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The new realities of local search

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The concept of “local search” has always been somewhat ambiguous in terms of how it’s defined, how it functions and who uses it. Broadly speaking, local search helps users locate nearby services or retailers based on physical location. Over the years, local search has improved with the widespread adoption of mobile devices and the ever-increasing accuracy of geolocation services.

But the lines have always been blurred. For example, does the local branch or store of a national or international corporation count as a “local” provider? And now, with the advent of one-day or even same-day delivery by giants like Amazon or WalMart, is “local” even a meaningful differentiator at all?

These and other issues are the subject of The Evolving Landscape Of Local Search panel, taking place at SMX Advanced on Wednesday, June 5 in Seattle. In this session, you’ll learn that traditional SEO techniques are still integral for reaching locally targeted audiences, but other factors are now also playing a significant role in success. You’ll learn how to improve your results by focusing on reviews, questions and answers, knowledge panel management and other organic tactics.

“The biggest challenge facing Local SEOs these days is the changing Local SERPs,” said Andrew Shotland, one of the speakers on the panel. “Google keeps putting ads and Google-owned properties all over them making it tricky for SEOs. And as Google keeps adding new features to Google My Business (e.g. GMB posts) prioritization of work has become trickier as we need to continually test what’s worth investing in for clients.”

You’ll also need to keep an eye on new options for local advertising: Product listing and map ads, location extensions, local inventory ads — the list goes on.

And last but not least, you’ll learn how to combat spam, the bane of all SEOs. This is especially important when competitors have managed to optimize spammy content to outperform your own listings and locations. “Local spam has become more and more prolific,” said Conrad Saam, another speaker on the panel. “Previously it was in the realm of locksmiths and plumbers, but it is now invading Main street across America in various different industries. We plan to demonstrate the various techniques that local spammers use so you can spot fake offices and have them removed from the map.”

If you’re responsible for local SEO, you won’t want to miss this crucial session at SMX Advanced. Check out the full SMX Advanced agenda and register now.


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The North Face gets a thumbs down from SEO community after manipulating Google image search results

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Last week, outdoor clothing brand The North Face and its ad agency Leo Burnett Tailor Made, came under fire after the agency updated images on Wikipedia pages for popular travel destinations. The efforts were part of a campaign to get The North Face branding at the top of Google image search results when anyone searched for the corresponding travel locations.

The brand initially claimed it collaborated with Wikimedia for the SEO campaign, but later apologized for the campaign after the Wikimedia Foundation published a response saying The North Face had unethically manipulated Wikipedia and risked the trust in Wikipedia’s mission, “for a short-lived marketing stunt.”

“I am actually honestly shocked this campaign ran,” said SEO consultant and podcast host Dan Shure, “I don’t know how anyone seeing it doesn’t just get a bad taste in their mouth.”

Advertising at its worst

Shure isn’t alone in his shock that a brand would take such a risk. Dana DiTomaso, president of digital marketing and SEO agency Kick Point, called the The North Face campaign advertising at its worst.

“Either the agency didn’t understand what they were doing, or were hoping to mislead people, or both,” said DiTomaso, “It’s also very clear that they knew they would be caught and the ‘sorry we’re naughty!’ response would be part of the buzz the campaign generated.”

Shure called the campaign clever, but a poor decision on the agency’s part.

“There are a lot of ways to piggyback on other strong authoritative sites ranking in Google, but you should only do that if it’s ethical,” said Shure, “For example, you can answer questions in Quora that rank well in Google. And as long as your answer is thorough and not spammy, I see this as a good way to leverage another site ranking in Google for visibility.”

Shure believes the campaign was self-serving and shortsighted on the part of The North Face and its agency.

A black mark on the SEO industry?

Most likely, The North Face’s ill-advised campaign has not impacted the SEO industry as a whole. But, it definitely doesn’t support the industry in terms of how people outside the community view SEO work.

“I think there are people that believe in SEO and those that don’t. A stunt like this will serve to reinforce the beliefs of those that already think it’s spammy, or are not willing to do the homework to see there is indeed a ‘good’ style of SEO,” said Shure.

As an SEO consultant, Shure has worked with everyone from CEOs to writers and PPC experts, and says many people still believe in the benefits of SEO.

“There are a lot of people who are not SEOs themselves, but believe in SEO despite there being a lot of snake oil in the business.”

The ethical implications of trickster SEO campaigns

The North Face’s campaign may have resulted in more exposure to the brand, but at what cost? In its post addressing the campaign, Wikipedia Foundation said The North Face’s efforts were “akin to defacing public property” and its Twitter thread on the topic drew much criticism from people who found the brand’s strategy distasteful.

