Reviews are crucial to the success of your business as 93% of customers base their purchasing decisions on consumer reviews. If your overall review rating falls below 3.3 stars, consumers won’t engage with your business.
Your responses to your company’s reviews play an equally important role in consumer engagement, influencing purchasing decisions. When you fail to respond, you send a message that you do not care about your customers.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is paramount to the success of any business. Consumers are more likely to click on links that appear on the first page of search engine results. The first search result averages 45% of all the clicks and the first three results have a combined average of 60% of the clicks while the first page gets 89% of the clicks. If your company doesn’t show up on that first page then consumers probably aren’t aware you exist. SEO boosts website traffic fueling greater brand awareness, increasing sales, and improving revenue.
Many business owners lack the expertise to improve SEO. While the basics are easy to grasp, it takes experience and skill to master the process and your SEO needs are likely well beyond what you can learn or manage independently. Hiring an expert is only logical, however, entrepreneurs often feel the process is costly and overly technical. In reality, hiring an SEO expert is simple and the expense yields a high return on investment if the expert’s strategies are effective.
The right SEO expert will be highly experienced and not a fly-by-night, self-proclaimed authority who has been in business for only six months. The expert will have a track record of improving local search results and expertise in local SEO techniques. Your business should appear when locals search for keywords relevant to your company. A truly experienced SEO professional will incorporate your company’s address, website meta descriptions, and title tags as well as list your website with Yahoo, Bing, and Google business directories servicing specific zip codes.
The right SEO expert will have glowing testimonials and gracious responses to reviews. The testimonials and reviews should speak well to the results the SEO professional has achieved for various companies and business owners with specific examples of increased traffic and revenue, fantastic customer service, and timely responsiveness to questions and progress reports. The expert’s response to those reviews is equally important.
Ask for a list of past and present clients and their contact info. Verification of past experience is imperative and clientele will eagerly corroborate that the SEO expert was able to improve search ranking, website traffic, and conversions.
The right SEO expert will explain in layman’s terms exactly what needs to be done in order to increase traffic to your website. The professional will voluntarily outline the methodology and strategies by which they intend to increase your search ranking and provide a realistic estimated timeline by which to achieve the agreed-upon SEO goals. The expert will perform a technical review of your website, identifying problems resulting in lower search ranking, and provide on-page optimization making your website as conducive to SEO as possible. The expert will also work to develop web page titles, tags, and headings, improve the linking structure and strengthen your website’s URL. Part of the strategy should consist of providing off-page SEO which elevates awareness of your website’s content on other sites via social media platforms, press releases, and even blogs. The contribution to your SEO will be multifaceted and you will be asked many questions which you might formerly have thought to be irrelevant.
The right SEO expert will strictly adhere to webmaster guidelines. Google’s webmaster best practices prohibit poor SEO tricks such as the incorporation of automated spam and the addition of hidden bogus links and text. SEO experts who fail to abide by the guidelines risk abysmally low website ranking on search engine results which could invite a ban of your website from those results.
The wrong SEO expert will personally guarantee you will achieve a number one ranking on major search engines. Consider that a major red flag. Only the search engines themselves can control the level at which your company website will appear in their search results. No SEO expert can have an inside relationship with search engines.
The wrong SEO expert will offer cheap rates. You truly get what you pay for when it comes to hiring an SEO expert. While some SEO experts charge by the hour, the most common fee structure is project-based and can vary widely depending on complexity. Experts who typically serve small businesses often charge less based on monthly and hourly rates. Inquire as to how often invoices are generated and when payment is due. Verify late payment interest charges and fees for early contract termination. Ensure that all optimized web content is owned by you and will remain unaltered by the expert upon contract expiration or early termination.
