Audience measurement

Over the past couple of days, some SEOs have been sharing some unusually looking charts from Google Search Console’s Search Analytics report. It shows negative numbers, charts that don’t connect, numbers that are off, etc. John Mueller from Google event replied.

click for full size

click for full size

Market research

John Mueller from Google said this:

Forum discussion at Twitter.


Ari Nahmani posted on Facebook (public URL) a message he got for one of his clients in Google Search Console that is unique. It is directly from John Mueller, the same John Mueller we cover here, about a critical and urgent issue with their web site.

The email first explains who John is, then says how the site has issues with search engines. It talks about how URLs are bing returned with a 400 error, preventing Google and other search engines from crawling it. It appears the site has something in place to block Google and other search engines from crawling and Google wanted to let this site owner know.

Here is a copy of the notification in Google Search Console provided by Ari (click to enlarge it):

click for full size

So here you have it, we always knew Google sent personal messages every now and then – but here is a screen shot of one.

Forum discussion at Facebook.

search engine

Yesterday Bing announced at SMX West that they have increased the ability to submit URLs to their search engine by 1,000X from 10 URLs per day to 10,000 URLs per day. They also said this is a fundamental shift in how search engines discover content and reduce crawling of web sites.

Bing wrote “We believe that enabling this change will trigger a fundamental shift in the way that search engines, such as Bing, retrieve and are notified of new and updated content across the web. Instead of Bing monitoring often RSS and similar feeds or frequently crawling websites to check for new pages, discover content changes and/or new outbound links, websites will notify the Bing directly about relevant URLs changing on their website. This means that eventually search engines can reduce crawling frequency of sites to detect changes and refresh the indexed content.”

What? Did you read that?

Bing removed the public URL submission tool last year and had issues with the private one so had to add rate limits there. Now, they expanded it from 10 URLs per day to 10,000 URLs per day. This is a big big change.

But not everyone gets 10,000 URLs per day, it is based on the age of the verified site. Bing wrote “The daily quota per site will be determined based on the site verified age in Bing Webmaster tool, site impressions and other signals that are available to Bing. Today the logic is as follows, and we will tweak this logic as needed based on usage and behavior we observe.”

click for full size

To submit URLs, go to Bing webmaster tools and submit them manually:

click for full size

Or you can use the API:

click for full size

I still find it weird that Bing thinks they can slowly do away with crawling? Maybe I am reading too much into this?

Forum discussion at Twitter.

5 Easy SEO Wins with Powerful Results

TeamVFM Local SEO Valencia, CA

TeamVFM Local SEO Valencia, CA













Search engine optimization, when done correctly, can take a lot of work. This is why so many people are so eager to take shortcuts.

Fortunately, there are some tasks that don’t require as much effort, compared to tasks like link building, yet still yield significant gains.

I’m a big fan of efficiency, so I love tactics that deliver a greater return on my investment of time and/or money.

In this article, I’m going to explain five of these tactics which are easy to execute successfully but can deliver powerful results.

These easy SEO wins will help you get more out of your efforts and sprint past your competitors. They will also help to leverage better results out of your other SEO efforts like link building and content development.

1. Prune Outdated /Low-Quality Content

You probably created all of the content on your website with the best of intentions, but still, it’s almost a certainty that some of it is garbage.

There are a variety of reasons for this, and it happens to the best of us. The solution in many cases is to prune this content. In fact, Danny Goodwin and Loren Baker recently hosted a webinar on exactly this topic.

Some people are hesitant to get rid of any content, no matter the reason. The thinking is generally that it can’t do any harm to leave it there. And Google has reinforced this thinking time and time again.

But the reality is that despite what Google’s representatives say, outdated and/or low-quality content can negatively impact your ranking and traffic.

It probably should impact your credit score too, but apparently, I don’t have the clout necessary to make that happen.

Identifying Content to Prune

Once you’ve worked up the courage to start pruning, the first step is to identify the content that should be deleted.

The easiest and most complete way to do this is to use software like Screaming Frog to crawl your website and generate a list of URLs. This helps to ensure you don’t miss anything.

Next, you’ll need to begin the tedious task of reviewing this list, URL by URL, to determine which content is outdated or low quality. This means you actually need to manually visit each page and review the content.

It may help to prioritize this list. Google Search Console gives you the ability to export a CSV file of the URLs Google has indexed for your website, which you can then sort by traffic.

From here, you’ll want to start evaluating the URLs with no traffic, working your way up.

sorted URLs

It’s important to point out that a lot of this content you’re deleting can and should be redirected to a stronger, high-quality page.

But don’t fall into the misguided approach of redirecting them to your homepage. If there is a legitimately relevant page on your website, redirect it there, otherwise, just let it 404.

But what about the content that’s not a complete dumpster fire, and is still relevant?

