Pulling Levers Blog
Archive for the ‘Search Engine Optimization’ Category
How To Remove Duplicate Google Local Listings
Local Search Engine Optimization Is Powerful For Small Businesses
If you are a small or medium business trying to leverage your online presence, you’ve undoubtedly heard of Google Places (also called Google Local). It’s a great free product from Google that creates listings of brick and mortar businesses. These business listings show up in results when people search Google, Google Maps, Google Shopping and Google on mobile devices. These heavily integrated search results are the basis for local search engine optimization or local SEO.
Don’t Get Hurt In The Google Local Rankings
Google Places is still technically in beta and offers little support to users. This causes a lot of frustration for people that encounter errors with their Google Local listing, and for small businesses that don’t have websites or can’t afford SEO services, an error on a Google Local business listing can be the difference between significant revenue. Below I’ll detail out a solution to a common problem – removing duplicate Google local listings. This is important because if your business information is displayed for multiple listings, you are losing trust from Google and you are hurting yourself in organic web and local search results.
I’ll be using the following business information in my example, which I know has a duplicate Google local problem:
White Oak Dental
1580 White Oak Drive, Chaska, MN 55318
- Search your phone number on maps.google.com.
- You’ll see every business listed under that phone number. Typically it’s the same business with slightly different information. In this case, there are four businesses listed under the White Oak Dental phone number. I know I want result B as the only listing, so the rest of the steps focus on achieving that.
- Click to one of the undesired listings. I clicked to result A. Select “more” and then “report problem”.
- Select “Place has another listing”. In the Details box, type the business information exactly as it appears on the correct Google Local listing.
- When you click “report problem” you are done and Google politely thanks you for your feedback. I always select “Send email when the problem is reviewed” because Google does follow up and notify you if action has been taken. Be sure you are signed in to a Google account so you can receive the follow up email.
If you research how long it will take to rectify the problem, you may find some Google help forums ask for 4-6 weeks before you repeat your actions. I’ve seen Google reply in as little as one week, but they put enough disclaimers everywhere so that they don’t have to reply, nor are they required to take any action. However, if your report of an incorrect listing is justified, it is likely to be fixed.
Case Study: Building Organic Rankings from Scratch
Client: Established in-store marketing company expanding into the online segment of their business with a new website that offers free printable coupons from consumer packaged goods manufacturers.
Challenge: Launching a new website in fall 2010, Lever Interactive’s client was starting from scratch in terms of organic search results. The website’s initial design was developed and launched without taking into consideration basic SEO or conversion optimization best practices. In addition, competition among keywords related to coupons is high and the client needed to quickly establish their brand and website as an online industry leader.
Approach: Lever started from the ground up in their SEO approach since the website was brand new. The first focus was on improving the website and its content, secondly an active off-site link building campaign was launched.
Tactics: Lever Interactive conducted an S.W.O.T. analysis of the website to identify and prioritize ways to improve the site’s content, backend functionality in terms of SEO and visitor usability.
On-page tactics derived from the audit covered a wide-range of SEO best practices, some included:
- Page load time improvements through page size and code weight updates
- Development of new or improved page titles, headings, meta content and on-page content
- New URL structure, 404 error processes, robots.txt and XML sitemap file development
- Target keyword identification and integration into content and interlinking strategies
Off-page link building strategies started off with basic tactics that focused on top priority keywords (did not include any paid link building). Lever then moved into more advanced social link building strategies, such as:
- Relevant article and press release optimization and syndication
- Online video optimization and distribution
- Blog and forum participation
Results: Lever’s SEO team is continuing to work with the client to develop and distribute superior content both on and off the site. In the first 8 months of engagement, the client’s new site saw tremendous organic growth. With no previous keyword rankings, Lever was able to gain page one rankings on several highly competitive general terms such as coupon, coupons, printable coupon and coupons online. Organic traffic increased from less than 2,000 visits per month to over 150,000 visits.
How To Choose A Reliable Backlink Checking Tool
Whenever you engage a client in link building services, it’s important to demonstrate success to your client throughout and after the project. Part of quantifying your SEO efforts is reporting on the quantity of links to your targeted site or URL. That’s not to say that quantity is the sole focus of link building, but if you are performing a variety of optimizations for a client and only have a short amount of time for reporting, you want to be able to point to link acquisition without fancy screen shots and long explanations.
