For many small business owners, online marketing is a vital component of the marketing mix, and thankfully in my experience; this is something that most small business owners will know very well. And while there are a lot of ways to get noticed on the internet, the best way to get online attention has always been Google. Because of Google’s ever-reaching virtual arm, a business owner would be advised take advantage of the local-business focused Google Places.
Google Places is a great tool for any locally focused business, and it’s also free and easy to set up. This post is going to show you exactly how to get your business listed on Google Places and it’s going to take you through the all-important task of getting ranked.
Setting Up Your Account and Getting Listed
Before we get to optimisation, I’m going to take you step by step through getting your business actually listed on Google Places. This process is fairly straightforward and the initial setup should take no more than an hour.
Step 1 – Create a Google Account for Your Business
To start with the very basics, you are going to need a google account for your business. You probably already have a personal google account, but it is advisable to make one specifically for your business. The reason for this is that there is a chance that an employee will manage your listing at some point, and you probably won’t want them on your personal account. This is also convenient if your business does ever switch hands in the future. It’s best to keep your business account easy to remember, and most people will simply put their business name @gmail.com.
Step 2 – Claim Your Business as Yours
If your business Gmail account is good to go then you can now claim your business and get it listed. Now you’ll need to go to the Google Places homepage and click Get Started. Click “Get your business found on Google” and now you’re off to the races. Since this is your first time listing a business under your business account you will have to search for the business by your country and phone number. It is important that you use the businesses landline for this search or google won’t recognise the business (this is because of the integration with google maps).
When you search for your business Google will either find your business and show you basic information (usually pulled from directory sources such as Yell) or it will take you to the next step that we’ll cover. If it does have you listed already then still don’t worry because you will be able to edit and add more information about your business. At this point your business is being claimed as yours and you will now move on to the biggest part of this guide.
Step 3 – Edit Your Listing
Now you are in control of your listing and you can get started on entering all of the details of your business. Google will want you to be very specific and you should prepare yourself because there is quite a lot of information to be entered now. We’re going to touch on each area now and give you a good idea of how to efficiently do each section.
Basic Information is where you’ll input all of the, you guessed it, basics of your business. This section is fairly easy to understand, but it is also very important for your listing. These are the categories that your listing must have, straight from Google:
- Company Name
- City, County, Postcode
- Main Phone Number
While the fields are pretty self-explanatory it is important to note that consistency is key here. Google wants to trust your business and it wants to make things simple for the consumer, so it is very important that you enter everything here consistently with how you’ve used it in the past. Look at other websites that your business is on, such as FreeIndex or Qype, and make sure that every detail is identical. It really helps to nitpick here because even minute things like using St. instead of Street can make a difference to Google.
The business description in Basic Information is also a very important part of your listing. This is your time to shine and make your business look good (all in 200 characters or less), so you should think of it as something that you would feature on your own business website. Use keywords here and make sure to target the description to your ideal consumers.
Service Areas and Location Settings Areas
In this area you will be asked if your business is in one location or if it is in multiple locations. If your business doesn’t do deliveries or outside business of any kind then select that option and you’re done. If your business does operate in multiple locations then you will have to determine an area of service. For this option you can either provide a distance from your location or list the cities/areas that you want to be listed in. Both options have their advantages and it will really depend on your type of business.
Hours of Operation and Payment Options
This section is again pretty straightforward. Google will pull the information from your company website if you don’t enter it, but it is best to be in control of the information and avoid any errors. Completely filling everything out will also help to build on your reputation with Google and make you look more trustworthy.
Photos are a very important part of your listing and they should definitely be included. Pictures will make your business look more attractive to potential customers and it will also make you look more professional and trustworthy to Google. There is a limit of 10 pictures so be sure to use the best pictures possible with you limited slots. It’s also a very good idea to use your most important pictures first, so that customers see the good ones even if they don’t look through all of them. The pictures that you should use include:
- Company logo
- Images of your employees at your business
- Pictures of your products
- Pictures of the business itself
Videos aren’t exactly necessary in your listing, but they definitely won’t hurt. Every little thing still builds credibility and makes you look more trustworthy.
It might be tempting to put keywords and extra marketing in this section, but that would be a very bad idea. The best use of this area is to put additional details only, things similar to the examples that Google offers (brands carried, parking). You can use your keywords in the other sections, but reserve this area only for important details that didn’t fit in the other areas.
Step 4 – Verify Your Google Places Listing
You are almost done now, but you still to verify with google that you do actually own your business before you can take full control of your listing. There are two options for verifying your listing, and these options are phone verification and mail verification. Mail verification can take 2-3 weeks so as long as the option is available to you (which it will be in 99% of cases), you’ll want to use the phone option. Immediately after you choose the phone option your business line will receive an automated call from Google which will give you the 5 digit verification pin. Enter the pin and you will finally be ready to go on your listing.
Optimising Your Google Places Listing
Now you and your business are all set up and verified on Google Places, but there are still some things that you can do to get the highest ranking possible on your listing. Being listed is all well and good, but this isn’t the same thing as being found.
A lot of the little tricks have been mentioned above, but I’m going to go through a few more good practices that will help to get your rankings up.
Maintain Your Google Places Listing
This might seem a bit obvious, but you will definitely want to keep up with your page and change any details if anything in your business changes. It’s also a good idea to check the analytics on your website and play with your listing until you get the optimum traffic from it.
Market Your Google Places Listing
It might seem redundant to market a marketing tool, but giving your listing some love really will make a big difference in the long run. To ensure that your Google Places listing gets the most attention possible you might want to consider these steps:
- Encourage your customers to review your listing – use transactional emails and mailing lists for this.
- Post updates on your Google Places page with things like coupons and discounts
- Build up business reviews on other reviews services
- Optimise your business website for Google
Utilise Citations to Improve Your Google Ranking
The last thing that we’re going to touch on which will really help your ranking is the all important tool of citations. Google loves to see you being mentioned on other websites, and having a good list of third party citations is one of the best things that you can do to improve your local ranking. There are countless services that list local businesses, and getting yours on just a few of these (but especially the right ones) will endlessly help you in your pursuit of getting noticed by customers. LocalVisibilitySystem is a great starting point to see the types of websites that you should be getting your business listed on.