2. Improve Quality Content

If you’ve been doing things right, a lot, if not most of your content should survive the executioner’s blade.

This content should be improved based on your visitors’ needs.

The advantage here is that this content already exists, the URL has a history in Google, and it may even have some inbound links. Because of these factors, it makes a lot more sense to improve that content rather than starting over from scratch.

Depending on circumstances, this might include:

  • Editing your content to improve readability, increase engagement, and to make it more comprehensive.
  • Adding relevant and useful media, including images, video, and PDFs.
  • Including original data, research, statistics, and case studies.

We’ll want to prioritize the content to improve based on quick and easy wins. This means we won’t be targeting topics we don’t already rank for, but we also won’t be focused on improving positions we already rank highly for.

So let’s go back to our Google Search Console export and sort the data based on URLs that rank anywhere from Position 5 to 30 in the search results.

sort URLs by position

We’ll then further sort this data by relevance and potential search volume. From here, we will compare these URLs to our competitors who outrank us to identify opportunities to improve.

Some of the things we’re looking for could include:

Word Count

Despite what you may have been told, size does matter.

While not a worthwhile metric on its own, it can help to determine how comprehensive several URLs are in comparison to each other.


Generally speaking, the top ranking pages across all industries tend to be more comprehensive than those that they outrank. This doesn’t mean that longer content will always win, but it can be a powerful factor.

Does your content effectively and completely answer not only the original query, but also any related questions that may come up as a result?

You need to think about not only the immediate topic, but everything related to the customer journey. This might include:

  • Related definitions
  • Frequently asked questions
  • A summary of relevant laws and regulations
  • Explanation of a process
  • Technical specifications
  • Statistical data
  • Case studies


How well-written is your content?

This is not something you want to evaluate by gut feel – you need an objective measurement.

  • Yoast gives you a readability score while editing content right in WordPress.
  • SEMrush enables you to test readability both within their platform and with a Chrome add-on that integrates with Google Docs.
  • There are countless other tools as standalone websites, apps, and addons/plugins, available.

Your immediate goal is to make your content easier to read than the content that’s outranking you, but that’s just a starting point.

If your competitors content reads like someone spilled a bowl of alphabet soup, don’t set out to simply be a little better than them. Your goal should be to blow them away.


Are original and useful images included within your content? How about video and/or audio files?

Images can provide additional context that helps search engines understand what your content is about. So can video, provided that schema is properly used.

But both serve another more important role, and that is to improve the user experience.

Look for opportunities to use media to provide additional information that’s not included in the text.

Both images and video are great at making complex topics easier to understand, but video is particularly effective at keeping visitors on your website longer, which is always a good thing.

It’s always a wise idea to include a watermark on your images to prevent competitors from stealing them.

Sure, you could file a DMCA complaint after the fact, but it’s always easier to avoid the problem in the first place.

3. Update Internal Links

Internal links can be a powerful tactic in your SEO toolbox, but it’s important to review them from time.

Your internal links should point to any pages that you want to rank well, and they should be placed on any pages with content relevant to the link destination. Equally important, these links should be direct.


This is a pretty common problem in websites where content is frequently published, moved, or deleted. The solution is to use a tool like Screaming Frog or SEMrush to crawl your site and identify any redirect chains.

As for managing these internal links, I’m a big fan of automating this task, and this is easy for WordPress websites.

There are several plugins available that enable you to specify certain words/phrases to automatically link to specific URLs.

This allows you to instantly create, edit, and delete links across your entire website, whether you have a few pages or a few million pages.

4. Improve Page Load Speed

The longer a webpage takes to load, the fewer leads and sales you’ll generate. To compound this problem, slower websites also tend not to rank as well compared to faster websites.

This makes page speed monumentality important.

Most websites are painfully slow, but the good news is that it’s relatively easy to improve.

While improving page speed requires a moderate level of technical expertise, I still consider this to be an easy win because the improvements you make will have an immediate and sitewide effect.

I’ll briefly share a few tactics here, but I encourage you to check out another article I wrote, explaining how to improve page speed, in great detail.

Dump the Budget Web Hosting

The cheaper web hosts tend to oversell their services, so your website is crammed onto a server with hundreds or even thousands of other websites.

Because these servers often lack the horsepower necessary, the websites they host often suffer in terms of page speed.

Reduce HTTP Calls

Every part of your website – each HTML, CSS, JavaScript, image, video, and any other type of file — requires a separate HTTP request.

Fewer HTTP requests typically means a faster website.

So how do we get there?

The first step is to remove any unnecessary plugins. Then, you’ll merge multiple CSS and JavaScript files into a single CSS and JavaScript file.

You should also minimize the number of image files by using CSS to create the desired design effect and/or using sprites to merge multiple frequently used images.

