SEO

The Ultimate Guide to SEO

Ultimate SEO Guide Menu

Written by Harry

14th October 2020

On Google Webmasters (or Search Console), there’s a tool called URL Parameters. This allows you to select whether you would like certain parameters to be ignored by Google bot when crawling the site. This prevents content duplications across different URLs . I believe Bing also offers this feature!

Content Strategy


Google loves content, you’ve probably heard the good old saying ‘Content is King’. Although content probably isn’t as large a ranking factor as it used to be, with the rise of link profiles and all; it is still a massive part of its ranking algorithm. Having a good content strategy will get me off to a good start when trying to out rank my competitors. Going back to the Initial Keyword Research where I’ve uncovered what keywords I want to rank for, I grab the first 5 competitors ranking pages and run them through this site: https://wordcounter.net/ this will show me how many words and the keyword density my competitors pages display. This gives me a better idea of how much I need to write, and to what standard.
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Keywords

The keywords I’m targeting should appear quite a bit in the content. These keywords should have the highest density on the page that relates the closest to the subject. For example a page about SEO, should have a lot of references to SEO in the content. Furthermore, the content should match the internal link anchor text and meta data pointing to that page. If I’ve have followed this guide in order, then I should already have keyword research highlighting where to focus my efforts. A good tip here is to match the keywords with the Meta Titles. For example, if I have used ‘SEO’ in my Meta Title for my SEO page, then I should use ‘SEO’ when referring to Search Engine Optimisation in my content. Information on Meta titles will follow. Anchor Text – The text that appears between the tags in the HTML. This will create a link on the text that you can point to a certain page using the ‘href’ attribute. The text that is being used to place the link on will usually indicate to Google what the linked page’s content is displaying.

Long Tail Keywords

Long tail keywords are more specific search phrases used by users that are nearer the point of making an action (a purchase, an enquiry or directions etc..). Long tailed keywords are given the name based on the trend that it makes on a graph when comparing the search volume to the likelihood of a conversion. Collectively, Long Tail Keywords can actually make up around 75% of the total search traffic for a particular subject. The remaining 25% will be the more generic search terms. This means, that with some great content (falling into the content marketing strategy now), and some plugging away at my SEO on these long tail keywords; I can gather more search traffic than a more ‘dominant competitor’ that I looked at in the beginning and aspired to rank like! Long Tail keywords are also a lot more targeted. In the beginning of this document I spoke about the Do, Know and Go searches that we can categorise almost all searches on Google into. I then went on to explain that if you were to use a generic search term (and used Facebook as an example) Google would then show multiple functions which fall under the Do, Know and Go categories in an attempt to make a user refine their search. The reason Google gives these options is because once the search is refined, the user becomes more targeted traffic. Let’s use an example of a search term like ‘Fishing’. This is what I get. As you can see Google wants me to refine my search phrase so that it can understand exactly what I want to see about fishing. Ranking for ‘Fishing’ sure would bring in a lot of search traffic, but there’s two big issues with this:
  1. The search traffic isn’t targeted – people searching ‘Fishing’ may be looking for fishing tackle, or equipment, fishing lessons, learning material, or many other fishing related results.
  2. It’s a very broad and difficult keyword to rank for due to its large competition and abundance of ranking websites.
This is where the longer tailed keywords come into play. Let’s say you run a business, by a lake, which is a great fishing spot. You begin by researching the right keywords to target. Long tailed keywords can be more valuable because when somebody refines their search to something more ‘long tailed’ this traffic is more likely to convert. So you decide to target this long tailed keyword traffic and refine it to ‘Fishing Spots’ That’s 45,790 (Didn’t count the ‘Spot Fish’ search term) search phrases that you know are looking for a place like yours. You can go even further to then add your location to the search term, so you know you’re targeting the locals, thus reducing the competition even more.

