Posts about search engine optimization

4 Local SEO Trends Shaping the Future of Search

Search engine optimization (SEO) evolves quickly, especially when it comes to local SEO trends. As a local business owner, it can be hard to keep up—which is why we’ve put together this guide to four local SEO updates that are shaping search in 2017.

The Rise of Voice Search

There’s no way around it: voice search (a search performed when a user speaks a voice command) is one of the biggest trends in local SEO, and businesses need to think about how to optimize web content for searchers who aren’t looking at a screen.  With the increasing popularity of virtual smartphone assistants like Siri and Cortana, as well as smart devices like Google Home and Amazon Alexa, spoken queries are becoming a common starting place for researching local businesses. In fact, Google estimates that 20% of all mobile queries are voice searches.

So, what’s the takeaway here? For one thing, local businesses and SEO analysts need to include natural language in site content and tags that mirrors the language of voice searches. Let’s say you’re trying to drive foot traffic to your Tex-Mex restaurant in Austin. You might already know that, “Where can I get Tex-Mex in Austin?” is a popular voice query. However, people may also be asking questions like:

Who has the best Tex Mex food in Austin?

Where can I get cheap Tex Mex near me?

What's the closest Tex Mex restaurant?

As people get more comfortable having casual conversations with their internet-enabled devices, local SEOs must update their strategies to focus more attention on long-tail keywords. Local businesses may also benefit from expanding their website’s FAQ content to address the common queries that consumers are asking their devices.

Sophisticated Chatbots

Chatbots are relatively new on the scene (at least when it comes to widespread adoption by small businesses). It’s hard to predict exactly how they’ll shape local SEO in 2017 and beyond, but chatbots certainly seem to fit with the shift towards more conversational search.

Microsoft’s Bing is betting big on this trend. The Google competitor is currently testing out chatbots for local Seattle restaurants. Participating restaurants have a Chat button next to their listing in the search engine results pages (SERPs), and searchers can click the option to summon up a chatbot. People can then ask the chatbot questions—such as whether the restaurant accepts credit cards or is good for large groups—and get answers faster than they might be able to just by searching the restaurant’s website and online reviews.

Bing's chatbot feature reflects local SEO trends

Bing’s chatbot opens directly on the search engine results page.

Bing plans to let businesses build their own SERP bots using their Microsoft Bot Framework. Once the bot is reviewed and approved, it will be available to display for relevant queries.

As of this writing, Google hasn’t added a chatbot feature to their SERPs. However, if Bing proves successful, it’s a safe bet that we’ll see something similar from Google in the future.

Proximity as a Ranking Factor

It’s no secret that search engines can identify a user’s approximate location (based on nearby WiFi networks and other data). What you might not know is just how granular Google can get with its geotargeted results.

A 2017 Local Search Rankings Survey from Moz found that the proximity of a searcher’s location to the point of search is the #1 ranking factor for the local pack (that box with a map and three locations that you sometimes see when searching for a local business). To put it another way, Google gives extra priority to relevant results that are geographically close to the place you’re searching from.  That means you could see different results in the local pack based on where in your city you’re searching from.

Google local pack

When I searched for “dog training Austin,” the results in the local 3-pack were relatively close to where Google placed my location.

This could be good for businesses that are trying to bring in foot traffic from a relatively small radius, but it’s not great for businesses that are trying to cast a wider net—or searchers who care about quality over proximity. For example, I’m more likely to drive a little farther than I normally would for a well-reviewed dog training service than to just pick whichever one is closest to my house.

In an article for Moz, Darren Shaw points out that Google may dial back the weight it assigns to proximity if searchers aren’t getting satisfying results. In the meantime, make sure you’re weathering this local SEO trend by claiming your listing on review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Angie’s List, and that you’re driving customer reviews to these sites. Shaw points out that if people don’t see what they’re looking for in the local pack, they’ll often click a link for a review site directly below it.

Yelp listing below Google's local pack

When I wanted to see more than the results in the local pack, I clicked the link to Yelp.

The Weight of Reviews and Links

If you’ve had any experience with local SEO in 2017, you know it’s a bitter fight to get your business to rank organically on the first search results page. Some searches deliver up to four ads at the top of the page, and ads are even sometimes prioritized in the local 3-pack. It’s an understatement to say that local SEO is getting more challenging.

It’s becoming more important than ever to prioritize link-building and customer reviews in your local SEO campaigns. These are two major factors that can help your site get organic traction and rank highly on the SERPs, even when you’re up against ads.

Let’s start with the link-building part of the equation. While Moz’s ranking factor survey found that physical proximity was the top ranking factor for the local pack, it also found that the quality of inbound links was the top ranking factor for local organic search (i.e. all the organic results outside of the local pack). The diversity of inbound links was the #3 most important factor, while the quantity of inbound links followed at #5.

Essentially, Google is giving a lot of SEO juice to local business sites that have been linked to by lots of high-quality websites. For example, if I owned a new bar in Austin that got coverage from high-traffic websites like Eater Austin, CultureMap, and Buzzfeed, Google’s algorithm would factor those links in when deciding where to rank my site for searches like “best new Austin bars.” As a bonus, those inbound links will drive new traffic to my site, introducing a larger audience to my business.

Now let’s take a look at customer reviews. There are plenty of SEO benefits when it comes to reviews:

  1. When a star-based ranking appears alongside a listing on the SERPs, it helps searchers make a snap decision about whether they’re interested in the business or not.
  2. Reviews give you unique, user-generated content for your site.
  3. Analyzing the language in reviews can help you decide what long-tail keywords to target.
  4. Google prioritizes businesses with 4+ star reviews when delivering results for “best x in city” searches.
best boutique hotels in Austin search results in local pack

The local pack results for “best boutique hotels in Austin” all have an average rating of over 4.5 stars.

What all this boils down to is that outreach needs to be a major part of your local SEO strategy for 2017. You should be reaching out to local bloggers and journalists to earn more coverage and inbound links, and you should be reaching out to past customers or clients to ask for their honest reviews. Don’t underestimate how much of a boost you could get in the search engine rankings by focusing on third-party content.