Optimize Media Files

Images and videos on many websites tend to be larger than they need to be.

The first step is to to make sure your media files are in the ideal format. For example, JPG is best for photographic images, while GIF or PNG are better for images with large areas of solid color.

Then, you’ll need to ensure your media files are properly sized. Images and video should be no larger than they will be displayed.

For example, if a particular image on your website will be never displayed at more than 800px wide, the image file should be 800px wide.

Finally, you’ll need to compress your media files. There are a number of free tools available online for compressing various file types. There are also WordPress plugins that can compress all of the images already on your website.

These three steps are a good start, but as I mentioned earlier, I highly encourage you to check out my previous article on improving page speed for more tactics and greater detail.

5. Implement Schema Markup

There is no definitive evidence that schema markup has any direct impact on ranking, however, it’s still critical to SEO.

That’s because it has the potential to increase your website’s visibility in the search results, which results in higher click-through rates.

Since most websites today still don’t use schema, this creates a tremendous opportunity for those that do. Take a look at this example and tell me which result caught your eye first?

schema in SERPs

Fortunately, implementing schema is relatively simple. There are three types, and they are used in different scenarios.

  • Standard schema microdata, which is marked up directly in HTML.
  • JSON-LD, which is marked up in JavaScript and is the most recommended format.
  • RDFa, which is used in a variety of different document types including XML, HTML 4, SVG, and many others.

In some cases, you’ll use JSON and add it to your website just like you would any other script. In some cases, you’ll add markup to specific elements on your website, and in others, you might add RDFa to a different document type.

Roger Montti wrote a great, in-depth post on schema, so rather than reinventing the wheel here, I’ll just direct you to his article.

But schema goes a lot deeper than where it is today and I anticipate that it will play a much larger and more direct role in the search algorithm. Especially as voice search begins to gain traction.

Montti explains in another article how Google is currently using speakable markup, which I believe will become a more prominent factor in search in the coming years.

via: SearchEngine Journal:


TeamVFM Local SEO Valencia, CA

Study Finds 96% of Business Locations Aren’t ‘Voice Search Ready’

The rise of virtual assistants and voice search is changing the way consumers seek local business information. Voice search has led to queries that are longer, more conversational and often more specific (e.g. Where is the nearest grocery store?).

Three years ago Google said that 20% of all searches were initiated by voice. Since that time the company has not updated the statistic, though in the interim more than 100 million smart speakers have been sold in the US. There are also more than a billion devices globally that feature the Google Assistant (mostly smartphones).

All of this is driving more voice search volume. But are businesses “voice search ready”?

A new study from Uberall analyzed the voice search readiness (VSR) of 73,000 businesses in the Boston Metro area, ranging from SMBs to large enterprises, all of which had a location. The study utilized “a percentage-based grading system that analyzed a business’s optimized online presence” and data.  Specifically, it took into account:

  • Which directories are most important for feeding voice search platforms (37 of them)
  • The accuracy of multiple categories of business information

By assigning a value to the top pieces of business information, including address, hours of operation, phone number, business name, website and zip code, the study calculated a VSR score from 1-100%.

The study discovered that an overwhelming 96% of businesses are not voice search ready, and the average VSR score was 44%. Dentists faired best, with an average VSR score of 96.82%, followed by health food (96.6%), home improvement (96.5%), criminal attorneys (91.5%) and dollar stores (90.1%). The bottom five categories averaged a VSR score of less than 2%.

The major contributing factor to low scores is inaccurate business information across online directories. According to the study, a mere 4% of businesses had correct information on the most significant directories (Google, Yelp and Bing).

Out of a possible 2.1 million listings (across directories) for the 73,000 businesses analyzed, there were an overwhelming number of errors, including:

  • 978,305 for hours of operation
  • 710,113 for websites
  • 510,010 for location name
  • 421,048 for addresses

The study concluded with recommendations about how to improve VSR scores. Those included having an accurate and complete Google My Business listing, as well as on key other search and directory sites, such as Bing and Yelp. It also recommends getting help from a service provider, making sure listings are correct across channels and using voice-friendly content on sites and in listings.


Contributed by: 

Courtney is the content strategist for the Local Search Association

301 vs. 302 Redirects & SEO: The What, Why & How

301 vs. 302 redirects. Confused about which one to use?

You’re not the only one.

Even in 2019, website owners are unclear about which type of redirect is best for SEO.

At its simplest, “a redirect is a way to send both users and search engines to a different URL from the one they originally requested.”

You might want to redirect a page for a variety of reasons, including:

  • The URL is broken.
  • You have a new website or page.
  • You’re fixing a webpage and want users to go to a different page while the old one is under construction.

The purpose of the redirect certainly impacts which one you should choose. It’s important to know the difference between the two because choosing the wrong option could impact your SEO efforts.

