When building out the marketing strategy for your law firm or small business, you might ask yourself if it’s worth taking the time to build out business citations and add firm to niche, relevant directories. Directory and listings management is tedious, time consuming, and can cost money. However, these listings are extremely important to maintain and build in order to get your site to rank in search engines and ultimately drive leads.
When we talk about online directories and listings, we’re talking about the many local listing websites that you might or might not be familiar with. These online directories display your business information, logo and (most of the time) link to your websites. Every online directory is different, but this is all that is normally included in a typical local listing:
There are two types of listings we are interested in: Local Citations and Niche Directories.
You probably know the names of the big local citation sites. (Yelp, YellowPages, MapQuest, Foursquare, Bing For Business, Google My Business etc.) But you are probably not familiar with the hundreds of other local business directories on the internet. (Yalwa, USCity.net, Soleo etc.) Why would you want to be on a bunch of directories that most people have never heard of? I will discuss in depth later, but in short, the more your consistent business information is listed on the web, the more trustworthy you look to the major search engines. More trust = higher rankings.
Adding your small business to directory sites that are only for businesses in your niche is also incredibly important. This is because links from these sites increases your site’s relevancy. More on relevancy later.
Every niche has its own directories. For example, Avvo, Lawyers.com, and Findlaw are some of the major directories that an attorney should be on. Angie’s List and Houzz are directories that a home improvement company or contractor would want to be listed on. Just like general local citations, there are hundreds of smaller niche citation websites that you can be added to.
A lot of businesses and business owners who have created listings in the past are all probably skeptical of them for one reason, they don’t bring in a ton of referral business. Some bring in more than others, but in large part, you are not going to be getting dozens of leads each month from these directories. So if they aren’t directly bringing in business, why should I take the time to get listed everywhere? At TSEG, we build out local business profiles to do the following:
Most of these directories send links to your website and they, for the most part, are very authoritative sites. Directories and local listings are an easy way to build up a business’s backlink profile, especially for a small business that has little to no online presence. Even though search engines don’t value these links as highly as those from a news website or authoritative blog, your backlink profile needs to be diverse, and these links do just that.
Niche Directories go a step further because they are not only adding authority to your site but they are also adding in relevancy. For an attorney site, a link from Lawyers.com is much more valuable than a link from a home improvement site because it is more relevant. Google and the other search engines look at the types of sites that are linking to you in order to decide how to rank you.
Majestic has an online tool where you can check the category of your incoming links. (Majestic is a paid online SEO tool, but there is a free trial if you want to try out on your site.) This is an example of the backlink profile for one of our attorney websites:
Over 93% of his incoming links are “Law” related. This is an impressive relevance percentage and should cause no confusion for Google as to what kind of keywords they should be showing for. Having a variety of other types of sites linking to you is good and natural, however, the majority of your links should be relevant to your niche.
Link building is one of the most difficult tasks when it comes to SEO, but directory links are very straightforward to build and you can do it in bulk if you have the correct online listing management tool.
Having a consistent business profile across the internet is very important for local Google Maps rankings. If you are struggling to get into the maps, but your site is ranking highly otherwise, you might want to audit your business information for consistency across all of your listings. If you would like to check your business information, we invite you to use our free tool.
Having a consistent online business profile sends good, what we call, “local signals” to Google. This means Google is confident that you are where you say you are. Google and other search engines will avoid ranking your listing in the highest map placements if they aren’t sure you are actually located there.
Having control of these online listings additionally gives you the preparation needed in case any of your business information changes. If your business changes it’s closing time, you want that to be reflected across the web. A customer showing up to your place of business after it has closed can hurt your reputation.
Earlier, we discussed that many business owners have not put much effort into expensive online directories because a lot of them don’t drive leads. However, the top niche directories and local listing sites can generate leads for your business.
If you are wondering which directories you should join to generate more leads, simply search your keyword into a search engine.
For the search “Dallas personal injury lawyer”, four of the top seven organic results are attorney directories (Super Lawyers, Justia, FindLaw and Avvo) and another one is a general directory for businesses (Expertise). If you are wanting your business to “cut” the line and be visible on the first page, then you should probably add yourself to these directories.
