Posts about search engine optimization

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 schema.org. 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

GSC CLASSIC

 

google search console new

 

GSC 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: https://www.example.com/sitemap.xml (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.

What Is the Future of Google Search?

It’s not hard to see where the internet is headed in 2018. Years ago, our imaginations could run wild dreaming up Hollywood-style scenarios in which the internet experience becomes vastly surreal. But today, Google is setting some hard and fast rules that are pushing content producers and distributors to focus on delivering top-notch content all the time, and the future is clear.

As long as Google’s goal continues to be to build a better internet, we can expect integration with the latest technologies, faster and friendlier experiences across devices, and relevant, accessible content fast. But how exactly will Google achieve such an end? We have a few ideas.

 

imaginative interpretation of googlebot

AMP Pages Will Work with Mobile-First Ranking

 

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs) are already in use by more than a few major publications, and even small to medium businesses are converting select pages to AMP status to see how qualifying for AMP affects traffic as a whole.

Google rolled out mobile-first indexing alongside a rise in popularity of AMP pages. Without explicitly saying so, the search engine giant may have subtly plugged the efficacy of AMP pages as a tie-in with mobile-first indexing.

Since the version of a web page that appears on mobile will be the new standard for Google ranking, pages optimized for mobile viewing receive an immediate advantage. So if AMP aims to set a new standard for mobile viewing, it’s not unreasonable to hypothesize that AMP status will one day become a concrete ranking factor in Google’s infamous algorithm.

Voice Search Will Play a Bigger Role

We took a deep dive into how digital voice assistants will change marketing tactics, but improved natural language processing has greater potential than just standard marketing applications. Organic search could be ruled by voice search one day.

It’s a lofty claim, but voice commands continue to improve, and improvements continue to accelerate. When questions enter your mind, you’ll likely one day be able to quickly ask your voice assistant and receive an immediate answer.

Users Will Consume More on a Better Internet

The evolving role of optimized content in building a more robust search engine will, if it continues, lead to a better internet. By better, we mean:

  • More easily accessible – Content optimized for all devices in all capacities using all means of search will eventually make the mammoth-sized library of digital information accessible to anyone anywhere. That’s far in the future, but we’re at the beginning steps of it now.
  • Faster – It’s not just about internet speed, it’s about how well we can use upload and download speeds to make information more available on-demand. Content will become more dense, images will take up less space, and data will squeeze alongside the physical size of technology.
  • More relevant – Google has pioneered one of the cleverest ways to force people to make information matter. The search engine rewards quality content that contains usable information with rankings at the top of the SERPs, which in turn brings in customers looking for integrity and expertise.

With a better internet at their fingertips, consumers will be able to take in and learn from greater amounts of information on an ongoing basis. Smarter consumers will demand higher-quality products and more fully-realized services, and the cycle of improvement will continue.

The future of Google search isn’t so much a question of what new features upcoming improvements will entail – it’s a question of what impact search domination will have on internet quality. And if our predictions are correct, the internet is looking like a pretty amazing place in the near and far future.

We love search, and it’s part of what we do every day at Leverage Marketing. Let us help you become part of a better internet – starting today.

The Pros and Cons of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs)

The AMP Project, another step forward on the road to a totally integrated internet experience, aims to build a framework for web designers to easily create mobile-ready web pages.

accelerated mobile pages amp symbol 3dAccelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs) are pages that meet or exceed guidelines set forth by the AMP Project. They include code provided the AMP Project that enables special search features in our most well-used internet search tool, Google. As of April 2018, AMPs enjoy placement above other search results in a carousel, or otherwise display the AMP lightning bolt symbol.

In March 2018, Google began to roll out its mobile-first indexing features following testing and experimentation since 2016. Under mobile-first indexing, pages that are mobile-ready for multiple devices will receive priority during indexing by Google. Since Google is carrying out their mobile-first plan and they already support AMP features, digital marketing teams are exploring how AMP could change the way they build and maintain websites.

But in its early stages, the AMP Project still suffers from limitations. Creating content that is easy to view and navigate across a sea of internet-ready devices is a tall order, and in the AMP Project’s current state, it may not always be the best fit for your business.

