Does Yelp Help My SEO?

If you’ve followed our blog for a while you should know that the more inbound links and keywords found online regarding your website, should theoretically boost your SEO. But what about online reviews? Online review websites such as Yelp, Zagat, and even stores themselves can make or break a purchase decision. In an age of content shock and an overabundance of products and services, it’s become increasingly important for marketers (and small business owners) to be present at a consumer’s Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT). The ZMOT is the moment before a purchase decision and it is crucial to gaining brand awareness in an age of ever-present technology.

The Power of Yelp

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[Images are screenshots, edited on Picmonkey]

If you are a small business owner, you likely know the importance of online reviews. They can sway the opinion of a potential customer in seconds, the outcome being either good or bad for your business. According to Search Engine Land’s post on whether or not Yelp really matters, Yelp is definitely important for SEO. Nowadays Google does take into account a company’s presence on Yelp. Google measures things like how many reviews a business has on Yelp, and how positive each review is. Google then factors this into their search engine ranking accordingly. Since Google’s Pigeon update rolled out, Yelp now shows up higher on the SERP than ever before. When typing in the name of a restaurant, Google most likely returns results that have Yelp within the first three results. This is good news for Yelp and (potentially) good news for the small business owner. In an age of localized search and mobile phones, it’s important for small business owners to take advantage of Yelp. Below are four steps to fully utilizing Yelp for your small business. 

 

 

Step #1: Claim your business.

Claim your business on Yelp. According to Search Engine Land’s article on Google Maps, Yelp and Local SEO in 2015, once you’ve claimed your business, you are able to be “active” on Yelp. This includes everything from updating information to responding to reviews and uploading photos. Doing this not only lets Google know you are active and present on Yelp and therefore are worthy of higher search rank, but it also allows you to monitor the feedback on your small business.

Step #2: Keep your information consistent and up-to-date.

Make sure your business name, address, and phone number are consistent across all your platforms, whether it’s your social media, your website, or your blog. Google attempts to “verify” businesses on Yelp using contact information. So long as your information is consistent, you should be verified, which will in turn help your search ranking.

Step #3: Encourage customers to leave a review (to a point).

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As a small business owner, it could benefit you to encourage customers to write a Yelp review for you. In a day and age where Yelp reviews are one of the first things consumers look at, it’s beneficial for you to have a good amount of positive reviews. If your reviews happen to be mostly negative, there’s no way to really hide Yelp from the SERP. That being said, if you find that you have a good amount of negative reviews, the only thing I can suggest is addressing them. So, how should you encourage Yelp reviews? You may or may not have noticed that some businesses display a sticker in their window that says something like “Review us on Yelp!” or “People Love us on Yelp!”. This is one way to let your customers know that you appreciate positive Yelp reviews. Don’t go too crazy with this option, however, because the goal of websites like Yelp are to provide the most honest, reliable information on businesses. If you’re product is great and your service is reliable, you should not have a problem in this area.

Step #4: Engage, engage, engage

As with any social media platform, it’s always best practice to actively engage with your customers. If someone leaves a lovely review of your business, respond and let them know that you appreciate it! If someone leaves a critique or a less positive review, respond and tell them you will address the issue ASAP. Customer service and customer engagement is everything!

Bottom line? You MUST be on Yelp and other online review websites. Ever since Google’s Pigeon update, these review websites often rank higher than a company’s actual website. It’s crucial for you to have a presence on review websites. Have any other tips for navigating Yelp and other review websites? Leave suggestions in the comments below.

Google Algorithms: Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird

[Image Source, Edited by me on Picmonkey]

Algorithms are intended to make internet searches easier and more accurate. They are intended to give you what you’re looking for without having to comb through five or ten pages of search engine results. You may have recently heard a lot of talk regarding Instagram’s new algorithm, however, the algorithm’s we’ll be discussing today are slightly different. In this blog post I will attempt to explain Google’s algorithms to you so that you will understand how they affect pagerank and search engine results. The 3 algorithms I’ll be discussing are Google’s Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird.

Algorithm #1: Panda

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This program was first released in February of 2011. According to Search Engine Land, this Google update is meant to stop poor quality websites from getting to the top of the search engine results page. Essentially, Panda is a spam-fighting algorithm. Google’s goal in creating Panda was to lower websites that have a lot of spam and raise websites that have quality content to the top of the search results once more. Search Engine Land also reported that it’s very possible Google “baked” the Panda algorithm into their core ranking algorithm in late 2015.  Like the rest of the algorithms we’ll be talking about, Panda did not replace Google’s principal ranking algorithm, it only replaced an outdated part.

