Schema markup has been in existence for years. Yet it’s still one of the least used optimization techniques in SEO. Search engines understand it, but do you? If not, we’re here to explain how incorporating schema into your SEO processes will benefit your website. Marked up pages have shown direct correlations for higher rankings on the search engine results pages. Once you read this article, you will have a basic understanding of what schema is.
As anyone who makes any part of their living by writing will tell you, it’s imperative that you write for your intended audience. You wouldn’t write at a doctoral level for a children’s book, and you wouldn’t leave out industry-specific terminology in a technical manual. Website copy is no different, only there is a twist. You’re not only writing for your intended audience, but you’re also writing for Google.
Happy New Year from Efferent Media!
Now that the holidays are over, it’s time to focus on your business goals for 2019. One of the first places that you should start is your website. It can be an expensive overhaul, there’s no getting around it, but it’s certainly an investment that will pay for itself many times. Your website is the digital face of your business. Are you on the fence about the necessity of a new website? Let Efferent Media steer you in the proper direction.
Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool that allows business owners to create and manage their presence in Google search results, Google Maps, etc. Company owners use the dashboard to enter their business phone number, address, hours of operation, a link to your web site, photographs, etc. It also allows customers to leave reviews for your business, which, in turn, improves your online presence if positive.
Among other things, GMB lets business owners:
- Manage their online information for search results
- Interact with customers and prospective clients
- Offer coupons to your customers
However, the process of verifying a GMB listing can be confusing so here is a step-by-step explanation of how to do it.
How Do I Claim My Google My Business Listing?
First, you must have an eligible business. GMB is available for companies that do face-to-face business with their customers during business hours. Two exceptions to that rule are allowed:
- Businesses that are seasonal (such as an outdoor ice skating rink or pool) if they have permanent signage year-round.
- ATMs, express mail drops, and video-rental kiosks are allowed if customer service information is included in the listing so customers can get assistance.
Businesses that are not eligible for GMB:
- Businesses that are not yet open to the public.
- Businesses that involve services, classes or meetings held at a location you don’t own or don’t have permission to represent
- Rental or for-sale properties, vacation homes or vacant apartments. However, the sales or leasing offices can be listed and verified.
Only the owner of a business or their designated representative, such as your Efferent Media account manager, can claim their GMB listings. Once a listing is claimed, the owner can add managers to the account. They can also give access to any digital marketing agency or SEO/SEM company they hire.
How to claim your Google My Business listing:
- Go to https://www.google.com/business/ and click “Start Now.”
- Select or create the Google account you want to use and sign in.
- When prompted, search for your business by name and address.
- If it’s not listed, click “None of these matches, add your business” and fill out the information fields.
- When asked, check “I am authorized to manage this business” and click “Continue.”
- Next Google will verify your business one of four different ways – by postcard, phone call, email or business listing – but which one you can do depends upon your type of business. Verifying by postcard is the most common method.
- After creating your GMB listing, click “Verify My Business by Postcard.” Make sure your address is entered correctly and thoroughly, including any suite numbers. If it isn’t, edit the address on the postcard. You can also add an Optional Contact Name to ensure the postcard goes to the right person in your company.
- Click “Send postcard.”Google will mail you a postcard with a unique verification code. The postcard usually arrives within 5 business days, but can take up to two weeks. After requesting verification by postcard, do not change your business name, address or category in your GMB listing until after you have completed the verification process.When you receive your postcard from Google it’s very important to verify your account as soon as possible because the code on the card does expire.
How Efferent Media Clients Can Postcard Verify Their GMB Listing
- After receiving your postcard, call or email your Efferent Media contact.
- Give them the verification code on the postcard. That’s it! You’re done! Your Efferent Media representative will handle the rest of the verification process.
How Everyone Else Postcard-Verifies Their GMB Listing
- After receiving your postcard, log into your GMB account.
- If you manage multiple locations, select “Manage location” on the one you want to verify.
- Click “Verify now” (or “Verify location” if you have multiple locations).
- Enter the verification code from your postcard into the “code” field.
- Click “Submit.”
