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Do They Help Or Hurt?

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Do They Help Or Hurt?

Local SEO can be a winner for so many types of businesses.

Whether you have a brick-and-mortar or a service-based business, you know that many of your potential customers will begin their journey with search.

And if you want their business, you have to show up.

To get started, you’ll (hopefully) run a local SEO audit on your site which will help you create your local strategy.

This will be your roadmap to ensure that you have checked all the boxes and are well on your way to attracting those customers near you.

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During this process, one of the things you may realize is that there are specific content types targeted to increase your visibility to those users looking for your product or service in their area.

This also means to truly show up in the right place at the right time, you will need quite a bit of content.

This can lead to questions such as:

  • How can I create so much unique content on the same exact subject?
  • Can I just copy and paste the same information and change the city name?
  • What is the best way to target my customers and not get penalized for duplicate content?

Well, let’s look at six different types of content that you may be tempted to duplicate and whether you should make it unique or just rinse and reuse it.

1. Service Area Pages

Service area pages are prime real estate for your local-based keywords including city, state, region, and metro.

As a service-based business, these pages tell your customers the exact area where you conduct business.

If you are a brick and mortar, location pages may be a suitable alternative.

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As a business that services a large area or if you have multiple locations, it may be very tempting to use the same template for each page.

Don’t do it.

This is your opportunity to speak directly to your customer’s needs and tell the search engines exactly where you want to live in the map results.

Take advantage of this prime opportunity to differentiate yourself.  By having the same information on every page, you are sending conflicting signals to the search engines on which page is really important.

Make it extremely clear that if a user is searching for a specific term in this area, you are the best website to help them fulfill that need or answer a specific question.

Unique content tips:

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  • Talk about how the service you provide in each specific service area is unique for that customer.
  • Think about the problem that you are solving for your customer that lives in that area.
  • If your service mix changes based on location, this is the place to highlight those changes. Having your services on this page also adds in the head terms or short-tail keywords you are targeting with the location.
  • Use this page as an opportunity to link to a specific city and metro landing pages, which we will talk about in a moment.
  • Be sure to add local schema to make sure the search engines understand all of the important information about your business including your name, location, business hours, coordinates of the area you serve, services, and linked social accounts. If you have more than one location, be sure to write a unique schema for each location and place it on the appropriate service area page.
  • Include a Google map linked to your Google Business Profile.  This will send the signal that this website services the targeted area referenced on this page with a direct link.
  • Don’t forget information about your business including your NAP, hours of operation, email address, and relevant images. Bonus points if those images are geotagged.

2. City Specific Landing Pages

Screenshot from Groundworks.com metro page, February 2022

We briefly mentioned city-specific landing pages in the last section.

This type of page gives you the opportunity to target a metro area or city in which you provide services.

This is particularly useful if you don’t have a physical location within that area.

Since the intent of this page is to drive organic traffic from a specific city or metro area, you definitely want to make sure the content is unique and targeted to the keywords that you defined in your strategic plan.

This can be as specific as [your service] + [city].

As the search engines are looking for the best site to serve their customer with the most relevant search results, you want this content to scream, “I am that business!”.

Unique content tips:

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  • Speak about the individual services or products you offer in this area and why they are important.
  • Be sure to include surrounding cities and suburbs in the content.  This will help expand your local reach.
  • Local landmarks will help validate your knowledge of the area.
  • Don’t forget to include the address of the office or location that services the targeted city.
  • Local reviews, testimonials, and job stories help to build your credibility.
  • Don’t forget your focus. Treat this as the landing page for your customers within the targeted city. This may be your one shot to convert a customer or keep them on your site.

3. Articles And Blogs

In the current social culture, everyone loves a good article or blog, especially if it is relevant to a situation that they are experiencing at that moment.

The resources section of your site is a great place to speak directly to that specific need of a customer while displaying that you are the authority in your space.

The best part about having articles and blogs as part of your strategy is the flexibility to really dig deep into any topic and make it applicable to your service or product.

Don’t make it boring by just reusing the same thing over and over again.

Shake off that creative hat and have some fun.