DiTomaso, who called The North Face’s initial case study of the campaign laughable, said she’s sure it will win an award somewhere because many advertising awards are focused on creative instead of results.

“They [The North Face] said that they collaborated with Wikipedia, which we all know is a blatant lie, and they say that they paid nothing which is also a lie — someone was paid to do this work, even if they didn’t pay anything to Wikipedia,” said DiTomaso, “This is obviously a net negative for The North Face, but the award application won’t say that.”

The North Face campaign puts a spotlight on agency practices, forcing the question: Are awards and short-term SEO results worth risking a brand’s reputation?

“For me, it’s simple — I think we all know deep down when something is ethical or not, ” said Shure.

This story first appeared on Search Engine Land. For more on search marketing and SEO, click here.


About The Author

Amy Gesenhues is a senior editor for Third Door Media, covering the latest news and updates for Marketing Land, Search Engine Land and MarTech Today. From 2009 to 2012, she was an award-winning syndicated columnist for a number of daily newspapers from New York to Texas. With more than ten years of marketing management experience, she has contributed to a variety of traditional and online publications, including MarketingProfs, SoftwareCEO, and Sales and Marketing Management Magazine. Read more of Amy’s articles.

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3 metrics small businesses should track to measure SEO success

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Small business owners increasingly understand that website success depends on developing and implementing an SEO strategy.

More than one-third (36%) of small businesses already have an SEO strategy, and an additional 23% plan to develop one in 2019, according to a recent Clutch survey.

While many small business owners understand they need an SEO strategy, many of them struggle to create one that is effective and comprehensive.

To develop and maintain an effective long-term SEO strategy, small business owners need to know the best ways to measure their SEO success.

To understand if your SEO strategy is working, you need to measure efforts that provide context about how your SEO impacts your business. Three metrics, in particular, are useful:

  1. Traffic retention
  2. Backlink quality
  3. Conversion rate

How small businesses currently measure SEO success

Currently, small businesses rely on traffic as the primary barometer of SEO success.

Solely focusing on traffic, though, risks missing more important metrics. Instead, your business needs to consider the quality of your traffic and whether it represents legitimate business opportunities.

“You can have a lot of traffic, but is it relevant? Does it convert?” said Garry Grant, chief executive officer of SEO Inc., an SEO company in California. “There’re so many other factors.”

Tracking metrics that measure context and align with your objectives give your small business the best insight about the success of their SEO.

1. Traffic retention measures the quality of search audiences

To measure the quality of the traffic you earn from search, small businesses can use Google Analytics to determine its traffic retention. This tells you if your SEO efforts are bringing in the right audiences.

Two metrics in particular that help to determine the quality of your search traffic are bounce rate and scroll depth.

Bounce rate is the measure of searchers who visited one page on your site but left without browsing further. A high bounce rate could signal that your site needs work to keep visitors engaged, perhaps with links to related posts or other items of interest.

Search Engine Land columnist John E. Lincoln recommends tracking the bounce rate by landing page to see which ones tend to lose visitors and which ones keep them on the site.

Remember, as Moz points out, that sometimes bounce rate can be an indication that visitors found what they were looking for right away.

To make sure that audiences are substantively engaging with your site content, measure scroll depth to determine how far visitors scroll down individual web pages. Scrolling through your entire page indicates that your content addresses the topic site audiences are interested in.

Breaking down your traffic retention data also is a good way to analyze the effectiveness of your keyword targets.

One reason your bounce rate is high or scroll depth is low may be that you are targeting the wrong keywords for those pages.

2. Backlink quality determines impact of inbound links

Inbound links to your site indicate authority about a topic. As such, you want the actual authority of those links to be from quality sources.

Backlink quality is measured by the number of links from websites with high domain authority (DA).

Keep in mind these key points about backlink quality:

  1. Relevance: The more pertinent the site linking to you is to your content, the stronger the endorsement of your content. For example, a link from Search Engine Land indicates authority about an SEO-related topic.
  2. Novelty: Has this site linked to you in the past? Endorsements from new domains can have more impact than a familiar site that has linked to you many times in the past.

While you can’t control all of the links that come to your site, you can target backlink quality via outreach to journalists or guest posting. Your targets should include sites that provide domain authority, relevance to your website, and a new audience.

3. Conversion rate offers insight about the effectiveness of your SEO strategy

To measure SEO success, you need to be clear about your goals for website traffic. Use conversion rates to measure how well you are achieving those goals as you can better define the scope of your SEO and gauge its success.

SEO success is more than merely generating as many leads as possible from search. What’s more important is the quality of those leads. Measuring conversion rate provides insight into whether the leads you attract demonstrate interest in your company.

