(7 min read)
Taking a real example from our own website not long after launch we wanted to share a few tricks and techniques to stand out from your competitors in Google, no developer required!*
* Tips provided here can mostly be done by small or medium businesses through a combination of your website content management system ('CMS') if you have one, plugins and Google Tag Manager.
Disclaimer: This is a basic level introduction to search engine visibility and not an SEO guide - these are tips to improve visibility in SERPs (not rankings). Individual experiences may differ depending on your website and situation. Lastly - Nothing can be guaranteed with Google.
Step 1: Google My Business
'Google My Business' is free. For almost all businesses, this is an essential place to start.
You can see below that we even had some difficulty ranking for our own business name initially (more on that later).
A Google search of 'mach digital' returned over 14 million results. Position 1 was initially held by the Facebook page of an unrelated printing company.
The red box on the right is where our Google business listing should have been.
Hey presto! Almost immediately after verification our business map listing started to appear:
*Note that appearing in the map/business results is different to appearing in the main/organic results of Google.
This is a common confusion point. This article explains the difference in more detail.
Step 2: Social Media
Next mission - push down that competitor's Facebook page.
We were having some issues initially verifying our business Facebook page. Since we're primarily a web-based business and don't have a phone number publicly listed, Facebook wouldn't allow us to verify the page by this phone method. We would tackle that later. Note: Facebook states in it's page settings "Verified Pages show up higher in search results."
Google+? What? You're crazy! We're hearing some people say.
For anyone who's generally lost faith in Google+ and doubting it has any effect on web results, check out Mike Blumenthal's excellent local SEO video here.
Step 3: Structured Data
As a bit of extra housekeeping, we added structured data to our page, at this stage focusing on our business details, reviews and social media pages.
There are a number of guides online for adding structured data to your site, so we won't cover it in detail here.
As a quick mention, here are some ways to go about it:
1. Via Google Tag Manager using the JSON-LD method.
This one may not be best in all cases, but it is particularly good if you already have GTM code installed on your side and/or don't want to hassle a developer every time you need something implemented.
In the case of some CMS' like Weebly where things are a bit 'locked down' at times, using GTM can also be good as a workaround to add schema to blog posts etc.
2. If your site is on Wordpress -
3. Or you can try Google's Structured Data Highlighter within Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) to apply structured data to page elements without any coding needed.
The social media structured data is to tell search engines that the social pages are the same business/entity as the website.
The social media 'sameAs' data looks like this when implemented (partial code shown only):
"sameAs" : [
Step 3.5: Reviews / Ratings Data
Working towards positive Google (and other online) reviews is important for any business online. Users rely on social proof more than ever before making a purchase decision.
Being mostly white labelled, we found that we had a number of positive reviews from other sources but couldn't directly display these online or ask our clients to post these in Google. Note: The method below is NOT a substitute or replacement for getting real, authenticated user reviews, but it can help as a start.
The code for products looks a bit like this when implemented (partial code shown only).
"@type" : "Product",
"name" : "Digital Marketing Consulting",
"image" : "http://www.machdigital.com.au/uploads/9/8/2/3/98239458/icon-fix-digital-skills-gap-1_orig.png",
"description" : "Fix your digital skills gaps - Digital Marketing Help on Demand - Training, Strategy, Consulting",
"@type" : "aggregateRating",
"ratingValue" : "4.7",
"reviewCount" : "13"
In the space of only a couple of weeks, there was quite a dramatic change:
After a bit of time we also noticed our LinkedIn page appearing in search results.
Our Next Action/s
Getting that Facebook page verified and showing about the competitor
At the time of writing, we're still fighting to get our Facebook business page verified.
Once we do, we'll post further updates.
Since it's almost impossible to get much organic visibility in Facebook these days unless you have at least a few people following you, along with micro-boosting, we ran a small Facebook paid ads campaign to increase likes and thereby reach and engagement of our Facebook posts.
It's also perfectly fine to invite a few friends and colleagues to like your business page.
This campaign resulted in around 60 page followers in 5 days for a spend of around $100. We're now getting some good engagement with our posts which is starting to work as another channel.
Once you've created some valuable content on your site, hopefully you will start to see some of this get amplified and shared via social media, which all helps.
Other Things You Could Do
The list goes on.
Most steps from here on will depend on your own business goals, the type of business you run, your industry and a number of other factors.
If you're at this stage and wondering how to get started or take it to the next step, check out our free 35 point digital marketing checklist we hope this gives you a start.
Or, check out more detailed tips and strategy around gaining more 'Share of SERP' here.
