5 SEO Questions To Your Web Developer Before Starting A Redesign

As someone who’s worked with many developers over the years it’s very common for me to see how SEO to easily forgotten. Developers are great at developing sites to your requirements. Their job is to follow your direction. If you list out a ton of new functionality, remove key navigational pieces, requests pages with tons of images and little content – that’s what you will get. In many cases whatever the customer wants is what they will get, most of the time. The impact on SEO will fall on you the client as you requested these few features and pages that aren’t SEO friendly.

You can’t really blame developers – I mean you could; but it’s up to you to do your research and to ask the right questions so that you can work with a developer who will help maintain your hard SEO work.


Why am I writing this article?

Site Traffic dropUnfortunately, sites can be redesigned without much thought on how the new changes will impact the web sites rankings. Many assume that changing a site has little impact on search results and that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

A good majority of inquires that come to me are from clients had recently gone through a redesign and are confused by the loss in traffic. While a small loss and fluctuations are expected – a 40%+ drop is not.

It’s also discouraging for someone who has spent a substantial amount of money on a redesign to now have to pay an expert to solve issues that could have been prevented. Plus, the client may also need to pay to have the same developer implement these changes. My hope is that I can educate buyers on what they need to ask before they start spending money.


Ask the right questions!

Before you start to work with a development company, individual or agency that you know as much as you can about their SEO knowledge and ability. I’ve laid out the top 5 issues I’ve seen over the years that have “killed” a site SEO.


Does the agency have a dedicate SEO Expert?

If your development company doesn’t have a dedicated SEO expert on staff, hire your own. When hiring a company look past industry words such as “SEO friendly” and “SEO best practices”. These terms are vague and is no guarantee that SEO expertise will be involved in your project. The following points will outline why this is important.


Do you understand how Google crawls websites?

The short answer is through links of the site. The ideal number of clicks is 3. It should take no more than 3 clicks to navigate through your entire site. If your home page is a box search box, guess what? Google’s won’t be crawling your site. If you have pages with only one way to get to them, Google won’t rank those pages.


Do you keep track of changes made on the site?

Monitor ChangesThis next one is more for ongoing site changes, unless your redesign is going on in stages (I hope for your sake it’s not) on a live site. This is also a good tip whenever you’re having work done on your site.

This question is very important. If a change is made to your site constantly and rankings drop, what do you do? Freak out? Call your web developer and ask them what’s going on? Pay a third party to investigate? Well, if your agency is tracking changes they can easily go back to a few days before traffic dropped and easily identify what changes were made to the site.

This saves you, the client a lot of stress. The best-case scenario is that the changes can be reversed and traffic be restored. Even, if that doesn’t help and SEO expert can still use this data to help solve the problem.


Are you familiar with canonicalization and how to prevent issues?

Canonicalization is a very serious and real issue I see way too often. It’s typical to see after a site’s been upgraded to a secure url structure. However, it’s not uncommon to see after a redesign or new site build.  All of these versions of your site to search engines are different:

  • www.example.com
  • example.com
  • example.com/
  • com/
  • example.com/index.html
  • example.com/
  • https://example.com
  • https://www.example.com

You get the point. All of these should resolve to one final url. If you can type any of these variations and they don’t resolve to the final url (that you or your development choose as the final url) or the redirects are not set up properly, you have issues that should be addressed ASAP.


How do you handle 404 pages?

404 issuesBroken pages (404 status) are okay to have. You don’t want them in large numbers, but having them won’t hurt you. Ask your developer how they typically handle broken pages. If your developer automatically redirects broken pages to the home page. These will trigger softy 404 issues which over time can impact your SEO. This produces and result Google and other search engines frown upon. If you sold woman’s clothing and you discontinued a particular shoe, the expected result is that the page is not found. You could redirect users to a similar shoe made by the same designer or a similar type.

You don’t want to send users to the home page as the user is expecting to see shoes and Google knows this because Google has crawled the page before and knows what it is about.

You can set up reports in Google analytics to report on pages marked “not found” and you can then manually review them to find the most relevant replacement if one exists. It’s also a good idea to create this report monthly to catch any potential issues such as pages accidentally being deleted or pages that were mistyped sending traffic to pages that don’t exist.


What if I’m already in the middle of my project?

If you’re already working with a developer and don’t like the answers you’re getting to these questions then it’s time to hire an expert like me!

