Posts about search engine optimization

SEO on a Budget: Simple Strategies that Work

Search engine optimization can have a relatively low cost for a high ROI, but sometimes there is no budget at all to spend on tools and software. Here’s four basic SEO improvements you can make to your site on your own (though they will take time and effort to do correctly).

Tip #1 Keyword Research

If you’ve researched SEO to any extent, you’ve definitely heard the importance of keyword research lecture. Though this topic has been written about to ad nauseam, it’s still an extremely vital part of SEO. Keyword research can show you what your customers are looking for. The language customers search with can give away valuable information such as the searchers’ level of expertise and how far down in the conversion funnel they are. As you are researching, you will notice how the keywords will start to naturally fall into groups. These groups will inform you of ways to organize and improve your current pages as well as identify new pages that you should create.

Keyword research tools help you quickly identify relevant search terms to target. Larger keyword research tools can come a hefty monthly or yearly price tag, but don’t fret if you are doing small business SEO on a limited marketing budget. There many free keyword research tools to out there to help you kickstart your SEO today.

Tip #2 Optimize Compelling Meta Tags

Optimizing your title tags and meta descriptions is a free and easy way to quickly improve your SEO. While your meta data doesn’t directly impact your website’s rank, it can help improve your site’s click-through rate in the search engine results. Use this opportunity to stand out from other search results because this may be the first impression many customers have of your site. Your title tags and meta description should entice searchers to click on your link and inform them what they will find if they do. Follow our guideline on how to stand out in the search results and increase click-through rate.

Tip #3 Create and Optimize Great Content

Your website’s content is what provides value to visitors. Content answers user queries, helps them discover related information, and builds trust. This can lead to the sharing of your content, lead generation, or an increase in conversions. All great things, right?

Content is also great for SEO. It would be difficult, if not impossible in most cases, to rank well for keywords that aren’t framed in informative or valuable content. Web crawlers can read your page’s content to determine if it matches search, meaning, if it would be useful to searchers. This is why it is so important to create well-written, informative, and unique content. Use your expertise and the keywords you found during your research to increase the relevancy of your content and optimize for search engines. To improve content even further, structure the content with appropriate title tags to improve user experience and help crawlers better understand the content.

Tip #4 Optimize Your Site Structure

Your site structure is the organization of your website’s content. Though organizing a site yourself is a bit of a manual task, an organized structure is valuable to your site in several ways. A well-organized site will improve your website’s user experience because a structured navigation will help customers find answers or products quickly and efficiently. Your site’s internal link structure (created by site structure) will also help show Google which pages of your site are the most important, the pages you want to rank highest in the search engines. Internal links pointing from subcategories to categories, for example, tells Google that your category pages are more important. This will help prevent your pages from competing with each other in the search results. Check out this guide from Reliablesoft on improving your site structure.

Continue to Improve

Improve your SEO today by following these tips. Continue to work to make your site more valuable to searchers and you will see your rankings improve and your organic traffic increase. Once you get the basics down, try using one of the many free SEO tools out there to further improve your site.

Why is SEO Important for Small Businesses?

As a small business owner, you often feel like a jack of all trades. You are responsible for overseeing your finances, managing your staff, and marketing your company to grow your business. Many small business owners feel overwhelmed at the realm of responsibilities they manage, and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) may not be on their radar as a priority. However, a well-managed SEO campaign can have long-lasting results by growing revenue and positively impacting your business’s visibility online. So, let’s dive into some of the most important reasons why SEO is beneficial for small businesses:

SEO Increases Brand Recognition

SEO is designed to make your website easily accessible to search engines while appealing to the users who are utilizing those search engines. The traffic that flows to your site from search engines is called organic traffic. By attracting organic traffic to your site, your company’s brand recognition is elevated. This is especially important for any new business working to gain visibility in front of a new customer base. SEO helps you gain visibility in front of those customers who have already determined a need for the product or service you offer but have not yet heard of your brand. 

Search Engines Generate the Most (Well-Qualified) Customers

As a business owner efficiency is key, especially on your profit & loss sheet. Think about TV advertising for a moment. TV advertising requires a large spend to reach a big audience. However, only a small segment of that audience would qualify as your potential customer. SEO is different in that it directly connects you to qualified customers without the excessive spend to reach your target audience.

In addition, organic traffic typically contributes the largest share of visitors to a company’s website. This is why it is so essential to ensure your site is optimized appropriately. Failing to do so prevents you from receiving your share of qualified visitors, along with the revenue that is associated with those visits.

SEO Evens the Playing Field

As a small business, you could be competing with another business down the block, or a global corporation. Let’s say you own a coffee shop for example. How do you compete with the international coffee chains of the world with green-haired mermaids on their cups? SEO offers that opportunity. If someone is searching online for a coffee shop nearby, having an optimized website allows your business to display within the very same search results where larger businesses are getting listed. SEO levels the playing field by giving your business online visibility to well-qualified customers, allowing you to steal market share from larger competitors. 