I have also put-together a useful list of the top local citation sources that are used by Google.
The Excel Spreadsheet can be downloaded from here
The above tips will all help your business not only get listed on Google Places, but will also help you actually be seen. If you follow these steps and always keep your Google listing in mind then you will start to find that it is an excellent source of well-targeted local customers.
LASTLY – you can of course ask your SEO agency to do ensure you have your Local SEO done right. Please see how Datadial can help you by clicking here.
March 20th, 2014.
Again, Google gets the backs up of companies investing heavily in its services, though this time it’s not through an algorithm update or a change in the webmaster guidelines. Rather, it’s their comparison feature that has sandbagged the major comparison shopping firms.
If you’re involved in Travel, Finance or Insurance, you need to be aware that Google is interested in controlling these verticals within its own search engine, as much as possible. The opportunity for profit is huge as is the tonnes of valuable data that will be collected.
The Google comparison feature was soon released after they acquired comparison site “Beat That Quote” back in 2011. The feature meant that Google would appear for generic competitive industry related keywords, such as car insurance or mortgages. This is still the case today.
This move was understandable, Google’s desire to keep growing and monopolising the internet means that creations such as this are going to be more and more common. At the end of the day, they’ve reach mass market penetration in the UK, the only way to please the shareholders is to diversify into other lucrative industries.
Brand Bidding is Bad, Unless You’re Google
However, it looks like one rule for everyone else except Google, who haven’t been following their own rules again. Their position as overlords of the internet has entitled them to take advantage of the very companies that are paying them remarkable figures in Google adwords advertisement and other services.
Scratching your head?
Google’s comparison engine has gone a step further than simply appearing for the generic big industry keywords.
A branded search for anyone of the top comparison website rivals will return this:
They’ve effectively done MoneySuperMarket’s job for them, how thoughtful…
Despite the fact that MoneySuperMarket will probably be paying incredible sums of money to raise awareness of their brand name, all of which supports their offline marketing efforts, which includes extensive above the line media adverts. Their efforts are being sabotaged by Google’s “Sponsored” comparison engine which is essentially hijacking users away from the MoneySuperMarket website. Whilst doing this they’re also trying to force the users to adopt Google’s own engine instead, which features a list of alternative competitor insurance companies.
In a nutshell Google’s comparison engine seems to be a glorified affiliate site.
You thought Google only favoured the big brands…
So what do the big comparison sites do, how would you react? It would appear that they just have to accept it. Thanks Mike… ground breaking revelation there.
This isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last time that Google have tried to force users to use their platform over a potential rivals, this should sound familiar? Google are being hypocritical of their own guidelines and company mission statement.
We’ve all heard that providing a good user experience and unique authoritative content are what Google rewards the most, which makes perfect sense. So why when companies such as MoneySuperMarket provide awesome content, such as this, are they being pushed further down the SERPS real estate?
Kevin Gibbons recently wrote a great piece on how to beat Google in a vertical search, making the point that relying on Google is always a risky game, it’s your biggest competitor. It has your mindshare whenever want to find something or buy a product.
Kevin, goes onto to give great examples of how MoneySuperMarket are beating Google hand’s down by ultimately using their marketing as an acquisition channel which rewards them for coming back. They’re running newsletters, social media, blog, apps, SEO and remarketing to such an effect that a Google search is becoming more and more irrelevant.
And if all that doesn’t work, well at least they have Snoop Dog.
February 20th, 2014.
Google seems to have mutated into some kind of mutant King Sidam. Everything they touch turns to old (news).
Ask Joe Public who he thinks the leader of modern technological advances are and chances are he’ll say Google. And he’s probably right. Then why can’t Google seem to get it right when it comes to launching new products?
I’ll tell you why. But first I need to explain I’m not talking about Google’s acquisitions. They buy a new company every day. Whether it’s Motorola or Boston Dynamics (of terrifying Big Dog fame), they make strategic purchases to position themselves as market leaders in technology. Whenever they buy a company the ensuing press coverage surely boosts that company’s profile. That’s not their problem. Their problem is in launching new products.
First announced in 1901, Google Glass has been in tech news every 5 seconds ever since. You can’t move online without someone mentioning Google Glass. This isn’t the results of Google’s PR team though, it’s just because bloggers are lazy. They’ll write about anything that they think will generate page views. These posts are predictable and pernicious to Google’s overall success. Mostly they’re speculative or fluffed up with rumour, so by the time the real announcements come along we feel like we’ve heard it before.
Bloggers writing about something is one thing, but are people interested? According to Google’s own trend data, apparently they’re not.
Compare this with the pageantry and sense of mystery surrounding other tech announcements. Apple hold a massive conference every year to announce their new products. This occurs a few months before the official launch, fuelling discussion until the actual launch. Here is proof:
The same applies to the PS4 and XboxOne.
You could argue that this is an unfair comparison since these products had an existing market and Google Glass hasn’t been launched yet. I would contend that there is an existing market for Google Glass, but they’ve shown their hand too early. There’s no mystery and no awesome features for us to get excited about. Just a load of pictures of pretty people wearing obnoxious eyewear. And Sergey Brin beginning his transformation into Robert Downey Jr.
Remember Google Helpouts? Don’t worry. Neither does anyone else…
Basically it’s a peer-teaching platform where you can teach (or learn) through video calling. The learner pays the teacher for their time and everyone’s a winner. Except Google, who forgot to do any marketing…
It’s a good idea in theory. The main problem is people can use Google’s fairly well-known search engine to find free answers to their questions for a dash of the time, effort and cost of using Helpouts.
Consider Helpouts as a start-up (one with a billion-dollar backing, but a start-up all the same). Most successful Start-Ups use a growth marketing model. They start out small and build their exposure as interest and logistics allow. It seems like Google just launched their platform and hoped for the best.
