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10 Key Steps To Ranking Higher In Google Maps

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10 Key Steps To Ranking Higher In Google Maps

You’re searching for a lunch spot in an unfamiliar neighborhood, or you need a mechanic to assist with an unexpected flat tire.

Where do you look?

If you answered Google Maps, you’re not alone.

These days, many of us are turning to Google Maps to discover local businesses and make more informed buying decisions.

So how can local businesses rank higher in the place consumers are increasingly looking to purchase local products and services?

Here are ten steps to take in order to rank well, drive more traffic and secure more customers via Google Maps.

1. Claim And Complete A Google Business Profile

The first, crucial step in establishing visibility in Google Maps is claiming and optimizing your Google Business Profile (GBP – formerly known as Google My Business or GMB).

You can do this by simply searching for your business name on Google or Google Maps and verifying your listing if you have not already done so.

Once you have a listing and are logged into your Google account, you can now edit it, even from directly within the search results.

Screenshot from Google Business Profile, June 2022

Being a Google property, GBP provides a primary signal to Google of your business’ existence – and the information here is assumed to be accurate and up to date.

Google will cross-reference these details with those it finds on your website and in other local directories and resources; more on the importance of these in a moment.

2. Post Linked Content (Including Photos)

After you’ve claimed your GBP listing, your work is only partway done.

Google rewards active businesses with higher visibility in Google Maps, so it’s important to post regular updates to your GBP profile.

These updates may and should include special offers, hosted events, links to relevant blog posts, or general business updates.

Posting photos to Google Business ProfileScreenshot from Google Business Profile, June 2022

Where possible, incorporating photos into your updates is also encouraged, as visuals are more likely to boost viewer engagement in terms of shares or clicks.

You should also be including links in your posts, ideally to primary product or service pages on your website.

3. Optimize Your Web Presence For Local Organic Search

If you want to rank well on Google Maps, you should ensure your web presence, including your website and external content, is optimized for your local audience.

You can start by performing a local SEO audit to identify where you need to focus your attention from a keyword, content, and linking perspective – as these are the three primary components upon which a presence is built.

Your website needs to be properly structured to enable Google to easily crawl and index your content, and the content within your site needs to be rich with relevant, locally-oriented, intent-driven keywords and logical internal and external links to the answers your audience is searching for.

Google rewards websites that lead searchers to answers in as few clicks as possible.

Websites must also load quickly and provide seamless navigation, regardless of device.

This is particularly important at a local level, as searchers increasingly begin their quests on their phones.

4. Use Local Business Schema

When it comes to structuring content, and especially business details, Google and other search engines prefer standardization – which has led to the development of schema.

Local Schema enables businesses to wrap code around their content to make it easier for Google to crawl and index.

Local business schema covers many of the same business details captured in a Google Business Profile, which Google will naturally cross-reference.

The easier it is for Google to validate your location, the more likely your business is to show up prominently in Google Maps.

5. Embed The Google Map On Your Contact Us Page

While it’s not explicitly stated that embedding a Google Map in your website will make a difference in terms of where you rank in Google Maps, it’s not far-fetched to assume this is Google’s preferred format.

Here again, Google is able to ensure a consistent user experience for its searchers, which should likewise be the aim of any business looking to please its customers.

6. Mine And Mind Your Reviews

Any business can create a GBP listing, ensure its basic business information is up to date, and post plenty of relevant, local content.

However, another critically important factor in determining if, and where, a local business shows up in Google Maps is customer reviews.

Reviews on Google Business ProfileScreenshot from Google Business Profile, June 2022

Google pays close attention to both how many reviews your business obtains, and how active it is in responding to those reviews, regardless of whether they’re positive or negative.

Any business naturally wants to limit the number of negative reviews it receives and all negative reviews should be dealt with swiftly.

This can actually become a valuable way of displaying your business’ commitment to customer service.

While there are many places customers can leave reviews online, including Facebook, Yelp, and other industry-specific review sites, reviews on GBP profiles will carry more weight when it comes to Google Map rankings.

Consider proactively asking your customers for reviews soon after you’ve successfully delivered a product or service when a presumably positive experience is top of mind for their customers.

There are services available to help automate review requests (via email or text) once certain on or offline customer actions have been completed (e.g. appointment completed, invoice paid, etc.) and review management across multiple sources through a central dashboard.

Automation can save busy local businesses a lot of time, and ensure positive reviews flow in on a regular basis.

7. Update Your Local Listings/Citations With Your NAP

The three most important pieces of directional information on your GBP, website, and across the web are your Name, Address and Phone Number or NAP.

It’s critical for both Google and your audience to have your NAP consistent and accurate across all of these sources.