- Once it says it’s complete, you can update your business information as needed.
If more than two weeks have passed since you requested your verification code, and you have not gotten a postcard:
- Log into your Google My Business account.
- If you have multiple locations, select the one that hasn’t gotten its verification postcard.
- Click “Request another code” from the banner at the top of the screen.
How to Verify Your GMB Listing by Phone or Email
Certain business categories can be verified by phone and/or email. If your business meets Google’s criteria for those options, you’ll see a phone symbol as a choice for phone verification and an envelope symbol for email verification. Phone and email verification are faster than postcard verification so if either of those appear on your list of verification options, use it.
For phone verification: Once you click the phone call option, Google will call you at the business number you provided so they can confirm that your details are correct.
For email verification:
- Click the email verification option
- Check your email
- Click the Verify button in the verification email or enter the code in the email into your GMB dashboard
If your business is already set up in Google Search Console, Google might be able to instantly verify your business. Make sure you’re signed into GMB with the same account that you used for Google Search Console and follow instructions if that is presented as an option.
On October 24 and 25th, members of the Efferent Media team headed into New York City, this time to the annual SMX East SEO/SEM Marketing Expo, whose programming is directed by Search Engine Land. At SMX East, representatives from over a dozen marketing companies were present, offering solutions for client reporting, service automation, and more. The two-day convention, held at the Jacob Javits Center, featured dozens of focused learning sessions for SEO and SEM. There was a wealth of information presented over the two days, and each member walked away with different perspectives on the convention, as well as some sweet swag!
Members of the PPC team, including Director of Paid Media Andrea Fine and Search Coordinator Joe Czarniecki, were on hand when Google Ads representatives announced that they were rolling out four new metrics to assess pay per click campaign effectiveness. The new metrics include:
- Impr. (Abs. Top) % – Search absolute top impression rate
- Impr. (Top) % – Search top impression rate
- Search (Abs. Top) IS – Search absolute top impression share
- Search (Top) IS – Search top impression share
Andrea Fine discussed the impact of the new metrics, and shared some of her thoughts. She reported, “I gained a greater understanding of the average position metric. It’s not as cut and dry and I thought. I didn’t know that Position 1 can be above or below the organic results. I loved the benefit of learning about Google’s new, previously unannounced metrics to help bid to TRUE location on search results page.”
She continues, “I learned a new way to find where our clients’ target audience is online. Look at referral traffic in Google Analytics, sort by most conversions. Separate by device category and review ad placements on both mobile and desktop to ensure they have advertising on the site and the ads are placed well. Add qualifying sites as placements in campaign.”
Joe Czarniecki said that the new Google metrics were a major takeaway for him as well: “These new metrics are more important because they help you bid to your true location on the search results page rather than seeing an average with the avg. position metric. Measuring with these prominence metrics helps advertisers by removing any uncertainty in ad position. Additionally, it clears up any confusion in when you’re analyzing your campaign and unlike optimizing for avg. position, there’s no weirdness with bidding.”
Search Coordinator Eileen McGovern was impressed by the multitude of link building possibilities and the technical seminar on SEO siloing presented by Bruce Clay, a long-acknowledged SEO expert. Of link building, she says, “A lot of SEOs are afraid to link build, because the penalties for doing it wrong can be severe. In our post-Penguin world, it’s understandable but it causes SEOs to be too conservative. If you’re practicing black hat SEO, then be fearful. But these seminars prove that there are many effective white hat tactics to build legitimate links.”
About the SEO siloing, she says, “It’s amazing how a site’s hierarchy can affect organic rankings, and how quickly it can be done. Website design needs to be done with SEO in mind. We need to move away from old design conventions and optimize sites in a way that makes sense to Google/Rank Brain. If not, then we’re wasting time and opportunities. We always say that ‘Content is king’ but that content needs to be presented in a manner that makes sense.”
Each member of the Efferent Media team enjoyed meeting with the speakers and connecting with industry experts. Industry heavyweights include Barry Schwartz, Bruce Clay, and Eric Enge were in attendance, offering an uncommon accessibility. The two days spent attending this conference provided the team with the latest tactics and each member is looking forward to utilizing the insights that they picked up on behalf of Efferent’s client base.
