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Optimising for Google Local Search (Google places)

Written by Hamish Braddick on July 13th, 2010.      1 comments

How do I get my website to appear in the Google local search results?

Sometimes referred to as Google places, or Google maps,
More recently Google has built in the Local search results into the general search results, which displays a map and a corresponding list of business links.
The following example shows the results for a local search using the search term "pizza auckland"
pizzaa

This feature forces many of the standard search listings down the page and below the fold, which reduces impressions, clicks and ultimately orders. So it is important for local business to have a healthy presence here for relevant search phrases.

Setup a Google Places account

If you do not already have an account, you will need to setup a Google places account for your business:
  1. Login to your Google account. If you do not already have a Google account you will need to setup a Google account
  2. Then go to the Google Local Business Centre
  3. Add a "Business link"
  4. Fill out the form and choose to receive your address verification pin number by post or by text message
  5. Google will send you out a postcard with your pin number or text it to your phone
When you have your verification pin number you will then need to return to Google Local Business Centre and verify your business address by entering the pin number.

So the question is how do you get a website to appear in this list of local links at the top of the search results?

There has been much speculation about this and varies from country to country IE. New Zealand relies heavily on the Finda business listing.
Local Search is affected by what's on your website, but it is also affected largely by conditions outside your website, such as the websites that link to your website.

Of course Google do not explicitly tell you how to do this. In fact they tell you very little. This is what Google has to say:
"As with all Google search results, Google Maps ranks business listings based on their relevance to the search terms entered, and geographic distance is only one of the factors we consider. Sometimes our search technology decides that a business that's farther away is more likely to have what you're looking for than a business that's closer."

Not really very helpful.....

Local Search Ranking factors

Many Search marketing companies now focus on optimisation for local search results, including Zeald's own web marketing department. From experimentation there are many theories and methods for optimising a website to improve its local listing search rank which we would like to share with you.
  1. Claim your listing at the local business centre www.google.com/local/add Google require you to "prove" the location of your business, by post or by phone.

  2. List your business in the proper categories once it's been claimed

  3. Locate your business nearest the centre of the city

    For example, if you search for pizza, the businesses are listed according to which is closest to centre of town. This is where Google defines the centre of town or the suburb etc. There is not too much that you can do about this one unfortunately.

  4. Keyword optimisation in the title, description links etc of your website. Include the location of your business in the title tag, or use the city and country in the title tag, and in your meta description.

  5. Obtain citations from authority sites like Chamber of Commerce to determine your street address and phone number. The more 'citations', the more highly you'll rank in a competitive locality/term. 'Citations' are not inbound links to your website - they are just content in pages that connect you to a locality.

  6. Create / update any directory listings - google, yahoo, bing, yelp etc. and make sure that they incorporate your target search terms in the description. If appropriate modify the company name to include keywords i.e. instead of Acme make it "Acme Pizza restaurant" so that it comes up under "Pizza" + "location". In New Zealand it is important that you have a high quality Finda listing because Google obtain some of their business listing data from them

  7. Obtain links from local websites or simply a citation from local websites. For example testimonials and or blog pages. Try building anchor text links with the city or town names pointing to your site.

  8. 3rd-Party Website Reviews- Get your customers to post reviews in Google and other local listings. The more reviews your site has the better your site will rank

  9. Participate in Local Pay per click advertising (PPC)

  10. Publish the local address on every page of the website, IE. in the footer.

 

10 reasons why you should commit to PPC

Written by Hamish Braddick on April 1st, 2010.      1 comments

Google Analytics Keyword SearchThe success of any website is measured by the results that it achieves - and it can be attributed to two main metrics - the amount of 'targeted traffic' to the website and the conversion rate of the website. By 'targeted traffic' we mean that the traffic to your website is well qualified and targeted, i.e., people are actually looking for services or resources offered by your website. By conversion rate we mean the number of visitors that are persuaded into taking action.

