Techniques

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SEO means Search Engine Optimization. In basic terms, SEO is the process of making your website more relevant to the major search engines. Increasing your relevancy will mean that your site shows up higher in their search rankings. Due to its overwhelming market share, Google is usually the search engine you will optimize for.

Local SEO is optimizing your website to rank highly for local based search terms (keywords). Instead of just ranking for a general keyword like “Widgets”, you would try to rank for “Widgets Texas” or “Austin Widgets”.

Local SEO techniques are becoming an increasingly popular, especially by businesses in mid-sized and small cities. There are certain advantages when optimizing for localized search terms:

  • Can Be Easier To Rank — It is generally easier to rank for a local search term because it is less competitive. Instead of competing against all of North America, you are only fighting for position with those in your local area. Many times, you can rank near or at the top of Google for these terms with much less work.
  • More Targeted — When people are searching locally, they are more often to be ready to buy. It also makes sure that the people finding your site are local and can actually use your services. If you rank for “Widgets” people all over the world will find your site, but if you localize that search term you will be targeting people who are searching from your area. Depending on your product, most customers often start their search locally first. If they find someone competent that they feel comfortable with, they often stop searching.

With the explosions of mobile Internet, finding businesses through search engines will only get more popular. At one time, every business wanted to be in the Yellow Pages. Well, the day of the search engine is here and you want to rank for these local terms. With less competition you can rank quicker and with less effort. You will be tapping into a perpetual funnel of local-based web searches.

When you have a website, you want it to rank near the top of the search rankings for localized searches.

Local-SEO-techniquesLocal SEO Techniques: Keyword Research

Keywords are the words or terms that people use to search in Google. If you do a search for “Cheap Flights” on Google, then the keyword is: cheap flight. Keyword brainstorming and research is an important first step in any Local SEO plan. These general steps will get you off to a good start.

Sit down and make a list of every keyword term that someone would search for to find your ‘Widget’ company. Don’t worry about local terms right now — just think of what people would search in any part of the world to find a service like yours. Write down as many terms as possible. Think of a wide variety of terms, all the way from one word terms (short-tail) to 3+-word terms (long-tail). You can also ask friends and family for their input. This will give you an outside perspective from an everyday person.

If you get stuck thinking about terms, you can get some help from Google itself. Just take one of the keyword terms you thought of and enter it into the Google Keyword Tool. This will give you a list of related terms and their estimated search numbers. Keep in mind we will localize these terms, so the amount of searches will not be directly applicable — but it still gives you an idea of what keywords are searched more often. Spend a good chunk of time on this, and try to get a list of 20-30 keyword terms.

Now that you have your keyword list, simply localize them. Add your location (town or city, maybe the state/province if you are in a city with common name). If your Widget services are in demand in a number of towns, then add the other towns in front of the keyword as well. For example… City One + Keyword One City One + Keyword Two … City Two + Keyword One City Two + Keyword Two Etc… So each new town you use will be another five local keyword terms. Once you have localized your keywords, you will now have a list of local keyword terms that you can begin ranking for. While this is a basic form of keyword research, it is leagues ahead of most of the online marketing that local businesses do.

Local SEO Techniques: The Basics

To understand Local SEO techniques completely would be a book on its own, but here are some basics. If you have built your website using WordPress, you could do some of the on-page steps yourself. If you went with an HTML design, you might have to get your web designer to make a couple of changes. The changes will be quick though, so it shouldn’t take too much time. Local SEO can be broken into two main categories: On-page and Off-page.

Local SEO Techniques: On-Page Factors

On-Page means exactly what it says. These are the steps you take on your actual site or blog to make it more friendly to the search engines. While there are many things to consider, some great first steps include:

Title Tags

You might have to get your web designer to fix these for you if you use a traditional HTML website. These are simply the titles of each page and are the first thing Google sees when it finds a new page. The “title” in this case is what is displayed ABOVE the address bar in your Internet browser. It is at the very top of the browser. On Google.com, “Google” is the page title.If you are familiar with HTML code, this is usually accomplished with the <title></title> tags near the top of the code. If you are savvy enough, you can change them yourself — just remove what is in between them and paste in one of your keywords.

