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Yelp SEO: How to Improve Your Yelp Reviews

Consider this: 90% of all consumers used the Internet to find a local business within the last year. Of that group, 82% read through online reviews in order to learn more about a business. With the average consumer reading about 10 customer reviews online before they trust in a brand, it is all too clear that online reviews play a big part in either converting or deterring potential customers.

In short, good reviews have the ability to make or break any small business. Google won’t rank local businesses without good reviews, and this is why it is so important to invest time and money into making your online reviews one of your most powerful search engine optimization (SEO) weapons.

In the ideal digital marketing scenario, your online reviews will work for you, not against you. But how can you invest time and money into something that you may feel is out of your control? This is where Yelp SEO can come in and bring your business to new heights. 

Here’s everything you need to know about how to improve your Yelp reviews. This effort will not only bring more happy customers to your door, it will also help your website earn keyword rankings that generate consistent website traffic.

Online Reviews and Yelp SEO

While Google doesn’t give specific information about it’s engine optimization and algorithm updates, the experts agree that Google’s primary mission is to bring consumers the most relevant information they can find and from brands they can trust.

What’s a better signal of trust than multiple real reviews from past and present customers? If you’re online review profiles are populated with hundreds of positive reviews, Google will understand your website as providing valuable content that can be trusted. It’s why reputation management specialists focus on closely monitoring online review sites, because Google relies on these platforms to understand the reputation of domains and businesses.

So, what’s the impact of online reviews and SEO?

1. Online Reviews Make up 10% of how Google Displays Search Results

According to BrightLocal, the average consumer will read a business’s reviews for a full 13 minutes and 45 seconds before they make a purchasing decision. This can be a mix of five-star reviews, negative Yelp reviews, or social media comments. Moz tells us that all of these positive and negative reviews work together to make up about 10% of the ranking factors for how Google displays search results.

Positive reviews don’t always mean you’ll show up on page 1 of the search engine result pages (SERPs). In order for SEO to work, it has to be comprehensive and cover on-page and off-site efforts. But Yelp is one of the third-party review sites that Google crawls and looks to when ranking businesses in location-based searches. For local businesses in particular, your Yelp page will play a big part in whether or not you rank.

2. Google Trusts What Customers Say

It’s not that Google doesn’t trust you as a business owner, it’s that Google places much more authority on what a consumer says about their experience compared to what you have to say when promoting your business. 

Google uses reviews as a way to gauge whether or not your business is meeting the needs of the consumers. Multiple 5-star reviews show that customers are having positive interactions with your brand and their needs are being met. Consider positive reviews as a signal of blind trust in your business and brand.

3. Positive reviews lead to a positive online presence

Yelp SEO often works like this: positive reviews lead to positive conversions which leads to a positive online presence. Consumers trust good reviews, which cause them to click. More traffic lets Google know that your website is bringing positive experiences, which in turn results in an increase in your business’s position on the SERPs.

4. Customers may Find your Yelp Page Before your Web Page

Think back to the last time you searched for something specific like “best Chinese restaurant near me.” Chances are, the first or second url in the results was a review site like Yelp. If someone searches for your brand name and you have a Yelp page, that Yelp page will likely show up as one of the top-ranking SERP results, and possibly even higher than your website.

Yelp works by providing a specific space for consumers to write reviews about a specific business. Each business has a Yelp profile that compiles all reviews from consumers, and in turn, creates a star rating and rank system of your business compared to other competitors in your industry and area. The best part of Yelp is that this is a website that is trusted and recognized by millions of users worldwide, and this is why it often performs so well in search engines. If you have your ducks in a row on Yelp, you will likely be rewarded by Google as well.

So with these benefits in mind, why wouldn’t you use Yelp as an SEO tool?

How Google Crawls Yelp to Understand Your Authority and Reputation

Yelp’s algorithm works by ranking different business listings by the category of their offerings and the quality of their reviews. For this reason, earning positive reviews on Yelp can make a big difference in appearing as one of the first results when people use the review site to search for products or services.

But most internet users aren’t using Yelp to search — they are using Google. So what’s even more important than how Yelp sees your reviews is how Google crawls and indexes your Yelp page to determine whether to show your website or Yelp profile over your competitors’ pages.

Google crawls Yelp listings three different ways:

  1. Through keywords. Any business owner will want to include keywords and key phrases about their service and industry in their Yelp profile. Not only will this bring potential consumers the relevant information they are searching for, it will tell Google all they need to know about your business and brand and the extent of what you offer.
  2. Through backlinks. Backlinks are an incredibly important signal of authority for Google, and when other websites link to your Yelp listing, it shows Google you are a brand that is to be trusted. 
  3. Through images. Google is able to crawl pictures easily through something called alt text. Each picture has a specific alt text associated with it, and it is just another way to give Google the context of what your page is about.

When you work on including and improving these three details on your page, you won’t have trouble being crawled and identified by Google.

Yelp and Potential Customers: What your Yelp Profile Communicates About your Business

We all know that content is king when it comes to digital marketing and Yelp SEO is no different. Clear, concise information is incredibly important when it comes to connecting with consumers in all stages of the marketing funnel. 

Everything and anything you write in your Yelp profile will translate back to your business. There are many impactful and creative ways you can target potential customers, and here’s what your Yelp profile communicates about your business.

  1. Your current hours and location. You’ll want to make this information as easily accessible as you can. If your hours or location changes, updating this information is key. If your business has multiple locations, make sure your current addresses are accurate and properly attributed to the right brick-and-mortar locations.
  2. Your services. Not only will your Yelp profile explain what a Yelper needs to know in terms of your business offerings, it will show additional service information that is pivotal to converting a customer. Do you offer takeout? What about curbside, contactless pickup? Do you require reservations? Are you going virtual? Details like these are important to showcase!
  3. Health and safety protocols. It is no secret that your customers’ health and safety concerns have changed drastically within the past year. Customers now want to know about the additional safety and sanitary measures you are enforcing, so they have peace of mind that they will be safe.
  4. Deals and discounts. Are you offering a special sale for the holidays or a special coupon to entice new customers? Showcasing your deals and discounts proudly on your Yelp page is the way to go,
  5. You are a person behind the screen. As consumers, it can be easy to forget that a living, breathing, human runs your business, so use your Yelp listing to show some details about yourself! Take time to post pictures of you and your employees to personalize and stand out from your competitors.