Choosing the correct redirect guarantees that you’ll at least maintain your current rankings as well as continue to solidify the positive reputation you’ve built for your brand through backlinks and content creation.

So the question is: which redirect is best for SEO?

What Is a 301 Redirect?

A 301 redirect sends the message to search engines that a website or page has been moved permanently.

Permanent means around a year or longer. After a year, check to see if people are still being redirected to your site.

If they are, figure out where they’re coming from and try to fix the source before you cancel the redirect.

Check out this article by Search Engine Journal to learn more about when it’s safe to kill redirects.

When Should You Use 301 Redirects?

Many people use this type of redirect when they purchase domains that they want being sent to their primary domain (misspellings of a brand, variations of your brand, or relevant domains with high “Domain Authority”).

It’s also helpful to use a 301 when establishing which domain is your default site: “” or just “”.

People tend to leave out the “www” when writing or typing out website names, so a permanent redirect will guarantee they end up on your site even if they forget to type “www”.

It’s also appropriate to use a 301 if you’ve merged two websites together or have outdated URLs for any other reason.

What Is a 302 Redirect?

A 302 redirect lets search engines know that a website or page has been moved temporarily.

When Should You Use 302 Redirects?

You would use this type of redirect if you want to send users to a new site or page for a short period of time, such as when you’re redesigning or updating your website.

You only use a 302 if you’re planning on eventually bringing the old page back. You could also use a 302 redirect if you want to test out a new page and get some consumer feedback without hurting your rankings from the original page.

How Do Both Redirects Impact SEO?

When you use a 301, Google removes the old page from their index and most value (link equity) from that page is transferred to the new one.

That being said, it’s important to note that anytime you move a page from one URL to another, it will take search engines some time to notice the change and see any potential impact/change in rankings.

When used correctly, a 302 redirect will not hurt your SEO efforts.

When you choose this type of redirect, the original page remains indexed in Google and no value (link equity) is transferred to the new URL because Google knows this is just temporary. Thus you’ll retain any rankings, traffic value, and authority that page might have.

Where problems tend to rise is when people don’t know the difference between the two and they choose a 302 to redirect a site permanently.

Basically, what they’re doing is creating a new website or page and not transferring over any of the value they’ve accrued over time.

Hence why it’s important to understand the difference between a 301 and a 302, and when it’s appropriate to use both.


301 vs 302 redirects

How to Implement Redirects

According to Google, in order “to implement a 301 redirect for websites that are hosted on servers running Apache, you’ll need access to your server’s .htaccess file.”

If you’re not sure how to do this, they offer an Apache Tutorialand a URL Rewriting Guide. If your server doesn’t run on Apache you’ll have to contact your host for direction.

If your site uses WordPress, you can take advantage of the following plugins that are intended to make redirection as easy as possible.

Some helpful plugins are:

A Side Note on 404s

It’s important to at least briefly mention the 404 code in an article on redirects as this is also a common error that can impact SEO.

A 404 isn’t actually a redirect, though – it’s an error code meaning “not found”.

404 errors occur when a webpage is deleted from a site and a server, but links to the page still remain.

When a user types in or clicks on the link, they’re directed to a 404 “Page Not Found” error message. This can potentially have a negative impact on your SEO performance since it doesn’t provide an ideal user experience.

It’s frustrating to your customers to end up on a dead page. This is where the use of 301 and 302 redirects come into play, as they can solve the “page not found” errors from occurring.

To find 404 errors, simply log into Google Search Console and navigate to the “coverage” section as shown below.


301 vs. 302 Redirects & SEO: The What, Why & How

This will allow you to click on the 404 section and identify all the URLs resulting in these errors. It would be recommended to check this report regularly and set up the proper redirects where applicable.

The Takeaway

Use whatever type of redirect is best for your intended purpose and goals.

Educate yourself on the differences, and make sure you’re using the correct redirect for the correct outcome.

If you use a 302 with the expectation that the change will be temporary, and you find later on that it becomes a permanent change, be sure to change the redirect from a 301 to a 302.

Finally, monitor your rankings to ensure that Google is able to index your new pages and that you haven’t made an error which will cause your rankings to suffer.

Image Credits

In-Post Image:
Screenshot taken by author, March 2019


6 Actions You Must Take After an SEO Audit

What's Next- 6 Actions You Must Take After an SEO Audit

Want to improve the organic search visibility of your website?

Step one is commonly an SEO audit.

An SEO audit can produce valuable insights. It reveals past SEO strategy and tactics – or lack thereof – and is a fresh way to get started with a new partner,

The best audits are done in-depth and focused on aspects across the three key areas of SEO:

  • Technical.
  • On-page.
  • Off-page.

