Spotlight: Optimise your Site for the Most Important Local SEO Ranking Signals

In today’s guest post, Bubblegum Search’s Matt Cayless, shares his ‘Top Five’ SEO tips for improving Google local ranking performance.

Google search is constantly changing, but in 2016 and beyond we’re seeing some significant and challenging changes taking place for local search in particular. Is your local business prepared?

What is local SEO?
Local SEO is the process of optimising your online presence to increase visibility to local customers. For businesses that operate in specific areas only or who have bricks and mortar premises, local SEO is an incredibly valuable method for promoting their services. From restaurants and hairdressers to plumbers and lawyers, local SEO can help a huge variety of industries to tap into their local demographic.

What’s changed in local SEO ranking factors for 2016?
Until 2016, local SEO offered huge potential for businesses looking to draw in business from local search users because their sites were easily distinguishable from non-local organic listings in the SERPs. However, in 2015 Google changed the way it presents local search by reducing the number of local listings displayed.

This means that local businesses have to seriously amp up their local SEO efforts to increase the chances of being listed in the pack of top 3 local results. Although search users can click “More places” for more local results, the reality is that this extra click simply reduces visibility for businesses who haven’t made it into the local pack.

Optimise your Site for the Most Important Local SEO Ranking Signals - Matt Cayless

Not only that, but Google has also started to include ads in the “More places” results, which means that businesses relying on organic ranking have paid listings to compete with.

Our top five local SEO tips to improve Google local ranking
To maximise your chances of local SEO success, you need to pay attention to the leading ranking signals for local search – these five essential tips are a great way to get started.

1. Nail on-page signals by thinking of potential customers
Although there are some technical aspects to getting your on-page local SEO right, the most important thing you can do is craft content that provides all the information your potential customers need to choose your business. This will tell Google how relevant your website is. There are two key areas for on-page local SEO ranking signals: geography and services. You need to be clear what services you have on offer, and where you can provide them.

Aside from meta data, headers, images and quality content which are essential signals for all SEO, you should try to include the following on each of your web pages:

• Title tags which include your service, location and brand along with relevant keywords
• Google map showing your location
• NAP (name, address and phone number), preferably with Schema markup so that Google can immediately identify your contact information
• Testimonials, accreditations and external reviews to show credibility
• A site structure which makes sense, particularly if you cover multiple areas or have several offices, for example, www.domain.com/areas/county-1/

2. Create a Google My Business page
A My Business page helps you to claim your brand and address and reinforces your services and locations. It is crucial for local SEO success, so be sure to set up and verify yours ASAP. You can optimise it by:

• Keeping your NAP accurate and up to date, along with your web address.
• Choosing the right categories for your business to ensure you show up for relevant searches – try Googling local competitors to find the most appropriate category.
• Writing a compelling business description which sums up your services without worrying too much about keywords, which could be detrimental.
• Getting a minimum of five reviews, and making sure to reply (politely!) to all, even if they’re negative.

3. Build citations and be consistent
To assess your geographical relevance, Google likes to validate the information on your website and My Business page with information from around the web. The first thing to do is ensure your NAP is consistent everywhere, including on your social pages – even a little discrepancy like using a phone number with the area code in some places and without the area code in others can reduce the validity of your business information. Be sure to always use the same business name, too, so if you tend to switch between something like “Cake 4 U” and “Cake For You”, choose one and stick to it across the entire web. You should be just as consistent whenever you build new citations, too.

What is citation building? It’s the process of building a series of mentions of your business information on other websites. Note that this is very different than link building; links to your website aren’t always necessary when building citations, providing that your NAP information is correct and consistent. Citations basically help Google to validate your business name and location, so the more you can get from well-established and reputable sources, the better. Start with directories like yell.com or your local chamber of commerce, and use a local citation finder like BrightLocal to find more citation opportunities.

4. Get reviews
When you get reviews on your Google My Business page, your listing in the SERPs will be given a star rating that will definitely help you stand out amongst the competition. It’s unclear whether reviews affect the actual positioning of URLs in the SERP, or if they simply help to highlight listings and drive click-throughs; most likely it’s a combination of both. Either way, reviews are vital for local SEO success, so you need to know how to improve Google reviews and make the most of them.