Now that you know what to include, how do you properly optimize your listings?

4 Ways to Optimize your Yelp Listing

Just like we optimize landing pages for SEO, you can optimize your Yelp listing as well, or any other profile on a third-party review site that your business has the ability to create and edit.

 1. Build links with all of your NAP information

We all know that backlinks are a powerful signal of authority to Google. But many small business owners don’t realize that you are able to build backlinks onto your Yelp page. An easy way to do this is by linking your NAP information – your name, address, and phone number. Use this space to include your website URL, blog posts, and social media sites, and you’ll be able to hit a SEO double-whammy.

Remember, there’s no such thing as sharing too many social profiles, websites, or contact information. The more places a potential customer can find you, the better.

2. Build Links to your Yelp Page

We all know that backlinks are a powerful signal of authority to Google. But many small business owners don’t realize that you are able to build backlinks to their Yelp page. And plain and simple, backlinks bring authority to your brand.

3. Optimize for Keywords

Like any other search engine, you’ll want to optimize for relevant keywords about your business and industry. You don’t have to add a lot of keywords, but it’s important to incorporate a few keywords and phrases that you want to pop up when people search for businesses similar to yours. You can use our copy optimizer to identify the focus terms to include in your Yelp profile that will improve your SERP appearances.

4. Optimize your Images

Additionally, you’ll want to optimize your images for keywords as well. It is common for Yelp users to want to look at pictures of your products and services, and yelp actually makes it easy for you by including a special area on your page for pictures and videos.

Customers can take pictures at your business and upload those pictures to Yelp, but it’s important to invest in quality photography and make sure that you have optimized images that you upload into your Yelp profile. Remember to include alt text so Google can read the pictures properly. 

Once your business page is properly optimized, you will get a yelp rating on the authority of your Yelp account. A higher star rating will make a big difference between showing up on the top of the first page of Yelp and the bottom of the page, where no one will look.

How to Improve Yelp Reviews

Before you can use Yelp reviews to your advantage, you have to acquire those reviews from real customers. For newer businesses in particular, building up a base of reviews can feel out of your control, but this isn’t true. Here are some easy ways any business owner can work to improve their Yelp reviews with every customer they have.

Encourage Happy Customers to Leave Positive Reviews

Chances are, a happy customer would love to leave a positive review about your business, but they may just need a reminder! After the positive transaction, all you need to do is simply ask for them to leave you a review on your yelp page and social media sites. Consider adding on a simple reward as an incentive, whether it is a coupon for a percentage off of their next service, or a free item the next time they stop in.

Use Review Generation Software

You may not have time to constantly seek positive reviews, so use review generation software to your advantage. Review generation software will gather, filter, and promote reviews from your customers, all with little effort from you. Programs like BirdEye, TrustPilot, and others can help automate the review generation process and send your customers to the review sites like Yelp that matter the most in your industry.

Respond to Good and Bad Reviews on Your Yelp Page

Engaging with your customers is a surefire way to promote trust in your brand. It is a good business practice to respond to every single review – thank each customer for their business and for taking the time to leave a review.  

If what they posted was about a negative experience, there are a few strategies for how to respond to negative reviews. One way is to offer a solution and your phone number to talk it over in person. You will want to show to any potential customer that you are willing to offer incredible customer service, no matter the issue, and that you are open to coming up with a solution.

Display Yelp Reviews on Your Website

Users deserve to see good reviews about your business, even when they’re not on Yelp! Incorporate some of your favorite reviews in a prominent space on your website for all to see – there’s no such thing as too many humble brags when it comes to your own business!

Share Positive Yelp Reviews on Social Media

In the same vein, make sure to share all your positive Yelp reviews on your social media platforms. Positive reinforcement works when it comes to converting consumers!

Show off your Reviews with Schema.org

If you have earned a five-star rating on Yelp, why not benefit by having those yellow stars appear with search engine results? By adding the aggregateRating schema markup to your site, Google will pull data from multiple review sites — Yelp included — and display your average rating with your SERP result. If you have a lot of positive reviews, this can improve your click-through-rate and make your website stand out.

Fake Reviews: What to Look Out For

Unfortunately, there are some Internet bots out there with the sole purpose of creating fake reviews and jeopardizing the livelihoods of businesses. It is always important to keep an eye out for fake reviews, and here’s what to look out for.

  • Overusing the words “I” and “me.” Usually, when people are lying, they try to make themselves sound credible by using personal pronouns.
  • The timing of the reviews. If you have recently gained a ton of negative reviews in a small timeframe, chances are you could be a victim of a targeted smear campaign.
  • Generic names and profiles with no pictures. Typically, true consumers will have a photo to correspond with their profile and review. Too many reviews with names like “John Smith” and “Mary Johnston” can be a signal these are actually fake accounts.
  • Phrase repetition. Look for the same phrases and keywords repeated over and over in different reviews. 
  • Poor spelling and grammar. Sometimes fake reviews are outsourced to overseas content farms, which can result in the reviews being written in poor English. 

These clues can tell you a lot about whether or not a review is fake, but when in doubt, reach out and respond to the review itself! Fake reviewers will not respond to you, whereas a disgruntled customer will look forward to mending the situation. 

Negative Reviews: What they Might Tell You About Your Products or Business

As a business owner, you will always want to take time to reflect on your business and find opportunities for growth. Looking into your negative reviews can give you some positive insight on your products and businesses, and here’s what your negative reviews might be telling you. 

