3 Tips for Local Search Optimization

Writing by Nick Stamoulis

In an increasing mobile world, local search profiles are becoming more and more important. If someone is looking for information on their phone, say the address or phone number of your business, they don’t want to dig through you site to find it. A local profile gives them all the information they need in a fast and efficient format. Local profiles can also rank on their own in the search engines, increasing your online brand presence. They can also be a source of targeted traffic and quality inbound links.

The same rules of on-site optimization still apply when it comes to local profiles, but here are 3 tips for local search optimization:

1. Create multiple local search profiles
Business owners definitely want to claim their listings in Google, Bing and Yahoo. These profiles often show up in the top of the SERP for each search engine, respectively. But there are plenty of other local search sites that deserve attention. Sites like Yelp and Urbanspoon are incredibly popular with customers looking to make immediate purchasing (as in choosing a place to eat or shop) decisions. Other sites like YP.com (the online Yellow Pages), Citysearch, MerchantCircle and Local.com are also great places to create a profile.

2. Fill profiles out as completely as possible
The more content you have on your local search profiles, the more information the search engines can comb through. Don’t just post your phone number and address (although those are must!) and call it a day. Include business hours, accepted forms of payment, languages spoken, directions, company biography, pictures, videos and consumer reviews. Customer reviews in particular can be incredibly beneficial. Having that element of a 3rd party recommendation goes a long way in encouraging potential customers to choose you over another business.

You can encourage your customers to write a review by offering them an incentive, like 10% off their next purchase. Most people only write a review if the experience is truly remarkable or absolutely horrible. You want everyone who was pleased with your company to say so.

3. Monitor your profiles

If you are accepting customer reviews, it’s important that you are aware of what people are saying about your company. You need to know if a string of bad reviews went up recently; they might be buying your good ones. You also need to see if other people are creating local search profiles on various sites for your company. Usually anyone can create the listing, but as the owner you want to make sure you claim each one. This is the only way you can remain in control over what gets posted.

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Your Online Reputation- Slow to Build, Fast to Ruin

Writing by Nick Stamoulis

Your business’s online reputation may be one of the most important things affecting your long term success. The more trust consumers and search engines have in your brand and your company, the better you are going to rank, the more traffic you should see and the higher your conversion rate will be. Building a strong online reputation is no easy task, and it doesn’t happen overnight. Everything you do for your SEO; link building, article marketing, blog commenting, social networking and more, all affect your online reputation. One misstep could send your carefully managed reputation crashing down.

One of the main components of building a strong online reputation is gaining the loyalty and trust of the online public. Any company who has created a business blog knows that earning a steady stream of loyal readers doesn’t happen right away. It only comes after you spend the time publishing quality, relevant content on a constant basis. Your readers need to learn that your blog is a good place for information and that your blog is worth coming back to. This only happens over time.

But for as long as it takes to build up an online reputation and subsequent base of loyal readers/fans/follows, it can just as quickly be destroyed. One of the quickest ways to damage your online reputation is to stray from your core beliefs. If you diverge from what you’ve traditionally practiced, you could lose a lot of credibility.

For instance, I am a white hat SEO professional all the way. That is the model I’ve built my business on and it is something I don’t waiver on when I handle clients’ SEO. But let’s say I started to dip my toe in the grey hat sandbox by engaging in link exchanges. I create a “links” page on my site that links to a multitude of unrelated sites in exchange for a link back, or even some sort of payment for any traffic I send over. If you look back through the SEO Journal, you’ll see plenty of blog posts where I talk about black hat SEO and what a bad practice it is. All the sudden I’m doing it? What does that say about me and my business practices? If I am willing to do that with my own company, what other grey hat tactics might I be employing on behalf of my clients?

The advent of social media means that news, good and bad, travels around the world and back in a matter of moments. One complaint or pieces of negative press can snowball and turn into a disastrous, reputation destroying avalanche. Don’t give online trolls any ammunition to bring down your brand! Practice what you preach and build a strong reputation that can withstand negative attacks.


Bring Your Old Blog Posts Back to Life

Writing by Nick Stamoulis

Anyone who has been operating a blog for a while is bound to have a few posts they aren’t particularly proud of. Maybe you couldn’t think of anything to write about that day. Maybe you were under deadline. Maybe you had a lot of other projects going on, so you focused more on the word count than what you were actually saying. Somewhere, in the recesses of your blog (whether personal or business) are diamond-in-the-rough posts waiting to be rediscovered.

