Google news

Do you ever wonder if Google will stop making changes? I don’t like to deliver bad news, but they won’t.

As I’ve mentioned before, Google is 100% focused on providing the best experience for their users. They want all consumers looking to their search engine (and their products and services as well) in their moments of need.

Google has been moving in this direction for many years now, and with an even swifter pace the past few, in my opinion. Consumers today are super-empowered. As Google revealed, this consumer is curious, demanding and impatient. Review their powerful insights on today’s consumer here.

The super-empowered consumer puts serious research and thought into their buying decisions. They spend an average of 13 days looking for a specific item before they buy. So where are they looking for these items they plan to buy? The simple answer is online. But they don’t just stop at search results – they look at review sites, social media, and to their friends for personal recommendations.

Now that you have some background on the new consumer, I want to talk with you about a few recent changes Google has been making that relate to the Google My Business review component. Let’s start with review-gating.

Reviews are More Important than Ever as #Google Puts #Reviews in the Spotlight by @BernieColeman
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What is Review-Gating?

Review-gating takes place during an online customer satisfaction survey. During the survey process, the third-party tool identifies if the customer feedback is positive or negative – and reacts accordingly.

When the feedback is positive, additional requests will be displayed in the survey for the customer to place a review on sites like Google, Yelp, etc. When the feedback is flagged as negative, the customer journey will take them down a path to resolve the complaint privately. The customer never receives the request to provide reviews on sites like Google.

One of the recent changes GMB made to their guidelines specifically addresses how businesses are handling reviews with these third-party tools. While a business can’t filter out negative reviews from being displayed on a Google My Business listing once it’s published, many are using these third-party review tools as a filter.

If you represent a business using a tool to collect reviews, find out immediately if they have review-gating turned on and get it turned off ASAP! Google states that businesses that continue using review-gating tools are at risk of having reviews removed from their GMB listing altogether!

Review Response Notifications to Start Hitting Customer Email Inboxes

Google just announced they will start notifying customers who have posted a review on a GMB listing when the business responds. Other review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor have notified reviewers for a while, but now it seems Google is getting onboard too. And this is good news for businesses.

Google My Business Review NotificationsIn their announcement, Google said: “When businesses respond to, or update responses to customer reviews, the customer now receives an email notification. The business’ response is published immediately and 5 minutes later, the notification is sent. This 5-minute delay allows time for the merchant to make any corrections to their response after submitting.”

This change means businesses will have an even better opportunity to convert a negative review or experience into a positive. Also, this provides a way to turn reviewers into potential brand advocates in the future.

Reviews Influence Buying Decisions

2 out of 3 customers say having positive reviews about a business or product is an important factor when they make buying decisions.

We all know customers are quick to offer a review when they’ve had a negative experience vs. a positive one. It falls to the business owner to elicit reviews from happy customers, but they must do it in the right way.

Reviews are very important, so keep reading for how to get more of them.

1. Make it Easy to Give a Review

Customers are more likely to give a review if the process is painless. Include links in emails, on receipts, and on the business website. Spending the extra time creating clear instructions on how to leave a review is also a winning way to get more reviews. I have some additional review tips here for you to consider.

2. Feature Reviews to Get More Reviews

Customers are more likely to offer a review when they see other reviews. This serves as a little reminder about their own experience with a business, and prompts them to join in, too.

Share reviews with them on social media, the website, and maybe even in some print pieces. Google has a resource for businesses, “Small Thanks with Google,” that enables business to promote their business with personalized marketing materials. They can turn reviews into graphics and posters to display at the brick-and-mortar location. People like to see their name up in lights – it makes them feel good!

3. Stop Hiding and Start Managing

Besides asking for reviews, one of the ways to collect more positive reviews is by responding to the ones a business currently has. When a business responds properly, it shows those reading the reviews that the business truly cares about their customers and their experiences.

No one likes to be criticized, and this includes businesses delivering products and services to consumers. Google provides some general best practices for responding to reviews here to help get started.

While hiding negative reviews is tempting for any small business, responding and resolving them is the best approach. Here are some tips to help with that.

Steps for Responding to Online Reviews

Turning a negative customer experience into a positive experience demonstrates the best customer service a business can provide.

We’re Here to Help

Managing reviews and reputation starts with monitoring. Did you know our local presence management solution has review and social sentiment monitoring built right in?

Find out how easy it is to monitor and share reviews from our partner dashboard today. Request a demo to learn more!

Reputation Management Solution

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Is Mobile SEO a Real Thing?

As you know, I have written countless articles on SEO, local SEO, design, content and even mobile optimization. The thought that comes to mind for many not in this industry when they hear about mobile SEO is: “Mobile SEO really isn’t any different than the other types of SEO.”

SEO (search engine optimization) is the optimization of pages and posts to place higher in a general search. Local SEO is a deeper dive into optimization, but for a specific geographic area. Mobile SEO is taking it even further by optimizing for a general search, a local search and for the user searching on mobile specifically.

Is #Mobile #SEO a Real Thing? Find Out Now from @BernieColeman #DigitalMarketing
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So Why is Mobile a Big Deal?

As I addressed in this article, “What is Google’s Mobile-First Index and How Can a Business Prepare for It?,” Google is changing the primary index used to deliver search results on desktop and mobile to a mobile-first focus.

Sites that place well in desktop search results right now but do not place well in mobile can potentially see their first page placement move into second and third page placements if they don’t fix their mobile optimization now. Sites that currently place well in mobile, but not so well in desktop search, can potentially see a bump to the first page in desktop search.

I’m not going to go into how to optimize for the mobile-first index here, so please click the two links above and read about it in-depth. Instead, let’s explore what else a local business needs to do.

What Can a Local Business or Brand Do?

Beyond optimizing a website for design, user experience and mobile search, businesses need to have accurate location data.

I’m not just saying this because I want you to submit more businesses through our local presence management solution, but because this data is driving SERPs placement, trust and so much more.