At Leverage Marketing, we have a lot to say about local SEO trends—more than we could fit in one blog post. If you’d like to talk to us about local SEO strategies for your business, contact us now.

5 Actionable SEO Tips for Ecommerce Websites

If you’re in the online retailing industry, you have a lot of tasks on your plate. When you’re juggling everything from marketing to fulfillment to customer service, optimizing your ecommerce site for SEO reasons may be getting pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. However, following a few ecommerce SEO best practices can be a big help in growing the number of orders you’re shipping out each day.

Read on for 5 actionable ways to step up your ecommerce site’s SEO strategy.

Simplify Your Site’s Structure

Ever browsed a site in search of a product and found yourself increasingly frustrated as you click link after link to reach your goal? We’ve all experienced this type of annoyance while online shopping, or even while choosing a restaurant. If it’s hard to get where you’re going, you’ll probably just go somewhere else. Even search engines feel this way–the deeper within the site that pages are hidden, the more time it will take for search engines to properly index your site.

When it comes to SEO for ecommerce sites, the best way to avoid this problem is to create the “flattest” site structure possible. Create a diagram of your current site structure to get a clearer view of the way your pages are organized. If some of your products are buried under six layers of subcategories or are only accessible through links on other product pages, you might want to consider having an ecommerce SEO expert audit your site structure and create a restructuring plan.

Make a Plan for Managing Old Product Pages

When you stop selling a product, it may seem easiest just to remove it from its category and delete its page. However, this isn’t a best practice for ecommerce SEO or good for users. The deleted page may have links that lead to that URL, and it may hold value on the search engine results page that brings in valuable customers. Why waste all that traffic?

Instead of completely deleting old product pages, give them a forwarding address by setting 301 redirects. This is a simple task if you’re using a platform like WordPress, as you can install a plugin like Simple 301 Redirects to help you “forward” old pages to relevant URLs that are still in use on your site.

Don’t squander a good link with an error message.

Watch Out for Duplicate Content

Many ecommerce companies have a wide range of products and not a lot of time to write unique descriptions for each of them. Sometimes, online retailers use the manufacturer’s product descriptions or reuse bits and pieces of content on different product pages. However, this isn’t the wisest choice when it comes to ecommerce SEO.

While it can be a time-consuming process, it is worth your while to audit your product content for originality as well as user experience. Think about what potential customers are typing into the search bar when they’re looking for your item and make sure you include those search terms in the descriptive content. Check to see that each page’s content brings value to the customer as well as to the search engine that crawls it.

Add Product Reviews

You may be surprised to see this suggestion on a list of ecommerce SEO tips, but product reviews matter in the SEO world, too! If your site isn’t currently making use of product reviews, it’s time to consider it for both your customers’ and search engines’ sake. Product reviews help your site accumulate more content and avoid the duplicate content issues mentioned above, and having reviews accessible is a great way to show off your great products and encourage quicker conversions.

Reviews generate a lot of original content, help your customers convert, and help you find out how to improve–what’s not to love?

Step Up Your Security Efforts

Both search engines and your customers care about security, and so should you. Sites that use HTTPS encryption rather than simply HTTP are becoming increasingly common, and retailers without HTTPS are likely to fall behind the curve soon if they haven’t already. Google has announced that their algorithm uses HTTPS as a ranking signal, meaning that it prefers to reward higher rankings to sites that are secured with HTTPS. Over time, making the switch could make a big difference in the SEO successes of your ecommerce site. If you haven’t already, make the switch sooner rather than later.

On a similar note, displaying badges of security and safety on highly visible places of your site (such as near the “Add to Cart” button) is a good way to assure customers that your business won’t rip them off or otherwise cause problems. For a safety-conscious consumer, this can make all the difference between a conversion and a bounce.


Looking for more tips on how to get the most out of your ecommerce site? Subscribe to the Leverage Marketing newsletter for a regular dose of digital marketing info, or get in touch with our team to find out how we help businesses grow with the help of our expert ecommerce SEO knowledge.

4 Wedding Industry Insiders Share Their Digital Marketing Strategies

As someone who recently got engaged, I’ve realized there’s a lot I have to learn about wedding planning. And as a content marketer, I’ve noticed that wedding businesses are great at reaching me while I’m doing research online. From sponsored posts about wedding day survival kits on Facebook to the promoted wedding dress Pins I keep seeing on Pinterest, brands are everywhere.

To get a better understanding of how wedding businesses are capitalizing on digital marketing, I reached out to the following four wedding industry professionals:

  • Kaleigh Wiese, founder of MéldeenWiese founded luxury stationary company Méldeen in 2009. Méldeen creates custom save-the-dates, wedding invitations, ceremony programs, thank you cards, and more. In 2016, Wiese introduced PIXEL by Méldeen, a custom Snapchat filter design service.
  • Stephanie Padovani, co-founder of Book More BridesPadovani and her husband, Jeff, started Book More Brides as a part-time project that played to their shared interest in marketing. Their consulting business, which helps wedding entrepreneurs increase leads and revenue, now grosses over six figures a year.
  • Ariel Meadow Stallings, founder of Offbeat BrideStallings launched her Offbeat Bride site in 2007 to promote her book about nontraditional weddings. The website gained popularity thanks to its focus on inclusivity and empowerment and now averages more than 1 million visits per month.
  • Jennifer Stein, co-founder and Editor in Chief of Destination I DoStein was inspired to help start Destination I Do in 2004 when she was planning her own destination wedding and realized there weren’t any magazines covering the subject. Destination I Do is now an international magazine with digital components, including a blog and online planning tools.

