement searchers and you, as the owner, are having with your Google My Business listing. The more interaction, the better your chances of ranking higher in the local three-pack and organic rankings in general. That means you need to keep optimizing your Google My Business listing.

As new features come out, plan on using them to keep your GMB listing fully optimized.

TECHIE TIP: If you’re managing multiple listings or franchises, you can use Google’s API v4.1 to more easily add Google My Business descriptions and Offer Posts. And if you’re really techie, you can even add “customer media endpoints” that allow users to retrieve photos and videos uploaded by customers at their business (normally GMB users aren’t notified of photo and video uploads).

Google has even introduced a new notification that alerts users who have opted in to receive alerts about newly posted media on their Google My Business Locations. Wow! (If you have someone on your team that can code, you’re at an advantage!)

Hopefully these features have given you a new reason to login to your Google My Business account and get busy! If you have any other questions about optimizing your GMB listing, let me know in the comments.

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How to Optimize Checkout Flow in Your eCommerce Store

It’s a sad truth that a lot of eCommerce stores don’t put too much thought or effort into their checkout page, leading to cart abandonment. However, making a few changes and optimizing the checkout flow can do wonders for your store.

What’s the Deal With Checkout?

Most online stores tend to focus on their home page and product pages. It’s easy to understand why since the goal is to catch and hold the customer’s attention. But what eCommerce businesses should remember is that the checkout process is also essential and has to be given proper consideration.

Consider this—research firm Statista determined that as by the end of 2017, nearly 70% of shopping carts worldwide were abandoned. What’s worrying is that the rate of shopping cart abandonment has remained relatively high for the past decade.

The data also suggests that most established eCommerce businesses that garner over 100, 000 visitors per month would likely see and an astronomical boost in revenue if their conversion rate went up by even 1%.

Online shopping cart abandonment rate worldwide from 2006 to 2017

People who reached the checkout page are obviously motivated to buy something. The mystery here is what caused their desire to fizzle out. Retailers should also think about what they could do to optimize the checkout flow.

3 Tips for Optimizing Checkout Flow

Never Force a Customer into Making an Account

Forcing a customer to create an account just to purchase a product is one of biggest reasons why shoppers abandon their cart. It’s easy to understand a business owner’s point of view on this matter. Aside from the desire to make a sale, they also want to get the customer’s data in order to market to them again.

However, requiring customers to register or create an account before they can even finish their purchase slows down the transaction and leads to frustration. Remember that they’re on your site because they want to purchase something and they want to do so in a quick and efficient manner.

A better solution would be to wait until the checkout process has been completed and the deal closed. At this juncture, you can simply ask the client if they want the information they provided to be saved for future purchases. A good transaction experience will likely prompt them to agree to have an account created. You can also take a page out of Speedo’s handbook and offer an incentive if the customer agrees to register.

Image result for speedo checkout page

Choose Forms That are Well-Designed and Easy to Fill Out

Retailers should also pay attention to how their forms are designed. Aside from following the usual web form standards (ex. using asterisks for required fields), the field size should reflect the information that the user is expected to fill in.

Asking the right kind of information is also essential. Do away with unnecessary data as it only makes the process longer and makes customers wary. For example, an Apple customer in one study complained about a form asking for their phone number and worried that they’ll be hounded by salespeople. Make sure that when you ask for a customer’s personal information, the reason is obvious to the customer or is explicitly explained (ex. for shipping purposes).

Ask Credit Card Details Last and Provide Proof They’re Secure

It’s a good idea to ask for the customer’s shipping information first and credit card details last. This is because the former is easy and the latter is harder to input. Follow the same principle in other forms. Start with easy information, like name and address, and end with hard details like the credit card number. The credit card form should also look secure. Put the SSL logo prominently, along with explanations about the security code and card expiry.

Related image

Security credentials should also be placed in highly visible places. Customers are understandably wary about giving their credit card details. A 2015 survey by Experian that included over 1000 participants, revealed that more than two-thirds of the surveyed group worried about being scammed while shopping online.

It’s your job to reassure customers that their credit card details are safe. Use padlocks and https where needed or put security icons in the header, footer, and beside the “Checkout” or “Sign In” buttons. Adding Trust seals and SSL Certificates also go a long way in calming people’s fears. It can even increase conversions by as much as 30%. Conversely, one survey concluded that 61% of the respondents did not continue with their purchase because they didn’t see a Trust Seal.

Always consider your customer’s feelings, even during checkout. Consider the kind of experience you want them to have at this all-too crucial junction. Make some changes and optimize your checkout flow. A quick and painless checkout process will reduce cart abandonment and result in happy customers.

[Featured image via Pixabay]

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Google (Almost Certainly) Has an Organic Quality Score (Or Something a Lot Like It) that SEOs Need to Optimize For – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Entertain the idea, for a moment, that Google assigned a quality score to organic search results. Say it was based off of click data and engagement metrics, and that it would function in a similar way to the Google AdWords quality score. How exactly might such a score work, what would it be based off of, and how could you optimize for it?

While there’s no hard proof it exists, the organic quality score is a concept that’s been pondered by many SEOs over the years. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand examines this theory inside and out, then offers some advice on how one might boost such a score.

Google's Organic Quality Score

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about organic quality score.