How to findlong tail keywords

To find long tail keywords you’re going to want to focus on a particular service. I remember once walking a client through this so I’ll use the example I gave them (they were a dentist, specialising in endodontics). The client was already ranking for Root Canal and Endodontic search terms both in Organic and Local listings as well as targeting more surrounding areas using a profitable PPC campaign; but he was hungry for more so I opened him up to content marketing (that I’ll go into more detail on later). Not only did he want me to look into using content marketing to boost website visitors and attempt to convert them, he also wanted to learn how to do the research himself so he knew what to write about in his blogs. I explained that we needed to establish profitable Long Tail Keywords. I knew we needed to find this traffic based around relevant Endodontic search terms so I went straight to SEMRUSH. After using SEMRUSH’s keyword research tool on Endodontic Treatment I pulled this list. A few of these search terms caught my eye, such as ‘Success Rate of Endodontic Treatment’ but when conducting the search I was challenged by these two large sites: My client was a small dental practice in the UK that was a long way off ranking against websites of these sizes. So I tried again with a different keyword. ‘Endodontic Treatment Steps’, the competition was still quite high but a lot better than the ‘success rate’ search term: So I stuck with this one and decided to use Ubersuggest to find more search terms based around this one. 652 keywords came up and only a few were relevant for my content strategy. To find those that were relevant I exported the data into a spreadsheet and used the following formula (A similar one I used in the initial Keyword Research I spoke about nearer the beginning of this article: =IF(ISNUMBER(SEARCH(“endodontic”,A638)),”yes”,”no”) This tells Excel that I want it to display ‘Yes’ whenever the word ‘Endodontic(s)’ appears in any of the columns under ‘A’ on the spreadsheet. Once the data was congregated I used a simple filter to filter the list into a much smaller targeted sheet. From here, I could add additional filters to filter down through search traffic or competition but on this occasion, I did it manually as the list is small enough. What I’m looking for here are search terms based around the Endodontic Treatment steps so I can consolidate all of the targeted search terms into a content strategy later on. After having a look through the ones I have consolidated it lead to an approximate search volume of 1860 searches (including a ‘Root Canal Retreatment’ search term which had relatively low search competition). I figured I could put retreatment search terms into the blog as I could include it in my content strategy as part of the root canal treatment process (or an after process, as people making these searches would no doubt be interested in any retreatment). I separated these search terms from the rest of the search terms found, giving me my search phrases to target in my Blog. I’ve pasted them below: So now I have found my search phrases that I should be targeting it is worth noting that these are keywords bringing in a good amount of traffic but without a lot of online competition and therefore are long tail.

Flesch Reading Ease

The Flesch Reading Ease score grades how easy it is to read my content. Google uses this metric to uncover the quality of the content and how easy it is to understand. If I am using long words and complex sentences in my content then Google will be less inclined to display it to users. Having content that is harder to read can also lead to a higher bounce rate. A higher bounce rate can also send negative signals to Google, signals indicating that people visiting the site, aren’t finding the content engaging or useful, which can lead to a further drop in rankings. Here’s a table showing how the score breaks down: (Source: https://yoast.com/flesch-reading-ease-score/) To get a high score, you should keep sentences short with small words preferably no more than two syllables long.

TF*IDF & Keyword Stuffing

TF-IDF is an algorithm used by Google that helps it detect and measure keyword density. When SEO was a baby, many SEO’s would pack as many keywords in their content to the point where it just looked unnatural and silly. This is nowadays referred to as keyword stuffing and Google will penalise for it. TF stands for Term Frequency, this measures how frequently a term occurs on a page. Obviously, a pages content can differ in length so the term frequency is usually divided by the page’s content length (the total of terms in the entire page). IDF stands for Inverse Document Frequency. This measures the importance of the terms themselves. Words like ‘the’, ‘is’, ‘of’ will most likely appear a lot but have very little importance. The common terms need to be weighed down whiling scaling up the rare ones. We then times the results of the TF and IDF equations together which shows:
  • The tf.idf score increases with number of occurrences within a document
  • The tf.idf score increases with rarity of terms in the collection
Here is a great example by http://www.tfidf.com/: Example: Consider a document containing 100 words wherein the word cat appears 3 times. The term frequency (i.e., tf) for cat is then (3 / 100) = 0.03. Now, assume we have 10 million documents and the word cat appears in one thousand of these. Then, the inverse document frequency (i.e., idf) is calculated as log(10,000,000 / 1,000) = 4. Thus, the Tf-idf weight is the product of these quantities: 0.03 * 4 = 0.12.

Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)

Latent Semantic Indexing (sometimes referred to as Latent Semantic Analysis) is Google’s attempt to understand search queries on a deeper basis. For example, words on their own mean certain things, but together can mean something totally different. A good example would be Ice Cream. The words ‘Ice’ and ‘Cream’ separately will display something completely different in the SERPs than ‘Ice Cream’ as one search. Google works on ensuring that their search engine can understand the relationship between these words to gain understanding of the user’s intent. This semantic indexing also helps Google’s search engine understand synonyms of words. Many SEO’s believe that adding synonyms into your content can help Google with Latent Semantic Indexing. Allowing you to rank for other search phrases that are using different phrasing not targeted by you. The idea behind this is that if a Dentist can rank for ‘Dentist Near Me’ they should also rank for ‘Dental Practice Near Me’ just as well. I’ve found this not to be the case, furthermore, there is no evidence that I’ve found online for this to be the case either. This doesn’t mean that Google doesn’t understand your content though. It’s pretty obvious that Google understands search phrases. When typing Doghouse into Google, you can see that Google is trying to work out whether you mean the movie, a brand or a bar. So we know that Google definitely understands searches and their meaning. To corroborate this try using the Google Ads Keyword Planner, it will give you various other related search terms. Meaning, if your page is relevant for one of those search terms, it’s probably relevant for many others too. I believe that no matter what, you should always be optimising your page for as many variants of the search terms relevant to the content. To do this, I would agree that adding in synonyms where ever it makes sense certainly wouldn’t hurt! I’d also say that you should research what search phrases are relevant to that page, and include them in the Metadata. If understanding content from a deeper, human-like perspective is something Google have achieved, then I would say the best thing to do is provide as much clarity into your writing as possible.

