Tag Archives: LOCAL

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6 common international SEO fails and how to avoid them

If you already run an international website or have international expansion on your road map, there are several common SEO issues which can hold back your success.

In this article we’ll look at six international SEO mistakes that you could be making, to help you look out for and avoid them on your site.

Domains

One mistake we see with people taking their first step into an international market is not considering the current domain they have.

If you have a .co.uk domain name, for example, you will need to consider getting a new domain for each market you go into, as a .co.uk won’t perform as well in international search engines as it is a UK-focused ccTLD.

IP serving

This is something which, from a development point of view, sounds like the perfect fix. Automatically redirecting people to the correct international version of your website based on their IP address, and so location, does sound really useful.

In its truest form, IP serving cannot be overwritten and a user in a specific country will always be redirected to the site for that country. There are, however, a number of reasons why this isn’t always the right approach to take.

Firstly, you can’t assume that all users in a particular location are from that country. If your IP serving can’t be overwritten by a user, this will mean that anyone in a particular country will be forced to use the site in that language/currency, which doesn’t then take into consideration someone who is travelling or not native to the country in question. This isn’t a great user experience.

The second issue of IP serving is that it will affect your SEO, as search engines aren’t able to crawl your site from every country you may cover. As a result, you will find that your international sites won’t perform as well in the search engines as you would expect.

On many occasions I’ve seen websites with IP serving being used which have real issues in their visibility, with the wrong website appearing in the search results. Google in particular, has real issues with this and I’ve seen local and US sites swapping in the search results on a weekly basis.

I’ve also seen brands who use IP serving, having to buy local language ads in a market to make up for the fact that their local language site doesn’t show up in the search results.

Below is an example of the US Calvin Klein website showing as the top search result for a brand search in Sweden. This is because they use IP serving, and Google is following this to the US site only.

Assuming English is OK

Another big issue for people taking the first steps into an international market is assuming English is OK for certain markets. Common assumptions in this area include assuming that English is OK for the Scandinavian countries, because they all speak English right?

Depending on what the purpose of your website is, this approach might not work. For example, B2B brands looking to encourage people to make a large financial commitment, or high-end retailers, might want to avoid doing this. Generally, the more people are spending the more they will want to see content in their own language, they are investing in you, so you should invest in them.

The other issue with this assumption is that the users in your international markets are more likely to be searching in their local language and not in English, so even if they are comfortable purchasing from you in English, they might not find your site as they will be searching for your products or services in their local language.

Automatic translation

Moving on from using English, some people think the easiest way to implement translation on a website is to use some form of automated translation tool. This is not recommended.

Firstly, these translations, while often dictionary perfect, don’t necessarily reflect how people in any given market speak, they may also miss the nuances of search behavior which could result in you losing out on using words on your website which potential customers are using.

For example, the dictionary correct German word for tickets (such as attraction tickets) is ‘Karten’ but we find there is often more search volume around this topic using the English word ‘Ticket’ in the German market.

Another note on Google Translate as a plugin on your site; although the Google translate tool is super useful it doesn’t change anything on your website which Google the search engine will see.

This means that the translated content it creates in every possible language, isn’t indexed in Google’s results and so does not help you to become findable in the search results when someone searches for you in Brazilian Portuguese, for example.

Getting the language wrong

This is the worst-case scenario, and thankfully something I’ve only seen a handful of times to it’s worst extent. This is the process of completely missing the language you should be using.

A few years back I was reviewing a website which was looking to promote its business into Hong Kong. The website was well put together, and all their SEO was in place and working well. The images were showing local people and the content was all in Chinese.

The issue was that the content was all in Simplified Chinese. Simplified Chinese is used in mainland China. For Hong Kong, the target market of this website, the language should have been Traditional Chinese.

Smaller less dramatic examples of this are forgetting that sometimes users are separated by a common language. Everyone knows the trite “differences” between English for the US and the UK (use of S or Z in some words and whether or not there is a U present in other words).

There are other differences which you need to be aware of depending on the products you are selling.  For example, Egg Plants vs Aubergines and Football vs Soccer.

Hreflang tags

This is one of the biggest areas where people experience problems with their international website strategy. In fact, John Mueller from Google said in February that Hreflang tags are hard!

I’ve seen some humorous attempts at getting the tags right in my time, including people making up countries (Arabia for example) or trying to target an English language .eu domain to every country in Europe with something like 23 individual tags!

There are number of things to watch out for with these tags, mainly around making sure you format the code correctly, don’t make up language and country combinations and that you aren’t linking through to pages which are different from those in your canonical tag, or broken pages!

These are just some of the biggest fails I’ve seen over the years, but hopefully enough to give you a clue as to what you should be avoiding with your website.

Like all SEO, when going international it’s important to make sure that things are right from day one but to keep an eye on things to make sure no issues creep in over time. Your international websites can help your brand grow and get more business, but only if they are set up correctly and nurtured.

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Experts agree: Social media is ineffective in local link building

As anyone who’s tried to develop links to a local business will know, the link building game for local SEO is a very different beast to standard link building.

For a start, Domain Authority isn’t as critical as local relevance. Then there’s the realization that nofollow links are actually fine and really do count towards brand awareness.

When working on local link building, you notice that the biggest successes can be achieved by establishing connections in the local community; something that has the added, knock-on effect of improving how the local business looks in the eyes of the community.

These are things that are tried and tested, but now also verified in BrightLocal’s latest survey of local SEO experts on link building. The company asked 20 leading lights in the local SEO industry which local link building tactics worked for them, along with a host of other questions designed to give the wider industry an insight into best practices.

Links in social profiles count for nothing, nada, zip, zilch

(Respondents were allowed to pick their top three link sources)

A lot of what was found reinforces reasonably common knowledge. For example, it was unanimously agreed that links from social profiles don’t count a jot towards search rankings (see above).

Here we can see that the most active and regularly updated community and news sites are seen as the most valuable by the panel of experts. High domain authority sites are obviously helpful but it’s clear that this element isn’t as important to rankings as local relevance.

Although links from citation sites weren’t seen as particularly important to rankings, it’s worth noting that accurate citations are very much a ‘table stakes’, foundational element of local SEO. The links might not count as much toward rankings as they used to, but for reach, awareness, visibility, and getting into the places people look for local businesses, they’re still critical.

Among the reinforcement of common knowledge, there were also several surprises in the survey results. For me, personally, the biggest shock came from seeing how little these experts valued social media in the outreach process.

Don’t share, care

Experts agree: Social media is ineffective in local link building

Here’s where things get really interesting. As you can see above, 60% of the panel of 20 experts agreed that sharing on social media is ‘not very valuable’ when trying to build backlinks to local business sites.

This comes as a bit of a surprise, as social media is now one of the key ways that content creators and PR people can get their work into the hands of influencers in the local community, so I would imagine this would work as a tactic for local link building.

After seeing these results, though, I’ve reconsidered my position. This is again an area where local link building differs from standard link building, and it’s all down to the people you’re trying to get links from.

With non-local link building, you can generally assume that the people you’re trying to connect with will view social media as as relevant a communications channel as networking or email.

However, if you’re trying to build links to a local business, the sorts of places you’ll be trying to get links from (smaller, community websites, church groups, local charities) are more likely to be a bit ‘old-school’ and prefer a knock on the door, an in-person meeting, a phone call or an email over the more impersonal use of social media.

