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7 Top Ways To Gain Visibility

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7 Top Ways To Gain Visibility

Online search is more often than not the starting point in a local consumer’s quest for products and services nearby.

In fact, 78% use the Internet to find information about local businesses in their area more than once a week – and 21% are searching locally every day, according to BrightLocal’s most recent local consumer survey.

You must be visible in local organic and Map Pack search results if you want to get found. Then you have a chance to convert those searchers to in-store traffic, booked appointments, or some other type of paying customer.

In this column, you’ll find 7 of the most impactful ways you can build local visibility using SEO.

1. Check For Technical Errors That Could Impact Indexing

This is baseline SEO. You can’t get found if search engines can’t index your site.

First, learn the basics about how search engines crawl and index your website. This foundational knowledge will help guide your SEO efforts going forward.

You may very well decide that technical SEO issues such as indexation are too complex for you to manage on top of running your business.

If that’s the case, at least you’ll understand what you’re hiring an SEO agency or consultant to do for you.

On the other hand, you might feel confident looking into indexation issues yourself and in that case, these resources can help:

2. Create Exceptional Content

Content is the vehicle by which all messaging, offers, and calls to action will be delivered to your audience.

But your small business isn’t just competing against other businesses like yours in the search results.

You’re also up against media publications, informational websites, big brands, local review sites, and all kinds of other sources that create content relevant to your products and services.

The bar is high, and that means your content must be exceptional to stand out.

Before you jump in with both feet and start cranking out blog posts, take the time to create a local content strategy that aligns with your business goals.

Make sure you incorporate different types of local content, and optimize each piece for search using these proven on-page local SEO best practices.

3. Incorporate Local Link Building Into Your SEO Strategy

Links are the currency of the web. They’re an important trust signal to search engines like Google and suggest that others endorse your content.

John McAlpin explains, “Local links are done with the intention to show that others with relevance to the local area trust or endorse your business.”

His piece ‘What Is A Local Link & How To Find More Local Link Opportunities‘, part of our Local SEO Guide, is a great starting point for your local link building strategy.

From there, I highly recommend you read this column from Kevin Rowe, in which he shares 50 types of links and what you need to do to attract each one.

4. Get Your Google Business Profile In Order

No local search strategy is complete without a well-optimized Google Business Profile (GBP).

While Google draws local business information from a wide variety of sites, directories, and networks around the web, it does look to its own profiles as a single source of truth about any local business.

Previously known as the Google My Business program, these profiles have grown richer and more interactive in recent years. And with these updates, they’ve become more useful for local searchers, too.

Today, GBPs not only provide key business information such as your location and contact information but also enable you to:

  • Help searchers understand the experience they’ll have at your business with a variety of high-quality photos and videos.
  • Showcase offers, events, and more with Google Posts.
  • Interact with customers via Messaging, Q&A, and responding to reviews.
  • Proactively share differentiating features, health and safety information, payment methods, and more with Attributes.

Sherry Bonelli offers a great guide to GBP optimization here.

5. Ensure Local Listings Are Accurate

Google values searcher experience above all else. Inaccurate, outdated information that negatively impacts searcher experience is, therefore, a liability and can hinder your local visibility in a big way.

Wherever a searcher encounters your business listing online – whether on social, in a local directory, in Yellow Pages, on review sites such as Yelp or Trip Advisor – the information they find there should enable them to seamlessly convert.

Having the wrong phone number, address, hours of operation, or other key business information listed can result in a searcher showing up at a closed store, for example.

Or being sent by their GPS system to your former location.

Seeing various versions of key business data around the web makes it difficult for search engines to know what’s true.

Given that Google wants to give each searcher the best possible answer to their query, you do not want the algorithm questioning whether your business information is trustworthy.

Tracking listings manually is time-consuming and incredibly difficult, as data aggregators and directories may be scanning for business information and updating their listings.

This is how misinformation or outdated listings proliferate, and the wrong address, URL, or hours can spread far and wide.

Small businesses can use a local SEO tool like Moz Local or Semrush to automate the process of scanning for business listings and monitoring their accuracy.

6. Monitor & Respond To Local Reviews

Reviews are a highly impactful part of the local search experience and in 2021, 77% of local consumers said they always or regularly read reviews when searching for local businesses.

Google’s local ranking algorithms are less a mystery than their organic counterparts. Google openly tells us there are three main local ranking factors: Relevance, Distance, and Prominence.

Reviews are part of the Prominence factor, and Google states:

“Google review count and review score factor into local search ranking. More reviews and positive ratings can improve your business’ local ranking.”