  • The quality of your product. While your product/services can work for you, they may not work for everybody. Take a look to see if there are any recurring themes about the quality of your product and you may have to go back to the drawing board and reinvent. 
  • The gaps in your customer service. This is especially true if you have a few employees and can’t be hands-on at all times. Negative reviews can tell you what you can’t see firsthand.
  • An opportunity to better yourself. As mentioned previously, as a business owner you should constantly try to fix negative experiences with your brand. So take this time and use it as an opportunity to better yourself. When you are genuine and offer an actual solution for a customer’s problem, you not only increase trust in your brand but you may even increase your conversions as that customer may soon change their mind.

Not all negative reviews have to result in a negative experience for both you and your customer! Use every negative review as an opportunity to grow.

Final thoughts on Yelp SEO

In the world of digital marketing, it is important to utilize all the resources available to you. This includes Yelp SEO, as why wouldn’t you want to bring you business to new heights by leveraging this free tool? With this guide in mind, you will know how to improve yelp reviews, so with a little hard work and effort, your business will thrive.

Cannabis SEO: Best Practices for CBD/Marijuana Companies

With marijuana now legal in 11 states, there’s an unprecedented boom in the American cannabis industry. In 2020, it’s estimated that total revenue for the marijuana industry will exceed $10 billion. With more states slated to legalize and decriminalize this substance, demand is only projected to grow. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that fierce competition has emerged within the world of marijuana businesses.

Between medical and recreational dispensaries, there are over 7,000 brick-and-mortar marijuana retailers operating in the United States, meaning consumers have an overwhelming amount of options to choose from when purchasing cannabis products. For a marijuana business, the question becomes how to stand out from all of these options. With most states barring marijuana companies from traditional forms of media (television, billboards, radio, etc), you’ll have to get a little bit creative in order to reach your target audience and boost your bottom line. That’s where a solid marijuana SEO strategy comes into play.

With any industry, SEO is a tried-and-true method for improving your web presence and driving potential customers to your website to make a purchase. For marijuana businesses, this form of digital marketing is even more important, as other channels of outreach are limited by federal and state laws.

Why Cannabis Companies need a Strategic SEO Plan

The marijuana industry is evolving rapidly, and so are the ways in which cannabis companies attract new customers and shape their brands––both locally and nationally. As with any competitive industry, the growing world of recreational marijuana requires a sophisticated plan of outreach, one that lifts up the voice of your brand and directs customers to your products and services.

In most industries, when drafting a digital marketing strategy, you’ll consider your paid media options like AdWords and social media platforms. In a perfect, more pot-friendly world, you would simply be able to purchase a few PPC terms from Google Adwords. Potential customers running a search for “Gorilla Glue Flower” would be shown your search ad near the top of the SERP. 

Unfortunately, much like their counterparts in traditional media, digital ad platforms, by and large, ban cannabis and associated products from their services. Under federal law, marijuana is still a scheduled substance. So while certain states allow for marijuana advertisements on television and billboards, online directories can do no such thing, lest they face their own consequences.

What this means is that your only way to bring more attention to your cannabis website is through increasing your organic traffic through search engine optimization. Through a careful approach of backlink acquisition, content marketing, and web design, an SEO agency can help your marijuana website climb to the top of search engine results pages, ultimately increasing your customer base and becoming a permanent part of your greater marketing strategy.

Cannabis SEO: The Best Way to Grow your Cannabis Business or Brand

Whether your business is a traditional marijuana dispensary or perhaps an ecommerce brand selling CBD products, you likely face stiff competition on both the global and local levels. Especially with the rise of big cannabis brands, it can be difficult for smaller businesses to stake their claim to customers. An SEO agency that understands the industry trends around cannabis is one of the best ways to increase foot traffic from your local customers.

Due to the restrictions around paid media, marijuana SEO has become an industry in of itself, much like local SEO or enterprise SEO. The best marijuana-related SEO agencies understand that the best way to increase one’s position in SERPs is through a combination of target keywords, building links, and optimizing content on your own website

How will your Potential CBD/Marijuana Customers Best Find You?

Although search engines such as Google and Bing prohibit paid advertisements for cannabis-related terms, they do not disallow search queries related to cannabis and the like. If you run a Google search for a cannabis related product, you’ll be presented with all sorts of cannabis brands, online shops, and physical stores, both locally and nationally. Since most queries only go as far as this first page of search results, you’ll want to land your cannabis brand somewhere in this territory if you hope to boost conversions.

With thousands of different retailers existing in the marijuana industry, an important factor for your strategy will be understanding what your business does differently. More importantly, you’ll want to figure out who you wish to target with your marijuana marketing. Whether you’re going for suburban moms or rural farmers, an SEO strategy, much like a traditional marketing tactic, places the customer at the center of its method. You’ll want to consider what these people might search for when they operate a search engine. Then you can begin figuring out how search  engine optimization fits into this plan.

Drive Organic Traffic with Cannabis Industry Keywords

Central to any SEO strategy is figuring out which keywords need to be targeted. The obvious choice for any marijuana business would be something general like cannabis edibles; however these broad terms don’t make for good target keywords, as there’s already stiff competition to rank for these queries.

With this in mind, a solid marijuana SEO agency will conduct extensive keyword research, determining which keywords not only suit your business but also which ones will bring about the best results for search rankings. This all begins with examining the metrics of your existing site, figuring out which keywords you may already rank for and which ones offer opportunities to reach the top of Google.

