Category: SEO

Keyword Research Tools & Tips [Powerful SEO Series: Article 2]

This is the second entry in our 8 Steps to Powerful Search Engine Optimization series. Check out Article 1 to learn about website audits!

You: Who needs keyword research, anyway?

Us: Everyone.

You: Everyone?

Us:

Woah … Sorry, about that. Not sure what happened there … Anyway … 

Yes, everyone should do keyword research before optimizing a website, writing new content, or anything related to digital marketing.

Sometimes companies pay for research tools, while others opt for free ones. Here are a few options you might want to consider.

Paid Keyword Research Tools

Marketing companies tend to use paid tools for their keyword research because they give a ton of information in a tidy package. One example of these is the SEMrush management platform.

If you’ve spent a lot of time researching SEO, you’ve probably heard of SEMrush by now. There’s a good reason for that — their platform kicks ass. Especially the Keyword Magic Tool.

When you type in a keyword, you’ll be given a large number of terms and phrases related to it. You’ll also be given data for each keyword, including:

  • Monthly search volume
  • Keyword difficulty
  • Average cost-per-click (CPC)
  • And more

Here’s an example of how a search would look if we used the keyword “keyword research”:

Picture of the SEMrush Keyword Magic Tool dashboard.

As you can see, it’s a powerful program. However, it’s also expensive, so might not be the best option for a small business. Let’s take a look at some of the free options available… 

Free Keyword Research Tools That Don’t Suck

This isn’t going to be a comprehensive list because we haven’t tried all of them. BUT, we do use a couple of free keyword research tools that we believe hold their own against pricier choices.

Keywords Everywhere

We use this one to find additional keywords and long-tail keywords to add to our existing list. Keywords Everywhere is a Google Chrome extension and super simple to use.

All you have to do is type in a keyword, click search, and the results will appear on the right-hand side of the search results. The extension will provide you with the trend data for the keyword, along with a bunch of similar keywords that you might be interested in using.

Picture of the free keyword research tool, Keywords Everywhere.

Keyword Surfer

This is another Google Chrome extension that we use often. When you search for a keyword, Keyword Surfer provides monthly search volume, estimated CPC, and a list of keyword ideas related to your search.

Basically, this tool can give you all the information you need to properly optimize your website’s meta titles, meta descriptions, headers, and on-page content. Here’s an example when we searched for “keyword research tools”:

Picture of the free keyword research tool, Keyword Surfer.

Potential Shortcomings of Free Keyword Tools

Free technology usually has its quirks. For example, sometimes Google’s shopping ads at the top of the search results will block the keyword boxes. It doesn’t happen often, but even one research session can throw off a project.

Another inconvenience is that, while it’s free to use the base functionality of these tools, there are elements of them that might require payments. It’s not enough to hinder the experience, but definitely something to be aware of.

We Can Help You With Your Digital Marketing

CG Marketing Group is a talented team of creatives and strategists who can make your business awesome. We like to have fun, but we’re very serious about digital marketing.

To sum us up in a single word — Scrappy. We’re always eager to branch out and apply new tactics to create successful campaigns. Our crew works hard to bring value, get results, and keep our clients happy.

Level-Up Your Digital Marketing

Website Audits [Powerful SEO Series: Article 1]

This is the first entry in our 8 Steps to Powerful Search Engine Optimization series.

Is your website kinda … bleh? Don’t be embarrassed, it’s a common problem for many companies. If you’re basing it only on looks, you’d be surprised how many beautiful websites have terrible Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

As a business owner, it’s not your job to know how to build a solid website. But you should embrace the value of working with a digital marketing company that knows its stuff and can help you.

Most of the time, marketing companies will start the process with an SEO audit. This will reveal what’s good about your website and what’s broken, which will make it easier to create custom solutions.

We can’t speak on any other company’s behalf, but our digital marketing team uses these four tools when creating an SEO audit:

These programs spit out a lot of data, which we analyze to build a well-defined strategy and road map. Once that part’s done, we gather it into two lovely documents for the client to review.

Each client receives a local SEO audit and a technical SEO audit. Here’s some more info on those…

The Big Cheese — Local SEO Audit

To kick things off, the local SEO audit report presents seven categories and a rating for each one, as demonstrated in this helpful visual example:

Picture of a chart from an SEO audit.

From this point on, the report goes into a deep dive for each category. Remember, all of these categories work together to determine SEO.