These references to your business from third-party sites are also called citations.

To find and ensure your NAP is up to date, you can start by simply searching your business name and noting all of the places your business details can be found.

Check each instance and reach out to each directory or website owner to update this important contact information, as needed.

There are also free and paid automated local listings services, which will enable you to identify and update your NAP, along with other important business information like your website URL, services, or even relevant images, from one central location.

8. Build Local Backlinks

Backlinks or inbound links are effectively an extension of our NAP strategy, whereby you look to have relevant, local third-party websites link to your primary website pages.

Backlinks can validate your business from both local and product/service perspectives.

If you maintain listings with links in local directories, you will want to ensure those listings are in the proper categories, if category options are offered.

Ideally, these links to your website are “follow” links, which means Google will follow and recognize the source of the link to your content.

Most directories realize the value of “follow” links and therefore charge for inclusion, but you should also look for opportunities to secure links from other non-paid sources such as relevant partner, industry or service organization sites.

9. Engage With Your Community

Just as Google rewards GBP activity, it also pays attention to how active a business is within its community as a means to establish its local presence and authority.

Businesses noted to be engaging with local service organizations (e.g. Chambers of Commerce, charities, or sports groups), sponsoring local events, or partnering with other prominent local businesses are naturally deemed to be a thriving part of the community.

Engagement can include publishing and/or promoting linked content e.g. event announcements, partner pages tied to these partner organizations, and, of course, physically engaging and perhaps getting mentioned/linked in local news stories or other publications.

10. Pay Attention To The SERPs And The Long Tail

If you are going to optimize any aspect of your local web presence, you will want to monitor your progress in terms of whether or not and where you rank within Google Maps and the regular search engine results pages (SERPs) based on the keywords you are hoping to be found for.

You can perform your own manual Google searches (preferably in Incognito Mode and while not logged into a Google account), or you can choose from a number of rank monitoring tools, many of which enable you to specifically filter out Map rankings.

When considering which keywords to follow, be sure to consider and include local identifiers and qualifying keywords such as “near me,” “best,” and “affordable” – e.g “auto body shops near me,” “best auto body shop in Barrie,” or “affordable auto body work.”

Three, four, and five-keyword phrases like these are considered long tail, which means they may not have significant local search volume – but these volumes can add up, and any local business is well advised to focus on topical groups of related keywords rather than chasing more competitive phrases.

In time, if you’ve truly established your business’ local authority, the short tail top rankings will follow.

Put Your Business On The Google Map

So now, with your laundry list in hand, be like Mike and put your local business on the map.

Establishing your authority and expertise online is not really all that different from how it’s always been in the real world, but it can take time, as any real relationship should.

Google rewards those businesses that provide the best answers to their customers’ questions, deliver solid products and services, take an active role in their local community, have their customers say nice things about them, and provide a high level of customer service at all times.

If this describes your business, get out there and do it.

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7 Steps to Grow Your Traffic & Sales

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7 Steps to Grow Your Traffic & Sales

Content marketing has become one of the best (and most cost-effective) ways to get traffic to a website. When done right, the traffic keeps coming long after you stop actively promoting it.

If you own an e-commerce website and want to learn how to utilize blogging to grow your brand and increase your sales, this is the guide for you.

I’ve personally grown blogs to over 250,000 monthly visitors, and I’ve worked with dozens of clients in the e-commerce space to help them do the same. Here’s an overview of my seven-step process to starting and growing an e-commerce blog. 

But first…

Why start a blog on your e-commerce site?

Creating a blog has a whole host of benefits for e-commerce websites:

  • It can help you move visitors along your marketing funnel so they eventually buy.
  • You’re able to rank highly for keywords on Google that your product pages could never rank for but that are still important for building brand awareness and finding customers.
  • It can help you grow your email list.
  • You’re able to continue to get traffic without constantly spending money on ads.
  • It provides many opportunities to link to your product and category pages to help them rank better on the SERPs.

If you don’t know what some of these things mean, don’t worry—I’ll explain them along the way. But for now, let’s take a look at some e-commerce blogs that are working well right now so you can see the end goal.

Examples of successful e-commerce blogs

Three of my favorite examples of e-commerce websites using blogging are:

  1. Solo Stove
  2. Flatspot
  3. v-dog

Solo Stove comes in at the top of my list due to its excellent use of videos, photos, and helpful information on the blog. It also does search engine optimization (SEO) really well, bringing in an estimated 329,000 monthly visits from Google (data from Ahrefs’ Site Explorer).