Don’t Take My Word for It; Here Are Some Stats to Back It Up

Do you know that when consumers lose trust, they don’t click to visit a website? When they do click and then click right back to SERPs, search engines perceive this as an indicator that the page being displayed in SERPs isn’t providing value for the searcher. When this pattern happens repeatedly, the page will move down in placement and eventually could be bumped to the second, third or fourth page of results. By the way, that is after position 20, 30, 40, etc.

Improving Trust Can Be Simple

1. Going Back to Data

 It all starts with consistency. Clean up those bad listings, duplicate listings and closed locations.

2. Improve Site Content

Remember E-A-T? Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. Pages and posts that don’t integrate these elements need to be cleaned up.

3. Get Rid of Duplicates

If duplicate content is an issue, replace it, delete it or redirect to a page that meets Google’s guidelines and content best practices.

4. Lack of Reviews or Bad Reviews?

Develop a strategy to get more, respond to those bad reviews and work to resolve them. The reviewer may consider a revision once you solve their problem.

You Don’t Have to Go at It Alone

These are just a few of the things a local business or brand can do to improve trust with consumers and search engines. If time and the team is an issue, Advice Local is here to help. Request a demo to learn more.

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The Google 1-2-3’s for You: Google Partners Connect May Webinar Wrap-Up

We like to share our partner perks whenever possible and that’s exactly what I’m going to do today. Just this week we invited our clients and friends to attend our Google Partners Connect webinar. Not everyone got to attend, so we wanted to bring the most important highlights to you via our blog.

#Google Partners Connect Webinar Wrap-Up – Topics #Mobile #SEO #GMB by @LissaDuty #AdviceLocal
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But First, Here’s a Few Stats to Set the Stage

  • 87% of smartphone users turn to search first.
  • 30% of mobile searches are related to location.

The need for businesses to not only meet but also anticipate the need of potential customers is crucial. We’ve been telling you this for awhile, and in this webinar Google is too.

In order to continue to place in search results, businesses must understand today’s consumer.

Today’s Consumer is Super-Empowered

This consumer is curious, demanding and impatient. They have some very specific characteristics.

1. The Curious Consumer

  • They want to know about everything.
  • They want to know right then.
  • They spend about 13 days looking for a specific item before buying.

There’s been an 80% increase in growth for “best” search terms in recent years – and they are very specific searches. Consumers now search for “best family vehicle with a moon roof and automatic doors” vs. “best family vehicle” as in the past.

2. The Demanding Consumer

  • They have higher expectations than ever before.
  • They expect tailored experiences without having to reintroduce themselves to a business.
  • They don’t want to have to spell out their requests – the business should know it.

A recent study reveals nearly 2/3rds of users are more likely to buy from a business or app customized to their location. Searches forwhereto buy a certain product have increased more than 85%. 6 out of 10 internet users check to see if an item is in stock before they go to buy it. Now that people know it’s possible for their phone to show them where to buy, they expect it.

People are sharing less, but still expect relevant and accurate information. This is a challenge for marketers, as we need to be able to interpret what consumers want – and deliver it.

3. The Impatient Consumer

  • They are willing to invest their time researching.
  • They want to know, go, do, buy and act now.
  • They want the experience to be fast and frictionless.

The ability to get things done in the moment is driving consumer expectations even higher than they ever were before. Because of this, people are leaving things to the last minute and making more on-the-spot decisions. Not just impromptu decisions, but emergency decisions too – and searches are providing the answers.

Once the business and marketer understand the consumer, they can effectively use their Google My Business (GMB) listing to reach them.

How Google Can Help a Business Reach More Local Customers

Can we all agree it’s critical for any business to be found online? And especially when the consumer wants to know, go, do or buy?

As revealed above, people are searching before they are buying. In fact, 3 out of 4 consumers say they use a search engine to find a business, and 7 out of 10 of these consumers are buying from businesses they found using a search engine.

People are searching locally. Optimizing a Google My Business listing and updating it regularly helps a business to get more visibility locally and online. Since the proof is in the pudding, here’s a few stats on that.

Complete Listings Drive Results

  • Businesses with a complete listing are 2.7x more likely to be considered reputable.
  • These businesses are 70% more likely to attract location visits.
  • 50% of consumers are more likely to buy from these businesses.

A complete listing is more engaging, and provides the information the consumer is most likely looking for such as business hours, website links, phone numbers, etc.

A complete listing is more credible, and businesses that leverage the additional features available through a listing will most likely see even better results. Let’s look at these now.

Taking the Listing Beyond the Basics

1. Use Google Posts

This is a great way to promote products, specials, and new items in stock. These posts last only 7 days, so the business will want to publish a new post regularly. The business should include offers that the consumer can claim. Make sure to always include a high-quality image and a call to action. Here’s a detailed walk-through for publishing a Google Post.

2. Show Video Content

Businesses can now show up to 30 seconds of video content. When creating the video, it’s important to make sure the video attracts the viewer right from the beginning. Studies show that videos being over-salesy don’t work – show the products in the real world. And be sure to include a call to action. This can make all the difference.

3. Create a Free Google Website

Studies show that GMB listings that include a link to a website get 25% to 35% more clicks. If the business already has a website, keep that one – no need to create another one. If the business doesn’thave one, they can create a free one from the information within their GMB listing. Utilize all the features as new ones become available through the free website, such as the contact form. Also, Google Posts show on the website, which is fresh content.

4. Using a GMB Listing to Engage with Local Customers

A GMB listing provides plenty of opportunity to engage with customers and build raving fans. A few of those points are highlighted below.

Reviews –The business should use the listing to read and respond to reviews left by customers. The manner and timeliness can build a loyal following. As the business has positive interactions with customers, they can also ask them to go to the GMB listing and leave a review.

2 out of 3 customers say having positive reviews about a business or product was an important factor when they made their buying decision. The more reviews a business has, the more they can help the consumer make their buying decision.

Click to Call – Consumers who find a business’ GMB listing from a mobile device can click to call them right then with the click of a button. Research shows 90% of consumers are more likely to visit a store when they have a phone number displayed in search and map results.

Messages– Businesses can make it easier for consumers to message them instantly with a button from their mobile device. These messages between the business and consumers are sent anonymously via text so everyone is protected. Here’s more about messaging.

