Crosslinking for Seo: What Is It and How to Do It?

Cross Linking for Seo

“Crosslinking” is a term used in two ways when talking about websites. Although both processes are designed to improve a website’s Google rankings, they do so in very different ways. 

Within this blog, we are going to focus on the internal linking – cross linking method as opposed to the crosslinking of two websites. However, we have included definitions of both below.

Confused about crosslinking? Then read on for definitions, benefits and and our easy how-to guide.      

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Cross Linking for Seo

Define crosslinking

 Crosslinking two websites definition

Crosslinking for SEO can refer to the process of linking between two separate domains. Like with backlinks, Google rewards websites with crosslinks from relevant and reputable sites that add value to the content being linked to.

Unlike backlinks, however, which typically direct their link value in one direction, crosslinking connects two websites, building reciprocal links that have big potential benefits for SEO. For those looking to reap these rewards of this technique, however, websites need to closely adhere to the guidelines set out by Google.  

Crosslinking and internal linking definition 

Crosslinking can also be used interchangeably with the term “internal linking”. This is defined as the process of linking one webpage to another within the same domain. 

As with backlinks, crosslinking or internal linking is an important part of any good SEO linking strategy. It’s crosslinking of this variety that will be the focus of our blog. 

There are several different types of crosslinks. In addition to links on your homepage and menu, you can also add links within your content. These are called contextual links. They involve linking relevant topics in one piece of content to another piece of related content within the same domain, typically using anchor texts ( text on a page with the clickable hyperlink attached to it).

Why is crosslinking (internal linking) important?

In terms of SEO, backlinks have huge benefits for a website. Unfortunately, even with brilliant linkable assets receiving backlinks is mostly out of your control.

What you can do, however, is control the crosslinks/internal links present on your website.

Crosslinking internally : the 5 main benefits

– Crosslinking helps Google understand and rank your website

It’s important to remember that Google bots are designed to recreate a user’s thinking process. These bots, which crawl and index URLs, are responsible for finding, analysing and deciding where websites appear in search results.

This means that by improving user experience through crosslinking, this will, in turn, help improve your ranking with Google. For, as Google itself says, the better it understands your site, “the better it can match it to people who are looking for your content.” 

2. Crosslinking improves user experience through anchor texts

By choosing user-friendly and descriptive anchor texts you will improve the useability of your website. Using these anchor texts to link to related content that will interest your readers, will also help users navigate your content and website better. 

If the content you provide through internal linking is relevant and provides real value to your audience, they are more likely to use the anchor texts to click through and read further articles. As a result, this means visitors to your site will stay longer, which in turn will reduce bounce rate and increase your site’s conversion rate. Acting as a good user signal to google to improve your rankings.

 

3. Crosslinking helps you boost 

Crosslinking between your posts and page means you can signal to search engines the hierarchy of your website’s content. This allows you to give the most important pages more value than other pages, which are less valuable.

  1. Crosslinking helps spread the link value or juice

If a website (especially a reputable one) references yours with a DoFollow link, it acts as a vote of confidence from them. It tells the search engine that your site is valuable and informative. This is what we mean by “link juice” or “page rank”. 

Internal linking helps you pass this link juice on from one page to another within the same domain. This helps to boost the visibility and authority of other pages of your site.

wANT AN EXPERT LEVEL CONTENT SILO AND INTERNAL LINKING FOR YOUR SITE? iF SO, GET IN TOUH WITH US!

Cross-linking for SEO: how to do it

For those new to SEO the concept of crosslinking might seem a little daunting. Websites recommending complex linking strategies and content “silos” are likely to make you feel even more overwhelmed.

But finding a flowing way to connect the content on your website (which is essentially what crosslinking is) doesn’t need to be complicated. Instead, we suggest focussing on user experience, quality content, and naturally linking pages. By doing so, you’ll appeal to both users and Google. 

Start with keyword research

Creating keyword rich content which throws up natural opportunities to link won’t happen on its own – you need a strategy. 

This research will form the basis of your content strategy, and from which you can create pillar pages and content clusters – all of which are great for SEO. 

Create lots of quality content

In the world of digital marketing and SEO, quality content is still King. In order to link internally through contextual links, you need to have lots of great content on your website.

Of course, when creating within a niche, opportunities to link between different webpages and content sources that are relevant to your pillar pages, will occur naturally. 

Keep your anchor text natural 

When crosslinking it’s important to use a user-first approach. This means focussing on improving the value and accessibility of a webpage for the user, instead of trying to appeal to Google’s algorithm. 

So, when it comes to choosing anchor text and linking opportunities, instead of using keywords (which might be tempting), it’s best to use words and phrases that are natural for the reader and that fit within the given context. 

Create a structure (Your site silo) 

As already mentioned, crosslinking helps create a hierarchy of importance within your website. The more internal crosslinks a webpage gets, the more important Google will assume it is.

This means that the most important pillar pages should always be the ones with the most amount of authority being passed through to them. This does not necessarily mean “have the most links” being directed towards them, but instead potentially having pages which might already have a lot of links being directed towards sub topics, then pointing to them. How you do this is all dependent on the site silo structure you take, but below is an example of a ‘priority silo’ technique. 

Choose an appropriate amount of links

When it comes to the amount of links to use, Matt Cutts of Google suggests a reasonable amount of around 100, but this is totally dependent on the size of the website you have. Remember, that’s 100 including all the links on the page, such as those in the header, footer and sidebar. 

Given the above – and although there is no perfect number – the addition of 3 or 4 crosslinks within the body of text is a pretty safe bet.

Again, it’s important to think about the user when adding these crosslinks. 

Ask yourself: are these links adding value for the user? Are they improving navigation around my content and website? When it comes to choosing where and when to link, these questions should help inform your decision. 

Link deep within your website

In terms of crosslink for SEO, the most important links are those embedded deep within the structure of a website. 

 

However, as your website evolves and grows, some pages may become weakly connected to the most important pages. It’s important to return to these pages and re-stablish these links so that Google is reminded these are valuable pages and to rank them. 

Use “dofollow” links

Labelling links as either dofollow backlinks or nofollow tells Google identify whether to pass on link juice (dofollow) to a website, or not (nofollow).

When it comes to crosslinking strategies, there is some debate amongst experts on the use of dofollow and nofollow. However, while nofollow links have their value, dofollow links are arguably the best way to build out the internal link architecture of your website. 

This is because the link juice needs to flow freely within these internal pages, rather than get stopped by a nofollow. So, when it comes to cross linking, keep things moving by using dofollow. It also allows crawlers to read all the content on your site efficiently, thus maximising your crawl budget.

Crosslinking for SEO: things to avoid

Over-optimising your anchor text

Keyword stuffing/overusing your keyword in the anchor text is viewed by google as an attempt to game the system and can punish websites for doing so. Although not as likely with internal links, still tread carefully.  Matt Digerty has stated that from tests he has carried out in the past, having 100% varied keyword anchor texts get the best results in terms of rankings.

Too few crosslinks/internal links 

If you’ve read the above then you should know that without enough crosslinks your users – and your Google ranking – will suffer. Make sure to hit the “sweet spot” of a reasonable amount, without over-optimising.

No crosslinks

Those pages without any links at all are called orphan pages. The search engine assumes that the pages are being purposefully hidden from Google and are part of a black hat SEO scheme. Google can punish whole websites for orphan pages, making them very detrimental from an SEO standpoint.

Linking too much to your homepage

Instead of simply directing links to the homepage (the homepage should have lots of links already), it’s best to try and strengthen internal pages to boost over SEO of your website. 

 

When looking to build a linking strategy for your website and business, it can help to speak to an expert. Why not book in a free discovery call with Digital Rainmaker to find out how we can help? 

How to Get Links to Your Blog or Website Through Linkable Assets (White hat hack)

How to get backlinks to your blog and website

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When it comes to building a brand or website, creating great online content and assets is a game changer.

In terms of SEO, it’s a proven and cost-effective way to drive organic traffic to your website and connect with your customers. Overtime, it also helps you build authority in your niche.

But owning quality “assets”, such as blogs, software, graphics or video content, is only half the battle. After-all, these assets aren’t going to be worth much if they simply sit dormant.

And unless you’re established in the industry or have an existing audience, you’ll probably struggle to get eyeballs on your content.

So, at the same time as creating assets that are interesting and valuable, you’ll also have to think up ways to bring them to Google’s attention. And what’s the best way to do this? With backlinks and press promotion. 

In this post, you’ll find out what linkable assets are and exactly how to create links to your website through linkable assets. 

What are backlinks and why are they important?

In essence, backlinks are when an external website links back to your website. 

They’re important for SEO because they tell search engines, like Google, that others consider your content or site informative and of high quality. As more external sites vouch for you through backlinks, search engines will conclude that your website or content is valuable.

One of the most effective ways to attract quality links is through creating great content that speaks to your niche, stands out and is both unique and valuable. While this is no easy task, below, we’ve outlined step-by-step the strategy we use to create our own linkable assets.

But first, let’s get technical for a second and talk about the Google algorithm.

