Choosing Your Keywords

Let’s say you’re in the market for a new pair of hearing aids.  You’re online and you Google “Hearing Aids”, 5,460,000,000 results pop up.  Clearly you can’t look at that many options, so you begin to refine the results.  “hearing aids Hoboken NJ” or “audiologist san francisco CA”.  These words and phrases are known as keywords.

Why are keywords so important?  The search engines will deliver a list of web pages (as a side note your website is nothing more than web pages linked together) containing the keywords.

When you build a website, you want to make sure that when customers search for keywords related to your business, your website appears as early as possible in the list of results.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the science, some would say art of making sure that happens.

So what keywords should you choose?

Begin the process by thinking like your customer.  Terminology specific to your industry is probably not the way a customer will find you.  It’s also a good idea to keep your target demographic in mind.  A 40 year old male will not use the same keywords as a 20 year old female even if they are searching for the same product.

Product names are often used as keywords.  That’s great when your plan is to capture a customer searching specifically for a particular product.  But you also want to make sure you don’t miss out on customers searching for a product within that category.

For example if your keyword strategy is to focus on Jimmy Choo shoes because that’s all you sell then that’s a great plan.  However if you sell 10 other expensive brands, you don’t want to miss out on customers searching for “expensive shoes” or “designer shoes”.

Keyword selection can be tricky especially once you become an expert in your own particular niche because you tend to forgot how to behave like your customer.

Remember these 5 tips for choosing keywords:

  1. Research Your Market
  2. Analyze Your Market
  3. Make Your Keywords Specific
  4. Target Your Local Area
  5. Don’t Try to Optimize for Highly Competitive Words

Will choosing the best possible keywords for your website automatically bump it to page 1?  It’s not the only factor.  But choosing the wrong keywords can be a recipe for disaster.

Do Online Reviews Affect SEO?

Customer reviews and ratings are essential items in the SEO’s tool belt, especially for optimizing local businesses. A Moz survey predicts that reviews make up almost 10% of how Google and other search engines decide to rank you. And it makes sense.

Like I said in last week’s blog, search engines love reviews because consumers love reviews.

Search engines are in the business of providing users with the most accurate information to help them predict and make decisions around their future purchases. The faster they can do that, the more consumers will turn to them time and time again.

But what do they take into consideration regarding reviews? Review signals. What’s a review signal? you’re asking. Good question. Entrepreneur describes review signals as different aspects of a company’s review profile online and include:

1. Review Quantity

The more reviews you have, the better. According to BrightLocal’s survey, you need seven to 10 reviews before most people trust you.

2. Review Velocity

How quickly reviews are posted for your business. Too fast, and you’ll get dinged.

3. Review Diversity

How many sites have reviews for your business

4. Quantity of Third-Party Traditional Reviews

How many reviews your business has on sites not owned by Google

5. Authority of Third-Party Sites Where Reviews are Present

Some customer review sites have greater authority with Google than others.

6. Overall Velocity of Reviews (Native and Third Party)

How quickly your business is accruing reviews, both on Google properties (a.k.a. “native”) and other review sites.

7. Volume of Testimonials in Review

This refers to the reviews used in microdata, also called “rich snippets.” Here’s where to see that:

8. Quantity of Native Google Maps Reviews with Text

Google’s reviews started out on Google Maps.

9. Diversity of Third-Party Sites that have Reviews

How many different customer review sites have reviews for your business?

10. Product or Service Keywords in Reviews.

It helps to have keywords in reviews, but don’t overdo them.

11. Quantity of Authority Reviewers

Some sites, like Yelp, give certain reviewers more influence than others. New reviewers on Yelp don’t even get their reviews published until they’ve submitted five reviews. Getting a review on any site from an “authority reviewer” could help your search rankings.

Ratings and reviews are a huge conversion factor, more influential for getting users to click through and make a purchase than business citations or most other elements of local SEO. If your search result has 4.5 stars and 14 reviews (compared to fewer for your competitors), that’s strong social proof that your product or service is trustworthy. But besides increasing users’ trust, recent search innovations have created new reasons that SEO-minded local businesses need reviews and ratings.

