Yearly Archives

2014

a bogus local seo seller dressed as a cheesy sales person

Avoid Bogus Local SEO Companies With Knowledge

By | SEO | No Comments

“Hello, this is Kate, your Google Local representative, with an important message…”

It’s been nearly 3 years since I’ve founded this company, and still to this day there are bogus local SEO companies calling my phone with auto-dialers. If you’re a business owner (or if you just answer the phone at a small or mid-sized business), chances are you’ve fielded one of these annoying auto-calls. The premise is that they’ll tell you A) your Google places (now called Google my business) page isn’t claimed or B) it isn’t optimized correctly. Usually there’s an offer that rides along with that to “maintain” the page for a low monthly cost, or even provide some sort of reporting along with it.

Bogus local SEO companies like this are a dime a dozen. They know that there are still plenty of uninformed people out there looking to raise their profile in the business community and reach more customers. Don’t be one of those people. Be armed with facts. Aside from knowing that you should always hang up on crummy companies like this, here’s a few things to know:

Fact #1 – if you don’t have a “category fit”, you won’t appear in local listings on Google’s SERPs.  Take this image below for instance. Pizza and Restaurant are both category options. Makes sense right?

Bogus SEO companies try to manipulate google + rankings with fake locations

But what if your company provides hydraulic hoses? Or electric welding equipment? Or any other unique widget that doesn’t fit a standard description? Well…there are no local listings to be included in, that’s the cold truth of the matter.  Google has been mum on when they’ll expand their list of categories as well.

Fact #2 – if you don’t have a brick and mortar location, you will eventually get kicked out of local listings. Hey, online biz is great. But the premise of local listings are to help people figure out what’s nearby. If you try to ‘claim’ a PO box or another building as your place of business…eventually you’ll get booted. There’s no real value to be had from this either.

Fact #3 – if you’re in a competitive area and industry, just claiming a listing won’t get you very far. Let’s say you’re a plumber in down town Kansas City. How many plumbers are in a 20 mile radius? More than can fit in the local listings, that’s for sure. Claiming your profile, setting it up correctly, and all that goes with it is important…but it’s just the first step in actually making local search work for you. You still have to slowly and naturally gain positive reviews, build the domain of your brand’s domain strength, and ensure that all of your online citations are accurate/consistent. Bogus search providers won’t tell you this part, they’ll lead you to believe that they’ll “maintain” the listing and keep it updated, and this in itself will bring you business. Know that this isn’t accurate.

Local SEO entails more than just your Google+ page. It requires content made specifically for your local audience. It requires reputation management to ensure that your brand is reviewed positively online in a variety of ways. And of course, it’s building great earned links to your domain over time to build trust and authority.

So, the next time you get a junk call about your Google Places or Google My Business page, just hang up. Fraudulent local SEO providers are banking that you’ll be uninformed. If you really want to harness the power of local search, call us (or a trusted, proven digital marketing company). Local search works well in tandem with paid advertising – including remarketing campaigns – and email marketing. The right partner will give you solutions for all of the above at a fair price. If your marketing isn’t providing you a return, why bother with it?

*Update* If you REALLY want to send a message to these bogus and fraudulent local search scammers, learn as much about them as you can (it will require a few minutes on the phone), and then report them to the federal authorities here. One of the biggest problems with this industry is the lack of transparency, and the ease of manipulation. Let’s work together to bring that to end, with the help of just a little knowledge.

Your online reputation is important, but these clowns won’t know how to help…

an image of hunter pence grimacing while using a keyboard to search on Bing

Hunter Pence Uses Bing, But Does He Use Bing Ads?

By | Pay Per Click | No Comments

As a true Kansas City Royals fan, it’s taken me awhile to recover from the World Series. It’s still hard to write about or talk about, but amid the amazing run by my hometown team something germane to my craft popped up…#HunterPence signs.  That’s right, the craze the followed the maniacal-looking outfielder touched on an interesting point for PPC managers and advertisers in general.

Among the signs razzing Pence was one that read as such: #HunterPence uses Bing.  I chuckled when I read that.  But then I stopped and asked myself, “why is that funny?”  It’s funny because there’s a perception that  nobody uses Bing. And in that perception issue lies real opportunity for marketers of all sorts.

You see, Bing is far from irrelevant. In fact, a recent report from Hubspot highlighted that roughly 30% of all search happens on the Microsoft/Yahoo network. And here’s another interesting item that lacks statistical foundation…the traffic is cheaper than AdWords traffic. I know this because I live in this space each day, and each day I see similar performance in terms of CTR and total conversions, only at lesser click prices. Added bonus, you get more real-estate to write ad copy. Anyone who has ever tried to manage a PPC campaign knows that the character caps can be tricky to say the least.