Here’s a comparison with a red-hot start-up called Ranku (for finding free degree courses). Other than offering an entirely unique and useful service, Ranku has the benefit of not being called ‘Google CourseSearch’. I’m of the opinion that ‘Google [anything]’ is starting to feel a bit stale. People like to talk about fresh new ideas more than ‘Look what Google is doing now…’
Google Helpouts also sounds criminally like Google Hangouts. To the point where I typed the wrong one about 4 times when writing the preceding paragraphs. Hangouts feels like Google arriving late to the party (about 11 years too late…)
Speaking of being late to the party:
Ray Liotta says it best:
Or, as Google put it:
I think Google+ might be the exact moment Google’s PR went a bit wrong.
A social network that offers entirely no benefit over its rivals is a stupid idea to begin with. They’ve tried basic marketing, they’ve tried reasoning with us, they’ve even tried forcing us to get involved. The fact is, people don’t want it.
Like Vinyl, Betamax, DVD, and Blockbuster, there’s just no need for it. At all. Like actually no need whatsoever.
The PR campaign here just seems to be some kind of war of attrition. Google won’t admit defeat (I guess 300 million ‘users’ can’t be wrong), so they’ll just keep flogging a dead horse. After all, they have YouTube and Gmail – properties their rivals at Facebook and Twitter can never even hope to emulate. All the same, Google+ is a a fart at the proverbial shit fight.
It’s all about the Billions
You could argue that these losses of interest are negligible in the overall scheme of things. Google still has its crafty little fingers in pies of every flavour – so why does it matter if a couple lose money?
That’s just bad business. Why do something if you’re not going to do it right? Google has the reach, the money and the talent at its disposal to turn virtually any idea into a profit – it’s just about finding the right market (i.e. not launching your rocket into space and hoping for the best). This hit-and-hope mentality needs to change.
We hear a lot of rumours about Google’s self-driving car. Here’s what they need to do to ensure PR success and sustained interest:
1) Don’t drip-feed us with non-news stories about what colour the steering wheel might be, or pictures of pretty people in the passenger seat.
2) Don’t market it as something instantly lame like ‘Google Drivecar’. Give it a cool modern name that we won’t shudder to hear.
3) Create mystery and speculation around it. Talk about the crazy things it can actually do. Design elements are not cool functions.
4) Have a launch event where you tell everyone the same thing at the same time. Make it awesome.
5) Make sure all the marketing is as cool as this (it actually makes us get goose bumps about the possibilities):
(Just don’t use Oscar Pistorius…)
6) Watch this Ted talk. It’s about focussing on why a product is great rather than just what it does.
And if all else fails, you can make an infographic about it.
If you don’t work at Google but you want to talk about an online PR strategy for your company, give me a call.
February 10th, 2014.
Are you still waiting to implement a winning strategy in 2014? Is the doom and gloom hokum surrounding Google updates preventing you from making the right decisions?
Let me take you back to the past and into the shoes of a university student who chose to follow the straight arrow path of Marketing.
Amongst the countless amounts of acronyms and matrix tables that flooded lecture handouts is the classic “SMART” formula. The formula exists to guide you to defining better objectives.
Specific – Define what it is that you want to achieve. Answer those 5 W’s! Who, what, when, why and where.
Measurable – Quantify your objectives, how are you going to back up your results?
Achievable – We all like to overreach at times. When setting objectives make sure that they’re likely to be achieved by your team.
Relevant – Make sure the objectives are relevant to the business and in line with the overall marketing plan.
Time based – Set a date for the objectives to be complete (tricky in SEO).
A smarter SEO would also add
So I suppose you want a SMART example in SEO?
A fictitious Mexican food restaurant business based in the UK … “Guapo – Mexican”
“We want to target food lovers from the UK who enjoy tasting exciting Mexican dishes (specific) to raise awareness to our restaurant (actionable and relevant). We will aim to bring over 30,000 visits to our site (measurable) within 8 months (timely)”.
So, how will the SMART acronym apply to your 2014 strategy?
First you must begin to understand how search will change in 2014. So let’s take a look at the predictions.
2013 saw Google unleash the shackles on countless updates. If you weren’t scared at anyone point, then you’re a liar! We saw more frequent Penguin and Panda updates, Hummingbird and the (not provided) debacle finally hit its peak. Enough to send the SEO world into to complete disarray…
It’s safe to say that the SERPS changed in a big way last year. We saw steps to include more localised results as well as better integration of the knowledge graph.
A basic search for “Mexican food” returns a mixture of locally, knowledge based and contextually relevant results.
To get the most out of your SMARTER objectives for 2014, I’d suggest doing the following:
Make the most of local
1) Get listed on Google local places, claim your profile and add all the bells and whistles (360 Photos and Videos) to make sure that your profile stands out amongst your competitors.
2) Encourage sentiment and reward customers who review the restaurant on Google, Trip advisor, Yelp, Top table and other platforms.
3) A mobile version of your site is a must. The majority of mobile searches are for local services, take advantage of this by making your menu and deals accessible and shareable on mobile devices.
4) Go social… Nothing new there, but certainly a necessary step to taking up more first page real estate. In the case of the above example, the love of food is universal. Therefore a restaurant is blessed with the amount of social media tools available at its disposal. Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Instagram and Pinterest can also be used to great effect. You could also top this off by adding a blog to your site. Adding a blog is an easy way to increase the amount of pages, helping you rank for a wider set of keywords.
5) Add separate pages for multiple locations. This helps Google deliver the best result to the searcher, it’s probably a good call to also add your contact details to many pages.
Move away from one type of Analytics
Predicted by Rand Fishkin in Moz’s 2013 predictions was that marketers would need to stop relying on Google analytics as the sole platform for web marketing. He was right by some degree, other platforms such as Mixpanel, Piwick, Omniture and Hubspot did grow significantly last year.
Google’s (not provided) alienated many web marketers who put all their eggs in one basket. Being able to measure and report became tough but that wasn’t the only issue. Identifying opportunities for growth also became difficult. The market is becoming more competitive and margin for errors of ignorance is less forgiving.
Heavier correlation of G+ in search results
A Moz report in 2013 found a high amount of correlation in search rankings and their number of Google +1’s. Cyrus Shepard reported on the findings as surprising, although “correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation”. The post did create some controversy which sparked Matt Cutts to respond to the debate via hacker news to poor cold water on the findings.