Questions and Answers–Consumers can post questions to the business on the GMB listing. The business and the community can respond to these questions. This is a great way to add and answer frequently asked questions right from the GMB listing. Here’s more on this topic.

5. Connect with New Customers

The GMB listing includes features to see how a business is connecting with new customers, and even provides ways to connect with them again and again.

Insights Reports– The reporting integration shows a business if the listing is getting results for that business. The business can see if the listing is showing up when a consumer searches for products and services like theirs. The business can see if the consumer did a direct search for the business name, or if they found the business through a discovery search for a specific product or service. They can see how many times the GMB listing initiates a phone call, driving directions request, or a website visit.

Advertising– Within the GMB listing the business can get started with Adwords Express. Advertising can really focus ads tailored for their audience. It’s important to include information in the ad that will make the consumer take the next step. For example, tying it to location extensions, so the business can show their business address and information with the ad. With all ads, the business can track the results to see if it’s resulting in conversions.

What’s Next?

Now that I have brought you my notes, observations and insights on the most important points from the webinar, I recommend you take it in for yourself and come up with your own conclusions.

As mentioned in the video and to the attendees that tuned in live from our invite, we are here to answer your questions. Many of the features mentioned above are powerful, but can be time consuming. Just remember, the Advice Local team can help. Request a demo and learn how we can help you today!

Local Presence Management Reseller Solution

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Mobile-Friendly or Mobile-First? It’s App vs. Website – Explore What’s Best for a Business

The simple fact is brands and business are already aware of the important role mobile plays in local business marketing, but are they really taking action? As I shared in my earlier article on the mobile-first index, according to data from the market intelligence company SimilarWeb, mobile now accounts for 56% of all website visits.

#Mobile-Friendly or Mobile-First? It’s #App vs. #Website – What’s Best? by @BernieColeman
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Mobile-Friendly or Mobile-First? You Decide

Having a mobile-friendly website is the very minimum that a business needs – and that’s all businesses. The widespread rollout of the mobile-first index is already happening. And in my opinion, mobile-first is about much more than just a responsive website.

Businesses must also consider very specific factors and optimize for mobile SEO. My article, The 411 on How to SEO a Local Business Website for the Mobile-First Index, discusses this in-depth. You’ll definitely want to read both of these if you are not familiar with Google’s mobile-first initiatives, and how to succeed with these changes.

2017 Mobile Usage Stats

Time spent on mobile devices per day has doubled, according to KPCB’s 2017 Internet Trends Report. In 2014, consumers spent an average of 2 hours, 17 minutes per day, and data reported at the end of 2016 reflects increased usage – up to 4 hours and 14 minutes per day! Can you imagine what this number is today?

For the most part, a true mobile website offers a user experience very similar to that of a mobile app. A mobile website is the starting point for most local business mobile marketing campaigns. Let’s take a look at the various mobile options available to businesses today.

Responsive Website Design

The simplest, cheapest and easiest approach to take, as well as the bare minimum you should be considering, is responsive design. Through the use of CSS queries, a responsively designed website automatically scales to fit the size of the screen it’s being displayed on, whether it’s on mobile, tablet, desktop or a different device entirely. The most obvious advantage of this approach is that the business need only maintain a single website.

Although mobile usage surpassed desktop several years ago, claims of the death of the desktop are greatly exaggerated. As such, taking a mobile-only approach is actually a bad idea, since it completely disregards desktop users. Even though a responsive website is undoubtedly something of a jack-of-all-trades but master of none, it definitely offers a decent user experience on any internet-enabled device.

Having a single website presents many advantages, such as being cheaper to build and maintain, easier to market, and easier to create content for. It’s also good for search engine optimization, especially with the primary index that influences search placement for pages on mobile and desktop switching to the mobile-first index.

Mobile Websites

Tips for Providing the Best Mobile User ExperienceAs mentioned above, with the mobile placement of an individual page on a website potentially influencing where it places in desktop search also, is having a separate mobile website even a good idea? Let’s explore this a bit.

A mobile website is designed exclusively for the small screen, taking into account the specific limitations and features exclusive to mobile devices. A mobile website typically looks dreadful on the big screen. When someone visits the website, they should automatically be directed to the version appropriate for their device. This ensures an optimal experience for the user at all times.

Since a mobile-specific website is purely optimized for the small screen, it tends to offer improved performance over slower and less responsive internet connections. It’s immediately accessible as well, since it doesn’t need to be downloaded and installed like an app.

Unfortunately, mobile websites have some glaring inherent drawbacks. At this point, Google is only changing the primary for sites that are ready for the mobile-first index, so this is a plus for businesses that have a separate version of a mobile website. How long will Google handle it like that? Who knows. While in the past so many have said that being mobile optimized doesn’t make sense for everywebsite, this seems to be changing quickly.

The most obvious drawback of having two websites is the complication of maintaining them separately. A user switching from mobile to desktop and desktop to mobile may find a broken user experience, as they look for features that are just not available on the other site. This can definitely confuse a target audience! Finally, a mobile website is only good on a mobile phone (usually), and since it’s not responsive, won’t necessarily work correctly on all of them. It could potentially fail to look good on a tablet, or on many high-end smartphones with larger screens. (And believe me, these seem to get larger every day.)

Mobile Apps

With mobile websites presenting something of a halfway solution that rarely solves the problem in either case, native apps take a quite different approach. A native app is a program written specifically for a specific platform (i.e., iOS or Android). Unlike a website, which is the same across all devices, native apps aren’t just for mobile devices. Windows 10 has a built-in app store which can run apps on any device, whether it’s a desktop or tablet or something in-between.

Apps offer the ultimate user experience, with the added benefit of many being able to provide an offline experience as well. They’re faster and more responsive, and they allow a brand to take advantage of all of the features and functions of a specific platform, such as push notifications, integrated geo-targeting, and so much more. Once downloaded and installed, an app also offers visibility like no other solution, unless the user uninstalls the application.

Apps are great for certain situations, but they’re not always the right choice. For a start, the cost of developing a mobile app can be extremely high, and involve two major platforms to think about (Android and Apple). Each has different requirements for submitting and getting an app approved, with Android being a much faster and easier process at this point. Brands will need to adopt a completely separate marketing approach for a mobile app.

