Getting Reviews For Your Business Online

Getting Online Reviews For Your Business

Consumers rely on reading reviews these days to form opinions and decisions on everything from where to eat, to what to buy, to what businesses to do business with. In our fast moving digital world, reviews speak volumes about your business and offer potential customers social proof whether they should choose you, or one of your competitors.

Consumers have fundamentally changed their buying process from what it was just a few short years ago, now relying heavily on reading reviews to form decisions on everything from what toaster to buy, to where each year, consumers are turning to online reviews more and more to make their buying decisions easier.

How Consumers Use Reviews

Reviews seem to be everywhere online, and rightfully so as reviews are read 91% of the time before making buying decisions. According to BrightLocals survey, consumers use reviews in the following ways:

    • 95% of people say they search for local businesses online.
    • 91% of people read online reviews about local businesses.
    • 63% of people use search engines to find reviews, 37% use online review sites.
    • 90% of people say they read at least 10 reviews before they can trust a local business.

to eat, to which plumber is the best in their local area.

Each year BrightLocal compiles a Local Consumer Review Survey, and just as it has shown

  • Average star rating is the most important factor considered by consumers.
  • 73% of consumers consider reviews over 3 months old to be irrelevant. 
  • 74% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more.
  • 84% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

Tapping into the Power of Online Reviews for Your Business

Clearly as seen by the percentages above, growing and maintaining a positive review stream should be a top consideration for any business wanting to remain competitive in today’s digital world.

Ask almost any business owner and they would agree that getting positive reviews for their business is important to them. For many business owners, getting positive reviews is a frustrating challenge, and because of this getting reviews is often pushed off to another day.

The secret to getting online reviews for your business is that it has to be easy. Easy for you and your employees, and easy for your customers.

Get Online Reviews Easily via Text Message or Email

Here at City Ranked Media we understood the power of good reviews and what it could do for a business. Understanding the importance of attaining reviews, and understanding that we needed to make the process simple for our customers, as well as their customers, we developed the Go Local Reviews App.

Go Local Reviews – The Easy Online Review System

This app makes getting reviews easy, just open the app on any internet connected device, enter your customer’s name, cell number or email and press submit.

You customer receives a text message or email within a few seconds, and the app guides them through a super simple process to leave a review for you right from their cell phone. The whole process from beginning to end takes less that 3 minutes.

get reviews via text message and email

The app doesn’t stop there. The app also tracks who’s asking for reviews and who’s not by notifying you as the business owner every time a review is requested. The service also comes with weekly review monitoring and interactive reporting.

Get Reviews For Your Business – Affordably

Our review app has been tested with many many small businesses, and we took the feedback from these businesses to create our newest version which was built with affordability in mind.

Many review platforms on the web today come with fancy back-end dashboards and other features that inflate the prices of these platforms. When we tested our review app with our customers, one thing held true, most business owners said they would never use a back-end dashboard and would rather have regular reports email to them for review. Since we didn’t spend a ton of time and resources on building a custom dashboard for our app, we can offer our app for up to 75% less than some of our competitors.

Want to learn more about our review app? Visit our information page and demo request here: GoLocalReviews – Text Message Review App


Download The App

Apple App Store Link:

Go Local Reviews on iTunes


Google Play Store Link:

Go Local Reviews on Google Play

Conversion Rate Optimization: Increasing Website Conversions For City Ranked Customers

Conversion Rate Optimization in Portland OR and Vancouver WA

Incrementally Increasing Website Conversions With New WordPress Programming

As a web design and search engine optimization company, we’ve always maintained that there are really only three ways we can increase the number of conversions a website produces:

  • Drive more qualified traffic
  • Increase the percentage of visitors that convert into prospects, or
  • A combination of both

At City Ranked Media, we are always challenging ourselves by coming up with new and innovative ways to achieve increases in one or more of the above to positively affect our clients’ bottom lines. During the first quarter of 2016, City Ranked Media introduced a new way to manage the above goals to help keep ourselves and our clients focused on activities that would ultimately affect one or all of the above goals.