These three benefits: improved SEO, improved conversion, and increased brand trust, working together, clearly illustrate the value of attracting good reviews online. If, between two otherwise equal competitors, one business pursues better reviews while the other ignores them, the business that pursues better reviews will undoubtedly win out in terms of traffic and eventual purchases.

The One Factor That Will Improve Your SEO, Conversions, & Your Bottom Line

What is the one factor that will improve your SEO, conversion rate, AND your bottom line?

Online Reviews.

Think of how many times you’ve made a purchasing decision lately without consulting online reviews. Have you made a reservation to a new restaurant recently without turning to Yelp or OpenTable? How about making vacation plans without even glancing at TripAdvisor? Whether you realized it or not, online reviews have become a cornerstone of modern purchasing decisions.

Consumers love online reviews.

And Google and other search engines love online reviews for one primary reason, consumers love online reviews.

Online reviews have major implications. They affect:

  • Your local SEO rankings
  • Your click through rates on search results
  • Consumers purchasing decisions

In the coming blogs, we will discuss the many facets of your business that online reviews affect. Let’s first look at how important your online reviews are to consumers.

How Important Are Reviews to Consumers?

Just how many people are actually going online to read reviews?

In a study done by ZenDesk, 66% of all consumers reported reading online reviews. This may not seem like an overwhelming amount until you realize that 2 out of every 3 people that call or come into your business have probably consulted your online reviews before making that decision. And this study was done in 2013.

Looking at Yelp alone, in 2013 they had roughly 40 million reviews since their launch in 2004. By the end of 2015 they had over 90 million. The popularity of online reviews has exponentially grown in only the past few years.

While I must admit, some reviews are downright comical, most consumers do not look up online business reviews just for entertainment. You must understand that by the time someone has started looking at reviews, they are now in the process of selecting a business to fulfill a need or want they have already identified, and they have usually narrowed the down (whether by preference, location, or some other deciding factor) the businesses they will consider to fulfill that need or want.

The critical thing to note is that the mental gap between reading a review and making a decision to purchase from a business is ridiculously small, and typically results in a yes/no decision almost immediately. So as a small business, your online reputation can directly influence your bottom line.

So how do online reviews affect consumers?

According to the same ZenDesk study, a whopping 90% of consumers reported being influenced by positive online reviews and 86% reported being influenced by negative online reviews.

The majority of consumers read, on average, only 6 reviews before forming an opinion of a business, and over 70% of consumers report that positive reviews make them trust a business more. Consumers are placing as much weight on reviews as they would personal referrals. And they trust them just as much as if it was a recommendation from their friends or family members.

Hopefully this puts into perspective just how important online reviews are in helping steer consumer purchasing decisions for the better or worse.

In the coming blogs, we will be discussing why reviews are a major aspect of your local SEO and how they affect it, how to gather more reviews in a business- and SEO-friendly way, and how to manage your online reputation.

SEO vs. PPC: Choosing a Strategy that Fits Your Marketing Goals

Last week we discussed what SEO and PPC were, and a bit about their differences. Even if you understand the basics, it may be hard to determine which is right for your marketing needs. So how do you pick between the two, or must you even choose? AJ Kumar, in an Entrepreuner article, suggests to consider these three questions when deciding whether SEO or PPC are right for your business:

  1. How large is your website advertising budget?
  2. How high are the CPCs in your industry?
  3. How competitive are the SERPs in your niche?

Let’s break these three questions down and explain why they matter.

1. How large is your website advertising budget?

As we discussed last week, SEO is your “free” option when it comes to generating traffic, whereas PPC is the “paid” option. So in choosing between SEO and PPC, you first need to decide what size advertising budget your business can support. With PPC campaigns, we suggest at minimum a $5.00 per day budget.

