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Posts Tagged ‘Search’


Why the Yahoo! Search Revenue Gap Won’t Close

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In spite of Yahoo! accepting revenue guarantees for another year from Microsoft, recently there has been speculation that Yahoo! might want to get out of their search ad deal with Microsoft. I am uncertain if the back channeled story is used as leverage to secure ongoing minimum revenue agreements, or if Yahoo! is trying to set the pretext narrative to later be able to push through a Google deal that might otherwise get blocked by regulators.

When mentioning Yahoo!’s relative under-performance on search, it would be helpful to point out the absurd amount of their “search” traffic from the golden years that was various forms of arbitrage. Part of the reason (likely the primary reason) Yahoo! took such a sharp nose dive in terms of search revenues (from $ 551 million per quarter to as low as $ 357 million per quarter) was that Microsoft used quality scores to price down the non-search arbitrage traffic streams & a lot of that incremental “search” volume Yahoo! had went away.

There were all sorts of issues in place that are rarely discussed. Exit traffic, unclosible windows, forcing numerous clicks, iframes in email spam, raw bot clicks, etc. … and some of this was tied to valuable keyword lists or specific juicy keywords. I am not saying that Google has outright avoided all arbitrage (Ask does boatloads of it in paid + organic & Google at one point tested doing some themselves on credit cards keywords) but it has generally been a sideshow at Google, whereas it was the main attraction at Yahoo!.

And that is what drove down Yahoo!’s click prices.

Yahoo! went from almost an “anything goes” approach to their ad feed syndication, to the point where they made a single syndication partner Cyberplex’s Tsavo Media pay them $ 4.8 million for low quality traffic. There were a number of other clawbacks that were not made public.

Given that we are talking $ 4.8 million for a single partner & this alleged overall revenue gap between Google AdWords & Bing Ads is somewhere in the $ 100 million or so range, these traffic quality issues & Microsoft cleaning up the whoring of the ad feed that Yahoo! partners were doing is a big deal. It had a big enough impact that it caused some of the biggest domain portfolios to shift from Yahoo! to Google. I am a bit surprised to see it so rarely mentioned in these discussions.

Few appreciate how absurd the abuses were. For years Yahoo! not only required you to buy syndication (they didn’t have a Yahoo!-only targeting option until 2010 & that only came about as a result of a lawsuit) but even when you blocked a scammy source of traffic, if that scammy source was redirecting through another URL you would have no way of blocking the actual source, as mentioned by Sean Turner:

To break it down, yahoo gives you a feed for seobook.com & you give me a feed for turner.com. But all links that are clicked on turner.com redirect through seobook.com so that it shows up in customer logs as seobook.com If you block seobook.com, it will block ads from seobook.com, but not turner.com. The blocked domain tool works on what domains display, not on where the feed is redirected through. So if you are a customer, there is no way to know that turner.com is sending traffic (since it’s redirecting through seobook.com) and no way to block it through seobook.com since that tool only works on the domain that is actually displaying it.

I found it because we kept getting traffic from gogogo.com. We had blocked it over and over and couldn’t figure out why they kept sending us traffic. We couldn’t find our ad on their site. I went to live.com and ran a site:gogogo.com search and found that it indexed some of those landing pages that use gogogo.com as a monetization service.

The other thing that isn’t mentioned is the longterm impact of a Yahoo! tie up with Google. Microsoft pays Yahoo! an 88% revenue share (and further guarantees on top of that), provides the organic listings free, manages all the technology, and allows Yahoo! to insert their own ads in the organic results.

If Bing were to exit the online ad market, maybe Yahoo! could make an extra $ 100 million in the first year of an ad deal with Google, but if there is little to no competition a few years down the road, then when it comes time for Yahoo! to negotiate revenue share rates with Google, you know Google would cram down a bigger rake.

This isn’t blind speculation or theory, but aligned with Google’s current practices. Look no further than Google’s current practices with YouTube, where “partners” are paid different rates & are forbidden to mention their rates publicly: “The Partner Program forbids participants to reveal specifics about their ad-share revenue.”

Transparency is a one way street.

Google further dips into leveraging that “home team always wins” mode of negotiating rates by directly investing in some of the aggregators/networks which offer sketchy confidential contracts < ahref=”http://obviouslybenhughes.com/post/13933948148/before-you-sign-that-machinima-contract-updated”>soaking the original content creators.:

As I said, the three images were posted on yfrog. They were screenshots of an apparently confidential conversation had between MrWonAnother and a partner support representative from Machinima, in which the representative explained that the partner was locked indefinitely into being a Machinima partner for the rest of eternity, as per signed contract. I found this relevant, informative and honestly shocking information and decided to repost the images to obviouslybenhughes.com in hopes that more people would become aware of the darker side of YouTube partnership networks.

Negotiating with a monopoly that controls the supply chain isn’t often a winning proposition over the long run.

Competition (or at least the credible risk of it) is required to shift the balance of power.

The flip side of the above situation – where competition does help market participants to get a better revenue share – can be seen in the performance of AOL in their ad negotiation in 2005. AOL’s credible threat to switched to Microsoft had Google invest a billion Dollars into AOL, where Google later had to write down $ 726 million of that investment. If there was no competition from Microsoft, AOL wouldn’t have received that $ 726 million (and likely would have had a lower revenue sharing rate and missed out on some of the promotional AdWords credits they received).

The same sort of “shifted balance of power” was seen in the Mozilla search renewal with Google, where Google paid Mozilla 3X as much due to a strong bid from Microsoft.

The iPad search results are becoming more like phone search results, where ads dominate the interface & a single organic result is above the fold. And Google pushed their “ehnanced” ad campaigns to try to push advertisers into paying higher ad rates on those clicks. It would be a boon for Google if they can force advertisers to pay the same CPC as desktop & couple it with that high mobile ad CTR.

Google owning Chrome + Android & doing deals with Apple + Mozilla means that it will be hard for either Microsoft or Yahoo! to substantially grow search marketshare. But if they partner with Google it will be a short term lift in revenues and dark clouds on the horizon.

I am not claiming that Microsoft is great for Yahoo!, or that they are somehow far better than Google, only that Yahoo! is in a far better position when they have multiple entities competing for their business (as highlighted in the above Mozilla & AOL examples).

SEO Book

Post-Panda: Data Driven Search Marketing

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Now is the best and exciting time to be in marketing. The new data-driven approaches and infrastructure to collect customer data are truly changing the marketing game, and there is incredible opportunity for those who act upon the new insights the data provides” – Mark Jeffrey, Kellog School Of Management

I think Jeffries is right – now is one of the best and exciting times to be in marketing!

It is now cheap and easy to measure marketing performance, so we are better able to spot and seize marketing opportunities. If we collect and analyze the right data, we will make better decisions, and increase the likelihood of success.

As Google makes their system harder to game using brute force tactics, the next generation of search marketing will be tightly integrated with traditional marketing metrics such as customer retention, churn, profitability, and customer lifetime value. If each visitor is going to be more expensive to acquire, then we need to make sure those visitors are worthwhile, and the more we engage visitors post-click, the more relevant our sites will appear to Google.

We’ll look at some important metrics to track and act upon.

But first….

Data-Driven Playing Field

There is another good reason why data-driven thinking should be something every search marketer should know about, even if some search marketers choose to take a different approach.

Google is a data-driven company.

If you want to figure out what Google is going to do next, then you need to think like a Googler.
Googlers think about – and act upon – data.

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Douglas Bowman, a designer at Google, left the company because he felt they placed too much reliance on data over intuition when it came to visual design decisions.

Yes, it’s true that a team at Google couldn’t decide between two blues, so they’re testing 41 shades between each blue to see which one performs better. I had a recent debate over whether a border should be 3, 4 or 5 pixels wide, and was asked to prove my case. I can’t operate in an environment like that. I’ve grown tired of debating such miniscule design decisions. There are more exciting design problems in this world to tackle

Regardless of whether you think acting on data or intuition is the right idea, if you can relate to the data-driven mindset and the company culture that results, you will better understand Google. Searcher satisfaction metrics are writ-large on Google’s radar and they will only get more refined and granular as time goes on.

Update Panda was all about user engagement issues. If a site does not engage users, it is less likely to rank well.

As Jim Boykin notes, Google are interested in the “long click”:

On the most basic level, Google could see how satisfied users were. To paraphrase Tolstoy, happy users were all the same. The best sign of their happiness was the “long click”. this occurred when someone went to a search result, ideally the top one, and did not return. That meant Google has successfully fulfilled the query. But unhappy users were unhappy in their own ways, most telling were the “short clicks” where a user followed a link and immediately returned to try again. “If people type something and then go and change their query, you could tell they aren’t happy,” says (Amit) Patel. “If they go to the next page of results, it’s a sign they’re not happy. You can use those signs that someone’s not happy with what we gave them to go back and study those cases and find places to improve search.

In terms of brand, the more well known you are, the more some of your traffic is going to be pre-qualified. Brand awareness can lower your bounce rate, which leads to better engagement signals.

Any site is going to have some arbitrary brand-related traffic and some generic search traffic. Where a site has good brand-related searches, those searches create positive engagement metrics which lift the whole of the site. The following chart is conceptual, but it drives the point home. As more branded traffic gets folded into the mix, aggregate engagement metrics improve.

If your site and business metrics look good in terms of visitor satisfaction – i.e. people are buying what you offer and/or reading what you have to say, and recommending you to their friends – it’s highly likely your relevancy signals will look positive to Google, too. People aren’t just arriving and clicking back. They are engaging, spending time, talking about you, and returning.

Repeat visits to your site, especially from logged-in Google users with credit cards on file, are yet another signal Google can look at to see that people like, demand and value what you offer.

Post-Panda, SEO is about the behavior of visitors post-click. In order to optimize for visitor satisfaction, we need to measure their behavior post-click and adjust our offering. A model that I’ve found works well in a post-Panda environment is a data-driven approach, often used in PPC. Yes, we still have to do link building and publish relevant pages, but we also have to focus on the behavior of users once they arrive. We collect and analyze behavior data and feed it back into our publication strategy to ensure we’re giving visitors exactly what they want.

What Is Data Driven Marketing?

Data driven marketing is, as the name suggests, the collection and analysis of data to provide insights into marketing strategies.

It’s a way to measure how relevant we are to the visitor, as the more relevant we are, the more positive our engagement metrics will be. A site can constantly be adapted, based on the behavior of previous visitors, in order to be made more even more relevant.

Everyone wins.

The process involves three phases. Setting up a framework to measure and analyze visitor behaviour, testing assumptions using visitor data, then optimizing content, channels and offers to maximize return. This process is used a lot in PPC.

Pre-web, this type of data used to be expensive to collect and analyse. Large companies engaged market researchers to run surveys, focus groups, and go out on the street to gather data.

These days, collecting input from consumers and adapting campaigns is as easy as firing up analytics and creating a process to observe behaviour and modify our approach based on the results. High-value data analysis and marketing can be done on small budgets.

Yet many companies still don’t do it.

And many of those that do aren’t measuring the right data. By capturing and analysing the right data, we put ourselves at a considerable advantage to most of our competitors.

In his book Data Driven Marketing, Jeffrey notes that the lower performing companies in the Fortune 500 were spending 4% less than the average on marketing, and the high performers were investing 20% more than average. Low performers focused on demand generation – sales, coupons, events – whereas high performers spend a lot more on brand and marketing infrastructure. Infrastructure includes the processes and software tools needed to capture and analyse marketing data.

So the more successful companies are spending more on tools and process than lower performing companies.

When it comes to the small/medium sized businesses, we have most of the tools we need readily available. Capturing and analyzing the right data is really about process and asking the right questions.

What Are The Right Questions?

We need a set of metrics that help us measure and optimize for visitor satisfaction.

Jeffrey identifies 15 data-analysis areas for marketers. Some of these metrics relate directly to search marketing, and some do not. However, it’s good to at least be aware of them as these are the metrics traditional marketing managers use, so might serve as inspiration get us thinking about where the cross-overs into search marketing lay. I recommend reading his book to anyone who wants a crash course in data-driven marketing and to better understand where how marketing managers think.

  • Brand awareness
  • Test Drive
  • Churn
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Take rate
  • Profit
  • Net Present Value
  • Internal Rate Of Return
  • Payback
  • Customer Lifetime Value
  • Cost Per Click
  • Transaction Conversion Rate
  • Return On Ad Dollars Spent
  • Bounce Rate
  • Word Of Mouth (Social Media Reach)

I’ll re-define this list and focus on a few metrics we could realistically use that help us optimize sites and offers in terms of visitor engagement and satisfaction. As a bonus, we’ll likely create the right relevancy signature Google is looking for which will help us rank well. Most of these metrics come directly from PPC.

