» Is Your SEO Up to Par for 2018?

This post was written by Mike Anderson, Associate Director of SEO at WeddingWire.

These days, most purchases start with a search.

Customers turn first to Google or Bing to find what they’re looking for, which means if you want to be found, a strong search engine presence is a must. In fact, 81% of people perform some kind of search before making a large purchase. (1)

But in order to land high in Google’s search engine results, you first have to make your website and content easy for Google and customers to understand.

As we kick off 2018, follow the steps below to make sure that your SEO is up to par to gain online visibility, increase your website traffic and ultimately, your sales.

Find relevant keywords to focus on

The first step in optimization is to figure out what keywords you want to rank for. To help find keywords, there are a number of free tools available such as Moz’s Keyword Explorer and the SERPs Keyword Research Database. If you have an account with Google AdWords, their Keyword Planner is a great option as well. Each of these tools allows you to find popular search queries and export keywords you like.

Tip: When conducting your keyword research, try to search for keywords as your customers would. If you were looking for a DJ in your town, what would you search for?

Optimize your website

Once you have a list of keywords, the next step is to incorporate them into your website. Try to be strategic. Make sure keywords are included in the following elements of your website:

  • Title tag – keep it to 50-60 characters and use your target keywords at the beginning. Treat it like a headline – your title tags should be compelling to your audience and include your brand name towards the end
  • Meta Description – these are limited to 160 characters, Make sure they give an accurate description of the page, include your target keyword(s), and are intriguing enough that users will want to click through
  • H1 – this is the heading of a page. It should be kept to about 20-30 characters, and describe the page’s topic. It will often be similar to your title tag, and likely be the title of a blog or article on the page, which means it should stand out and include the keyword that page is targeting. Use only one H1 tag per page.
  • H2s – these are your subheadings, which can be used to break up the content on a page. Don’t include your target keyword in every one, but try to use it once or twice.  

Tip: Try to optimize your homepage for 2 to 3 broad keywords and use sub pages to target more specific, service-related terms. Also, don’t forget to make sure your site is optimized for mobile use. More than half of all searches are done on mobile devices!

Make sure your content is unique and engaging

Once you have optimized your website, it is important to focus on your content. Content quality is widely regarded as one of the most important SEO signals, and speaks volumes about your website’s reputation. By posting quality photos, engaging articles, and useful resources, your clients will want to link to your website. Content freshness is also an important ranking factor, so remember to post new content every so often.

As you begin writing, keep in mind, content should be formatted in a way that keeps readers engaged.  Use short blocks of content to make it easily skimmable, and use a combination of bullet points and paragraphs. Remember to also include links where possible and natural, both to other pages on your site as well as to other relevant websites.

Tip: If you’re looking for article ideas, refer back to keyword research tools to see what things your clients are searching for. Or take a look at your competitor’s social media profiles to see what topics are most popular with similar audiences.  

Optimize your business profiles

While your website is an important asset, it’s critical to ensure that your business information and content is accurate and well represented on other sites as well. Make sure that your Google My Business listing is claimed and features accurate information. The same goes for local directories like Yelp, YP, Apple Maps. Also, if you have signed up for WeddingWire, make sure to add a thorough description of your business and high-quality photos.

As you are filling out your profiles, remember to fill in as much information as possible. The more you provide, the easier it will be for customers to find you. In addition to address and contact information, try adding a relevant category to your Google My Business profile, mention any areas your business specializes in or choosing a high quality profile photo to use in your listings.

Tip: To run a quick analysis of your local listings, try Moz Local, which offers a free scan and score.

Grow your social communities

In addition to your site and your online profiles, social media is also an important part of your online presence. Being active on social media can help grow your online audience, and more importantly, drive more leads. But it can also help your SEO. Studies have shown that social linking itself does not add much SEO benefit. But related signals – such as business reviews and links back to your site from bloggers – can make a big difference. Regular posting on social networks can also help you see what content resonates with your clients, giving you ideas on what other topics would be good to write about. The larger your audience becomes, the more likes, reviews and links you receive.  