SEO is Relatively Inexpensive

In terms of ROI, SEO is one of the best long-term investments you can make for your growing business. Unlike other forms of digital marketing, truly good SEO can make an impact that lasts several years. If you are a new business owner, constructing a strong SEO foundation for your website is critical to building your company’s digital presence in the marketplace. You can start by creating an organized site structure, designing the site to provide a good user experience, and writing optimized title tags and meta descriptions for your web pages. But it doesn’t end there. SEO is constantly evolving. And just like Google’s algorithms, best practices are updated regularly. So as your budget allows, you will need to hire a specialist who can commit the time necessary to grow your brand.

In today’s world, businesses can no longer afford to ignore their digital presence. With a little bit of guidance, SEO empowers you to set your business apart from the competition and highlight your unique selling points in a competitive market. If you have questions about your digital marketing, we’re here to help. Leverage Marketing is built on 17 years of digital marketing experience. Contact us to learn more about our vast array of services and discover how we can tailor a strategy to meet your needs.

Getting Started with Your Google My Business Listing

Signals from Google My Business (GMB) listings are the most influential ranking factor for local search results. Potential customers use the information provided to learn about your business and decide if they contact you or convert. Take advantage of the free and easy to use platform for local visibility. Here’s how to get started.

Claim and Verify Your Listing

First you need to get your listing on the map. To do this you need to either create a new listing or claim one that already exists. You will then need to confirm your ownership of the business. Google can send you a PIN verification code or recognize ownership using a few of methods:

  • Sending a postcard to the physical address of the business
  • Call or text the listed phone number
  • Send an email to the email address associated with the account
  • Verifying your business in Google Search Console

If you don’t verify via Google Search Console, just enter the PIN provided and you’re good to go.

Fill Out Your Business Listing

Now it’s time to add information to your listing. Providing accurate information will help customer locate and contact your business. The information on your listing will also help differentiate your business from competitors. There are plenty of features to take advantage of to completely optimize your listing like adding appointment URLs and services, but there are a few critical pieces of information you must include.

Your businesses name, address, and phone number (NAP)

Add your business’ current contact information and don’t be tempted to keyword stuff your business name. You will still need to add an address if you travel to customers, but the address will be hidden on your listing.

Primary and additional categories

Choose the right category for your business. Keep in mind that only the primary category gets added to your listing, so make sure you choose the most applicable one. Additional categories, while not public, can help your business show up for relevant searches.

Business Hours

Add your current business hours and make sure to update this if your hours change. This is vital information for customers who are trying to call or visit your business. Nothing is more frustrating for a customer than showing up to a business that is closed when their business listing says open.

Add Your Website

Add your business’ URL so customers can learn more about the company and the services or products offered. Businesses with a single location should link to their homepage. Consider linking to location pages if your business has multiple locations.

Add Photos

Customers love looking at photos, in fact, Google announced that “businesses with photos receive 42% more requests for driving direction to their location from users on Google, and 35% more clicks through to their website than businesses that don’t have photos.” Take advantage of this opportunity by loading up your listing with great photos.

Manage Your Reviews

When a business is listed on Google customer can easily leave review if they are logged into their account. These reviews show up in a tab on your business listing along with a star rating. Reviews also help build trust with customers, Brightlocal revealed that 73% of consumers trust a business more when they read positive reviews. There is also evidence that Google reviews help ranking and SEO. Actively reaching out for and responding to reviews will create trust with your customers and send positive signals to Google so make sure to take advantage.

Look at GMB Insights

See how customers search for your business with using insights from GMB. View whether customers find your business from a direct or a discovery search. Direct searches involve customers searching for your business name or location and discovery searches are from people searching locally for generic categories (such as urgent care near me). GMB insights will also tell you how many customers visited your website, requested directions, and called you within a given period of time. Leverage this data to your advantage to help further optimize your GMB listing and website.

Monitor Your Listing

Google loves community input and allows anyone to suggest an edit to your listing. While this is meant to be a helpful tool to keep information accurate and up-to-date spammers can take advantage of this function to add incorrect information and lead customers away from your business. Just be sure to check your listing regularly to make sure all information is correct.

Keep these tips in mind when creating a GMB listing and stay on top of new updates and releases from Google to keep your listing optimized.

SEO for Hotels: A Beginner’s Guide

It’s a common misconception that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a one-size-fits-all solution for businesses. The truth is that SEO tactics can vary depending on your industry. This is especially true within the hotel industry because competition is fierce, and most consumers begin researching hotels for trips at least three months in advance. Therefore, it’s vital that your hotel has prime visibility within search engines to capture not only the consumers who are ready to book, but also those who are still in the research stages of the booking journey. Today, we will cover some unique SEO strategies for hotels that can carve a successful path for your business.

Audit & Update Local Citations

Local citations are websites that provide information about local businesses (i.e. TripAdvisor, Yellow Pages, Yelp, etc.). Having updated location citations plays a key role in achieving prominent rankings in the search engine results pages (SERPs). In fact, Google trusts local citation sites even if potential customers do not visit them because they are established and indexed websites.

Google crawls the web for your business information and any inconsistencies in your UNAP (URL, Name, Address, Phone Number) information decreases the organic visibility of your site. Hotels are often listed in these directories. Frequently auditing and updating your local citations is crucial to ensuring your hotel displays in the SERPs.