Breathing new life into your old blog posts can help them re-index in the search engines, potentially driving more traffic to your blog. It also tightens up the overall value of your blog, since low-quality content will be replaced with valuable content. This can remove any red flags/penalties the search engines are using to rank your blog.

Here are a few things you can do to recycle and reinvigorate your old blog posts:

Add content
See if there is any new information that you can add to an old blog post to make it more relevant. Did you make a prediction in that post? Has it come true? Are there any points you can expand further upon that you just left untouched the first time around? Look at your old blog post like a first draft. What is missing? What kind of content needs to be edited/added/changed to make it as good as the rest of your posts? Oftentimes our less successful blogs are shorter and only provide a surface-level amount of information. Really dig into the post and make it worth the effort.

Maybe the post is well-written, but it didn’t seem to do as well in the search engines as your other posts. Go back and re-optimize that particular post. What different keywords can you incorporate into the title, H1 tags and post content to make it search spider friendly? You might even consider changing the URL of the post if it isn’t doing well. If the post has an image, incorporate an image tag so the search spiders can “see” it and pull it into the search results.

One year later

Right a follow-up post to one of your older posts and link back to the original. Was there a post you wrote a year ago that got a lot of attention? What about that posts was so captivating to your audience? What has happened since then?

Push old posts in new ways
I’d bet the scope of your online networking as grown substantially in the last few years, maybe just in the last few months. Some of your connections may have never even seen your older posts. Push those posts (provided they are still relevant) through your social networking channels and engage new connections with older content. Just because you wrote it 6 months ago, that doesn’t mean everyone knows it exists.

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Best Practice Tips for Press Release SEO

Writing by Nick Stamoulis

Writing and distributing online press releases should be included in your monthly link building activities for several reasons:

1. They are a great source of publicity for your company

2. They can rank in the search engines, increasing your brand visibility and recognition

3.They provide quality, one way links to your site

4. They can get picked up by various media outlets and be transitioned into offline press releases and news stories

The benefits of distributing a well-written and newsworthy press release are pretty straightforward. But it’s very easy to only look at them from an SEO perspective. This is a very dangerous thing to do! Yes, online press releases can have an effect on your SEO, but in the effort to make a press release SEO friendly, I’ve seen companies make mistakes that render the press releases useless from all perspectives, including SEO.

Don’t over-hyperlink

I’ve seen companies drop hyperlinks into their press releases like pennies into a fountain. It seems like every paragraph has two or three anchor text phrases in them. Even if the content is well written, over-hyperlinking comes across as spammy and distracts the reader. Some PR distribution sites won’t even bother to publish your releases if it has too many links in it. A good rule of thumb is 1 link for every 100 words. You want to make sure the full web address (ex http://www.brickmarketing.com) is in the press release at least once. It’s usually easiest to include the web address right after the company is introduced or in the boiler plate at the bottom of the release.

It has to be newsworthy

Your company won an award, launched a new product, hired a new VP of sales, etc. But you have to focus your press release around actual news. Shameless sales pitches do not make good press releases. It may get published by a distribution service, but no media outlet is going to bother to pick it up.

Use a paid distribution service

Paid PR distribution services (I typically use PRWeb, 24-7 Press Release and PRLeap) are much more reputable than most of the free distribution sites, and therefore more likely to attract the attention of reporters. These sites can also provide you with data about the distribution, including how many impressions the release got. Paid distribution sites can cost anywhere from $50 to several hundred dollars, depending on the level you select.

Online PR shouldn’t replace offline PR

Online PR should be looked at as an extension of offline PR. They two need to work together to get the most visibility for your brand. Favoring one method over the other means you are ignoring a very large audience. Just like you can’t rely solely on your Internet marketing over traditional offline marketing methods, you can’t favor online PR over offline PR. Never put all your marketing eggs into one basket!

Keywords Have to Match User Intent

Writing by Nick Stamoulis

Let’s say you took the time to do thorough keyword research (or hired an SEO consultant to do it for you) for your website, a wholesale fruit distributor that sells to restaurants. After weeks of combing through hundreds of potential keywords, you narrowed it down to your top five choices for every page. The keywords accurately reflect the content of each page and you took the time to update the Meta tags, H1 tags and page content so the keywords seamlessly fit without disrupting the user-experience. Not too long after you optimized the site, it moved up in the search rankings for your choice keywords. Everything looks great…but you aren’t seeing any significant in traffic. Houston, we may have a problem.

