In part four of this four-part series, we cover offsite factors that impact your well your business appears in search engines results pages. Discover why reviews, inbound links, and social media and profiles help you grow your domain authority to rank higher than your competition.
Chris Raines: Today we’re going to talk about offsite signals what they are and why they matter for your SEO. This is Episode four of Grow Your Painting Business. Welcome to grow your painting business a podcast for commercial residential and industrial painters to grow their businesses and their local or regional markets. We’re experts in digital marketing for painters and other trades and this is a show to share our experience with you. Grow Your Painting Business is free podcast from searchprimer.com. The experts in digital marketing for the trades.
Chris Raines: All right. Episode four. This is Chris Raines I’m joined by Michael Utley. Michael How you doing?
Michael Utley: Good.
Chris Raines: This is the episode about offsite signals. Grow Your Painting Business is really the podcast where we give away thousands and thousands of dollars worth of SEO consult.
Michael Utley: That’s right.
Chris Raines: This is what we’re going through here as is actual step by step process of what we do is Search Primer to look at websites, see how they are performing and see how they might be improved to increase traffic increase leads. So this episode Michael we’re talking to offsite signals. First of all what do we mean by offsite signals as it relates to overall SEO.
Michael Utley: Yeah, hey Chris good to be with you again and thanks as always for hosting. Yeah. So a lot of times we’re thinking about SEO and thinking about what’s going on with things that are on the website. But today we’re going to talk about everything that’s happening off of the website to make sure that that’s being taken into account. It’s easy to forget that but it’s really never been more important than it is today.
Chris Raines: Yeah. And when you look at Google and how Google looks to we talk about Google there are other search engines but we’re kind of reference Google because it’s kind of the elephant in the room. But when and all the other search engines do similar things but when they look at a site. It’s really hard to determine how important or how relevant a site is just on the site alone. And we’ve talked about on site things that you can do and those are all really important. But really what Google looks to also is sides of a vote from other sites that raise their hand and link back to the site and say hey this site matters this site’s important. So you really need to pay attention to building your, what we call linked profile. How many how many links are pointing back to your site and there’s a lot of ways you can do that. And let’s talk about those. First one and this is item number 27. And this is the full list of items that we’ve listened so we’ll link this in the show notes. But number 27 reviews.Now for a local business reviews are huge. Michael talk and there’s a lot of different reviews site. So Michael talk about why reviews are important and what businesses painting contractors in particular should be doing to increase reviews on their business.
Michael Utley: Yeah this is a great subject and today we’re going to dive in deep on reviews a little bit here. Nothing has really been as big of a rising factor in SEO over the last three years than reviews. I would say this is the biggest thing on the landscape of SEO since responsive and mobile friendly website design. Reviews are a big factor. Sites like Google Maps which is Google’s reviews platform, Yelp, Facebook and then once you get into specific industries you have especially for painters and websites like Howze, Angie’s List. Some of these other platforms that are really important. Google is looking at those and associating those with the URL that’s listed in the profile and they’re deciding who to show in particular with their own reviews platform. They’re deciding who to show higher in search results in part based on reviews. And we don’t have any more contact with Google than other SEO agencies. We talked to them regularly, but their information and how they work is really sort of a mystery but reviews are one of the clearest sort of biggest changes over the last couple of years. And it’s a sort of a thing to be careful with. There are a couple of things I want to mention today. One is you might think gosh we need reviews shouldn’t we just have everyone in the office occasionally go throw in a good review. The answer is no. It’s easy for those to come off as inauthentic and to be flagged and to create more problems. It’s really sort of a fraudulent activity. It’s not what we recommend. It’s not the way we do things and it’s just not the way to go about building a reflection of your satisfied audience.
Chris Raines: Yeah, Google can tell if something is fake, if you have zero reviews and then over a span of a week you get 30 from your friends and family. Google’s smart enough to know that somebody is trying to game the system there.
Michael Utley: That’s right. And another one is should we hire someone. You might have someone contact you and say I’ve got some fifth level reviewers on my team who can go and get your Yelp review profile up and get everything going. That’s not good to reviews either. I talked to someone this morning I had my youngest child of four boys into the orthodontist and he shared he saw my Go Eppes Tshirt I was wearing and wanted to talk about online marketing. And before you know it I’m in his office looking at a proposal from someone and what does it include? A proposal to have his team of reviewers go and actively review every location. And I felt like I was touching poison. I put the paper down on the desk and backed away.