Make the most of Google + by building relationships with your audience and like minded businesses in your niche, identify the industry influencers and connect with them. Take advantage of rel=”publisher” and connect your website to your Google+ brand page.
Incorporating Google + tactics in your strategy will be more important than previous years. The research done by Moz and search metrics indicates the social networks significance and correlation to higher rankings. You will also benefit from increased Click through rate, relevant and influential communities as well as growing your brands authority.
Content Marketing continues to grow but who’s taking over the reins?
Content marketing has been the buzz word for the last couple of years now and it’s taken some time for many businesses to adjust, but to give you an idea of how far it’s come, it is said that up to 92% of marketers are now practicing some form of content marketing. But do marketers really know best?
The content marketing institute estimate that Marketers will have to up their game if they want to remain relevant. Perhaps not surprisingly, it’s Journalists who are leading the way with great backgrounds in writing and storytelling and information design. They know how to orchestrate content that makes you care, is different to the competition, is new and surprises people. Beyond their storytelling abilities are tech and research skills and the ability to meet strict deadlines.
Marketer’s who can learn to think like journalists in 2014 will reap the benefits of good content marketing.
Don’t rely on any one tactic
This is nothing new… perhaps it could just be received as conventional wisdom. Relying on anyone SEO tactic will result in either one of two things:
You’ll get burned
Your gains will be short term and eventually … You’ll get burned
Ace job there…
Unfortunately, there will always be digital marketers that will want to get the best returns with as little investment as possible. Hereby lays the problem. The result of this cavalier attitude is low quality content that is happy to be placed on any site that will accept it.
For those of you who pay attention to the latest SEO news might have read about Google unleashing a fire demon on guest blogging this year. My advice to you is, just up your game and you should be fine. Guest posting isn’t dead: Google just raised the quality bar. Matt Cuts has recently blogged about guest posting and its use effectiveness as an SEO tactic. He says, “there are many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community,etc.) Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future.”
The bottom line is, if you love your brand … why risk its demise? Make sure that you comply with the search engine guidelines and stay up to date with best practices. Try to focus on contributing thought leading articles and information that give you exposure, branding and increased reach. When trying to find a blog to post on, ask yourself … Would you be proud to see your brand exposed here? Does this blog capture my audience? Are the blog’s users engaged in its content?
How to be SMARTER in 2014
Specific – Are you taking local and mobile into account? … Your audience probably is.
Measurable – Google analytics is great, but to stay competitive you’re going to need more data.
Achievable – Can your team do the job? Maybe it’s time to look to hire journalists for your content marketing needs. Be aware how the SERP’s have changed this past year, it would appear that the contrast of real estate on the 1st page of Google keeps diversifying, with only 7 positions for some phrase types and 10 for others. Local listings, knowledge graph and semantic markup such as reviews and ratings also mean that there is so much more to play for.
Relevant – Are you tactics still relevant to your business plan. Does local SEO, social media’s integration in search and improved level of guest posting apply to your overall strategy and brand message?
Time Based – Setting a period in which to see results will always be tricky. However, you can set time periods for work to be completed. Reflect on the content marketing strategy, more and more journalist style marketers are going into content marketing not just because they know how tell a story but because they also know how to meet challenging deadlines.
Ethical – Make sure you’re meeting Google’s guidelines. Relying on anyone tactic will get you burned, you have to remember that your brand is at stake.
Recorded – Record the processes that you’re implementing throughout the strategy. Are the tactics working? Are they future proof? Are they following the plan?
February 6th, 2014.
We’ve been making infographics as a linkbuilding method for our clients.
If you don’t know why, see here.
Last week we launched a new piece for our friends at Love Reading. We’d researched the crimes committed by the most popular children’s book villains and worked out the sentences they would have received in a European court.
You can take a look at the piece here.
Long story short, the infographic came to the attention of The Times and they ran the research on page 3 of the Saturday edition. They mentioned the client’s site (and provided a link in the digital edition).
A testament to the power of infographics.
If you want to talk about an infographic for your brand, give us a call.
January 29th, 2014.
Your customer is staring at the screen, hovering over your buy button, and they can’t shake the feeling that they might be about to waste their money.
Finally, their cursor slips back to Google, where they throw “…reviews” at the end of the search query. They don’t come across anyone talking about your product, but instead find few about a competitor.
If people can’t find what others are saying about your product or service, then this scenario is a daily reality for your would-be customers.
Traditional advertising is losing its advantage. People have always trusted their friends’ opinion, and now, just about anyone can be your customers’ friend online.
As consumers we’re predisposed to respond to recommendations, rather than promotions. We trust honesty, skeptical of sales copy. Above all, we want be convinced by people like us to give in to our temptations.
If someone is considering handing money over to you, it means they’re tempted. They will look for reasons to buy.
All you have to do is give them reasons they feel they can trust, which means they can’t come from you.
The Secrets To A Lucrative Review Campaign
Review campaigns are efficient converters if done correctly.
In order to translate into increases in sales, they need to be optimised in four ways
- Schema Markup
- 3rd Party Reach
- Reputation Management
Let’s look at each of these in more detail.
1. Schema Markup: Make Your Reviews Impossible for Google to Ignore
People don’t link to reviews, so how are we supposed to get ours some visibility in the search results?
Schema markup and social signals are all the search engines really have to go by.
We’re covering social signals in section two, so here’s an overview of what you need to know to have your reviews indexed and properly organised to make them accessible to search engines.
Schema.org markup is the metadata convention that the major search engines (Google, Bing, and Yahoo!), agreed to use as the standard way to make web content more accessable to them.
Implemented properly, it makes sense of, and helps to organise structured data structured data.
Use the “itemscope” attribute in a <div> tag to tell the bots that everything in this division is about one particular “thing”, which you’re about to specify.
<div itemscope> </div>
Use the “itemtype” attribute to link to Schema’s page about reviews, telling the search bots where you’re getting your markup from. This leaves it looking like this:
<div itemscope itemtype=“http://schema.org/Review”> </div>
Finally, add an “itemprop” attribute to this tag, and every other tag within it that you want the machines to understand. The itemprop name for a review is simply “review”, so our division ends up like this:
<div itemprop=”review” itemscope itemtype=“http://schema.org/Review”> </div>
Let’s look at an example taken from the Schema.org webpage on reviews.
