For the last few years, local businesses that excel in their crafts have enjoyed a prime spot on the Google 3-pack listing of hits close to the user’s location. However, Google announced a change that will bring the 3-pack configuration down to just a 2-pack – turning the third spot into a paid advertisement.
Paid-For Inclusions: Is this the End of Good Business?
Traditionally, the only businesses included in Google’s 3-pack of local hits were those that earned their spots by genuinely doing good business. These businesses won their prominent placements through years of hard work, search engine optimization strategy, and positive consumer reviews. Now, Google is giving one of the spots (the top spot, no less) to any business that will pay for it.
Google advertised the system at this year’s SMX Advanced with the tagline: “Fully unlock the potential of local internet on mobile.” It appears the key will cost more than a little elbow grease. The 3-pack was difficult enough for businesses to get into. Now, with a 33% smaller chance, many local businesses feel put out. This change could cause problems for local business owners as well as consumers.
Consumers will lose the guarantee that the top local hit is actually a popular business. They will have to dig further for this information, looking businesses up on Yelp and reading reviews. For many business owners, Google seems to be shutting out old-fashioned, high-quality businesses in favor of businesses that pay for fame; many entrepreneurs who pride themselves on their earned status think this a poor practice.
Some consumers worry that this will be a crushing blow for local businesses, which already spend a good chunk of their budgets on optimizing advertisements for Google. Google’s need to boost revenue is quickly smothering its incentives for good businesses. The apprehension the public feels about this is worse than when Google announced it was cutting the glorious 7-pack down to just 3 back in August 2015.
The Skinny on the Slimmer 3-Pack
The new 3-pack structure – or 2-pack plus 1 ad – will be available as part of Adwords Extensions to local business advertisers. These ads may make Adwords Express a viable marketing channel for local businesses that want to jump to the top of their local 3-pack listings, if it also becomes available on Express.
Google is testing the new 2-pack, meaning we may see something different once it officially debuts. This could even mean more ads and fewer organic results. There is also the question of whether Google will keep the four advertisements at the top of the search results, hitting users with five ads in a row. We won’t find out until Google releases the change, which could be at any time.
Organic traffic appears to be getting lost in the shuffle of a pay-to-play business model with Google’s newest update. It’s too soon to tell what the new 2-pack system will mean to local businesses, but one thing is clear: It’s Google’s world and we’re all just living in it.
For more information on upgrading your SEO strategy, request your free copy of our eBook, Local Search – A Guide to Increasing Your Local Search Presence. Click below to request your free copy.
Branding in the Inbound Age Webinar
Inbound Marketing Consultant and branding expert, Patrick Giammarco, will host a free Webinar titled Branding in the Inbound Age on Thursday, October 6, 2016 from 9-10 am EST. All registrants receive an e-book titled The Essential ABC’s of Inbound Marketing.
CLICK TO REGISTER
Giammarco, owner of an Inbound Marketing agency, has delivered marketing strategy, content marketing and inbound marketing services to businesses around the world since 2008.
“Making a brand standout today is no easy feat and branding in the Inbound Age is a different game all together,” said Giammarco. “Branding in today’s Inbound Age means branding in the Age of the Internet and digital marketing moves so quickly that brands need to keep up or risk getting left behind,” he added. “How you brand your business today is no longer just a function of clever creative and timely ad placements, but your ability to deliver content to the right people, in the right places, at just the right times.”
Attendees of Branding in the Inbound Age Webinar will learn:
- What Inbound Marketing is
- Why Inbound Marketing is critical to the growth of their business
- How Inbound Marketing works
- What businesses need to implement an inbound strategy
Are you harnessing the power of Inbound Marketing? Join Patrick Giammarco October 6, 2016 for his free Branding in the Inbound Age Webinar. Click to register http://demo.pwgmarketing.com/register-branding-in-the-inbound-age-webinar.
About PWG Marketing
A hybrid marketing agency, PWG Marketing is on a mission to replace annoying, interruptive marketing with marketing that people love. Powered by Duct Tape Marketing and HubSpot, PWG Marketing develops integrated inbound marketing campaigns that include: strategy, branding, content publishing, public relations, social media, SEO, website development, email marketing, lead nurturing and analytics. Find us at www.pwgmarketing.com.