Most apps installed by the consumer are used only a few times and then abandoned. It’s extremely important for businesses with a mobile app to keep users engaged. Since we have a branded mobile app solution, Advice Mobile, we definitely have some tips, tricks, and incisive points of view on the benefits of mobile apps, so don’t rule out having one just yet!

Which Mobile Solution Should a Business or Brand Choose?

Businesses definitely need to start off with a responsive website at a minimum, and this will be perfectly satisfactory. If the overwhelming majority of a target audience uses a mobile device exclusively, developing a mobile-specific solution could be a necessary expense. Mobile apps offer some specific advantages, such as the ability to send push notifications and offer coupons to loyal customers. Many local businesses with a mobile app like to use it to send push notifications during slow times to drive more in-store traffic.

When it comes to things like interactivity and games, for example, the mobile app presents the obvious content format. Businesses that require native smartphone functionality, such as GPS, messaging or calling, can also profit significantly by having a mobile app. Similarly, for businesses that need to provide a personalized service for regular use, such as online account management, a mobile app can offer that easily to on-the-go consumers.

As a business grows, it makes sense to take their mobile approach to the next level. As mentioned earlier, we have a branded mobile app solution that makes it affordable for almost anyone to have a mobile app. The best part? Our solution creates mobile apps on-the-fly in minutes, and anyone can create a mobile app for free that is instantly ready to submit to the app stores.

You’re Not Alone – Advice Local Can Help

Businesses and brands of all sizes struggle with finding the right solution that meets their customers’ mobile needs, while meeting their needs and budget! From responsive websites to branded mobile apps, we have you covered.

Request a demo to learn about our solutions, mobile and otherwise, today. We can help!

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The 411 on How to SEO a Local Business Website for the Mobile-First Index

Mobile optimization is serious business. In the past, it was all about having a website that performed well on desktop and placed high in SERPs. In 2015, this started shifting so digital marketers and webmasters needed to focus on desktop for search placement and user experience on both desktop and mobile.

The primary index Google used to determine the placement of a website in the past was based on the desktop version of a website.

The 411 on How to #SEO a Local #Business #Website for the #Mobile-First Index by @BernieColeman
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Google’s Mobile-First Index is Here to Stay (For Now at Least)

Google is shifting its primary index website by website so the mobile version of a website is the determining factor for the placement in SERPs in both desktop and mobile search. Since they are going website by website, not all websites are shifted to this index yet. As Google determines a website is ready, they are notifying webmasters via Google Search Console.

Last time we were here, I addressed What is Google’s Mobile-First Index and How Can a Business Prepare for It. This article covers in details tools a business owner or webmaster can use to determine if a website is ready.

An optimized responsive site should be perfectly placed for the change in indexing. In addition to fixing website errors and responsive issues, a business that wants their website to place high in the mobile-first index needs to consider adjusting some of their SEO best practices and maybe even a few design elements. Let’s get into this now.

Consider Meta Data

Meta titles and descriptions can vary as Google changes the design of their search pages. Currently, titles for mobile search should not exceed 78 characters and descriptions should be between 110 and 120 characters.

The downside to optimizing these for mobile is the desktop experience, because Google has increased how many characters are displayed for descriptions to 300. It seems on desktop that a description that is too short can be filled up with information from the respective page that is displaying in search results. Once a website is switched to the mobile-first index this could be a non-issue, but for now, it is something to keep in mind.

Above is an example of a desktop search displaying meta data. The first and third result are within Google’s requirements for meta descriptions, as you can see they are not truncated. We can assume the second entry doesn’t meet Google’s requirements since it is pulling content from the page for the meta description versus the meta description the author defined.

Another factor to keep in mind is Google will inject a different description into SERPs if Google doesn’t feel the one provided accurately describes a page. This is all determined by Google’s algorithms, of course.

Mobile Example of AMP results

When a description is too long, it can be truncated on mobile. One way to avoid this is to AMP the website. As shown in the example above, the first and second results are AMP results. The third result is not an AMP result. You can see which are AMP results based on the lightning bolt next to the result. It seems all three of these descriptions are injected from text within the page, most likely because they are too long.

Mobile Example of Meta Descriptions

The above example shows the meta description fits mobile requirements, so the description was not truncated.

Tabs and Accordions are Making a Coming Back

In the past, information from Google recommended avoiding any methods that hid content, like tabs within pages and content that expands when a + sign or another symbol is clicked.

The limited space on mobile devices has altered their viewpoint, though, and tabs and accordions are now considered effective ways of providing user-friendly content on mobile.

A brief explanation of tab content: this is content that is displayed on a single page, but only available to be displayed when the tab is clicked upon. Think of a sub-navigation within a single page, except the content is all on a single page vs. multiple pages.

Structured Data is Always a Must

No matter which index Google is using to determine placement in search results, structured data markup is helpful for accurate indexing.

Local businesses can include structured data to indicate their NAP, business category, opening hours, and many other factors. It is important to check that any structured data included on a desktop site is also included on mobile.

You can access the guide for Google Developers to read all about structured data.

Structured Data Testing Tool Example

They also have a Structured Data Testing Tool that can be used to view the markup for a particular page on the web.

Audit those Design Elements

You know all those pretty elements the business added to the website way back when because it was cool, they can cause some serious problems on mobile.

What immediately comes to mind for me is the Rocks Digital website, which I’m co-founder of. There was a carousel on the homepage that made it so site visitors could scroll across and easily access the six most recent articles published. On desktop this was great, but on mobile, the only thing visible was the most recent blog published. There were no indicators to let the site visitor know they could scroll across. It was an extremely bad user experience on mobile. This feature is no longer on the website for desktop or mobile, but when it was it was removed from the mobile display of the homepage.

Design elements are integral of the user experience. Elements that don’t work properly on mobile or don’t look right are just bad for the user and will impact click-through, bounce and time on the site.

Checking the website on various mobile devices can ensure that buttons can be easily tapped, images are resized for any view, menus are not too intrusive, and navigation features are clear.