Unique content tips:

  • Get hyperlocal! Talk about what is happening in your neighborhood or region.
  • Be relevant and timely. Create content that your users will care about at the moment. This can range from social issues to events and promotions. Listen to what your customers care about.
  • Deploy your long-tail keyword strategy here. Use your resource pages to create content for those super-targeted keywords that may not fit in the main areas of your site.
  • Be creative and utilize checklists, top 10 lists, infographics, and video content to engage your local audience.
  • Not sure what to create? Use your keyword research tools or Google Trends what is popular in the area you are targeting.
Google Trends snapshot of bicycle repairScreenshot from Google Trends, February 2022

4. NAP Information

While your NAP (Name, Address, and Phone Number) may not be a full page of content, it is extremely important for local SEO.

This is an instance where consistency matters and you want it to be the same across the board.

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The level of detail required goes as deep as if you use “St.” or “Street” in your address.

This is important because it is how the search engines validate your existence across the internet.

If they can match your Name, Address, and Phone Number to other sources of information, it shows the connection between your website and other mentions of your company.

You should have this information in the footer of your website, on metro pages, and about us pages.

Help your customer and the search engine connect the dots.

5. Reviews And Testimonials

Reviews and testimonials build trust and credibility with your customers.

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According to BrightLocal, 77% of users always or regularly read reviews when browsing for a local business.

Don’t be afraid to use the same reviews and testimonials across different pages on your site.

The key here will be to refresh this content periodically.

This can be done manually or through plugins that pull reviews directly from the source.

6. Directory Listings

Web directories are still very relevant to local SEO.

We have all heard of the most common directories such as Google Business Profile and Bing Places, however, there are a plethora of others that are used often and just may not be on your radar.

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These include local search directories, map sites, affiliate/review sites, and Chambers of Commerce.

Each directory may give you the opportunity to have a profile that includes your NAP information as well as a listing of your services and a description of the business.

It is not necessary to create a new description or listing of services for each directory.

Similar to the NAP, consistency matters.

You want the search engines to be able to connect the dots from the directory sites to your website and determine, without a doubt, that you are the same business.

To save a bit of time, you can sign up for a listing service that pushes your business information to the most popular directories for you.

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As you experiment with these different types of content, you will find ways to begin to integrate your other marketing efforts such as social and video content into your local SEO strategy.

Consistency across platforms will further connect the dots across your entire marketing portfolio and create a comprehensive user journey.

Don’t just duplicate this content.

Use the bite-snack-meal model, in giving them a bit more information with each step.

Get Started

Planning content for your local SEO efforts may seem daunting when you first begin, with the right plan in place, it will be worth the effort.

Check out SEJ’s Local SEO Guide to get started on this journey.

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This will get you on track to creating your strategy, planning the right content, driving traffic, and increasing rankings.

More resources:


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10 Paid Search & PPC Planning Best Practices

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10 Paid Search & PPC Planning Best Practices

Whether you are new to paid media or reevaluating your efforts, it’s critical to review your performance and best practices for your overall PPC marketing program, accounts, and campaigns.

Revisiting your paid media plan is an opportunity to ensure your strategy aligns with your current goals.

Reviewing best practices for pay-per-click is also a great way to keep up with trends and improve performance with newly released ad technologies.

As you review, you’ll find new strategies and features to incorporate into your paid search program, too.

Here are 10 PPC best practices to help you adjust and plan for the months ahead.

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1. Goals

When planning, it is best practice to define goals for the overall marketing program, ad platforms, and at the campaign level.

Defining primary and secondary goals guides the entire PPC program. For example, your primary conversion may be to generate leads from your ads.

You’ll also want to look at secondary goals, such as brand awareness that is higher in the sales funnel and can drive interest to ultimately get the sales lead-in.

2. Budget Review & Optimization

Some advertisers get stuck in a rut and forget to review and reevaluate the distribution of their paid media budgets.

To best utilize budgets, consider the following:

  • Reconcile your planned vs. spend for each account or campaign on a regular basis. Depending on the budget size, monthly, quarterly, or semiannually will work as long as you can hit budget numbers.
  • Determine if there are any campaigns that should be eliminated at this time to free up the budget for other campaigns.
  • Is there additional traffic available to capture and grow results for successful campaigns? The ad platforms often include a tool that will provide an estimated daily budget with clicks and costs. This is just an estimate to show more click potential if you are interested.
  • If other paid media channels perform mediocrely, does it make sense to shift those budgets to another?
  • For the overall paid search and paid social budget, can your company invest more in the positive campaign results?

