In today’s world, everyone is online. From smartphones to laptops, we are constantly connected. We work, have fun, build relationships and learn new skills on our devices.
With the rise of machine learning and personal assistants, we have also become accustomed to type more complex queries among which the “near me” stands as one of the most popular. From restaurants to gyms, everyone is searching for a business on the go.
If you are a business owner looking for new ways to grow your business, targeting the local “near me” search is a powerful tool for driving more customers into your brick-and-mortar store.
But how does this translate into local search and local SEO?
Over the years, Google has made information more and more available to users; from personalized search results to various types of featured snippets. These rich answer boxes have reduced the need for consumers to click through to websites to get the information they need.
For local businesses, information is displayed in a knowledge panel called “local snap pack” which is controlled by Google My Business (GMB). When users are looking for a store, Google displays the top three best results in a framed box on top of the page. Due to its increased visibility, appearing in the local snap pack means more clients for the featured businesses.
Below are some local SEO tips that every business owner could apply today to drive more organic traffic and get displayed in the local snap pack (even without any prior marketing knowledge).
1. Take a N-A-P (Name, Address, Phone Number)
The first step any local business should do to impact its local SEO ranking is to claim and optimize its Google My Business (GMB) page. This tactic achieves a two-fold result: it gives Google a clear understanding of business and helps customers select a store at the expenses of its competitors.
Now, to increase local ranking, the information must accurate and consistent across all channels. This is why periodic checks should be made to ensure the information is up-to-date; it will increase Google’s confidence in the business and so the customers’.
So, if you haven’t claimed your GMB page, do it today! Don’t forget to include opening hours and driving directions included (as recommended by GMB Guidelines).
2. Let customers review your business
Let’s be honest here, who hasn’t checked online reviews before making a purchase or visiting a business? We all know that a positive review can often be the deciding factor.
Positive reviews have become such a powerful tool for attracting new customers (see data), that Google has been including reviews as a determining factor to the credibility of a business (see data and GMB Help Page).
But how can you convince people to review your business? Simply offer a small discount or gift in exchange for one. A small token of appreciation is nothing compared to the impact that a positive review can make to your business.
Someone left a negative one? Reply to the customer, offer to make it up for them. Once you have acted, you don’t need to do anything else. People will appreciate your commitment and discard the opinion of unreasonable people.
3. Showcase your local commitment
In addition to their online presence, many store owners connect locally with like-minded businesses, participate and sponsor local events. This proactive approach not only increases brand awareness in the community but also local ranking as upcoming events can be displayed on GMB pages.
Therefore, promoting local events is an effective way to show your dedication to your community and differentiate yourself from the competition. As Google strives to give users the most up to date information (Google trends, anyone?) showcasing an upcoming event could help your business being featured in the local pack.
4. Make GMB an extension of your website
GMB and your business website should work in sync as a single entity. One way to do this is to update both sites at the same time. This step is essential for keeping brand consistency and helping both Google and your customers to easily identify your business, no matter the site they are visiting (some ideas can be found here).
Therefore, if you are updating your website, I recommend updating your GMB page as well (or vice-versa). Such changes could include key business information such as opening hours or more branding-related updates such as photo galleries.
5. Be better than your competitors
Despite applying local SEO best practice, businesses might fail to rank high enough to be displayed in Google’s “local snap pack”.
If you find that your business doesn’t get displayed in the local pack when searching for business related queries, browse the websites that made the cut. Is their website easy to navigate? Does it load faster? Does it allow online booking? These are a few questions you might ask when analyzing a competitor’s website. For more ideas, check section 2 of this blog post.
6. Invest in link-building
A well-established business shows trust and authority. Online this means receiving inbound links from reputable, legitimate sites. Receiving links from high-quality websites is one of the most efficient ways to gain domain authority and rank higher on Google’s SERPs (high-quality is key here).
From a business point of view, building meaningful relationships is one of the most efficient ways to attract links. People will organically link back to your site when you provide value. However, there’s nothing wrong in asking another business for an inbound link. An easy way would be to write a high-quality blog post for another business’ site which contains hyperlinks pointing to your site.
