Archive for March, 2011

Keeping up with local SEM changes

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

local sem success

Has local SEM or search engine marketing got you confused lately? Things are certainly not the same as they were 2 or 3 years ago? The local search marketing game is changing folks and technology can be blamed on that. Chances are in the next three years it will change even more so don’t get too mad. Just hop on the horse and try to hold on.

Let’s take a look at how the local SEM game has changed over the years:

Local SEM Change#1 – Blogs

Blogs have been around for a number of years but I still see many website owners trying to market themselves locally that still do not understand the concept of a blog. A blog is nothing more than a journal entry of your choice that adds a whole new page to your website. You can structure that post as you wish and with a little savviness that blog post can rank for a variety of search terms in the industry.

Local SEM Change#2 – Social Media

Now wasn’t this a wrench in the gears for some? Who would have thought that communicating on a local level with your audience in front of your computer would make things so difficult for some businesses. It’s still cheaper than a newspaper ad but when you have been doing print advertising for a better part of your life it is tough to walk away from it for some. Can’t teach an old dog new tricks right?

search engine marketing companies

Local SEM Change#3 – Check In Technology

Hold onto your hat folks because this one might make your head spin. You walk into a Starbucks and you click a button to tell everyone you have checked in and now you have a mayor badge? What badge? To make things even worse for some businesses Facebook has stepped into to join the fun with the location check in technology which is going to downright give some business owners a head ache.

Don’t be scared but rather embrace the new changes and find a way to get involved with the new technologies related to your local SEM campaign. Waiting and hoping things will change is never going to happen. If you need help you can give me a buzz, I’ll be happy to evaluate your local SEM needs.

Basic local SEO strategies for small businesses

Monday, March 28th, 2011

local seo

Many commercial websites engage in SEO strategies to further expand their website’s visibility. These techniques can help them to rank high in search results and thus provide better chances to attract customers and generate higher sales of their products.

However, before achieving a global popularity, it is better to first concentrate on how you can optimize your site’s visibility in the local section. This means that you must give importance on how your site will be known to potential customers who are located near your business actual address. This can be achieved by utilizing local SEO strategies.

Local SEO strategies can surely help you to efficiently compete with your local business rivals. Internet users who are searching for websites which are offering the products that they would like to purchase would definitely search for it locally.

For sure, they would prefer to buy those products in websites which physical address is near their place. To be able to get indexed by popular search engines, it is a wise idea to incorporate your business’ physical address to your website, web page titles, headings or contents. In this way, your website will have greater chances to appear in the local search results.

Another brilliant local SEO technique is to register your site in the Google map. This is free of charge and can definitely help your site to be more visible in local search and thus give your potential customers the exact location of your shop and making it easier for them to get to know your site better.

It is a practice to a lot of SEO experts to first research on the best keywords that you can incorporate to your site to make them more optimized for local search. You must determine the most popular keywords being used by internet users when searching the products your website is also catering.

You must also try to use those keywords and search for them using the popular search engines and take note of the websites that will rank high in the search results. Get to know your competitors and determine the strategies that helped them to achieve high ranking in search results. All these can give you clearer ideas on what strategies will be most appropriate for you to use.

A good local SEO strategy is to also include local keywords in your website. This is to gain better chances for your site to appear in search results when a potential customer is using more specific keywords like a product with a corresponding location. Internet users who are interested in buying a particular product will use keywords pertaining to a product in a specific local area.

local seo

When using Local SEO techniques, it is good to take note that the customers are the one looking for you therefore you must put yourself into their shoes and try to imagine how these people think. If you are the customer, what keywords would you probably use to search for a particular product or website? Local search optimization strategies are beneficial to use especially if your business targets customers who are near your vicinity.

Yahoo Search Direct competes with Google Instant

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

Yahoo search direct.

A few days ago at a press event in San Francisco, Yahoo announced the launch of a new product called ‘Search Direct’. It looks a lot like Google Instant: as you start typing a query into Yahoo Search, the site will begin populating results with each new character entered (in other words, you don’t have to hit the ‘return’ key). The feature is now live at and of interest to SEO and local SEO pro experts.

Google Instant, of course, has done something very similar since September. But Yahoo says that Search Direct is looking to help match users with “answers, not links”. As you start typing, a small rectangular widget will slide down from the search bar and show rich results whenever available — do a query for “Derrick”, and you’ll see quick breakdown of basketball player Derrick Rose’s stats. Search for a city and you’ll see weather widgets and nearby sports team schedules — you can jump between these rich results using the arrow keys on your keyboard. Google Instant also shows rich results when possible, but Yahoo Search Direct does seem faster, in part because it isn’t refreshing the whole page.