They also use some keyword or goal-oriented focuses to compare against. This allows for a deeper analysis of keyword performance and competitor comparison.

When investing time, energy, and actual dollars in an SEO audit, you are probably doing it with the goal of taking action afterward. Perhaps you’re looking to get a return on investment or jump-start ranking, traffic, and conversion goal improvements.

So what comes next?

Here are some specific next steps you should take after the audit is completed to build momentum and ensure your time and investment isn’t wasted.

1. Develop a List of Insights

A detailed, handcrafted audit report often includes:

  • The list of SEO items audited.
  • What the status is of those items weighed against best practices, audience, and competitive filters.
  • Recommendations of aspects to correct or improve.

These are often woven throughout the report and sometimes are summarized in an executive summary or conclusion section.

For lighter or more automated audits, this section of findings might be lacking clarity or depth.

Your first step after the SEO audit is to get to the short (or possibly long) list of specific insights and things that need action.

2. Prioritize Based on Level of Impact

Using the list that was included in the audit report, or the insights you compiled, it’s time to begin the planning phase.

If you have the option to go back to the person or team (internally or externally) who conducted the audit or do a post-audit meeting, this is the time to learn and understand the expected level of impact of each of the items on the insights list.

Not all corrective or optimization actions will have the same magnitude of impact. While SEO professionals are pressed to avoid promises due to the uncertain nature of the industry, there should be a scale and objective way to prioritize the list based on how big issues are.

Setting expectations of what the impact could be, even when they are based on benchmarks and where you want to be, will be helpful later for measurement of actual impact.

For example, resolving the issue of missing title and meta description tags on every page of the site by writing custom, helpful, keyword focused tags will likely have more impact and should have higher priority than implementing schema structured data for a contact us page.

3. Determine Necessary Resources

With a prioritized list of action items based on the level of impact, you can now determine the necessary time, budget, and resources needed to tackle each item.

Some updates can be made in minutes by a single person with little training. Others might require the assistance of other departments, individuals, or outside vendors.

Something like the implementation of a sophisticated canonical tag strategy might require a good technical SEO mind plus the skills of a web developer. Those resources may cost money and have to be slotted into schedules.

Once you know how long it will take to implement each item, what it will cost in time and resources, coupled with the level of impact from the previous step, you can filter the list and re-prioritize.

4. Develop a Timeline

You now have an outline of the work and needs in front of you. This is not the time to take your foot off the gas.

Pushing forward on the SEO plan can be daunting due to time, resource, and budget constraints. However, SEO is a long-term commitment that is fueled by short-term activities and tactical execution.

At this point, you should be able to see what the all-in investment is for implementing all of the items on the list.

Based on budgeting, pacing, and the ability to commit, it should be possible to know how much time overall it will take to work through everything.

With this in hand, you can develop a timeline with specific milestones, goals, and reporting cycles to measure the impact of the effort.

5. Create an Action Plan

Putting the plan in motion, you’ll need to find the right systems to ensure that:

  • Collaboration is easy.
  • Tasks are scheduled and assigned.
  • Accountability is attached.

Whether that is a workflow program, SEO tool, or project management suite, treating this as a real project or campaign following the audit is one of the best things you can do to give it a fair shot.

Heaping a big stack of tasks or assignments on an individual, team, or group of roles with no expectation or accountability is a big risk for failure.

Setting the tone with a plan and an expectation of it being organized and completed on budget and on time is critical.

Not all stakeholders and roles will understand the potential impact of improving SEO if they only have a small role in certain pieces.

The IT manager (no offense) probably won’t care much about why you want them to change 302 redirects to 301s or set a canonical version of the root domain.

Without some education and a clear assignment with a due date that tucks into the plan, it might go into an IT queue with low priority and never get done.

6. Achieve Success

How are you going to know what SEO success looks like and that this effort was worthwhile?

Tying back into the goals and expectations you set in the first post-audit step of assessing the best estimate possible of the level of impact of the action items identified, you can measure performance.

Using baseline or benchmark data, you can isolate the project schedule and see where average position, impressions, traffic, and conversions changed during the project or campaign.

With a dedicated plan and concerted effort, you should be able to track specific improvements.

Be sure to use the annotation feature in Google Analytics and have regular reporting cycles monthly or weekly depending on how long your timeline is for implementing the plan.

This is a great way to track improvement over time and understand the actual impact versus the estimated level of impact and to make any agile revisions to the plan or to keep going with the original schedule.


The SEO audit process can be overwhelming.

Depending on the type of audit, and how much support and education you receive at the end of the process, it can be challenging to use the audit as a powerful tool to improve the optimization of a website.

Through working from insights to fully-actionable and measurable plan, you can achieve success and find ROI not just for the audit investment itself, but in leveraging SEO as a valuable digital marketing channel.