If you implement these six local SEO tips, your business will definitely see a boost in local search ranking. And hopefully, a place in the “local snap pack”.
As a digital analyst who knows the importance of efficiently recording and reporting marketing activities, there are moments where you feel overwhelmed.
You know that tracking is at the core of every marketing strategy (Avinash Kaushik anyone?), but at the same time, you are often full of doubts. Does this product update need a brand new campaign? Does this Facebook update belongs to the Social Media Campaign or the Product Launch Campaign? Possibilities are endless, your patience…a little less.
The frustration that I just described can become even more unbearable when results are expected to happen fast. Perhaps, when you joined a new company and want to impress your senior manager or when you want to pitch a new client. Or when you realized your predecessor never bothered tracking anything or that their tracking strategy took inspiration from the Memento plot!
Unfortunately, there is no choice, but taking a deep breath and start putting reason into the digital madness.
Luckily for you, I have already slain the dragon, and I’m here to show you how you can do the same. In few easily repeatable steps, you’ll always be able to track any campaign and effectively report your results to any client, manager or stakeholder.
Tracking and reporting will never be the same again.
Step 1: Set up your campaign structure
Independently from the business, you will run a certain number of marketing campaigns throughout the year. Those might include:
Product launch [to introduce a new product to the market]
Newsletter [to communicate to your clients]
Seasonal promotion [offers and discounts]
Product promotion [to promote a product that is not selling]
Events and workshops
I would recommend having a brainstorm at the beginning of each financial year, to determine how many types of campaigns the team will be running. To come up with ideas, I would suggest to include questions such as:
Generate more traffic. Increase user engagement. Generate more leads. Repeat.
If you are like me someone that deals with digital marketing, SEO and website development on a daily basis, you are most likely very much familiar with the above mantra.
However, despite promising ourselves to dedicate an equal amount of time to each phase (traffic-engagement-leads) we end up spending most of our time and energies in generating organic, high value traffic. As we feel that our number one priority is to bring more people to our website, we dedicate most of our efforts to generate witty email campaigns, unmissable special offers, strategic Google Adverts, engaging social media updates and white-hat SEO implementations.
But what about the journey of a user from first-time visitor to potential customer? Are we sure that everything is so perfectly optimized that we can just ignore that phase between first visit and final purchase? Are we totally sure we are not missing out on something? Maybe something as vital as more customers?
Let’s find out…
First thing first: Google Analytics
As always Google Analytics should be our first stop. GA is packed with great insights just waiting to be discovered. In this specific case, we are interested to discover what is the abandon rate of our site.
Let’s look at our most visited pages. Are people visiting other pages or do they exit from the same page? Are most of the people leaving when reaching a specific page?
If that is the case, we should consider the following questions…
1. Is our page visually appealing?
On the internet the competition is fierce. To win the battle for users’ attention, a site needs to stand out both in terms of content and style.
Good content should:
Have a clear goal, stated in the title
Be Clear, concise and accessible to the ideal user
Be Educational, engaging and comprehensive
Be unique (speak your mind and use your voice)
Contain high quality images and high resolution videos as visual aids
Good style should:
Present a clear title that stir emotions: be bold in bold!
Contain a body text that is at least 16px and divided in paragraphs
Present italic, bold and underlined words to help readers
2. Is the loading speed causing people to leave the site?
If a page takes too long to load, visitors might have already pressed the back time before the website page has even started appearing on their computer screen. To find out if the loading page is killing future leads, we need to run PageSpeed Insight test. If the final score is high enough (above 50/100 and highlighted in green), the site is good to go. If the final score turns out to be below 50/100 and highlighted in yellow or red, it is time to get busy. Luckily, the website gives suggestions of what should be implemented to load faster, from images and CSS minified to browse cache.
3. Are we suggesting users what to do next?
It might be that after visiting a page -even a good one- our users are not given a reason to stay. It is therefore our responsibility to give users a reason to stay by carefully implementing a call-to-action, or CTA. The idea is to turn passive users active. An example of great CTAs?
Ask users to leave a comment…yes, ask them!