The traffic and the conversion rate need to be continually measured together as they are tightly connected - you can have the best marketing and advertising campaigns but if your website is not persuading your visitors to take action, then it's all wasted. Likewise, you can have the best website in the world but if no one can find it, there is no way that it will be successful.

PPC is a great promotional tool available to business owners like yourselves to generate targeted traffic to your website. Not only that, due to the nature of PPC, it is the best and the most cost effective way to manage, measure and optimise the continual improvement of your website.

So what is PPC?

PPC is short for Pay Per Click Advertising, which is a form of internet advertising. In this model, you will need to the pay the provider of this service only when someone clicks on your ad, which makes it a highly results driven approach. You might have heard this being referred to as Google Adwords - Google is a large provider of this type of service.

How does PPC work?

To set up a PPC campaign, you will have to start by researching the top keywords or phrases that people are typing into Google to search for your services or products. Then you choose the search phrases you want to use for your ads so that Google can display your ads next to the search results every time someone types in that search phrase. Then for each phrase you have chosen, you decide how much you'd like to pay each time someone clicks on your ad - this is called your bid for the ad.

If your bid for the keyword is too low, Google will let you know that this won't appear in the first page, which means that you will not get enough clicks or sales from this ad. For each keyword/phrase that you choose, you will have to create an ad that matches and a landing page on your website that relates to the keyword and the ad. 

Once your ads are up, every time someone types in one of your researched keywords, your ad will come up in the Google ads section on the right hand side of the page and a select few ads will appear at the top of the search results on the main part of the page (see picture below).

To decide your ranking in the results, Google will take into account the relevancy of your ad as well as your bid amount. Relevancy is calculated by how relevant the search phrases are to the copy of your ad and also to the copy on the landing page. Therefore PPC is not just about how much money you are willing to pay for the ads - it's about your content as well. Both your ad copy and the landing page copy should use the same or very similar phrases across them so the user has a seamless and consistent experience - they need to get the information that they are expecting when they click on your ad.

Google will give the best ad space, which is at the top of the main part of the page to the most relevant ads that also have the highest bid - as shown in the example of a search for 'wedding photographer' below:

wdd
 

You can set up and manage the PPC campaign yourself - if you'd like a bit of help managing your PPC campaign stay tuned for our next article that will tell you exactly how to set up, run and manage a PPC campaign.

How can your business benefit from PPC?

1. High ROI

PPC is one of the most profitable and cost effective channels for advertising and marketing an online business. Most of the top online marketers share this view - a Forbes study of the top marketers in US showed that PPC is considered one of the top 3 online marketing channels for generating conversions, with SEO and email marketing ranking 1and 2 - see the right hand column in the table below:

Most Effective Online Marketing Tactic for Generating Conversions

As you can see from the table above, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is seen as the most effective online marketing tactic. SEO is the process involved in optimising your website and the copy so it ranks highly in the natural search results. So when someone types in a search phrase related to your services or products, SEO will help you rank higher. We believe that while SEO is highly effective, PPC has a lot of other great benefits that make it a perfect compliment to SEO activities - in fact if you want to see an instant return on your investment, PPC is your best option.

2. It is instant

Unlike traditional forms of advertising, with PPC you can setup a campaign and generate traffic to your website in a matter of minutes. There is no need to contact advertisers, or have to work with deadlines - you can get your ad up whenever you are ready to do so. You can also run it around specific time of the year and for a short period, for example say you are a wedding photographer, you can choose to run a short campaign around non-wedding season to drum up some more visitors and see how effective this is as a strategy.

Also, with PPC the results are instant. To have your website rank highly in search results naturally, you'd have to use SEO (search engine optimisation) and this could take months or even years, so we highly recommend investing in PPC. This will start getting traffic to your site immediately, therefore generating significant sales within weeks. SEO has its own benefits and is a great compliment to PPC activity so we recommend using both strategies in parallel to get the best results. Read more about SEO.