First, we need a…..dashboard! Obviously, a dashboard is a place where you can see how you’re progressing, at a glance, measured over time. There are plenty of third party offerings, or you can roll-your-own, but the important thing is to have one and use it. You need a means to measure where you are, and where you’re going in terms of visitor engagement.

1. Traffic Vs Leads

Traffic is a good metric for display and brand purposes. If a site is making money based on how many people see the site, then they will be tracking traffic.

For everyone else, combining the two can provide valuable insights. If traffic has increased, but the site is generating the same number of leads – or whatever your desired engagement action may be, but I’ll use the term “leads” to mean any desired action – then is that traffic worthwhile? Track how many leads are closed and this will tell you if the traffic is valuable. If the traffic is high, but engagement is low, then visitors are likely clicking back, and this is not a signal Google deems favorable.

This data is also the basis for adjusting and testing the offer and copy. Does engagement increase or decrease after you’ve adjusted the copy and/or the offer?

2. Search Channel Vs Other Channels

Does search traffic result in more leads than, say, social media traffic? Does it result in more leads vs any other channel? If so, then there is justification to increase spending on search marketing vs other channels.

Separate marketing channels out so you can compare and contrast.

3. Channel Growth

Is the SEM channel growing, staying the same, or declining vs other channels?

Set targets and incremental milestones. Create a process to adjust copy and offers and measure the results. The more conversions to desired action, the better your relevancy signal is likely to be, and the more you’ll be rewarded.

You can get quite granular with this metric. If certain pages are generating more leads than others as the direct result of keyword clicks, then you know which keyword areas to grow and exploit in order to grow the performance of the channel as a whole. It can be difficult to isolate if visitors skip from page to page, but it can give you a good idea which entry pages and keywords kick it all off.

4. Paid Vs Organic

If a search campaign is running both PPC and SEO, then split these two sources out. Perhaps SEO produces more leads. In which case, this will justify creating more blog posts, articles, link strategies, and so on.

If PPC produces more leads, then the money may be better spent on PPC traffic, optimizing offers and landing pages, and running A/B tests. Of course, the information gleaned here can be fed into your organic strategies. If the content works well in PPC, it is likely to work well in SEO, at least in terms of engagement.

5. Call To Action

How do you know if a call to action is working? Could the call to action be worded differently? Which version of the call to action works best? Which position does it work best? Does the color of the link make a difference?

This type of testing is common in PPC, but less so in SEO. If SEO pages are optimized in this manner, then we increase the level of engagement and reduce the click-back.

6. Returning Visitor

If all your visitors are new and never return, then your broader relevance signals aren’t likely to be great.

This doesn’t mean all sites must have a high number of return visitors in order to deemed relevant – one-off sales sites would be unlikely to have return visitors, yet a blog would – however, if your site is in a class of sites where every other site listed is receiving return visits, then your site is likely to suffer by comparison.

Measure the number of return visitors vs new visitors. Think about ways you can keep visitors coming back, especially if you suspect that your competitors have high return visitor rates.

7. Cost Per Click/Transaction Conversion Rate/Return On Ad Dollars Spent

PPC marketers are familiar with these metrics. We pay per click (CPC) and hope the visitor converts to desired action. We get a better idea of the effectiveness of keyword marketing when we combine this metric with transaction conversion rate (TCR) and return on ad dollars spent (ROA). TCR = transaction conversion rate; the percentage of customers who purchase after clicking through to your website. ROA = return on ad dollars spent.

These are good metrics for SEOs to get their heads around, too, especially when justifying SEO spends relative to other channels. For cost per click, use the going rate on Adwords and assign it to the organic keyword if you want to demonstrate value. If you’re getting visitors in at a lot lower price per click the SEO channel looks great. The cost-per-click in SEO is also the total cost of the SEO campaign divided by clicks over time.

8. Bounce Rate

Widely speculated to be an important metric post-Panda. Obviously, we want to get this rate down, Panda or not.

If you’re seeing good rankings but high bounce rates for pages it’s because the page content isn’t relevant enough. It might be relevant in terms of content as far as the algorithm sees it, but not relevant in terms of visitor intent. Such a page may drift down the rankings over time as a result, and it certainly doesn’t do other areas of your business any good

9. Word Of Mouth (Social Media Reach/Brand)

Are other people talking about you? Do they repeat your brand name? Do they do so often? If you can convince enough people to search for you based on your name, then you’ll “own” that word. Google must return your site, else they’ll be seen as lacking.

Measuring word-of-mouth used to be difficult but it’s become a lot easier, thanks to social media and the various information mining tools available. Aaron has written a lot on the impact of brand in SEO, so if this area is new to you, I’d recommend reading back through The Rise Of Brand Over Time, Big Brands and Potential Brand Signals For Panda.

10. Profit

It’s all about the bottom line.

If search marketers can demonstrate they add value to the bottom line, then they are much more likely to be retained and have budget increased. This isn’t directly related to Panda optimization, other than in the broad sense that the more profitable the business, the more likely they are keeping visitors satisfied.

Profit = revenue – cost. Does the search marketing campaign bring in more revenue that it costs to run? How will you measure and demonstrate this? Is the search marketing campaign focused on the most profitable products, or the least? Do you know which products and services are the most profitable to the business? What value does your client place on a visitor?

There is no one way of tracking this. It’s a case of being aware of the metric, then devising techniques to track it and add it to the dashboard.

11. Customer Lifetime Value

Some customers are more important than others. Some customers convert, buy the least profitable service or product, and we never hear from them again. Some buy the most profitable service or product, and return again and again.

Is the search campaign delivering more of the former, or the latter? Calculating this value can be difficult, and relies on internal systems within the company that the search marketer may not have access to, but if the company already has this information, then it can help validate the cost of search marketing campaigns and to focus campaigns on the keyword areas which offer the most return.

Some of these metrics don’t specifically relate to ranking, they’re about marketing value, but perhaps an illustration of how some of the traditional marketing metrics and those of search marketers are starting to overlap. The metrics I’ve outlined are just some of the many metrics we could use and I’d be interested to hear what other metrics you’re using, and how you’re using them.

Optimizing For Visitor Experience

If you test these metrics, then analyse and optimize your content and offers based on your findings, not only will this help the bottom line, but your signature on Google, in terms of visitor relevance, is likely to look positive because of what the visitor does post-click.

When we get this right, people are engaging. They are clicking on the link, they’re staying rather than clicking back, they’re clicking on a link on the page, they’re reading other pages, they’re interacting with our forms, they’re book-marking pages or telling others about our sites on social media. These are all engagement signals, and increased engagement tends to indicate greater relevance.

This is diving deeper than a traditional SEO-led marketing approach, which until quite recently worked, even if you only operated in the search channel and put SEO at the top of the funnel. It’s not just about the new user and the first visit, it’s also about the returning visitor and their level of engagement over time. The search visitor has a value way beyond that first click and browse.

Data-driven content and offer optimization is where SEO is going.

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SEO Book

Growing the Search Pie

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Growing search marketshare is hard work. At a recent investor conference Marissa Mayer stated that: “The key pieces are around the underpinnings of the alliance themselves. The point is, we collectively want to grow share, rather than trading share with each other.”

Part of the reason Yahoo! & Bing struggle to gain marketshare is Google’s default search placement payments to Mozilla and Apple. If the associated browsers have nearly 1/3 the market & Chrome is another 1/3 of the market then it requires Yahoo! or Bing to be vastly better than Google to break the Google habit + default search placement purchases.

Danny reported some interesting comments from Nikesh Arora:

  • half of those billions of queries it handles comes from Google partners, rather than searches at Google directly.
  • Arora also said that he expects about 50% of advertising to move online in the next three to five years.
  • he just said ad team looks at ways to make ads not look like ads. I think he meant that positively, like content you want.

A friend sent me a screenshot where he was surprised how similar the results looked between Bing & Google.

If Bing looks too different it feels out of place, if it looks to similar it doesn’t feel memorable. And if Google is optimized for revenue generation then Bing is going to have a fairly similar look & feel to their results if they want to earn enough to bid on partnerships.

Another factor helping Google maintain their dominance in search marketshare is the shift of search query mix to mobile, where Google has a 95.8% marketshare.

Mobile search has a significantly higher CTR than desktop search, due in large part to there being less screen real estate. By the end of this year tablets will likely account for 20% of Google’s search ad clicks & drive $ 5 billion in ad revenues. Add in mobile phones with tablets & mobile search will drive 1/3 of paid search clicks by the end of this year.

With mobile becoming such a huge share of search clicks Google is forcing advertisers into buying all platforms with their ad purchase via their enhanced AdWords campaigns. Google builds off that sort of dominance & Yahoo! is only making about $ 125 million a year in total revenue from Yahoo!’s mobile traffic.

In spite of losing share on browser defaults & mobile, Yahoo! managed to grow their search ad clicks 11% year over year. How was Yahoo! able to do that? In part by quietly dialing up on search arbitrage. They have long had a “trending now” box on their homepage, but over the past year they have dialed up on ads in their news, finance & sports sections that are linked to search queries. Some of these ad units are in the sidebar & some are inline with the articles.

Yahoo! also buys ads on some smaller ad networks & sends those through to a search result with almost no organic results.

Yahoo! has had a long history of search arbitrage, but they typically did it through a partner network which lowered click value. That was part of what lowered their click prices & made them sign the deal with Microsoft (you couldn’t even opt out of Yahoo!’s partner syndication until after they signed the deal with Microsoft).

I recently saw the above ad for Bing which highlighted how they want to work with brands, but Bing still has a number of issues they are dealing with on the monetization front: tighter broad matching, smaller ad ecosystem, regional issues with ad targeting, and no serious effort to develop a contextual ad program open to the long tail of publishers. In spite of those issues, the Yahoo! / Bing ad network was finally starting to build a critical mass & Yahoo! responded by signing a deal to carry Google’s contextual AdSense ads.

As Google continues to layer contextual search layers into mobile devices, launch their own physical stores, layer their social network into the search ecosystem, expand their venture investments, inserts themselves at an ISP level, shape the news, control a greater share of ad budget with programmatic bidding, control measurements of success, redefine words, scrape-n-displace publishers with the knowledge graph, de-fund competitors, & hyper-target ads at users, their leverage & market dominance will only grow.

Google is great at growing the search pie.

Yahoo!, not so much. 😉

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SEO Book.com

40 Important Local Search Questions Answered

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Posted by NiftyMarketing

Disclaimer: This post is a follow-up to the recent Mozinar "Be Where Local is Going" by Mike Ramsey. You can check out the full recorded Mozinar here!

Local has officially grown up. It's arrived and has become a major force to be reckoned with because of things like this…

Recently, companies that have ignored local found themselves apologizing for how they behaved in the good ol' days, and are trying to learn as much as possible to catch up. We have seen a HUGE growing interest in the Local University Conference Series over this past year (especially our advanced conferences, like the one coming up in Baltimore) and it seems like all of the major SEO hubs have really started to embrace local with more vigor and passion than in times past. With that in mind, Moz asked if I would do a Mozinar on the topic of local. I was amazed at the audience response that came from it. I received over 80 questions asked throughout the Mozinar and around 30 emails with longer-winded questions after the fact.

That is when I realized that even though local has arrived, it's still a mess.

There are a ton questions and confusing aspects of local search, and I thought the best way that I could help would simply be to create a post answering as many questions as I could until my carpel tunnel kicks in and I couldn't type anymore. So here it goes. The questions are organized by topics within local. If you have more questions, please feel free to post them in the comments below and I (or hopefully some of the other local search peeps) can answer them for you. Remember, the only foolish question is the one that doesn't get asked. 

Here are the sections:

Warning: I don't recommend reading this all in one sitting. It's over 6,000 words. Try to digest it one section at a time. 

Local Strategy and Tactics

1. Any suggestions to take advantage of local search for multiple states rather than cities?

In some cases, states will show map results. This changes constantly, though, so I wouldn't count on it, or even focus on ranking in maps for a state search. Instead, think of it from an organic perspective. What would people want to see based a search phrase like "Salt lake City Plummer" compared to "Utah Plummer"? Here are a couple thoughts:

  • Testimonials would be different. I want the Utah Plummer to show me testimonials for a ton of cities in that State. 
  • Multiple office locations on a state page (found on your website) would be useful in understanding how big the company is and if they can truly service state wide.
  • As for the Google+ local page, when they rank for a state, it still represents a single physical address in a single city. Because of this, you would want to add that you service statewide in your business description area. You can also set a service area on your google+ listing that would show a state wide reach. 
  • Show state certifications compared to city Chamber of Commerce trust symbols. 

2. If you are a local company with one location that services people at their home, how do you rank for all the cities in your area?

