FAQs about Local SEO

Businesses normally have a lot of questions about SEO, but, one branch that sometimes makes them scratch their heads is the difference between local SEO and traditional SEO. “What is local SEO and how is it different from normal SEO?” is a much more common question posed to digital marketers than people think. This among other frequently asked questions are what I’m going to answer in this article, but first, there’s something we should explain.

The Local Search Results aka “The 3 Pack”

Over the last several years, Google has refined and re-refined their search results pages to give local businesses prime SERP real estate on their first page. The reasoning behind this is simple, Google users want to see what local businesses there are for certain keyword phrases.

For example, let’s say, I’m looking for a good place to have a meal and a drink at the end of the day, A search for “pubs near me” will pull up pubs nearby who are (in this case) within driving distance along with some useful information such as rating, phone number, address, and hours.

Local SEO Screenshot on Pubs near me

Not only is this good for finding a good pub for a pint and burger, it’s also many people’s preferred method for finding anything from daycares to dentists. According to Ed Parsons over at Google about 1 in 3 searches are about locations. Which means that you’ve probably done this yourself so you’re probably familiar with the user side of local SEO. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s dive in and answer a few of these FAQs shall we?

What is local SEO and how is it different from regular SEO?

As you probably know, SEO is the use of different tactics to make your website rank high on Google, with the first page of search results being the ultimate goal. With local SEO, instead of focusing exclusively on your website, you’re also going to focus on different outlets that list your business information such as Google’s My Business profile page.

For example, try searching for “barbers near me” and you’ll see what I’m talking about. You should see a map in the upper right corner, different barbers names, addresses, and phone numbers along with reviews right at the top of the first page of Google. All of this information is coming from a business’ Google My Business page.

So, the key difference between local SEO and regular SEO is that you need to optimize both your website and your Google My Business profile page to compete for local SEO.

How Do You Get Google To Display Business Results?

One of the biggest points of contention with local SEO is that Google doesn’t always show the “3 pack” in search results. So how do you force Google to show the local business pack instead of normal search results? The long and short of it is, you can’t.

If Google isn’t showing a listing with a map and business profiles, then there is no way to force Google to show your business page. Instead, you’ll just have to optimize your content using traditional SEO tactics.

What Types of Businesses Should Pursue Local SEO?

Google has a full set of guidelines for listing your business in Google. Obviously, if you’re a 100% online presence with no physical location to speak of, then local SEO isn’t for you. The basic rule of thumb is that local SEO is a good marketing avenue for any business that interacts in-person with it’s prospective customers. If you never meet in-person, then it probably isn’t a good fit for your business.

How Can I Get My Business To Rank In Other Cities?

Location is a big factor when it comes to the ranking algorithm for local SEO. Where this is concerned you have to think from the perspective of the searcher. If I’m searching for a restaurant in Albany, it doesn’t help me to see results for places that are in Rotterdam. Google takes this into account which is why the location of the person searching versus the actual location of the business is a big factor in local SEO.

It helps to think of it like a double-edged sword; you’ll have an advantage getting into that local 3-pack the closer your prospective customer is to your business, however, the further away they’re searching, the less likely they’ll see your business. It’s not impossible to rank in other cities than the one you’re located in, just know that it’s going to be an uphill battle to beat out businesses that are closer to the searcher.

Curious about how Mountain Media can help you with your local and traditional SEO? Feel free to shoot us an email and one of our SEO specialists will be glad to consult with you to see how Mountain Media can help bring your business to new heights.

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Accelerated Mobile Pages and E-Commerce

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about Google’s accelerated mobile pages project (or AMP for short), so to let you know what is going on, we put together this crash course on what AMPs are and what this could mean for e-commerce.

What Is AMP?

The AMP framework is an open technical standard that is similar to Apple News and Facebook Instant Articles. The framework is meant to speed up mobile page load, and include structured data to mark up content, and streamline ads and other more complex code to improve the mobile experience. AMP pages are able to load almost four times faster than standard mobile pages because of the streamlined code.

AMP HTML is a new way to make web pages that are optimized to load instantly on the user’s mobile device. Additionally, AMP HTML is not a template based system, instead it is built on already existing web tech. This being said, publishers will continue being able to host their own content, innovate their UX, and integrate AMP into their business models.