Link Building

Obtaining links from other websites to yours is an important component of any digital strategy. Inbound links are particularly important for hotels. This is because they work as an important ranking factor for Google when determining how hotels should be displayed. In addition, having 3rd party links to your website can lead to bookings and awareness as well. However, obtaining those links initially can be a bit difficult and may require some manual outreach. One handy tip is to think of local websites your potential visitors may be viewing. For example, perhaps there is a marathon coming up in your area; or some sort of popular event will be held nearby. It would be beneficial to reach out to the webmaster of the event’s website and try to get your hotel linked on their site.


Another example of great websites for hotels to link to include wedding venues and universities. Plastic surgeons’ websites are also mutually beneficial, because their patients will need a restful place to recuperate after their procedure. Just know that some businesses may require some sort of group discount to get listed – so it is a good idea to get your sales team involved.

Best Keywords for Hotels

The best keywords to target within the hotel industry are those that are hyper local to the hotel’s location. For example, let’s say your hotel is in a suburb (such as Plano, Texas) of a major metro market (such as Dallas, Texas). When a user searches for the term, “Dallas hotels”, Google only displays hotels directly in the city-center.

But when a user searches for hotels in Plano, Texas, only hotels near the suburb of Plano will display in the search results.

Google’s algorithm is highly sophisticated, and Google’s #1 priority is to serve highly relevant results to its users. So, even if it’s tempting to target a term with high search volume such as “Dallas hotels,” that type of keyword is highly competitive, and your hotel will only have a chance at ranking for that keyword if it is in that exact geographical area.

Website Content

Changes are often happening at hotels. Perhaps your hotel had a recent name change or an upcoming event is occurring nearby. It’s important that this information is prominently displayed for customers on your site. Failing to notify visitors about certain updates (such as hotel construction for a renovation) leads to a poor customer experience and negative reviews. Negative reviews cause long-term SEO problems in the future. In addition, having fresh content on your website is another one of Google’s ranking factors and it plays an important role in terms of strong SEO performance.

Overall Hotel SEO Strategy

Crafting a hotel SEO strategy requires thoughtful research about your customers and their purchasing journey. It is also important to implement a unique strategy that considers your hotel’s brand, amenities, location, and seasonality. The tips covered in this guide are intended to work as a starting point to highlighting your hotel online. If you have questions about your hotel’s digital marketing, we’re here to help. Leverage Marketing is built on 17 years digital marketing experience. Contact us to learn more about our vast array of services and discover how we can tailor a strategy to meet your needs.

How to Respond to Positive and Negative Google Reviews

If you own a business, there’s a good chance that you have customer reviews on your Google My Business (GMB) listing. Because customers often look at a company’s reviews before deciding whether they will give them their business, it is important to regularly practice review management. One of the easiest ways to manage your Google business reviews is to respond to them using GMB’s owner response feature. Today we’ll explore a few tips that will not only make your responses to reviews genuine and helpful to customers, but also beneficial to your overall digital marketing strategy.

Why Are GMB Reviews Important?

GMB listings help customers find and contact businesses. A well set up GMB profile can help your business rank locally for your targeted keyword. However, you’ll need more than accurate contact information and pictures to fully optimize your GMB listing. According to Moz’s 2017 survey of local search ranking factors, review signals are one of the top ranking factors for businesses trying to rank locally.

Reviews can influence customers as they search for local businesses, so it makes sense that Google would prioritize review signals as a ranking factor. In fact, in their 2017 customer review survey, Brightlocal found that:

  • 97% of consumers search for local businesses online
  • 12% search for local businesses online every day
  • 73% of respondents agreed that positive reviews make them more likely to trust a business
  • 85% of respondents said that they trusted web reviews as much as personal recommendations
  • 30% named review responses from the owner as a key factor when judging local businesses

These findings show how easy it is for reviews to affect your business. Whether that affect is positive or negative may depend on how well you manage your reviews. One of the best (and free) tools you can utilize for review management is responding to reviews through your GMB account. Responding to customer reviews is a great way to build trust and can provide valuable feedback about your business, just make sure that your responses are useful, professional, and polite.

Tips for Responding to Positive Reviews

Congratulations! A customer enjoyed your business’s product or service so much that they left you a positive review on your GMB listing. Let the customer know how much you appreciate his or her business by responding with GMB’s owner response feature. The following tips will help you utilize review responses as an effective reputation management tool.

·        Acknowledge the reviewer by name

Starting your message with your customer’s name assures that your response will grab the reviewer’s attention. A greeting that includes the reviewer’s name shows that you are personally acknowledging the reviewer and his or her thoughts.

·        Reference details from the review

Your response should touch on the details that the customer mentions in his or her review. This shows that you read what the reviewer wrote closely, and you took the time to write out a genuine response. Responses to positive reviews are often generic thank you messages that get copied and pasted repeatedly. Show that your business is a step above the rest in customer service with personalized responses.

·        Give tips or advice that relate to the review

This relates to the previous tip but goes one step further. If a customer mentions something specific about your business, it can be helpful to give the customer helpful advice related to his or her review. As an example, if you own a restaurant and a customer writes a review saying how much she enjoyed your patio area, you might respond with a tip about the best times of year for outdoor seating in your area or let the customer know that she can request patio seating when making a reservation. Giving customers helpful tips related to their reviews not only shows them how great your customer service is, but also encourages the customers to become repeat visitors.