Overview of Solo Stove, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

In fact, it’s grown its brand to such a level of popularity that it even created search demand for keywords that include its brand name in them, then created blog posts to rank for those keywords:

Ahrefs' keyword report for Solo Stove

But that’s not all it did. Its blog posts also rank for other keywords in its marketing funnel, such as how to have a mosquito-free backyard or how to change your fire pit’s colors.

E-commerce blogging keyword examples

Then on its blog posts, it uses pictures of its fire pit:

Solo Stove blog post example

Ranking for these keywords does two things:

  1. It introduces Solo Stove’s brand to people who may eventually purchase a fire pit from it.
  2. It gives the brand the opportunity to promote its products to an audience who may not have even known it existed, such as the “mosquito free backyard” keyword.

Moving on, skater brand Flatspot also does blogging well, with a cool ~80,000 monthly visitors to its blog just from search engines.

Overview of Flatspot, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

One of its tactics is to piggie-back on the popularity of new shoe releases from major brands like Nike, then use that traffic to get readers to buy the shoes directly from it:

Flatspot promoting Nike SB shoes in blog post

Finally, let’s look at v-dog—a plant-powered kibble manufacturer that gets ~8,000 visits per month.

Overview of v-dog, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

My favorite post it’s done is its guide to making wet dog food at home, which ranks for the featured snippet for “how to make wet dog food”:

Google search results for "how to make wet dog food"

This guide directly promotes v-dog’s product to make wet dog food. So people who search the query will be introduced to its brand and potentially buy its product to make their own wet dog food at home.

And there you have it—three examples of blogging for e-commerce that’s working right now. With that, let’s talk about how you can start your own blog.

Seven steps to start and grow an e-commerce blog

In my 10+ years as a professional SEO and freelance writer, I’ve worked with over a dozen e-commerce stores to help them grow their website traffic. I’ve also run several of my own e-commerce websites.

In that time, I’ve distilled what works into an easy-to-follow seven-step process:

1. Do some keyword research

I never start a blog without first doing keyword research. Not only does this make coming up with blog topic ideas much easier, but it also ensures that every blog post you write has a chance to show up in Google search results and bring you free, recurring traffic.

While we wrote a complete guide to keyword research, here’s a quick and dirty strategy for finding keywords fast:

First, find a competitor who has a blog. Let’s say you’re selling dog food just like v-dog—if I search for “dog food” on Google, I can see some of my competition:

Google search results for "dog food"

At this point, I look for relevant competitors. For example, Chewy and American Kennel Club are good competitors for research. But I’ll skip sites like Amazon and Walmart, as they are just too broad to get relevant data from.

Next, plug the competitor’s URL into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and click on the Organic keywords report to see the keywords its website ranks for on Google:

Organic keywords report for chewy.com

In this example, it has over 700,000 keywords. That’s way too many to sort through. Let’s add some filters to make things easier:

  • First, set the KD (Keyword Difficulty) score to a maximum of 30 to find easier-to-rank-for keywords.
  • Then we can exclude brand name keywords using the “Keywords” dropdown, set it to “Doesn’t contain,” and type in the brand name.
  • If the website has /blog/ in its blog post URLs, you can also set a filter in the “URL” dropdown to “Contains” and type “blog” in the text field. In Chewy’s case, it doesn’t do that, but it does use a subdomain for its blog, which we can search specifically.

When you’re done, it should look like this:

Ahrefs keyword filters

In the case of chewy.com, this only shaved it down to 619,000 keywords. That’s still a lot—let’s filter it down further. We can apply the following:

  • Minimum monthly search volume of 100
  • Only keywords in positions #1–10
  • Only show keywords containing “dog,” since my example website only sells dog food, not all animal food

Here’s what it looks like with these new filters applied:

Filtering down Ahrefs' Organic keywords report

Now I can find some more related keywords like “what to feed a dog with diarrhea” or “can dogs eat cheese.”

Data for keyword "what to feed a dog with diarrhea"

In addition to picking interesting keywords, you can also get an idea of how to become a topical authority on the topic of dog food by searching “dog food” in Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer.

Overview for "dog food," via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

This keyword is extremely difficult to rank on page #1 for. However, if we go to the Related terms report and set the KD to a max of 30, we can see keyword ideas that are still relevant but may be easier to rank high in the search results.

List of keywords related to dog food

Go through and click the gray + sign next to any keywords you may want to target to add them to your list of potential article ideas. 

2. Create templates for future blog posts

One of the first things I do when I create a new blog is to establish a repeatable template that I use for every post. Typically, it looks something like this:

Blog post template example

It has breadcrumb navigation to help with SEO and navigation, the article title and the date it was last updated, then a short intro with an image on the right to make the lines shorter (and easier to skim). Finally, I include a clickable table of contents to help with navigation, then get into the article.