Links & Website Authority

This section compares the client to their competitors in these areas:

  • Google Index Count: Total number of pages a website has indexed on Google.
  • Link Count: Number of links a client has pointing to their website from other websites.
  • Linking Domains: Number of domains those links are coming from.
  • Majestic C-Flow: Citation accuracy.
  • Domain Authority: A measuring tool created by MOZ that predicts the probability of a website ranking. 
  • Website Age: The number of years a website has been active. 

Search Engine Rankings

We gather a list of keywords the client wants to rank for and check their status before we make any updates. The report displays the list of keywords, along with the client’s ranking for Google, Google Mobile, Google Maps, Bing, Bing Local, and more.

Picture of a keyword chart from an SEO audit report.

Local Business Listings

Listings are super important for local businesses. The more your Name, Address and Phone (NAP) information is listed across the web consistently, the better your web presence will be. While citation accuracy is no longer a ranking factor, it’s still important.

Listings can include:

  • BBB.com (Better Business Bureau)
  • DexKnows
  • Facebook
  • Apple Maps
  • Bing
  • MapQuest
  • Google
  • Yellow Book
  • Citysearch
  • Yelp
  • Local.com
  • And more

Our audit shows our clients how many listings are available, how many are claimed, and how many errors those listings have and more.

Picture of a local listings chart from an SEO audit report.

Ratings & Reviews

Amazon, Yelp, and other websites have made ratings and reviews a mandatory part of the shopping experience. When customers are researching products and services, quality ratings and good reviews help steer their business.

We review the following websites and calculate how many reviews and ratings our clients have for each channel:

  • Google
  • Bing
  • Facebook
  • Yelp
  • Foursquare
  • Yellow Pages

With small businesses, it’s very common to have very few ratings and reviews. That’s okay! There are white-hat ways to get them, like customer outreach campaigns and more.

Google My Business (GMB)

Your GMB needs to be set up correctly to help you rank for local searches. For example, “near me” is a common search now. Donuts near me. Mechanics near me. We could keep going, but you get the point.

The more relevant information you add to your GMB listing, the more likely you’ll be to show up in those “near me” searches. That’s why we include it as part of any website optimization.

GMB optimization can include:

  • Profile set up and verification
  • Choosing the appropriate top category for your business
  • Uploading photos and posts
  • Responding to reviews and ratings
  • Updating and implementing categories, products and services
  • Adding contact information, hours of operation, links to the website, and more

On-Site SEO

To simplify it, this means we analyze everyone on your web pages (including things that aren’t visible to users). When it comes to SEO, there’s isn’t just one thing that pulls all the weight — but all of the little elements add up!

Our on-site SEO audits examine the following aspects of web pages:

  • Technical (Page load speeds, robots.txt, XML sitemaps, errors, links, and SSL)
  • Content (Meta titles and descriptions, image alt tags, header tags, schema markup, keywords, and more)
  • Mobile-friendliness (Responsiveness, load speeds, rendering, and more)

Social Media Channels

How popular are you? That’s what this portion of the audit finds out! Well, at least in the social media realm. We take a look at our clients’ social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) and review things like:

  • How well they’re set up (Accurate contact information, company overviews, images, etc.)
  • Followers count
  • Engagement on posts
  • What kind of website traffic they get from social channels
  • And more

Feelin’ Nerdy? You’re Gonna Love a Technical SEO Audit

Some business owners like to keep things at a general overview, but some really like getting into the nitty-gritty when it comes to data.

If you’re the latter, you’ll love a technical SEO audit. Here are a few things we examine:

Website URLs — Our crawler identifies how many of the website URLs were:

  • Successful
  • Not Found 
  • Redirected
  • Disallowed
  • Timed-out
  • Forbidden
  • Errors

Picture of a URL chart from an SEO audit report.

Content Types — This section points out how the website content is divided by:

  • CSS
  • HTML
  • Image
  • Javascript
  • PDF
  • SVG

Picture of a website content chart from an SEO audit report.

But this is only a small look into how a technical audit works. There are plenty more areas that get examined, and our developer and team make sure to take a deep dive into each website.

The bottom line? It’s imperative that you have a technically sound site. Just like a house, a website with cracks in the foundation will be at a greater risk of future problems.

The dilemma with technical issues is they’re often invisible unless you’re looking for errors manually or with a technical audit tool. For this reason, it’s important to work with a marketing team you can trust.