Tip: Make sure you provide information about your business on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other sites you appear on.  

Also, consider boosting some of your posts. Because business pages have limited organic reach, boosting will gain a significant amount of exposure and visibility. When choosing which posts to boost, remember to pick ones that promote your own content and are especially helpful to your audience. Also consider boosting anything designed to collect contact information, such as free downloads and giveaways.

Take it from Google

Google offers a number of resources to webmasters interested in bettering their sites and their search engine rankings. Their official webmaster guidelines is a great resource to learn about recommended best practices and discouraged activities. The company also has multiple spokespeople that answer community questions and give updates on changes to Google’s algorithm.

Tip: Check out Google’s webmaster guidelines to learn more about SEO best practices. Also, try following John Mueller (@JohnMu) on Twitter for the latest updates.

SEO isn’t always easy, but it is worth it.

So take the time to find the best keywords. Incorporate them properly and naturally into your site and content. Optimize your online presence with the correct information, and reach out to influencers in your industry.

Once you’ve done so, the pay-off will be a higher rank in search engines, more exposure, and more leads.  

Sources
(1) Retailing Today (2014)

» Are You Competing With Yourself in Search Engines?

Pro to Pro Insights

Kathy DalPra, Bride AppealThis post was written by Kathy DalPra. Kathy is the owner of Bride Appeal. She takes the overwhelm out of SEO, sales and website conversion so wedding businesses can turn more curious visitors into high paying clients. Kathy’s strategies began to develop during her time as bridalpreneur when she took a struggling website to the top of Google; gaining targeted traffic, press mentions and celebrity customers along the way. Today Kathy shares her methods with other event professionals at brideappeal.com.

SEO is hard enough without us getting in our own way.

But when your expertise is creating a fabulous wedding experience, not implementing SEO, it’s common to overlook basic techniques that you’re simply unaware of.

We don’t know what we don’t know until we know it, right?

That’s why I want to break down one simple SEO mistake you might be making that could be causing you to compete with yourself in search engines; and how you can correct it today.

Here’s the simple SEO mistake I often see wedding pros making: Not choosing a preferred domain. I’ll explain…

Beginner’s Tip: Your website domain is the root web address visitors use to access your website, such as http://myweddingbusiness.com.

When browsing the web, have you ever noticed that some websites display their domain name as http://myweddingbusiness.com and others display it with a “www” in front, such as http://www.myweddingbusiness.com?

Establishing a preferred domain

Establishing a preferred domain

 

While both of these versions lead to the same website, search engines view them as two distinct web addresses, unless you specify otherwise.

So why is that less than ideal for SEO?

Well, search engines assess every individual website domain uniquely when determining whether that site is worthy of high rankings in its search results pages for a given search phrase.

Since there is only so much room at the top, each of these website addresses is competing against each other to secure a listing at the top. Search engines have to compare every single website domain (and page) with each other to determine which ones deserve the highest rankings.

So if you have not established a preferred domain, then search engines may be viewing your www website address and your non-www website address as two totally separate domains that are both fighting for a spot in the search results pages.

Which means, you might actually be competing with yourself!

“If you don’t specify a preferred domain, we may treat the www and non-www versions of the domain as separate references to separate pages.”  – Google 

In addition, when you are not deliberate about choosing a preferred domain, any marketing you do for your non-www domain version may not count toward your www domain version because, again, search engines perceive them as two distinct properties.

Continue reading

» #BridalRebrand: Being More Inclusive While Maintaining SEO

#BridalRebrand: Being More Inclusive While Maintaining SEOWith marriage equality finally legal across the United States, the time has come to take a harder look at the language of the wedding industry. But as WeddingWire Education Expert and Publisher of GayWeddings.com points out, inclusive language is important because it’s part of a larger trend that recognizes the role that both parts of the engaged couple – gay or straight – plays in planning a wedding, not just one partner. No matter what your feelings are on marriage equality, each time you use “bride” instead of “couple,” you’re potentially shutting out key clients who may be the decision-makers. And because most couples are primarily researching online, your website, online listings, or social networks could be the first (and only) impression that prospective clients have of your business.

