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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.

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Google Webmaster ToolsBy signing up for Google Webmaster Tools, you'll get data on page indexing, crawling, errors, as well as what queries your site is showing up for, along with approximate position, number of impressions and click-through rate. By linking your Google Webmaster Tools account to your Google Analytics account, you can also make this query data available in Google Analytics.

This is Tip #4 in a series of 10 SEO Tips for Small Business.

Find out about our SEO Services for small business


SEO Traffic ToolsSet up tools that will allow you to track visitors and measure progress. There are a lot of tools available to record and report on your traffic. Most small businesses choose Google Analytics. It is powerful, free and will immediately let you know where your visitors are coming from, and what they are doing on your website.

Once reporting has been set up, review it in detail for any areas where your SEO program is working, as well as areas where it is missing the mark. Once you get a feel for the data, check back regularly to review progress, or look for changes in performance. Set up email alerts on key metrics, so you'll know right away when something goes terribly wrong. Don't neglect setting up goals and conversions. Optimizing for conversion is probably the highest ROI activity you do for your website.

This is Tip #3 in a series of 10 SEO Tips for Small Business.

Find out about our SEO Services for small business


SEO Search Terms

It won't do you any good to be number one in Google for a search term if only 3 people a month are entering it into the Google search box. In your keyword analysis, choose search terms for your SEO targeting that will bring in significant traffic with conversion potiential.

One way to estimate traffic is to create a Google Adwords account (get $100 Adwords credit when you spend $25 here) and use their tools to get estimated traffic reports for your intended search terms. You can also run a limited Adwords campaign and get very detailed information on traffic for your search terms, including geographic and demographic data. Adwords tools will also suggest related search terms to consider, along with their traffic value. 

As mentioned in SEO Tip #1, choose keyword searches you can compete in. I doesn't matter how much traffic a search term gets if you are on Page 10. SEO Tip #5 will cover analyzing the competition.

This is Tip #2 in a series of 10 SEO Tips for Small Business.

Find out about our SEO Services for small business


Local SEO TipA small business generally won't have the resources to compete on a national level for generic search terms ( AKA keywords). This means your site should be optimized with geo-targeted terms, like your city, or county.

Start your keyword research by identifying the geographic terms that will bring in the most, high quality leads for your business. You should plan to dominate the city in which you are located. You can also target 1 or 2 additional geo-terms on your main pages, or create multiple pages specifically targeted to their own geo-term. Just make sure you offer value in those local pages, and don't duplicate content.

This is Tip #1 in a series of 10 SEO Tips for Small Business. 


Google PenaltiesIf you've recently lost rank in a Google search that is important to your business, you may suspect that you've been hit by a penalty. Google does in fact impose penalties in order to eliminate spam from its search results. To Google, spam is content it determines to be of low quality, and spammers are those who attempt to promote it by manipulating the results through a variety of activities. Like it or not, Google may see your content as spam, and you as a spammer!

Google imposes penalties in two ways:

  1. Manually, and
  2. Through its algorithm

Manual Penalties

Manual penalties are imposed by Google based on spammy content or spammy links. If you've been penalized manually, you will see a notice in your Webmaster Tools control panel. The "Unnatural Link Penalty" is a commonly seen penalty that gained prominence around the same time as a major algorithmic change (Google Penguin, see below) so some people initially confused the two.  Just remember if you have been manually penalized, you'll see the message in Webmaster Tools.

Websites that are manually penalized are often flagged as spam by Google users, or are competing in a vertical that is very competitive and tends to see a lot of spam. Think "viagra," "payday loans" or "work from home."

If you get the unnatural link penalty warning, you or your SEO company were probably doing some link building that, until about a year ago, was pretty common.  The types of links that are a problem are:

  • Links in social bookmarking sites
  • Links in article marketing websites
  • Links in blog comments
  • A high number of links with exactly the same keyword anchor text.

What you can do

  1. Clean up the spam. If you allow user input, such as blog comments, and don't moderate them, you probably have a lot of spam in your blog. Delete those comments and start moderating them.
  2. Improve your page quality. If you have a lot of pages that have low word count (under 300), are heavily weighted to a particular keyword, and offer little value to visitors in and of themselves, a Google employee manually reviewing your site may consider these pages as spam, and issue a penalty.
  3. Use the link disavow tool to tell Google to ignore these links.
  4. File for reconsideration. When you think you've cleaned up your act, let Google know, and they will re-review your site and hopefully remove the manual penalty.

Algorithmic Penalties
In the last couple of years, Google has made some major algorithmic changes to get low quality sites out of its results, and to penalize those sites that are the focus of manipulative activities aimed at increasing rank.

Google Panda
Panda was rolled out about two years ago (Feb 2011),  and was aimed at crushing sites such as low quality blogs and "scraper sites" (sites that copy content from other websites). It is an ongoing class of algorithmic changes that penalizes "content spam."

What you can do

  1. Avoid duplicate content.
  2. Keep page word count up to around 300

Google Penguin
Penguin was rolled out about a year ago (April 2012) and was aimed at penalizing sites for unnatural linking (thus the confusion with the manual unnatural linking penalty). The target of this penalty is non-varied keyword anchor text pointing to a website.  Links from low quality websites are reported to be more of a contributing factor. Site wide links, whether internal to the website or external websites from an external website are a problem when they use the same keywords that the page is optimized for (based on the page title, meta description and page content).

What you can do

  1. Restructure your internal linking
  2. Remove site wide links or take keywords out of anchor text
  3. Ask external websites to change anchor text or remove your link entirely
  4. Use the disavow link tool
What has been your experience with Google penalties? Let us know!

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


Small Business BloggersBlogs are a key component of any modern web promotion strategy. Blogs are a seamless way to help your website give search engines what they are looking for to rank your site well:

  1. Fresh content
  2. A rich supply of relevant keywords
  3. Link bait
  4. Added value to the search results (as opposed to keyword spam)
  5. The opportunity to promote yourself through social media

As small business person, you know your industry. You have to in order to survive the increasingly tough economic climate. You are the expert in your field, and sharing that expertise on the substantial forum of the Internet lets everyone else know that, including existing and potential clients.

The reasons that are usually given for why a company does not want to produce a blog are:

  1. They are too busy.
  2. People in their industry are not on the internet, or at least don't use the internet for business. They aren't on Facebook and Twitter.
  3. They see blogs and the associated promotion through social networks such as Facebook and Twitter as a waste of time.

The response to the first reason is that if you are too busy to contribute time towards gaining new business, why are you looking into web promotion services? (Of course I don't say it like that!). Most small businesses just want to pay someone to promote their website, and have writing the check be their sole contribution. Well, you can do it that way, and many businesses do. The sad truth is that strategy is just a small step above throwing your check directly into the garbage.

As for the second two reasons, I guarantee there are a significant number of people in your vertical who are heavily involved in blogging and social media marketing, and they have the advantage over you. If not, then it shouldn't take too much effort for your business to become the industry leader.

There is a lot of BS around blogging and social media out there, and if anyone presents themselves as a "Guru" I recommend running the other way quickly. Do, please, however consider contributing some of your time and expertise in promoting your site through blogging. If you can't write yourself, hire a copywriter. You'll usually get a good bang for the buck, and they will take your ideas and knowledge and put them in the most effective form to market your business.

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


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