By Shawna Arnold
Last month, we discussed why “poor quality” websites might be ranking above you. This can be increasingly frustrating, especially when you’re doing everything “right” (e.g. blogging, participating in social media, etc.). We also went over how the search engines work and what to consider in evaluating a website. Now, let’s discuss what you can evaluate in regard to the strengths v. weaknesses between your website and the websites ranking around you!
Going along with the two key questions Google is asking to generate its search results, you need to ask yourself:
- Does my content address the searcher’s intent? Does the content of the websites ranking around me?
- Does my content provider greater unique value than anyone else? Does the content of the websites ranking around me?
Asking these questions will help you determine the content quality and usefulness of both your site and the other sites ranking around you. Having unique, engaging, and high quality content is important to Google and the other search engines.
Here are some other things you can look at to measure strengths and weaknesses between your website and the websites ranking around you…
Search Results / Result Listings
When evaluating the results pages for your website or others, make sure you take a look at the way the listings appear. Does the listing have a great marketing message in the description? Does the title adequately describe what the site is for / what it’s about? Having a poor title or description can work against you or a competitor. Having clear, concise messaging in the title and description that also markets to people and reaches out to them is key.
Another big thing to look at between you and your competitors is branding. How well-known is your agency? What is your authority and recognition within your area and the industry? How about for the companies whose websites are ranking around you?
Something else to consider that connects to brand is a website’s domain authority and recognition. How long has your domain (and those who rank around you) been around? What are your trust factor ratings like, as well as those ranking around you? You can check for these statistics and more with free browser extensions through Moz, Majestic SEO, and more. Typically, such extensions are available on Chrome and Firefox.
An online citation can be a link, brand mentions, social shares and mentions, local reviews and ratings, and much more. It can be overwhelming to try and collect all of this information, and some you might not have access to. Try starting with this list:
- How many backlinks does my website have versus the websites ranking around me? (You can use the aforementioned browser extensions to find this data.)
- How many local reviews does my company have versus the companies ranking around me? (Start with looking at Google, Yahoo, and Yelp.)
- Do I have a rating on my Google Local page? How does it compare to the websites of the companies ranking around me?
Generally, websites with more relevant and authoritative backlinks, local reviews, and local ratings/rankings will perform better than those lacking these elements.
Website Design & User Experience
This can be hard to truly evaluate without someone technical on your side, but simply look at the design of your website compared to the designs of the websites ranking around you. Ask yourself some simple questions, such as:
- Do you find that those websites ranking around you are easy to navigate?
- Were you able to easily find out what their products and services are?
- Were you able to easily find out how to contact the business?
- Did they provide multiple methods of contact? (e.g. a contact form, email address, social media links, etc.)
- As a consumer, would you want to learn more about their services or purchase their products?
- Was the navigation of their site easy to use or confusing for you?
There is so much more you can get into with design and user experience, but start by asking yourself these simple questions and try and stack up your competition and compare with your own website.
When evaluating the strengths and weaknesses between your website and those ranking around you, remember that Google intent will always be to provide search users with the most relevant and valuable results. Make sure you evaluate things like branding, design, user experience, content, citations, and search listings before you assume that the sites ranking around you are poor quality or shouldn’t be there. Not all things are as they appear on quick glance!
By Shawna Arnold
A recent article over at SEOMoz discussed the importance of diversity in your SEO strategy and it really got us thinking. The idea of diversity is important for your entire digital marketing strategy, from SEO to social media to email marketing. SEOMoz calls it diversity, but here at Astonish, we call it a blended strategy!
Blending your digital marketing strategies may be easier than you think. When looking to diversify, pay attention to your:
- Traffic Sources
- Point of View
Not only is it important to diversify your links to keep things fresh, but it’s also important to stay on the up-and-up with Google. You want to make sure that there is a variety of ways for visitors to get to you and you’re not putting all your eggs in one basket. If you’re getting the majority of your links from directories, try grabbing opportunities to guest blog with a local newspaper (Patch.com is great for this) or a local organization / chamber of commerce. Even the highest quality of link building tactic (PR, guest blogging, directories, etc.) can become low quality if you abuse it. Spread the link love and build your backlink portfolio.