Within the article itself, I will use headers (H2s) and subheaders (H3s) to make my content easier to skim and to help Google understand what each section is about.

You can make templates for every kind of post you plan on creating—such as list posts, ultimate guides, tutorials, etc.—and reuse them for every post you ever create. It’s a huge time-saver.

While you’re at it, you should also create a standard operating procedure (SOP) that you go through for every article. This could include writing guidelines, what to do with images, formatting, tone, etc.

3. Outline your article

I never dive into writing an article without outlining it first. An outline ensures the article is well structured and planned before you start writing, and it bakes SEO right into your writing process. It’s another big time-saver.

Typically, you want this outline to include:

  • Potential title or titles of the article
  • Target keyword
  • Brief description of the article angle
  • Links to competing articles on Google for research
  • Headers and subheaders, with brief descriptions of the section as needed

Here’s a look at part of an example outline I’ll either send to my writers or write myself:

Content outline example

I wrote a guide to outlining content, which you can follow here for the full step-by-step process.

4. Write, optimize, and publish your post

Next up, it’s time to write your article. As you write more articles, you’ll find what works for you—but you may find it easier to fill in the sections then go back and write the intro once the article is finished.

Here are a few writing tips to help you become a better writer:

  • Ditch the fluff – If a word isn’t needed to bring a point across, cut it.
  • Keep your paragraphs short – Two to three lines per paragraph is plenty, especially for mobile readers where the screen width is shorter.
  • Use active voice over passive voiceHere is a guide for that.
  • Make your content easy to skim – Include photos and videos and make use of headers and bulleted lists to share key points.

Once you’ve written your article, do some basic on-page SEO to help it rank higher in search results:

  • Ensure your article has one H1 tag – The title of the article.
  • Have an SEO-friendly URL – Include the keyword you’re targeting, but keep it short and easy to read.
  • Link to other pages on your site using proper anchor textHere’s a guide for that.
  • Ensure your images have alt text – This is the text Google uses to read what the image is about, as well as what is shown to readers if the image can’t render.

Finally, publish your post and give yourself a pat on the back.

5. Add product promotions, email opt-ins, and internal links

Before you promote your content, there are a few things you can do to squeeze more ROI from it—namely, you should add a way for people to either push them through the funnel toward purchasing a product or subscribe to your email list. I’ll give an example of each.

First, Solo Stove wrote an article titled “Ambiance Is A Girl’s Best Friend,” where it promotes its tiny Solo Stove Mesa as a way of improving a space’s ambiance: 

How to promote your products in a blog post

Beyond directly promoting your products in the articles, you can also add email opt-ins that give people a percentage off their orders. You may lose a little money on the initial order. But once you get someone’s email address, you can promote to them again and get multiple orders from them.

For example, Primary sells kids’ clothing and uses this email pop-up to promote money off its products after you spend a certain amount of time on its website:

Email opt-in pop-up offering a discount on first order

Just make sure your discount code only works once per unique IP address. You can learn more about how to do that here if you use Shopify.

Finally, when you publish an article, you should make it a point to add internal links to your new article from older articles. 

This won’t be as important for your first few because you won’t have a ton of articles. But as your blog grows, it’s an important part of the process to ensure your readers (and Google) can still find your articles and that they aren’t buried deep on your site.

Refer to our guide to internal linking to learn more about this step.

6. Promote your content

At this point, your content is live and optimized for both conversions and search engines. Now it’s time to get some eyeballs on it.

We have an entire guide to content promotion you should read, but here are some highlights:

  • Share the article on all of your social media channels
  • Send the article to your email list if you have one
  • Share your content in relevant communities (such as relevant Reddit forums)
  • Consider running paid ads to your article

There’s a lot more you can do to promote a piece, including reaching out to other blog owners. But I won’t cover all of that here.

The other important piece of promoting your content is getting other website owners to link to your new articles. This is called link building, and it’s a crucial part of SEO.

There are many ways to build links. Some of the most popular include:

Link building is an entire subject on its own. If you’re serious about blogging and getting search traffic, it’s a crucial skill to learn.

7. Scale your efforts

The final step in blogging for e-commerce is scaling up your efforts by creating repeatable processes for each step and hiring people to do the tasks you yourself don’t need to be doing.

You can hire freelance writers, outreach specialists, editors, and more. You can put together a full SEO team for your business.

If you’re not in a place to start hiring, there are still things you can do to squeeze more output from your time, such as creating the SOPs I mentioned earlier.

Final thoughts

Blogging is one of the best ways to increase your e-commerce store’s traffic and sales. It costs less than traditional paid advertising and can continue to provide a return long after a post has been published.