When beginning the process of keyword research, it’s always a good idea to begin with the following:

  • Search Volume: How many people are searching for this term? It’s great if you can rank for a keyword; however, if not many people are actually running searches for that term, then this will do little to boost your organic traffic.
  • Keyword Difficulty: The most obvious search terms will have a high keyword difficulty. For example, terms such as “marijuana for sale” and “marijuana dispensary” both have keyword difficulties greater than 70. This means it will be very hard for your website to break onto the first SERP for these searches. Instead, consider more creative terms that still hold a likelihood of being searched.
  • Search Intent: How well does a keyword actually fit your brand and product? Of course, you want to find terms and phrases with lower difficulties; however, you don’t want to waste your time ranking for a keyword that’s mostly irrelevant to your offerings.
  • Domain Authority: No matter how many backlinks you build, you’re most likely never going to outrank The New York Times if they’re currently on the first page for a term. A good rule of thumb is to not target keywords that have a keyword difficulty score that is higher than your domain authority. If you’re a newer marijuana website, this can be a challenge, so instead, focus on building backlinks so you can improve your own domain authority score. 

A solid marijuana keyword strategy should include both short and longer phrases and terms. For long-tail keywords or phrases, you’ll want to put yourself in the shoes of your potential customers. Consider the products and services you offer. Then think about what someone might type into a search engine in order to arrive there. For example, if you offer organic strains of marijuana, perhaps you could target the long-tail phrase: does marijuana help with sleep? This way, when someone is looking for information about a product you have, they’ll be directed to your page.

Blog content is a great way to target long-tail search terms where users aren’t necessarily looking to make a purchase but trying to get more knowledge about marijuana products. If they arrive on your marijuana blog, they will likely find you to be a reputable brand in the industry, as long as the content is valuable and well-drafted. By the time they are ready to purchase marijuana products, your brand name will already be in their mind.

Essential Local SEO Tips for Cannabis Dispensaries

Even for marijuana retailers based around in-person sales, SEO is still important to consider. When a potential customer searches for a marijuana product, they’ll be presented with results that are based on their geographic location. For example, a quick search for “marijuana dispensary” will show you a three-pack of several nearby cannabis retailers, in addition to their locations, hours, and contact information.

You might be wondering how these particular businesses got in the map pack. Well, they got there because of local SEO. Whereas traditional SEO is focused on increasing a website’s ranking with a national or global audience, local SEO is a great way to boost one’s reach with nearby customers. By earning you citations in various hemp directories such as Weedmaps, local SEO can tailor your cannabis brand’s website to appear in these local searches.

With LinkGraph’s local citation service, you can register and manage your dispensary with multiple directory listings like Google My Business. If you haven’t set up your Google My Business listing yet, you should do so immediately. This will allow your website to appear at the top of search engine results pages, along with some photos and additional information such as reviews and hours of operation. Your business will even appear on Google Maps. 

All of these local approaches work wonders when it comes to boosting foot traffic to your physical store.

3 Cannabis SEO Strategies To Rank Higher

If you’re looking to boost your marijuana business’s performance in search rankings, there’s a few tried and true strategies to get you there. Just because paid media is off the table doesn’t mean you can’t rise to the top of Google.

Grow your Online Presence with Link Building

Central to any SEO strategy, regardless of industry, is building an extensive profile of links. In the world of search engines, links from other pages serve as a vote of confidence. Think about it: if another web page is linking to yours, that means they found your content or services useful, and Google takes note of this.

As part of a LinkGraph marijuana digital marketing campaign, we reach out to reputable publishers and acquire backlinks to your page. All of this outreach is 100% organic, meaning that the authority of your web presence will tick upwards and stay there.

Optimize Cannabis Product Pages and Images

A crucial component of a digital marketing strategy is on-page SEO. If you currently sell products directly through your website, then individual product pages can be optimized in order to rank for keywords. Additionally, images can also be optimized. In addition to taking original, eye-catching photos of your products, you should also be sure to optimize their alt-text. Also make sure to compress your image files, ensuring each of your product pages loads quickly.

Improve your Marijuana SEO with Expert Blog Content

It might sound counterintuitive to focus on creating a blog for your marijuana business. After all, you’re in the business of selling cannabis rather than talking about it. However, creating a steady stream of blog content not only does wonders in terms of cultivating and engaging your audience. It can also help you rank for keywords.

Engaging Your Audience

You know your customers, not only in terms of their buying habits but also through their interests. One great reason to start a blog section on your website is that it can attract and interest readers unfamiliar with your brand, in addition to engaging with those who already are. Try to create general interest pieces filled with knowledge related to your industry. This way people will have a reason to revisit your content and possibly even share it throughout the internet.

Marijuana Blog Content for SEO

Engaging blog posts provide great content for other pages to link to. This is why it’s always a good idea to put yourself in your customers’ shoes and figure out what information you could provide them. Know a particularly good recipe for THC edibles? Why not share it in a blog post? A well-maintained blog section is a great way to signal to search engines that your website provides authoritative information about marijuana and related topics.

Other Digital Strategies: Email and Influencer Marketing

As mentioned in prior sections, most search engines and social media networks do not allow marijuana companies to advertise explicitly on their platforms. With that said, there are some digital marketing approaches that can help you circumvent these restrictions.

Email Marketing

According to Litmus, every $1 spent on email marketing results in $42 brought back to the company. This is why a carefully strategized email marketing campaign can be great for businesses of all types.

Particularly for the cannabis industry, email marketing offers a way to get around the restrictions on marijuana outreach via direct mail or AdWords. When a user visits your website, it’s always a great idea to request an email address in exchange for a discount at their store. This way, you’ll have their contact info and can use it to update them about new products and promotions.

Influencer Collaborations

Sure, most social media networks prohibit cannabis companies from advertising through their ad platforms; however, there are other ways in which you can utilize the potential of Facebook and Instagram. First off, you should set up accounts for your business on any relevant platforms. This gives people another way to access your company, and it can also be a place where you share any unique, original content.

Apart from serving as another content hub, social media also offers the potential of influencer collaborations. While Instagram won’t allow you to run a targeted marijuana ad campaign on their platform, there is nothing stopping you from partnering with independent users. A photo of them using or holding your product and tagging your profile can be a great way to reach your target audience. Many influencers, depending on their popularity are open to collaborating for lower costs than other forms of paid media. Just try to be sure that their audience of followers contains the demographic that you’re trying to reach.

