In looking back over the last year, the web landscape has continued to evolve, with most of the bigger changes being Search related. I thought now would be a great time to list some things you might want to focus on during these off-months (the snow can't last forever...can it?).
Things to pay attention to:
- Work on your own site before spending the time on off-site SEO:
Yes, I'm glaring at you, Citations. Too often I see people spending hours and hours, in a zombie-like state, building citations. If you've done it, you know it sucks. But, here's the thing... work on your own site first. We see a lot of businesses that have spent very little (any?) time refining or expanding their own, on-site content, but they well spend 20 to 50 hours creating citations. I think this is for a couple of reasons: It's time-consuming, but very easy. Building your own content takes thought and...yuck...writing. lol Somehow, citations have become synonymous with an SEO steroid injection. They're not. They're helpful, but just like meta keywords and link directories, my 2013 prediction is that Google cranks up the Citation Signal Scrutiny Knob™ (CSSK). I think Google should crack down. It's the same tactic, different flavor, that's been abused and then punished over the last 15 years. It's not a matter of if it happens but, well, you know...
- Keyword and Location Stuffing:
Playing the local search game can easily lead one to fall in to the double-stuffed trap of getting "Bill's Lawn Service in Peoria". By "double-stuffed", I mean "Lawn Service" and "Peoria". Between alt tags, image names, page titles, page names, geo tags,your business name and address, on-page content, etc., it's really easy to fall into this trap. To do a quick check, right click/view page source
and do a word search on the page. Is your city or main keyword(s) showing up 5 times, 25 times...uh-oh...75 times? This happens a lot
. Remember, it's not just the on-page content that keyword stuffing pertains to.
- Make 2013 The Year of the Landscape Photo:
Here comes my own, personal cliche... "As LCOs, you work in a visual medium, really no different than any other artist. Show it off.". By this, I mean that when a prospective client visits your web site, they can only go by what they see, and that's hopefully great looking lawns, well-cut beds, and beautiful trees/hedges/whatever. They want to see this and then they want to see you do it their lawn. Your other target market, Search, really likes photographs, too. Add context to your images by adding relevant, descriptive content to their names/tags/captions and surrounding content.
Also, if you service an area that doesn't have a mansions, don't use a stock/borrowed photo that has a mansion with an expansive lawn. Your prospective customers aren't dumb. Show them your work.
Another thing to watch out for... Google and Bing do take note of duplicate images and they are only going to get tighter on this. If I can find that a site has a duplicate image, this means so can Search.
If you are a DIYer, get a camera that can take very good pictures. At a minimum, get a tripod you can use to steady your picture taking. So many of you only get to accounts at certain times of the day, so if you need a tripod to steady your shot for a longer exposure, have one with you. Takes two seconds to do this. If you have a friend that's an actual photographer, barter/bribe with lawn services to get an assist. If you can afford a photographer, well, it doesn't take much to compare two site's photography to see what that can gain you.
Contrary to my above jag, citations do serve a purpose. Make sure they're well-written, optimized when they can be, and makes sure the site they're on is useful. In fact, anything you can write off-site should be optimized as if it was on your own site.
If an SEO company or guide says you're going to need 100 citations, you can accomplish the same with so many less. In fact, just ask for or read the list of sources. It's not hard to see if they pass the smell test. Just because they're a citation doesn't mean Search uses them to corroborate your business legitimacy. That's what a citation really does.
- Understand Facebook Marketing:
Get current with Facebook Pages, as well as understanding what they do and don't do. If you're focusing more time on your FB page marketing than your own web site, you're doing it wrong.
Any given status update goes to everyone who Likes your page, so what's the problem?
The problem is that it does not. On average, you're hitting 16% of the people who like your page. Does your site have 100 Likes? We all know what that math means, but reading the words might help: Of those 100 you're hoping to get your message to, only 16 will probably even have a chance of seeing it.
My advice? Work from your page out. Add content to your site, talk about it on FB, and push whatever promos and things you want on there, just know how the system works and how your various marketing components work in concert with each other. As a bit of homework, visit the various FB Pages of the businesses you Like. How much content do you find that you've never seen come across your stream?
- Spend the time to figure out Google+ for Business:
As has been widely chronicled, it's a complete train wreck right now
, especially if you are a Service Area Business and not a fixed location that accepts customer visits. Who knew that bricks 'n mortar would see the pendulum swing their way like this? Blame the SEO scammers for this one, but until Google figures out their game plan, start with a Google+ personal account and get the hang of it. Google has been known to play favorites in the past.... lol
- Meta Keywords Tag is still dead to Google:
No, really. Totally, completely dead. We're coming up on the 10th anniversary of this tragedy. On the flip-side, I do use it to scrape competitors' websites to see what they're targeting, so it is useful...
There are probably 10 more things I'm easily missing, but it's off to the store to get ready for the New Year's festivities. Love to see some additions to the list by you all. Cheers. - Tony