Posts about search engine optimization

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.


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, 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.

Can Google Read Text in Images?

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

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

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

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

Google Guesses What’s in Images Using Several Methods

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


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

Google gave us the result below:

google image search result for b2b video marketing abstract box

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

Simple Shapes

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

google image search result for b2b video marketing gold stars

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

google image search result for visually similar gold stars


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


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

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

google image search result for influencer marketing facts and statistics infographic

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

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

Reading Infographics: Leverage Marketing Internal Study

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Can I Maximize the Chance of My Image Ranking Well?

The best strategy for ensuring that Google knows well what kind of information your image contains and how valuable it can be is to ensure that you include the following with your image upon publishing:

  • Metadata – Googlebot is consistent about reading the metadata included with images, especially alt text, but it’s important to remember to keep it brief and packed with information.
  • Quality content – Include some, but not a copy, of the information contained in your graphic in the body of the page surrounding your graphic. It may not always be possible, but if you have the chance to put some info from the image in text format, take that chance.
  • Clear contrast between text and background – In case our suspicions are correct, you’ll likely greatly increase your chances of having your image text read if Googlebot has an easy time scanning it. Dark grey text on a white background is ideal for users and bots, but as a rule, at least use a healthy contrast between text and background in images.

Metadata has been a boon to marketers who use images for a while, but surrounding those images with quality content and making sure that the contrast is significant are still experimental. Avoid duplicating textual information in images in on-page text; instead, try to expand on what the image says with additional useful information.

Google Is Likely Trying to Read Text in Images

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

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


googlebot digital graphic representation


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

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

Intro to Local SEO

If you’ve spent any time in the world of search engine optimization (SEO), you know it’s always changing. For geographically bound businesses, building out local SEO is an excellent strategy for capturing additional market share. Local searchers, both on desktop and mobile, often know exactly what they’re looking for, and your business needs to be ready for them. By using local SEO strategies and services to your advantage, you can be at the top of Google results at the right time and place for your customers. Learn how to rank highly in local SEO results and beat out your competitors.

What is Local SEO?

Local search engine optimization is all about effectively marketing your business online to customers in a close radius. Using local SEO strategies like building out reviews, using business directories, and creating localized content can help companies to rank highly on search engine results pages, where web users will discover them. 46% of Google searches are local, 50% of local mobile searches are looking for a specific business, and 78% of local mobile searches result in an offline purchase, according to BrightLocal. Mobile search and online shopping are increasing each year rapidly, so developing a strategy to convert mobile buyers is essential for success.

There are many advantages to local SEO, as it has a much higher return on investment (ROI) than other advertising methods. Local search relies on proximity and convenience. Customers native to your area and those visiting rely on search engines to find businesses and reviews, and if they can’t find your information, they won’t purchase from you. A solid overall SEO strategy will help you in local search results, but there are additional steps you can take to boost your rankings and attract more business in your area.

How Can I Boost My Local SEO Rankings?

Succeed in local SEO marketing by engaging with your customers and becoming verified locally. Taking these steps will help your business on its way toward the top of the page for local SEO results:

  • Garner Additional Reviews — High-quality reviews with pictures and text on your Google My Business page and other platforms like Yelp and Facebook build up your profile. You can ask customers to write reviews but can’t offer them any compensation.
  • Reply to Those Reviews — Answering reviews, both positive and negative, can help boost your position. You’re actively engaging with customers, which shows you care about your business to Google and potential customers.
  • Use Google + Local — Link your Google My Business page to a Google + Local page and use the social media platform to post new content and engage with customers
  • Utilize Social Media — Depending on your business, use different social media platforms to connect with your customers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Post photos of your business, upload new content and reply to questions and reviews.
  • Link to Qualified Data Sources — Many potential customers trust third-party websites like Angie’s List and the Better Business Bureau to verify the authenticity and trustworthiness of a business. If these types of organizations link to your site, it can help you show up on Google’s radar.
  • Consistency for Structured Citations- It’s vital that your business’s Complete Name, Address, and Phone Number (known as NAP) are correct and consistent across all uses online. A “structured citation” is your business’s listing on an online local business directory. If your company has multiple incorrect phone numbers, different names, and wrong addresses, it will lower your ability to show up in results.

Take these steps, and you’ll be on your way to ranking highly for local search results. Your business type and competition may require additional steps to push your website to the top of the rankings and into Google’s local three-pack (the three local sites near the searcher’s GPS location).

