» Chris Darling
For many busy electrical, plumbing, HVAC and building contractors, keeping the books full is a balance between new jobs for repeat customers, repairs and upgrades to projects, and new work that comes in the door. Keeping the new jobs and repair work steady is a matter of great customer service and delivering on quality, but how do you bring the new work in, now that it’s all coming from the infinite and great Internet?
The answer lies in three small letters: SEO. Search Engine Optimization is the key to making sure your pipeline of new customers is limited only by the time you have to service the work.
Before SEO Tools Developed
In the 1980s, you bought an ad in the Yellow Pages, or named your company at the top of the alphabet to get noticed in the Big Book. In the 1990s, you built a website. In the 2000s, you optimized it. But is your SEO strategy up-to-date? And is your search marketing and local SEO provider using the latest tools and analytics to deliver real results? Here we have the best SEO tools for small business to turn to today.
At Darling SEO, we’re a small business, too. And the reason you’re reading this right now is the reason we can help you: we know how to bring prospects into your web space and convert them into customers, using the latest SEO techniques.
By the way, we’re strictly White Hat providers. This means we use only above-board, honest, organic techniques to give customers the same great first impression of your company online that you deliver when you meet them in person. No spamming, no phishing, no keyword stuffing, no gimmicks, and no shortcuts; just the very latest in analysis and next-level thinking about your site. How do we do it? Read on below for the 10 Best SEO Tools we use to take a small business like yours to the top of the page.
Although you need some expertise to get the most out of these tools, you don’t have to be an SEO expert or search marketing consultant to look around and understand a little more about how it all works. It’s worth a look to see the possibilities and understand what your in-house webmaster, IT department, or digital marketing manager uses to get the best results for your online marketing dollar.
The “Go To” SEO Tools Today
- SEMrush is a comprehensive digital marketing tool that helps build an organic online marketing campaign. It’s the tool we use to get competitive data for a client’s website quickly. It’s a great place to start researching keywords because it tells you absolutely everything you need to know, in an easy-to-understand format. Here’s what SEMrush can tell you:
- Related keywords, phrases and terms you can use to diversify your content language and link-building
- Popular keywords in your industry
- Listings that are getting a lot of unpaid hits
- Competition for your keywords or others you are considering
- PPC (Pay Per Click) amounts in Google Adwords for each keyword
- Number of times the keyword or phrase is typed into Google
You can even export this information in Excel for later use and analysis, which is helpful if you plan to test several keywords or phrases to see which are most relevant for the campaign you’re building.
Pros: SEMrush a one-stop-shop for keyword research and competitive analysis that also helps you generate ideas for relevant content that will resonate with your target audience.
Cons: This amazing tool is free – but only for 14 days!
Tools for Website Audits
2. Screaming Frog SEO Spider is a “crawler” tool that helps SEO professionals, website developers, and IT managers analyze the structure of a website. We use it to perform – and perform again! – technical audits of our clients’ websites so that we can continually improve their performance. Screaming Frog duplicates the way search engines crawl a site and grabs everything in sight, including links, redirects, 404s, heading tags, status codes, anchor text, page titles, internal backlink and external link data…pretty much everything that can be found to analyze, this tool will retrieve for you.
Pros: Works for both PC and Mac users, and the level of detail you can get is second to none.
Cons: To truly understand the reports from this tool, you need professional level SEO and HTML expertise. The language they use are very much “inside baseball”!
3. Website Auditor software is a very useful auditing tool for website maintenance. We use it to monitor the structure of our clients’ sites – i.e. find broken links, see external links, and compare numbers of links to various pages. Then, we go in and fix the broken links, coding errors, 404 / server errors, mis-indexed pages, and correct or add titles and meta descriptions. We also eliminate duplicate content that has somehow ended up on the site.
Pros: This tool makes it easy to go in and see what needs to be tweaked, while offering a lot of extras along the way: internal linking and architecture analysis; most-linked to and from web pages; link value information; search engine and social media performance for each page; etc. You can even print this data as a user-friendly report to share.
Cons: The reporting function isn’t customizable – it gives you the data based on only a few metrics, which may or may not be the ones you use.
4. Clicky gives Google Analytics a run for its money when it comes to everyday page and keyword analysis. It’s a simple, user-friendly tool that tells us who is on our client’s site at that moment, where the traffic is coming from – and where it goes when it leaves, incoming links, bounce rate…the list goes on and on.
Pros: Easy to use, with real time data and it’s free for small businesses with fewer than 3k impressions per day.
Cons: Google Analytics does offer a similar service free of charge, no matter the size of your business.
5. Moz is popular with pros and do-it-yourself SEO types for a reason: its MozBar is easy to use, and a handy reference tool when generating reports for clients or searching for credible sites to link to when developing web content. Moz has very robust tools to use for Local SEO as well. Moz Local is invaluable for dealing with duplicate listings on the many directories we deal with for Local SEO.
Pros: Free and easy to use; useful for web writing.
Cons: If your job mainly involves technical analysis, you might not use it very often.
Link Building and Analysis
6. Majestic SEO is a competitive link analysis tool that we use to see what best practices we can glean from a client’s competitors. It can be used to:
- See which posts competitors are successfully getting traffic from
- See how competitors’ link building is generating traffic
- Find quality websites to discuss linking to with the client’s in-house marketing team
- See which sites link to the competitors’ sites
- Analyze which links the top 3 sites use
- See which competitors are putting out spam – not being punished for it
Pros: Majestic is an amazing way to learn about a client’s competitors and how they are achieving the rankings they have. It’s the absolute best link building tool on the market today, and provides a road map that tells us how the client should be marketing their business via their website.
Cons: Data is great, but this is another tool that you really need to have a background in search marketing and SEO to take advantage of. Still, it’s good to be familiar with its capabilities and as you sit down with your digital marketing team to discuss strategy.
7. Link Prospector is the next step in link building once you’ve done your analysis on Majestic SEO. Once you’ve identified a general course of action based on what the client’s competitors have had success with, Link Prospector can help you dig deeper by helping locate the quality directories, pages, guest blogs, forums, and posts you can target.
Pros: Laser focus and tons of ideas with a very high ROI. Simply put, this is where you get your links.
Cons: Lots of data to sift through and understand – but worth it!