5 stars – “A masterpiece of literature”
by John Doe. Written on May 4, 2006
I really enjoyed this book. It captures the essential challenges people face as they try to make sense of their lives and grow to adulthood.
<div itemprop=”review” itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/Review”>
<span itemprop=”reviewRating”>5</span> stars -
<b>”<span itemprop=”name”>A masterpiece of literature</span>” </b>
by <span itemprop=”author”>John Doe</span>,
Written on <meta itemprop=”datePublished” content=”2006-05-04″>May 4, 2006
<span itemprop=”reviewBody”>I really enjoyed this book. It captures the essential
challenge people face as they try make sense of their lives and grow to adulthood.</span>
You can go further into the world of Schema.org markup and make full use of all the attributes and properties that it offers you, but the above is all you need to get started and to label the essential elements of a review in a way the search engines will understand.
If it’s all a bit daunting there are a few markup generators out there which you might want to try-out.
A bit of Schema markup makes your reviews stand-out in the search results. Searchers prefer to click on links that have a picture and/or a line of stars next to them which will have a huge impact on your click-through-rates. If you’re running ads in Google Adwords, why not give your landing page every advantage it can get?
2. Persuasion: Turn Customers into Spokespeople
Ask and you’ll receive.
Companies are constantly leaving opportunity on the table when it comes to reviews. It’s anyone’s guess as to why, considering how easy it is to tap this resource. Take this chance to get an edge.
There a a few ways to go about it:
Follow up email. You have your customers’ email addresses, so make use of them. Make it a simple one-click-at-a-time process, perhaps with the words, “Are you satisfied with our service?” and a binary option below, which opens up a fast-loading page with the words “…almost done.” at the top, and a single extra box to fill in a quick reason for their answer. Don’t ask your customers to fill out a survey. Most people imagine they’ll be committed to pages of questions.
Calls to Action. Where would it be appropriate in your site to ask for a review? Perhaps at the end of a tutorial blog post that helps your customers solve a common problem? Blog comments are better than nothing, but perhaps it’s worth directing people’s attention to something a little higher in return.
Social Media. People like to talk. And nowhere do they talk more online than on social media sites. On-site reviewing presents a mental barrier. The customer isn’t used to your domain, or your interface. It’s new and scary. But they’ll turn around to tweet in the next moment without hesitation. There is opportunity in the connection you have with the social web, and exploiting it can be as easy as tweeting, “Tell us what you think.” Consider having a section of your site that displays the best tweets you’ve ever received.
Incentivise. Asking nicely works on some people. Others need a little more of a push. Stay well away from gifts that could be construed as paying for reviews (i.e. discounts on future purchases), as this will discredit the reviews that you do manage to get. We’ve been trained to be suspicious of internet content at the best of times, so do everything you can to maintain trust. A good alternative is to offer a prize draw, or to donate to a cause. Any kind of incentive is risky to your reputation with not-yet-customers, so to be safe keep these offers to follow up emails and make it very clear that the incentive doesn’t depend on whether the review is positive or negative.
3. 3rd Party Reach: Have Spokespeople Everywhere Online
72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, as long as they find them on an impartial review site such as Reevoo or Epinions, or on the marketplace site where they reached your brand, such as Amazon or Google Checkout.
Google Shopping seller ratings are aggregates of ratings pooled together from all relevant review sites on the web, including reviews left on your own site, so long as you’ve implemented Schema markup properly (see above).
While social media can be powerful, the highest return on time investment will always be spent on the sites where people go specifically to talk about products and services, and to either persuade or dissuade others from using yours.
Enter into these targeted conversations and take an active role.
Answer people’s questions or deal affectively and professionally with concerns that are raised, and don’t be shy about linking to pages that list your product or service. Remember, 3rd party reviews are seen as more trustworthy, so encourage them!
4. Reputation Management: Use Everything to Your Advantage
A bad review will help you.
Consumers who go out of there way to read bad reviews are 67% more likely to convert than the average shopper, and 30% suspect censorship when there are no negative reviews to be found. I know I fall into that category.
A caveat to this is that if the majority of reviews are negative, the impact is of course to deter most potential customers. There is a balance.
In order to strike it, we need to manage our online reputations by tackling negative reviews head on. Listen to what’s being said, as the feedback alone can be invaluable. To stay completely on top of it, keep a spreadsheet of negative reviews. This way, you can search and compare what customers wish were different. See what’s cropping up repeatedly, and if it’s clear something needs to change, you can now allocate resources to solving a problem that you can be sure will boost your business in the future.
January 23rd, 2014.
I ran an experiment last year. I had a website with no blog. It had lots of pages on a niche topic, but very few readers. I installed a blog and began posting once per month. In a year, the traffic doubled – (I’ll admit it increased from ‘barely perceptible’ to ‘quite unremarkable’, but you can’t argue with the numbers).
The massive spike around April 2013 was from some experimenting with paid discovery. The second, smaller spike was a particularly controversial blog post.
I think this settles the argument once and for all: A regular content schedule is a sure-fire way to get traffic.
I know what you’re wondering – ‘How does this affect me, the business owner?’
Well, business owner, I’ll tell you.
It means that you should be publishing regular content on your site if you want people to be visiting it. But as a business owner (or marketing manager) you’ll be plenty busy enough with all sorts of other concerns – do you have time for creating a content marketing strategy too?
You need to be producing content – that’s a fact. It’s a thing you can’t deny. I create content for 30 clients – I use the ‘DEAL’ system, from Tim Ferris (author of The Four Hour Work Week):
Define, Eliminate, Automate, Liberate.
Define the sort of content you need. I daresay you won’t go far wrong with one blog post per week and one infographic per month.
You’ll also need to consider sharing and seeding the content as it’s produced. This can be done via the regular social networking channels, but also on targeted interest sites via email outreach.