So this is a concept. This is not a real thing that we know Google definitely has. But there’s this concept that SEOs have been feeling for a long time, that similar to what Google has in their AdWords program with a paid quality score, where a page has a certain score assigned to it, that on the organic side Google almost definitely has something similar. I’ll give you an example of how that might work.

So, for example, if on my site.com I have these three — this is a very simplistic website — but I have these three subfolders: Products, Blog, and About. I might have a page in my products, 14axq.html, and it has certain metrics that Google associates with it through activity that they’ve seen from browser data, from clickstream data, from search data, and from visit data from the searches and bounces back to the search results, and all these kinds of things, all the engagement and click data that we’ve been talking about a lot this year on Whiteboard Friday.

So they may have these metrics, pogo stick rate and bounce rate and a deep click rate (the rate with which someone clicks to the site and then goes further in from that page), the time that they spend on the site on average, the direct navigations that people make to it each month through their browsers, the search impressions and search clicks, perhaps a bunch of other statistics, like whether people search directly for this URL, whether they perform branded searches. What rate do unique devices in one area versus another area do this with? Is there a bias based on geography or device type or personalization or all these kinds of things?

But regardless of that, you get this idea that Google has this sort of sense of how the page performs in their search results. That might be very different across different pages and obviously very different across different sites. So maybe this blog post over here on /blog is doing much, much better in all these metrics and has a much higher quality score as a result.

Current SEO theories about organic quality scoring:

Now, when we talk to SEOs, and I spend a lot of time talking to my fellow SEOs about theories around this, a few things emerge. I think most folks are generally of the opinion that if there is something like an organic quality score…

1. It is probably based on this type of data — queries, clicks, engagements, visit data of some kind.

We don’t doubt for a minute that Google has much more sophistication than the super-simplified stuff that I’m showing you here. I think Google publicly denies a lot of single types of metric like, “No, we don’t use time on site. Time on site could be very variable, and sometimes low time on site is actually a good thing.” Fine. But there’s something in there, right? They use some more sophisticated format of that.

2. We also are pretty sure that this is applying on three different levels:

This is an observation from experimentation as well as from Google statements which is…

  • Domain-wide, so that would be across one domain, if there are many pages with high quality scores, Google might view that domain differently from a domain with a variety of quality scores on it or one with generally low ones.
  • Same thing for a subdomain. So it could be that a subdomain is looked at differently than the main domain, or that two different subdomains may be viewed differently. If content appears to have high quality scores on this one, but not on this one, Google might generally not pass all the ranking signals or give the same weight to the quality scores over here or to the subdomain over here.
  • Same thing is true with subfolders, although to a lesser extent. In fact, this is kind of in descending order. So you can generally surmise that Google will pass these more across subfolders than they will across subdomains and more across subdomains than across root domains.

3. A higher density of good scores to bad ones can mean a bunch of good things:

  • More rankings in visibility even without other signals. So even if a page is sort of lacking in these other quality signals, if it is in this blog section, this blog section tends to have high quality scores for all the pages, Google might give that page an opportunity to rank well that it wouldn’t ordinarily for a page with those ranking signals in another subfolder or on another subdomain or on another website entirely.
  • Some sort of what we might call “benefit of the doubt”-type of boost, even for new pages. So a new page is produced. It doesn’t yet have any quality signals associated with it, but it does particularly well.

    As an example, within a few minutes of this Whiteboard Friday being published on Moz’s website, which is usually late Thursday night or very early Friday morning, at least Pacific time, I will bet that you can search for “Google organic quality score” or even just “organic quality score” in Google’s engine, and this Whiteboard Friday will perform very well. One of the reasons that probably is, is because many other Whiteboard Friday videos, which are in this same subfolder, Google has seen them perform very well in the search results. They have whatever you want to call it — great metrics, a high organic quality score — and because of that, this Whiteboard Friday that you’re watching right now, the URL that you see in the bar up above is almost definitely going to be ranking well, possibly in that number one position, even though it’s brand new. It hasn’t yet earned the quality signals, but Google assumes, it gives it the benefit of the doubt because of where it is.

  • We surmise that there’s also more value that gets passed from links, both internal and external, from pages with high quality scores. That is right now a guess, but something we hope to validate more, because we’ve seen some signs and some testing that that’s the case.

3 ways to boost your organic quality score

If this is true — and it’s up to you whether you want to believe that it is or not — even if you don’t believe it, you’ve almost certainly seen signs that something like it’s going on. I would urge you to do these three things to boost your organic quality score or whatever you believe is causing these same elements.

1. You could add more high-performing pages. So if you know that pages perform well and you know what those look like versus ones that perform poorly, you can make more good ones.

2. You can improve the quality score of existing pages. So if this one is kind of low, you’re seeing that these engagement and use metrics, the SERP click-through rate metrics, the bounce rate metrics from organic search visits, all of these don’t look so good in comparison to your other stuff, you can boost it, improve the content, improve the navigation, improve the usability and the user experience of the page, the load time, the visuals, whatever you’ve got there to hold searchers’ attention longer, to keep them engaged, and to make sure that you’re solving their problem. When you do that, you will get higher quality scores.

