Your small business needs more than a website to drive new leads and bring new members in the door. Optimizing your website and online presence for local searches is a necessity for martial arts and other member-based businesses. This webinar will be jam-packed full of actionable tips that will show you how to outrank your competitors on Google Maps and in the local search results. Jason Kamara is the senior SEO Specialist at PerfectMIND and has been optimizing web content for more than a decade.
About the Speaker
Jason is the senior SEO specialist at ChampionsWay and has been optimizing websites for over a decade. He has worked on SEO and conversion rate optimization campaigns for local, national and international businesses, ecommerce companies and more.
Hi everyone, I would like to welcome you all to today's Perfect Mind webinar. We have a great presentation for you this morning, or afternoon depending on where you're tuning in from I guess. Hosting today will be the one and only Jason Kamara, our senior SEO specialist here at Perfect Mind with over 10 years of web content optimization experience. He's going to be talking to us about a very important topic that resonates with every business owner, and that's how to increase our SEO rankings. Just a reminder that there will be a Q & A session after the presentation is done, so if you have any questions that arise during the webinar make sure to enter them into the box below, and stay tuned for after the presentation and we'll answer your questions. So, without further ado I will pass it over to Jason to take it away, go ahead Jason.
Thanks for the great introduction Noah, so before I get started here, can everyone hear me clearly? Can you just type yes into the chat box? Okay and I do see that some people are still filtering in. So, as Noah mentioned, I'm the senior SEO specialist here at Championsway, Perfect Mind. I have been helping businesses optimize their websites and improve their online presence for over 10 years now, and that includes everything from local businesses to national/international businesses, e-commerce websites, blogs, a little bit of everything, but here at Perfect Mind I oversee the client SEO as well as internal brand SEO for our brands and recently we've been getting a lot of interest and a lot of questions from our clients asking how they can improve their online visibility, and how they can attract more people to their websites.
There has also been a lot of kind of suspect information floating around out there, so I want to kind of try to set the record straight and we thought it would be a great idea to deliver a webinar on this subject, and try to help some of you bring in more organic leads, right, because that's the name of the game. We want to try to bring in more people to your websites. So, I want to thank you all for taking time out of your busy schedule to join us. I realize that this is an investment of your time but really it's the first step in committing to improving your online presence. So, we have a lot to cover today, so let's get right started.
If you're joining me here looking for some kind of silver bullet solution, you know flick the switch and boom you're ranking number one, I'm sorry to disappoint you because that's just not going to happen. SEO isn't about tricks anymore, and that's just the painful truth that we're going to have to accept. Google knows what you're up to; they're pretty smart, so don't try to game the algorithms. If their algorithms don't catch you, maybe your competitors will report you. Either way, you just don't want to take the chance of severely damaging your online visibility by using these fake suspect tactics, okay? Just try to play by the rules. What does happen with these? Well, in soccer or football, you get a red card you get a penalty; you miss a couple of games. In SEO if you get a penalty you're out for a lot longer than that, you could be out for months or even years before your rankings return, so it's pretty scary stuff.
What are some of these shady tactics that we're talking about? Those include keyword stuffing, you know, repeating your keywords endlessly. Automated link building, so if you're spending 5 bucks, 10 bucks to buy a thousand links from low quality directories, from spammy blogs, things like… You should probably stop it. Article spinning, hiding text, this is pretty easy for Google to detect and they really don't like it. Another one is using fake testimonials, canned content, I mean you shouldn't really be doing that in the first place, but it also counts as duplicate content which can hurt your rankings.
So, these kinds of things really used to work in the past, but you shouldn't be doing them now. I actually have a question for you, I'm kind of curious, how many people listening right now are using or have used any of these kinds of shady, black hat tactics? Okay, so if you can, can you please type yes in the chat box, and don't worry I'm not going to tell Google. We'll just keep it between us. I'm just kind of curious. Okay, so you know really it's something that you want to avoid. So, why should you avoid these tactics? You know, Google is on the hunt for them, and there are roughly about 500 updates for the algorithm every year, and there are really a handful of big ones that roll out. So, this year has been no exception.
