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Google’s Algorithm Changes So Far This Year (2018 Edition)

2018 has been a rollercoaster of a year for Google. We’ve seen big sites go overboard and small fish rise to the top (erm, in a non-dead way…). In our last post, we talked a ton about 7 ways to put out killer content that ranks, so, we thought we’d dive into Google algorithm updates in 2018 to show you why you should be putting energy towards high-quality original content.

Let’s take this oppor-tuna-ty to see how Google’s algorithm has changed in 2018. Sure, some of this may be a little technical, but we’re going to try to cut out all of the fancy acronyms and overused tech buzzwords. Trust us; this post will have you hooked!

March 7th, 2018 (The Brackets Update)

Let’s get one thing straight, we didn’t get to name this update. The credit for “Brackets” goes to Glenn Gabe over at GSQI. We would have picked something way better, like “The Betta Update” or “The ClickBait Update.”

This Google Algorithm update was one of the “nothing to see here” updates that Google is famous for. SEO experts were seeing shifts about a week before the update was officially announced, and Google made sure to clarify that the update was broad, not specific. Essentially, we saw another quality-emphasized update. Google wants to see unique, quality content, and websites that weren’t delivering took a ranking hit.

We can’t give you any specifics, because Google didn’t release any. But, we can tell you that the update seemed to be 99.9% quality oriented. For anyone familiar with SEM, this update isn’t surprising. There seems to a slew of these “broad” updates every year, and almost all of them are content focused.

The Brackets Update Takeaways

  • You need to be leveraging unique content if you want to stay ahead of the pack.
  • Google is dead set on releasing these broad updates yearly, and we’ll probably see another one pop-up before the year is done.

Tip: For any of you who are having issues penetrating high SERP, check out Google’s official guide on creating quality content. Be warned; it’s dense.

March 26th, 2018 (Mobile First Indexing)

It’s finally here! It seems like Google had been talking about mobile-first indexing before smartphones were invented. Ok, so really they had been toying around with the idea for 2 years, but it seemed like forever.

Google’s index is essentially its collection of web pages. So, all of the web pages that Googlebot crawls through, it indexes. Until now, Googlebot has been indexing pages through desktop crawling, which means that it was only taking into account pages that it found on desktop versions of sites. Of course, not all websites have the same content on desktop and mobile (don’t be like these websites!) Unfortunately for Google; mobile searches overtook desktop searches back in 2016 (and are dominating them in 2018.) So, this was leading to some obvious inconsistencies for all of us who use mobile search.

Now, Google is indexing via mobile. This does not mean that Google is using two indexes; it still only uses one. Now, the index is mobile-based.

The Mobile First Indexing Takeaways

  • Make sure that your mobile site matches your desktop version. Don’t publish different content to each.
  • Mobile is Google’s primary focus, which means that it should be on your radar. We aren’t saying to ditch the desktop. Just like investing, your SEO strategy needs a blended portfolio, or your risk is far too high.

June 14th, 2018 (Goodbye Video Thumbnails)

We could all sense this coming from a-mile-away. Google dropped support to video thumbnails and uses the carousel to rank content now. Of course, the carousel is a mobile-first feature, which further emphasizes Google’s love for mobile this year. Here’s where it gets a little fishy. If you’re an eCommerce site, you need to be paying careful attention to your ranking strategy.

Since Google removes anything in the carousel from the organic search results, anyone whose primary purpose is to sell product may get a negative impact due to this change. If you have a video popped up on a product page, make sure that it’s the correct one. If the thumbnail ends up looking nothing like your product and you get into the carousel, you’re going to get destroyed on ranking.

For example, let’s say that I sell pens. I have a huge page of pens that are all grouped together. I put out a video of my most expensive golden pen. People search for black pens, which I also sell. I used to be on the top 10 Google results page as an organic link (the blue links.) Now, my video is in the carousel, so Google removes me from its organic search. Suddenly, the person searching for black pens is seeing a video of a golden pen and completely skips my page.

This update may not seem significant, but it’s important to pay attention to small details like this. If you feel like you had a ranking hit (or sales have slowed down) since this time period, reach out to us. We’ll get you right back on track.

The Goodbye Video Thumbnails Takeaways

  • Webmasters need to pay careful attention to where and how they’re positioning video creatives; missteps can lead to colossal ranking hits.
  • Google really wants everyone to know that they love mobile. Make sure that you have a mobile-friendly site and start optimizing your creatives for mobile consumers.

July 24th, 2018 (HTTPS)

If you weren’t using an HTTPS website on July 24th, 2018, you were a fish-out-of-water. Starting this year, all sites that didn’t have HTTPS were displayed as unsafe on Google Chrome. We can burst through this one quick. If you aren’t using HTTPS, stop what reading this blog post right now, and go fix it. You can’t rank, and visitors aren’t going to visit your website.

The HTTPS Takeaways

  • You website has to be HTTPS secured. Period.

August 1st, 2018 (The Medic Update)

Google Medic was first discovered by a bunch of health and wellness webmasters who noticed some(fin) wrong with their rankings. Moz started to see some crazy ranking fluxes during this time period, and these rank changes seemed to disproportionately impact health and wellness websites.

This update was another quality-related rank change. Essentially, Google is starting to penalize websites based on their authority. Google’s asking “what authority do you have to make medical claims” and using that as a basis for ranking. For businesses, this means that peer-reviewed studies and consistent linking are a necessity. It’s not enough to say that Octopus Creative is the best agency on the planet, you have to prove it.