Broadly speaking, your conversion rate is the number of website visitors who become paying customers. By tracking this, small businesses measure the impact their SEO is having on revenue.

Keep in mind that your conversion rate doesn’t have to measure the number of leads that actually convert on a purchase. Conversions, instead, can represent the desired action – for example, visiting a product description page.

Small businesses need time and context to earn and measure SEO success

Developing and implementing a comprehensive and long-range SEO strategy does not happen overnight.

“Business owners are impatient, says John Vuong, founder of Local SEO Search, a small business SEO company in Toronto. “They’re investing X amount and they’re so used to seeing an immediate return like flyers and newspapers, but SEO is a long-term game.”

Knowing and tracking the right metrics for SEO success is a critical step towards winning that game.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Grayson Kemper is a senior content developer at marketer for Clutch, a ratings and reviews platform for B2B marketing and technology services providers. He is also a senior writer for a B2B news and how-to site.

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The Elements of SEO — Exploring The 2019 Periodic Table of SEO Factors

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Webinar!Since it first debuted in 2011, Search Engine Land’s Periodic Table of SEO has become a globally recognized tool that search professionals have relied on to help them understand the elements essential to a winning SEO strategy. And while much of the foundation of search engine optimization has either stayed the same or has become further entrenched, much has also changed as the web has become more mobile, instantly accessible and aligned to new Internet-connected devices.

Join the expert editorial team from Search Engine Land as they break down the elements that are either essential, are emerging or to be avoided at all costs in a modern SEO strategy. Register today for “The Elements of SEO — Exploring The 2019 Periodic Table of SEO Factors.”


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Marketing Land is a daily publication covering digital marketing industry news, trends, strategies and tactics for digital marketers.

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8 free keyword research tools for SEO (that beat their paid alternatives)

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If you Google for a list of SEO tools, you’ll see there are almost 200 options on the market now.

All of them differ in features, amounts and sources of data, and, definitely, prices. But which of them do you really need? And, most importantly, do you have to fork out hundreds of dollars a month, or is there a way to cut the costs?

Today we’ll explore 8 of the best free keyword research tools. Each of them best fits a specific keyword research task and does the job no worse than their paid alternatives.

  1. Rank Tracker

To find the most ample list of keyword variations and analyze their SEO profitability.

When to use:  

Your best SEO keywords are often not the most obvious ones. To find real keyword gems, you need to dig out all the possible variations from multiple data sources.

And this is where Rank Tracker comes in especially handy with 23 different keyword research tools inside it:

  • Suggestions from Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Amazon;
  • Google Ads Keyword Planner and Google Search Console integration;
  • Database of all SEO keywords your competitors rank for;
  • Long-tail keyword and question generator;
  • Popular misspellings and permutations;
  • And more.

Using the tools one by one, you get the most ample list of keyword ideas. More to that, you can analyze the keywords’ traffic potential and check how fierce their SEO competition is. This lets you focus the SEO efforts on what takes the least effort to bring in the most traffic.

Free version:

Even though the tool has a more feature-rich paid version, the 100%-free version is absolutely enough for keyword research. It lets you use all the research tools and analyze the keywords’ traffic potential.

  2. Google Search Console

To discover “low-hanging fruit” traffic growth opportunities for your current keywords.

When to use:  

Google Search Console is the place to analyze your current SEO keywords with their average Google positions, impressions and CTRs.

Looking through this data is a great way to find unexpected SEO shortcuts. For example, if your URL currently ranks on page two or three, Google already considers it pretty relevant for the keyword. And the URL might need just a little SEO boost to storm onto page one and start bringing you a lot more traffic.

Or you might notice that some of your page-one ranking keywords underperform in terms of clicks (have low CTRs). A little tweaking of their SERP snippets or adding the Schema markup could work wonders here.

Free version:

Google Search Console is free to use.

  3. Google Ads Keyword Planner

To decide which keywords to target with SEO and PPC.

When to use:  

For some keywords, low ad bids make it reasonable to simply purchase keyword clicks with PPC. For others, overly expensive clicks mean you need to win over the traffic with SEO.

So, before starting out any search engine marketing campaign, you need to split your keyword list between SEO and PPC targeting. And the best place to look for the needed data is, obviously, Google Ads Keyword Planner.

The tools shows you search volumes, cost-per-click data, advertiser competition and seasonal traffic fluctuations, all in one place. And it even lets you estimate the prospective PPC spends in your niche.

Free version:

The tool is a free one. However, keep in mind that unless you are already spending enough money in Google Ads campaigns, your search volume analysis is limited to ranges (rather than exact search volumes). And you might need another tool (like Rank Tracker) for more precise search volume analytics.