Final Thoughts on Cannabis SEO Best Practices

Cannabis SEO is rooted in the fundamentals of any strong SEO plan, but legal restrictions create some challenges that digital marketers need to be aware of. Local SEO, keyword selection, and link building are some of the most important areas for new marijuana dispensaries and ecommerce companies to focus on in order to start ranking quickly and generate site traffic or foot-traffic. 

Working with a reputable agency that is familiar with the marijuana industry can be a great way to improve your rankings and revenue faster. At LinkGraph, we have worked with some cannabis and CBD brands of all sizes to help get their site ranking in the SERPs. Check out our cannabis website design case study to learn more.

How to Increase Your Direct Traffic for Better Google Rankings

In the world of digital marketing and search engines, not all traffic is considered equal. It is easy to say that the overarching goal of any digital marketing effort is to simply increase traffic to your website, regardless of how it arrives, while also increasing brand awareness and recognition.

But when it comes to digital marketing strategy and analysis, it is important to accurately hone in on your traffic sources in order to use this data to propel your digital marketing efforts going forward. And while there are plenty of traffic sources that can be easily digested as cut and dry, like traffic from paid search and social media marketing channels, there is one traffic source that can get a bit murky – direct traffic.

Direct traffic is a very important analytical measurement for any small business. Here we explain the ins and outs of direct traffic, how it impacts your Google rankings, and strategies for increasing direct traffic to your website.

What is Direct Traffic?

The basic definition of direct traffic is a web traffic source that comes directly to your website’s landing page without first visiting another website. These consumers basically show up out of the blue, without a track of where they have been before.

With most marketing channels, it is easy to track how consumers land on your website. Search engines have very advanced website tools that can track a consumer’s movement across the Internet. 

If a consumer came to your website from paid search advertising or via social traffic, you can track it. If someone landed on your website’s homepage from an email marketing newsletter, you can track that as well. Same goes for when a buyer converted off your site because of a social media post. But all goes awry when it comes to tracking the amount of direct traffic.

While yes, all traffic is good traffic, it is incredibly important to track where your traffic comes from in order to ensure you’re doing everything you can to gain more visibility online and to boost your business. Luckily, that’s where Google Analytics comes in to help.

How Does Google Measure Direct Traffic?

Google Analytics (GA) is a powerful force for looking inside your website and its multiple traffic sources. When it comes to direct traffic, Google Analytics will report a traffic source as “direct” if it either has no data on how the session arrived on your website or if the web session has been configured in some way to be ignored by GA’s measurement tools.

Generally speaking, the label of direct traffic is usually given to a web session after following a sequence of checks given the information they know. The steps are as follows:

  1. First, they’ll check AdWords parameters to see if the session could in any way be related to a consumer converting from a paid search advertisement.
  2. Secondly, they’ll check if you, as the website user, has set up any campaign overrides to weed out any irrelevant known sources of traffic.
  3. Thirdly, GA looks at specific UTM campaign parameters set up by the owner of the site. A UTM is a small snippet of code that is attached to the end of a URL and is used to track the performance of campaigns.
  4. Next, GA looks into whether or not the traffic has been referred by a search engine, also known as organic traffic.
  5. Then, GA tracks if the user came to the website through the referral of another website, usually through the process of building links and backlinking.
  6. Lastly, GA determines if the user is returning to your site after a timeout period. A timeout period is defined as a customer who visits your website once, leaves, and then returns a week later due to their original organic search.

If all of these six steps cannot determine a traffic source, it will then be labeled as direct traffic.

Using Google Analytics to Understand Direct Traffic

So now that we know what direct traffic is not, how do we categorize it? Google Analytics has a whole host of direct traffic sources that it uses for classification. Here are some of the most common, explained.

Manual URL Entry

Simply put, this is when a consumer punches in your website url directly. Direct visitors come without referral traffic. This could be the homepage of your website, your domain name, or any landing page, it does not matter. Additionally, if you “bookmark” the specific URL, and go there as soon as you open your browser, this counts as a manual URL entry.

An HTTPS to HTTP Redirect

We all know that an HTTPS URL with a SSL certificate is more secure to use and will help to protect your personal information. But, what many people don’t know is that an HTTPS URL actually carries a lot of consumer data on it. Unfortunately, not all URLs on the Internet are HTTPS, so there may be times when a user follows a link from an HTTPS site and goes directly to an HTTP one, which means the data is lost as it is not secure anymore. So, if you are noticing a huge spike in your direct traffic, it could be that one of your established backlinks is not a secure website.

Additionally, if your website is not an HTTPS, then you are losing out on a ton of data. Migrating your website to a more secure user interface will ensure that all your traffic referrals from other secure sites can be accurately tracked.

Improper Redirects

Similar to the HTTPS to HTTP scenario, improper redirects are a big culprit behind direct traffic. This includes anything from meta refreshes – which is the practice of instructing a web browser to automatically refresh the current page after a certain amount of time on the site– to JavaScript redirects. Both options wipe important data, so it is important that you monitor and become meticulous with any side-server redirects you’re running.

Broken or Missing Code

This can easily happen if you have recently launched a few landing pages and forgot to use Google Analytics tracking code, which is also known as a UTM parameter. To make it easier to understand here’s an example of how GA would tabulate the traffic in this situation.

  1. First, a user will arrive on the landing page that doesn’t have the updated UTM tag tracking.
  2. They click on a link to a deeper page of your website that has UTM set up. GA only counts a session from the second page visited; so now the second page is seen as the landing page.  This is classified as a “self-referral” and counts for traffic, but is not accurate as it misses the first step of the customer’s journey. 

However, simply adding UTM parameters to the new landing page is not the only thing you have to do to get more accurate results on your traffic referrals. You must do an Analytics report and audit, to ensure no URLs have fallen between the cracks.

