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Common SEO Myths for Local Businesses (Guest Blog by Michael Hayes)

The following post comes to us from Michael Hayes, founder and CEO of Darby Hayes Consulting, a full service Internet Marketing agency based out of NYC.


Common SEO Myths for Local Businesses

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SEO can be a tricky and sensitive subject, both for professional SEO practitioners and for local businesses. Due to the fact that there is no official standard for how to practice SEO, practitioners have to develop their own theories, methodologies and tactics in order to practice effectively. Eventually these theories combine with bits and pieces of Google’s webmaster guidelines to become part of the collective industry “best practices.”

Then, SEO/marketing professionals and business owners will utilize these best practices to attempt to rank their own sites. This can be effective, but one must be careful to not treat these as “gospel.” Recommendations and best practices are not necessarily set in stone. Google (and SEO) is constantly evolving, and as such these best practices will change over time.

Whenever I come across outdated (or simply incorrect) “best practices,” i.e. strategies that don’t align with my practical experience, I make note of it. These are helpful when educating new clients, testing new theories, or performing audits. Today I’ve gone ahead and put together a few of these “myths” in hopes that I might dispel them, and help readers avoid potential and unnecessary pitfalls.

Myth #1: Directories are bad/good

Forgive the lack of clarity on this one. I’ve seen these myths go either way, both condemning directories as terribly evil or touting them as an effective way to drive ranking. The true story lies somewhere in between.

Directories have a very touchy history in SEO:

  • Like “Web 2.0s,” directories allow people to inject links to their website. This was abused in pre-penguin world.
  • Thousands of nonsense directories began being published, allowing people to list their website for free or for a small charge.
  • Legitimate directories still exist, and are still useful to users. They are usually manually curated and have other uses besides being link farms. Sites like HomeAdvisor, ThomasNet and Best of the Web come to mind.

So what are directories good for? Which directories to consider? Let’s have a look:

  • Do *not* inject anchor text meant to manipulate keyword rankings. Even if it is effective at first, it leaves you open to penalties and will likely need to be cleaned up via disavow or link removal requests later on.
    • Stick with “naked URL” (http://www.example.com), or Brand Name (“ACME Anvils”), and you’ll be fine.
  • Niche directories are great, if you can find them. Industrial manufacturer? Go for ThomasNet. Home service provider? Go for HomeAdvisor. Most niche directories will be hyper-local (City government sites, local chamber of commerce, etc). These are awesome for local businesses.
  • Stick with high authority and avoid the junky, fly-by-nighters. Directories with a DA50+ are probably fine.

Myth #2: SEO is all about “great content”

This section will allow me to flex my tactical SEO muscles while also taking shots at super “white-hat” SEOs that I’ve grown to hate over my nearly 10 years in the business. First, let me explain the history…

Google is trying to reward content that gets naturally popular on the web. This “popularity” is generally about backlinks. Backlinks naturally occur when content is “great” enough to warrant important websites mentioning and linking to it.

This is great and all, but “publish and hope for the best” is not a strategy. If you like blogging, go for it, but I wouldn’t set any expectations for natural backlinks (although you might get lucky). I certainly wouldn’t pay someone any significant sum to do this, not without a specific and detailed promotion plan.

This leads me to my next point. Great content is great, but it’s nothing without promotion. Things don’t go viral on their own, even though it might seem like it after the fact. The truth of the matter is that SEO takes active participation in generating links and exposure. Content is only the beginning.

I’ll go easy on the white-hats for a minute and say that proper outreach to influencers, well crafted and very high quality content can go a long way in furthering SEO efforts. However “publish and pray” is a far cry from this.

Myth #3: Landing Pages Need to be 1000+ Words

I love this myth because it speaks to a much larger problem that effects any blanket “best practice.” The truth of the matter is that landing pages *might* need to be 1000+ words. They might actually need to be 2000+ words. Or they could very well be 500 or less words. It depends entirely on the target keywords.