Discover what digital marketers think are the advantages and disadvantages of AMPs; use our pros and cons list as a jumping-off point, then make your own to decide if you want to pursue a transformation to AMPs.

amp style lightning bolt in green for pros

Pros of AMPs

The AMP Project is, at heart, an effort to improve the mobile internet experience for users. It is well-intentioned, and the experts working on it don’t cut corners. AMP is beneficial to businesses and organizations with an internet presence in ways such as:

Standardized Mobile Optimization

In a world where AMP is the standard, there is no question what optimized for mobile means. But we don’t live in that world – at least, we don’t live in that world yet. Right now, we have to guess what works and what doesn’t for mobile users and build or retrofit websites accordingly. Accepting and using AMP standards gives us a ruler for measuring what’s mobile-ready and what isn’t.

Improved Ranking in Mobile-First Generation

It stands to reason that building pages to a mobile standard would help your website rank better in Google SERPs that are governed by mobile-readiness. Though AMPs may not be directly connected to better rankings, getting your pages prepared for fast mobile load times and user-friendliness is sure to improve performance site-wide.

Speed Improvement

Besides ranking better in SERPs, you might find that your users enjoy your site better when it performs better thanks to mobile- and AMP-readiness. Getting pages to load within five seconds seems to have the most positive impact on user engagement and conversion, which is especially handy if you run an ecommerce website or a site that makes most of its revenue from ads.

Placement in Carousel

AMPs also ride in a carousel placed above all other search engine results in Google SERPs. The carousel is horizontal, which allows users to scroll through AMPs sideways without ever having to scroll down. It appears for broad, high-traffic searches, but as the algorithm continues to learn, it may pull more and more AMP results. Beware, however, that like other search features, the AMP carousel may not be permanent.

amp style lightning bolt in red for cons

Cons of AMPs

In the infancy of any project, putting together all the pieces is a sizable undertaking. There are still moving parts to the AMP Project that make implementation and execution a challenge, including:

JavaScript & CSS Limitations

For the most part, AMPs contain very little in the way of branding and individuality. That’s in large part because load times suffer greatly when web designers use JavaScript and, to a lesser extent, CSS. By minimizing flashy extras, mobile pages speed up significantly, but it puts a strain on your branding and style.

Tracking Problems

AMPs don’t work with your already-implemented tracking. They are stored and tracked differently than standard pages, even mobile-ready ones. Solutions are bound to appear, but at the moment, tracking takes special effort and resources that you may not have immediately available.

Serving Cached Pages

One of the ways that AMP makes pages load so fast is that it allows Google to serve a cached version of an AMP-enabled page to users. The pages that appear in search results are held by Google, which means you’re not even serving up the content you originally created – it’s only a copy cached and stored elsewhere.

Implementation Is Not Straightforward

Though implementing AMP Project guidelines is designed to be user-friendly, conflicting information and consistent updating of the standard can make it confusing. Though some content management systems (CMSs), such as WordPress, have AMP-integration tools available, they often conflict with popular SEO tools like Yoast. Implementing AMP isn’t easy – yet.

Should I AMP or Not?

Most organizations that are not large are talking the wait-and-see approach, which is wise. Since Google hasn’t given out many clues as to the influence of the AMP Project on rankings, the risk may currently be too heavy for businesses that don’t have a backup plan.

But it’s not too early to start learning. We recommend finding out how the implementation process would work for your organization and weighing the resource cost to benefit if pros from our pro list apply to you. You may even consider creating a page or two to test in an AMP environment – it may be more telling than the sparse data that is currently available.

The Leverage Marketing team can help you build a remarkable content library worthy of high Google rankings, AMP or not. Talk to us to learn more!

How Online Apparel Brands Succeed with Digital Marketing

Of all the consumer goods available online, the apparel category—including clothes, shoes, and accessories—has seen some of the biggest gains.

Revenue for online apparel in the U.S. reached $80.96 billion in 2017 and is projected to grow to over $123 billion by 2022.

Online sales are expected to account for 40% of the apparel and footwear market by the 2030s.

In the past few years, major fashion houses like Louis Vuitton and Gucci have begun shifting marketing dollars from print ads to digital channels in response to the steadily growing popularity of online apparel shopping.

Apparel brands that focus on their ecommerce presence have opportunities for dramatic growth as shoppers move online. But the competition is stiff. Big brick-and-mortar retailers like Macy’s and Kohl’s have been investing significant resources in building their online stores, and Amazon is cutting into the apparel sales of traditional apparel retailers with its low prices and fast shipping.