The Medic Update Takeaways

  • Make sure that you’re backing up any claims that you’re putting out.
  • If you’re in the health and wellness niche, make sure that you’re not making any claims that could be perceived as fraudulent.

The Other Google Algorithm 2018 Updates

There were a few other updates this year, but they were either A) small or B) had unknown impacts. Here they are:

  • July 21, 2018: Search Engine Round Table shows some significant inconsistencies and ranking shifts. Update unknown.
  • July 9th, 2018: Google announced that mobile speed would play a role in ranking factor. So far, it’s only penalizing super-slow sites. We expect it to start putting more emphasis on speed in the future.
  • May 23rd, 2018: Moz and Search Engine Round Table show some strange ranking patterns. Update unconfirmed.
  • May 13th, 2018: Google reduces snippet length to the previous 150-160 characters (thankfully!)
  • April 17th, 2018: Google confirms a core update after Moz and Search Engine Land find strange ranking temperatures. No one knows why, but most think it’s related to quality.
  • February 20th, 2018: Moz predicts algorithm update, Google denies it.

Conclusion

Google’s algorithm is a living breathing AI that will continue to evolve and adapt to the way that people intent searches. Quality remains a pressing issue for Google, and most changes reflect a distinct craving for quality content. Some strange situations might pop-up due to the Carousel and Medic update, which is why it’s important for SEO companies to be hyper-vigilant about staying consistent with Google.

If you’re running a business and all of this seems like way too much for you to have to think about, we get it. You have a company to run and a brand to build! Let us step up and use our SEO skills to reel you in clients and throw some bait at the bottom of your funnel. Also, don’t worry, just because our brand is an octopus doesn’t mean we’re from Finland, we’re located right here in Canada! (sorry, we had to)

Why You Should Invest in Hiring Expert SEO Services

Do you need to improve your site’s SEO? Hiring expert SEO services can help.

You invested a lot of time and resources to build your website and make it perfect. Now comes the hard part – driving traffic to it. There are several ways you can drive traffic to your site – social media, SEO and email newsletters are just a few of them.

With SEO, people are looking for information and they’re looking to buy your products or services. In fact, search engines drive 93% of all web traffic and it has a higher conversion rate than other ways to market your business.

Yet, only a small percentage of websites rank in the top 10 after a year.

Instead of banging your head against a wall trying to figure out how to improve your ranking, read on to learn why you should hire a professional SEO company.

Technical Expertise

SEO is much more than keywords.

Google is said to use around 200 factors to determine search results. They range from your online listings and your site architecture to the number of links to your site & keywords.

An SEO firm can point you in the right direction to improve your search listings. They’ll do professional keyword research and make content recommendations.

They’ll also take a look at the back end of your website to make sure your most important content stands out in search results and your site architecture is clear for search engines.

Better Online Presence

Have you ever looked up a company online and found different phone numbers and addresses for them?

It’s frustrating, and it leaves a bad impression of your business. Potential customers will be confused. It’ll confuse search engines, too.

When you hire expert SEO services, you’ll find that they’ll improve your entire online presence. They can help you clean up your listings across all directories so they’re consistent.

Expert SEO Services Saves Time

When you hire expert SEO services, you ultimately save time and energy. How much time do you have to learn what the 200 factors Google uses to rank websites?

After you learn what it takes to rank your website, do you have the time and resources to implement those changes yourself?

No, you don’t. You have a business to run.

Hiring an SEO company would be a smart move because they already have the technical expertise, they have the training, and they know how to implement an SEO strategy to get results.

Improved Conversion Rates

Almost half of all searches are local. Out of those local searches, about 75% of those will call the results on the first page of search results.

Imagine ranking on the first page of Google and getting some of those calls. What kind of impact would that have on your business?

Even if people click through to your website, there’s a good chance that they’ll contact your business because they’re already searching for your product or services.

That improved conversion rate could improve your bottom line in a big way.

Increase Referral Calls

Many businesses rely on referrals to get new business. For 85% of businesses, this is the top way to drive leads. If your business is part of the 85% of those who depend on referrals, SEO can ensure that you’re getting all of those.

Right now, you might be leaving money on the table and not even know it.

Put yourself in a potential customer’s shoes for a moment.

If you’re looking for a particular service, you’d ask people you know. You’ll then get a few recommendations and the first thing you’ll do is look them up online.

If you can’t find that business online or if you find different phone numbers for that business, will you call them? No, you’ll just move on to the next business.

SEO expert services can ensure that your business appears in search results and that your information is consistent across directories and platforms.

That will result in phone calls to your business.

You’ll See How Your Marketing Dollars Are Spent

When you invest in SEO services, you want to make sure you’re getting a return on investment.

The great thing about investing in SEO is that you can track just about anything. You can track keywords people use to get you’re your site and what they do when they get there.

Compare that to other forms of advertising where you invest a lot of money and assume that it works.

You’ll have access to detailed reporting, so you can see exactly how your marketing dollars are working for you.

Stay Ahead in a Constantly Changing World

We mentioned how many factors go into search results. On top of that, Google changes its algorithm frequently, up to 600 times a year.

Technology changes, too. We’ve gone from searching on desktop computers to mobile devices. The next frontier for search is voice search as people use devices like Google Home or Amazon Echo in their homes.

A professional SEO company knows what’s next in SEO and can help you get prepared for those changes.

