Building an Ecommerce Business, Part 11: Selling on Amazon

JANUARY 28, 2019 • ERIC BANDHOLZ

A fundamental decision for many ecommerce entrepreneurs is whether to sell on Amazon. The potential is high, but the competition is increasing tough, among other risks.

I am the founder of Beardbrand, an Austin, Texas-based ecommerce business that focuses on beard care and men’s grooming. This is episode 11 in my series on building an ecommerce business from the ground up. The previous installments are:

For this installment, I spoke with Mike Tecku, co-founder of Sky Solutions, which manufactures and sells Sky Mats, a floormat, in high volume on Amazon’s marketplace.

What follows is my entire audio conversation with Tecku and a transcript, edited for length and clarity.

Eric Bandholz: Tell us about your business — how it’s set up and what you’re selling on Amazon.

Mike Tecku: On Amazon, we started with roughly 20 products, and we’ve narrowed it down to five. Our best seller is the Sky Mats. It’s a floormat for your kitchen or your standup desk. Before that, I had an online company that sold photo booths for weddings — a franchise. So I have a long history of selling things online. This is our fourth or five year on Amazon.

Bandholz: So you got in early. Is it too late to start selling on Amazon, in early 2019?

Tecku: That depends. I’m not launching new products. It would take a complete dedication and a lot of money. The Amazon game has changed considerably. Three years ago I probably wouldn’t have told you what my best-selling product is. But now I don’t think anyone could beat me, meaning the system is entrenched. It’s hard to go up against someone with 4,000 5-star reviews and a long history of sales, which matters to Amazon’s algorithm.

Bandholz: So you’ve got to find a niche. Do you know of tools to help?

Tecku: Jungle Scout’s a good one. But I probably wouldn’t even start on Amazon. I would look at niches on a broader sense — camping, cycling, something you understand. To be successful takes a product that you’ve never even heard of, but there’s enough worldwide or nationwide demand for it to be successful.

If I were to start something now, I wouldn’t do it unless it could be a million dollar product. But to start a million dollar product today you would probably want to throw $100,000 at it.

Bandholz: Let’s dig into social proof. Reviews on Amazon are crucial. You have 4,000 reviews for Sky Mats. How do you get legitimate reviews?

Tecku: Well, it’s gotten much harder. Amazon has tightened the restrictions. There’s no way to pay for them now. It takes a great product and time. All of our reviews are real, and we’ve acquired them over in five years.

The best way to get reviews is to sell a lot of units. You’re going to have, perhaps, one out of 100 that take the time, even when you ask them in emails, and in inserts. And that’s probably a high conversion rate.

Bandholz: How do you identify a potential million-dollar product?

Tecku: Programs like Jungle Scout and DS Amazon Quick View will tell you what people are selling in a day and what their seller rank is. I don’t want to discourage people from selling on Amazon. Just have clear eyes. Is your company, Beardbrand, on Amazon?

Bandholz: No. We were on Amazon through a third-party reseller, but we pulled it at the beginning of the year.

Tecku: Right. It’s different with what you’re doing. You have developed social proof with lots of videos, building a brand and recognition. That allows you to charge a premium price on your website, at Target, or wherever you’re at. When you’re on Amazon, you’re a commodity in many ways.

Bandholz: Let’s talk about fulfillment — Fulfillment by Amazon, fulfilling it yourself, or even selling directly to Amazon.

Tecku: Sure, I do everything via FBA. I have not found a solution that is simpler and cheaper. If you don’t provide Prime shipping, you’re not going to be successful on Amazon; the conversion rate for Prime sellers is 30 to 40 percent higher.

Bandholz: What about Seller Fulfilled Prime?

Tecku: Yes, you can fulfill it yourself and obtain Prime status. But you have to apply for it. It takes a history, a warehouse, and employees. Or you can have a third-party fulfillment company do it. And I just don’t there’s a less expensive option than FBA.

Bandholz: So if someone wants to tackle Amazon, how else can they differentiate their products?

Mike Tecku: Your marketing is going to make 15 percent of the difference. You can take better photos and have extended brand content, such as the pictures right above the reviews. You need a trademark for your product, which takes about six months. You can put up a video, which is useful. But really, I think the biggest lever is coming up with a better product, and then communicating that it’s better.

