Posts about search engine optimization

What to Know About Keyword Rankings (and How to Check Them)

Let’s face it: almost nobody looks companies up in the phone book anymore. Whether you’re a local or national business, you’re probably aware that people are largely finding your business online, be it through your own website or through third-party sites like Amazon or Yelp. Marketing channels such as word-of-mouth still play a huge part in growing a business, and old-school promotional tactics such as direct mail still have a place in the game, but if you’re looking to grow a business in 2017, you’re going to want to show up on the search results pages when people look for what you offer.

Hence, the SEO world’s interest in tracking keyword rankings. You may have heard this general phrase thrown around by your colleagues or digital marketing consultants before, but how are these mystical keyword search rankings determined, and how do you keep track of them?

What Are Keyword Rankings?

coffee shop example search rankingsKeyword ranking positions are simple to understand. Basically, what rankings measure is where your site shows up on the search page for any given keyword.

Say you have a website for your coffee shop, and you want people to be able to find your website when they look for coffee shops in your area. The good news is, you see your website at #4 on the Google results page when you search for “coffee shops Austin TX” – yay! But when you search “restaurants Austin TX” or “cafes Austin TX”, you don’t see your site on the results page until you click into the 5th “O” in “Gooooooogle.”

This means that your site is ranking #4 on Google for the term “coffee shops Austin TX”, and, because each search results page includes 10 search results, it is ranking 50-something for “cafes Austin TX.”

How Are Keyword Rankings Determined?

It’s pretty straightforward: your page is ranked according to how relevant it is to the searcher’s query (keyword). So, as a coffee shop in Austin, TX, your site is going to be very relevant for that particular query, and will likewise rank well as long as other SEO factors are solid. However, your website just is not as relevant for someone searching “restaurants Austin TX”, because search engines realize that your café is not the best possible match for what a searcher is looking for when they search for a restaurant.

Can you game the system and hire an SEO firm to help your coffee shop’s site rank #1 for restaurant-related searches? You can try, but fair warning: failing to fulfill a searcher’s expectations by promising the answer to their query but not delivering is a dangerous game. When visitors don’t find what they’re looking for, they will likely bounce right off your site, and your rankings will suffer. Don’t stretch the truth – focus on your rankings for search queries that you can confidently fulfill.

Why Should You Care About Checking Your Keyword Ranking Position?

As we all know, the best place to hide a dead body is on the second page of Google. Continuing with our coffee shop example, then, your business is essentially not showing up to anyone searching for “cafes Austin TX.” The websites on the first search engine results page receive almost 95% of web traffic, so not many people are going to find you on that 5th page.

Don’t let your site be the dead body. Tracking your average keyword rankings is a straightforward way of monitoring your site performance and comparing it to that of your competitors’. So, if your site drops from a keyword search ranking of #1 to a ranking of #40, you’ll know before your revenue starts dropping, and you can take action to regain your rankings.

What Keywords Should I Care About Tracking?

You probably already have a good idea of what keywords are most important for your business – if you’re the owner of a coffee shop, you’d be missing out if you didn’t really care about ranking highly for local search keywords like “coffee shops near me”. However, there are a lot of different variants on searches about coffee shops – maybe a potential customer will search for “coffeeshops” or “a coffee shop” or “coffee shop menu” or “find coffee shops nearby” or potentially hundreds of other variants. What about someone searching for the town’s best cappuccino or the best coffee shop for studying? You want to show up for those searches, too.

This is where keyword research and SEO come in. When you’re looking to use SEO to improve your site’s search rankings, keyword research is almost always the first project to tackle – why make the effort to improve the keyword ranking position for a search term that no one is searching for? Using keyword research to identify big ranking opportunities is a topic for another day, but if you’ve got questions now, the Leverage Marketing team is always happy to lend a hand when it comes to keyword strategy – we love that stuff.

So, let’s say you’ve done your research and put together an awesome keyword list. Obviously, with all these search terms you want to show up for, manually searching each term and marking your site’s position regularly would be a miserable and futile task, especially considering that rankings can vary by your exact location and your search history. There has to be a better way to check your Google rankings, right?

How Do You Check Your Website Ranking on Google, Bing, and Yahoo?

search engine ranking graphThankfully for every SEO and business owner’s sanity, there are a lot of ways to check your site’s search engine rankings that don’t involve a week worth’s of time spent on Google. There are so many tools that have been created specifically for this purpose that it often seems like a lot to sift through. Which tools are the real deal?

You can choose from keyword search ranking tools that are free or tools that are paid. Keep in mind that you get what you pay for – using exclusively free tools can give you spotty results that don’t always reflect your true rankings that well, though they do come in handy for some uses. Paid tools tend to make it easier to automate keyword rank reporting and usually take some of the legwork out of tracking your keyword rankings so you can sit back and watch your rankings roll in.

Google itself is a great place to go when looking for keyword rank tracking tools – you can probably find the perfect tool to fit your budget and your tracking priorities. A few of the top choices are:

  • SERPs: It’s usability as a free tool is limited, but it’s great for spot checking both global and local rankings to see where your site appears for some of your top keywords.
  • Moz: This paid tool has all the bells and whistles you could want in a rank tracking tool, and it can reveal a lot of interesting info about the movement of your site up and down the results pages.
  • Advanced Web Ranking: This tool automates the keyword tracking process so you can relax while thousands of keywords are tracked on regular intervals. Heck, you can even set this to track the movement of your site rankings every single day if you want to!
  • Google Position Checker Tool: Maybe not the most comprehensive keyword checking tool, but it is free and is a great way to get started with rank tracking and find out where your website stands.

Want to see what you can get out of keyword rank tracking, but not sure where to start? Sign up for the Leverage newsletter to get more info about maximizing your digital efforts, or get in touch with us today to chat about our SEO services – because we want people to visit your coffee shop just as much as you do.