This guide will hopefully help you start your e-commerce blog and publish your first post. But remember that success with blogging doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, it takes three to six months on average to see any results from your SEO efforts. Keep learning and be patient.

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The 5-Step Formula To Forecasting Your SEO Campaign Results

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The 5-Step Formula To Forecasting Your SEO Campaign Results

Looking to launch a successful digital marketing campaign for your business?

How do you select the best SEO keywords to expand your brand’s reach?

What can you do to determine the most effective ways to allocate your marketing budget?

Facing these tough decisions can put you on your heels if you’re not equipped with the right information.

Luckily, there’s a new way to leverage your company’s data to estimate your ROI and take the guesswork out of your next campaign.

With a simple mathematical formula, you can predict the amount of traffic and revenue you’ll generate before even setting your strategy in motion – and you can do it all in just five steps.

Want to learn how?

Join our next webinar with Sabrina Hipps, VP of Partner Development, and Jeremy Rivera, Director of Content Analysis at CopyPress, to find out how to analyze specific keywords and forecast your SEO results.

Not too fond of math? Don’t worry – we’ll provide access to free tools and a downloadable calculator to help automate this process and save you time.

Key Takeaways From This Webinar: 

  • Learn how forecasting your SEO can help you build better campaigns and choose the right keywords.
  • Get step-by-step instructions to predict revenue and website traffic for your next SEO campaign.
  • Access a free handout, resources, and online tools that will save you time and supercharge your content strategy.

In this session, we’ll share real-life examples and provide guidance for the decision-makers within your organization to start getting the most out of your marketing efforts.

By better understanding the market potential of your product or service, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions and effectively maximize your ROI.

Sign up for this webinar and discover how you can secure a sufficient marketing budget and use SEO keywords to forecast the results of your future content campaigns.



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Google SEO Tips For News Articles: Lastmod Tag, Separate Sitemaps

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Google SEO Tips For News Articles: Lastmod Tag, Separate Sitemaps

Google Search Advocate John Mueller and Analyst Gary Illyes share SEO tips for news publishers during a recent office-hours Q&A recording.

Taking turns answering questions, Mueller addresses the correct use of the lastmod tag, while Illyes discusses the benefits of separate sitemaps.

When To Use The Lastmod Tag?

In an XML sitemap file, lastmod is a tag that stores information about the last time a webpage was modified.

Its intended use is to help search engines track and index significant changes to webpages.

Google provides guidelines for using the lastmod tag, which could be used to alter search snippets.

The presence of the lastmod tag may prompt Googlebot to change the publication date in search results, making the content appear more recent and more attractive to click on.

As a result, there may be an inclination to use the lastmod tag even for minor changes to an article so that it appears as if it was recently published.

A news publisher asks whether they should use the lastmod tag to indicate the date of the latest article update or the date of the most recent comment.

Mueller says the date in the lastmod field should reflect the date when the page’s content has changed significantly enough to require re-crawling.

However, using the last comment date is acceptable if comments are a critical part of the page.

He also reminds the publisher to use structured data and ensure the page date is consistent with the lastmod tag.

“Since the site map file is all about finding the right moment to crawl a page based on its changes, the lastmod date should reflect the date when the content has significantly changed enough to merit being re-crawled.

If comments are a critical part of your page, then using that date is fine. Ultimately, this is a decision that you can make. For the date of the article itself, I’d recommend looking at our guidelines on using dates on a page.

In particular, make sure that you use the dates on a page consistently and that you structured data, including the time zone, within the markup.”

Separate Sitemap For News?

A publisher inquires about Google’s stance on having both a news sitemap and a general sitemap on the same website.

They also ask if it’s acceptable for both sitemaps to include duplicate URLs.

Illyes explained that it’s possible to have just one sitemap with the news extension added to the URLs that need it, but it’s simpler to have separate sitemaps for news and general content. URLs older than 30 days should be removed from the news sitemap.

Regarding sitemaps sharing the duplicate URLs, it’s not recommended, but it won’t cause any problems.

Illyes states:

“You can have just one site map, a traditional web sitemap as defined by sitemaps.org, and then add the news extension to the URLs that need it. Just keep in mind that, you’ll need to remove the news extension from URLs that are older than 30 days. For this reason it’s usually simpler to have separate site map for news and for web.

Just remove the URLs altogether from the news site map when they become too old for news. Including the URLs in both site maps, while not very nice, but it will not cause any issues for you.”

These tips from Mueller and Illyes can help news publishers optimize their websites for search engines and improve the visibility and engagement of their articles.


Source: Google Search Central

Featured Image: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock



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