Category: Digital Marketing

Does the URL You Link to in Google My Business Impact Ranking in the Local Pack?


https://www.sterlingsky.ca/

This is a question I get pretty frequently in the Local SEO community: What URL should I link my GMB listing to?  The homepage?  A location page?  Something else?  We wanted to test & measure how the Google My Business landing page impacted ranking in the local pack (3-pack).

The Test

To test this we used Google My Business listings from Gair, Gair, Conason, Rubinowitz, Bloom, Hershenhorn, Steigman & Mackauf, a personal injury law firm in New York City.  Their office has existed for over 100 years, and subsequently, they have a lot of practitioner listings for lawyers that work there.  The issue is that a lot of the practitioner listings get filtered since they’re all using the same category and are located at the same office.

We took one of the practitioner listings that wasn’t ranking anywhere and we changed the URL on the Google My Business listing to point to their bus accident page instead of the homepage.  We picked this as a target due to how specific/niche it was and because the listing for the firm wasn’t ranking for any of these terms currently.  We didn’t want to cannibalize existing traffic which often happens with practitioner listings due to the filter.

The results showed that the landing page did have an impact.  The presence of “bus accident” queries on the landing page content and in the URL increased the relevance for the listing and the ranking increased as a result (screenshots from Places Scout).

https://www.sterlingsky.ca/https://www.sterlingsky.ca/

We repeated the test a second time on a different practitioner listing.  This time, we linked the listing to the bicycle accident page.  We saw the same result a couple of weeks later.

https://www.sterlingsky.ca/

https://www.sterlingsky.ca/

In Summary

The content on the specific URL you link to is important and impacts ranking in the local results.  For most businesses, it makes sense to link to the homepage since that URL has the most authority, backlinks, and relevance.  However, for some businesses that qualify to have multiple listings, using a strategy like this can help provide better results.

 

This article is part 7 of 9 from my LocalU presentation from March 2020.  If you missed the event, the videos are available for purchase here.   

https://www.sterlingsky.ca/
Latest posts by Joy Hawkins (see all)



Local Mailbag #1 – GMB Post Rejections, View My Plan, Located In, and More!


Welcome to the first edition of our new blog series, Local Mailbag! Here we will answer your questions on local search, Google My Business, and other related topics. If you have a question, send it our way. You can email our team, or ask your question in the comments!

Topics we are tackling in this article:

1) My Google Post is being rejected, can you please share the reason why it’s happening?

In the first few weeks of February, many users reported that their Posts were being rejected, and additional businesses and consultants echoed these sentiments on Twitter. This turned out to be a bug that Google has since fixed, so it is possible that your business was just experiencing Post rejections in error.

From our experience, however, a Google Post can get rejected for the following reasons:

  1. Prohibited content guidelines for photos and videos – The image or video you are using is not acceptable.
  2. Links to sites irrelevant to the business – You added a URL in the Post content that isn’t associated with your listing’s website URL.
  3. Inappropriate and offensive content – You are using certain words or inappropriate language that can result in a rejection.

It’s important to be aware of Google’s content policy and the rules around photo and video format and requirements.

Based on Google’s guidelines here are some things you can test for Posts going forward.

Content:

  • Don’t use slang, offensive words, hateful, obscene, profane or violent content. There are some words that we wouldn’t consider offensive but that can trigger Google’s filter and result in a rejected post.
  • Don’t use too many exclamation points or all caps.
  • Don’t include multiple offers in a post
  • Don’t forget to spell check.
  • Avoid gibberish, and use of gimmicky characters (ex.H@ppy Fr1Y@y).

Photos:

  • Don’t publish blurry, excessively dark, or low resolution photos or videos.

“To be relevant, photos or videos must be taken by users at the location in question. Stock imagery, or photos or videos taken by other parties, are not relevant and may be removed. If the primary subject of the content is irrelevant to the location, it may be removed.”

  • Don’t use screenshots, drawings, posters, and other non-photos.
  • If you are adding text or graphics (such as your logo) to an image, your content cannot take up more than 10% of the image or video, must be limited to a single edge, and must be relevant.

With regards to using stock imagery, we license photos and use them when it is relevant to the business and have not yet experienced having them removed, however, they could be removed eventually. Depending on the industry your business is in, you may need to access a stock photo here or there, and we say go for it! Check out our Posts guide to learn more about this feature.



Everything You Need to Know About Cloudflare (and Some You Don’t)


Cloudflare is most well known as a Content Delivery Network (CDN). Today it has grown past that and offers a range of services mostly covering networking and security.

Their stated mission: To help build a better Internet.

To understand that, consider your experiences with the Internet so far. I’m certain there have been instances where you encountered slow or unresponsive web pages. There are many reasons why this is so, but the end result is the same – your browsing experience is affected.

Even worse, you may not have been able to access the content which you needed. That’s one of the main reasons why Cloudflare and other companies like it exist.

Cloudflare server network
Cloudflare server network (Source)

TL;DR

Cloudflare owns and operates a massive network of servers. It uses these to help speed up websites as well as protect them from malicious attacks like DDoS. Ultimately, websites that use services like Cloudflare are safer and offer their users a better browsing experience.

Background: Project Honeypot and Beyond

Cloudflare didn’t begin as they are today, but rather as a project to discover the origins of email spam. Conceptualized by founders Lee Holloway and Matthew Prince, Project Honeypot was launched in 2004.

By 2009, present Chief Operating Officer Michelle Zatlyn had joined them. Together they embarked on a mission to not just track Internet threats, but defend websites against them. By the end of the year, they had raised just over $2 million in financing.

Launching privately in 2010, the Cloudflare team initially worked with a few members of the Honeypot community. Mid next year they got unexpected news. Aside from threat defence, Cloudflare actually boosted site speeds – on average by a third.

They decided to open to the public and have not looked back since. Today, Cloudflare is valued at around $4.4 billion dollars – and growing. 