 

Algorithm #2: Penguin

Penguin Update

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This algorithm was first introduced in April 2012. Like the Panda update, this algorithm was meant to filter out spam so search engine results would not be affected by low-quality websites. More specifically, this update addresses websites that buy links or unethically obtain them from link networks that are designed to increase Google rankings.  When Penguin was first released, there was a small uproar from website owners about their site traffic decreasing. This is likely because they were hit by Penguin and deemed to be spam. To remedy this, we suggest removing any spam from your website. If your site traffic has climbed back to normal levels even after purging your site of anything spam-related, we suggest using this form to alert Google to your problem.

Algorithm #3: Hummingbird

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This Google update was rolled out in September of 2013 and it’s purpose was to be “fast and precise”….like a hummingbird! According to Search Engine Land, conversational search is one of the things the Hummingbird update has addressed. In other words, rather than focusing on a keyword by itself, this update takes an entire sentence into account when ranking pages. This means that, theoretically, Hummingbird is allowing Google to assess the meaning behind words, rather than just the words themselves. This is a smart move when we consider the introduction of communication technology like Siri and Google’s version “Google Now”. Siri was introduced in April of 2010 and Google Now followed a few years later in July of 2012. Less than a year later, Google rolls out the Hummingbird update, which would make this technology easier to use. So when you ask Siri or Google Now, “Where’s the closest brunch place to my home?”, Google is now better equipped to provide the answer. If you’ve provided Google with your address, it will understand what you mean by “home”. If you say “place” Google should now understand that you mean a physical location.

This was just a brief introduction to some of the most popular Google Algorithms that have been rolled out in the past few years. Personally, I think algorithms can be highly beneficial to website owners and internet users alike. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

How Youtube can Help your SEO

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According to MOZ Bar’s post on Influencer marketing, the concept is defined as, “…the process of developing relationships with influential people that can lead to their assisting you in creating visibility for your product or service.” Influencer marketing is incredibly popular on Youtube, a social media platform that also has the ability to take your SEO to the next level. As humans, our brains respond favorably to visuals even more so than text. Youtube is a great platform to engage your fans with great visual content. This blog post will help you use the world’s 2nd largest search engine to your advantage.

Step #1: Creating your Youtube page

A Youtube account is fairly easy and self-explanatory to set up, but I’m here to give you a few thoughtful tips on optimizing the process. First, you need to know (if you don’t already) that Google owns Youtube. This means great things for the small business owner and SEO.

As with any other social media page you’re garnered, make sure your profile picture and header are engaging and reflect your brand accurately. This is one of the first things customers will see when visiting your Youtube page. Also make sure that you link your other social media in your “About” section. Let’s use Jimmy Fallon’s Youtube page as an example.

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[Image: Screenshot of Jimmy Fallon’s Youtube page]

The first thing you’ll likely notice is the header, which is eye-catching and accurately depicts what Jimmy’s brand is (i.e. the Tonight Show). Also notice the text that describes when and where to watch the show. Below that to the right you’ll see some social media icons where you can find Jimmy on more popular social media platforms. Below that you’ll find the channel’s description, which is full of keywords that encompass what the channel is all about. This is incredibly important when making your own channel. Include keywords that make you easy to find and that are relevant to your brand. Below the channel’s description you’ll see the “Links” section where you’ll find Jimmy on pretty much every relevant social media platform on the internet today. Follow suit and include all your relevant links (i.e. blog, website, and social media platforms) when creating your own Youtube page.

 

Step #2: Creating engaging visual content

This step may be the most difficult one. It’s not always easy to create quality content that’s engaging and encompasses your brand completely. Bear with us! In Mark Schaefer’s The Content Code, a book we highly recommend you get your hands on, Mark talks about a client of his who blew up on Youtube thanks to a handy 59 second video on “How to open a bottle of wine- without a corkscrew”. More specifically, how to open a wine bottle using a shoe. Seriously, check it out. The video, as you can see, has been viewed almost 11 million times! What can a small business owner learn from this? You don’t always need big bucks and loads of time to create a good Youtube video. Informative videos or tutorials are often the best way to go. As long as you stay true to your brand and get a little creative, you may very well be on your way to a successful Youtube channel.

