De-mystifying Google Search Console Part 1

In this blog series, we’ll be going over Google’s Search Console. The Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) is a completely free and indispensable tool offered by Google to all business owners and webmasters. While you don’t have to be signed up for Search Console to be crawled and indexed by Google, it provides fantastic insights into optimizing your site and its content for the search engine.

A one stop data repository

Search Console is where you can monitor your site’s performance, identify issues, submit content for crawling, view what searches brought visitors to your website, monitor your backlinks as well as much more. However, the most important feature of Search Console is the ability to monitor your site’s health and is where Google will communicate with you should anything go wrong with your website (i.e. crawling errors, manual penalties, malware detected on your website, etc.)

If you don’t have a Search Console account for your site, then you should get one as soon as possible. You may find that you won’t want one of the fancier, more expensive tools out there that essentially does the same thing as Google’s free tool.

All you need to sign up for Search Console is a Google account, which is something you probably already have if you use Gmail or any other of Google’s many products.

The following guide will go over the basics of what you need to know in order to work effectively within Google’s Search Console.

Adding your website to Search Console

After you arrive at Search Console, if you haven’t already, Google will ask you to add a property. Just click the big red button that says Add A Property and then input your website address into the pop-up box.

Next is verification, before Search Console can access your site, you need to prove to Google that you’re the owner/authorized webmaster for the website. There are five methods of verification for Search Console. Google doesn’t have a real preference on which one that you use, although Google does have a “recommended method” that they feel is the easiest way to go about verifying your website.

  • The HTML file upload: This method is Google’s “recommended method.” Google provides you with a HTML verification file that you need to upload to the root directory to your site. Once you’ve done that, just click on the provided URL, hit the verify button and you’ll have full access to your website’s Search Console Data.
  • HTML Tag: With this method, Google provides you with an HTML tag that needs to be inserted into the <head> section of your homepage, before the first <body> section. We don’t recommend this method, because if you make any further updates to the HTML of your homepage and the tag gets removed, your verification will be revoked and you’ll have to do the verification process over again.
  • Google Analytics: Assuming you’ve established a Google Analytics account and your Google account is the same as the one you’re using for Search Console, then you can verify your site this way, as long as the GA code is in the <head> section of your home page and you have “edit” permission.

Once you’re verified, you’ll be able to see your site on the “Home” screen. Here you can access the site, add another property (if you’re a webmaster for more than one website), and see if you have any unread messages from Google.

Getting To Know The Dashboard

The Dashboard is where you can access all of your site’s data, adjust your settings and see how many unread messages you have.search console dashboard

The menu on the left side of the Dashboard is where you can navigate to all the reports and tools at your disposal. The three graphics in the center of the Dashboard (Crawl Errors, Search Analytics, and Sitemaps) are quick glimpses at your general site health and crawlability. These act as short-cuts to reports found in the menu found on the navigation bar on the left-hand side of the screen.

The gear icon in the upper right-hand corner of the dashboard leads you to your settings menu. This menu gives you access to a variety of tools, preferences, and admin features. From here you can set to receive email notifications from Google about your site health, set your preferred domain and crawl rate, change the address of your website if you’re moving to a new domain, link your Google Analytics account to your Search Console account, and set admin permissions for authorized users of your Search Console account.

settings menu

Well, that’s it for this week’s tutorial. Next post, we’ll be going over search appearance, structured data, and the new data highlighter tool.

 

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FAQs about Local SEO

Businesses normally have a lot of questions about SEO, but, one branch that sometimes makes them scratch their heads is the difference between local SEO and traditional SEO. “What is local SEO and how is it different from normal SEO?” is a much more common question posed to digital marketers than people think. This among other frequently asked questions are what I’m going to answer in this article, but first, there’s something we should explain.

The Local Search Results aka “The 3 Pack”

Over the last several years, Google has refined and re-refined their search results pages to give local businesses prime SERP real estate on their first page. The reasoning behind this is simple, Google users want to see what local businesses there are for certain keyword phrases.

For example, let’s say, I’m looking for a good place to have a meal and a drink at the end of the day, A search for “pubs near me” will pull up pubs nearby who are (in this case) within driving distance along with some useful information such as rating, phone number, address, and hours.

Local SEO Screenshot on Pubs near me

Not only is this good for finding a good pub for a pint and burger, it’s also many people’s preferred method for finding anything from daycares to dentists. According to Ed Parsons over at Google about 1 in 3 searches are about locations. Which means that you’ve probably done this yourself so you’re probably familiar with the user side of local SEO. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s dive in and answer a few of these FAQs shall we?

What is local SEO and how is it different from regular SEO?

As you probably know, SEO is the use of different tactics to make your website rank high on Google, with the first page of search results being the ultimate goal. With local SEO, instead of focusing exclusively on your website, you’re also going to focus on different outlets that list your business information such as Google’s My Business profile page.

For example, try searching for “barbers near me” and you’ll see what I’m talking about. You should see a map in the upper right corner, different barbers names, addresses, and phone numbers along with reviews right at the top of the first page of Google. All of this information is coming from a business’ Google My Business page.

So, the key difference between local SEO and regular SEO is that you need to optimize both your website and your Google My Business profile page to compete for local SEO.

How Do You Get Google To Display Business Results?

