Get To The First Page Of Google: The 4 Essentials Of Ranking A LinkLess Small Business Website

#1 – Paraphrasing Mike Grehan, author of The Search Engine Marketing Book:

If you create a page about a unique word or phrase, you can easily rank for that term.

As an example, if you were to create a site about xandrough, Google will want to return that site when a searcher uses that term because your site would be the most relevant to that term. The problem of course is that nobody is likely to type that into any search engine because the word does not exist, so ranking for it won’t do any good. However, how about a keyphrase like:

Landscape Design Sussex County, NJ

Google Results Page

Now, the possibilities of this concept seem pretty exciting for Landscapers located in Northwest, NJ. To check this, click on the image above and you can see that the sites returned in the organic lack a sense of relevancy. Is that because, like xandrough, it is not likely to be typed into the engine. I don’t think so, as you can see many landscapers are competing for the phrase in Adwords. It actually looks to me like a phrase that is juicily near a conversion worth thousands of dollars.

Try a search like this for your business plus a regional term. If you don’t find many sites that match that query, there may be an opportunity.

#2 – Search Engines Return Pages Not Sites on the Results Page

With this in mind for the example above; the page has to be about Landscape Design in Sussex County, not the site. In other words, if one page on your site is about landscape design and another page is about sussex county, no page of your site will come up for the keyphrase: ‘landscape design sussex county’.

This can be used to the advantage of the linkless site, making it possible to come up in the results for multiple search queries. For example, one page could be for Lawn Maintenance, while another could be Landscape Design.

For more on this see Local Biz Bits

#3 – The Order and Proximity of The Keywords Matter

Write a sentence or phrase that contains both the service and the geographic term and have those terms in close proximity.

High Rankings Advisor has a great explanation of Keyword Proximity.

SearchRank provides another great example of how to write for search engines.

#4 – Time

It will take some time before the search engines trust a linkless site. So, you may just to have to wait. However, if your site is a couple of years old and you re-write it, applying some of these principles, you may be able to rank for your terms as soon as the next time Googlebot visits your site.

To speed some things up even more you may want to add your business listing to Google Maps and verify your business listing. After filling out the information you will recieve an automated telephone call and you will have to enter the numbers they provide you.

Also, you could fill out the business profile on Don’t just set up a listing, you want to make sure you add your url to the business profile… Google only spiders business profiles on, not the rest of the site.

The above options are free… the links they provide won’t have any value in ranking your site in search results but they may help your site get indexed quicker by google. And they both get traffic in their own right and could score you some work.

Posted in SEO | 284 Comments

Thin-Slice Your Target Market

You want to the know the value of your target market? Your market share? You could hire a market research company to conduct surveys and count beans and all of that. Or you could thin-slice it!


Thin-slicing is a phrase I was introduced to in the book: Blink, written by Malcolm Gladwell, who also also authored The Tipping Point (which may have been the origin of the term: Viral, as it is used in marketing. If anyone knows for sure, please let me know). Anway, thin-slicing is the process of making decisions based upon limited information. He argues that for some, good decisions can be based upon very small bits of information. As long as it is the right information.

Estimate Market Share

So, let’s try that for a local service business. Let’s say you are a Roofer in Bergen County, NJ. Do you typically ask your customers… How old is the current roof? And you know you how much on average you charge for a roof, right? Good, now we only need to know one more bit of information… and we can thin-slice the market for residential roofers in Bergen County, NJ: The number of owner occupied homes in Bergen County, which I got by searching for that phrase in Google.

That’s it:

Now, simply divide 100 by the number of years on average that will go by before a house needs a new roof. That will give you the % of homes that will be in the market for a roof in any given year. For this example, I’ll assume a home needs a new roof every 20 years.

Then we get : 100/20 = 5; This tells us that 5% of the homes in Bergen County will need a new roof in any given year.

It’s not perfect, but I bet it’s pretty good. And again you just take 100 and divide it by the number of years that go by before a home will need that service again.

Let’s do another one with one painting: Let’s say that on average a person paints the exterior of their home once every 8 years.

Then we do; 100/8 = 12.5

So, we know that 12.5% of the homes will be in the market for exterior painting.

Now, from the census information we got earlier, we know there are 222, 237 owner-occupied homes in Bergen County.

Multiply 5% by that number and you get the number of roof jobs available in any given year: 11,111. If each job is worth on average $5,000, the market in Bergen County is:

$55,559,250; (hmmm… maybe I should have been a roofer.) So, now you know a roofing company that did $1 million in sales last year had a market share of around 1.7%. And that each point of market share is worth around $550,000.

