How to improve your school's local SEO

Local SEO is an important marketing strategy for keeping your school relevant online. It's a great way to appear on the results pages for prospects looking for schools in the surrounding area, get more web traffic and engage with the local community. In order to improve your online appearance and drive more admissions, here are Digithrive’s top tips on how to optimise local SEO for schools. 

Local SEO for Schools

Create Consistency

Business Listings are one of the most important factors in SEO. They are used by parents to find out general information such as addresses, working hours, and phone numbers. They are also used by search engines in order to determine the validity of your organisation. In order to boost your online ranking, you must keep your school’s listings accurate and consistent across all online platforms. Keep track of your website, social media profiles, and online third parties. Look out for any outdated details and remember to alter them whenever there is a change in your operation. Also check for any discrepancies such as misspellings and abbreviations. 

Use Google My Business 

Google My Business is a tool used for authenticating businesses online. It helps to verify listings and boost their ranking on local searches. In order to optimise it for your school, first create a Google My Business page. Input general information such as your website, address, and phone number. Add imagery and encourage parents to go on to it to share their feedback of the school. Remember to respond to these reviews and build up your engagement. This will indicate to Google that you are valid listing, thus improving your local SEO. 

Optimise Content Data

Throughout your school’s website, ensure that you add content that is specific to your geographical location. This could be a Google Maps widget, a blog post about a local event, or headings that mention the area you are in. Every time you use a geographical keyword, you are boosting your local SEO. Remember to also input these phrases into your page URLs, meta descriptions, and image names to optimise your school’s chances of being boosted on search engine results pages.

Create Inbound Links

Search engines are not only concerned with the content on your website, but also mentions of your school on other people’s websites. It demonstrates that you are an authentic organisation and that your listing is relevant. In order to optimise inbound links, consider approaching local businesses and societies. They could be parish councils, community groups, or information hubs. Estate agents are also often eager to promote schools in their surrounding areas. Ask if they'd be interested in listing your website, or perhaps suggest writing a guest blog post for them which includes your link.

Utilise Social Media

The content that you post on social media such as Instagram and Facebook is also vital for local SEO. Search Engines use the data that you share to determine your school’s ranking. It is important to geo-tag your location and include any hashtags that are relevant to your area when adding a post. You can even go one step further and like or follow the pages of local businesses and community organisations to further your engagement.  

We hope you enjoyed reading about the importance of local SEO and how to optimise it for your school. To read more of our guides, click here.

Digithrive for schools

digithrive for schools - improve your school website's seo in 5 steps

Improve your school website's SEO in 5 quick steps

Performing a thorough SEO audit for your school is essential to ensure that your school is easily found on search engines and that the correct information is coming up. However, a full audit can be time consuming. Here are 5 quick and easy things you can do to improve your school website’s SEO right now.

Improve your school website’s SEO in 5 steps

  1. Audit your keywords
  2. Check your website speed
  3. Use Google My Business
  4. Check your reviews
  5. Optimise your images

Step 1: Audit your keywords

Use a tool like Moz, Semrush or Keyword Finder to check which keywords your school’s website is ranking for and spot any opportunities to improve.

For example, if you rank well for “Central London School” but “Central London Prep” is nowhere to be seen, that’s a keyword you can focus on in the future. 

Step 2: Check your website’s speed

Did you know that a two second increase in page load time can lead to a bounce rate increase of 32%? That’s significant. 

You can check your website’s speed with Google PageSpeed Insights Tool, which also provides recommendations of what to do to improve it.

Step 3: Google My Business

Google My Business is a free and easy-to-use tool for businesses to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps.

This is key for schools because all your listings need to be up to date and correct, not only for your reputation but so that any prospective parents can find the information they need.

Here’s a Google My Business checklist:

  • Do you have a GMB listing? If so, is it claimed and verified?
  • Is all business information present and correct?
  • Do you have multiple reviews and a high cumulative rating? Are you responding to reviews?
  • Do you have appropriate business categories listed?
  • Do you have images of the business?
  • Have you created any GMB posts?
  • Are you participating in the Questions & Answers section?

Step 4: Check your reviews

You probably know how important reviews are for stores, restaurants and other services, but did you know that good reviews can hugely help schools too? Good reviews solidify your school’s digital presence, build a good reputation and give your customers a place to share feedback.

Google also picks up the keywords people use in their reviews, so it affects SEO.

Step 5: Optimise your images

A quick audit of the images on your site can help improve your SEO. Each image needs to have an appropriate file name and alt text so that the search engine can tell what the image is.

Try and use your keywords as much as possible in file names and alt text, so search engine crawlers are more likely to rank you higher for your desired topics.

You can also see big improvements in page load speed when images are optimised to reduce their file size without impacting their visual quality. Use a tool such as Screaming Frog to check this.

For more of our guides for schools, click here.

To summarise, improving your school website’s SEO in a sustainable and effective way will take time and resources. But small actions like those mentioned in this blog post will also contribute to a better SEO ranking for your school.

Click here to find out how Digithrive for Schools can improve your local SEO.

Digithrive for schools

How to create an SEM strategy for your school

Ensuring that your school appears prominently in online searches is a continuous process requiring multiple strategies. In this blog we discuss search engine marketing (SEM) which includes search engine optimisation (SEO) and pay-per-click advertising (PPC). Both these strategies can be used to direct traffic, generate new interest and acquire leads.

Each strategy has its own benefits, so it’s important to use a combination of both to maximise your time, resources and spend.

The difference between SEO and PPC

SEO is a long-term investment focused on building your reputation. Promoting your school by answering questions and solving problems for prospective parents and students will raise your online search profile. Though its cost is relatively low, SEO requires investment of a lot of time and resources before results begin to show. Once you are producing high quality content regularly, there comes a point when SEO optimised digital assets start to provide exponential returns. The value of your content doesn’t reside in one or two great posts, but rather in your digital existence as a whole, and this collective value starts boosting newer content as you go too. Eventually your SEO optimised pages will create a continual flow of traffic to your website, landing pages or school blog. 