I’ve also link here and here to similar articles if you’d like to have a more extensive list.

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Joe Balestrino February 15, 2019 0 Comments
Positive And Negative Feedback

How Too Many Negative Reviews Harm Your SEO

How Too Many Negative Reviews Harm Your SEO

Is your business suffering from too many negative reviews? It might be the very thing that’s harming your SEO efforts. Consumers review businesses online daily.

There’s never a shortage of feedback on sites like Google My Business, Angie’s List, and Yelp. From customer service complaints to public backlash for quality-related product or service issues, negative reviews are tough to avoid.

Why an Influx of Negative Reviews Isn’t a Good Sign

Many consumers rely on reviews to make buying decisions. Google also utilizes them to determine a site’s ranking authority. In fact, Google rewards businesses with positive online reputations by placing them at the top of their search engine results. When businesses suffer from a massive decline in rankings, too many negative reviews are sometimes the culprit. Moz previously reported that businesses risk losing close to 22% of incoming business if the first review on their profile is a negative one.

The Wrong Way to Take Matters Into Your Own Hands

All third-party review sites share one common goal: to be a safe space for valid, truthful customer reviews. Some businesses try to take shortcuts by cheating their way to a positive online reputation. If you’re planning to take this approach, prepare to get blacklisted.

You can get penalized for publishing fake reviews and soliciting positive ones. You must use precaution when you ask your customers to review you on sites like Yelp. While Yelp can’t force you to refrain from doing so, solicited reviews go against their guidelines. They’ll go to great lengths to track and remove them.

Handling Negative Reviews Like a Champ

Negative reviews come with the territory of being a business owner. You just have to make sure that you have a plan-of-action to diffuse them.

When you take a question-based approach to a review response, it shows that you resolve customer issues while they’re at a head. Do everything you can to mend fences with your unhappy customers. If you’re able to get on their good side after they post a bad review, they might be willing to remove or update it after the fact. It never hurts to ask!

When You MIGHT Be Able to Get Rid of a Bad Google Review

Angie’s List and Yelp reviews used to have a major impact on Google’s algorithms. When Google launched their own review platform, Google My Business, it gave Google the upper hand on where users look for reviews.

Are you hoping to get a review removed from Google My Business? You better have a good reason for it. There are only a limited number of ways a review could violate Google’s guidelines.

Google will sometimes remove a review, if:

  • The review is contradictory.
  • Competitors have received the same exact negative review as you.
  • A reviewer uses multiple profiles to post a series of negative reviews about your business.
  • You recently received a negative review during the same time a competitor received a stellar review. If the user who posted the review has a bolded profile, it might be from one of your competitors.
  • A reviewer accidentally posted a negative review on your site that was meant for another business.
  • Your business has several locations, and a customer that only visited one of your locations posted a negative review regarding them all.
  • A current or previous employee leaves a negative review.
  • You get an influx of negative reviews after receiving bad press.

If you can prove that a reviewer published false information about your business, you might be able to report and request the removal of it. Don’t expect to hear back from the review site right away, however, as there are sometimes delays with them getting back to you.

I understand your frustration with negative reviews and their harmful impact on SEO. I can’t promise you that they’ll go away if you dispute them. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. It’s your responsibility to make sure that they’re handled in an effective manner.

Are you having a difficult time developing a response strategy for those negative reviews? I’m always available to assess your needs and help you come up with a plan. Connect with me anytime.

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Joe Balestrino January 20, 2019 0 Comments

Online Reputation Management for Local Businesses

Online Reputation Management for Local Businesses

I’m willing to bet that word-of-mouth is how you get most of your business. With unlimited access to the internet, your customers can publicly share their experiences with your business in an instant. It’s no secret, however, that not all publicity is good publicity.

A one-star rating on Google or Yelp could tarnish your business’ name for years and years to come. That’s why you need an online reputation management for your local business, as it will lay the framework on what it will take to protect your brand’s image.

What It Takes to Protect Your Online Reputation

Reputation management isn’t something you can avoid, especially as a local business owner. Your business can have the number one spot on Google for an SEO keyword, but that serves you no value if you have a poor online presence.

One bad review (or even two) won’t hurt your business, but that’s only if you have a plan for handling the flak. With a well-thought-out online reputation management strategy, you can detract attention from negative reviews and prepare effective response tactics to refute them. Doing so can also reduce monetary consequences.

