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Posts Tagged ‘Chicago SEO’

SEO Resolutions for the New Year

By now you’ve had the week to recover from ringing in the New Year. Regardless of how you felt about 2013, you’re probably eager to make 2014 your best year yet. Maybe you want to improve your physical health, or try new things, or be better at staying in touch with old friends. If you are running a business, there may be a goal you’ve overlooked in the past. This year, you should resolve to improve your presence on the web.

If you’ve got a business, you’ve got to make sure customers can find you online. Ranking well in search results is as important to your business as staying healthy and happy is to your life. If you’re not diligent in achieving your goal of having a good online presence, it’s easy to slip and slide down the SERPs. Therefore, we’ve put together this list of 4 simple resolutions you can commit to this year to help customers find your business on the internet.

It’s a New Year and a New Google

In 2013, Google updated it’s algorithm to make it easier for searchers to find what they are looking for through conversational search. This means Google is getting more queries in the form of phrases and questions than in the past, due in part to the use of mobile phones in search. I’m not saying your most valuable keywords have lost value, far from it.  The process of optimizing your site and web presence is in fact, more organic now than ever before. The context around keywords matter, and search engine bots are getting better at seeing through content without substance, link building for links sake, and more. Every time there is an update, another bunch of black hat tactics is laid to rest for good. So is the idea of tactics and strategies and plans. The goal in 2014? Have a better website. Have the type of website your customers want to see and engage with. Not sure where to start? Evolving Interactive offers a free consultation for your site, and we will let you know all of the ways you can improve in the rankings and grow your business presence online.

Name, Address, Phone Number (NAP) Consistency

You need to make sure your NAP appears consistently everywhere it is listed on the web. When all of you listings match, you should see an increase in your search rankings, especially if you are a local business vying for real estate in the coveted “7-pack” on the first page of the search results. You’ll need to go to every website that lists your business and double-check that the NAP is correct. On almost every site for local businesses, there is a way to claim and manage your page, adding more information to enhance the listing.

Content Creation

Content is your most important concern going forward. This includes the basic information you provide to customers. Are you a restaurant? Include your menu on your website. Are you a plumber who provides 24-hour emergency services? Display that prominently on your homepage. Beyond the basics, you’ll also want to regularly generate content. Every time search engines index your site, they take note of how often your site is being updated with valuable information. Your positioning in the index will be impacted if you are adding great content to the site regularly.

Regular updates to your site looks good to search engines, but more importantly it is good for customers. If you are regularly providing new and valuable content, customers will become regular visitors to your page and would likely share any useful or interesting information with others. You can set a low, attainable goal for yourself to get in the habit of updating your site. Start with a goal of writing 1 new post a week. After a month, see if you can increase it to 2 posts a week, then 3, and so on.

Relationship Building

Notice I didn’t say “link building.” Trying to simply get links is not very helpful in the post-Penguin SEO world, but building good relationships within your industry will always be valuable. If you meet or exceed your content creation goal, you might end up with more blog posts than you necessarily need for your own page. This is a great problem to have, and you can try to get your post on another relevant site. This will allow you to communicate with even more customers to help your business grow.

Competitor Research

It’s good to know what your competitors are doing to reach customers. There might be some methods you’ve overlooked, or you could be inspired to try a whole new idea based on what you see working for others in your industry. Doing competitor research can be a little tricky, but there are tools out there to help you, and SEO specialists that can help you. Whatever you need to do to give your business a boost in this area can only benefit you in the next year.

These simple steps are crucial to helping your online rankings and will help place you in front of customers looking for your services. It’s possible that you don’t have the time or manpower to keep up on all of these concerns month-to-month. If that’s the case, there are agencies, such as Evolving Interactive, who are there to help you meet your SEO needs. If you’re a small- to medium-size business owner, it can’t hurt to contact us to learn more about improving your search engine rankings can help you succeed in 2014.