What if you could have a steady flow of leads coming to your law firm’s website? Not just a few, but enough to allow you to choose who you represent and the cases you take on.
Accomplishing this may sound like it would take an expensive marketing budget and a commercial on daytime television, but it’s possible without many traditional marketing methods. Sound too good to be true?
With so many people near you searching for lawyers, you don’t have to go after them if they find you. Access to the Internet is quickly rendering traditional marketing obsolete. Personal injury, Social Security disability, divorce, settlement claims and other individuals with legal trouble are more likely to look for a lawyer on their iPhone than to call.
How Do You Adjust to This Change?
The best process is called Inbound Marketing, and it can change the way you find clients. So, how exactly can it help your law practice?
This is a tough question to answer. Not because it is a stretch. It’s due to the fact there are so many ways that it works for small businesses, especially law firms. Inbound rather than traditional marketing helps you gather specific, targeted leads that need what you have.
Click to read Top 5 Reasons Inbound Marketing is Better than Traditional
To start, you identify your ideal clients. Figuring out the characteristics of the cases and people that further your business and personal goals as a lawyer will help lay the foundation for your inbound marketing efforts.
Next, you’ll create tailored content directly to those ideal personas and optimize it for search engines, like Google. Then, when one of the many people suited for your skills finds your content while searching, they will be attracted to your firm’s website.
Your Website Plays an Important Role
You probably don’t work alone. There are legal assistants, secretaries, and possibly other lawyers where you work. Everyone is doing their part to ensure the success of the firm. Although, your website may not be pulling its weight. Chances are, your potential clients are visiting your virtual office before setting an appointment with your secretary.
A focused site could be the most important element in your inbound marketing strategy. Having a website that gives an ideal client what they are looking for, while leading them to an action that you desire, is work that only a well-designed and thought out website can do.
This post is just the start into a world of inbound that can bring you ideal clients that have already begun the education process when they contact you.
To see how close you are to having a funnel set up for your law firm, sign up for our free consultation today.
Find out why your customers can’t find you online. Request your free Local SEO and Inbound Marketing audit today!
Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing
The term “inbound marketing” was thought to be a trendy buzzword soon to go away. But many years later, it has become the strategy for online marketing efforts of small businesses.
Guy Kawasaki famously said, “If you have more money than brains, you should focus on outbound marketing. If you have more brains than money, you should focus on inbound marketing.” It would seem that the skeptics are wrong and inbound marketing is here to stay, because it’s hard to deny its effectiveness.
That is not to say outbound marketing, or traditional marketing has no place. But it pays to take a good look at what advantages inbound has over traditional tactics.
Traditional marketing includes advertising on TV, radio, print, outdoor, tradeshoes, etc. These channels are not cheap and oftern can run in tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.
With inbound, you may spend a portion of your marketing budget on strategy, content creation and SEO, but the costs associated are no where near that of traditional marketing.
Custom content is more relevant than ever. Inbound focuses on building relationships with customers through customized content. It feels more personal and relevant than traditional advertising, which is primarily used for awareness building and branding.
When was the last time you were excited to receive junk mail or a call from a telemarketer? Probably never. On the contrary, inbound is based on your customer giving permission, or “opting-in.”
Inbound is not intrusive because you can decide you want to visit a certain website. Social media sites like Facebook display only relevant ads related to something you searched for recently. And even if those ads don’t speak to you, they’re not “in your face” like a TV or a radio ad.
Traditional marketing through expos or trade shows can only be done once at a certain time. Then the vendors have to return again the following year. For the most part, print ads are only relevant within a day or two of their run date.
Inbound marketing through blog posts, white papers, ebooks and social media, on the other hand, can sustain itself. It only has to be written once and put up once, and people can download it over and over. The content created for inbound marketing campaigns is a durable digital asses that generate leads for years.
Again with the trade show example, traditional advertising takes longer to plan and execute. Trade shows are typically a week long and take time to transport, set up, and tear down. This requires manual labor.