PPC, on the other hand, is a fixed-time campaign with high upfront costs (such as payment for advertising) but returns are quick, highly valuable and specific – such as sign ups to your virtual open day. PPC campaigns are designed around a keyword strategy just like SEO, however they only bring returns as long as you are paying for the campaign - so there's no exponential growth or long term benefits as with SEO. Because of the high upfront costs, PPC should be used wisely and you’ll want to pick the right spots. 

How and when to use SEO

You’ll always want to use SEO to push your website higher and higher in search results organically. It’s important to use long tail keywords (LTKs), in language that your ideal audience/ personas will be using for their queries online. The more relevant your LTKs are to your personas, the more interest you will attract. Once your research identifies a list of keywords that are relevant to your ideal audience, you can begin with ‘on page’ and ‘off page’ SEO.

On page SEO

This is where you have the most control. You can carefully embed your keywords throughout your page, including title, subtitles, meta description, tags and paragraphs. However, it’s important to write naturally – the days of meaninglessly repeating keywords are long gone. Other tactics to remember include making sure the page has a fast loading time and including social sharing buttons - the more your content is shared, the more google will know it is valuable, which will in turn push it higher on search results.

Off page SEO

This is when other sites (ideally high authority ones) link to your content. You don’t really have much control over this, other than producing great content that people will search for, share and link back to. Again, ensure that you have plenty of sharing options and subtly remind readers throughout the content to do so - either in text or with calls to action. You might want to add some clever copy such as: ‘Know someone who is looking for a school that specialises in music? Share this page with them now!’ 

How and when to use PPC

Since PPC campaigns only run for as long as you’re willing to pay for the advertising space, it’s best to reserve them for events and open days - specific things that you really want to promote. With virtual open days, you’ll want to achieve two things - create awareness and get real sign-ups, so a PPC campaign would be a great choice here. Other reasons to launch PPC campaigns are to attract particular kinds of students or to increase admissions numbers for the upcoming school year. With these campaigns you just have to bear in mind at what stage of the funnel the prospects are that you are targeting – are they at the awareness stage, consideration stage or decision stage? – and you’ll want to choose the keywords you pay for accordingly. 

To summarise, you should think of SEO as your always-on SEM strategy, whereas PPC is reserved for special events. As we hope to have shown in this guide, you need both.

Is your school looking to incorporate an SEM strategy for an upcoming virtual open day? Get a free 30-minute consultation with one of our digital experts to find out what the best approach is for you. 


plugins

How To Master WordPress SEO Plugins

SEO is the basis to control the Internet, and because it is becoming more and more saturated, it is essential to make sure that you are doing something to and out from others on the web. An easy way to give your website an extra boost is by implementing the right WordPress SEO plugins.

The Issue:

Everybody wants the SEO plugins that are going to make their websites be the only ones who appear desirably on the Google search bar. Although this is possible, the truth is that the SEO market is becoming little by little more and more competitive and saturated. This situation makes it important to have a better structured and optimised website with a search engine, so that you can set yourself apart, and be ranked above your competitors. Unfortunately, that may involve a little bit of plugin stack.

The Essential SEO Plugin Stack

Mastering SEO will be perfect to grow and sustain a strong online presence, no matter if your building sites for clients, or your own business. Luckily, we know how to do it.

You can find 7 critical pieces to the SEO puzzle. In order to start, you need one of the overall on-site SEO plugins to cover the basics, such as robots, meta bags, sitemaps, etc. Apart from that, there are 6 additional complementary sections for plugins:

  1. On-site SEO
  2. Mobile Optimisation
  3. Broken Links
  4. Speed
  5. Security
  6. Image Optimisation
  7. Rich Snippet

It is true that is hard when it comes to plugins and website speed, however using the right stack to build your SEO, will be beneficial overall.

1. On-site SEO Plugins

They will be the basis of your infrastructure. We can find 2 contenders, All in One SEO Pack and Yoast SEO.

They both have been around for a decade already, and still are very important for this process.

All in One SEO Pack

Price: Free with Paid Premium Option

Elevator Pitch:

Is the original SEO plugin that works out-of-the-box for beginners with advanced features for developers. Overridable meta descriptions/keywords and XML sitemaps allows users to optimize their SEO efforts.

This plugin is translated into 57 languages, and is highly durable; also it works well with a variety of other plugins. All in One provides local SEO recommendations and keyword ranking for users as well.

Key Features:

  • Over 3M active installs
  • The ONLY free plugin to provide SEO Integration for e-Commerce sites, including WooCommerce
  • 4.5 star-rating across 500+ reviews on WordPress.org

Yoast SEO

Price: Free with Paid Premium Option

Elevator Pitch:

Is the one stop for experts and beginners alike. Featuring sitemaps, title and meta descriptions, and the ability to connect Google Search Console, this plugin does everything to please users and search engine spiders alike.

Yoast can also insure that your content is on flick (in Google’s eyes as well as prospect’s eyes).  By upgrading it to premium you can find new features including video and news extensions, as well as gaining access to a local SEO extension, which adds a local schema mark-up to your web pages.

Key Features:

  • Thousands of daily downloads
  • Uses JSON_LD for local
  • 5 star-rating across nearly 20,000 reviews on WordPress.org
  • Effectively combines content and SEO
  • One of the most used SEO plugins on the market with 5M+ active installs

The On-site SEO Winner

Yoast SEO. Vendastians and industry experts all agree that Yoast is the modern-day standard when it comes to WordPress SEO plugins. The free version will cover all of your needs.

2. Mobile Website Optimisation Plugins

Last month, January 2018, Google announced that they would begin prioritising pages with fast mobile loading speed in their search algorithm. Due to these Mobile Website Optimization Plugins have earned themselves a priority seat on Google’s algorithm. Considering that the majority of browsing these days is conducted from mobile devices, it just makes sense.

AMP for WP

Price: Also free!

Elevator Pitch:

It goes straight to the point; it simply adds AMP functionality to your WordPress site in order to improve mobile site speed through search engines.

Key Features:

  • 4.5 star user rating on WordPress.org (best in class)
  • 100,000+ active installations
  • Yoast (and other SEO) plugin integration

AMP for WordPress

Price: Free!