Understanding Google’s algorithm

Prior to Google’s final 2016 update to Penguin 4.0, volume – rather than quality –  of links played a much bigger part in how Google ranked a website. 

The update aimed to reduce the effectiveness of so-called “Black Hat” spam link schemes (these are unethical SEO techniques such as keyword stuffing and misusing redirects), Google’s algorithm started to recognise quality inks. As a result, websites and web pages that had earned links of this calibre were rewarded by Google. Those who hadn’t, saw their rankings suddenly nose dive. 

Google claimed that, instead of punishing websites for using spam links, this new version of the algorithm would devalue poor quality links.

Google’s July spam and links update

Due to its latest update, Google’s algorithm is now even better at identifying and nullifying what it considers to be spam or toxic links. Avoid paid backlinks to gain links to blogs if possible

They claim that they have also improved their ability to identify transactional links, stating that sites participating in affiliate schemes need to qualify these links with rel= sponsored. As a result, sites involved in paying for and displaying guest blogging and sponsored posts that are not identified as “rel=sponsored” will likely be negatively affected.

Putting paid posts aside, what alternatives are out there for obtaining high quality, relevant and contextual links? The answer: linkable assets. 

What is a linkable asset?

Also known as a link magnet, a linkable asset is a piece of content or a tool created with the goal of enticing other domains to link to it. 

According to Rand Fishkin at Moz, who coined the phrase, “it’s the idea that rather than simply producing and hoping people like [your content] enough to link, you build a true incentive for them to do so.”

Infographics, motion graphics, video content, online calculators and listicles are all great examples of linkable assets.

 How to make a linkable asset?

The internet is a crowded space. So, when it comes to cutting through the noise to create a truly linkable asset, the first thing you need to do is find a way to stand out. 

Read on and you’ll discover a tried and tested process for creating linkable assets.

Want to find out more about creating a linkable asset for you company? Or need help building one?

Understand Your Niche

Hold fire on the content creation. The first step to creating linkable assets is to understand your niche. 

To do this, use platforms such as Ahrefs to find out which of your competitors’ content is being linked to, then research why webmasters and journalists are sharing this content. 

Analysing existing content and understanding its limitations in this way will help you produce something that is 10X better. If your content is of superior quality to what already exists, people will want to share it. 

Why not try the SkyScraper technique, for example, which involves leveraging existing content that has already been proven to get results. 

While the SkyScraper content has some benefits in that it doesn’t need to be unique, it also has drawbacks. Namely that you’ll need to try rank for very competitive keywords, so it’s a technique better suited to more established brands and websites. 

You can also use research into the content that exists in your niche to find the things that aren’t there that you think should be e.g. what problems in your niche need to be solved? What questions are yet to be answered? Fill this gap in the market with high quality content and you’ll naturally attract backlinks.

Be unique 

Making your “asset” unique is probably the most important factor when you’re looking to attract links from other sites (especially for sites in niches people might consider “mundane”).

When starting on your journey to creating unique content, however, it might at first feel like every topic or idea you think about has already been covered. But rest assured: whatever your niche, there is always a way to drum up something unique, fun and interesting. 

Start by working out what information you have available in-house which others don’t. What stats or facts about your business might people find interesting or amusing? 

Remember – while unique is the buzzword here, it doesn’t have to mean creating entirely from scratch. Instead, it can involve repurposing existing information and data in unique and original ways (more on this later). 

To illustrate the point, here is a case study from one of our own clients: eco pet brand which sell dog poo bags:

We know that regular dog poop bags are made from plastic, the disposal of which contributes to environmental problems. We also know that sustainability and environmental issues are a hot topic at the moment. 

So, our idea was to combine the two in an interesting and visually appealing motion graphic that would illustrate just how many poop bags the UK alone was responsible for. Through creating this linkable asset, we would not only attract visitors to thier site, but could also positively promote the brand and its products – a definite win-win!

Use existing data

There is a misconception that in order to get your hands on valuable unique data, it needs to be purchased or you need to run things like surveys at scale. Although these are still great methods, there is a huge amount of free data online which you can use, you just have to get creative

Now, let’s bring it back to our dog poop bag example. The idea here wasn’t to produce entirely new data on the subject but to reinterpret what was already there and combine it with inhouse data,  in order to create something fun, impactful and unique. As a piece of content, it also had to feel right for the brand.

To show the impact of dog poop bags on the environment, we decided to create an infographic of the world being circled by these bags. We then needed to find out some relevant, interesting and freely available stats on the subject. 

We used a combination of our existing knowledge (e.g. on the dimensions of dog poop bags) and some easy-to-find – and free! – data on the purchasing of dog poop bags in the UK. 

After some rough calculations, we figured out how many times, if put end to end, one year of dog poop bag purchases in the UK could circle the world. Finally, our developer Umair and Graphic designer Millie turned these stats into a simple but effective motion graphic – aka our linkable asset. 

Connect this data with your brand

The next step in the process of making a linkable asset is to combine the data available online with information about your products, services or findings. By effectively attaching interesting findings to the page, product or service you are trying to promote, you will see better results in regards to relevant links, conversions and rankings for those key pages. creating backlinks to blogs

This is exactly the tactic we used for our dog poop bag infographic: we found ways for the data and visuals to promote our client’s brand. Through creating a quality infographic and link magnet using information at our disposal, we also helped draw attention to one of their flagship products – their compostable dog poop bags.

Create must-link content

So, you’ve chosen a unique, stand out topic and collected interesting and relevant information. But this still isn’t enough to get the links pouring in. Now you need to transform this piece of content into a must-link asset. 

By this we mean creating something that’s not only attractive to other domains, but also illustrates the data it describes so well that it has to be linked to when referenced by another site. This usually  means producing visuals like motion graphics, software, infographics, video and images which help people understand the subject matter you are talking about.  

Of course, choosing the right kind of linkable content – and then creating it – can be a real challenge. If you’re stuck for guidance, or need technical support, why not speak to an agency like Digital Rainmaker

Newsjacking and thought leadership

Stay tuned into what is in the news and on social media, then tie-in your content with these hot topics so that people will simply have to link to you. 

In terms of our own infographic, for example, we could have gone one step further and connected it more directly to the conversation around the environment by offering up some stats on the impact of normal poop bags vs compostable poop bags. 

Other easy ways to get people talking about (and linking to) your content include creating or writing something on a controversial and/or humorous topic. Although beware: the wrong type of controversy could damage your brand.

Get links to your blogs through outreach and promotion

Next to making quality content and blogs, outreach and promotion is the next most important part of the backlink-earning process. 

To those of you new to PR/Digital outreach and promotion, this process involves reaching out to webmasters and journalists – the so-called “Linkerati” – and inviting them to link to the asset you’ve just created. 

Tools like Ahrefs, Sparktoro, SEMRush and Buzzsumo (most of which require subscriptions) are invaluable when it comes to gathering this kind of data. They can help you identify which journalists, webmasters and brands fall within your niche and have shared similar content in the past. 

These platforms will often also provide the relevant contact information, making outreach much less time consuming.

The final step in this “how to” guide for creating linkable assets? Construct a must-read email or press release detailing your brilliant new content (there are plenty of free templates available online to help with this). Then, send this out to the best linkerati in your niche. 

Still confused about where to start with linkable assets or simply don’t have the resources? Reach out to us at Digital Rainmaker to help you devise a content strategy that will help you get links to your website and send your Google rankings soaring.

Creating a Buyer Persona in 2021 – Why it Can Change Your Digital Strategy Overnight

Creating a Buyer Persona in 2021

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Whether you’re a one-man band or heading up a big company, if you own a business in 2021, you need to create a “buyer persona”. 

But what exactly is a buyer persona, why is it important and how do you go about creating one? 

While those familiar with marketing techniques might throw the term around, not everyone knows exactly what having an effective persona means. 

In short, buyer personas help you stay tuned into the evolving goals, pain points and challenges of your customers. Understanding this will help you produce content that directly meets their needs and wants. This is especially important in 2021 where the world around us is changing so rapidly, and with it the needs of your customers. 

Once you have identified your ideal customer through in-depth research, it will transform your digital strategy overnight. Because from that point onwards everything you create will be designed to speak directly to your target audience. 

We’ll go through exactly why buyer personas are so important and how they will benefit your business in 2021. We know creating a buyer persona can seem a little daunting, so we’ll also show you some simple tips and tricks to kickstart things. 

But first, let’s get clear on the definition.

What is a Buyer Persona?

At the most basic level, buyer personas are semi-fictional profiles of your ideal customers. They are created through a combination of research, data and interviews. 

what is a buyer persona

Sometimes called marketing personas or customer profiles, their purpose is all the same: to help you understand the main characteristics, physiological drivers and pain points of your ideal customers.

 

Using this information, you are then able to create meaningful, targeted content which will cut through the noise and engage and attract quality leads.

It’s common for a business to have more than one buyer persona, which makes sense when you consider that different words and phrases will appeal and engage different segments of your audience. At the same time, it is important not to overcomplicate matters by creating too many buyer personas – experts recommend no more than three to start with.  

So, to recap: a buyer persona is simply a way of understanding – and serving – your customers in the best way possible. And everyone wants to do that, right?