Méldeen: Using Analytics to Reach Wedding Planners

For Kaleigh Wiese, success in digital marketing is all about focusing on the right audience. Because of Méldeen’s price points and minimums, Wiese has found that wedding planners are her best customers (although she gets some direct inquiries from engaged couples, too).  Wiese has a few major strategies for getting Méldeen in front of wedding planners:

  1. Research the keywords and hashtags wedding planners use when searching for inspiration.

  2. Explore relevant search terms that are getting more volume (e.g. foil, letterpress). Capitalize on those concepts in Pinterest content before they reach peak popularity (and saturation). Use Promoted Pins for high-value, relevant content.

  3. Use Google Analytics to identify where the most traffic is coming from and focus paid campaigns on those geographic locations.

Bonus Tip: Wiese also pointed out that digital marketing strategies can help with networking—something that’s especially important for a wedding business that works with other wedding professionals. When using Instagram, Wiese says that she always tries “to tag all vendors involved in the day-of event.” It’s something that not a lot of wedding vendors think to do, but tagging one another on social media helps to build network connections and leverage credibility with potential customers.

Book More Brides: Capturing Leads with Hot-Button Content

Stephanie Padovani isn’t afraid to speak her mind when it comes to writing content for Book More Brides. She shared the following recipe for attracting clients (in her case, wedding professionals):

  1. Identify a controversial topic your target clients get really worked up about.

  2. Write an article that proves the arguments for your prospects and makes them look good.

  3. Promote the article to your target audience and encourage sharing and republishing.

Padovani explained to me how she did this with one of her blog posts: 10 Things Couples Need to Know About the Wedding Industry That the Media Will Never Tell You. She wrote this post in response to common headlines that talk about “wedding markups” and “getting taken advantage of” when planning a wedding. In her article, she explains why those accusations are mostly false and how much behind-the-scenes work goes into being a wedding professional.

In addition to publishing the post on the Book More Brides blog, Padovani shared it with her email list and social media audience, encouraging readers to republish it and spread the word. In a few days, the post had received 3,000 page views and over 3,500 Facebook engagements and Tweets. To date, the post has received over 24,000 unique page views.

After getting the ideal audience to the site, Padovani recommends using multiple opt-in offers to generate leads. For example, the Book More Brides blog prominently displays an email template that visitors can download after they submit their email address.

Offbeat Bride: Listening to the Online Community

Ariel Meadow Stallings launched the Offbeat Bride website in 2007 as a way to promote her book (Offbeat Bride: Creative Alternatives for Independent Brides), and since then the site has become an active online community and collaborative blog with well over a million readers per month. As the site has grown, the Offbeat Bride brand has evolved to reach a wider audience. In an interview on her site, Ariel said:

“My initial target readership was super weird people planning super weird weddings…It became clear within a year that the majority of my readership was not actually all that weird, nor were they especially tech-savvy. The majority were brides planning what initially appeared to be relatively traditional weddings, looking for creative and unique ideas to make the weddings feel personal.”

Stallings often gets ideas for content that will resonate with her audience by going straight to that community of readers. Until 2015, Offbeat Bride had a private online forum with members who were “super vocal, super engaged, and highly invested.” Stallings sometimes sourced content directly from forum members and followed discussions to get an idea of what issues were most popular with her readership. While the forum is no longer online, Stallings now uses native insights from Facebook and Instagram to listen to the Offbeat Bride community. When she and her staff develop content, the focus generally remains on material “that’s positive but also provocative, relevant to consumers as well as industry readers.”

Destination I Do: Adapting to Changing Landscapes

Destination I Do began as both a print and online magazine, and while the publication still includes both traditional print and online components, its marketing strategy has evolved to meet the needs of today’s readers. Co-founder Jennifer Stein told me that because so many engaged couples rely on online and mobile content when planning their weddings, Destination I Do has invested in increasing visibility and providing a great user experience. Stein noted:

“We invest marketing dollars in Instagram to generate a genuine engagement with our readers as well as leveraging idea inspiration platforms such as Pinterest. We also put our budget in areas like Facebook, Google AdWords, and SEO [strategies] to drive traffic directly to our site. Data is only one piece of the puzzle. Our goal isn’t just to get unique visitors on our site to bring product awareness, it’s to engage with our readers so that they can experience a helpful conversation with us.”

Stein and the rest of the team at Destination I Do are most interested in targeting a niche audience of engaged couples who are planning a destination wedding and honeymoon. Stein said that because a destination wedding is such a big moment (and one that requires a lot of planning), “we do our best to provide partner products, inspiration, and content that will help [couples] with that process and, in the end, make it fun and stress-free.”

Takeaways for the Wedding Industry

Although the four wedding professionals I spoke to are all targeting different audiences, I noticed a few similar strategies:

  • Pay attention to what your target audience is talking about in wedding forums, blog comment sections, and social media posts. This will help you develop content that effectively engages that audience.
  • Use Google Analytics (and other data collection tools) to get a better understanding of your site visitors’ behavior and interests. You may find that your site is appealing to different segments than you originally thought.
  • While search engine optimization is important, it’s equally important to optimize your wedding business website for your visitors. Provide the inspiration and information that will be most useful to your audience, whether they’re planning their wedding or assisting with the planning for someone else.

Are you a wedding business owner with an online presence? Let us know what digital marketing strategies have worked for you in the comments. And if you have any questions about how you can increase your traffic and conversions, don’t hesitate to contact Leverage Marketing directly.

How the Evolution of the Google Search Engine Has Changed Business

The word “Google” has become nearly synonymous with the concept of “search” over the past couple decades. With the emergence of technology such as voice searches, one must wonder if the word “Google” will someday replace the word “search” entirely (Lost your keys? Just Google them!).

Businesses are learning that they are left behind without a presence on Google’s search results pages. Gone is the heyday of direct mail and billboards – if your customer can’t find you on the first page of search results, do you really exist? No matter who you are or what your business does, you need to know about the evolution of Google search to understand how your site will be affected and what you can do to beat out the competition in this space. Hence, we’re looking into the history of the Google search engine, the world’s most famous algorithm.