3. Remove low-performing pages through a variety of means. You could take a low-performing page and you might say, “Hey, I’m going to redirect that to this other page, which does a better job answering the query anyway.” Or, “Hey, I’m going to 404 that page. I don’t need it anymore. In fact, no one needs it anymore.” Or, “I’m going to no index it. Some people may need it, maybe the ones who are visitors to my website, who need it for some particular direct navigation purpose or internal purpose. But Google doesn’t need to see it. Searchers don’t need it. I’m going to use the no index, either in the meta robots tag or in the robots.txt file.”

One thing that’s really interesting to note is we’ve seen a bunch of case studies, especially since MozCon, when Britney Muller, Moz’s Head of SEO, shared the fact that she had done some great testing around removing tens of thousands of low-quality, really low-quality performing pages from Moz’s own website and seen our rankings and our traffic for the remainder of our content go up quite significantly, even controlling for seasonality and other things.

That was pretty exciting. When we shared that, we got a bunch of other people from the audience and on Twitter saying, “I did the same thing. When I removed low-performing pages, the rest of my site performed better,” which really strongly suggests that there’s something like a system in this fashion that works in this way.

So I’d urge you to go look at your metrics, go find pages that are not performing well, see what you can do about improving them or removing them, see what you can do about adding new ones that are high organic quality score, and let me know your thoughts on this in the comments.

We’ll look forward to seeing you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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AdWords gets Google Optimize & Google Surveys 360 integrations

Advertisers will be able to create landing page tests down to the keyword level and deploy consumer surveys to remarketing lists.

The post AdWords gets Google Optimize & Google Surveys 360 integrations appeared first on Search Engine Land.



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How to Optimize Content for Both Search and Social (Plus, a Headline Hack that Strikes the Balance)

"The best content doesn’t win. The best promoted content wins." – Andy Crestodina

It’s as if they live in different countries: Searchlandia and Socialstan.

Search optimizers and social media marketers don’t get together a whole lot, at least not in the same piece of content. But there’s no reason they can’t peacefully coexist in one article, in one URL.

Imagine. One topic, one message, united in quality, but with two separate and equally powerful sources of traffic: search and social.

Is it possible? Can one post be optimized for both?

Yes. And when it happens, the traffic is greater than the sum of its channels.

Um. Actually, the traffic is equal to the sum of its channels. But we’re not here to do math. We’re here to create the right type of content that gets traction everywhere.

Optimizing for search

Let’s start with a rundown of search optimization.

Our goal here is to indicate relevance, not trick a robot.

After you’ve identified a target keyword phrase:

Use the phrase in highly visible places

Those places are the title, header, meta description, and body text (of course). Yes, the tiny, barely visible places are nice too — such as alt text and the file names of images — but they’re not as important as those primary spots.

If this isn’t obvious, just ask yourself:

If you were building a new search engine today, would an image file name be a major search-ranking factor?

Probably not.

Include words and phrases semantically connected to your phrase

You see words and phrases semantically connected to your phrase everywhere when you use search engines.

They’re suggested in the search box as you type. They’re in the “related phrases” at the bottom of the search results page. They’re in the other high-ranking pages.

Now work these words into your copy. This is the key to semantic SEO:

Target the topic, not just the phrase.

Go wide and cover related topics and phrases, so Google has more reasons to believe that your content is relevant.

Answer all the questions related to your topic

Find the questions that are related to your topic and answer them with your content.

You’ll find these questions in Quora, AskThePublic.com, LinkedIn Groups, and even your sent email folder.

Greater depth means a greater likelihood of ranking.

Optimizing for social

You’ve indicated your relevance, gone wide across semantically connected phrases, and gone deep into the answers that your reader is hoping to find.

Now that your content is rankworthy, let’s make sure it’s shareworthy.

We’ll focus on headlines first, since they’re such an important factor in social optimization. They’re critical.

Think of it this way:

Articles don’t get shared, only headlines do.

Our goal here is to trigger a social interaction. The advice below is more about psychology, so it’s a bit less prescriptive and a bit more fun.

Choose unexpected words

You always want to avoid creating boring content. That advice is especially true for social media.

After all, your potential reader is on social media looking to cure their boredom, right? We need to trigger their interest with some unexpected words.

  • Short, simple words will pop off the page.
  • Delightful words will squeak past the other headlines.
  • Direct words will skewer them before they scroll past.
  • Negative words kill it in social media
  • But be careful with long words — the circuitous path through the frontal cortex is too slow

Readers scan quickly, so we need some stopping power. That one, extra word can disarm, charm, and twist their arm.

Pique curiosity

Take a look at the headline below. It was one of the top three most shared headlines on Copyblogger over the last year:

One Skill that Will Take Your Writing from Good to Great

Does it make you wonder what that skill is? Me too. It’s hard not to click on it. And what gets clicked often gets shared.

Headlines that trigger curiosity and fascination are great for social media.

Fascination is one of the two most important qualities of compelling content. What’s the other? You’ll have to click here to find out.

See what I did there?

Add numbers

Here’s another one of the top 10 most shared headlines on Copyblogger in the last year:

21 Juicy Prompts that Inspire Fascinating Content

Numbers in headlines have always correlated with clicks and shares. There are at least two reasons why:

  1. Numbers are a clue that the content is scannable (low investment).
  2. Numerals stand out among letters in a line of text (high prominence). This gives them a big advantage in fast-flowing social streams.

Don’t break your promise

Your headline is a promise. Clickbait is a broken promise, a lie.