Now that Yahoo’s Site Explorer tool has been retired, SEOs have to regroup and find another reliable, simple source for checking backlinks without reinventing their reporting format. This is especially difficult because each tool typically reports different backlink counts. I’m going to profile a few of the popular tools. I’ll only be looking at the free versions since they are more easily accessible to all link builders and optimizers. Finally, I’ll leave you with my recommendation for reliable backlink checking and reporting. (I will be using our domain, www.leverinteractive.com for all examples.)
www.OpenSiteExplorer.org – This free link checking tool is great if you’re only checking 3 sites a day since it limits you to only 3 domain queries in a 24 hour period. It shows a few of their own unique metrics, but also shows Linking Root Domains and Total Links, which are universally important. You can use both of those metrics to measure growth month over month. In the free version, you can also get a glimpse of the top pages on your site acquiring links, the top domains linking to your site, anchor text and some other stats. However, the daily limit of 3 queries can make competitive analysis or new client prospecting difficult. Open Site Explorer is powered and maintained by SEOmoz. Use this tool for: setting a benchmark for a new client, reporting
www.MajesticSEO.com – This tool reports the number of referring domains and the number of backlinks. While the Open Site Explorer teases you to join the paid plan with a brief look at your referring domains and anchor text, Majestic SEO gives you great visuals for reporting. It also provides a historical index and a fresh index, showing you recent link count as well as a cumulative link count. Worth noting- my personal experience with customer service has been great, especially for a free too. I’ve tweeted at Majestic SEO with a few questions and received positive responses immediately, which leads me to believe their customer service and brand management are both very strong. Use this tool for: setting a benchmark for a new client, reporting, prospecting potential clients, quick competitive analysis
www.Alexa.com: Alexa also provides backlink data for free. This screenshot shows 46 backlinks to our domain. Clicking on the 46 reveals the list of domains as well as the URL linking to the specified domain. The list will max out at 100, so if you want to report on over 100 backlinks with this level of detail, you’ll be out of luck. Use this tool for: deep level linking detail for clients or competitive analysis
Google Webmasters Tools: Not many SEOs report backlink numbers from Google Webmasters because it’s notorious for reporting a low count of links. While this is true, most clients value Google data above other engines, and since Google offers a free, consistent and accurate backlink report, it’s worth including in your web analytics reports. The plus side is that while these other tools may change without notice, Google Webmaster is likely here to stay, so you don’t have to worry about your backlink checking tool disappearing.
You’ll notice that with these three screen shots, each site is reporting different numbers. This is inevitable. The simpler you make your reporting, the simpler it will be to explain to your client. Don’t start taking averages between sites and choosing the highest count each month from any source. If you want a reliable backlink checking tool, I suggest using data supplied from Google Webmasters. The backlink count gets updated frequently and it’s consistent month over month. Whichever source you choose, just be sure that your reporting is consistent and that if your client checks their backlink count using a different tool, prepare them with an explanation of why they may see a different count.
Google’s Formal Introduction to Google Search Plus Your World – Search Engine Optimization Meets Google+
The official Google search blog announced yesterday that it has integrated content from its social network Google+ into organic web results. While this is a fundamental change to search engine optimization, it’s not a total surprise. Google previously featured the +1 button in ads, organic results, even +1 metrics in Google Webmasters and Analytics. The difference is now, the web results contain more than just +1s. Below we take a look at some of the common questions that may arise from this Google SERP change.
I Have a Google+ Profile and I’m Worried About Privacy. Is my Google+ Information Public?
When you create or edit your profile, you can set it to “visible in search”. This allows it to be indexed by engines. If you uncheck this feature, your profile page will be private, visible only to your circles. However, even with a private profile, you can still select the “public” option for sharing. If you want a private profile but want to share anything with the entire world, this is still possible.
I Want to Share Something on Google+ For Only My Friends. How Should I Proceed?
Let’s say you want to post a link for only your friends to see. You can post content and then select from the drop down menu, “+Add circles or people to share with…” Select only your Friends. Now you’re sharing content that people in your Friends circle will see on their stream in Google+. They may also see this post in search results on Google if they search a relevant query.