Online Reputation Management Tips for Local Businesses

Local ReputationHave a website. Let’s create a worst case scenario. Say you have an angry customer who one day decides to publicize a social media smear campaign about your business. They even had a website published to attack you even further.

Without a website of your own, or some trace of an online footprint, that customer’s website might be the first search engine result that users see when they look for your business online. What’s worst? You can’t get the website taken down unless the creator agrees to it. Needless to say, you don’t want this happening to you.

Establish an active online presence.

Your customers should at least be able to find you on the following websites: Google My Business, Facebook, Manta, Twitter, Yelp, and YellowPages.

There are also industry-specific directories that you should set up for your business if it fits the niche. For instance, many companies in the home service niche have active presences on Houzz, Porch, and Angie’s List. Lawyers and law firms will oftentimes list themselves on Avvo, HG.org, Lawyer Central, and FindLaw.

Before you set up any profiles for your business, perform a brief online investigation to see if any profiles were already created. If you find any profiles during your search, check to see if they are claimed or unclaimed.

You can easily gain ownership of an unclaimed profile by registering with the designated online platform. Keep in mind 

Local Reputation

that sites like Yelp and YellowPages require an extra step to claim their profiles: a phone verification.

If you find profile for your business that are already claimed, check with your employees, and your digital marketing company if you have one, to see if they created profiles for the business in the past.

If they are also unsure of who set the profiles up for you, there are other ways that you can gain access to them. Many directories and social media profiles have support lines that you can contact in the event that you need to recover a login this way.

Protect your brand’s good name.

If you have a business that’s been around for a while, and it also has quite a bit of online traction, your increased visibility will only magnify negative reviews. Bad reviews that are associated with a branded search term are more impactful than bad reviews with a generic one, as the focus is mainly on your business rather than you and your competitors.

Keep tabs on company staff.

There are some business founders and executives who have their own online presences. Commonly referred to as practitioner listings, these individual profiles should also be taken into account when developing your local business’ online reputation management strategy.

Do the work, or hire someone to do it for you. Think of online reputation management as an investment. The more time you put into it now, the less damage control you’ll have to do later. Doing the opposite might result in costly repercussions, from profit loss to more time required to clean up your online presence.

Neglectful mismanagement of your online presence could jeopardize your business in more ways than you can imagine. You can cause more harm than anyone else to your online reputation, especially without the proper knowledge and resources. If you need professional assistance building a solid online reputation management strategy for your local business, schedule a consultation.

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Joe Balestrino January 4, 2019 0 Comments

How To Improve Google News Stories

3 Ways You Can Improve Google News Stories

Over the last 15 years I have worked with many publishers both large and small. I’ve consulted for some of the largest publishers in the U.S as well as many small niche publications. There are three key points that they all have in common.

  1. They lack writers who understand how people use search engines.
  2. Not providing writers with the right tools or motivation
  3. Not giving writers their own “beat”.

Now that news is more digital – there are still some organizations that produce print publications.

Google NewsMany times, the writer who produced the print content is also repurposing the content for digital. In most cases using the same headlines that are used in print are used on the website. You can get away with flashy, vague or dull titles in print because the person has already paid for the paper – the writer doesn’t have to work at getting his or her article read.

Keywords are important for SEO because in many cases people are already aware of what’s going on in the news. They may have heard it on TV, radio, a friend or another news source. People who want to know more details or breaking updates will perform a search.

If you think about how someone who has heard about a news story would perform a search to learn more, they would probably remember the basics.

  • Who was involved
  • What happened
  • When it took place
  • Where it took place

These facts will never change and so when writing a headline – the more of these facts you can add to the headline and answer in the story the better chances you will have for ranking.

Writers should have tools that not only help them find the right trends, hashtags and key terms to use, but also to create content that can drive epic amounts of traffic.

Here is a list of some very useful sources:

Creating interactive charts and graphs around topics is a great way to build links, authority and repeat traffic to your site. News has a very short shelf life and the more you can do to lengthen life of your content the less you’ll have to work to maintain or grow your existing traffic.

NewspapersI’ve worked for organizations that provide real time reporting on traffic to news stories so that writers could see real time how many visits and shares their articles were getting. This will also allow writers to see how they stack up against their coworkers. I’ve seen news organizations offer prizes to the writers who drive the most traffic at the end of a month.