The City Ranked Account Management Tool

The City Ranked Account Management Tool was developed to focus efforts on building qualified traffic and increasing conversions based upon 4 predetermined quadrants. These quadrants focus on:

  1. New and/or Updated Content – for search engine and end user consumption
  2. Technical SEO – all the back-end coding to increase website and keyword rankings
  3. Conversation Rate Optimization – ways to increase the percentage of visitors that convert into viable prospects
  4. Projects & Programming – technical projects and coding for increased user engagement, which would ultimately affect the conversion rate percentage

SEO and account management services Vancouver WA Portland OR

Our First Innovation After Using The City Ranked Account Management Tool

The programming staff at City Ranked Media was challenged to incrementally increase website form conversions. We focused specifically on mobile users, providing them an interface that’s easy to engage with and use. This interface needed to have the following:

  • Simple and easy to use on any device
  • Provides a clear call to action that enticed the prospect to give their information, and stop them from searching competitive websites
  • Provide the client enough information to call the prospect back with an understanding of what service they may be interested in

Introducing The City Ranked Media MyModal Plugin©

The City Ranked Media MyModal Plugin is an easy-to-use program that is deployable on the WordPress platform. The plugin allows for one-touch buttons to be installed at strategic places across a client’s website. Once a prospect engages with the button, a modal screen pops-up asking the prospect to enter their name and phone number to receive a call-back from the client.

Clients receive an email notification with the request for call-back. This notification includes:

  • Prospect’s Name
  • Prospect’s Phone Number (touch enabled on mobile devices for easy call-back)
  • The website URL of the page the prospect was on and page title (this helps the client understand what the prospect may need help with)
  • Date and time request was made
conversion rate optimization tool for WordPress websites
Screenshot of City Ranked Media MyModal© WordPress Plugin

The Outcome

City Ranked Media deployed the new plugin on several client websites across several industries and discovered the following:

  • Website conversions incrementally increased between 12-20% depending on the industry.
  • Clients that guaranteed a call-back within a recommended time-frame of 15 minutes or less closed the most new customers from these new leads.
  • Clients that guaranteed a call-back of 30 minutes or less came in second for closing new customers.
  • Clients that waited longer than 30 minutes to return calls closed the least new customers from these leads.

** Special thanks to City Ranked Media Programmer Josh Brown for helping realize this CRO Plugin

JSON-LD Schema Structure for Local SEO

JSON-LD Review Schema Structure Portland OR and Vancouver WA

New SEO Schema Markups Released and Tested

First it might be helpful to explain what schema markup is. Back in 2011, the main search engines Google, Yahoo and Bing embarked on a collaborative project to develop code markup to help search engines understand what a specific website (or page on a website) is about.

Implementing on-page markup helps search engines understand the information on web pages and provide richer search results. This shared markup vocabulary makes it easier for webmasters to decide on a markup schema and get the maximum benefit for their efforts. Search engines want to make it easier for people to find relevant information on the web.

City Ranked Media has been using schema markups on our clients’ websites since they were first released, when only 1,500 websites nationwide were using it. Initially there were less than 20 different markups. Fast-forward to today, and there are hundreds of markups available for use.

Why Schema Markup is Important for SEO

Schema markup is important because it helps the search engines understand what a particular page, your website, and/or what your business does. This markup was invented to help the search engines provide a more enriching experience to end users, but it’s up to your web developer to correctly deploy schema markup on your website.

There are literally hundreds of types of schema markups, so understanding what types of markup to deploy on a website can either help or hurt a website’s ranking.

City Ranked Media’s use of Schema Markup

As mentioned earlier, City Ranked Media has been using schema markup on client websites since the beginning, and as new schemas are released, we’ve tested and implemented these on client websites.

Keeping up with new schema releases, and testing these releases on select clients before an implementation becomes standard, has always been an important SEO strategy for us. In keeping with this proven process, City Ranked Media began testing a new format of schema called JSON-LD (JavaScript Object Notation for Linked Data) in Quarter 4 of 2015.

For this newest testing, City Ranked focused on schema markup that would directly benefit businesses that offered services and products. Particular attention was focused on helping search engines understand a client’s:

  • Physical Address
  • Correct Business Name, Address, and Phone Number(s)
  • Business Reviews
  • Multi-Location – for clients that operate more than one business location
  • Opening & Closing Hours, and Days of Operation
  • Alternate Business Names

This schema also helps search engines understand a client’s services and products offered, including:

  • Specific names of services and/or products for better ranking associated with corresponding keywords
  • Reviews associated specifically with different services and/or products
  • Availability of a service or product
  • Geographic area of service or product available

It additionally helps search engines better understand a client’s website structure by:

  • Achieving multiple clickable site-links on search engine results page for better engagement of search engine users
  • Providing a better website structure and supporting structure to increase link-juice to main service pages, targeting highly competitive keywords

Furthermore, schema markup helps search engines better understand a client’s service area in order to:

  • Achieve rankings outside of client’s immediate area by implementing markup to let search engines know where a client travels to, or where prospects travel from
  • Target mobile and GPS-enabled devices for local SEO rankings
  • Use existing search engine programs to help reinforce these service areas

Finally, schema helps search engines understand a client’s entire internet footprint; they tie on-page and off-page SEO efforts together through standardized JSON-LD markup to show the search engines all efforts being done in one place.