A Click From a Document

Links in documents such as Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, or even PDFs do not pass referrer information. So GA will automatically classify these as direct traffic, and unfortunately, this is unavoidable to a certain degree. But since links embedded in documents aren’t always used, it is safe to say that if you are noticing a small percentage of direct traffic and can’t figure out why, it is most likely due to the small number of clicks from documents.

Traffic From Apps and Email

In the same vein, mobile apps and desktop apps don’t have tracking in them, unless it is made clear beforehand. Same goes with some email providers, such as Outlook, that simply doesn’t include any referral data.

Again, this is to be expected and can’t be changed, but we suggest looking at the bigger picture when analyzing your direct traffic – are you noticing a lot of direct traffic sources coming in right after an App launch or upgrade, or right after you send out an email campaign to personal emails? Chances are, it has to do with the embedded links there.

Dark Social Messaging Apps

Social media is something that is well-known and understood by most marketers. But, like the dark web, there are some sources of “dark social media” that can be quite confusing for experienced digital marketers to even understand. While it is not necessarily a bad thing, a dark social media practice refers to a method of social sharing that can’t be tracked. 

The multiple social channels tend to make it easy to track and see who shared what social media posts; a post from your business is shared by a consumer, which is then shared by a friend. But dark social media refers to links sent within messaging apps and private chats. And this trend is growing rapidly, recent studies show that a full 80% of consumers’ outbound sharing of different websites and links are through private messaging, like Facebook messenger, and LinkedIn that is unable to be tracked.

With all of these types of search traffic, it can be a bit confusing for website owners to figure out what to do when it comes to their marketing strategy. This is why it is very important to invest in your organic search efforts so you can analyze, strategize, and not miss a large marketing opportunity.

Direct Traffic and SEO

A strong amount of direct traffic is actually a quality indicator to Google that your site is reputable and well trusted. If internet users are typing your url directly into their internet browser, it likely means they are very familiar with your brand, and didn’t need to go to a search engine to find you. 

Although the goal is to get internet users to discover your website in search, having those same visitors return to your site again and again through direct traffic is very beneficial to your SEO in the long run. 

Search engine algorithms use branded and direct traffic as comparative metrics to your competitors. Unlike other SEO strategies like link building or online reviews, branded traffic is hard to fake. For this reason it is an effective way for Google to measure your site’s reputation and popularity among your industry peers. 

Beyond Google Analytics, Google can also measure direct traffic of those users who use Google Chrome for their internet browser. Google Chrome allows Google to measure people navigating to your site directly in the URL bar.

This doesn’t mean that you forget about your SEO efforts. It just means that once an internet user has already discovered your site through your digital marketing efforts — you want to leave a strong enough impression that they come directly to your url again without having to find you again through a search engine. If they do, it is a great sign that your website has the kind of content that builds brand awareness and loyalty.

How to Drive Direct Traffic to Your Site with High-Value Content Assets

If you’re wondering how to improve your direct traffic sources, the answer is simple: content assets. Content is quite useful from a technical and SEO standpoint, in that it is beneficial for keyword placement, backlinking, and to provide information to the prospective customer. But, it can be just as helpful when it comes to promoting brand awareness and recognition and bringing users directly to your site.

Think of it this way; when a customer sees something useful with your brand name on it, they are more likely to remember you, go directly to your website at a different time, and convert. Providing valuable content, in a world that is full of information, can build trust with people who don’t even know you. 

So why wouldn’t you take advantage of this? Gone are the days where word of mouth marketing is the best way to get a traffic referral. Use our digital world to your advantage by creating some (or all!) of these high-value content assets.

Resource Pages

A resource page is a simple page on your own site with helpful information and links about a particular topic. It is seen as a resource for your industry and as a knowledge base for both potential and returning customers. Typically, resource pages have content that links to a variety of sources that are relevant to the topic, like ebooks, blogs or articles, in-depth reviews, tutorial videos, and more. 

Look at a resources page as a collection of assets that is continually updated on your site and provides tons of value to the user. For example, say you are a real estate agent. A resource page could include market analysis, recent news articles, links to trusted contractors, appraisers, and more. The more often you update the resource page, the more often users will want to come back to see what new information or resources have been added there. 

Resource pages are usually geared toward those who are more familiar with your industry and are seeking out additional information that enhances their knowledge of the products or services you offer. They are a great content asset that can bring direct traffic to your site for the long term.

Regularly Published Blog Content

It is incredibly important to publish regular content on your website. Blog content gives you the opportunity to do a variety of things: Target new keywords, internally link to your high-value landing pages, as well as show users your expertise. Popular blogs often have a new post every day, but once or twice a week is a realistic goal for any brand. If you earn a faithful readership, those users will likely return to your site via bookmarks or branded traffic — both of which are great for building your site authority. 

When it comes to SEO best practices, it is never enough to simply post content once in a while. Instead, you should make it a habit to regularly write blog posts and share it out with your social media channels. Once you have a regular readership and build up your site authority, you can open up your blog for guest posts as well. If you do this, other leaders in your space will want to contribute, and they will likely direct traffic to your site by sharing their post on their own website, emails, newsletters, or social media channels.

Engaging Visuals or Infographics

Internet users love visual content, which makes it even more important to make sure your website has visual assets. Video content, infographics, and more are all great visual tools that will make your website and brand name stand out. If you publish these types of visual content regularly, visitors will remember your website and type it directly into their search bar when they want to see what new visual content you’ve created.

Useful Tools

Does your company have something special about them, and can share it with the world in the form of a tool? A useful tool, especially in the digital marketing space, can work wonders with bringing direct traffic to your site and converting consumers. For example, LinkGraph’s SEO tools can help you monitor your website, analyze your data, and strategize on the next digital marketing tactic and best practice you can use. We have some users who utilize these tools daily. 