It may seem daunting, but updating your language in your marketing materials and on your website to be inclusive can be done. In 2014, WeddingWire underwent a major rebrand for our annual awards program, previously known as the Bride’s Choice Awards. We updated the program name to WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards®, which is representative and inclusive of all types of couples who submit the reviews that qualify each business. Our hope was to make gay couples feel more included in our brand, but also to make sure that any groom wouldn’t feel neglected or brushed aside by word choice.

From an SEO perspective, the biggest challenge lies in updating your online presence (organic and paid), which is no small feat in today’s world. If you’re an experienced wedding professional, you’ve likely spent years building up your search presence – so it’s important to keep your authority and rankings intact. For those considering a #BridalRebrand, follow these steps to adequately address all the SEO concerns that come with changing your company name, products, or website content.

Conducting keyword research

Your search rankings are likely built upon certain wedding industry keywords that you hold dear. However, most ‘bridal’ keywords have inclusive counterparts that make updating simple. Use the Google AdWords Keyword Planner to suggest alternative keywords for each word or phrase you want to replace. Here’s a cheat sheet with some of the terms that have the biggest impact in making all couples feel included. If you want to transition your language more slowly or offer a variety of terms, you can also add inclusive terms to your website, listings, and other materials and phase out the old keywords more slowly.  Learn more about where to start and how to update in our infographic with inclusivity do’s and don’ts from Kathryn Hamm.

Updating your content

Once you’ve decided which keywords you’d like to update within your site content, it’s time to make the updates. Some may be obvious, like your page titles and paragraph text. But don’t forget to update the keywords in your page URLs, the alt text of your images, and the meta titles and descriptions for those pages you’ve been updated. All of these are vital for search ranking, plus they’ll be consistent for any visitors to your site. You should also consider the diversity of your website images as well – if all your images are of straight couples or only brides, it can be off-putting for same-sex couples who visit your website. If you haven’t served any same-sex couples yet so you lack the imagery, consider buying stock photos or simply updating the photos to be general wedding images of your area of expertise: a close up of a bouquet, photos of guests dancing, venue photos, etc.

Continue reading

» Social SEO in 5 Minutes a Day: Part 2

Pro to Pro Insights

Kathy DalPra, Bride AppealThis post was written by Kathy DalPra. Kathy is the owner of Bride Appeal. She takes the overwhelm out of SEO, sales and website conversion so wedding businesses can turn more curious visitors into high paying clients. Kathy’s strategies began to develop during her time as bridalpreneur when she took a struggling website to the top of Google; gaining targeted traffic, press mentions and celebrity customers along the way. Today Kathy shares her methods with other event professionals at brideappeal.com.

Welcome to the second installment of my tips for boosting your rankings and getting your brand in front of more prospects by investing just 5 minutes a day on social media. If you’re just joining us, start with Part 1 and continue on below!

4. Link Love

If you’re new to SEO, let’s get you up to speed on a critical ranking factor: links to your website. Also known as “backlinks.”

When quality websites link to your website, it’s kind of like receiving a vote for the value or authority of your website. It sends a signal to search engines that other online resources and real people feel your website content is valuable and worth sharing.

In other words, getting backlinks helps your website rank higher.

And based on recent comments from Google and Bing, it sounds like social sharing may affect your website authority, and subsequently your ranking, in a similar way.

While Google doesn’t come right out and confirm that having your webpage links shared across social media can help your webpages rank higher, they certainly hint strongly at it:

“Facebook and Twitter pages are treated like any other pages in our web index, and so if something occurs on Twitter or occurs on Facebook and we’re able to crawl it then we can return that in our search results.”

In the same interview, Google also said that a link does carry more weight depending on the person who shares it on Twitter or Facebook.

And Bing echoed Google’s statements with this:

“We take into consideration how often a link has been tweeted or retweeted, as well as the authority of the Twitter users that shared the link.“

These statements suggest two things:

  1. If one of your webpages or blog posts is shared on Twitter (and likely other social platforms as well), Google and Bing can see this and possibly list it in their search results or, at the very least, recognize that your page is gaining in value because it is being shared on social media.
  2. When your website pages or posts are shared often and by influential users on Twitter, it increases the weight, or perceived importance, of your website page, giving it a ranking boost. The more these activities, or signals, add up, the more chances your page has to rank higher.