Just BackRub It

steel chain with shallow depth of field representing link building

While the full history of search engines began several years before, Google started in 1996 as a concept engineered by two Stanford students in a dorm room. While other search engines primarily collected and retrieved URLS and titles based on pure keyword match, the earliest iteration of Google was different. The early Google search algorithm, then named “BackRub”, utilized citations to help provide searchers with valuable search results. It gave pages “value” based on how many times they were mentioned (linked to) across the web. Pages that had a lot of links pointing towards them were given stronger rankings on the search results pages, as the number of mentions indicated that the page was important to readers.

Does that sound familiar? If you have some knowledge about search engine optimization, you’ll know that gaining links to your site is one of the most powerful ways to rank in higher positions on search pages and get more traffic and conversions. Maybe the name has changed, but Google still values the “backrub” your site gets when another reputable site links to it.

You (Can) Always Get What You Want

Have you ever Googled something and been amazed by how perfect the results were? Contrary to what you might think, Google’s algorithm can’t read your mind – well, not exactly.

The minds behind Google spent the years after its inception looking for ways to make the algorithm produce more relevant results for searchers. They found a lot of nifty ways to achieve this. In 2000, the great evolution of the Google search engine began when the team started to tweak the algorithm that helped bring trustworthy and relevant pages to the top of the search results. There have been a lot of changes to Google search over the years, but some notable updates include:

  • google search timeline of changes to google's algorithm2003: Google began cracking down on sites that were manipulating the links-as-votes algorithm with huge sites created simply to link to other sites. In fact, Google is still perfecting the way it determines “good” links and “bad” links – which is why trying to manipulate Google’s algorithm by purchasing or trading links is an unwise long-term decision for your site. Google will find you, and it will penalize you.
  • 2010: Google started taking into account signals from social media when deciding what pages rank highest. Similar to links, social signals help indicate that a site is a place that people like and trust. That’s right–Twitter is not just for the kids anymore.
  • 2011-2015: The Panda algorithm updates went live to help demote ad-heavy and thin content pages, which offer a somewhat unfriendly user experience. With this big round of changes, Google helped push up high-quality content and websites to the top of the list. A grammatically-incorrect paragraph or two just doesn’t cut it anymore.
  • 2012-2016: The notorious Penguin updates took a swing at websites using spammy tactics to improve their rankings, such as keyword stuffing. In other words, if you’re writing for the machines and not humans, Google probably doesn’t like your site.
  • 2015: Google announces that machine learning was being built into the algorithm and was one of the most important ranking factors. Essentially, Google is not just reading the words we search, but also interpreting what we really mean when we type them.

The continuous improvement of Google’s algorithm is one of the reasons it has dominated the history of internet search. While Yahoo! technically existed before Google, people flocked to Google due to the ever-improving relevancy of its search results. Sounds as if we like having our minds read – and sounds like we should be trying to read our site visitors’ minds when creating our sites, too. Google’s doing it, after all.

Don’t Rage Against the Machine

google voice search smartphone

What’s next for Google, then? A robot that comes to your house and answers your questions before you can ask them? Maybe not yet – but we’re not that far off.

Mobile technology is driving changes in Google’s search algorithm and layout, and up-and-comers like voice search are beginning to change the way we search and the way Google answers. “Googling” is ingrained into nearly every moment of our daily lives. We don’t look through the phone book to find a plumber anymore – we Google “plumbers near me”.

And even the concept of Google has taken over the way we do things – everything from dating apps to shopping sites operate using intelligent search algorithms that want to read your mind and give you what you want.

While other mediums will still hold value, search is becoming the main battleground for all kinds of businesses – ecommerce, service, even entertainment. Search is where you win conversions such as phone calls and form fills, or where you lose customers with weak rankings and spammy-looking titles. Google constantly looks for ways to give better search results to searchers, and sometimes, sites get hurt when Google decides they’re not good enough.

But why fight it? Give Google what it wants – because it’s also what every business’ customers want. They both want to see high-quality and easy-to-use sites that answer their burning questions. If there’s anything business owners can learn from the history of the Google search algorithm, it’s that it just wants the results that are best for everyone.

You know what they say – build a great site, and the customers will come.


Ready to get in Google’s good graces? We’ve got you covered. Subscribe to our biweekly newsletter for the digital marketing advice you need to step up your site’s performance, or get in touch with us to learn more about how a digital marketing agency can grow your brand.

40 Questions To Ask Before Hiring a Digital Marketing Agency

Maybe you’re planning to hire a marketing agency for the first time. Maybe you’ve been burned by a black hat SEO agency and have sworn you’ll be more particular about the next marketing partner you choose. Whatever the case, you know that when hiring a digital marketing agency, you need to do your research and ask all the right questions.

Not sure if you’re covering enough ground with your current list of questions? We can help with that. We’ve come up with a list of 40 questions to ask before hiring a digital marketing agency. Many of them are questions that our clients have asked us—or that we wish would come up more often!

No time to read the list right now? Save it for later:

40 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Digital Marketing Agency

Jump to a section:

SEO

  1. How will you improve our search engine rankings? Get the agency to talk about their process. Watch out for agencies that use black hat techniques (such as buying low-quality links) or promise that they can get your page to rank number one for certain keywords.
  2. What’s your process for earning high-quality links? Does the agency have a database of relevant placement opportunities and a process for reaching out to bloggers?
  3. Do you follow Google Webmaster Guidelines? Your agency should always follow the Webmaster Guidelines to help Google find, index, and rank your site. Following these guidelines will also help your site avoid penalties.
  4. Have you ever helped a site recover from a penalty? Can you tell me about that process? Hopefully, the agency hasn’t gotten any of their clients penalized, but they may have had new clients come to them needing help recovering from a Google algorithm penalty.
  5. How long will it take to see results? The agency won’t be able to give you an exact date, but effective SEO campaigns should start positively affecting your site in about three to six months.
  6. What will I need to do to make the campaign successful? Find out what information you can give the agency to make your SEO campaigns as successful as possible.

