Quick question, do you ever ask customers if they’d be willing to leave an online review for your business? Not many businesses do, despite the fact that surveys suggest 70% of customers are influenced by online reviews when it comes to making purchasing decisions.

Positive reviews are invaluable as they build trust and help your business stand out from competitors.

Online reviews make these bicycle rental shops stand out from competition

More online reviews from customers will also provide a significant local SEO boost for your website! However, we do recommend that you have your Google My Business page set up– it’s easy if you follow our step-by-step guide!

To be clear, it is not easy to get customers to leave positive reviews. The sad truth is that a negative experience is psychologically more compelling than a positive experience. Getting a bunch of friends and family members to leave positive reviews won’t work either. These reviews are often discounted and can actually hurt your online brand.

So today, whether you want reviews on Yelp, Google, social media, blog posts or elsewhere, we’re going to cover the right way to get great online reviews for your business.

The Single Best Thing You Can Do to Get More Positive Reviews

If you really want to grow the number of positive online reviews for your business, there’s one differentiator that’s been proven time and again to work. This isn’t a marketing hack or quick fix. It will take hard work on your side, but it’s very effective.

Here it is: Deliver a superior customer experience!

Back in 2011, Oracle released their Customer Experience Impact Report and it found that 86% of customers are willing to pay more money for a superior customer experience.

Those happy customers are not only more likely to leave positive reviews online, but they’ll also be more likely to tell others about their great experience with your brand. In fact, a survey conducted by American Express found that happy customers tell an average of nine people about their great experience!

Excited customer will leave a great online review

Let’s look at several unique strategies you can employ as a part of your inbound marketing mix to generate more positive online reviews.

There are many strategies you can use to get more online reviews, but you should take care about which ones you employ. Some posts out there tout the effectiveness of offering monetary incentives to customers in return for a good review. Please don’t use tactics like that.

The purpose of this post is to teach you several strategies that you can use over the long run to steadily improve your online brand. These aren’t quick fixes or deceptive strategies. Those aren’t viable in the long run. So with that said, let’s get started:

1) Ask Your Customers to Leave a Review

One of the most straightforward approaches you can take is to simply ask customers if they’d be willing to leave a review. It’s personal, transparent and widely underused.

If you’re already providing a great customer service, then this can be a really effective strategy.

Now, you might be wondering why more of your customers aren’t leaving these positive reviews if they really do love your business and brand. It comes down to psychology. Your customers are living their own lives and odds are your business doesn’t play that big of a role in it. Most aren’t going to go out of their way to help you, so you’re going to need to ask.

Please note that asking is only one aspect of this strategy. You need to put some thought into the type of customers you’re going to ask for reviews. Here’s a quick tip: try and ask the customers who are benefitting the most from your products or services.

The customers who are already referring others to your business and promoting your services to others are a great place to start (if they haven’t already left one).

2) Ask for a Review at the Right Time

Asking for a review can be implemented seamlessly with your email marketing strategy, but you want to make sure you ask at the appropriate time. What do we mean? If you wait too long to ask in an email, you’re forcing your subscriber to remember those details long after the interaction took place.

Your business should do everything it can to make your customer’s lives easier. This extends to the practice of asking for a review. It’s that fear of irritating customers that keeps many business owners from employing this strategy.

So when is the right time to ask for a review? This should be done shortly after they’ve interacted with your brand. This is when the value your business has provided is still clear in their mind.

Here are a few examples of good times to ask for a review:

  • Following a usage milestone (measured by time spent using a product or value received)
  • Following the receipt of an invoice (should be reinforcing the value someone gets from doing business with you)
  • Following positive feedback you’ve received from a customer (could be a message they left or an personal interaction they had with your team)

3) Ask for Honest Reviews

Here’s one disastrous thing that you need to avoid doing: sending an email to a customer that asks if they would leave a “good” or “positive” review.

Trying to coerce customers to write anything other than an honest review for your business is a really bad tactic and one that can quickly destroy your brand’s credibility.

By asking for honest reviews, you may get some less than stellar feedback from customers. That’s actually a good thing as it will highlight areas where you can improve your services. This practice will also help build additional trust and credibility with your customers and fans.

4) It’s Okay to Ask Twice

The best email service providers give you a ton of fantastic functionality these days. This means it’s easy to see who in your email list opened or who ignored your last email.

Woman worried that people ignored her email request for a review

If you see that a recent email (containing a request for a review) wasn’t opened, that doesn’t always mean that this person isn’t interested in hearing from you. That person could be drowning in an overflowing inbox or it simply could have arrived at a bad time.

Here’s a two-step strategy that you can use to great effect in this situation:

  1. Resend the same email with a different (new) subject line
  2. Schedule it to send out a week later, but only to people in your email list that didn’t open the previous one

Marketers have reported that this simple strategy can double the effectiveness of their email marketing campaign. This is really a great tactic to use if you’re using emails to ask for reviews. All it takes is a change of the subject line and you could be increasing your total reviews by 30%!

5) Respond to Every Review

That’s right! You should take the time to respond to every review (good and bad). The best brands out there are building relationships with their customers and these customers are rapidly becoming avid fans.

Part of building any lasting relationship is showing gratitude when someone says something nice about you, right? The same principle applies when someone says something great about your brand.

It’s seems like an intuitive principle but it’s one that many businesses miss completely. Heck, a simple “Thank you for the kind words!” can go a long way to developing better relationships and even getting you more leads.

Negative Reviews

Unfortunately some small business owners aren’t proactive about getting customer reviews because they are afraid of bad ones. If this is the case for you then here’s another thing that you should consider: negative reviews are inevitable.

No matter how well you run your business, it’s impossible to please every single person that interacts with your brand. The modern consumer is empowered by digital media and they can make their critique of your business heard.

Online reviews are going to have a significant impact on your brand and they’re not something that you can ignore or stifle. There are a number of great strategies you can employ to deal with negative online reviews. Receiving some negative reviews and responding graciously is better than having no reviews at all!