There is a fun saying that goes, “Google is dumb, but it isn’t stupid.” What this paradoxical saying is trying to get across is that basic SEO is straightforward (domain name + content + keywords + links), but trying to finagle these elements too much won’t get you anywhere.

Just because you need some content on the homepage for a local plumber, doesn’t mean that adding 2000+ words about the intricacies of pipe inspections will make your site rank any higher.

How do you know what word count is appropriate? Simple: take a look at the SERP (search engine result page) for your target keyword. Let’s have a look at one.

Doing a quick search for “Plumber San Antonio,” a very popular local service keyword, we see that local businesses make up 6 out of 10 results on Google’s first page (we’ve removed national sites like HomeAdvisor and Yelp).

See the word counts for these sites below:

san-antonio-plumber-rankings

While we see some instances of 1000+, upwards of 1700 words, the bulk are less than 1000. We even see a site ranking #7 with only 266 words on the page.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is only one keyword and not necessarily typical of your niche. The key takeaway here is to not blindly follow generic recommendations on word count. Sure, more relevant information for your customer the better, but jamming an article at the bottom of the page is a waste of time and a poor user experience.

Conclusion

I hope this has been a fun read and at least a little bit enlightening. Strangely enough, if you take one thing away from this article, it’s that you shouldn’t take any blog post (including this one) as gospel. Trying things out for yourself, see what works, and always keep an open mind, and you’ll go far in any industry (not just SEO).

What myth did you find most surprising? Do you have an SEO question for Michael? Leave a comment below!

mike-hayes

Michael Hayes is the Founder and CEO of Darby Hayes Consulting, a full service Internet Marketing agency based out of NYC.  He can be contacted at mike (at) darbyhayesconsulting.com.  Stay in touch with Darby Hayes Consulting at their Facebook Page.

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More Than Words: How Visual Content Improves Your Blog

How Visual Content Improves Your BlogBlog posts are one of the most popular and powerful ways to engage your audiences through online content. However it’s not enough to set up a blog, sit back and wait for your audience to flock to you. In order to grow a community of loyal readers, your blog needs more than just quality content. It also needs visual elements to grab attention, reinforce your brand and increase SEO.

Now, the Bennis Inc blog has room for improvement in this area as well! As we strive to do a better job of incorporating more visual content into our weekly posts, we thought we’d share with you five reasons why we know this to be so important. Take a look!

 

Visual content…

Grabs attention, especially when shared on social media

If you want to draw more readers to your blog, it’s important to make your posts look good when shared on social media. Without visual content, people will see a blank square and a snippet of content that may not be enough to stop them from scrolling on by. Set yourself up for social sharing success by always including at least one image per blog that clearly represents the theme of your post, so that when people see it as a thumbnail they know right away they want to read more!

Emphasizes your main points

Visual content is a powerful opportunity to highlight and emphasize the main points of your blog. Much like how we use subheadings to make content easily digested, images and graphics next to each main point help guide readers through your content. Visual content also makes your main points easy to remember and reference again in the future.

Visual content helps shine a spotlight on the main points you want to reader to takeaway.

Visual content helps shine a spotlight on the main points you want to reader to takeaway.

Reflects the style of your brand

Your blog is a direct reflection of your brand and therefore should use the same quality of images you would feel comfortable publishing on your website or social media. Everything needs to work together to reinforce the same message. Use visual content on your blog to create continuity for visitors who are likely to jump from your blog to your website and vice versa.

Captioning the photo with keywords gives search engines another way to find you

Most people know, but forget to fully utilize the fact that the photos you post on your blog are indexed by search engines. This makes visual content yet one more way you can improve your SEO. Make sure every photo you post is named and captioned with your most relevant keywords. Captions are also important for engaging readers and connecting each image back to your content.

Glowing Illuminated Love light photo lamp

We “love” this photo because we took it ourselves! It’s clean, simple and modern, much like the Bennis Inc brand. Plus, it represents something we get to see in daily life.