On October 19, 2018, several members of the Efferent Media team headed into New York City for the inaugural Transformation of Search Summit, which was sponsored by Search Engine Watch, one of the leading sources of online information for all things search related, and its sister company Click Z, the online digital marketing community.
Efferent team members in attendance included SEO Department Manager Michael Roberts, Social Media Manager Megan Guard, Search Coordinator Joe Czarniecki, and Search Coordinator Eileen McGovern. Sessions were provided by industry heavyweights, with representatives from brands including LEGO, Microsoft, Hilton, Google, and SAP.
In between sessions, the Efferent team was able to meet and speak with representatives from Kenshoo, Botify, Acquisio, and Adthena to discover how their software could provide solutions for Efferent clients (plus they were able to pick up some pretty sweet swag!)
Each member of the team had different takeaways from the Summit. For Search Coordinator Joe Czarniecki, the topic of voice search was deeply relevant, saying, “With the rising popularity of AI like Alexa, Google Home, Siri, and voice command, search is becoming a vital aspect to SEO and search engine rankings. It seems to be no longer a strategy of optimizing for search engines but rather optimizing for strategies like incorporating the use of featured snippets, using tools like AnswerThePublic, Google autocomplete, and Google suggestions can give us a better understanding of important keywords to rank for and what information people are looking for.”
Position 0 was also on Joe’s mind: “Position 0 is also another vital aspect to strive for because the future of SEO involves an increasing number of voice searches and what’s listed in position 0 is what it reads to the user after a voice command or inquiry. As Melissa Walner, Director of Global SEO for Hilton explained, ‘80% of Google Home responses stem from a featured snippet.’ So, it’s important to be ahead of the game with schema markup for local businesses and other useful rich snippets.”
Fellow Search Coordinator Eileen McGovern was intrigued by the possibilities presented by both voice search and the Internet of Things (IoT). She says, “With the rise of AI and the increased connectivity of smart devices, search engine marketers have to really get into the minds and intentions of their target audiences. As one of the speakers said, ‘The future of search isn’t search; it’s visual, and it’s AI.’
“A Gartner projection sticks out to me: ‘By 2020, 85% of customer interactions will be managed without a human.’ AI will get smarter, more intuitive, and every business must adapt to the new paradigm or risk losing out. When your customers are looking to reorder fresh produce because of a notification from their smart fridge, you need a plan in place already to capitalize on that opportunity. It won’t be enough to just pivot. The opportunity will already be gone.”
The most memorable seminar for Mike Roberts, Efferent’s Director of SEO, was from Melissa Walner, Director of Global SEO for Hilton, regarding voice search. He said, “Much of this is what we have known/realized and been working on already…but all of the data from the hotel landscape, gave a much fuller and robust view of how voice search currently impacts, and will impact, SERP listings.”
Social Media Community Manager Megan Guard found the keynote by SAP Senior Vice President and Head of Marketing Transformation Siddharth Taparia to be particularly compelling, saying, “Free data we provide through daily usage and reliability are essentially what will allow us to push forward in technology and how we will advance in the world of SEO.”
Megan was also struck by what Kerry Curran, the Managing Partner for Marketing Integration at Catalyst said about relevant targeting “during the new customer journey…how important search keywords can be when selling to a general audience” and to “keep in mind your larger audience demographic by all regions.”
For the Efferent Media team, some of the actual ideas weren’t new for them but rather, it induced them to look at existing concepts in new and different ways. Being able to learn about real life applications of marketing principles enabled them to see just how effective some seemingly simple concepts could affect large scale businesses. The entire Efferent team is looking forward to putting these concepts to work for their clients and seeing how they can impact businesses of all sizes.
If you’re a business owner, then its a good idea to have a Google My Business listing. It’s here customers can leave their star ratings and written reviews that help Google to determine where you rank on the local spectrum. Google has a stellar reputation of their own to preserve and they want to recommend the best local businesses at the top of their rankings. The tough part for you is getting customers to post Google Reviews for your business. Luckily, Efferent Media can show you a step by step approach to make leaving these reviews easier for you and your customers.