**NOTE: Yes, Majestic SEO and Link Prospector together can help you re-create a competitor’s strategy and tactics, but copycat marketing is not what we are going for. What we look for is inspiration and ideas – to understand what is working and why, then deliver an original source marketing plan that meets our clients’ individual goals while taking advantage of the knowledge gained through competitive analysis.
Google Web Marketing Tools
8. Google Keyword Planner is the public keyword tool with which everyone should be somewhat familiar. It’s always helpful to stay on top of what Google is doing, and how they “see” your keywords.
Pros: Ubiquitous and free, and ever-improving, Keyword Planner is something to keep an eye on for pros and DIY types alike.
Cons: It’s not as comprehensive or intuitive / easy to use as other tools.
9. Google Analytics is another site to bookmark for anyone who owns and operates an online business. Some of our clients use it as a daily check-in so they can monitor their website traffic, origin, and links – almost as obsessively as people who are always checking their stock portfolios. It’s useful insight for sure, but one tool among many we use to develop a comprehensive strategy for our clients.
Pros: If you’re just getting started with web analytics, this is the place to start on your path to understanding the mechanics of your site. It’s not overwhelming, and offers plenty of useful information such as a quick traffic analysis.
Cons: Other tools can provide a more comprehensive analysis that will provide more guidance with plan and strategy development, for pros who know how to read the results.
10. Pro Rank Tracker software is a cloud-based “rank checker” that we use to do a deep dive into a client’s web ranking as we develop a plan to improve it on their behalf. It’s easy to use, and delivers simple and accurate ranking information you can trust.
Pros: You can track rankings from all search engines, including YouTube, in every location, and the data can be filtered, sorted, and downloaded into Google Analytics. It’s also very affordable.
Cons: You’ll need to constantly run the program to get ongoing tracking – and the software can really slow down your computer.
These are just some of the tools we use to develop a strategy and online source marketing and SEO plan for our clients in the construction and contracting industries. Our specialized understanding of our clients’ industry sector combined with a passion for what can be achieved through smart online strategies is the cornerstone of our business. We succeed by helping you succeed.
For more information on how we help our clients achieve the online results they want, contact us.
Read our customer testimonials here.
My New Book Teaches How to Build a Better Business
Hello, I’m Chris Darling. We all know that contractors build things from the ground up. My job is building contractors’ businesses up to where they are noticed on the Internet by potential customers.
Contractors repair things, and my job is to repair and restructure the contractors’ online image, giving them positive and effective search engine presence. This means that my clients are able to attract more customers, which results in greater profits.
You could say I built myself from the ground up
I started out in the business world working with children with autism, until one day I decided to learn to build and repair computers. Having conquered that goal, I then decided to market myself and my computer repair business on the Internet. After a lot of research, I learned how to do that so well (and enjoyed it so much) that I developed my own SEO (Search Engine Optimization) marketing firm. Today I work predominantly with contracting firms to help their businesses attract and retain customers.
When people start businesses, they need to have an SEO and marketing expert there to guide them
Many people think they can just start a business, hang out a shingle, put a page up on the Internet and sit back and wait for the customers to rush in. But it doesn’t work that way.
There are very few businesses that are so niche that they have little or no competition, and even these businesses need a way to get the word out about their products or services.
Even if you are the very best at what you do, if you do not successfully market yourself you will have very little business. Here are some of the ways I market my clients:
- Digital web presence
Businesses both small and large need a web presence. According to a Shopper Study done by GE Capital Retail Bank, 81% of people making large purchases research online before buying. The study also said that consumers visit an average of five sites before making a decision.
You need to build a site that makes that top five list, and it needs to offer the information consumers want to see in order to be able to compare your services with the services of your competitors.
My job is to ensure your site is the best, that it offers the consumers all the information they could possibly want, and that it ranks high in search engine results.
- Blogs and other ways to engage potential customers
There are many creative avenues for getting the word out about your products and services via today’s Internet. I know them all, and use them to promote businesses.
eMarketer’s research shows that approximately 140 million people read blogs daily. Technorati Media’s research indicates that 31% of the consumers reading blogs that offer useful information make purchase decisions based on those blogs.
Social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram are other marketing forces that bring in customers. According to Hubspot.com, 92% of the businesses using social media to promote their products and services say their business has increased due to their social media exposure.
Businesses that have been around for awhile also need a marketing expert if they want to grow
As a recently published author and SEO specialist, I have been named a trendsetter for my work with local businesses in and around Wilmington, Delaware. My new book, Local Marketing Trendsetters, Volume 1, Customer Attraction Strategies From Top Local Marketing Experts is is available in Kindle format at Amazon.com. It offers businesses strategies for attracting customers and keeping them.
Written with five other local marketing specialists, this is a must-have book for businesses that explains how to go about moving a business ahead of its competitors using our tried and true marketing techniques.
My firm, Darling SEO, specializes in working with contractors in and around Wilmington, but I also consult with clients nationwide as well as with major digital marketing firms.
Local search marketing. Sounds like another complicated web term, doesn’t it? It’s really not, though. Local search marketing refers to the way businesses can utilize certain online business directories and search engine features to promote a business based on it’s geographic location. Businesses that would benefit from geo-targeting, or making themselves known to people in a certain location, will find that the marketing techniques they need to embrace are somewhat different from those a business or website with a broader reach would need to use.
Not sure where to start? This list offers a plethora of resources you can use to learn about local search marketing as well as tools you can use to implement your plan. Not everything on this list is for you. Read, learn, and choose the concepts, ideas, and tools that will work best for you and your unique business strategy.
People to Listen to Closely
First of all, it never hurts to look for people who are established professionals and experts and really study what they’re doing. Those who are successful and have made names for themselves have done so through constant study and consistent effort. You’ll quite often find that it is more than worth your effort to at least check out what they’re saying and to perhaps model parts of your own marketing plan after their advice.
1. David Mihm
Mihm is an internationally recognized expert when it comes to local search engine marketing. He started his marketing career with an advertising agency, as a designer, and then moved into search marketing. He’s been an independent entrepreneur since 2006 and has a lot to say. You can find him writing columns for Search Engine Land and for his own blog, Mihmorandum.
