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Why NAP & User Experience Are Crucial To Local SEO

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Why NAP & User Experience Are Crucial To Local SEO


NAP consistency is an important part of Google’s local search and Local Pack algorithms, which means that building citations with a consistent NAP on your Google Business Profile listing and other online directories and sites can influence your local rankings.

However, having a consistent NAP is also important to the user journey, as online directories and social bookmarking sites aren’t just used by Google – they’re used by humans, too.

Maintaining a high level of consistency and accuracy reduces the risk of mistakes being made by search engines mechanically processing the data.

It also reduces the risk of user friction should a potential customer trying to contact your business come across an incorrect phone number, store hours, or email address.

And, if Google comes across five different versions of your store hours, which one are they to believe?

Conflicting information can erode Google’s trust in your location’s data, which doesn’t equate to your listing being considered the best result for a relevant query.

Keeping track of where key business information is listed and how accurate it is can be a difficult job even for a single location.

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When you’re managing multiple locations with multiple addresses and phone numbers, even with the use of enterprise software, it becomes increasingly complex.

This job is also changing, now that Google wants business owners to manage their Google Business Profile (GBP) from the Google Maps interface and larger multi-location businesses from the Business Profile Manager.

When The User Journey Starts

Many people consider the user journey and brand experience to start when the user makes the first inquiry by phone or email, or spends significant time on a company’s website.

However, the journey begins a lot sooner.

Google data shows that there are five touchpoints that, more often than not, lead to a purchase/affirmative site action:

  • Used a search engine.
  • Visited a store or other location.
  • Visited a retailer website or app.
  • Visited another website or app.
  • Used a map.

The user journey starts when they first see your brand either in search results listing, in the Local Pack, on a map, or at your physical brick-and-mortar store.

This is where the consistent NAP becomes important because users need consistent information in order to progress in their journey.

Often, we assume that users find our local businesses and brands through our websites, our guest posts and outreach, and our Google Business Profile listings.

Users, however, find our brand through a variety of online portals, including the directories where we build our citations and listings.

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Influencing The User Journey At A Search Stage

When users are performing their first searches, this is your first opportunity to make an impression and be a part of the user journey.

If you appear prominently in the Local Pack or within the SERPs, you want your users to click through to content that both provides value and satisfies their user intent.

Lazy Local Pages Help Nobody

In many cases, when a website “localizes,” it means the generation of local content and local pages.

These are executed with varying degrees of effort, care, and detail, but ultimately lazy local pages help no one.

A lazy local page is a doorway page; a thin page that offers little value to the user and is there for the sole purpose of trying to rank for local search terms.

Google doesn’t like doorway pages (due to them offering poor user experience) and rolled out a doorway page “ranking adjustment” algorithm in 2015.

The Possum update in 2016 also went some way to tackle poor quality and spam, but this is a tactic that has persisted. In many verticals, they are still effective (until something better comes along).

Google’s official support documentation defines doorways as:

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“Sites or pages created to rank highly for specific search queries. They are bad for users because they can lead to multiple similar pages in user search results, where each result ends up taking the user to essentially the same destination. They can also lead users to intermediate pages that are not as useful as the final destination.”

Even if you rewrite all the content on these pages making sure they’re not duplicate but they all carry the exact same message with a different city targeted, they offer no value at all.

This is niche-dependent, however, and in some smaller niches, Google may still rank doorway pages through lack of competition and other viable options.

This boils down to two concepts that Google uses within its Quality Rater Guidelines document: the “beneficial purpose of the page” and whether the page is a “good fit for the query.”

Even if the business doesn’t meet the physical local aspects of the query but is providing content that suggests it does cover the physical location and provides value (and a positive reputation value proposition) to users looking for X in Y, when Google is void of other options that meet the physical location preferences, then Google will rank the content.

Creating Good Local Value Pages

Admittedly, it’s a lot easier for companies with physical brick-and-mortar stores in the locations they want to target to create local pages with high value.

But this doesn’t mean that it can’t be done for companies offering an intangible product or service with a local focus.

Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines define content in two parts:

  • The main content.
  • The supporting content.

This is the way you should look at local search.

When someone in London searches for [plumbers in london], Google has to break down the query into both main and supporting sections, as well as look for intent.

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It can do this through the capabilities achieved in the Hummingbird and RankBrain updates.