Everyone who sees your headline in their social stream does a split-second cost/benefit analysis. They think, “Is this worth the click? Is this worth two seconds of my attention?” The headline’s job is to tell them, “Yes, it’s worth it.”

Be specific. Let the reader know what they’ll get, what they’ll learn, and why it’s important. Give them a reason to stop scrolling. Look closer. Click.

Once they’ve clicked, you’d better keep your promise. Your job now is to meet or exceed their expectations. All the depth you added while optimizing for search will help.

Customize your images

If your content has no featured image, or a weak one, it has less stopping power in social streams.

Two main elements make images more likely to be clicked:

  1. Faces. We are hardwired to look at faces. It’s no wonder you’ll see them on virtually every cover of every magazine in the checkout aisle.
  2. Text. Since your image appears in a social snippet, it’s a chance to make that promise we talked about. It’s a chance to indicate the benefits of clicking. So put a benefit of reading the post (possibly the headline itself) on your image.

YouTubers learned these tactics years ago. Look at any popular YouTube channel and you’re likely to find both faces and text within the images in their custom thumbnails.

Collaborate (a social approach to writing)

If you want someone to share your piece of content, invite them to contribute to it.

An ally in creation is an ally in promotion.

Adding contributor quotes from experts both improve the quality of the piece and increase its social reach. If contributors are invested in an article, of course they’ll share it.

It’s also more fun to make things with collaborators. Content optimized for search includes keywords. Content optimized for social includes people.

The battleground for search and social tension: headlines

Images, answers, contributors, depth … most of the aspects of search and social optimization can easily coexist side-by-side, but there isn’t much interaction between them.

The exception is the headline.

So, how can a headline both indicate relevance for search and trigger emotion for social? Can you satisfy citizens of both countries? Yup.

Here are examples of headlines optimized for both channels:

  • Collaborative Content Marketing: 5 Ways to Make Friends and Rank Like a Champ
  • How to Launch a New Product … and Make Your Mom Proud
  • 10 Competitive Analysis Tools (and Tips for Spying on your Competitors)

Notice that in each example the target keyword phrase is near the beginning. They often use numbers and trigger words. Colons and parentheses allow you to add more benefits and details.

Here’s a template for search-friendly and social-friendly headlines:

keyword + colon + number + specific benefit and/or trigger words

For example:

Website Navigation: 7 Best Practices, Tips, and Warnings

Does it work? Search for “website navigation” and take a look.

A powerful way to attract more readers

Wherever you’re from — the land of search or the land of social — you’ll attract more readers if you optimize for both.

And you’ll push yourself to write better in the process.

The best content doesn’t win. The best promoted content wins.

The post How to Optimize Content for Both Search and Social (Plus, a Headline Hack that Strikes the Balance) appeared first on Copyblogger.


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Upcoming webcast: How to optimize search, Facebook, and display ads to drive offline sales

How are marketers using online and offline data to understand and optimize the customer journey? And what cross-channel strategies work best to drive offline conversions? Join digital marketing experts from Adobe and DialogTech to understand how marketers are solving the online-to-offline dilemma….



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How to Optimize for Competitors’ Branded Keywords

Posted by randfish

It’s probably crossed your mind before. Should you optimize for your competitors’ branded keywords? How would you even go about it effectively? Well, in today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains some carefully strategic and smart ways to optimize for the keywords of a competitor — from determining their worthiness, to properly targeting your funnel, to using third-party hosted content for maximum amplification.

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

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about optimizing for your competitors’ branded terms and phrases, the keywords that are your competitors’ product names or service names. This gets into a little bit of a dicey area. I think it’s challenging for a lot of SEO folks to do this and do it well, and so I’m going to take you through an approach that I’ve seen a lot of folks use with some success.

A strategic approach

So to start off with, let’s go to the strategy level. Is it actually the case — and sometimes it’s not, sometimes it is not the case — that branded keywords are driving high enough volume to actually be worth targeting? This is tough and frustrating, but basically one of the best thing that I can recommend in this case is to say, “Hey, if we are…”

I’m going to pretend for the purposes of this Whiteboard Friday that we’re all working together on the SEO campaigns for Wunderlist, which is a to-do app in the Google Play and iPhone app stores, bought by Microsoft I think a little while ago. Beautiful app, it looks really nice. One of their big competitors obviously is Evernote, certainly an indirect competitor but still.

Are branded keywords driving high enough volumes to be worthwhile?

Essentially what you might want to do here is actually go ahead and use AdWords to bid on some of these keywords and get a sense for how much traffic is really being driven. Can you draw any of that traffic away? Are people willing to consider alternatives? If there’s almost no willingness to consider alternatives — you can’t draw clicks here, you’re not getting any conversions, and it is the case that the volume is relatively low, not a lot of people are actually searching for Evernote, which is not the case, there are tons of people searching for Evernote and I’d probably tell Wunderlist they should go ahead. Evernote is actually bidding on Wunderlist’s terms, so turnabout is fair play. Bidding on AdWords can answer both of these questions. That can help them get us to:

What do you need to solve?

All right, now what is it that we need to solve? What are potential customers doing to compare our products or our services against these folks, and what are they interested in when they’re searching for these branded names? What makes them choose one versus another product?