First things first – get the reviews coming in. The best way to do this is to ask your customers for them. You could include a link to your My Business page in invoice emails, or display information on how to leave a review on a menu or business card. Be sure to engage with your reviewers too to prove that you’re acknowledging feedback properly. Respond to both good and bad reviews, taking time with the bad ones to apologise and deal with the customer’s complaints. Reviews showcase your customer service skills as well as endorse your business, and the way you deal with negativity says a lot about your service, so don’t panic about less than perfect ratings – just work on putting things right.

5. Use relevant geographic keywords
It’s natural that if you operate within a specific location you’ll talk about it in your web content, so be sure to include geographic keywords into your site. However, as with all types of keyword optimisation, don’t be tempted to cram them. A good strategy is to include your NAP on every web page so that your location is naturally mentioned (be sure to mark it up with Schema), then add extra mentions of the location sparingly throughout your content.

When researching your keywords, be sure to use tools that allow you to filter by location and category, like Google Keyword Planner and Google Trends both do. Look for long-tail keywords that are as relevant as possible to your business’s location and service offering, and be sure to create content around them that is genuinely relevant to the query.

If you’d like to contribute a guest post, we’d love to hear from you.

Author Biog:

Optimise your site for the most important local SEO ranking signals - Matt Cayless

Matt Cayless is the Director of Strategy at Bubblegum Search an SEO & Content Marketing Agency. He is an expert in search engine optimisation having worked on campaigns for some of the world’s biggest brands. When he’s not chasing the Google algorithms he enjoys training for marathons while remaining fearful of carbohydrates.

Keyword Clusters: Revealing Profitable SEO Opportunities

Keyword Clusters: Revealing Profitable SEO Opportunities

In today’s guest post, Blueclaw’s Digital Strategy Manager Sam Raife, outlines the need for greater focus on keyword clusters, when it comes to developing an effective SEO strategy.

All of the team from Blueclaw loved being part of last month’s Search Masterclass. It was a great venue and an event that was filled with digital marketing leaders from a whole host of different backgrounds.

However, even with all this professional diversity, one of the issues that came up time and again was the need for SEO leaders to have a greater input on strategy, and the problematic focus on individual rankings as the dominant (or only) measure of SEO success.

The problem with using rankings as a measurement KPI is that people tend to focus on the success or failure of a single ranking.

Taking a straightforward, mainstream product, let’s consider the keyword “Blinds”.

This keyword is responsible for 90,500 searches a month in the UK according to SEMrush. That is a lot of searches.

It is easy to see why anybody would get fixated with that. Move me to position 1 for this and we get more sales. So far so simple – but there’s more to the story.

Moving from Keywords, to Keyword Clusters

As an SEO professional, you know that the term “Blinds” is important, but you also know that the sum of the search volume of other related phrases such as “Roman Blinds”, “Window Blinds” and “Roller Blinds” has a combined total search volume much larger than that of just “Blinds”,

More than this, you know that more specific terms such as these are a good buying signal, and so visitors who arrive on the site from these keywords are more likely to convert.

This is a basic example, and one that most people will be able to understand, but what about when you consider FAQs, or long-tail phrases that are 5+ words that still have valuable search volume?

Making the case for looking beyond single keywords requires a change the focus and knowing you have a way of building content that will help capture a greater spread of terms and traffic.

Creating Content to Target Keywords Clusters

Planning out content to accommodate long tail keyword clusters can be done by following a straightforward process:

  1. Document the core topics, issues, queries and problems that your target customers might relate to your product or service.
  2. Compile each of these topics into grouped areas of similarity.
  3. Expand the central topics using keyword research from the tools you are most comfortable using.
  4. Use competitor research and some internal soul-searching to establish the content that you are most effective at producing for each keyword cluster.
  5. Create and write the best possible content you can, aligned to keyword clusters.

This is of course an abbreviated overview of a task that can be challenging – we all know companies often struggle to produce great content on an effective schedule for SEO or any other purpose.

Making the justification that these long tail phrases are just as if not more important as part of a genuinely strategic SEO and content plan than a main target keyword can be a challenge – but there are tools and approaches that can help.

Data-driven Strategy with The SEO’s Pro’s Friend: Excel

The number of analytical tools and platforms available to SEO professionals today is getting higher by the day but one of the best (though least pretty) is found on pretty much every desktop – Excel.

Combining analysis from tools like SEMrush and aHrefs with the long-established (though powerful) functions of Excel is a winning way to ground your keyword strategy.