How Can I Differentiate My Website from Competitors?

By following many of the previous steps, you probably already have an advantage over competitors in your local market. Many businesses haven’t claimed their Google My Business listing and are therefore decreasing its usability. Using additional local SEO tactics can help you claim one of the top spots:

  • Encourage More Reviews — Getting high-quality reviews will help you beat out the competition. Aim for detailed, five-star reviews.
  • Use Specific Google My Business Categories — Google allows you to specify categories for your business website and to be precise and intentional can help you flourish. Don’t overload Google with categories, but do target all areas of your business.
  • Research Your Competitors — Employ simple market research. If a competitor is beating you, see what they’re doing and do it better. If you’re an ice cream shop and your competitor is offering a loyalty program, create a more seamless program with better rewards.
  • List a Physical Address — Whether you have an actual store for customers to visit, a real address that’s not a P.O. Box or virtual is necessary. Google values individual addresses in the city of search.

If you need additional advice on how to beat out rival businesses, talk to Leverage Marketing about our local SEO services. Our SEO team will implement a strategy based on your goals, growing your organic traffic and helping you get discovered in local search results. Contact us today to see how the Leverage Way can make a difference for your business.

Are Featured Snippets Better than Other Rich Search Results?

If you’re looking from the perspective of SEO, featured snippets are better than other rich search results for one reason:

Featured snippets are among the last externally linking rich search results in Google SERPs.

externally linking cloud

There are still some Google search results that require a clickthrough to get all the information you want (for example, news articles have rich listings in Google, but you can’t get a full article without clicking through). However, Google has started to provide most information through its extraordinarily-sized database.

Many of today’s rich search results link internally back to other Google pages, and even more still provide an answer to a query almost immediately – which means that the user no longer needs to click through to your website to receive his or her answer.

But featured snippets strike a balance: they often answer a question, but leave the remaining content that explains the answer on the page to which the link provided leads. That way, users looking for a quick answer have no need to click through, but those who want a full explanation (and perhaps your product or service) must visit your website.

Why Are Featured Snippets Better (for Businesses & Websites)?

Google’s featured snippets are better for businesses and websites than other rich search results because they bring happy and informed customers to your site. Customers who have their initial questions answered but want to know more are often ideal customers, and the featured snippet does a lot of the filtering for you.

But when comparing featured snippets directly to rich search results, there are additional reasons:

Because Google Still Dominates Most Rich Search Results

Google collects lots of data (anonymously) on its users and their behaviors. But they also collect information, reviewed and tested against other information, and provide it to searchers through their rich search results. For example:

People Also Ask

Drop-down question-and-answer menus provide quick answers from website content to common queries that follow an initial query. Like featured snippets, they do link externally, but also feature an additional link to a further Google search and provide quick answers to questions.

Here, we searched for how to invest, and the provided information is plentiful.

how to invest google question and answer

No need to click through – I already know what to invest in and can find out how to get started right here.

Celebrity & Movie Profiles

Google a decently well-known celebrity and odds are good that Google has a host of information on him or her readily available on the right side of your search result. Here, we’ve Googled comedy actor Nasim Pedrad:

nasim pedrad celebrity profile in google

Her images lead to a Google Images search result, her provided profile information links to Google searches, and so do her well-known movies and TV shows links. Her social media links (below the frame of the picture provided) link outward, but everything else is an internal Google link.

Carousels (Movies, Sports, Music)

Google carousels are handy since they pack in a lot of easily accessible information, but they also predominantly feature internal Google links. This search for 80s pop brings up a dense carousel through which you can scroll:

80s pop songs google carousel result

And, you guessed it, every link is a Google search result. Vevo, a YouTube partner, gets top priority on the video search results at the top of the music pages.


Since Google now owns YouTube, they also own all the data that comes with it. That means that you can get all the info on beloved songs and artists just below a video pulled straight from YouTube or a YouTube partner.

youtube video result in google SERPs for jackson 5 song

But all links contained in the rich video result are internal links – nothing from anywhere but Google.

Other Information-Seeking Queries

The same goes for definitions and medical panels – each result is highly customized to prioritize already existing data from Google or to pull the most important information from Google’s web index.

Featured snippets are superior to these types of rich media for businesses and websites because they pull info straight from your website and quickly link directly to it. But those snippets are also better than the few outwardly linking search results that are still around.