3. Testing

Because of its instant nature and great reporting, you can also test certain offers by looking at exactly what your potential customers are interested in and what gets them going. For example, as a wedding photographer you could test what offer works best for your customers - you could run a campaign to offer 'free photo album' and maybe with another group you could try 'free CD' to find out what your customers find more valuable. PPC allows you to get inside the minds of your customers so you know exactly what they are looking for.

 

4. Measurable

Unlike other forms of advertising, with PPC it is extremely easy to measure the success of a campaign - you have access to information like page impressions, clicks from the campaign, and conversions and from there it's easy to measure your click through rate (CTR), conversion rate and cost per lead. This kind of reporting makes it very easy for us to see if we are on track or not.

PPC also allows you to determine exactly what search is producing the greatest number of sales. With PPC you have the chance to test hundreds of search phrases, but it's always hard to guess if the most popular search phrase will result in sales for your business. For example, using Google Insights, you will find that there are a lot more people searching for the phrase 'wedding photos' compared to 'wedding photographer' (as shown in the image below). But once you run your campaign you might find that the more targeted phrase 'wedding photographer' actually results in more customers. 

Google Analytics Keyword Search

5. Helps improve conversion

PPC also helps you find problems with your conversion - with PPC you get highly targeted traffic to your website and if this is converting poorly, you know that you need to investigate your website to see what's causing the hiccup. Low conversion rate after a PPC campaign usually leads PPC managers to investigate what's wrong.

This is another reason why having PPC at the same time as SEO (preferably when a site is being launched) is a huge advantage because with SEO alone, traffic can take months to ramp up to significant levels. If you have a usability or conversion rate problem in those first three to six months, you may not have enough data to detect it or to fix it quickly, and you could be losing valuable sales!

6. PPC offers great control

With PPC you can optimise your landing pages exactly as you wish unlike with SEO. SEO is when you optimise the copy on your pages so that it appears in the search results naturally. This requires the key phrases that people are typing into the search engines to be used on your website repeatedly so that it is recognised as a relevant source of information for the user. Therefore, you need a lot of relevant words on your website.

But this can sometimes be restrictive. Say you don't really want to use a lot of copy, you want to let the images do the selling for you, like in the case of a wedding photographer, your pictures will do the selling. This means that you probably don't have much of a chance for people to even find you on Google if you were to simply use SEO. PPC gives you the chance to show up on the search results if you have a high bid for your ad.

7. Targeted

Besides providing qualified traffic, PPC also allows you to setup campaigns specific to geographical locations. So you could specify that the ad is shown to users that are in a 100km radius of North Shore in Auckland - this way you are not paying for irrelevant traffic to your website, and you also get a good insight into the size of the local market.

8. Strong branding

With PPC you get free branding - even if the users  don't click on your ads, they might still see them and you don't have to pay for that impression. Branding is strengthened by repetition - when people see your name every where, it makes an impression and slowly burns into their memory. So when they do have a need for the kind of products or services you sell, they know exactly who to look for.

9. Improved SEO

Usually, when you set up an effective PPC campaign, it should naturally lead to the development of good content on your website and help you rank well in the organic search results. This is because when you setup a campaign you'll need to investigate which search phrases generate high volumes of relevant traffic and then create a relevant ad and landing page - which is one of the requirements of SEO.

In our PPC work with our clients and on our own website, we've discovered that by incorporating target search phrases in our landing page, we began seeing the ranking on organic search results also improve - which proves that PPC can help with SEO activity.

10. Banner advertising

When you set up a PPC campaign through Google Adwords, you get access to the Google Adsense network which means that you can run banner advertising on other websites that are part of the Adsense network. So for example if you want to advertise your wedding photography service, all you need to do is specify to Google that you'd like to run an advert on all websites that have a theme of photos and weddings. You could even specify the geographical location like North Shore if you choose. This way you don't have to contact every website that offers banner advertising and ask them if they get people searching for photos or wedding related things - it is all done automatically.

The advertising through Adsense network will also report back with the exact same detail as your Adwords campaign so you know exactly which banner designs are working better, which banner messages are more compelling and what sites are bringing more clients.

> Learn how to set up, run and manage your own PPC (Google Adwords) campaign.