Instead, you can see above that that sponsoring charities and organizations is considered the number one strategy for local link building. So the takeaway is simple: don’t share, care.

Want to succeed with local link building outreach? Go old-school

Experts agree: Social media is ineffective in local link building

(Respondents were allowed to pick their top three link sources)

The assumption that local community sites prefer non-social forms of contact is firmly backed up by what the local SEO experts said were the most effective forms of link building outreach. As you can see above, relatively few felt that Twitter and LinkedIn outreach was effective, and Facebook outreach was an absolute non-starter.

Instead, the survey found that short, personal emails (closely followed by more detailed, personal emails) were the most effective way to do outreach for local links. In the middle we have other, more traditional outreach tactics like slow-burn relationship building, relationships through events, and phone outreach.

It’s funny to think that what matters here is not so much the content of the outreach message, it’s the platform. You could feasibly write exactly the same short, personal message in an email as in a Twitter direct message or LinkedIn InMail, but these apparently won’t be as effective as writing it in an email.

Of course, the content plays a huge part, but when the experts agree that email is the way to go, it’s hard to conceive of a reason to use social media over email when embarking on an outreach campaign.

Quality trumps quantity

Experts agree: Social media is ineffective in local link building

Finally, I’d just like to touch on link traits. A question many ask is whether quality or quantity of links is more important when it comes to link building. In the above chart, we can see that quality of links trumps quantity in a big way. In fact, 90% of respondents agreed that quality or authority of links are ‘highly valuable’ when local link building.

Of course, quality is a big factor when it comes to non-local SEO, too, but it’s interesting to see that diversity of link sources (root domains) isn’t seen as quite as important, while in non-local SEO the diversity of your linking root domains is a critical factor.

This is just another way that those experienced in non-local SEO need to adapt their strategy when tackling the more niche practice of local link building.

Conclusion

I’ve discussed some of the things I found most surprising in this research, but there are plenty of other areas covered that should give local SEOs pause. For example, all experts agreed that local link building will not get any easier in the coming year.

One thing to take away, for sure, is that local SEOs shouldn’t be putting too much focus on using social media to get backlinks to local business websites, and instead they should be focusing on developing real, personal relationships using the comparatively ‘old-school’ method of email.

It looks like it may well be a tricky year for local SEO, but hopefully, with the raft of updates Google is making to Google My Business, and the renewed focus the search engine has on local SEO, it could also be very interesting, too!

30 ways to market your online business for free

For many people and businesses, the word ‘marketing’ conjures up visions of pricey marketing strategies and excessive expenditure.

With a high number of businesses all vying for exposure among the vast digital landscape, it can sometimes feel like fighting a losing battle, especially for those just starting out.

However, it doesn’t have to be expensive: there are plenty of free ways to market a business. In this post, we share our top tips for how to market your online business for free – 30 different ways in fact. Here goes…

1.   Capture email data

Ensure that you have a method of capturing email data from website visitors. Integrate an email sign up option onto your site and begin building a database of customer data.

You can then use this data for a range of marketing incentives, such as email marketing or creating custom audiences on Facebook for targeted advertising. (Just make sure you’re GDPR compliant…)

2.   Email marketing

You’ve got the data, now you need to do something useful with it. Start by setting up a free account with Mailchimp, and start distributing those emails.

Avoid being overly promotional and always offer something genuinely useful to the recipients. Keep the emails regular but never bombard, otherwise people will hit unsubscribe quicker than you can say ‘digital marketing’.

3.   Video marketing

You’d be mad to ignore the proliferation of video over the past few years. Jump on the bandwagon and start engaging in some video marketing.

Begin by setting up a YouTube channel. You don’t have to create Hollywood-esque movies – just a simple video blog will do. If you’ve got something useful to say, then say it on video. It also makes for highly shareable, marketable content – plonk it on your website, push it out on social, and include in your emails.

4.   Post to Facebook

It goes without saying that social media is one of the most valuable marketing tools out there. And it’s free. FREE. It’s best not to go signing up for every social media platform under the sun, just focus on those most suitable to your business.

Facebook is a viable option for almost all businesses. Unfortunately, the latest algorithm updates have made it harder than ever for businesses to gain visibility in the news feed without paying. But, you’ve got nothing to lose. Post regular updates – be engaging and exciting, don’t be too promotional, and be genuinely interesting.

5.   Interact with industry experts on Twitter

Twitter isn’t for everyone, but it does carry a whole array of benefits. It’s a great platform for engaging with industry experts and customers, as it’s a place where anyone can talk to anyone.

Respond to customer feedback, retweet the best user-generated content, and offer genuine input to industry discussions.

6.   Create an Instagram

A popular contender among social media platforms, Instagram has an ever-increasing user base.

If your business would benefit from a visual presence, then make sure you are dedicating time to building a strong Instagram account. Remember that it’s a visual platform, so carefully curated content that looks amazing is key.

7.   Generate website traffic with Pinterest

Pinterest isn’t suitable for a lot of businesses, but can work really well for some. The platform has one of the highest conversion rates in terms of converting browsers into buyers.

You can also generate significant website traffic and find out more about what your target users love.

8.   Build your network on LinkedIn

If your business is a B2B company, be sure to have a strong presence on LinkedIn. It’s also a great place for building your network. The same rules apply to LinkedIn as other social platforms – engage with relevant people and offer genuine insight.

9.   Publish to Google Plus – yes, really!

Google Plus, that strange little platform that never quite hit the big time. Yet it’s still plodding along hoping that one day, something, anything will happen that propels it into social media stardom (not likely).

Still, despite the failings of Google Plus, it is still worth getting into the habit of pushing out any new content via Google Plus. After all, it’s a product of Google and if you want to climb those rankings, we suggest keeping Google sweet.

10.   Start using Google Posts

Aim to publish regular updates via Google Posts for greater visibility in the search engine results pages. Posting to Google allows businesses to share content with people that is relevant to the search queries being inputted. It’s a great way of gaining a little extra exposure.

11.   Encourage UGC

User-generated content (UGC) is content that has been created and published by unpaid fans of your business. It’s when someone loves your product or service so much that they take it upon themselves to share their experience with friends and family, usually via social media.

UGC typically occurs naturally, but there is no harm in encouraging it – if you don’t ask you don’t get! You can highlight the best posts every week on your social media channels, and even offer prizes to customers who get featured.

And speaking of prizes…

12.   Run social media giveaways

Running social media giveaways is a sure-fire way of increasing engagement and generating new followers. Not only can it be a nice way of saying thank you to existing customers and fans, it’s also a handy way of reaching potential new customers.

Okay, so it’s not entirely cost free, as you’ll need to give away a product, but there’s no need to spend any money on top of that. Just be sure to follow all the best practices of running a giveaway.

13.   Engage with social influencers

Influencer marketing is a huge industry. For those unfamiliar with how it all works, a business pays or offers free products to a blogger or influencer who has a high following on social media. In return, the influencer shares your product on their social media channels. It’s extremely effective.

The more popular influencers can charge astronomical rates, but those with smaller followings (sometimes called “micro-influencers”) have high engagement rates and are often willing to post something in return for a free product or trial.

14.   Set up Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools

If you haven’t already, then make sure you set up Google Search Console (and also Bing Webmaster Tools). Using these tools, you can view valuable information about the search terms people are using to find your website.

