Archive for the ‘Google’ Category

Search + Social: Why Reviews Matter

Monday, October 21st, 2013

Testimonials and Recommendations matter!

This is simply a fact for any business be it word of mouth or online reviews. Personal recommendations are extremely powerful with regard to growing your business and bringing in new clients and patients. Are people leaving your business positive reviews? Do enough people look closely at what is said in reviews to help your online business grow?

The Role of Online Reviews

google-local-denver-dentistOnline review sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, Google Places, and Bing Local give people fast access to location facts and ratings for local neighborhood businesses.  Every year, a growing number of online visitors are using reviews to build their trust in local businesses.

According to a BrightLocal study done in 2013, 85% of consumers said they read online reviews for local businesses.  79% trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.  And 73% of consumers said that positive reviews online make them trust a local business more.  There is no denying that customer reviews help you engage with your potential clients and also help you understand potential customer needs.  Reviews also help you improve your online visibility in search results by increasing trust and click-through rates for your website.  This actually helps push your site higher in the rankings if enough people continue to engage with the content they find on your site.

The Role of Social Media

So, how do search engines use reviews in their search results?  At first glance, it’s easy to see that Google and Bing both show the amount of reviews a business has in its local results. With the growing popularity of social networking websites, online searchers have more access than ever to attitudes, opinions, and viewpoints of people who have interacted with a business.  Search engines are realizing how trustworthy and useful this information is by incorporating activity on these sites as favorable ranking factors.  Google utilizes +1s in its algo.  Bing recently rolled out their new Smart Search feature which incorporates reviews from places like Facebook, Mapquest, and Yelp in local results.  Reviews are increasingly becoming more about personal interactivity on social platforms, and sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are playing a bigger role in how a website ranks in search.

How to Best Leverage Social & Online Reviews

With social and review sites in mind, what is the best way to incorporate those reviews and interactions into your greater web marketing plan?  First, if you don’t already have listings or pages on these sites, then, you will want to actively work on claiming and optimizing those listings.  Make sure your business name, address, phone number, business hours, and website url are up to date and current so people can find you and contact you.

Create an outlet where you can expertly provide advice and information about your business.  Promote your special services.  Offer something that “the other guys” do not.  What makes you stand out from the crowd?  Create value, and share it on these pages with potential new clients and customers.

Share and engage with your audience, don’t just spew information (I call this “soap-boxing” – this will lose you followers faster than it will gain them).  When customers feel engaged, they tend to be more loyal to your products and services.  Loyal clients become advocates for your business. With social media, engaged clients and patients can (and probably will) endorse your company for everyone to see.  When that happens, it can be a very powerful tool to enhance your online presence.

Denver Dentist Search Results on Google (with reviews)

Additionally, local businesses with negative reviews will want to respond openly to negative reviews.  A bad review is not necessarily a bad thing.  If used the right way, it can become a positive influencer.  Use the opportunity to reach out and change that reviewer’s experience into something positive.  If the reviewer is not interested in responding, it at least shows future visitors that you are concerned about the experience people have when visiting your business or using your products.  It also shows that you are willing to go that extra mile to make amends.

You will also want to continually generate new reviews from happy clients promoting what you do best.  In doing this you can drive any negative reviews further down the page and keep the newer, positive reviews higher up.  Reviews don’t just affect the impressions a potential client has on your business; it can affect how your business website ranks on Google, Bing, and Yahoo search.

by Tammy Smith SEO Analyst, Page 1 Solutions, LLC

Google’s Problems with Virtual or Satellite Office Locations

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Although businesses may have many legitimate reasons to utilize a virtual office, also referred to as a satellite office, Google frowns upon their use in Google+Local/Google Places. According to Google’s guidelines, business listings must have a unique address and phone number. Many providers of virtual offices (which include UPS, Regus, and many more) promise that you will be provided with a unique suite number and telephone, but business need to be careful to ensure this is the case. Even with a unique phone number and address, Google has issues with listings that do not conduct face-to-face business at a location (unless specified, which ruins the point of the office), or that do not have staff on hand at least part of the day at the specific listing.