What Makes People Bounce from Your Site?

If you’ve spent any time exploring Google Analytics or talking with a search engine marketer, you’ve probably heard the phrase “bounce rate.” This term refers to the percentage of people who viewed one page on your site and left without clicking anything or navigating to another page.

A high bounce rate on your website isn’t always a bad thing, especially if you have a single-page site or content that can be consumed on a single page. However, if your success depends on visitors landing on your site and then taking another step (such as placing an order or filling out a contact form), you don’t want your bounce rate to be high.

normal bounce rate pie chart

Source: Kissmetrics

If you’ve spotted some high bounce rates on your website, the first thing you should do is try to figure out why visitors are leaving. The reasons for high bounce rates aren’t always obvious (Google Analytics doesn’t provide a neat explanation, unfortunately), but chances are it’s a result of one or more of the factors below.

What Causes a High Bounce Rate?

Page Loads Slowly

Time isn’t on your side when it comes to engaging web visitors. According to Kissmetrics, 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in two seconds or less, and 40% of people say they’ll abandon a website that takes longer than three seconds to load. If you’ve been noticing unusually high bounce rates, one of the first things you should do is test your website speed. You can do this by plugging a URL into Google’s PageSpeed tool. (Try it out—we’ll wait.)

If a page is loading slowly on desktop or mobile, PageSpeed Insights will recommend some potential fixes. One thing that may help on an image-heavy page is to compress your images so that the file is smaller and takes less time to load.

Disruptive Advertising Scares Off Visitors

computer monitor with disruptive advertisingThink about the last time you landed on a web page that immediately launched pop-up ads, flashing banners, or an auto-play video with the sound at full volume. You probably didn’t stay on that page too long. And guess what? Your site visitors are equally turned off by these disruptive elements. Avoid these ad formats and focus on delivering content that’s useful to your audience. If you do want to try out a pop-up ad (to get users to subscribe to a newsletter or download an eBook, for example), consider setting it to only appear when a user has scrolled down a certain percentage of the page or completed a pre-defined action on your site.

Design Looks Bad

Visitors will judge your web page by its cover. If your design elements, color choices, or fonts look outdated or garish, you’ll make visitors think your business is unprofessional.

Even worse than an outdated-looking website is one that’s hard to navigate. If it’s difficult for visitors to find their way around, either on desktop or mobile, they’re unlikely to stick around. Work with your web designer to set up navigation and search functions that are intuitive and mobile-friendly.

Content Is Hard to Read

There are lots of things that make online content hard to read, including:

  • Small fontsorb with hard to read text causing high bounce rate
  • Weird font choices (hello, Comic Sans)
  • Font colors that blend into the background
  • Big blocks of text with no images or paragraph breaks

These issues can be jarring on a small mobile screen. And if visitors have to struggle just to read what’s on your page, they’re not going to bother with it. Keep your content easy to read—and skim—if you want to keep visitors on your site.

Content Is Poorly Written

Poorly written can refer to content that’s riddled with typos and grammatical errors or content that’s bland and fails to deliver what the reader is looking for. In either situation, you’ll hurt your business’s credibility and risk driving visitors away from your site. Invest the time in developing high-quality content that delivers something your visitors can’t find anywhere else. Use a tool like Grammarly to thoroughly proofread each piece before publication.

Page Fails to Meet Visitor Expectations

burlap sack promising useful contentIf a visitor arrives at your site only to find that the landing page doesn’t align with their expectations, they’ll bounce. Consider the example of someone who is searching for tips to keep their lawn green during the winter and clicks a search result with the headline “How to Keep Your Lawn Green Year-Round.” The page, however, turns out to be a blatant promotion for Ron’s Lawn Fertilizer. The page doesn’t provide the tips the visitor was looking for, so they leave.

Avoid misleading your visitors by making sure your meta titles and descriptions line up with what’s actually on your page. This will help you reduce your bounce rate and attract more qualified visitors.

Visitor Doesn’t Know What’s Next

If you want visitors to go from one page to another on your site, you need to make that clear with a call-to-action (CTA). In many cases, this is a button that directs users to complete an action, such as Download the Guide or Start a Free Trial.

call to action example

Here’s an example of a CTA from the Leverage site.

If your CTA is hard to see or buried at the bottom of the page, your visitors won’t know what they’re supposed to do next. You also risk confusing your visitors if you place multiple CTAs on the same page. Make your CTA obvious so that it’s as easy as possible for visitors to take the next step.

Value Proposition Isn’t Clear

You may want to dedicate your website to reviewing all the cool features of your product or service, but features alone don’t motivate your site visitors—they want to know about the benefits to them. It’s especially important to make your value proposition clear if you have a product that’s very similar to a competitor’s and charge a higher price. It needs to be obvious to visitors why they should choose your product or service. If you can’t articulate that, they’ll head to a competitor’s site.

You’re Asking Too Much, Too Soon

large invoice on mobile phoneThis problem may come up if you’re in an industry with a typically long buyer’s journey, such as B2B software or luxury goods. If you have expensive offerings, asking visitors to make a purchase or fill out a quote form as soon as they get to your site could be too much. To keep visitors engaged with your site and business, you may want to start with a less intimidating introductory offer like an eBook or free trial.

Visitor Got What They Wanted

Certain types of web pages, such as blog posts, are likely to have a high bounce rate simply because visitors found all the information they were looking for on that one page. For this type of content, it’s more important to pay attention to metrics like Time on Page and Average Session Duration. By checking these engagement metrics, you can get a sense of whether visitors are leaving quickly or sticking around to consume your content.


Still baffled as to why visitors are bouncing from your site? Leverage Marketing can perform a website audit to reveal potential issues and solutions. Contact us and let us know what challenges you want to address.