With [plumbers] as the main part of the query, and from reviewing the search results page of [plumbers], Google sees a single dominant interpretation of the query, and that is someone looking for a plumber (service), and returns a combination of local business websites, aggregators, the Map Pack (local to my IP), and Google’s Local Services carousel.

[in london] is then the modifier.

It’s a secondary signal to reinforce to Google the accuracy of results wanted.

Adding this modifier for me (using [plumbers in horsforth]), Google has given more weighting to aggregators listing multiple plumbing companies in the area and seemingly de-weighted individual company sites.

This makes sense from a user perspective as it’s giving me easier access to multiple options from a single click versus multiple clicks.

The main content of your website should reflect the product/services that you offer, with supporting content elements adding value and topical relevance around the location.

This can be implemented in a non-commercial way through the blog, as guides, or as additional resources.

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NAP Consistency

As mentioned before, NAP consistency is important as the directory listings, and citations we build aren’t just used by search engines. Potential customers find these details, too.

An inconsistent or inaccurate NAP can lead to frustrated users and potentially lost leads.

Common Reasons For Inconsistent NAP

From experience, inconsistent NAP can be caused by a number of human errors and business changes, including:

  • Changing the business address and not updating previously built citations, directory listings, etc.
  • Having a different store address to the company registered address and using both online.
  • Generating different phone numbers for attribution tracking purposes.

Not only can all of the above cause issues for your local SEO, but they can also cause a number of user experience issues – and poor user experience leads to loss of sales and damage to your brand.

User experience extends beyond the Local Pack and SERPs to your website, how the local journey is managed, and whether it can satisfy all local intents.

Being able to track and accurately report on the success of marketing activities is vital.

However, there is a case for “over reporting” and “over attribution” in some cases, especially when it comes to local SEO.

Google Local Pack: User Experience & Attribution

Google’s Local Pack runs on a different algorithm to the traditional organic search results and is heavily influenced by user location when making the search.

Google Business Profile has an attribution problem, and more often than not a lot of clicks from GMB listings are classified as direct traffic rather than organic traffic in Google Analytics.

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The way around this is to use a parameter:

?utm_source=GMBlisting&utm_medium=organic

The parameter won’t cause NAP/citation consistency issues, so there is nothing to worry about there.

Having a consistent NAP means you’re more likely to appear within the Local Pack, and if you’re in the Local Pack studies have shown that you’re likely to get a high percentage of clicks on the results page.

If you’re likely to get a lot of clicks, it means you’re going to have a lot of users expecting fast loading pages and prominent information to satisfy their search intents.

Directory Attribution

This is a more common problem that I’ve come across working agency side, as well as one I’ve been asked to implement while working client-side.

To track marketing efforts, I’ve known organizations to generate unique phone numbers for every directory where they submit the business.

  • The pros: You can fairly accurately gauge an ROI on your marketing efforts.
  • The cons: You end up with a lot of published citations with an inconsistent NAP.

Also, a lot of directories like to generate Google Business Profile listings based off of the data you input, as a sort of “added service.”

This leads to multiple Google Business Profile listings being generated for individual locations, with different phone numbers and sometimes different map pin locations.

This is bad for user experience, as they’re faced with multiple choices for one location with only one being correct.

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This is manageable by declaring that the false listings are duplicates of another and requested  that Google merges them. See ‘​​How to Delete or Merge Duplicate Google Business Profile Listings’ to learn more.


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal





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Step-By-Step Guide To Earning Your Google Ads Certification

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Step-By-Step Guide To Earning Your Google Ads Certification

In a world where many people offer services like SEO and Google Ads management, it is important to stand out and be as educated as possible.

Seasoned veterans and new professionals alike can both benefit from Google Ads Certification.

As an industry standard with content tied directly to the Google Ads platform, it is the most trusted credential and source for training in the industry.

What Is Google Ads Certification?

Google Ads certification is a process by which Google recognizes marketers as experts in online advertising.

After passing Ads certification exams, individuals get a personalized certificate and – if affiliated with a company – can contribute to the company’s Google Partner credentials.

Like many Google products, properties, and initiatives, the program has evolved over the years.

The certification program was standalone and had a cost attached to taking exams.

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That changed with the creation of the Google Partners program and has further evolved with the migration to the Google Academy for Ads in 2018 and, more recently, a rebrand to Skillshop.

Individual certification still works the same way it has for the past several years with training content and exams.