You can also index new pages, meaning they will show up in the search engine results pages quicker. Plus, be sure to submit an XML sitemap – it helps the search engines crawl your site.

15.   Update your Google My Business listing

Update your Google My Business listing and check that all information is accurate. Reorganize the images to ensure that only your best side is showing.

Do the same with your local listings for Bing and Yahoo. It’s also worth working on building your Google reviews, as they will help boost your rankings.

16.   Ask your customers for testimonials

On the topic of reviews, be sure to generate as many testimonials and (positive) reviews as possible.

Whether it’s via Google, TrustPilot or for a dedicated testimonials section on your website, people trust other people. You’ll have to ask your customers for these, as people don’t very often give them naturally. Just a gentle prompt will do the trick.

17.   Google Analytics

Make sure that you have Google Analytics linked up to your site. It’s a treasure trove of handy data and be sure to spend some time getting your head around it all.

See how people interact with your site, identify the pain points and discover the most popular pages. With this information you can make considered and informed changes and improvements to your site.

18.   Review Google AdWords

Google AdWords is not free. In fact, it’s incredibly expensive. But if you are already running a PPC campaign then it’s worth taking some time to review your strategy. Try rewriting some of the ads and improving your quality score to generate better results.

Sparing a little time reviewing your campaign could save you lots of money. For most of us AdWords will cost, but if you are a charity you can apply for a Google Grant of up to £10,000 to spend on AdWords!

19.   Use PR

PR is still a very powerful weapon in a marketer’s arsenal. Without hiring a dedicated PR agency, there are some steps you can take to implement a bit of PR. Following any substantial news or updates, it’s worth distributing a press release as you never know who may pick it up.

Sign up to platforms like HARO (help a reporter out) and look out for hashtags like #journorequest on Twitter, as you may be able to wrangle a mention. PR, of course, goes hand-in-hand with link-building for SEO.

20.   Contribute to forums, blogs and discussions

Part of marketing your business online is to establish yourself as a reliable industry expert and a voice of authority. In order to build this authority, take the time to contribute to relevant forums, blogs and social media discussions.

Offer genuinely helpful insight and answer questions that are being asked. People will appreciate your input and, with any luck, will convert into a customer.

21.   Speak at industry conferences

Another excellent way of building your authority and reputation as an expert within your industry, is to volunteer to speak at relevant industry conferences. It’s a great way of getting your personal and business name out there. If you’re trusted to speak at conferences, then you’ll be trusted to offer a good product or service.

22.   Content creation

It goes without saying that content creation should be central to any digital marketing strategy. If you haven’t already got a blog on your website then don’t wait a second longer. Do it. Right now.

You’ll probably have noticed that there are a disconcerting amount of blogs on the web. So don’t do what everyone else is doing; be different, be helpful and be relevant.

23.   Guest post

As well as creating content for your own site, be sure to integrate guest blogging into your marketing strategy. Only aim for relevant and high quality sites, preferably with a high domain authority and nonexistent spam score.

It’s a great way of ramping up brand exposure, but also securing links back to your website (hello better SEO rankings).

24.   Use blogging platforms

As beautiful as your website’s blog might be, it can be frustrating if your lovingly crafted content is not getting the exposure you think it deserves. Especially if you are only just starting out, it can be crushing to spend hours working on a stellar article, only for two people to read it (probably your mum and your best mate).

This is where blogging platforms, like Medium, can help increase your exposure. Just make sure that you follow the best practices for republishing content on these platforms.

25.   Carry out keyword research

If you are undertaking a full blown SEO campaign, the chances are that you are paying someone to do it, or you are already an SEO whiz, in which case you’ll (hopefully) know what you’re doing.

For the newbies, keyword research is the initial stage of any SEO campaign and can help you identify user intent and figure out what your target audience is searching for. It would take several blog posts to cover this in enough detail, but a good place to start is with this complete guide to keyword research for SEO.

26.   Optimize your metadata

Get into the habit of writing an SEO title and meta description for every page and post you publish. This is the information that will be displayed in the search engine results pages, so you need to make it as enticing and relevant as possible.

27.   Mark up your website with Schema.org structured data

In a nutshell, schema markup allows you to label the content on your site for the benefit of the search engine. It helps the search engines provide more detailed search engine results pages.

Although there is no evidence that schema markup directly improves your rankings, it will make your listing more attractive, therefore encouraging more click-throughs. And that can only be a good thing!

28.   List your business in online directories

Ensure that your business is listed in relevant online directories. There are the most popular ones, such as Yell, Yelp and Thomson Local, but there are a whole host of other industry or location-specific directories.

Make sure you add your business listing to only the directories which are relevant to your business, and ensure they aren’t spammy.

29.   Make sure your NAP are consistent

That sounds complicated but it’s really very simple. NAP stands for name, address and phone number. NAP consistency refers to the process of ensuring that all mentions of your business feature the correct information.

Do a quick search and make sure that the name, address, phone number, and any other information about your business listed online are all completely accurate and formatted consistently.

30.   Test your website with Google’s PageSpeed Insights and Mobile-Friendly Test

Finally, if you want your website to rank well and offer a fantastic user experience then it needs to be fast and mobile-friendly. Utilize Google’s free tools to check the speed of your website and whether or not it is mobile-friendly. Any red flags should be resolved as quickly as possible.

So there you have it. There’s definitely enough information here to keep you occupied for quite some time. It always helps to have a marketing budget, but these free steps are the best place to start. Good luck!

If you enjoyed this article, check out our other roundups of marketing tools and techniques you can use completely free of charge:

Six steps to improving your local search strategy

With local search proven to be one of the hottest SEO trends of 2017, it is projected to maintain its standing among make-or-break optimization factors in 2018.

The competition between online and brick-and-mortar stores is heating up, and local search optimization can become a decisive factor in how a site ranks locally and, consequently, in how much traffic and clients it drives from local, on-the-go searches.

Fortunately, major local search tactics are not that hard to master. Follow the six steps below to achieve the best results in terms of SERPs, traffic, and conversions on the local battlefield.

Claim Google My Business

Failure to claim your company’s account at Google My Business may be the reason your website does not show up at the top spot of Google’s local search results. If you are not there (and Bing Places for Business), you are missing out on incredible opportunities to drive local traffic.

With Google’s local three-pack considered to be the coveted spot for every local business, you need to please the Google gods to get listed there:

  • Go through the verification process. Google will send you an actual postcard, with a private PIN inside (provided you register at the GMB website and you own a business’s physical address). P.O. boxes are not allowed.
  • Fill out all GMB listing elements: logo, photos, description, categories, business hours, payment methods, physical address (if any), phone number, website, etc. This information must be consistent across your website, GMB, and other directories.
  • Optimize your GMB listing. Ensure that all text elements are written for humans and feature your top-priority local keywords (e.g. city, neighborhood, type of service, brand name, etc.)

According to Google My Business guidelines, any business can be unlisted if they violate any of the following rules:

  • Using a URL redirect instead of a site’s actual URL
  • Stuffing a company’s name field with keywords
  • Registering multiple GMB listings for one company. If you have a multi-location business, read our guide to how to optimize your Google My Business listing to avoid a penalty
  • Using any address that is not your business’s actual physical address.

Register with online directories and listings

According to a Local Search Ranking Factors Study 2017 by Moz, link signals play a key role in how sites rank in local search. However, many website owners pay zero attention to online directories and listings, which are a safe source of relevant, high-quality links.