Elevator Pitch:

By using AMP for WordPress, you can insure that your prospects never give up hope as a result of a slow mobile site. By creating AMP content this plugin caters to the needs of major AMP consumers such as Google Search.

Key Features:

  • 200,000+ active installs (best in class)
  • Built by WordPress, not a third party, so compatibility is not a concern
  • Many 1 star reviews, and a 3.5 star overall rating on WordPress.org

The Mobile Optimization Winner

AMP for WP, the reality is that both meet your mobile optimization needs, but AMP for WordPress (the loser) does not have good customer satisfaction.

This is something that you don’t want to see.

3. Broken Link Plugins

Links sometimes go bad. Pages can be deleted. A site that you link to may disappear. Or someone might move a post or page without updating others. All of these actions can cause broken links.

There is nothing worse that a “404 Page not found”, when you are in a rush to find something.

By managing these broken links on your site, you can mitigate lost conversions, questions of credibility, frustration and damage to your SEO ranking.

Broken Link Checker

Price: Free!

Elevator Pitch:

It scans your comments, blogs, custom fields, pages, and posts to detect links that do not work, links redirects and images that my be missing. It might take a while as it verifies each and every link tied to your site. Once done, it will present you with a list of broken links so that you can manage redirects and prevent prospects and customers from losing interest or losing track of you.

Key Features:

  • Offered in 30 languages
  • Has not been updated in 6 months… customer service?
  • 4 star rating across nearly 400 reviews on WordPress.org
  • 500,000+ active installs (by far the best in class)

The Broken Link Winner

Just one candidate, and just one winner. Use this plugin, it will be very useful. And it will help optimize your overall SEO.


Guide: SEO musts for a higher search ranking


4. Speed Plugins

Page speed is a huge factor in user experience, as well as in search rankings. Google recommendations appear in half a second, and that is hard to do.

The AMP category is so important ever since Google announced that page speed is now a ranking factor for mobile searching.

Now you will see two site catching alternatives that will have a substantial impact on site load times, particularly with high volumes of traffic.

W3 Total Cache

Price: Free, always

Elevator Pitch:

It improves SEO and user experience by increasing performance and reducing downloads times. W3 includes minification features, a host of caching options, as well as various security features. It also offers improved server performance in order to help weather those high traffic periods.

SEO plugins

Key Features:

  • 4.5 star rating and over 1 million active installs (best in class)
  • Used by many large companies such as AT&T
  • Only 9 out of 108 issues resolved in the past 2 months

WP Fastest Cache

Price: Free, the best price

Elevator Pitch:

Plugin is very user friendly due to their functionality automated, and its activeness page statistics. It creates a static html file so that high quantities of traffic do not produce slow render times on your site, and offers numerous options for managing cached files. At the same time it comes with minify html and css options so that users can decrease the size of css files and pages.

SEO plugins

Key Features:

  • 5 star rating and over 500,000 active installations
  • Offered in 17 languages
  • Does not yet support WordPress Multisite

The Speed Winner

This is a tough decision. Although the winner is… W3 Total Cache due to the sheer volume of active users and the number of industry experts that swear by it. However, WP Fastest Cache is an excellent caching plugin too, since little by little is growing in downloads and popularity.

5. Security Plugins

Security is an extremely important factor nowadays. If you are a business or a financial institution, security will be more directed towards your site infrastructure.

The main impact of a security plugin is in regards to an SSL certificate (https). These helps your website to maintain rank on search providers. It can also help you to grow in rank, while also encrypting user data – an essential component on many websites.

Wordfence Security

Price: Free with Premium Option

Elevator Pitch:

It was built for the specific application of WordPress sites. It includes a malware scanner, an endpoint firewall, as well as Threat Defence Feed that insures that Wordfence is always up to date with the newest firewall rules, malicious IP addresses and malware signatures it needs to keep your site safe.

SEO plugins

Key Features:

  • 5 star rating across over 3000 reviews on WordPress.org
  • User friendly feeds to monitor performance
  • 2M+ active installs (best in class)

The Security Winner

Worldfence Security is the best in class, even industry experts agree. It will definitely meet your malware and firewall needs in the free version – always with the premium paid option as you grow.

6. Image Optimization

The images that you use on your website has a huge impact on user experience as well as click and conversation rates. Although, it is essential to use an image optimization plugin in order to reduce the size of the images (often up to 50%), and therefore page sizes, in order to boost your SEO rankings by increasing user-friendliness and page speed.

There are a lot of compressors, but only a couple in the runnings.

Short Pixel

Price: Free with Paid Premium

Elevator Pitch:

It has one of the cheapest premium options in comparison to other image optimizers on the market. It has one of the most affordable paid rates on the market, and will still reach upwards of 60% optimization.

SEO plugins

Key Features:

  • One click bulk optimization (major time saver)
  • They have relolved every single issue that has been reported to WordPress.org in the past 2 months
  • Also offers huge benefits for mobile site speeds
  • 4.5 star rating across nearly 300 reviews

Smush Image Compression and Optimization

Price: Free with Pro Option

Elevator Pitch:

It automatically cuts the size of all the images on your website in order to provide speed and quality. It is compatible with numerous other plugins on the market, and for image resizing.

SEO plugins

Key Features:

  • Huge benefits for mobile speeds
  • Highest performance reserved for paying customers only
  • 5 star rating and over 1 million active installs (best in class)

The Image Optimization Winner

Both are winners in their own way. ShortPixel is a great alternative if you want to enter into the “paid plugins” world, but do not want to invest the capital that many other require. And Smush is the favourite one for basic free image optimization.

7. Rich Snippet Plugins

Rich Snippets are fields that spice up your search result listing. The good thing about this plugin is that you do not have to write any code. Rich Snippet plugins present fields that you fill in, and the plugin automatically generates the code and tags for you.

Many website developers might not agree, but indeed they are important.  Although rich snippets do not directly help you rank, they do provide increased visual appeal to your SERP result as you approach that first page of Google. This visual appeal will likely increase your click through rate (CTR) which will then cause your to rank higher in terms of SEO.

All In One Schema Rich Snippets

Price: Free

Elevator Pitch:

It helps you add article, recipe, review, event, product, video, or other schemas to your site snippet. It makes it possible in a highly user-friendly format, to make your website more interactive and improve your click through rates.