Pivot tables in particular are an effective way to explore the cumulative impact of your target keywords, opening up scope to plan using clusters of keywords rather than individual ‘vanity’ keywords

To adopt this approach yourself, we have built an Excel tool that SEO professionals and marketers can use, based on a simple but powerful combination of pivot tables and a SEMrush csv.

Just follow the instructions on the spreadsheet, paste your data and hit refresh. The template will help you do the analysis detailed above, and help build the case for targeting keyword clusters – not individual keywords.

Click here to get the Keyword Cluster Tool

The fact is, small individual ranking movements don’t matter if you are making regular progress to increase the average position of these pages and the rankings associated with them across a valuable cluster of keywords

Of course, if you have any questions about SEO, how to use SEMrush or the tool, read more here or write to us at contact@blueclaw.co.uk and we’ll be happy to help. Any and all feedback appreciated!

Author Biog

Sam Raife - Blueclaw

Sam Raife heads up the ‘Offsite Strategy Team’ at Blueclaw. In his role, Sam supports and develops campaign strategies that deliver tangible uplifts in rankings, traffic and revenue for his clients.

 

Unconventional Search Engines – Think Outside the Box

Unconventional Search Engines – Think Outside the Box by Lawrence Alexander and Neill Horie, Home Agency

In today’s guest post, Home Agency’s Digital Strategy Director Lawrence Alexander, and Head of Technical SEO Neill Horie, provide an insight into the ten unconventional search engines that may be the answer to delivering your digital strategy and sales targets.

Don’t just rely on Google – take a look at the top 10 search engines people use to buy and make sure you’re doing all you can, including unconventional ones.

When it comes to making sure that their content and products are found, people often think about Google, but forget other platforms with a massive reach in terms of users, searches and sales. We’ve compiled a list of our top 10 to help you think outside of the box and investigate some unconventional search engines.

  1. Google – 165,000,000,000 searches per month

Unconventional Search Engines - Think Outside the Box by Lawrence Alexander and Neill Horie

The largest search engine in the world, with 2 trillion monthly searches per year1, or roughly 165 billion searches per month. Making sure that your content is visible in Google is typically the obvious first step.

 

 

2. Facebook – 30,000,000,000 searches per month

Unconventional Search Engines - Think Outside the Box by Lawrence Alexander and Neill Horie

Facebook has a giant reach in search which is often overlooked, with well over 1 billion monthly usersand surpassing 30 billion search queries per month3. To no-one’s surprise, they’re also thinking about how to leverage that search, but are already well placed due to the amount of company information already present.

 

3. Bing – 24,000,000,000 searches per month

Unconventional Search Engines - Think Outside the Box by Lawrence Alexander and Neill Horie

Bing have kept their search data statistics relatively quiet, but with 12% of global market share (including Yahoo!) versus Google’s 83%4, it’s definitely smaller than Google. Roughly 80% of its audience are in the USA (probably 19 billion monthly searches) and much of the rest in Canada5, however, meaning that it’s much less useful if your customers aren’t in North America. This may grow over time however, due to Alexa (Amazon Echo), Cortana (Windows 10) and Siri (iPhone) using Bing to power their search functionality.

4. YouTube – 1,000,000,000 active monthly users

Unconventional Search Engines - Think Outside the Box by Lawrence Alexander and Neill Horie

Often considered the search engine which people don’t think about, YouTube’s reach is enormous, claiming a third of the world’s internet population amongst its users6. Shooting videos is often seen as too expensive, and the medium itself seen as ill-suited for many brands. This need not be true, as already in 2015, they claimed a year-on-year growth of 70% for “how to” queries7, which many brands may want to take advantage of, especially given its prevalence in voice search.

5. Instagram – 500,000,000 active monthly users

Unconventional Search Engines - Think Outside the Box by Lawrence Alexander and Neill Horie

Not only does Instagram have a high number of monthly active users, but 80% of those users are outside of the USA8. Hidden from traditional search marketing due to being a closed, mobile-only system, it nevertheless helps 60% of its users – or 300 million people – find out about a product or service9.

 

6. Vimeo – 170,000,000 active monthly users

Unconventional Search Engines - Think Outside the Box by Lawrence Alexander and Neill Horie

A slightly more exclusive video-sharing platform than YouTube10, Vimeo can be useful in more B2B-centric environments due to the cost-effective paid packages and absence of advertisements. Stats on internal searches within Vimeo are hard to come by, but Vimeo itself often ranks well in Google (albeit behind YouTube).