Content Marketing

  1. Can you show us some writing samples? Any agency that offers content marketing services should be able to show you examples of their writers’ best work.
  2. How will your writers familiarize themselves with our business and industry? You need to know your agency can handle the amount of research needed to produce authoritative content for your business.
  3. How do you optimize your content for readers and search engines? Learn about the content team’s process for connecting with your target audience. Find out how closely they work with the SEO team and whether they optimize their content for relevant keywords.
  4. What types of content do you produce? Find out if the agency has experience producing not just website copy and blog posts but also infographics, video scripts, short animations, email campaigns, eBooks, and more.
  5. How many internal and external content pieces will you create per month? If your goal is to stay top-of-mind with your audience by publishing a new blog post every day, you’ll need to make sure your agency has enough bandwidth.
  6. Will you be publishing new content on our site? Find out if the agency can add images, format content to appeal to online readers, and publish the final product to your site. If the agency doesn’t handle publication, you’ll have to assign an in-house team member to stay on top of it.
  7. What metrics will you report on? The agency should go beyond just vanity metrics (traffic, social shares, number of comments) and measure how their content assists in conversions.

Paid Search

  1. Do you have a Google Partner Badge? If your agency has a Google Partner Badge, it means they have employees who are certified in Google AdWords, have access to their own Google Agency Team, and keep up with the latest AdWords innovations.
  2. Do you offer services across multiple PPC platforms (not just AdWords)? While Google is the most widely used search platform, it may be worthwhile to find out if your PPC agency also uses Bing Ads (especially since Bing has a 22% share of desktop search traffic).
  3. What tools do you use to optimize your paid search campaigns? The agency you’re interviewing might use paid search tools that would be too expensive for you to bring in-house. They may also have proprietary tools that you can’t get anywhere else.
  4. Will we be able to see actual spend within AdWords? Your agency should be transparent about how they’re spending your ad dollars.
  5. What metrics are included in your standard reports? CPC, CTR, ad positions, conversion rate of keywords and landing pages—your agency should deliver easy-to-read reports that make it clear how your paid search campaigns have been performing.
  6. Do you have experience managing paid campaigns on Facebook and LinkedIn? As organic reach on Facebook and LinkedIn decreases, it’s becoming more valuable to hire a marketing agency with experience in paid social media.

Social Media

  1. What social channels should my company be on? Chances are, you don’t need to be on every social media network in existence. Your agency should be able to recommend the channels that are most relevant to you based on your audience and business goals.
  2. What is your process for community management across platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.)? A good social media team should be prepared to respond to comments and facilitate conversations on all your social channels—and to look for ways to connect with customers across those channels.
  3. How will you ensure our social media presence reflects our brand? Your agency should be thinking of social media strategies that are consistent with your brand rather than just resorting to tactics they’ve used for other clients.
  4. What is your content development strategy? Find out how closely your agency’s social media and content marketing teams work together when it comes to producing social content.
  5. How do you measure ROI on social media efforts? Your agency should be able to describe how they’ll track campaigns and measure the results in relation to your goals (e.g. conversions, revenue, customer acquisition).

Web Design

  1. Can you show us some of the websites you’ve designed? Although your website obviously won’t look exactly like the others your agency has designed, it’s good to get a sense of their aesthetic before you commit.
  2. Do you custom-design websites or use templates? If you have a limited budget and your website isn’t a major source of sales, a template site might be enough. However, if you need a unique site that will generate leads or sales, you should talk to agencies that offer custom design services.
  3. How much input will I have in the design? Find out if you’ll be able to see the website and provide input as it’s being created. You should also find out what the agency’s process will be if you don’t like the initial design.
  4. Will you use responsive design? Any good web design agency knows that websites need to look good on all screen sizes, from smartphones to desktop monitors.
  5. Will my website be able to scale as my business grows? Your agency should design your website so that more products, services, navigation options, and other features can be added as needed without a complete site redesign.
  6. Do you offer ecommerce services? If you have an ecommerce business, you’ll want to work with an agency that can handle shopping carts, support for multiple currencies, updating prices to reflect discounts, and more.
  7. Do you offer ongoing maintenance once the site goes live? Will the agency be able to handle troubleshooting post-launch, or will you have to find another vendor to maintain your website?
  8. What role does SEO play in your site design? Will your web design agency also be able to produce keyword-optimized content, add title and meta tags, implement a crawlable link structure, and use other strategies to make your site SEO-friendly from the start?
  9. Do you set up Analytics tracking when designing a new site? It’s important to get Google Analytics tracking set up with your new site so that you can begin viewing behavior and performance metrics.
  10. What kind of security features do you offer? It’s a good idea to make sure your agency can set up a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate to establish a secure connection for traffic between the web browser and server.

General

  1. How will you help me stand out from my competition? Your agency needs to understand your target audience and what you can deliver to your audience that your competitors can’t.
  2. How will you improve my site’s conversion rate? The agencies you interview may talk about how they can improve your visibility and increase traffic to your site, but they ultimately need to increase conversions/sales to make your investment pay off.
  3. What experience do you have working with businesses in my industry? It’s nice to know if your agency has experience with other businesses in your industry, but it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker if they don’t. You could also ask: What steps will you take to become an expert on my business and industry?
  4. How will we communicate? Find out who you’ll be working with on a regular basis and how often you can expect to talk with them.
  5. How will you report on our progress month-over-month? Will the agency deliver an easy-to-read report and summary every month? Will they walk you through the report in a monthly meeting?
  6. How do your different marketing efforts fit together? Ideally, you’ll find a digital agency that sees all its departments as working together towards big-picture goals, rather than existing in separate silos.

We hope these questions will help you in hiring a digital marketing agency. And don’t forget: Leverage offers all the services described above. Contact us to learn more, and subscribe to our biweekly newsletter to have helpful marketing advice delivered to your inbox.

Leverage Makes Clutch List of Leading Austin SEO Firms

Clutch badge for Top Austin SEO Firms in 2017

Here at Leverage, we think our SEO team is pretty great—and so does Clutch. Clutch.co, a Washington DC research firm that reviews and rates marketing, development, and design firms, named Leverage Marketing to its 2017 list of outstanding Austin SEO firms.