Bandholz: Have you sold products directly to Amazon?

Tecku: I’ve watched a lot of my competitors do that. They are no longer my competitors because they don’t really sell. I would not recommend it. Amazon is run by people that are not entrepreneurs. They don’t understand their system and how to market products.

If you to sell directly to Amazon, you can’t touch your own website, you can’t control the price, you can’t control the image, and you can’t control negative reviews. Amazon does not care about the tiny product that they’re selling for you.

Bandholz: Talk about like the team and infrastructure that you’ve built to support your business.

Tecku: I have a business partner and one employee, who works about 20 hours a week. We pay him full time. He answers the 10 or so customer emails a day and communicates with our factories and gets the product on boats and, when they arrive in Los Angeles, gets them to different warehouses. I handle the product design, the listings, and everything forward facing. My business partner handles all the financial stuff.

Bandholz: That’s amazing. It’s just three of you guys.

Tecku: My partner and I are working just four or five hours a week. That’s because we’re making new stuff, or implementing improvements.

Bandholz: Are you buying ads on Amazon or on other platforms?

Tecku: A little bit. But when you’re the number one for all the keywords, there’s no point in advertising. Being ranked highly on Amazon is incredibly important. The difference between being ranked number three and number four is probably a doubling in sales and the difference between being ranked number one and four is probably a 10-times in sales.

From my experience and my peers’ experience, the only factor that matters for high rankings is sales — the number of people that search on a keyword and then purchased the product. That’s it.

Bandholz: This conversation has been refreshing. You’re making millions on Amazon and doing a great job, but it’s always challenging to build a better product than your competitors.

Tecku: You can’t just throw something up on Amazon and think it’s going to work. I don’t think you can successfully have an Amazon-only company anymore — not a new one, anyway.

10 tips for choosing the perfect domain name

10 tips for choosing the perfect domain name By Andrea Rowland November 5, 2018

  1. Make it easy to type.
  2. Keep it short.
  3. Use keywords.
  4. Target your area.
  5. Avoid numbers and hyphens.
  6. Be memorable.
  7. Research it.
  8. Use an appropriate domain name extension.
  9. Protect and build your brand.
  10. Act fast.

Follow the steps below to help you pick the perfect domain name. And if you want to learn even more about choosing a domain name, check out “Claim your domain and make a statement online” for in-depth domain name tips and tricks.

1. Make it easy to type

Choosing Domain Name Keyboard

Finding a domain name that’s easy to type is critical to online success. If you use slang (u instead of you) or words with multiple spellings (express vs. xpress), it might be harder for customers to find your site.

Related: Avoid these stinky domain naming mistakes

2. Keep it short

If your domain name is long and complex, you risk customers mistyping or misspelling it. Short and simple is the way to go.

Related: Need an online name for your business? Check out these domain name examples. 

3. Use keywords

Try using keywords that describe your business and the services you offer. For example, if you’re a glass replacement business, you may want to register GlassRepair.com or GlassReplacement.com.Include the keywords that people enter when searching for your products or services.

It helps improve your rank on search engines (which increases traffic) and just makes more sense to your customers.

Related: Domain SEO — Can including keywords in a domain name improve search ranking? 

4. Target your area

Choosing Domain Name Target Area

If your business is local, consider including your city or state in your domain name to make it easy for local customers to find and remember. Example: PhoenixGlassRepair.com.

Editor’s note:  From .boston to .vegas, you’re likely to find a geographic domain extension that suits your business.

5. Avoid numbers and hyphens

Numbers and hyphens are often misunderstood — people who hear your website address don’t know if you’re using a numeral (5) or it’s spelled out (five) or they misplace or forget the dash. If you need these in your domain, register the different variations to be safe.

Related: Why getting a domain name is a startup essential — and how to do it right

6. Be memorable

There are millions of registered domain names, so having a domain that’s catchy and memorable is essential. Once you’ve come up with a name, share it with close friends to make sure it sounds appealing and makes sense to others.

Quick solution: Got a great idea for a domain? Register your name today and put a website out there before someone else beats you to it.