Now, to be listed at the top of those individual directories is a different story. Most of those sites make you pay for a “premium placement” or “top spot.” Prices vary, but this is not cheap. In my mind this falls more in the category of paid search, not SEO, since the results are not permanent.
Regardless, being on these directories increases your visibility, especially if you are a business that is having trouble showing up in the Search Engine Results.
This is the smallest benefit of these directories for SEO, however, it does not make it insignificant.
The first step to building out directories is figuring out which directories you are already on. The tool linked above can help with that.
Then it’s just about finding all of the sites you want to be added to and manually adding yourself. There are also citation services where you can get listed in many places at once.
The easiest approach to setting up directories, though, is to have your digital marketing team help you out. They likely already have a list of sites they can add you to, as well as the tools needed to manage all of these listings.
Many local listings are free. Yelp, YP.com, and Google My Business are all free. The directories that cost money are most likely going to be your premium niche directories. The costs vary for all of them and many require you to be in contact with a rep that can get you a quote. Some directories will charge you monthly and others require you to pay the year upfront. This is an important factor to keep in mind when setting up directories and budgeting.
The short answer is yes. Every location you want to appear map rankings should be added to every directory you can. For the paid directories, this will most likely be an extra cost, but it depends on the site.
If you are not worried about local SEO, then you may not want to set up profiles for your extra locations on the paid directories. There is a law of diminishing returns for links from the same domain. The extra links from a site are probably not worth the cost if you are not worried about local rankings.
First, you want to decide on a yearly budget for directories. Every company is different. A good rule is you should be spending at least as much as your competitors are. Once you have a budget, you need to prioritize the directories. A number of factors can go into this, including:
Your digital marketing team should be able to audit the value of each directory that you use and recommend which directories you should leverage with your budget.
TSEG can help you with your listings management needs, including:
This is just part of how TSEG can help your small business. To learn more about our SEO and Web design services, contact our team.
Getting an online review from one of your law firm’s clients can make all of your hard work feel like it was worth it. Getting detailed, thoughtful testimonials for others to see is top tier word-of-mouth advertising since the review will stay up on your profile forever.
But what are potential clients really looking for in your reviews? Thanks to a recent study featured by Search Engine Land and conducted by Womply, we now have insights and correlations from over 200,000 small business’ reviews and revenues to help answer this question.
The results of the study support claims that a 5-star rating can actually turn away online customers for a few reasons. Firstly, a perfect star rating can be achieved with very few reviews. A low number of reviews and a high rating indicates a new and less established business. Internet users are also aware of cheap seo tricks out there that involve buying fake reviews to give a business a false appearance of being more established.
More interestingly, the study finds that the “sweet spot” for online reviews is 3.5 to 4.5 stars. This range is where the 200,000 small business analyzed were earning the most revenue. Womply goes as far as encouraging the use of negative reviews to achieve a healthy mix of review scores. To be more exact, businesses with 15-30% negative comments earned more revenue than the study’s average. Think about that ratio the next time a negative review blesses your profile.
However, the range from 3 to 4.5 star ratings is where 80% of business are, and when similar scores are seen across the board, online shoppers will likely use other criteria as a basis for comparison. Increasing your law firm’s Local SEO is a great starting-point, but having a strategic, data-driven approach to all of your digital marketing gives you the competitive advantage on all fronts.
Are you an aggressive law firm? Do you want to dominate your market? We may be available in yours. Schedule a call to talk about how TSEG can help your law firm grow.
By Jack Turner
When it comes search engine optimization (SEO) services, it can be helpful to understand what goes into a balanced, well thought out campaign before deciding how much to spend on it. Gauging how much to invest in SEO is not quite as cut and dry as calculating your PPC spend. There are several factors that you should think about when determining your SEO investment. Ask yourself the following questions:
Market competition has two factors: your business’s target keywords and what city are you in. Going for the #1 spot as a snow cone shop in Fargo, ND is going to have much less competition than attempting to rank for “personal injury lawyer” in Los Angeles. More competition = higher spend.