The process here is simple:

  • Find top business directories to get your company listed. Google, Bing, Yahoo!, Yelp, Merchant Circle, Citysearch, Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List, and Yellow Pages are a must
  • Research local business directories. Check out local media and government websites, or simply do a Google search
  • Fill out and optimize your directory accounts. Be descriptive, write for humans, and do not forget about keywords. Confirm that all business details are consistent across every directory.

Bonus tip! Like directories and listings, citation data aggregators feed search engines with crucial bits of information about your business, such as your business name, address and phone number (NAP). Ensure that all information you submit to CDAs is consistent. Do not confuse your customers and Google.

Optimize titles and meta descriptions

Titles and meta descriptions are still a biggie in local search. Customizable HTML elements act as ads that define how a page’s content is reflected in search results, and they have to be catchy enough to get clicked.

Since titles and meta descriptions are limited to ~50+ and ~160+ characters, they may pose a challenge. These tips should help:

  • Research the local keywords you want to rank for; analyze your competition
  • Place local keywords at the beginning of the tag (you might use a formula by Moz: Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brand Name)
  • Cut page names from your titles (e.g. Home, Services, Products, etc.)
  • Keep your titles relevant to corresponding pages; never duplicate your titles
  • Write title tags for humans; avoid keyword stuffing.

What it comes down to is this: Even if your business gets a coveted No.1 position in local search thanks to all of your SEO efforts, you still have to incentivize users to click on your link. Masterfully crafted and meaningful titles and meta descriptions can make a big difference.

Collect and manage online reviews

According to BrightLocal’s 2017 Local Consumer Review Survey, 97% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, with 85% trusting them as much as personal recommendations.

Since reviews can become your ultimate weapon for building trust and a positive reputation among your targeted audience, it makes sense to ask for them. As of 2017, 68% of consumers are willing to leave a review when asked by the business (70% in 2016).

So where do you start? Implement this simple process to manage your reviews:

  • Start monitoring reviews. Use one of these tools: Reputation Loop, Get Five Stars, Trust Pilot, Vendata, Awario, Social Mention, Mention, Talkwalker Alerts. You may also rely on Hootsuite and Tiny Porch.
  • Respond to each review, whether positive or negative. 30% of consumers consider an answer to their review as a key factor when judging a local business.
  • Manage Google My Business reviews for your SEO. According to Google, the amount and score of GMB reviews are calculated into local search ranking.
  • Manage Yelp, Facebook, and BBB.org reviews for marketing. These are the most trusted review platforms among consumers.

Bonus tip! Since consumers read an average of seven reviews before trusting a business, develop a strategy for generating ongoing positive reviews. Make sure to contact happy customers and ask for their reviews to mitigate the effect of negative reviews.

Use local structured data markup

Schema markup, a code used for marking up crucial bits of data on a page to assist search engine spiders in determining a page’s contents, is one of the most powerful but least-utilized SEO methods. With  ~10 million websites implementing Schema.org markup, you should start using this leverage against your competition.

However, structured data is not simple to master. As of 2017, Schema’s core vocabulary consists of 597 Types, 867 Properties, and 114 Enumeration values.

The good news is that Google has developed several tools to help business owners, marketers, and SEO professionals:

Bonus tip! Make LocalBusiness schema your top priority. Particularly, discover specific Types for different businesses below the list of properties.

Appear in local publications and media

On the link-building side of things, content is your most powerful weapon. Reach out to local publications, media sites, and bloggers to serve up content that soothes the pain points of local consumers. You will not only get coverage and reach new audiences, but you will also garner relevant backlinks that push your site up in local searches.

Follow this process to amplify your linkbuilding efforts through content marketing:

  • Make a list of local publications where you want your business featured or mentioned
  • Research the people in charge (e.g. editors, journalists, bloggers, etc.)
  • Figure out how to contact them
  • Start sending out your individual pitches with content ideas
  • Collect responses and find common ground on publication terms
  • Analyze feedback if your attempts fail
  • Rinse and repeat!

Bonus tip! Consider cooperating with other local businesses to build powerful content. Reach out to your partners to research ideas and create content with meat on its bones. Otherwise, you may fall short of beating out competition from national-level players.

Conclusion

SEO changes all the time, and local search is not much different. However, the six steps above will provide a solid bedrock for your local SEO strategy. Implement these tactics, and you will outperform your competition in local search results.

4 local SEO strategies for small and medium businesses

For small and medium businesses who want to compete on the same playing-field as much larger corporations with greater resources at their disposal, having a strong local SEO strategy is crucial.

Irrespective of what industry you’re in, you’ll always have at least one competitor who has been around longer and has allocated more budget and resources to building their visibility on the web and in search engines.

It may feel futile to try and compete with them in the realm of SEO.

But local SEO plays by slightly different rules to the regular kind. You don’t need to have reams of funding at your disposal or hundreds of links pointing to your site to be visible and relevant to a local audience – you just need to understand the unique characteristics of local SEO, and apply a few simple strategies to cater to them.

In this article, we’ll explore four cost-effective strategies that small and medium businesses can use to give themselves the best chance of ranking locally.

Verify your business’ Google Plus page

Your first step is to link your business’ Google Plus page with Google My Business. Google My Business allows SMEs to update their information across Google Search, Google Maps, and Google Plus in one fell swoop, to ensure that a potential customer can find you wherever they are and whatever device they’re on.

Local searches lead to more purchases than non-local searches, and verifying your Google Plus page makes it possible for you to monopolize the majority of the search results pages for your brand name, especially for the Local Business Card on the right.

Business owners need to realize that anyone can edit your business listing and this includes your competitors. Once you have provided Google My Business with all your details, it is very important to login to your Google My Business dashboard regularly to ensure that no one has attempted to make any unwanted changes to your listing.

Take advantage of the many interesting features available to businesses on Google My Business such as Google Posts, booking button feature, messaging, Questions & Answers, and more. The possibilities are limitless, get busy!

Pay-Per-Click advertising

Launching your website is only the first step. Implementing a marketing strategy that includes Pay-Per-Click advertising is an important part of small business success within the digital landscape.

Virtually every small business can benefit from implementing a pay-per-click marketing strategy to build its web presence. The idea is to identify targeted, relevant keywords, understand your target audience and develop a strategy that will drive the right types of leads.

Selling a product or service that is difficult for consumers to find locally makes your business a great candidate for PPC advertising campaigns. People often rely on internet searches to locate unusual or rare products.

On top of this, many local searches with high purchase intent take place on mobile, as consumers search for a business or service “near me” while they’re out and about. As PPC advertising dominates a greater proportion of screen space on mobile, having paid search ads in place will give you the best chance of appearing in front of consumers in these moments.

Learning to combine the strengths of both search and social media, pay-per-click will effectively round out any small business’ paid advertising strategy. Understanding the difference and when to use each platform will increase visibility and decrease cost.

Host user-generated reviews

Google sees reviews as a major factor for ranking on the new carousel design; however, more than anything your reviews are for Google users who see your company on a SERP. Peer-to-peer reviews are powerful because they give your potential customers a good sense of what it’s really like to use your goods or services.

In this regard, the internet has leveled the playing field for small businesses across the globe through the power and exposure of online user-generated reviews.