Asked about how this compares to Google Instant, Yahoo SVP of Search Products Shashi Seth says “They’re very different products. We’re focused on providing answers, not links. Google Instant is focused on providing more links, faster. Not answers. We believe the next generation of search regardless of whether it’s on the web or mobile, they’re looking for answers, not links.” I suspect Google would strongly disagree with this assertion, as the search giant has long been increasing the number of rich results it displays in addition to the ten blue links.

Yahoo search direct tool.

Asked about how Yahoo provides its results so quickly, Shashi says that they are generated by a completely different infrastructure from its normal search servers. The infrastructure is “significantly smaller” — Yahoo is using around 15 categories of data, but says it could eventually expand to include “hundreds of categories”. Some of the categories at this point: sports, music, celebrities, weather, news, shopping, local.

Yahoo will be monetizing the new features by allowing advertisers to embed images or videos in the right-pane (run a query for Gap, and you might see a YouTube ad for the Gap in this rich content area). Which seems to defeat the purpose (if I’m expecting rich, contextual results, I don’t want them to be completely replaced by an ad), but it sounds like Yahoo is still experimenting with these.

Shashi says that this will be eventually be available on the iPad, where they say it will be especially useful. This isn’t available yet and will look different when it does launch.

Yahoo EVP, Chief Product Officer Blake Irving says that while Yahoo has outsourced part of its search efforts, it still knows that “search matters. It matters to customers, and it matters to us. Microsoft is doing our paid search and algorithmic backend.” But he says that frees Yahoo’s engineers up to work on other improvements. He also mentioned that you might see this appearing on websites outside of

Predicting the payoff from SEO

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

SEO and Local SEO are important for your website.

SEO and local SEO are critical components of marketing for every website. There are many tips and techniques that are widely available that can help you increase the chances of getting a high ranking for the search keywords and phrases that are central to your marketing strategy.

Everyone knows that a higher ranking is better, but exactly how high does your ranking have to be to generate significant traffic for your website? Is it possible to predict how much traffic you can generate for a given search phrase and ranking?

It is well known that you can use a resource such as the Google Keyword Tool to estimate monthly traffic for a keyword. Once you have that number, the question becomes: given a particular ranking, what percentage of those searches will result in a visit to your website? You can’t really create a reliable, comprehensive search phrase strategy without this critical piece of information.

There is a variety of counsel and opinion on this topic, not all of it consistent. For instance, one website, which provides research, training and educational services exclusively for the publishing industry, states the following rule of thumb:

“When your website or landing page turns up on page one in Google, you’re getting 100% visibility…But what happens when your landing page ends up on page two or three? We estimate that you’re getting about 32% Google visibility on page two, meaning only about 32% of users ever click through to page two, and a meager 7% visibility on page three. If you’re on page four or beyond, you simply don’t have a chance of being seen by your potential customers.”

The authors cited no source for this rule of thumb, or explanation of how they developed it. There are a number of other rules of thumb about click distributions floating around on the web, which are entirely inconsistent with the above. I’m not going to dwell on these here; I’d rather get right to the data I believe is the most credible and useful.

SEO Click Disributions – The Best Data Avaliable

There have been several eye-tracking studies that have been done over the past few years, all of which produce consistent results. Perhaps the best-known among them is a study that was performed at Cornell University that showed the following:

SEO is important for your website.

This data tells a far different tale than the rule of thumb cited above: the first three ranks get 80% of the clicks, and the first page gets 98.9% of the clicks!

You might object, and I would agree, that this data is derived from an eye tracking study, not actual searches, and would thus compel some caution on extrapolating the results. Fortunately, there is some actual data available. In 2006, AOL leaked some data on over 36 million queries. The data was analyzed by Richard Hearne, and the results are as follows:

Click through rank matters.

These results, by and large, are consistent with the Cornell eye-tracking study, in that the first page attracts an extremely high percentage of the clicks. The first three ranks garner 63% of the clicks; the top 10, 90%; the top 20, 94.5%. Here are the percentages for ranks 1-21, 31, and 41:

Percentage ranks for SEO.

Viewed another way, an improvement in rank from second to first will almost quadruple the number of clicks. The number one ranking produces as many clicks as ranks two through eight combined. The drop-off in clicks is enormous by the time you get to the second page; a rank off 11 produces only .66% of the clicks; in comparison a rank of 10 produces more than 4 times as many, and the number 1 rank more than 60 times as many!

This click distribution has also been confirmed by an independent set of search data analyzed by Enquisite, a firm that specializes in search optimization software. Based on a proprietary data set of 300 million searches, the first page grabbed 89.71% of the clicks; the second 5.93%; the third, 1.85%, the fourth, .78%; and the fifth, .46%.