We Can Help You

CG Marketing Group is a talented team of creatives and strategists who can make your business awesome. We like to have fun, but we’re very serious about digital marketing.

To sum us up in a single word — Scrappy. We’re always eager to branch out and apply new tactics to create successful campaigns. Our crew works hard to bring value, get results, and keep our clients happy.

Level-Up Your Digital Marketing

Picture of laptop with SEO graphic on screen

8 Steps to Powerful Search Engine Optimization

There’s a lot of negative stuff going on right now, so we wanted to throw some good vibes out on the interwebz. Did that make me sound cool? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Anywho…

We’re a digital marketing agency. It’s our job to make people visible online and help them get more customers. How do we do it? A bunch of ways, including Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Here are the 8 steps we take to give clients some mighty SEO:

1) Website Audit

What’s working? What’s not? This audit helps us find out and create solutions. We use 4 tools to make it happen:

  • Brightlocal (for local SEO)
  • SITEBULB (for technical SEO)
  • Screaming Frog
  • Ahrefs

These programs give us a whole bunch of data, which we breakdown to establish a distinct strategy and road map. Learn more about website SEO audits here.

2) Competitive Analysis

This one’s pretty straightforward. We take a look at competitor websites, social media channels, and other digital pathways to see what they’re doing and how we can make our clients stand out.

3) Keyword Research

“Google it.” People use Google search so much that the name’s become a verb. For companies to show up in search results, they need to weave relevant keywords into their content.

We’ve used tools like SEM Rush and Keyword Surfer to research the industry keywords that matter most to our clients. The trick is finding that sweet spot where keywords incorporate elements of:

  • Accurate user intent
  • Strong and steady search volume
  • Low keyword difficulty

Learn about some paid and free keyword research tools here.

4) Website Optimization

Once we’ve completed keyword research, we can optimize client web pages to make sure they’re scannable and helpful to users. Some areas we update include:

  • Title tags and meta descriptions
  • Headers
  • Linking

One big reason why unique, keyword-rich title tags and meta descriptions matter: Google search results. Optimizing your title tags and descriptions ensures you’re getting the right message across to potential customers. Here’s an example:

5) Creation of Relevant Content

Tailored messaging helps make brands unique. We write web pages, blog posts, email blasts, and any other content the client needs to grab people’s interest and lead them down the funnel.

6) Development of Proper Code for Each Web Page

Website speeds and load times are a critical search engine ranking factor. But this becomes muddled when companies buy pre-made website themes and templates.

Off-the-shelf or out-of-the-box themes often have a ton of functions because the developers are trying to appease as many needs as possible for end-users.

The problem? People end up with a ton of unneeded code (code bloat), which is a common issue for site speed. We do our development in-house to ensure it’s done right, every time.

Our developer creates a custom theme for every website we build based on the PSD file requirements. No extra code is added and load times and site speeds are as fast as possible. 

7) Google My Business (GMB) Optimization

Have you seen the GMB commercials Google has been pushing during NFL games this year? They wouldn’t be plugging it so much if they didn’t want businesses to make it a priority.

Make no mistake, GMB listings are a big deal for SEO. The more helpful information you give, the higher up you’ll appear. Sometimes the GMB listings are the very first section in the results!

8) Ongoing Monitoring and Adjustments

SEO isn’t something you can simply do once and forget about it. It requires constant observation and updating because Google (and other search engines) are constantly shifting.

We keep up with best practices while monitoring Google’s algorithm updates. We make small and large changes to code and content to keep companies relevant and their websites ranking.

About Us

CG Marketing Group is a talented team of creatives and strategists who can make your business awesome. We like to have fun, but we’re very serious about digital marketing.

To sum us up in a single word — Scrappy. We’re always eager to branch out and apply new tactics to create successful campaigns. Our crew works hard to bring value, get results, and keep our clients happy.

See How You Can Improve Your Marketing

Picture of laptop with Google on screen

Optimizing Your Google My Business For COVID-19

Everyone looks to the internet for answers. They’re also shifting their searches to be more localized (e.g., “Grocery store near me.” or “Grocery store in my city.”). To adjust to this reality, businesses need to modify their digital marketing strategies.

With the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) causing major problems in the economy and daily life, it’s more important now than ever to have up-to-date messaging and profiles. Here are a few quick tips for communicating with your customers:

  • Add a banner or update on your website with a message (This could be a link to a page with a longer message from the company owner).
  • Share messages and regular communications and updates on every appropriate social media channel.
  • Update your Google My Listing through the COVID-19 section and “special” hours section.