Chris Raines: You should take that paper go to the nearest shredder and burn it burn it. And shred it and then take that hammer and smash the shredder.
Michael Utley: And then destroy the shredder. Yeah. So this is this is the kind of stuff that people do to game the system. And if you ever think gosh should I do this that sounds kind of tricky. It’s probably something I shouldn’t do. Now Yelp is a little bit extreme there. They’re often on the side of not doing anything to solicit reviews. We actually come in right down the middle and we say hey get to know your customers and make sure you’re doing good work and that they’re happy and when they’re happy ask them to send a review and maybe check in with them and if your project manager or whoever has the last point of contact says Yeah this one was a good project and I checked with them and we know we did our typical survey and found out yeah they were very happy. You can push a couple of links to them by E-mail and ask them to post a review. That’s fine. But again those are real customers that’s not someone in the office it’s not someone you don’t know who’s never worked with your company. Those are real actual customers and so setting up processes to do that effectively. That’s I think something you should do all day long. But any of these other sort of tricky methods are essentially sort of loading the deck in your favor. And boy it always catches up with people somehow.
Chris Raines: That’s right. That’s good stuff. And I also want to add to you mentioned maps listings and Google My Business listings. If you go to Google right now and you type in house painters near me you’re probably going to get what’s called the local 3 pack and that’s the three businesses. Usually it’s three that Google chooses to list and is usually a map listing. And Michael you know that Google My Business Reviews are tied into that and that’s a ranking factor on what. Among other things like geography but that’s a ranking factor. How many reviews and how many stars of reviews are and what Google decides to put in that 3 pack. And a lot of times that three pack is the first thing that people see especially if it’s like a near me search or something like that. So getting back to if you want to prioritize you don’t want to go out to all your customers and ask them to review you on all the sites because that’s asking too much. But if we want to prioritize Michael we probably want to prioritize Google My Business especially if it’s a local service business like this.
Michael Utley: Yes. So we’re headquartered in Nashville Tennessee the offices of Go ups which is the creator of Search Primer as well as podcast host Chris Rein’s who is the owner of Bullhorn Media. We are officer down there, Main Street in Nashville. So I just did a search for house painters near me and yeah my 3 pack. We’ve got 92 reviews on Google. We’ve got 410 reviews on Google and then we’ve got the third entry 50 reviews on Google. So if your numbers are not looking that strong you’re probably not in the 3 pack in a market that is as sophisticated and mature in terms of SEO as Nashville is. So typical kind of mid-tier city in the U.S. with a lot of people doing stuff digitally a lot of different types of industries a lot of different types people, a lot of different types consumers and B2B audience out there. So here are lowest numbers 50 so if you’re sitting there looking at your two or three Google reviews you probably got some work to do to connect the dots for your customers to share the love.
Chris Raines: Yeah and again it’s easy to panic and say oh my gosh we need to get 50 right now. But the best thing to do. Get real reviews from real customers. Make it a long game. This is a marathon. Aim for one or two a month.
Michael Utley: Yeah and we’ve done best practices before and just had a lot of reviews come in a lot of actual good positive reviews. And unless you’re some super brand like McDonald’s that can get flagged because even a strong flow of legitimate reviews can look like it might be someone kind of gaming the system. In our case a handful of times. We’ve had a large number come in a short period of time when we put a process in place get them kicked out for a couple of weeks. They go through a human review and then see them get added back. But since then we’ve sort of learned to push down on the gas a little more cautiously and make sure that we’re not catching a red flag that we could have avoided.
Chris Raines: Yeah. Let’s move on from reviews and we’ll probably do a future episode just on Google my business because it’s such a-
Michael Utley: Yeah totally.
Chris Raines: … It’s such a huge important part especially for local businesses. But let’s move on. Number 28 inbound links. Michael this is probably we could do another one or two episodes on this probably. Well let’s talk about what inbound links mean there’s different kinds of inbound links. But if I’m a painting contractor and I’m looking to start building my linked profile what should I be thinking about for inbound links.
Michael Utley: Yeah this is a great one. Inbound links are links on other websites that are pointed to your site. And we do this in a lot of ways. We will take the business data for a company for example at the beginning of any engagement. Anyone who starts using Search Primer during the first 30 days we’re doing an intake process and creating a profile of their business sets the official hours street address service area, services offered, photos. I think I said address. All those sorts of basic pieces of information and we’re pushing those out very intentionally to a number of different business directories. And so over the course of a year we’ll pick up about 100 good quality inbound links from doing that activity. Also there are other ways to get inbound links inbound links or any links on other good websites pointed to your website. So this isn’t necessarily-
Chris Raines: Good website.