Provides an opportunity to insert a personal touch (by using your own photos)

Finally, visual content is a great way to let your personality and brand shine through your words. It’s a smart idea to build up your own stock image gallery of photos that share your story. Then, you will always have these available to use on future blogs. By using your own photos, you don’t have to worry about running into licensing issues, plus you’ll further engage your audience with visuals that are far more unique and captivating than those generic stock images.

How do you incorporate visual elements on your blog or website to attract visitors to your content? Share your ideas by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2016 in Business & Success

 

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How to Use Keywords to Drive Traffic to Your Website (Guest Blog by Ryan Stewart)

The following guest post comes to us from Ryan Stewart, a digital marketing expert and the owner of Webris, a Boston based digital marketing agency. Be sure to visit his author’s bio below to learn more and connect.

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How to Use Keywords to Drive Traffic to Your Website

As much as I hate marketing buzzwords, one rings true: “content is king.”

When crafting content for marketing purposes, you need to first begin with keyword research – otherwise, you’re creating content for the sake of creating content.

Understanding what makes strong and effective keywords and knowing what resources you have at your disposal to craft such keywords can make this process much simpler than you ever thought possible. It starts with having a basic understanding of what a good keyword actually is.

Too often we presume tons of traffic indicates solid keywords in their marketing approach – and too often do marketers find themselves confused when faced with tons of traffic but low conversion rates.

That’s why it’s important to dig out the intent behind the keyword as opposed to just pure search volume.

Brainstorming Keywords

Numerous tools are available that can help you come up with potential keywords for your content.

However, often the best starting point for keyword brainstorming is your own knowledge of your business and industry, as well as the metrics you already have at your disposal. Identifying the search terms that are already driving users to your content is a great starting point for optimization.

Use your own actions as a resource – if you were searching for this piece of content, what keywords would you use?

Some of the simplest and most effective ways of brainstorming keywords is by utilizing the autocorrect features on sites such as Google and YouTube to see what people are actually searching for.

using autocorrect to identify keywords

While this shouldn’t be the end all and be all of any marketer’s keyword brainstorming efforts, this can be a good way of coming up with ideas to get started.

Once you’ve got a basic idea, use Google Keyword Tool to find search volume. Combining your own intuition with Google’s data is a great way to build out your initial list of keywords.

google adwords keyword planner

Crafting Relevant Keywords

As you brainstorm and research, it may be tempting to fill your content with high-traffic keywords. Stop! Now consider – are those keywords really relevant to the content that you’re producing?

And above all else, are these keywords going to draw in the type of traffic that you want?

As you brainstorm potential keywords for your content, remember that those keywords must be relevant to what is actually on the page once visitors click those links.

Getting people to visit your content is only the first step in your keyword strategy – keeping them on your page and enticing them to view the rest of your content or to respond to your call to action are equally important goals.

Utilizing Long Tail Keywords

One of the simplest ways for marketers to boost the relevancy of their keywords is to incorporate more long tail keywords into their content. When people conduct searches, they are typically looking for specific information.

longtail keyword seo

A search for “cosmetic dentists” will drive in better quality traffic than a simple search for “dentists” – not only because the content will be more specific to what the user is searching, but also because these types of keywords typically catch site visitors later on in the buying cycle.

Local Search Practices

Businesses with physical locations or who do a large amount of business in specific areas are quickly discovering the importance of incorporating local search into their keyword strategy. Businesses that offer services locally should emphasize the importance of including local search terms into their keyword strategy.

This is a simple and effective way to drive in relevant traffic. Driving in users from Des Moines, Cheyenne, and Los Angeles is hardly going to do a business any good if their services are only offered in Atlanta.

A good starting point for many businesses that do offer local goods and services is to identify the local terms that are already driving in traffic and to expand upon them.

Calculating the Value of Keywords

Once you develop a good list of potential keywords, you can begin to perform the necessary research with resources such as Google AdWords Keyword Planner Tool, Google Trends, Microsoft Bing Ads Intelligence and Wordtracker’s Free Basic Keyword Demand to determine the value of those keywords and their potential to drive in traffic.