2. Mike Blumenthal
Fondly referred to as “Professor Maps,” Mike Blumenthal is one of the foremost Local Search experts in North America. His blog, Understanding Google Maps & Local Search, offers unique insight based off of years of experience and personal troubleshooting. Blumenthal co-founded Local U, a conference series that travels the US to bring local search marketing seminars to business owners.
3. Linda Buquet
Linda Buquet has a strong relationship with and understanding of Google, and that makes her someone worth paying attention to. With more than 11 years of SEO experience, she has been named one of Google’s top contributors. She’s a Google Places blogger and curator and works closely with Google’s upper management team to bring information to Google Places forum users. Through her company, Catalyst eMarketing, she has helped to create successful campaigns for companies like National Geographic and the Google Affiliate Network. Proven experience is something to respect!
4. Nyagoslav Zhekov
Nyagoslav Zhekov has been focused on local search marketing ever since he entered the online marketplace. He put his personal research and ideas to use during an internship with Label Bank and then immediately began working with an SEO group, after which he left to co-found OptiLocal. You can find him contributing columns to Search Engine Land, David Mihm, Blumenthals, and a myriad of other established SEO blogs. He just recently took a job with Whitespark, as the Director of Local Search, and will now be posting on their blog.
5. Matt Cutts
Matt Cutts is the head of Google’s Webspam Team. There is absolutely no reason on the planet for you to ignore his presence. He’s been working with Google since 2000 and is responsible for the first version of Google’s SafeSearch family filter. He’s been working on webspam and search quality topics for years and offers a great deal of insight as to what Google likes and does not like. Follow his blog. Find him on YouTube. Look for him on other social media sites. Do not ignore him.
6. Darren Shaw
President and founder of the aforementioned Whitespark, Darren Shaw has been working closely with websites and SEO for about 16 years. His primary focus is and has always been on the local search community. He frequently speaks at conferences like SearchFest, Searchlove, and Mozcon. Look for him on the Whitespark blog or on Google Plus.
7. John Mueller
John Mueller is a Webmaster Trends Analyst for Google. He frequently hosts Google+ hangouts where he discusses Google updates and SEO. Make sure you add him to your Google+ circles so you can stay informed as he plans new hangouts. Questions you may have for him before the hangouts can be published to Moderator Google and voted for. He often answers questions from there, as well as from physical participants, during his HO sessions.
8. Josh Bachynski
With more than 17 years of IT experience, Josh has become an expert in online brand strategy and social media integration. He believes (and he’s right) that social media and SEO are both important and both need to be utilized. You can often find him interpreting the hangouts hosted by John Mueller, and he has his own advice and opinion to share as well. Your best bet is to follow his SEO Hangouts on YouTube.
You know who to watch out for and you’re gathering ideas. Before you can make a true local marketing plan, you need to do a bit of research about your niche, your area, and your target audience.
9. Majestic SEO
Majestic SEO is an excellent tool for analyzing your own site as well as those of your closest competitors. The system is designed to help you track the success of your SEO campaigns as well as your social media team. The suite includes webmaster tools that allow you to verify ownership of your own domains, a site explorer tool, a search explorer for keyword checks, a keyword checker, backlink checker, and a site comparison tool. You can even use the “Link Profile Fight” tool to compare two sites! There is a free plan and upgrades range from $50 to $1,500 per month, depending on your needs.
10. Open Site Explorer
Run by Moz, Open Site Explorer is a search engine for links designed to help you find out who is linking back to your website. This is helpful because you can use this information to strengthen your business relationship with authority sites linking back to you, while also identifying problem areas – like links to pages that no longer exist (broken links). You can also research your competitors to find out who they’re getting links from. Open Site Explorer alone is free to use.
11. SEM Rush
Another great tool for researching your competitors, SEM Rush is geared more towards search and marketing professionals. This tool collects tons of details about your sites and those of your competitors, including AdWords ad copy, organic search engine positions for the keywords your competitors are using, search volumes, and tons of other data. All of these metrics will help you to determine your own position as compared to your competitors so that you can take action to rise above them in the local listings. Plans start at $79/month.
12. Google AdWords Keyword Planner
The Google AdWords Keyword Planner will help you to expand your keyword research even more. You may know what words are prevalent on your site, or on those of your competitors, but this tool will actually help you figure out what your potential customers are looking for when they browse the web. You can use this research to refine your on-site SEO as well as your off-site ad campaigns.
13. Market Samurai
Market Samurai is a great keyword research tool every business should know about. You can use it to research keywords, competition, the relevancy of your keywords, and traffic levels. You can also use Market Samurai to research your SEO competition and to track your current search engine rankings for different keywords. You can download a free trial before purchasing the full version for a one-time fee of $149.
Local Search Ecosystem
The local search ecosystem is the environment where your business data; name, address, and phone number (NAP) is published on different business listing sites. David Mihm (mentioned above), has spent hours researching different top tier data suppliers to determine how the information they provide flows back through the different web directories and, ultimately, to the search engines themselves. The infographics give you a great visual representation of why it sometimes takes so long for things to show up in Google. David started creating this infographic back in 2009. The original was not updated until 2012 and was updated again in 2013. You can tell which data providers are more prominent by comparing the sizes of their graphics on the chart.
14. The 2012 Local Search Ecosystem
The infographic produced in 2012 shows some interesting data, including the importance major players are placing on data from Localeze and the decline in the influence of data from Acxiom. He also makes major note of the influence of Google Map Maker, Twitter API, and a few newer players. Click here to view The Local Search Ecosystem in 2012 infographic.
15. The 2013 Local Search Ecosystem
Things change quickly when it comes to the web, of course, and you can see some of these changes represented in The 2013 Local Search Ecosystems infographic. Notable are the questions asked about Acxiom, the introduction of Foursquare data, and the continued importance of Google Maps.
16. The Local Search Ecosystem in Canada
Trends differ from country to country. This particular infographic highlights The Local Search Ecosystem in Canada via infographic. A major difference is the use of YellowPages in Canada, as a major aggregator, where the US has several.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
There are thousands of articles and sites dedicated to SEO alone, so we won’t review all of the nitty gritty details here. What you do need to know, overall, is how to best incorporate SEO into your local marketing campaign.
