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Get them there, keep them there. Effective landing pages immediately engage your audience and effectively “scratch the itch” that has led them to your site in the first place. But they also go beyond: they entice visitors into staying, exploring what else you have to offer. They create new itches. How can you create landing pages that manage to do all of this effectively?

Some tips to get you started:

  1. Create more landing pages. Studies show that when companies increase the number of landing pages from 10 to 15, their conversion rates increased by 55 percent. That is too significant to ignore. Every offer or every campaign should have its own landing page. Otherwise, visitors land on your homepage and may not be clear on what you want them to do.
  2. Clear CTA. Again, feature one CTA, or call to action, per page. If you have multiple CTAs, you risk confusing the visitor. “What do they want me to do?” Perhaps “confused,” is the wrong word: they might just not care anymore. Craft a very clear CTA that explicitly and clearly explains what you want the visitor to do (Click here to download free report; Buy now! Sign up for our newsletter). Make sure your CTA is uncluttered and the color contrasts with the background and other elements. You want it to stand out like a beacon.
  3. Incorporate your logo. Who are you? The visitor shouldn’t be guessing, certainly not if you want them to complete a desired call to action. At the top of your page, add your business logo. Again, make sure it is not cluttered with extraneous imagery or text. Keep it clean.
  4. Add social validation. What “proof” can you offer your visitors that you are an authority in your niche? Try embedding tweets from happy visitors or satisfied customers or ask a Facebook fan if you can quote a positive message they’ve left on your page. If you have a whitepaper, a report, an ebook, or another type of content, mention how many people have downloaded it.
  5. Create urgency. Buy now or you’ll miss your chance and forever regret not completing our call to action! Well, word it more succinctly, but the basic point is to create a sense of urgency and immediacy in your visitors. CTAs never say, “Take your time; browse at other sites; sleep on it.” They say, “Only one left! Buy now!” or “Offer ends on X day” or “Last chance to save.” Amazon does this like the pros they are: “Buy in the next 2 hours and get it by tomorrow,” or “Only 1 left in stock.”

Landing pages need to convert. That’s their purpose. When you incorporate these tips and keep your design clean and simple, you’ll see an uptick in your conversion rate

Seo ConceptWhile local SEO has always been important for many businesses, the incredible rise in the use of mobile devices has made it a critical part of attracting new customers and helping existing ones find the information they need. In our last post, we talked about a few tips to get your local SEO efforts started. Now we’ll dive into social media and how it can help you shine a spotlight on your business.

Get Social

Creating and managing an active social media presence allows you to reach your audiences where they are and where they turn for information. That might, depending on your target customers, be Facebook; it might be Pinterest, Twitter, or LinkedIn. In any event, do some customer research to determine where you need to concentrate your efforts. Other steps you can take:

  • Add social sharing buttons to your site. Target the ones your customers are most likely to use. Make it easy for them to share your content with others who might find it relevant and useful. It’s all about convenience: a simple button-click encourages people to take action.
  • Optimise your Facebook profile for local users. While not every audience uses Facebook (teens, for instance, are starting to veer away from the social network), it does have a tremendously wide and deep user base. It makes sense for most businesses to spend some time here. When you create a page for your business, select the “Local Business or Place” category. If you have already created a page, go back to the Admin Panel. Select Manage > Edit Page > Basic Information. In the Category box, select “Local Business or Place,” and then choose the correct subcategory to specify which type of business you operate.
  • Try Twitter. Include your location and local-optimised keyword phrase in your information. Find local users (Twitter Grader and TwitterCounter can help) and start following local discussions with Twitter Advanced Search. Become an active part of your community; people don’t want to hear sales pitches. They want to engage and have their questions answered. Doing so positions you as an authority. Participating in a conversation positions you as a real person, not a faceless entity.
  • Get Googling. Google+ may not have the mass of Facebook or even Twitter, but it does have the weight of the world’s largest search engine behind it. Google weighs this content heavily, and being active can help you appear more prominently. Make sure your profile is visible to the public and use the Google+ search to find local users that may be interested in your business. Create a dedicated circle so you can develop and disseminate targeted communications. As with Facebook and Twitter, the key is being active in the community. Answer questions – but feel free to ask them. You can be an authority without being a know-it-all! And it makes you more approachable and likeable. Why not? Those are good qualities in a business!
  • Track your efforts with Google Analytics’ Audience Demographics data. You can see bounce rates, time spent on site, and pages per visit. Are you local visitors spending more time on the site? If not, how can you optimise your content or social presence to encourage more engagement?