7. Research it

Make sure the name you’ve selected isn’t trademarked, copyrighted or being used by another company. It could result in a huge legal mess that could cost you a fortune, as well as your domain!Don’t forget to research the value of your possible domain. 

As the largest reseller of aftermarket domain names, GoDaddy has access to extensive data that we use to analyze millions of historical domain sales. Try out GoDaddy Domain Appraisalsto determine the value of your domain, so your can name your business with purpose.

8. Use an appropriate domain name extension

Extensions are suffixes, such as .com or .net, at the end of web addresses. These can have specific uses, so make sure to choose one that works for your business. The .com domain extension is far and away the most popular, but it can be tough to get a short and memorable .com domain name because it’s been around for so long.

A bevy of new generic top-level domains — like .photography, .nyc and .guru — offer a great opportunity to register short and highly relevant names. And here are some other top extensions and how they’re often used:

  • .co : an abbreviation for company, commerce, and community.
  • .info : informational sites.
  • .net : technical, Internet infrastructure sites.
  • .org : non-commercial organizations and nonprofits.
  • .biz : business or commercial use, like e-commerce sites.
  • .me : blogs, resumes or personal sites.

Pro tip: You don’t need to build a website for every domain. Just forward any additional domains to your primary website.

Related: What are the 5 most common domain extensions?

9. Protect and build your brand

To protect your brand, you should purchase various domain extensions, as well as misspelled versions of your domain name. This prevents competitors from registering other versions and ensures your customers are directed to your website, even if they mistype it.

Related: Using multiple custom domains to control your online identity

10. Act fast

Domain names sell quickly. Thankfully, many domain names are also inexpensive, so register your favorite domain names as soon as possible. If you’re having trouble finding an available name, domain registrars like GoDaddy will suggest alternate names during your domain search to help you find the perfect domain name.

ExpressVPN’s Random Password Generator

Get a secure and random password. All passwords are securely generated on your device only and are never sent across the internet.

ExpressVPN’s password generator allows you to generate multiple passwords at the same time to add an extra layer of security. Wondering if your password is strong enough? Key it in the blank to estimate the number of years it takes to crack it by brute force. Recommended by leading security experts, this generator uses your own device to generate a password so it’s never sent across the internet nor retained by the site in question. To take password security this one step further, you can even download the generator to create passwords offline.

How to generate a strong password

The password above is new, generated by your device when you opened this page. Click the Copy button and paste it wherever you need. If you need a new one, click Regenerate. Check the Character Types boxes or use the Password Length slider to change specifications. 

The ExpressVPN Password Generator uses your device to estimate the time to crack the password in the box by brute force (a computer churning through random guesses). Please note: A password that is mathematically complex but not random (such as P4s$w0rd987) might be easy to guess by searching for variations on common words or using a list of leaked passwords.

How secure is my password?

For all the talk of massive data breaches dominating the headlines, the rules for generating a secure password are actually not that complicated: Make it long, make it random, and make it unique. A 50-character password of nothing but 1s wouldn’t be random or unique, and neither would the lyrics to “Hotel California,” your kids’ birthdays, or that same password you’ve been reusing with minor tweaks for a decade. In all likelihood, nothing you could think up on your own is truly random; the human brain just doesn’t work that way.

Hours to crack a password using brute force

That’s where our Random Password Generator comes in. Use it to create a secure password for every site and service you use. The default settings should generate a password strong enough for most purposes (although adding characters neverhurts). Use a password manager to keep track of them all. And for those rare situations where you must rely on your memory, such as the password for accessing your password manager itself, we recommend a string of words pulled one by one from a dictionary. Keeping yourself safe in this digital age requires digital solutions—but a dash of the analog can help in a pinch.

Original Article Here

On-Page SEO for 2019 – Whiteboard Friday On-page

On-Page SEO for 2019 – Whiteboard Friday

Whew! We made it through another year, and it seems like we’re past due for taking a close look at the health of our on-page SEO practices. What better way to hit the ground running than with a checklist? In today’s Whiteboard Friday, the fabulous Britney Muller shares her best tips for doing effective on-page SEO in 2019.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today we’re going over all things on-page SEO, and I’ve divided it into three different sections:

  1. How are crawlers and Googlebot crawling through your site and your web pages?
  2. What is the UX of your on-page content? 
  3. What is the value in the content of your on-page content? 