What’s Included in a Buyer Persona?

There are four main areas to consider when developing your buyer persona. These include:

Demographic 

  • Who are they?

  • Where do they live? 

  • Do they have kids?

  • What’s their occupation?

  • Do they have a spouse or partner? 

EXPERT TIP: Having a specific someone in mind can really help when creating content. So, we suggest giving your buyer persona a fictional name and including a picture of what you imagine they might look like. 

Phycological

  • What are your customer’s core beliefs?

  • What do they believe in: e.g. are they striving for positive change? 

  • What is keeping them awake at night? 

  • What search queries are they using? 

EXPERT TIP: Getting to know your customer on a deeper level can help you create hyper-personalised content that builds relationships and trust.

Wants/Needs

  • Identify their needs, wants and pain points

  • What would make their life easier 

  • What would make their life more enjoyable 

EXPERT TIP: Once you understand this about your customer, ask yourself: how can I position my product or service to solve the needs and issues I have identified? 

Remember to keep where they are in the funnel in mind. The first step may be to bring awareness that such a product or service exists to solve their wants and needs. 

Behaviour

  • How do they spend their time, both online and offline?

  • Who are their influencers?

  • What media channels do they read or watch?

  • What publications do they prefer?

  • What social media platforms do they frequently visit? Who do they follow?

EXPERT TIP: Rather than trying to bring your ideal customer to you, engage with them on the platforms they already like and use. You can use this information to target influencers, websites and other forms of media that your customer spends time with.

Why is Creating a Buyer Persona Important in 2021?

A global pandemic, the change to WFH, furlough: the uncertainty of 2020 delivered a huge blow to our economy, and dramatically changed buyers’ needs and purchasing habits, perhaps forever. 

Many businesses were forced to make the move from bricks and mortar to online. As a result, an already saturated online market became even more competitive, making it even harder for brands to stand out.

But simply churning out content is not the answer, especially in a marketplace full of social-media savvy brands. To cut through in 2021, creating customer-centric content is essential. 

And this is where the value of a buyer persona comes to the fore. 

Knowing who your customer is and understanding their search intent (e.g. your audience’s main goal: what they want and what they’re looking for) means you can better cater to them with content they actually want. In turn, this will help you develop a relationship and trust with your customer, inevitable resulting in more leads or sales. why you shoulld create a Buyer Persona

  • It will help you generate highly relevant leads.
  • It will attract your ideal audience and high-quality traffic.
  • It positions you as a trusted industry expert.
  • People naturally gravitate toward businesses they know and trust, and buyer personas help you create relationships and foster trust. 
  • It helps you produce content that is more likely to generate sales.

It also means you can go to them. If you know where they spend their time, who they speak to, who their influencers are. It makes finding your optimum buyer far more efficient.  If you know your buyers spend time on Pinterest rather than instagram for example, then running ads on Pinterest is going to produce a far better ROA’s than instagram ads ever would. 

The Best Way to Create a Buyer Persona

There is no one way to generate a buyer persona, although they are usually created through a mixture of data gathering, research using specific platforms, and conducting surveys and interviews.

Making a buyer persona for the first time might seem daunting, but there are plenty of useful tools out there that can help make the process easier. 

We suggest writing down what you already believe about your audience, including what type of person you think they are, their likes and dislikes. 

This should be based off your findings from the data you have available, as well as general assumptions from different individuals within the company. You can also make use of certain softwares like Spark Toro. The next step would be to go out and test your theory by interviewing some real life customers.

We have spent time building a buyer persona document, make the process a lot for you. It goes through all the all the areas you should be looking at within Google analytics and a sheet to fill in the information. As well as the tools you can use to help you dig deeper into your buyer persona and a template for you to fill out each persona type. 

How Does Creating a Buyer Persona Benefit SEO?

SEO is a constantly moving picture. With updates like Bert, Rank Brain and Passage, Google’s machine learning is getting far better at displaying answers to queries, rather than just keywords. 

As a result, having a detailed understanding of exactly what your target audience is looking for is essential. By nailing that buyer persona, you’ll be able to create content that is more likely to display in the SERP due to search intent being on-point. 

Creating with your ideal buyer front and centre also means that your content will more likely be shared and linked to on sites that your target audience will read. This will increase the chance of your content being shared beyond that one site or social media channel. In turn, this will lead to a higher CTR (Click-through Rate) as well as engagement on site. All of this will act as good user experience indicators to Google, which will rank you higher as a result. 

And these aren’t the only way creating a buyer persona can benefit SEO. 

Doing so will likely increase repeat visits to your site, as well as keeping users on your site, roaming through all the relevant content, products or services you have to offer as it’s addressing their demands. As engagement is a ranking factor, this is again a great indicator to Google to push your site through the SERP.

Having a buyer persona can also make the process of Digital PR outreach much easier. 

Going in search of backlinks, coverage or shares from journalists or webmasters that manage media channels that resonate with your audience and are relevant to your niche can be a challenge. However, your chances of success are much greater if you can show that your content directly talks to their target audience. Creating these connections will not only increase backlink count but also backlink relevance.

Buyer Personas: The Take Away

Creating a buyer persona can be a little time consuming, but it’s well worth the investment.

Truly understanding your consumer will help you generate conversations and become a recognised industry expert, which in turn can help you stand out in a crowded marketplace. 

Engaging meaningfully with your audience will also help you develop relationships and trust. This will benefit you and your business in both the short and long term.

So, what are you waiting for? Use our advice above and get started building a buyer persona that will radically improve your 2021 digital strategy.  

Need help creating a buyer strategy from an expert? Want to know how a marketing specialist can grow your business? Contact Digital Rainmaker today. Our team of marketing specialists are here to help.

How to verify my Google My Business without a postcard?

How To Verify Google My Business Without A Postcard

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The primary way Google will try to verify your business is through a postcard. This however is not always as simple as it first seems. It has become a bit of an occurrence for many of the businesses we manage, that the postcards don’t turn up. Sometimes simply requesting another one works, if you are giving it a second shot, make sure the ATTN is clear so that it has the most chance of reaching the correct person or business. But, more than often if the first one hasn’t turned up the second will likely not turn up as well. 

What then? You might be feeling a little stuck and confused on the next steps to take. But, chill out, we are here to help. 

Firstly, it might help for us to clearly identify some of the main reasons to get a GMB verified, as it might seem like a good option just to leave it for now and not go through the effort of locking in that verification. But, knowing the value of getting your profile listed and ranking we would advise against this: 

Why get your GMB verified in the first place?

  • It allows you to optimize and complete your GMB profile. Until you verify, you won’t be able to make any changes to your profile.
  • Completed profiles are twice as likely to be considered reputable 
  • It can prevent anyone posing as a representative of your business, to alter or change your listing.
  • Proximity is one of the primary ranking factors for local SEO. Without a verified listing you won’t be able to have a physical location in place and so will find it far harder to rank. This is also the case for category selection, keywords in titles and other GMB signals. Key tip: If you can, verify your listing as close to the city/town centre as possible, as this is an influential ranking factor.
  • Often, your profile business won’t even display on Google if you can’t verify the physical location.

The process to verify your GMB without a postcard:

The process of getting your GMB verified without a postcard, is sadly not as simple as just selecting an alternative option. But, I guess you have figured that out, which is why you are here. First things first, what process should you take to get a verification without a letter. 

  1. Login into Google my Business 
  2. Select “I don’t have a code” which is displayed on the homepage dashboard in the pending reviews section.
  3. Select “Change method” 
  4. Choose the most suitable option available 
  5. If you have a Google search console setup, you can  “instantly verify”. Although this is not an option for all. 
  6. Reach out to the GMB community, GMB Twitter team, GMB Facebook Team or the GMB Help Center 
  7. Submit a ticket at the Google directory 
  8. Call us at Digital Rainmaker to sort it out for you 

The options to verify your GMB Profile without a letter or postcard

  • Phone:  This option is not available to all, but if you are lucky enough to be offered phone verification from the available options, then it should be a pretty swift process. You will be offered a 5 digit code, by a automated call. Make sure you don’t have your answering system on, as this will conflict with the Google call bot and so it will prevent it working.
  • Text: You are able to choose whether you want to get a call or text message sent to your phone. They will send through the code via text if you select this option. 
  • Email: Again, if you are one of the lucky ones you might have a ‘verify by email’ option. This will follow the same process, so you will receive a verification code to input in your GMB. The important thing to look out for though, is whether you have access to the email displayed in the verification section. You will be able to change the address name such as ‘[email protected]’ or ‘[email protected]’, but you won’t be able to change the domain name. If your business does not have the email account attached to your website domain, then you will have to choose an alternative option to email. 
  • Google Search Console (GSC)/Instant Verification: Not all businesses will have the option for instant verification via GSC, as it often comes down to how much google trusts you in the first place. However, if you do have this option, make sure you sign in using the same google account as your GSC. 
  • Video call: This option is available for certain industries and is one of the more recent methods introduced. It will be with a Google specialist and they will likely request to see proof, such as a store front or to see other employees.
Submit a ticket: Similar to a video call, you will need to have evidence to show that you are a representative of the business. You can submit a GMB verification ticket via this link.

