AMA SEO Smackdown

This week we had the pleasure of attending the AMA SEO Smackdown.  A luncheon panel decorated with Rock’em Sock’em Robots, we were ready to get down to the grit of what Search Engine Optimization looks like in 2015.  Since I started working on the web in 2010, a lot has changed, and (as we hear over and over), content is king.  The panel reinforced our white hat tactics, and we’d like to share them with you. 

The Panelists:

Social Media

Social media does play into optimization, but exactly how is not confirmed by the search engines.  That’s no surprise, as Google likes to keep moving its targets and has its own social media platform to promote.  With that, let’s start with Google Plus.

Google Plus for Business is now Google+ Local.  Best practice dictates that Google loves Google, so Google Plus is important to use.  If you own more than one website, create a Google Plus page for each and give each its own ‘personality’.  It doesn’t play nice with other social media, so linking it to Facebook for ease of use really isn’t an option (yet) outside of social media management programs like Hootsuite.  But that’s ok – Each social media platform has different audiences, and you should craft your messages and updates to each.  Sound like a lot of work?  If you take it day by day, it isn’t too bad.  And if you get overwhelmed, we’re here to help.

Other social media platforms definitely affect SEO.  There has been a direct correlation to high search engine ranking and well-curated social media pages.  That’s because, at the very least, updating social media with unique and well written content shows Google (et al) that your business is alive and well, and well-liked by others.  Social media is also a great and legitimate place to get backlinks, something that is no longer the MVP for ranking but still counts.

If you’re at a loss for content for social media, use a random blog post from over six months ago.  It never hurts to recycle your content, as long as you’re not creating several pages of the same content (aka. self-plagiarizing).

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Bounce Rates

That dreaded phrase.  Bounce rate.  Ugh.  Feels like you need to wrangle visitors by the neck in order to get them to stay on your website.  The site is beautiful!  You’ve worked hard on it!  Why do they leave?

The most important reason is clutter.  Don’t throw all kinds of words, images, and ‘stuff’ at visitors.  Instead, curate your content.  Be articulate, informative, and authoritative.  And use Google Analytics.  Google’s tools will help you better understand your audience and what makes them stick around.

Pay close attention to the time spent on your website, and where it is spent.  That is the best clue to what your audience are interested in and how you are doing.  If your blog is garnering the most attention, awesome.  If you own an eCommerce site, however, your product pages should hold higher interest than your blog and be extremely detailed, including fabulous images.  Also note that a ‘long time’ on a website blog is four seconds, while for a product page is four minutes.

 Other Good Content Sources

Your business probably provides you with some great sources of content – you just haven’t realized it yet.  The biggest one is a Frequently Asked Questions page.  Your customers probably ask the same questions over and over to the point of annoyance to you or your sales team.  Why not tap into that and provide the answers on your website, where customers probably go before setting foot in your store / location?  By doing so, you save your customers time and your team the headache.

Something else many small business owners don’t realize is that they are an authority in their industry.  You happen to know a lot about whatever you are selling / servicing, which is why you are in business.  By turning that knowledge into a White Paper, you give website visitors the chance to find relevant information and gain the opportunity to capture emails (eg. enter an email to download the PDF).  White Papers are longer than a blog and more in depth, so don’t expect to write more than one a month.

Finally, your blog should offer a lot of information about your market, service, and / or product.  By doing so, you again establish that you are an authority.  Further, by talking about YOUR brand and why you are the best at what you do, you gain the chance to stand out against your competition.  At the end of the day, a lot of people finalize a decision by brand / company.  Make sure your clients know that yours is best.

Always Do This!

There are some things you should always do to your website to keep it ranking well (aka. easily findable for your clients).  Most importantly, know that YOU optimize your page.  No tool can help you if you haven’t written good content and included well-shot images.  After that, here are the basic things you should be doing to each page on your site:

  1. Write good page titles (which will show up on Google search).  Make sure they’re targeted and clear.  50 – 70 words only.
  2. Double check your URL strings are legible.  Bad = yourwebsite.com/12rjgih35  Good = yourwebsite.com/this-page
  3. Include headers (h-tags) on each page.  This is pretty easy if you use a CMS like WordPress.
  4. Write a eloquent meta description for each page so your Google result isn’t cut off.  156 characters only.
  5. Be sure you have the keyword you’re aiming toward ON the page.  If you don’t say it, it won’t rank.
  6. Writing content is worth your time.  This is your first chance to make a good impression on clients / customers.

Tools and Resources

Here is The List, brought to you by the experts.  These are the tools they use every day to keep their campaigns snappy.

  • Moz – Analytics for online marketing, social media, and content development ($99/mo.)
  • Raven – Track your online marketing, including social media ($99/mo.)
  • Authority Labs – Track rankings (free for 30 days)
  • Google Analytics – Who is visiting, from where, for how long (free)
  • Google Webmaster Tools – Track visits and diagnose problems (free)
  • Google AdWords – Keyword tracking (free for metrics)
  • Facebook Pixel – Conversion tracking and optimization (free)
  • Majestic – Link mapping for you or your competitor (free for one)
  • Soovle – See search suggestions for each of the major engines (free)
  • KissMetrics A/B Testing – Find out which version of your site works best ($200/mo.)
  • Edgar – Manage your Social Media and get in front of clients ($49/mo.)
  • Schema – Markup your website for Search Engines (free)
  • Open Graph Data – Turn your website into a rich object for Social Media (free)
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