Last updated 2 years ago
Today’s guest post comes from Web Presence Professional Sabrina Stickler. Sabrina is not only one of the top ReachCast WPPs, but also one of our resident SEO specialists. She happily volunteered to share her expertise on the basics of SEO and how they can help boost search performance for local business websites and Cast pages.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can be a tricky process to understand. How do I get my website on the first page of Google? How do I show up for keywords related to my business? These are just a few questions we, as Web Presence Professionals (WPPs), run across every day. It’s simple: more visibility, equals more visitors, equals more opportunity for business.
WPP Jessica Larsen and I were recently appointed to become the SEO Experts for ReachCast. After a lot of research and a ton of caffeine, we put together a presentation to share our knowledge with the rest of the ReachCast group, and we’ll be sharing some SEO basic tips here as a guest series.
You can’t have a very successful Cast page if you don’t have the SEO to back it up. In order to fully understand SEO and what all it entails, you have to first understand the mind of the search engine.
How Search Engines Work
The web holds a ton of information. Google makes its own copy of the information on the web and creates its own database. When someone performs a search on Google, Google presents results from its database based on relevancy, user browser history and location.
So how does Google know what pages to pull up for you to see?
This is where SEO comes into play. SEO is a set of methodologies that make it easier for search engines to find, index, categorize and rank web content.
The best way to understand this is for me to use a bookshelf analogy.
Imagine we are in the sports section of the library. Each section has information for each sport: hockey, baseball, soccer, basketball. March madness is here. Go KU. So I’m going to use a basketball reference:
- Google is like a librarian. Your search on Google for, “When was basketball invented?” is like asking a librarian to find you a book that answers this question.
- The librarian would lead you directly to the bookshelf on basketball.
- The librarian then narrows it down and finds three books that answer the question, “When was basketball invented?”
- But which book is the best choice to answer your question?
If Google is your librarian, SEO is one of the primary ways that the search engine determines which “book” (search result) is the best answer to your question (keyword search term). There are many factors that go into making this decision for Google, such as quality score, reviews, social web presence, website hits, backlinks, and post-click events. But one of the most important factors is the website’s onsite SEO. Onsite SEO is the caffeine that can give your website or Cast page that extra boost in the search results.
The Basics of Onsite SEO
There are six key factors that will help with onsite SEO (pull out that caffeine and stay with me).
- Title Tags: This is the most important feature for your onsite SEO. The search engines will index the title of your page and it will show up as a result. An ideal title tag is 65 characters long. The first words in your title tag will be the most important and most valuable for search discovery. Each page on the website needs to have its own title tag, giving the site more indexing results.
- Meta Page Description: This is the description of the page. This serves the purpose of providing the search engines, as well as the customer, an insight into what they will see when viewing the page. It is important to include keywords and the business name toward the beginning of the description since the first words are indexed first by search engines. It’s better to have a unique meta page description for each page of your website.
- Alt Tags: Alt tags are keywords or phrases you use to describe an image, video or link on a page. When you scroll over the image, the alt tag tells readers what they are looking at. Search engines do not read pictures, but by placing alt tags behind the image, they can easily understand what the image is and index the image, providing you with more search discovery.
- Anchor tags: Everyone has seen an anchor tag. An anchor tag is a hyperlink: a set of words within the text that will lead you to a new page when clicked on. Anchor tags are used to describe links inside the body text. They improve navigation for users and search engines and help to improve post click events to increase SEO results.
- URL: The URL for the page is another important factor for onsite SEO. The URL needs to be comprised of at least one of the following: the business name, a relevant theme for the business, the geographic location where the company operate, or a relevant keyword.
- Keeping It Human: Always remember to keep the human element to your SEO. You never want to shove keywords together in the description or create a page title that is not easily read by an actual person. Keep it simple.
SEO and Your Cast Page
It’s important to understand the basics of SEO for your Cast page. There are certain things that you can do to make sure your Cast page is fully “caffeinated” and taking advantage of its onsite SEO capabilities. Changing the title tag, for example, can make a huge difference in a campaign’s success on the search engines.
If you are still a little fuzzy on SEO, believe me, I understand. There are many components that go in to making the perfect formula for Google. But simple understanding and basic knowledge of onsite SEO can go a long way. Understanding the language, along with the importance, is enough to make anyone feel like they’ve conquered the world!
How will you use these SEO basics to improve your website or Cast page?
Last updated 2 years ago
In my last post, I mentioned several persistent web presence myths that might cause local business owners to shy away from founding and growing a successful web presence online. One of those is the notion that customers don’t spend time on social sites and won’t interact with a brand’s social web presence. Sometimes, this can become a self-fulfilling prophecy for a business: if you think it won’t work and you don’t put any effort into it, of course you’ll be disappointed.