Conclusion

Compiling a healthy list of positive reviews takes work and stems from rewarding customer experiences. If your business can do that, then there are several strategies you can employ to generate the reviews you need to make your business stand out!

If you’ve tried any of the strategies detailed above, we’d love to know what kind of results you got. Please let us know about your experiences in the comments below!

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What’s your preferred search engine when surfing the web? If you’re like 90% of the people browsing online, it is probably Google. This means that most of your target audience is using Google too!

Even if you prefer Bing, there’s no avoiding the fact that your business needs to play ball with Google. You can’t build a successful online presence for your company without investing in this search engine.

Sure there are literally hundreds of ways that your prospective clients can find your business online. However, we guarantee that Google will act as an important touch point no matter what route these people end up taking.

Here’s an example:

Say you own a bicycle repair shop and you’ve just opened up a new location that caters to a new area. One day, a person is riding their bike and notices your store. They think to themselves, “That place looks like a good one to remember!”

Unfortunately, a few weeks later when they need to get their bike repaired, they can’t seem to recall the name of your business. So they turn to Google to do some research on bike repair shops in the local area.

Here’s what they may find:

Snapshot showing local business search results in Google

(Please note: This is just a sample from near where our office is located.)

With a Google Local Listing page properly set up, that prospective customer will be able to find your name, phone number and directions to your business in mere seconds. This listing will appear here, even if you haven’t been able to set up a website yet.

It’s a worthwhile time investment and it’s free!

Incredibly, there are still many local businesses that aren’t taking advantage of this free form of self promotion.

There are several reasons why this can happen, including:

  • They can’t find the time
  • They don’t understand how this can help their business
  • They find the process of setting up a Google My Business page too complicated

Don’t feel bad if you’ve found the process a little daunting. Our team does this type of thing for a living and we still think the process could be simplified. On top of that, Google rolls out major upgrades to their local search algorithm every few months, so you need to make sure your business information is up to date!

In all seriousness, you need to find the time to verify your local business listing with Google this week and we’re going to walk you through everything step by step. Accomplishing this will provide a significant boost to your local SEO and remember that it is FREE to do!

Getting Started with Google Local Listings

Google has worked hard to make the process of search as simple as possible for users. Unfortunately, they haven’t done the same thing for business owners. Their Google My Business policy seems to be changing all the time.

Google Places used to be the route you’d take to get your business verified and listed. But Google Places pages have been retired.

You’re going to get your business verified with Google My Business. It’s an all-in-one platform that allows you to manage a brick and mortar location or larger brand.

Unfortunately, this new platform really hasn’t made things any simpler because there are now:

  • Google Business Listings
  • Google Brands
  • Google+ Pages

Which one are you supposed to create for your business?

On top of all that, Google has made it clear that they would “unverify” any accounts that have remained inactive for at least 6 months. This means that you need to login to your account once in awhile (even if all your contact info is up to date) to keep your Google My Business page active.

If you maintain a blog for your business website, you can share content through your Google+ page.

All things considered, the whole process of getting verified can be rather frustrating. Some even suspect that this is a deliberate decision to make Google Ad campaigns seem more appealing.

But if you follow these directions, you’ll get your Google My Business page set up in no time!

(Our agency will take care of this whole process for you as a part of our basic local SEO package. So please contact us if you don’t want to mess with all of this.)

Let’s get started by heading over to https://www.google.com/business.

1) Click the “Get on Google” Button

You’ve made your way over to Google My Business and the first thing you need to do is click on the blue button that says “Get on Google”:

Homepage screenshot for Google My Business setup process

2) Find Your Business

The next thing you’ll see is a map of the United States. Here Google will ask you to search for your business by name or by address. There is a chance that your business may already be listed with Google. If this is the case, you’ll want to claim that listing and not create a whole new one.

Business owner gets his Google My Business account verified in North Carolina

We recommend that you search for your listing by name and by address. If you see your business in the drop down, click on it and claim the listing as your own.

If you don’t see your listing after entering the appropriate information, then click enter anyways. You should see something like this:

Business owner can't find his business listing on Google

Click on that second option so you can create your new listing and enter the full details for your business.

3) Get Your Business Listing Verified

Now it’s time to get your business listing verified on Google. This process is used to ensure that you have provided accurate information and that only the real business owner or manager can access the listing.

Depending on the type of business you have, there are different ways to get your listing verified:

  • By postcard – Google will send a postcard to the business address you provided for your listing. This postcard will have a verification code that you can enter once it arrives (usually in 5 days). Be sure to login into your account and enter the verification code within 30 days of receiving the postcard!
  • By phone – This isn’t available for all business types, but it’s quicker if you can do it. Be sure that someone is available at your listed business number when Google calls and enter the verification code they provide.

If you’re a business owner that manages more than 10 locations, you may be eligible for bulk verification which you can learn more about here.

4) Check on Your Local Listing Regularly

Congrats! Now you have verified you business on Google, but remember that you can’t just forget about your listing. Be sure to keep your login handy so you can check back in on your business profile every few months and ensure that everything is up to date.

Conclusion

With everything laid out for you in this post, we hope that it’s made this whole process a little less complicated. Yes it does take some time, but it is so worth it to have your business properly listed in Google local search results.

The ROI on your Google My Business page will be stellar! You can further the reach of your online brand and improve the SEO for your own website. So let us repeat that it is very much worth the effort!

If you run into any issues setting up your Google My Business listing, please feel free to contact us! We’d be happy to help.

Getting your business verified is a part of our Local SEO Essentials package. Want to get a quote for your business? Click on the button below!

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Have you heard the claim that “SEO is Dead?” If you believe this or you think that search engine optimization (SEO) just can’t help your business, please keep reading!

Think about it this way: as long as people are using search engines to find and learn about local businesses, SEO should play a critical role in your marketing strategy. Your competitors are undoubtedly looking to invest in SEO this year and we’ve put together 20 reasons why you should too.