Recommend users the benefits of watching a video or downloading a PDF
Encourage users to subscribe to a newsletter
Encourage users to visit more pages by adding hyperlinks
4. Could we take advantage of personalized CTAs?
The idea behind personalized CTAs is to create a call-to-action relevant to any stage of a customer’s journey; from first time visit to first time buyer. If someone just landed on our website and it is still in the process to evaluate our site, offering a free download could help turning an occasional visitor into a potential customer. Conversely, someone thinking already about purchasing could be more interested in contacting a customer support helpline or taking advantage of a first time purchase discount. Whatever your CTA consider using:
A clear title that exemplifies what the benefit is about
A subtitle that adds some extra clarification
Visual aid to make your CTA appealing
A button that encourages conversion
Is your page F-shaped?
According to a study conducted from the Norman Nielsen Group in 2006, people read a webpage in a manner that resembles a F-shaped pattern. People focus mostly on the top part of the page, scroll through the middle and skim the last section. By keeping this in mind, you can structure your page by positioning your key elements along the F-shape.
Add a sprinkle of self-promotion
Show people that your customers trust and love your brand. Add a touch of self-promotion by showing:
Logos of companies that benefited from your services
Testimonials in the form of feedback that vouch for the great experience
We all know as SEO and marketing oriented people, that headline rocks: they are calculated as important factors in SEO, they help ranking high in SERPs, they encourage people to click on links and consequently affect click-through-rate (CTR), traffic and return on investment (ROI). As many experts keep repeating the same old adagio: “pay attention to your headlines”, in this article I will present few steps on how to get better at writing headlines that drive traffic.
Step 1: Come up with a topic
When I start thinking about writing a new blog post, my main idea represents my very first headline. Let’s say I want to write about creating headlines. My first title would be something like “How to create headlines“. This helps remind me what I want to write about even few days after I got the idea.
Then, when I start writing, I let the inspiration flow.Only at the end, when I re-read my blog several times, make the needed changes in terms of style, grammar and content I might end up either changing the title completely or refining my first draft. It might be that while writing the proverbial juices took over and I ended up diverting from my main topic; instead of talking only about headlines, I started talking about the essential elements that every blogger should keep in mind when writing. If that was the case, I need a major title change. Conversely, if the title still applies, I move to the next step.
CoSchedule-How to make better Headlines: Test1
One of my favorite SEO tools is definitely CoSchedule headline analyzer, as it gives a headline a score out of 100 based on four main parameters: common, uncommon, emotional and power words. The title “how to create headlines” gets a score of 61/100 which is equal to a C-. As expected from a very first draft, the title need some improvements. By looking at CoSchedule analysis, the headline is considered too short and too light in words. In addition, it does not include either keywords that people look for or strong negative or positive words that people are generally attracted to. Taking inspiration from the result, we can start making the headline more attractive by adding keywords and emotional terms.
Step 2: Add keywords to help SERP
As highlighted in step1, our headline needs a little bit of TLC; in specific, it needs additional keywords and emotional words. To begin with, “How to create headlines” could be improved by adding “for your blog“. This option achieves multiple goals: it adds length, specificity and contributes to generate interest in people who are looking for a guide on how to generate better titles to attract an audience. Finally, to make the title even more specific, I decided to change “create” with “write“. The final title will then be “How to write headlines for your blog“.
CoSchedule-How to make better Headlines: Test2
The second proposed headline scores already much better, 72/100 indicating how adding just few extra keywords helps generating a more powerful headline. As the headline contains now 7 words, CoScheduleranks the new title having a good length, in terms of words and characters. However, it ranks poorly in terms of sentiment as it does not express a strong feeling but rather a neutral one. So far, our title has the right length, contains keywords such as headline and blog, but needs a bigger emphasis on generating a strong negative or positive feeling. Therefore, our next step would be coming up with words that stir strong emotions in our readers.
Step 3: Add some feelin’
As indicated in Step2, our headline needs some keywords that stir strong emotions, either positive or negative feelings.