How Could E-Commerce Benefit from AMPs?

While the AMP project says that “news” will be the first type of content supported, it’s very light on the details as to what constitutes “news” in the first place. What we do know is that articles, recipes, reviews, and video are the content types offered as examples.

For most ecommerce sites, the primary content type outside of sales funnel related pages is articles. However, we have to clarify what counts as an article to AMP since it relies on structured data mark-up outlined on schema.org. According to schema.org an article “[is] a news article or piece of investigative report. Newspapers and magazines have articles of many different types and this is intended to cover them all.”

By this definition, most pages on e-commerce sites would not qualify as an “article” for the AMP framework. However, consider the articles found in different hobby and trade magazines; how-to’s, tips, industry trends. All of these are prime examples of articles for magazines and newspapers.

So, to clarify, your BOGO landing page would not count as an article. While it is a piece of content and it is textual in nature, it doesn’t qualify for the definition of article as defined by Google and schema.org. But, your long-form and step-by-step content giving customers different tips and tricks (i.e. “how to waterproof your boots in 5 steps”) all qualify as articles. Your business’ blog may also contain articles if it isn’t too focused on what your company wants versus what the customer wants to hear. As long as your long-form or blog content is geared towards giving your customers information that they want in a format that includes a decent amount of text, you have an article you could use for the AMP framework.

As you build out more long-form content, consider using this framework. Since it is fairly new, there are very few businesses outside of news organizations using it. This framework would be a great way to get ahead of the competition and create new entry points for prospective customers into your business’ sales funnel.

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HTTP/2 Is Coming: What Is It and How Does It Affect You?

What Is HTTP2 And How Does It Affect Me_

There are some big changes coming to the web. Things are about to get faster with the introduction of the newest HTTP protocol: HTTP/2.

It’s been over 15 years since the last update and so much has changed in that time. Technology has gotten more sophisticated, consumers demand more from their web experience, and sites have only gotten heavier and speed has become one of the most important factors for UX.

Servers are already beginning to adapt to HTTP/2. As such, it’s time that we begin to learn more about it and begin to understand what we need to know about this very significant change to the internet.

What is HTTP/2?

HTTP/2 is an updated version of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (what we know as ‘HTTP’ at the beginning of web URLs) and is partially based off of Google’s SPDY protocol, which was developed to help improve browser speed and performance when loading websites.

History of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol

The Hypertext Transfer Protocol (otherwise known as ‘http://’) is the protocol that establishes the connection between a user’s browser and a server’s host. HTTP was first documented in 1991 which led to the creation of HTTP/0.9. The current version, HTTP/1.1, was introduced in 1999, which means that an update was going to be coming down the pike sooner rather than later.

How Does This Change Affect You?

Whether you’re a simple user or a web developer, this infrastructure update is something to be excited about. This protocol update will create a faster and more functional browsing experience for users. Since 1.1′s inception, sites have changed dramatically over the 15-plus years of use, and now consist of more images and data than they did when 1.1 was first introduced, which affect the loading time of pages. HTTP/2 will be able to adapt to what we need from a user’s and developer’s prospective.

So What’s Actually Changing?

While there are some great resources that go into the technical nitty-gritty of what is changing, for brevity’s sake we’ll be giving you a simplified overview of the important changes coming with HTTP/2.

Multiplexing

Multiplexing is the ability for the connection to send multiple messages at the same time with one TCP connection. This will reduce the required time to process the requests that are sent and received, improving UX by speeding up site load time.

Before HTTP/2, only one request could be sent and handled at a time, which led to a series of requests on the host which slowed load times. Additionally, some page loads would require multiple connections, which could slow down load times even further. HTTP/2 solves both of these challenges by allowing multiple requests to be handled at once through one connection, resulting in faster connections, improved latency, and faster load times, which will have immediate results to user experience.

 Server Push

Server push is all about saving time, with the server analyzing the client’s next request, sending additional information, even before they’re needed. What this means is, there won’t be any more waiting for the HTML of a page to load until the browser requests the Javascript, or images, or video, etc., as HTTP/2 will allow the server to make faster transmissions by sending “push” responses. Web page load will now be proactive instead of reactive.