This means that if a major industry influencer on Twitter retweets your website link, it could give your domain and that specific page a little SEO boost, helping it to rank higher over time.

Continue reading

» Social SEO in 5 Minutes a Day: Part 1

Pro to Pro Insights

Kathy DalPra, Bride AppealThis post was written by Kathy DalPra. Kathy is the owner of Bride Appeal. She takes the overwhelm out of SEO, sales and website conversion so wedding businesses can turn more curious visitors into high paying clients. Kathy’s strategies began to develop during her time as bridalpreneur when she took a struggling website to the top of Google; gaining targeted traffic, press mentions and celebrity customers along the way. Today Kathy shares her methods with other event professionals at brideappeal.com.

You can snatch up more rankings and get your brand in front of more prospects by investing just 5 minutes a day.

In this article, I’ll show you how to do so even if you’re not a technical SEO jedi.

Every week I hear from wedding and event professionals who are putting off their wedding SEO altogether because they think they have to ‘get it perfect’ before it will work.

Listen, even my SEO is not perfect and yet Google is my #1 source of traffic.

There are hundreds of SEO strategies we can employ in our business, but we only need to start with a few simple ones to reap the rewards.

So why not begin with an activity you’re already doing? Social media networking!

By simply leveraging the social media accounts you’re already toying around with each week, you can get your company more visibility in both search engines and within the social networks themselves.

All you need to do is view your social activity like an SEO strategy and invest 5 minutes a day.

So let’s dive into Part 1…

1. Dominate Google with Your Social Profiles

A few years back a wedding photographer called me in a panic because competitors who shared her business name in the same geographical area were outranking her in the search engines.

She was losing business left and right to fresh prospects who recently heard of her, but were landing on someone else’s website!

She might not have had that problem at all if she knew how to dominate Google’s first page for her brand name.

Kind of like this…

ocial-profiles-in-search-results

Yes, your social media accounts can rank in search engines too.

When people search for your company name, personal name or even your profession on a local level, they can stumble on one of your social media profiles, not just your website.

Continue reading

» 7 Components of a Successful Website

The following post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Andy Ebon. Andy is the Founder of Wedding University and The Wedding Marketing Blog, and is an International Public Speaker, Writer and Consultant based in Las Vegas. Andy travels across North America and beyond, presenting to Associations, Wedding Industry Conferences, Regional Gatherings, and Local Meetings.

Your website is always evolving, but it has one singular purpose: to generate inquiries and leads. Creating an engaging, optimized, easy-to-navigate site is a critical part of your success. Now, more than ever, an impressive website is the sign of a successful and trustworthy business, so it’s vital that you modernize and update your website often.

How to build a successful websiteThese seven components of a successful website will help you update your site to today’s standards and put your best foot forward for potential clients in your area.

Functionality

How your website functions and responds to visitors is the starting point of your website’s user experience. If visitors can’t find what they need or your website is broken in some way, the content you write doesn’t matter. There are several considerations to take into account when thinking about your website’s functionality:

  • Intuitive Navigation: Your website’s navigation is the blueprint for visitors – they’ll use your framework to find what they’re looking for. Give your web pages logical names, and keep it simple. The ideal number of pages in your main navigation is seven or fewer. If you have more pages than that, consider adding sub-pages that drop down from the main pages. Additionally, recognize that there is a top-down or left-to-right bias in order and choice. A user is more likely to click one of the first three tabs, so be thoughtful about choosing the order.
  • Internal Search: Our collective brains are wired differently. Some people will follow your carefully thought-out main navigation menu, while others prefer a search box to find specific information quickly. Offering a search box gives visitors a number of options for how they prefer to navigate your website. Most website builder platforms/programs offer this sort of option, plus third-party widgets are available to incorporate a search function into your site.
  • Mobile-friendly: Google reports that more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries, including the US and Japan. It’s no longer acceptable to expect users to pinch the screen to zoom in or out to view all the features of your website on a mobile device. In fact, Google has begun prioritizing mobile-friendly, responsive sites in search results to encourage those who have not yet updated their sites to make the necessary changes. You can check your website’s compliance with Google’s mobile-friendly test. The best solution? Choose a responsive template that automatically adjusts to the visitor’s screen size.