Voice Search’s Impact on Digital Marketing

It’s hard to deny the increasing prevalence of voice search in everyday life. Everywhere we turn, there’s an Amazon Echo, a PC enabled with Cortana, or someone shouting, “Hey Siri” on their iPhone. Just a few years ago, voice functionality was in its infancy. It’s now becoming increasingly sophisticated. As devices with voice search stretch from the living room to smartphones and even laundry rooms, the way people look up information fundamentally changes.

18-49 year-olds perform more voice searches than older adults, using natural speech to ask questions to their devices, according to a Stone Temple study. With a variety of platforms including Apple’s Siri, Google Now, Amazon’s Alexa, and Microsoft’s Cortana, virtual assistants are synonymous with current technology. Users leverage these assistants to dictate texts, control electronics in their home, play music, and perform searches.

With this increase in voice searches, digital marketers need to adapt to new queries, optimize for more advanced keywords, and create specialized content. Writing quality content is still paramount, but it’s more about instant answers than ever before. As devices grow smaller and platforms like Alexa find a place in our homes, it’s necessary to develop voice-focused campaigns to succeed.

voice search seo image 2

Make Your Brand Accessible

To succeed in a new market where over 60% of people use voice search at home and 57.8% use voice search on their smartphones (according to the Stone Temple study), you must make your brand accessible. By optimizing your SEO and content toward voice, you can increase your organic and paid rankings for voice-based search queries. Determine how people are searching for your brand through voice by using the Search Terms report in AdWords.

It’s possible your brand is discovered through mobile voice search via local-based queries more than text searches. By creating more query-driven content and focusing on local ads, you can make your brand more accessible for voice searches. Creating more content that replies to questions can help your brand rank in answer boxes, improving its visibility.

By optimizing your brand’s assets for voice search, including mobile and local voice, you’re making your company available to a wider swath of people. Whether people are searching via an Amazon Alexa device or using Siri, they’ll be likelier to find and purchase your products or services.

How Does Voice Search Impact SEO and Keywords?

It might seem obvious, but people search differently using voice than when they type in a query. It’s necessary to consider voice search optimization to capture keyword market share. While SEO analysts often optimize for short-tail keywords that average two words, SEO for voice search requires a more nuanced approach. Using conversational long-tail keywords can boost your SEO, especially when they’re closely related to the product you’re selling. When people search for particular keywords, they’re also usually closer to buying something. Most people search in a longer, more natural fashion by voice, using speech-like search terms, often in the form of questions: Who? What? Where? When?

You may want to consider developing specific landing pages and ad copy for voice-based queries. Decisions are made more quickly over voice search, shortening the buyer’s journey, compressing it into a process that often takes less than a minute. Ensuring that your site can meet the demands of voice search SEO will enable it to adapt as mobile devices capture additional market share and virtual assistants become ubiquitous. Developing a strategy for voice search marketing will help you prepare as the market continues to grow.

voice search seo image 1

The Future of Voice Search with Consumers

Within the next few years, voice search marketing will become a necessity for SEO, as more consumers use voice-enabled devices for search. With devices that run Windows 10, macOS, Android, and iOS all including virtual assistants, it’s easier than ever to search online by talking to your device. Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, and other dedicated home speakers make voice-based queries accessible at any time. With quicker answers, consumers act faster, making decisions and buying within a shorter timeframe. Whether it’s ordering food, buying clothing, renting a car, or another activity, voice search makes purchases almost instantaneous.

Ads can become even more personalized with voice-based queries learning your buying habits from multiple smart devices, like your refrigerator, washing machine, thermostat, and more. As every device in the home becomes capable of always listening and allowing you to search and purchase, marketers can utilize this information to target consumers more accurately. Machine learning algorithms allow these assistants to get better based on user feedback and behavior. Through voice search optimization, Google, Amazon, and Apple will be able to work with companies to serve up better ads to customers.


Is your company interested in being a pioneer in voice search marketing? Leverage Marketing has the SEO skills to help you get optimized. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help your company keep up.

Writing Great Content for SEO: Your Questions Answered

Let’s be honest: running a business is hard work. With all the things you’re juggling, The LAST thing you want to worry about is how Google is reading your site. That’s Google’s problem, right?

Unfortunately, throwing your offerings up on the World Wide Web and crossing your fingers isn’t going to cut it, which you probably know if you’re reading this article. You’re going to have to take some specific actions to drive traffic to your site.

Adding content to your site is one of those specific actions. But how does one even begin to create content that makes sense to search engine, sells to customers, and doesn’t ruin the user experience of your site?

Luckily, our team at Leverage Marketing has helped more than a few sites build out content that boosts search engine optimization efforts and helps businesses communicate their brand voice effectively. We’ve collected some of the common questions we are asked about SEO-optimized content so you don’t have to be in the dark.

Why Do I Need Content for SEO?

The answer is simpler than you think. Basically, search engines (like customers) need to know what you’re offering – you’re not going to rank #1 on Google if Google can’t tell what you’re selling. Thanks to this little bit of reasoning, when you search for “computer monitor”, you don’t have to weed through 20 pages of lawnmowers and blenders to find a site that sells computer monitors. Seems really obvious, right? That’s why we need words on websites – Google reads words just like you and me.

Here’s a fun fact: Google has begun to understand not only the words we type into the search bar, but the context and meaning of searches as well. In other words, Google is learning what the searcher’s intent is when they type in a query. That’s a big reason why it’s important to create great content, instead of just slapping a bunch of keywords onto a page. Google is trying to understand your site in the way your customers do, and Google, like your customers, demands high-quality content.

How Much Content Do I Need Per Page for SEO?

There’s no true one-size-fits-all answer to this question. To help search engines figure out what your site is all about, you’ve got to give them something substantial to work with. That means on all the major (and sometimes minor) pages of your site, you should consider having some decent content for Google to dig its robot claws into.