All of these things take time – hours and hours of time. But only if you do them all yourself…
Remove any unnecessary steps in the programme. Don’t waste your time getting bogged down with trying to design things yourself or write blog posts yourself – there are plenty of people in the world who will do it for you in exchange for money. They are called freelancers and are readily available online.
Think about what you really need to do for the job to work. In fact, I’ll do it for you – you need to come up with content ideas and you need to check it, then post it. The rest can be done for you.
Automation is achieved by setting up a system that handles the tasks for you. In essence, you feed the machine with briefs and it comes back with content. Online freelancing services exist purely to make your life easier, and they’re really great.
My favourite freelancing sites include:
O-Desk is very useful for finding people to do basic tasks – data analysis, basic research, number crunching etc. I use O-Desk for jobs that are too time consuming to handle myself. For example, if I was trying to make an infographic about football transfers (which I am), I’d post the job on O-Desk and find someone more capable and efficient than me to handle the research and analysis while I concentrate on planning the next infographic.
O-Desk also allows you to create teams of people to handle larger ongoing projects. It’s efficient and easy to manage and provides a screentracker so you can make sure your freelancers are staying on task.
Do note, however – O-Desk has a very high number of have-a-go-heroes. They aren’t necessarily qualified in a given field, so although they are competent, you can’t expect them to do more demanding tasks. For basic stuff though, it’s ideal.
Textbroker’s site is fairly basic in functionality, but it focusses solely on copywriting so it’s far more targeted. Prices vary based on the writer’s rating (out of 5). I’ve found some really fantastic writers on Textbroker, but also some absolute stinkers. Usually I have to edit a few things as it’s easier than sending it back for amendments, but it saves a lot of time.
Good copywriters also tend to be good researchers. They’re generally more able to follow a complex brief than their counterparts on O-Desk, so you can offer them more in-depth projects to research.
People Per Hour – covers pretty much every digital-based job, but I use it for designers
PPH is more useful to me than some of my own body parts. I can post a job at 9 in the morning, receive proposals and have the job in the bag before I go to bed that night. People Per Hour has the benefit of knowing where your freelancer is located, so you can target areas that are likely to have more qualified personnel.
For instance, in searching for a designer, Europe has more reliable design schools than other parts of the world, and by choosing someone in Britain I can guarantee we’re in the same timezone, language and operate on the same working hours. It makes the tasks much more manageable.
The site is really fun. You could spend hours looking at the fantastic artwork and designs people come up with. It costs a lot as it’s targeted solely for design and membership is by invitation only so the vetting process is quite thorough.
Hiring works like a traditional jobs list – you post your jobs and people apply.
It is possible to contact the designers for one-off work, but generally they know the value of their work so be prepared to pay for it.
You need to get your content in front of people. Using services like O-Desk will be futile as the workers tend to take the easy option, and language barriers often mean briefs are misinterpreted. People Per Hour is better as you can find people with proven experience who can provide you with a list of relevant sites to contact with a view to posting your content.
Seeding is an essential part of the content process. Making sure your content appears in the right places and in front of the right people is undoubtedly going to reap its own rewards. By building lists of relevant sites to post to, you can automate this process and make sure every piece of content is placed in front of the influencers, sharers and promoters you need.
If you’ve got a bit of budget, you might also consider paid promotion on social media. ‘Boosting’ a post on Facebook, or StumbleUpon’s paid discovery service guarantee the content will be exposed to more people. However, the content needs to be useful and relevant to the audience to gain more traction. If it’s not engaging, people won’t engage with it (click/share etc.) and you’ll have wasted the promotion budget.
As you practice and refine this process you’ll find yourself free to do other things for your business. You’ll be free to chase new clients and more work, and the best part is, you won’t need to do any more work yourself – the system can handle it!
You’ll notice I didn’t mention anything about idea generation – that’s because I think idea generation is the one thing you shouldn’t outsource. You need to make sure your content is completely suitable for the purpose, and you can have a lot of fun coming up with new ideas.
January 16th, 2014.
What is link reclamation?
Link reclamation is where you’re looking to re-establish links or mentions that were directed towards your site in the past. There are many reasons why previous links may have disappeared but usually it comes down to technical reasons, such as updated pages or a wrong redirect put in place. You could argue it necessary to carry out a link reclamation project every time a website is being redesigned and content is migrated.
Put simply, link reclamation is the process of locating, contacting and fixing broken links to yours or your client’s website. It also has the added benefit of being a totally organic process, with virtually no risk attached. You’re only making the most of current mentions of your company.
Link reclamation is the perfect go to method when starting any link building campaign. It’s simple, quick and will give your campaign a steady footing right from the word go. Examples of where to look for previous links could range from charity work, local or national press, sponsors, exhibitions and review sites such as trust a trader or trust pilot.
Shall we begin… Exciting!
For this you’ll need:
Moz’s Fresh web explorer
One for brands is to look for misspellings. Frequently people will have webmaster error and for whatever reason, they will misspell your domain name.
For instance if you’re a big brand, say Renault or something, you could look for alternate spelling mistakes for your brand (Renualt.com) and where people have linked to the wrong site. From there, it’s simple enough to get in contact with the source of the link and ask that the link be corrected, helping both “our” users.
John Henry Scherck wrote a fantastic post on building links from brand misspellings, all you need is excel, majestic and Aaron Wall’s keyword misspelling tool and you can scale this to another level.
Reverse image search
Have any interesting images on your site? What about your logo? YES! This one is easy. Use the Google reverse image search. This can be a very effective piece to your link building puzzle. Monitor your images and see who’s used them without crediting you as the source. There are other tools out there that can help achieve the same, such as Tineye, Creative commons and Compfight.
You can take this a step further by using your competitor’s images or logos and see what websites are linking to your competitors. A good attitude to take from here would be to try and analyse why they’re using your competitor’s images over yours. It could be that they have a direct interest in your industry and therefore a chance to outreach presents itself.
Fresh Web Explorer – Moz & Google Alerts
Fresh web explorer really has to be one of the easiest ways to locate mentions of your brand that are being scattered around the web. Simply enter your URL or Brand name and search. You’ll hopefully be rewarded with a list of recent mentions that may have passed under your radar. You can also search for multiple phrases at a time, which is handy.