Related searches can help us here, so too can normal forms of keyword research. So related searches is one form, but certainly I’d urge you to use search suggest, I’d urge you to check out Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool, if you like keywordtool.io or if you like Huballin or whatever it is that you think is a great keyword tool, check those out, go through those sources for your competitor’s keywords, see what’s coming up there, see what actually has some real volume. Obviously, your AdWords campaign where you bid on their branded terms can help tell you that too.

Then from there I’d go through the search results, and I’d see: What are people saying? What are the editorial reviews? For example, CNET did this Wunderlist review. What does their breakdown look like? What are people saying in forums? What are they saying on social media? What are they saying when they talk about this?

Ask the same questions of your competition

So if I’m seeing here’s what Wunderlist versus Evernote looks like, great. Now let me plug in Evernote and see what everyone’s saying about them. By the way, you don’t just have to use online research. You can go primary source on this stuff, too. Ask your customers or your audience directly through surveys. We’ve used here at Moz Google Custom Audience Surveys, and we’ve used SurveyMonkey Audience’s product. We like both of those.

Once you’ve got this down and you say, “Hey, you know what? We’ve got a strategic approach. We know what we need to talk about in terms of content. We know the keywords we’re targeting.” Great. Now you get to choose between two big options here — self-hosting some content that’s targeting these terms, or using third-party hosting.

Self-hosted content

With self-hosted content we’re going to try and go after those right terms and phrases. This is where I’ve seen some people get lost. They essentially go too high or too low in the funnel, not targeting that sweet spot right in the middle.

1. Target the right terms & phrases

So essentially, if someone’s searching for “Evernote review,” the intent there is that they’re trying to evaluate whether Evernote is good. Yeah, you know what? That’s right in the middle. That’s right in the sweet spot, I would say that is a good choice for you targeting your competitors’ keywords, anything around reviews.

“Evernote download,” however, that’s really at the bottom of the funnel. They’re trying to install at that point. I don’t think I’d tell you to go after those keywords. I don’t think I’d bid on them, and I don’t think I’d create content based on that. An Evernote download, that’s a very transactional, direct kind of search. I’d cross that one off my list. “How to use Evernote,” well, okay that’s post-installation probably, or maybe it’s pre-installation. But it’s really about learning. It’s about retaining and keeping people. I’d probably put that in the no bucket as well most of the time. “Evernote alternative,” obviously I’m targeting “Evernote alternative.” That is a great search phrase. That’s essentially asking me for my product. “What is Evernote,” well okay, that’s very top-of-funnel. Maybe I’d think about targeting some content like, “What do apps like Evernote, Todoist and Wunderlist do?” Okay. Yeah, maybe I’m capturing all three of those in there. So I’d put this as a maybe. Maybe I’d go after that.

Just be careful because if you go after the wrong keywords here, a lot of your efforts can fail just because you’re doing poor keyword targeting.

2. Craft content that delivers a superior user experience

Second is you need to craft that content that’s going to deliver a superior user experience. You’re essentially trying to pull someone away from the other search results and say, “Yeah, it was worth it to scroll down.

It was worth it to click and to do the research and to check out the review or check out the alternative.” Therefore, you need something that has a lot of editorial integrity. You need that editorial integrity. You can’t just be a, “Everything about them is bad. Everything about us is great. Check out why we kick their butt six ways from Sunday.” It’s just not going to be well-perceived.

You need to be credible to that audience. To do that, I think what’s smart is to make your approach the way you would approach it as if you were a third-party reviewer. In fact, it can even pay in some cases to get an external party to do the comparison review and write the content for you. Then you’re just doing the formatting. That way it becomes very fair. Like, “Hey, we at Wunderlist thought our product compared very well to Evernote’s. So we hired an outside expert in this space, who’s worked with a bunch of these programs, to review it and here’s his review. Here are his thoughts on the subject.”

Awesome. Now you’ve created some additional credibility in there. You’re hosting it on your site. It’s clearly promoting you, but it has some of that integrity.

I would do things like I’d think about key differentiators. I’d think about user and editorial review comparisons. So if you can go to the app stores and then collect all the user reviews or collect a bunch of user reviews and synchronize those for folks to compare, check out the editorial reviews — CNET has reviewed both of these. The Verge has reviewed both of these. A bunch of other sites have reviewed both of them. Awesome. Let’s do a comparison of the editorial reviews and the ratings that these products got.

“Choose X if you need…” This is where you essentially say, “If you’re doing this, well guess what? We don’t do it very well. We’d suggest you use Evernote instead. But if you’re doing this, you know what? Wunderlist is generally perceived to be better and here’s why.” That’s a great way to do it. Then you might want to have that full-feature comparison breakdown. Remember that with Google’s keyword targeting and with their algorithms today they’re looking for a lot of that deep content, and you can often rank better if you include a lot more of those terms and phrases about what’s inside the products.

3. Choose a hosted location that doesn’t compromise your existing funnel

This is rarely done, but sometimes folks will put it on their main homepage of their website or in their navigation. That’s probably not ideal. You probably want to keep it one step away from the primary navigation flow around your site.

You could conceivably host it in your blog. You could make it something where you say, “Hey, do you want to see comparisons? Or do you want to see product reviews?” Then we’re going to link to it from that page. But I wouldn’t put it in the primary funnel.