Wordtracker's Free Basic Keyword Demand

One thing that is important to remember is that keyword optimization is something that should continue to evolve over time. Search engine algorithms – as well as the attitudes of online traffic – are always in flux.

Paying attention to metrics such as traffic and conversion rates allows marketers to continue to optimize their keywords and change their keywords as needed to ensure that they never miss out on new opportunities as they arise.

Additionally, focusing on the quality of traffic first and the quantity second, you can overcome some of the biggest hurdles and pitfalls associated with crafting relevant keywords for your content.

What other tips do you have for successfully researching and incorporating effective keywords into your content marketing strategy? Share your ideas by commenting below!

ryan stewartAbout the Author: Ryan Stewart is a digital marketing expert with over 10 years of experience working with clients like Best Buy, Accenture and the Department of Defense. Ryan holds a number of web certifications as well as a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA). Ryan currently owns Webris, a Boston based digital marketing agency. Follow Ryan on social media: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2015 in Guest Blogger, Technology

 

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How Blogging Has Built My Business

building blocksWhen I first began blogging in June of 2011, it was an experiment. Publishing my first post didn’t feel much different than writing in a Word doc. I had zero subscribers and only a measly three or four people randomly stumbled on my blog each day. I wanted to learn how to be an effective blogger for my clients. To do so, I first had to become an effective blogger for myself. The blogging experiment far exceeded my expectations and I’m officially hooked. I write passionately for my readership of more than 700 subscribers every Monday morning.

The Bennis Inc blog began as nothing but a blank page, just as most things in life do. But it grew – and so did my business. Sure, time alone can cause growth, but I venture to say that it took more than just time. It took regular upkeep, vision and a willingness to put my thoughts out there for all the world to see. As awkward as that felt in the beginning, almost 150 blog posts later and it couldn’t feel more natural.

The best side effect of this blogging experiment was how it built my business and defined my personal brand. I’m still amazed to talk to a new acquaintance who mentions a recent post they read or to look at the stats and see the various search terms that led people to my blog. Whether you’re a fellow blogger (novice or expert) or an intrigued reader, here are the key ways in which blogging has built my business – and has the power to build yours as well.

It’s an icebreaker

My blog provides a great reason to start a conversation. Whether it’s in a business meeting or a quick run-in at the coffee shop, telling me, “Oh by the way, I read your blog,” has replaced the obligatory conversation about the weather. It has also given people a reason to reach out to me with a professional question or to explore the services I offer. If I was just a name on a web site, people may not feel this same connection or be motivated to start a conversation. This is a pleasant reminder that the time I spend putting my thoughts into words is worth something.  It’s cultivating an audience, opening doors and inspiring people enough to want to tell me about it.

It reaches further than you might imagine

My blog has opened up an avenue for communication with people from all across the world. When looking at the stats, it’s exciting to see how many different countries are lit up on the map. Even more fulfilling than just numbers and statistics is the meaningful interactions with people via comments and emails. The reach of my blog has helped to grow my business on a more local level as well. Within my local network, I’m impressed by how many people I know (and look up to) read it on the regular. I would never have imagined they had the interest or free time, but they do. This has helped to build my credibility as a writer and entrepreneur.

It’s a living portfolio

I’ve often referred to a blog as a living portfolio of your work. When a client asks to see examples of my writing, I can simply send them to my blog where they can choose from a variety of topics to really get a feel for my style. This is much easier and more genuine than putting together a dull document of writing samples. They can also see the interactions with my readers which demonstrates my ability to grow an audience. My blog has become a valuable asset to my proposal process and I believe has helped to win me some work as well.

It strengthens your SEO and your personal brand

The final and most powerful way I feel my blog has helped to build my business is by strengthening my SEO and personal brand. Adding fresh and high quality content to your blog and appropriately tagging each post is one the best ways to increase your search engine optimization. I choose to host my blog on WordPress (as oppose to my web site) because of its added SEO power. Many readers have found my blog by browsing WordPress’s categories.