There can be a variety of reasons that, even if you have good SEO working for you, your site just isn’t seeing the traffic increases you were hoping for (I mean a realistic increase). One thing to consider is that you carefully selected keywords don’t match user intent and therefore, even though your site is being pulled into the search results, it doesn’t contain the information the user is looking for. It’s not enough to just rank, people have to actually click over to your site. Sometimes it isn’t a simple thing to connect the two.

So you’re a wholesale fruit distributor, right? Well, a very common fruit is the apple, which you selected as one of your top keywords for your apple page. Here is the problem- if a user types “apple” into the search engines, do you really think they are looking for a wholesale fruit distributor? Chances are they are looking for Apple, of the Steve Jobs variety. In fact, if you type “apple” into Google, it’s going to be a few pages before you find any results that aren’t related to the computer behemoth.

If you wanted to go after “apple,” it would probably be better to make the keyword a long tail keyword and incorporate something like “apple fruit” and “apple fruit distributor” into your content. The difference is using the word “fruit.” Someone searching for “apple distributor” or “apple seller” is most likely looking for an authorized dealer of Apple products. While these phrases may have less people searching for them, it is going to help place your website into the search results of a more targeted user who is more likely to click through to you site.

Understanding user intent when they type in their search query is not something that you can learn over night. It can take years of getting used to small differences. For instance, in the SEO world, someone searching for “SEO consultant” is usually looking for a single person to work with. Someone searching for “SEO consulting” might be looking for an SEO consulting company, not just a one-man enterprise.

There is no rule about going back in to your keyword research and redoing it after a few months. Some pages may be right on target after the first round, others make take a little more editing to really hone in on the keywords that both matches the content and coincides with user intent.

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Blog Posts to Read for April 28, 2011

Writing by SEO Journal

Below you will find our favorite blog posts that are related to SEO, search engine marketing and social media marketing from this past week. Please feel free to visit each, we hope you find them as helpful as we do!

3 tips on how to protect your business on social media
If used inappropriately, social media can hurt your business. This post includes tips on how to use social media wisely.

Earth to startups: They won’t come just because you’re on social media
Many startups fail because they have a “build it and they will come” mentality. This blog post states that it’s for a similar reason that companies fail at social media.

The SEO Trend Shifts Towards Localization
This post discusses local SEO and how to get started with it so you can drive more traffic from your local area.

Vanilla Ice on social business
This humorous post states that Vanilla Ice was a social business visionary and analyzes what his “Ice Ice Baby” lyrics were really about.

HOW TO: Launch a product using social media
This post includes 12 social media strategies to use when launching a product.

Facebook and Google Getting In On Daily Deals
This post includes information about Facebook and Google’s plans to get involved in the daily deal trend.

Why Background Music Makes Your Website Suck
This post includes four reasons why you should never, ever have background music playing on your website.

Incorporating Social Media Networking Into SEO
Search is becoming more social. This post includes five ways to send search engines “social signals”.

Pay Attention to Search Engine Rankings: Top 3 Spots on Google Get 58% of Clicks
This post includes information from a study that shows that websites at the top of Google get an average of 36.4% of clicks, those in second place 12.5% and those in third 9.5%.

3 Tips to Double your Blog Traffic
This post includes three free or low cost methods for newbie bloggers to increase their blog traffic.

These were the our favorite SEO, SEM and Social Media blog posts this week. Check back next week for more top posts!

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Link Building is Reputation Management

Writing by Nick Stamoulis

Online reputation management is the practice of monitoring the reputation of a person, brand, or company on the Internet. Everybody is online these days, looking for information about products and services. Therefore, managing your reputation online is extremely important in the business world. It’s often mistaken that online reputation management is something that happens after something negative has been written about your business in the online space. This isn’t true.

There are two different kinds of online reputation management: proactive and reactive. A proactive campaign is for businesses that are just beginning to grow or for those companies that want to maintain a good reputation. A reactive campaign is implemented when a company has encountered a problem and wants it “cleaned up”. A proactive reputation management strategy is just as important, if not more important, than a reactive one. A reputation management campaign should begin as soon as your business creates a presence online. It provides an opportunity to build a good reputation from the get-go and maintain that good reputation through the years.