Social media is an invaluable set of tools that you can use to boost your local SEO efforts and see greater results.

 

 

Open SignWhile the internet opens up the world to consumers and those seeking information, it also shrinks it. Searchers, particularly mobile ones, depend on online resources to find restaurants, theatres, sporting events, cultural events, services, addresses, and much more in their own backyards or locales they are visiting. Localising your SEO efforts is essential so your target audience can find you easily.

A few tips for local SEO success:

Start with the basics. NAP. Name, address, phone. Include this information on every page within your site, not just the home and contact pages. Secure a URL that includes your business name, and if possible, your location: for example, cafebluemanchester.com

Keyword-optimised descriptions. In your title tag, include your targeted keywords and location in 70 characters or less. Your meta description allows you to show searchers a snippet of your website content in the SERPs. While Google can choose the snippet it wants, it can also use your suggestion. In 165 characters, craft a description that includes your keywords, phone number, and locations served.

Develop a page for each location. If you have multiple locations, you don’t need to go to the expense of creating websites for each. You could, but you might find it easier to create a page for each location within one main website. This way, searchers are directed to the correct page for their needs, and they can always navigate the rest of the site’s relevant information via your internal links. The longer you can keep someone engaged in your site, the better.

Claim your business on Google Places. This is your chance to give Google and potential customers the information they need. All that is required is a Google account (which you should have anyway because it gives you access to a host of helpful tools and features), and you can choose from Free and Premium options. Take the opportunity to add up to 10 photos of your business (no stock photos!) and link to up to five YouTube videos.

Don’t forget Bing and Yahoo Local and Yelp. Sign up with these sites too. All three have free basic services to help you appear more prominently in front of your audience.

Embed a map. Local searchers are often interested in researching a business’s products or services and then visiting the physical location. Be sure to make it easy for them by embedding a map. Go to Google Maps and enter your address. Google will generate an HTML code that you can embed on your website.

These local SEO steps will help you get started. Next time, we’ll talk about local SEO and your social media presence.

 

Black HatOne of the buzziest buzzwords in 2014 is, unfortunately, negative SEO. Recently, Forbes’ contributor Jayson DeMers chronicled how his small company was targeted by scammers. They demanded he pay them US$250 (£151.56); if he didn’t, they’d flood his website with inbound links – and not the high-quality, authoritative links that Google likes so much and which visitors trust so much either. Are schemes like this common, and, if they are, can you protect your website?

What is Negative SEO?

Prior to the Penguin update, the more links, the better. Link farms, link schemes, you couldn’t buy enough of these things.  With this major update, Google told websites in no uncertain terms that poor-quality, spammy links would not be tolerated. Infamous JC Penney and Overstock.com penalties, which caused both retailers to drop precipitously in the search engine results pages, emphasised just how serious Google was.

Now, while this was a great move for searchers – and quality, legitimate websites – it did have an unsavory consequence. It opened up a side industry in negative SEO, where “mercenaries” like those who targeted DeMers, thrive by threatening sites with spammy links.

In addition to bad links, negative SEOs can:

  • Copy your site’s content and distribute it over the internet.  Bam…duplicate content penalties for you.
  • Point links to your site using such reputable and estimable keywords as “Viagra.”
  • Developing false social media profiles in your name or that of your website or business.
  • Removing your high-quality backlinks.
  • Hacking into your website and having free run over your content and backend workings.

Should You Worry?

Yes and no. Yes, it could be devastating if your site were targeted, but no, it’s not that likely. Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team, says:

In my experience, there’s a lot of people who talk about negative SEO, but very few people who actually try it, and fewer still who actually succeed. I know that there’s been a lot of people stressed about this. Whenever we dig into what’s actually going on, there’s been a lot of discussion but very little in ways of actually people trying to do attacks.

It is best to run your website, do your white hat SEO, and produce quality content as usual – but remain aware and take steps to keep your site – and your online reputation – intact. How?