I also highly recommend the website has click-to-call, click-to-email and click-for-directions integrated. This greatly improves the user experience and, frankly, safety for those who are visiting a website for the address to get directions while driving.

Click to call Example

Above is an example from a landing page we did for click-to-call. The site visitor could simply click the phone number and it would dial Advice Local. There is some coding behind the scenes that was applied, but it is a simple snippet of code that was identified and can be added easily.

Create Content for Voice Search

Voice search is growing in popularity, with mobile devices playing a key part in the growth. As revealed in KPCB’s 2017 Internet Trends Report, 20% of mobile queries are made via voice. Keep in mind that this was in 2017. I’m sure this number is even higher today.

Voice Search Stats for 2017 from the 2017 Internet Trends Report

Not only are more mobile users turning to voice search, but they are searching using natural language. No longer are they saying “Wine Bar, Dallas,” but they are asking questions like “Where is the closest wine bar?” and some even more specific like “Which wine bar serves Merlot?”

To improve SEO for any given piece of content, it is important to consider what a voice searcher might be looking for. Typically, answering questions is a great way to cater to voice searchers, with the added bonus of possibly being included in a featured snippet.

Don’t Let the Mobile-Index Bury a Website in SERPs

While the mobile-first index may be a challenge for some businesses, others will find it a relatively straightforward process with many opportunities. Some websites, particularly in local markets, aren’t prepared for the switch, so this is a great opportunity to improve rankings and gain more website traffic.

Businesses currently catering to mobile visitors and included in the new index could already be receiving more frequent visits from the mobile Google crawler than those that are not. Ultimately, delivering the best possible experience for all users should be the forefront of design and SEO. Taking the opportunity to deliver exceptional service will only increase mobile conversions and improve the bottom line.

Once the businesses you represent have a mobile-first, mobile-focused website, they are well on their way to generating mobile-driven results.

Is it Time to Get Some Help?

If the mobile website(s) you manage are not driving results, an evaluation is in order. We can help with that, too. Request a demo to learn how the Advice Local team can help you today.

While you’re waiting, consider downloading our eBook about the mobile experience. It’s sure to help increase conversions.

Mobile Experience eBook

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What is Google's Mobile-First Index and How Can a Business Prepare for It?

Site owners checking their web stats can’t have failed to notice the growth in mobile traffic over the last few years. Where mobile once made up a small percentage of visitors, according to data from the market intelligence company SimilarWeb, it now accounts for 56% of all website visits. Most businesses are conscious of the drive toward mobile-friendly sites, with the need to satisfy both Google and their visitors in the quality of their mobile experience.

Recently, though, Google has moved toward a mobile-first indexing policy. Sites that offered a poor mobile experience in the past most likely saw a reduction in overall visitors. Now, however, there are more severe ramifications for anyone ignoring mobile. Sites should be focused on SEO, along with providing an exceptional user experience designed for mobile, with a mobile-first approach.

What is #Google’s #Mobile-First Index and How Can a Business Prepare for It? by @BernieColeman
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What is the Mobile-First Index?

As mobile search increases, it’s impossible for Google to treat this as an afterthought. The demand for mobile devices is rising globally, so the need for mobile-first design will, too.

As KPCB reported in the 2017 Internet Trends Report, mobile usage is up to 3 hours per day and desktop usage is now at 2 hours per day, declining from the 2.6 hours per day five years earlier. We’re clearly seeing that as mobile increases, desktop decreases.

2017 Internet Usage Stats

While desktop searches still make up a significant number of all queries, the point has arrived where it makes sense for Google to base their search index on mobile over the desktop experience.

Going forward, the algorithms will look at the mobile version of a site first to determine where a page should rank. Site owners will be notified in Google Search Console when their site has been moved to the mobile-first index. Searchers on both mobile and desktop will be catered to, but if the URL and snippets vary from the desktop version, the mobile site will be the version used.

Why is this Important to Local Businesses?

If a site has a responsive design, using consistent content and structured data markup, there shouldn’t be an issue with the switch. However, for sites that operate different mobile and desktop versions, Google will be crawling the mobile site. Businesses that have developed mobile sites on a subdomain, optimizing the pages for mobile, need to rethink this approach. These mobile sites on subdomains typically lead to stripped down versions of the main site, offering minimal content or structured data. When Google makes the mobile index the primary for a mobile site of this kind, the user experience will be significantly worse for desktop users.

What Should Businesses Do Next?

It is important to find out if the business’ site is ready for the mobile-first index. There are various tools to assess if a site is optimized for mobile devices, but it is also worth considering whether any current mobile strategy will be ideal going into the future.

1. Use the Mobile-Friendly Testing Tool

The mobile-friendly testing tool offers a quick way to see if Google can find any usability issues that would provide a negative experience for mobile device users. The tool is easy to use and offers some quick fixes for simple problems. The tool also provides a snapshot showing how a page looks on a mobile device.

Google Search Console Mobile-Friendly Testing Tool

The example above shows that the Rocks Digital website is mobile-friendly, however, there are some page loading issues that the webmasters need to look into further. These could be a temporary issue, such as the server responding too slowly, or something more significant, like a script failing to run or an image loading improperly.

2. Use the Google Winning on Mobile Tool

Fast loading times are vitally important to a successful website. Google has increased the importance of speed to SEO, with users responding negatively to slow loading times. The Google Winning on Mobile tool gives webmasters a quick review of a site and features an option to have a report emailed to them.

Winning on Mobile Example Tool

As shown in the above example, this website receives a poor rating and a 9 second loading time.

Mobile Website Industry Comparison

It seems this website compares to others in the industry in the poor category. Again, it’s an issue that needs to be addressed in order to index higher once Google rolls out the mobile-first index for this website.

How to Speed Up a Mobile Site

According to the report, this site can be sped up to 3 seconds, which will put in the excellent range by correcting some errors. Most likely, the errors reported through the Google Search Console mobile-friendly testing tool reported in example one would speed up this website significantly

3. Compare to Competitor Sites Using Mobile Scorecard

The Mobile Scorecard will calculate the loading speed of a mobile page, while calculating potential revenue gains from making improvements. It is also possible to compare a page with the results of competing sites, helping to get an understanding of industry expectations and standards.