Analyzing competitors’ sites is a great way to quickly check the market competition. Simply search your top keywords and get the URLs of the sites that are consistently showing up for these keywords. There are dozens of free online tools to check their backlink profiles, and also just clicking through their sites will give you a good idea of how much money they are pouring into their online presence.
If your competition is strong, you need to be stronger.
Different businesses have different timelines. As an SEO professional, I always tell my clients to be patient, as changes on your site can take months to get picked up by search engines. However, you can move up the rankings quicker if you invest more time/money into the site.
A company that is more seasonal like a landscaper might have a set timeline to get up in the rankings. If it is November and they want to be on the first page for their main keywords by May, they will want to spend more aggressively in the months of November-February to make sure the effects of the SEO boost their website’s rankings in time for the busy season.
SEO involves a mix of several strategies to build your site’s authority and standing in Google’s eyes (I will go into these later). An agency can “speed up” your climb on Google with a higher budget because it allows for two things:
A knowledgeable SEO agency will be able to tell you exactly what they will analyze on your website and will have a robust plan for improving your site’s important SEO metrics.
If a site is already built for SEO, or the site has a healthy backlink profile already, you may have an easier time climbing up the rankings. There are several tools that will give you a quick indication of your site’s SEO health. Website Grader is one of my favorites, especially to show SEO beginners. Of course, an SEO professional is better suited to analyze and explain your site’s health to you, as it is not always so black and white.
When auditing a new client’s site, an SEO professional might simply recommend that the business build a new site. This can be for several reasons:
If your site is suffering from SEO problems, our team can help you determine their cause and take action to fix the issues.
Your current rankings can also play a big factor in deciding how much budget to allocate to SEO. If you are not ranking in the top 50 for any of your major terms, this is a sign that extensive SEO work needs to be done to get to the first page.
The amount of effort and time to get up the rankings raises exponentially as the site climbs up the rankings. Going from position 50 to position 12 can be as difficult as going from position 12 to 7. This is because as you go up the rankings, your surrounding competition is getting tougher, so it requires more work to outrank them. Think of a sports team going through the playoffs and each round getting more and more difficult to win.
So you are spending more money on SEO to see expedited results, but what exactly are you paying for? Many people associate SEO with the service that provides you with “free” organic traffic. While you may not be paying per click, there are a lot of costs associated with SEO to ensure you are in a position to get these clicks. These SEO expenses include:
It can be hard to quantify how much doing all of this on your own would cost you. An SEO agency, however, understands what is needed to plan an effective SEO strategy and put it into place. We can help you determine how much all of this would cost for your business.
Many of the big online SEO services and even some smaller SEO agencies will give you a menu of services and their prices and you pick and choose what you want. This system works fine and makes their job easier, however, it is more beneficial for you to speak with an agency that will give you a custom quote on services. This allows them to build you an SEO package that fits your needs and leaves out items that you may not. This means you are only paying for what benefits you.
Contact The Search Engine Guys today if you are interested in receiving a custom quote on SEO or a website build. We can walk you through the SEO process and explain exactly what you should be paying for. Call us at (512) 394-7234 or reach out to us online.
Here are the two main reasons you should make sure your website is mobile friendly:
To test if Google considers your website to be “mobile friendly” click here.
Keep in mind that if you have a great website and don’t want to go through the process of re-designing it from scratch, we are able to convert your website into a responsive theme. Depending on your design, some or many elements may need to change… but we can often maintain the overall look and feel of your design.
If you would like to explore a new responsive website, or converting your existing website to a responsive theme – call us at 800.267.1704 and one of our account managers will help you determine your options.
Matt Cutts, the head of search spam at Google, recently released a video in which he discussed a future where links weigh less into the ranking of a website. To save you 3 minutes, Google knows that as long as they’re dependent on links for the majority of their algorithm, it will always be easily manipulated. So it would make sense for them to try everything they can to get away from links as the primary factor in ranking.