What to Look for in an SEO Company

When you hire an SEO company, it helps to know that there are good companies and companies who promise a lot and don’t deliver. Here’s how you can tell the difference and hire an experienced company.

SEO Takes Time

When you invest in SEO, be prepared to play a long game. Any firm that tells you that they can get results in a month is probably using black hat SEO techniques.

Understand Your Marketing Strategy

SEO plays a role in digital marketing, but it also works together with social media, content marketing and branding.

Results in SEO don’t happen in isolation, but each component of marketing influences the results of the others to drive results.

A top SEO firm will take the time to look at your entire marketing strategy and implement strategies for each component to maximize all of your marketing results.

Hire Expert SEO Services

An expert SEO services company can help you save time and generate money for your business. They can also improve your overall web presence so it’s consistent to those searching for your business, products, and services.

If you’re ready to hire an SEO services company, we’re here to help. Contact us today.

7 Simple SEO Solutions You Need to Try for Yourself

In 2015, there were more than 1.1 million businesses in Canada. Basically, this means you’re up against a ton of competition as a business owner or marketer.

One of the best ways to stand out from the crowd is through SEO (Search Engine Optimization). This is the process of getting your pages to rank higher on Google and other search engines, which will lead to more traffic and more sales.

We’ve compiled 6 simple SEO solutions that you should try out that will make you say, “Shell Yeah!”

Check them out!

1. Find Your Keywords

The first thing you should do when starting with SEO is deciding on your keywords. The whole point of SEO is ranking higher on search engines for specific keywords and phrases! So you need to make sure you’re trying to rank for the best keywords possible.

This happens through strong keyword research efforts. Think about what people are searching for when they look for your business’ products or services.

What do they Google? If you’re a pet store owner, people might search for “dog store in Seattle” or “pet store in Washington.” So you would want to rank for these terms.

Do some research with a professional SEO tool to find out what people search for most. You can also utilize free tools like Google Trends.

2. Content, Content, Content

Another SEO key is producing content. But it shouldn’t just be any content. It needs to be valuable and relevant.

Find topics that people are curious about in your industry. What topics could you write about that will get people to your website?

Once they’re on your site, you can make an offer to them… which means more cash for you! Yeah, buoy!

You should also produce content on a regular basis. Google prioritizes pages that are fresh.

This also attracts readers because you’re providing interesting and helpful content. Whether these are blog posts, ebooks, whitepapers, infographics, or videos, content is a huge part of SEO in 2018.

So make sure you have a writer and a designer on your team who can produce these pieces.

3. Load Quickly: One of the Biggest SEO Solutions

The bottom line is that when websites load quickly, people are satisfied. The opposite is also true: when sites take forever to load, people leave.

This will happen to a certain extent no matter what. In fact, the average bounce rate is 26% to 40%. But many sites are at a much higher level, which negatively affects their bottom line.

Google understands this and so sites that load slowly are negatively affected in terms of SEO. This is because, in order for Google to be successful, they want to provide the best experience possible. And if the first couple of search results for a given query all load super slowly, the user is going to get frustrated and go to a different search engine to do their searching.

This is Google’s worst nightmare. So to avoid this. They give preference to sites who rank quickly.

To improve your site’s load times, there are lots of things you can do. Start by optimizing your images and getting rid of pictures with huge file sizes. Instead, compress them using an online tool.

Also, consider switching hosting providers (there is a reason that some hosting options are considered discount). Sometimes this is the core of the issue.

4. Pay Attention to Your Titles and Descriptions

This is a simple thing with a big impact: optimize your page titles and descriptions. These are the pieces of text that tell both users and Google what your page is about.

Every page on your site should be optimized to include that page’s keyword. This helps Google’s bots understand exactly the purpose of your page. So if your pages aren’t optimized in this way, water you doing?

This is also the text that appears in Google search results when your page ranks. So being clear and getting to the point helps web searchers know exactly what they’ll get on that page.

If possible, you should also include the keyword in the H1 on your pages. An H1 is the main header at the top of the page. Google also pays attention to this.

5. Optimize Your URLs

Also, don’t forget about your page URLs. Google’s spiders look at your URL as well to understand the content of your page.

If possible, include your keyword in the URL as well. This will make things super clear.

Don’t make your URL too long. When it’s super long, it’s easy for the bots to get confused. Shorter is better in this case!

6. Don’t Forget Those Links

Link building is one of the fundamentals of SEO. Google likes to see that sites are linking back to you because it improves your reputation in their eyes.

This is especially true when the links come from domains with a lot of authority! So if at all possible, work with large publications and websites to get a link back to your site from them.

The other part of link building has to do with your site itself. Your site should also have plenty of internal links. This shows Google that your pages are related to each other and it helps paint a better picture of what your website is all about.

So go throughout your site and include links wherever possible.

7. Hire an Expert

When it comes to SEO strategy, do you feel like you’re standing at the seashore screaming, “Kelp! Kelp!”? If so, consider hiring an expert!

SEO is complicated and is always changing. An expert from an outside agency will be able to provide information about the latest strategies.

They’ll know what’s working right this moment to help you rank as well as possible. Our team has years of experience working in SEO and is happy to help you! Contact us today to learn more.

What’s Next?

Now that you’ve gone through these SEO solutions, it’s time to make some changes in your business. Implement some of these on your site as soon as possible! In other words, it’s time to seas the day!

Have questions or want professional help? Get in touch with us and we’ll be your marketing sidekick.