The Outcome of this New SEO for Local Search Rankings

City Ranked Media developed a new and proprietary way to structure JSON-LD markup. This markup was tested with several clients’ websites with many of them seeing increased results for targeted keywords and landing pages.

This new code structure showed extremely positive results with search engine rankings when compared to competitor websites not utilizing this structure. For example, one client achieved a 376% increase in SEO results when compared to over 300 competitive websites in the State of Washington (according to Google Analytics)

SEO Code Innovation: Targeting SEO Through GPS Location

SEO Code Innovation for better Search Engine Optimization

GPS Targeted SEO

We here at City Ranked have been busy testing, retesting, and refining SEO tactics based upon GPS coordinates of web enabled devices. Most internet enabled devices manufactured in the last few years including laptops, tablets, and smartphones have some sort of GPS locating feature built into them. These features are being used by search engines and social media sites alike to serve better and more refined results to end users.

The Challenge Get Our Clients Ranked Based Upon GPS Coordinates

Our goal has always been to place our customers in the highest position for local search, so naturally we took on the challenge of trying to get our customers to show up higher in results based upon the GPS coordinates of end user devices.

The GPS SEO Test

During the first quarter of this year, the staff here at City Ranked Media started quietly testing a new and innovative way to send the search engines marked-up code using JavaScript, schema markup, and the Google Map Maker API to indicate our customers’ various service areas within their towns. We initially tested this on City Ranked Media Enterprise Level clients in three major markets–Seattle, Portland, and Las Vegas–for extremely competitive keywords.

We tested all three locations using Apple iPhones, as well as Samsung, testing in the same locations within each city. Tests were completed using Safari, as well as Google’s Chrome App. All tests were completed in incognito mode, using cellular data, not wifi.

The SEO and Design Work

Initial testing showed moderate improvements to client positioning organically, and in Google Maps listings, improvements were up by as much as 50% in keyword rankings over the initial 90-day test. However, these improvements weren’t enough to move these customers to acceptable rankings for these competitive keywords.

Seeing that we were heading in the right direction, we retooled our coding, our markup, and our integration with Google Map Maker to see if we could move rankings to first page positioning. Several development, coding, and testing hours were invested to revamp our delivery of this new SEO to the search engines, helping them better understand our customers’ service areas and key service offerings.

Particular attention was paid to the keywords “[Keyword]” and “[Keyword] + Near Me” without city names or states attached to these queries. Often on mobile devices, these city and state keywords are left out in favor of shorter keyword searches. The new coding would rely heavily on the ability of the new markup and code to communicate with the search engines that these customers served within these specific areas of town.

The Results of the New GPS SEO CodingLocal Google Maps SEO by GPS location

The second set of results at local GPS SEO fared much better. Each client’s targeted keyword(s) in the geographies we optimized for saw dramatic improvements in search rankings for both Google Maps and Organic rankings.

Clients saw an improvement from an 8 position increase on the low end, to over 80 position improvements for the most competitive keyword(s) for their industry. These higher rankings affect everything from the quality of web prospects driven, conversion rates, and increased call volume from Google Maps, and organic listings.

What This Means for You and Local SEO Rankings

Search Engine Optimization based upon GPS coordinates testing has proved beneficial to rankings on search engine results. City Ranked Media can now help our customers achieve higher rankings in areas of town that they would like to target. This new SEO, combined with Google’s newest algorithm update named Possum, can make it possible for us to rank clients in Google Maps, even if they don’t have a physical location in a specific area of town. This new SEO also enables us to positively affect rankings organically.

Programming Innovation: Get Customer Reviews Through Text Messaging

Programming innovations for customer reviews

The Text Review App

(Demo video at the bottom of this article)

With an ever-increasing number of savvy consumers searching the internet for local products and services, the impact of reviews on a local business’s continued success is becoming more and more apparent. Because of this, City Ranked Media developed the App (patent pending.)