It’s important to remember that you don’t have to be a huge business like Google to offer valuable content to your users. The best part of creating valuable, high-quality content is that you will be using what makes your business special to help others. And in return, you’ll grow your brand to become one that can be trusted.

The Real Impact of Direct Traffic on Search Engine Rankings

At the end of the day, Google wants to make sure its users get the information they need, from brands they can trust, all with a simple Google search. With this in mind, they actually reward websites with strong direct traffic as they believe direct website traffic is one of the most influential signals of trust in a brand as it shows Google the domain has high authority and value. So in return, Google will place your domain higher in the Search Engine Result Pages, which is the ultimate goal behind SEO.

In closing, direct traffic is an incredibly useful tool to help increase your Google rankings and in turn, your brand awareness. If you need help understanding your direct traffic sources and where your website can level up your content assets, contact our professionals at LinkGraph.

Information Marketing: How to Share (and Sell) your Knowledge

With the global pandemic continuing to keep most of us inside, many of us are learning to get things done ourselves. Luckily, we have the internet at our fingertips to help us find informational guides, how-to videos, and infographics that teach us how to complete a task properly, in the comfort of our own homes.

But you might not know that these informational guides are actually examples of something called information marketing, and they can be a great tool for both consumers and business owners alike. More than ever, we consume information on our desktops, tablets, and mobile devices, and when leveraged properly, informational marketing can improve your business’ reputation, earn new leads, and even generate additional revenue for your brand.

What is Information Marketing?

Simply put, information marketing is a marketing strategy that provides specific details about a product or service. This type of marketing can include information about the following:

  • How a product or service works
  • How to use a product or service
  • The different features of a product or service
  • How a product or service compares to similar solutions
  • Additional knowledge necessary to use a product or service

If a customer knows everything there is to know about a product, then he’s more likely to buy it––so goes the logic of information marketing. Think of it as providing the nitty-gritty of your products, services, and their overall value potential. 

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Additionally, if someone visits your website, and you answer all of their questions, then they won’t need to leave your page in search of answers somewhere else. There’s also the matter of transparency. To the average reader, more information correlates with a greater degree of honesty. The more you tell a potential consumer about your product, the more likely they are to fall in love and ultimately convert.

Content Marketing vs. Information Marketing: What’s the Difference?

People often assume that content marketing is the same as informational marketing. Sure, content marketing informs consumers, and informational marketing consists of content (Doesn’t everything?), but the intentions and goals behind both have important distinctions.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is a long-term, strategic marketing approach that focuses on building long-lasting relationships with consumers, all the while understanding and learning their behaviors. When done correctly, content marketing targets consumers in all parts of the marketing funnel––from prospective customers simply searching for ideas to those who have brand loyalty and are ready to convert.

Content marketing is a long game, and there are plenty of ways to share your content. When crafting your content, keep in mind these two concepts: relevance and consistency. You’ll want to provide readers content relevant to them, on a consistent basis.

Here are some ways to achieve this:

  • Develop a blog on your website: You can get creative with these, and speak about a variety of shoulder topics of your product and/or service. Look into Search Engine Optimization best practices, and check out what your competitors are doing for some good ideas to get started. When done properly, a blog can turn your website into a multifarious resource that pulls in readers and directs them towards your services.
  • Beef up your social media game: Social media is more popular than ever, so you’ll want to optimize your profiles on the channel that makes the most sense for your consumers. For example, if your item is a consumer product, choose Instagram so you can take great quality pictures and videos and share them that way. On the other hand, if your service is targeted to professionals and businesses, LinkedIn may be the better platform to invest your efforts. Not sure of where to start? A Facebook profile is always the best bet as it reaches a variety of demographics in one single swoop, and you can also use this platform for some strategic paid media campaigns. 
  • Research your potential customers: At the end of the day, your purpose for content marketing is to create brand loyalty, so you’ll want to reach your customers right where you can find them. Do some market research to find out what channels and platforms are the best for this, whether through newspaper ads, social media banners, or direct-to-consumer mailers.

Content is exceptionally versatile, making it all that more important to be strategic in your marketing approach. You can think of content marketing like the stock market; whatever you put into it, you’ll likely get out of it. Invest your time and your efforts wisely, and you’ll likely reap the benefits.

How is information marketing different?

Where content marketing is a long-term strategy that can be broad and versatile depending on your market segment, informational marketing is specific, targeted, and detailed. This type of marketing most often tells a story, explaining either a service offering or a product. As a part of an overarching content marketing goal, informational marketing usually falls within the following media:

  • Webinars
  • Ebooks
  • White Papers
  • Tutorials

Types of Information Products to Promote your Knowledge

When it comes to informational marketing, your ideal medium depends on both your specific needs and business model. Use the following information to decide which option is best for you.

Ebooks

In a world of digital content, an ebook is an object of value, one that won’t get lost in the hustle and bustle of links and webpages. Additionally, an ebook works to strengthen your brand as it shows prospective consumers that you’ve taken the time to create a trustworthy document, further promoting your position as a thought leader in your industry.

As far as your informational marketing strategy goes, an ebook can be a gift that keeps on giving. Not only can you repurpose portions of its content for social media accounts and blogs, but you can also publish updated editions as newer information becomes available. Once you have your ebook base, you’ll only be able to expand from there, possibly culminating in a physical text, further cementing your authority within your industry.

Webinars

Even amidst our current pandemic, brands are seeking to engage their consumers on a personal level. This is where webinars come in handy, as they help a customer put a face to your brand, all the while gaining access to valuable video content. A webinar can be a great way to promote a new product or a business process while showing off your strengths to your target market

Plus, we are all bored at home, and we are craving something to look forward to. A webinar can be seen as an “event,” which can cause excitement for consumers. After all, it’s nice to focus on something when stuck at home. While having a one-time webinar can be great when it comes to testing the waters of webinars, it will be helpful for your marketing mix to include webinars on a more regular basis. Think of it this way, the more webinars you host, the easier you can segment your content into smaller, digestible chunks. Video content also possesses a high likelihood of being shared. Never underestimate the power of passive media.