5 Google Adwords Tips that Turn Clicks Into Customers

Visibility in Google is one of the things you need to do to get more customers. It’s why the Search Engine Optimization industry exists. It’s why businesses fight tooth and nail for every keyword available.

After all, Google’s share in the search engine market is 90.14% around the world. If you want to ensure that your digital marketing effort is productive, you need to prioritise this over ranking on any other search engine.

One of the best strategies is Google AdWords.

Not sure how it works? We’ve got you covered. Here are five Google AdWords tips that will turn your clicks into loyal customers:

1. Choosing Different Keyword Targeting Options

Keyword targeting refers to utilizing keywords relevant to the service or products you offer specifically for ad copy. It’s a system that aims to boost your rankings and ads, and it leans on potential consumers using keywords in their searches.

Keep in mind it’s not as simple as picking a single keyword and then focusing your entire campaign around it. There are different targeting options, which include at the basic level:

  • Exact match
  • Broad match
  • Phrase match
  • Negative keywords

An exact match is what most people imagine when it comes to keywords. You type in “best shoemaker” and your ads will only pop up when someone uses those exact words, in that exact sequence.

A broad match, on the other hand, means your ads will appear when people type in any search using a broad matched keyword such as “shoes”. This means your ad will appear for searches like “best shoes”, “running shoes” or… “horse shoes”.

Phrase match refers to long queries, like phrases or complete sentences, that include the exact keyword. Examples would be “shoemaker in New York” or “how to find the best shoemaker.”

Negative keywords are essentially keyword modifiers. You can add the supplement “horse” so that people searching “horse shoe” won’t see your ads when they type “horse” into a search engine.

2. Choose the Best Landing Page

A common mistake for most people is that they only use their homepage as the landing page for targeted ads.

This is often a bad idea because your homepage doesn’t cater directly to the user queries. It’s a bad practice to let your potential customers clicking through three levels of your site to find the information they want.

If you want to make money with PPC ads, you have to not only bring people to the page, but you have to give them a reason to stay and spend money once they get to the destination. Think about the page your customers will most likely need. In most situations, you might need a specific product page.

For example, if your users search for “blue sunglasses,” you need to make the corresponding product page as the target URL.

The faster you can get them what they need, the more chances you have to convert them.

3. Enable Sitelinks

Doing this means that the bottom of the ad will also show a set of other pages on your website. These high-level links are great when you want potential customers to look for other information and services on your site. Enabling the sitelinks can help get your customers to the places they might want in a quicker, more convenient way, increasing the likelihood of conversion.

If you want to know more about this, Google provides a comprehensive guide that gives a sample pizza store’s site links. You can see the four options it offers which can interest people. Regular customers aren’t likely to go through the same landing link all the time, so the option makes it easier for them to return.

4. Make Use of Reviews to Get More Trust

The most important factor for customers to choose you over your competitors is the customer reviews. When people choose between ads, a lot of customers will pick the website with at least 4.9 stars rating over a business that has no ratings.

Pretty much like the site links mentioned above, your customer reviews are great extensions for your ads. However, doing this requires you to register to the Google Product Search. The reason behind it is that the search engine uses all the reviews it pulled from all over the internet to ensure that the aggregate score is trustworthy and not prone to manipulations of any kind.

5. Geotarget Your Preferred Customers

This tip is one of the most common things you must do to get the most out of your Google AdWords campaign. Despite this, geotargeting is often forgotten and overlooked. It’s vital to target people within your area especially if your services depend on a fixed location, like a local business and the like.

If your business is in Canada, it doesn’t do you good to target potential customers in Korea. Do this properly, and you’ll get benefits like a higher probability of getting clicks and turn those clicks into guaranteed sales.

Bonus: Pause Your Underperforming Ads

The harsh truth is that not all your ads will get you conversions and sales. In fact, basing it on averages, most of them will not perform as well as you want them to. You can optimize all your ads in lots of different ways, but if it isn’t performing well, it won’t be for the time being.

If you continue seeing any significant performance metrics with your ads, you might want to pull it out. It’s not hard to see when the ad isn’t doing too good. Don’t spend money on ads that aren’t getting you any new customers.

You need to ensure that your Click-Through-Rate (CTR) should be at minimum 0.5%. The average of a successful AdWords text ad often sees a CTR at 2%.

Get Google AdWords Tips Today!

Promoting your business with the use of Google AdWords is a great way to get an audience and generate conversions. However, you need to remember all these tips to ensure that you get the money you’re paying for. After all, it’s important to maximize your budget to ensure that you can expand in the future.

There are other Google AdWords tips to consider, like integrating your Adwords account with your Google Analytics. It might be a long road ahead, but all of it is worth getting more revenue from your conversions.

Do you need help with a better online presence? Contact us today and we’ll help you get started!

What to Consider When Hiring a SEM Agency

The real experts know they aren’t an expert in everything. That’s why over 62% of brands are leaving their online marketing in the hands of the real experts.

A knowledgeable SEM agency can transform your brand’s online presence. But as in most professional fields, there are plenty of charlatans looking to take you for a ride.

That’s why we’ve put together some key tips to help you find the SEM partner you’re looking for. Read on to learn more.

Can They Show Results?

A good SEM agency should be equipped to show you the proof in the pudding. There’s no good reason to take an SEM provider at their word.

If they say they can get results, get them to show you how. What successful projects can they show you? What hard data do they have to back up their assertions?

But it doesn’t all rest in facts, either. If it’s an SEM company worth their salt, then chatting with their previous clients should be enough to tell you if they’re worth your time.