Proactive reputation management is an image building campaign, which is essentially a search engine optimization link building campaign. Think about it. Not only is the content that you are putting out there via press releases, articles, blog posts and comments, and social networking helping to build quality links pointing back to your site, it’s also building your brand and creating awareness. It’s establishing your reputation online as a legitimate company that knows what they are talking about. It creates trust amongst your target audience.

As they say, “the best offense is a good defense”. Start building your good reputation online as soon as possible. Therefore, if something negative is said, it might not even be noticed since there is so much positive content already out there. Don’t wait until you start losing money to improve your reputation in the search engines. Without positive content, a bad image can form quickly. A negative reputation online loses money, customers, and slows or even stops the growth of a company. Don’t let it happen to you- start building your positive image today!

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Keep Your SEO Success Going!

Writing by Nick Stamoulis

The most important thing to realize about search engine optimization is that it’s different than other marketing methods. Unlike traditional promotions or pay per click ads, which can provide quick results, SEO takes time. It’s a long term building process and it sometimes takes many months to see results. It’s not a strategy that can be tested for a month or two.

SEO results often depend on many factors such as the age of your website, the trust that you have earned with the search engines, and your competition. If you are in a competitive market with others that have been around much longer, it will take that much more time to improve your search engine and online presence. However, if a good SEO strategy is executed it is possible for some companies to see some results within a month or two. They may not be the number one result in Google, but that’s not how a campaign should be measured anyway. Likely their phone has begun to ring more often and their website lead forms are being submitted at a much faster rate. Some clients make the mistake of pulling the plug on their SEO campaign at this point. They figure that they’ve found the success that they were looking for, so they can quit. However, that’s not how SEO works. The results can disappear just as quickly as they came.

If you are getting good results from an SEO campaign that means that it’s working, not that it should be ditched. The Internet never “ends”. It’s not like an event or holiday that you were having a sale for that is now over. It’s always there and it’s likely where your target audience is looking for you. Therefore, you should never be done with your SEO. In order to maintain the success that you’ve found you need to continually build your links and optimize your site whenever it is updated or changed in any way. The right kind of SEO campaign should be done well and for the long term.

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What’s New in SEO for April 19, 2011

Writing by SEO Journal

We have compiled the latest news and updates from the big three, Google, Bing and Yahoo as it relates to SEO and the search engines overall.

Beefing up goo.gl with new features
Google has completed a series of feature rollouts for URL shortener goo.gl based on user feedback. Users can now copy to clipboard and remove items from the dashboard. New features also include spam reporting and ongoing speed and stability improvements.

Yahoo! Search Trends: Fitness Summer Jobs
Some spring search trends include searches for outdoor workout routines, eating right, and summer jobs.

See How the Bing Business Portal Can Help Your Business Grow
Bing recently launched the Bing Business Portal beta, a new service to help business owners create and control their online listing, making it easier for their customers to find them on Bing.

So there you have it, the latest news in search from Google, Bing and Yahoo. We will be bringing you more exciting updates and news related to SEO and the world of search engine optimization each week, so check back often!

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How to Be a Great Link Builder

Writing by Nick Stamoulis

Link building is one of those things that is a complete learning process if you are trying to perform your own link building campaigns. It is important to realize that link building doesn’t always deliver direct traffic, so using the right measurement tools to determine effectiveness is a very important step in the process.

Here are some ways to be a great link builder for your business:

You Need To Be Patient
Link building results do not happen overnight, so make sure that you have the patience required in order to be successful. If you are acquiring links but still do not see results just be patient, because they do come in at a drips pace sometimes.

Be Able To Dig
If building links was easy we would all be on the first page of the search results. Once you get the more obvious links out of the way it is time to really start digging to find those hard to find links that are buried deep in the web. You have to dig through search results and really find those locations where you can submit your company info that not everyone else has found already and beat into the ground.

Think Like a Business and Not Like a Spammer
It can be very enticing to want to purchase that “amazing” product for $29.99 that claims to acquire you 1,000 new links, but try to avoid these distractions at all costs. These types of services are nothing more than a spamming tool which usually results in little to no search engine optimization value causing you to spend your hard earned money.

Be Able To Put a Plan Together
Like anything in business, you need to be able to put a visual plan together so that you can see what you are doing on a monthly basis. A good solid link building campaign should be visible in the sense that you can see the outline on paper so that you know where you are heading with your search marketing efforts.

Link building is one of those search engine optimization efforts that requires a unique approach that is consistently changing as our web space evolves and changes. Being patient and organized is very important.