While some parts of inbound like content generation can’t be automated, many parts can be automated to save time.
It’s important for businesses to know which marketing efforts give them the best ROI. Many times, inbound is the answer.
Find out why your customers can’t find you online. Request your free Local SEO and Inbound Marketing audit today!
Summary of Google’s Organic Search Algorithm Changes
Google makes changes to its search algorithm on an annual basis, approximately 500 to 600 times a year. These changes are typically minor however Google has and will make major algorithmic updates (like the Hummingbird change below) that have a significant effect on search results on an ongoing basis.
Understanding, even at a basic level, when Google algorithm changes take place, why the changes were made and how they impact rankings and website traffic will ultimately provide improvements to your overall search engine optimization process.
Although there have been many changes to search algorithms, the most popular changes (that have created the largest impact on web search engines) appear below.
Some of Google’s updates are unnamed and sometimes unconfirmed. For example, there was a suggestion related to an e-commerce-based update however this has not been confirmed by Google to date.
On April 21, 2015, Google™ made a major update to mobile search, which will reward websites that are mobile-friendly and punish those that are not.
Other updates that were confirmed by Google are listed below.
Penguin – Penalized sites with over-optimized or unnatural (spammy) links
Google Penguin was first announced in April 2012. It is an algorithm created to penalize (i.e. lower the natural/organic search rankings) of sites that have manipulative back-link profiles, such as:
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]High percentage of exact match anchor texts
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]A lot of low-quality links
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Links from article directories and rich anchor text press releases
At the time, the Penguin update shook up the industry because rich anchor text links were the primary practice for targeting and ranking keywords.
Google launched another update on October 17, 2014. This update was said to be smaller than initially expected according to the experts. It was reported that this update was likely data-only, and not a new Penguin algorithm. Just slightly more than 1% of the United States / English-based queries were affected. It was also reported that the timing of this update was uncertain, particularly on an international level. Google stated that the update was spread over a period of weeks.
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Follow Google’s Disavow Backlinks Guide and remove low-quality, 3rd party links from linking to you. Don’t take the blame for someone who is participating in a link-building scheme or otherwise violating Google’s quality guidelines.
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Avoid pay-for-link and other shifty link-building tactics.
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Start or continue creating high-quality, educational, relevant, compelling content targeted towards your Ideal Client. When the Penguin algorithm change was announced, Google’s Matt Cutt’s had this to say:
“If you’re doing high quality content, Penguin shouldn’t be a big surprise. You shouldn’t have to worry about a lot of different changes.”
Panda – Penalized sites with low-quality, thin content
Google Panda was initially rolled out in Feb. 2011. Unlike Penguin, the Panda algorithm was designed to detect websites that have “low-quality or thin” content and reduce their organic search rankings accordingly. Low quality refers to duplicate, auto-generated or bad content and thin means short, unhelpful pages, possibly with lots of ads.
In 2012, Google announced an over-optimization penalty to Panda. This update intended to help sites with great content rank higher than sites with average content and better SEO, thus helping to spark the content marketing craze.
Fast forward to May 20, 2014 and Panda 4.0 was released. According to Search Engine Watch, Google stated that about 7.5 percent of English queries may see an impact from this update.
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]In response to Panda, Google’s Matt Cutts has this to say:
“The overriding goal is to try to make sure that you’ve got high-quality content, the sort of content that people really enjoy, that’s compelling, the sort of thing that they’ll love to read that you might see in a magazine or in a book, and that people would refer back to, or send friends to…”
Hummingbird – Complete overhaul/replacement of Google’s search algorithm
Google announced the Hummingbird 1.0 in August 2013. Hummingbird was a complete overhaul/replacement of Google’s search algorithm. To use a car analogy, liken it to replacing the engine versus getting an oil change.
One of the most interesting aspects of Hummingbird is the incorporation of semantic search or the true meaning behind what is being search on. As such, Hummingbird gives more attention to each word in a search query, ensuring that the entire sentence or conversation or meaning is taken into account, rather than particular words.
