David’s Bridal’s SEO Person Deserves a Raise

Longtime competitor Alfred Angelo goes belly-up without warning, so what does David’s Bridal do?  Make an irresistible offer on an expertly-optimized page that a panicked bride will click on if she sees it in the search results.

In its coverage of Alfred Angelo’s demise The Washington Post mentioned David’s Bridal’s well-timed tweet.

Less-covered has been the quick thinking on the part of their SEO guy or gal.

Just look at that description tag (above).  The “wedding of their dreams” is no mistake; that’s what Alfred Angelo promised, and what now only another, solvent company can deliver on.  The click-through rate on that page must be insane.

The URL is named relevantly: http://www.davidsbridal.com/Content_Bridal_alfredangelo

The content of the page is clear and on-topic – no gimmicks.

What’s interesting is that the page itself doesn’t have a lot of links (yet?).

(Yet another reason I don’t believe Google’s claim that they “don’t have anything like a website authority score.”)

It just goes to show some of the practices that separate a smart SEO person from a hack:

  • Pay attention to the news. “But I’m not a publicist!”  Yeah, that’s what the SEO chief at Alfred Angelo, Sports Authority, and Blockbuster probably said.
  • Do the basics well, but don’t overdo them. Notice the lack of keyword-stuffing on the page.
  • Work all the channels – to get customers onto the page BEFORE it ranks. Remember the early-morning tweet? Google seems to notice that kind of activity.  WaPo certainly did.
  • Wordsmithing. The David’s Bridal’s search result (particularly their description tag) is sticky, and the page is well-written – for people, not for Google.

The only way (I can think of) that David’s could do even better is if they updated all their store-locator pages (example) to include a banner for the Alfred Angelo special offer.

Your competitors don’t need to be large corporations that fail spectacularly and suddenly for you to make a kill-shot like this one.  Next time a competitor screws up enough to make the local rag, see what kind of special offer you can make to help his/her disappointed customers.  It’s got to help them out of a bind (as David’s did), or you won’t look much better than the other company.

Any other lessons from David’s Bridal?  Similar stories?  Leave a comment!

Can You Repurpose Customers’ Yelp Reviews on Your Website? An Answer from Yelp HQ

https://www.flickr.com/photos/davidberkowitz/5923527436/

Image Credit David Berkowitz flickr.com/photos/davidberkowitz/5923527436/

There’s long been a concern among “local” business owners and marketers that Yelp might filter or otherwise remove your hard-earned reviews if you copy and paste them onto your site.  Yelp’s a killjoy, so there’s some basis for that assumption.

But it turns out Yelp is fine with your publishing Yelp reviews on your site (and sometimes elsewhere), under a few conditions.

I couldn’t find the official policies on that practice posted anywhere, and a recent conversation on Google+ got me wondering, so I asked.  Here’s what Lucy at Yelp HQ told me the other day:

We have a few common sense guidelines if you want to use your Yelp rating and reviews in basic marketing materials, including your own website:

DO ask the reviewers themselves before using their reviews. You can contact them by sending them a “Private Message” on Yelp through your Business Account.

DO stick to verbatim quotes, and don’t quote out of context. If a review has colorful language that doesn’t suit your needs, you should probably move on to the next review.

DO attribute the reviews to Yelp using the Yelp logo (e.g.,”Reviews from Yelp”), and do attribute the reviews to their authors and the date written (e.g.,”- Mike S. on 4/5/09″). Yelp logos can be found at http://www.yelp.com/developers/getting_started/api_logos.

DON’T distort the Yelp logo or use it in any way to suggest that Yelp or its users are affiliated with your business or helped create your marketing materials. Your business and your marketing need to stand on their own.

DON’T alter star ratings. Average star ratings change over time, so you also need to include the date of your rating nearby (e.g.,”**** as of 5/1/09″).

While we would hope not to, we reserve the right to change these guidelines from time to time or rescind our permission for any or no reason.

Reasonable enough, except for that last clause.  It also squares with what I’ve found to be true of reviews (Yelp and Google+) regardless of policy: they just don’t get filtered if you repurpose them.

What’s been your experience with reusing reviews?  Do you ask customers first?  Have you run across businesses who flagrantly go against Yelp’s reuse policies?  Leave a comment!