Mobile Scorecard Example

It seems this tool doesn’t work on all websites at this point, as it is a newer tool. Here’s a WordStream article explaining what data is included in more detail.

4. Check for Crawl Errors in Search Console

Within the Google Search Console, go to Crawl Errors and choose the Smartphone option. You can quickly see any reported crawl errors relating to mobile devices, which will often be distinct from desktop crawling issues. The common problems reported include unsupported Flash content, URLs blocked for smartphones, and faulty redirects taking users to irrelevant pages. With a good picture of the reported errors, site owners can amend any issues to satisfy Google.

Google Search Console - Smartphone Errors Example

In the example above, this site had something happen on February 23 that caused a spike in crawl errors. Without more research, I wouldn’t be able to share exactly what the issue was, but it did dip back down somewhat about three weeks later. There are still a few issues that need to be addressed for it to be ready for the mobile-first index.

Mobile Testing Tools are Just the Start

While the above website definitely has some issues to resolve to prepare for the mobile-first index, this is only the start.

Once all the errors reported above have been corrected, the business will want to make sure the site is SEO optimized for the mobile-first index. We’ll cover this in detail next time.

Local businesses are living in a mobile-driven world, and competition is not getting scarcer. But don’t worry – the Advice Local team can help. Download our eBook, Making the Most of the Mobile Experience, and let us be your guide.

Mobile Experience eBook

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Crafting a Google My Business Description that Engages and Converts

Google is a behemoth when it comes to, well, just about everything, honestly. From algorithms and pay-per-click to video, they seem to be the guiding force that influences how we all build websites, do SEO, write website copy and even build links for the local businesses we represent.

In fact, according to Net Marketshare, Google currently has 73.73% of the search engine market. Consumers prefer this search giant when it comes to finding what they need to know. From this stat, I would say consumers trust Google more than other search engines. There are still about 26% of users that prefer another search engine, but I think we can all agree that Google is definitely the dominator.

The #Google My Business Description is Back: Update Those #GMB Listings by @BernieColeman #SEO
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This is why today I wanted to talk with you about Google My Business listings. I’m even going to get more specific and talk about the business description exclusively.

The Google My Business Description is Back

Before we get into the Google My Business description, let me give you the backstory. In 2016, Google detached the Google My Business listing from the Google+ profile. This meant the comprehensive description businesses once had, which could include links, bullets and other features within their Google My Business listing, was gone. The previous business descriptions stayed connected to the business’ Google+ page, but were no longer an option in the Google My Business listing.

What You Need to Know About the Google My Business Description

Well, it’s almost two years later and the business description is back in the Google My Business listing. It’s not connected to Google+, but businesses can now once again share about their products and services within their Google listing. Keep reading on how to craft these descriptions to meet Google’s guidelines.

1. Businesses can’t get too wordy.

That’s right – there are only 750 characters, with spaces, for the business to write a description that engages and converts. Include any special recognitions, awards and keywords, but use of them sparingly is a no brainer. Make sure the content is written well, follows Google E-A-T Guidelines and isn’t a sales pitch, but rather a short description about the business.

2. Links are not allowed.

I know – it made me want to cry, too. Before the detachment, businesses could link to products and service pages, the About page and so much more. This isn’t the case now, so businesses will need to get a bit creative. Talking about products and services in the description is a must, and make it compelling enough to encourage a click-through to the website to visit that product page.

3. Google takes 3 days to review/approve the listing at this point.

I’m not 100% sure if this approval process is manual or AI based. I would guess that a smart bot spiders the content for signs that the guidelines for the description are not being broken, then flags those in question for a manual review.

4. No gimmicks, keyword stuffing or sales pitches allowed.

Nope, you cannot put an offer or discount in your Google My Business description. In fact, you wouldn’t want to anyway. These items would change from time to time and are not considered evergreen. If you want to include an offer in your Google map listing, use a Google Post.

5. Optimize the entire Google My Business listing.

While today I am speaking specifically to the business description within the listing, the entire listing needs to be optimized to include the correct category, images, etc. Even putting some questions and answers within the Google Q & A feature within the listing is a must.

Now that we have talked about what to include and what not to include within the listing, here’s how you can make the necessary updates.

How to Add a Google My Business Description to a Listing

1. Access the GMB listing you wish to edit.

Open the business you wish to edit within the Google My Business listing, then click “Info.”

How to Add a Google My Business Description

2. It’s time to add the description.

Once in the “Info” tab, scroll down to the section that says “Add business description” and click the pencil.

Adding a Google My Business Description

3. Get to pasting.

Once you click the pencil, a box will appear for you to add in the business description. At this point, you simply paste in the business description from the document it was created in and click “Apply.”

Google My Business Description Box

4. How does it look?

 The description does allow for paragraph formatting, so definitely include formatting to make it easier to read. Here is an example of our description pasted in.

Advice Local Google My Business Description Example

5. The wait is on.

Wait three days and check the Google My Business listing within Google to see if the description is published. If it isn’t approved, definitely double check and make sure you have followed the Google My Business guidelines.

While this post is long, the process is pretty simple to update one Google My Business listing. Writing optimized Google My Business descriptions and updating multiple listings can be tricky and time consuming.

Our Google My Business Team is Here to Help

This is where the Advice Local comes in. We have an entire time of local search experts that can update all the Google My Business listings for the businesses you represent in a snap. Request a demo to learn more today.

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Local Listing Pro – a WordPress Plugin and Wix Web App

Getting to announce the exciting things we are doing at Advice Local never gets old, and today is one of those days. Today, I want to share about Local Listing Pro, a web app created to help businesses expand their digital footprint online and take control of NAP data (name, address and phone number) through a WordPress or Wix website.

While, I haven’t shared the product with you directly before now, it actually has a large number of users on Wix already and the WordPress installations are growing. Users are not just business owners, but rather their digital marketing partners, which we love to see.

Our dedication to making it easier for our partners to better serve their clients and customers remains the same. Keep reading to learn more about this powerful local business listing tool.

