Local SEO & Beyond: Ranking Your Local Business in 2017

Posted by Casey_Meraz

In 2016, I predicted that ranking in the 3-pack was hard and it would continually get more competitive. I maintain that prediction for 2017, but I want to make one thing clear. If you haven’t done so, I believe local businesses should start to look outside of a local-SEO-3-Pack-ONLY focused strategy.

While local SEO still presents a tremendous opportunity to grow your business, I’m going to look at some supplementary organic strategies you can take into your local marketing campaign, as well.

In this post I’m going to address:

  • How local search has changed since last year
  • Why & how your overall focus may need to change in 2017
  • Actionable advice on how to rank better to get more local traffic & more business

In local search success, one thing is clear

The days of getting in the 3-pack and having a one-trick pony strategy are over. Every business wants to get the free traffic from Google’s local results, but the chances are getting harder everyday. Not only are you fighting against all of your competitors trying to get the same rankings, but now you’re also fighting against even more ads.

If you thought it was hard to get top placement today in the local pack, just consider that you’re also fighting against 4+ ads before customers even have the possibility of seeing your business.

Today’s SERPs are ad-rich with 4 paid ads at the top, and now it’s not uncommon to find paid listings prioritized in local results. Just take a look at this example that Gyi Tsakalakis shared with me, showing one ad in the local pack on mobile ranking above the 3-pack results. Keep in mind, there are four other ads above this.

If you were on desktop and you clicked on one of the 3-pack results, you’re taken to the local finder. In the desktop search example below, once you make it to the local finder you’ll see two paid local results above the other businesses.

Notice how only the companies participating in paid ads have stars. Do you think that gives them an advantage? I do.


Don’t worry though, I’m not jaded by ads

After all of that gloomy ad SERP talk, you’re probably getting a little depressed. Don’t. With every change there comes new opportunity, and we’ve seen many of our clients excel in search by focusing on multiple strategies that work for their business.

Focusing on the local pack should still be a strong priority for you, even if you don’t have a pay-to-play budget for ads. Getting listed in the local finder can still result in easy wins — especially if you have the most reviews, as Google has very handy sorting options.

If you have the highest rating score, you can easily get clicks when users decide to sort the results they see by the business rating. Below is an example of how users can easily sort by ratings.

But what else can you do to compete effectively in your local market?


Consider altering your local strategy

Most businesses I speak with seem to have tunnel vision. They think it’s more important to rank in the local pack and, in some cases, even prioritize this over the real goal: more customers.

Every day, I talk to new businesses and marketers that seem to have a single area of focus. While it’s not necessarily a bad thing to do one thing really well, the ones that are most successful are managing a variety of campaigns tied to their business goals.

Instead of taking a single approach of focusing on just free local clicks, expand your horizon a bit and ask yourself this question: Where are my customers looking and how can I get in front of them?

Sometimes taking a step back and looking at things from the 30,000-ft view is beneficial.


You can start by asking yourself these questions by examining the SERPs:

1. What websites, OTHER THAN MY OWN, have the most visibility for the topics and keywords I’m interested in?

You can bet people are clicking on results other than your own website underneath the local results. Are they websites you can show up on? How do you increase that visibility?

I think STAT has a great tracking tool for this. You simply set up the keywords you want to track and their Share of Voice feature shows who’s ranking where and what percentage of visibility they have in your specific market.

In the example below, you can see the current leaders in a space I’m tracking. Notice how Findlaw & Yelp show up there. With a little further research I can find out if they have number 1–2 rankings (which they do) and determine whether I should put in place a strategy to rank there. This is called barnacle SEO.

2. Are my customers using voice search?

Maybe it’s just me, but I find it strange to talk to my computer. That being said, I have no reservations about talking to my phone — even when I’m in places I shouldn’t. Stone Temple recently published a great study on voice command search, which you can check out here.

Some of the cool takeaways from that study were where people search from. It seems people are more likely to search from the privacy of their own home, but most mobile devices out there today have voice search integrated. I wonder how many people are doing this from their cars?
This goes to show that local queries are not just about the 3-pack. While many people may ask their device “What’s the nearest pizza place,” other’s may ask a variety of questions like:

Where is the highest-rated pizza place nearby?
Who makes the best pizza in Denver?
What’s the closest pizza place near me?

Don’t ignore voice search when thinking about your localized organic strategy. Voice is mobile and voice can sure be local. What localized searches would someone be interested in when looking for my business? What questions might they be asking that would drive them to my local business?

3. Is my website optimized for “near me” searches?

“Near me” searches have been on the rise over the past five years and I don’t expect that to stop. Sometimes customers are just looking for something close by. Google Trends data shows how this has changed in the past five years:
Are you optimizing for a “near me” strategy for your business? Recently the guys over at Local SEO Guide did a study of “near me” local SEO ranking factors. Optimizing for “near me” searches is important and it falls right in line with some of the tactical advice we have for increasing your Google My Business rankings as well. More on that later.

4. Should my business stay away from ads?

Let’s start by looking at a some facts. Google makes money off of their paid ads. According to an article from Adweek, “During the second quarter of 2016, Alphabet’s revenue hit $21.5 billion, a 21% year-over-year increase. Of that revenue, $19.1 billion came from Google’s advertising business, up from $16 billion a year ago.”

This roughly translates to: “Ads aren’t going anywhere and Google is going to do whatever they can to put them in your face.” If you didn’t see the Home Service ad test with all ads that Mike Blumenthal pointed out, you can check it out below. Google is trying to find more creative ways to monetize local search.
Incase you haven’t heard it before, having both organic and paid listings ranking highly increases your overall click-through rate.

Although the last study I found was from Google in 2012, we’ve found that our clients have the most success when they rank strong organically, locally, and have paid placements. All of these things tie together. If potential customers are already searching for your business, you’ll see great results by being involved in all of these areas.

While I’m not a fan of only taking a pay-to-play approach, you need to at least start considering it and testing it for your niche to see if it works for you. Combine it with your overall local and organic strategy.