  • Log into your Google Webmaster Tools account and enable email alerts. Google will let you know if your pages are not indexed, your site is attacked by malware, or if you’ve received a manual Google penalty. Simply click on Webmaster Tools Preferences. Enable email notifications for All Issues and click Save.
  • Monitor your backlink profile. See what types of sites are linking to your sites to ensure they are legitimate. You can ask a reputable SEO firm to help you develop and monitor your profile or use a tool such a Majestic SEO, Ahrefs, or Open Site Explorer.
  • Use a tool such as CopyScape to monitor for duplicate content, and keep an eye on your site speed. A sudden and marked slowdown can indicate that spammers or negative SEOs have attacked it.

If you do find bad links:

  • Contact the webmaster and request they remove the links.
  • Use Google’s Link Disavow tool. If you’ve taken every step possible to remove bad links, you can request that Google ignore them when assessing your site.

Like Matt Cutts reminds us, there is likely nothing to “stress” about. So don’t. Just be on top of your link profile and content to spot trouble before it can take root.

ThermometerTo stay healthy, it’s best to make the annual trip to the doctor, get checked out, say “Ahhh.” In the meantime, there are a host of steps you can take to maintain your health on your own – eating right, exercising, getting proper rest, etc. The health of your website is the same: once a year, you should have a professional audit, a thorough checkup to maintain optimal site performance. But in the meantime, there are steps you can take to ensure you stay healthy.

Some aspects to review during your DIY audit:

Crawling and Indexing Issues

Ensuring Google properly crawls and indexes your website is critical. Log into your Webmaster Tools. ON your dashboard, click Google Index > Index Status > Basic. This will tell you how many URLs Google has indexed. Click Advanced  for more information on how many URLs Google has ever crawled and if any have been blocked by robots. Check your robots.txt file to ensure that any blocked URLs are, indeed, blocked by your choice to enhance your strategy (such as to not have Google crawl or index duplicate content).

Look for an increase in the number of crawled and indexed pages. A decrease may mean that Google cannot properly access your content.

Sitemaps

Your sitemap is just that: a map of your content for Google. Make sure it follows the established protocol and that it is formatted correctly. Compare the URLs that Google has crawled to your sitemap and update if necessary.

Links

It is essential that you keep an eye on your link profile. Do you see any spammy or questionable links? Are there high-quality reputable links? With the rise of negative SEO, it pays to stay on top of your profile, and to cultivate great links from authoritative sources.

On-Page SEO Elements

Now you’ll want to examine your tags and metadata. Quickly:

  • Do you have unique title tags for each page? Do you have any duplicates? Are they relevant and keyword-optimised? Are they between 40 and 69 characters?
  • Do you have solid copy for your meta description tags? Is it relevant to searchers and provide the information they need? Are they 200 characters or fewer?
  • Do you have alt image tags? These help visually impaired searchers, and they play a role in your search engine visibility. Make sure they accurately describe the images.
  • Do you have H tags in the proper places? Do you have H1 for the main headline and subheaders as H2?
  • Do you have relevant, interesting content? This applies to your site copy, as well as to blogs, whitepapers, and other “long-form” pieces.

Speed

Site speed is huge this year, especially with mobile users. Make sure your site is running on all cylinders. Google’s PageSpeed tools are helpful here. When you identify issues, create a strategy to address them and boost performance.

This, of course, is not an exhaustive audit, but you should keep your eye on these types of issues continually.  A professional audit will fill in the gaps and give you a great foundation on which to build over the year.

Old KeysWith the move towards contextual search, SEOs and businesses have to be much more concerned with the intent behind the query. When someone enters “Italian food,” for instance, do they want restaurants? Recipes? Diets? Targeting the intent with long-tail keywords can help websites improve their SEO strategies, increase relevancy, and pull in visitors.

Long-tail keywords are usually 3-4 words in length, as opposed to “head” keywords. In our example, “Italian food” is a head keyword, and completion is fierce. How can you ensure visitors find you because your site is relevant to their needs? By:

  • Using very specific search terms. Italian food restaurants in London, Italian recipes for family dinners, Italian and Mediterranean diets. Someone searching for a good eatery will find you using these targeted terms. Hit Google AdWords Keyword Planner to determine which terms your audience is searching for and plan a strategy.
  • Using keyword search tools, such as Ubersuggest and Google (just enter in your keyword and see what it suggests). Ditto that for Bing. Also try Bing’s Suggester.
  • Using Google to search potential keyword phrases. Ideally, you’ll see that there’s not a lot of competition and that the phrase appears in niche sites, Q&As, and forums. Don’t get too granular, though. You don’t want to narrow down so much that you rank first for your keyword – but no one is searching for it! Think like a searcher.
  • Including the keyword into your title tag. Make sure it is compelling and encourages readers to click through.
  • Using 3-4 long-tail keywords for each new post – and make sure posts are fresh. Publish content regularly. Google likes it; so do searchers. Remember, as with any keyword, never stuff. Place them organically into your content.
  • Optimising existing content with the targeted keywords. Again, natural is the key to keywords.