Since there are several methods that have produced highly similar results, there is a high degree of confidence that this data provides a reliable foundation on which to base an SEO strategy.

Implications for SEO Strategy

  • The ranking you can achieve for any given search phrase depends on a number of factors, including how well you optimize your pages for the search phrase, your page rank, and the amount of competition. If you opt to compete for high volume search phrases with a lot of competition, you have to realistically weigh the chances that you can make the first page.
  • A better option may be to pursue a long tail strategy, in which you set your sights on achieving a number one ranking on lower volume search phrases with lower levels of competition. This strategy necessarily involves multiple keywords in order to generate significant volumes of traffic for your website.
  • But perhaps the best option of all, made possible by this data, would be to pursue a mixed strategy. The increase in traffic you can expect from improving your ranking for any particular search phrase can now be predicted. You can therefore weigh the incremental increase in your website traffic for an entire portfolio of search phrases, and allocate your efforts in a way that will optimize your ROI.

Benefits of directory linking for local SEO

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

Directory linking for local SEO.

Directory linking is one great way to find quality links for your website. The best benefit of directory linking is that most do not require reciprocal links, so it is a useful way to build quality inward links to your site. Due to the fact that directories take varying amounts of time to add you, your site will be able to receive a steady and gradual flow of new links which look very natural to a search engine.

Directories are websites that host links to other sites and place them in organized order. With some directories you have to pay to be included, but in many you do not. To find directories relevant to your business simply search on Google.

Directory linking for local SEO.

Make sure to fill out your directory listing completely. Remember when dealing with directories to use best local SEO practices and include physical locations like address and city name each time it is asked for. The more localized your directory listing the better.

Niche directories make it easy for searchers to find what they are looking for and are a great source of quality non-reciprocal links which are favored by Google and other search engines.

Targeting your niche in internet marketing

Saturday, March 19th, 2011

Target your niche in local SEO.

A basic but oft overlooked practice is that if you are doing any sort of online marketing, you want to target your niche audience. A niche audience is a group of potential customers that are most likely to use the products or services that you are marketing.

One common mistake that marketers on and offline make is that they market to the masses and never actually target the people who are going to be interested in your products or services. What this equals is countless time and money being wasted marketing to people who are not going to have any interest in what is being offered.

In short, targeted marketing and niche marketing are very similar. As mentioned, targeted marketing goes after a certain demographic of people, while niche marketing goes after the demographic of people who are going to be the most likely to use products or services that are being advertised. Finding good key phrases and keywords to use in pay per click advertisements is not always an easy task to accomplish though.

If a person is marketing a certain niche, how does he or she know if anyone is searching for it? Using Google trends is one way to start researching a key phrase or key term, but a lot of times, there is not enough data to provide online marketers with information if the niche that they are marketing in is small.

This is where internet marketing software comes into play and can be very useful. Using marketing software that can find the latest trends and mentions on the Internet gives marketers an advantage over those who do not have this information.

Once a marketer or advertiser finds out if there is enough of a demand for the niche that he or she is marketing in, they can easily use Google to find out what the competition is. If there isn’t a lot of pay per click ads showing up for the keywords that are entered or the websites that rank first organically are not very relevant to the keywords, then this gives the marketer a good impression that the niche is not overly saturated and competition is low.

Local marketing: connecting with the media

Monday, March 14th, 2011

As an SEO Pro professional, I’ve been able to develop and maintain strong relationships with several members of the local media. I’ve even been able to establish relationships with key contacts in several other city media markets who cover news from my clients.

Through the years, I’ve learned what works –and what sets you back– when attempting to secure coverage for yourself or clients. Follow the rules below, and it will bring you one step closer to securing that feature story in your local market’s daily newspaper, business journal, or on your local television station.

Don’t be a stranger

Introduce yourself. Your relationship with a reporter doesn’t have to be all business. Take them out for coffee or lunch, and really get to know the people behind the headlines: What do they like? Where do they live? What are their favorite sports teams? Make a personal connection, so when you do have to talk business, they’ll recognize your name and connect with you on a friendlier platform.

Be persistent, without being a pain

When conducting follow up or trying to secure an initial meeting, be persistent. Persistence doesn’t give you the green light to call a reporter five times a day and leave 30 messages in one week. Know where the line is, and be sure not to cross it. If you have established a good relationship with a reporter, you won’t need to stalk them; you know they will return your call or email when they have a minute to breathe.