Google Steps Up the Local Effort

Google has been making (its own) news over the past two weeks, but it’s all been good news. Google is calling more attention to the efforts it has put in to streamlining the local search experience from the business owner perspective. While Google has always been the leader of local search, it has been no secret that many in the SEO industry, as well as business owners, have had more than their share of frustrations trying to optimize and manage their local profiles. Now, it would seem those times are a-changin’.

First Google announced that it was introducing a new support feature for its Google Places page. For place page owners and operators, this new help system provides a walk-through of possible errors that could be wrong with your listing. The checklist will help owners troubleshoot. For the more experienced local optimization types out there, there will also be the ability to send a note to a Google Analyst who will respond to the issue. Other search engines like Bing and Yahoo have had service support in place already; though neither have the volume of searches that Google sees.

Next, Google unveiled another new feature that will pre-emptively help Place page users. Google will now send an email that will notify of changes being made to the listing by outside sources. Google has always used valuable data providers like Yelp or Insider Pages to gather information about a business, as well as feedback or changes provided by any Google user on the local pages themselves. Now, when impending changes will alter a listing, a business owner will receive an email explaining the impending changes. Google says this is to keep business owners from having to log in to places every time there is an update, in an effort to keep the most recent and relevant information at the pages forefront. Business owners will still have the opportunity to log-in and manually override these changes with the edit option.

These changes come at the end of a long summer of Google Places in the spotlight for the wrong reasons. As Google tried to promote a new feature regarding businesses open or closed statuses, the story that actually got called into question was how easy it was to report a listing closed. With no support at the time, business owners would have to check in often with their listing to learn if a disgruntled or misinformed customer or competitor took it upon themselves to close their business (on the Places page). After a stunt by a local expert, Google addressed the flaws. But with these new support systems in place, these flaws should be much fewer.

With all of the changes happening to the local world lately, Google may be protecting its position as the leader with these support features. Google has never ignored its users; it simply just doesn’t have the manpower to handle every request that is asked of local support. The real hard pill to swallow was that it seemed as though it was ignoring users helpless against never ending “pending review” statuses, never arriving verification postcards, and unheard cries for help in the forums. While it will take a while to gauge the effectiveness of their efforts, local users should appreciate that the efforts are being made, at least for now.

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Why Can't We Be Friends? – A White Hat's Thoughts on Google Places

I guess it’s a good thing for the industry that the letters S-E-O are seeing an influx in news articles, especially in heavy hitters like the New York Times. In the last few months, I can remember reading several articles about the dark side of our otherwise under-the-radar industry. There was the article about the terribly negative reviews benefiting a sunglasses salesman / customer service pariah. Then there are the articles about link schemes that put the big businesses at the top of every search result, until they got caught.

I guess it’s a better thing that Google also reads these articles, because that seems to be the only time white hat SEO’s see results they’ve been clamoring for.  The most recent article was again posted by The Times, and brought to light Google’s shortcomings in their local search section, a section Google has been actually been placing more value on in recent months. In an effort to keep listings as up to date as possible, Google allows searchers to request that a business’ status be updated to “reported to be closed”. After a couple of clicks on this link, the listing will begin to show that the listing is in fact “reported to be closed”. With more clicks, and a supposed review, that listing can be updated to “permanently closed”. One of Google’s responses here is that it also places a “Not True?” clickable text next to these closed reports, in case the listing is actually open. However, honest local businesses trying to re-open their never closed business have had varying, if any, success.

Not long ago, I read how one of the good guys – Mike Blumenthal – was leading the “fight” against this problematic system. He went right to Google’s places page and reported it to be closed, inviting followers to do the same as part of his experiment. In no time, Google’s listing was reportedly closed. It’s nice to know they don’t play favorites.

For how long Google remained closed is not the main issue. The problem is that a stand-up SEO has to resort to these creative and relatively drastic measures to get noticed and bring attention to a problem that local businesses feel is pretty serious.  Google recommends businesses claim and fill out their local profiles to enhance their ranking in local search. This makes it extra disheartening to know that local businesses have little to no support from Google itself when their listing is victim to a competitor or an upset customer.