Also providing writers with their own reports of their top stories will help them review why some stories did better than others. This can help them to fine tune their skills.

Why should writers have their own beat or niche? It makes it easier for a writer to become an expert on a topic. Readers are usually interested in following writers who write about specific topics. This increases the chances of readers subscribing to RSS feeds, newsletters and the social media of writers which will increase the amount of repeat traffic.

If you need additional help with training and educating your editorial staff you can learn more here or contact me.

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Joe Balestrino November 4, 2018 0 Comments

How To Identify Site Issues Using Search Console

How Do I Fix Crawl Errors in Google Search Console?

Site IssueSearch console is a very important to me as an SEO. I use it to mostly to investigate and fix issues involving traffic and ranking drops.

While ranking reports and analytics are very useful, but when you combine that data with search console data you can build a more complete picture of the potential issues.

In this article I’ll show you how I use search console to identify the most common issues I run across and how I solve them. It’s time to put on your detective hat and investigate where the issues lie. At the very least, you’ll be able to come up with a timeline where “issues” began. You can then take the data back to your team and start looking into possible causes from a website (coding, design or backend) standpoint.


ImportantBefore we begin I want to make this clear. You must verify the correct domain in search console. If your site resolves to http://www.abc.com do not verify http://abc.com Google will only provide data on the version of the site you verify. The same goes for subdomains and mobile urls. You must verify those separately as well.

However, if your canonical urls are not set up properly you may be getting traffic from both secure and non secure or www and non www urls.

If traffic seems low to you (compared to analytics) –  besure you verify that all possible url combinations point to the proper “final” url. Also, verify that the redirects are 301 and not 302, java redirects or meta redirects. You can use this chrome extension to see the types of redirects in place.

Error Reports:

404 Errors: What are they are why they can be problematic?

A 404 status means that a page cannot be found (broken) this could be due to recent site changes, database issue etc. Broken pages aren’t inherently bad and all sites have them. However, this becomes a problem if there is a large amount of these pages and/or they are increasing.

Search Console 404 error report

How to Fix 404 Pages?

Search console will allow you to export a list of the recent 1,000 pages. Go through the list and try to identify the reasons why these pages are broken. If the pages that longer exist such as old products, former employees or service pages are there similar pages that these pages can be redirected (301 permanent) to. In some cases you can identify a pattern that may be easy to fix.

For example; if you sold blue sneakers model 123 in black and blue, but no longer carry the blue – you could redirect the blue page to the black page.

If a former employee has left your company, you could redirect their old page to the main company directory page.

Perhaps offered a service and recreated a similar page you can redirect the old url to the new one. However, if you no longer offer the service and there is no comparable page then it is okay to leave the page broken.

Do NOT redirect the url(s) to the home page. Redirecting pages to the home page or mass redirecting a large number of broken pages to the home page or other sections of the site can trigger a soft 404. When Google triggers a soft 404 Google is indicating(to you) that the redirects in place appear irrelevant. This will provide a poor user experience and therefore should be corrected.

How to Fix Soft 404 Errors

A large number of soft 404 pages will impact your rankings. Google has stated that there is no penalty for soft 404 errors on your site. However, in my experience a large amount of  soft 404 pages will always impact rankings.  Keep in mind these pages were once ranking (and driving traffic) are now gone from Google as they are now being redirected. Therefore, the old pages will drop from Google and they won’t be driving organic traffic anymore.  Second you’re wasting your site’s crawl budget having Google crawl redirects from pages that no longer exist.

Important tip: If you see a large amount of soft 404s verify that the 404 pages are returning a 404 status. I’ve seen many instances where 404 pages were returning a 200 status and Google will flag those as a soft 404!

Crawl Stats:

Why are crawl stats so important? We want to be able to see how many pages Google is crawling and how long it takes Google to crawl that content.

PAges crawled in search console

If you don’t add a lot of new content the “pages crawled per day” will stay the same. If you see a lot of spikes in this graph you will need to research why google is crawling more pages on some days and less on others. This graph above was from a client that had technical issues and once they were fixed, Google started indexing more pages.

Google search console bytes per day

This section is only important when comparing this to the other two graphs in this section. If the other two have spikes this section should as well. If the other two section are steady – so should this one. This shows how much of your site Google has crawled. If you see large spikes in this section it can be a sign that Google may be crawling sections of the site it shouldn’t be.

This could be due to Google crawling site search results, duplicate content or infinite redirect loops.