3rd-party hosted content

Third-party hosted content is another option, and I’ve seen some folks do this particularly well recently. Guest content is one way to do that. You could do that. You could pay someone else, that professional reviewer and say, “Hey, we want to pitch this professional reviewer comparing our product against someone else’s to these other outlets.”

Sometimes there are external reviewers who if you just ask them, if you just say, “Hey we have a new product or we have a competing product. We think it compares favorably. Would you do a review?” A lot of the time if you’re in the right kind of space, people will just say, “Yeah, you know what? I’ll put that on my schedule because I think that can send me some good traffic, and then we’ll let you know.” You kind of knock on wood and hope you get a favorable review there. You could contribute it to a discussion forum. Just be open and honest and transparent about who you are and what you’re doing there.

Native ads

Today you can do sponsored content or what’s called native ad content, where essentially you’re paying another site to host it. Usually, there’s a bunch of disclosure requirements around that, but it can work and sometimes that content can even rank well and earn links and all that kind of stuff.

Promotion & amplification

For promotion and amplification of this content, it’s a little trickier than it is with your average content because it’s so adversarial in nature. The first people I would always talk to are your rabid loyal fans. So if you know you’ve got a community of people who are absolutely super-passionate about this, you can say, “Hey, guess what? We released our comparison, or we released this extra review comparison of our product versus our competitor’s today. You can check it out here.”

You can pitch that to influencers and pundits in your space, definitely letting them know, “Hey, here’s this comparison. Tell us if you think we were honest. Tell us if you think this is accurate. Tell us if this reflects your experience.” Do the same thing with industry press. Your social audiences are certainly folks that you could talk to.

Give them a reason to come back

One of the key ones that I think gets too often ignored is if you have users who you know have gone through your signup flow or have used your product but then left, this is a great chance to try and earn their business back, to say, “Hey, we know that in the past you gave Wunderlist a try. You left for one reason or another. We want you to see how favorably we compare to our next biggest competitor in the space.” That can be a great way to bring those people back to the site.

Consult your legal team

Last thing, very important. Make sure, when you’re creating this type of content, that you talk to your legal professional. It is the case that sometimes using terms and phrases, trademarked words, branded words, has some legal implications. I am not a legal professional. You can’t ask me that question, but you can definitely ask your lawyer or your legal team, and they can advise you what you can and cannot do.

All right, everyone. Hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday, and we will see you again next week. Take care.

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The New Era of SEO: Optimize for People Before Searchbots

Human shaking hands with a robot

Dating back to when the first mainstream consumer search engines became available in the mid-nineties, digital marketers have desired to see their businesses succeed in the lucrative but often confusing search marketing landscape. And thus search engine optimization (SEO) was born.

Twenty years later, we’ve certainly come a long way, both in terms of the capabilities of search engines and in the strategies that SEO professionals implement in their attempts to master them. Given the complexity of modern search engine algorithms, it takes a lot more than just sticking keywords on your website in order to achieve prominent search rankings.

So, what does it take to win in search in 2015 and beyond? With hundreds of complex algorithms working 24 / 7 to serve up answers for over 5 billion Google search queries per day, that’s a question that can get very complex, very quickly.

But it doesn’t have to be so complex. Rather than trying to understand and react to the intricacies of every search engine algorithm that rolls out, it’s much more productive and sustainable to think in terms of the core objective of search engines, which is actually pretty simple: to connect users with great search results. Great results make people happy and happy people are likely to keep searching. If your website content makes for great search results, the search engines will be happy to serve them up.

Below are five attributes that you can incorporate into your website and content to make sure you’re providing the kind of great search results that will help you succeed in SEO both now and in the future.

Technically Sound

Remember when you found that excellent article, but the experience was dampened by the fact that it took 20 seconds for the page to load, the images were poor quality, the embedded video never loaded at all and several of the in-text links were broken?

Me neither. I clicked away after waiting 5 seconds for the page to load and never came back, and I’m betting you would have too if this wasn’t a hypothetical question.

Search engines reward technically sound sites that work well because they know that it’s essential for good user experience in additional to helping bots to effectively crawl and index.

Make sure your site is in tip top shape by:

• Improving page load speed
• Fixing broken links
• Optimizing images and media assets

Answers Questions

‘Where is the best wood-fired pizza in my neighborhood?’ ‘What’s the quickest way to get rid of the flu?’ ‘How can I get a better ROI from my company’s content marketing investment?’

Whether stated implicitly or implied, every search query is a question and every search result is an answer. Of course, not all answers are created equally and Google only wants to show the best answers.

In order to be the best answer, the critical first step is to understand the questions your customers are asking. Persona based keyword research plus solid content planning, creation and promotion are essential.

Works on All Devices

Mobile devices are practically ubiquitous today and the search engines know it. In fact, more Google searches take place on mobile devices than desktop computers today.

Smartphones and tablets have already taken the internet by storm and all signs point to an increasingly mobile future. This means that a mobile optimized website is no longer a ‘nice to have’, it’s an essential.

Easy to Share

Whether the effect is directly causal or not (the jury is still deliberating), research demonstrates a strong correlation between social signals (shares, comments, etc.) and prominent organic search rankings. Similar to links, social signals are a good indicator of the value of web content to users, so it makes sense that search engines would take these factors into account.