How did these offices come about? Once it was determined that the distance from a business to the city’s centroid, or center point in Google’s eyes, was a ranking factor for certain searches, businesses began buying up virtual offices closer to the city’s centroid in an effort to rank higher for a given term. While Google has downplayed the importance of distance to the centroid, businesses haven’t slowed in their aggressive use of virtual offices. This is essentially spamming Google Maps with listings that are not always serving clients at that specific location.

Google doesn’t specifically outline this issue in their Guidelines, but recently we heard this straight from a Googler’s mouth. We had worked with a Google support member to help clear up an issue with one of our clients’ Adwords Express campaigns, which had been paused due to our Places account being marked “Suspended”. Many internet marketers have been through this hell, having to clean up listings or waiting weeks or months at a time for any updates to be made from Google’s end. As most of us know, Google provides outstanding customer support for their paying customers that utilize Adwords or related services such as Adwords Express, however at the same time they provide little to no support for other Google services such as Places.

We decided to take this as an opportunity to speak with a Google support member about the Express campaign being paused, to see if they could somehow help us sort out the issue with our Places account. We figured once that was cleared up, the Express campaign could be activated again.

So, we reached out to Google Adwords Support, and were connected with a very nice and very helpful team member that understood our issue. After a few back-and-forths, the Googler reached out to another employee within the Places team, who then forwarded the following questions to us:

  • Are any of the locations in this account by-appointment only locations?
  • Are any of these offices which do not have the ability to take customers coming in from the street?
  • To clarify further, are there any offices they rent only by appointment to make it easier for their clients to meet them?
  • Are there any offices that are not their permanent location (i.e. they don’t have staff there at all most of the week?) (The bold emphasis was provided by the Googler.)

To help clarify the questions, the team member followed with:  Again, I know these questions may seem odd, but the goal is just to ensure that the client is representing locations where the business permanently exists and not appointment-only locations rented on an hourly or quarterly basis. ”

Notice that Google didn’t use the terminology for “virtual” or “satellite” office. Unfortunatley, our client had been utilizing two by-appointment only offices that were essentially the definition of a virtual office. We responded truthfully and deleted the two “offending” listings from our account. They then responded with the following:

“I’m glad to report that you’re now operating within our guidelines after having removed those listings.  We’re only concerned with showing the permanent physical locations for businesses that advertisers have the authority to represent and are not meeting-only locations, so we really appreciate your efforts here!”

The account was cleared up and we were able to run our Adwords Express campaigns again, while also having our business listings published live once again.

The big takeaway? No, it’s not to call Google with all of your problems. Rather it’s that Google doesn’t specifically outline all of their issues with using virtual office locations in Google Maps in their Guidelines document, but they certainly are looking out for these listings and are looking to pounce on them once found. Be careful when your business or client is moving forward with virtual offices!

Forward Thinking – Future SEO

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Yesterday at PubCon 2012 was probably the most info packed day of the week. From the early morning news that Internet Marketing Ninjas in New York acquired WebmasterWorld Online Forums to the jam packed late afternoon Authorship session in a crowded Exhibit Hall A, my notebook was brimming and my brain was spinning. No, not from comped casino beverages, but from a virtual dump truck of information exchanged here at the second big day of SEO sessions. Standout tracks from the day were the Bing session and the Authorship discussions.

Future of SEO - PubCon 2012 SessionDuane Forrester from Bing delivered an amazing presentation, that has so far been my favorite track from the conference series. Entitled “What’s Up at Bing?” it was less of a – here’s what we’re doing – type of discussion, and more of a layout of the future of search and the tools that Bing has at the ready for all inquiring SEO minds. Two main things to remember when thinking about SEO in 2012 and beyond is to see the act of search as less of a one time action and more of a lengthy session. Forrester pointed out that for many things (such as a cup of coffee, a slice of pizza, or a recipe) the search may be a one and done type of deal, but for a substantial purchase, or to find a family doctor, the searcher is going to do considerable research. They are going to spend hours, even days, gathering and digesting information (good content), specs or credentials, where the business is located (local), and product or service testimonials (reviews and recommendations in their social circles). According to Duane Forrester’s data:

“44% of search sessions last a day or more”

and in order to capitalize on this, to leverage your product and your brand, you need to be focusing on a different style of search and keyword data than the current one search SEO query is looking at.