Michael Utley: Yeah this isn’t necessarily going for quantity we want a mix of quality and relevance. So when we’re doing that thing with the business data we’re getting listings on places like Bing Maps, Google Maps, YellowPages.com. Making sure all those profiles are claimed and active and populated with actual good information. Another good thing to do is if you’re involved in the community for example if you’re a member of the Chamber of Commerce or you have some other profiles like if you have a house profiler and Angie’s List profile making sure that those have accurate up to date information including the full URL of the website. It’s amazing how many companies have a Facebook page and they have forgotten to include the URL and that’s a big oversight. That’s another inbound link that’s just there for you. Now other ones get a little bit more specific related to the local market. For example if you do some sort of local fundraiser and your company is a sponsor and the local paper does a piece on it what that reporter’s name is probably at the bottom of the article. Maybe it’s a byline. You can just email them say, “Hey thank you so much for mentioning us in the piece. Would you mind including a link to our website in the article that you put on the newspaper’s website?” They might say yeah and have it done within five minutes. We’ve had that sort of simple succinct E-mail request go out generate an inbound link from a very highly valued domain. The newspaper’s website. So that’s a high quality score website pointing to your website and that’s a signal to search engines that you’re an authority for your subject matter. So yes a mix of different maps and business directories all of the social channels and video channels like YouTube that you control and then other either PR or earned media any of those are all good quality inbound links and absolutely worth going after and developing.
Chris Raines: Yeah. Or here’s another I’d have thought of if you have a local referral partners that you care. So for instance if you’re a realtor you might have a local referral partner for a loan like a bank or mortgage company loan officer. Those are really great opportunities for similar but non-competitive industries where you can exchange the links and really just develop another local link that is really easy grabbing for you because you already know them. So a good practice is to look at things that people that you already know organizations that you already know that you have good relationships with. See what might make sense to get a link from those people that are closest to you.
Michael Utley: That’s right. And there’s just like with anything there’s a good way to do it. There’s a bad way to do it. If some random person from some website messages you and says hey would you trade links with us. And there in some completely different industry. Yeah probably not but if you’re a local industrial painter and you can get one of your product maybe there’s not poxy product that you really like and your product provider has a list of preferred vendors that they recommend. If they’re already sending you business by telephone and E-mail which is just relationship driven and that can be extended to links on websites. That’s a good thing to do. That’s a natural connection between websites on the Internet that’s relevant and sends a good signal to search engine.
Chris Raines: Yeah, relevance. We do know that Google looks at relevance in terms of links in terms of how connected the two websites are in terms of category. All right great. Moving on this is this is related to links but it’s a little bit different. Number 29 remove harmful links so there’s a nefarious practice out there of bad actors that will try to take down sites by hiring crappy below the radar kind of dark web kind of sites to flood your site with bad links. Now I don’t know how prevalent this isn’t the painting contracting world but other more competitive niches though this will happen. It’s called negative SEO. And your competitor it’s basically your competitors flooding you with negative links. Michael talk a little about are you just a victim in this? Do you have to take those links and just deal with the consequences? How do you deal with negative links?
Michael Utley: So yeah this is a pretty easy one to deal with. Google thankfully offers a tool you can use the just do a Google search for the link disavowal tool and it’ll take you to search console and let you go through the process for any sites that you’re managing through Google search console. It’s again this is just an item of good hygiene. Similarly when we’re looking at Google Analytics data we’re often filtering out a good bit of bot traffic from the numbers so that our numbers are not artificially inflated and this is sort of the link corollary of that. And so this is just a good hygiene thing and a good thing to make sure that the folks who are running either your website or your SEO are taking into account. If it’s within the scope of your service relationship. We do this sort of thing for Search Primer just to make sure that traffic is really good and also to make sure that inbound links are not hurting us. And it’s some crummy stuff that you’ll see in there once you go in and look at it you’ll just wonder why people have enough time on their hands to do this stuff but time on their hands to do this stuff but they do and it’s out there and it’s just part of the good hygiene of maintaining your website.
Chris Raines: All right. Moving on Number 30 social signals are these are signals that come from social media sites like Facebook Twitter Instagram and so on that link back to your site through shares through retweets and all that stuff. Michael how much do these social signals matter. How much should a local painting contractor worry about social signals?