As a final note: When Googling your business name like this (or other keywords), results can vary based on a number of factors such as user location. Also, if you're logged in to Google, preferences and web history can affect search results if this is not turned off, so for better accuracy and less skewed data ideally:
Take Charge of your Digital Marketing with this 35 Point Checklist
No, this isn't another washed-out guide spouting trends like 'social media will be big in 2017'.
Yes, this is a real, step-by-step digital marketing checklist.
How do I use it?
Most importantly, we want to help you answer this question:
"We're an [insert company] selling [insert products] in [insert location].
How do we go about digital marketing?"
* The checklist is based on 15 years' working with clients digital-agency-side and similar to the kinds of questions you might get asked in a typical 'client brief' or 'discovery' meeting.
A) To Start... Housekeeping & Prep
Whether engaging with a digital agency for the first time or changing agencies (or even if you aren't), it's always good to have your house in order.
1. Get prepared. It will save time and effort later.
For example, a digital agency will often need access to:
This might seem basic at first. But, if we had a dollar for every hour spent chasing down login details over the years... well, you know how it goes...
Also give some thought to:
2. Nominate one key stakeholder
This is a primary contact to act as a liaison between your business and the agency. That person should be a filter for any internal conflict and only relay the final decision and comments to the agency as well as acting as a conduit with other service providers to keep information flowing.
B) Your Current Marketing Strategy
Take stock of your current strategy:
3. Which providers do you already work with and how will they work together moving forward? (will there be any conflict of services?)
4. What other domain names / apps / online assets do you own and how are these related to each other?
5. If considering SEO... Has any previous SEO work been done on the website(s)?
Is there any risk that dodgy techniques were used or could your website be penalised?
6. What is your current marketing mix and spend? What's working and what isn't? How are things connected?
Radio, TV, Print, Directory, Website, Adwords, SEO, Social Media, Direct Mail, Other?
C) Be Clear on Your Goals
Before you get to the 'marketing' part, it's essential to be clear on the basics.
7. List 3-5 primary goals of your digital marketing efforts.
Be specific. Don't just list 'more sales'. They should also be measurable, agreed upon and achievable (especially if working with a digital agency), realistic, relevant and time-based where possible (SMART).
8. Define what success looks like - what metrics do you plan to track and use to gauge success?
9. In what time frame do you hope to see these results?
10. Which conversion goals do you want people to take?
11. How much is a good conversion worth to you? Consider one-off sales and also the lifetime value 'LTV' of a customer.
Some example goals:
D) Your Company
Be consistent in how your company is represented online:
12. Ensure your NAP ('Name', 'Address', 'Phone') and Industry details are consistently formatted, complete and clear on all online portals. *This not only helps people find you online, but it's a local SEO tip too.
13. What's your grand vision / story / purpose? Why does your organisation exist?
Don't underestimate the importance of starting with the 'WHY' of your organisation.
14. What are your Unique Value Propositions (or 'Unique Selling Propositions')?
What are the main benefits of your products or services that are unique to your business?
15. Is your business (or products) seasonal?
Are sales heavily influenced by the time/season of year or during specific holidays?
16. What is your main business model? How does you business work?
For example: Online / offline sales? Retail or wholesale? Physical purchase or mail order?
17. How many staff do you have?
What skills or qualifications do they have that are worth highlighting?
18. What memberships or associations is your business part of?
Give thought to what logos etc. you need to display and also how you can connect with these groups online.
19. Opening Hours
As with point 12 - be clear and consistent with these, including your holiday opening hours.
E) Your Products & Services
Understand your highest value products and services:
20. Is your website up to date with your current products/services?
Are any of the products listed no longer available?
21. What are your 'hero' products (your most profitable products or services to promote)?
22. How many of these products/services do you sell in a year?
How many would you like to sell?
23. What (according to your customers) makes them choose your products or services?
24. Why do clients come back to you/repeat purchase?
F) Your Audience
Get to know your audience.
25. In which geographic areas do you operate and where could you expand to?
26. Are your current customers your ideal customers?
Why (or why not)?
27. Who do you most want to reach?
28. 'Personas' - What do your most valuable customers look like?
Personas are semi fictional representations of real customers.
** Repeat points 28 a-t for at least 2-3 'ideal customers':
Digital Marketing opens up many opportunities to identify and target your customers. Take advantage of this: understand your customers, go where they are and make your marketing investment count.
G) Your Competitors & Industry
We're not suggesting you 'copy' your competitors, but you should understand what they are doing and how your audience is used to receiving information in your industry
29. Who are your 3 biggest direct competitors?
30. Which channels do competitors typically use to compete online in your industry? (Video, SEM, SEO, Social Media, other)
31. What's the size of your industry and your current Vs desired market share?
32. Is your industry price-sensitive? Are there any other specific ways competitors compete in your industry? Seasonal discounting, value-add products, free quotes etc.