In WordPress, you can handle this even easier through uses of plugins like All-in-One SEO. Each page of your site should have a different title tag. Make it one of the keywords that you created in the previous step. In some smaller towns, this is all you will need to do to get to the first page of Google for localized terms. If you use WordPress, you can access Permalinks through the Settings and create a custom structure like: /%postname%/. This will make the title tag of every post you create to be the same as the Post Title. So just name your blog posts with keywords and you will automatically have keyword rich title tags. Another point for WordPress.

Content

You want to mention your keywords in your content, but not too much. You don’t want your content to seem low quality and unnaturally stuffed with keywords. Remember, your web content should be written for your visitors, not the search engines. Good quality content that naturally mentions your keywords will engage people, make them more likely to share your site. It will also seem more natural to Google.

Navigation

You should have proper navigation on your site. You want it to be both logical and working. Broken links on your site are a big “no-no.” A broken link in your navigation is especially glaring. You want Google to be to easily find your whole site with no broken links. This includes linking to other parts of your own site.

Sitemap

This step is more important for WordPress based websites, because a sitemap is needed more for a dynamic site. A sitemap is basically a list of your website pages. Search engines like Google will use it to discover your entire site. It is more important for websites that are updated with new pages often (i.e. WordPress blog). In WordPress you can easily add a sitemap to your site with a plugin like “Google XML Sitemaps.”

SEO is a major area of study online, and there are a lot of other steps you can take, but the above ones are a great on-page start to any campaign. Since ranking for localized keywords is easier in general, these steps should suffice for most résumé writing businesses.

Local SEO Techniques: Off-Page Factors

In many people’s eyes, off-page optimization is where you should spend most of your time. I personally disagree. I think consistent high quality on-page content (aka blog posts) is the most important step. That said, off-page optimization is still very important and probably more important than every on-page step besides content creation.

When it comes down to a basic level, off-page optimization is really about one thing — getting backlinks. Backlinks are simply links on other sites that point towards your site. Google values these highly, and it is one of the major ranking factors. When you are starting a backlinking campaign, there are a couple of terms you need to know:

Anchor Text

The anchor text is the actual text that makes up the link. When you see a link that says “Click Here,” then click here is the anchor text. Links that have your keywords as the anchor text are more valuable. An anchor text that reads, “Click here to contact us for Widgets” is more valuable.

Page Rank

Google gives pages a rank from 0-10. This rank isn’t quite as important as some people make it out to be, but it is still a good guide. The higher the page rank of a website, the more valu

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Penguin Algorithm Update: Matt Cutts Comments on Twitter

http://bit.ly/10EcgE8
In March, Google’s Webspam gladiator Matt Cutts’ announced a new Penguin Algorithm Update was on the horizon. This spurred a wave of speculation about when the next Penguin Algorithm Update would actually occur. Speculation hit a fever pitch last week with MozCast reporting two days of extreme volatility in the search rankings, and Barry Schwartz’ report detailing the ongoing debate taking place on the webmaster world forums.

Penguin Algorithm UpdatePenguin Algorithm Update: Are You Ready?

This past weekend Cutts responded directly on Twitter to timetable questions about the pending Penguin Algorithm Update. And while his answer was “Nope”, that doesn’t mean he is being completely honest.

He has previously discussed the process of Google Algorithm Updates on his YouTube video blog. There he spoke about the testing process surrounding a Google Algorithm Update. He described the algorithm change introduction as moving from an internal ecosystem on the local Google Campus, to a broader test of limited search queries and finally to a formal release of the Update across the entire search engine.

These initial reports of volatility, might in fact mean that the testing phase of the new Penguin Algorithm Update has moved beyond the Google campus and is nearing a formal release. In fact, this could be assumed based on Cutts’ second reply “sometime in the next few weeks.”

 

Penguin Algorithm Update: Importance of Testing

The effects of the Penguin Algorithm Update will certainly reshape the results displayed on the first page for many major Google keyword queries. This will have ‘make or break’ consequences for many companies doing business online. With the stakes this high, it should be reassuring that Google is taking their time with the change, which will hopefully result in avoiding punishment for honest, white hat websites.