There’s a good way to figure out how long your content really needs to be. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What does the reader need to gain/learn/acknowledge from this page?
  • What questions might potential readers have when getting to this page? What if this is the first page on your site they see – is there enough info for them here?
  • What unique information can you offer on this page to give your reader a richer experience?

Once you’ve told the reader what they need to know, answered their questions before they have a chance to ask them, and offered all the information that makes the user experience on your site great, that’s probably a good stopping place.

Really try to get inside your user’s head here. You may assume that everyone knows all the basics about waffle makers, and that they don’t need to be informed of the differences between non-stick and stainless steel when they visit your product category page, but that just isn’t true for every single visitor – some people are looking for info that you should be providing. And don’t forget to tell them why they should buy from your site instead of your competitors’, or what your free shipping deal is, or how they can join your loyalty club for 15% off. There is almost always a reason and a way to add valuable content to a page – and if there isn’t, you might want to consider why that page even needs to exist.

Finally, remember that you are adding content for your users, not for search engines. Sure, adding good content will help your site’s performance, but that’s because Google and the other search engines are seeking out sites that best fit searchers’ queries. If your site ranks #1 for a keyword but your users aren’t finding what they need and are bouncing back to the search results page, you can safely bet that you won’t stay in that #1 spot for long.

What Are Some SEO Content Best Practices?

key to content for SEOWhen you’re creating content for your site, keep in mind a few things that will improve both your user’s experience and your rankings:

  • Do: Add a few keywords. What does your user type into Google when looking for this page? You’ll want that phrase in your content, too.
  • Don’t: Participate in “keyword stuffing.” If your content is unreadable because it has so many keywords stuffed into it, you’re going to provoke the ire of search engines, who correctly read this practice as spam.
  • Do: Put at least some of your content near the top of the page. You want your content to be one of the first things a search engine (or a user) reads.
  • Don’t: Put ALL of your content at the top of the page. Don’t sacrifice your user experience for SEO – make sure your users can find what they’re looking for.
  • Do: Make sure your content is readable and accessible to all users. Choose easily-readable fonts and font colors, and take advantage of features such as the alt attribute for photos, so that every user can understand your site.
  • Don’t: Stick your content in places where search engines can’t get to it. Search engines often struggle to read text within images and JavaScript.

Can I Do SEO Without Content?

Sure, knock yourself out. But just know that your results aren’t going to be anywhere near as great as they’d be by implementing a supporting on-page SEO effort.

Off-page SEO tactics, such as link building (gaining links from other reputable sites on the web), are certainly very important to growing your site’s authority, visibility, and ranking over time. However, only performing link building efforts while leaving your site sparse on content is sort of like going to a Halloween party as one member of a group costume. Sure, going to the party as a salt shaker is fine, but the costume makes a lot more sense with another person going as a pepper shaker. So yeah, you might see results from link-building alone, but if you want to really get the most out of your efforts, just tell Google what you’re selling.

What About Hidden SEO Content?

Hidden content SEO bad practiceI get it – you don’t want to mess up the aesthetic of your site with a bunch of boring words. Why can’t you just make all those words the same color as your background or stick them somewhere in your code where your users don’t see them but search engines do?

Short answer: don’t even think about it. Search engines view this kind of behavior as spammy and deceptive, so it won’t give you the long-term rankings boost you’re looking for. It will probably even earn you a big demotion that buries your site on the 25th page of Google. Fun stuff!

And really? You have no way to work in content that offers a better experience for your users in any part of the page? If your site isn’t designed to incorporate content or inform users… what’s the point?


Still stuck on how to make SEO content work for your brand and your site? The Leverage Marketing team has all the savvy to help both users and search engine bots fall in love with your site. Check out our Content Marketing offerings, or just sign up for our newsletter for a regular dose of digital marketing knowledge.

What’s the Difference Between SEO and PPC?

SEO is a “free” method of driving visitors to your site, while PPC is paid promotion of your site content. Both are effective methods of search engine marketing (SEM), which refers to types of digital marketing practices that target businesses and consumers who are searching for what your site offers.

SEO vs. PPC, TL;DR Edition

PPC is a search engine marketing technique that is comparable to traditional advertising practices, in that you pay in accordance to your goals. The amount you pay will determine where, when, and how your ad shows up, similar to buying advertising space in a magazine or on a billboard. While this comparison is somewhat of an oversimplification, the basic concept is the same: if you have the money and want to reach potential customers, you’ll be able to use PPC to gain a lot of visibility. Wondering how to get on the top of the first page of Google with PPC? Pay the highest cost per click (CPC) for your target keywords and search phrases.

SEO, however, focuses on driving traffic to sites by catering to the needs of searchers. SEO cannot be accomplished by sending a check to Google, as in PPC; rather, SEO is about building sites that:

  1. deliver great content that is in line with searchers’ intent and answers their questions
  2. follow accepted standards expected by search engines, and
  3. do not intend to deceive search engines.

Wondering how to get on the top of the first page of Google with SEO? Optimize your site to be the most relevant to searchers for your target keywords and search phrases.

Common Misconceptions about SEO and PPC

SEO and PPC side by side

There is a lot of confusion when it comes to digital marketing, and for good reason – search engines, bidding, and algorithms are much more alien than familiar forms of marketing that businesses have been dealing with for decades. However, knowing the differences between SEO and PPC is key to being able to make the right choices, whether you’re pursuing your business’s digital strategy yourself, or you’re seeking a consultant or agency to give expertise.

Luckily, a little knowledge goes a long way in the digital marketing world! Here are a few common misconceptions about the different types of digital marketing that we encounter fairly regularly at Leverage, and some information that will help you make clear decisions for your business. Trust us – you don’t want to play around with decisions based on less-than-factual information gleaned from your uncle or web developer’s friend of a friend.