Topics: Google, Promotion
 

A competitor is advertising with Google Adwords using my company name?

Written by Hamish Braddick on March 24th, 2010.      0 comments

A competitor is advertising with Google Adwords using my company name Working with the Zeald marketing department I have noticed this issue on a number of occasions

Companies bid on the name of a competing company to show their Google Ads at the top of the search results. In fact it happened to Zeald on numerous occasions. I won't name names, but a number of companies were bidding on the search phrase "Zeald" and "Zeald.com" to trigger their ads for their web services.

As you might imagine, we have issue with this. It was blatently obvious these companies were trying to scrape away our valuable leads and ride on the back of our hard earned marketing dollars.

The problem with this...

We do not recommend that our clients or anyone for that matter utilise such underhanded technique with their Google Adwords Advertising. Sure there are occasions where the company name is very generic and is not really a company name anymore. FOr example "The web design company" is the name of a New Zealand company. But it is also a very generic and common search phrase. Whereas the word or name "Zeald" is a made up word and can only be associated with our company.

As a company we invest significant amounts of time effort and money into building our brand. So when people think of websites, they think of Zeald. It is a very important element of building an effective business. We spend money and effort advertising our website address and encouraging leads to visit our website. is might be newspaper ads, word of mouth, radio etc. Of course these days, most people use Google to help them find a website and will simply enter "Zeald" into Google to find us. Now when they do this and a competitors ad shows at the top, and entices a percentage of those hard won leads away from our website, our marketing department are not so happy.
The other issue is that these underhanded businesses show at the top of the results and our potential leads associate them with us which does not reflect well on our brand

Googles Adwords trademark policy

So we looked into ways that we could stop this. We discovered a great article from Google which outlines
Google's AdWords and AdSense trademark policy

In this article Google explains that they take this issue seriously and prohibit intellectual property infringement by advertisers as outlined in their AdWords Terms and Conditions . Advertisers are responsible for the keywords they choose to generate advertisements and the text that they choose to use in those advertisements.

Google Adwords trademark complaint form

However that does not of course stop some businesses from leaching from another businesses marketing spend. To enforce this Google ask that you make a formal complaint and tell them about the infringement. They provide a Google Adwords trademark complaint form that is reasonably painless to fill out.

Some important points regarding this form:

  1. Your company name will of course need to be officially registered with the companies office and you will need to provide a registration number as proof
  2. Google do not investigate use of trademarks as keywords in certain regions but New Zealand and Australia are on the list of countries that Google do investigate
  3. You will need to specify exclusions if you would like to allow agencies to use your trademark to advertise on your behalf

Google do not guarantee that they will action your complaint

Once you submit your complaint, you should not hold your breath. Although the Zeald case was actioned in a few weeks, some cases are not so cut and dried. The name "Zeald" is a "made up name" and although using a made up name does not help with our SEO because it does not include important relevant search phrases like "website" or "design" it does mean that we own it and Google are sure that it belongs to us.

However if you had a company name for example "Website design company" then yes you will do well in the organic search results, however it is hard for Google to differentiate between the company name and a generic and common search phrase. Google will not allow dis-allow other Adwords advertisers from using this "Trademark" as a search phrase as it is also a very generic and common search phrase.
Topics: Google, Promotion
 

Keyword research

Written by Hamish Braddick on November 19th, 2009.      0 comments

Before you optimise your website for the search engines you need to decide what keywords and key phrases you will target in the search engines.  You will want to target keywords and phrases that your target customers will be searching on.

Try to think about keywords and phrases that are not too common. Also think about combinations of keywords such as “barbeque steak, order online, New Zealand”.

Think about your target customer– put yourself in their shoes.  If you were your customer, what would you type into a search engine if you were searching for your product or service?  Unless you have a well-established brand, they will definitely not type-in your brand name.  They are going to search for the type of product or service they are looking for, or the features of the product or service they are looking for.

Start brainstorming a list of keywords and phrases that your target customer is likely to be searching on.  Think about what your product or service does.  What are the features?