Find out who they’ve worked with in the past and ask for testimonials. Check out their reviews and what people are saying about them online. It’s easy to set up a website and declare yourself an expert. Get the evidence to back it up.

Are They Realistic?

The internet is a bubbling chaos of communication. Nobody can wholly predict it. Anyone who claims to is likely trying to sell you snake oil.

When you’re looking for an SEM agency, stay cautious of anyone who promises you the world. Chances are, vacuous promises are a way of reeling you in. Once you’ve spent the cash, they’ll go on to underdeliver on their impossible guarantees.

Look for an agency with realistic ideas instead. They’ll factor in the size of your business, your reach, and your budget to draw up a picture of success that works for you.

You don’t need an agency that intends to rely on wishes for a successful campaign. Get one that can give you an idea of the facts and the reality you’re working with.

Do They Understand You?

Marketing of any kind is as much about knowing the business as it is knowing the customer. Your SEM agent should show that they’re ready and willing to learn about your company.

From the outset, you can judge them by the number of questions they ask. If it seems like they’re interrogating you about your business, great! That means they’re engaged and they understand what a tailored marketing campaign looks like.

On the other hand, if they seem more interested in selling you a one-size-fits-all solution, be wary. What works for other brands, even in your niche, might not work the same for you.

The ideal SEM will offer to work with you on a solution that suits your business. That means taking into account what you do and what your customers expect.

What Tools Do They Use?

If an SEM agent doesn’t know anything about analytics, they don’t know how to do their job. Web analytics like Google Analytics is a crucial part of any search engine strategy. They give live feedback on the success of marketing campaigns and thus your ROI.

Smart marketing means using analytics to tweak marketing in real time. It’s also fed back into future campaigns to squeeze out more success and patch up any holes.

An SEM lacking knowledge of analytics is like a pilot flying without instruments. Maybe they’ll get lucky and land it, but you’d probably prefer to feel safe in their hands.

How Long Have They Been Around?

SEM is an experience game. Although things change rapidly in the SEO world, most new developments build on what came before. You’re working with an SEM agency because you acknowledge you’re not an expert. That means they need to be.

Finding out how many years they’ve been in operation is a good rough indicator of the experience involved. Ideally, find an agency who’s remained focused on SEM from the beginning. If they’ve hopped around between different online services, it could be a sign they haven’t gained any real experience.

Even if they say they’ve been in business for years, try to check their history. Frequent name changes or domain moves could be a sign they’re not all they claim to be. A company with a bad rep will often try to shed their previous persona and adopt a new one.

It’s easy for anyone to set up a website and claim to be an SEM. Sifting out the frauds from the experts will be what decides whether you get value for money.

What’s Their Price Structure?

This one isn’t simply a case of knowing what your SEM agent would charge. SEM providers can have quite variable price models, so you need to figure out what you’re dealing with before you commit.

Some SEM agencies will charge based on clicks, others on a percentage of the overall output, or based on ROI. It may be difficult to compare across SEMs. But the main thing to consider is whether their pricing model suits you.

If you know you need a solid, predictable budget for your marketing, then you’ll want to go with an SEM who can offer a fixed figure. If you’re more worried about growing your brand than what you’re spending, then fees based on the overall media percentage won’t seem so bad.

Just be wary of the incentives SEM agents might have to drive up activity in return for more money in their pocket. You want the marketing campaign to serve you, not them. If the SEM is driving your spend, you may have fallen into their trap.

Find the Right SEM Agency

Shopping around to find the right SEM agency is a smart move. Once you have a few options, you can compare them to find the partner who will really work for you. By keeping the above points in mind, you can filter out the time-wasters and narrow it down to the ones who’ll make a difference.

Looking for more digital marketing advice? Be sure to follow our blog.

10 Effective Local SEO Tips for Any Business Size

If you have to think about whether you’re a small business, you’re most likely a small business. Which means if you don’t have a local SEO checklist, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

Why? Because local SEO is becoming more and more important for local businesses to take advantage of.

And really, you’re too smart a businessperson not to take advantage of an opportunity in front of you. Here are 10 tips to add to your SEO to-do list.

1. Perform a Local SEO Audit

If you cross nothing else off your local SEO checklist, you need to do a local SEO audit.

Think of it this way. You wouldn’t go hiking 50 miles through the jungle without first figuring out what you need to watch out for.

So why would you jump into SEO blind?

An audit tells you where you should be directing your attention and where it’s most valuable to spend your time.

Otherwise, you could miss basic issues in your SEO strategy.

2. Create a Google My Business Page

This should take you no more than 20 minutes to do properly.

It’s a hugely beneficial 20 minutes.

Google My Business is simple but effective. If someone Googles your business, this is what will tell them your name, hours, address, phone number, reviews and other information that they would probably consider important.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Google your business
  • Claim it and verify it with Google
  • Check all the details to make sure they’re correct
  • Proceed to housekeep: answering reviews, adding photos, etc.

Remember, this is a snapshot of your business. Make sure it’s a good one.

3. Establish Local Listings

Now that you’ve handled Google, it’s time to handle everyone else.

Literally everyone else.

We’re talking Bing, Yahoo, Angie’s List, Yelp, Whitepages, business associations, your local chamber of commerce.

Everyone.

At a minimum, everyone should have your NAP: name, address, phone number. Give the best succinct snapshot of your business you can.

4. Accuracy in Listings

It sounds obvious, but for the love of Google and your customers, make sure your listings are accurate.