 

Penguin Algorithm Update: Matt Cutts Comments on Twitter

http://bit.ly/10EcgE8
In March, Google’s Webspam gladiator Matt Cutts’ announced a new Penguin Algorithm Update was on the horizon. This spurred a wave of speculation about when the next Penguin Algorithm Update would actually occur. Speculation hit a fever pitch last week with MozCast reporting two days of extreme volatility in the search rankings, and Barry Schwartz’ report detailing the ongoing debate taking place on the webmaster world forums.

Penguin Algorithm UpdatePenguin Algorithm Update: Are You Ready?

This past weekend Cutts responded directly on Twitter to timetable questions about the pending Penguin Algorithm Update. And while his answer was “Nope”, that doesn’t mean he is being completely honest.

He has previously discussed the process of Google Algorithm Updates on his YouTube video blog. There he spoke about the testing process surrounding a Google Algorithm Update. He described the algorithm change introduction as moving from an internal ecosystem on the local Google Campus, to a broader test of limited search queries and finally to a formal release of the Update across the entire search engine.

These initial reports of volatility, might in fact mean that the testing phase of the new Penguin Algorithm Update has moved beyond the Google campus and is nearing a formal release. In fact, this could be assumed based on Cutts’ second reply “sometime in the next few weeks.”

 

Penguin Algorithm Update: Importance of Testing

The effects of the Penguin Algorithm Update will certainly reshape the results displayed on the first page for many major Google keyword queries. This will have ‘make or break’ consequences for many companies doing business online. With the stakes this high, it should be reassuring that Google is taking their time with the change, which will hopefully result in avoiding punishment for honest, white hat websites.

 

Office 365 and Yammer: Microsoft Merging Services

http://bit.ly/1987YsD
More details have emerged related to Microsoft’s $1.2 Billion purchase of Enterprise Social Network Yammer. Since the purchase last summer, Yammer has demonstrated the ability to grow. Sales have increased 259% year-over-year, marked by 312 new customers and their best user engagement statistics ever for the month of March 2013.

Office 365 and Yammer

Microsoft commented on the progress of the Yammer acquisition yesterday on their blog:

“While we are pleased with the growth, the opportunity for enterprise social is even larger. Yammer and Microsoft have come together with a single vision – to bring enterprise social to all businesses by weaving these capabilities into the apps people use every day. Realizing this vision requires close alignment in product development, sales and marketing.

On the engineering side, we’ve made great strides in a short timeframe, bringing together Office 365 and Yammer teams to deliver regular updates against our roadmap. Right now our teams are actively focused on foundational work around identity, content and messaging that will drive seamless connected experiences across Office 365 and other applications. We look forward to sharing more exciting developments soon.

The next area of focus is aligning the Yammer and Office 365 go-to-market efforts. On March 1, we began offering Office 365 and Yammer together as part of Enterprise Agreements. We will further simplify the customer buying experience and increase global scale by fully integrating our sales teams this summer. We’re going from about a hundred sellers at Yammer to several thousand Microsoft sellers around the world bringing customers the benefits of enterprise social.

The reaction from customers has been overwhelmingly positive. They are excited about the transformational potential of enterprise social and recognize the combined value of Office 365 and Yammer. Just one example we recently announced is ABB, a power and automation technology leader using Office 365 and Yammer to provide a single platform for productivity, communication, collaboration and enterprise social in the cloud for 145,000 employees across 100 countries.”

Yammer and Office365

Office 365 and Yammer: Identity Emerges as Core Focus

Alex Williams of Techcruch.com wrote about what the alignment of Office 365 and Yammer means to the industry:

“The news follows the road map that Microsoft set at its SharePoint Conference last November. In March, Microsoft detailed the transition and how Yammer will co-exist with Office 365 and Sharepoint.

It makes sense that identity is one of the core focus areas for Microsoft. It’s going to be critical to have universal identity in order for these systems to talk to each other and for IT to control access and permissions.

Identity is emerging as a core theme coming from Microsoft. Last month, the company announced the support of Active Directory in Windows Azure. Customers may also use their Microsoft account to log in to Windows Azure.

In the meantime, companies like Box are firing shots across Microsoft’s bow. Today the company bought Crocodoc, an HTML5 service for embedding docs. It’s a clear sign of the aggressive moves that are sure to come as the enterprise social networking space becomes increasingly competitive.”