17. The Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors
Published by Search Engine Land, The Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors puts everything you ever wanted to know about SEO into one simple table. In short, “SEO is about ensuring your content generates the right type of signals.” The chart highlights the 5 main factors involved in achieving great search engine rankings.
18. Places Scout
Places Scout is a software solution for business owners and SEO specialist – a little bit more than a simple research tool. The program offers a keyword generator with tools that will help you to compare suggestions from different search engines, a client finder, a local rank tracker, and a citation finder. It also includes a myriad of reputation management tools to help you find and respond to reviews about your business that are posted online. The price for the software is $197.
The Moz platform is made up of a series of tools including Moz Analytics, Followerwonk, Open Site explorer, and more. Each tool is designed to help you with your social media platforms, SEO, link building, and content marketing. Moz Local, which runs at $49 per year, will help you to push your data to the major listing aggregators so your business can be found online. Moz Pro includes all of the Moz tools you need to improve your marketing and costs $99 per month.
Local Listings (in Bulk)
Local business listings on sites like Yelp, FourSquare, Facebook, Citysearch, and tons of other sites are important because they help you to target your listing to your desired demographic as opposed to the entire internet. Let’s say, for example, you have a contracting business in Tampa, Florida. Your local business listing will give you visibility when someone types “contractor Tampa FL” or something similar into a search engine.
Localeze makes updating a ton of different local website listings a lot simpler. You can search for your business on just about any popular platform, claim ownership of your listing, and update your business information. This helps you to protect your brand and gives you the ability to control what information is written about your business on popular sites like Yelp or FourSquare. The cost starts at $25/month and does require an annual contract.
Universal Business Listing specializes in search visibility, focusing not just on claiming your local business listings but on video, blog syndication, and other analytics. Depending on the package you choose, you’ll receive syndication to search engine databases, a gradual increase in the number of listings your business has, help creating listings on social sites, and SEO content. Packages start at $79 and range up to $399 for a year of service.
22. Express Update
This service makes it easy for you to track your local listings and make sure the information is correct. You’ll search for your listing, update the info, and allow Express Update to send it to search engines, libraries, and even in-car navigation systems. The network includes well over two dozen partners. The good news? The basic service is FREE!
23. Yahoo Local Works
Yahoo, of course, has it’s own tool to help you increase visibility across the web. They promise to help you make sure your listings are accurate on more than 40 different directories, with a simple management platform and the ability to add product descriptions, special events, timely offers, photos, and videos. Pricing at the time of this article is $29.99/month (regularly $49.99).
Yext offers local business owners the ability to do a quick scan to see how their businesses appear online. The PowerListings tools not only allow you to create your local listings but add enhancements, monitor your reputation with review monitoring, and track the performance of each profile to see which is helping you most. Yext asks you to test their tracking service and then call for sign-up details.
Local Listings (Sites to Focus On)
You may not initially have the resources or desire to work with a large organization to get your business listed online. If you opt to do it yourself, focus on one listing at a time and optimize each with as much information as possible. The more complete each listing, the more useful it will be to your local marketing efforts.
25. Google Places for Business
Your Google Places listing will make it easier for Google to connect your business to Google.com and Google Maps. Your business may already show up on Google. If so, you’ll want to claim it as your own so that you can update it, add photos and updates, and encourage your customers to leave reviews. Google has recently upgraded Google Places listings so that they tie directly into your Google+ fan page, so you’ll want to optimize and use that social platform as well. All of the profile options on Google Places are free to use.
26. Bing Places for Business
Similar in nature to Google Places, Bing Places allows you to list your business for free as well. Your business is, again, likely already listed in the Bing search engine. You’ll use their tools to search for it, claim it, and make updates. You’ll need a Microsoft account in order to do so, but can create one as you work through the process.
27. Yahoo Local Listings
It’s important to get your business listed properly in Yahoo right away. If you don’t, customers may start leaving reviews or ratings on random, duplicated listings. The Yahoo Local Basic Listing is free and includes your directory listing, information about your brand, basic information, a link to your website, and contact info. The enhanced listing is $9.95/month and adds the option to add photos, links that will show in the search results, an actual company description, a tagline, and some reporting features. Yahoo Local Works, which we covered in the section above, submits your listing to other local listing sites in addition to allowing you to create your Yahoo listing.
People use Yelp, especially on their mobile devices. As with some of the other business listing sites, your business probably already appears on Yelp, but with a minimal amount of information. You can easily claim your listing, add your business descriptions, and add photos. You can then monitor the page and respond to reviews left by customers, if necessary. You can also use promotional tools (discussed later) to advertise your listing more prominently.
This is another important listing site you need to take advantage of, especially when it comes to reaching a mobile market. You’ll need to claim your listing on Foursquare (again, it’s probably already there but with little to no information), update your business information, and add images. Then you can encourage your customers to “check in” when they visit. Doing so will ensure their friends see your business in their activity feeds.
Customer reviews are also critical to your online success. A good customer review can help a new prospect make a buying decision, especially if he’s on the fence and comparing two similar companies. The trick is to ask your happy customers for reviews and to make sure those reviews show up online.
30. Customer Lobby
Customer Lobby offers your customers a number of methods for submitting reviews – email, phone calls, web submissions, and even handwritten text. The system then syndicates your reviews and publishes them on major review pages. You also have the opportunity to communicate with your customers privately in order to resolve any issues before they turn into a negative review.
31. Demand Force
Offered by intuit, Demand Force actually has a number of marketing features. One of the most prominent is the Review Management tool. This tool allows you to monitor and respond to your reviews, giving you the opportunity to improve customer relations before negativity spreads across the web.
Email Marketing Support
Sending a weekly newsletter can be incredibly beneficial. Your audience is targeted – they have, after all, signed up for the list. Visitors to your website will sign up to keep in touch (giving you visibility) and your readers may forward your newsletters to others when they see great information of deals (word of mouth). Your best bet is to use a formal email newsletter service. Most come with a small fee, but you’ll be able to track statistics and your subscribers will be forced to opt-in, protecting you from CAN-SPAM violations.
MailChimp offers a ton of innovation, including great drag-and-drop design features that make it easy for you to create a stunning layout. Your newsletters will have a responsive design, making it easier for mobile users to view them. You can also view each particular user’s profile, instead of just group statistics regarding the percentage of people who opened each email. Entrepreneurs with less than 2,000 subscribers can take advantage of the limited free plan, while there are plans ranging from $20 to $500+ for small businesses and major corporations.