But think of all the benefits of a social web presence! Maintaining social profiles for your brand isn’t just about playing on Facebook and Twitter all day. A social web presence can have several real, positive effects on your online brand.
Establishing Your Legitimacy
If you have not only a website, but also a thriving social web presence with active business profiles and customer conversations, this actually helps establish your business’ legitimacy. Instead of just being a picture of a building on a review site, a social web presence helps show your brand’s personality and build trust among your current and potential customers.
Search and Social Discovery
Simply creating a social web presence for your business is a discovery plus: instead of one place to be found, you have multiple places online where customers can encounter your brand! With a social web presence, you’re setting up shop in the online places where your customers already are, which makes it easier for them to find you. Also, Google cares about far more than just your website. Search engines are also weighing your social presence and activity. For my personal brand, my Twitter profile currently outranks my own site at teriguill.com.
Connecting with Your Customers
A social web presence doesn’t only make it easier for customers to find you; it also makes it easier for them to connect with you! Channels like Facebook and Twitter provide an opportunity to invite customers to share their experiences, ask questions, offer feedback and give suggestions. Plus, your genuine connection with customers helps humanize your brand, and makes them feel special and important. A social web presence can deepen your customer relationships.
Spreading Your Influence and Expertise
In the online landscape, it’s a big dream to “go viral” and have your message spread across all corners of the Internet. While this is unlikely to happen to most of us, a social web presence can help local businesses to spread their information to new and potential customers. Social networks make it easy for fans and followers to share items of value and interest. If you’re creating content that’s valuable to your customers, they’re more likely to share that content with their social circle, as well. Sharing your content through your brand’s social profiles makes it easier to get your message out—not just to fans, but friends of fans, too.
Boosting Your Online Reputation
Yes, a dynamic social web presence can help boost your online reputation, too. First, an established social web presence gives you a network of fans and followers to call on to leave positive reviews. But if you have engaged fans and followers who are talking about you with enthusiasm and positivity—who act as cheerleaders for your business—that helps offset any negative sentiments that may crop up.
What other benefits of a social web presence do you enjoy?
Last updated 3 years ago
Since I work as a Web Presence Professional, it’s no secret that I think a dynamic web presence is a key to online success for local business. Unfortunately, though, there seem to be a lot of persistent myths and misunderstandings about web presence for SMBs. I think it’s time for a little mythbusting!
Myth: My customers aren't online.
Busted: There are over 500 million active users on Facebook. Google processes several hundred million search queries per day. Twitter has over 100 million users. 53% of mobile searches on Bing are performed to find local information.
Do you really think that none of those users and searchers are your target audience, your existing and potential customers? They are out there. The question is, are you?
Myth: Having my website is good enough. People will find it.
Busted: Your website might have been good enough 15 years ago, but these days, it’s just one site in a sea of millions. Some thought leaders even argue that the web is dead and semi-closed platforms, like apps, are the future of access. How does your website compete in an app world? And why should a customer choose your business, with its one website, over a competitor that has credible, professional presence in multiple places where your consumers are browsing?
If you have a social, dynamic web presence, you’re able to ensure that your business and your brand are present, visible and established on sites (and apps!) like Facebook, Twitter, Google Maps, Yelp, and YouTube.
Myth: No one wants to “get social” with my business.
Busted: People are social creatures. And even if you have an unsexy business or brand, your audience will be happy to get to know you and engage with you—if you make it worth their while. Talk to them. Offer them valuable content. Be nice. Be consistent. You’ll soon find yourself with a social following. And remember, a social following doesn’t have to be huge to be valuable. Quality, not quantity.
Myth: If I build my web presence, they will come.
Busted: Wrong! If you build it, then it’s time to promote it. Just creating a Facebook page or a Twitter account doesn’t mean your fans will immediately find you. Your followers and fans won’t blossom overnight, and they won’t blossom at all if you don’t promote your web presence and invite them to become a fan or follower.
Myth: I can’t develop a web presence! People will just say bad things on my business profiles!
Busted: Newsflash: People are already talking about your business, bad or good. They’re just doing it out there in other corners of cyberspace. If you have a dynamic web presence with official business profiles, it gives you an opportunity to be part of the conversation and address potential issues before they turn into a pile of negative reviews.
What other web presence myths have you encountered and debunked?
Last updated 3 years ago
When your online reputation is sick, it can seem like a daunting task to make it better again. You might feel overwhelmed by one-star reviews or customer complaints. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can nurse your online reputation back to health, that don’t require a special prescription.
Being fit and active is a great way to get your body healthy, but it’s also a great way to get your online reputation healthy. An established web presence with active social profiles can really help boost the good reviews for your business, as well as help potential customers find your official pages when they search for your business. Here are some tips for maintaining an active web presence.