Similarly, you can use good old fashioned Google alerts. You can set this up to track your keywords, brand mentions and even Url’s. If someone mentions you, you’ll get an alert sent through to your email. From there, you can decide if you’d like to get a link from the resulting website.
Use webmaster tools
Go to crawl > Crawl errors, click on your URL’s to see where they’re linked from.
Simply click on that link and you should have a pop that gives you a more detailed look. From here, click on “linked from”.
This should give you the complete run down of who’s linking to you. From here, you can decide if these links are worth keeping or not. If they are and you have another page that is up to date and has thematic relevance to your 404 URL, simply place a 301 redirect in place. Then click “mark as fixed” and let Google get to work.
This is such a simple fix that it would be a crime to leave it out.
Moving Links to your Primary domain
Many companies have more than one domain. Perhaps it was that new intern that recommended a new domain or mini site that you’ve completely forgot about. It could even be an old product that is no longer available.
Going through all your old web assets can sometime uncover some golden opportunities, sometimes going beyond links. Perhaps you’ll rekindle an old business or promotional partnership that served you well in the past. By resolving this issue with a 301 redirect, you can transfer link equity from the unfavoured to the favoured.
Important note: Don’t redirect an old site to the new if it suffered from a Google penalty. You’ll only be breathing new life into those spurious links that caused you all that bother.
Redirected Pages & Server response errors
Using the scraping frog tool, scrape through the depths of your site, as deep as you can possibly go. Make an export of the crawl and pay attention to the response codes that are being found.
If you’re seeing server errors pop up, you can run backlink checker and identify problem areas. Pay attention to 302 redirects, change them to 301’s if possible, allowing previous link equity to pass through. You can also use a header checker tool to follow redirect paths. My favourite tool for doing is Ayima’s redirect tool. I can simply follow the previous redirect path for any problem URLs.
Links to tweets
This is a slice of genius from Ross Hudgens at Siege Media. If you have an active twitter account for your brand, you can make use of your historical data and create an archive of all your tweets and interaction, which can be done by going to account settings. You should then receive an email with instructions to download the zip file. This may take away depending on how active you are.
Place into a CSV and upload using screaming frog. Once it’s been crawled, you can easily see which web addresses have linked to tweets in your archive. If you’re responsible as the source of that content, try getting in touch with that web-master and ask if they can kindly change the link to your site instead of your Twitter handle.
This is just a handful of easy ways to reclaim or identify links that you should be making the most of, a great way to get a link building campaign off the ground. I’m always up for learning, so if you know any other cool little tricks, please comment below. Who knows, perhaps I’ll even be kind enough to link to you in the future.
December 18th, 2013.
Majestic SEO, the web’s biggest open link map, just recently updated their search explorer tool to version “Alpha v0.3”. The search explorer allows marketers to search on a specialised search engine which ranks pages based on how influential on the web graph they are. The approach is no nonsense and provides realistic search results, which exclude ads, authorship and the influence of temporal algorithm rankings.
So what should we expect?
Majestic says, we shouldn’t expect the tool to rival the major search engines, but it turns out they don’t have to as they believe the time is right for a subscription based engine with no advertising and which offers complete transparency. This makes it a great tool for digital marketers, because for the first time, we can more accurately see what factors are influencing high rankings in our niche.
The new update sees two new features that should have the mouths of SEOs watering: The new live rank factors and a new link prospecting methodology.
Live Rank Factors
Labelled as “transparency at your fingertips” by Dixon Jones (marketing director at Majestic), the live rank feature allows users to search by keyword to see what factors are increasing the rankings for theirs or their competitors sites in the SERPS. From this, SEOs can gain a better understanding of what it might take to rank for specific sets of keywords or topics. “For the first time, you can run a search query and see exactly why one search result appears above another”.
The Live rank feature search results tab allows users to analyse the corresponding data on a much granular level than anything before. When performing a search, your results are scored on variables such as InTitle, InAnchor and InURL. Majestic’s trusty flow metrics are also involved as well as referring domains and total external backlinks. These metrics when combined are giving us a great understanding of how Majestic are interpreting the search data.
Getting your hands dirty
From the Live rank factors page, you can dig deeper to get a better grasp of the data being presented. Go to the “Ranking Factors” tab and you can switch from “Data” to “Chart”, which allows you to easily digest the information being presented. From here you can see that if your site is dominating majestic’s search explorer but neither of the big search engines, then this may well mean that there are other factors which are at play, such as personalisation, ads, authorship and so on.
All of this offers great insight to us as SEOs because it allows us to know when enough high authority links have been built and the onsite optimisation of our pages is in good order. If you’re under pressure from clients or your boss to “BUILD MORE LINKS” then be sure to show them the data. Make them aware that although you’re ranking high in Majestic’s search explorer, building more links might not be the way forward and you may end up tripping the big search engines’ spam filters.
Majestic has commented on its plans for its live rank reports going into the future, saying that they’re looking to increase the variables in the algorithm which will be more closely aligned to those of Google and Bing, (well the ones that are perceived as common knowledge in the SEO field).
Link Prospecting Methodology
The link prospecting methodology makes use of AQS (advanced query syntax), our good old friend “site:”. Using this command will return sites that are more than likely to be authorities in their given fields/topics. You can also go further by using the command to bring up blogs on all kinds of platforms.
“Keyword site:blogger.com site:wordpress.com site:blogspot.com site:tumblr.com site:squarespace.com”
The “bucket list” feature allows you to save a list of competitors URLs and run a search against only those URLs. This is an amazing way of benchmarking against your closest competitors.
I love this new feature as it can be used to go beyond link building. I can use this tool for research by cherry-picking the types of results I want in my bucket list, such as trusted and accurate news sites. For example, if I want to research a specific celebrity, I can exclude any news source that offers little substance (red tops and glossy magazines). Majestic also commented that this tool can be used by PR professionals who want to work on reputation management.
To take a full tour of the tool you can view Majestic’s “how to” webinar below. It’s packed full of great instructions and tips for getting the most out of the tool.