Editor’s Note: Despite Cloudflare’s success, the story of Lee Holloway is one which is truly sad. Holloway suffers from frontotemporal dementia. The disease not only affected him, but deeply affected all who close to him. Read his story here.


How Cloudflare Works

how cloudflare works

The heart of Cloudflare lies in the massive network of servers it has. The network is spread across over 93 countries (That’s almost half the countries in the world) covering more than 200 locations. These act both as data cache servers and as a firewall on a massive scale. 

Technically, if you have a hosted website, all you need to do is sign up with Cloudflare. Then, add your site to their control panel. From then on it’s pretty much hands-free. Segments of data from your site get cached in multiple locations around the world on Cloudflare servers. 

When a visitor makes a request for your site, Cloudflare will send them cached data from the nearest location while communicating with your website at the same time. This often results in visitors starting to receive information much faster than if the request was made directly to your website.

At the same time, all data that’s being passed through Cloudflare servers is monitored. This way, they can block potential attacks, filter out bad actors (like bots), and anything else that helps keep your site safer.

Over the years, Cloudflare has enhanced its services significantly. Each time it has added on more elements, making it better, faster, and stronger for their users.

Advantages of Using Cloudflare

It’s understandable that there may be some confusion about Cloudflare due to its size and the way it is evolving. Essentially, they remain committed to their core mission statement of helping build a better Internet.

This means their focus is still on three key areas: Security, Performance, and Reliability.

1. Security – Cloudflare Helps Protect Websites

Looking up the domain name for a site using Cloudflare won’t reveal its real origin nameservers.
Looking up the domain name for a site using Cloudflare won’t reveal its real origin nameservers.

Once you’ve added your site to Cloudflare, all the data going out or coming in moves through their servers. At that point it can be analyzed by Cloudflare to assess potential threats. 

Elements which Cloudflare looks for are the visitor’s IP address, what the requests are for, frequency of requests, and more. Cloudflare also allows users to configure their firewall with custom rules.

Once your site is hooked up to Cloudflare its DNS system is protected as well. If anyone were to look up your domain name, all they would see is the set of DNS provided by Cloudflare and not your real nameservers, for example.

As a whole, using Cloudflare helps prevent bot traffic, malicious intrusion, DDoS attacks, and more. Think of it the same way you would as a cushion softening the blow a punch would do against your body. Technically though, it’s more of smart body armour than a cushion.

2. Speed – Improved via Distributed Remote Caching

Overview of how a data cache works on a CDN
Overview of how a data cache works on a CDN (source: Researchgate)

Thanks to the way Google works today, speed is something much coveted by website owners around the world. Faster websites mean higher search rankings, increased conversion rates, and an overall better visitor experience.

Imagine parts of your website being cached on Cloudflare servers at multiple locations. Each time a visitor tries to access your site, Cloudflare will respond by delivering your site from the cache location closest by.

The sheer power of Cloudflare servers along with a shorter location for data travel means your site will start loading on the visitor’s browser faster than ever. Meanwhile, your own web server is given time to deliver anything else that’s not cached on Cloudflare servers.

The theory Cloudflare follows is Edge computing, which tries to bring data and computing resources as close to visitors as possible. This serves to reduce the time needed for data to traverse the Internet.

Side Benefit – Cost Savings in Bandwidth

Because parts of your site are being served on Cloudflare servers you are also saving money on bandwidth costs. Sites run on VPS, Cloud, or dedicated hosting plans often pay for bandwidth and the cost savings may be significant.

How much of your site is cached depends on how it is designed. Cloudflare caches static elements (things that are not likely to change) like images. The more static content you have, the better the caching will be.

3. Reliability – Cloudflare Virtually Expands Your Resources

Thanks to the huge number of assets it has, Cloudflare adds an additional element to your site structure. Since their servers are helping deliver portions of your site, you’re gaining depth in redundancy.

If a Cloudflare node fails for any reason, your site can still be delivered via the next closest location. 

Aside from that, the distributed system also acts as a load balancer. By serving parts of your site off various servers, you are reducing the strain on your own web server. This can increase the number of concurrent visitors supported while maintaining the same level of performance.

What Cloudflare Offers Users

Content Delivery Network

Almost all Cloudflare services are integrated into its CDN product. This is what Cloudflare is famed for and what provides the bulk of the benefits illustrated in the section above. The DNS encompasses caching, traffic monitoring, HTTP/2 and HTTP/3 support, SSL, and more.

Domain Name Registration

This is something that most web hosting service providers normally offer. Many however, are simply re-selling on behalf of domain name registrars – one of whom is now Cloudflare. The service is rather new. While you can buy or transfer in domains to be managed by them, the former is still in Beta mode.

Hosting for Streaming Media

Media files, especially video, are the prime category of assets suitable for Cloudflare to deliver. The global range of servers is ideal for those who want to establish such services. It also means they can deliver the service at highly competitive rates.

DNS Resolution via 1.1.1.1

Everyone with an Internet account makes use of DNS resolution. That’s what helps translate domain names into their actual machine-readable format. Each time you type a site address into your browser and hit enter, you’re using DNS resolution.

Natively, most DNS resolution is done by our Internet Service Providers (ISPs). However, they don’t always do a good job of it, resulting in sub-par browsing experiences. On another level, some countries enforce web censorship through their ISPs.

By using Cloudflare’s 1.1.1.1 DNS resolution, you’re not only increasing the speed of your browsing but also bypassing rudimentary ISP-level blocks.

One significant development to 1.1.1.1 is the addition of what Cloudflare calls WARP. This enhancement is an attempt by the company to enhance the security features of 1.1.1.1, essentially tuning it into something akin to a VPN.

Local Network Protection with Magic Transit

Aside from offering websites DDoS protection, Cloudflare also offers this to businesses directly. Through a product called Magic Transit, Cloudflare is able to bring their global scale of Network protection to the level you need.