 

Step #3: Posting and optimizing content

This step is incredibly important and it starts with your video description. In the video’s description, make sure to include keywords about the video as well as your company (Source: Marketing 399-01, Loyola University Chicago, Professor Schwab, [23 March 2016]). For example, if Searchable were to upload our 1 minute tutorial on Alt tags to Youtube, we would use keywords like “SEO”, “Searchable”, “Alt Tags”, and “Optimize” to the video’s description.

The second thing you need to add to ALL your video’s descriptions are your relevant social media and website links (Source: Marketing 399-01, Loyola University Chicago, Professor Schwab, [23 March 2016]). Just like you would in a blog post, link anything significant that you mention in the video. I’ll use one of my favorite Youtube channels as an example. The SACCONEJOLYs are a family that post daily vlogs to Youtube. In each video’s description, you’ll find a plethora of links associated with their “brand”.  

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[Image: Screenshot of description on SACCONEJOLYs Vlog]

First, notice the call to action. Every video description should start with an ask for comments or a shout out to your other social media. Notice they then link to the two individual’s channels that they were interacting with in the video for that day. Following that they link to their other social media and Youtube channels as well as a helpful link for subscribing to their channel. Keep in mind, this is all amazing for SEO. What really impresses me about this channel is what’s next: links to 5 different videos corresponding to the same day 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 years before. This is a great way to upcycle old content and gain more traffic on previous videos!

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[Image: Screenshot of description on SACCONEJOLYs Vlog]

The end of their video description gives a brief background on who they are and why they started Youtube. Notice how many times “Saccone” or “Joly” is mentioned. This, obviously, ties into the name of their Youtube Channel. The same should be done with the name of your business!

Something else you can do to optimize your content on Youtube is add annotations to your videos (Source: Marketing 399-01, Loyola University Chicago, Professor Schwab, [23 March 2016]). Let’s go back to our Jimmy Fallon example.

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[Image: Screenshot of Jimmy Fallon Youtube Video]

On one of his more recent posts, “Thank You Notes: April Fools, Lunar Eclipses” you’ll see that the last 8 seconds of the video, like with all of his videos, there is an ending page with annotations. The ones above link to everything from subscribing to the channel, playlists, and previous videos. Again, all of this is great for SEO and driving traffic to your other content. Use these annotations for social media links, website links, and always include a subscribe button! Put them at the beginning of the video, the end or somewhere in between, but remember, do not overwhelm the screen with a million annotations. Keep the number to around 3 or 4 to avoid driving the audience away.

Step #4: Going the extra mile

The tips we’ve shared so far will have you well on your way to optimizing your content on Youtube and using the platform to your advantage. However, if you’re like us, you’ll want to go the extra mile when it comes to SEO. The first way to do this is by creating playlists with both your own content and curated content that is relevant to your brand. Playlists appear in Youtube’s search and they drive up views by keeping viewers engaged with videos.

Step #5: Don’t forget to make friends

This is super important on a community platform like Youtube! Remember to favorite videos, leave comments and share your videos on social media! This will bring valuable traffic to your content. Plus, as we know, sharing content across social media channels is great for SEO and brand awareness. By favoriting and commenting on videos of those you admire on Youtube, you may greatly increase your chances of an inbound link to your own Youtube page from an influencer in your field, thereby exposing you to a completely new audience! Making friends will only benefit you!

That concludes our post on SEO and Youtube. I hope you found some valuable tips for starting a Youtube page for your small business. If you already have a Youtube page, I hope there were some helpful tips on using the platform to ramp up your SEO. As always, we’re here for your questions, remarks, concerns, or anything else you’d like to leave in the comments!

Evaluating 3 SEO Trends for 2016: Will They Last?

If you’ve been with our blog for a while now, you might have noticed how important staying up to date on SEO trends is. New information and techniques are constantly surfacing in the world of Search Engine Optimization. This blog post will give you our top 3 SEO trends for 2016 and whether or not we think they will last.

Trend #1: Video content will (continue to) dominate

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Would you rather read 750 words on how to put together the best birthday party celebration or watch an interesting tutorial on Youtube? Something tells me you chose the latter. I would, too. That’s because our brains are predisposed to visuals. There’s plenty of science to back it up, but that’s not why we’re here. We are here because it’s become essential for all businesses, especially small ones, to have quality visuals at their disposal. One important way to implement visuals is to create a Youtube channel for your business. Quality Youtube videos that engage and excite consumers can be time consuming to create, however, the payoff may make the time and effort worth it. According to Marketing Land, videos account for 62% of all searches on Google. That’s HUGE. What does this mean for you? If you are successful at creating great video content for your business, the chances of that content being seen will go way up, ultimately driving more traffic to your website, blog, etc.