5. Are we ignoring the featured snippets?

Searches with local intent can still trigger featured snippets. One example that I saw recently and really liked was the snowboard size chart example, which you can see below. In this example, someone who is interested in snowboards gets an answer box that showcases a company. If someone is doing this type of research, there’s a likelihood that they may wish to purchase a snowboard soon.
Depending on your niche, there are plenty of opportunities to increase your local visibility by not ignoring featured snippets and creating content to rank there. Check out this Whiteboard Friday to learn more about how you can get featured snippets.

Now that we’ve looked at some ways you can expand your strategies, let’s look at some tactical steps you can take to move the needle.


Here’s how you can gain more visibility

Now that you have an open mind, let’s take a look at the actionable things you can do to improve your overall visibility and rankings in locally centric campaigns. As much as I like to think local SEO is rocket science, it really isn’t. You really need to focus your attention on the things that are going to move the needle.

I’m also going to assume you’ve already done the basics, like optimize your listing by filling out the profile 100%.

Later last year, Local SEO Guide and Placescout did a great study that looked at 100+ variables from 30,000 businesses to determine what factors might have the most overall impact in local 3-pack rankings. If you have some spare time I recommend checking it out. It verified that the signals we put the most effort into seem to have the greatest overall effect.

I’m only going to dive into a few of those factors, but here are the things I would do to focus on a results-first strategy:

Start with a solid website/foundation

What good are rankings without conversions? The answer is they aren’t any good. If you’re always keeping your business goals in mind, start with the basics. If your website isn’t loading fast, you’re losing conversions and you may experience a reduced crawl budget.

My #1 recommendation that affects all aspects of SEO and conversions is to start with a solid website. Ignoring this usually creates bigger problems later down the road and can negatively impact your overall rankings.

Your website should be SEO-friendly and load in the 90th percentile on Google’s Page Speed Insights. You can also see how fast your website loads for users using tools like GTMetrix. Google seems to reduce the visibility of slower websites, so if you’re ignoring the foundation you’re going to have issues. Here are 6 tips you can use for a faster WordPress website.

Crawl errors for bots can also wreak havoc on your website. You should always strive to maintain a healthy site. Check up on your website using Google’s Search Console and use Moz Pro to monitor your clients’ campaigns by actively tracking the sites’ health, crawl issues, and domain health over time. Having higher scores and less errors should be your focus.

Continue with a strong review generation strategy

I’m sure many of you took a deep breath when earlier this month Google changed the review threshold to only 1 review. That’s right. In case you didn’t hear, Google is now giving all businesses a review score based on any number of reviews you have, as you can see in the example below:
I know a lot of my colleagues were a big fan of this, but I have mixed feelings since Google isn’t taking any serious measures to reduce review spam or penalize manipulative businesses at this point.

Don’t ignore the other benefits of reviews, as well. Earlier I mentioned that users can sort by review stars; having more reviews will increase your overall CTR. Plus, after talking to many local businesses, we’ve gotten a lot of feedback that consumers are actively using these scores more than ever.

So, how do you get more reviews?

Luckily, Google’s current Review and Photo Policies do not prohibit the direct solicitation of reviews at this point (unlike Yelp).

Start by soliciting past customers on your list
If you’re not already collecting customer information on your website or in-store, you’re behind the times and you need to start doing so immediately.

I work mainly with attorneys. Working in that space, there are regulations we have to follow, and typically the number of clients is substantially less than a pizza joint. In pickles like this, where the volume is low, we can take a manual approach where we identify the happiest clients and reach out to them using this process. This particular process also creates happy employees. 🙂

  1. List creation: We start by screening the happiest clients. We then sort these by who has a Gmail account for priority’s sake.
  2. Outreach by phone: I don’t know why digital marketers are afraid of the phone, but we’ve had a lot of success calling our prior clients. We have the main point-of-contact from the business who’s worked with them before call and ask how the service they received was. The caller informs them that they have a favor to ask and that their overall job performance is partially based off of client feedback. They indicate they’re going to send a follow-up email if it’s OK with the customer.
  3. Send a follow-up email: We then use a Google review link generator, which creates an exact URL that opens the review box for the person if they’re logged into their Gmail account.
  4. Follow-up email: Sometimes emails get lost. We follow up a few times to make sure the client leaves the review…
  5. You have a new review!

The method above works great for low-volume businesses. If you’re a higher-volume business or have a lot of contacts, I recommend using a more automated service to prepare for future and ongoing reviews, as it’ll make the process a heck of a lot easier. Typically we use Get Five Stars or Infusionsoft integrations to complete this for our clients.

If you run a good business that people like, you can see results like this. This is a local business which had 7 reviews in 2015. Look where they are now with a little automation asking happy customers to leave a review:

Don’t ignore & don’t be afraid of links

One thing Google succeeded at is scaring away people from getting manipulative links. In many areas, that went too far and resulted in people not going after links at all, diminishing their value as a ranking factor, and telling the world that links are dead.

Well, I’m here to tell you that you need good links to your website. If you want to rank in competitive niches or in certain geographic areas, the anchor text can make a big difference. Multiple studies have shown the effectiveness of links to this very day, and their importance cannot be overlooked.

This table outlines which link tactics work best for each strategy:

Strategy Type Link Tactic
Local SEO (3-Pack) Links to local GMB-connected landing page will help 3-pack rankings. City, state, and keyword-included anchor text is beneficial
Featured Snippets Links to pages where you want to get a featured snippet will help boost the authority of that page.
Paid Ads Links will not help your paid ads.
“Near Me” Searches Links with city, state, or area anchor text will help you in near me searches.
Voice Search Links to pages that are FAQ or consist of long-tail keyword content will help them rank better organically.
Barnacle SEO Links to websites you don’t own can help them rank better. Focus on high-authority profiles or business listings.

There are hundreds of ways to build links for your firm. You need to avoid paying for links and spammy tactics because they’re just going to hurt you. Focus on strong and sustainable strategies — if you want to do it right, there aren’t any shortcuts.

Since there are so many great link building resources out there, I’ve linked to a few of my favorite where you can get tactical advice and start building links below.

