by Jayson DeMers

Consumers have increasingly turned to online stores to do their shopping, but with so much competition in play, it’s hard for ecommerce business owners to remain competitive. Your online catalog exists to showcase your products to an interested audience, but if that audience never gets their eyes on your offers, it won’t matter how good your deals or products are.

One solution is to optimize your online product catalog for search engines, which will help you rank higher, achieve more brand visibility, and get more traffic to your pages. So how can you do this without spending a fortune?

Strategies for Catalog Optimization

These strategies will help you build a bigger online audience:

1. Use printed and online catalogs together.

If you’re used to operating exclusively online, using a printed catalog may seem foreign to you, but catalog printing is relatively inexpensive through sites like Printing Center USA. It’s a good way to quickly advertise the existence of your online catalog to an audience who may otherwise miss it (demographics who rely on printed advertisements and news), and start directing traffic to your site. This, in turn, creates a synergy between your digital and physical campaigns and jumpstarts your SEO efforts with new traffic, shares, and social media buzz.

2. Use specific product names in your page titles.

Your page titles and descriptions will be the main sources of information that search crawlers use to judge the relevance of your page. Including the specific name of your product will ensure that your page is considered when consumers search for that name; for example, you’ll want to include the brand, the model, the model number, and the variation (if applicable). You’ll also want to briefly describe the product in the meta description.

3. Include at least two paragraphs of descriptive text for each product.

You’ll also want to include lots of descriptive text–at least two paragraphs’ worth–for each of your product pages. According to Spotify’s guide, this not only gives more content for search crawlers to consider and index, it also helps consumers by giving them more information to make a final decision.

4. Optimize your images and videos.

Including images and videos on your product pages is a good way to secure more customer engagement, and you’ll likely earn more backlinks, which are vital if you want to build your authority over time. You can optimize images and video by giving them a descriptive name, including alt text (for images), and including a meta description that describes what’s happening (in the video). You may also consider hosting your videos on YouTube and embedding them on your pages, giving you another outlet of optimization; Backlinko has an excellent guide on YouTube optimization if you’re interested in more information.

5. Include reviews and testimonials.

Reviews and testimonials will make your site seem more authoritative, and as an added bonus, they’ll help push consumers to make a decision. In fact, 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, so the more reviews you’re able to collect, the better.

6. Answer common consumer questions on-site.

You should also include a brief Q&A section on each of your product pages. Here, you’ll list at least a handful of common consumer questions with common phrasing, alongside detailed answers that address those concerns. Again, the information may help consumers make a decision, but they’ll also optimize your pages for long-tail keyword searches, making you more likely to rank when customers submit those queries.

7. Employ Schema.org microformatting.

Microformatting, sometimes called “structured markup,” is a way to format your backend code in a way that allows Google to better understand and categorize it. For example, you can point out what portion of your page is a collection of reviews, and feed information like star ratings and review text to search engine crawlers. This makes it more likely that these features will show up as “rich answers” or “rich snippets,” the sampled bits of onsite content that sometimes appear above regular search results in SERPs. Schema.org is still the best name in microformatting, and they have an excellent guide on how to get started.

Investing in SEO

SEO is a complex strategy, and if you want to get serious with it, you’ll need to hire an expert or start educating yourself in more advanced technical areas. As you can see, however, you don’t need to be an expert to get started. These strategies should be able to help you refine the audience you’re targeting, differentiate yourself from your competitors, and start building the authority you need to outrank them. Remember, this is a long-term strategy, so don’t be frustrated if you don’t see results right away.

Stick with it, and eventually you’ll see your traffic rise.

Be sure and visit our small business news site.

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How to Write Better Content for a Mobile Workforce

 

by Jayson DeMers

If you want your content marketing campaign to be successful, you need
to make sure it appeals to your target audience, both to achieve higher
relevance for strategies like SEO, and to better hold attention from
readers. If your target audience is made up of professionals, that means
catering to industry considerations, including offering instructions,
news, practical advice, and other materials that can improve their
performance in a given niche.