Making Good Decisions

Now, that roofing company can start making some good decisions. Maybe they thought they were doing well with a million in sales. Now they can see how much is being left on the table. Maybe it would be worth it to expand the advertising budget… try and pick up another point or two.

Should they use direct mail?… probably not one that blankets a zip code as we now know 95% of that would go to homes that will not be in the market for roofing. But it could work if they could get a mailing list that targeted homes built 15-25 years ago. See, the quality of the decisions are starting to soar and so quickly.

Maybe search marketing is a good idea, since it is unlikely that a person will type “roofers bergen county” into a search engine unless they are in the market for one.

Thin-Slicing is Good for Many Different Businesses and Search Marketers Too!

This technique can be used for a bunch of everyday products and services… just ask “How often?”

How often does someone replace the windows in their home? replace their cell phone? remodel their kitchen? clean their carpets? replace their laptop? and on and on.

Thin-slicing the market is a good technique for search marketers to know when there isn’t a ton of demographic and market information around. It can help a client to see the potential of the market and expand their marketing budgets. And you spend your time using the information instead of gathering it. Which is already a big leap for a lot of decision making processes that I’ve witnessed. And is the biggest benefit of thin-slicing anything.

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TrueLocal, TrueCustomer Service, TrueMarketing

I have now received 3 messages (2 emails and 1 letter to my house!) from TrueLocal telling me that they are going to give me 2 months of Free Advertising and a $150 credit for free advertising. Now, I know what you’re thinking… so what… there are a ton of c’mons like that on the internet. And that’s true, but what makes this different is that I am a current advertiser. They actually halted billing.

TrueLocal Homepage

Apparently, TrueLocal is going to revamp it’s paid advertising program and has sent the letter below to all it’s current advertisers.

I have to imagine that this is an expensive way to maintain the current customer base while they transition; but I think they got it right.

So right, that I for one, will likely be a loyal customer when they restart in Spring.

Here is the bulk of the e-mail:

Email From True Local

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Search Marketers: You May Never Look At Stumbleupon The Same Way Again

In a typical evening, I will spend a few hours reading blogs about search marketing. I will focus on anything that has to do with local, but will read anything that catches my eye. I start with the ones I have I loaded on my homepage and then when I have time I will go to Sphinn and more recently I have joined Stumbleupon and been delighted with what I have found.

For a change one night I began to Stumble images… which I do regularly now… as I have discovered that Stumbleupon is truly an art gallery.

The strange thing is that I started associating some of these images with search marketing. So, please allow me to share these images with you and let me know if you see what I see… or do I just need to go to bed earlier each night? I also felt a desire to share these wonderful images and provide their talented creators with a little link love.

Offline Conversion

Washing Machine Carted by a Man
Offline Conversion- I don’t think the artist was particularly sympathetic for these people; who are portrayed in this photo the same way that click-and-brick shoppers are often written about by search marketers who are tired of trying to track their shopping patterns.


Beautiful Girl Mirrored by Smoke
Analytics- This photograph was the inspiration for this post because as I stared at what is one of the most hauntingly beautiful photographs I’ve ever seen; I was reminded of all things… analytics.

Social Media

Skilled Photograph of Graveyard
Social Media- I do not say this to be ironic… this image reminds me of my own mortality and makes me want to reconnect with people… to get the most out of everything… and that the internet’s ability to connect us with each other is really the reason we spend so much time in front of it.


Beautiful woman bathing her feet in kitchen sink
Transparency – Ahem… as this is art… we will want to view the entire composition of this beautiful photograph and take note that transparency resides also in the glass window as well as the water. And please… let us hope that that light/lamp thing is not plugged in.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

You May Never Need To Read Another Post About Writing Headlines

CopyBlogger has two awesome posts on writing headlines: 10 sure-fire headlines and later they added 7 more magnetic headlines. I would like to an 18th to the list that can be very effective for many different service businesses. And with a little spin, bloggers too.

You may not need a new…

This was made famous by AAMCO… as in… you may not need a new transmission. But it can be used effectively whenever a repair could avoid a large and unwanted purchase…


You may not need a new roof

You may not need a new furnace…

You may not need a new hot water heater

Other uses may be in technology where the headline implies a hack, alternative or upgrade could avoid spending money… examples.

You may not need a new IPod…
You many not need a new computer…
You many not need to pay for a SSL Certificate…

I hope you didn’t feel like this post’s headline was overhyped. I used it to show how this headline technique could be used for bloggers as well. And I honestly feel like good copy is often undervalued. So, please read more posts on writing headlines and copy and add copyblogger to your feed if it isn’t there already.

Oh! and this technique could also make for some good copy in your PPC campaigns.