1) SEO is an Investment Not a Cost

We’ve spoken with many business owners who are hesitant about search engine optimization. Their initial reaction is understandable. Business owners are bombarded with plenty of quick fix marketing solutions and several have sunk a lot of money into tactics that just don’t work.

They’ve come to look at marketing as just another cost. Online marketing seems to be talked about a lot, but maybe your experience so far hasn’t been so great. If that’s the way you’re approaching search engine optimization, we’re asking you to look at it in a different light. SEO is an investment and one that can earn your business a very high return.

Business owners perceive SEO as an Unnecessary cost

Does your website rank for the keywords that convert for your business niche? Are you ranking on the first page? Those who aren’t should know that they are missing out on a significant number of qualified leads every day.

By investing in search engine optimization for your website, you could start ranking prominently on the first page for your desired keywords. Thus, a relatively modest investment in SEO can yield a massive return for your business in 2016.

2) SEO Spotlights Your Best Employee

Who do you think is the best salesman for your business? It’s your website!!

Who else is out there twenty four seven promoting the services and products that you might offer? Who else does exactly what you ask it to do, without ever deviating from your instructions? You guessed it: your website! Far too many local businesses have failed to utilize this incredibly valuable asset to its full potential.

Just setting up a functioning website is not enough in today’s world. Search engine optimization helps ensure that more qualified visitors get to see and experience it. Good web design is also vital, but we can talk about that another time.

3) SEO is an Essential Piece of the Marketing Puzzle

Search engine optimization is an inbound marketing strategy, but it won’t help you achieve all of your marketing goals on its own. Your SEO strategy should be combined with social media, digital marketing and other methods that can help build your online brand, attract and convert more qualified leads.

With the right marketing mix, it’s now possible to grow your business faster than ever before. The modern business owner shouldn’t have to decide between SEO and PPC marketing. Instead, you need to decide how these can be integrated into your marketing plan in order to best serve your overall strategy.

As experts in inbound marketing strategies like SEO, it’s our responsibility to educate our clients and help them avoid possible pitfalls. We also do this for people who aren’t our clients through our blog. If you decide not to invest in professional SEO services, you’ll at least have an overall idea of how it works and why it’s important.

Truth be told, we hope you don’t go that route. Search engine optimization is an extremely effective method of marketing your website and brand to the best possible customers. It deserves a prominent place in your marketing mix in 2016.

4) SEO Provides an Incredible ROI

Many of our clients are tentative when we tell them that SEO is a long term effort. In fact, it’s should just be looked at as an ongoing effort. It can take time to see results, but SEO can lead to a dramatic increase in revenue for your company without having to dramatically increase your marketing costs. This can allow you to scale more quickly and increase your profits over time.

You’ll be hard pressed to find a different marketing approach that provides a better ROI than SEO. An optimized website can convert more and more leads at smaller and smaller incremental costs.

5) Reach Customers at a Critical Stage in the Buyer’s Process

When someone wants to learn more about a company or a service, where do they turn? To search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. That dream customer you’re looking for is surfing the web for information. He or she is looking for social affirmation of your business’s validity on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Company reaches more customers online through SEO

SEO can have a massive impact on this research and buying cycle. It allows you to position your website strategically and attract users who are further along in their buyer’s journey. You won’t be able to achieve that unless your website ranks well for the most critical and relevant keyword phrases.

6) SEO is Priced to Match Your Budget

For agencies like ours that offer SEO services, pricing can be a challenge. Why? Because it comes down to a serious discussion surrounding your budget.

Every SEO campaign is unique and needs to be customized to meet the client’s needs. That means that the cost for SEO services varies. You’ve probably come across some agencies offering base SEO packages, but we wouldn’t recommend using them. The best agencies will want to have a discussion with you so that they can understand your goals and the potential roadblocks that need to be overcome.

A good agency will work with you to match the budget that you have for marketing. However, you should temper your expectations. It takes a lot of work on an ongoing basis to optimize your website, so you should not expect really impressive results if you’re allocating a really small budget.

If you’re still unsure whether you can afford the investment, we can provide you with a SEO pre-analysis. It’s affordable and will provide you with a breakdown of how much it will take to get your website optimized.

7) A SEO Friendly WordPress Site Isn’t Enough

You may be thinking “I have a wordpress site that has a mobile friendly and well designed theme, why do I need to invest in SEO?” First off, it’s great that you are using a quality CMS (Content Management System) like WordPress! That already puts you a few steps ahead, but that isn’t enough.

Search engines are looking to serve up amazing content to users!

We may not know all the specifics, but Google currently has over 200 unique ranking factors that impact how your website ranks in the SERPs. The code that your site is built on only makes up a fraction of those ranking factors. WordPress and other CMS platforms really help, but you’ll need more if you want to take the cake!

Content is king— have you heard that one before? It’s for a good reason. Luckily, using a CMS makes it that much easier to add great content to your site and make sure that it is optimized for success.

8) SEO Should Be Built into Your Website’s DNA

We’ve talked with our fair share of business owners who are hesitant to spend even more money after investing in a fresh and expensive website. We understand, but search engines need additional help to fully understand your business and the services that you provide.

The truth is that SEO should be included from the ground up and built into the very core of your website. Many believe that they can spend a lot of money on a fancy website and then layer some SEO on top of that for the win. We’re telling you right now that this approach will lead to disappointment and frustration.

In 2016, your SEO strategy will have an impact on everything from your website structure to your overall web design. Don’t worry though, because agencies like ours can still help you achieve success with SEO.

9) SEO Makes Sure Your Website is Labeled Properly

How many people do you think would walk in your door if you didn’t have your business properly labeled? Not many– and the ones that do probably aren’t the customers you are looking for. This seems like a no brainer, but that is the equivalent of not making sure your title tags and meta descriptions are optimized for your website.