Search engine spiders like content that is unique and frequently updated, and user reviews are an easy way to create more of this. Content generated by users is often unique to the user, therefore, it is different from the generic content mostly used by e-commerce sites which is the same thing as the manufacturer description.

This, combined with the fact that the words and phrases used by reviewers are often the same as those used by searchers, increases the chances of ranking well for search queries that are relevant to your product.

When you consider that 88% of shoppers consider product reviews before making any purchase, it’s a safe bet to assume that more and more consumers will be searching for the name of your product along with the word ‘review’, or related words like ‘ratings’.

Get your visitors started by simply putting a button on your webpage to facilitate leaving a review, prompt visitors to leave a review after purchasing something or visiting a particular landing page, or talk directly with people in your store or company about leaving a review.

Optimize your images

Optimization for local SEO is not limited to text. Due to the increasingly blended nature of search results, you can now see images on the search listings page, so it’s important to optimize your imagery for search engines.

Ensure your images are search engine-friendly. It all starts with the file name. There are a billion and one images out there, so you don’t want to use a generic image file name like ‘image12345.jpg’ that will guarantee your business gets lost in the pile. Instead, you want to use something descriptive to make it easier for your images to compete in rankings.

Search engines can’t read images, so it is up to you to use alt tags to help describe your image to ensure it pops up during relevant queries. Write a concise, relevant description that contains the appropriate keywords. Don’t forget to write content above and below the images on your website, using keywords where appropriate; the more the text is related to the image, the better.

Most importantly, if you want your images to rank for localized keywords, make sure you add local keywords wherever you can for blended results optimized for a specific local area.

In short, there’s no elevator to rise to the top of the search engine rankings, especially when there’s a massive competitor lingering on the scene. But with a strategy that leverages your geographic location, you can selectively overcome your competitors in specific key areas.

Give yourself an advantage by narrowing your topic and keyword focus and increasing your location-specific relevance. You might not rank for as many keywords as the big players, but you will be able to surpass them in relevance for your chosen focal points.

If you want to dive further into local SEO strategies after reading these tips, the following articles will take you more in-depth:

Pius Boachie is the founder of DigitiMatic, an inbound marketing agency.

How to find the perfect domain strategy for international SEO

As you look to expand the reach of your business to customers in different countries, your website setup and the content you have in place will need to change and evolve.

Before you even begin thinking about content localization and local keywords for each market, the technical setup of your website needs to be considered. The first step of this process is domain strategy.

What domain you use when targeting local markets can impact how your site performs. There are a number of options for your domain structure:

  • Country code top-level domains (ccTLDs)
  • Subfolders or subdirectories
  • Subdomain

There are pros and cons for each of these. In this article, I’ll examine each of the different options, their benefits and drawbacks, and consider how you can find the best domain strategy for your individual situation.

Country code top-level domains (ccTLDs)

ccTLDs (or Country Code top-level domains) are specific to a country: for example, .de for Germany or .fr for France.

Pros of ccTLDs

  • Automatically associated with the country they cover (.de to Germany)
  • Clear to visitors that this site is meant for them
  • Obvious in the search results the site is targeted to a specific country
  • In many countries, customers prefer a locally based website
  • In some markets, local ccTLDs perform better in the rankings.

Cons of ccTLDs

  • Increased costs of domain registration (if you are in 32 countries you need 32 ccTLDs)
  • Starting from scratch with no domain history or links when you launch into a new market
  • You can’t as easily set up language specific websites – so a German-language website on a .de domain will look like a German-focused website, not one which can also serve customers in German-speaking Switzerland, or Austria
  • Your website will have lots of external links on it if you have a language selection dropdown on all pages. This can lead to your backlink profile being dominated by links from your own sites – that means any amazing backlinks you’ve managed to create won’t be as powerful as if your own links weren’t present (a drop in the ocean, you might say)
  • SEO work on one site won’t benefit all sites, as they are all separate websites.

Subfolders or subdirectories

Subfolders (also known as subdirectories) for specific languages or countries can be added to any domain (www.yourdomain.com/de), but for this to work effectively, the site needs to be on a top-level domain such as a .com, and not a local ccTLD.

Pros of subfolders

  • SEO performed on one part of the domain will benefit all the country folders as it’s one site
  • There is also the added inheritance of the authority of your original website so you aren’t starting from scratch when you go into a new market
  • Links between countries are seen as internal links, not external ones, which helps your backlink profile as it will be made up predominantly of links from other people’s sites and not mainly from your own site
  • No extra domain hosting costs.

Cons of subfolders

  • In the search results, it’s not as obvious that the country subfolder is specifically for users in that country (/de/ could be a page about your German products rather than a page specifically aimed at German users)
  • No automatic association in search to the target country
  • Risk of internal cannibalization – different international landing pages wind up competing with each other in search results, and it can be difficult to get the right landing page to rank in the relevant country’s search
  • Be wary of automatic optimization settings in your CMS – the last thing you want is your beautifully translated website for the Italian market to have a default title tag and meta description on every page which is in English.

Subdomains

Subdomains add the country content to the beginning of the domain (de.yourdomain.com). Some CMS tools or proxies default to this behavior, so it’s been a popular technique for many international websites.

Again, this solution only works when the parent website is a .com domain.

Pros of subdomains

  • Default for some CMS tools
  • Has some connection to the current SEO authority of the main website, which can aid performance when launching in a new country

Cons

  • Links to subdomains from the language drop-down are seen as external links, however, the level of this is less than when you have unique ccTLDs for each country
  • No automatic association in the search engines with the country you’re targeting
  • Users are less likely to associate your domain with their country, as the language specification is at the beginning of the domain
  • Again, risk of internal cannibalization: Google will typically only feature one subdomain from the same site in the SERPs, meaning that your subdomains wind up competing with one another for the same search terms.

So which domain strategy works best?

All we’ve seen from the above is that there are pros and cons for all the available domain strategies, and no real clear winner for which works best.

IP serving is not the solution

From an SEO point of view, we need to avoid IP serving (serving different content to the user depending on their IP address) wherever possible. All the search engines need to be able to find and index all of your content, but have IP ranges which come from specific countries.

Google, for example, comes from the US, meaning that it will be automatically redirected to your US content. This can present issues with the indexation and visibility of your local websites in the search results.

Making informed decisions

The best way for your business to decide which domain strategy is right for your websites is to review a number of different elements. Here are some key ones to start off with:

Technology review

This is a good kick-off point; there’s no point in looking at all the options, doing your research and deciding on a domain strategy, only to find that your CMS doesn’t support the approach you’ve chosen.

There are a number of considerations here:

  • Are there limitations to the options supported by your CMS?
  • Are there extra costs associated with any of the domain strategies?
  • Does the CMS support cross-domain content publication and hreflang tags no matter which domain strategy you choose?

Top level marketing strategy

Another one which is well worth checking before doing anything else. If your business has a logo which contains the domain, or a set of brand guidelines which involve talking about the company as YourBrand.com, then you may find that any recommendation to move to a ccTLD for specific markets might not be accepted.

Check in with the decision makers on that before you begin roll-out of research into domain strategy (and save yourself time!)

Competitor research and ranking review

Look at the marketplace for the country you are interested in, and also at the domain strategies which work for the companies who are performing well in the search results. This should include search competitors and publishers on a similar topic, not just your known named competitor.

Budgetary considerations

Are you a small business with limited marketing budgets, but looking to expand into 19 markets? If so, a ccTLD approach could eat into your budgets.