 

7. LinkedIn – 112,500,000 active monthly users

Unconventional Search Engines - Think Outside the Box by Lawrence Alexander and Neill Horie

A widely used11 content hosting platform in addition to just a place to have business connections, LinkedIn is often a missed opportunity for people wanting to be found by determined searchers.

 

 

8. Pinterest – 150,000,000 active monthly users

Unconventional Search Engines - Think Outside the Box by Lawrence Alexander and Neill Horie

At 150 monthly users12 and 2 billion monthly searches13, Pinterest may only be a fraction of the search volume seen by Google and Bing, but those users are actively interested in purchasing. 93% of users use Pinterest to plan for purchases14, 72% have seen something and bought it offline and whilst 52% have seen something and then purchased it online15.

 

9. Google+ – 40,000,000 active monthly users

Unconventional Search Engines - Think Outside the Box by Lawrence Alexander and Neill Horie

Irrelevant for many people and typically considered dead, it has about 4-6 million actively posting users16, which could mean about 40 million users including lurkers. Nevertheless, it has value for the right audiences, particularly tech-savvy ones. For instance, Niantic, the developer behind Ingress and Pokemon Go, uses Google+ heavily for its communications17.

 

10. Amazon Echo/Alexa – 1,600,000 active owners at present

Unconventional Search Engines - Think Outside the Box by Lawrence Alexander and Neill Horie

They may be new to the market, but (AI-driven) voice search and assistants are an onrushing trend to take advantage of. Alexa, for instance, only has 1.6 million active owners right now18, but not many businesses have skills – specific phrases you can associate with your products or services – developed yet competition is incredibly low.

This isn’t the end of the opportunities either, as there will often be specific opportunities available for your niche and situation. The important thing is to not restrict yourself to the main, most competitive method when other ways exist.

If you’d like to learn more about this topic, you can catch-up with Lawrence and Neill at next week’s Search Leaders Masterclass in Manchester, where they’ll be delivering a session on – Sales before search: Why alternative search engines and ‘renting’ ranking space might be the answer to your sales targets.

Sources

  1. http://searchengineland.com/google-now-handles-2-999-trillion-searches-per-year-250247
  2. https://www.statista.com/statistics/264810/number-of-monthly-active-facebook-users-worldwide/
  3. http://www.theverge.com/2012/9/11/3317720/facebook-billion-search-queries-a-day
  4. https://www.further.co.uk/blog/who-what-and-when-profiling-google-yahoo-and-bing-search-demographics/
  5. https://www.aborg.com/2014/08/google-vs-bing-which-one-are-your-customers-using/
  6. https://www.youtube.com/yt/press/statistics.html
  7. https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/articles/i-want-to-do-micro-moments.html
  8. https://www.instagram.com/press/
  9. http://blog.business.instagram.com/post/150771324916/instagram-advertiser-number
  10. https://vimeo.com/about/advertisers
  11. http://venturebeat.com/2016/08/04/linkedin-now-has-450-million-members-but-the-number-of-monthly-visitors-is-still-flat/
  12. https://blog.pinterest.com/en/150-million-people-finding-ideas-pinterest
  13. https://blog.pinterest.com/en/2-billion-monthly-idea-searches-and-counting
  14. https://www.millwardbrowndigital.com/pinterest-and-the-power-of-future-intent/
  15. https://business.pinterest.com/en/blog/how-pinterest-drives-purchases-online-and
  16. https://ello.co/dredmorbius/post/naya9wqdemiovuvwvoyquq
  17. https://plus.google.com/+Nianticlabs
  18. http://uk.businessinsider.com/how-many-amazon-echo-smart-home-devices-have-been-installed-2016-6

Author Biogs

Lawrence Alexander - Home Agency

Lawrence is a strategist specialising in digital and brand communications. He’s worked with over 150 high street brands including Microsoft, Mashable, BMW, Sony and Unilever. Since 1999, Lawrence has been using a mixture of behavioural psychology and digital brand strategy to help businesses and brands achieve their business objectives.

 

Neill Horie, Head of Technical SEO at Home Agency - Search Leaders Masterclass, Manchester

Neill is Head of Technical SEO at The Home Agency with a passion for making things clearer via organisation. To that end, he’s involved in a projects in the hope that regardless of whether it’s a new website or an old product brochure, it’s clear what’s what.

