Articles in the Tips & Tools Category

Get simple, actionable information you can use to gain insight into SEO, content production, competitor data and more with our SEO Tips & Tools blog posts. Learn how to use a variety of tools and browser plugins to see your website how the search engines see it, and find opportunities to enhance your content, link portfolio and SEO.

December 9 2013

Want to Win at Local Search? Optimize Your Google+ Local Page

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Local search is changing rapidly. Thanks to Google’s use of IP addresses, user-logins and Geo-targeting software, the search engine is able to anticipate what their users want by determining where they are.

This means that, in some cases, users don’t have to use location-specific searches. They can simply search for what they want, say, “ice cream” and get results specific to their location (rather than, say, the Wikipedia entry on the history of ice cream).

For local searches, where the competition is fierce, Google is integrating content from Google+ Local pages and delivering it via carousel:

ice-cream

This makes for a great user experience – you not only get images from places near you, but reviews of those places. Users can click through for typical “places” fare – an address, phone number and map – as well as additional Search Engine Page Results for the place they clicked through to:

ice-cream-2

That makes having an optimized Google+ Local Page a pretty powerful tool when it comes to winning the local search game.

To win though, you’ve got to have the type of content that users click through to. Namely, images and reviews.

Where Does Google+ Local Content Come From?

Even if you’ve never taken the initiative to build a Google+ Local page, you likely have one. Last year, Google+ converted existing Google Places pages into Google+ Local pages, pulling in content from Zagat, UrbanSpoon, and other sites from around the web.

This is mostly user-generated content, but you don’t want to leave it up to the users of third-party sites to populate your Google+ Local page. And you don’t have to. Simply verify your page to begin managing it – uploading photos, linking to your website or connecting your Google+ Local page to your Google+ Social page (if you have one.)

ice-cream-3

Then, you can encourage the fans you already have to leave reviews on your Google+ local page. The best way to do this is simply ask. Send a note to your fans via Twitter and Facebook with a link to your Google+ Local page. Most people are happy to share news of an excellent place, product or service, and need no other encouragement.

The Difference Between Google+ Local and Google+ Social Pages

You don’t have to have a Google+ social page to participate in Google+ Local. But, if you do have a Google+ social page, you can pull your social stream onto your Google+ Local page – taking even more control of what users see, and how their impressions of your business are formed.

Don’t Set-It-And-Forget-It

Google+, Google+ Local and Google’s Search Engine Result Pages change all the time. In the near-future, there will likely be additional opportunities to optimize your Google+ Local page. So, don’t set-it-and-forget it. Check back to see how your business’ digital life is going, and what new opportunities may exist.

February 19 2013

Was it a Google Algorithm Update or Penalty that Affected your Site?

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Lately there has been a lot of confusion surrounding Google’s search engine updates and how they are affecting the traffic and rankings of the websites that they deliver in their search engine results pages (SERPs). Throughout all of these updates, it is easy for a website to slowly or rapidly begin to lose traffic and/or rankings without knowing the root cause. Often times, the true cause of the lost traffic or rankings is incorrectly assumed to be a penalty.

The good news is that penalties or “manual actions” by Google are actually rarer than people think. Let’s take a look at the main differences between a Google penalty and an algorithm update.

Penalties or “manual actions” are when Google determines that a website has blatantly gone against their guidelines in an attempt to manipulate their ranking within Google’s SERPs. Let’s take a look at what makes up a penalty:

  • How to Know — Check your analytics. The website likely would have lost a large amount of traffic from Google specifically, and for most pages across the site, as well as lost rankings for most all of your keyphrases including branded terms.
  • A Sure Sign — Make sure that your website is verified with Google’s Webmaster tools. Google has begun sending out notifications to Webmaster tools accounts for sites that have been penalized, and many times they will include an example of the reason for the penalization. If you receive one of these notices, it is a sure sign that your site has been penalized.
  • What’s Next — Fix all of the issues that could be causing the penalty, especially any issues that Google has notified you about via Webmaster tools. Then submit a reconsideration request.