Step by step process to get your GMB verified without a postcard:

1) Login to your homepage dashboard and select "I don’t have a code"

How to verify Google My Business without a postcard step 1

1.a) If you have not got to the stage of requesting a postcard you will see this message instead. If this is the case them press ‘verify now’. We would then suggest sending out a postcard if you haven’t done this already.

2) Next press ‘Change Method’.

How to verify Google My Business without a postcard - step 3

3) You will hopefully then be given options to verify without a postcard. Such as by phone or email.

4) If this is not the case and you are left without any other verification options (as seen below), then the next step would be to verify through one of the alternative methods.

5)The main method we would suggest is heading to the support section on your GMB dashboard, to submit a ticket which would trigger Google to get in touch.

5.a) Press contact us

5.b) Type in pin code and then press next step
5.c) Select postcard didn’t arrive
5.d) Press email and then fill out all the required information. Try to include as much proof as possible at this step. You may be given a few options such as a video or phone call, which google will then request via a google meet once they have received your verification ticket.
5.d) You will receive a confirmation once the process is complete. From here, one of Googles specialists will give you a ring or set up an appointment to verify your listing.

7) Setting up through Google search console: In order to do this make sure that your Google email is linked up for both accounts. Once you are setup on GSC then you will hopefully see an option to verify on your GMB. If you haven’t already got an account signed up and you are unsure what Google search console is, then you can head over to this link or get in touch with us at Digital Rainmaker to help you out.

8) Finally, getting in touch with Google through their community, twitter or facebook might be the last resort, but not a bad option. These groups and contact teams are reasonably responsive, and usually people on there would have experienced these issues themselves before.

Let us sort it out

We have gone through this verfication process, time and time again. So get in touch if you need is to sort the issue out for you, or if you want to have a chat about anything else relating to your SEO.

The Truth About Blogging For Local SEO

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‘Content is king’, is a saying you will hear on a regular basis amongst SEO’s, and in the large majority of cases, this is true. However, when it comes to local SEO you will come across numerous websites ranking in the top three, with minimal content and no blog page.

As Google ranks websites differently, within different sectors, we thought it would be worth seeing if local SEO in general, really requires blog pages. If local businesses can rank without the need to blog on a regular basis, and instead can focus on their money pages and off page work, then there could be an argument that time spent would be a better allocation of both time and resources.

Why is blogging so important for SEO

Before I get into the process we undertook and our findings, I think it may be important to explain why blogging is deemed so important within the SEO world.

1. Blogging keeps your website fresh and indexed regularly

Google has something called a caffeine update, which means that websites that post regularly and show activity within their content will get indexed more often. As Google loves user experience, by indexing fresher and more relevant content they will be more likely to rank the latest, most active, and relevant sites for the user’s search. Thus, the more regularly you produce more content, the more likely you are to improve your rankings in the SERP’s.

2. Blogging allows you to enrich your targeted long tail keywords.

Long tail keywords are more specific key phrases that typically use four or more words, rather than ‘head’ keywords. ‘Head’ keywords (also referred to as ‘head terms’) are very popular keywords (often a lot shorter), such as “dog food”. Whereas long-tail keywords may be “what dog food is best for old dogs”.

The benefit of long tail keywords is that it allows you to target less competitive search terms, which you will be able to rank much faster whilst also increasing your conversion rate. To help explain what I mean, this graph from SEMRUSH should give you an idea.

The conversion rates for long tail keywords are often far higher, due to the user looking for a very specific term. Although, it may seem counterproductive targeting search terms with such low traffic, if that search term converts incredibly well, and works at an average of 36% conversion rate then it begins to make a lot of sense to target them when considering that the top 10% of landing pages only convert at 11.45%.

Now there is an argument that for local and hyper local businesses, long tail keywords are not required as often, due to the competition of search being far lower. However, by including head terms within your long tail keywords, you are still supporting those head terms e.g. “winter running shoes for women” would be a long tail keyword, but “shoes for women” would be ahead term which would be supported in that phrase.

3. Blogging allows you to increase your backlink count

Demand Centric found that blogging increases the rate of indexed links by 97%. By providing fresh, new, and interesting content, it gives you the opportunity to gather backlinks at a far greater rate than if you were attempting to collect links with no real value on your site.

Simply put, if you have a great post about blogging for local SEO 😏, that gives other sites on the topic of local SEO a reason to link back to you. It also gives you a more reasonable request for a backlink if they can see the value of linking to your blog to support their content.

4. Blogging gives you an internal linking opportunity

Internal linking carries two real benefits. Firstly, it is a way of helping search engines decide what the most valuable pages on your site are, and secondly, it acts as an opportunity to tell Google exactly what each page is about. This is due to the fact that by leaving an anchor text for the linked page such as ‘local SEO’, it helps Google’s search crawlers to understand that the linking webpage is about ‘local SEO’.

Ultimately, you can start to influence where you want Google to prioritize your webpages on their rankings, and also how you want them to perceive your webpages for relevancy.

The impact of blogging on local SEO rankings

Hopefully, that has given you a good idea of some of the more technical reasons why blogging is so valued for SEO. It may now seem like a bit of a no brainer that blogging should be carried out for local SEO. However, when it comes to allocating time as a small business owner, finding topics to write about, having the skills to produce regular and quality content, and an understanding of how it should be optimized for local SEO, you can begin to see some of the limitations and reservations local businesses have.

On top of this, as previously mentioned, I have seen numerous sites without blogs or particularly good and sufficient content, still ranking in the top spots. So ultimately that’s why we felt this may be an interesting experiment to run, not only to blog about blogging but also for my own curiosity.

The process

Let me start by saying how this had to be one of the more boring tasks one could undertake on a Friday afternoon. But hopefully, if anyone is actually reading this, it may provide you with a few interesting nuggets, which you can take away for your own use.

We decided that the best way to test this would be to manually look into 40 different websites in 2 different sectors and locations. We tried to make the services and locations as different as possible, to act as a comparison, and to give a more balanced view of Local SEO.

The locations we went for were: London (population 8.98 million) and Newcastle (population 268k). The services were dentistry and plumbing.

The keywords we used were:

  1. Plumbers in London – 4,400 monthly searches
  2. Dentists in London – 4,400 Monthly searches
  3. Plumbers in Newcastle – 880 Monthly searches
  4. Dentists in Newcastle – 1,600

We then looked into the top 10 ranking companies for each of these search terms ( excluding directories) and analysed whether they had a blog page, how often they blogged, what their DA (Domain Authority was), and their backlink count.

In regards to defining and selecting sites which blogged and didn’t blog, we decided that a site which had not blogged for over two years would be classed as ‘not blogging’, and a site which would be classed as regularly blogging had to release a blog at least bi-monthly. This is due to sites often having a blog page, but nothing being on it, or not having a post since 2015 in some cases.

Findings

The Location Difference

Ultimately the biggest difference came in the locations rather than the services provided. Although the focus was looking at local SEO in general, it is definitely important to touch upon these differences.

Where the difference between Newcastle and London really stood out, was when we were looking at the top five ranking sites for each selected keyword and whether they had a blog or not.

  • In Newcastle, 10% of the top 5 rankings had a blog
  • In London, 70% of the top 5 rankings had a blog

Obviously, there is a huge separation here and it almost definitely comes down to the competition and ranking difficulty. With Newcastle being a far smaller city, with far fewer companies looking to rank, they may not require blogs to help improve their backlink count and quality or enrich their keywords, or even convert new customers through particular landing pages.

However, that being said, when I was crawling through plumbers in Newcastle, the rankings were dominated by directories. The Now based on my other findings and the fact that Bright Local found that 100% of local SEO experts said that creating research-based content was either a highly valuable or valuable backlinking strategy for local SEO. There seems to be a huge opportunity for Newcastle plumbing companies to carry out SEO and blogging within their site to get ranking in the top spots fairly quickly.

Domain Authority

I don’t imagine that seeing a big difference in Domain Authority between those who did a blog and those who didn’t blog would be a big surprise for most SEO’s. But nonetheless, the difference was significant.

  • The domain authority for those who rarely blogged or didn’t blog was 16.83
  • The domain authority for those who blogged at least bi-monthly was 30.75

When considering that domain authority may just be the biggest indicator of a site being able to rank keywords much more effectively than those with low DA. It is not difficult to argue that blogging is worth it in regards to increasing your DA, which has the knock-on effect of ranking your selected keywords far more easily. Even in a local SEO sense, an increase in DA means that ranking localized keywords will become easier.

Backlink Count

Noting the findings above regarding DA, it should not come as a surprise to see these backlink results. Coupled with this is the fact that Bright Locals research clearly showed the reliance on creating local content and research-based content was an incredibly effective way of building backlinks.

So when breaking down the sites by backlink count, we found:

  • 83.3% of blogging sites had over 200 backlinks
  • 41% of non blogging sites had over 200 backlinks

Now considering that part of the argument for not blogging, was that local businesses can find ways of gaining links elsewhere, such as local business citation sites, directories, guest blogs (different to on-page blogging), media submissions, etc…I would argue that this theory shows that there is a definitive and significant value to be had in link building in regards to blogging.