Despite the fact that you know your business better than you know yourself, there’s this funny thing called human error. You sometimes put in the wrong thing without thinking.

Or you move. Or your information changes.

Your customers shouldn’t be puzzling over what’s the right information. If they have to play Clue, they won’t be customers for long.

5. Reviews, Reviews, Reviews

Forget about pictures. Reviews are worth a thousand words.

Okay, don’t forget about pictures. But don’t neglect the power of a positive review.

Listen, reviews aren’t just about checking a box on your local SEO checklist to boost your rankings (though they do help your click-through rate).

It’s about giving your customers a reason to trust your business. And any true businessperson knows that’s invaluable.

6. Boost Your On-Site SEO

And speaking of invaluable, let’s talk about one of the things you should be doing already and might not be.

Let’s put it this way. If you’re an orthodontist in Alberta, how will your customers or Google know you’re an orthodontist in Alberta unless you put it on your website?

Most of this is common sense – showing your customers and Google the essential information on where you are and what you do in plain terms.

For example, listing directions to your office on your contact page. That’s on-site local SEO.

Don’t go overboard. Incorporating the key information (where you are, what you do, your business hours, etc.) as a part of natural verbiage will work quite well for Google.

7. Build a Better Link Strategy

Links to your website are a lot like reviews. They prove that you have relationships in real time, which is good news to Google.

Backlinks especially. Backlinks, or when an outside site links back to your site, are seen as a sign of credibility and factored into your SEO score.

A word to the wise. Don’t be shady. It’s tempting. Don’t do it. It will always bite you in the end.

Here’s how real marketers build backlinks without being shady.

8. Engage in Social Media

Welcome to the 21st century, where social media is central to business success.

Look, your customers spend a lot of time on social media. Meeting them where they are isn’t just a good way to remind them that you exist – it’s a smart way to boost your search rankings because social media updates so frequently.

The key here is to actively engage with your customers every day through strong social media accounts.

That doesn’t just mean product promotions and giveaways. It means responding to questions and highlighting stories that are relevant to them.

It means being a resource to your customers.

9. Create Relevant Local Content

Which brings us to our next point for the local SEO checklist. Creating relevant local content.

Content is king…if the content is actually relevant, useful and shareable.

Your key goal here should be to create content that informs your users, answers an important question, and entertains while doing it. A blog is the easiest way to build and maintain a steady stream of content.

But remember, you also want this content to be locally relevant. Think local place names, local events, local news, etc.

Know what’s even better than plain old content? Interactive content. Try these 5 types to wow your audience.

10. Ad Extensions for a Local Audience

You probably thought this would be first on the list, didn’t you?

Ads are important, but as a rule, they should be complementary to organic SEO instead of your primary focus.

The easiest way to manage local ad extensions is through Google Adwords. This will allow you to incorporate location data into your ads, like your exact location, a call button, or a link to a details page.

Why does it matter? Because this keeps your ad location-specific, which means you can target people within a specific location to come visit your business.

Which would tend to make sense for local SEO.

Make the Most of Your Local SEO Checklist

If your head is spinning with all the SEO tasks that have suddenly appeared on your to-do list, don’t worry.

Sometimes, you need a professional to take you to the next level (or to help make sense of what’s already in front of you). That’s what we provide with our digital marketing solutions.

Click here to fill out a marketing discovery form and request an estimate. We can’t wait to get started.

SEM: What is It and How to Get Started

Online advertising has a lot in common with its analog counterparts. You want to place your solution where the most people can find it–high traffic areas.

If you are new to the online business game, the prospect of getting your solution on the front page of Google may sound daunting. There’s a lot you need to do, from blogging to keyword optimization–all falling under this vague label, SEM.

Check out this article for a head start on learning about what SEO SEM marketing is and how it can help you rise through the ranks of Google.

What Is SEM?

Okay, let’s start with the basics.

SEM stands for search engine marketing. The term encompasses a series of strategies that work together to improve your standing in Google’s ranking system–which is based on a complex set of algorithms we don’t need to get into today.

SEM is a term that is sometimes used interchangeably with PPC (Pay-Per-Click) and this is about paying for ads that show up on Google and Bing or even on sites like Youtube and Kijiji

In all reality, SEM encompasses SEO, and SEO SEM marketing isn’t just for people trying to make their mark on a global or national level. Often, it works well for small businesses like restaurants and shops that rely on connecting with their immediate community online to boost sales in person.

 

So, Can I Really Influence Search Results?

Yes, but you’ll need to put in the work or pay for the clicks.

One of the best ways to ensure you’ve got a place at the top of the heap is to regularly put out high-quality content that actually helps people. This means you’re writing (or paying someone to write) how-to guides that inform–not blatant product plugs. Essentially, you’re writing industry-specific articles that keep others informed. The point is, you’ve got something other people don’t–a skill, an awesome menu, or insight into a complex topic people want to learn more about.

Some Strategies for SEO SEM Marketing Content include:

SEO & PPC: Keyword Research

Because we’re talking content strategy, your starting point should be keywords. Why? Because keywords signal to Google that your content can help answer the questions web users are asking and it also forms the foundation of your PPC bid strategies.

Pretty simple, sure. The hard part, however, is finding out which keywords relate to your business. Start by making a list of all the terms that correspond to your website–then see how your competitors rank for those keywords.

Hubspot has an article that lays this process out in simple terms.