Businesses will benefit from Google’s effort to localize search, especially as more, and soon all, people turn to their smartphones for nearby results. But this benefit will be equally damning if an open business shows up closed, removing honest competition and preventing potential customers from making their own choices. Google often responds with numbers about how long it would take to respond to every claim or complaint filed, and the man power it would take. This is true. We do ask a lot of Google. But Google has dominated the game, and will continue to do so, so small businesses are at their mercy.

The underlying problem is the relationship Google has established with SEO’s. For every shady black-hat firm or tactic, there are ten more honest white hat SEO’s just trying to do right by their clients and the search engines. SEOs are the best way for Google to learn about bugs and shortcomings, but are kept at arm’s length with no direct answers or support. Instead of SEOs and SEs working together to make the S better. for everyone, it’s still Google’s world. I just prefer we not have to read about it in The Times.

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SEO You Should Know: Volume 1, Google Local

We want to try and put more of the “Interactive” in our blog. Once a week from here on out, we’re going to host a feature called SEO You Should Know. While we are an SEO Firm with dreams of world domination, there is a lot of basic work you can do yourself to help your business in the SEO world. You won’t see the same results as if you had an SEO firm working on your campaign year round, but a little work can go a long way at the start of your search engine marketing campaign.

We’re going to stress the importance of local optimization for you small businesses with storefronts or headquarters, because it’s never been more important than it is right now. Over the next few weeks, we’ll focus on finding, claiming, and optimizing your local profile on four of the heavy hitters; Google, Yahoo, Bing, and Yelp (not a search engine, but still a profile that must be optimized).

Google is the benchmark, so let’s start with them. Start by typing your business name and town into the Google toolbar. We want to see three things.

  1. If your business is already listed in Google Places. Your website should come up first if you’re searching your business name and area (unless you have business name that talks about your industry in the name. ex: company named Chicago Pet Day Care will have competition for the top spot of their business name.) You should also see a section with results that have some more information, maybe some pictures, and a little red teardrop that will indicate a spot on a small Google Map. This is your place page. If you see a result but not a place page, let’s look further.
  2. Where is my place page? Even if you have never submitted your business information to Google’s database, it will most likely have information about you. (It may not always be 100% accurate, which is why we’re doing this.) Google crawls the entire web every time it has a search query. It comes back with information it sees connected with your business name; most importantly, your NAP (Name, address, phone number), as well as your industry, reviews about your company, etc. If you aren’t showing up in Google Places at all, and your business has a storefront or centralized location, let’s fix this now. In recent months, Google has placed more and more value on local profiles. Not having an optimized local profile could be costing you valuable search result page real estate, which costs you customers.
  3. Adding Your Business to Google. The first step is creating a Google account. This is as quick and easy as setting up an email account. Follow the steps, put in the required information, and you should be good to go. Once your account is set up, you’ll come to this page. Here, you’ll put in the business name and phone number to see once more if there is already a listing for your business.  If your business still isn’t showing up, Google will bring you to a screen to begin filling in your business listing.  After you fill out as much information as possible, including relevant photos and videos if you have them, click the submit button at the bottom of the page. An important tip is to try and leave no fields blank. The more information you can provide your customers and the search engine, the better.
  4. Verification In Google’s ever-advancing effort to keep only the best of the best showing up for search results, Google has a verification process to make sure you or an authorized representative are the one’s claiming your account and filling in the right info (instead of a disgruntled customer, former employee, competitor, etc.). There are two ways Google can complete this process, phone or postcard.  Choose whatever works best for you.
  5. I found my business on Google, now what? Once you find your place page, you will see on the top “business owner?”. Click on “Business Owner?”, log-in with or create a Google account, and then continue from step 3 above through the filling out and claiming process.

As always, if you have any questions, comment below and we will address your question specifically. In the following weeks, we’ll focus on claiming profiles in other search engines and some quick helpful tips to help you get started with your SEO campaign.

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