This optimized URL reflects the blog post title

There are A LOT of businesses that are making this mistake and there are still plenty of business owners who will be leaving money on the table this year. Don’t make this all too common SEO mistake! Invest in search engine optimization, rather than trying to sell products in an unmarked store.

10) SEO Allows You to Harness the Power of Social Media

Have you already created a Facebook or Twitter page for your business? Then you should know that these pages can and should be optimized for search engines just like your website. That combined with a social strategy that shares relevant content and engages a fan base can drastically improve the success of your website.

You should consider working with an inbound marketing agency to ensure that your social media strategy is built with this in mind. Otherwise, you may be discouraged by the results you get from maintaining a social presence for your business.

11) SEO Helps You Establish a Great Online Brand

When we say “facial tissue,” how many of you thought about Kleenex? That is the power of branding. SEO is a powerful tool that can be used to build a lasting online brand for your company.

Sites that rank at the top for search results gain trust and credibility from users. Eventually, people will come to associate your brand with a certain niche or service. That is a HUGE win for any business and well worth the investment in SEO.

We can tie this back to our last point about optimizing your title tags and meta descriptions. These can be used in a very effective way that not only entices people to click through to your site but also strengthens your brand and communicates a consistent marketing message.

You’re working hard to build a credible business that offers quality services. Unfortunately, that credibility can be damaged when customers can’t find your website online. Just to be clear, if you’re on page 2, most will not ever find your website.

A website that ranks highly for your desired keywords means that you will get more visitors. This leads to more people who are familiar with this business and more sales. Over time, this creates more fans who tell their friends about you.

An effective SEO strategy can help create a group of engaged “raving fans” for your business!

Your ideal customers have questions and SEO can help get your content positioned to answer these questions when they start searching online.

12) Drive More Offline Sales with SEO

Still not sure if you should invest in SEO this year? What if we told you that this type of inbound marketing can help drive offline sales as well?

Think about it, most people are turning to the internet to research businesses before making a purchase. This online experience influences their decision, even if they decide to make that purchase in person at a store.

Woman announces the benefits of investing in SEO

(A WebVisible/Nielsen study in 2008 found that 86% of consumers use the Internet to find local businesses when planning to buy the products in person.)

We talk to many local businesses who say they have limited budgets for marketing and that’s why they are hesitant to invest in online marketing strategies like SEO. If you take only one thing away from this post, let it be this, “You cannot afford NOT to invest in SEO this year!”

There isn’t another form of marketing that can net you a better ROI, so why would you spend money on other forms of marketing and forgo investing in search engine optimization? If you have a limited marketing budget, we recommend allocating it to a method that will pay the most dividends in the long run– and that is search engine optimization.

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Did you know your website is often the first touch point that a potential customer has with your business? That average person is turning to search engines like Google and Bing to research local businesses– 7 billion unique local searches are performed each month. If your website doesn’t rank well locally, your business will suffer in 2016.

Frogs making a common local SEO mistake on Google

Improving your website’s local SEO rankings should be a primary goal for you and your team this year.

Our agency works with local business owners like you and we understand that your marketing budget is limited. You can’t invest in everything you might want to, but search engine optimization (SEO) is worth the investment. A local SEO campaign makes sense for your business— no matter the size.

It is certainly possible for you to optimize your website for high value local queries, but there are several local SEO mistakes you need to be aware of. We recommend taking some notes (or bookmarking this page) because avoiding these common pitfalls will help ensure that your products or services reach your target market online.

1) Not Having a Google+ Local Listing

You’ve probably noticed that when you run a Google search for something like “flower shop near me,” the top organic results include a snippet of map. This shows the locations of local businesses with their NAPs (name, address, phone) below.

Snippet showing Google local business listings

Since Google displays localized results like this, your site can beat out larger (nationwide) brands in your niche for target search queries. Please note: this local search display is not based on your website’s SEO. This listing is created using your Google+ Local Listing page (if you have created one).

This is something that many business owners still overlook, so ensure that your Google+ Local Listing page is properly set up and verified. Yes, the verification step is crucial!

2) Not Creating a Bing and Yahoo Local Listing

They may not be as popular as Google, but you’ll be doing your business a disservice if you ignore these major search engines. Both Bing and Yahoo utilize a similar local search display.

Local business listings from Bing local search

Make sure you have a local listing created for Bing and Yahoo! If you have, then double check to ensure that your local business listing has been verified by both search engines.

3) Choosing the Wrong Keywords to Target

The keywords you target are going to have a massive impact on the effectiveness of your local SEO campaign. You could knock every other aspect of your marketing strategy out of the park, but you won’t see results if you’ve chosen poor keywords to target.

Your target audience is using specific terms to look for the services or products that you provide. But traffic is not the only criteria you should be using to pick your keywords.

Have you considered the intent behind the keywords you’re targeting? You won’t be doing yourself any favors if you’re pulling in a lot of traffic that can’t find their answers on your site.

You also want to consider how competitive your keywords are to rank for. Our agency recommends optimizing your content for long tail keywords when you’re starting out. These may not get large traffic numbers, but you can get your site in front of a much more targeted audience and improve your conversion rates.

Have a blog? You’ll want to pick a target keyword phrase for each blog post you write.

4) Failing to Run a Competitive Analysis

Do you know who your top competitors online are? You can’t build an effective local SEO campaign based on assumptions. Competitive analysis may be time consuming, but it’s a crucial step you NEED to take.

Competitive analysis audit for local SEO campaign

Struggling to identify your core group of keywords? A competitive analysis can help you narrow your focus and identify the best targets for your niche. By studying your top competitors, you can get a really good picture of what you need to do in order to rank your business. Don’t skip this step!

5) Keyword Stuffing

So you’ve got your list of target keywords, now what? You may have read that each page on your site should be optimized around a specific keyword phrase, but how do you accomplish this?

A given page should include the target keyword in the URL, title and subheadings. However, many local business websites make the mistake keyword stuffing. Essentially, this involves “stuffing” their keyword terms into their content in ways that aren’t natural.