Ask the customer to leave you a review.
If you want someone to write a review you expect will be positive, sometimes all you have to do is ask! Mention to your customers that they can leave your company a review if they have a Google account. According to TechCrunch, there are currently over 1 billion Gmail users, so chances are the customers you contact have Gmail and will already be set up and ready to go.
This may sound obvious, but you should ask the customers with whom you’ve built a good relationship to post a review. Don’t be shy! People with positive experiences generally don’t think to leave reviews. That’s because they have a mindset which tells them, “I was provided a service that was done correctly, which is what I expect.” When things go right it’s considered routine.
However, customers with negative experiences want to tell everyone in the world about it, and they can with just the click of a button. Negative reviews will happen from time to time for every business, but a potential customer will likely brush them off if they see that most customers usually have a good experience with your business or service.
Come up with a template.
Before emailing your customers to request a review, you should have an idea on what you’re going to ask. Coming up with a template will make your life easier and is an effective way to bring in those Google Reviews for your business listing. Keep the email short and straight to the point. Something like:
It was a pleasure to work with you!
Would you mind taking a moment to leave [company name] a review on our Google My Business listing?
You can leave your review here – [insert generated link to Google My Business listing here]
Keeping this template handy with the generated link attached will save you time and allow you to quickly send out an email to customers. This allows them to post great reviews for your company as fast as possible!
Find a link generator.
The most important piece of the email is the attached link that will not only go to your Google My Business listing, but also directly to a window your customer can use to leave a review. This will make it as simple as possible for customers to click on the link and hopefully, click on that 5-star rating. They can submit their review with very little effort.
There are a few places that can show you how to generate a Google Review link. Whitespark helps create some of the best Local Search tools for businesses and agencies. Or you can go straight to Google My Business Help to learn how to generate a Google Review link quickly.
Managing your Google My Business listing is extremely important and can sometimes be overlooked by some businesses. If you need assistance handling any or all areas of your Local SEO, then contact Efferent Media at (631) 867-0900 today. We can help.
Download our Site Launch SEO Checklist PDF here!
The pre-launch phase is mostly for on-site SEO. This is the phase that is more likely to affect your search rankings. If your on-site SEO is all wrong, it is going to be very difficult to rank for the terms you want to in search engines.
- Check All Links to Confirm they are all working: Faulty links or 404 errors can result in a poor user experience when a user clicks a link that sends them to the wrong place, or a 404 page. We recommend using a tool such as Screaming Frog which will crawl your site for all links, and identify 404 errors. We also suggest a manual check of links to make sure they are all pointing at the right places.
- Ensure there is no test content on your site: Another one that seems so simple it hurts, yet sometimes test content will sneak its way on your site. Checking for this is often done best with an extra set of eyes to make sure all content on the site makes sense and isn’t gibberish that provides no value for humans or, more importantly for SEO, bots that crawl your site.
- Confirm that all images have ALT tags: Alt tags or alt text provide a description of an image to people who cannot view the images in their browser. Alt text is also useful for telling bots that crawl your site what the images are as well. If these images have alt text that is relevant to your keywords, it is likely to give your site an SEO boost. However if the images on the site don’t have alt text, they might look good and provide a better user experience but they provide zero SEO value to your page.
- Titles and Descriptions Optimized for all pages: Titles and descriptions are one of the biggest on-page factors for SEO. These can be slightly tricky from an SEO standpoint because they not only have to be effective enough for bots recognize them so they show up high in the search engine result. But titles also have to be compelling enough for someone to click on them when they see it on a search results page. In any case, make sure they are there otherwise search engines, such as Google, may choose whatever information on the page their algorithms decide is most relevant. This may seem like a good thing but can ultimately harm your optimization efforts. Titles and Descriptions should also be monitored and tweaked as time goes on to make sure they remain optimized.