33. Constant Contact
Constant Contact also has a wide variety of templates and drag-and-drop editing features for you to choose from. The social media integration tools will help you to expand your reach by allowing you to automatically post your newsletter to your networks, by allowing readers to follow you, and by allowing your readers to share your newsletter on their own networks – all with a simple button click. Prices start at $15/month and vary depending on the number of contacts you have and any additional add-on services you may choose.
Aweber is an oldie but goodie. The site features tons of HTML templates, tools to help you turn blog posts into newsletters, and plenty of tools to help you sort and manage your subscriber lists. Aweber also gives you the tools you need to add sign-up forms right to your Facebook page, giving you a broader reach. Plans start at $19/month for up to 500 contacts. Truth be told, though, Aweber seems to be more popular with internet marketers while some of the other email sites above are more popular with local businesses. Compare them carefully.
Classified ads are a great way to target specific geographic locations, especially when using online classified sites. Many of these online sites are either free or come with a very low price tag. Online ads are easy to monitor and you can often update them or make corrections on your own, where you would be stuck with mistakes or misprints in a paper classified listing.
Craigslist has been around for years and caters to international audiences. Each geographic location is broken down to target major cities or, for example, sections of a state. Placing a posting for items for sale, or to advertise your services, is completely free. Exceptions to this rule are job postings, brokered apartment rentals, therapeutic services, tickets by dealers, and cars/trucks sold by dealers. Prices for these postings range from $5 to $75. While you can place listings in multiple categories, the listings must each be different or Craigslist will not publish them.
Also broken down by geographic location, Backpage is completely free. The only exception is if you choose to upgrade to a Sponsor Ad, which will use a variable algorithm to place your ad in the yellow box at the top of a page. Pricing is based on the competitive demand in your specific category and area. Sponsored ads are limited in number for each category and must be reserved. You can reserve your ad as sponsored by week, for up to 52 weeks at a time.
Otherwise known as eBay Classifieds, Kajiji is absolutely free as well. All you have to do is enter your city and state to see listings for your area. You don’t even have to create an account to post an ad, but you’ll be better able to track your ads if you do. All ads accept photos, so make sure you include one to optimize your listing to the max.
Paid search, otherwise known as pay per click (PPC), is another way to gain quick exposure, especially if you have a newer website that isn’t yet ranking well with the search engines. By paying for paid search advertising, you are more likely to appear in the “sponsored” boxes at the top or side of the search results page. Think about the link you include in your sponsored ad carefully. You want to target it to some sort of action page – not necessarily your home page. The ad should highlight a special deal, coupon, or service in order to be most effective. You’ve already done some keyword research and that will come in handy as you set up your campaigns.
38. Google AdWords
Google simply can’t be ignored, and their AdWords campaigns are relatively easy to set up. Google Adwords has a great keyword research tool you can use to enhance your results. Enter the keywords you know are popular on your website, use the keyword tool to analyze the level of competition and metrics for each, and make a choice that includes broad match, phrase match, and exact match keywords. Do some research on setting up ad campaigns or ask a marketing professional for help setting things up as you get started.
39. Bing AdCenter
Bing has partnered with Yahoo and is an incredibly popular search engine as well – a great alternative to (or addition to) your Google campaign. The Bing AdCenter offers a myriad of tutorials to help you understand how to set up campaigns, how to optimize your return on investment (ROI), understand quality score, and make the most of your overall experience.
Social media platforms are here to stay. They’re incredibly popular and – like it or not – have become a part of everyday life. People are not just accessing social media sites from their home computers, but from tablets, mobile phones, and other portable devices as well. You need to advertise where your local audience is looking, and these platforms offer paid advertising options as well – most with very affordable options.
40. Facebook Ad Editor
The Facebook Ad Editor just underwent some changes, making it easier for you to track different campaigns, the goals of each campaign, and a series of ads within each campaign. There are tons of options, from LIKE campaigns to sponsored posts. Facebook will help you build your ad around the type of result you’d like to achieve. You can do a one-time ad with a very limited run-time or set a budget per day to run over a longer period of time. The options are endless and are only limited by the budget you want to put into the ads.
41. Twitter Promotions
Twitter is another great tool for promoting your local business. You can do so through promoted accounts or promoted tweets. Twitter promotions encourage you to target keywords, interests, geography (perfect for your local marketing), and even by device (those who are on a PC vs on a mobile device). You get real-time analytics tools so you can watch the performance of your ads and make adjustments, if necessary. You are only charged for your promotions when people actually engage by following your account, retweeting, replying, favoriting, or clicking on the tweets.
42. Yelp Promotions
Yelp has different promotional tools for you to choose from. The first is a simple Pay Per Click campaign that you can set up within your business dashboard. You’ll set a maximum budget and your page will appear as a sponsored ad on other pages on the site. The second is a program run by Yelp, where you partner with an account executive. You end up having other people’s ads removed from your pages, more room to add call to action items, and a budget for PPC campaigns all rolled into one package. The latter involves a year-long commitment and a $200/month budget for page features and advertising. Even if you don’t use either of those plans, you can still offer special deals and gift certificates through your page (though Yelp will take a cut of any sale).
43. Foursquare Ads
Foursquare is super-local, which means people who aren’t in your locality aren’t going to see your ads. Foursquare also targets your ads based on whether or not a person is a) near you at the time and b) likely to want your services. For example, if you are a florist, Foursquare will target your ad to people who have visited florists in the past. You set your own monthly budget for visibility within the Foursquare system.
Local businesses targeting a broader audience should seriously consider talking to a representative at Groupon about potential advertising opportunities. This website gives businesses the chance to offer a significant “deal” to the Groupon audience – a deal that only goes live if a certain # are purchased. The idea is to bring people in your door, so you’ll create a deal you can afford to offer and then dazzle your new customers. Not everyone who buys a Groupon will turn into a repeat customer, but you should see enough action to make it worth the effort. Your fees depend on the cost of your deal and the cut Groupon takes.
Have you ever been on a website only to notice that your Facebook feed or side-bar is suddenly filled with ads for products you were just viewing? Those ads were no coincidence. You were retargeted.