So let’s just jump right in, shall we?

Crawler/bot-accessible

☑ Meta robots tag allows crawling

Making sure your meta robots tag allows crawling is essential. If that’s blocking Googlebot from crawling, your page will never be in search. You want to make sure that’s all panned out.

☑ Robots.txt doesn’t disallow crawling

You want to make sure that let’s say this page that you’re trying to get to rank in search engines, that you’re not disallowing this URL from your robots.txt.

☑ URL is included in sitemap

Similarly you want to make sure that the URL is in your site map.

☑ Schema markup

You also want to add any schema markup, any relevant schema markup that you can. This is essentially spoon-feeding search engines what your page is about and what your content is about.

☑ Internal links pointing to your page with natural anchor text

So let’s say I am trying to rank for chakra stones. Maybe I’m on a yoga website and I want to make sure that I have other internal pages linking to chakra stones with the anchor text “chakra crystals” or “chakra stones” and making sure that I’m showing Google that this is indeed an internally linked page and it’s important and we want to give it some weight.

☑ HTTPS – SSL

You want to make sure that that is secure and that Google is taking that into consideration as well.

User experience

☑ Meets Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

Does it meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines? Definitely look into that and make sure you check all the boxes.

☑ Responsive mobile design with same content and links

Is it responsive for mobile? Super important with the mobile-first indexing.

☑ Clear CTA

Is there one clear call to action? A lot of pages miss this. So, for this page, maybe I would have a big “Buy Chakra Crystals Here” button or link. That would be a clear CTA. It’s important to have.

☑ Multimedia: Evaluate SERP and add desired media

Are you providing other desired media types? Are there images and video and different forms of content on your page?

☑ Page speed: utilize CDNs, compress images, use reliable hosting

Are you checking the page speed? Are you using CDNs? Are you compressing your images? You want to check all of that.

☑ Integrate social sharing buttons

It’s the easiest thing. Make sure that people can easily share your content.

Content and value

This is where it gets really fun and strategic too.

☑ Unique, high-quality content

Are you providing high-quality content? So if you go to Google and you search “chakra stones” and you take a look at all of those results, are you including all of that good content into your page? Then are you making it even better? Because that should be the goal.

☑ Optimize for intent: Evaluate SERP and PPC, note which SERP features show up

You want to also optimize for intent. So you want to evaluate that SERP. If that search result page is showing tons of images or maybe videos, you should be incorporating that into your page as well, because clearly that’s what people are looking for.

You also want to evaluate the PPC. They have done so much testing on what converts and what doesn’t. So it’s silly not to take that into consideration when optimizing your page.

☑ Title tags and meta descriptions

What are those titles? What are those descriptions? What’s working? Title tags and meta description are still so important. This is the first impression to many of your visitors in Google. Are you enticing a click? Are you making that an enticing call to action to your site?

☑ Header tags

H1, H2, and H3 header tags are still super important. You want to make sure that the title of your page is the H1 and so forth. But just to check on all of that would be good.

☑ Optimize images: compress, title file names, add alt text

Images are the biggest source of bloat of on-page site speed. So you want to make sure that your images are compressed and optimized and keeping your page fast and easily accessible to your users.

☑ Review for freshness

You want to review for freshness. We want to make sure that this is up-to-date content. Maybe take a look at popular content the last year or two of your site and update that stuff. This should be a continual wash and repeat. You want to continue to update the content on your site.

☑ Include commonly asked questions

It’s such an easy thing to do, but it’s commonly overlooked. AnswerThePublic does a great job of surfacing questions. Moz Keyword Explorer has a really great filter that provides some of the most commonly asked questions for a keyword term. I highly suggest you check that out and start to incorporate some of that.