For local small businesses that need to keep a step ahead of the competition, taking advantage of this consumer review system (especially Google reviews) is now a necessary part of an overall SEO marketing strategy.

Why Online Reviews Are So Important

It is no longer just the occasional few consumers searching for business reviews online. In fact, nearly 9 out of 10 consumers have read online reviews to determine the quality of a local business. This increasing consumer reliance on reviews is also evidenced by the fact that in 2016, 92% of consumers read online reviews, compared to 88% in 2014.

Reviews Impact Your Bottom Line

Consider these statistics from’s 2015 Local Consumer Review Study:

  • Star rating is the #1 factor used by consumers to judge a business
  • 40% of consumers form an opinion by reading just 1-3 reviews
  • 68% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a business more
  • 51% will select a local business if it has positive reviews
  • 23% will visit a business in person if it has positive reviews

Additionally, studies show that customers are likely to spend 31% more on a business with excellent reviews, and a one-star increase on Yelp leads to a 5 to 9% increase in a business’s revenue.

These statistics clearly indicate that digital word of mouth is on the rise and is likely to continue to have a significant impact on local businesses.


How The App Can Help You Get Reviews

City Ranked Media developed a text messaging app to help our clients get trusted reviews on places like Google, Facebook, Yelp, and their own website. This easy-to-use app works from any web-connected device and sends an invitation to a business’s customer via text message.

How The Review App Works?

  1. Upon successful completion of a job or service, the City Ranked Media client opens the app on their smart phone, or on a hidden page on their website.
  2. Client asks their customer if they would care to leave a review about the services they received, then client enters the customer’s first name and cell phone number into the app.
  3. The app automatically sends a personalized text message to the customer thanking them for their business, along with an invitation to click a link to leave a review of the services they received.
  4. Once the customer clicks the link, it asks them if they use Gmail or Google Apps, if the answer is “Yes”, the app redirects the customer to a pre-filled 5 Star Review for the City Ranked Media client’s Google My Business Page.
  5. If the answer is “No,” the customer doesn’t use Gmail, or Google Apps, the App opens the same interface for Yelp or Facebook, completing the same process to leave a review.
  6. If the customer doesn’t use Gmail, Google Apps, Yelp, or Facebook, the final option presented is to ask the customer to leave a review on the client’s website.

We’ve Tested the App – It Works to Get Reviews

City Ranked Media enlisted some of our largest customers to beta test the review app, leading to outstanding results.

  • Top client achieved more than 20 new reviews in less than 60 days.
  • Interactions on Google My Business and Yelp increased for clients that actively requested new reviews.
  • Clients that participated in the beta testing and actively used and attained business reviews saw an increase in Google My Business Searches, Views and Actions.
  • Clients that actively solicited and obtained reviews through Yelp saw big increases in ranking positions. One client hit #1 organic for their main category, and another hit #2 for their main category.

Demo Video of the app

** Special thanks to all the hard work from the following City Ranked Media employees that made this project possible: Josh Brown – Project Manager & Programming, Erika Sarraco – Programming, Chris Kramer – Graphics

SEO Code Innovation: Local SEO and Google’s Doorway Page Update

Targeting Local SEO After Google’s Doorway Page Update

Way back in March of 2015, Google released its Doorway Page Update specifically targeted at websites trying to gain rankings using pages that Google deemed added no real value to search experience. In local SEO, this was a search tactic used years ago to rank for specific terms of “[Keyword + City]”. Here at City Ranked Media we tested and used this strategy on a few websites with some success, but quickly moved away from it understanding these were nothing more than “Doorway Pages”, something that Google frowned upon.

In the second quarter of 2015, City Ranked Media began testing how we could send signals to the search engines that a client served a specific geographic area, even when the client didn’t have a brick and mortar location in that area. The specific challenge was for service-based industries, such as pest control or plumbing companies, that would or could service customers in person in their area.

Introducing the City Ranked Media Geo-Block

After much testing, revisions, and refinement, City Ranked Media launched beta testing on the City Ranked Media Geo-Block. This block was designed to send city-specific data to search engines for important services a client provided, reinforcing with the search engine that the client served specific cities. The code, structure of the code, schema markup, and position of the code relative to other website elements was continually tested and refined to ultimately achieve desired results in first page rankings for pages the City Ranked Media Geo-Block was inserted on.