Algorithm updateson the other hand are not manual actions. These are changes to Google’s algorithm that decides how they evaluate a website. It is much more likely that a website was affected by a Google algorithm update than a penalty. Let’s take a look at what makes up an algorithm update:

  • Why — There are many reasons that a website could be affected by the different algorithm updates and we have covered some of them in blog posts before. Here are some of the more common causes that websites lose traffic or rankings from recent algorithm updates:
  • Very little on page textual content
  • Issues with duplicate content
  • Technical issues such as slow page load speed
  • Unnatural inbound links
  • How to know — This is one of the more difficult tasks when identifying the issue with lost rankings of a website. There are so many factors that could cause a loss in rankings or traffic due to algorithm updates that we recommend researching our other blog posts and consulting a professional to help identify the root cause.
  • What’s Next — The best option is to perform a full detailed SEO analysis of your website to identify any weak areas. As you fix those issues, it is important to be patient. There are a few things to keep in mind after your website has been affected by a Google algorithm update:
  • Filing a reconsideration request is not likely to help. Reconsideration requests will provide more detailed information about manual actions only.
  • Even after fixing any issues, there will still need to be another algorithm update for your website’s rankings and traffic to return to more normal levels.

The best way to avoid being negatively affected by either a Google penalty or algorithm update is to stay informed about Google SEO ranking criteria, perform routine SEO audits of your website, create new and engaging content, and offer your customers or clients the resources that they want online and with the best possible experience.

January 28 2013

How to Use Google’s Data Highlighter | The Basics

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Last week, we brought you an introduction to Google’s Data Highlighter Tool. This week, we will be covering some basic steps on how to use it. First, we’ll go over a quick recap on what needs to be done. Before using the data highlighter, you must have:

  • Google’s Webmaster Tools verified for your domain.
  • Structured event data, such as an event with a date and time.
  • Checked to ensure the pages have recently been crawled by Googlebot.

The next step is to ensure that the pages you will use the tool on are pages that consistently display structured event data. These pages must also use URLs that follow a simple and consistent pattern. This is called a page set. Currently, the data highlighter can only be used on pages that are in a page set. It allows Google to make sense of the structured data on your site by following this common pattern. Google gives the following URLs as an example page set:

  • www.example.com/events/music/pop/pop-music.html
  • www.example.com/events/music/classical/classical-music

These two URLs are a great example of a page set, because they provide a simple structure and easy to follow pattern. It is clear that they both contain information on music events along with specific genre of music.

After these requirements have been met, it’s time to use the data highlighter. In order to use the tool:

1.   Log in to your webmaster tools account.
2.   Click the “Optimization” menu on the left side navigation.
3.   Select “Data Highlighter.”

Now you will see a video about the tool as well as some more information about tagging pages. You will also notice a blue button that reads “Start Highlighting.” The final steps are:

4.   Click the button that reads “Start Highlighting.”
5.   A box will pop up allowing you to tag either:

  • a. Tag this page and others like it
  • b. Tag just this page

If you will be marking up one page, select “Tag just this page.” If you will be marking up a page set, select “Tag this page and others like it.”

6.   Enter the URL of the first page in the page set, or the single page’s URL.
7.   Select “OK.”

Now the page of the URL that you input will appear on the screen.

8.   Highlight one type of structured data at a time (name, date, location, etc.) using your mouse, just as if you were highlighting something in Microsoft Word.
9.   Right click the highlighted information and select the type of data that is highlighted (name, date, location, etc.).
10.   Highlight all of the pertinent data on the page and watch it appear in the right hand column.
11. Once done, click the red “Next” button on the top right of the screen.
12.   View your final information and if correct, click the red “Publish” button on the top right of the screen.

This is all it takes to show Google the structured data that is contained on pages of your website. According to Google, it takes between 5 and 10 manually tagged pages with the data highlighter for their algorithms to understand the patterns on your website. It also may take some time for these results to appear in Google’s search engine results pages. If you have used the tool properly, and considerable time has passed with no results, your website may be facing other SEO issues that need to be addressed first. Will the data highlighter make structured data markup easier for you?

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