3. Consider New Ad Platforms

If you can shift or increase your budgets, why not test out a new ad platform? Knowing your audience and where they spend time online will help inform your decision when choosing ad platforms.

Go beyond your comfort zone in Google, Microsoft, and Meta Ads.

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Here are a few other advertising platforms to consider testing:

  • LinkedIn: Most appropriate for professional and business targeting. LinkedIn audiences can also be reached through Microsoft Ads.
  • TikTok: Younger Gen Z audience (16 to 24), video.
  • Pinterest: Products, services, and consumer goods with a female-focused target.
  • Snapchat: Younger demographic (13 to 35), video ads, app installs, filters, lenses.

Need more detailed information and even more ideas? Read more about the 5 Best Google Ads Alternatives.

4. Top Topics in Google Ads & Microsoft Ads

Recently, trends in search and social ad platforms have presented opportunities to connect with prospects more precisely, creatively, and effectively.

Don’t overlook newer targeting and campaign types you may not have tried yet.

  • Video: Incorporating video into your PPC accounts takes some planning for the goals, ad creative, targeting, and ad types. There is a lot of opportunity here as you can simply include video in responsive display ads or get in-depth in YouTube targeting.
  • Performance Max: This automated campaign type serves across all of Google’s ad inventory. Microsoft Ads recently released PMAX so you can plan for consistency in campaign types across platforms. Do you want to allocate budget to PMax campaigns? Learn more about how PMax compares to search.
  • Automation: While AI can’t replace human strategy and creativity, it can help manage your campaigns more easily. During planning, identify which elements you want to automate, such as automatically created assets and/or how to successfully guide the AI in the Performance Max campaigns.

While exploring new features, check out some hidden PPC features you probably don’t know about.

5. Revisit Keywords

The role of keywords has evolved over the past several years with match types being less precise and loosening up to consider searcher intent.

For example, [exact match] keywords previously would literally match with the exact keyword search query. Now, ads can be triggered by search queries with the same meaning or intent.

A great planning exercise is to lay out keyword groups and evaluate if they are still accurately representing your brand and product/service.

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Review search term queries triggering ads to discover trends and behavior you may not have considered. It’s possible this has impacted performance and conversions over time.

Critical to your strategy:

  • Review the current keyword rules and determine if this may impact your account in terms of close variants or shifts in traffic volume.
  • Brush up on how keywords work in each platform because the differences really matter!
  • Review search term reports more frequently for irrelevant keywords that may pop up from match type changes. Incorporate these into match type changes or negative keywords lists as appropriate.

6. Revisit Your Audiences

Review the audiences you selected in the past, especially given so many campaign types that are intent-driven.

Automated features that expand your audience could be helpful, but keep an eye out for performance metrics and behavior on-site post-click.

Remember, an audience is simply a list of users who are grouped together by interests or behavior online.

Therefore, there are unlimited ways to mix and match those audiences and target per the sales funnel.

Here are a few opportunities to explore and test:

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  • LinkedIn user targeting: Besides LinkedIn, this can be found exclusively in Microsoft Ads.
  • Detailed Demographics: Marital status, parental status, home ownership, education, household income.
  • In-market and custom intent: Searches and online behavior signaling buying cues.
  • Remarketing: Advertisers website visitors, interactions with ads, and video/ YouTube.

Note: This varies per the campaign type and seems to be updated frequently, so make this a regular check-point in your campaign management for all platforms.

7. Organize Data Sources

You will likely be running campaigns on different platforms with combinations of search, display, video, etc.

Looking back at your goals, what is the important data, and which platforms will you use to review and report? Can you get the majority of data in one analytics platform to compare and share?

Millions of companies use Google Analytics, which is a good option for centralized viewing of advertising performance, website behavior, and conversions.

8. Reevaluate How You Report

Have you been using the same performance report for years?

It’s time to reevaluate your essential PPC key metrics and replace or add that data to your reports.