- Ensure <h1> tags are used and optimized: <h1> tags are a huge factor for ranking a page on a search engine, but what is an <h1> tag? According to pearanalytqics.com, “The header tag, or the <h1> tag in HTML, will usually be the title of a post, or other emphasized text on the page. It will usually be the largest text that stands out.” An <h1> has a lot to do with SEO because it is one of the main factors in telling a bot that is crawling your page what it’s about. While some WordPress plugins such as Genesis will actually put the document title as the <h1> in there for you, you should ensure that an <h1> tag appears on every page. <h1> tags should ideally only appear once on a page as well. Multiple <h1> tags can confuse a bot that crawls your page and cause you to get penalized in search results.
- Make sure “Thank You” pages are disallowed in Robots.txt: Thank You pages are an excellent tool for a site to track conversions. However, there is really no reason for them to appear in a search for your site. It is best practice to disallow these pages to appear in a search as someone clicking that result will skew conversion recording data. They provide little to no SEO value to your site.
- Discourage search engines from indexing this site box unchecked: This should be one of the last tasks completed before launching a site. If this box is checked, it discourages all search engines from crawling your site at all, which is an SEO nightmare. In WordPress this box is located on the sidebar on the left in the Reading section under Settings. Simply make sure the box next to “Discourage Search Engines from indexing this site” doesn’t have a checkmark in it and you’re all set.
Most of the tasks in this part of the checklist involve setting up Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools, and other monitoring tools for your site. SEO is not a set it and forget it business. Algorithms are constantly shifting and competitors will also be gunning for the same keywords you are so it’s important to set this software up to monitor and analyze how your site and individual pages are doing.
- Confirm Analytics Connection to Your Site: Google Analytics is going to be one of the first things you’ll want to do for your recently launched site. Setting up Google Analytics is pretty simple for WordPress. Simply put the Analytics tracking code supplied by Google into the header code for your site, and confirm through Google that it’s set up and you’re good to go.
- Set up Google Webmaster Tools: Webmaster tools contain some of the most useful tools you’ll find as an SEO Specialist. Setting it up is super simple. Simply claim the site on search console by verifying the Google Analytics code on your site.
- Submit a Sitemap for Submission to Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools: This step will require making an XML sitemap for your site. XML sitemaps can be made quite simply by a sitemap generator. Simply download one of these plugins, put the link to your XML sitemap in your site’s robots.txt, and submit the sitemap URL to Search Console. Submitting to Bing Webmaster tools is just as simple. Just log into your Bing Webmaster Tools account and submit the same sitemap you just submitted to Google.
- Submit your site for search engine submission: Probably the easiest task on this list. Simply go to this URL, insert your site’s URL into the bar, prove you’re not a robot to Google, and submit! While Google will likely get to this task eventually itself, it’s very simple and provides assurance that Google knows your site is on the web now.
- Make all URLs Static: When switching the site over from the development site to the final product, sometimes images, or links will still be pointing to the development site. Use a tool such as Screaming Frog again to crawl your site, and look at all internal and external links to make sure the URL they are pointing at is the static one.
- Block relevant IP addresses in Google Analytics: In the beginning of a site’s presence on the web there will often bea fewf visitors. To make sure your Google Analytics results aren’t being skewed by you or your clients checking out the shiny new site, go to Google Analytics and Filter out the IP Address where you do most of your browsing, and if you can get it the IP address of the client. To do this, go to your site’s page in Google Analytics admin section. Click Filters under the View Section, add a filter, set the filter type to “exclude”, select source or destination to “traffic from the IP addresses”, select expression to “that are equal to”, and enter the IP addresses you wish to block, and click Save.
- Grant Account Managers, or other relevant co-workers access to both Search Console and Google Analytics: In the event someone else needs access to the valuable data collected by Search Console and Google Analytics, other people should be able to access it if you are unavailable. Grant at least another person access to these tools as a fail-safe in the event the main account owner is sick, or inaccessible for whatever reason.
- Set Target Area for Website in Search Console: This option can be found under Search Traffic: International Targeting: Country, and then clicking the box to target users in whatever country you’d like to target. This will prevent people who can’t possibly be a target client such as someone doing a search in China stumbling across your New York based contracting website.