The wrong SEO expert will fail to communicate or will only respond to negative feedback and pressing questions and even disappear altogether at crucial times. A top-notch SEO expert has nothing to hide and will eagerly volunteer information such
as an SEO audit of your website, an analysis of your website’s link profile, optimized content, and articles linked to your site which is also published on additional websites. Experienced professionals want to look good to their clients. It stands to reason that you will not have to pry information from your expert and that your questions will be answered eagerly to your satisfaction within a reasonable timeframe. A great SEO professional will want to communicate with you regarding admin access to your CMS (content management system), Google analytics and webmaster tools, social accounts, ask for a list of target keywords, and review past audits. It is only to the benefit of the SEO expert to maintain open lines of communication with you. If the expert never requests access, the job isn’t getting done. In addition, you should expect frequent reports entailing (at minimum) progress thus far, methods utilized to increase SEO and their impact, and recommendations for driving continued growth.
Ignoring SEO is costly and can be likened to walking through a wind storm blowing money towards you only to collect that which blows directly onto your face. SEO attracts volumes of consumers otherwise directed to your competitors and establishes your organic online presence enforcing your interest in consumers. Neglected SEO is the equivalent of hiding from consumers and perpetuates entrepreneurial oblivion. SEO is the link between your business and your consumers enabling you to keep in touch with the needs of your audience, improving consumer experiences with your website thus strengthening your responsiveness.
Fish with a net instead of a rod! Attract consumers and increase profits by hiring an experienced professional to amp up your SEO. The expense is worth it and the return on your investment will only benefit your company.
ADA compliance issues appear to be on the rise for real estate professionals. But what is ADA compliance when it comes to websites. To put it simply, ADA refers to the American Disabilities Act, which requires all public spaces to be accessible to those with disabilities. This includes things like handicapped parking spaces, ramps, and bathrooms. In late 2019 the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from Dominos Pizza after a federal appellate court ruled that a blind customer could sue the chain under the Americans with Disabilities Act because he could not fully use their website through screen reading software. You can read more here.
Although non-compliant websites are not technically illegal, if an individual with disabilities comes across your website and is unable to access certain features of it, they can sue on the basis of the ADA. Because most courts have interpreted websites to fall under the category of “public space” as defined in the ADA, most judges rule on the side of the plaintiff and companies have to either settle out of court or pay large fines. We have recently learned that a very large number of realtors in Florida and at least one local Real Estate Association has received demand letters and complaints from a law firm alleging violations of the federal and Florida Fair Housing Acts. The firm alleges that the realtor’s and the association’s websites fail to provide accessibility options for the disabled.
These notices have been received by real estate professionals statewide. Though it does not appear that the actual complaints have been filed in federal court at this point, the demand letters threaten litigation. If an association receives such a letter, the association should contact the local board attorney and the National Association of Realtors® immediately. If a realtor receives such a letter, the realtor should contact their broker and attorney. Deciding whether to fight a demand or settle a claim is a legal decision.
We have been working with real estate professionals for close to 10 years. ADA compliance is a problem that we can help them solve. We have partnered with a company that is transforming web accessibility by replacing a costly, manual process with automated, state-of-the-art AI technology. This allows us to rapidly roll out a cost-effective solution that not only protects against lawsuits but also and even more importantly creates a more inclusive website.
This solution helps:
- Achieve WCAG 2.1 & ADA Compliance
Ongoing WCAG & ADA compliance even when website updates
- Get a Certification & Statement
Accessibility statement and certification of performance
- Receive Daily Compliance Monitoring
Re-scanning and fixing accessibility issues every 24 hours
- Ensure Monthly Compliance Auditing
Emailing you a professional compliance audit every month
If you or a real estate professional you know is in need of help with compliance. We are here to help. With a cost starting at only $490 per year per domain up to 1000 pages. We will get you set up and install the code on your website at no cost as long as you provide us with the required access. If you want to sign up and install it your self just click here.
As business owners continue to adjust and adapt to a what seems to be a new normal. Getting started can be one of the hardest things to do, you may ask yourself what do I do first? Everyone is now looking online, where do I start? These have been common questions over the past few weeks. To help our clients and friends we have compiled a basic checklist of things that you work on. Use this check list to not get pulled in several directions at the same time.
Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, and Get Started.
Building a strong local SEO presence in Florida comes down to three key aspects. First, you must optimize your Google My Business page with verified information, Google Posts, and reviews from your customers. Once your Google My Business page is optimized, you should then move your focus onto your website. Optimizing your website for local SEO comes down to your internal linking structure, meta-content, location pages, local content, and how mobile-friendly your site is. The last step to dominating local SEO involves building your external links from directories and other authority sites within your industry.
Optimizing Your Google My Business Page
Optimizing a Google My Business page gives you the benefit of showcasing your business information right on the Google search results page when potential customers are searching. Optimizing this page involves ensuring all information is verified, posting to your GMB(Google My Business) page, as well as receiving and responding to customer reviews.
The first step to setting up your Google My Business page involves making sure Google has accurate information and getting that information verified through Google. This process is streamlined with a simple registration process. Once all information is filled out and accurate, Google will ask if you’d like to verify this information. Verifying your information is the key to getting your page to appear in search results. They typically send a postcard to your business address with a pin number to verify your mailing address. Sometimes there is an option to verify with an automated phone call. If you already have a GMB you can sign in by visiting https://www.google.com/business
Now that you have a verified Google My Business page, you can start posting to that page. This involves creating short articles related to your business and posting them through your Google My Business. These posts are a great opportunity to build customer trust by showing you truly know what you’re talking about. You can also tailor these posts to your local area to improve your local search engine results.
You’ll also want to try and build a steady flow of reviews from your customers. There are systems available to help you get your customers to submit reviews. Our local reputation management platform is one of those systems. Once you start generating reviews, you’ll want to respond to those reviews. Responding helps you demonstrate to Google that you are an active and engaged business. It is also recommended you set up Google My Business notifications as well.
Optimizing Your Website for Local SEO
Now that your Google My Business page is all set up and verified, the next step is optimizing your website. This comes down to optimizing your home page, Meta Data, setting up your internal linking structure, building out content, and adding a location-specific page.
Your home page should clearly state who you are, what you do and where your business is located as well as the areas you serve. Internally your website’s page title, header tag and meta description should echo this.
While the ranking of Meta Data factors is debated, it is a fact that they play a big part in a visitor’s first impression of your website.
Now setting up your internal linking structure helps your users to easily navigate your website and for Google to index your website accurately. Typically this involves setting up an XML site map. There are plenty of tools to create this. There should also be a link to an HTML version in the footer of your website.
Next you’ll want to build out content and optimize that content for local SEO. This involves setting up meta descriptions, accurate URL tags, well thought- out headers, and image alt-descriptions. Setting up these internal content structures as well makes for a great way to include all of your local keywords in your content without overloading your site with keywords and making it awkward to read. Doing the basics right is an easy way to beat your competitors in search results.
Adding location-specific pages makes it easy for Google to determine what areas or locations your website is most relevant to. These pages can be incorporated into the “About Us” or “Contact Us” pages which are found on most sites. This involves a simple extension into Google Maps that can be applied through a wide number of plugins. This will also link your website to your Google My Business page.
Finally, you’ll want to start writing blog posts applicable to your local area and the services you offer. While it may seem counterintuitive, offering information about how your customers can do the work themselves is a great way to build consumer trust and drive traffic to your site. You’ll find most people end up contacting you for work once they realize the skill required to actually do the work.
Building External Links
Now that you have an optimized Google My Business page and a great website that is ready for traffic, you’ll want to find other websites and directories in your industry that can provide links to your site. The number of links directed to your site makes a huge impact on your ranking in search engines. This can be accomplished through local directories like your local chamber of commerce, large business directories, and other authority sites in your industry.
A great way to build links from high authority sites in your industry can involve offering to write a piece of content for them in exchange for a link. This will help you build your audience by allowing their visitors to see your knowledge within the industry and possibly visit your website. By having links from other authority sites it shows Google that your site provides value to your customers as well as the other websites. Most high authority sites have an email address you can contact, so start emailing these sites today with an offer of writing content in exchange for a link!