To make sure your content is easy to share socially, make sure you have prominent share buttons built into the template of your website and external digital assets. For extra credit, implement social schema markup like OpenGraph and Twitter Cards to help your content look great and have added functionality when shared.

Optimized Across the Customer Journey

As previously mentioned, every search query is a question and every search result is an answer. In addition, every search query has context and intent behind it. The best answers take this into account.

For example, somebody searching for pizza in Minnesota probably isn’t going to be satisfied with the same results as somebody performing the same search from New York. Similarly, someone looking to contact a sales rep at your company probably isn’t going to be happy going to your FAQ page, whereas someone who is in the process of evaluating your solution against your competitors would probably be quite happy to land there.

Especially if you have a longer sales cycle, there’s a good chance that prospects will interact with your content multiple times before converting into customers and will search differently along the way. In the exploratory phase, people may search broadly for information on a topic or industry, and can be attracted by easy to digest content like blog posts or videos. Further along the journey, people are likely to narrow their searches a bit to seek out specific information or drill in on topics in more detail. Termed the engagement phase, longer form content like ebooks or whitepapers can be the perfect answers for these searchers. When they are ready to convert into customers, users are well served by content that helps them to make the decision. Case studies, feature comparisons and testimonials may provide them with the evidence they (and their bosses) need to feel confident that they are making the right choice.

Optimizing for the context and intent behind the search keywords you’re targeting means that your content has a better chance of reaching searchers when it’s going to be the most valuable, which is directly in line with what the search engines want too. See how that works out?

 

Need help getting your SEO program firing on all cylinders? Check out TopRank’s full range of strategic SEO services.

Image via ShutterStock.


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The Ultimate Copy Checklist: 51 Questions to Optimize Every Element of Your Online Copy [Free Poster]

shavings from sharpened pencil on top of pencil

So, you’ve written a piece of sales copy. Congratulations — that’s no small feat.

But, before you celebrate, there’s just one issue: Now what?

After all, as I’m sure you’ve heard before: “There is no such thing as great writing. Only great rewriting.”

And why is “great rewriting” important? One reason: the bottom line.

  • Will it compel?
  • Will it convert?
  • Will it close?

You need to learn how to optimize first draft copy to support your bottom line.

A step-by-step optimization guide

Optimizing your own copy is a bit like scaling Mount Everest without a Sherpa. It doesn’t matter if you’re in shape; if you go it alone, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll end up a crumpled human popsicle.

Well, help is here.

To save you (and your copy!) from a shallow, frosty grave, I’ve put together 51 bottom-line questions that will help optimize every element of your online copy.

This step-by-step guide breaks down the entire optimization process into the 10 most valuable elements of any page.

  1. Headline
  2. Subheadline
  3. Value proposition
  4. Introduction
  5. Subheads
  6. Conclusion
  7. Call to action
  8. Voice
  9. Arguments
  10. Weapons of persuasion

The list is big, so we’ve turned it into a poster you can download. Print it out, tape it to your wall, and, above all, be ruthless with your optimization.

Let’s get started.

Headline

The headline is the most important element of any page. It isn’t just your audience’s first impression; sometimes it is their only impression.

For help creating headlines, check out Copyblogger’s How to Write Magnetic Headlines ebook or Jon Morrow’s 52 Headline Hacks.

Once you write your headline, ask:

  1. Audience: Does your headline directly identify and address your audience?
  2. Emotion: Is one dominant emotion (i.e., “mass desire”) powerfully verbalized?
  3. Interest: Does the headline startle your audience or “enter a conversation already taking place in their minds?”
  4. Clarity: Does your headline contain any technical or unnecessary words?
  5. Intention: Does your headline show the audience exactly what they should do or expect on your page?
  6. Momentum: Does your headline propel the reader into the introduction and first subheadline for an answer, solution, or explanation?

Subheadline

After the headline, your subheadline — also called a “subhead” or “mini-headline” — is the second most read element of any page.

Not every site uses an initial subheadline. Copyblogger, for example, does not. On my site (see here), I do.

So, if you choose to use a subheadline, what questions do you need to ask to optimize it?

  1. Connection: Does your subheadline retain and support the same thought, concept, or dominant emotion in your headline?
  2. Qualify: Does your subheadline narrow your audience by adding qualifications?
  3. Intensify: Does your subheadline amplify the one dominant emotion from your headline?
  4. Push: Does your subheadline push the reader into the first sentence to find an answer, solution, or explanation?

Value proposition

A value proposition is a one-line answer to the question: “Why should your ideal prospect buy from you instead of your competition?”

Your “value proposition” is not your motto or tagline. It’s not clever, and it’s definitely not vague.

For help crafting a compelling value proposition, check out Joanne Wiebe’s “The Great Value Proposition Test” or MarketingExperiments “Value Proposition Worksheet.”

Once you write the value proposition for your copy, ask:

  1. Unmistakable: Is your value proposition visually prominent and unmistakable?
  2. Desirable: Does one key benefit, or “mass desire,” powerfully verbalize your value proposition?
  3. Unique: Does your value proposition clearly differentiate you from the competition in at least one specific way?
  4. Target market: Does your value proposition directly address one target market?
  5. Simple: Is your value proposition clear, concise, and memorable?
  6. Quantified: Is your value proposition supported by at least one piece of concrete data?

Introduction

How do you write a killer introduction?