33. How are you currently positioned in your industry?
Are there any opportunities or threats?
34. Are there specific words or phrases (or 'industry jargon') people might search for ONLY in your industry?
35. Are there specific promotions you would normally run?
When and how could you run these on digital/online channels? Who would you target and why?
Putting It Into Action - AKA 'The Marketing Part'
Now, what do you do with this information?
Hopefully you've already had a few light bulbs turn on during this process and some ideas are flowing.
If not, then engaging with a digital marketing consultant or digital agency can certainly help you kick start things, avoid any costly mistakes and set you in the right direction.
If you still want to give it a try yourself first, here are a few tips:
What works for your business and customers will not be the same as someone else, even if they are in the same location and industry.
The diagram below gives an example of what you could focus on at various stages of the customer journey, and which channels may be effective. But this is only a guide; always start with your business goals first.
A few thoughts and ideas:
a) If you need more awareness or are looking to influence buyers during the consideration stage you could:
b) If your goal is more activations or purchases, perhaps:
c) Or are your customers likely to make repeat purchases or refer friends?
And don't forget -
d) In all of this, it's important to make sure your website:
You don't want to be 'pouring water into a leaky bucket'!
Get the 35 Point Digital Marketing Checklist PDF
Free PDF version available for download.
No annoying popups or email address required!
(2:30 min read)
"We've launched a new website. It's disappeared from Google search results pages."
There are a number of reasons why this can happen and to what extent it can happen.
Here are some important points to keep in mind when launching a new website - to have a fighting chance of keeping your Google rankings and 3 things you should never do if you want to avoid a bigger fallout.
SEO Planning For A New Site
It's always best to start with proper planning.
This SEO planning should start way before getting ready to 'push the button' and launch a new site.
There are some excellent articles online that explain the reasons why in more detail, so we won't cover it here.
There are also plenty of technical checklists online such as this one from SEO Powersuite and SEO migration checklists like this one from Moz designed for web design teams to follow when they launch a new site.
But if you're reading this article, we'll take a bet that ship has already sailed and things are now at the 'holy s**t, what's going on?' stage...
How Bad Is It? A Few Things to Consider First
Keep in mind that it's natural for the rankings of a site to change when a new website is launched, even if the domain name stays the same and things might seem relatively 'unchanged'.
This is especially true if the content, sitemap/structure, page URLs or CMS platform are different.
Even in cases where the sitemap and content is the same, this 'bump' in rankings still occurs if URLs and structure are different. * Note: You can minimise the severity of 'the bump' by following some of the steps below.
Google 'sees' the change and will re-index the website. But Google isn't smart enough to immediately understand that your old site is your new site and which specific pages have changed - it needs some help.
3 Things You Should Never Do
"No, it's more than a bump. My website really has disappeared completely from Google."
Ok. There are number of (sadly) quite common reasons that could be to blame:
1. 301 redirects not properly set from old content to new content
Remember we said Google needs some help? Redirects are set to help Google and other search engines understand that the old content has moved to a new URL.
This is even more important if the domain name has changed.
2. Forget to 'Unblock' the Website from Search Engines
One line of code can hurt so much.
At a code level:
Your developer may have left a line in the robots.txt file that looks like this:
Or this meta information might be left behind in the html head tag of the pages:
<META NAME="ROBOTS" CONTENT="NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW">
The result in both cases... No Google ranking.
Or, in your CMS:
Sometimes it's a configuration setting in the website content management system (CMS) which someone has simply forgotten to 'turn off'.
3. Put Large Blocks of Important Text Flattened in Images
Don't do it. Ever.
Google as of yet is still unable to recognise text in images and use this information in it's ranking algorithm.
Resist the temptation to shortcut CSS for design's sake and flatten important text into images.
What Can I Do Right Now?
Confirm the points above, then you can also add the site in Google search console (previously Google Webmaster Tools) and check the following:]
While you're in Google Search Console you can also:
Any other good points to add? We'd love to hear from you.
2 min read
We read a job ad for a 'Digital Marketing Manager' today and laughed.
Not in a good way.
'This needed to be shared', we immediately thought.
We've written at length about why true Digital Marketing Specialists don't exist and how important it is to understand the real scope of digital marketing when hiring and building your digital marketing team.
This is why a job ad that lists an exhaustive range of digital marketing skills as a requirement attached to a mediocre salary package does 2 potentially damaging things:
1. Devalues Digital Marketing Skills in general
2. Risks spreading and creating a precedent that the expectations are acceptable and/or reasonable
To someone who has been in the industry for 15+ years, it can sometimes feel a bit like this is the expectation of what's possible:
We won't name the employer or post the full ad, but here is an excerpt of the listed abilities required:
The Salary Expectation?