Original Article Here

On-page SEO  Whiteboard Friday

The Evolution of Google Exact Match & What It Means for PPC Advertisers

Once upon a time — aka 2013 — if you added a keyword to your Google Ads account as “exact match,” it meant that your ad would only trigger if someone typed in your keyword exactly. Makes sense right? “Exact match” = match search term exactly. However, one day in 2014, SEM managers across the world woke up to a wrench in that equation. Since then, search query reports have never been the same.

google search on laptop

The Life Story of Exact Match

2014 – Similar Variants – In the first update to exact match, Google introduced similar variants. This generally meant that misspellings and plurals would match to your exact match keywords. While frustrating at times, this update was often helpful, as you no longer had to create a keyword for each misspelling of your brand name or product offerings.

2017 – Different Word Orders – For the next three years, you could continue to trust that your exact match keywords would be matching to search queries that either matched exactly or were very close to your keyword. That is, until 2017, when exact match expanded to include different word orders.

While generally not a huge issue for search advertisers, this change did result in the occasional issue. For example, if your keyword was New York Life Insurance, there was clearly other intent in someone searching for “life insurance new york”. However, these queries were getting matched to the exact match keywords.

2018 – Intent – Google recently announced that exact match keywords would begin matching to search queries with similar intent. While Google has become exponentially more sophisticated in their ability to leverage machine learning and recognize patterns in intent, we’re seeing some clear flaws in this update.

In one example, we’re seeing that the exact match keyword “workers compensation” is matching to the search query “work compensation.” You can see how this is problematic and can quickly turn into spending funds on irrelevant terms. In the case above, if you’re selling workers compensation, you do not want to be spending money on clicks where a user is looking to do research on salaries.

Original Article Here

SEO basics: What are long tail keywords?

“If you want your posts to rank, you should write about long tail keywords”. You’ve probably seen this common SEO advice before. But what do we mean by long tail keywords? And why should you write about them? Here, we’ll explain what long tail keywords are and how they can help you rank. Including examples!

What are long tail keywords?

In SEO, we distinguish between head keywords and long tail keywords. A long tail keyword is more specific than a head keyword, and most of the times – but not necessarily – it consists of more words. The head keyword is a general term lots of people write about. A long tail keyword is a more specific topic or a subtopic of the head term. Usually, less people create content about this topic.

How do they help you rank?

The idea is quite simple. As mentioned above, there is less content on the web about long tail keywords, because less people have written about them. Less content means less competition! Because the competition isn’t that fierce, it’s easier to beat other web pages with content about long tail keywords in search engines.

In addition, you might find that it’s easier to target a specific search intent with long tail keywords. Search intent is the why behind a search: does someone just want information or is he/she looking to buy something? Or something else entirely?

Original Article Here

Google officially drops support for several old Search Console reports

As Google promised, some of the old Google Search Console reports are now gone and replaced in the new Google Search Console.

Barry Schwartz on December 14, 2018 at 7:14 am 

  • MORE

Google announced Thursday on Twitter that it has officially removed several of the old reports within the old Google Search Console. This comes as no surprise as we reported earlier that Google would be dropping these reports on December 13.

Which reports were removed? Google removed several reports from the old version of the Google Search Console. The specific reports that were removed include the AMP, Index Status, Links, Manual Actions, Mobile Usability, Rich Cards, and Search Analytics reports.

Don’t worry. Google has replacement reports in the new version of Google Search Console. Some have the same name, such as the manual actions report, while others have new names like the old Search Analytics report is now known as the Performance report. Every report Google removed to date has a similar version in the new Google Search Console.

There are still many other reports that have remained in the old version of the Google Search Console at this point in time.

What does it look like? Google posted notices and hyperlink buttons to communicate that the old reports were removed and how users can access the new reports. Here are screen shots from a few of these old reports:

Have a problem? If you have a problem with the new reports, Google said you should submit feedback through the new Google Search Console. You can do that from the menu by clicking on submit feedback.

Original Article Here

Compare 17 top SEO tools and platforms Let MarTech Today’s ‘Enterprise SEO Platforms:

Let MarTech Today’s ‘Enterprise SEO Platforms: A Marketer’s Guide’ help you make the informed choice.

Digital Marketing Depot on December 18, 2018 at 12:50 pm

Organic search remains the most important step in the purchase funnel. But with hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, and even millions of pages, sites, social conversations, images and keywords to manage and optimize, SEO has become increasingly complicated and time-consuming. Using an enterprise SEO platform can increase efficiency and productivity while reducing the time and errors involved in managing organic search campaigns.