Don’t make this mistake!

Picture shows website guilty of keyword stuffing

Image from Traffic Crow

Modern search engines won’t reward you for this. High quality content and readability comes first. Users should enjoy spending time and reading content on your website. FYI– your optimal keyword density should be no higher than 2 percent.

6) No Verified Local Directory Citations

Do you have a completed citation on local directory sites like Superpages.com and Yellowbook? Doing this can provide a huge boost to your local SEO efforts and is well worth the investment. Check out Hubspot’s ultimate list of local business directories for target ideas.

7) Inconsistent NAPs on Local Citations

Each citation that you claim and verify for your business should prominently display accurate and consistent NAP (Name/Address/Phone) information. How serious is this? Simply using “Blvd” on one listing and “Boulevard” on others does make a difference. It’s even worse if you have different phone numbers listed.

For example, say you are a florist who works out of your home and have a business partner who works from his or her home. Together you have a company called Blossoming Blooms. Don’t list your cell number in one place and your partner’s in another. Pick one official Blossoming Blooms business number and stick to it.

NAP inconsistencies can look like multiple listings for search engines and hurt your local SEO efforts. Luckily, there are services like Moz Local that you can use to make sure that your listings are correct and consistent.

8) NAP Stuffing

On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve seen some businesses trying to display their NAP information in as many places as they possibly can. This type of mistake can seriously hurt your local SEO. You should only display your NAP once per verified citation.

9) Inadequate Page Titles & Meta Descriptions

Research shows that many local niche websites still use very generic title tags or are missing them all together. For local SEO purposes, here’s the page title formula you want to keep in mind:

[Descriptive Keyword Phrase] in [City/Location] | [Business Name]

 

You should include location data in your meta descriptions as well! Remember that you should write a unique meta description for each page on your site. Also, don’t make the mistake of writing these for search engines. Think of your meta description as a short sales pitch for your page and write them to entice your target audience!

10) Lack of Location Data on the Page

Just like your target keywords, you should include location data (like your city) in your headings, subheadings and content. A lot of local website owners have overlooked this important step. This doesn’t mean that you stuff them in either– it should read naturally for your visitor.

11) Images Missing Unique Alt Text

You can really boost your SEO performance by incorporating relevant images on your site. These can help improve the readability of your pages when used to break up lengthy blocks of text.

Unfortunately, some webmasters neglect to create unique alt text for the images they’ve included on their site. What’s the problem with that? While you can easily view an image, a search engine cannot. The alt text should provide a description that allows them to interpret the image. These images are also a great place to include your target keyword phrase for the page.

Target keyword phrase included in the alt text for each image

For local SEO purposes, we also recommend you include your target location in the file name and alt text.

12) Website is not Mobile Friendly

Last year, Google announced that it would start penalizing websites that were not mobile friendly. This was big news but not surprising. Nearly 60% of all searches are performed on mobile devices. If you’re site provides a terrible mobile experience, your search rankings will be negatively impacted.

We recommend transitioning to a content management system (CMS) like WordPress. You can find many gorgeous designs that are budget-friendly and responsive. What does responsive mean? These designs actually adapt to fit the screen size they are being viewed on.

13) Failing to Ask for Customer Reviews

It is not easy to get your customers to post online reviews about your business. On top of that, a negative experience is a much more compelling reason for someone to write a review. This is a challenge that all business owners face and it’s why you need to actively seek customer reviews.

Research will show you that these online reviews provide very real benefits, including:

  • Increasing your local rankings. Google uses customer ratings/reviews as an important factor when ranking the “top three” local businesses for any given niche.
  • Those reviews will start generating more clicks for your website and listings. A business that has accumulated a good number of positive reviews will draw more eyes and qualified traffic than its competitors.
  • These customer reviews will help convert more leads. For example, a user choosing between restaurants will look at those reviews as a reliable credibility score.

There are several things that you can do to get customers to leave a review for their business (here’s 5 we highly recommend). Ask them via email, on the phone or in person. If you already send out regular emails, you can include some language and a link back to your Google+ Local Listing page. This will limit the number of steps a customer needs to take to create their review.

14) Missing Contact Information on Web Pages

You already know that you need to have a “Contact Us” that displays your business’s contact information. However, many local business websites make the mistake of not displaying contact information on each page.

Depending on how you promote your website, a lot of the traffic your website receives may bypass your homepage. By including your local address and phone number on each page, you can improve your local search rankings and generate more leads. Just be sure that your NAP data is consistent with the local directory citations you’ve created for your business.

15) A Low Quality “About Us” Page

After your home page, a website’s “About Us” page is often the second most visited in the website hierarchy. You’ve done a lot of quality work for your local SEO campaign, but you could be losing leads if your “About Us” page is super generic and low quality.

A great about us page from Backlinko

Brian Dean has created an excellent “About Us” page for Backlinko

Users are clicking on this page to learn more about your company. It’s a huge opportunity that is missed by many of your competitors. Investing some time into fleshing out your “About Us” page can help it become a real lead generator for your business!

Want some inspiration? Check out these 12 excellent examples compiled by the Blog Tyrant.

16) Low Quality Content on Your Website

It doesn’t matter what niche you’re in, your website’s content will have a major impact on the effectiveness of your local SEO campaign. You’ll find it difficult to rank well in search engines if the content on most of your web pages is thin– fewer than 500 words per page.

There’s really no quick fix for this component of SEO. You need to invest time and effort in beefing up the amount of content on your site and making sure that your page content is unique (high quality).

17) Failing to Add “Fresh” Content

Even if most of your web pages have in-depth, high quality content, you’ll start to drop in search ranking if you’re not producing content on a regular basis. Search engines want to serve up the best results for users and they value websites that are constantly being worked on and improved.