My blog has also strengthened my personal brand by showcasing the “human element” of Bennis Inc – me! While my business is all about Public Relations, I choose to make my blog much more personal with many articles on the struggle of entrepreneurship, life balance and unconventional wisdom. My blog shines a spotlight on the “Twenty-Something Entrepreneur” that I’ve become.

There you have it – all the compelling reasons you could need to be inspired to create or grow your own blog! The most important thing to remember is that once you start, don’t stop. Keep writing and posting regular content. Think of your blog as a hungry little monster. It needs food to keep it growing and that’s what your posts will be, food for your blog and fuel for search engines to pull new readers to your site.

Finally, here are some tips for successful blogging to get you start. Go forth and blog!

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2013 in Business & Success, Social Media

 

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The Top 5 Free SEO Tools (Guest Blog by Marcela De Vivo)

The Bennis Inc Blog is excited to host another guest author this week! Marcela De Vivo shares her insight on Search Engine Optimization and something we’re most interested in–the top FREE resources for SEO! Be sure to share your thoughts and comments on this post to keep this important conversation going. To learn more about Marcela, please visit her brief bio below.

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SEOAs Google works to change the way websites are ranked, it’s important for you to keep up with the tools that will make sure you can achieve, or continue to have high search engine rankings.

If you want results, you need to start using the right SEO tools as soon as possible. Listed below are the best free tools available today. They’re all fairly easy to use, and they can be a tremendous help with your SEO efforts.

ScreamingFrog

SceamingFrog is an SEO spider tool that you can run in order to help you get an idea into the status of your site. Using ScreamingFrog, you can also check for competitors backlinks and resource links on major sites with considerable web value.

With ScreamingFrog, you can run the spider on another page to help you find broken resource links. For example, if you find a great resource page on a popular site, you can run the program to identify what links are dead or inactive.

Then you can email them and propose a replacement resource that links back to you. The site will appreciate you finding the dead links and likely take you up on the offer to replace the dead ones with something of value to them.

SEO Quake

SEO Quake is an extension for your browser that gives you information about the sites that you’re looking in real time as you’re browsing them. SEO Quake is particularly helpful for competitive research to figure out different SERPs and find new opportunities for your site to rank higher.

For example, if you are working on promoting a Giveaway and find a great site, you can check while you’re on the site if it has good statistics and is worth contacting or not.

Free Google Keyword Tool

Google’s Keyword Tool is a common starting point when it comes to regularly used keyword tools. In fact, it’s one of the most commonly tools used in SEO.

The free Google Keyword tool will give you a variety of suggestions for choosing, finding and picking your keywords, so it’s a great tool for beginners or people that aren’t too sure which keywords might work for a particular topic or site.

SEO by Yoast

SEO by Yoast is a WordPress plugin, and since many people are using WordPress, it makes sense that it’s so popular. What SEO by Yoast does is help you optimize every single article you publish to your blog.

SEO by Yoast can also help you identify the best keywords to focus on and give you ways to incorporate them into your WordPress pages.

Pingdom

Speed is becoming more and more important, and that’s why you need to be using Pingdom. Pingdom works to look at and evaluate your site’s speed as users see and experience it.

Using Pingdom, you can check to see if your site is downloading quickly, exactly how much time pages take to load for most users, and if any of the files are hanging. This is important because the average user is becoming more and more impatient when it comes to slow sites since there’s so much information out there on the web.

If your site isn’t fast, consumers aren’t going to want to deal with it, and they will quickly move on to a better resource. Fast sites also tend to rank higher in Google.

These five tools can help you with your link building, keyword research, competitive research, and for optimizing your sites for search engines and users. While you might still need some other tools in your SEO arsenal, these make a great starting point, all at the low price of free!

Have questions, comments or other free SEO resources you want to share? Be sure and leave a comment below to get the conversation started!

marcelaMarcela De Vivo is a freelance writer from Los Angeles. She covers a variety of topics, including technology, music, real estate and health & wellness, but she specializes in online marketing and currently writes for HostPapa, specializing in social networking and web analytics.

 

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