SEO plugins

Key Features:

  • 4.5 star rating across 100+ reviews on WordPress.org
  • Helps Facebook display proper information when users share your links on Facebook
  • 70,000+ active installs (by far the best in class)

The Rich Snippet Winner

All in One Schema Rich Snippets has more or less monopolised the market, and is going to be the best option in case you want to master all of the categories of SEO on your WordPress builds.

Conclusion

You'll need seven SEO plugins if you want to have a world class SEO optimised site.

  1. Yoast SEO
  2. AMP for WP
  3. Broken Link Checker
  4. W3 Total Cache
  5. Wordfence Security
  6. Smush or ShortPixel
  7. All In One Schema Rich Snippets

And ONE the number of pages of Google in which you will likely find yourself on the keywords that matter most if you leverage this plugin combination.

Want to know more? Read our top tips to improve your keyword research.

Take a look at our SEO packages.


website speed

Understanding and Optimising Your Website's Page Speed

Page Speed Explained

Page speed is the amount of time it takes for your website’s content to completely load. This greatly impacts your SEO. In this day and age, or the computer age, people expect instantaneous results.

Obviously, faster is better.

In fact, nearly half of web surfers expect a website to load in 2 seconds or less and tend to abandon a site that hasn’t loaded within 3 seconds.

The real question is, how long do most websites take to load?

According to a study conducted by Geoff Kenyon :

  • if your site loads in 5 seconds, it is faster than approximately 25% of the web
  • if your site loads in 2.9 seconds, it is faster than approximately 50% of the web
  • if your site loads in 1.7 seconds, it is faster than approximately 75% of the web
  • if your site loads in 0.8 seconds, it is faster than approximately 94% of the web

So how can you determine how your website stacks up?

Determine Your Website’s Page Speed

This is done in 4 quick and easy steps :

  1. Hop into your website’s Google Analytics Site Speed reports. This will give you an idea of how your site has performed over various time periods and the load speed of each of your pages.
  2. Enter your site’s URL into Google’s PageSpeed Insights Tool. This will give you a report card on your website’s speed performance on mobile devices and desktop. The report comes with some recommended actions you can take to improve your site’s speed.
  3. Check Pingdom’s website speed test to find out the speed, rank and percent faster than the average of Pingdom’s tested websites
  4. GTMetrix will provide a comprehensive look at your site’s speed optimisation status.

Note: Don’t puzzle yourself when you see different speed timing in Pingdom and Gtmetrix. As Pingdom will show you load time (The time it takes to show the first results of your website—that’s what google counts and you should too) and GTmetrix will show you full load time (The time it takes to show a full page with its full functionality running).

For further understanding, it’s always good to see the speed waterfall from both tools.

Why Page Speed Is Essential

Bridging the gap between user expectations (2 seconds) and average website load time (5 seconds) is the goal of page speed optimization and the tactics we’ll outline later. But why exactly does page speed matter? It comes down to 3 main interconnected reasons:

1. A Slow Website Ruins User Experience

User experience is the number one reason you should care about your website’s speed.

Nowadays, people are impatient, always in a rush and if you haven’t managed to display your page in 3 seconds or less, they’re gone. Back in the day, just connecting to the internet required a tolerance that just doesn’t exist anymore. That bar is unfortunately only going to get higher in the future.

2. It destroys SEO

User experience is the driving force behind the SEO implications of site speed. While Google has been slow to officially reveal whether slow websites would receive ranking demotions, it appears that those days are coming. You need to make sure your website is ready.

3. Slow Speed Kills Conversions

Your site speed’s effect on conversions is what should really catch your attention. How can you move people through your funnel if each step takes forever? Your super-fans will do it, but those new, hesitant people who are prone to buyers-remorse will bounce.

How to Improve Your Website’s Speed

Speeding up your site is not necessarily going to be a snap. If you have a small, light site you may just need to try a couple of tactics on this list.

However, large, older sites with a lot of code and content may require some persistence and the implementation of several tactics on the following list.

Here’s where to start:

1. The Power of Browser Caching:

When you visit sites, your browser ‘caches’ pages on the site to speed up load time.

Things can slow down when the response from your server does not include caching headers or if resources are specified to be cached for only a short time.

Leveraging caching will load your pages much faster for repeat visitors and so will other pages that share those same resources.

HOW TO LEVERAGE YOUR BROWSER CACHING

2. Optimising Images to Optimise your Website:

If images load faster, your site loads faster, it’s that simple.

According to Google, “Images often account for most of the downloaded bytes on a page. As a result, optimising images can often yield some of the largest byte savings and performance improvements.”

This means that you can get some big improvements when the images on your pages can be optimised to reduce their file size without significantly impacting their visual quality.

HOW TO OPTIMISE YOUR WEBSITE

3. Remember to Remove All Unnecessary Characters

Minification, or eliminating all unnecessary characters that are not required for the code to execute, without changing their functionality, is a must.

HOW TO MINIFY YOUR CODE

4. Implement GZIP Compression:

Simply put, when a user visits your website, a call is made to your server to deliver the requested files.

The bigger these files are, the longer it's going to take for them to get to your browser.

GZIP compression drastically reduces the size of files sent from your server when someone visits your website: CSS and HTML files use a lot of repeated text and have a lot of whitespaces. GZIP compression can decrease the size of your pages by 70%.

HOW TO ENABLE GZIP COMPRESSION

5. Decrease your Server’s Response time:

Response time is the amount of time it takes for a web server to respond to a request from a browser. This is a key issue to address because if your server response time is slow your pages will display slow, no matter how optimised your pages are for speed.

REDUCE YOUR SERVER’S RESPONSE TIME

6. Try to Avoid Landing Pages :

A landing page redirects the user to another website in order to make them convert. However, your website can really slow down when you have more than one redirect. This sets off a redirect loop that takes time to process.

HOW TO AVOID LANDING PAGE REDIRECTS

7. Prioritise Essential Elements:

Visible content is the portion of a webpage that users see on their screen before they scroll. This means that the essential elements on your page load first. It is also referred to as "above the fold".

This is the message that you will get from Google’s Page Speed Tool.