45. Perfect Audience
Perfect Audience is a relatively simple tool you can use to retarget your fans while they’re on Facebook, Twitter, or other websites. Perfect Audience partners with a myriad of ad networks, enabling them to find your cookies across the web in order to display your ads. You also have the power to track clicks and conversions. Perfect Audience claims to have a huge return on investment, stating their clients usually earn $10 for every $1 they spend on ads. There are no set-up fees or minimum spending requirements and the company offers a free trial for your first campaign.
46. Google Retargeting
Google offers its own set of retargeting tools within the AdWords campaign platform. Once you’ve set up a specific type of ad, talk to a Google representative about how to to make sure you’re showing up on different websites while targeting those who have already visited your site.
AdRoll is another widely used retargeting system that promises to reach your customers on Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft and within other sites and web products. Features include a comprehensive cross-platform reach, customer segmentation tools, optimization tools, and comprehensive analytics tools so you can track conversions and Return on Investment.
Google Resources and Tools
Google is the #1 most utilized search engine platform on the web today. When a customer does a search, Google uses a specialized algorithm to determine what results you’ll see. When marketing a local business, you are not only working to overcome your competition, but to make Google’s web crawlers recognize you as an authority in your field so that you can gain better results. Google also offers you a ton of tools to better analyze your web traffic and results.
48. Search Engine Land’s Guide to Google
For everything you ever wanted to know about Google, visit Search Engine Land’s Guide to Google. Here you will find a list of all of the services Google has to offer with links to descriptions of each. They also list a series of resources you can follow to keep up with Google trends, including Google’s own blog and a series of news sites.
49. Google Algorithm Change History
Produced by Moz, this piece is an excellent, brief summary of the changes Google has made to it’s algorithm over the years. Notable are the updates you’ll see regarding Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird as they began to penalize over-optimized, spammy sites, penalize certain niches (like payday loans), and focus more on high-quality content, curation, and even authorship. Click here to see the Google Algorithm Change History from Moz.
50. Google Local Support
Google Places was mentioned as one of the places you absolutely need to utilize in terms of creating a local business listing. Google has been known to be incredibly helpful in this regard, so don’t hesitate to reach out to them if you are having trouble verifying your listing, updating the information, or if you find an error (like one that marks your business as closed). Click here for Google Local Support options.
51. Google Webmaster Tools
This is another free service that can be incredibly beneficial to your success. After adding a small line of code to your site, Google Webmaster Tools will be able to monitor and track the health of your site. Google will send you notices if they think you’ve been hacked or if they find what they think are unnatural links pointing back to your site. You can set your site’s geographic target, which will help Google focus your site into results that are appropriate for your location. Google will also let you know if it has problems crawling your site or if certain pages seem to be broken. The information will prove valuable in your quest to keep Google happy with your site.
52. Google Analytics
Google Analytics offers even more information about your site, this time focusing not on the site itself but on the metrics that are bringing traffic to your business website. You’ll have access to demographic information that will show you where your visitors are coming from, what pages they’re visiting most, how long they’re staying on your site, and even what keywords they’re using to find your site. You’ll be able to use this information to better target your local listings, paid search campaigns, and paid advertising campaigns.
53. Understanding Google+ Local Pages
Just about anyone can create a page on Google +, the social platform. This short guide, provided by Local University, explains how to tell if a Google + Local Page is actually claimed by the company in question. There are some small things to look for that will help you understand the type of page and whether or not it’s legit. This tool is more helpful to SEO companies and agencies who better want to help a business, but can be helpful to a business owner working with one of these agencies as well. It’ll be easy for you to tell what stage of development your Google+ page is in.
54. Classic Maps
If you have a Google Places Page, your business should definitely show up on a search of the Classic Maps page. If not, you can have your business added by creating a Google Places Page, as discussed above. People will often look right to maps when they are looking for businesses in their locality, so not being listed may turn your prospects away to a competitor. Go to the Classic Maps page and type in a keyword that relates to your business? Do you show up in the listing? Check out the map for a visual of the number of competitors who do show.
Bing Resources and Tools
If you’re targeting search engines other than Google, you’ll need to gain a bit of an understanding of how they work as well. Created by Microsoft, Bing was released in 2009 and then became the search engine powering Yahoo! as well. While it’s not the largest search engine in use, it’s a close third – especially among those who are anti-Google for any given reason.
55. Search Engine Land’s Guide to Bing
Start with the Search Engine Land Guide to Bing. It’s similar to the Google guide in that it outlines all of Bing’s major services as well as some of Microsoft’s tools, like the adCenter. You’ll also find related blogs and links to the official Bing Community website.
56. Bing Webmaster Tools
Bing’s webmaster tools seem to be more of a combination of what Google does with Webmaster and Analytics separately. Bing Webmaster Tools helps you submit your site to Bing, verify your site through their Bingbot tool, and submit sitemaps. You can also find statistics and analytics regarding the traffic your site is receiving so you can determine which areas need your focus. As of right now, users receive $50 in free ad credit for search advertising on the Yahoo! Bing Network when they open a new Bing Webmaster Tools account.
Getting the Local Search Marketing Help You Need
As a business owner, the more time you spend on marketing, the less time you can spend actually working with your clients. All of this may seem a bit overwhelming, but you do have quite a number of options when it comes to finding professionals who can handle most, if not all, of your local marketing tasks.
57. Bright Local
Bright Local specializes in helping local businesses better understand and utilize SEO (search engine optimization). Tools include a local search rank checker, a citation tracker, a Google+ wizard, review monitoring tools and local directory submission tools. Packages start at $20/month.
Whitespark also specializes in local SEO and offers a myriad of tools to business owners and serach engine marketing professionals. Tools include a local citation finder, local rank tracker, citation building services, a link prospector (powered by Citation Labs), and an offline conversion tracker. Prices vary depending on the service you are using at any given time, but Whitespark does track your orders and, over time, will give you loyalty discounts on services.
59. WL Marketing
Maybe you can’t quite afford the services places like Whitepark are offering. WL Marketing offers a series of packages ranging from $234 to $1,398. At a minimum, they’ll do keyword research, build social bookmarks, submit your business to 1,000 directories, submit 50 HQ press releases, and submit 100 articles to article directories. You provide your URL and they do the rest. This is an incredibly cheap service for what you’re getting, so you have to weigh the pros and cons of quantity vs. quality and your budget.