Because There Are Only a Few Rich Results that Still Link out

The bit of information provided by featured snippets is superior to most of the existing outward-linking rich results. Shopping and news results link out to retailers and news outlets, respectively, but don’t provide the small bit of information that helps filter potential customers.


While certain shopping results still provide Google-dominated panels that look much like a celebrity or movie result, the shopping carousel is still the most common rich result.

google tv shopping search result

It continues to provide pricing information straight from manufacturer and retailer websites, and transactions still occur straight through those sites.


As they were most likely originally designed to do, news results on Google entice potential readers with headlines and featured images.

political news carousel google search result

Clicking on any part of the rich result takes you to the news outlet’s website, where you can experience the entire story.

But featured snippets still have more pulling power, especially since most people already have preferred news outlets through which they search for and consume news.

Because They Establish Serious Authority for Your Website

It’s not necessarily measurable through Google’s wealth of user data, but the featured snippet builds a certain level of trust with your audience. Google has done well to create trust in their users, and that trickles down to the search results that Google’s advanced algorithm deems worthy.

We returned to our how to invest search query for its featured snippet:

how to invest google featured snippet

Investopedia is already trusted by countless customers, and they rewarded those customers with quality content that now sits at the top of the SERP. Should you achieve a featured snippet, you’ll be in good company; extremely well-trusted websites such as and the United States Census Bureau claim featured snippets across Google SERPs.

You’ll earn extreme trust points from your customers if you continuously provide featured-snippet-worthy content to Google and put it in front of your customers’ eyes. There’s absolutely no harm in reaching for other rich search results, as well, but remember that the featured snippet is, in this SEO climate, your best externally-linking friend in Google SERPs.

Learn about structured data and how you can take advantage of it by using Google’s guidelines.

We’ve got blogs in featured snippets, and we’d love to put yours up there, too. Talk to us about getting some help with your SEO or content marketing today!

5 Ways Social Media Can Improve Your SEO

For many business owners new to the world of digital marketing, there is often a common misconception that SEO and social media are separate entities, each operating in their own world with distinct goals. SEO and organic social media marketing work together to create value and provide relevance for your audience. Any good digital marketing strategy should do its best to have both SEO and social media working together, in tandem. In this article, we will look at five ways that SEO works together with social media to bring more visitors to your site.

1.)  Social Media Allows for Content Promotion

social media amplifying SEOThe first way that social media can (indirectly) help your search engine ranking is through content promotion. We might write, film, or record tons of great quality, keyword-optimized content but still not get many eyes and ears consuming it. Social media allows you to take the quality content you have worked hard to produce and promote it on several channels.

Social media is the easiest and most effective way to push out your SEO-based content. While the incoming links from your social media shares don’t have the same impact as authentic links from high-quality sites, they can influence your bounce rate and time-on-site engagement. If your content is good and people stick around to read it, those engagement metrics communicate value to search engines. Your goal should be to turn your best organic content into social media content so you can then encourage engagement and drive traffic back to your site.

2.)  Social Media Encourages More Engagement

The second way that social media can improve your site’s SEO is through increased engagement. If somebody finds our content useful and shares it within a social media platform, this is not a ranking signal for Google or Bing. However, the good news is that engagement is!

If you take full advantage of social media to promote your top quality content, you want to keep in mind that engagement matters for SEO. Engagement helps to not only improve your online reputation but also to make connections and generate leads for your business. Content that gets tons of engagement on social media platforms will rank for the topics they cover. According to Moz, “to determine success, an algorithm looks at whether users engaged. If more people engage that’s a clear sign that their algorithm is showing this right content; if not, their systems will audition other content instead to find something that generates that interest.”

3.) Social Sharing Can Lead to Link Building

link building through social mediaSocial media can also lead to authentic, high-quality links from influential websites. Influencers use social media as much as (or even more than) anyone else. With your content out there on the same channels they’re on, there’s a good chance they’ll see it and link to it from their own websites or blogs. That kind of high-value link building from influencer marketing can be impossible to land at a high rate without social media.

Social media is also useful for SEO because it encourages more external sites to link to your content, and the more diverse external links you have, the more authority you’ll gain in Google’s eyes. The catch is that you have to have high-quality, authoritative content or you will have nothing of real value to attract links.