HOW TO PRIORITISE VISIBLE CONTENT

8. Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content:

JavaScript and CSS resources often prevent your page from displaying until they’re fully loaded.

This is a common message you’ll get from Google about site speed, and addressing it can really take your page speed up a few notches.

HOW TO ELIMINATE RENDER-BLOCKING JAVASCRIPT AND CSS

Note: This is the hardest thing to fix for most people. There are WordPress plugins that just do it but they can make your site look like Frankenstein on every load.

Want lightning-fast, Google Cloud-hosted WordPress sites? Contact us today or book a consultation now to find out how we can help your business grow!


audit

How to Perform a Local SEO Audit for Your Business

The harsh reality that we all need to accept is that business websites on the second page of the search engine results page might as well not exist.You know the drill—you want something so you get on your phone and search for it. Google presents its top 3 local options in the “Snack Pack” and 10 other organic results. If your business corresponds to the user’s needs, you want and need to appear on the first page for those target keywords. To do so, you will need to do a local SEO audit, a simple procedure for any website. Here’s how to get it done.

How to perform a Local SEO Audit for Your Business

Step 1: Audit Keywords

Start your SEO audit with effective keywords.

Here is how to conduct a keyword audit: Start with ranking, how the keywords you're already using are ranked for and identify any opportunities you might be missing.

For example, if you’re ranking well for ‘Philadelphia Bankruptcy Attorney’ but are nowhere to be found for ‘Philadelphia Bankruptcy Lawyer’, you’ve identified an area to improve.

Make a list of services, products, or a page you’d like to drive traffic to and then put together a list of high volume local target keywords (you can use tools like Keyword Finder).

Step 2: Audit Your Competition

Your local SEO audit should include a snooping session to determine your competitor’s SEO status and tactics. It is essential  that you determine what you’re up against, especially if you’re located in a highly competitive area where top businesses are excelling.

Here is a tool that helps you learn why your competitors rank so high what you need to do to outrank them: Ahrefs.

You don’t need to do a full diagnostic on each competitor, but you can simply take a look at these factors, find out what the website is built with, and compare that data against yours, helping you develop a logical hypothesis:

  • GMB ranking for top keywords
  • Organic rankings for top keywords
  • Review quantity and quality
  • Number of links
  • Site Speed
  • Social Stats

Step 3: Audit Google My Business Listing

Google My Business is a free and easy-to-use tool for businesses to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps and your business absolutely requires it.

It has been ranked as the biggest driver of local SEO success, according to the 2017 edition of Moz’s Local Search Ranking Factors Survey.

The GMB results are often referred to as the ‘three pack’, as Google picks out the three best or most relevant local listings for these searches and If you want to appear in Google’s three pack, your GMB listing should be well-optimised.

According to Google, 46% of all Google searches are local, while the GMB ‘three pack’ of results appear in 93% of all local searches.

Here are some things to look for, these elements make up a strong GMB listing:

  • Do you have a GMB listing? If so, is it claimed and verified?
  • Is all business information present and correct?
  • Do you have multiple reviews and a high cumulative rating? Are you responding to reviews?
  • Do you have appropriate business categories listed?
  • Do you have images of the business?
  • Have you created any GMB posts?
  • Are you participating in the Questions & Answers section?

Step 4: Audit Reviews

Reviews play a big role in both the local ranking and reputation building areas. They are an authentic measure of a local business’s popularity and viability. Potential customers trust reviews as an accurate gauge for that business’s quality level.

Getting an abundance of positive, glowing and wordy reviews across multiple review platforms like GMB, Facebook, Yelp, and TripAdvisor helps you win on many levels.

In fact, Local SEO Guide notes that Google does pick up on the keywords people use in their reviews: “At a high level, having a keyword you are trying to rank for, and a mention of a city you are working to rank in, in reviews has a high correlation with high ranking Google My Business results.”

And don’t forget to respond to these reviews, whether they are positive or negative because 89% of consumers read businesses' responses to reviews!
A helpful tool you can use is KiyOh, a tool to help you invite your customers to rate and review your company.

Step 5: Audit Links

Links are the bread and butter of Google’s ranking algorithm.

Darren Shaw of WhiteSpark notes that “Google is still leaning heavily on links as a primary measure of a business’ authority and prominence, and the local search practitioners that invest time and resources to secure quality links for their clients are reaping the ranking rewards.”

A link audit would be having a diverse array of quality links and evaluate the links pointing at your website to find potential problems or opportunities.

To evaluate your links, you should consider looking for links with:

  • Local content
  • Industry or vertical topic clusters
  • High domain authority

Remember, link quality will always win over quantity, and quality plus quantity will help you dominate the search rankings in your market. On the flip side, if you see a high volume of spammy, off-topic links, that is an immediate red flag that may be damaging your ability to rank well. Open Site Explorer is a highly accurate link tool that lets you check the backlink profile of your site.

Step 6: Audit Site for Structured Data

Structured Data is code that goes on a website to help the search engines return more detailed, informative results for users. It tells the search engines what your data means, not just what it says.

This is the perfect way to tell search engines exactly what a given website is about, which will help them serve it up on the search engine results page for the correct search queries.

One way to check to ensure that your site is using schema markup is to enter your URL in Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool. You’ll be able to check to see if all the correct info about your business has been included.
There are many different types of structured data but when it comes to structured data for SEO, a particular 'vocabulary' is used, called Schema.org in order to have a standardised list of attributes that all search engines support and understand.

Step 7: Audit Local Citations

A local citation is a mention of your business online, whether it’s a name, an address or a phone number. It’s important to look into both structured and unstructured citations. For structured citations, you’ll audit your business listings across the web, looking at social platforms and directories like Yelp, Yellowpages, Facebook, Superpages, and MapQuest.

For unstructured citations, mentions of your business will be found on random websites, blogs, event listings, job posting sites or social media mentions. These are unstructured because they could be as simple as a company mention. Use a citation finder to find and analyse both your structured and unstructured citations.

Step 8: Audit Website’s Main Pages

An audit of the main website pages is probably the most important step of your entire audit. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming if you have the proper tools though.