Over time, content can become stale in the eyes of search engines. That’s why you need to be adding “fresh” content to your site on a regular basis. One of the best ways to accomplish this is with a blog. With consistent effort, you can earn quality links from other sites and improve your local rankings.

18) Forgetting to Build Links

Building links can be very difficult and it does take time. That being said, it’s something that you do need to incorporate in your local SEO campaign.

Luckily, you should have already taken steps to build some high quality links to your website. Most local directory citations allow you to include a link back to your site! You can also start to earn quality inbound links by creating and promoting high quality content. Other link building efforts to consider include:

  • Press releases
  • Asking for links from local professional associations
  • Guest blogging
  • Submitting your blog to blog aggregrators

Need more strategies to try? Check out this local link building list from Moz.

19) Having a Slow Website

Every second counts– especially when it comes to how fast your website loads. The modern search engine user is impatient and will abandon a site if it takes too long to load. If you have a slow website, you’re going to lose a large number of leads.

We recommend using a tool like Google’s Pagespeed Insights to see how fast (or slow) your website’s running. This is a great tool that’ll provide you with a desktop and mobile pagespeed score, as well as a list of items to fix. These can be passed along to a developer to get your website running faster. It’s also easy to use– just paste in your URL.

20) Poor Website Navigation or Hierarchy

A website needs to be structured in an intuitive way that makes it easy for users to navigate. This is important, because if people don’t like using your website, search engines will punish you for it. Users won’t hang around too long if they can’t find what they are looking for in a couple clicks.

Website that has poor navigation and provides a negative user experience

 

Search engines like Google use metrics like bounce rate and conversion rate when ranking websites for a given search query. If your site has a high bounce rate (above 65%) and lower conversions, it won’t be viewed as a great result.

(Please Note: You may have a higher bounce rate and still rank highly in your niche if it’s not as competitive. This does not mean you should not invest time in improving your site navigation and overall user experience.)

21) Neglecting to Track Important Web Metrics

Are you tracking things like monthly organic traffic to your website? If you don’t track web metrics like this, you won’t be able to tell if your local SEO efforts are working.

We recommend using Google Analytics. It’s free to use and provides plenty of valuable details that you can use to improve your efforts.

Please note that you will need to set up your account and install a tracking code on your site to get these metrics. Use this guide to get started with Google Analytics.

22) Missing Any Presence on Social Media

Have you created a business page on Facebook or a business profile on Twitter? If you are not leveraging social media to promote your business and content, you are severely hampering the success of your online brand. Social media platforms are used by a staggering 74% of ALL internet users.

Can you really afford not to promote your content to this many engaged users? The best local businesses are using social media to effectively generate more buzz and exposure for their products and services.

There are a wide variety of social media platforms available and each caters to its target demographics in its own unique way. What does this mean to you? Depending on your business niche, some platforms will be better suited for your content than others.

(For example: A medical clinic may not want to invest too much time in promoting their content on visual social platforms like Instagram.)

23) Inconsistent Marketing Efforts

This is a mistake that our agency sees far too often. The work required to run an effective local SEO campaign can be very difficult. Especially when you consider that SEO is a slow and deliberate process. It’s not a sprint, or even a marathon (since those end after 26.2 miles). It’s more of a never-ending deliberate power walk. 

Frustrated by inconsistent local SEO marketing efforts

We talk with many clients who have made stabs here and there but then they let things drop too quickly. Perhaps they started creating and sharing fresh content for a month or so, but got discouraged when they didn’t see results right away. Inevitably, they moved on to other things…

It takes a consistent effort to build an engaged online following. If you want to really take your efforts to the next level, we recommend putting together a content/blogging schedule and sticking to it!

Local SEO is a complex and difficult endeavor to undertake. That’s the simple truth, but it can provide an incredible return on investment (ROI) when done right. Just remember that the results you’re looking for could take months to the better part of a year depending on the competitiveness of your target niche. That’s only if you stay consistent in your efforts.

Don’t have time to run a local SEO campaign on your own? Our agency can help!

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Blogger preparing to write her next postWhether you’re writing a blog post for business or pleasure, odds are that you’d like people to actually read it. Many bloggers poor their hearts and souls into their posts only to feel disappointed by the fact that their efforts don’t seem to bearing any fruit.

Here’s the unfortunate truth: that post that you have poured some serious thought into is just a drop in the bucket– a bucket that is getting significantly bigger every day. I’m talking about content overload and it’s a challenge that every aspiring blogger faces. I want you to get your post in front of as many eyes as possible and that’s why I highly recommend taking steps optimize your next blog post for search engines.

Since this is an extensive post, we decided to add some links that will take you to each section for your convenience:

  1. Keyword research for your blog posts
  2. Using keywords like a pro
  3. Tips for using headers and sub-headers
  4. Implementing optimized images
  5. Organizing blog content with categories and tags
  6. Building internal links with your blog posts
  7. Perks of using a responsive design for your blog
  8. Your content’s length does matter
  9. A great external linking strategy for your blog
  10. Making your blog post more shareable
  11. Tips for implementing an effective blogging schedule

Overcome the Challenge of Content Overload

There are more than 2 million new posts published each day (just look at how much content is churned out by BuzzFeed each day). There are lots of things scrambling for your readers attention nowadays. Taking advantage of search engine optimization (SEO) best practices is one of the best ways that you can elevate your post above the rest.

If you’re running a blog for your business, you probably don’t have the time to stay up on current SEO trends and major search engine algorithm updates. Unless you’re trying to become an SEO professional, this is where I would like to help you. Just keep these 11 SEO tips in mind when writing your next blog post and you should notice an improvement in its performance.

1) Keyword Research Provides a Solid Foundation


This a very, very important step that all too many people skip. As a business owner, you need to realize that people might use a variety of different terms or keywords to search for items or services that you provide. A business blog that is effectively optimized for search engines can help your site rank for valuable search queries related to your industry.

Luckily, there are are a variety of tools that can help you find the right keywords quickly. For this post, we’ll be focusing on one of the best to start out with.