For specific tactical link building strategies, check out these resources:

If you participate in outreach or broken link building, check out this new post from Directive Consulting — “How We Increased Our Email Response Rate from ~8% to 34%” — to increase the effectiveness of your outreach.

Get relevant & high-authority citations

While the importance of citations has taken a dive in recent years as a major ranking factor, they still carry quite a bit of importance.

Do you remember the example from earlier in this post, where we saw Findlaw and Yelp having strong visibility in the market? These websites get traffic, and if a potential customer is looking for you somewhere where you’re not, that’s one touchpoint lost. You’ll still need to address quality over quantity. The days of looking for 1,000 citations are over and have been for many years. If you have 1,000 citations, you probably have a lot of spam links to your website. We don’t need those. But what we do need is highly relevant directories to either our city or niche.

This post I wrote over 4 years ago is still pretty relevant on how you can find these citations and build them with consistency. Remember that high-authority citations can also be unstructured (not a typical business directory). They can also be very high-quality links if the site is authoritative and has fewer business listings. There are millions of listings on Yelp, but maybe less than one hundred on some other powerful, very niche-specific websites.

Citation and link idea: What awards was your business eligible or nominated for?

One way to get these is to consider awards where you can get an authoritative citation and link to your website. Take a look at the example below of a legal website. This site is a peanut compared to a directory like Yelp. Sure, it doesn’t carry near as much authority, but the link equity is more evenly distributed.


Lastly, stay on point

2017 is sure to be a volatile year for local search, but it’s important to stay on point. Spread your wings, open your mind, and diversify with strategies that are going to get your business more customers.

Now it’s time to tell me what you think! Is something I didn’t mention working better for you? Where are you focusing your efforts in local search?

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

from Raymond Castleberry Blog http://raymondcastleberry.blogspot.com/2017/02/local-seo-beyond-ranking-your-local.html
via http://raymondcastleberry.blogspot.com

Proximity to Searcher is the New #1 Local Search Ranking Factor

Posted by Whitespark

Have you noticed that a lot of local pack results don’t seem to make sense these days? Almost every time I search Google for a local search term, the pack results leave me wondering, “Why are these businesses ranking?”

For example, take a look at the results I get for “plumbers”:


(Searched in an incognito Chrome browser on PC in Edmonton)

Here’s a quick summary of the basic local ranking factors for the businesses in this local pack:

Notice that:

  • None of the businesses have claimed/verified their Google listing.
  • None of the businesses have any Google reviews.
  • Only one of the businesses even has a website!

Surely, Google, there are more prominent businesses in Edmonton that deserve to rank for this term?

Here’s the data table again with one additional point added: proximity to the searcher.

These business are all so close to me that I could walk to them in about 8 to 15 minutes. Here’s a map of Edmonton with pins for my location and these 3 businesses. Just look at how close they are to my location:

After analyzing dozens of queries that my colleagues and I searched for, I am going to make a bold statement:

“Proximity to searcher is the new #1 ranking factor in local search results today.” – Darren Shaw

For most local searches these days, proximity appears to be weighted more than links, website content, citations, and reviews in the local pack rankings. Google doesn’t seem to value the traditional local search ranking factors when determining which businesses to rank in the local pack. The main consideration seems to be: “Which businesses are closest to the searcher?” I have been noticing this trend for at least the last 8 months or so, and it seems to have intensified since the Possum update.

Evidence of proximity-based local rankings

Whitespark has team members that are scattered throughout Edmonton, so four of us ran a series of searches from our home offices to see how the results differ across the city.

Here is a map showing where we are physically located in Edmonton:

On desktop, Google doesn’t actually know exactly where we are. It guesstimates it based on IP, WiFi, and mobile data. You can figure out where Google thinks you’re located by doing the following:

  1. Open an incognito browser in Chrome.
  2. Go to maps.google.com.
  3. Search for a local business in your city.
  4. Click the “Directions” button.
  5. Enter “my location” into the top field.

In order to give you directions, Maps will drop a circle on the spot that it thinks you’re located at.

Here’s where Google thinks I am located:

As a team, at approximately the same time of day, all four of us searched the same 9 local queries in incognito browser windows and saved screenshots of our results.

The search terms:

Non-geo-modified terms (keyword):
plumbers
lawyers
coffee shops

Geo-modified terms (keyword + city):
plumbers edmonton
edmonton plumbers
edmonton lawyers
lawyers edmonton
coffee shops edmonton
edmonton coffee shops

Below are the mapped results for 9 local queries that we each searched in incognito browsers. Rather than dumping 24 maps on the page, here they are in a Slideshare that you can click through:

Proximity is the New Top Local Search Ranking Factor from Darren Shaw

As you click through, you’ll see that each of us get completely different results, and that these results are generally clustered around our location.

You can also see that proximity impacted non-geo-modified terms (“plumbers”) more than the results for geo-modified terms (“edmonton plumbers”). The differences we’re seeing are likely due to relevancy for the geo-modified term. So for instance, the websites may have more anchor text targeting the term “Edmonton plumbers,” or the overall content on the site has more references to Edmonton plumbers.

How does proximity impact local organic results?

Localized organic results are the blue links that list businesses, directories, etc, under the local pack. We’re seeing some very minor differences in the results, but relatively consistent local organic rankings across the city.

Generally, localized organic results are consistent no matter where you’re located in a city — which is a strong indication of traditional ranking signals (links, reviews, citations, content, etc) that outweigh proximity when it comes to local organic results.

Here are screenshots of the local organic results:

Proximity is the New Top Local Search Ranking Factor from Darren Shaw

Some observations

  1. Non geo-modified searches (keyword only) can pull results from neighboring cities. In the new local packs, proximity to searcher is not affected by the city you are in, but by the radius of the searcher. This does not appear to be the same for a geo-modified term — when you add a city to the search. This tells us that the #1 local search ranking factor from the Local Search Ranking Factors survey, “Physical address in city of search,” may no longer be as important as it once was.
  2. Results sometimes cluster together. Even though there may be businesses closer to the searcher, it seems like Google prefers to show you a group of businesses that are clustered together.
  3. Google would rather show a smaller pack than a 3-pack when there is a business that’s too far away from the searcher. For example: I only get a 2-pack of nearby businesses here, but I know there are at least 5 other businesses that match this search term:
  4. Probably obvious, but if there aren’t many businesses in the category, then Google will return a wider set of results from all over the city:

Why is Google doing this?