A Website Audit Report allows you to get a professional health check on your website covering Web Design and Web Structure Analysis, Page and Link Errors, Page Title and Meta Description Issues, Back links Analysis, URL Architecting, Duplicate Content Analysis, In-depth Target Keyword Analysis, and much more! When you want to invest in an online marketing campaign, particularly SEO, it is important to have a deep analysis of your website completed ahead of time so we can customize your marketing campaign for optimal results.










Survey: Only 36% of SMBs Have an ‘SEO Strategy’


Despite the waning visibility of organic content, SEO is arguably more important than ever. The vast majority of search clicks occur on organic links/content. Yet, according to a survey from Clutch, only 36% of small businesses (SMBs) have an SEO strategy — though an additional 38% say they plan to in the future.

Clutch uses the SBA’s problematic definition of SMB to include firms with up to 500 employees. However there’s a radical difference between firms with two or three employees and those with 75 or 99.

A little more than half (54%) of this respondent pool had 10 or fewer employees, while 22% had more than 50 employees (7% had more than 250) — making the SEO finding all the more striking. One would expect larger firms that can hire agencies and SEO specialists to be more focused on organic visibility.

Clutch SEO survey

Source: Clutch survey of 529 SMBs (2019)

Several years ago SEO was a top digital marketing tactic according to LSA survey data, although different surveys have shown somewhat different percentages of SMBs engaged with SEO over time. In 2016, an LSA survey found 52% of SMB respondents using SEO to promote their businesses. Since that time social media has taken over as the top SMB marketing channel. In 2018, LSA survey data found that 62% of SMBs said they were using social media to promote themselves, while 35% were doing SEO.

According to the Clutch survey, among the 36% doing SEO, the top tactics are:

  1. Social media
  2. Mobile friendly website
  3. Keyword research
  4. Content marketing
  5. Link building
  6. Voice search optimization

Missing from this list are: GMB, listings management/citations and review management. It’s not clear whether these were simply not options in the survey or whether they didn’t register among these respondents.

For the SEO SMBs, the majority (54%) were doing it in-house, 50% were using SEO tools/software, 42% were using SEO consultants or freelancers and 28% were using an SEO agency.

The top metrics used to measure SEO success were:

  1. Website traffic
  2. Conversions/leads
  3. Backlinks
  4. Keyword rankings

So what’s going on here? Are we seeing SEO growing or waning?

SEO is a changing and complex methodology. It’s also not well understood by a large percentage of small businesses.

Social media is more straightforward and less mysterious, which is partly why it has taken over as the top SMB digital marketing tactic. The use of the word “strategy” in the survey question may also be problematic; it may imply a level of sophistication that many of these respondents don’t identify with. Yet they might actually be using some or many of the individual tactics that comprise a “strategy.”

The Clutch survey spins the findings as SEO is gaining among SMBs. However, the internet is 30 years old; Google is 20 years old. SEO is not a novel marketing tactic. It’s a moving target that many SMBs can’t fully understand let alone keep up with.

SEO is often a difficult sale to SMBs, in part because results take time to materialize. Marketing firms that cater to SMBs probably need to stop talking about “SEO” and speak exclusively in terms of outcomes that small business owners care about: visibility, traffic and ultimately customers.

Improve your local ranking on Google

Local results appear for people who search for businesses and places near their location. They’re shown in a number of places across Maps and Search. For example, you’ll probably see local results if you search for “Italian restaurant” from your mobile device. Google will try to show you the kind of nearby restaurant that you’d like to visit. In the image below, Google uses local results to suggest some options.


You can improve your business’s local ranking by using Google My Business.

Can’t find your business? Improve your info.

You may find that your business doesn’t appear for relevant searches in your area. To maximize how often your customers see your business in local search results, complete the following tasks in Google My Business. Providing and updating business information in Google My Business can help your business’s local ranking on Google and enhance your presence in Search and Maps.

Want to edit business information for 10 or more locations at once? Create a bulk upload spreadsheet.

Enter complete data

Local results favor the most relevant results for each search, and businesses with complete and accurate information are easier to match with the right searches. Make sure that you’ve entered all of your business information in Google My Business, so customers know more about what you do, where you are, and when they can visit you. Provide information like (but not limited to) your physical address, phone number, category, and attributes. Make sure to keep this information updated as your business changes. Learn how to edit your business information

Verify your location(s)

Verify your business locations to give them the best opportunity to appear for users across Google products, like Maps and Search. Learn more about verification

Keep your hours accurate

Entering and updating your opening hours, including special hours for holidays and special events, lets potential customers know when you’re available and gives them confidence that when they travel to your location, it will be open. Learn how to edit your hours

Manage and respond to reviews

Interact with customers by responding to reviews that they leave about your business. Responding to reviews shows that you value your customers and the feedback that they leave about your business. High-quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business’s visibility and increase the likelihood that a potential customer will visit your location. Encourage customers to leave feedback by creating a link they can click to write reviews. Learn more

Add photos

Adding photos to your listings shows people your goods and services, and can help you tell the story of your business. Accurate and appealing pictures may also show potential customers that your business offers what they’re searching for. Learn more

How Google determines local ranking

Local results are based primarily on relevance, distance, and prominence. These factors are combined to help find the best match for your search. For example, Google algorithms might decide that a business that’s farther away from your location is more likely to have what you’re looking for than a business that’s closer, and therefore rank it higher in local results.