You don’t rank in the maps section. Google will generally only let you rank in the city your address is located. There are exceptions, so don’t plan on being one. You can build out content on your website to rank organically for the other cities (where you don’t have an address) and in a lot of cases today, if your organic page has stronger singles than the listings found in the map results you can actually rank above the maps like this. 

You can also get a real address in the cities that you want to rank in. Fake address and UPS boxes have been popular for some businesses to use, but they carry a huge risk. My advice is to play it safe and go with real locations where you can conduct face to face business, or try to rank organically. 

3. Where in G+ were you saying to add links to help you rank twice (in blend and organic)?

Once you list a URL with your Google+ local listing, that URL (home page or local landing page) will not rank both in maps and organically. In the Mozinar, I explained that if you are a single-business location, use your home page as the URL on the Google+ local listing and then build a sub page for the service (explaining it further) so that both could potentially rank. This works way better for long-tail terms or custom Google Places category choices. Outcome looks something like this:  (Ehline ranks with his home page in maps, and a sub page on Torrance Personal Injury Lawyer.)

4. What is the best way for a retail store to rank in a city that they aren't located in?

Organically, as you can't in maps. However, you need to ask yourself why you would want to do this. It's really not best for the searcher. If I am looking for "Burley Idaho shoes," would I really want to see a list of "Twin Falls shoe stores"? Google will always be fighting you on this and trying to ensure you don’t rank. So, you could open a new location to rank in maps, or use paid ads and possibly even an article that says something like, "Burley shoe stores suck and here's why, come to Twin Falls for awesome shoes." However, my advice is to stay local.

5. Do you know if optimizing for local negatively affects online national organic search results, if you have both a local presence and national online eCommerce site?

It doesn't. Mainly because, if done properly, you would have pages that represent your national search ranking ambitions and you would have completely different pages for local stores. Take Walmart, for instance. They need to rank with local store information, but also want to be able to show up for product or category searches for eCommerce. They have a location finder that leads to individual pages that provide store hours, local coupons, and directions. Here is my local Walmart page. The thing that they do well (and I see this is a future must) is being able to show your local store inventory while browsing products. I have worked with brands that have a decentralized approach to local. The eCommerce team does everything they can to ensure that no one goes to the location to buy anything because they are rewarded for eCommerce sales, not store sales. This is wrong. You shouldn't care if a customer buys something online or in a store front as long as the item is purchased. Give customers the choice, and you will always win. This is also the best way to compete against Amazon, in my opinion. They can't (yet) get me an item within an hour of my decision to purchase it.

6. Why in your opinion do you find different Google + Local search rankings for keyword phrases with words ordered differently for example "Atlanta handyman" vs. "handyman Atlanta" and then without geographical modifiers? I've got clients where these ranking very greatly.

This is just my opinion, but I think each word in a query carries a certain weight based off positioning, regional vs global data, or a bazillion other factors that Google could take into account. A website would have a different relevance score for all three of the examples you showed above. Maybe one site is well optimized for Seattle and partly optimized for Pizza. They rank better on "Seattle pizza" than "pizza Seattle" because the weight is on the first word searched. If just "pizza" is typed, Seattle wasn't in the search query, and Google determines there is local intent, then they might use a precise location of the search compared to the exact center of Seattle. This would change the results yet again. 

7. I've had a couple of clients who don't live in the city but live in a rural area outside of the city. They are a service business and had a UPS address with a suite # they recently got booted from maps and Google + local. Any work around for businesses outside the service area to show up?

No. I hate this about Google Maps, actually. When you're a service business, I don’t see the importance of your location compared to the location you service. But, for the time being, the best advice I can give is if it means that much to your business, get a legitimate address in the city service area. Pay rent on a building you can meet clients at and answer the phone at. Then you are on Google’s nice list. It's not fun being on the naughty side. 

8. Due to the constant algorithm changes, is it now more cost effective for local companies to use PPC campaign versus trying to rank locally?

I would say no, in most cases. It completely depends on your business model and industry and the currently level of competition. Google just launched Adwords Express+ and this will drive everyone’s cost even higher over time in local ads. So, if you have a solid organic strategy in place compared to churn and burn, I think your organic side exponentially grows where as the only way to grow PPC is to spend more.

The key is to stop looking at rankings as the purpose of your SEO work and just expect it as an outcome of good outreach. If you do a guest post, it's not just a link; it could be reaching a community of potential customers that aren't searching for you yet, but will become a brand search later. Referral traffic goes up, you get some great links, and the outcome is better long-term rankings. But the point was to reach the audience on the site and the link is just a bonus. When done properly in a local market, this approach will be the trump card.

9. I wonder how I should handle the listings for a local business with two physical places in the same city?

Google is fine with every physical location having a listing. So, if you have two locations in a city or 100 locations in a city, you can have a listing for each. The key is ensuring that whatever page you point searchers to on your site gives a unique experience with the content you provide. Talk about directions to the location, points of interest next to each location, and reviews for the specific location. I run across results like this often (Jack In The Box ranks twice):

Reviews

10. Have any strategies to get lost Google+ local reviews come back to a local business that changed its location?

There have been so many issues with reviews since Google+ Local was rolled out, I decided to make this Comigraphic. Really, if the reviews being lost aren’t spam, then it comes down to the way business information is stored in Google's system. Your business Name, Address, and Phone number make up your online identity to Google. When one of these things changes then what can happen is Google starts thinking that there are two identities and sometimes your data (reviews or citations) will be stored with the wrong identity. Here is Google's advice on moving:

If a business no longer exists at a location, you can mark it as closed or moved on Google Maps. Follow these steps to have the listing moderated:

  1. Find the closed or moved business on Google Maps.
  2. Use the Report a problem link from the Google Maps result.
  3. Select Place is permanently closed option.
  4. If the place has moved to a new location, give us the new location’s information in the comment box.
  5. If your business has moved and you manage the business’s new location, you should add the new location as a separate listing in your Places dashboard.

Word is that if you move, you lose your reviews. There is a discussion on Linda's forum on this very subject where a couple of Googlers dropped in. In the example that is mentioned in the forum, the old business listing shows the old reviews and says it has moved locations and shows (and links) to the new address. The reviews have transferred so they exist on both listings as well. Hopefully this means that following Google's advice will help you keep your reviews, but sometimes the same path leads to different outcomes in the Googleverse. My best advice is never change your name, never move your address, never change your phone number. 

11. Why can't you offer customers something to write a review? 

Because Google said so in their guidelines. :-)  Yelp says the same thing, as well. I think the reason is they feel the review would be biased if you were given any form of a reward for leaving it. They don't want solicited reviews. 

12. What is the best way to handle bad reviews on sites like PissedConsumer.com and RipoffReport.com that are ranking on the first page when they are completely spammy and not legit?

Here is a very interesting article on the subject with a few different options. If you don’t think you can get it down through a legal fight, you can try to bury it by basically creating 10-20 properties for your brand that can rank above the bad information pushing it off of page one, and even two. But the report will always be there. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and WordPress pages for your brand are really easy to use as part of this list. The idea is to own the entire page with listings you control on your brand name searches. 

13. On the topic of reviews, would you say "one a week" is a good system to avoid waves? How many is too many a week?

I don’t know if there is an exact number of reviews per week that Google would or wouldn't look at. The key is to make the review process part of your point of sale. This way, you will naturally get reviews. At one review a week, you would have 52 reviews in a year, and I see VERY few industries that have 50+ reviews in total on a listing. What you want to avoid is going six months without reviews and then in a single day getting like 10-15 reviews. That is extremely unnatural unless you are in business for one day a year. In that case, if you will pay me lots, I will come and work for you for that one day. 

The hardest part about the review process is that you need to get reviews from accounts that have review history. If you have a customer who creates their Google+ profile simply to leave your company one review, I can almost guarantee that it will get filtered. In the Mozinar, I talk about how to find people with active review accounts. 

14. Can you get existing reviews (on Yelp, Yahoo, Zagat, etc.) to appear on your new +Local page?  Or can you only link to those reviews?

Google no longer shows the reviews from other providers in their review count and list. But there was a Google patent that basically said that they could look at other review sites and the amount of reviews as a ranking factor. I have learned something over the years with Google: just because they don't show it, doesn't mean it wont matter. Get reviews from other sites like Yelp, Yahoo, and Zagat if you customers use those sites and it will help you get business. Google might have a big market share, but they don't have all of it. 

15. You said review stations are not allowed. What’s the difference with you asking for a review on your website then? Isn't that the same?

The different is the location that the review is uploaded from. A review station will basically have a static spot. A single IP. So, it looks as if someone is sitting in a office creating review accounts and posting a fake review from it. I personally think review stations are a great idea, but Google doesn't. Though I think I am kinda a big deal, I am afraid that in this case, they win. 

16. In the car industry, there have been many complaints to the Google+ local team about reviews not showing up on their local pages. Have you seen any of these issues happening or any insight of these "bugs" happening?

They are not bugs. Google felt that in the car dealer market, most, if not all, the reviews on Google+ local were spammy. So those reviews are filtered. Mike Blumenthal said the following on his blog about it:

"I can’t share with you the specifics of why Google thinks that most car dealership reviews are spammy. The details of the conversation were under NDA. I assume though that they have looked at a lot and have solid grounds for their understanding of the situation.

The ones that I have looked appear to be guilty of either the misuse of on-site terminals to gather reviews or the use of third parties to post feedback cards as reviews."

Citations/Directories

17. Are citation directories likely to get hit by an algo? How are they different from other directories?

I do think that some citation directories have been hit by a Panda update. Most business information is copied info. This is why you are seeing less and less directories ranking on local search terms. What separates a good local directory from a bad one? Local, unique content. What is the best way for a directory to get this content? User generated reviews. I think this is why Yelp does well in the search results still. Also, to be fair, local directories weren't made for spamming links. They were made for providing websites and users with business information and listings. They run moderation in many cases (phone verification or post card verification). So, even on a bad day, you couldn't group them in the same category as a directory of websites that was strictly for getting a link.

I do think that the local directory business is in a tight spot, though. Google has basically declared themselves the "ultimate directory" and the one directory to rule them all and all are subjected unto them. Unless you can pull a Yelp and get a deal with Apple Maps, or pull a Zagat and get purchased by Google, how can you possibly stay relevant? It is time for local directories to reinvent themselves. 

18. I've heard citation submission be compared to manual link building of the past. Do you think businesses that submit information to directories will be hit by an algorithm in the future?

If they spam the listings, yes. Here is an excellent write up by Bill Slawski on a patent that was granted to Google on how they might determine "spam citations." The main thing Google would look for is a business name with search keywords stuffed in it, or categories with location keywords being used. So, if you are creating/claiming local listings correctly and keep your NAP information accurate and consistent, then I don’t think you need to worry. On the other hand, if you are filling out your listings like this…worry:

Business Name – Keyword Keyword Location

Category one: Location Dentist

Category two: Dentist in Location 

Category three: Best Dentist in Location

Category four: Local dentist in Location

19. What do you think about the Localeze, Infogroup, Axciom, and Yext-like services?

I think that they serve a great purpose, which is to scale local information across many different directories. For a business that has 100's or 1000's of locations, I don’t see a very feasible way to do this otherwise. The problem with all the services is that they are supplying data to partner sites that they do not control. So, lets say you have changed your phone number multiple times over the years. Or maybe you changed addresses. Paying these companies might get a new version of the address submitted, but it wont take care of the bigger issue, which is bad business information still left on directories. Also, while the basic business data is sent to the partners this doesn't mean that every listing looks pretty and has pictures listed withe full profiles filled out. You get the basic data listed. 

Generally speaking, if you can claim and fix listings by hand, I would recommend that approach. If you don't have the time or money to do that, then using the data aggregators is a solid option. In some cases, the combination of both would be the perfect option. In your major markets, do as much hand claiming as possible and automate the rest.

20. How do you deal with call tracking in regards to NAP?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions in local search. I get seriously upset at Google for how they handle this. The short answer is you can't do call tracking with your listings. If you put different numbers on different directories, than you send mixed signals to Google. Their answer is you can use call tracking on their paid products. Since Google+ local is free, I don’t think they are going to come up with a solution. All it would take is for Google to create another field called "preferred number" that you could fill out on your listing and it would display that number even though they would have record of your local number. It would also allow them to find any place online with the preferred number listed and attribute it correctly. In my opinion, Google is holding back the industry and crippling other directories by not allowing for call tracking. But they have every right to do it. That's the worst part. 

So what do I do? I keep the number consistent for NAP and I use an image on the website with a big number that is being tracked. That way, Google doesn't index the number. The issue is this will only be used by the people on your website and not the business listings. 

Links

21. In terms of links, do you need to build links to your Google + business page, Yelp page, etc., or is linking building primarily targeted to the website itself?

People link to things that are awesome. At least they should. So links to directory pages don't make a ton of sense in a "perfect world" and probably don't represent a reason to rank a business higher than another business as most of these links would be built by the business owner and not earned.