A lot to think about and digest? Yes!  But, that was just the beginning of the knowledge-fest because hot of the heels of the Bing talk was the Authorship session (otherwise known as rel=”author” tagging in G+). That’s been the rising focus of many SEO campaigns since August of 2011, and it was clear that the mechanics are still hard to grasp for newcomers to the topic as they were for those of us who have been trying to keep up with Google’s changing preference for implementation methods over the last few months. There were furrowed brows, many questions, and some blank stares in the large crowd listening to Eric Enge, Stephen Spencer, and Jim Boykin shed light on the subject.  At Page 1 Solutions we’ve been following all the changes and keeping up with the most current info regarding authorship, so there was not a lot of new info for us here, but it is good to know that we are solidly on the right track.  Go Page 1 Ninjas!

The rest of today will be spent listening to thoughts on competitor “stalking” (aka – gathering intelligence about what your competitors are doing and analyzing the data). More about that and the final thoughts on the conference as PubCon wraps up later this evening.

by Tammy Smith SEO Analyst, Page 1 Solutions, LLC

Day 1 at PubCon 2012 – G+ and Disavow Links

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

PubCon 2012 Las Vegas, NV – Day 1

Yesterday was the first full day of conference sessions at the PubCon conference in Las Vegas. True to Vegas style it was energetic and loud and full of pumped up music and flashing lights. The keynote, about the psychology of motives and persuasion by Dr. Robert Cialdini, was an informative introduction to the day ahead.

There were a lot of new people to meet, and an abundance of great information to be digested. I am proud to be a part of an industry that thrives on knowledge and has such passion for guessing the next piece of the puzzle in the game of SEO. As a whole, the SEO community is very exciting and forward thinking. Everyone I met on Tuesday was eager to share what makes them passionate and what gets them excited about working in this field. I was asked questions like: Do you find it difficult to traverse the Google landscape since the changes in local+? What types of A/B testing do you do with your websites and what has been the most influential revelation from that testing? How do you leverage Pinterest for a local small business? Do you Foursquare? Authorship and Search, how huge has that become, and where will it lead? It’s enough to make a nerdy girl like me giddy.

I am literally amazed at the amount of topics covered in just a few hours the first day at PubCon, and I’m grateful for the chance to be a part of such an inquisitive and passionate community.

Two big takeaways for me from the the first day of the conference:

  1. G+ linked content gets indexed faster than content linked from Twitter and Facebook (more about this to come in a follow up blog, but for now, know that it is pretty important to get set up on G+ and utilize it to promote your website and blog content.)
  2. Matt Cutts announced the ability to Disavow Links in Google Webmaster Tools (this is HUGE)

Matt Cutts announces the Disavow Tool

 Best quote of the day?

“Google is really making things complicated!” -Marcus Tober

I’m looking forward to Days 2, 3, and 4 – and sharing some of what I learn with you through this blog.

by Tammy Smith SEO Analyst, Page 1 Solutions, LLC

How to Move Back to Warmer Weather After Google’s Penguin Update

Friday, May 4th, 2012

Last week Google gave us a gift, the Penguin update.  In what seems to be their never-ending changes to its infamous algorithm the Penguin in all essence is a continuation of Panda (introduced to the world in 2011). The idea behind the Penguin, like was the Panda, is to provide Google visitors with high quality, original content. After all, that’s what we all want isn’t it?

Have you noticed a drop in search traffic to your website? To many webmasters the Penguin update was Antarctic cold. It literally sandboxed (meaning, de-indexed, out of sight, no longer in existence and can’t be found. Ouch!) many sites Google thought were scamming their system.