Back in 2005, Google filed a patent called Agent Rank for a technique that would allow them to rank a piece of content based on the person who authored it. In theory, when content is added to the web, there would be a digital signature connecting the real life author to the database’s digital author profile. This signature could be unique, and attached to every piece of content that author puts on the web, creating a portfolio of sorts for each author.
An authority score given to different authors, or “Author rank,” could then be used in the future to give weight to new articles and content authored by the author. For instance, the author could launch a brand new website, and because their author rank is high across 20 other websites, Google would associate this author with other great content and potentially give more authority to that website, even though it is new.
Some websites, though, don’t include authorship info, and Google doesn’t have any good way to assign value to these pages outside of links. But that could change with Google’s acquisition of Deep Mind, home to the world’s leading researchers involved with artificial intelligence and deep learning. The term “deep learning” has come around since the mid-2000’s to describe a programming architecture in which it could make connections between different sets of data. It would make sense then, that it deep learning is most effective when it has large quantities of data to sort through and analyse.
Well, as of Jan 2014, Chrome has a dominating market share at 55% of all internet browsing, Google Analytics is on over 15 million websites, the Ad Network reached over 2 million websites, and Gmail is the leader in web mail, so it’s no secret that the amount of data that Google is able to collect is simply unfathomable. Up until now, sorting through so much data and drawing informed conclusions has been troublesome for computers. From TechCrunch,
World-renowned artificial intelligence expert and Google’s new Director of Engineering, Ray Kurzweil, wants to build a search engine so sophisticated that knows users better than they know themselves. “I envision in some years that the majority of search queries will be answered without you actually asking.”
But now, Deep Mind’s AI program will play a role in all of Google’s infrastructure, including search, advertising, and social. With the end goal to document and draw smart connections between the real world’s people, places, events, and things, we must assume that Google is going to be using their mass repositories of data to create individual user profiles for each of us – including authors and readers.
Users will see an increased level of relevancy in searches. For instance, if someone has emails in their inbox discussing the purchase of a new Honda Civic, and then they like Honda on Google+, and finally post pictures of their new Honda Civic to G+ with hashtags, then when that user goes to search for “change spark plugs”, Google will tailor the search results to include videos and tutorials specific to the user’s history, which is changing spark plugs on a Honda Civic.
Conversely, authors will see an increase in engagement from their users. Let’s say I’m a mechanic and operate a blog detailing simple maintenance on Hondas and Toyotas (Japanese cars). Google sees that I frequently discuss related topics to car maintenance, and that I mention Japanese name brands, not American. Hopefully the users who are searching for “how to change my car’s oil” and own Fords won’t see my blog, and by the same token, the time users spend on my site will likely increase because the content is more relevant to their lives.
In the future of the internet, where digital and real life become more integrated, it will be important that we associate ourselves and our businesses with others that are considered to be industry leaders, in hopes of being given credit and benefit of the doubt based on association. As such, we should all start building a digital reputation for ourselves now, so that we aren’t behind when the time comes.
Since the website Yelp (www.yelp.com) was relaunched in February of 2005 with a decided focus on providing user reviews of businesses and professionals, the site has become one of the most frequently visited sites on the web, as people look to the reviews provided by others in their communities before going to a new mechanic, visiting a new doctor, or even eating at a new restaurant. For a while, these reviews had a limited effect, and only seemed to affect the ranking of businesses within Yelp’s internal search engine.
However, since Penguin 2.0 rolled out back in May of this year, we’ve noticed an interesting trend among search results that appears to be increasingly prevalent: the high ranking of directories for many search terms in Google. Directories like Angie’s List, Yelp, and even the Better Business Bureau are showing up on the first page of Google – often in the first and second spots – for extremely competitive keywords. Click here to see an example.
If you haven’t claimed your business’ Yelp listing, do it now. You could be missing out on valuable opportunities to get your name out in your community and to rank higher for your targeted keywords in Google and on Yelp. Additionally, there does seem to be a correlation between the number of reviews a business has and how strong their rankings are, both inside and outside of Yelp.