Duplicate Content

Copying content from other people’s website isn’t as bad as you may think, many people say it will result in penalisation whereas Google have confirmed that they won’t necessarily penalise you (hmmm) but they will effectively disavow the content. This means that from an SEO point of view, content that’s been copied from another website, is just as good as no content at all; and you’ll rank accordingly to where Google would place you with a blank page. You can always find content online to help inspire your subject, but it is usually a good idea to quote the website and possibly rewrite it. Personally, I would say, stay away from duplicate content to be on the safe side! The reason Google is so against duplicate content is because they are passionate about delivering search results that benefit the user. If they were to show 10 results on the first page filled with the exact same content, then they aren’t doing their job very well!

How to Check for Duplicate Content

A really easy method to check for duplicate content is to copy and paste the content into Google. Google will then naturally display all of the other websites it feels is relevant to that phrase you’ve used. More often than not, it will match the content word for word with the content you’ve pasted into the search bar and show all of the websites it has found that content on.

Heading Tags

Heading tags range from <h1> through to <h6>. You can style these using CSS to look any way you see fit, but normally, <h1> would be the largest most bold, <h2> would be a bit less bold and smaller and the pattern would continue all the way down to <h6>.

What do they mean?

A <h1> is mean to be the Site/Page title. Ideally <h1>’s should contain the page’s keyword, and be the subject title to the overall basis of the content of the page. A <h2> acts as a subheading. Google’s bots don’t rely too heavily on using <h>’s to rank content, some SEO analysts would probably argue if Google’s bots even use them at all. To me, I always think that if it doesn’t harm your SEO, then just do it (alt attributes are always a fun argument – we’ll get to that later though!). Either way, these heading tags structure the content nicely both for users and bots alike, so why not?

Going back to the SEO example, if you have a page that is about general SEO I’d expect to see this:

<h1>Search Engine Optimisation</h1>
<h2>On-Site Optimisation</h2>
<h3>Meta Titles</h3>
<h4>Good Examples of Meta Titles</h4>
<h4>Bad Examples of Meta Titles</h4>
<h2>Off-Site Optimisation</h2>
<h3>Link Building</h3>
<h4>Good Examples of Link Building</h4>
<h4>Bad Examples of Link Building</h4>

Hopefully you can see a pattern forming on how the titles should be structured. Just remember, as the number after the ‘h’ gets bigger it should be the subheading of the heading before it, unless you’re starting a new topic, where you should revert to that level of heading for a topic of equal weight and importance to the subject matter.

Let’s look at another example;

Let’s pretend that you wanted separate pages for On-Site and Off-Site Optimisation on your website, how would the layout change? Personally, I’d display it like this:

<h1>On-Site Optimisation</h1>
<h2>Benefits of On-Site Optimisation</h2>
<h3>Meta Titles</h3>
<h4>Good Examples of Meta Titles</h4>
<h4>Bad Examples of Meta Titles</h4>
<h3>Fast Loading</h3 >
<h4>Ways to make your site load faster</h4>
<h2>What happens when you over-optimise?</h2>
<h3>Penalisation</h3>
<h4>Algorithmic Penalty</h4>
<h4>Manual Penalty</h4>
<h3>Bad User-Experience</h3>

I would never use two <h1>’s on my page. With many websites you may find that the <h1> is in a consistent part of the website such as above the navigation bar. The <h1> can also be for the website name, which obviously doesn’t help search engines when they pick up on your brand name for the SEO page. Fear not though! Simply set the page title as the <h2> tag.

The importance of structuring your title tags is to help Googles crawler understand the content. It also provides a better user experience, allowing users to find what they’re looking for with more ease. The titles on these articles have all been styled with <h> tags helping Google’s bots understand the content easier, and also for your benefit to navigate the article.

Competitor Content Analysis

Below is some research I carried out for a client’s dental practice (The same client mentioned in the keyword research example). The Practice specialised in Endodontics (Root Canal) and the client wanted to learn how to create a blog that would rank for the search terms. The website was relatively new so I told him to focus on long tail keywords and wrote an article on how I would carry out the research process. There’s a lot more to the full process in the article but I’ve pasted below the competitor content analysis section. For the record – ‘Endodontic Treatment Steps’ is the long-tail keyword we were targeting.

My content analysis of the 1st ranking website for ‘Endodontic Treatment Steps’ shows that the word ‘Endodontic’ only appears four times in their content.

Where as ‘Root Canal’ – 48 times.

I then ran it through a hidden gem website I’ve found called Word Counter and it showed me that the website’s content contain 2678 words with a 11th – 12th grade reading level and the most common keywords being:

With Root Canal as the most common phrase:

This blog is clearly more optimised for the Root Canal search terms, giving me some opportunity to build a blog more targeted at the Endodontic search terms.

NOTE: The website also has some Affiliate Amazon links at the bottom (If users click on these links and make a purchase, the website gets a commission). This is obviously included in their content marketing strategy.

This workflow can be transferable to any industry to analyse content.