 

How Mobile Is Transforming the in Store Shopping Experience

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As mobile search statistics soar, it’s no secret that smartphones are changing the landscape of retail. Shoppers use their smartphone to purchase products online, but also to research and compare brick and mortar stores. A new mobile in-store research study by the Google Shopper Marketing Agency Council and M/A/R/C Research examines the role of mobile as part of the shopping experience and the opportunities this presents.

Mobile In-Store ResearchMobile In-Store Research: Key Findings

The study classifies 79% of smartphone owners as “Smartphone Shoppers“. These people are characterized by using their device a least once a month to assist with shopping. The mobile search can be conducted prior to shopping activities, or as the study reveals, 84% of smartphone shoppers use their device while in a physical store. These trends are not category specific and extend across all industries.

Reasons given for utilizing the smartphone include ability to research products saving time and money as well as making shopping tasks easier. Smartphone shoppers conduct mobile search to find directions to store locations, hours of operation and promotional offers. These shoppers help themselves instead of relying on a salesperson for information.

Search engines are incredibly important to mobile research. While a percentage of smartphone shoppers will go directly to a brand website, the overwhelming majority use search engines to find the information they need.  This is especially true for users that what to find the location where a specific product is sold and make price comparisons between those locations.

Finally, the study finds that frequent smartphone shoppers spend more money when shopping. This can be as much as 50% more than those that occasionally or never use mobile search when shopping.

Mobile In-Store Research: Implications for Businesses

The Mobile In-Store Research Study finds four major implications for businesses. Google provides the following suggestions to make sure you businesses can capitalize on these findings:

1. Mobile marketing isn’t an option, it’s an imperative

In-store shoppers are looking for product information and they’re turning to their mobile device to find it. The mobile device, always on and always with shoppers, is one of the biggest influencers in the store today; it presents tremendous opportunities for marketers across industries to connect with potential customers–wherever they are, whenever they’re searching for your products.

2. Mobile can be used to get customers to the store and help keep them there.

  • Allow customers to find your business on mobile. In addition to having a mobile website, businesses should use it to prominently display retail locations and phone numbers.
  • Own the digital shelf – Make it easy for shoppers to find product information, promotional offers, or other information about your business on their smartphones when in-store.
  • Adapt your marketing message to the consumer’s context. Taking into account things like location, time of day and device allow you to reach people with more relevant messages.

3. Meet the showrooming challenge head-on.

Embrace mobile use in-store. It’s going to happen, so find a way to take advantage of it. Having a wide inventory of e-commerce products, store maps, and product information QR codes are just some of the ways to connect with mobile users.

Improve the in-store experience. Offering expert service from salespeople or interactive product demos can help distinguish your in-store experience from online shopping.

Have a strategy to address price comparisons. Using price match guarantees, stocking unique product bundles, and creating store specific brands and products are just some of the steps that businesses can take.

4. Recognize the pivotal role of mobile to your overall marketing strategy.

Embrace mobile use in-store. It’s going to happen, so find a way to take advantage of it. Having a wide inventory of e-commerce products, store maps, and product information QR codes are just some of the ways to connect with mobile users.

Improve the in-store experience. Offering expert service from salespeople or interactive product demos can help distinguish your in-store experience from online shopping.

Have a strategy to address price comparisons. Using price match guarantees, stocking unique product bundles, and creating store specific brands and products are just some of the steps that businesses can take.

Google Maps Update

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Google I/O 13 takes place this month in San Francisco, and all indications are that Google Maps will receive a substantial makeover. Many suspect this Google Maps update is aimed to make the service much more targeted toward mobile users. This promo for I/O session “Google Maps: Into the Future” definitely hints in that direction:

“Google Maps and the Maps API enjoy huge popularity around the world. The Google Maps API is the most used API on the web. maps.google.com is the most used mapping site. Android and iOS SDKs are branching Maps out into new platforms. In this session, the Product Management Director of Google Maps (Ken Hoetmer) teams with the Product Manager for the Google Maps API and the lead Developer Advocate (Mano Marks) to walk you into the future of Google Maps.”

Google Maps Update: The New Look of Google Maps Interface

The complete list of changes that will occur in this Google Maps update is still a mystery, but a few industry analysts seem to have an inside track. Alex Chitu posted images as well as his thoughts about the Google Maps Update “The update will remove the sidebar and will display everything on top of the full-screen map. One of the new features lets you restrict local search results to places recommended by top reviews or your Google+ circles.”