Final Thoughts

Although it may be argued that those sites which blog, are typically placing much more emphasis on SEO efforts than those who don’t, thus they will likely be making a proactive effort at gaining further backlinks and increasing their DA outside of their blogging activities. I am still of the opinion that blogging may be one of the most impactful and effective SEO techniques both on a local level and national level.

It could also be argued, based on the results from Newcastle, that blogging is not always necessary for local SEO. Considering Newcastle has far less competition than London, the conclusion may be that it is dependent on the local area. However, when dissecting this further, you can begin to see that almost all of the organic first page results for plumbers in Newcastle were made up of directories although dentists in Newcastle still had a reasonable turnout in regards actual dentist sites with no blogs.

From looking both at the research we have carried out and the opinions of expert SEO’s within Bright locals study, it makes a lot of sense that focusing on blogging for local SEO will have a very positive impact on DA, backlink quality and quantity, and increasing conversions due to the ability to focus on long tail and high converting phrases.

So, my advice to small business owners with local businesses, which feel they may not have the resources to produce blogs on a regular basis. Would be to look at the competition. If sites are ranking with no blog for the keywords you wish to rank for, then this may be an indicator that you can achieve high rankings without one. However, It may be more difficult than if you were to incorporate blogging into your strategy… good luck!

If you feel you would like to incorporate blogging into your SEO strategy or want some advice on the matter. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at Digital Rainmaker

Is Googles Greed Changing Local SEO Forever?

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It is no secret that Google is a publicly listed company and thus will try to improve their bottom line wherever possible. However, they still try to do it in a way where they are still providing an optimum user experience. They wouldn’t be where they are today, if they couldn’t strike this balance almost perfectly, where they understand at what level they can monetise their platform, without compromising on user experience.

Over time Google tests and adjusts, to find this optimum. Not only for the user but also to identify the point at which businesses are most likely to spend in order to rank above their competitors. This has led to a constant increase in costs year-on-year for businesses operating on Google, for the likes of pay-per-click google ads. It is also from Googles creation of new streams of revenue, by charging for previously free services; Turning those freemium’s into pay-to-play models.

First signs of monetising Google my business

In April 2019, the SEO rumour mill began to spin, when Google started to release a survey, first tweeted by Sean Bucher.

The survey began with a range of questions such as:

  • “Are you responsible for making advertising decisions (e.g. where to advertise, how much to spend) for the business?”
  • “how recently have you paid to advertise your business “within the last month” or “more then one year ago”

After these initial questions, there was one asking what roles the individual who were taking the survey carried out (see below). If customers clicked on ‘none of the above’, which include the likes of teaching working from home or consulting, they were then cleared from the survey. Clearly Google only wants to target businesses which they feel are reliant on GMB listings, and they are of the opinion that being a teacher, consultant or any role which may not typically use local listings is not relevant to the survey.

After these initial questions, there was one asking what roles the individual who were taking the survey carried out (see below). If customers clicked on ‘none of the above’, which include the likes of teaching working from home or consulting, they were then cleared from the survey. Clearly Google only wants to target businesses which they feel are reliant on GMB listings, and they are of the opinion that being a teacher, consultant or any role which may not typically use local listings is not relevant to the survey.

If they cleared this stage, the questions continued. Most notably one addressing the price range which the individual typically spent on ads each month. This ranged between $50-500. The fact that they were only asking up to $500, indicated that Google is targeting smaller business, as generally this is seen as a medium to small ad spend on the likes of PPC. This indicates that no one is safe anymore, even the poor local SMB’s are getting their pockets turned out in order to survive. Those who could only manage through organic listings on google maps, are now being looked at as a source of revenue for google.

Features

After this, the questions would turn to features, which was the clear identifier that this survey was about monetising GMB.

They would often show a feature which may be introduced, and then ask the individual how much they would be willing to pay for them.

Without boring you to death these were most of the features mentioned:

  • Promoted map pin
  • Add ‘Book’ button on your profile
  • Pay to promote your ‘Book’ button
  • Promote a special offer or discount on your business profile
  • Get access to reports and recordings
  • Respond to customer quotes with an automatic quote
  • Automated message response like an FAQ service>
  • Automated reviews response
  • Verified licences
  • Google customer support
  • Verified customer reviews
  • Google search results placements (basically google ads)
  • Featured review placement
  • Google Guarantee
  • Show display video on your profile
  • Getting competitors leads from their profiles
  • Get a request a quote button
  • Verified your bookings

I won’t go into all of them as we would be here all day,. However, there are definitely a few which are worth mentioning.

Getting competitor leads from their profiles

Firstly, what is going on here…? Handing out competitor leads when a customer messages their profile. It’s practically like standing in a shop door and pointing over to the competitor across the road, to say that they not only offer the same product, but they may also do it cheaper if you just take a look.

Initially, you would think there is no way Google would introduce such a bonkers offering, however this has already been put in motion. Not exactly like it is described in the survey, but as a Learning Center mention in their blog; google has started matching you to search terms that are relevant to your business and location, which includes your competitors business name.

This was first discovered by Ben Fisher back in August 2019, with a Honda dealership appearing on a Dodge dealerships listing:.

What can this tell us? Well, those who are willing to pay, will likely be allowed to sit on their competitors doorstep to essentially redirect their traffic to their own store. Whilst google sits back with their feet up, they are going to make small businesses chuck cash at their ads, in order to beat the local competition.

This is not exactly fair game, and it steers towards those businesses which are already dominant, to double down preventing local smaller businesses to have an equal opportunity to succeed.

Google Guarantee

If you are an SEO, or you are familiar with local SEO, you may have come across Google Guarantee before.

It is actually something which has been around for a fair amount of time (since 2017). The first sign of it being introduced into Google my business listings was the survey last year.

In July 2020 Google Guarantee got it’s first kick off. It was spotted in a couple of areas, one being the home tab of the GMB dashboard. It allowed certain companies to upgrade their profile at the cost of $50.

What is it?


Google Guarantee
involves google carrying out rigorous background checks on a company, and if they pass they get a certificate which comes in the form of a green tick. “The Google Guarantee badge  is available for businesses that pass a Google screening and qualification process through Local Services Ads.”

It is a way for google to provide a better experience for users, because they have more confidence in the services they are purchasing, as google reimburses any service which does not live up to the quality and satisfaction of the customer.

However, as I mentioned at the start, this is Google finding the perfect balance between maximising profits and providing a service which businesses will pay for and customers will use. As search land pointed out, that a spokesperson at google states that they are still ‘experimenting’ with the google guarantee, saying that they are “always testing new ways to improve our experience for advertisers, merchants and users”.

They have only rolled it out in the US and Canada thus far, but it will likely be on our UK doorstep soon enough if it is making google money, and as a local SEO company this is both exciting and worrying.

Promoted map pin

Finally I just want to look at the concept of Google’s promoted pins on their google maps.

What are they?

If you are unsure, Word Stream described promoted pins as Google’s goal to “optimize the Google Maps experience so that users actually see the ads but without going so far as to become obtrusive and become a distraction to users who may be driving “. The pin will display a square shaped google maps pin, which is stand out from the other smaller pins located within google maps.

Recent roll out

This is something google has rolled out since the survey last year. Recently they have been offering “promoted pins for free in an effort to assist small businesses that are now in the process of reopening after lockdown.” – Search Engine Journal. Although this is likely to be harmless and Google has the intention of helping small businesses, the sceptic inside me can’t help but see this as a way for them to monetise even more. By getting users onboard for free, and then eventually charging them. This is a tactic Google plays with almost all of it’s services, first by offering a freemium, and then once they have small businesses on board, they begin to charge.

Why this all matters….

Now don’t get me wrong Google has to make money, and if they can do it in a way which won’t deter the user, then on a business level it makes sense. However, as google places increasing influence on paid ads, no longer just in the SERP (search engine results page), but also in google maps and google maps listings. It begs the observation that organic rankings, based on merit and SEO may likely have less of an impact on reaching potential customers as Google monetises in more markets and for more services.

What may seem like a $50 google guarantee, or a free promoted map pin, may easily turn into hundreds if not thousands of pounds over the course of a year as they upsell and change freemium into premiums; . Ultimately only allowing for a pay-to-play model.

Even more worrying, is the fact that they are still looking into the concept of paying for competitors leads and traffic, which could easily turn into big companies with excess cash being able to dominate smaller local companies, and thus making local search monopolised by those at the top.

Now, I am probably being a little dramatic about all this and on the most part I don’t think it would ever get to the point where organic traffic is a thing of the past, and pay-to-play is the only option. However, hopefully it has given you something to think about , and watch out for, because whatever happens you will have to adapt to the times in order for your local business or agency to survive.

If you need help with your google maps listings, SEO or local SEO, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at Digital Rainmaker



The Key Fundamentals Of Content Clustering

You’ve finally got your act together on the marketing front – or so you think. From paid ads to SEO, blogs, and email campaigns, you’re seemingly on the ball; proud of your carefully crafted plan, convinced you’ve solved the content puzzle.