Tips for Responding to Negative Reviews

google my business map iconNegative reviews online can be especially harmful to small businesses that only have a few reviews. If you only have a handful of reviews and a disgruntled customer leaves you a one-star rating, your overall rating can be dramatically affected. While you can’t delete these reviews, you may be able to defuse the situation appropriately responding to the review. The tips given for responding to positive reviews are still relevant for negative reviews, but you can take your response to the next level by following this advice:

·        Respond promptly

If you are dealing with a recent negative review it is important to respond quickly while the experience is still fresh on the customer’s mind. However, make sure to investigate the problem thoroughly before responding so that you are adequately prepared to give a thoughtful response. The quicker you are able respond to the review the more likely it is that you and the customer can come to a resolution.

·        Offer sincere condolences

If your customers have negative experiences with your business, you should use your response to sincerely apologize that their visits were not up to expectations. Offering genuine condolences can show the reviewer that you truly regret that he or she had a negative experience when dealing with your business. This can make your business seem more human and approachable and even win back customers.

·        Resolve the situation if possible

If the reviewer is complaining about something you can fix, it is best resolve it. By responding to the review and letting the customer know that you are actively working on a resolution, you will show the customer (and others reading the review) that your business takes customer satisfaction seriously. If the issue is resolved, there is a chance that the customer may edit or delete their review. If the customer doesn’t delete the review, you still get the benefit of other customers seeing how professionally you handle customer complaints.

Reputation management is an important for businesses, especially local ones. Respond to Google business reviews to alleviate the stress of customers who had poor experiences and thank those who wrote to say they enjoyed your service. Use these tips to show existing and potential customers that your business’s customer service doesn’t end at the register.

Are Whitepapers Still Useful (and Will They Be in the Future?)

Whitepapers are prolific in the marketing sphere, but few marketers (digital or traditional) examine the true utility of whitepapers to their consumers. They are written to serve a purpose and do so often, but even in the wake of excellent engagement data, the creators and distributors of whitepapers are left to wonder just how useful the content really is.

But web content isn’t going anywhere. Over one billion blog posts have been written in the last year (counted from the date of the publishing of this blog post minus one year), and that only counts the content that has reached RSS feeds. Just keep multiplying that; there are countless web pages, emails, ads, and whitepapers written on top of that number, and even Forbes has touted the benefits of generating whitepapers for leads and engagement.

Whitepapers are here to stay, and we believe they may be closer to the well-rounded, deeply researched, and informative content you’ll see much more of in the future.

Where Did Whitepapers Come from?

The term white paper came into use less than a century ago in England. The earliest known example, the Churchill White Paper, was written in response to the Jaffa Riots in 1921, and it served as the basis of the original use of the term white paper, a government-issued document that made a firm suggestion for policy change based on thoroughly-researched evidence.

Only in the early 1990s did marketers begin using the term more broadly to define a document that combined logic with facts and statistics to build credibility or sway potential customers in the direction of purchase. As marketing in the digital realm became more prevalent during the maturation of the internet, so too did the usefulness of the whitepaper in bringing curious readers to businesses of which they had never heard before.

So Whitepapers Are a Modern Marketing Tool

whitepaper document with generic textBusiness-to-business (B2B) marketers use whitepapers most often as a means of generating web traffic, converting potential customers into leads, and generally engaging with real and potential customers who seek valuable information.

Largely, today’s whitepaper market is part of a concerted content marketing effort tied to search engine optimization (SEO). Businesses with a B2B target can authoritatively raise awareness of their services or products while simultaneously building brand awareness, thought leadership, lead volume, and overall value.

How Can We Use Whitepapers Today?

Since they are well-researched and authoritative, whitepapers make great incentives for users to convert to potential customers or clients on your website. We call this approach gating.

By requiring that interested customers provide their contact information in exchange for free and highly valuable content, you essentially build a gate around the content. The ticket to entry is usually just a few seconds of the customer’s time, but it could turn into a huge business opportunity for those companies who are quick with the follow-up.

You can do more than gate your content, though. Whitepapers are an incredible opportunity to gain clout in your industry. By drawing logical conclusions about your products and services based on peer-reviewed information that already exists, then publishing and promoting those conclusions in a whitepaper to leaders and influencers in the industry, you can get important voices resonating about your offerings.

As more businesses and curious consumers seek your content and find value in it, they will build that value for free by sharing your content and engaging with it. Plus, whitepapers are inherently more SEO friendly since they contain larger amounts of information-rich text that pleases both users and web crawlers.

So, yes, whitepapers are still useful and will absolutely be so in the future. In fact, it’s most likely that, as voice search technology and machine learning become more prevalent, whitepapers will become the go-to standard for outputting valuable web content. Get those fingers ready for typing, marketers.

We’ve written stacks of whitepapers for our clients and would be happy to help you, too. Talk to us about our content offerings today!