But professional audiences are
evolving, using new technologies, working in different environments, and
developing new demands. For example, according to Dialpad, only 19 percent of full-time workers
spend 40 hours or more behind a desk per week. Our workforce is
becoming increasingly mobile, working remotely and on the go, and our
content needs to change to reflect that shift.

How to Write Better Content for a Mobile Workforce

There are three major changes to consider when brainstorming new content:

  • Mobile devices are smaller and offer a different UI.
    As you’ve undoubtedly experienced in your own life, mobile devices tend
    to have smaller screens and more limited forms of interaction than
    laptops. This reduces the mobile experience and forces you to consider
    narrower, more precise forms of content engagement.
  • Mobile workers have less time.
    If a worker is constantly mobile, they’re probably traveling from
    meeting to meeting and trying to fit everything into a tight schedule.
    That means they have less time and are looking for content to meet their
    needs quickly. As Content Marketing Institute points out, some of the best performing mobile content is also the fastest and easiest to read.
  • Mobile workers research immediate needs.
    When you consult your mobile device, it’s probably for something you
    need immediately. Otherwise, it could wait until you were at a formal
    work station. That means your topics and your tone should be geared
    toward solving a problem as quickly as possible.

Tips for Improvement

So how can you take action to address these considerations?
 

  • Optimize for mobile devices. Your site should already be optimized for mobile devices; if you aren’t sure, you can always run a check using Google’s mobile-friendly tool.
    Your site should be responsive, meaning it adapts based on the size and
    shape of the device viewing it, and all your content should load
    quickly and easily. In addition, all your text should be clearly legible
    without having to scroll or zoom. This is a basic prerequisite if you
    want your content to be engaging.
  • Choose helpful topics.
    Your mobile workforce isn’t as interested in reading high-level
    concepts; they want fast, practical tips. The more useful your content
    is, the better, so spend some time coming up with topics that are
    helpful for your audience. How-to guides, step-by-step troubleshooting,
    and tutorials are all good ideas here.
  • Write more concisely. According to the Purdue OWL, concise writing is a way to choose the most effective, efficient combination of words
    in your article. Writing more concisely doesn’t necessarily mean using
    fewer words; however, that’s often a side effect of the process. Go
    through your articles and eliminate any language that is redundant or
    unnecessary to achieve a complete understanding of your intended
    meaning. This will help your audience read through your content faster,
    getting to the point of your article rather than dwelling on the fluff.
  • Create more videos and visual content.
    Visual content is naturally more engaging, thanks to its appeal to our
    intuitive senses, rather than processed thought. According to Hubspot, the inclusion of a video can increase a page’s likelihood to convert by 80 percent or more,
    and videos are much faster and easier to engage with than a written
    article on mobile devices. That doesn’t mean you need to create videos
    instead of written articles, but you should consider including them more
    frequently–whether they’re standalone content submissions or embedded
    enhancements in your core written material.
  • Make your text stand out.
    When you do write articles, you should structure them in a way that
    naturally appeals to fast readers using small screens. Break up your
    text into smaller paragraphs and shorter, separated sentences. Use bold
    and italics to make certain phrases stand out more than others, and use
    bulleted and numbered lists to make your listed items more obvious.

Once
you implement these tips, you’ll see several benefits for your overall
campaign. For starters, your readers are going to be more engaged, and
they’ll get more out of your material. That means higher customer
loyalty, more conversions, and of course, more comments and social shares, which will increase your audience further.

Beyond
that, optimizing for mobile devices and attracting more links will
increase your search rankings in Google–which is never a bad bonus to
reap.

Be sure and visit our small business news site.

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by Jayson DeMers

If you’re thinking about launching an SEO campaign, one of your biggest concerns is going to be whether it will yield a positive ROI … and how fast you can make it happen.

If you’re planning a campaign for a client, you’ll also want to be able to estimate your effectiveness as a selling point. But is it possible to estimate or predict SEO results with any accuracy?

Why SEO Results are So Hard to Predict

As you’re well aware, the SEO industry is extremely variable. Not only can Google push activity in an entirely new direction with little more than a simple algorithm update, but trying to figure out what the search engines want often seems like trying to shoot a moving target.