Not only intended for online networks, you can use Magic Transit to protect your local networks as well. The solution is ideal for companies which may balk at having to invest heavily in network infrastructure such as traditional hardware boxes.

Secure Network Access

Since they operate a network of secure servers anyhow, Cloudflare is perfectly poised to offer services in place of traditional Virtual Private Network (VPN) providers for businesses. 

Those who have workers connecting from remote locations have normally needed to invest in a VPN to protect their local assets. Oftentimes, these would be cumbersome in-house adaptations of VPN applications.

Cloudflare Access offers businesses the option to subscribe to a highly secure and easy to use solution with the Software as a Service (SaaS) concept.

Network Logging and Analytics

With so many services offered over their network, Cloudflare is able to offer its users another byproduct easily as well – Analytics. With a bird’s eye view of exactly how your data is used and the way it flows, you can make adjustments to optimize the delivery of your content.

Cloudflare Analytics are highly granular, meaning you will be able to drill information down to the exact resources which are being delivered. The logs through which the data is analyzed also offers security officers a digital paper trail to follow.

Serverless Code Deployment

For developers or companies who manage their own software resources on a macro scale, Cloudflare can help with deployment as well. Instead of having to invest in your own infrastructure, you can make use of Cloudflare Workers.

This means you can rely on resources available on demand without having to worry about managing them. It’s fast, powerful, and highly cost-effective as well.

Using Cloudflare With Your Site

DNS management on Namecheap
Caption: Example of DNS Management on Namecheap

The first thing you need to understand is that Cloudflare isn’t a web hosting service provider. This means that you need to have an existing website with your own domain name and hosting before using Cloudflare.

To start with you have to sign up for an account with them. Once that’s done, you will be provided with a set of nameservers to use. To start using Cloudflare you have to pay a visit to your domain name control panel.

There, replace your existing DNS servers (usually called Nameservers) with the ones provided by Cloudflare. This starts routing your traffic through Cloudflare servers and at the same time, starts the caching of your website.

Once you’ve done this, you can just leave the default settings alone and it’ll work. Once you’ve become more familiar with Cloudflare you can try tweaking some of the settings to fine-tune the performance and security of your site.

On top of this, Cloudflare integrates seamlessly with multiple applications from content management systems to eCommerce platforms. Some examples of these include WordPress, Magento, and Google Cloud.

What Cloudflare Can’t Help You With

Despite its rather broad scope of services, Cloudflare isn’t everything. For a website owner, you need to understand that Cloudflare for you is simply a tool to enhance the performance and security of your site.

Cloudflare does not:

Host your website – You will still need a web hosting service provider to hold and serve the files which make up your site. 

Improve Web Hosting Server Speeds – Although Cloudflare improves performance by helping you cache and serve some elements, it can’t speed up your web hosting server itself. If you have chosen a sub-par hosting provider, chances are that the speed improvements offered by Cloudflare won’t be enough to prevent frustrating your visitors.

Here’s a list of top 10 best web hosting based on real data and use cases.

Cloudflare may not:

Manage your domain name – If you’ve hosted your domain name with a Cloudflare partner you will have to manage your domain name via the partner’s control panel, not on Cloudflare.

Pricing and Plans – How Cloudflare Makes Money

Cloudflare has four distinct tiers in pricing plans. At the most basic, it offers a free service to users. This plan is limited in some ways, but most simple sites should be able to realize benefits even on the free tier. Most importantly, it doesn’t impose bandwidth limitations on users on its free plan.

Features Free Pro Business Enterprise
Globally Load Balanced CDN
Static Content Caching
Instant Full Cache Purge
Min Cache TTL Expiry 2 hrs 1 hr 30 mins 1 sec
Client Max Upload Size (MB) 100 100 200 500+
Mobile Optimization
CNAME Setup
Chat Support
Price $0/mo $20/mo $200/mo Ask for Quote

Paid plans on Cloudflare are Pro, Business, and Enterprise. Each includes an increasing number of features, with Pro costing $20/mo and Business at $200/mo. Enterprise plans are customizable and users need to discuss options and pricing with Cloudflare sales staff. 

If you are not a paid plan user or if a feature you want is not available on your plan, you often have the choice of using it as a paid extra. For example, Agro, a service that helps optimize traffic routes to further improve speed, isn’t available on the free plan.

Users who want to use only that extra feature can opt to pay $5 per website with an extra charge depending on the amount of bandwidth that’s used (around $0.10 per GB).

Financials & Investment

Cloudflare has an estimated customer base of around 2.8 million. The number is a combination of free and paying customers. Over 2019, their revenue stood at $287 million, with a Compound Annual growth Rate (CAGR) of around 50%.

Over the past few years, it has managed to maintain a very consistent average gross profit of around 78%. For a company with over 1,000 employees and a large investment in infrastructure, that’s certainly something impressive.

Cloudflare Milestones, Updates and News

Cloudflare went public in 2019 and has been on the rise ever since
Cloudflare went public in 2019 and has been on the rise ever since

Initial Public Offering

After around a decade officially in the business, Cloudflare finally went public with an IPO late in 2019. The stock was initially priced at $15 but skyrocketed to $17.90 by the end of the first trading day. Since then it has soared to over $36 (especially on the back of the Coronavirus pandemic) and things are looking bright for them.

8chan Incident

In August 2019 Cloudflare made the decision to drop notorious forum 8chan as a customer. Matthew Prince, CEO and co-founder of CLoudflare called the site “a cesspool of hate”.

Widespread Service Outage

Despite its massive size, Cloudflare isn’t completely immune to problems. One such incident (caused by itself) happened in mid-2019 and resulted in widespread outages across the board lasting over 30 minutes. The problem? A software deployment gone wrong.

Spamhaus DDoS

March 2013 saw Cloudflare’s network successfully stave off a concentrated multi-day attack against Spamhaus. At the time, it was the largest-ever DDoS attack encountered although there have been larger, more significant attacks since.