How to Make SEO-Friendly Videos

Creating videos is a great way to inform and engage an audience. However, for your video campaign to be successful, it should also reach users who aren’t already familiar with your brand. To do this, it’s important your video displays in the search results for related search engine queries. Although there are a number of techniques that can be implemented, let’s dive into some of the methods that will give your videos the greatest chance at gaining visibility.

Video Optimization Best Practices

1. Take Advantage of Video Markup: The very first step in making your video SEO-friendly is to help Google properly index them. In most cases, the page where your video is embedded is not descriptive enough to allow search engines to index your video. Google requires three key pieces of information to properly index a video:

  1. A title
  2. A description
  3. A thumbnail

To pass this information to Google, you have two options: On-page markup or video sitemaps. On-page markup is hidden, descriptive text added within the source code of your web page. Schema is a markup format that has been collaboratively designed and supported by the three major search engines: Google, Yahoo!, and Bing. To learn more about on-page markup and implementing it on your site, visit Video sitemaps are XML documents which describe your videos to search engines. You can learn more about video sitemaps to get started.

2. Optimize Text Content: Similar to optimizing webpages, keyword research should be performed before creating your video to find popular terms people are searching for related to your video’s topic. You can find relevant terms by simply typing a query into the search bar of YouTube or Google.

search bar auto-population results

Optimizing the title tag and meta description for the page on your site where the video will be embedded will also help search engines understand what your video is about. It’s also important to make sure the keywords are highly relevant to your video’s topic and not just working as click bait that will disappoint the user and make them bounce off the page. If you’re hosting the video on your site, make sure there is supplemental information relevant to the video’s topic on that same page. The goal is to provide relevant, informative content that encourages users to share your video.

3. Include a Video Transcript: Speaking of content, adding a transcript to your video is another way to include text that search engines can crawl to determine what your video is about. Video transcripts also provide additional room to optimize with keywords, making your video more SEO-friendly. In addition, video transcripts make your videos more accessible to other users – especially those who may be hearing impaired or are not a native speaker.

video transcript example

4. Upload the Video to Multiple Locations: Hosting the video on your site is a great way to attract visitors to your website and convert leads. In addition, hosting the video on your own domain ensures search engines won’t direct traffic to another site. However, if you’re wanting to increase brand awareness, posting your video on multiple platforms (i.e. YouTube & Vimeo) will allow you to reach a larger audience who may not already be familiar your brand. In addition, publishing your videos on YouTube and other video hosting platforms will ensure your videos are automatically optimized for mobile viewing. This brings us to our next point…

5. Ensure Your Video is Mobile-Friendly: In late 2016, Google rolled out mobile-first indexing, meaning Google will predominantly use the mobile version of a site’s content for indexing and ranking. These days, most users are viewing videos on their smartphones. So, it’s more important than ever to ensure your site and videos are responsive to mobile-viewing. Additionally, it’s best to avoid using Adobe Flash. Although Flash has some advantages, this technology typically slows down the loading speed of your site. Slow sites typically have less user engagement, higher bounce rates, and lower organic visibility overall.

mobile device video

This is not a comprehensive list of optimization techniques, but these methods will ensure your videos are primed to gain greater visibility within search engines. Although the technical aspects of video optimization are necessary, a video campaign must not ignore the human element. Crafting a well-optimized video that is informative, entertaining, and evokes emotion will pave the path for tremendous results.

A Guide to Getting Started in Google Search Console

Search engines are generally a big mystery to everyday web users. We generally find what we’re looking for, and that’s all we care about, right?

If it’s YOUR site that you want people to find, you might be thinking, “why is my website not on Google? How do you submit a site to search engines?” Luckily, search engines aren’t the big mystery that many assume them to be – with the help of Google Search Console, it’s actually possible to help search engines index your site and serve it up to users.

Google Search Console (formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools) is a useful (and free!) tool you can use to help search engines understand your site, and to help you monitor the way that your site is being indexed.

What is Google Search Console?

Google Search Console is a free tool from Google that can help you monitor your site’s appearance in search, search performance, and search engine indexation. It differs from its better-known cousin, Google Analytics, because while Google Analytics is primarily a monitoring/reporting tool, Google Search Console also offers a range of technical insights and tools that help you take action to improve your site’s search performance.

What is Google Search Console Used For?

Google Search Console is a huge help for anyone with a website because it can help you monitor and control (to some extent) the way that Google “reads” your site. If you’re wondering why your website isn’t on Google’s first page when you perform a search for your brand name, Google Search Console can be used to help you diagnose the problem and improve your visibility.

Google Search Console or Google Analytics: Which One Do I Need?

Ideally, you should use both! These tools measure entirely different metrics, so if you only have one or the other implemented on your site, you’re missing out on a lot of opportunities and information.

How Do I Access Google Search Console?

Luckily, Google Search Console is not only free, but it’s also relatively straightforward to set up on your site! You’ll need a Google account to access this tool, so if you already have Google account (which you do if you currently have Google Analytics on your site), you can jump right in – if not, it’s easy enough to do that here.

Once you’ve done, that, you can access Google Search Console here.

google search console home

How to Set Up Google Search Console

  1. Add your website as a Property.

First, paste your site’s complete URL as it appears on your homepage into the space allotted on the GSC’s welcome page. Be sure to add the complete and correct URL – take care to be sure the “HTTP” or “HTTPS” is included in the URL, and corresponds accurately to the current version of the site. Do not remove the “/” (trailing slash) at the end of your site URL.