While each of these areas may seem like a lot of work, they do work and make for a great investment of your time. Local SEO is a great lead generator for any industry. If you work at it and your website ranks well it becomes an extremely inexpensive channel that generates a recurring stream of customers. Organically generated customers typically have a higher confidence level. And tend to have a higher conversion rate. It is worth considering allocating budget for local SEO, as part of your ongoing marketing efforts.
For those of us that already have a verified business in Google My Business, we have some interesting news. You can now update your business info directly from the Google search engine result page. Please remember that need you to make sure you’re logged in to your Google My Business account.
Let’s try editing your Google My Business Page right from the search page
Let’s dive right in and see how it works. To get started, just type the name of your business in the Google search box and you will see a menu right above the search results. Again, you need to be logged in to your Google My Business account. After you click the edit info button, you will see all the fields you are able to edit become highlighted.
From here, you will be able to upload photos, see the number of views, check and respond to any customers reviews, and even access detailed info about your site metrics. The best part is, you can do it from any device, in your office on your desktop or right from your mobile device.
Google heavily relies on the business owners to provide accurate and updated information to their users. Google realized early on that if they want valuable content for free, they have to make the process simple and easy.
Now lets take a quick look at Why Google would do this?
For starters, who is best suited to provide the most accurate information about a business? The business owner, of course. Google decided to create a process to outsource the business info-update process, and now this process has just become a little more efficient. The good news is, this is a win not only Google but it is also a win for clients of local business because they get info directly from the business owners. The business owners win by getting to provide info directly to potential clients. Google wins by having the most up to date, timely and accurate local business info. A win-win-win situation for everyone!
If you are a business owner and you have not setup your Google My Business page, please contact us and we will send you a free guide.
SSL Certificates, what are we even talking about? SSLs is the backbone of Internet security by protecting information as it travels the web. Often website owners balk at purchasing SSLs if their webpage isn’t set up for online shopping/money exchange. That is a mistake. SSL’s provide critical items like privacy, data integrity, and protection for your website and visitors to your page. SSLs digitally bind cryptographic keys to a website’s details. When Marlin installs an SSL on your server, it activates the padlock you see in your address bar and “https”. This creates secure connections between server and browser, protecting everyone.
Why do you need an SSL, especially if you are not running an e-commerce site? Data security between servers is increased. Your Google Ranking automatically increases when you provide your users with SSL protection. Trust is built and enhanced with your customer base when they know you’re doing your part to protect them. Should you have a form that visitors must fill out – whether it’s for an inquiry or something else to gathers information from the user, this type of data collection would prompt for the verification of your SSL. If you do not currently have an SSL on your website, then the user will be see the “unsecured content” message on their screen before they could proceed to the next page.
If a customer can trust that your site is safe and protected, then you will see your conversion rates increase!
Now you’re ready to jump into the SSL game, what next? SSL certificates must be issued from a trusted Certificate Authority. Marlin can help you through this entire process and can provide a list of trusted CA root certificates. Give Marlin a call and our experts will get you and your website ready to go!
Take a look at the different SSL certificates that we offer.
Have You Noticed A Change In Your Rankings? Google’s Shaking Things Up With Its New Local Search Filters
Google’s primary goal is to provide its users with the best possible search experience and they are leaving no stone unturned to ensure just that. In early 2017, Google introduced local search filters that allow users to sort results based on price, ratings and hours of operation. Taking it one step further, they are now automatically applying those filters and it benefits the user for obvious reasons. They get the best possible search as well as most relevant results on the fly without applying any filters.
It has turned out to be a big blow to some business owners who have failed or have not focused on maintaining a good online reputation. A businesses Local SEO strategy has to be adjusted to take this in to account. When Google automatically filters local businesses for those with 4-star ratings and higher, it places a lot of businesses at risk of losing online visibility. It’s quite common for users to search using terms like “Best Plumber”, “Best Thai Restaurant” and “Best Roofing Contractor” when they are looking for a local business. For those businesses that do not have more than a 4 star rating, they will find it extremely difficult to keep a measurable presence on local search.