4.) Increased Brand Awareness Improves Your SEO Rankings

The fourth way that social media contributes to SEO is through increasing brand awareness. This may seem like more of a branding advantage than a specific SEO advantage, but the SEO benefit is huge! Increasing your reputation on social media, through increased engagement and publishing consistent, high-quality content, will lead to increased online brand presence. An ever-increasing brand presence will lead to more branded searches on Google over time. The more branded searches your brand receives, the higher it’s likely to rank for non-branded keywords.

5.) Google’s Partnership with Twitter

Twitter bird Finally, it’s important to acknowledge that Google has a partnership with Twitter. We do not know precisely what this means for the future of social and search marketing. However, we know it is common to see relevant tweets in the Google search results, for branded searches. Having your Twitter posts showing up in the search results does not impact your site’s SEO, but it can improve your brand awareness, authority, and lead to increased link building with other sites. According to the renowned marketer, Neil Patel, there are several ways one can take advantage of the Twitter/Google partnership with the most obvious one being to remember to tweet and to tweet often. As long as this partnership exists, user search will lead tweets (and Twitter hashtags) with similar keywords.

Wrapping Up…

Although social media often works to improve your website’s organic rank in Google, it has the ability to serve as an invaluable tool over time! Whether it’s through content promotions, boosted engagement, more link-building, increased brand awareness, or taking advantage of Google’s relationship with Twitter, you will leverage social media to increase your organic traffic and conversions via search.

Leverage Marketing’s SEO and social media marketing teams are ready to help you improve your site’s traffic and engagement. Contact Leverage today to learn more about our services.

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Old School vs. New School SEO Strategy

There’s no question that the world of search engine optimization (SEO) has changed drastically since the advent of Google and its original competitors like Yahoo!, Ask Jeeves, and AltaVista back in the 1990s. SEO marketing strategies have adapted to modern user trends, Google’s algorithm updates, and today’s technology. Old school SEO relied on agencies and websites gaming search engines to pull in customers and become first in the rankings. Even though many outdated SEO techniques no longer work, they’re still common advice given to new content creators and SEO specialists.

These outdated SEO strategies and content writing can penalize your sites, as Google recognizes and demotes websites with low-quality or irrelevant content as of its Panda and Penguin updates.

Google large SEO

Old School SEO (late 1990s-late 2000s)New School SEO (early 2010s-forward)
Ranking for all keywordsRank for relevant keywords
Use multiple variations of the same keywordKeywords are secondary to content
Keyword stuffingUse keywords sparingly
Continuously reuse evergreen contentWrite new, relevant content
Put links, keywords, and tags into footerUse a clean footer with important information
Cloaking (one page to search engine, another to users)Never employ black hat SEO practices
Overusing internal links with same anchor textOnly employ internal links when pertinent, use anchor text that fits within content
Dedicated pages for every keyword variant, separate microsites, and domainsAppropriate landing pages for content, but no additional pages to rank
Unstrategic linkbait to get users to clickAppropriate titles that draw users in

Learn how to avoid the black-hat methods of old-school SEO and use updated SEO techniques to target your customers.

How Did Old School SEO Work?

SEO content has evolved drastically in the two decades since we started using search engines, but it had to start somewhere. While some examples of “how it used to be” are exaggerated, writing for SEO used to mean:

  • Keyword Stuffing– Jam keywords everyone you can—in the content, into tags, into locations. The more keywords you could fit onto a page, the higher it would rank.
  • Keyword Variants– If your primary keyword target was “engagement ring,” you’d use dozens of variations on that—like “diamond engagement ring,” “engagement rings,” “engagement rings jewelry,” etc. It would go on endlessly to attempt to hit any keyword match possible. Without the power of broad match keywords, exact matches were a necessity.
  • Cloaking and Writing for Engines– Back in the early days of SEO, cloaking was common. You’d develop a set of SEO keywords for the search engines and show the users something totally different on the page. Sometimes this created instances where the keywords didn’t match the content at all.

SEO strategy evolved over the 2000s, as keyword stuffing become less common, domain names were no longer keyword intensive, and links become the most important part of SEO content writing. Google’s algorithms grew more sophisticated, and the search engine market started to shrink. By the end of the decade, only Google and Microsoft were real players in the market—and SEO specialists were developing their techniques to suit their algorithms.

penguin google

How Does SEO Work in 2018?

