How to Optimize Google Shopping Ads

Having trouble getting your shopping ads to perform well? Read my quick guide on how to turn a profit.

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Joe Balestrino July 20, 2019 0 Comments

How To Improve Google News Ranking

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. However, what works in print doesn’t work will for digital. (more…)

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Joe Balestrino July 19, 2019 0 Comments
Businessman clicks on a virtual screen and selects "PPC". Blue background. Business concept. Mixed media

Why Your Google Ads Are Not Showing

Are you Google ads not displaying or showing in Google? Do you have low impressions? No impressions? Read my article and learn how to fix those issues!

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Joe Balestrino July 16, 2019 0 Comments

Push Down Negative Search Results on Google

Try to push negative listings on Google off the first page of Google? Read a guide from an expert that does this for a living!

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Joe Balestrino June 17, 2019 0 Comments

How to Start a Successful Shopify Store

Shopify FailsI’ve worked on my share of Shopify and e-commerce sites over the years, I’ve even built a few of my own. When Shopify store owners contact me –  many of them have had stores built and designed with no thought about the niche they’ve chosen or what comes after the site has launched.  I can’t stress enough how important it is to fully understand what’s involved in building a Shopify store or any website.

Regardless of the type of website or business you want to create ask yourself the following questions and be honest with yourself. Thinking these questions through may save you a lot of time, money and unnecessary frustration.


Is the market you’re looking to get into saturated?

Do you want to sell clothing, sunglasses or hunting gear? Those are pretty saturated markets with businesses that have been around a lot longer than you will be. They will have a head start on their SEO. They will also have stronger brand recognition and social media following. They will probably have their paid search campaigns dialed in and performing well. How will you compete? What makes you different and how do you plan to catch up in a market where you’re already behind?


Are you selling something unique?

Have a unique product or service no one has heard of? Are people searching for a what you offer? If not, how will they find you? Your strategy needs to be mapped out in detail before you even think about building a site. If you solve a problem no one is looking to fix, how do you plan to educate the market? Are you prepared for the uphill battle?


What do you know about marketing?

Educate YourselfAre you an expert marketer?  No? You should learn about marketing and how it works and how complicated it can be before building a Shopify site. You may find that after you invest money in building a site that you don’t have the knowledge or the budget to start and maintain any sort of marketing.

SEO is a great way to capture free traffic however, it is a long-term strategy. Also, the keywords you try and go after matter. Trying to go after a search terms such as “crib” will be too hard to ever rank on page one for. However, “natural wood baby crib” is a phrase that people do search for and is not as competitive as just the term “crib”. Understanding SEO and keyword research is important.

Link building is also important. Without links your content won’t rank. Do you know how to get links? Where to get them and where they should point to? Content alone won’t be enough to rank the site.


Are you well versed in paid search and  shopping ads?

While SEO is kicking in over the next 12 months you can use paid search and shopping ads to drive in sales. However, do you know how paid ads work? Can you set them up? Do you know how to create a shopping feed from within Shopify? Once you figure that out you need to be able to set up a Google merchant account and connect it with you Google Ads account.

Once there you will need to manage each product and bid on each product accordingly. You’ll also need to manage it regularly and remove keywords that your products show up for that are unrelated. Not something that’s easy to do for a newbie. Unless you’re willing to pay a pro to do it for to you.


What do you know about social media marketing?

Social mediaWhat do you know about social media? Is your audience there? Have you done any social media marketing before? Posting your kids photo to Facebook doesn’t count. 🙂

Perhaps you think throwing a product on Instagram or Facebook is enough to get traffic to your site, it’s not. Building a following takes a lot of time and effort.

What about, paid social ads? Do you understand what each platform’s features are and their limitations? Again, how much time do you have to learn marketing, grow a following and manage social media campaigns?


Can you write?

Are you a blogger? Can you crank out several blog posts a week without getting writers block? Will it contain keywords and phrases to catch buyers in the “research” phase? Do you have catchy social media titles? Will your content be lengthy and informative? Can you craft an editorial calendar and stick to it?


Sounds like a lot of work?

This is just a short list of some of the things you will need to consider before starting your online store.

The goal of this article is not to discourage you from creating an online business using Shopify or any other platform for that matter. As a marketer that deals with many small business, entrepreneurs and startups –  many don’t think about what’s required after the site is built. Too many people get hung up on building a site based on gut feelings and never think about research. Or they build a site and then think of marketing as an afterthought with no budget. Doing that will set you up for failure.