Local Listing Pro: A Local Listing Web App for #WordPress and #Wix #Websites by @Advice_Local
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Local Listing Pro – Local Listing Web App

Local Listing Pro helps businesses improve their online visibility and get found by more potential customers. This web app makes it easy to list a business across the most important local directories, search engines, and data aggregators via WordPress or Wix websites. The best part? There is no cost to get started.

The free version of Local Listing Pro includes submission to Site.Cards and Factual. The upgraded version includes submission to additional top directories and data providers. Keep reading to learn how Local Listing Pro works.

How Local Listing Pro Works

  • The software scans the internet for citations by looking for any instances of the business name and address.
  • Verifies NAP data across major local directories, including Superpages, Judy’s Book, and Foursquare.
  • Regulates citation quality by ensuring all current listings are live and accurate.
  • Increases the number of citations found each month by submitting business listings to data aggregation services.

We connect local businesses with their next customer, which means making it easy for business owners and their digital marketing partners to manage and improve their local search presence.

Once installed and setup, Local Listing Pro, depending on the version used, will find, add, correct, and claim business listings across the most popular local directories. Put simply, this web app helps businesses show up and stand out in local search results.

Along with monthly visibility and citation reporting, Local Listing Pro delivers links to live citations for quick access to listings.

As a self-serve listing distribution plugin, Local Listing Pro is a low-cost alternative to manage and monitor local presence online.

Ready to Get Started with Local Listing Pro’s Local Listing Web App?

It’s time to help the businesses you represent place higher in search, attract more website visitors, and improve online visibility to drive calls and in-store visitors. Visit the Local Listing Pro product page to learn more and get started today!

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7 Trust Factors for Improving Search Results Placement

Search algorithms are so complex that it is impossible to focus on just one or two elements when developing an SEO strategy. To place across all the major search terms for a business’ niche, they must study the competition and be prepared to modify their campaign. I walked readers through this in my article, The DIY SEO Audit: Next Steps for Beating Out the Local Competition Online.

There are various broader factors that will be required each time the business tries to rank a page in SERPs (search engine results pages). One of the most important of these factors is trust. If Google and the other search engines don’t trust a particular page, it will be virtually impossible to place in the top of search results for the desired keywords.

7 Trust Factors for Improving #Search Results Placement by @BernieColeman #AdviceLocal #SEO
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Today, I want to talk with you about trust – not just among consumers, but search engines, too.

The Trust Factors Search Engines Seek

So, what are some of the main factors involved in gaining the trust of search engines? Keep reading to find out.

1. Content that Demonstrates E-A-T

Yeah, yeah… You’ve heard it before, but are you really listening? According to Google, content needs to demonstrate expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness (E-A-T).

Sites still using filler posts to target keywords are getting less and less search traffic. As search engines continually get smarter, their algorithm updates also do. They filter out content that is not useful to searchers.

Search engines use factors like time spent on a site, click-through rate (and most likely bounce rate even though they deny it), plus manual reviews to recognize when site visitors do not regard content as helpful.

It seems the only published measure for a piece of quality content from search engines is Google’s Search Engine Evaluator Guidelines. If you are not sure where to start when it comes to content, attempting to better the output than those in the top ranking sites is a great place.

2. When Older is Better

Brand new sites struggle to place high since search engines are not ready to trust them yet. New domains need to get indexed. The content itself can take some time before gaining a top placement. After the site has aged and gained trust, new posts can quickly earn a top search position with the right promotion.

Building trust factors through garnering links via social media, directories and other authoritative sources can improve trust and speed up the process. Don’t skip the steps of setting up Google Analytics, Google Search Console and submitting the site map.

3. Garner Authority

Authority is a factor that encompasses several different elements. I mentioned a few above – expertise and trustworthiness. In fact, you can’t build authority without them.

SEO tools like Majestic, Moz and Ahrefs offer individual authority metrics that give an indication of the way the search engines view a site. Typically, these parameters will include page and domain authority, backlink profile, social media shares, and internal linking.

All of those are so important that a business must complete an SEO audit to study them periodically.

4. Backlink Relevance

Relevance is becoming increasingly important, as Google and the other search engines can detect the topical content of a site and a page. If the site is in the fitness niche, for example, gaining most of the backlinks from business-focused sites could cause issues. Every site has backlinks from broader sites like Facebook and Twitter, but the backlink profile is expected to contain a good proportion of relevant sites and pages with appropriate surrounding content.

5. The Age of the Backlink

A new backlink won’t have the same level of power as an aged one. Therefore, ensuring the business continually builds backlinks will allow the continual building of trust. Backlinks get ignored or removed, particularly if they are low quality, so avoid quick and easy links that don’t last. As the quality backlink ages, the authority of the linking page improves.

Don’t be afraid to disavow a backlink that is of low quality. The backlink profile needs to built up based on quality, not quantity.

6. Security is a Priority

Sites and servers can be hacked, putting visitor security at risk of being compromised. If the site gains a reputation as a security threat, the site could suffer a penalty, impacting search engine placement. Google is known for blacklisting domain names until they resolve security issues.

  • Website security tools like WordFence provide security alerts for webmasters. There are also more advanced paid tools on the market. The most important thing is to protect the site and stay informed on issues that could be a concern.
  • Search engines are so driven to keep consumers secure that they alert them when visiting a site that isn’t HTTPS. Chrome currently displays a subtle warning. Coming soon, that warning is going to be even more apparent, potentially with searchers having to click an authorization to continue to the website.
  • Anti-virus software includes browser extensions to warn site visitors when they attempt to visit a website they don’t trust. In addition, they already require special authorization to continue through to the site.

Make security a priority to continue to compete!

7. Avoid the Bounce

While search engines say that bounce rate isn’t a ranking factor, a high bounce rate can indicate a lack of trust. If a large percentage of searchers click on a result and immediately click back to the search results, it is fair to say they did not find what they were looking for.

It could be other factors, like the site was slow to load or not mobile-friendly. Whatever the reason, a click back indicates the site was not relevant to the search. The reasons will vary for each searcher, but a lack of trust will be among them.