Check out your competition to see what keywords they are targeting.  You can use the Meta Tag Analyser on the Zeald website to check out the keywords your competitors use. (www.zeald.com/Resources/Free+Tools/Meta+Tag+Analyzer.html)

Think about misspellings, variations and strange ways of typing your key phrases. It’s amazing how much traffic you can receive based on words that are spelt incorrectly.

Geo-Targeting Keywords
Geo-targeting your keywords is where you target your keywords at a particular geographical region or population segment.  Remember – most search engines are global.  But if you can only deliver products or services within a specific geographical location, then consider targeting your keywords at that geographical area.  For example, if you deliver Indian meals in Albany, Auckland, then use keywords like “New Zealand, Albany, Indian Food”.

Finally, once you have a long list of keywords and key phrases it is time to do some analysis on them to see which are the best ones to target.  The best way to do this is to use a 'keyword research tool'.  An outline of the different keyword research tools is below.
  1. Wordtracker
    The most popular of all the keyword research tools.  There is a simple free version and then a paid version that has more functionality.
  2. Google Adwords Keyword Research
    Google Adwords contains a keyword research tool within it available for anyone who has a Google Adwords account. Google autocomplete can also come in handy.
  3. Searchmetric's Keyword Analysis Tool
    Searchmetrics is an up to date keyword research tool with a huge database.
Based on the information provided by your keyword research tool, you should be able to narrow your list down to a small set of keywords and phrases to target.

It's important to note that although keyword research principles have virtually remained the same throughout the years, algorithm updates might render a few techniques obsolete. For instance, recent updates in algorithms have made Google more sophisticated. Instead of looking at search queries in terms of keywords, these queries are now analysed in terms of user intent.  

Now you should be able to produce a list of the following:
  • No.1 Keyword or Phrase - Your No.1 keyword or phrase is the priority keyword or phrase that you would like to target in the search engines.
  • Secondary Keywords or Phrases - Your secondary keywords or phrases should be a short list of secondary keywords and phrases that you would also like to target.
 

Optimising your web pages for the search engines

Written by Hamish Braddick on November 12th, 2009.      0 comments

Once you have discovered your target search phrases the next step is to saturate the content of your web pages with these keywords. Ensure that important keywords have pages of content specifically dedicated to them. Be careful to ensure that the keywords are in appropriate context however, as 'keyword stuffing' can result in penalisation. 

This section looks at how you can optimise your web pages to increase your chances of achieving good page rankings, for target keywords and phrases within the search engines.

Search engines rank your web page, for a keyword or phrase, based on the location of the keyword or phrase and the frequency the keyword or phrase appears in your page. Location is where on the web page a keyword or phrase is located and frequency is how often it appears on the web page, with some locations more important than others. Each of the key locations is outlined below, ranked in order of highest importance:

Theme your web pages

One of the best ways to optimise your web pages is to structure them into well defined themes.  One of the best aspects of themes is that they help keep your website well organized and on-topic - something that can become quite difficult as your online presence evolves and grows.  A correct theming structure will help you maintain a clear delineation between the different areas of your site, and allow you to target specific keywords and keyword variations to particular sections.

A themed website should follow a structure similar to this:

  • First level:  Buy Meat Online in New Zealand
  • Second level:  Buy Beef Online
  • Third Level:  Buy Beef T-Bone Steaks Online

The key is to forget about the search engines as much as possible and just write and create your site with the single purpose of reaching your target audience.  Stay focused on this goal alone.  When you are done, then you can review it in the light of the guidelines below and tweak it to fit.

Content optimisation guidelines

  • Incorporate the important key words and key phrases in the 'Heading 1', 'Heading 2' and 'Heading 3' formats.
  • Optimise your meta data so that it includes your key words and key phrases.
  • Include key words and key phrases in your internal links between pages whenever possible.

Title

The most important place to locate your keywords or phrases is in your web page titles. The title is the text that appears in the title bar of the web browser.