On Friday the Penguin 3.0 update rolled out and it has been about a year since the last one, and this is a big one. So, this update targets bad links, so kind of what I talked about before, right? Like if you're buying a lot of links from low quality sites, you're artificially trying to increase your rankings by doing that, so this update was designed to stomp that out. Panda 4.1, this is another big one, this rolled out a few weeks ago, and this update targets low quality contents. So, if you have a lot of duplicate content on your pages, or maybe you have thin content, so you know you only have a couple of sentences on a page, you have a lot of ads on there, and there isn't really a lot of value, then this update targets that, as well as rewarding high quality content.
The next one is kind of a different one, so this HTTPS update that is actually a good update. If you have pages that use SSL encryption, Google actually went out and said publically, "Hey, if you're using encrypted pages, we view those as slightly more trusted, more trustworthy, so we're actually going to give you a little bit of a rankings boost if your pages are SSL." Well, I mean you can imagine what happened, right? Google goes out and says this and of course every SEO just jumps up and says, "Oh my God, I have to change my site to HTTPS," and they went out and they migrated, and of course there were a lot of problems because you're changing all of your URLs. So, you know, just kind of be mindful, and while I do believe it's a good idea to use HTTPS if you can, the boost that you're going to get is likely going to be very, very small.
The next one here is Pigeon, so we have another P animal. This one has been a nightmare, so it rolled out a few months ago, and it's actually still rolling out in the US. This one is specifically for the local search algorithm, and what it's done is it has really wreaked havoc with how the search results are composed, and depending on which industry you're in you may have already experienced it. Some of the industries that were hit really hard, I can definitely think of real estate. It has been a nightmare for them. If your rankings have fluctuated a lot over the last few months this could be one of the culprits, and right now it's restricted to the US, thankfully. So sorry for everyone in the US, but it hasn't made its way up here to Canada or anywhere else, you know count your blessings for that, because it has really been a nightmare.
So, I kind of showed you what you shouldn't be doing and all of the Google animals that you should be fearing, but what should you be doing really to improve your rankings and to increase your online visibility? Well, surprisingly the answer is simple. You really want to give your visitors and your search engines what they want and what they expect.
And what is that? So, really it's being accurate, being trustworthy, having unique content and providing something of value. You know, who would figure? You want to provide a positive visitor experience. Okay, so you know it doesn't matter which device your prospects are using, where or when they're accessing your website, but you want to make sure that everything is working… That your pages are loading quickly, and above all of that you really want to be exceptional. So, you want to stand out from the crowd. There could be dozens of fitness centers, martial arts academies, yoga and dance studios competing for only a few spots in those search results. Maybe you should ask yourself, "Does my website deserve to be there?" "What am I really doing that's better than my competitors?" So, don't just take it for granted.
What does it really take to rank like a champion? You know whether it's martial arts, fitness, any kind of physical or mental challenge, it really takes dedication. It takes patience, a desire to be the best. So, if you want to dominate the search results in a really competitive market, you really kind of need to apply this mindset to your SEO, and I'm going to show you how to do that right now.
So, tip number 1 is, be trustworthy, okay? Don't fake it, no false business names, don't stuff a bunch of keywords in your business name if that's not your true name… Use legitimate locations. Okay, so let's say you're a fitness consultant but you don't work out of a gym, and you only work with your clients in their homes. Don't go putting some gym as your physical location. Google has a lot of different methods of verifying where your business is, and you really don't want to do that because that can land you a big penalty.
