Thanks to everyone who joined us at today’s Pleasanton Young Professionals presentation, where we covered the basics of SEO and social media marketing. You can use the following guide to reference what we covered and access a few of the tools that we mentioned in the presentation. If you have any other questions about what we covered, or how we can help with your SEO & SEM, you’re always welcome to leave us a comment or contact us directly.
What is SEO?
- “SEO is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of the traffic that you earn through the organic results in search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.” – Rand Fishkin, Moz
- SEO is just one component of Search Engine Marketing, or SEM. SEM also includes online advertising, social media marketing, and other ways of increasing your business’s visibility, traffic, and leads.
The Elements of SEO
- Link Building – Search engines use links to find, index, and evaluate websites. Link building is done by earning links from relevant and authoritative sites, to make your own website more relevant and authoritative.
- On Page Content – On page content includes your text, images, videos, and other media. Search engines analyze content to decide what your site is for and what information it provides. Investing in quality content makes your site more useful for users, more visible in search results, and can make your link building much more effective.
- Technology – Your website’s code, site structure, and even the server hosting it can have a serious impact on your SEO. Some of these elements, like page load load speed, have a direct effect on the user experience. Others, such as your alt tags, are mostly for search engines to better interpret what information is on your site.
- Other Signals – Google uses citations (references to your company on the internet, with or without links), social signals (such as how many people are following you on Facebook), and other signals (such as your Yelp reviews) to determine how your website should rank. These signals can be very important for some industries and less important for others.
Search Industry Stats
- Google owns the lion’s share of the market at 70%. Yahoo is falling and Bing is rising.
- Users are largely turning to third party platforms for decision making (e.g. Yelp).
- Mobile app usage has overtaken desktop browser usage in the US.
- Google’s usage skews younger, while Yahoo and Bing’s users are generally older.
Anatomy of a SERP
- A SERP, or Search Engine Results Page, is the main battlefield for SEO.
- Google’s SERP, like most search engines’, is constantly changing. Here is a great post of all the different elements that can be seen on a google SERP.
- Even slightly different searches, such as “Pleasanton plumbing” vs. “plumber in Pleasanton”, can generate totally different SERPs.
Personalized Google Results
- Google returns searches based on personal data, such as which sites you’ve used before and what links have been shared by your contacts. It can show search rankings that other people, including your customers, won’t see.
- Using your browser’s “incognito” or “private browsing” mode will eliminate most of these personalized results. Use this gude to activate incognito mode in your browser.
- Google searches will also be tailored for your physical location, even in incognito mode. Use this guide to temporarily change your search location.
How Search Engines Rank Results
- Search engines rank results by determining which pages are the most relevant and authoritative for any given search.
- Many results could be relevant for a search like “plumber in Pleasanton”. These may include a Yelp listing, a Yelp SERP, a website for a plumbing company in Pleasanton, a website for a plumbing company in Livermore, and more.
- Authority is much more complicated. A result may have more authority if it has more links, better yelp reviews, better on-page content, or provide a better user experience than competing websites.
What Are Citations and Why Do They Matter?
- In addition to the other SEO elements, local search results (the ones in a local pack, or in the carousel) use citations to rank businesses.
- Citations are mentions of a business that typically include a street address, link, and/or phone number. Businesses with more citations, and more consistent citations, generally rank better.
- Citations can become inconsistent if you have different versions of your business name (like Navolutions vs. Navolutions Inc.), if you use several phone numbers, or if you move to a new location.
- Cleaning up inconsistent citations can be challenging and frustrating. Many websites share their lists of citations, so even one “bad” citation can appear on several websites. Other websites may require logins, phone verification, or even payment to change citations.
- Keeping track of your passwords, and using citation management tools like Yext, can have a dramatic effect on your local SEO efforts.
- One or two major algorithm updates happen every year. Here is a timeline of past updates.
- Other updates happen on a monthly, or even weekly basis.
- Many of these updates are designed to penalize less ethical SEO tactics, but can sometimes penalize legitimate SEO tactics too.
- Unless you keep track of algorithmic updates, it can be easy to lose your traffic overnight and take months to recover.
Our Biggest SEO Challenges
- Citation inconsistency – Old citations are difficult to remove from the citation web, because many sites share citations. Even slight inconsistencies can cause problems (Ste vs. Suite in a street address). Fixing botched listings can take a lot of legwork, but tools like Yext can make it easier.
- Keyword tracking – Google gives us less information each year about which searches bring people to your site, for a variety of reasons. Today, about 70% of the keywords are not shown. Visit notprovidedcount.com to see the trend.
- Client expectations – SEO has a lot of momentum. It can take months to see any results from an SEO campaign, although the effects can last years. It can also be difficult to tell which business came from SEO and which came from other marketing efforts.
- Moving targets – Google constantly changes the rules of SEO. Algorithmic updates & new webmaster guidelines can make old SEO tactics obsolete overnight. SERPs are constantly changing to reflect new kinds of searches. New ranking elements are constantly being added to the list. Tracking competitors’ efforts can also be a challenge.
Measuring and tracking success
- Google provides free tools – Analytics and Webmaster Tools – that can give you excellent data about your users, their demographics, and their behavior. Even the biggest websites on the internet typically use both tools.
- Rank tracking platforms, such as RankTrackr, can be used to estimate where your website stands for its most important searches.
- SEM Rush can be used to ballpark your website’s, or another website’s, SEO value and traffic from advertising. Results are more accurate with larger sites.
- Trackable phone numbers can be used to track phone leads from different marketing sources. These must be implemented with the help of a capable SEO provider and web developer, since they can severely damage your citations and website usability if misused.
- Different Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs, are used in different industries, and to track different goals. Your number of phone call leads, completed contact forms, products bought, visits, minutes spent on site, Facebook shares, or other signals can all be used as KPIs.
Top SEO activities to do right now
- Set up your Google Local. Create your business listing, verify it, and complete it. Upload photos and complete every single available field. Include every category that is relevant to your business. You can use this tool to browse through the available categories. You should also see which categories your competitors are using.
- Install google analytics on your site. Even if you don’t know how to read analytics data, you should still start collecting it as soon as possible. A webmaster, marketer, or SEO provider can use historic analytics data to help you estimate the effects of future marketing efforts.
- Wrap your on-site citations in Schema. The Schema markup language sends a clear signal that your business name, address, and phone number are all related. We suggest wrapping your “official” name, address, and phone number in schema, and including that in your website’s footer, or on your contact page.
- Get Reviews – Reviews on Google, Yelp, Tripadvisor, Foursquare, and other platforms have a big impact on SEO, and that impact is growing. Make it a priority to get more reviews on the platforms that matter for your industry. Don’t fake reviews, read up on the terms of service for each platform, and don’t try to get too many reviews too quickly. Your goal should be strong, steady growth.
- Develop a buyer persona – decide who your best customers are and use demographic data to decide where to focus your marketing efforts.
- Collect Your Log ins for Everything – If you ever move or get a new phone number, having a list of log ins can save a lot of time and frustration. Keep them on a secure spreadsheet on Google Drive, or in LastPass, for easy access.
- Learn more from our post, What Your Webmaster Can’t Do for You.