Relevance refers to how well a local listing matches what someone is searching for. Adding complete and detailed business information can help Google better understand your business and match your listing to relevant searches.


Just like it sounds–how far is each potential search result from the location term used in a search? If a user doesn’t specify a location in their search, Google will calculate distance based on what’s known about their location.


Prominence refers to how well-known a business is. Some places are more prominent in the offline world, and search results try to reflect this in local ranking. For example, famous museums, landmark hotels, or well-known store brands that are familiar to many people are also likely to be prominent in local search results.

Prominence is also based on information that Google has about a business from across the web (like links, articles, and directories). Google review count and score are factored into local search ranking: more reviews and positive ratings will probably improve a business’s local ranking. Your position in web results is also a factor, so SEO best practices also apply to local search optimization.

There’s no way to request or pay for a better local ranking on Google. We do our best to keep the details of the search algorithm confidential to make the ranking system as fair as possible for everyone.



Tips to Make The Most Out Of Your Google My Business Listing

Google My Business (GMB) is a tour de force when it comes to business visibility and localized SEO. Many SEO strategies and digital marketing efforts start with GMB because it drastically improves a business’ chance of getting noticed.

Digital MediaNot to mention, it’s just a great resource for giving potential customers a one-stop-shop for all of your frequently-searched business information (address, hours, phone number, website, customer reviews and so on).

This post will look at ways to maximize this potential value and make the most out of this resource and its offerings, while sharing some insight into the SEO potential of creating, adding to and managing a GMB listing.

What is the SEO Importance Of Google My Business Listing?

Today’s Google SERPs are loaded with snippet features, local business packs and other helpful resources that make the user’s searching experience more convenient. This means that a business can gain good, top-of-the-page visibility on Google, even if it doesn’t rank as a top result for certain keywords.

Google relies on their GMB listings to create their local business listings, flush out Google Maps and more. Having a GMB listing can even improve your organic rankings. The goal of SEO is to make your business more visible on the Internet and that’s exactly what GMB achieves.

This enhanced visibility is especially noticeable when people are conducting discovery searches. This is when a user searches a keyword term to learn more information and possibly discover local businesses.

This is different than a direct search, where a customer directly searches for your business. A discovery search could be, “bakery near me,” or “best coffee.”

GMBIn a study by Brandify, where they analyzed 6 billion searches, they found that the vast majority, 87.8%, were made with a discovery intent. This means there’s a ton of visibility to gain through these searches, if your GMB is correctly optimized to surpass your competitors.

That said, GMB is also important for direct searches too. When a user makes a direct search for a business, it’s typically to find a specific piece of information, like a phone number or address.

Google My Business perfectly encapsulates all of that information into a convenient box for your customers to find; they never even have to visit your website to have their questions answered.

Again, you can’t over emphasize the importance of this free tool, in terms of SEO and other aspects.

Tip #1: Fill Everything Out

As you create your GMB profile, Google asks a number of questions about your business. It’s important that you make the best effort to fill out every category and answer each question.

There’s two reasons for this. First, you don’t want a potential customer looking for your website or phone number and being unable to find it. Second, other people can add missing information to your GMB listing and even suggest edits. Thus, to ensure that your listing and all of its information is correct and posted by you, it is best to fill out all of the information asked.

Google has recently added a business description option that gives you 750 characters to tell your business’ story and add a little depth to your listing. This is an important place to begin plugging in your keywords.

Note: Only the first 250 characters are visible in your listing’s panel, until the user asks to see more. So, when you are crafting your business’ description, you really want to make sure that those first few sentences are informative and say everything that your customers need to know.

Tip #2: Create Posts & Add Content

After you’ve created your profile, there’s other features and content you can add to your listing. This is where you can really begin to target keywords and build the authority of your listing. You can also add pictures or videos (up to 30 seconds) of your sales floor, building or products to give people a sense of your business before they visit.

If you’re adding pictures or videos, be sure to appropriately name them. For example, instead of leaving a picture as “001.jpg,” you should rename it to something like, “SallysBakeryGAStorefront.”