Now that Google+ pages have a social layer to them, it makes since that they could get links, get mentioned, etc. I don’t think it will necessarily help you rank higher in map results, but it will make your actual Google+ listing rank higher on your brand name. Same with Yelp, though; I think the only reason a Yelp listing should be linked to is as a way to say "check out our Yelp listing for reviews."

The type of links that help your map listing rank higher are ones that point at your website. 

22. Can you please offer a range of local backlinks that should be applied to a local business to stay under the radar, but be aggressive enough to move up in the SERPs?

Loaded question. Let me first talk about "staying under the radar." I used to have this mentality when it came to link building, especially in local, as it's so freaking hard to get real links in this space. When you can get to the point that the links you build have nothing to do with ranking on Google, you will sleep better, succeed more, and be able to take down your Matt Cutts dartboard. Here's why: link building for increasing page rank is against Google's guidelines. They will continue to interpret that statement unfairly, and with major bias and small businesses will fall on the wrong side of that list forever. So do these things for links and you will be fine. 

1. Quality Guest Posts (try to get em locally) – I built Nifty Marketing through guest posts. I started writing on my blog, and no one came to read it. So I started writing on Search Engine Journal and I didn't do it to get a link; I wanted to get recognized in the local space. I wanted people to know who I was. That lead to speaking events, stories on Search Engine Land, and mentions + posts on the SEOmoz blog. I can tell you I got more business off of the things I wrote or said speaking than I ever did off my rankings (and we have had a lot of good spots). Rankings are a by-product of building your brand. I used to hate that idea, but now I get it. It took me from a no name SEO in Burley, Idaho to a faculty member of Local U, and a speaker at SMX Advanced, West, East, Pubcon, Searchfest, and many other places. All of this came from outreach. If I would have only been focused on the rankings from my links, I would have missed the cream. I would have focused on building fake authority and "flying under the radar" (which is how I started before I knew better and even got a fancy link penalty for it). So now, I focus on clients that allow us to do cool things. Write cool content, and try to get them recognized for it. It's expensive, slow, and not easy, but it's always worth it. 

2. Citations – These are links. Most directories allow for a naked URL to show. Most importantly, people search for businesses on directories. If you fill them out and do a proper job of it, then you will look better than your competitors. You will stand out, you will have reviews on your listing and it will get indexed and the link will count for your business and it will help. 

3. Microsites – Not dirty copied content microsites that just switch out a location name. I'm talking unique sites that serve a purpose like this one. The point of this site isn't to link back to a main site. The point of the site is to share and gather testimonials for this business. Having it on its own URL makes finding and sharing the site offline easy. 

4. Local Newspapers – I own a small town weekly newspaper that is delivered to 18,000 homes and has around 35,000 readers. I need good local content. If a business comes to us with an awesome idea, I find room. That is a big potential audience. It's a print paper, but there is an online version. It is single-handedly one of the best links that you could get in a town like mine. 

5. Social links – Check out this Facebook page for Abrey Adams. She's a local photographer in my small town of 10,000. She has 11,000 real fans on Facebook. She gets referral business all day long. She runs Facebook competitions, she posts EVERYTHING, and she's really good at photography and Photoshop. Screw ranking on Burley and Idaho Photographer (even though she ranks in the top spots). Her business is coming from the buzz of her local brand. If she only worried about people finding her on search in my town, she would have to close up shop.

If you focus on the above, you wont fly under the radar. You will fly way above it and not even care. 

23. Is the time it takes to build up a local microsite to a respectable level worth it?

If the microsite is only for the purpose of the link, then no, it's not worth the time. If the site serves a purpose for the brand and brings visibility, then yes.

Onsite Optimization

24. Can you suggest a good NAP (correct?) maker site?

Here is the best schema site for coding your address and here is a great article on how to do it. For even more fields, you can check out the actual local business section on schema.org

25. Should the (website) testimonials be on a "testimonials" page, or along the sidebar? Do they need to be unique from the testimonials given on the Google+ Local page and other local sources?

I think that testimonials can be on both the sidebar and a full page. It doesn't make since to have more than one or two testimonials on a sidebar or a landing page, but having a massive page of testimonials can speak for your service quality. When it comes to the content of the testimonials, if you copy them from Google+ local, Yelp, or other directories, this is duplicate content. It might keep a page from ranking on (your brand name + reviews), but I doubt you would trip a Panda filter with it. There was a bit of a fiasco that happened at LocalU advanced this year in New York when Joel Headley mentioned that duplicated reviews could be removed from Google+. He wasn't able to give any specifics, but I think it is worth reading. 

26. Do you recommend creating landing page for both Service by City (meaning a landing page for every city and service)?

Yes. We created a local landing page infographic that has a good breakdown of the information to include on a local landing page. When it comes to services pages, I would also recommend building them out on a per location bases if you can do it with quality unique content. For example, let's say you are a pest control company that offers bed bug treatments. You already have local landing pages for each of your offices that shows your address. If you build out a bed bug page for each market, you could add local testimonials and talk about the places around the city that have been having bed bug problems. You can link to local news sources talking about the problem and you can give localized advice on your pricing and service. This is a better experience for the user than an overall bed bug page for all your locations. Very few people are doing this, and it's a great way to capitalize on long tail search.  

27. Hi, you briefly mentioned KML, on Google’s help page they say this is no longer supported. Are you still using this and how?

Yes. Geo sitemaps stopped being supported, but you can still create a kml file and link to it from your xml and html sitemap. Also, you can upload it as a sitemap in google webmaster tools following these directionsHere is a site that helps you create a kml file. 

28. Can we touch on what to do with NAPs for clients who have multiple office locations?

I generally like to have a "locations" tab in the main navigation that would go to a page like this:

Then, you can have the addresses as links that point to your local landing page. Both address (on the location page and on the local landing page) should be coded in schema. This method works great up to around 100 locations. If you have more locations than that, you should consider a store finder and build your local directory with a state folder so your URL structure would be mysite.com/locations/california/los-angeles. 

Google+ Local

29. Does having your full name displayed on Google+ turn you off from leaving an online review?

Yes… and no. I get why Google wants full names to be displayed. It keeps people honest. For instance, I know most of the business owners in my town on a first name basis. If I review them, I better be willing to stand by it because I see them around town. People won't say a lot of really harsh things because of it. But does that actually represent the experience? Hard to tell.

Then there are the situations like DUI Lawyers where you just can't plan on getting reviews period. Who would really leave a review with their full name? Could you imagine… "I was caught drunk driving and got away with it. This guy rocks. BOOM!"

It was a stand Google made. I respect them, but I think it puts some industries in a tough spot and it doesn't work as well for small towns.  

30. How do you connect a business google places listing or transfer that information to a Google+ business listing?

This post by David Mihm is the best post on the claiming process I know of. 

31. Some of our clients operate out of their home, and do not want to use their physical address. Suggestions on G+ pages?

I hate this whole end of Google+ local and hiding addresses. Here is a piece I did when the feature first came out. Hiding address was a guaranteed way to sink a listing. That changed. Around a year later, Miriam wrote this piece explaining that if you are a service based business and check the box that says you service customers at their location, then you need to hide your address or your listing could get suspended. Now, if you have your address hidden and service customers at their location, then Google+ local is not a product you can use. There is a sticky post by Jade (Googler) that says:

"The upgraded (merged) local Google+ pages are not currently supporting service area businesses. Please continue to manage it via Google Places for Business and hide your address as necessary, detailed in the quality guidelines."

32. How do you approach Google+ pages for a local business with multiple websites that are for different services? For example, a lawyer with both a DUI site and a bankrupcy site. Should each site have its own Google+ local page (as some suggest) or just one Local Plus page, which then would not link to one site?

You can't create more than one listing in Google Places +local social pages for different services. So basically, a one site approach. This is only for maps. Organically, it wouldn't matter. 

33. We have verified our two locations with Google, but our locations are still "under review" for the last six weeks. Any tips you can offer on how to get out of the sandbox? 

This is a link to a Google Troubleshooter for verifying listings. In a move that completely shocked the local SEO world, Google is now offering phone support on verification issues. My guess is that a monetization strategy in local will follow soon. In the meantime, if you have issues with verification, follow the steps on the link and you will get fixed up. 

34. I work for a company that has multiple businesses from one location. Will Google see us being spammy if we have the Google+ local pointing to the same location for those businesses?

This is a question that I have heard a lot of mixed responses on. But fact of the matter is the "real world" works this way. I ran two businesses that were separate LLCs from a single location for two years. You can use the same address for both listings. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind, though: 

  • If the businesses are in the same industry, just with different names, it generally will get flagged as spam. 
  • You do run the risk of the listings having information merge and reviews possibly crossing onto the wrong listing (worst case scenario).

35. If my page was created as a brand page, should I and how can I switch it to a places page? 

You can't, according to Google. Hopefully they change this at some point. 

36. With Google+, what does a company use as an account login to Google+ if they have multiple locations and businesses and don't want to sign in as a person?

Hopefully you had a company email you were using with Google Places, use that same email for creating your +local social page. One of the benefits on the new platform that is being rolled out is that it will support multiple admins. The feature exists and can be viewed by going to Google+ and looking for the Pages tab on the left sidebar. Here is a screenshot:

37. If a company that serves multiple states wants to set up a Google+ page, should they set up a local business or a company/organization page?

If you have multiple locations, you will need a local business page to link it to your map listing. Google is literally in the middle of rolling out dashboard features this week, and I am telling EVERYONE to not claim their +local page until we know what the new system will look like for multi-location businesses. So far, there seems to be a dashboard where you can view all of your locations at once, but no word exists on how a +brand page update might be reflected on your +local page. So, hold tight. 

38. If I rank well in Google local results, would you suggest converting to G+ or waiting until they get things sorted out (dashboard/integration)?

I loved my grandpa. He started Ramsey Heating Electric over 50 years ago and recently passed away. I lived with him through most of high school and he taught me the value of hard work. One thing that he constantly would say was this: 

"If it ain't broke… don’t fix it."

That is good advice, and I would adhere to it if I were you. Wait until the dust settles to upgrade. 

39. How would you do local optimization for a business located inside another business?

This is directly from Google Places Quality Guidelines: 

"Some businesses may be located within a mall or a container store, which is a store that contains another business. If your business is within a container store or mall, and you'd like to include this information in your listing, specify the container store in parentheses in the business name field. For example, Starbucks (inside Safeway)."

40. If you could give one piece of advice when it comes to your Google+ Local Page, what would it be? 

Diversify. Don't rely on Google+ local for all your business. Your listing will have issues, it wont always rank, reviews will disappear, bad things will happen. If your local strategy is simply "get my listing to rank," you will fail. I know that is harsh, but I am tired of taking phone calls from businesses who are "on the verge of closing because they rely on Google for 90% of their business and their listing disappeared last week."

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Moving to a New Location? Don’t Forget about Local Search

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Posted by David Mihm

It’s obviously not uncommon for small businesses to move — fluctuating rents, growth, lifestyle concerns for the business owner or employees, and any number of factors make good reasons to move. However, few business owners understand the Local Search headaches they may be creating for themselves or their customers as a result of a move.

Celia Bell, Assistant Director of SCORE’s Austin chapter, is currently experiencing some of those headaches and sent me an email last week to ask for my advice on how to alleviate them. Given her essential help with Local University Austin next week, it was the least I could do to respond. The problem Celia’s having is so common, though, that I thought I’d just turn my advice into a blog post/case study.

The situation

SCORE is a nationwide volunteer-driven non-profit organization that mentors small business owners and prospective entrepreneurs in 340 markets across the country. Each of its chapters operates relatively independently from a physical location, with significant support from the parent organization — not unlike a typical commercial franchise or chain-store model.

SCORE’s Austin chapter recently moved to a location about eight miles northwest of its old local headquarters. Unfortunately, Google was displaying its former headquarters right on the main search result for “SCORE Austin,” and SCORE clients were actually visiting the old address for meetings and workshops. (In fairness to Google, other search engines were confused as well, though not quite to the same extent.)


 

The goal of this exercise: Ensure all prominent web, mobile, and app search results display only the current, proper information for the SCORE chapter.

Getting started

SCORE’s volunteer webmaster only increased her frustration level by attempting to edit the group's Google Plus Local page over and over again, with nothing to show for it. Sadly, I suspect many business owners (and marketing agencies) go through the same process, with equally unsatisfying results. I hope that this guide yields more success and helps explain why the process must be more comprehensive than just a quick edit at Google.