MarTech Today’s “Enterprise SEO Platforms: A Marketer’s Guide” examines the market for SEO platforms and the considerations involved in implementing this software into your business.

This 58-page report includes profiles of 17 leading SEO tools, vendors, pricing information, capabilities comparisons and recommended steps for evaluating and purchasing.

Visit Digital Marketing Depot to download “Enterprise SEO Platforms: A Marketer’s Guide.”

Original Article Here

Why Local Businesses Will Need Websites More than Ever in 2019

64% of 1,411 surveyed local business marketers agree that Google is becoming the new “homepage” for local businesses. Via Moz State of Local SEO Industry Report

…but please don’t come away with the wrong storyline from this statistic.

As local brands and their marketers watch Google play Trojan horse, shifting from top benefactor to top competitor by replacing former “free” publicity with paid packs, Local Service Ads, zero-click SERPs, and related structures, it’s no surprise to see forum members asking, “Do I even need a website anymore?”

Our answer to this question is,“Yes, you’ve never needed a website more than you will in 2019.” In this post, we’ll examine:

  • Why it looks like local businesses don’t need websites
  • Statistical proofs of why local businesses need websites now more than ever
  • The current status of local business websites and most-needed improvements

How Google stopped bearing so many gifts

Within recent memory, a Google query with local intent brought up a big pack of ten nearby businesses, with each entry taking the user directly to these brands’ websites for all of their next steps. A modest amount of marketing effort was rewarded with a shower of Google gifts in the form of rankings, traffic, and conversions.

Then these generous SERPs shrank to seven spots, and then three, with the mobile sea change thrown into the bargain and consisting of layers and layers of Google-owned interfaces instead of direct-to-website links. In 2018, when we rustle through the wrapping paper, the presents we find from Google look cheaper, smaller, and less magnificent.

Consider these five key developments:

1) Zero-click mobile SERPs

This slide from a recent presentation by Rand Fishkin encapsulates his findings regarding the growth of no-click SERPs between 2016–2018. Mobile users have experienced a 20% increase in delivery of search engine results that don’t require them to go any deeper than Google’s own interface.

2) The encroachment of paid ads into local packs

When Dr. Peter J. Myers surveyed 11,000 SERPs in 2018, he found that 35% of competitive local packs feature ads.

3) Google becoming a lead gen agency

At last count, Google’s Local Service Ads program via which they interposition themselves as the paid lead gen agent between businesses and consumers has taken over 23 business categories in 77 US cities.

4) Even your branded SERPs don’t belong to you

When a user specifically searches for your brand and your Google Knowledge Panel pops up, you can likely cope with the long-standing “People Also Search For” set of competitors at the bottom of it. But that’s not the same as Google allowing Groupon to advertise at the top of your KP, or putting lead gen from Doordash and GrubHub front and center to nickel and dime you on your own customers’ orders.

5) Google is being called the new “homepage” for local businesses

As highlighted at the beginning of this post, 64% of marketers agree that Google is becoming the new “homepage” for local businesses. This concept, coined by Mike Blumenthal, signifies that a user looking at a Google Knowledge Panel can get basic business info, make a phone call, get directions, book something, ask a question, take a virtual tour, read microblog posts, see hours of operation, thumb through photos, see busy times, read and leave reviews. Without ever having to click through to a brand’s domain, the user may be fully satisfied.

“Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.” 
– Epicurus

There are many more examples we could gather, but they can all be summed up in one way: None of Google’s most recent local initiatives are about driving customers to brands’ own websites. Local SERPs have shrunk and have been re-engineered to keep users within Google’s platforms to generate maximum revenue for Google and their partners.

You may be as philosophical as Epicurus about this and say that Google has every right to be as profitable as they can with their own product, even if they don’t really need to siphon more revenue off local businesses. But if Google’s recent trajectory causes your brand or agency to conclude that websites have become obsolete in this heavily controlled environment, please keep reading.