Why is Google giving so much ranking strength to proximity and reducing the impact of traditional local search ranking factors?

To sell more ads, of course.

I can think of three ways that this will increase ad revenue for Google:

  1. If it’s harder to get into the organically driven local packs, then businesses will need to pay to get into their fancy new paid local packs.
  2. Back in the day, there was one local pack per city/keyword combo (example: “edmonton plumbers”). Now there are thousands of local packs across the city. When they create a new pack every mile, they drastically increase their available “inventory” to sell ads on.
  3. When the results in the 3-pack aren’t giving you what you want, then a click into “more places” will bring up the Local Finder, where Google is already displaying ads:
  4. (Bonus) And have you noticed that the new local ad packs focus on “nearby”? The local ads and the local pack results are increasingly focused on how close the businesses are to your physical location.

Though I don’t think it’s only for the additional ad revenue. I think they truly believe that returning closer businesses is a better user experience, and they have been working on improving their technology around this for quite some time.

Way back in 2012, Whitespark’s Director of Local Search, Nyagoslav Zhekov, noted in the 2012 Local Search Ranking Factors survey that proximity of business location to the point of the searcher was his top local ranking factor. He says:

“What really matters, is where the searcher is physically located and how close the potentially relevant search results are. This ranking factor is getting further boost by the importance of local-mobile search, where it is undoubtedly #1. For desktop search the factor might not be as important (or not have any significance) if searcher’s location and the location for which the search is intended differ.”

It is interesting to note that in today’s results, as we can see in the examples in this post, proximity is now a huge ranking factor on desktop as well. Google has been going “mobile-first” for years, and I’m starting to think that there is no difference in how they process mobile and desktop local results. You just see different results because Google can get a more precise location on mobile.

Furthermore, Bill Slawski just published a post about a recently approved Google patent for determining the quality of locations based on travel time investment. The patent talks about using quality measures like reviews (both user and professional) AND travel time and distance from the searcher (time investment) to rank local businesses in search results.

One excerpt from the patent:

“The present disclosure is directed to methods and apparatus for determining the quality measure of a given location. In some implementations, the quality measure of a given location may be determined based on the time investment a user is willing to make to visit the given location. For example, the time investment for a given location may be based on comparison of one or more actual distance values to reach the given location to one or more anticipated distance values to reach the given location. The actual distance values are indicative of actual time of one or more users to reach the given location and the anticipated distance values are indicative of anticipated time to reach the given location.”

The patent was filed in May 2013, so we can assume that Google may have been experimenting with this and incorporating it into local search for at least the past 3 to 4 years. In the past year, the dial seems to have been cranked up on this factor as Google gets more distance and travel data from Android users and from users of the Google Maps app on other mobile platforms.

These results suck

It seems to me that in most business categories, putting so much emphasis on proximity is a pretty poor way to rank results. I don’t care if a lawyer is close to me. I am looking to hire a lawyer that’s reputable, prominent in my city, and does good work. I’m perfectly happy to drive an extra 20 minutes to go to the office of a good lawyer. I’m also looking for the best pizza in town, not the cardboard they serve at the place down the street. The same applies for every business category I can think of, outside of maybe gas stations, emergency plumbers, or emergency locksmiths.

In my opinion, this emphasis on proximity by Google seriously downgrades the quality of their local results. People are looking for the best businesses, not the closest businesses. If this is the new normal in Google’s local results, I expect that people will start turning to sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Avvo, Angie’s List, etc. when searching for businesses. I already have.

So what about local rank tracking?

Most local rank trackers set the location to the city, which is the equivalent of setting it to the centroid. It is very likely that the local pack and local finder results reported in your rank tracker will be different from what the business or client sees when they search. To get more accurate results, you should use a rank tracker that lets you set the location by zip/postal code (hint hint, Whitespark’s Local Rank Tracker).

You should also realize that you’re never going to get local rank tracking reports that perfectly match with what the person sitting in the city sees. There are just too many variables to control for. The precise proximity to the searcher is one thing a rank tracker can’t exactly match, but you’ll also see differences based on device used, browser version, personalization, and even time of day as results can and do change by the hour.

Use your rank tracking reports as a measure of general increases and decreases in local visibility, not as an exact match with what you would see if you were searching from within city.

How does this affect local SEO strategies?

Local SEO is not dead. Far from it. It’s just more competitive now. The reach your business can have in local results is smaller than it used to be, which means you need to step up your local organic and optimization efforts.

  • Local search practitioners, if you’re seeing traffic and rankings going down in your local SEO reporting and you need to answer to your clients on this, you’re now armed with more info on how to answer these questions. It’s not you, it’s Google. They have reduced the radius that your business will be shown in the search results, so you’re going to be driving less traffic and leads from local pack results.
  • If you want your business to rank in the pack or local finder, you will need to crank up the dial on your optimization efforts.
  • Get on those local organic opportunities (content and links). There is less pack real estate for you now, but the localized organic results are still great city-wide opportunities. The local organic results are currently localized to the city, not the searcher location. We can see this in all the terms.
  • Look for outliers. Study the businesses that are getting pulled into the local rankings from a far distance from the searcher. What are they doing in terms of content, links, reviews, and mentions that helps them appear in a wider radius than other businesses?
  • Diversify your local optimization efforts beyond Google. Make sure you’re on Yelp, BBB, TripAdvisor, Avvo, Angie’s List, etc, and that your profiles are claimed, optimized, and enhanced with as much information as possible. Then, make sure you’re driving reviews on THESE sites rather than just Google. If the local pack results are crap, a lot of people will click Yelp’s 10 Best XYZ list, for example. You want to be on that list. The more reviews you get on these sites, the better you will rank in their internal search results, and as people desert Google for local business recommendations because of their low-quality results, you’ll be ready and waiting for them on the other sites.