Time spent downloading a page

In this section shows how much time Google has spent downloading pages. The lower the number the faster Google is crawling your site. Longer download times can cause indexing issues. The graph above shows a drop-in download time. This was due to adding AMP pages to the site.

Fetch as Google

You can use this tool…

  1. To force Google to crawl a page or the entire site. Useful when updating your site/page after fixing technical issues. Great to use after launching or redesign.
  2. Ensure you’re showing Google and visitors the same version of your site.

Fetch as GoogleIf you ask Google to crawl the site – Google will report back the code that it sees when it crawled the page. This is helpful when identifying the code Google is seeing on the page and the type of redirects in place, if any.

Crawl as Google

If you ask Google to crawl and render Google will show you a visual of how to pages looks to Google and to the visitor.

Fetch and Render Search Console

Here you want to be sure Google is seeing the same “page” as the visitor. If Google is seeing something different then it could be that there is a script that is being blocked from Google. Developers sometimes block CSS files, javascript and other files to improve load times. Doing this will cause rankings to drop within Google if left too long.

If scripts are taking too long to load and / or are being blocked – consider reducing the number of “calls” a script does by minifying the files. I would also consider creating AMP pages to improve load times and performance.

Site Performance

Reviewing the impressions and clicks within search console will help you identify issues. Here is an example of a site that had traffic decrease in Google after a site update.

impressions in Google search console

This data is very valuable as search console will give you dates as to when traffic has dropped. This is valuable information because we can now research what changes were implement to the site before and on the day of the drop. If there were no technical changes done to the site you can start looking at other issues such as a manual or algorithmic penalty such as bad inks, duplicate content etc.

Pages Report

You want to view this section to determine if all of the traffic is going to the home page. In the example below, you can see while impressions are increasing in Google the average position has dropped.

Traffic drop showing in search consoleIf you go through pages and sort by position you can see which pages have high impressions but a low CTR. This is an indication that the content that is ranking high is irrelevant for the search term it is ranking for. You need to investigate as to what could have happened at the time the positioning dropped.


So, what happened? The client actually changed the site architecture and ranking for pages dropped. While impressions from Google were increasing to do increased pages in the sitemap rankings dropped for many key terms.

Why did the navigation impact rankings? Google needs to be able to crawl the entire site in 3 clicks or less. Visitors should not need to hit a back button. Your site should rely on a search box only. Google can only crawl links, the harder it is for Google to find the links the less likely those pages will rank.

Search Queries

search query

What keywords are showing in the “search query” section? Desired keywords? Branded terms? If only branded terms show up in this section it could mean:

  1. You have been hit with a penalty
  2. Your site isn’t optimized for keywords or…
  3. The keywords you’re targeting are ranking poorly
  4. Interior pages could be blocking Google from either the robots.txt file or no,index tag on individual pages.

Most of the time sites aren’t optimized properly for their targeted terms. If the site ranked for key terms before and now only ranks for branded terms, I’d check number 4 above before assuming it is a penalty.

Did you find this article useful? If so, please share it. If you still need help identifying site issues contact me!

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Joe Balestrino November 2, 2018 0 Comments

How to Push Down Negative Search Results on Google

Reputation Management: How to Push Down Negative Search Results on Google

There are many wonderful things about living in the age of the internet: instant connectivity, access to practically infinite information, and the ability to keep in touch with people almost anywhere in the world are just a few of the many benefits of this incredible technology.

However, one of the major downsides is that anything you post on the internet can stay there practically forever. One false step and suddenly any Google search for your name could potentially show future employers, for instance, some seriously unflattering or negative material. This may leave you wondering how to remove or push down negative content from your Google searches.

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Push them down by setting up as many public profiles for yourself as you can

Push Down Negative Search Results on GooglePublic profiles on big-name websites will typically rank more highly than any negative and unflattering search results you might currently be dealing with. After all, if you can’t delete them, the next best thing is to bury them on the last pages of your name’s Google search results, where people are highly unlikely to be looking. (Almost no one looks past the second page of search results.) For any of these profiles, it’s important that you have them set so that they’re publicly viewable, and therefore show up in any listings.

You can even make an extra effort to set up these profiles so that they’re a positive reflection of you and your interests. Use good grammar, spelling, and punctuation, and be sure that anything you post is something you’d be happy with everyone being able to see, both friends and employers. In essence, anything you post on these profiles should be a reflection of your best and most professional self.