On the drop down menu, you can see your other sharing options which include “Extended Circles” and “Public”. Extended Circles is like the Facebook settings “Friends of Friends”, meaning if you share something with “Extended Circles”, you’ll be reaching the circles of all of your friends. Public posts are the posts that can appear in web results for anyone signed in to Google and using Google Search, Plus Your World.
What Does Google Search, Plus Your World Mean for SEO?
I’ve already seen web results showing Google+ content. The screen shot below is a view of above the fold in Google’s SERP for “Mashable”. The first result is Mashable’s domain, with their sitelinks visible in the normal spot. Every other link in this screen shot is a link to something on Google+, 14 in total. This takes a lot of the traffic and revenue implications associated with top Google rankings away. If you sell a product and your competitor has a dominating Google+ page, you could rank in position 1 organically, but with all the distraction in the new layout, and all the links to your competitor’s Google+ content, your top ranking may mean less than it did before. The bad news here is that a brand with a huge Google+ network can have significantly more information and links available at a quick glance than you, even if you have the top organic result.
Don’t Panic – This Can Be Good!
What have we been hearing from Google for years? What does Matt Cutts preach in almost every video he records? Content, content, content. Don’t farm links, don’t buy links, don’t get low quality links, don’t worry about PageRank, don’t fill your site with ads. Create good, insightful content. In other words, create content worth sharing. The day has finally come. While this mix has made the job function of SEO even grayer than before, the mantra is still the same, “content is king”.
What Should I Expect to See In My Search Results?
This is still being rolled out by Google, but expect to see the same posts you see in your stream if you search for something relevant. Below is my screenshot of my search query “Google Search Plus Your World”. Famed author Danny Sullivan is in one of my circles, so his icon shows up next to something he shared on Google+. Once more users get on Google+ and the sharing and the circles grow, you’ll see more and more results tailored to your query including photos, videos, posts, comments and +1s.
What Should I Tell My SEO Client?
Don’t drop all you’re doing just to hop on the Google+ bandwagon. This search integration is still so young, there’s no formula yet for a proper Google+ strategy. In a nutshell, it’s just another social network, so treat it as such. Set up a branded page, complete the profile, place a link on your profile to your website, add any other links such as Twitter and Facebook, and start sharing. You can search on Google+ to find people talking about your brand, services, products or asking questions that you can answer as an authority. Add them to your circles and comment on their posts, share with your circles, and generate online conversations. Don’t worry if your competitors are ahead of you or if your Google+ content isn’t showing up on a Google search for your brand name. As long as you are participating and distributing quality content, you are on track for success.
Tell us what you think about Google+, Google Search Plus Your World, or how you plan to adjust your SEO campaigns with this new search feature.
2012 Online Marketing Wish List, A Look Forward
As a follow-up to yesterday’s blog post on Lever’s favorite new online marketing tools and features from 2011, we’ve now compiled a wish list for new features and capabilities in 2012.
Below is a list of the 5 advancements Lever’s staff would like to see in popular online marketing tools this year. In no particular order…
- More insights into Google AdWords’ Ad Extensions. Currently the reporting interface only gives you the more basic metrics (impressions, clicks, cost, and average position). However, it does not provide any data on if the ad extension was clicked itself (vs. the ad), which ad extension link was clicked (i.e. across sitelinks) or if the user converted after clicking through the ad extension. While the information currently provided is helpful (and there are ways to track more details through web analytics tools), expanded reporting would be a great addition in 2012 as ad extensions become more and more a general best practice for advertisers. – Danyl H.
- Improved ad scheduling capabilities in Microsoft AdCenter.
AdCenter made a number of advancements in 2011 to bring its management capabilities closer to par with AdWords, but there is still a wish list for many advertisers who use the tool. One for Lever includes better ad scheduling (or day parting) capabilities. Instead of being able to specify the exact times of day you would like ads to turn on and off, AdCenter currently only provide six different time span options. If your strategy does not fit within those time windows, you are unable to customize further. – Brad B.
- Facebook integrated conversion tracking.
Facebook previously tested tracking conversions within their advertising platform, but then removed the feature, leaving advertisers to rely only on outside web analytics tools to track ROI of the advertising. Ideally in 2012, we’ll see lead data return to Facebook and be able to view it at the various demographic and interest target levels. This would help align Facebook more closely with major search engine capabilities. – Jamie W.