Now is the time to check your analytics. Did your site get hit? Websites that took the brunt of it all were using grey hat and black hat SEO techniques. Some commonalities from these sites that got hit are:

  • Paid text links with the idea of having your keyword be the EXACT match anchor text. Worked great… up until a week ago.
  • Comment spam or users who would have exact match anchor text in their signature.
  • Guest posts on questionable sites. Let’s not be mistaken here. Guest blogging is a great SEO technique. However, it can be damaging to your sites rankings if your entire resume of guest blogging is from low page rank sites. And to further do harm, to again have too much emphasis on exact match anchor text and not quality content.
  • Article marketing sites. These sites were of low quality, many had little regulation or guidelines in place regarding submission policies and thus published thin content that held exact match anchor text. With auto-syndication tools available, article marketing proved an easy –virtually hands free way of quickly gaining hundreds and thousands of back links to a website.
  • Inbound links from bad neighborhoods.  Websites sitting in what Google considers “bad neighborhoods” are no good. Stay away, they are dangerous! These sites have been flagged for malware, dominated by pop-up ads, and other issues Google considers spammy. Links to / from these neighborhoods will do nothing good for your website equity.

All of these techniques worked great… up until a week ago. Classic example of quick gain and short-term profits using black hat SEO techniques. Obviously this isn’t the goal of the majority of business owners.

Yes, Google got excited about blog networks like BuildMyRank and organizations like TribePro. Does that mean what was once grey hat SEO techniques are now black hat?  Grey hat was the loophole around Google. Unfortunately, many who know little about SEO probably got caught up in these practices thinking they were white hat and have since seen their rankings plummet. That is why it is essential to learn the meaning of white hat SEO and diversify your link building strategies.

Should we SEO specifically for Google?

This is a valid question for anyone with a website. Google is the largest search engine boasting nearly 70% of all searches on the internet. How can small businesses compete with the larger ones and not have their entire income suddenly dry up after another Google update?

Of course it’s not best practice for anyone to put all their eggs into one basket. It’s essential to diversify your link building strategy as it would be in any business. Internet Marketing isn’t an exception to diversification.

Let’s go over some other possibilities to optimize outside of Google.

  • Socialize content. Blogging is an essential component to your overall presence online. But your efforts don’t stop once the blog has been written and published. It needs to be seen. Share it across your Social Media pages. If you aren’t in the Social Media game now, you’re missing a large opportunity for exposure. I suggest starting small with Facebook, Google +, Twitter, and YouTube. Of course you don’t need all of them but, each of them offer your clients / visitors great benefits to develop a relationship based on trust.
  • Exchange blog posts with others in similar non-competitive markets. Exchanging blog posts holds two benefits. The first, it allows you to cross over into someone else’s home on the internet as an invited guest. Your new audience is looking towards you as a trusted referral.
  • Quality content. After all, isn’t this why Google keeps updating their algorithm? It’s imperative your site has quality content that over delivers time and again. It will build trust with your clientele, prospects, and community. It’s like a good book versus a GREAT book. Which one has a better chance to become timeless? We want our websites to become timeless regardless of a change in algorithm and it begins with quality content.
  • Facebook. Interact regularly with other businesses on Facebook and develop a relationship with them (below I’ll reveal an old school offline marketing technique that when done right will explode your online marketing!)

On a similar note we cannot disregard Google’s investment in Google +. If you think Google is not tracking +1′s  and Google + shares, think again. Take advantage of this easy to use tool and reward yourself by teaming up with Google.

  • Purchase Ads on Social Media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Because so many people share so much about themselves on Facebook, Facebook Ads can be designed and adapted like no other, certainly not Google Adwords. Take advantage of that information and create an Ad Campaign that targets the exact demographic of your clientele.

It’s time to think like a Publisher. Create content once and spin it into multiple channels. Create photo galleries on Flickr.com, videos on YouTube and create podcasts for your visitors and prospects to listen to. Turn your blog posts into an e-book to sell or give away. Of course with all of these methods you always point the user back to you via link to your website or other Call to Action such as a phone number or irresistible offer.

Think like an Entrepreneur. It’s time to stop worrying about what Google does. The simple truth is that their algorithms aren’t going to stop. Let’s get back to old school marketing techniques that can help our online marketing efforts. I’m talking about Joint Ventures. Team up with other businesses in your location and explore ways where you can achieve mutual benefits and new opportunities. For example, if you’re a scuba dive shop owner you can team up with local hotels in the area. Maybe together you’ll decide that guests staying at this particular hotel can get your scuba dive for 10% off published rack rate. When guests take you up on this offer, encourage them to leave a review (with your website link) on review sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor. You win with the business and the added link juice and the customer wins with the great deal and easy accessibility of it all.