Also, try to keep these profiles as active as possible. Having signs of current engagement makes these profiles a much more positive influence on your overall reputation.

Here are some websites where you can easily create high-ranking public profiles (a great start):

If you link to all your other profiles on these individual profiles, they’re even more likely to show up high in Google search results. That’s among the key methods that Google uses to decide to rank certain sites more highly: if many different sites post links to a site, that’s taken as evidence that it’s worth listing among its top search results. You can take advantage of this by interlinking your social media and public profiles as much as possible. This way, you’ll suppress negative search results quite effectively.

Make a domain name for your name

It’s almost always a great idea to have your own website, whatever field you happen to be in. Here, you can showcase your portfolio of work, positive reviews, have a blog, and convey an overall image of professionalism and high quality work.

In addition to the standard benefits of having a website, having a domain name that contains your full name will mean another potentially high-ranking search listing—one you can customize entirely to your liking. This is a great way to gain greater control over your online reputation, and with its other included benefits, it’s almost a no-brainer. Be sure to share all your various social media profiles on your website as well.

In order to maximize the ranking of your website in your Google search results, be sure to incorporate SEO (search engine optimization) as you’re creating it. This article in Entrepreneur offers a quick and easy checklist as a way to get started with SEO for your website.

Comment on articles/blog posts

How to Push Down Negative Search Results on GoogleOne way to get your name out there in a positive light is to use your real, full name as a commenter on various popular blogs and news websites. This way, not only can you create even more search results to help bury the negative content you’d like to hide, but you can also positively reflect your own perspective and make yourself look even better to potential searchers.

As you do this, it’s especially important to ensure that all of your comments are the best possible reflection of yourself. This means they should be polite, well-written, and not too controversial. (After all, if you’re unable to delete the comment, you don’t want it to be something else that you’ll regret in five years.)

Ask Google to take down links/content about you: four different options

Wondering how to remove negative information from the internet?

1) A 2014 EU court ruling states that people have the “right to be forgotten” on the internet, so Google was forced to allow users to request that links to personal information be taken down. You can submit the request using this online form. In the process, you have to submit a fair amount of information, including your name, address, and a form of photo ID. However, since this was a European ruling, if you’re located in the United States or in any other countries, this avenue might be less effective.

2) You can also try using Google’s URL Removal Tool. This applies only in specific situations. It’s on option when you’ve altered or deleted the unwanted content from a site (say, an old MySpace profile), but Google is still showing it in their search results. This can happen because sometimes search results take a while to update and become current.

3) If the material that you want removed is something that could potentially be in violation of the law, you can also request that Google remove it here: Legal Removal Requests.

4) Finally, if the content is very serious, is defamatory, and you think it’s worth the effort to do so, you can reach out for professional legal help. Obviously, this is going to be an option that is not affordable for everyone. Additionally, the content that you’re concerned about actually has to adhere to the legal definition of “defamation” in order for you to have a case. Here’s the Digital Media Law Project’s definition of a defamatory statement: “A false statement of fact that exposes a person to hatred, ridicule, or contempt, causes him to be shunned, or injures him in his business or trade. Statements that are merely offensive are not defamatory.” In this case, you might choose to talk to an attorney who has experience dealing with First Amendment and defamation issues.

These methods may or may not work, but there are some ways to potentially remove negative content from Google.

Don’t despair

As frustrating as this can be, there are ways to remove negative content about you from Google searches. Be methodical, and it’s very likely that you’ll improve your Google search results so that not only are they no longer negative, but they’re even a positive representation of you and your brand.

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Joe Balestrino June 17, 2018 0 Comments

5 Tips That Will Improve The CTR Of Your Google Adwords Grant

5 Tips That Will Improve The CTR Of Your Google Adwords Grant

Google Adwords Grant has made some new changes that have many grant holders worried about losing the accounts.

Google wants to improve the quality of traffic that is being deliver to websites by adding some new restrictions. This should help deliver a better user experience to searchers. This will also help organizations because the higher click through rate will result in better quality traffic. I should also mention that my Google grant management service has done this successful for other organizations.

Some of these changes include:

  1. Adwords account must maintain a 5% CTR
  2. No brand keywords – unless it’s your brand
  3. Avoid using single word keywords
  4. Geotargeting campaigns
  5. Keyword QS no less than 3
  6. Two sitelink extensions must be active

This article will just discuss how to improve the click through rate on your campaign since this is one of the biggest concerns for Adwords grant owners.