The reason that simply correcting misinformation about your business at Google does not solve the problem is that Google's Local index pulls in business data from a nearly-infinite number of sources across the web. Some of these are more authoritative than others (such as those provided by Localeze, Infogroup, and Acxiom–see below), but a business owner's verified listing is only one source of this data. If all you're doing is updating your Google+ Local Page, you're going to continue to see problems because "new" erroneous data will constantly feed into Google from all of its other sources.

Assessing the damage

One of the central tenets of local search engine optimization is to ensure that your business’s Name, Address, and Phone number, NAP for short, is consistent everywhere it’s mentioned around the web (and offline, too). Your NAP is basically your digital thumbprint — Google’s unique identifier for an individual business.

When you move locations, you create an inconsistency in the A of your NAP. Sadly, there’s no “301 redirect” or “forward location” command that you can give the local search engines, similar to what you can file with the U.S. Postal Service. Google, Bing, and others can't identify your new NAP as belonging to the same business. In the best case, inconsistencies lead to lower search engine rankings for keyword searches you want to rank for. But in the worst case (SCORE’s), not even customers who are specifically looking for your business can find you! So, unfortunately, it's up to you to update this information yourself.

The first thing I did was to run an Accuracy Report on GetListed for both SCORE's old and new NAP information. I wanted to see which search engines had indexed which location(s), and in what manner.

Incorrect (Old) NAP:
SCORE Austin
3809 S 2nd St
Austin, TX 78704
(512) 928-2425
Correct (New) NAP:
SCORE Austin
5524 Bee Cave Rd., Building M
Austin, TX  78746
(512) 928-2425

Running this report provided three key insights:

1) SCORE’s phone number did not change during the move.

2) Their business name is actually an acronym for “Service Corps Of Retired Executives” — which is how they’re listed on four of the most prominent local search engines:

US Score-Services Corps of Retired (Google)
US SCORE-SVC CORPS OF RETIRED (Infogroup)
US Score-Svc Corps of Retired (YP.com)
Service Corps of RTRD Exctvs Assctn (Nokia)

3) SCORE recently implemented a nationwide effort to unify branding across all of its chapters–moving from an older strategy of each chapter operating its own unique website (scoreaustin.org, e.g.) to giving each chapter its own subdomain on the national website (austin.score.org).

Item #1 is a major advantage over many small businesses who move locations — a constant phone number means that Google and other search engines should be able to verify changes much more quickly. Item #2 is a disadvantage, since neither the old NAP or new NAP is 100% clean. This will mean multiple rounds of clean up. Item #3 may be a disadvantage depending on the email address in which SCORE’s Google Plus Local pages are claimed.

The cleanup process

After running your Accuracy Report, go back to Google and perform a search, where your query is any combination of incorrect/old NAP information. Make note of the webpages that Google returns near the top of its rankings, as Google is likely pulling data from most of these sites. I find it useful to keep track of this information on an Excel or Google Spreadsheet, from a task management standpoint.

You can also click through to any Plus Pages returned by these searches. If you're lucky, sometimes Google will even tell you a few of the sites they are pulling this information from towards the bottom of those pages. In SCORE's case, Citysearch was a very important site feeding Google bad information.

You should also search Google Maps for out-of-date information. Once you do, click the little triangular drop-down button and select "Report a problem" at the bottom of the list. On the report a problem screen, correct any misinformation and explain to Google why you are requesting the change (i.e. you've moved!).

Pay special attention to the bottom of the webpages where your information is incorrect. Many of these are local directory sites where you will be able to update the information yourself--but they, in turn, may be getting this misinformation from another source. Good examples of this in SCORE's case were sites like this one for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser — a newspaper that was not even in SCORE's market — which was supplied with data by both Local.com and Acxiom.

In addition to fixing your data on these local directories, you'll want to fix it on sites that supply them with this data. These sites are Acxiom, Infogroup (ExpressUpdateUSA) and Localeze. Together, these are the three most important business data providers to Google, and if you want to update your old information permanently, you'll need to update it at all three of these sites. These companies also feed most major mobile apps like Facebook Nearby, Foursquare, and Apple Maps.

After searching Google and Google Maps, reporting problems directly, and keeping note of all of their erroneous data sources, you'll want to check one more site that Google operates: Google MapMaker. Think of MapMaker as a Wikipedia for locations. Google users from all of the world can add, edit, delete, and consolidate business information using this tool. For the most part, each edit is reviewed by other Google users before it goes live to the public.  

Not many business owners (or even marketers, for that matter) know about MapMaker, but it seems to have become a very important element in Google's business data cluster over the last few years, and it can be very helpful in cleaning up out-of-date information. Remember the "Report a problem" step above? My understanding is that that process actually feeds into the MapMaker community, but I've found that edits requested directly in MapMaker sometimes get processed more quickly than "reported problems."

To request an edit, simply click the "Edit" link under any incorrect listing for your business on MapMaker, update your information, and tell the community why you are asking for a change (i.e. your business has moved!).

Whew! This all seems a little complicated. As I said above, though, keeping track of all of the sites where you're listed incorrectly via an Excel or Google Spreadsheet can make things a lot simpler.  

Most of these major data sources for Google allow you to update information on out-of-date listings by creating a free account. Note: it's important to UPDATE old, out-of-date listings rather than create new ones. Just creating new, correct ones won't make the old, incorrect ones go away. During the course of your research, you may also find some independently-operated sites (such as local libraries or chambers of commerce), where you'll just have to reach out via email or by placing a phone call.

In my spreadsheet, I typically enter the profile page along with username, email address, and password information for each major data source on its own line. I then make a note of the last time I "touched" each listing and any notes that will help me remember special treatment for each.  

It's a best practice to choose a generic email address for your business (something like frontdesk@mybusiness.com) rather than a personal one (doglover@yahoo.com), so that future employees or agencies will be able to log in and update your information without you giving away any personal details.

Frustratingly, even though this is 2013 and this is the INTERNET, it typically takes 2-3 months for all of these updates to flow through the Local Ecosystem. So you may continue to see incorrect information showing up at Google while it assimilates all of these changes. If you've followed the process above, however, you should see a permanent update of your information at Google and other major search engines and mobile apps.

N.B. #1 I realize this guide is U.S.-Centric, and here on the SEOmoz Blog we have many international users. Over the course of the Spring, I'll be releasing Local Search Ecosystems for a number of major search markets around the world, including the UK, Germany, France, Spain, and Brasil. I already released the Canadian Ecosystem last year.  Although the data aggregators that feed Google vary across the world, the same process can be followed in other countries.

N.B. #2 I realize the additional step of querying Google and Google Maps for out-of-date NAP information seems unnecessary and duplicative, given what GetListed.org is designed to do. We are currently working on surfacing this information much more efficiently within the next version of GetListed, so stay tuned!

Fixing bad data across the Local Search ecosystem: The Cliffs Notes Version

1) Search Google.com and Maps.Google.com for your business name and city.
1a) In this era of increasing mobile engagement, you may also want to check Apple Maps or other primary mobile applications.

2) Run an Accuracy Report on GetListed.org for both correct and incorrect information returned by Google.

3) Search Google.com for your incorrect NAP. 

4) From your Google.com searches and GetListed.org Accuracy Report, keep track of major data sources that list your information incorrectly in an Excel or Google Spreadsheet.

5) Search Google Maps for your incorrect NAP and "Report a problem" for any listing that is incorrect. 

6) Visit Infogroup, Localeze, and Acxiom to check for out-of-date information.

7) Create accounts on major search engines and update incorrect listings.

8) Search Google MapMaker for your incorrect NAP.  Make edits as needed for any listing that is incorrect. 

9) Keep track of your accounts and your progress in an Excel or Google Spreadsheet.

Other great resources for helping you move locations digitally

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How Unique Does Content Need to Be to Perform Well in Search Engines? – Whiteboard Friday

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Posted by randfish

We all know that content needs to be unique to rank highly in the SERPs, but how "unique" are we talking? From a content creation perspective, it's imperative to know what duplicate content really means and to understand the implications it can have on SEO.

In this week's Whiteboard Friday, Rand discusses what makes content unique in the eyes of the crawlers, and the bane of duplicate content.

Video Transcription

"Howdy SEOmoz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week I want to take some time to talk about content duplication and content uniqueness, which is very important from an SEO perspective. It can also be important from a content marketing perspective.

For SEO purposes, search engines like to filter out what they view as duplicative content, things that are exactly the same. They never want to show you a set of results where result two, three, four, and five are all exactly the same article or are essentially the same three paragraphs repeated with the same photos embedded in them. It could be that content gets licensed among different parties. News vendors do this a lot. It could be that someone has done some plagiarism and actually stolen a piece. It could just be that someone is posting the same article in several different places on the web that accept content submissions. In any case, the engines are trying to filter this type of behavior out. They don't want to see that content because they know users are made happy by, "If I didn't like this result on this website, chances are I'm not going to like it on result number three on the different website." So they try and filter this stuff out.

From an SEO perspective and for content creators, it's therefore very important to understand, "What does that really mean? What is meant by duplicate content, and how unique do I really need to be?"

The first thing that I always like to talk about when we get into a discussion of content uniqueness is that content, when we talk about the content that the engines are considering for this, we're referring only to the unique material on a page. That excludes navigation, ads, footers, sidebars, etc.

I've got a page mockup over here, and you would exclude all this stuff – the logo, the navigation, the sidebars. Maybe this person is running some ads in the sidebar. Maybe they've got a little piece about themselves, and they've got a bunch of text down the right-hand side. Then they think, "Boy, I only have a couple of lines of text on this page and a photo and maybe a couple of bullet points. Is this unique from these other pages that look exactly the same except they have some different content in the content section?" This is the content. If you're worried that, "Oh no, I think that my pages might be kind of heavy and my content is kind of light," I wouldn't worry too much about that so long as you're doing everything else right. We'll talk about some of those. Number two, uniqueness applies to both internal and external sources. Copying either one can be trouble. It could be that these are other pages on your site and these are other pages somewhere else on the web where this content exists, and you're taking from those and putting those pieces on your site. That can be a problem in either of those cases. Internal duplication, usually engines will try and ignore it if it's small and subtle, just happens here and there. It's like, "Oh, there are four different versions of this page because they've got a print version, a mobile version. Okay. We'll try and canonicalize and figure that out."

You would be wise in these situations to use something like a rel=canonical. Or if you're consolidating pages after a big site move or a re-architecturing, something like that, a 301 is proper. But you should also be aware that this can happen from external stuff.

However, when I say that, what I don't mean to say and what I know a lot of people get confused about in the SEO world is this doesn't mean that you can't take a paragraph from Wikipedia and put it in a bigger article that you're writing, or cite a blogger and include a couple of phrases that they say, or take a piece from New York Magazine or from the Wall Street Journal, from Wired, or wherever you want and take, "Oh hey, I'm going to caption this, and I'm going to have a little clip of it. I'm going to put a video that exists on YouTube already." That's not duplicative so long as you are adding unique value.

Number three, uniqueness alone, some people get lost in the minutiae of the rules around SEO, the rules around search engines and they think, "Well, this content exists nowhere else on the web. So I just took someone else's and I changed all the words." You have technically provided unique content, but you have not provided unique value. Unique value is a very different thing. What I mean when I say "unique value" and what the search engines would like you to do and are building algorithms around is providing value that no other sources, no other sites on the web are specifically providing. That could mean that you take a look at the visitor's intent, the searcher's intent or your customer's intent and you say, "Hey, I'm going to answer each of these things that this person is trying to achieve."

If somebody searches for hotels in Cape Town, South Africa, well they're probably looking for a listing of hotels, but they probably have other intents as well. They might be interested in other stuff related to traveling there. They could be wanting to know things about weather. They could be wanting to know things about neighborhoods where these hotels are located. So providing unique value as opposed to just, "Hey, I'm going to take the content from Expedia's website and then I'm also just going to rewrite the paragraph about the hotels specifically," that's not going to help you. But if you were to do something like what Oyster Hotels does, where they actually send a reporter with a camera, a journalist essentially, to the location, they take tons of their own unique photos, and they write about the weather and the neighborhood and the hotel cleanliness and investigate all these sorts of things and provide true, unique value as well as unique content, now you're hitting on what you need to achieve the uniqueness that search engines are talking about when they talk about unique versus duplicate.

Four, there's this imagination that exists in the minds of folks in the SEO field, and has for a long time, that there must be some mythical percentage. If over here, "Oh, this is 100% duplicate and this is 0% duplicate, 100% unique and this is the 50/50 mark, there must be some imaginary, magical, if I just get to like right here at 41%, that's the number. Therefore I'm going to create a huge website and all my pages just have to hit that 47% mark." That is dead wrong. Just totally wrong. There's nothing like this.

The algorithms that you might imagine are so much more sophisticated than an exact percentile of what is and isn't duplicate, even when it comes to just studying the content in here. That specific percentage doesn't exist. They use such a vast array of inputs. I'll give you some examples.