Webpage Organisation


Google places more weight on pages that are displayed nearer the homepage of the website. If a page is one click away from the home page then it is probably a more important page than a page taking 5 clicks to get to from the home page. A good way to measure this is by using Screaming Frog’s website crawler. The metric to keep an eye out for on here is the ‘Crawl Depth’ this will display a number showing how many times the crawler had to follow a link to reach the page. Having some pages with a high crawl depth isn’t the end of the world, providing they still show great content and have good page authority, it should still rank well. As you can see, a lot of Apple’s pages are never more than a couple of clicks away (No Crawl Depth went above 2). This is good!
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View example

Hard to find pages – One hurdle I see many company’s fail at is by labelling their service with their own version of the name. Such as, calling an SEO package a ‘Be Seen’ package. If I’m looking for an SEO service, I will look for ‘SEO’ or ‘Search Engine Optimisation’, not ‘Be Seen’. If I can’t find what I am looking for in a couple of seconds, I’ll probably leave (and I have more patience than most!). Renaming services is bad for your SEO. If you’re linking to the page with ‘Be Seen Package’ as the anchor text, then Google will probably rank you higher for ‘Be Seen Package’ search phrases and lower for ‘SEO Package’; and do I need to tell you which one has more searches? Don’t get me wrong, giving packages names isn’t a bad thing, but don’t link the Package Names around your site without having a clear navigational path to the Keyword people are looking for. So, create an SEO package, call it SEO, but then outline the different packages on that page, rather than before that page.

Meta Titles


Meta titles make the text that appears in Google’s SERP’s. They are also displayed the top of your browser on the tab:
Meta titles are very important for SEO and should match the main search phrases you’re targeting. This is a good indicator to the page’s relevance for Google and can lead to an increased click through rate (CTR). To change these, you will need to edit between the
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View example

On average your title tag should be no more than 60-80 characters. The reason for the vast range depends on how thin or wide the letters you’re using are. Note: It is important to capitalise the first letter of each word on the Meta Title. This is neater and Google prefers it. You may also notice that Meta titles separate keywords using this ‘|’ this is because the line uses up the least amount of pixels (in width) therefore saving space on the search engine results pages (SERP’s).
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View example

Meta Descriptions


Alt Attributes or ‘Alternate Text’ are used to describe images. They don’t appear on the image themselves, but rather ‘behind’ the image. In a browser you can see these populate when an image doesn’t display, due to the browser type, a broken image url or server issues, etc. In an ideal world, the image Alt Attribute will display and instead it should describe the image that you’re not seeing. Years ago Google would use Alt Attributes as a method to gauge a website’s content using these in a similar way to keywords. This lead to a lot of spamming by SEO’s compacting the Alt Attributes to contain a ton of keywords that did not describe the image itself. An Alt Attribute is displayed like this: <img src=”https://www.example.com/images/example-image.jpg” alt=”description of image” />
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View example

An okay Alt Attribute: <img src=”https://dogwalker.com/dog-in-a-park.png” alt=”Dog in a Park” /> – This isn’t very descriptive. A good Alt Attribute: <img src=”https://dogwalker.com/dog-in-a-park.png” alt=”Dog stood on a bench in a nature park looking out over a lake” /> – This is much more descriptive. A bad Alt Attribute: <img src=”https://dogwalker.com/dog-in-a-park.png” alt=”Dog Walker, Dog Sitter, Dog Boarding, Dog Kennel, Dog Walker for Hire” /> Or <img src=”https://dogwalker.com/dog-in-a-park.png” alt=”” /> Google will pick up on the Alt Attribute as containing keyword stuffing and therefore possibly penalise.
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Why are Alt Attributes Important?

It is commonly known that Google no longer considers Alt Attributes as a ranking factor. (A lot of agencies may use Alt Attributes as a weakness to try and win business from a competitor. Even though Alt Attributes should be organised and present, it’s definitely not the end of the world as many shady companies may make it out to be). So providing your Image URL’s are all up-to-date then why would a Alt Attribute be used? Well, firstly, server issues, something that can be out of your control may occur when the website is being loaded. This can lead to images not being pulled through and instead, the Alt Attribute displayed. This is very unlikely, but better safe than sorry! Also, and for me, this is the main one. Assisted browsers are used by many people with visual impairment. These browsers will take a webpages content and read it out, or even display it in a much clearer way. Effectively stripping out visual effects such as CSS and Javascript to display the bare bones content of the website. Alt Attributes are therefore used instead of the images themselves. If this isn’t enough to convince you, you’re probably not alone! Although, I like to live by the philosophy: “If it doesn’t hurt your SEO, then do it”

Internal Linking


Internal linking is useful as it helps users navigate your website, and therefore reduces your bounce rate (sending positive signals to Google). For me, the main reason I want to have plenty of internal links (not too many that it looks weird though) is for Google’s crawlers. Internal links allows the crawlers to find pages on your website, but also ensures that they are indexed for the correct search terms. The most annoying thing for an SEO Analyst is when Google indexes the wrong page of the site for a search term. To help Google’s bots understand which page should rank for which search terms it will use the anchor text that is pointing to that page. For example if there is a link consistently on the word ‘Search Engine Optimisation’ through a website, which all points to the one page (which will have further keywords of Search Engine Optimisation and Meta Data) then Google can get a good understanding of that page’s content and it should rank for Search Engine Optimisation phrases.
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Google diagram

This diagram is a good example of how Google will pick up on all Anchor text pointing to a certain page and how it will take this anchor text into consideration when finding a page’s relevance. Bear in mind, this is a very similar concept to Link Building (coming up next).