Misconception #1: SEO is Basically FREE MONEY.

Remember the first sentence of this article, when I said that SEO was “free”? There are quotations around that “free” for one reason: GOOD SEO is basically never free. Unless your cousin is a freelance SEO consultant willing to take on 10+ hours a week worth of pro bono work for your site, good SEO is going to take some resources. At the very least, performing good SEO will take some time and manpower, and at the most, it could require reallocating your marketing budget a bit.

Notice I keep saying GOOD SEO, not just SEO. Sure, you can find a guy living in the shadows of the internet who vows to bump your site to the first page of Google by next week for a low flat rate of $50. However, like most things that sound too good to be true, that is most likely not going to turn out well for your site. You might end up with bad SEO work that will cause your website to be penalized and require thousands of dollars of damage control work to be performed by actual experts, or you might just end up with nothing to show for the funds you invested. Do your homework and find an experienced SEO agency instead.

Misconception #2: SEO is More Effective than PPC/PPC is More Effective than SEO

So your friend tried working with an SEO consultant once, and it didn’t really bring him the huge returns he was looking for. He now runs paid ads for his site, and he gets a LOT of traffic from them. That sounds great, right? Why shouldn’t you just perform the same search engine marketing techniques and put all of your resources into PPC efforts as well?

Digital marketing, like almost every other type of promotional or marketing effort, is not a one-size-fits-all deal. Some businesses will find that their advertising money goes to waste if they pay tons of cash for PPC that drives traffic but that doesn’t result in conversions, and some businesses will find that SEO efforts just aren’t enough on their own to drive brand awareness.

The balance of PPC and SEO varies from business to business. Some businesses will find that SEO efforts bring a lot of value to their business, as they help create trust and drive qualified traffic. Other businesses find that PPC gives them a huge boost in visibility that takes their brand to the next level. Neither SEO nor PPC is wrong or bad, and neither is superior – they are simply different practices that are best leveraged off of each other.

Not sure what your business needs? We want to take a look! Learn more about how the Leverage Marketing team can dig into the details behind your business and your industry, make sense of the numbers, and draw a roadmap for success.

Misconception #3: Both SEO and PPC are a “Waste of Time, Just Get a Newspaper Ad”

You might have had someone tell you that they pursued either/both SEO and/or PPC in the past with horrific results. Maybe their site received a penalty, their ads were all disapproved within Adwords, or their consultant was less than attentive to their account. Search engine marketing must be pretty risky, right?

In the SEO and PPC world, there are always risks and bad stuff does happen sometimes – but that’s true of any marketing effort that is made without the right attention to detail. Remember when one classic American department store attempted to rebrand their entire business model, and realized that their changes actually made their store less desirable to their target market? Sure, they might have skimped on their market research and dropped the ball when it came to listening to their customers’ needs, but their epic rebranding fail doesn’t indicate that any rebranding effort made by any company is always a waste of time – it simply indicates that they didn’t take the right steps to achieve success. Look at what a legendary designer clothier’s rebranding campaign achieved – their excellent rebranding effort doubled revenues over a five year period and saved the brand’s exclusive image.

Search engine marketing techniques, like rebranding or really any other business effort, are only as successful as the team driving strategy. That’s why it is vital that you choose the right partner for SEO or PPC campaigns. Paid and non-paid digital marketing strategies are intertwined efforts, which is why finding an experienced full-service digital marketing agency to handle all the intricacies of your business is one of the best ways to ensure success. If you’re splitting your efforts or going it alone, do your research and ask yourself if you’re willing to take the risk of playing it too small in an increasingly competitive and rapidly changing digital landscape.


Want more digital marketing myth-busting and guides to getting the most out of SEO and PPC for your business? Sign up for the Leverage newsletter for informative and non-annoying weekly digests today.

Enhance Your Ecommerce Marketing Strategy with Leverage Learning

95% of Americans make an online purchase at least once a year, and 80% have made at least one online purchase in the past month. And, as the Washington Post recently put it, about a third of consumers now buy something online at least as often as they take out the trash (once a week). As online shopping becomes increasingly popular, it may seem like there’s never been a better time to own an ecommerce business.

However, growth-focused ecommerce businesses still face plenty of challenges, especially when it comes to attracting shoppers (who may be inclined to start their search on Amazon) and converting those shoppers into paying customers.

Build Your Ecommerce Marketing Knowledge

At Leverage Marketing, we want to help online businesses address these challenges with actionable ecommerce marketing ideas. We’ve been doing this for years with our digital marketing services, and now we’re taking what we’ve learned and sharing it in a free educational email series called Leverage Learning: Ecommerce.

The goal of Leverage Learning: Ecommerce is to help online business owners find digital marketing ideas to reach more customers and increase sales. The series is broken into 11 lessons on the following subjects:

 

content marketing for ecommerce email preview

  1. Branding
  2. Search Engine Optimization
  3. UX Web Design
  4. Content Marketing
  5. Influencer Marketing
  6. Facebook and Instagram Marketing
  7. Paid Search Advertising
  8. Email Marketing
  9. Online Customer Service
  10. Mobile Marketing
  11. Measuring Success in Google Analytics

 

When you subscribe, you’ll receive a new email lesson twice a week until you’ve received the full series. The emails offer best practices for ecommerce marketing, quick tips that business owners can implement right away, and recommendations for free or low-cost tools to streamline marketing efforts.

If you’re ready to use digital marketing to drive sales for your ecommerce business, you can subscribe to our Leverage Learning: Ecommerce series by clicking here.

SEO for ecommerce email preview

And if you enjoy this series, stay tuned: we’ll be releasing our Leverage Learning: Content Marketing series next!


As always, we’d love for you to contact us if you have any questions about our Leverage Learning series or the digital marketing services we offer!