You might find that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and in some markets, it might be better to have a ccTLD whilst in all of the other countries you are focused on a .com domain. At this point, your own marketing needs to kick in.

If you are comfortable having multiple domain marketing strategies, then do so; if you aren’t, then consider putting all sites on the same strategy. Just remember, it’s unlikely that your international customers will care that one site is on a ccTLD and another is on a .com!

Final considerations: Language

One final thing to consider when choosing domains for an international audience is the words used in the domain.

Although your domain is often your company name or something comprising this, one thing to consider for international audiences is whether this name, your domain, or the way words are combined in your domain, could look odd to audiences who speak a different language.

The worst-case scenario is that your domain looks like a swear word or insult in a different language. So, before you commit to a particular domain, check with local people living in that market that you won’t be accidentally calling their mother a hamster.

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How creating relevant experiences can boost your clicks on local search ads

We all know by now that mobile has had a tremendous impact on our lives as consumers and as marketers.

What we are still getting our collective heads around is what this change means for us as marketers.

Consumers have different expectations of the information they want when they search for “running shoes” at 9am from their desktop at work, versus “running shoes” at 6pm on their iPhone two miles away from a store. We as marketers needs to consider these expectations and deliver uniquely for them.

I wanted to take a look at some of the data across various AdWords accounts and understand how search campaigns are performing by desktop and mobile and different distances from the physical store location the search is coming from.

The insights align with what you might expect, but probably don’t align with how you are managing your campaigns – yet.

How distance impacts CTR, CPC and click percentage in local search advertising

Let’s first start with click-through rate (CTR) by distance. This metric might be the biggest variance and potentially most obvious when you stop and think about it. It stands to reason that CTR would be higher the closer a consumer is to the physical location.

However, what I didn’t expect was how much higher and how much larger the variance is for mobile compared with desktop. Our data shows that within one mile of a store, mobile CTRs are 2.5 times higher than desktop CTRs. The implications of this are logical, but really indicate a desire to go in-store. Once you get outside the first mile, the CTRs drop to be just one percentage point higher than desktop.

Next, let’s take a look at cost per click (CPC) by device.

Here we see a very interesting trend that aligns with the concept behind quality score. We see that CPCs are their lowest for mobile within one mile of a store. After understanding that the CTRs were 2.5 times higher on mobile versus desktop, one can assume that the relevancy rate is helping to earn these lower CPCs.

The trend here is the opposite based on device. CPCs are going up for mobile each distance further from the location vs. desktop which is seeing a steady decrease the further away. I think the desktop reduction speaks to the geo-targeting that occurs and reduces competition since fewer brands would enter the auction.

How creating relevant experiences can boost your clicks on local search ads

Lastly, I thought that the trends surrounding percentage of clicks by device and distance were very interesting.

Although cumulative, the amount of traffic that Google is able to gather less than one mile from a physical location is still much smaller than the traffic more than 15 miles away. So it make sense that there is still a larger percentage for mobile devices versus desktop at a close range, given the relevancy factor for those consumers as well as the advertisers themselves.

How creating relevant experiences can boost your clicks on local search ads

Relevancy: The name of the game

Ultimately, that is what I think this game is all about – relevancy. Here are three tips that you can take away from these findings, and use to create more relevant marketing for your consumers.

Relevant experiences

We know as consumers ourselves that we expect relevant experiences. We expect the opening hours of the store to be correct, we expect landing pages on mobile to be mobile responsive, and so on.

As advertisers, given the tools that we have available including customer match (now available with phone number and address as well), and various extensions, we have a lot more opportunities to increase relevancy for consumers.

This data just validates those relevancy expectations. Now it is on us as marketers to ensure we take advantage of these tools to give customers what they want, when they want it, and how they want it.

Understand your customers’ interactions with your business

What does this data look like for your business? What are the specific insights for you? Should you be bidding higher for consumers closer to your location?

Should your landing page focus on calls to action bringing consumers in-store, if that search is during store hours and they are less than one mile from your location? What is your specific data saying?

What CRM data can be used to augment this data?

The more you know about your customer base, the more you can use that information to create a better experience and a more loyal customer. How are you using your CRM data to understand where specific consumers interact, target them or cross-sell?

There are so many pieces of data that can be cut up to give an advantage to your search program. What needs to be a focus for many is to better understand how that data relates to your customers’ expectations and not yours.

For example, many paid search managers want a conversion to occur online, so the measurement and ROI story can be as strong as possible. However, the downside to that is it serves your own interests and potentially not the customer’s.

I think this data is a great indicator of how to tie consumer behavior to experience, and I firmly believe that the more we can do this as an industry, the better off we’ll be.

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How to get started with local SEO

Local SEO proved to be one of the biggest trends throughout 2016 and 2017, and is expected to continue doing so throughout 2018.

Businesses that have been able to optimize their on-page and off-page SEO strategies are already reaping the supreme benefits of local SEO. For others, there are undeniable opportunities to begin their local SEO journeys.

Google suggests that 80% users conduct online searches for local businesses, while 50% of users who do a local search on mobile for a business visit its store within a day. Yet businesses continue to miss the opportunities that local SEO provides.

Don’t be that business. Instead, use the tips and tricks mentioned in this guide to get started with local SEO.

Claim your Google My Business page and optimize it

Google+ might have mostly fizzled out, but Google My Business continues to be a cornerstone for implementing local SEO. If you’ve not claimed a Google My Business listing for your business yet, this is the time to do so. The chances of your business featuring on the front page in a local relevant search improve manifold purely by having a well optimized and filled out My Business Listing.

Go to google.com/business, start the registration and verification process, and wait for Google to send you a postcard to your physical store location.

Make sure you understand that Google only allows real business owners to have their My Business pages; so you need to work out an arrangement with your digital marketing consultants so that you continue to own the My Business listing even if they depart.

Your business name, address, and phone number (abbreviated as NAP) must match what you have been using for digital marketing till now. Also, lay special emphasis on selecting categories, business hours, types of payment accepted, etc.

Then, have top quality photographs of the office front and insides uploaded on to the profile. Digital businesses without a location can hide the address to still be able to claim their My Business listing.

Here’s what a well maintained and optimized Google My Business profile could look like on a search page.

Understand and master the art of citations

Here’s it, put simply – every mention of your business online is a citation. More citations are good for your business’ local SEO. How does Google consider a mention as a citation? Well, your business NAP has to be mentioned for it to be counted as a citation.

Too many businesses have already lost several months of efforts in getting themselves mentioned online, purely because of inconsistent NAP. Though increasingly there’s consensus among digital marketers that Google actually triangulates data and identifies slightly different business names as belonging to the same business using NAP, we’d recommend you play it safe.

Keep on optimizing your website for mobile

Though this is something every website owner must do, local business website owners need to speed up their game particularly well. That’s because a majority of local searches are done on mobile devices, and are intent-backed.

Responsive layouts, intuitive user experience and interface design, etc. are the basics; you need to step past them! Google’s Mobile Friendly testing tool is a great starting point. I did a test on a post I was reading recently, and was impressed with the tool’s validation.

How to get started with local SEO

How to get started with local SEO

Add business directories to your to do lists

Apart from giving you a valuable citation online, business directory pages for your business also garner more visibility for your business. Here are some action points for you.