Initially the programming staff at City Ranked inserted this specific code directly into the website code for testing purposes. Later, after successfully completing beta testing, our programming staff created a WordPress plugin for easier and more standardized implementation for all City Ranked Media clients. The beta testing on this plugin and its effects for local SEO rankings were great enough that City Ranked Media copyrighted the code behind the Geo-Block.

WordPress local SEO plugin for local SEO rankings

City Ranked Media Geo-Block Local SEO Results

During beta testing, City Ranked Media tested this new programming on Enterprise Level SEO clients in several markets across the United States to get a broad set of data to compare. Clients in the following markets were tested:

  • Seattle
  • Portland
  • Las Vegas
  • North Carolina (rural)
  • Providence
  • Vancouver, WA

During initial testing, modest improvements were seen in rankings for longer tail keywords. Code, positioning, and front end aesthetics of the Geo-Block were revamped to be more search engine friendly, and more understandable for Google’s Quality Raters.

After revamping the Geo-Block’s code and front-end looks, clients participating in the beta testing began to see positive movement in rankings. In some cases, rankings increases were minimal at first, but as Google continued to crawl all changed pages with the new code, landing page began to see major improvements. In fact, many of these pages achieved first page rankings for cities outside of the client’s normal SEO footprint.

Sample Results (click to enlarge)

[mk_padding_divider size=”40″]

Future Enhancements to The City Ranked Media Geo-Block

We’re already hard at work utilizing this new code to enhance and affect Local SEO based upon GPS location.

3 questions to ask before hiring a web advertising company

Know the right questions to ask a web advertising company

Hiring a reputable Internet Advertising company for your small business  may seem like an easy task.  There are many choices out there when it comes to website marketing, search optimization and search marketing companies.  Unfortunately the decision to hire a reputable company to handle your online advertising is not as easy as it may seem.  In many cases, small business owners choose internet advertising based upon convenience, rather than diligent research, which can have unintended consequences down the road.  Don’t become a victim of a company that doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

One thing to remember is that many of the large internet advertising companies want you for the long term. So their mission, and how they build their advertising campaigns are designed to make you fear and feel “non-advertising” pain if you ever decide to leave them.

Below are 3 questions you should ask any internet advertising company before considering doing business with them.

1.) Are you going to work on my actual website url (address)?

This is a very important question to ask because many internet marketing companies do not promote your “real” website address across the internet.  Instead they will advertise a website they create, with content they create, and will spread this “not real” website address across the internet…and it will spread like a virus. They often will do this because they will place tracking code and phone numbers on the website and listings they create to take credit for the phone calls, clicks and other activity created on these websites, and listings, which seems fair.

The problem with this – The problem with this is that major search engines like Google, Bing, & Yahoo look for some very key factors when deciding what type of results they return on the first page of their search engines, for keywords your business should be found for.

Some of the biggest factors these search engines look for are consistency of information from multiple sources across the internet. If you as a business owner try to tell one of these search engines that your website address is, but the company you hired is telling them your website address is, which source will the search engine believe? What happens is you end up splitting traffic between two websites, confusing the search engines and your customers, and unintentionally creating twice as much work for yourself.

What happens if you decide to cancel this company’s service?  You will likely lose out on all of this traffic completely, and be left with an expensive mess to fix when it comes to cleaning up the wrong information that has been spread across the web.

When deciding on a web advertising company, doesn’t it make sense to hire a company that will actually work on your website, not one they create for you, that you’ll never own or have rights to?

Real Scenario:

City Ranked Media recently had to help one of our customers that was caught in this exact situation.  This customer had over 2,000 listings with wrong information about their business, including a tracked phone line the SEO company owned.

When this customer cancelled their service, this SEO company re-pointed their tracked phone line to one of this customers competitors, in the same market.

2.) Are you going to use a call tracking line on local citation websites?tracked phone lines internet advertising company

Again, just as above, many of these companies will use call tracking phone numbers across local citation websites to once again show their customers that they can make their phones ring, not a bad thing right?  Unfortunately in many cases this will actually hurt your website rankings.

The problem with this – The problem with this is once again the major search engines look for uniformity across the net on key pieces of information regarding your business.  Information such as website address, phone number, and physical address are key factors to getting your business to rank for the keywords you want at the local level.  Another unintended consequence; if you decide to not continue doing business with this company, who will correct these phone numbers that have been placed all over the internet?

Even changing 250 wrong listings can cost a lot for a small business to fix.  Take the following real life example of a small business owner that hired City Ranked Media to fix the exact same situation.