Don’t withhold information

More is better. Always offer more information than is necessary for your pitch. If you are pitching a specific expert as a source for a local trend piece, be sure to mention all the areas in which your expert is fluent. Have a complete bio prepared. If you do, or even if you don’t secure something with your first attempt, the reporter now has a list of subjects they can refer to in order to use you or your client for a source.

Don’t be lazy

The more work you can do on your end, the less time reporters have to spend researching or writing —making their jobs much easier, and making you one of their favorite people. Always offer more than enough information, whether you’re providing contact information and availability for interviews, or sending press releases and quotes electronically (making cutting and pasting easier). A source that a reporter can rely on to offer everything he or she needs is one they will turn back to time and time again.

It’s important to stay on a reporter’s “good side” during your work with your local media. Over time, these relationships can even turn into friendships, which make your professional relationship that much more rewarding.

Stay on top of current industry trends, beats particular reporters cover, and the media coverage of your competitors. General knowledge of –and a sense of awareness for– your local media will help you to secure the story you want, and establish yourself, your client, or your agency as a reputable source that can be called upon for future stories.

So, how do you start? Consider using social media to track your local reporters. From Facebook to Twitter to blogs, reporters are everywhere, and social media opens a door to casual conversation—and a window into their personal lives as well—that allows business and marketing people to connect with them on a whole different level.

Great Google Places video

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

Check out this great video which helps explain how businesses use Google Places!

Estimating what you gain or lose in SEO ranking

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

To understand the importance of SEO work it is necessary for you to understand how much you stand to gain or lose through search ranking. To help you estimate how much traffic you may stand to gain or lose by moving up or down in the search engine rankings, the first thing you’ll need to review would be the concept of Click Distribution by SERP Ranking. This basically refers to how user’s clicks are distributed throughout the Top 10 SERP rankings.

If you recall, there are limited data sets available within the search industry regarding the distribution of clicks. I’ve taken the liberty of averaging all of the known data sets together in an effort to consolidate the percentages into one percentage. Here’s what I came up with for the click distribution percentages in SERP results.

  • Position #1: 45.46% of all clicks
  • Position #2: 15.69% of all clicks
  • Position #3: 10.09% of all clicks
  • Position #4: 5.49% of all clicks
  • Position #5: 5.00% of all clicks
  • Position #6: 3.94% of all clicks
  • Position #7: 2.51% of all clicks
  • Position #8: 2.94% of all clicks
  • Position #9: 1.97% of all clicks
  • Position #10: 2.71% of all clicks

Total: 95.91% of all clicks occur on Page #1 of SERPs

SERP Rankings, Search Volume, and Click Distribution

Lets follow this logic…by monitoring your search rankings, examining search volume, and applying the distribution percentages you can begin to get an idea of how much traffic you’re likely to receive based on where you rank within the search engines.

Lets work on an example. In our example, we’ll say that you’re a nationally prominent seller of dog supplies. Over the past few years you’ve worked really hard and are now ranking #10 for the term “dog supplies.”

By using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool, you’ll see that the key term “dog supplies” receives 74,000 Global Monthly Searches.

Dog Supplies - Search Volume Example

This is the first place where it gets a little tricky. Which search volume number do you use? This depends on your business type and how realistic you wish to be about the quality of your traffic.

If you’re a global brand like Petco or Petsmart then its safe to say you should use the Global Search Volume number. However, if you’re brand is more local within your country, you should go with the Local Monthly Search Volume (Note: Your Local Monthly Search Volume constitues the search volume generated by your country, in my case the United States).

Now, lets apply our initial logic.

“Dog supplies” generates 74,000 global monthly searches and we’re currently (fictionally) ranking #10. Based on our original click distribution percentages, we should receive 2.71% of all clicks. If that’s the case, we should currently be getting approximately (carry the one, minus the blah blah) 2,005 visits. That’s 74,000 x 0.0271. Make sense?

Now, lets make another connection. Let’s imagine that you’ve worked really really hard – built your links, ate your spinach, said your prayers – and achieved the #1 ranking for the term “dog supplies!” Good work.

Based on the percentages, we’ll now take 74,000 and multiply it by 0.4546. This SERP position should give us approximately 33,640 visits. That’s a big jump in traffic and clearly shows you how valuable the #1 position can be in terms of gaining additional traffic. But how much did you gain?

Okay, let’s put this last piece together. Take 33,640 visits minus 2,005 visits and you’ll see that you stand to gain 31,635 additional visits by moving from position #10 to #1.

Quickly, let’s apply this logic backwards. Let’s say you’re ranking #3 and slip to #6. At the #3 position you should expect around 7,467 visits. At position #6, you should expect around 2,916 visits. That’s a slip of 4,551 visits! That’s a lot to lose and can be the difference in gaining or losing a lot of web revenue/exposure.