  1. Verify your site ownership.

Next, you’ll need to verify your ownership of your site. This step helps ensure that you’re the only one who can make important changes to your site. Google Search Console verification can be tricky for first-timers – we recommend following Google’s instructions on the page, and reaching out to your site developer or a digital marketing expert for help if you’re unsure how to successfully verify your site’s ownership.

Once you’ve chosen your method and taken the appropriate steps as indicated, hit “Verify” to gain access!

google search console step 2

PRO TIP: Check the “Alternate Methods” tab for other verification options; often, this can make Google Search Console verification easier if you are already using a tool such as Google Analytics or Google Tag Manager on your site.

google search console step 2 tip

  1. You’re in! (Hopefully)

If your site verification was successful, you’ll be able to continue to your Google Search Console dashboard and begin your adventure. If the verification was unsuccessful, don’t give up – try another suggested verification method or two. If you’ve exhausted your options for verification, it’s time to call your developer or digital marketing team – you won’t be able to use Google Search Console without verification.

How to Use Google Search Console

Now that you’re in, the dashboard may seem kind of overwhelming. Luckily, if you’re a business owner, you don’t have to know absolutely everything about every tool to get the most out of Google Search Console – by knowing the following three highlights to hit, you make an impact on your site performance without devoting a whole week of work towards becoming a webmaster.

Note: Google Search Console has recently introduced a brand-new interface for GSC, but at time of writing, not all features have been fully moved over to the new version and remain on the old interface. I will indicate on each feature if I am referring to Google Search Console Classic or the New Google Search Console.


google search console classic



google search console new



(You can toggle between the two different dashboards by finding the link on the left sidebar on both versions which indicates access to the other version.)

  1. See Your Site’s Visibility with the Performance Report (View on New Google Search Console)

One of the most useful reporting tools in GSC is the Performance Report. You can access this report in both the new and old versions, but the new dashboard offers some additional functionality and therefore is recommended. You can get to this report via the left side navigation menu, under “Status>Performance”.

From here, Google Search Console helps you monitor a lot of useful info about your site – primarily, how many clicks it receives from search and how many impressions your links are receiving from the search results pages.

These metrics differ from others that you may be familiar with in Google Analytics, such as Sessions or Users. “Clicks” purely refers to visitors that click on one of your site’s links from the search result page, and “Impressions” are gathered every time your site appears for someone’s search – the user need not click on your link for it to count as an impression. “Sessions” and “Users” in Google Analytics only reflect activity once a user gets to your site, while GSC’s Performance report focuses on the user’s journey to getting to your site in the first place.

google search glasses

Here’s how this info can be a weapon: maybe you’re getting a ton of Impressions, but very few Clicks. You’ll see that reflected in the “Average CTR (click through rate)” metric on the report, which indicates what percentage of impressions turned into clicks. If you’re just not getting as many clicks as you feel you should, maybe your page titles are leaving something to be desired. You can read more about improving your click through rate here.

What about the other part of the Performance report? You can see how many clicks and impressions that your site gets for specific user searches (under the “Queries” tab) as well as which of your pages receive the most clicks and impressions. This can help you identify how your users are finding your site and help you gain insights on your site’s keyword visibility, brand name, and so much more.

PRO TIP: Use the “Compare” feature under the Date control on the top left side of this report to get an idea of if your site is becoming more or less visible over time. This way, you can compare click through rates and page performance, as well as keep an eye out for poorly-performing pages or dipping click through rates.

  1. How to Submit Your Site to Google (View on New Google Search Console)

One of the most vital skills you can gather from this article is how to create and submit a sitemap for Google Search Console. Sitemaps help Google “read” your site the way you want it to be read and indexed.

XML sitemap creation and submission in Google Search Console can be quite straightforward, depending

on what platform your site is using. Most modern platforms (WordPress, Shopify, Magento, etc) offer an automatically generated sitemap or have easy plugins that allow you to create and customize your sitemap in no time, without any technical knowledge required. Get in touch with your web developer or friendly neighborhood marketing expert if you’re having trouble generating a sitemap for your site.

Your site’s XML sitemap can usually be found just like a regular page of your site, most commonly in this format: (except replace “example” with your site domain). Check out your sitemap and see if it looks like a good representation of the pages on your site. If so, copy the complete URL of your sitemap and navigate to “Sitemaps” on the new Google Search Console dashboard. To submit your site to Google, simply paste the address of your sitemap into the allotted space.

Why do this? Well, while Google is generally smart enough to locate a site without the help of a submitted sitemap, sitemap submission is a much faster way of pointing Google over to your site and indicating for them to add it to their index.

If you’re wondering how to get Google to crawl your site, this is how you tell it to. If you’re curious why you site isn’t on Google’s results when looking for your brand, it might be because Google hasn’t found your site yet! Go, submit away!