You can see, for example, that an article that might be published on many different news sites, after it moves out of Google news and into the Google main index, sometimes duplicates will appear, and oftentimes those duplicates are the ones that are the most linked to, the ones that have lots of comments on them, the ones that have been socially shared quite a bit, or where Google has seen user usage data behaviors or previous behaviors on those sites that suggests that each site provides some sort of unique value, even if the content is exactly the same.

Like Bloomberg and Business Week are constantly producing the same articles. Business Insider will produce articles from all over the place. Huffington Post will take articles from places that writers submit, and it'll be published in different places. People will publish on one site, and then they'll publish privately on their own blog. Sometimes Google will list both, sometimes they won't. It's not about a percentage. It's about the unique value that's provided, and it's about a very sophisticated algorithm that considers lots of other features.

If you are in a space where you're competing with other people who are posting the same content, think about unique value and think about getting the user usage data, the branding, the social shares, the links, all of those things will be taken into consideration when it comes to, "Are we going to rank your site or this other site that's licensing your content or from whom you are licensing content?" Domain authority can play a big role in there.

The last thing I want to mention is that duplicate and low value content, because of Google's Panda update from 2011, Panda means that low quality content, duplicative content that exists on one part of your site can actually harm your overall site. I'd be very cautious if you're thinking, "Hey, let's produce an article section on our site that's just these 5,000 articles that we licensed from this other place or that we're copying from someone's blog. We might not get much SEO value from it, but we will get a little bit of extra search engine traffic." In fact, that can hurt you because as the Panda algorithm runs its course and sees, "Boy, this site looks like it copied some stuff," they might hurt your rankings in other places.

Google's been very specific about this, that duplicate, low quality content in one area can harm you across your entire site. Be mindful of that. If you're nervous about it, you can robot.txt that stuff out so engines don't crawl it. You can rel=canonical it back up to a category page. You could even not include that in search engines. Use the disallow meta noindex, or you could do it inside your Google Webmaster Tools, disallow crawling of those pages. These are all options for that kind of stuff.

All right everyone. Hope you've enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday and you'll go out there and create some unique and uniquely valuable content, and we'll see you again next week. Take care."

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog

How To Start You Own Search Marketing Business

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Start your own business

Had enough of the day job?

A common new years resolution is “quit the rat race and be your own boss”. In this article we’ll take a look at what is involved in starting up your own search marketing business, the opportunities you could grab, and the pitfalls you should avoid.

But first , why are people leaving SEO?

Is SEO Dead?

There’s no question Google makes life difficult for SEOs. Between rolling Pandas, Top Heavies, Penquins, Pirates, EMDs and whatever updates and filters they come up with next, the job of the SEO isn’t easy. SEO is a fast moving, challenging environment.

In the face of such challenges, many SEOs have given up and moved on. Here’s a rather eloquent take on some reasons why.

It’s true that SEO isn’t as easy as it once was. You used to be able to follow a script: incorporate this title tag, put this keyword on your page, repeat it a few times, get links with the keyword in the link text, get even more links with keywords in the link text, and when you’ve finished doing that – get a lot more links with keywords in the link text.

A top ten position was likely yours!

Try that script in 2013, and…..your mileage may vary.

There are plenty of examples of sites that follow Google’s exhaustive rules and get absolutely nowhere.

But let’s say you’ve figured out how to rank well. Your skills are valuable, because top ten rankings are valuable. Another bonus, given Google is making life more difficult, is that it creates a barrier to entry. There will be less threat from newcomers who have just bought a book on How To SEO.

For those with the skills, the outlook remains positive.

Many in the industry are reporting skills shortages:

We do struggle to fill some of our positions, with SEO being a particularly tough one to find good people that have relevant experience,” said Chris Johnson, CEO of Terralever in Tempe.
Consultants in SEO and marketing in general have seen a huge uptick in job openings in the past few years. An October study by CNNMoney and PayScale.com place marketing consultants, which include SEO specialists, as the second-best positions in the U.S. based on pay and industry growth. According to the survey, they comprise more than 282,000 jobs with a 41.2 percent growth rate over the past 10 years.

SEMPOs 2012 report projects the search industry to grow to 26.8 billion in 2013, up from 22.9 billion in 2011.

So, the demand is escalating, SEO/SEM is getting more challenging, yet more people than ever seem to be throwing in the towel.

The nature of SEO is changing. Trends for 2013 – which are also highlighted in the SEMPO report – show that whilst lead generation and traffic acquisition are still favoured, areas such as brand awareness and reputation management are on the rise:

Survey responses show a drop in the blunt objective of driving traffic, but it remains a key goal for search engine optimization (SEO). Perhaps more interesting is the doubled number of agencies citing brand/reputation as a goal, up from 5% in 2011 to over 11% in this year’s survey

These might be niche areas worth exploring.

One sad trend is that the small business owner is being squeezed out. SEO used to be a way for small business to out-compete big brands, but that door is being closed.

What can we learn from all this?

SEO for the larger businesses appears to be where the game is moving. The advantages of business scale and brand reputation in the search engine results pages are not to be underestimated.

The SEO approach for smaller businesses needs to be about a lot more than just SEO, it needs to be more about SEM – with strong emphasis on the “M” (arketing) in order to avoid the fate outlined in the link above. Google looks deficient if people can’t find the big brand names, but few will notice if a small, generic operator falls out of the index as another relative unknown will take their place.

Of course, gaps in the algorithms will always exist, and this is the territory of aggressive SEO, but this is getting increasingly difficult to apply to legitimate sites that can’t afford to burn and replace sites.

The SEO these days needs to think about the fundamental value that SEO has always delivered – qualified prospects, leads, and positioning in the buyers minds. That might mean approaching what was once a technical exercise from a more holistic marketing angle.

Why Work In Search?

Search remains a very interesting business.

John Wanamaker, a merchant in the 1860’s was quoted as saying “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half!”. I think he would have liked the search marketing business, as it allows you to do three very important things: get inside the mind of the customer, only talk to the people who are interested in what you offer and track what they do next.

Using search, you know where 100% of your budget is going. It won’t be wasted so long as you target correctly. Targeting is what search marketing does so well. If you enjoy figuring out what people want, matching them up with a page that allows them to do that thing, and beat your competition at doing so, then search marketing is a good game to be in. Whether you do that using SEO, PPC, social media, or likely a mix of all three, the demand for qualified visitors will always exist.

The next question is whether you want to do it for someone else, or do it for yourself. There are obviously pluses and minuses for both options, so let’s compare them.

Work For Someone Else Or Work For yourself?

Some people feel frustrated working for someone else and not being the master of your own destiny, especially if the boss is an idiot. Then again, some people like the routine and predictability of working for others, and they might be lucky enough to have a great boss who nurtures and respects them.

So, what type of person are you?

If you like a regular routine, regular hours, and task specialization, then looking for a SEM job within an established search marketing firm might be the way to go. If you prefer a high degree of control, variety and the knowledge that all the rewards will flow to you for the successful work you undertake, then starting your own business might be a good way forward.

Only you know for sure, but it pays to spend a bit of time taking a good look at yourself, your existing skills and what you really like doing before you decide if “working for someone else” or “working for yourself” is the right answer.

You should also establish your goals.

Be specific. If your reward is monetary, set a measurable goal i.e. I want to make $ X per month in the first year, $ X per month in the second, and $ X per month in the third. Being specific about measurable goals will help you construct a viable business plan, which I’ll cover shortly.

Your goals need not be monetary. It could be argued the greatest rewards from a job or business aren’t monetary reward, but the satisfaction you derive from the work.

When it comes to working for yourself, it’s hard to underestimate the freedom of picking your own areas of working to your own timetable. These are real benefits. If your goals align more closely with a job i.e. a regular income and a regular time schedule, then you might decide that getting a job with an employer will suit you best. If you value autonomy, then running your own business might suit you better.

Split your goals into short term, medium term and long term. Where do you see yourself in five years time? How about this time next year? In the case of search marketing, who knows if it will be around in five years time, and if so, in what form?

Your one year plan might be focused on SEO, but your five year plan might be to provide the very same things SEO provides today – qualified visitor traffic – no matter what form the source of that traffic will take in five years time. The value proposition to the client, will be much the same. So, your five year plan might include learning about general marketing concepts and studying new digital marketing channels as they arise.

Being clear about what you like doing and your objectives will make your decision about whether to get a job or strike out on your own much easier.

Another way to think about it is to consider doing search marketing part time, at first. It may prove to be a lucrative second income if you already have a job. One of the biggest factors in running your own business is the risk, and having a steady income reduces this risk significantly. It also means you can start slow and build up without the pressure of having to hit regular targets. The disadvantage is that you don’t have as much time to devote to it, and working two jobs might tire you out to the point you’re not doing both well. You’re also unlikely to be available to clients during business hours when they need you.

Of course, be careful not to compete with your existing employer and check out the non-compete clauses in your contract.

Another thing to think about if you’re cash rich but time poor, especially with many people leaving the SEO game, is to buy an existing SEO business. You’re buying existing contracts and/or a client list, and you may be able to pick up some skilled employees, too. Buying a business is a topic in itself and outside the scope of this article, however it’s an avenue to think about especially if you are capital rich and time poor. You may be able to manage such a business part time, as you have less pressure to develop new business from scratch and the existing employees can handle the work at the coal face and deal with clients during the day.

Business Plan

Few business plans ever survive contact with the real world as the real world is constantly moving.

But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write one.

It’s essential to have a plan, just as you need directions to get to a travel destination. You could wing it without a map, and you might arrive in your destination, but chances are you won’t. You’ll most likely get lost. A business plan helps you assess where you are, and remind you where you’re going.

Having said that, a business plan is always subject to change, because as you encounter the real world – the rapidly fluctuating market – you will start to see opportunities and pitfalls you could never see whilst you were creating an abstract plan in your head. The plan needs to change with you, not lock you into a rigid framework. Treat it as a living document subject to change.

Entire books have been written about business plans, but unless you’re chasing bank financing and/or need to present formally to an external agency, it pays to keep business plans brief, clear and simple.

Crafting a business plan also enforces an intellectual rigour that will help test and challenge your ideas. In crafting your business plan, various questions will occur to you. How many clients do you need to get in order to meet your financial goals? How many staff members can you afford based on those goals? If you allocate all your time to existing clients, how will have time to acquire new clients? Do you have a marketing budget to get new clients?

These type of questions are addressed by the business plan.

A typical business plan covers the following:

  • Business Concept – describes what the business will do, discusses the search marketing industry in general, and shows how you’ll make the business work.
  • The Market – identifies your likely customers, and your competitors. Explains how you’ll get these customers, and how you’ll beat the existing competition.
  • Finances – shows how much it will cost to do what you plan to do, and how much money you plan to make from doing it.

Break these sections down as follows:

1. Introduction

What is your current position? What is your background? What is the purpose of your business? What is your competitive advantage? Who are your competitors? How will you exploit their weaknesses, and counter their strengths? How will you increase capability and capacity? How do you plan to grow?

Describe the search marketing industry. If you’re unaware of the trends, refer to industry reports from the likes of SEMPO, Market Research.com and Nielsen.

Identify your target market and show how you will reach them. Describe what your search marketing service will do and highlight any areas where you have a clear advantage over competitors.

2. Business Strategy

Define the market you’re targeting. How big is it? What are the growth prospects? What is the market potential? How does your business fit into this market? What are your sales goals? What is your unique selling proposition?

Be specific about your objectives and goals i.e. make $ x profit in the first year, as opposed to “be profitable”. They must be measurable, so you can see exactly how you’re doing.

Outline your pricing strategy. Here are a few ideas on how to price without engaging in a race to the bottom. Outline how you’re going to sell. What sort of advertising and marketing will you do? Outline your core values. What do you believe? What are your principles? Outline the factors most critical to your success. What are the things you must do in order to succeed?

3. Marketing

Prepare a brief SWOT analysis. It sounds convoluted, but SWOT simply means strengths, Weaknesses,Opportunities, and Threats in terms of marketing.

Include any Market research you have done. Outline your distribution channels. Outline any strategic alliances you have. Outline your promotion plan. Prepare a Marketing budget. How will you appear credible in the eyes of your target market?

4. Management Structure

Who is involved and what are their skills? Do you plan to hire more staff? At what milestones? What plans do you have for training and retention? You need not solve this problem in house, of course. Your plan could involve using contractors as and when required.

Who are your advisors? i.e. your accountant, lawyer, mentor and financial planner, if applicable. This section is especially important if you’re seeking financing as banks will want to see that you’re operating with professional guidance.

Describe any staff management systems you plan to implement.

5. Financial Budgets And Forecasts

Ideally, you should include:


These can be hard to estimate, so calculate a best case scenario, a worst case scenario, and something in the middle. This gives you a range to think about, and how you might deal with various outcomes should they arise.