Google Adwords Keyword Planner

One of the best tools for keyword research is Google Adwords Keyword Planner. It’s free to use– all you need is a Google account to get started. If that’s taken care of, you are going to head over to Google Adwords and click on the tools:

Finding the Keyword Planner Tool

Then click on Keyword Planner:

Get started using Google's Keyword Planner
You should have a basic idea of what type of topic you’d like to discuss in your next post, but the keyword planner will provide some valuable insights if not– this process just might take a bit longer.

Click on the “Search for new keywords…”

Click on search for new keywords field

And here is where you can start entering the topics you’re interested in writing about. Google will retrieve related keywords. Remember that this tool was developed for Adwords, so you’ll want to ignore the Ad group ideas tab. Click on the Keyword Ideas tab and you’ll see a list of related keywords.

List of keywords in the Google Keyword Planner

I recommend that you identify one or two long-tail phrases to focus on for each blog post. FYI – a long tail keyword is essentially a search phrase that includes at least one valuable keyword and is specific to your industry. Targeting for long tail keywords helps your site rank for more qualified traffic.

If you want a more in-depth guide to using Google Adwords Keyword Planner, check out this one from Hubspot.

This brings us to the next killer SEO tip for your blog post.

2) Don’t be a Chump — Here’s How You Use Keywords like a Pro


First things first– do not stuff keywords into your blog post! This is a practice that will tank your rankings. Here’s a great video from Matt Cutts (the Head of Google’s Webspam team) explaining keyword density:

If you followed the first tip, you should have 1-2 keyword phrases to focus on. I recommended finding long-tail keyword phrases as these can be used to target more qualified online traffic. I think too many business owners are focused on driving larger traffic numbers to their sites. Optimizing blog posts around long-tail keyword phrases may not yield those large, sexy traffic numbers, but it bring in the users who are more likely to convert.

Now let’s look at where you want to include your keyword terms:

Your Title

Implementing your focus keyword phrase into your header is a must! Just keep title length in mind, since Google will truncate anything over 70 characters. WordPress user? I recommend using a plugin like Yoast SEO. It provides a snippet preview of how your title will show up in the search engine results pages:

Creating an SEO title in Yoast's SEO Plugin

This way you can test out different versions of your title if need be. A good headline is an essential part of optimizing your post for search. Readers and search engines will use it to determine the relevancy of your content. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to leverage that valuable keyword phrase.

The Body

Obviously, you want to include your keywords in the body of the post, but you really don’t need to over think it. Keywords should be included in a natural, reader-friendly way. Before you start to overthink this, let me point out that this is why I stress conducting keyword research before starting your post.

That process allows you to narrow down your topic. You’ll probably find that you’re including your keyword phrases and good variations throughout your post naturally. However, I do recommend that you take some time to review after you finish writing the body of the post.

Your URL

Google and other search engines will read your URL to help classify the content in your blog post. That means it’s a good idea to include your keywords in your URL. Unfortunately, I’ve seen some bloggers go crazy with this. Here’s what I recommend– an optimized URL should reflect your post’s title. Remember that an optimized title includes your keyword phrase.

This optimized URL reflects the blog post title

Meta Description

The primary role of the meta description is to provide readers with enough information to get them to click through to your content. Be sure to include the main keyword phrase for your target audience here. Also keep this in mind– your meta descriptions should be written for readers not search engines. Create some compelling copy that includes your keywords (don’t stuff!) and a clever call-to-action (CTA).

Here’s an example:

Example of an effective meta description

Also, these are a few good CTA’s if you need some inspiration:

  • Learn more now
  • Click here
  • Get more details here
  • Find out how
  • Learn how it’s done here
  • Sign up today

Try to keep your meta descriptions between 100 and 156 characters in length. Exceeding that limit means that part of your description will be truncated in the search engine results page (SERPs). Yoast’s SEO plugin will show you how many characters you have left and a snippet preview of how it will look in the SERPs.

Testing better meta descriptions to improve your SEO

3) Split Up Your Content With Headers and Sub-headers


Headers and images (see the next tip) help break up large chunks of text and increase the readability of your blog posts. It doesn’t take much for a reader to click that back button, so you need to create engaging content and layouts for your posts. If someone is in a rush, they should be able to jump straight to the parts of the post they need using your headers.

Even if these readers skim most of the post, they will rank better if people can consistently find the answers they are looking for. Use your headings to point the way!

Your post’s headings and subheadings are also a great place to include related keywords and phrases. Just don’t overdo it! Search engines will use your headings to identify the primary topic of your post.

H1s and H2s used in a blog post

I recommend using H2 tags and under to split up the body of the post. You’re post’s title will serve as the H1. As you can see in this post, I am using H2’s for each SEO tip. Some sections (see above) can be further split up using H3’s. Keep this type of hierarchy in mind when publishing your post.

4) Include Relevant Images and Make Sure They’re Optimized


Have you ever come across a long blog post that doesn’t include any images? It can feel quite daunting. Including relevant images in your post helps to break up bigger chunks of content and improve the post’s user experience.

Include keywords in your images alt text

 

Search engines will take note if you’re using images effectively in your posts, but there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind:

  • Every image that you use on your site should have “alt text.” Think of it as a sentence that helps describe what your image is about. That’s how search engines will interpret the meaning of your image. Without the alt text, the search engine wont be able to accurately “view” the image. This is also another area where you can include related keywords for your blog post. Just make sure that they relate to your image.
  • Please use images that help support the content in your blog post. Pictures of puppies are great, but they’ll only serve as a distraction to readers if you’re post is about “Best Websites for Booking Your Next Vacation.”
  • Image size needs to be taken into consideration. Large image files can significantly slow down your site and harm your SEO. Each image that you use should be optimized for the web. If you use WordPress, the EWWW Image Optimizer plugin can make this process much easier.