One of the biggest points of contention with local SEO is that Google doesn’t always show the “3 pack” in search results. So how do you force Google to show the local business pack instead of normal search results? The long and short of it is, you can’t.

If Google isn’t showing a listing with a map and business profiles, then there is no way to force Google to show your business page. Instead, you’ll just have to optimize your content using traditional SEO tactics.

What Types of Businesses Should Pursue Local SEO?

Google has a full set of guidelines for listing your business in Google. Obviously, if you’re a 100% online presence with no physical location to speak of, then local SEO isn’t for you. The basic rule of thumb is that local SEO is a good marketing avenue for any business that interacts in-person with it’s prospective customers. If you never meet in-person, then it probably isn’t a good fit for your business.

How Can I Get My Business To Rank In Other Cities?

Location is a big factor when it comes to the ranking algorithm for local SEO. Where this is concerned you have to think from the perspective of the searcher. If I’m searching for a restaurant in Albany, it doesn’t help me to see results for places that are in Rotterdam. Google takes this into account which is why the location of the person searching versus the actual location of the business is a big factor in local SEO.

It helps to think of it like a double-edged sword; you’ll have an advantage getting into that local 3-pack the closer your prospective customer is to your business, however, the further away they’re searching, the less likely they’ll see your business. It’s not impossible to rank in other cities than the one you’re located in, just know that it’s going to be an uphill battle to beat out businesses that are closer to the searcher.

Curious about how Mountain Media can help you with your local and traditional SEO? Feel free to shoot us an email and one of our SEO specialists will be glad to consult with you to see how Mountain Media can help bring your business to new heights.

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Link Building in 2016: Is It Still Worth The Effort?

Link Building 2016

2016 isn’t the first year that predicted to be link building’s swan song and most likely won’t be the last year predicted either. However, link building has become much more nuanced and has come a very long way from the era of spam and botted links from the pre-Penguin days. Today, I’m going to share with you my perspective on link building and why it should still be an integral part of your digital marketing strategy.

Link Building: A History

When the web was young, and Penguin hadn’t hatched yet, link building was almost like the wild west of the internet. It was riddled with black-hat SEO tactics from super-spammy links built on sites meant to be a repository for links and bots inserting links into website’s comments or forums all over the place. Quantity mattered more than quality, and that was the way of the web until Penguin showed up. Now, I’m not saying that Penguin has eliminated all of the spam, but, the majority of the shady link spam industry has been penalized or devalued into oblivion, and has helped clean up the link building industry tremendously.

Links have always been an important ranking signal, and will continue to be, especially since they were a core element to Google’s original search engine algorithm back in the early 2000’s. This algorithm is what separated Google from the rest of the search engine pack, making their results better than their competitors. Today, links continue to be a powerful ranking signal because Google continues to invest in links as votes of confidence about a website.

There was, however, a hitch in their plans. With the “hatching” of Penguin in 2012, digital marketers began to move away from link building. Some of the reasons cited were that Penguin devalued link spam, making link acquisition harder, they made link spam “high-risk” since spammy sites were punished severely, Google’s vagueness on the details of what caused Penguin penalties made people fearful and uncertain, which lead to doubt and a glut of misinformation involving links and what would trigger Penguin to attack.

These factors helped to create a perfect storm of misinformation. Many SEOs saw content marketing as their new golden goose, a replacement of link building with link earning. A build it and they will come sort of strategy where high level content would be created and naturally attract links. However, unlike Field of Dreams, the links never came.

Content Marketing is Good to Do, But Link Building isn’t going Anywhere

First off, let me say that content marketing is a very important part of any digital marketing strategy, and shouldn’t be shunted off by any means. However, I wouldn’t pool content marketing with link building and SEO. The theory of link earning, as preposed by the shift from Penguin, is based on the assumption that high-quality content will organically gain links through social engagement (i.e. re-tweets, Facebook/LinkedIn shares, +1’s, etc.). However, it seems that this isn’t the case.

Back in the Fall of 2015, Moz and BuzzSumo conducted a study, analyzing over 1 million pieces of content and their shares and the links they earned. From this study, they came to the conclusion that there is no discernible correlation between social shares and links. The sample size was mostly composed of highly shared articles that had already proven popular in the niches that they were published in.

These findings indicate that while some content may be viral hits and be shared far and wide across social media, that does not naturally translate into links, either to the piece of content or to the content’s home site. While compelling content is an integral piece to the link building process, it is not the be-all-end-all of link building, manual effort is still necessary to take advantage of content’s link opportunities.

Links Will Continue To Matter in Digital Marketing

Links are one of the foundational ranking signals on the web. As long as you need to market your business, you’ll need to include link building as part of your digital marketing strategy. Regardless of how any search engine tweaks or modifies their algorithm, links will continue to be a cornerstone of the web, not because of how Google values them, but because of their own inherent value to the web itself. Links are what we use to navigate the vast sea of the internet, without them, it would be extremely difficult to find anything we were looking for. Ignore links at your own peril, because if you do, you’ll be missing out in search and in turn, missing out on some great marketing opportunities.

Guest Blog Posts
Offering to write a post for someone else’s blog is a great way to get a topically relevant link. Be sure to offer an article that will be useful to the blogs audience. If it is a well written relevant and includes graphics, chances are someone will publish it. He is a link to a list of 1500 sites that accepts guest postings.

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