Clutch evaluates firms using both qualitative and quantitative factors, including experience level, technical certifications, and market presence in the SEO industry. Clutch also conducts interviews of existing clients to understand how each marketing agency develops strategies, addresses challenges, and manages SEO campaigns.

We’re thrilled that Clutch has recognized Leverage not just for our technical experience but for our level of client satisfaction.  We also appreciate our clients who took the time to provide their feedback to Clutch. And, of course, we have to give a shout-out to our SEO team for their hard work and search engine savvy!

3 Reasons You Need Video Marketing in Your SEO Campaign

Growing a customer base through SEO can be a time-intensive process. To see great results, you’ll need to seize every opportunity to create growth. Amplifying the growth of an SEO campaign is all about finding strategies that appeal to both your customers and the search engines – which is why video marketing and SEO are an ideal combination for growing your audience and keeping readers on your site.

Sound appealing? Check out our top three reasons why your site should start incorporating SEO video marketing.

Grow Conversions

Did you know that YouTube is the #2 search engine in the world? It’s used more heavily than Bing and Yahoo combined. That is some pretty solid evidence that people like to watch videos. Video is a highly-accessible medium through which to communicate ideas to pretty much any demographic or target audience. Adding videos to your site offers an easy way to keep users entertained and captivated by your site.

The most important result that can occur from engaging your site visitors with helpful, interesting video content? Conversions. SEO video marketing can grow conversions significantly. Including video in an email marketing campaign has grown leads from email subscribers by 51%, and including video on a landing page can increase conversion by 80%. The ultimate goal of any SEO campaign is to keep growing conversions and gaining qualified leads, so you’re missing a huge opportunity to boost conversion rates if you’re not considering video SEO efforts.

Develop Your Online Image

Hand pushes play button on webinar, illustrating video SEO conceptTo see long-term results from your SEO efforts, you’ll want to keep growing your brand and establishing your site as a trusted corner of the internet. By creating SEO-optimized video content, you can help your site become a thought leader in its niche by answering common questions and providing information about products, the industry, or services via videos. It also provides a way to reach out to busy searchers looking for straightforward info. One simple way to begin achieving this kind of thought leadership is to create a basic explainer video or two – check out our guide to making your own explainer video here.

Building out SEO-optimized video content that can be found on search engines such as YouTube as well as your site is a way to round out your reputation across the web and drive traffic back to your site. You’re also increasing your brand’s visibility by growing the number of places and ways that potential customers can find you. And best of all, sending more traffic to your pages will help your site achieve better overall positions on search engine results pages in the long run.

Finally, don’t discount the power of SEO video marketing to differentiate your brand in a positive way. For example, ecommerce businesses have begun to use video to better display their products, and service businesses can capture glowing customer testimonials in video form. Seemingly small details like this help encourage potential customers to choose you when making a decision. Check out our list of out-of-the-box ways to differentiate your site and grow your web presence.

Gain an Edge Over the Competition

Chances are, your competition is implementing some sort of SEO efforts as well. You’re competing for the same or similar search queries, and competition can get tight. Video can give you an edge on the search results page.

Video content now appears on search result pages with written content. This is especially true for “how-to” and informational search queries. Rather than writing another blog post or infographic, why not try getting some of that valuable visual real estate on the top of the search results page?

Don’t let your industry or subject matter deter you from delving into video. As the example snippet above shows, people are looking for answers on even seemingly mundane topics. Don’t let your competitors grab this opportunity first – start pursuing video marketing for SEO now.


Still have doubts about implementing SEO video marketing? Consult the video marketing pros at Leverage. We’ll help you choose the right video strategy and integrate SEO best practices to give your site a boost. In the meantime, sign up for the Leverage newsletter today for more free digital marketing pointers and factoids.

6 Unique Ways to Use Video in Your Marketing

Scroll down your Facebook feed, catch up on Twitter, or rummage through Instagram, and you’ll notice video after video after video. Visit a major retailer or electronics developer’s website and you’re likely to stumble on how-to and explainer videos. leverage green computer with mock facebook on screen and videosOpportunity exists to market your goods or services within those channels to customers who need and want them with a bit of clever video creation.

There are some rarely traveled avenues for video that your competitors probably haven’t explored yet. The following unique ways to use video in your marketing all require only a basic video setup with a microphone and some free space.

Attention-Grabbing GIFs

Animated GIFs don’t just have to come from your favorite TV shows and movies – you can shoot a custom video and turn it into an animation that will pull your website visitors’ attention immediately.

eric promotion highlight animation pointing at text to the leftUse GIFS to:

  • Draw attention to a CTA
  • Make an offer
  • Enhance branding
  • Inject personality

You can use GIFs on your website, in your emails, on social media, and in presentations. Just don’t overdo it – too many GIFs in inappropriate places will hinder your professional credibility. If you don’t have software like Adobe Photoshop to make custom GIFs, use Giphy’s GIF Maker to assemble your animations.

Video Email Signatures

Give prospects, business partners, and clients a chance to look through another entertaining and enlightening window into your business by adding a crafty signature video to your email signature block.

 

The video should exhibit your individual personality and include some elements of your work culture. There’s no one format, and you can film it anywhere at any time. Like most videos, keep it short – it should be fun for the viewer and heighten their goodwill and respect for your company.

Weekly Broadcasts

leverage purple computer showing weekly broadcast showWeekly, monthly, or even daily broadcasts uploaded to YouTube are beneficial to your SEO and can also be easily posted and shared through major social networks like Twitter and Facebook. If your site garners a healthy amount of traffic, you can also feature them on an exclusive part of your website and encourage visitors to register for other special content that you provide.

Assemble short videos to:

  • Display new products
  • Update customers on upcoming products
  • Announce new services
  • Provide industry tips

If you haven’t addressed them in a while, you can also just say hello to your audience. Your broadcasts are most likely to catch views if you share them on social media and encourage others to share as well. However, you can still get some traction by recording periodical videos to create a library of company news and events as well.