  • Start with the most notable business review directory websites such as Yelp and CitySearch
  • Next, use this list of business directories and create your business profiles on each (target at least 7 complete profiles per week)
  • Look for niche specific business directories and create your profiles there
  • Look for local business community websites, and grab your listing there
  • Check if the state government has a Chamber of Commerce or equivalent website, and look for a way to get a mention there
  • Use the services of citation aggregators like Infogroup, Acxiom, and Factual
  • Look for an opportunity for a citation via local newspaper websites
  • Of course, remember to get your NAP spot on every time.

‘Localize’ your website’s content

You can do a lot to help search engines understand your business’ local appeal by optimizing your website for the same. Local content, for instance, can help search engines contextualize your website’s niche to its local service. Then, you could include an interactive map widget to further enhance the local SEO appeal of your website.

Also, consider creating a separate local news section on your website, wherein you could post content about niche-related local events. This will serve you well in terms of allowing the usage of local SEO relevant keywords.

Businesses such as restaurants, lawyer services, house repairs and interior décor, etc. have a lot to gain by using these basic tactics.

Be very hungry for online reviews

A Moz report attributes 8.4% of ranking value to online reviews. It doesn’t sound much, but considering how 88% users depend on online reviews to form opinions on quality of businesses, brands, and products, the eventual impact of reviews is significant.

Google My Business reviews are the primary source of SEO juice; you need at least 5 reviews for Google to start showing your reviews. Facebook Business reviews must be the next on your radar, because of the trust they inspire among online users.

There are several other review websites you need to take care of, to maximize the local SEO benefit from the same. To get more reviews, try out these tactics:

  • Motivate store managers and field sales personnel to get reviews from customers on handy mobile devices, asking them log in to, for instance, Zomato or Yelp, and doing it on the spot (consider giving them a little discount for the same)
  • Use email marketing, with a single link that takes users to the reviews page
  • Consider using a social listening tool such as HootSuite to be alerted of your business and brand mentions, which you can transform into reviews
  • It’s worthwhile seeking services of online reputation management agencies for this.

Invest effort in local SEO relevant rich schema

Schema markup can be added to your website’s code to enhance its readability for search engines. There are several scheme markup tags that specifically focus on local attributes of your website.

Local schema markup tags assists local SEO in two ways:

  • First, it allows search engines to understand your business’ local relevance
  • Second, it means search engines can show your business page result along with rich snippet info such as phone number, address, business working hours, ratings, reviews, etc.

Here’s an example of how web results with local SEO schema markup appear on SERPs.

How to get started with local SEO

Local schema markup is beyond the scope of this guide, but here’s a good tutorial from Schema App.

Don’t forget to run your website through Google Structured Data Testing Tool to understand if the schema markup is done correctly.

Concluding remarks

As you read this, there are hundreds of potential customers searching for businesses in your neighborhood. Your website could be staring at them through their desktops and mobile phones, as soon as you get started on local SEO with the tips, tricks, tools, and methods described in this guide.

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4 digital marketing challenges faced by franchises (and how to overcome them)

One of the biggest challenges facing a franchisee’s growth is their ability to execute a winning digital marketing strategy that is unfettered by a franchiser.

A struggle often exists between a franchiser’s need to control their brand, and a franchisee’s desire to market their business through their own strategies.

According to Jason Decker of Search Engine Land, franchises are failing at:

From poorly managed PPC campaigns, to a general lack of digital marketing expertise by franchisees, let’s take a closer look at how you can overcome many of the most common franchise marketing challenges.

1. Fragmented strategies and goals

The largest issue for franchises is a poorly integrated digital marketing strategy. The franchise may have clear goals, but the goals of franchisees may be different. This creates fragmented marketing strategies.

The very nature of franchises is “structured”, however, when it comes to marketing, that structure often lacks. If there is no unified digital marketing strategy with clear guidelines in place, a mixed marketing message and fractured consumer targeting approach will occur.

Is it essential to have clear strategies and goals in place for franchisees?

“Franchising is based on conformity and uniformity, not freedom. As a franchisee, you do not really hold the reins,” Karsten Strauss of Forbes explained. “You may technically be the boss of your shop, but you must follow the orders of the home office.”

This doesn’t mean that a franchise should lay down the law without room for collaboration. Franchise HQ and the many franchisee branches need to work together in order to define branding and unified marketing message.

Providing a core marketing strategy that will serve both the franchise and franchisee will ultimately serve up increased growth and revenue for everyone involved.

Core marketing strategies for franchisees to integrate include:

  • List of brand assets franchisees can employ for all marketing channels, like social media, website, and email direct marketing
  • Monthly marketing calendars highlighting promotional opportunities and consumer events at the global and local level
  • Develop or integrate an in-house platform where franchisees can access all marketing assets

2. Cannibalizing Pay Per Click (PPC) efforts

Franchisees, if not in sync, could end up competing against one another for PPC ads. This PPC cannibalism could result in lost marketing budget and poor ROI. This is not optimal for the competing franchisees or the franchisor.

What can franchises do to eliminate PPC cannibalism between franchisees?

Just as the case of overcoming fragmented marketing strategies due to different goals, a clear plan needs to be in place for PPC. Franchises need to set guidelines across their franchisee network to ensure the same logic and goal is in mind. Increase engagement and profit without competing against one another.

A few PPC campaign tweaks for your franchisees should include:

  • Identifying the keywords each franchisee should bid on, and identifying keywords each franchisee should not bid on
  • An overhaul of each franchisee’s geo-targeting. This should help with the overlap and potential for PPC cannibalism
  • Encourage franchisees that may overlap in territory to work together when it comes to PPC campaign efforts

When two franchisee locations are simply too close to one another, they can consider combining their PPC efforts. However, many franchisees may be outsourcing their PPC to an agency. It is imperative that the marketing agencies of the franchisees in close proximity collaborate to ensure all strategies and bids are aligned.

3. Duplicate content and lack of unique content

When it comes to digital marketing, having unique content that is not duplicated anywhere else online is vital to ranking success and brand visibility. The same practice goes for franchisors and their franchisees.

“Undecided consumers who are researching their options might check out a website and social media presence more than once,” Dan Antonelli explained in Entrepreneur. “When they come back, seeing something new and relevant makes their visit a better experience — and shows that the brand is a professional organization.”

If you are providing one set of content for every franchisee website, or other online marketing, you should start to reconsider your overall marketing efforts. With Google penalties around every online corner, duplicate content or failing to produce unique, fresh content could land your franchisees and franchise in hot water.

How can franchisors ensure unique content for all franchisees?

Franchisors should provide marketing material for all franchisee webpages with guidelines for the types of content that can be created.

This franchisor provided information could then be redeveloped by each franchisee, putting a fresh spin on it to prevent duplicating content across multiple web pages. The content can also be ever changing when franchise level promotions, deals, and new products or services are released.

Content marketing strategies for franchisees include:

  • Develop a master content marketing sheet that is accessible to all franchisees.
  • Let your franchisees hire their own writers or content marketing agencies.
  • Encourage SEO efforts for all content marketing campaigns, whether in-house or via an agency.
  • Have all franchisees create their own unique content relevant to their local area and target audience.

“If each franchise has its own site, more content will need to be produced, but the content strategy behind each piece will likely be more or less the same,” Amanda DiSilvestro writes on Content Marketing Institute.

“You need guest posting, and you need content for the website or websites, and so your franchises need to know your expectations.”