Monitoring bounce rate through Google Analytics enables the business to adjust a page if the bounce rate is high and the click-through is low. Put this feature to use.

Trust Starts with Taking Action

All of the elements mentioned above are achievable, with time being the biggest factor – time for search engines to trust the site; time for the business to work on their site; time to get some help!

If time is an issue for you or the businesses you represent, we have the team and we will make the time. Request a demo to learn more today.

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Fine Tuning an SEO Strategy for Businesses

Last time I was here, I shared about the basics of an SEO strategy for a new business’ website. We first explored how an effective SEO strategy starts with keyword research, then moves into building keyword-focused products and services pages. Next, we discussed creating blog content to further solidify the website as a trusted source for search engines to serve to consumers in search results.

Back to the Basics: Fine Tuning an #SEO Strategy for Businesses by @BernieColeman
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The Next Steps for a Business’ SEO Strategy

As I am sure you are aware, an SEO strategy, just like any strategy, needs a solid foundation. Creating the kinds of keyword-rich content that search engines and consumers are seeking out are the initial components to the foundation. The business also needs to carefully consider the following three steps.

1. Create a Web of Links

Links are how search engine crawlers will move from page to page within a website. When they land on a business’ website, they’ll look for relevant links to move onto the next page. The links to other pages and posts will also be what encourages site visitors to keep moving throughout the website.

CTR is important for a website, as this sends a signal to search engines that the site visitor came from search results, found the information they were looking for on the website valuable, and continued to another page on the site for more information or to make a purchase. If the site visitor leaves immediately, this sends a different message to search engines, while also creating a high bounce rate. While Google says bounce rates are not a ranking factor, there is no reason to leave it to chance. Instead, each post and page should take site visitors on a journey throughout the website.

To push both site visitors and crawlers to comb through the business website, they need to include both internal links and outbound (external) links. Internal links will drive readers to another page within the site, while outbound links will push them to relevant content on third party sites. Connecting with other high-quality websites can help improve the authority and boost SEO.

The business will also want to consider who is linking to them. A business’ backlink profile is extremely important. Links to a website from another site, inbound links (also known as backlinks), are an incredibly important part of any SEO strategy. Here’s a resource about off-page SEO you may want to read.

Backlink Profile - Google Search Console Example

Based on the example above, you can see through Google Search Console that this website has 165 links linking to it. If this website’s goal was to sell products and services, this is not a lot of links.

Google Search Console will allow the business to dig in deeper to identify every page and post being linked to from a third-party site.

Backlinks act as a vote of approval for the business’ website. When a high-quality page links to a website page, it will not only push visitors to the page, but it will also demonstrate to search engines that other websites find the content valuable. The more backlinks the business has from high-quality sources, the easier it will be to get content to the top of SERPs.

Directory listings, map listings, Google My Business and social media are a few ways businesses can easily build backlinks. Remember, quality over quantity is important when building citations. Here’s more information for you on this topic.

To secure backlinks naturally, the business will need to focus on the quality of the content they’re creating. When they create something genuinely valuable, it will be easier for sites to link to the content naturally. Websites can boost backlinks by looking for broken links on third party sites, reaching out to site owners, and providing new links to potentially replace their broken ones. Link building is an important component of an SEO strategy.

2. Measure and Track Successes

After the business has found their keywords, publishes news pages and blog posts, and created their backlink strategy, they need to ensure what they’re doing is bringing the desired results.

Google Analytics and Google Search Console is really important here. Not only will the business be able to see who is coming to the website, but they can also see where the site visitors are coming from, how long they stay, and if the content is relevant and useful. If most of the site visitors are coming from an organic search, the business will know their SEO strategy is helping.

Google Analytics Bounce Rate Example

As shown in the example above from Google Analytics, this business can tell that out of the 615 users that have visited the homepage specifically (during the report timeframe), 68.48% of them left without visiting another page. This means the homepage needs optimized to encourage more click-throughs. It seems these site visitors are reading the homepage, since time on the site averages 3 minutes and 12 seconds, but they’re not moving deeper into the website.

The business needs to look beyond just who is coming to the website. If site visitors aren’t converting, the business may not be targeting the right audience or developing the right content to close the deal. While appearing in search results is important, if they’re not the right search results, it won’t help build the brand or get the business new customers.

SEO strategies can take some time to start showing results. When tracking and measuring, it’s important to keep this in mind. If changes to the SEO strategy are made too soon, the business may never get the results they’re seeking.

Each time there is a change in rank, website traffic, or activity, be sure to look back at what created the boost or dip in traffic. For example, a piece of content going viral or an influencer sharing a specific article link can cause spikes in a business’ website traffic. Knowing why these changes are happening will help refine the SEO strategy for the future.

3. Revise and Refine

Search engines are always changing their algorithms. Because of this, an SEO strategy isn’t something a business can create one time and let it alone. To continue to see results, they need to be aware of each algorithmic change and shift the strategy accordingly.

Many algorithm changes focus on creating a robust experience for the user. The changes help ensure that each user gets the most relevant, valuable information possible. If the business focuses on creating high-quality, useful content from the start, it will be easier to stay up-to-date and in the top of search results.

Reevaluating the SEO strategy periodically to ensure the keywords targeted are still relevant will be necessary. While they may fit with the products or services the business is offering, they may find the keywords have become too diluted or less frequently searched for. Keywords aren’t key if no one is searching for them.

Additionally, continuing to shift a keyword strategy can also help to expand the keywords the business may appear for. Plus, when constantly doing research to find new keywords to target, the business can more easily ensure the website stays relevant.

SEO Works if the Strategy is Right and the Business Puts in the Work

SEO is an important and powerful tool to help local businesses and brands beat out the competition in search, but it requires putting in the work! SEO is not a quick, one-time effort.

Search engine optimization is an ever-evolving strategy that requires time, attention and detail. This is where the pros at Advice Local come in. Our team of local search experts are here to do the dirty work and let you and your clients reap the rewards. Request a demo to learn about our partner solutions today!

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Access my DIY SEO Audit 5-part series to complete an SEO audit on an existing website.

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