Mobile Shopping: The New Norm

We originally published this post back in 2016. Since a lot can change in the online marketing landscape in a year, we’ve updated it for 2017.

Throughout the last decade, mobile and online shopping has been on the rise, pushing brick-and-mortar businesses to compete harder for their share of consumers’ dollars. During the 2017 holiday season, eMarketer expects ecommerce sales to grow 15.8%, with total retail growth limited to 2%. The National Retail Federation (NRF) believes overall retail growth will be around 3.7-4.2% in 2017, while online retail will grow 8-12% alone. It’s clear that mobile shopping on smartphones and tablets, rather than brick and mortar shopping, is the new norm.

In the United States, consumers are increasingly using their smartphones more hours during the day for shopping, social media, and other activities. Mobile ad spending is on the rise, as marketers realize they need to target mobile consumers even more than through traditional advertising avenues. As mobile data and the online shopping industry grow, vendors and retailers will need to come up with innovative ways to target consumers.

As fewer consumers purchase laptops or rely on them as a primary device, tablets and smartphones will increasingly become the primary devices for purchasing, with 31 million US Internet users only using a mobile device to go online in 2016.

mobile online shopping

Amazon and Walmart

Comparing two retail giants—Amazon and Walmart—shows the chasm widening between online and brick-and-mortar sales. Amazon posted $82.7 billion in sales for the last 12 months, while Walmart, with its massive physical presence, only posted $12.5 billion. With ecommerce juggernauts like Amazon driving more sales through programs like Amazon Prime, online sales will continue to eclipse traditional brick-and-mortar options, and the online shopping industry will grow.

Both these companies are working hard to break into each other’s markets, with Walmart strengthening its ecommerce skills and Amazon its brick-and-mortar abilities. Walmart has purchased Amazon, however, announced its intention to purchase organic food giant Whole Foods and has been opening up retail bookstores in NYC and other locations. These two massive companies make it clear that ecommerce is the future, but brick-and-mortar isn’t dead either.

Demographics: Who Shops Mobile?

New data shows that younger buyers, especially those with smartphones, are more likely to use mobile devices for shopping compared to older consumers. In a 2016 Bronto survey of over 1000 people, 65% of adults ages 18-24 say they use their smartphones for shopping, as do 63% of those ages 25-34, and 58% of those aged 35-44, with the numbers dropping significantly as age increases. 35-44-year-old people are more likely to purchase on tablets, with younger consumers not using those devices as frequently. As age increases over 44, these numbers decline.

What these statistics suggest is that most mobile commerce growth is driven by the 18-34-year-old segment of the population, with less push from older American adults. As an increasing number of millennials accrue wealth and enter the workforce, mobile sales will continue to grow and overtake online sales from computers and eventually brick-and-mortar entirely.

Online shopping growth, especially on mobile, is a force that will only increase as the conveniences of shopping from your home and online-only deals eclipse any advantages brick-and-mortar stores retain. Millennial shoppers are pushing this evolution, and the next generation will only further it.smartphone graph new

Conclusion

Consumer trends suggest that mobile sales are the new norm. Mobile devices, especially smartphones, are convenient to use and able to fit in your pocket, and retailers are providing seamless app experiences for purchasing on their platforms. Tablets are also a significant part of this growth, to a lesser extent, among adults in the 35-44-year old range.

Mobile commerce growth is inevitable, and it will overtake brick-and-mortar. The only question is when. With giants like Amazon reporting close to $100 billion in annual sales and growing, retailers and advertisers must pursue solutions to engage with mobile consumers in innovative ways. While brick and mortar stores are still relevant for the foreseeable future, Walmart and similar large retailers must continue to adapt to stay in business.

At Leverage Marketing, we employ pioneering techniques to further your company’s digital marketing efforts We can help your ecommerce business create a mobile-friendly design that adapts to smartphone and tablet design. Learn more about our web design services and contact us today.

How Far Down the Search Engine Results Page Will Most People Go?

This post was originally written by one of our summer 2015 interns, Kelly Iden. Since things change pretty quickly in search engine marketing, we’ve updated and expanded the post with new stats and info.

The average web user won’t go past the first five listings on a search engine results page (SERP). According to a 2014 study from Advanced Web Rankings, more than 67% of all clicks on SERPs go to the top five listings. Things start to get grim when you look past those first few results. Research shows that websites on the first search engine results page receive almost 95% of web traffic, leaving only 5% for remaining search results pages.

Why Does SERP Position Matter?

Once a search engine result grabs web users’ attention, the logical next step for the user is to click through to the website to get additional information and potentially take some kind of action (such as making a purchase). Most people will click on one of the first few results because they’ve found what they’re looking for, don’t want to scroll further, are short on time, or some combination of the three.  Therefore, the higher a company’s organic search ranking, the higher the click-through rate (CTR). A July 2014 Google organic desktop search study found a 71% CTR for page one results while pages two and three have a combined CTR of just 6%. You can see just how dramatically CTR declines by position in this graph from Advanced Web Ranking, which looks at searches from June 2017:

click through rate dropoff by search engine results page position

If those stakes aren’t high enough for you, consider the fact that Google and other search engines factor in CTR when determining how to rank pages. In other words, Google will recognize a page with a high CTR as one that is valuable to readers and is more likely to push it towards the top of the SERPs. Because high click-through rates correspond with powerful organic search rankings, many companies question what it takes to reach their optimal search engine standings for their most valuable keywords. Claiming the top organic positions for relevant keywords is not an easy accomplishment, but one that many businesses worldwide compete for. As companies improve their SEO strategies and Google updates its algorithms, search engine rankings constantly shift.

What Challenges Are Organic Search Results Currently Facing?