BingAds costs less, has more ad copy, and overall has a very similar interface. There’s just not that much volume, that’s all.

Volume. That’s what drives Google’s ad sales. Volume of users, volume of searches, volume of ads served. But what’s that mean to advertisers? It means competition, and by default, higher prices. Using Google AdWords is definitely fishing where the fish are in terms of generating leads…but using Bing Ads is simply finding a smaller lake with fewer fisherman.

So hey, if you’re Hunter Pence, maybe you’re doing some things right. You know, other than playing a role in smashing the dreams of Kansas City Royals fans all across the Midwest. This Bing thing just might catch on after all.

So what do you think about using Bing Ads as a marketing tool? Is it a “must have” or a “nice to have”?

3 things to consider before hiring ad advertising agency for SEO is displayed on a large blue and yellow sign

3 Questions To Ask Before Hiring An Ad Agency For SEO

By | SEO | No Comments

There’s a few ultra-important questions to ask before hiring and ad agency for SEO purposes.  If you don’t get the answers to these questions, you’re probably setting yourself up for disappointment. Why? Because most digital advertising agencies are focused on delivering creative work, not results.  Others have business models centered on billing you for their time (which, again, does not take results into account). That’s not to say there aren’t agencies with strong, proven search optimization chops.  There certainly are. But there’s far more who have no clue what SEO really is, yet they’ll bill you for it each and every month. To avoid that ugly scenario, here’s the vetting questions you’ll want to ask, from an online consultant’s point of view. Read More

a black llama poses next to a sign saying just say no to cheap content writing services

Cheap Content Writers Aren’t Worth Your Time

By | Content Marketing | No Comments

Buying Content By The Word Is Beyond Absurd

O-desk, Elance, College Writers, Content Runner…all pretty much the same thing. A huge pile of non-native English writers who are willing to crap out a few hundred words for a the cost of a Starbucks latte. Literally. The worst part about people watering down the content marketing landscape with this worthless stuff? The fact that companies buy it. And the fact that it does not help your reputation online at all. Read More

5 local seo ranking factors are shown as 5 people on a map

5 Key Local SEO Ranking Factors

By | SEO | No Comments

Local SEO Ranking Factors Are More Detailed Than You Might Think

Business owners tend to fall in to two categories when it comes to Local SEO and what impacts a local SERP. The first are those that don’t know a thing about it, and readily admit that. The second are those that read a few blogs or about.com entries, and think it should be a breeze. To those in the second group…I’ll let my good friend Lee Corso express my sentiment below:
http://youtu.be/ZdoOaDmFuO0
That’s right. Not so fast my friends. The amount of factors that go in to Google’s placement in local search results is deep. I’m talking understanding String Theory deep. Read this 2013 entry from Moz.com to see what I’m talking about.

We can break this out into 5 key top level local SEO ranking considerations. Just to put some “plain English” behind the whole local search ranking factors discussion. They are as follows:

* Being listed in the right categories: This is a killer for a lot of niche business, because there’s no great top level category for them. One of my clients is an IT remarketing company.  There’s no category for that.  The closest they could get to a reasonable match? Recycling. Blech. The next closest match? Computer repair. You see what I mean.

Still, most companies will find a decent match. In fact, most companies should find several. That’s right. It’s estimated that more then 25% of in-house marketers don’t pick more than one category. Mind blowing. If you don’t nail the categories, nothing will matter from that point forward.

* Having all your citations claimed, and being consistent: From Yellow Pages online to Foursquare to niche-specific business directories…make sure your business has claimed ALL their online profiles and citations.  And make sure that they all say the same thing.  What does that mean? For starters, your address should be the same for all of them. If your business has moved over the years, make sure all the citations are cleaned up. Do you have a few keywords associated with your business? A tagline or positioning statement? It should be the same across all of your listings. Locally relevant domains like the city newspaper or the local BBB are especially important here. Consistency is key here.

* Having quality and quantity in your online reviews: G+ reviews, Yelp reviews, YP.com reviews…they all matter. Not just how many, but how good they are and how evenly they are distributed over time (this is called the “velocity” of reviews). Reputation management is a key element of lead generation anyways, so if there isn’t a campaign in place to actively acquire reviews, there should be. Having the location AND the product or service keyword in the review is gold. Not that we’d advocate forcing someone’s statement, but letting them know what you are after is part of the ask. It makes a difference.