Continue reading

» Optimizing Your Content for Search Intent

Optimizing Your Content for Search IntentWhen users find your website or blog via organic search, they’re typing in certain keywords or phrases that direct them to your website. Many of them may be general search terms like “wedding rentals Austin,” but some of them may be more specific search terms like “Chiavari wedding chairs Austin.” The latter suggests that the user is in a different stage in wedding planning.

Optimizing your website and blog content for search engines is a great way to boost your rankings, but it’s important to think about user intent. There are generally three reasons users search a given keyword or phrase:

  • Informational – User is looking for the answer to a question
  • Navigational – User is looking for a pre-determined website or destination
  • Transactional – User is looking to make a purchase or complete a given task

It’s certainly important to drive those informational searchers to your website to help aid their research, but it’s also important to drive those transactional searchers to your website as well. Below are a few steps to help you incorporate search intent in your content optimization!

  1. Think through user intent

Think about the visitors to your website. Why are they visiting your website? Why would they land on a certain page within your website? What questions are they looking to find answers to? Think about the multiple reasons a person would land on your website, and think back to the terms they would be most likely to enter in order to find your website. If they’re searching for information, come up with the terms you think they would enter. If they’re searching to make a purchase decision, come up with those specific terms you think they would enter. If you’re not sure, write down the main categories of your business and the terms associated with each category. You can also double-check the phrases you come up with by searching keyword volume in Google AdWords.
Continue reading

» Old SEO vs. New SEO for Wedding Pros

Old SEO vs. New SEO for Wedding ProsOne of the most common questions we hear from wedding and event professionals regarding Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is, “How long does it take to start working?” Our answer is usually, well, it depends. It depends on a lot of factors, including the age of your website, how long you’ve been optimizing it, the amount of content on your website, the age of your content, and more.

SEO has been around for a while now, and some of the rules have changed as technology across the Internet changes. There are some significant differences in the way we view SEO now from the way we used to view it, and they affect the way your business should approach its strategy. Below we’ve listed the two main areas affected in the world of new SEO for Wedding Pros!

Old vs. New Keywords

Old SEO dictates that your business should select a short list of big keywords to focus on within your website, blog, social networks and more. While this strategy is still huge in SEO, new SEO is taking the concept in a new direction. With changes made to the Google algorithm from Google Hummingbird in 2013, Google is now doing more than finding relevant web pages – it is compiling information from several sources and displaying the results within Google itself. This helps searchers find answers faster, with fewer steps between query and answer. In other words, Google is now attempting to understand what a person is searching for and return the most relevant results for that specific query.

Continue reading

» Search Engine Marketing: SEO vs. PPC Advertising

Search Engine Marketing: SEO vs. PPC AdvertisingWith the infinite number of websites available online today, search engines have had to work harder to filter through all the results! Search algorithms take many elements into account when evaluating your website, and it can be difficult to understand exactly how to get your business closer to the top. We often discuss search engine optimization as a good marketing strategy, but search engine marketing encompasses more than these organic efforts.

Search engine marketing is the overall term used to describe a business’ attempt to promote their brand on search engines. The two strategies commonly employed are search engine optimization (SEO) and pay per click (PPC) advertising. Below is a quick breakdown of both search engine marketing strategies!

Search Engine Optimization

Search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo organically rank web pages, local listings and other content based on relevancy to the search terms. The process of helping those search engines find and understand your content is called search engine optimization. SEO involves a number of factors (learn more about those factors here), but the general idea is to use keywords in your website’s content and meta information to inform search engines about the content of each page of your website, listing or blog. This strategy takes time for the search engines to re-index your website, but will help your business get found by people searching those keywords.