Brittany Hillen has expanded on the Google Maps update, stating:

“The updated user interface will eschew the traditional sidebar for a series of boxes above the map, which will fill the entire screen after the update if the screenshots are to be believed. The interface is called “more immersive,” and suggests that those on mobile devices will find that it works better than the interface that is currently in place. The moved sidebar won’t be the only change users see, however.

According to the preview, the current interface is one that is focused on the navigational components of Maps, such as the sidebars and buttons and sliders. That design theory will change with the update, with the new redesigned interface instead featuring a focus on the map itself with the various elements building on top of it rather than taking up its valuable space.

Along with the design’s change in focus will be some visual changes, which includes updates to the service’s icons, text styles, and the colors of the map itself. When can users expect to see these changes in place? A date isn’t provided, but it is worth mentioning the I/O event is coming up, and we may very well see it rolling out then.”

Google Maps Update: The New Look of Maps

There is excitement and anticipation from mobile users as to the specifics of the Google Maps update. Chitu’s screenshots give users a preview, but there is no substitute for the actual interface experience.

Google Maps Update

Google Maps Update

TripAdvisor Review Express

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Online customer reviews posses a strong influence on potential brand customers. The internet is a hub of opinions. Embracing sources that share individual’s thoughts about products and services can increase the perception of trustworthiness in a business. For many brands, there is no sales tool stronger than positive online customer reviews.

This is specifically true of the hospitality industry. In their study “The Impact of Social Media on Lodging Performance“, researchers at Cornell University recognized “one of the more intriguing aspects of social media is their potential to move markets by driving consumers’ purchasing patterns and influencing lodging performance.” The online review study produced some interesting conclusions:

  1. The percentage of consumers consulting reviews at TripAdvisor prior to booking a hotel room has steadily increased over time, as has the number of reviews they are reading prior to making their hotel choice.
  2. Transactional data from Travelocity illustrate that if a hotel increases its review scores by 1 point on a 5-point scale (e.g., from 3.3 to 4.3), the hotel can increase its price by 11.2% and still maintain the same occupancy or market share.
  3. Regression analysis finds that a 1% increase in a hotel’s online reputation score leads up to a 0.89% increase in price as measured by the hotel’s average daily rate (ADR).
  4. This 1% increase in reputation also leads to an occupancy increase of up to 0.54%.
  5. This 1% reputation improvement leads up to a 1.42% increase in revenue per available room (RevPAR).

TripAdvisor Review Express to Get More Traveler Reviews

TripAdvisor Review ExpressIn order to enable their partners success in collecting customer reviews, TripAdvisor Review Express service was launched today. According to their website “TripAdvisor Review Express is a free marketing tool that makes it easy to invite recent visitors to write a review on TripAdvisor. In just minutes, you can create and send a customized, professional-looking email to up to 1,000 recent guests.” Features include customizable email templates, bulk uploads, and message translation in 21 different languages.

TripAdvisor receives over 200 Million visitors each month, searching to find information about potential travel destinations. But the introduction of TripAdvisor Review Express will just keep them ahead of the competition, according to Cathrine Shu at Techcrunch.com:

“TripAdvisor already has more than 100 million reviews on its sites, but it needs even more in order to continue competing against rivals like Yelp and Foursquare. Review Express, a service the travel Web site launched today, is meant to help TripAdvisor grow its roster of reviews by making it easy for venues to request them from customers.”

TripAdvisor Review Express is not the only customer review tool is the company is implementing. According to Shu “Other features TripAdvisor has recently launched to bulk up its reviews include EasyToBook.com, which allows users to share travel reviews with friends, and the Rave Review widget, which allows site owners to display photos with positive reviews.”

TripAdvisor Review Express Video

The Rewards of Online Customer Reviews

The rewards of consumer feedback are significantly positive to all aspects of businesses. Online customer reviews will improve your company’s reputation and increase sales. Addtionally, applied online feedback helps to improve operations, rectify shortcomings, and provide insight for delivering outstanding products and customer service. Today more than ever before, it’s essential to enable your customers to share opinions online.