It’s not just competitors’ organic listings that search engine marketers have to worry about. Google frequently tinkers with its SERP format, and depending on the search query, the first organic first result may be pushed below a local 3-pack, a featured snippet, or up to four text ads. The presence of ads can make a huge difference when it comes to organic CTR. For SERPs with no ads, the average CTR for the first organic result is 30%, but that drops to 17.9% when ads enter the picture.

Here’s an example of what we see at the top of the SERP when we search for “Austin hotel:”

ads on search results page

When we scroll past those ads, we see a local 3-pack before we ever get to the first organic result:

local 3 pack on search results page

When businesses compete for long-tail keywords (a keyword phrase consisting of at least three words), they may also lose real estate to Google’s relatively new featured snippet. A featured snippet is a block towards the top of the SERP that pulls a few lines and a link from a high-ranking page in an attempt to answer a searcher’s question. Here’s a very meta example:

featured snippet on search engine results page

Featured snippets can cause a major nosedive for click-through rates because in many cases, the searcher can get the information they need without ever leaving the SERP. A study from Ahrefs found that there’s approximately a 25% drop-off in CTR for the first organic result on SERPs with a featured snippet. However, in many cases, readers will click the link for a featured snippet to learn more, which can lead to a significant increase in site traffic if one of your pages gets featured.

How Can You Compete for Organic Traffic?

As it becomes increasingly challenging to rank well for industry-relevant search queries, your business needs to invest in search engine optimization (SEO) strategies that will help your site achieve SERP visibility. Here are a few examples of things to try:

  • Search for long-tail keywords with higher traffic and lower competition. The more competition there is for a keyword, the harder it will be to rank on page 1. By focusing on long-tail keywords that are specific to your business, you’ll have a better chance of getting in front of the web users who need your product or service.
  • Identify questions that your target customers are asking (and that are relevant to your business). Provide in-depth answers to those questions in blog posts or knowledge hub pages on your site and your content may end up in a featured snippet.
  • Work with a web development team to make technical improvements to your site. Improving your site speed and ensuring all your pages are mobile-friendly can give you an SEO boost.
  • Optimize your title tags and meta descriptions. Your title tag and meta description make up the preview of your content that web users while see on a SERP, so you need to make sure they provide a compelling reason to click. Incorporating a primary keyword into both the title and description can help you rank higher for relevant search queries, too.

Companies that pay attention to their search engine optimization strategies will find that in return, users will notice their website links, leading to higher click-through rates, greater visibility in the SERPs, and more customers.


Need help with your SEO strategy? Contact our digital marketing team—we can perform a site audit to help you identify opportunities for higher organic rankings.

 

Can Google Read Text in Images?

We believe that, yes, Google is currently at least trying to read the text in images.

Despite assertions that say Google can’t read text in images based on social media feedback from Google employees, it’s too easy for those employees to hide what’s going on behind the scenes using clever language on social media.

As the leader in internet search, Google’s goals should include the ability to parse what’s hidden in the text of images. Indeed, they have already begun efforts to interpret the content of images with or without text. For example, Google Translate technology reads real-world text and instantly produces a translated result using images produced by mobile devices.

Such technology could trickle easily into reading text included in images in various languages and fonts (and it could be already happening). We can’t say definitively, but we can draw conclusions by building a picture of what we know Google can do.

Google Guesses What’s in Images Using Several Methods

Performing simple Google Images searches with and without text produces marvelous results. By plugging in a variety of images from your website, you can start to form hypotheses based on Google Images output.

Context

The search giant seems to be adept at pulling important information from the text surrounding an image. We uploaded an image from our B2B Video Marketing for Service-Based Businesses blog post. The colored block was intended to represent the dimensionality and variety of video types for marketing.

Google gave us the result below:

google image search result for b2b video marketing abstract box

The engine correctly guessed that the block represented video – but how did it gather that information from a colored block? We suspect that Google read the text around the image and pulled the keyword video from the text.

Simple Shapes

We also plugged another image of the same blog custom-made for our post. The 3D gold stars were aligned so that the tips of the horizontal edges touched, and the shapes were pressed against a flat background so that they glowed and cast shadows slightly.

google image search result for b2b video marketing gold stars

Google still managed to understand the basic shape. While it’s possible to attribute Google’s understanding to the information provided in the image name, google-five-star-rating-3d.png, we believe that Google took a harder look at the shapes and colors it could recognize. It was able to produce visually similar images that included near matches of color, number, and shape:

google image search result for visually similar gold stars

 

We looked deeper into the provided similar images. Some results did not include star in the image name, and most of them did not include such defining keywords as gold or 3D. The image recognition technology to which Google currently has access appears to be able to collect more information than context and metadata to deliver results to searchers.

Metadata

Metadata in Google Images is still extremely viable, however. In the world of SEO, image metadata helps Google come to the right conclusions about what’s contained in images. It’s still good practice to include alt text in all images and to properly name your images with concise clues about their content.

For an experiment in how image metadata affects SEO, we tried uploading our Influencer Marketing Facts and Statistics infographic to Google Images.

google image search result for influencer marketing facts and statistics infographic

The image name and its alt text both include phrases such as influencer marketing facts and statistics. The text in the infographic, however, only mentions stats. Though Google is smart enough to understand that stats and statistics are related, it isn’t likely that the image search pulled influencer marketing facts from the title text of the infographic that reads Essential INFLUENCER MARKETING Stats.

Instead, it probably relied mostly on metadata to provide its result. However, its reliance on metadata for a Google Images result still doesn’t tell us how Google determines the value of content in a post that includes an infographic for standard search results.

Reading Infographics: Leverage Marketing Internal Study

To find out more about how Google ranks images with text, we put our own infographics to the test. We monitored the ranking changes of two infographics over several months to determine the efficacy of putting information into a different visual medium.

 influencer marketing facts and statistics infographic  social media for ecommerce facts and statistics infographic
The influencer marketing infographic ranks 3rd for its target keywords as of the publishing of this blog. The social media infographic ranks 23rd for its target keywords as of the publishing of this blog.