Google Posts is a relatively new feature added to GMB that allows a business to add blog-like posts to their listing. One case study found a pretty strong correlation between these posts and an improved ranking.

In some cases, they were able to move several positions, with just one or two posts a week. Thus, this is a great, low-effort way to optimize your GMB and potentially raise your local SEO rankings as well.

Tip #3: Take Advantage Of Other Relevant Features

Depending on your business and industry, there may be other GMB features that can enhance your business. While utilizing these features may not improve SEO efforts, they will provide great value to users and enhance your existing customer experience.

For example, the bookings feature means an appointment-based company can allow customers to schedule a visit right through the GMB listing. These new appointments integrate with your existing scheduling software, so there’s no confusion or accidental double-bookings.

This convenience is really unmatched. Imagine a customer that searches your business for a phone number to call to schedule an appointment. Suddenly, they are booking their appointment right through your GMB listing and they’ve never had to pick up the phone.

By eliminating unnecessary steps in the scheduling process, it actually helps to encourage more people to make appointments.

Alternatively, if your business is a restaurant or service-related, adding your menu or list of available services is another important aspect of building a successful GMB.

Your business likely already gets many questions related to your menu/service offerings. Including this information on your GMB will create the opportunity for customers to answer these questions on their own and without the inconvenience of having to call and ask.

Tip #4: Communicate

A lot of user-generated content and interactions take place on the GMB platform, especially through reviews. Customers can also message a business directly or ask a question for an owner or another customer to answer.

Once you’ve created your listing, it is important to pay attention to these interactions and reply back to any reviews, questions or comments.

google my businessThe more communicative you are on your listing, the more approachable your business appears. It demonstrates that you are dedicated to your customers and want to be able to serve them to the very best of your abilities.

Plus, 30% of users claim that they judge local businesses by their ability to respond to reviews and questions. It might even encourage other customers to submit questions or a review.

Tip #5: Encourage These Types Of Interactions

These interactions, especially customer reviews, are very important. It makes your listing more complete, adds to the potential keyword exposure and can make your business seem more trustworthy.

Almost all consumers today rely on online reviews, to some degree, as a way to judge a business and its practices. Many of these consumers trust a review, even by a stranger, as much as a personal recommendation.

Like the importance of creating a Google My Business listing, the importance and impact of reviews can also not be stated enough. That’s why it is good to get into the habit of asking customers to submit reviews. Many people will be pleased that you’re interested in their opinions and will happily oblige.

When your listing appears as part of the search results, a selection of reviews will appear next to your listing. The more positive reviews you can accumulate, the less likely that the inevitable negative review won’t appear next to your listing.

When you do receive a negative review, it is especially crucial that you respond and resolve the issue in a timely manner.

Consumers understand that businesses have their off days or customers can be particularly unruly. A negative review isn’t a death sentence, as long as you handle it appropriately and politely.

Tip #6: Pay Attention And Measure Results

Answering questions, replying to messages and responding to reviews should all be done in a timely manner. You don’t want a user-submitted question to be lingering for weeks or a negative review to go unchecked.

This means you want to routinely check in on your listing, make sure all of the information is still correct and respond to any new user interactions. Google does allow you to turn notifications on, so the service will alert you when there’s been a change made.

This is perhaps the best and fastest way to get notified of changes to your GMB.

Google also has a lot of helpful, data-analyzed insights about your GMB listing. Your GMB data can showcase how many new people found your business through the listing and how they arrived at that information.

Did they come from clicking your business’ pin on Google Maps or did they come right from a SERP and, if so, what search terms did they use?

By understanding how your customers are discovering your business, what sort of information they are looking for and what their next step is, you can better adjust your listing and other efforts.

These insights may provide you with key info on formulating a better keyword strategy or where you need to target your other digital marketing efforts.

Tip #7: Stay On Top

The more time you spend adjusting and improving your GMB listing, the better optimized it will be and the easier it will be to maintain a top result. The Google Local Business Pack pulls the top 3 most relevant local businesses to the user’s query.

Ranking well enough to be in this top group is very important, as these are the only three businesses that will appear, until the user clicks to see more businesses.

By frequently posting updates and responding to reviews, questions and messages, your business will begin to grow a local and loyal customer base, just as your search rankings will grow also.

local marketing

About Ashley Ward

Ashley Ward is the Founder of Madhouse Marketing, a digital marketing agency in San Diego, specializing in content and social media marketing. Speaking both internationally and throughout the US, Ashley regularly teaches workshops and speaks at conferences like Pubcon, BrightonSEO, SearchLove, Digital Summits, Retail Global, and the prestigious SMS Sydney. Ashley has also co-authored the best-selling book “The Better Business Book V.2” and is a contributing writer to industry blogs such as Search Engine Journal and AuthorityLabs.