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Logo Design Basics

A well designed logo is critical in building your brand identity. Because every brand is different, and your logo needs to be unique. For that reason, the first task for a logo designer is gathering some basic information about the business, services and/or product the logo will represent.


If you are increasingly frustrated about the decline in your search rankings and search engine traffic, you are not alone. Here are some possible reasons why:

1. You hired the wrong SEO company.

If you do any kind of research on SEO you will be familiar with the buzzwords "blogging," "content marketing," "social media" and the like. Those terms will be used against you by unethical SEO companies. They might have a nice website, and offer those services by name, but that is absolutely no indication of whether or not they can deliver targeted traffic and leads.


Yelp Myths

Many business owners are afraid of the user review site Yelp, and for good reason. I've seen businesses with bad Yelp scores struggle, and even go out of business to get away from the bad reviews. Like it or not though, online reviews are here to stay. To survive, business owners need to change their practices to include proactive steps towards gaining positive reviews. They need to learn to use Yelp as a tool for growth, rather than hiding from it in fear.

So let's bust some Yelp myths:

1) Yelp is unfair. They are filtering all of my good reviews, and only showing the bad ones.

This commonly happens with small businesses. They have a few friends or regular customers who they ask to post a review. More often than not, these people are new to Yelp, only use it for this review, and therefore have no Yelp authority. Yelp's algorithm sees this as suspicious, and filters the review. The solution is to make asking to be reviewed, on Yelp or other review sites, a standard part of your customer relations process. The more people  you ask, the more chance that one of them will be a diehard Yelper, and their 5 star review will stick.

2) If I get a bad review, responding will legitimize it, so I should just ignore it.

The bad review is already legitimized by being on Yelp. As a business owner you have a much different attitude towards Yelp than does someone reading your reviews to decide whether or not to do business with you. They are likely to take that one star review seriously, and if you don't give your side of the story, the reviewer's side will be all they have to go by.

3) Yelp is a bunch of BS. People don't take it seriously.

Many business owners see Yelp as a place for customers with unreasonable expectations to vent after not getting their way, or worse yet, a place for people to extort goods or services when they are unable to get them by other means. Both of these things bias business owners against Yelp. Yelp users are a different story. A recent study reported that over half of those surveyed used online reviews to select a service provider, and almost 3/4 of those people used Yelp.

4) If I pay for Yelp advertising, they will hide my 1 star reviews.

Yelp will not hide your bad reviews if you advertise with them. They will encourage you to respond to reviews in a constructive way. If you have a few one star reviews, chances are your customer relations could stand some improvement. Making the paradigm shift necessary to write a constructive response rather than flaming the reviewer is likely to be reflected in future customer interactions, and stop future 1 star reviews from happening.

What has been your experience with Yelp? Please leave a comment.

TP Designs promotes websites in the San Francisco Bay Area through PPC and SEO services.


Google My Business Guidelines

If you track the rank of your business for Google local searches, you are well aware that the local search landscape has changed greatly over the past few months. The changes manifested in the Google Pigeon update are well known, but there are some adjustments you need to make to your listing that are not as well known.

1. Choose the fewest number of categories it takes to describe your overall core business.

It used to be ok, and recommended, to list all categories that applied to your business. Now that will hurt your ranking. Listing just the basic categories will help you compete in those core categories. Check your categories and make sure they have been updated for the new algorithm.

2. Business Name - Adding unnecessary information to your name ... is not permitted.

You used to be able to get away with adding keywords to your business name, and it actually helped. It can now hurt. Again, stick to the basics. Just use the name on your letterhead, and make sure it is consistent across the web.

3. Business Address - Use a precise, accurate address to describe your business location.

PO Boxes or mailboxes located at remote locations are not acceptable. That means UPS Stores or virtual offices like Regus. It used to be ok, but now it is explicitly against the rules, and if Google finds out, you will be penalized.

For more information on how properly set up your listing and optimize it to rank well, check out the Google My Business Guidelines.

TP Designs promotes websites in the San Francisco Bay Area through PPC and SEO services.


Create listings on review sites like Yelp, and ask clients to review your services.

One peek at recent search results should tell you why:

Reviews are important for SEO

Google gives Yelp many, many listings in competitive, money searches in the natural results. Sometimes all 10. Most of the time these listings are stacked at the top, from #1 down. If your business is unfortunate enough to have your main target search terms in SERPs that look like this, you either have to play ball with these Yelp bandits, or look for another source for leads.

Google reviews are also very important in standing out and getting leads, just in case the searcher scrolls down past the Yelp listings to the map pack. You need to be in that pack and have a decent number of positive reviews, at least roughly equivalent to the competition in your target SERP. Reviews will help position in the map pack, as well as click-through to your listings.