Screaming Frog is one of many excellent tools that’ll deliver a comprehensive look at your on-page SEO. It’s a free tool that crawl websites’ URLs and fetch key elements to analyse and audit technical and onsite SEO.

With your list of target keywords in hand, you’ll want to run through each page on your spreadsheet looking at the keywords. You should be mainly looking at:

  • Page title
  • Title tags
  • Sub-headings
  • Word count
  • Meta description

You are now well-equipped to analyse how well your pages are optimised for local SEO and determine improvements and content gaps that might be missing. Once you’ve evaluated and recorded the weaknesses in your local SEO, you can make use of a host of top-tier SEO plugins to help you do your work.

Step 9: Audit Images

Firstly, don’t dismiss the power of images; when people hear information, they're likely to remember only 10% of that information three days later. However, if a relevant image is paired with that same information, people retained 65% of the information three days later!

There are two main components to image optimisation: image keyword usage and how it affects page load speed.

You can in this case also use ScreamingFrog’s free SEO tool to evaluate both.

Auditing image keywords comes down to evaluating each image’s filename and alt text.

Since Google can’t tell what visual content an image contains, site crawlers rely on things like the image’s filename and alt text to determine what’s being displayed. This is why you need to use the right and optimised keywords.

You can get some big improvements in page load speed when images are optimised to reduce their file size without impacting their visual quality.

Using ScreamingFrog, you can take an inventory of all the images on your site and highlight the images that are slowing things down.

Step 10: Check Website Speed

Having a site that loads rapidly is crucial in today’s online business environment.

Edwin Toonen of Yoast notes that “Google’s latest research shows that the chance of a bounce increases 32% when the page load time goes from 1s to 3s. 1s to 5s increases the chance to 90% and if your site takes up to 10s to load, the chance of a bounce increases to 123%. That’s incredible. For search engines, better results and performance is a sign of a healthy site that pleases customers and therefore should be rewarded with a higher ranking.”

Google PageSpeed Insights Tool performs an instant audit of a given URL, which will give you a quick way to tell if improvements are needed, and a list of actions to take to improve your website speed. Pingdom’s Website Speed Test and GTmetrix are also helpful website speed test tools.

Step 11: Audit Customer Experience

What visitors do when they discover your business online affects your rankings. In fact, David Mihm argues that “Engagement is simply a much more accurate signal of the quality of local businesses than the traditional ranking factors of links, directory citations, and even reviews.”

Factors such as search click-through rate (CTR), dwell time, bounce rate, and conversion rate are all ranking factors. To examine customer experience and engagement, you can use Google Analytics to and then compare them to industry benchmarks.

Step 12: Audit Social Engagement

There’s no doubt that a strong social media presence can significantly boost local SEO efforts even though we’re not sure to what extent social signals are baked into Google’s ranking algorithm.

“The bigger your brand is and the more consumers trust you, the more likely you are to receive a larger share of clicks in Google. Social media can be a great and efficient way to help you build your brand and get in front of people who wouldn’t have otherwise found you.”

Therefore, evaluating your social platforms is an essential part of your local SEO audit:

  • Number of people that like your Facebook page + Facebook shares
  • Number of Twitter followers + tweets mentioning your brand name
  • Number of LinkedIn company followers and Linkedin Shares

To go a step further, you can analyse what content performs best for any topic or competitor using the free tool BuzzSumo.

Final Thoughts

Performing a comprehensive local SEO audit using these 12 steps is crucial, as is recording your progress to ensure you’re not missing any vital pieces to the local SEO puzzle.

Want to skip all this work and let the experts handle your local SEO? Contact us today!

To understand how Local SEO can help your business, book a consultation now.


listings

What are Listings and Why Do They Matter?

Listings are an online entries for your business. Their role is to help customers find you online and in real life. They contain 4 simple pieces of information that provide the basic information potential customers need to have: NAP+W

NAP+W is the acronym that explains it all.

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Website

If you want to score some bonus points, don’t forget to include information like hours of operation — it’s what consumers are most interested in!

Making sure your listings pay off

Having an up-to-date and accurate listing is important for your SEO performance. They are available through many sources, including search engines, online directories and maps, or social sites, and the more you are present on these sources, the better. This will create multiple avenues for consumers to find your business.

And remember, presence only pays off if the listings are accurate! Listings are accurate if the information is correct and consistent across all potential sources.

The importance of listings

With good presence and accuracy, they will undoubtedly pay off for your business. Here’s how:

No more hiding

Correct, consistent and readily available listings will help guide consumers right to your business’s door steps. If a business’s listing is incorrect or missing, the majority of consumers will feel less confident about the brand, leading them to choose a competitor’s product or service.

Here’s the sad reality: 75 percent of searchers will not go past page one if they don’t see what they’re looking for.

The availability of accurate listings ensures customers are actually able to find your business’ locations while it’s still open for business.

This means money in the business’ pocket and, just as importantly, it means the business can be reviewed.

The importance of online reviews

Reviews, whether positive or negative, are an essential tool for developing a business’ online reputation and promoting brand loyalty and they should be managed correctly. They allow customers to communicate their experience with a business to potential buyers, but if consumers can’t find a business listed online, their opinion of it won’t be well-informed.

In fact, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations and almost 95% of shoppers read reviews before making a purchase decision!

Accurate listings create the opportunity for transparency between businesses and consumers in the form of reviews, and the availability of these accurate listings will help increase a business’s visibility.

Boosting a business’ SEO

Consistent, accurate and readily available listings, as well as customer reviews, will directly benefit a business’s visibility by boosting its ranking in local search engine results. Optimising your website for SEO should go hand-in-hand with building an effective website. But Search Engine Optimisation is quite a complex tool, so why not take advantage of it by simply ensuring your business’ listings are done accurately!

Get started today!

This listings low-down provides basic definitions and descriptions of the benefits of business listings. Creating listings on sites worth lots of points improves your listings score and we have ranked all of them for you by importance using a lot of key factors—how many sites reference them, traffic, demographics and more. Implementing the tactics mentioned above will give you a head start on your competition!

To find out more about listings and how they can help grow your business, book a consultation now.