Cashflow is by far the most important consideration. You can have customers lined up, they are buying what you have, they are placing more orders, but if you can’t meet your bills, then your business will crash. Consider what line of credit you may need in order to maintain cashflow.

6. Summary

Restate the main aspects of your plan, highlighting where you are now and where you’re going to take the business. As business plans are always up for review, make a note of when you’ll review it next.

You might think a business plan is tedious and not worth the effort. However, it can save you a lot of time, effort and money if it shows you that your business won’t fly. It’s great to model a business on paper before you sink real money into it as there is no risk at this point, yet it will be clear from the business plan if the business has a chance of making money and growing. If the numbers don’t add up on the plan, they won’t do so in real life, either.

Branding

Your good name.

It’s worth spending time and possibly money investing in a great name as you’ll likely live and breathe it for the lifetime of the business

What do you want people to think of when they think of your company? Your name must create an immediate impression.

One of the problems with a crowded industry, like search marketing, is that generic, descriptive names won’t stand out. “Search Marketing Agency” may describe what you do, but such a name makes it difficult to differentiate yourself. A quirky name, like “RedFrog”, make be memorable, but may do little to convey what you’re about.

You’ll also need a name that doesn’t stomp on anyone else’s registered trademark, else you’ll likely get into legal trouble. It also helps if the exact match domain name is available. If you get stuck, there are plenty of branding experts who can help you out, although they do tend to be expensive.

Keep in mind that is easy to rank for a unique brand name. If it’s unique, it tends to be memorable. So my two cents for anyone in a crowded industry is to go for the unique over the generic and descriptive. You can also tack on a byline to the end of your name to remove any uncertainty.

And get a great logo! Check out 99designs. Keep in mind that a logo should work for both on-screen color display and print, which might be in black and white.

Search Business Models

There are a few different search marketing models on which to base a business.

The Consultant

Perhaps the most obvious search marketing model is that of the consultant whereby you help other businesses with their search marketing efforts. Think about the demand for external consultants and where that demand may come from.

Large companies tend to want to deal with large agencies. Large companies may have their own internal search team. There comes a point where it is cheaper to hire someone full time that hire an external consultant, and that point is the average full time salary plus employment costs.

Larger companies will hire one-man bands or small consultancies if they need what you have and what you have is difficult for them to get elsewhere. A lot of search marketing consultants won’t fill this brief, although some are brought in to help train and mentor their internal search teams.

A lot of the demand for external consultants comes from smaller businesses who don’t have the expertise in house and their low level usage of search marketing wouldn’t make it financially viable.

One of the great upsides of the consultancy model is you get to see how other people run their businesses.

Affiliate/Display Advertiser

The affiliate positions a site in the top ten results, gathers leads and traffic, and then sells them to someone else. The display advertiser publishes content in order to provide space for advertising, and typically makes money on the click-thrus.

Keep in mind that the competition can be fierce as any lucrative niche will likely already have many competitors. Also keep in mind that Google is likely gunning for you, as there have been clampdowns on thin-affiliates in recent years i.e. affiliates who don’t provide a great deal of unique and useful content.

The downside is that unless you’re diversified, your income could dry up overnight if Google decides to flick their tail in your direction. And to be truly diversified, you need diversification across markets AND strategies. Without that, there is a good chance you’ll then have to start from scratch at some point. Algorithm shifts tend to be great for consultants with deeper levels of client engagement, as the change can create new demand for their consultancy services. For consultants who sell low margin consulting across a large number of clients, the algorithmic updates can actually be worse than they are for affiliates, because you may suddenly have a lot of angry customers all at once & unlike an affiliate who prioritizes a couple key projects while ignoring many others, it is not practical to ignore most clients when things go astray. To each & every client their project is the most important thing you are working on, & rightfully so.

Some search marketers mix up their affiliate with consulting to even out the risk, provide greater variety, and deal with the inevitable slack that comes with many consulting-based business models.

Tools Vendor

There is a huge community of search professionals. They need software tools, data, advice and other services. Obviously, SEOBook follows a hybrid of this model. We provide premium tools, while also engaging in consulting through our community forums. Those who don’t value their time are not a good fit. But those who do value their time can get a lot out of the community in short order, without the noise that dominates so many other forums. The barrier to entry is a feature which guarantees that the members are either a) already successful, or b) deeply understand the value of SEO, which in turn increases the level of discourse.

Think about areas that are a pain for you in your current search marketing work. These areas are likely a pain for other people, too. If you can make these pain points easier, then that is worth money. The search community tends to be generous about getting the word out when truly useful tools and services spring up. The hard part is when more service providers enter a niche it becomes harder to maintain a sustained advantage in your feature set. As that happens, you need to focus on points of differentiation in your marketing strategy.

Integrated Model

A lot of SEOs/SEMs do a mix of work.

PPC and SEO fit quite nicely together. It’s all search traffic. The skills are pretty similar in terms of choosing keywords and tracking performance. They differ in terms of technical execution.

Affiliate and display advertising can balance out client work, providing income from a variety of different sources, which lowers risk.

The main benefit of an integrated model is you get to see a lot of different areas. Many people in the search industry talk the talk, but if their primary purpose is to sell, they’re less likely to have the chops. If you’ve got your own sites, and you win/lose based on how well they do, then you’ll likely have an understanding of algorithms that a lot of sales-oriented talking heads will never have. The downside is that you might spread yourself too thin over a number of projects, and thus become a master of none.

Clearly Defined Niche

The trick with any of these approaches is to find a niche, preferably one that is growing quickly. Okay, the SEO consultant market is swamped due to low barriers to entry, but perhaps the SEO provider market in your home town isn’t.

Perhaps there are web design companies who can’t afford a full time SEO, but would like to offer the service to their clients. Get three or four of these agencies as “clients” and you’ll likely create one full time job for yourself. This is a particularly good model if you don’t like sales, or don’t have time to do a lot of sales work. The design agency will do the selling for you, and they already have a customer base to whom they can sell.

Design agencies often like such arrangements because they get to add an additional service without having the overhead of another staff member. They also get to click the ticket on your services. Your billing is also more streamlined, as you’re likely be billing the agency itself.

Be very specific when choosing a niche. Who would you really like to work for? What, specifically, would you really like to do? “Search marketing” is perhaps a too wide of a niche these days, but how about exclusive search marketing for tourism businesses?

It doesn’t pay to try and be all things to all people, especially when you’re a small operation. In fact, the advantage of being small is that you can target very specific areas that aren’t viable for bigger marketing companies who run high overheads. Consider your own interests and hobbies and see if there’s a fit. Do companies in your area of interest do their search marketing well? If not, you’ve got a huge advantage pitching to them as you already speak their language.

Keep the customer firmly in mind. What problem do they have that they desperately need solving? Perhaps the restaurant doesn’t really need their website ranking well, but they do need more people phoning up and making a reservation. So how about running a restaurant reservation site in your town, using SEO and PPC to drive leads, providing customers copies of each restaurant’s menu? Charge the restaurant for placement and/or on leads delivered basis.

Trip Advisor started with a similar idea.

Doing The Deals

One of the biggest transitions from a regular job to running your own business, if you’re not used to working in sales, is that you will need to negotiate deals. Those working 9-5, especially in technical roles, don’t tend to negotiate directly, at least not with prospective clients and suppliers.

Negotiation is a game. The buyer is trying to get the best price out of you, and you’re trying to land more business.

Possibly the single most important thing to understand about negotiating is that negotiations should be win-win ie. both sides need to get something out of it and not feel cheated. This is especially important in search marketing consulting as you’ll be working with your clients over a period of time and you need them on your side in order to make the changes necessary.

It’s easy to assume the buyer has all the power, but this isn’t true. If they’re talking to you, they have already indicated they want what you have. You are offering something that grows their business.

However, you need to understand your relative positions in order to negotiate well. If you’re offering a generic search marketing service and there are ten other similar providers bidding for the job, then your position is likely very weak unless you’re the preferred supplier. Personally, I’d avoid any bidding situation where I’m not the preferred supplier.

This is where niche identification is important. If you have clearly identified a niche in which there isn’t a great deal of competition, you have a clearly articulated unique selling point and you know what buyers want, then your position in negotiation is stronger. This is why it’s important to have addressed these aspects in your business plan. Failure to do so means you’re very vulnerable on price, because if you’re up against very similar competitors, then your last resort is to undercut them.

Price cutting is not the way to run a sustainable business, unless you’re operating a WalMart style model at scale.

You need to set a clear bottom line and walk away if you don’t get it. This can be very difficult to do, especially if you’re just starting out. The exception is if you’re simply trying to get a few names and references on your books, and don’t care so much about the price at this point. In this case, you should always price high but say you’re offering a special discount at this point in time. Failure to do so means they’ll just perceive you as being cheap all the time.

Start any negotiation by letting the customer state what they want. then you state what you want. If you both agree, great! Win-win. Chances are, however, you’ll agree on some points, and disagree on others. Fine. Those points you agree on are put off to one side, and you’re focus on trying to find win-win positions on the points you disagree with. Keep going until you find a package that both meets you needs.

Summary

Starting your own business is a thrill. It’s liberating. However, in order for it to work, you must approach it with the same rigor and planning you do with your search marketing campaigns. Keep in mind you’re swapping one boss for many bosses.

Perhaps the best piece of advice is to dive in. A lot about running your own business isn’t knowable until you do it. so if one of your new years resolutions was to quit the day job and strike out on your own, then go for it!

Best of luck, and I hope this article has given you a few useful ideas:)

Categories: 

SEO Book.com

The Search Power Of Brand

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In that past, we’ve talked a lot about Google’s brand bias, but no matter how a brand is defined in technical terms, the reality is that Google cannot leave popular brand sites out of the search results.

If a person searches for, say, AVIS, and doesn’t see AVIS in the top spot, then as far as the searcher is concerned, Google is broken. If a person searches for various car rental terms and does not see AVIS somewhere, then it’s also likely they’ll expect Google is broken.

Google isn’t perceived as broken, however, if car-rental-cars-online.com is nowhere to be seen. Some might argue Google is doing the searcher a favour by ignoring such a site.

Crowded Planet

There was a time on the web when relevant information was harder to come by. Not so now. Now, we have too much information. We don’t even know how big the internet is. They’re guessing two trillion pages. And counting.

So, the real competition is clutter.

The real opportunity is to find clear space amongst the throng.

One way to do that is by developing a clear brand identity.

What Is A Brand

A logo? A set of graphics? A catchy name?

Not really.

Plenty of companies have logos, graphics and a catchy name but they do not have strong brand identities. A brand is largely about how other people define you. They define you based on the experience they have when engaging with you.

For example, take Apple. How would you define their brand? The logo? The shops? The fonts they use in their advertising?

These aspects are not Apple’s brand. Apple’s brand is in the way Apple’s customers feel about Apple. It’s a feeling tied up with concepts such fashion, design, innovation and quality – and unique to Apple.

This feeling creates a clear identity in the mind of the customer.

Having a clear identity makes you memorable. People will remember your site name. People will search for your site name. And when enough people do that, then there is little chance Google can ever drop you below number #1 for brand searches. If you get it right, Google will even rank you against relevant related keywords you aren’t targeting.

Because Google would look broken if it didn’t feature you.

Tooting our own horn here, but if you typed “seo book” into Google, and didn’t see this site, you’d think Google was broken. There are plenty of books on SEO, but only one “seo book” that owns a clear brand identity in this space. And SEO Book gets plenty of traffic from other search search related terms that it does not target, because Google associates the site so strongly with the “SEO education” niche. The people who search on SEO queries click on this site, and once they arrive, they don’t click back too often.

Own Your Space

Any company, no matter how small, can develop unique brands and build their own brand related search stream, and associated searches, over time.

If you run a small company, do you occupy clear space? By clear space, think focused, unique selling proposition. What is the thing you offer that others do not? If other people offer what you do, then what is the thing you do better? How do people describe you? Can they reduce it to an elevator pitch? Is what you offer focused, or confused?

It’s about more than providing something a bit unique. In a cluttered environment, like the web, it’s about creating something genuinely different. Probably radically different, given the high level of noise in the search results.

Once you have your differentiation down you can then advertise it, which creates further brand awareness: “High dwell campaigns are three times more efficient at stimulating branded search.”

This makes for a more defensible search marketing strategy, because it’s difficult for generic competition to emulate you once you’ve carved out a clear identity. It’s not about offering more features. Or a lower price. Those things are details. It’s about crafting a unique identity that others will know you by. Focus on the parts of your business that really make the money, and considering orienting your entire identity around that one aspect.