12 Kinds of Duplicate Content in Local SEO: Which Ones Are Trouble?

There are two intertwined myths about duplicate content:

1: That Google is on the warpath against it, penalizing sites left and right.

2: That duplicate content is a thing – one specific problem.

Neither is true, because of one fact: there are many different types of duplicate content.  (Google says so, too.)

That’s even more true in local SEO – because to rank well in local search you’re not just dealing with your site, but also with a bunch of listings.

Some types of duplicate content hurt your rankings, whereas many are just a mild drag or are harmless.

It’s not bad SOP to try to make all your content everywhere unique.  But sometimes it’s just not necessary, and you don’t want it to suck up too much of your time and distract you from stuff that really matters.

I can think of at least 12 types of duplicate content.  Pay attention to the types that (at least in my experience) might hurt you, and don’t spend time worrying about the harmless ones.

Bad:

1. Mirror sites
Same content, different domains.  The rationale is that maybe both the sites will rank well, or that one of them will have a call-tracking number to “prove ROI!”

Google’s warnings are strongest for wholesale duplicate content between sites.  In my experience, using mirror sites never ends well.  Either one site ranks OK and the other doesn’t, or neither ranks well.  Mirror sites confuse Google and would-be customers alike.

 

2. Duplicate / near-duplicate Google listings

Google listings that have nearly identical names, addresses, and phone numbers can hurt your rankings.  Use Michael Cottam’s excellent duplicate-finder tool to uncover them.

By the way, “practitioner listings” often aren’t a problem, in my experience.  (In other words, if you’re a doctor, lawyer, real-estate agent, or insurance agent, it’s OK if you have a listing in your name and the practice or agency has one in its name.)

3. Duplicate citations
Not a big deal if you have 2 very similar listings on, say, MojoPages or Brownbook – one of those little sites.  But do you have one YellowPages.com listing named “Acme Dynamite” and another named “Acme Dynamite Company”?  Delete one of them, or else Google might scrape YP (a trusted third-party source) and create an unwanted Google Places listing for you.

Also, you should be gung-ho about removing duplicate listings on highly visible sites like YP, Yelp, and Facebook.  To the extent you get reviews on those sites, you’ll want to get the reviews piled up on one listing, rather than spread them thin between several listings.

4. Internal duplicate title tags
Does your “Services” page have the same title tag as your homepage?  Google won’t penalize you or anything; it’s just that you’ve lost an opportunity to help different pages rank for different search terms.

5. Duplicate title tags between sites
Similar problem as in point #4.

But there’s an additional problem: if you have multiple sites that include the name of your business in the title tags, you may mess mess up your brand-name search traffic.  When people search for your business by name you want one site to come up in Google, so that everyone goes to that site.  Why?  Because Google loves brands.  The more you can seem like one (i.e. popular offline and online), the better.  But you don’t want to confuse Google as to what site represents your “brand.”

6. Duplicate / near-duplicate pages on your site – particularly “city” pages
I’ve never noticed a site get penalized specifically for barfing up two dozen pages that target different cities by swapping out the city names (“HVAC Contractors Atlanta,” “HVAC Contractors Decatur,” etc.).

But a few problems remain: (1) those clone pages often don’t rank well, (2) even if they do rank well they eventually drop because users pogo-stick away from them, and (3) they usually don’t produce many phone calls.

Low-quality “city” pages aren’t as much a drag on your rankings as they are a giant lost opportunity.  Yours don’t have to suck, though.

7. Reviews cross-posted by customers
Scenario: a customer writes you a nice review on Yelp, so you ask her to write a review on Google+.  Just make sure it’s not the same review.  Make sure the words are significantly different, or the review might get filtered on both sites.  (By the way, Yelp and Google are the only sites that aggressively filter reviews – at least as far as I know.)

Not a problem:

8. Reviews that you copy and put on your site
This isn’t against Yelp’s or Google’s (or other sites’) policies, and I’ve seen so many businesses copy and paste their reviews onto their sites that I’ve concluded it’s just not a problem.

9. Duplicate descriptions between listings
You can use a different description on Yelp from the one you use on Manta, or you can have those descriptions and all your others can be pretty much the same.  (I say “pretty much” because different sites have different length requirements for your blurb, so a little variation is inevitable.)  Doesn’t matter.