Final Thoughts: Is Cloudflare Right for You?

For the majority among us, when we think of Cloudflare it is simply as a CDN. This means it’ll help you to speed up your blog, or even improve the performance of your small business website.

In relation to that, their ownership of one of the most powerful global networks of servers seems a little ludicrous. Is it really necessary? To answer that question simply – yes. It is exactly the scale of this network that makes it a viable solution for so many websites today.

Also consider the fact that it’s giving many small website owners a free ride on their network. To do that, it has to be able to offer considerable services to enterprise scale customers as well, to cover the cost, so to speak.

Because of this business model, Cloudflare helps small site owners and businesses by offering them a service they would not otherwise be able to easily afford or justify. After all, it’s free for many.

Looking at it more strategically, it also addresses an issue which has become much more prevalent over time. The Internet has become an increasingly dangerous place. Not just for regular browsers, but especially for website owners.

Combining speed, reliability, and security, I would say that so far, Cloudflare has indeed made good on its promise. The quest for a better Internet. 

That makes it good for everyone.


Frequently Asked Questions

Is Cloudflare free?

Cloudflare offers a free tier of its CDN service with no bandwidth limitations. It also includes various services like rudimentary bot protection, HTTP/2, free SSL, and more. However, some features do have limits while others will have to be paid for.

What is Cloudflare Edge?

Cloudflare Edge refers to the concept they use for content delivery. This entails bringing data as close as possible to the delivery point (“the Edge”). The result is lower round-trip-time and savings on bandwidth for websites.

What is a CDN

A Content Delivery Network is the use of multiple linked servers to store data over a wide range of locations. This helps websites to serve their files more quickly and reliably, thereby improving the user experience of its visitors.

Which companies use Cloudflare?

Cloudflare powers around 13% of all websites currently in existence. While the list of users is exhaustive, it does include several big-brand names such as Roche, ZenDesk, Mozilla, UpWork, 9GAG, US Xpress, and more.

Are there alternatives to Cloudflare?

There are quite a few CND providers in existence today. Notable among them are Akamai, StackPath, and Sucuri. Each often pursues their own marketing path and looks towards a specific consumer segment. Akamai for example is more involved in the ultra high-traffic segment.

Is Cloudflare the only Free CDN provider?

No. There are other free CDN service providers as well. One such example is Amazon Cloudfront which has a free tier of service (for one year). However, it should be worth noting that most other free service providers commonly impose more limitations.



The Good and The Bad (Gacha warning) : AndroidGaming


I completely agree with everything except for one thing.

Battle system: it IS easily auto’d and let the AI play for you, however, that is only for the parts that’s so easy. In late game, you’ll see this as a side gacha praying that what you’ll get is what you need since every weapon are like ‘skills’ that you can use.

As for the main story, I agree, it is too limited at a time, but collectively, it is great and grim. It’s just that as a side gacha game, having the story as limited as a time isn’t a good idea.

But overall, everything’s great, sounds, graphics, characters and the philosophy behind the side stories as well are absolutely phenomenon.

I r8 8.8/10 rilly gr8 m8

Buck Up, Even Google Screws Up Technical SEO


GMB Arab Spring

I am located in the U.S. yet yesterday afternoon when I searched for “Google My Business” in Google, the first result I got was the UK URL for GMB: https://www.google.com/intl/en_uk/business/.

It wasn’t like that yesterday morning. So what changed?

A canonical tag.

According to Archive.org, yesterday morning the canonical tag for the URL that usually ranks #1,  https://www.google.com/business/, was https://www.google.com/intl/en_us/business/. But looking at the source of that URL now shows the canonical tag has changed to https://www.google.com/intl/en_ae/business/:

GMB Canonical

I’ll leave it you all to figure out how this set-up confused Google enough so that it had to show me the UK URL instead of https://www.google.com/business/, or why previously Google was ignoring the canonical to the /intl/ URL, or why this morning Google is again showing https://www.google.com/business/ at the top of that SERP even though the AE canonical tag is still there.

My only aim in pointing this out is that while SEO is not always rocket science, it is often tricky.

UPDATE:

Famed tech SEO nerd extraordinaire Patrick Stox couldn’t resist digging into the canonicalization issue on Slack.

ohhh, I can answer your last part. The canonical that was https://www.google.com/intl/en_us/business/ is sort of correct, in that the page is a duplicate and the duplicate cluster lead for this is https://www.google.com/business/ so it “technically” pointed to the right page. /business is what is specified in the sitemap for hreflang for en-us and x-default. They likely have a bit of a mess by breaking both duplicate and hreflang clusters that will take some crawling by googlebot to sort out which is why you’re seeing 2 results in your search instead of just 1 that swaps with the right version now.

The 6 Best WordPress Plugins Every Blog Needs


Blogs are a must-have to establish an online presence. With blogging, you get to communicate with your visitors about the latest trends, showcase your products and services, and even ask for their feedback. 

But blogging is more than just writing a few words or posting a couple of videos. To run a successful blog, you also must consider search engine optimization, security measures, and promotion. 

Luckily, WordPress plugins can help you with these pressing needs. Check out the six best WordPress plugins for blogs below.

best WordPress hosting

1. Yoast SEO

Blogging is a long-term strategy to bring attention to your brand. It’s a combination of writing relevant content and getting people excited to visit your website. 

Search engine optimization plays a huge role in helping visitors discover your content on the web. Using the right keywords can ensure you’re attracting the right people. Adam Enfroy, a full-time blogger and affiliate marketing expert, says:

“Optimizing your blog posts is not about stuffing as many relevant keywords into the article as you can (that can actually hurt your SEO now). It’s about writing for humans first, and search engines second.”

Yoast SEO is an essential WordPress plugin to get your blog content ranked on search engines. This plugin comes with a readability analysis feature, title and meta description templating, breadcrumb controls, and XML Sitemaps functionality.

yoast seo wordpress plugin

2. Newsletter

Visitor engagement doesn’t stop when people land on your blog. The next step is to capture their email address, so you can send visitors more relevant content. That way, you can build a quality relationship with your audience. 