If we think about it, there are 5 aspects on which our lives turn around: health, finances, relationships, emotions and purpose. Every time an headline dips into one of these aspects the chances of stirring people’s interest raises. Lets’ give you one example for each scenario:
How to create headlines and become a less stressed blogger (health advantage)
How to create headlines and increase sales (financial advantage)
How to create headlines to engage with your audience (relationship advantage)
How to create headlines to inspire your readers (emotional advantage)
How to create headlines that turn people into entrepreneurs (strategic advantage)
Therefore, we could stir feeling by simply referring to one of these key aspects of everyone’s life. Let’s take into account the first case: we dip into a strong feeling (being stressed) and also the cause of such stress (writing a blog) by addressing a solution (How to write headlines). Therefore our new title would be something like: “How to write headlines and become a better blogger“.
CoSchedule-How to make better Headlines: Test3
The third proposed headline has again an higher score compared to our first one. It scores 73/100, a B+. The headline has the right amount of words and characters, it contains enough emotional and power words.
By adding “to become a better blogger“, we specify that the article will address mostly bloggers who might strive to become better at what they do. As bloggers we have also more freedom in creating headlines that might range from very technical to humorous, a liberty that marketeers might not (often) have. As we have now covered all the main aspects of what makes a good headline, we could just stop here and be satisfied with our final product. However, we could try to strive for more and maybe get some better insights into headline making; for instance, by changing headlines to powerful headlines, we score 74/100 in Coschedule. We have now a great title!
Step 4: Take advantage of Marketing History
Marketing has been around since mankind started trading. We can easily imaging merchants promoting the wonders of their goods to potential customers. Marketing acquired a well-rounded scientific identity starting from the 20th century, when people such as Howard Gossage, Leo Burnett and Claude C. Hopkins helped defying marketing key features still valid today. In particular, the pioneering work of Hopkins helped the understanding of how headlines can contribute to the success or failure of a marketing campaign.
As explained by Peter Sandeen, in his book “101 headlines formula” you can basically write any headline by following some simple rules:
Start with a positive headline: “You need to”, “The secret of”, “What you can do”
Ask a question: “Where”, “Why”, “Would you”, “Which one”?
Be inspirational: “Learn today”, “Do not be afraid”, “Discover how”, “The easiest”
Explain how: “The art of”, “Boost your”, “Become more”, “Here’s how”
Despite not getting a higher score on CoSchedule by adding words such as “Learn Today” or “The art of” to my title, they are still valid in helping you generate better titles.
In conclusion, to create powerful headlines, you need to:
Come up with a topic you want to write about
Summarizes your post content in 3-5 words
Add some keywords to make it more specific
Give your post keywords that stir strong feelings and raise emotions
Take advantage of past marketing successes and learn from them
Test your final product with CoSchedule headline analyzer
In this post I will discuss how to run a short SEO Audit for Zoopla, a property group online ecommerce site. I left out Google Analytics as I cannot access the site’s GA page and any tool that do not offer a free option. All the remaining steps that I will be describing here are totally free.
As SEO expert you are expected to be focusing on increasing the volume of qualified and relevant traffic to Zoopla Property Group from major search engines.
1. START CRAWLING
A spider software such as Screaming Frog is able to crawl a site in a similar manner to Googlebot and therefore is able to identify eventual site’s structure errors that might prevent the search engine from indexing the site. According to Screaming Frog results, there are 5 pages blocked by robots and 1 page with 302 error and 1 pages (found) with 301 status (moved permanently). This is a very good result as the 5 blocked pages are users’ account pages (/myaccount, /signin, /propertyclaim).
2. PAGE SOURCE ANALYSIS
Page source can provide a lot of information regarding on page SEO such as:
An optimized clickable title, which contains emotional and niche-related keywords
Presence of headers (H1 tags) and sub-headers (H2, H3 and H4)
Meta-tags such as title, description and keywords that provide SERPs and encourage clicks
Zoopla on-page SEO analysis will try to answer questions such as:
How does Google Search Engine see Zoopla?
Is the Homepage optimized for user experience?
Does it show unique content?
Is it easy to use?
Is the website optimized with Meta-tags and tailored Keywords?
Are Images described with ALT text?
Are Sitemaps and Robots.txt present?