The tighter radius might mean less local search pie for the more dominant businesses in the city, but don’t despair. This opens up opportunities for more businesses to attract local search business from their local neighborhood, and there is still plenty of business to drive through local search if you step up your game.

Have you also noticed hyper-localized local pack results? I would love to hear about your examples and thoughts in the comments.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

from Raymond Castleberry Blog http://raymondcastleberry.blogspot.com/2017/02/proximity-to-searcher-is-new-1-local.html
via http://raymondcastleberry.blogspot.com

Solar Energy International (SEI) Leads PV101 in the UAE!

Solar Energy International (SEI) launched their first solar training class in the United Arab Emirates on February 19th! Students from Saudi Arabia, Oman and the UAE came to the RAK Research and Innovation Center for this week long technical solar training led by SEI Instructor, Kristopher Sutton. SEI is grateful to the American University of Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) Research & Innovation Center where the class is taking place for their cooperation in facilitating this class. RAK is a great location for SEI students to have first hand experience with a wide range of PV systems as they begin their solar education.

The class, PV101, is your gateway to a career in the solar industry. It all starts with the fundamentals, and a solid understanding of various components, system architectures, and applications for PV systems. Other topics include site analysis, system sizing, array configuration, and performance estimation; electrical design characteristics such as wiring, overcurrent protection, and grounding; a detailed look at module and inverter specifications and characteristics; mounting methods for various roof structures and ground­mounts; and an introduction to safely and effectively commissioning grid­-direct PV systems. This course focuses on grid-­direct PV systems, the largest and fastest growing segment of the PV industry, but covers material critical to understanding all types of PV systems. These core concepts are expanded on in SEI’s upper ­level PV courses, which focus more specifically on particular system types, applications and design methodologies.

RAK 2 RAK3

The post Solar Energy International (SEI) Leads PV101 in the UAE! appeared first on Solar Training – Solar Installer Training – Solar PV Installation Training – Solar Energy Courses – Renewable Energy Education – NABCEP – Solar Energy International (SEI).

from Raymond Castleberry Blog http://raymondcastleberry.blogspot.com/2017/02/solar-energy-international-sei-leads.html
via http://raymondcastleberry.blogspot.com

Solar Energy International (SEI) Leads PV101 in the UAE!

Solar Energy International (SEI) launched their first solar training class in the United Arab Emirates on February 19th! Students from Saudi Arabia, Oman and the UAE came to the RAK Research and Innovation Center for this week long technical solar training led by SEI Instructor, Kristopher Sutton. SEI is grateful to the American University of Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) Research & Innovation Center where the class is taking place for their cooperation in facilitating this class. RAK is a great location for SEI students to have first hand experience with a wide range of PV systems as they begin their solar education.

The class, PV101, is your gateway to a career in the solar industry. It all starts with the fundamentals, and a solid understanding of various components, system architectures, and applications for PV systems. Other topics include site analysis, system sizing, array configuration, and performance estimation; electrical design characteristics such as wiring, overcurrent protection, and grounding; a detailed look at module and inverter specifications and characteristics; mounting methods for various roof structures and ground­mounts; and an introduction to safely and effectively commissioning grid­-direct PV systems. This course focuses on grid-­direct PV systems, the largest and fastest growing segment of the PV industry, but covers material critical to understanding all types of PV systems. These core concepts are expanded on in SEI’s upper ­level PV courses, which focus more specifically on particular system types, applications and design methodologies.

RAK 2 RAK3

The post Solar Energy International (SEI) Leads PV101 in the UAE! appeared first on Solar Training – Solar Installer Training – Solar PV Installation Training – Solar Energy Courses – Renewable Energy Education – NABCEP – Solar Energy International (SEI).

Solar Energy International (SEI) Leads PV101 in the UAE!

Solar Energy International (SEI) launched their first solar training class in the United Arab Emirates on February 19th! Students from Saudi Arabia, Oman and the UAE came to the RAK Research and Innovation Center for this week long technical solar training led by SEI Instructor, Kristopher Sutton. SEI is grateful to the American University of Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) Research & Innovation Center where the class is taking place for their cooperation in facilitating this class. RAK is a great location for SEI students to have first hand experience with a wide range of PV systems as they begin their solar education.

The class, PV101, is your gateway to a career in the solar industry. It all starts with the fundamentals, and a solid understanding of various components, system architectures, and applications for PV systems. Other topics include site analysis, system sizing, array configuration, and performance estimation; electrical design characteristics such as wiring, overcurrent protection, and grounding; a detailed look at module and inverter specifications and characteristics; mounting methods for various roof structures and ground­mounts; and an introduction to safely and effectively commissioning grid­-direct PV systems. This course focuses on grid-­direct PV systems, the largest and fastest growing segment of the PV industry, but covers material critical to understanding all types of PV systems. These core concepts are expanded on in SEI’s upper ­level PV courses, which focus more specifically on particular system types, applications and design methodologies.

RAK 2 RAK3

The post Solar Energy International (SEI) Leads PV101 in the UAE! appeared first on Solar Training – Solar Installer Training – Solar PV Installation Training – Solar Energy Courses – Renewable Energy Education – NABCEP – Solar Energy International (SEI).

Branding Success: How to Use PPC to Amplify Your Brand

Posted by purna_v

Here’s a question for you:

Do you think a brand can influence your behavior outside of purchase preference? Put another way, will seeing the North Face logo make you want to take up hiking in the snow?

A few years ago, researchers at Duke University conducted an experiment with 341 students. Their goal? Studying what makes a brand powerful and how we’re influenced by brands. As part of this study, the students were asked to complete what they were told was a visual acuity test.

During this test, either an Apple logo or IBM logo flashed on the screen for a second, so quickly that the students were unaware they had been exposed to the logo. The participants then completed a task designed to evaluate how creative they were, listing all the uses they could think of for a brick.

Are you surprised that students exposed to the Apple logo came up with not just more uses, but more creative uses? The experiment was also done using the Disney Channel logo and the E! logo – and the students were tested on their degree of honesty and dishonesty. Which logo exposure led to more honesty? If you thought Disney, you’re right.