Michael Utley: Yeah we talk a lot about online competence. That means having an online presence that’s thorough and complete and right now that includes social media channels you might not be interested in Twitter or Facebook but there are pretty big audiences out there so when we interact with people around the brand on a Facebook page that’s publican’s search indexed. That’s one of the things that search engines can see related to your brand. They can see the URL that’s associated with the page. They know that’s relevant to your company and so shares of your activity in the past that’s been one of the things that has been a factor for SEO. I would say that recently Facebook has become a little bit more of had more of a pay wall sort of a pay to play. And so that’s probably changed how it’s factoring into a lot of people’s budgeting. But just in a general sense it’s good with consumers for when they look at you online to see a strong presence across the platforms they expect. And let me tell you why. If someone does a search for your brand you don’t just want to be on page one. You also don’t just want to be the top result you actually want to dominate page 1. When we take someone through Search Primer for example over time we’re usually taking them from having one or two listings on the first page of search results for their brand to having seven or eight. And that’s important because we’re pushing competition off the page. Google knows what sort of companies compete with each other and a lot of times the most relevant other websites that they’re showing when they show your website even for a branded search are your competitors. So how do we manage that. Well we have these fully built out profiles if you’ve got and this is actually relevant to Number 31 but yeah if you’ve got these other properties it’s good to make sure that there’s activity there there’s life there it’s got to be authentic. You can’t just throw a bunch of junk in. The days of sort of a silly cat videos being your Facebook strategy those are over but it needs to be an authentic clear engaging and kind of entertaining and fun expression of your brand through each of the channels that you’ve decided are going to be active and more is not always better. We’ll will lean toward Instagram and Pinterest for the companies that are more visual. We will lean toward Linkedln for the companies that are more commercial and industrial. So it’s a mix of the channels you think are the most important and then making sure that your interaction there reflects the relationship you want to have with your audience. So that that can be played out in search engine results pages.
Chris Raines: And connected to that is number 31 is including the link and primary domains for on an offsite property that you control that includes social media profiles but also other properties that you might own or control and these are kind of easy pickings so talk a little bit Michael about these other proposals that might be floating out there maybe you signed up form a year or two ago that are actually easy link opportunities they may not be highly powerful links but their link opportunities for you.
Michael Utley: That’s right. If you have a local chamber of commerce and you can make sure that you’re your URL is included in your listing they’ve probably got a little search engine for local businesses that you could have include your link. And typically Chambers these days know enough to make sure that there’s a sitemap publishing all those individual pages. Well that’s a good free inbound link that you can control and have active. And also things like we said your social media channels and also video channels if you have a YouTube channel. Couple of things you should do. Make sure that the URL is listed in the website for the account also included in the description of the channel and included in the description of every single video. And over the past we’ve seen some changes in behavior in how YouTube treats URLs and descriptions. So our best practice and what we always tend to lean toward doing is to include the full URL as the first item in the description including HTTP or HTTPS://. So the full URL that’s the best way to get that linked more often than not depending on what YouTube is doing at the time and yeah if there are any other social profiles you control any other memberships you have. If you’re part of any local trade groups looking up your profile if there are any other reviews engines that have your company listed and you can find this out easily just by doing a search for your brand and clicking through and finding out who all in the world has pointed to your website or to you as a company and sometimes you can claim those listings. We just had one come out this week for SEO and digital marketing agencies Klutch.com and they’re trying to sort of categorize the world of agencies. And yeah I claim the listing and made sure that our URL was correct in our hours and that sort of thing and so including this and just your basic hygiene of your internet marketing. It’s not just an onsite factor it’s an offsite factor and it’s a good thing to check and stay on top to make sure someone is responsible for doing.
Chris Raines: That’s great. Well hey that’s the end that’s 31 items and this is the complete list of local optimization items from searchprimer.com. And Michael how much are we charging for this.
Michael Utley: Podcast right now is free so.
Chris Raines: Zero dollars. So really our goal here is to empower you. The painting business owner to just have the tools you need to do digital marketing like it’s 2018. And we’ve got we got more common this is Episode 4 we have interviews coming up with other painters, successful painters. We have other experts in the industry that we’re going to interview. So lots of good stuff. So stay tuned for that. But that’s all the time we have right now and we’ll see on that as well.
Michael Utley: Thank you Chris.
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