Fiverr.com is a marketplace for a myriad of services. This is an interesting and very inexpensive solution for those who do not have the time to do their own marketing. You can find someone to do just about any task on this site, and the prices start at just $5 (with many sellers offering add-ons and enhancements). Again, you’re getting a cheap service, but not necessarily the highest quality. For example, a top rated seller may give you some awesome keyword research, but a seller offering you 1,200 Facebook “LIKES” is offering you something that is a) against Facebook’s rules and b) virtually useless. Make sure you are checking reviews and are 100% sure of the work you’re paying for.
More Helpful Resources
There are literally hundreds of resources out there for you to take advantage of and it would be impossible for us to cover them all in one place. There are several other business tools and resources that just don’t fit into the above categories, and you’re encouraged to check them out as well.
61. YouTube for Local Marketing
Ever wonder how you can take advantage of some of the traffic YouTube has to offer? Search Engine Land offers 10 Tips for Using YouTube to Kill at Local SEO and it’s something you seriously need to consider. Creating videos is key, of course, but making sure they’re properly optimized and published to gain the attention you desire is a science.
Appletree is a professional 24-hour answering service. With 24-hour support, it will seem as though your business never closes. Bilingual experts will answer calls that come in after hours, using scripts that are customized to your needs. They’ll escalate important calls and deliver your messages via phone, email, text, fax – whichever method you prefer. Appletree also offers virtual receptionist and call center services – all services that are geared towards helping you grow without burdening you with administrative tasks.
If you haven’t yet built a website, or if you really need a new one, consider using the WordPress platform. With a wide variety of business templates and tools available, it’s not just the “blogging” platform it started out as. Build your company a stunning website and attach a blog and you’ll have exactly what you need to provide awesome content to your visitors – and, of course, to the search engines so they’ll continue to treat your listings well. There are tons of professionals out there who can use WordPress to build your site and the publishing platform is incredibly easy to use, so you’ll have no problems making your own site or blog updates as special sales or events come up.
You have a website and you have a bunch of social media accounts. Hopefully both are gaining traffic thanks to your local marketing efforts. Sending web traffic to your social media platforms is a great because those followers will see your regular updates and remember you when it’s time to consider your products or services. OnlyWire makes it easy for you to update up to 50 different social media networks at once, using RSS automation and WordPress plugins to make sure your followers see your new site content right away. The tool also gives you insights as to the performance of your social media pages, your posts, and demographics.This service is a steal at only $5 per month.
Smartphones have completely changed the way people browse for content. A lot of people will use their phones to browse the web and search for deals, but you need to make sure you have a mobile version of your website. If you don’t, the site won’t load properly and your visitors will move on to pages they can read – likely those of your competitor. If your website isn’t already mobile responsive, you can use tools like dudamobile to create a mobile version. You can use their tools to convert your existing site or to build something new from scratch.
Once you have local site listings and have tackled SEO, traffic will start flowing to your website. But what next? Another great tool you can use on your website, also mobile responsive, is LeadPages. LeadPages will help you to create business landing pages and sales pages – the type of page you really need to have in order to generate true business leads and prospects. You can even use it to grow your social media audiences.
67. Local Search Forum – Catalyst eMarketing
Earlier we mentioned people you should follow and one of those individuals was Linda Buquet from Catalyst eMarketing. Linda runs the Local Search Forum where you can discuss issues with your local marketing, ask questions, get new ideas, and generally keep up with local search trends. The forum is free to use.
Hopefully you aren’t feeling too overwhelmed at this point. The above resources should have given you a lot to consider and you chould not be able to use your favorite resources to put together a local search marketing campaign that takes your business to the next level.
And don’t forget, Local SEO in Delaware is one of our specialties. Don’t hesitate to contact us to find out how we can help!
Now… did I miss anything? If so, please comment below.
Please share this resource list with your contacts:
[Slices of Darling TIMES!]
Right now, there’s a new planet orbiting around in our solar system.
On December 30, 1983, scientists discovered Planet X. This 10th planet in our solar system is reportedly as large as Jupiter.
Go ahead and Google it for yourself.
Some conspiracy theorists believe that this planet may be the cause of the whacked out weather people across the globe are experiencing.
I’ve heard other arguments that global warming may not have as much to do with us humans destroying the earth’s atmosphere by pumping in greenhouse gases as much as maybe this Planet X influencing solar warming shifts.
Think about Mars.
Mars reportedly exhibits signs of global warming as well.
There are no humans on Mars.
Mars is in the same solar system as Earth and Planet X.
Hmmmmm… makes you wonder about the relationships, causes, and correlations among things huh?
There are articles all over the web that confirm these facts. There are also plenty of write ups that debunk the facts as unsubstantiated theories.
My conclusion… no one really knows much about anything that directly causes weather phenomenon.
A lot of people can make correlations between events, history, and new information to create compelling arguments supporting what is going on around Planet Earth though.
I believe the only sure thing we can do is prepare for today’s weather based on the most trusted analysis and predictions we can find.
I think the same can be said for organic search in Google’s algorithm.
Google debriefed me upon my return from Planet X.
They made things very clear to me as well as other Earth based professional SEOs.
Google’s teams of engineers and scientists have created something so incredibly complex.
They guard their code, theories, schemes, offshore data barges, and calculations like the government guards their crimes and information.
What would happen if it was all transparent?
There would be riots in the streets while geeks spend their time manipulating rankings to sell black market military grade riot control gear to rednecks with iPhones and hipsters with Androids.
Utter mayhem is what I see.
Okay, come back to reality and focus on organic search in Google’s algorithm.
I don’t always know for sure what causes your site or pages to show up on the first page.
I don’t always know for certain why your site bounces around from the bottom of page 1 to the top of page 3.
I can never be 100% right in what causes your site to switch positions over night with your rival down the street.
As SEOs, that’s all any of us can really do…. make correlations. Pinpointing precise causes to movement in organic search is a messy area.
What I do really well is make correlations between the events, history, and new information I gather related to your website, your social media presence and activity, your back link profile, your competition’s efforts, and the latest reported changes in Google’s algorithm.