10. Website content cross-posted on listings
Want to use a blurb from your homepage as your description on Angie’s List?  Harmless.

11. Google+ posts duplicated on multiple Google Places / Plus pages
If you’ve got multiple locations – each with a Google Places page – it’s OK to publish the same post in each one’s “Posts” stream.

12. Re-posting Google+ reviews
Google allows this.  Very few businesses know that they can show off their Google reviews in their “Posts” stream.

Can you think of any other types of duplicate content, in the context of local SEO?

Which ones have you found to be harmful vs. harmless?

Leave a comment!

100 More Doable Ideas for Small-Business Blog Posts

That was not [BLEEP]-ing good enough, Private Phil!  Hit the deck and give me another 100!

I felt the burn when writing 100 Practical Ideas for Small-Business Blog Posts a few months back.  It took my pecs and triceps 3 months to shake off the soreness, but they cranked out another 100 for you.

My mission is the same as it was in the earlier post: to make it impossible for you to say, “I want to blog for my business, but I don’t know what to write about.”

It doesn’t need to be painful to write posts that (1) you enjoy, (2) showcase your expertise, and (3) customers find useful.  You just need ideas.

Here are another 100 practical ideas for blog posts.  Cherry-pick your favorites, and write ‘em.

101.  What’s the biggest change you’ve made in your business?  Why did you make it?

102.  Where’s the Mecca of your industry?

103.  What was a situation where you felt the profitable thing to do wasn’t the right thing to do?

104.  What’s a part of your service that you insist on doing personally – even when most people in your position don’t?

105.  How did your schooling / education influence what you do for a living?

106.  Why is / isn’t your business a family business?

107.  What’s the Golden Age of your industry?  (Or do you think it’s yet to come?)

108.  What are your “10 commandments”?

109.  How much money does your company spend on books, training, or any types of ongoing learning?

110.  Your year in photos.

111.  Conduct a survey / poll (like with Google Consumer Surveys).

112.  Commemorate an anniversary.

113.  Describe a time you became complacent and got a wake-up call.

114.  Describe an ethical dilemma.

115.  Do people in your position love their work so much that they never retire – and do it until they die?

116.  How was your business different before the Web?

117.  Cannibalize a page on your site nobody seems to see or care about, spruce it up, and turn it into a post.  Or vice versa.

118.  What advice have you gotten from friends or family about running your business?  Was it any good – did you do it?  Why, or why not?

119.  Discuss a mixed review you got from a customer, and what you got out of it.

120.  If you didn’t do what you do for a living, what would you do instead?

121.  What’s a piece of jargon in your industry that most people misuse or don’t understand?  (In other words, a misnomer.)

122.  Explain your “guarantee” policy (even if you don’t have one, that’s still a policy).

123.  What’s your policy on estimates / quotes?

124.  What’s an event that almost wiped out your business?

125.  Have you served multiple generations of a family – a customer, then his son, then his son (for example)?

126.  What questions do you ask possible hires in an interview?

127.  Describe why you fired the last person you fired.

128.  What do all your oldest, longest-term customers have in common?

129.  How do you benefit from writing blog posts?  What does it get you really thinking about?

130.  What are your professional regrets?

131.  What have your competitors taught you?

132.  Why do you keep the business hours you keep?

133.  Why do you have the number of locations you have?  How likely is that to change, and why?

134.  Describe the last situation where you were asked for a refund.

135.  Has your industry ever been the subject of a TV show?  How well did the show portray what you do?

136.  How many people feel ashamed or embarrassed at needing what you offer – and why should they not feel that way?

137.  What are some rules that tick off your employees, but you know are necessary for doing good work?

138.  How cutthroat is your industry?  Why?

139.  What crimes are committed by some people in your industry?

140.  Talk about the pros and cons of hiring or buying from the giant in your industry.

141.  What’s the worst advice you’ve heard or read?  Best?

142.  Write the “Complete Guide to ___.”

143.  Do you have a book in you?

144.  What are some unspoken, unwritten rules in your industry?

145.  What’s your opinion of the single most-famous person in your industry?

146.  Describe in the first-person voice the situation your customer is in right before he / she calls you.  Tell a little story.  Show that you know your customers inside and out.