THE SITE HOMEPAGE SOURCE
The Meta-tags are still important SEO factors as they help crawlers and users to identify what a webpage is about and therefore a particular attention needs to be paid when choosing meta-tags as keywords in page titles help pages rank higher and title-tags are often used as the title of a search snippet link in search engine results pages. According to the “View Page Source“:
The Title Tag contains keywords that describe Zoopla identity
The Description Tag contains keywords that provide information on Zoopla USP
The Keywords Tag has not been included. It might be worth adding one.
The page headlines
The Headline(H1) is still an important ranking factor and therefore a particular attention needs to be paid when choosing a title that helps to ranks well and attracts users.
The headline (H1) makes clear that the page is about “Finding a property in UK”
It clearly states the user’s advantage (“Find your next home”)
Sub-headers (H2, H3) might not help a site to rank higher, however they should be used in to help visitors navigate the site by breaking up page’s content in a logical manner and therefore they could provide a good opportunity to target secondary keywords/phrases. On Zoopla Homepage there are 5 H2 sub-headers which correspond to 5 different topics styled using CSS:
There are 3 H3 sub-headers which correspond to three well defined topics:
Newly listed properties in the UK
Property guides and tools
3. PRODUCT PAGE SOURCE
An internal page, such as “for-sales/details/40529388” shows:
A title-tag that corresponds to the page headlines (H1 and H2)
A description-tag that corresponds to the page headlines (H1 and H2) plus the property price (amount + guide price) and the agency name
There is no keywords-tag which could eventually be added for better SEO
Finally, the internal page presents a H4 and one H5 headlines. H4 is used for the Zoopla disclaimer an H5 for the Transport right-hand side-menu.
4. UNIQUE CONTENT
Google Search Test
In addition to meta-tags and headlines, another issue is often a poorly optimized page that contain thin or duplicated content; for instance the product page contains either a very short description or something that has been copied from the supplier. If we search for the above property in Google, Zoopla site is the first one to come up (above Rightmove, the first Zoopla competitor in the UK market). This is an amazing result as it shows a great SERP optimization for single property pages.
Google Keywords Test
If “buy property in UK” is typed in Google search engine, Zoopla ranks at position 3 below Rightmove. The same happens if “rent property in UK” is typed in a search engine. Therefore, this result indicates that Zoopla can still be optimized to rank higher. Some tests need to be run:
Site Health Audit to identify potential ares for on-page SEO optimizations
Competitor analysis to identify what the competitor is doing differently
Social media and off-page optimization analysis
Google Brand Test
When searching for the brand name in Google Chrome, Zoopla homepage is the first result, as expected from a site that has not been penalized. In addition, the second result is the Twitter account, the third the Wikipedia page and the fourth the Zoopla Android app. However, the Facebook and the Pinterest accounts do not appear on the first and that might suggest that social media presence could be optimized. In addition, social media share buttons could be added to the property pages to encourage shares.
Google Site Operator Test
Searching for site:www.zoopla.co.uk on Google Chrome, Google returns 20M results. This result needs to be compared with the effective number of pages on the site to identity eventual issues in the indexing.
First, have a look at Google Webmaster Tool under Crawl > Crawl Errors to determine if Google is reporting any issues with crawling the site. If Google is reporting 404 (not found) or 403 (access denied) errors, these need to be addressed. According to our previous Screaming Frog analysis, there are 2 301 and only one 302 redirects. Despite the fact that the analysis is limited to 500 pages only, this is a very good indication of an optimal site crawlability. However, it should also been taken into account that by providing multiple ways to browse the product catalog, all of which are indexable by default could give rise to duplication in the indexation. It’s definitely something to consider when conduction a deeper audit.
Google Webmaster Tools will provide suggestions of what needs to be optimized in terms of HTML by simply visiting Search Appearance > HTML Improvements. However, as I cannot visit GWT for Zoopla I will rely on Screaming Frog. In this case Screaming Frog is reporting:
44 over 65 characters
9 below 30 characters
55 over 482 pixels
7 below 200 pixels
There are no missing or duplicated titles
37 over 65 characters
2 below 70 characters
34 over 928 pixels
2 below 400 pixels
1 over 70 characters
In addition, the Screaming Frog analysis shows:
Images are all optimized as they all have an Alt Text description below 100 characters and a size no bigger than 100 Kb.