* Being close to the searcher (or the city center): This is another one that a lot of local business gets tangled up on. If you are in a suburb that’s 30 miles from a metro city center, it’s going to be hard to get on the local listings. Likewise, if you’re out in a different neck of the woods than where the searcher is right now (assuming they’re on a mobile device), that’s going to be hard to overcome as well. Not insurmountable, but it will add to the degree of difficulty. Just something worth noting.

* Having good links to your domain and your places page: We can file this one under the common sense category for local citation ranking factors, but many people don’t consider if there’s any inbound links (quality links, not spam) to their places page. This ties in to the domain authority of the overall website as well – not just the homepage, but the entire collection of web pages. Many of our clients who’ve came from second-tier SEO firms have a ton of links to their homepage, but virtually none to key interior pages. I won’t even get started on the lack of anchor text diversification that usually accompanies this…we digress.  Links are important to your site AND to your places landing page.  The more (and more qualified), the better.

Within these 5 local SEO ranking factors there’s a lot of sub-categories, plus considerations we didn’t even touch on (like having Rel=publisher markup included, social sharing signals from G+ and keeping local info in your title tags). It’s a details game, but understanding the core elements above can help you understand what goes into it. Professional search engine optimization companies have to do more than just get links (or develop great content to get links), they have to be reputation management experts as well.

Is your SEO company letting you down in the local rankings? Give us a call or drop us a line today, and get started on your path to a better understanding of local SEO.

14 Keys To A Successful PPC Campaign

By | Lead Generation, Pay Per Click | No Comments

Successful PPC Campaigns Are Earned, Not Created

We’ve been managing Google Adwords and Bing Ads campaigns for a long time. Most of our clients found their way to us after they’d tried, unsuccessfully, to get a positive ROI from pay per click advertising on their own. Over the years, the campaigns we’ve reviewed shared many of the same tell-tale signs of under performance. Some mistakes that novice PPC managers make are easy to overcome. Other times, it requires blowing up the whole account and starting fresh. Better than starting fresh is doing it right the first time. With that in mind, you”l want to check out our guide to running a successful PPC campaign laid out below:

#1 Avoid Adwords Express: We’re putting this first. If you selected this option, reconsider that move and start over. This “gets you in the game” quickly, but scoots past all the important stuff you have to consider for your campaign to really work. This is an important marketing decision. Treat it like one!

#2 Make Sure To Separate “Search” And “Display”: If you go with the default of search and display combined…congratulations! Google loves you, because every 2nd and 3rd tier publisher in their network will show your text ads, eating up the bulk of your budget and driving down CTR’s. Save display campaigns for display ads, especially retargeting (which we’ll get to later).

#3 Set Up The Right Geographic Targeting: The default setting for AdWords and Bing Ads campaigns is targeting the entire United States (and Canada). If you only have reps in 15 states, this isn’t going to work for you. If you are a local business, this REALLY isn’t going to work for you. You must assign the geo-targets at the outset of building your campaign. You’d be surprised how many times businesses are advertising where they have no business advertising (pun intended).

#4 Create A Tight Keyword List: Many business owners are surprised to learn that broad matched key phrases will pull in traffic for every word in the phrase. For example, using a broad match phrase for the term used construction equipment will result in your ad showing for terms pertaining to construction and terms pertaining to equipment. Imagine your ad for construction equipment showing for queries around construction companies, construction jobs, construction paper, farm equipment, sports equipment and equipment manufacturers. Yep, that’ll happen. It’s no wonder that many businesses waste as much as 30% of their PPC campaign spend without ever knowing it.

#5 Always Maintain A Negative Keyword List: Negative keywords can help you filter out all the junky, worthless clicks that eat up budget and lower your conversion rates. As you monitor the keywords that are bringing you clicks and impressions, make sure you understand how to maintain this tool, both at the campaign and ad group level. It’s estimated that as many as 25% of AdWords accounts don’t use any negative keyword list whatsoever. That’s a big no-no if you want to make money.

#6 Proof Your Ad Copy: The old saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression. And if that first impression is a typo? Goodbye customer. Measure twice and cut once. Or in this case, proof twice and submit once. It’s worth noting here that best practices are to capitalize every word in the body copy. It helps it stand out. It’s also worth noting that ads with a strong point of differentiation or at least a call to action get more than 15% more clicks than ads without them. Consider that.

#7 Test Multiple Ads: From the very get-go, you should write two or three ads for each ad group. Over time, as enough impressions, clicks and conversions rack up, you can determine which ad is the strongest. Knock off the weaker ad(s) and test a new one. This is a simple and underused method of optimizing your PPC campaign.