- Affordable SEO link campaign tools. There are several SEO tools that boast an “unlimited” number of backlinking opportunities and insights with “heavy competitive analysis”. But they all come with a hefty price. This may be a great opportunity for enterprise companies or agencies, but for the more typical SEO agency, the costs and “unlimited” capabilities are unnecessary. My 2012 SEO wish list includes finding a more affordable, pared down, all-in-one linking tool to help prospect potential linking partners, guest blogging opportunities and comment opportunities that are simple, clean and scalable. – Mike H.
- AdWords apps for tablets and smart phones.
Although I primarily use my iPad and smart phone for personal use, the ability to access and update Google AdWords accounts on my tablet or phone is near the top of my 2012 wish list. Currently the AdWords website usually causes iPad browsers to crash, forcing me to rely on a desktop or laptop computer (which I now rarely turn on at home thanks to the iPad). Plus, the ability to make a campaign change on my phone or tablet while on the go will allow for easier campaign management. With the growing popularity of tablets within business (I see more and more marketers bring them to meetings) I imagine Google is working on this capability. Whether it will arrive in 2012 is yet to be seen. -Eileen B.
Those are just a few of the many possible online marketing wish list items for 2012. What advancements, big or small, do you hope to see in 2012?
2011 Online Marketing Advancements, A Look Back
As we ring in the New Year at Lever Interactive, our online marketing teams have come together to share some of their favorite advancements of online marketing tools in 2011.
The online marketing world is constantly evolving (as you know) and 2011 was no different for new technologies, features and advancements in website management, PPC advertising and SEO. Some of our teams have compiled their favorite new features to engines, technologies and online marketing management tools in 2011.
Google’s free online analytics tool made numerous updates and additions in 2011, including the roll out of a paid package, Google Premium. One 2011 update Lever’s team highlighted as especially useful was the real-time dashboard.
The Real-Time section displays top referrals, top keywords, top active pages and top locations all in real time. For a more in-depth overview, check out Jen’s blog post from October.
“The top locations data is the reason why this made my list because it has been very helpful with one of my retail clients. With the client’s continued international expansion, determining new countries to target is key to the success of our campaigns. Also, our campaigns are very sale based and rely on critical time frames. We can instantly see if during a sale the targeted countries are trending in traffic.” – Danyl H.
For more additions to Analytics in 2011 (including mobile and social reporting, multi-channel funnels and the new Google Analytics v5 roll-out) check out Jen Davis’ 2011 Google Analytics blog posts in our archives!
For many Lever staff members, a large portion of their day is spent within Google AdWords managing PPC campaigns of all shapes and sizes. Any additions to the AdWords online or desktop tool that makes our job easier or campaigns run smoother, generates excitement in the office. One favorite in 2011 was the Google AdWords Dimensions tab.
“The dimensions tab provides an easy way to pull a variety of reports, including geographic, demographic, daily and hourly reports. It’s much quicker than having to run these reports separately in the old reporting interface.” – Jamie W.
What’s your favorite dimension to pivot your AdWords data by? I most often use the Geographic and Hour of Day dimensions. For more info on dimensions, Jeremy Decker over at Search Engine Journal recently posted a thorough review of the dimension tab to increase conversion rate.
Some other AdWords 2011 additions receiving staff mentions- Social Extensions and Google Display Network targeting by interest categories (previously in beta).
In late 2011, Microsoft adCenter rolled out an upgraded look to their interface along with some new reporting features. It was a refreshing change that reduced some of the more cumbersome elements of the interface and brought it closer to the functionality you may be use to in Google AdWords. For more details on the upgrade, stop by Search Engine Watch and read John Rampton’s November article.
One of the fall updates to adCenter included a staff favorite - exact match negative keywords.
“It is important to have this level of detail when closely managing large client accounts. I was happy to see adCenter take this next step toward increasing functionality and campaign management options in their system. Hopefully it continues to expand in 2012.” – Brad B.
Google Webmaster Tools
Lever Interactive’s SEO team is good at adapting to changes with the continuous updates engines make to their algorithm, so 2011 was no different than years past. With Google’s decision to begin encrypting searches of users signed in through secure connections, various SEO reporting in Google Analytics became more limited.