So, when you come across a blog that highlights a new and effective marketing strategy – which you don’t have – it’s understandable if you’re a little miffed. But don’t worry.

In this case, we’re talking about content clustering. Marketing is always evolving and those that keep up are usually the most successful. In 2013, Google introduced the Hummingbird Update. This essentially made SERPs a lot more human and tailored to more specific searches. Since then, Google users have been able to access more accurate answers, relevant to what they’re actually searching for.

This is Google’s way of answering special requests – which means the content has to do the same. This is why content clustering is so important. It gives readers easier access to more specialist topics. While it can be tricky to get your head around, there’s no doubt that it’s an incredibly effective tool when you do.

What is content clustering?

Content clustering is a finely-tuned approach to content marketing. In simple terms, it’s a multitude of content pieces that all align under one common overarching topic – known as pillar content. If that doesn’t simplify things, then imagine it like this:

You’re a London SEO Agency, who want to write about email marketing (Pillar Content). Now, this is quite a broad topic. While you can produce loads of content for email marketing on one single page, there’s a lot to cover and your risk exhausting your reader or viewer.

Instead, it’s better to create a group of well-rehearsed and informative pieces that individually cover each specific area of email marketing and feed into the broader topic.

Pillar content and cluster content are also defined by different key words. For instance, a pillar page will pinpoint a much broader keyword; whereas a cluster topic will target a much more specific keyword, with a much smaller search volume.

You may be asking: what’s the point in all of this? Well, there are many reasons why content clustering is a must for agencies and marketers. The major reason, however, is to keep our old friend Google happy.

Why is content clustering important?

For a start, content clustering gives your website a really good structure. Not only does it look good, but it provides visitors with a seamless experience. They can easily navigate your content and jump from topic to topic, comfortable that what they’re reading is exactly what they were searching for.

But above all else, content clustering is there to impress Google. As with the majority of things in digital marketing, we must do our best to keep Google on our good side. Content clustering shows Google a well-structured and informative site, targeting specific keywords. If your content does this well, Google will reward you.

They’re looking for experts in certain areas. So, a tonne of different pieces of content on one specific topic is a great way to demonstrate this. Google has criteria that separate good from mediocre content, which determines how much trust they put into a certain brand or site. This is known as EAT:

Expertise – does the creator have the correct credentials and how accurate is their content?

Authoritativeness – how well do you stack up in that industry? Who’s been backlinking to your site and who looks up to you?

Trustworthiness – does Google trust you to provide honest and information? Who has backlinked or cited your site?

When creating your cluster content, your level of website expertise in your chosen field increases. Equally, as your blogs begin to rank your level of authoritativeness and trustworthiness will also be dragged up due to an increase in backlinks, citations, and regular informative information on the site.

How do you create cluster content?

  • Go Granular:

As mentioned already, cluster content should target smaller topics. This type of content is all about building up to a bigger subject – the pillar page. So when we start small, we have a much better chance to create this funnel system.

It’s a good idea to work out a topic hierarchy. Then, you can direct all of your sub-topics towards this broad end goal. This will only improve your rankings.

 

  • Understand Your User

It’s the number one rule in marketing: understand who it is your selling to. In order to maximise your cluster content, make sure you find out what questions your customers or viewers are asking.

This means you can target more specific and granular keywords which will ultimately get your content ranking higher. Google is always rewarding content that’s relevant to what users are searching for – so make sure yours is.

  • Interlink

Again, this helps point viewers to other relevant content of yours. It also ticks a load of boxes for Google. By interlinking to other pages, you show Google the link between pages, as well as their relevance and value. Do this, and you’ll soar up the rankings.

So, there you have it – another marketing instrument that’s sure to boost your digital presence. It’s worth mentioning that this may not be a strategy applicable to everyone; so double check before you start.

By clustering your content, you not only simplify your users’ experience, but you make your website stand out for all the right reasons with Google. It’s of course these two who we need to impress. While it may be a lot to take on board, cluster content is relatively simple once you crack it. When you do, it’s an incredibly effective long-term strategy.



 

The History Of SEO And What Its Future

HoldsSEO in 2021- is it worth it?

With the rise of paid media, ads and platforms like TikTok, there’s been a conversation around whether SEO is becoming outdated. However, irrelevant of how much websites now rely on alternative online advertising, being able to rank organically above your competitors, is an almost irreplaceable asset to your business. So, as long as people are still using Google – which they are, there are (40,000 google searches made every second)– then SEO will remain just as important as it is now, although it may come in different shapes and sizes as it has done over the years.

In the long history of Google influencing site rankings, there have been many changes to its algorithm. It has been important for SEO companies to keep up with all the various updates that have impacted how our pages rank. This got us thinking: can we look at what Google has done in the past, to gain insight into its future?

 

Where SEO all began…

Nowadays, we know how important Google is in the world of SEO with 3.5 billion Google searches being made each day. However, there was a time when SEO was independent of Google. We could say that the world of SEO began in 1991, when the first ever website was launched. But officially, the first use of the term ‘search engine optimisation’ was in 1997. This, however, was completely different to what it is now.

Keywords

As soon as people started using search engines, website owners began thinking of ways to get their site to the top of the SERP (search engine result page). At the beginning, this was purely how much the content of your site matched what the user entered in the search bar. In other words, for a website to be highly ranked, it just had to be filled with the keywords. The more often the keywords were used, the higher the website would rank, and thus keyword stuffing was born

Backlinks

In 2000, Google partnered with Yahoo and began controlling their organic search. When anyone searched in Yahoo (the more known and influential search engine of the time), they were faced with ‘powered by Google’, turning Google into a household name. They soon began ranking on and off-page factors – a revolutionary SEO move. Google realised that if people were talking about a site, it would act as an indicator for the importance of that site and so it deserves to rank high.

 

A collection of Tweaks

Over the next few years, Google added more and more changes to its algorithm to improve the user experience. In 2004, they began to include local SEO and started to personalise the user experience by looking at the user’s individual history and interests.

In 2005, they created ‘nofollow’ to combat spam and 2006 saw the inclusion of ‘Map Plus Box’, so that the user could easily navigate from their search, to a map of what they wanted. They even made it easier for site owners to track their progress, with the creation of Google Analytics and Google Search Console. In 2007, Google added to Universal Search – its biggest change since the Florida Update that added news, videos, blogs and images to the user’s search.

Florida Update

In 2003, Google got smart and realised the ways that businesses were getting their sites to rank higher. This update had a huge impact, causing some retail companies to go out of business.

Now, sites with an unnatural amount of keywords, invisible links and hidden links dropped massively in their rank. This update was to remove clutter for the user and although it seemed detrimental at first, it actually forced businesses to make more of an effort to rank their sites, by improving the user’s experience and adding useful content.

 

Brands

The 2008 Vince update seemed to favour bigger brands as they moved up the search rankings with more ease in comparison to new or smaller brands. Google claimed that this was not because they just wanted to praise larger companies, but because larger brands were popular for a reason – they were trustworthy.

Social signals

With the rise of social media, Google now considered this when ranking sites. Now, social signals such as shares, likes and tweets all mattered.

Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird

In 2011 and 2012, Google released two new updates that still have a major impact on how we as SEO’s operate today. With Panda, Google aimed to eliminate the use of ‘content farms’ which are websites that produce thin or scraped content.

The Penguin update was even more accurate in eliminating keyword stuffing and linking patterns. The user now had clearer results, with no auto-generated, low-quality content to sieve through.

The 2013 Hummingbird update was introduced which allowed search engines to reward more natural language. This was due to the rise of mobiles and voices search. Yet again, Google making it easier for users to get exactly what they want.

Mobile

2015 was the year that mobile searches overtook that of desktop which caused Google to launch its mobile friendly algorithm.

AI

Also in 2015, Google introduced RankBrain which was equipped to understand what the specific user’s intent was. For example, it can recognise whether the user wants to buy or read information, or whether they want a short or long answer. By 2017, Google was declared the world’s first total AI company, with AI in everything. Google informs and assists rather than just showing you a list of information.

BERT and EAT

2019 saw the creation of BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers), to better understand different languages. This improved the quality of international traffic. This update also focused on increasing the ranking of sites that had higher quality content, rather than its use of keywords. The 2020 updates introduced ‘E.A.T’ (expertise, authority, trustworthiness), which was used 186 times in their guidelines, showing their emphasis on providing good quality information for their users.

2021

What will likely be the biggest change for 2021 is Google core web vitals update.

This is the introduction of page speed to Google’s existing page experience ranking factors (such as mobile friendly, HTTPS, safe browsing and no intrusive interstitials). Page speed is something webmasters and business owners should be focussing on anyway, as it has a direct impact on conversion and bounce rate. However, with this now becoming major ranking factor, businesses should begin to use the likes of Google Search Console, Pagespeed insights and lighthouse to prepare for the core web vitals update. Along side side this, we predict that mobile compatibility will be more important than ever as phone usage continues to overtake the use of desktops.