Similarly to the places you have links back to your site, you want to make sure you have a variety of outside sources bringing traffic to your site. Whether you’re bringing people in from email marketing or social media, make sure you keep it diverse. If your agency is really strong on Facebook and you’re bringing visitors to your website from there, try integrating more focus on Twitter and Google+ and pushing visitors from those sites.
Point of View
Diversifying your point of view may be a little trickier than your links and traffic sources. For the most part, your point of view is who you are as an agency. But it also has to do with your attitude. You don’t have to change who you are and the message you send by changing your point of view, but rather just change your attitude. The insurance industry can be a tough market for content generation whether it is through email, blogging, or social media. One rut you don’t want to get into is thinking your industry is too boring for creativity – that is the WRONG idea to have! You have to approach your marketing efforts with a fresh perspective and passion for your subject matter. If you’re bored with your content, then your readers, customers, and potential customers will feel that way too. Sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone to come up with new ideas – look at your agency as an outsider, go through some of your sales processes as if you’re a new customer, have one of your staff members explain to you why your agency is different and better than all the rest. Consider the things you’re doing within your community or for charitable organizations. A renewed positive attitude can do just the trick in triggering content ideas.
If you adjust anything in your digital marketing efforts for 2013, let it be the diversity in what you’re doing – make sure you’re using a blended strategy. The change up will pay off, giving you a new gusto for your marketing efforts, improved attitude, and in turn better interaction and engagement for your audience!
By Shawna Arnold
The Google Penguin update has come and gone, but many websites are still feeling the after effects (e.g. dropping keyword rankings and traffic). It has not been confirmed by Google whether or not Penguin will continue to roll out updates as Panda did, but many industry experts are expecting it will. Regardless of whether or not your site was negatively hit by Penguin, there are a number of things you should be doing to help make sure that never happens. One place to start your focus is on your link building efforts.
The key to building links in the wake of Penguin is to keep things natural and relevant. You want to post links to your site within websites that are both high quality and relevant to your industry and/or community. Here are a couple of great examples to get you started…
Submitting press releases online provide a great opportunity to obtain a high quality link back to your website and get your business some exposure. Typically, when you write and submit a press release through an online wire service, they will allow you to place at least one link back to your site within the content of your release. However, you want to make sure that you are only putting one link in your release content. Many online PR sites will refuse to post releases that have excessive links – it’s better to stick to one link back to your website. Remember, not only do you want to follow the guidelines of the particular PR service you use, but you also want to link naturally to your site – that means not stuffing the content of your release with links!
Writing and posting guest blogs is another great way to get natural and relevant links back to your website. Guest blogging will require a little more work as you’ll need to build relationships and content partnerships with websites and blogs that pertain to your industry, niche specialty, or local community. The days of blog commenting any place you can to get links are over – this is considered a “spammy” practice. Reach out to local community sites (e.g. your local Patch.com site), industry related sites (e.g. PIA), and other relevant websites. Ask if these sites would like to begin a content partnership; you can guest blog on their site, they can guest blog on yours. Not only will it provide you with a chance to post content and a link back to your site on a quality website, it will also allow for guest posting on your site which provides an added value to your customers and prospects.
The important thing to remember in building links post-Penguin is to ensure that your links are always natural and relevant – do not link to excess. With link building, it’s about quality over quantity, always. How are you obtaining links? Tweet me at @Astonish_Shawna with your ideas!
In my last blog post, I discussed the importance of link building on the web, and how links can improve your Google PageRank. Here at Astonish we have our own link building methods, but these are some you can try yourself.
Although it might seem like a no-brainer, one of the best methods of getting a link is by e-mailing your friends, family, and loyal customers. You already know that they would recommend you in person, so it makes sense that they would be happy to recommend you on the web as well. Unless you ask, you’ll never know if one of them might have a popular website or blog on which a link to your site could result in tons of views!
Image Courtesy of Fourtune3.com
Another way to get links is to ask the owners of other websites if they will link to yours. A good place to start is with pages that already link to similar content to yours, or that might have content which is related to (but not in direct competition with) yours in some way. If you sell car insurance, you might want to ask local autobody shops, driver training schools, or maybe even car dealers for links. Some of these companies may desire some sort of payment for putting a link on their site; in exchange, you could offer to link back to their sites on your webpage.