Keep in mind that Google doesn’t index your site instantaneously – it could be anywhere from 4 days to 4 weeks before Google fully indexes your site. You can keep an eye on the “Index Status” report within Google Search Console Classic to see how many of your pages are indexed by Google.

google search console index status

  1. How to Check for Penalties and Spam (View Google Search Console Classic)

Let’s face it: the internet isn’t perfect. Some site owners try to “game” Google’s algorithm and rank #1 for every

big keyword, and Google knows this. Other site owners fall victim to hacking and spam. Google’s algorithm has gotten very advanced and knows when you’re trying to game the system, and has learned how to identify spammy sites and protect users from stumbling across harmful or useless content. When a Google crawl finds evidence of a spammy, slick, or hacked site, it will demote that site’s rankings in the search results to protect its users.

If you’re checking your Google Analytics reports or playing around with the Performance report in Google Search Console and notice a serious drop in your site’s visibility and traffic, you’re likely to be concerned. When you feel like something’s awry, your first stop should be to check Google Search Console’s Manual Actions and Security Issues reports.

These two reports are currently found in the classic Google Search Console interface, in the left hand menu. A little more detail on each report:

  • Manual Actions: this report checks for activity that is marked as spam on your site. If Google finds evidence that your site contains spammy content, you will see a warning in this section and instructions on how to best deal with the issue and return your site’s visibility to normal. If no manual webspam actions are found, all is well on this front.

google search console manual actions

  • Security Issues: This report checks for signs of malware and hacked websites that can be harmful to you and visitors alike. Security issues can be another factor in a big drop in traffic, so keep an eye on this report if you suspect you’ve been hacked. Google also provides a few resources on the Security Issues page to help you manage a potential hacking situation.

google search console security issues


If you check both of those reports and see nothing unusual, it’s possible that there are other issues affecting the visibility of your site and the recent traffic slowdown. Google won’t notify you of every single algorithm update that might affect your visibility, so the responsibility to stay within Google’s recommended guidelines for search engine visibility lands on you at the end of the day.

However, teaming up with SEO experts can help you manage the murky waters of search engine ranking drops. The right SEO consultants can help you navigate Google Search Console, among other tools, and take care of the big stuff that overwhelms small to medium size businesses.

If you think a recent algorithm update is the reason why your website is not on Google’s top spot, or you just want to make sure your site is being read by Google the way you want it to, get in touch with our team of SEO all-stars today. We’re tackling big questions in and out of Google Search Console every day, and we know what it takes to gain the visibility you need on the search results.

How PPC and SEO Work Together

Does your company separate its search engine optimization (SEO) and pay per click (PPC) teams into distinct silos? If these teams never speak to each other in your business or digital marketing agency, you’re limiting your ability to maximize traffic and conversion opportunities. Digital marketing strategy is a dynamic environment and combining insights and resources from the paid and organic world is the best way to meet goals and exceed expectations.

PPC and SEO have similar objectives: increasing viewership for websites (regarding clicks), raising conversion rates and lowering costs, but they achieve it through different means. It stands to reason that combining the two methods only increases the prominence and leads to a more successful search strategy.

The Basics

If you’re confused about the difference between SEO and PPC, it’s easy to separate them into two distinct categories:

  • SEO uses on-page optimization, including altering metadata and keywords in content, so that search engines can crawl a site and rank it bases on relevance. Some additional factors contribute to SEO value and misconceptions about how it works today.
  • PPC is a strategy where businesses pay for advertisements on various platforms including Google AdWords, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Instagram to drive traffic back to relevant landing pages on their sites.

By integrating SEO and PPC, there are many possible benefits, including an increase in organic traffic, increased paid clicks, savings in ad spend and increased profits.

But if you silo your teams, you’ll never achieve those goals. So, here’s how to utilize the resources of paid and organic search to help the other out.

Share Information

purple and green hands representing seo and ppc


SEO can help paid advertising and vice versa by sharing information from each team. While both departments’ work can get users to you or your client’s website, it’s high-quality content with SEO that keeps them there. Paid ads get to the user quickly, while results from SEO take longer to verify. PPC copy that’s performing well can be used to inform SEO and content strategy. If certain verbiage appeals to your key demographics, utilize it in key sections of the site.

There’s no question that SEOs and paid search analysts both work tirelessly to develop unique content, but they often don’t share their data or insights. One of the most important items they can share to strengthen both teams’ efforts is keywords.

Keyword Sharing

For paid campaigns and SEO efforts, you need the right keywords. They’re not necessarily aimed at the consumer at the same time in their sales process, but in both cases, they’re integral to the process. In the case of paid ads, strategists use keywords to target consumers who are closer to making a purchase or deciding on a conversion. In the SEO world, keywords are an essential part of ranking a website on search engines and developing keyword strategy.

With the increase of voice search in digital marketing, longer tail keywords and phrases are becoming even more common, so combining efforts can help both teams create a coordinated message from first glance at the product with SEO until final purchase with targeted ads.

Increase Your Social Media Visibility

Ad targeting has only increased in its specificity over the last several years. With social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, the PPC team creates ads that target incredibly specific groups. The results of these campaigns contain valuable data about key demographics for your product, which the SEO team can then use in turn to write new content and refine SEO strategy. As ad technology improves, the synergy between PPC and SEO will only grow, and targeting will get even more specific with machine learning and artificial intelligence tools.