Thus, if you have satisfied customers, encourage them to leave you a Yelp review. This seemingly small action could have significant effects on your placement online, making it well-worth the effort.
To contact the author, emails can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ever since Matt Cutts, Google’s head engineer in charge of web-spam released a video in May about what to expect in the next few months in terms of SEO, there have been noticeable fluctuations in the search results for many website owners.
The MozCast Google weather tracker is a tool designed by the highly regarded web-marketing company Moz. Recently, their “Mozcast” site displayed what many SEO experts consider to be alarming temperatures in the month of June. A “regular” temperature reading is usually somewhere between 50 to 80 degrees, but two readings this month have shot up over 100 degrees, breaking records in the weather chart. In fact, June 27, 2013 yielded a 120 degree reading, the highest ever seen in the history of MozCast. Overall, changes in the Google algorithm have shaken up the search results a few times this past month, including roll outs such as:
In March, Google mentioned that they will stop publicly announcing Panda updates, as the algorithm will continue to roll out monthly. Google is currently pushing out Panda updates over a 10 day period every 30 days.
What does this mean exactly? Google pushes the update on a specific day, so from that start day, the algorithm will continue to push out over a 10 day span. The push will continue to repeat itself every month.
Google has been working on refining the Panda algorithm to help sites that are lingering “on the border” of being impacted by the update. Cutts mentioned that they are “softening” the Panda algorithm by adding signals to search for quality metrics on these types of websites. It is unclear as to how soft these roll outs will be or how much change will take place in the search results.
Cutts also mentioned in this video (at 2:30) that there will be a new search update targeting “spammy queries.” Roughly a month after the video was posted, Cutts sent a tweet out confirming his statement in the video.
Certain industries, one being payday loans, are infamous for abusing Google’s algorithm by using automated software to build quick backlinks within a short amount of time. Of course, these websites do get caught after some time and lose their rankings once detected. Once the website gets flagged by Google for their unfavorable link building tactics, these companies then toss the old website, start over with a new website, and repeat. This “churn and burn” method is considered illegal and has been on Google’s action list to clean up.
This algorithm update is aimed to target link building and spam tactics globally. Other affected search terms include “car insurance” and pornographic related queries.
On June 25th, the MozCast reached 113 degrees, ousting the previous high of 102 degrees set on December 13, 2012. In this blog post by Dr. Peter J. Meyers from Moz, he discusses case studies monitoring de-personalized and de-localized queries.
Meyers conducted two different studies on the search terms “limousine service” and “auto auction.” Both cases showed similar patterns that indicate a partial-match domain update.
While the temperature in MozCast is experiencing high levels of fluctuation, Cutts also threw a Multi-Week update into the mix. Details on this update haven’t been confirmed yet, but there have been speculations as to what kind of update this will be. Will it be a follow up to the Payday Loan Algorithm or is this PMD update just a trigger to something of greater impact?
Cutts announced the rollout was happening on June 21, 2013 and will continue to affect the search results until the week after July 4, 2013. We’ll keep an eye on this while this update keeps rolling out through the month of July.
Google strives to improve the quality of search results for the user by keeping quality sites ranked high and devaluing sites that prove to be harmful or untrustworthy. To assure that Google users have the best matching results for their queries, algorithm pushes are necessary to keep spam and questionable websites off your results page.
There will be constant algorithm fluctuations this next month, considering the turbulence that occurred in the last week of June. If the pattern continues with the Multi-Week update, we could be approaching a few more stormy SEO days. Look out for:
If your site has lost placement recently or has been moving around in the SERPs, the high number of algorithm changes that rolled out in June may be the reason. While we expect things to start settling down soon, the effects of these updates are likely to continue for a little while longer.
To contact the author, emails can be sent to: email@example.com
We have been through 5 major Google algorithm updates in the last 6 years and dozens of minor updates. Google recently stated that “We make over 500 changes to our algorithms a year, so there will always be fluctuations in our rankings in addition to normal crawling and indexing.” Additionally, SEOMoz reports that there have been 76 notable algorithm updates since 2007. Most of the minor updates go largely unnoticed by everyday users of Google and may feel more like typical fluctuations due to the content changes in the index.