Newsletter is a WordPress plugin that helps you with list building and sending emails. This email marketing tool allows you to create responsive newsletters with its drag-and-drop composer. There’s even a subscription spam check to block unwanted bots.

newsletter wordpress plugin for blogs

Experts suggest building an email list as soon as you create your blog. It’s also wise to try different methods to boost your subscribers. Belle Beth Cooper, the first content crafter at Buffer, writes:

“When you’re asking readers to sign up for your email list, you might want to try experimenting with a different language. Willy Franzen found that his subscription rate jumped 254% higher when he changed his call-to-action from ‘subscribe by email’ to ‘get jobs by email’.”

3. Wordfence Security

Reports indicate that 43% of cyber-attacks are made against small businesses. One reason for this staggering statistic is the lack of security infrastructure. Similar to adding an alarm system to your new home, your website needs tools to protect it from potential breaches and suspicious attackers. There’s no better time to add security to your site than right now. 

Wordfence Security keeps your website safe with its firewall and malware scanner. This plugin identifies and blocks malicious traffic and checks core files for malware, bad URLs, and SEO spam. You’ll get access to a dashboard with an overview of your site’s security including notifications and total attacks blocked. 

wordfence security wordpress plugin for blogs

This tool also comes with two-factor authentication and CAPTCHA to stop bots from logging into your site. If you upgrade to the premium version, you’ll get real-time malware signature updates along with checks to see if your site has been blacklisted for malicious activity.

4. wpDiscuz

A blog serves as a central location for your brand to discuss topics relevant to your audience. Your blog posts will give insight into your business’s culture, products, and team. 

But it’s also important to get feedback. The comment section of your blog gives readers a chance to express their opinions directly to you. Every once in a while, it’s okay to get a little controversial.

“Begin a conversation in which you share your position and invite others to disagree. Be careful of overdoing this, though, as being contentious all the time can get weary. It can look like you’re just trying to pick a fight,” writes Jeff Goins, best-selling author of five books.

Supercharge your blog comments with wpDiscuz. This plugin adds an interactive comment box on your posts. You can accept and deny specific comments, sort the comments by newest or oldest, and enable comment voting.

wpdiscuz wordpress comment plugin for blogs

5. Google Analytics Dashboard for WP

Getting traffic to your blog matters to your brand. So much so that there’s been a 93% increase in blogs using promotional techniques to drive traffic to their posts.

You need a way to observe your traffic as it comes in. Google Analytics Dashboard for WP helps you set up all your tracking features without writing any code or hiring a developer. No more leaving WordPress to view key stats in Google Analytics; now, you can monitor them inside your dashboard.

google analytics dashboard for wp plugin for blogs

Get real-time stats of who’s viewing your website, where they’re coming from, how they found your site, and how long they’re staying on your site.  You also can automatically track clicks on affiliate links and track every file download with just one click.

Haven’t set up Google Analytics for your WordPress blog just yet? Read our step-by-step guide.

6. Social Media Share Buttons & Social Sharing Icons

Writing great content is only one part of a successful blog. The other part is actually getting people to read and engage with your blog posts. Beyond SEO, you will need additional content distribution channels to attract visitors to your blog. 

Social media is an effective way to spread the word about your website. Ben Sailer, inbound marketing lead at CoSchedule, states: 

“Another way to connect your audience to your content and encourage them to share it is to create content that revolves around their values. Your audience wants to know that the values of your company or product align with theirs.”

Encourage your current visitors to share your blog posts with the Social Media Share Buttons & Social Sharing Icons plugin. You can pick from 16 different designs to match your brand’s site. 

social media share buttons wordpress plugin for blogs

This tool gives you the option to make your social media icons static or dynamic. You also can add a counting feature to the buttons.

Upgrade Your Blog With These WordPress Blog Plugins

It’s time to attract new visitors to your blog. Use these six WordPress plugins to boost your SEO results, gain traffic from social media, and track your site’s analytics. 

Reopening Checklist for Local Businesses: Make It Confusion-Free, Local SEO-Friendly, and Safe


Like my post? Please share!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/tambako/49416838482/

No matter how operational your business has been, or how “open” it can be now, or how your goals have changed, sooner or later your local search visibility again will be one of your sorest spots.  Whether that’s already happened or is still a while off, at the very least you don’t want your local SEO to be in worse shape than it was before the lockdown.

There’s a good chance you’ve been open in some capacity this whole time.  So when I say “reopening” I’m referring to whenever you’re (1) welcoming more in-person business and (2) focusing more of your local SEO effort on drumming up that in-person business.  My guess is you’re not emerging suddenly.

 

Of course, I don’t know your specific situation, so I assume it’s safe and legal for you to “reopen” in one manner or another.  I assume you’ll apply your best judgment.

I’ve put together a quick checklist of the main quick tasks to help you pick up your local SEO effort where you left off, and maybe even make a little progress.  Here’s my “reopening” checklist (chunked into sections for clarity):

Google My Business (“GMB”)

  1. Make sure your GMB page is not marked “temporarily closed.” The ideal situation is you never did that, because for a while marking your business as “temporarily closed” would you from the 3-pack (from what I saw). In any event, now is probably a good time to mark it as “open.”  By now, most people know to check with you if they’re unsure of your hours or SOPs.

  1. Accept or deny any auto-updates Google has made on your GMB page, depending on whether they’re accurate.
  1. Make sure your latest GMB post reflects your current status, especially if you created a sticky post or a “COVID update” post.
  1. Confirm your GMB description is up-to-date.

  1. Submit edits on any recent keyword-stuffing in competitors’ Google My Business “name” fields. (In the COVID era Google has allowed certain kinds of descriptive phrases in there, which of course certain people have used as a justification to keyword-stuff even more than they did before .)