So how has writing for SEO changed in two decades? Should content writing even focus on SEO and keywords anymore? The goal today is to solve the searcher’s query. Content should answer questions people are asking, helping them accomplish their task. That can be purchasing a product, learning how to complete a DIY task, or educating themselves about a new topic. Content that performs these goals will be most successful. Additionally, some SEO strategies have gotten simpler, and some more complex in response to Google’s changes in its Panda and Penguin updates. Panda can detect lower quality, and thin or plagiarized content and Penguin can easily detect link and tag manipulation. Algorithmic updates affect site rankings and SEO content writing, but good writing is more likely to rank highly.

  • Intent Matching– Inserting every single keyword variant is no longer necessary. Instead, think about the searcher’s intent. Write a piece of content and use keywords that factor that intent in. Using the engagement ring example, a single page about how to purchase the perfect engagement ring would suffice, incorporating several relevant keyword phrases.
  • The Tags that Matter– Whereas all tags used to be stuffed with keywords, only a few really matter anymore. Those are the title element and body content. These are the areas in which you need to use your keywords. It’s still valuable to use keywords in other places, like the URL field, meta description, and image alt attributes, but they’re not necessary.
  • User Experience Reigns Supreme– With Google Analytics to view engagement data, you can see how users interact with your content. That means that the experience of reading content and engaging with your website is more important than ever before and contributes to Google’s rankings. High-quality writing that your users interact with provides results.

Develop SEO Optimized Content

When developing content in 2018, create a workflow that incorporates SEO strategy for the modern age. Follow some basic steps, and you’ll be on your way to crafting first-class content that your users want to read.

  1. Develop a keyword list you want to target
  2. Determine what searchers want to achieve with their queries
  3. Create an outline and draft your piece
  4. Write primarily for the audience, integrating the keywords
  5. Figure out why people will want to share this—make it exciting

If you’re still employing old school or black hat SEO tactics at your company, Leverage Marketing can help you start employing new techniques. Our content marketing team knows how to write for SEO and connect with your audience.

How Long Does SEO Take to Work?

Repeat after me: There is no such thing as a “magic SEO snake oil” that will rank your site #1 on Google by tomorrow. Plenty of non-reputable internet companies promise SEO results in a practically-instant time frame, but let’s be realistic – SEO is a wine that gets better over time. Like a fine Cabernet Sauvignon from the south of France, you’d be doing it an injustice to judge the results after one month. SEO and red wine are both usually much better after years of care and development.

Wine metaphors aside, you no doubt want to know how long SEO will take so you can determine how soon to expect your investment to pay off. SEO analysts like me want to know too, which is why there’s a lot of research out there on this relationship between SEO and time. There are a lot of different ways to look at the data, butfor this article, I decided to focus on the power of content.

At Leverage, we’re big believers in content as a cornerstone of good SEO. Telling search engines and users what each page is about is a win-win: both humans and search engines need language to understand what’s on the site. With a good content-driven SEO strategy in place, a site can be optimized for search queries that match up with your offerings.

Content’s potential is often underrated and misunderstood by digital marketing industry insiders and outsiders alike. That’s why I’ve taken a dive into some of our agency’s data to get a better idea of how quickly SEO works with a content-focused strategy, and how long the strategy takes to increase site visibility and drive traffic to individual pages of a site.

What We Looked At

After noticing trends in the performance of the blog posts on the Leverage Marketing website, I wondered about the link between keyword-optimized content and organic search performance. How long after publishing an article did SEO take? How long did our blog articles take to start showing up on the search result pages on the first, second, or third pages, where someone would find them and click on them?

I was also interested in the relationship between time and SEO results for our clients, and knew we had the data that would help me get the full picture of Leverage’s SEO success.

I looked at a small sample of key landing pages from three sites – one lead-generation focused site, one ecommerce site, and our very own site,

I wanted to isolate the impact of adding optimized content to individual pages (while performing standard technical SEO optimizations to ensure top performance).

It’s easy to point at total organic traffic levels and say, “there, that’s where we started performing SEO, so that’s how long SEO took to work for my site.”

SEO improvement over time concept

Obviously, this growth is the bottom line that you want to see when starting an SEO campaign. However, it’s interesting to drill down and look at growth on a more specific scale – in this case, the growth of traffic to an individual page after a big SEO improvement, such as adding keyword-optimized content.

When you look at keyword-optimized content’s impact page by page, you can watch how quickly your SEO strategy really worked to start changing the way people find your site.

How We Defined “Success”

There are a lot of different ways to measure “SEO success”. The average SEO analyst knows that there’s an endless number of variables that can be analyzed to determine success – traffic levels, keyword rankings, leads/sales, site engagement, and much more. Asking “how long SEO takes to work” only has meaning if we define what it means for SEO to “work”.