- Claim and populate your listings: From Google Places to Yelp, your social directory listings can go from harmful to helpful with just a little effort on your part. Claiming your listings can help ensure that your business information is correct (and keep competitors from editing your information, too). Plus, once you have your listing claimed, you can often make a boring review page into a rich, interactive profile for your business, including photos, videos, special offers, announcements and business history.
- Respond to reviews: And not just the bad ones, either. Responding graciously to reviews, both bad and good, shows that you’re the kind of business owner who really listens to customer feedback and cares about what people have to say. Responding to any review should always be done with sincerity and professionalism—even if it’s a negative review. An honest effort to make the situation right can often turn an unhappy customer into a raving fan—which can help both your online reputation and your bottom line.
- Talk to people online: To really broaden your web presence, don’t just be active on the sites where customers are providing direct feedback. Be active in the social media space as well! Engage and interact with both your existing fans and potential customers on places like Facebook and Twitter. Maintain a blog or other site with valuable information that your customers appreciate (and that demonstrates your expertise). Online reputation is more than 5-star reviews; it’s about showing your personality and letting customers know you care.
Time for a Positivity Injection
Do you want to know the simple secret to getting more positive reviews and improving your online reputation? Just ask! A happy customer is less likely to leave a spontaneous online review than one who has had a bad experience, so you have to be more proactive about encouraging your fans to share their good experiences online. An injection of positive reviews can be just what the doctor ordered for your online reputation.
- Activate your existing fan base: If you have active social media profiles with an established group of fans and followers, ask them to help you improve your online reputation by leaving good reviews! If they’ve already made the choice to like your Facebook Fan Page or follow you on Twitter, chances are, they’ll be happy to help you by leaving a good review.
- Ask for the review at the sale and after the sale: Online reputation can be built offline. Train your staff to ask those happy customers to leave a good review at the point of sale. If you want to go the extra mile, make it easy for your customers by having a laptop with your Yelp or Google Places page loaded in the browser, and offer customers the opportunity to leave a review right there on location. Then, follow up after the sale to ensure customer satisfaction, and ask again for that good review.
These are just a few ways you can start turning a sickly online reputation into a healthy, vibrant one. What do you do to build positive reviews?
Last updated 3 years ago
Does your blog or website ever get a bit bland or stale? The recipe for a great web presence is quality content, but good content doesn’t always have to be an article. Here are 7 different content ingredients that can give your local business a little extra zest and flavor.
A Dash of Video
There are all kinds of ways to use video for local businesses. From tutorials and testimonials, to special events and behind-the-scenes footage, videos are powerful pieces of content that people love to watch, engage with, and share. Videos are also a great medium for creativity and fun, so you can show a lighter, more human side of your business.
A Pinch of Podcasts
Not really the video type? Got a face for radio? You can still create engaging media content with audio podcasts. Think of podcasts kind of like your own online radio show. With regular “episodes” you can discuss trends in your industry, share business insights or answer customer questions. Just like video, podcasts offer opportunities to get creative as well as showcase your own personality. And there are plenty of sites out there that make podcasting easy.
A Dollop of Reviews
And I don’t mean your Yelp account; I’m talking about creating your own book reviews, app reviews, product reviews. A thoughtful review is a fantastic piece of content for a couple of reasons. It illustrates that you and your business are up to speed on recent releases in your industry (be it a new book, a cool app or an upcoming product or technology), and it provides a valuable opinion for others who might think about purchasing the same item.
A Smidgen of Infographics
Infographics are an interesting and beautiful way to visually communicate trends, statistics and facts about your industry. Plus, the Internet loves them! Consider working with a designer to put some of your industry knowledge into a cool infographic. Or, if you don’t have easy access to graphic design skills, share infographics from other sources (with proper attribution, of course).
A Hint of Interviews
Interview-style content is another way to add variety to your blog. While interviews with industry experts or leaders of your company are great, your interviewee doesn’t have to be a founder or CEO. Interviews with front line employees about their experiences and what they do from day to day help introduce your customers to the human faces of your business.
A Skosh of Guest Posts
Know someone else in your industry who can share quality content and opinions? Have super employees who could provide interesting posts? Invite other voices to guest post on your page and share their experiences and thoughts with your audience.
A Bit of Live Blogging
If you’re keeping up with your industry, you probably make a few trips each year to tradeshows and conventions to stay on top of new developments and make new connections. You might even host your own corporate events. Events provide an awesome opportunity for live blogging and sharing new updates and other special features with your audience in real-time. Plus it can keep people returning to your blog for additional updates throughout the day.
What other kinds of content do you cook up to make your blog or website a delicious dish?