White Papers

In order to make a purchase, some consumers want the hard facts––and lots of ‘em. This is where white papers really shine, as they are in-depth, persuasive reports on a specific problem and the ways in which your product or services can solve it.

When it comes to informational marketing, white papers can educate the audience, promote methodologies, or explain a controversial topic. It is important to note that white papers are not product pitches; rather, you are offering a solution to the problem at hand, with your product and/or service being the answer. The goal is to inform, persuade, and convince the audience that there is a problem, and thus, why the prospective customers need to buy the product right now. For example, if your product is productivity software for remote workplaces, an effective white paper might point out the ways in which online distractions can tank productivity with at-home workers, ultimately pointing towards the solution offered by your program.

What makes a white paper stand out is the size, depth, and time commitment that goes into creating each one. While blog posts are easily digestible and can be made flashy with art and GIFs, white papers are going to look and read more like an academic text. While it won’t be as flashy as your other marketing materials, a white paper will impress consumers with its thorough research and reporting.

Tutorials

Tutorials offer brands a quick and easy way to teach your consumers about a certain product or service. Not everyone learns through reading content, so creating a visual webinar promoting your product can appeal to all sorts of consumers, from visual learners to those who don’t have the time to read your 30-page ebook.

In a world of digital content, you’ll want to stand out like a big fish in an even bigger pond of marketing activities. Video tutorials are an attractive method of showing a user how your product works, as well as answering any potential questions they may have. Plus, it is easier to go into depth with video, as very long descriptions can turn people off and cause them to find answers elsewhere.

Tutorials are powerhouses when it comes to marketing, as when the user is done watching the video, they’ll learn more about your brand, your story, your products, and how the product will benefit them. Let’s use the same example of a productivity software. Sure, your software promises increased computer-based productivity, but this sounds abstract and potentially complicated. A video tutorial of its features can help demystify the product, showing the potential user how simple it is to use.

How to use Information Marketing for Lead Generation

Many B2B and B2C consumers are seemingly afraid of lead generation, as it can be quite a daunting word and concept for a beginner. However, the key to efficient lead generation is to be creative. Again, you will want to stand out, so here are some creative ways to use your information marketing to grow your business through lead generation.

  • Request a reader’s email before they can download your ebook or white paper. This way, you have their contact information and can include them in any business marketing email outreach, so they don’t forget who you are as a brand.
  • Create an informational and interactive quiz about your product or service. Then you can reward a good score with a special offer or discount.
  • Share success stories from industry thought leaders, and how your business can support these principles.
  • Create a learning course that can be taken over email. Or similarly, have a weekly webinar with new, updated information every week and promote it over email.
  • Develop a template or worksheet that can help simplify an everyday task. By doing this, you’ll show the prospective consumer how much they can benefit from utilizing your brand.

At the end of the day, all of these lead generation concepts are here to promote brand loyalty to a niche market and to remind consumers that you exist. Giving away information up-front––before the consumer even has the chance to ask a question––is a fantastic way to build trust, which in turn results in conversions and profit.

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How to Use Information Marketing as an Additional Revenue Stream

So how do you get the best ROI when using information marketing for your online business? The easiest answer is to charge for your work. Marketing doesn’t always have to be free to consume, so it only makes sense that you need to monetize all your hard work while promoting that you have valuable content.

Consider this––the average person sees about 5,000 ads and various consumer marketing materials a day. This is a ton of content, and chances are, we don’t really absorb everything we read. Because of this, it is only natural that we put a lower value on marketing that is free, so charging for your ebooks, whitepapers, and attending webinars makes sense.

However, in order to gain the most interest in your materials, make sure to allow a free preview of some kind. You don’t want to turn people away automatically because you charge for premium content, so give them a quick taste first to increase demand.

Some ideas for this “free taste” can be the first chapter of an ebook, the first third of a whitepaper, and free attendance for one session during a recurring webinar.

Information Marketing and Google’s E.A.T

Every once in a while, Google comes out with different updates to their algorithms. One of the most popular and most newsworthy algorithm updates was the E.A.T update that happened back in 2018 and 2019. During this time, Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines were updated to rank content that has expertise, authority, and trustworthiness to its readers rather than content that may not be relevant and useful.

The whole idea behind this change is to more effectively rank pages based on how the users view the content. In short, Google feels that if a reader does not believe content has expertise, authority, and honesty, they will leave the webpage and not convert. And if there is nothing of value to a prospective customer, why bother ranking it in the SERPs over another webpage with great information? After all, value is a descriptor both democratic and subjective.

When broken down, the specifics of what Google rates as E.A.T are as follows:

Expertise

  • Are the writers experts on the topic, and do they have any specific credentials on this topic in the industry?
  • Do other suppliers, distributors, and industry professionals link to this page, therein casting a vote of confidence in its content?
  • Is all the information easy to read and accessible on the site?

Authority

  • Do these people have generally recognized authority in their industry’s space? Are they considered thought leaders in their field?
  • Is a website a good source of information on this topic? 
  • Is the topic updated regularly, with evidence that it is factual?

Trustworthiness

  • Do consumers consistently come to your website for information they can trust?
  • Is the content free from factual inaccuracies and grammatical errors?

Because informational marketing is chock full of details and is specifically targeted to a niche audience, you will want to keep the E.A.T guidelines at the top of your mind when creating content. Informational marketing tends to be the first in-depth glance a consumer has about your brand and business, so ensuring your content comes from an expert, authoritative, and trustworthy source is one of the most important things you can do.

Final Thoughts on Information Marketing

When used properly, informational marketing can be a very powerful marketing tool for any size business. From promoting retail items and  digital products, to creating thought-leadership potential, info-marketers are making themselves known to the marketing community by sharing the most detailed information they can. 

So, in a world full of information, how will you make yours stand out?

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