For these cases, I chose to look at the number of organic entrances to certain pages.

Why? I wanted to be able to specifically isolate the effect of publishing good content on important pages. Total traffic is, of course, important, as are visits coming to your site via any page. But by just watching the growth of 5 fledgling pages into full-grown, highly-trafficked pages, I can get a much more granular look at the time frame of SEO results driven by that content improvements on a site.

What about conversions? Let’s be real – the reason you, as a website owner, care about SEO, is not higher traffic or lower bounce rates. You care that people are completing desired actions on your site, such as purchases, lead form completions, phone calls, newsletter signups, etc. The increased traffic level that SEO drives to your site is only important if those visitors are converting. We know this, and are by no means discounting that fact by just looking at site entrances in this article.

However, in all the examples I looked at, the increase in traffic also resulted in an increase in the conversions that keep these sites in business. Assuming that your offering is honest and is something people want, and that your site’s design makes it easy for visitors to get that offering, good SEO = more traffic = more conversions. But for the sake of demonstrating how long SEO takes to work, we’re just looking at the time it took to drive more traffic to the site, because that was good traffic that did translate into conversions.

What You Should Consider About This Data

You can get really in the weeds trying to judge different sites’ SEO successes next to each other. It isn’t as simple a task as it might seem. There are a lot of factors that can impact how long SEO will take to work on a site, such as:

  • Site upgrades, redesigns, domain moves, CMS updates, etc. – Were there any big technical changes that impacted SEO-related facets of the site? Big changes can affect rankings and site visibility in many, many ways.
  • Investment – How much time has been spent investing money and time into SEO for this site? Higher investment can often mean quicker results.
  • Starting point – How much work was needed to solidify the technical aspects of the site before core SEO activities like content creation and implementation could take place? How old is the domain? If there was a lot of setup work taking up resources early on, or if the site is brand new, sometimes it takes time to gain momentum.
  • Competition — How competitive are the queries that you’re trying to rank for? It’s going to take longer to see results if you’re looking to rank for something highly competitive or something that is already dominated by a large set of strong websites – the higher the mountain, the longer the climb.
  • Conversion-friendliness/site design — How good is the user experience of the site? If the design is poor or the calls to action are not clear, people are going to bounce off your site, which will not help SEO.

That’s just a shortlist. There are many factors that play intosite rankings, and even the most seasoned of SEO professionals are still trying to determine the exact algorithmic minutia. The results we saw in these three cases are by no means standards, guarantees, or expectations – every single site is different, and therefore, the time frame for SEO results is going to be different, too.

That being said, I listed all the underlying factors that affected how long SEO took for each of these cases so you could get an idea of how much variation we have to take into account, even just across three sites. There’s no one great way to “hold all other factors constant” as you would in a classic scientific experiment, so I’ve taken care to state the facts, make conclusions about their effects on our data, and to give you the opportunity to do the same.

Case #1: Lead Generation for a Local Service Business

For a client with a local business and several strong competitors in the area, we knew before beginning our SEO campaign that we needed to strengthen the sparse content on their site to grab top local rankings. To do this, we began to build out pages that addressed each specific service the business offers. Let’s look at the effect that expanding and editing all that content, along with making technical improvements in the background, had for this site.

Some factors playing into how long SEO took to work for this site:

  • This website had some less-than-great SEO work performed on it before becoming a Leverage client, spammy link-building being the main issue. Our team was able to resolve existing problems, but a domain’s past can never truly be erased.
  • The site already had some thin content on most of the pages we looked at here, but our team expanded and optimized these pages upon beginning the SEO campaign.
  • We performed a redesign of the site to improve and simplify many factors, SEO and otherwise.
  • This is a local client, so traffic tends to be relatively light, as it is with most specialty local service websites.
SEO over time first case study

Fig. 1: Percentage growth in organic page entrances for 8 studied pages, as compared to pre-campaign benchmark (week 0)

We spent several weeks at the beginning of the campaign (weeks 0-22) redesigning the look and feel of the site, as well as squaring up technical issues and cleaning up bad links and citations. Content was implemented at the same time the redesign of the site was launched. Afterward, the number of entrances to the site via those pages over each following week was an average of 357% higher than it was in the weeks before content optimization.

organic page entrances by month

Fig. 2: Number of organic page entrances each month, with each page represented by a different color line.