It is also a good idea to get reviewed on other third party review sites, because Google does use these in its algorithm, not only to gauge popularity, but also to determine theme, which needs to be consistent with your keywords for the strongest ranking signal.

Google Plus Local Listing Rollover
External third party sites where your business might be reviewed are displayed in the "More Reviews" section when a user rolls over your map pack listing.

You, and your potential clients can also see the keywords Google has associated your business. It grabs these terms from third party review sites, your own website, and any place your business is mentioned on the web. These keywords may not always be relevant or helpful, and can sometimes be confusing or outright wrong. That's why it pays to pay attention to your businesses web mentions, and be proactive in providing Google a strong, clean signal about your business. If Google doesn't have a lot of information, it can do some stupid, confusing and counterproductive things. Whether it makes any sense or not, whatever Google's algo comes up with will be displayed on your listing in the "People talk about" section.

Google Local. People talk about.

And on Google Maps:

Google Maps Business Listing

 

 This is Tip #8 in a series of 10 SEO Tips for Small Business.

Find out about our SEO Services for small business


Internet Directories

Create listings  on third-party internet directories such as Yellow Pages, Superpages and City Search, and ask clients to review your services on those listings. 

Google scours the web for information about your business, compiles it, and uses it to decide what your business is all about. It doesn't even need links to your website anymore. It can also display some of this aggregated information directly on your listing.

You can make sure Google is correct in its decision regarding what your business is about by giving it a clean signal and many "citations."

A clean signal means consistent use of NAP (business name, address and phone number) as well as keywords referring to your business, both in the external listings you create, and your website.

The listings you create in directories like Yellowpages or Superpages are called "structured citations." "Unstructured citations" are also aggregated and used by Google. This would be mentions of your business on a blog, or on a news site that doesn't necessarily have a link to your website or complete contact information. You can't always control the content of unstructured citations, but consistent use of NAP and keywords in what you do have control of, can cut down the variation of terms used by those researching your business.

Reviews on third-party sites are increasingly important to not only your ranking in Google map packs, but also the conversion rate or those listings, because they can be displayed directly on your Google Local Business Listing.

* Bonus Tip: Don't stop! Create listings on directories on an ongoing basis. Use your competitive intelligence (Tip 5) to find new directories to add your listing to.

This is Tip #7 in a series of 10 SEO Tips for Small Business.

Find out about our SEO Services for small business


google local business listingCreate local listings on search engines like Google and Bing, and ask clients to review your services on your listing.

Google

Google business listings have a messy and confusing history. These listings used to be created and managed on a platform called Google Places. They are being transitioned to a Google Plus, however you can still manage them and create new listings on Google Places. I'd recommend just managing and creating local business listings from Google Plus, and forgetting about Google Places, because it will be going away.
Here's a video to show you how to set up a Google Plus Local Business listing.

You'll need to verify your listing by either phone or with code send via post card to your business address. In my experience the verify by phone feature is seldom available lately.

Bing

I guess because Google is abandoning the "Places" name for its local business listings, it's OK for Microsoft to use it. So Bing local business listings are now called Bing Places. Sign up is relatively easy. Like with your Google listing, your Bing listing will need to be verified by phone or postal address. Bing has a lot less traffic, so this listing is less important, but is a good way to get some traffic for those just starting out.

This is Tip #6 in a series of 10 SEO Tips for Small Business.

Find out about our SEO Services for small business.


Google Plus/Google Places/Google Local can be confusing because of the constant stream of changes Google has been rolling out over the past couple of years. I get questions about this from time to time, so hopefully this video will walk you through the setup in a straightforward and understandable way.

TP Designs promotes websites in the San Francisco Bay Area through PPC and SEO services


MOZ Open Site Explorer

Using the "compare pages" feature of Moz's Open Site Explorer (OSE), you'll get an immediate snapshot of what you need to do in order to outrank the competition. 

Enter your competitor's website's URL into the main URL box, and check the "Inbound Links"tab. Set the dropdown filters to show results for link equity, only external, and pages on this root domain. This will give you a list of the links that contribute to your competitor's link authority and rank in searches.

You will need to create a free account to be able to export the data to a CSV file. 

You will need a Pro account to see competitive social networking data, but for SEO that isn't really relevant, as social networking in itself won't affect search engine ranking, aside from personalized results when logged into your Google account.

There are many other tools that will help you analyze the competition's SEO program, but if you could only use one, this would be it!

This is Tip #5 in a series of 10 SEO Tips for Small Business.

Find out about our SEO Services for small business


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