In short, with Hummingbird, Google is trying to find the intent behind search queries and offer up more relevant solutions. The competitive landscape for search is becoming less and less about keywords and more about the searcher’s meaning behind them.
For the searcher this is a good thing, but what does it mean for businesses?
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Businesses must understand and adapt to semantic search and the knowledge graph.
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Increasingly, businesses need to position themselves as the source for answers to the questions people are asking.
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Become good at understanding a searcher’s intent, needs and problems. Look at queries and what they really need and then give the people behind the queries want they are looking for.
Pigeon – Impacts local SEO rankings
Google created quite a shock in the SEO world when it made its update called Pigeon, which dramatically affected local results and changed how they handled and interpreted location cues. When a search query indicated local intent (50% of all mobile searches have some sort of geographic descriptor) Google will tailor results to the searcher’s location using their device’s IP address.
Google also reported that the pigeon update created an even closer tie between core algorithms and the local algorithms. What does that mean? Since Pigeon, traditional on- and off-page ranking factors such as page titles, descriptions, meta data, content, site architecture and backlinks impact local ranking even more.
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Make sure you have accurate business name, address and phone number (NAP) on the top directories that are important for your business.
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Earn Links – check out 5 Local Link-Building Ideas for the Post-Penguin/Panda Era
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Get Reviews – Review signals account for about 10% of all ranking factors. More importantly, reviews are positive feedback from your actual customers that trigger clicks and ultimately more business
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Make sure you have optimized your social profiles, citations, and Google+ profiles to reflect a specific location (i.e. neighborhood of a city or region, zip code, etc.) not just the name of that city or region.
There has been many updates and changes to the Google algorithm that has been identified for years and reported as far back as 2000. More than ever, businesses should monitor sites that make this information available, so they can keep abreast of any changes that may have a direct effect on their market.
Are you getting found online locally by people looking for what you have to offer?
If not, find out why by downloading our FREE eBook Local SEO: A Guide to Increasing Your Search Presence.
If you run a business then you probably know a decent amount about the industry you’re in. How to better serve your customers, provide high quality products or services, and attracting new business are things that are constantly on your mind.
You also may have noticed that the internet has begun to affect every type of business including those that don’t even have websites. It has become increasingly common for someone to find your business online before they actually talk to you or stop in. With search engines becoming more helpful; your potential customers can learn who you are, what you do, and what others are saying in a matter of moments. This makes paying attention to your local presence online incredibly important.
What Is Local SEO?
Local search engine optimization (SEO) is a process that sets your business up, to not only look its best online, but it also makes it easier to be found by people searching for what you offer in your area. This can be an incredibly powerful tool in gathering new business, but it can also have negative effects if you leave your online presence unmanaged.
For instance, if you have an Italian restaurant and someone goes to Google and types ‘Italian food in Toledo, OH’, it would benefit you to be among the top results. People who hadn’t heard about you would give you a shot because of your location in the search. If you hadn’t worked on your local online presence then they wouldn’t see you as you probably would not come up as a relevant local search result for their query.
Click to Read 6 Quick Tips About Local SEO
Managing Your Online Reputation
You constantly try to impress your customers to keep them coming back and referring their friends. Your reputation matters in the community you serve. The online landscape can also have a reputation for your business and it is quickly becoming just as important to manage. Small things like having two different addresses listed online or bad reviews that a customer wrote without you knowing can have a huge effect on who can see your business, and what they think about you.
What You Can Do
People are searching for local businesses like yours, but you can only get the incredible benefits if they can find you. The good news is there are things that you can do to jump start your improvements.
Look Up Your Business Online
See if anyone is talking about your business or has left a review. Search for your business to see if all of the information is correct and matches.
Chances are you have some sort of social presence, like a Facebook page, but you can create a Google+ local business page to list what you do, and where you are located.
SEO can be a very confusing subject, and you may even want to get professional help with your online marketing efforts. Although just being informed will help you feel more in control and help you manage your reputation. There is a 40 question test offered here free of charge. It takes about 10 minutes and will help you see how important local SEO is and it will get you on the path to being informed
Find out why your customers can’t find you online. Request your free
Local SEO and Inbound Marketing audit today!