I’m excited to see how it’s going to develop over the coming months as they start to add more and more data. I have but one recommendation for going forward…
The issue I found when using the tool for the first time was one that could quite often pop up for many SEOs. It is that of searching and building for branded terms.
Searching for “Sony” will return results from Sony TLDs and international sub folders such as: .com, .net, .co.uk, .jp etc. However, the same search in Google will come with geo targeting and return results such as: .co.uk, local, news, Wikipedia and Amazon, which would be a truer version of what my target customer would be seeing.
The only way I can think of to resolve this would be to include the Google results in my bucket list, but that can also be limiting in a way because I’d constantly be changing half my list due to the amount of variables in the results on any given day, such as news.
I would personally like to see a Geo toggle implemented within the search explorer to give better flexibility in the results. Other than that, I personally love what this new tool has to offer.
November 25th, 2013.
One of the biggest problems facing Content Marketers is how best to represent ‘The Brand’ when developing engaging content.
I’ve got a newsflash for you:
YOU DON’T HAVE TO!!!!
In fact, I’d go even further and say you should always try to move away from your brand when building content. The less ‘advertorial’ the content is, the more engaging and sharable it will be.
Far be it from me to tell you your brand is boring, but unless you own a company that makes Star Wars costumes for cats, the internet won’t care what you have to say.
The best content is the stuff that:
- Fills a knowledge gap,
- Answers an important question, or,
- Gets people worked up into a frenzy of commenting and sharing.
You need to ask yourself one important question when planning your content:
Who Will Find This Interesting?
The best answer to this question is ‘Everyone’. You need to ensure maximum appeal to encourage maximum sharability. You need to be getting your content in front of high authority websites and bloggers. If they see the value of the content, they’ll be more willing to use it and provide you with that all-important link. You will never, ever, ever be able to trick people into posting an advert for your website. That’s just not how it works. However, if you’re offering something entertaining or useful that they can reuse to their advantage, they’ll be much more willing to promote your brand.
Here’s a nice thought experiment to explain what I mean:
You’re at a festival with two stages. On one stage, a man is stood talking about the history of his company. On the other stage, a man is riding a lion and juggling swords while a penguin tries to shoot an apple off of his head with a revolver. Who do you think would draw the bigger crowd? Which will be filmed and go viral on the internet and which will be ignored?
The internet is the world’s biggest festival. There’s plenty of content out there, so make sure yours stands out.
I know what you’re thinking: ‘But, Joe! My brand is interesting. I’m offering something unique and my clients love it’. That may be true, and it’s a great system for driving sales. Unfortunately, web content for the most part isn’t about driving conversions – it’s about promoting the brand, building authority and increasing engagement.
I’ll agree your brand probably is very interesting, but I guarantee you’ll find your content more successful if you focus on using your unique industry position to inform your content, rather than define it. I’ll bet you’re sitting on a goldmine of insider information that would be perfect for filling knowledge gaps or creating a useful resource. Everyone has some information lying around – whether you’re a travel company with a great knowledge of the most beautiful places to visit in Europe or a rug manufacturing company with an insight into the psychology of rug design. Put a spin on your data and make it as interesting as possible.
Here’s a takeaway list of things to remember when planning content:
Interest: You need to make it interesting. Make sure nobody will be saying ‘So What?’
Emotion: Getting people worked up on a human level is a surefire way to increase engagement. Happiness and funny content are well shared, but (I’ll let you in on a secret…), making people angry is the best method. The more furious people get, the more active they become. That’s how the Daily Mail is so successful (See Matt’s post: ‘Why the Daily Mail became the world’s most read newspaper‘)
Topical: Try to tap into a current trend on Social Media or in the news. If you can give it a new slant, all the better.
Usable: Usability is a hugely beneficial trait of online content. If people think their friends might find it helpful, they’ll send it to them. Life Hacker is a fine example of this in practice.
In summary: sometimes it pays to step away from your brand a little in the name of creating good content. Especially on the internet.
Take a look through our Complete History of Viral Content and apply this criteria to see why things were successful.
October 10th, 2013.
Those of us interested in how search engines work have been talking this week about ‘Hummingbird’. Not the hollow-boned, nectar-loving tweetie-pies; rather Google’s newest and most revolutionary search engine algorithm in quite some time.
You’ll likely have heard of ‘Panda’ and ‘Penguin’. They were algorithmic updates which supposedly made the search results better. Unlike their counter-parts in the animal kingdom, they weren’t cute and they didn’t make for good YouTube videos; but they did improve the quality of websites and the practices of SEOs.
‘Hummingbird’ is a different beast entirely. Far from being an update to an existing algorithm, it’s an entirely new feature which shows Google’s desire to move searching away from ‘Keywords’ and towards ‘Semantic Searches’. They’re approaching what they call “conversational search”
In 2001, you may have searched for:
‘CINEMA + TIMES + LONDON + AVENGERS’
And you may have been presented with an article from The Times about a new movement of filmgoers in London who are avenging the demise of arthouse productions.
But search isn’t like that anymore. People search more or less how they talk, so searches are more like:
‘Cinema times in London for The Avengers’.
And the rise of voice search on mobile devices means people will try to search:
‘What time is The Avengers playing in London?’
Words like ‘how’, ‘what’, ‘when’ etc. now have a value in Google’s searches. They want to give the most accurate response to your request.
What does that mean for website owners?
As a website owner you’ll need to be improving the information content of your site. Undoubtedly keywords will still matter, but since Google is now holding keyword data to ransom, the best thing you can do is improve the quality of your on-site content. This also means you can stand out in your industry – if you’re the world’s authority on Playstation Game Artwork then make sure you can answer questions like ‘Who designed the GTA 5 artwork?’.
‘Hummingbird pays more attention to each word in the query, ensuring the whole query is taken into account – so if a resulting page is a bit less strong in general, but it’s the most relevant to your search terms, that’s the result you’ll get.’ – Google, as told to The Register.
People are asking questions. If you’re equipped to answer them then your site should reflect that.
Personally I think this is a step in the right direction. The internet is becoming more personal, so responding to the intricacies of language is more essential now than ever before. It makes far more sense to work out what people mean rather than just responding literally to the words they use.