So will this trend last? Absolutely. Our brain chemistry isn’t changing anytime soon, which means it will always be important to have quality video and visual content in your SEO arsenal.

Trend #2: Mobile optimization will become more important than desktop

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We are already seeing this trend in the business world. Consumers are no longer getting information in one place. Everything is on the go and in the palm of our hands. As a small business owner, if your company has a website, you must make sure that your website is optimized for mobile devices. According to this article on mobile marketing statistics by Smart Insights, consumers use mobile media 51% of the time, while desktop time rests at 49%. This makes it increasingly important that your website is optimized for mobile searching. Check out Emily’s post on Mobile SEO for tips on how to make your website mobile-friendly.

So will this trend last? Definitely. Mobile websites are only going to become increasingly important as time goes on. It’s quite possible that in a few years time, all websites will be optimized for mobile first, and any website that’s not will fade into obscurity. My prediction? Desktop will be virtually extinct in 5-10 years time and mobile will be the new way of defining “the web.”

Trend #3: Local search will become even more local

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This trend goes hand in hand with trend #2. We, as consumers, are always on the move. We have access to everything we could possibly want in the palm of our hands. Gone are the days when we researched where to eat before leaving the house. In an age of Yelp and Google Maps, it’s much easier to find food, attractions, shopping, etc. on the go. As a business owner, you will need to make sure Google and other search engines know exactly where you are so that you are present in location results. According to Search Engine Land, “local searches lead 50% of mobile visitors to visit stores within one day.” Some people, like Jayson DeMers in this Forbes article, predict that, rather than identifying businesses based on a state or region, we will begin to see search results based on street corners or neighborhoods.
So will this trend last? I don’t think so. In Mark Schaefer’s book, The Content Code, he talks about the misconception that people want a highly individualized feed of blog posts or content they would be interested in. He states that he likes seeing both sides of an argument as well as content he wouldn’t normally see if his feed was highly individualized. We, as humans, enjoy discovering new content. That’s how we find new and interesting ideas that can spur new thoughts or exciting ideas. It will always be important to be exposed to new things, regardless of immediate location.  While I would love to see what’s right around the corner from me, chances are I already know! If search results become too localized, I might risk overlooking a good business.

So there you have it! 3 of my top SEO trends in 2016 and whether or not I think they will pass the test of time. Leave a comment letting me know your thoughts or giving suggestions for more trends to talk about in a future post.

Robots.txt Guide

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A quick guide on the basics and origins of the Robots Exclusion Protocol

Along your SEO journey you may have come across the acronym REP or the term robots.txt. These are two ways of describing the Robots Exclusion Protocol (REP) or Robots Exclusion Standard. This blog post will serve to educate you on robots.txt and inform you of how it could help your small business.

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[Image created using Jason Davie’s Word Cloud Generator]
What the heck is it?

1994 was a big year for SEO. Not only was the first blog created, but the original REP was also formulated.The Robots Exclusion protocol is a standard or text file that communicates with website crawlers. Think of it like a compass that points the crawlers in the right direction when it comes to which parts of a website they should scan and index. Search engines are greedy. They want to scan and index as much information as they possibly can. What this means is that they will assume everything on your blog or website is available to scan unless you tell them otherwise. That’s where the Robots Exclusion Standard comes in. While this standard can be very helpful to anyone, including small business owners, it must also be used with great care.

Why would I want to use robots.txt?

The Robots Exclusion Protocol essentially allows you to control the crawler traffic on your website. This would come in handy if you don’t want Google crawling two very similar pages on your site and wasting what Google terms your “crawl budget”. Basically, a crawl budget is the number of times a search engine will crawl one of your web pages each time it visits the site. As you can imagine, it’s imperative to understand this concept if you want to develop and maintain a successful SEO strategy.

How do I Use it? 