The Flaws in this Logic

Now here’s the disclaimer. The above logic is flawed. It assumes that every search result is absolutely perfect and only includes the 10 organic listings – nothing else. We know that’s false.

The search results of this day and age are what I like to call “muddy.” The reason I call them Muddy SERPs is that there are so many different types of results that are injected right into the natural results that may draw a click away and water down the click percentages (local, news, social, etc).

Here is an example of a Muddy SERP result:

In addition, there are different types of searches. Different search contexts certainly impact the patterns in which people click around the SERPs, which in turn may affect the click distribution percentages.

Different types of search classifications is discussed in detail by Aaron Wall over at SEOBook. These types are Navigational, Transactional, and Informational.

  • In general, for navigational searches people click the top result more often than they would on an informational search.
  • In general, for informational searches people tend to click throughout the full set of search results at a more even distribution than they would for navigational or transactional searches.
  • The only solid recently-shared publicly data on those breakdowns is from Dogpile, a meta search engine. But given how polluted meta search services tend to be (with ads mixed in their search results) those numbers were quite a bit off from what one might expect. And once more, they are aggregate numbers.

Another thing that may affect how the numbers that Google may not show are the number of searches that don’t result in a click. With the new Google Instant Search feature, I know that many of my searches are abandoned quickly without a click if I don’t see what I need right away. This type of behavior may not take place on the other two major search engines, but Google is ahead of the curve in this regard.

The Smartest Thing To Do

The best thing you can do is knock at least 30% off of whatever number you have, and then you may have a more accurate estimate of the real traffic that may come in by being at a certain position.

So with that logic we’ll re-approach our original example. Remember, we were ranking #10 in which we were garnering 2,005 visits. Remember, we moved to the #1 position which represented 33,640 visits.

Let’s slice 30% right off of both of those numbers. The #10 ranking will probably garner closer to 1,404 visits rather than the original estimate of 2,005 visits. Likewise, the #1 ranking will probably pull in something closer to 23,548 visits rather than our original estimate of 33,640 visits.

This means that you ultimately stand to gain around 22,144 visits per month by moving from the #10 SERP result to the #1 SERP for the term “dog supplies.”

There it is! You’ve done it. You can apply this logic – however flawed – going forward to attempt to estimate traffic gains/losses by fluctuations in SERP rank.

What exactly is local SEO?

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

Local SEO is search engine optimization aimed at getting clients to get out of the house and get down to your place of business!

Awhile back, before Google map search results changed the way we looked at search, a local doctor was effectually locked out of Google as a technique to bag new clients. Old school SEO was just too costly and formidable to do when the only results that counted were customers that live within 5 mile distance of the doctor’s office. Doing classical search engine optimization for a local enterprise would have been like of buying an ad in the Wall Street Journal, simply not effective for a local company looking for local clients.

Google identified the problem and modernized. Come forward to a year ago. Google reported that thirty-five percent of all searches had included city, state, or zip-code. Google reacted by originating Google Places, which made around 50,000,000 novel world wide web pages for US companies. The information on these pages was gathered from open sources such as online yellow pages. The other search engines, not to be left out, jumped onboard. That’s right, Google, Yahoo and Bing have each made your company a web page. Now all you need to do is claim the page and fill it out, correct?

Well, almost correct. Claiming your pages is the start. These Place Pages have changed SEO, and made a new business for it Local SEO pros like me.

Go to Google, and search the term “dentist”. The first thing you will notice is that Google knows where you are located. If they have it right, the search results will show you a map, with your location in the middle, and burgundy dots and pins all around you representing local dentists. Several of these pins will be large, and marked with the first 7 letters of the alphabet. Now on the left side of the page, under the paid placements, but ahead of results you will find 7 enriched organic search results, with letters, matching to the pins on the map. These results are at times “7-Pack”.

How do you get your organization included on the first page of search results?

Searches function by algorithm, which is another way of saying that Google will assign a numeric value to one’s web page. That value when correlated and compared with the scores of other businesses in your sphere of influence. It is this juxtaposition that translates into the rank that companies will be displayed in return for search results. This is the art of local search engine optimization; accepting the evolving ways that search formulas classify and order establishments, and optimizing the things that Google and the other search engines evaluate, in order to get the best possible rank.

But beware! If Google believes that they are being gamed, that you are doing bogus things to modify the organic results, you could be the unfortunate receiver of the heinous “Google Slap”. No one needs to get slapped.

Who needs organic Local SEO?  Everyone that is looking to grow their local business!