To start, check out Brian Clark’s “5 Simple Ways to Open Your Blog Post with a Bang,” or listen to the “How to Nail Your Opening” episode of The Lede podcast.

After you think you have indeed nailed your opening, double-check:

  1. Build: Does your first sentence continue the momentum — the same emotional or mental energy — from your headline and subheadline?
  2. Flow: Is your first sentence smooth, simple, and incredibly easy to read?
  3. Body: Do your first, second, and third paragraphs intensify and expand the same dominant emotion contained in the headline and subheadline?

Subheads

Subheads are small headlines scattered throughout your page that introduce new sections:

  1. Scannable: Are subheads evenly spaced (roughly every three to six paragraphs) to break up the copy and reinforce the page’s one dominant emotion?
  2. Benefits: Do your subheads highlight the “major” and “minor” benefits of your article, product, or service?

Conclusion

Just like the ending of a story, the ending of your page will make or break your copy.

Check out Brian Clark’s “How to Go Out In Style With Your Ending” or the “How to Close With Style” episode of The Lede podcast for inspiration.

Optimize your conclusion by asking the following questions:

  1. Climax: Does the last sentence end on a climax consistent with the page’s one dominant emotion?
  2. Action: Does the conclusion drive the reader to action (see “Call to action” below)?
  3. Realistic: Does the conclusion “shrink the change” by offering a path to action that is “concrete and doable” today?

Call to action (CTA, the “offer”)

Now we’re getting into the most “bottom” of bottom lines: What action do you want your reader to take?

  1. Singular: Does the page have one (and only one) clear and direct CTA?
  2. Visible: Is the CTA easy to locate and visible at multiple points on the page (i.e., always just a “scroll” away)?
  3. Promise: Does the CTA promise value “in advance?”
  4. Button: Is the button copy seductive and actionable?
  5. Next: Does the CTA tell the visitor exactly what’s next (i.e., what he can expect after he clicks)?
  6. Forms: Are the form fields brief, limited in number, and foolproof (i.e., have you tested them to make sure they actually work)?
  7. Trust: Does the CTA have a trust certificate to relieve the fear of converting?
  8. Trial: Does the CTA have a trial period to relieve the fear of committing?
  9. Guarantee: Does the CTA have a guarantee to relieve the fear of buying?

Voice

Voice creates the emotional atmosphere of your page — its “feel.”

As Logan Zanelli points out, the best way to develop an authentic voice is to simply “write the way you talk.”

To give that truism a bit more bite, ask:

  1. Conversational: Does your copy sound like one real human communicating with another real human?
  2. You: Does your copy speak directly to your audience by using the word “you?”
  3. Smooth: Does any phrase “sound weird” when you read it out loud?
  4. Straightforward words: Is the page free of jargon, insider language, and clichés?

Arguments

There are two basic types of arguments every page should contain — logical arguments aimed at the mind and emotional arguments aimed at the heart:

  1. Data: Does your copy provide concrete and credible data — i.e., numbers — to back up its claims?
  2. Application: Is data explained, interpreted, and applied in terms related directly to the page’s key benefits?
  3. Actors: Is your copy composed of “actors” — real flesh-and-blood characters?
  4. Vivid verbs: Do your “actors” act with vivid verbs rather than bland versions of “to be?”
  5. Story: Does the page tell a story — a single, overarching narrative?
  6. Hero: Is your audience the hero of the story?
  7. Hell: Does your story paint a vivid portrait of the “hell” (i.e., the pain or fear) your message, product, or service diminishes?
  8. Heaven: Does your story paint a vivid portrait of the “heaven” (i.e., the pleasure) your message, product, or service delivers?
  9. Senses: Does your copy use sensory language — seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling?

The “weapons of persuasion”

This last section comes directly from the master of persuasion himself, Robert Cialdini. In Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Cialdini identifies five “weapons” copywriters should have in their arsenals.

These questions aren’t necessarily about any one element. They relate to the overall impression of your page.

  1. Reciprocity: What free value does your page provide for its audience?
  2. Consistency: Does your page invite small, initial commitments that align with the big, ultimate “ask?”
  3. Social proof: Does your page present testimonials from a variety of sources its audience naturally trusts — namely, industry experts and other people just like them?
  4. Likability: Does your page establish “similarity” with its audience by using relatable language and humor?
  5. Scarcity: If appropriate, does your page “play hard to get” by making the reader want what he can’t have?

The one thing your copy must do

Answering each question above helps ensure that your copy holds your audience’s attention.

Why does your copy need to compel your audience to keep reading?

Because if it ain’t read, it’s dead. Period.

Remember to download the poster of the checklist and use it to help make every word of your copy more intriguing than the last.

checklist

How do you optimize your copy?

Once you’ve written a solid first draft, what techniques do you use to improve your copy?

I’d love to hear about your own optimization techniques over on Google+

Editor’s note: Many thanks to Copyblogger’s Lead Designer Rafal Tomal for designing this poster!

Flickr Creative Commons Image via ozlady.

About the Author: By night, Aaron Orendorff is busy “saving the world from bad content” over at iconiContent. By day, he teaches communication and philosophy at the local college. Follow him on Twitter.

The post The Ultimate Copy Checklist: 51 Questions to Optimize Every Element of Your Online Copy [Free Poster] appeared first on Copyblogger.


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