Search queries are increasingly specific, many times even in full question form. Capitalise on what people are actually searching for by including long-tail keywords. You’ll be able to show searchers that you’re relevant and can answer their questions.

Server Concept 3

Site speed is critical for optimal performance. Studies show that the average user will wait 6-10 seconds for a page to load – but they’re not going to be happy about it, and many bounce when they encounter even a second or two of delay. One of the ways that you can shave off some time is to opt for a content delivery network, or CDN? How does this work, and is it a good choice for your business and website?

What is a CDN?

Don’t be intimidated: it’s just a network! Typically, when a visitor comes to your site, he is redirected to your webhost server, which could be next door or a half a continent away. When a high volume of visitors sends requests to the server at the same time, it can lead to sluggish load times. CDNs solve tackle this problem on two fronts:

  • CDNs utilize a network of server, reducing the chances that you’ll overload any one server with high volume requests.
  • Visitors are redirected to servers closest to their geographical location, which speeds up the entire process.

Other benefits include:

  • Improved user experience and decreasing bounce rates.
  • Customer retention.
  • Greater network security and reduced risk of crashes.
  • Seamless delivery of content, including video streaming.
  • Removal of global barriers and expansion of reach.
  • Cachable files for reduced load times.

Is there any reason why a CDN is not an optimal solution? Cost is a major issue. It may not be useful for a small business, for instance, to invest in a CDN given the startup costs and maintenance fees. While large companies can save money by serving faster content, the same may not apply to smaller entities.

Another issue is that you’re sharing resources; if other customers within your particular CDN are experience high volumes of traffic, it could impact your load times. And, as always when you introduce more moving parts, there is a risk that there could be failures somewhere along the delivery line. Now, this is true no matter what server option you choose, but it’s something to consider.

Is a CDN right for you? Weigh the increased speed against the cost. Will it provide a solid ROI, or can you get by with a centralised web server? There is no right answer – just the one that will benefit your business most.

Thumbs UpIt is estimated that there are over 2 billion pages of indexed web content in the world. And somewhere in that 2 billion is you. SEO can help guide searchers to your website, but what keeps them there? What encourages them to share your content or to recommend your site/products/services to friends, family, coworkers? A big piece of that puzzle is credibility and establishing your position as an expert in your niche. Reviews are an integral step towards this end. How does Google’s new Review Extensions work – and how can you make them work for you?

Review Extensions

Google allows Adwords account holders to submit third-party reviews for approval. Once approved, the review appears in the search results. Here is an example from Google:

You may use an exact quote, as this example does, or a paraphrase. To submit a review for approval, log into your Adwords account and, under the Ad extensions tab, you’ll find a space for “new reviews.” Simply choose your format (exact or paraphrased), the text you want to include, the source, and the source URL. You can also schedule start and end dates.

Keep in mind:

  • The review has to be attributed to the published source and accompanied by a link.
  • As mentioned, the reviews must be approved by Google. It can take a few days for them to appear in the SERPs.
  • You can move reviews that already appear within your ad text and add a Review Extension. This gives more power to the review and promotes your site and business. Do not duplicate the text, however. Make sure Review Extensions and ad text are different.
  • As of now, this feature is available globally – but only in English. Look for other languages to be added soon.
  • Google recommends you use one Review Extension at the campaign level, rather than at ad group levels. A campaign might include several ad groups: Google prioritises campaign level extensions and reviews them more quickly. Essentially, it gives you more bang for your CPC buck (though the reviews are free, you do, of course, pay your cost-per-click for the ads).
  • Familiarise yourself with Google’s Review Extension policies. If your submission doesn’t meet the guidelines, the search engine will not approve it.
  • Be aware that reviews do not show up in the SERPs all the time. If yours does not appear, take a look at the guidelines and make sure your Review Extension conforms. If it does, know that there are other factors at play, such as space on the page, your bid, and ad relevance.