Our primary focus for this blog will be Google My Business. If you’re completely new to Google My Business, please read this blog post first. If you’re familiar with Google My Business and are ready to learn more, let’s dive in!

Using Google My Business During COVID-19

Businesses around the world are feeling the impact of COVID-19. They’re implementing changes to their cleaning processes and hours of operation, along with shifting to remote work and delivering products and services through online channels. Customers are increasingly looking online for the status of local businesses, and their first stop is often Google My Business and Google Maps. Here are some tips:

1) New Google Post type for the COVID-19 update section. Add a message and update every 14 days.

Here’s an example of the copy we write for these posts:

“Just a friendly reminder: As of 5/11/2020, CG Marketing Group remains open during our regular business hours (M-F, 7:30 AM – 4 PM). We’re taking necessary precautions to keep our staff and customers safe, but we’re here for your business during this difficult time.”

Businesses are also allowed to update their name with “delivery only” or “curbside pick-up only”.

2) The Temporarily Closed feature is available in the info section of the dashboard. Using this feature does not affect visibility or rankings. This is especially helpful for gyms, eye clinics, and other businesses that can’t currently operate under COVID-19 restrictions. Here’s an example of a temporarily closed listing:

Google My Business COVID-19 Changes & Updates

If you’ve been fairly active with your Google My Business profile, that’s great! However, there have been some changes since the pandemic started. Here are some temporary updates and changes Google has made so far:

  • April 7th Update: Google restored the ability of business owners to respond to reviews.  Review functionality is partially back (While business owners can respond, there is a lag time in publishing them). Reviews left should be published in the coming weeks.
  • April 8 Update: Google started temporarily limiting GMB functionality due to COVID-19.  The Google team took precautionary measures to protect their team members, which means they’re operating with a limited team. In other words, things might be slow-moving for a while, so patience will be necessary.
  • May 11 Update: This update gives retailers the ability to add a donation link, gift card link, or both to their profile. They can also make personalized posts to inform customers how funds will be used.
  • The Questions & Answers section was “removed” but should be back live in the coming weeks.
  • The Suggest An Edit option for listings is paused and any suggested updates will be delayed until further notice.
  • A new alert banner now appears in the info section of your GMB dashboard that says “Based on recent updates, this business has been marked as closed (Yes/No).” When you select “Yes”, there will be a new option in the info section under the header “Reopen This Business On Google”. You can then select “Mark As Open”.
  • Essential businesses are getting the most attention right now. Non-Essential cannot claim a new listing or update their listings other than the COVID update at this time.
  • If you manage multiple locations, you can update Special Hours via bulk upload or API, but with the Temporarily Closed feature, you will need to manually enable this function.

Don’t Forget Bing

Bing Local also now has a specific COVID update option as well. The Bing Places portal has launched some new features to help your business respond to the COVID-19 pandemic with updates for your customers on your Bing search listing.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!

There has been a lot of disruption to regular business operations and there will likely be more to come. That’s why it’s crucial for your business to communicate effectively with your current and potential customers through all social media channels, Google My Business, and Bing. 

About Us

CG Marketing Group is a talented team of creatives and strategists who can make your business awesome. We like to have fun, but we’re very serious about digital marketing.

To sum us up in a single word — Scrappy. We’re always eager to branch out and apply new tactics to create successful campaigns. Our crew works hard to bring value, get results, and keep our clients happy.

Learn About Our Digital Marketing Services

5 Things To Love About Search Engine Optimization

🎵“All my life I’ve prayed for someone like you. And I thank God that I, that I finally found you…”🎵

That song’s about SEO. True story.

(Eyes dart back and forth)

Alright, FINE! It’s not about SEO. I just wanted to find a romantic theme for this blog, what with it being Valentine’s Day and all. Please don’t sue us, K-Ci & JoJo!

But seriously, it feels really good when you find exactly what you’re looking for on Google (or Bing, Or DuckDuckGo, or whatever other trendy search engine is being used these days). Likewise, it feels really good when your ideal customers can easily find you online.

Search Engine Optimization is the key. Here are five things we love about SEO.

1) It helps you show up higher in Google results

If you’re not on the first page, your website won’t be found. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, people do go beyond the first page of search results.

The first page can often be filled with advertisements, Wikipedia articles or other informational websites, so there’s a chance that you won’t always find exactly what you’re looking for on page one.