Website

  1. Make sure your title tags reflect your status as of reopening time (if you updated any of your title tags to reflect your COVID status).  Even if your title tags are unchanged, at least your description tag (or even a sitelink) should anticipate and address the question on everyone’s mind.

  1. Make it clear whether your online or “virtual” offering is available long-term, once you’ve resumed seeing customers / clients / patients in-person. Many business owners scrambled to roll out that kind of service and to create a page for it, but many of them conflated that page with their “COVID policies” page. So you want to make it clear to people whether your virtual offering is or was strictly a spring of 2020 thing.

  1. Confirm your “contact” page reflects your current status: how open you are, your hours, willingness to offer a virtual service, etc.

Reviews

  1. Determine whether Google is allowing new Google Maps reviews through. As you may know, Google put new reviews on hold for a while, though Google been allowing some reviews through (to varying degrees) since about mid-April, from what I’ve observed. Do a dry run by asking someone you know (customer or not) to leave you a Google review.  A few hours later or maybe the next day, sign out of your Google account, open an incognito browser tab, and see if you can see the review in Google Maps.
  1. Try responding to a Google review to confirm whether Google has restored your ability to respond to reviews. (Yep, that feature also was on ice for a while.)
  1. Encourage a recent customer or other reviewer to mention your safety protocols in his or her review. That accomplishes at least a couple things: it makes it clear you’ve seen customers recently, and it gives would-be customers a sense of your business’s current SOPs.

Other

  1. If you run Google Ads (AdWords), make sure none of your ads or extensions has been pulled because you mentioned the pandemic or telehealth by name. (You can only refer to those obliquely.)
  1. If applicable, make sure HealthGrades shows correct answers in the FAQs section (which shows up because HealthGrades uses Schema FAQs markup).

  1. Send a “howdy” or low-key announcement to anyone who may have wanted to visit your business or work with you in recent months, but who couldn’t. I’m referring to people you had to turn away, people who had safety concerns you may have addressed in the meantime, etc. I’m sure your website and Facebook page will convey the message, but I’d also recommend an email blast, a one-on-one email, or even (dare I say) a piece of snail mail.  Even if your rankings are OK and you’ve got no local-visibility-related problems, it may be a while before you get any new customers through the local search pipeline. See who’s been stuck in the pipeline for the last few months.  No doubt some people have lost interest, while others are in real bad need of what you offer.

 

Once you’ve reopened, of course you’ll get back to the same challenges you had before: getting more visible than your competitors are, and getting business out of the deal.  Then you’ll be back to the same questions, like of how to earn good links, how to get good reviews, how to make your site as big and bad as it can be, how to keep a lid on competitors’ spam, and more.  In a strange way it may feel good to get back to the point where those things are the biggest problems; they might not seem as daunting.

What else is on your reopening to-do list?  Anything I forgot?

Any big decisions you’re pondering (that tie in with local search)?

Leave a comment!

New Free-To-Play Pokemon Puzzle Game Launches On Nintendo Switch And Mobile Devices


A new, and different kind of, Pokemon game released on Nintendo Switch and mobile devices today. Titled Pokemon Cafe Mix, the game is a puzzler in which players and Pokemon work together to serve customers in their cafe. All customers and staff are Pokemon, and players can use different Pokemon abilities when feeding their customers.

Obviously, this is not a game with the most hardcore of gamers in mind. It’s likely that the game’s biggest appeal is that it’s far too cute for its own good. Either way, if you’d like to try it out, the game is available on both iOS and Android as well as Nintendo Switch. More details on the game can be found on the official site.

Local Search Clinic with Martha van Berkel [BrightLocal Webinar]


In this Local Search Clinic, Schema App’s Founder Martha van Berkel will tackle your questions on schema markup. Join us to ask your questions and find out how schema markup can help your local SEO.

Got problems only the pros can answer? Looking for tips to boost your online search presence? Or just want to chat with fellow local SEOs? Join us each week for an hour of expert insights with new topics each week.

Read on to find out how to get your questions answered!

For any questions or issues registering for the webinar, please email us at content@brightlocal.com

Can’t see the button to register above? Click here to save your spot.

How to register and ask your question

1. Click the green ‘Save my spot!’ button at the top of this page.

2. Click ‘Email me a login link’

3. Click ‘Confirm & sign in’ in the email from Crowdcast

4. Click ‘Ask a Question’ and submit your question using the popup (you can do this before or during the broadcast)

See a question in the popup that you’d also like the answer to? Just click the arrow next to the question to ‘upvote’ it! The popular questions with the most upvotes will be answered first.

P.S. Don’t forget to join our Twitter local SEO networking list! Simply follow the list and we’ll add you in.



11 steps to create a marketing plan for your business


Focus on growth

Many entrepreneurs know they need to create a marketing plan, but they are either intimidated by the thought of it, or they don’t put the time into it soon enough.

You can hear the voices of protest (and excuses) now…

“But I’m not going to be doing any advertising anyway.”
“I just want to grow through word-of-mouth.”
“I’ve got to get my business up-and-running first and then I’ll figure out the marketing.”
“I’m not a marketing person!”

If you’ve secretly thought of any of these things, you’re not alone.

But the reality is that writing a good new business marketing plan is extremely important and not very difficult.

It’s just outlining decisions about what your business is, who your customers will be, and how you will reach them — and committing those ideas to paper in an orderly format.

A good marketing plan answers questions like “Who are our target buyers?” and “Where will we spend money to attract them?” With these kinds of questions resolved, you’ll be setting your business up for success right from the start.

So stop procrastinating and learn how to make a marketing plan.

 

Where to begin?

Well, let’s start at the beginning.

What is a marketing plan?

A marketing plan is a document that outlines a brand’s plan to attract and retain customers and promote its brand, products, and services.

It includes research, information, and past marketing performance history, and it outlines a plan for creating future marketing and advertising strategies.