From those correlations, I can help you create a plan of action to conquer the uncertainty of how to get your website on the first page of local search to generate more leads and new business passively from the Internet.
If you have questions and are completely confused by all of the conflicting explanations you are finding online by doing your own research, try out my 30 minute complimentary consultation.
(ALERT! Complimentary consult available for a limited time. Please don’t get mad if you see this post all late and wrong, go to the application and find there’s a fee attached. It’s really worth a small investment, you will see.)
I promise to keep you grounded down to Earth and help you come up with a realistic next step to implement.
Share this post to Cyber Space Please!
That’s great, it starts with an update
Pandas and penguins, a hummingbird, and Matt Cutts is not afraid…..
It’s the end of SEO as we know it…
It’s the end of SEO as we know it…
It’s the end of SEO as we know it…
… and I feel fine…
SEO as I knew it several years ago is done, dismantled, and being rebuilt into something yet to be identified.
Here are some conclusions and insights running through my head. Do what you will with it….
This year I believe we will see the demise of links. They are being forced to walk the plank.
As of right now, it’s best to not create any links what-so-ever with keywords as your anchor text. Keywords include common search phrases, head terms, and phrases with commercial intent.
This includes internal links or those on your very own domain.
SEO Copywriting is a Joke:
SEO copywriting is a joke. It has been for a while now. You are better off ranting about topics and writing like you talk.
Forget about keyword density and what not. Stop trying to stick keywords into your content according to some stupid checklist or plugin you found somewhere online.
Just read back out loud what you write. If it sounds like you are beating someone over the head with a keyword phrase, trash it. It’s crap.
Diversify or Die:
Diversify your traffic sources.
Organic search is great. When you are crushing it, your ROI can be through the roof. When Google changes her tune and organic traffic plummets, what else do you have going on?
Work in other traffic channels like paid advertising and social traffic from your audience.
Out Smart Google… yeah, right… LOL:
Forget about buying or even trying to exploit the latest trick, hack, or loophole. Seriously… do you really think some anonymous “guru” is going to out smart Google?
The only out smarting they are doing is duping you into buying their crap.
Most content you find online about “how to do SEO” is out-dated bullshit. There’s only a handful of websites I trust for the most up to date, research backed, and tested information for being successful with SEO. Here are a few:
Sustainable SEO Knowledge:
For Local Search Knowledge:
Now for your viewing pleasure….
R.E.M. – It’s The End of the World as We Know It.
Welcome to 2014. This is going to be your best year ever if you checkup these 5 areas for your local search marketing.
1. Mobile Responsive Website
Be sure to have a professional and mobile responsive website optimized for search. If you don’t have a mobile responsive site now, don’t let 2014 go by without going mobile. Your business will be passed up for a more accessible option from your competitor.
If you are going for an all new site design or build, make it responsive.
If you have a site and just need a mobile option, the easiest and cheapest is to create a free mobile website at DudaMobile.
2. Social Media Sites
Decide what social sites you shall play on and work them. There’s no need to try to juggle 10 different social sites. Find out the main ones where the most of your customers hang out.
Come up with a strategic plan. Make connections, nurture connections, and sell to connections.
Check out Gary Vaynerchuck’s Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook book on Amazon: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World
3. MultiMedia Content
Plan your multi-media content development promotions. If you are not doing this yet, 2014 is your year to begin integrating videos and high resolution images into your content along with your consistent blogging.
Videos on your website make for stickier content. High resolution images are almost required anymore on Google+, Facebook, Pinterest, and others.
This is an area we are working to help our construction clients leverage even more in 2014.
30 Minute Consult: http://www.DarlingSEO.com/30-minutes
4. Paid Advertising Channels
Start up a paid advertising plan. Google constantly changes the overall layout of the first page of search results.
Consider mobile devices… with the smaller screen size, you simply will not be seen by your customers in some cases unless you pay for advertising and get in the top 3 spots of the sponsored ads.
If Google Adwords costs too much for you, check out Bing Ad Center. You’ll get less volume but it will also cost you much less per click.
If you have the budget, definitely advertise in both.
Remember, Google and Bing are not the only players in paid advertising. You can implement a Facebook advertising and promotional campaign.
Another paid advertising channel that delivers huge ROI is Retargeting.
In 2014, just get in where you can fit in and diversify your website traffic sources.
5. Organic SEO Check-Up
Keep your local SEO in check. If your customers are all local, be sure your data is consistent throughout the local ecosystem.
Whether local, regional, or national, good SEO is going to connect all of the dots for you from your website to your social media accounts to your multimedia content creation and promotion to maximizing the funds you invest in paid advertising.
Good SEO is like the plumbing in your house. Don’t take it for granted.
Make sure all systems are go, traffic is flowing to and fro as it should, your “P-traps” are catching phone calls and email inquiries, and you are gaining new customers by educating them on money or time saving products and services.
I knew there was a reason I liked to play dot to dot games as a child. It’s all connected. I like to make the connections and end up with a big profitable picture.
Happy New Year!!!
Please clarify, $500 now and that’s it or $500 a month?
Response… $500 now and that’s it.
A: I know there are countless stories of people that use shoestring marketing to build up a business.
When it comes to Google PPC or paid advertising, you need more than a shoestring budget.
It is possible to build up a profitable Google Adwords campaign on $500/month. You still need to consider the management and consulting fees associated with that ad spend.
Unfortunately, what I’m hearing is that you only have $500 and that’s it.
There’s the old saying that “it takes money to make money” right?
I’ve also heard the saying that “scared money don’t make money”.
From my experience, if all you have is $500 to work with, putting it all into PPC is not the best choice.
This is especially true if your target website is not ready to convert and monetize that paid traffic.
Given the choice of SEO or PPC and only $500 I would go with finding an SEO that really knew their craft.
If that local search marketer is willing to provide you an couple of hours at a time of consulting this could help you.
With that consulting, expect to have your search consultant zero in on the most effective strategy that gives you the most bang for your buck.
Still with only $500, you can expect that YOU will be the one to implement most of the recommendations.
After you implement those recommendations, save up your dollars, and buy some more knowledge.
Check out this page to see if the 30 minute complimentary consultation is still available for you.
If you have a question you would like answered, please comment below.