One feature in the new Google Analytics interface to help overcome this limitation is through synching into Google Webmaster Tools. In the v5 version of Google Analytics, when you click through Traffic Sources > Search Engine Optimization > Queries, you will see this.
Click “Set Up Webmaster Tools data sharing” and follow the steps. In a minute you’ll have your Google Webmaster data in your Google Analytics account and you can report on impressions by landing page, search queries, clicks, click through rate and even average position.
“It takes some getting used to, but it’s accurate data without guessing, and it’s a step forward toward deep keyword analysis after the push backwards. This makes it very easy to analyze and plan your search engine optimization because you can visualize organic behavior from query to conversion (or exit). This makes it a bit easier to plan content creation by page or category based on which queries are dropping visitors off on your various landing pages.” – Mike H.
Website Design & Development
We’re wrapping up our list of favorite 2011 online marketing management advancements with our web design team! Although not a new idea, with the rapid expansion of mobile and tablet websites in 2011, the expanded capabilities and use of responsive website layouts is an exciting area of growth in the industry Lever’s design team looks forward to using in 2012. Responsive layouts, formally called fluid layouts, adjust design and images based on the size of your browser window, to provide improved and more customized experiences for the visitor.
“These elements were great in 2011 for mobile websites because the flexible layout will reposition the content as necessary and the flexible images will resize on the fly without reducing the quality. These features help mobile sites look consistent across many mobile devices.” – Jonathan S.
An example of a responsive layout is http://css-tricks.com – open the page and play around with the size of your browser to see the changes in the site.
What are your favorite additions to online marketing tools last year?
Stay tuned for our blog post tomorrow for our staff’s resolutions and wish lists for online marketing advancements in 2012!
Google Announces Changes to Organic Sitelinks
Google recently announced a change to the appearance of their organic sitelinks. Organic sitelinks show under the first listing in the natural search results and are direct links to various pages within the particular domain. They are generated automatically by Google and not all websites will have sitelinks. Here is what they looked like prior to this most recent change:
With the change announced by Google, the appearance and layout of the sitelinks has been updated to improve the search experience. Google does indicate that how sitelinks are generated has NOT changed. They will still be “generated and ranked algorithmically based on the link structure of your site, and they’ll only appear if useful for a particular query,” according to Google.
Take a look at the new organic sitelinks:
Let’s Break Down the New Sitelinks
Here is a quick snapshot to the changes you see:
- Pronounced - Sitelinks are now the same size text (before they were in smaller text), with the green URL and a line of text below. This mimics the usual search results. Presumably this makes them easier to find or notice.
- Optimized - With this change, sitelinks that are shown and their ranking can change based on the searchers query, which means more optimized results. Prior to this change, sitelinks were fixed, up to eight links were shown or not shown, regardless of the search query. Finally, up to 12 links can be shown, and again this is based on the search query.
- Separation – In prior search results, pages for a particular domain would be show in the sitelinks, in subsequent natural results (position 2 or lower) or both. With this change, there is a clear distinction between the top domain and other domains. If the results show a top domain with sitelinks, all results below will be from different domains. So, while the top domain can physically take up more room on the page, other domains will have a chance to appear in positions two through ten. Note: one exception to this change is if the top result is for a subpart of a domain and all the sitelinks are part of the same subpart, other parts of the domain may show in subsequent results.
- Unified Algorithm – By combining the components used to generate and rank sitelinks (link structure of websites) with Google’s traditional ranking, Google indicated they have created a unified algorithm. There is no longer a distinction between the traditional results and sitelinks anymore.
Sitelinks and Webmaster Tools
With the old version of sitelinks, site owners chose to block pages from the list of sitelinks generated. Here is an old view of the way to block pages from sitelinks:
Webmaster Tools has already been updated and site owners can continue to manage their sitelinks. The change in managing sitelinks through the Webmaster Tools is through “demotion” of pages that site owners do not want to appear as sitelinks. Keep in mind removal of these links are not guaranteed. With sitelinks varying over time and through individual queries, site owners will need to suggest parent pages to be “demoted.” Site owners can designate 100 demotions per website. Any pages that were blocked in the old system have been converted to demotions. Here is what the new demotion system looks like:
This change does not impact one-line sitelinks or paid search sitelinks.