This is evidence that subliminal brand exposure can cause people to act in specific ways. Branding matters.

For those of us who work in paid search, this whole “branding” thing, with its unintuitive KPIs, can seem nebulous and not something for us to worry about. We PPC-ers have specific goals and KPIs, and it’s easy for us to be seen as only a bottom-funnel channel. But we’re far more powerful than that.

Here’s the truth: Brand advertising via PPC does impact the bottom line.

I’ll share three key ways to build a framework for branding:

  1. Make choosing you easier.
  2. Show your customers you care.
  3. Make it easy to be a loyal customer.

Chances are you’re taking some of these steps already, which is fantastic. This framework can guide you to ensure you’re covering all the steps of the funnel. Let’s break down how PPC can support all three of these key points.

1. Make choosing you easier

Top brands understand their audiences really well. And what’s true of pretty much every audience right now is that we’re all looking for the fast fix. So if a brand can make it easy for us to find what we need, to get something done – that brand is going to win our hearts.

Which is why getting your ad messaging right is critical.

Something I notice repeatedly is that we’re so focused on that next advanced tactic or the newest feature that we neglect the simple basics. And that is how we get cracks in our foundation.

Most accounts I look at perform brilliantly with the complex, but routinely make avoidable errors with the basics.

Ad copy

Ads are one of those places where the cracks aren’t just visible, they’re also costly. Let’s look at a few examples of ads with sitelink extensions.

Example 1: What not to do

1_Almay.png

What do you think of this ad?

It’s a decent ad. It’s just not great. What’s hurting the ad is that the sitelinks are a broad – even random – mix of different paths and actions a person can take. We have a mix of product, social media, and spokesperson content. This is not likely to make anyone’s life easier.

Even if I had been interested in the makeup, I might be distracted by the opportunity to meet Carrie Underwood, reducing the odds of a conversion. In trying to please too many different audiences, this ad doesn’t do a particularly strong job of pleasing anyone.

Example 2: Sitelinks organized according to stage of interest

2_Clinique.png

Why not organize your sitelinks according to your customer’s stage of interest instead, like Clinique did here? This is brilliant.

Clinique is acknowledging that some shoppers are here just to buy the makeup they always order – so “Shop Makeup” is the first sitelink offered. But other visitors have come to see what’s new, or to do research on the quality of Clinique skincare, and probably everyone is looking for that discount.

Organizing sitelinks by your customer’s stage of interest also boosts brand by showing your customer that you care. We’ll talk more about that piece later.

Example 3: Sitelinks organized according to customer’s need

3_Harley.png

Here’s something smart: Organizing sitelinks according to what you already know your customers need.

Harley Davidson knows that a potential customer coming to their website wants more than pretty pictures of the bike. They’re ready to schedule a test ride or even estimate payments, so these options are right at the top.

They also understand that Harley Davidson is an aspirational product. I may want to estimate a payment or find information about my local dealer even before I know how to ride a bike. It’s part of the dream of joining the Harley lifestyle. They know this and make their customers’ lives easier by sharing links to learn-to-ride classes.

Example 4: Give them multiple ways to choose you

4_Sephora.png

For brands targeting by geography and who have a local presence, including call extensions and location extensions is a must.

As searches move from desktop to mobile, we know that local searches take the lead – and conversions on a local search happen within five hours of the search (source: Microsoft Internal research). Including call and location extensions helps shorten that conversion cycle.

What I especially love about this ad is that they give you two different buying options. You can visit the store at the physical address, or if that is deemed out-of-the-way by the searcher, the ad entices them to shop Sephora with a discount code for an online purchase. This increases the odds that the shopper will choose Sephora as opposed to visiting a more conveniently located competitor.

Indirect brand terms

When people are looking for your service but not necessarily your brand, you can still make their lives easier by sharing answers to questions they may have.

Of course, you’re already showing up for branded searches or searches directly asking for your product. But what about being helpful to your customers by answering their questions with helpful information? Bidding on these keywords is good for your brand.

For example, Neutrogena is doing a great job at showing up for longer-tail keywords, and they’re also working to build the association between gentle makeup removers for sensitive skin and their brand.

5_Neutrogena.png

And here, Crest is doing a fantastic job in using their ad copy to make themselves stand out as experts. If anyone has questions about teeth whitening, they’re showing that they’re ready to answer them:

6_Crest.png

This also helps you show up for long-tail queries, which are another increasingly critical aspect of voice search.

2. Show your customers you care

If you can anticipate issues and show up when your customers are venting, you win.

Professor Andrew Ehrenberg of South Bank Business School says that people trust strong brands more. They forgive your mistakes more easily. They believe you will put things right.

And what better way to show your customers you care than by anticipating their issues?

Be there when they want to complain

Where’s the first place you go when you want to look something up? Most likely a search engine. Showing up well in the SERPs can make a big difference.

Let’s look at an example. I did a search for complaints related to Disney, a brand with a strong positive sentiment.

7_Disney.png

Surprisingly, the SERPs were filled with complaint sites. What could have helped Disney here would be if they ran ads on these keywords, with the message that they were keen to make things right, and here’s the best number to call and chat.

Wouldn’t that diffuse the situation? Best of all, keywords like this would be very low-cost to bid on.

What about showing up when potential customers are complaining about the competition? You could consider running ads for keywords related to complaints about your competition.

I’d advise you to be careful with this approach since you want to come across as being helpful, not gloating. This strategy also may not lead to very many conversions – since the searcher is looking to complain and not to find alternative businesses – but given the low cost, it may be worth testing.

Cross-channel wins

As PPCs, we’re more powerful than even we give ourselves credit for. Our work can greatly help the PR and SEO teams. Here’s how.

PR:

As noted earlier, the search engine is the first place we go when we want to look up something.

This is so very impactful that, as reported in the New York Times, Microsoft scientists were able to analyze large samples of search engine queries that could in some cases identify Internet users who were suffering from pancreatic cancer, even before they have received a diagnosis of the disease.

This all goes to show the power of search. We can also harness that power for reputation management.