Interviews with Influencers

leverage green computer showing interview with influencer

Influencers hold phenomenal authority in the world of social media, which gives them the ability to direct customers to a product or service they deem worthy of their fans’ attention. If you’re using influencer marketing as part of your marketing plan, you’re already on the right track to reaching your target audience and bringing your product or service to the people that are currently looking for it.

 

Influencers and video both currently dominate social media. Combine these trends to multiply the results of your efforts.

Broadcast and record live chats and interviews with influencers about your product. Do it question-and-answer style or just spend some time thanking an influencer for his or her endorsement and reinforcing the reasons that your product or service is worthy of attention from influencers and their followers. You can then turn your live videos into exceptional testimonials for your website.

Unscripted Testimonials

leverage purple computer showing video testimonialVideo testimonials exist scarcely in the deep recesses of the Internet – but that’s not because they aren’t effective. Text-and-photo testimonials still dominate because they are easy to make and post. But by employing only a small amount of additional effort, you can collect a few video testimonials that will tell more than text ever could.

Coordinate with happy customers and offer them an incentive if they don’t seem to have time to fit you in. A one-off free service or product offering is an incredible price for a video testimonial. Prepare a short list of questions to ask to get organic responses and provide the list to the customer beforehand.

Try some of the following questions:

  • What do you like about our product or service?
  • Can you tell me a story about a time when our product or service helped you or your business?
  • Why do you plan to continue to buy or use our product or service?

Bring customers or clients in for a shoot (don’t forget to ask them their name and company while recording), send them on their way, then do a quick edit for a 30-second testimonial and you’ll capture a new level of trust from your audience.

Offline Customer Service

leverage green computer with hammer and wood showing offline service videosCustomer service representatives often have a script from which they read to help customers solve their problems. Save your customer service team some time and eliminate the troubleshooting script with a video or series of videos that attempts to show customers and clients how to solve basic problems without human guidance.

Draw from an available Frequently Asked Questions database or start collecting information from your customer service department. Then draw out a script with step-by-step instructions on how to fix problems. Give the videos a single, cohesive format and brand them so your customers know that it’s your company that cares enough to give them a hand solving their problems.

Get creative with your videos, and no matter how you’re doing them, make sure:

  • Your brand is clear
  • Your actors are recurring
  • Your video fulfills a need
  • Your video’s content has not been done before

Follow content marketing best practices (provide useful information, don’t manipulate your audience, etc.) when creating and sharing videos to increase their power. When executed correctly, videos can enhance almost every part of your digital marketing strategy. Try to find new ways to integrate video into multiple marketing channels at once to take your brand or company to the top – fast!

Leverage knows video marketing. We stay up to the minute on video trends to keep our skills sharp and share information with trusted readers and clients like you. Stay afloat in the video information flow by signing up for our newsletter today. It’s easy, free, and loaded with marketing magic.

9 Free SXSW 2017 Interactive & Networking Events

2017 is a unique year for South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, TX. Fresh visual technology and virtual reality will play a larger role than ever in the interactive sections of the event, and emerging mobile app capabilities are likely to dominate the floor. The ever-revolving marketing sphere turns on the axis of new technology, so wise marketers are already looking for free events that will upgrade their digital marketing game for the rest of 2017.

Enjoy these free SXSW 2017 Interactive & networking events and share the info with your fellow entrepreneurs, marketers, and friends. These events are accessible at no charge with a free guest pass unless otherwise noted.

Treehouse Old School Happy Hour

Date Time RSVP
March 8 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM Yes

Treehouse is not only hosting a happy hour with free drinks, food, and music at Old School in Austin, they’re also giving away free one-month memberships to Treehouse for Business. The happy hour will unfold crawl-style, and you’ll get the chance to experience both Austin’s most unforgettable food and drinks as well as some of the most influential speakers of SXSW.

treehouse old school happy hour shot of crowd enjoying drinks

Austin Tech Happy Hour

(Note: This event allows entry by ticket. Free tickets are likely to run out fast, so reserve your tickets right away, or you may have to pay for tickets or cash at the door.)

Date Time RSVP
March 9 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM Yes

The Austin Tech Happy Hour has been running for ten years, and it’s stronger than ever in 2017. Admission gets you two free drink tickets so you can loosen up with Austin’s tech crowd before the SXSW truly kicks off. The emerging technology community will be there ready to make friends online and offline.

austin tech happy hour logo

SX Create

Date Time RSVP
March 10 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM No

SX Create dives into the world of emerging technologies and the ways they can be customized and manipulated. Kids and adults alike can take in the wonder of 3D printing, drones, robots, biohacking, and whatever other secret projects with which inquisitive minds have been tinkering.

sx create r2d2 droid

Decoded Fashion: Content Is Still King

Date Time RSVP
March 12 3:30 PM – 4:30 PM Yes

Decoded Fashion wants to explore new and exciting ways to bring original content to fashion-hungry audiences. Even if you aren’t in the fashion industry, you’ll have the chance to learn a thing or two about PR, influencer marketing, and the very personal journeys that lead customers to relevant content.

decoded fashion house logo

Amazon Web Services ATX Startup Crawl

Date Time RSVP
March 13 5:00 PM – ? Yes

Amazon Web Services is pulling together Austin’s hottest startup businesses for a bar crawl that entrepreneurs and job-seekers alike won’t forget. The crawl is offering free drinks and pulled in a whopping 12,000 registrants last year. Guests can enjoy free drinks, check out local office spaces, share résumés, and talk with ambitious startup owners and employees.

atx startup crawl logo

Digital Media Women: Burgers & Bubbles

Date Time RSVP
March 13 3:00 PM – 7:00 PM Yes

Women are a powerful force in digital media, and the leaders of Digital Media Women want everyone to know about it. This is your chance to talk face-to-face with existing and upcoming digital media leaders as well as find out the secrets of women who are innovating at the forefront of technology. Plus, there’s food and tasty beverages.

digital media women sxsw 2017

Women in Digital Meetup

(Note: This event is already waitlisted, and the event coordinators are attempting to reserve an additional tent for those who want to attend. If you’re interested, register right away.