Niche apparel brands can’t compete with Amazon and other major retailers on price and shipping, so they must carve out a unique selling proposition—and clearly communicate that proposition to their target audience—to succeed online.

How are small- and mid-sized apparel businesses standing out from the competition and connecting with online shoppers? We spoke with three business owners (and Leverage’s own Director of Strategy, Dan Valle), to find out what digital marketing strategies have worked best for them.

Foolies: Developing a Buyer Persona to Grow a Brand

Niche apparel brands can’t succeed in a crowded online space unless they have a clear understanding of who their ideal customers are. This was something that Alex “Nemo” Hanse, owner of the T-shirt company Foolies Limited Clothing, learned as he built his brand. “When I started seven years ago, I thought that my brand was for EVERYONE,” Hanse says. “Incorrect!”

Hanse realized that he needed to focus on a narrower audience, so he began building a profile of his ideal customer, including details like where she works, what her goals in life are, and how his brand would bring value to her. One thing he realized as he developed his buyer persona was that he should be focusing on marketing to women of color. He stresses that this doesn’t mean other women can’t buy his T-shirts. “It just means I know who I need to talk to [in order to] get my message across and help my brand grow.”

Developing customer profiles, or buyer personas, can help brands like Foolies make decisions about where to engage with their audience, what content formats to try, and what messaging to use. While a buyer persona may begin as a semi-fictional representation of an ideal customer, apparel brands should use customer surveys, interviews, and sales data to shape their personas as their company grows.

T.C. Elli’s: Creating Content That Stands Out in the Fashion Industry

Content marketing allows ecommerce apparel companies to differentiate themselves from their competitors, attract more organic website visitors to their site, and convince shoppers to buy from them. However, new ecommerce brands may discover that the data-driven and long-form content that’s dominating other industries isn’t as effective for them.

Tahnee Elliot, CEO and founder of the Texas-based fashion boutique T.C. Elli’s, is quick to make this distinction. “Fashion retailers are competing with top fashion bloggers, magazines, and other influencers in a space that can only be described as crowded,” she says. “Content for fashion brands must provide benefits for the customer, be visually and aesthetically pleasing, and meet the ‘first, better, or different’ principle.” T.C. Elli’s mix of content includes a visually-compelling blog and Instagram posts that highlight ways to wear the brand’s pieces. Elliot says that by regularly producing high-quality content, “we managed to increase traffic both online and in-store, boost organic rankings, and build brand awareness.”

One Tribe Apparel: Finding the Right Collaborators

Influencer marketing—a partnership between brands and consumers with a large or engaged online following—has become a key strategy for many ecommerce apparel businesses. As a visual platform with 500 million daily active users, Instagram is an obvious place for fashion brands to find relevant influencers. But some apparel brands have found success by looking beyond Instagram.

Ryan O’Connor’s company One Tribe Apparel, which sells handmade clothes and accessories from Thailand, has gotten the best results from collaborating with bloggers in the brand’s niche. “I chose bloggers specifically because we can have many points of exposure with them,” O’Connor explains. “Not only do we usually get a product review with a link for SEO value, but we get photos of them in our clothes that are usually shared on their social channels as well.” O’Connor adds that many bloggers also run product giveaways, which allows One Tribe Apparel to grow their audience by requesting that social media users follow their brand accounts to enter the contest.

For O’Connor and his team, working with bloggers has a bigger ripple effect than working with social media influencers alone. “If we work with just an Instagram influencer, we usually get one to three posts from them, whereas with a blogger we get the SEO benefit, social media benefit, and referral traffic from their site.”

Leverage Marketing: Identifying the Best Strategies for the Brand’s Stage

At Leverage Marketing, we recognize that there’s no silver bullet strategy that will work for every apparel brand. Whenever we take on an apparel client, we look at where they are in their brand lifecycle and identify the tactics with the most potential for the stage they’re in. Dan Valle, Director of Strategy at Leverage, points to two specific cases where tailoring our tactics to an apparel brand’s stage led to significant growth.

“One of our clients was an already-established brand with a good amount of brand awareness and a substantial set of current and past customers,” Valle says. “With their target audiences, most audience members had heard of the brand and had a positive affinity for it. We saw an opportunity to expand into new audiences while continuing to build lifetime value for current and past customers.” Leverage began pursuing newly targeted, non-branded search terms to reach new audiences and grow the brand’s customer base. At the same time, we prioritized email marketing to cross-sell and alert past and current customers about new products, leading to an increase in repeat purchasers.

