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Just about everyone wants a chance to rank highly on Google. After all, this is usually the easiest way to get in touch with potential customers and leads. However, reaching that goal can sometimes seem impossible, and consistently adding content to your site might not always be feasible.

Thankfully, Google offers a variety of tools to help boost your rankings that don’t involve writing another keyword-rich blog post. Below, we’ll discuss a few opportunities to consider that can help you achieve higher organic search results.

1. Google Maps

If your business is a local service or has a brick-and-mortar location, achieving a coveted spot in the Google Maps “three-pack” is a pretty big deal. This means that your contact information and website link will show up in the first three Google Maps spots when a person searches for a specific local solution. To increase your chances of securing this ranking, be sure to claim and optimize your Google My Business (GMB) listing, a public profile that displays important information about your organization.

Why This Matters

Google Maps is one of the first things people see when they look for a specific business within their local area. If you aren’t listed, it makes it much more difficult for customers to find you. Furthermore, there’s a good chance that your competitors are already using this method, so you must follow suit to ensure your potential leads aren’t going straight to them.

How to Implement This in Your Strategy

Adding your organization to Google Maps is relatively simple. First, you’ll need to sign up for a Google My Business account. Then, you can add your company by searching it on the GMB website and choose whether you want your location to appear on Google Maps. After adding in the requested information, such as your business category, you’ll need to verify your identity to Google (either by mail, phone, or email).

2. FAQ Schema Markup

Another option is called FAQ schema markup. This should be added anywhere there is a question and corresponding answer on your website. When someone searches that question, the special code allows for a portion of the answer to show up in search results. In short, this can be a valuable way to score added traffic.

Why This Matters

One of the easiest ways to connect with your audience is to position yourself as a knowledgeable leader in your industry. Using these schema markups, you are making it easy for Google users to see that you have answers related to what they want to know. This puts you in a prime trust position when they’re ready to make a purchase or invest in your services.

How to Implement This in Your Strategy

To start using FAQ schema, you’ll first need to write and publish question-and-answer style content. You should format the text so that the question is in bold or uses a header tag. Then, you’ll need to insert the schema markup, which requires a bit of HTML knowledge. Here is the official explanation of how to do this from Google’s developer site.

3. Other Google Snippets

Of course, it isn’t just Google Maps and FAQs that achieve the upper level in Google search results. Other snippets happen when content is deemed informative and valuable. While there isn’t a way to do this on your own, the easiest method is to continue to add engaging content regularly and keep track of what’s working well.

Why This Matters

Again, this goes back to positioning yourself as a leader in your industry. Google uses snippets all the time, so it’s crucial that internet users see your content – not your competitors’. Therefore, you need to secure as many snippets as possible to maintain visibility on search engine results pages (SERPs).

How to Implement This in Your Strategy

There are a variety of strategies to optimize for certain Google snippets. For example, using H2 and H3 tags or highlighting top learning points in your text can really help. Again, this comes down to publishing high-quality content on a regular basis.

4. Google Discover

Another great tool to consider utilizing as a part of your Search Engine Optimization strategy is Google Discover. While there’s no way to control whether or not your website is featured, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances. First, make sure the content you create is centered around a specific key entity, which is the term Google uses to describe particular interest groups. Next, create blog posts and articles for your website that are generally time-sensitive. Google Discover only includes content on what’s happening now and for a short period of time.

Why This Matters

More than ever, people are turning to the internet to stay connected with what is going on in the world. By looking up topics on Google Discover and publishing content on your website that could be featured, you’ll put yourself in front of a wider audience. In the end, this equates to higher traffic and more potential for leads.

How to Implement This in Your Strategy

Take a look at Google Discover to see where other businesses in your niche are featured or identify specific trends. Then, publish content on your website that includes these categories or topics.

How Do You Decide Which Tools to Implement?

With so many different ways to use Google to increase your organic search rankings, choosing the best strategies can be somewhat overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to work with a digital marketing partner you can trust. These experts can help you cut through the noise and determine which additional steps to take—or skip—to improve your overall ranking and increase traffic. Best of all, they usually have a whole list of other tips to get your entire marketing plan on the right path, which often means the difference between success and spinning your wheels.

 

Author Bio
Alyssa Anderson is the Content Manager at Zero Gravity Marketing (ZGM), a digital marketing agency in Madison, CT. ZGM is known for developing overarching marketing strategies and specializes in Pay-Per-Click (PPC), Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Content Marketing, Social Media, Development, Design, and eCommerce services.