5) Use Categories and Topic Tags Wisely to Organize Blog Content


Categories and topic tags allow you to organize your blog and improve user experience. With the right strategy, readers can easily navigate their favorite blogs and find the content they want. They also allow search engines to crawl your site more effectively and discover all of your content. If you’re creating new categories and tags without considering their placement in the larger picture, you could be harming your SEO.

Think of your blog like it’s a book:

  • Your categories are like chapters of the book. When readers see the titles of your categories (chapter), they should get a good idea of what topics you cover and how you organize your content.
  • Topic tags should be looked at like an index at the end of a book. This is a more in depth list of topics that are covered in the blog. If it’s included in this list, it should be a topic that is covered more than once in the blog.

You should find that your categories and topic tags include many of your most valuable keywords. However, you should take care not to create too many similar tags. if you have tags that only apply to one post, you take some time to consolidate your tags into a more concise list.

(Want to learn more about Category and Tag best practices? Check out this awesome article from the Elegant Themes Blog.)

6) Use Internal Links Like a Pro


You may have heard how important inbound links can be for growing your blog and ranking well in the SERPs. It’s most likely why you are working hard to improve the content on your site. Inbound links certainly are very important, but so to are internal links.

Linking internally to other pages can be used to improve user experience and can identify relevant and authoritative pages when search engines crawl your site. If you mention a previous post, you should link to it. Same thing goes for topics that you cover in more detail on other static pages in your website.

(Be sure to check out Kissmetrics’ Seven Commandments of Internal Linking for a more detailed guide to internal linking.)

7) Your Blog Should Utilize a Responsive Design


Did you hear about Mobilegeddon? This was how many chose to refer to Google’s mobile friendly update that was rolled out on April 21, 2015. This update was meant to penalize websites that were not mobile friendly.

When I say responsive design, I’m talking about a theme or website structure that will conform to fit screens for any device. Mobile is a big part of the game and you’re only shooting yourself in the foot if you’re blog isn’t mobile friendly.

You may be wondering why this user experience item is included in a list of SEO tips. As Google and other major search engines continue to improve their algorithms, one thing has become clear. They are trying to promote sites that provide a great user experience. Sites with an optimized UX have lower bounce rates and tend to be linked to more often. A design that works on desktops, tablets and smartphones is a MUST!

8) Length Does Matter


Any blog post that you write should have a minimum of 300 words and there are some marketers who have made super short posts work. For instance, Seth Godin is a very influential marketer who’s blog posts are very, very short:

Example of a blog that's very short

However, the data shows that a higher word count typically results in more web traffic. There are around 200 factors which affect where your content will rank in the SERPs, but it certainly seems like more content boosts your chances of claiming that coveted pole position.

This chart from SerpIQ’s study illustrates this point:

Snapshot from SerpIQ's content length study

Longer posts provide you with more room to use a variety of keywords related to your targeted blog topic. Google doesn’t just deliver exact match results for queries– it’s algorithm will identify pages that are semantically related to improve the results searchers get. The variety you’ve included in your post will help it perform better in the SERPs.

(Neil Patel delves a bit further into content length in this excellent post.)

9) Include Helpful External Links


You may know A LOT about your particular industry or niche, but there are others out there writing about similar topics. If you reference another blogger or particular article in your post, it’s a good idea to include a link to this resource. This is a good practice for several reasons:

  • It can benefit your readers– I have included a few external links in this post. These can be very helpful if you’d like to learn more about a specific SEO tactic covered here.
  • It’s good blogging etiquette– There are many blogs out there but it’s still a community. You don’t want to find yourself ostracized or earning a reputation for bad practices.
  • You might also earn a link back– This is pretty darn rare, but a link back from an authority blogger can provide a serious SEO boost!

Now, the last two SEO tips are more for your blog than your next blog post. However, they are very important nonetheless.

10) Make It Easy for Readers to Share Your Blog Post


Leveraging the power of social media is one of the best ways that a blogger can ramp up their traffic and engagement over time. I’ll cover this in more detail in a later post, but you should know that publishing your high-quality content is only the first step. It won’t guarantee any success on social platforms like Facebook or Twitter.

Aside from sharing your posts on your own accounts, you can increase the number of shares your blog gets by integrating social sharing buttons around your content.

Good places for social share buttons in a blog post

WordPress bloggers have access to a number of excellent plugins that will add these sharing buttons to each post on your blog. Blogging Wizard has a really good list of social sharing plugins that I recommend checking out.

(Quick Tip: Content marketing studies suggest that the best places to put social media share buttons are above or to the left of your content.)

Do some research before choosing the plugin you want to use. Some can slow down your site, which will harm your SEO. This might be a feature you look into after you’ve developed your blog a bit and started growing an engaged audience.

11) Implement a Consistent Blogging Schedule and Stick to It


You’ll come across many articles with differing methodologies on how often you should publish in order to achieve your traffic goals. The truth is that many factors will determine how often you’ll be able to post and it’s important to not sacrifice content in order to meet unreasonable publishing schedules.

That being said, if you can maintain the quality, publishing more frequently will help increase online traffic to your blog. What do I recommend? Pick a blogging schedule that you can consistently stick to for the long run. Remember that search engine optimization is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time to build up your blog.

An online audience demands consistency from their bloggers. You could lose a lot of regular readers if you suddenly go from churning out 4-5 posts per month to only 1. Start off at a slow or manageable rate and steadily increase your publishing frequency as you improve your site’s SEO. It can be helpful to keep a content calendar so you can plan out your topics in advance.

Conclusion

If you haven’t already done so, be sure to implement Google Analytics on your site. If you are using WordPress for your website, this is easier to do than you might think. Here’s a great video guide from WPBeginner:

I can guarantee that integrating these SEO tactics into your blog writing process will help you reach your content marketing goals. Also bear in mind that these are foundational tips, so please stay tuned for more advice that’ll help you improve your SEO and inbound marketing efforts.

Do you think I missed anything in this post? Let me know in the comments!

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