Website SEO Must-Dos for a Higher Search Ranking

If you’re looking to create the best user experience possible, search engines are the way to go. Users rely on search engines because they provide the most relevant, clear and useful information based on the user’s search terms. The users also feel in control. According to Pew Search Centre, at any given day, 56% of internet users use search engines. And 87% of them say they have successful search experiences. In fact, the better user experience you create, the better the chances that that search engine will reveal your pages and your search ranking is higher. By practicing good search engine optimisation (SEO) habits, you can gradually work to increase your Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) position.


Here are our top SEO practices to ensure SERP success.

1. Relevant Keywords or Key phrases:
Pick the most relevant words that best describe your business or services. To save time, you can use a Keyword Research Tool that can help you determine which words will help attract the most visitors based on popular search terms. These tools will give you lots of different keyword ideas you can choose from.

2. Catchy Title Tags:
Title tags are displayed on the search engine results pages. Their role is to describe what your website is all about, so they should be accurate and concise. If you want to be displayed well on the search engine results pages (SERPs), you should limit the title tag description to 55 characters. Keep title tags descriptive yet short to help crawlers and users determine the relevancy of your page. They are what the user first sees and what attracts their attention, pushing them to click, or not, through to your pages.

3. Keywords at the beginning of title tags:
Google puts more weight on the start of the title tag, so try to keep the keywords at the beginning.

4. A Killer Meta Description:
The meta description appears under the title tag on SERPs and gives users a chance to briefly learn about your company before clicking into your site. It is the search snippet that convinces users to click. Your meta description should be descriptive and appealing but not too long, aim for a meta-description length of 150-160 characters.

5. Good Quality Sitemap:
In short, sitemaps are used to simplify the navigation of a website. They are composed of the website’s structure, with the links to all the important sections and subsections. Make sure your website’s structure is up-to-date and easy to navigate. The better the site structure, the easier search engine crawlers can find and index pages. Aim for a three-click rule : customers should find what they need on your site in three clicks. As always, in this digital age, you can use a sitemap creator to generate a map in a few minutes.

6. SEO-friendly URL Structure:
URLs, or web addresses, are one of the most basic but important elements of both SEO and User Experience. They help search engine bots but also human users figure out page topic and relevancy.

These are the main rules to creating the best URLs for maximum SEO :

  • Top Level Domain : using “.com” instead of “.biz” or “.pro”
  • Keep your URLs short (3 to 5 words) and include your keyword in it
  • Seperate the words in your URL using “-” instead of “_”
  • Use static (lowercase letter) words rather than numbers
  • HTTPS! Online security is a big deal nowadays

7. Outbound Links Improve Your Blog’s Ranking :
Outbound links are links on your site that redirect you onto another website. Most, if not all, websites have outbound links. In SEO, understanding and using outbound links is one step forward for your on-site optimisation. Regularly referencing and linking reputable and reliable sources shows that you’re a helpful internet information steward who is willing to share pagerank. On the internet, helpful sharing is caring.

8. Speed Up Your Website:
Search engines do not like slow pages as they know that users will not wait long for a website to load. 47% of visitors expect a website to load in 2 seconds or less, and 40% of visitors will leave your website if the loading process takes more than 3 seconds. To help you analyse your website's load speed, you can conduct a free website loading test. This test can help you make your site faster by identifying what about your webpage is fast, slow or too big.

9. Social Media:
Try to be as active as possible on all relevant social media platforms. Social media marketing plays a big role when trying to manage your online reputation. Strive to get the most likes, shares and links.

10. Video:
Users can find your business more easily if you share relevant and helpful videos on sites such as Youtube, Vimeo, DailyMotion etc.

11. Link Outreach and Get Backlinks:
Earn backlinks (incoming links to your webpage) by conducting PR content to get others to read your pages and link to you. The more quality backlinks your web page has, the more authority it has, and the more search engines will deem the page as relevant and useful.

12. Forums and FAQs:
Answering questions in forums, communities and FAQs, if done properly, can help to build your reputation as an industry expert. It relieves some of the burden on customer service, improves SEO and site navigation. It can also a possible opportunity to include your website or blog link if it is relevant to the answer.

Afterwards, it is crucial to perform a local SEO audit for your business. Find out more about Local SEO and how it can help grow your business, book a consultation now.


mistakes

Common Local SEO Mistakes That Are Negatively Affecting Your Business

SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, improves your website’s ranking and by doing so can increase traffic to your site. Optimising your SEO strategy is an extremely important part of your web content and any business or digital marketer needs to know the common mistakes and tactics to go around them.

If you want your business to have a good online reputation and your website to create a lot of new leads, attention needs to be given to SEO. And it is especially important for small local businesses to optimise for SEO! Unfortunately, a local SEO strategy isn’t simply creating a website and hoping clients can find it. It isn’t that complicated, but it is quite a time commitment, and you need to know what you’re doing.

Certainly, it is important to know the ways to enhance your SEO but it is just as important to be aware of all the most common mistakes that are made in order to avoid them. A bad SEO strategy could strongly damage your ranking and your business’s presence in search engines.

Here are a few common mistakes:

1. Forgetting your Google My Business Profile

Google My Business is a free and easy-to-use tool for businesses to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps and your business absolutely requires it. When people Google generic businesses like ‘clothing store’ or ‘bakery’ near them, the results that appear at the top of the page in list and map format come from Google My Business. If you want yours to be on the list, you need to set up this profile.

This strategy is a quick and easy win that you can do today. When you set up your Google My Business page, it’s important to fill it out with as much information as possible, and don’t forget to verify your listing; having a great GMB listing represents a significant opportunity for local businesses.

2. Inaccurate Or Missing Listings

NAP, which means Name, Address, and Phone number, is crucial to get right online.

On every source that your business is listed on, the NAP information needs to be the exact same everywhere. Consistency is key. If it’s not listed, you should consider adding it as soon as possible, and if it’s incorrect or outdated, it should be updated right away because potential customers may attempt to reach out to your business, and if they can’t reach you due to wrong information listed, you’ve lost a client.

3. Low Quality Content

If you want to have a good SEO strategy, it’s essential to have original, high-quality content that is consistently reviewed and updated. A weak, repetitive or out-of-date content will have a negative impact on your SEO.