Making a donation can be another avenue to getting a link. Frequently charities and nonprofits list the names of the companies and individuals who contribute to their cause as a way of saying thanks. Some might be happy to add a link along with your name, if you ask. Check out their website beforehand, to see if anyone else has a backlink. Not only would you be doing something good for your community, but your company would be benefiting as well. If you donate to a school or teaching hospital, you might even get your link on a “.edu” website, which are highly trusted sites.
If you try these different methods, you will probably be rewarded with a numerous links from a variety of domains. This can be a big factor in improving your Google PageRank. A small effort or cost on your part could potentially turn into great results for your company. Get your links out there, and you never know what the returns might be.
The world of Internet Marketing is always changing, so Astonish Results makes it a priority to provide employees with opportunities to educate themselves and stay on top of the latest trends. On April 2, I was lucky enough to attend Distilled’s LinkLove conference in Boston.
LinkLove is the ultimate gathering of the web’s top link builders. We met at the Martin Conference Center at Harvard Medical School (I like to think spending the day at Harvard made me smarter by osmosis) and had the honor of listening to nine speakers, each with their own area of expertise. The presenters were the best of the best in our field. If there was a king of SEO, Rand Fishkin from SEOmoz would be the reigning monarch…and he was there! Other presenters included Justin Briggs, Ross Hudgens, Rhea Drysdale, Wil Reynolds, John Doherty, Adam Audette, Colby Almond and Tom Critchlow – all AWESOME.
I learned a ton and look forward to implementing some things I learned in to Astonish’s link building tactics, but there are also some things I learned that are great for you as a business owner to keep in mind:
- Focus on good, quality content. When you invest in top-notch content, you can target multiple marketing channels all at once resulting in stronger social following, more brand visibility, higher organic search rankings, more direct traffic, bigger fan base and more referring links.
- Discover what your audience shares. Although insurance is a necessity, it is not necessarily the most interesting of subject matters for your target audience. Think about what kind of people buy insurance from you, and then think about what those folks are interested in in their daily lives. You want them to find some kind of value in the content you post so they like it enough to share with their friends and family. They may not be shopping for insurance right now…but they will be eventually and they will remember that fun little agency that posts interesting content. Tip: Check out Followerwonk- you can browse the profiles of your Twitter followers and analyze them. It gives great insight in to what your followers like!
- Thinking of trying Pinterest? There’s a lot of buzz around the 3rd most popular social media website. When is the best time to “Pin” your content? Colby Almond says that you should submit your content at 5AM or 5PM. Why? Because traffic is highest at 6AM and 6PM.
I want to thank Distilled for hosting such an outstanding conference and Astonish Results for giving me the opportunity to attend. I can’t wait to put all of the speakers’ great tips and tricks in to action for our clients!
Traditionally, Insurance Agencies were “Mom & Pop” businesses located on Main Streets. The agents typically met their clients in the neighborhood where they worked. They’d walk out on the street and greet potential clients with a handshake and a smile. Perhaps they had booths at town events or sponsored the local baseball team. They’d provide great customer service and their clients would give them referrals. The best way to gain new clients was to build strong personal links in the community.
Nowadays, potential clients generally search on the Internet for insurance rather than on Main Street. About 50% of new website traffic comes from search engines, and roughly 70% of that traffic comes directly from Google. A potential client will probably open a search engine and type in something like, “Rhode Island home insurance,” and click on the results. They might click a few of the links, and request a few quotes, but chances are they will only click the links on the first search engine result page. In fact, the top 10 results receive about 90% of the traffic. The potential client is not going to go to the 10th results page and start clicking there. That’s why you need to optimize your site! Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of helping customers find your website via search engines. A website with great SEO will come up higher in searches on sites like Google. That means an optimized site will probably have increased traffic, and therefore, the company which runs the site will have more potential business opportunities and sales.
One way to increase your SEO is through link building…and no, I don’t mean the Main Street kind! Web Link building is placing links to your website on other websites so that you can generate more traffic. If a potential client is reading a website or blog about insurance, and it links back to your agency’s website, you might get a new client. Or, if your website is linked on other webpages which have a high page rank (quality of the site, affecting the order in which results are shown on search engines), that will tell the search engines that your site is important and should show up higher in searches too! This is really beneficial since we know that a higher search result means more traffic and more potential clients.
While it will always be important to build links in your community, remember the importance of building web links as well!