AUD $40,000 - $49,999 plus super*
We hope this serves as an education piece for businesses to consider when hiring for digital marketing skills.
For job seekers in the digital space, understand that digital marketing knowledge gaps exist and most importantly, don't underestimate your worth.
There are many salary reports online with useful data. One tool (for Australia employees) Hudson's salary calculator gives up to date salary information to help you get a better understanding of what you're really worth.
* For a comparison, 'Digital Campaign Manager' in Perth is listed in Hudson's calculator as AUD $85,000-120,000
7 min read
Stop judging your Google ranking performance by a few isolated keywords alone.
No, seriously... Just stop it.
If you've seen Google's search results pages recently, you may have noticed that a bit more than only 10 organic listings show on the page.
It's a fact: Google is providing more information than ever on it's Search Engine Result Pages ('SERPs') such as reviews, menus, recipes and event times; the goal is to provide answers to users questions quickly and effectively.
Yes, that's providing answers before users even hit your website.
In 2017 and beyond it's more important than ever to take an '800 foot view' and be thinking about earning and maximising your share of space on page one of Google, rather than only focusing on one small section of the organic (or paid) text listings.
* Even though we first wrote about these concepts back in 2015, this is a topic that still comes up regularly. Below is the 2017 update with new mobile and desktop heat map data hot off the press.
So, What is Share of SERP?
'Share of SERP' is the share of available space on a search engine results page (or 'SERP') that can be earned by a single entity or web page through SEO and other website optimisation techniques so the page has increased visibility to users.
Improving share of SERP is therefore about earning and maximising your share of space on page one of search engines (such as Google).
Understanding 'Traditional SEO' Vs 'Share of SERP'
No, SEO is not dead, it's just changed.
Most importantly - it's not done like it was 5 or 10 years ago.
The fundamental change being that Google is no longer simply about ranking web pages for keywords; it's about providing answers to peoples' questions.
This is often done in the way that is of highest value (and shortest time) to the user. This means that sometimes the answer is provided directly on the SERPs.
And Google is becoming smart. VERY smart.
Not only does the search engine try to predict what the searcher is typing is as they type it, there has also been the introduction of more complex AI into Google search (aka 'Rankbrain'), improvements in semantic search (so that the keywords you enter aren't even what comes out the other end any more), universal search and a host of extra structured data which now appears alongside standard text results, not to even mention changes to Adwords ads.
Google is improving the data present on the SERPs, changing and growing all the time.
Below are just a few examples of how the SERP can look on any given search, complete with heat maps of where people are paying the most attention. Have any trouble noticing the organic listings?
Your #1 Organic Listing Is Weak
So what's the effect of all of these changes? That there really is just so much 'extra stuff' on the page for people to click on?
According to a recent 2017 WordStream article, the value of a #1 Google Ranking is down by 37% in the last two years.
Are you still clinging to those #1 organic listings you have for a handful of keywords?
The effects of this are even more prevalent on mobile devices where screen real estate is so limited.
When the SERP is stacked out with knowledge graph results and ads, it's quite a lot of scrolling that users have to do to even get to the first organic results.
According to a recent Mediative study -
The findings from the study suggest:
What About When More Ads Appear On The Page?
The #1 organic listing still gets most of the clicks (according to the same study), but this is greatly reduced, especially for mobile - down to around 30.4% when 3 sponsored ads appear on the page.
Comparatively, the #1 PPC Ad on mobile gets as much as 18.3% of the clicks:
11 Things You Can Do Right Now to Improve
If you haven't already done so... it's a case of changing your thinking away from 'ranking for keywords' and more towards maximising a 'Page 1 share of voice', or 'share of SERP'.
One way of thinking of it in a practical sense is as this SMX presentation puts it:
How can you work towards more 'share of SERP'?
In a number of ways - some of which you can implement easily and right away:
And when creating and optimising content...
It's quite surprising how many businesses (and even some SEOs) have been slow to act in this area and start thinking 'Share of SERP' rather than focusing solely on ranking for keywords.
This does (for now) however, still leave opportunities and quick wins on the table for those who are proactive to do more than just the bare minimum and more importantly, can adjust their thinking towards 'Share of SERP'.
Google is now more than ever about providing the most relevant information to users, understanding their intent and answering their questions.
The more businesses that start following this lead will ultimately start winning the battle for Share of SERP. Other potential side effects include improving ROI from earned online channels, along with ROI from their overall multi channel digital marketing strategies.