Citation Building


Citations are effectively ‘mentions’ of your business throughout the web. Every time a link is built containing your brand name it can help overall SEO, but also a help with your local listings ranking a lot more (the results that appear in the maps when conducting searches for a local business). Citation building can be conduct through submitting your website on local directories. When doing so it is important to do the following:
  • Brand Name – Keep the name of your brand consistent across all directory listings, and especially with your Google Business Listing (bearing in mind Google is the most important search engine).
  • Address – Keep the address of your business consistent, and if you change address, make sure you update this on all the directories. Keeping a consistent address builds confidence with Google that your service is located near to where the user is searching from.
  • Phone Number – Keeping your phone number consistent helps Google ascertain that the information provided in its search is correct. This additional confidence in your listing will push your up the local rankings.
These three details to follow are usually referred to as your NAP details. You may see this dotted around other blogs about citations. Quite often these citations can be easily built using online directories. These directories usually provide a link back, either in the form of a generic or naked link (two quite natural links). There are some fairly large directories around the web that are worth building links to as a new company, if you’re not currently on them, I’d advise getting onto them now. These are:
  • Yelp
  • Yell
  • Thomson Local
  • Scoot
  • Hotfrog
  • Local.com
  • Yahoo Local
More often then not these links back to your website will be ‘nofollow’ links. Fear not, although they may not pass any page rank, the citation alone and potential to bring in a bit of additional traffic are still helpful! I’ve personally found that some very important (and quite used) citations to build are by signing up to these services:
  • Facebook
  • Apple Maps
  • Google My Business
  • Linkedin Company Directory
  • Bing
  • Yelp
I haven’t found massive evidence online to back up what I have found, but when I submitted a client to these directories I saw these gains very shortly afterwards. They now enjoy top rankings for a popular search term!
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View example

Obviously there are other factors at play here, such as some other optimisation I was conducting on the website, but as you can see, after added to the directories, the gain was much faster than previous efforts. Even though I class Apple, Google, Bing and Facebook as citations (I mean, they kind of are if you look up what citation means), other SEO’s may not see them as proper citation building. For me, I wouldn’t start building citations until my site is on all of the above. Whether they are ‘citations’ or not, it certainly doesn’t hurt your business to feature on there and can bring in a few extra visitors.

Local SEO


I’m going to use Google as an example here, especially as they’re leading the way with local searches. Before moving onto the Local Ranking Factors you firstly need to create a healthy Google Business listing. See the next section and I’ll show you how to do this.
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Google My Business

Google My Business is effectively a Google Profile for your website/business. It allows you to receive and respond to views, post about limited time offers, show your opening hours and much more. The business listing has a good, simple user interface (and app) and seems to be receiving more and more new features every month! The business listing is a great way to update your existing customers with relevant information such as Holiday Opening times, reviews and News; whilst still being able to attract new customers. Here’s a image Google uses on their business listing page as an example of what a listing should look like: As you can see, there’s some enticing images, and a star rating that should help build confidence. If you’re happy with what you see, or would like to find out more, then the opportunity to call, get directions or visit the site are readily available. This is a great marketing tool for businesses, but quite often, it is forgotten about or badly optimised. In the next section I’ll run through how to create a business listing.

Creating a Google Business Listing

  1. To get started you’ll need to go onto the Google My Business page. You can find it here. From there click ‘Start Now’. (you’ll need to be signed in an account linked to Google) otherwise, you’ll have to either sign in or make one).
  2. Fill out your business name in the next option. Remember, moving forwards you will want to keep consistent NAP details to ensure that your citations are clean. So fill it out with a business name that you will stick to, otherwise you’ll create more work for yourself down the line. If possible, it is useful to add keywords into your Brand name. This can help with your local listing (just remember to add it to any other directories that you enlist on).Google will try and suggest other businesses that are already on Google My Business. Keep an eye if any of these match up to yours as sometimes Google can create a listing for your business if it can find enough information about it. If you’ve found yours then you can skip to the verification steps. Otherwise, keep working through these steps.
  3. Once you’ve filled out your business name, you will now have to enter your business address. It is important to get this address right for three reasons. To keep consistent NAP details, Listing Verification and because your customers may turn up at the wrong place! Once done, click Next.
  4. You’ll be greeted by the Business Category field – this is a very important part of Local ranking optimisation. When a user is making a search for a specific service nearby you need to make sure that you’re being categorised into this service. Otherwise, you may not appear!Sometimes, it can be difficult to find the exact category for your business. Google tries to offer as many categories as it can think of in hopes that all will be covered, but if you’re struggling – try Moz’s Local Category Tool. Once you’ve found your category, proceed through.
  5. This part is optional, but in most cases (and for a fully optimised listing), you would fill this out with your website and phone number. Note that this is the Phone Number that will be shown to your customers, so don’t put your private number on this.
  6. You may be lead to a step where you can opt in or out for marketing and tips, once you select your preference and continue you will finish the steps to set up the business. Now we have to get it verified.
  7. To verify your business listing you should see a red banner the top of your business overview. Go ahead and click ‘Verify now’ – this will take you to two options. One option to verify the business is to have a post card with a verification code sent to your business address (The one you put in the listing). Once received click ‘I have my code’ and then type the code in. This will then verify you. The other option is a phone call. When clicking this option the number you used to sign up on the business listing should ring and an automatic voice will read out a verification code. Make note of this code and then type it into the designated input field to verify the business.