Prioritization

Prioritization is about understanding the importance of each element on a web page and transferring the most import requests first. It’s the browser that suggests how the data is to be prioritized, but the final decision on is made by the website’s host server.

So When Does HTTP/2 Roll Out?

Well, good news, it already has. While HTTP/2 might not be the standard HTTP protocol yet, it’s gaining interest month by month. Currently, 6% of all websites are using HTTP/2. In fact, 13.5% of websites that are in the top 1000 used sites in the world are using the new protocol.

What Should I Do?

Nothing, there is no need to do anything to prep you from a user’s point of view, as the change has already started on several sites. Additionally, HTTP/2 is backwards compatible with 1.1, so users won’t notice any difference except for the speed.

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Link Building in 2016: Is It Still Worth The Effort?

Link Building 2016

2016 isn’t the first year that predicted to be link building’s swan song and most likely won’t be the last year predicted either. However, link building has become much more nuanced and has come a very long way from the era of spam and botted links from the pre-Penguin days. Today, I’m going to share with you my perspective on link building and why it should still be an integral part of your digital marketing strategy.

Link Building: A History

When the web was young, and Penguin hadn’t hatched yet, link building was almost like the wild west of the internet. It was riddled with black-hat SEO tactics from super-spammy links built on sites meant to be a repository for links and bots inserting links into website’s comments or forums all over the place. Quantity mattered more than quality, and that was the way of the web until Penguin showed up. Now, I’m not saying that Penguin has eliminated all of the spam, but, the majority of the shady link spam industry has been penalized or devalued into oblivion, and has helped clean up the link building industry tremendously.

Links have always been an important ranking signal, and will continue to be, especially since they were a core element to Google’s original search engine algorithm back in the early 2000′s. This algorithm is what separated Google from the rest of the search engine pack, making their results better than their competitors. Today, links continue to be a powerful ranking signal because Google continues to invest in links as votes of confidence about a website.

There was, however, a hitch in their plans. With the “hatching” of Penguin in 2012, digital marketers began to move away from link building. Some of the reasons cited were that Penguin devalued link spam, making link acquisition harder, they made link spam “high-risk” since spammy sites were punished severely, Google’s vagueness on the details of what caused Penguin penalties made people fearful and uncertain, which lead to doubt and a glut of misinformation involving links and what would trigger Penguin to attack.

These factors helped to create a perfect storm of misinformation. Many SEOs saw content marketing as their new golden goose, a replacement of link building with link earning. A build it and they will come sort of strategy where high level content would be created and naturally attract links. However, unlike Field of Dreams, the links never came.

Content Marketing is Good to Do, But Link Building isn’t going Anywhere

First off, let me say that content marketing is a very important part of any digital marketing strategy, and shouldn’t be shunted off by any means. However, I wouldn’t pool content marketing with link building and SEO. The theory of link earning, as preposed by the shift from Penguin, is based on the assumption that high-quality content will organically gain links through social engagement (i.e. re-tweets, Facebook/LinkedIn shares, +1′s, etc.). However, it seems that this isn’t the case.

Back in the Fall of 2015, Moz and BuzzSumo conducted a study, analyzing over 1 million pieces of content and their shares and the links they earned. From this study, they came to the conclusion that there is no discernible correlation between social shares and links. The sample size was mostly composed of highly shared articles that had already proven popular in the niches that they were published in.

These findings indicate that while some content may be viral hits and be shared far and wide across social media, that does not naturally translate into links, either to the piece of content or to the content’s home site. While compelling content is an integral piece to the link building process, it is not the be-all-end-all of link building, manual effort is still necessary to take advantage of content’s link opportunities.

Links Will Continue To Matter in Digital Marketing

Links are one of the foundational ranking signals on the web. As long as you need to market your business, you’ll need to include link building as part of your digital marketing strategy. Regardless of how any search engine tweaks or modifies their algorithm, links will continue to be a cornerstone of the web, not because of how Google values them, but because of their own inherent value to the web itself. Links are what we use to navigate the vast sea of the internet, without them, it would be extremely difficult to find anything we were looking for. Ignore links at your own peril, because if you do, you’ll be missing out in search and in turn, missing out on some great marketing opportunities.

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