Maximize the Ability to Own Google SERPs

One of the most important benefits to combining paid and organic efforts is added exposure on the search engine results pages (SERPs). Some companies are tempted to reduce or even eliminate PPC spend if they rank #1 for a given search term. However, it’s important to remember that for most results page, the first one to three results is paid ads. If you can dominate in both paid and organic search results, you can not only a great increase in traffic but give the impression to potential customers that you’re an important presence in your market.

Don’t keep your SEO and PPC teams from helping each other out. With Leverage Marketing’s satellite marketing services, all our services work together to meet and exceed your expectations.

Do Google Reviews Help Rankings & SEO?

The short answer is yes, Google Reviews do help improve search rankings and overall SEO efforts. While there are a lot of factors involved in search rankings, online customer reviews can be a strong signal to search engines that communicates trustworthiness and authority. In an era in which competition has gotten tougher for small businesses on the web, managing online reviews is a way to differentiate your business and raise your visibility in the search results.

How Do We Know Reviews Matter?

When you think about SEO, reviews from customers aren’t often the first thing that comes to mind. With all the other major SEO focus areas to sort through, such as content creation and link building, reviews just don’t get much attention. But they should – especially if your business is a local one.

According to the 2017 Local SEO Ranking Factors study performed by Local SEO Guide, Google My Business reviews that included the searched-for keyword were the second-most influential factor when examining a local business’ performance in the “Local Pack”, the box of local search and map results that appears at the top of relevant searches in Google.

google serp for cat shelter query with local reviews

You can see this in action for the query in the screenshot above. When I searched for “cat shelter”, one of the factors Google used to determine which businesses to display in the Local Pack was reviews. Specifically, notice the snippets of reviews at the bottom of each business’ space – my search terms (and sometimes similar or semantically-related ones, such as “adoption”) are bolded, indicating Google’s determination of relevance.

In fact, the only search ranking factor that was found to be more important than reviews is the total amount of additional organic rankings – in other words, if the site is SEO-friendly and already has great organic rankings for lots of terms, the site is more likely to show up in the Local Pack.

What if you aren’t a local business? Do reviews still matter? If your business operates in a strictly ecommerce realm or has no true physical location, there’s still research that backs up the importance of reviews for SEO. Review management platform Yotpo studied the impact of adding customer reviews onto a sample of online businesses’ websites. Over the 9 month study, Google organic pageviews increased from somewhere around 5.5k a month to a staggering 8k a month. Not bad!

Why Do Reviews Matter for SEO?

Research is cool and everyone likes to see charts of businesses getting more traffic, but you’re probably still unsure how online reviews affect businesses’ rankings in this way. There are actually a few relatively straightforward explanations for why Google reviews do help rankings.

  1. Google trusts your customers more than it trusts you.

Okay, that’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but the fact is that Google depends on signals to determine whether a site is worth good rankings or not. We’ve seen this since the very first days of Google with the importance of links. When your site receives a link from another relevant site, Google sees that as a kind of endorsement of trust, and rewards you with better visibility. Similarly, when a customer reviews your business (good or bad), it tells Google that not only is your business a real, legit operation, but that other people have interacted with it and can help future potential customers make decisions. In short, Google loves this kind of stuff.

  1. Google likes to read.

Like the bookworm in your life, Google “reads” your site to understand the world (or in this case, the Internet). The more content that it has available to read, the more it will know about your business. When you leverage customer reviews on your site for SEO, or generate them on Google My Business, Google has lots of fresh content to read and lots of keywords to add to its understanding of your business.

Remember how I searched “cat shelter” and Google pulled my query out as a keyword from the businesses’ reviews? Customers will unintentionally describe your products and services to Google, and those reviews add SEO value to your business without the customers even knowing that they’re helping you. Reviews can even help fill in the content gaps that may exist on your website, and increase your rankings and overall visibility that way.

  1. Great reviews = More stars = More clicks.

Like it or not, people trust reviews. Think about it this way – if you’re faced with a Local Pack and two of the businesses have 2-star ratings while the third has 5-star ones, which one are you more likely to click on?

SEO rankings have long been known to be influenced by click through rates. If a high percentage of searches choose your site from the search results, Google assumes you’re doing something right and will reward your site with better rankings. Reviews can play a big part with click through rates, especially if you’re generating glowing reviews regularly. By enticing clicks with high ratings, you’ll likely see a boost in rankings, too.

How Can Businesses Manage Online Reviews for Higher Rankings?

shiny orange google review starLuckily, if your business is doing good work, online review management shouldn’t be TOO taxing on your resources. There are lots of ways to get the most out of your reviews, but one of the most important ones is to incorporate reviews across your website. Depending on your type of website and your business, there are lots of tools for doing this, and implementation can vary, but take a look at tools like Yotpo or Kudobuzz, which can be used to tie your site in to existing reviews, generate new ones, and drive trust among potential customers.

In the end, though, you should include reviews in your SEO strategy. Hiring an SEO agency is a great choice for small to medium businesses looking to build but not looking to pay for an internal team.

At Leverage Marketing, review management is just one tactic we use when crafting the holistic SEO strategies we tailor to our clients. If you’re ready to see what reviews can do for your SEO and your business, get in touch with us today.