Can’t verify your business listing?

In rare cases, you may not be receiving your post card and may not have a business number for Google to call. Or the number is being blocked! I once had some trouble getting a client’s business listing verified as their surgery (Cosmetic Surgery) was located in a Hospital, so the postcard was being thrown out as spam by them mailing team. They subsequently, also didn’t have a private telephone to answer for the robot as it would have had to have been transferred and picked up quickly, by which time, the robot probably would have finished its message. To get around this I contacted Google’s support (a lot harder than it sounds). Let me show you how to do this: When accessing your business listing you’ll have a sidebar on the left. At the bottom click support. This will toggle a help menu on the right hand side. Click ‘Need More Help?’ at the bottom. From there click ‘Access and Ownership’ And then ‘Other Problem’ at the bottom. You’ll then be greeted with the message ‘If you’re facing other ownership related issues that can’t be solved with these resources about, contact us. There’s a link on ‘Contact Us’ so click that. Once clicked you can fill out your details and arrange for an email or call back. I showed my client these steps and he arranged a call from Google. I caught up with him afterwards and he explained that they verified his business by a video call on his phone. He had to walk them around the practice and show them his branding and some evidence of the location. They manually verified his listing from there.

Optimising Google My Business Listing

Optimising the business listing is beneficial for two main reasons. Branding and Ranking. Having updated content and professional imagery can go a long way both in the user and Google’s eyes. Filling out all of the information also means that users can’t edit the listing. If you leave any blank areas you leave yourself vulnerable for users to make edits to the listing, this can also include your competitors! I’ll work through the listing in the order of the Left Navigational Side Bar.

Home – There’s not much to optimise on this page, this is purely for an overview of performance and reviews and regular tools that you may use.

Posts – Post’s are a great feature allowing you to keep users up-to-date on the latest news in your business, and also with any special offers that you might be added. As you add these offers many people that come across your business listing will also see your posts, offering an additional marketing channel for your business. Google picks up on your activeness on the business listing which helps your local SEO ranking as it can see you’re still running and active, rather than an outdated, never accessed, listing.

Source: https://searchengineland.com/google-posts-now-live-google-business-users-277710

This is a great example of what some effective posts would look like on mobile. For the record, the best dimensions for images in the posts is 590px x 445px.

  • Info – The Info section of your business listing won’t need that much constant updating. Ensure that it is full filled out with the most information as possible. You want to ensure that you’re featuring in all of the relevant categories for your business. The address and opening times must also be correct.
  • Special Hours – These allow you to put in opening times for seasonal events, such as bank holidays and Christmas. It is advised to pre-fill the ‘Special Hours’ ideally mapping your opening times out for the whole year.
  • Appointment URL – Should be a link to any booking software you hold. If you don’t use booking software, then I use it to direct the user to the contact page where they can get in touch to arrange a booking.
  • Services – A really handy tool that allows you to show the packages you offer and their pricing. For some users this is enough to lead to an enquiry, or click through onto your website to find out more about the services. Make sure you fill this out with your services (and preferably pricing if possible).
  • Attributes – The attributes in the business listing are Characteristics about the business. Only certain attributes will become available to you mainly based on the industry you’ve been categorised into. For example, a restaurant may have some attributes based around whether it is a casual or formal wear establishment, if take-out is available and so on. Whereas a bank may have the attribute of ‘Drive through atm’ (not going to lie, I had no idea this was a thing until I saw it online), disabled access and more general attributes.Make sure you fill out your attributes section in as much detail as you can, but only filling out the attributes that are relevant to your business.
  • Business Description – Write a bit about your business here, this information may occasionally be shown so make it fairly enticing for the user.
  • Opening Date – Not going to lie, I’m not too sure why Google asks for this one. Having done some research into this it seems that nobody is sure, but there’s speculation that Google may display how long the business has been operating for, which can be a big trust factor to the user. I’d say, this is worth filling out, it become more useful in the future with further updates!
  • Photos – I’m going to touch on this section as I work down the sidebar in this part of the article. Although on the info page, this is just a shortcut to add more images to your listing.