We’ve built a lot of new pages on this site since we began our big SEO campaign changes in February 2017, so we just looked at pages that had been on the site for a while rather than new ones that we added as we continued the campaign. As you can see, there’s a big lift after the date where we implemented SEO-optimized content. We did a lot of the technical clean-up behind the scenes over the August 2016-January 2017 period so that the foundation of the site would be as clean as possible when we relaunched it with a new look and new content.

Another interesting note is that some pages performed significantly better than others – notice the dark blue line representing one page that obviously took off, while the black line representing another only saw small improvements. That’s going to happen in any SEO campaign – some pages are simply searched for more often than others. In this case, the black line is a main page speaking to commercial services, while the blue line represents a specific residential service page. In this client’s industry, a lot more people are searching for residential services than commercial ones, so we weren’t surprised to see a lot more growth on the residential page.

So how long did SEO take to work for this site?

From the time frame when we launched the core content implementations, SEO results tended to grow more impressive each month. The biggest jumps in growth, when compared to our benchmark monthly entrances, occurred 1 month after the initial improvements, where entrances were ~200% higher than benchmark, and saw more growth about 8-9 months after implementation.

growth in organic page entrances

Fig. 3: Percentage growth in organic page entrances over 8 studied pages, by month, as compared to pre-campaign benchmark.

Case #2: Ecommerce in a Niche Industry

Next, I looked at a slightly different scenario. This client’s website is a large ecommerce store that offers many products in a high-dollar, high-demand niche industry.

For our SEO strategy, we focused on strengthening this client’s content resources, mostly on product category pages. By indicating to search engines what each category was offering, we hoped to see an improvement in rankings as a reward for providing more information.

Some factors playing into how long SEO took to work for this site:

  • This website contained little to no content before the SEO campaign began.
  • The site is quite large, containing hundreds of categories and subcategories of products.
  • The domain has been operational for a relatively long time, giving it a great amount of authority.
  • No SEO practices had previously been pursued on the site.
  • Traffic levels are very high on this site.
  • The client has pursued SEO for a shorter time – 7 months.
percentage growth of organic entrances

Fig. 4: Percentage growth of organic entrances over 5 studied pages, as compared to pre-campaign benchmark.

After adding optimized content to 5 core product categories, we saw an average of 164.53% more organic entrances to the site each week through these pages.

I noticed that one of the pages I studied was a serious outlier. “Page Z”, as I’ll call it, performed significantly better after adding content than the other four pages did, though those four pages still performed far above benchmark.

organic entrance comparison

Fig. 5: Total number of organic entrances to Page Z (blue) as compared to the total number of organic entrances to the other 4 studied pages (orange)

Page Z saw entrance numbers that were, on average, 204.39% higher than its pre-campaign number of entrances, while the other four pages averaged about 44% higher each month than the benchmark. While all 5 pages represent a great improvement for this short time period, the outlier is an incredibly high performer!

Since the site previously had little to no content for search engines to crawl, we suspected that search engines weren’t truly getting the best understanding of what each page was offering shoppers, and therefore wasn’t ranking the pages all that well in the search results. Once we added some optimized content to these 5 top-priority, high-traffic product category pages, we saw huge growth. From May (pre-SEO) to July 2017 alone, there was a 79.1% increase in entrances through these pages, and the rest of 2017 saw weekly entrances to these pages about 165% higher than before the campaign started.

In Page Z’s case, there is a ton of relevant search volume that the page simply wasn’t capturing before we added content, because Google didn’t fully understand the offerings of the page without written content. Once we added content, results showed up almost immediately.

So how long did SEO take to work for this site?

combined organic entrances

Fig. 6: Percentage growth in organic page entrances over all 5 studied pages, by month, as compared to pre-campaign benchmark

With this site, we’ve only been running the campaign for a bit over 6 months now, so time will tell how much more growth we’ll get over the next few months. The reason I chose this client to look at, despite the short time period, is that some of the pages we observed performed incredibly well once content was added to the page.

The boost in entrances to the site via this single product category was as close to “instant” as exists in the SEO world. Why? Well, it’s never possible to be 100% sure, but this is a big site on an established domain that receives thousands of visits a day. It already held pretty good authority and has a healthy amount of good backlinks. For big, established sites, the time frame of SEO results may be a little shorter – in this case, big gains only 1-2 months in.