Another opportunity is to team up with a local charity. Again, you’ll be crossing over into new exposure and increasing your odds to rely less on Google algorithms and more on building long-term sound business practices and white hat SEO techniques. Will you rank on page 1 over night, mostly likely not but there is a good chance you’ll be in business for the long-term and that is a good thing.

Remember, Google is only 1 marketing channel. Let’s not forget about other search engines and let’s especially not forget about diversifying both our link building strategies (white hat SEO!) and offline marketing opportunities that can lead to positive reviews and ultimately more link juice.

To ranking on the first page for a long-time.

Does being listed on a directory help my SEO results? SEO Basics XX

Friday, December 30th, 2011

Listing in Directories is one way of building links and can bring value to the site provided we make sure that the directories are credible and have authority in the eyes of the Search Engines. Google is said to prefer Directories that are human edited and that have very specific categories for listings ( e.g.Yahoo Directory).

Here are some points to keep in mind:

1. Does the Directory have a good Page Rank?
If the Directory has a low PageRank, it probably does hold much authority with Google.

2. Are Category Pages Indexed? To be more specific, is the category page you wish to be listed in indexed in Google?
If the category page that you wish to be listed in is not indexed in Google, then the page has no power to improve your site’s link popularity, because Google does not know about it, it cannot recognize that it is linking to you.

3. How Many Sites Are You Sharing the Link Juice Wealth With?
In most cases, an interior directory category page will contain ten listings – maybe twenty at the most.If the directory has too many listings on the same page, it may not be worth getting listed on there unless it is a proven source of traffic.

4. Does the Directory Add the NOFOLLOW Attribute To Its Listings?
If you are submitting to a directory to help improve your site’s link popularity and they are adding the nofollow attribute to outgoing links, it is not going to help you. Unless you are expecting to get some traffic from the directory, avoid it.

5. Will the Directory Send You Any Traffic?
It is worthwhile to keep a track of the traffice being received from a directory to decide whether it is reliable source of traffic for your website.

Google Transparency Report Shows Details of Worldwide Government Intervention

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Google has always claimed that they want to maximize transparency around the flow of information related to their services.  I always took this statement with a grain of salt, as I would from any large corporation trying to explain how transparent and open they were with the public. However, a recent update by Google has done a great job revealing information about government intervention and online content.

Recently, Google has updated their Transparency Report to include more details about information requested from governments around the world. This report has been used to provide data about the number of government inquiries concerning specific users or accounts, as well as requests to remove specific content.

According to this post on their blog, Google has “highlighted some significant changes in the data and provided context about why those changes may have occurred during this reporting period.” They have updated the format of the report so that anyone can see user data requests on a country-by country basis.

The Transparency Report is now very detailed. Using Government Requests, Google is disclosing whether they were asked for user data or for content removal, the reasons why they’ve been asked to remove content (such as hate speech, defamation, copyright, etc…), even the percentage of requests that Google complied with.

For those that are curious, the United States ranks third overall in the amount of content removal requests, and first overall in user data requests (by a huge gap).

Some requests for removing content in the last six months (January to June 2011) included everything from violation of AdWords policies (China) and defamation cases (France) to the removal of YouTube videos displaying protests (India), police brutality (USA) and details about the private lives of political officials (Turkey). For more details, see the Map of requests.

It’s really quite amazing what you can learn about how the web is shaped by government influence and other regulations. In my opinion, Google is providing a great (and interesting) service by publishing this data.

Why Should I Re-Optimize My Website? – SEO Basics XVIII

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Some reasons to re-optimize your website :

    Your site has enjoyed great rankings for several years but you’ve now lost your top or first page listings.

    Your website statistics show a big drop in the number of people visiting your site.

    Your site was optimized a long time ago, the keywords you originally used to gain high rankings no longer work.

    Your site has undergone a redesign or moved to a different platform.

    Your competitors seem to be achieving top rankings, you need to market your site to improve rankings.

    Your business has changed it’s focus and the priority Keyterms have changed.

    Your location has changed or you have new offices and you need to update your optimization accordingly.