Just as we see an ever increasing usage of mobile search over desktop, we are seeing more and more use of voice search, which will no doubt transform the way SEO is undertaken over the coming years. To prepare for this, two methods which businesses should make sure that they are undertaking, is aiming for rich snippets which are short and to the point (FAQ’s are an effective method to address this), as well as being setup across Bing, Google and Safari, so they are available for Alexa, Siri and Googles Assistant.

Some other useful things to consider, is content depth – as long as the information is relevant, it matters less on the actual content depth which has dominated how google ranks content over the last couple of years. It is also suggested that sites should be niche, so make sure your content is specific to your site’s main objective.

What can we conclude?

Despite the many different updates that Google has done over the years, there has been one that seems to be consistent: to improve the experience of the user. The various tweaks to its algorithm have always been to ensure that when you search in Google, you are met with the most appropriate product, service or information out there. We know that keeping the user satisfied means that they will continue to use Google and therefore Google makes more money. Because of this, Google will always do what it can to put the user first and provide them with the best result possible.

Because of Google’s increasing intelligence, it is wise to leave the easy, cheat ways behind. Instead, focus on providing good quality information on a well-functioning site. Use language that the user would use, and check your sites on tablets, mobiles and desktops to ensure a smooth web experience. Although we cannot predict the exact changes google will roll out to the world of SEO, we can be sure that UX will be the most influential factor over the next couple of years.

 

How Do I Optimise a Website For Voice Search?

In 2021, voice search is becoming more and more important in SEO. Devices like Amazon Alexas and Google Homes are becoming increasingly more popular and as a result, more people are asking virtual assistants questions, instead of typing them up. As usual, search engines are keeping up with these trends, and making compatibility for voice search an important factor in SEO.

What are the differences between voice search SEO and normal SEO?

The issue with voice search is that Ai assistants will only read out one result, instead of showing a whole page full. So, with voice SEO, getting that number one spot or rich snippet is even more important and influential. In the past, SEO’s have argued that rich snippets are not as beneficial as they might seem on the surface, as they have prevented top-ranking sites from gaining a wealth of traffic as searchers are delivered the answer they were looking for without having to click onto a website. However, with voice search becoming more influential, SEO’s will inevitable compete even harder for these snippets.

Although we use the term ‘voice search’ for anything asked to smart devices, there are actually two different categories regarding ‘Voice’. These are voice search and voice action.

Voice actions:

When you ask the device to do something, like “call a hairdresser near me” or “call a plumber in Manchester”. These are what you want to be targeting if you are a local business with a local SEO focus.

Voice searches:

These are information-based queries. This could be; “how often should I water my plants”, “why do you need vitamin C in your diet”, or “what is the difference between an alligator and a crocodile”.

So now that you have a good idea about the type of voice search, let’s run over the different approaches for ranking both voice search and voice action queries.

How to Rank for Voice Action:

If you are a service and location-based business you need to focus on optimising your site for voice action. This is done by making sure you are compatible for all different devices that do voice search. You may already have a Google My Business account, but what about the devices that do not use Google as their map service? This is why you must optimise your business profiles on all possible map sites that your potential customers may search on.

This means optimising for these four different sites:

  • Google My Business (used by Android phones and Google Home devices)
  • Bing (used by Alexas and IPhones)
  • Yelp (also used by Alexas and IPhones)
  • Apple Maps (used my IPhones)

So, how do you optimise on these platforms?

Just as when you are getting your google my business ranked, you need to place a focus on displaying as much relevant and useful information as possible. So within these sites and platforms, you must include:

  • photos (make sure to include up-to-date photos of the service you provide, members of your team, and your logo)
  • reviews (these are vital for letting future customers know that you are trusted by those who you have helped)
  • opening times (if people are unsure when you are open, they are less likely to use your service, and Google knows this)
  • descriptions with keywords (a well-planned keyword strategy will ensure that you appear when people ask for you what you do)
  • name, address and phone number (this MUST be consistent across all four platforms)

By including all the necessary details, the search engines will regard you as trustworthy and you have a higher chance of being elected for voice searches. Ultimately this is not much different to typical SEO which is broken down into E.A.T – the T being trust. So, in short, do what you were doing previously to gain the ‘Trust’ element, but across other numerous platforms for multiple search engines.

How to rank for voice search

Voice search is for those looking for information and answers to their problem. An easy way to do this is to add an FAQ page to your site answering common questions that your customers may be asking.

Make your answers short – about 40-50 words for each answer. This is because audiences asking their devices certain queries want quick, to-the-point answers, without their smartphone or speaker reading them an essay. To think about what questions your FAQ should have, think about the theory ‘they ask, you answer’. Whatever questions you think a potential customer might have should be inputted into an FAQ.

What does an X service entail? What are the benefits of buying X product? What is the average market price for X product? When it comes to Voice search intent, think about questions asking; ‘How to…’. ‘When do I…’, ‘What is…’ and ‘What do I do when..’. These types of conversational questions take up over 65% of voice search queries. Ultimately this means that you should be carrying out long-tail keyword research and prioritising the conversational type of queries which seem to be appearing.

When addressing these questions, you should focus on simplicity (like an 8th-grade reading level) whilst keeping it conversational as this is the type of content that voice search results will pull out. You should in theory be writing similarly to how your audience speaks, which means thinking about the industry you are in and the type of customers you interact with on a regular basis.

Schema Markup

Having a schema markup can greatly improve your page ranking. It can help you get on rich snippets and featured snippets. So, if you want that Position 0 ranking, you should be utilising schemas. Because 40% of voice searches come from featured snippets, getting your schema right is vital for voice search.

Search engines look at your schema and from this can understand the context of your website. Having a schema markup is the equivalent of you describing your site, with detail, to your search engine. This allows you to have more of an influence on how search engines should read your site and thus rank it.

Schema can come in many different forms. Although there are some universal schemas for all websites, such as organisational or breadcrumbs schema, the type of schema you use will often depend on the industry you are in and the type of website you run.

These include:

  • Creative Works
  • Article
  • Video
  • Event
  • Recipe
  • Local Business Schema
  • Product

You should choose the most relevant type for your content. There are so many types and properties (778 types and 1383 properties), so it is very important that you choose the right one. Having the correct schema can help your chances of being on the featured snippet, which as previously mentioned would increase your chances of being sleeted for voice search.

Last tips

Ultimately, you want to work on authority with voice action and voice search. So, remember to ensure that your content reads well and is not unnaturally crammed with keywords. Throughout the history of SEO, Google has become better at noticing what might be spam, so always try and be as helpful to the user as possible.

When you are writing this content, think about how people would speak. Matching what people ask with their voice means writing more naturally which probably means less formally. Finally, if you are providing useful information that matches what people are asking, then searchers will want to use your answers and give your site a high-ranking position.



How to rank higher in google maps in 2021

How to rank in Google Maps in 2021

Table of Contents

Why Google Maps Ranking is Important

Google maps ranking without a doubt is the most important element of local SEO.

This is backed up by numerous studies, such as the one ran by Moz that indicates that 40% of clicks are allocated to the ‘three pack’ within the google maps listing, with 10% only going to paid results and around 30% going to first page organic search below the 3 pack. The rest is made up of users viewing other businesses within the google maps offerings and on a very rare occasion venturing on to the second page.

A Google study also found that 70% of mobile searchers use click-to-call a business from Google results. So as Google offers a direct call CTA within it’s map ranking results, the companies which are displayed, are going to have a far greater chance of receiving those leads than the organic sites below the 3 pack.

three pack local seo example

So ultimately, where companies will begin to see the greatest gains in regards to local SEO, is when they have both their business displayed within the three pack as well as being near the top of the rankings for the organic search results. This allows for increasing prominence and exposure, as you appear twice within the first page results, which dramatically increases the chance of the customer clicking through to your site or calling direct through the three pack.

 

The good news is that although it can often be difficult and long process to appear near the top of the first page for organic search results, getting into the 3 pack can be a lot faster, and often involves a fraction of the time invested to appear there. 

So, now you have a quick idea of why ranking on Google maps is important, especially in regards to the three pack, you may be wondering how to achieve getting there.

 

How Google determines It's map rankings

Although Google won’t easily identify all the factors going into map ranking businesses, they do identify three distinctive areas which are of most importance, and these ultimately come down to Google trying to offer the best user experience above all else.

These are:

  1. Relevance
  2. Distance 
  3. Prominence 

Relevance

This is pretty self explanatory, the more relevant google sees your service offering to the search intent from the user, then the more likely you are to be ranking in the 3 pack. This is why it is crucial to submit the correct information within your GMB (Google My Business) profile, such as within the description, and service offering section.

Distance and Proximity

Again, this is what it says on the tin. The businesses closest to the users location term, will be more likely to appear in the three pack. If the user hasn’t submitted a location term then Google will use any other information possible, most commonly your GPS, which is how they connect you for ‘near me’ searches.

With service companies like plumbing, it can be a bit of a headache working out how to rank high in areas away from your business address. For example if you are a plumber in Brighton, and have your business address in the centre of Brighton, but you offer services throughout Sussex, figuring out how to remain at the top of the rankings for areas further out from Brighton is difficult. Although Google hasn’t offered too many easy remedies for this, it is something we have a few tips for below.