Broad-match bidding can help PR with brand protection. Looking through broad-match search term reports, a.k.a search query reports (SQRs), can help to spot trends like recalls or a rise in negative sentiment.

PPCs can send the PR folks a branded SQR on a regular basis for them to scrub through to spot any concerning trends. This can help PPC stand out as a channel that protects and monitors brand sentiment.

SEO:

Content marketing is a key way for brands to build loyalty, and PPC is an excellent way to get the content to the audience. Serving ads on key terms that support the content you have allows you to give your audience the info they really want.

For example, if your SEO teams built a mortgage calculator as value-add content, then you could serve ads for queries such as “How much house can I afford?”:

8_Mortgage.png

Taking this concept a step further, you can use high-value content to show up with ads that match the research stage of the customer’s interest. As PPCs, we’re often keen to simply show an ad that gets people to convert. But what if they’re not ready? Why should we either ignore them or show up with something that doesn’t match their goal?

Take a look at these ads that show up for a research-stage query:

9_KitchenIdeas.png

The first ad from Sears – while very compelling – seems mismatched to the search query.

Now look at the third ad in the list, offering 50 kitchen idea photos. This is a much better match to the query. If it were me searching, this is the ad I would have chosen to click on.

What happens to the conversion?

Well, the landing page of the “50 ideas” ad could feature some type of offer, say like what the Sears ad has to offer, and here it would be much more welcome. In this way, we could use higher-funnel ads as lead gen, with KPIs such as content impressions, lead form fills, and micro-conversions.

This is such a win-win-win strategy:

  • You’ve shown your customers you care for them and will be there for them
  • You’ve helped your colleagues get more exposure for their hard work
  • You’ve earned yourself cost-effective new leads and conversions.

Boss move.

Want more ideas? Wil Reynolds has some fantastic tips on how SEOs can use PPC to hit their goals.

3. Make it easy to be a loyal customer

Growing customer lifetime value is one of the most worthwhile things a brand can do. There are two clever ways to do this.

Smarter remarketing

You liked us enough to buy once – how would you like to buy again? Show your customers more of what they like over time and they’ll be more attuned to choosing your brand, provided you’ve served them well.

What about remarketing based on how long it’s been since the purchase of a product?

This tactic can be seen as helpful as opposed to overtly sales-y, building brand loyalty. Think of how Amazon does it with their emails suggesting other products or deals we may be interested in. As a result, we just keep going back to Amazon. Even if they don’t have the lowest price.

10_PowerProtein.png

For example, what if a sports nutrition company knew that most customers took three months to finish their box of protein shake powder? Then around the middle of month two, the company could run an ad like this to their list of buyers. It features an offer and shows up just at the right time.

The customer will probably think they’ve lucked out to find a special offer just at the right time. We know that it’s not luck, it’s just smarter remarketing.

Want more ideas? Check out Sam Noble’s Whiteboard Friday on how paid media can help drive loyalty and advocacy.

Show up for the competition

Remember when the iPhone 6s launched? Samsung ran very clever PPC ads during the launch of the iPhone 6s, and again when Apple was in the news about the phones bending.

11_Samsung1.png

12_Samsung2.png

Samsung used humor – which, importantly, wasn’t mean-spirited – and got a lot of attention and goodwill, not to mention a ton of PR and social media attention. Great for their brand at the time!

You can use the same tactic to run ads on competitors’ brand names with ads that showcase your USP. This works especially well for remarketing in paid search (or RLSA) campaigns.

13_Chevy.png

Here, Chevy capitalized on the Tesla Model 3 announcement-related search volume spike. They ran ads that reminded users that their cars were available in late 2016, with the unstated message that it’s much sooner than when the Tesla Model 3 cars are expected to arrive.

Give back

Engaging with the customer is the best way to make it easy for them to be loyal to your brand. Enhance that by showing them you care about what they care about for added impact.

Here’s one way to give back to your customer, and this particular effort is also a huge branding opportunity.

14_Loreal.png

I love how L’Oréal is associating themselves with empowering women – and most of their customers will like this as well. They’re giving back to their customers by honoring the women they care about. To create loyal customers, the best brands give back in meaningful ways.

Wrapping up

One of my favorite Seth Godin quotes is, “Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories that you tell.”

PPC is a wonderful channel to shape and create stories that will engage and delight your customers.

And now we come full circle, to that place where we started, wondering how in the world PPC can impact brand. Your paid search campaigns are a chapter in your brand’s story, and you have an unlimited number of ways to write that chapter, and to contribute to the brand.

Branding isn’t just for the birds. Have you found a way to use PPC to help grow your brand? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

from Raymond Castleberry Blog http://raymondcastleberry.blogspot.com/2017/02/branding-success-how-to-use-ppc-to.html
via http://raymondcastleberry.blogspot.com

Strategic SEO Decisions to Make Before Website Design and Build

Posted by Maryna_Samokhina

The aim: This post highlights SEO areas that need to be addressed and decided on before the website brief is sent to designers and developers.

Imagine a scenario: a client asks what they should do to improve their organic rankings. After a diligent tech audit, market analysis, and a conversion funnel review, you have to deliver some tough recommendations:

“You have to redesign your site architecture,” or

“You have to migrate your site altogether,” or even

“You have to rethink your business model, because currently you are not providing any significant value.”

This can happen when SEO is only seriously considered after the site and business are up and running. As a marketing grad, I can tell you that SEO has not been on my syllabus amongst other classic components of the marketing mix. It’s not hard to imagine even mentored and supported businesses overlooking this area.

This post aims to highlight areas that need to be addressed along with your SWOT analysis and pricing models — the areas before you design and build your digital ‘place’:

  • Wider strategic areas
  • Technical areas to be discussed with developers.
  • Design areas to be discussed with designers.

Note: This post is not meant to be a pre-launch checklist (hence areas like robots.txt, analytics, social, & title tags are completely omitted), but rather a list of SEO-affecting areas that will be hard to change after the website is built.

Wider strategic questions that should be answered:

1. How do we communicate our mission statement online?

After you identify your classic marketing ‘value proposition,’ next comes working out how you communicate it online.