To create a robots.txt file, you’ll have to put it in the top level directory of your server. If you have Windows, robotstxt.org recommends using the program notepad.exe to create your REP. Likewise, if you have a Macbook, use TextEdit. When a robot is looking for the robots.txt file, it will strip down the URL in a particular way. For example, if our URL for this blog was http://www.searchable.com/shop/index.html, the robot crawling the page would remove the “/shop/index.html” and replace it with “/robots.txt” so the URL now looks like this: http://www.searchable.com/robots.txt”. What this means for you is you will want to put the robots.txt file where you would put your website’s main index.htmlAs for what exactly to put, here’s a Robots.txt cheat sheet from MOZ bar on some of the more common REP language. I’ve also added some additional helpful text:

Block all web crawlers from ALL content: User-agent: *

Disallow: /

Block a specific crawler from a specific folder: User-agent: Googlebot

Disallow: /no-google/

Block a specific crawler from a specific webpage: User-agent: Googlebot

Disallow: /no-google/blocked-page.html

Sitemap Parameter: User-agent: *

Disallow:

Sitemap: http://www.example.com/none-standard-location/sitemap-.xml

Allow all web crawlers to access all files: User-agent: *

Allow:

The Downside

It’s important to keep in mind that denying robots the ability to crawl a webpage denies the link it’s value. In other words, the use of the Robots Exclusion Standard could potentially mean a decrease in the effects of your current Search Engine Optimization. Say someone links a page from your website that you’ve hidden from Google using REP. Now Google has a way of avoiding the Robots.txt protocol you used by indexing your web page through that third-party link. According to Yoast, if you have a section on your website that you do not want to show in Google’s search results, but that still generates a lot of links, you should not use the REP. Yoast suggests that instead of using REP, you should use a “noindex, follow” robots meta tag. This way, search engines like Google will still be able to properly distribute the link value for that page across your website. Another way to avoid this situation would be to password protect a file rather than excluding it from search results with robots.txt.

As you can see, robots.txt can be very useful to someone who is in the process of optimizing their website. On the other hand, it can be very tricky to use and could hurt your SEO if not used properly. In my opinion, robots.txt can be a very useful tool for optimizing your website. So long as you follow the guidelines outlines above, I’m confident that the Robots Exclusion Protocol will greatly improve your SEO. As always, Searchable is here to help. Leave any questions, comments or suggestions regarding Robots.txt in the comments below.

 

SEO Good Example: Nike Golf

 

A Case Study on what we can Learn from Nike Golf and their SEO.  

Nike, Inc. was founded in 1964. Since then it has dominated the sports equipment and activewear industry. Nike Golf is a sub-brand of Nike that, as the name suggests, is specific to the sport of Golf. Swellpath, now a part of 6D Analytics, is a digital marketing company that conducted a case study on Nike Golf in which the objective was to boost product awareness and drive website traffic.

Nike Golf: Before

According to Swellpath, Nike Golf’s biggest hindrance was the lack of a focused keyword strategy combined with a website that was hard for search engines to crawl for data. As we know, search engines crawl through content in order to ascertain what is relevant, thereby boosting certain websites’ content to the top of search results. 

Take a look at this great graphic from Swellpath’s case study:

What users were seeing (left) and what search engines were seeing (right)

Nike Golf Before

[Image courtesy of Swellpath]

The Game Plan

Taking into account the many options that Nike Golf had to optimize their website, Swellpath settled on using SWFObject2, which is an open-source Javascript library. A Javascript library is a set of pre-written Javascript that essentially makes it easier to develop other Javascript-based applications. Think of it  like a toolkit that gives you all the instruments you need to run a Javascript program. This library was appealing to Swellpath because it could more effectively provide content for search engine spiders. The library does this by storing a HTML-based version of the website behind the scenes that can be presented whenever a user visits the site. This also makes the mobile website much more user friendly. Additionally, SWFObject2 allows administrators to embed flash content that doesn’t rely on a specific scripting language. This makes the content accessible to a larger audience because any users that have Javascript disabled on their browsers, will still be able to see the Flash content.  Read more on the benefits of SWFObject2 here.

Results of the case study

According to 6D Analytics in conjunction with Swellpath, organic search traffic on the Nike Golf website increased by a staggering 348% in 2 years. This is important because organic search traffic includes both branded (“Nike”) and non-branded searches. In other words, in the time between the 2010 PGA golf season and the 2012 PGA Golf season, website traffic increased a total of 348%. Non-branded website traffic alone increased by 250%.

Going back to the previous infographic from Swellpath, on the left is what users see now. On the right is what search engines see now. As you can see, search engines like Google are now picking up on keywords fro, ultimately driving more traffic to the Nike Golf website.  

Nike Golf After

[Image Courtesy of Swellpath]

What we can learn from this

The main objective of any Search Engine Optimization is to put your brand ahead of others in search results. What we can learn from Nike Golf is that organic search matters. Small businesses (as well as large corporations) cannot sacrifice accessibility in the name of a memorable visual experience. Therefore, when building a website and optimizing it for search engines, make sure to factor in a good keyword strategy that will both drive traffic and boost product awareness.