Here is a list of tools to help you better your content:

  • Study demic - Make sure to get copywriting guides so you can improve your writing
  • Academised – Use online editing tool that will improve the quality of your content and allow you to post more regularly.
  • Grammarly – Check your grammar and make sure no mistakes or typos are sneaking in there.
  • Paper Fellows – Use online proofreading tools, to help you create and edit documents.
  • Via writing – Get help coming up with original content ideas, generating keywords, SEO-friendly titles, descriptions and more.
  • Big Assignments – Use formatting tools.

The first thing your potential customer will see on your website is your landing page. If it’s out of date, full of mistakes or irrelevant information, then you’ll not only lose a customer but the quick bounce will negatively affect your rating.

Little tip: Using videos on landing pages can increase conversions by 86%!

4. Irrelevant or Missing Backlinks

A very common mistake is forgetting or disregarding backlinks. This can negatively affect your site and business.

Backlinks are links on another website that direct back to your site and having real and secure backlinks is an important step for SEO because a lot of search engines will give more credit to websites that have a good number of quality backlinks. These backlinks can be quite hard to line up for some businesses.

To make it easier, it is worth investing the time and making connections with other businesses that can help. Don’t forget to look for local business listings that work with your area of expertise, or local sites in your region that would accept a guest posting as a trade for a backlink. You can also speak to your suppliers and distributors for a backlink on their websites, and reach out to local media to be used as a source for their stories.

5. Insufficient Local Reviews

Don’t dismiss the importance of reviews on your website. The more good quality reviews you have, the higher your site will rank on searches. Consider developing a system to make sure that you receive a constant stream of reviews that you can publish.

According to Todd Wallace, a well-known digital marketer: “contact customers you’ve had in the past and clients and ask if they can leave a review, send an email to your current client base requesting the same, or post on social media asking for feedback. You should also ask customers to review your business immediately after a visit as a regular follow up.”

In fact, 57% of consumers will only use a business if it has 4 or more stars!

6. Low-Quality Website

The quality and usefulness of your website is one of the factors that Google considers when defining high quality SEO. It’s simple, if a site is of low quality, it won’t get ranked by Google.

They have built-in indicators of poor quality sites like high bounce rates, low conversions, bad design, irrelevant landing pages. Customers who have a good experience on your site will spend longer on it and this will rank your business higher in search engines. And don’t forget mobile optimisation to ensure that visitors who access your website from their phones have an experience optimised for the device. Your focus as a business owner or manager should be growing and improving your business, and not wasting your time optimizing for SEO! With the assistance of SEO experts, develop a good SEO strategy so you don’t need to worry about it as much and focus on what matters.

By avoiding these common mistakes you’ll be able to see your SEO strategy pay off.

Find out more about Local SEO and how it can help grow your business, book a consultation now.


Keyword Research

SEO tips to improve keyword research

If you want higher Google Rankings and more traffic, you'll love this quick guide. The backbone of your SEO strategy is keyword research. Investing time in the research phase will inevitably produce better results in the long term, making the success of your search engine optimisation dependant on your choice of keywords. Key strategies to improve keyword research and your SEO ranking; also helping you get found online more easily, are the implementation of keywords into the content on your website, blog, and URL. However, including the wrong keywords or too many keywords can be just as detrimental.

Although you may not always notice them, keywords play an integral role when it comes to helping a small business get found online. So let’s get to it by breaking down the long and short (tail) of it.

Do Your Own Keyword Research

What is keyword research?

Keyword research is the process of discovering words and phrases that people use in search engines with the ultimate goal of optimizing content around those terms.

Keywords are like a compass for your SEO campaigns: they tell you where to go and whether or not you’re making progress. As a bonus, researching keywords help you figure out the thoughts, fears, and desires of your target market. That’s because keywords research gives you tremendous insight into what potential customers searching for and the exact words and phrases that they use. Keyword research impacts every other SEO task that you perform, including finding content topics, on-page SEO, and outreach and promotion. This process should never be a one-time commitment, but rather an ever-changing process that involves a strategy and a comprehensive understanding of your business and your industry. This on-going process can take time and research, but the results will be worth it.

Although we want to increase our customer base, we don’t want to target consumers that may not find the value in our business.

Using the Right Keywords

Picking the right keywords and keyword phrases is one of the most important steps in successful search engine optimization. These next five steps will allow you to do so:

Think like a customer - Put yourself in the shoes of your customer and ask yourself, 'If I wanted to find one of these products or services, what would I type into Google?'

Study the competition -  Looking at your competitor's keywords will not only help you see what you could be forgetting but also help broaden your list of ideas.

Understand the short and long tail keywords - Short tail keywords are search phrases with only one word. Their length makes them less specific than searches with more words. On the contrary, long tail keywords are a combination of three or more words or phrases. While long tail keywords tend to boast lower search volumes, in most cases they attract more relevant traffic, are typically less competitive, and easier to rank well on. Choose long tail keywords that help to specify your product or service. ‘Egg’ is an example of a short tail keyword, whereas ‘make scrambled eggs fluffy’ is a long tail keyword. Additionally, location-based keywords are also useful. They are directly related to your business’s physical location. By doing so, you’re more likely to target visitors in your area rather than across town who may or may not ever make it to your location.

Use the keyword research tool - Use Google AdWords Keyword Tool to research your potential target keywords. With these tools, you can gather data on keyword volume and trends, keyword competition, similar keywords and more.

Analyse the results - After choosing your keywords don't forget to monitor them and analyze the results. Don't forget to utilize your keywords wherever possible! The more you use keywords within your content, the easier it will be for your target audience to find you.

Avoid Keyword Stuffing

Speaking of misleading customers that may not find value in your business, adding practically any keyword under the sun is referred to as keyword stuffing and is largely considered a taboo in the digital marketing world. Like with any other digital marketing rule of thumb, less is more and quality will always conquer quantity. Ideally, a website’s content should include keywords in a natural way. However, by inputting keywords into a few sentences and repeating them over and over, you’re stuffing your content with keywords. Even if they’re good keywords, it’s still too much.

To find out more about SEO and how it can help grow your business, book a consultation now.