Marketing plans are often a section of a larger business plan. But they can also stand on their own.

Why do you need a marketing plan?

A marketing plan helps you put all of your research, ideas and plans in one place. When you go through the process, you can:

  • Define your core messaging and positioning to create a cohesive brand voice, vision, and style.
  • Set a budget that matches your goals and agenda.
  • Deliver a stronger return on investment as you will create tracking processes to measure and optimize campaigns.
  • Develop better future plans as you can clearly see what’s working and what’s not.
  • Organize and centralize your marketing plans so your entire team is on the same page.

Without an official marketing plan, it’s likely that your business will have a lot of ideas, opinions and plans floating around without much cohesion.

A marketing plan helps you get focused and organized so you can be more coordinated, productive and successful.

When’s the best time to make a marketing plan?

There’s no bad time to create a marketing plan. But the best time to make a marketing plan is:

  • At the beginning/end of the year so you can plan out plans for the year ahead.
  • When launching a new business so you have a new business marketing plan to help you grow and scale your business.
  • When launching a new product, service or category in your business so you know how to capture a new market.
  • The moment you realize you don’t have one because it’s never too late to start to reap the benefits of having an existing or new business marketing plan.

If your business fits into any of these scenarios, it’s time to create a marketing plan.

Before you begin

If you have an established business, but this is the first time you’re creating a marketing plan, start by reviewing your history.

You’ve probably had marketing plans in the past even if they weren’t laid out in a formal document. Reflect back on those campaigns and strategies to help create your new plan.

Open up a spreadsheet to start recording an inventory of everything you’ve tried so far to market your business. Note any action you’ve taken (cost, time investment, dates, duration), and categorize everything.

Think about each of these efforts.

Be honest about what did and didn’t work, and what is and isn’t working.

List it all out so you can use it to inform and guide your future marketing plans.

Now, let’s get into how to make a marketing plan for your new or existing business.

How to create a marketing plan in 11 steps

It can be easy to feel overwhelmed as you start to think about creating your marketing plan. But, all you really need to do is follow a simple outline and go through the following marketing plan steps.

  1. Define your offerings.
  2. Define your brand mission.
  3. Define your target audience.
  4. Conduct a market analysis.
  5. Conduct a competitor analysis.
  6. Define your brand positioning.
  7. Outline your goals.
  8. Outline your marketing strategy.
  9. Set a budget.
  10. Outline offers and marketing tactics.
  11. Define metrics and KPIs.

Let’s walk through each step.

1. Define your offerings

Before you can create a marketing plan, you need to be clear about what it is that you’re selling.

Create a list of your products and services and outline:

  • The features of each offer/product
  • How each feature benefits customers
  • What makes each offering different from other similar offerings
  • The price for each offering

Related: How to write a mission statement you’ll be proud to share

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2. Define your brand mission

Now that you know exactly what you’re selling, it’s time to explain why you’re selling it.

Outline your brand mission by answering questions like:

  • What is it that you would like your brand to accomplish?
  • Why do you want to help your customers?
  • Why are your products or services important?
  • Why should customers look to do business with you instead of your competitors?

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3. Define your target audience

Once you know what you’re selling and why you’re selling it, it’s time to outline who you will sell to.

Define your target audience by creating buyer personas that describe your ideal customers and audiences. Outline their:

  • Demographics (age, gender, income, education, location, etc.)
  • Professional details (industry, job title, company, etc.)
  • Psychographics (personality traits, beliefs, attitudes, etc.)
  • Goals (what they what to achieve)
  • Challenges (pain points, what they’re afraid of or in need of, etc.)
  • Influences (favorite media outlets, thought leaders, etc.)

Need help defining your target audience? Check out this guide on What information should you include in your buyer persona customer profile?

Related: Why a target audience matters (and how to find yours)

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4. Conduct a market analysisMan Reviewing Details For Market Analysis

A market analysis describes the total marketing environment in which your company competes.

When you create a marketing plan, this analysis is an essential section as it answers questions that help you navigate your competitive market’s landscape.

  • How many businesses offer similar offerings?
  • How many businesses will your brand be in direct competition with?
  • How large is the market?
  • What are the trends in the market (growing, decreasing, etc.)?
  • How much are customers already paying for similar offerings?
  • How much are customers willing to pay for similar offerings?
  • What does the sales cycle in your market look like?

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5. Conduct a competitor analysis

The market analysis should help you come up with the names of a few of your direct competitors.

Now, look closely at those competitors to see how you can differentiate your brand and drive customers to choose you over others.

  • Who are your competitors?
  • What is their market share?
  • What are their strengths, weaknesses and unique selling propositions?
  • How can you differentiate your brand from competitors?

Related: How to find inspiration from your competitors (without stealing their ideas)

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6. Define your brand positioning

By this step in the process to create a marketing plan, you’ve done a lot of research, and you’ve outlined what you know about your brand, market, and competitors.

Use this information to decide how you will position your brand in the market.

  • Outline your unique selling propositions.
  • Define what market differentiators you will highlight.
  • Specify what market segment you will target.
  • Define your brand voice and tone.

Related: A beginner’s guide to branding your business

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7. Outline your goals

The goals section is just that — defining your short- and long-term goals. Think about where you’re starting from, and where you want the business to be in three, five and 10 years.

Some examples of marketing goals might be to:

  • Attract customers
  • Retain customers
  • Increase website traffic
  • Increase social media following
  • Increase online sales
  • Increase in-store sales
  • Generate more leads
  • Improve online conversions

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8. Outline your marketing strategyCreate A Marketing Plan Woman Working On Laptop

Your marketing strategy should then outline your approach to reaching your goals.

Look at your goals and figure out what type of marketing tactics will help you get closer to your target objectives.

They might include (but aren’t limited to) the following.