Jeff Riddall offers a comprehensive overview of how Google reviews impact organic and local search rankings here.

Check out Matt Southern’s ‘Where & How To Get The Right Reviews For Your Business‘ to learn more.

7. Use Relevant Local Schema

While not a ranking factor, schema markup is a type of structured data that makes the web crawlers’ job easier and helps the search engine better understand the content of your page.

Anything you can do to help Google more effectively match your page to a relevant query is a win.

Schema markup can help trigger rich results that highlight additional information such as breadcrumbs, reviews, FAQs, and sitelinks on search results.

Applying schema properly, then testing and validating your markup, is essential as errors can disqualify you from obtaining those rich results.

Chelsea Alves wrote a fantastic guide to local markup and rich results that can serve as your starting point for adding this tactic to your local SEO strategy.

Bringing It All Together

Taking on local SEO as a small business can seem daunting. You may not have a dedicated marketing department, and it’s not uncommon for business owners to feel overwhelmed by the administrative and marketing tasks that come with being an entrepreneur.

I hope this guide gives you enough information and resources to determine what you can tackle in-house and what you may need to outsource.

Using an agency or consultant to augment your in-house skills is just fine – but it’s essential that you have a healthy understanding of what you’re asking these professionals to do for you.

Remember, local SEO is not a one-time, ‘set it and forget it’ activity to check off the list.

It’s an integral part of your marketing, and often intersects with customer service, as well.

To learn more, download Search Engine Journal’s ebook ‘Local SEO: The Definitive Guide to Improve Your Local Search Rankings.’


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Google Clarifies Organization Merchant Returns Structured Data

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Google updates organization structured data for merchant returns

Google quietly updated their organization structured data documentation in order to clarify two points about merchant returns in response to feedback about an ambiguity in the previous version.

Organization Structured Data and Merchant Returns

Google recently expanded their Organization structured data so that it could now accommodate a merchant return policy. The change added support for adding a sitewide merchant return policy.

The original reason for adding this support:

“Adding support for Organization-level return policies

What: Added documentation on how to specify a general return policy for an Organization as a whole.

Why: This makes it easier to define and maintain general return policies for an entire site.”

However that change left unanswered about what will happen if a site has a sitewide return policy but also has a different policy for individual products.

The clarification applies for the specific scenario of when a site uses both a sitewide return policy in their structured data and another one for specific products.

What Takes Precedence?

What happens if a merchant uses both a sitewide and product return structured data? Google’s new documentation states that Google will ignore the sitewide product return policy in favor of a more granular product-level policy in the structured data.

The clarification states:

“If you choose to provide both organization-level and product-level return policy markup, Google defaults to the product-level return policy markup.”

Change Reflected Elsewhere

Google also updated the documentation to reflect the scenario of the use of two levels of merchant return policies in another section that discusses whether structured data or merchant feed data takes precedence. There is no change to the policy, merchant center data still takes precedence.

This is the old documentation:

“If you choose to use both markup and settings in Merchant Center, Google will only use the information provided in Merchant Center for any products submitted in your Merchant Center product feeds, including automated feeds.”

This is the same section but updated with additional wording:

“If you choose to use both markup (whether at the organization-level or product-level, or both) and settings in Merchant Center, Google will only use the information provided in Merchant Center for any products submitted in your Merchant Center product feeds, including automated feeds.”

Read the newly updated Organization structured data documentation:

Organization (Organization) structured data – MerchantReturnPolicy

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What Is It & How To Write It

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What Is It & How To Write It

In this guide, you will learn about alternative text (known as alt text): what it is, why it is important for on-page SEO, how to use it correctly, and more.

It’s often overlooked, but every image on your website should have alt text. More information is better, and translating visual information into text is important for search engine bots attempting to understand your website and users with screen readers.

Alt text is one more source of information that relates ideas and content together on your website.

This practical and to-the-point guide contains tips and advice you can immediately use to improve your website’s image SEO and accessibility.

What Is Alt Text?

Alternative text (or alt text) – also known as the alt attribute or the alt tag (which is not technically correct because it is not a tag) – is simply a piece of text that describes the image in the HTML code.

What Are The Uses Of Alt Text?

The original function of alt text was simply to describe an image that could not be loaded.

Many years ago, when the internet was much slower, alt text would help you know the content of an image that was too heavy to be loaded in your browser.

Today, images rarely fail to load – but if they do, then it is the alt text you will see in place of an image.

Screenshot from Search Engine Journal, May 2024

Alt text also helps search engine bots understand the image’s content and context.