Major updates are more like 50 year storms, and during major updates, it’s not uncommon for sites that enjoyed dominant first page positions to drop out of the top 10 pages.
Currently, the industry is buzzing with talk of a major update that Matt Cutts has labeled Penguin 2.0. Given the buzz, we thought we would share our 10 cents on how to handle the next “big one,” whether it happens this week or in 10 weeks:
Ultimately, when the algorithm is updated, the best course of action is to take a deep breath and evaluate everything that changes. Compare what the sites that were penalized have in common and what the websites that held strong have in common. Take action appropriately and with time, the results will return.
Here is a helpful video from Matt Cutts on Penguin 2.0 and what changes to expect in the coming months.
Excerpts from an upcoming book by Google Chairman Eric Schmidt were published by The Wall Street Journal last week. In the article, Schmidt laid out his seven predictions for the future of the digital age, but for marketers one sentence stood out from the rest:
“Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in more users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results.”
To many, this seemed less like a prediction and more like a veiled confirmation of what marketers had long suspected: AuthorRank is coming.
The AuthorRank saga began in 2005 when Google filed a patent for something called “Agent Rank.” The document described how the search engine could use a number of metrics to determine an “agent’s” position within a subject area. By outlining a way to consider an agent’s popularity and authority within a given subject area, marketers inferred that Google was looking to supplement the cold statistics of search with human factors.
Traditionally, Google had not had access to enough data to warrant using social interactions as a direct ranking factor. The company found a way to solve this problem in 2011 with the introduction of Google+. With its social network providing access to a trove of qualitative data, the logical next step was to incorporate it into search. Thus, AuthorRank became a reality.
Simply put, the goal of AuthorRank is to determine the credibility and popularity of an individual and the content they publish. Many factors that will likely have an impact on AuthorRank are old-hat for SEOs, such as: the number of followers on social networks and the frequency of shares, as well as the number of links, Likes, tweets, etc. The difference, however, is that Author Rank ties these metrics to the individual who publishes the content – not the website that hosts it.
This change has huge implications in the SEO world, but the first step for anyone marketing online is to claim authorship of their content. Any content a marketer has created should be tied to a verified Google+ profile. This means an author’s Google+ profile must have a link to the pages that host their content, and vice versa. Once this is done, the long climb to dominant Author Rank begins.
Everyone in the SEO industry is anxiously awaiting Google’s Panda Update 25. It is not yet known if this specific update will further the push from Page Rank to AuthorRank, but Google is clearly headed in that direction. The web strategists at The Search Engine Guys have been preparing for the move to AuthorRank for some time. If you have questions about SEO, AuthorRank, and how to prepare your website, please contact us today.
According to research firm eMarketer, Google is likely to exceed Facebook in selling online display ads in the United States. Google is expected to have a 15.4% share of the U.S. market. eMarketer said Google is projected to make $2.31 billion in revenue from online display ads. These are more profitable than the text-based ads that appear next to search results and account for the bulk of Google’s revenue.
This lead in online display ad marks a historic day for Google. This is the first time ever that it will be the leader in three different modes of online advertising: display ads, web-search ads, and mobile ads.
eMarketer calculates that Facebook will hold 14.4% of the market this year with $2.16 billion in U.S. revenue. Back in February, eMarketer predicted that Facebook would be on top with 16.8% of the market and Google with 16.5%.
(Graph from The Wall Street Journal)
eMarketer estimates that the display ad market to grow 21.5% to almost $15 billion in the U.S. this year, compared to last year’s $12.3 billion. Collectively, Google and Facebook will have nearly 30% of this year’s display ad revenue. In the year 2014, eMarketer predicts the two companies to have 37% of the market.
Google continues to make it easy for advertisers to use one source for all of their online marketing needs, via traditional desktop Adwords, Mobile adwords, display ads and re-marketing – both within their search network and on thousands of partner websites within Google’s content /display network.
Contact us at The Search Engine Guys if you would like to explore options for PPC advertising on Google’s network.