  4. AnswerThePublic

To find popular questions for featured answers and voice search optimization.

When to use:  

With Google’s ability to better understand natural language, searchers got used to phrasing their queries as questions rather than separate words. And with the rise of voice search, the trend got even further.

Making your content answer exact searcher’s questions is one of the key aspects of your voice search success. Plus, question based content has a bigger chance of squeezing into Google’s featured answers or the so-called “position 0” results.

The quickest and easiest way to find popular questions related to your business niche is AnswerThePublic – a no-brainer tool that combines your main keywords with various question words (like who, what, why, etc.).

Along with questions, you will also get a handful of “preposition” keywords (when your seed keyword is combined with another word via a preposition) and “comparisons” (like “your keyword vs another keyword”).

Free version:

AnswerThePublic is free to use.

 5. Keyword Tool Dominator

To find keywords from Amazon, Etsy and Ebay.

When to use:  

The way your customers search Google differs from the way they search Amazon. In fact, they Google for places to shop at, and search Amazon for the goods they shop for.

So, for you as an Amazon vendor, it isn’t going to be quite enough to simply research SEO keywords for Google. You need to have your listing optimized for Amazon search and Amazon keywords just as well.

A nice tool to dig through the Amazon database is Keyword Tool Dominator. The only thing to keep in mind is that there’s no way to check Amazon’s search volumes. What you get is a plain keyword ideas list.

Free version:

Without a paid license, you can only make three requests to each of the databases (eBay, Amazon, Etsy) a day.

6.  Google Trends

To find the right keywords for your local business.

When to use:  

Quite obviously, user search patterns differ between countries. But, more surprisingly, the trends also vary considerably from region to region.

Google Trends is here to help you identify city/location specific search volume variation. Just have the tool compare two synonymic queries to see how misleading a country level keyword analysis could be for a local biz.

For instance, according to Google Trends, even though “personal injury lawyer” is the most popular search request throughout most of the US states, in Tennessee and New Mexico you’re way better off when optimizing for “personal injury attorney”.

Another no less important use-case is tracking down your keywords’ seasonal fluctuation and being able to reliably predict how this or that keyword is going to perform in it’s high and low seasons.

Free version:

Google Trends is free to use.

7.  Google Correlate

To pull unexpected keyword ideas from adjacent niches.

When to use:  

When thinking of seed keywords for your business, most probably you’ve already listed the most obvious ideas. Say, it comes as no surprise you flower delivery shop should target all kinds of “local florist” and “roses delivery” variations.

But Google Correlate helps you look at your keyword list at a new, unexpected angle, identifying the words, whose seasonal interest fluctuations correlate with that of your main keywords.

For the flower delivery example, our main keywords are in correlation with other female present delivery services: chocolate delivery, dipped strawberries and so on. And even if those have nothing to do with your biz, you can probably utilize them in content targeting for holidays like St. Valentine’s Day.

Free version:

Google Correlate is free to use.

8. Keywords Everywhere

To analyze keywords while you’re browsing.

When to use:  

Keywords Everywhere is a free browser add-on, which lets you analyze keywords while simply browsing Google, Bing, YouTube and other websites.

Whenever you start typing into the search box, search volumes are added to all the keywords you see in Autocomplete suggestions. On the SERPs themselves, a box with new keyword ideas is embedded on the right-hand side of the page, so that you can fill in your keyword list without actually leaving Google.

Free version:

Keywords Everywhere is free to use.

These are the tools to always keep at hand

There’s hardly any SEO task more important than keyword research. Whatever goals you have, and whatever business you run, picking the right SEO keywords lays the basis and adjusts the direction of your SEO campaign. So you’d better make sure to pack your SEO toolset with a few of these free and easy-to-use tools.

About The Author

SEO PowerSuite is a one-stop SEO toolkit that combines pro-level functionality with minimized costs, making full-scale SEO affordable for businesses of any size.The toolkit lets webmasters, marketers, and professional SEOs run full-cycle SEO campaigns and grow rankings, traffic, and sales. The toolkit is always on top of the latest search trends with continuous improvements and feature updates, including the recently added SERP history, rendered site crawling, and in-depth backlink analysis. Since 2005, over 2 million users have grown their business online with SEO PowerSuite.SEO PowerSuite is available for free download on the official website.

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Understanding the role of branded and unbranded search in the customer journey

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Understanding how to rank for both branded and unbranded terms in organic search is critical for marketers looking to build domain authority and capture share of search online. After all, over 3.5 billion searches are conducted each day on Google alone.