Over the years, the certification has become a minimum or expected requirement for entry-level search marketing roles for agencies and corporations.

Even when I hire someone who will go through our training program, I know that they are willing to invest time and see the importance of taking the step of getting certified is crucial.

Having that base level of subject matter exposure from Google is much more specific than what a school textbook can provide on how Google Ads works.

On top of that, there’s value in being able to affiliate with an individual who is already certified with my agency’s Google Partner account.

This step-by-step guide provides a walkthrough of how to get Ads certified, as it can be a confusing process when doing it for the first time or when coming back only annually or occasionally for recertification.

Step 1: Get Started In Skillshop

Navigate to the Google Ads Certification platform within Skillshop.

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In the top right corner, click “Log In.”

Now, we’re at a critical step right away. We want to ensure that the account you get certified through is the specific one you want to be certified.

If you work for an agency or a company, you’re likely to be required to use your work email address.

Regardless of agency, corporate, or whatever status, you likely want to link your certification to the address you manage Google Ads to keep things simple and clean.

If you haven’t managed Google Ads yet and don’t have an account, you can easily create a new account here to get started.

If you’re a returning user, be careful to find your Skillshop profile and ensure your Google account is still properly linked, so you don’t accidentally take exams in a new account versus recertifying your current account.

The account management piece can be confusing and frustrating as there are separate profiles yet linked accounts between this system and Google’s accounts and Ad management systems.

If you’re interested in your certification counting toward a Google Partners badge, be sure to use your company email address that you use for managing ads for your Google Partner company to link things properly.

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If you’re interested, I encourage you to learn more about the Google Partners program details, requirements, and logistics for getting set up.

Step 2: Select Your Exam

If needed, navigate back through Skillshop to the Google Ads Certifications again to arrive at the page with the list of exam topics.

Screenshot from skillshop.exceedlms.com, July 2022

Here you can find the specific certification you want to start with and click on it.

Within the specific certification, read the overview info.

When you’re ready to dive in, click the Get Started button.

Step 3: Prepare For Exams

Google provides both basic educational info and more extensive training content.

The specific Google Ads certifications include:

  • Search.
  • Display.
  • Measurement.
  • Video.
  • Shopping Ads.
  • Apps.
  • Ads Creative.

If you’re brand new to Ads and the certification exams, I recommend starting with the Google Ads Search Certification first.

Search ads are typically the most common type of ads a company will run.

But if you are more focused on something like just shopping, then start there.

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Google Ads Search CertificationScreenshot from skillshop.exceedlms.com, July 2022

Training content is tied to each of these specific certifications.

When you click on any of them, you’ll be presented with options to get started, including a quick knowledge assessment and other resources.

You’ll need to plan on investing at least a few hours to go through the training content specialization.

If you’ve been managing Ads campaigns or have deeper exposure, it’s still a good idea to go through the modules – even if you do it faster.

The sample questions are quite helpful; they are written in the same format as they appear on the actual exams.

Unless you have previously been certified and/or have a moderate level of Ads experience, don’t skip the training content!

Step 4: Pass The Assessment

To become certified, you are required to pass the assessment in any of the respective certification specialties.

Your certification will then be awarded for that specific product focus area.

You can stop with one specialization or continue by going through additional specializations until you have mastered and achieved all of those relevant to your desired credentials.

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If you’re an overachiever or love standardized tests, there’s nothing that says you can’t take them all.

Note that if you fail to pass an exam, there’s a waiting period before you can retry. That’s the only real penalty for not passing.

When you have passed one or more assessments, I recommend downloading the digital certificate(s) and saving those, so you have proof of your certification.

Additionally, you can create a public profile page that showcases your mastery.

You can turn the public profile on (if you haven’t already) by clicking in the top right corner of the page and then on “My Account.” You’ll find a toggle switch for “Public” to turn on if you choose by following the prompts.

Conclusion

Google Ads Certification provides a base-level credential for new professionals managing ads.

It also provides an ongoing opportunity for industry veterans to maintain their status and show longevity by keeping certified and staying on top of the platform and best practices changes over time.

Whether seeking your first job in the industry out of school or leveraging the certification for a Google Partners designation, I recommend the program for learning and maintaining education and standard credentials.

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There are other excellent training and education programs available from third parties.

However, the Google Ads Certification still holds weight in the industry and is a common expectation for paid search practitioners to have.

More Resources:


Featured Image: Krakenimages.com/Shutterstock

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