Download our Site Launch SEO Checklist PDF here!
After completing all of these tasks, you will be on the right track to getting to the top of the search rankings. While it will take a lot more work than this, such as link building, and further optimizing your on-page efforts, by completing the tasks in this guide your new site will be ready for success. If you’re looking for a trusted Digital Marketing Agency to get your company higher in Search Engine Result Pages, increase engagement in your social media posts, or run a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign to increase your leads Efferent Media wants to help! Fill out our contact form, or give us a call at 631-867-0900.
Whether you call it referral spam, ghost spam, fake traffic, or just plain old spam; filtering out bogus traffic from your Google Analytics data will help ease a few headaches and give you a better idea of the legitimate traffic coming to your websites and/or your client sites.
The technique by spammers of sending Ghost Spam to a site is commonly believed to be a form of “marketing” tactic meant to entice a site owner (or anyone with access to the analytics data) to visit the referral URLs of the fake visit to then sell a service, make money off of an affiliate link, or to possibly infect their computer with a virus, according to the Google Advertiser Community.
At Efferent, our SEO team uses segments which is a function, set up in Google Analytics. One of the segments we use is designed to remove some of the more common and pervasive spam referrers from our data. This way, we can both see and track the rise and fall of spam issues through certain segments while also being able to take out most, if not all, of these spam referrers when necessary.
Unqualified spam traffic can cause reporting on your bounce rate to spike up, and can give you false readings on sessions and page views. They can ruin reports for best days and times for traffic to your sites, skew your conversion metrics, and more. The last thing we need is to be compiling reports for our clients with false data included.
Removing these issues from our data gives us a clearer picture of what is really happening on our client’s sites. It can be tough seeing precisely how recent site updates, link building efforts, or local outreach have affected traffic over the past quarter when you’re wasting time sifting through lines of Spam-referrer.xyz, Spam-referrer-2.xyz, Spam-referrer-3.xyz, and so on.
While some of these spam referrers, the site or space which is sending the spam traffic to our clients’ sites are easy to recognize and remove (I’m looking at you Vitaly Rules), sometimes just trying to determine them by name of site is less obvious.
Normally though, we can look at the metrics to help us better differentiate between spam and just poor traffic. If you look in Google Analytics at Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium you’ll see that spam referrers almost always appear to report a 100% bounce rate, 1 page per session, and zero average session duration.
Using this data, you can start to build up your own spam-free referrer segment for your website or your clients. If you’d rather take a quicker approach that will cover a larger amount of potential spam referrers but also possibly not filter everything that is specific to your site, we use the spam free referrer segment from Loganix as a basis for our segment. The Loganix spam segment is updated regularly, covers just about every unqualified spam referrer you could think of, and is simple to implement. If you don’t mind semi-regular emails from the company, then it’s a great way to get a head start on clearing out these analytics issues.
Once you’ve got that running, adding new spam referrers to your segment will require a few minutes and some copy+paste into segment conditions. Just be warned, it’s possible to accidentally segment out all your traffic or the wrong traffic…. so it’s usually best to copy the segment before editing anything. This way your original version is untouched if anything goes wrong. When adding new information to your segment, make sure it gets added into the correct place (whether that be referral path, source, etc.) and don’t forget to use the asterisk wildcards (*) to make your life easier.
With the added and/or updated referral spam segment, you can now get cleaner more accurate reporting for your site. There’s no more sifting through the dregs to pull out that hidden gem. Let the tools and options that Google already offers in analytics do the job so you can get right to the good stuff. For more help on cleaning up your data or help with your own website or business, don’t hesitate to give Efferent a call or email.
Nowadays, mobile is king. According to Search Engine Land, traffic on mobile devices surpassed desktop in 2015. If your page takes more than a couple seconds to load, chances are the viewer is going to get annoyed and give up, resulting a bad user experience. Google has recently come up with a way to help speed up load times and create a win-win situation, and if you get on board now, you will have a leg-up on the competition. [Read more…] about Amped about AMP: Accelerated Mobile Pages