Use Semantic Markup to Improve Your Local SEO

This is an article I recently wrote for the Triangle edition of Natural Awakenings Magazine. It appeared in the February issue and can be viewed here.

Semantic markup can significantly improve the Click through Rate (CTR) of a small business’s listings in search results. Semantic markup is an underutilized on-page SEO tactic in the small business space.


What is semantic markup?

Semantic markup is a collection of schemas (html tags) that small business webmasters can use to markup their pages in ways recognized by major search providers. Search engines, including Google, Bing and Yahoo, rely on this markup to improve the display of search results, making it easier for people to find the right web pages. Using the right schemas to markup the most important bits of data about your local business can help your search listings stand out from your competitors, gaining your listings a higher Click through Rate. Over time, this can also improve your search rankings because Click through Rate is one metric used to determine ranking. There are many schemas, and some are more important than others. I believe the following list is valuable to nearly every
small business with a website.

The authorship markup allows your personal profile and picture to show up beside your  website’s search result listings. Authorship can be used by any business owner and can be very valuable for those who do business based on their personal reputation and  expertise, such as a dentist or attorney. To learn more, go to Google and search: Google authorship.

Local Business Schema
This schema is used to markup your business address and contact information. There are related markups, such as hours of operation and payment types. This schema is essential for any local business that serves customers from one or more physical locations.

Testimonial semantic markup identifies text on your site as customer testimonials about your products or services. If you markup your testimonials, Google may include them in some of your search listings. If you serve people directly, as in a restaurant or a car repair shop, you will be surprised by how many times people are searching “your business name reviews.” Adding testimonials with the correct semantic markup can help your website show up and get better Click through Rates for “review” related search queries.

The products schema is a set of markups that structure product data so it can be displayed as a rich snippet. Product data points include price, customer rating and inventory status. This is a great set of schemas for small businesses that sell products online or those that only sell out of their store but do list their available products online.

Meta descriptions
One of the earliest forms of semantic markup is meta descriptions. Most small business websites either don’t have meta descriptions or have the same one duplicated on every page. Each page should have its own unique meta description of no more than 156 characters. Instead of copying and pasting the first sentence of the page, write a short description containing descriptive keywords of what each page is about. The search engines still use the meta description (sometimes in its entirety) as the descriptive (black) text of your page’s search listing. Make it count.

Detailed semantic markup is the relatively low hanging fruit in the world of small business and local SEO. Chances are, most of your local competitors aren’t employing semantic markup to achieve the rich snippet search listings that will make your business stand out from the crowd. Depending on your website configuration and what data you are trying to
structure, semantic markup can require extensive coding. While the upfront cost can be significant, it is easily justified by the improvement in your listing’s Click through Rate over the short term, and the improved search rankings for your site over the long term.

Contact Allie Mims at Komodo Online Marketing, 1009 Wade Ave, Ste 532 in Raleigh. Phone 919-432-4506

How Social is Your SEO?

This is an article I recently wrote for the Triangle edition of Natural Awakenings Magazine. It appeared in the November issue and can be viewed here.

Changes in Internet users’ behavior and search engine algorithms mean that social engagement and unique content will deliver top results. The days of old school SEO tricks such as mini-sites, numerous pages of thin content targeting long-tail keywords and other classic methods of achieving high rankings for relevant keyword phrases, are over. Those methods alone don’t work anymore. The social media channel has grown in popularity with Internet users, and in importance for the search engines in determining content relevance and authority. As a result, social factors are gaining increasing weight in determining which brands show up where in the search results.

Relevance is the primary objective of Google and other search engines when it comes to organic (non-paid) search. They are constantly trying to improve their algorithms’ ability to determine the relevance of a piece of content to the keyword phrase a user is searching for and that user’s intent.  User interactions on social media sites are providing search engines with new data points that can help them determine relevance. Social metrics such as likes, shares, retweets, +1s, repins, and reblogs are used by Google and Bing to determine the authority and popularity of content.

This, of course, has serious implications for a business’s online presence and marketing efforts.  To maintain or improve their rankings in Google, brands and businesses must be engaging with clients, vendors and fans. They must start and participate in conversations. Conversations about their products and services, and about the communities in which they live and operate, the industry in general, and the many shared interests of their customers.

How to make your SEO strategy more social

Keep in mind these are just general suggestions.  Each business is unique, and what works well for one may not work for another. One important thing a business owner can do is work to integrate their website and social media accounts as much as possible. Making content easily accessible and shareable is a great first step. Having social sharing tools on your site’s pages and blog is probably the easiest way. When it comes to Facebook, don’t just talk about yourself and your products and services.  Learn to use Facebook as your page, and participate in conversations about topics that would interest your customers. Ask thoughtful questions.  Share links and interesting content.

Be useful and of value on Twitter by sharing content, news and links that would be of interest to customers.  Providing useful and timely information will get you followers, and they will retweet your content and help grow your audience as well as your social clout with the search engines. Youtube is a great way to share useful and unique content.  If you have enough videos, creating a YouTube channel for your brand is a great way to enable users to view and share your content. If you have great visuals of your products or services in action, or of related interests, consider sharing those on Pintrest and repinning similar visuals from other users.

This is not to say that you should completely abandon your website and let it become static and outdated. Your website is your core online asset and is the one thing you have the most control of online. Your social media accounts should be an extension of your website. Use them to tell the story of your brand and provide value to your followers.