The third one which I'm sure none of you guys are doing is writing fake reviews. So, don't write fakes reviews for your own business, and at the same time don't write fake negative reviews for your competitors. There has actually been a lot of talk about that in the news recently, particularly Yelp about businesses going to court over fake reviews and things of that nature. So, that's just one thing that you really want to avoid.
he next one, number 2 here, this is one that really a lot of people just are unaware of, and that is the importance of using accurate, consistent contact information. This is a huge factor in local rankings. It really is, and what I've actually done here is I've grabbed listings for a dance studio, just some random dance studio in St. Louis. So, it's Elite Movement Dance Company, and I've grabbed 4 of their listings, so the Google Plus, the Google My Business Listing there, Hot Frog, Yellow Pages and Super Pages. So, those are just 4 listings there, and you can see that just in these 4 here that they all have something that's different, right? Even though these are very minor differences that for you and I, we can very easily see that they're the same company, but for search bots and search spiders, they can sometimes have problems with this, and what can even happen is they can think that there are additional locations or maybe these are actually 4 different businesses, and then Google Plus can end up creating an auto generated listing for you which can be really confusing. In fact, if you've ever gone and seen an extra Google local page and wondered, "Where did this come from? Who created this thing?" Well, it was auto generated based on faulty content, so it's really important to make sure that you're using the same exact same content information everywhere. So, where should you be using it?
Let's start with your website. Okay, so make sure it's accurate on your website in your My Business Listing, this is really important. So, your Google Local, your My Business Listing, this needs to be the exact same. Same format, updated and everything like that… As well as in the directory listings, the ones I showed you. On your social profiles, this is a big one that I see. I'll see totally different contact information on a Facebook page or on Twitter. Google checks these as well. Even in GPS navigational databases, right? Those are relied upon pretty heavily right now. Even in places you wouldn't expect like US Postal databases. Why would Google check that? Well, you can probably guess that it's a trustworthy source. Same thing with places like corporate registries, and even offline; so interestingly enough I've heard stories of Google manually verifying locations by using Street View, by using Google Earth and calling business to make sure that they're actually at those locations. So, they really want to make sure that they're presenting their searchers with the best information, so try to help them with that.
The next one, number 3, Thanksgiving is coming for everyone in the US, that's next month. It just passed over here in Canada. It's okay. It's good to stuff your turkey. Don't stuff your keywords! Don't repeat your target keywords. Karate, karate, karate, or Oakland, Oakland, Oakland… Don't repeat them, and hope that's going to help with your rankings. This used to work, unfortunately I used to do it, I know, it did use to work, but it does not work now, and it's dangerous. If you're doing this in the local space, you have a good shot at getting a penalty, and these types of penalties are really hard to detect.
So, what should you be doing with keywords? Well, this is a rough kind of guide but try to use your target keyword and your location. So, your location means city and state, or city province. Try to use that information in your title page, sorry in the meta-title for your page, in the description, in the H-1 tag… So, what this is, is this is the primary heading of your page in the first paragraph of text, the earlier the better. In your URL, and even in the image alt-text, so what is alt-text? This is what Google uses to try to understand images. You know it can't really see like we can, so it uses that to try and understand what the image is all about. So, if you're doing this already, if you take a look at your homepage and you can check all of these off, then you're doing awesomely. So, your page is hyper optimized as far as keywords go, and you're really ahead of the game.
So, next here try to make sure that you're targeting the right keywords. This is kind of an easy area to go wrong, and really successful keyword targeting is the foundation for success. You want to try to use the keywords that your searchers are using. So, you want to try and get in their head and say, "How would someone find my studio, school, or club?" And you want those keywords to really be relevant to your location, where you are, as well as your primary services. Don't just throw in 40 different keywords and hope to rank from them. You want to try and be precise, so if you have like a Ju-jitsu academy in Seattle, you'd be better off targeting Seattle Ju-jitsu, than you would be just targeting Ju-jitsu because that's kind of just too general. Then at the same time you also want to make sure that you're not just targeting your brand, because if you're just targeting your brand, how are your prospects going to find you? They don't know your name. It is important to rank for your brand, but that's not going to bring in new members. So, I kind of want to illustrate this.