There are plenty of signs that suggest how you might proceed, but you aren’t likely to stumble upon the perfect solution.

Herein lies the problem. As an SEO specialist, you have a fairly advanced grasp of what does and doesn’t work, but many factors remain outside of your control.

You can make all the right moves, but at some point, you have to let events happen on their own and trust that the process will unfold according to your plan. In addition, you have to assume there won’t be any significant changes between the moment you execute and the period when the results start to pour in.

“SEO is highly technical and creative at the same time. You can’t just follow a formula and expect to get the same results every single time,” explains Kyle Sanders of CWR SEO. “As any experienced professional in this industry knows, every campaign deals with a unique set of factors. It would be foolish and irresponsible to make wide, overarching projections when there’s so much variance.”

It’s not just the search engines that shift over time, though. You also have to consider the butterfly effect of content popularity.

One small, uncontrollable alteration in the marketplace can have an outsized impact on the type of content that will be most effective thereafter. Thus, while you might be able to design a stellar SEO campaign around a promising set of keywords and topics, only a small shift could suddenly transform your best predictions into anyone’s guess.

Obviously, there will be factors outside of your control, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make any predictions. Clients have a right to request an estimate and hold you to it. After all, they’re paying for a service and expect value. Your mission is to tap into your experience and don’t make promises you can’t keep.

SEO thought leader Stephan Spencer likens SEO to a fitness routine. It’s possible to create a plan, but everyone’s body responds differently.

You can tell someone that he or she will lose weight by burning more calories than the person consumes, but specific steps will still have to be executed and results may vary depending on such details as metabolism, body type, and age.

Furthermore, in order for the desirable results to be achieved, you have to stick to the routine and take it slow.

Four Tips for Estimating Results as Best You Can

Refusing to offer predictions probably isn’t an option. When a client asks you to project future results, you should be prepared to provide an informed answer. The essential strategy is to proceed with caution and avoid making promises you can’t possibly keep.

Here are a few tips that many in the SEO industry have found helpful over the years:

1. Focus on Achievable Goals

“As with your own personal fitness, often it is best to focus on small, achievable goals that are right in front of you. Doing so allows progress to happen, less inhibited by the constant worry of where you are in comparison to the mountain of work ahead of you,” Spencer says.

“Instead of trying to succeed at SEO with a single herculean effort, you can create something great, measure its performance, and then create another starting point from which to continue improving.” In other words, don’t bite off more than you can chew.

When you break the SEO campaign down into digestible bits for your client, you can make more accurate predictions and enjoy plenty of small “wins” along the way.

2. Compare Apples to Apples

If you’re going to go out on a limb to make a prediction for a particular SEO campaign, make sure you compare apples to apples. Just because you achieved a specific result last month with another client, this doesn’t mean you can replicate it utterly today.

Take all of the vital factors into account and only make cross-campaign comparisons when the proper details line up accordingly.

3. Look for Actionable Changes (Not Win-Loss Results)

It’s crucial that you set up clients for positive changes that you can control, especially in the early stages of a campaign. Identify items you are fairly certain you can fix immediately, such as correcting 404 errors, improving site speed, and fixing NAP information on major directories. This will enable you to make concrete projections on the front end and looser estimates on the back end.

4. Project With Past Experiences and Results in Mind

We’ve all had those moments when we read a new article written by a respected expert in the SEO industry, and become excited about applying a new technique or concept. Sometimes these new techniques work and other times they don’t.

The point is you can’t possibly know until you try them out. Avoid making predictions about an SEO concept you’ve never personally employed. It’s best to project with past experiences and results to back you up.

Transparency is the Best Policy

It’s always preferable to under-promise and over-deliver. Clients may try to pressure you into providing quantifiable projections, but do your best to avoid placing yourself in a position you’re liable to regret later.

It’s impossible to predict SEO results to perfection, but you should be able to make fairly accurate projections by leveraging the right resources and sticking to the techniques outlined above.