Real Scenario:

250 wrong phone listings across the web. Average 30 minutes to claim each listing, and correct wrong phone numbers. Discounted $25 per hour SEO service to complete. Total time invested = 75 hours. Total cost to fix = $1.875.00.

3.) How Long Is The Web Advertising Contract?

This is an important question.  Many internet advertising companies out there today insist on locking their clients into year long (or sometimes longer) advertising contracts.  This should throw an immediate red flag to any small business.  The thinking here is that many small businesses are used to buying they’re advertising in year long increments…most have done it for years with other forms of advertising.

The problem with this – The problem with this is that any internet advertising company should be able to show a business owner that their advertising efforts are making progress and working inside of 6 months, so the question would be, why would they want to lock you into a year long contract?  Want to know the answer?  It can differ from company to company, but usually the same things ring true from company to company, and we’ve outlined them below.

  • They need time to spread a call tracking line across the web – As we mentioned above, one of the thing that many of these companies will do is spread a call tracking line across local citation websites.  This exercise does not happen overnight, and can take many months to complete as it’s up to the search engines when they will index these listings.  A long advertising contract gives these companies time to ramp these listings up to garner “tracked” phone calls for their customers to show them perceived value in their service.
  • More impressive phone call statistics – Which sounds better to you – 200 calls for the year, or 16 calls per month?  When it comes time to renew your advertising after a year, you can bet they will talk about the 200 calls they drove, and not the 16 call monthly average.  Why?  Chances are you didn’t work with this company on a monthly basis reviewing your phone calls to determine the real value of what was driven.  And even if this company sent you reports, chances are you were busy running your business and didn’t get a chance to review these phone calls.  So a perceived fear can be built based upon what “might have” come from those calls.  Often small business owners will renew this type of advertising based upon figures alone.
  • It’s all in the magic of their software – Search engine rankings are not achieved by using software – don’t ever let anyone fool you into believing that. There are software programs out there that can aide an SEO company in tracking results and rankings, making it easier to to streamline certain processes, but that’s where SEO software ends. True ethically done search engine optimization is done by hand, it takes skill and an understanding of what factors the search engines look at when determining where a website will land in their index. Companies claiming that they have developed magic software or claiming they have some special relationship with the search engines are not being honest.

Ethically Done Search Engine Optimization

An ethical SEO company should be able to explain, in detail, everything they will be doing to help your website and business rank better with the search engines.

Real Scenario:

City Ranked Media worked with a small business that was being pressured to renew this same type of advertising.  After diving into the provided reports, and going over the phone calls and people that contacted this company over the course of the year, we learned a few things:

  • The third party advertising company was driving phone calls & website conversions at a rate of $44.23 each
  • This advertising company was advertising/buying the clients business name on many websites, essentially taking credit for calls from the clients current customers

The Outcome – Once due diligence had be completed on the third party advertising, the client was able to conclude that they were:

  1. Paying $44.23 per call with this third party advertising company, of which approximately 40% were from current clients of the customer
  2. They were paying less than $22.00 per call on their own search marketing program

The Result

The customer decided to cancel the third party advertising and reinvest those funds into their own search engine marketing program.  As a result of this change, the client saw an increase of 22 calls per month on average from their search marketing, which was 6 more calls per month than they were receiving from their prior marketing company.  An even bigger result was that less than 10% of these calls were from the customers current clients, meaning there was a 30% increase in new prospects.

Is your Small Business Website and SEO Strategy Forward Thinking?

I want to cover a topic I think many small business owners rarely think about, the viability, and scale-ability of their current advertising efforts for the future. In times past, for many small business owners, thinking about the future of their advertising was as simple as knowing what ad size they wanted to purchase in the next edition of the local yellow pages, or perhaps the next ad they ran in the newspaper. Unfortunately, this type of thinking does not, and will not translate into a successful and long term internet marketing strategy.

Why internet marketing is different than older forms of advertising

When it came to older forms of advertising such as yellow pages, direct mail, and newspapers, shelf life was limited, and research options for consumers were even more limited. Ad positions were determined by factors such as who was willing to pay more for their ads, how long they had advertised in that particular medium, and the frequency they advertised. Fast forward from those times years back, and you get to 2015, the age where consumers rely on online mediums to make buying decisions.