 

If there is a key to getting good reviews from customers and clients it is the commitment to providing excellent service and quality products. Put this in place and you build a solid foundation that will take care of reviews and testimonials.
But, in this online world, how do you make sure that others will find these reviews and that your business will benefit from them? You have to make sure your users and visitors understand that reviews must be in the correct format and submitted in the proper manner.
That said, you – the business owner – must be responsible for getting the process in place so that reviewing your services and products is as easy as, well, as telling others about the experience. The customer shouldn’t have to be a “techie” and he or she shouldn’t have to wade through half a dozen steps to get that review ready for others to read.
So what does that mean?
In the current online world it means finding out what Google is doing and what Google is not doing. Here’s the answer: Google supports specific microformats. If you want your reviews to get into the Google ocean you will have to get them into the correct format.
How does that happen? Well, it doesn’t just happen.
First of all, determine that you are indeed a viable ecommerce site that could benefit from client/customer reviews. Of course you are! In addition, this particular path is relevant for businesses listed with Google Places. Then you must make sure that the business name, business address and business telephone number are on your pages – in the correct hCard format!!
What is hCard? Here’s the layperson’s definition (if there really is one) from Wikipedia: “hCard is a microformat for publishing the contact details of people, companies, organizations and places in (X)HTML, Atom, RSS or arbitrary XML.”
For nearly two years, Google has been using hCard, hReview and hProduct microformats for their search results. More recently, the company is using these microformats for local search results. As we see it, having this code in place will allow businesses to instruct customers to go to the business Web site to give a review, rather than sending them to Google Maps so they can search for the business, find the listing, choose a review link, log in etc. etc. etc.

Going Places
Use the correct format and Google will recognize the review and put it on your Places page. Think of it as user-generated content that goes directly to the place where it will do the most good. Once you set up the instructions – in the correct format – the reviews will be where they should be. Now, it isn’t necessary to rely on so-called authority sites. The information can be drawn from our business Web sites.
We understand that Google presents this in two distinct ways: individual reviews and aggregate reviews. The first is used to format pages that will display a single review. If you plan to use a page for a number of reviews or for summaries of several reviews you should use the aggregate method.
Here’s how Google explains it: “You can mark up either individual reviews (for example, an editor’s review of a product), or aggregate review information—for example, the average rating for a local business or the total number of user reviews submitted.”
If the page will have an editor’s review or an expert review that should stand as individual content but also has a collection of user reviews you should simply choose a format. Again, we understand that Google will work this way: “Use the individual Review format to mark up the editor’s review OR you can use the Review-aggregate format to summarize the set of user reviews. If a page contains both types of markup, Google will use the Review-aggregate markup for display.”
When you start to use this process to enhance your business presence make sure you and your Web site folks understand the concept of properties, as defined by Google for this purpose. The online behemoth explains that reviews “contain a number of different properties which you can label using microdata, microformats or RDFa markup.”

A good example presented at: Google Microformats

Hreview Individual

hreview aggregate

Baidu, a “local Chinese Google”, who leads the search engine market with over 75% share (Google only has 19 percent), is also one of the biggest and popular websites in the world. Alexa currently ranks it as the 6th popular in the world, just above Wikipedia and below Live. As do most big players in the SE industry, Baidu offers various services – such as video and image storage, website building platform, online encyclopedia, discussion forums, and more.

However, in today’s dynamic world, standing still and cherishing your achievements will very quickly lead to dethronement, at the very least. That’s why Baidu is looking to expand even further, especially when the number two Chinese website, Tencent, is also gaining ground, entering Alexa’s “world’s top 10” this month, after surpassing Twitter.

Tencent is largest internet company in China, and, with Facebook being unavailable to users, it is trying to utilize the social networking niche to compete with Baidu. The “satellite” services that are being offered by Tencent are very similar to the stated above Baidu products, making the clash between the two a “hot” battle for dominance. Baidu’s response, according to Robin Li, the CEO of the company, lies within expanding its own network of users and making it more “social”. In addition of fighting Tencent, this should also serve as additional income channel for the Chinese market leader.

It’s not Google that needs a boost. Nor is it Google that gets a boost. It’s Google Boost, with a capital “B.” Which is what?

It seems a bit odd to talk about Internet marketing and advertising in terms of history but the truth is this online giant has been in the ‘Net advertising game for several years.