Posted in PPC | 1 Comment

Don’t Sabotage Your Campaign With A Tracking 1-800#

I’ve been seeing more and more local campaigns set up on search engines with no local phone number. The only number on these sites is a 1-800#… I assume this is done for analytics… and it is a bad idea in my opinion. Let me show you why.

Open up your Yellow Pages and flip through it… c’mon, I know you have one… and look for ads that have 800#’s. I’ll bet you find very few.

Do you know why?

yellow page ad
Applying this YP concept to your Website should crank up
conversion, while providing ‘local seo’ benefit. (addt’l locations)

All the studies shows that people prefer calling local numbers and that having only an 800 number in an ad will significantly reduce call volume. If 800#’s worked better, the Yellow Pages would be loaded with them, after all, at one time both products were sold by the same company.

Want to take it one step further; check this out from YP Commando:

Research on over 77,000 Yellow Pages ads using metered telephone lines found that ads with multiple local phone numbers received many more calls than ads with only one local number.

Ads with only a single toll-free number received the fewest calls. Having both local and toll free tends to increase call counts slightly.

So, if you believe that you can apply lessons learned in local advertising from yellow pages to the web… and I firmly do – STOP using 800#’s in your local website for the sake of analytics. Use local numbers instead, and use many.

Posted in Analytics | 5 Comments

More Evidence That Google’s Broad Match Was Expanded

SEM Clubhouse wrote a very good post on Expanded Broad Match being Corrupt Since Aug 20th and I agree when he says “Broad Match was expanded way too much.” I will share with you 2 experiences that convince me he is right and what I plan to do about it.

A couple of weeks ago I did a search on Google that included a geographic indicator and a keyword. I used a county for the geography and to my surprise an ad that I managed and knew for sure did not target that county was returned. I got nervous, how many counties are there in the state? Is this ad coming up in every county in NJ?

No, just the one that neighbors the county targeted. That made me feel like it was calculated by Google, they could, in effect, double the amount of times the ad was served without going to far (pun intended). To be fair, this county never showed up in my analytics. But the whole thing left me feeling a little unsettled.

What I find even more convincing is the result of the query: Red House Painter -

Google Search For Red House Painter

When doing the keyword research for a local house painter earlier in the year, I found a large number of queries for ‘red house painter.’ Hmmmm…. is there a class of painters that will only paint your house red? As it turns out… no. Red House Painter is the name of a rock group and a popular search term. I certainly did not want the ad returned for this query, so I added it as a negative keyword and did one other thing…

I searched the phrase ‘Red House Painter’ in Google and found there were no Painting Contractor ads. Then I did the same search in Yahoo and found many contractors “advertising” for this term. I was left thinking how much smarter Google was in returning relevant ads. But now I find Service Magic, a contractor referral service, is appearing in the Google’s results. So, either Service Magic changed their campaign to target this search term (highly doubtful) or there was a change in Google’s algo. A change that was certainly to the detriment of Service Magic.

The 2 actions local Google advertisers should take:

1) Duplicate your most important broad match search terms using exact match or if you have the time… all of them. This will maintain your CTR and placement for these queries.

2) Put together an exhaustive list of negative keywords for broad matched terms and update it at least seasonally. Include neighboring towns and counties in which you do not want the ad to show.

What I would not do… is abandon broad matched search terms in a local campaign. There are too many variables when you add geography to the search term and I see too many very relevant queries showing up in the analytics that I would not have captured with exact match.

The other thing for you to consider is whether or not this is a “bad thing”. For those who are aware of this and are willing to work harder, you can gain an advantage on your competition.

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What I Would Expect When Reviewing A Keyword Report For A Local Search Campaign

In my last post, I showed you a keyword report from a campaign put together by a yellow pages company managing a paid search campaign for a local advertiser. In this post, I am going to show you another keyword report and let you compare it. And again I will ask you to sound off in the comments. Thank You Local Seo for taking the time to comment on the last post.

For clarity, let me begin by defining “keyword report” as I used the term – the word or phrase typed into a search engine prior to the ad being clicked as reported by the analytics program.

Here is the report from the campaign set up by a yellow page company if you have not seen it:
Keyword Report

Now, let’s take a look at another keyword report for a different local business engaged in search marketing. They are in different lines of business, so it is not comparing apples to apples. But this is closer to what I would expect when looking at the analytics for a local campaign. (geographic references have been ‘smudged’ for privacy reasons)

Local Campaign Keywords

3 Take Aways

1) In my opinion, it is optimal to see geography plus category – I believe this represents a transactional search and the searcher is close to making a buying decision.