Insights – Insights give you some analytical data on how people have interacted with your listing. It shows how many people have clicked on your listing either to go to the website, ask for directions or make a phone call. Usually this interaction would indicate that you’re either ranking well in the snack pack, or that many people are searching your brand name directly.

Reviews – This section loads up your reviews and categorises them into ‘Replied’ and ‘Haven’t replied’. Replying to reviews is useful. Not only does it cement a better relationship with your client, it also sends positive signals to Google through showing activeness and engagement with your customers.

Reviews are also very important to receive as they are a ranking factor on Google. I find that receiving a lot of recent 5 star reviews really helps with the business listing image too.

I’ve written a bit about what to do if you/your client receives a negative review. A little bit further down. Click here if you want to jump straight to it.

Messaging – The messaging feature is rolling out to all businesses, so you should find it available, and if not, it should be soon! This feature is really handy, both to chat to potentially new customers and = to show Google that you’re on top of your customer service. If you’re applicable to have messaging you will be greeted by this:

Instead of this:

Once you click it, you will need to configure the mobile number of the device you want It to connect to. You will need to have the device set up with Allo.

After you verify your number you can then set up a auto-responder! In this area you can also turn the chat on and off, so if you’re busy you won’t have your phone consistently pinging.

The user’s will not need to have Allo to communicate back with you. In iOS they can message you via their local default messaging app.

Photos – Photos are really important in your Google business listing. The two most important photos to upload are your Logo and a relevant cover photo.

I know a lot of people struggle working out the dimensions so I’ve pasted them below:

Logo: The ideal size is 250 x 250

Cover Photo: The ideal size is 1080 x 608 aspect ratio of 135:76 (if not then 16:9 will do).

Another useful way to optimise the business listing is to string together a 360 degree tour. These can display straight onto the listings and Google likes them as it ties in well with their Google Street View feature where users can navigate the roads outside your business.

Optimising Google My Business Listing

Optimising the business listing is beneficial for two main reasons. Branding and Ranking. Having updated content and professional imagery can go a long way both in the user and Google’s eyes. Filling out all of the information also means that users can’t edit the listing. If you leave any blank areas you leave yourself vulnerable for users to make edits to the listing, this can also include your competitors! I’ll work through the listing in the order of the Left Navigational Side Bar.

Home – There’s not much to optimise on this page, this is purely for an overview of performance and reviews and regular tools that you may use.

Posts – Post’s are a great feature allowing you to keep users up-to-date on the latest news in your business, and also with any special offers that you might be added. As you add these offers many people that come across your business listing will also see your posts, offering an additional marketing channel for your business. Google picks up on your activeness on the business listing which helps your local SEO ranking as it can see you’re still running and active, rather than an outdated, never accessed, listing.

Source: https://searchengineland.com/google-posts-now-live-google-business-users-277710

This is a great example of what some effective posts would look like on mobile. For the record, the best dimensions for images in the posts is 590px x 445px.

  • Info – The Info section of your business listing won’t need that much constant updating. Ensure that it is full filled out with the most information as possible. You want to ensure that you’re featuring in all of the relevant categories for your business. The address and opening times must also be correct.
  • Special Hours – These allow you to put in opening times for seasonal events, such as bank holidays and Christmas. It is advised to pre-fill the ‘Special Hours’ ideally mapping your opening times out for the whole year.
  • Appointment URL – Should be a link to any booking software you hold. If you don’t use booking software, then I use it to direct the user to the contact page where they can get in touch to arrange a booking.
  • Services – A really handy tool that allows you to show the packages you offer and their pricing. For some users this is enough to lead to an enquiry, or click through onto your website to find out more about the services. Make sure you fill this out with your services (and preferably pricing if possible).
  • Attributes – The attributes in the business listing are Characteristics about the business. Only certain attributes will become available to you mainly based on the industry you’ve been categorised into. For example, a restaurant may have some attributes based around whether it is a casual or formal wear establishment, if take-out is available and so on. Whereas a bank may have the attribute of ‘Drive through atm’ (not going to lie, I had no idea this was a thing until I saw it online), disabled access and more general attributes.Make sure you fill out your attributes section in as much detail as you can, but only filling out the attributes that are relevant to your business.
  • Business Description – Write a bit about your business here, this information may occasionally be shown so make it fairly enticing for the user.
  • Opening Date – Not going to lie, I’m not too sure why Google asks for this one. Having done some research into this it seems that nobody is sure, but there’s speculation that Google may display how long the business has been operating for, which can be a big trust factor to the user. I’d say, this is worth filling out, it become more useful in the future with further updates!
  • Photos – I’m going to touch on this section as I work down the sidebar in this part of the article. Although on the info page, this is just a shortcut to add more images to your listing.

Insights – Insights give you some analytical data on how people have interacted with your listing. It shows how many people have clicked on your listing either to go to the website, ask for directions or make a phone call. Usually this interaction would indicate that you’re either ranking well in the snack pack, or that many people are searching your brand name directly.