Not too long ago Google introduced such ideas as AdWords and Simple Ads, the latter meant to make the advertising process automatic. While this idea didn’t work out too well, the company refused to give up. There were ads that targeted local listings and there were Tags. Now, the Simple Ads idea has returned under the name “Boost.”

You may wonder what significance the title has, since the company itself is not the one getting the leg up. Actually, the boosting power goes to businesses. Boost establishes an AdWords program that is a bit more focused than the traditional campaign. This one is automated based on business categories and other information in the ad itself.

Here’s the key: Google determines how the advertisement is triggered based on specific search words.

OK, that sounds straightforward enough. What’s the payoff?

Business owners connect with customers in their own coverage area. Google puts it this way: business owners have a “quick and easy way to share information” with the potential customers who will be searching for them online. However, if you are the owner of a small-business in areas outside the major metropolitan areas it may be awhile before you get the benefits of Boost.

The first roll-out was in Chicago, San Francisco and Houston. Of course, the program will be available in many more areas than that, eventually. Initial information about advertising content shows that the listings will include all the basic and necessary information such as business name, address, phone number and Web site. But the ads will also offer data like reviews and star ratings.

Boost advertisements will be in the Sponsored Links area of Google pages, with appearance determined by relevance, keywords and some information provided by the person doing the search. In addition to submitting a description, categories and so on, the businesses will set a monthly budget to cover the advertising costs.

If you still don’t see the major benefit of this new advertising method, consider this: The business owner won’t have to stay on top of the advertising content as long as it’s accurate. That’s right; Google will assign keywords after the initial set-up. Boost takes the process of reaching area customers beyond the traditional search-engine optimization, Twitter and Facebook.

Short Descriptions

As we mentioned, the business owner will provide an initial description, along with a small amount of additional information. That description is limited to 70 characters, so accuracy of language is going to be a key factor. Business owners also choose where the ad will send potential customers – their own Web site, a Google landing page etc.

The key description items will be “what” and “where” as you might expect. Of course, the person searching will also be directed based on keyword and business location. Relevance will play a major part in business success through Boost since those relevant keywords will determine if the ad will appear on google.com or on maps.google.com.

Let’s review: Google Boost takes AdWords to another level since there won’t be any need to conduct keyword search or worry about targeting a particular geographic location. The process is automatic. As Google explains, if the profile page comes up in a search the location pin makes the result more prominent than AdWords did. The pin appears on the listing and on the map. Tags appear if you subscribe to them.

Wider Reach

Boost is already spreading its wings. In November, the company announced availability in San Jose, California, Boston, Washington D.C. Seattle, Orlando and several other cities. It is also available for all local businesses in Illinois.

With all of this boosting that goes on, what changes are made to the original listings, rankings etc. According to Google, Boost doesn’t change ranking of the organic, free business listings. The company also points out that AdWords customers are invited to use Boost if it’s available. In the interest of honest advertising, the company emphasizes that “Adwords provides you with more advertising options and more detailed controls. With AdWords you can control keyword selection and bids, target both locally and nationally, get advanced reporting, and take advantage of different ad formats such as video, display on thousands of partner sites, and more.”

One of the benefits for Google, and ultimately for the owner of a small business, is that using Boost requires you to claim a Places page when you set up Boost. As some reviewers have pointed out, the percentage of small-business owners actively engaged in self-service marketing online is rather small (probably less than 10 percent). Automation with benefits is certainly going to be enticing to businesses that must watch their advertising and marketing budgets very closely.

If all of this explaining still doesn’t get you to the heart of the matter with Boost, take a look at a result on Google Maps. As the tutorial shows, your business listing should appear in the regular search listings when someone searches for a business like yours. Most relevant information appears first, as usual. But with Boost working, your business information is eligible to appear above the standard results.

That’s right, above and to the left of the map, with the blue pin right there for everyone to see! A similar “boost” is given when the results are shown on a Google search page.

Google has established these guidelines for Boost:

  • Business name
  • Address, phone number
  • Description, 70-word maximum
  • Average star rating and number of reviews
  • Link to Place page

The program is being sold as a way to attract more local customers while paying only when someone clicks on the advertisement. One of the key selling points, especially for the business owner, is that there is no need to devote time and personnel to ongoing ad management.

Ad effectiveness is tracked on the Places dashboard for each business. Owners can see how many times the ad has appeared, how many times users clicked on the ad, cost for a specified period of time as well as actions and impressions per keyword.