SEO Specific: Writing Blog Posts and Articles

Once you’ve got your keywords in place, it’s time to get writing. Blogs and articles are an easy way to share bits of information with your audience. They function as a way to add more pages to your website, increasing the number of times your site is indexed by Google.

Additionally, good content functions as a sales pitch of sorts for your company. If people like what you have to say, they may subscribe to your RSS feed, keep tabs on your social channels, and more.

SEO in 2018: Video Content

Video is blowing up these days–and for good reason. Short videos on Instagram stories or on Facebook present a unique opportunity to connect with your customers and show off the more “human” side of your business.

Spreading The Word: Promoting Content Via Social Media

Social media is especially important to small businesses. While you might feel like this isn’t the best use of your already limited time, think again. Pushing blog posts, articles, and updates out through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram is a great way to reach your audience and drive traffic back to your website. Plus, there are plenty of programs–Hootsuite, Buffer, Sprout Social–that allow you to pre-schedule posts and save time.

Beyond the promotion part of the equation, social media can help you keep tabs on what content is performing well for your competitors as well as what people are talking about in your niche.

SEO Basics: Don’t Forget About Backlinks

Building backlinks is a little tricky.

Google uses a variety of signals to determine the quality of the links that connect to your website, and some are better than others. If a popular news source or a government website connects to your content, that can be a huge boost–a vote of confidence that prompts the search engine to bump you up.

But, you’re not going to get these links overnight, no matter how good your product or your content. To get started, reach out to smaller blogs and review sites and find out if they’ll link back to you. Ask customers to link to your site or do something newsworthy.

A lot of backlink building has to do with building relationships with people willing to talk about you online. If you’re active on social media, create good content, and offer top-notch service, it’s a matter of plugging away and making an effort to connect. If your content is lacking or non-existent, spend some time improving what you’ve got.

Pay Attention to the Competition

SEO SEM marketing doesn’t exist in a bubble. You can’t keep your head down and bang out content without keeping tabs on the competition.

Take a look at competitive sites in your niche and see what others are doing in terms of content. Are people making videos to promote their products and services, or are blog posts more the norm?

Make Sure Your SEO SEM Strategy Is Well-Documented

Monitor your efforts and see what sticks. Maybe your articles do better than your videos or vice versa. Maybe you need to spend more time fostering the kind of relationships that build backlinks.

Track your metrics through tools like Moz, AhRefs, and Google Analytics. Seek out broken backlinks and remove them. Make your content as attractive and grammatically correct as possible.

There’s a ton you can do, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work on the docket, we understand. Octopus Creative specializes in the full scope of web marketing services from content creation to search engine optimization and SEM.

Call us at 1-866-205-8488 to learn more.

How You Can Increase Web Traffic With SEO

There are no secret methods or fancy tricks with SEO. The most effective tips are easy to understand and implement.

If you’d like to maximize your website’s potential, SEO is your key to visibility and success. It takes more than just hard work and effort to increase website traffic. SEO to the rescue.

Rules are forever changing in the competitive world of SEO. To stay ahead of the rest, you’ve got to have a strategy that constantly evolves with those rules.

We’ve put together the best tips for your guaranteed SEO success. Read on to learn more.

Take Advantage of Your Site’s URL

Also called the domain name, a URL is a website’s address. Your URL is an important factor to consider for effective, guaranteed SEO.

URLs can be considered a site’s storefront. It’s usually the first item seen by your visitors, so it’s imperative that it’s clear and impressive. The URL is the first item viewed by search engines when they’re deciding how to rank your site as well.

It’s wise to keep your URL to the point and clean. Leave out anything that makes it confusing, cluttered, or otherwise distracting. This means avoiding special characters, page IDs, dashes, or other similar items.

The best URLs state the name of a business or another descriptive representation of it. You can include relevant keywords if they fit naturally into the URL.

Make Sure Pages Have Titles and Descriptions

So what is a page title and description? These are brief texts that state concisely what a website contains through the use of meta tags. For search engines exploring your site to determine its rank, these are the next items to check after your URL.

Page titles and descriptions will ideally provide condensed explanations of what the site offers and will also include keywords or keyword phrases.

These titles and descriptions will not show on a page. They will, however, be displayed on a page of search results.

This is important because potential visitors see page titles and page descriptions and then use them to decide if they want to visit your site. Make these titles and descriptions work in your favor.

Use Links Thoughtfully

Guaranteed SEO requires good use of links. Links generate traffic, ensure that websites are friendly for web crawlers, and allow visitors to easily navigate your site.

Internal links

Links placed in a website’s content that point visitors to other pages on that site are called internal links. These links make your site easier to navigate so that visitors can find more information.

Internal links also prevent orphan pages. These are dead-end pages with no links. Their presence will hurt your rankings with search engines.

Internal links are made into clickable text. This clickable text is also referred to as anchor text. Its flow should be natural and should include a hyperlink, information relevant to the subject, and keywords.

External links

External links point visitors to other sites containing information that relates to your site’s content.

The anchor text of external links must be used in a way that flows naturally with the rest of your content. The anchor text should also give visitors an idea of where the external link is going to send them.

These links boost SEO because they’re considered by search engines to be third party votes of website popularity.

Use Keywords Correctly

SEO results require good use of keywords. But you can’t just throw them around and expect success. There are a few rules to observe for effective keyword usage.

When people search the web for something, they’ll use a search bar to enter the word or group of words that they feel describes what they’re wanting to know. These words or phrases are known as keywords and keyword phrases in the SEO world.