Pay Per Click Advertising

In addition to organic page rankings, search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo also display paid results called pay per click ads. PPC is a performance-based advertising model where the advertiser pays a set fee for each click on their advertisement. These advertisements are separate from the organic rankings displayed in search results, so they are not directly tied to relevancy to search terms. Each search engine offers their own platform to help you build your ads and suggests bids based on the popularity of keywords and phrases. Once your PPC ads start running, you can start seeing results right away in the form of visits to your website.

Continue reading

» How to Improve Your Online Rankings

Establishing great search engine optimization (SEO) and brand exposure online can be challenging! However, your business’ visibility online and to top search engines is imperative to getting found by new clients.

Work to improve your online rankings and grow your business reach! This infographic all about how to climb to the top in search is here to help.

How to Improve Your Online Rankings

» Optimizing Social Descriptions for SEO

The following post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Andy Ebon. Andy is the Founder of Wedding University and The Wedding Marketing Blog, and is an International Public Speaker, Writer and Consultant based in Las Vegas. Andy travels across North America and beyond, presenting to Associations, Wedding Industry Conferences, Regional Gatherings, and Local Meetings.

Search engine optimization is a moving target, with your SEO strategy within your website as the anchor. Your website is the preferred destination for engaged couples looking for a business like yours. However, there are also whole host of social networks (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, etc.,) that serve as information conduits for prospects to find your business and direct them to your website.

Optimizing Social Descriptions for SEOHaving an active social media presence on one or more platforms often results in additional listings in search engine rankings. One area that wedding businesses often overlook is the description for each social network, which can be optimized for search just as your website content.

Social networks will often offer multiple length options (measured in words or characters). A social description is the first strip of text seen when the page or site comes up in a search.  These social descriptions can be short or long, depending on the network. Below I outline how you can optimize these descriptions to help boost your off-site SEO.

Short Descriptions

A short description for a social media page is written much like those embedded in a website. This description is usually written as a complete sentence, but that is not absolutely necessary. Google, for example, skips over prepositions and conjunctions, only considering nouns and relevant adjectives. A short social description might read like this:

Music Man is a San Francisco based mobile music service offering DJs, Emcees, and specialty lighting for weddings, parties, and a wide array of special events.

If the description shown above is too long for a network’s social description, it could be edited for brevity, like this:

Music Man, San Francisco mobile music service. DJ’s, Emcees, specialty lighting for weddings, parties, special events.

It’s not as smooth as the full version, but it clearly includes keywords describing the where and what of the business.

Long Descriptions

Often 3-4 sentences, these may include more detail about company history, the owner(s) bio, awards, and so on. Not as tightly search engine specific, long descriptions combine targeted keywords with company details like overview and personality.

Continue reading

» How to Check if Google Thinks Your Website is Spammy

As busy wedding professionals, you know there are a number of search engine optimization tactics to help your website get found by engaged couples. We talk about SEO often to make sure you’re up to date on the latest strategies, but it’s also important to know what not to do to make sure your business’ website is not being punished by Google!

When a user searches Google, Google is trying to provide the best experience for those clicking on links so that users find exactly what they were searching for. If your website isn’t getting the amount of traffic you were hoping for, you may want to check to make sure that Google views your website as a safe, refutable source.

To find out how Google views your website or to see if you’re being penalized for poor SEO or black-hat tactics, use our steps below!

How to Check if Google Thinks Your Website is SpammyCheck search results

One of the easiest ways to know if your website is being penalized by Google is to simply search your business on Google. You should look to see which individual pages are (or are not) indexed by searching “site:yourwebsiteurl.com” with your website’s URL. This command will pull up results that only list pages on your own website. If you don’t think all your website’s pages are there, you’ll know that they’re not being indexed properly.

Evaluate your traffic volume and sources

Another easy way to see if your website is possibly being penalized by Google is to look back through your historical traffic volume and sources. If you see sudden drop-offs in website traffic that don’t have a rebound a few days or weeks later, your website could be considered spammy. You’ll also want to check your traffic sources to see which websites are referring the most traffic to your own website.

Continue reading