If you have a very minimal budget to commit to advertising, you’ll need to stick with free SEO methods. But if you have even a little capital to invest in PPC advertising, consider giving it a try because it offers a number of benefits, as AJ Kumar explains, including:

  • “Faster testing. Websites should focus on achieving conversion, whether it’s selling products, signing up email newsletter subscribers or some other action. That means actively testing website variables to improve conversion rates. These tests, however, require traffic to generate data, so you might want to purchase traffic through PPC advertising to get faster results.”
  • “Protection from SEO algorithm updates. One major weakness of SEO is that algorithms change from time to time. When that happens, sites that have been optimized in one way can lose rankings — and profits — practically overnight. But when you pay for traffic, you’re assured a steady stream of visitors, no matter what changes Google and the other search engines make.”

2. How high are the average CPCs in your industry?

While setting your budget, also take a look at what others in your industry are spending on CPC, if possible.

PPC platforms typically allow users to bid what they’re willing to pay for a single keyword click — a fee that’s referred to as “cost-per-click” (CPC). In Google Adwords, for example, broader keywords and keyword phrases, such as “hearing aids,” require a much higher bid than more narrow-focused keywords or keyword phrases, such as “audiologist Bala Cynwyd PA”

If you wish to run PPC campaigns for very broad keywords and phrases you will need a higher budget to have a successful campaign.

3. How competitive are the SERPs in your niche?

Your strategy will also depend on how competitive your search engine results pages (SERPs) are in your industry. For example, if you would like to rank #1 for “hearing aids” you’d be competing with Starkey, Mayo Clinic, NIDCD, and ASHA. But the more specific the niche (specialties and areas) the less competition for top SERP rankings.

In the most competitive industries, you may find that results pages for your target keywords are dominated by authority websites. They can be nearly impossible to displace without a significant investment of time and money. In such cases, it may ultimately make more sense to pay for traffic via PPC promotions.

But it’s almost never necessary to make an “either-or” choice between SEO and PPC. When combined, PPC and SEO are powerful tools. By asking yourself these three questions above, you can begin to determine the optimal mix of PPC and SEO for your website.

SEO vs. PPC: What Are They?

You have two options when it comes to boosting traffic to your site: SEO (or “Search Engine Optimization”) and PPC (or “Pay per Click”). But what do these actually mean? All jokes aside, you really should know what these acronyms mean for your digital marketing campaigns. Let’s dive into each.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Wikipedia defines SEO as “the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s unpaid results—often referred to as ‘natural,’ ‘organic,’ or ‘earned’ results. In general, the earlier (or higher ranked on the search results page), and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine’s users.”

In plain English, SEO is the “free” or “organic” way to earn traffic to your website. SEO means employing different strategies to affect search engines’ algorithms in order to get a good ranking in their searches. The lower your ranking (ie. being #1 in search results) gets your website more visibility, which in turn means more visitors coming to your site. In order for SEO to work, you need to be in the top results of a search, because, let’s face it, when’s the last time you looked at the 10th result in Google, let alone the second page? In order to be in the top results for searches related to your business or website, your website must be optimized for SEO.

Pay Per Click (PPC)

Wikipedia defines PPC (also known as cost per click or CPC) as “an internet advertising model used to direct traffic to websites, in which advertisers pay the publisher (typically a website owner or a host of website) when the ad is clicked. It is defined simply as “the amount spent to get an advertisement clicked.”

To break it down, essentially PPC is the “paid” option (notice “PAY” per click) to earn traffic to your website. Ads are set up to be shown on different publishers’ sites and displayed when a relevant keyword is searched or when the page has relevant content to the ad set. These campaigns are what you see as “sponsored ads” on sites like Google or Facebook. You pay each time a visitor clicks the ad to your site. If your ad is never clicked, you are never charged.

There is a big different between these two traffic strategies. Your marketing needs and budget determine which strategy or mix of these strategies is best suited to meet your marketing goals. We will discuss the difference between the two and pros and cons of each in the coming weeks.