Prominance

This is referring to how well known a business is. In this case, being well known offline can actually benefit, as google tries to represent prominence in the offline world, not necessarily the online, for example they state within their Support info that “famous museums, landmark hotels or well-known shop brands that are familiar to many people are also likely to be more prominent in local search results.”

But ultimately, as a plumbing or HVAC company, Googles main way of telling your prominence will be through links, articles and directories, review count and score. This is why carrying out citations, asking clients to complete reviews and getting both relevant and high DA backlinks is so crucial.

If you want to geek out a little further 🤓…. “Apparently” the domain age doesn’t actually have that much of an impact on your site/business prominence. I was always of the opinion that it did, however according to Googles Matt Cutts in this video ““The difference between a domain that’s six months old versus one year old is really not that big at all.”

How to achieve higher rankings

GMB - Listing optimisation

First I think it’s important to start with GMB. If you are unfamiliar with GMB, and you are trying to rank higher on Google maps, then the first step would be to check if your business is already verified.

If you have been around for a while, it may be that a previous customer, or employee has made a business listing for you. Or if you have a memory like mine… you may have even registered your GMB already and forgotten about it.

So to check, simply type in your business name into google and if you appear in the listing then you will already have been registered.

Correct info & elements

Next it is vital to make sure that your business info is correct, such as: your NAP (name, address and phone number), operating hours, a detailed description (inclusive of keywords), web links, primary and secondary service categories etc.

This step should not be taken for granted, as GMB elements were voted as the number one influencing factor for local map rankings on a MOZ survey in 2020 (as seen below).

Specifically it’s crucial that you include your primary keywords within your description, and make use of the space Google gives you. Also when filling in the category section, try to include a wide range of services that your business provides, in order to maximise your chances of appearing in the map ranking results for a variety of search terms.

You will also get an option of inputting the different areas you serve within your GMB. And so try to include a range of the main areas you cover especially if you are a service based company which doesn’t operate out of one set location like plumbing. However, don’t go completely nuts with this, as I am of the belief that it will eventually cause diminishing returns, as it dilutes your prominence for the other locations you have already submitted.

NB: One thing I often find with location based service companies, such as plumbing companies, is that they forget to link their website within their GMB. Your website will act as a landing page, and will be crucial for increasing conversion rates, so DON’T FORGET THIS!

Regular & relevant posts

By making sure that you post on a consistent basis within your GMB, you are signalling to google that you are an active business, and so they will be more likely to push you up the google maps rankings. This is similar to posting on twitter or facebook.

What is particularly effective is posting videos and photos on a weekly basis if you can, as this appeals to consumers much more, which Google obviously loves, as it’s all about user experience!

This is not only best practice for Google, but It is also a good way of highlighting to customers that you are here and ready for business, just as much as it is for Google.

 

 

Getting GMB Reviews

Reviews can make or break a business no matter what industry they are in, and as you can see from the Moz ranking factor survey above, they are deemed as the second most important factor to get ranking on Google maps in 2020.

This has to be one of the least technical methods in getting a higher ranking for the Google maps, and requires very little work from your side, as long as the business is providing a high quality service in the first place.

Top trick: One of the best methods I was told by a plumber with a ridiculous amount of 5 star reviews. Is by inputting the review link at the bottom of his invoice, with a polite message explaining how to leave a review if the customer wouldn’t mind, he was able to get a customer review the large majority of the time. It’s so simple, yet so effective.

Replying to you reviews is also an effective way of showing activity within your GMB, displaying good customer service, and acts as a way to mitigate the damage from negative reviews. NB: If you receive negative reviews, make sure you reply in a professional manner, so future customers aren’t put off when they look into your lower rated reviews.

On-page website optimisation

If you are familiar with on page optimisation, you will likely know the dramatic impact it can have on pushing your site up the organic search rankings. However, I imagine you are not too sure how it can impact your rankings within google maps. These points below should give you a good idea of how you can start to increase your google map rankings through on page optimisation.

Consistency across GMB and website

When you link your landing page (likely your home page) to your GMB, google will take the data from that page and use it as relevance factors to determine the google maps ranking.

With this in mind the first thing is to check that your information on your website is aligned to the latest information on your GMB. If not, Google will see this as a factor for causing poor user experience as there are inconstancies within your listings and website, thus causing lower rankings.

Area, Name, Business category/service

As I just mentioned, Google will use the info on your landing page to reinforce the information it has from GMB and other citations of your business online.

So it is important to make sure that you are creating consistent mentions of your Area,Business Category, and business name.

This can be done within the H1 tags, which are the main heading tags on your site, your meta description (which is the description explaining what the site is about before someone clicks on it), and then content within your site.

“make sure that you are creating consistent mentions of your Area,Business Category, and business name.”

E.g. if I am a plumber in Manchester, which primarily focusses on boiler services. Then I may have a H1 tag on my homepage saying something like Digital Rainmaker – Manchester Boiler Plumber. It doesn’t always need to follow that order, and it may be that often it is hard to fit in all three without seeming unnatural, but where possible follow the ‘area, name and business category’ process and it will help with your google maps ranking.

Embedding Google Maps on site

This is one of my favourites. So simple, whilst also adding a little extra flair to the site. By embedding google maps into your site footer, or contact page, you are essentially telling google that you are located where the listing says it is. NB: To help reinforce your location to google and remain consistent to the information you have provided them, it is important to use the same address as your Google maps listing.

To be able to embed maps, as you can see below what we have done here on one of our plumbing sites – Hot Flame Plumbing. There are two methods you can take. Firstly, you may have the option to embed Google maps easily as a template dependent on the CMS platform you are using, or web builder on WordPress. Alternatively, you can head over to Google maps and search for your company name, then click on the share button within the listing, and you should be able to copy and paste the link to your business contact page.

Citations

Now that you have a good idea about some on the on page changes you can make to help get higher google maps rankings, let’s take a look at citations which are an off page element that can have a big impact on your google maps ranking results.

Building out citations, is a way of reinforcing the data you have provided Google, additionally it also adds another method of customers finding you online, through the likes of directories.

When completing citations, if Google finds that information you have provided on sites like Yelp is inaccurate and inconsistent from your GMB and website, then they will begin to lose trust, and it will have a negative impact on your rankings. However, if it is aligned with what you have provided on your GMB, and your website, then these citations can have a huge impact for both your organic search rankings, and your google maps rankings. So when carrying out citations consistency is king, followed by the industry relevance and domain authority of that site.

Citations can come in all different forms, typically they would be your NAP (name, address, phone number), however it may also be things like:

  • Driving directions
  • Email
  • Videos
  • Photos
  • PDF’s
  • Links to social
  • Business description
  • Geo-coordinates
  • Operating hrs

Driving directions hack to multiple location ranking

If you recall, when we were previously talking about distance/proximity, Google will default to using your main location submitted within your GMB. If you are a service based business which travels to multiple locations then this can cause all types of frustrations, as you won’t be appearing in the top of the google map rankings for the other areas you operate.

So one of the ways you can increase your chances of appearing in multiple signal locations, such as a ‘plumber near me’ search in Brixton as well as a ‘plumber near me’ search in Clapham, is by submitting driving directions from all these different points.

With driving directions you are sending signals from the multiple different geo areas you wish to operate within. Now once you have those driving direction URL’s, you can begin to create links to them through niche specific sites, which help’s strengthen their authority, and thus your prominence in different areas.

To do this:

1. First type in the name of your company, and then click on directions in the listing. For this example I simple types in ‘plumbers near me’, and selected a random one. Which meant it was Hegarty Plumbing and Heatings lucky day.

2. Next, you want to input a location which is within the zone you are operating. For this example I just picked Clapham Junction stations, but a good way of doing it is picking post codes or Burroughs. As you will see below, this will give you directions to your listed location on your GMB, and thus helps with increasing your proximity to these other areas.

3. After this, you will need to click on the menu bar located in the top left, which will give you a drop down option, and you should select ‘share or embed map’. Which will give you a link to copy.

4. Ultimately from this point, you can replicate the process so you have multiple links for multiple different directions from you main listed location. Then you should begin uploading those links onto high domain authority sites, as citations.

5. Finally, from here you can begin to swarm the citations with backlinks, which will increase the page authority for that citation, and therefore increases the influence it will have on you being found in those other geo locations. If Google penalises the citation for too many backlinks, then it won’t matter as you can disavow the link to your site, to prevent any harmful penalties later down the line.

Conclusion

To wrap up, hopefully this has given you a good run down of how google maps ranking works, and the steps you can take to get into the three pack for more then once location or service offering.

It is hard to tell exactly what the most influencing factor Googles algorithm places on ranking businesses within Google maps. However, based on studies, my personal opinion and steps which you can easily take, I would first start focussing on uploading the correct business information to you GMB which is centred around the search terms and locations you wish to rank for, as well as maintaining regular activity on your GMB, such as gaining reviews, replying to reviews, uploading photos etc.

If you feel a lot of the more technical work would be best for us to carry out, and you want us to take a detailed look at your GMB, as well as carrying out a website audit, then do get in touch! As we will be more then happy to organise a free consultation to work out how you can increase your organic and google maps traffic.