Date Time RSVP
March 13 4:00 PM – 7:00 PM Yes

It’s no secret that women are playing incredible roles in digital media and marketing, and this SXSW Meetup is set to celebrate the success of Women in Digital as it exceeds 450 members. This event is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet some of the most astounding minds in digital marketing and media and join a powerful network of hard-working women.

women in digital homepage screen grab

Pet Rescue Lounge

Date Time RSVP
March 13 5:00 PM – 1:00 AM Yes

Pets are near and dear to the dog and cat lovers of Leverage Marketing, a sentiment shared by nearly all of Austin. Meet like-minded individuals that can’t get away from their preoccupation with pets, and help find homes for deserving dogs and cats while enjoying unique entertainment from famous pets and free pet swag!

pet rescue lounge event logo

Local and Vocal

Date Time RSVP
March 15 4:00 PM – 11:00 PM Yes

Local and Vocal is an event that focuses on local Austin talent in entertainment. If you’re a marketer, you’ll have a rare opportunity to find talent to which you can offer your unique services. This event includes free drinks for those who are over 21 years old – which, of course, lends itself to some serious networking.

local and vocal sxsw 2017

Even though the events are free, we welcome you to support the event coordinators, participants, and local businesses by enjoying an extra drink or dish. Network, learn about new technology, and hone your marketing skills at these free SXSW 2017 Interactive & networking events coming your way very, very soon.

 

Want more free stuff? Sign up for our awesome Leverage Marketing newsletter. It’s packed with news about digital technology, marketing, business trends, and can’t-miss bulletins – and it’s all for free. FREE!

How to Improve Your Click-Through Rate in 3 Steps

You’ve spent time crafting helpful, easy-to-navigate web pages across your site, and you’re excited to watch your site traffic and conversions soar. Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy – people browsing the internet have a lot of paid and organic links to choose from on search result pages, and convincing web users to click on your link first isn’t an easy task. Increasing your click through rate (CTR) can make an impact in many ways. Not only do users need to click on your pages, but they need to click on them often and stay on your site – search engines tend to reward pages with high CTR with more visibility on search engine result pages. Luckily, there are several simple ways you can improve click-through rates for your links that appear on search results pages.

Write a Page Title that Stands Out

To inspire browsers to choose your page out of all the other options on the search results page, you’re going to have to create a title for your page that captures attention and makes readers want to know more. Simply stating the topic of the page is not going to do much to help improve CTR – you want to give searchers a reason to choose your page first.

There are some easy ways to make titles more click-able and appealing to internet users:

  • Make an emotional appeal. If there’s a way for you to stir the emotions of readers with your content, spin that to your advantage. Instead of offering “The Best Boutiques in Austin,” try eliciting an emotional response with something like “Local Austin Boutiques You’re Missing Out On.”
  • Solve a problem. Chances are, the searcher reading your headline is looking for a solution to some problem. Improve your click-through rate by simply giving them what they’re looking for! An article titled “Romantic Food Trucks in Austin” doesn’t promise to solve my problem quite as well as “Take Your Date to These Austin Food Trucks” does.
  • Create urgency. Is there something on your page that can help your searchers RIGHT NOW? Will they miss out if they scroll past your page? It’s easy to skip out on “Great Places to Eat Cupcakes in Austin,” but “Austin Cupcakes You Should Try Today” helps me picture myself working the trip into today’s plans.

An important factor to remember when crafting a page title to improve CTR is that the title must accurately describe the full content. Misrepresenting your content may increase how many clicks your page gets in the short term, but it won’t bring many valuable leads or search engine ranking boosts over time. To avoid writing a title that is misleading, get into your reader’s head and think about what content on your page that a reader might be seeking when they search on Google or Bing. A great page title will satisfy the reader’s intent by delivering content on the page that lives up to expectations.

Add a Meta Description

Search engines like to give browsers some idea of what to expect once they click on a link – that’s why they include a short snippet of your content below the blue link and URL on the search page.

Did you know that you can control (to some extent) what search engines display in this valuable space? By adding a meta description to your page, you can indicate to search engines what your article is about, and you can improve your click-through rate significantly if you perform this function well. While search engines may not always choose to display your carefully-written meta description for every single search, a relevant meta description can get a lot of visibility on search pages.

Adding meta descriptions to your pages is usually a simple task. Website platforms often include fields into which you can add a meta description without any knowledge of coding, and SEO plugins for common platforms such as WordPress almost always include user-friendly fields for adding your meta description to a page.

When composing your meta descriptions to improve CTR, similar rules apply to the ones for writing a great title – stir emotions, offer solutions, and create urgency. Sprinkling in short calls-to-action to “check this out,” “get this offer,” and “try this hamburger” help persuade readers that there is something they really, really want to experience on the other side of that blue link.

Think in Numbers

Quantify ideas to bring attention to your links and increase your click-through rate. Numbers add structure, organization, and trust to what otherwise may seem like a lot of meaningless words. Ask yourself: how can I summarize the unique selling propositions of my website, brand, product, service, or content in numbers? Is there a way I can use numbers to describe the past or the future?

For example, maybe you’ve served 100,000 scoops of ice cream, offer the only $0.99 hot dog in Austin, or expanded your seating area by 20%. If working numbers into your page title and meta description is relevant and truthful, it’s a great way to grab a reader’s attention and boost CTR on search pages.

Even if numbers don’t make sense for a certain page, think of other ways you can summarize what the user can expect on a page. For example, articles written in list format with titles like “5 Hidden Gem Music Venues in Austin” promise straightforward answers and simplicity.


Ready to improve your click-through rate? The digital marketing experts at Leverage Marketing can help you with that. We’ve got the experience and industry savvy to give your search CTR, traffic, and conversions a boost. Get in touch with us today.

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