In chaos we can sometime find opportunity and the golden opportunity in this case is for the less popular businesses. By inviting reviews & keeping their information consistent and updated, one can share the spot light with those who are already at the top.
The New Filters
The best of everything: Users can now filter the results automatically, by just adding “best” to the keyword. If you search “best plumber”, Google will show only 4-Star+ rated plumbers. This filter will drastically influence the way businesses are ranked. Check out how the following results differ.
Open now: For example a closed Truck Repair store is of no use to a user who wants to get his truck repaired ASAP. So when a user types “truck repair store open now”, Google will show only those businesses that are open. Check out below.
Enjoy Fine dining: Want to go to an upscale restaurant for your first date? Just type “fancy restaurant” & Google will show you the most expensive restaurants nearby. Or if you just want to fill your tummy without burning a hole in your pocket, type “cheap restaurants” or “budget restaurants” and you will get the list.
I am sure you see the bigger picture here, Google is and has been heading towards providing a more advanced search experience where users get results based on their actual intent. Local searches have grown to 46% of all searches on Google and will continue to rise. So, Google is doing everything it can to enhance the local search experience for its users.
Marlin’s take on this
Businesses that fail to manage their reputation and update their listings with the most accurate, detailed and consistent information now run the risk of not ranking in searches when they would have in the past.
To help you get more reviews for your business our Local SEO Plans includes our review widget. It’s a small piece of code which is placed on your website and helps you get positive reviews on Google, Yelp and Facebook. In addition, it helps to filter out negative reviews too thus ensuring a positive experience for your website users. Would you like to learn more? Please connect with us.
In the second half of 2016 a lot of the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) industry knew there
was something big coming down the pipe.
As expected, here comes Google making a rather significant change to their search algorithm in
early March of 2017. Code-named “Fred”, the impact is now changing the way many in the
digital marketing community are approaching their search engine optimization practices as well
how they develop in general. Let’s take a minute and get to know “Fred” and all his current
likes and dislikes.
We know that Google makes hundreds of updates every year to its core algorithm, but Fred
seems to have made an impact on an unexpected number of websites, which has left some in
the digital marketing world scratching their collective head. Most of the major updates are
significantly affecting traffic, focusing on either links or content. If there is an organic traffic
drop it usually means that the site is in violation of the Webmaster’s guidelines on quality.
While we are always excited about Google bringing critical new changes to the web, the
challenge in this instance is there is no way to know for sure what the exact focus of Fred may
have been. In collaborating with other SEO professionals, our results seem to primarily point to
content related sites. Combing through the negatively affected sites, they all seem to have two
things in common. The content appeared “shallow” and the site prioritized advertising over
user experience. This is all obviously speculation at this point, BUT one might argue curbing ad-
focused sites is a positive change for the community.
How much havoc did Fred wreak?
Some SEOs and webmasters have reported organic traffic reductions of 50 to 90 percent. I am
sure you imagine that sort of traffic drop would be considered serious by any measure. While
the fall out hit a narrow segment of websites, it was still significant in the search engine optimization industry.
This of course all begs the question now what? How do we proceed? If your website fell in the
category of sites effected there are a couple things you can do:
Step 1: Don’t panic.
Step 2: Evaluate
If the website in question was very dependent on ad revenue, chances are there were too many
ad units and pop ups on the site. In this case, scaling back the ad units and then evaluating
other revenue streams is the way to go. If shallow content was to blame then the key will be
identifying those pages and updating your content with relevant, attention grabbing copy.
While in theory this is all relatively straight forward, the tactical part of Fred is far more
complex. Making these changes on a strategic level will become ever more important as we
continue to move forward in the future. If you would like to learn more about our search engine optimization services we would be happy to speak to you.