Your website is your bedrock

“65% of 1,411 surveyed marketers observe strong correlation between organic and local rank.” – Via Moz State of Local SEO Industry Report

What this means is that businesses which rank highly organically are very likely to have high associated local pack rankings. In the following screenshot, if you take away the directory-type platforms, you will see how the brand websites ranking on page 1 for “deli athens ga” are also the two businesses that have made it into Google’s local pack:

How often do the top 3 Google local pack results also have a 1st page organic rankings?

In a small study, we looked at 15 head keywords across 7 US cities and towns. This yielded 315 possible entries in Google’s local pack. Of that 315, 235 of the businesses ranking in the local packs also had page 1 organic rankings. That’s a 75% correlation between organic website rankings and local pack presence.

*It’s worth noting that where local and organic results did not correlate, it was sometimes due the presence of spam GMB listings, or to mystery SERPs that did not make sense at first glance — perhaps as a result of Google testing, in some cases.

Additionally, many local businesses are not making it to the first page of Google anymore in some categories because the organic SERPs are inundated with best-of lists and directories. Often, local business websites were pushed down to the second page of the organic results. In other words, if spam, “best-ofs,” and mysteries were removed, the local-organic correlation would likely be much higher than 75%.

Further, one recent study found that even when Google’s Local Service Ads are present, 43.9% of clicks went to the organic SERPs. Obviously, if you can make it to the top of the organic SERPs, this puts you in very good CTR shape from a purely organic standpoint.

Your takeaway from this

The local businesses you market may not be able to stave off the onslaught of Google’s zero-click SERPs, paid SERPs, and lead gen features, but where “free” local 3-packs still exist, your very best bet for being included in them is to have the strongest possible website. Moreover, organic SERPs remain a substantial source of clicks.

Far from it being the case that websites have become obsolete, they are the firmest bedrock for maintaining free local SERP visibility amidst an increasing scarcity of opportunities.

This calls for an industry-wide doubling down on organic metrics that matter most.

Bridging the local-organic gap

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” 
– Aristotle

A 2017 CNBC survey found that 45% of small businesses have no website, and, while most large enterprises have websites, many local businesses qualify as “small.”

Moreover, a recent audit of 9,392 Google My Business listings found that 27% have no website link.

When asked which one task 1,411 marketers want clients to devote more resources to, it’s no coincidence that 66% listed a website-oriented asset. This includes local content development, on-site optimization, local link building, technical analysis of rankings/traffic/conversions, and website design as shown in the following Moz survey graphic:

In an environment in which websites are table stakes for competitive local pack rankings, virtually all local businesses not only need one, but they need it to be as strong as possible so that it achieves maximum organic rankings.

What makes a website strong?

The Moz Beginner’s Guide to SEO offers incredibly detailed guidelines for creating the best possible website. While we recommend that everyone marketing a local business read through this in-depth guide, we can sum up its contents here by stating that strong websites combine:

  • Technical basics
  • Excellent usability
  • On-site optimization
  • Relevant content publication
  • Publicity

For our present purpose, let’s take a special look at those last three elements.

On-site optimization and relevant content publication

There was a time when on-site SEO and content development were treated almost independently of one another. And while local businesses will need a make a little extra effort to put their basic contact information in prominent places on their websites (such as the footer and Contact Us page), publication and optimization should be viewed as a single topic. A modern strategy takes all of the following into account:

  • Keyword and real-world research tell a local business what consumers want
  • These consumer desires are then reflected in what the business publishes on its website, including its homepage, location landing pages, about page, blog and other components
  • Full reflection of consumer desires includes ensuring that human language (discovered via keyword and real-world research) is implemented in all elements of each page, including its tags, headings, descriptions, text, and in some cases, markup

What we’re describing here isn’t a set of disconnected efforts. It’s a single effort that’s integral to researching, writing, and publishing the website. Far from stuffing keywords into a tag or a page’s content, focus has shifted to building topical authority in the eyes of search engines like Google by building an authoritative resource for a particular consumer demographic. The more closely a business is able to reflect customers’ needs (including the language of their needs), in every possible component of its website, the more relevant it becomes.