Leverage also worked with an apparel brand that was in the introduction stage of their brand lifecycle and had a modest budget. “We committed to improving this client’s brand awareness through influencer marketing and content marketing,” Valle explains. Leverage also began building out search engine-optimized onsite content to work towards the longer-term goal of helping the client rank for keywords with a high volume of monthly searches.

Valle recommends that every apparel brand looking to grow takes stock of their current audience and stage in the brand lifecycle. “With this knowledge, you can make better decisions about the tactics that have the most potential now and in the near future,” he says.

Using Digital Marketing to Make an Impact in Online Apparel

As an apparel company, you don’t need the marketing budget of a Macy’s or a Nordstrom’s to succeed online. What you do need is the ability to identify your audience, tailor your content to them, and provide value that they can’t find elsewhere. Taking a customer-first approach will help you win over online shoppers and keep them coming back to your ecommerce store.


Not sure where to start? Leverage Marketing can help you target your ideal customers, develop campaigns to stand out from competitors, and measure your results. Contact us to learn about our full suite of digital marketing services for ecommerce apparel brands.

SEO and Branding: The Team Your Business Really Needs

If you’re someone who wants the best for their site, you are probably always on the lookout for the right digital marketing mix to drive results. There are a lot of options you can invest in – with SEO, PPC, content marketing, social media, and more all vying for space in your business plan, where should you put your money?

No two businesses are the same, so no advice is truly “one size fits all”, but there are big two marketing focuses that work in sync to form the base of your digital marketing strategy: SEO and branding.

SEO and branding can’t work very effectively without each other; without good branding, your SEO strategy won’t really stick and grow over the long term, and without SEO, your awesome branding efforts won’t be found on the web.

While many business owners often struggle to see the real value in brand building and SEO efforts, the two are much more related and foundational than you think.

Name Recognition

Name tag representing email personalizationWhen you search on Google for something, what drives you to click on any particular blue link? Do you always just click on the first result you see?

You probably don’t choose that link every single time. Sometimes, you’re looking for something specific and that first link gets you what you need, but what about if it’s not an area you’re familiar with, or something you’re just beginning to shop around for? You’re either going to click the link that looks:

  1. Familiar, or
  2. Most relevant to what you need.

Organic (non-advertising/paid) link click-through rate isn’t nearly as concentrated on the top ranking link as you think it is; while research suggests that the top link does generally drive a ~20% click-through rate, links #2-5 range from 9-13% click-throughs, which isn’t a whole lot lower. This is why SEO and branding can be so linked – a familiar brand name gives you a better chance of driving clicks even if you aren’t #1.

This is also why having strong brand awareness is so vital to your SEO strategy. As we’ve mentioned before, having an excellent click-through rate on search results pages is a factor in helping your links gain better ranking positions. And having a brand name that is somewhat familiar or at least present and legitimate is a good way to invite people to click onto your site, in that you’re promising a good experience and that your site isn’t, say, some random link that will download malware onto the visitor’s computer.

Authority

Another reason you want your branding and SEO to be strong? Featured snippets. Search engines are becoming increasingly full of rich features such as knowledge boxes, Q&A panels, and even direct answer boxes. Grabbing that valuable search page real estate is one of the fastest ways to establish your brand as an “authority” on your topic – and using SEO to optimize for snippets can help you do that.

Even if your content isn’t taking a whole lot of rich feature spaces, creating informative, search engine optimized, and customer-focused content on highly relevant topics can help establish your brand as a top authority in your industry and build brand awareness through SEO. Both humans and search engines will look at your thorough library of informational resources and say, “Hey, they look like they know what they’re doing over there…”

Link Building

When your brand is trusted, your site will be, too. That’s why developing a recognized and trusted brand presence is so key to link building, which is one of the cornerstone tactics within SEO.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of link building, think of it as a way of earning endorsements for your site. If another site links back to you, search engines tend to see that as a confirmation of your site’s usefulness, safety, and relevancy of your site. Once your site has collected a few relevant and trustworthy links from other sites, search engines will be more likely to serve it up to visitors in search results because it has been “endorsed” by other sites.