I'm going to use Houston, Texas as an example. So, Houston's a fairly large city and you can see all of these neighborhoods here. So, let's say that you operate a fitness center in Meyerland over here. Your first instinct maybe to target what? Fitness center, Houston, right? Can you see the problem with that strategy? So, imagine that you have a lot of people searching for you in Timbergrove, over here in Houston Heights, Rice Military, Downtown, Memorial… They're searching for a fitness center and yours pops up. Even if you're ranking first do you really think that you're going to get any new members out of that? Do you really think that someone's going to drive from Timbergrove to Meyerland to workout 4 or 5 times a week? Is that realistic? Probably not… So, what you really want to be doing is targeting your local area. You can target your local area, and you can target neighboring neighborhoods as well. Let's say you're in a smaller city, or you're even in a smaller town. If you're in a smaller town then of course, you can go ahead and you can target nearby towns and that kind of thing, but if you're in a large city this can kind of be problematic, because if you're trying to target all of these different areas you're really you know diluting your relevancy, and you're probably not going to get any sales out of it, realistically.
I want to take a look at another example here. This is a crossfit studio that I just kind of found at random, and I don't want to pick on anyone, but they don't appear to be doing any strategic keyword targeting. Now how do I know this? Let's take a look. So, remember before I talked about the H-1 heading? So the H-1 heading is kind of like a headline in a newspaper. If you're skimming through a newspaper and you want to know what's this story about then you just kind of check the heading, the headline, right? It's the same thing with a webpage, well there's no headline here, and that is a very important element for keyword targeting, so we don't even have a chance to keyword target with the heading. The body, the paragraph text here, the same thing, so I see Crossfit Reaper, but I don't see a lot of keywords here, and I don't even the city or the state in here. Down here this is kind of a little snippet of the source code, and I just wanted to show you the title. So, this is invisible for your viewers, but it's extremely important for search engines. It's a very important ranking factor, and here it's just the brand name so it's kind of wasted space. You could add your keywords, you could add crossfit gym; you could also add your city, your state in the title, and the description as well. The description is really free advertising. You get about 160 characters, and you can put in your brand name, you can put in a special offer, okay? So, free first month to all members, to all new signups. You can put in your target keywords, your city, your state, all of that. It's beautiful, but a lot of people kind of ignore it.
The next one is, so here we go with contact information once again. It's like a broken record, right? Well, you want to make sure that you're adding your contact information, and that's your name, your address, your phone number, to every page of your website, not just your contact page. This is really a quick win in many regards, and the reason I say that is because it's usually pretty easy to do. Let's take a look here at this example. At the bottom here, so this is our site NAK2 Academy, so here we have name, address, local phone number, city, state and zip code. So, we have a complete what we call NAP; name, address and phone number. This appears on every page of the site, and if you're using a content management system like Perfect Mind of course, or Wordpress, it's usually pretty easy to do because you can just put it in one place and it will show up across your website. So, it could be 5 minutes of work but it tends to have really dramatic results.
So, I'm just curious here once again, how many of you right now have your contact information on every page of your website? That's complete name, address and phone number. Can you please go ahead and type "yes" in the chat box so I can just kind of gauge what's going on here. Okay, so, for some reason I'm not seeing any replies. Noah are you seeing anything? Oh, that's too bad. For some reason I can't see replies, so I'm just going to rely on Noah to type in because I can't see for some reason. Okay, I see lots of "yes," some "I don't know," and mostly "yes," awesome. Well, I guess if we've built your website for you that's kind of a given, but that's one thing that you can really check. You can check and see do I have my accurate contact information on every page of the site, because it's really a quick win.
Alright, let's jump right back into this. So, number 6 is, create an awesome Google My Business Listing. This is really one of those things where I hear a lot of complaints, "Aw, you know I already have a Facebook profile. I use Facebook. None of my members use Google Plus," well you know these are really 2 different platforms, and if you want to rank on Google Maps you absolutely need a local My Business Listing. It's not really optional, and don't do just the bare minimum, because this can really have a big impact on not only your rankings, but also your conversions. A lot of people do see these pages; let me show you a good example here.