Reviews – This section loads up your reviews and categorises them into ‘Replied’ and ‘Haven’t replied’. Replying to reviews is useful. Not only does it cement a better relationship with your client, it also sends positive signals to Google through showing activeness and engagement with your customers.

Reviews are also very important to receive as they are a ranking factor on Google. I find that receiving a lot of recent 5 star reviews really helps with the business listing image too.

I’ve written a bit about what to do if you/your client receives a negative review. A little bit further down. Click here if you want to jump straight to it.

Messaging – The messaging feature is rolling out to all businesses, so you should find it available, and if not, it should be soon! This feature is really handy, both to chat to potentially new customers and = to show Google that you’re on top of your customer service. If you’re applicable to have messaging you will be greeted by this:

Instead of this:

Once you click it, you will need to configure the mobile number of the device you want It to connect to. You will need to have the device set up with Allo.

After you verify your number you can then set up a auto-responder! In this area you can also turn the chat on and off, so if you’re busy you won’t have your phone consistently pinging.

The user’s will not need to have Allo to communicate back with you. In iOS they can message you via their local default messaging app.

Photos – Photos are really important in your Google business listing. The two most important photos to upload are your Logo and a relevant cover photo.

I know a lot of people struggle working out the dimensions so I’ve pasted them below:

Logo: The ideal size is 250 x 250

Cover Photo: The ideal size is 1080 x 608 aspect ratio of 135:76 (if not then 16:9 will do).

Another useful way to optimise the business listing is to string together a 360 degree tour. These can display straight onto the listings and Google likes them as it ties in well with their Google Street View feature where users can navigate the roads outside your business.

Website – This is a cool drag and drop website builder that pulls through information from your Business Listing and can post it straight onto the website. I actually really like the idea of this and I hope Google expand this feature! Having a website that dynamically pulls through your opening times, reviews, logo, pictures and even a messaging feature can give this feature a great head start to take on other website builders. Plus, Google know what they want from websites in order to rank, they can ensure that these builders are complying with everything they’re looking for – keep an eye on this one!

Make sure you regularly upload new photos, add new posts and respond to reviews when applicable. Keeping your content on your listing fresh will be very helpful!
Website – This is a cool drag and drop website builder that pulls through information from your Business Listing and can post it straight onto the website. I actually really like the idea of this and I hope Google expand this feature! Having a website that dynamically pulls through your opening times, reviews, logo, pictures and even a messaging feature can give this feature a great head start to take on other website builders. Plus, Google know what they want from websites in order to rank, they can ensure that these builders are complying with everything they’re looking for – keep an eye on this one!

Make sure you regularly upload new photos, add new posts and respond to reviews when applicable. Keeping your content on your listing fresh will be very helpful!

Optimising for local search

When users carry out a search looking to find something nearby, Google will attempt to match the most relevant local site’s (usually business locations) to serve that user. For example, I am looking for a Dentist in my local area of Bournemouth, according to search trends in the area I’m most likely to search ‘Dentist Bournemouth’. This is what I am greeted with: A lot of people may not see anything spectacular about what Google shows you here, but Google have actually put a ton of thought into what is being shown. Google understands that a Dentist search term is a service, in a physical location. So naturally, what details does somebody want to see when looking for a service in a specific location?
  1. Reviews (both star rating and amount)
  2. Phone Number
  3. Branding
  4. Address (and a map + pinpoint to locate easier)
  5. Website
  6. Directions
  7. Service category
  8. Opening times
All of this information at your finger tips in 0.46 seconds is pretty impressive (that’s probably just my nerdy side coming out again). When searching for a service nearby Google will take into account various ranking factors. These ranking factors will bear different weight/priority depending upon whether Google displays them in the map listing (known as a snack pack or local pack) or in the organic search results. This is why you may occasionally find a business ranking well in the snack pack, but not so well in the organic listings. Source: https://moz.com/local-search-ranking-factors As you can see in the image, the main ranking factor is the ‘My Business Signals’, this includes the proximity factor which is incredibly useful for mobile search. For example, searching ‘Restaurants near me’ will rely heavily on using your proximity to the restaurants around you. Another important factor is the category that the business is listed under. If you’re searching for Restaurants but they have categorised themselves as a bar, then Google will have a harder time trying to work out whether they’re relevant for your search term.

Optimising the Snack Pack

Optimising the business listing for the snack pack is much like optimising a website, except with a website your on-site SEO can give you a competitive advantage over your competitors. With a Business listing that advantage doesn’t exist. A fully optimised business listing will be just as worthy to rank as any other fully optimised business listing. The deciding factor in this scenario would be the off-site (or in this case, off-list) optimisation and engagement signals. Fortunately, almost all of the ranking signals are directly in control of the owner (behavioral signals are the a bit out of your control, but providing you keep working on your overall SEO and have a cracking business listing, these probably won’t hinder you). All in all, I’d say that the on-going optimisation method for the local rankings is very similar to the organic rankings. Build links and citations, get plenty of reviews and keep the content fresh and you should find a nice steady progress!

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