Unlike times past, search engine rankings are not determined by who pays the most, but instead businesses are graded and ranked by who does the best. If you think about all the different options out there when it comes to online properties to use when making buying decisions, search engines like Google have become experts in delivering the results their users want. Search engines rely on people coming back to their properties to use them over and over again. If they lose users, they lose market share, if they lose market share, then they lose revenues generated by advertising platforms such as pay per click.

The wrong way to think about internet advertising when it comes to hiring a SEO Company

Can’t you just get my website ranked for the keywords I want, then I stop paying?

We here at City Ranked get asked this at least once a week, if not more, and sure we’d love this to be the case, but unfortunately it’s just not the way that quality internet marketing works. Rankings on major search Choosing an SEO Comapny in Vancouver WA can be confusingengines are highly sought after, as they can equal new customers and business growth. Competition for first page rankings is fierce, and there’s always someone looking to take the top position on these searches.

Getting to the top of search engines, and staying there takes hard dedicated work, and it gets harder every year as more and more small businesses compete for the very same keywords you want to rank for.

The search engines judge your business all the time

You may not know it, but the search engines are keeping track of your business, every day. The search engines, especially Google have become very good at understanding consumer needs and wants, then matches them up to businesses that meet their needs and wants. Google delivers personalized search results for virtually every person that regularly uses their search engine. Google has been able to deliver these personalized results because they’ve become experts in understanding information provided to them through a variety of sources.

Search engines like Google judge and grade virtually every business on the internet. This grading system, also commonly referred to as a Search Engine Algorithm is the tool they use.

Search engines change their algorithmsSEO changes for 2015 and into the future

The determining factors on how a business ranks for top keywords is nothing more than a mathematical equation fed by hundreds of inputs to determine specific rankings delivered by the search engines. These algorithms are being changed all the time to improve search results, and keep up with consumer demands. Businesses that are serious about generating leads from the internet over the long term will need to keep up on these changes and the ever changing landscape online to remain competitive.

Understanding SEO, Web Design, and Internet Marketing for the Future

Whether you decide that outsourcing your efforts or keeping them in house is the right thing for your business, the same thing will be true for both situations, forward thinking. With changes in search engine algorithms, and the consumer driven demand for changes online, one thing is certain; change will occur. This change is happening right now, and companies are stepping up to meet the demands of the new consumer. Everyday companies like Uber, Airbnb, Amazon and many others are delivering goods and services once reserved for the small business segment. Have they infiltrated your business vertical? It will only be a matter of time before someone figures it out.

Understanding how to anticipate, adapt, and maximize return with these changes will be the key to ongoing and successful small business advertising online, well into the future. Those businesses that make continually smarter decisions now will position themselves as the competitor to beat well into the future as long as these marketing exercises are completed regularly and adapted to meet the ever changing demands of the consumer. Businesses that are willing to take calculated and educated risks with their marketing stand to become the trail blazers of the future, and the new game to beat in their specific business segment.

The risk of the “wait and see” approach to Internet Marketing & SEO

The concept of “first to market” with ideas is no greater than it is now. Those that wait and follow the crowd when it comes to blazing their own path online will always be just that, followers, and as such, never leaders online. Sure when it comes to internet marketing and rankings, there are always areas to exploit to help your business grow, but being behind the times, and playing catch up to a game that should have been started long ago is no position any business wants to be in. So when deciding on a viable, long term internet marketing strategy, small business owners need to determine the viability and growth potential of their strategy for long term success.

Determining if your SEO & Internet Marketing Strategy is Future Viable

No one can tell the future, but savvy internet marketers can certainly see which direction it’s going. Do you understand how your target audience is changing? Are you taking advantage of technological advances in your industry? Are you keeping your website and marketing up to date with these changes, and changes in your business? If not, you’re missing the boat, and your competition is doing exactly what you’re not.

Understanding what your customers want, how to engage them (and I’m not talking about a phone call), and how to turn someone that’s shopping into a customer. These are all paramount exercises for a small business owner to complete when it comes to completing an honest assessment of their online marketing.

8 Sure Signs Your SEO Company Sucks

Last year I wrote an article titled “10 Signs You’re Buying SEO Snake Oil“.  Since I’m into SEO, I thought I’d do a follow up article piggy backing on that article on 8 Sure Signs Your Current SEO Company Sucks.

