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.

Authorship
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.

Testimonials
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.

Products
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.

 

Roundup: Microsoft-Yahoo Search Deal

ms-yahoo

Well the big news of the day has been the big Microsoft-Yahoo Search deal that was announced this morning.  All the search marketing blogs, tech blogs, news sites, and everyone else has been talking about it.  With the avalanche of deal information and opinion out there, we thought we’d wade through the content and post some links to the stories and posts we found to be the most interesting.

Before we get to the round-up list, let’s quickly go over the basics of the deal.

  • The term of the agreement is 10 years.
  • Microsoft will acquire an exclusive 10 year license to Yahoo!’s core search technologies, and Microsoft will have the ability to integrate Yahoo! search technologies into its existing Web search platforms;
  • Microsoft’s Bing will be the exclusive algorithmic search and paid search platform for Yahoo! sites. Yahoo! will continue to use its technology and data in other areas of its business such as enhancing display advertising technology;
  • Yahoo! will become the exclusive worldwide relationship sales force for both companies’ premium search advertisers. Self-serve advertising for both companies will be fulfilled by Microsoft’s AdCenter platform, and prices for all search ads will continue to be set by AdCenter’s automated auction process;
  • Each company will maintain its own separate display advertising business and sales force;
  • Yahoo! will innovate and “own” the user experience on Yahoo! properties, including the user experience for search, even though it will be powered by Microsoft technology;
  • Microsoft will compensate Yahoo! through a revenue sharing agreement on traffic generated on Yahoo!’s network of both owned and operated (O&O) and affiliate sites;
  • Microsoft will pay traffic acquisition costs (TAC) to Yahoo! at an initial rate of 88 percent of search revenue generated on Yahoo!’s O&O sites during the first five years of the agreement; and
    • Yahoo! will continue to syndicate its existing search affiliate partnerships
    • Microsoft will guarantee Yahoo!’s O&O revenue per search (RPS) in each country for the first 18 months following initial implementation in that country;
  • At full implementation (expected to occur within 24 months following regulatory approval), Yahoo! estimates, based on current levels of revenue and current operating expenses, that this agreement will provide a benefit to annual GAAP operating income of approximately $500 million and capital expenditure savings of approximately $200 million. Yahoo! also estimates that this agreement will provide a benefit to annual operating cash flow of approximately $275 million; and
  • The agreement protects consumer privacy by limiting the data shared between the companies to the minimum necessary to operate and improve the combined search platform, and restricts the use of search data shared between the companies. The agreement maintains the industry-leading privacy practices that each company follows today.

It is important to note, that the integration of Bing and Yahoo core search could take up to 24 months to complete.  So this isn’t going to turn your SEO campaign on it’s head overnight, but it is important to keep tabs on the merger over the coming months and begin to develop a strategy to address the new, more important Bing search.

Microsoft-Yahoo Search Deal News Roundup

Microsoft press release: Microsoft, Yahoo! Change Search Landscape

Yahoo! blog post: What our Microsoft deal means to you

Henry Blodget gives his first take on the Microsoft-Yahoo deal over at businessinsider.com

Rand Fishkin published a great post at SEOmoz about the Top 10 Things the Microsoft/Yahoo! Deal Changes for SEO

From TechCrunch:

Yahoo Search Powered By Microsoft Bing: What SEMs Need To Know from Search Engine Roundtable

It’s Finally Official, Microsoft & Yahoo Make A Deal, Yahoo Gives Up On Search from Search Engine Land

From Marketing Pilgrim:

Feel free to add links to other interesting opinions about the deal in the comments section.

Marketers Preparing for Pricier PPC Ads

MediaPost published a great article yesterday about the increasing costs of paid search and how marketers are coping by investing in natural search. The article includes many quotes from Tim Kauffold, director of business development at Oneupweb.

The following are some of Mr. Kauffold’s quotes from the article along with some of my thoughts on the issue.

“In most cases, natural and paid search campaigns perform better together than they do separately. Greater awareness of a Web site created by a paid ad can lead to more natural traffic. In similar fashion, people are logically more likely to click on a paid promotional ad of marketers they recognize, such as those they’ve encountered during a natural search.” -Kauffold

I would also add that paid search and natural search campaigns perform better together through shared data analysis. Paid search campaigns provide detailed data about which keyword phrases are performing the best. This data is also great at spotting keyword trends like what keywords have increasing conversion rates and vice versa over a given period of time. Marketers can use this keyword data for their SEO campaigns to optimize content around those keyword phrases. On the flip-side, traffic data gathered from search engine optimization can give insights into user behavior on your website. These insights can help marketers improve the quality of paid search landing pages.

“One of the things that surprises marketers–particularly those who have been using the media for several years–is how the costs are rising. They think, ‘Why doesn’t the same dollar buy me the same volume it used to?’ But there are really big inflation numbers with cost-per-click. It’s still a great avenue, but as more folks jump in, costs are going higher.” -Kauffold

I briefly covered this basic market concept about two weeks ago in our post covering the Kelsey Group’s annual forecast, but it’s worth repeating here. As Kauffold says, paid search is still a great avenue but costs are increasing. Companies that optimize for natural search will reduce their dependence on paid search for leads and customers.

“Paid search is a media buy, and natural search optimization is an investment in the site itself, and that can take some time–maybe even a few months–to see results,” -Kauffold

This statement pretty much speaks for itself, and it is a statement that is important to remember. Many large companies and tech/internet related companies have known this for years. However, many small businesses and franchise companies are just beginning to realize the importance of natural search optimization and how long it takes to see results. If anything, undertaking a search engine optimization campaign is all about building a foundation for the future.

An introduction to search snippets

Google’s Matt Cutts uploaded the following video to his blog last night. In the video, Matt discusses the anatomy of a Google search result. In particular he discusses the search snippet and the many different ways that Google’s algorithm “generates” this snippet.

As you can see, the search snippet is a valuable indicator of relevancy for a searcher. It basically tells the searcher a little bit about what content is on the page in relation to their search query. As Matt mentioned, Google will sometimes generate this snippet using your page’s meta description tag or Google can pull some text from one or more areas of the page. By optimizing its meta description tags and the content on its pages, a franchise company can increase search engine traffic to its website. Including information such as an individual location’s physical address, areas served, etc. in that page’s meta description tag and body text, a searcher is much more likely to see relevant information in the snippet. Then (hopefully) they will visit your site.

Thanks to Matt for making this video.

Welcome to SEO Komodo

The first post to our first blog. Wow!

The dragon is here to optimize your presence on the web. SEO Komodo provides comprehensive website analysis and search engine optimization services that strengthen your organization’s presence in search engine results and throughout the internet. Find out more at our Search Engine Optimization Homepage