  • Online advertising. Pay-per-click advertising, banner ads, text ads on partner sites.
  • Email marketing. Sending electronic newsletters, adding subscription tools to your site to grow your email list.
  • Print advertising. Newspaper or magazine ads, business cards, direct mail postcards, brochures or flyers.
  • Social networking. Maintaining your business profile and engaging with customers and prospects on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
  • Blogging. Writing your own blog, responding to or submitting articles or features to other people’s blogs, RSS feeds, etc.
  • Online directories. Your business listing on both global (i.e. Google, Yelp and YP.com) and local (i.e. Chamber of Commerce) listings sites.
  • Live networking. Handing out business cards, professional memberships, public speaking.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO). Tweaking website content to attract organic traffic.
  • Trade shows. Sending your team to attend or present at industry conferences and events.
  • Public relations. Getting mentions and features about your brand in the news.

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9. Set a budget

There are a lot of factors that go into setting a marketing budget. But at this point, you should have some good information to help direct your budgeting.

Ask yourself:

  • What is your current revenue?
  • What percent of your revenue have you allocated for marketing?
  • What set marketing costs do you have (for software, team members, etc.)?
  • How much money will you need to reach your goals?
  • What are your competitors are spending on their marketing?

Once you start running strategic and goal-focused marketing campaigns, it will become easier to set marketing budgets. You will be able to use past campaigns to measure costs and your return on investment (ROI) — such as cost per lead, cost per customer, etc.

But, in the beginning, you will need to try a few campaigns to see what works and delivers the best ROI.

Related: 5 ways to build a strong online presence on a shoestring budget

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10. Outline offers and marketing campaignsWoman Writing Outline In Journal

Now, it’s time to turn your ideas into concrete marketing promotions and campaigns.

Decide what type of offers you can make. What can you offer as a special or deal? A free consultation? Special pricing for new customers or for referrals? Rewards? Samples?

Whatever you do, be consistent with your goals.

 

It doesn’t make sense to offer early bird specials if your target audience is college students grabbing late-night burgers.

Then, consider your marketing strategy, goals, offers and budget to lay out a few concrete campaigns. Outline the cost, time and tactics for each campaign.

Examples of marketing campaigns

Increase awareness with business cards

  • Cost: Less than $20 to print custom business cards with a service like Vistaprint
  • Time: 10 minutes to two hours per week
  • Tactic: Carry business cards with you at all times. Share them with anyone you meet who shows an interest in your business, whether you’re at a client meeting, your Rotary Club, or a party where the topic of what you do for a living comes up in conversation. Give each person multiple cards, one for them and another one or two to share with someone they know who might also be interested in your services.

Drive traffic to your website with a banner ad

  • Cost: About $200/month (costs will vary from $0 to thousands, depending on where you choose to place your ad)
  • Time: 3 hours
  • Tactic: Banner ads are those rectangular ads you see in the margins of just about every website. When someone clicks on a banner ad, they’re typically taken to the advertiser’s website, where they can redeem the offer or shop for whatever is advertised in the banner.

Promote your business with email

  • Cost: Starting at about $10/month for an online email marketing tool
  • Time: One to five hours per month
  • Tactic: This assumes you have a list of email addresses to start with. If so, subscribe to an email builder and customize one of the email templates. Start by sending one information-filled email every 10 days to two weeks (“Check out our latest offerings.” “SAVE 10% now through Thursday!”, etc.). Track customer responses. Resend emails that work and stop sending those that don’t.

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11. Define metrics and KPIs

The final step as you create a marketing plan is to decide what metrics you will use to evaluate your campaigns.

Better-known measurement options like surveys can be useful, but you’ll also want to understand things like the cost of customer acquisition (for every new customer you get, how many marketing dollars do you have to spend?) or market share (out of the universe of your potential customers, what percentage do you have, and is that growing?).

Look at your marketing campaigns and decide what metrics will be best for showing results tied to your goals.

As mentioned earlier, having the right set of metrics will allow you to make more informed decisions about your budget as well as make adjustments to strategies as you go.

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Check your new business marketing plan, iterate and improve

Now, you know how to make a marketing plan, but your work doesn’t stop here.

Use the framework to go through the marketing plan steps and start writing your plan. Then, review your finished marketing plan with fresh eyes and make plans to continue to update and improve your outline.

1. Ask questions of others to check your thinking.

It’s easy to get in your own head and substitute your judgment for your customers’ because you’re passionate about your business.

You might think “I’d prefer receiving a coupon rather than a sample; a coupon would make me more likely to buy.” Run that by some people who fit the profile of your target market before you decide which way to go. You might be surprised.

2. Don’t try to think of everything yourself.

Look at your competitors and learn from what they do well. But don’t forget to look at other industries, too.

There’s no reason you can’t steal a trick from a different kind of company facing the same issue. It will save you time, in the long run, to test tried-and-true methods in addition to your own brilliant, unique ideas.

3. Stick to the plan — and keep changing it.

I know this sounds contradictory but do both. Being true to the decisions you’ve made in your marketing plan is key to remaining focused.

If your business is growing faster than expected, if your customers give you feedback you didn’t have before, if your competition changes, then these are all good reasons to make adjustments.

Don’t be afraid to tweak your marketing plan or even make substantial revisions.

Remember, you’re never really finished writing a marketing plan.

 

The document should evolve along with your business. Don’t just put your marketing plan in a filing cabinet never to see the light of day. Use it. Share it with your team.

A marketing plan, like any tool, is good only if it’s used. And when it is, it’s a powerful guide for running and growing your business, from startup to wherever you’re headed.

Bring your marketing plan to life

You now know what a marketing plan is, why you need one and how to create a marketing plan in 11 simple steps. You’re ready to start outlining the path you will take to launch, market and grow your business.

Go through the marketing plan steps outlined in this post and then, make it easy to execute your plan with GoDaddy’s Websites + Marketing service. It supports your plan by helping you build a professional website and market your business everywhere online.

This article includes content originally published on the GoDaddy blog by the following authors: Andrea Rowland and Jennifer Friedman.