The tricky part here is to know how far back to go in your account to go to make these changes. It depends on the current performance of your campaign. If the previous month your campaign was less than 5% CTR – you need to start with that time frame. You should always try to aim higher than the 5% CTR – because some keywords will perform much better and others may fall short. Give yourself some wiggle room.

Also, this strategy is to just get the account under control for the meantime. This is not a long term strategy. If you can get the CTR well over 5% you can then test new keywords, run new ads, landing pages etc.

Here is a list of what I’ve done to be improve the CTR on accounts:

  1. Go through all the ad groups you have active in your account. In each one you need to go through the “search term” report and excluded keywords / phrases that don’t at least have a 10% CTR. Unless there is more than 1 conversion. If there are keywords with more than 1 conversion add them to the adgroup – providing the CTR is 5% or more.
  2. Go in to the adgroup itself and pause any terms that don’t meet the required click through rate. You’ve already added all the terms that have converted and had a high CTR from the search term report.
  3. Look at ads that have a low CTR and pause them.
  4. Look at devices. Are some devices performing better than others? Bid up on the devices that have a higher CTR and lower on those that don’t.
  5. You can also look at demographics and see if a specific gender and/or age group is producing lower CTR. I wouldn’t do this only if you have a lot of data to make a solid determination. I would recommend going back at least a full year before trying this tip.

There some other items you can look at but so far the formula above seems to work best for improving the click through rates on Adwords grant accounts.

If you are still having trouble with your google grant account feel free to contact me .

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Joe Balestrino January 17, 2018 0 Comments

Do’s and Don’ts When Hiring Someone to Manage Your PPC account

Do’s and Don’ts When Hiring Someone to Manage Your Adwords Account

Adwords is in many cases is a must for new websites. Simply because SEO takes time to kick in and if you want traffic from users performing certain keyword searches, PPC is the way to go. Adwords works well in many cases – providing the paid search manager knows what he or she is doing. Which is not always the case.

I’ve been managing Adwords accounts since 2004 and I’ve seen a lot of mistakes made by website owners when it comes to working with paid search agencies or managers. I’ve created a list of some of the basic things you should ask and do before hiring anyone to manage or create your Adwords campaigns.

(Do)– Speak to a real person

Never “order” a paid search management service like you would a pair of socks. You want to speak with a live person with paid search experience. A good paid search manager will ask you questions about your goals, target CPA and past PPC performance. You’ll also want  to have your existing account audited. Find out how your current campaigns are performing and what the new manager / company will do to improve upon it.

(Don’t)- Management costs

You’ll also want to inquire about any set up costs and monthly maintenance fees. Many agencies try and offer you flat rate pricing based on your spend (which you should never do. I’ll explain later) or by the number of keywords. Freelancers my charge you by the hour.

If you have an existing account get an audit. Some agencies will take a look at your existing campaign to determine how much revamping a campaign may need. They will also have a sense of how much time they will spend in your account.

Too good to be true management fees are just that. Too good to be true. If you have 10,000 products in your Google shopping campaign and your management fee is $300 a month, I guarantee you that your account will not be managed properly. Every account I’ve looked at that had a ridiculously low management fee suffered from lack of management. Every time!

Also avoid paying anyone a percentage of your spend. It’s very easy for a manager to increase what you’re spending on Adwords and which in turn will increase what they get paid. Also an increase in spend is not an indication that they are sending more time managing your Adwords campaign.

I recommend either a flat monthly rate or a percentage of revenue. If the fee is a flat rate, you know exactly what you’re fees will be. If you go with a percentage of sales value – you pay more money only if you make more money.

You can also go hourly. Just be sure to set a limit to how many hours you can afford a month so there are no unexpected fees.

(Do)- Does certification matter?

Certification isn’t an indication that a person or company is good at managing Adwords. It does indicate that they understand the fundamentals. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look for the certification. Always ask for case studies and for references. Reach out to those references and ask them about what the management company’s reports on and how responsive they are.

If you are working with an agency that is certified, be sure that the individual you are working with is certified. Don’t assume that if an agency is certified that everyone in that agency is. Ask to see certification of the people managing your account.