Business owners control their advertising expenses on a monthly basis. Google offers a number of price ranges. But the owner of the small business can also “set your own monthly threshold equal to or greater than $50 per month.” Boost participation can be canceled at any time.

With all of the hype and the name Google attached, you would think that Boost is the greatest thing since, well, since sliced bread. How has the program been received since its recent introduction? Remember, the plan has only been available for a short time.

We found one review posted on www.newbasellc.com that gives mixed reports. The author referred to Wichita, Kansas as being one of the “lucky” locations and did a bit of research on how the program worked for a particular business Web site there. The company set a $170 monthly budget. This one business campaign had 1245 keywords.

Here’s the way the writer summarized the experience: Boost is managing the AdWords campaign but it doesn’t seem that Boost provides any special treatment. “Boost ads are still competing against every other AdWords advertiser, and there are several factors that go into how well an ad will do that Boost does not seem to be taking into account.”

This item was posted on January 2, 2011(relatively recent). But it seems that the company allowed enough time for the Boost to show results. In the author’s opinion, “Basically, the value that Boost provides, is to let local businesses advertise on Google search, on a small budget with no headaches.”

In all the material we’ve read about Boost that “no management necessary” item is the major benefit. It seems small businesses will have to start weighing the return-on-investment based on the amount of time they don’t spend with online advertising. The author of the NewBase review feels that Boost will only provide “good results for certain markets” and may cost local businesses “more in the long run.”

Some owners of small business in the United States will probably react with dismay, since Boost seems to be yet another marketing “thing” to worry about. Some may ask why they can’t just stay with the more traditional style of advertising and hope that their limited online efforts produce results.

As buyers become even more selective, due to expanded access to information as well as sources for products and services, business owners must continue to find the most efficient, productive marketing/advertising methods. If they don’t they will find their revenue numbers don’t exceed expense numbers. Maybe it’s time to go back to direct marketing and snail mail!

Bringing the most relevant results to the user is the quest of every search engine. Fighting spam is one aspect of this issue. The other one is personalization – showing the results that would be the most interesting to the SPECIFIC searcher. Hence the localization, hence the search history….

Bing has recently followed Google on that path, applying city-based localization to the query results in the US. It will now give additional weight to local businesses, especially service providers. This is another step forward, as the local Bing searches in various countries are showing different results for quite a while already. However, for big countries, such as the States this might be not enough – so additional refinement is now applied, based on the city you are in. It must be noted, the results are not entirely different – it is just that local businesses are given some “extra points” by the search algorithm.

Another aspect is using your past search queries in the results. The Bing (as does Google for some time already) tries to “learn your preferences” based on the searches you conduct and the results you pick from the presented list. Those will be stored in search history and shown more frequently (or higher) in the result list when similar query is submitted.

It seems that “those who bought this also liked that” feature, used by many online stores and other websites is now entering the SE world.

How big should you be to successfully fight Google and beat it? Pretty big probably. Far bigger than blekko.com and DuckDuckGo. Even being a multibillion company, such as Microsoft, is not enough – Bing is still behind in the SE battle. Having the law in your hands, however, might help. Especially, if you are the law. Especially in China.

Chinese government has a very strict policy considering the internet, and censorship of information is a major part of it. Back in 2006, Google has agreed to censor the results, despite the critics – a footstep on the Chinese soil was too big to give up at the time. However, when issues arouse in Jan 2010, with the renowned “hacking human right accounts” accusation, they stopped the censorship. And then the government stopped them. Since January 2010 nobody can access Google from inside China (Honk Kong is one exception with the British influence sealing certain autonomy even under Chinese rule). Other options, such as Baidu, who was local Search Engine market leader even when Google was there, or the recently launched goso.cn are, of course, available.

After one year without the about-500-million Chinese users, it seems Google is willing to at least negotiate. According to Google’s Patrick Pichette, the company is going to re-enter the Chinese market soon, opening new horizons to the people of China. The question, of course, remains about the compromises that have to be reached with the Chinese government. Currently, it seems that the communists have the upper hand, as Google needs China more than China needs Google…

Ask.com and Bing are very anxious to prove the world they can beat Google. Even in minor things, like Image Search that Bing was enhancing constantly over last several month. Or in a Search Engine Jeopardy contest, managed by Stephen Wolfram. Well, it seems Google competitors still have some work to do, as the Search Industry leader was victorious once again.