I get told all the time about how small business owners have been taken advantage of by unethical SEO companies, and frankly it makes me sad that there’s people out there that would risk the livelihood of a hardworking business owner just to make a buck.  These same SEO Snake Oil salesmen also make ethical, hardworking SEO companies job that much harder, as they have eroded any trust these business owners may have had in the prospect of real and quality SEO

1) Your SEO Company Talks About How Many Hundreds or Thousands of Links They’re Building For Youseo humor meme funny seo jokes

The question of whether “link building” is dead in SEO is a hotly debated topic. Many SEO companies still actively pursue link building as a must obtain goal for great rankings. I myself do not believe that link building in the old sense of the term is a viable SEO tactic with changes in Google’s updates and algorithm changes. Instead I like to use the term “link earning”.

A quality SEO company can help a business earn links by putting good quality content out on the web, promoting it, and being creative.

2) They Talk About Directory Submissions, Forum Comments, and Article Submissions

If anyone starts talking about directory submissions, forum comments, or article submissions end the conversation. These types of SEO tactics will surely land you in hot water with the search engines. There was once a point in time, many many years ago that these tactics worked to some degree, but even back then, they were considered borderline unethical.

Anyone that talks about these types of tactics is just going to slap your url into an automated software program to spam the internet.

3) They Promise to Submit Your Website to Hundreds of Websites & Search Engines

Hundreds of websites? Hundreds of search engines? What does this have to do with your business being ranked on the major search engines? What good is it to have your website submitted to websites or search engines no one uses? Quality SEO companies will focus on the major players, for them quality over quantity is the key factor.

4) They Won’t or Can’t Tell You What They’re Doing For Your Businessalbert einstein SEO if you dont understand it you cant explain it

SEO companies or consultants that can’t (or won’t) tell you what exactly they’re doing to get you search engine rankings are hiding one of two things, either they don’t understand SEO well, or they’re doing it unethically. Don’t be an easy target for an SEO snake oil sales person. Ask questions, and make them answer the questions.

SEO is not a hard concept to explain, and neither are the exercises and tactics that good SEO companies use.

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.

Albert Einstein

5) They Tell You They Have Contacts or a Special Relationship With the Search Engines

It still baffles me that some SEO and web advertising people use this line. Search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing would never risk their reputation by offering preferential treatment to a select few. The organic section at these search engines is nothing more than a learning algorithmic equation.

Good SEO companies help their clients by helping the search engines understand what’s important about their business.

6) They Guarantee First Page Rankings

This is another one that’s hard to believe still exists, and for that matter business owners get suckered into buying. First page rankings, especially those for competitive keywords come by hard work, many times over months – even years, and still that can’t be guaranteed.

Don’t fall for the Guaranteed First Page Rank scheme. More often then not, it’s a scam where an unethical SEO will point a bunch on links to your site, where you’ll see a temporary increase in rankings, until the search engines see the links and you get a manually or algorithmic penalty, or even worse, blacklisted.

7) They Solicit You via Email or Automated DialerSEO Company Salesman

If you have a website, or a phone, you’ve probably been hit up already many times by companies like this. They promise everything from inexpensive SEO, to Google Maps listings, to inclusion in thousands of directories. The emails will often point out that they were doing some type of research for one of their clients, and came across your website, and out of the goodness of their heart they did an extensive SEO analysis for you. Don’t believe it, it’s just an automated software program that’s sending out hundreds or thousands of emails like this everyday.

Most good SEO companies do not solicit their prospects, if they’re good, they get business by word-of-mouth, and guess what, good SEO on their own website.

8) They Promise to do a lot of Work for a Upfront Flat Fee

This often has one of two unfortunate endings. First ending is that you’ll never see or hear from these people again, as they just pocket the money and run. Second ending is they outsource your SEO efforts to their “Corporate” office, many times which you can’t speak to (because it’s overseas). In the second case, the SEO is most defiantly not going to be quality, and most likely will hurt your website over the long term.

How to Choose a Quality SEO Company

  • References, references, references.  A SEO companies past performance is a darn good indicator of their future potential. If an SEO company can’t provide you with a few verifiable customers they do business with (and you can see on the web) should you give them your money?
  • Ask for referrals from business owners you know. Good SEO companies get most of their business because the companies that do business with them want them to succeed, and stay around. Maybe you own a plumbing company, ever think to ask the auto repair shop that works on your fleet vehicles who they use for their internet advertising? Check your local Chamber of Commerce, do they have anyone they can recommend? What about your vendors? They certainly need to advertise as well.
  • Check the SEO company out on the web. Search the company name on Google with terms like “reviews” or “complaints” and read what others have to say about them. Check out their blog, what do they write about? Do their values match yours as a small business owner?