From a branding perspective, building great links is a LOT more difficult without a strong brand image. Think about it like this – if you’re looking for a source to cite in your blog post, would you rather link to Forbes.com, or some generic website you just stumbled upon? Assuming the info you’re citing is the same from both sites, you’re probably going to decide that the Forbes article is a better citation for your blog post.  If your readers are wondering where you got your information, they’re going to trust you, the blog writer, a lot more if you’re citing widely known and trusted brands such as Forbes, rather than something they’ve never heard of.

Searches for Brands = Easy Wins

Maybe this is a given, but it’s worth pointing out: people who know exactly what they’re looking for are more likely to find it. In other words, if someone types your brand name into Google, they are probably looking specifically for your site, your brand, and your offerings. They know what they want already. By intertwining your SEO and branding strategies, you can grow your brand recognition, and, over time, begin driving valuable brand searches that turn into faster conversions than those among visitors who are just shopping around.

This is a difficult concept to prove because platforms like Google Analytics do not supply keyword-level info that can be directly connected to conversions, but the pure authority of branded searches is hard to ignore. If your brand is strong enough, people may not even bother searching for general keywords, and will just search your brand name instead. For example, look at the search volumes around three of the most common car windshield repair keywords on the books.

auto glass search volumewindshield repair search volume

Now, look at the search volume around the brand name of one of the biggest national players in this industry.

Safelite brand search volume

Obviously, not every person searching for any of those keywords is looking to buy auto glass. But a lot of them are. That’s 246,000 people who (probably) know who Safelite is, what they do, and how to find them. That’s why they’re more targeted, conversion-friendly searches than the more general, volatile to change, and less often searched terms such as “auto glass”.

Searching “auto glass repair” is proof positive of the company’s SEO efforts as well – Safelite has secured 3 out of the 10 organic (non-paid) search results on the first page in our area. SEO for brand awareness AND organic search domination? Now that’s authority!

How to Tell When Branding and SEO are Making an Impact

Sure, SEO and branding are a superhero team that can help your business take off. But how do you know if your SEO and brand building efforts are really working and driving meaningful actions such as leads and sales?

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to decipher the exact impact of SEO and brand marketing. As with traditional marketing, measuring every buyer’s true journey from start to finish can be difficult when tracing every interaction is nearly impossible. How many places, digital and physical, did a customer see and interact with your brand before converting? Even the customer may not know.

However, we can see how often people are looking for things that are unique to your brand. (How many times your site has appeared when someone has searched for your brand name, for instance.)

Google search console performance report

To do this, you’ll need to have your site connected to Google Search Console. This service allows you to monitor several technical aspects of your site, but most importantly in this case, it helps you see what searches your site is appearing for.

Once your site ownership is verified in Google Search Console, navigate to the Performance report.

Once you’re there, you can see roughly how many Clicks and Impressions your site gets from the organic search result pages. “Clicks” refers to someone clicking on one of your site’s pages via an organic search result, and “Impressions” refers to the number of times a link from your site appeared for a query made by a searcher – AKA, how many times your brand name and website was seen.

To see approximately how often your brand name has been searched for, you can perform a search.

Google Search Console brand performance

Make a new Query filter that contains your brand name, or part of your brand name. You can also add additional filters to capture common brand misspellings or represent common searches that only include part of your brand name (i.e., if your brand is “Freedom Investments”, set a filter that only includes “Freedom”.)

Google Search Console Brand Query

Now, you can see how many impressions and clicks that searches for your brand name have generated over time. Play around with the date function to see results as far as 16 months into the past.

As an example, look at one of Leverage Marketing’s clients who needed both SEO and brand building to help create a searchable presence and a stronger brand presence. Upon becoming a Leverage client near the end of 2016, Google Search Console showed us an average of about 50 branded query impressions per day. We can translate this to mean that their brand name was getting searched and seen about 50 times a day.

After a website redesign, dedicated onsite and technical SEO work, and a concentrated effort to create the brand image and voice that this client was missing, we’ve seen branded query impressions per day climb to over double what they were before pursuing SEO and branding. The impact of our campaign has helped their brand gain twice as many searches as it did before. That’s the power of branding!

brand impression growth through SEO


Ready to set a solid SEO and branding foundation for your site but not sure where to start? Get in touch with the Leverage team – we’re experts at curating your brand image and SEO strategy to drive results on your site.

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