So, here's one for Life-Kido Martial Arts, okay so this is one of our clients. They're in Austin, Texas, and they have quite a large school I believe, something like 300, 400 members. It's quite large, and they've done a great job with their Google My Business Listing, and you can see I'm going to start kind of in the bottom corner here if you can see my pointer. So, they started off by choosing accurate categories. They have a great little description here. It's not keyword stuffed. It's readable, while including some keywords. You can see that they have nice photos. Reviews, 5.0 average, pretty impressive, and if we go up top here, you know they have a nice logo here, this checkbox, you can see it's a verified local listing and as well this huge, nice high resolution cover photo that has their instructors in uniform. So, not only is this going to do well in terms of rankings, but it's going to do well in terms of conversions. If I'm looking for an after school program for my kids and I come across this page versus a competitor's page that has default images, keyword stuffed description, and there's no photos, no videos, no reviews, I don't know. I'm probably going to start with Life-Kido because they've taken the time, and I'm learning about them. Okay, so this is really something that you can use and it's free, so why not?
Number 7, build quality citations. What is a citation? It's just simply a mention of your business online, so usually it is online directories like Yelp, Yellow Pages, Four Square, Merchant's Circle, Manta, but it also can be like you know an online magazine, online newspaper, a blog… All of those help, if they have your name, address and phone number. It's nice if you have a link, but you don't need one for it to be useful. So, what you want to do is build citations in the most important directories.
This is really one of those things where I'll be honest. It kind of sucks; it's really time consuming, it's arduous, you have to track down all of these directories, you have to complete listings, don't go and copy paste the same description and plug it into every one of them. But, the good thing is that you don't need to be in all of the directories, just start with the most important ones. Yelp for example is very widely used, but this does tend to have a big impact on your rankings.
Okay, look at this beauty. I love this graphic. So this was created by David Mim, he's the head of the local search team at Mauz which is a great software company, and this illustration kind of represents how listings are pushed and pulled throughout the local web. So, you can see some of the major players here, and what's shown here is kind of the importance of certain players. If you look at a company like Acxiom, which is actually a data aggregator, you can see the importance of creating a listing here. It's kind of hard to see my pointer on the white here, but so you create a listing at Acxiom and what happens is it gets pushed out to Superpages, it gets pushed out to Yellow Pages, it gets pushed out to Apple Maps, wouldn't it be nice to be there, right? So, you can see the impact it has on creating a single listing there.
The same thing with New Star local leads, right, there's a big impact there versus creating listing at Manta. Well, Manta is a good directory. There's a lot that you can add there, but you know it's only a single directory, and yeah it feeds Google Plus, Google My Business, but it's only one. So, if your time is limited, try to find the most important ones that will have the biggest impact on your online presence. That's kind of my advice for getting started there, and before you go out and create a bunch of listings you want to make sure that you don't already have one, because what happens is if you get gung ho and start creating listings you can end up creating duplicate listings and that can cause problems that I talked about before. So, you do want to check that you don't already have them.
So, just a question here, I'm going to have to rely on Noah to send me over the stats. How many people listening today have ever heard of Acxiom? Can you type, "yes," please? Let's see how many SEO nerds we have. I'm getting them now, awesome, no, no, no, no… I hear you, no yeses? Oh, we've got some yes, wow! So, if you have a yes, you're a real keener. You know what's going on. How about Manta? Who's heard of Manta? Can you type that into the chat box? Okay, a split, that's kind of what I expected. It's not as widely known as Yelp, but it's actually a good place to get your information out there.
The next one, number 8 is get those reviews. I know this is a really painful one for you guys, because it really takes a lot of time and it takes dedication, and you can't just outsource it. So, you know at Championsway, Perfect Mind we provide SEO services for our clients, but even we can't get reviews for you. We can show you how and we can help you encourage reviews, but that's your job unfortunately. So, you really have to make it a priority for your staff and you know try to create protocols, create templates and try to find ways of consistently getting positive reviews, because this has an impact on rankings, but of course also has an impact on conversions, right? Because if you have a lot of positive reviews, people use them, we all know this, the power of reviews. That's something that you really need to start looking at, if you're not doing it already.