There are two great resources to kick off this exercise:

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Your objectives in reevaluating the reporting are:

  • Are we still using this data? Is it still relevant?
  • Is the data we are viewing actionable?
  • What new metrics should we consider adding we haven’t thought about?
  • How often do we need to see this data?
  • Do the stakeholders receiving the report understand what they are looking at (aka data visualization)?

Adding new data should be purposeful, actionable, and helpful in making decisions for the marketing plan. It’s also helpful to decide what type of data is good to see as “deep dives” as needed.

9. Consider Using Scripts

The current ad platforms have plenty of AI recommendations and automated rules, and there is no shortage of third-party tools that can help with optimizations.

Scripts is another method for advertisers with large accounts or some scripting skills to automate report generation and repetitive tasks in their Google Ads accounts.

Navigating the world of scripts can seem overwhelming, but a good place to start is a post here on Search Engine Journal that provides use cases and resources to get started with scripts.

Luckily, you don’t need a Ph.D. in computer science — there are plenty of resources online with free or templated scripts.

10. Seek Collaboration

Another effective planning tactic is to seek out friendly resources and second opinions.

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Much of the skill and science of PPC management is unique to the individual or agency, so there is no shortage of ideas to share between you.

You can visit the Paid Search Association, a resource for paid ad managers worldwide, to make new connections and find industry events.

Preparing For Paid Media Success

Strategies should be based on clear and measurable business goals. Then, you can evaluate the current status of your campaigns based on those new targets.

Your paid media strategy should also be built with an eye for both past performance and future opportunities. Look backward and reevaluate your existing assumptions and systems while investigating new platforms, topics, audiences, and technologies.

Also, stay current with trends and keep learning. Check out ebooks, social media experts, and industry publications for resources and motivational tips.

More resources: 

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Google Limits News Links In California Over Proposed ‘Link Tax’ Law

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A brown cardboard price tag with a twine string and a black dollar sign symbol, influenced by the Link Tax Law, set against a dark gray background.

Google announced that it plans to reduce access to California news websites for a portion of users in the state.

The decision comes as Google prepares for the potential passage of the California Journalism Preservation Act (CJPA), a bill requiring online platforms like Google to pay news publishers for linking to their content.

What Is The California Journalism Preservation Act?

The CJPA, introduced in the California State Legislature, aims to support local journalism by creating what Google refers to as a “link tax.”

If passed, the Act would force companies like Google to pay media outlets when sending readers to news articles.

However, Google believes this approach needs to be revised and could harm rather than help the news industry.

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Jaffer Zaidi, Google’s VP of Global News Partnerships, stated in a blog post:

“It would favor media conglomerates and hedge funds—who’ve been lobbying for this bill—and could use funds from CJPA to continue to buy up local California newspapers, strip them of journalists, and create more ghost papers that operate with a skeleton crew to produce only low-cost, and often low-quality, content.”

Google’s Response

To assess the potential impact of the CJPA on its services, Google is running a test with a percentage of California users.

During this test, Google will remove links to California news websites that the proposed legislation could cover.

Zaidi states:

“To prepare for possible CJPA implications, we are beginning a short-term test for a small percentage of California users. The testing process involves removing links to California news websites, potentially covered by CJPA, to measure the impact of the legislation on our product experience.”

Google Claims Only 2% of Search Queries Are News-Related

Zaidi highlighted peoples’ changing news consumption habits and its effect on Google search queries (emphasis mine):

“It’s well known that people are getting news from sources like short-form videos, topical newsletters, social media, and curated podcasts, and many are avoiding the news entirely. In line with those trends, just 2% of queries on Google Search are news-related.”

Despite the low percentage of news queries, Google wants to continue helping news publishers gain visibility on its platforms.

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However, the “CJPA as currently constructed would end these investments,” Zaidi says.

A Call For A Different Approach

In its current form, Google maintains that the CJPA undermines news in California and could leave all parties worse off.

The company urges lawmakers to consider alternative approaches supporting the news industry without harming smaller local outlets.

Google argues that, over the past two decades, it’s done plenty to help news publishers innovate:

“We’ve rolled out Google News Showcase, which operates in 26 countries, including the U.S., and has more than 2,500 participating publications. Through the Google News Initiative we’ve partnered with more than 7,000 news publishers around the world, including 200 news organizations and 6,000 journalists in California alone.”