The SE Jeopardy consisted of Jeopardy questions randomly selected form a database of around 200000 that were fed into the search queries of various engines. The developers then looked at the number of correct answers that appeared in the search results page and also at the number of correct answers that were included in the page that search engines presented as the top result.

The results were as follows:

Percentage of correct answers appearing somewhere on the first page: Google – 69%; Ask.com – 68%, Bing – 63%, Yandex – 62%, Blekko – 58%, Wikipedia – 23%.

Percentage of correct answers appearing in the top result of the page: Google – 66%; Bing – 65%, Yandex – 58%, Ask.com – 51%, Blekko – 40%, Wikipedia – 29%.

Obviously Wikipedia didn’t stand too much chance, as it was only one website competing against “the whole internet”. Still, it must be noted that only about one-third of Jeopardy answers are already in Wikipedia…

As to Search Engines – Google has beaten the competition, although the margins are not that big. But based on these results, Ask and Blekko have to do a better job of listing the most relevant link at the top (see how their percentage dropped when they looked into the first document. And Bing is “almost there” – but still a fraction behind Google.

Yandex numbers were very impressive, as it is basically a local Russian search engine. If the test has been done in Russian (or at least, based on Russian Jeoprdy Analogue, “Svoya Igra”, which includes fewer questions about American culture and history) Yandex would probably beat Google – exactly as it does in the Russian Search Engine market.

In summary, nobody can beat Google in providing relevant information. Not just yet. So, when you want to know “What is” something – don’t ask and don’t bing. Google it!

With Google being the most popular search engine in the world, and particularly in the US, it is not yet gained enough ground in non-English speaking countries. While in India, the UK and Australia Google is the runaway leader in Search Engine competition, there are still countries in which local search engines are quite successful in opposing the G- giant. Baidu is number one in China (and there is also a new player in the SE field, supported by the government – goso.cn), and most former USSR-countries internet users (Russian speakers) prefer Yandex over Google.

Yet, Google is trying hard to get into the local markets. Recently, it has reported a successful takeover of the number one spot in Czech Republic, surpassing the local leader Seznam.cz in the first week of 2011.

Seznam, however, does not agree, stating that the statistics are not conclusive, and presents different figures, such as having almost 70% of Czech internet “population” with about 4 million users. Moreover, Seznam.cz emphasizes the misleading inaccuracy, as Google statement is based on report that takes into account both local and global pages, while Seznam only concentrates on Czech-based domains. They are also accusing Google of “refusing to participate in official measuring”.

Well, whether Google report is accurate or not is not very significant. The important fact is that Google puts an enormous amount of effort to increase the grasp of local, non-English-speaking markets.

It is widely known that Google has many local rivals in the Search Engine field. Many Russians prefer Yandex over Google, Israelis use Walla and in China there is Baidu. Most of those engines are extremely localized, providing relevant search results and successfully battling with Google in the local market – especially, since they use local language in countries with relatively low English level among computer and internet users.

Almost half-billion China-based internet users are a huge marketing potential. It seems, Chinese government has recognized it, deciding to launch a new search engine, which will be the first state-owned SE in the world. After over half a year of trial version (how do you say “beta” in Chinese?), goso.cn is now fully operational and available. The idea is to implement elements of social media into the engine – such as videos, photos and comments sharing. Mobile version is expected as well.

Of course, competing with Baidu and Google is not an easy task – but with the support of the government, goso can well become a healthy search engine alternative in few years time.

It’s no big news that Chinese market is growing with an impressive speed and more and more businesses turn eastwards – both for production and marketing. Over a billion people live inside the Far East giant borders – a healthy reason to address the region in order to increase sales as well as exposure.

The news is, however, that the internet content is now also part of the trend. China has reportedly surpassed USA in the number of internet users in mid-2009, and although English is still the primary internet language (42 percent of almost two billion of online “population” worldwide), Chinese is in solid second place, with about 32 percent. And since China is still less technologically advanced than the Western Countries, the number of potential Chinese speakers, who will soon be joining the online world is far greater than that of the English language carriers.

And with the Chinese government now requiring all English content in China-based websites to be accompanied with local Mandarin translation, the number of webpages in Chinese is about to increase immensely. And, restating the above thought about more and more companies regarding China as a prospective market, it seems that the near future of online marketing can easily shift toward Chinese content.