Now, let's take a look at the example. So, another one of our clients here Ryer Martial Arts Academy, they've done an awesome job of getting reviews. You know, I wish we could take credit for it, but we can't. So, they have 45 Google reviews here, this is just on Google as you can see and the average rating 4.8, awesome.
Not surprisingly they're ranking first for a very competitive keyword. You may have noticed that Ryer as well as Steel City, they have stars. So, they have these nice orange stars which stand out from competitors. Do you have any ideas why that is? Why don't these businesses have stars? Well, it's actually pretty simple. You need at least 5 stars. You need at least 5 reviews to get stars before they appear. So, right now if you're Kim Karate Inc., and you have one Google review, your goal should be to get 5 reviews, because then you can have stars appear that will make your listing stand out more, and you don't really need to force all of your members to create Google reviews. Google reviews are awesome, but you can give them the flexibility to create reviews on other sites. So, if you take a look here on the local knowledge panel, more reviews are the bottom here, so Google actually pulls reviews from other third party platforms. Not all of them, but some of them. You can see in this instance that it pulls reviews from Parent's Connect, Insider Pages, Merchant's Circle and Abumba. So give your members the flexibility to leave reviews in other places if they want. It will still help you out.
Number 9, add great content! Like I said before, try to be exceptional. Your visitors have questions. Answer the questions on your website. Don't force them to call you. Try to create content that's persuasive and tells a story. I'm sure you have a really cool, a really intriguing story. Tell it on your website. Be unique. This is the worst place for canned content, or non-descriptive content. Try to incorporate rich media. I'm sure you have awesome photos of your studios, of your members, of your instructors. Put them on the website, don't use stock photos! Same thing with videos, and at the same time don't forget about your target keywords while you're doing this.
Let's take a look at the example here. So, this is one of Chris Casamasa's websites, and he owns the Red Dragon Martial Arts Studios, and I like his site for a few reasons. If you take a look at the top we have a nice distinctive logo. Here he's using real photos of members, nice high quality images that standout. He has a nice video. It's pretty cool. It's actually a trailer. At the side here, a sign-up form; you want to make sure that you're trying to bring in leads. Below the video we have a nice little paragraph. So, not only is it persuasive, written well, but it's also keyword targeted. So, this is kind of a good example to look at.
Last one, number 10. We're finally getting there! Don't ignore your mobile customers, alright? Make sure that you're accessible on all devices. It's no secret that this is becoming more and more important, and actually for the first time this year there were more Google searches on smartphones and tablets than there were on desktops. That's the first time that's happened. So, mobile is really becoming the first screen and you really want to make sure that your site looks good on mobile. If you don't believe me here are a couple of tests that Google is running. So, this was a couple weeks ago or something like that, but now they run hundreds of tests every day, but here are a couple. If you look on the left side here, they're testing out this mobile friendly icon, so if your pages are mobile friendly this icon will show next to them. Of course Twitter is mobile friendly. Another test, a different test on the right side here they're testing this mobile not friendly icon. So, if your page isn't mobile friendly then you get the opposite not friendly. Surprisingly, BBC News, I would have thought that would have been mobile friendly. But you can see now more than ever that your site is optimized for mobile. So, what does this mean? Well, your visitors should be able to access your website on whatever device they're using, and what they should be able to do is they should be able to read without scrolling in 4 different directions.
They should be able to watch a video that plays on a mobile device. Your audio should load properly. Your forms, forms are a big one, how many times have you been to a website that wasn't mobile friendly and tried to fill out a form. It can be a nightmare. The button is in the wrong place, the fields are all over the place, okay? It's just a horrible experience, so you want to make sure you're providing a consistently positive experience. It's not just for conversion, but also for rankings as well. Google is actually really good at detecting how user a friendly a site is now. So, that's something that you really want to be looking at. I think that's all I really wanted to cover today, so once again I want to thank everyone for joining me here. I really covered a lot, and thanks for taking the time out. Noah, is there anything else that you wanted to add?
40:51 (Q&A begins)