Your keywords should summarize what your website content is all about.

Keywords Connect

Good SEO is about making sure your chosen keywords and people’s search words are the same. This is what connects you with your target audience.

Guaranteed SEO will involve a lot of keyword consideration, research, evaluation, and adjustment.

To get started, make a master list of the services or products you offer. For each of these, list at least ten keywords or keyword phrases that describe them.

Put keyword research services to work to help you decide which words will be the least difficult and the most popular. These will be the keywords you’ll incorporate into your website content so you’ll have better rankings.

Avoid Keyword “Stuffing”

Don’t “stuff” website content with your keywords. Avoid using them excessively throughout your text.

Don’t use keywords in unnatural ways that flow poorly with your content. Keyword stuffing hurts your rankings with search engines.

Make Your Site Spider, Bot, and Crawler Friendly

A web crawler is a program that a search engine uses to explore sites and gather information. They’re also called bots, spiders, and crawlers. These programs “crawl” through site content, reading it and then sending back their findings to search engines.

Once crawlers have located a site, they will read through the site’s text, links, and source code. They harvest this information so that search engines can then analyze it for website ranking.

Your Site Should Be “Crawlable”

For good search engine rankings, a site has to be “crawlable.” Crawlers have to be able to easily follow links if destination pages are to be included in a search engine’s database.

Make sure the beginning of your pages have quality content. Web crawlers read from the top of a page to the bottom.

Also, crawlers can’t “see” your site’s images. You must use alt text that’s descriptive so crawlers can understand the image’s content. Alternative text, or alt text, is a phrase or word describing the image that’s inserted in HTML code as an attribute.

Be consistent with providing content. Websites should have a lot of quality content for crawlers to report, not just code for these programs to “crawl” through.

Increase Website Traffic with Guaranteed SEO

SEO is a must for better site visibility. The whole purpose of search engines is to scour content to find the sites that deserve top spots in their search results.

To keep your site from getting buried under tons of other results, you need to use great SEO strategies. To find out more about digital marketing and search engine optimization, explore our site or contact us today.

Another Step Forward for Mobile Marketing SEO

In a world that is always moving, and continuously pushing the innovation envelope, it’s not surprising to discover that people are becoming increasingly dependent on mobile devices. The mobile device has integrated itself into society quickly, without falter, and with incredible benefits to both the individual consumer and the business market. For us at Octopus Creative, our mobile phones are just one of the tools we use.

Mobile search rates have quickly surpassed desktop search rates, specifically when searching for local businesses. What are you more likely to do when seeking a local seamstress, a local craftsman, a local restaurant or a local marketing sidekick (like us, Octopus Creative!)? You want answers quickly, and what’s quicker than reaching into your pocket for that extended appendage you call your mobile phone?

“People interact with their phones very differently than they do with their PCs, and I think that when you design from the ground up with mobile in mind, you create a very different product than going the other way.” – Kevin Systrom

Google understands that the increase in the use of the search engine via mobile device is a giant leap forward in the world of digital marketing. Google’s Gary Illyes announced they plan on releasing a separate mobile search index which will become the primary search index.  Over the course of the next few months, Google will be dividing its search index, giving priority to searches done on a mobile device with better, fresher content. While the separate desktop index will be maintained, it will not be as up-to-date as the mobile index.

What does this mean for businesses? It means that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has become even more critical for effective digital marketing. Previously, the SEO set for your desktop website would easily translate over into your mobile website. These changes mean that you can set strategic SEO for desktop and mobile device. This will directly impact the use of keywords, allowing businesses to be more strategic in their implementation. Being able to use separate SEO settings for your mobile website compared to your desktop website will increase your audience reach and allow for hyper-targeting. Organizations will be able to strategically market to differentiated target audiences that primarily use their mobile devices, while also increasing traffic to desktop websites by targeting an entirely separate set of keywords for desktop users.

Let’s break it down with an example of a local cleaning business called ‘Sparkle & Shine’. To ensure that their website will reach both mobile device users and desktop users equally, Sparkle & Shine can implement separate keywords for each market. Sparkle & Shine understands that 70% of mobile searches result in an online action within an hour of the search being conducted. Why is this important? By increasing keywords and mobile website options directly targeted to making a sale, Sparkle & Shine can ensure that potential clients will quickly request their cleaning help. Sparkle & Shine is also aware that mobile device users search local businesses with Google more often.  By ensuring their target keywords include their location, Sparkle & Shine will see an increase in clients through their mobile website.

To guarentee that the separate mobile search index will be advantageous for all users, Google has also launched a new testing tool for Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). This tool works on your mobile device and uses Google’s “live web-search infrastructure” to analyze the AMP page with the real Googlebot, which means that the result is done in real time. It will test the validity of the AMP markup and structured data on the page related to AMP and if issues are found, you will be able to click on them to see the details. The line in the source code will be highlighted to show exactly where the error is and you will be able to correct it. The tool even includes links to show you a live preview of how this page will appear in Google’s search results.

Google is the market leader for search engines, with over 4,464,000,000 searches per day and 73% of search engine global search engine use. Talk about all hands on deck in the Google server room!

“Mobile phones are misnamed. They should be called gateways to human knowledge.” – Ray Kurzweil

When it comes to the mobile device, the world is at our fingertips, quite literally. As marketers and entrepreneurs, Octopus Creative is pumped to dive right in and discover how the mobile search index can help all of us achieve our marketing goals!