147.  When did you have to take significant time off from work?

148.  How has your reputation changed over the years?

149.  What’s the lifespan of most businesses in your industry?

150.  What do you think will be the next game-changer?

151.  Do people who offer like yours tend to specialize – or do they usually offer many other services?

152.  Let’s say your industry doesn’t get much press, but there was a celebrity who recently drew some attention to it.  Talk about that.

153.  What are the barriers to entry?  What prevents many people from starting a business like yours?

154.  Why are your profit margins as thin or fat as they are?

155.  Open letter to ___.  (Doesn’t need to be a real open letter.)

156.  When have you needed the service you offer?  Who did it for you?

157.  What’s some technology that you started using (for your business) before others did?

158.  What kind of spam plagues your industry?  And how can you tell it’s spam?

159.  What kind of pro bono work is done in your industry?  Have you done any?

160.  What’s the #1 cause of burnout?

161.  What did you learn on the job today?

162.  What’s the etymology of the word that describes your business?  What does it mean in other languages?  (Do other cultures even have it?)

163.  What’s a question for which people just can’t find an answer by searching in Google – and can you answer it?

164.  Post a question you’re researching.  (Give a reason for your readers to try to answer it for you.)

165.  What’s your overhead?

166.  What kind of paperwork do you have to slog through for each job?

167.  What’s a change you made based on what your “feet on the street” told you?

168.  Why do you like your current role more than your “previous life,” in your old job?

169.  Showcase or excerpt a (nice?) testimonial from a customer.  Thank him or her, and then criticize yourself: describe how you could have done a better job.

170.  Is there a public-sector version of your business?  (And how badly does it suck?)

171.  What’s the ideal size of a business like yours?  What’s too small to be helpful, but too large to serve customers well?

172.  What’s the bond between coworkers?  Is it “work together, play together”?  Does the bond mean that your team is a well-oiled machine that’s in a better position to help customers?

173.  Rake some muck.  What’s a company that gave you a raw deal?  (Bonus points: what did you learn?)

174.  Profile a city you serve.  Talk all about the jobs you’ve done there, and what you like about doing jobs there.

175.  Do you hold any patents?

176.  Publish a sequel to one of your best posts.

177.  Is your field of expertise an art or a science?  How right-brain versus left-brain is it?

178.  How old are most people in your position?

179.  Recommend a competitor.  Think of a way to do it genuinely.  (I don’t recommend saying, “Want crappy service?  Go with Jones & Sons.”)  No need to be an altruist: Maybe there’s a service you don’t offer that your competitor does offer – and maybe you’re just sick of being asked about it.

180.  What are all the products your customers tend to buy to remedy the problems you deal with?  Which are good, and which are useless?

181.  What’s an animal (or other organism) that destroys (or creates) your work?

182.  How does the government make life hard for your business (and others like it)?

183.  What’s a fable or piece of mythology (e.g. Greek) that your customers should keep in mind?

184.  What do you keep on your desk?

185.  What are 3 things you’d love to write more about – but know you’ll never get around to?

186.  When were you the low man on the totem pole?  (Bonus points: how you got from there to where you are now.)

187.  What’s your fear?

188.  What are the all the ways businesses in your industry market themselves?

189.  Do you need your team?  Or can you be a one-musician band?

190.  What part of the job simply can’t be taught?  Are there “naturals”?

191.  Mirco-tip.  (As in a few sentences.)

192.  What questions do you have about your industry?

193.  What do you need from your customers?  To what extent do they need to help you help them?

194.  Do a photo collage – like of some recent work you’ve done.  Maybe describe what’s in the collage.

195.  What if you had a chance to redo the worst job you’ve ever done?

196.  What’s an untrue stigma associated with your industry?

197.  Post a job opening – a position you’re looking to fill.

198.  Do a Holiday-themed post.

199.  Quick history lesson.  (Make it relevant to your industry, and to your reader / customer.)

200.  If you took a year-long hiatus from the day-to-day stuff in your business, what would you do?

Still feel like you don’t know what to write about?

What’s the best post you’ve done so far?  Or a post you want to do?

Leave a comment!