Are terms describing the customer problem/your solution being searched for? Your value proposition might not have many searches; in this case, you need to create a brand association with the problem-solving for specific customer needs. (Other ways of getting traffic are discussed in: “How to Do SEO for Sites and Products with No Search Demand”).

How competitive are these terms? You may find that space is too competitive and you will need to look into alternative or long-tail variations of your offering.

2. Do we understand our customer segments?

These are the questions that are a starting point in your research:

  • How large is our market? Is the potential audience growing or shrinking? (A tool to assist you: Google Trends.)
  • What are our key personas — their demographics, motivations, roles, and needs? (If you are short on time, Craig Bradford’s Persona Research in Under 5 Minutes shows how to draw insights using Twitter.)
  • How do they behave online and offline? What are their touch points beyond the site? (A detailed post on Content and the Marketing Funnel.)

This understanding will allow you to build your site architecture around the stages your customers need to go through before completing their goal. Rand offers a useful framework for how to build killer content by mapping keywords. Ideally, this process should be performed in advance of the site build, to guide which pages you should have to target specific intents and keywords that signify them.

3. Who are our digital competitors?

Knowing who you are competing against in the digital space should inform decisions like site architecture, user experience, and outreach. First, you want to identify who fall under three main types of competitors:

  • You search competitors: those who rank for the product/service you offer. They will compete for the same keywords as those you are targeting, but may cater to a completely different intent.
  • Your business competitors: those that are currently solving the customer problem you aim to solve.
  • Cross-industry competitors: those that solve your customer problem indirectly.

After you come up with the list of competitors, analyze where each stands and how much operational resource it will take to get where they are:

  • What are our competitors’ size and performance?
  • How do they differentiate themselves?
  • How strong is their brand?
  • What does their link profile look like?
  • Are they doing anything different/interesting with their site architecture?

Tools to assist you: Open Site Explorer, Majestic SEO, and Ahrefs for competitor link analysis, and SEM rush for identifying who is ranking for your targeted keywords.

Technical areas to consider in order to avoid future migration/rebuild

1. HTTP or HTTPS

Decide on whether you want to use HTTPS or HTTP. In most instances, the answer will be the former, considering that this is also one of the ranking factors by Google. The rule of thumb is that if you ever plan on accepting payments on your site, you need HTTPS on those pages at a minimum.

2. Decide on a canonical version of your URLs

Duplicate content issues may arise when Google can access the same piece of content via multiple URLs. Without one clear version, pages will compete with one another unnecessarily.

In developer’s eyes, a page is unique if it has a unique ID in the website’s database, while for search engines the URL is a unique identifier. A developer should be reminded that each piece of content should be accessed via only one URL.

3. Site speed

Developers are under pressure to deliver code on time and might neglect areas affecting page speed. Communicate the importance of page speed from the start and put in some time in the brief to optimize the site’s performance (A three-part Site Speed for Dummies Guide explains why we should care about this area.)

4. Languages and locations

If you are planning on targeting users from different countries, you need to decide whether your site would be multi-lingual, multi-regional, or both. Localized keyword research, hreflang considerations, and duplicate content are all issues better addressed before the site build.

Using separate country-level domains gives an advantage of being able to target a country or language more closely. This approach is, however, reliant upon you having the resources to build and maintain infrastructure, write unique content, and promote each domain.

If you plan to go down the route of multiple language/country combinations on a single site, typically the best approach is subfolders (e.g. example.com/uk, example.com/de). Subfolders can run from one platform/CMS, which means that development setup/maintenance is significantly lower.

5. Ease of editing and flexibility in a platform

Google tends to update their recommendations and requirements all the time. Your platform needs to be flexible enough to make quick changes at scale on your site.

Design areas to consider in order to avoid future redesign

1. Architecture and internal linking

An effective information architecture is critical if you want search engines to be able to find your content and serve it to users. If crawlers cannot access the content, they cannot rank it well. From a human point of view, information architecture is important so that users can easily find what they are looking for.

Where possible, you should look to create a flat site structure that will keep pages no deeper than 4 clicks from the homepage. That allows search engines and users to find content in as few clicks as possible.

Use keyword and competitor research to guide which pages you should have. However, the way pages should be grouped and connected should be user-focused. See how users map out relationships between your content using a card sorting technique — you don’t have to have website mockup or even products in order to do that. (This guide discusses in detail how to Improve Your Information Architecture With Card Sorting.)

2. Content-first design

Consider what types of content you will host. Will it be large guides/whitepapers, or a video library? Your content strategy needs to be mapped out at this point to understand what formats you will use and hence what kind of functionality this will require. Knowing what content type you will producing will help with designing page types and create a more consistent user interface.

3. Machine readability (Flash, JS, iFrame) and structured data

Your web pages might use a variety of technologies such as Javascript, Flash, and Ajax that can be hard for crawlers to understand. Although they may be necessary to provide a better user experience, you need to be aware of the issues these technologies can cause. In order to improve your site’s machine readability, mark up your pages with structured data as described in more detail in the post: “How to Audit a Site for Structured Data Opportunities”.

4. Responsive design

As we see more variation in devices and their requirements, along with shifting behavior patterns of mobile device use, ‘mobile’ is becoming less of a separate channel and instead is becoming an underlying technology for accessing the web. Therefore, the long-term goal should be to create a seamless and consistent user experience across all devices. In the interest of this goal, responsive design and dynamic serving methods can assist with creating device-specific experiences.

Closing thoughts

As a business owner/someone responsible for launching a site, you have a lot on your plate. It is probably not the best use of your time to go down the rabbit hole, reading about how to implement structured data and whether JSON-LD is better than Microdata. This post gives you important areas that you should keep in mind and address with those you are delegating them to — even if the scope of such delegation is doing research for you (“Give me pros and cons of HTTPS for my business” ) rather than complete implementation/handling.

I invite my fellow marketers to add other areas/issues you feel should be addressed at the initial planning stages in the comments below!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

from Raymond Castleberry Blog http://raymondcastleberry.blogspot.com/2017/02/strategic-seo-decisions-to-make-before.html
via http://raymondcastleberry.blogspot.com