 

 

Winning Top Tier Coverage for Search Engine Impact

Winning top tier media coverage for search engine performance - Martin Calvert, Blueclaw

In today’s guest post, Blueclaw’s Marketing Director Martin Calvert examines the impact of quality media coverage on visibility and search performance. 

Links remain the lynchpin of off-site SEO strategy, but not all links are created equal.

Google’s commitment to rewarding sites that provide the most value to human visitors, means the search engine is looking for indications that your site is organically featured and linked to by high quality sites.

As Google’s Matt Cutts states –

‘…the objective is not to ‘Make your links appear natural’; the objective is that your links are natural.”

Natural links from great website and publications help your site – unnatural links from poor quality site do nothing or actively damage your rankings.

Unlocking that higher tier of coverage and winning over publications, blogs and influencers takes great content, aligned to your SEO strategy.

However, lessons can be drawn from other disciplines – including PR.

Content Marketing, SEO and PR

Considering…

“What sites can I be featured on? What would their readers find compelling about what we have to say? What topics would capture their interest? Where can I reasonably expect to win coverage?”

….are all questions that professionals in another content-centric industry are very familiar with – PR.

As SEO becomes ever more like PR in terms of these questions, the more marketers can look to the established habits of great PR firms to guide their content strategy, while also incorporating the SEO criteria and metrics they need to drive rankings.

As in PR, the more authoritative and discerning a publication/site you target, the better your content must be. Remember, these publications thrive on maintaining high standards, and have their own SEO and readerships to consider.

SEO is a bit of an arms race in that with so many companies attempting to implement a link-earning strategy, the best sites have become more discerning about who they link to.

Meanwhile, more ‘accessible’ sites lose value quickly – and could even result in a penalty.

Higher Value Links, Greater Results

The gold standard of leading industry publications, mainstream media and .gov and .edu domains remains in force.

The effort to produce this content of a quality that will win coverage (and links) from this type of outlet can be off-putting.

For some companies, they will continue to suffer from the fatal half measure of lacklustre content generation leading to lacklustre results.

Breaking out of that routine and really taking your SEO strategy forward, requires creativity, insight and authentic content of unambiguous value.

The good news is the better your content is, the further it can travel and the greater results you can anticipate.

This is particularly the case if there is an element of virality – content that people cannot resist linking to and sharing on social media and elsewhere.

Manning the Pump

The internet is awash with mediocre content, churned out on a timely schedule.

The written word is vital but engaging, entertaining and insightful visual elements also increase the value of content as the delivery mechanism for the crucial link to your site.

A vanishingly small number of companies can produce content on a consistent basis that retains high standards of quality – and some will choose never to invest that time, effort or money.

We know that Google loves new content, are hungry to index it and will give a boost to fresh material on the assumption that newer = more timely, relevant and interesting.

That’s something to bear in mind when producing content for your own site, but it’s also at the forefront of the minds of savvier website owners. Your great content helps their site – so they’ll be willing to scratch your back in turn with a follow link.

Consistency in Content

Consistency in content creation in terms of timeliness and quality is just as important for the mainstream media.

Though they may be less concerned about their own search rankings, they do demand dependable partners who can be relied upon to help with a quote, a bit of insight or a meaty piece of content that makes their story or their site that much better.

In short, your SEO programme will suffer and winning, retaining and expanding your media relationships will be harder without regularity of great content – that crucial connective tissue – to keep the reciprocal relationships working well.

Differentiating on Content for Next-Level SEO

Content marketing is the delivery mechanism for off-site SEO – and the better your content, the greater leeway you have to engage and negotiate with the sites that fit the ideal profile for your SEO strategy.

What qualifies as great content will vary depending on your industry, and demands of the press, industry publications, sector-specific sites and influencers.

Content marketing is in a hype phase at the moment, meaning that there is a flood of sub-par content.

Differentiating is critical, as is creating a reputation for quality and consistency – looking to PR for inspiration is just one route.

Author Biog

Martin Calvert - Blueclaw

Martin has an 11-year career as an international researcher, speaker and client and agency-side practitioner in the field of online communication and influence. Drawing on his diverse experience, Martin provides a practical, personable and data-driven view of digital marketing and SEO.

Having recently joined Blueclaw as Marketing Director, Martin is responsible for enthusing major brands and challengers alike about the new art of the possible in digital marketing.

Martin’s session at next week’s Search Leaders Masterclass at Etihad Stadium, Manchester: Earning media coverage, social shares & engagement for next-gen SEO