More importantly, alt text is critical for accessibility and for people using screen readers:

  • Alt text helps people with disabilities (for example, using screen readers) learn about the image’s content.

Of course, like every element of SEO, it is often misused or, in some cases, even abused.

Let’s now take a closer look at why alt text is important.

Why Alt Text Is Important

The web and websites are a very visual experience. It is hard to find a website without images or graphic elements.

That’s why alt text is very important.

Alt text helps translate the image’s content into words, thus making the image accessible to a wider audience, including people with disabilities and search engine bots that are not clever enough yet to fully understand every image, its context, and its meaning.

Why Alt Text Is Important For SEO

Alt text is an important element of on-page SEO optimization.

Proper alt text optimization makes your website stand a better chance of ranking in Google image searches.

Yes, alt text is a ranking factor for Google image search.

Depending on your website’s niche and specificity, Google image search traffic may play a huge role in your website’s overall success.

For example, in the case of ecommerce websites, users very often start their search for products with a Google image search instead of typing the product name into the standard Google search.

Screenshot from search for [Garmin forerunner]Screenshot from search for [Garmin forerunner], May 2024

Google and other search engines may display fewer product images (or not display them at all) if you fail to take care of their alt text optimization.

Without proper image optimization, you may lose a lot of potential traffic and customers.

Why Alt Text Is Important For Accessibility

Visibility in Google image search is very important, but there is an even more important consideration: Accessibility.

Fortunately, in recent years, more focus has been placed on accessibility (i.e., making the web accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities and/or using screen readers).

Suppose the alt text of your images actually describes their content instead of, for example, stuffing keywords. In that case, you are helping people who cannot see this image better understand it and the content of the entire web page.

Let’s say one of your web pages is an SEO audit guide that contains screenshots from various crawling tools.

Would it not be better to describe the content of each screenshot instead of placing the same alt text of “SEO audit” into every image?

Let’s take a look at a few examples.

Alt Text Examples

Finding many good and bad examples of alt text is not difficult. Let me show you a few, sticking to the above example with an SEO audit guide.

Good Alt Text Examples

So, our example SEO guide contains screenshots from tools such as Google Search Console and Screaming Frog.

Some good examples of alt text may include:

”The
”Google
”List
”Screaming

Tip: It is also a good idea to take care of the name of your file. Using descriptive file names is not a ranking factor, but I recommend this as a good SEO practice.

Bad And/Or Spammy Alt Text Examples

I’ve also seen many examples of bad alt text use, including keyword stuffing or spamming.

Here is how you can turn the above good examples into bad examples:

”google search console coverage report
”google
”seo
”seo

As you can see, the above examples do not provide any information on what these images actually show.

You can also find examples and even more image SEO tips on Google Search Central.

Common Alt Text Mistakes

Stuffing keywords in the alt text is not the only mistake you can make.

Here are a few examples of common alt text mistakes:

  • Failure to use the alt text or using empty alt text.
  • Using the same alt text for different images.
  • Using very general alt text that does not actually describe the image. For example, using the alt text of “dog” on the photo of a dog instead of describing the dog in more detail, its color, what it is doing, what breed it is, etc.
  • Automatically using the name of the file as the alt text – which may lead to very unfriendly alt text, such as “googlesearchconsole,” “google-search-console,” or “photo2323,” depending on the name of the file.

Alt Text Writing Tips

And finally, here are the tips on how to write correct alt text so that it actually fulfills its purpose:

  • Do not stuff keywords into the alt text. Doing so will not help your web page rank for these keywords.
  • Describe the image in detail, but still keep it relatively short. Avoid adding multiple sentences to the alt text.
  • Use your target keywords, but in a natural way, as part of the image’s description. If your target keyword does not fit into the image’s description, don’t use it.
  • Don’t use text on images. All text should be added in the form of HTML code.
  • Don’t write, “this is an image of.” Google and users know that this is an image. Just describe its content.
  • Make sure you can visualize the image’s content by just reading its alt text. That is the best exercise to make sure your alt text is OK.

How To Troubleshoot Image Alt Text

Now you know all the best practices and common mistakes of alt text. But how do you check what’s in the alt text of the images of a website?

You can analyze the alt text in the following ways:

Inspecting an element (right-click and select Inspect when hovering over an image) is a good way to check if a given image has alt text.

However, if you want to check that in bulk, I recommend one of the below two methods.

Install Web Developer Chrome extension.