Case #3: Blog Post Performance on the Leverage Marketing Website

I also looked at the performance of content on this very site to get an idea of how long SEO efforts were taking to work for our site – in this case, how long it takes our articles to gain value and show up in the search results. We decided to look at some of our top-performing blog posts from the past couple of years to see how long it took for content pieces to really take off.

Some factors playing into how long SEO took to work for this site:

  • These blog articles aren’t being posted in a vacuum – we’re always updating other things on (and off) our site.
  • We obviously didn’t post every one of these studied blog posts at one time, so I compared their progress by the time for which the article has been published on the site – not the exact dates, but the time elapsed.
  • We only looked at brand-new blog posts for these numbers – these are our top-performing posts excluding posts that were older and updated by a member of our team. The effect of making changes to content is not comparable to creating all-new content, so refurbished content performance is another SEO analysis for another day!
organic growth of Leverage blogs

Fig. 7: Percentage growth of organic entrances over 13 studied blog posts, as compared to the first full month of having published each page. (“Month 1” is the first incomplete month of blog’s existence, “Month 2” is first full benchmarked month)

The percentage of improvement from the first full month of each blog post’s existence is notable – out of 13 of our top-performing new blog posts, we saw an average of 691% more entrances to the site via those posts than the month they were published.

So how long did SEO take to work for this site?

The biggest average improvement from initial entrance measurements were around the 7th and 8th month since the blog was published, and again around the post’s one-year anniversary. We did see growth right off the bat, as with the other cases, but it took over half a year to see things REALLY pick up.

To get an even better idea of how these blog posts affected the SEO results on our site, we also looked at what effect these blog posts had on the site overall. To do this, we compared three things:

  • Percentage growth in organic entrances to the site as they are now (orange)
  • Organic entrances to the site not counting the entrances via the 13 blogs we looked at in this analysis (blue)
  • Organic entrances to the site without any of our blogging efforts counted (gray)
site entrance benchmark

Fig. 8: Percentage growth in total entrances to any page of the LM site, as compared to a benchmark in August 2016

The most interesting note here is how much our digital marketing blogs have contributed to the growth of our site. If we hadn’t started focusing more on adding content about digital marketing on our blog’s site, the organic entrances to our site wouldn’t have grown nearly as much – or possibly even at all. Again, this test is somewhat impossible to truly recreate, as each page of our site affects the health of the others, so it’s hard to say that the entrances to our site really would have been looking like those sad gray bars. However, it is clear that our blogging matters – to the long-term health of our site, our company, and our readers. (Don’t believe it? I wrote more about why blogging matters here)

What Does It All Mean?

So how long will you have to wait for SEO to start working and for those newly-optimized pages to start driving big growth to your site? The answer is the same here as in other aspects of SEO: it depends.

I’m not going to tell you that you’re always going to need to wait 8 months to see big jumps in results, like we did in Case 1 and Case 3 – because as we saw in Case 2, the time frame for SEO results isn’t always that long! On the other hand, I would never advise you to expect certain results in month 1 or 2, because as we saw in Case 3, our posts saw very few organic entrances until long after that. If we’d given up and deleted them in month 3 (or not even posted them at all), imagine all that traffic we would’ve missed out on!

The Disclaimer

Don’t forget: there is no secret SEO success formula. Optimizing content and adding it to your site may not always be enough – if your site has a lot of underlying technical issues that are preventing or hampering indexation, affecting the way your page renders to search engines or users, or causing users to bounce off your site, all the content optimization in the world isn’t going to really impact your site as much as you’d like it to. Sometimes, we SEO analysts find ourselves fixing many problems clients didn’t even know they had, but that were hurting their rankings badly.

Content itself isn’t really an easy win either – if you optimize your content for too many or too few keywords, use keywords that aren’t quite the right fit, or optimize without a clear strategy, you aren’t going to see results, and you might even run into site penalizations for trying to “trick” search engines.

If you’re waiting on your current SEO strategy to start driving results, it’s possible that it’s just going to be a long game – but it’s more likely that you should think about bringing in the experts to make sure your time and money are being maximized the way they should be. Getting a holistic and detailed review of your site’s current SEO standing can help not only get your site on the right track, but can also help you uncover the underlying problems that may be holding it back.

So, how quickly does SEO work? Work with Leverage and find out for yourself.

Special thanks to my fellow Leverage Marketing analysts Michael Holeman, Dan Valle, and Madeline Jacobson for pitching in some of their time and brainpower for this article!

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