If you’re thinking of a building a Shopify, drop shipping or ecommerce store, consider the questions above. If you’ve had past experiences that you can share please comment below.

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Joe Balestrino February 22, 2019 0 Comments
High risk level

10 SEO Tactics that Could Get You In BIG Trouble

Black Hat SEOEvery website owner eyes the same exact thing: the number one spot in search engine results. There are right ways to achieve this goal, and there are wrong ways. If Google’s algorithms catch you practicing the wrong SEO tactics, it could get you in big trouble.

What Is Black Hat SEO?

When most people hear the term black hat SEO, they know that the name has a negative connotation. Black hat SEO involves the use of unethical SEO practices that fail to honor search engines’ guidelines.

In the past, SEO professionals leveraged black hat SEO to manipulate the algorithms in their favor. Search engines have since cracked down on what they consider to be bad SEO. It also caused Google to release two algorithm updates that punish those who practice it: Panda and Penguin.

Why It’s Risky

Search engines discourage the practice of black hat SEO, simply because it can get your site penalized. It can even get you excluded from search rankings. Imagine having to lose out on all that free traffic!

Google and Bing’s Webmaster Guidelines list all the SEO strategies you should avoid. These guidelines alone provide a wealth of knowledge into what you shouldn’t be doing.

Strategies to Steer Clear From

Black HatIf you choose to go down the rabbit hole of black hat SEO, it will only lead you to a dead-end road. Don’t make this mistake. You’ll have a better chance of success if you apply the right SEO strategies the first time. Some website owners don’t even realize that they’re practicing bad SEO. While they may not mean any harm, there’s no guarantee that the search engines show mercy for not knowing the rules.

Google’s algorithms get smarter as the days go by. They make algorithm updates between 500-600 times per year to keep up with new black hat SEO tactics.

Think of it this way: before you try a new SEO strategy, make sure that it provides value to your visitors. Try not to spam them with content that doesn’t help them find what they’re looking for. Cater to the searcher’s interests, not the search engines. This helps you determine if your strategies align with search engines’ best practices.

Common SEO tactics include:

Focusing on quantity – No matter how many blog posts you publish per month, you’re wasting your time if the level of quality isn’t there. Google’s algorithms now prioritize quality over quantity when determining a site’s domain authority. If you want to see results through your SEO efforts, keep this in the back of your mind.

  1. Automatically generated content – A method of content creation that involves the use of an automated content generator.
  2. Keyword stuffing – Repeatedly using the same keywords on your website to increase your ranking authority for those keywords.
  3. Exact match domain names – The use of a domain that matches a keyword you want to rank for.
  4. Automatically generated content – A method of content creation that involves the use of an automated content generator.
  5. Copied content – The act of pulling content from another website and using it as if it were your own.
  6. Link directories – When a website owner adds a directory on their site to direct more traffic to certain pages, they’re using a link directory.
  7. Automated links – If it’s one thing that Google doesn’t take lightly, it’s spam. Repercussions can be detrimental when they catch a website with spammy links. Automated link building platforms only triple the number of spammy links built. Whatever you do, don’t go this route.
  8. Doorway pages – A series of website pages that each has different keywords they’re ranking for, but they all link back to one single page.
  9. Sneaky redirects – A link that redirects you to a completely different page than the page you expected to land on.
  10. Paid links – A shady link building tactic used to manipulate a site’s search engine rankings. Instead of earning links the organic way, some instead try to buy their way to the number one spot.

Don’t Self-Sabotage Yourself

You don’t want to get into hot water with the search engines. There are millions of online users who depend on them to find places and things. As I mentioned before, I would hate for you to miss out on all that traffic. Although black hat SEO has its small wins, the long-term consequences aren’t worth it. Opt for white hat SEO techniques instead.

Have you been doing SEO wrong this whole time? Consult with me for SEO strategies that won’t penalize you.

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Joe Balestrino February 18, 2019 0 Comments

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:


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 linked 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,, 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

Google Grant Management Best Practices

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 the best practices you need to not maintain and keep your Grant account.

If you’re a nonprofit and don’t know already have an Google grant account, you learn more about eligibility here. Google offers these grants to over 200,000 nonprofits world wide.

How to Qualify for a Google Grant Account?

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

How to Manage A Google Grant Account?

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’t 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.

Google has recently updated some of the conditions in order to keep your  account active.

  • You can not use single keywords
  • You must use at least 2 sitelinks per adgorup
  • You can’t use overly generic or broad keywords
  • Your must maintain at minimum a 5% click through rate.

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.

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 September 11, 2018 0 Comments