2) The next best thing would be just the category. 49% of local searchers report searching this way. In my opinion, it could represent a transactional search or an informational search, which makes it slightly less valuable than a search that included a geo-modifier, but I would still want to come up in that search using geo-targeting.

3) Advertise for the keyword that is the name of your business…wow… look at the “names” in the searches above. These are the names of competing landscape architectural firms. Did these companies lose referral business because they were hard to find on the web?

Posted in Analytics | 1 Comment

5 Basic Questions To Ask Your Local SEM

I recently came across a keyword report provided by an IYP doing paid-search advertising for a local advertiser. The advertiser is a Heating & Air guy located in Central New Jersey.

I’m not going to say what IYP managed this campaign and because I got this report from a third party I couldn’t tell you whether the business is happy or not with the results. And because I’m looking at this keyword report in a vacuum, my objective in this post is not to judge the campaign. But rather to educate small business owners that are getting into search marketing for the first time as to what questions they should be asking their SEM.

Let’s begin by taking a look at the last 7 days of the report (note: I copied this excerpt from the original format into Google Docs and removed the column containing IP addresses):

Keyword Report .

  1. Is the SEM fee-based or are they charging a percentage of spend?
  2. Are there separate ads set-up for the different keywords? i.e would searchers find one ad, appropriate, for the keyword frigidaire and a different one for refrigeration?
  3. Do each of the keyword/ad groups go directly to a page on my site that is relevant to the keyword when the ad is clicked?
  4. Could I see the list of negative keywords for each of the campaigns? (and could you add ‘four seasons’ to it?)
  5. What is the Click-Thru Rate for each of the ad groups?

Question one has to do with motive. Questions 2 through 4 represent the bare minimum of competence. Question 5 is a measure of quality in how well the SEM executed questions 2-4. If I did not get satisfactory answers to these questions I would abandon the SEM firm… not Search Marketing.

With all that said, you may be wondering why I did not mention conversion. That would certainly be among the first questions I asked when measuring the competence of a SEM. However, I did not mention it before in this article because I think that is the only question local businesses are asking their SEMs. And if they want to get the most out of their search campaigns they are going to have to get beyond that and demand more.

Please let me know your thoughts on this keyword report and/or any additional questions you think local advertisers should ask their SEM in the comments.

Posted in SEM | 6 Comments

Yahoo! Adds Map To Local Onebox. And Changes Local Algo?

Yahoo! Local followed Google’s Maps lead in adding a Map into it’s onebox results in a local search. Today is the first day I noticed it and I haven’t read anything about it. Yahoo Local’s blog has not been updated since September 27th. Here’s how a local search looks now in Yahoo! :

Yahoo OneBox Result For Local SearchClick for larger image.

In addition to adding the map, I believe they changed the algorithm as well. The evidence I have of this is slim but it was enough to convince me. That like Google Maps it will be rare for a business to found outside it’s home city in the top 3 results. That has large implications for local search marketers.

I figured it was only a matter of time before Yahoo and MSN followed Google’s lead on this because the set up is brilliant from the standpoint of “appearance of relevance” and generating revenue.

Here’s is what I mean by that:

  1. The Appearance of Relevance – Returning listings from just the town searched makes the result seem perfectly relevant. So, the searcher feels no dissatisfaction with the search engine. ( Even though, they were really asking the search engine to find the best businesses that serve their community, not just a list of businesses from their community, at least for a service like a contractor.)
  2. Revenue - I bet the lack of copy associated with these listings increases the CTR of the sponsored links on the page. I have no way of knowing this for sure but I bet it’s true. Nobody knows better than a search engine how important a snippet of information is to get someone to click thru.Also, if the heat maps are to be believed the F shaped eye pattern along with the lack of copy should make it more likely that ads on the right are read and clicked.

For a local search marketer we are left building our strategy around this onebox, especially for a service business that serves a large county. Take Nassau County, NY for instance, where there are around 100 different towns. A couple of years ago the strategy might have been to optimize the site to be found in each of those communities. But if you want to be found above the fold in any city but your own nowadays, you are forced to choose paid search.

So, the best strategy for such a business today, would probably be to first optimize for the business keyword+Nassau County, NY, and then set up a paid campaign for all of the towns. Only after those 2 things were done, would I consider optimizing for the individual towns.

This is really a perfect result for the search engine. There users are more satisfied, their ads are more effective & clicked more often, and more search marketers become paid advertisers. So, I would expect MSN to adopt this very soon. And I would not be surprised to see the local onebox with map come to County Searches sometime soon. Which would change the local search marketers strategy again.

Posted in Yahoo! Local | Comments Off