Our Case Study: ThePetStoreonline.com Switches to Miva Merchant
We develop close relationships with our clients so that we can understand their entire business and help where we can succeed even further. We don’t just look at keywords and ads within a paid search campaign, we take into consideration everything, including landing pages, shopping experience on the website, offline marketing, anything we can get our hands on to see what impact those components have on paid search and vice versa. Part of that includes the ecommerce platform the site is utilizing. Understanding the platform’s strengths and weaknesses helps us and the client know what we can highlight as well as limitations the store may have.
In our long-standing relationship with ThePetStoreOnline.com, we had both come to an agreement that the Yahoo store platform the site was using was creating more limitations to the overall conversion rate of the site. With our many successes of using Miva Merchant as an ecommerce platform, we worked closely with ThePetStoreOnline.com to switch from a Yahoo store to Miva Merchant. I recently wrote a guest blog for Miva Merchant about this transition. While no transition is ever easy, one that we had confidence in resulting in even further success for our client was definitely fun and worth it.
Google Webmaster Tools – Sumbit URLs with Fetch as Googlebot
Google Webmaster Tools announced recently that the “Fetch as Googlebot” feature allows website owners an opportunity to submit new and updated URLs direct to Google for indexing. This is not a guaranteed way to get indexed, but according to Google, using this submission process will cause the Googlebot to crawl your URL usually within a day.
There are several good uses for using this feature:
- Launched a new site, or new important pages you want Google to recognize faster than normal
- Updated important pages or pages with time sensitive information (i.e. an event you are hosting next week)
- Updated pages with correct content (i.e. in case you publish content on a page that is incorrect or did not intend to publish)
How to Submit URLs
Under the diagnostics menu of your Webmaster Tools Account, select “Fetch as Googlebot” and enter the URL:
You’ll notice on this screen Google does limit your fetches (50) and submissions (10) per month. It allows you to submit standard web pages, as well as mobile pages.
If fetched successfully, “Submit to Index” link will now appear:
Upon selecting “Submit to Index” you will be prompted to indicate if you want to submit only the URL or the URL and all link pages:
Once you have submitted your URL you will receive a confirmation:
All URLs submitted through this process should have content that is appropriate for Google search results. To submit images or videos, Google sitemaps should be used instead.
When to use Fetch as Googlebot
With the limitations in the number of fetches and URLs submitted, this tool should not be used for minor content updates. It should be used when time is of the essence for that page or pages to possibly show in the Google search results. Another great use would be for content that is substantially new to your website, a new service or product that is outside your normal offerings.
Subdomains and SEO in a Post-Panda World
Like everything in SEO, the value of subdomains has been up for debate for many years. (Just Google “use of subdomains for SEO” and scroll the millions of results to get a slew of varying opinions.)
Since Google’s 2011 Panda update, impacted sites have been scrambling to uncover the method behind the madness and gain insight into the algorithm changes. This week, HubPages.com, a site that was heavily impacted by Panda, announced it may have found a piece to the algorithm puzzle with the use of subdomains to break out content.
HubPages reported seeing a 50% drop in traffic after the Google Panda updates this year and during preliminary tests some newly created subdomains returned to pre-Panda traffic in a few short weeks. After discovering the subdomain difference on accident, HubPages reached out to Google and received a response from search engineer, Matt Cutts, which affirmed HubPages’ discovery to try subdomains as one way to improve rankings.
Some are looking at this successful as the first “work around” to Panda, but to me it seems to reiterate Google’s long-time algorithm goal to provide the most relevant, quality content to its users. I think it may be a helpful fix for good-quality content that was wrongfully hurt by the Panda update, but not a work around for sites that still struggle with poor content.
Through HubPages’ recent tests, the subdomain switch has reportedly helped those authors with high-quality content and not improved authors with low-quality content. (You can read about the varying results in the comment section of a recent HubPages blog post.) So whether this is a universal fix is unknown.
How this information translates to helping ecommerce, retail and standard business sites is also up for discussion. Most sites should not disregard previous best practices on subdomains based on HubPages’ initial success. Restructuring a site to include subdomains is not a small switch for most, and shouldn’t be done without considering its impacts across your site. Subdomains are a powerful tool for topics of importance to your company but can also dilute the strength of main domain content.
I recommend… as with anything related to SEO… sites looking to set up subdomains for SEO purposes should do their research and make the best decision based on their own site, goals and past experience.