Strategies to keep in mind while re-optimizing your Website to Increase Rankings and Traffic

    1.Look at the keywords generating the most visits. Are they currently included in your Title tags and content? Use keyword research tools to find related keywords that can be added to your web pages. Create extra web pages that target high priority keywords.

    2.Do searches for your top priority keywords and find the competing sites that are showing up at the top of the first page. Analyze these competitor websites for title tags, web copy plus the quantity and quality of their backlnks.

    3. Find related keywords and include these within your web pages to increase web traffic.

    5. Incoming links to your website help your web page rankings increase. Link building is a task that must be done regularly to stay ahead of your competitors. Boost the number of backlinks across your webpages so they can achieve better rankings.

    6. Look for high quality local directories and review sites where you can register your website and increase visibilty for your business.

    7. Optimize and verify your Google Places and Bing and Yahoo Local listings.

Tracking the SEO Effects of the Google + 1 Button

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

With the recent release of Google +1, there has obviously been much discussion about how the new social media sharing button may affect a site’s rankings and overall optimization. Given the nature of social media sharing, there obviously will be some weight given to sites that are +1’d (thanks for the new verb, Google) frequently or consistently enough. Facebook Likes and Shares, Tweets and other social media sharing techniques have consistently proven to help improve rankings and positioning for given topics, and Google and Bing have even flat out said that “social signals” are used in determining ranking.

I’m not here to argue whether Google’s +1 will have an impact on a site’s SEO. It’s hard to imagine that the world’s biggest search engine would create a social media presence that wouldn’t “help” them in their ranking algorithm. Google says that “+1’s from friends and contacts can be a useful signal to Google when determining the relevance of your page to a user’s query.” And then they follow with the old adage of “This is just one of many signals….” blah blah blah. But the important part is that it IS a signal in their algorithm. Also, in the manner that Google is showing +1’s in the SERPs, whether they are from those in your inner Circles or a total sum of +1’s from all Google Plus users, the +1 button can definitely affect click through rates and goal conversions.

But let’s not focus on that right now. Let’ discuss the ways that you may track these signals and determine for yourself what impact +1 had on your own site and within your competitive industry. The following are a few ideas that may help you along the way; however please share additional tracking methods in the comments below if you know of other techniques or ideas.

Google Webmaster Tools

Once you have verified your site within Webmaster Tools, you will be able to access a new section called “+1 Metrics” from the Dashboard. This includes tabs titled “Search Impact,” “Activity” and “Audience.”

The Search Impact data allows you to compare click through rate, total impressions and total clicks from before and after you added the +1 button to your site.  This can be measured for each individual page as well. This is pretty accommodating; however as with any data, you will need to have enough impressions both with and without the +1 button to make a meaningful comparison.

The Activity tab will show the total number of +1’s received by pages within your site, and the Audience tab will display a plethora of information about users that have +1’d your pages, including total unique users, their location, age and gender. (Makes me think twice before +1ing everything on the web, huh?). Read more about the Google +1 Analytics from the post by search engine land.

Google Analytics Event Tracking

You can also record a +1 and track it as an event in Google Analytics. Using the Advanced Options in Google’s +1 button creation tool, add callback=”plusone_vote” and then edit the script tag you used to add the +1 counter to your site. Visit the timely and awesome post from Joost de Valk of Yoast to see how to directly edit the script tag to record the +1’s as events in Analytics.

These are simply a few techniques that we have come across. Has anyone had any luck with either option, or alternative tracking methods? Let us know about the accuracy of your data and anything else you may have noticed since the implementation of Google +1.

Do I select keywords and phrases before or after I build my website?- SEO Basics XV

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Keywords and key phrases need to be selected much before building a website. In fact, you should think about keywords and phrases even before you choose a domain name.
It is a known fact that having a key word relevant domain name can be helpful to your website’s rankings with the Search Engines.
It is very important to name your website as close to the your targeted keywords and phrases as possible.
By choosing your keywords and phrases well in advance, you will also be able to design your site with an advantage as you can include key terms in your page URLs and ensure that the site’s architecture and navigation highlights the key phrases for your business.
Choosing target keywords and phrases in advance also enhances your competitive analysis and allows you to focus on the important points while writing your website’s content.
You can define your internal and external links and maximize the value from anchor text.


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