(Do) – Own your accounts

Never, under any circumstance allow an agency or manager to create an Adwords account for you. Create one yourself and grant them access. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken to clients who had their accounts held for ransom. You want to be able to revoke access to anyone at anytime. You want to retain all of the data the account has for the next manager.

You don’t’ want to lose valuable data that you’ve spent money on. Even if you decide to rebuilt the account from scratch the data that has already been collected is very valuable. Without it, you have to start all over which will cost you even more time and money.

(Do) – Reporting on progress

One area I see lacking from some agencies is reporting. Many times a client will only receive a screenshot of the account or a spreadsheet showing the campaign’s performance. However, an ideal report comes with an explanation of what was done the previous month and the game plan for the next month.

In my mind PPC accounts should evolve. We call ourselves paid search managers, but what we should be doing is more than just manage. The goal is to grow the campaign and continue to improve performance and growth.

It’s always good to shop around and to see what agencies can do for you. Some may offer landing page optimization others may specialize in e-commerce. Find the agency that fits your needs and goals.

(Don’t) Avoid contracts

When it comes to PPC,  performance is the goal. Over time you should see your campaign improve. Sure, there will be times it may not perform as expected, but there is usually a reason for it. It could be a new site went live. Perhaps your testing new landing pages or a new offer. Whatever the case may be know and understand why things are improving or why they may not be.

Don’t flip out if you have a bad month. Just understand that somethings things won’t go as planned. However, if you have several months of poor performance and your management company or manager isn’t able to improve performance it may be time to have an audit done by a third party and possibly a new manager. Getting locked into a 6 – 12 month contract could be costly.

Did I miss any tips? What have you learned in the past from working with agencies or managers that you can share?

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Joe Balestrino January 14, 2018 0 Comments

Google Grants Tips and Information

Google Grants Tips and Information

If you didn’t already know this – Google provide nonprofits $10,000 per month to advertise their cause. This offers organizations the potential at not only reaching thousands of new visitors a month, but also the opportunity to generate more donations.

In this article I’ll provide some useful tips and information on how to obtain a grant and how to get the most out of it.If you’re a nonprofit and don’t know already have an Adwords grant grant account, you learn more about eligibility here. Google offers these grants to over 200,000 nonprofits world wide.

In order to qualify for an Adwords grant you must met the following criteria based on your country. In the United States your organization must:

  • Be a tax exempt 501(c)(3) organization
  • Be registered with Techsoup
  • If your organization is automatically tax exempt such as a church. You are still required to have 501(c)(3) tax exemption from the IRS to qualify for the Google for Nonprofits program.

The great thing about Google grants is that you can use the money to …

  • Recruit volunteers
  • Collect donations
  • Build brand awareness
  • Spread the word about your cause

Some of the challenges that nonprofits run into is the know-how to set up and maintain these accounts. There are many nuances to Adwords grant accounts that don’t apply to regular accounts. Those being…

  • Limits on how much you can spend per click – currently at $2
  • Which words you can use in ad. For example; you can use the word “donate” in your ads
  • You account needs to be maintained. If you don’t make any changes to the account every 90 days you could lose your grant account with Google.

It ‘s beneficial to work with someone with Adwords grant management experience who understands the Adwords platform and the restrictions around it. This can help optimize and maximize your campaign to get the most out of the grant money.

While Google gives organization $10,000 a month to spend, if you can max out the budget for several months and maintain a good CTR (click through rate) Google will increase the amount allowed to $40,000. Imagine your non profit having $40,000 in free advertising every month. What could that do for your organization?

If you need help managing your Google grant account contact me today! I offer reduced rates for nonprofits.

Learn More About My Google Grant Management Service

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Joe Balestrino January 11, 2018 0 Comments

List of Marketing Mistakes Law Firms Should Avoid in 2018

List of Marketing Mistakes Law Firms Should Avoid in 2018 

Over the last decade I’ve seen a growing number of law firms embracing digital marketing. However, there are still many law firms that still are behind the times when it comes to marketing their firm online. It’s not just the small law firms or the solo practitioners that make these mistakes. I’ve seen many of these issues in large and even global law firms.

I’ve compiled a list of the most common issues I’ve seen in 2017 and explain why you should avoid them in 2018. If you want to give your firm the best chance at growth in the new year read through this entire list.  Avoiding many of the mistakes could save you a lot of time and even more money. (more…)

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Joe Balestrino December 17, 2017 0 Comments