#8 Log In Daily: The absolute number one thing you can do to ensure the success of your PPC campaign is to check in daily. Published reports of small business advertisers show that only about 1% sign in to their AdWords account on a weekly basis. Not even daily. Weekly. If you don’t have capacity to have eyes on your performance daily, find someone who does. This thing isn’t going to manage itself.

#9 Focus On Your Quality Score: Some people consider this “voodoo” that is hard to calculate. But if you know how to manipulate the columns in your Adwords or Bing Ads account, you can see it’s calculated – or at least estimated – from inception. Average Quality Score is a great indicator of how your campaign will perform, as it directly affects both your average ad position and the cost you’ll pay for each click. Lower CPC’s (Cost Per Clicks) save you money. Period. Anything below a “6” needs some love. Anything below a “5” needs to be paused or have other action taken.

#10 Have Great Landing Pages: This is the easiest concept to grasp, but the hardest to accomplish. It requires having a well-built website (or at least a set of well-built pages) that works well across all devices (mobile, tablet, desktop) and gives the reader what they want. If it’s information, the page needs an easy and noticeable form to submit. If it’s e-commerce, make sure the checkout process is clearly defined and that users don’t have to wander around a page to find the product they’ve searched for. Don’t be the business that sends all their traffic to your homepage. Understand the importance of landing page strategy and optimization. And if you DO send all your traffic there…at least make sure that the page gives users what they want – regardless if they’re looking on an iPhone or an old desktop.

#11 Be Okay With Being Second (Or Third): Often times, clients will come to us bemoaning how expensive it is to run their PPC ads. One of the first questions we ask is “what’s your goal for this campaign?” More than once we’ve heard a response along the lines of “being first in the search results!” A-type personalities are great. We fully appreciate them. But being first at all costs isn’t a sound business strategy. No keyword is worth an insane bidding battle. Conversions matter. ROI matters. Being #1 ion the page…well…it matters (but not at all costs!)

#12 Consider Your Optimal Schedule: Chances are your landing pages or website includes a phone number. What happens if people call after hours? Or on the weekends? If you aren’t staffed, don’t run your ads. Failing to consider the best ad schedule for your business can really cost you. Also, it’s a great tool to “stretch” a budget. If your budget is $3,000/month, that’s roughly $90 a day (Google especially will blow past your daily budget by 10% on any given day). But what if you only run during the week since you’re closed on the weekends? That $90 a day goes up to more than $135 a day. Something to consider.

#13 Set Up Retargeting: This is especially important if you are running an e-commerce site, or have a longer sales cycle with your customers. You can target visitors who didn’t actually convert to a lead or a sale with display ads that follow them around for the next 30 days. This also requires some extra, you’ll want to create a solid ad that follows best practices…but if you’ve clawed and fought to target the right customer, why not buy some insurance and stay in front of them in case they weren’t quite ready to move forward when they first visited your site? At the very least it’s fairly inexpensive brand impressions to a target prospect. At the most, it’ll net you additional leads and sales that otherwise would fall through the cracks.

#14 Always Track Your Progress: If you aren’t tracking your weekly, monthly and quarterly success, you’re missing an opportunity. Detailed performance reporting can be complex, but looking at the basics isn’t. Take the time to know what is improving and what is declining. “Fish where the fish are” and you’ll be able to optimize the good parts to new heights, while lopping off weaker segments of your campaigns.

We hope you’ve found this valuable. If so, please share it or link to it as a resource. Or, if you’re a business owner or decision maker looking for professional help with your campaign, drop us a line today. We’d love to hear from you! Finally, if you’re a PPC professional…tell us what you think about this list in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you too : )

a digital marketer uses SEO and PPC together on a spreadsheet

An 80’s Rock Band Approach To Using SEO And PPC Together

By | Pay Per Click, SEO | No Comments

Back in the 1980’s, you couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing a song by Darryl Hall and John Oates of Hall & Oates fame. With 6 number one hits and 34 Top 40 singles, it’s clear that the duo’s soulful rock music struck a chord with audiences. To this day, they credit their success to their ability to combine the best of both of their talents into songs that resonate with their audience. Read More

The Death Of SEO Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

By | SEO | No Comments

SEO Is Anything But…Dead

It seems there’s never a shortage of people saying that “SEO has died/is dying/will die”. We group these people one of two ways…people who don’t understand search engine optimization, and people who USED to understand search engine optimization when all it required was creating junk links and stuffing keywords in each of them. Those practices (thankfully) fall into the dead/dying/will die category, but the practice of optimizing a website for search engines will live as long as search engines live. Interestingly, some of the people that cry the loudest about SEO dying are actually competing for search dollars themselves. This infographic from SEO WORLD helps clarify:

SEO is dead.