Still, if your website shows up closer to the top, you’ll put yourself in a better position to get more eyes on your brand, which leads us to…

2) More people will visit your website

Who doesn’t want more website visitors? More visitors = higher potential for conversions. Even if you don’t have a traditional conversion path, brand awareness is always a good thing.

3) It’s cheaper than PPC

We’re not knocking PPC, but SEO is cheaper. We had a client who got 10 PPC conversions while a one-time SEO update gained them over 71 conversions in the same amount of time at a much lower price.

4) It makes your website more relevant to potential customers

Through extensive research and strategic keyword placement, you can optimize your website copy to speak directly to your ideal customers. ← That’s the corporate way of saying that good SEO appears natural and conversational.

Your web pages should feel as though they’re talking directly to the user. You know a guaranteed way to ruin your copy? By stuffing too many damn keywords into it!

Don’t keyword stuff your copy. It looks stupid and it doesn’t work.

5) It gives a stronger online presence for local brick-and-mortar businesses

More people are searching for “near me”, so if you set up your website accordingly, people will find you. You also need to use Google My Business (GMB).

If you have a fully loaded GMB page, you’ll have an advantage when people in your geographic area search for your company or a keyword related to your company. A GMB listing looks like this…

Google could show preference to GMB listings going forward. There’s even a possibility that people will start using only GMB listings instead of going to individual websites.

Set up your GMB and fill it with all of the information you’d want potential customers to see. This could be hours of operation, pictures, posts, reviews, and even an FAQ section.

About Us

CG Marketing Group is a talented team of creatives and strategists who can make your business awesome. We like to have fun, but we’re very serious about digital marketing.

To sum us up in a single word — Scrappy. We’re always eager to branch out and apply new tactics to create successful campaigns. Our crew works hard to bring value, get results, and keep our clients happy.

Learn About Our Digital Marketing Services

Local SEO Is Huge – Google My Business and Algorithm Updates

We won’t mince words here: Local SEO is a big freaking deal!

People search for products and services closest to them. It’s all about quick answers and convenience. When these searches happen, Google gives the user’s search results for companies closest to their location. What does this mean? It’s important that you optimize your website AND your Google My Business (GMB) profile.

Why Your Google My Business Profile is Important for Local SEO

If you load up your GMB profile listing with as much information as possible and get several online reviews, your company will be more likely to show up in the local 3-pack near the top of Google search results. Here’s what we mean by the “3-pack”:

Picture of the Google My Business 3-pack

Yeah, there are four listings there, but the top one’s an ad so it doesn’t count 😉. But seriously, you can see the impact GMB listings have on search results. To add to the drama, the 3-pack doesn’t count as organic search results.

Even if you’re ranked #1 organically for keywords, your competitor’s website could be showing up higher than yours if they’re optimizing their GMB profile and you’re not. While backlinks still play an important role, just having the basics filled out completely can give you a jump above your competitors!

Google Algorithm Updates and Their Effects on Local SEO

Boy, are we ever getting sick of hearing about algorithm updates? Every time they happen, pieces of the sky suddenly start breaking and falling to the ground. It’s the strangest phenomenon…

Anyway, Google does algorithm updates periodically and they can impact your SEO rankings (BERT, anyone?). On November 29th, Google ran an algorithm update that had some impacts on local SEO. Without getting technical, the update focused on providing search results based on the users’ intent as opposed to the exact keywords they’re using.

This led to businesses losing rankings for certain keywords, but ultimately there’s nothing specific you have to do to counter the update, other than providing the best possible content. It’s all about the end-user and serving the best possible website to answer the searcher’s questions or solve their problem.

What this means for your business is that your website needs to be relevant and helpful for your potential customers. You need to avoid keywords stuffing and instead focus on context and accuracy in your content. Relevance to user search intent is huge, so research long-tail keywords and write your content to answer people’s questions.

Have you seen a fluctuation in your 3-pack rankings lately? If so, please reach out to us. We can run a digital audit to pinpoint exactly what may be amiss.

About Us

CG Marketing Group is a talented team of creatives and strategists who can make your business awesome. We like to have fun, but we’re very serious about digital marketing.

To sum us up in a single word — Scrappy. We’re always eager to branch out and apply new tactics to create successful campaigns. Our crew works hard to bring value, get results, and keep our clients happy.

Learn About Our Digital Marketing Services

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