We included text versions of the information included in the infographic with the influencer marketing post, but not with the social media post. The social media infographic was also designed with more advanced graphical styling. It included graphs and charts as well.

We determined that the most likely factors to attribute to the difference in ranking for target keywords of each infographic was based largely on:

  • The simplicity of infographic design
  • The inability of Google to pull meaningful data from charts and graphs made for users
  • The inability of Google’s potential text parsing technology to read text disrupted by multiple colors or graphics
  • The overall contrast of background and text colors

However, both infographics are still young in the world of SEO. Both infographics continue to climb in ranking, but their overall difference in ranking is significant enough to theorize.

Google Is Likely Trying to Read Text in Images

The search giant has been experimenting with convolutional neural networks for years. They are artificial neural networks that use data input to mimic the learning and output process of a thinking creature.

The same neural networks have the potential to learn how to read text in images in a similar way to what we do. Convolutional neural networks contribute to natural language processing and image and video recognition, both of which are behaviors that govern the way humans think and react.

googlebot reading text in image of infographic

The goal of search is to understand searcher intent and, in response, use the power of computation to deliver instantaneous results. It’s a matter of course that reading text in images will, at least someday, be part of that process. And though there are skeptics who have concluded that Google isn’t actively reading text in images, we beg to differ.

SEO is hard, but Leverage Marketing has it on lock. If you don’t want to deal with the rigors of SEO, talk to our digital marketing team today about offloading the burden.

Site Redesign SEO: How to Not Lose Your Site Traffic

Upgrading your site with a site redesign or a site migration can be a great way to take your business to the next level. However, if performed without an eye to SEO, site redesigns can also be a great way to lose site traffic, loyal customers, and new leads.

At Leverage, we often hear from prospective clients who have performed a site redesign or site migration and watched their site traffic and conversions dry up rapidly ever since.

This site’s visibility took a plunge after this site migration–while their pages were showing up for 210 search terms before the migration, they were only visible for 77 search terms the month after the launch.

It is possible to recover from a big drop in SEO visibility after a site redesign. As you can see in the graph below, the client above started ranking for even more search terms than before once we implemented an SEO recovery strategy:

However, it requires a lot of hard work and some serious professional expertise to recover from a drop in SEO visibility, and your site will take some time to get back to it’s previous level. It’s much easier to just circumvent this sticky situation entirely. By taking some steps before, during, and after launch, you can redesign your website without losing the SEO value you’ve been building up over the years.

Take Stock of What You Have

Before you do anything else, you’ll need to collect information about your current site. Analyze the site’s SEO-related performance before the site redesign or migration. Not only does this help mitigate any issues or confusion later, but it also helps you take stock of your site’s strengths and weaknesses so you can get a better idea of what your new site needs to do better.

Start by making a list of every URL on your current site. Yep, all of ‘em. This may seem like an awful and overwhelming task (especially with a large ecommerce site), but there are a number of tools that make it less of a headache, such as our SEO team’s favorite, Screaming Frog. Crawling tools like this can dig into your site and find all the URLs you forgot you had, and it can do it in about the same length of time it took you to open that Excel spreadsheet you were about to copy and paste every URL of your site onto.

Make a Redirection Plan

Once you’ve made a list of your URLs, you can create an SEO migration plan for “forwarding” them on to your new site. If you’re only changing your site’s design, this hopefully won’t be too tough a task. In this scenario, most of your URLs will likely be staying the same, so you’ll just need to take stock of the ones that you’re not planning on keeping on the new site and decide if you want to redirect them to active pages or (in the case of a page that doesn’t get any notable traffic) just let them die off.

If you’re changing your domain name, things will be a little trickier, and you’ll need to coordinate your web redesign team with an experienced SEO consultant or two to ensure that nothing goes awry when redirecting one domain to another.

Monitor the Vitals

If you’re not tracking your site with an analytics platform and technical monitoring tools such as Google Search Console, you’re probably going to miss some big stuff when your site transitions. Having a good grasp of your site’s current SEO performance is critical to surviving a site redesign.

You’ll want to use your analytics and site usage data to identify the most important pieces of your site. You can see what pages users most often enter your site through and identify pages that are linked to from other places on the web. These entry points are critical for your site, and you’ll need to have a plan for ensuring their preservation and their functionality upon launch. You don’t want one of your site’s “front doors” to lead to this ugly thing, do you?

“That’s annoying. I’m going to their competitor’s site.” -your customers, probably

You’ll also want to use these types of tools to monitor and identify problems that inevitably pop up when launching a new site, such as broken links and search engine crawl problems. By setting up basic SEO tools before a site redesign or migration and monitoring them before and after launch, you can rest easier knowing all the cogs are turning.

Bring in the Experts

Oftentimes, preserving SEO value during site redesigns or site migrations is just too important a task to wing it and hope for the best. When it comes to SEO, taking a gamble on site redesign can be a fatal choice that buries your site under pages of search results and hides it from hundreds or thousands of customers. That’s why it’s often a good idea to bring in the professionals to ensure that things go smoothly.

However, not every team is the right fit for a smooth and SEO-friendly site redesign. Many web development teams are lacking in the type of SEO expertise that you’ll need to ensure that your site retains its value, but choosing an agency that doesn’t perform a lot of web design tasks may not be the best equipped to provide the kind of site you’re looking for. Start your search by asking the right questions to identify consultants that have the right stuff.


Not to toot our own horn, but Leverage Marketing is pretty good at performing SEO-friendly site redesigns and migrations. Check out what the guru of our SEO department has to say about site transitions, or learn more about our SEO services today. Not ready to take the jump? Subscribe to our newsletter for more digital marketing goodness today.

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