Headings

The second most important place to locate your keywords and phrases is in the headings of your website content. Within any web page you can have different levels of headings (heading 1, 2, 3 and so on). ‘Heading 1’ is the most important, with sub-headings having less ‘importance’.

Main text

The main text is one of the key content areas of your web page. It is the key area where you can influence the frequency of a keyword or phrase on your web page.

Graphics

Text that is inserted as a graphic on your web page cannot be ‘indexed’ by the search engines. However, graphics can include something called ‘alt’ text, which describes what the image is ‘about’, and this can be indexed. Make sure you use the ‘alt’ field to describe what each of your images is about.

Meta data

Meta data is the information that is included on a web page that is invisible to the online user, but is visible to a search engine. Meta information is designed to explain to a search engine what a web page is about. There are a number of different types of Meta information that can be included in a web page. The two most important types are:

Meta description

The Meta description in a web page describes in ‘plain English’ what the web page is about. The Meta description is very important, as some search engines will use this to describe your web page in the search results.

Meta keywords

The Meta keywords in a web page outline the key words that best describe the content of your web page. The use of Meta keywords has been subject to abuse by many authors in a quest to obtain higher search engine rankings. Because of this, many search engines now disregard Meta keywords completely, so do not spend too much time on your Meta keywords selection.

It is difficult to balance the needs of writing good sales copy versus the needs of writing copy that is optimised for the search engines. It is something that you will have to work out to achieve the best balance that you possibly can. That or hire one of our specialists to do this for you.

Look to write your copy so that your shortlist of keywords and phrases appear in the elements listed above as often as possible. Try different variations and measure the results.

A careful balance

It is difficult to balance the needs of writing good sales copy versus the needs of writing copy that is optimised for the search engines.  It is something that you will have to work out to achieve the best balance that you possibly can. That or hire one of our specialists to do this for you.

Look to write your copy so that your shortlist of keywords and phrases appear in the elements listed above as often as possible.  Try different variations and measure the results.
 

The Dominant Search Engines & Directories

Written by Brent Kelly on April 1st, 2008.      0 comments

The key search engines that you need to be aware of are (ranked in order of priority):

 

  • Google (www.google.com)
     
    Google is the biggest and most popular search engine on the Internet. According to Nielsen/NetRatings, as of June 2004, Google is being used by 41.6% of users on the Net!

 

  • Yahoo (www.yahoo.com)
     
    Yahoo is the second-largest search engine and offers a wide range of other value-add services too. Nielsen/NetRatings reports, as of June 2004, that Yahoo is being used by 31.5% of users on the Net.

 

  • MSN Search (www.msnsearch.com)
     
    MSN Search is the third-largest search engine. MSN Search is very popular because it is provided as the default search engine when using Microsoft Windows. According to Nielsen/NetRatings, MSN Search is used by 27.4% of all users (remember some users use more than one search engine).

 

  • SearchNZ (www.searchnz.co.nz)
     
    SearchNZ is a specialty search engine for finding New Zealand websites.

 
 
The key directories that you need to be aware of are (ranked in order of priority):

 

  • Open Directory Project (www.dmoz.org)
     
    The Open Directory Project is a free directory maintained by 65,000 volunteer editors (as at September 2004). The ODP is used by Google and some smaller search engines to provide directory results for their customers.

 

  • Yahoo (www.yahoo.com)
     
    Yahoo originally started as a commercial directory before becoming a predominately crawler-based search engine in late 2002. The Yahoo Directory is maintained by a number of paid editorial staff and the results are used within Yahoo Search and many other search engines affiliated with Yahoo.

 
 
The following are currently the key NZ-based directories; they maintain their listings using paid editorial staff that ensure that the coded key words and phrases are indeed relevant search-wise to your product or service before adding to the directory:

 

Topics: Google
 

About Zeald

Zeald was formed in 2001 by three young guys from the small New Zealand town of Mangawhai Heads. Now, Zeald is the largest SME website design and digital transformation agency in New Zealand and has clients throughout both New Zealand and Australia. This is the Zeald story …

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