At the end of the day, transparency is the best policy. Explain to clients why it’s difficult to make accurate predictions, then supply them with the most realistic projections you can.

That’s how to convey value without getting yourself in trouble down the road.

Be sure and visit our small business news site.

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How Accurately Can You Predict the Results of an SEO Campaign?

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by Jayson DeMers

Creating and managing a website is a big step for a business, but just having a website isn’t enough. Establishing a web presence on the web is equivalent to constructing a building for your business in the real world; you can make it pretty on the outside and pretty on the inside, but that doesn’t guarantee any foot traffic, and it certainly doesn’t guarantee any patronage.

If you’re going to maximize the revenue potential of your site, you need to understand who’s coming to your site, why they’re coming to your site, and what you can do to increase those numbers. Fortunately, Google’s free Analytics platform gives you these kinds of insights in great detail. But you still need to know what you’re looking at.

There are tons of different metrics to track in Analytics, and it can be confusing if you’re a first-timer. Instead of trying to learn all the details immediately, narrow your scope to observing patterns in the Acquisition tab–this is going to tell you where your traffic is coming from. Here, you’ll find four major sources of traffic, from which you can gather valuable insights about your site:

1. Direct Traffic.

Direct traffic is measured by visitors who visit your site without any online source directing them to it. For example, if a user types in your URL directly or calls upon it from a stored bookmark, it’s considered a direct visit. Direct visits generally come from one of a few types of consumers–they could be people who heard about your brand offline, repeat visitors who wanted to come back, or even your internal staff checking the site for errors (though you can filter this last segment out entirely for more accurate data). You can improve this traffic by increasing repeat visits and stepping up your brand awareness efforts offline, though as you might imagine, the offsite route is a bit less efficient than other methods.

2. Organic Traffic.

Organic traffic refers to inbound visitors who found your site through search engines. Any traffic from Bing, Google, and other search sites is counted in this data. This is most useful for practitioners of SEO, who use content, links, and other strategies to increase their likelihood of ranking high for various relevant searches–higher organic traffic generally means greater success with the strategy. However, branded searches also count toward this total. If your site is new, this figure will undoubtedly be low, but you can increase this number by optimizing your site, producing regular content, establishing relationships with outside authorities, and getting active on social media. It takes time to develop the domain authority necessary to earn this type of traffic, but it can be a lucrative source in the long term.

3. Referral Traffic.

Referral traffic accumulates any visits that came from outside sources. If links to your site are available on external sources, users can follow those links to find your site. Link building in SEO (or through guest posting) are valuable for this. You might also earn links from local directories or industry directories, provided you submit your information to them. Getting a link published on a high-profile source with tons of traffic can route significant droves of users to your site, but the more valuable a link is, the harder it is to get. Keep a close eye on your link development strategy to increase referral traffic–you might also consider placing affiliate links, which cost a bit of extra money but can be valuable opportunities for getting new traffic. Some links might even crop up naturally if outside sites choose to cite your information–click into the Referral traffic section to see exactly which sources are generating the most traffic to your site.

4. Social Traffic.

Last but not least is social traffic, which can refer to any inbound users from social media sites. The more active you are on social media and the more attractive your links are (think about providing value to users rather than advertising your brand or products), the more visitors you’re liable to get. Over time, as you build a following, this number can skyrocket. If you click into the Social traffic area, you’ll be able to see exactly which platforms are generating the most traffic, and you can weight your strategy to favor those platforms.

Understanding and tracking these four sources of traffic, you’ll learn your users’ strongest preferences, and you’ll be able to cater to those preferences with your marketing strategies and ongoing site development.

As you grow more familiar with Google Analytics, you’ll be able to analyze user behavior on-site, track user demographics, use goals to maximize conversions and generate more revenue, and branch out to other analytics platforms and business intelligence tools to build an ever-clearer picture of your website’s traffic data–but none of this is possible without suitable initial traffic.

Be sure and visit our small business news site.