4 digital marketing challenges faced by franchises (and how to overcome them)

4. Not localizing or segmenting email marketing

Franchisors and franchisees that fail to localize and segment their email marketing efforts will discover poor engagement and decreased revenue. It is imperative for franchisees to target the right customers in their local marketplace, and at the right time.

According to email marketing research by emailmonday, only 22 percent of retail emails are opened. Generic email lists lacking a local email marketing strategy simply will not do. In fact, the broad marketing messages will often repel potential customers, as well as ones who have interacted with your franchise in the past.

One of the factors behind this franchise digital marketing challenge is the lack of a centralized email marketing system. Franchisors can quickly lose control of their core brand messaging if a centralized system is not in place.

How can you ensure your message is not lost during franchisee email marketing campaigns?

The first thing franchisors need to integrate into their email marketing strategy is a centralized system. This could be as simple as centralizing all email lists for different customer requests, comments, and touch points.

Each of these centralized email lists can them be segmented for target audiences based on their specific locations. This lets you deliver geo-targeted and personalized emails marketing messages with a high level of consistency among all your franchisees.

Other email marketing tips for franchisors and franchisees are:

  • Tailor your email messages to your customers in a way they will find them useful.
  • Make email marketing more personal, and follow up if resources are available.
  • Use email subject lines that relate to the local area.
  • Ensure social media is integrated in your email marketing outreach, allowing customers to share your message.
  • Use segmented marketing tactics like language, region, or other consumer demographics.

“Creating or updating your campaign to focus more on local marketing could be the answer you’ve been looking for,” as Amanda DiSilvestro previously wrote on Search Engine Watch. “There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that the future of email marketing is hyperlocal.”

The above digital marketing challenges franchises face can become problems of the past. By integrating a few easy concepts and by employing new marketing tactics, your local customer base will increase, and you will build a successful franchise.

What marketing strategies have worked well for your franchise in the past?

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How businesses can optimize for Google’s new Question & Answer feature

Back in August, Google introduced a new feature called Questions & Answers, or Q&A, in Google Maps. 

This feature allows you and other people to ask and answer questions about your business.

Like reviews and other user-generated content, this update could have an impact on your business’ reputation, so it’s important that you take an active role in managing your Q&As.

Here’s what you need to know to make the most of this feature.

What does Google’s Q&A feature mean for businesses?

Google’s Q&A feature lets anyone ask questions about your business. These questions show up on your Google Maps page. You can answer these questions yourself, or other people can answer them. As the business owner, you can also preemptively ask and answer questions that you think might be useful to customers.

Examples of what the Q&A section looks like in Google Maps. Source: onlineownership.com

The new Q&A feature is undoubtedly handy for customers – who hasn’t wished they could ask questions about a business or venue before actually going there?

For business owners, though, keeping up with Q&As means adding one more thing to the to-do list. There’s no way to opt out of questions and answers if you have a Google My Business listing.

While you could choose to ignore the feature, that’s not a good idea – it’s best to represent your own business online whenever you can, instead of letting others do it for you.

Will this feature be good for your business? Maybe. Like reviews, Google’s Q&As have the potential to build your reputation online. A variety of questions and thorough, high-quality answers on your page can boost your business’ professionalism and trustworthiness in the eyes of customers.

But it remains to be seen whether this will actually bring more customers to you, or just prevent you from falling behind your competitors who make good use of Q&As.

There are some potential downsides to this feature. Like any other crowd-sourced information, Google’s Q&As are vulnerable to spamming and abuse. You obviously don’t want spam on any page associated with your business, even if it’s not your fault it’s there.

And if your competitors have a mean streak, it’s not out of the question that they might try to sabotage your business by planting false or harmful information in your Q&As.  

Another, more subtle downside of the feature is that it could decrease traffic to your website. If customers can get all the information they need straight from Google, they might not bother clicking through to your site. Time will tell whether this will become an issue for businesses.

The good news? You’ve still got plenty of time to optimize for Google’s Q&As. The feature isn’t even available on all devices yet. When it launched in August, it was available for Android devices only. It now shows up on iOS devices as well, but still isn’t available for desktop users.

Start working on your Q&As now, and you’ll be ahead of all your competitors who wait to start using the feature.

How can you optimize for Google’s Q&As?

1. Commit to tackling this new challenge

You can’t avoid or opt out of the Q&A feature, so you might as well take a hands-on approach to it. If you don’t manage your Q&As, somebody else will.  

2. Come up with a list of questions and answers

If customers haven’t asked many questions about your business yet, beat them to the punch. Write up a list of questions and post helpful, relevant answers to those questions yourself. Make sure you’re signed into your Google My Business account when you do this, so that Google will mark your answers as being from the business owner.

Posting your own Q&As lets you establish official answers to frequently asked questions before anyone else has the chance to provide potentially incorrect information.

3. Don’t be afraid to get specific

If there’s something you want people to know about your business or services, go ahead and include it in Q&A form. For instance, if your restaurant can modify any order to be vegan, that would be a good thing to include in your Q&As, even if it’s not a frequently asked question.

As long as everything you post is relevant and potentially helpful to someone, there’s generally no harm in providing a lot of information.

4. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes

As you write your Q&As, aim for helpfulness and clarity. Think about what questions you might have if you were a customer who’d never been to your business before. Phrase your questions and answers in plain English, and avoid any technical jargon that casual visitors might not be familiar with.

5. Don’t post anything spammy or unhelpful

This probably goes without saying, but keep all your questions and answers professional, helpful, and to-the-point. The Q&A feature is not a promotional tool for businesses – it’s designed to help customers. Don’t stuff your questions or answers with keywords, and don’t post Q&As that are just thinly veiled advertisements for your business.

6. Stay on top of your Q&A section

As long as you’re logged into the Google Maps app, you’ll get a push notification whenever someone asks a question about your business. Answer these questions as soon as possible. Don’t put them off, or someone else will probably answer them for you.

If you provide quick, complete, and helpful answers, other people will be less likely to chime in with less accurate or helpful information.

How businesses can optimize for Google’s new Question & Answer feature

The Google Maps app sends you push notifications when someone asks a question about your business. Source: Search Engine Land

The Q&A feature uses an upvoting system, which makes it especially important to get your answers in quickly. Earlier answers will have more time to collect upvotes, meaning they’ll be more likely to be displayed.

7. Report any malicious content in your Q&A section

Unfortunately, you can’t hide spam, irrelevant questions and answers, or malicious postings in your Q&A yourself. The best thing to do is to report this content to Google immediately. Keep a close eye on your questions and answers so you can catch and address any problems right away.

One tip for preventing Q&A mischief: never answer a question with just a “yes” or “no.” Users can edit the questions they asked after the fact, making it look like you said “yes” or “no” to a completely different question. Provide a complete, detailed answer to prevent this from happening.

The takeaway

Google’s new Q&A feature is still in the process of rolling out for all devices, and its full effect has yet to be seen. For now, the best thing to do is to be proactive.

Take the initiative in asking and answering frequently asked questions about your business, and monitor your Q&A section to make sure it’s up-to-date and full of helpful information.

What do you think of Google’s Q&A feature? Has it helped your business? Share your thoughts in the comments!

 

Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer for AgencyAnalyticsan all-in-one reporting platform for agencies. You can connect with Amanda on Twitter and LinkedIn, or check out her content services at amandadisilvestro.com.