A hypothetical example of this would be a large medical clinic in Dallas. Last year, their phone staff was inundated with basic questions about flu shots, like where and when to get them, what they cost, would they cause side effects, what about side effects on people with pre-existing health conditions, etc. This year, the medical center’s marketing team took a look at Moz Keyword Explorer and saw that there’s an enormous volume of questions surrounding flu shots:

This tiny segment of the findings of the free keyword research tool, Answer the Public, further illustrates how many questions people have about flu shots:

The medical clinic need not compete nationally for these topics, but at a local level, a page on the website can answer nearly every question a nearby patient could have about this subject. The page, created properly, will reflect human language in its tags, headings, descriptions, text, and markup. It will tell all patients where to come and when to come for this procedure. It has the potential to cut down on time-consuming phone calls.

And, finally, it will build topical authority in the eyes of Google to strengthen the clinic’s chances of ranking well organically… which can then translate to improved local rankings.

It’s important to note that keyword research tools typically do not reflect location very accurately, so research is typically done at a national level, and then adjusted to reflect regional or local language differences and geographic terms, after the fact. In other words, a keyword tool may not accurately reflect exactly how many local consumers in Dallas are asking “Where do I get a flu shot?”, but keyword and real-world research signals that this type of question is definitely being asked. The local business website can reflect this question while also adding in the necessary geographic terms.

Local link building must be brought to the fore of publicity efforts

Moz’s industry survey found that more than one-third of respondents had no local link building strategy in place. Meanwhile, link building was listed as one of the top three tasks to which marketers want their clients to devote more resources. There’s clearly a disconnect going on here. Given the fundamental role links play in building Domain Authority, organic rankings, and subsequent local rankings, building strong websites means bridging this gap.

First, it might help to examine old prejudices that could cause local business marketers and their clients to feel dubious about link building. These most likely stem from link spam which has gotten so out of hand in the general world of SEO that Google has had to penalize it and filter it to the best of their ability.

Not long ago, many digital-only businesses were having a heyday with paid links, link farms, reciprocal links, abusive link anchor text and the like. An online company might accrue thousands of links from completely irrelevant sources, all in hopes of escalating rank. Clearly, these practices aren’t ones an ethical business can feel good about investing in, but they do serve as an interesting object lesson, especially when a local marketer can point out to a client, that best local links are typically going to result from real-world relationship-building.

Local businesses are truly special because they serve a distinct, physical community made up of their own neighbors. The more involved a local business is in its own community, the more naturally link opportunities arise from things like local:

  • Sponsorships
  • Event participation and hosting
  • Online news
  • Blogs
  • Business associations
  • B2B cross-promotions

There are so many ways a local business can build genuine topical and domain authority in a given community by dint of the relationships it develops with neighbors.

An excellent way to get started on this effort is to look at high-ranking local businesses in the same or similar business categories to discover what work they’ve put in to achieve a supportive backlink profile. Moz Link Intersect is an extremely actionable resource for this, enabling a business to input its top competitors to find who is linking to them.

In the following example, a small B&B in Albuquerque looks up two luxurious Tribal resorts in its city:

Link Intersect then lists out a blueprint of opportunities, showing which links one or both competitors have earned. Drilling down, the B&B finds that Marriott.com is linking to both Tribal resorts on an Albuquerque things-to-do page:

The small B&B can then try to earn a spot on that same page, because it hosts lavish tea parties as a thing-to-do. Outreach could depend on the B&B owner knowing someone who works at the local Marriott personally. It could include meeting with them in person, or on the phone, or even via email. If this outreach succeeds, an excellent, relevant link will have been earned to boost organic rank, underpinning local rank.

Then, repeat the process. Aristotle might well have been speaking of link building when he said we are what we repeatedly do and that excellence is a habit. Good marketers can teach customers to have excellent habits in recognizing a good link opportunity when they see it.

Original Article Here

The Year in Search 2018

Every day, people turn to Search to explore the world of information on the web. They come looking for everything from news and helpful how-tos to song lyrics and easy dinner recipes. 

As each year closes, Google Trends data reflects not only these everyday queries, but also the moments, people, ideas, and questions that made that trip around the sun so unique. During a year of highs and lows, the Year in Search highlights all the ways people continued to search for “good”—and this year, it was more than ever.

Original Article