Screenshot of Web Developer Extension in Chrome by authorScreenshot from Web Developer Extension, Chrome by author, May 2024

Next, open the page whose images you want to audit.

Click on Web Developer and navigate to Images > Display Alt Attributes. This way, you can see the content of the alt text of all images on a given web page.

The alt text of images is shown on the page.Screenshot from Web Developer Extension, Chrome by author, May 2024

How To Find And Fix Missing Alt Text

To check the alt text of the images of the entire website, use a crawler like Screaming Frog or Sitebulb.

Crawl the site, navigate to the image report, and review the alt text of all website images, as shown in the video guide below.

You can also export only images that have missing alt text and start fixing those issues.

Alt Text May Not Seem Like A Priority, But It’s Important

Every source of information about your content has value. Whether it’s for vision-impaired users or bots, alt text helps contextualize the images on your website.

While it’s only a ranking factor for image search, everything you do to help search engines understand your website can potentially help deliver more accurate results. Demonstrating a commitment to accessibility is also a critical component of modern digital marketing.

FAQ

What is the purpose of alt text in HTML?

Alternative text, or alt text, serves two main purposes in HTML. Its primary function is to provide a textual description of an image if it cannot be displayed. This text can help users understand the image content when technical issues prevent it from loading or if they use a screen reader due to visual impairments. Additionally, alt text aids search engine bots in understanding the image’s subject matter, which is critical for SEO, as indexing images correctly can enhance a website’s visibility in search results.

Can alt text improve website accessibility?

Yes, alt text is vital for website accessibility. It translates visual information into descriptive text that can be read by screen readers used by users with visual impairments. By accurately describing images, alt text ensures that all users, regardless of disability, can understand the content of a web page, making the web more inclusive and accessible to everyone.

More resources: 


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Google Dials Back AI Overviews In Search Results, Study Finds

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Photo of a mobile device in mans hand with generative google AI Overview on the screen.

According to new research, Google’s AI-generated overviews have undergone significant adjustments since the initial rollout.

The study from SE Ranking analyzed 100,000 keywords and found Google has greatly reduced the frequency of AI overviews.

However, when they appear, they’re more detailed than they were previously.

The study digs into which topics and industries are more likely to get an AI overview. It also looks at how the AI snippets interact with other search features like featured snippets and ads.

Here’s an overview of the findings and what they mean for your SEO efforts.

Declining Frequency Of AI Overviews

In contrast to pre-rollout figures, 8% of the examined searches now trigger an AI Overview.

This represents a 52% drop compared to January levels.

Yevheniia Khromova, the study’s author, believes this means Google is taking a more measured approach, stating:

“The sharp decrease in AI Overview presence likely reflects Google’s efforts to boost the accuracy and trustworthiness of AI-generated answers.”

Longer AI Overviews

Although the frequency of AI overviews has decreased, the ones that do appear provide more detailed information.

The average length of the text has grown by nearly 25% to around 4,342 characters.

In another notable change, AI overviews now link to fewer sources on average – usually just four links after expanding the snippet.

However, 84% still include at least one domain from that query’s top 10 organic search results.

Niche Dynamics & Ranking Factors

The chances of getting an AI overview vary across different industries.

Searches related to relationships, food and beverages, and technology were most likely to trigger AI overviews.

Sensitive areas like healthcare, legal, and news had a low rate of showing AI summaries, less than 1%.

Longer search queries with ten words were more likely to generate an AI overview, with a 19% rate indicating that AI summaries are more useful for complex information needs.

Search terms with lower search volumes and lower cost-per-click were more likely to display AI summaries.

Other Characteristics Of AI Overviews

The research reveals that 45% of AI overviews appear alongside featured snippets, often sourced from the exact domains.

Around 87% of AI overviews now coexist with ads, compared to 73% previously, a statistic that could increase competition for advertising space.

What Does This Mean?

SE Ranking’s research on AI overviews has several implications:

  1. Reduced Risk Of Traffic Losses: Fewer searches trigger AI Overviews that directly answer queries, making organic listings less likely to be demoted or receive less traffic.
  2. Most Impacted Niches: AI overviews appear more in relationships, food, and technology niches. Publishers in these sectors should pay closer attention to Google’s AI overview strategy.
  3. Long-form & In-Depth Content Essential: As AI snippets become longer, companies may need to create more comprehensive content beyond what the overviews cover.

Looking Ahead

While the number of AI overviews has decreased recently, we can’t assume this trend will continue.

AI overviews will undoubtedly continue to transform over time.

It’s crucial to monitor developments closely, try different methods of dealing with them, and adjust game plans as needed.


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