There are no broken links
An SEO Analysis using an automatic SEO tool such as Varvy, shows:
A site’s quality is largely determined by the quality of the incoming links and this is why it is important to keep an eye on the backlink profile of any site in order to disavow bad links and at the same time identify opportunities for improvement. A quick, manual audit on the site’s link profile can be performed using an automatic tool such as Moz, Majestic or Ahrefs to look for any obvious issues. To start with enter the URL into Site Explorer and click ‘Search’. Zoopla’s Moz analysis shows:
There are 3,601 unique root domains linking to Zoopla vs 885 K of total links
The site has a Domain Authority of 77/100
The Page Authority is 81/100
Anchor Text Analysis
The anchor text is clickable text in a hyperlink. The words contained in the anchor text can help defying the ranking that the page will receive by search engines. According to Remove’em, the anchor text distribution appear fine as most of the anchors have a low density (below 10%). Anchor text that appear having a density higher than 10%, are brand-name anchors, such as Zoopla and zoopla.co.uk. Brand anchors can have a high density on a single page and do not negatively affect SEO, but rather provide to establish brand authority.
Backlinks and Anchor Text
Majestic Backlinks analysis showed that 1/4 of total links. This rate respects Google’s guidelines as the the vast majority of your site’s backlinks are expected to be followed.
The backlinks appear to be topically relevant as they come from industry related sites (PrimeLocation, HouseSimple etc.), newspapers (The Guardian) and social sites (Facebook). Backlinks coming from niche-related high quality sites help to establish your site as an authoritative source of information in your industry. For instance, PrimeLocation, a site dedicated to buying and selling houses, has a page authority of 70 and a domain authority of 64, while HouseSimple, an estate agent site, of 44 and 33 respectively. Any backlinks coming from a national newspaper is by definition a huge bonus in ranking. It is important to check if too many of Zoopla backlinks are from low quality sites, otherwise the site could be negatively affected.
5. Page Speed
Google’s PageSpeed Insights Tool is a good starting point for identifying issues which may be affecting the site’s loading speed. The Zoopla URL is first entered into the search bar; then, after hitting ‘Analyse’ Google returns a speed ‘score’ for the Zoopla site (out of 100) on both mobile and desktop. In green is a good score, a yellow score needs improvement and a red score requires attention.
In Zoopla case, the desktop loading speed needs a little attention (78/100), while mobile experience could definitely be improved as it scores pretty low (63/100). The best solution is to start by implementing the suggestions indicated by Google.
6. Off-page SEO
Off-page SEO focuses on optimizing the online presence of Zoopla on other sites, such as niche-related websites, social media platforms, directories and search engines.
Zoopla has an overall very good social media presence: it is present on multiple platforms, it is currently updated regularly and each social media page presents several thousands of followers and likes:
Facebook (544.072 Likes)
Twitter (69.2K followers)
Google + (65.436 followers)
Pinterest (2,1K followers)
However, the content is duplicated among each social platforms which means Zoopla does not take advantage of the power of every social platforms.The same formula is repeated among each social media page: Short Sentence + Image + Link.
A better approach would take advantage of each social media:
Facebook: Longer posts to create a better connections with users
Twitter: Short entries to promote offers and share the latest news
Google+: Encourage shares among communities
Pinterest: Encourage Pins by showing your best/latest properties
Create longer posts to encourage connections with your followers
Periodically update cover photo to promote the latest hot properties
Add links to valuable sites (for instance, how to take care of a big garden, what questions to ask when buying a Victorian property, most profitable areas where investing etc.) to prove your site is more than an estate agency
Re-share important posts of niche-related posts
Encourage click-to-action (Click here to know more about [Topic])
Use #hashtags to reach a bigger audience and encourage new followers
Share updates about the human side of your business (your team doing something fun) or why Zoopla is a great place to work with etc…
Ask people to post images on your business page (you could run a contest, such as #greenestgarden)