Zaidi suggested that a healthy news industry in California requires support from the state government and a broad base of private companies.

As the legislative process continues, Google is willing to cooperate with California publishers and lawmakers to explore alternative paths that would allow it to continue linking to news.

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The Best of Ahrefs’ Digest: March 2024

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The Best of Ahrefs’ Digest: March 2024

Every week, we share hot SEO news, interesting reads, and new posts in our newsletter, Ahrefs’ Digest.

If you’re not one of our 280,000 subscribers, you’ve missed out on some great reads!

Here’s a quick summary of my personal favorites from the last month:

Best of March 2024

How 16 Companies are Dominating the World’s Google Search Results

Author: Glen Allsopp

tl;dr

Glen’s research reveals that just 16 companies representing 588 brands get 3.5 billion (yes, billion!) monthly clicks from Google.

My takeaway

Glen pointed out some really actionable ideas in this report, such as the fact that many of the brands dominating search are adding mini-author bios.

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Example of mini-author bios on The VergeExample of mini-author bios on The Verge

This idea makes so much sense in terms of both UX and E-E-A-T. I’ve already pitched it to the team and we’re going to implement it on our blog.

How Google is Killing Independent Sites Like Ours

Authors: Gisele Navarro, Danny Ashton

tl;dr

Big publications have gotten into the affiliate game, publishing “best of” lists about everything under the sun. And despite often not testing products thoroughly, they’re dominating Google rankings. The result, Gisele and Danny argue, is that genuine review sites suffer and Google is fast losing content diversity.

My takeaway

I have a lot of sympathy for independent sites. Some of them are trying their best, but unfortunately, they’re lumped in with thousands of others who are more than happy to spam.

Estimated search traffic to Danny and Gisele's site fell off a cliff after Google's March updatesEstimated search traffic to Danny and Gisele's site fell off a cliff after Google's March updates
Estimated search traffic to Danny and Gisele’s site fell off a cliff after Google’s March updates 🙁 

I know it’s hard to hear, but the truth is Google benefits more from having big sites in the SERPs than from having diversity. That’s because results from big brands are likely what users actually want. By and large, people would rather shop at Walmart or ALDI than at a local store or farmer’s market.

That said, I agree with most people that Forbes (with its dubious contributor model contributing to scams and poor journalism) should not be rewarded so handsomely.

The Discussion Forums Dominating 10,000 Product Review Search Results

Author: Glen Allsopp

Tl;dr

Glen analyzed 10,000 “product review” keywords and found that:

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My takeaway

After Google’s heavy promotion of Reddit from last year’s Core Update, to no one’s surprise, unscrupulous SEOs and marketers have already started spamming Reddit. And as you may know, Reddit’s moderation is done by volunteers, and obviously, they can’t keep up.

I’m not sure how this second-order effect completely escaped the smart minds at Google, but from the outside, it feels like Google has capitulated to some extent.

John Mueller seemingly having too much faith in Reddit...John Mueller seemingly having too much faith in Reddit...

I’m not one to make predictions and I have no idea what will happen next, but I agree with Glen: Google’s results are the worst I’ve seen them. We can only hope Google sorts itself out.

Who Sends Traffic on the Web and How Much? New Research from Datos & SparkToro

Author: Rand Fishkin

tl;dr

63.41% of all U.S. web traffic referrals from the top 170 sites are initiated on Google.com.

Data from SparktoroData from Sparktoro

My takeaway

Despite all of our complaints, Google is still the main platform to acquire traffic from. That’s why we all want Google to sort itself out and do well.

But it would also be a mistake to look at this post and think Google is the only channel you should drive traffic from. As Rand’s later blog post clarifies, “be careful not to ascribe attribution or credit to Google when other investments drove the real value.”

I think many affiliate marketers learned this lesson well from the past few Core Updates: Relying on one single channel to drive all of your traffic is not a good idea. You should be using other platforms to build brand awareness, interest, and demand.

Want more?

Each week, our team handpicks the best SEO and marketing content from around the web for our newsletter. Sign up to get them directly in your inbox.

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