100 Practical Ideas for Small-Business Blog Posts

Right now I’d like to nuke the two most-common excuses I hear business owners make for not putting a little of their expertise into blog posts:

Excuse 1: “I don’t have time,” and

Excuse 2: “I don’t know what to write about.”

There are a few good reasons not to want to blog, like having as many customers as you want and not feeling the need to have your website bring you more.  Heck, if you don’t need online visibility at all, more power to you.

Or if you just think blogging is dumb, I won’t try to change your mind.  (‘Course, I’d wonder why you’re reading this in the first place.)

But you probably know exactly why it’s smart to keep a good “small business” blog.  Customers like it, and so does Google.  I’ve mentioned examples.

The trouble is you’re concerned about time.  There’s not enough of it.

It’s true that you don’t have time to stare at the screen and peck away at something that bores and frustrates you.

But if there’s something you want to write, it won’t even be a matter of “finding” the time: You’ll just hammer it out.  Why?  Because it’ll come to you naturally.

It’s the same as when you’re talking: When you know what you’d like to say, you just say it.

So if you have any desire whatsoever to blog for your business, but just feel short on ideas, this one’s for you.

It’s the third part of my unofficial, unintentional trilogy of posts (from this month) about what needs to happen on your site for you to become the big kid on the block.

Not sure of good blog posts you can do?  Here are 100 ideas:

1. Answer a recent question – “mail bag”-style.

2. FAQs.

3. Confess a weakness.

4. Showcase a new “toy” for your business.

5. Profile an employee (new or old).

6. Profile your typical customer – or a handful of common types.

7. Discuss a relevant current event.

8. Rant.

9. Answer fan mail.  (Don’t just be self-congratulatory.)

10. Answer hate-mail.

11. Review a product.

12. Compare multiple products.

13. Explain a law or regulation.

14. Expose a scam.

15. Showcase a job.

16. Interview someone.  (A competitor, a customer, or someone else.)

17. Roundup of others’ posts or resources.

18. Cool photo(s) or video(s).

19. Pose questions to anyone who’s reading – ask for feedback, suggestions, questions.  Get a little conversation going.

20. News in your industry or city.

21. Riff off of a competitor’s post, article, or public statement.

22. Talk about your heroes.

23. Give a rallying cry for a charity.

24. Other than making money and providing good service, what’s your “mission”?

25. How will you know if you’ve succeeded or failed at your “mission”?

26. What’s a book that’s helped your business – and that might help your customer / reader?

27. Is there a disproportionately busy season in your business – and if so, why?

28. Is your work becoming a “lost art” – or are new practitioners (good or bad) popping up left and right?

29. How close are you to your 10,000 hours?

30. Tell a piece of family lore.

31. Describe your training in-detail – and preferably tell a story about it.

32. Commission an artist to draw a comic (that you think of).

33. Tell how your business got its name (assuming it’s an interesting story and not an SEO move).

34. Share a (former) secret.

35. Describe a local / community event you went to.

36. Describe an industry event you went to.

37. Tell the story of how you got into the business you’re in.

38. A wish-list of tools that haven’t been invented for your industry.

39. Describe your hiring process.

40. In what ways are you totally paranoid (in a good way) about safety?

41. Describe regulations you wish there were.

42. Typical conversation between you and ___.

43. How to pick out a ___.

44. Changes you’d love to see in your industry.

45. To what extent are there marketers who specialize in marketing businesses like yours?  What do you think of them?

46. What have you learned in the past year?

47. What’s hard or impossible to know about a job, project, or customer until you start?

48. How did you turn an unhappy customer into a happy one?

49. What are some services you’d like to offer?

50. Complain about a storm or other recent weather event.

51. What’s something about your work that drives you crazy every day?

52. In what ways are some businesses like yours really behind-the-times?

53. When do you refer a customer (or potential customer) to someone else?

54. If you were to retire today, what words of advice would you give your #2?

55. What’s the first thing most potential customers ask you?

56. Open letter.

57. Run a contest.

58. Lessons from __ years in the business.

59. Describe your typical day (or have an employee do it, if his/hers is more interesting).

60. Show internal documents – stuff you use in your organization.

61. Your industry predictions (or speculation).

62. Recap a year.

63. What’s a horror story or “close call”?

64. How you’ve addressed common complaints – your customers’ or just in your industry.

65. Regional differences between businesses in your industry.

66. Myths in your industry.

67. Common misconceptions customers have about your industry.

68. Checklist.

69. Your family-history in the industry.

70. Talk about your technology, equipment, tools, or techniques.

71. If you had to start all over again, what would you do differently?

72. How your customer might justify the short-term costs of your services (to a spouse, employee, or partner).

73. Why, exactly, are your costs higher or lower than others’?

74. Good habits and bad habits of business owners in your industry.

75. Pros and cons of working with a specialist in your industry (whether or not you are one), versus with a “jack of all trades.”

76. Mistakes customers make in choosing a company like yours.

77. Common clean-up jobs: what are messes caused by other companies that you’ve had to remedy?

78. How long do employees stay in companies like yours?  What’s the churn rate?  Why?

79. How does your type of business differ in other countries?

80. Different schools of thought in your industry.  (What’s yours?)

81. Legislation that you support or oppose – and why.

82. Questions you ask your customers (or potential customers).

83. When you turn away a potential customer.

84. Insurance coverage of your services.

85. Financing options for your services.

86. What’s the toughest or easiest part of your work?

87. What do your customers have a hard time doing?

88. Describe your Customer from Hell.

89. Describe your ideal customer.

90. To what extent do customers expect to work with you?  (Or do they think, “Oh, I’ll never need that”?)

91. What’s different between people who’ve been in your industry forever and those just starting out?

92. What part(s) of your character did you have to overcome to become good at your work?

93. What’s a way your customers can barter with you?

94. What’s the best suggestion you’ve ever gotten from a customer?

95. How do you “take your work home” with you?  (Do you talk about it over dinner, do you stay up late reading about it, etc.?)

96. Describe a time you did some public speaking on your industry.

97. What questions do your kids ask you about your work?

98. How has the economy of the last few years affected your industry?

99. Who was the first person in history to do what you do (the “mother” or “father” of your field)?

100. What do you want to accomplish with your blog?

These are not 100 paint-by-numbers suggestions.  Crafting some of these posts will require perspective and know-how that only you can supply.

But if you’ve read through the 100 ideas and still don’t know what to write about…well, then you may have “issues.”

By the way, just as a little party favor, I’ve listed these in a spreadsheet, where you can sort all the ideas by which ones (1) are quick to write, (2) may give you more than one post, and (3) may be ideas you can have someone else in your company write.  This might help you cherry-pick.

I’d also suggest promoting your posts a little, like by applying the suggestions in this great post by Larry Kim.

Go ahead: hammer out a couple of blog posts today, and give your customers (and Google) more reasons to choose you.

(Update) Once you’ve burned through those, check out my 2nd list of 100 ideas.

What are some good post “angles” you’ve read or written (or thought of just now)?  Leave a comment!

Why Does Your Business Deserve Success in Local Search?


What’s really different about how you’ve represented your business online?

  • Do you have 100+ blog posts that help make a potential customer’s life a little (or a lot) easier? (Update – January 2014: here are 100 practical ideas for blog posts.)
  • Do you have better reviews, more reviews, and reviews on more sites than your competitors do?
  • Have you done anything to earn a mention or write-up in the local newspaper – and can you do something like it again?
  • Do you describe each of your services on a separate page and in so much detail that your potential customers might (temporarily) think they don’t even need you?
  • Do you produce videos that are informative enough you’d send them to relatives who want to know exactly what it is you do for a living?
  • Do you practice any other forms of RCS?

Give people a reason to click, pay attention, and get in touch.  Give Google at least one concrete reason to rank your business well.  Worry about them in that order.

You might say, “But my competitors don’t stand out in any way.”  Well, they may do the boring stuff better than you do.  There’s also nothing to say that their rankings will last, or that they get many customers out of the deal.  Above all, it doesn’t matter much what your competitors do or don’t do if your goal is to outrank them.

Start working on at least one of those standout factors at the same time you work on (or ask for help with) the rest of your local SEO.  You’re more likely to get visible, and for that visibility actually to bring phone calls.

(If you find that I went too Seth Godin on you just now, please leave a comment and demand more explanation.)