SEO Graphic by SEO Book

SEO as a whole has morphed, indeed. But that’s a far cry from dying off. More than anything, more professionals are focusing on a subset of search. Local SEO. E-Commerce SEO. International SEO. Not to mention professional Content Marketing – that backbone of any good off-page SEO strategy – is certainly alive and well. So much so that it stands alone as its own practice regardless if an outreach strategy for link acquisition is filled in behind it.

What’s really happened is that semi-professionals and hacks are being forced out, as they don’t have the skills or professionalism to gain links, generate traffic, acquire leads and drive sales like true professionals do. Search engine marketing has evolved over time, but the organic traffic from a strong web presence will always be at the core. It’s a key component of any lead generation that an outsourced digital marketing firm will put in place.

SEO’s now require a more diverse skill set and understanding of what drives search…one such area is the importance that web design has on search rankings. It’s getting harder and harder to rank a sub-par site (and with good reason). Search engines want to reward a great experience that leaves the searcher satisfied. Hence the push for many businesses to develop responsive web designs with a true UX focus. I call this a caveat because it’s technically outside of the realm of most SEO’s to develop websites. Another big driver is video. Many business owners are surprised to learn that YouTube is the second largest search engine out there – and it certainly isn’t dying any time soon. Video can be optimized just like a website.

Before you let a Public Relations firm or Social Media “expert” sway you from considering Search Engine Optimization as part of your digital marketing mix, make sure you understand their perspective…and which of the buckets above they fall in to!

3 Things To Know Before Buying Leads

By | Lead Generation | No Comments

All Leads Are NOT Created Equal

If you’re in an industry where buying leads in bulk is possible, chances are you’ve either tried it or considered trying it. The concept seems almost too good to be true…you pay someone, and they deliver piping-hot leads right to your inbox. You even get a fancy “portal” to log in and monitor progress, see totals, etc. I mean, why even hire a sales staff? Just sign up, slap down your cold, hard cash and let the leads flow in, right?

Well, if you’ve bought leads in bulk in the past, you know that’s not the case. Often times you can’t connect with these purported “interested” parties. Or when you do, they tell you that they aren’t interested right now. Or worse, they’ve already bought – possibly from one of your competitors. Ugh.

If only you knew a little more about what you were buying and who you were buying from. That’s where this post may help in your quest for affordable lead generation. If you’re about to buy leads, especially non-exclusive leads, here’s the 3 questions that you HAVE to ask before moving forward:

1) How are the leads acquired? The best leads will be acquired from solid PPC campaigns, and then call-verified on the spot. Once it’s confirmed that A) they’re a real person and B) they really are interested, the leads are sent out asap. If lead aggregators are mixing in leads that they cultivate from email lists or from outbound cold calling, that’s a red flag. People who click on PPC ads are hand-raisers. They are self-identifying their interest. If they’re being “pulled” from outbound calls or emails, they may not be that interested. Make sure you know how the leads you are buying are cultivated, and shy away from aged leads.

2) What’s the average resale rate? Most of the leads you are buying are also being bought by other parties. That’s how this game is affordable for the sellers…they spend X amount generating a lead, but recoup 2 times X by selling the lead to multiple parties. Make sure you know their average resale rates! A lead that is being sold eight times is far less attractive than a lead with a resale rate of three times. Look for low average resale rates or exclusive leads whenever possible. Not all leads are created equal!

3) How are lead credits handled? Most companies have a very clear policy on when leads can be credited. If they are come in with valid info (name, phone, email), normally you pay for them. But what if a number is disconnected? What if some of the names are “Just Looking” or “Ima Freak”? How are duplicate leads handled? If you are buying these at a very large scale, it’s definitely important to go back and check before paying an invoice. It’s possible to save 10% of your monthly bill or more just by understanding and working the lead credit angle. It’s also an easy way to check out the quality of the leads you’re buying.

This list is far from exhaustive. Other considerations include how leads are delivered, what sort of volume is available, how selective their targeting options are, etc. However, if you just ask these three questions, you’ll weed out weaker lead providers pretty quickly.

Not sure if your lead generation program is what it should be? Thinking of jumping into the lead buying game? Let us help with a one time, up-front digital marketing consultation. An outside 3rd party with no skin in the game is always the best route for analyzing operations. Contact us today to learn more.