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9 Tips for Artists Looking for More Search Visibility

 

by Jayson DeMers

Most artists these days maintain a website to sell their services, or at least a blog to show their work. But it’s hard to earn new commissions and work opportunities — whether in the form of a music gig or audience at an art show — unless you can generate a steady stream of traffic to your site.

There are many viable ways to earn such traffic. For example, you can pay for advertising, or build a social media audience first. There’s usually a downside, however: Paying for advertising requires upfront capital that most artists don’t have, and building a social media audience can be an unpredictable and even counterproductive mission.

The Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Advantage

Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the best strategies for additional visibility, and that goes for artists, too. It’s fairly inexpensive, especially when compared to outright advertising; it doesn’t require a base following to start; it requires no formal expertise (at least, again, in the beginning); and it has the potential to grow your traffic exponentially — both in a local area and on a national basis.

Higher search rankings will almost always result in higher inbound traffic. So as long as your site’s content and conversion rates are in order, attention to SEO is going to lead to greater interest in your services.

Tips for Artists and Musicians

So how can an artist make the most of this strategy? In addition to following standard best practices for SEO, you’ll particularly want to employ the following tactics:

1. Declare a niche for yourself.

Make sure you have a dedicated, specific niche that you serve, and be as specific as possible. This specificity will ensure you don’t have much competition. For example, if you knit blankets, don’t just optimize for terms such as “knitted blankets”; get more specific with terms like “custom knitted blankets for newborns” or “knitted blankets with nerdy design.”

2. Make your services clear on dedicated pages.

Dedicated pages with associated keyword terms aren’t as essential as they used to be, but they’re still valuable for artists and musicians. Most people are going to be searching for your goods based on the type of service you’re performing, so keep at least one or two pages that have rich content focused on what you actually do.

3. Use a personal brand.

Even if you have a regular brand (such as a dedicated store for your products or a band name), you’ll want to use a personal brand in conjunction with it. A personal brand will help you increase the visibility of your content, and increase the appeal of your business for prospective customers.

4. Keep your branding consistent.

No matter what you’re doing — whether it’s on your own site, a publisher’s site, or social media — keep your branding consistent. Sooner or later, people will search for you by name, so you’ll want to keep all your brand names and identity signatures as consistent and recognizable as possible over the long run.

5. Write about your trade.

People are always interested in learning arts, crafts, and music, so take the time to write a blog about your trade. Don’t necessarily give away the “secret sauce,” but you should go out of your way to share your knowledge and expertise. This will make your content highly shareable and visible, which is an easy shortcut to getting more backlinks for your page (and therefore more domain authority to boost your rankings).

6. Incorporate multimedia content.

You’re an artist, so show off the goods! Make sure you’re incorporating plenty of examples of multi-media content on your site, including images, video, and sound clips. Optimize these features with appropriate titles and description tags so they can easily be found through search.

7. Network with other artists.

Get to know other local artists, and network with them online. Work on sharing one another’s content, and cross-pollinate your social media followings (especially if you serve complementary niches). Any boosts in visibility you garner will help you both out.

8. Get involved in local events.

Local SEO is a good shortcut for fast visibility … especially for artists, who usually have a specifically local appeal. Get involved in local events, and write about your presence: You’ll get some love from the event hosts, and you’ll build your relevance for your region. On top of that, you’ll probably earn some backlinks, which make it even easier to land a spot in the local “3-pack.”

9. Attract reviews.

One of the best ways to build local search visibility is through positive online reviews. The more reviews you have on third-party directory sites, and the more highly rated they are, the more likely you’ll be to appear in the local 3-pack. Publicize your listings in these areas, and try to optimize your reviews (without soliciting them directly).

Keeping Things Affordable

Plenty of SEO agencies and professionals can help you earn higher rankings, but they may cost several thousand dollars a month or more. As a budding artist or musician, you may not have access to that kind of cash.

Instead, focus on building your rankings as frugally as possible. Spend a few hours learning the basics of SEO on your own, and focus on the tactics you can do effectively on your own. You may run into issues, and eventually find it helpful, even necessary, to enlist professional services; but to get started, you don’t need much. Prioritize the fundamentals; you can always build from there.

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