When we talk about branded versus unbranded search, it isn’t an either/or proposition. Both are critical. But to rank in search results at moments of high intent, a business must have a strong grasp of the value of each — and where along the customer journey people are most likely to search for unbranded versus branded keywords.

Unbranded search helps you win new customers.

Unbranded keywords refer to search terms that do not specify a specific brand or business name (e.g., a Google search for “NYC restaurants with valet parking” or an Alexa search for “best beignets in NOLA”). Consumers making unbranded searches are more likely to be brand-agnostic shoppers making a general search – or new prospects who are unfamiliar with your brand. As such, this is an opportunity to boost discoverability, start establishing brand trust, and win new customers.

Unbranded keywords often have higher search volumes than branded terms, so identifying the relevant terms for your business and strategies to rank for them should be a top priority. It also means that bidding on these terms in paid search will likely be more expensive than bidding on your brand name, so focus on optimizing for unbranded terms as part of your organic strategy.

Here’s how can your business win at unbranded search.  

Optimize for unbranded keywords.

It’s important to think about the entities that are fundamental to your business. Ask yourself this question: What products or services might a customer interested in your business be looking for? If you’re a bank, the keyword “bank” is an obvious start — but what about customers searching for loan advice, nearby ATMs, or other financial services?

Make sure you optimize for these essential keywords. It’s critical to have clear copy and structured data identifying your fundamental business attributes, both on your local pages and across the many places online (think third-party sites, like TripAdvisor or Yelp) where your brand information appears. Without structured data and copy specifying that each of your bank branch locations has an ATM, for example, search engines won’t be able to find this information — and therefore, neither will your customers.

Manage your business listings.

To show up at the top of SERPs for an unbranded search — particularly in Google’s local pack — the fundamental rules of local SEO still apply. Your business needs to be listed accurately everywhere, so that new customers making a general local search can find you at moments of high intent. This means you need to manage your listings so that your address, hours, business category, and other basic details are correct and consistent.

To rank for the unbranded local search “great breakfast eats,” for example, search engines must be able to identify both:

Having accurate and consistent information about your business, across listings, is what provides these essential details to search engines.

Invest in branded keywords to generate repeat business.

Users searching for a brand name paired with a product or service already know what they want, and they are closer to taking action than those performing unbranded searches. It makes sense to leverage your paid search budget and focus on strategies prioritizing conversion and loyalty.

All of your work to optimize for unbranded search will come into play here, too; these two types of search work together. By optimizing online listings and your website for the products, locations, services, and other entities that you offer, you’re giving search engines with the information they need to deliver structured, verified answers to specific questions customers are asking about your brand, like “where is the nearest Denny’s?” or “Which Courtyard Marriott in Chicago, IL has a pool?”

Winning business today means understanding that customers today have grown used to searching for exactly what they want — meaning products, services, and attributes — and receiving structured answers in search results for their increasingly specific queries.

About The Author

Yext puts businesses in control of their facts online with brand-verified answers in search. By serving accurate, consistent, brand-verified answers to consumer questions, Yext delivers authoritative information straight from the source — the business itself — no matter where or how customers are searching. Taco Bell, Marriott, Jaguar Land Rover, and businesses around the globe use the Yext platform to capture consumer intent and drive digital discovery, engagement, and revenue — all from a single source of truth. Yext’s mission is to provide perfect answers everywhere.

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Site Search Best Practices: Giving Customers What They Need, When They Want It

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Live Webinar!

Are visitors looking for a needle in a haystack when they come to your website? Prospects and customers have an insatiable need for information. If they can’t find what they are looking for quickly and easily, they will stop looking and leave. 

That’s why personalized search results delivered with lightning speed are critical. Search is the most popular site function for manufacturers, and the biggest indicator of a customer’s intent to purchase from distributors. The website is now a crucial priority that directly impacts business revenue.

Join us to learn how how to plan and execute a large search-enabled site and why machine learning, AI and a server-less environment are key to delivering quality content for every search use case, every time. Register today for “B2B Site Search Best Practices: Giving Customers What They Need, When They Want It,” produced by Digital Marketing Depot and sponsored by Coveo.

About The Author

Digital Marketing Depot is a resource center for digital marketing strategies and tactics. We feature hosted white papers and E-Books, original research, and webcasts on digital marketing topics — from advertising to analytics, SEO and PPC campaign management tools to social media management software, e-commerce to e-mail marketing, and much more about internet marketing. Digital Marketing Depot is a division of Third Door Media, publisher of Search Engine Land and Marketing Land, and producer of the conference series Search Marketing Expo and MarTech. Visit us at http://digitalmarketingdepot.com.

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