Positive third-party reviews can boost your CTR and your credibility as an online resource and authority. If you’ve receive a glowing report, a rave review, or two thumbs up from a reputable source, leverage its power to help you reach and connect with your audience.

 

 

Film Clapper 4Move over, blogs. Well, they’ve moved over a while ago as internet users’ tastes and preferences changed. Vlogs, though, remain a relevant and effective method to reach a wide audience. How wide? Consider a few YouTube states: there are more than 1 billion unique users to the site each month, and over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month. Over 100 hours of video are uploaded every minute. With the glut of content, how can you be sure you stand out?

Some tips for spreading the word about your vlog:

Hashtags: They’re not just for Twitter anymore. The ubiquitous # is a useful tool for helping audiences share and discuss your videos. Reach out to those who do not currently follow you on social media and provide them with this easy route to your vlog.

Social Media: Speaking of social media, branch out from the usual suspects – Facebook and Twitter – and try Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and other platforms. Use them to announce new videos, highlight favorites from the past, and seed upcoming content. Remember, with social media, you don’t have to be everywhere: you have to be where your audience is. Do some consumer research to find out their social preferences, and get active in those communities.

Fan Finder: Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a free, easy way to reach new fans? Wish granted. YouTube’s Fan Finder allows you to create a short video ad for your channel. They show this to potential fans (based on user preferences), and, hopefully, your channel is flooded with interested and eager viewers. Create a 30-60 second video – a 30-60 second eye-catching, enticing video!

Commenting: Be a good internet citizen! Find videos, vlogs, blogs, and websites that relate to your niche and become an active participant. Say that you are a personal trainer who wants to drum up some more business. You may visit a health and wellness lifestyle blog, a YouTube video channel dedicated to nutrition and cooking, and a site that promotes exercise. Read, watch, and comment. You can mention you own channel or site – but don’t be spammy. Even if you aren’t blocked by moderators, you’ll alienate other sites and their audiences.

This works well because when people are interested in and passionate about a topic – whether health, fitness, business, or hobby car mechanics – they want more information from a variety of sites.

IRL: Why keep your expertise and quality content online? Promote it in person. If you’re at an industry event, for instance, why not pass out business cards with your website or channel name and URL? If business cards don’t do it for you, try fun decals or stickers. Put your web information on your newsletters, on correspondence, and on other communications that happen “in real life” or on old-fashioned paper.

A vlog can be a great way to issue high-quality, relevant content to your audience. As YouTube stats tell us, billions of people love a good video! The interest is there; the tools and platforms are there. Are you?

SEOFoot traffic and paper directories just don’t cut it anymore.  A confluence of events – from the meteoric rise of mobile to the emphasis in many communities on supporting local establishments – means that local businesses need to create a lively, optimised online presence to engage their customers. Over 46 per cent of shoppers use their mobile devices to research local products and services. Will they find you? Here are a few targeted tips for being on top of the local game.

  • Set up your Google Places space. Run, don’t walk. You can control the information you provide to Google, and to your audience. Use this opportunity to disseminate the essentials: hours, contact information, images, and a keyword-optimised description. After you fill this out, all you have to do is verify your account via phone or mail. Bing and Yahoo also have “Local” services for businesses, so if you want to target these engines as well, follow their specific procedures to get your account set up.
  • Get social with Google+ Local. Here, you can connect with your customers and others related to your specific industry using Google+ circles. You can control the information and the “story” your business tells.
  • Use a real address and phone number. People who search for local products and services want a “real” address, not a virtual one. Not only does it tell them where to go if they want to visit the brick-and-mortar location, but it lends your business greater credibility. Same goes with the telephone number. Adding a map is another nice touch that will help visitors feel more comfortable visiting either in person or onine.
  • Encourage customers to leave reviews and ratings. These are terrific for boosting your online authority and profile. Make it easy and convenient for them. Try printing a link to a review site on a receipt or adding one to an email communication to solicit feedback. If you should get some negative comments, address them immediately! Stay respectful, positive, and helpful – remember, these things can go viral.
  • Make sure your site is mobile-ready. While people do search for local businesses from home, it’s a mobile world. Is your site optimised for smartphones and tablets? If not, work on creating a responsive website or creating a separate mobile experience.
  • Don’t forget SEO. Keywords, site speed, metadata – all critical in local search campaigns.

Customers are out there, searching for quality local businesses. Make sure they find you by implementing these SEO strategies.

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