The problem with not having a clear identity and point of difference, when it comes to SEO, is that it is a constant battle to maintain position. Google can easily flush all the me-too sites that chase generic keywords and Google’s users aren’t going to complain. The sites with unique identities don’t have to spend near as much time, energy and money maintaining rank.

But hang on, doesn’t this go against everything SEO is about?

There’s nothing wrong with chasing generic terms. It’s a completely valid strategy. However, if we’re in it for the long haul, we should also make an effort to develop a clear, differentiated brand. It means we can own our space in the search results, no matter how Google changes in future.

Look at Trip Advisor. Google may be gunning for the travel space with their own content acquisitions, but they’re going to look deficient if they don’t display TripAdvisor. They are going to look deficient if they don’t show Trip Advisor when people are looking for just about any travel review queries, whether Trip Advisor is targeting them or not, because Trip Advisor are synonymous with travel reviews. By not featuring Trip Advisor, Google would merely encourage more people to by-pass Google and search Trip Advisor directly.

That’s a powerful place to be.

Not everyone can dominate the travel space like Trip Advisor, of course. But it is worth noting that Trip Advisor started small & the principle is the same, no matter what the niche. It’s about becoming the most memorable site in your niche. No matter if it’s poggo sticks for one legged dogs, then be the go-to site for poggo sticks for one legged dogs. Eventually, word gets around, and such a site become synonymous with poggo sticks for one legged dogs, and associated terms, whether they optimize for related terms, or not.

Google will associate keywords with this site in order to deliver a relevant result, and if this site owns the “poggo sticks for one legged dogs” niche, then their SEO workload is greatly reduced.

Are They Talking About You?

Your brand should be something people will talk about. Where are all the links coming from these days? Social networks. Google pays attention to social signals – tweets, Facebook, Google+ and other social links – because that is the way many links occur. They are markers of attention, and Google will always look for markers of attention.

And as their audiences click through to you, Google gets valuable signals about your relevance to entire groups of people. You can be sure Google is grouping these people by interest – creating demographic profiles – and if your site interests a certain group, then this will flow through into searches made by these groups. Google can also tie many of these users back to their identities by using persistent cookies & Google+.

That’s the way it’s going. SEO, and wider marketing and brand strategy, will all meld together.

Categories: 

SEO Book.com

Pitching Search Marketing In Traditional Marketing Terms

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For those selling search marketing to customers, especially those customers new to the concept of search marketing, it’s often useful to pitch search marketing services in terms the customer already understands.

A lot search marketing theory and practice is borrowed and adapted from direct marketing. Direct marketing concepts have been around since the 60s, and may be more readily understood by some customers than some of the arcane terminology sometimes associated with SEO/SEM.

Here are some ideas on how to link search marketing and direct marketing concepts.

1. Targeting & Segmentation

A central theme of direct marketing is targeting.

On broadcast television, advertisers show the one advertisement to many people, and hope it will be relevant to a small fraction of that audience. Most television advertising messages are wasted on people who aren’t interested in those messages. It’s a scattergun, largely untargeted approach.

Search marketing, a form of direct marketing, is targeted. Search marketers target their audience based on the specific keywords the audience use.

Search marketing is concerned with the most likely prospects – a small fraction of the total audience. Further, if we analyse the visitor behavior of people using specific keyword terms post-click, we can find out who are the hottest prospects amongst that narrowly defined group.

The widely accepted 20-80 rule says that 20% of your customers create 80% of your business. An example might be “luxury vacations France”, as opposed to “vacations France”. If we have higher margins on luxury travel, then segmenting to focus on the frequent luxury travel buyer, as opposed to a less frequent economy buyer whom we still might sell to, but at lower margins, might be more in line with business objectives. Defining, and refining, keyword terms can help us segment the target market.

2. Focus

Once you get a search visitor to your site, what happens next?

They start reading. Such a specific audience requires focused, detailed information, and a *lot* of it, or they will click back.

It is a mistake to pitch to an “average” audience at this point i.e. to lose focus. If we’ve done our job correctly, and segmented our visitors using specific keyword terms, we already know they are interested in what we offer.

To use our travel example above, the visitor who typed in “luxury vacations in France” wants to hear all about luxury vacations in France. They are unlikely to want a pitch about how wonderful France, as a country, is, as the keyword term suggests they’ve already made their mind up about destination. Therefore, a simplistic, generalized message selling French tourism is less likely to work.

Genuine buyers – who will spend thousands on such vacations – will want a lot of detail about luxury travel in France, as this is unlikely to be a trivial purchase they make often. That generally means offering long, detailed articles, not short ones. It means many options, not few. It means focusing on luxury travel, and not general travel.

Simple, but many marketers get this wrong. They go for the click, but don’t focus enough on the level of detail required by hot prospects i.e. someone most likely to buy.

3. Engagement

One advantage of the web is that we can spend a lot of time getting a message across once a hot prospect has landed on a site. This is not the case on radio. Radio placements only have seconds to get the message across. Likewise, television slots are commonly measured in 15 and 30 second blocks.

On the web, we can engage a visitor for long periods of time. The message becomes as long as the customer is prepared to hear it.

4. Personalized

The keyword tells you a lot about visitor intent. “Luxury travel France” is a highly targeted term that suggests a lot about the visitor i.e. their level of spend and tastes. If we build keyword lists and themes associated with this term, we can personalize the sales message using various landing pages that talk specifically to the needs of the visitor. Examples might include “Five Star Hotels”, “Luxury Car Hire”, “Best Restaurants In Paris”, and so on. Each time they click a link, or reveal a bit more about themselves,we can start to personalize the message. Personalized marketing works well because the message is something the prospect is willing to hear. It’s specifically about them.

We can personalize the journey through the site, configuring customized pathways so we can market one-to-one. We see this at work on Amazon.com. Amazon notes your search and order history and prompts you with suggestions based on that history. One-to-many marketing approaches, as used in newspapers, on radio and on television typically aren’t focused and lack personalization. They may work well for products with broad appeal, but work less well for defined niches.

5. Active Response

We’re not just interested in views, impressions, or reach. We want the visitor to actively respond. We want them to take a desired, measurable action. This may involve filling out a form, using a coupon, giving us an email address, and/or making a purchase.

Active response helps make search marketing spends directly accountable and measurable.

6. Accountable

People either visit via a search term, or they don’t.

Whilst there can be some advantage in brand awareness i.e. a PPC ad that appears high on the page, but is only clicked a fraction of the time, the real value is in the click-thru. This is, of course, measurable, as the activity will show up in the site statistics, and can be traced back to the originating search engine.

Compare this with radio, television or print. It’s difficult to know where the customer came from, as their interaction may be difficult to link back to the advertising campaign.

Search marketing is also immediately measurable.

7. Testable

Some keyword terms work, some do not. Some keyword terms only work when combined with landing page X, but not landing page Y. By “work” we tend to mean “achieves a measurable business outcome”.

Different combinations can be tried and compared against one another. Keywords can be tested using PPC. Once we’ve determined what the most effective keywords are in terms of achieving measurable business outcomes, we can flow these through to our SEO campaign. We can do the reverse, too. Use terms that work in our SEO campaigns to underpin our PPC campaigns.

This process is measureable, repeatable and ongoing. Language has near infinite variety. There are many different ways to describe things, and the landing pages can be configured and written in near infinite ways, too. We track using software tools to help determine patterns of behaviour, so we can keep feeding this back into our strategy in order to refine and optimize. We broaden keyword research in order to capture the significant percentage of search phrases that are unique.

Further Reading:

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SEO Book.com

2012 Search Marketing Year in Review

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2012 Search Marketing Year in Review was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

2012 was an eventful year in search marketing — we laughed, we cried (some of us more than others when Penguin hit). But we made it. And we even survived an apocalypse. Each month here at Bruce Clay, Inc., we bring to you an industry newsletter that dives into the issues that matter to marketers  (Did you know that? Have you signed up?). Looking back on newsletter editions in 2012, we can see some of the events that shaped the year in search marketing. The following is a culmination of some of our most popular reading in the SEO Newsletter this year, starting with some big Google-focused events.

Google Algorithm Issues 2012

Woman Pruning a Tree

Did you have to take up link pruning as a new hobby after Google’s Penguin hit?

In April 2012, Google made some big changes to its algorithm, and sites with if-y link practices were hit the hardest. That sent site owners into a tailspin — many not knowing how to recover from the penalties and loss of rankings. Bruce Clay, Inc. knew that cleaning up a site’s link profile, including “pruning” the inbound links was the way to help sites get back on the right path. In this step-by-step guide to link pruning back in May 2012, we showed you how to understand your link profile, identify the links you should be removing and how to handle removal requests. Since the article was written, Google gave webmasters some help getting rid of links as a last resort with the Link Disavow tool.

Related Topics – The Google Saga Continues

Back in April, Bruce Clay weighed in on the whole Google over-optimization issue (more on that to the right), including:

  • What to watch out for when evaluating the long-term security of your SEO strategy.
  • Possible technologies Google is using to detect over-optimization.
  • Potential motivation for Google’s reinvigorated offense, including the future face of search results.
Warning Symbol
It was a lively time for search back towards the beginning of 2012. Google Webmaster Tools was sending warning messages left and right to webmasters. Matt Cutts *mentioned” something about an algo update to target aggressive SEO at SXSW in February. And what happened next was a panic over what many were calling an “over-optimization penalty.” In this article by  Bruce Clay Australia, we looked at over-optimization and unnatural linking.
Woman Standing Next to ChalkboardIs your site worthy of rankings? This is the question many site owners and marketers ask every day — especially in the light of Google’s crackdown in 2012. In this article on algorithm-proof SEO, we explored an approach to SEO that can help you avoid disastrous consequences of algorithm updates and keep your site healthy. Letter Grade Drawn on a ChalkboardIt’s been known for some time that Google has a method for rating the quality of a site, but just how they do it has been somewhat of a mystery. Enter Google’s leaked quality rating manual for its human raters. The good news? It confirms what many marketers already suspected about what Google believes is quality.

 

Data and Tools in 2012

Caveman with a White Board

Did you practice “caveman analytics” in 2012? We learned tips from author and speaker Matt Bailey on how to get the most from the data available.

What were people talking about in the way of data and tools to help add context to our decisions in search marketing in 2012? Here we look at some of our more popular reads on reporting, including the launch of Google’s social reports in analytics; an interview with author and speaker Matt Bailey on context in data and asking the right questions; and how to mine data for SEO with BCI’s SEOToolSet.
Typewriter Report

Earlier in the year, Google released social reporting in its analytics tool. In this article, we explored how to find and read social reports.

Laptop and Magnifying Glass

Do you know how to get the most out of your data? This article about our SEOToolSet aimed to help marketers understand data that’s available for wiser decisions within SEO strategy.

 

Ecommerce, Mobile and Social

In 2012, Google’s Search Plus Your World (and the rise of Google Plus) was all the buzz. People wondered once again if it “killed SEO” (the running joke amongst search marketers who’ve heard this question one too many times). There was also a continued emphasis on the need for responsive design for mobile as Google announced official guidelines for mobile optimization. And an evergreen topic that’s always interesting to readers: how site navigation and information architecture work together to create a great ecommerce and shopping experience. These are just some of the more popular articles on the topics of mobile, social and ecommerce in 2012.
Baby and Cell Phone

Back in June, Google announced guidelines for optimizing mobile-ready sites. Bruce Clay Australia dives into this topic.

Magnet with Money

What’s the best way to design navigation for ecommerce sites? Bruce Clay India looked into sites that hit the mark.

Mouse Icon Over a Button with a Questions Mark

What is Google’s “Search, plus Your World”? And how does Google+ factor into it? In this article, we explored how the new search functionality works.

 

SEO Factors and Trends Report

Bruce Clay Australia put out a report at the head of the new year that talked trends over 2011 and predictions for SEO and other search marketing disciplines in 2012. You can download the report to see what transpired over 2011, and how different or the same it was to this year. And check out some highlights below …

Search Engine Optimization on a Chalkboard

Just some of the highlights from the report on search marketing in 2011 included:

  • A smarter Web, tailoring content to individual users.
  • The rise of Google+ and big changes to Facebook.
  • The continued importance of White Hat SEO.

2012 predictions included a focus on the user:

  • Serve them awesome content regularly.
  • Increase the number of touch points with them by integrating with social platforms.
  • Spend time creating advanced, cross-platform user-engagement strategies.
  • Allow them access to your information wherever they are through mobile sites and apps.
  • Make their lives easier by facilitating their access to your information, products and services.
  • Reinforce your local presence and geo-location services.

Hope you enjoyed this 2012 recap of search marketing hot topics. See you in 2013 for another lively year. My prediction? There won’t ever be a dull moment.

And if you’re interested in Bruce Clay’s predictions for the state of search, stay tuned for the January edition of the SEO Newsletter, set to hit mid-January.

Bruce Clay Blog

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